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


IWSG: Saying goodbye

Hello everyone,

First of all, I apologize for not responding to all the comments from the last Insecure Writer’s Support Group post yet. It’s been quite the month. Attempting to deliver an in-class experience to my students online has been challenging, and sadly, just nine days after my cat passed away, I also lost a dear friend.

Jacquie was my boyfriend’s mother, and in the short few years I knew her, we’d grown quite close. We had so much in common, from a fascination with cookbooks and food history (she was a chef who used to own a restaurant) to gardening, birdwatching, and teaching. She was kind and compassionate and funny, and I really enjoyed my time with her. Then, around Christmas two years ago, she got really sick. She was diagnosed with vertigo, but the treatment didn’t seem to ease her fatigue and dizziness. Up to that point, she’d been taking care of her own mother, who’d had a stroke. Had she worn herself out? we wondered. Her symptoms worsened–she would collapse on the floor, prompting her partner to call an ambulance. She was bounced from hospital to hospital until we finally received the devastating diagnosis–rapidly accelerating Alzheimer’s. Jacquie was never going to get better. She’d never sit on her deck at the cabin again, planting flowers and watching the hummingbirds, or planning her next trip home to England.

Me and Jacquie

We knew we were going to lose her, but no one expected it to be this fast. On the evening of April 6th, my boyfriend received the news that she’d stopped eating and drinking. She refused to take her medication. Because of Covid-19, her care home had been in lockdown and he hadn’t seen his mother in weeks. They urged him to come in the next day, but sadly, ten minutes before he was about to leave, he got the saddest news imaginable–she was gone.

It’s so hard to believe that this vibrant woman, who not so long ago was still working on her feet as a cook twelve hours a day, is gone. We had so many plans, and there were so many questions I’d wanted to ask her, so much I could have learned from her. With the strangeness of this quarantined world, I don’t think anyone who loved her has really come to terms with what we’ve lost. Perhaps we never will.

* * *

There have been a few promising bits of writing news this month. Cruise Ship Killers, the true crime documentary series I was the on-air writer-expert for, is airing on the Justice Network in the U.S., and A&E UK in Europe, Britain, and the Middle East. I’ve been nominated as the Most Promising Writer in the Manitoba Book Awards (I don’t expect to win, but as they say, it’s nice to be nominated). I was the recipient of a Canada Writer’s Trust emergency benefit gift, which was most welcome in these challenging times, and best of all, I’ve received many lovely emails and messages from readers telling me my books have been helping them get through the current situation. Also, this article. Thank you, Paul Goat Allen!

I’m slowly working my way through a second draft of the fifth GhostWriters book, Mask of Ghosts, which should be released in June, and completing a developmental edit on a client’s book. And teaching, of course. I’m determined my students will get through this experience with their mental health and sanity intact.

How are you doing? I hope you’re okay, although, if there were ever a time when it’s okay not to be okay, it’s now. Stay safe, everyone, and thanks for reading. Sending you all a big virtual hug.

The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThose who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Random Musings

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing someone is never easy, but with the lockdown I think it’s even harder when you haven’t seen people for weeks.

  2. Pat Garcia

    I am so sorry to hear about all of your losses. That is devastating. I am also very happy to hear about all of the good things that are taking place in your life. I hope you received the Manitoba Book Award for the Most Promising Writer. All the best. Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

    • Barb

      Deeply sorry to hear of the loss of your cat and dear friend at this difficult time. Thinking of you and your boyfriend, take care.

  3. Jim

    My thoughts are with you J.H. I know what you are going through. You will always be a winner for me.

  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    So sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and her family. This is a sad time to lose someone.

  5. Mark L'estrange

    Hello J.H, such a sad time for you Jacquie sounds like a real force of nature and an inspiring individual. Your boyfriend must be very grateful he has your shoulder to cry on at this time. As for your kitty, I lost one of mine last year, so I share your pain. They leave a loving paw print on your heart which stays there forever.
    Take care of yourself, and stay strong and safe.

  6. Cat

    I’m so sorry you have been going through all this. It’s so hard – especially in this strange times when you can’t even be close with people you want to be with. Take lots of care xxx

  7. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    I’m sorry for you and your boyfriend’s loss, JH. Please take care.

    Well done on all of your writing successes! Fingers crossed the nomination turns into a win…. 🙂

  8. Lisa S.

    Deepest condolences to you both. Jacqui sure seems like she was a lovely and loved, hard-working lady.
    Glad there is some sunshine with the recent writing success. Hopefully May can be a big turning point for us all.

  9. Mary Aalgaard

    Sending love and prayers to you and your family. What a devastating loss. Covid Quarantine is a horrible time to try to say good-bye and grieve together (but separate), just when we need people the most.
    Good news about your writing, and congrats on the awards.
    I look forward to the next Ghost Writers book.
    Take care
    Mary at Play off the Page

  10. Mason Canyon

    I’m so sorry for your loss of both your friend and your cat. Sending hugs and healing thoughts to you and your boyfriend.

  11. L. Diane Wolfe

    I’m so, so sorry. After my mother passed, I realized there were so many things she knew but never wrote down. Even silly things like a recipe I loved as a kid. Now it’s all gone.

  12. C. Lee McKenzie

    What a terrible time this has been for you. Dreadfully sorry about your good friend. I can only imagine how her son must be suffering as well. Virtual hug to you.

  13. Rebecca M. Douglass

    I think one of the hardest and saddest aspects of the lockdown is not being able to see and say goodbye to loved ones. Time will bring healing, but there will always be that question if one could have done something more or different.

    Take care, be safe, and congratulations on the writing accomplishments. At this point I’m wildly admiring of anyone who finishes anything.

  14. Debbie Johansson

    Sorry to hear about your loss. My mother has Alzheimer’s and it’s a terrible disease. Congratulations on your achievements, which I hope helps to give you some comfort during this time. Take care and stay safe!

  15. Barbara Hollyfield

    Just stopping in. I’m saddened to hear of your loss. There is never a good time to say a final farewell, but the situation we’ve been in of late certainly does nothing to ease it. Hugs and prayers.

  16. Toi Thomas

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s never easy to lose someone but I think we tell ourselves that if we saw it coming we could prepare for it better. Maybe? With the whole world on hold, it’s sad to lose someone when you haven’t been able to see them. I’m impressed you were able to share this touching story along with a few notes of good news. Thank you for letting us be part of this tough time with you.

  17. Debs Carey

    Oh JH, what a lot you have to grieve. Alzheimers is the cruellest of diseases & the current circumstances have made it worse by rendering everything so distressingly disconnected. My sympathies to you, I hope you find some solace in writing.

  18. Diane Burton

    I am terribly sorry for your loss. My mom had Alzheimer’s so I know what you went through. Still, losing someone dear when you haven’t been able to see her has to hurt even more. Congrats on your achievements.

  19. Patricia Josephine

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Big hugs to you and your boyfriend.

  20. Liesbet

    Oh, JH! I’m so sorry about losing Jacquie, prematurely. Your tribute to her brought tears to my eyes. I can only imagine how hard it is, especially for your boyfriend and his dad (and siblings?), to not have been able to see her or say goodbye. Or for her and others in her situation to have to die alone, because loved ones are prohibited to visit. This is so heart-breaking.

    It’s been such a tough month for you, but there is a brighter future ahead. There has to be! Congratulations on the nomination and I’m sending you virtual inspiration and focus on finishing book #5 in the series. Touch times!

  21. Mark Murata

    “. . . so much I could have learned from her. ”
    Yes, we have much to learn from those who have gone before. Don’t be afraid to share your wisdom with us.

  22. Janet Crum

    Catching up on IWSG posts, so I just saw this. I’m so sorry for your loss. Alzheimer’s is such a cruel disease. Take care, and congrats on the writing success.


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