The Dark Side Tour in Toronto

Come and see me at the Toronto Reference Library on Thursday, April 17 at 7 pm! I'll be with fellow authors Craig Davidson, Andrew Pyper, and Brad Smith. We'll be talking about dark people who do dark stuff... which is kind of my favorite thing to do.

My love/hate relationship with Facebook

I've had a personal profile on Facebook since February 2007, and after seven years in this relationship, I'm seriously wondering if it's still for me. More and more, I'm finding it's becoming a love/hate relationship.

I get that people can and should use Facebook however they want, and I respect that. So the things I'm quibbling about are very specific to me, and things I'm personally not crazy about as a Facebook user with a personal profile (this does not refer to having an author or business page). You may or may not agree.

Things I hate about Facebook:

The same 30 people on my friends list (out of 600) are the ones who post every day.
And because they post so much – multiple times a day, for some of them – it drowns out the people who only post once in awhile, who are usually the people I'd love to catch up with. I know every minute detail of those same 30 people's lives... and I wish I could care, but I can't, because I've become desensitized.

People who use Facebook like it's Twitter.
There are folks who put out rapid-fire status updates every hour, and sometimes every few minutes. They do this while watching sports, or a TV show, or a movie. Or they post every detail of how their day is going, and how they feel about it. On Facebook, this is a drag, because everyone else gets buried, and so when I log in all I see is a page full of this person and nobody else.

You know what's great for rapid-fire status updates? Twitter. IT'S SPECIFICALLY WHAT TWITTER IS FOR.

People who VagueBook.
Example of a VagueBook status update: "I'm having a horrible day."
Multiple comments: "Oh no! Are you ok? What's going on?"
Initial poster: "I don't want to talk about it."

People who complain ALL THE TIME.
You know how you avoid that person in real life who never has anything positive to say? Same goes for Facebook. Yes, life is hard and some days it downright sucks. But when all you do is complain about your neighbor, and the gas station clerk, and the server at the restaurant, and the person who cuts your hair, and your shitty day, over and over again... maybe the problem is you. And nobody likes someone who's toxic. Chances are, I've hidden you.

People who announce, "I've just cleaned out my Friends list and so if you can see this status, you're still here! Congratulations!"
Believe it or not, I have seen this status more times than I can count on both hands and feet. It's obnoxious. And mean.

You know what I do when I see that? I quietly unfriend you. So that during the next clean-out, you don't have to stress about whether to keep me or not.

People who flood your News Feed with promotional stuff.
Look, I get it. As writers, we all have stuff we need to promote, and Facebook is a great tool for that. Some promotion on a personal profile is fine, especially when there's something big to share.

But you know what happens when you use your personal profile to promote your books every day? When all you do is post quotes from Amazon or Goodreads reviews constantly? When the majority of what you talk about is your books, and not yourself, and therefore I feel like I'm constantly being spammed to buy something I likely already bought because we're Facebook friends?


That's why you see the same five people "liking" your posts, and only those same five people. The rest of us don't even see you because we hid you two years ago.

You know what's great on Facebook for constant promotion? An author page! Then people who aren't even your Facebook friends can Like you, and you can promote your stuff all you want, and that's cool because that's what an author page is for. Everybody's happy.

But hey. Facebook isn't all bad. There are lot of things I enjoy about Facebook, that keep me coming back.

Things I love about Facebook:

I love seeing pictures of your kids and your dog, and of the awesome vacation you took. I even like your food porn.

Personal observations.
I love hearing about your real-life conversations, life lessons, things that make you laugh, things that scare you. I love authenticity.

Meaningful discussion.
Politics, current events, books, TV shows, movies, food. Bring it. I don't always participate, but I love reading the exchange of ideas.

The better to stalk you with.

Relationship status updates.
Because who doesn't want to know who's doing it with whom?

Links to news and interesting articles.
I follow my publisher, CNN, the National Post, the Seahawks, and Stephen King, among other pages, and there's no easier way to keep up with the stuff that interests me than to be on Facebook.

I love it when something good happens to you, whether it be a book deal, or your sister had a baby, or you've hit your weight loss goal of 50 lbs. That's great news, and I love being able to hit the Like button and congratulate you.

I can also appreciate the ease of announcing something bad on Facebook. It can be hard to tell people something one-on-one, and maybe you have don't have the energy or the time to call people individually. Whether your sick dog just died, or you had a rough day at work and need to talk about it, that's cool. I'm here for you.

What do you love and hate about Facebook?

* * *

A love story

So I know The Serial Killer Files is supposed to be a dark and foreboding place where we talk about murder and books and things that go bump in the night, but I'm just too cheerful for that these days.

Because a year ago, in Las Vegas on St. Patrick's Day 2013, I met a boy. He was in town for NCAA March Madness. I was there with a bunch of my girlfriends.

And then exactly one year later, on March 17, 2014, surrounded by just immediate family and our closest friends, we headed back to Las Vegas.


It was an epic wedding weekend at the Aria Resort & Casino.


We finished the night by heading back to the place we met. There may have been a party bus...

It was a bit trippy being back at the Nine Fine Irishmen at New York New York, where there was once again a U2 cover band playing.

So so so so happy. I don't do the fairy tale thing, but, you know... ;)

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The Butcher, the killer, the bone-chilling thriller

Ok, so I butchered that nursery rhyme, but I couldn't help it. It's that nail-biting time when reviews for the new book are beginning to come in, and I desperately need a manicure!

Here's a great review from Chiller Thriller: "This was by far one of the best thrillers I've ever read. It was so bone-chilling I could actually feel the killer slicing into his victims..."

And another from The Crime Book Beat: "If it's Ms. Hillier's literary mission to assure that psychopaths abound in our everyday, count me as convinced."

And this one from Flashlight Commentary: "Dramatic, dark, and disturbing, Hillier's third release isn't to be missed."

Yay! *faints from relief*

Let me tell you, this writing life? Not for the faint of heart. Reading my reviews is far more terrifying than any kill scene I've ever written!

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A conversation with my 92-year-old neighbor

My newest book, THE BUTCHER, is out in July, and it stars an 80-year-old retired police chief who has lots of secrets. It was a bit of a gamble for me to write a character so old. I mean, I'm still a spring chicken (*cough cough*), and all my grandparents are dead – what do I know about old people?

It turns out that I actually do know a little bit. Until recently, I lived in a building where 80% of my neighbors were retired. The other 20% were recently separated or divorced (*cough cough*). The building was a fairly social community, with Coffee Tuesdays and Card Thursdays. It was a nice, clean place to live, and many of the residents have been there for over a decade.

For the year that I was there, I lived next door to Del, who's 92 years old. A feisty old bugger who always wore his pleated pants too high, I always knew he was home and doing fine when the hallway smelled like cherry-flavored cigars and chicken noodle soup, and I could hear M.A.S.H playing at full volume on the TV.

One day last fall, I noticed Del's door was open. Concerned, I put down my groceries and called out to him. Sounding panicky, he told me to come inside. Of course I did... only to find him on the toilet with his pants down around his ankles, smoking a cigar and grinning like the sneaky bastard he still was. "Hey Jennifer! How's your day going?"

But it wasn't always funny. I found him wandering lost in the underground parking garage more than a few times. Sometimes his home nurse (a different one every day) would be running late and he'd knock on my door, asking if I had anything to eat.

The last time I saw him, he didn't recognize me. Shuffling behind his walker, he looked so lost. "Do you know which apartment is mine?" he asked. "I can't remember where I live."

Neither of us live in the building anymore. I'm in Seattle now, and Del has gone on to an old folks' home. I often wonder if he's doing okay. I tell myself that he is.

I'll never forget this conversation we had back in April, when he still had his wits about him:

Del:  Hi Jennifer. I thought you were great in that shampoo commercial. I watch it all the time. Comes on every night during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

Me:  Shampoo commercial? I'm not in a –

Del:  Last night, I says to my daughter, I says, "That's Jennifer. She's my neighbor. She writes books but she also has good hair. And my daughter says, "That's so cool that your neighbor is a celebrity, Dad."

Me:  That's sweet, Del, but I'm actually not in a shampoo –

Del:  And I says to her, don't take this the wrong way, but I says, "You know, her hair doesn’t look like that every day. Most days it just looks regular. They do that for the commercial, to sell the shampoo."

Me:  Yes, well, most days I do just wear my hair up –

Del:  But I wonder, you know, I wonder, how do you find the time to write books and do the modeling?

Me:  I'm not a model, I only write –

Del:  And they slim you for the commercials, don't they? Because you look very thin on TV, but I figure what with all the technology nowadays, they can take a little weight off you so that you look good on TV. I mean, compared to how you look now.

Me:  Um, I, well –

Del:  Not that you're a big girl, you're not a big girl, but you do look thinner on TV. And your hair looks good on TV. You should do your hair like that more. You know, make it all straight and shiny. You won't be single for long if you looked like you do on TV.

Me:  I'll keep that in mind.

Del:  Little effort never hurts. That's what I tell my daughter. She gets mad when I say that, though.

* * *

Dear Girlfriend

(This letter is for you. You know who you are.)

So he left you. He left you for the girl who is younger/older/thinner/fatter/uglier/prettier/richer/poorer/dumber/smarter than you. On some level you knew the relationship was falling apart, and yet it still shocked the shit out of you when it actually happened.

He left you. Maybe he didn't physically leave, maybe it was you who walked out/kicked him out/refused to speak to him ever again, but he cheated on you and broke your heart, and so ultimately, it really was him who did the leaving.

You remember the morning/afternoon/night it happened like it was yesterday. You remember how your heart was pounding as you found out/he confessed, and how it stopped beating for a second the moment you processed what he had done/was doing. You were in disbelief, which turned into panic, which turned into pain, a searing pain so hot and fierce you couldn't take a deep breath without falling over. Who was this person who could hurt you like this? You thought you knew him better than anyone, that he was your partner and your best friend, and yet he was hurting you in a way that felt like your soul was bleeding. No, the relationship wasn't perfect, and you knew that, but you don't deserve this.

Or do you?

You sit alone in your empty house/apartment/friend's living room, plagued with bad thoughts, awful thoughts, ugly, prickly little thoughts that bite and hang on with their needle-sharp teeth. Thoughts that whisper that you're not good enough for him. That had you been cuter/skinnier/nicer/sweeter/a better lover/more spontaneous/more fun he would never have sought out someone else who gives him what you cannot.

But here's the thing. It's not about you. It was never about you. There is nothing wrong with you. He left you for her because he wanted to, because she gives him whatever it is he needs – or thinks he needs – which has zero to do with you. He wasn't even thinking about you, or what this would do to you/your family/the life that you've built, and so how could it be about you? Your relationship didn't work, and she is a symptom of that. She may also be a symptom of his mid-life crisis/self-esteem issues/self-entitlement/selfishness/boredom. Or – and this is the absolute worst – maybe they fell in love.

In the end, it doesn't matter. He's gone. You're on your own. And somehow, even though you're living in a nightmare, you have to find a way to go on. Because despite the fact that the person you love most in the world has just murdered you emotionally, it doesn't kill you. Goddammit, you don't die.

Instead, you go on. Little by little, piece by piece. You find a new routine. You force yourself to go to work/make dinner/take a shower/clean your kitchen. You cry a lot. You lean on the friends who are able and willing to help, and the ones who can't (but still love you) will stick around not knowing what to say, and the ones who really can't handle it will disappear from your life because clearly those friendships had expiry dates too. You eat too much/not enough, and you sleep too much/not enough, and you change your hair color/cut your hair, and you buy new clothes/take up yoga/go to therapy, and somehow you just carry on.

You have days when you're angry and days when you're sad, moments when you're numb and moments when your mind won't shut up. You also have moments where you feel perfectly fine, and you cling to them with relief and hope for as long as they last, which is never long, but you'll take them, because it's terrible to feel terrible all the time. In those brief moments you'll feel like yourself again, but then they'll pass and the heaviness and sadness and ache will come back. Mornings are particularly bad, because you wake up each day feeling all right for about ten/twenty/thirty seconds until you remember the awful thing that happened to you and it all comes rushing back, fresh and new, to crush you all over again.

But little by little, piece by piece, it gets better. Somehow, miraculously, it does. Things you used to find funny are funny again. Food that was tasty before is tasty again. Mornings get better, and eventually you're having pretty good days all around with only a few moments of heartache that don't last long and don't hold you back. You take a good look at yourself and realize that despite the horrible month/few months/year you've just had, you're stronger, smarter, and more focused than you ever were before. And there's no way someone like him would ever have a place in your life now, because you've outgrown him, and you deserve better than anything he could ever have given you.

In fact, you can't even remember the last time you talked about him.

And that's when you meet someone new, someone who gives you those butterflies/heart palpitations/shivers, someone who sees you exactly as you are now, and who loves you because you are exactly who you are now. Scars/warts/baggage and all. And you realize that to have met this new guy, this amazing guy who gets you and cherishes you and gives you his whole heart, you had to go through everything you went through, just as you did. And it was totally worth it.

Surprise, surprise. You're you again. There you are. I see you.

And you know what? You've never looked better.

Welcome back, girl.



* * *

Is this thing still on?

So it goes without saying that I haven't been here a lot lately (understatement of the century – this will only be my seventh post this year, which is just pitiful). While I do have valid reasons (blah blah blah), we all know that I've been completely neglecting my blog, and that's just sad.

And what's even worse is that when I have blogged, it's all been promotional stuff. It's been "Hey, look at my new cover!" (yesterday's post), and "Hey, we're having a contest!" (the post before that), and "Hey, look at this website I agreed to help promote!" (the post before that). (And notice how this paragraph is complete with all the appropriate links to said posts.)

I have become that writer. That writer who once blogged about interesting stuff, but now only blogs when she has something to promote and who only posts updates when there's something cool and book-related to share. And you know what? It's frigging boring and lame, and I know it, and I hate writers who do that. And now I do that. What the hell happened?

Well, I know exactly what happened, so I'll tell you.

The obvious reason is that I got sort of busy. Between traveling (seven trips this year), writing a new book (THE BUTCHER is written and currently at the copy edit stage), a divorce, a surgery, a death, and a beautiful new relationship, it's been kind of a crazy time. Something was bound to fall by the wayside, and that was the blog.

A picture of me taking a picture, on one of my many trips.

Another reason is that for a while – for like a whole year, actually – my personal life was a mess. And since I was so used to talking about personal things here, I opted not to blog, because did you really want to read about how my twenty-year relationship was ending in the most painful way possible? Did you want to know about how the entire vision I had for my life was totally shattered because the guy I married turned out to be someone I didn't recognize, and as a result I had to move and start my life totally over, completely alone? Well, then again, maybe you did – because stuff like that is gossipy and interesting – but I sure as shit didn't want to go into detail about it here.

But the biggest reason was that my voice here on the blog became totally diluted. Not right away, but little by little, over a period of time. Like a lot of writers who are aspiring to be published or who are newly published, I started to become very careful about what I said online. I filtered. I censored. Which is what we're told to do, because we don't want to risk offending anyone. We don't want to turn off potential agents or editors or readers. I stopped using the word "fuck" (which is practically my favorite word – it's just so versatile!) because a reader once told me she would have liked my book better if I hadn't used so much profanity (and yet she didn't mind the sex or violence one bit).

And the more I censored, the more blogging felt like a chore. Twitter doesn't feel like a chore. Facebook doesn't feel like a chore. I'm totally comfortable talking on both of those social media outlets. I'm fine with showing you little snippets of what I want you to see, as is everyone else who Facebooks or tweets. Doesn't your life look totally awesome on Facebook? I know mine does, and that's kind of what Facebook is for, and I'm cool with that, and you probably are, too. Because they're marketing tools. We're all selling something, whether it's books, or how happy/amazing/interesting we want you to think our lives are.

Me last Halloween, dressed as a gypsy (though I think I looked more like a flamenco dancer), about to leave for a party. See how happy/amazing/interesting my life is?

But the blog was supposed to be different. The blog was supposed to be the one place where I could get real, and be authentically me, where I could talk about my life and my journey. Somewhere along the way, that just evaporated. There were too many things I wasn't "allowed" to say, and eventually the blog was just one more social media thing I had to manage, and it felt like work. But there was a time when it didn't used to feel that way, before the filtering, before I was published, before I had a "reputation" to be concerned about.

And I miss that.

So I've decided to get back to being me here. The real me... or, at least, as much as the real me I can be without torpedoing my career (because I do love my job and it would be tragic if I did anything to fuck that up). I'd like to get back to doing what I love to do.

Which is write about stuff. And swear occasionally.


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