Treasured Sweater Memories

I have a treasure in my office. It hangs on the back of my chair for whenever I need it–which is most days, because my office is in the basement and it’s freezing down here!

It’s miles too big for me, but that doesn’t matter.

It’s also showing its age a little bit (it has all kinds of those little balls of fuzz and fluff attached to it) because I’ve had it for almost 23 years. but that doesn’t matter either.

What matters is its story. Because it has one.

You see, my mom made this sweater for my dad when he was diagnosed with cancer. It was her last Christmas gift to him, because he died the following June, three days after my youngest daughter was born. As I was the only sibling in the city, it fell to me to help mom clean out his things in the following months. Most of his clothes went to goodwill, but she kept a couple of his shirts, and I got to keep the sweater.

Twelve years later, Mom died, too.

The sweater survives to this day. Woven through with Mom’s love for Dad, and with the memory of him wearing it etched in my mind, it feels like a warm, comforting hug from both of them when I put it on. And it’s now been a part of almost every story I’ve written.

I suspect it will adorn my office chair…and me…for the rest of my life. 

Shadow of Doubt Cover Reveal!

I am beyond thrilled to finally show you the cover for my upcoming romantic suspense release, Shadow of Doubt! This one was a toughie, because my former cover designer (who did such a fabulous job on Sins of the Lost, Sins of the Warrior, and Forever Grace) is no longer in the business, so I had to find someone new. And then we had to learn how to work together, which isn’t as easy as you might think. 😉

But in the end? I think Fiona Jayde Media nailed it, don’t you? 🙂

Oh, and you can look for preorders to start as soon as I have my copy edits back from my editor…announcements to come here and in my newsletter (which you’ve totally already signed up for, right? 😉 ).

ShadowOfDoubtFinal

When police officer Kate Dexter encounters a man on a dark country road, she’s stunned to find he’s been shot. Cut off from civilization by a vicious storm, she takes the unconscious stranger to her family’s farm to wait for help. But then Jonas Burke regains consciousness, and the story he tells gives Kate pause. Can he really be the victim of a conspiracy as he claims? Or is he the dirty-cop-turned-murderer she discovers is the subject of a Canada-wide warrant? With a full-blown manhunt under way for the fugitive she’s now harboring, Kate finds herself torn between duty and instinct as she and Jonas go after the evidence he promises will clear him. Their only chance at survival is to trust one another–but can Kate do that beyond a shadow of doubt?

Calling all readers!

Hello, dear readers!

I have a special project going on…wanna help? (Spoiler alert: it means you get to read my new books before they’re released!)

Here’s the scoop:

I’ve started compiling a list of readers interested in receiving  advance copies (warning: this means they won’t be copy edited, so typos may occur!) of my upcoming titles in exchange for reading and reviewing the book on one (or more…more is good! 😀 ) of the online retailer sites…Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. If you’re on Goodreads, you can totally post your review there, too. You don’t have to be a blogger to participate, just a reader…and reviews don’t have to be long. A few words will do, if that’s your style…but you’re also welcome to wax as poetic as you’d like. 🙂

And no, it doesn’t have to be a positive review. If you don’t like the book, you’re free to say so…I’m sure I’ll recover…eventually… 😉

Here’s how the program will work:

  1. I’ll email you a couple of weeks before I send a title to you.
  2. About two weeks before the book releases, I’ll send you a PDF copy of the book (which can be read on your computer, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or mobile device. (This copy is for your use only, and not to be shared.)
  3. On release day (or at the very latest, the day after), you’ll post your review to the retail site(s) of your choice.
  4. You’ll then email me a link to your review so I can keep you on the list for the next book.

So what do you think? Are you interested? Here’s the link for signup!

A Home Without Books

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about volunteering as an English tutor for Syrian refugees here in Ottawa. I didn’t mention it at the time, but something has been bothering me ever since my first visit with the family: they have no books.

None.

Not a one.

There are three boys, ages 7, 13, and 14, who go to school and are learning English there; and there’s a mom and dad 1who are taking English second language classes. The boys have homework, of course, and Mom and dad have photocopied workbook pages for their homework, but apart from that, not a single printed word in the house. Oh, and mom is functionally illiterate, too.

My friends, this simply will not do. Photocopied worksheets are not how anyone should learn to read and write, and books…books are as essential to a home as tables and chairs and beds. And so I’ve made it my mission to fill up this home and others in their community with words and colourful pictures. Lots of them. Picture dictionaries, early readers, colourful workbooks…whatever I can lay my hands on that will help this family learn the language of their new country–and hopefully learn to love that language.

And the best part? You can help me. 🙂

I’ve created a Go Fund Me page where you can make a donation (every dollar helps!) to help me bring books into this home and others like it. Check it out, give what you can, and share it widely…for the love of words, the love of reading, the love of helping others, and my undying gratitude.

Thank you so much!

C6ZmgoPWQAEDLIXLinda 

 


 

Breaking Barriers: Getting out of the Comfort Zone

So last night, I did something new to me: I met with a family of Syrian refugees that I’m going to be tutoring in English. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, and I have to admit that I was hesitant about the idea. Meeting new people is awkward for me to begin with—meeting people new to the country, new to the language, AND new to me? That seemed like a recipe for a whole new level of discomfort.Breaking Barriers: Getting out of the Comfort Zone

But I’m determined to find ways to give back to the world in 2017, and I’m pleased to say that it went well. Brilliantly, in fact. Not only were all my fears assuaged, but the experience far exceeded any hopeful expectations I’d allowed myself (me being of the generally optimistic sort 😉 ). The family was warm, welcoming, served lovely tea, and kept trying to feed me the entire hour I was there. I can’t wait to go again next week.

I also came away with much food for thought…starting with my own privilege.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but cringe at my hesitation to take on this opportunity in the first place. Here I was, worrying about my level of discomfort at spending an hour or two each week helping a family settle into my country…compare that to the trauma that family faced in losing everything they knew. Everything that was familiar and dear. Everything they owned.  Compare it to the incredible courage it took for them to move to a country where they knew no one, had nothing, and couldn’t even speak the language.

Let’s look at that again, shall we?

Me, in my comfortable middle-class life, giving up a couple of hours a week to teach my own language to someone.

Them, in a new country with nothing familiar and no way to communicate.

Yeah. 🙁

I consider myself to be pretty aware, generally speaking.  I watch the news, I follow current events, I support causes I believe in, and I share those causes on social media. In short, I do all the ‘right’ things for someone of my privilege level. All the things within my comfort zone.

But you know what? That’s not enough anymore. Not for me, not for you, not for any of us.

The world is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket right now, my friends. Comfort zones are a thing of extraordinary privilege—and now, they need to become a thing of the past, because we all need to step up. Every single one of us. Because no matter how uncomfortable we might be? I guarantee there’s someone even more uncomfortable.

So I challenge you to take a look around you. Really look. At your country, your city, your community, your neighbours.  Imagine if you were the one displaced or in need. Imagine how it must feel to be invisible. To not belong anywhere. And then imagine what a difference you can make to just one of those lives out there.

Have a car? Volunteer to drive someone to a doctor’s appointment. Need to declutter? Donate household goods to newcomers. Don’t like how things are shaping up politically? Call your local politician. Don’t know where to start? Heck, bake some cookies and take them to that new family down the street. Just do something, because your first step outside your comfort zone doesn’t need to be much, but it does need to be. And it needs to be now.

Plus, you might get invited in for some awesome tea and hilarious communication via hand signals. And trust me, that’s way more fun than you’ve had in a while. 😉

 

How My Writing Partner Broke My Brain (and helped me rediscover my mojo)

Last year was a difficult one for me, I won’t lie. My youngest daughter’s move away from home was fraught with
trauma, and so mine inevitably was, too. I spent the first five months of the year on 24-7 text alert as I tried to keep her glued together, the next month helping her transition home again, and the remaining six months trying to help her heal. Needless to say, it didn’t leave a lot of time or energy—or will!—for writing.

In fact, of the approximately three books I set out to write at the beginning of the year, I accomplished exactly…none. The most I could handle was the editing of a previously written book, Shadow of Doubt, that I released as a serialized novel on Radish Fiction and Wattpad…and there were times when even that task seemed insurmountable. With the arrival of the new year, however, home life was beginning to look more settled, which meant it was time to step back and take a look at my writing career…

It wasn’t pretty.

In fact, if I was objective about it, it was in shambles. It was bad enough that I hadn’t released anything new since 2015 (Forever Grace in April, and Sins of the Warrior in September), but even worse, I’d lost my confidence. My I-can-do-this-iveness” (yes, that’s totally a word 😛 ). My motivation.

Enter my writing partner, Marie Bilodeau, a prolific writer, savvy business person, and—it turns out—quite the ass-kicker. And boy-howdy, did she kick my ass. Which was a Good Thing, because said ass needed kicking. We started off the new year by setting writing goals—tough but manageable ones. We both had deadlines to meet, and I’d run out of excuses on mine (full confession: I’d had a full year to write the novel, but I hadn’t started until December).

I got off to a good start, meeting all my targets and sticking with my schedule for a whole week. Then I got sick. Then I injured my knee. Then I got sick again…and I lost two weeks that I absolutely could not afford. Then Marie and I went on a 5-day writers’ retreat to a cottage. My intention was to complete the novel while we were there, but I needed almost 20,000 words, and I had roughly zero faith in my ability to pull that off.

I hadn’t counted on Marie.

Once we got past the fire incident, she turned into a workhorse. For every 600 words I wrote, she did 3,000. I stopped for frequent breaks. She wrote through most of those, too. Two days slid past. It was painfully obvious to me that I wasn’t going to make it anywhere near my goal. Who was I kidding? I was ready to give up on the book altogether.

Marie kept writing.

Because I didn’t want to disturb her with television (and I’d forgotten to bring books with me for reading), I wrote, too. Slowly. Painfully. Grudgingly. When we did take breaks together, Marie encouraged (bullied? 😛 ) me to keep trying. “Push harder,” she’d say. “Push until your brain stops resisting. Just keep at it. You can do this.”

Frankly, she annoyed the hell out of me. (I love you, Marie! 😀 )

But damned if it didn’t work. On Wednesday afternoon, I settled into my chair, plugged into my music, and set to work. And whether it was out of determination or self-preservation (no more encouragement, Marie, please! 😉 ), I kept at it. For the first time ever, I didn’t let myself be distracted by finding the perfect word or figuring out how to transition to the next scene. If I didn’t have a word, I left a blank. If I didn’t know how to describe something, I left myself a note:

write in stuff: anger. dismay. guilt.

In other words, I didn’t let myself get caught up in details…and chapter by chapter, partial scene by terse note, the story unfolded. At ten p.m. that night, after writing a monumental (for me) 4,444 words in one day, I finished the first draft of the book. I was exhausted, euphoric, stunned, and giddy all at the same time. The last few chapters were a mess. I could no longer string two coherent words together verbally. And something in my brain definitely felt as if had not just given up resistance, but had broken completely…

But. I. Was. Done.#Resist

I’d written another book—and I’d done it in two months flat. That in itself was mind-boggling. But the real takeaway for me? Remembering that I could write. Rediscovering that elusive self-discipline. Reacquainting myself with that critical motivation. I am writer. Hear my fingers fly across the keyboard! 😉

Will I always feel this strong? Ha! Absolutely not. Life will inevitably interfere and knock me off course, leaving me wallowing in self-doubt, or self-pity, or both. But I’ll always remember that I can feel this strong. That it really is about ‘mind over matter’. That my excuses are just that—excuses—because I am capable, and I can do this. (And that if I ever need my ass kicked again, Marie’s my go-to.)

There’s a takeaway in this for you, too: If you’re not working with an ass-kicker of your own, you need to find one, because nothing exposes the weakness of your excuses quite like having to explain them to someone else. That whole accountability thing? It works.