Lately I’ve been feeling the pull of dark things. Not in reality, but dark fiction. ‘Tis the season of horror, and I have been reading a lot, writing a little myself and thinking about what exactly it is that makes for good horror or thriller fiction. Of course, to be effective, horror writing has to conjure and communicate a sense of fear. I presume that when most writers go for the scary, they start with things that are personally terrifying. A bit of a twist on the old adage “write what you know”  — write what you know scares the crap out of you. So I decided to do a little brainstorming about my own fears (the logical and probably universal, to some of the weirder ones that might make people say “Wha?! That scares you?”). I’ve posted 10 below, in no particular order. I am sure there are others I am not ready to face yet.

1) Drowning, asphyxiation, choking, being buried alive and any other horrifying scenario where I cannot breathe.

2) Car accidents (I saw the after effects of a deadly one on the highway last year and now the image is embedded in my brain).

3) Blindness, especially the sudden and unexpected kind. Where you just wake up one morning but everything is and always will be black.

4) Parrots (and other talking birds…actually any talking animal. Monkeys and apes that do sign language are fine.)

5) Lice, ticks, tapeworms and any other human parasite.

6) Any friend or family member getting lost or suddenly going missing.

7) Me, getting lost in the woods. Alone. I could cope if there was someone else there to help fight off the wolves, or cougars,or sasquatches or whatever. Especially if I could run faster than that companion.

8) Terminal disease or debilitating illness (I am a hypochondriac. Knowing that I am doesn’t stop me from having the thoughts).

9) Making other people sick — either by carrying some germ, or unintentionally poisoning them with some bacteria or allergen in my cooking.

10) Zombies. I am well aware this is a completely irrational and stupid fear, because I don’t actually believe zombies could ever exist. But I’ve watched too many episodes of Walking Dead, and now I’ve actually convinced myself I could encounter a snarling walker when I go to take out the garbage. And I will have, stupidly, left my katana in the house.

What scares you? Be warned though, if you tell me, there’s a good chance I might work it into a story.


poem: I’ll know it when I go

I had the pleasure of reading at Culture Days last weekend, alongside a talented group of poets and storytellers. The theme of the weekend was “Where We Come From” and I started thinking about what that meant to me. Turns out, it means many things. But a little bit of my Irish identity bled to the surface, and this is what came out. So I read it then, and decided to post it here too.


I’ll know it when I go


She laughed at the way I said Ireland.

A big-mouthed, belly deep laugh.

Showed all her teeth and the pink at the back of her throat.

Warm though. Kind, when she put her hand on my arm and said,

It’s Oir-land. Not so much hard I and ire.

She lived in Dublin. Dreamed of Spain.

I named my second daughter after her.


We were fast friends for only two weeks

yet she’s as much Oir-land to me as my surname.

Stories embellished by my grandpa.

Tales of those fierce cattle rustlers west of Cork.

A castle still owned by some link in our lineage.


Two decades later, and I want to tell her

I’ll know it when I go, the tongue of a mother country.

I’ll know it when my cheeks shriek against the cold ocean mist.

When my boots stick and slurp along the muddy shore.

I’ll get it down in my blood,

that twenty per cent pure Celt I cling to.


I’ll understand why I dream past the

primary coloured landscape

yellow field, red barn, blue, blue sky.

I’ll feel why I look beyond

four generations of prairie patriots,

to something greener. More romantic.

A fairy tale start to who I am.

I’ll know why I favour that silver claddagh ring

bought from a booth at the mall,

more than the petite ruby in gold,

passed straight from my Austrian grandmother’s hand.


Where we come from is not always the place we are

or even the place we started.

It’s sometimes a place made of

flicked fiddle bows

lilting voices

cheerful demeanours that smile right through the stereotype.


I know where my body’s grown.

The cities I’ve welcomed as home. For awhile.

But a seed of self roots

in a place my voice hasn’t met yet.