Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015: A Year to Remember

Happy Boxing Day everyone! I hope you are enjoying the holidays with lots of family, friends and good food. We were a balmy 17 degrees C on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day reached about 8 degrees so a bit topsy turvy here in Ottawa.

Dundurn has been running a Goodreads giveaway for three copies of Tumbled Graves and the last day to enter is today. You can also read the 10 or so reviews from bloggers who received an advance copy. If you are not a member of Goodreads, it is free to join and a great place to read and post reviews, sign up for giveaways and follow your favourite authors.

My writing fell by the wayside this week, understandably so. In addition to my day job downtown, I was baking and wrapping gifts, putting up the tree and shopping, getting ready to host two big meals. My friend who came for Christmas dinner yesterday with her family calls today 'Special Sleepy Day' - a day to lay around and recover from all the work getting Christmas ready, eating, drinking and other festivities. I think this should become an official mandated holiday, rolled into the current Boxing Day, and one that I'm ready to adopt.

So, before I sign off and go put my feet up while drinking a cup of tea, here are some pictures of book moments from 2015. 
Butterfly Kills launched in February at Whispers Pub
I made the road trip to Malice Domestic outside Washington with Mary Jane Maffini, Linda Wiken and Vicki Delany. We stopped for an author event at Mystery Books in Mechanicsburg on the way home.
Barbara Fradkin and I received nominations for crime novel of the year at an Arthur Ellis shortlist event in April held at Chapters Rideau.
I attended the Arthur Ellis awards banquet in Toronto with Julia, Ted and Dawn in May.
Lots of summer signings and events - at Prose in the Park in June.
Indigo Barrhaven signing also in June.
Guest author with Peggy Blair at the play Wait Until Dark in Perth in August.
And in September, I was guest author at a literacy event in Cumberland.

It has been a busy and exciting year and I look forward to the adventure continuing in 2016. Happy New Year and I wish you all happiness and fulfillment in 2016. Keep reaching for the stars.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Best of the Season

Surprisingly, we got a coating of snow overnight--the first real snow of the year in Ottawa. A few years ago, it snowed on Hallowe'en and didn't disappear until April. Now, that felt like a long winter.

I love these weeks leading up to Christmas, snow or no snow. I notice that a lot of people in my neighborhood have put up outdoor lights this year, like bits of hope and, warmth in the darkness, or that's how it feels to me. The lights, candles and fire in the fireplace are my favorite part of the holidays. Well these and all the get-togethers with family and friends with lots of homemade meals and wine. This year, both my daughters will be home along with Lisa's husband Robin and Julia's dog George. The tree goes up today and I've already started baking. These are the times to cherish.

Writing is coming along great guns. I'm rounding into the climax of the novella, and after some 'what the heck was I thinking', the plot bits appear to be coming together. I'm still trying to make the big scene appear plausible and think I've come up with a scenario that works. I should have it written by next weekend if time allows. My problem is that I have to wrap it up soon or I'll go over my word count. My publisher wants these books to be around 12,000 words and I tend to hit closer to 16,000. I'm currently near 11,000 words so cutting it close :-)

I had a nice surprise this week. I follow Ottawa Magazine, which updates stories daily on its website and is a great place to find out what's going on in the city. They were running an advent calendar giveaway with a new prize every day leading up to Christmas. I entered for some of the days with no expectations and ended up winning a beautiful necklace from Davidson's Jewellers-- the day thirteen prize. This has to be the nicest thing I have ever won!

Well, I know you are probably very busy today and won't keep you much longer except to wish you a wonderful holiday season, celebrated in a way that brings you peace and joy. May the magic of the season find you and the glow of all the Christmas lights embrace and delight you.

George sends a merry woof.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Season of GIving....and Welcoming

Another green week in Ottawa - some rain, glimmers of sunshine, no snow. Christmas is now less than two weeks away and the decorations look oddly out of place without a snowy backdrop. Santa is beginning to look over-dressed.

I've hit 10,000 words on the latest manuscript. I just ran off a hard copy and am doing an edit and review before heading into the climax and resolution. This also gives me a chance to make sure the character with blue eyes still has blue eyes four chapters later. I have time to reread the other Anna Sweet novellas to make certain everything lines up there too. You'd be amazed how easily the details can be forgotten over the course of a book or series. My Grass Roots Press editor keeps a chart and she's excellent at pointing out discrepancies. I promise myself that I'll be that organized, but man, it's hard to put in the time after spending so many hours writing and editing.

I'm quiet on the publicity front leading up to Christmas. Dundurn is working on bookmarks and a launch invitation for Tumbled Graves. third in the Stonechild and Rouleau series. The launch is booked for Sunday afternoon on April 3 and Books on Beechwood will again be the bookseller. Mark the date!

Like everyone else in Canada, I watched the first Syrian refugees arrive on television broadcasts. I try to imagine what they've lived through and how it must feel to uproot your entire family to move to a new home where you don't speak the language. They have been labelled 'refugees' but I think we have to be careful to let them outside this box. These are fathers, mothers, friends, individuals who once had full and happy lives in Syria before the fighting started. They've seen horror and suffered beyond what anyone should ever go through. I despair of what people will do to each other, but I am conversely encouraged by the compassion of Canadians and those in other countries who are welcoming these people in the time of their greatest need. Compassion cannot be overrated.

So, today I'm going to do my shopping, including a wander down to Westboro Village to check out some of the shops and to buy local. While malls have their place, I much prefer to support independent shops in my neighbourhood. This is where I find unique gifts while actually enjoying the experience. And this year, we get to roam from shop to shop in a virtual heat wave. Maybe, I'll run into you on my travels. I'll be the one sipping an egg nog late and humming Jingle Bells.

Have a great week everyone. The countdown to Christmas is officially on :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Finding the Spirit

Christmas season is here and I have to say that I enjoy the lead up to December 25th as much or more so than the actual holiday. I've got my cards in the mail and the turkey ordered, most of my gifts bought or in my sights and I'm working on a menu. And the parties and get togethers start tonight. Not even the five degree temperature and absence of snow have put a damper on this winter joie de vivre. To really put me in the mood, I walked to the Chateau Laurier on my lunch hour to wander around their lobby - they have a display of about ten decorated trees by different organizations. Tea in the restaurant would make a nice outing for those who have the time to linger.

Last week's taping at Cable 22 was great fun. The show will run in January and is entitled Ellie's Read on Ottawa. Barb Fradkin, Mike Martin and I will be Ellie's guests on her inaugural show, so that is pretty special. We sat at a round table with cameras pointed at each of us during the filming. It was easy to forget they were there if you avoided looking at them, which I did for the most part. We had a good discussion about the mystery genre and I'm looking forward to seeing the show.

 In the green room before the taping with host Ellie Potvin.

I wish that I could say I've been writing steadily, although I managed a thousand words over the week. I spent last evening working out the plot in my head and I'm not sure I've got it down yet. I'm hopeful that the plot will work itself out once I start writing.

I live in hope.

This Wednesday evening is Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner with Barbara Fradkin as the guest speaker. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and an evening discussing crime writing. I find that meeting up with other authors is invigorating and motivates me to keep writing. This is a busy time of year, but great fun if you can relax and take everything in stride. It's a time to get in some socializing before we settle into the heart of winter.

Enjoy the week, everyone.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

That's a Wrap

Good morning. The last weekend of November and the weather can't decide if it should be raining or snowing. Perfect weather for staying inside and writing. I hope to get some writing time in later today.

I'm off to Cable 22 this morning to tape a literary show with Barbara Fradkin, Mike Martin and show host Elizabeth Potvin. We've received a few advance questions, but the conversation could go in unexpected directions. I haven't got the details about when the show will run, but I'll post when I know. I love shows about books and authors so this should be great fun.

My fellow crime writer R.J. Harlick, whose latest Meg Harris mystery A Cold White Fear has just hit the shelves, invited me to guest blog on Criminal Minds blogspot. I received a question in advance: Where do you set your novels and why? You can check out my response.

Writing has been coming along but not as quickly as I would like. I'm at about 8000 words and the bones of the story have been presented. I've just added a twist to the plot and am slowly revealing its impact, which will help pave the way to the conclusion. I have a few more twists up my sleeve before all is said and done. Wahaha

Finally, Tumbled Graves, third in the Stonechild and Rouleau series and due out in February 2016, has been getting great reviews by bloggers who read advance copies. You can read them on Goodreads and advance order copies from booksellers as well as the first two in the series.

Now, I have to decide what to wear to the taping and try to make myself look presentable. Remember that the camera puts on ten pounds and I'm really a svelte and slender. I'm pretty sure the camera adds ten years too.

(Who says authors aren't good at making stuff up?)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Little Catch Up

Just a little chat this morning. I slept ten hours last night (not including the hour of snoozing in my chair in front of the TV), got up and had two cups of coffee before biking sixteen miles and pumping a little iron - if five pound weights are considered iron. A shower and I am ready for the day.

I was remembering the days back in high school, university, twenties, when sleeping through a Friday night would have been a social failure. Now, it feels like something to aspire to.

The current manuscript that I'm working on is set in a grey, wet November so I'm getting lots of real-time experience as I add the elements of time and place. My two least favourite months have to be this one and February although this year, I'm offsetting cold grey February with a trip to Phoenix to attend Left Coast Crime. My flight is booked and I'll be south for part of five days. These conferences are a terrific way to see another part of the country and to meet authors and hear about their work - a respite from real life. You might consider Bouchercon in Toronto in 2017. Keep an eye on the website to see the author lineup and book early to get a discounted hotel room. Boucheron normally draws 1000-1500 people, including some of the best-selling authors writing in the crime/mystery genre.

The week ahead. I'll be guest blogging on the Criminal Minds blog on November 25th and am working up a piece based on the question R.J. Harlick sent along a few days ago. A great blog to check out - several crime-writers regularly post about writing and the industry.

On Saturday morning, I'll be going to the Cable 22 television studio to film a roundtable show with Barbara Fradkin and Mike Martin. I've been advised not to wear yellow, white or stripes so I got my bee outfit dry cleaned for no good reason it seems.

And, I'll be writing late this afternoon and into the evening if all goes as I plan. I have the next two chunks of the plot worked out in my head and am eager to get them down on paper. The story seems to be coming along well so far and I'm almost half-way through the novella. I'm about to enter the free fall part where I'm not too sure how all the little threads will come together. Easier to go back and fix stuff in these shorter books though.

Okay, enough chatter - time to clean up the kitchen, put on some laundry and get ready for a lunch date with a friend. The writing life is not all the glamour it's cracked up to be although the lunch bit is nice:-)

Have great week, everyone. Don't forget to put books on your gift-giving list - especially some cool Canadian crime!

Saturday, November 14, 2015


I attended the November Capital Crime Writers meeting on Wednesday evening where the guest speaker was an expert in extremism and terrorism. Yesterday's horrible attacks in Paris are another deadly event in a chain of incomprehensible violence. Today, the world grieves for the innocent lives lost and for those who mourn their loss.

I've had a quiet week. The latest manuscript is coming along and I'm starting to enjoy the story although I'm still unclear about the plot. A few of the characters that have appeared in the story are changing the direction. I've learned to let the various details percolate until the trail of clues come together and the mystery makes sense.

 I read an interview with Ian Rankin who said that he works much the same way - he starts with a theme and writes his first draft without even knowing whodunnit. The plot unfolds as he writes and the murderer reveals themself during the writing.  He said that a lot of crime writers whom he's spoken with work much the same way. This strategy seems in direct contradiction to the complicated trail of clues, suspects and motivations inherent in a crime novel, but the process works for many, including me! However, I start with a crime and know the culprit before I start writing the first draft. A lot of the in-between is a surprise and it can take a leap of faith to believe all will be worked out. One also needs a good editor to make sure nothing has been missed and that all ties in together and is logical.

Last post I mentioned taking part a Christmas craft sale with some other local authors, including Barb Fradkin. After some discussion, we decided to give it a pass this year. It is difficult to believe that Christmas is a mere six weeks away - I feel like I have to get busy. Shopping and meal-planning are now in my sights. I'll be writing when I have spare minutes, but this is getting into hectic season. It's also a time to see friends and family. Today, more than ever, spending time with those we hold dear is what counts the most.

I've had some lovely praise recently for the Stonechild and Rouleau series from many readers. Some send their thoughts be email and others tell me at events or in passing. Thank you to everyone for reading the books and for going out of your way to let me know they've brought enjoyment. I also appreciate the reviews on social media and book seller sites as well as recommendations to friends. Your support is invaluable. 

Well, time to get myself organized and on with the day.  I wish you a good weekend, everyone. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Lining up the Future

A week into November. We've had unusually warm weather for this time of year and winter still seems a ways off. I kinow this can change on a dime. Cue the ominous music.....

Writing went slowly this week. I typed in dribs and drabs and really need to spend bigger chunks of time at my desk. But other publicity stuff is going on behind the scenes.

Crime writer and good buddy Alex Brett came over last weekend and we booked flights to Left Coast Crime, which will be in Pheonix in February. This is the same conference that I went to a few years ago in Monterey. I left the snowy north to find not all the world was covered in frosty white. There are still lots of seats to Pheonix if you'd like to come along!

I've been invited to take part in a Canadian crime writer event at Poisoned Pen Bookstore on the Wednesday evening when we arrive in Pheonix, and hope to meet some Canadian snowbirds as well as American readers. There will also be a Canadian author event during the conference and panels - lots of fun and a chance to widen our readership. 

I also signed up to take part in the Beechwood Christmas Market on December 5th from noon to six. Barbara Fradkin and I will share a table - I'll post more information as it draws closer.

And I've got a date for the Tumbled Graves book launch - third in the Stonechild and Rouleau series. Save Sunday, April 3 from 2:00 to 4:00 at Whispers pub to come out to raise a glass and to buy a signed copy from Books on Beechwood. The early reader reviews are giving Tumbled Graves a big thumbs up and I'm excited to share it with Ottawa readers. 

Next up is the taping of a show for Cable 22 the weekend of Novemer 28. Time to stop eating to lose the 10 pounds the camera adds:-) 

Well Ottawa, let's hope this warm weather lasts another week. A girl can dream. 

Have another cup of coffee everyone, and let's get this gift of a day underway!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fish, Surf and Portuguese Wine

November arrives tomorrow, coinciding with the month I picked to set my next Anna Sweet installment. Such a grey, wet, cold time of year and a perfect backdrop for a crime to unfold. One aspect of mystery novels that I truly enjoy is the creation of mood - sitting in my reading chair with a cup of tea and the fire going and reading about characters walking the streets slick with rain and a wild wind blowing, or sitting in a warm pub or coffee shop with a winter storm raging. And with today being Hallowe'en, what better time to appreciate dark suspense and frissons of fear?

I surpassed my word count this week and am now over 4000 words. It's early days yet for the plot, but I'm circling the wagons and starting into the meat of the investigation. In these novellas, you have to get into the action quickly, but not make it seem that you're rushing. A fine balance.

I've go a few publicity pans in the fire but no public appearances in bleak November as of yet. It is a good time of year to hibernate so I'm happy to take a break :-)

Speaking of breaks from life, we've reached the last leg of our European tour in September...Portugal. We took the bus to Lagos in the Algarve area on the Atlantic coast. We lucked out with accommodations, landing in a two bedroom condo with a pool and five minutes down the cliff to the beach. The weather was still hot and sunny although evenings got cool the last few nights of our five night stay. There were two seafood restaurants on the beach and we went back to Antonio's (our favourite) for three suppers, climbing the steps home in the dark with a big old full moon shining down on us the last night.

On the walk to the beach. 

The fresh catch of the day. I requested they take the head off my sole before serving after the winter brought it to show me whole. Only sole I'd ever seen before was a filet with no way to look back at me.

Sunrise from our balcony. 

We spent a morning and afternoon in the nearby town of Lagos where I bought a hat.

We left our beach abode to catch the flight home from Lisbon. We were staying near the airport, but took a cab down to the ole section of the city for supper. We wished we had another day or two in Lisbon - so beautiful. 

We saw graffiti everywhere we went. You don't want to stay too long in one spot or this can happen!

Now, this is a well rested man!

What a great trip making wonderful memories with good friends. Until next time.....


Friday, October 23, 2015

Lots of Bull: Travels in Seville

A quiet week on the writing front. I managed to make some progress on chapter two of my latest manuscript and hope to carve out some time this weekend to get the plot moving.  I feel like I'm still in holiday mode and have to get myself back into gear. It will happen!

I'm enjoying reliving the September holiday, speaking of which, and today share some impressions of Seville, which is a few hours west of Granada. The most surprising thing on this leg of the trip was the non-stop rows of olive groves the entire way. 

Our VRBO in Seville was in the old quarter and a block away from the shops. We were in a Medieval building with a central courtyard open to the sky and a rooftop patio, common to Seville. It rained one night and we could hear the water splashing in the courtyard outside our bedroom window, but good drainage had it dry by morning. This style of building is from the Moorish occupation back in the day.

Up on the roof.
A view from the roof into the central courtyard.

I was very taken with Seville. We had a tapas bar at the end of our narrow street, where we ate supper the first night. Seville is famous for tapas and flamenco dancing - we also took in a show one evening.
A bit of a decor theme in the pub at the end of the street. Not the moose heads of my youth but similar taste.

Impressive dancing and clothing. 

And what trip to Seville would be complete without a visit to the Barber?

And some pics from our travels around Seville....

This is the church where Christopher Columbus is buried. If we'd had another day, we would have toured. Interesting that Ferdinand Magellan set out from Seville for his world tour. Seville is about 2200 years old. It's the hottest city in Europe with average temps around 35 degrees c and was still good and hot mid-September. 

And after three nights in beautiful Seville, we shut the door to our apartment and caught the bus to Portugal. Our last stop next week!