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.