Category Archives: Inspiration

You Are What You Read

The thought has crossed my mind a few times lately. Being pregnant, I’ve never been more aware of how the food I eat directly impacts my body and the little (girl!) growing inside of me, and I can’t help but notice a similar trend when it comes to what I read, and watch.

People have compared my writing to CS Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. Well guess what? I grew up on the stuff. My parents read the entire series to me several times over when I was a kid. These books are so ingrained into my skull that I have to fight to eradicate the kindly English accent in my head that pops up whenever I write.

After that came Madeline L’Éngles’ books and by the time I hit grade three, I tackled Lord of the Rings for the very first time (took me a few years but I did it in the end). While living in Germany, the first English books I encountered were the Harry Potter series. At the time I the Shadowlands books were nothing more than a vague dream but the experience of wandering the German countryside (I read as I walk) with a book of magic in my hand stuck to me more than I’d like to admit.

I picked up a darker satirical edge from Simon R Green. Throw in a pinch of that great TV series ‘Firefly’, and you come out with an adventure fantasy series primarily aimed at pre-teens and teen boys.

The second Shadowlands book does feel different. Probably because it reflects a different time of life. I’ve been married and settled back in my home town for a few years, and I’ve got a baby in the oven. My life experiences revolve less around globetrotting and more around the relational complexities of family. Tavin’s shares a large part of the story with his sister Moreanna. Family loyalty seems to be a major theme in this second book…

But back to reading and eating. I still have to claim my initial influences (Lewis, LÉngle and Tolkien), but I’ve been reading a lot more Anne Rice lately, as well as some other more ‘grown up’ fantasy books. I’m not sure if I should admit it, but I’ve also been hooked on the TV series ‘Supernatural’ lately. The influence on my writing is probably slightly more than subconscious. 😛 If you ever read my next book ‘The Hand of Darkness’ see if you can spot it. Heh heh.

But what about dessert? My guilty pleasure has always been westerns. I know. It seems a little out of left field. But when it’s cold and rainy and I’m feeling down Louie L’Amour is who I reach for. Which is why… against the the strong objections of my husband (who thinks it’s a horrible idea), I’ve begun writing a western. 🙂 The best part is the reactions I get when I tell people. I get these blank looks as they try and process the idea. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“…so… it’s a time travel book?” “Nope. It’s a western.”

“So how do your characters get there?”

“In the west? They are born there.”

“Are there aliens or something?”

“Nope. It’s a western.”

“Do they have superpowers?”

“It’s a western. They shoot guns.”

… you get the idea. Personally, I’ve never had more fun writing a book then when I write this one. I can hardly wait to share it! Vampires? What vampires? Trust me, I’ve decided the market’s ripe: westerns are the new ‘it’. If you’re smart, you’ll write one too. 😛


Nanaimo’s Youth Newspaper: The Mind’s Eye

I discovered the most amazing little newspaper recently. I’m not even sure how I missed it before. While sharing  my husband’s birthday lunch at Delicados I discovered “the Mind’s Eye”. It’s a newspaper written by and for youth (ages 13 to 25). It has a super positive vibe and it is full of interviews with artists. It also has a healthy dose of witty opinion columns, and a rolling list of local events that I would actually attend! (Underground all-ages shows).

It kind of rejuvenated my hope for the future of our writing youth. Maybe the digital generation won’t turn out as literally obtuse as my dark dreams have occasionally imagined. 🙂 Thank you to the Nanaimo Daily News for backing this publication and to all the youth who contribute!

Here is their facebook page.

You can pick up a copy of the Mind’s Eye at your high school, the Avalon, Van Isle Video, The Aquatic Centre, Oliver Woods Community Centre, Nanaimo Ice Centre, Harbourfront Library, Fascinating Rhythm, Lucid, House of Indigo, the Thirsty Camel, Pirate Chips and other local businesses.

Writing a series

Among other things, I’m busily working away on my next book. For those of you tackling something similar, I thought I’d record a few thoughts on what I think goes into writing a successful series here.

The light bulb turned on with Harry Potter. I really enjoyed the books and followed them all the way to the end… but for me, it wasn’t the plot.

I returned to the Harry Potter books because of the richly imagined world JK Rowling built. I’m convinced that it was the strength of her world that made her such a marketing sensation and kept us all reading. You know what I mean: you bought the scarf… JK Rowling’s world was big enough for us all.

Another example of an amazing series is the Nightside books by Simon Green (definitely not YA, or for the mildly squeamish… there are things in these books that you’ll never forget). Yes, the world Simon Green creates is amazing but I believe the real strength of the writing lays in one of the strongest character voices I’ve come across.

And that I think this is key. To write a successful series, the second ingredient is a character who refuses to die or even live happily ever after. They have to be so big that we remain captivated by the awe and horror of their lives. They need to be constantly evolving, struggling and reinventing themselves. And absolutely memorable.

Finally, I think the third secret ingredient needs to be dangling subplots… nothing too big (I like to feel as if I’ve read a whole story when I put down a book), but just enough that the reader can feel like there’s more to come. It’s very satisfying to discover the answer to a subplot several books down the line.

So there are my thoughts. Hopefully with some planning and a little luck I’ll be able to work some of these thoughts into my next book, Shadowlands: The Hand of Darkness!

My book is published! What now?

Last week was huge. At finally long last my book is officially released to the world and free to fly. Some of you might have discovered a few sad kinks in the system… But I know my publisher is working extra hard to get everything straightened out.

so what’s next?

Honestly, I’m a bit worn out from the marketing side of things. I’ve been sadly lax in telling you all just how amazing my book launch went… Mostly because I needed a bit of a break. BUT the wonderful news is that I know the new direction I’m going in: I want to teach kids to write.

The absolutely best part of my week happened when I got to sit down with a kid named Josh (I think he’s 11) and his father. Josh has been writing stories since the tender age of four. He plays amazing pretend games and he’s got all these ideas swirling about inside of his head… He just doesn’t know what to do with them. His father looked a bit desperate when he asked if I could help. 🙂 I CAN’T WAIT to help Josh write a book!

We talked about organizing his ideas into separate folders his computer and giving each of those folders the title of a book. Once we grouped the ideas properly I asked him which book he’d like to write. Once he picked a book to work on I gave him homework. I told him to write a page on the characters in his book, a page on the setting, and a page loosely outlining the plot. I also told him not to be afraid to write out the scenes from his book that are playing out inside his head…

Okay. I know that sounds like a lot for a kid, but Josh is on fire. He’s so excited to write, our meeting could have gone on for hours. Fortunately I remembered I had a hungry husband at home to feed.

Josh has really inspired me to run with an idea I had about talking in high schools about creative writing and story building. Book signings are great and all… But kids. Kids are awesome!

On a happy side note, Josh represents my fastest growing “fan base”… Kids between 9 and 12 are the ones who are really loving my book. I was a little surprised at this but I can’t tell you how great it is. I’ve been told that these are the kids who generally don’t read so I’ve got something good going. The knowledge that preteens are the ones reading my stuff has also begun to shape the way I write my next book…

But more on that later. 🙂

Blog scoop! My interview with upcoming author Shannon Mayer.

A good friend of mine and fellow writer, Shannon Mayer, recently signed with a major Canadian agent. I’ve been fascinated by her journey as she moves towards publication.

You can read a summary of her book at the end of this interview, I’ve had a chance to read bits of it and I love it. Shannon is well on her way to being picked up by a large publishing house. I couldn’t resist getting her to share some of her experiences so far.

Shannon, in my mind I would describe your work as gritty urban fantasy. In a market clogged with manuscripts, can you tell us what makes your book unique?

My main character, Toni, is a morbidly obese woman who does phone sex for a living, something she’s quite good at. That alone is a stand out quality of the book. There are stories about chubby girls and fat guys, but you would be hard pressed to find a main character who is truly obese.

Of course, there is a romantic element to the book and that also makes for an interesting twist with Toni being as large as she is and dealing with the issues of embodying [the vice of] Gluttony, as well as trying to keep her demon master in the dark about her love interest.

I would say that Toni’s story is a cross between Indiana Jones, The Biggest Loser with a dash of the Lightning Thief thrown in for good measure, which means it’s fast paced and a lot of fun despite the dark aspects of it.

Who do you think your story will appeal to?

I think that the book will appeal to a large range of people and ages, even those who perhaps have avoided the Urban Fantasy genre in the past. It’s dark enough for an adult book without being so bad that an older teen couldn’t enjoy it and while there is definitely a fantasy element, it isn’t vampires and werewolves.

The struggles Toni goes through and the things she wants for her life are things that we can all identify with. I think that this touch of realism will bring the book onto a lot of different shelves and to a variety of readers.

Why did you choose to write about a non-conventional heroine?

It wasn’t so much of a choice as Toni started to “tell” me about her life and I had to write it. It was as fascinating for me to write about Toni as I think it will be for people to read.

Do you have a message for your audience?

Ultimately, no matter how bad you think your life is, how far you’ve strayed away from the path that you wanted to be on, you can always make the change to bring yourself back. Whether it’s weight loss, finding the love of your life, changing habits or fighting off addictions, it doesn’t matter. We all have the strength to change, no matter what our circumstances. That’s what Toni’s story is teaching us, what it’s all about.

You recently signed with a major agent, but are still waiting for a publishing house to pick you up.  Tell us about your experience so far.

It has been highs and lows to the extreme. The journey to this point has been overwhelming and so surreal and now to have finally signed with an agent, particularly as one as good as Carolyn Swayze still makes me shake my head.

You have to develop some serious patience. Even with an agent submitting your work, you can wait for months to hear back from interested publishing houses. It’s still faster than submitting as an un-agented author, but there is definitely the possibility of waiting on the big houses for four months or more… And that’s when they are keen to get to your manuscript!

How long have you been writing your book?

It took me about three months to write the rough draft. It took another year of learning about the craft, making revisions, and hiring a freelance editor (that I worked with on two rounds of revisions) before it was to the point where I met Carolyn and I signed my contract with her. And still now every time I look at it I see things I tweak and change. As you know, writing a book is a never-ending process.

How did you connect with your agent?

I was very lucky to meet Carolyn in person at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference in Seattle this past July. She was one of the agents I had on my list to have a one on one with and we hit it off right from the start. I met her on Saturday and by Tuesday of that week we were discussing contracts. The whole thing happened very fast.

Why did you decide to work with her?

She has a great reputation as one of the best agents in Canada, and as I mentioned, we really hit it off. Although hitting it off with your agent isn’t necessarily a must, it is a very nice bonus when you are working with someone over a long period of time and on several projects.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve experienced?

Learning patience has been a biggy for me, and I thought I was a pretty patient person to begin with. Balancing the stress of deadlines with a full time job, husband and life has also been a rather interesting experience. It’s very easy to get wound tighter than a two dollar clock, so finding that balance is tremendously important, however you choose to do it.

What are the benefits?

The benefits I see in having an agent is there is someone else who believes in your work enough to put their name and reputation behind it. You have someone to bounce ideas off of, and also the most obvious benefit is they are pitching and selling your ms to the publishing houses that we as authors would have a difficult time getting our foot even in the door. This way I can focus more on the writing aspect of the business and let her do the leg work.

What is some advice you can give writers currently searching for an agent?

Well, I met Carolyn and she wasn’t at the time looking for adult Urban Fantasy and hadn’t taken any on up to that point in time. My advice would be when at conferences, pitch to as many agents and editors that you can. One of them may surprise you and be ready to step into your genre even if they haven’t in the past.

What is some advice you can offer for working with an agent? what are sensitive issues and what can be done to smooth these over?

Good, clean communication is the most important aspect of your relationship with your agent. Look at it like you would a new romantic relationship. Lay out the ground rules early on, what you expect from your agent and what they expect from you. If you aren’t sure, ask. The worst thing in the world is to be unsure of where you stand with your agent. As to treating sensitive topics I have found it is best to be honest and straight to the point. Although this is a relationship, the basis of it is a business. Treat it as such and your agent will respect you for your professional attitude.

Anything else?

For those who are writers, keep at it. It’s taken me nearly seven years now to get to this point and there have been some real low valleys. But the peaks are worth it, don’t ever give up, you never know when that next step will take you to the top of the mountain.

And of course if you want to learn more about me and Toni, you can connect with me at or my blog at

The Chronicles of Sin : Gluttony

Toni is a morbidly obese woman whose major talents are eating copious amounts of food and giving phenomenal phone sex, the latter being a fact she’s damn proud of. The weight is another matter altogether and it’s out of her control. She’s Gluttony, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, dedicated to filling the world with the compulsion to indulge. Trapped in a vicious circle, she can neither free herself on her own, nor love the life she leads as Gluttony.

Far from alone, Toni and the other six of the Seven Deadly Sins are bringing the world to its knees, overseen by Dantalion, a Grand Duke of Hell. The status quo is blown to hell when Toni falls in love with Rathburn, a.k.a Wrath, thanks in part to a flying nymph and his crossbow. Between a forbidden love and a little divine intervention from an archangel, Toni finds the strength to fight for the changes she wants in her life– Freedom from Gluttony and Rathburn in her arms.

Gold and Shadow playing at my book release!

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you should. Derek and Jesse of Gold and Shadow will be playing at my book release party on February 4th, 6-8:30 pm at The Buzz Coffee House. In keeping with the fantastical theme, they will be doing an experimental acoustic set… come and listen to the funky sounds of whimsy and oh yeahh… meet me on the side. 🙂 (Here I am)

It’s going to be awesome!

Why I Love Today

It’s been a week of dry coughs and sniffles, but the sun is shining today and the Christmas tree is merrily blinking away in the corner of our suite. I’ve got some tea and a whole day to write… life is just as it should be.

I’ve been reflecting lately on enjoying the moment. We all know that we should; but trying to actually do it feels about as easy as trying trying to brake a motorbike down a steep muddy slope. (Yes, I’ve done that).

The biggest trouble is we all have our eyes fixed upon some sort of future goal. When I get there… than I will be able to stop and enjoy life.

I wanted to brake the cycle today and list the wonderful things that make life worth living right now…

I love:

1. The clear morning air. (They don’t have it in India)

2.Hot showers. (Also a problem in India)

3.My husband J. (With me in India and wherever else I may go in this life)

4.Christmas decorations. (Oohh pretty sparkley clutter)

5.Good friends. (You know who you are, and I love you)

6.Good friends who love books. (Couldn’t do it without you!)

7. A safe peaceful home.

8. The most beautiful backdrop in the world. (Ocean, mountain, sprawling wilderness, seals)

9. Nanaimo! I love it here. The people are friendly and full of salty sea stories.

And finally… the last wonderful thing that makes today great, and makes all the trouble of trying to write for a living 100% TOTALLY worth it is…

Meet Charity, a sweet baby chick. A wonderful girl named Cassidy christened her chick after me while reading my book. I don’t think it could ever get any better than this!


PS To really get into the mood- listen to this song by a friend of mine from college. I love his music!

Lance Odegard-“Motion is Easy”

Go here to visit Lance’s page.


We just returned from our trip to India, I’m still shaking the jet lag but I don’t mind- the middle of the night is as good as a time to write as any!

So how was it? Well… great of course! But it just seems like such a big question. I’m sure little gems of experience and inspiration will bleed themselves free over the next few weeks, but here’s a taste:

We arrived in New Delhi at about 3am, where a friend picked us up and drove us to our hostel. As Jason and I approached the exit doors in the airport, I noticed a haze on the far side of the hall and wondered if there’d been a fire. It took me a moment to accept that the grayish haze lurking on the other side of the room was pollution.

It smelt like burnt tires and carbon monoxide. With every breath I could feel it swirl down into the bottom of my gut and lay in my belly like an angry serpent. Our friend Amit seemed oblivious. We zipped away from the airport with the music thumping and the windows down… to get a breath of night ‘air’. I could feel my nostrils cauterize.

We passed an elephant on the highway.

I woke up at six the next morning, the night before had been a blur. I felt as if I’d been transported to the tiny white washed room and my muscles locked in terror at the strange sounds swirling about our small refuge. I heard voices, and the screaming chatter of birds; traffic horns and and the alien swish-swish sound of homemade brooms scraping over the concrete sidewalks outside.

I did not want to leave the bed. I couldn’t face the hulking beast of pollution waiting to pounce on my lungs beyond our triple bolted door. My palms we already sticky and the shower felt like ice. 18 million people in New Delhi. 18 million.

My first cautious steps confirmed my worst fears. The sun balefully struggled to pierce the yellow sky and my lungs struggled to absorb oxygen from the blanket of pollution that wrapped about me. J squeezed my hand and assured me that in two or three days I wouldn’t even notice the smog.

That first morning out… have you ever read Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis? The main character goes to a world he can hardly understand or begin to make sense of. His description of his first few hours on Mars reads like a jumbled list of colours and shapes without context. You struggle to understand if the character is observing a mountain, a man or a tree. I felt a little like that.

There are mangy, crippled, diseased stray dogs everywhere. And for all their woes, they seem incredible content with their lot, lolling about in the sun or roaming in curious packs. They are tame, and probably wouldn’t mind a friendly pat or two… something I could never even imagine doing… especially before breakfast. The people in Delhi are avid animal lovers. Many of these dogs were dressed in dirty dog jackets to ward against the coming chill. I even read a newspaper article describing how to build cheap shelters for  the dogs to protect them in the winter.

Several street corners we passed spouted dirty fountains. People bathed, washed their clothes and brushed their teeth in these.

Monkeys scramble along window ledges and snicker at the people below.

We found a market, and bought some imported bagels and yogurt. Over the next two weeks I would never get used to the type of service where someone will follow me around just to carry my packages. With so many people in the city there seems to be a job to cover just about everything. Armed guards open shop doors and parking attendants will tear out your parking ticket for you. At many places there is even a bathroom attendant to hand you paper towel.

Despite the unnerving attention and inflated prices because of our white skin, J and I found ourselves being treated like royalty. Whenever we travelled to a tourist attraction, we became the main attraction. Indian tourists all wanted a picture with foreigners… to the point were it became exhausting. But the attention was still fun. No matter where I went or how I dressed, part of me always felt beautiful and admired.

Once we figured out the rough price of things, we had quite a bit of fun bartering. You need to do this for everything- from scarves to rides in motorized rickshaws. We soon discovered that the colour of our skin easily inflated prices 10 times the value of an item. The best way to barter seemed to be simply to tell the shopkeeper what we were willing to pay and walk away. If they chased after us… (which they did 9 times out of 10) we knew we had an excellent chance of getting the price we wanted.

Each day that passed, I became more comfortable to the way things worked in New Delhi. I got used to the incessant noise of car horns and gas generators and even began to breath easier. We made friends and kept strictly to a diet of well-cooked everything and bottled water… surviving ‘mostly’ unscathed. Some parts of India look like blasted bomb sites- choked with blackened crumbling houses and piles of garbage. Other places sparkle with glass, chrome, and marble.

Through a random connection, J and I both preformed at a venue in a really upscale mall. We played guitar and sang a few songs. I won’t attest to any great skill- as always I think the main attraction was simply the colour of our skin and a sort of glamour of the ‘west’ cast over us like a magical spell. I could have sang yankie doodle and still have drawn a crowd.

I think I’ll take a break… I wanted to give you a ‘feel’ of India… hopefully I’ll have time to tell you a bit about some of our more interesting experiences in the days to come!

Searching for Paradise

Has anyone ever seen the movie “Brazil” ? It’s a clash of dreamlike and industrial images, set in a ‘George Orwell like’ future. It’s funny, disturbing, and a little confusing. I would almost recommend reading a plot summary before you watch it… but maybe that’s just me.

The point is: the movie is about the search for paradise. The main character longs to find his true love and to escape his inane bureaucratic industrial existence to a magical land called “Brazil”.

I get it. I feel like ‘somewhere out there’ is a place of magic and wonder, of strange smells and dazzling clothes. Somewhere beyond our electronic toys daily office grind. People say it exists, but I don’t really know if it does… which is why… I’m leaving for India tomorrow. 🙂

Hehe. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive, I know about the slums and disease, I know about the crush of people. I expect that nothing will really prepare me for it… I’ve got my shots an I think I’ll leave my pretty wedding rings behind. I just… I’m not even there yet, and I’m entranced by the wonder of an idea. I’m in love with the culture and the people… somehow the difficulties make the discovery of beauty and magic in India more alluring.

And I know I will find wonder there… simply because I’m looking for it.


PS … I’m not bringing a computer so I might be off line for a few weeks. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back!

PPS I’m not going alone. My big strong husband is coming too!

Youth Literacy: A Discussion with The Book Broads

Here’s a fun link to a podcast between my publicist Kimberly Plumley and Peggy Richardson, another member of the Book Broads. Kim talks a bit about me and my new book about halfway through. Check it out!

Podcast: Youth Literacy