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

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She’s ba-ack!

Hello everyone. It’s been a long time. Too long, and I apologize for that. So much has happened over the past year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had two big dreams: live in a warm place by the ocean, and write full time.

After many, many years of failed plans, false starts, and searching the world for the “perfect” place, I finally achieved both. Last November, I sold or donated almost everything I still owned and moved to Mexico to give this writing dream of mine a real shot.

Couldn’t you have done that back in Canada? is a question I’m often asked. Why move?

The answer is: yes and no. I certainly made a good effort in Canada. I wrote 22 publishable books (plenty of false starts there too), and managed to get 17 of them published, along with quite a few short stories. My writing paved the way to appearing in five true crime documentary series, which is how some of you discovered me.

And yet…

In spite of my best efforts, I never truly went “all in.” I was terrified of not being able to pay the mortgage, regardless of how much of a risk that was or wasn’t. I took on way too much work, seizing almost everything that came my way, until I was juggling a ridiculous amount of teaching classes, marking student assignments, helping consulting clients, editing novels for other clients, being interviewed for the TV shows, and the list goes on and on. When something had to fall off the to-do list, it was either the writing or exercise. Self-care? What self-care?

Costs kept rising. Every month, there was a notice that higher prices for my electricity and natural gas had been approved (I’m sure a lot of you can relate). It was impossible to go to the grocery store to get just a few things and spend less than $50. Crime was increasing too. While my city was never the safest, I was shocked when one of my dearest friends was violently attacked on a Sunday morning while heading to my home. The threat of another long, brutal winter loomed.

And there was my lifelong dream of living by the ocean with the sun on my face. Just me, my laptop, and three cats. If not now, then when? As a long-time freelancer and independent contractor, I had no pension on the horizon, and no real reason to stick around, aside from the people I love.

Leap and the net will appear? I certainly hope so. Selling many of my belongings, including my home, and moving to a place where the cost of living is mostly lower has given me the gift of time. Time to focus on my writing, to truly see what’s possible when the pressure is off. But as they say, wherever you go, there you are. Only time will tell if I continue to be my own worst enemy. I hope not, as I’ve put everything on the line to make this dream come true. If you’d like to help or support me, buying one (or more) of my books helps A LOT! (Or reading the one you’ve bought if you purchased it through Kindle Unlimited–I don’t get paid until you read it.) If you’ve read everything I have out already, THANK YOU! In that case, leaving a nice post on Amazon that says you liked it or recommending my books to friends really helps.

As for the future of this blog, I’d love to hear from you. What would you like to see here? More spooky stories? More true crime? Writing updates? Snippets of works in progress? I get so many questions about how I managed to change my entire life in a year, and I’d love to do a short series about that here, if it interests you. Maybe the stuff I learned and still am learning could help some of you too.

For now, I’ll just say: if you have a dream, chase it. Even if people say it’s crazy. Even if they say it won’t work. Chase it anyway. What’s your big dream? I’d love to hear it. Please drop it in the comments, or send me an email.

Happy New Year. Thanks for still being here.

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

52 Comments

  1. Nikki B.

    Yaaaaaay!!!! I mean, I’ve always known there to find you but it’s good to see you “back”! I think you are so very brave for doing this and that it brings you so much joy and success! 😊

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Nikki! Hope you’re doing well. I’ve missed seeing you around the ol’ author page (which I’ve brought back to life as well). If bravery is doing things in spite of fear, then I do have a ton of it! It was so hard to leave, and is still hard somedays.

      How are you doing? And what kind of content would you like to see here?

      Reply
      • Nikki B.

        I am doing okay, learning to adapt when circumstances aren’t always the greatest and still find joy and beauty. I have missed you and interacting with you more frequently! And I think you are the very definition of brave.

        I always love your content but I would love to hear about some of your process for moving and taking this leap! Snippets of works in progress would also be amazing. And you know I love my spooky stuff, especially when you talk about spooky places and/or legends.

        Reply
        • JH

          Thanks so much, Nikki. I hope your circumstances are getting a lot better. <3 You're such a kind person; you deserve all the good things.

          And thanks for all the ideas about what you'd like to see here! That really helps.

          Reply
      • Steven Arellano Rose

        I’m glad to see that your back, J.H.! I’m also glad you fulfilled the plans you mentioned above. I hope your new home works out for you. Good luck.

        I think a series about you on here would be neat!

        Reply
        • JH

          Thanks so much, Steven. It’s good to “see” you again too!

          Reply
  2. Kimberly

    I’m so excited to have you back!!!! I can’t wait to read more from you (pretty sure I’ve exhausted everything you’ve published…) 😉

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Kimberly! I think you’ve reviewed everything too. <3

      Reply
  3. Jim

    Very few people in the world, and certainly the ones that I know of personally, have the courage and conviction to truly follow their dreams. It takes a very brave, resourceful, and confident person to actually follow through on life changing events that turn dreams into actual reality.
    I am full of admiration for what you have achieved against all the odds, and I’m sure that future success in your chosen lifestyle and career is assured.
    You will always remain one of my heroes!

    Short stories based on your recent experiences would be very welcome!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Jim. I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement. I wish I felt braver and more confident, but hopefully that will come in time. <3

      Reply
  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    Welcome back!
    That is quite the change. Bet it’s a lot cheaper to live in Mexico though. Hope it gives you the chance to chase and obtain your dream of full time writer.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Alex. Some things are cheaper, but others are quite expensive. For instance, quality cat food and litter are expensive and not that easy to find, but I’m sure there’s a better source I’ve yet to discover. Still working on that.

      My rent for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom casita (small guest house) is a little more than the monthly mortgage I paid for my three-bedroom, three bathroom home back in Canada, but without the property taxes and crazy heating bills. And I’m living in the California of Mexico, right on the ocean. There’s some crazy prices on rentals here, especially the ones on the beach!

      Reply
  5. L. Diane Wolfe

    That is a leap of faith. (And my step-sister retired to Mexico and LOVES it.) Just remember, when the dream’s big enough, the facts don’t count.

    I’d love more spooky stories. Real-life spooky stories are fascinating.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much for the kind words! That’s great to hear about your step-sister. That does seem to be the overall response, once you get through the toughest parts.

      Reply
  6. Catherine Cavendish

    Wow! That takes courage – sackfuls of it. Well done, J.H. I’m looking forward to reading new novels and novellas. As for on here, I am always interested in the day-to-day. Moving from Canada to Mexico must be involving all sorts of changes – even down to the food you buy in the local market. How is your Spanish? What social and cultural differences are you finding – and, of course, how are the cats adapting? Serafina sends purrs, by the way

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Catherine! I’ll definitely focus on those challenges in future posts. My Spanish is good enough to make myself understood in most cases and carry on conversations. My comprehension is a lot better than my speaking at this point. But when it comes to complicated issues like problems that crop up with the plumbing or my landlord, I still get lost or need a translation app. Talking things out in writing helps, because then I can translate.

      The kitties were doing fine, but poor Sophie is not feeling well now. I’d thought she was getting better, but it’s back to the vet tomorrow. Thankfully, it’s a short walk away and not very expensive.

      Reply
  7. Lisa S.

    Hey lovely lady! Glad to hear you are getting your writing mojo back now that you have settled into your new space. You are one courageous cookie! Love hearing about your new surroundings and how you are navigating your adventure. Some seaside thriller pieces would be fun to read.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Lisa! Really appreciate your encouragement and support. Miss you tons!

      Reply
  8. Janet Alcorn

    Congrats on going after what you want! That takes a lot of courage and confidence. I’d love to learn more about your life as an expat, the joys and the challenges. I also dream of living near an ocean one day.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Janet! If courage is persisting through fear, then I had loads of it. 😀

      It’s awesome that you dream of the ocean too. Don’t give up! It took me almost a lifetime to get here.

      Reply
  9. Liesbet

    Hello girl! Welcome back!!

    I am so happy and excited that you made this “plunge”! 🙂 Your reasoning for moving makes a lot of sense to me – but you could have guessed that.

    New challenges will arise in your Mexican life, but the sunshine and a more relaxed way of living will make up for most of that. Change is never easy, but I truly believe you made the right decision.

    As for me, you know I’ve been living a nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years. It has brought many challenges and lack of comfort, but it is what I want to do – and keep doing.

    Still, I try to cram too much into each day, as my interests, chores, the need to make money (like you, I’m a long-term freelancer), giving our dog an amazing life, research on the road, etc. take up every minute of the day. I wish I could slow down as well and focus more on my writing – and reading! Maybe this year will bring more of a balance. An expat life somewhere “settled” surely would! 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, even as a “settled” expat, I find the days can be very busy. Time drifts through your fingers quickly! There’s so much to do, classes to take, etc., and many of the friends you make–especially during the “high” season–are either retired and/or on vacation, so there’s lots of invitations to do things during the day. Striking the balance between work and needing to socialize and become a part of the community can be challenging.

      I kind of envy that you take your “home” with you, as 99% of my problems have been with my landlord.

      Reply
  10. Mark L'estrange

    Dear Miss Moncrieff, it is so lovely to have you back-so to speak. I am so glad your move went well, you are brave and an inspiration to anyone who is willing to grab the bull by the horns. I am sure that you will make a go of your new chapter in life, and cannot wait to hear more from you, both in writing horror as well as tales of your adventures in moving…Have you considered writing a guide book?
    All the very best. Take care.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Mark! You’re always so kind. When you say a guide book, do you mean to the area, or do you mean re: immigrating? In any case, I haven’t ruled anything out, but if you mean to this area, I’m far from an expert yet.

      I really appreciate your kind words. They mean more than you could ever know. <3

      Reply
      • Mark L'estrange

        Sorry, I should have specified. I meant a guide from your own personal experiences in moving from Canada to Mexico. You know, 10 things you must do, and 10 things you should never do, that kind of thing. So sorry to hear little Sophie is unwell, all my fur-babies send their love and good energy. Take care

        Reply
        • JH

          Thanks so much, Mark. Now Spooky is sick with the same infection. 🙁 Hoping and praying Chloe doesn’t get it too.

          That’s a great idea for a guidebook. I may just do that!

          Reply
  11. Erik Smith

    Welcome back!
    Congratulations on all of the big changes. You have been missed, but it’s understandable. I hope everything goes your way. Can’t wait to see what you do next!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Erik. I hope you’re doing well; I’ve missed talking to you. I so appreciate all the support and encouragement you’ve given me over the years. It’s invaluable.

      Reply
  12. Rebecca Douglass

    Congrats on making the leap! I hope it all goes well for you and the kitties. I like to travel, but I don’t think I could ever live abroad—too far from my family :). Though after the last week or two of rather Canadian weather here in Seattle, I definitely understand the desire to move to Mexico!

    Reply
    • JH

      Hi Rebecca! Yes, the weather was definitely a factor. One of my goals was never to be cold again, though it does get chilly here on winter evenings. Nothing like Canada, though.

      This was a huge leap of faith, and it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I miss “my people” so much it physically hurts. But I’ve been lucky enough to make new friends fairly quickly, so have faith that one day, this will feel more like home than my old one did.

      Reply
  13. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    Good for you! I wish you all the sand and sun you desire. I’ve lived in Florida now for a long time, but I never get tired of seeing palm trees outside my window. 🙂

    (I commented yesterday but it didn’t show up. Sigh. Trying again….)

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Madeline. You’re here now. Did it take you a while to get used to when you moved there?

      Reply
      • Madeline Mora-Summonte

        It was so long ago, I don’t really remember! I would guess so, but I was also young back then so I might’ve been all just go with the flow. 🙂

        Reply
        • JH

          I first moved away when I was young too, and remember struggling at first, but in different ways. It was easier in some respects, because I moved for college, so had a ready-made network, structure, and schedule.

          Reply
  14. Ruth

    Congratulations! I want to piggyback your bravery. Which city in Mexico?

    Reply
    • JH

      It’s a little fishing village on the Pacific coast.

      Reply
      • Ruth

        Sounds scenic, great for inspiration. What do you do for health care/health insurance? I’ve thought of moving to Tijuana to write screenplays. Your thoughts?

        Reply
        • JH

          As a resident, I’m covered under the public health system here. I’ve considered health insurance for more serious conditions, but haven’t looked into it yet.

          Immigrating is a huge move and a big decision. I think only you can say whether or not it’s right for you.

          Reply
  15. Birgit

    How is Sophie? I hope she is ok. Our one cat will be 15 and my little girl has arthritis…poor thing. I’ve been following you on Facebook and all I can say s you are living your dream. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned, you have done more than most people and to me, that’s a victory. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend but hope your friend is doing much better. Physically but especially emotionally. I love the creepy and the true stories. I love to hear your experiences also. Glad to see you here

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Birgit. Good to “see” you again. Thanks to our wonderful vet, Sophie (and Spooky–he came down with the same infection) both seem to have made a full recovery. I also have a 15-year-old cat with arthritis. Luckily, the virus or whatever it was seems to have skipped her.

      I really appreciate your kind words of encouragement and support. My friend has healed now, though I don’t think he’ll ever feel quite the same about how “safe” Canada is, and I don’t think his wife will either.

      Hope you’re doing well!

      Reply
  16. Ruth

    Hi Moncrieff, I reached out last year (timing never my forté) when I desperately needed guidance, you never replied. I understand. But, I can’t help wonder how much pain I may have avoided (dark night of soul)and what (potentially) glorious path you could’ve helped set me on if you had. I look forward to reading more of all things you find inspiring, fascinating and intriguing.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hello Ruth. I don’t recall seeing an email from you, but last year was one of the most chaotic and traumatic of my own life, and unless you were contacting me in an official capacity, about consulting work or the like, I probably didn’t have the bandwidth for it. I’m not sure I’m the right person to help others avoid dark nights of the soul. I’m not a therapist–just a lowly writer and television personality that’s trying my best to figure out my own stuff. I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers.

      When it comes to consulting, I can certainly help with career, writing, and publishing questions, but I personally think it’s best to contact professional help or a trusted friend for dark nights of the soul. I hope you found the help you needed. 🙂

      Reply
      • Ruth

        I meant ‘dark night of the soul’ in a professional capacity. I was hoping for some creative guidance, I’m sorry for the confusion. I live in the United States and Mexico has healthcare but we don’t, lol. I speak Spanish so the ease of communication, the food and scenery, Understandably irrestible. Thank you so much for your time, JH.

        Reply
        • JH

          After an extensive search, I did find your email, and it was sent right when I was in the process of moving to another country, which of course you couldn’t have known. But it talks about depression, so it wasn’t clear that you wanted career advice, and I definitely didn’t understand that you wanted a consultation.

          I get hundreds of emails from people who’ve found me from the TV shows, and sometimes it gets overwhelming. Sadly, as much as I’d like to, I can’t help everyone, but I always make time for my clients and readers. This was a case of bad timing, but I do get fans of the shows thinking I can help them in ways I have no training or expertise in…everything from psychotherapy to forensics to alien abductions.

          Reply
  17. A.P. Fuchs

    Good to hear from you, my friend. I’m glad you thought it all through then took your chance. Perhaps a short series on your blog on your new writing space, a glimpse of a manuscript page, your view of the ocean? Just ideas. I love creator behind-the-scenes stuff. Don’t be a stranger. Peace.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, A.P. Those are all great ideas! Thanks for the suggestions. Hope life is treating you well?

      Reply
      • A.P. Fuchs

        About as good as it gets.

        “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” – Harvey Pekar, AMERICAN SPLENDOR

        Reply
        • JH

          True that.

          Reply
  18. Loni Townsend

    Welcome back, and I love hearing that you’re pursuing your dreams. It’s inspiring and I hope you’re working self-care into your routine now. Keep taking care of yourself!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Loni! I’m working on it. How are you doing?

      Reply
  19. Toi Thomas

    The gift of time is so precious, I understand your desire to move to Mexico. I’ve shared your work with my friends, who unfortunately don’t read much, but some of them seem interested in your concepts. I’m looking back through my collections to see if I’m missing anything from your catalog to pick up. As for me, I’m still figuring out my dream. I definitely wish I had more time to write, but I think I really want to help other writers, just not sure how.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Toi! I really appreciate all your encouragement and support over the years. Thanks for telling your friends about me!

      I think you already are helping writers, in many ways. You’ve helped this writer. 🙂 I have no doubts you will figure out the best direction for your positive energy.

      Reply

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