Memories of Nootka Lighthouse

Four years ago, I was working as a relief lighthouse keeper for the Canadian Coast Guard. I’d taken a year off teaching to explore and destress and try something new.

Between March 27 and May 23, I stayed at Nootka and recorded my adventures, and misadventures, in a journal and a blog. This was my house for eight weeks.

my house (1).jpg


I’ve been thinking about that time a lot lately. This summer, I am planning to take the Uchuck III day cruise from Gold River to Friendly Cove, so I can walk those beaches and trails once again. I had hoped to visit with Mark, the lighthouse keeper I worked with at that time, but apparently Mark and Joanne retired last September. So, all I can say is “Congratulations!” from afar.

People often ask me what I did there. This video and article written and recorded last August with Mark and Joanne brings it all back to me. It is a beautiful landscape, rife with history—some of which is tragic—and I feel blessed that I was able to spend some quality time there.

This is my post from April 22, 2014.

And this is the pebble beach—one of my favourite places in the world. I can’t wait to walk here again this summer.




Books & More Books



When I saw this funky bookshop on Twitter yesterday, I decided to find it. As if by magic (which no doubt it was) I discovered Iron Dog Books parked in front of Moody Ales this afternoon. They were there supporting AJ Devlin. Jeremy and I have done a couple of readings together so I’d come to congratulate him on the launch of Cobra Clutch and buy a signed copy. The place was packed–Sunday afternoon in the Brewery District of Port Moody–a successful launch for AJ Devlin and Cobra Clutch! #cobraclutch



Cobra Clutch is a fast-paced, hard-hitting debut novel by AJ Devlin that has an unstoppable combo: a signature move of raucous humour with a super finisher of gritty realism.

And here’s a great endorsement from Sam Wiebe: “In this fast-paced, energetic debut, Devlin ingeniously merges the worlds of pro wrestling and private eyes into a breakneck adventure that will leave readers breathless. Intense and cinematic.”

That’s no surprise since AJ earned a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, and gave Hollywood a shot before moving back home to Port Moody.

After visiting Moody Ales, I had to check out the bookmobile. I grew up with a bookmobile in small-town Ontario. Perhaps, that’s why I was thrilled to see Iron Dog Books. It’s an innovative enterprise. Here is their Twitter description:

Itinerant Indigenous bookseller perched atop Burnaby Mtn. selling new & used books. Hours: Tues & Thurs 9am-6pm @ Cornerstone Town Square (Simon Fraser University) 

Hilary told me that Saturdays this summer, they will be parked at the Port Moody Museum beside Rocky Point Park. It’s a small intimate space, so she’s choosy about her stock. Their mission is to bring books to places that don’t have used book stores. So, come by and browse for some great finds on her shelves. You never know who you might run into. And if the temperature ever starts to rise, there are four craft breweries right across the street, home-crafted ice cream in the park, and a funky new shuttle bus coming in July that will  link Inlet Centre, Rocky Point Park and Moody Centre.

Port Moody, you rock!

To Render a Raven: Draft Done!

IMG_4331.jpgIt was lovely today to receive a text from a friend that said: “Your book is featured at the front door of Reflections!!!” Of course, I had to go and take a look. Reflections is a funky metaphysical store that just celebrated its 30th Anniversary in Coquitlam. Carole, who has just retired and passed the store over to her daughter-in-law, has supported Indie authors and publishers all along the way. This is something we desperately need and truly appreciate. I haven’t been promoting my books the last few months, so it’s fantastic to see the store promoting my work.

I’ve been focussed on drafting book three of the Hollystone Mysteries: To Render a Raven. I finished writing it this week!

The story picks up the Hollystone witches a year after To Sleep with Stones and sets them on another thrilling adventure. Estrada and his crew must rush up the Strait of Georgia (BC Coast) in a “borrowed” yacht to rescue a baby who has been stolen by vampires. Fortunately, I spent some time exploring the coast during my stint as a relief lighthouse keeper (Life on the BC Lights) and I’ve been able to use some of what I experienced in this fabulous setting. As I’ve done in my other two books, I’ve interwoven the story of the vampire antagonists with that of our mystical heroes.

I tweaked my writing process this time around. I always use the Hero’s Journey model to plot a loose scenario as I am a Joseph Campbell junkie. But this time, I just kept asking: what happens now? I know some writers create detailed plot outlines before they begin to write, but that’s way too cerebral for this freedom-seeking INFP. I need to open up to the character’s thoughts and feelings and let them tell me the story. Sometimes, it’s like arguing with your GPS: they’re trying to take me somewhere and I’m not sure that’s where I want to go. I have to trust them and listen carefully to what they’re saying. When I get stuck, it’s usually because one of the other characters wants to take over. I write in multiple viewpoints, so I also have to ask: who is going to narrate this scene? Often, they surprise me. Partway through, I remember saying to a friend: I don’t think X is going to make it. He’s crossed too many lines. I won’t say who X is, or if he made it or not, but I will say that I loved him in the end.

The hardest thing I did was write 86,000 words without talking about the storyline or the characters who are part of my world. I know some writers share their ongoing projects and receive feedback at writer’s groups, but I’ve been a hermit. I’ve talked some with a trusted author-friend who is beta-reading for me right now, but otherwise it’s been an internalized process. I’m now looking for a couple of ebook beta readers to give me feedback regarding pacing and clarity. If you’re interested and you’re an experienced reader of urban fantasy, thrillers, or mysteries, please drop me an email:

I’m excited to be working with an editor this time, and will write more about that experience as it unfolds.

with all good wishes,



Rockton #3

This Fallen Prey, Kelley Armstrong

reviewed in the Ottawa Review of Books, March 2018

The meaning behind the title of Kelley Armstrong’s latest Rockton crime novel, This Fallen Prey, still alludes me. Does This Fallen Prey refer to the victims of the serial killer who is dropped off bound and gagged without warning? There are several victims in this fast-paced thriller. Or is the thrill killer, himself, This Fallen Prey? Oliver Brady claims to be the victim of a rich and powerful step-father bent on cheating him out of his inheritance. Gregory Wallace has $15 million reasons to frame his step-son as a serial killer, and has paid a million dollars to send him to Rockton for a six-month stint. The problem for our heroes, Sheriff Eric Dalton and Detective Casey Butler, is what to do with Brady while he’s there under their watch. Once the townsfolk discover they’re housing a psychotic serial killer no one will be safe, including Brady.

This is Armstrong’s third Casey Butler detective novel. It is as fast and flawless as City of the Lost, the book that introduces us to this dysfunctional Yukon town. Rockton is a fabricated town, built in the wilderness to house people who need to go missing. Many are victims in need of protection; others, like Casey, have been both victimized and killed. In the second book, A Darkness Absolute, Casey seals the deal with rugged backwoods sheriff, Eric Dalton, and becomes mama to a bouncing Newfoundland puppy named Storm.

In fact, the dog, who is now eight-months-old and learning to track, is a major character in the novel, as is the setting. Much of the story centres around the search for Oliver Brady, who escapes early on with the help of one of Rockton’s citizens. Casey and Dalton must battle hostiles and wild animals, while avoiding snipers; all the while, trying to keep the puppy safe. Anyone who owns a dog will understand what it’s like to hike with a dog in the woods. Dangers lurk everywhere. And, Kelley Armstrong has done her canine research.

In my favourite scene, Storm lurches free of Casey’s grip and bounds after a mountain lion with the detective in pursuit. Casey chases, knowing that the cat is heading for a cliff where it can turn around, leap onto her dog’s back, and break her neck. Casey shouts out a series of commands—too many words and pointless—as Storm is too far away to hear and focussed on nothing but chasing this kitty. This creates sheer terror for Casey, who must somehow save her puppy, and any reader who has ever lost control of her dog. Like Casey, Storm is not just there for show. Armstrong not only uses the dog to heighten the adventure, but as a clever device to advance the plot.

This is Casey’s story. Though she’s searching along with her partner, Eric Dalton, everyone defers to her, including the sheriff. A tiny Mandarin-speaking murderer turned detective, Casey is fearless, intelligent, intuitive, and scarred.  Sometimes, she makes mistakes, and sometimes she knows the truth with just a look. Preferring to sleep out on the balcony under the stars, Casey provides us with an opportunity to experience this secret dystopian Yukon town and its surrounding wildness.

As the search continues, Dalton and Casey discover corpses. By chapter forty, I write in my journal: Brady appears to be a ruthless murderer but there must be a twist. If there isn’t, I will be disappointed. Then Brady’s step-dad arrives and I’m not disappointed. By chapter sixty, I’m still wondering, along with Casey, if Brady is a serial killer, or if he really is being framed by his step-dad. He almost has me convinced. Is he, or isn’t he? How will Casey discover the truth? And who will die in the process?


Fantasy & Motherhood

Motherhood is challenging at the best of times, but when you’re a character in a fantasy novel it’s near impossible. In Tough Travels, Nicola reminds us of some of the worst and most memorable mothers. The Mists of Avalon is still one of my favourite books. It’s a classic and a dusty yellowing copy sits on my bookshelf with a handdrawn family tree on the back cover. Of all the mothers in Game of Thrones I choose Daenerys, Mother of Dragons.

What mothers come to mind when you think fantasy? Mrs. Weasley?

via Tough Travels: Mothers | Thoughts on Fantasy