Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wrapping Up Autumn

It's been an unusually warm week for the end of October, but the rain clouds have moved in as Hurricane Sandy moves up the Eastern Seaboard. The high winds and rain will just about do in the last of the fall colours, which have been splendid this year.

I've had a busy week but managed some writing in the evenings. Sometimes it's harder than others to get started, but I'm always happy to get back into the story for an hour or two. The trip to Kingston was a great help in grounding me to the setting and logistics. I lived in Kingston for a year many moons ago when I was in teachers' college at Queen's. It's a beautiful little city right on Lake Ontario with old limestone buildings and history dating back to Sir John A. MacDonald. We even happened upon a house where he lived for a time.

Today, I'm off to Brittons at 846 Bank Steet (at Fifth) in the Glebe to sign copies of Second Chances and In Winter's Grip from one to three p.m. I'm looking forward to meeting up with Linda Wiken who is looking after 'Prime Crime Bookshelf' in Brittons, offering a wide selection of mystery and crime novels. They are also inviting local authors to sign on Saturdays, so it's a great place to drop in on every weekend. It would be great to see you today if you're in the neighbourhood :-) It feels like the week ahead will be a good one for lighting a fire, making some tea and curling up with a good book.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Location, Location, Location

This photo arrived from Wynn Quonn which he took during Meet the Canucks night in Cleveland - I'm handing a copy of In Winter's Grip to a winner in the audience. Nice to recieve this little memento of the evening a few weeks after the fact.

Well, Ted and I spent last Saturday and part of Sunday in Kingston scoping out scene locations for the manuscript that I'm currently working on. We walked around the downtown and the area just west and south of Queen's, finding the perfect spot for my murder. Ted knows just about everything about construction and he was able to help with details. For example, I have an unfortunate event happen in a basement not far from campus. Ted pointed out that the homes didn't have basements until after the 1930's when octupus furnaces were installed. A lot of the homes in the neighbourhood where this . . .  uh unfortunate event will take place, do not have basements, but we found some that do. It was a eureka moment.

I also needed a pub for some of my scenes and we stumbled upon one that will suit perfectly. We even tasted the beer, all in the name of research. I'm thinking one of my characters might enjoy a day at the spa too. It's all about the realism.

I have to say that when I tell people that Ted and I are making field trips to distant places to find places to murder my characters, I get sideways looks and comments about life insurance. There are limits to my research, I can assure you.

Another eureka moment - the Grass Roots Press publisher, editor and I brainstormed for a name for my adult literacy book, which I had tentatively called "The End Game". After some to-ing and fro-ing we came up with My Sister's Keeper.  Quite excited about this project.

Next Saturday, I'll be at Brittons in the Glebe signing copies of Second Chances and In Winter's Grip between one and three p.m. I hope you can stop by for a visit.

To warm you up for a read of Second Chances, read this great review posted today on Mystery Maven Canada.

Good end to October everyone.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Autumn Colours

All of a sudden, autumn has arrived with cooler temperatures and falling leaves. I have family here from Thunder Bay and we took a drive to Wakefield, Quebec on Thursday for lunch and a tromp along the river.

I've mightily enjoyed the last two weeks off work. Yesterday, we wandered around the Parkdale Market in Ottawa. The vendors are packing up for the winter but the late-summer vegetables are on display.

And today, Ted and I are taking a little drive to Kingston to scout out settings for my next book - the sequel to Cold Mourning due out next fall. I'm settling into the writing again after the trip to Cleveland.

Next up on the book signing schedule is a Saturday afternoon at Britton's in the Glebe on October 27th from one to three p.m. Linda Wiken has a 'Prime Crime Bookshelf' and I'm looking forward to checking it out in addition to meeting readers. Come by for a chat and there will be copies of Second Chances and In Winter's Grip available.

Thanks again to my Cleveland travelling mates, Mary Jane Maffini, R.J. Harlick and Erika Chase (aka Linda Wiken) for a wonderful trip. You have me eager to sign up for more conferences!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Heading Home from Bouchercon

The last few days have been super busy. I've sat in on some interesting panels  yesterday - how to keep a mystery series going and another on villains and heroes. Karen Slaughter, very good American author, happened to be on both.

My travelling companions and I took a trip to Chagrin Falls for the afternoon, a 45 minute drive to the outskirts of Cleveland. We had lunch at an inn and then did some shopping at Chico's, mecca to my friends, and wine store (mecca to me). We made it back in time to attend the Anthony awards ceremony - Louise Penny won for best novel so a huge congrats to her. I sat next to a wonderful couple from Florida who'd never been to a Bouchercon before. She's a newly retired English college prof so we had lots to talk about.

Of course, we had to round out the weekend with supper at a Mediterranean restaurant (although I'd stopped eating desserts by then). Nine of us walked to the restaurant district and had the upstairs to ourselves.

So, I'm now in the lobby of my hotel, waiting for Mary Jane and Linda to pick me up in half an hour. It's been a lot of fun being here. I've met some great people and spent a great deal of time discussing books and the industry. For instance, Rick Mofina and I spent Friday afternoon in the hotel bar talking shop. I used to sit beside Rick when we both worked for Health Canada and we had regular 'book talk' sessions. It was fun to catch up.

Star sightings:  As I sent off the last blog entry, a woman sat beside me and we discussed logging onto the internet (you have to pay $13 a day to use it in your room but it's free in the lobby) and I asked her about the book she was reading. Mary Jane and Linda happened to walk by and MJ said, "Well if it isn't Brenda Chapman and Sara Paretsky." Sara is author of the VI Warshawski novels and spearheaded the Sisters in Crime organization. While I didn't recognize her, I sat in on the interview with Mary Higgins Clark. I was walking out for dinner and spotted her having a drink - I was very bold and asked if I could take her photo. She graciously agreed and I got a lovely pic that I will post when I get home. Michael Connelly also walked past me in the book room, but I didn't approach him - a regret, I'd have to say.

Time to pack up and head to the main entrance. I'll be home tonight tired and some pounds heavier, but it has been an interesting, fun and overall worthwhile trip to the U.S. Midwest.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Still Kicking in Cleveland

Once in every person's life, you should take a stroll through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We hiked it over there last night for a cocktail party, which was a zoo of people. After a glass of complimentary wine (it liked what I was wearing), and some mingling, Linda Wiken, Anthony Bidulka and I headed into the exhibit area. So cool to see Michael Jackson's clothes from the Thriller video, the sparkly dresses from the Supremes, handwritten lyrics from different artists, Elvis Presley's Chrysler, and my favourite, Janis Joplin's sports car with its vibrantly painted pictures. We stood for a while and watched clips from American Bandstand - needless to say, rock music is playing in every room with videos of the artists. I could have spent an entire day wandering around reliving the seventies.

We took the shuttle back to the hotel and found our way to the bar for some late supper and wine. I woke up in good time today to make it to Mary Jane Maffini's nine o'clock panel, then took a little break before mine at 11:30. Oddly enough, Linda Wiken and I were on the same panel speaking about crime in small U.S. towns - odd because we are both Canadians. We had a decent crowd, which was something of a relief because we were up against all the big name authors like Michael Connelly. Anyhow, it went well since we had an experienced moderator Sandra Parshall. Linda and I got a lot of air time as one person dropped off the panel early on and another had the flu and couldn't make it last minute. A new author named Dana King rounded out our group.

After that, we signed a few books before heading over for a free lunch at another hotel, courtesy of the public library - cake so filled with gooey chocolate, it gives one a buzz. I feel like jogging around the downtown, but luckily, the rain started so I'm just typing really really fast.

After lunch, I sat in on a bit of a Michael Connelly interview before slipping out to catch the last half of a panel with Elizabeth George and Val McDermid. I bought a George book in the bookroom so that I could get it signed, but after half an hour in the slowest moving line imaginable, I gave up. I headed up to my room and discovered the book was already signed anyhow.

So, now a little rest before meeting R.J. Harlick for supper (I have to start skipping the desserts) and then it's Meet the Canucks hour. I imagine we'll find our way to the bar afterwards.

I'm beginning to see why people keep coming back to these conferences :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rocking and Rolling in Cleveland

Our carload of Ottawa mystery authors, Mary Jane Maffini, R.J.Harlick, Linda Wiken and I, arrived at our respective hotels last night around nine o'clock, a mere 13 hours after I left home. We leapfrogged our way across New York and Pennsylvania into Ohio without incident. The only snag when I tried to book into the hotel with Mary Jane and Linda only to discover I was in a different hotel ten minutes away. Turns out I'm in the conference hotel so not bad in the end.

We decided to have supper in my hotel bar where the lighting was dim enough that Mary Jane ordered two glasses of red wine without realizing they were $20 per glass (she thought she was splurging on $10 a glass).  All in all, a rather brazen price to charge, in my view. The presidential debate was on television, which I would have been watching if I'd been home. Might have been less stressful to miss the whole thing anyway.

The topic of conversation this morning was that our bookseller Don Longmuir from St. Catharines got stopped at the border for nine hours and U.S. Customs refused to let him take all the books across. He was the only one who was to sell our books so it's somewhat grim. A lot of books normally get sold at these events as these are the diehard readers who are eager to try new authors. I'd brought eight books and was able to give them to Don to sell. Other authors had a few as well but others have none.

Anyhow, I attended a few panels this morning - the first on 'The Writing Life" - Halifax author Anne Emery was on the panel and we'd corresponded beforehand; and "Murder in the Great Outdoors" with Robin Harlick. Afterwards, five of us headed out on foot to a street of restaurants where we sat outside and enjoyed the 75 degree afternoon with a glass of wine (or beer) and a bit of lunch. I indulged in the bread pudding doused in bourbon and caramel sauce.

I just came from watching an interview with Robin Cook - remember Coma? - and he was articulate and scathing about the American medical insurance and the large pharmaceutical companies. He also didn't have much comforting to say about the quality of medicine and care, especially in hospitals, especially at night.

So, I'm still looking to run into Elizabeth George and Michael Connelly . . . . maybe, I'll see them tonight at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reception. Wish me luck.