To the Father of a Writer

My dad made sure I saw myself--what I wanted, who I wanted to be, that I was fully capable of getting there--in the characters I loved. 

 Taken at my 2014 convocation.

Taken at my 2014 convocation.

Growing up, my dad and I didn’t spend a huge amount of time reading together. Not because we don’t both enjoy reading, but because we have very different methodologies about how to go about it. I tear through stories—once I’ve invested in a character I need to know what happens, and what they’re going to do about it right now. My dad likes to start at page one, and attentively read each word, on each page, until he gets to the end. Each approach has advantages: I get so wrapped up in the story that I end up inside the world, and the characters, and I walk away feeling like I know them from the inside-out. Meanwhile, my dad has an incredible ability to retain information, paired with his reading methods he ends up with a very accurate recollection of everything that happened.

My dad didn’t just teach me how much fun it is to invest in characters and their stories, he taught me to invest in myself and my story through the characters we invested in together.

One thing we both did was enjoy a good TV series. And, in a way, there’s a similar sense of investment in one of those as there is a novel, or series of novels. As a viewer, you’re asked to invest in characters for what you see them doing now, and you might get their backstory and motivations later. In a book series, you’re asked to invest in the world and situation(s) the narrator finds themselves in, and you [probably] get to learn how everything got to that point, along the way. The writers and creators need to build characters that are believable and compelling enough to make you and I care about them whether the story is meant to be read or watched.

My favourite series that we would watch together was, without a doubt, Star Trek: Voyager. I would plan weeknight-playdates around the schedule for new episodes. And my dad, ever patient, would sit with a squirming, six-year-old version of me, let me stay up an extra hour past bedtime, and watch with me each and every week.

I don’t actually remember how I got started watching the series—only that I watched each episode through the weekly progression, season cliff-hangers and all.

I’m pretty sure it was because of my dad. And for that I am grateful.

As a child, I found Voyager much more intriguing than any of the other Star Trek series: I thought Captain Kathryn Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew) was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Looking back now I see that the cast was not only lead by, but filled with strong, empowered, intelligent female characters… which was something of a rarity in the 90’s, and is still far too uncommon even now.

The writers and creators need to build characters that are believable and compelling enough to make you and I care about them whether the story is meant to be read or watched.

I once read a comedic list-style article (online) which outlined the top ten reasons Janeway was the best Star Fleet captain. The point I remember most clearly was “because she had more hair than all the previous captains combined.” It’s true, she did. In fact, it was pretty great hair. But what I remember about watching that series is how it tied into the things my dad told me and taught me. He did everything in his power to ensure that I grew up to be a strong, independent woman with the ability and confidence to have informed opinions of my own. Watching a favourite character embody those things, week after week, had a lot of impact. 

My dad didn’t just teach me how much fun it is to invest in characters and their stories, he taught me to invest in myself and my story through the characters we invested in together.

Thanks Daddy.


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Lynette is a writer, musician, and oxford comma purist by night, and a coffee-drinking fiend by day—in that order. For her, compelling characters make the world go round, one cracked-spine, marginalia-filled, dog-eared book at a time.

Fiction Writing and the Inspiration of the Seasons

One evening last week while I was doing some ‘extreme gardening’ (read: madly pulling weeds
between intense writing sessions), my dad, who is here visiting, asked what flower produced
such a sweet fragrance—the one that kept wafting over on the late spring breeze.

 A tiny patch of this writer’s ‘adopted’ garden…tended frenetically, and with gratitude, for the way that its fragrant beauty winds its way into my fiction.

A tiny patch of this writer’s ‘adopted’ garden…tended frenetically, and with gratitude, for the way that its fragrant beauty winds its way into my fiction.

Could it be the black locust now in full bloom, or even my spindly, winter-damaged white lilac? Being botanically ‘boneheaded,’ I could not say for certain. But my Dad did get me thinking about the aromas of spring, about the seasons in general…and about their impact on us.

Here I am in early June, for the third time since beginning the series, enjoying the final dance with my story just as Maryn’s racing season heats up.

Our everyday lives, of course, are shaped by the seasons. For my teen-aged son and daughter, late spring means unbearably hot school portables, tree pollen allergies, final assignments, and the forbidding approach of exams.

Then, before they know it, summer will stretch out beyond school with its canoe trips, lifeguarding, and, in the case of our eldest, preparations to leave home for university.

Undeniably, the seasons also shape my writing—the flow of my characters’ lives and the flow of
the books themselves. The heroine of my YA book series, Maryn O’Brien, is a teen mountain
bike racer. When she is in school, when and how she trains, off-season versus competition
time…all of these elements of her life are worked around the Ontario climate/seasons and
directly affect the pacing of the books.

...before they know it, summer will stretch out beyond school with its canoe trips, lifeguarding, and, in the case of our eldest, preparations to leave home for university.

Living and writing in Ottawa, Ontario, I get to experience first-hand the crispness of the air in winter; the dappled light of a sugar maple grove in spring; the buzz of a meadow’s cicadas in summer; and the sharp scent of pine in autumn. Being familiar with such distinctive seasonal features helps me capture them with greater authenticity in my work. But what struck me most of all as I pondered the seasons on that flower-scented evening is how the flow of my own creativity seems to ride along with my character’s rhythms. While Maryn settles in during the harsh winter months to train indoors and build a solid foundation for her race season, I too hunker down to research, plan, and deliberate. In the springtime, when Maryn throws aside her stationary bike to hit the forest trails ready to fly, my own writing comes alive like the budding of the trees. Here I am in early June, for the third time since beginning the series, enjoying the final dance with my story just as Maryn’s racing season heats up.

So, despite the demands of the seasons—the weeding, shovelling and other tasks—I am grateful
to live and write in a place like Ottawa where the dramatic changes of the seasons feed and
inform my work.
 


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Tanis Browning-Shelp lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband Andy, and their teen-aged son and daughter. A spirited, active family, they support one another in achieving their individual goals. That’s how Maryn O’Brien came to life.

The Shopping News: How It Will Soon Be Easier to Directly Purchase Digital Novels from Dog-Eared Books

Hello everyone! I’m Max Szyc. If you’ve been following Dog-Eared Book’s recent stampede of excellent blog posts from our very talented cast, then my name will be new to you. My official title is “assistant”, but that’s mostly because I haven’t put the time into figuring out a better name (I’m open to suggestions!). I'm not currently working on grandiose projects like putting the finishing touches on A Christmas Dragon or Critical, our forthcoming novels. Instead, my efforts lie in a place that I find far more exciting: the background.

Now that my public service announcement is over, it’s time to crawl back into my hole

But--you say--what does that even mean? You’re probably thinking that I’m just trying to slink around the fact that I’m a glorified errand boy, but the background is actually quite important. It helps you get from a to z; in the digital world, it’s how you navigate the Dog-Eared Books website to learn about our most recent additions, what we're up to, and even how you read this blog. Of course, this is all just a very roundabout way of saying that one of my primary duties is maintaining and updating the website (along with the very talented Lynette Wilson; shout out!).

Maintaining a website is crucial to a publisher’s existence. Think of it as the front door to the brand. Now, I’m hoping to build on that reputation by crawling out of my hole to report that our website will soon feature its most spectacular upgrade to date: selling e-books!

   Preview of the new catalogue page

Preview of the new catalogue page

   Preview of the new item pages

Preview of the new item pages

The idea is to make getting your hands on our ePubs easier than finding a dog who loves chicken for supper: simply visit the new product page, click the page for whatever book you fancy, skim the description, then click “add to cart”.  Once you do so, you’ll see the following pop up on your screen’s top-right corner.

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What’s convenient about this new shopping feature is that it’s perfectly integrated into the website, so you can continue browsing until you’re ready to pay. This means not being catapulted onto a totally different page; you get to maintain the Dog-Eared Books look and feel throughout. Once you click to pay, you’ll receive a link to the ePub file in your inbox. And that’s all there is to it!

You’re probably thinking that I’m just trying to slink around the fact that I’m a glorified errand boy, but the background is actually quite important. It helps you get from a to z;

But what’s even better is that this new feature allows our readers to give directly to the artists; Think of it in the same way that  Bandcamp eliminated the major label middlemen and allowed music fans to directly purchase their music from their favourite artists. Similarly, buying off Dog-Eared Books allows you to directly fund our brand of off-beat, youth-oriented Canadian novels.

Now that my public service announcement is over, it’s time to crawl back into my hole. But you can expect to hear from me again when we announce more exciting Dog-Eared Books initiatives. And who said being an assistant wasn’t fun?


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Max is a graduate of Carleton University's journalism program. When he's not working, he reads novels and comics, listens to music and writes the occasional short story. 

Movies and Their Books

“If there’s ever a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?”


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It’s a question almost all of us have asked, or been asked at some point, whether over a few glasses of wine, or after taking in a particularly spectacular, or a spectacularly disappointing adaptation of a book. Whatever the circumstance, the actors we choose to play us in an "ideal" world are ones that we admire—be it for their philanthropy, looks, talent, or [most often] a combination of all those things.
For the record, I want my future self to be played by Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Lawrence, though the later would need to die her hair a few shades darker to make it an “accurate” portrayal.

It’s sort of a can of worms though, isn’t it? Talking about adaptations. For a piece of source material to be popular enough to be adapted into film, or any other form, it’s going to be beloved by a huge number of people. Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, Game of Thrones, and even something like Paddington Bear all come from stories filled with characters that we have fallen in love with, cherished, and imagined in our own ways.

How can any production team ever hope to capture all of those visions in a single?

Well, about 50% of the work is up to them. The other 50% is up to us.

For the record, I want my future self to be played by Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Lawrence, though the later would need to die her hair a few shades darker to make it an “accurate” portrayal.

In the field of Film Studies there’s something called “Adaptation Theory.” I asked my real-life friend, who has a real-life film degree if he could give me the definition for dummies. Essentially, the idea is to compare and contrast a movie and/or adaptation with its source material.

TL;DR: If you’re heading out to see the latest adaptation of your favourite series, some of the work of enjoying it is going to be on you.
 Image courtesy of "The Meme Book."

Image courtesy of "The Meme Book."

It’s easy to be hard on the people doing the adapting for leaving out a favourite scene, changing a character, or altering a timeline…but because we all know we’re going to go see the next instalment whether it’s good for our literature-loving souls, or not, without further adieu. here are the Dog-Eared Books Tips for Watching Movie Adaptations:

1.     Would you want to sit in a theatre seat for twelve consecutive hours? Granted, with the way modern theatres are being designed the answer to this could very quickly shift from a resounding “no” to a plausible “maybe—for the right story.” I digress. If it took you twelve hours to read the novel version, in order to include everything the movie would need to run for at least as long.

Cuts are inevitable, the question really comes down to whether the spirit of the story is captured, rather than every individual moment.

Try to focus on the things that are there, rather than the things that might not be.

2.     Embrace a new Point of view (POV), rather than fighting it.

For example: the Harry Potter books are told from Harry’s perspective; we see everything through “The Harry Filter.” Similarly, in Game of Thrones much of Jon Snow’s character development (in the books) comes from internal monologue. We don’t have access to those things seeing the events unfold from a third-person POV, on screen. This is going to change how some things are perceived, and even how some characters come across. Instead of getting stuck on what’s changed, try to appreciate the opportunity for a new level of understanding of the characters.

3.     It’s okay to like one version more than the other. It's even okay to not like one of them at all. I’ll probably be banished from every literary circle that I’m a part of for this one, but... Austen and the Bronte sisters aren’t really my jam. I love what they did for women in society, literature, and academia, and I have huge amounts of respect for all of the things they accomplished… but I’m probably not going to be re-reading Mansfield Park in the near future. However, I will watch the BBC version of Jane Eyre, or Sense and Sensibility any time. Admittedly, the later may be influenced by the casting of Alan Rickman, but that’s an aside. It’s totally okay to like the book more than the movie, or even the movie more than the book. It’s also okay to not like one or the other at all. If you disagree with your friends it just makes for more interesting conversation.

TL;DR: Adapt responsibly, everybody!

 


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Lynette is a writer, musician, and oxford comma purist by night, and a coffee-drinking fiend by day—in that order. For her, compelling characters make the world go round, one cracked-spine, marginalia-filled, dog-eared book at a time.

On Intimate Love

You can only be loved to the degree that you love.
You can only love to the degree you love yourself.

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If I could give intimate love an image, I would see zillions of gold fibres in an elaborate matrix.  Each of these fibres would have emerged from a shared experience – first kiss, first fight, sex, joint decisions  – in other words, every experience you have had together has formed a bond that creates a strong but invisible connection that never leaves you. 

This matrix is complex in that it interconnects with all of the matrices of all previous relationships.  There are fibres that have lost their luster, fibres that are frayed, and fibres that are tangles and knotted.  These damages are experienced as emotional pain – fear, insecurity, anxiety, depression, anger, shame and guilt.

Practice being loving and compassionate with yourself, no matter what and choose gratitude to help you to be mindful of what really matters to you.

Becoming consciously aware of who you are and how you are ‘gold-fibered’ is required for a healthy relationship with yourself.  Your relationship with yourself needs to be one of compassion, patience, acceptance and love.  While this is a lifetime process, just being in the process prepares you for healthy relationships with others. Otherwise you will spend valuable time trying to get your partner to untangle threads that are unseen and unknown to both of you.  In other words, you may struggle to get your unmet needs met so that you can feel loved.  That is not the purpose of love.  The purpose of love is to join together to heal and become the best version of yourself and assist your loved one to do the same.

In my book, Growing Home – A Lifetime Process of Self-Awareness and Transformation, I describe what I see as the difference between love and a Desperate Need for Connection (DNC).

Most of our romantic and intimate relationships have a component of DNC, which leads to co-dependence and struggle. DNC behaviours are based on hurt, fear, anger, impatience, frustration and judgment. The root of this experience is in your earliest formations within your family of origin.  Most of us have damaged matrices from those times.

...zillions of gold fibres in an elaborate matrix.  Each of these fibres would have emerged from a shared experience – first kiss, first fight, sex, joint decisions  – in other words, every experience you have had together has formed a bond that creates a strong but invisible connection that never leaves you.

To move from a DNC experience into a process of learning how to love in a mature and healthy way requires time, patience, courage and insight.  Discovering and healing the tangles and frays that exist within you will bring you an experience of love that you may never have known.  

As your awareness increases you will have the capacity to learn how to love yourself.  This will help you to untangle many of those gold fibres that have been hurting you for so long. 

Think of your partner and remember a time when you were arguing.  Close your eyes and imagine it is happening right now.  Observe what happens within you.  Does the argument have something to do with requiring the other person to be responsible for what you want or need? - To see things your way?  - To do things your way?  - To care about your feelings more than there own? – To treat you a certain way?  If so, you are practicing DNC not love.

Whatever we do, think or focus on gets stronger.  You do not want DNC stronger because the stronger it gets the more you will hurt and the more damage you do to your own gold fibres and the fibres of your loved ones.

Focus on love of self and love of others.  I invite you to read my book to help you get started.  In the meantime:

Practice being loving and compassionate with yourself, no matter what and choose gratitude to help you to be mindful of what really matters to you.

Love is deep and permeates your whole being and then radiates to everyone around you.  You will love it!


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Susan Prosser lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and is blessed to have her children and her grandchildren close by. She is an Adlerian psychotherapist and Kundalini Yoga teacher and is on the faculty of the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Toronto. A lifelong parent and relationship educator, she is passionate about sharing the understanding she has gained from her years of experience.

The Reading and Writing Mom: Mother's Day Edition

With Mother's Day just around the corner, Dog-Eared Books wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the magic of the books and stories that parents read to their little ones. The magic isn't just in the stories, it's in the little hands and eyes that get to know the characters like a new friend.

 Illustration Credit: Hilda Boswell, from  Treasury of Poetry . If there's a little one in your life that also loves poetry, you can find your own [used] copy of the  Treasury  on Amazon, here: http://a.co/eb7AqkT.

Illustration Credit: Hilda Boswell, from Treasury of Poetry. If there's a little one in your life that also loves poetry, you can find your own [used] copy of the Treasury on Amazon, here: http://a.co/eb7AqkT.

My dear, do you know
How a long time ago,
Two poor little children,
Whose names I don’t know,
Were stolen away
On a fine summer’s day,
And left in a wood
I’ve heard people say…

I have just typed out this old poem “The Babes in the Wood” from memory. I can still hear my
Mom’s contralto voice reading it to me as my tiny hands smoothed the colour illustrations of
our 1968 hardcover edition of Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Poetry. Mom and I still sometimes
recite it together. Perhaps a frightening tale to share with a four-year- old child before bed. But I remember pleading for her to read it again and again…and Mom obliging, with pleasure, delivering its verses like a trained voice actor, every time.

...we joined a mother and daughter book club. With all of the club’s daughters now well into high school, we continue to meet. Sometimes, I still even read aloud to her while she completes an art project...

I have other such poems in my head: We built a ship upon the stairs/All made of the back-
bedroom chairs…(A Good Play, by Robert Louis Stevenson), proof that my deep love of
reading and admiration for verse grew from the books my parents shared with me from my earliest days.

I was flying solo as a reader by age seven, devouring mysteries by Keene, Dixon, and Kenny (all of which are, interestingly, pseudonyms); then fantasy and sci-fi books by Lewis, Tolkien, Bradbury, and Asimov; and, later, the short stories, novels and poems of Munro, Atwood, Findley, and Shields. Mom and I could have used a wheelbarrow to carry our two weeks’ worth of books home from the library in summertime.

I can still hear my Mom’s contralto voice reading it to me as my tiny hands smoothed the colour illustrations of our 1968 hardcover edition of Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Poetry. Mom and I still sometimes recite it together.

I should add that my Dad also read to me, and shared his own love of books. He even got me
reading a Bush Pilot series one summer. But this, of course, is a Mother’s Day blog. Once I became a mom, I knew no other way. I read to our first child from his very first days. Goodnight Moon, Love You Forever, Night Cars, Alligator Pie…My son’s ability to concentrate, and his attention to detail fascinated me. Time with him, sharing books, was heaven on earth. I soon discovered that the number and diversity of books available to young readers had exploded since I was a kid. He was drawn to the timeworn Adventures of Tintin and Asterix, but also to today’s Captain Underpants. That was the fun of it! He took the lead and I went along for the ride. When we experienced the entire Harry Potter series together, it captivated us both, and marked the pinnacle of our reading relationship.

With my daughter, the road has been different, but equally wonderful. We found that the books I’d loved as a young girl didn’t always resonate for her. But we finally found our way with the
modern classic Penderwicks series about four sisters and their absent-minded professor/father.
Our love of reading together continued to flourish when we joined a mother and daughter book
club. With all of the club’s daughters now well into high school, we continue to meet. Sometimes, I still even read aloud to her while she completes an art project to help ensure that we get our book club books read on time.

Today, with my Maryn O’Brien Series, I write for the young reader inside of me and for the young people who are just like her. I marvel that I still read with my sixteen-year- old daughter and I get shivers when I see my eighteen-year- old son buying books (new or used) to carry with him onto the pool deck to read at meets. He is now pursuing a career in writing.
And, in case you were wondering how “The Babes in the Woods” poem ends…

And when they were dead
The robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
They’d sing them this song-
‘Poor babes in the wood!
Poor babes in the wood!
Now don’t you remember
The babes in the wood?’

I do remember!
Thanks, Mom.


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Tanis Browning-Shelp lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband Andy, and their teen-aged son and daughter. A spirited, active family, they support one another in achieving their individual goals. That’s how Maryn O’Brien came to life.

Max: Top Dog at Dog-Eared Books

 Max, as painted by our very own Jocelyn VanWynsberghe. Check out some of her other work here:  http://www.jvanwynsberghe.com/

Max, as painted by our very own Jocelyn VanWynsberghe. Check out some of her other work here:
http://www.jvanwynsberghe.com/

My first thoughts about Max were strictly utilitarian: a dog, a small mutt of a canine,  could go places, see and hear things, and find clues that we hulking humans could not. His name came quickly as tribute to the other Max in, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’. I know that Max well... I have been watching him assist the Grinch as a Christmas tradition since the show began. Choosing Max’s gender was not difficult once I’d conjured up the character of Mickey, street woman extraordinaire, natural leader, with both a troubling past that is only given passing reference, and a heart of gold for her vulnerable family. I instantly knew Max would compliment Mickey as a sort of other half to the old married-like couple that they became. Although Mickey is the boss, they debate and bicker and make up because that is what long term couples do. At one point, Max chastises himself for teasing Mickey— his lifelong habit—because, as he says, the old gal really does love him. Implied in his comment is the fact that he loves her back every bit as much.

Max helps remind us humans that we should remember at all times to: be loyal to our true family; be grateful for all things including the hair-ball covered crust of toast smeared with grape jelly under your new sneakers; and don’t take ourselves too seriously...

Max himself does the best job explaining what type of dog he is in chapter one. “I’m a Chiahuahua-Jack Russell mutt-mix and proud of it....The Jack Russell in me makes me want to move all the time, and the Chihuahua part makes me want to hoot, holler, and pick fights with people and dogs that are bigger than me.”  I was trying to get right combination of qualities in my mystery solving narrating canine. I didn’t know that a Chihuahua-Jack Russell was actually a breed, let alone what the heck it might look like. So, with a quick google check on my part, and far more time painting by our brilliant Dog-Eared Books artist Jocelyn, the complete visual image of Max was born.

The story is pure fiction, but what they talk about is real. They have to find shelter from the cold, they have to eat, and their lives change dramatically when they learn that they have to find out what happened to their friend, Frankie.

So, why choose Max to narrate rather than Mickey? Well, I never really had to consider that at all. As soon as I conceived of Max, he not only started talking, I couldn’t get him to shut up (Mickey and I seem to have the same problem). Mickey is not a talker, or a joker, or someone who likes to complain, whereas Max wants the world to know how how funny he is, how much he detests cold weather, and how much smarter he is than [most] humans. Only Mickey can hear Max, and since he talks often, Mickey is often caught seeming to be talking to herself. Though Mickey is as smart as they come, people don’t give much notice to her talking to her dog because after all, she is a street person, and that is the sort of thing "street people do". Max loves making Mickey look silly, even if he does have real affection for the old gal. The story is pure fiction, but what they talk about is real. They have to find shelter from the cold, they have to eat, and their lives change dramatically when they learn that they have to find out what happened to their friend, Frankie. All of which allows us to have fun with a fast talking street wise tiny mutt who acts like he has the strength of a Rottweiler, and the brain of Einstein. Still, for all his peculiarities, Max helps remind us humans that we should remember at all times to: be loyal to our true family; be grateful for all things including the hair-ball covered crust of toast smeared with grape jelly under your new sneakers; and don’t take ourselves too seriously--life is way too much fun for that!


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Larry lives in Ottawa with his
three daughters,
two dogs, and
one wife.

Book & Tea Pairing 101

...because instead of experiencing the journey of the narrator, you feel it with them.

British National Tea Day is coming up on Saturday (April 21st), and let's face it: books and hot drinks go together like highways and fast cars. But not all teas go with every book. Sleepy Time probably isn't the best match for a high-intensity thriller, and English Breakfast isn't the best choice alongside that feel-good novel you read before bed. So, in honour of the Brits, here are some book and tea pairing recommendations sure to keep your toes, belly, and heart warm. 

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Action & Adventure: because who doesn’t want to stop crime and solve mysteries in their spare time? Dog-Eared Books is based in Ottawa, and if you live here, or have been hearing about the weather this week (an ice storm in April… April) you’ll understand us saying that we were desperate to get out of the house, without actually having to get out of the house

Thankfully, High-Heart-Rate Action pairs perfectly with Mint Tea: let the mint calm your nerves, while the story gets your heart racing. 

Try: Pure Peppermint by Tetley for a classic, or Spearmint from David’s Tea if you’re looking to expand your horizons. Pair it with with The Dog Who Cried Snake by Larry McCloskey for a combination that’s sure to get your mind racing to figure out the puzzles right along with Max, followed by Lowis Lowry's The Giver for a journey sure to make you think.

 Titles from top to bottom: "The Dog Who Cried Snake" by Larry McCloskey, "Crushed" by Tanis Browning-Shelp, "Growing Home" by Susan Prosser, "Unspoken" by Larry McCloskey, "Crash Course" by Tanis Browning-Shelp.

Titles from top to bottom: "The Dog Who Cried Snake" by Larry McCloskey, "Crushed" by Tanis Browning-Shelp, "Growing Home" by Susan Prosser, "Unspoken" by Larry McCloskey, "Crash Course" by Tanis Browning-Shelp.

Coming of Age: In a sense, none of us ever stop coming of age. We do it in different ways, over and over again—discovering new things about ourselves, and what makes us tick. The books that brave to tell these stories are the ones we get to come back to, discovering new meaning for the book and for ourselves, every time.

The crisp flavours of Citrus Infusion Teas will mirror the decisions characters are making. Pair with Crash Course by Tanis Browning-Shelp; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; or the Harry Potter series to explore new facets of yourself, and compelling characters on the venture of self discovery.

 From left to right/top to bottom: "Valerian Nights" by David's Tea; "pure peppermint" from Tetley; "Earl Grey Classic" and "Smoky Earl Grey" from Fortnum and Mason, UK.

From left to right/top to bottom: "Valerian Nights" by David's Tea; "pure peppermint" from Tetley; "Earl Grey Classic" and "Smoky Earl Grey" from Fortnum and Mason, UK.

Poetry is a very different reading experience, because instead of experiencing the journey of the narrator, you feel it with them. It’s just as easy to read through a collection in an afternoon as it is to spend weeks pondering over each line break, em-dash, and syllable. The beauty is that the amount of meaning doesn’t change based on which you do—all that matters is what you need at the time.

Pair your poetry collections with Earl Grey—lavender to sooth your soul, and a caffeine hit to make sure you catch every word.

Try: Twinnings Earl Grey Tea, or David’s Tea Cream of Earl Grey if you’re feeling a bit flush. Pair with T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock Series, anything by Dorothy Livesay, or (my personal favourite) Magic Animals by Canadian poet, Gwendolyn MacEwan for something a bit off the beaten track. 

Nonfiction books have a special place in my heart. The stories and characters are just as compelling, but you get to walk away knowing that they are also about real people, living real lives. 

Pair with Herbals Blends: the stakes are always higher when it comes to real life, no need for caffeine to fuel that fire. Pair your favourite zen-inspiring blend with Susan Prosser's Growing Home to gain some incredible insight into yourself, or Life by Keith Richards for a first-hand look at what the Rolling-Stone Lifestyle was like on the inside. 

Try: any kind of chamomile, or for something a bit more special, Valerian Nights from David’s Tea, which contains valerian root, coconut, and just a touch of mint, it's sure to set your mind as ease. 

Our memories and experiences are undeniably linked with our senses: the smell of a first love's cologne, or the coffee mom always made on Saturday mornings; the taste of grandma's cookies; the feel of the sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace at the cottage. Pair your books and teas responsibly, everybody--how the adventure turns out could depend on it.


All books listed in these pairings are available through Amazon!


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Lynette is a writer, musician, and oxford comma purist by night, and a coffee-drinking fiend by day—in that order. For her, compelling characters make the world go round, one cracked-spine, marginalia-filled, dog-eared book at a time.

The Poetry of a Name

Author Tanis Browning-Shelp equates naming a character to naming a baby in a blog for National Name Yourself Day.


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There’s power in naming yourself, in proclaiming to the world that this is who you
are.
— Janet Mock

English director Richard Eyre (Iris) calls naming a baby an act of poetry. I like that. It makes naming seem like a creative moment for the parents. But what about the baby? Apr. 9, 2018 was National Name Yourself Day—an opportunity for people to take matters into their own hands and name themselves for a day.

Just last week I was telling my kids that their Nana and Papa once admitted to almost naming me Bridget when my husband snickered and said: “I get it. They wanted to name you Bridget after bridge, the card game.” Yep, Bridget Browning. Really? Despite living with my parents’ life-long, um, obsession with competitive bridge, I had never made that connection. I sure dodged a bullet there.

My name feels right to me, so I don’t feel compelled to rename myself for a day. But as an author, this got me thinking about how naming a fictional character is very much like naming a baby. It’s also like naming a part of yourself. Getting it right matters.

I’m not sure how other authors do this, but I like to get to know everything I can about my characters before I name them. This gives me an advantage over a parent. Babies can give you little hints about who they are even before they are born; they may move around a lot, they may be nighthawks, or they may respond to certain types of music. But I believe that people grow into themselves and reveal more about their personalities over time. So parents, compared to authors, really are at a disadvantage in that moment.

When writing my stories, my characters sometimes surprise me by engaging in unexpected behaviours or making bewildering decisions along the way. But, for the most part, they stay true to who they are, so the job of naming them feels natural.

Sometimes, a name just pops into my head, as it did with Maryn O’Brien, the hero of my young adult book series. Other times, I pull out my trusty baby name books—the ones we searched when I was pregnant with our own babies—and pour over the list of names to get a feel for their rhythms, sounds, and meanings. I love it when a name jumps off the page and announces itself as the perfect fit. I also love it when I hear a name spoken somewhere out in the world—in a movie or at a coffee shop—and it presents itself as the answer.

Whichever way a name comes to me I feel enormous satisfaction once I’ve named a character. Names aren’t just labels; rather, they’re tied to the truth. Transgender rights activist Janet Mock says: “There’s power in naming yourself, in proclaiming to the world that this is who you are.” As authors, we get to feel that power too. It is poetic.


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Tanis Browning-Shelp lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband Andy, and their teen-aged son and daughter. A spirited, active family, they support one another in achieving their individual goals. That’s how Maryn O’Brien came to life.