This blog has moved…

Dear Blog Readers,

With the launch of my new website at, this blog is moving too! The new blog location is

Are you a subscriber? If you want to keep receiving updates, please pop over to the new blog and click subscribe. I would love to take you all with me, but there is no way to do that automatically. You need to go to the new blog and click the FOLLOW button in the bottom right hand corner.

I really hope you will!

If you have this blog in your Google or Yahoo or other reader, please update your RSS feed from the new site.

Where is the new blog again? It’s right here:

As an added enticement…I’m giving away an advance copy of Confined Space at the new blog this week. Contest ends May 1, 2012! Hope to see you “over there!”

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Confined Space

Here is the news, my friends.

CONFINED SPACE will be published in Canada this June by Simon & Schuster. And here… drum roll…is the cover:

Don’t you LOVE it? I love it.

Okay, now wait. Check this: click on the cover photo, and you can read the jacket copy.

Cool, hey?

Pre-order info
For years, many kind people have been asking: “Where can I buy your book?”
I finally have an answer for you!

If you prefer to shop at a bricks and mortar store, you will be able to buy Confined Space from Canadian booksellers as of early June. If you want to make sure that your local bookstore or library gets it in, then take them the ISBN number 145166947X and ask them to pre-order it for you.

If you prefer to shop for books over the internet, click here to pre-order from Amazon, and here to pre-order from Chapters Indigo.

Confined Space will also be available as an ebook, and I will post those links for you on another day. Because this is a lot to take in all at once – don’t you agree?

Are you excited?
That is the other question I am getting asked a lot these days. Yes, I’m excited. And just a wee bit nervous. Because you are all about to find out exactly what goes on in this head of mine.

How about you? Are you excited?

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First day of spring

I have my head down so I can’t see the weather salad out my window: snow and fog with a side of below freezing temperatures. Welcome to spring!

There are some big changes headed this way.

First: After almost three years, my blog baby is about to grow up into a real, honest to goodness website. I’m working with a super talented designer who asks me to send her lists of adjectives. How do I want my website to feel?  She doesn’t bat an eye when I tell her I want it to feel orange.

Second: Once the new site is up I will be posting more, but less. Because less is the new more. We will be able to have shorter, more frequent conversations about all kinds of stuff. After last year’s tomato fiasco, I’m hoping you will coach me on how to grow the perfect tomato in a pot. Plus we can talk about writing and small people. And beer. Because who doesn’t want to talk about beer?

Third: There is BIG NEWS coming to this very space next week. Please stay tuned. You definitely won’t want to miss this.

In the meantime, here are some tulips for you. HAPPY SPRING!

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Math for authors

I failed a class once. Just once. A math class. It was while I was in CEGEP, which is a concept that exists only in Quebec, Canada. Basically, it’s a junior college that acts as a sorter for students. University? Over here. Trades? Over there.

And for those of us lumped into the university pile, the sorting continued: health sciences, applied sciences, social sciences, liberal arts and fine arts. That math class was not just a math class. It was the last thread between me and one of the more “serious” social science disciplines like economics or geography that might have resulted in, you know, a proper job.

I had to go to summer school to make up the lost credits. I took an art history course.

How to count to 100

This is my son’s recent math project. He’s in grade two, and this is how he learned to count to one hundred.

When I was seven, if I could have felt the smooth hardness of kidney beans under my fingers as I counted them out and ever so carefully glued them to ultra-big Popsicle sticks – well, I think I would have been better at math.

Don’t you?

Last week I was at a parent meeting and one of the school administrators said something interesting. He said: in order to be good at something, it has to be meaningful in your life. If there is a way to make math have meaning in your life, you’ll be good at math.

How to count to 100,000

Back in 2004 when that seven-year old was born, I made the decision that I needed to write the mystery novel I promised myself I would write when I was seven years old. The first thing I did was take a class. I can’t remember the instructor’s name, but the workshop was called something like “How to Write a Novel in 20 Minutes a Day.” It was my first introduction to what I now call “Math for Authors”.

Here’s how it works:

The average mystery novel is made up of about 70,000 words. So, basically, if you write 191 words a day, you can write a novel in a year.

My books are a bit longer. I think Confined Space comes in at 110,000 words, so I would need to write 301 words a day to pound that novel out in a year.

Simple. The instructor shared his method for outlining, so that you don’t lose track of where you are in the story. And off we went: parents, doctors, veterinarians, realtors, armed with the math we needed to fit novel-writing into our busy lives. Painlessly.

Writing is not typing

According to Wikipedia, the average computer user has a typing speed of about 33 words per minute. Using this math, it would take me about nine minutes and five seconds a day to write a novel in a year.

I tried this for several years. It was an approach that allowed me to think that, while I had two preschool children and a full time job, I could still fulfill my dream of writing mystery novels. And at the time, that was a very important idea to cling to.

Here’s the thing: writing is not typing. Counting is not writing. 100,000 words, typed into a document, do not a novel make. At least not one I would want to read. And that was my goal: to write a novel I would want to read.

However, as much as the 20-minutes-a-day formula has its failings, it did teach me something important. Write for twenty minutes (or even nine minutes and five seconds) every day and before long, you will find ways to write more, and longer, and better.

Math for authors 201

I started seriously drafting my second novel at the end of June last year. (Truth be told, this is my fourth novel, if you count the two that I wrote using the 20-minute method. Those are locked away forever and that’s a very good thing.) In any case, last June I had an outline, a bunch of research and about 15,000 words written. You could say I had something of a head start, but that is when the serious work began.

Everyday, I write my word count on a legal pad that I keep on my desk. Looking back on seven months of data, I can learn some very interesting things about my current writing habits.

My lowest output was on September 4th when I wrote 7 words. My highest output was on July 6th when some miracle of astrological alignment allowed me to write 3812 words. There were lots of days when I wrote about 1300 words, or 1000, or 500. There were two months when, because of moving and intensive editing of Book 1, I did not write at all.

I beat the words out at times and other times it felt like they jumped out of me all on their own. I held myself to a daily count and then negotiated up or down, like an alcoholic, or a dieter. I went with the flow and wrote when I had the chance, between writing press releases and e-newsletters and annual reports, between soccer practice and snow school, sick kids and dinner and laundry.

There were many days when there were no words added. I spent my writing time walking or thinking or reading a book. Writing notes and yes, stressing out that I was not adding words.

And in the end? Each and every month, no matter how I did it, if I was writing, I wrote 15,000 words.

The new math

Could it be that I have an internal writing rhythm, and that I have now discovered what it is? Could it be that, if I give myself time and space to write everyday, I will write 15,000 words in a month?  No pressure. No stress. No crack of the whip needed. I average 500 words a day.


Of course, now you’ve done the math and you’ve realized that I must be close to the 100,000 word point on this novel. You are right. I’m just a week or two away. That is, assuming the story cooperates and actually ends at the 100,000 word point, which is not looking promising at the moment.

But here’s the other thing that was left out of the 20-minutes-a-day formula: editing. That’s the part that comes next.

As soon as I get to the end of the story, word count becomes meaningless. On a good editing day I will take out more words than I put in. It will likely be June or July before I start this whole process over and start counting words again.

And next time? I’m thinking of getting tactile with my counting. I’m thinking 100,000 kidney beans and 10,000 big popsicle sticks. And lots and lots of glue.

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Prolonged exposure

If there was one thing that surprised me most about having children, it was this: I never expected them to be so LOUD.

Now, I know what you are going to say. Yes, it’s true that I’m a writer. There is no doubt that I love silence. I can go through whole days where the only words that leave my mouth between the time my kids leave for school and when they get home are “double Americano, please.” And that’s only because we are new to town and the servers at the coffee shop don’t know me yet.

I used to think it was me. In fact, for the ten and a half years since my first son was born I thought there was something wrong with me. How could I find my child so loud? When we had a second child, the volume doubled. It didn’t matter whether they were laughing, crying, talking, arguing with each other, explaining to me with their ever-increasing powers of persuasion why I should let them have what they wanted, cackling with glee or throwing a tantrum. My kids were loud. I often found myself cringing from the sound of their voices and this added to the terrible burden of guilt which, like every self-respecting mother, I drag with me everywhere.

Window or aisle?
When my eldest son was eighteen months old we flew from Toronto to Vancouver. We were those people you hope never to have to sit next to on a plane. My sweet child wailed and kicked for three hours until he fell, damp-faced and gasping, into the exhausted sleep-state of a post-tantrum toddler.

During that flight I suffered a sudden, significant hearing loss in my left ear. In the ensuing eight years I’ve seen several specialists and been for all manner of tests and all they can say for sure is that it’s not a tumor. But it’s also not the standard gradual hearing loss caused by nerve damage that is common with aging. They think there is some kind of blockage or pressure issue. Something shifted. But underneath that shifted something, I can hear just fine.

There’s an app for that
The other day my husband and I sat down for a quiet chat. The kids were outside playing spies with their friends on the block. It was the night before New Year’s Eve and all was, well, quiet. And pretty darned peaceful.

When the streetlights came on the kids tumbled in. Our two, plus a friend. They settled into the kitchen for some snacks and a play by play of their afternoon adventures. Even though there were only three of them, and even though they were only talking, they were LOUD.

Even my husband noticed. Of course, he has no time for guilt. He would never for a moment think that not being able to tolerate a chorus of children was some failing of his own. Besides, he works in the school system. His entire career is based on being able to think and speak over top of a soundtrack of children’s voices.

“I have to check this,” he said. He proceeded to download a noise level meter onto his phone and check the decibel level in the kitchen.

The loudest sound
It turns out that three children chatting excitedly in the kitchen on New Year’s Eve eve register on a sound level meter at 100 decibels (dB). According to this nifty chart , the weakest sound heard is OdB. The loudest sound possible is 194 dB. The symphony of children’s voices that day was like the volume knob for the whole universe turned to the half way point. It was the equivalent to the sound of a motorcycle or a snowmobile, louder than a subway train, not quite as loud as a power saw.

This useful chart also tells us that pain begins at 125dB. It tells us that hypertension and psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure. It tells us that, according to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers can only be exposed to a sound level of 100dB for two hours per day.

However, parenting is not an occupation governed by safety regulation.

Seen but not heard
One of the ear specialists told me that surgery might help, but it might also make my hearing worse. Since I don’t actually have nerve damage I’m a great candidate for a hearing aid. One of those almost-invisible new devices that cost as much as the down payment on our first house would work like a charm.

But do I want to hear better?

Even with my hearing loss I can hear my kids just fine, except when they mumble. And who wants mumbly kids? Plus I’ve gotten really good at lip-reading, so I can tell from across the room when they are plotting surreptitious screen time. Maybe this hearing loss thing has some advantages.

Now that I know it’s not just me, I’m shedding that truck load of guilt. It’s a fact. My kids are loud. Almost as loud as a tympani drum, which provides one third of the volume in a 75-piece orchestra.

It’s nice to know that the option of hearing better is there for me, when and if I want it. I figure I’ll start saving now. By the time my bundles of joy go off to college, I’ll have enough to buy that hearing aid.

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In the meantime…

I have emerged from edit 86b slash 12 dash 6 of Confined Space to find that:

1. I’m still married.

2. I still run a business and still have clients.

3. It’s two weeks until Christmas.

4. There is a contractor in the bathroom and a hole in the roof.

I can also see from my blog stats that you are the sweetest people in the world! You are stopping by to see what I am up to, and I’m not ignoring you, really. I have a great post planned for the very moment I catch my breath.

In the meantime, why not check this out? This awesome video was filmed in Rossland, Trail and Nelson. The Nelson part is right at the end and goes down a street that is steps from where I live. I can tell you that this guy had the guts to do what every person aged 3 to 93 wishes they could do when they walk by that street after a fresh snowfall. Enjoy!   

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

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The month that begins with No

In my last post I promised I’d be back in November, and, well, here I am.  Forgive me if I’m not quite myself, it’s just that, it’s November. I’m a little frozen,  a little shell-shocked, and frankly, feeling a little exposed.

Remember a few months back, I posted about moving to a new town? Well, we did that. It was a flurry. It all happened fast and there was much to get used to. Now we are here. Everyone is settled and the new has begun.

If you’ve been following along with my Twitter activity, you will know that I have been tracking the changes in season closely in this new landscape. I’m completely fascinated by the mountains here, which are closer, and the valley, which is tighter, and the lake, which is right there, almost close enough to touch. I’m aided in this fascination by a panoramic view outside my writing room window.

Here is how things looked when we first arrived at the end of July:

August is a month I look back on with fuzzy, happy thoughts. It’s the month when my kids actually said, more than once: “Do we have to go to the beach, again?” It’s the month when all the doors and windows of the old Victorian we’ve rented were open and there was sunshine and fresh air streaming in and each time I turned a corner there was a new and beautiful angle of light to discover. 

I wrote a lot in August. In the evenings, the crows would go visiting, flapping lazily from one tree to the next. I would write to the sounds of their raucous block party.

Then came September. School started. I don’t really remember September.

October looked like this:

It was a perfect kiss of a month with long walks and sunshine and an orange canopy of leaves to replace the sun on cloudy days. Some days the clouds would come down the lake, I could see them coming, teasing us. But there was still colour. Those clouds did not scare me.


And now here it is, November:

Yes, you see what I mean? I am eyeing the leaves piled on the corners, trying to absorb all their colour, while I still can, before all colour gets bagged up and carted away until spring


There is lots happening this November. I have an announcement coming soon, one I have no doubt you will be very excited about. Yes, it involves a publisher, and it involves my manuscript becoming a book. Soon. I am now working with an editor, and by the end of the month that begins with No I will have completed yet another edit (no, really, this should be the last) of Confined Space.

While I’m editing, it is unlikely that I will be blogging. I probably won’t be talking much either. But I will be going for long walks, and contemplating this new landscape. A new Twitter follower asked me today if I would post a photo a day, and while I may not be able to blog while editing, I think that is something I can do. So, during the remainder of this month, if you want to see pieces of the world through my eyes, just follow along with my posts on Twitter. You can find me here.

Please, don’t panic. You don’t actually have to join Twitter, if you don’t want, though I promise it is not as scary as you think. You can just click on the link above, or on the Twitter feed to the right of this blog, and see my most recent posts, and daily photo. No commitment, no strings attached. Just follow along if you like.

Let’s see if we can find some colour in this month.

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