Hey Y'all, It's Been A While, Huh?

Darnley Sunset.JPG

Oh Lordy, I miss these sunsets...

Darnley, Prince Edward Island, you have my heart. Drifters readers know this because more than one book in the series is set in this beautiful oasis. I'm very blessed - I live in Darnley in the summertime, in a small camper that overlooks the gorgeous, mystical Darnley Basin.

If you've been wondering what I've been up to lately, here's a clue - it's a new project partly set in the Darnley area. For the first time in a number of years, I'm not writing Drifters books this fall and winter. Although I'm excited to be moving onto something exciting and new, I have to say that I really miss Josh and Jessie and the colourful folks who live in their world. I have known no greater joy than writing the Drifters books. I was happy all the time - a false happiness in some ways, I suppose, since my moods were tied into a fictional world, yet it was a good happy. That kind of joy permeated to every area of my life. This year is different - I'm grounded in the real world, which is making me adjust to a whole new life, including going to work at an office for a change, and learning to manage the personalities of others as I learn to work in a team environment as opposed to one that was mostly solitary.

SO, what am I working on? Most of you likely already know, but here it is - a feature film. I'm a Vancouver Film School grad who started writing books about people acting in a fictional TV series because I was having a hard time trying to finance filmed entertainment of my own. Strangely, and perhaps weirdly (but definitely coolly!), the books led me to interested players who share the dream of making a feature film with me.

The film is called Still The Water - it's not one of my Drifters books yet it revolves, as do the Drifters books, around a troubled guy whose name starts with J. It's set almost entirely in my home province of Prince Edward Island.


Still The Water is about quieting the chaos in our hearts. The story revolves around brothers who are trying to reconnect after a sustained absence from each other. As children, the fellas - hockey players - spent time on the ice, their sanctuary. Now they are forced to work together in confined spaces, sometimes on a fishing boat like the ones above. It doesn't always go well. After all, it's not always easy to forgive and forget.

So most of my time these days is being spent pulling the production together. I'm not alone - I've got some terrific help. We're in a holding pattern at the present time, waiting on a final OK for funding, which we hope comes real soon as we need to shoot in April / May 2018 in order to properly tell the story. We have locations booked, music chosen, and cast chosen. And a super cozy little production office!

It's all good, as they say.

I'm adapting to the changes in my working life this year, and I love my comfy office and the amazing people on the Still The Water team. I've been mulling over more Drifters stories (actually, book two in the Dallas White series, which will feature some of the Drifters folks) and I'm gonna be excited when the day comes to get back into that world. But for now I'm trusting the universe and my angels to see me through the filming of my first feature, and I can't wait to see where that takes me!

My camper angel from Darnley! She sits on my desk at home during the winter :)

My camper angel from Darnley! She sits on my desk at home during the winter :)

Still The Water

Still The Water

Those of you who know me are aware that I'm working on a film with some friends of mine. For years I've referred to this screenplay as 'the hockey film,' simply because it's a quick way of referencing one of the subjects covered. Essentially what the story is really about is brothers, and family, and how the men in one broken family reconnect after years of estrangement brought on by one very bad day.

Read More

Castles In The Sand

Castles In The Sand

Around 2 p.m. this past Sunday, I finally forced myself into my old SUV and pointed it away from my summer sanctuary, the campground where Steve and I had parked our ancient fifth-wheel for the last four months. I'd been fighting the inevitable - that the short Prince Edward Island summer was officially over, that the hot summer days and peaceful sunset walks along the beach had come to a close.

Read More

What's In A Name, Anyway?


SOME of you know that I like to use family names in my books. Back when I wrote my first (as yet unpublished) novel, A Certain Kind Of Freedom, I decided, almost on a whim, to select family names for different characters.  But, until recently, I didn’t realize the impact this seemingly haphazard choice would have - on me, and on my family members. Maybe this was because I didn’t think family would take any interest in the books – the Drifters series is, after all, women’s fiction with an angsty romantic flair, which isn’t, let’s face it, everyone’s chosen genre.  Or maybe the decision to use family names was such a casual thing at the time that I didn’t think much beyond the obvious, which was, ‘oh let’s have fun and throw some family names in there.’


Let me explain further.


My dad moved our family to Prince Edward Island when I was four months old. He was a teacher, and he came in search of a job. We were Mahoneys then; a motley crew of four rambunctious, creative kids and two dedicated parents who carved ourselves a place on our beloved island of red mud and patchwork fields. Our parents came from New Brunswick (I was born in Perth-Andover, a hamlet on the Tobique River that generally floods around the time of my birthday, which explains SO much). My dad spent his childhood in Johnville (near Florenceville, the home of the famous McCains); as a child, my mom raised a passel of soft white bunnies in the rural landscape of Norton, between Sussex and St. John.


As kids, us Mahoneys cherished occasional trips ‘over across’ to the mainland, to hang out in the lands of our parents…in Johnville, where we picked out tunes on the piano, where the old green screen door slammed shut behind us with a springy country twang, where we roamed the fields, went swimming in the pool in nearby Bath,  where we went to the white church up the hill on Sundays (it once got hit by lightning while I was in it – that, too, explains a lot, lol). Where I won my very own doll in a raffle at the Johnville Picnic, where we patted the little black dog (what was his name?). In Norton, where we learned about ponies and horses, where we pretended the hay wagon was the saloon, where we cuddled kittens and ate full meals of farm fresh veggies, where we rode atop the hay wagon when it was loaded - nestled amongst cousins while trying to choose bales that weren’t too unstable, lest one fall over, taking a cousin or two with it - where we ran around with Tippy, Grammie’s collie, and where we played hide-and-seek in the hayloft.


So many wonderful memories, about a time of innocence and hope. About places that I don’t think I realized how much I missed until last week, when my sister Kathy and I jumped into her small Mazda and pointed it towards the Confederation Bridge (in the old days, we took the ferry…) so we could make the drive to Norton to attend my aunt’s wake.


It hit me, when I was standing amongst cousins and aunts and uncles I haven’t seen in ages (some I have not seen for decades) that we missed a lot when we grew up isolated on our island, passing holidays with board games and quiet evenings of reading, while our country relatives got together for fiddling concerts (in Johnville) or nights watching Elvis entertain from the TV in my grandparents’ cozy living room (in Norton), with grandkids / cousins flopped around the room on crocheted cushions or leaning happily against the warm oil stove.


I always felt accepted during our visits over across, then, like I belonged somewhere. I was chatty and dreamy, probably annoying and sometimes underfoot. But I was amongst people who kinda had to like me, 'cuz they were family. And they were good family. I still remember Grammie Kelly scooping ice cream for the grandkids out of the big freezer in the sunny porch. Somehow, that ice cream tasted unbelievably good. I think it had to do with the happy light in Grammie Kelly’s eyes as she handed it to me – this woman who wore thick 1940’s stockings and who taught me that kittens really love to be scratched behind the ears (my cat Oliver thanks her daily).


Cousins! So many awesome cousins :) Norton, at the Kelly farm.

Cousins! So many awesome cousins :) Norton, at the Kelly farm.

These days, I admit, I feel incredibly disconnected. From everyone. I’ve written about this before, and I think a lot of it has to do with our world today, with this constant stress and preoccupation with ourselves, with our own busy lives, with technology’s insistent demand for our attention. And maybe a lot of it is my fault. But I just don’t feel like any conversations ever go beyond the surface. Even with Steve. We just don’t go there. Life has become surface level and it makes me lonely.


Back to the family names in my books. There was a moment at the wake that crushed me, that made me want to grab my sister’s arm and sink to my knees. It hit me how much I need those roots, those old family roots, so I can feel like I belong somewhere again. It hit me that using those family names in my books was never really a casual thing, will never be a casual thing, and will, forevermore, be something I commit to that receives the respect those names deserve.


We were going through the line of cousins and had stopped in front of my aunt’s coffin. Judy was my mother’s younger brother’s wife. To me, she was strong, kind, caring, tolerant of a constant myriad of busy children nipping at her ankles, and nice to me - that dreamy, probably annoying kid. The kid who had hope that she would one day have a family like Judy’s – a loving husband, four or five kids. Grandkids.


Mike and Judy had each other for 49 years. Take a moment to give that number the respect it deserves. My marriage lasted less than three years. The large family I dreamed about became me as a single mom of one amazing kid. In the Drifters books, Jessie and Josh have kids. They have a network of close friends. I long for what they have. For what my aunt and uncle had. I long for what I missed.


I’m being brutally honest here because, at the moment I turned to my uncle, who was always a quiet man amongst a boisterous crowd of many, I took this in. Their longevity and what it meant, over good times and bad. At the time, I wasn’t making it about me, for what I lost, although obviously I’ve let myself dwell on this since. No, I was seeing his trembling hand on the polished wood of his wife’s coffin. I was seeing the passage of time – I was feeling the scratchy hay under my butt on a wagon being pulled along a country trail by my grampie, whose tired shoulders slumped over his old white plodding David Brown tractor as the hot August sun tanned my outdoor-kid skin.


And what do you suppose my uncle said to me, after I hugged him and mumbled some probably incoherent version of ‘I’m sorry’?


He said, “I read your first book. I hear there’s a Michael Kelly in the books.”


This was after he had to take a moment. After he turned away and more firmly gripped the edge of the coffin. After he looked upon his wife of 49 years as his four children, and some grandchildren, and many loving friends and relatives, buzzed around behind us.


I was humbled. Touched. Floored. He, of course, is named Michael Kelly. And yes, there is a Michael Kelly in my books. In book five, if you haven’t gotten that far yet. The storyline with Michael Kelly and Kelly Reilly came to me in a dream. They were going to star in their own book, but somehow they just fit into Jessie’s story. The dream was the rare kind, where I could see and feel them, as if they were real. I think in the dream I may have been Kelly – I remember sitting in an airplane, on an aisle, and looking back over my shoulder to spy Michael, sitting in the aisle opposite, a few rows back. I recall his hair – the look, the style, the texture. And I remember the feeling that washed over me. The feeling that I loved this man. So lucid, so real. In the dream, he was my manager. Whatever it meant in the dream is not of consequence now, I suppose. Kelly and Michael became fictional characters in book five.


And Michael Kelly, as readers know, is a good man. A man who survived tragedy. A man who found love, who may just get his own book someday because he is an intriguing character who captivates me.


I think he is a man who deserves his own book. And when I write it, I will give him the respect he deserves. The respect the real Michael Kelly deserves.


I pray I get to reconnect with my cousins again. I’m planning to extend an open invitation to the Kelly side to come to Prince Edward Island over a weekend this summer. I need the connection, so I hope they come because, I am guessing, perhaps some of them need the connection too. We need to find our roots again, to plant ourselves more firmly in the here and now, via the past.


Via a time of innocence and childhood wonder and hope, before life took over and left some of us lonely.


I’ll tell you what’s in a name.


Heartache, joy, laughter, love, sadness. Defeat, despair, agony, hope, ecstasy, warmth, kindness. Family. The human experience, with all of its awe and pain.


A soul.


That’s what’s in a name.

A Few Words About Self-Publishing


Which it is. Dark and stormy.

Although in Prince Edward Island, it is not yet night.

It is, however, nearing the end of a rather unproductive late September afternoon. Seems fitting to wrap up this rainy day with a few thoughts about self-publishing.

This is for those of you potentially interested in embarking on a self-publishing journey. For the newbies out there, not those who have already dissected every self-publishing blog ever posted. 


Read on.

Ok, so here's the secret to self-publishing: 


That's it. Don't tell me you don't have time. If you really want to write, you'll make time. If you want to self-publish, reach out to people like myself who once asked others for help. I would rather see you try than throw in the towel before you give yourself a chance. 

This is the thing about me. To borrow an old cliche, I'm like a dog with a bone. If I want something bad enough, I'll go out and get it. Still, I get scared. Technology drives me crazy. But I once went to a workshop with a wonderfully inspiring P.E.I. writer, Patti Larsen, who said, "You can do this." And she proceeded to show me how. Did I get stuck along the journey? Yep. So I gritted my teeth and scribbled off an email to this gal who I now consider a rock star in the writing world. Guess what? She answered.

Patti taught me a lot over the years. First, she encouraged me to try self-publishing. Second, she took me a step further by sitting me (along with a few other newbies) down and showing me how to format documents as ebooks for Smashwords, Kobo, and Kindle. Prior to this mini-workshop I was using a company I liked (still like) very much, but they were expensive and any time I wanted to make a change to my books (egads, a typo? Me? Never! Uh, well...nobody's perfect!) I was required to pay a fee. By learning to format text myself, I could upload to Smashwords, who distributes to a number of channels including Barnes & Noble and iBooks, and then I could upload to Kindle (Amazon) and Kobo separately so that I could monitor my sales on a day to day basis at will. Plus I could easily swap my documents out when need be, at will. For free.

So...books online...sales happening, exciting reviews coming back and then...hmmmm, spending a lot of money on cover designs (well worth it, because my covers are beautiful as well as award-winning, and have sold many a book for me)...see?

I know you've seen these before, but I can't help myself! They're bee-yoo-ti-ful!  (Thanks, Alanna Munro!)

I know you've seen these before, but I can't help myself! They're bee-yoo-ti-ful!

(Thanks, Alanna Munro!)

ALSO spending a bit on editing...printing books for island bookstores...and I realize I need to step up my game. What do I do? Well, I scribble off another note to my rock star mentor, of course! 

I wrote to Patti Larsen again (of Family Magic fame, amongst others, in case you are wondering) - see?

Family Magic
By Patti Larsen

Her cover is gorgeous too! And the book (series) is compelling and original!

Best part? Patti is a lesson in 'giving.' And in giving well. She is gracious and sweet, and my next outreach to her resulted in a private meeting over cafe mochas at a cozy Charlottetown cafe. The question on the agenda?

"How the heck do I market my books?" 

Her answer? Which was wise and delivered with an air of 'you can do this,' was both practical and realistic. 

"This is a marathon, not a sprint."

Meaning, of course, that self-publishing a book (or books) is not gonna garner instant success. One day at the gym will not bring you a toned bikini butt. One day at the gym might get you sore and tired and maybe a little intimidated. But taking that first step might also inspire you to work towards something better, towards a healthier lifestyle that includes a wee bit of social time along with your Zumba.

Patti did give me some inklings as to how to embark upon the marathon. Mailing lists (some are better than others), price promotions (I'm doing one now! A Song For Josh is only $2.99 til the end of October on Amazon, Kobo, etc.). See? (I seem to like saying this!)

(Or I guess only $ 2.25 in US dollars!)

But mostly what I learned from Patti is that there is no 'silver bullet.' When it comes to ebook marketing, you need a good book (or series) and a helluva lotta patience. Best advice most writers will share with newbies like yourself?

Just keep writing.

Patti has it figured out. She is brilliant at the writing part. She is an absolutely lovely woman who can really spin a yarn in an entertaining and engaging way. But she can also market. 

She is a writing rock star who taught me a lot (and who continues to share her knowledge with myself and others). And so I am happy to give back as well, to 'pay it forward,' I guess you could say.

So, Newbie. This leaves you. Are you sitting there with your finger quivering over the mouse, wondering whether or not you should drop a note and say hello? Are you wondering whether this is a journey you might want to take, but you're afraid because you aren't sure you can? Well, click that mouse and say hello. Take this journey, one step at a time. And don't hesitate to ask those of us who have come before you for a hand. We are happy to help.

This is the most amazing journey I have ever taken. (I would add this - packing up my old Sunfire and driving my kid and myself across the country to live in Vancouver to go to Film School at age 41, but let me just say that was simply terrifying. So I won't - although it had its own perks and life lessons!).

If you're not sure whether you want to try, run a little test. Ask yourself this - do you have a burning passion to tell a story? Do you stare at others' books all lined up on Kindle or bookstore shelves and visualize your name on the book cover? Do you hang out with your characters when you're lonely or depressed and wish they were real? (Ha ha! Yup. I do.) Then do yourself a favour and don't let fear stop you from realizing your dreams. Reach out to someone who has mapped this world before you, or if you're shy don't be afraid to go to the gazillion other blogs out there in Google-land. Navigate your way through the ins and outs. Make the Google search bar your friend.

And share your stories with the world.

May I just add one little note - thank you, Patti.


The Thing About Jessie Wheeler...

A high school friend of mine...

...(you know who you are!)...saw a photo I posted on Facebook a few days ago and said This reminds me of Jessie .. beautiful, beaten, broken :( .

Here's the photo:

High winds and salty seas got to this poor tree...but still, despite its brokenness, its beauty remains. Twin Shores Beach, Darnley, P.E.I.

High winds and salty seas got to this poor tree...but still, despite its brokenness, its beauty remains. Twin Shores Beach, Darnley, P.E.I.

There are a few things I find interesting about her observation. One, Jessie was on her mind while she scrolled through Facebook in her leisure time. Two, I've been taking a few of these kinds of pics lately (so what does this say about me?). And three, what is it about Jessie Wheeler that leaves a lingering effect on people? As my friend added, It's like she is my friend that I have this unhealthy loyalty to...and who doesn't have a friend like that? One who is a train wreck and you know it - but you can't help yourself...you are her biggest fan, her biggest critic, you could kick her arse and dry her tears...she exhausts you, but you can't and will never give up on her...

As more and more readers discover the Drifters series, many are reaching out to me. It's quite humbling, and I find myself trying to figure out what it is that makes Jessie resonate with folks. My high school friend nailed it. She's battered and broken, yet she's got this inner beauty that comes forward in her music and in her way of seeing the world and the people in it, that gives her the strength and courage to go on.

I struggled a little last week - I feel a bit lost now that the Drifters series is done. I spent most of the summer writing new drafts (yes, plural - takes twelve drafts to get to the first real draft) of my screenplay, formerly Atlantic Blue and currently known as Still the Water. I enjoyed writing the story, but now it's all down to business, which is much less fun than writing - do I sell this thing? (My L.A. mentor says yes, get it into the marketplace). So I wrote some query letters and had some interest right away, but was then told by one producer that my film is a six million dollar film and as an unknown SELF-PUBLISHED writer with no meaningful awards, I am not bankable at that level. (I was a Finalist in the 2011 Writing Atlantic Writing Awards for unpublished manuscripts, but I guess that is small potatoes, ha ha!)

That's fair, it's totally fair, and I admired her honesty. But I guess this is where the Jessie in me comes in. I've been struggling for a lot of years to find my real place in this world (aren't we all?) and comments like these (which, let's face it, feel like defeat) make me feel a little smaller, a little more beaten, a lot more battered. But - back to Jessie - I have this pull to keep going. To regroup, to say, okay, so it seems like the odds are against me, so how do I turn this around and make it work? And I think this is a lesson for all of us. Many of us are too quick to throw in the towel on our dreams and on our hopes, or maybe even in relationships with lovers, with family, with friends. Filmmaking is a tough world - how do you find money to shoot something when the world seems bleak and at this point you don't even know when you'll see your son again because flights to Vancouver aren't cheap? Why does the world have to revolve around money, anyway? I get such joy from writing...but writing is fantasy, not reality. Filmmaking is fantasy. Some would say Get your head out of the clouds! Get a real job!

Another casualty...Darnley, P.E.I.

Another casualty...Darnley, P.E.I.

It's so easy to have people tell you that you can't do something. This film needs six million dollars in order for it to happen...I disagree. I live on P.E.I. where there is no media incentive to help cut costs, but where there is interest from local MLAs and even our Mayor to see this film happen here. Where there is a quick Sure, you can shoot in my rink, and I won't charge you, and a We can get you some office space at no charge, and a I'd be happy to help (from a local fisherman). Steve says there are tons of old fishing boats we can sink (oops, spoiler alert), and guys that would likely haul it (and remove it again from its resting place) for free. There are actors looking for work and, sadly, even N.S. crew who would likely come over and help since their province has messed their industry up rather royally, I don't mind saying. Sure, crew might have to accept being billeted, but Summerside's good for that - our townsfolk always jump in and help out when they are needed. I could likely even find volunteers to help with the driving, or the food-making, you name it. Retired folks, for instance, looking for something to do for a few weeks in the winter. (Let me add that I would pay those who make their living in the industry - crew, for instance. I would pay whomever I could - but I know there are some folks not in need of funds who would help out if needed as well, in order to see this film get made in Summerside, to give us a little economic boost and a lot of fun, and something else to be proud of). 

My point is, sure, my film could be a six million dollar film. It could be a twenty million dollar film. Or it could be a 2 million dollar film. Could it be less than that and still look good? Heck, yeah. I can tell a story. I can be resourceful. And I feel most like myself when I am on a film set in jeans and a T-shirt, and brown cowboy boots, ha ha! (Gotta focus on Jessie's resilience, might as well borrow her boots!). What I can't be is someone who lies down and doesn't try something just because someone tells me I can't.

This producer gal (who I really liked, truly, she was someone I know I can work with if I ever get the opportunity) ended the conversation by saying I hope I didn't discourage you. She did, for an hour. But I was off to the shore to spend the rest of the day with Steve and I didn't want to bum him out because I was bummed out, so I rallied. (Thank you, Jessie). So what I also can't be is someone who gets defensive and upset if the world doesn't always go my way. Instead, I choose to take Jessie's attitude (or maybe she has mine?) which is beat me and batter me, but I will remain beautiful. To others and, especially, to myself.

A little music goes a long way when one is having a hard day. This guitar was taking a rest at Twin Shores' Mussels and Music last Saturday, and I was feeling wonderful, singing along to Sweet Caroline (Bamp bamp bamp!!!) as loud as everyone else despite the gnarly hit to my soul earlier in the day. I've since rebounded and am thinking again about making this film myself. I suppose it's partly because I'm afraid other producers might also not see me as a bankable entity, despite the fact that readers are constantly telling me the Drifters series is their favorite series ever. (Not bragging, I swear, although my self-published little ego needs that bit of a pump up once in a while)! 


We're all broken and battered in one way or another. Do my challenges compare to those of the Syrian refugees? No. Let's keep things in perspective here. Thankfully what gets me down is not the same as what Jessie's up against, either, unless you count on a metaphorical 'single parent broke seemingly forever' kind of thing.

My message to you today is to keep on going. Keep up the fight. If Jessie Wheeler can help you stay positive and reach through to tell you that you are okay, that you are still loveable and your dreams are still attainable despite what you might think deep down inside, then she's done her job. And I've done mine.

Now I just need to keep listening to her myself, huh? And maybe someday Still the Water will get made.

In the meantime, here's a tune to brighten your day. Lemme hear ya! Bamp bamp bamp...!

P.S. FREE for the next five days on Amazon, my critically acclaimed short story from the novel of the same name -

P.P.S. Um, this one's FREE for five days as well...happy reading!

A Certain Kind of Freedom

A Certain Kind Of Freedom is a story about loss, letting go, and moving on. 

An express-post card from the Maltese Islands informs a Prince Edward Island mother, Catherine, that her 21 year old son Ryan has suddenly died. Her partner, Charlie, finds Catherine on the floor in their kitchen as her mind recoils against the terrible news. In her agony, Catherine compares Ryan to the World War II Spitfire pilots of Malta. He died on an island that is no stranger to losing young men in the prime of their lives.

Read More

Trailer for the Drifters Books

It has always been my dream to see the Drifters Series in the visual medium of film. I put together a trailer for the series, but note that I did this with no budget, so it's pretty scaled back. 

The song is Chris Smith's. A Kensington, P.E.I. boy, he is an amazing talent who, by the way, also represents Josh in this little trailer!

Thanks to Sherri-Lee Darrach, Chris Smith, and the Harbourfront Theatre for helping me with this simple trailer :)

The Music Of The Drifters Series

I've always loved music. As a University student I had my own radio show (on the campus station at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada) and I dj'd at clubs as well. When I started writing the Drifters books I knew that Jessie's songs were special, that they were more than just ballads and upbeat pop tunes. To me, her songs have deep messages and many layers. 

Read More

The Healing Place

Last night I received a text from my friend Deanna, a gal I work with in my part time job at a local performing arts theatre box office. She was asking if I could take an extra shift on Friday. The reason? The third member of our team, Linda, would not be able to work Friday (tomorrow). Why? Her stepson was killed Wednesday at 11 am in the midst of a driving snowstorm.

Read More