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!

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!

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.

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.


For the Love of Books

I am forever grateful to Mrs. Campbell, my grade three teacher. My family had moved from the city to the suburbs, so I had just changed schools, and she noticed her new student’s reading skills were not what they should have been. She worked with me one-on-one and within a month or so, I was reading at my grade level. By the end of that year, I was an avid reader, consuming Nancy Drew novels so quickly that my parents could not keep up with my demands.

And with a love for reading came the love for books. And libraries. In my final year of elementary school, I helped to re-shelf books at our school library during lunch hours. I felt like a mini-librarian.

That June, so long ago, Mrs. Chisholm gifted me with “A Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It quickly became my favourite book, and I still cherish both the story and this particular copy.

I appreciate how technology has made reading more accessible to many. EBooks allow readers to increase font size and to brighten the page. We can stash hundreds of books in our purses, and for those of us with smaller homes, we can collect as many books as we wish without fear of tripping over our beloveds.

Still, there is something so special, so perfect, about the printed page. How it yellows, how the pages age, the feel and flexibility of a paperback or heft of a hardcover. LONG LIVE BOOKS.

And I am feeling a kind of awe and disbelief that I am here, really here. I have written my first book, and I am working on my next. Come September, my debut mystery will be made available to reviewers. Later this fall, my ARCs will be distributed. In nine months, my book will be published. In nine months, I will be able to walk into a bookstore and see my book on a shelf. Nine months … this does feel like I’m expecting, like I’m in the first trimester. It’s so EXCITING.

What excites me just as much? My book will be in libraries, and perhaps someone will give my book to someone as a gift.

I cannot put into words how this feels!

Thank you, Mrs. Campbell. Thank you, Mrs. Chisholm. Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you to all who helped me.

Thank you, Books, everywhere.

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….)