My Favourite Films

I was a writer long before I became an author. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to watch movies that include characters who are poets, novelists or playwrights.

I easily relate to these characters– well, I relate to the ones who live in garrets and struggle with finding the perfect word or who are a bit quirky/socially awkward.

Last week, I found a DVD of Best Sellers at my local library and promptly borrowed it. It stars Michael Caine. It had me laughing, crying, nodding my head; I adore Harris Shaw, a cranky-pants recluse novelist who agrees to go on a book tour, though he despises the public, and feels less than impressed by his own words. Authors, if you haven’t seen this movie, I’d highly recommend you do so. I can’t be the only author who has considered yelling Bullshite instead of reading my work aloud?

Best Sellers, starring Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza, 2021

I fondly recall watching Romancing the Stone, especially the scene that has Kathleen Turner sobbing her heart out as she writes her novel’s final scene and mutters, “Damn. That’s good.” Sing it, sister! Let it all out!

I have loved almost every screen version of Little Women. Beth is a beloved character, but it is Jo, Jo the writer, who captured my heart and still has it.

And I’ve re-watched 84 Charing Cross RoadĀ more times than I can count. A writer becoming pen pals with a book seller? I mean, what is not to like, especially since the movie stars Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

Every season has a writerly movie for it– Finding Forester (Spring), Possession (summer), Dead Poet’s Society (autumn) and The Shining (Winter, despite its Halloween vibes). And I look forward to more films being produced that feature authors–at their worst and at their best.

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News About My Audiobook

I can now announce that actor Nan McNamara will be narrating A Cruel Light, and the Audiobook will release April 4th, 2023!

The audiobook will be available not only on Amazon, but also at Barnes and Noble, and through other booksellers internationally. (Canadians, I will let you know when it becomes available at Indigo).



Nan McNamara is a diverse actor who has played memorable roles on television and stage, and she has narrated over two hundred books, bringing characters to life with an emotionality that is both subtle and rich.

Nan McNamara

If you click on the link, you’ll get a taste of her narrative style–which I love! She uses intonation wonderfully, and she does not focus on voice pitch to capture character or gender! Hearing her read in Annora’s voice left me speechless in the best way! I also felt she captured Lilith’s personality too (layered, elegant, witty and playful) There are many characters in my gothic thriller/mystery–ranging from Mac’s daughter, a university student, to a group of seniors who helped make the town of Bliss River infamous for its art community. Let’s just say that Nan will be voicing a full cast of characters– in essence, an entire town.

https://www.nanmcnamara.com/audiobooks/

Dreamscape Inc and Crooked Lane Books sent me links to several auditions. But it was Nan’s incredible range and how she smoothly shifted between characters that drew me in immediately. I am thankful to have been included into the decision making process.

Nan explains her narration process in this interview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE6FDacxQuY


I’d especially like to thank Nan McNamara for taking on this project, for giving my story a voice and for making my story accessible to everyone. I know this considerable project is in the best hands. I can barely wait to hear the whole book!




Breaking Down Barriers

I learned this week that my novel will be available as an audiobook! Dreamscape Media will be producing the audio version of A Cruel Light. I enjoyed listening to several actors’ auditions.

Though I know that many readers enjoy multi-tasking as they listen to audiobooks–hands freed to do other things as they enjoy books–I also realize that those with visual impairments, mobility challenges and literacy struggles face barriers that prevent them from reading. The fact that my book will be available for ALL to enjoy touches me more than I can adequately express.

Dreamscape Media


The narrator I chose has perfectly captured Annora’s emotionality, professionalism and wit. She smoothly moves between action, conversation, and Annora’s thoughts and feelings. What also delighted me is that she doesn’t rely on voice pitch to capture character or gender; she uses intonation to instill personality. I’m so impressed!

Right now, I do not feel it’s appropriate to name the narrator. I will wait to hear that she has signed on to the project, that she is TRULY on board.

I would like to thank Crooked Lane Books for making this happen! I had not expected to be involved in this process, and I am so grateful for the inclusion and all the choices that I was offered.

I can’t wait to listen to my book being read by this particular narrator as I have no doubt whatsoever she will add another dimension to my Gothic-thriller-art mystery-romantic suspense novel.

Dear Narrator– You portrayed Annora’s sensitivity in a way that was emotional but not melodramatic. I’m in awe of you. YOU read the book the way that I wished I could read it aloud. Thank you! I can’t wait to announce your name. I am a fan!

On this miserable, rainy day, I feel warmed to the core.

What a gift I have been given! Thank you, Crooked Lane Books. Thank you, Penguin Random House. Thank you, Dreamscape Media. Thank you, Narrator.

Cheers

Facing the Dragons

As an author, I refuse to compromise my beliefs or sell my soul in order to sell books. I realize that in a perfect world readers would not be racist, sexist, homophobic, classist or religiousist. But even xenophobes like to read . . . and review books.




Though I am mindful about cultural appropriation, my stories will always include characters who are not white, not Christian, not heterosexual and who are comfortable with who they are. My main characters are liberal-minded folks who fight the good fight, so readers who–for example–are anti-indigenous will dislike my book for its inclusion of First Nations peoples and sacred, traditional art. They may see this kind of inclusion to be baffling, unnecessary to the story, and/or out-and-out annoying.

Agawa Rock, Ontario, photo taken by Sheri Minardi



I have forced them out of their comfort zone.

My second novel includes a lesbian married couple, POC and activists. It will address both domestic abuse and the patriarchy. Art will again play a major role in the mystery, as will how women have been and are still being portrayed in works of art.

I’m not playing it safe. I refuse to whitewash my fiction. My novels are loud and proud. Yeah, so there be dragons, over there, ugly ism-dragons that resent the fact that I am mapping my worlds with diverse characters. In a way, I am daring those dragons to fire away, fire away, try ‘n burn my books or discourage others to read them with smoke and mirrors.



I know my book will not be enjoyed by everyone, even by those who share my convictions! (I want to make that abundantly clear!) My genre-blending Gothic mystery will be too hybrid for some.


Now, as far as those ism-dragons go? They can huff all they want. I’m not scared. Why? Because I know that readers are as diverse as my characters. I will trust in the power of perception, and the wonders of open minds. First reviewers have said my novel is ‘unique’, ‘fresh’, ‘refreshing’, ‘a good mystery’, ‘interesting’, and unputdownable. (I was so touched!) I am grateful and amazed and excited and thrilled that already some readers have enjoyed my book.



Wait till you see what comes next!

Cheers. šŸ™‚

Novel Soundtracks

Many authors enjoy finding songs or images that they feel reflect their stories. There is a kind of wonderment when a tune echoes what is happening on the page or a photo resembles the character you’ve only seen with your imagination. It feels like finding a new friend who immediately ‘gets you.’

Other writers can write WITH music playing in the background. I can’t. I need either quiet, white noise or orchestra music. BUT I do love listening to music before I write. The exact right song can inspire me, fire me up, bring me closer to my characters.

MOOD!


Also, my current WIP is set in December. And I’m writing winter scenes while the fans are running non-stop, and the humidity has me a sticky, whiny mess.

The December my father passed away, I listened to this song over and over and over. It helped me.


So, these songs also help transport me to a different time and space. I add to the soundtrack as I go… delighting in finding newer artists, and/or brilliantly executed, cinematic versions of well-known songs.

So, I thought I’d make my list public. Hey, why not?

I’ll share my list for ‘A Cruel Light’ when it is released April 4th, 2023.

Art inspires art. A painting can lead to a dance. A sculpture can birth a painting. And a song can embrace an entire chapter, wrap it in its rhythms and cadence.

Cheers.

http://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNIXC8N-DFDFNNNHgMj-iVubuChDdpbXx

The Necessity of Downtime

I’ve long known that even when I’m relaxing, reading, people watching or just day dreaming, I’m still in a strange way ‘writing.’ It’s a paradox. The writer needs to sit down and transfer those thoughts, feelings and imaginings on to paper, but if that is all they are doing, if all they do is work, eat and sleep, their writing will eventually suffer.


(Published in ROOM, Canada’s oldest feminist literary journal)

I used to feel guilty about my ‘chill time.’ But I no longer do.

What I write is filtered through my life experiences. Interactions with less than savoury characters, small talk with charming personalities, the unplanned trip to a garden centre, a long rest on a bench beside a river, unexpected laughter at a funeral, sudden heartbreak at a wedding, a favourite chair, graffiti on a wall, a funny cat … all these things take hold and root, then they are ‘reborn’ in our novels.


(Frankie, telling me “Gimme some attention. Now.”)


I don’t mean that authors actually use their books as a means to immortalize nasty ex-lovers, frenemies or in-laws who criticized us for decades. NO! What I mean is that what and who we observe–little details, random acts of kindness, discourtesy or arrogance, the hero who insists ‘I just did what anyone would do in the same situation,’ the misogynist bigoted jerk who reamed out an employee in front of sympathetic customers, the quivering old woman visiting her daughter’s grave, still, after forty years, peacemakers and warmongers, the magnificent painted rocks left by an unnamed artist, the cobwebs in a corner, countless strengths and weaknesses, vices and virtues… all these things? They are the driving force behind works-in-progress. They light a fire that refuses to be extinguished.

Writers must dedicate time to the craft of writing and GIVE ‘ER. But the stroll through the garden, the movie watched with loved ones, book browsing and petting one’s cat and actually taking a bath instead of the normal two-minute shower and rereading a favourite mystery? These, too, are essential for the creative process. Stories need to be nurtured, given air and light. Play can be work, too, šŸ˜‰


(Close to home, a respite, a place to reflect….)


Cheers.

The Lure of Old Homes

One reason I love Gothic fiction is that I’m simply mad about mansions. I like how these larger settings provide both time and space for the main character to develop. As many of us have learned during lockdowns, seclusion can alter our emotions, perception, actions and (at times) even our spirituality. What does quietude do? How loud does a squeaking door sound when it has been dead silent for hours?



I enjoy researching older homes. I like how rooms once served a specific purpose, as if each were a little secluded island… libraries, parlours, dens, dressing rooms, butlers’ pantries. I do, however, dislike certain features like servants stairs and nursery rooms, the whole ‘keep them out of sight and mind’ classism/ageism apathy is not something I find in any way appealing.

I do not feel that the past should be overly romanticized, yet I can appreciate the beauty of historical architecture. I find transom windows, milk doors, built-in bookshelves, Victorian fireplaces, carved handrails, and crystal chandeliers to be undeniably book-worthy, and a delightful contrast to all that is vile, crass or immoral. I mean, there above the protagonist is a magnificent plaster angel while someone (or something) monstrous lies in wait behind a door.

As a reader, I love encountering that contrast, that tension. As a mystery author, it’s what I strive to capture with mere words: the dark hidden in the light, and the light hidden in the dark. Cheers.

Opulent Staircase at Castle Kilbride, in Baden, Ontario. This author has attended a ghost tour in said estate. She lives five minutes away from this lovely mansion.



I find the mix irresistible. Don’t you?

For those interested, here is an interesting video that shows some of those older home features.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJfDtjir0IQ

So, What is Creativity?

i-dream-my-painting

Today, Iā€™m thinking about creativity.

As a former Early Childhood Educator who has studiedĀ child development andĀ curriculum, I recognize that creativity is a process, not a finished project. Creativity is about forming original ideas. Creativity gives full freedom to explore both environment and materials.Ā  Creativity, at its core, is about observation, independent thinking, innovation and imagination.

There is nothing more detrimentalĀ to children’s creative process than being shown a finished pieceĀ so that they can strive to mimic it, if not in totality, then in some way.Ā Ā You will paintĀ King Tut.Ā  You will ALL paint King Tut.

Currently, there are many so-called art classes for youngsters that are promoted as being creative when, in fact, the instructor hands the kids a stencil and selects the paint colours for them. Only the few finishing touches (like where the eyes are painted or if the cat has black fur or brown fur) somehow makes the piece unique and personal. Um. No.

Perhaps, the instructors feel that parents put more emphasis on the finished piece than on their children finding inspiration and developing self-realization. After all, the parents shelled out $100, $200 or $300, so perhaps the instructor feels compelled to show that those dollars produced what most would view as ā€œartā€Ā to ensure the student (customer) returns.

Thankfully, Iā€™ve found a course that will teach my daughter some techniques, but will not overshadow her creative process by telling her what she will create. She will be collaborating on a mural with other children her age. THEY will plan and design its layout and then work on completing the art. .

As someone who writes for children, it is imperative to me that my books encourage self-expression.Ā Ā  One of the books which Iā€™ve written has my main character taking art classes, and Iā€™ve been very careful to show that she isnā€™t told WHAT to paint.Ā  My protagonist slowly develops her skills and is free to produce the art that SHE sees all around her.

As a former teacher, as a mother, as a childrenā€™s book writer, I must nurture the creative process in young children the best that I can.

Am I opinionated about this?Ā  Absolutely.Ā  I say, colour outside the lines, paint the sky gold if you want to and if everyone else is painting King Tut, then go on, paint yourĀ platypus as big and bold as you want.

And let art come from the heART.