Tuesday, 3 January 2023

HERE'S TO 2023!

It's always exciting to welcome in a new year even though that means cold, snowy winter weather here. It's even more exciting now that I have new agency representation from Trident Media Group and have completed two new novels. More news to come later about that! For now I've attached reviews of two novels I read recently. Both very different. Hope you enjoy!
WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje
Only Michael Ondaatje could pull off a novel like Warlight. Named after the twilight that shrouded London during World War 2 when all the streetlights were dimmed to avoid lighting the way for German bombers, the story itself seems to flicker in dreamlike fragments as the world awakes from the horrors of war. The world in this novel is post-war London, brilliantly captured in loving detail in Ondaatje's achingly beautiful prose. This is a battle-scarred and battered London where people who have worked covertly in the shadows, find themselves emerging into the changed world of the Cold War where actions taken during wartime must be answered for. The story begins when teens Rachel and Nathaniel's parents disappear, leaving them in the care of a mysterious guardian named The Moth and his enigmatic friend, The Darter. Over the next year a selection of strange, elusive characters pass through the house. They stay for a while, impart their wisdom, and leave. Rachel struggles with feelings of abandonment while Nathaniel, whose story this really is, finds school difficult to stick with as he's drawn to the fascinating world of The Darter who proves to be an unlikely mentor. The Darter is a barge rat who knows every inch of the River Thames. Nathaniel starts to accompany him on his trips to pick up illegal French greyhounds which are then taken back to the docklands to fuel the newly growing greyhound racing racket. The Darter also gets him a job in a restaurant where he meets and become romantically involved with Agnes. There is a mystery at the heart of the novel that results in a catastrophic end to the arrangement and comes to dominate Nathaniel's life even after he goes to work for the Foreign Office but it's clear that his parents' actions have a lasting impact on his life. This is a haunting story that stays with you long after the last page is turned. Perhaps because of its fragmentary structure where memories drift in and out, mirroring the nature of true human experience and life.
It's clear from the start of this page-turning novel that the main character, Nadine is on edge and burdened by secrets that have clouded her life for a very long time. The story unfolds over the course of one day as she prepares to host a sixtieth birthday party for her mother, a best-selling author. Right for the onset Nadine seems suspicious of other people's motives, a little paranoid and not a little unlikable as a person. But she's a fiercely protective mother to her two children Isobel, 16 and Damien, 14, both of who are struggling with their own personal crises. We already know from the prologue that someone at the party will be dead by the end of the night, so Stuart artfully builds up the tension, introducing characters who may have a motive to uncover some secrets Nadine would like to keep under wraps. Set in a small town somewhere in North America, the setting felt a little generic and lacking atmosphere, though the author does capture some of the drawbacks of small town life where all eyes are on you at all times. A well-written and interesting read.

Saturday, 11 June 2022


After a crazy, turbulent winter season that lasted until April, we here on the prairies entered a brief spring period that has now transformed quickly to summer with temperatures in the high 20's and blossoms only just blooming on the trees. 

A walk along English Bay

Thankfully we were able to escape the unexpected April blizzards and rainstorms by escaping west to British Columbia in April where spring was in full bloom . We flew out of Winnipeg just as the storm approached, and landed in the mountain-ringed, oceanside, leafy green city of Vancouver. The city is a bustling beautiful metropolis and perfect for endless walks around English Bay, Granville Island, Davie Village, Yaletown, Robson Street, Gastown and the stunning harbour front.

I can highly recommend the location of the hotel we stayed in: The Executive Suites at Vintage Park, which is a short walk away from the Granville Island taxi and the sweeping panorama of English Bay. It's also just across the street from The Fresh Street Market, an amazing grocery and deli that we visited almost every day.

On our first morning walk we marvelled at the green grass, bright flowers and lush cherry blossoms, knowing we'd left a screaming blizzard behind us. That was just the beginning of our daily outings spent walking up to 20,000 steps a day!

View from The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant

Vancouver is home to incredible restaurants and we soon found our favourites:
The Happy Noodle on Davie Street serves handmade noodles and amazing stir fries. Spicy green beans were one of our favourites. The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Granville Island boasts stunning waterfront views of Vancouver at night and serves the freshest, tastiest seafood. I also enjoyed a mouthwatering lobster and shrimp risotto at Ancora another gorgeous oceanfront restaurant that serves Japanese/Peruvian cuisine and looks out onto a marina of luxury yachts and across to Granville Island.
On our final day in Vancouver we discovered another gem of a restaurant—Ca Marche Creperie, hidden away under the Granville Street Bridge. Their specialty is savoury buckwheat pancakes. I had the mushroom pancake, which is filled with sautéed mushrooms cider onion jam, asparagus, goat cheese and a perfect soft-boiled egg. They also serve the most decadent dessert pancakes—strawberry, caramel apple, salted caramel served with buckwheat ice cream. After all that eating it's good that we were walking so much!! 
Mushroom Crepe from Ca Marche Creperie

We did take side trips, driving through the mountains along the famous Coquihalla Highway where the clouds truly meet the road, to the beautiful city of Kelowna. Afterwards we cut down south and had a short stay in the fun city of Seattle. There I can highly recommend The Mediterranean Inn, which has a great rooftop patio, and is in a quirky, hip part of Seattle—close to great restaurants, the incredible Museum of Pop Culture, and the Space Needle.

It was a great three-week trip, the first we've taken since the pandemic, and just the beginning of many more.


In-person book events and conferences are going full-swing now and I'm happy to say, after many virtual book club appearances, I've been able to attend some book clubs, the most recent being with a group who'd read The Savage Instinct. It's so good to get live feedback about your work. So much of a writer's life is spent alone in front of a laptop, it's great to emerge and chat with enthusiastic readers who make all those long hours worthwhile.

I've re-released my romantic suspense, LILAH, with a brand new cover. It's available in paperback and e-book on all Amazon platforms. Also I still have some great new projects on the horizon, but I can't talk about them yet, since they're in the development stage with an agent and publisher. Same goes for some exciting film projects under consideration with a Canadian production company.


I'm happy to announce Ill be presenting at two major writers' conferences:

THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY 2022 CONFERENCE: The leading conference for writers of historical fiction is being held in Durham City, UK in September 2022. As you all know Durham City is my birthplace and the setting of THE SAVAGE INSTINCT. So I'm honoured to be presenting a session there.

COLORADO GOLD WRITERS' CONFERENCE organized by THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN FICTION WRITERS: I attended this conference in Denver about ten years ago and it really inspired me to keep going with my writing. I'm thrilled to be presenting a hands-on workshop there as well as doing some mentoring sessions.

Hopefully I'll be able to update you on my new projects by the time the next blog comes out. In the meantime, happy reading and don't forget how much authors appreciate your reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

Monday, 28 March 2022


 I'm so happy to get back to my blog after a long hiatus spent writing, revising, experiencing three book launches and seeing those novels catapulted out into the big, wide world. It's been an exhilarating experience, but one that's not for the faint of heart.

After years of self-publishing, in 2021 three of my novels were picked up by publishing houses. The Savage Instinct was published by Inkshares in May, The Secret Sister by Canelo in April, and The Perfect Family Man by Canelo in October.

Here are some of my takeaways from this dizzying year:

  • Many would-be authors strongly believe that getting an agent and an offer of publication means their troubles are over and they won't have another anxious moment. That's like saying, once the wedding is over, you'll never need to worry again! Publication opens up a whole new set of concerns: reviews—how will the readers respond? Will they love the book and become your newest fan, or will they pan it or worse still DNF it! Reviews are all-important. Publishers watch them, future promos are dependent on them. Writers find themselves obsessively tracking them!!
  • You can't sit back on your laurels and kick up your feet for more than a few days, because if you want to stay in the business, you need to keep writing the next one - or two - or maybe even a few more, just in case the other two are rubbish!
  • Accept that not everyone truly understands the amount of time, effort, skill and imagination it takes to write a novel. You may end up with 90,000 words, but that word count is a result of scouring your imagination for the best, most original ideas; extensive structural editing, careful revisions; backbreaking editing sessions and a whole lot of self-doubt and angst. So be prepared not to receive the level of adoration or appreciation you think you deserve—especially from those close to you, some of whom may not even read or comment on your masterpiece! It's not personal. People are busy. Learn to find your own satisfaction.

  • Reader feedback is the force that drives you to keep going. I've had some incredible feedback from readers about my books. Dedicated beta readers who take the time to read early drafts and give honest feedback are an invaluable help. Reviewers on Instagram, Tim Tok and Facebook are a dedicated army whose support is inspiring. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to wake up and see a list of Instagram notifications from readers who read your work and have taken the time to post thoughtful reviews and eye-catching pictures featuring your novel. It was also a real thrill to receive personal fan messages and invitations to online and in-person book clubs. 
  • Don't go into writing for the money! Believe me, there are easier ways to make a buck! And if you don't like waiting for your money then this is definitely the wrong career for you. While some writers hit the bestseller jackpot and get movie deals and spots on Reese's Book Club, most writers toil long hours and make sporadic money, many working other jobs to keep afloat. Do it for the love of it! If you can.

  • Other writers are generous with their friendship and form an incredibly supportive network. One of the best aspects of this year was meeting other writers and sharing our experiences, answering each other's questions and generally reassuring each other that we weren't bonkers for taking the road we've chosen. I've also discovered that some bestselling authors truly believe in paying it forward and have been floored by their generosity in providing reviews and shoutouts.
So those are just a few of my takeaways from an incredible year that has been an absolute rollercoaster! I'll be posting again soon with other book news and reviews of some terrific books I've read this year, but I simply have to mention one novel by an author from my home province. If you're looking for something witty and suspense filled, then The Retreat by Sherri Smith is one for you. See review below.

This fast-paced, captivating thriller is a hidden gem featuring fresh, original characters that jump off the page and a tone that is wry, witty and laugh-out-loud hilarious at times in its send-up of the wellness industry and its pretensions. Reminiscent of Liane Moriarty's earlier novels, this book is far funnier than some of the more hyped books out there that involve groups of disparate people thrown together in challenging locales where inevitably someone dies. The central character, Katie, is a washed-up child star, with no direction, now living a totally messed-up life. When her future sister-in-law, the perfect Brit, Ellie, suggests they go for a wellness weekend to a wilderness camp famous for its hallucinogenic tea ceremony, Katie invites her two college friends along, unaware of the personal crises in their lives. The camp is run by the Uber-hip, good-looking and promiscuous Dr. Dave and his much older wife, Naomi, a wealthy ex-student who ruthlessly keeps the admirers at bay. When a bloodied knife is found and a guest is missing, the hi-jinks begin and suddenly everyone is concealing secrets. This is such an entertaining read, told from four points of view, each with a unique, distinct voice. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 22 April 2021


THE SAVAGE INSTINCT, release date May 18th 2021

It's been almost eight years since I made the startling discovery that the street just around the corner from my grandmother's house in Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear, UK was actually the birthplace of Mary Ann Cotton, one of Britain's most prolific murderers. Once I started reading about her case and the sensation it caused in the newspapers of the time (1872-73), I knew I had to write a novel inspired in some way by the events at the time.

I didn't want to write it from the murderer's point of view. Many articles written since that time have argued about the extent of Cotton's guilt, and there is still wide disagreement about how many people she actually killed. Instead I was more interested in how the case influenced the men and women reading the newspapers at the time and how it caused sensation and outrage at a time when women's roles were restricted to the domestic sphere, and fulfilling one's role as the selfless " angel at the hearth" was the only role deemed important for women.

The only surviving photograph of Mary Ann Cotton

I created a fictional character, the childless and unhappy Clara Blackstone, a woman on the edge - trying desperately to maintain her sanity after a traumatic second miscarriage. A troubled woman who has blocked the memories of her spell in an asylum, the terrible events leading up to it and the role her husband played in her committal. The story opens when Clara travels up to Durham City to meet her husband, Henry, so that they can make a fresh start. On her way from the train station, they encounter a mob gathered to witness the arrival of Mary Ann Cotton at Durham Jail - and so the problems begin to unfold...

This book was a long time in the making. I've had nightmares about the murderer, learned a whole lot about Victorian women - their trials and tribulations, and the mind doctors who preyed on them in the  guise of treating "nervous complaints and hysteria".

I truly hope you enjoy THE SAVAGE INSTINCT, out on May 18th 2021! 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Publishing Countdown For THE SAVAGE INSTINCT

The publishing date for The Savage Instinct has been moved to May 18thI never realized how much promotional work is done in the months before a book is launched. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Once all the line edits and copyedits are done (and they're exhausting), the book goes onto Net Galley. That's the online site where numerous reviewers from media to librarians to educators and book bloggers apply to read an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of your book and provide a review, which is usually shared to Goodreads. This is a nail-biting time for authors, waiting to discover how your book will be received by people in the biz. You find yourself checking back numerous times a day to see if someone else has left a review and what they have to say. With The Savage Instinct it's been a great experience. So far the book has garnered over 83 amazing reviews.
  • There's such an active community of Instagram book bloggers. I'm amazed at how many of these people are dedicated to promoting books and creating visually stunning posts accompanied by very insightful reviews. These people drive readers towards great books. I have nothing but admiration from them and gratitude for the way they've received The Savage Instinct.

  • The publisher puts a great deal of work into getting established writers and reviewers to give feedback on the book. One or two of these are incorporated into the paperback cover. I had the greatest moment of my writing career when I learned that Publisher's Weekly, the premier publication in the publishing business, gave The Savage Instinct a starred review. That's a great honour reserved for select books!! Check it out here.
  • The publisher works to set up events, including a launch, which will happen around the time the book is published. It will be a virtual launch, hosted by McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, which means more people will be able to participate. More details on the exact date and other events later.
  • It's been amazing to see how the cover has evolved into something very beautiful. You'll be able to see the complete cover when the book comes out. But I have to say, I can't wait to finally get the book into my hands!!

Click here to see the writeup about The Savage Instinct. Please note, the publishing date for the novel has been updated to May 18th, 2021.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Publishing News

Canelo set to publish two dark and twisty suspense novels by M. M. DeLuca.

Commissioning Editor Leodora Darlington has acquired WEL rights to new standalone suspense novels by M. M. DeLuca in a two-book deal. 

The Secret Sister is a gripping suspense novel with a twist that will leave readers reeling. We follow our protagonist, Anna, on her whirlwind romance that ends in her marrying almost-too-perfect Guy. But how much does Anna know about the man she has married? And how much does Guy know about his new wife? She’s certainly keeping her share of secrets, and the biggest one of all is the identity of the sister she lost many years ago, the sister she is still searching for now. 

M. M. DeLuca studied psychology at the University of London and now resides in Canada. She studied Advanced Creative writing with Pulitzer prizewinning author, Carol Shields. Her first novel, The Pitman's Daughter was shortlisted for the Chapters Robertson Davies first novel in Canada award in 2001. She went on to self-publish it in 2013 where it became an ebook bestseller in the literary category.

Leodora Darlington says, ‘I’m beyond excited to be bringing M. M. DeLuca’s writing to suspense fans around the world. Her writing is brilliantly taut, and her protagonist, Anna, is so delightfully complex and intriguing. My heart broke when reading about Anna’s tragic past, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the explosive reveals that would be sure to shatter her relationship with Guy. I just know that readers are going to fall in love with this novel and its publication can’t come soon enough.’

M. M. DeLuca says, ‘It’s a dream come true to have signed a two-book deal with the wonderful team at Canelo and to work with the most amazing and enthusiastic editor, Leodora Darlington. Leodora’s passionate support of my new psychological suspense novel, The Secret Sister, has made this writer’s journey a truly pleasurable one, and I’m so excited to share my work with all the great readers out there in March 2021.’

The Secret Sister will be published in March, 2021, in simultaneous print and ebook formats, with audio to follow. For more information please contact publicity@canelo.co.

Monday, 30 November 2020

TAKE IT BACK by Kia Abdullah

TAKE IT BACK, an explosive and riveting drama.

Kia Abdullah has written a bold and compelling novel that deals head-on with difficult and divisive issues. This page-turning novel explores the conflict between justice and pursuit of the truth versus family and cultural loyalty; rape and the sexualization of women; women's rights versus cultural  misogyny. If that's not enough, then there are also thematic threads related to substance abuse and bullying.

The main story centres around Jodie, a genetically disfigured 16-year-old who reports that she's been raped by four young Muslim boys from her school. Main character, Zara, ex-hotshot barrister, now a sexual violence legal advocate, takes the case and is immediately thrown into an explosive and highly publicized courtroom drama where the focus immediately switches to race rather than rape. Pitted against her estranged Muslim family and her community, Zara is branded a traitor to her race and nothing more than an "Uncle Tom", when she tries to protect Jodie, a quiet, tragic girl with a neglectful, alcoholic mother, and support her in her fight for justice. Tensions soon escalate and Zara becomes a target in the centre of a violent fight between white supremacist, anti-immigrant groups and disgruntled Muslim extremists.

Abdullah creates a strong, conflicted and vulnerable character in Zara, a woman who rejects the female role prescribed by her family and community, yet still struggles to find love, acceptance and confidence in her own identity. The novel explores the case from multiple perspectives which allows the reader to understand even the alleged perpetrators' feelings and realize that the entire situation is a tragedy for all involved. This powerful, riveting and provocative novel is sure to resonate with many readers. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

                                                            KIA ABDULLAH

KIA ABDULLAH is an author and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC, Channel 4 News, and The New York Times. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog Atlas & Boots, which receives over 200,000 views per month.

HERE'S TO 2023!

It's always exciting to welcome in a new year even though that means cold, snowy winter weather here. It's even more exciting now th...