One Love, One Skin

One Love, One Skin.

June 25, 2015. Days ago, I stood upon the sacred ground of Mother Emanuel AME Church, the setting of amazing grace and unspeakable sorrow. In the preceding days, nine precious lives had been stolen from humanity. Three months have passed since my visit to Charleston, South Carolina, but I have not forgotten the church, nor the people, or the nine live’s that were lost.

Soon after arriving in Charleston, a city that is one of my favourite travel destinations in the United States, my husband and I made our way to the church. It was a hot suffering evening and being a girl who lives near the rocky mountains, I found the heat combined with a high humidity index, unbearably stifling. Yet I trudged onward, grateful for the sweat that suffused my white skin and the heart that beat ‘alive’ in my chest. It wasn’t long before I viewed a caravan trail of television crews, and soon after the initial sighting of a church.

I stepped tentatively toward the building, unsure if I had the right to stand on the street in the presence of indescribable sorrow. I beheld a majestic building, a steeple so tall and rich, I couldn’t fit the entire building in my camera viewfinder. But as I stood behind a metal barrier, observing a beautiful historic church, I first read the handwritten message: One Love, One Skin.

When I began my journey from the north to the south, I had not known that I would discover such a missive. I wanted to cry in the contemplation of that moment, but like the silent bystanders who stood amongst me, my emotions were frozen. Still, a human heart cannot stand in the wake of unbearable sadness and not embrace something greater than yourself. It’s human nature to question. Why? Why does it take a human devastation for humanity to come together, and stand together––as one love––as one skin––to reflect upon a grace that is greater and more powerful than any mere mortal could ever begin to understand. I thank the wise human soul who placed four simple words upon a piece of paper to remind those who are left behind that we are …

One Love, One Skin. And perhaps one day, with God’s amazing grace, one people, too.

A people, a village, a city, a country, a world, that will not be defined by the colour of our skin; nor our race, religion or creed, but a people who will tear down barriers to embrace humanity.

On this Sunday morning, I remember the courageous people of Charleston, South Carolina and thank them for their courage, generosity, and hospitality in the wake of such sorrow. Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of her hands.

My Dictionary Meaning of Romantasy

Romantasy …

A word descriptor that came to my imaginative senses early in the writing of The Scarlett Mark, A MedEvil Romantasy. A word that in my mind is weaved from the fictional world’s of romance and fantasy, but is not limited by either genre. Romantasy, I’m sure, can pertain to many elements of fiction, but to this writer and in my medieval story, it means the following:

Romantasy / ‘ro:man, ‘ro:man’tesi/ Ÿ noun 1 a a classical affair. b a sentimental or idealized collection of whimsical tales developed in the imagination. c a prevailing sense of wonder, mystery, magic or fear, which ignites a mutual attraction in a classical affair. 2 a sequence of mental images developed in the imagination, arising from conscious or unconscious wishes or attitudes, esp. involving supernatural or mystical events. 3 a a literary genre with historical love, courtly love, or highly imaginative unrealistic episodes forming the central theme. b a combined work of the romance and fantasy genre involving fantastic stories, often in a magical pseudo-historical setting. 4 a historical story usually written in poetic verse or musical rhyme, of some hero/heroine of chivalry, of the kind common in the romantic languages. b a fantastic invention or composition: a fantasia. 5 a exaggeration or picturesque falsehood. b an instance of this Ÿ adj. (Romantasy) of any of the languages descended from Latin (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.). Ÿ verb 1 Render romantic or unreal, esp. romanticize. (a romanticized account of Scarlett) b describe or portray in a romantic fashion. 2 intr. indulge in romantic thoughts, to court, to woo. b seek the attention or custom of, esp. by flattery. romanticization n.

An Interview with Shelley Kassian

What are your five favorite books, and why?

‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin has become a favourite series. I became curious about the books when HBOs television drama, Game of Thrones season one, ended. I had to know what happened next, so I entered into the world of ice and fire. I appreciate the format, in that each chapter displays a different character. Intrigued by the fantasy, I found myself, night after night, enjoying a different character. I can’t wait for the ‘Winds of Winter.’ George R.R. Martin’s cleverly written stories have definitely inspired my writing style.

What do you read for pleasure?

I don’t usually read while I’m writing as I feel other stories can muddy my characters, but when I can read, I like novels that have an edge. I peruse the romance, fantasy, or fiction sections for titles that grab my attention. Besides George R.R. Martin; Philipa Gregory, Steve Berry, and Diana Gabaldon are my favourite authors.

What is your e-reading device of choice?

I love my kindle fire. Having worked as a bookseller in a bookstore, it took me awhile to gravitate toward the reading device, but now that I have one, I thoroughly enjoy it. Especially, on the plane! I find I prefer a digital book now as compared to paper.

Describe your desk.

My desk is a cluttered mess and the surrounding space holds many objects of desire, which when necessary, compel my imagination. It’s clean, I assure you. Ray Bradbury liked his writing space to be overly full of many objects, which he believed contributed to his stories. I like to do the same, so I pick up little nick knacks from almost everywhere I travel. I especially like my quote wall.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I began my life as a babe in a small Canadian town, entitled St. Paul. The town is unique for its landing pad, which welcomes aliens from galaxies far away to land their flying saucers while visiting our brave new world! Being born in a town with some imagination, must have inspired my craft to seed. After St. Paul, my childhood and adult years were in Edmonton, Alberta. From my ‘Child’s Garden of Verses’ to the author V.C. Andrews as a teenager, I have always loved to read.

When did you first start writing?

I began writing seriously thirty years ago when I was a young Mom. At that time, romance was a prime motivation, as the stories always ended happily––and with love. I soon pumped out six novels in approximately six years. Conquest of Love, Rohland’s Cross (which became A Sacrifice for Love), Silver Blades, Captive Hearts … Alas, it was a different time and publishing my books was difficult, regardless that I received many very nice rejection letters!

What’s the story behind your latest book?

My latest published book, A Heart across the Ocean, celebrates French Canadian history. Filles’ du Roi (daughters of the king), or wards of King Louis XIV, travelled to New France to find a husband. To learn more about this book, click here.

What motivated you to become an independent author?

I was motivated to become an indie author because I wanted complete control of my publishing career. This decision does not preclude me from seeking a traditional path in the future. Many authors are publishing their works as either independent, hybrid, or traditional means. It’s important to be open to new opportunities and change.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

The greatest joy of writing comes when you feel like you’ve created something special. I like the little moments when a conflicting situation arises and your characters appear to become human, or something else entirely. When some plot situations arise, I reflect: “I can’t believe this just happened. I can’t believe I’m writing this plot!” Almost like an archeologist must feel when he digs and digs and is rewarded by a large deposit of dinosaur bones. An editor told me that I have a poetic voice, and that depiction doesn’t surprise me with my love of poetry. I especially love when an excellent quote writes its way onto my computer screen: “A bleeding red sky, held hostage within a black night of horrors had broken through the flesh. Soon, she would feel the sharp sting.”

Final Words?

I’m currently writing my sixth book, which is part of The Women of Stampede series. A group project that I helped pull together with my colleague Katie O’Connor. The Half Mile of Baby Blue shares the plight of a family and the distance they have to race to save the family ranch from foreclosure. I can’t wait to release this book with my colleagues at the end of May!

Final words? I hope readers discover my books and enjoy my stories as much as I have enjoyed scribing the words to shape a novel. That’s the goal of every author!

Author, Inc.

Published! The Scarlett Mark, a MedEvil Romantasy, became available for purchase in Ebook form on August 6th, 2015 and the print version soon followed on Amazon.com. Finally, after years of writing, I have joined the leagues of other writers who have reached this storied plateau ahead of me. I am honored to find myself in this place.

However, I don’t delude myself with sugar-plum visions of becoming a bestselling author. I understand that there are rivers to cross, mountains to climb, and barriers to surpass in order to prove my readability as a fantasy author. Yet, I dream of what I can be and better still, what further novels I will write. I will climb the ranks toward the highest peak, where further goals lie in wait.

For now, it’s a pleasure to sit in this authorial place and enjoy my first moments as an author. A surreal, wonderful feeling! Author, Inc.

Viva Las Vegas––Donny and Marie Osmond––No show

Cancelled! Two hours prior to the Donny and Marie Osmond Show, my husband receives an email, which shares that the evening’s performance at the Flamingo Las Vegas has been cancelled. At first, I think my husband is joking, because he had just told me that while checking reviews for the show, the pair might have a reputation for cancellations. However, the email is not a joke, it becomes a real portrait of my black and white grief. I remember considering: the 30th Anniversary gift that I would not receive.

There was a girl, there was a boy, we could have met to sing this fan some Las Vegas joy,

But fame sings on the richer side of the desert, while I whine on the poorer seat of the hill.

We walked to the theatre hopeful that the email was wrong, but the Donny and Marie Show of May 12, 2015 was cancelled. When the attendant shared that Donny and Marie didn’t show up to perform and he/they didn’t know why, I was bewildered. (The little people never know why.) However, I was more surprised to hear––that other performers were in-theatre––ready to go. What? “Show cancellations happen,” the attendant told us, “they happen a couple times a year.” His statement left me sad, and feeling like a rock that had skipped across the water toward happiness, landed short of its goal. Reminds me of another song, I missed.

I was leaving it, up to you-ooh-ooh,  but you decided––what you couldn’t do,

Now do you want my money, or are we through?

Regardless of the disappointment, I have long been a fan of Donny and Marie Osmond. Years ago, I saw Marie perform in the Sound of Music. I gave my youngest daughter Alicia, Marie as her middle name. My husband purchased the meet and greet package for me as a 30th Anniversary gift. I would have enjoyed hearing the silly old songs, hearing the silly old jokes, just to see two talented performers, whom I still admire. You see––it’s always been about the music––to me.

I guess I must accept that life happens to everyone, even performers, and some things in life are not meant to be. But perhaps someday, I’ll look up across the stage and the pair will sing to me.

When the deep purple falls over pink Flamingo walls, and the strip begins to twinkle in the night––

in the mist of my memories, you’ll wander cross the stage to me, breathing Puppy Love, with a sigh.

Everyone knows that Las Vegas is a crap shoot at the roulette wheel, where vacation seekers lose more than they win. Apparently, a Las Vegas show can earn a similar fate. Viva Las Vegas!

Ottawa: The Capital of Canada

On a day not unlike today––when the sun refuses to shine, the wind blows cold, and the damp seems to seep into your bones––I recall walking along Parliament Hill. The seat of Canada’s House of Democracy, I am proud to stand beside its beauty and architectural strength on this bitterly cold January day. I’m proud to strike its digital image, but almost fearful to snap the shot, because since October 2014, when parliament was attacked, nothing feels the same. My photo is marred by the officers on guard, ever watchful in their cars––a necessary step to keep citizens and government officials safe from harm. The Centennial Flame keeps burning, and as I gaze at the Peace Tower beyond, I say a little prayer that someday, far away in another land, a lasting peace will be found.

I am cold. I walk on …

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier (Photo by Shelley Kassian)
The Fairmont Chateau Laurier (Photo by Shelley Kassian)
?w=300″ alt=”French onion soup and artisan cheese at Zoe’s” width=”300″ height=”225″ /> French onion soup and artisan cheese at Zoe’s

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is not far from the Parliament buildings. I brush off my sadness, and proceed to this historic hotel to enjoy a late lunch. If I’d had the time, or if my husband had been able to join me, I would have partaken in High Tea. Instead, I lounge at Zoe’s enjoying a hot bowl of French onion soup, artisan cheese, and a belated Merry Christmas Martini. I love the quiet of the little salon. After lunch, I explore the marble halls of this historic hotel, before making one final pilgrimage, to pay my respects.


?w=700″ alt=”IMG_0809_2″ width=”700″ height=”933″ /> The National War Memorial near Parliament Hill (Photo: Shelley Kassian)


The sadness is overwhelming. One unknown soldier lies beneath the concrete tomb, and a red rose rests on the top, frozen in the snow. I mourn for another soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, whose life was forfeit for standing guard over this unknown man. I thank them both for their sacrifice. I understand that to protect our freedoms, sometimes we must stand guard and even go to war to protect life.

I shiver with cold, I walk on again …


I walked back to my hotel as the sun began to set in the sky. It’s a cold day, filled with the melancholy of loss and the joys of a canadian winter. I remind myself that Ottawa is a beautiful place and no act of terrorism can ever mar this historic little city. I am proud to be a Canadian. Prouder still, walking along Parliament Hill. Someday, I’ll return in the spring, when new life is promised and tulips break through the black soil. The Canadian Tulip Festival occurs every year in the month of May. It’s a great time to visit Ottawa, the capital of Canada.


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Niagara: White Water Walk

A day in my life––I walked along the Niagara River, enjoying the wild rush of white-capped rapids, as water travelled down stream, rushing through a narrowing in the gorge. Normally, the cacophony would deter me, but the wet noise only enhanced my view of the power of nature and encouraged my feet to walk further along the boardwalk. The White Water Walk is an enjoyable Niagara attraction, which flows a few miles downstream of the Niagara Falls.

White Water Walk

The attraction’s elevator brings visitors a 1,000 feet down (70 meters) to the bottom of the gorge. After which, visitors will proceed a 1/4 mile (73 metres) through a tunnel, enjoy two observation decks, and a scenic walk along the white water’s boardwalk. Plan on spending at least an hour at the attraction. Time to take a 30 minute stroll, not only to enjoy the water, but also the natural environment and observation areas. If you love pictures of birds, bring your camera!

Seagulls flying over the white water rapids, searching for food. (Photo by Shelley Kassian)

I really enjoy studying rocks and their geology, and the gorge doesn’t disappoint with its sedimentary rock and huge boulders that have broken off the cliff’s edge and fallen into the gorge. Maple leaves dotted the path everywhere and the gulls fanciful flight over the rapids looking for treats was mesmerizing. I loved watching them soar above the water and suddenly swoop and dive into the cold to partake of whatever treasure tried to swim by. Regardless of the cool day, it was my pleasure to walk along the gorge. When visiting the Niagara area, visitors should enjoy the stunning beauty of the White Water Walk.

The Niagara Whirlpool Bridge that spans the border between the United States and Canada (Photo by Shelley Kassian)

Butterflies in the Niagara Region

When in the Niagara region, it’s common for visitors to dwell on the natural wonder of Niagara Falls, but there are other curiosities to explore. On a recent trip to Niagara, I sought out a lesser known attraction. I found a gem––a peaceful and beautiful garden, complete with my favourite little insects at the Butterfly Conservatory.

?w=300″ alt=”Butterfly 1192″ width=”300″ height=”227″ />

The Butterfly Conservatory

The Butterfly Conservatory features over 2000 colourful butterflies, who originate from tropical locales all over the world. On a cold fall day, I enjoyed exploring this tropical garden oasis where hundreds of butterflies sat on branches, ate fruit or nectar from plates, and spreading their wings; soared over my head. I enjoyed walking along the luscious green pathways, snapping pictures of these fragile insects. Many guests sat on benches or stone ledges, perhaps hoping that a tiny colourful butterfly would light upon their fingers, and most were rewarded with a visit!

The Butterfly Conservatory staff are to be commended for their excellent care of this garden home, as the setting for the butterflies is as magical as it is beautiful. I really enjoyed my visit and would recommend this attraction to all who love Butterflies as I do. Butterflies are a symbol of transformation. I certainly felt peaceful and transformed after my visit!

Butterfly 7025
My favourite Butterfly found on this visit. If only he had opened his little wings! (Photo by Shelley Kassian)

Gordon Lightfoot: Live in Calgary

A Canadian Idol––Gordon Lightfoot sings at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary (Photo by Wayne Kassian)

Last night In the company of my husband, I listened to a gifted song writer––Gordon Lightfoot. Accompanied by his back up band, he sang songs that remain relevant to concert goers. Gordon Lightfoot reflects a period in music history where artists built their careers on writing talent, a singer’s raw voice, the slide of a string guitar, a bottom drum beat, and hard work. In the year 2014 too much attention is often paid to artists that provide more theatre than voice. It’s refreshing to watch a humble man share his musical passion, and in the doing remind an audience that the naked beauty of easy listening music can still take the listeners breath away, as proven by the music shared.

The lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot’s songs such as The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Sundown are intricately woven. They beat a comfortable rhythm, rhythm that moves neither too fast, nor too slow, as if to shine a light on lyrics that cry out to be heard. As he sang my favourite song, “If I could read your mind,” his gentle voice lulled me away to tears. A day later––I bought the song, trying to understand the emotion the song weaves inside me. But it’s not the ending that matters. What matters is that the artist still connects to the listener and by doing so brings pleasure. At 74 years of age, that’s pretty amazing.

Sometimes, I noticed that when Gordon was about to finish a song, he would gaze at the audience as if to sense if the listeners appreciated what they had just heard. There would be a pause, and then as if satisfied he had made a connection, he would smile. At one pause, an audience member completed the song. This interaction made him smile too! Thank you for your music Gordon Lightfoot and Band. My husband and I really enjoyed your show!

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