About Val

Valerie.smallest - about Val

The West Coast of beautiful British Columbia is where I finally settled down, but I was born and raised in Ontario. My mother’s folks were from Scotland and England. My father’s mom was Irish, both sides. His dad was born to an Algonquin woman who lived in a village on Eagle Lake, not far from South River, Ontario. Most of the Algonquin in that village died of new diseases introduced by the newcomers. The few Algonquin that survived were moved to make way for two settler families. The Algonquin village is now the Mikisew Provincial Park.

My dad’s father was Daniel Van Clieaf. His father emigrated from Belgium. Tracing my family tree back to Europe, I discovered it was quite rich with input from many other corners—as are most, I suspect. When people ask, I say my heritage is mixed, which hardly does it justice, but that’s a story for another time.

I’ve been an outreach worker, a carpenter’s helper, a terrible short order cook, an okay waiter and a bartender who understood that a dry martini meant “just a few drops of vermouth” (or none). I taught first aid for a while too. One winter, I taught first aid, tended bar and nearly died of boredom typing legal briefs. I’ve worked in more offices than I can remember and on a few factory floors including a salmon cannery and a packaging facility for plastic wrap. The second job ended when I stuck my hand in a pot of hot glue near the end of the third shift, but in my defense, it was the middle of the night! Fortunately for me, I already had the first aid training—and the promise of another, less treacherous job.

Music has always been one of my passions. While I studied music, I worked at Octopus Books in Vancouver, a wonderful place for a lover of words. So wonderful in fact, that many weeks I was book rich with not quite enough left for groceries! I went back and forth between writing and music for a while before music won out. For many years, composing, arranging and teaching music was my life. A life filled with music is a wonderful thing, but there was something else I loved just as much and that was writing.

Book 2 in the Alex Desocarras series will be in the dead of winter, 2019.

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