Christmas and Odds & Sods

Fireplace_at_ChristmasMiraculously, five days before Christmas, I find myself in the position of having some free time. Not sure how that happened. Somehow the parcels got wrapped, mailed, bagged, and tagged; the vacuum and dust mitt performed a slap and dash; the decorations made it out of the crawl space; and the meals planned themselves.

So I’m sitting here on my duff with a glass of wine in hand and the computer in my lap, and it occurred to me that I probably owe you all an update!

But before I get to that, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you. Your enthusiasm for these characters and this story is heartwarming. Writing is often a solitary venture and every time I hear from one of you, it makes my day. Truly. Thanks for that.

And so…Book IV, titled Penance, has been through the first round of beta readers and is now in the capable hands of intrepid story editor, Nina Munteanu. When she sends it back, I’ll incorporate her comments, and then send it out to the second wave of beta readers. After their comments are folded in, it’ll go to the copy editor. Finally, another beta read and then off to the proof-reader. When those tweaks are done, it’ll be ready to publish. It may seem like an arduous journey but believe me, all those extra eyes will make for a much better story!

Meantime, Viona Halim, has been working on the cover art, which will, once again, originate with a photo. This time the photo was taken on Granville Island, where pivotal scenes in Book IV take place. Viona will edit the photo and then paint it to achieve the same ominous “feel” to it that the others have.

At the same time, I’m working on the back cover blurb, summaries, tag lines, book marks and other promotional material. I’m writing press releases for the spring launch and seeking pre-release reviews (wink, nudge, hint-hint). If you are interested in receiving an e-copy of Penance for review, please let me know. Reviews that are posted to coincide with the book’s release are better than balloon rides, rum in your egg nog and snow on Christmas!

Also, I decided to offer the first three books of the Gift Legacy in a “boxed set” format for the eBook market, starting with Kindle. Viona Halim has prepared a phenomenal cover for the boxed set, which I can’t wait to share with you. For the first time, I’m trying my hand at formatting this edition myself. I’m not the most tech-savvy person, so wish me luck. If the challenge proves too much, I’ll have to hire the expertise.

And then, because apparently I should be offering a nugget to entice readers to sign up for my newsletter (which, sadly, I’ve been neglecting), I’ve been writing a give-away short story. I’m quite excited about it because it’s Jackson’s story. Those of you who’ve read Awakening, will want to read this. It’s Awakening, from Jackson’s viewpoint. Not the whole story, of course, that would be another whole book, but I’ve started pre-Emelynn at the point where Jackson’s father dies, unexpectedly, and will likely take it to the point where Jackson meets Emelynn, which is where Awakening takes over. For those of you who are/were Jackson fans and want to know more about him and especially what motivated his behaviour in Awakening, (you know what I’m talking about!) I think you’ll find this Rashomon treatment compelling.

Of course, I’m still jotting down ideas for the continuation of Emelynn’s story in yet another adventure with Sam Jordan, James Moss and hmm, well…not sure who else might make an appearance in Book V, but it’s sure to be exciting. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

All the best, from our house to yours, over this holiday season. Cheers!

If you have no idea what I’m going on about, you need to get a copy of Awakening right now! You can order the trade paperback for $18 and change from Chapters/Indigo right here
Posted in About Writing, Book Series, Christmas, Cover Art, Editing, Gratitude | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Storage War

Fall is the season for burrowing in. We pull out the winter woollies and move the summer clothes to storage. Warm flannelette replaces crisp cotton, stew replaces salad, and the deck furniture gets scrubbed and put into storage.

By put into storage, I mean I stuff it into our crawl space, which is four feet high, give or take a pinch, but it’s warm and dry. Did I mention the height? Maybe when I was younger my noggin was tougher and the occasional head bang didn’t hurt so much. My back was probably stronger too – more flexible.

This year I managed to get half the furniture stored before I bonked my head. My auto response was a spasm-inducing spine-lurch and enough four-letter words to clear the air in the crawl space. That’s when I made the executive decision that this would be the last year I played this contortionist game.


Four-bay Garage

Off I went in search of a solution. I should have known better. It’s not that we don’t have alternative storage space it’s that none of it’s available. Hard to believe considering the four-bay garage, the two-bay tractor shed, the RV shelter, the boat shed, the beach shed, the wood shed, the pump house and the outhouse.


Tractor Shed

How is it possible we have NO free storage space? Even if I scratch the outhouse, wood shed and pump house from the list, we still have nine bays worth of space. NINE! Canadian Tire should be so lucky! When did we collect enough stuff to fill nine bays with no room left over for the deck furniture?


Boat Shed

It boggles my mind, but there’s nothing to be done for it: I’m not doing the crawl-space limbo one more time. So this afternoon I pulled out a measuring tape to figure out how big a shed we’d need to house the deck furniture.



Beach Shed

Number ten, here we come! I can’t believe it. If we ever decide to go into the shed business, we won’t have to build the samples. Oh wait…I think we’re already there.

I’m happy to offer a storage-friendly digital version of The Gift: Awakening. Get your copy for Kindle with one click here. (Now just $4.07 US/$4.61 Cdn.)
Posted in Island Life, Seasons, storage | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Wanted: Distractions

Colourful-selection-of-squashThese beautiful squash jumped into my car the other day when I was visiting Piercy’s farm. They were so beautiful, I couldn’t resist. It’s not like I run a home for wayward squash, but I am a sucker for fall colours, and they do perk up the porch.

They’ll eventually end up in my oven, which makes me feel a bit like the cannibalistic witch in Hansel and Gretel, but I’ll live with the guilt. In fact, we’ve already devoured the spaghetti squash and the others will be baked until the sugars caramelize around the edges into brown bits of crunchy heaven.

Why, you might ask, am I going on about squash? I have a good reason – I need the distraction.

You see, I finished writing the first draft of Book IV almost three weeks ago and I’m determined to leave it alone for another week: no peeking, no tweaking.

Yikes! A whole month.

I don’t think I’ve ever stayed away from these characters for that long. But the next part of the process is the first edit, and I know I’ll do a better job of it if I can distance myself from it, which is easier said than done. For months, I’ve spent every day with these characters and without them, there’s a gaping hole in my day — a hole I need to fill with distractions.

I’ve already cleaned the house, I’ve groomed the dog, and I’m up to date with the programs I had on the PVR. I’ve returned to the gym (sadly out of shape, I’m afraid) and caught up with friends over leisurely lunches and coffee dates.

I tackled the gardens. It’s a good thing it’s been a great fall — warmer and drier than usual, and I took advantage of the extended season to take care of those outdoor chores that should have been done months ago. That’s one of the downsides to writing – you have to give up some things to make time to write. Anyway, I’ve rather enjoyed getting dirt under my fingernails again and filling up the composters.

Now the rains have started and I’m back inside…studiously avoiding the characters who lurk dangerously close to this blog. One more week…

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate this weekend.

If you’re looking for a distraction, give yourself The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here.
Posted in About Writing, Editing, My Writing Journey, Seasons, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

On Writing ‘The End’


Pivotal scenes in Book IV are set on Granville Island

I finished writing the first draft of the fourth book in my Gift series last week. The process didn’t end with a thunder clap and popped cork, like I’d hoped. More like a wet splat with cold tea.

Why? I have no idea, but it did make me think about how I’d felt when I finished writing the other three books.

The first one was a shock. I actually Googled whether or not to type “the end” or let it be assumed. I remember sitting there with a grin on my face for ten minutes before I told the cave master. The second one snuck up on me, coming sooner than I anticipated, and pulled me along in its wake. The third…ah, the third. I loved the third one. Saw it coming a mile away and enjoyed every last second of writing it, and then I celebrated full out with a lovely bottle of Amarone. It was the end of the trilogy, after all, no small feat.

But this fourth book of the trilogy (yes, I know…arithmetic isn’t my strong suit) has been a marathon right from the start. I’m not sure why. I had a rough outline, so I knew where it began and I had a handful of the in between scenes. I also knew where it ended, but still, it was a tough slog getting it out.

That could be why typing “the end” on this one left me out of wind. For a day or two afterward, I felt bluesy and out of sorts, and ever since, I’ve been bumping around the house in a daze I’m only now coming out of.

I celebrated the accomplishment a few nights later with my better half and a dirty martini, straight up, three olives, half vodka, half gin. I’m happy to report, though it may have been late and low-key, it was a pretty good ending!

What to know how Book I ends? You can buy The Gift: Awakening right now, with one simple click here.
Posted in About Writing, Book Series, Celebrations, The Gift Trilogy News, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

On the Manitouwabing…

Growing up, I spent most weekends and summers on the Manitouwabing River in Ontario’s cottage country. Even now, living on the west coast, I find myself back there visiting most summers. In fact, I just returned after two relaxing weeks in that quiet countryside surrounded by family and good friends.

This visit was marked by two very special occasions. The first was a reading I was invited to do at the McKellar Library. The second was the wedding of our very good friend’s daughter, which we were delighted to attend.


On the big billboard

This was my second reading at the McKellar Library, and once again, Maxine and Joan did a tremendous job of hosting the event. Not only was my reading announced on the Township’s roadside billboard, but they also advertised it in the local paper and even announced it on 103.3, Moose FM.

They served coffee with muffins, doughnuts and fishing poles. Yes, fishing poles. I mentioned it last year and I’m going to say it again. This has to be the only library in the world where you can check out a fishing pole with your book and go down to the lake in their back yard to throw a line in. Pretty special. You’ll want to get your library card for this one.

McKellar Library was the first library to carry my books and the staff and area residents have been wonderfully supportive, so I was thrilled to treat them to the very first reading from my fourth book, tentatively titled The Gift: Penance. It’s not even published yet, and they’ve already ordered a copy! Many thanks to Joan, Maxine, Jackie and Debbie for their outstanding hospitality.


Camera Drone

The wedding came off with only the one expected hitch. The bride was stunning, her groom handsome. Vows were spoken, cake was eaten, toasts were made, but it was the first time I’d seen a drone taking photographs.

During the second week, we managed to get out fishing, which afforded a slow tour of our childhood haunts along the river we swam in and knew so well. The ‘hood’s changed considerably and is no longer a sleepy riverbed with acres between simple homes, summer cottages and farm houses.

My grandfather’s house has been beautifully re-built and his property subdivided. Where he once tilled potatoes, a gorgeous home now stands. Across the way, in what used to be cow pasture, another cottage, reputed to be 8K square feet, has been built. Lovely “cottage”, by the way, as are the other mansions that now call the Manitouwabing home, I just wish they’d offer tours.


Falls Under Old Steel Bridge

When we were kids, we’d see maybe one boat a day go by, and when it did, it was an event. It didn’t matter that the boats were almost always canoes or small aluminum fishing boats. We’d run to the shore to see who it was and shout out, “Having any luck?” Sometimes they’d hold up their catch and we’d wave. Because of the falls, the river’s a dead end, so the boaters would all have to come back our way. We’d wave again and call out “Good luck,” and they’d disappear around a bend. Today, over the course of a day, a dozen pontoon boats or PWCs might motor past.

Change is inevitable, so it was bound to happen; the only surprise is that this beautiful, sleepy river wasn’t discovered by the masses many years ago.

But not everything changes; we still wave when a boat goes by, even if we do it from the porch and don’t know who’s behind the wheel; the deer flies still have me wind-milling my arms like a lunatic; and I still indulge the mosquitoes in far too many free meals.

Every year it’s a joy to come home and see the changes, and each year it gets more difficult to say goodbye. Until next year, McKellar…

Another thing that hasn’t changed…you can still buy The Gift: Awakening for $5.99 with one simple click here.
Posted in Book Reading, Library, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

So Much For Best Intentions

Sometimes, the best intentions aren’t enough.

I had hoped to finish writing the fourth book of The Gift Legacy before I left for vacation in Ontario…and I was this close!

But I didn’t make it.

During my race to meet the deadline, I put in eight- to ten-hour days for days on end and neglected the usual victims (weeds, husband, chores) and some new ones (this blog). In the end, I just couldn’t do it and the plane was leaving with or without me.


Vacationing on the Manitouwabing

You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to complete, after all, the last chapter is outlined and half-written. But loose ends need to be tucked in and attention to detail is critical. I want the readers on the edge of their seats during those all-important closing scenes and I don’t seem to be able to do that type of writing in a hurry.

So it’s going to take a few more weeks. I’ll start by clearing the deck of neglected chores, including a post about my trip, and then I’ll pour myself into the ending the book deserves. I’m excited to get started.

And speaking of excited, I think I have a title. What do you think of The Gift: Penance?

Here’s a peek at the book’s blurb:

In Book IV, the gift has been exposed and Emelynn must pay the penalty for her role in baring the secret. But before her and her new handler, Detective Sam Jordan, can establish a safety net, Emelynn stumbles into the middle of a drug smuggling investigation that has already resulted in two murders. Unable to extricate herself, she and the detective join the investigation and embark on a dangerous mission to find the criminals who hide in polite society.

What is the gift? Find out right now…you can buy book I, The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here.
Posted in About Writing, Books, My Writing Journey, The Gift Trilogy News, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

10 Tips to Improve your Book Reading


Photo credit I.Gay-Elgueta

Another Denman Island Readers’ and Writers’ Festival has come and gone. This was the third year I braved the stage to do a book reading. Why this particular feat should unnerve me, when in my working life I had no trouble rattling on in front of an auditorium full of people, I have no idea.

Well, I suppose I have one idea. These readings are timed. I have twelve precious minutes in which to hook my audience; twelve minutes to make a positive impression; twelve short minutes to turn listeners into readers, and I’m loath to waste a single moment of my allotted time.

As a result, I trim my reading to come in just shy of the twelve-minute mark. Trouble is, it’s only shy of twelve minutes if I read on stage at the same pace at which I’ve practiced.

I know what you’re thinking. Why not choose something shorter? Something that runs, say…ten minutes? Save myself a boatload of stress. Yeah, I should do that, but did I mention I’m loath to waste a single moment?

I may never get over my jitters, but regardless of whether the readings are timed, I have learned a few things that you might find helpful if you find yourself on stage with your book in your hands.

  1. Choose a selection that not only represents your work, but ends on a note that leaves your audience curious to know more.
  2. Avoid or remove spoilers.
  3. Replace the names of minor characters who aren’t pivotal. E.g. “Dr. Emery Coulter,” becomes “my doctor.”
  4. Delete references to events that occur either before or following the selection, but which aren’t explained or relevant within the passage. They will only add confusion to a short piece.
  5. Practice your reading standing up and speaking out loud. It makes a difference to the timbre of your voice and the timing, trust me.
  6. Give a brief introduction to the book and, if necessary, its genre. It will give your audience a basis from which to listen.
  7. Set up the scene and introduce the characters who are in the selection you’ve chosen. It will help your audience come out of the gate with you instead of struggling to keep up.
  8. Pause at the end of quotes. “My name is Emelynn,” (pause) she said.
  9. Use your voice to colour the words. Cold should be a short, hard slap. Warm should be a soft caress, drawn out to melt on your tongue.
  10. Know the passage well enough to be able to glance away for a moment and engage the audience.

Listening to other authors read at festivals is a great way to pick up tips on what works and what doesn’t. My favourite readings are from those authors who are able to step into an actor’s role and animate their reading. I’m not there yet with my own readings, but I’m working on it.

Have you read your work in public? What tips would you add to the list?

If twelve minutes isn’t enough for you either, you can download The Gift: Awakening in its entirety with one click here.
Posted in Book Reading, Marketing Your Book, Writer Festivals | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Writing Process Blog Hop

If you’re curious about what goes on in the mind of a writer, and how they get those thoughts down on paper, you’ve come to the right Blog Hop. Writing processes are as varied and interesting as the authors themselves.

The blog hop is much like a relay race, and Diana Stevan has just passed me the baton. (Ooh, maybe not such a good analogy – now I have visions of tripping, or … horrors … dropping it.) At the end of this post, I’ll introduce Mike Grant and George Henry, two fabulous authors who’ve agreed to carry the baton onward.

I met Diana and her writing critique group over lunch in Campbell River, British Columbia, a year ago. What a treat to meet this lively group of writers who so generously shared their collective experiences of writing and publishing in Canada. And the generosity continues today. Thank you, Diana, for inviting me to the Writing Process Blog Hop. You can read about Diana’s writing process here.

Diana’s support and enthusiasm have been infectious. As a writer, she has a wealth of experience to draw on. She’s been a clinical social worker, a freelance writer/broadcaster, an actress and an online TV host. Diana has written three screen plays and is now on the verge of publishing her debut novel, A Cry From The Deep. It comes out in October 2014 and I can’t wait to read it.

And without further ado…

What am I working on?

I’m working on an as-yet untitled book featuring some of the characters introduced in The Gift Trilogy. It’s another contemporary thriller with a twist of fantasy. This one is set on and around Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work falls into both the thriller and the fantasy genres. Most people know what a thriller is, but the fantasy label means different things to different people.

I think it’s because the fantasy genre casts a wide net. It includes the high fantasy of JRR Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings, the urban fantasy of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Series and the low fantasy of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The genre can include trolls, fairies, werewolves and wizards or none of them. In fact, any genre can become fantasy with a dash of magic.

And it’s my particular dash of magic that makes my work different. There are no vampires, witches or dragons, just people like you and me. My characters could be your colleagues or neighbours. They teach your children and take your order at the lunch counter. You’ll never know they’re different, because even if you catch them in action, you won’t believe your eyes.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love the genre. I read a wide variety of work, from the classics to humour and everything in between, but it’s the fantasy genre that grabs and holds my attention. I take refuge in the idea that phenomena exist in this world that science hasn’t figured out yet. I like the mystery and the thrill of not knowing. It keeps the possibility alive, like holding on to unchecked lottery tickets.

How does my writing process work?

Most days, I simply sit down and write. Mornings are best and coffee is a must. I have a comfy chair, a laptop computer and a beautiful view. I use MS Word and keep three documents open when I’m writing: the manuscript, a detailed description of characters and places, and a timeline of events. I don’t have an agent and I indie publish, so my deadlines are my own.

With my first book, I started with one scene then built the story around it. Now I do a lot more planning when I write. I have a general outline of the story and my goal each day is to write a scene. I don’t worry about word counts or days that I spend researching and planning instead of writing. It’s all part of the process and some of those planning days are gold mines in terms of plot twists and sequencing. I carry a notebook around everywhere I go and jot down ideas, descriptions, phrases and any other interesting tidbits that come my way. The other day I wrote, “Where dreams take flight.” I think I’ll use that as a tag line.

And now I’d like to introduce you to Mike Grant and George Henry . They will be answering the Writing Process Blog Hop questions on their respective blogs on July 21, 2014. Please do check them out.


White_Wolf_Moon_by_Mike_GrantI met Mike Grant in 2012 when we were both in the process of learning the indie partner-publisher ropes. I’ve followed his career and his blog with interest ever since. The video trailer for his debut novel, White Wolf Moon, remains one of my favourites. You can find him on Facebook at

Here’s a little more about Mike in his own words:

I was born at Fort George, Scotland, in 1947, moving to Canada with my family in 1955. As an army brat I spent a decade in various locations across the country finally settling in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1964. With careers in radio broadcasting, advertising, and photography under my belt I moved to Kamloops, British Columbia, in 1994.

I’m an organized hoarder with a roomful of toys/collectibles, music/movies, and books…lots of books. I watch, read, and listen to most genres, depending on my mood.

I’m married with three children, six grandchildren, two cats, and a rabbit.

Visit Mike’s blog at


Love_&_Death_in_Trieste_by_George_HenryAnother author you’re sure to want to connect with is George Henry. George was one of the first authors I met on Twitter and his witty sense of humour brightens my day. For a self-professed Luddite, he does pretty well in the Twitterverse (Follow him ) and on his blog. He also has not one, but two video trailers for his debut novel, Love and Death in Trieste. This is the first, and this is the second.

George is a well-travelled educator who loves the thrill of visiting foreign countries (about forty so far) and experiencing their cultures. Besides history, cuisine and architecture, he is particularly fascinated by language and religion. (Nowhere will he not try to speak the language with the locals, whether they like it or not.) These are facets of human civilisation he likes to bring to his fast-paced thrillers, with a dash of the romance that is at the core of our existence thrown in.

George was born in England and after university moved to Los Angeles, California, USA, and to Toronto, Canada. He ended up living and working for almost thirty years as a college instructor in the biological sciences on Vancouver Island, British Columbia before he was put out to pasture—and had the freedom to travel.

He is currently completing a second thriller-romance novel, tentatively titled Recycled Love, based upon a trip with his wife and fellow author, Serena Janes, across the fabulous mayhem of India to the calm of the sherpas in Nepal. Love and Death in Trieste is his first novel and was written after an exciting trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Bosnia.

Visit the author at

Posted in About Writing, Author Interview, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Meet Guest Author J.P. McLean

JP McLean:

Chris Graham is a tremendous supporter of authors, and today I’m thrilled to be featured in his guest author spotlight. Thank you, Chris.

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

Thank you, Chris for the work you do to support authors and help our work find new readers. It’s greatly appreciated.

Author Photo1 for ChrisMy name is JP (Jo-Anne) McLean. I used to like having a hyphen in my name, but that was before I wrote a book. I’ve come to realize that the hyphen just confuses search engines and readers alike. JP is much easier to spell and remember.

I’ll tell you more about me in just a moment. First, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to introduce you to The Gift Trilogy. The books are far more exciting than me anyway. All three of the books are thrillers with a twist of fantasy. So, what are they about?

When you were a child, did you ever make a mistake? One that haunted you for years?

Emelynn Taylor did. Her mistake was accepting a gift from a stranger. She knew she shouldn’t…

View original 882 more words

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The Cumberland Connection

The small town of Cumberland on Vancouver Island knows how to do libraries right. Their new library is a bright, airy space that invites readers in to browse and stay a while. It’s located in a brand new building on Dunsmuir Street in the heart of Cumberland. When you stop by, you might want to cozy up to the beautiful fireplace, make yourself comfortable in one of the armchairs and lose yourself between the pages of a book.

Arlene Whetter, the Customer Services Librarian, invited me to the Cumberland library to read from The Gift Trilogy. What a surprise to arrive and see the warm reception prepared by Arlene, Adam Robinson and Tracy Dojack. Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

Inside-the-Cumberland-LibraryThe area in front of the fireplace resembled an intimate coffee shop setting, which is perfect for a reading. Donuts, brownies and a fresh pot of coffee awaited guests, some who’d planned to be there and others who just happened by.

No matter the size of the audience, it’s always a pleasure for me to read from the Gift books and reading at Cumberland’s beautiful, new library was no exception. It’s fun to hear the comments and field the questions that arise. As an author, you learn a lot from those questions, so thank you for that and thanks to those of you who stopped to listen. I hope you enjoyed the reading as much as I did.

J.P.-McLean-reading-at-the-Cumberland-LibraryThe Gift Trilogy books, Awakening, Revelation and Redemption are available to borrow from any branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library. Enjoy the read, visit my website and stay in touch. Feedback is always welcome.

And if you’d rather own a copy, you can order The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here. Your adventure awaits…
Posted in Book Reading, Books, Library, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments