Halloween Hijinks at Home

I just returned (soaked to the skin and frozen) from watching the younger spawn trick or treat. It’s been teeming rain all day. Our Halloweens are typically loud, wild, and silly. Normally, we have a lot more dead bodies planted in the front lawn, but there just wasn’t time this year. But hey, we had fun. So I thought you’d like to see a bit of the crazy around here.

Boston Terriers don’t really like having tails. You’d think he’d be thrilled, since his stubby won’t even wag, but he was underwhelmed.



Don’t let the cuteness fool you. The costume is suitable.


And let’s not leave Molly out.





We really like embarrassing our pets.













We also like making special jack o’lanterns. I thought you might like to see some of them. The portrait pumpkins take about 6 hours to carve, and if we’re lucky, they last a week. If you coat the cut parts in Vaseline, it helps them to last.

2006, by Jess Molly Brown.

2006, by Jess Molly Brown.









1999 by Jess Molly Brown.

1999 by Jess Molly Brown.












Harry and Voldemort by Jess Molly Brown, 2008

2008, by Jess Molly Brown.

Edward and Bella by Painterjoy, 2009

By Painterjoy, 2009











2012 by Jess Molly Brown

2009 by Jess Molly Brown













2012 by Jess Molly Brown.

2012 by Jess Molly Brown.


2013 by Painterjoy and Sunshinegirl.

2013 by Painterjoy and Sunshinegirl.


So… I’m kinda ambulating like one of the Walking Dead at the mo. I’m going to go eat some candy and see if it helps me feel more human. Hope you had fun tonight, too! What do you do for Halloween?




Where We Fell: Release Day & Giveaway

Amber L. Johnson’s WHERE WE FELL is finally available.

You can now get your e-book copy of Amber L. Johnson’s debut New Adult novella, WHERE WE FELL.

Early praise for WHERE WE FELL:

a well written, emotionally uplifting, and honest story                                        – Stephanie on Goodreads

“Amber L. Johnson is one of the brightest new authors on the horizon.”              – Author Sydney Logan
“It may be short story, but definitely a powerful one.”  – Lucia @ Reading is My Breathing


Hannah Where We Fell quote

“Wouldn’t it freak you out if I took my hair off right this second and was like, ‘Oh my god, Oliver, I had cancer too!”

“Don’t lie.  That’s a shitty thing to lie about.”

“Is it?”

I shrug, trying to control my emotions.  “It would explain why you changed your hair, I guess.”

She straightens her spine.  “I guess it would.  Or maybe it makes sense that my mom had cancer.  And lost her hair.  So I dyed my hair and cut about sixteen inches off to donate to her for a wig.  That might make sense, too.”
Hannah Hartwell is weird.  And she’s awkward.  But at this exact moment she is not a liar.
“I might not know what you’re going through first hand, okay? But I know what it’s like to see it from the sidelines.  My mom didn’t even tell me that she was going in for testing.  Didn’t tell me she got a diagnosis.  She just called me on a Wednesday and said she was going in for surgery on Friday, and could I please make sure to pay my phone bill on time this month.  It was like, how did she just go to these appointments without telling anyone?  So blase.  Like you.  It baffles me.”
I’m silent as she talks because I have nothing to say.
“It’s kinda ironic that the woman who leaves an oncologist because he’s ‘married to his job’ ends up getting the one thing he could potentially help her with.”
The room is so quiet that I can hear the music from outside filtering into the house between the window panes and cracks under the doors.  Our food is going to go cold, which bothers me a little, even though I’m no longer hungry.  She did spend a long time cooking it, after all.

Instead of saying anything about her confession, I pick up the ear of corn and start eating.

“This is good,” I say.  And I mean it.

She forces a tight smile and picks at her own plate.

“It’s not ‘cure my cancer’ good.  But it’s good.”

This time, it’s a spoon that she throws at my head.


You can get WHERE WE FELL on Amazon and Createspace

Important Links:

Amber on Goodreads

Book on Goodreads

Amber on Twitter

Author Page on Facebook

Amber’s Blog

Where We Fell Playlist

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Blog Tour: Interview with Amber L. Johnson

Amber Blog tour1


Remaining Tour Stops:

Sunday October 27
Fandom Fanatic – AUTHOR GUEST POST – Writing  from a male point of view
The Blonde Mark – REVIEW

Monday October 28 – Release Day
FicWishes – EXCERPT
Fandom Fanatic – EXCERPT
First Page to the Last – EXCERPT


An Interview with Amber L. Johnson






I first encountered Amber online, when she was writing fan fiction under the pen name of 107yearoldvirgin, and she had a huge following -for good reason. She writes highly-relatable characters, knows how to plot and is blessed with a charming sense of humour. I used to love to escape into her stories, so I’m very pleased to share this interview with you today.


Jess: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little, but I didn’t actually get serious about it until a few years ago.


Jess: You were a prolific fan fiction author when your son was just a baby. In fact, I remember a funny author’s note in which you said that you’d hidden out in your bathroom to get a chapter done. I don’t think I did anything terribly creative when my kids were small. Seriously, how did you manage to accomplish so much?


Back when I had just started it was because I’d been going through some crappy stuff and wanted an outlet. It was cheaper than therapy. When my son was first born, he had colic. He’d cry for upwards of 20 hours a day and was consistently sick from being in daycare. Once he hit ten months he started walking and his colic started going away so he was actually sleeping at night. Because I was used to not sleeping I used the extra hours while he was in bed to write. I’d crank out 2,000 words an hour most times, so I’d write for two or three hours and – bam – a new chapter would go up.

The day I locked myself in the bathroom was a snow day and there were five people in the house – all wanting something. Food or attention (this was before we had my son evaluated and weren’t aware of the extent of his needs). I just needed a break and to be able to sit in the quiet for ten minutes by myself. So I faked a stomach ache and sat on the bathtub to finish a chapter and upload it. Not my proudest moment, but one that makes me chuckle nonetheless!

Jess: Tell me about it! This is how I feel most days:



Jess: I definitely remember those colicky kid moments. And we moms need to take our Mom Time and our laughs wherever we can get them! What is the most valuable lesson that writing fan fiction taught you?

Patience. My editor, Kathie, used to tell me to slow down and stop updating so fast. She said that people would become overwhelmed by the amount I was writing – that I didn’t give them time to appreciate a chapter. Or a story. And it was one of the best lessons I ever learned. Being prolific is one thing but over saturating your readers will make a lot of them simply give up on trying to keep up.


WhereWeFellFINALCOVER small


Oliver Bishop is having a seriously bad day. With one diagnosis, his life suddenly has an expiration date. Confused about the numbness he has to the idea of it, he unwittingly puts himself directly in the sights of a girl that just may give him a reason to fight – and to live.

Available October 28th on Amazon Kindle.



Jess: What was it about this particular story that made you decide to write it as your first published piece of fiction?

Honestly it was because I felt like it had an important message. I’ve always said that I wanted my first piece to be something I was proud of. Something that really sets the tone as to who I am as a writer. And I think this hits all of my requirements.


Jess: What was your biggest challenge in moving from fan fiction to original fiction?

Fan fiction is still propelled by original ideas, but we have to be honest with ourselves that it’s a lot easier than coming up with our own worlds and characters that people don’t know. If I write a character name in a fan fiction, I don’t even have to describe them. Your mind already knows what they look like. It already knows their back story, even if we give them a new one. Starting from scratch is tough. And it’s even tougher when you think that your old readers won’t be able to see the new characters that you’ve created because they’re so used to reading fan fiction.


Jess: Lots of things must have happened as you developed and published this novella. What came as the biggest surprise to you?

The biggest surprise to me was the outpouring of positive support I received from bloggers and other authors that were willing to take a look at something I’d worked so hard on. I’m my own worst enemy and I was feeling like maybe I didn’t stand a chance – but the feedback I’ve received from everyone has made me think that maybe I’m not as hopeless as I once thought.


Jess: You’re definitely not hopeless, bb. Trust me. Tell us something about your newest release that isn’t in the blurb.

Hannah’s obsession with health through being a vegetarian was inspired by my husband. After I got sick, he watched a bunch of documentaries and we started changing our lifestyle to be more vegetarian and organic. This was my way of honouring him and poking a little fun at the same time.


Jess: Very cool. What’s your preferred climate for writing? Do you like to write in a certain place, with music? Is there a specific time of day that you write?

I can write pretty much anywhere if I’m in a comfortable chair and have music playing. I prefer to be alone so that I can concentrate.


Jess: What comes to you first, the plot or characters?

It always starts with one scene. A conversation will take place between the characters and I lock it into place to write around. The plot usually changes as I write because my characters act of their own volition, no matter how much I try to rein them in.


Jess: Can I possibly talk you into writing a comedy?

I write comedy! It’s just usually comedy about really tragic things.


Jess: LOLOL! Touché. Who has most influenced your own writing?

It sounds weird, but John Hughes has been my biggest inspiration. Probably for my entire life. I actually have to go back through my three new in-progress works to remove mention of him because I talk about him ALL THE TIME.


Jess: I’d better bone up on John Hughes. 😉 In your opinion, what makes a good book?

I love books that suck me in. I need the characters to be believable and to react in real ways to things that are happening. And I want, more than anything, for a book to make me feel.


Jess: I think you’ve always been very talented at doing exactly that. Best of luck with your new novella. I can’t wait to see more from you.


Amber L. Johnson’s novella, Where We Fell, will be available on Amazon Kindle on October 28th.




Ghost Story: Truth or Fiction?



The house stood vacant for a year before the young couple and their little boy moved in. It had been built in the early Sixties, one of hundreds of identical salt-box shaped starters and it needed a lot of work, but its bones were good. The previous family had been transferred, according to the realtor.

Soon, it was a home, slightly rough around the edges. But the young family was happy there. The wife sang to herself, spent hours planting flower bulbs and rose bushes during her son’s naps, puttered in the kitchen and sat out in the yard, throwing balls for the dog. Everything was well, until one night, pregnant with their second child, the wife heard a baby cry. At 2AM, she opened her eyes, feeling groggy. Beside her bed, there stood a shadowy handmade wooden cradle.

“What’s this?” She set her feet on the cold hardwood floor and peered into it. The baby within was First Nations and dressed in buckskin, but everything was blue, particularly the baby.

The wife’s scream was bloodcurdling; she knew the baby had died of SIDS. At least a hundred years ago. At her scream, the baby and its cradle vanished. The husband jolted out of bed and took stock of the situation.

“You, and your bad dreams! Did you think ninjas were coming through the ceiling again?”

Time passed. The couple’s son was five years old and his sister was two. She had the middle room in the house, the room the wife didn’t like. It had a claustrophobic feel to it, even though it was a decent size and had been freshly painted.

At night, all the children’s toys were placed in a wooden toy box with a lid. If anyone walked through the dark living room, the talking Big Bird would startle them by yelling, “Well, hello there!” from underneath all the toys.

Laughing at herself for being spooked by a malfunctioning talking doll, the wife would put on X-Files reruns while enjoying a nice cup of tea. Then, she’d yawn and take herself off to bed.

One such night, she walked into the dark master bedroom to see a man standing at the head of the bed. “Why are you up?” she asked what she perceived was her husband.

It wasn’t her husband; he was asleep in the bed. The wife knew that the shadow man had been talking to her husband, whispering things. But he didn’t speak to her; he just disappeared as though he’d never been there. Feeling uneasy, she went to bed, but was unable to sleep. She prayed about it, but still felt like she had to be watchful.

A few nights later, she was asleep when the hairs stood up on the back of her neck. I don’t want to open my eyes. Don’t look, don’t look! She thought to herself. But she couldn’t help looking, could she? The shadow man was whispering menacingly in her husband’s ear. The man was tall, thin and grey-skinned, with eyes like black holes. He wore a summer-weight, grey three-piece suit from the 1930s and a fedora. “Get away! Get away!” the wife shouted. As her husband shot upright, the man melted to nothingness. The wife prayed for deliverance from evil.

Days later, she woke to find a heavenly apparition walking into the bedroom. “Grammie, why are you here?”

Grammie looked well and light seemed to pour out of her, making the room bright as day. “Bless this house,” she directed.

“Thank you for caring for me when I was a child. You practically raised me while Mom went to work,” the wife said. Grammie backed out of the room, peeked into the children’s rooms and departed, taking the white light with her. The wife lay down and slept peacefully, knowing her grandmother was an angel watching over her family.

The thin grey man came again. The wife sat up and addressed him angrily. “Leave my husband alone! Get out! This house belongs to God!”

“Huh?” her husband blinked at her blearily.

“Go back to sleep,” she said, certain he would never believe her. It didn’t matter; the shadow man was gone, never to return.

As the years passed, the atmosphere in the living room got more and more oppressive. Even in the daytime, black shadows collected at the juncture of wall and ceiling. There were bumps and creaks and whispers, and sometimes the door to the bedroom hallway opened. The wife didn’t like being in there anymore. She went to her children’s rooms each night, prayed and drew crosses on their foreheads with her fingertip. She prayed over her sleeping husband, that he would be protected from evil.

One afternoon, she started to walk downstairs into the finished basement. A tall, heavy woman wearing a 1950s housedress, with artificially red hair (that had obviously been in fat curlers) fell past her –down the stairs- making the wife clutch the bannister lest she fall herself. The woman got up at the foot of the stairs and strode into the family room. The wife followed on tiptoe and the woman turned to look at her. She looked quite alive except for the dark bruising under her eyes. The wife’s hair stood on end.

“He pushed me. My husband,” the woman said. Then, she walked into the faux-stone mantel of the gas fireplace as if there were nothing there.

The fireplace had been wood-burning when the young couple bought the house but they had converted it to natural gas. The faux-stone mantel had to be at least 30 years old, but it was big enough to hold five large women. “Are you buried in the fireplace?” the wife wondered aloud. No one answered.

The family enjoyed having campfires out in the back yard, but the wife knew they were being watched. She didn’t like taking the dog out late at night, either.

On four more separate occasions, the wife saw the woman fall down the stairs and walk into the fireplace. The wife waited to address her until after her husband went to work, because he really didn’t believe in ghosts and when she tried to tell him about it, he made fun of her. She walked from room to room and gave the ghosts what-for.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, I claim this house for God. Let all evil spirits depart from it. I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to leave this house, its yard and stop bothering its people. You may never return.”

The darkness faded from the living room. It became bright and cheery. The yard, however, still held a hint of menace. Just because the spirits couldn’t enter the yard didn’t mean they couldn’t keep watch outside it. It was puzzling. Why were they attracted to the house?

When the children were asleep, the wife drew crosses on their foreheads. “In the name of Jesus Christ, I claim this child for God. Let no evil spirits trouble this child or anyone in this house.”

Eventually, the carpet in the family room needed to be replaced. The woman and her husband removed it, and found something strange: a yellow and red shag carpet had once covered the floor. The fireplace hearth had been laid right over the shag carpet –concrete, mortar and stone.

“I’ve seen a murdered woman,” the wife said to her man, afraid he might say she was crazy. “She told me her husband pushed her down the stairs.”

“This is a weird house,” her husband said slowly. “We’ve all fallen down the stairs. But I’ve never felt a push. Maybe we were tripped.”

The wife blanched. “You believe me?”

“I’ve never heard of anyone being in such a hurry to renovate that they laid a hearth right over a carpet. It’s a fire hazard.”

“You think she trips us?”

“What if she does? Or her husband does? And I know the previous owners were horrible at renovating, but…”

The wife shivered and hugged herself. “Do you think there could be a body in our fireplace?”

The husband grimaced. “Only one way to find out.”

They disassembled the built in stone bench attached to the hearth, and looked all around inside the structure with a flashlight. There was nothing there but dust and cobwebs.

“What did this ghost look like?” the husband wondered aloud.

“She’s about 55, and roly-poly, but tall as you. She has red hair and a double chin and she wears old-fashioned matte-red lipstick.”

The wife prayed for the dead woman and told her to go to Heaven, that her earthly business was done. The wife never saw her again, and wondered if the grey man had been her husband. They didn’t seem to be from the same era, though. A Native baby, a 1950s housewife, and a 1930s man…The wife began to wonder if her house had been built on an old cemetery.

Over the course of time, the couple added another daughter to their family. The husband’s brother passed away, too young. One night, the wife woke up to find him kneeling beside her husband, his hands joined in prayer. He looked healthy, as he had before contracting AIDS, and was wearing dark dress pants and a gleaming white shirt. He turned his head and regarded her solemnly. Everything about him shone.

“Hello.” She smiled and greeted him by name. Then, she closed her eyes, heart happy, and went to sleep. The next morning, she told her husband that his brother had visited from Heaven, and he was praying for him. The husband was glad.

The younger daughter grew, the family had another son, and the house was peaceful. The younger daughter made a friend around-the-corner-across-the-street, and gradually, the two families became friends. There was a pink brick house nearby that interested the wife (although she disliked gossip). Nobody seemed to stay in it for long. There was always a for sale sign on the lawn, it seemed, while other houses in the area rarely were offered for sale. The yard of the pink house backed, kitty-corner- onto her own. Her friend’s house was directly across the street from it.

“There’s another new couple in the pink house,” her friend said.

“Really? I wonder what’s wrong with that house. Nobody seems to stay in it long,” the wife said, thinking it must be woefully outdated and in major need of repair. Her friend’s eyes bulged.

“You mean you don’t know about that house?” she demanded.

The wife blinked in surprise. “What about it?”

“It’s dreadfully haunted,” her friend hissed. “The first couple who lived there were devil worshippers. They claimed to have used a Ouija board to summon the dead. Nobody who buys that house lives there more than a year. And bad things happen. One guy cheated on his wife with her best friend. Newly-weds just moved out. They’re divorcing because he beat her. It’s a bad house. It’s evil.”

The wife told her husband about it, but they didn’t think they could walk over to new neighbours and say, “Hi, your house has evil spirits in it. You need to get somebody in to do an exorcism.” It was very awkward. The couple stayed a handful of months, then went back to Toronto.

The husband’s father passed away. One night, the wife saw him watching her husband. He looked like a normal man, not grey or blue or full of light. He looked a bit sad, like he had come to say goodbye to his son. Not long after, the younger daughter told her mother that she had seen him, too, and that he had looked happy.

A new, middle-aged couple moved in the pink house. People always said ‘hello’ to the man, who enjoyed tinkering with things in his garage. Seemed like a nice fellow.

Summer came, and the wife and her husband took a short trip for their twentieth anniversary. When they got back, the wife felt a malevolent taint in her house. She walked around and blessed the house and children, and claimed them for God. Something bad continued to prickle at her senses, particularly out in the yard. She always felt on edge. They hadn’t been home from their trip for very long before the husband hurried to speak to his wife.

“I’ve been talking to our next door neighbour and he thought we should know what happened while we were away. I don’t want the children to know.”

She searched his face. “Okay.” Some of the men in the neighbourhood gossiped more than most of the women!

“You know the pink house?”


“With the nice guy who works in the garage all the time? I always speak to him on my walks.”

“Yes, my friend says that house has a bad history.”

“He’s dead.”

The wife thought she had misheard him. “What?”

“He lost his job a few months ago and they were going to lose the house. His wife left him and while we were away on our trip, he killed himself out in the garage with a shotgun. All the neighbours heard the shot.”

“How awful! The poor man.” The wife grieved for him and for his estranged wife, who had to be feeling sick about the whole thing.

That night, the wife walked around her house and claimed it and her children for God. Then, she did something new. She went out in the back yard.

“Hear me, evil spirits. In the name of Jesus Christ, stop tormenting the man who shot himself and let him go.” She claimed her house and yard and all her neighbours’ houses for God in the name of Jesus Christ. And then, she said, “All benign spirits, I command you to take the innocent spirits you are protecting with you into the light. Go to God. Hear me, evil spirits: you shall not torment any soul in this neighbourhood any more. You shall depart and never return. I command it in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The wife marched inside her house and waggled a finger at her bemused teenage children. “Never play with Ouija boards.”

Two months have passed. There’s a new couple living in the pink house. Bless them.

So, is it truth or fiction? You decide. In November, I’ll let you know. Have fun this Halloween, but don’t disturb the dead. It makes them angry.




The Nature of Ghosts

Do you believe in ghosts? Forty-seven percent of  Canadians do. That’s a couple of percent higher than citizens of the USA.

When I was sick as a toddler, my mother says she heard a baby crying. She’d check on me, but I was asleep. She felt the baby was trying to warn her. It took a long time for my diabetes to be detected because the family doctor took my symptoms lightly. Once I was diagnosed, the baby stopped crying. My mother still smiles fondly when she talks about it.

I’ve seen ghosts. I wish I wasn’t sensitive to them, because the ones I’ve seen are evil. My daughter, who loves horror movies, laughs at me because The Woman in Black freaked me out and she thought it was dumb. Lucky girl. I didn’t sleep for four nights afterward and when I did sleep, it was with a light on.

Woman in Black

Whoever wrote that movie has seen a real evil spirit.




There’s an interesting reality show on TV called The Dead Files. Have you seen it? It pairs a psychic (Amy Allan) with a retired New York detective (Steve Dischiavi). He looks into the history of a haunted house while she examines it for paranormal activity. After each conducts an independent investigation, the pair meets to exchange findings.

The thing that’s really cool about it is how their findings match up. And it’s spooky boo when he presents historical evidence supporting the ‘story’. But what I really like about this show, where I avoid watching others, is Amy.

The Dead FilesAmy has honed her ability to hear spirits convey their stories and invites them to speak to her, not through her. She claims there are good entities and evil ones, just as there are among the living. She says they’re stuck, doesn’t hesitate to call them souls and confirms that God and Jesus, when called upon, protect us from harmful spirits. You don’t hear that often out of the psychics on TV. She also says toying with the paranormal can hurt us, by giving evil a conduit to work through. That’s why hauntings often get worse over time.



The-Ghost-and-Mrs-Muir-PostersSome people, like my mother, say they’ve had positive encounters with friendly ghosts. And since there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy, I’m going to agree it’s possible. Wouldn’t it be great if The Captain from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was really-really-real? If you haven’t watched that movie, you should. Timeless romance. He’s all ranting-rude at the beginning and suave/noble by the end. Dreamy. *sigh*


I know another fictional guy like that. Lissa Bryan’s debut novel, Ghostwriter, showcases another romantic leading ghost, Seth Forster, who is an angry, frustrated spirit until a young fan of his writing, Sara Howell moves into his house, befriends him and sets about clearing the family curse. Of course, it’s a love story, and the plot twist alone makes it worth your time. This month, Ghostwriter is the monthly read at The TWCS Book Club, and Lissa attends weekly to answer questions. It’s a super opportunity to interact with her.


coverISBN (paperback): 978-1-61213-121-4
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-61213-122-1
Released October 12, 2012
Order from TWCS, Amazon, iTunes

Read the first chapter here.
See the trailer here.

So why would a good ghost not choose to move on? According to Amy, it’s either being prevented from leaving (by a living person, an evil spirit or its own past), or it’s protecting someone (living or dead).


The Shining Jack Nicholson

The Shining
Jack Nicholson

Bad ghosts? They’re here to make trouble. Make no mistake about that.

Think I’m crazy? Regardless, I’m bringing you a friendly warning for Halloween. Don’t disturb the dead.





Next time I post, I’m going to tell you a ghost story. Fiction or not? You decide. Then, leave me a comment. In November, I’ll tell you if it’s true, or a figment of my demented brain.

Apparently, most people think ghosts are benign. What do you think? Leave me a comment.



An Interview with Abria Mattina

Wake - AbriaMattinaEighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.





Pigeons feather front cover smallIn this companion novella to Wake, Frank invites the Kirk family home to Smiths Falls for Thanksgiving weekend. Holidays are always a trial for the family that lost their daughter and sister, but Frank is hopeful that this Thanksgiving will be the exception. He has some happy news to share. If only he wasn’t so reluctant to talk about it.






Today, I’m chatting with Abria Mattina, who is a published author, editor, respected blogger, book reviewer and book designer. She loves to mentor writers and I’ve learned a lot from her.

Jess: When did you decide to be a writer? How did you get your start?


I don’t think it’s something I consciously decided. Born gay, born straight, born an artist… you get it. Smart money was on me ending up in some creative field, and I tried them all as a kid – visual art, dance, gymnastics, piano. I knew I liked to write as a kid, but I didn’t have my first don’t-eat-don’t-sleep-just-write episode until I was fifteen. I have had many more joyous episodes since, and I’m lucky enough to have a partner who understands them.

For a long time I resisted the thought of writing as a career, though. I thought the only way to make any money at it was to be a journalist, and I hated the thought of writing assignments. I felt that if I was going to write, I was going to do it for myself and write what I wanted.


Jess: What’s the one thing you’d tell an aspiring author?


Being an author is very different from being a writer. Nobody tells you that, but it’s true. When you’re a writer you write for pleasure, and there’s no pressure because any success or failure is still hypothetical. Once you’re an author, all that changes. You have to perform for your audience. You have to be engaged, consistent, and you have to keep churning out material. Whatever you publish next will be compared to what you published last. There’s a whole new world of pressure waiting and the end of your journey as “just a writer.”

I like to blog about my mistakes in publishing, especially when it comes to marketing, because that’s information that I wish I had known beforehand. Maybe someone else will benefit from knowledge of my mistakes.


Jess: You’re very accomplished. How do you balance the many facets of your life and career?


Honestly, I don’t. The thing about juggling so many things is that you can only hold so many balls at a time. Something always has to be up in the air while other things are firmly in your grasp. Learning to let go, to accept that I don’t always have to be on top of everything, is how I manage. When my writing life is going well, I find I don’t blog as much. When I experience writing slumps, I tend to blog more or try out new hobbies. It’s okay to fluctuate because it keeps the mind active and engaged.


Jess: We’re both Canadian. What do you consider the challenges of being an artist in Canada?


Although my books are set in Canada, I can never see myself writing “Canadian Fiction” for two reasons: the market is much smaller and Canadian fiction has a reputation for being grim. There’s an emerging publisher in Toronto whose mandate is to publish “non-depressing Canadian fiction.” It’s a little sad that they had to say that openly in their mission statement. The vibrant, wonderful things about Canada never seem to make it into supposedly “great” works of Canadian fiction.

As for the practicalities of being a Canadian author, there are hoops to jump through, from ITIN acquisition to working with foreign agencies to making sure your work is protected and your pay deposited. I have an ITIN, and I would recommend that any Canadian author get one before working with an American publisher or retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). It makes payouts so much easier.


Jess: Do you self-edit, or do you have pre-readers? Your published works are pristine. If you tell me nobody looks at your drafts, I’m going to scream.


I have beta readers and I hired a professional copy editor for Love Among Pigeons. Never underestimate the value of the ARC, too. I had a few early reviewers email me before the book launched to share any last typos they spotted.


Jess: How much time do you spend on research?


This is difficult to quantify because research is always an ongoing process. I don’t spend six months doing nothing but research and then write. Most often, I research a subject that interests me until I feel that I know enough to write about it competently. After that, I keep going back to my sources in order to get the details and nuances right. I particularly like journal-style blogs for this reason, so I can read the perspective of someone who has firsthand knowledge of my topic. If I can talk to someone directly, even better.

The tricky bit about research is resisting the urge to insert little factoids into the text simply because you know them. Sometimes I see this in the books I read, and it kills me every time. There is a limit to what the reader needs to know to enjoy the story, and it’s the author’s job to keep a handle on that.


Jess: I adore ‘Wake’. It’s one of my go-to reads. What inspired you to write it?


The first scene that came to me was the scene where Jem and Willa are taking a walk through her neighbourhood, just chatting like normal teenagers – talking about death and serious illness. Once I started, it was one of those stories that just kept coming. I went with it and enjoyed the ride, because there are few occasions in a writer’s career when a story comes so easily.

pigeons-mate-for-life-300x190Jess: ‘Love Among Pigeons’, the companion novella, distills complex elements into a strong, meaningful story. I tend to write epic-length tales. How different was it, going from writing a novel to writing a novella? What were your biggest challenges in each?


If I’d tried to write them back-to-back, it would have been much harder. After producing that mammoth, Wake, I worked really hard to cut down the length of my projects. The longest draft of anything else I’ve done since was 70k words. Length wasn’t a problem with Love Among Pigeons, especially after I decided to frame it in the setting of Thanksgiving weekend. Because it centers around a holiday, it has a natural three-day trajectory.

About six months after I published Wake, I started playing around with the idea of a prequel because people had requested it. I couldn’t make anything work, and at the time I chalked it up to my state of mind (my mother was undergoing chemo and radiation), so I shelved the project for a while. A few of those scenes ended up in Love Among Pigeons, and it was nice not to have to reinvent the wheel. I’d been thinking about the story far longer than I’d been writing it. I didn’t feel like a challenge to write. The hardest part was finding the time to write.

As for Wake, the biggest challenge was editing a work of that scope. It still makes me shudder.

Keith Quintanilla, Deviantart

Keith Quintanilla, Deviantart

Jess: Your books deal with some tough, controversial subjects with compassion and tact. You don’t shy away from difficult moral questions. How have your experiences shaped you?


I think being fundamentally obnoxious helps. The thing about taking on difficult, controversial subjects is that you’re always going to offend somebody. There were so many things about Wake that offended people – that Willa didn’t handle Jem with kid gloves, the way Tessa died, the way Frank deals with problems, and so on. It happened. I could have gotten my panties in a twist about it, but on the contrary, I was glad. Books that challenge us, piss us off, and make us think, are books that we remember. They’re books that we pass on to friends just so we have someone to talk to about our opinions.

I didn’t feel like I compromised on anything with Wake, even when I knew I was handling a scene or situation in a way that wasn’t conventional or even politically correct. That’s why I could stand by it.

I’ve always been a pretty opinionated person, especially about issues with lots of gray area, but what drew me to writing about disability and illness in particular is my adolescent experience with severe scoliosis. I wore a spinal brace for 23 hours per day, every day, from the age of twelve until the age of eighteen. You can imagine how cool I looked, walking around school in that. The experience toughened me mentally and physically. There were stares, questions, and plenty of pain. By the end I had convinced myself that none of it bothered me, but when offered a chance to wear the adult Spinecor brace, I burst into tears at the thought of putting on a brace ever again. I had a lot of negativity and self-consciousness stored up, just waiting to be channeled into Wake.


Jess: One of the things I love most about these books is their clean, direct style. Who has influenced you?


I don’t know if I can pin it down to a definite source, because I read so much and always have. I suppose it boils down to the way I perceive tone and topic. I prefer florid language in the historical fiction I read, and spare language in contemporary fiction. I think sci-fi should be very detailed, but fantasy novels don’t have to be. I wrote in a style that reflects my tastes within the genre.


Jess: Your characters’ banter is so engaging. Willa, in particular, has a snarky sense of humour that cuts through bull and causes other characters to re-evaluate their behaviour. Where did you get the inspiration for her character?


Willa is the person I would have been at seventeen if I’d had the guts to say what I was thinking every minute of every day. Willa feels that she has very little to lose, so she doesn’t care about offending people or being ostracised. She’s brash, but also clever and insightful, and that’s how she gets away with voicing unpleasant truths – sometimes.

Jem’s behaviour is a little closer to my actual teenage experience. He’s always putting his foot in his mouth and then wasting time by agonizing over it.


Jess: You’re a synaesthete. I know someone who sees music in shapes and colours. What kind of synesthesia do you have and how do you think it influences your work?


I read in color, perceive sounds as colors, shapes, and tactile stimuli, and I perceive inanimate objects as having genders or personalities. Often tastes have colors, but that one isn’t universal for me. I don’t know that it really influences my work that much, but it definitely gives me a better-than-average memory.


Jess: How do stories germinate for you?


They either start with a color or a character. With Wake that color was turquoise and it had a sound similar to the bridge of I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake. With one of my other projects, it was the color of the protagonist’s name. I rarely outline because I like having the freedom to let the characters surprise me. I find the story doesn’t grow organically when I outline, because I’m too focused on fulfilling a checklist of plot points.


Jess: If there’s one thing readers could take away from your books, what would it be?


I think the value of my books lies in the way people use them to explain difficult situations or emotions to others. Over the past two years I’ve received emails from cancer patients and survivors who recognized themselves in the characters. Some of them couldn’t even finish the book because it cut too close to the bone for them. What these emails generally have in common is that the people writing them have used Wake to guide their friends and family into conversations about their feelings or experiences. The characters become stand-ins for their real-life problems, and it becomes easier to talk about it.


Jess: What’s the one thing you wish an interviewer would ask?

Abria: I guess, What’s the weirdest comment on your work that you’ve ever heard?

The answer would be: “I expected them to just stop arguing and start making out.” The person who said this was talking about the argument in the middle of Wake. That scene is loaded with tension, and in a typical romance book it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the protagonists let the passion of the argument turn into sexual passion. But I absolutely hate that. It’s such a cop-out, every time. If you’re going to start a fight between characters, finish the fight! It’s more believable, more satisfying for the reader, and better for you as a writer.


Jess: What do you think you might be doing 10 years from now?


Pursuing world domination from a bunker in Greenland.

But seriously, being able to write full time someday would be sweet.


NOTE TO READERS: Wake is one of my favourite novels. I’m guest-blogging today at http://www.firstpagetothelast.com/ . Please visit to read my review.

You may visit Abria on her websites, http://www.abriamattina.com , http://www.shallwrite.com/ , and follow her on Twitter @AbriaMattina. Thanks for spending time with us today!









Cover Reveal & Review: Where We Fell, by Amber L. Johnson

Where We Fell is the debut novella by Amber L. Johnson. Keep reading to learn more about Amber and her upcoming New Adult release. Also, be sure to enter the giveaway for your chance to win an ebook copy, iTunes gift card, and a handmade cancer awareness bookmark!

Oliver Bishop is having a seriously bad day. With one diagnosis, his life suddenly has an expiration date. Confused about the numbness he has to the idea of it, he unwittingly puts himself directly in the sights of a girl that just may give him a reason to fight – and to live. 

Genre: New Adult
Word Count: 25,000 words

Available October 28 on Amazon Kindle
Amber is a full-time mom, full-time wife, is employed full time, and writes when she can. She believes in Happily Ever Afters that occur every day – despite the obstacles that real life serves up on a regular basis. Or perhaps they’re sweeter simply because of them.  She always has 2 rubber bands on her wrist, a song in her head, and too much creamer in her coffee cup that reads ‘Cocoa’ – because she’s a rebel. If she’s not at her desk, with her boys, or behind the computer, she’s supporting live music with her arms raised above her head and eyes closed, waiting for the drop. 


My Review: Where We Fell, by Amber L. Johnson

I’ve been annoying Amber L. Johnson for some years by urging her to get published. I know she heard that from an awful lot of hobby fiction readers. And finally, here’s her debut!

Oliver Bishop is about to graduate high school when he gets terrible news: he has lymphoma. As all his peers prepare to enjoy their last summer before college, he’ll be commencing treatment. He’s not really able to bring himself to hope; it’s much easier not to think about the future.

Enter Hannah, a cheeky young lady who refuses to let him give up on life. She is an awesome friend, caring for him during bad moments, making him and his parents laugh, and generally encouraging Oliver to remember he’s still the same person inside, not diminished by a disease.

This story made me curious about lymphoma and its treatment, prognosis, etc. Plus, the side effects it causes. Oliver’s cancer was caught quite early and the story spans about six months. But this isn’t a story about cancer. It’s a love story.



Throughout the novella, Oliver never stops being himself. I like that.

There are some interesting male characters in this story. I loved how affectionate Oliver’s dad was. You don’t see that a lot in fiction and I appreciated it.

The dad of Oliver’s best friend, Terrence, is a big contrast. He’s a minister, and when Oliver falls particularly sick, he arrives and starts praying over him. It struck me as a negative, unwelcome experience. I’ve been in situations where ministers prayed with our family, and the tone was much more upbeat and encouraging. Mind you, the prayers came at the ill person’s request. It must have felt like a wake-up, you’re dying moment for Oliver, especially with Terrence acting solemn. Made me shiver.

Where We Fell is an uplifting story that contains a couple of moments like that, that absolutely killed me. Amber has always known how to tug at heartstrings and she doesn’t need to write a lot of words to get her readers attached. Her fans will be pleased. Loved this novella, as I knew I would. Five stars.


Cover Reveal: Tales from The End by Lissa Bryan

From the author of The End of All Things comes a collection of short stories about the Infection that swept around the globe, decimating the population, and leaving behind a small number of survivors, unprepared to deal with the brutal new world which had replaced the one they’d known.

The End of All Things told the story of Carly Daniels, a young woman in Juneau, Alaska, left in a state of shock after the virus ravaged her home town. She ekes out a meager existence by scavenging for herself and Sam, the wolf puppy she found starving in the streets. Sam gives her a reason to keep going when giving up seems like the more attractive option.

Carly is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to a warmer climate before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey. They travel across a shattered nation in search of a safe place to settle, but it’s also a journey into love. There is still hope, a light among the shadows. If the old world is gone, it is up to the survivors to build a new one.

Carly finds strength in her faith that things can be even better than they were before, that compassion and charity are not luxuries; they are what make us human. Life endures, and so does love. The End of All Things is only a beginning.

And now, Lissa Bryan gives us three new stories in Tales from the End
Three of them introduce us to new characters you will meet in the upcoming sequel to The End of All Things, and the fourth, “Birthday” is a visit with old friends.
The Horsemen
L.A.’s mayor has declared quarantine to try to halt the spread of the Infection. Pearl sets off across the city to buy supplies, but already the world is changing. Something strange is in the air. The Horsemen are coming …
When Veronica’s mother doesn’t come home from work and no one answers the phone when she calls for help, a nine-year-old girl is thrown into the chaos of a world coming to an end. The television shows her nothing but confusing images she doesn’t understand. Veronica decides it’s up to her to find her family. “Veronica” is the story of a little girl’s courage in the face of the end of all things.
“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
They called her Shadowfax– the mare Carly and Justin found on their travels. But before she was found by Carly, the retired dressage horse was known as Cloud. An unusual tale of the end, told through the eyes of a confused and lonely horse, left in her pasture.
A previously-published bonus story. Carly knows Justin has never celebrated his birthday, and after society crumbled, no one knows what date it is, anyway. But she wants to do something special for him. Celebrating the little things helps them keep hope alive, and as a blizzard rages outside, a small gesture of love warms their home.
Tales of courage, tales of survival… Tales from the End.


.¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•♥•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

Author LinksWebsite Facebook ♥ Twitter ♥ TWCS (Publisher) ♥ Amazon♥ Barnes & Noble ♥ iTunes ♥ Youtube book trailers

Author Bio


Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Her first novel, Ghostwriter, is available through The Writer’s Coffee Shop (which is the least expensive option), AmazoniTunes, and Kobo. Her second novel, The End of All Things, was released on January 24, 2013, and is available through TWCS, Amazon, and iTunes. She also has a short story in the Romantic Interludes anthology, available from TWCS, Amazon and iTunes. Her third novel, Under These Restless Skies, is scheduled for release in spring of 2014.


Character Interview with Justin Thatcher from The End of All Things by Lissa Bryan

My Rating:





Barnes & Noble Nook


The End of All Things

by Lissa Bryan

After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly Daniels, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food. With her is Sam, a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. He becomes her companion and a reason to continue when giving up sometimes seems like the more attractive option. Still dazed with shock and grief, she hopes for the world to go back to normal soon.

She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.

Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.

But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.

This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.


Come what may, they will face it together with courage and love.



Jess: Hello, Justin. Thanks for joining us today. I must admit to having a bit of a crush on you.

Justin: Do I know you?


Jess (laughs): Not really, but I’ve read Lissa’s book about you. When the pandemic hit, wiping out the majority of humans and domesticated animals, you were in Alaska. Please tell us how you came to be there.

Justin: I came up for the Deadhorse Motorcycle Rally, but I arrived earlier than I’d planned, so I decided to camp in the woods near Juneau. It’s very quiet once you get out about a mile or so. Almost pristine, without all of the noise and bustle of city life. It helps to clear my head.


Jess: You have a very specialized set of survival skills. How did you attain them?

Justin: Picked ‘em up here and there.


Jess: As a member of a specialized military unit, you have acquired special skills. How are they useful in these terrible times?

Justin: I don’t want to talk about The Unit. I’ll just say I acquired some skills along the way. I learned how to look at a situation rationally, logically, and not let emotion get in the way of what has to be done. If I could teach Carly one skill, that’s what I’d pick. She can’t seem to protect her heart and she’s still hanging on to the ethical codes of a dead world.

I learned wilderness survival; Carly’s picking that up fast. I also learned self-defence, tactics, weapons … practical stuff that will help us survive out here. Carly doesn’t seem to like guns much, and she’s going to have to get over that one, quick. She needs to be able to protect herself.


Jess: In your travels south, you have encountered other survivors. What makes certain of them fit to survive, and others not? How do you make a judgment call on whether to assist someone? What must you see in them?

Justin: It’s like the warden says in Cool Hand Luke: “Some men, you just can’t reach.” Some people just aren’t cut out for life without modern society and all its technology. You can see it in them. They don’t want to adapt. Maybe they can’t. Who knows? Either way, it amounts to the same thing. They’re not going to strike out on their own and figure out what they need to do to make it now. They’ll need someone to take care of them. They’re dead weight.


Jess: Tell us about Carly Daniels.

Justin: She’s a survivor, even if she doesn’t know it yet. I’ve seen her type before. When the shit hits the fan, they’re left unprepared, but you can see it in their eyes. There’s a stubborn spark in there that says, I refuse to lie down and die. She’s a smart girl, Carly. I don’t think anyone ever told her that. She may not yet know the skills she needs to survive now that the old world is dead and gone, but she’s a fast learner and adaptable, and a lot tougher than she realizes. If she wasn’t so soft-hearted, I’d say she was perfect for The Unit.


Jess: Survivors of this plague have lost almost everything that society holds dear. How do you cope with that?

Justin: I never needed that stuff. I mean, it was nice to have and all, but I spent a lot of time without it.

And maybe I was more prepared, mentally, for this because I’ve seen it before on a smaller scale. I’ve been in countries where the centralized government collapsed and it devolved into the law of the jungle, the strong preying on the weak. Things fall apart; the center does not hold. And now there are a lot of people out there who don’t know what to do without the police to protect them, without the laws of polite society to keep everyone playing nice.

When I found her, Carly was still in shock, expecting the government to start up again any day now. I think that was one of the hardest thing for her to accept: that the laws of the land, the Constitution, elections, all of that’s gone. I’ll admit, I wasn’t much of a fan of the government, probably because I worked too closely with it, but I don’t think we’re going to see anything like it for a long time. Carly, though, thinks we’re going to rebuild and create something even better. I’m not going to argue with her about it. Her hope is one of the things that keeps her going.


Jess: What are your values?

Justin: We had a code in The Unit. Honor, loyalty, trust… Maybe I’ve got a little bit of Carly’s idealism because I still honor it. I may be the last man standing, but I’m not going to let that code die, too.

It’s one of the reasons I’m glad I found Carly. I know I can trust her to watch my back. That’s invaluable out here in the wasteland. And that wolf of hers… I’m not entirely sold on Sam, but he’s growing on me. She trusts him. Maybe he’ll watch my back while I’m watching hers. Wait—That came out wrong. I didn’t mean I was watching her. I meant … Well, okay, maybe I am watching her a little. She’s cute. What can I say?


Jess: Perhaps I ought to add, ‘What do you value’?

Justin: Right now I’ve got to think about practicalities. Food and the means to obtain it. Weapons. Transport. Medication. I’ve got to find a way to get whatever Carly needs. Right now, that just means scavenging and trying to think of places others might have missed. But later it may mean something different. Carly won’t like it, but I promised I’d protect her. Carly is the daughter of one of the men who used to be in The Unit. It’s part of the code: if a man should fall, the rest of us will take care of his family. And I’ll do whatever it takes.


Jess: What does ‘family’ mean to you?

Justin: Carly said the other day that a home is where people love you. I guess a family is like that, too. I wouldn’t know.

The closest I ever had was the guys in The Unit, but that wasn’t a bond based on emotion. It was loyalty and honor that tied us together. I like to think some of them are still alive out there, somewhere. If anyone had a shot at survival, it’s those guys.


Jess: What does ‘humanity’ mean to you?

Justin: Carly seems to think it’s all the old values of altruism, generosity and mercy. But from what I’ve seen of humanity when civilization is stripped away, those things are in short supply.


Jess: What do you see as the future of the human race?

Justin: I’m not all that convinced it has a future, but Carly does. And as stubborn as that woman is, she may rebuild the whole damn civilization herself.


Jess: Thanks for spending this time with us today. Best of luck in the future!

Justin: Thanks.

 NOTE TO READERS: This is one of my favourite novels. I’m guest-blogging today at http://www.firstpagetothelast.com/ . Please visit to read my review.

Lissa Bryan’s website: http://www.lissabryan.com/







Narcissism 101: My Writing Evolution

Writer poster

Talking about how I came to be a writer feels awfully self-centered. But, what the heck?

When I was a rug rat, I got sick and my mother got super-anxious because the doctor didn’t take it seriously. Not even when I attempted to die. Ends up, I was diabetic and my blood sugar was over 800 (Old scale. I think that’s like having an A1C of 80 today. Normal is 5). My mother was told I wouldn’t live. I did. Then, she was told I wouldn’t walk again. I did. At the age of four, she put me in ballet. I danced until I was 16, when weak ankles prevented me from going en pointe.

Doctors don’t know everything.

My point? I think when I temporarily lost the ability to walk, my imagination took over. Like in Polyanna.

Boredom is a foreign concept. I think the only time I’ve ever been bored is when trapped in my Grade 9 (a.k.a. Freshman Year of high school) math class, with a teacher who said “Um… err,” every other word. It’s the only time I’ve ever considered doing violence. Seriously, abusing the English language like that? Grounds for mayhem. We spent four months learning how to do basic fractions. Sigh.

Why be bored if you can construct worlds in your head? Use your imagination, already!

9-19-2008_010 - Copy croppedI’ve always had an affinity for words. When I was two, I told my doctor that after someone took a bath, there was condensation on the toilet, which vibrated when flushed.

(Did I mention I was weird eccentric? Might as well put that out there right now.)

By the time I was three, I was reading and writing. Somewhere, my mother has a recording of me reading The Fwee Littoh Peegs. I think she played it for every friend I ever had. Most of them did not run away screaming. Yeah, I had good friends.

When I was five, I had a (very) short story published in an educational tome. I’m still fond of that story. That was likely the first time I said, “I want to be a writer.” I have a binder of stories I wrote as a child. Who knows? Someday, I might update and publish them. Not exactly my normal area of concentration. *coughs –spicy romance- coughs* But hey, Judy Blume gets away with writing two disparate genres. Of course, she’s Judy Blume. She’s on Twitter, by the way. I tweeted with her once… *fangirl moment*

At eight, I read at an adult level. I was annoying like that.

As a hobby, in Grade 7 and 8, I wrote three reference book manuscripts about animals, birds and fish, complete with drawings. I showed them to my school librarian. I think he was gobsmacked that a kid my age would spend scads of spare time compiling reference material. Alien. He wanted me to publish, but I hadn’t credited my sources, so I couldn’t do anything with the manuscripts. Now, we have the Internet and kids don’t need books like that anyhow.

In Grade 9, I met my first mentor, a genius who had abandoned teaching in a prestigious university in favour of shaping young minds. His name was Merv Sharpe and I don’t think I’d be a writer today were it not for him. He’d scrawl pages and pages of English notes on five blackboards and when class was over, not a few kids were groaning and clutching cramped hands.

The majority of my friends were quirky. They’d have been the fringe kids today, probably. Most of the guys had mullets (except my pal Brian J., who was an army cadet). Most of the girls were a bit punk, with earrings in unusual places and dyed, spiky hair. I had a ducktail like David Bowie. I put this highlight-stuff on it that washed out. It was like gold paint and it came in a mascara-like tube. My guy friends were hooked on Metallica and Skinny Puppy, and the girls were into Billy Idol and Eurythmics. As for me, I was absorbing Bowie 24-7, with a dash of Sting and Peter Gabriel thrown in for kicks.

The kids a year older than me let me hang out with them in Art. The ones my age jammed in the music room during lunch hour. Great times.

Yeah, I’m nostalgic about the Eighties. Sue me. The clothes and hair were epic. I still wear my Esprit jean jacket, which cost me a whopping $50 back in 1986. Quality lasts.

I can still sing you any Bowie song up to 1989. Try me.

He’s still got it. Just sayin’. I really want to see his multimedia art exhibition, but it probably won’t happen for me.

I got Mr. Sharpe again in Grade 13 (a.k.a. Senior Year #2). I’d get my work done and my pal Brian J. and I would start exchanging notes and sketches. Mr. Sharpe noticed, and in the hope that he could prevent us from plotting world domination, he started passing us sheets of foolscap with one word (or phrase) at the top, written in red. B.J. and I would spend the rest of the class responding to the teacher’s note. We’d swap papers and read them, then, hand them in. I still remember some of those pages:


Would you rather be a legend or a myth?

Hero vs. heroine.

Astrology and astronomy.

Merv Sharpe taught me how to express opinions and emotion on paper. If I could see him today, I’d hug him. I missed seeing him at my 20th high school reunion. Boo.

In my teens, I dabbled in poetry. Somehow, I got a couple of poems published in a compilation. My family spent more buying half a dozen copies than I ever made off it, with good reason. I’d prefer that it never see the light of day.

University? I didn’t think a Lit degree would snare me a job, so I majored in music, specializing in Music Education. I’m a Dramatic Soprano. Betcha don’t know what that is! Technically, I can conduct a band or choir (You wouldn’t want me to). Plus, I tried out a bunch of instruments. Although I played a lot of flute, I cherish a secret hope to play the oboe professionally, but I don’t have the time to indulge every dream. I also loved bassoon, but I suck at clarinet. I minored in French, English Lit, and Psychology. My intent was to go to Teacher’s College, but my grandmother had Parkinson’s and I didn’t want to leave home. My mother worked and Grammie would have had to go into a nursing home. Not an option.

Then, I met Hubbs. I was his boss in the Opera Workshop program, where I was in charge of props and dressings. I took one look and thought, “I could marry him.” That was 22 years ago.

Later, I was a stage manager. We finished up school, then found out music degrees weren’t very handy. He decided to trade being an opera singer for accounting, and I took a six month course in Secretarial Sciences. That’s where I got my typing up to 90wpm. Need a job? If you’ve got a computer, take advantage of a free Learn to Type program and practice, practice, practice. Here’s one for you: http://www.typingweb.com/ All it costs you is time, and you can get all kinds of work out of it.

Motherhood. The only things I wrote for 12 years were letters to my children. And grocery lists.  Suddenly, Microsoft rocked our world. You might have known me in the Potterverse as Sculdermully. I may have written an online essay or three. I daydreamed Harry Potter and X-Files. I’m not sure I got a fair night’s sleep in ten years, but I read like a fiend.  Effectively, I was making up fanfic in my head, but never wrote anything down. And that’s because I don’t think you can improve upon JK Rowling. Chris Carter’s a fanfic writer’s dream, though.

People told me to read Twilight for months. I did, and was underwhelmed. But I took my kids to see it, and Boom! Robert Pattinson entered Stage Left. The whole Twiverse burst into colour and not long after, I discovered the world of fan fiction. I read everything I could find for about a year. Free stories!!! Then, I decided to take the risk of writing one of my own.

Amazingly, there was an audience for it.

Fan fiction is a wonderful way to train as a writer. Basically, you’re writing an old-fashioned serial novel and readers are glad to give you feedback on each chapter. If you’re fortunate, experienced editors are willing to train you, free of charge. As another plus, you meet other writers and you might even meet some professionals.

Why write someone else’s canon? Well, because we love the stories and characters and we have ideas of where we’d like to take them. Places the original author didn’t.

I read and review. A lot. About three years ago, I started paying the community back by editing for other new writers. Eighteen months ago, I was approached by a publisher to write an original novel. I wrote the manuscript, but they decided (after much debate) that a group of Italian-Canadian moms (age 45 to 60) wouldn’t use Facebook to match make their kids.

Um, that’s my age group. All my friends use Facebook. And I hate to tell you, but matchmaking’s not dead, even in Canada. Scary boo.

So, I’m going to start querying other publishers in about a week, once my kids’ birthdays have passed. I have to rewrite my synopsis and a new query letter before that.

This is an exciting life. I love mentoring, pre-reading and editing. It’s taken me nearly five years, but so would any education. And you can learn from any writer, even one who’s penning her first short story. You just have to be open to input. We all have lessons to learn.

I’m starting a new challenge in November: NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write 50K in one month. I’ve never done NaNo before and it seems like a good way to chunk away at my next manuscript. I’m actually writing my original series out of order because the characters in Book Three just won’t stop yelling at me. I have 22K words of it, and I want to be at 75K by the end of November. Of course, real life happens and if I don’t get there, I know it will still happen.

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So, who’s with me? Care to pick up your virtual pen for NaNo? Sign in, then look me up. I’m going to need your encouragement.