Sunday, 26 January 2014

How to Write With Emotional Distractions

As you may have noticed, I have not been around much. For that I apologize. My life has been an emotional roller-coaster. After a few months of travel, I return hoping to get back to normalcy only to have my husband say he's moving out. Yes, I was incredibly shocked.

To make matters worse, I've had to re-enter the work force. I have gone from being a full-time writer to a part-time writer.

I have been determined to continue writing but the road is hard. My "writer's block" does not come from lack of creativity but from my emotions blocking the words. I've managed to complete a few writing projects however and I thought I would share some tips that got me through the emotional distractions.

(1) Set small and specific goals --> Goals like 'write 1000 words' or 'edit a third of the book' are difficult for me to do right now. However, I've been able to complete goals such as 'edit: create a list of earrings described in the the book' and 'write paragraph: why are there burn marks on the wall?'. These specific, little goals add up. I've actually accomplished a lot of writing over the last few weeks.

(2) Take mental breaks --> Don't beat yourself up if you need mental breaks. I need several throughout the day. I find walking the dog helps. Also, now that my husband's gone, I have one less person to talk to, so, I talk to myself more. But instead of wallowing, I try to talk about the chapter I'm working on or why I like a certain character.

(3) Take good notes --> I have a bad memory at the best of times. With all the stress I'm going through now, I'm lucky if I remember to eat. So, I've started to take good notes. I write down everything: my writing goals for the day, what I've accomplished that day, and I take detailed records of characters, timelines, and chapter outlines. That way, if I can't remember what I did last week or last month, I don't have to panic, I can just refer to my notes.

(4) Don't multi-task --> Although multi-tasking seems more efficient, it's not. Our brains don't work that way. When you try to accomplish many things at once, the information doesn't get stored in long-term memory. That means, you don't remember things. For me to improve as a writer, I need to keep as focused as I can. And so in my emotionally distracted state, multi-tasking is counter productive. Train your brain to stay focused. Here's a fantastic article to help you stay focused: link here.

Have you ever felt muddled? How have you coped with emotional distractions?

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Check Out My Home Office

I haven't died. I've just been travelling. A lot. Now that I've returned home, I have been catching up on life and my writing.

However, N.A. Windsor from has interviewed me about my writing life and writing space. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Check it out here:

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Checking In

I have been on holiday a lot in the last three months: NYC, Calgary, and now Disneyworld. It has been exciting, but after a day of sight-seeing and walking through theme parks, when I return home, to bed I go.

Though I wish to write on holiday, I need mental energy and have none. I have, however, been keeping up with your tweets and posts (though I haven't always commented, just read) and can't wait to have more time to return to my regular social media schedule.

I am a horrible photographer but I leave you with a picture of EPCOT at night.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Reading Helps Prevent Prejudice

LeonidasGR / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Last year, I stopped in Jamaica as part of a seven-day cruise. I had heard horror stories about the country and so I was scared to leave the designated port area. According to "reports", every man would rape me and I would be hooked on drugs before returning to the ship. However, my son and husband were eager to check out the island so we decided to tour a nearby historic house--Rose Hall. (Rose Hall scared the crap out of me but for a different reason.)

At first, I was really scared. I felt men stared at me in creepy ways and everywhere we went, people wanted to sell us something. To top it off, instead of taking a proper taxi to the Hall, my husband just gave a guy with a van some money to take us there. I was sure we would be found dead by locals in some ditch. 

That didn't happen. 

In fact, we met so many wonderful people on that trip. Nothing bad happened to us. We ate delicious REAL Jamaican food in a local restaurant. 

It taught me that though you should have common sense (because Jamaica does have crime), you shouldn't prejudge. In fact, I should know better. I live in Mexico, a country where prejudice and misconceptions about it abound. I think if I had read about it (from Jamaicans) before I got there, it wouldn't have been so bad. I should know better and that's why I am encouraging my children to read and learn about other cultures.

That's why I strongly recommend two MG books by Jamaican author JL Campbell. It's from the Simm Sibling Series and it's really good. (Click on the books to go to They are about two siblings that have suffered a family tragedy and how it has effected each differently.


The stories are well written and discuss issues that affect young and old in the country of Jamaica. You really start to understand the cultures and traditions. I think it's a must read for all children, right along with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath.

Synopsis of book 1Raised in a hotbed of arguments and fights, eleven-year-old Christine Simms is always at the centre of conflict between her parents. With each new day and unfolding drama, she suffers through her mother's temper and cruelty. A domestic dispute ends in tragedy, sending the family into a tailspin. Christine's siblings become wards of the state and she is taken in by her father's sister.

A shocking discovery sends Christine on a quest to find the stranger who abandoned her in Jamaica and changed the course of her life. Determined to unravel the mystery of her birth, Christine uses every tool at her disposal and treads with courage where no child should.

Synopsis of book 2A young boy's future hangs in the balance when those sworn to protect him become abusers. 

A tragic domestic dispute between his parents lands eleven-year-old Samuel Simms and his siblings in the Downswell Place of Safety. The challenges come hard and fast, but the one thing Sam doesn't count on is being left behind in the children’s home. Angry and disillusioned, he gives up hope of adoption. 
A ray of light comes in the form of a foster family, but everything is not what it seems in the Miller household. After a harrowing five-month stint, Sam runs away. A victim of child abuse, he's determined not to repeat his mistake and opts to remain a ward of the Jamaican government until he’s eighteen. The burden of secrecy is more than he can bear and Sam's hair-trigger temper makes him disruptive. 
Under pressure from his aunt, Sam caves in and shares a tale of horror surrounding his foster parents. With his ordeal exposed, Sam must make life-changing choices. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Standing Desk and Creativity

You can see my mat and the tote I'm using.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Ha! Well, today I'm going to try to work standing up. 


The Benefits:

(1) Health - According to October 2013 Vogue magazine, persistent sitting increases the risk of diabetes and you are 49% more likely to die from other causes. It also improves your posture and decreases back pain.

(2) Weight loss - I'm not sure it's going to work for me but I've read an article where a woman who stood at her desk lost weight without changing her lifestyle in any way. 

(3) Creativity - new studies have shown that exercise can boost your creativity. And while I think that standing doesn't seem like a great deal of exercise, it does force you to move around more. Every bit helps, right?

So, I've set up my desk. I'm using a tote for now until I know I want to make a permanent change.

Some tips I've read:

(1) Work in bare feet but make sure you have a comfy mat beneath them.
(2) Stand with your knees bent to take distribute the weight.
(3) Start slow. Don't try to work for eight hours standing up. Take sitting breaks.

I'm starting slow. For the first couple of weeks I will only work on my feet for up to two hours, and increase from there. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Have you worked standing up? Have you noticed any benefits? Have you been more creative?

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Memory: Does Daydreaming Create a Black Hole?

Recently I returned to Calgary to visit my family. Over a delicious curry dinner, my sister and I had a conversation about memory.

My memory is very bad and for many years I believed it was because of some sort of deficiency in my brain or because of stress or perhaps my life wasnt exciting enough to remember. But my sister brought up something interesting.

Maybe I can't remember my parts of my life because I spend so much of it daydreaming.

I mean, when I'm dreaming in sleep,  I can't remember anything. Perhaps it applies to daydreaming. As writers we are often in our worlds and every moment we are in that world we can't consciously be part of our own.

Could it be that simple? What do you think? How's your memory?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Canadian Mystery Writers Encyclopedia: Alan Bradley

Adam Bradley is a Canadian author who has written many books including the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. 

Born: 1938, Toronto, Canada 

Awards: Dilys Award, CWA Debut Dagger, Macavity Awards for Best First Mystery Novel 

Nominations: Anthony Award for Best First Novel 

List of Books:

(1) Ms Holmes of Baker Street: The Truth About Sherlock (2004)

Summary: Sherlock Holmes strides into our imagination, deerstalker hat jauntily set on his head, pipe protruding from his mouth, and a formidable intellect from which he painstakingly masters the mysteries he investigates. Yet the qualities that set Holmes apart as a masterful sleuth are rather commonplace—perhaps even universal—in any woman. In a deep investigation of the literature of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, C. Alan Bradley and William A.S. Sarjeant uncover the surprising truth about Sherlock Holmes.

Buy here: Ms Holmes of Baker Street: The Truth About Sherlock

(2)The Sweetness at the bottom of the Pie (2011)

Summary: It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Buy here: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Novel (Flavia de Luce Mystery)

(3)The Weed that Stings the Hangman's Bag (2011)

Summary: When a travelling puppet show arrives in the village of Bishop's Lacey, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, sensing tension between domineering puppeteer Rupert Porson and his assistant Nialla, begins to sniff out the beginnings of a mystery worth pursuing. During a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk in the village hall, the audience is treated to an unexpected finale - a shocking death that echoes a tragedy that occurred in Bishop's Lacey many years before - and Flavia is thrilled to find herself with a front row seat in a murder investigation.

Buy here: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery (Flavia de Luce Mysteries)

(4)A Study in Sherlock (Oct 2011)

Summary: What would happen if you asked eighteen top writers who don’t normally write about Sherlock Holmes, to write about Sherlock Holmes? What if you wrote to them, saying: In 19th century England, a new kind of hero—a consulting detective—blossomed in the mind of an underemployed doctor and ignited the world’s imagination. In the thirteen decades since A Study in Scarlet first appeared, countless variations on that theme have been played, from Mary Russell to Greg House, from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the new BBC Holmes-in-the-Internet-age. We suspect that you have in the back of your mind a story that plays a variation on the Holmes theme....

Buy here: A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canon

(5)Red Herring Without Mustard (2012)

Summary: 'You frighten me,' the Gypsy said. 'Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness.' So begins eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce's third adventure through the charming but deceptively dark byways of the village of Bishop's Lacey. What the fortune teller in fact claimed to see was a vision of Flavia's mother, Harriet, who died on a mountainside in Tibet when Flavia was less than a year old. 'She's trying to come home,' the old woman intones. 'And she needs your help.' For Flavia, the old gypsy's words open up old wounds and new possibilities - not all of them nice. Is she a faker, or is there some truth to her powers, and the message she brings back from the other side? And when the village is rocked by another ghastly murder, how will a growing fascination with gypsy lore help Flavia to solve it?

Buy here: A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Novel (Flavia de Luce Mysteries)

(6) I am Half Sick of Shadows (2012)

Summary: It’s Christmastime, and Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

Buy here: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Mystery, Book 4)

(7) Speaking From Among The Bones (2013)

Book Summary: Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.

Buy here: Speaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel

(8) The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (2014)

Summary: On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office—and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit—Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

Coming in 2014!

Read an amazing interview with the author here.

Flavia de Luce

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