Tuesday, December 31, 2019

I had to sneak this book into my top ten (now eleven) best books I read in 2019. I just saw it on my shelf and gasped. I loved it very much.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

My 2019 Top 10

Bunny by Mona Awad

The Towers of Babylon by Michelle Kaiser

Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim

Crow by Amy Spurway

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

All the Living by CE Morgan

This Is All A Lie by Thomas Trofimuk 

Monday, December 9, 2019

I had a huge breakthrough moments ago. I've been struggling to figure out this scene for six months! And I finally did it!


By going to work?

Ah yes, reality. There you are.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A fail and a win

I failed to meet my self-imposed deadline for this revision this weekend. I'm committed to making it really fucking good, and it's still not quite there. Who knew that "non-polemical international geopolitical upmarket page-turners based on exhaustive historical research and analysis of contemporary foreign policy and events" were so hard to write? Sigh...

Anyways, in better news, I got this new sweatshirt on Friday. I'm really excited about it, which maybe seems weird unless you grew up in Ontario in the 80s and watched too much tv.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

For my personal historical record

This is what Mischief Reef looked like when I started dreaming up this novel:

This is what it looks like now:

This is what I looked like when I started writing this novel:

This is what I look like now as I finish it:

We both look overworked. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I am a person who sometimes writes

No wonder I have nightmares... revision notes stalk me in my sleep!

In spite of those nightmares, the revisions are going well. I think this is the case for two reasons: 1) I love this book (even though it scares me) and 2) I only write for as long as it is fun to write. Then I pack up and get on with my day. After all, if it isn't fun, what the hell am I doing this for? Money? Acclaim? LOL

In my kid - teen years, I loved writing because it was fun. The most fun thing ever, actually. My list of fun went like this:

10) Singing along to The Beatles and Radiohead in my room
9) Painting murals
8) Crafting
7) Baking
6) Playing tennis
5) Reading Anne Rice and Maeve Binchy novels
4) Making movies
3) Watching TV and movies
2) Playing volleyball
1) Writing

As I get older, I sometimes find myself slipping into a sour mood due to the financial realities and the small heartbreaks of the fiction-writing life. But it's a privilege to have the time, health and passion to write novels, and I'm trying not to take that for granted any more. I think sticking to my "only if it's fun" rule will help me stay in love with writing fiction despite the challenges that come with it. Because really, in the grand scheme of things, these challenges aren't so challenging. And there is so much more to life away from the laptop. 

Writing is what I do in my free time and my (paying) career, so it's been easy to fall into the "I am a writer" identity trap. But exploring other facets of myself is, of course, important, and I plan on doing more of that once this novel is done. But until that day comes, I'll be mindful of enjoying the time I have with this manuscript.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

On leaving our private circle

I loved and so related to this 2017 essay by Jonathan Lee (author of High Dive), "The Peculiar Power of a Zadie Smith Sentence." Here's a brief excerpt:

"Good fiction is often about connection, about feeling less alone, about imagining yourself into other people’s shoes and finding your own imaginative limits, as a writer and a reader. And in moments in history where communities come under threat, or are being be blasted apart, the written word has an even greater power to connect people: through a story, through a single sentence, through jokes, through anecdote, through the words painted on a protest sign. Words are one of the means we have to leave our private circle and discover something else: other people’s experiences, struggles, private and political histories. Words are, among other things, a form of transport. 
People often talk about books as facilitating “escapism.” But I don’t want to escape into vacuous nothingness. I have bad TV for that. I want to escape into other lives, their complexities. I turn to the writers who can do that for me."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Two dreams came true

Two dreams recently became reality: 
1) New bangs have taken me that much closer to my true form
2) Got my ideal literary agent

I'm so lucky to be represented by Hilary McMahon of Westwood Creative. She really gets the book, both what it is now and how I can make it even better. (Also: her team at Westwood is A+.) I'm excited to get working on some revisions. As a matter of fact, I should be doing that now instead of blogging so excuse me ok? bye.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Raptors win it all! Yay! Hurrah! Nice goggles, Kawhi! Yippee! #WeTheNorth!
(I fell asleep in the third quarter.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Two is nice, but three is nicer. 

I have an idea for a third book.

I didn’t think I had it in me. I thought two books would be it, but here I am—back at it. It’s a good thing, too, because when I don’t have a book to work on, I tend to come up with half-baked schemes.

Wish me luck. (I will need it.)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Publishers Marketplace got back to me... and I am SO glad I asked.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

No literary fiction, PM?

The Search Deals section on Publishers Marketplace. Wherefore art thou "Literary"?

I recently purchased a Publishers Marketplace subscription at the urging of my friend Alana. It's quite an education, and I recommend it for all authors. Even if you only pay for one month, which is what I'm doing (for $25), you can discover much about the business side of publishing. I'm learning about literary agents and their deals, and which editors are buying what, all that stuff. Some authors don't want to know about this side of things, but I think it's important to be as informed as possible without losing my mind.

A few surprising things, especially in PM's Search Deals section. That "Women's" is still a category enrages me and will never stop enraging me, and I have no idea what "New Adult" means. Also, I find it fascinating that "debut" is considered a category unto itself.

Most strangely to me is that there is no category for "Literary." Why, PM, why? I'd bet that 1000 agents in Canada, the US and the UK combined represent literary fiction and explicitly call for it in their agency bios -- I certainly queried nearly 80 or so of them when I was agent-searching for my first novel. But still... "literary" doesn't have a category? I'm assuming it is relegated to the "general/other" category, which feels alienating to me. Who am I on PM? An Other? A General? There is a proper essay here somewhere but I'm too tired to write it.

I take this personally, as my first book was literary fiction and my second is a literary thriller. MFA programs must take this personally, too, since they graduate thousands of "literary" fiction writers every year. But the lack of this category on PM serves as further evidence to what I've always known: that literary fiction as a category is problematic. Many assume it to be hard to define, plotless, obnoxious, navel-gazing, grandiose, a sales killer... and it's been called worse. But it is a category that is widely used -- AND OH BY THE WAY IT IS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GREATEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME -- so why not in Publishers Marketplace?

UPDATE: After I published this post, I remembered that I, in fact, have agency and that PM, in fact, has a "Contact Us" tab on their website. I shall query them directly and report back to the blog.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Publishers Marketplace got back to me and their response made me laugh out loud.
"At the end of the day 'literary' is too squishy when it comes to fiction for a formal database. Note that there's no "literary section" in the store. Essentially, you will find literary fiction primarily in debut (from which most genre debuts are not included) and general/other."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Vacation hair/reading

I got zero writing done while on vacation in Mexico last week, and it felt great. Between the novel and my full-time writing job, I'm burnt out. I did get reading done, though. Finally finished The Haunting of Hill House, which was not scary and every character sounded exactly the same, so I'm confused about what the big deal is. I also made good progress on Christopher Andrew's The Secret World, which is a fascinating compendium on the history of intelligence (thanks for the lend, Rupert!). I started Amy Spurway's Crow, which I'm enjoying immensely. (I'll be interviewing Amy at Ben McNally's on April 25, btw. Come!) But mostly my vacation consisted of overeating gluten-free waffles and guacamole, overspending on daytrips off the resort, and revelling in quality time with my husband.

For the last few years, I've been using all of my vacation time to work on the new novel. It's been mostly wonderful, don't get me wrong; having a story that I'm obsessed with telling is a joy. But it takes a toll on the rest of my life -- as in actually living one. I already have chronic pain which limits me, and though book writing is a life unto itself, it does limit me as well. So while the chronic pain came with me on this vacation, I managed it ok, and the book writing didn't come with me at all. I love writing, but goddamn if we didn't need to spend some time apart.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A survey

Now that my second novel is written should I:

a) start writing my third novel, or
b) work on the Christmas screenplay I've been threatening to write for years, or
c) plunge headfirst into a deep pool of reality TV and come up for air sometime in 2021?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Book event alert!

On Thursday, April 25 at 6:00 p.m., I'll be interviewing Amy Spurway  about her debut novel, Crow. The event is part of Ben McNally's free and fantastic "In Her Voice" series. You can find more details about the event here.

I've interviewed a lot of people in my weird career, but this is the first time I get to do a one-on-one with a fellow author. Amy seems very cool so I'm hella excited to chat her up about her characters, her writing process, her feelings about releasing her debut novel, how she came up with the idea for the book, all that good stuff!

Books will be for sale, and there will be snacks. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

It's been a long week. I just want to write "they do it in the sand" and be done with it.

Hunting for a sex scene that I wrote but never used is very on-brand.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


You know a country is a warmonger when you try to make up fictional names for warships and aircraft carriers only to find that they are ALL actually in use.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

My beloved Freehand Books

There's a nice article in The Calgary Herald about my very favourite small press in all of the land, Freehand Books.


The writer interviews the wonderful acting managing editor Anna Boyar, goes into Freehand's indie-as-it-gets approach to publishing, and talks up some of their new titles. I'm excited for Freehand right now because their book Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winne Yeung is part of this year's CBC Canada Reads debate, which could be huge in terms of sales for the teeny tiny press. Freehand puts so much love and care into their books (including mine); it's a delight to see them getting their due.

Here's the article.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


I just typed "the end."

That just happened.

What that means is...

Wait... is it possible?

Yes, yes it is.

My solid draft of the new book is done.

I can't... wait...

How did... did I?

My god, I think I just wrote a second novel. And I think it might actually be good!

So what now? My plan, if I can manage it, will be to not look at my manuscript for two months, then do some more revising. I've been revising heavily as I write, so hopefully it won't be too painful, but it will definitely be some kind of painful. Speaking of painful, boy oh boy I sure am not looking forward to pitching again. A few agents have been recommended to me and they seem fantastic, but I'm still a bit nervous about going through all of that again.

Right now, though, I shouldn't worry about all that. Instead, I should celebrate. Only, it's -27 with the windchill and I've been dealing with an antibiotic-resistant UTI from hell since August that has really picked up steam this week. So I think I'll celebrate this accomplishment by watching Groundhog Day, drinking 57 litres of water and praying that my kidneys don't explode.

Ahh life.

Friday, January 18, 2019

When something unexpected happens in any story of mine, my initial response in dialogue is always "WHAT THE—."

This will not sustain me as a novelist.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

As you may have noticed from my recent posts, I've been spending some hours with Margaret Atwood in her MasterClass. I watched the last lesson today, and I'm happy to report that I greatly enjoyed our time together.

Her class is especially helpful for writers who have yet to endure the experience of seeing a novel all the way through, from concept to bookstore shelf. She offers up many essential craft basics, as well as examples from her own writing and that of others to illustrate her points. She truly knows her stuff (obviously) and her delivery is full of encouragement. She's also funny and charming, so the entertainment value is high; even though her tips weren't often new to me, I was never bored.

Personally, even though I was familiar with much of the content already, it was helpful to get "big-picture" reminders from her -- a writer I deeply respect and admire -- specifically the screenshots I featured on this blog. These reminders have proved quite useful as I finish up the final stages of writing my second manuscript.

MasterClass isn't cheap, but if you stumble across it at half price like I did (thanks Mariska!), and you're dying to write a novel but you haven't a clue about what that entails, or you're a huge fan of Atwood's, or you're a more experienced writer who needs a boost, I recommend it.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Tuesday, January 1, 2019