Saturday, August 26, 2023

Join Me on Broadview Magazine's National Online Reading Club

Join Me on 

Broadview Magazine's National Online Reading Club

Monday, Sept. 11, 2023 – 7 pm Eastern

I joined their panel of Fall Issue contributors and interviewees to discuss my Falls Mysteries and ME/CFS, and take a few questions.

For more on the Reading Club:

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Life After COVID

Life After COVID

– by J.E. Barnard

 A reprint from the Dundurn Press blog of December 1, 2020

 Sometimes when life and art overlap, it’s a happy synchronicity. Other times not so happy, as when a friend experiences an over-long recovery from COVID and her doctor has nothing to suggest. She typed, “We can’t garden without needing naps; we can’t take walks; even grocery shopping leaves us all exhausted for days. You know about managing fatigue from your character Jan in those Falls books. Can you suggest anything we can try?”

I know about managing excessive fatigue not only because my character Jan has it but because I have it too. Like an estimated 580,000 Canadians with ME/CFS [in January 2023 that number has increased significantly].  I am intimately acquainted with the crushing exhaustion that overwhelms the body, the brain, the spirit after the slightest exertion. It’s known colloquially as ‘the crash’, in the medical literature as Post-Exertional Neuro-Immune Exhaustion (PENE) or Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM). It hits whenever you over-use muscles, brain – even eyes or ears – beyond today’s available energy (which may be different than yesterday’s or tomorrow’s).

 Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the USA’s top infectious disease experts, early warned of the danger of runaway post-viral syndrome leading to ME/CFS. ME experts recognized it too: COVID could lead to a spike in ME/CFS diagnoses around the world.

 Why are they alarmed?

 Well, 75% of people diagnosed with ME/CFS become too consistently unwell to return to their old jobs; most can’t consistently work even at home. 25% worldwide have such severe illness that they live in darkened rooms, unable to tolerate light, sound, touch. The worst-off can no longer digest food; they’re tube-fed or on IV nutrients for years on end. The majority of their care needs fall on their family members, taking more people out of the workforce and eating through a family’s savings.

 Nearly nine months into the pandemic, “longhaulers” are turning up in online ME/CFS groups around the world, looking for tips on managing the debilitating exhaustion, pain, and brain fog. Up to 30% of those who recover from the active phase of COVID – many of whom had only mild illness at the time – remain stricken by fluctuating symptoms that severely affect their daily activities including work, grocery shopping, housecleaning, and anything recreational. Some need home-care services now, even though they weren’t ‘that sick’ while they were officially ill with COVID. [here's a 2023 research summary that reveals just how damaging even a single COVID infection can be to your organs, immune system, blood clotting]

 Even if only 10% of the world’s millions of COVID cases turn into Long-COVID, this is a looming disaster for patients, for health services, and for the economy.

 In the USA, Dr. Mady Hornig, an ME expert at Columbia University in New York, is still recovering from her bout of COVID last spring. To say she’s worried about the potential disaster of Long COVID would be an understatement. She discusses her own illness experience and her work on ME/CFS with a panel for This Week In Virology . If you don’t have the time or the mental focus to watch the whole hour-plus discussion, you can find some of her comments in this recent Columbia Magazine article.

 Here in Canada, Dr. Alain Moreau of Montreal’s  ME / CFS Collaborative Research Center (under the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR) started blood-sampling COVID patients last spring, proactively tracking them through their recoveries in hopes of identifying the biochemical twists that turn COVID into Long COVID, and possibly into ME/CFS. The clues provided may lead to treatments for both illnesses.

 While Long COVID is not so far shown to be biochemically identical to ME/CFS, my afflicted friend and countless others are finding symptomatic help via the self-management strategies used by ME/CFS patients: splitting tasks into smaller increments, assertively resting before they feel tired, and monitoring their heart rate during activites for a clear signal when to stop.

After three months of this regimen my friend reported she’s gradually increasing her daily activities and only sporadically having symptom recurrence. She’s not cured but she’s got hope my character Jan in Why the Rock Falls, but minus Jan’s involvement with missing persons, murder, and some fabulous historical artworks of the Rocky Mountains.

 If you’re stuck at home recovering from COVID, out in the world trying to avoid catching it, or exposed and isolating to protect those more vulnerable, you can follow links throughout this blog to resources on both Long COVID and ME/CFS. You can also escape COVID news by following Jan and Lacey through  another deadly adventure in their idyllic foothills town.

 Stay safe, stay calm, stay kind, and please wear a mask wherever indicated. Even if you think you’ll fight off the virus just fine, you could end up in that 30% for whom the virus is only the beginning.

 [Check out my ME/CFS page for more self-care resources, including some newly added from the past 2 years of Long COVID research]

Friday, November 4, 2022

Deep Discussions with Crime Writers of Canada

The Gales of November: more than a literary device!

In between recurring power outages across BC, CWC social media guru Erik d'Souza managed to get three Western Canadian crime authors together online on a recent Friday afternoon for The Western Wing, ep. 5 Smashing Stereotypes. Follow me, international crime sensation Tara Moss, and crime radio whiz Alan R. Warren through our sometimes windblown discussion of true crime, disability, and challenging character stereotypes in our books. 


Video descriptor: We see a Zoom screen split into four panels. 

The first shows Erik D'Souza. He wears a collared white shirt and glasses, and has dark hair. He is wearing ear buds.

The second panel shows Tara Moss. Tara is a tall white woman with long dark salt and pepper hair. She is using her wheelchair, Nyx, and is wearing a grey top and dark red lipstick.

The third shows Alan R Warren, a white man with grey beard and a baseball cap, with shelves of books behind him.

The fourth panel shows Jayne Barnard, a short white-haired woman with red glasses and a straight-necked burgundy sweater. She wears a nasal cannula for oxygen delivery.

  Since 1999 Tara Moss has written 14 books, published in 19 countries and 13 languages. Her latest is the internationally bestselling historical crime novel The War Widow. The sequel, The Ghosts of Paris, hit stores in the USA, Canada, Australia and NZ on June 7, 2022

ALAN R. WARREN  has completed 24 non-fiction books covering True crime, Cults, Human Trafficking, History, and memoirs for three different publishers, including RJ Parker/Vronksy Publishing in Toronto, Canada & WildBlue Press in Colorado, America. The Producer and lead host of the Popular NBC Radio shows House of Mystery' and 'Inside Writing, both heard on the 106.5 F.M. Los Angeles/102.3 F.M. Riverside/ 1050 A.M. Palm Springs/ 540 A.M. KYAH Salt Lake City/ 1150 A.M. KKNW Seattle/Tacoma and Phoenix.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Daggers Week Welcomes Liz Rachel Walker

Photo credit to Dani Cyr Creative
This multi-talented Canadian has already won Crime Writers of Canada's award for best unpublished crime novel. Now she--and it--are shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger in the UK.


Welcome, Liz. 

Tell us what your life looks like when you’re not writing?

LIZ:  I have a BA and MA in sociology and worked for 15 years in social and health research. But I became physically disabled in 2011 and had to stop that career. I have a connective tissue condition called hypermobility spectrum disorder--my connective tissue is more flexible but also more fragile than average. It led to me developing overuse injuries and extreme stiffness. In 2014, a medication helped reduce my extreme stiffness, and I partially recovered my mobility. I still have physical limitations, but I do several hours of physiotherapy every morning and become mobile for the day. I live in Victoria, BC, with my husband, Kevin Bartlett, who’s also a writer, and we regularly edit each other’s work. (The editing sessions can be painstaking and often involve chocolate or gin.)


Some couples make editing each other look easy. Others....? It's clearly working for you and Kevin Bartlett since you're both on the Debut Dagger Shortlist.

What previous writing experience do you have? What got you started writing crime?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Crime Writing Twins impress the Debut Dagger judges

Yesterday we had one half of a couple who both made the Debut Dagger shortlist with different manuscripts this year. Today we have a set of twins whose joint manuscript made the longlist. Welcome to American writers Jennifer Slee and Jessica Slee.
Jennifer Slee

 Congratulations to you both on coming to the attention of the Debut Dagger judges!  Tell us, please, how did twins come to co-writing a crime novel. Can you remember whose idea started the whole project?

Jennifer and Jessica: We’ve been writing short fiction on our own for years—we were both fortunate enough to go through the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where we learned from Lawrence Naumoff, Daniel Wallace, and Randall Kenan, and this experience gave us a great foundation in fiction and non-fiction—though we can’t say crime writing was ever seriously discussed! That interest came more from what we were reading growing up—we had bookshelves full of mysteries and thrillers.

We started by each attempting to write a novel on our own, but quickly realized that when we worked together, the writing was so much stronger and we progressed much faster. While this project began as Jennifer’s idea, since our work features large ensemble casts and multiple POVs, we both take the lead on different chapters. We’re lucky that we have extremely complementary strengths. Jennifer is skilled at research and big-picture plotting, while Jessica takes charge on editing and rewriting. In the end, despite having two authors, our goal is to make the voice match feel seamless.

Jessica Slee
Tell us a little bit about your shortlisted manuscript, set in The World’s End State Park (is Pennsylvania your home turf?). Geo-caching has long fascinated me, and I can see how it gives you authors the opportunity to showcase a lot of the park’s notable features. How well do you two know the park?

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Daggers Week #3

Welcome our 3rd Debut Dagger interviewee, Kevin Bartlett, with his shortlisted novel, Henry's Bomb.


Tell us something about yourself. What is your life like when you’re not writing?

 My day job takes up a lot of my time. I work for a research institute, operating a dozen oceanographic radar systems on the BC coast. A lot of it is computer work, but there is a field component as well. One week I might be in the office writing code, but the next I might find myself clambering out of a helicopter or schlepping spools of electrical cable up above the high tide mark on a remote beach.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Daggers Finalist Laura

As our second Debut Dagger interview for 2022, we welcome author Laura Ashton Hill with her shortlisted manuscript, Holloway Castle 

 Tell us something about yourself, Laura. What is your life like when you’re not writing?

LA:  I’m a mother of two secondary school age girls and married to a publican. The pubs are great places for picking up snippets of local history— particularly of a criminal nature. As a judge my grandfather sentenced the Kray twins. I’ve met people who knew them, journalists who covered the case and even heard about the carpenter who, the night before the trial started, worked in the dock of court number one at the Old Bailey. His job was to extend the bench so they could fit all ten of them in!


Is this your first entry into the Debut Dagger? Where did you hear about this contest for unpublished crime novels, and what decided you to enter? Have you entered other writing contests with this or other works?

LA: This is the second time I’ve entered. I sent off for a mini critique because