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THE Magazine for Canadian Authors & Writers

OpalInterview with May 2017

G.W. Renshaw Our SHORT FICTION selection this month! Taylor and Katrina in Retirement

Axel Howerton chats with Michael Chabon What is Facebook Tagging?

wn ! o ur day o t y t to r a St oun c ac

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Opal THE Magazine by Authors & Writers!

Opal is an e-magazine, produced by Opal Publishing in Calgary, Alberta and distributed monthly by e-mail to subscribers of Opal.

Opal is published by Opal Publishing Published 10 times a year Calgary, AB, T2Z 0C3

authors and writers, though we invite

ISSN 2371-6541

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Cindy DeJager

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Cindy DeJager

all authors to share their books, events, publishing and marketing success with their reader fan base and fellow authors and writers. Opal Publishing is proud to share

Editorial Submissions

Contributing Writers

Axel Howerton, Barbara Shorrock, Catherine SaykalyStevens, Gary Renshaw, Jean Kay, John D Robinson, Marta Rabiej. Facebook: twitter: @opalpublishing

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MAY 2017

Feature Authors

How to Genre: Michael Chabon is a Wonderboy OPAL FEATURE AUTHOR

What is facebook tagging? PAGE 22




Flash Fiction Contest! See page 21


The Stuff TV and Movies Get Wrong COMING NEXT MONTH!

Poetry: May Page 34

Feature Writers Love- is it real? By Marta Rabiej PAGE 26

Taylor and Katrina in Retirement By John D Robinson


Home Gardening with Barbara Tasty Tomatoes By Barbara Shorrock PAGE 29


y r

Author & Writer Resources

Send in your poetry submissions email:

Writing Courses


Interview by Cindy DeJager

The Stable Vices Affair The Prince and the Puppet Affair The Kalevala Affair New Release: The True Love Affair




Gary Renshaw Gary and I had the pleasure of chatting one afternoon at the Starbuck's in Britannia Shopping Plaza - right across from the Owls Nest Book Store. It was fascinating to listen to him talk about his main character and the research that he had to do to write his series. It is my pleasure to meet with local authors and just have an informal chat over a coffee or tea. There has not been one single time when I can say that two authors have been similar or used the same methods in their approach to writing. Well, I hope you enjoy this interview with Gary Renshaw! It was certainly very enjoyable for me. OPAL: Hi Gary! Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me and chat about your books. G.W: It’s my pleasure. OPAL: Your biography states that you are a speculative fiction author. Can you explain what that is? The term speculative fiction is a bit of a moving target, but in general it is fiction that asks, “what if?” As such it may embrace science fiction, fantasy, and other traditional genres. Take Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as an example. It takes place in the future and some of the precipitating problems are ones of science. Is it science fiction? Is it fantasy? Is it a political statement? The true answer is that it has OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


elements of all of these. The central question of my series asks, “what if a completely normal young private investigator with no occult training or powers had to deal with extremely weird cases that have significant repercussions?” I started out to write mysteries. Then SF and urban fantasy elements sneaked in and became co-conspirators. So am I writing mysteries, SF, or fantasy? I’m writing speculative fiction. OPAL: Your main character, Veronica Chandler, is a young Calgary girl who became interested in private investigation at an early age. Why did you lean towards a main character that so closely resembles the Nancy Drew series of many years ago? Were you worried that she would be compared to that series? How is your series different? Most fictional private investigators seem to be 50-something, male, excops with a drinking problem who live in L.A., Chicago, or New York. I wanted my PI to be as far from them as possible, hence the young, female Canadian. In most places you need industry experience to be licensed as a PI, and 8


that alone means you probably can’t get your licence until you are at least in your late twenties. In Alberta, once you take the investigator’s course (which you can do online) you can write the provincial licensing examination as soon as you are an adult. That means that an 18-year old PI is legally possible. Veronica Chandler and Nancy Drew are both female, and both teens, but in the original series Nancy is a talented amateur not a licensed investigator. The only mystery Veronica solves before she is licensed is that (spoiler alert!) Santa Claus isn’t real. Veronica spent most of her teen years earning money for the investigator’s course, taking it, and doing an unpaid internship with the Calgary Police Service. As far as I remember, Nancy never encountered anything truly paranormal in her cases and, as befit the time when she was written, was a rather proper and sexless individual. Veronica keeps tripping over the paranormal and she’s definitely a child of the twenty-first century. OPAL: Writing from the perspective of a young teen-age girl has got to be challenging – how do you accomplish that? I’ve had a few people wonder about


that, but I’ve developed a fairly simple method to write characters who aren’t exactly like me. The important thing to realize is that there is no such thing as “a woman.” There is a lot of individual variation. Most women in a particular culture may share certain characteristics, but not all do. I know exactly one woman who would jump on a chair and shriek if she saw a mouse. I know a lot of women who wouldn’t even blink in the presence of a corpse. Some women want children, others don’t. Some are submissive, some would hand you your head if you cross them. For any characteristic you can name, a particular woman will likely fall somewhere along a range rather than being at one extreme or the other. The one thing all women have in common is that they are people, so to a large extent I just write Veronica as a person. There are, of course, issues that are unique to women, and to young women in particular. For those I did what I do for all my research: I found credible experts (women), asked respectful questions and listened to their answers, then ran the resulting scenes by them to see if I’d gotten it OPAL PUBLISHING

right. OPAL: You have such an immense variety of skills and life experience that you manage to merge into your books through your characters, but there is one in particular that you endowed in Veronica – the art of cooking. Tell us how that came about. I’ve been cooking ever since I was 14. I would race home from school to watch The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr on TV. My mother was an uninspired cook. When I was very young I asked to try spinach because it worked so well for Popeye. My mother told me it was terrible and gritty, because for some reason it never occurred to her to wash it. She finally gave in and bought a can of spinach which she then boiled to death. Graham Kerr was my first exposure to the idea of cooking as a fun art form. I spent the next several decades picking up cooking knowledge and inventing dishes. I’ve learned from Julia Child, Charmaine Solomon, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay. Some of my best male friends are chefs and for some reason we seem to May 2017


be rather popular with our wives. When it came time for Veronica to have a hobby, I thought she needed something more than knitting or bird watching. Her father is the executive chef at his own restaurant, so I made cooking the father-daughter bonding activity in her childhood. She’s actually a fully trained chef—she just doesn’t like working in a restaurant. One of the later volumes will be a cooking course written by her with her recipes. OPAL: Are all your books set in Calgary? The Stable Vices Affair and The Prince and the Puppet Affair both take place completely in Calgary. The Kalevala Affair starts and ends in Calgary, but Veronica gets chased all over the world by bad people. The True Love Affair takes place mostly in Calgary, with investigative side trips and lunch in the Republic of Georgia. OPAL: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? That I could. I have ADD and it caused a lot of problems for me when I was younger. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my forties. Indeed, when I was a child ADD wasn’t a known condition. People who had it were just called undisciplined, lazy, and stupid. 10


The idea that I could conceive a project as big as this one and bring it to completion was completely alien to me back then. It’s amazing what can happen when you ask for help and have supportive people behind you. Another surprise I got was from Finland. Before that, the only metal genres I had heard involved extremely loud instruments and screaming. I didn’t like them. During my research for The Kalevala Affair I found symphonic metal, and I became a fan of Nightwish. That led to me becoming friends with amazing musicians all over the world. Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish has read The Kalevala Affair and I’m waiting to find out what he thinks of it. OPAL: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? My first pick was mathematician. When computers (we’re talking IBM 360s here, not things you can fit in your house) became available to schools I got hooked on programming. I spent somewhere around 30 years working as a programmer, which in itself is an art form. I still write programs for myself to aid with my writing. One of them creates grammatical alien languages for me so I don’t have to waste time making up random words.


OPAL: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

OPAL: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I’m beginning to hear from readers more and more. One contacted me through a mutual friend and told me I was—well, suffice it to say it was a forceful opinion. The reason turned out to be okay, though. She was about a dozen pages from the end of one of my books and still didn’t know how I was going to tie things up. She did admit later that she was satisfied with the finale.

Everything in my brain is connected, possibly due to my ADD. Seriously, the first time I heard your name I thought of Jim Carrey, General Sir Charles Napier, a singer friend in Eindhoven, Pacific Rim, and that time a friend and I tried to create an herbal liqueur.

Sometimes you can’t please everyone. One woman said she didn’t like Veronica’s parents because they were too perfect. Another young woman thanked me for writing parents who weren’t horrible and abusive because it gave her hope that good parents actually exist. There was a warm and fuzzy moment when a person came to the table during a book store signing and said, “oh, I’ve heard of these.” The best response was from a fellow writer who said, “Well, now we know what G.W. stands for: Great Writing.” I’m fairly sure I didn’t touch the ground for several days after that. OPAL PUBLISHING

Here is how all that was connected: Jim Carrey starred in the remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which also featured Cindy-Lou Who (who was no more than two). General Sir Charles Napier was a soldier in India during Imperial times. He is famous for having sent the message "peccavi" to his superiors after a successful campaign. The word is Latin for "I have sinned," a pun on the name of the district Sindh which he'd conquered. Your name is Dutch, hence reminding me of the singer in Eindhoven. The mechas in Pacific Rim are called jaegers. And, of course, Jaegermeister is an herbal liqueur. I can’t 'not' get ideas. I don’t like books that contain factual errors, and I don’t want somebody who knows some field I mention to throw my book across the room in May 2017


OPAL FEATURE AUTHOR INTERVIEW With Gary Renshaw disgust. As to where the information comes from, I spend a lot of time on the internet doing research (finding sites with factual information is harder than it should be), but I also consult actual books and journals, maps, and of course people. I also have a copy of the Canadian Private Investigator’s Handbook and I’ve attended the Citizen’s Police Academy. It’s often the tiny details that are hardest to get. I confused a police detective when, instead of asking about the things he expected (crime scene investigation, or how many people he’s shot), I asked things like what Calgary police call their vehicles (“cars”), whether they have air bags (yes), and whether they have an internal trunk release (yes). Another retired officer shared the most terrifying moment of her career which then became Veronica’s. Almost all the earthly places in my novels are real and accurately described. The exceptions are the kink club in book one, her father’s restaurant, and Veronica’s home address. The fact that her suite number is 404 should be a hint if you are familiar with web error codes. Also, her street address is a Fibonacci sequence. I told you I wanted to be a mathematician. 12


The most difficult place to get information about was Taongi Atoll. The available descriptions are sparse but I managed to find a person who had camped on the island and had some pictures. OPAL: Do you have a favourite place where you like to work? Where do you do your best writing? I have a rustic cabin in the mountains where I brood for weeks on end with only a case of scotch, a quill pen and notebook, and my dog Hemingway for company. Much more probably, my lovely wife and I share a home office space with a tea maker. That’s really nice because we’re best friends and can bounce ideas off each other while we’re writing. A surprisingly prolific place we write is at the weekend retreats our writing group has every few months. We get together with our computers in a big room at the same hotel where the When Words Collide festival is held. We just sit quietly and write all day. Every so often somebody will get up and have a snack or chat with other people on breaks. One weekend I wrote over 10,000 words.

Visit Gary's pages: @GWRenshaw


May 2017


By Axel Howerton

MICHAEL CHABON IS A WONDERBOY Every once in a while, as a writer, these little opportunities fall in your lap and you find yourself changing trajectory in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s a new idea that revives a long-forgotten project, or a chance encounter that inspires a character to evolve in ways you’d never have considered. Every so often, you meet a remarkable person that inspires you to continue down a road you may have been growing weary of, traipsing along the same old stretch, looking at the same old faded backgrounds and worn-out scenes. Very recently, I had the chance to see Michael Chabon at the University of Calgary, speaking on libraries, childhood inspirations, and the unexpected connections that lead us down our paths in life. After his presentation, despite a sore throat and a surely exhausting day speaking to University classes and making the rounds, Chabon was still gracious cont'd next page OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


enough to sit and sign books for his fans. Biding my time at the end of that line, I was able not only to meet, but to have a conversation about writing genre with one of my few living literary heroes. This is the O. Henry, Nebula, Hugo, and Pulitzer-bloody-prize award winning author of books as fabulous as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Telegraph Avenue, Summerland, Gentlemen of the Road, and so on (including, of course, one of my all-time favorite novels – Wonderboys). Chabon is an inspiration to me, not just as a talented wordsmith, but as one of the major proponents of using genre in modern literary fiction. This is a man with a Pulitzer Prize for Literature, the highest honour in the land. The book he won that award for - the aforementioned Kavalier and Clay – is about comic books and super-heroes (among other things). The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which won him a Hugo and a Nebula Award (among others), is an alternate history hardboiled detective story. Gentlemen of the Road is a buddy-comedy road-movie wrapped in high adventure and swashbuckling charm. Chabon’s short fiction routinely explores genres like science-fiction and fantasy, harkening back to such genre-fied touchstones as Dune; E.C. Comics titles like Tales from the Crypt; pulp mainstays like Weird Tales and Dime Detective, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal John Carter of Mars series. He has written comicbook tie-ins for Kavalier and Clay, as well as writing lovecraftian pulp-style stories under the pseudonym August Van Zorn, a name and author profile which he lifted from a character in his own Wonderboys. He wrote (unproduced) treatments for X-Men and Fantastic Four movies way back in the 90’s. He helped write Spiderman 2 and Disney’s version of John Carter. This is a man who not only knows his stuff, but is a fan of the weird and wonderful. Like Vonnegut and Bradbury before him (and hopefully myself to follow), Chabon eschews the idea that genre is a lesser form of entertainment, and that Literature, with a 16


How to genre, Axel Howerton capital L, can never venture into what we now call “genre”. “Charles Dickens wrote ghost stories. Every writer before the 1950’s had ghost stories, and gothic romances, and adventures, and pirate stories in their collections.” He told me. “The whole idea of genres is a relatively new-fangled way to make some books seem more important, or more worthy than others. Something to facilitate snobbery and lazy criticism.”

I asked him about his earliest genre loves, and which were his favorite to work in. “Science fiction and fantasy, obviously. One of my first fan crushes – first favorite writers – was Edgar Rice Burroughs. I would sign my name as Mike Burroughs Chabon. I wrote a story called The Martian Agent that was inspired by those Burroughs books.”

The Martian Agent, a Planetary Romance was part of McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, a 2003 Chabon edited short-story anthology of literary heavy-hitters writing decidedly genre tales. It was followed in 2004 by McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories. Literary darlings including Chabon, Dave Eggers, Michael Crichton, Nick Hornby, Joyce Carol Oates, Ayelet Waldman, Glen David Gold, Sherman Alexie, Karen Joy Fowler, and Elmore Leonard mixed it up with genre legends like Stephen King, Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and Margaret Atwood. Those books were meant as an experiment in proving to literary circles that genre was not a redheaded stepchild, some bastardized and unworthy corruption of the higher ideals of literature as art. While, at the time, that experiment seemed to yield little in the way of progress, in the years since then, there seems to be a much wider acceptance of genre elements in the rarefied shelves of the literati. In fact, those two books were integral to me rediscovering cont'd next page

my love of prose fiction, after ten-plus years of writing entertainment journalism and film criticism. When I made time for extracurricular reading back then, it was for whatever heady read was the latest big new thing in the NYT Book Review. Almost invariably, those books would bore me to the edge of self-immolation, but I would persevere and struggle through, in the name of intelligence and culture. Chabon, along with a crop of writers like Eggers and Moody, were at least a breath of fresh air, and when those McSweeney books came along, they gave me something back that I had revelled in as a movie reviewer, but totally suppressed as a reader. The stories in those books, and the wildly eclectic group of writers behind them, helped spark something that made me want to tell my own stories again. They let me believe that I could write genre-laden fiction, full of monsters, magic and mayhem, strange worlds and odd characters, yet still be taken seriously as a “real” writer. Those collections, and books like The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, made me want to go back to my heroes – writers like Vonnegut and Bradbury, Elmore Leonard (who wrote Westerns before he wrote Crime), Clive Barker, W.P. Kinsella, and Stephen King (who wrote nostalgic boyhood adventure tales like The Body, or human dramas like The Shawshank Redemption, or fantasy-laden glories like Eyes of the Dragon, almost as often as he wrote about rabid dogs, re-animated toddlers, or clowns in the sewer.). What I found they all had in common and what they share with Michael Chabon is a deep and abiding love of genre, and the opportunities it allows for exploring the human condition and telling a really good damn story. Chabon’s newest novel, Moonglow, is for the most part, not full of those genre conventions. At the same time, they 18


How to genre, Axel Howerton still seep in through passages about war and adventure, love, madness and an unreliable account of perceived reality and wishful remembrance. They appear in similes and metaphors throughout his work that reference pop culture and subculture loves like Star Trek and the old Batman TV show. Like any good writer – like any writer, period – Chabon is the sum total of his influences and his experiences: influences like early comic books and artists for Kavalier and Clay; Raymond Chandler and pulp detective fiction in The Yiddish Policeman’s Union; the terrors of unending novels and writer’s block and Chabon’s professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Chuck Kinder, who had a 3000 page monstrosity that wouldn’t end. That became the catalyst for Wonder Boys, a book that is absolutely about freeing yourself from constrictions and expectations, and learning to love your own stories. “Even Gentlemen of the Road, a book set in 1000AD, about swordsmen for hire in Central Asia… there are things in that book that come from my own personal experience and observations. There are things I may not even realize that have come into that narrative through influences I’ve taken in, stories I’ve previously consumed and absorbed.”

I asked Michael Chabon what was the earliest and most lasting of his influences, and which of his more genre-leaning books he most enjoyed creating. Not surprisingly, the answers cross-reference themselves. cont'd next page


May 2017


“One of the first series I ever fell in love with was Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle. That was just, like, manna from heaven. To have so many stories available to me, featuring these same amazing characters. I devoured them. The first short story I ever wrote, I was maybe eight or nine years old, it was a Sherlock Holmes story. So, when I wrote my own homage to Sherlock Holmes that was kind of coming full circle for me.”

Never actually referred to as Sherlock Holmes but simply as “the old man”, the hero of Chabon’s 2004 novella, The Final Solution is undoubtedly Holmes. The story picks up during WWII with an 89 year-old detective who is long-retired and busies himself as a beekeeper. Chabon even goes so far as to reference the most infamous of Holmes stories The Final Problem with its title. It shows his love and reverence for Conan Doyle, in the same way that his short fiction has celebrated Burroughs and the pulps. It’s something that Chabon has learned to embrace and use to imbue his work with sincerity and enthusiasm. “I had been taught early on that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I wrote genre fiction. I had sort of allowed myself to fall into this channel as a writer that, at some point, I realized I didn’t want to be limited to anymore. Whatever I want to write, I should have the freedom to do that, and I want to be proud of it and put my name on it.”

I’ve met many of my “heroes” over the years, from Rowdy Roddy Piper and the British Bulldogs when I was a kid, to John Candy, Johnny Cash, and Sir Anthony Hopkins as the years ran on. I spent five minutes bullshitting with Chuck Pahlaniuk. I had a lovely half-hour gab with Malcolm McDowell. Bill Kinsella became a teacher and a mentor. I even managed to shake the hand of Ray Bradbury once, and shared a very treasured few minutes of conversation with quite possibly the greatest genre writer who ever lived. If I had to pick one person from those amazing moments and memories, one person that I can say has truly inspired me as a writer and an artist, and actually made me feel energized and hopeful as a human being, someone who felt like a 20


How to genre, Axel Howerton kindred spirit, someone who made me stop and see that faded scenery with new eyes and renewed my belief in the road I’m walking, it is certainly Michael Chabon. Keep walking your road, people. Don’t let the distance grind you down. Don’t let anybody tell you what you should or shouldn’t write. Don’t bury your influences. Don’t be ashamed of them. Revel in them and let them inform, inspire and enlighten you and your work. Initially, I was going to use Chabon’s comments as a quick segue into a look at the continuing industry of Sherlock Holmes fiction, and the rise of Public Domain pastiches and revivals. Obviously that was waylaid by this short exhortation to be true to your roots. So, stay tuned… Next month: Sherlockian Shenanigans and the Power of Pastiche.

Submit your Best Flash Fiction! Write a story in 300 words the topic is The Lake. Must contain all the elements of a fiction with an established plot line, characters, and setting. Deadline for submissions is June 10, 2017 Entries will be judged and the best wins a $25 Amazon gift certificate and will be published in July issue. Send your submissions to the Editor at


May 2017


Is Facebook Tagging Causing Others to Unfriend or Unfollow You? What is Facebook Tagging?

By Catherine Saykaly-Stevens

When you post on Facebook, it allows you to tag others as you post. Posts usually appear on your Facebook feed (home) but by 'tagging' it allows your post to show up on an individual’s own Facebook wall. Officially, Android Facebook App has a limit of 50 tags and IOS Facebook App has a limit of 100 tags, although I’ve seen far more tags than that on a single post. The advantage is that each and every Facebook post you create could be placed on the Facebook wall of every person you choose to tag. This ensures that each tagged person will see your post on their Facebook wall, along with many of their followers, much like a “send all”. It sounds like a great idea to get more exposure, right? Wrong! Use Facebook Tagging Carefully, Sparingly I get it. Everyone wants more exposure and to have more of their posts seen. There is so much competition for attention; it’s natural to want as many eyes on your work as possible. However, imagine the consequences if everyone tagged everybody all the time? Your Facebook wall would look exactly like the Facebook feed. A good rule is to use the Facebook Tagging tool sparingly. Ask yourself this: Do you want to tag someone? Are you helping to promote someone else or giving them something they want to see OR are you promoting yourself or furthering content that benefits you? You’re either promoting someone else or spamming them. Don’t be a spammer. 22


Social Media Strategies

for Authors and Writers

If you’re constantly tagging people, you become an annoyance. The consequences are that they may unfriend you or unfollow you. Unfollow means that while you’re still friends on Facebook, none of your posts will reach them with their notifications turned OFF. If you do tag, make sure that you have permission to tag someone. Facebook can be a fun place to play, but for many it is a business tool. Also make sure you are aware of what is happening in their lives. • What if an author has all their content posts lined up for their book launch and you tag them interrupting their progress with inappropriate posts? • What if a parent is in crisis posting to Facebook informing of their child’s emergency hospital visit and you tag them interrupting their updates with a funny Facebook meme? Forget being unfollowed, the public backlash you may face in either case can devastate you. You Can Never Promote Others Enough There is only one exception to the Tag Sparingly rule.


May 2017


Of course, when it comes to promoting others, tag away! Tag people when you’re mentioning them or promoting them or sharing their content. It lets them know that you’re supporting them and gives them the option to engage with or share it too. A Post Tagging Alternative If you really want people to know about your post, tag them in a way that does not interfere with their Facebook wall, but where they will still receive a notification of your post. >> Tag them in the Comments (see photo below with 8 people tagged). Mentioning/Tagging them like this will create a notification where they can choose to Like, Comment, Share, or Click on the content – engaging at the level of their choice.



Catherine Saykaly-Stevens | Audience Growth and Fan-Engagement Social Media Consultant and Trainer Showing authors, entrepreneurs, speakers, coaches, and health practitioners how to sell more books, programs, and services.

*Join us for the next FREE Webinar - 7 Keys to Unlock Social Media Results *Learn takeaways to implement today!

Home of The Social Media Quick Start Program OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


Feature Writers

True Love – is it real?

By Marta Rabiej, Reiki Practictioner “I know of only one duty and that is to love” ~ Albert Camus “Love yourself, it is important to stay positive, because beauty comes from the inside out” ~ Jenn Proske Love is one of the most important parts of our lives. From day one we are “programmed” to search for it, have it, give it, be it. We are coming to this world as the expressions of Divine Love, and Its creation. Even though we cannot see our Creator with our physical eyes, we are created in his likeness. That means we are also very powerful and we are able to create. In fact, we create everything, everyday. Our thoughts become our habits, our habits become our beliefs, and our beliefs create our reality. How does this tie to unconditional and everlasting love? Our Creator has unconditional 26


love for us, at all time. We are his most beloved creations. Nothing we do or think makes us less loved. Only we, humans, put conditions on love for ourselves, or other human beings. When we are born, we have all the confidence, love, and strength we need to survive. Baby’s smile can melt everyone’s heart, and that’s enough for us to return love, and care for this tiny and adorable being, who cannot do anything for himself at first. But one little smile has a power to change everything in his favor. So, what happens to us later on, when we get older? How come it all changes and becomes so difficult to “find” love? That’s a question we should ask ourselves. What happens down the road when we have different experiences in our life? We “learn” that we are not the center of the universe, as we thought we were. We realize that in many cases love has conditions. For example, if we act “good” and do not cause any problems, we are rewarded by those who provide for us, so we quickly realize that there are certain mechanisms, which “trigger” other people’s expression of love or other feelings for us.

During our childhood we also learned that we have limits. If we encountered situations that resulted in painful memories and feelings (like shame, fear, or anger, when we were made fun of, or someone stronger was trying to take advantage of us) those situations got deeply ingrained in our minds, bringing same feelings in similar circumstances. And those traumatic emotions from childhood resulted in accepting fears as true picture of ourselves. When if fact we adapted these false beliefs in such early years that we had no chance to question or change them. Allowing those beliefs to create painful “reality” without giving it another thought. Love is our true nature. It is our foundation. And if we have hard time finding it, it’s because we are looking in the wrong places. Or because due to painful memories we buried it so deeply down in our soul that it seems like we don’t have it. However, true love is not a myth and we can experience it once we understand that we are not “broken”, and do not need to find anyone who would “complete” us. We need to realize that we are the only ones putting limits on ourselves! And once we conquer those limiting beliefs and start vibrating in higher frequencies, we start attracting “better” things and experiences.


Everything shifts when we come into harmony with ourselves. When we are able to look at our reflection in the mirror and have appreciation for who we are without judgement, self-criticism, and without negative emotions. So, don’t put conditions on compassion for yourself, like others did when you were little. Yes, we all make mistakes on our path, but that is called learning and evolving. And the truth is, we are more focused on negative experiences than on our accomplishments. We live with a conviction that we have to “fit” into someone else’s standards, before we could accept ourselves, or be proud of who we are. And that is a hard obstacle to overcome, which leads to frustrations, disappointments, resignation, and depression. What would it take for you to believe in yourself and all that you are? What would it take for you to know that the Divine Light and Love that is inside of you is greater than any challenge, obstacle, or anything you are having difficulty with? What would it take for you to realize that you are ONE with the greatest power in the entire universe? If you are ready to “find” love you need to start with yourself. Accept the fact that you are a powerful creator and your biggest power is LOVE. Give May 2017


up all ideas that limit you or make you feel inadequate, or incompetent. Simply, start looking at yourself like you are the most important thing in the universe. Look through your heart, not your ego. Give yourself credit for all positive accomplishments and learn how to show others that they matter. The saying “what goes around it comes around” describes precisely the circle of life. And I can say that if you send out positive vibes, by being kind, compassionate, and loving, in dealings with yourself and others, those positive feelings will return to you magnified. I’m not saying that you have to love your addictions (to food, drama, or other forms and negative actions), but have respect for yourself and be honest with yourself about the feelings you are not dealing with. Don’t hide behind excuses. Let go of things that do not work for you. If you know that you need to make changes in your life, take small steps, stick with them, and ask for help or surround yourself with positive, supportive people who will cheer you on and keep you strong in tough times. Be kind and love yourself and others as they are. Do not try to change anyone, criticize, or harm them. Having a great sense of humor is not the same as making someone else being a butt of all the jokes, day in and day out. Be sensitive and listen to 28


your intuition. It will guide you to love like a lighthouse guides ships to the safety of the port on a stormy night. Trust yourself and expect good things to come your way. The only thing keeping you from finding love is your belief that it’s not possible, so figure out when you got it and change it! Release the fears and allow your heart to receive love and compassion. Forgive yourself and others. Make room for better and bigger things to come your way. Look inside to remember what made your heart sign with joy and make time to do it whenever things get stressful. Unleash your creativity and forget about what others think. Bob Moawad said “Creativity is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God”. Use your imagination and see love all around you. Focus on crating and receiving love. At the end of the day ask yourself: did you love enough? Did you laugh enough? Did you make a difference? And as you start your day, set an intention to experience each moment as a sacred gift. Be grateful for it and open your heart to receive miracles. Don’t be like those who wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, and all life for happiness. Realize that you are LOVE; shine it out bright to allow it to attract more of it to you.

Featured Articles - Our Writers

If you don’t believe in miracles, perhaps you have forgotten that you are one! “Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love” ~ Evelyn Underhill

“Love is creative. It does not flow along the easy paths, spending itself in the attractive. It cuts new channels, goes where it is needed” ~ Evelyn Underhill

Home Gardening With Barbara – Tasty Tomatoes By Barbara Shorrock, Calgary Gardener Calgary gardeners love their tomatoes, and can get pretty competitive over size and yield and all sorts of other categories. With our short growing season here in the Chinook belt (on average May 25-Sept 15), not to mention cold nights, days that may be warm to sizzling, moisture from drought to drowning, wind and Oh yes, hail, a bumper tomato crop is no sure thing. So, why bother? You can buy tomatoes of all sizes and shapes in the grocery store every day of the year. They come from greenhouses and fields as near as Medicine Hat and as far as California and Mexico. Plant breeders have focused for years on developing OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


a fruit with thick skin, symmetrical shape, disease resistance and toughness to travel from field to store shelf. But in all this hybridization, the one thing that has been neglected is FLAVOUR. Do tomatoes today taste like they used to taste when you were a kid? Not likely. What is flavour? It is a combination of about 25 volatile chemicals that make up the mouth taste and nose smell, including acids and the #1 chemical – sugar. Let’s compare flavour to a classical musical symphony. If you pull out a single instrument, you many not notice. But pull out another, and then another, and at some point you will definitely know that something is missing. This is what has happened in commercial production, and now there are scientists working on identifying the genome sequences of hundreds of tomatoes, trying to figure out how to selectively put back the pieces that will improve flavour, without messing up all the lovely thick skin and great travel-ability. This is no small feat, but the researchers, producers and customers are all eagerly awaiting success. If you have a garden, or even space for large pots, and a sunny location, you too can enjoy the sumptuous taste of a real tomato. There are varieties in the seed catalogues that are amazing; just reading about them is an adventure. What you must remember, though, is our short season, so choose varieties that will mature in less than 70 days. (Gardeners with greenhouses already know this doesn’t apply to them as the steady heat in the greenhouse makes for a different growing environment). Cherry tomatoes in particular, are well suited to a Calgary garden, as they ripen earlier than larger ones. There are some medium and large ones 30


Featured Articles - Our Writers that will also ripen here, in a good year, before frost necessitates a move indoors. Many gardeners rely upon Heirloom types for flavour, as they are originals that have not been hybridized. Lois Hole’s book Tomato Favorites is an excellent source of information. Here are some she recommends both for their taste and for early maturity: Tumbler – 49 days (everybody seems to love this one, which is designed to grow in a tall pot and tumble over the rim, producing fruit all the way to the ground. Early Girl – 52 days Champion – 62 days Big Beef – 73 days Celebrity – 72 days If starting seeds indoors with lights and all the associated paraphernalia isn’t your thing, just choose your seedlings from the local nurseries with care, keeping FLAVOUR as your first criteria. When reading the labels, sometimes the name will give a clue, such as Ultra Sweet (52 days). By the way, some yellow and orange varieties can be just as tasty as red, if you close your eyes. I tried little yellow pear-shaped cherry tomatoes one year, but although they were super cute in a salad or on an appetizer tray, they were so mild tasting I won’t do it again. It is flavour first in my kitchen.

Barbara Shorrock is a writer, reader, traveler, retired realtor, ESL teacher, Spanish student and brand new great-grandmother! She can be found most first Wednesdays at the Queensland Garden Club, which welcomes all gardeners, experienced and new. We don’t care where you live.


May 2017


Tue, May 2 This is a special program just for parents and caregivers. Make a simple visual tool for adding fun and literacy to your child’s daily routine, and learn about resources for helping children adjust to new experiences. Get the details First-hand experiences in global development Tue, May 2 Presenter Anna Kim shares her experiences living and working in Uzbekistan and Korea, and discusses international development and education opportunities. Get the details Building your family tree? Start at the library Wed, May 3 Learn about exciting online resources for family research available on the Internet at this hands-on genealogy workshop. Get the details What exactly is co-housing? Thu, May 4 Co-housing facilitator Kathy McGrenera talks about co-housing

and blending privately owned homes with common areas designed by residents seeking to build a close-knit neighbourhood. Get the details Mixed Voices Raised: stories of hybridity and identity Thu, May 4 This evening of storytelling explores the themes of multi-ethnic heritage and hybrid identity. Features: poets Fred Wah and Amal Rana, musicians Henry Young and Tarun Nayar, Hapapalooza Festival co-founder Zarah Martz, actress and filmmaker Melissa West Morrison and more! Get the details Wapikoni Mobile – films by First Nations youth May 5 and 6 Discover dynamic indigenous voices through films made by First Nations youth. These curated films reveal unique stories, incredible talent and powerful voices across Canada’s indigenous communities. Get the details VANCOUVER PUBLIC LIBRARY 350 W. Georgia St. | Vancouver, B.C. V6B 6B1 | Canada |

Walk150: Make Calgary feel like home, one step at a time! Walk through Calgary neighbourhoods with Lori Beattie, author of Calgary’s Best Walks, and discover new and familiar places with multilingual guides available. Various Library Locations & Dates to Accommodate Your Schedule Walk150 takes place in May & June

Book Discussion Groups May Theme: Great Canadians! Travel the world of ideas while talking about your favourite Canadian author or book that made you love Canada just a little bit more. Bring your book to a lively, facilitated discussion. No registration required. Various Library Locations & Dates to Accommodate Your Schedule Bill’s Book Café with Julie Van Rosendaal Join Library CEO Bill Ptacek & local cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal on a rich culinary journey as they talk about Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip. Alexander Calhoun Library May 12 | 7 pm Sage Hill Library Temporary location to open in June! Visit our website for details. To register or learn about other events, visit or call 403.260.2620. OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


Poet r


MAY By Jean Kay May brings warm and sunny days so we can get out and enjoy some rays. May it bring some necessary rain to help our plants to flower again. May it bring, for you, some pleasant walks meeting your neighbours for friendly talks. May it inspire and energize you to accomplish things you want to do, May it start plans for a vacation somewhere in ours, or another nation. May all the planning be just as much fun as enjoying the journey until it’s all done. May you make new friends within your days who affect your life in positive ways. May every morning the sun-rise glory prepare you for another day in your story.



May your main character be the genuine you and not what another would like you to do. May your health be at its very best with good results from every test. May all your abundance be clearly defined by countless blessings that are all gold-lined. May you realize all your needs are met and that life can and will get better yet. May your hopes, your wishes and your dreams become positive goals with active schemes. May each step towards your goal be inspired by love from within your soul. May the month of May play a major part of providing all that is dear to your heart.

Jean Kay

Send your poetry submissions to OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017




Taylor and Katrina in Retirement By John D Robinson


ruckner had been a long time favourite; the "First Symphony, Second Movement" eased out of the small portable radio and drifted through the garage. Taylor Andrews was cleaning the interior of his car as he listened to Bruckner. Taylor no longer drove the car and hadn’t done so for several years due to illness; but all the same, he cleaned and maintained the vehicle as he had always done. Taylor is sixty-seven years old and has a very progressive and inoperable cancer moving through his body; he was recently given a year to eighteen months of life to live. Taylor, in his mind was a strong and stubborn individual and as much as he could manage, he lived his time as he was accustomed. Mrs Katrina Andrews was also sixty-seven years old and had been Taylor’s wife for thirty-nine years. She and Taylor had, for what seemed like endless years, worked hard and both had retired almost two years ago. Katrina missed the company and friendship of her work colleagues and the purpose that the job had provided. She now found the days to be long and empty; she could not seem to summon the energy to make changes and the everyday worry of Taylor depleted her brightness even further. Katrina’s head was constantly filled with a relentless white-noise; Tinnitus. There were days when she wasn’t aware of it but these days were all too rare. She spent long periods of time sitting in the lounge looking at a silent television; knitting was a hobby that she had recently begun and as she idly stared at the flickering screen she knitted and thought of Dominic, her dead son. Bruckner’s First Symphony had been replaced with Mozart’s "Symphony No. 40, First Movement". Taylor had finished cleaning the interior of the car and was sat behind the steering wheel; he closed his eyes and leaned comfortably back into the padded seat. He began to think of Katrina; she had been a little distant of recent months, she had become increasingly forgetful and on numerous occasions Taylor had found Katrina wandering around the house in the early hours of the morning; later she would remember nothing of it. Katrina was reluctant and frightened of visiting a doctor; she was fine, no need to bother anyone; strong and stubborn like her husband. cont'd next page OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


Taylor opened his eyes, leaned forward and pushed in the release catch of the glove compartment and reached inside for a small leather wallet containing his driving licence. As Taylor opened the wallet, a small photograph of Dominic fell into his lap; he looked down at the photograph, the picture was thirty years old, the boy would have been just five years old and it was one of the last photographs of Dominic ever taken. Katrina Andrews was staring at the silent images moving before her on the silent television screen; she had earlier discarded the knitting upon the floor in a surge of confused frustration. She rose from the sofa and walked over to the large bay-fronted window and looked out into street; nothing, it was deserted, disappointing. Katrina turned around and made her way to the back of the house and looked out into the large back garden; it was wildly overgrown and unkempt, an ugly eye-sore for some but Katrina found it to be endlessly fascinating and exciting; it was busy with birds and insects and the frequent visits of foxes, that she regularly with fed scraps of food; she stood steadying herself up against the kitchen sink and gazed, transfixed, through the window. Although Bruckner had been a firm long standing favourite, Mozart, was without a hint of doubt, considered Taylor, the master. Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart; genius; dead at the age of thirty five. Taylor climbed out of the car, closed the door and stood motionless for a few moments. He moved around the car and switched off the radio. The instant quietness drew the attention of Taylor; he sat down upon a tool box and listened for a few minutes to the occasional passing car and a distant siren wailing and a gentle breeze moving around. He reached into his top shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes; as far as everyone else was concerned, including Katrina, he had quit smoking months ago; but every now and then, he could not resist the urge to indulge. His hands were trembling as he lit the cigarette, soon after inhaling he felt a rush to his head, he leaned forward and rested his palms against the side of the car, and a thick cloud of smoke floated in the garage and snaked its way and disappeared beneath the garage doors. The soft cries of Katrina Andrews were heard by no one. From the kitchen window as she had looked into the thick mish-mash of brambles and weeds and wild flowers and tall grass, she thought she could see something, a small animal perhaps, trapped and struggling deep in the undergrowth; but she couldn’t be 38



Taylor and Katrina in retirement

sure. Again she called out for Taylor, but again there came no response. Katrina unlocked the back door and with an unsteady gait moved towards the garden; she had taken just half a dozen steps when she lost her footing and fell into the dense and sharp undergrowth, thorns ripped into her fragile skin and for several minutes she screamed and cried out in pain, the more she struggled to free herself the more entwined and ensnared she became within the wooden barbed wire. After several minutes she stopped calling out and lay still and silent. Taylor had regained his composure and had switched the radio back on; the moving, haunting sounds of Arvo Part’s ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ crept into the smoky garage. He tossed the cigarette to the floor and crushed it beneath his feet, thinking and promising himself, that that had been the last cigarette he’d smoke. Suddenly he became aware of the loud panic knocking upon the garage door, puzzled and startled, he moved quickly and opened the door; he found an anxious and frightened looking neighbour, who explained that just a few moments ago when she was opening a back room window, she had seen that Katrina had had some kind of accident and it looked serious, she needed help urgently. Taylor stood speechless for a few brief moments; he then reached into his top pocket and pulled out the pack of cigarettes, he lit one whilst he telephoned for the emergency services and then he made his way quickly to the back garden.

John D Robinson is our U.K. short fiction contributor. OPAL PUBLISHING

May 2017


Business Listing EDITORIAL DEADLINE: 10th of each month for the next month's publication. Please keep word count to 40 or less; $3.00 a month includes your business listing in the magazine and website. Email: info@opalpublishing Simon Rose (Calgary) Editing and coaching services: Basic, substantive, and copy editing. All genres; all age groups. Novels, short stories, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, etc. Comprehensive content assessment and story development consultation. |

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THE Magazine for Authors & Writers


May 2017 Opal Magazine  

Opal Magazine is all about Canadian Authors and Writers!

May 2017 Opal Magazine  

Opal Magazine is all about Canadian Authors and Writers!