December 21, 2018

A Question of Heritage

In our "politically correct" society, we spend so much time fretting over word choice and potential offence. I am a biracial woman, the child of a Hong Kong born Chinese father and an American born mother of Welsh and German descent, who married a white man. I enjoyed living in racial majority until age ten when we moved to a predominantly white (and rural) community. I take pride in my unique heritage and find the various ways people ask about my racial background interesting. "What are you?" "Are you Hawaiian?" "Are you mixed?" I am matter-of-fact about my heritage. I am half-Chinese, born in Canada to immigrant parents.

My father never pressed my younger sister or I to learn his mother tongue. He learned English as a second language and seemed self-conscious over his mastery. As a child, I learned some words in Cantonese, but now I can only count to ten, sing "Jesus Loves Me", say "thank you" in two different ways, and wish others a happy new year. Not exactly life skills. My rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" seems to please my Chinese-only speaking grandmother.

I have oriental decorations in my house, I have worn traditional clothing, and I love Chinese food. I can relate to the "only exceeding perfection is good enough" parental expectations. Indeed, I wonder if my father has ever been proud of me. He never says he loves me, although my mom assures me he used to when I was little. He demonstrates his love by offering me money—even though I don't need it—as financial security is very important to him. My mother is very vocal about her pride and love. I don't feel unloved. I'm actually quite confident my father loves me. I know he loves my children.

My father has taught my boys to count in Chinese. He would prefer they call him "Goan-Goan" which is the Chinese name for father of the mother. It's hard to change a lifetime of Anglicisation. They usually call him "Grandpa". My oldest son, although one-quarter Chinese, identifies quite strongly as Chinese. My youngest son doesn't consider himself Chinese at all. My husband and I encourage the kids to learn and appreciate all facets of their heritage.

What started me on this line of thinking? I sent out a digital Christmas card to my mailing list this week. One person unsubscribed with a lengthy comment about how my characters are white-washed and don't reflect my heritage. This is something I have never considered. Character selection is driven by my characters themselves. I don't give them red hair or dark features. I don't write them as happy or angry or high-strung. They assign their own appearance and personality. To force the issue would be akin to betrayal.

What does this say about me and my identification to my heritage? Should non-white authors write non-white characters?

December 14, 2018

Books: Paper, Electronic, or Audio?

I started reading when one option existed for books. Paper. I still read a physical book. If I'm buying a book I'll reread, I buy a physical book. But, most of the time, I read e-books. I love the convenience. Not forgetting to renew my library books or return them on time. Bringing a book or twenty with me on vacation. Searching. Highlighting. Knowing how many pages are left in my chapter (without counting).

Audio books are fairly new to me. I'm listening to my second audio book. I borrowed it from the library because the book wasn't available in electronic format. Listening to a book is definitely a different experience than reading it yourself. My kids love when I read to them... Although, perhaps they just don't want to read themselves, and listening to me is the lesser of two evils... I can read in my head so much faster than I (or anyone else) can read out loud. For that reason alone, I don't prefer books in audio format.

I see the appeal of audio books. We have commuter friends who swear by the audio book. Really, anything that supports authors, books, and reading is a good thing in my book. Oops! Sorry about the book pun...

Which format do you prefer? What are you reading right now?

December 9, 2018

After the First Draft

Excitedly, I typed "THE END" just after midnight on December 1. The first draft of the book I had started writing in December 2017 was complete.

I love writing. It's the way I communicate best. Ask my husband. I don't talk about my feelings. I cry at books, TV shows, and movies, but I rarely express my emotions about real life. It's like I'm part Vulcan and have disciplined myself to follow logic rather than emotion. I want to say how I feel out loud, but I run into an impassable barrier each time. My mouth opens, but no words come out.

Writing is different for me. I still hold myself to a rather formal tone—except when my characters are screaming at me to write them differently—which highlights my logical mind, but I get IT out there. Outside of my own mind where I can analyze my words and figure out what is what.

In that regard, my writing is deeply personal. If I've told you I've written a book, I've overcome the compulsion to hide away which is nothing short of a miracle. Talk about your book promotion conundrum. But this post is not about book promotion. I wanted to write—after two blog-less weeks—about writing A Wizard's Choice.

I introduced my character Kuris Warde to my readers in A Vampire's Tale and realized he had a story that I needed to tell. His entire life was about duty and responsibility and—ironically—the only choice he was given—whether or not to become a wizard—was no choice at all. Rejecting the brethren of wizards would disappoint his grandfather Waldor Warde, the man who raised him. Accepting them would sentence him to a life of unhappiness. As I delved deeper into Kurtis' story, other characters spoke to me. I saw how their history impacted Kurtis, and I began to write side stories about Kurtis' family members. Waldor's words "You must understand where we came from to know where we are going." ran especially true for Kurtis who never knew his parents. He needed to know his history before making a choice about his future.

Participating in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) was an experience. I wrote more this November than I ever have before. It was hard, and I got sick (and sometimes sicker), and there were several days that I couldn't write anything at all, but I finished my first draft. It was exhausting, truly emotionally draining, hence the radio silence during the first week in December. Next steps? Really fleshing out my plot, developing my characters, and making this my best book yet!

November 16, 2018

Uh-oh I'm Stuck

I hit the 30K mark this week. I haven't written everyday—funny how life gets in the way of my good intentions—but I'm churning out a solid 700 word daily average which is phenomenal for me.

So... I'm about 50% through the book, and my main character (MC) has made a major life change, found and lost a love interest, discovered something important from his past, and crossed the line with an acquaintance (who may become more). What's next?

Okay, this is the part of the writing process when I've caught up to my ideas, and I don't know what else to write. For now. I've worked through the "everything sucks" stage and persisted through the "when am I ever going to finish this" stage... It's not exactly writer's block, but I'm stuck here.

Focus on the big picture...

In the rest of my story, I want my MC to experience: self-discovery resulting in a definitive conclusion; conflict between love interests; and resolution with his family and old feuds (wizards versus fairies).

1. Self-discovery: MC decided he doesn't want to work in the family business (wizardry). Does his choice mean he has to leave his family now? When so much of his identity is tied up with family, who is he apart from his family? What does he want to do with the rest of his life?

2. Love interest conflict: No love triangles for me. Kind of. But love interest #1, who rejected MC, is jealous of love interest #2 and stirs the pot on an old family feud. The feud impacts his grandfather, his parents, and love interest #2. MC is torn between the different parties. It's not a matter of the MC choosing between love interests... more like keeping one safe from the other.

3. Resolution with family and old feuds: Family—MC becomes reunited with his parents. Why did his parents abandon him? To protect him from the feud between their families. Feud—MC is the child of both sides (wizard and fairy). His very existence helps to heal old wounds. But how? Both sides need to come together for a purpose? Cure for sick family member? Father returns home because Grandfather is ill? Father seeks out Mother for a healing?

How does it all end?

Happily-ever-after. What else did you expect from me? I just need to add a little bit of this and a bit of that to get from where I am to where I need to be... the HEA before THE END.

November 9, 2018

When Health Intervenes

For the first time, I've decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). I've known about it—and thought about it—for the last eight years. Writing 50,000 words in a month is nuts, right? You gotta break it down to 1,667 words per day, and even that seems like an awful lot. And it is. A lot. So, why now? Why this year?

The last three years, especially, have been hard for me. My already declining health took a bad turn (a plummet really) in 2015. Most days, it's hard enough to function let alone write. I'm sick, but I don't want sickness to be the reason I don't finish my book. I've been working on a sequel to A Vampire's Tale pretty much since I published it last year. Before deciding to do nanowrimo, I had written 20,000 words—and it had taken me a year and a half. It's hard enough to sell books as a new author, and one surefire way to keep sales up is to keep publishing books. Which is pretty hard to do if you're not writing. Or, if you're writing—sometimes—and your word count amounts to less than 1,000 words per week.

I keep planning to finish my novel, but I keep pushing my deadline out. Before summer. When the kids go back to school. This fall. And so on. Something always seems to be in the way—other projects, poor health, life. When am I going to write my novel if I don't sit down (actually lie down because I get nauseated if I sit to write) and write it? Enter nanowrimo. I may reach 50,000 words by November 30, and I may not. But I'm fine with either possibility. The excitement surrounding this month has me pumped and motivated to write. And, during week one, I wrote my target of 6,500 words. That's progress.

I can't say it's been an easy week. And I can't guarantee I'll hit my target next week. But I'm doing instead of hoping, and it feels good. Even when I don't.

November 2, 2018

Book Spotlight - Slaughtered by @ka_lugo

Series: Jack Slaughter Thrillers, #1
Author: K.A. Lugo
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller 
Price: $4.99

The Texter

Fallen homicide detective, Jack Slaughter, closes the door on the home where his perfect family has been brutally snatched from him. Moving across the city, he works as a private investigator to fund his own investigation into what happened to his family—who killed his little girl, Zoë, and where is his wife, Leah?

Every three month for the last three years, Jack receives a simple text telling him where he can find his missing wife. There’s a body at each location, but none of them are Leah.

Jack hates missing person’s cases, but they’re his bread and butter. He only takes the case to find Carl Boyd's missing wife because the details of her disappearance closely match Leah’s. He hopes by finding Bonnie Boyd, he'll find his own wife.

The Butcher

Following the leads in the Bonnie Boyd case, Jack discovers someone has been killing women all over the city for the last three years, a fact Jack’s ex-partner and still best friend, Ray Navarro, has neglected to tell him. The city has a serial killer and officials haven’t been able to find a single lead on the person they’ve dubbed The Butcher.

Could Bonnie Boyd’s disappearance be linked to The Butcher? More important, was Leah one of The Butcher’s victims? Could he have gone so far as to murder a child?

With every clue Jack weaves together, the more his own life unravels.

99c/99p pre-sale on now!
Available November 14, 2018!

***Buy Links***


San Francisco, California


“Is it her? Is it Leah?”

Jack Slaughter’s heart hammered a hole in his chest as he watched the rail-thin form of the newly-made detective, Paul Travers, stride toward him. If he could read the man’s expression and body language, Travers seemed more amused by Jack’s presence than annoyed.

When Jack started lifting the crime scene tape to duck under it, Travers pushed him back with a firm hand on his shoulder.

“You gotta stop turning up like this, Jackie.” Travers’ flippant voice grated on Jack, almost as much as the man’s ruddy complexion and brassy hair. His voice edged on being just a bit too high and too nasal to want to listen to for long. Jack didn’t know how his best friend and former partner, Ray Navarro, could stand it.

With a hand still on his shoulder, Travers nudged Jack back. He made a shooing motion with his other hand. “Why don’t you just go on home and let the professionals do their jobs?”

Travers’ condescending tone made Jack want to punch him in the throat.

“Where’s Ray?” He followed Travers’ gaze over the man’s shoulder and saw Ray standing over the victim’s body several yards away. It appeared to have been positioned at the foot of a tall pine at the dead-end of the road. “I want to talk to him.”

Travers caught his gaze and looked back. “Go home, Jackie. You don’t belong here.” He emphasized the word you. They both knew why Jack was no longer Ray’s partner, nor on the force.

Ignoring the little pissant, Jack shouted over the man’s shoulder. “Ray!” His friend looked up and gave a quick wave to acknowledge he’d seen Jack. He finished up with a CSI, then made his way over.

“What are you doing here, Jack?” When Ray reached up to shake hands, Jack palmed his cell phone into Ray’s.

“I told him to go home . . . partner.”

In Jack’s opinion, Travers seemed to take every opportunity to rub it in that he now occupied Jack’s former position. It didn’t escape his notice that Ray also cringed at the word partner. Jack knew his leaving the force had been a blow to his friend too.

He gazed directly into Ray’s eyes, trying to keep the anxiety he felt from his voice. “I got another one.”

“Jack—” Ray sighed, gazing down at the phone’s screen to the open text—Spreckels Lake.

Since the very first text he’d received—You’ll find your wife in the Panhandle—there had never been anything more than the next location. The texts came every three months, as if on schedule. Every one of them led Jack to a body, but none of them were Leah. If the texter was trying to drive him crazy, it was working. But he couldn’t risk that the guy was crying wolf. Even after three years, Jack still showed up . . . just in case.

Ray handed back the phone then threw his hands onto his hips. Jack could almost hear the gears working in his friend’s head as he gazed around Spreckels Lake with obvious concentration.

This was a beautiful location. Jack remembered bringing his family here, but pushed the memory from his mind. He gazed away from the water, trying to breathe. He knew the answer, but he had to ask it anyway. “Is it her?” Even he heard the waver in his voice.

“You gotta let me do my job, man. You gotta trust me. If this was Leah, you know I’d tell you.”

“I know, but—”

“No buts, Jackie,” Travers cut in, edging up closer to him as if posturing. “You’re not a cop anymore. You don’t belong here. Go home.”

Jack starred at Travers with a look he hoped said, go ahead and touch me again, pissant, I dare you. He must have got his point across because Travers hesitated before stepping away, his back noticeably erect.

“I’m sorry. Paul’s right. You don’t need to be here. It’s not her.” Ray’s voice remained calm. Jack knew the tone, as he often used it to try defusing situations with suspects and distraught families.

“You’re just a distraction, Jackie.”

“Paul!” Ray’s warning tone made Travers jump, as it did those around them.

In his heart, Jack knew when a victim’s family turned up on a crime scene, or tried insinuating themselves into an investigation, it only disrupted the process. More times than he could count, the time he’d spent dealing with the family would have been better served on the investigation.

Jack shrank away from the crime scene tape, his energy evaporating. “You’re right, Ray. I’m sorry. I just can’t risk that the one time I don’t respond to the text, it really will be Leah.”

“I know, Jack. I know.” Ray put his hand on Jack’s shoulder this time, drawing Jack’s attention. “But this isn’t her. Go ho—” Ray stopped short, both knowing Jack hadn’t been home since that night three years ago. “Go back to your place. I’ll stop by after my shift. We’ll talk then, okay?”

Jack looked past Ray’s shoulder to the lifeless body. He watched as technicians carefully placed a protective tarp over the victim, telling him the CSIs had retrieved all the scene evidence they needed and now waited for the coroner’s removal.

Dumping the body at the lake had been a bold move. Even at this dead-end in the road, Golden Gate Park attracted a huge number of people, homeless and visitors alike. Someone had to have seen something.

“Can you use an extra hand?”

“Sorry, Jack. You know I can’t. I gotta get back. I’ll see you later, at your place.”

“Don’t bother.” Jack didn’t have to look back to know Ray watched to make sure he was leaving.

From behind him, he heard Travers ask, “What’s with that guy?”

“Lay off, Paul,” Ray said. “You’d react the same way if your daughter had been murdered and your wife was still missing.

***Author Bio***

K.A. Lugo is a native of Northern California who grew up on the Central Coast, with San Francisco just a stone's throw away. Like most writers, Kem has been writing from a young age, sampling many genres before falling into thrillers, mystery, and suspense.

Kem loves hearing from readers and promises to reply to each message. Please visit Kem's socials to stay up-to-date on this exciting new series.

***Find K.A. Online***

October 31, 2018

Halloween Book Blast


Click on any of the below book covers to be taken to the page that has more information on the novel as well as the Buy Links!

Before you leave, don't forget to enter the Giveaway!!!

October 26, 2018

What Do To When Your Character...

has a mind of his own and doesn't behave like you would?

I've been working on a story for at least the last year... It's been slow going for a lot of reasons, but I am so determined to finish it in 2018. That said, I have a good 50% written—albeit not in the "correct order" yet, but I'll figure out how—and where—to connect the pieces. I hope. I keep inserting yellow highlighted sections 'need transition here' and hoping for the best. I know it'll come together. Otherwise, I've written a lot of awesome short stories...

I'm concentrating on my hero Kurtis Warde right now. He's a wizard apprentice—although his heart isn't really into becoming a full-fledged wizard. He's torn between family obligations and romantic inclinations so he's an angry guy. This guy keeps his shit in—and when he lets go—he expresses his anger with colorful language. A lot.

I'm a bit of a strange cat. I don't really swear. And I don't really care to use coarse language. As a writer, this proves to be quite problematic as my characters don't always fall in line. They have minds of their own and arguing with them—literally writing against them—slows my writing to a dismal stop.

For the most part, I listen to what they're saying and what they want to do. After all, it's their story. We find compromises here and there. For example, when I want to shut the bedroom door completely, they like to nudge it open just a bit. And we resolve the 'what do I call this body part' issues with the halfway point between medical textbook and urban dictionary.

Up to now, I haven't written a lot of curse words into my books. I convey what my characters want to convey—maybe with a lone 'damn' or 'shit'—but Kurtis wants to swear. He wants me to let him 'be real' in a visceral way I never thought possible. So, I'm letting him. This guy is raw. He's unpredictable and completely goes his own way. I'm sure you'll love him.

Back to it then. I can't wait to find out what Kurtis says or does next.


I first introduced Kurtis as part of The Circle, the group of wizards, that my hero Corgan Halton seeks out for help in my book A Vampire's Tale. Kurtis is the grandson of Waldor, one of the wizards.

A Vampire’s Tale is available on AmazonSmashwordsAppleKobo, and Barnes & Noble.

October 19, 2018

Fairy Tales, Banned Books, and Censorship

This week, Twitter was on fire with a story covered by news outlets such as USA Today, Parents Magazine, Pop Sugar Family, E! News, and Sky News. Actresses Kristen Bell and Keira Knightley came out, in separate, unrelated interviews, with some anti-classic Disney princess arguments. Bell raised issues about Snow White and consent because Prince Charming kisses her when she's sleeping. Knightley was concerned that Cinderella teaches little girls to wait for the rich guy to save them. Many opinions—both in agreement and opposing—have flooded the Internet.

In response, I tweeted, "Remember it’s fiction. Fairy godmothers aren’t real either. Just educate your children so they can make intelligent choices vs outright banning the movies." In the case of Snow White...the prince kissed her when she was (for all intents and purposes) dead and lying in a glass coffin. The kiss that brought her back to life could arguably be a life-saving procedure in which Good Samaritan laws apply. As for Cinderella...she wasn't waiting around for a prince to rescue her. Even though she had been reduced to a life of servitude in her own home, she was content. She only wanted to go to the ball. And she did. In killer glass slippers.

Banning a movie or a book because you don't agree with its content? That seems remarkably like censorship.


Books are often banned because they introduce threatening ideas. Some that have made the cut over the years may surprise you... Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Jack London's The Call of the Wild. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. William Golding's The Lord of the Flies. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey.

How many of these books have you read?


I grew up in a very sheltered home. My mom pre-screened movies before she let me and my sister watch them. I missed quite a few movies that way. And, needless to say, I was a little unprepared for real life when I went away to university.

When it comes to our boys (currently aged 10 and 8), my husband and I mildly disagree over what they can and can't watch on TV. Where I cautiously check before family movie nights; my husband let our oldest watch Family Guy. 😲 First of all, I am not a fan of Family Guy. Back in the day, I wasn't allowed to watch The Simpsons. Something about Bart's disrespectful attitude? (One of the shows I definitely watched in university!) Well, The Simpsons don't have anything on Family Guy. My husband said it was better that our oldest get exposed to "grown-up" topics at home where we could explain them versus the playground where anything goes. I agree. To a point. Family Guy isn't exactly the most accurate of sex education sources. Come on, the family dog talks! And is probably the smartest member of the family. So, son #1 repeated some questionable dialogue from Family Guy at an inappropriate time and that ended his Family Guy watching days. For now.

I'm not naive. I know my kids know bad words. I've heard them say bad words. My husband and I have talked to them plainly about understanding what those words mean and when is the right and wrong time to say them. i.e. wrong time = anytime in front of Mom At the end of the day, it's a lesson we, as their parents, are tasked with giving. We can't hope to raise them in a protected bubble of rainbows and sunshine. That doesn't do them any favours.


My takeaway on the objections raised by Kristen Bell and Keira Knightley? Be respectful of others. Arm yourself with education to make intelligent decisions. It's okay to believe in fairy tales. 👸

October 14, 2018

Fight for the Right

When I was a kid, my friends and I would play a game called 'what sense could you live without'. We'd list the pros and cons of losing 'taste' or 'sight', for instance. I'd usually pick 'taste' as I couldn't imagine living without 'sight' and the other senses, like 'touch' and 'hearing', seemed important for safety. We also played 'what limb could you live without', but losing a limb is a serious fear of mine, and I didn't participate. What we never imagined was forfeiting any of our rights.

I'm 38 years old and, until 3 years ago, I would have finished the sentence 'You gotta fight for your right' with the Beastie Boys' lyrics "to party" - I'm only half-joking. What changed for me 3 years ago? I was placed in a position that threatened my human rights, and I decided to fight. Since then I have faced opposition, complacency, and even distain.

Situations similar to mine, unfortunately, occur frequently. What are we doing about it? If we begin to sacrifice even the most (seemingly) insignificant rights, when will it stop? Part of the beauty of democracy is freedom of speech. If we cannot speak, we are truly imprisoned.

Yes, there are worse places to live in the world. That doesn't mean we must accept less here (in the western world). In fact, we must protect our hard-earned rights - to vote, to marry the person of our choice, to express our opinion - and continue to pursue what is right, for us and for our neighbours.

What right or freedom are you willing to live without?

If your answer is "none", then what are you willing to do if your rights or freedoms are threatened?

October 5, 2018

Are you playing the Chapters - Interactive Stories app yet?

I am seriously excited about the release of my TapTales story Heart's Storm on the app Chapters - Interactive Stories.

Aspiring screenwriter Lissa Edward dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Her heart has other ideas. Does the past hold the key to her future?

Chapters - Interactive Stories is available through the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store. Read stories where you play as the main character and make decisions that impact the story. It's like a choose-your-own-adventure story for adults! You can read stories in the romance (steamy), romance (sweet), paranormal romance, young adult, mystery/thriller, and fantasy/sci-fi categories. Plus stories, like Heart's Storm, are also available as TapTales, the simple chat story format, in all genres. If you love reading and playing mobile'll love Chapters - Interactive Stories!

Check out the app...and stay tuned for more stories from me!

September 28, 2018

My Point of View

I've always written in third person. Recently, I've read several books written in first person, and I'm starting to rethink how I view Point of View (POV).


If you're like me and your school days seem to be a distant memory, then a little refresher in Point of View may be in order.

What is Point of View? In a novel, the POV shows the perspective of the narrator. In other words, who is the narrator of the story? For instance, if the narrator refers to him/herself as "I" or "me", then the story is written in first person.

Points of View:
  • First Person
  • Third Person Limited
  • Third Person Omniscient
  • Second Person
A sentence written in first person would look like "I drove to the store." and makes the reader adopt the perspective of the character. You are the character. First person is used for fictional or autobiographical material, but it's considered too subjective for academic writing.

Third person, limited or omniscient, is the most commonly used point of view. In this view, the narrator does not refer to him/herself as "I" or the reader as "you" and uses pronouns like "he" and "she" to describe the characters or subjects. A sentence like "He drove to the store." The third person limited is written from the perspective of one character where the reader has access to his/her thoughts. Using the third person omniscient provides the reader with full access to all characters.

Second person is not commonly used, although you may see it in nonfiction. An example would be "You drove to the store."

Identifying which pronouns - "I" "you" "he" "she" - are used is a quick way to determine the POV.

As a reader, the POV selected by the author very much influences my overall feeling of the book and its characters. First person lends to a more intimate, emotional experience.

As a writer, I have always written in third person limited. I usually write from the removed viewpoint of the female protagonist and include a portion of the novel from the male protagonist's perspective. I choose the POV by assessing which character has the most to lose at that point of the story. Head-hopping (switching characters too frequently) is cognitively avoided. Since reading several novels written in first person, I am contemplating doing the same and perhaps I will. Reading in first person has literally given me a new perspective on Point of View.

*** May contain spoilers ***

'Outlander' series by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander (and the seven books (so far) that follow it) is written in first person from the perspective of the heroine Claire Beauchamp Randall. I found the TV series first, but after I watched season one I had to buy all eight books—in trade paperback format—published between 1991 and 2014. The popularity of the TV show made finding the older books, especially, a bit easier. It still took stops to several bookstores over the course of a summer to find the books I wanted in the format and condition I wanted. Yes, I became a little obsessed with everything Outlander. The investment is worth it as I know these books will be reread—and often.

'Percy Jackson' series by Rick Riordan
The Percy Jackson books, five novels about a young demigod and his adventures, is written from the perspective of the main character Percy Jackson. I originally picked up the series to read with my sons, ages eight and ten, but I've enjoyed them as much (or more). The writing is compelling, the concepts are original, and the characters are realistic (as real as characters based on Greek mythology can be). As I read the books, I referred to the Greek god family tree and learned some fascinating facts. The first two books were also made into movies which I watched first and also liked. Fingers crossed that books three, four, and five will also find their way to the silver screen.

'50 Shades' series by E.L. James
The 50 Shades trilogy is written from the perspective of Anastasia Steele, the love interest of the main character Christian Grey. To say this is a controversial series of books is probably a grave understatement. Fortunately, I am an open-minded reader (and movie viewer) so I didn't miss out on this beautifully written series. I had watched the movie so, when I read the first book, I knew what to expect or thereabouts. However, I didn't expect to enjoy the writing so much or that the ending would leave me in an emotional wreck. The movie was okay—perhaps a little cheesy—I guess they had to Hollywood-it-up—but the books were exceptional.

September 21, 2018

The Writer's Google Search History

The Internet has made research so much easier.

When I was a kid, I remember trudging down to the library (don't get me wrong, I love the library) every time I had a research paper. Instead of poring through the countless books in the fiction section, I would gingerly carry the heavy tomes from non-fiction back to my table. I would painstakingly write notes, include the information I would need for the bibliography, or carefully select the pages I had to photocopy at the cost of ten cents per page.

If I was lucky, I found the information I needed at the local library. If I wasn't—I spent many of my formative years in small towns—then my amazing parents would drive me to the next closest library—a two hour plus drive away.

Today, through the advent of the world wide web, I have access to an enormous amount of data. This excess is not without problems of its own. Too much information means difficulty in... narrowing searches; discerning reliable sources; and avoiding distractions.

The Internet, and namely social media, is a major distraction. Have you ever picked up your phone or logged into your computer to check email and...

Raise your hand. Be honest.

I often put my phone out of arm's reach in order to get any decent writing done. Sometimes, I even turn the wifi off on my laptop. Too much information. Unless you manage your notifications. And, even then, my devices always seem to be ping-ing about something.

But I need the Internet. I use it for research. How else would I know how long it takes to drive from Evanston to Chicago or what a group of vampires is called? Seriously. You would probably be surprised (or perhaps not) at the things I google.

September 16, 2018

The 'Happily Ever After' of Your Dreams

Why do you read?

I love the written word. To say it has impacted my life is a vast understatement. I read many different genres, but the main pull of fictional novels for me—other than the progression of the story itself—is the happy ending. Reading is a source of pure pleasure. It's escapism at its best. You can be anyone, and you can be anywhere. If you read historical novels, then you can be in anytime as well.

Life sucks. Reality bites. Shit happens.

The same rules don't (usually) apply to fiction. Yes, the hero or heroine will have conflict as facing trials and tribulations—like in real life—is necessary for growth and development. But fiction offers (usually) a tidy happily-ever-after (HEA) or, at the very least, a happy-for-now (HFN). Anything less is very unsatisfying. And, dare I suggest, emotionally devastating to the reader.

Perhaps the typical romance novel plot is slightly less than realistic—who wants to read about someone's ordinary life—but there's a reason we see reoccurring tropes—surprise baby, arranged marriage, alpha male, fake engagement, marriage of convenience... It's because we want to read them! Every author will add their individual tweaks, and we, the readers, want to see how their story will proceed.

I think reading books allows you to vicariously live multiple lives and experience drama that would otherwise be unwelcome in real life. What do you think?

At times, I come across a scene so powerful, so moving, that I become simply absorbed and enthralled. This type of writing makes me want to scream, "Yes! I want to write like this!" and also hope that someone, somewhere, is reading my work and thinking the same thing.

I'm reminded of a Barry Manilow song "I Write the Songs" in which he sings:

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs.

Those lyrics summarize perfectly the emotion I wish to invoke in my readers. I want to make you feel love...and hate. I want you to root for my characters...and bet against them. I want you to rejoice in their triumphs and grieve in their sorrows. And, at the end of the journey, I want to give you the HEA of your dreams. Until next time...

Keep reading. Keep dreaming. And never stop believing.

September 9, 2018

We All Feel Pain

Is it really 'better to feel pain, than nothing at all'? –"Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers

So much of life is pain. A child's entry into the world is often a painful experience for the mother. As children, we injure ourselves learning to walk or ride a bike, and we suffer ear infections and strep throats. As teenagers, we face the emotional pain of rejection and heartbreak. As adults, we share in our children's pain as they make their own way. As we age, our feeble bodies fall victim to disease and decay.

Preventing pain—physical or emotional—is futile. Unless you live in a bubble, there is no surefire way to insulate yourself.


"Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word." –George R.R. Martin

"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." –William Penn

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." –Buddhist proverb


So, what do these adages tell us about the human perspective on pain? "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." (William Goldman's The Princess Bride).

Pain is an integral part of life. We all face trials, but it is our response which defines us. Every day we live is one day closer to the day we die. What a morbid, albeit realistic, view. It is our responsibility to live each day to the fullest, to bring meaning and purpose, despite our personal difficulties and tragedies.

I am no stranger to adversity. Ten years ago, my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. This incurable disease stole my husband's ability to work, leaving him in unconscionable, chronic pain. Five years ago, I was harassed and assaulted at my workplace. The trauma I suffered, and the stark absence of support after, led to development of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, manifesting in chronic physical symptoms.

I am no stranger to pain. I know many of you share similar experiences and difficulties. I am sympathetic to your plight. I have connected with many readers whose lives are impacted by chronic pain. Most people do not understand the misery that accompanies lingering disease or injury. They cannot begin to comprehend the feeling of loss and frustration, the isolation, and the devastation. A health crisis takes from your life. When you become ill and unable to work, you lose more than financial stability. You lose friends. You lose ability. You lose purpose. These things are stolen from you. You are the only one who can take them back.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." A harsh observation indeed. What I have learned is that I am much stronger than I ever thought possible. I struggle to complete ordinary daily activities and endure unfathomable agony for my efforts. I am limited in what I can do. Even pleasurable activities come at a cost. The requisites to writing—clear mindset, ability to concentrate and focus, being in a good emotional place—I often lack and cannot implement at will. My mind is at war with my body.

My internal war is not the only one I am fighting. I have also spoken up against the abuse—the systematic torture—I experienced at work. With the hope of preventing what happened to me from happening to anyone else, I have taken my employer to task with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal. This fight exacts a high price. One I have paid with my health.

I must do the right thing. I cannot do less.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's story is an apt illustration of the cost of standing up for your beliefs. In 2016, he knelt during the national anthem in protest against social injustice, especially for the police brutality of African-Americans. Kaepernick opted out of the final season of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017 to become a free agent, but no other NFL team has signed him, most likely due to his activism.

Life is precious. Life is not perfect. Life is made to be lived. And, at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and the choices you've made. I can live with myself. Can you?