Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas in My World

Seasons Greetings, everyone. I still find this a magical time of year - families and friends getting together for a meal, excited children waiting for Santa, and homes decked out in lights in the mid-winter darkness.

I caught the virus going around a couple of weeks ago (generously sharing it with Ted) and so was sick last week and missed blogging. We're both on the mend, and my sympathies go out to you if you also have come down with this flu/cold. Lots of tea and rest will get you through!

This has been a bit like Christmas in my book world. My copies of A Model Life (4th Anna Sweet) arrived in the Monday mail. I've signed a contract to write book five in the series, but it is not due until 2016.

I also received an e-mail through Facebook a few days ago from a Dundurn author that a box of Butterfly Kills arrived on his doorstep, obviously delivered to the wrong author. So difficult to know my copies are out there but I won't receive them for another week or so with the holidays shutting down Dundurn's office and warehouse. However, the author told me that the book looks great!

I'm working with an American publicist for the American release of Butterfly Kills at the end of February. I have a bit of homework to do as she's received requests from five blogs for me to post entries. I've completed two but have three to go. They're rather fun as each is asking different questions about me and my book. We're also getting nibbles from American reviewers, so keep your fingers crossed for good coverage.

Dundurn sent the electronic invitation for my February 8th Ottawa book launch to me and I'm waiting for Christmas to be over to send it out to all and sundry. I'm excited to have you read Butterfly Kills and to get your feedback. I think the story makes for a cracking good read :-) If you are in Ottawa, on Sunday, February 8th, come to Whispers between 2:00 and 4:00 pm and raise a glass with me to celebrate.

Writing time fell away with the week and a half of being sick, but I spent yesterday at the keyboard and am getting organized for the next chunk of the current manuscript I'm tackling. I've reached the 20,000 word mark and the writing momentum is starting to build. I find that I start slowly as I line up the ducks and then I go great guns, working on the story every spare minute. I used to worry that I was wasting time not writing at this point in the manuscript, but I've come to realize that this is part of my process.

Well, in amongst all this writing and publicity work, Ted and I visited with family and friends and prepared some big holiday dinners. Here are a few photos of our frivolity - I hope you are also taking time to enjoy time with family and friends and wish each of you a wonderful 2015 - Happy New Year, all!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

This week passed in a haze of cold medication, tea and bad television as I battled a virus that is 'going around' as they say. But I'm on the mend, back at work yesterday and ready for a day baking and preparing for a big family dinner tomorrow night. Christmas season is back on my radar.

I was thinking this morning about Christmases when I was a kid. I have an older sister Donna who used to organize me and my younger brother Steven into staging a  yearly production of a play for our parents and the town mill manager and his wife every Christmas Eve. The year I remember most vividly was when the three of us acted out 'A Christmas Carol', adapted, directed and produced by my sister. I recall that my brother and I would get the odd lecture from my mother about cooperating (we had weeks of practices leading up to the day and we were siblings after all) but in the end, we put on quite the show. We might have been Broadway bound if we weren't living in a small northern Ontario town in the middle of nowhere.

We also made gifts for each other. The teachers at school always had crafts that involved making presents, often involving glitter and sparkles. Handmade candles, clay angels...but Donna, Steven and I would make more gifts at home. One time, we made a giant candy cane out of cardboard and filled it with gum because my dad had just quit smoking. The gift-making took hours of working in secret for that moment of hopeful delight when the offering was unwrapped. My parents always insisted it was the perfect gift. We knew it was.

Which leads me back to what I was thinking about when I woke up. The magic of this season, to me, is the little, unexpected moments of offerings from the heart. The sweetness of these moments stays with me years later. My youngest Julia wanted me to have more gifts under the tree one year - she must have been about four years old - so she wrapped up several pieces of paper so that I'd have lots of presents to unwrap.  My daughter Lisa spends hours finding us the perfect gift and always succeeding. Ted spent a good part of the day yesterday putting up lights on our front verandah and driving me home up our street after work to surprise me.

Yesterday, I asked the fellow ringing through my produce at Herb and Spice how to tell if a pineapple was ripe. I'd picked one with no idea but wanted it for our family Christmas dinner. The young produce guy then felt every pineapple they had to get me the best one and explained the best way to cut it.  A simple, unexpected act of kindness.

So, not much writing in this week although I will make 20,000 words in this manuscript by the New Year - 1/4 or the way through. Grass Roots Press has posted A Model Death - you can read the first chapter to get the flavour of these books.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Season is in Full Swing

Fa la la la la
la la
la la

Ted came with me to the Capital Crime Writers annual Christmas dinner, held this year at a fine little Italian restaurant named Tavola. We'd booked the entire restaurant for the evening, which came complete with a snowstorm raging outside, another tradition for our yearly get together. After dinner, my good friend and fellow crime writer Mary Jane Maffini introduced me as the guest speaker...

Then she began the interview...

And lastly, a short reading from Cold Mourning...

It was a lovely evening - good food, good friends and a lot of laughter. Thank you to Capital Crime Writers for the kind invitation.

I received word yesterday from Grass Roots Press that my copies of A Model Death are in the post! With Buttertly Kills being released by Dundurn in another month, I'm feeling a little bit of excitement in my belly. Both series are doing well although the audience is slightly different. Pat Campbell, Grass Roots publisher, tells me that they are making great inroads in the U.S. market and will be attending a couple of major American literacy conferences in 2015. Apparently, librarians are loving the books.

So today, it's buy the Christmas tree, put it up and decorate, along with make a trip to buy the Christmas wine and other spirits. My daughter Lisa is curling in Yorkton, Saskatchewan today in quarter finals at six this evening so all aiming to settle in and watch curling on TV periodically this weekend as well. Also, hoping to also get in some writing Sunday between one last trip out for gift-buying and baking cookies for a holiday work luncheon. Tis the season to be very, very busy. I best get this day underway. Good week, everyone.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Count Down to Christmas

A quiet week on the writing front but a busy week otherwise. I sent out my Christmas cards and started lining up plans for dinners and baking, gift-buying and decorating. Less than three weeks to go - I'm hoping to get organized enough that I glide into the holidays stress-free.

Ted and I still buy a real tree. When our girls were young, we'd drive into the country to a tree farm and chop down a tree. Then stop at a cafe on the way home for hot chocolate. The tree farm had a hill where the girls would spend their time sliding while Ted and I debated our choice. Now, we drive a few blocks to the Parkdale Market and select one pre-cut. Sometimes I don't even go if we're running short of time. Traditions are a moving target.

This Wednesday is the Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner and I'm being interviewed by Mary Jane Maffini for the after dinner entertainment. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone - at last count we have fifty people signed up. Should be a fun evening.

I've been followint the podcasts for a show out of the U.S. called Serial that you might find as fascinating as I am. A reporter Sarah Koenig is re-examining all of the evidence that put 17 year old Adnan Syed away for life for murdering his ex-girlfriend. He's now 33 years old. Each week, Koenig brings another twist into her investigation and she doesn't tip her hand as to the outcome. She's just revealed that there will be a season two and she'll be taking on another case. Anyhow, if you start listening with podcast one, you'll likely become as hooked as I am. You're welcome.

So, I have a busy day ahead and supper tonight with friends. Time to grab one last cup of coffee and get myself into gear. I hope you also are keeping your head above water at this hectic time of year. Remember to take time out to put your feet up with a cup of tea every now and then. Everything that needs to get done will get done eventually :-)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Egg Nog Helps

Nothing big happening this week and happy to see the end of dreary November. On to the excitement of the Christmas season.

I ventured out yesterday, 'Black Friday', to experience the day, and found the shopping busy but not crazy. I walked to the Rideau Centre at lunchtime and wandered through some of the shops on Richmond Road in Westboro after work. I've been a supporter of shopping local for a long time and always spend most of my Christmas dollars in my neighbourhood - this year is no exception.

Westboro, Wellington West into Hintonburg have great shops with unique gifts and it was lovely walking from one shop to another with darkness settling in and the temperature hovering just below freezing. I indulged in an egg nog tea latte toward the end of my tour before picking up supper to bring home at the Piggy Market. So, Black Friday was a relaxing shopping day in my world, unlike the screaming tug of wars over flat screen televisions that I saw on the news in some American and British stores. I wonder if the brawlers will ever see the irony?

You know, Butterfly Kills official release date in Canada is just two months away with the U.S. release slated for February 24. I've booked my Ottawa launch for February 8 and made up an invitation yesterday on Facebook, just to get the date and details out there. If you are able to come, you are most welcome.

I worked on a Q and A this week for a blog that will be posted in February in Omnimystery News. This took up some of my writing time although I still managed a few thousand words. I'm hoping to get more written this weekend. December is a tough month to buckle down. I'm at the point in the manuscript that I'm having to put a lot of mental energy into figuring out the plot and how it will unfold. I keep wishing for a few weeks to concentrate on the book alone, but my reality is that I only have snippets of time - usually after a full day of work.

Ah well. My grumbles are small stuff in comparison to the tough problems others have to deal with. I'm thankful for my full and happy days...and I got a good jump on my Christmas shopping so see some relaxing time ahead...with more egg nog and time with family and friends.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Keeping Ispired

Ted and I caught the morning train to Toronto last Saturday and arrived a few hours before I was to appear at Inspire International Book Fair at the Metro Centre, which happens to connect to Union Station and the hotel where we were staying by skywalks. My pal Dawn Rayner going back to Lakehead University days met us and trucked around with me to the book fair and then out for dinner afterwards. She also bought some copies of Cold Mourning for Christmas presents - Dawn remains one of my steadfast supporters and friends :-)

My panel ran from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a signing afterwards. We had a decent audience both sitting and standing listening as the hour unfolded. Steven Beatiie from Quill and Quire moderated the panel and kept it running smoothly. He'd obviously read all of our books and had insightful questions.

 R.J. Harlick, Barbara Fradkin and me signing books after the panel
 And the other panelists Nick Wiltshire and David Poulsen with their mysteries
A view of the main stage
We were four authors from Ottawa and David Poulsen was the only exception and hails from Calgary. Nick Wiltshire is a lawyer who also works for the Department of Justice as do I although we hadn't met before this. So new books to check out!
I have some house-keeping tasks to do this weekend - review and sign a contract for the fifth Anna Sweet, collect up receipts and do some finance recordings, work on a blog post ... I also have gotten a rhythm going on my latest manuscript and am making progress so will be trying to keep this going. Now at 13,000 words.
A Model Death (4th Anna Sweet) boomeranged back this week for a final look. The release date is January 2nd, in time for my visit to Moose Jaw in February where I have an appearance lined up with a literacy group. My next gig is December 10th in Ottawa at the Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner - I'm guest speaker and will be interviewed by Mary Jane Maffini so should be a good time. Over forty people have registered for the dinner with a few spots left. After that, it's the launch party for Butterfly Kills at Whispers pub on Sunday, February 8th from 2-4 p.m. (mark your calendars!) I'll start advertising after Christmas.
And that wraps up the week that was and what's on the horizon. Between the train ride to Toronto and the ride home the next day, snow settled into the Ottawa Valley, bringing an early winter. However, we're warming up to 14 degrees early next week as our weather yo yo's from one extreme to the other. Canadian weather is not for sissies.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Leaving on a Via Train

Well today is the day I head to Toronto for Inspire International Book Fair! Going by train and staying overnight so a min-vacation in gloomy November - speaking of which, first stay-on-the-ground snowfall yesterday. Seeing other parts of the country with quite a bit of snow already, Ottawa has been lucky thus far. Time to dust off the winter boots.

Back to Inspire, I'm on a Dundurn panel on the Discovery Stage from 5-6 pm with Barbara Fradkin, R.J. Harlick, Nick Wilkshire and David Poulsen and our interviewer/moderator is Stephen Beattie from Quill & Quire. Then, we do a signing for half an hour. I see Margaret Atwood is on the main stage from 3-4 on Saturday. This is quite the event and the first year for it - getting a ton of press. I'll let you know how it goes next week.

Got in some writing time and also went through A Model Death again, looking a few suggestions fromt he proof reader. After the editor finishes with it, a proof reader gives the manuscript a final read. This one will be out before the end of this year. I also received a contract for book five to be written in 2016. Anna Sweet will be on the case after a year rest :-)

I'm also working with an American publicist for the release of Buterfly Kills. I had to fill in a questionnaire and we worked on a news release. It would be beyond fabulous to make inroads in the U.S. market. On va voir.

Time to throw some clothes in a bag and get ready to catch the train. I don't know about you, but I love the train - sitting back and watching the landscape go by and listening to the clickity clack and mournful whistle. I once took the train from Kingston to Thunder Bay and remember sitting in the dome car to watch the sunset. You have to go a long way to beat that experience. Not sure the train goes to Thunder Bay anymore. (I'm beginning to sound like an old-timer.) The train does still go to Toronto though and I'm happy to be on it in a few hours.

Good weekend everyone.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

On the Run

A little late blogging this morning (now afternoon) as we got up early to watch our daughter Julia curl in a Kemptville bonspiel. They won this morning so we'll be heading back later this afternoon. Spending weekends in curling clubs has been our fall back position since the girls were in little rocks, so about the last twenty years of cheering from behind the glass.

New bookmarks arrived in the mail from Dundurn.  Here's a shot of the front and back.

Got some writing time in this week - squeezing in hours and up to 9000 words. Feels good to get this plot moving. I'm off to Toronto for a Saturday panel at the Inspire International Book Fair. Someone from work sent me an e-mail that they saw my name on the schedule and plan to attend the session. I hope you can make it too if you're down Toronto way.  I'm with some other Dundurn authors on the Discovery stage at 5 p.m.

I was also asked to be the guest speaker at the Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner on Wednesday, December 10 and said I'd do it if Mary Jane Maffini interviewed me. We met last Sunday for a few hours chatting about questions and the way we wanted to organize our time. I know there are some spots left if you feel like a nice meal at the Tavola restaurant in the Merivale Market Mall and conversation about mysteries and crime-writing. This event is open to non-members. Most of our local crime authors come to the event. I also hear that the food is fabulous.

Well, my time is up today - I'm heading to lunch with a friend and then back to Kemptville. Hope your weekend is not as hectic as mine ....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Keeping the Fun Rolling into Grey November

The Kids' Lit Cafe was held last Saturday at the Greensboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Tables were set up around the room and kids and their parents had a chance to chat with some local children's authors about writing. Three workshops were interspersed throughout the two hours and I had the last one for the older kids. Aided by librarian Jessica Roy, I gave some tips for becoming an author and getting published. The kids who participated were keen writers already and a real treat to spend time with.

Below is a photo from the event. You'll see CBC Radio's Alan Neal on the far left - he co-wrote a picture book - and Frances Itani to the far right. Frances is shortlisted for a Giller for her adult novel Tell so wishing her all the best in a few weeks at the awards ceremony.


My next event is in the Toronto International Book Fair on Saturday, November 15. I'll be on a Dundurn mystery author panel from 5-6 p.m. that will be moderated by Quill and Quire's Stephen Beattie. My fellow authors on the panel are Barbara Fradkin, R.J. Harlick, Nick Wiltshire and David Poulsen. Should be exciting.

Well, this week I managed to write the questions to go along with the fourth Anna Sweet - these questions are posted the publisher's website to help tutors who are working with adult learners. I also completed a questionnaire and got some stuff together for a U.S. publicist I'll be working with for the release of Butterfly Kills. The work on my latest manuscript sadly went nowhere this week, but I am chomping to get back at it. Not today, however. I'm curling in a fund-raiser most of the day and will soon be heading out to the rink. Starting off November with some fun and exercise. Never a bad combination.

My good buddy Katherine Hobbs lost her seat on city counsel in this past Monday's municipal election. I was sad that after all the hard work that she put into her four years on counsel, she wasn't better supported by the ward, but such is the way of politics. However, Katherine is such an inspiration. She's been grace under pressure, never taking her eye off her goal to give back to the community. I see the fruits of her labour all across our ward. Well done, I say.

And now, time to collect my curling stuff, have some breakfast and get this day underway. Stay warm, my friends. Be sure to include a little fun and exercise in your day :-)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Moment's Reflection

This week was one of terror, grief and heroism in Ottawa with the shooting and murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard over the tomb of the unknow soldier at the war memorial. And he was not the first soldier murdered. The week before, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run down by another crazed individual in Quebec.

For most of Wednesday, the entire downtown core was in lockdown as police and RCMP searched for a second shooter. I wasn't in the office that day. My first inkling that something was going on was reading an e-mail and then text message from my daughter Lisa asking if I was safe. She didn't know that I hadn't gone into work that morning. This was followed by phonecalls and e-mails from friends and family across the country checking in to make certain everyone was out of harm's way.

This week has shown so clearly how people pull together - that we care about each other and and mourn together in grief when a brave young man, with his life in front of him, is killed so tragically. Our first responders, those brave passersby who tried to save Nathan's life, our armed forces, police, the Seargent at Arms Kevin Vickers who confronted the shooter in the hallway of the House of Commons ... all who rush in to keep others safe, are our heroes. They keep the darkness at bay.

My mind hasn't been on writing although the projects continue. I managed to write 4000 words last weekend on my latest manuscript and feel like the engine is starting to rev. My editor Pam and I completed the last edits for A Model Death, which Grassroots Press will be releasing before the end of this year. I've also been asked to write a fifth Anna Sweet for 2016 and the contract will be arriving soon - so great news. I now have to write some questions for A Model Death for teachers and tutors to use with adult learners. I'll try to find time this week.

Today, I am taking part in the Kids' Lit Cafe from 2-4 at Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Lots of local authors will be talking books and writing with kids and CBC radio host Alan Neal will be interviewing two batches of authors and signing copies of his children's book (ccwritten with Neal Christopher) Ava and the Little Folk. I'm be talking to some kids about writing, giving some tips for becoming an author, and reading a short passage from Second Chances. I haven't done many kids' events in the past while since I've been writing the two adult series and it'll be great to be back with young readers again.

So time to get my day underway. Another cup of coffee, some music on the stereo, and this grey rainy day is starting to look like a good one. I hope wherever you are, you enjoy this fall weekend and take a moment to give thanks for all the people in your life and the people who dedicate themselves to keeping us safe.

 I know that I have.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Not Hibernating Yet

The big reveal: book #4 in the Anna Sweet mysteries from Grass Roots Press. Ta da...

So, what do you think? Several people who follow my Facebook page have said that they like it and find it striking. Not that I'm trying to influence your opinion.

And hard on the heels of the cover release came some more great news. The Hard Fall (2nd in the Anna Sweets) has been shortlisted by the Ontario Library Association for its Golden Oak award. This is an award for best in adult literacy books for 2014 and the final choice is made by librarians and adult learners in June in Toronto. So lovely news this week all around.

I made it downtown to Grounded Coffeehouse (a funky little spot on Gloucester at Metcalfe) on Wednesday night after my curling game to take part in the Mystery Cafe, organized by fellow Ottawa mystery author Mike Martin and featuring interviews and readings with my good buddies Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin with musical entertainment by JD Robertson, Geoff Johnson and Daniel Laurin. There was a full house of mystery readers and it really was a  fun relaxed evening. Here are a few pics:

 Mike Martin, me (tucked in the back), Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin
 A bigger me at the head of the line with Mike Martin and Mary Jane Maffini
Being interviewed (obviously with something serious to say) by Mike Martin
So switching gears this coming Saturday, I'll be taking part in the Kids Lit Cafe at the Greenboro Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. I'm to give a chat about writing to the older teens so am looking forward to that. A good line up of local children's authors will be talking to kids and being interviewed by Alan Neal from CBC Radio.
It's been one of the warmest weeks on record for October in Ottawa and around the country. Odd to see people in shorts and sandals when a week earlier we'd started wearing gloves and winter hats. The evenings have been sultry with warm rains starting a few days ago. An unusual autumn when our corner of the world is warmer than the southern States. A welcome reprieve before the snow and cold settle in.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Head Above Water

I've found it hard to get to my computer to get in writing time this week. Life seems to be picking up speed and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.

This upcoming Wednesday evening, I'll be appearing at the Mystery Cafe along with Barbara Fradkin and Mary Jane Maffini with MC Mike Martine and musical guests. This is part of the Writers Festival and sponsored by Crime Writers of Canada and Apt 613. You can book a spot - Grounded Cafe is on Gloucester near Metcalfe. I'll be the last author on stage as I have to curl first .... speaking of busy.

I finished the second round of edits on A Model Death and punted the manuscript back to my Grass Roots editor Pam. I imagine I'll be seeing it one more time before we call it a wrap. I also received the four cover designs yesterday - one of my favourite moments of the process. You'll have to wait a bit longer though for the unveiling.

The trip to Kingston last weekend gave me some good locations as I frame out the plot for the fourth Stonechild and Rouleau. It was great to be touring around the city on a cool and rainy October day - just the setting I pictured for the opening chapters. Can you picture finding a body in the photo below?  Ted gamely drove me all over the place while I took photos and described what I was after. He did, however, refuse to get out of the car to check out locations up close.....not quite sure why :-)
But he did agree to join me for a beer at the Merchant pub on Princess Street. My cops make this their after work meeting place, so of course, we had to check it out. I think we checked it out the last time we went on a location search too. Just suffering for my art.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

On Location

Nice to wake up to the rain pattering on the roof this morning.Been a while since we had a rainy weekend. Regardless, Ted and I will spend a bit of time this weekend scouting some locations for the manuscript that I'm working on - I need to find a park or wooded area in Kingston for my latest body find. The story is set this time of year too, so I'll take lots of photos to keep the mood during the long winter days when I'm trying to conjure up autumn.

I received Pam's (my Grass Roots Publishing editor) edits for A Model Death (4th Anna Sweet mystery) and spent last weekend going through them. She has such a good eye and sure knows how to tighten up a story, especially since these have to be written for adult learners. I'm always delighted to have my adult content encouraged - by this I mean, I can have my characters drinking Scotch, commiting adultery and murder - no problem. I was asked when I started the series to include humour geared toward the adult audience, so these books might be written in a simpler language, but I am not writing down to anybody. I love that.

Anyhow, I returned the manuscript with my initial rewrites and comments and it has bounced back for me to tackle the remaining issues. I started going through the first chapters last night, but my work week was busy and I started curling two nights a week and exhaustion took over by eight o'clock. I have to say that I envy those authors who can get up in the morning and spend six hours a day writing when they are fresh and newly caffeinated. I have to wait for my second wind and often find myself at the keyboard at nine at night - later on weekends.

So, almost through the first week of October. Ted and I are married thirty-one years on Wednesday. After all these years together, there's still nobody else I'd rather troop around autumn woods with looking for a place to dump a body. I guess they call this undying love ....

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Little Catch Up

Just when you thought it was time to dryclean the winter coat, summer returns....and I am not complaining. Dusted off some shorts this morning as I get dressed to go curl my first game of the year this morning. Feeling a little like I have my feet in two seasons.

A Model Death has returned from the editor with her edits that I need to look at over the weekend. I have some other house-keeping to do - send in a bio for the October 15 event at Grounded Cafe, get caught up on some paperwork, find some past reviews for my Good Reads publisher - nothing overly pressing, but stuff that needs doing.

And, my exciting news this week is that I've hired an American publicist to promote Butterfly Kills. She's going to work on getting it reviewed in American publications and newspapers, so would be wonderful to get some U.S. press.

I'm going to carve out some time this week to work on my latest manuscript, now just over 3000 words. Time is getting to be hard to find as October looks like a mighty busy month already. My daytimer is already chock full.

Speaking of which, time to find my curling broom and head to the club. I'll be back at my computer this afternoon with sore legs I expect from getting down in the hack and sliding. Still, nice to get out there and throw some rocks even if I should be outside cleaning up the garden.

Enjoy the day, everyone.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Keeping Busy

Have you noticed lately how fast the weeks speed by? I'm not ready for autumn...pretty sure we missed a chunk of summer. All of a sudden, it's dark when I get up for work in the morning - it was just a few weeks ago that I was putting on my sunglasses before heading out to catch the bus at quarter to seven. Soon I'll need a flashlight.

I was thinking this week how great it is to get unexpected e-mails from people - some friends and some strangers - who've read one of my books and have taken the time to let me know what they thought. Some insights and some touching remarks. I appreciate every one.

I've been writing this week, getting back into the mindset of writing in my spare minutes. I'm still very much on the opening few chapters of this new story and working ideas around in my head. It's taking that germ of an idea and working scenarios. I think I'm getting the engine into gear.

I heard from Pam, my Grass Roots editor. She's giving the just submitted manuscript a going over and will send her suggestions to me soon. I think the title has been accepted so will share it. The fourth Anna Sweet is called A Model Death. And yes, that is a double entendre I've got going on there. Pam sent some very positive feedback about the storyline as did the publisher so this one should work.

I've been in contact with an American publicist who has offered to take on Butterfly Kills. I saw her on a panel in Monterey in th spring and liked what she had to say about marketing. My publisher sent an arc of the manuscript to her and she read it before saying she would like to work with me. This could get me some publicity in the U.S. book market - not cheap though. Ted says to go for it. So, I'll let you know how this progresses!

I have two very different events coming up in October. Wednesday, October 15, I'll be taking part in an Ottawa International Writers Festival - an interview and reading at the Grounded Coffeehouse and Kitchen, 100 Gloucester Street.  I'll be appearing with Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin with Mike Martin as our interviewer. The evening runs from 6:30 to 9:30 and will be open to the public.

Then Saturday, October 25, I'll be part of the Ottawa Public Library Kids' Lit Cafe at the Greensboro Branch - I'll be talking to a group of teens about writing. I always enjoy that!

So, another busy Saturday. Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Week in the Writing Life

Lots of stuff going on behind the scenes this past week - both in event planning and in my old noggin.

I've been tinkering with the opening chapter for the fourth in the Stonechild and Rouleau series and have something I'm happy with. However, the scenario has me pondering motives and clues and who will be in the second scene. Isn't it Winnie the Pooh who says, "Think, think, think."? Well, I've been doing lots of I organize the plot and characters in my head. Now it's time to get the show on the road and get down to some writing.

Thinking might be the harder of the two...

The growing collection :-)

I attended the first Capital Crime Writers' meeting on Wednesday evening and what an interesting talk on guns and street gangs in Ottawa by A/Sergeant Ken Bryden. Interesting and unsettling -- I was nervous to go into the parking garage to find my car afterwards. I'm not sure when or how, but I'm certain that the information I gleaned from his talk will end up in a future book. I've gotten lots of fodder over the years from the excellent guest speakers at CCW meetings. In fact, In Winter's Grip was inspired by a Carleton University psychologist who spoke about psychopaths and narcissists at a meeting several years ago. So, inspiration can come from any quarter.

The signed contract for the third Stonechild and Rouleau came in the mail this week. I'm told that the publisher wants the editing to start soon. I haven't got a publication date but will be sent the time table shortly I expect. Butterfly Kills, the second Stonechild and Rouleau, will be released January 31, 2015, and I now have an Ottawa launch date to share. I've booked Whispers Pub for Sunday, February 8 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. A bit early to start promoting, but please mark your calendars - promises to be a party!

I'm also in contact with the Moose Jaw Literacy Network as we organize a reading in February.

Yes, Moose Jaw in February.

I'll conclude with a book recommendation. I've been reading Jakob Melander's Copenhagen police procedural The House that Jack Built. Excellent writing and a gripping storyline. I'm half way through and keen to keep reading. I saw Jakob read from his book at the Ottawa Public Library earlier in the year and bought the book - making for a good fall read.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Sweet Start to September

Anna Sweet number three has arrived!

My publisher Pat Campbell says that this is her favourite in the series so far. I can't comment since that would be like picking amongst my children. However, I do think this is a good little read. Already, my dedicated readers are asking to buy copies.-- thanks so much to everyone. The books can be downloaded from Amazon or you can order directly from Grassroots Press. For those working in adult literacy, free chapter questions are downloads from the publisher site (also written by me!)

I finished the fourth Anna Sweet last week and submitted to Pat. She sent very positive feedback a few days later and has sent it to the editor. I'm not sure when A Model Death will be released, but the process has begun. I imagine I'll be receiving cover design images for my opinion in the near future. Such fun.

I've taken a week break from writing although I had an event in Perth last Saturday. After a great supper with Ted and friends at Bistro 54 (highly recommend), Tom Curran and I read from our books before the Classic Theatre's production, Dial M for Murder. I went first and read from Cold Mourning - rather cool to be standing on stage in the middle of the set, which you can see in the photos. My reading was well received and several copies sold at intermission. The play was great too!

Even though I've been 'on a break' from writing this week, I've been plotting my next Stonechild and Rouleau and got so far as to write an opening paragraph. I'm eager to get started again and will be putting some time into the opening chapter this week.

The engine has recharged and I'm raring to get back at it :-)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Feet Up, Popping a Cold One

Kicking back, hands behind head and feet on desk.

I submitted the fourth Anna Sweet manuscript to Grass Roots Press early last week, and currently have NO writing projects on the go.

Yes, I am on holiday.

Except for the nail-biting part, waiting for Dundurn and Grass Roots publishers to critique the two manuscripts that I submitted this summer. Tim Wynne-Jones as keynote speaker at a Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner a few years ago read from his fake 'diary' where he chronicled sending in a manuscript and getting more and more paranoid the longer his publisher didn't give feedback. He went from believing the book was the next Pulitzer prize winner to knowing he should hang up his pen. The thing is, Tim nailed the author insecurity. Every time someone looks at our work, we hold our breath. I imagine even the established, best-selling authors have the same self-doubt at their core.

I've got a gig on this evening in Perth. Thomas Curran and I will be reading from our work before the Classic Theatre Festival puts on Dial M for Murder, an old Hitchcock classic. I'll read a few snippets from Cold Mourning and this is actually the first time I'm doing a reading from this book. Wish me luck - maybe, that break a leg thing.

I still haven't received my copies of To Keep a Secret (3rd Anna Sweet) but hear that the books are on their way. So, sometime next week, I'll have the book in my hands. I like the cover and am rather fond of the story too. Anna Sweet is someone I'd like to have as a friend, or at the very least, trying to keep me out of jail.


Capital Crime Writers is gearing up for the first fall meeting on Wednesday, September 10. Meetings take place in Ottawa City Hall in the Honeywell Room from 7-9 p.m. The cost is a measly $30 a year and for this fee, you get to hear fascinating guest speakers speak about their fields of expertise and there are a few parties along the way. This month's speaker is Acting Staff Sergeant Ken Bryden from the Ottawa force, and he'll be talking about the guns and gangs situation in our city. New members are always welcome so come join the group if you have an interest.

Back to school underway for all the kids on Tuesday after we all enjoy the long weekend. Curling starts for the competitive teams this week too, and I have two daughters on the competitive trail. This promises to be a busy and exciting fall, following their tournaments online and in person. I'm also on two club-level teams and that starts up in another month.

I don't know how long I'll last before I start on my next manuscript, but imagine we won't be far into September. Already, I'm plotting in my head - soon my fingers are going to find their way back to the keyboard.

But for this week, I'm on holiday :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stuff Coming Up

So close to finishing the manuscript that I'm working on, yet so far. I'm trying to wrap up with a twist ending, but am having difficulty figuring out how Anna Sweet is going to expose the real killer. This has been keeping me up nights. I've started on a scenario that I might have to scrap, but I'll give it a bit more time today and tomorrow.  Hopefully, the pieces are going to come together.

To Keep a Secret is now up on the Grass Roots Press site and available for order. The books were being bound this week and my copies should arrive next week. The books are fun little reads if you've got a few hours to while away. I've set them in my neighbourhood a nd all around Ottawa, which is also rather fun.

I'm off to Perth next Saturday for the Capital Crime Writers/ Classic Theatre Festival event - Tom Curran and I will do brief readings before the play Dial M for Murder., which I've heard through the grapevine is a terrific performance.  I have a few other events coming up and will have to update my website - one in Toronto and the others in Ottawa.

And the advance reviews for Butterfly Kills continue to be very good. In addition, I've gotten feedback from several people this past week who finished reading Cold Mourning. I really enjoy getting this feedback - hearing how the book kept someone up into the night, turning pages. You make me want to keep writing.

I know we say this all the time, but it is hard to believe summer is almost over. Next week is the Labour Day long weekend and kids will be heading back to school. Capital Crime Writers will be having its first meeting of the season on Wednesday, September 10 (7-9 p.m.) in the Honeywell Room at Ottawa City Hall and the speaker is Acting Staff Sergeant Ken Bryden - he'll be talking about street gangs in the city so should be a most interesting and informative session. New members are welcome at a cost of $30 for the year. For more information, check out CCW's Facebook page.

So, time to get down to work and finish up this manuscript. It will be nice to then take a short break before starting the fourth Stonechild and Rouleau. I have an idea brewing and am itching to get started. Looks like the writing bug hasn't been worked out of my system yet...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where's the Heat?

We've had a couple of fall-like days this week to remind us what is around the corner. The back to school sales promotions are gearing up in tandem - not sure I'm ready to give up hot, lazy summer days just yet. (Wasn't summer a lot longer when we were kids?)

Closing in on 9000 words on my latest Anna Sweet manuscript and hoping to get the first draft closer to completion by the end of this weekend. The third in the series To Keep a Secret should be out in a few weeks.

Book publishing is like movies in that you might finish the book or movie a year or two before it comes out. By then, you've moved on to another project, sometimes more than one. My first book Running Scared was accepted by Napolean Publishing about three years after I wrote it. The first opening in their publishing schedule was two years later! There's a reason most authors have another job.

I walked to Perfect Books on Elgin yesterday at lunchtime as a couple of colleagues asked for copies of my books. I was happy to discover that the store is getting ready to place another order since the books have been selling well. In fact, I picked up the last copy of In Winter's Grip from the shelf. The owner would like me to do another signing in February once Butterfly Kills is released. If you get down to Elgin Street, be sure to drop into this great little shop.

I'm going to organize a few other book events around the release of Butterfly Kills and am mulling over ideas for a launch - the release date is January 31, 2015, so not the best time of year for an event. I say that because curling is in full swing and we're already booked to go to Moose Jaw to watch our daughter in the Scotties in mid-February. However, I can also have my publicist see about a signing in Moose Jaw - I understand the town has a great bookstore, which looks to be close to where we'll be staying. Yeah, Moose Jaw in February. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but oh so much fun.

Not much new to report in this writer's life this week. I see a few more good advance reviews posted for Butterfly Kills. Other than this, I'm trying to plug away on the manuscript. Like the weather, I'm finding it hard to get things cooking. It's supposed to return to summer warmth tomorrow so hopefully my fingers will heat up on the keyboard too.

Enjoy the last half of August, everyone.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Summer Lull

I made good progress on my Anna Sweet manuscript during the last week of my holidays. Back at work this week, the writing has slowed, but partly because I had to work out the whodunnit part of the crime, including the motive. Now, I feel that I'm ready to move forward. I like the set up of the story - now at 6500 words and aiming for 14000. These are considered novellas and so much quicker to write. I'm planning to have this one written by the end of August.

The first advance reviews for Butterly Kills have been excellent. Heart-warming even. And most happily, they have not given any spoilers. Here is one review by the blogger who also posted the comment below to Twitter (from your keyboard to God's ears).

The bad news is that you have to wait until January 31, 2015, for the Butterfly Kills release, but as we all know, time has a way of moving right along. Already the summer days are taking on that feeling of autumn in the evenings with the sun lower in the sky by eight-thirty. But still a few weeks of summer weather left to enjoy before we pull out the sweaters.

You can follow along with other advance reviews on Goodreads. If you aren't a member of this site, it's free and easy to join and a great place to check out reader reviews of books in all genres. You can also write your own reviews and keep track of the books you've read or plan to read.

I've been reading an interesting book on my iPad this week entitled Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller. The Guardian named this one of the best mysteries in 2013. The plot is centred around an 82 year old American man who has moved to Norway to live with his granddaughter and her husband. The grandfather is witness to a woman's murder and is now on the run with her seven year old son, in a foreign country where he doesn't speak the language. The premise intrigued me and the book has been a good read so far. Perhaps another book to add to your summer reading list!

Well, we've got a gorgeous day going on just outside my office window. Time to have another cup of coffee before I run my errands and work in the garden for an hour. Then, down to work on the manuscript although on days such as today, I find myself working later in the day and into the evening. Speaking of which, tonight the super moon will once again grace the skies. Apparently, the best time to view it will be four a.m. Sunday morning. A sight not to be missed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Turning the Corner into August

My last week of holidays and I'm in writing mode. I've begun the fourth Anna Sweet mystery for Grass Roots Press and have been knocking off a thousand words a day as I get the opening firmed up and the plot underway. I'm not one hundred percent certain where this storyline is heading so have to allow for thinking time. So far, so good.

I was invited to my first book club earlier in the spring and it took place on Thursday night at a home off Main Street in Ottawa south. This group of about ten women host a local author every July and tell me they've been doing so for the past eight years. They are a welcoming, comfortable group - all had read Cold Mourning and they had questions ready. So for two hours, armed with a glass of wine and a table full of tasty food, we discussed the book, getting published and the writing industry. A lovely way to spend a summer evening.

I usually have a book that I'm reading on the go, sometimes two or three. I've heard authors say that they can't read a mystery while they're writing one because it impacts on their own manuscript. Happily, I haven't found this to be a problem. This past week I read Ann Cleeves' book Raven Black, first in a series set in the rugged Shetland Islands and introducing Detective Jimmy Perez. The setting, character development and plot are seamless and riveting. I highly recommend this fabulous read for your summer book list.

And now, back to the keyboard and another morning spent with Anna Sweet. She's a PI with a office in Hintonburg (boro in Ottawa) who roams around the city neighbourhoods in search of killers - very fun to have her in establishments that I frequent in my Westboro and Wellington West hoods. These novellas are great fun to write. My neighbour across the street read The Hard Fall, second in the series, yesterday and said, "What a great little book. Amazingly interesting for such a short read."

Mission accomplished :-)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happiness in July

Well, we've had quite a week. The Saturday wedding of my daughter Lisa to Robin was fairy tale perfect. The ceremony was held outside at the Marshes golf club with dinner and dancing inside - a most lovely setting. Below are a couple of pictures as promised.

On my writing front, I managed to do a read-through and edit of the manuscript I've been working on the past year - the third Stonechild and Rouleau, tentatively titled Tumbled Graves. This coincided with the contract arriving in the mail late this week. I also spent time updating my expenses (ahead of tax season) so this bit of housekeeping felt good. Now, I'm ready to start on the fourth Anna Sweet mystery. The publisher tells me that the third is at the printer's and I'll be receiving the galley soon.

As I type this update on my iPad, I am looking out at my sister's garden in Thunder Bay and a glimpse of Lake Superior on the horizon. I flew in yesterday for the weekend and it's looking like a warm, sunny day ahead. Coffee is brewing and we have some catching up to do.

But for now, the photos as promised.  Good day everyone.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Celebration Day

Not a long post this morning as we are in the midst of wedding day preparations - yes, today my daughter Lisa gets married! We've had a busy week with lots of family and friends flying in from as far away as England with dinners and parties leading up to today. A very exciting time.

Lisa before the wedding rehearsal, July 18

We were actually at the wedding of one of Lisa's childhood friends this past Saturday and exiting the hall at going on midnight, I took this picture of the super moon and must say that the photo is suitably mysterious.

My first week of holidays, and I spent the first three week days editing my latest manuscript and pulling the plot together. This is a complicated one to get just right and I'll be spending next week working on it as well. That should leave me a week to get started on the Anna Sweet mystery due in the fall.

I also just received an invitation to appear on a mystery authors' panel at the Toronto International Book Festival in November, so I'm most excited about this opportunity. What's most cool is that the organizers contacted my publisher to invite me!

And finally, this week, the first advance review for Butterfly Kills from a book blogger appeared on Goodreads and it was just lovely. A nice way to start on the feedback.

So, I'm off to get ready for the wedding day - I should have a picture or two for next week's blog.

Wishing much happiness and fun to Lisa and Robin on their beautiful day.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer Underway

Good news to report this week. Dundurn had a look at the first chapters and synopsis for the manuscript that I am working on now, the third in the Stonechild and Rouleau series, and gave it the thumbs up. I also completed the first draft last evening. Now, I have to give the entire thing a read through to fix up some of the details. The ending took a slightly different twist than what I'd planned. This turned out to be a tough plot to pull together.

I also  managed to complete some questions for the third Anna Sweet mystery and submitted them to the Grass Roots Press publisher. She tells me that To Keep A Secret is at the printer's - due out in September. My next project is to write the fourth book in the series, due in September.

Luckily, I am now on three weeks holiday from work.


And this will be an exciting week culminating in our daughter Lisa's wedding next Saturday. I might have a picture or two for next week's blog, or maybe the week after. I guess I'll be a bit busy next Saturday. We have lots of celebrating to do.

One last bit of writing news on my projects - the Butterfly Kills advance reading copy is being finalized and the manuscript was posted on NetGalley. Professional readers who write advance reviews can upload it. You might have noticed that Cold Mourning was issued in six parts before it came out as a complete book. This was an experiment from the publisher and  based on feedback, won't be done for the rest of my books. I personally didn't like the format, but can appreciate trying to be innovative in marketing. I think like the majority of readers, I'd rather get the entire book at one go.

We had sad news in the mystry writing community yesterday. One of my fellow Dundurn and Orca authors Lou Allin died of pancreatic cancer. I met Lou at an Arthur Ellis dinner in Toronto several years ago and we'd meet up at different conferences over the years. She was a friendly, warm person, always with a wide smile. I was very lucky to be on a panel with Lou at Bloody Words last month - she'd made the trek from B.C. even though she was very ill. I know everyone recognized the strength this took. She will be greatly missed.

(L to r) Caro Soles, Mary Jane Maffini, me, Lou Allin and Kate Jaimet
Bloody Words, June 2014

So, first day of vacation and it's a beautiful morning. Time for another cup of coffee, then a bike ride and swim. I'll settle into the manuscript re-read this afternoon but anticipate this taking a few days. Maybe, I'll have to bring my laptop outside and find a sunny spot to put my feet up. Luckily, I have a new deck in the backyard that should do the trick.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Into July Heat

I received this emblem in my e-mail last week for My Sister's Keeper being shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis novella of the year. I like the design. Winners receive an actual wooden hangman with movable parts as depicted below.

The third in the Anna Sweet series will be out in September, which seemed like a long way away when I finished with the edits in October, believe it or not  - almost a year before publication. I'm currently writing questions and answers for To Keep a Secret to coincide with its release. It's odd to be going back through the book after not having worked on it for so long.

I'm also plugging away on my latest Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript and am now at 82,000 words and heading toward the climax and ending chapters. I hope to be nearly done, if not done, by the end of this weekend. Then, I'll give the entire manuscript a read through and edit before submitting to Dundurn.

I do a lot of editing and rewriting as I go so the manuscript is usually in not bad shape by the time I finish the first draft. I know other authors who chunk the whole thing down in one go without editing, but I find that I can't work that way. I need to have a chapter fully formed and tidy before I move on to the next. The rereading and editing is the time when I plot the next chapter in my head. Working full time means I'm not able to work on a manuscript in a scheduled way and stretches out the writing. This means I forget details and have to catch plot inconsistences later when I look at the finished manuscript as a whole. A bit pain-staking sometimes, but such is life.

I've just been lined up to do an event in Perth on August 30. Capital Crime Writers is partnering with the Classic Theatre Festival to have two of our authors do short readings and have books for sale before the show on three separate Saturdays. The production this year is Dial M for Murder so suitable subject matter for crime writers. Alfred Hitchcok made the play into a movie with Grace Kelly and Ray Milland in 1954. Ted and I have decided to make a weekend of it and will stay overnight in Perth at a B & B. Could be a nice getaway for you too, Ottawa friends :-)

And another glorious weekend here in Ottawa. I'll be typing with the door and windows open and will take lots of breaks to go outside and enjoy the day. The weekends are never long enough to do all the things I would like to, but I will soon be on a three-week vacation with time to stretch out. Ahh summer.

So much to do, so little time.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Canada Day Weekend in Ottawa

We are having a fabulous stretch of weather, I have to say. Aside from twenty-four hours of torrential rain on Tuesday, sun, heat and low humidex have been the order of the day. It is going to start getting sticky today but I'll spend a lot of the weekend inside with the air conditioning writing so no problem here.

My editor at Dundurn and the acquisitions editor have been getting ready to pitch my third Stonechild and Rouleau to the editorial committee to see if they will publish it. This involved me writing a detailed chapter-by-chaper outline and a two-page synopsis and sending along the opening chapters, which I had to give an edit before submitting. So this has taken away from my work on the manuscript but has also been beneficial as I review the plot and get a bird's eye view of the storyline and characters. I'm now writing the section leading into the climax of the book and am aiming to have this close to complete by Canada Day. Almost at the finish line . . . . Of course, then comes the editing and fact checking to make sure all my clues add up.

I've been invited to some book events in the upcoming months. At the end of July, I'll be visiting my first book club to talk about Cold Mourning and the series. Capital Crime Writers is lining up some author Saturdays in Perth in August. The Ottawa Public Library asked me to take part in a Kids Lit Cafe on October 25 to talk about Second Chances and meet some readers. I'm done going to book conferences for this year but will look at a few next year with the release of Butterfly Kills. I have an invitation to some libraries in Florida along with Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin in the spring, but have to wait to see if this firms up. I'm also lining up to go to Malice Domestic, which takes place around Washington in May, I believe.

But, for now, we are focusing on our daughter's wedding, which is three weeks from today. The shower went beautifully last Saturday with perfect weather and Ted's completed deck. Here's a view from the steps as the party got underway.

And my beautiful daughters, Lisa and Julia.
The moments in life that you need to step back and celebrate.
Later today, after I get in my day's writing, Ted and I will wander into Westboro Village for supper and perhaps gelato. We might find a pub playing music and linger a while longer. This is the Canada Day weekend so lots is going on in the city. Time to get this summer party started!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Stars Align

A busy fun day ahead as my youngest daughter Julia and I prepare to host a wedding shower for my oldest daughter Lisa. We've had our fingers crossed all week for good weather today and the luck is with us - 23 degrees C, sunny and no humidity. We'll be setting up in the backyard and making good use of Ted's new deck. He's been working at this project non-stop for days so a gift really to have it ready for the party.

I've been incredibly busy with writing and writing tasks. I spent several hours drafting a synopsis for the third Stonechild and Rouleau (the manuscript I'm currently working on) and submitted it to Dundurn along with the first chapters on Tuesday, which I also spent time editing.

Thursday was a lunchtime signing at Perfect Books, which is a brisk walk from my office.  Patrick Walton, colleague and friend, came along and shot some photos for me to post. So here are a few:

If you are in downtown Ottawa, be sure to drop in this lovely store (Elgin and Somerset), which has a marvellous selection of books, including a very good mystery section, and a staff that knows its books and can recommend or special order. I'm going to head back to pick up some books, just as soon as I make headway on my current reading pile.

Pat, Grass Roots Press publisher, has asked me to write some chapter questions for adult learners to go with To Keep A Secret, third in the Anna Sweet series and coming out in September. I have until the end of July. A fourth manuscript for this series is due in the fall so my projects are starting to line up.
But today is a beautiful day and it's time to celebrate the summer solstice, the first day of summer and, of course, our daughter's upcoming wedding.
Life is good :-)