The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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London Belongs to Me – The Final Chapter


I admire writers…I always have.  Being an avid reader, it constantly amazes me that people can sit at a computer and create story arcs and dialogue and characters.  To know someone that has actually done this, is nothing short of inspirational.  I know that I write this little blog, but creating a book out of thin air and taking the time and the discipline to see the story through to the end is not within my skill set.  Luckily, I know Jacquelyn Middleton (JM), author of “London Belongs to Me” and even though I will never write a novel, I wanted to share her advice with you, my lovely readers, in case any of you were thinking about where to start.  Since she also writes magazine articles, I’m keeping that advice in too!

Q: How long did it take you to write the book and what was your process?

JM: Just over a year start to finish.  I came up with the characters and idea before I wrote the actual book.  I made bibles on each character.  I read books that related to my writing experience.  I needed to learn structure, character development, story arcs, scenes,  and acts.  I knew nothing and had no formal training!  I used highlighters and sticky notes to keep organized.  I always wanted to be a writer and I built the story from the ground up.

Q: How did you know when you were done?

JM: You just have to stop.  I could still  be writing and editing the book because it’s never perfect.  I read and edited it so many times.  I did have a great support system thanks to my family and friends.  My husband even read the book backwards to help with the editing.  I just knew that I wanted to create a book that I’d want to read.

Q:  What does writing success mean for you?

JM: With “London Belongs to Me” it was just getting it done and having it in my hands.  When I received the first proof, I knew that even if no one reads it, that’s a feeling that no one can take away from me.  It’s so special.

Q: How did you go about getting your book published?

JM: It’s self-published under Kirkwall Books.  There are many self-publishing companies out there.

Q:  What’s the difference in the process for writing a book versus a magazine?

JM: It’s very different.  Magazines are fact based and fact checked, where books can be fictional.  Each is telling a different type of story.  Magazine articles are based on different types of interests like health, fitness, travel, pets and sometimes interviews and again, based on fact.

Q:  If you were to give your 20 year old self advice on your future career, what would it be?

JM: You can do it, don’t be scared – just try.  I didn’t think that I could finish a book before, I was afraid of failure.  I tried writing in other ways like the Leaf’s Newsletter (a hockey newsletter) and was the editor of my high school newspaper.  Now, I’ve got “London Belongs to Me”.

Q: What would you say to people who want to write a book or magazines articles and don’t know where to start?

JM: Just do it!  Remember though, that the magazine industry is shrinking and writing for web is the new reality.

Q: Last question – what are your favourite books?

JM: “Charlotte’s Web” is my favourite childhood book.  Karen Swan’s “Christmas at Tiffany’s” is a favourite.  “You Had Me at Hello” by Mhairi McFarlane is great Women’s Fiction.  I just love reading a book because you get to see how the characters are cast in your head as you visualize who you think they are.

Get London Belongs to Me on October 14th when it goes on sale.  You can also pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!  Just a couple of more days until you get to read this amazing first novel.  Thanks again Jackie for being such an inspiration and for answering all of my questions.

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London Belongs to Me – The Author


I’ve wanted to interview Jacquelyn Middleton for my blog for awhile.  Originally, it was as part of my “inspiring” people series – I was inspired by her successful move from broadcast production and programming into award winning magazine writer.  Anyone that can make such a scary change inspires me.  Things got busy and often, it’s hard to find the time to interview people, but when she announced “London Belongs to Me” was coming out, that was a whole other cool factor and I had to reach out to find out more.  It gave me the opportunity to catch up with Jackie (JM), which was great, and find out more about her book and her writing process.

Q: How did you start writing?

JM: I started contributing to the Slice website (where she formerly worked).  I always wanted to do more writing and freelance writing seemed to be a good fit.

Q: But why the complete career change?

JM: I got laid off in 2008 from a job I loved in broadcast, but was writing for a website.  This gave me a portfolio of work that I had done.  There were family issues that I needed to be around for and free-lance writing provided me with the flexibility that I needed.

Q: So you always wanted to write?

JM: YES!  My Mum would tell me that I needed to write a book, but that was scary because I thought what if I can’t do it?  What if I don’t have the goods to deliver the thing that I most want to do?  I was inspired by Stephen Beresford (he is an English actor and writer for stage and TV).  He wrote Pride, my favourite movie for many reasons.  Pride was at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and I wanted to talk to him, but he was chatting with someone else so I didn’t get to tell him how much he inspired me at that moment.  As a freelance magazine writer, though, I got to interview him!  In magazines, if you have a great idea, you can make it happen.  I pitched an idea to Script Lab after he was nominated for a BAFTA for Pride.  I interviewed him in London (twice including last September).  He was wonderful – he delivered in the interview, was funny, and I just adored him.  He inspired me because nothing he ever wrote for TV ever went through, but he wrote a play and the National Theatre picked it up.  Remember, this was his first play and it was picked up by the biggest theatre in the world.  Then, Pride was picked up and he just made it happen.  He didn’t sit around and procrastinate.  Seeing him do this was a huge inspiration.  After the first interview with him, I knew that I needed to write a book.  I needed to try, even if it didn’t get published.  The book is a tribute to my Mum.

Q: How autobiographical is “London Belongs to Me”?  How close is the heroine, Alex Sinclair to you?

JM: Alex isn’t very similar to me at all.  I never moved to London, but I got to live vicariously through Alex.  I didn’t have a tumultuous relationship with my Mum.  My own Mum was my everything.  I had to visualize Alex’s relationship by removing my mother from my life and imagining what Alex went through.  Alex’s love of London is similar to my own and her drive to pursue the career that she wants is very much like me.   There are traits of Alex that I share and people who know me will pick up on them. Parts of me are in every character of the book.  It’s fun writing a book.  There are little tributes to people that only you or a select few would pick up on.

Q: Do you tell people that you know who the various characters are based on?

JM: No, I’ve stopped.  I can’t tell people in case they are wrong because that is how they are reading the story.  It’s personal and you should be able to read the story with who you pick or think the characters are.  I like it when people guess though.

Q: The book has a lot of fan girl moments.  What are your ultimate fan girl moments?

JM:  Meeting Simon LeBon from Duran Duran (Jill here – did I mention that Jackie has great taste in bands?) for the first time.  He never disappoints.  I have so many though!  Just a note, Jackie goes to Fan Expos and has met a lot of really cool people including one of my celebrity loves, Benedict Cumberbatch!

Q:  What books inspired you to write “London Belongs to Me”?

JM: Charlotte’s Web (She really has great taste in books, that’s my fave too!), 84 Charring Cross Road (true story and gorgeous movie), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and My Love Affair with England (Jackie read it in 1993 before she went to England for the first time) all inspired me.

I’ll reveal more of the process behind writing a book in my next entry.  Remember that London can belong to you too if you order it!  Get London Belongs to Me on October 14th when it goes on sale.  You can also pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!

Jackie – thank you for being so patient with all of my questions!



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London Belongs to Me – Maybe


Before I read “London Belongs to Me” by soon to be noted author, Jacquelyn Middleton, London was not on my to do list.  After chatting with the London loving scribe, I was warming to the rainy city.  After reading London Belongs to me, I’m convinced that I’ve made a mistake not spending a bit of time where this soon-to-be-released novel is set.  I asked the author what her top favourite things to do in London are, and coming from someone who has visited numerous times (we’re talking about 30 times), I think she can be considered an expert.  Here are Jacquelyn Middleton’s top picks and the places that I’m putting on my UK bucket list:

  • The National Theatre – it’s not only a huge part of the author’s life, but it’s the best supporting actress in her love story to London.  It’s also, according to Jackie, a great public space to sit inside of or on the patio.  It’s apparently got a great cafe on the main floor and a great book store.  Who doesn’t love books?
  • London Fields, in east London is where the heroine of the book, Alex Sinclair settles when she first moves to her dream city.  It’s home to great markets (including Broadway Market) and a place that isn’t on everyone’s must do list, which means that it isn’t packed with tourists.  Where do I sign up?
  • The Tower Bridge – a must see according to the author AND a great place to find a hotel.
  • Big Ben – if you look carefully for those of you who aren’t observant – it’s actually on the cover of London Belongs to Me.  Middleton feels ripped off if she doesn’t see it every time she heads to Britain’s capital (I’m running out of ways to say London without saying London).   She recommends taking a tour of the House of Parliament.  I saw it very quickly from a moving car and almost got whiplash – it’s spectacular.
  • Covent Garden – great shops and restaurants with cool street performers.  I don’t recall whether it was in the book or not, but I’m sure it was.
  • Pimlico area – this is near Westminster, north of the Thames.  This was the first place that the author stopped her first time in London.  She wanted to stay in a place in the city that she had seen in the movies.  This area always feels new and exciting to her.
  • Primrose Hill – the author loves this area mostly because of her passion for music, more specifically the band Saint Etienne.  They wrote and sang a song called Primrose Hill that she loves.  They also sing a little song, called, and wait for this…London Belongs to Me.  Sound familiar?  Well, it should.  It’s the name of the book that I’ve been blogging about!

To get inspired to travel to The Old Smoke, pick up a copy of London Belongs to Me on October 14th when it goes on sale.  You can also pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!


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London Belongs to Me


Well, actually it doesn’t, but it could belong to you if you buy the fabulous new book by first-time fiction author Jacquelyn Middleton.  I’m lucky enough to know the author and I got an advance copy of the book.  I do know Jackie, but that isn’t swaying this, my first review one little bit!

Confession time – I’ve only spent about 24 hours in London and this world traveller saw nothing, except Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum well before Brangelina’s statues were separated and the London Dungeon.  I never wanted to go back until I read this book, falling in love with the city, much like the book’s heroine Alex Sinclair.  Middleton’s (makes this feel more review-y) knowledge of the city is apparent in the rich descriptions of the various neighbourhoods.  It brings the reader into Alex’s world and makes you feel like you are seeing each place for the first time too.  It’s totally relatable for anyone that’s ever travelled or dreamed of relocating.

The book is not a hard read – in fact, it’s the perfect book to curl up on your “what will become of me couch” with your snuggie and a cup of tea (or at least that’s what I did every night).  The coolest part of the book, was that there were a few parts where I got frustrated, not getting some of the reference, but the, it was literally explained on the next page.   It’s almost like the author was reading my mind through length of the book.  This is female fiction for sure, but not predictable.  Some of the drama literally made me gasp (one part in particular – no spoilers, you have to read it).  It was refreshing to have a heroine that was an every-woman – totally relatable, not always sympathetic and slightly klutzy.

The supporting cast of characters was equally enjoyable.  Some eccentric, some snobby, some snivelling but all memorable.  There is nothing more impressive than someone who can write fiction – and this is very enjoyable fiction.  I probably started reading it because I knew the author, but I finished it quickly because it was that good.  It didn’t drag, there was nothing that could be cut and the heroine wasn’t cookie cutter.

“We’re all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one” – well Jackie, you did.

Pre-order ‘London Belongs to Me’ from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!  Available October 14 from Kirkwall Books.

Learn more about London, the author and the writing process over the next few entries.



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Barcelona for Dummies and Type As Parte Tres


A little Gaudi – Casa Mila

I screwed up – and I’m totally owning it.  I promised you the first 5 places in my top ten in the last entry and I only put 4.  I tried to edit it, but it only fixed my mistake here.  I’d say sue me, but some of you may take me up on it and I’m not paid to blog.  I’m giving you places 5-10 in this blog, promise and you are even getting a bonus Barcelona entry after I write a very exciting series on an up and coming Toronto based author!    Without further ado, here are the rest of my Barcelona faves!

5. Casa Milà- see above for photo!  This amazing piece of Gaudi architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!  Before you get too excited, like I did, everything in Europe is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Even a Starbucks that I went into mostly for the free Wi-Fi qualified (just kidding).  But truly, there are a lot of underwhelming places that qualify for this distinction, but this isn’t one of them.  It’s one of the most creative pieces of architecture that I’ve ever seen.  It looks like it’s bones in motion, melted wax or all of the above.  My only regret is that I’ve been to Barcelona twice and have never gone in.

6.  Passeig de Gracia – I call this fancy street.  It houses a lot of the high end stores and the REALLY SUPER EXPENSIVE hotels that we can all only aspire too.  Staying walking distance from this elegant street made me feel like one of the hoity-toity’s.  The best part of this street though is not the shopping or the lovely restaurants, it’s the architecture.  The lovely Casa Milà is located here (I wasn’t cheating, it’s my favourite building so it got an entry of it’s own).  Gaudi’s Casa Batlló AKA my second favourite building is located here.  The roof looks like a dragon’s back and the facing has the mosaic tiles that Gaudi is known for.  As an aside, I felt really artsy writing that sentence.  If Gaudi isn’t your thing, which makes you a weirdo in my books, then Casa Amatller by Puig is right next store.  Each building on this street is a bit of a marvel.  Stroll it and enjoy one of the loveliest places in Barcelona.

7.  Las Ramblas (AKA La Rambla) – this isn’t just a lovely street to walk along, it also serves as the entry way to the Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) and El Mercat (the Market that I wrote about).  The best part of Las Ramblas – it’s a pedestrian mall which means no pesky traffic to interrupt you.  The draw back is that it’s teeming with tourists.  That’s ok though – that’s what you are, so embrace and enjoy the crowds.  If you are looking for tacky souvenirs, this is the place for you.  It’s also a great place to stop and smell the flowers – literally.  There are flower vendors here with pretty sweet posies, so look around and enjoy them.  As busy as it is, it’s worth an hour or two, at least, of your time.  Look up at the buildings – they have the best little touches from Juliet balconies to the umbrellas that you see in my less than professional photo above.

8. The beach/waterfront – confession time, this is from November 2011.  I didn’t have a chance to go this time around.  I loved the waterfront.  The statues were fun – who doesn’t love a smiling lobster?  The scenery was great and the Mediterranean was a little rough so if you closed your eyes, the sounds made you feel like you were at an all-inclusive.  I couldn’t keep them closed for long though – too many things to trip over.  If we have more than two days to spend, I really, really recommend spending some time here.

9. Barri Gòtic AKA The Gothic Quarter is also a favourite.  Seriously, I loved every place on this list equally, but in different ways.  You need time in The Gothic Quarter – time to get lost, time to wander and time to appreciate the gargoyles.  Every little street leads into a square.  You’ll find City Hall in one of these squares.  Another street will lead you to the Jewish Quarter and another to the Barcelona Cathedral.  Before your eyes roll and you say ANOTHER CHURCH, this is also worth a look.  For one thing, it’s Gothic and who doesn’t love a cuddly little gargoyle.  For another, it’s spectacular outside and in.  C’mon, just put it on your list of must dos.  My favourite time to walk this area is at night.  It just lends itself to that eerie, spooky vibe that night time brings.  Watch out for pick pockets in this area – where there are tourists, there are thieves.  We were warned all over Barcelona to keep an eye on our purses and wallets, so be smart and only bring the necessities.

10.  Fundació Joan Miró – really just an art gallery with a lot of Miró’s art.  I’m including this on my list so you’ll think I’m cultured.  And also because the statue in front reminded me of Disney’s Wall-E.  Tell me I’m wrong….go ahead. The paintings aren’t my thing, but the fact that they are hung in the middle of the room with no walls – genius.  I saw this during my 2011 trip.  It was fun saying to my friend “I could totally paint this” and listening to her each time say – “But you didn’t”.  That’s always been my issue with modern art – I’m not talented in the least, but I feel like I could totally splat over a page and tell people it represents passion and progress and get $50million out of the deal.  I’d also get those pretentious people nodding their heads with a very serious look on their faces as I reveal a new project – a blank canvas that represents the smallness of life and how life is…a blank canvas.  If you are into modern art – it’s worth a look.  Give yourself an hour here, tops.





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Barcelona for Dummies and Type A’s La Segunda Parte


You already know that I love Barcelona, but I wanted to share my top ten things to do in this bella ciudad (that’s beautiful city to those of you who don’t hablo español).  It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten places, but for you, my lovely readers, I’m making the sacrifice.  Here are your first four – in no particular order:

  1. Sagrada Familia AKA Scared Family – I know, I know, it’s another church you say to yourself.  If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll see your fair share.  No offence to my Catholic readers – you have some fabulous architectural marvels, it just gets a little church-y when you go from city to city.  Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is different though – it’s a building still under construction for one thing estimated to be complete in 2026.  For another, it’s Gaudi people!  That means unusual architecture and overall amazingness and yes, that’s a word, or if it’s not, it should be.  I could go on and on, but I’m going to let the pics speak for themselves.  Just a hint – pre-book your tickets, or if you can, get a guide, they’ll give you details that you would never know just visiting it on your own.  Don’t skip the museum at the end.  It’s pretty cool.  If your wondering, it’s a Basilica, not a Cathedral – there is nary an Archbishop in site at this modern marvel.


2. Park Guell – Yup – more Gaudi.  If you are a regular reader, you will already have read a bit about my obsession with this place.  I missed it my first time which makes me a dummy.  It’s one of the most unique places that I’ve ever visited – if you ready my previous entry, you’ll see some of the fab pics from PG.  Gaudi thought of everything.  Even the benches are ergonomic.  There is plenty to see, and you don’t want to rush.  Give yourself at least 2 hours to walk through it if you can.  You won’t be disappointed.  You’ll see structures that look like the underside of an elephant, a gigantic lizard, gargoyles and more in the world’s best park.  You have to pay to get in, but it’s worth it.

3. The Mercat – You’ll find this at Las Ramblas  – another must do.  Apparently this market is very touristy and a lot of locals have moved on to greener pastures but it’s still worth a look.  Let’s face it, if you are paying to stay in a hotel, you are a tourist.  You can be pretentious and sniff that if locals don’t go, you shouldn’t either, but you aren’t Spanish and neither am I.  Go and enjoy.  The produce looks amazing.  If you are an animal lover, be aware, there are a lot of butchers in the market, and you will see things that you may not want to.  Let’s just say, ham is very popular here.  If you are ironic, and like the song fish heads – – you will see those too, and that song will be in your head ALL DAY LONG.

4. Plaza de España is one of those GINORMOUS European complexes that makes you feel small and insignificant.  If you already feel that way, and haven’t been to the Plaza de España then perhaps some of Dr. Phil’s sound advice is in order.  This is just a really beautiful photo opportunity.  It provides you with a great view of the Venetian Towers, an old bull fighting arena which is now a shopping centre – YAY to Barcelona for getting rid of that blood sport and is a great place to catch transit if you need it.  You don’t need a lot of time there, unless you just want to sit and people watch.

I’ll finish the list in my next entry.  Until then, adios amigos and amigas!



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Barcelona for Dummies and Type As (Primera Parti)


Some years ago, I’m not sure how many to be precise…scratch that – it was November 2012, so 3 years and 10 months and two days ago, I visited Barcelona for the first time.  It’s called Barcelona for Dummies and Type As people, and I’m no dummy.  I can’t forget a thing, but that’s a story for a different blog.  Anyway, back to Spain…so I visited this city, and fell in love with it’s unique combination of old and new and totally unexplainable.  This is a city that Gaudi helped to popularize, and you will never see anything as amazing as his architecture.   I want you, my furry friends, to love this city like I do, so I’m giving you all my best tips and tricks whether you have one day, or many!

Where to Stay:


Image courtesy of

This time, I stayed at the very lovely Hotel Claris, conveniently located less than a block away from the tony Passeig de Gràcia area.  I always wanted to use the word tony in a sentence – thank you for making my dreams come true.  Anyway, this hotel is really well situated, it’s absolutely  beautiful and they have the best service of anywhere that I’ve ever been.  The Bell Hop doesn’t let you lift a finger and couldn’t be more helpful.  I needed a drug store and he practically walked me there.  The rooms had the fluffiest towels that I’ve ever experienced, and who doesn’t like a fluffy towel?  They had the best shower…ever…seriously…I never wanted to get out.  You had turndown service at night, and they left you with a fresh pair of slippers AND a chocolate on your pillow. The decor was fab and very modern.  I can’t recommend this place enough.  It wasn’t horrifyingly expensive either, but book in advance for the best prices (the executive room is probably your best bet).

Getting Around:

I can only speak for me, but the first time I went, we pretty much walked everywhere.  The one time we didn’t walk, we took a cab to the Miro museum.  I’m sure transit is easy, but remember, the best way to see a city is to walk, and walk and walk some more.  This time, we took a private tour which was great.  We got to see so much of the city and really got to understand the history of it.  A great option for tired and weary travellers is the trusty “Hop on Hop Off” tour.  The buses are everywhere and they’ll get you where you want to go.  They can also help you orient yourself in the city.

The Weather:

The first time that I went, it was in November, and it was still around 20 degrees celsius.  This summer, it was 28 degrees (celsius) during the day – more than pleasant.  If you are bringing your smart phone, download a weather app.

The People

The people are different than you expect.  They are polite and direct.  They never make you feel like they are in a rush, but there is an unusual efficiency there.

Wireless Connections

These were spotty at best.  The hotel wasn’t great for wireless connectivity, my suggest it to get yourself a decent data plan.  If you can’t roam like home, take a cyber break.

What to do:

Check back for everything that you need to do rumble down Las Ramblas in Barcelona!