For the Love of Art

Because I have always loved art and have been in awe of artists, I was inspired to write a novel that features an art conservator and uses art to solve a cold case. For several years, I’ve been exploring ekphrastic poetry and micro fiction; I allow art to speak to me and put those feelings and thoughts and interpretations to paper.

As I wrote “A Cruel Light” and as I work on my second Annora Garde Mystery, I did and do absolutely have to keep balance in mind–ensuring that I give equal attention to action, conflict, mystery, suspense, romance, tensions, mood and atmosphere.

Still, as I research, when I find a piece of art or an artist who sets my brain on fire, it’s hard to tighten the reins and not go purple-prose-galloping across my page lickety split.

Take today. Today, while researching figurative art of the 1930s, I learned about Prudence Heward. I’m developing a fictional female artist whose expressionist style was both brash yet beautiful. And I’m now art-crushin’ on this powerhouse.

Girl on a Hill, Efa Prudence Hewerd, 1928

As a child, she suffered great loss. As a young woman, she traveled Europe and studied painting — one of her teachers also taught Matisse. She was a fellow Montrealer and someone who did things ‘her way,’ I feel a connection to her, see her as a kindred spirit, but I need to pull back, need to leave it be. Meanwhile, I am spellbound. Who were you, the author in me keeps asking. Where is your art now and who is keeping it beautiful?

Artist, artist, you are beautiful too.

Anna, Efa Prudence Heward, 1927


Social Media

I love Facebook, and I use my private account to keep in touch with family and friends. Now, I have an author page on Facebook, as well, where I can share news and views with readers and book reviewers.

I’ve long had a TWITTER account, but rarely used it; In fact, until very recently, I didn’t know how to properly tweet TO someone. (I was a member of MODPO, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, a U of Penn MOOC, and I wanted to be able to respond to their videos.)

As the mother of a teen, I knew all about TIKTOK, but I only learned about BOOKTOK a month ago. And so I started to create videos, and I’m having a blast. After all, I am part of the MUCHMUSIC/MTV generation. I grooved to Michael Jackson’s THRILLER before the term social media was even born.

I’m still trying to navigate GOODREADS — I find its ‘GOOY’ a bit confusing. I’ll get there! It just may take me some time.

And I had never planned to use Instagram. But after seeing its possibilities, I’ve become a new fan.

My ‘Found Poem’ shared on Instagram.

Authors of today can connect to their readers much easier than they did forty years ago. As a reader, I love following my fellow authors on social media, laughing and crying with them. Now, as an author, I look forward to hearing from my readers, listening to their stories and answering their questions.

Social media can sorta rock.

Book Covers

I’ve been admiring mystery and thriller book jackets. I’m not one to follow trends as they quickly change, and what was once ‘hot’ all too soon becomes an ‘ewwww, not.’

I prefer covers that focus on mood, that feature an image that awakens curiosity. The title should work with the artwork, enticing readers to flip the book over to check out the blurb. I prefer that the colours used compliment each other or are in some way appealing.

I love the cover for ‘Silence of the Lambs‘ by Thomas Harris.

When you read it and have an aha moment and
need to close the book, just so you can stare at the
cover again. Love that.

I loved ‘Dark Matter‘ by Michelle Paver. Paver’s writing is graceful, deep, foreboding and suspenseful. The cover for her book is understated and beautiful, doesn’t resort to cheap thrills in order to woo readers. The haunting quietude of the cover art reflects on the books underlying themes. Just gorgeous. (Sigh!)

Meanwhile, colour is used intentionally in Simone St. James’ ‘Sundown Motel.‘ It is brilliantly layered, and the glaring sign contrasts with the stormy horizon, the neutral tones of the motel and the dark pavement. It clearly says, “This is spooky, this will keep you up at night.” This cover has it all!

Camilla Sten’s novel, ‘The Resting Place’ will be released in March 2023. I was a huge fan of her ‘The Lost Village.’ If this next book is anything like her previous one, it will be a spinetingling page-turner. I can’t wait for its release. The cover is stunning– dramatic, dark and full out Gothic. It uses the 2022 trending gold font. And the colours compliment each other.

On my TBR list is Alice Feeney’s ‘Daisy Darker.’ The book combines Agatha Christie tropes with Shirley Jackson atmosphere. I want it. I want it NOW. And the cover is sumptuous. It uses the trending handwritten font, but it does so with a kind of artfulness. The blues, greys, black and sheer white are classic. Only the title has that shock of colour. I am jealous. Out and out jealous of its impeccable style. ***FRENCH CHEF KISS****

Gorgeous and moody. Ten out of ten!

And just because something is a thriller, doesn’t mean the font should strike terror into the heart of readers. Nope. LESS IS MORE. I am enthralled by Alex Michaelides stunning cover for ‘The Maidens.’ It uses a striking image, a simple black background, elegant font. The fear factor comes from the blood around the statues head. That small detail gave me the shudders. And, frankly, the cover is haunting. It grabs your attention. I love it.

This belongs on my bookcase. It’s on my wish list.

Sometime shortly, the book cover for my novel, A Cruel Light‘ will be finalized. I am hoping I will like it. Recently, I spoke to an author friend of mine who just had a cover of hers redone. She was never happy with the original — sometimes as an author it’s ‘you get what you get, grin and bear it.’ Market trends … attract the right audience… yada.

And if I totally abhor my own cover? I will simply sign each and every one of my books with:

My apologies for the cover. Besides, it’s what inside that counts.”

I am not kidding. Who knows? I may even sell more that way 🙂


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.


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.


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, 😉

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


City Girl, Small Town Life

The Nith River and North America’s Largest Operating Waterwheel

I was born and raised in Montreal, and our family moved to Ontario when I was fifteen. I lived for many years in the Greater Toronto Area, before my husband and I chose to relocate to Kitchener, Ontario. We lived in the city for over twenty years, and when our daughter turned four, we chose to live a simpler, quieter life west of the city.

Bench beside the New Hamburg Public Library

How much of my novel’s setting is based on an actual town? Well, New Hamburg is not my fictional Bliss River, though the Nith does snake through the town, and I will say that during a time of crisis, my community rallies around those who need help and support. Our volunteer firefighters are dedicated, real life heroes. Our library is wonderful, and the librarians are hardworking and so kind.

I enjoy how close I feel to nature, here. Each spring, a heron returns. Each summer, spider webs cover our metal bridge. Fishing is a popular sport, and our gas station offers live bait. We have a bowling alley that has been in business for decades. A rubber duck race (yes, I said Rubber Duck race) is held on Canada Day. The Wilmot Horticultural Society takes wonderful care of our town’s gardens. In the autumn, there is a Fall Fair, and come December, an annual tree lighting ceremony.

Great Blue Heron

New Hamburg is situated between Kitchener and Stratford, so I am close to malls, theatres, and cultural events. I am so thankful that we live where we do. It’s a perfect place for a writer– inspiration rises like mist from the river, nurtures my spirit and warms my heart.

Thank you, New Hamburg.

Creative Journaling

Though I’ve created a character who is an artist with a masters degree, I’m just a happy crafter with a college education. I enjoy sketching, painting, making collages and needlework. I’ve been following a few creative journaling vloggers, as I so enjoy what they do and how they do it. Frankly, I find even the concept of this type of self-expression to be calming, centering, wholesome.

I’ve decided my first journal will record family traditions and memories-in-the-making. I found the activity to be relaxing. I look forward to designing more pages and creating a memory book for my daughter.

As I work on my second novel, I’ll reward my progress with doing another layout. I’m shamelessly obsessed with pens and papers and stickers and stamps. If my husband wanted to make me disappear for a weekend, all he’d need to do is to drop me off at a stationary shop. I’d happily gab away for hours with fellow journaling enthusiasts.

Now, a few readers may wonder, will creative journaling appear in some way, in some form, in any of my novels? You’ll have to read my books to find out 🙂 Cheers – and Happy Saturday.

So, What is Creativity?


Today, I’m thinking about creativity.

As a former Early Childhood Educator who has studied child development and 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.  Creativity, at its core, is about observation, independent thinking, innovation and imagination.

There is nothing more detrimental to children’s creative process than being shown a finished piece so that they can strive to mimic it, if not in totality, then in some way.  You will paint King Tut.  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 “art” to ensure the student (customer) returns.

Thankfully, I’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.   One of the books which I’ve written has my main character taking art classes, and I’ve been very careful to show that she isn’t told WHAT to paint.  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 children’s book writer, I must nurture the creative process in young children the best that I can.

Am I opinionated about this?  Absolutely.  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 your platypus as big and bold as you want.

And let art come from the heART.