Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell

Hi, my name is Derek Cowelll.

You might remember me from when I was popular.
Before that, I was invisible. And after.. well, that's a long story.

I never expected to become popular. It just sort of happened.
An accidental photobomb, a chance encounter with a real live celebrity, and suddenly, I was somebody.

These things never last, though, unless you help them along.
That's where I ran into trouble.

Monday, March 30, 2020

I LOVE this guy!!

By this post's heading, you're probably expecting a long, mushy message about my husband (whom I DO love) but I'm afraid another fellow has also captured my heart. His name is Cooper Clark, and I have to admit, I'm quite smitten with him.


Cooper is full of opinions and ideas! In his first adventure (book # 2 is in the works) he comes up with one zany plan after another in order to avoid facing his fear of dragons. Some of his plans will be recognized by young readers as things they themselves have tried. Others are unique. Here's what happens:


Cooper Clark's world takes an alarming turn when his regular babysitter gets a new job. 

 Arrangements are then made for Cooper to spend his after-school hours with old Mrs. Mulligan — a plan he does not care for one bit! Everyone knows that Mrs. Mulligan has a real live dragon in her basement and although he has kept his fears secret, Cooper is very afraid of dragons. 


Not willing to expose his secret, Cooper does his best to find a way to avoid Mrs. Mulligan's dreadful pet . 


It isn't until he runs out of ideas that Cooper makes a most important discovery. 


This is my first chapter book. I hope you love it as much as these reviewers did -- or even more! 


Review of this story from Atlantic Books Today

Review of this story from CM Magazine

Review of this story from CanLit for Little Canadians



Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Open Letter to My Family: Never Alone

As I begin to write these words, the world is much changed from even a month ago. Covid-19 is here and despite government actions and individual precautions, it remains to be seen whether it will be contained and conquered.

Among the many public discussions I have encountered during this time, a few have been related to what the final days and hours may be like for those struck down by this virus. And one word that rises from every description is this: 


What a sad thing to imagine. A loved one, unwell, struggling to breathe, with no family member or even friend at their side. No hand to hold, no chance for a last "I love you." A solitary passing. It is a sad image to envision.

But I want you to know this: Whenever, and however I may leave this world, that word will not apply to me.

I know this because I am never alone. My Lord and Saviour is with me, just as He promised. Just as He has been from the first moment I placed my faith in Him.

"lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world." 
- Matthew 28:20b

And because of that, I will not die alone, regardless of whatever circumstances may surround my final moments on this earth. The Lord my God will be with me. His grace and comfort, peace and joy will be the companions of the last beat of my heart.

I know and am certain of this, not because my faith is remarkably strong, or for any other reason connected to me. I know it because God is faithful. I have failed Him many times but He has never failed me. I have seen evidence of His faithfulness time and time again throughout my life. I trust that. I trust Him. I trust His Word. And His Word promises...

"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5b 

Remember this. Hold it in your heart until we meet again.

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on, to the light
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
When my way grows drear
Precious Lord, linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand, lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on, to the light
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Open Letters to my Grandchildren # 1: A Different Kind of Substance Abuse

It's everywhere -- talk of substance abuse. Which makes sense since addiction is a serious problem.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about right now. Today, I want to talk about the prodigal son's particular kind of, "substance abuse."

The prodigal son, as you probably know, pestered his dad to give him his inheritance early. He didn't want to wait for his father to die to get what he figured was coming to him.

Once you know the story, you might think it would have been a good idea for his dad to tell him, "No way!" But that's not what happened.

What did happen, as the Bible tells us, was that the son went off and had himself one big long party. (If you don't know what happened next, check it out in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11-32.)

What interests me, and what I want to talk to you about today, is the way the son's actions are described. There's actually not a whole lot of description, although it's easy to imagine what he was up to. What we do find, is this phrase:

he "wasted his substance with riotous living."

(This is from the King James Version of the Bible -- other translations word things a little differently, and may be easier for you to understand, but this is the phrase I'd like you to remember - always.)

He wasted:

Prodigal didn't use what he'd been given the way he should have. He more or less threw it away. He got no real value out of it. That's often the case when something comes too easily. A person often values what they work for more than what they're given.

his substance:

Now this is the phrase that interests me the most, and the one I am asking you to really, really, think about. At first glance, it's easy to think this just means he wasted the inheritance his father had given him. But it goes far beyond that.

Substance, if you look it up, is described as what a thing is made up of. So, yes, the son wasted the substance of what he'd been given -- whatever money and other valuables he had. But there's more to it. Because he also wasted his personal substance.

He threw away his personal qualities, the gifts God gave him. He trashed his own character, his honour and it was worthless. Except, it wasn't. It was more valuable than anything else he had.

with riotous living.

This doesn't need a lot of explanation. He was having himself good time. At least, he thought he was. (He also thought he was popular, until his circumstances changed and everyone disappeared.) I wonder how many regrets he had while he was eating pig slop and living in poverty. 

You're smart enough to draw your own conclusions on whether this so-called good time was worth the cost. Because everything has a price.

And finally, why all of this matters to each of you.

As you make your way through life you will have to make a lot of decisions. They won't all involve money and material values, but almost everything you do will involve your personal value. Who you are. How you treat others. How you treat yourself -- your mind and your body. 

Don't waste your substance. 

Open Letters to my Grandchildren # 2: Purpose in Your Heart

One of my favourite stories from the Old Testament is about Daniel.

Not the story everyone talks about though, which is Daniel in the Lion's Den. That's also a great reminder of how God rewards faith, but the story I like the best happened before then. At the beginning.

Daniel was a fine young man. Everyone knew it. And that's one of the reasons he was captured and taken away from his home in Judah to a place called Bablyon. Daniel and the other captives were chosen for their good qualities, and were expected to adapt to the new world they found themselves in and to add value to it. 

So there they were, being treated well and provided with good things, including great food. Except, the foods were not allowed to them. Daniel, and the other captives, followed strict laws regarding the kinds of foods they could eat, as well as the ways it was prepared.

But there they were, looking at tables loaded with food that smelled great. And they were all hungry. What were they supposed to do? Insult the king, who'd provided it? Starve? It was a sticky situation to say the least.

So what happened? Daniel Chapter 1 verse 8 tells us:

"But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank..."

As a result of Daniel taking a stand to do what he knew was right, he and the others from Judah were given a completely different diet, one that you wouldn't expect could promote health and strength. Even so, they thrived on it and were stronger and more fit than those who were eating the other stuff.

What I like the most about this story is WHY it happened. It would have been so easy for Daniel to give in, to make excuses, to shrug his shoulders and decide he had no choice but to go along. But Daniel didn't do any of those things because he had purposed in his heart

Daniel already knew what he was going to do before he was faced with the temptation. He didn't make up his mind when he sat at the table, hungry and facing platters of delicious smelling food. His heart had chosen the right thing ahead of time.

But why? Why did Daniel purpose this in his heart? So that he would not defile himself! That's a pretty strong statement. He might easily have told himself that eating some forbidden food wasn't a big deal. It wasn't like stealing or killing or any of the really wrong things, right?

Except, Daniel understood that it mattered. That he needed to do what was right in small matters as well as large. And if you read through the Book of Daniel in the Bible, you will see how God blessed him.

Every day, as we go through life, we are faced with choices. Often, we are tempted to do the wrong thing, and when those things seem small, we may tell ourselves they don't matter. But that is not true -- every right choice brings a reward.

And it is easier, so  much easier, for us to make the right choice if we already know what that choice will be, if we have determined beforehand to do what we know we should do, no matter how tempted we may be. 

If we have purposed in our hearts.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Stuffy's Terrible Ordeal

Many years have passed since a desperado committed the egregious act I'm about to share. It's taken me this long to be ready to talk about what happened back then. All I can do to prepare you is to say that what follows is the tale of what may well be the most egregious -- wait, I already used that word -- let's try fiendish -- smiley-napping in the history of stuffed toy abductions.

To the world, he was just another yellow thing full of beanies. To me, he was Stuffy, and he'd been a family member ever since ... I got him. No, I don't know the exact date, or even year, it's a stuffed smiley thing for goodness' sakes. What am I, a kook? You think I should be holding birthday parties or something?


Stuffy lived, for some time, in my car. I'd tucked his little yellow behind in the junk-holder that sits at the head of the console, and there he sat, in relative safety (except for a few sharp turns) for a very long time.

Stuffy's presence in the car was a happy thing. Anytime I looked at him I had to smile. It was only polite since he was smiling at me. Truly, his cheery face was, well, cheering.

But then came the dreadful day when I suddenly realized Stuffy was no longer in his usual place. A quick search of the vehicle confirmed the worst. Stuffy was gone! He'd been snatched! Taken! And Liam Neeson was nowhere in sight.

I barely got my eight hours sleep in that night. (Oh, those days before insomnia -- but that's another, and in many ways sadder, story.) Struggling through the next day I thought of the poor little fellow every time I got into my car and he wasn't there. What could have happened to him??

I knew one thing for sure. He hadn't fallen out. Not unless gravity had taken a few minutes off. No, Stuffy had become a statistic, a victim of foul play. And yet, somehow, I just knew that, wherever he was, he was smiling bravely through his ordeal. That's the kind of guy Stuff is.

A day or two passed while all I could do was hope things were okay for the little guy--that whoever had taken him was treating him with kindness. I was reasonably certain he wasn't hungry or afraid--but that was just a hunch.

And then it came. The letter, cryptically penciled on a sheet of paper, along with a Polaroid snapshot, proof that the message was legit and Stuffy was indeed at the mercy of whomever had written it.

The photo made my blood run cold. There he was, poor innocent Stuffy captured in the cruel steel of a handcuff. I could easily tell he was completely and utterly unable to move.

At least he wasn't being starved. The abductor had provided Stuffy with a Ritz cracker, which, nutritional needs aside, I suppose was better than nothing. I convinced myself he'd been allowed to keep it even after the photo was taken. Which, I will point out, Stuffy smiled for as bravely as he'd ever smiled before.

The letter was written, I believe, in a deliberate attempt to throw me off track. Someone had taken care to make it look as though I was dealing with an elementary student, but I wasn't convinced. How many kids in those grades own their own handcuffs? Nope, I wasn't falling for it.

The message read: "IF U coPrate it'd be sum better fer yer frend IF U do what I tell U."

Sure I'd "coPrate" to get my "frend" back. But what did this nefarious napper want? There was no ransom demand, no directive to go somewhere specific and wait for instructions. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being toyed with for some crueler purpose.

Days passed. I fretted and waited, wondering if I'd ever see my beloved Stuffy again. Well, besides in the photo. I thought of all the things we'd done together that we may never get a chance to do again. To be honest, there weren't that many, but still... I knew if only I got another chance, I'd spend more time with him, treat him with greater consideration, smile back at him more often!

More days passed. Until, just as hope was fading; just as I'd begun to think I may never learn anything more of his fate, a second message came. And a second photo, even darker than the first.

So. There he was, in a compromising position with some floozy -- not that I believed for a minute he'd crawled under the covers with her on his own. Stuffy had always been a gentleman. Clearly, the dame had enticed him, drawn him in with wiles he'd never had to deal with before.

MY opinion of my 'frend' Stuffy was untarnished. But what of his reputation? The new message made it clear the heartless villain who'd framed him was only too capable of spreading this character-destroying story if these demands were not met.

All the while, I had my suspicions as to who had committed this dark deed. But I had no proof. Nothing I could take to the proper authorities.

I was between the proverbial rock and hard place. If I paid up, I'd be putting myself at the mercy of a blackmailer. If I refused to shell over the $$s, who knew?

As I struggled with this terrible dilemma, some smidgen of conscience must have been at play in the monster's cold heart. If that was true, I like to think Stuffy's trusting smile played a role. Or perhaps their nerve had begun to fail. All I know for certain is that, as suddenly as he'd disappeared, Stuffy was back. The nightmare had ended.

And yet we are left with so many questions, and so many terrifying thoughts of "what if?"

It may never be truly over. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rain Shadow

Bethany knows that she is special.

She doesn't learn things as easily as her classmates do and that sometimes makes them mean to her. They call her names -- including the really "bad" name. Even her mom and her sister Mira say unkind things at times. But Bethany has friends like her neighbour Mrs. Goldsborough as well as happy times with Daddy when he gets home from work. And now, Mira has promised to protect her from the bullies when the new school year begins.

Then tragedy strikes, tearing Bethany's world apart in way she could never have imagined, and she starts to wonder if there will ever be a place that feels like home again.
* * * * *
I have chosen to return to the fictitious setting of Junction, Manitoba (setting for The Glory Wind) in this story.
* * * * *  
Please support independent bookstores, whenever possible. 

  Select Awards and Reviews for Rain Shadow: 

Shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association 2015 Book of the Year for Children.

Silver Birch Fiction Honour title Award 2016.

Shortlisted for the 2016 Ann Connor Brimer Award. 

Shortlisted for the 2016 Diamond Willow Award. 

Shortlisted for the 2017 Rocky Mountain Book Award 

Rain Shadow has been reviewed by: