Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Aunt Belle

September 9, 1915 - November 26, 2010

There was a funeral service in Cambridge today.

One I was unable to attend.

My Aunt Belle.

Mary Isabelle Wilkinson Mowbray.

A woman I loved.

A woman I'll miss.

A woman who nurtured my love for reading, and my love for books.

A woman who always told me how smart I was, how pretty I was, and made me believe I could do anything - achieve any goal.  She would always, always smile and throw open her arms when she saw me coming.  She was magic and kindness. And gentleness.

She was the last of my Wilkinson aunts and uncles.  A loving, hugging, laughing, fun loving family.  They left me with memories I'll hold dear in my heart forever.

Pop-Pop Wilkinson's 90th Birthday - July 18, 1965

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stage Fright by Rachel Brady

 Rachel lives in Houston, Texas, where she works as an engineer at NASA.  Her interests include health and fitness, acoustic guitar, and books of all kinds.  Final Approach  was the first installment in her Emily Locke mystery series, which bases each story in a different sports community. Its sequel, Dead Lift   is coming on December 7th!  Visit Rachel on-line at www.rachelbrady.net or at her blog -  http://writeitanyway.blogspot.com. She also tweets (https://twitter.com/Rachel_Brady) and hangs out on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/rachelbradybooks).

 Stage Fright 
By Rachel Brady

I’ve never spotted a celebrity in a restaurant. But my visit to Kaye’s blog today feels kind of like how I imagine that scenario would go.

I would be eating pasta alfredo with garlic bread when a celebrity—let’s make it Ed Harris—walked in. 

The waitress, who knows Ed (because he is a regular there) and who also likes me (because this is my celebrity restaurant fantasy), would grab me by the wrist and pull me across the room to meet him before I could finish my bite.

“But wait, I—”

She would be bursting with energy, eager to make introductions, and I would worry that a fleck of green from the garlic bread seasoning was wedged in my teeth.

I’m pinch hitting here today, filling in for another blogger, and I feel happy and touched to receive the invitation and to have a chance to say hello to all of you. But you guys also make me a little nervous because you’re like my Ed Harris. I’d like to make a nice first impression.

When I got the terrific news about the November 29th slot, I circled the date on my calendar and began the waiting period for my brilliant idea to come. A topic on which I could speak earnestly and intelligently and made Ed not only smile upon me but maybe even remember my name later.

A little side note. I blog on my own at Write It Anyway (http://writeitanyway.blogspot.com) and with other women mystery authors at the Stiletto Gang (http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com), and now and then I’m invited to various blogs as a guest. For me, there is a tier effect.

  1. Folks who follow Write It Anyway are like family. They already have a sense of me, so I relax over there and don’t freak out too much if I mis-punctuate something.
  2. Readers who follow the Stiletto Gang may be enjoying us collectively or could be on board because they are primarily a fan of one or two of us. I stress about my posts there a little more than I worry about the ones on my personal blog. I’d like our Stiletto Faithful to keep coming back and I don’t want to mess up a post and inadvertently become the fly in the otherwise pristine Stiletto ointment. The anxiety bar is raised a notch.
  3. Guest blogs like this one, though, bury the needle on my stress meter. It’s like getting invited to a fancy dinner. I don’t want to use the wrong fork or drink out of my neighbor’s water glass. (In real life, I’m sorry to say I’ve done both.) What if all of Kaye’s friends see me accidentally fling a tomato across the room when I cut up my salad? (Done that too.) And where the heck is that brilliant idea?

Recently, I told a friend I was suffering stage fright about writing this piece, and as soon as I said it out loud, I knew I had the topic.

At Bouchercon this year, author Dennis Palumbo referred to this experience as “tripping over the cat.” He said that every morning he’d step away from his desk, blocked on a project, and inevitably he’d trip over the cat in the hall. Every day. All the time. Finally it occurred to him that the cat was the stuff of life, that tripping over it was the material he should be adding to his manuscript.

I prefer to imagine you guys as Ed Harris instead of a lazy cat, but you get the idea.

Strangely, now that I’ve fully disclosed my stage fright, I feel better about following the imaginary waitress across the room to meet Ed. My hand is sweaty, so I wipe it on my jeans before extending it.

“Hi, Ed,” I’ll say to you, fairly confident nothing is in my teeth. “I’m Rachel. It’s great to finally meet you.”   J


To celebrate the end of my stage fright, I’ll send a signed copy of Dead Lift to one lucky winner who leaves a comment here today.  Complimentary signed copies of either book also go to readers or librarians who introduce Emily Locke titles to their book clubs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Come Play With Me - I Get to be "Tart for a Day" at The Lipstick Chronicles

Today I'm meandering over to another playground.

Gonna join some incredible women and the delightfully outrageous group that hangs out with them.

They're the Book Tarts; Nancy Martin, Brunonia Barry, Nancy Pickard, Jacqueline Winspear, Kathy Reschini Sweeney, Cornelia Read, Elaine Viets, Louise Penny, Sarah Strohmeyer, Diane Chamberlain, Heather Graham, Margaret Maron, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Harley Jane Kozak.

The place they hang out when they're not busy doing their usual gig, is The Lipstick Chronicles.

And that's where I'll be today.  Playing with The Tarts at The Lipstick Chronicles.  

And I hope you'll drop by to say "Hey!"

See you there! 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving !

I have an awful lot to be thankful for - 
especially this year.

Hubby Donald . . . 

Mother Hazel  . . .

(I'm guessing this is where I got my "silly genes."  You think?!)

Best pal Harley . . .

and the rest of our family and friends.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Desk and Its Surroundings by Kate Gallison/Irene Fleming

Irene Fleming writes the Emily Daggett Weiss series for Minotaur. The first one, THE EDGE OF RUIN, came out in April of this year. The second, THE BRINK OF FAME, will be published in August of 2011. 
My Desk and Its Surroundings
by Kate Gallison/Irene Fleming
Here's a picture of my desk, as promised. I confess to having straightened it up a bit for the picture, bleaching the coffee-rings, sweeping up the mouse dung.
Sitting on the desk is the next piece of work I have to do. It seems mountainous. It's the manuscript of The Brink of Fame, copy-edited by the same literate, elegant, sensitive soul who copy-edited The Edge of Ruin. Thank you, Sabrina. A good copy editor is above rubies. I guess I have to say, more valuable than rubies, for no one reads the King James Bible anymore.

I see by her cover letter that this excellent woman has discovered that Billie Burke and Florenz Ziegfeld were not yet married in March of 1913, a fact which had escaped my attention. I now have two options: change Billie to Ziegfeld's intended, rather than his wife, or move the action to 1914. In the first case I would have to have them sleeping together without being married. Unthinkable. What would her mother have said? In the second, I have to take into account the outbreak of WWI in Europe. And a bunch of other stuff. But I think that's what I'll do, in the interest of saving Billie Burke's reputation.

You may have noticed that the computer is running, even though the task at hand is to examine and hand-correct the proofs. That's so I can listen to grand opera while I work. It soothes my nerves to hear people effortlessly (as it seems) hitting high notes. Go figure.

What you see on the computer screen is not, alas, a reflection of the rest of my office.  Instead of that it's a picture of Ernest Hemingway's writing studio in his place in Key West. I use it for wallpaper on the computer screen in hopes that it will inspire me, if only to keep my office in better trim. That's Harold in the red shirt peeping out from behind the screen. His sister Lanelle took that picture. She is a better photographer than I am.

The handsome young boy in the frame is our son John. That picture was taken maybe twenty years ago in grade school. He's still a good-looking fellow.
As you see, my writing space is surrounded by pictures of people I love, which keeps the positive energy going. Speaking of handsome children, here's a picture of my little sister Liz and me taken in a photographer's studio in Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, in the year (mumble). She is a gifted fine artist. See some of her work on her website-- http://www.lizdonovan.com/. The picture over it was taken a couple of Christmases ago, when we were trying on funny hats.

And that's about it. If I go on, I'll have to tell you how sick my sister is, and how it breaks my heart, and there goes all the positive energy. Instead I'll talk about how I'm having my son Charles and his family over for Thanksgiving. The grocery store is giving me a free turkey. That's pretty positive. I'll end on that note.

Happy holidays,

Irene Fleming/Kate Gallison

Friday, November 19, 2010

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

My friend Jenny Milchman has established the holiday of her dreams.  And 'tis a lovely thing!

And the date is December 4th, 2010

How lovely is that?!

AND there's a gorgeous poster to boot!

I love this idea.  Especially for those who are concerned that "real" books might be disappearing.  I'm not in that camp.  I think we'll always have real books - right along with ebooks.  I think there's plenty of room for both in our lives.  I'm a buyer of both.  (ah HA!  a blog topic - Yay!  but for another day).

I did read recently, however, that picture books might be on the decline.  That, to me, is horribly sad.  To think of children of the future not having that joy of sitting down with a picture book in their lap, or a pop-up book, isn't something I can even bear thinking of.

And - we all know that a lot of our indy bookstores have been closing their doors lately.  Another sad business.

"Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day" isn't by any stretch of the imagination meant to ignore our libraries.  Heavens no!  They're another of our greatest treasures - also, sadly enough, in danger in some communities.

Bookstores and libraries have lived happily together for many years, and we'd all love to see them continue their happy coupling, free of the insecurities and instabilities wrought by today's economy.

I keep my librarians pretty busy.  I also do my part in helping my favorite bookstores.  I'm a "pusher."  Once I've discovered a book I love, I tend to "push" it onto friends I think might enjoy it.  A lot of times that means buying several copies to give as gifts.  And my favorite baby gifts include not just a book, but one of the adorable plush characters to go along with it - I love finding these at the bookstore.

So, let's help Jenny get her holiday off the ground with a bang.  If you don't have a child to take to a bookstore, just help pass the word.  Maybe print out a copy of her gorgeous poster and ask your bookstores to hang it.

Anything to help promote reading is a grand thing.  Right?!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Frenemy the Muse by Lillian Stewart Carl

Lillian Stewart Carl’s work is inspired by history and legend. While most of her novels take place in the present day, her short stories range across time and space. Her newest novel, The Blue Hackle (December 8, 2010), is the fifth book in the Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron cross-genre mystery series.

My Frenemy the Muse
by Lillian Stewart Carl

The word “frenemy” is a relatively recent neo-logism, a portmanteau word meaning a partner with whom you have a love/hate relationship. “Frenemy” works better than “eniend”, which sounds like some sort of abstruse mathematical function.

Although even the most basic mathematical function is abstruse to me. My skills lie in the other part of the brain, the one that not only appreciates five-dollar words like neo-logism, portmanteau, and abstruse, but also worries about the proper usage of “lie” and “lay”, or the historical definition of “to decimate”, which is not “to demolish”.

That creative part of the brain can be anthropomorphized (look, Mom, another five-dollar word!) as “the muse”.

My muse isn’t a scrawny lass plinking a lyre with manicured fingernails. He’s a punk bagpiper, with red hair, an earring, a kilt, combat boots, and an instrument of war tucked beneath his arm, the drones that lie (not lay!)against his shoulder flying tattered battle flags.

(The English once banned the Scots’ Great Highland Pipes, calling them instruments of war, since that ear-splitting skirl inspired many a fearless and [and often kilt-less] charge.)

So why, then, is my handsome muse not entirely my friend? I mean, writing is a nice, quiet occupation, isn’t it? The leisurely crafting of golden prose, the reliable and substantial income, the hours of glorious solitude. (Supposedly Agatha Christie once said: “I became a writer because I don’t like being around other people.”)

Right. To the above misconceptions, not to whether Christie made that statement.

Enemy: When I have a deadline—and I’ve had some killers—I’ll wake up in the middle of the night calculating how many words I have left to write, and how that number factors into the time remaining. (This may be my one math skill.) At times like that I’ll pace up and down the driveway in the evening, dazed and tired, groping desperately after the next plot twist.

No surprise that a gathering of pro writers looks like a doctor’s waiting room. Neck pain. Back pain. Arm, wrist, and hand pain. Eyestrain. Headaches.

Friend: If not for all of the above, I might not have taken up tai chi. Even if you don’t necessarily believe the Chinese energy-flow concepts (I have come to believe in them), learning the different forms is good exercise for both body and mind. Besides, my tai chi group consists of such likeable people my classes are great social outings, too.

Enemy: A graphic imagination can be dangerous. Once, when writing about a character suffering from morning sickness, I grew so nauseated I had to break off and lie (not lay!) down. Another time I was listening to a CD of peaceful nature noises—shrubs rustling, birds chirping—until I suddenly envisioned a Jurassic Park scenario, those rustling shrubs hiding a large, hungry, carnivore. I never again found that CD relaxing.

Friend: A review will mention “vivid characters” or people will tell me I scared the heck out of them with one of my ghost stories. (Stories, I hasten to add, of things that go bump in the night, not of horror splatterfests.) Well all right then—high five the punk piper!

Enemy: Nowadays writing has very little to do with glorious solitude and leisurely crafting (or a reliable income, but that’s another issue). It’s all about promotion and public relations. The 24/7 clamor of the internet and other media (Over here! Look at me!) means getting your own work to stand out is a daunting task. A bashful person like me has real problems with, say, sitting in a bookstore accosting strangers. To me, it’s the equivalent of an Inquisition torture.

I’m a good writer. I’m not a good saleswoman.

Friend: It’s quite surprising what skills I’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming, into learning—not just people/promotional skills, but things like cover design and computer work. (Admittedly, this last has produced lots of eye-rolling from my son the Microsoft techie. No. MS Word is not his fault.)

Enemy: With e-books, POD reprints, and more, managing the back-list has become very complicated and time-consuming.

Friend: Just because the first edition of a book goes out of print doesn’t mean it can no longer earn money for you—or lead readers into your other books.

Enemy: I can’t read anything without editing as I go. Even my life-long favorites aren’t immune from my muse’s analysis. He’s even had the unmitigated gall to criticize The Lord of the Rings!

Grammatical blunders (“Looking out of the window, the mountain was covered with snow.” or “The tents were erected with the doors facing the mountain which some of them had climbed.”) will stop me cold, no matter how entertaining the rest of the piece. So will the mis-use of “it’s” for “its” (and, occasionally, vice versa)—especially in, say, e-publishing formatting directions. (Sigh.) I’ve been known to wail at the television, “Mystique is pronounced mysteek, not mystic!” and “It’s fewer taxes, not less taxes!”

Friend: You know, I’m not sure there’s much of an up-side to this. I have to keep reminding my muse that know-it-alls can be very annoying.

Enemy: Well-meaning people often ask you where you get your ideas. It’s a valid question, but one that’s difficult to answer with more than a vague wave of the hand and a mutter of “Everywhere”. That answer goes down better in social situations than the truth: “Watch out, you may end up in my novel.”

Friend: All the world is your research library. An encounter in a bookstore near Loch Ness turned into a scene in The Murder Hole. A couple asking questions of a food vendor in Colonial Williamsburg became a bit of business in The Charm Stone. Hugh Munro, the musician who appears in all five books of the Fairbairn/Cameron series, is an only slightly fictionalized version of Brian McNeill, a Scottish musician I’ve come to know and love. (Yes, he’s aware he’s Hugh, and is very disappointed he hasn’t become the victim of a grisly murder.)

(That’s grisly, not grizzly—even if the murder was committed by a large bear.)

Our piano tuner is the physical model for Fergie MacDonald in The Blue Hackle. A friend was joking about an advertisement—buy a square foot of land in Bonny Scotland, home of your ancestors—and the next thing you knew, I had some dialog for the same book. (“Can you see a Yank wanting to be buried standing up in his one square foot?”) Only the muse knows whether there would be any Australian characters in The Blue Hackle if I didn’t have Aussie friends.

Enemy . . . Well, uh, there is no enemy for this one. It’s all friend.

I wouldn’t know those Aussies, let alone a lot of other very fine people, if I hadn’t been writing, going to conventions, sitting in bookstores, and on and on and on. Having made so many friends along the way compensates for anything else that punk piper can throw at me.

*High five*

(PS. Some years ago, my piper demanded his own story. It’s titled, oddly enough, “The Muse”, and was first published in a magazine, Realms of Fantasy, in late 2001—in the same issue that had a photo-feature on the new Lord of the Rings movie. I’m quite sure that was his thank-you.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pat Conroy's "The Boo" Now Available as an ebook

Pat Conroy is the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Water Is Wide) before publishing his first novel, The Boo. Conroy lives on Fripp Island, South Carolina.  

Bestselling author Pat Conroy’s debut novel—now available as an ebook

A powerful story of a man’s undoing at the hands of his greatest admirer
At the South Carolina military academy the Citadel, amid the tumult of the 1960s, Cadet Peter Cates is an anomaly. He is a gifted writer, a talented basketball player, and a good student, but his outward successes do little to impress his abusive father. Instead, Cates is mentored by Lt. Colonel Courvoisie, an imposing and inspiring man whom the cadets have nicknamed “the Boo.” But when Cates writes a searing letter condemning the school’s meek response to a stabbing on campus, his bond with the Boo will be threatened as both are forced to confront what it means to be a man of honor.

Set against the richly drawn military school backdrop that Conroy would return to in his bestseller The Lords of Discipline, The Boo is an unforgettable story of duty, loyalty, and standing up for what is right in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

“God preserve Pat Conroy.” —The Boston Globe
“Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.” —The Houston Chronicle

Monday, November 15, 2010

More retirement stuff

Some of you have asked what I plan on doing once I retire.

First order of business, beginning Tuesday, February 1, 2011 will be a bit of R&R.

But I am going to need an office.  Right?!

After working in an office environment for so many years, I can't just all of a sudden NOT have an office.

Well - I have two new offices.

Both at home, so I can "work" in my jammies.

Actually, I was going to post these pictures as my last post of the year.  But I'm not a patient sort, and once something pops into my mind it seems to pop right out of my mouth.  Or fingers, as the case may be . . .

I thought it would be appropriate to post them at the end of the year as the cap of our year of office spaces.  So many of you who have been guests this year have (and will continue, hopefully, through the end of the year) sent me pictures of your offices and work spaces.  I've loved seeing them all, and have plans to compile them all into one posting.  It's been a fun thing.

In the meantime - here's my new workspace(s) - - -

Work Space #1

Work Space #2

Oh - I'm sure the offices will undergo a few changes, one of which will include a constant flow of flowers and chocolates


With generous amounts of coffee (Good Coffee!) throughout the day.

and lots of playtime with Harley Doodle Barley

AND - an occasional home-cooked meal for Donald !

and we'll all be happy little campers !

well, you might remember me telling you   -  I'm really not such a great cook . . . . 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Was a Middle-Aged Model by Mark Coggins

Mark Coggins' novels have been nominated for the Shamus and the Barry crime fiction awards and have been selected for best of the year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press and
Amazon.com, among others.

RUNOFF and THE BIG WAKE-UP won the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) respectively, both in the crime fiction category. THE IMMORTAL GAME was optioned for a film.

He lives in San Francisco with his wife Linda.

I Was a Middle-Aged Model
by Mark Coggins

My general interest in photography, coupled with my desire to do a little background research in the commercial branch of the field to see if I might start a new crime fiction series with a photographer as protagonist, prompted me to volunteer for a photo shoot at the venerable San Francisco hotel Sir Francis Drake.



My role was the old, white-haired guy who has power business breakfasts--and crashes all the parties of the young beautiful people.  I also do a bit as the guy hurrying up the stairs to meet a friend, which you can see here on the newly redesigned hotel website:


I had a ton of fun and developed a great deal of respect for the skill and work ethic of Cris Molina (www.crismolina.com), the photographer assigned to do the shoot.

Will I do a series based on character like him? We'll see, we'll see.

  shows all the little annotations that describe the different objects on and around the desk.


Friday, November 12, 2010

A Random Act of Culture

This is a video that has been making the rounds this past week.  My friend Vickie was the first to bring it to my attention (Thank you, Vic!). 

Many of you may have already seen it, but it's worth a second, third, fourth or fifth look.

And to those who have not seen it - enjoy!!


"On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation‘s “Random Acts of Culture” at Macy’s in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ, the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah” at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers. This event is one of 1,000 “Random Acts of Culture” to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The Random Acts of Culture initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives. This event was planned to coincide with the first day of Opera America‘s National Opera Week.

The Philadelphia Opera Company worked with Macy’s, Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, led by organ music directors Peter Conte and Fred Haas, OCP chorus master/conductor Elizabeth Braden, sound engineer James R. Stemke. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, visit operaphila.org/RAC."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meet Me at the Cenotaph by Sharon Wildwind

Sharon Wildwind is the author of the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Vietnam veteran mystery series. She’s in the process of putting the finishing touches on Loved Honor More, the fifth and last book in the series. 

Meet Me at the Cenotaph
by Sharon Wildwind 

That phrase is a big deal in Alberta. Every Remembrance Day thousands of people meet one another at cenotaphs throughout the province to stand in a moment of silence.

The roots for this begin in 1885, when the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completed. For decades the CPR conducted a colorful poster campaign encouraging Europeans to “Own your Own Home in Canada and Apply for a Ready-Made Farm.” The posters, which featured charming pre-fabricated farm houses and cheerful cows grazing on lush green grass were — let’s just say not exactly accurate was an understatement. Still people immigrated to Alberta in huge numbers.

The dream of many British immigrants was to make their fortune in Alberta, and then retire in England. They maintained a fierce loyalty to everything British, and taught their children to do the same. They believed that if England was at war, then Canada was at war. When the Great War began families encouraged their men to enlist to take up the fight.

In August 1914, Alberta was a few weeks shy of its 8th anniversary as a province. Imagine a landmass the size of California, Minnesota, and Connecticut combined, with a population of less than half a million people (about the same population as current-day Omaha). There were five cities in the province: Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Wetaskiwin.

For the men in those cities, enlistment meant a short walk or streetcar ride to the local recruiter.

In rural areas, which made up 99.9% of the province, settlers and First Nations people farmed, ranched, dug coal, cut timber, worked for the railway, and trapped furs. Recruiters got the word out when they would be passing through an area. Men flocked to join up. Men who lived in areas too sparsely settled to have a recruiter come to them walked or rode horseback to the nearest community or the nearest railroad line where they caught a train to Edmonton or Calgary in order to enlist.

During the Great War 35% per cent of the men in Alberta between the ages of 18 and 45 enlisted. Out of that total half a million population in Alberta roughly 1 out of 20 were either wounded or killed in the war.

The majority of Alberta women who served were nurses. Within three weeks of war being declared, graduates from virtually every nursing school in Canada, including the ten schools in Alberta, volunteered to serve for the duration of the war. Not all applicants were selected, but between 1914 and 1919 over 3000 nurses were in the Canadian military and 2504 of them served overseas. This was at a time when the average graduating class was 8 nurses per school per year.

When the war ended, people in Alberta played a large part in the founding of the fledgling Canadian Legion. Branch #1 is still open and still active in downtown Calgary. In fact, any legion with a branch number less than 75 was probably founded in the years after the Great War.

There’s an Alberta joke: how can you tell you’re in small town Alberta? You look for the curling rink/hockey arena, the Canadian Legion, and the cenotaph. Except that it’s not a joke. Every city and virtually every small town has a cenotaph. Each one has a distinctive local flavor.

In large cities, like Calgary, they tend to be of white marble, some of them with bas-relief carvings of soldiers with their heads bent and/or memorial wreaths, like this example from Regina, which isn’t in Alberta, but the carving is an excellent example of cenotaph art, and I wanted to include it.

Calgary Cenotaph

Regina Cenotaph

Each small town cenotaph has its own personality. The most common form is a stone cairn with one or more bronze tablets. In many communities the names of each man and woman who died in the Great War is inscribed. The photo here is from Crossfields, which has a population of about 300. It’s dated 1974 and was erected by the Royal Canadian Legion, Crossfields, Branch 113. I suspect it is a replacement for the original cairn.

My husband and I try to pay our respects at the cenotaph in every town we visit. The most memorable was in a tiny railroad town in British Columbia. It was late afternoon, cold, with a misty rain falling. We’d driven a couple of circuits around town without finding the cenotaph, thought we were sure there must be one. We’d checked the usual places: in front of the town offices, the Legion, and the library. There was no city park, which was the only other place we could think of that it might be. We speculated that the memorial might be a bronze plaque in one of the churches, as was occasionally the case.

As the afternoon light faded we spotted something that might be part of an old cemetery. It turned out to be the cenotaph. It was in a rock grotto, backed right up to the side of a mountain. Obviously no one came here much any more. Vines covered most of the surrounding rocks and dead leaves littered the marble flagstones. There was a wrought iron fence around the cenotaph, which was a six-foot tall marble obelisk, with long bronze plaques on all four sides. Obviously this town had raised a great deal of money for this memorial.

One side was names from men and women who had fought in World War II, but the other three sides were covered with double columns of the names of men who had died in World War I. Name after name after name, all from this one small town, including a list of six men with the same last name. Chances were that all six were from the same family: fathers, sons, brothers, and cousins. By the time we’d read all the names, it was too dark to take a photo, and I didn’t feel much like taking one anyway. It felt as if we were standing on hallowed ground and a photo would have ruined the feeling. We chose to take away only a memory instead.

This year it’s my turn to work holiday shift so chances are I won’t make it in person to the cenotaph this year, but my heart will be there. Or maybe it will be at that cenotaph in British Columbia. I sincerely hope that in the intervening years since we visited people have come along to clear away the vines and dead leaves and that there will be people there today reading that list of names.


Kaye asked for a photo of my office. It is such a mess I don’t dare photograph a lot of it, but this is my version of nirvana: uncluttered desk space; lots of inspiration cards, photos, and booklets, a journal, a black gel pen, and a cup of tea. If I’ve got that, I can write.