I have to brag about this book! Piranesi is the most elegant, masterfully woven tale of magical realism I have red to date this year — if not the last few years, to be honest. Though on the surface it’s a quiet, richly detailed labyrinthine literary adventure, underneath the narrative lies a symbolic depiction of one man’s descent into and subsequent recovery from mental illness. It’s a work of true genius, poignantly and deftly rendered. 

The effect on me has been so profound, I will hardly be able to forget what I’ve read. 

In terms of plot particulars, Piranesi lives in a House like no other, with endless corridors lined by an infinite variety of statues. He’s learned his way around the labyrinth, memorizing the times of the ocean tides that come sweeping up the stairs and crashing through the hallways, flooding the House’s rooms and sealing in its secrets. There is one Other who visits the House twice a week, and asks for Piranesi’s help with research into a Great and Secret Knowledge. 

Contrary to his belief that only fifteen people exist in the world, thirteen of whom are dead inside the House, Piranesi learns there is a 16. When indications of 16’s presence emerge in the halls of the House, Piranesi uncovers evidence of a life he used to know, one that is no longer familiar to him, but which he desperately seeks to remember. 

Few books leave me feeling this haunted after finishing them, but Piranesi is one of them. With poetic and lyrical prose, Susanna Clarke lulled me into a lush fantasy world I didn’t want to leave. Her theme is what resonates with me most strongly, though. It echoes down every corridor in the labyrinth, whispers from every statue lining the House’s walls, and can perhaps best be summed up by Piranesi’s own words: The Beauty of the House is immeasureable; its kindness infinite. 

Must a thing be deemed real to be of ultimate value to mankind? Whether imagined or not, the House’s inherent spiritual value is what both sustains Piranesi during his time there, and rehabilitates him to the larger world he once knew and must become a part of once again.

Read this book, guys. You have to. Then message me and tell me what you think. I’ll probably be reading the book a second or a third time, nose pressed tight against the pages. 


Impermanence Of Life Hope  - lovini / Pixabay


If you’re someone like me, an intuitive empath coping with a daily load of existential dread, I’ll wager you’re probably finding it extra hard to tap into your creativity lately. (For purposes of this blog, let’s assume you are. If not, you may as well quit reading. This article isn’t meant for you, you bold and wonderful creature.) As if the aftermath of dealing with a global pandemic and losing my father this past fall weren’t enough, now there’s a horrific war raging overseas, the likes of which I hoped never to experience in my lifetime. It’s more than a little distracting when it comes to letting my imagination run wild and setting words to the page. 

What if I told you this is exactly the reason why we as creatives should be throwing ourselves into making our art?

I bet that got your attention. Why? Because, like everyone else in the world, we want to know:

Why make art in the first place?
Does art even matter?
Who cares what I have to say?
Why is my vision important?
What’s the point of writing a (fill-in-the-genre) story when the world is falling apart?
Shouldn’t I be using my energy for something more constructive than making art right now?
How is making this art going to do the world any good?

Do I have a right to be an artist when the world and people around me are suffering so?

The next time you hear anything even remotely similar to any of the above, ask yourself one question. Pay particular attention to the first answer that comes to mind.

When you’re going through hell, how much is it worth to you when someone holds out a light in the darkness?


Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. ~Helen Keller~



For fans of Clue, this is your classic whodunnit murder mystery, complete with a number of characters named after the familiar colors on the game board. While The Maid begins a s a lighthearted caper, the plot winds through a series of unexpected twists and turns, enmeshing you in the question of whether or not you’re dealing with a reliable narrator. Before you know it, you’ve arrived at the end, staring into the face of a rather shocking conclusion. 

I don’t know about you, but when I read mysteries, I’m intent on figuring out from page one who the murderer is. Who’s the most likely suspect? Who has the most to gain from the victim’s death, and most importantly, who has the most to hide? More often than not, my hunches are usually right. 

Not in this case!

Molly Gray, or Molly Maid, as she calls herself, may have a regular job, but she is far from ordinary. Her quirky, awkward demeanor and compulsive tendencies make it difficult for her to cultivate most relationships other than with her beloved gran. But those self-same qualities don’t keep her from a job well done when it comes to the upkeep of the guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel. Despite her recent loss of Gran, Molly is determined to live up to the ideals she was taught. 

The longer you live, the more you learn. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Life has a way of sorting itself out. 

When she enters the suite of one of the hotel’s wealthiest VIP’s, Charles Black, and finds him dead in his bed and the room in a state of disarray, Molly quickly learns that not everyone who claims to be her friend in acting in her best interest. Her misplaced trust in her coworkers unwittingly lands Molly in the spotlight as the lead suspect in Mr. Black’s murder. In over her head, Molly teams up with an unlikely set of new friends who side with her in an effort to track down the real killer. 

But will they solve the mystery in time before it’s too late?

You’ll have to read and find out.

Tell you what, if you do, message me and let’s chat! I would love to hear who you thought the murderer was. The Maid is a story I won’t soon forget. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.


Drawing Charcoal Progress Sketch  - KaylinArt / Pixabay


Recently, I walked into my first drawing class not knowing what to expect. I’m a writer, but I wanted to explore other avenues of creative expression. Not only does it make great artistic fodder, but it’s fun, right? Letting our creative sides run wild. 

I quickly realized I was surrounded by a number of artists far more talented than me and my Impostor Syndrome swung into overdrive. What was I thinking taking this class? Why didn’t I stick with the medium most comfortable to me, namely words and the stuff of stories?

Stop it, i told myself. You’re here to learn and have fun. Relax.

The teacher quickly put me at ease. A lifelong artist and an experienced educator in the arts, he said the one thing I most wanted to hear. “Most of you already know how to draw, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. What I’m going to teach you is how to draw more efficiently, so you’re finishing pieces within a few hours at most. If your drawings are taking days to complete, you’re working too hard.” 

Yes! I want to relax my grip on the pencil when I draw, move fluidly across the page, not THINK so much about it, just FEEL it. Let the work come to life on its own as I shape it.

Inwardly, my heart rejoiced. I’ve struggled for months (years, even) to feel that way on the page as I write, and here was my drawing instructor, offering to teach me the same skills in a visual way in a few short weeks.

I’ve already learned so much after just one drawing class that simultaneously relates to writing. The two creative pursuits are more intimately connected than they are different from one another. 

Allow me to explain what I mean, then apply it to your creative life as you will.

  1. Get comfortable with your tools. We used the bare minimum in my drawing class, even though some of us had brought drafting pencil kits and fancy sketch pads. “A regular pencil, eraser, and rubbing stick are all you need to get started,” the instructor told us, and he was right. “Learn to get comfortable with what you’re using,” he said while moving around the room, offering us helpful tips. As with writing, I had to learn the basics of plotting, characterization, theme, and pacing (to name a few) before I could feel confident moving from smaller to longer, more involved pieces.
  2. Start with a solid outline. One of the handy, time-saving ‘tricks’ the instructor walked us through was how to create a quick outline of the subject of our sketch. Working from an outline is infinitely faster than drawing free-hand. The same is true in writing. My efficiency made exponential improvement once I honed in on an outlining process that worked best for me. 
  3. Fill in the details. We started our drawings by identifying ‘shapes’ within the shading and filling those in first, then coming back later to fine-tune the more intricate details. At some point in the outlining process, whether it be drawing or writing, you have to start crafting the art layer by layer. Though some writers prefer to have every detail planned out ahead of time, I am not one of them. I’m a pantser, an intuitive writer true to my INFJ personality type. I start writing with as good of an outline as I can create, and the details come to me as I write.
  4. Remember that your work doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be yours. Our instructor wound through the tables, repeating this phrase in the most encouraging way possible. Some students were disheartened their work didn’t look like the model we were working off of. “That’s the point,” the teacher said. “We all see the same thing different ways. You are bringing yourself and your unique vision to this project. Show us what you see.” I couldn’t state it better myself. That kind of artistic validation speaks for itself, guys. May the Critic take heed when your Inner Artist acknowledges this about your own work.
  5. When you get stuck, distance yourself from your work. “Often I won’t know what’s wrong with a piece, or why it isn’t working, until I pin it to the wall and let it sit,” our instructor said. “If you’re stuck, or something in the drawing doesn’t look quite right, you probably just need to observe it from a distance for a day or two.” Perspective. Isn’t that the truth about a lot of problems in life? Put it down. Back up. Get some distance. Sit down again tomorrow, or a week later, and your brain will have had time to problem solve while you were busy doing other things. It’s true for writing, drawing, and I daresay, a host of other tight corners in life we find ourselves boxed into. 

I hope my lessons in drawing have been as helpful for you in your creative life as they have been for me! Above all, no matter what your process, making art is about boldly speaking your truth. Truth is powerful. It is a transcendent force that fosters memory, instills hope, and ultimately, helps us cultivate empathy for each other in the context of our shared humanity. 

Ever thought about exploring your creativity through a different venue? Music, dance, theater, or the visual arts? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear about all the ways you’re nurturing your Inner Artist! 


Brooms up! 

Little did I know I was in for such an adventure when I picked up Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. This book transported me to Victorian London in a way no other book has – from the point of view of a young orphan chimney sweep named Nan Sparrow. Her job is not only dangerous, it’s downright life-threatening. In a harsh environment that regularly claims the lives of many, Nan has not only risen to the top as one of the best climbers, she’s also done so as a girl. Despite being forced to work under the employ of Wilkie Crudd, a ruthless master sweep who plays his young charges against each other in a battle of wits, Nan has managed to defy the odds countless times. 

When the worst happens and Nan gets caught in a chimney fire, she assumes she’s done for. She can hardly believe her good fortune when she wakes up, unharmed, in an abandoned attic and finds a mysterious creature – a golem – made from soot and ash huddled in the corner alongside her. Their heartwarming story enfolds as Nan teaches her monster about survival in the world, and he, in turn, teaches her about love and friendship in ways she’s never experienced. 

Magic and wonder are woven into this enchanting tale about love and loss, friendship and transformation, and the power that one person’s voice can have in effecting change for the better. Jonathan Auxier touches on a timeless theme in this beautiful story of the unfolding of a young girl’s life in the midst of great suffering:

We save ourselves by saving others.

I couldn’t have stated it better myself. Guys, this is a must read. I laughed and cried my way through this book, but most important of all, it brought to mind all those who have touched my life in a similar way – by sacrificing part of themselves to bring me back to life. 

I hope you discover the same. Drop me a line if you read this book, I’d love to chat!


Trees Nature Forest Wilderness  - jplenio / Pixabay


Some days I’m a veterinarian, running through diagnostic trees and fine-tuning treatment plans for a variety of diseases and medical conditions. Other days I’m at my computer in front of the page, hashing out strings of words in pursuit of a story that’s playing out in my head, anxious to capture the images in their purest form. 

I can’t think of two more disparate ways of having to use my brain. Transitioning between these aspects of myself can be difficult. Context switching is expensive at the same time as it’s necessary. Most writers have jobs or careers outside of writing, and I am no exception. 

Tuning into my subconscious in order to pick up a story thread where I’ve left off is essential to productive writing days.

I’m equal parts pragmatist and dreamer, or as I like to think of it, a practical mystic.

Herein lies my dilemma.

To function both as veterinarian and writer, I must embrace both. 

My rational brain takes precedence inside the clinic. After a few days away from the page, the much quieter voice of my intuition, or subconscious, is all but drowned out.

It drives me crazy. How can I stay in the same frame of mind as after I’ve freshly written – that near euphoric, selfless state where the world and all concept of time has melted away and I’m living inside the dream world I’ve created in my mind?

Over the past few years, I’ve had to talk myself down from panicking over the focus I lose amidst the constant context switching. My sincerest hope is that what I’ve learned will also help you in the pursuit of your creativity.

  1. Adopt a meditative practice. For me, yoga has been instrumental in getting a handle on my anxiety. The more frequently I practice, the more resilient I am in handling day-to-day stressors. Yoga also clears away the ‘surface chatter’ in my conscious mind, allowing me to hear the quiet inner voice that speaks when I’m preparing to write.
  2. Chase silence like it’s your job. Maybe you’re one of those writers that needs background noise in order to create, but if you’re like me and the incessant drone of a nearby leaf blower brings tears of frustration to your eyes, it’s okay. You’re not an alien. You might be an HSP (highly sensitive person), a trait that makes you more aware of subtleties in your environment. Seek the solace you need to do the work you want. 
  3. Recognize the interconnectedness of life by noticing moments of Synchronicity. Some call it coincidence, happenstance, or sheer good luck. I call these moments Synchronicity – a conversation with the Universe so subtle you might miss it if you aren’t paying attention. These can be as simple as getting articles in my email about whatever writing struggle I’m currently facing, or as monumental as having my first published work hit the (proverbial) press on my Dad’s birthday the year after he died. (He was one of my biggest fans and supporters, always cheering me on!) 
  4. Develop an increased tolerance for the unknown. While rationalism demands answers and explanations, mysticism embraces a sense of mystery as part of the greater whole. My veterinary work requires me to unpack diagnoses, deliver prognoses, and develop a working plan for treatment, all of which must be as accurate and precise as possible. Creativity is not a rational pursuit, nor is it linear. Giving yourself permission to play is key to allowing your subconscious room to breathe and grow. 
  5. Psychic shock isn’t a death sentence for your creativity. This is a biggie and one I’ve experienced in spades with the recent loss of my father. I was terrified that in working through my grief, the inner voice I’ve come to know and love would be silenced, shuttered away deep inside me again, similar to a past loss I suffered after which I quit writing for two decades. Thanks to a tremendous support system and more life experience, I’m working to transform my grief into an opportunity for deeper reflection and personal growth. 

Well, there you have it. My humble tips for learning how to give my subconscious more love and affection so I can hear all the wonderful things it’s trying to tell me. If you’re a practical mystic like me, drop me a line. Let’s chat! How do you cope with context switching in order to get your writing done? 

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-flight Tower


When a book starts with “What had happened was…”, you know it’s going to be good. I didn’t even realize I needed this book until it literally *dropped* into my lap by (almost) pure happenstance. <and targeted marketing> Don’t let the innocent exterior fool you. Princess Floralinda and the Forty-flight Tower is more than a perfect spin on an old trope; it’s a powerhouse of a novella with real depth to it, amidst the rampant parody. 

Whimsical and hilarious, I cried legit tears of enjoyment at Tamsyn Muir’s satiric wit and quick turns of phrase in this comedic retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale.

An evil witch builds a forty-flight tower and entraps Floralinda at the top, ensuring her demise by carefully positioning monsters designed to poison, kill, or destroy at every level. Any prince destined to win the reward of the golden sword, along with Floralinda, will have to battle the monsters, not least of which is a jewel-encrusted dragon whose roars shake the tower walls at night. So far, the princes have all been reduced to dragon kibble, crunched to oblivion between its massive diamond teeth.

The princess has a real problem on her hands, that is until Cobweb enters the scene – a wily fairy with a mouth twice the size of her diminutive stature, and a razor-sharp intellect to boot.

In the end, Floralinda’s predicament is not so different from our own. We may or may not have a quick-witted fairy guiding us through a perilous journey. Yet truth lies not in treasure, but who we discover ourselves to be along the way, a confirmation of inner strength that, at the outset, we aren’t sure we possess. 

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ending. Suffice it to say, this story is packed with as much heart as humor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

If you decide to kick off the New Year with this gem of a tale, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Gifts Presents Boxes Package  - thehalaldesign / Pixabay


I would be lying if I said the holidays haven’t affected my writing the last few weeks. While a joyous season in many ways, this is also an incredibly difficult time of year for me. My dad passed away three months ago and his absence is palpable, still a fresh wounding.

Grief absolutely saps the life out my writing efforts, making it hard for me to focus on my long-term projects. I’m constantly second-guessing myself, my mind chattering in nervous circles while my practical side tells me to get to work, to quit wasting time and get on with life. 

It’s kind of a vicious cycle. *smiles*

Since December is the month of gift-giving, I thought I’d share some of the many gifts writing has bestowed on me. It’s a reminder to myself of why I do the thing that I do, and why I love it so much. Perhaps it will serve as inspiration for you, too, in dealing with your own struggles.

  1. Expression – As an empath and HSP (highly sensitive person), I often have trouble expressing my deepest thoughts and feelings in ordinary conversation, which I find too fast-paced and externally focused. When I craft words into stories or poems, I can take all the time I need to express what I need to say, and give adequate form to my feelings. 
  2. Empathy – Writing takes me out of my own head, and transports me into the mind and heart of my characters. It’s a bit like stage acting. I get to “be” someone else entirely when I’m enmeshed in crafting a story, and this helps me imagine life from different perspectives. Writing has made me a better listener. The closer I listen and observe, the more I can dig into motivation, which renders character.
  3. Stress relief – When I’m deeply involved in my writing, stress melts away. Anxious thoughts are silenced, and gradually, my mood improves. Writing is one of the strongest stabilizing forces in my life, as energy-enhancing as consistent exercise or a good night of sleep, if not more so.
  4. Flow – Ah, the idyllic flow state! Not only does stress fly out the window when I’m entirely absorbed in the act of creation, but the inspiration itself feels as if it’s coming from somewhere “outside” of me. I’m transcribing a living dream: a mystery and an enigma I’ll never tire of experiencing as long as I’m able to put words to paper.
  5. Friends – Writers are some of the most empathetic people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. We feel compelled to stare at a computer screen or blank sheet of paper for long periods of time, in isolation, and spew out our dreams and heartaches in long (or short) strings of words. As a community, we understand how hard this is to do, and what a privilege it is when we’re able to convey a fraction of what we intend and summon the courage to share it with others. 

Writing has enriched my life in countless ways beyond these five, as I’m certain it will for you. Are you stuck at the moment? Struggling with an idea, or bursting with more than you can handle? Drop me a line, I’d love to chat about how your creativity has blessed you. 

Together, we inspire each other. Perhaps that’s the greatest gift we can give each other.



If you’re looking for a classic Gothic thriller that will keep you up late at night, search no further than The Woman in Black. Though closer in length to a novella, Susan Mills delivers the solid punch of a much weightier work, hitting all the plot points you long for in a traditional haunted house story. What made the difference for me between this ghost story compared to others was the deliciously creepy setting of Crythin Gifford.

From the moment Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor from London, sets foot in the misty, windswept marshlands along the far northeastern shore of England, he’s troubled by the sense that there is something very sinister about the assignment he’s been given to settle the affairs of the late Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The moldering stone estate sits at the end of Nine Lives Causeway, a twisted gravel road that disappears under the murky water at every turn of the tide, rendering the house inaccessible for large portions of the day. 

As the townspeople grow more suspicious of Arthur’s business dealings at the house, he becomes more determined to uncover the mystery behind the shadowy specter of the woman in black who haunts the halls at night. From the strange, rhythmic creaking behind locked doors to a child’s cries that echo across the gloomy, deserted marshland in the dark, Arthur gradually pieces together the tragic, decades-old secret behind the haunting of Eel Marsh House. 

Even after he returns to London, Arthur cannot escape the harrowing impression the house and its ghostly inhabitant have left on him. You won’t want to miss the ending of this truly terrifying psychological thriller. Susan Mills is a master of Gothic suspense. If you’re a fan of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, grab a copy of The Woman in Black today. I promise you won’t regret it.


Idea Creative Creativity Challenges  - mohamed_hassan / Pixabay


Recently I was asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s an excellent question, and one that made me chuckle. My immediate thought was, I worked for hours to wrestle that idea into shape! It didn’t just happen. When I considered the question a bit longer, my next thought was, I have no idea how my subconscious came up with that. I focused on a single image, and gradually, my mind worked out the rest. 

Here’s the thing. We don’t get new ideas from logic. Adopting an attitude of playfulness is how we get in touch with our subconscious, yet most of us are conditioned to believe this kind of activity is “a waste of time” or “unproductive.” 

The process of tuning into our intuition is counterculture. Workplace efficiency dictates that we arrive at the best possible decision in the least amount of time. The natural reaction to our fast-paced, profit-driven, time-obsessed society is that we’re constantly pressed into fight-or-flight mode. We leap to reason, often at the expense of suppressing our deepest feelings and creative impulses. If someone comes up with a clear solution quickly, that person is perceived to be more intelligent than someone who needs time to consider a problem from many angles and to take their time doing so. 

In other words, if working out a solution takes time, we assume we’re doing it wrong. 

As creatives, this is where we often get into trouble, stuck inside a vicious negative feedback loop in which the left hemisphere (our logical, analytical mind) dominates the right (our creative, intuitive mind). When we’re engaged in the creative process, our feelings, not our thoughts, are what guide us to truth. As soon as we allow doubts to creep in about the space (or time) required to give expression to those feelings, our Inner Critic wins – the voice that says, “You’re not good enough!” or “You’re not a writer!”

Creativity squashed. 

Our subconscious mind is temperamental. We can’t order it around or demand it to work for us a certain way. It exists in the deepest part of us, yet in a noisy culture, its subtle promptings are easily drowned out. Is it possible to ‘trick’ this essential component of our creative minds into working for us when we need it? 

The answer is yes. Our creativity is like a muscle: the more it’s used, the stronger it grows. 

John Cleese has a unique philosophy on the nature of creativity and inspiration. My tips are a summary of a number of talks he’s given about his creative experience and beliefs. 

  1. Get quiet. Creative work demands that you set boundaries on your time and availability during those hours. Find a space you can devote solely to your writing. Then schedule specific times to write and unplug from distractions. It can take as long as twenty-five minutes to recover your concentration after an interruption. That’s a lot of wasted writing time. Recognize that your mind will start racing shortly after you sit down to write. That’s your supercharged right brain kicking in, tempting you to indulge in doing the simpler things you know how to do, rather than the important things you’re not sure about (like writing).
  2. Get comfortable with ambiguity, at least initially. Like infants, ideas don’t arrive fully-formed. They need time to develop. At this early stage, you may try to convince yourself your idea isn’t any good. Now is not the time to worry. Now is the time to play. The philosopher Alan Watts said, “You can’t be spontaneous within reason.” If you allow fear to grip you at this stage, you’re liable to kill your idea before it’s had a fighting chance. Just as you wouldn’t tell a kid “You’re not playing right!”, don’t tell yourself the same thing when you’re hatching an idea. Images need room to breathe and grow, and during this phase of creation, there’s no such thing as a mistake. Just as play is unpredictable, you won’t necessarily have quick clarity at this phase. Get used to living happily in confusion and not being clear about where your idea is headed. It’s a normal part of the process. 
  3. Apply your critical mind once your idea is fully formed. When you’ve taken the time you need to flesh out your idea more completely, then you can decide whether it’s a good one or a bad one. Creativity is about making new connections inside a familiar context, and presenting those ideas in a fresh way. As artists, meaning is what we strive for. That’s our endpoint. Once we’re settled on the meaning behind our work, then it’s time to make a decision about whether or not our idea is a good one. Allowing ourselves time to arrive at this decision is the key to originality. Ingenuity can’t be rushed. 
  4. You will have infertile periods. Don’t panic. Re-frame your thinking about these times and accept that they’re part of the process. Your subconscious mind is always at work, even when you aren’t connecting with it. Remember that maximum pondering time will lead to your most creative decisions. 
  5. Trust your subconscious mind. Don’t order it around. Part of being a creative is learning how to coach and cajole your subconscious, to talk nice to it, and work with it. Keep your mind gently on the subject, Cleese says, and when you least expect it, your subconscious will reward you. Inspiration will strike. The Muse will whisper in your ear, though you might be in the shower or stirring spaghetti in the pot.

Our subconscious minds are powerful, more so than we imagine. Although I’m guilty of worrying about the amount of time it takes to develop a nascent idea into a fully-fledged story, recognizing when to allow my logical brain to impede on the creative process is vital. Play is essential. So is learning how to be comfortable with the ambiguity of the early stages of creation. 

Part of respecting any idea is giving the creative process the time it deserves. 

Trust your intuition. More than likely, it’s your subconscious mind trying to get your attention with your next bold idea. 

Have any thoughts you’d like to share about your creative process? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear what works for you.