Honoring Mark Twain

On November 30, 1835, Jane Lampton and John Marshall welcomed their sixth child, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, into the world. Little did they know that one day Samuel would be known as literary icon Mark Twain. The author of 28 books and numerous short stories, letters, and sketches, Mark Twain is often described as the “Greatest American humorist of his age” and the “Father of American Literature.”


My favorites…

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing.
It was here first.

A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.
(I need to start paying attention to adjectives!)

Tips for Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

I am happy to feature this post from Anna Suarez and her colleagues, who are passionate about spreading hope to those who have cancer. I’m certain their tips will help newly diagnosed cancer patients and their loved ones.

Doctor talking to his female senior patient at the office

Doctor talking to his female senior patient at the office

Each year, 14 million people across the globe are diagnosed with cancer. Every person’s journey is different. Here is some advice on ways to cope with a cancer diagnosis.

Find survivors in your community.

cancersurvivor2When facing a cancer diagnosis it can be helpful to find a support group. Connecting with people who are experiencing the same things and can share in your struggles and triumphs can be immensely important for a patient’s mental and emotional health. These groups prevent patients from feeling isolated and the people they encounter may be able to offer helpful insights.

For people who have been diagnosed with rare cancers like mesothelioma this is especially important, but also a significant challenge. Cancers like mesothelioma, which is only diagnosed in 3,000 people annually, do not have the same widespread community. Online resources and even social media can be a great way to connect with other cancer patients and survivors. Additionally, when dealing with rare cancers it can be difficult to find information about your treatment options because fewer doctors specialize in that specific disease. This may also mean that you have to travel get to get access to the best treatments, or that those treatments might be more expensive. Following an online resource that specializes in your specific cancer or having a contact who can connect you to necessary resources can save you time and stress.

Write and read.

10615966_sWords have power: they bring us hope, connect us across generations and geography, and can be an outlet for our internal struggles. The written word can be a great resource for coping with your diagnosis and creative writing could be an ideal form of expression. Some studies even identify that writing for self expression can have physical benefits for cancer patients. One study found that expressing emotions through writing resulted in breast cancer patients reporting fewer symptoms and making fewer unscheduled doctor visits.

Reading offers another form of solace; the ability to escape from your surroundings for a short amount of time can not be overstated. Distraction therapies such as reading can be helpful in passing the time during treatment or while waiting for doctor appointments, but can also help mitigate some of patient’s symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, and pain. Reading also allows a patient to exercise their minds and exert a small level of autonomy over their lives, which some can feel is lacking after a cancer diagnosis.

Lean on loved ones.

sharinghandsAlthough it may sound cliche, friends and family truly are an essential support system. Many of us are not used to asking for help or admitting when we feel defeated. Reaching out to the people you’re close to can help relieve any feelings of solitude and supplement a cancer-focused support group. In addition to emotional support, loved ones also have the unique ability to make us laugh and distract us from hardship. Friends and family can also offer support by accompanying patients to their doctor visits and acting as another set of ears at the appointments.

Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis is a process that is unique to every individual. Hopefully these suggestions can offer some additional support on your journey, or spark some of your own ideas on ways to fully cope with the diagnosis.

Visiting Motive Means Opportunity Blog

When I decided to pursue my writing dream, I imagined one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne visiting each morning, taking my hand, and guiding me to the computer. There, she would remain, offering words of encouragement until I produced my daily quota of words.


That was the fantasy.

The reality was very different.

I was unprepared for the tyranny of the blank page. While everything was in place—business cards, new computer, dreams of a runaway best-seller—my writing muscles refused to budge.

Continue reading on the Motive Means Opportunity blog.

Inspiration From My Favorite Mystery Authors


Collecting quotations has been one of my lifelong hobbies. In the pre-computer days, I would jot down quotations on slips of paper and toss them in a desk drawer. Once a month, I would type them up and place them in a special file folder. I’ve kept the folder but now use Pinterest and Goodreads to store my quotations.

Continue reading on the Just Romantic Suspense blog.

Inspired by Emma Donoghue

emmadonaghueOn Wednesday evening, I attended Emma Donoghue’s reading at Lakeside Hope House in downtown Guelph. This Cafe Philosophique event, organized by the Bookshelf Cafe, was well attended by fans of the prolific author of several novels, short stories, and plays, among them the international bestseller Room (her screen adaptation was nominated for four Oscars). Her recent release, The Wonder, was shortlisted for this year’s Scotia Giller Prize.

After a short introduction, Emma proceeded to give a dramatic reading from The Wonder, a fictionalized tale based on real life cases of fasting girls during the Victorian era. I would have loved listening to a much longer reading.

An armchair conversation with author and creative writing professor Michael Winter followed.

Throughout the conversation, Emma referred to her children (Finn and Una) and commented on how useful they have been to her writing career. She uses anecdotes from her children’s lives and enlists their help with research. Her daughter selected the riddles used in The Wonder.

the-wonderHaving read the book recently, I was fascinated to learn more about the back story and Emma’s writing process.

Emma applied a dark twist to Hillary Clinton’s famous saying—“It takes a village to raise a child”—and came up with “It takes a village to kill a child.” Throughout the novel, there are many instances of well-meaning professionals (priest, doctor, nun, town elders) behaving passively and not stepping up to save the eleven-year-old child who is slowly starving herself to death. In short, The Wonder can be described as a crime story where a crime has not taken place yet.

When asked about her weaknesses, Emma commented, “I suck at plot. My first books were shapeless.” To correct this problem, she learned to plan the plot in advance and outline what happens in each chapter before beginning to write. But she made it clear that she does not follow a linear path and write “x” words per day or produce one novel each year. Instead, she muddles along and researches in a generous spirit, following her curiosity and taking as long as it takes to write the novel.

With no set schedule in place, she often steals time to write during her children’s activities. She also writes in cars, trains, planes…anywhere she can bring her laptop.

Interesting Quotes…

My children have infected my writing.

I’m surprised at how strange and heroic parenting can be.

I like putting my readers through the ringer.

I’ve made money from writing about people suffering.

I’ve emigrated twice (Ireland to England to Canada) and it was the best thing I ever did. It is splendid training for writers. We can become too smug and comfortable if we say in one place.

Where to find Emma Donoghue…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook

Spectacular #NaNoWriMo Success Stories

nanowrimocrestCompleting 50,000 words in 30 days is a major achievement, one that hundreds of thousands of NaNoWriMo participants have set as their November goal for the past seventeen years. While the end result will be part unreadable, part unfinished, and more than likely, error-ridden, the process often continues well beyond November. Many published books–including some very successful ones–started off as NaNoWriMo projects.

Here are four spectacular success stories:


Sara Gruen devoted two separate NaNos to writing Water for Elephants and then sold her work to Algonquin Publishers for $55,000. In 2007, the book topped the New York Times Best Seller list and hit the big screen with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in 2011.

Erin Morgenstern began writing The Night Circus in November of 2004. That first year, Erin ended up with 50,000 words of unconnected scenes and imagery. She then spent the next two NaNos adding to the story. In 2008, she took the 100,000+ words and formed them into an actual plot. She didn’t have a workable draft until 2009. In 2011, she received a six-figure deal from Knopf Doubleday Publishers. The movie rights were snapped up by the producers of the Harry Potter films.

Rainbow Rowell had already published two novels when she sat down to write Fangirl during NaNo 2011. While writing, she moved away from her usual pattern of rewriting the previous day’s work and kept moving forward. She considers the book her “bravest writing”…New York Times agreed and designated Fangirl a 2013 Notable Children’s Book.

Hugh Howey wrote three of the novellas that later made up Wool in November 2011. When he self-published the book, he sold 1000 copies the first month. After selling tens of thousands of ebooks directly to readers, he signed a six-figure deal with a major publisher. The movie rights have been purchased by 20th Century Fox.