How I Spent My Summer Vacation

imageDo you remember having to write about how you spent your summer vacation every year when you went back to school? At least in the early years. Back then, my parents had a cottage on the Gull River near Norland, Ontario, Canada. Mostly I’d spend my days swimming, fishing, hiking, water skiing, and boating. We had a 14′ fibreglass boat with a 33HP Evinrude motor, and a small rowboat. I used to love to take the big boat up the river to Moore Lake, anchor it, and read. There were no flies in the middle of the lake to bug me. I also loved to paddle my rowboat with my dog, Sandy, lying by my side (he refused to go in the motor boat). We’d paddle up and down the river for hours, though you had to be careful. There was a strong current leading to Elliot Falls, an open dam and old, no longer functional, hydroelectric plant. Readers of The Hanged Man’s Noose might recognize certain aspects of the location as Camp Miakoda, and they’d be right. I definitely patterned the boot camp location after our cottage, although I did take considerable liberties (my parents were really strict, but they didn’t run a boot camp for young offenders!).

This year, I spent my vacation at our camp on Lake Superior (yes, up here in Northern Ontario, they call them camps instead of cabins or cottages; it makes no sense to me—to my mind, a camp is a tent). Anyway, enough about that! The intention behind this vacation was to read, relax, and get in some quality writing time without the distraction of marketing, editing work, and the endless time suck of social media (though I did post on my personal FB page, so in essence, I cheated a little bit). Here are some of the highlights:

imageGouais River Parade: We’re talking a fire truck, some pickup trucks driven by local business, and a clown or two, but great fun if you had kids or grandkids, because everyone in the vehicles threw candy out the windows. It’s like Halloween, without having to go door-to-door.

Chippewa Falls Arts & Crafts Festival: Here I met a local author, Mary-Lynn Murphy. Of course I had to buy her book, Finding Grace, which is set in Toronto and Northern Ontario. I regret not getting a photo of her, with her book, which you can find on Amazon, should you care to look for it.
imageSpectacular Sunsets: My favorite pastime. Truly soul-soothing, especially if you’re sipping on a nice glass of champagne or chardonnay. The water changes constantly, going from whitecaps to smooth as glass.


imageWatching Gibbs love the water: At nine months old, he’d never seen water like Superior. He was timid at first, but after a day or so, he wanted to swim for hours on end.image

Watching for Bears: Yes, mama bear and three cubs came to visit once or twice, and we often saw them while walking Gibbs. I learned to walk with a bear bell and a small boat horn. Thankfully, I didn’t have to use the horn, as mama would wander away quietly, babies following.


Reading: I made a dent in my ever-growing To Be Read pile, finishing Avalanche by Kristina Stanley (5 stars), three books by Scottish mystery writer M.C. Beaton (if you haven’t discovered Hamish McBeth, you must!), and starting Roses for a Diva by Rick Blechta (paperback) and Should Have Played Poker by Debra H. Goldstein (Kindle on iPad). I always have at least 2 books on the go. For outdoors, here, paper is best. Based on what I have read of Diva and Poker (I’m about midway on both) I would highly recommend either.

imageWriting: I really wanted to work on the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose, so I had what I’d written printed and coil-bound at Staples, and asked them to put 75 blank pages at the end. Every afternoon, I’d take that book out on the deck and write a chapter or two. I’d transcribe it the next morning on my iPad. I’ve never done this before but it was amazing how much I wrote in a couple of hours each day. I’m not finished A Hole In One (the murder takes place at the Miakoda Falls Golf and Country Club), but I’m a lot closer than I was, and I think I just may have found a new way to write. There’s something about pen and paper …

And that’s how I spent my summer vacation.

My Publishing Journey: The Beginning

929July 4, 2008: I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Southlake Regional Health Care Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, my husband, Mike, by my side. My Golden Retriever at the time, Copper, is at home, probably pacing. He always was an intuitive dog.

My cancer surgery is scheduled for 8 a.m. but we’re expected to be there 90 minutes before. Mike pretends to read the Toronto Sun. I’m reading Memoirs of a Geisha, desperately trying to finish it before the anesthesiologist comes. That’s when I make a pact with myself: I’m going to come out of surgery. I’m going to beat cancer. And I’m going to be an author. After all, it’s what I’ve always said I wanted to do. What I always wanted to be.

Eight years later, I’ve written a few short stories. Two books, with two in process, and a couple of novellas percolating in my head. I’ve done the Bermuda Triangle Marathon Weekend with my friend, Michelle, who never stopped believing. Completed the Steelhead Half Ironman Triathon in Benton Harbor, Michigan, with my friend, Donna, who talked me into it and trained with me in wind and hail and heat and humidity.

I even managed to finish the two-day 200+ kilometre (124+ mile) Ride to Conquer Cancer from Toronto to Niagara, raising the $2,500 to enter, thanks to a host of friends and colleagues too numerous to mention.

So screw you cancer. You don’t win.

I win.


*July has a special meaning for me. It’s the month of my birthday. The month I signed my first publishing contract. The month I realized that I wanted to live. Not just live, but LIVE. On my terms. Doing what I wanted to do. Being who I wanted to be.

Starting July 6th, I’m going to unplug, take 21 days off the grid. Recharge. Read lots of  books. Hold hands with my husband on the shores of Lake Superior. Drink fine wine and the best champagne. Eat Belgium truffles and Swiss chocolate. Pick wild blueberries. Swim, splash and play in the water. Hug my newest Golden Retriever, Gibbs, and silently remember all the Goldens who have enriched my life: Sandy. Einstein. Ranger. Copper.

I’ll be back, stronger and more determined than ever. Until then…


Happy Canada Day!


Happy Canada Day! 





New Release Mondays: Avalanche by Kristina Stanley

Avalanche Cover FinalAvalanche (Mystery)

Release Date: June 25, 2016

Synopsis: On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear. The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name.

Excerpt: Fearless of skiing in the backcountry, Roy McCann climbed to the summit of Stone Mountain Resort and paused at the entrance to the Dragon’s Bowl. His muscles ached, and his calf cramped from the strenuous ascent. He released his boot from the binding of his touring ski and stretched his foot toward his shin, fighting the developing knot.

The first glow of morning light reflected off the run, and Roy searched the shadows for signs of another person. A two-kilometer crescent started above the tree line and ended in the forest, providing a steep powder run for only the most advanced skiers and snowboarders. The terrain also provided infinite hiding spots. So where?

The avalanche warning sign hanging from an orange safety line displayed a considerable danger rating. Logic said he should turn back. Not a chance. His need to finish what he started was stronger than logic.

He surveyed the precipice above the bowl. An overhanging mass of hardened snow extended along three quarters of the ridge, but the band of uncertainty was small. He could manage the terrain.

Prepping for a downhill run, he removed the climbing skins from the base of the skis. He ducked the line and traversed to his favorite entry point into the bowl.

The sun rose over the peaks, and his headlamp automatically switched off. Twelve hundred meters below, the chairlift operators began their morning ritual. The lifts rotated, and the rhythmic hum of machinery drifted toward him. His shift with ski patrol started at eight, so he’d better get his ass in gear. He’d done his best.

He jumped off the edge and attacked the run. Powder sprayed above his knees as he glided through each turn. A skier’s dream.

Several seconds in, the whumph of packed snow fracturing echoed across the Purcell Mountain range.


He jammed the edges of his skis against a mogul, stopped and checked the cliff directly above him. The morning sun glistened off the snow, momentarily blinding him. The rumble of a slide pummeling everything in its path reverberated through his bones.

Imajin author Kristina Stanley

About the author: Kristina Stanley is the bestselling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the Debut Dagger. Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is also the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES. Find Kristina at

Buy the Book 


Interview with an Author: Jayne Barnard on Writing Steampunk

frontdraft5Jayne Barnard’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in many publications over the past quarter-century. Her first Steampunk YA novella, MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND, came out from Tyche Books in October 2015. Her full-length mystery, WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS, won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur Award (Best Unpublished First Crime Novel by a Canadian writer) in June 2016. She enjoys teaching vocal workshops and discussing psychological motivations at literary conventions.


Judy: Tell me a bit about Maddie Hatter.

Jayne: MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (October 2015, Tyche Books) is a lively mystery for adventurous women aged 12 to 102. A fledgling fashion reporter, Maddie is the last English journalist to have seen an eccentric adventurer, Baron Bodmin, before he vanishes into the Nubian desert in search of a legendary diamond. Hoping to break into investigative reporting, she and her clockwork sparrow delve into the baron’s pre-trip activities. But no men in 1898 Egypt will answer a young, female reporter’s questions. When the explorer’s airship turns up off Cornwall, adrift and deserted, she chases the story back to England and far beyond.

Judy: You’re visiting today to talk about writing steampunk. For starters, what exactly is steampunk?

Jayne: Steampunk is the late Victorian/early Edwardian world as if steam power, not petroleum, was the main source of power. As if the writings of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and other late-nineteenth-century writers of the fantastical were the truth instead of fictive imaginings. Think of amazing clockworks and mysterious steam-driven machines, incredible airships, larger-than-life heroes and villains, fabulous costumes and beautiful hats.

Judy: Is steampunk the same thing everywhere?

brass birdJayne:  Not quite. British Steampunk costumes tend toward recognizable Victorian wear with the addition of goggles and other odd, usually brass, accessories. Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ and ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ are the forefathers of its Steampunk literature, and the modern, short-lived tv series, The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, helped trigger the genre’s resurgence. American Steampunk has a strong frontier flavour. Costumes include a lot of leather and, often, exotic-looking fake weaponry. The movie ‘Wild, Wild West’ is an icon of the American variant. There’s a colourful diversity of Asian-rooted Steampunk as well, with its own styles and rooted in its own historical writings.

Judy: What or who inspired you to become a writer?

Jayne: My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Rinaldo, let me take a whole week to write out the suspenseful tale that came to me during a class exercise. I lived and breathed that story, all four scribbler pages of it. From that point on, I never quite stopped writing.

Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?

Jayne: Don’t write what you know; write FROM what you know. That gives you a firm base on which to build,  allowing you to write with confidence. Writing outward from there allows you to explore ‘what-ifs,’ keeping the story as fresh in your writing as it will be for the eventual readers.

Judy: Do you have a favorite author or series? A favorite genre?

Jayne:  I read a lot of historical fiction and non-fiction, often crime-related. Along the way I’ve gathered data about family life, social customs, and politics, which feeds my writing indirectly.

Judy: Do you read your genre when writing? If so, why? If not, why not?

Jayne: If Steampunk or other SF is on my desktop, history and mystery are on my nightstand, and the other way around. My mind needs a nightly break from the styles and constraints of that genre in order to work more effectively the following day.

Judy: What’s next for Jayne Barnard?

Jayne: I’m finishing the second Maddie adventure, which takes place in Gilded Age New York City. It will be released by Tyche Books in April 2017. Meanwhile Dundurn Press, sponsor of the Unhanged Arthur, is assessing WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS. And I’m always on the lookout for short fiction submission opportunities to break up the long slog through writing a novel or novella.

Jayne Barnard

Jayne Barnard

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