Saturday, November 10, 2018

Waiting on Winter

Nothing like a bit of freshly fallen snow to make you think of Christmas shopping. I'm going to be at Ottawa's Coles Carlingwood from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. today (Saturday, Nov. 10) if you want any signed books for your gift list ... or for yourself.

So my plan to finish my latest manuscript got sidelined by seven curling games, including last Saturday's charity event run by the marvellous Kelly MacNaull. It's the fifth year with the money raised going to a different charity each year. This year, we raised over $12,000 for the Ottawa Heart Institute. I raffled off a name in Closing Time, my last Stonechild book. I've done several name raffles over the years for different charities and the winning names are sprinkled throughout the series. None of the winners was killed off or did the killing although I've had people say they wouldn't mind being the bad guy :-)

The Curling for a Cause teams in 2017 at the Ottawa Hunt Club

On Monday, I posted in 7 Criminal Minds blogspot. The week's topic concerned picking a fictional world I would like to enter and a character that I would like to become. So, check out my choice! What would yours be?

Turning Secrets is now posted on NetGalley for those reviewers wanting an advance read.  The first couple of reviews have been decent, always a relief. The book is also available for pre-order on Amazon, Chapters, etc. I've put in a request for bookmarks and I'm already thinking about the May launch. Time does trundle along ....

I have a quieter week ahead - well, the start of the week anyhow - so I'm hopeful that next week when you check in, I'll have completed the first draft of Closing Time. Maybe this is all psychological - I'm having a hard time finishing because I know this is my last foray into the world of Stonechild and Rouleau. Good thing I have a deadline to force me to wrap things up sooner rather than later.

Friday, November 2, 2018

And the Days Get Shorter ...

Ah, the lovely month of November.


This is my least favourite month of the year ... well this month and February because of the crappy weather and early darkness. But on we go ...

Not a great deal to report this week. I spoke with my Dundurn publicist Tabassum for a while by phone earlier in the week as we plan the Turning Secrets release in May. The book went up on Net Galley the same day - this is the place reviewers (usually blog) go to read an advance copy and give their assessments. Tabassum said that the newspaper reviews are being given less and less space in their respective papers and reviews in mainstream media are becoming harder to come by as a result, something of which I was well aware - just look at the book section in The National Post and the Ottawa Citizen. The infrequent reviews or even stories about authors are tragic for writers. Many readers buy based on the reviews and unless people hear about a book or an author, sales stay low.

I've been fortunate to have started in this industry when newspapers were still a prime source for getting the news, and my first Stonechild and Rouleau books were reviewed in The National Post, Ottawa Citizen and  Globe and Mail as well as local community papers. These reviews definitely helped me to build an audience. Whenever a review came out, sales skyrocketed on Amazon. Happily, Margaret Canon still reviews crime fiction for the Globe and Mail on quite a regular basis and the book section is updated constantly so a good paper to read for book news and recommendations.

So, now us authors have to get creative and look for new avenues to get the word out :-) the best way though, remains word of mouth because readers only recommend books they like. I've been fortunate here as well and am forever grateful to everyone who mentioned the books to friends or gave a copy as a gift.

I've got two signings coming up: Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, November 10 from 1l:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and Indigo Barrhaven on Saturday, November 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. as part of the store's Mystery Weekend. The Mystery Weekend will see a number of local crime fiction writers and I'll be spending the first few hours with Jim Napier and wrapping up my last hour with Barbara Fradkin so I hope you can come by one store or the other!

One good thing about this rainy, grey weather - I'm spending a lot of time at my keyboard working on the latest manuscript. I should have the first draft wrapped up in a week or two and then the first rewrite begins. I might just make that January deadline yet :-)

And thanks to Courtney Mellor, librarian at the Emerald Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, who took this photo from our presentations last week to the new Canadian women's group. A nice memory from a lovely afternoon.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Frost on the Pumpkin

How can this be the end of October already?

Monday, I posted my blog on 7 Criminal Minds and you can read where I'd go if I could time travel and find out what other authors think about the idea. Tuesday, I was invited back to the 1310 News Power Lunch, the day after the municipal election. The other guest was David Thompson, ex-mayor of Deep River ... so guess what we talked about with host Mark Sutcliffe? I follow the news quite closely so this gives me a reason to stay on top of events, and I get to give my opinion!

I also went with librarian Courtney Mellor to visit a second group of new Canadian women at a community centre on Thursday. Courtney talked about all the great services and ESL books in the public library and I introduced the Anna Sweet novellas along with a short reading. A woman translated everything into Arabic - again, a very welcoming group and fun afternoon. Courtney and I met several years ago when I was giving a writing workshop to kids at another branch so great to meet up again.

And between gigs, I was back at the keyboard but progress is going slowly. I think it's because I'm working out the ending and still not certain where this one is heading or how to tie everything together. I've jumped out of the plane and not sure if the parachute is working ...

Speaking of not working, my computer went on the fritz again so back we went to Staples where I'm on a first name basis with Steve and Steve (manager and repair guy with same name) who know their stuff and have been nothing but reassuring and thorough at getting the problem sorted. My computer is running much better now, and I've purchased additional Malware protection so fingers crossed this is the end of my problems.  Luckily, no writing lost.

I'm reminded of when I started working in the government with zero computer skills. We're talking twenty years ago when computers were just getting off the ground. Anyhow, it got so when I'd call the Help Desk, no matter who answered, they'd say, "Hey Brenda, how's it going today?" The worst was the time I deleted an entire drive and the tech guy worked for a couple of hours to find it. He didn't even seem all that surprised. Who knew you could even do that?!

I trust the Staples guys and I won't become  that chummy :-)

Looks like snow in the forecast tonight and tomorrow for the first time. I will admit that November is not my favoritest month of the year. The darkness comes so early in Ottawa and the days are often gray and overcast.

Good murder mystery weather though. Also, the perfect weather for some spooky Hallowe'en shenanigans. Have a good week treatful everyone.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Giving 'Er

Such a busy week working at my desk. You know when you wake up in the middle of the night because you have all these things to do and know you should already be working on them? Well, that happened Sunday so I knew I had to get myself in gear.

Dundurn marketing team kept sending me more tasks to do over the week, all needed urgently. The biggy was a complete plot outline of Turning Secrets. Luckily, I had started a chapter synopsis, but it was far from complete or usable for the purposes of the marketing folks so I spent two days reworking it. They also wanted advance materials for the book out two years from now, including the cover blurb ... and I got that finished in time for a request for a cover letter to go out with the ARCs for Turning Secrets. I finished that yesterday and actually managed to get back writing on the latest manuscript. I also received the catalogue with Turning Secrets listed so onwards and upwards.

I had considered going to Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in the spring and had all but decided not to go. But a few pushes from a few people and I changed my mind and registered. I've also found a roommate not only to share the cost of lodging. but also to hang with, so I'm thinking this could be a great time. I previously attended the LCC in Monterey and Phoenix and really liked the feel of the conference, which brings together crime fiction authors, people in the industry, and readers. So I checked that bit of business off my to-do list.

Thursday afternoon, I met a librarian Jessica at the Emerald Branch and we went to another location to meet with a group of new immigrant women. I quickly realized that the talk and readings I'd planned were not going to work as most of the women did not speak much English and a translator was repeating what I said in Arabic.  I improvised and enjoyed giving them information about my Anna Sweet novellas (with a very short reading, first in English and then in Arabic) and sharing coffee and a snack with them after our presentations. I return next Thursday to meet another group of women - such a welcoming and lovely community.

And in addition to signing at Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, November 10, I'll be taking part in a crime writers' weekend at Chapters Barrhaven on Saturday, November 24. I'll be there between 10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. with fellow authors Jim Napier (10-noon) and Barbara Fradkin (noon to one) (although they are yet to be confirmed). So two chances to come out and chat and perhaps buy some Christmas gifts!

I appear to have a quieter week ahead and plan to make inroads with my manuscript. Wish me luck:-)
I hope you're also having a productive autumn and are getting ready to snuggle in for the winter on our doorsteps.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Autumn Celebrations

I spent a lovely Friday evening at Books on Beechwood, one of Ottawa's treasures for book lovers, and a great place to kick start Christmas shopping. The bookshop hosted three crime fiction authors - Iona Wishaw, Barbara Fradkin and me with Linda Wiken making introductions. We each chatted for a few minutes about our series and gave brief readings, but the bulk of our time was spent speaking with readers around a table laden with finger food and glasses of wine.

Iona, Linda, Barbara and me

Iona hails from British Columbia and is making stops in Montreal, Ottawa and Southwestern Ontario to promote her latest book. She was a school principal before retirement, and tells interesting stories with a series set after the Second World War that I'm looking forward to delving into. The lead character is Lane Winslow, an ex-intelligence officer who leaves London to settle in a secluded hamlet in the mountains.  I bought A Killer in King's Cove, the first in the series, which Iona recommends for those starting her series.

Iona with a crime fiction fan

Barb Fradkin has a new book out too this week - Prisoners of Hope, which is the third in her Amanda Doucette series from Dundurn. I'm waiting to buy my copy at her launch this Tuesday night at the Clocktower Pub on Richmond Road. She'll be launching her book alongside Vicki Delaney who is also releasing a new mystery. Everyone is welcome to stop by to raise a glass and hear about their books.

On my agenda this week besides more writing and a visit to the Emerald Branch of the Ottawa Public Library to speak to a group of new immigrant women about my Anna Sweet novellas for adult literacy. I'm excited to meet them! I also have some work to do for Dundurn to pave the way for my last Stonechild book, not due out until 2020 ... one has to be organized in this business :-)

Also, a note that I'll be signing at Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, November 10 from 11:00 to 1:00 if you're missing any of the Stonechild series or want signed copies for Christmas gifts.

So Ted and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last weekend in Stowe Vermont, travelling south of the border with two other couples, our neighbors, who coincidentally celebrate their anniversaries the same weekend. We booked a house outside the town and enjoyed three days hiking around the town and settling in each evening around the fireplace. The autumn leaves were at their glorious peak and it was an idyllic break from 'real' life.

 Ted and I on the gondola - a misty morning on top of the mountain

Hiking up the mountain

Friday, October 5, 2018

Into the Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving my Canadian friends! I imagine the turkey's bought, the pumpkin pies are in the oven and the wine is chilling. Enjoy this long weekend with family and friends!

I'm taking a long weekend too and will be brief today aside from inviting everyone in the Ottawa area to come out to Books on Beechwood this Friday to meet Iona Wishaw, Barbara Fradkin and me as we talk about our latest books and crime fiction-writing. I'm told wine and cheese will be flowing so a fun evening ahead and I hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Seeing Out September

Last week saw six tornadoes touch down in Ottawa Gatineau, causing massive power outages and untold destruction to homes and trees in isolated areas. First responders and hydro workers have worked tirelessly to get the city up and running and to help those most affected. Miraculously, nobody died although a handful of people suffered injuries, a few severe, and we are all hoping they are soon back in good health. The new alert system really did save lives, according to media reports. This was a climate change wake up call if there ever was one.

Once the power returned, I settled in to do some writing, but had issues with my desktop computer. I took it in for servicing, kicking myself for not updating my backup copy of the latest manuscript. I kept working on my laptop, hoping that my work wouldn't be lost. Happily, the computer came back with my manuscript intact. My second wake up call of the week :-)

I've been invited back to the 1310 News Radio's Power Lunch with host Mark Sutcliffe this coming Thursday from noon to 12:30. There certainly is a lot of news to delve into lately. The show is broadcast live on Rogers Cable 22 and 1310 News Facebook Live as well as 1310 radio (link above) Tune in if you have time!

I'm also taking part in a Books on Beechwood mystery evening with fellow crime fiction authors Barbara Fradkin and Iona Wilshaw. All are welcome to come out on Friday, October 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. The location is Books on Beechwood bookstore, 35 Beechwood Avenue. We'll be presenting our latest works and I hear wine and cheese are on the menu.

One final update for this week. The L.A. screenwriter who optioned my Stonechild books for a television series has renewed the option for another three months. He's working hard behind the scenes on a pitch to studios so good the prospect is still in play. I recognize how difficult it is to actually reach production, but still exciting to contemplate

So, more writing this weekend as I round into the final chapters of this last Stonechild and Rouleau book. It's starting to feel as if I'm on the downhill whoosh, picking up speed and having fun pulling everything together. I must say that it's easier to sit inside and work now that the weather has turned cooler. Once the first draft is complete, I'll have a lot of editing to get through, but still with a few months before deadline.

And we're sliding into October ... pumpkins, turkey dinners, falling leaves, Halloween ... one of my favourite times of year. Enjoy the day, everyone.

A pic from last year