While happy for mandatory mask orders that take effect in Ottawa tomorrow to limit coronavirus spread, I really wish Public Health had included a face shield as an allowable option. Asthma gives me big trouble after about fifteen minutes masked. Although my asthma is generally mild unless we add serious ragweed (a problem that goes on for months in Ontario), multiple antibiotic, cat and various other environmental allergies into the mix, I first discovered how the humid air of a face mask triggers my asthma in a doctor's waiting room about fifteen years ago, while masked. I can wear a surgical mask or cloth equivalent for a short time, but the clock runs down on that pretty quickly and then I'm gasping for breath, running for the door so I can rip off the dang thing and breathe.

There are, of course, some health exemptions for the new public health orders but I worry how people will react if I'm wearing a face shield rather than a mask as I've been doing anytime up to now that I had to be indoors in public longer than a few minutes. An atmosphere of intolerance is developing in reaction to people who simply don't want to wear a mask or, bizarrely, seem to see it as some challenge to their civil liberties, and the nuance of certain people not being capable of wearing a mask without considerable risk or harm to themselves seems to be getting lost in the clash between the mask-up and anti-mask sides. Unfortunately, some folks can be pretty militant and inflexible. Even some people with asthma have belligerently told me they tolerate the masks just fine, which hey, terrific for you if that's the case! But I don't understand why anyone would automatically think that means everyone with asthma would be all right in one, let alone for longer durations of time.

In fact, humidity and cold air are both common asthma triggers. As Asthma Canada president and CEO Vanessa Foran has pointed out, simply wearing a mask can create risk of an asthma attack. "Wearing masks means breathing hot and humid air, so that can trigger asthma symptoms." She also mentions people with severe allergies might find wearing a mask difficult at this time of year too (75% of asthmatics have allergies). My own health history involves allergies severe enough to warrant nine years of allergy shots as a child and then another ten (so far!) in middle age. 

I know there are folks who suffer from anxiety disorders or claustrophobia as well as other medical conditions who will also be unable to wear a mask and I ask for understanding and consideration for all of us. People say, "Just wear a mask dammit", like it's easy. But in reality, that's not always the case. Be aware before you confront someone about not wearing a mask or looking daggers at them from across the supermarket aisle, they may have good reasons for it. There are more than two angles to this mask issue.

* Studies have linked nasal congestion with severe asthma. A 2012 study looked at why patients with mild asthma have difficulty breathing in humid conditions. "Results showed that breathing of hot, humid air triggered an immediate increase in airway resistance in patients with mild asthma, but caused either only a very small or no response in healthy subjects. Breathing hot, humid air also triggered consistent coughs in those with asthma."

Update, July 11

Sadly, new mask regulations are already proving an issue for people unable to wear masks. Two hospitals in Ottawa, the General campus of the Ottawa Hospital and Queensway Carleton Hospital both refused entry to a woman in need of medical attention who is unable to wear a mask due to a combination of health issues including COPD, asthma, anxiety and claustrophobia. If a hospital, of all places, doesn't readily understand and recognize medical exemptions for mask-wearing, it doesn't bode well for acceptance by the larger community.  The health officials and governments who have imposed these rules need to do a much better job of communicating the fact that there are legitimate exceptions to mandatory mask orders, otherwise this lamentable incident will just be the first of many for a segment of the population already concerned about the hostility and disapproval they face while out in public.

Shantallow

I was incredibly thrilled to learn my latest novel, Shantallow (published under the name Cara Martin), has made the longlist for the 2020 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic! Incidentally, I started reading Karen McBride's debut novel, Crow Winter, nominated in the adult category, the day before hearing the good news and am relishing Hazel's emotional journey. Congratulations to all the nominees!








As people across the U.S., Canada and numerous other countries around the world protest racism and police brutality, Chantel Moore, a young Indigenous woman from B. C., was shot dead by a police officer during what has been referred to as a “wellness check” in Edmundston, New Brunswick Thursday. "Nora Martin, Moore’s aunt, told Global News that her niece’s boyfriend called the police because somebody was harassing her and she felt scared."
Chantel was a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, on Vancouver Island BC,  living in New Brunswick with her 5 year old daughter and mother. Her mother and daughter are in need of family support during this tragic time and 6 members of her family are planning to travel to New Brunswick to support her and practice traditional Nuu-Chah-Nulth grieving protocols. 
Thousands of Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or disappeared across Canada in recent decades. Twenty-six-year-old Chantel Moore should still be with us today, instead she died alone with the police officer who shot her five times. If you can offer financial support to Chantel's surviving family members, please visit the Go Fund Me for family of Chantel Moore. "The funds are for the family travel, funeral costs, and any remaining funds will be given to her mother and daughter. The family has received authorization to travel to New Brunswick amidst provincial Covid restrictions."

Also please sign the Justice for Chantal Moore petition demanding the city of Edmundston hold this officer accountable for not attempting to deescalate the situation.

health mask

About six months have passed since I finished up my previous cover version of Just Like You Said It Would Be. Between the coronavirus pandemic and other worrying things going on in my life it's been pretty difficult to write. Progress on my WIP has been sadly negligible.

I see some hopeful signs that's beginning to change but in any case, somehow working on covers always feels like some kind of vacation or escape. When I can't write I can STILL work on cover art. So here we go again, again, againvoila the newest cover of Just Like You Said It Would Be.

If you want to read about messy first love, movie love (God I miss going to the movies!) and falling in love with Dublin, Ireland, this might be your kind of book.

Just Like You Said It Would Be cover

Here's another new cover design, this one for the Yesterday duology packaged together as one book.

Yesterday & Tomorrow cover

Finally, Finn Kavanagh is still one of my favourite characters so of course she deserved a cover change too. This one retained alot of the elements from the previous One Lonely Degree redesign.

One Lonely Degree cover

I hope you're keeping safe and well wherever you're seeing out the first phase of this global pandemic. Also that you're taking it easy on yourself if you're not able to get certain things done during this worrying, strange and intense time. We'll get through this day by day, doing whatever we're doing, even if that means spending an inordinate amount of time designing new book covers while we should be writing! 

Bill Withers, 1976 | public domain photo
I was so sad, this morning, to hear of the passing of the great Bill Withers. I was feeling edgy walking down narrow pharmacy aisles yesterday trying to pick up all the things on my list. Some of the aisles were closed off for restocking and there were people in others so I had to circle around and come back when they'd gone. All in all it was taking ages and the longer I had to remain at the store the more nervous I felt about being out among even a small number of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then Lovely Day came on over the speakers and it felt like a sign, I relaxed.

Thank you, Bill Withers, for all the amazing music. It's made a difference in the lives of so many people and will continue to do so. In fact, in this crazy, uncertain and terrifying time we need your music more than ever.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's by far the strangest one any of us have ever seen but we can still celebrate Ireland. Here's one of my favourite Irish songs in honour of the day.


I can't get twenty seconds into it without feeling overwhelmed by longing for Ireland! Normally we're in Ireland every May and by the time we get there this year (which remains to be seen) I'll be so happy to see Ireland again that I'm likely to kiss the green ground!

Also in honour of St. Patrick's Day, I just bought & downloaded Niall Horan's new album, Heartbreak Weather. I loved his first album Flicker & can't wait to hear his new stuff.



Finally, here I am in Kilkenny in 2016 above.


Stay safe and stay home everyone. Together we're going to flatten the hell out of that curve!

 

Eleven years ago I spent a lot more time blogging than I do these days. MySpace had just lost its place as the largest social networking site in the world, Barack Obama was the President of the United States, Lady Gaga and The Black-Eyed Peas had the highest selling tunes of the year, and Avatar was the highest grossing movie. 2009 is also the year my second young adult book, One Lonely Degree, hit shelves. It all feels like a very long time ago now. Uber and Airbnb were in their infancy. The #MeToo movement hadn’t happened yet, Instagram wouldn’t spring to life for another year and Donald Trump was still just a C-list celebrity with an epic comb-over and a string of business failures behind him. Billie Eilish was eight years old and Netflix had a mere three million users (by October 2019 they’d reached 158 million).

Back in 2009 I posted a blog entry about the kind of books I was interested in writing, exploring my thoughts on penning character-driven contemporary young adult fiction that centres on people carrying some pretty heavy emotional baggage. I’m still drawn to those types of novels, both as a reader and a writer. “What I hope I'm doing, what I'm striving for, is to write books that reflect the reality of teen lives,” I wrote back then. But since shortly after posting that blog entry I’ve actually been writing outside of the boundaries of contemporary fiction as often as I’ve stayed within them. Of the fifteen manuscripts I’ve completed (twelve of those novels have been published so far) only seven sit solidly in the contemporary fiction camp. Interestingly, even two of those books feature presences that could be described as ghosts. The most recent manuscripts I’ve worked on are a young adult horror (Shantallow, published under the name Cara Martin), a speculative YA, a middle grade sci-fi and a middle grade horror. Since 2011 I’ve also had two young adult science fiction novels, a middle grade sci-fi, and a book told in the alternating points of view of a living teenage boy and a dead-but-not-gone teen girl published.
My venturing away from contemporary fiction doesn’t have a lot to do with the differences between 2009 and 2020 society that I described above; it doesn’t have much to do with contemporary YA not being a hot sell right now either. There are chiefly two reasons that I’ve gone from writing mostly YA contemporary to expanding my horizons. 1) At the start of my writing career I tackled the contemporary stories and situations that were calling to me and now those stories are out in the world, mission accomplished. 2) The pull I’ve felt towards science fiction, horror and stories featuring other fantastical elements is lifelong. I was the kid curled up on the couch reading ghostly tales and devouring Choose Your Own Adventure books about aliens, time travel, and spirited adventures set in places half a world away from the sleepy Toronto suburb I grew up in. In grade two I wrote and illustrated my first two picture books—one about time travel and the other about outer space. No one except my family and my grade two class (where they were placed in the classroom book carousel for anyone to enjoy) ever had the chance to read them, but at seven years old I was only writing for myself.

I still primarily write for myself and you will never hear me say that I’m done with contemporary fiction because I know in my bones that’s not true. I have more contemporary stories in me—maybe about teenagers, maybe about kids or maybe about adults. But for the moment, the stories I’m drawn to are ones about things that lie beyond our known realm. “Now, the stuff each writer is dying to tell you is going to vary,” I wrote eleven years ago. Basically, between 2009 and 2020 the scope of things I’m dying to tell you has widened considerably.

However, there are certain things from my 2009 post that remain true. “The character is king in my books. You or I may not like some of the things he or she do or say during the course of a novel but, to the best of my ability, they are the things a given character would say and do, according to their nature.” For example, Shantallow is probably one of the most character-driven horror novels you’ll ever read, Misha’s struggle to avoid his inner demons and become the person he longs to be is at the heart of the book. It also happens to include a possession and a malevolent house intent on hurting both the kidnappers and victims of kidnapping that end up within its threadbare remains.


Some of my books, new and old, are fairly open-ended not because I’m out here planning sequels galore but because, as I wrote back in 2009, “Life is long and there are seldom neat resolutions to complicated situations.” With certain exceptions (a main character dies or all of humanity faces its demise), the end of the story isn’t really the end of the story, it’s just the moment we close the book, and walk away, leaving the characters to get on with things.

Probably the largest difference between my fiction then and now is that the following statement regarding my writing is no longer accurate: “There aren’t a lot of Jack Bauer trying to save L.A. from a terrorist attack type moments.” Some of my books do and will focus mainly on a character’s emotional life, and others (like the Yesterday books) contain their fair share of scenes that wouldn’t feel out of place in an action movie. The possibilities are thrillingly endless.

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