|Read about my|
I must have been. I have always felt more comfortable with history than modern life. Except for the essential personal conveniences, of course—flush toilets, hair dryers, hot running water, immersion blenders, and iPads.
When I was ten, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" aired on Masterpiece Theatre. I was fascinated. I read every book in the library about the Tudors and tried to tell my friends just how cool these people were. The result...class nerd. And the result of that? Writer. I let the characters in my head tell their stories, and I wrote them down. I won a few student awards for poetry and essays, and I baffled my teachers with some of my stuff—like the story I wrote in about a French sausage maker who lured evil German soldiers into the back of her shop to see (and become) her wares. My teacher that year was a nun, and she called my mother about that story.
Was Mr. Brown, my seventh grade science teacher. He had a red beard, wore his kilt to school, and he played the bagpipes on the playground when he had yard duty. I was fascinated. I made my mother buy me a kilt and sign me up for Highland dancing lessons. Alas, after a few weeks, my dancing teacher suggested I'd be better suited to a different pursuit—like horseback riding. I was a natural at that, actually, as horses are capable of making even the clumsiest kid look graceful. I can still do the first few steps of the Highland Fling, but I refrain when anyone is looking (be glad).
Is my husband, who was born in Paisley, Scotland. He came to Canada at the age of six with his family. Alas, he does not wear a kilt or have an accent. I met him as my blind date for my high school prom.
I didn't grow out of shy and bookish easily. In high school I was tall, skinny, and I wore glasses...those big seventies glasses. I didn't have a date for the prom, so my friends offered to set me up. I had a choice of two swains. One was a classmate with a goofy smile (I hear he later went on to become the wealthy CEO of a Fortune 500 company), and the other was the older brother of a friend of a friend. I went with the unknown. He was an older man—he'd just finished university, while I was just about to graduate from high school. That was May. At Christmas, he proposed, and the following July, we got married. It's been 33 1/2 years so far.
I worked as a copywriter for a company that sold insurance through direct mail. I wrote heartfelt sales letters reminding people to leave a legacy for their family or to make sure their finances were protected in case of accident or illness. Did you know you cannot say 'die' or 'dead' in a letter selling direct mail life insurance? I told myself that this job was all about learning how to write, so when the time came, I'd be ready to pen great novels.
We moved from Toronto (Markham) to Ottawa (Kanata) when my husband got a job there. Without a job, I explored new options, none of which was writing novels (yet). I even considered going back to university and getting a degree in industrial design. Instead, I started my own freelance copywriting business. I wrote direct marketing fundraising letters for Canadian political parties, government agencies, and charities, and kept telling myself that it was all practice...
Began with Griffin, then three years later, Olivia arrived. Griffin threw up a lot, and fell on a cactus when he was 22 months old, which required a week-long stay in hospital where he caught roseola. Olivia was a very determined baby. She refused to eat solid food (except liver pate, which she mainly used to spike her hair) until she was nearly two. I stayed home full time to raise my children, and volunteered a lot—I was a cub leader for five years, a reading tutor, and a parent volunteer at the school.
This was when I started secretly writing novels—medieval romances. Those stolen hours of writing were blissful. I submitted my work to two agents way back then. They both rejected me, though they also said I had potential, and not to give up. I saw only the rejection part, and kept everything I wrote hidden in a box buried under another box in my basement.
We pulled up stakes and moved to Calgary, Alberta, where my husband went to work in the family business, as a technical editor in Canada's Oil Patch. I was thrilled to be moving closer to my in-laws, who are truly wonderful people, and to a number of other relatives who live out here. The move also gave me time to write fiction full time, since I was without a job, or a cub pack, and my kids were in school full time.
I'd hauled all those dog-eared secret manuscripts out from Ottawa, and I started figuring out what I needed to do to get published. I joined the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America and met a very dynamic, determined group of writers, three of whom became my fabulous critique partners. I entered contests, pitched to editors and agents face-to-face for the first time. As a finalist in a Seattle writing contest, I won a private meeting with the editor or agent of my choice. I chose to meet with agent Kevan Lyon. She didn't buy my book on the spot, and I didn't win the contest (I came second), but she asked to see something else. So I wrote something else and sent it off, holding my breath, with my fingers crossed.
While I was on holiday in Edinburgh with my family in 2009, I got an e-mail from Kevan, offering to represent me. That book went on to become my debut novel, Secrets of a Proper Countess, and it won the 2011 Readers Choice Award for Best Debut Novel.
Griffin is taking his masters degree at a university across the country. He had a kilt made in Edinburgh, and he wears it often, even to class, and looks every inch the Scottish hero. Olivia is taking an Honors Degree in History at a university here in town, and she works part-time at a local museum. I'm so proud of them!
The last of the four cats we brought with us from Ottawa died late last year, and there have been six other cats since, all strays. We're at a nice manageable four—that's the maximum load a queen size bed can take and still leave room for two humans. Kipper, the chocolate lab puppy we adopted when we arrived in Calgary, is now a Venerable Old Dog of twelve, which is eighty-nine in human years, but a good, healthy eighty-nine. He still takes me for walks every day.
And I've published ten books, just finished the eleventh, and I'm currently working on the twelfth—and beyond. There are still ancient dog-eared manuscripts in my basement, and a few of those are right where they belong.
I still love writing stories. I try to find joy, excitement, and fun in everything I write, because in my humble opinion, life is just too short to read (or write) dull, dry books (or insurance copy). Luckily, I believe everything is interesting if you look at it from the right perspective.
And when what I write now starts to feel like writing a direct mail insurance sales pitch, I'll quit. Or maybe I'll just start writing a new book, something different...
I have never lived without at least one cat. Over a lifetime, so far, that adds up to over 20 cats. Not all at once...
My hobbies include photography, gardening, reading, huge paper mache projects, FIMO, and baking.
I started teaching myself to knit last year, but learning is slow. When projects go badly, they are turned into cat beds. My cats have a lot of beds, and I have several hundred scarves.
I am learning Scottish Gaelic online. Slowly. While my son speaks three languages (and counting), I was not gifted with a faculty for other tongues.
I grew up with a learning disability, mostly hand-eye coordination problems, which my mother helped me overcome by making me draw, paint, and use my hands for crafts.
I secretly longed to be a National Geographic photojournalist when I was little. Or an archaeologist. Or a vet. I was always a writer. My high school career aptitude test came back with a top recommendation of tree surgeon. Ummm...plants come to my house to die.
My favorite childhood books were Anne of Green Gables (I was Anne! I named trees!), James and The Giant Peach, The Hobbit, and The Happy Hollisters series (does anyone else remember those?) Oh yeah—I used to read my parents' set of encyclopedias, too—Volume 5 had pictures of fashions throughout the ages, and it was my favorite.
My all-time favorite historical romance novels are A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux, and Ransom by Julie Garwood.
My favorite movies: Camelot, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, the Sharpe movies, the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, The Philadelphia Story, and Victor/Victoria.
My favorite songs: Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, and pretty much anything by Loreena McKennit.
My favorite guilty pleasures: Scottish Tablet (which is an incredible butter fudge), Laphroig Quarter Cask whisky, visiting a book store and buying books with wild abandon (which pretty much happens every time I go into a bookstore).
My most adventurous moments: A grueling, three-day horseback trek in the Rockies Spending a day on the Yorkshire Dales with my daughter, learning to fly flacons, owls, and buzzards.
These are the charities I support. Like ripples in a pond, I feel charity should begin in our own communities and spread outward. Here are some of the good causes I support:
This wonderful initiative helps provide school libraries with books, so kids learn the joy of books and reading. Each Chapters store supports a school in their own community. If you aren't in Canada, I hope you'll find a similar project in your own country or city to support.
Download this app to your cell phone, and share a meal with someone in need around the world. Just one meal a day, or a week, or a month, makes such a difference, and with all the unrest, all the homeless refugees and hungry people out there, the world has never needed help more.
Libraries and donated books
I regularly give signed copies of my books to local libraries and good causes. Because I pay for the books myself (and the postage), there is a limit to how many I can provide. If you'd like a copy of one of my books for a fundraiser, charity, or other worthy cause, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org