Saturday, December 31, 2011

This is my picture of time flying, which seems fitting on New Year's Eve 2011. It was taken one hot summer evening this past summer in Cherry Valley, Prince Edward County. We had a great week with friends Kathy and Bill Adair and Janice and Peter Murdoch, all the more special because Janice and Peter moved to Cold Lake, Alberta the week afterwards.

We did more travelling this past year. It began early in the year as we followed Lisa and her team of Rachel, Emma and Alison on their Scotties run - January in Thornhill, Ontario where they won the provincials and Charlottetown in February where they finished fourth in the country. An exciting two weeks, no doubt about it.

In June, I flew to the opposite end of the country with friends Katherine Hobbs and Darlene Cole to Vancouver and Victoria for Bloody Words, Canada's national mystery author conference. It was my first time that far west and another wonderful trip with perfect weather.  I loved the west coast although I am told it rains there on occasion.

What else happened this year? The Second Wife was released in the summer and I launched it at the Clocktower Pub with fellow Ottawa authors Barbara Fradkin and Jeff Ross, mixing cupcakes, beer and a very good time. Icing on the cupcake was The Second Wife's nomination for an Ontario Library Golden Oak award, the winners to be announced at a luncheon in Toronto in June.

I continued writing and completed a manuscript for an adult mystery that I hope to turn into a series. I am awaiting feedback from the publisher before continuing with this project. I also had a fun booksigning at Collected Works and took part in a Capital Crime Writer day in October at the Ottawa Public Library, the highlight of which for me, was CBC Radio's Alan Neal reading passages from In Winter's Grip. He even managed to send a shiver down my spine. I spoke at the People, Words and Change literacy breakfast and was guest author at a Canadian Authors Association meeting in the fall. I also judged the Awesome Authors English short stories for the second year and presented awards at Ben Franklin place in the spring - I'll be soon reading this year's entries, which should arrive in February.

I make no resolutions for 2012 except my usual one to look for some interesting experiences, meet new people, keep up with old friends and have some fun. Already, plans are afoot. This year, we'll be heading to Italy for a two-week vacation and I've also got Bouchercon lined up in Cleveland in October, travelling again with Darlene and Katherine. And of course, Second Chances will be released in September.

So the year that was was a good one. I am thankful for my time with friends and family with so many good times and so much laughter. As the clock ticks down to the New Year, I raise my glass to each of you and wish you much joy and fulfillment in the year that is to come.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve, 2011. It's a bitterly cold morning with a coating of snow on the ground. I'm nearly ready for guests and meals - we begin tonight with family and my friend Sue, who comes every year for Christmas Eve supper. I change the menu every year. This evening, we will be having pork tenderloin, tourtiere and a lemon mousse dessert. Tomorrow is the main event - turkey with sausage apple stuffing and all the fixings. If we were bears, this would be the gorging part just before we crawl somewhere warm to sleep away the rest of the winter.

I have the entire week off and will spend it catching up with friends, reading (I sure hope there are some mysteries in my stocking), writing a bit and completing the final edit of Second Chances - due January 6th. I received a copy of the Dundurn catalogue in the mail this week and Second Chances has a full page spread. It's slated to come out in September, a good time of year for a YA novel to be released. In keeping with 1971, the year of my novel, I included the titles of a lot of music from that period. I'm thinking it would be fun to make a tape of the songs to play at my launch. A little "Black Magic Woman" anyone? Maybe I could ask one of the old rock bands to come play - they're all back on tour it seems.

Well, I won't write much today since I have brownies to bake and lemon mousse to whip up. I just want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday with family and friends. I've found in years past that it's not the gifts or the picture-postcard, perfect holiday that makes Christmas special, but it is the little moments. Pulling out the ornament box and reliving memories as you hang them on the tree, getting together with friends you haven't seen in a while, calling my family up North Christmas morning, waking up with my girls sleeping over . . . I hope that each of you savour your own special moments and the magic of the season brings joy and peace.

Merry Christmas and a toast to the year that was and the year that is to come.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I've tried every which way to add paragraphing to this post, but no luck so please bear with me! I'll bold the first word of each paragraph because this drives me crazy. One week to Christmas Eve. When our daughters were young, we would pile into the front seat of Ted's truck and drive past Stittsville to a tree farm. We brought along sleds and the girls played on the little hill while Ted and I tromped through the little wood looking for the perfect tree. We were careful not to find the perfect tree too soon because part of the tradition was a half hour of debate over who picked the best one. After the tree farm owner handed out candy canes to the kids, we drove to a little teashop on the way home and ordered hot chocolate and desserts. The last time we drove to the farm, the tree selection was sparse because of some bad planting seasons and we had to buy a tree in the city. It was the end of our tradition, but not the memories. This afternoon, Ted and I drove to the Parkdale Market and purchased our tree - a plump seven footer that will hold all the ornaments, including all the homemade ones the girls made so many years ago and all the ones we've been given. Pulling out the ornament box is another trip down memory lane. Allister sent the final formatted book for Second Chances to me on Friday. I have one last chance to find errors or to make minor changes. The cover design is appealing, I think, and I'm quite excited to have this one released. It's 262 pages long and for older teens, but I think adults will like it too. I had two people critique it in earlier versions and both told me they cried . . . and one of them was a man. You gotta love that :-) So what next? I've taken a bit of a break from writing but plan to get back into a project in January. I have a second Rapid Reads that needs revision and should give that a go. I'd also like to start a sequel to the adult manuscript I just finished, but I want to make sure the publisher accepts the first one. Hopefully, I will know within a few months. We had a great Capital Crime Writers' Christmas dinner on Wednesday evening, and I'm not just saying that because I organized it (with the help of my friend Wynn Quon and the rest of the executive). We met as KS on the Keys and had a room to ourselves. The food was good, the service excellent, and Howard Shrier a most interesting special guest speaker. He talked about the ups and downs getting his first book to print and was funny as well as motivational. We'll be following this up in January with a writers' panel of C.B. Forrest, Nadine Doolittle and moi, speaking about our writing processes. Should be fun and hopefully enlightening.  Well, it's time to get ready for another Christmas party this evening. It's the best time meeting up with friends and people we don't see once winter sets in. I hope you are also having a wonderful holiday season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Countdown

Two weeks until Christmas. I've mailed out the Christmas cards, and nearly bought all my gifts, spending last evening wrapping. The turkey is on order and Ted and I made our annual trip to the liquor store to stock up, as did just about everyone in Westboro yesterday afternoon. I'm feeling almost in control. Next, I'll start baking and getting supper menus lined up - it's almost hard to fathom the preparation that goes into these few days every year.

The Capital Crime Writers' Christmas dinner is this Wednesday evening and I'm looking forward to hearing Howard Shrier talk about his writing life. He writes the PI Jonah Geller series set in Toronto. The first two books in the series, Buffalo Jump and High Chicago both won Arthur Ellis awards, a rather extraordinary feat. Still 12 spots remaining if you would like to register. Just go to and click on News.

I've taken a few weeks off writing but am starting to get itchy fingers. It'll soon be time to start a new project, but I'll need to tidy up a few other manuscripts first. I'm quite happy with the way Second Chances is shaping up and look forward to seeing the final version before it goes to press. I also want to finish editing the adult mystery I am working on and take another crack at the Rapid Reads sequel. Good job I find all this work fun :-)

I echo Syvlia McConnell's note on Facebook to give books this Christmas. I was in my local bookstore yesterday and there are some great reads to be purchased this year. There's nothing like curling up with a good book (especially a Canadian mystery) in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea or glass of wine. The cares of the world are on hold for a while as your imagination takes hold in a world created by the author. I've already asked for a few mysteries to be put in my stocking. I have the entire week off between Christmas and New Year's and intend to make good, lazy use of it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Getting into the Christmas Spirit (s)

It seemed like I good idea to do a blog entry after I just proposed to Ted that we should pick some random house in the neighbourhood and sing Christmas carols outside their door. Might be fun. Ted said, "Great idea, especially since neither of us can carry a tune." He's also pretending not to know the words to any songs - I'll bet you're wondering where this is leading, and all I can say, is nowhere good.

I finished the edits on Second Chances and submitted to Allister. The odd thing was that I had included some song titles that I swore were released by 1971 and they actually weren't. As I verified dates, I spent a good part of my day listening to old hits on Youtube - what a treasure trove of music history. I could have sworn I was stuck dancing to "Stairway to Heaven" (which is a very, very long song) at a school dance before '71, but turns out that was a physical impossibility. The good news is that I'm younger than I thought.

I'm taking a few week break from writing except for Christmas cards. I also have to do the acknowledgement for Second Chances and I'm trying to come up with a quote from the era for the beginning. I had this great idea to use a line from songs released in 1971 at the heading of each chapter, but copyright was a thorny issue that couldn't be overlooked. It's really too bad, but I would have had to approach each record company to ask permission and would likely have had to pay. I just don't have time to do the legwork. Allister says that he'll be presenting the book to sales reps in December even though release is September 2012. They also sends out ARCs (advance reading copies) to reviewers six months before publication and can't miss the window.

So, just kicking back this weekend, doing some gift shopping and watching curling on tv. My daughter Lisa was at the Canada Cup in Cranbrook and lost a couple of nailbiters yesterday to finish just out of the top three teams; otherwise, we'd be watching her on TSN this weekend. Lisa finished second amongst the leads at the event (they keep stats of each shot thrown) so we're pretty proud of her.

Since carolling is off the table, maybe I can convince Ted to put up some outside lights before Christmas Eve this year. It's become a cat and mouse kind of manouveur so wish me luck. He's getting way too good at dodging my big ideas.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Little Nostalgia

I'm late blogging this weekend for a couple of reasons. I've been spending all my free time at the curling club in an annual bonspiel, which ended last night with a banquet. We came runner up in one of the events so lots of rocks thrown and lots of sweeping.

In my free moments, I've been editing Second Chances - well, reviewing the edits in track changes from Allister, my Dundurn editor. Nothing too major, but this is my last chance to make changes to the text. The adjective that comes to mind is 'pain-staking'. I've made it once through and now have to give it another complete read to look for inconsistencies although Allister has done a good job pointing out the major ones. I also have to confirm dates of the music I mention in the story, which is set in 1971 - the golden age of peace, love and rock 'n roll. What an era in which to cut your musical taste buds. The explosion of innovative music and bands has never been matched, in my humble opinion.

I remember my first 45 - it was "Lady Willpower" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. I had a crush on Mark Lindsey (do you remember the name of his band?) and even wrote a fan letter - I must have been about 12 years old. If you're out there, Mark, I'm still waiting for your reply. I'm sure you've got some time to answer now. It was the age of live bands at high school dances, records and stereos. Sometimes, I think technology hasn't really improved the experience.

So, Christmas is a month away. I ordered the turkey today and am picking away at the gift-shopping. The calendar is starting to fill up at an alarming rate but the week ahead will be dedicated to editing in between work and more curling games. If things don't lighten up soon, I'm going to have to get a bigger plate.

And the November rain and double digit temperatures are taking us into December - I can't remember ever going this long in the season without the need to wear my winter boots.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

So much to do . . .

Just back from teaching a great group of girls at the Sunnyside branch of the Ottawa Public Library - eleven in total - would have been 12 kids except the boy who poked his head in skeedadled after one look at all those girls. Give him a few years and he'll realize the advantages.

I spent the morning working on reviewing the edits from Allister for Second Chances and I've poured myself a glass of Sandbanks white and am about to get back at it. I have a long way to go. You might find it odd for me to be editing text 10 months before release date, but there's a tight deadline process that kicks in. I try not to be the hold up and never have been to date. I'm keen to start a new project, but seem to have spent the last month editing the latest manuscript and now this one. It'll probably be January before I get into a new book. I have a plot taking shape in my head already.

So just leading the charge on organizing Capital Crime Writers' Christmas dinner on Dec. 14th and figuring out how to post on their new website - looks like I'm going to become webmaster - who knew I'd be the one with the most experience? Almost flies in the face of reason, which is where my technical ability tends to take wing. Just ask Ted. He gives me lessons in using the VCR and setting the clocks and then . . . just does it himself. I have the head nodding / uncomprenhending blank stare down to a science . . . but enough about my failings.

Oh yes, you must check out the Capital Crime Writers' Youtube video of A Day to Kill event - just search for the organization on the site and it will pop up. Patrick Walton did a great job.

The girls in my workshop today said that it doesn't feel close to Christmas without any snow. I've managed to sneak in some gift shopping already and bought some cards. I'm starting to feel the spirit even without any snow and temperatures in the teens. Christmas party, anyone?! It's been a busy, workaholic kind of fall so soon time to kick up the heels and celebrate another year, but for now . . . back to editing - just 240 pages to go before I'm done.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Goings On

The middle of a long weekend and I'm enjoying every minute.

I spent yesterday working away on my manuscript, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and stopping at 9:00 p.m. with a few breaks along the way. Absolutely glorious. When you work fulltime, a day to focus entirely on writing is a luxury and something to be savoured.

The lecture/workshop at the Ottawa Public Library on Tuesday evening got great reviews. The e-mail feedback I received, and I quote, ah hem, "informative, warm and entertaining". Ted thinks I should take my schtick on the road and charge $10,000 an hour. You have to like his ability to dream big.

I'm teaching a short story workshop to kids at the Sunnyside branch of the Ottawa Public Library and need to turn my attention to reviewing my lesson plan, which I used last year. It worked well and this will be a new group of kids, if enough sign up that is. I haven't seen much advertising of the workshop and I'm not convinced it's a go yet. This is a commitment that goes along with the Awesome Author contest, for which I will again be judging the English short stories this year.

I'm also helping with the programming at Capital Crime Writers - we have a great guest speaker this Wednesday at 7:00 at the Library and Archives - Damiem Coakeley, newly retired police officer,who will be talking about being on the beat and what really goes on in the holding cells. You are welcome to come out for a meeting to see if you would like to join (only $30 a year). My part is to organize the Christmas dinner on December 14th and have lined up Toronto author Howard Shrier to be our special guest speaker - he won the Arthur Ellis award a few years ago for best crime novel and his books have been optioned for a proposed television series, now in development at CTV. Very exciting to have him come talk to us about his books and writing.

I'm managing to curl two-three times a week after work, but lately with the time change and morning darkness while I stand at the busstop to head downtown to my office, I've been longing for a long holiday in a distant land. If I could get one $10,000 gig, I'd be on the next plane to a place with palm trees where the sun shines past four o'clock in the afternoon.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Multi-tasking My Way Through November

So much going on.

I'm working away on my one and a half hour presentation for the Canadian Authors Association meeting this Tuesday evening when I will discuss working through a manuscript and delve a bit into the world of publishing. At first, when the invitation arrived in my in-box this summer, I thought I would have to decline because I couldn't imagine what bit of wisdom I could impart. Well, I'm up to ten pages of notes so I must be smarter than I thought :-) I'll let you know how it goes over next week when I'll be preparing for my kids' short story workshop at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library . . .

I also booked a hotel room for Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland Ohio - I'll be travelling with my partners in crime, Darlene Cole and Katherine Hobbs. We went to Bloody Words in Victoria together and had a great time so Cleveland next October will be something to look forward to. Bouchercon brings in lots of big name authors and this one will have Elizabeth George, Robin Cook, Mary Higgins Clark and John Connolly. I met one of the women organizing it when I was on that book tour with Mary Jane Maffini last fall and if her energy level is anything to go by, this should be some weekend - I'll be on a panel and it will be an opportunity to do a bit of promotion. You know, Cleveland isn't that far away if you're looking for an October holiday and a few days to talk books and meet authors. Room rates are low if you're there for the conference . . .

I also heard from my editor Allister at Dundurn and he's now working on Second Chances. Once he's done his edit, it comes to me with his suggested changes and I have a few weeks to go through the manuscript . . . again. A lot of work goes into these puppies before they see the bookstore shelf.

Capital Crime Writers hired Patrick, my video-filming friend, to make up a video about 'A Day to Kill' a few Saturdays ago and he's working his way through the reams of film he took at the event. I've seen the first few minutes and it should be great - a little ominous with some fake blood splatter. I'll post the link once it's up on YouTube so you'll get a flavour of the day.

I've got the afternoon open to do some editing on my latest manuscript and maybe to add a few more pages of wisdom to my presentation. (Who knew I had this much brilliance in me?)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let's Rumba

A few snapshots by Darlene Cole from 'A Day to Kill' last Saturday. Above, I am standing with Nadine Doolittle, my sparring mate in the Debaters panel and a fine writer who makes her home in Wakefield, Quebec. There are a couple more pics at the end of this post.

This week, I'm thinking about how important it is to keep on taking chances. Ted and I went to watch Councillor Katherine Hobbs dance for Easter Seals in a new event called 'Dancing with the Stars'. Katherine accepted this challenge to help raise money for these kids even though she hadn't any training and she was going to be up against the likes of two-time gold medal Olympian Carolyn Waldo and Olympian skater Elizabeth Manley. It meant hours of practice and conquering the nerves to dance in front of a full ballroom at the Delta last evening - and she did great. In fact, all of the dancers were more than respectable with Elizabeth Manley taking top prize.

It can be hard to get out of one's comfort zone and some people have an easier time of it than others, there's no doubt. Yet courage isn't always about the big things - sometimes it can be taking on a challenge that most everyone else would take a pass on and facing a roomful of people when your knees are knocking. So my hat is off today for Katherine and all the other Dancing Stars and everyone who risks failure to try something new.

Well, feels like I have a thousand things to do this weekend and most of the tasks involve paperwork. As if I don't get enough of it in my day job. I heard my first Christmas carol on the radio two days ago and it made my stomach clench at the thought of all the work lying ahead to get ready. Maybe it's time to run off to Vegas again.

Who's with me?

Alan Neal From CBC Radio Reading from In Winter's Grip

Listening to Alan Neal Read from In WInter's Grip

Inside An Author's Mind Panel - A Day to Kill

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Killing Fall

Yesterday was a fine 'Day to Kill'. Capital Crime Writers and the Ottawa Public Libray teamed up for a full day of author panels and celebrity readings along with a writing workshop by Mary Jane Maffini and lots of homemade food by Margaret Dunlop. The authors worked hard to entertain while giving a glimpse into their creative processes - about 70 people dropped in to enjoy the show.

Councillor Jan Harder and head of the Ottawa Public Library Barbara Clubb opened the day and then it was the panel 'Inside the Author's Mind', moderated by the funny and punny John Holt with C.B. Forrest, Barbara Fradkin, Nadine Doolittle and me answering some zinger questions before squaring off for a debate. I had to argue the benefits of awards and competition for writers while Nadine argued against - my over-the-top defence of all-out winning garnered me the audience thumbs up, making me winner in the debate - sort of fitting if you think about it.

As for celebrity readers, Alan Neal of CBC Radio read a few passages from In Winter's Grip and did an outstanding job, right down to a Southern drawl for one of the female characters, Patricia Reynolds. I'm a huge fan of Alan and his drive home show weekdays, having followed his shows with the CBC for some time. It was quite a thrill to hear him reading the words I put to paper.
Other celebrity readers included Spencer Cawston from DAWG FM, Oni the Haitian Sensation, Jon Willing from the Ottawa Sun and MPP Yasir Naqvi - they were all great! Councillor Katherine Hobbs moderated the day with humour and she was also part of the planning committee - I can't say enough about all the good work she does.

I also received some unexpected and encouraging news about The Second Wife, which is an Orca Rapid Reads mystery for adults with literacy problems or people just looking for a quick read. The Ontario Library Association has nominated it along with seven other books for the Golden Oak award. Librarians from across the province decided on the list and now readers will get to vote on the winner in May 2012. This means lots of people will be reading the book and will be introduced to my character Gwen Lake so that's quite exciting.

Next on the horizon for me is preparing for an hour and a half workshop on November 8 for the Canadian Authors Association on my writing process and then a short story workshop for kids at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library toward the end of November. Somewhere in all this, I have to finish the manuscript I'm working on. We need to lobby for more hours in the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do You Have A Day to Kill?

Well, Ted is off again this morning for his 'last' golf game of the season, leaving me free to catch up on my various writing projects.

I'm preparing for a writing panel this coming Saturday for the Ottawa Public Library / Capital Crime Writers' event, 'A Day to Kill'. My panel is with fellow authors C.B. Forrest, Nadine Doolittle and Barbara Fradkin and hosted by John Holt who writes comedy and hosts a local morning radio show. Our panel will be a game show kind of format - think Jeopardy meets the Debaters. I'm going head to head with Nadine and will be defending the need for awards and competitions in the writing world. I promise to be irreverant and ribald. Our panel follows the opening kick off with Ottawa City Councillor Jan Harder at 9:30, after everyone has had some free coffee and homemade baking . . . If you would like some free lunch, you should pre-register at

As well, a local celebrity will be reading from In Winter's Grip although I'm not sure yet who this will be. I have word though that Alan Neal from CBC Radio will be doing one of the five readings.

Other than this event, I'm merrily editing away on my latest manuscript and it's coming along. Still a ways to go though before this book sees the light of day.

If you are like me, you are not happy unless you have a book or two that you're reading at any given moment. I went on a Michael Connelly kick (Lincoln Lawyer, Harry Bosch) and have now run through most of them. Good reads if you've never tried Connelly. I also just finished reading two Liza Marklund books: Red Wolf and Exposed. She's a Swedish author and her books are also good. I'm presently reading another Swede, Henning Mankell and his book Faceless Killers Not sure it's my cup of tea although he appears to be one of the big Swedish crime writers. He has a cop Wallander - could be the translation, but I find the writing choppy and the characters aren't nuanced.

Hope to see everyone out next Saturday at the Main Branch of the OPL and 'A Day to Kill'. It should be entertaining and you'll get to meet some of the top Ottawa crime writers including Mary Jane Maffini and Rick Mofina. (You'll also get to fill up on Margaret Dunlop's homemade cooking.) As the beautiful fall weather takes a down turn, this could be just the way to liven up a dreary Saturday.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Giving Thanks

I am done my rewrites and am printing off my manuscript as I type this blog in order to go through it as a unit to pull all the bits and details together. This includes looking at the timeline and minute description, such as eye colour and type of vehicle my characters are driving. In one novel, just before the book went to press, I noticed that the grandmother's jeep had morfed into a van by the last chapters. Oops. It's even trickier to have a grey-eyed blonde turn into a brown-eyed redhead. It's easy enough to do when you stretch a manuscript out over a year. Geez, you could forget your own kids names in this length of time.

Lots going on this weekend. Pie-baking, turkey roasting, sitting on the front deck wine-drinking. The thing I'm really keen to do is go through this manuscript, but I can see that happening on Monday when Ted heads to the golf course for one last round although he says this every time he heads out with his clubs. (I continue to nod as if I believe him.) Still, 27 degrees today with a humidex so who can argue with a morning on the links?

I'm also getting excited about the Capital Crime Writers and Ottawa Public Library event coming up Saturday, October 22nd and have to tell you that there are still some spots open if you want to come out. (To register, see I'm on a morning panel with my buddies Chris Forrest, Nadine Doolittle and Barb Fradkin - it looks like a spin off of a game show and the Debaters (CBC Radio). It will be moderated by another friend from Health Canada John Holt, who also writes comedy and hosts a radio show. We have so much talent in this city - and so many interesting people. There will be other panels and celebrity readings - someone yet to be determined will read from In Winter's Grip - can't wait to hear them do it. There will also be a delicious free lunch prepared by Margaret Dunlop and morning coffee with homemade baking. How can you not come out?

Speaking of baking, it's time to go blend up some pie dough and peel some apples. I hope that wherever you are, you raise a glass to this most wonderful harvest as you sit down to a heaping plate of turkey and gravy, and of course, that pie.

And to my daughter Lisa curling in Calgary, I'll bake you another pumpkin one sometime soon :-)

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Location for Murder

Sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday, Ted and I like to spend the day in one of the small communities within driving distance of Ottawa. We go for lunch and wander around the town, having a look in the shops and bookstores. One day earlier in September, we decided to have lunch in Manotick, about half an hour from our house, heading south along the Rideau River. "This might work for a setting in the manuscript I am working on," I said. "In my mind, I had this idea for a murder along a walking trail by the Rideau but the actual location I'm thinking of isn't quite right because there's no river."

After walking the entire Manotick downtown, we settled on an Italian restaurant with a courtyard. The food was superb and it was relaxing to sit in the late-summer sunshine with a glass of wine and nothing in particular to do. On the way home, we stopped at Blacks Rapids to see if this would do as the setting for my murder.

"Nope," I said disappointed. "No walking trail and nowhere secluded." We continued on home and I worked on moving the scene to somewhere on the Ottawa River, which would mean moving my characters further into the city. I started rewriting, but wasn't entirely satisfied with the changes. I set the manuscript aside and pondered what to do.

Ted came home from work one day and said, "I think I've found the perfect location. It's near that place we had to get the car towed where it was sliding off the side of the bank into the river." We looked at each other, somewhat amused at the memory. Ted is a sheet metal worker and drives to jobs around the city. He happened to be measuring metal work at a building nearby the place we'd stopped looking for rocks one Mother's Day . . . but that's another story.

So last Sunday, we drove out Prince of Wales Drive and spent the afternoon scouting out three locations in the woods along the Rideau River until we hit on the almost-perfect spot in the Chapman Mills Conservation Area - even the name seems like a good omen :-) The photo above shows Ted as we head into the woods on our search for a place to commit murder. Kind of macabre if you think about it too deeply, which you probably shouldn't.

On the way home, Ted said, "Well, they said no leaving garbage, no dogs off leashes, but nothing about dumping a corpse. I think you're safe as far as the bylaws go."

"I'm going to be setting my next book in another town." I said. "I see some overnight roadtrips in our future."

"I'll be packed," said Ted.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The First of Autumn

First day of fall yesterday coinciding with my completion of the first draft of my manuscript, 95,000 words in total. Now begins the task of editing - the cut, slash and rewrite part. Once I finish this, I'll rustle up a few readers to put their critical eyes to the story. It's easy to get too close to the material and miss errors of logic or sections that don't work. So it will still be a ways off before you find out if I had the heart to kill off Susan Halliday :-)

Kristy Wallace, reporter for Ottawa This Week did a nice job with an article she published about my writing. She'd read that I was one of the guest speakers at The People, Words and Change event and asked to interview me for her article on mystery-writing. A neighbour on my street, whom I've known for over 25 years came up to me after the paper was delivered and said, "I didn't know you wrote books." A prime example of why we have to keep doing this publicity schtick.

So next in the writing world, I'm helping to organize the Capital Crime Writers event on October 22nd at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. This has already taken a bit of time and more will be needed as we get closer. I also have to prepare two workshops - one for kids on short story writing and the other for adults on keeping a plot going. Both workshops are slated for November.

This time of year, just like spring, I feel like starting something new and getting my life reorganized. It's time to put the garden to bed and haul out the warmer clothes; find my curling gear in the back of the closet and order the Thanksgiving turkey. It's wonderful to sleep under a pile of blankets with the windows open as the nights cool down. The leaves are beginning to turn colour and fall apples are at the Parkdale Market. A great season to be out and about or home reading a book with a roast in the oven.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Power of Words

Bright and early Thursday morning, Katherine Hobbs and I drove to the Tom Brown Arena to attend the People, Words and Change's 2nd annual Power of Words breakfast. PWC is an adult literacy organization that has been around a long time - I taught evenings for them one year in fact in 1984!

I wouldn't be lying to say that it was a little daunting to speak in front of a full house that included fellow presenters Mayor Jim Watson, Brian Kilrea and Terry Marcotte as well as the Chief of Police and city counsellors Katherine Hobbs (not nervous about her :-) and Mathieu Fleury (whom I am pictured with here), sitting in the audience. My video guy Patrick Walton also came out and will be making another short video of the event so you will be able to see snippits of the morning. It was great fun!

The People Words and Change staff and volunteers are wonderful people and the morning really was about them and the students - several students got up to speak about how working with a tutor had changed their lives for the better. It's not an easy thing to go back to school as an adult and to face what can be a lifetime of school failure - courage is not always about the big heroic acts. Speaking of heroes, Moe Nattallah of the Newport restaurant cooked and donated the entire breakfast - how good is that?

So now I am working on publicity for the Capital Crime Writer and Ottawa Public Library mystery author event on October 22nd, another day that promises to be a lot of fun. I've got a news release almost ready to send off and will be sending out notices to blogs this weekend. My friend Darren McEwan set up a Twitter account for us under capcrimewriters so follow us if you are a 'tweeter' - you can also visit the new website at

Can you believe this weather? Another lovely looking day out there but I will stay inside and type the ending of my mauscript. I'm almost there. I've got to decide today whether to kill off a character whose life is currently hanging by a thread. I know what I would like to happen but am not sure she's going to be around much longer . . .

Power of Words Breakfast with Councillor Katherine Hobbs and Mayor Jim Watson

Power of Words Breakfast with CJOH Sports Director Terry Marcotte

Power of Words Breakfast with Brian Kilrea, retired coach of the Ottawa 67s

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September Heat

Just a quick bit of blogging today because my neighbour's pool is calling. It's a sweltering day for September and the all-day rain the weather forecasters promised has turned into blue skies and sunshine. Great for the last long weekend of summer.

This Thursday, I'm part of an exciting event - People, Words and Change, an adult literacy organization, is holding a breakfast and I'm one of three guest speakers, the others being Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and Brian Kilrea of Ottawa 67s fame. CJOH sports director Terry Marcotte is the MC - not bad company, aye? I talk for five minutes and have my notes prepared - exciting but also a wee bit nerve-wracking!

I got a call this week from the local paper Ottawa This Week. They asked for an interview and we set a time for Tuesday. I'll let you know when the article appears and hopefully, I can link to it.

Other than that, I spent an evening with other members of Capital Crime Writers working on the upcoming free, all-day mystery author event at the Ottawa Public Library on October 22nd - mark your calendars - free lunch and a chance to meet most of Ottawa's mystery authors. (Did I mention this is free?) We're planning for a fun day.

I'm onto the last two chapters of my manuscript and will be spending some time writing this afternoon . . . just as soon as I have that swim. The photo today is on our front deck taken just minutes ago. The geraniums are into their second bloom of the summer. I know that not all corners of the country have had the phenomenal weather we've had, but this is one stretch of time I'm awfully glad to be living in the Nation's Capital.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dog Days

Yesterday,Ted said the day was spongy - it wasn't summer hot or fall crisp - it was just a day that you couldn't get a firm grasp on. It sums up so much going on in the world - Libya, Jack Layton, wild storms off the eastern seaboard and crazy tornadoes and earthquakes - how to make sense of it all?

Oddly, in Jack Layton's death I see more hope in the country than I've seen in a long time. People are celebrating this man who dedicated himself to bettering the lot of the homeless and poor even as we mourn his passing. So many people recognized the goodness in this man and the values he strove to put into action through politics. Politics can have such a dirty connotation, but Layton chose to tackle social issues from within the system and change the way we see politicians - and by the outpouring of emotion for Layton, you have to believe it worked. He was a politician to the end, but only because he believed this was the way to bring about social change.

I was moved by the story of a previously homeless man on television who said Jack used to visit their tent village in Toronto to raise their spirits while he worked at City Hall to bring about affordable housing - affordable housing he managed to win for this man and many others. Others have come forward with similar stories. Layton's legacy is in these acts of compassion.

I continue to write. My manuscript is into the final few chapters before the editing work begins. I'm spending a great deal of my waking hours tying together the plotline in my head and backtracking to slip clues into previous chapters. It's a spongy, solitary process - exhilerating but frightening at the same time.

If you haven't viewed the Collected Works booksigning video yet, have a look on Youtube at:

Last week of August coming up. The dog days of summer. Change sure comes quickly in this old world.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Dance Card is Full

Squeezing in a blog some days can be like trying to get into last year's bathing suit - it's a bit of a struggle to fit in. Today is one of those days.

When you work fulltime, the weekends are precious. I still wake up early on a Saturday morning and think about all the things I want (and need) to do - grocery shopping, errands I've put off, laundry, library, cooking, visiting, coffee-drinking on the front deck, dinner-hosting,exercising and oh yes . . . writing. Today, I've completed the shopping and am half-way through the laundry - still a ways to go before I can flop down somewhere and enjoy the lightness of being lazy.

So if you recall last week, I was hitting despair level with my latest manuscript. I'd gone over it so many times, I couldn't decide if it was better to cut my losses or keep on heading to the grand finale. Sylvia McConnell, acquisitions editor for Dundurn and previous RendezVous Crime publisher, kindly agreed to read the first 25 pages. Her feedback arrived near the end of the week. It contained the word 'gripping' and an urging to continue. It was all I needed to get back on track.

I've decided to put the self-doubt aside and finish this puppy. I'm at 82,000 words and plotting the end with renewed vim. (BTW: There really is such a word as vim - means vitality and enthusiasm) I'm starting to like the story again . . . I wonder how many other authors go through this angst - maybe it's part of the creative process?

I had a bit of fun letting people know that In Winter's Grip is eligible for this year's Readers' Choice selection for the Giller book prize and I know many have voted for it. I thank each and every one of you who took the time. It was really nice to feel so supported. We still haven't broken into the weekly top ten, but no matter. Word has spread about the book and new readers are buying it. One person even got an independent bookstore to order in copies. You guys are the best.

I saw a rough draft of Patrick Walton's video of the Collected Works signing and he's going to have it ready by Monday so I'll send around the link as we'll post it on Youtube. I should probably add a dancing baby or someone falling off a bike down a set of stairs wearing a clown suit, but we'll leave that for another time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Keep On Keeping On

Thought you might like to see the upcoming book cover if you haven't already. It's an older teen book slated for release in September 2012, so this gives an idea of how far ahead publishers plan. I think adults who've lived through the 70's and the Viet Nam era will also find the book interesting- lots music and historical tidbits incorporated into the storyline, which I thought at one time might be an adult book. The line between adult and older teen fiction can be thin to nonexistant and I think this story comes close.

Well, I hit the 'what was I thinking: fling manuscript into the garbage' wall on the latest adult manuscript, and have sought an outside opinion from my previous publisher, who is now in acquisitions for Dundurn. She's going to read the first 25 pages to let me know if the book has legs. I thought about shelving it and starting over this week, but am not sure if this is manuscript fatigue or valid self-doubt. I'm hoping to get honest direction. I've spent the better part of a year on this one - still a ways to go though and I'm not keen to keep going with it if I should cut my losses and start a new project. This creative process can be wearing.

Another author pointed out today that In Winter's Grip is on the eligibility list for the Giller book prize and people can vote for their choices at
There are about 50 books on this list and it will be whittled down to a long list of about 10, based on votes. Thanks to everyone who takes a minute to vote - How cool would that be to make the Giller long list!

The summer heat continues but I've begun seriously trying to get in shape for the upcoming curling season. I'm on two teams: a ladies team as skip and a team with three men as lead. The more leg and arm muscle you have, the better you can perform so I'm trying to maintain three good workouts a week. Being in shape also helps you to stay awake for the drinking part after the game, some might argue the real point of the sport at club level. It's interesting to watch (with emphasis on watch) the intensive training schedule of my daughter Lisa, who curls on the Rachel Homan rink at a seriously more competitive level than my teams. They won Ontario last year and made the playoffs at the Scotties in Charlottetown. They should have an exciting season ahead, beginning in September. By then, I'll probably have forgotten all about my own training schedule except for the bit about staying awake after the games long enough to down a pint.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Heat Ramblings

A few of my peeps who came by for the Collected Works book signing last Saturday. Left to right, Julia, Lisa (my daughters), Katherine, Janet and Bernie. The signing felt a little like a launch - relaxed and people mingling and having a good time. I like when this happens! I sold quite a few books, to old friends and new. It was also my first event with Patrick coming out to video tape for a video project we're working on for Youtube and my website. I thought it would be weird, but Patrick moved around the store so discreetly, it was easy to forget he was filming. He might put together a little video just on the signing so I'll let you know if he manages time to do it.

It was back to work on Wednesday so my writing is back to it's old catch as catch can schedule. (Is that even an expression?) Fatigue also becomes an issue. After a day of work, it can be hard to form coherent thoughts although Ted may argue this happens even while I'm on holiday. What luxury it would be to have a year just to write. It might be nice to go back to Shakespeare's time when people had patrons. Of course, there's that nasty plague business and all the forsoothing.

I attended a Capital Crime Writers planning meeting for an event at the Ottawa Public Library October 22nd called "Capital Crime Writers - A Day to Kill". Mark your calendars - there will be local mystery authors, celebrities, food and fun. One of the perks of these meetings is that our past president's wife Margaret loves to cook and she feeds us in their back garden. This time, the BBQ was capped with homemade peach pie and peach cheese cake. Did I mention Margaret will be providing lunch at the October 22nd event? Last time, she made roast beef sandwiches with carmalized onions amongst other delicacies. She's become our hero.

Well, it's still a hot old summer here in Ottawa. As if in commiseration, my oven has conked out so I can't cook. Sometimes, I think the universe really is on my side.

Collected Works July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gone Swimming

Week two of vacation and lots of writing in this week. You may remember that I killed off an unexpected character last week. Well, I wrote several scenes afterwards and wasn't at all happy with the direction the story was taking. Yesterday, I went back and rewrote chunks, killing off the character I had originally intended to all along. I think this will work out much better. There's a lot going on in this book and I might need to par some of it down after the first draft is completed. That's where my reading critiquers will help. It can be hard to keep perspective so objective input is often required.

Today is my signing at Collected Works bookstore from 1:00 to 3:00. I've been doing some advertising and know that several friends will be dropping by. Should be fun. I've also hired a friend who does video and creative communications for a living to follow me around to events over the next few months. He's going to put together a video that gives a bit of my writing life for my website and Youtube. I don't know of any other authors who've done something similar so it should be an interesting foray into social media. Plus, Patrick does great work.

Well, back to the office on Wednesday. I've enjoyed this week, swimming every day and writing. I've been sticking close to home, enjoying solitude and time to work on my manuscript. Ted headed back to work so the gable end project is still languishing. The pink insulation is now bleached white from the sun. Still a few more months before the snow flies :-)

Well, off for a morning swim. Hope to see you this afternoon at Collected Works!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Vacation in Prince Edward County

Ted and I, Kathy and Bill, Janice and Peter headed out last Saturday for a week of relaxation in Cherry Valley, deep in the heart of Prince Edward County - wine and beach country. We managed our share of both. We stayed in Britannia House (see photo below) - what can only be described as a luxury summer cottage - the place even had a panini-maker. The weather was hot and sunny and we made it to Sandbanks every day and sometimes twice. Body surfing in the waves was a blast, particularly the afternoon we spent at Wellington Beach, which had high winds and ocean-sized waves.

Our only mistake was listening to a local who sent us to an inland lake - he forgot to mention it was swarming with snakes, or should I say slithering. One came at me with its mouth open just after I'd jumped in and I was like a cartoon character churning out of there.

Anyhow, good times with great friends but sadly no writing. I am going to make up for it this week though. I'll also be at Collected Works (Wellington and Holland)this Saturday from one to three p.m. and all my books will be available. Hope you can stop by to say hello if you're in Ottawa.

Back to writing . . . .

Britannia House, Cherry Valley

Sunset at Cherry Valley

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Sticks Holding Up Our Windows Are Gone

I've been getting requests for updates on Ted's summer projects around the house. It was amazing last year how many followed my weekly updates on our front verandah - yes, I think if the project had proceeded much slower, Vegas would have gotten a bookie involved. Anyhow, while our gable end has remained exposed pink insulation for about a month now, you might be more interested in our beautiful new front door and windows as shown above. Ted optimistically told the company not to bother with the trim on the door and six new windows because . . . he's going to do it. That gnawing you hear is my knuckles.

I got an e-mail from Allister at Dundurn and he'll be editing my upcoming young adult novel Second Chances. The cover is approved and soon the manuscript will take its place in the queue. They send the cover and cover blurb off to catalogues and booksellers early in the process, even before the editing is complete. The entire process runs like a clock once it starts. My book is due out spring 2012.

Writing has been going well and quite enjoyable. I'm officially on vacation as of 3:40 this afternoon and now have time to put my nose to it. Some might think a holiday is no time to work on a project, but believe me when I say, writing is great fun. I'm at the spot in my story where my plot must come together, but it's still a long way from the end. Once the first draft is done, I have to edit for coherence, plotline, language, grammar . . . it could take weeks. I'm rubbing my hands together in delight at the very thought (not really, but I wanted to pull your chain a bit there).

So you ask what else I plan to do with my eighteen days of freedom? Check back next week for an update. Until then, picture me with my feet in the sand and a glass of sangria in my hand. All will become clear. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

As Summer Heats Up

It is another beautiful July morning. I have one week of work ahead and then holidays. Ahh, summer.

I've done quite a bit of writing this week. I open up my manuscript in the morning and work off and on all day and into the evening whenever I get the chance. This involved drafting and fussing with two long scenes. When I finished them, I realized that the time frame wouldn't work with the previous bit, so next, I'm going to have to add something in between. Actually, I have a subplot that I also need to move along so everything should come together nicely. I'm at 73,000 words, aiming for 80,000 or thereabouts. I now have two dead bodies on my hands; the second one was unexpected in that I was preparing to kill off a certain character, but when I wrote the scene, somebody else got bumped off instead. You could say that they were on the unlucky side.

Concerning the business of writing, I worked with publicity at Dundurn to create a poster for my upcoming signing at Collected Works bookstore on July 30th. They did a great job and a few local businesses have said they will post it. I also did much to-ing and fro-ing with Chris at Collected Works about book ordering and publicity. As well, I spent a lot of e-mailing with the Ottawa Public Library this week as they coordinate a workshop in November. I'll be teaching short story-writing to kids at the Sunnyside branch as one of my tasks as judge in the Awesome Authors contest.

Last week, too, I met with Tom Curran and Wynn Quon to plan the upcoming Capital Crime Writers' program and guest speakers. We have a fabulous line up planned and if you are a mystery fan in the Ottawa area, you really should think about joining. Not all of our members write - some are just readers interested in listening to authors, detectives, psychologists, private eyes . . . our list of topics and speakers goes on and on. We meet the second Wednesday of every month (excluding summer) in the Library and Archives next to the Supreme Court building. If you are out of town, $15 gets you the newsletter stuffed with information. Let me know if you would like more info.

So, a busy first week in July but still lots of time to sit on the front verandah and read or talk to neighbours. Life should never get so busy that you don't have time for friends and kicking back. After all, what would be the point?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Berry Days

Every year around the Canada Day weekend, my daughter Lisa and I head out to pick strawberries at a farm just out of the city. We've been keeping up this tradition since she was in grade school - through the turbulant teen years and after she moved away from home. We pick when it would be easier to sleep in and buy berries from the market. We pick when the skies are threatening rain or the sun is beating down on us in a morning sauna.

This is the first year, Lisa picked me up in her car as the clock struck eleven a.m., no longer an early-morning event. Buying berries appeared a more viable alternative than ever before, but we carried on past the stall with the already picked baskets to the fields at the back of the property. We each paid for an empty basket and made our way down the rows to kneel in the straw and dirt beside the rows of plants. It took but a moment to settle into the rhythm of lifting leaves to find the reddest and juiciest berries as the sun and heat and smell of ripe fruit filled our senses. We talked and laughed and relived other berry-picking mornings. When we drove home, we no longer stopped at the Dairy Queen as we had when Lisa was younger. Instead, we went out separate ways right afterwards, but happily our tradition has evolved to include a different part two. Lisa returned with a friend in the evening for a BBQ and homemade strawberry shortcake. We sat outside talking and laughing long into the evening, and it seemed to me that there is a need for simple traditions. They are the ties that bind; the memories that mean the most.

Writing went so well last week, but has stalled a bit as I question the direction of my story. I've been mulling it over and trying to sort out what my characters are up to. I'm into the home stretch, which is frightening but exciting at the same time. This is the point where I wonder if the story will hang together or if the logic behind the mystery needs work. Did I give the murderer enough reason and opportunity to kill their victim(s)? Did I manage to give my characters the same hair colour from one end of the manuscript to the other? One of my weaknesses (as my friends can attest) is remembering people's names and I often mix up character names as I write. Luckily, I've cottoned on to this quirk and reread with an eye to names although we missed one in In Winter's Grip, as I discovered after publication. (Did I mention that editing is hard work?) In any event, I figure I'll have the first draft of this manuscript finished by the end of my summer holiday and then the editing work will begin. I'm looking forward to several days in a row of writing time at the end of July. Check back to see how much hair I have left in August.

July 30th, I'll be at Collected Works on Wellington Street for an early afternoon signing from 1:00 to 3:00. All of my books will be available and I hope old and new friends can stop by. It's a fabulous independent bookstore and one of the few left in the city. Visiting bookstores is another tradition I believe it is important to keep, even if they too are evolving. Neighbourhood bookstores are another of the ties that bind.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writing with Scissors

We all have heroes in our lives - those people who perservere with grace when life has dealt them a difficult hand. My sister Donna is one of these people. Last night, she celebrated fifty years of living with diabetes, and while I couldn't make the trip to Thunder Bay, I was there in spirit. Donna flew to Ottawa to visit last weekend, and we spent Saturday in the Byword Market and roaming around the art gallery with her daughter Laura, who lives in Ottawa now. We stopped for tea at Memories in the Market where the above picture was taken - rather an appropriate name for the restaurant. I raise a toast to you, ma soeur.

I've been writing when I get the chance as I near the final stretch in my manuscript. After I finish the first draft, I'll spend a few months going through it, editing and fussing with wording and plot. I read sentences out loud with an ear to rhythm and honesty, rewriting lines that sound contrived or jarring. Every author has their own voice - an inner meter for deciding what rings true for them. It can take a lot of meticulous, plodding work to bring the story together.

The final book should be like ballet - appear seamless and effortless without a glimpse of the hours of work behind each production. If a writing passage looks like you're showing off, it needs to be rewritten. One shouldn't fall in love with one's own brilliance (tempting as this might be). Truman Capote said, "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil". Cut with abandon and get to the guts of the passage. It gets easier to purge unnecessary words the more you practise.

Well, we've had brilliant, rumbling storms all week in the Ottawa Valley. It's been as if someone in the sky is opening and closing a faucet in a bowling alley. The plants in my garden are lying down begging for mercy. I'm extremely happy that I didn't take this week off work for summer holidays :-) Surely, the best of summer is yet to come.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


My blogger does not let me make corrections after I post - and I always find an error or two once I've clicked the live button. Anyhow, the link to the Sea Minor interview has an error (of course). Here is the correct address:

Let the Summertime Begin

I've been a book reader all my life. I can remember going to the little library in Terrace Bay with my mother when I was still reading picture books and searching for my favourite series, Pookie the Flying Rabbit. So, this poster in the Vancouver Library brought a smile as it likely does with all of us who love libraries and the anticipation of a new book in our hands.

Writing is going slowly this week, but I'm plugging away on a scene, not sure if it is falling together or not. I read an interesting blog post by Colorado agent Rachelle Gardner who says most good authors arrive at that point in a manuscript where they question their ability and think their work is crap. She says when you stop questioning yourself, you stop growing. Well, I think I can safely say I'm getting plumper every time out:-) Here is the link:

Scottish author Nigel Bird asked me to come up with 10 questions and 10 responses for his blog "Dancing With Myself" - a self-interview if you will. I first checked out his blog and saw that the other interviews were light in tone and aiming for humour. I liked the challenge. You can find my interview at:

So, summer solstice this week and a gorgeous week in Ottawa it is and has been. My sister is here for the weekend from Thunder Bay and we are heading to the Byward Market and Art Gallery for the afternoon. And along with the summer, Ted started a new outdoor project. He's begun refinishing the gable end and then plans to tackle the fence and deck in the back yard. I believe this will call for weekly updates - I'll start a pool for those of you who would like to put money on how far he'll get before winter sets in. Will the lure of the golf course win out?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bloody Words Mystery Conference - Victoria B.C.

The Inner Harbour, Victoria

Just back from five days in Vancouver and Victoria where I attended the Bloody Words Mystery Writers Conference. I went with good friends Darlene Cole and Katherine Hobbs and we had a blast - if laughter is good for the soul, then ours are in pretty good shape.

I'd never been to the West Coast before and the forecast was five days of rain. In one of those lucky twists of the universe, we had five days of sun with only one morning of rain in Vancouver. Someone up there was doing their best to make us fall in love with the Pacific Coast - and they did an admirable job.

We landed in downtown Vancouver in time for the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs between Vancouver and Boston. You could feel the excitement. Every bar was packed with fans who erupted with eighteen seconds to go when the Canucks scored the only goal of the game. We spent the evening and following morning walking, taking in as much of the downtown as possible, and talking hockey to everyone we met, including cab drivers and waiters, before catching the ferry to Victoria.

The conference was held at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria, right on the Inner Harbour - just beautiful. See my photo below of the harbour at night. The above photo was taken in the grounds of the Empress Hotel - I'm standing next to an arbutus tree. Conferences are a chance to network, meet fans and talk books. They are also an opportunity to sightsee, shop, eat and socialize.

I was part of the "read dating" hour Saturday morning - three authors making three-minute pitches to a table of readers before moving on to the next table. It was fun but repetitive for the three authors. I was lucky to be teamed with authors Robin Spano and Mike Lawson, both of whom made me want to read their books, which I'll be picking up when I get the chance. Then, I signed free copies of The Second Wife in the book room and met some lovely people. One woman from B.C. told me she was a teacher and her kids enjoyed all four of my Jennifer Bannon mysteries - music to my ears! My second conference event was a panel on creating characters before your eyes. People in the audience gave us a few characteristics and a genre (cosy, noir, P.I. etc.) and we had to create characters - it was a fun but somewhat difficult exercise. Phyllis Smallman moderated and Rick Bletcha and I managed to poke a little fun at each other - all for the audience's enjoyment.

There were also a Friday night reception and a Saturday night banquet, standard activities at writing conferenences. So, work and fun all wrapped up in three hectic days. The best spin off is that I've come home rejuvenated and raring to get back at my typewriter.

Go Canucks!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ottawa is blessed with a lot of green space, bicycle paths and gardens such as this one, named Maplelawn. The origianl house has been converted into a restaurant, and the walled garden has been lovingly restored by a host of volunteers and is open to the public. I like to bike there and wander the paths and sit on one of the benches to breathe in calm of this beautiful oasis in the middle of the city.

Just up the road from the garden is the Unitarian Church, where I spent last evening as a guest of their monthly arts night, which happens the last Friday of the month. The room was set up like a cafe with candles lit began with two poems and a piano performance from the audience. Then three of us presented - I represented the writers, Valerie Cousins presented her nature-inspired oil paintings and Eric McKay gave a brilliant piano performance. The three of us than had a quick question and answer session with the audience while enjoying the baking donated by the organizers. It was a lovely evening and reinforced for me that creativity is ultimately about joy and passion and something to be celebrated.

This coming week, I fly to Vancouver for two days before taking the ferry to Victoria Island for Bloody Words mystery conference. I'm going with my good friends Darlene Cole and Katherine Hobbs and am looking forward to the time together. I've only been as far west as Jasper and this will be my first look at the Pacific Ocean. I'll have to compare its seafood to that of the Atlantic - it's going to take some mighty fine flavour to outdo Maritime clams and scallops.

Well, all this cold rain and gloom are starting to wear on the spirits. I've had a headache for a few days and wonder if it could be linked to the pressure system that has stubbornly entrenched itself over our city. It is race weekend in the Capital beginning today however, and this isn't bad weather for runners - the rain is supposed to be intermittant and heat won't be coming our way until Tuesday. I see sunscreen and barbecues on the horizon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beer and Cupcakes

Well, The Second Wife is officially launched along with Jeff Ross's first YA novel, The Drop, and Barbara Fradkin's Rapid Reads' mystery, The Fall Guy. It was a great time with about 130 people coming by The Clocktower Pub to help celebrate. Books on Beechwood sold our books, Orca Publishers supplied appetizers and Jeff's wife Megan made platefuls of delicious cupcakes. It was a relaxed affair and I enjoyed the afternoon immensely. Note to self: All future book launches should be in a pub.

Although, I have to say, Tom Curran's launch in Collected Works bookstore on Wednesday night was also great fun and well attended. Tom released the third in his Inspector Stride series, Death of a Lesser Man (love the title) and served free wine and appetizers galore. A few months ago, when I went to Tim Wynne-Jones's launch at Collected Works, I got home and realized I hadn't paid for his book, which I'd had signed and carted home. I phoned in my credit card number right smartly - you can't be too careful where authors killing people off in books are involved - anyhow, I made sure to pay this time.

And today, off to Joan of Arc Academy in the west end to talk to a grade seven and a grade eight class about mysteries. This is an all-girls school and my second visit although the previous time was about five years ago. What lovely girls - attentive and involved. They asked a lot of thoughtful questions and it was a delight to spend an hour with them.

So what's next, you ask? This Friday night, I've been invited to speak about writing and read from my work at the Unitarian Church on Cleary Avenue as part of their monthly arts night. I'm looking forward to the evening - they also have a visual artist and musician as part of the guest roster. Everyone is invited so come out if you are able.

I'll say one thing for all this rain we've been having - it's a lush, green world out there. As I type, a thunder storm is bearing down on the Capital and the rain is pattering on the roof. Nothing like a good old thunder storm when you're safely tucked inside.

Tomorrow, as luck would have it, promises to be sunny and warm with NO rain - I hope you find time to sit outside in a lawn chair with a cupcake, glass of wine and a good book :-) Happy long weekend everyone!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tiny Tim Forgive Me

I can't say enough about how beautiful Ottawa is this time of year. This photo is taken behind the Parliament Buildings at Major's Hill Park where the Tulip Festival is held. The flowers were at their peak and a spectacular sight.

Writing lagged a bit this week because life got busy. Wednesday evening, I went to Capital Crime Writers hoping to hear Tim Wynne-Jones speak about manuscript editing, but he was under the weather, and so I ended up on an impromptu panel talking about editing and book launching - fun in any event and the good news is that Tim is better and he sent me his speaking notes afterward, which are a minefield of information. Tim is an excellent writer and a generous person to boot - writing really has afforded me the opportunity to meet some lovely people.

So lovely, people, I hope to see you tomorrow at the Clocktower Pub on Bank between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. for the triple launch. The beer will be plentiful and the conversation sparkling. Launches are the time to step back and celebrate the year of hard work that goes into each book, and what better way than with family, friends and new friends! Kind of like a birthday party with beer and no cake.

Friday afternoon will find me in a Grade 7/8 class at Joan of Arc Academy, an all-girls' school in the west end. With working full time, I only manage a couple of school visits a year, but always enjoy talking with kids about writing. They help refuel the writing spirit.

Today is my annual pedicure morning with my friend Sue. Our feet get a buffing and hot wax treatment that I have to say is frankly wonderful. Then, a little polish for those moments when . . . you know it's coming . . . you want to tiptoe through the . . . (was that a groan?) . . . and I'll leave it there.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tulip Time in the Capital

I'm reminded of a childhood rhyme: Tulips in the garden. Tulips in the park. But the tulips I like best are the two lips in the dark. Not exactly Shakespeare, but when I was twelve, the words held a certain fascination for things ahead.

The spring edition of Mystery Scene magazine, published in New York, arrived yesterday with a great book review of In Winter's Grip. It was a thrill to see the review alongside Michael Connelly's and Harlan Coben's. The final line of the Winter's Grip review are: "This is a novel not only to be read, but savored". A lovely recommendation!

You might wonder how a book gets reviewed. Well, the publisher sends out copies of the book to a list of potential reviewers and they decide to review or not. Publishers do not pay for reviews and there is no certainty that what is said about the book will be positive. However, libraries and readers are guided by these reviews when deciding what to buy or read. Reviews can come out a year after the book is released so patience is key.

I'm looking forward to Capital Crime Writers meeting this Wednesday because Tim Wynne-Jones will be presenting a lesson on editing manuscripts. Tim won the Governor General award twice and he knows of what he speaks. His most recent YA novel Blink and Caution is a fabulous, creative read. I've agreed to be part of the program committee next year so am looking forward to helping organize guest speakers. You can join Capital Crime Writers even if you don't write - we have lots of mystery fans in the group and our speakers are fascinating - detectives, police, psychologists, authors, intelligence experts . . . the list goes on.

Well, looking ahead, the launch of The Second Wife on Sunday, a visit to a grade 7/8 class at Joan of Arc Academy on the 20th, a talk at arts night at the Unitarian Church on the 27th and then off to Bloody Words in Victoria June 5-7 - spring is heating up.

Well, I'll conclude with another nugget from my grade school autograph book: Yours till Niagara Falls or Seven up drinks Canada Dry.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April's End

I've had a great writing week. I've found lots of time to work on my manuscript and the words are flowing. This doesn't mean all the words will make the cut, but it's fun when the plot starts to move and the characters take over. It's true that characters can take a story places you didn't imagine. I currently have a woman character in a very dangerous situation and I'm waiting to see if she lives or dies. The suspense is killing me . . . or will kill her. We both should know by the end of the weekend.

The next big event on my agenda is a joint book launch with Barb Fradkin and Jeff Ross on Sunday afternoon, May 15th from 4:00-6:00 at the Brew Pub on Bank. We met with the owner to finalize the room and to order appetizers. We have the entire basement area - a bar and cozy pub space with room for lots. Barb and I both have Rapid Reads books for adults and Jeff has released his first young adult book - all published by Orca. I hope all of you can come raise a glass.

Well, it's been quite a week: Will and Kate tied the British knot, tornadoes raged across the Southern states, floods threatened towns in Manitoba, the wind reached 95 clicks Thursday afternoon in Ottawa, and the federal election campaign entered its final throes. April has been a turbulant month on many fronts. I am hoping for a more peaceful May for those in difficult times and an end to this horrific weather in so many parts of the world.

The one good thing about this cold Ottawa spring is the bumper crop of tulips in my garden. The first one bloomed yesterday and its buddies won't be far behind. My neighbours are starting to sit on their front porches again and kids are playing on the street. These are the little things that make life good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hoppy Trails

A big week ahead - federal election campaign, Kate and William's wedding ceremony (and I won't be setting the alarm for 2 a.m.), the visit from that big white rabbit . . . AND four days off work. Four days to work on my latest manuscript. Life is all good.

I'm at that point in my story where I'm getting into the characters and the plot is starting to come together. The word count is inching up to 60,000. This is an adult murder mystery set in Ottawa and written in the third person. In some ways, writing in the third person is tougher than first, but I like experimenting - perhaps you already figured that out by the different projects I've tackled :-) I should have my first draft completed by summertime, but I've been doing a lot of editing as I go so fingers crossed that this manuscript won't need too much tinkering at the end.

Mike Levin interviewed fellow crime author Barbara Fradkin and me a few rainy Sundays ago in Bridgehead coffeeshop in Westboro Village. A photographer appeared part-way through our discussion on writing about murder and the supportive mystery-writing community that our city is famous for. Our actual nickname by our counterparts in Toronto is the Ottawa Mystery Mafia - maybe, I should invest in some dark sunglasses and a horse head. Anyhow, you can read Mike's article in this week's Kitchissippi Times.

I've heard from the publicity folks at Dundurn and have homework to do this weekend. Other than that, I'll be typing at my computer, raking the lawn (Ted will now hold me to this when he sees this in writing), eating out a few times (starting with the Mapelawn Keg tonight), cooking a big Monday night family Easter dinner and reading the latest Michael Connelly hardcover, The Fifth Witness. Aside from the lawn-raking bit, this is shaping up to be a pretty good long weekend - I wish you and yours a marvellous Easter too.

May the chocolate be with you.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Winter Coat on Standby

It was great fun to be on two panels this week with my friends Chris Forrest and Tim Wynne-Jones. The first panel at a fundraiser for the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama took place Saturday night. It was a swank affair with wine tasting and tasty food to sample. Mary Jane Maffini and Barb Fradkin joined us to read from our work and discuss crime writing, a discussion led by Tim. He also interviewed me and Chris at the Ottawa Public Library on Tuesday evening. The Library recorded our readings and chat and will be posting on their site - it was a relaxed event, led by the fascinating and incredibly talented Tim, who has not one but two Governor General awards for his writing. Chris said afterward that he could have kept talking with Tim all evening and I have to agree. In the photo above, are Chris, Tim and me. I'll let you know when the audio tape is online. It's been feeling this week like spring is keeping a toehold on the winter side of the street. Today is overcast and rain is in the forecast for the entire weekend. My tulips are up but seem to have stalled. I think I hear them calling for a blanket when I step outside, but that could be just the wind whistling around my head, making me hear things. There are signs that winter is on the way out. For one, curling is over for me as of last Thursday. I'm ready to hang up my broom for the season and will now turn my attention to writing in the evenings. Ted has been talking golf swing, handicaps and early morning games so I'll also be spending those mornings working at my computer too. The changing of the seasons does get me reassessing my schedule and invigorates me to get into some new projects. Heck, I'm even thinking about getting on my stationary bike today . . . just thinking mind you. We saw the Lincoln Lawyer last night at the Kanata 24. It was good. I'd read the book a while ago and thought the movie caught the feel and nuances of the plot very well. A thumbs up. I'm currently reading Mary Jane Maffini's latest: The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder, which just got an excellent review in the Globe and Mail. Way to go my friend :-) Easter is a week away. I'll be ordering a stuffed pork roast from my favourite neighbourhood butcher Saslove's and baking lemon meringue pie on the day. My girls will be over for dinner and hopefully we'll be sitting outside enjoying the hot sunshine before our feast. The mercury has to climb past three at some point, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Week Ahead

I have a busy week ahead, beginning this evening with a fund-raiser at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. I'll be reading from In Winter's Grip and then taking part in a panel discussion with Chirs Forrest, Mary Jan Maffini and Barbara Fradkin and led by Tim Wynne-Jones. The evening also includes wine-tasting, hors d'oeuvres and dessert . . . all for a worthy cause. Sunday, I'm meeting with Barb Fradkin and Mike Levin at a local Bridgehead. Mike is interviewing us for an article he'll be submitting to the Kitchissippi Times. I also blogged for Type M for Murder and it will be posted on Sunday: Monday, my ladies team made the playoffs in the ladies' A division and we have a sudden-death game right after I finish work. If we win, we could also play Wednesday, and Thursday. (Yay team!) Tuesday evening, Chris Forrest and I will be reading and in conversation with Tim Wynne-Jones at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library beginning at 7:00 p.m. I hope lots can make it out for what promises to be an interesting discussion about writing and the book industry. Wednesday, I could be curling still and then will need to rush downtown to the Library and Archives for the Capital Crime Writers meeting, where I am on a panel with Robin Harlick and Tom Curren to discuss researching a novel. This could be very tight. Thursday, is the ladies curling final and banquet. And then on Friday . . . I rest.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hair Today

It takes a village to make a successful photo shoot.

The thought of having my photo taken for book covers and publicity is not top of my bucket list; however, I have to say that my friends help to make it as painless as possible.

It started yesterday when I went to Bayshore to find a new blazer and possibly a new shade of lipstick. The salesgirls in Jacob and Mac (The Bay) were extremely helpful - I came away with a jacket a size smaller than I would have picked (it fit, but I always picture myself as a bigger size than I am) and a little bag of makeup, suitable for having one's portrait done. This morning, bright and early, my lovely hairdresser Barb Hutchings fixed my hair and applied the make up and wouldn't take a cent for her labours. Then, it was off to Christine Tripp's studio in the Glebe for an hour of 'lift your head' and 'give us a smile'. Christine is on the left above with her two photographer apprentices Jill and Matt. Seriously, they were great fun, professional and had me relaxed in no time. So now, we just have to wait for the proofs, likely in a week or so. Hopefully, they'll be enough variety to keep me going for a few years.

Well, a few events coming up with my pals Chris Forrest and Tim Wynne-Jones. The one open to the public is at the Ottawa Public Library, main branch on Metcalfe Street from 7-9 on Tuesday, April 12th. Chris and I are doing short readings and then will settle in to a chat led by Tim about writing and whatever takes our fancy. There will be time for Q's and A's from the audience. I hope you can come by - free and open to all.

Okay, well now that I'm all dolled up, it's time to head out for lunch with a friend. Best to take advantage of a good hair day :-)