Today I’m doing something a little different.  I’ve begun blogging over at Redwood Park Communities, the organization where I volunteer.

I’ll never forget my first intake interview at United House.

It was my birthday, a year and a half ago.  I had already been involved with Redwood Park Communities since the beginning, helping to gut the 80-year-old house, to insulate and paint the new apartments, and (my favourite part) to furnish and decorate each unique unit.  But this was significant because it was the beginning of my role as a family support worker.

Read more here




If you’re writing a novel, you need a setting. If you’re writing a fantasy novel, your setting needs to be an epic world. Whether you’re writing fantasy, historical fiction, or even something in your own backyard, you need to immerse the reader in that world without drowning them. There are a lot of novels that achieve this, and lots more that don’t. The ones that do work seem to follow these five guidelines:


I’ve always been a daydreamer. More often than not, as a child, it got me into trouble. But the more I’ve thought about my wool-gathering habit as an adult, the more I realize that my greatest strengths rely on this sometimes misunderstood state of mind. Here are some ways I think we’ve got daydreaming wrong.

Have you ever come back to a work in progress after a break and found it a stranger?

This is something I’ve done many a time, especially after the Christmas rush and the flurry of New Year’s resolutions. Hello there, book-to-be. Who are you exactly? And where do we go from here?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes with this process, daunting mistakes that almost made me give up on finishing a neglected novel. Here are some things I’ve learned about getting back in touch with your manuscript.


In a few short days, Nanowrimo will begin. If you aren’t aware, National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge where over 300,000 writers band together to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.

If it sounds a bit crazy, that’s because it is.

But it’s not impossible. I can assure you that, as I’ve done it three times. It’s proven, for me, a great way to blow some dust off my brain, try out an idea that’s been simmering for a while, and practice generating raw word-count output. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from my three years of Nanowrimo-ing.


Autumn has always felt like the true beginning of a new year for me, after years of back-to-school programming. So it follows that fall is a perfect time to start something new in my writing, especially with Nanowrimo coming up again in just over a month.
Now, you might be what they call a “Pantser” and enjoy seeing where your story takes you as you go. But even if you are the pantsiest pantser in the world, you still want to have some idea where your story is going. And if you’re a die-hard plotter, then you’ll really like these steps to creating a new plot.

The other day I was doing a written interview via email regarding my books. The questions were the usual: “How did you get into writing?”, “Where does your inspiration come from?”, etc. But there’s always that inevitable question (though this time it was “off the record”): “How do you find the time to write with FOUR KIDS??”

It’s a question I get asked often, and a question I don’t have a perfect answer to. The easy answer is I just do. But in the interest of helping other parents have hope for their writing dreams in the midst of kid-chaos, I put some thought into how I make it work. It helps that this is in the forefront of my mind, with all four of my kiddos home from school for the summer.  Here are my five tips for writing with children.

Ever get to the place in your writing where you just want to play it safe? I think every writer gets there. Doesn’t every writer have a manuscript that’s too blah because you were too scared to go where you should have gone? Or a manuscript that’s gathering dust because you’re too scared for anyone to read it?

But staying in the safe zone stifles your writing. Risk brings your work to life. Here are some leaps of faith to take your writing to the next level.


Here’s another excerpt from my current work in progress, Everdream.  Let me know what you think!

Light painted photogaph of the Biltmore House

It always irked Kynan to answer his father’s summons, especially after they’d quarrelled—to bow low in obeisance and follow form when within he screamed to break loose and rage.

Still, he knew his place, and he bowed though every nerve in his body strained to rebel.  “My king,” he said evenly, though his voice ached to shout otherwise.

With a flick of his hand, Father dismissed his courtiers.  They left his counsel chamber so quickly it might have been by magic, and they were alone, father and son, in heavy silence pregnant with anger and injury.

“My son.”  His words were quiet, tired and sad.  Tinged with regret.  But regret for what?  That he was burdened with such a son?  Kynan’s eyes stung, though they remained mercifully dry.  “Lyr brings me troubling news.”

Kynan turned his head aside and down, clenching his jaw.  He’d known, of course, that his every word to Lyr would reach the ears of the king.  But he’d not expected it so soon.  He forced his eyes back to meet his father’s, looking steadily and unflinchingly back in stony silence.  Whether he spoke or not, he knew what would come.

If the king was disconcerted by Kynan’s forthright gaze, he didn’t show it.  “Perhaps I have been overlong in keeping secrets from you.”

Kynan’s eyes goggled.  Was this an admission of error?  It would be wholly out of his father’s character.

Father went on.  “You are clearly of an age when keeping all mention of Everdream from you is not enough.  It is time you knew one thing, at least—Everdream is dangerous.”

Kynan listened, trying to feign hardened disinterest, but failing.

Father leaned forward in his great chair, spreading his hands on the table.  A stray gleam of late afternoon sunlight from the tall windows glinted on the ruby of his signet ring.  “Your mother…” He closed his eyes for along moment.  Was that frustration that drew his brows together?  “The queen—she is lost.  Lost in a land of terrors and shadows.”

The idea of Mother wandering lost, afraid and in danger sparked in Kynan a vital courage that he’d rarely known.  “Then we—“

Father shook his head impatiently.  “No.  Others—your betters—have tried and failed.  She is lost.”  

His words echoed between them in the silent room and Kynan closed his mouth, gritting his teeth.  

“I need to know you understand.  That you will obey my will in this.  Everdream is dangerous.  You must never go there.  I forbid it.”

Kynan stared at his father, tense with rage.  How could Father simply abandon her to her fate?  If there were anything they could do, then shouldn’t they?  How could he give up?

Something fell into place in that moment, like a tumbler in a lock.  Like a sword into its sheath.  What was until now only a fleeting thought, a passing fancy, suddenly became Kynan’s world.  Even if all else in the world—from the lowliest foot soldier to the king himself—forsook the queen, Kynan would not.  He must go to Everdream and bring back his mother.  No rule of law, no lapse of courage, no fear of death could hold him back now.

I’m thinking it’s about time I shared with you a little of my current work in progress.  It’s pure fantasy, likely more suitable for the Young Adult genre.  Please let me know what you think, and more importantly if it’s worth putting more on the blog.


He didn’t run.  Running was what he would have done five years ago or more.  But running didn’t befit a prince of the blood, nor the future king of Tyernas.  Neither did sulking—the fleeting thought, voiced in his father’s deep tones, bounced around his mind.  Instead, he stalked.  Head held high, thin shoulders back and square, as broad as he could make them, pace measured and strides firm and long.  Fists clenched at his side and jaw muscles bunched.  Hot tears burned in his throat like whitefire but didn’t dare trespass into his eyes.

He went where he always went, through the winter-bare gardens, his footsteps crunching on the fine gravel of the walk, a lone scrap of scarlet adrift in a world of steel grey.  The queen’s pavilion loomed up, white-domed and cold amid the bones of leafless trees.  As he passed the guards flanking the door they moved in salute, but he paid them no more heed than if they were motionless statues.  One of them opened the door at his approach, and the cold wintry light played over the polished silver trees inlaid in the smooth wood, flashing on rose quartz blossom and jade leaf that made a cheerful mockery of winter’s desolation of the real gardens.  

The cold air had cooled his fire somewhat.  Now he realized how cold it had been as the warmth of the pavilion embraced him.  The door fell shut behind him and he stood for a moment, all his rage melting away in a pool of sadness.

Inside all was quiet and still, but the stillness was not calm.  It was alive with grief, with loneliness as heavy as the massive stones that formed the castle walls.  And Kynan had brought it all here.

“Leave us.”  His voice echoed rasping against the rotunda’s smooth walls and returned.  Smoothly, the four ladies in waiting left their chairs at the four compass points of the room and vanished into the side rooms, their slippered feet shuffling on the stone floor.  The echo of the door’s thump and latch told him he was alone now.  

Kynan moved forward into the rotunda, the ceiling opening out in a wealth of white light pouring in through the oculus window, illuminating the pastoral scenes painted on the inside of the dome and embroidered in the tapestries hanging on the walls, and falling in a blinding shaft on the great bed in the centre of the room.  It should have felt light and airy, but the grand chamber felt oppressive instead, like a tomb.  The soft fragrance borne on the smoke of the braziers smelled to him as cloying as funeral incense.  

It was a fitting comparison.  This was as good as a tomb.  The perfume might as well be incense.  And the body laid out on the grand bed, veiled by gauzy white curtains embroidered in flowers, was little better than a corpse.  A corpse that never decayed, but just as vacant.  Just as useless.

He moved closer, to get a better view, though nothing would have changed since yesterday.  Nothing had changed in the past ten years in this room.  She still lay as she had when he’d found her asleep beyond all hope of wakening.  Ageless, her young face was still barely lined, her light brown hair untouched by grey.  Like a flower encased in ice, she was frozen in time.  He drew aside the curtain and sat on the edge of the bed.  Her arm dipped slightly with the motion, limp as a doll’s.  She breathed.  Her eyes moved beneath the lids.  Someone had washed her and dressed her in a clean gown of white silk that morning, had laid her silver crown on her belly in the likeness of a tomb effigy.

The Eversleep, Lyr had called it, when they’d first found her like this.  The old knight had pulled Kynan away, then only a boy of five and uncomprehending, while Father had leaned over the bed and tried to waken her.  The queen had gone to Everdream—a wild and beautiful place of endless dreaming—and when she might return, none could say.

The king had commanded her to be watched day and night, a ceaseless vigil lest she waken and find herself alone.  But though the vigil continued for ten long years, the king had turned to the rule of his kingdom and left the queen to slumber on, changeless as he changed.  Father had forgotten her, it seemed.  But Kynan had not.

“Mother,” he whispered.  His voice echoed back in a wordless rustle. 


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