I’m Moving


          Photo Source: Juvenile Dreamer at deviant art.

 It was a Thursday June 17, 2010 when I met Marsha Lawrence at Concordia University for my first introductory lesson to blogging. At the time she was the organizer of the Meetup group Her New Self, a group where local women  were undergoing or making major life changes.

I was one of them. The first question she asked me regarding my blog is,”What is it’s purpose?”

I told her that I wanted a blog to showcase my writing in an attempt to find an agent, a publisher for my books.  She chose WordPress as the blog software and the decisions began:  Username. Password. Web address. Blog name. Choosing a template.  This was as foreign to me as a new language.

For awhile, I had one blog going which was titled Writing Scales on the Art and Craft of Writing. Through this blog I began to write about my online dating experiences and thus started another blog titled a girl called Brenda. It was all experimental for me  both blogging and the writing. In time a girl called Brenda evolved into a novel, The Dating Club, which is currently in its editing phase and I hope to have it out shortly.

The novel revolves around four women who are looking for their Prince Charming. One of the characters, Missi Morgan is a writer for an online e-magazine about mid-life dating. Brenda became Missi.  Such is the mystery and magic of fiction.

Sometime else happened in these years. Self publishing began to take up more space saying, move over traditional publishing, and the stigma that was so often associated with poor writing and Vanity Press was quickly dying. Terms such as branding and platform were showing up all over the place and I knew that if I wanted to share my writing I would have to adapt to this new technology.

My first attempt at self publishing was a memoir on grief through Create Space. Not a best seller. Can’t figure that one out. Still, it put me on the self-publishing cho-cho train.

As the train moves forward so do I.

As Einstein once said: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Who am I to argue with Mr. E?

I have moved to a new website at http://www.carolbalawyder.com where I have centralized my writing. Under Women’s Fiction you will still find Ten Great First Dates.  The menu also includes short summaries of my crime novels for which I am still debating whether to go traditional or self-publish.

I also have a blog which has expanded beyond just writing. Here, I will regularly post  blogs where I will make you meet some very interesting people on this planet.  Of course, I’ll also continue to write about writing workshops and  conferences I attend and whatever other creative  and fun inspiration I can share with you.

I hope that you will subscribe to my new blog and continue our online relationship.  I truly look forward to your comments and our growing friendship.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following me.

Warm Regards,



On ShipHello and Welcome to TEN GREAT FIRST DATES-

The idea of writing about Ten Great First Dates came to me because I was tired of meeting men in coffee shops. Although most of the men I met were very nice men (no creeps or psychopaths); I just didn’t click with them and it became terribly depressing.

I have nothing against going for coffee once in a while. But I think this should be saved as an adjunct to some other activity, like after seeing a movie or simply hanging out.

But first dates aren’t about hanging out. Nor are they about getting to know everything about the person’s history in half an hour. First dates are about seeing if you like the person enough to want to have a second date with him and if that doesn’t happen because let’s face it, it rarely does, in the meantime, you might as well have a good time.

It occurred to me that there were lots of alternatives to the stereotype coffee shop date and so I began to search for these places. In doing so, I discovered something interesting. I was getting to know my city in ways I hadn’t before. I was also getting to know myself and the kind of man I was looking for.

That is great in itself.

Do take time to click on the links. There’s some interesting stuff there.

Although they are set in Montreal they can easily be transferred to any city or town. They are mainly ideas. I hope that you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoyed creating them .

I also hope that you’ll enjoy reading my stories and that we will get to meet again in my upcoming books: Missi’s Dating Adventures and The Dating Club.

Finally, thank you so much for stopping by and do leave comments if you feel like it. I’d love to hear about your own first date experiences.

Warm Regards,

Carol Balawyder



I met Andrew at The Whiskey Café. I walked in the half empty bar and saw him sitting there watching me as I approached him. He was a lot better looking than his photo. He rose when I arrived and we shook hands and then I sat across from him.

He was already drinking a scotch and when the waiter came I ordered a glass of Italian white wine.

We chatted a bit, about his two boys and how every year for their birthdays he took them on a trip. His oldest son’s birthday was coming up and he was taking him to London, England.

“You always do that?” I asked him.

“Yes. Every birthday I take them to a different place.”

Hmm. I liked that about him.  I asked him about his work.

“I work in environmental waste.”

I also liked that about him.

“I travel a lot,” he said. “Sometimes I’m gone for four or five days. Sometimes a bit longer.”

He took a sip of his scotch. “You’re very lovely,” he said. “Are you an independent woman,” he asked me.

I found his question odd. “In which way?”

“I’m looking for a woman who is available to accompany me on my business trips.”

Sounds too good to be true? Well, of course, it was.

I wasn’t attached at the time. I had a job that I could leave when I wanted to. There was some kind of chemistry going on between us.  Plus, he was really the kind of man I’d been looking for –  minus the married part.

“Does your wife know about you wanting to have a mistress?”I asked him.

He took a sip of scotch and then shook his head.

“Do you think it would hurt her if she found out?”

“Probably,” he said. Then he added, “Would you be available to go away on a last minute’s notice?” He talked about his business trips to Boston. New York. San Francisco. Chicago.  “Of course,” he said, “You’d be on your own during the day. But I’d take you to the best restaurants at night. We’d stay in five-star hotels.”

He ordered another scotch. “Bring the lady another glass of wine,” he told the waiter.

images 3“I still have half left in this one.” I said.

“White wine is to be drunk very cold,” he said.

After that first date, he kept sending me e-mails through the online dating site where we’d met, telling me how much he was attracted to me. To think about his offer.

I can’t say that I wasn’t tempted. But I was afraid to be hurt. What if I fell in love with him? And then all those family holidays I would have to spend alone knowing that he was with his wife. Maybe other women were able to do this but not me.                                                                               click here for source:

Andrew, ended up being another one of my characters, this time in a novel which I’m writing titled The Dating Club.

One often hears: write what you know and so I fictionalized my experience and gave it to Suzy Paradise, a fifty-ish woman in my book who would qualify for a graduate degree in online dating if there were such a thing. Here’s a short excerpt:

“I’m looking for much more than sex,” Suzy responded and wished him good luck although she wasn’t at all certain that she approved of what she was wishing him luck with.

“You don’t have to stop looking for a man for yourself,” Andrew wrote back. “When you find him I will respectfully fade away. Would that be acceptable? I want to be part of your life now.”

She wrote back: “What if I fell madly in love with you? Then I would be in real trouble. I don’t want to take that chance.” She clicked the send button and off it went to Andrew’s in box.

He wrote back almost immediately. “I might not be the man who breaks your heart. A man who is single is just as capable of doing that. I don’t want to let you go. Do you know how hard it is to find a wonderful woman?”

That evening when Suzy went to her yoga class she took a good look at all the women surrounding her.


Thirty women of all ages and shapes and all wonderful in their own unique way depending from which angle you looked at them and how open your heart was. She rushed back from class, switched on her computer and wrote to Andrew, what are you talking about?  Wonderful women are not hard to find. They’re all over the place.

click here for source

She then called Missi and told her about Andrew.

“I hate men who are too much of a coward to take a position,” Missi said. “They’re not happy in their relationship and they’re too weak to get out of it.”

“At least,” Suzy came to his defense, “he was honest about it.”

“Honest in his deceit,” Missi said. Of course, Missi, who’d been cheated on by Max and had had that awful experience with a man who brought her for lunch to his ex-wife’s country home, would think like this. “Keep in mind, Suzy, that he’s a cheater. It’s not as if it has happened accidentally. He purposely went online searching for this. He’s not that great a guy. Keep looking elsewhere.”

I know this doesn’t sound like  a great first date but sometimes you learn things about yourself and how you’re proud of who are and that makes it a damn great date.

It’s not always about the man. It’s also about being true to yourself.


This post is about meeting a first date in a book store.

images     Click here for source

This happened to me a few years ago. A book store seemed like a good place because if my date happened to be late (traffic, finding parking or whatever) I could browse around and I wouldn’t look conspicuous just waiting on some street corner like a hooker or in some cafe sipping a cup of coffee hoping that I won’t be stood up.

I had suggested meeting by the travel section on the second floor of a bookstore that was mid-way between where he lived and I did.

images 6     click here for source

I didn’t see him when I got there and so I took out a book on Nepal and looked at the pictures. Ten minutes, then fifteen minutes passed. Twenty minutes is usually my maximum before I leave.  Then, I spotted him at the pen section.

images 5

click here for source

As with many first dates, there is always that awkward moment before you acknowledge recognition of each other.

“Hi,” You must be Mead.

“Hi,” he said barely looking up from the collection of pens before him.

“I was waiting for you by the travel section. Isn’t that where we said we’d meet?”

He glanced across the room. “Just checking the prices,” he said. “These are way overpriced.”

I shrugged. I didn’t know much about the cost of pens. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to that opening remark.

We roamed around the bookstore, looking at travel books and talking about places we’d been to or would like to go to, figuring out what kind of traveler each of us was. Most people put on their profiles (myself included) that they like to travel. But wanting to travel and actually doing it are two different things. Just as how you like to travel. I’m not much of a roughing it in the bush kind of traveler. Nor do I bend towards pre-packaged travelling.

After we’d discovered that we had “travel” in common, we went on to the fiction section of the book store. Mead liked to read detective stories. I told him that I wrote crime novels and we had a short conversation about that. When he learned that I’d still not been published (at least not in that area) he lost interest and went back to the outrageous prices of pens.

In spite of this, there were things I liked about him. At least enough to see him again for a second date which turned into a third until finally we were in some kind of nebulous “relationship”. In the end, things didn’t turn out so well between us and I ended up transforming him into a character in my book Missi’s  Dating Adventures.

Here’s a short passage from it:

He had this annoying habit of quoting prices of things he bought. His iPad and iPhone. Cheeses and bottles of olive oil.  Cleaning products for the bathroom and kitchen. Vacuum cleaner bags, candles, coupons for car washes, shoes, blankets. Armani towels. Fifteen dollars. On sale.  When he showed me his basement which was warehouse packed with so much stuff I didn’t dare comment on anything for fear that I might find myself having to listen to his rambling off on prices like an auctioneer.  In his den, off his bedroom, he showed off his new Apple TV. Ninety nine dollars. No tax. Bought in New Hampshire.

One thing Mead had was a great library filled with classical literature and some very good modern fiction. I do tend to have a soft spot for a man who likes to read.

images 4   Click her for sourceAttribution

“Have you read all these?” I asked him.

“Not yet,” he said.

“None of them?”

“Actually, I do intend to get around to reading them.”

So, books for Mead were nothing more than decor. Or pretense.

“At least,” I said, “Books are tax-free.”

Of course the story doesn’t end here.  It is part of a collection titled Missi’s Dating Adventures.  You can read part 3 of the story by clicking here:  I Heard it Through the Tea Leaves


A subscriber told me that he never clicks on my post links. If you’re like him, I invite you to go back and click on the links (they’re usually underlined or highlighted) and then open them in a new window. I find that these links are the most interesting parts of my posts.  

Camellia Sinensis is a very charming café in the Latin Quarters of Montreal

where you can buy lovely tea ware as well as teas from all  over the



What is interesting about this Tea Salon and Boutique is that it is also a tea school, offering a variety of courses on teas.

One of them is the Japanese tea ceremony.

In this ceremony you learn the procedures and etiquette of preparing a simple bowl of tea, a tradition attached to Zen Buddhism.

tea ceremony

Mastering the art of Japanese tea is not to be taken lightly – to become a master it takes five years.

You might already know that It is a sign of respect to slurp your tea, especially the last sip.

It is a way of saying thank you.

“Noisily drinking the last of the tea means that the guest has enjoyed it,” says Shirai Yayoi, a tea master for over 50 years.

So, if your date slurps, don’t be so quick to judge. He or she might just be a tea drinking master.

tea leaf

By now, the health benefits of green tea are well known. Based on conclusions reached by Japanese doctors in a study conducted in Shizuka, Japan, green tea consumption is associated with reduced mortality from all causes, and cardiovascular disease.

This study also suggests that green tea could have protective effects against colorectal cancer.

According to Lao Tzu,  “Tea is the elixir of life.”

Now, isn’t that the purpose of a good first date…to keep it alive?


Michael Snow: Four Grey Panels and Four Figures

(Michael Snow: Four Grey Panels and Four figures)

The other day I wrote about visiting art as a good first date. Today I want to focus on  architecture. What in the world does architecture have to do with love? you may ask.

Okay, so there’s this book Built Upon Love  in which the author,  “Alberto  Pérez-Gómez examines the nature of architectural form in the light of eros, seduction, and the tradition of the poetic image in Western architecture.”

That much I understood. The rest of the book is way above my head. It was, for me, synonymous to reading Ulysses. Still, it made me wonder how architecture has often been associated with love. Think of The Taj Mahal  in which the Emperor Shah Jahan, after his wife’s death, built a tomb that would be the most resplendent monument ever built by man for a woman.

Emperor Shah Jahan was not the only one to honor the love of a woman through architecture. In fact there are ten great castles  “built specifically as loving tributes, gifts, or even erected for love lost. Nothing is more powerful than love and expressing love in architecture is divinely romantic.”

Now, that’s love!

Okay, back to reality and architecture. My suggestion is to start of at the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion which is part of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Converting an old church the pavilion holds one of the largest collections of Canadian art in the country.


At the time, the Chihuly exhibit was being shown next door.

Although the pavilion has  a fabulous collection of art it is also an architectural marvel.

Of course, I couldn’t pass by the art and was particularly impressed with the bottom of this canoe.

Art under a canoe

To leave the Claire and Marc Bourgie museum I had to go through the main entrance and so took these shots from inside the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                  Montreal Museum of fine Arts

Pretty neat, eh?

One of the wonders of having a camera in your hand is that you notice things you would not notice otherwise. So, as I continued my walk westward I came across some pretty interesting architecture.  For example, there was this wall on one side of the University of Concordia Visual Arts Pavilion


And this clock in front of Lasalle College

Lasalle College

What looking at architecture makes you do is see, become aware of your surroundings and in turn mindful of your feelings of the person you’re with. That’s why I think it makes a great date, especially if your date also has a camera.

But maybe in the end, one must also look at the foundation of a building to see if it will stand the test of time.

For isn’t that what great love is all about?

What are your thoughts? What do you think the foundation of a relationship is all about?


Warning: Just because you go somewhere spectacular on a first date don’t assume that the date will also be spectacular.

Parc des Rapides is one of my favorite places in Montreal. It’s a bird sanctuary. You will find it as a tourist attraction in Lonely Planet, Fodors, Tripadvisor, Tourism Montreal, Montreal sites and attractions and so forth. Yet, few Montrealers know about this wonderful wild and peaceful oasis along the St. Lawrence Seaway.


What makes it unique is the contrast of the rapids churning on one side and the reservoir of calm water that flows through the dam built by Hydro Quebec on the other side.

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This park is one of my favorite meeting places with my friend and writing buddy, Thelma. Our walks usually end up with us chatting about our writing or the men we date. At the time I met Thelma, she was well into a paranormal romance novel, while I was writing a psychological crime novel. Our novels finished, drafted a zillion times and polished we are still looking for an agent or publisher and debate about going the self-publishing route. You have to understand that we do not embrace ebooks with the same enthusiasm as those in their twenties or thirties. We’re barely half way over the stigma hurdle of self-publishing.

Because Thelma was leaving for a trip to Italy in a few days, I asked her to join me at the park for my photographs of this post of great first dates.

“I’ve taken over a dozen men here on a first date,” she told me. “It’s a much more natural environment than having to sit across someone in a noisy coffee shop examining how his nose is too big,  his teeth too crooked, or OMG he put six packs of sugar in his coffee!”

As I clicked away, sorry that I didn’t have a powerful lens to photograph the huge turtles lying on a rock or the cormorants in the middle of the seaway, I listened to her first date tales.


“Not one of them,” she claimed, “Turned into a second date.”

Click. Click.

I mentally made a list of reasons why she’d rejected them.

He threw his Kleenex on the ground. “Hey,” she told him, “You’re polluting my environment.” His reply: They’ve got somebody to pick it up.


On another date, at dusk she and her date were walking along the rose-bush path. There was no one around when he told her, “You know I could take you right here.”


Then she had the date where a flock of birds flew by and her date said “God, I wish I’d have brought along my gun. I love shooting birds for sport.”

  • There was the crazy man who at the end of their walk said, “So, what do you think? Do you want to see me again?” This is always a difficult situation to be in. Thelma said, “I just don’t think that there’s anything between us.” His response: “You’re the first woman to tell me that.” Really! She thought. Hard to believe. This is the same man who showed her his driver’s license to prove he was who he claimed to be, after asking if her teeth were REAL. “I felt like a horse at an auction,” she said.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In spite of these first date disappointments, this park is a wonderful place to get to know someone. Is he a nature lover? Does the quietness bother him? You get to know someone much quicker by walking in nature than you do among a crowd coming and going talking on their cells. Not to say that being in nature is a guarantee that a fellow will turn off his cell phone. There’s nothing more annoying and disrespectful than having a date constantly pulling aside to take a call. Worse still, to make one.

Things like this, ladies, do happen.

It was late September and there weren’t any rafters, but if you go there in the summer time you’re likely to see this:

© Luc Girouard - Rafting - Jet Boating Montréal          image courtesy of http://www.tourisme-montreal.org



When I meet a man for the first time I tend to focus on what’s wrong with him. Call it sabotaging or relationship anxiety or simply that  even though I do want a man in my life I sometimes fear that he might take up too  much of my time and I will have to forgo my dreams. In fact, this is so much part of my inner making that The Dating Club, the novel I am writing, circles around the theme of a woman having to choose between her career or the man she loves.

So, I tell myself -and in this I do not think my mind is in either panic nor disillusioned mode – I believe that a man in my life ought to make it better and not worse. Naturally, as self-preservation, I look immediately for the worse. Why waste time?

Instead of seeing a good heart, an exciting mind and a man pursuing his own remarkable dreams, I see the physical faults which are enough to stop me from going beyond the surface.

I don’t think that I am alone in this and men probably suffer more from this syndrome than women do.

For these reasons, I think that going to see art is a good first date and an antidote to this OMG I hope it’s not him.

Not long ago, I told a friend about how I thought artists have a difficult time making a living because art, unlike food, for example, is not a necessity.

“Art is a necessity,” he said.

Hmm.  That made me reflect and wonder in which way art was as necessary as our daily bread.

The website http://painterskeys.com/  contains a huge resource of art quotations. I was most interested in seeking those regarding the purpose of art and found as example:

Art has no other purpose than to brush aside the conventional and accepted generalities, in short everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself. (Henri Bergson).

Now that’s an interesting first date discussion bound to get you beyond the superficiality of the size of the man’s ears standing before you and dig into his own reality.

One of my favorite contemporary artists is Louise Carrier Nichols.

art circuit3                                                   art circuit2                                                                                                      art circuit

Her art, reminds me of what Edgar Degas had to say about art: Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

Her art makes me see beauty. Looking at something beautiful can help us see the beauty in the person we are with.

Bob Dylan had this to say about art: The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for any one but inspire them?

Why not look for the beauty in the person? And inspire him or her to see that beauty in themselves?

art circuit4

I once read something by a writer who, I now unfortunately forget his name, said that their life was their art. He didn’t mean it like I couldn’t live without being able to paint or sculpt. But rather that his day-to-day life was his art. The painter Barbara  Cook Spencer reiterated this in more detailed terms:

Art is what each of us is, deep inside – our own beauty. And while we remain related to our fellow-man by those infinite qualities we all share, our art is what makes us different. Art is expressed in the way we cook, arrange flowers, place furniture, raise our children, chair a meeting, close a business deal, or gather our friends. It’s having our own voice. We challenge drabness and boredom by resisting the pressure of comparison and preserving our own individual beauty.

I think relationships can also be works of art. Why not?  What do you think?




Up until now, my first dates have been during the day. So, I thought that visiting the Japanese Light Show would make a remarkable first night-time date.   The Japanese Light Show is in the Botanical Gardens and it so happened that the amazing Mosaic exhibition was going on. Unless, you have a season’s pass, the price is pretty hefty to get in and I didn’t find it fair to ask a date to fork out twenty-five dollars as entrance fee.  So, I went date-less. I felt a bit like a movie scout searching for good filming locations.

In order to reach the Japanese Gardens, I passed by some of the mosaics, and in particular one of my favorites, The Red-crowned Crane.


The Red-crowned crane mosaic, tells the true story of a young Chinese woman in the late 1980’s who traveled to the Yangcheng Nature Reserve to care for cranes. While trying to save an injured crane she slipped into  a swamp. The crane was saved but she died. Touching the hearts of thousands of Chinese people, a song was composed to pay tribute to this girl.


Beautiful, isn’t it?

Onward to my scouting plan.  It wasn’t quite sunset when I reached the gardens so I roamed around towards the light show passing by some beautiful Japanese art.


There were plenty of couples holding hands or arms around each which made me envious. That’s what I want. This is what all these first dates are about. Leading to a second, third and finally a relationship. Instead it was me and my camera which I had quite a bit of problems with. By now the sun had set and I had a difficult time maneuvering the buttons on it. Taking a photo was, excuse the pun, a shot in the dark and so a lot of my photos came out pretty badly.

Still, I think, I managed to capture the essence of this light show. I was lucky because there was a full harvest moon out that evening,


 which reminded me of a line from Neil Young’s Harvest Moon: Let’s go out and feel the night.

Feel the night. The night that evening for me felt serene, romantic, peaceful, stunning, and hopeful. All qualities of  a great first date.  Or second or third date. Or any date.

I imagined myself walking there with a man whom I was, if not crazy about, at least dangerously attracted to. The garden had that kind of poetic quality to it.