Saturday, May 25, 2013

Books to Capture the Imagination

Writing going well. A productive week.

I've been asked in different interviews and panels which books and authors have influenced me over the years, and so, thought I'd list a few. I've been a constant reader throughout my life with a wide-ranging habit, but will limit myself to the books that stayed with me over the long haul.

The Terrace Bay Public Library kept me going in grade school - they were well stocked with Enid Blyton books - The Famous Five, The Secret Seven - and fantasy books, the one I remember the most taking me up a tree to different lands on every branch. I loved these books.

In high school, I read and reread Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Another book that had a huge impact was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Chilling, disturbing but so well written. Ground-breaking in the fictional crime genre.

I also liked reading gothic romance. I read and reread Bronte's Jane Eyre and Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca and Frenchman's Creek - a pirate on the run and his secret affair with a married woman - does it get any better?

So if I had to pick three mysteries that had impact on my adult self, the first that comes to mind is by the Scottish author Val McDermid entitled.  The Wire in the Blood. A British tv series was based on this book, which features clinical psychologist Tony Hill, who works with detectives to track down killers by getting into their heads. Brilliant.

And jumping over to the States, I read every Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley novel, beginning with A Great Deliverance. Her books are a study in how to develop characters and relationships in a series while giving some terrific plots. Ted and I used to wait with anticipation for the release of each of her new books in the series.

I've read numerous Canadian mysteries, which are as varied as our geography. We have fabulous well known, established authors and emerging, exciting talent. It would be hard for me to list everyone because I'd be sure to miss some, but you can browse names and books through the Crime Writers of Canada site.  But if I had to pick one Canadian writer whose work has stayed with me, I would have to pick Giles Blunt's homicide detective John Cardinal books, A Delicate Storm and Blackfly Season.

So there you have it - a few of my favourites and fictional influences. There have been many, many more, of course. I enjoy discovering new authors and finding those books that I cannot put down. What better way to while away a rainy Saturday afternoon?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Westboro

The May long weekend. Sun and temps in the low 20s. The days we wait for when the snow is piling up and sunlight is at a premium. These are days to savour.

I'm somewhat blessed to live in one of Ottawa's coveted neighbourhoods called Westboro. We're not far from the Ottawa River and relatively close to the downtown (but not too close). When I first moved in with Ted, who had the foresight to buy our house before I met him, our part of the boro was made up of small, quirky houses, large treed lots and neighbours who knew your name and watched out for each other's kids. Our street is still this way although the first of the little houses has been knocked down and replaced by doubles that take up most of the back yards.

We continue to be a walking community with parks and old growth trees, but our neighbourhood is growing up with condos springing up along Richmond Road, and new businesses everywhere you look.. When I moved to Westboro, shop owners were having trouble keeping their businesses going and restaurants were few and far between. All of this has changed in dramatic fashion. Now, the variety of enterprises and the vibrancy in Westboro shopping district make for a wonderful stroll on a Saturday afternoon.  This article by the Montreal Gazette gives a taste - quite something when a Montreal reporter finds our corner of the world of interest since Montreal is such a fabulous city in its own right.

The Anna Sweet series that I'm writing for Grass Roots Press, which opens with My Sister's Keeper, is set in Westboro and Hintonburg - our next door neighbour heading toward the downtown. Anna Sweet is a thirty-two year old ex-Ottawa cop who returns to the city to keep her sister from getting killed. Anna stays on in book two and sets up shop in Hintonburg. I've moved the actual crime into Rockcliffe in book two, the ritzy boro where the wealthy reside, including the Prime Minister, Governor General and dignitaries from numerous embassies. I have to say, these books are great fun to write.

So, if you are planning a trip to Ottawa, you really should drop into our corner of the world and spend a day sampling eclectic menus at our many restaurants, strolling down the main street and stopping in at shops, tea and coffee cafes and pubs (I recommend Whispers) and getting the flavour of Westboro. 

You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bella May

Spring in my Ottawa garden:

It has been a busy week in my writing life. Last Sunday afternoon, I submitted my completed manuscript to Dundurn for the second in the Stonechild and Rouleau series. About a year and a half of writing finally completed . .  . well, the first draft anyhow. My editor for Cold Mourning, first in this series, began working on this manuscript on Monday and I'll be receiving her edits to go over the first week of June. I'll have two weeks to complete my review.

Meanwhile, I received the proofs for My Sister's Keeper early this week from Grass Roots Press and had to complete my review by Friday morning. The proofs are the manuscript laid out in book form. This review was looking for  missing words, type-set errors etc. I also had to submit a short bio and photo. The publisher is asking for the second in the series, and I managed to get this one started. I'll be working away on it this afternoon and tomorrow - pretty much every chance I get for the next while.

I also received an invitation from a new library branch opening in downtown Montreal for an author visit one Saturday afternoon in early July. They would like me to speak about and read from my adult books. This involved some e-mailing back and forth and submitting another bio and photo over the course of the week. A contract will be arriving shortly.

I've been back and forth with my web guy in Toronto this week, redoing the front page of my website. I want to have the news and social media more prominent on the main page so he's rejigging the content. It's still in production, so if you look at it now, you'll be able to compare the changes, likely in place within a few weeks.

Odd sometimes how this business goes. It can be quiet for weeks on end and then extremely busy all at once. Like life, really.

Last year at this time, we were getting ready to fly across the sea to Italy. I'm dreaming about another trip soon. Well, maybe I'm still dreaming about last year . . .

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Canadian Mysteries

One of the things I enjoy about writing mysteries is the supportive community of Canadian authors. I've met many from across the country, mainly at Bloody Words, which is our national mystery author and fan convention - unusally held in June (although skipped this year). However, in 2014, Toronto will be host.

Tomorrow (Sunday), I'm going to Books on Beechwood where  Robin Spano and Dave Whellams will be launching their two latest mysteries beginning at one p.m. Both are published by ECW press out of Toronto.

I met Robin Spano at Bloody Words in Vancouver where we got paired up on a 'speed-selling' hour. Each table had four authors who each had two minutes to pitch their novel to readers before switching tables. While it might sound daunting, being teamed with Robin turned out to be great - she's fun and engaging.  Robin grew up in Toronto but lives in Lions Bay, B.C. and has a popular series going with lead character Clare Vengel, who is compared to "an older, less formulaic, slightly-slutty, grown-up Nancy Drew".  Sounds intriguing :-) We met up again last year at Bouchercon in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during a wine and cheese evening so it will be good to see her again.

Dave Whellams is an Ottawa author and lawyer, whom I met some years ago on my first stint working at the Department of Justice. Dave headed up the Criminal Law Policy section and I'd often have to get his sign off on files I was working on. He since retired from government and has a new career writing a mystery series set in England, although he tells me that he's never actually been. You wouldn't ever guess when you read his first book Walking into the Ocean. I'm looking forward to reading his second The Drowned Man (seeing a bit of a theme here). Dave joined Capital Crime Writers and our paths cross now and then - we gave a mystery author talk last year at Justice to some of our colleagues.

All are welcome to drop by Books on Beechwood tomorrow to meet two up and comers on the Canadian mystery scene!

I've had a good editing week on my latest manuscript and have started working on an opening to my next manuscript for Grass Roots Press.  I'll be back at them both later today and tomorrow.  So much to do . . . .

One last note, speaking of Canadian authors. I just finished reading Giles Blunt's latest John Cardinal Until the Night. I highly recommend this series if you like excellent writing and a bit of grit in your mysteries. Giles lived in New York for 20 years or so where he wrote for shows such as Law and Order and Street Legal. He lives in Toronto now and was our Capital Crime Writers' Christmas guest author a few winters ago. Also worth noting that Until the Night is shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis award this year as book of the year and not hard to see why.