If not us…?

This first appeared as a FaceBook post. Bear with me. It’s important.

My “settler/colonizer” roots go deep in this country. Some of my family has been here since the late 17th century, part of those first boatloads of land-tied serfs brought to “New France”.

I need to say that up front: I am a product of colonization. It’s not something I need to be ashamed of (how could I be? I had no say in the matter) but neither is it something I can point to with “pride”. It is just a fact.

Some of my forebears were directly involved in the subjugation and genocide of the First Nations and Metis people they encountered.

Like my sentiments above, this is not up for discussion: it simply is another fact. It is not something I need to feel “guilty” about, but here there is a burden: I am responsible for this, in the sense that I have a duty to make reparations, and to go forward doing better than those who came before me.

That’s not onerous. That’s not some kind of cross to bear. It, too, is simply a fact, and “duty” should not be a dirty word. If I am a decent human, I take this on, voluntarily and without resentment, because it is not born of guilt.

But here’s the real internal nut that all of us with similar pasts must confront and crack open:

The “revelations” about what had been done/was continuing throughout my lifetime/is happening now – the residential schools, the indifference/blatant racism of law enforcement, the pretense of “listening” to First Nations voices while blithely ignoring the content of their words and actions to pursue some hazily defined “economic good” — these things should not be news to anyone.

Because we did know.

We did.

Our parents knew.

In the neighbourhood that I grew up in, we were strongly discouraged from playing the cowboys part of “Cowboys and Indians” (we did play the “Indians” part. None of us wanted to be cowboys) — because our parents knew.

And we, even as children, understood it instinctively. We could see even through the myths from Hollywood, how a way of life was being destroyed, and how the myth was being constructed. We might not have had the words to describe this…but we knew it for what it was.

I cannot be held guilty of atrocities that occurred under governments that adults elected while I was still below the age of consent.

But all of us must face these facts: we, as a group, chose our own self-interest over basic humanity towards others, we perpetuated (continue to perpetuate) these acts and attitudes, and it is our duty to end this.

If not us, then who?

If not now, then when?
Morgan Smith acknowledges that she lives on land belonging to
Métis/Tsuu T’ina Plains Cree
Treaty 6, 1876



I don’t know why I write.

I don’t.

writing 1

The internet is filled to bursting with writers, and with on-line writing groups. I’m in a lot of those groups, and I read their stories, and bios, and Twitter posts on motivation.

To a man and woman, they seem to have known that they were writers from the moment they first encountered a book. To a man and woman, they know that writing is as necessary and natural to them as the oxygen-to-Co2 exchange they perform 12 or so times per minute.

I still don’t know why I write.

I know why I wrote my first novel. You can read about in detail here:


But TL;DR? Someone dared me to.

I think the next novel was just scratching a vague itch over a throwaway sentence in the first one (the bit about Keri being given her grandmother’s old chainmail shirt) and hearing from everyone in the self-publishing field that more books equal more sales.

The memoir? That was just me entertaining myself on cold winter nights in hotel rooms, because my job required me to go to and stay in every out-of-the-way small town in my province, and there was, literally, nothing else to do after 6pm.

(Well, I could have gotten drunk. Many of my co-workers did. But since the job also required me to be awake, dressed, and coherent at 6 AM (!) this seemed unwise.)

But even at that point, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.

Hell, even after deciding to self-publish, I had a hard time thinking of myself as a writer.

On the other hand, I have realized that I was “writing” all along: I just didn’t get it down on paper.

I created characters and sent them on adventures, but only in my head. Keri, Caoimhe, and now Tamar: these were people I had actually known and lived through vicariously in my imagination, for literally YEARS, as a way to get through long and boring hours of mindless employment. Like many another person in North America, I’ve had to take jobs that not only gave no personal satisfaction – they could be done using less than 3% of the brain power it takes to chew gum.

So maybe I was a writer all along?

No. I think I was Walter Mitty.

I think almost everyone is.

I’m just self-esteem-ey enough to think I can sell this stuff to other people.

But not so ego-driven that I can’t see it as the plain, unvarnished truth: I am not special. I’m not a sacred talent.

I’m just another girl with a laptop and internet access, and the nerve to throw my stuff onto Amazon..

Long may we wave.


…we are all tired…

We’re all exhausted, actually.


Every day brings some new atrocity or insult. Every day, we struggle not to ignore the abyss we are hurtling toward.

Every. Damned. Day.

But this is what the forces opposing us want.

They want us to give up. To give in.

To knuckle under and let them strip every right we have away from us, till we are quiescent, accepting, obedient, or dead.

And for that reason, we must not falter now.

This is, oddly enough, where more protests, more rallies, more demonstrations of our refusal to give in actually can help us.

There is something about standing in those crowds that works for, not against, you. It feeds your resolve. It lets you know that you are not alone.

Online petitions are a great thing. Don’t stop signing.

Emails and phone calls to politicians are great, too: an MP or a Senator cannot ignore an overflowing inbox or endlessly ringing phone lines. For every email, they know all too well, there are a dozen other people who feel the same way, but who did not get around to setting words down and hitting “Send”.

But bodies in the streets matter most of all.

You might complain that the media doesn’t report the marches, or reports them very minimally. They don’t. Not yet.

But as the numbers swell, they will.

We must make those crowds get larger every month. We must grow this resistance until it cannot be ignored.

I’m a veteran of the sixties. I marched, and I sang, and I spoke – almost every week. I certainly didn’t expect to be doing all this, for the same issues, all over again, fifty years on.

But I am here to tell you that the more protests you attend, the more actual, physical resistance you participate in, the more energy you will have for the fight.

Believe me, in the coming months, if you make the effort to get out to every demonstration you can, for as many issues as you want (these things are not exclusive – in fact, they are intimately connected) and it will only do you good.

When you start to see faces you recognize and when you see the numbers grow, you will want to do more.

You will feel like going to more rallies. You’ll feel your own resolve building back up.

You will find yourself more committed and infinitely stronger, the more often you get out there and do what millions of your parents and grandparents did in order to make a better world for themselves and for you.


Sauce for the Goose

Why Terry Goodkind was not the only one being “unprofessional”.



I swore I was going to keep my mouth shut on this one.

I may even have meant it.

But as this tempest in a teacup seems to be refusing to go away, I do, in fact, have some thoughts about it.

(For those not in the know, there have been scores of news stories. Just google “Terry Goodkind Cover” and read on. Long story short: Goodkind didn’t like the cover of his latest release and publicly said so. The artist responded, as did a million other people.)

As a published writer, I’ve been told like six hundred billion times that if I get a negative review, I should ignore it, at least publicly. It would be unprofessional, says everyone and their aunt’s grandmother, to respond or even acknowledge the bad review.

And while I do sympathize with the artist, and agree that Goodkind was an idiot to have created the problem in the first place (Why go public with your dissatisfaction? Why? It was stupid.) I think what is getting lost in this is that the artist behaved just as unprofessionally.

No? You disagree?

Well, basically, what Goodkind did was give the artist a bad review.

If writers must not respond to bad reviews —– why is it different for artists?

Why are they allowed to be outraged – openly, in the press and on-social-media outraged – when someone publicly says “This is crap” – but writers cannot?

And frankly, if the artist went to any decent art college in his youth, he must have sat through innumerable critiques, wherein not only his artistic skills, but his general worth as a human being, was routinely called into question on a weekly basis, so he ought to have grown a thicker hide.

I have some experience with that particular torture chamber, and I’ve written about why it was such a good experience, giving me skills that transfer to a hundred other life situations, but let’s just say that in terms of creating an acid test for weeding out dilettantes from actual artists, it works like a charm.

It also can create serious neurotic conditions that last a lifetime, and it’s not a recommended course of action for everyone.

Still, if you want to put your stuff out there – writing, music, art, whatever – you need to understand that some people will not like it.

Frankly, this was just two grown men behaving equally badly, and I think their best bet is to shut the hell up and hope it all blows over.



PS: I don’t want to start a flame war, but Goodkind was not entirely wrong in his opinion. The cover is not very good. It’s not as bad as the writer makes out, but it certainly isn’t anything higher than “vaguely competent but pedestrian” as far as cover art goes. Goodkind’s beef, however, ought to have been with the person who chose it.


Writing apps – Magic or Mayhem?

Writing apps. They’re a thing.


The big one is Scrivener. It’s a program designed to help writers. People I know use it. It’s talked about a lot on writers’ groups I’m involved with.

A lot of people swear by it.

It helps you structure your novel, with templates. It helps you plot, keep track of research notes via “virtual index cards”, compare various revisions, monitor your daily wordcounts/output.

It will even generate character names for you.

Way back in my pre-actually-having-written-a-novel days, I kind of wished for something like this. It seemed a bit awkward to have to stop and look at my handwritten notes or physically arrange and rearrange those actual index cards. I thought it interrupted my train of thought.

I cannot, of course, speak to anyone’s experience but my own, but I have to say that I have never, in the end, been all that interested in Scrivener. I looked at it with interest when it first came out. I’ve looked at it since. I’ve read the online reviews and heard friends’ opinions, good and bad, and I have come to feel…underwhelmed, and I have some reasons for that.

The first is purely physical. The way that it sets up on the screen just feels crowded. My computer screen isn’t big enough to use all that in any way that would be comfortable.

Maybe if you have two monitors, or 20-year-old eyes that can read really teeny-tiny font sizes, you could feel comfortable with it – but I have old lady eyes and a laptop, and even flipping from my manuscript to the Google tab to find out how strong the wind needs to be to rip a mature oak tree out of the wet ground by its roots is problematic these days.

The second reason is that while authors frequently want some kind of magic bullet that will just get them through to “The End”, I’ve discovered that I am not that kind of novelist.

I’m not a “pantser” – I used to say I was, but this was me lying to myself, because inside my head, the books actually do get fairly well-structured before I start.

And I do need notes. I need reminders about researching those wind speeds and what plot questions have to be resolved, and whose motives are at play in a particular way at a particular time.

I use a notebook for that stuff, and yes, it does mean that if I want to refer back to any of that, I have to take my attention from the computer and onto the actual words I wrote in my undeniably messy handwriting.

But here’s the thing: I write the notes, but I only rarely need to look at them after that. It’s as if the act of writing by hand imprints things more fully on my mind, in a way, but it also seems to open weird interior doors in my brain, and find solutions that might not occur to me otherwise.

It’s as if the process of scribbling down “Why would she say she was demon spawn? Why that phrase?” does something to my writer-brain: it frees something, or solidifies it, or sends me racing down memory lane to find the analogy in my own life, so that when I look back to the screen, it’s just there, ready to be typed in.

And when I do stop to look back at some inscrutable note to self, or to regroup and rethink the sequential stuff, the removal of my eyes from the screen is not anywhere near as annoying as trying to find the right tab on my screen and sort through the truncated nomenclature to find the bit I think I need. The break away – even for only a minute – helps clarify things, instead of feeling like an unnecessary interruption.

And finally, at least for me, the uniformity of the Scrivener experience, the way that a single program will assume that each user is essentially thinking in the same kinds of patterns, seeing things and organizing information and making neural connections in the same way, has begun to feel wrong.

I am scared that the reason so many novels feel so similar – despite the outward trappings of new/different/twisted/morphed/reflected – is that the program is pushing us into a trough of “This is how fiction has to be”.

I’m scared that between the dictates of literary fashions of our times and the tyranny of the programming, we are being forced to believe that organized thinking can replace the wayward wandering of the mind.

And that would take all the fun out of it for me.




Free Map of Averraine

For fans, a map of the world (so far!) can be downloaded from my website/landing page here:






You’re Invited…

To the cover reveal party for “The Shades of Winter: online, today!


At 10 am and all through the day (Mountain Standard Time) – Go here: