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 Road 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.


A Fondness for Finds

I have not been closemouthed about my passion for research. I love going on quests for information, love fact checking far too much.

And it’s fun to boot about the web, discovering places and things, learning about people and their occupations.

Googling and bouncing about the internet from one site to another is what I call ‘breaktime.’

Now, sometimes, this fact checking is (frankly) infuriating. I recently spent an hour trying to ascertain if the paid street parking in one area of Montreal used meters or stickers or both. And there are many memes out there about the strange search histories of murder mystery authors and how some of our questions could make others quite nervous.

Meanwhile, I get caught up with searching for artwork and architecture, songs to add mood, textbooks and novels to add authenticity to my work. (I almost errantly mentioned a gorgeous coffee table book in my second mystery… that hadn’t been published in the year in which my story is set! This is why writers must check and double check their facts.)

I’ll be working on my author notes before ‘A Brutal Eclipse‘ is completed, mentioning real-life inspiration for my fictional locations, clarifying which artists in my second gothic-thriller are real-life and which ones I completely fabricated.

Today, I came across a former mansion in Montreal that is now a museum. And I found this stained glass window. It is so lovely.

Stained glass window, 1906, Louis-Joseph Forget House, Montreal, Quebec

I am so fortunate to be a writer in this era, when the world is at my fingertips, when I can virtually visit cities, countries and landmarks. Obviously, viewing the wind blowing leaves past your window is not the same as bracing yourself against that very same wind, your cheeks damp, fighting to catch your breath as you teeter for a moment, one gust almost knocking you off your feet. The view is different than the experience.

Still, I am grateful for these everyday finds– tidbits and tantalizers, snapshots of wonders, and windows so stunning that they seem like masterpieces.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.


Mingling at Netgalley

Just a year ago, I’d never heard of Netgalley, hadn’t realized there was a social media site for booksellers, librarians, educators, book influencers and reviewers where they could request digital ARCs (Advanced reader copies), rate them and vote on covers.

Since I first learned about it, I’ve been both excited and nervous of my debut novel being uploaded to the site. What in the world would readers make of my non-formulaic mystery-thriller-gothic-suspense? I knew opinions would be broad, range from “No, thanks. Too different.” to “Wowser! Loved it. So different!”

Well, this week something occurred to me. My book is at a party. It’s a wild party with a vastly mixed crowd; the guestlist is amazeballs. And my book is mingling with these incredible other books. It has already sat right next to some mind-blowing works-of-fiction, non-fiction, children’s fiction and picture books.

I’ve been watching the ‘Netgalley’ show like some people have been binge-watching Bridgerton. What is going to happen next!

“Oh my God. Look who arrived at the ball. Holy cow, you go girl! Steal the show! You earned it, YOU GENIUS!”

And, “Geez. Why they snubbing HIM? People, people, show that one some love!”

And, “I’m gonna die happy. Look who just sat down right beside A Cruel Light. My book is in the presence of royalty. I am soooo not worthy! (Deep curtsy) I’ll just bask in YOUR light for a while, okay?”

The authors who are currently on Netgalley and have free galleys available for request are legendary and beyond awesome. I feel like I’ve shown up at the bookish version of a Hollywood A-lister soiree and I’m mingling with both legends and the newest stars.

I mean Margaret Atwood is here! Atwood!

Other attendees: Jodi Picoult. Gregg Olsen, Ann-Marie McDonald, Celeste Ng, Nicci French, Joy Ellis, Stacy Willingham, Dennis Lehane, Janet Dailey, Veronica Roth, John Grisham, Diana Palmer, Hester Fox and Holly Jackson. Thirty-two other Crooked Lane Books authors are also at this cooler-than-cool party including Vicky Delaney, Leanne Kale Sparks and Alex Kenna.

To say that I feel out of my element is to put it mildly. I am fighting with imposter syndrome on a daily basis. Cinderella at the ball, waiting for that clock to tell her to run for the carriage.

Meanwhile, I’m making popcorn, watching as new authors walk the red carpet, staring in wonder at their magnificence, urging myself to savour this magic before it all disappears.

Party on, fellow authors! Party on!

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. 🙂

My Beautiful Book Cover

Admittedly, it was hard to nail down a cover for my genre-blending mystery/thriller/romantic suspense/gothic novel. What image would best encapsulate the story while intriguing readers?

The book delves into chiaroscuro, both in art and in literature, so the book cover should reflect that dramatic contrast between light and darkness.

My main character, Annora Garde, is an art conservator who is hired by the police to help clean a long-hidden, cryptic mural that holds clues and could solve a sixty year old cold case. It seemed natural to weave symbols into a cover for a novel that explores symbolism. Within the book, I mention many sources of light. But which one could be used symbolically?

It came to me: fireflies.

The firefly is a strange insect. From a distance, it seems to be magical, fairy-like, almost angelic, certainly benign. But as a larvae, the insect is a carnivore; it ravenously feeds on snails and slugs which are too slow to escape them. The victims are first injected with a numbing chemical and then are consumed alive. Some adults eat their own kind, and certain species even use their light to lure prey. Also, Victorians believed that should a firefly enter a home, it was an omen of death, and the book’s setting is a large Victorian parsonage.. Fireflies, not as pretty as they look.

In the Victorian language of flowers, the peony symbolizes love, compassion, honour and luck, but the wilting, dying peony is considered a harbinger of a disaster to come. (Look carefully at the peonies on my cover. What do you see?)

Though I feel awkward about the size of my name on the cover, I chose to not request that it be made smaller. Both the publisher and the designer, Nicole Lecht, had worked hard on the design, and I was so happy with everything else, I chose to keep my shyness to myself.

I can’t wait to hold this beauty. I made a ‘mock-up’ cover, just to see what that would feel like. It felt bloody awesome! It felt like a dream come true. My husband said that if I was this happy with my cloned book that I’d probably happy-bawl when I hold the real thing.

He knows me so well. I will have a box of tissues on stand by.


Book Covers Part II **edited

I’ve been spending months contemplating my book cover, trying to imagine it, anticipating its design and feeling like a four-year-old who asked for a unicorn for Christmas.

I did post something recently about covers I love.

I thought I’d also post something about covers I do not like. I mean, really not like. I mean, “I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not want them for this novel. I do not care how hard they grovel.”

I may admire the writing found between the covers of these novels, but these designs are a HUGE hard pass for me, and I would not want to see them used for ‘A Cruel Light’ as I don’t see these jackets having anything to do with my novel’s voice.

So these particular covers would get a no vote from me for my Annora Garde Mystery which has been described as an ‘intoxicating mix of art, murder and buried secrets, perfect for fans of Simone St. James’:

Big hard pass from me. What is the point of this? Door frame, bold coloured title, white font for author’s name and a floor. Yeah, no. But it did work well for this author and her story.

I am seeing so many covers with trees. I had thought I wanted a cover like this. Until I realized its an overused trope. Trees, forests, paths through forests, women running down a path through a forest, women standing in a forest, a forest at night, a forest at twilight… so I’d sooner not have a cover that features trees.
I’ve actually seen booktubers complain about the overuse of artistic font.
I do believe the trend will die soon. I don’t see this working for my book cover

Pink. I do like pink for romance novels. Yeah, I know, it’s popular for thrillers.
Don’t care. Bell bottoms were popular too, once. How did that go?
Ripped/Damaged-looking covers? No.
My book is full of descriptions of classic art and Canadian painters.
As a reader, I would not want to buy a $40 hardcover book that looks
like my cat hated on it and used it for a scratching post.

Abstract art that is not related to the story. If the book is about an abstract artist, I do think this cover could work. But I also wouldn’t want to see fingerpainting on my book cover, either
Well dressed and distressed. No, thank you. My MC would see this in a bookstore and bark a laugh. As far as the jacket goes, I take my cues from her.

Rough collages that look a bit like a stalker was trying to threaten someone. I really don’t like this approach at all.

I will say that it would be impossible for me to show all the covers I have seen on books and loved. Even twenty of the biggest libraries in Canada could not contain the number of books with gorgeous covers I have admired.

Now, I recently had an idea for a cover element that I am hoping the publisher and designer will be able to use and that will be included on the finalized version of my book. (They are giving it a go! I am grateful that my desperate plea was acknowledged.)

My cover reveal should be happening sometime in the next month or so. I’m hopeful that the cover echoes my story in a small way and will both intrigue and delight my readers.

Hopefully, I will have some good news to share soon.


I also forgot to mention the bizarre trend of flipping the orientation of a cover so that it is turned sideways. Yeah. No. Not for my Gothic-mystery-romantic-suspense-thriller. However, I’d love this idea for a poetry collection or my literary fiction.

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.