Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Hello Dear Readers,

First of all, thank you for all of the heartfelt, insightful comments on yesterday’s post. Just when I’m starting to lose faith in this blog and feel like I’m writing these words in a vacuum, you surprise and strengthen me. Each and every comment here is a gift, whether you agree with what I have to say or not.

Before I continue this Crawling Out of the Big Black Hole series on debt, I have some very positive news to share. When this year began, I’d hoped to be out of debt by December. Then my hot water tank burst. The threat of flooding this spring required the expensive installation of a sump pump. My furnace needed repair. The bad luck seemed never-ending, and it looked like 2011 was not going to be my year. But with a lot of hard work, and quite a bit of luck, I am thrilled to report that–unless my roof suddenly caves in–I will be out of debt by the end of this summer, or even before! I am so excited and pleased about this. It took some sacrifices and a lot of adjustment, but it was so worth it. I only wish I’d started sooner.

That said, let’s talk about my other addiction, which isn’t harmful to anything but my bottom line. Since I was old enough to have my very first library card, I’ve been addicted to the printed word. When I was a child, I read every single book that was of any interest to me from my small town’s public library. From my school’s library. From my mother’s collection (I’m surprised she let me read some of that stuff–Jackie Collins was pretty racy). It was nearly impossible to keep me in books, and I didn’t have many of my own, so I contented myself with constantly re-reading old favourites. And not just that–I read the backs of cereal boxes, waded through cookbooks and women’s magazines. I read everything I could get my hands on. When books got passed through school, they usually stopped at me, and I confess I might still have a few schoolbooks somewhere. I was insatiable.

We didn’t have a bookstore in my little town, so when I stepped into my first McNally Robinson in the city, I thought I was in heaven. I could easily spend $1,000 on books within an hour, and still not have satisfied my wordlust.

When I got serious about getting out of debt, I dusted off my library card and tried to get my fix for free. You’re allowed nearly unlimited books here, so I would fill my basket so full I was barely able to cart them home. In spite of the pressure of having to read them all by a deadline, this seemed to work until…(SENSITIVE READERS SHOULD SKIP TO THE NEXT GRAPH) I borrowed a book that someone had repeatedly used as a Kleenex. It was so disgusting that, since returning it and informing the personnel, I haven’t been back. I realize that this is most likely a very rare occurrence, but it sickened me, and after hearing from a friend who used to work there about all the other gross things discovered in the books, it might not be rare enough for me.

Still, it wasn’t a problem. I had a pile of books waiting to be read, and I promised myself that I would only buy the books of my writer friends until I was out of debt. People like Barbara Ross, a wonderful woman who had just released her debut novel The Death of an Ambitious Woman, deserved the support of their friends. How many friends could possibly release books in 2010 and 2011? I was certain I could support all of them and still live within my means. However, when I took stock of my spending at the end of the year, I was shocked to see that–even with all the cutting back–I had still spent over a thousand dollars on books and magazines. Yikes! And no, they weren’t all written by friends–there went that resolution.

I’m a junkie for new words, but I’ve discovered the joy of used words. A delicious way to spend a weekend afternoon is prowling used bookstores and sales with a fellow addict. Anything you find on these trips truly feels like treasure, and is so much more appreciated for the time spent on the hunt.

Now that I’m nearly out of debt and have some savings to spare, I’ve indulged in a special treat for my upcoming birthday: the complete series of Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. Remember those books? I longed for them when I was a kid, and can see them inspiring a lot of intriguing stories, if not novels.

Any other book junkies out there? Feel free to stand up and declare your addiction–this blog isn’t exactly anonymous, but it is supportive. What was the best book you read recently? How do you balance your budget while still fulfilling your lust for literature? What’s the best treasure you found in a used bookstore or sale?

Thanks for reading!
1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Claudine

    Grace Hospital book sale starts today! I think this is the paperback sale, whereas the hardcovers are put out in the fall sale. I find a lot of great books at Goodwill, Salvation Army and Value Village, too. And Aqua Books! I keep a few shelves of books at home, but for most, as soon as I’ve finished them, they’re outta here. I don’t get people who want to hang on to books. There’s so much available to read, there’s not much chance I’ll ever read the same book twice. But then I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where reading material was always around and something I had the privilege of taking for granted. My sisters and I share the same attitude today: Sure, you can have that book when I’m done with it, but I don’t want it back! It’s better to keep passing them along. Less clutter at home, too.

  2. Chris

    That’s an interesting idea about passing books on. I’m a hoarder myself. I got rid of a few hundred before my last move, but I still have a pretty full bookcase. I’m trying to limit myself to books I’ll read more than once, but that still leaves a lot. I can’t imagine only reading a good book once. For me, a favourite story is like a movie – something you can enjoy over and over whenever you’re in the mood.

    I love the Children’s Hospital Book Sale:


    I’ve found so many cheap books and unexpected gems that that sale. There’s nothing like finding an Eaton’s vest pocket dictionary from 1911 for less than a cup of coffee. I still buy new books when I want to support the author, but it’s hard to resist the allure and romance of digging through piles of used books like an archaeologist.

  3. Elspeth Cross

    Here’s a trick I found out last year. You get a better return by donating books to the Winnipeg Public Library than you do taking them to a used book store. It’s a charitable tax deduction and not cash, but still good. And they only take newer stuff so you can still sell older stuff.

    There are some disgusting library books but for the most part they are great. I extimate I save over $1000/yr taking books out of the library rather than buying new ones. (Of course, I’d still by a friend’s book. It’s a worthwhile gift – to myself and to the writer!)

    My latest addiction is my Kindle. If I absolutely can’t wait, the Kindle version is cheaper than the hardcover (or paperback.) I’ve also discovered that shopping directly from the e-publishers’ sites are 30-50% cheaper than amazon.com, but not as convienent.

    You can’t give up books. But you can look for deals.

    Enjoy the Unknown *cue X-files music*

  4. Story Teller

    Great tips, everyone! Thanks so much for commenting. I always love talking to other book junkies.

    @ Claudine – thanks for introducing me to Aqua Books. I’ve been back a couple of times since we met there, and there’s lots of great treasure to be found. I haven’t been to the Grace sale–where do they hold it?–but I went to the Children’s Hospital sale last weekend. I found almost 30 books for $48–a pretty sweet deal. And I was reminded of the Mysteries of the Unknown books, which I’d loved but forgotten.

    @ Chris–I’m with you. I love re-reading favorite novels, especially if they’re brain candy. Some of my copies of Stephen King’s books are so well-read they are literally falling apart. When that happens, I replace them with new copies and keep going back to them. Comfort food for the brain. 🙂

    I agree about the allure of being a book archaeologist, too. It’s so much fun to find treasures that way!

    @ Elspeth – that’s a great idea about donating to the Winnipeg Public Library, although I suspect most of my books wouldn’t be in good enough shape (I tend to read in the bath).

    I know it’s environmentally friendly, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever jump on the e-reader bandwagon. I love the feel of pages too much, the actual sensation of holding a great book in your hands. But then again, I said the same about CDs and DVDs, and they eventually got to me. 🙂

    About the Unknown–sorry to sound like a complete book geek, but I am SO excited! They are already in the mail. Can’t wait to receive them, but I’m going to try to use them as a bribe, with the condition being I have to work on my rewrites first.

  5. Claudine

    The Grace Hospital book sale takes place at the hospital, in the auditorium, closest door is off Booth (when you see the hospital’s child care centre’s play structure, you’ll know you’re on track). It’s on 10 a.m.-8 p.m. today (May 5), and on May 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. They usually have a “fill a bag” special on the last day of the sale. I forget what the price is, but I know it’s a bargain!

  6. Lisa

    You got me! Yes…I have a very difficult time passing by a book store and not going in “just to look” I tell myself…HA! I rarely leave without a book or two. Yes, My name is Lisa and I am a book-a-word-a-holic. I feel naked without a book nearby. I want to be reading all the time. Like you, when I was younger I would visit the library and emerge with a stack of up to 15 books. And I would read them all before having to return them in two weeks. The local library could barely keep up with my appetite.

    I LOVE visiting used book stores, book sales etc. But there are times when I absolutely MUST have that new book by a favourite author. I don’t buy hardcover when I can avoid it. The last hardcover I purchased was Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle, but justified it because he’s local and I wanted to support him.

    I’ve also tried to organize a book swap with friends but finding a mutual time has been difficult. I do lend and borrow, which makes things less expensive.

  7. Story Teller

    Thanks, Claudine.

    And “hi, Lisa!” Your secret is safe with me…and everyone else who reads this blog.

    It’s nice to hear from someone who feels the same way about books. Thanks for sharing your story. What was the greatest treasure you found at a used book store or sale? And what are you reading now?

  8. Elspeth Cross

    @ Lisa. Oh, no, I very seldom lend or borrow anymore. I’ve replaced my favourite book too many times after loaning it out and never getting it back. And I have – rarely – forgotten to return a book, or who lent it in the first place.

    A swap sounds interesting. Do you show up with books you want to give away and trade with others who want yours until all your books are gone and you have a new stack?

  9. Lisa

    The way I wanted to work the swap was to have everyone bring a bag of books they were willing to permanently part with AND a bottle of wine. Then while we drank the wine we would go through the books and take whichever ones we wanted. Any leftover books would be donated to a local charity.(After reading your comment Elspeth I’m thinking the library)

    I only lend out books that I want to keep, and those to people I know will return them. I have about 3 or 4 trusted book loving borrowers.

    @Holli: I’m currently reading Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas, Bite Me by Christopher Moore, and A Beautiful Boy by David Scheff…I have different books in different places (work, car, home) so I always have reading material. Yes, I’m that addicted!

    As for my greatest treasure…I found most of the complete set of The Illustrated Natural History of Canada at Red River Books a couple years ago. What made is so special was that it was a set I remember having as a kid and my dad and my brother and I used to flip through the pages and make up stories etc. We lost everything in a house fire in 1989 and when I saw this set I bought it for my father for Christmas that year.

  10. Story Teller

    Wow, what a great treasure story! I can only imagine your dad’s reaction. Thanks for sharing.

    Things that we had (or wanted to have) during childhood still have a strong pull, don’t they? That’s part of the reason those “Mysteries of the Unknown” books mean so much to me.


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