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Three Hills Show N Shine

Three Hills Show N Shine

On Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4, we attended the Show N Shine in Three Hills, Alberta.

Three Hills Show N Shine

This event is hosted annually for auto enthusiasts. (And spouses of auto enthusiasts.) Apparently, it is the largest of its kind in Western Canada.

On the Friday night of this event, a parade (cruise) of classic cars and trucks—as well as motorcycles and hot rods—proceeds down Three Hill’s Main Street, and then to the little town of Trochu, and back again to Three Hills.

Saturday is the “Show N Shine” event.

Parked along Main Street and along First Avenue SE, the vehicles are polished, photographed and admired. This 1960 Chev Impala has mirrors in the hood to reflect the perfectly clean engine.

Three Hills Show N Shine

I don’t know anything about old cars, except that many of them look like pieces of art that you drive.

Three Hills Show N Shine

This Firebird in the next photo is similar to the one Isabelle drives in ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING.

Three Hills Show N Shine

Did I say they were shiny?

This is not a classic car. It’s a tiny home. The company that builds these had this one at the event and let us look inside. This four-season home is well-insulated and incredibly spacious, with beautiful workmanship.

VedaHawk Tiny Homes

VedaHawk Tiny Homes

In town, there is a fair-like atmosphere with retailers selling memorabilia, and local charities selling a variety of fast foods like burgers and hot dogs and ice cream.

Three Hills Show N Shine

example of fast food back in the day, and 1970 Chevelle

There are also drag races at the local airport on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday night, we had dinner at the Harvest House Restaurant. Good thing we made reservations!

This year, like all years, the weather cooperated, giving us a mix of sun and cloud, and a pleasant temperature for wandering among the classic cars. We were told that the weekend has never been rained out. I think we were lucky this year, because it was raining on Sunday morning when we left to go back to the city, so the show just missed the rain.

spring blossoms on Main Street, Three Hills

Have you ever attended a “Show N Shine”?

Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New

When I first published ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING, I had no idea that someday it would become part of a series. I’m calling this series SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW.

Some of the books have weddings in them, some only have the promise of a wedding in the future.

Although I wrote it first, ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING is Book 2 in the series. This story takes place in early June, before the summer solstice, so the season is not officially summer, but it’s close enough. At any rate, this is the “summer” book in the series.

The “winter” story happens first. Ryder has just got engaged and Pro is telling him to get a prenup. Ryder is only a minor character in this story that takes place from the first week of December to Christmas Eve.

If you’ve read ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING, you will meet some of those characters again in Book 1.

All of the books are standalone but if you read them in order you’ll see some of the characters grow and change.

The series is about four friends who met in high school. Pro, Ryder, Logan and Mark. They graduated the same year at Aberton, and then they all went on to the University of Calgary. Logan and Ryder in engineering, Pro in law, and Mark in medicine.

Now Ryder owns a construction company. Pro has his law firm in the Sun Valley Tower. One floor down, Logan has a petroleum exploration company. And Mark is in his final year of residency in orthopedics at the Nose Hill Hospital.

The four friends still meet to ski in the winter or hike in the summer. Sometimes they play squash at the university courts. Sometimes they meet to toss a football in the park.


Part of doing a series involves creating a set of covers to tie the books together. 

I love my original cover for ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING with that purple lettering. And I like the way the letters slant. I think it suggests a runaway bride.

But the cover needed to change to suit the other titles. Now this cover has green lettering and I love this new font.So this is the new cover for Book 2. 
Book 1 releases this Wednesday, November 1st.

I hope you’ll come and have a look!

August update and some painting

Summer in Calgary is almost over. The indigenous poplars are starting to turn yellow and drop their leaves but the warm weather continues. It’s hot during the day with the temperatures ranging from 27 to 30 Celsius (81 to 86 Fahrenheit). Too hot to walk, at least for me, so I walk at 6 a.m. before the sun is up when the temperature is closer to 10 degrees (50 Fahrenheit). I’m trying to hit my 10,000 steps per day. This is important for a person who spends a lot of her time sitting at a computer.

August has been a busy month. For the first time I attended a local conference for Readers and Writers, called When Words Collide. I liked it so much I am already signed up for next year.

When Words Collide

I also attended the Annual Sylvan Lake Retreat with thirteen other writers from Calgary and Edmonton and surrounding areas. We even had a writer there who came all the way from Keewatin Ontario.

Sylvan Lake Library

Sylvan Lake Library

And, yay me, I finished my latest manuscript. My editor has it now. In the meantime, I am working with my cover artist and finalizing a design. I hope to have the book ready for October. This is the prequel to ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING that I’ve told you about.

Also this month, Rolf and I got to doggie sit Makita for two weeks, while her humans were on vacation.

Makita saying hello to Rolf

Here she is greeting Rolf at McKinnon Flats as he finishes a canoe trip on the Bow River. She is such a happy dog, but I know she missed her humans and she was happy to be reunited with them.

Makita missing her humans

We don’t have a cat because Rolf is allergic to them, but apparently cats have the same attachment needs as dogs.

Bourbon the cat

A friend of mine wrote a beautiful (and funny) article about her experiences with fostering cats. I think you’d enjoy reading it. You can find it here.

On August 21st, I watched the partial eclipse of the sun with my son Kyle. Here we are using his welding helmets.

Suzanne and Kyle, eclipse watching

Kyle somehow managed to get this shot of me – watching the eclipse, with a jet stream in the sky, while he was holding the “pin hole” and reflecting the stage of the eclipse off my shirt. Pretty cool, eh?

See the “pin hole” image of the eclipse on my shirt?

As this month ends, I am edging into a new story. It will be book three of my Wedding series. While part of my mind works on that in the background, I am taking a watercolour course. At this point, I am mostly learning about paints and brushes and papers. And I still enjoy playing with acrylics.

For no other reason than it seemed like fun, I decided to paint this Sun and Moon. Someone threw it out and I figured it could use some brightening. And of course one person’s trash is another person’s treasure . . .

start with this

paint the sun yellow and decide I don’t like it . . .

so paint the whole thing white . . .

then another coat of yellow for Mr. Sun and a first coat for the stars . . .

some blue for the moon . . .

a darker blue for the moon, a bit of detailing . . .

a couple coats of varnish and put it in the garden!

And that’s it for August. How has your summer been?

Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Last January, I entered the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards and I recently received news from the contest.

I didn’t  win, or even place, but—

I was encouraged by the comments I received from this judge:

“I’ll get my one gripe regarding Suzanne Stengl’s otherwise brilliant On the Way to a Wedding out of the way fast, and that’s that the plot itself will be familiar territory to romance/“chick lit” readers: a young woman, unsure about her approaching marriage, meets someone she might like better. Not an original concept, but in this author’s capable hands, it comes to life in a way that still feels fresh.

Though this may seem like faint praise, this book had me at the exceptionally well-written cover copy. An art form unto itself, only someone who’s spent years writing it can really appreciate when it’s done well, and in this case it’s only one of the very, very good first impressions this book makes. The cover is very good, entirely genre-appropriate, and the interior design is spare and readable, devoid of gimmickry, and in general presented in as professional a fashion as would be expected of the biggest publishing houses.

The writing, which has clearly benefited from a solid edit, is better than good enough, and the author has an ear for naturalistic dialogue that never gets too cutesy or too formal. The characters are likeable—just flawed enough to feel real, but never cartoony. The choice to open from the point of view of the male character was a bold one for the genre and Suzanne Stengl pulls it off well, showing a sort of authorial courage backed up by real talent.”

—Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

And now back to my writing desk. I’ve decided to turn ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING into a series. The next book will be released on October 1, 2016.

A rose by any other name: Naming Characters

A rose by any other name: Naming Characters

The Name Grid

I have an author friend who wrote a book, and then discovered that every character’s name started with a “J”. When she told me about that, I came up with this simple grid.

This is a table with 8 rows and 3 columns. The first cell contains the name of the book. Then there is a cell for each letter of the alphabet up to the letter “W” and then one cell for “XYZ”.
As I come up with a character’s names (first and last) I put them in the appropriate cell. “Toria Whitney” goes in “T” and “Whitney, Toria” goes in “W”.

In this example, I have also colour-coded relationships.  Toria’s family is Pink. Ryder’s family is Blue. I use Orange and Green for some other relationships. It helps me to keep everyone organized. With a quick glance at the Name Grid, I make sure that I am varying names, and I’m not putting Peter, Paul, Patty, Priscilla, Perkins  and Penelope all in the same book.

Consider Endings

Besides starting names with the same letter, be careful of ending them with the same letter.
Suzy, Mandy, Daisy and Kelly will be cumbersome.

Other Names

At the bottom of the Name Grid, you might like to list the names of places or things or minor characters in your story. For example, in ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING I listed the name of my fictional hospital, Nose Hill Hospital.

In Real Life Calgary, there isn’t a Nose Hill Hospital, but there is a Foothills Hospital. And there really is a Nose Hill Park. Because I have trouble remembering if I decided on Nosehills or Nosehill or Nose Hill, I recorded the spelling here.

If I give the coffeemaker a name, like the BrewWell Unit in Catherine’s office, I put it here.

ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING  has several fictional street names so I listed them for quick reference:  Collins Street, Dottridge Ave, Stelmack Boulevard and Wickens Street. By the way, these are the surnames of some of my author friends. 


This goes without saying. Your character names may have different spellings but naturally you will decide on one. In ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING, several scenes take place at a Real Life coffee shop called Tim Hortons. Occasionally I have seen this written as Tim Horton’s (with an apostrophe). It’s important to pick one spelling and stick with it.

Character Name File

Whenever you happen on a name that might be a good character name, put it in this file. Then when you start a new book you won’t need to spend so long searching for the perfect names.

Names Used File

Keep another file of names you have already used. You don’t want to be always calling your hero, Ryder and your heroine, Toria.


A different number of syllables for the first and last names sounds best. You want Chris to pher Green, not Joe Blow. Joseph Blow might work. But then again, Joe Blow might work if you want a drab name for a drab character.

Hero and Heroine

How do their names sound together? Are they lyrical? And if they marry and she changes her name, will it work? This is a romance, after all.


One way to differentiate between characters is to have one character say “Victoria” and another say “Toria” and still another say “Miss Whitney”.

Female/Male Names

Do not make your reader have to think. When he sees Jordan, does he think of a man or a woman? This is not so important if your lead romance characters are Jordan and Mirabelle.  Or if they are Mike and Jordan. But do not make the two lead characters be Taylor and Jordan.


You may think Wynsleighe is a lovely name, but how do you say it? Is your reader going to trip over the pronunciation every time she sees it?

You want your reader to be in the story and you do not want your reader to pop out even for a second to wonder about gender or pronunciation.

Time period

Ethel can appear in the 1911s but not today, unless she is very old. A quick search of popular names by year will solve that.


I have used Mrs. Jones. Fortunately I didn’t need to talk about Mrs. Jones’ purse, or even Mrs. Jones’s purse. But it’s best to avoid the whole problem and have “non-S” endings.


Think about your plurals. Think about John Crowfoot and his wife, Jill, and all their little children. What happens when the Crowfoots all come for a visit? Are they Crowfeet now?

As a reader, have you ever come across character names that tossed you out of a story?
As a writer, do you have a system for choosing names?