Calgary Comic Expo 2013

This was my third year attending the Expo, and as the three main stars of BBC’s Torchwood were coming, I decided to take the plunge and splurge on a ticket to the Torchwood ‘HUB’ reception.  Usually I just buy the weekend pass to the Expo and leave it at that. But the chance to ‘mingle’ with John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and Gareth David-Lloyd was more than I could pass up.

Excuse the blur – we weren’t ‘allowed’ to use flash photography. 🙁

I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. JB is quite possibly the most extroverted person I’ve ever met. He kept the attendees entertained, telling stories (mostly dirty/smutty/silly, or a combination of all three), and he and Eve were quite the pair, egging each other on. Quite sensibly, GDL slipped away from the stage to get a drink, and spent more of his time in quieter conversations with fans. Just even due to space, he was far easier to approach — JB and Eve stayed near the stage and it felt a bit like a rugby scrum to get up there. But it was fun, nonetheless. I loved how JB singled out the cosplayers (and there were some good ones, including a woman dressed up, and in full makeup, as a Silurian.)


My impression of JB up close: brilliant white smile, and blue, blue eyes. He’s a bit overwhelming. 🙂

And, just my luck, a photographer with the local paper, The Calgary Herald, took a photo of me and GDL: Click here and scroll through the gallery.

My two seconds of fame? Maybe. 😉

Saturday was far calmer in comparison, though I was still buzzed from the reception. JB’s energy seems to be a creature of its own. I met up with my friend Julie in line, and we headed to get JB’s autograph first thing. Then to Richard Dean Anderson, a must-have autograph for Julie (though I’ll be honest and say that I really had no idea who RDA was, or have ever watched Stargate). Then to GDL and Eve, who were lovely in a quieter environment. Told GDL about the photo in the Herald. I have lovely autographs from all three now, and I really ought to get them framed and up.

After autograph-gathering, Julie and I headed into the Corral for the Torchwood panel. 45 minutes of comedy and geekiness. GDL’s “Asparagus Man” had me laughing and almost in hysterics, and then JB had to drop trou and show off his Iron Man briefs. No pics of that moment. My apologies. You’ll just have to imagine it. (Or Google it–I’m pretty sure someone caught it on camera! …oh wait, here’s one for you, though not from this Expo…)

Then it was vendor and artist time, and I bought a really lovely teapot from Kamloops based sculptor Amanda Eccleston, owner of Clay Chimera. It was gorgeous, and holds about 2 large cups of tea, which is perfect for my everyday use. (If you don’t know already, I’m a total tea jenny. No coffee for this girl!)

As I was feeling the lack of sleep, I didn’t stick around till the day’s end. But I had a ton of fun, and I can’t wait till next year’s Expo!

Book Review: The Bleiberg Project, by David Khara

Bielberg-Project_cover_200x300Self-pitying golden boy trader Jay Novacek is having a bad week when he finds himself thrown into a race to save the world from a horrific conspiracy straight out of the darkest hours of history. Could secret human experimentations be carried out worldwide? Can it be stopped? This fast-paced thriller took France by storm when it was first published, reaping superlatives: “Spellbinding,” “exceptional,” “staggering,” captivating,” “brilliant,” “astounding,””fascinating.” Think a dash of Robin Cook,  a splash of John Grisham and a pinch of Clive Cussler with a very distinctive voice all it’s own. The book catapulted its author, David Khara, into the ranks of the country’s top thriller writers.

I’ve been impressed with every translation put out by the digital-first publisher Le French Book. My favourite is still The 7th Woman (by Frédérique Molay), but The Bleiberg Project runs a close second. This is an excellent thriller that everyone should pick up.

From the present day, to the harrowing days of WWII, The Bleiberg Project is a fantastical story that kept me reading. Khara builds suspense by flashing back to events during the war, and giving the reader hints, and he adeptly moves between characters. As a writer myself, I was interested to see how Khara worked in a first-person point of view (Jay Novacek) and third-person point of views (Eytan Morg, et al). The switch from first to third didn’t bother me, and I thought it might. But using Jay as first-person narrator gives the reader an ‘in’ so we can more easily get into the story and caught up in the suspense.

However, I was most fascinated by Eytan Morg, the assassin for Mossad, and the twists in his story surprised me. I’m hoping that isn’t the end of Eytan’s character. I can’t really say more, for fear of spoilers, and I really wouldn’t want to spoil this book for you.

This is another great read from the team at LeFrenchBook — I am so glad that someone is intent on making translations of award-winning, impressive crime and thriller novels from French into English. I’m hoping that LeFrenchBook will bring more of Khara’s work into their upcoming catalogue.

My thanks to Le French Book for providing a copy for an honest review.

New and free short story!

Before I disappear for a couple of weeks on my trip, I wanted to put up another short story to tide you over until my return.

Vee: Birdland (I)

We haven’t been dating long, and already Vee and I are sticking too close to home. It’s too easy for me to pick her up after work when the bookstore closes, too easy for us to make dinner and drinks here, watching late night TV, or having sex. Not that I mind. But I’m already a bit of a shut-in.

“We should go out tonight,” I say to Vee when she comes over, having had the early shift at the bookstore. She flops into the cracked leather chair in front of the small fireplace, putting her feet up on the arm.

“Where to?” She sounds eager, and I’m glad. Maybe she too has been feeling the urge for change.

“Do you like jazz?” I come out from the kitchen with a glass of water, and Vee looks at me upside down, her head on the back of the chair. She wiggles her eyebrows.

“Don’t know much about it. Punk’s more my style. And indie rock.”

“That’s settled then. Put on a nice dress-” she’s in her work uniform still, and it just won’t do- “and we’ll go.”

“A nice dress?” Vee sits up straight. “Not opera gloves too, I hope.”

Read more…

Guest Post: Patricia Sands, author of ‘The Promise of Provence’


Alyssa, when I saw your tagline I wanted to make plans to meet you for a café au lait and talk about all things French. Tout de suite!

Thanks so much for inviting me over for a virtual chat. I guess that will have to do for now ~ passing a plate of madeleines, hot out of the oven ~.

Since you and I share a love of all things French, I thought perhaps your readers would like to see a small sampling of why feel like we do. With your permission, I’m going to ‘focus’ on the south of France.

Apart from being surrounded by history that lives on amidst breathtaking vistas and vegetation, all of which I photograph with endless pleasure,

for me, it’s also about the windows …

windows1 windows2 windows3

And the doors …

door-lock door1 door2 The hilltop villages …


The sparkling Mediterranean …

coast1 coast2

And the vibrant combination of colour and hues at every turn …

coast3 dining spices

Do you take a lot of photographs when you travel? Is there particular subject matter on which you focus or do you shoot with joyful abandon? Don’t you just love digital photography?

After seeing your photos, Patricia, I really want to visit Provence, and the Mediterranean! But I’ll soon be going to Paris, and will have lots of photographs to post from my travels! 🙂

The Promise of ProvenceAbout ‘The Promise of Provence’:

Surprise, shock, and a shift in life as she knows it tumble into Katherine Price’s world when least expected. The future she envisioned suddenly vanishes, leaving little to focus on beyond her career and the caregiving her elderly widowed mother might require.

Fate has other plans for Katherine.

June in Provence is full of promise when Katherine arrives from Canada, eager to feel renewed by her surroundings. Endless rows of lavender prepare to burst into pink and purple blooms. Fields of sunflowers flow in golden waves among vineyards and olive groves. Ancient hilltop villages beckon. It’s the postcard setting she envisioned, but is that all she needs?

After a year of heartbreak, Katherine has impulsively agreed to a home exchange in the south of France. Colorful locals, a yellow lab named Picasso, and the inspiring beauty of the countryside breathe new life into her days.

Seeking to shed the pain of betrayal and loss, she struggles to recapture her joie de vivre and searches for the answer to a haunting question: is it too late to begin again?

As Katherine explores the romantic cobblestone lanes of medieval towns, the beautiful boulevards of Paris and the sun-kissed Mediterranean coast of the Côte d’Azur, unimagined possibilities present themselves.

An enduring story of hope and change in life’s later years is woven through the author’s love-letter to France. Like a well-travelled friend, Patricia Sands invites readers into a world she loves and entices them to linger.

“Be prepared to fall in love with Provence! This is a story that will draw you in with its vibrancy in setting and characters. A must read for any woman with a desire for romance and travel.” Steena Holmes, author of Amazon bestseller Finding Emma

Buy The Promise of Provence on Amazon:

Visit Patricia Sands online:

(My review of Patricia’s book is forthcoming.)