Sangria Inspired by PAST PRESENCE

Summer’s here, and my thoughts have naturally turned to some of my favourite things: time outside in the sunshine, vacation reads and refreshing beverages. Normally I accomplish this by pouring a shot of gin into a Slurpee and whiling away the afternoon in my hammock with a good book, but for this post I’m going to kick it up a notch and share a sangria recipe that’s inspired by a scene in Past Presence.

What could be better than this?

In the scene, Kellen, the bartender at the Soberly Inn and Public House, creates a special sangria to welcome the inn’s new owner, Audrey, to town. Here’s how it goes down:

As I’m about to ask him for a pint of the local microbrew, he slides a large wine glass full of ice in front of me and starts pouring something ruby-hued from a pitcher into it.

“I was going to—” I start, pointing at the taps, but he shuts me down with a scorching look that dries up my words. Even my thoughts are lost in his gaze, which is two parts exasperation and three parts lust. What does this guy want from me? Whatever it is, I’m half-tempted to give it to him, as imprudent as that would be.

“You are the most contrary, argumentative, difficult woman I’ve ever met,” he says. He’s leaning forward over the bar, and it wouldn’t take much for me to meet him in the middle. “Just this once, stop trying to get the best of me and trust me. Okay?” I purse my lips and raise an eyebrow, but I don’t reach for the glass. Even though it looks delicious. Even though I feel like the icy drink is the only thing that will keep me from spontaneously combusting on the spot. “It’s sangria,” he tells me in a more conciliatory tone. “Special of the day. I’ve been brewing it all afternoon, just for you, as a welcome-to- town.”

“No, you haven’t.” The words come out before I have time to think, and his stare intensifies. One eyebrow arches above the other. Wordlessly, he points at the chalkboard over his shoulder, where the specials are scrawled. Underneath the catch of the day, it reads “The Apple of Audrey’s Eye: a cabernet sangria infused with three types of Oregon-grown apples, fresh California citrus, and a slug of gin.”

“Yes, I have. Now taste it and tell me how it is. I wanted you to be the first, so I’ve been telling everyone else it isn’t ready yet.”

The sincerity behind the gesture evaporates my playful defiance and brings me perilously close to tears. I’m not used to being treated so kindly by a near stranger, even a too-flirty-for-his-own-good one.

“Well?” he asks after I down a healthy mouthful, rolling it over my tongue and allowing it to cool my heated cheeks.

“Dangerously good,” I tell him, and I mean it. “This could become a serious addiction for me. You need to tell me how to make it.”

“Absolutely not,” he says with mock outrage. “A good bartender never shares his recipes, but there will always be a bottomless pitcher here, waiting for you. That’s a promise.”

“Bottomless pitcher, you say.” I’ve already drained my glass, and I’m starting to feel lightheaded.

“You just tell me when to stop.” That look again. I’m burning up inside. What else to do, but keep on drinking?

Want to give it a try for yourself? I can assure you, it’s beyond delicious.


When ‘The End’ is Really the Beginning

I reached an important milestone on my work in progress this week:

After around nine months of work, I wrote ‘The End’ on the first draft of my latest book, currently titled MOVING ON. It’s a young adult fiction novel about 17-year-old Breanna Banks, who finds herself not only unexpectedly dead, but recruited to join the Attendants, who help the dying as they transition from one plane of existence to the next. It’s a job she very much does not want, but with a global catastrophe in the near future and Attendants in high need, does she really have a choice? Between working with the limitations of ADHD in a place where there are no meds, trying to satisfy her demanding mentor, developing a crush on a living boy who will literally never know she exists, and desperately missing her family and friends, Bree must find a way to fit into her new role before disaster strikes.

This is a story that made me cry real tears, in a coffee shop of all places, while I was writing it, and while that might sound pretty grim, I’ve actually enjoyed every minute I’ve worked on it. Reaching ‘The End’ feels bittersweet, to say the least.

But! A first draft is only a first draft. There’s editing to do, and filling in missing bits and things I made note of to add later. And if I can tell you a secret, I enjoy editing and revising even more than writing. I have so many ideas for how I can improve the story in the hope that others will love it as much as I do. It may be ‘the end,’ but that’s only the beginning for a writer. Stay tuned! I can wait to share with you all where this story goes.

Free books! Free Books! Free Books!

Hey, guess what this post is about? Yes, have the chance to win some incredible new releases, all by debut authors! I put together three giveaways this month, and no matter what you like to read, there’s something for everyone! You can enter one, or all three! Contest closes June 15, 2019. Check them out:

Six Thrilling Mysteries!

  • SOPHIE LAST SEEN by Marlene Adelstein
  • PAST PRESENCE by Nicole Bross
  • LITTLE LOVELY THINGS by Maureen Joyce Connolly
  • ONE NIGHT GONE by Tara Laskowski
  • COME AND GET ME by August Norman
  • HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER by Daniela Petrova

Click here to enter! 

Six Compelling Literary or Historical Fiction Novels!

  • THE WILD IMPOSSIBILITY by Cheryl A. Ossola
  • THE FLIGHT GIRLS by Noelle Salazar
  • THE WAR IN OUR HEARTS by Eva Seyler

Click here to enter! 

Five Dazzling Women’s Fiction Novels!

  • PAST PRESENCE by Nicole Bross
  • UNSCRIPTED by Claire Handscombe
  • THE MARRIAGE CLOCK by Zara Raheem
  • THE DNA OF YOU AND ME by Andrea Rothman
  • A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE by Suanne Schafer

Click here to enter!

What a Great Pair of Linen Cozy Oversize Debut Novels

You know that expression, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry? This is the story of how thought my book Past Presence was a pair of ladies’ shorts.

I’m not unfamiliar with things going catastrophically wrong. There was the time I booked a venue for my wedding reception, paid a pretty hefty deposit, only for them to declare bankruptcy and lock their doors a few weeks later. There was the time I bought return plane tickets from Guatemala for a month earlier than our departure, and found out the day before we were set to fly home. And then there was the time Amazon listed my debut as casual fashion. Check it out:

This went up in December, and although it was fixed relatively quickly on the US site, it stubbornly remained shorts on the Canadian Amazon.

My release date was rapidly approaching and when my Canadian readers went to search for my book, they were directed to choose a colour and size instead. I can’t tell you how many friends and family members ‘helpfully’ messaged me to let me know about the problem while I ground my teeth down to nubs.

When I contacted Amazon in person some time in February or March about it, after multiple ‘incorrect product information’ reports had no effect, they first told me my publisher had uploaded the wrong info. I highly doubt this could be the case, because lol, really? Then they said it was an IT problem but it would be fixed within a few days. Time ticked by. My launch date of April 1 came, and still, ladies’ shorts. What else could I do?


Although the delivery date was set for early June, they actually arrived a couple weeks ago, and let me say, these are definitely a pair of Athletic Linen Cozy Oversize Lounge Capri Pants Shorts and not a novel about a woman who uses her ability to see past lives to solve present-day murders in a seaside town. They also smell like a tire fire.

Best six dollars I ever spent? I mean, it wasn’t the worst six dollars I’ve ever spent. That would probably be on the venti vanilla latte I dropped directly outside Starbucks that one time and ruined my wool coat.

About three weeks (THREE WEEKS!) after my launch, the issue was finally resolved, and the linen shorts were no more. Or maybe they do still exist somewhere in the Amazon ecosphere, causing havoc with some other poor author’s listing, getting passed from writer to writer like the author version of the murderous spirit from It Follows. What did I get out of it? A bunch of lost sales… and a great story.

(The actual book is here, if you want to check it out! If you’re looking for the shorts, I can’t help you, lol)

Fun All May

I belong to a great group made up of authors who are all releasing their debut novels in 2019, and for the month of May we’re taking part in a Twitter chat with a different prompt every day! Check out the #Debut19Chat hashtag on Twitter every day for a new discussion!

Past Presence Achieves Bestseller Status

It’s official, Past Presence is the #1 book in Calgary! The Calgary Herald’s Books section has Past Presence ranked first on their list of bestselling books in Calgary, as reported by local bookstores. I am utterly overwhelmed!

I don’t even care that they spelled it wrong. That’s how excited I am.

I know this is due in large part to my incredible network of friends and family who pre-ordered and bought books at my launch party. Many thanks to all my supporters!

Book Launch Party!

Every debut author needs a debut launch party! I was so happy to celebrate the release of Past Presence with friends, family and new readers at Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary. I had hoped for ten or fifteen people to show up, but about 50 people came for a reading, signing and chat. The second time they had to bring out more chairs, I started to cry, and I ended up reading to a standing-room-only full house. My gratitude cannot be quantified.

Look at all these people!


My hands AND my voice were shaking, as I read chapter one of Past Presence.

Of course I brought a typewriter so people could leave me encouraging messages.

It’s a night I will never forget.

CBC Calgary even came out and filmed a segment! You can catch it here at the 27:40 mark, it was their end-of-program local feel-good story of the night 🙂

Many thanks to Angela for the pictures, and Becky for your reporting!

Hello Blog!

It’s been a few years since I tread these boards. Blogging took a back burner to pretty much everything else for awhile, including writing. Consider this the mother of all round-up posts, because we have almost five years to cover.


  • Became editor-in-chief of Birthing Magazine, a position I still hold today. We publish three times a year, with a focus on serving pregnant people and parents of children under two. It’s a great magazine, and I love flexing my editorial muscles.
  • Started writing a new novel! Untitled at the time, it began to shape itself into a paranormal mystery concerning past lives, present-day murders and what it means to be family. More on this later.
  • Adopted my best friend, a 15lb orange tabby named Oliver Venkman. There has never been a better cat.
  • Travelled to Wales, England and Scotland. Many shenanigans ensued.
  • Depression. Womp womp. Stopped writing.


  • Travelled to Costa Rica, and then a few months later solo to Copenhagen.
  • Recovering from depression. Still not writing, but making plans to start again.


  • Paid off my mortgage, quit one of three jobs I was holding. Depression starts to lift.
  • Start writing again in February, on the same mystery I abandoned in 2015.
  • Travelled to Wales and Cornwall, discover that Cornwall is the first place I’ve ever been to that feels like home. While I’m gone, my house almost burns down and we have to move out until repairs are completed.
  • In July I take a one-week getaway to Galiano Island and write over 20,000 words of the book that still doesn’t have a name. Finish shortly after, spend some time editing and on a whim, decide to pitch it during the #DVPit pitch party on twitter. Get several requests for full manuscripts! Settle on calling this book Past Presence.
  • In December, receive an offer to publish from one of the presses that requested my full, Literary Wanderlust. Accept–I’m going to be an author!


  • Just so much editing.
  • Also New Zealand, and a very quick trip to London for the Miss and I for her birthday.
  • Pub date is set for April 1, 2019.
  • I’m off anti-anxiety meds for the first time since my mid-20s. It’s a lot of work to keep myself safe and healthy, but worth it to not be so numb all the time.
  • Complicating that is a diagnosis of ADHD, but I have a good team of mental health professionals who are working with me to learn the skills I need to be at my best.
  • Start writing a new novel, called Moving On. It’s a speculative YA story about Bree Banks, a 17-year-old girl who dies unexpectedly. She finds herself recruited to be an Attendant, a supernatural being who helps guide people from the living into death, a job which she neither wants nor feels she’s well-suited for. It’s full of heartbreak, sassy dialogue and #ownvoices moments for the neurodiverse. I’m having a blast writing it.


  • Thailand in January with six friends. Japan in February with my family. This is a very big lot of travelling. I vow to stay home for a good long while.
  • April 1, 2019. Past Presence is available worldwide!

I think that pretty much catches us up! This blog will now return to its regularly scheduled programming of writing life, tips and tricks, typewriters (oh, I have some new lovelies) and interviews with fellow writers.

tl;dr: The last four years have been upsy-downy but now I have a book out and I went a lot of places.

Chapter 34

This morning I awoke to a city covered with a fine layer of glistening frost, like the clouds had dusted my surroundings with icing sugar. It was a beautiful way to open my 35th year, with everything looking sparkling and crisp.

I’m now, as a friend pointed out, halfway to 70.

Thirty-four was, for me, a year of extreme ups and downs. Maybe the most extreme year of my life.

When I was 34, I visited six countries on three continents over multiple trips. I traveled with friends, alone with my children, alone with my husband and with my husband and kids. Before 34, the thought of getting on a plane left me fraught with terror, often paralyzed and numb. Before 34, leaving my children behind so I could see the world with my beloved made me so sick and anxious I couldn’t enjoy the places I was visiting. When I was 34, I boarded a four-seater single-prop airplane without so much as a tremor. 34 was the year I conquered a fear that has dogged me since early adulthood.

When I was 34, depression kicked my ass. It left me lower than I’ve ever been, so low that I stopped caring about climbing my way out of the pit I’d sunk into. And then, while I was still 34, I kicked depression’s ass right back. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was force myself to slog through those days instead of just giving up. When I was 34, I battled my own brain for the will to live, to accept help. That help came in many forms – family, friends, love, support, pharmaceuticals and counselling. I’m grateful for every one of them.

When I was 34, I started my own business, something I had always sworn I was never interested in doing, until I found something I realized I couldn’t not do. It started out as a very part-time hobby, but the more I worked at it, the more it’s become something I want to grow and nurture. 34 saw me try on a new hat – that of entrepreneur. And I think that hat fits me pretty well.

When I was 34, I sent my youngest child off to school for the first time. He ran from me toward his classroom with unreserved joy – and then ran back to give me a hug, maybe understanding the way only kids can that it was harder for me than him. It will be at least another ten years before I have a child out of school again. I miss their company during the day.

When I was 34, I became truly comfortable with who I am, and stopped seeking approval from others for my life and my choices. I stopped feeling guilty for doing things that made me happy, and I stopped putting my own needs last, realizing that sometimes the best way to help others to be their best is to make sure I’m at my best first. I will never apologize for doing that. I wore bikinis. I got another tattoo. I built a shed/office/clubhouse that’s just for me to read in or write in or drink cheap coolers in or just stare up through the sunroof at the stars in.

When I was 34, I changed. The high points brought me joy. The low points taught me about my limits and about who’s got my back. I am grateful for every moment of 34, because it’s what’s made me into the person who’s ready to tackle 35 with a joie de vivre that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Disordered Thinking

It’s rare that I get all the way to the end of a book before discovering I hate it. It happens (I’m looking at you, Veronica Roth) but usually I can tell if it’s not going to work out in the first couple of chapters. And that’s fine. I don’t mind walking away if all I’ve given is a quarter-hour of my time. But when a book disappoints with its ending, leaving me with the sense that I’ve wasted a good three hours, I get cranky. And that’s starting to happen more than I like these days.

I’m finding that there are far too many books relying on the old trope of “s/he did it because s/he’s nuts!” as an easy solution to the story. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. First off, because it’s weak. It’s the easiest way out, out of countless easy ways. Readers deserve better. We deserve something original, something that will make us think, leave us questioning what we thought we knew. You can’t achieve that if your entire plot rests on some caricature of mental illness.

And that’s my second reason. Why does it seem like every villain does what they do because they’re batshit crazy? And not even a specific type of mental illness. I’m talking generic looneytunes. Where’s the motivation? Where’s the complexity, the subtle character nuances that really get the reader deep inside their head?

Because here’s the thing: mental illness does not a villain make. There’s this huge stigma surrounding it. If you sit down next to a stranger and tell them you have cancer, you get sympathy and compassion. Probably also some half-baked medical advice. If you tell that same stranger you have a mental illness, they shift themselves a little further away. They shelter their children from you. They have important things to check on their phone.

The reality is, one out of four people will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime. That puts you at 25% odds, whether you like it or not. If not you, maybe one of your kids, or your partner. Some of your friends and family members are mentally ill. And I’m guessing they don’t go around attacking people on the street or stuffing them into trunks of cars.

The trope of using mental illness as a crutch in fiction to explain negative actions isn’t going to go away as long as we keep fearing those who are mentally ill. We need to talk about it, openly, the same way we talk about our diabetes, our heart disease, our oddly-shaped mole that keeps growing. It should be just as acceptable to say “I can’t make it into work today, I’m going through a period of depression,” as it is to say “I can’t make it into work today, I have the flu.”

I address mental illness head-on in my fiction, and I plan to always do so. But you’ll never see me ending a novel with the bad guy being carted off to the psychiatric hospital. No, the characters in my fiction that have mental health issues are protagonists. That’s right. They’re the good guys. My current main character has a severe form of aphephobia, the fear of touch. Maybe in my next book one of the players will have an anxiety disorder, or bulimia, or PTSD. And maybe the people who read it will come away with a little bit of a better understanding of how a mental disorder is only an aspect of a person – it does not define him.

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