Monday, December 29, 2008

where has the time gone!

Like my title says, where has the time gone? I've spent the last few months getting a proposal for some books done up and the day after I sent them, my editor called to offer me a one book contract! It's part of a series coming out starting January 2010, and my book will be May 2010. It's called Fatal Secrets, and I've decided I like writing to a title, and a basic synopsis. At least, with the editors writing up the synopsis, they can't rip it apart on me!

But now Christmas has come and gone and our family has seen some big ups and downs. An uncle died, my father in law had a heart attack, and yet, in the midst of that, my daughter got engaged.

Still, I will soldier on, as they say. I'm used to the idea of my daughter getting married some day in the future, and we've visited my father in law, who is still in the hospital. We attended a tough funeral for a well liked man.

My writing continues, as does life in general. Nothing stays the same, my mother in law says, and all we can do is go with the flow.

And in the meantime, I must write and edit and coordinate with the other writers in the series, a joy and good experience to be sure, but worrisome when you think of the editor and what she may say.

So, in that vein, I thank you for stopping by.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Artful Question

This post can also be found at

This blog may not agree with some of you out there. I'm usually the kind of person who likes warm, fuzzy blogs, but today this one isn't going to be like that. So read on at your own peril.
Both the United States and Canada are facing national elections, but here in Canada, one of our issues is arts funding. I live near an excellent university and because of that, I have ample opportunity to enjoy their arts' programs. I love them.
In some ways, I, too, am an artist, a writer who is blessed enough to get paid for her work. But here in Canada, we have people saying more funding must go into our arts and culture program.
Stop a moment. We also have gun violence in Toronto, an Arctic in crisis, and the working poor whose children are going hungry. We have natives who struggle to survive, and a country with a wildly growing dependence on fossil fuels.
Canada also has a global conscience, seeing the poor of other countries, the oppressed and those suffering under terrorist regimes. Canada has a responsibility to support those countries who want to end the global crises.
How can I sit in a comfortable seat in an auditorium enjoying the arts when this is happening? How can I justify saying that my government should support these programs when the burden of helping our own Canadians and the poor around the world is so great?
Some people may say that this is our culture, to have quality music, fine visual arts, and incredible talent.
No. When our poor and our native populations and environment are in crisis, this becomes our culture.
Our culture is our poor, and oppressed, and how we deal with them.
How we deal with the less fortunate is the true measure of ourselves. How are we dealing with them? It's not just a nationally elected body's responsibility, but an individual responsibility, too. How am I helping the poor, the environment, our supply of fresh drinking water?
How are you? What are you, personally, doing to change the culture that has been thrust upon us in the world's eyes? What am I doing?
Let us be able to watch that symphonic band's newest recital with clear consciences.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

brutal, but good

Hey, I'm not talking about anything you shouldn't be thinking of, okay?

I'm talking about Mount Katahdin in Maine. Sure, it's only 5,000 feet or so, but it's brutal to climb. I read somewhere it was the most difficult climb east of the Rockies, and now, a week after the dirty deed, I can still fully agree.

I volunteered with my church's youth group. I'd been halfway up it once, and loved the view. And thinking like a brand new marathoner, I was thinking, hey, I can climb halfway, so the rest should be just as easy, right?

Take a look at the pic to the right. See those little people in the centre? Yup, they're people, and yup, those are the size of the boulders one must climb.

I'm not going to sugar coat this climb. It was brutal. It made me hurt. It pushed me to the absolute limit of my endurance. I suffer from a fear of heights and wear bifocals. Placing a foot down or climbing up on a rock at the top of a mountain where you can't judge its distance, and trusting the blue paint that says this is the way to go, is just something I don't do everyday.

But I did it.

And the trip down scared me. I couldn't see over the edge, and the boulders felt as though they were progressively getting bigger and bigger. My knees shook, and the only way I could confirm they'd hold me up was for me to lock them.

Our youth pastor, Robin, commiserated with me, and we encouraged each other to keep going. She ached as much as I did.

I must also mention the time I got my backside wedged between two enormous hunks of granite, and our trusty guide, AKA our senior pastor, Vernon, had long disappeared over the edge of the trail down to Chimney Pond. Only the fear of needing to be rescued was greater than the pain clamping down on my hips. Humiliation helped me unwedge myself.

We ran out of water, too. Thankfully, we discovered a massive wall of granite with clear spring water streaming from it. Makes one appreciate the basics of life, it does.

We made it down, all of us. By now, I'd twisted both ankles, bent back a finger and scraped my knees, but I was glad I did it.

And equally glad that Robin was thinking of a more benign summer trip next year. A walk around the swan pond, anyone?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Danger Danger!

There’s a new technology out and it’s not the Iphone. It’s a refrigerator that will order your groceries for you.
Okay, I’m a bit skeptical here. How does it know what you’re eating? I’m betting you have to tell it.
That’s all okay if you like the extra work, but what it should be doing is scanning you to see what exactly you’re eating. I mean, I have a teenaged boy. With lots of friends. I rarely have enough milk in the house and sugary cereals are an endangered species here. And I know my son. He’ll be opening this new fridge door and saying to it, "I’m taking a carrot now. We have only three left."
Meanwhile, he’s helping himself to the last half of pie. And I mean a whole half. That's good writing, isn't it?) I’d be inundated with carrots before the week’s out, if this fridge believes my son and calls in an order of carrots to the local Co-op. Talk about naive.
What the refrigerator should do is scan the kid using one of those beams we see on Star Trek and then yell out in a loud voice, or better still, announce it on an in-house PA, "You are not taking a carrot. You are eating all the pie. Back away from the refrigerator. I say again, back away from the refrigerator."
Or wave its arms around yelling, "Danger, Will Robinson, danger! All the pie is being eaten! Danger! Danger!" Then grab the offending teenaged boy (because it’s not necessarily going to be my own), and hold on until an adult can come and pry the pie out of his hands.
You know, this could work for dieters, too. You simply program into the fridge what you should eat and it simply won’t let you reach for pie, but rather grab you with those flex hose pipe arms and not let go. Why, you could work up a nice cardio routine fighting it off, and speed and agility too, trying to get the pie out of the fridge before it grabbed you.
Of course, your teenaged boy and his friends would consider the whole food grab a challenge. They do, after all, have a computer game experience, like one of those death matches with the evil minions of planet Thrombosis.
Or they could just reprogram the fridge.
You’d catch on pretty quickly though, when you opened the fridge for supper’s nutritious salad and it said something cheeky to you like, "Enter password within five seconds or this refrigerator will self-destruct."
Oh, yes, self-replenishing refrigerators are fine, but those scientists should be working on getting teenagers to eat three meals a day, all nutritious, with no snacking. Now, that’s technology worth buying.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Whale of a moment

We're usually too busy to go driving around, and with the price of gas, it happens even more rarely. But when a dead fin whale washed up on shore about an hour's drive from us, we had to see it.
And this one's not that big for them, but you can see the sheer size of it.
What you can't enjoy was the smell.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What else can happen?

(This post can also be seen at
Twenty-four hours can hold an awful lot
This time yesterday, I was deep in my writing. I had to get some synopses done for my editor and was determined to do just that.
But we’d planned some fun activities for later. Being Canada Day, we were going to take in the fireworks in the nearest town, but at supper, I finally had some down time and watched the news.
A whale had died and been washed in with the tide, down in Slacks Cove, near Rockport, New Brunswick. Since this wasn’t far from us, we decided to check it out.
So did half the town, too. It was big, but by far, the smell was more intimidating. I touched it, and found it smooth, rubbery, and very cold. It had been a bit battered after it had died, and I tried to identify it. A small fin whale or a sei whale, maybe. I’m not up on my whales, I’m afraid. But there didn’t appear to be anything I could see that may have killed it. Perhaps, we can hope, it was just old age.
It’s amazing to see how the tide had washed it in. At 12 metres long, it would take some doing, a testament to the power of the sea. Which was now returning. Time to leave.
Then of course, came the fireworks we’d looked forward to seeing all day. My hubby had packed some snacks for us, and when we got there, we stayed in our car until dark. And until we discovered my son, being the one in the far back seat and closest to the cooler, had eaten the huge chocolate bar his dad had slipped into the cooler for later. So all we had was water and popcorn. Good for the diet I had put us both on, I suppose. The fireworks were wonderful and we even got out of the parking lot without delay.
Then we came home to find we’d left the garage door open, and four stray kittens had decided to make it home for the night. I didn’t want them in there, so my daughter and I had to chase them out. Not an easy task. Corralling kittens in a messy garage is much like trying to hold a child who wants to be put down. Simply impossible and not unlike the fireworks we’d just seen. We did our best and thinking the kittens were gone, closed it up and went inside. I did, however, peek out to see the kittens chasing one of those huge lunar moths. Unfortunately for the moth, the mum caught it and dashed off. She returned a few minutes later licking her lips. I'd seen enough, so I went to bed.
This morning, after my husband and my daughter had left for work, I saw two of the kittens curled up in the middle of the driveway. Feeling compassion, I mixed up a slurry of warm cat food, kibble, and homemade unsalted chicken broth, and took it out to them.
And the gang of regular adult cats came running to help these little darlings eat the food. Feeling a bit piqued, I glanced around.
And saw a gopher. Not a big one, but one curious enough to waddle out from under the trailer. It wasn’t until I heard the neighbor start up his lawn tractor that I realized that it was the one from under his shed, and he’d been temporarily evicted. I guess it wasn’t my delicious concoction of mixed cat foods that lured him out.
My morning of housework wasn’t happening, and wasn’t soon to happen, as I walked past the garage, and heard a faint meowing.
I opened the door and discovered yet another kitten inside. One I was sure I’d chased out last night. And as one would expect, he wasn’t ready to escape out the door yet. Under the pile of junk in the corner was much safer. I refuse to feed it. I don’t want it to become comfortable in my garage. I put garbage out there, and don’t want to clean that up every morning. I’d have to wait for my son to rise in order to get even attempt to get this one out.
But look what had happened to us in the last day. A trip to see, and smell, a whale up close, fireworks, in town and in our garage, and one curious, not to mention miffed gopher. We’d seen it all.
What on earth could today bring?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

the summer has started

Okay folks, we're into summer now. I hope everyone can take some time to recharge their batteries. It's funny that summer is the only time we can do it. What's happening all the rest of the time? We're working, raising kids, doing life, and attending countless meetings for things we've volunteered for.
We need summer.
And yet, we really only get a few weeks, if that, of summer. My brother in law is self employed, so any holidays he takes are at the expense of income. My sister in law finds summer to be incredibly busy with her job at the rec centre. She takes whatever time she can to relax by her pool.
But we need to time to relax, take a break and do nothing. It can even just be an hour one or two days a week. Sit outside on the deck, balcony, back yard, or whatever. Don't drive half an hour to your fave park. Just force yourself to rest at home. Ignore the housework, the ever growing lawn, and the garden, just for an hour.
You need to remind your body that you need to rest, and reflect, and it must be done right where you can always find work. -- at home.
This is your home, for good or bad, ugly or magazine beautiful, dirty or clean, it's still your home.
And you must take the time to rest. The world will still be there.
Enjoy your summer, folks, and pick up a book or two to read, okay?
Barbara Phinney

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Countdown to my book

Or as I should title this, testing to see if I can add a picture to my blog!

This is my next book, due out June 8th.

Hunter Gordon had pleaded guilty to a crime he hadn't committed. And served ten long years in prison. All to save the family who had taken him in: beautiful Rae Benton and her father. But right before Rae's father died, he revealed his daughter was in danger. Hunter had to keep her safe. How was he supposed to get close? Rae didn't know the truth and blamed him for the loss of all she held dear. Hunter would have to earn Rae's trust—without ever telling her what really happened a decade ago.


Rae Benton could not believe who had just walked into the mortuary chapel. The man who'd killed her father had the gall to attend his victim's funeral.

With hands clenched as tightly as her jaw, she lifted her gaze from the inexpensive casket, up Hunter Gordon's lean frame to meet his eyes. In the muted light, she couldn't see the vivid blue, just the intensity that carried both empathy and wariness. She could buy the wariness; after all, he couldn't expect to be welcomed here. But empathy? Hunter might not have pulled a trigger, but he was responsible for her father's untimely death. He had no right to show any compassion.

He came to stand near her. "I'm sorry, Rae." His voice had deepened during his years in prison, yet she could barely hear it in the quiet chapel. His words were obviously meant for her alone. "I wish I could have been here sooner."

"Because you've just been released?" she muttered. "How did you get here so fast? Dorchester Penitentiary is a two-hour drive from here. They don't release inmates at dawn."

"I hitched a ride with a guard coming off duty."

"Who told you Dad had died?"

His compassionate expression faltered slightly, but his voice stayed calm. "We stopped for gas up the road. The clerk told me. I came straight here."

Edith Waterbrook owned the only gas station in the small New Brunswick village of Green Valley. Which meant if she'd recognized Hunter after ten years, everyone would soon know he'd been released. And had headed straight to the funeral.

Rae found herself fighting back the conflicting urges to smack him, and to feel again the comforting embrace he'd given her that day a decade ago when her family's shop had burned to the ground.

Correction. The day Hunter had burned the workshop to the ground and destroyed Benton Woodworking, a livelihood the family had relied on for nearly a century. The day the police had arrested him for arson.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tried and True recipes

I decided to make a seafood soup yesterday. I wanted one with a tomato base, so I dug through my Time Life cookbooks to find a suitable recipe.
I found one, and typically, just scanned the list of ingredients, saw I had everything and decided to go ahead.
That’s when I ran into trouble. But it’s also the start of an epiphany for me. You see, I ‘know’ things, but sometimes I really have to learn them again to truly ‘know’ thing.
I started by sautéing onions and garlic. While they are caramelizing gently in olive oil, I needed to assemble the stock. A can of tomatoes, two tablespoons of fresh basil, two cups of red wine...
What? Two cups? Are they nuts? Even if I had two cups of red wine, I wouldn’t be putting that much into a soup recipe I’d never tried before.
Oops, I tell a lie. I do have two cups of red wine. Years ago, my husband took a tour of Dieppe, France, while still in the military. As a souvenir, he brought home a bottle of a Grand Cru de Bordeaux, for which he paid a hefty sum. We decided to age in the basement, and it’s been there ever since. So I do have two cups of red wine, but of a Grand Cru de Bordeaux wasn’t going into this soup. But, I did have about two tablespoons of red wine on my counter, something I kept to deglaze my next fabulous pot roast should that ever come. So into my soup it went.
The next thing on the list is one whole lemon, thinly sliced. Well, I did have a quarter of one that my daughter had for her Perrier water. But lemon? In a soup? Going on faith, here, after all, this is a Time Life cookbook, I thinly sliced it and tossed it in.
I took a sniff. Phew! It smelled like a university dorm after a win at homecoming. Talk about awful. After dumping the seafood and onions in, I slapped on the lid and let it simmer. Surely, the Time Life chefs made a mistake here, but I would try it. It’d have to simmer for a while, anyway, if we were to eat that lemon. I mean, wouldn’t it take a few hours to soften lemon rind?
Not wanting to lift the lid again, I let it go for the full two hours. Then, I finally screwed up my courage...
It smelled wonderful! Amazing! The alcohol had long since burned off, leaving whatever gets left behind when wine is simmered, and the lemon and garlic had mellowed into something smooth and delicious. I took a taste and found it a flavorful blend of sweet and tart and rich and satisfying. I loved it!
The Time Life guys do know what they were doing. And you know something else? God knows what he’s doing, too. He can mix people in the strangest combinations, either in a marriage or a small group or a church body. He can put oddball characteristics together in one person and in His time, the result is amazing.
We just have to trust Him, like I trusted those chefs. Then we have to set the lid on our judgements, keep the heat just right, and not rush the results.
My husband and I enjoyed that soup very much, and if I remember this lesson, I’ll enjoy all the people I have in my life, in my small group, and in my church. God knows the end results. His are tried and true recipes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Tim Phinney Memorial

Something extraordinary happened this past weekend. Besides all the busyness that comes with this time of year, as we wind down schoolwork, and gear up for the summer, the Phinney family decided to get together. You see, we lost a brother last year, and one of my husband’s other brother suggested a get together to honour their brother’s birthday, May 10th.
A barbeque with family after a long day of volunteering for two fundraisers sounded like a good plan. As soon as we arrived, my good brother-in-law produced a bowl of names. Pick out a name, set up a round robin tournament.
Or washers. You know that game, a square box with a short tube in the middle. You throw heavy-duty washers into and hope you’re better than you know you are after a long winter.
You hope in vain. Up here in New Brunswick, it’s still cold. And Saturday saw rain and wind. No one, not even the diehard washers experts, wanted to brave a backyard that looks out at the Bay of Fundy on a cold May evening. Brr.
My brother in law knew we needed a bit of incentive.
"I’ve got a prize for the winner."
Personally the prize would have to include tickets to somewhere warm to interest me. But we all looked up from around the kitchen table.
He produced a large trophy. Below the winged victory on the top, an engraved title plate.
The Tim Phinney Memorial Champions.
Who could bow out now? The sweet gesture stirred the family on. Okay, it’s not plane tickets to Florida, but the heart is in the right place here for all of us. Tim would be touched.
So we braved the wind and cold. My partner is my husband. He complained he was going uphill while I said the wind was against me. We were playing a pair who hadn’t played washers before. They beat us, pummeled us, whomped us. We were out of the running, but so were other teams who realized the cold winter had dulled their washer skills. In fact, we all decided the wind and cold and yes, even the slope of the land just wasn’t good for the game. It couldn’t be our skills or lack thereof.
Regardless, the tournament went on until the final game, outside, in the dark, with no lights, and washers now taking on the colour of the night.
The game literally came down to the wire. With all the tension of a Stanley Cup final game, we watched the nail-biting action. Then my daughter, with great finesse, threw the final washer…
…into the wooden box.
We all jumped to our feet, screamed enough to be thankful for no neighbours, and poured ourselves onto the playing field like team members onto the ice.
My brother in law and my daughter had won the championship game.
Camera flashes blinded us. (all right, it was only one small camera, and it was mostly because I’d asked my niece to snap a few shots of me for my website, but that’s another story).
Anyway, my niece did take a few pics of my mother in law doing the honours of presenting the trophy, but just a few, as apparently I used up most of her megabites.
But the evening, in the words of my sister in law, was one of those moments we will all remember.
Tim would be proud. Just not proud of our washer skills.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Very Much Fat

I have bought a pedometer. Our treadmill is on its last legs and I can't stand the noise the motor is making. The pedometer was on sale, and since I work in a school, I always wanted to know just how many steps/miles/kilometres/calories I took/used up/burned. So I attached it to my belt and headed into the classroom.
I also told the kids that if they acted up, all I had to do was touch one button and they were zapped into another universe.
One kid believed me, and one said I'd been watching too much Star Trek.
Oh well.
But this pedometer was a bit different. It measures fat too.

Okay, here goes. After several hours of tinkering with it, trying to take the alarm off, that I had accidentally set on, I was ready to press my thumbs to the sides, hold my breath, and pray the thing had even an ounce of mercy in it.
The stupid thing doesn't.
It regisitered me as not just fat, but in its Chinese-interpreted English, it said I was 'very much fat'.
Immediately, I returned to the instruction book, hoping to discover how I had accidentally done something wrong. Apparently, it uses some kind of electrical impulse through your arms, across your chest etc.
Well, there's the problem! Every woman knows how much fat she has across her chest. This needs to be done with the toes, just for a more accurate reading.
Besides the fact that it's extremely hard to press your toes down on the sides of the pedometer in order to get the proper reading.

Still the same stupid, idiotic number.
Oops. I just remembered something.
The electrical impulse gets sent through the chest when using the thumbs. So where does it meet when using the toes?
You betcha. The rear end. The largest part on most women.
Flustered, I sat down, suddenly too pouty, and obviously too fat to move anywhere.
I flipped the pedometer over.
Made In China.
Well, that's the problem! Where I live there is a large Asian population, and most Asian women are small-boned, petite, thin and delicate.
I must look like Zena's older, fatter sister (or aunt) to them, an Amazonian whose build exceeded even Anna Swan's in her heyday.
Of course, I'm 'very much fat' compared to them. Which means there is no way I can get a true reading of my body fat. Nor can I ever reach those unattainable goals.
Mind you, what I can do is get off my pouty, disappointed butt and actually do something just for me. I paid $3.99 for this pedometer, and I am not going to waste it.
And for those of you interested, I walked 2.8 miles, used 218 calories, and took 6670 steps yesterday in school.
Though I am still very much fat.
Barbara Phinney
author of Love Inspired Suspense books that feature normal woman with fat in all the proper places.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A tribute to Flora Kidd

It's been a while since I posted, so forgive me, but this post is all about a writing pioneer who has just passed away.
Flora (Betty) Kidd published 64 romance novels, plus historical fiction, and anyone who read romance in the 1970's cut their teeth on her great books. She was inspiring to many writers, but especially those of us in New Brunswick who could always find kindness, sensibility and honesty in her. She loved life, doing more than just writing. She was a teacher, a mother, a wife, a painter, who sailed, loved history and all good literature and arts, and always had a kind word for aspiring writers.
Flora wrote of the Scottish highlands, of Canada, of England, and her love of travel and people flourished in her stories.
Flora will be sadly missed by her family and friends, and also by those of us who write romance here in New Brunswick. She was a pioneer in the world of romance, though she loved all books, and like her contemporaries of the seventies, she helped pave the way for all of us who write now.

Flora Kidd

Friday, January 18, 2008

The price for a bit of extra safety?

We're booked for a trip to Cuba. Here in eastern Canada, many of us escape winter by flying down south, either to DR or Cuba. They're inexpensive, all inclusive, and warm. Everything my hubby wants in a vacation.
So, the airline we're booked on emailed me to offer a prebooking of our seats, to, as they put it, save time.
Sure, why not?
I surfed over to the site, but couldn't go any farther without the file number, so I emailed my travel agent. She replied quickly, saying she'd be happy to do it, and which credit card should she bill it to?
Credit card? Bill it?
It turns out that if we want to choose our seats, we will be charged anywhere from $15 to $25, depending on where you want to sit. It seems that right by the emergency exit is the most expensive.
Now, you may argue that it's the leg room, but I want to counter that. Not every plane has that extra leg room by the emergency exit.
I say it's because of the perceived notion that you'll be safer near the exit, and be able to get out sooner should the plane crash. Except....
as a friend of mine pointed out, you'll also be trambled to death by others, if you in any way hesitate.
I told my husband, who, like I said before, like inexpensive vacations, said to me, 'Forget it. I don't care where I sit.'
But it got me thinking. The airlines are cashing in on people's paranoia. People want that extra bit of peace of mind, and sitting by an emergency exit will do it. Sure, you get to sit with loved ones, but frankly, I've not been on a plane where you couldn't get a seat close to a loved one. People don't mind moving around. And I don't buy that notion that you need to pay extra to sit by your loved one. Where the heck is your loved one going whilst flying in a plane? And frankly, having raised two kids, I would only be too happy to put my darlings next to some stranger, especially if they refuse my request to change seats.
Sure, mister, sit by my son. You'll never refuse a seat exchange request again, once you get a whiff of his cologne, (he's 15 and loves to bathe in Axe) and he loves to share his music with all those in earshot. It's been techno geek music lately.
But what burns me is the fact that airlines are just trying to get more money out of us. They're basically saying, 'You want to think you'll be safer by that emergency exit? You'll have to pay for it.'
What's next? 'Oh, ma'am, you want a life jacket? That'll be an extra $50. The ones that come with the plane only inflate halfway.'
Barbara, who will still enjoy her trip.

Not everyone likes Christmas books.

I may receive a small commission for some of the links below. For years, I didn't want to read Christmas books, nor did I want to w...