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!