Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year That Was and the Year to Come

The last day of 2016. Looking back, this has been a good year for me on the writing front. Tumbled Graves, fourth in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series, was launched in early March while the fifth Anna Sweet novella No Trace was published in September.

At the Whispers Pub launch with Wendy Pell, Mona Simpson, Carol Gage and Nancy LeBrun

In February, I flew to Left Coast Crime in Phoenix with good friend Alex Brett and spent a great few days in the sun with fellow crime writers and readers. I was part of a book signing at the famous Poisoned Pen mystery bookstore and sat on a panel as part of the conference.
 Poisoned Pen Bookstore event
A morning at the Phoenix botanical gardens - Barb Fradkin, Alex Brett and me

I continued writing throughout the summer and fall, submitting the final draft manuscript for the fifth Stonechild book to Dundurn in early December. We also edited Shallow End (fourth in the series) and prepare for its release in early March 2017. Most exciting, I got word late summer that the first two books in the series, Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills would be made into audio books, and I was part of the process to pick the actress to read the books. I travelled to Toronto in late October to sit in on a recording session with voice actress Michelle St. John and sound technician Dan Harden. The audio books will be released early spring as well.

Michelle St. John
With Dan Harden and my Dundurn publicist Michelle Melski

And the events continued throughout the year. I was invited to two local book festivals: the Ottawa International Writers Festival in April and Prose in the Park in June. Both were great fun with terrific crime writers to share the stage.
Ottawa Writers Festival with Linwood Barclay and John Lawton above and Barb Fradkin and Joy Fielding below.
 (l to r)  Peter Kirby, Ian Hamilton, me, Dietrich Kalteis and John Farrow
At the Capital Crime Writers tent (Prose in the Park) with Linda Wiken, Tom Curran, Patricia Filteau, Joe Italiano and Madonna Skaff

Not to mention, all the signings and visits to book clubs and organizations as a guest author in 2016 ..

Chapters Gloucester in October
Manotick book club with Mary Jane Maffini hosted by Janet Claridge in September

It was indeed a busy writing year and 2017 promises to be even busier! Thank you for continuing to take this journey along with me - I feel that much stronger knowing you're out there. I begin the New Year with two book club visits in Ottawa and Cobourg, a trip to Toronto to the Ontario Library Association's annual conference, and the Shallow End and audiotape launch. I'll be visiting some bookstores as well for signings and hope to meet you along the way.

Happy New Year, everyone. I raise my glass with you at midnight and wish you much joy and good health in 2017.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Moments

Seasons Greetings, everyone! Christmas Eve and the start of Hanukkah this evening - lovely to have this time of celebration with family and friends, near and far. I love the Christmas lights on homes and trees, fires in the grate and candles on the mantel. This is the darkest stretch of the year with the sun descending soon after four o'clock in Ottawa so the lights are little beacons of hope to warm the night and bring some cheer.

So, we have the Christmas songs playing and I'm making final preparations for supper tonight and a turkey dinner tomorrow. The gifts are wrapped and the wine is cooling. It's time to relax and enjoy the anticipation.

As you take a moment to catch your breath and enjoy the afternoon, I thought I'd share a a few lines from poem I've always loved, written by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman around 1900.

A January Morning

The glittering roofs are still with frost; each worn
Black chimney builds into the quiet sky
Its curling pile to crumble silently,
Far out to westward on the edge of morn,
The slender misty city towers up-borne
Glimmer faint rose against the pallid blue;
And yonder on those northern hills, the hue
Of amethyst, hang fleeces dull as horn.

Such a beautiful image of winter. I sometimes used to think of this poem as I rode the bus early mornings to work in the downtown. There's a spot where we'd reach the top of a hill on Scott Street and the centre core of buildings would stretch into the sky with the Ottawa River and Gatineau Hills to the left. On the frosty winter mornings with the sun half-risen, the smoke from buildings would hang suspended in the violet-black sky. I'd feel this warmth inside that I recapture when I read this poem.

Christmas Eve is a time to stop and be moved by the beauty of the winter season, and so I wish each of you your own moments of peace, joy and warmth as you celebrate the holidays.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah and much happiness in 2017.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holiday Treasures

Another snowy, cold day in Ottawa but feels right as we celebrate Christmas tonight with our daughter Lisa, her husband Robin and three friends since Lisa and Robin will be out of town with his family next week. Bourbon ham slow cooked on the BBQ was the request with fruit crisp for dessert. We've got the fire in the grate ready to light and the wine cooling - should be a good evening all around. And of course, Christmas next week with our other daughter Julia!

I stopped shredding papers and began writing the sixth Anna Sweet novella. I'm still at the stage of working through the crime in my head and where I want this story to go, but I find it is always helpful to just sit down and begin typing. I'm half-way through the first chapter and tinkering at this stage. I'm ahead of schedule and have time to experiment :-)

A few events are lining up for the new year. January 22, I visit the Reader Mortis book club (what a great name!) The Russell Public Library received a grant to have me in on International Book Day (April 24) for a reading and chat. I'll also be going to the Ontario Library Association annual conference in Toronto in early February and plans are in the works for me to visit a mystery book club in Cobourg that same trip. Not to mention, I have to plan an Ottawa launch of Shallow End and the audio books, so lots of fun ahead.

Well, a short entry today as I get back to chopping apples and whipping cream. I hope that you are also managing to enjoy this season, not sweating the small stuff, taking each moment as a gift with family and friends. Time passes so quickly and we need to stop and live in the moment and appreciate all the wonder in our lives.

One more week until Christmas Eve....

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shifting Gears

I completed a second edit and submitted the manuscript for book five in the Stonechild and Rouleau series to Dundurn mid-week. I like this one and hope this is a good sign - usually, I've OD'd on the manuscript at this point in the process so unusual that I'm still taken with the storyline. There's one character in particular whom I've grown very fond of, named Lauren McKenna. She's mid-thirties, something of an alcoholic, sleep-around kind of girl, struggling through life, but not totally broken. Her journey through this story had me gripped, even as her creator.

And you might wonder about the title. I've submitted a working title that might become the final title if the editors like it. Ta da -- Bleeding Darkness -- what do you think (keeping in mind I had to have a two-word title in keeping with the rest of the series)?

So, I took the rest of the week off and began cleaning out papers in my office, giving my shredder a good workout. You can see that I still have a ways to go.

You don't even want to know what I've got in the cupboards.

For those asking when the audio books for Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills will be released, I received word that we're looking at March 2017, so same time as Shallow End hits the shelves. This might call for a big party! Taping has finished for both books and they are currently being edited, which I'm told takes a while. 

Feeling Christmasy out there with snow on the ground and another storm on its way. I also got out shopping this past week and began hauling out the decorations. The turkey is ordered and I'm getting my baking lined up. We're having smaller gatherings this year but spread out over a few weeks. I'm using this time to recharge my battery, clear my head and prepare for my next project. Taking some time to smell the roses.

Two weeks until Christmas Eve ....

Saturday, December 3, 2016

First Review A Good One!

Happy Saturday, everyone. I must confess that I've been editing a manuscript but not as doggedly as I should have because I've been watching Canada Cup curling on TSN since Wednesday. For those of you who don't know, my daughter Lisa plays lead on the Homan team and they're in a semi-final this afternoon. My daily editing quota might be even lower this weekend :-)

The very first reviewer posted her review for Shallow End on Goodreads yesterday and gave it five out of five stars. I find that waiting for the first few reviews is always nail-biting time, so very pleased for this one. I know I speak for all authors when I say that reader reviews in addition to reviews from those who write book reviews as a profession, are important. Amazon will give books with over ten reviews more visibility in their search engine, for example. There are lots of places to post your comments, such as your public library site, Chapters, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Facebook, Twitter ... the more the better really!

I have always found self-promotion and publicity uncomfortable, having grown up in the generation before selfies when we were told not to brag or hog the limelight. While this remains true for me, I look at the promotion part of this business as promoting my books rather than myself ... if people don't know about the series, they will never buy or read any of the books after all. I also realize that readers genuinely like to know more about the authors whose work they like, and this part of the business I enjoy. I've visited three book clubs this year and find these to be a treat - a chance to relax and talk about the books and meet some really interesting people.

I've been asked several times recently about the audio books for Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills and when they'll be for sale. I haven't heard anything recently, but expect that the recordings are finished and in the editing process. I should be receiving the tapes for my review soon (so exciting) and will let you know when I find out more about their release dates. I've also been asked a lot about when the next book in the Stonechild series will be coming out, and that will be Shallow End in early March 2017 although advance reading copies are being reviewed as I type.

So, I have an hour now to get some editing done before the curling starts. No time to waste ....

(Only three weeks until Christmas Eve. I finished my Christmas cards and nearly done my gift shopping. I think I'm on track!)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Girl with the Widow Gone on the Train

This week was a bit of a vacation from writing. I set aside my latest manuscript to give myself a chance to get some distance from it and hopefully a clearer last look, which I started yesterday afternoon. No matter how many times or how carefully you review a manuscript, little mistakes or plot discrepancies arise on every read through. I suppose when you're dealing with 90,000 words, a few of them are not going to behave as they should.

I also had a few tasks to take care of for Dundurn. My publicist Michelle and I are collaborating on a few publicity ideas for the Shallow End release in March. This included updating an author grid that the publisher keeps for each author to pin down reviewers and media. The editing team also asked me for a working title and cover synopsis for the fifth Stonechild book, which is the manuscript that I'm now giving a last going over. I hope to submit this one next week, which would put me a few months ahead of deadline.

So, next on the horizon? I'll be writing the sixth Anna Sweet and have already begun rolling plot ideas around in my head. I plan to quickly reread the five novellas in the series, likely over Christmas holidays, before pinning down my ideas.

I read The Widow by Fiona Barton this past week, a novel compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Very dark material written by women about everyday people caught in a mess of deception and betrayal, all focusing on marriage relationships that are breaking down. They are page-turners but in an unsettling way. Interesting to note that they are compared to each other for marketing purposes, each attempting to build on the other books' success with readers.

You may have noticed the word 'girl' recently used in a lot of book titles, two of the above mentioned books as examples or another crime series that begins with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Goodreads currently lists 749 books with girl in the title and some authors report having been asked to use girl in their titles. To me, girl connotes youth and innocence and less worldly than the word 'woman'. Girl also sounds better in titles than woman in most cases. What do you think about this trend? Would you be more likely to pick up a crime novel or any book for that matter with 'girl' in the title?

So, we're at the end of November. We've had a snowy week in the Ottawa Valley interspersed with rain and mist. Crime-writing weather if I ever saw it. I have a busy weekend ahead beginning with a trip to the spa with my daughter Lisa, a couple of wine and cheese parties and supper out tomorrow. I'll be editing in my downtime, but realistically can't see getting much done until Monday. I think I need my writing buddy to get me back on track.

Four weeks until Christmas.....

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November Progress

Well, I've made it through the first round of editing for my latest manuscript (Stonechild and Rouleau book five) and the story appears to be hanging together nicely. I'm setting the manuscript aside for a bit and then will give it one more careful read before sending it to Dundurn. I'm still toying around with a title, which has to be two words to go along with the other books in the series. Tougher than one might think.

I've also been going through the Shallow End advance reading copy and sent two changes in to the editor and have about eighty pages to read. I'm at the point with this one that I've lost all perspective and begin to doubt if I can even write well - this happens with every book. I was at Bouchercon in Baltimore some years back and Harlan Coben talked about going from thinking whatever book he was writing was genius to complete crap by the time he was two-thirds of the way through. Other authors report this happening to them as well so I'm thinking self-doubt is part of the creative process.

Speaking of Bouchercon, it will be taking place in Toronto next fall and is well worth attending if you're a crime fiction fan. I've been to two of them in Baltimore and Cleveland respectively and I think this will be only the second time that the conference will be in Canada. They usually have about 1,500 people attending and attract some of the best-selling authors so you should check out the site if you're interested. The Sheraton Hotel has blocked off some rooms at a discounted price.

With Linda Wiken, R.J. Harlick and Mary Jane Maffini at Bouchercon in Cleveland 2012

I visited the Sunnyside Mystery Book Club yesterday afternoon at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The room was full - about twenty of us sitting around a square grouping of tables - and over cups of tea, we chatted about the Stonechild series, my writing process and crime fiction. I had a lovely time and only realized I hadn't taken a photo to share as I was walking back to my car. Thank you to Mary Frances Taylor for inviting me and to everyone who came out and made the hour so enjoyable. Mystery readers are the best :-)

The mornings are fog-laden these days and our first big snow is on its way into the Ottawa Valley tomorrow. I'm off to buy food for the week before the weather turns, and will cook up a beef stew in red wine for tomorrow. Might even put on a fire and cozy up with a good book while the storm settles in.

Five weeks until Christmas.....

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Before the Snow

This week's work can be summarized in one word: Editing. I'm slowly and carefully making my way through the text in the fifth Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript and still have about fifteen chapters left to go. So, for the upcoming week, I'll be back at it.

I spoke about writing a series at the Canadian Authors Association November meeting on Tuesday evening and enjoyed sharing what I'd learned with the other authors. They were welcoming and asked lots of questions about publishing and my experiences.

This week, I visit the Sunnyside Mystery Book Club at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library to discuss the Stonechild series. I have an advance reading copy of book four entitled Shallow End and will read a passage as well as discuss how the series came about. The hour is open to the public and I've given the link above for more information.

So for the foreseeable future, I'll be finishing this go-around on the fifth manuscript, taking a little break and then starting the sixth Anna Sweet novella. I have an idea for a crime to kick off the plotline and will have to wrap my head around fleshing that out and deciding what happens to my continuing characters.

November has been an interesting month so far with a new President entering the White House and many questions about the direction the U.S. will take both domestically and internationally. It is surreal to see the demonstrations going on, unprecedented after a U.S. election. We've also lost one of our greatest poets with Leonard Cohen's death this week. Cohen was a wordsmith and genius, truly. "Suzanne" was one of my favorite songs in university - such beautiful lyrics.  And news yesterday of Robett Vaughn's passing - I remember being in love with him in "The Man From Uncle" (although I wasn't old enough to date) and the life of a spy seemed rather inviting.

Ah, times they are a-changing...

Until next week, my friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Toronto Adventure

I took the train to Toronto on Sunday and was met by my daughter Julia and Dawn, my good friend from university days. We visited a pub in St. Lawrence Market (Julia taking a photo of me taking a photo of her - she had just had her hair cut off that morning to donate to cancer patients so shout out to ma belle fille)...

...before continuing on to El Catrin, a Mexican restaurant in the Distillery District, which I highly recommend - I see it was also voted best 'first date' restaurant for those of you in the market - some terrific tapas dishes and sangria. All in all, a great way to celebrate my birthday!

Monday morning, Dawn and I made our way to the recording studio on Dufferin to listen in on a taping of Butterfly Kills. Michelle Melski, my Dundurn publicist, met us there, and took us for lunch after the taping at the Drake and then on to the Eaton Centre by street car where I signed copies of my books that they had on hand in Indigo Chapters. Michelle also gave me an advance reading copy of Shallow End, which will be out in March - gratifying to hold the book for the first time.

For the book taping, Michelle St John is the voice actress for the books and Dan Harden is the recording engineer. Michelle had been ill with a cold the week before and was still suffering some of its effects, but her voice was clear and rich. Dan kept her from getting overtired and we stopped early for the day so that she could rest her voice for the next day's session. She sat in the makeshift studio in the next room where she read the book from an iPad and we were in the sound room watching Dan work the controls. Much like an actual audio book, we couldn't see Michelle but heard her voice loud and clear through the sound system. She does a terrific job and half the time I couldn't believe I'd written the words she was reading. She brought the pages and characters to life. I could see that Dan is very experienced at his work and knows how to get the best out of a reader. We learned that he was recently in a rock band named Malibu Knights (give a listen)  out West that once opened for Bon Jovi and works with a lot of musicians in his studio. Dan was the lead singer - great voice!

Top photo is Michelle St John and the bottom photo is me with Dan and Michelle Meleski.

Pretending I know what's going on.

So back to reality. I finished draft one of this latest manuscript (book five in the Stonechild series) and have been going through it with that fine toothed comb, trying to catch all the errors and make the plot lines flow. I only got to chapter nine so have some ways to go. I've also been working on a presentation I'll be giving on writing a series for the Canadian Authors Association on Tuesday evening. November is starting out busy enough :-)

BTW - no snow in Toronto and still some flowers blooming. It was a wonderful few days for walking in the city!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Writing Through October

A good week! I finished the first draft of the manuscript for my fifth Stonechild and Rouleau book and have been through the text once although in sections. I'm now starting on a complete reread, looking to tighten up the plot and clues. This is the first time that I changed the identity of a killer and only because it made more sense than the person I'd picked early on. This means I need to tinker with the details.

I had fun at the Chapters Gloucester book signing last Saturday, having a chance to chat with some interesting people while selling out of the copies of Cold Mourning that the store had on hand. Ottawa mystery authors have a terrific supporter named Nancy Reid who keeps lists of our books and buys all the new releases. She came out to say hi and took my photo. You can see me next to the Christmas candles and little fake trees, which made me think I should get started on some gift shopping. Only eight weeks away....

So this week, I'm off to Toronto to meet my publicist Michelle and to sit in on a taping of the audio tape for Butterfly Kills. I'll be meeting the actress (also named Michelle) and having a chance to chat with her about the books. Turns out that Sleuth of Baker Street bookshop is closed on Mondays so we might visit an Indigo store in the afternoon. I'll have a recap and hopefully some photos for next week's post.

My other current preoccupation is organizing my thoughts for a talk about writing a series, which I'll be giving to the Canadian Authors Association a week Tuesday. I'm also visiting the Sunnyside Library Book Club in November and I understand they're catching up on reading the series. I enjoy hearing feedback from readers about the characters and story lines and look forward to both events.

How can this be the end of October already? We had snow on the ground yesterday for the entire day but the lawns are green again this morning with a rainy day ahead. I just want to crawl back into bed and let this day take care of itself, but it's time to have one last cup of coffee and head out to the grocery store in my new used car. I bought a 2005 Honda Civic Accord with amazingly low mileage that drives like a dream. Might be time to get the winter tires on.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Signing at Chapters Gloucester Today

I'll be at Chapters Gloucester this afternoon from 1:00 until 4:00 o'clock - a good place to drop by and chat on this cold, wet Saturday. Maybe even get a jump on some Christmas shopping with some personalized books. (This is the last book store signing that I have lined up for this year.)

Here's a photo taken by mystery reader and great supporter of the local crime-writing community, Nancy Reid, from my May visit to Chapters Gloucester.

I'm going to Toronto next weekend to meet Michelle St John, the actress reading Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills for the audio books. I'll sit in on a taping so excited for that. I'll also be meeting up with my publicist Michelle Meleski and we plan to visit Sleuth on Baker Street, a well known mystery bookshop in the city. Should be a fun trip.

Writing went well this week and I'm beginning the last scene in the last chapter! I'm just over 84,000 words now and was aiming for 85,000 on this draft since I always add more on rewrites. Stephen King wrote that he writes quite a bit over his book word count and then cuts but I tend to do the opposite. Anyhow, once that is done, I'll be rereading, editing, rewriting...the work is far from over, but I have three months to whip this manuscript into shape. My next project will be writing book six in the Anna Sweet novellas, which will give me the chance to change gears for a few months.

Today reminds me that winter will soon be swooping into the Ottawa Valley and I have to finish cleaning out my garden, empty flower pots and put away patio furniture. This will be the first winter that I don't have to get up early and stand at the bus stop in the dark to head downtown to my government job so I'm happy for this change in routine.  When the snowstorms are raging, I'll be tucked in my home office with a cup of coffee, gas fireplace on and writing away at my computer. Luxury.

I like to be reading a book off and on between periods of writing and this week, I've been making my way through Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan. Just over 600 pages, this book has won all kinds of awards and really is a fascinating read about Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's only daughter. I studied Russian history in university and reading this book has brought back my studies from that time. Living under a  Communist regime also ties in with the novel I'm writing now, which touches on the Ceausescu period in Romania. Sullivan's book humanizes the life of a woman who grew up in a system so foreign to our own and brings her history to life.

So, time to get a few tasks accomplished before I head out on the Queensway to the east end. Plan to come by Chapters for a visit if you're in the area!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Half-way Through October

The autumn beauty keeps on coming in the Ottawa Valley. One great thing about working on your own schedule is the freedom it allows you to go places when others are slaving away at work, thus avoiding the crowds. Ted and I took a drive into Gatineau park on Tuesday afternoon - traffic was light and the trees were glorious. The first shot (for those of you who can't make it out) is Champlain Lookout and the rest are from our walk through the woods.

I'm going to be at Chapters Gloucester this coming Saturday, October 22 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. signing copies of the Stonechild and Rouleau series. Come by and say hello - I can personalize copies for Christmas gifts if you are planning ahead.

I'm also organizing a date to go to Toronto to meet the actress taping the audio books and to sit in on a session. This will take place around the end of the month since taping will go on for a month or so and begins in two weeks. I have to complete recording the names of characters in Butterfly Kills this week since the schedule has this book being taped before Cold Mourning.

Writing this week: slow and stop. I worked my plot into a corner and had to figure out how to reveal a killer and make it seem plausible. I think I've managed it and will plow ahead this week.

On the accident front (or those following our mishaps), the insurance company has written off my car and I await the settlement while Ted has begun physiotherapy on his hand with the severed (now attached) tendon. He's getting quite adept with his left hand although cutting meat and tying shoes continue to challenge :-)

Happy and safe week everyone!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thankful Hearts

Running a little late today as I was shopping for Thanksgiving dinner this morning and getting ready to host tomorrow - nine of us will dine on orange bourbon ham, scalloped potatoes, pumpkin pie and carrot cake along with everything that goes along. Nothing like a feast with family and friends to make a holiday special. It is also Ted's and my anniversary today, and coincidentally, the anniversary of two couples who live across the street. We've taken to a group dinner out and last night was the night...supper at Tratttoria followed by the comedy club, nightcaps at the Prescott and a backyard fire in a fire pit as we enjoyed a last glorious evening in the summer that doesn't want to end.

"Eat ham"

Writing is going slowly, slowly as I work to tie up the plot lines. I'm down to the last 12,000 words and these can make or break the story. Readers expect the murder to end logically and there should be enough clues carefully placed throughout the book so that they can figure it out, but the trick is to make this difficult. A challenge. I take great delight when someone tells me they were guessing until the end and couldn't stop reading.

I finished going through Cold Mourning for Booktrack and also recorded all the character names and geographical locations in preparation for the audio tapings. Michelle St John is from Toronto and not familiar with pronunciations of locations in Ottawa and the surrounding towns and she also wants to make certain that she says the character names as I hear them in my head. I have to go through Butterfly Kills too but will leave this for another week.

So, back to the keyboard this week as I try to wrap up the manuscript. Then begins the process or rereading and editing the first draft, which could take some time. Some writers will tell you that this is when the real writing begins. I'm way ahead of schedule on this one, having asked for extra time because I was wrapping up my government job and somewhat exhausted from writing two books a year for the past several. I'm going to work more thoroughly on the first edits and hopefully once I'm working with the Dundurn editor, we'll have less changes to discuss.

But for this weekend, time to relax and celebrate, stuff ourselves with comfort food, drink a bit too much wine, watch playoff baseball ... winter is coming when we all tend to hibernate, but for now we kick up our heels.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Go Jays go!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ending September with a Bang

This has been something of a week. Last Saturday, on my way home from the mall, a man ran a stop sign and hit me broadside, totaling my car. Luckily, neither of us was hurt but I have to tell you that seeing a car coming at you and speeding up is unnerving. Then yesterday, Ted severed a tendon in his hand at work, driving a piece of metal into his knuckle. Emergency surgery yesterday reattached the tendon but healing will take at least six weeks.

 Let's hope October unfolds with less excitement.

Writing is rolling along on the latest manuscript although I won't be able to judge if everything is coming together until I finish and go back through the book as a whole. On a good day, I've been writing about five hundred words before lunch and then another five hundred in the afternoon. I spend the latter part of the afternoon reviewing the final draft of Cold Mourning on Booktrack and while I'm reading it, I've been making notes of all the characters and geographical names for the actress who'll be putting the book on tape. I'm to record my pronunciation of each word and send to her before taping, which is now scheduled for end of October/beginning of November. I'm hoping to get to Toronto to meet Michelle St John and to watch a taping.

Also this week, I attended Linda Wiken and Barbara Fradkin's book launch at the Heart and Crown in the Market on Wednesday evening. There was a great turn out and I enjoyed meeting up with old friends and raising a glass to toast their latest accomplishments. When you consider how much work, sweat and love go into each book, and the odds against even being published, an evening to stop and celebrate with the authors is a sweet deal. Each book is the first in a new series so some good reading ahead.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

So Long Summer

Autumn arrived on Thursday with pumpkins in the stores and Thanksgiving on the horizon. It's almost time to put the garden to bed and haul out sweaters and coats. I like this time of year but am not too fond of the season that follows.

We still have this beauty to look forward to next month!

One good spin off from colder weather is staying closer to home and my computer. I'm writing about four hours a day and am now at 71,000 words on the latest manuscript. I've also been putting some thought into a presentation I'll be giving in November to the Canadian Authors Association on writing a series. I'll be speaking for about half an hour with my experiences and tips. My next book signing will be at Chapters Gloucester on Saturday, October 22 between 1:00 and 4:00 if you're looking for Christmas gift ideas or want to come by and say hi.

Not much new to report on the audio books. The voice actress Michelle St. John is currently reading the books and then we'll have a chance to chat about the characters. Cold Mourning is also being set to background music in a format named Booktrack and I've received the final product for review. It's actually rather cool how they've matched the mood on each page with a 'movie-style' soundtrack. You still read the book at your own pace with the music changing as you flip pages.

Interspersed with my writing, I always have a book or two on the go that I'm reading when I take breaks. I've recently finished reading Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (powerful and disturbing), The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowlings (okay but slow-moving), and Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin (good read but ending not as satisfying as I would have liked). I'm now beginning The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and from the opening chapters, know this is going to be a beautifully written, gut-wrenching read.

So many books, so little time.

On the agenda this week: lacing up the curling shoes for the first time for practice and a clinic; hiking it downtown for Linda Wiken and Barbara Fradkin's joint book launch on Wednesday evening at the Heart and Crown pub; and writing, writing, writing.....

Enjoy your week, everyone. Don't forget to curl up with a good book and cup of coffee in front of a roaring fire :-)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Talking Books

Fellow crime writer Mary Jane Maffini and I met with a book club on Wednesday evening, hosted by Janet Claridge in her beautiful home in Manotick. Janet acted as an interviewer as well, asking us questions about our writing and books and we also fielded questions from the group. Just a great evening and a terrific group of women. I am visiting two more book clubs this year, so if your club would like a visiting author, send an email to me through my website and I should have time to fit in a few more.

Here are a couple of pictures - in the first Mary Jane is on the far right and in the second Janet is on the far right. I'm the one nearly in the centre wearing the black leather jacket :-)

On the audio book front, I had a chance to speak with the actress who will be reading the Stonechild books and her name is Michelle St. John and she lives in Toronto. She has yet to receive and read the Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills so we will speak at greater length once she's read them. I think things will start to move along quickly very soon!

Writing was slow and steady again this week. I've gotten into a pattern of writing an hour or so in the morning and about three hours after lunch. Sometimes, I get back to the keyboard for half an hour or so after supper. I'm doing a lot of thinking and plotting now as I round into the last 25,000 words, pulling all the strands together. At this rate, I might just be done the first draft by the end of October. Then a bit of time to put my feet up before I get at the editing!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Writing Life: Celebrating Literacy

I've plugged away at my latest manuscript this week, reaching 63,000 words. I was aiming for 64,000 but am not unhappy with my pace. At this rate, I should have the first draft finished by end of October. Lots of leeway as it is due to the publisher in February. I'm at the point where I have to connect the subplots and head toward solving the crime(s) so I'm heading into the trickiest bit.

I went to the People, Words and Change annual breakfast, which was held on Literacy Day. The breakfast celebrates adult learners and the volunteer tutors and is made possible by many generous donations from the community, including the meal, which is provided by Moe Nesrallah every year. Terry Marcotte, Sports Director at CTV Ottawa, was emcee with learners speaking about their lives and what led them to People, Words and Change. Former NDP MP Paul Dewer was the guest speaker and he talked about the importance of funding literacy in Canada and internationally. You can see some of the crowd listening to People, Words and Change Director Dee Sullivan, who does a phenomenal job along with her small team, matching learners with tutors and facilitating real change in their lives.

This week, I'll be visiting a book club in Manotick along with Mary Jane Maffini. We've been asked to speak about our writing life and books over glasses of wine and snacks. Not a bad gig:-)

So, school is back in and summer is slipping into autumn although we're having a final day in a long stretch of heat and humidity. I've been to the curling sign up, held on Wednesday evening, and am on two teams this season. Both of my daughters are on competitive teams, making our winters exciting as we follow along their games online or on television.

The summer lull is almost over....lots to look forward to just around the corner.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Rounding into September

My biggest achievement this past week was the release of my fifth Anna Sweet mystery/novella entitled No Trace. A high school boy disappears after class one day and six months later, Anna is hired to find out what happened to him. The mystery takes place in Ottawa South with the setting shifting around Ottawa and out to Carp. Good news is that I've been contracted to continue the series with the manuscript for the sixth book due at the publisher's in April. You can read the first chapter posted on the Grass Roots Press site.

Looking back on recent blog posts, I realized that I didn't share the locations of the two Kingston photos from the field trip last month to check out sites in the latest Stonechild manuscript. The woods scene is from the Rideau Trail, which runs along the west end of the downtown. The pub photo is the Iron Duke on Wellington. Both locations figure prominently in this story. (And here is proof that Ted made it out of the woods for all you doubters.)

So I aimed to write 7,000 words this week, starting off at 51,000 words last Saturday morning. I fell slightly short, but managed to hit 57,000 words yesterday. Still, a good week's work and I'm aiming for 64,000 by next week. Check back to see how I do :-)

One reason for my lower count was the three-hour lunch I had yesterday with one of my favorite Ottawa crime writers Mary Jane Maffini. Over crab cakes and sambuca shrimp, we talked writing and author stuff and caught up on our projects. So good to talk shop with someone who spends as many hours alone at the keyboard as I do and understands the ups and downs. As always, lots of laughter.

I finally bought Stephen King's book On Writing, which is consistently recommended as one of the best books to read on the craft. A good read and feels like Stephen is in the room having a chat, his voice is that clear. I recommend the book for anyone writing in whatever genre. A little glimpse behind the curtain.

Happy first week of September, everyone. It's been a lovely one in the Ottawa Valley with lots of sun and heat on the horizon.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What's in the Water?

Here we are in the last Saturday in August. My writing week was cut short by a trip to Toronto to watch a Jays game (Jays beat Angels Tuesday night) and a trip to the Aquarium Thursday morning before driving back to Ottawa. The Aquarium is something to see. I was enchanted by the jellyfish.

The Dundurn crew and I picked an Aboriginal voice actress to record the audio books, beginning with Cold Mourning after listening to ten demo tapes. I will soon be speaking with her about the book and my take on the characters and hopefully I'll be at a taping in Toronto if I can swing a visit.

Other big news this upcoming week is the release of the fifth Anna Sweet novella from Grass Roots Press entitled No Trace. I've been looking back through my emails and can't find the cover pic to post, but it will be uploaded Tuesday on the Grass Roots site and then available from Amazon as an e-book by the end of the week. Here is a link to my page on the site. I will be receiving the hard copies so looking forward to holding one of the books soon!

So my travels around Ontario end for the summer but I have a few trips planned for the fall. In the meantime, I'll be getting into a writing rhythm with a new goal of 1000 words a day. I'm at 51,000 today so check in next week and see how I do :-) There's lots on the horizon on the publicity front as well - this should be a most interesting year in my writing life. I'm very happy that you are coming along with me for the ride.

Have a great week, everyone.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hot August Nights

Another hot tamale today, hitting 39 C with the humidex.

I've had a productive week, surpassing 49,000 words but also stopping for three days to make notes on the manuscript to date and doing a light edit. A few of my plot points were contradicted later on so I had to tie things up. I also rewrote some physical description based on the field trip to Kingston last week. For instance, I had a body found near the river, which worked when you saw the location on a map, but when we walked the area, we couldn't get to the river, only to a marshy area. I've now upped my word count to 1000 a day and have been managing - although I have a few days away this week so flexibility is key (to my sanity).

I received ten demo audio tapes from Dundurn of voice actors reading a section from Cold Mourning. Several people from Dundurn and I are listening to the tapes and working to select the actress to read the books on tape for download. I've ranked them and sent in my choices so we'll see if others pick the same. I found judging some short story contests that people have varied opinions - always the case in selecting subjectively.

I was invited to another book club next month and accepted as well as receiving an invitation to the Power of Words breakfast also in September. The breakfast is to celebrate adult learners and their tutors and can be a very moving event. I'm planning to attend this year as I was a guest speaker at the breakfast a few years ago and know what great work everyone is doing.

So, this will be a short post as I throw my bathing suit in a bag and head out to a cottage for the day. It's just too hot to stay in the city.

Wherever you are, stay cool my friends.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Checking out Locations for Murder...

Another week away from home, this time picking up some Oakville friends on our way to the beautiful Niagara on the Lake for a few nights in Everheart B & B, a place I highly recommend. Ted and I spent an evening and morning in Kingston checking out the neighborhood where I'm currently setting book five in the Stonechild and Rouleau series. Does this look like a good spot for a murder?! Can you guess where it is in Kingston?

We also checked out some pubs in downtown Kingston, five in all, prompting Ted to ask if my books were in fact just a tour of Kingston bars and restaurants. Well, there is some of that, but with a little murder thrown in :-) One of the characters taking a major role in this manuscript has a favorite bar where she spends a lot of time. Here is a photo and a big high five if you can identify it.

So, I'm settled back at home and plan to finesse two scenes that I've been writing before rereading the manuscript, now at the half-way point. I'll adjust some of the settings based on our Kingston tour. Visiting the actual neighborhood locations has given me a feel for the scenes that I didn't have previously, having only found the places on Google Earth.

As I get back down to work, I'll imagine myself back in Niagara, sitting on the front veranda of the B and B with nothing but wine and sunshine ahead. I've covered a lot of the province this summer and have spent time in some beautiful places - such a spectacular summer!