A Different Kind of Cruise Ship Research

In my last blog, I wrote about my temporary neighbour “Sunshine”, who laid the foundation for the character Montana in the manuscript I plan to finish this year. It all began with him saying “Well, I’m never going to meet you again, so I might as well tell you this …” His words sparked my curiosity about people who bury remnants of their past, just as Blair did in ‘The Road to Alright’ and Marcello hid in ‘The Park Street Secrets’.

I wondered if others could enhance the new characters in my 4th novel (start date: 2024) by sharing a sliver of their lives, so I recently did some research on a cruise ship (part of this book takes place at sea). The corporate office’s ‘Customer Intelligence Team’ allowed me to invite passengers to share their most valuable relationships, life fulfillments, biggest regret(s) and finish Montana’s sentence: “I’m never going to meet you again, so I might as well tell you this …”.

Participants submitted their answers verbally, by email, or in sealed envelopes (most anonymously) at the Guest Services desk before the cruise ended. The last option required security clearance to ensure that nothing valuable, illegal or secret documents would be stored in the ship’s safe before I picked them up. To un-complicate things, I confirmed there were no “secrets” inside the envelopes – well, sort of …

To those guests who took the time to answer my questions, I am deeply grateful to you. When I was a nurse, many patients humbled me by their resilience; reading your responses gave me goosebumps, and many brought me to tears. Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this – I truly hope to honour your efforts by creating another great read …

With good wishes, especially to Craig,


“I’ll never meet you again, so I might as well tell you this …”

            When all is well in my world, I am lucky enough to escape to write. My pre-requisite is always for a safe and peaceful retreat. This year it was safe, but far from quiet. There was everyday ‘people noise’ and ‘street noise’ – and then there was the noise that happened after the sun went down.

            A man from far away became my neighbour. In daylight, I pecked at my manuscript while he fished and snorkeled. In the evening, he sat quietly perched on a stool nearby, undistracted by books or screens. Our cordial greetings progressed to chit-chat about weather, sunsets and what made our worlds go round. On the third day, well beyond the niceties, he leaned against the balcony railing and said, “Well, I’m never going to meet you again, so I might as well tell you this …”

            Every night thereafter, he shared a tiny morsel of his life, and to a writer, these revelations were like gold. With his consent, I began blending them into my current novel. This kind man handed me something unexpected, a precious slice of his life, and this is how the character “Montana” was born in Follow Polly’s Lane (working title).

Stay tuned for how “Well, I’m never going to meet you again …” became a research question for my next novel – but I need to finish writing this one first!

 With good wishes,


“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.” Sophia Loren

Before morphing into an author, I looked at book features differently. How did the front cover sell me? What did the back cover tell me? Now, I look to see how visible the words are on a book’s spine, and if it has a classic or trendy cover. I’ve read many books, penned by famous authors and edited countless times by reputable publishers. Nita Prose’s novel The Maid is a perfect book, inside and out. Its cover displays an image in a black keyhole set against a brilliant red exterior. I just love it.

What impacts me the most now is when I find a mistake, like I did in Hilary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny’s bestseller State of Terror. It tells me that regardless of where we sit in the pecking order of our craft, we make mistakes. Even for talented authors with big budgets, they happen. When The Park Street Secrets was published, I gifted the gentleman who owned the building (where this story is set) with a copy. He asked me for two more, and I promptly delivered them. As I handed them over, he smiled rather coyly and said, “You’ve made a mistake.” He was right. I acknowledged him as Mr. Fediorek in the novel’s credits, when in fact, his surname is Fiedorek. I accept full responsibility for it, especially when I correct those who misspell my own name. This mistake is being addressed, hopefully along with all the others which I, or my editors have missed in both novels. My sincerest thanks (really) to everyone for bringing them to my attention. As Mr. Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

In my next blog, I’ll tell you about a man I met who started our conversations with “I’ll never see you again, so I might as well tell you this…”

Take good care!


How My ‘Park Street Secret’ Dream Came True

For a while I worked as a nurse, not far from 4177 Park Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario. My daily walk took me past this tired building. I wondered how many love letters crossed the Post Office floor (1885-1930), and what kind of manifests needed clearing by the Customs side (1885 -1952) before the local police station took it over. Abandoned in 1978, it remains vacant to this day, but oh, if those walls and jail cells could tell their secrets …

            These secrets made the ‘author’ side of my brain run wild. I imagined “renovating” Park Street into condos, planting its rich history and folklore into my characters. On rare occasions during my walks, I saw a gentleman in work clothes behind the locked gates of the property, whom I incorrectly assumed was a transient. Once I asked him if he knew anything about the building – he confirmed that in fact, he was the owner, and his eventual plan was to restore it as a museum.

            I’d never set foot beyond the steps of the massive front doors, but later, after our chance meeting, I hoped this gentleman would contact me. Many months and scribbled notes later, he kindly returned my call – while I was driving. The closest place to pull over and be able to write notes down was in the parking lot of Niagara Fall’s most popular strip joint.  “Darla” was the featured exotic dancer that evening, and the perfect name for Adrian’s date in my novel – you’ll need to read more about the aftermath of their encounter. So, in the strip joint’s parking lot, I shared my dream of using 4177 Park Street as the setting for The Park Street Secrets with the building’s owner, and was thrilled when he granted me permission.

            When the book was published, I gifted him with a copy. He asked for two more copies for his children, and I delivered them the same day. As I passed them to him, he smiled rather coyly, and said, “You’ve made a mistake.” In my next blog, I’ll share what that mistake was. In the interim, please take good care.



Cyberspace and Book Signings: Yvonne Van Lankveld

Even though I was born decades before the internet, I quickly embraced its benefit. But when the world of social media exploded, as a nurse I saw people struggle because they weren’t “liked” and “friended” and “followed” enough. In December of 2021, I said goodbye to nursing and hello to the business end of being an author. The amazing Ben from Tellwell gave me lessons on posting and blogging – great things to promote author exposure. Heather, a social media wizard, nudged me forward, and Carly boosted my confidence, yet I still wonder how the “world” will judge what I post. My novels, just like my characters, are similar to the glowing screen of social media in that they leave us with nowhere to hide. While I appreciate that it’s a such a valuable commodity, like medication, it has negative side effects.

There is great power in books, but there is greater power in cyberspace. Unfortunately, Indigo was recently cyber attacked, and while things are slowly edging back to normal, author events like my April 1st book signing are postponed until their systems are restored. In the interim, stay tuned while I write, and navigate this “posting” and “blogging” adventure. Take care!



Indie Reader Review Surprise

In January I hit a milestone and officially said goodbye to my nursing career.
Now, I feel much more comfortable in blogging….so here we go!!

In January I also received notification that an Indie Reader Review was posted.
It was better than good. It was 4.8 stars — nearly a perfect score!
I was also advised that these are not handed out often and I just can’t tell you what a joy it has been.
It was second on the list for the January 2023 Indie Reader reviews.

I even got a sticker! Do you think the gold sparkles?

Please check out the review here.