My Birthday Wish

As a lifelong reader and published author, there is a cause that is close to my heart. I’ve been an advocate for many things, but this is special to me. Literacy. Children’s literacy, community access to books, little free libraries, public libraries, authors in schools, authors in libraries, family literacy day, writing workshops, poetry slams … We feed the body, we defend against abuse and neglect on every front, and that’s all so important. Books feed the mind and the soul, they empower people with representation and with knowledge.

My birthday is on April 2, and this year it lands over Easter weekend. I won’t be doing anything special this year, just spending time with family for the holidays, and I’m content with that. I’ve been spending a lot of weekends doing sales and shows so a quiet weekend with my kids is a treat. I’ll be turning 31. I’ve long outgrown the need for birthday gifts, aside from the trinkets my kids buy me, or the next season of my TV show on DVD which my husband grabs me each year because birthdays are a good excuse for the little luxuries. Still, I am blessed with a large extended family and a large network of friends so I will make this one concession.

If you would like to celebrate my birthday, if you would like to get a little something to commemorate the day, please, buy a book. BUT there’s a catch. Buy a book and donate it somewhere – to a daycare center, a school library, your local public library, the local women’s shelter, foster child group home. Or give it as a gift to a friend or friend’s child who you feel would enjoy it. Maybe you know a family that is going through hard times and a new book in the house would be a real treat for the kids. (Feel free to read the book first, if you haven’t already, or buy a copy of one of your favourites to share)

If you are donating to a daycare or school please make sure the book is for the appropriate age group. If you are donating to the public library consider checking their website for a “wish list” or ask a librarian if there’s a new release they’d love to have an extra copy of. If you’re gifting to a friend or family member’s children, ask the parents first if there’s anything the child is interested in or refuses to read. (My son HATES Five Nights at Freddie’s or anything scary like Goosebumps, some families do not like books with monsters, even cute ones)

Consider buying from a local author – local to where you live. You’ll be helping to support local talent, and often a library’s budget gets eaten up keeping the big-demand books coming in and they can’t afford to support local as much as they would like to. Or support your favourite indie author. You can even grab one of my books to share with someone.

If you do any of the above, please, take a picture of the book and share with me where you’re sending it to (if gifting you don’t have to include the person’s name).

If you need shopping inspiration, here is a list of some of the Manitoba authors and indie authors whose books I’ve enjoyed (in no particular order):

Theo Ashford, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, Alex McGilvery, C.A. King, Debbie Manber Kupfer, Steve LeBel, Jeffery Cook, Sherry Peters, Celesta Thiessen, Alyssa Thiessen, Christine Steendam


A Bookish Valentine Blog Hop: A Series You Love

And now for today’s post in the Bookish Valentine Blog Hop, everyone’s favourite book series. But before we get started on that, here’s the blog hop list so you can go check out past entries, and click ahead to the ones still coming.


Jo Linsdell started us off with a list of her favourite book bloggers.

V.L. Jennings hosted for “A book other people love, but you haven’t read yet”

Tomorrow you can pop back here for “A Series you Love”

Then on to Skye Hegyes for “Your Fictional Crush”

We’ll have a list of books with hearts on the cover on the 12th.

On the 13th it’s a book you love that no one else is talking about, hosted over at Bold Book Geek.

And on the 14th it’s a list of books to read for Valentine’s Day.


Allie Bock –

One of my favorite series is the An Unfortunate Fairy Tale series by Chanda Hahn. The main character is so likeable. Each book is actioned packed and there are plot twists. Of course, she falls in love at the end. What’s not to like!

Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell –

So many to choose from… one of my favourites is the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross. He has this way of creating complex characters that blur the lines of good and evil. If you like thrillers, I highly recommend checking them out. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling also deserves a mention, as does pretty much any series by Susan Hatler.


V.L. Jennings –

Do I have to pick just one? Too bad… Harry Potter, Redwall, Narnia, The Left Behind series, Star Wars New Jedi Order- though they are no longer canon. See, told you I couldn’t pick just one.

Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes –

Admittedly, although I love a lot of series, there aren’t many that I’ve completely finished beyond the Harry Potter series. I realized this when trying to come up with an answer for this question actually. I think the first one that comes to mind is actually Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler as well as the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore, which I’ve read all of. Most series I’ve read a couple of the books from, but not all.


Now me, I’m a huge series reader. Redwall, Song of the Lioness and the other series in that world, Dragons of Pern, The Rowan books, The Green Mile … I’ve read a lot of series over the years. There are so that I come back to over and over again. The Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega books by Patricia Briggs, the Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop, the Society of Immortals books by Geralyn Wichers – those are probably my top 4.

What’s your favourite series?

My Bookish Valentine Blog Hop: Favourite Fictional Characters

And now for today’s post in the Bookish Valentine Blog Hop, everyone’s favourite fictional couples. But before we get started on that, here’s the blog hop list so you can go check out past entries, and click ahead to the ones still coming.


Jo Linsdell started us off with a list of her favourite book bloggers.

V.L. Jennings hosted for “A book other people love, but you haven’t read yet”

Tomorrow you can pop back here for “A Series you Love”

Then on to Skye Hegyes for “Your Fictional Crush”

We’ll have a list of books with hearts on the cover on the 12th.

On the 13th it’s a book you love that no one else is talking about, hosted over at Bold Book Geek.

And on the 14th it’s a list of books to read for Valentine’s Day.

Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell

My absolute favourite fictional couple has to be WALL-E and EVE from Disney’s WALL-E. Seriously, so cute! As we’re talking books here though, I’m going to go with a classic… Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Their civilised sparring as their courtship progresses is brilliant.

V.L. Jennings

Lois Lane and Superman/Clark (I’m a comic book fan), honestly it is the triangle that intrigues me. Lois is a strong lady who always tries to protect or help Superman even though he is much more powerful than he is. Her scoops always land her in trouble but they always seem to draw out whatever bad plan is going on that superman needed to stop. The fact that she is his ultimate kryptonite isn’t lost on me either.

If we are talking actual book relationships…Gilbert and Anne from Anne of Green Gables will always have a soft spot. “I’ve loved you since the day you broke your slate over my head in school.” ~Gilbert


Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes (

My favorite fictional couple comes from my favorite book, but not the first in the series, as the couple is not actually introduced to one another until the final book in the trilogy. I realize how weird that sounds, but romance was not the major point of the story, but a result of events that just happened naturally, which was part of the reason I love the relationship so much. The couple is Vanyel Ashkevron and the Bard Stefen from the Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey. They are bound together through events beyond their control and are comrades and friends before they’re ever lovers, but I still love them all the same.


As for me, there’s a few. I adore Anna and Charles from the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs. In Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books I like Lucivar and Marian best, or maybe Grey and Cassie or Ranon and Shira. That’s a tough one actually. But I think my all time favourite fictional couple is one that NO ONE has ever heard of before, and that is the cinnamon peeler and his wife in the poem “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife” by Michael Ondaatje. In it a man speaks of never being able to go near his wife when they were courting because he always smelled of cinnamon and her brothers would always know if he touched her. He speaks of disguising his smell in saffron and smoke and limes, just to touch her.

The are swimming together, after they are married, and she laughs, saying “so this is how you touch other women, here where your hands have no smell” – a teasing thing said between couples.

In the end she takes his hands and lays them on her skin. “Touch me. I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife”. There is something in that ending, her desire to be known and to belong, that what he saw as a curse she saw as a mark of pride, that has stuck with me since I first read this poem 10 years ago.

So, who is it for you? Who is your favourite fictional couple?

The Need for Stories

The story of a writer often begins with the story of a reader. It begins with a passion for the written word, a longing for stories. I consumed stories. I was voracious. I read far above my grade level, and below it as well, reading the books on my classroom shelf, my parents’ shelves, and the stuff my younger sister left lying around. At twelve I was reading Stephen King, and the Bailey School Kids, and the Redwall books.

When I read that’s all I do. I disappear. I don’t hear people around me anymore. I read until I have to stop, or until the book is done. I have burnt dinner. I’ve been late for work. I’ve stayed up far past my bedtime. When my son was born I read a lot while nursing. I tried to do this when my daughter was born but realized it wasn’t safe – I’d lose track of my then-two-year-old son. I put books aside almost entirely for a few years, only flipping through a few old favourites to satisfy my need for words, books I could put down easily because I knew what happened in the end.

Often people ask writers where they get their ideas from and I’ve written about inspiration and motivation before. I think before we have ideas for individual stories we have the idea that we can write stories. Something clicks inside of us and we go ‘hey, maybe I could do this’. And then the story ideas start. There’s still time to turn back at this point, still time to say, ‘no, it’s too much trouble, I’ll just keep my nose in this book’, and that’s what many people do.

For me that click very quickly became a need. I realized I had stories to tell, stories that were important to me, ideas I wanted to share. I often feel like I have no choice in this anymore. I must continue to write. The ideas come faster than I can record them. I have projects I will never finish, and more I will never even have time to start. I am driven by a need to reach out to people, to communicate across time and space and reality, just as so many authors were able to do with the books I have read.

I have been inspired to start and continue this journey by so many authors, big name or indie, local or international, best sellers or obscure. I cannot list them all, I cannot remember them all, but here are a few books and authors I recommend:

Misty of Chincoteague: my mother read this to us when we were young and I remember the cover. It was a hardcover edition from the library with this close up of a grey horse face and the mane flowing around it. It was magical and stuck with me even when I couldn’t remember the name of the book. I did find it back again and reread it in high school along with King of the Wind and Cinnabar.

MAUS: A difficult read, one I undertook at thirteen when we did WWII in school. One of my favourite books of all time. It was dark but somehow humourous at times. It was honest, about his father’s life and his own, even his own failings. I think it’s that honesty and the stark black and white style that grabbed me.

Stephen King, Tamora Pierce, David Eddings, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Mark Leslie, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, George RR Martin.

And it wasn’t limited to books – I learned a lot about story telling from television as well. TV can teach you about pacing, character, cliff-hangers, and more, but it cannot teach you about sentences and words and paragraphs, for that you must read.

X-Files, Xena, Andromeda, Sliders, The Lost World (TV show and the movie), Buffy (TV show).

I find it fascinating what inspires people and what pop culture helped shape them and their voice/vision. This is just a part of my list. Which books/movies/TV shows/authors are on your list?

The Birth of a Story

My story started with an 18×24 inch, three panel, yellow folder.

Each student was given one of these folders in the second grade. On the front it said “Writing Portfolio” and under that, in the impossibly neat printing of an elementary school teacher, it had my name. When you opened it up and set it on your desk or on the floor you were in a private little cubby, like the study desks at the library. Perhaps that’s why I preferred the study desks in the hallway at St Paul’s over the library tables. Perhaps I was remembering this folder.

When open it had three pockets. The left pocket was for ideas, brainstorming, and rough drafts. The middle pocket had our dictionary and our editing materials. And this wasn’t a professionally published dictionary – it was 26 pages, half-sheet size, stapled together and we had to write in the words we had trouble with as we went along. On the right was space for our nearly finished work. Then we would neatly print the story and draw a picture for it and post it on the bulletin board.

This is one of my most vivid memories of elementary school.

When I was young my mother kept one of those school memories journals for me, and one for my sister, and at the end of each school year she’d ask us who our friends were, what our favourite subject was, and what we wanted to be when we grew up.

Kindergarten: Doctor, Artist, Teacher

Grade 1: Storyteller, Writer

Grade 2: Gymnast, Teacher, Writer

Grade 3: Hairdresser, Olympic athlete in soccer or gymnastics

Grade 4: Writer

Grade 5: Author

Grade 6: Author, Piano teacher

In junior high I had an extra binder just for my stories. They were fan-fiction, though I didn’t know what fan-fiction was back then. I knew plagiarism was wrong though so I’d change things and try to make the story my own, but it wasn’t.

In high school my writing became more original but it would be years yet before I became a published author.

Now I’m 30. I’m married with 2 kids. I work from home as a full-time author with nine original books. Seventeen years ago I started writing in earnest, trying to learn this amazing craft. It’s been one heck of a journey so far, and it’s far from over.

Bookish Christmas Blog Hop

On the fourth day of blog hop some writers gave to me a fictional guest list for Christmas dinner!

Okay, it doesn’t rhyme. Sorry. So, I am participating in the Bookish Blog Hop’s Christmas hop.

You can check out the first three stops here:

A book you love so much you want everyone​ ​ to find under their Christmas tree​ this year so they can read ​​it too.

A book cover that has wonderfully Christmas feel to it.

A book you’d like to find in your Christmas ​​stocking this year.

Today’s question is: Which fiction character would you like to have spend Christmas with?


Belinda Bekkers

It would have to be Gatsby. Could you imagine the grandeur of it? I bet it would have a giant tree covered in fancy decorations.

Jo Linsdell
Jo Linsdell

I’m torn here. Either Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice or Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’s Diary. Elizabeth is clever, would no doubt make great conversation, and she can hold her own if discussions come up. Bridget Jones is so real all the time, and I think would be a fun and entertaining guest. She’s so wonderfully not-perfect.

Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes

There are so many characters I wouldn’t mind spending time with any time of the year, but I think the one I’d like to spend Christmas with would be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter world. She would be fun and entertaining, but I also feel like I could learn a lot from her too, and not just about magic.


And me?

I would like to spend Christmas at the Barrelhaven Tavern with Lucien and Grandma Ben. Perhaps Thorn will come down from the capital for a visit, and with a little luck the Bone boys will be around for a long visit, because once winter lands in the valley nothing goes in or out for months. There’s something about a warm rustic tavern full of savory smells and good friends that appeals to me.

What about you? Where would you spend Christmas? And who would you spend it with?


Be sure to continue on down the hop!

December 14th – A fictional character you’d​ like to kiss under the mistletoe.

December 15th – A fictional creature to replace Rudolph and meet on the roof.

December 16th – 5 fictional characters you’d invite to your New Year’s Eve party


I am empowered to exist.

I give myself permission to take up space. I am allowed to stand my ground, stay the course, and let others move around me. I do not have to make myself smaller, not by losing weight, not by slouching, not by looking down, to make others feel more comfortable around me. I am allowed embrace my identity, whether it conforms to the current norms of society or not.

I am empowered to exist.


I am empowered to speak.

My voice is important. My story, opinions, and experiences are valid and have merit. I do not have to speak more softly, or more politely. I do not have to laugh more softly, or less often. I can share my story, in my own way and in my own time, even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

I am empowered to speak.


I am empowered to take care of myself.

Asking for help is not a weakness. I am allowed to close the doors and take quiet time to myself. I am allowed to go out and have fun, just for me. My physical and mental well-being are important. Self-care does not make me conceited.

I am empowered to take care of myself.


I am empowered to empower others.

I will stand with you and boost you up when others seek to push you down. I will listen, and demand others listen, when others seek to silence your voice. I will listen and respect your privacy when you open up to me in trust. I will support and validate your experiences, even if they are not the same as mine. I will help you, whatever you ask, whenever you ask, if it is in my power, I will help. I will do these things for you, no matter your gender at birth, the gender you identify as, who you love, where you or your ancestors come from, or what you believe in. Together we can change the world – but only together.

I am empowered to empower others.


Review: Tacoma

Tacoma is a first person story based video game. I downloaded a copy on Steam when it was on sale. It’s not too long a game – 10-20 hours tops – but it was enjoyable.

Being story-based the game play was fairly linear. You made your way from module to module in a set order as the game unlocked each area for you. The set-up and setting are:

The lunar transfer station Tacoma has experienced a critical life support failure and all crew have abandoned ship. You have been hired by the station’s corporate owners to retrieve any “black box” data from the station’s various computers and then retrieve the station’s AI wetware core.

As you progress through this mission you have the opportunity to view AR ship logs recorded at various times (from 12 months prior to 12 hours prior). In these recordings the crew of Tacoma (4 women, 2 men) are shown as slightly geometric figures, each colour coded so you know who is who. It seemed weird at first but I actually enjoyed it.

The recordings aren’t on screens, they’re full-body projections that are walking around the space around you, talking to each other. You can access various personal terminals and work stations, go through drawers, and look in closets. As you go you’ll find things that don’t add up, as well as details about the crew.

What I enjoyed most about the game, and what prompted me to write this review, was the diversity. You play a female character named  Amitjyoti (Amy) Ferrier, which is a huge step. First of all, you rarely see yourself but from what you do see, you’re dressed in practical clothing, and you’re not a “white” character. While the character has no speech or hearing impairments she interacts with the computer systems using sign language.

The crew is mostly female, including an African-American woman in charge of the station, an East Indian female medical doctor, and two Caucasian women working as the mechanical engineer (she reminds me of Pam from Archer and they call her Bert, short for Roberta) and the network technician (who is Russian and a bit of a bitch by the way, but you get to love her, I swear)

The two men are an Asian botanist (I do apologize, I am not familiar with the Asian nationalities so I can’t be more specific) and a Caucasian HR director (very British).

On top of the obvious national diversity, there are three couples mentioned in the game. First, the station director and the HR director are having a fling . Second, Bert and Nat (the mechanical engineer and the network tech) are married. Third, the Botanist has a husband and an 18 year old son back on Earth. So there is that diversity as well.

The story is part human-interest, part corporate thriller. The more time you spend examining papers and terminals, the more sense everything starts to make.

The graphics were simple in texture but the environment was detailed – lots of papers and pens and lights and bits and bobs everywhere. The AI, ODIN, whom you meet in the AR recordings, is serious but seems to care about the crew of his station. The interactions between crew members were interesting and realistic without the boring grind of “hey how are you?” “fine, how are you?” over and over again.

The ending was a bit of a jump and the story was short, but otherwise this game was a lot of fun to play and visually appealing. I give this a 4 out of 5.

Review: No Fire Escape in Hell

No Fire Escape in Hell is part romantic comedy, part comedy of errors, written by Kim Cayer.

I first read this book in the summer of 2016 but we just finished reading it with the Steinbach and Area book club so I thought I would do a review.

The story has a first person female narrator and the character is quite amusing. This isn’t really my type of book but the character was entertaining enough that I finished reading. I liked her daughter as well.

What else I liked was the middle and ending of the book. She’s basically living out of her car and everything goes wrong, constantly, while she struggles to make things go right. The events of the book are interesting, nothing repetitive or annoying. Ends on a decent note.

What I didn’t like was the beginning. I found there were a few things that hurt the believability of the story, and the initial incident that gets her living in her car in the first place, well I just didn’t believe it. I found myself sitting there going “why didn’t she just -” and coming up with a half dozen other things she could have done that would have been more reasonable and really, still in character. I think the set-up could have been thought out better. There were also a few times that I thought “really? is she that naive?”

The other readers at book club had trouble getting through this story. They found it slow and it wasn’t really anyone’s “thing”.

If you enjoy fun, light, romantic comedies, give this book a try. If not, then I’d avoid it. Personally, I give it a 2 out of 5 stars.

The Rose Garden #1: Rose In The Dark by Casia Schreyer

Wow! Writefully Written has reviewed Rose in the Dark.


The first book in this series follows the story of Princess Rheeya of Stone clan.  Through her story we are introduced to a highly imaginative and complex world where politics and tradition often cause problems. Without giving too much away it is absolutely necessary for Princess Rheeya to find her destined prince or everyone in the land she rules over will be in grave danger. Exploring this facet gives us a great look into the mythology of the world being created as well and which will be vital to know in future books in the seems.

The book really picks up its’ pace though when there is trouble at a mine, and the Princess is determined to personally go to the aid of the miners. In the process, loyalties are tested, larger threats are revealed, and traditions are challenged.

In addition, Princess Rheeya isn’t impressed by any of her…

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