Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Respite and Lots of Wine

So Ted and I are on a road trip. And what should we come across on our travels in Brockville, but this mother of a ...




The big duck was grounded yesterday but apparently to be in the St. Lawrence by today. All the hotels in Brockville were booked for the weekend. Kind of bizarre. Not something I'd organize my holiday around but some people must be. We can be a strange lot.

I finally received the editor's edits for the Bleeding Darkness manuscript Tuesday late in the day. I spent that evening and all day Wednesday and Thursday going through the manuscript and addressing her comments. Some of this involved rewriting a sentence or adding a line or two. Nothing major although she's asked me to consider adding two scenes, which I'm leaving until the end. I have to have this done on Monday so I'll be at it when we return to Ottawa tomorrow.

We're in Prince Edward County now at Huff Estates and just completed the first wine-tasting of the day with a tour starting shortly - a driver will be taking us to five wineries, and while the weather report says it's raining in Ottawa, we're having a lovely sunny day here. I'm thinking the gods are smiling on us :-)

Last night, we went into Picton and had a very tasty meal at Clara's restaurant in this old inn. We sat on the covered verandah while a few bouts of rain moved through. The storm settled in over night with heavy rain, thunder and lightning rumbling overhead all hours, but sun this morning. All this to say, no writing or editing for me today - viva des vacances!

 Clara's restaurant is upstairs looking out over the back garden.
Down the hill from Clara's with night settling in

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Excitement in July

A very good week that was.

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail posted a review of Shallow End on their site and it was terrific! Margaret Canon is the best known Canadian crime fiction reviewer with a wide reach. Also pleased to see my new crime-writing buddy Rachel Greenaway got a great review as well - might call for another celebratory drink next time we get together :-)

The Chapters Rideau book-signing last Saturday went very well. My favourite moment was when a mother bought Running Scared (first in my YA series) for her daughter. About half an hour later, they were back to buy the rest of the series. The Mom said that her daughter was a reluctant reader but she started reading the book in the store and refused to leave until she found out what happened in a particular chapter. They were heading off in search of a reading spot after they bought the books. Also, thank you to Joey Taylor and Derek Nighbor for coming by to say hello and to purchase a copy of Shallow End. I've been delighted to have friends come out to almost every book store signing this year because of social media postings, some coming great distances. Thank you to everyone for your support.


Also thank you to Gayle Jabour who sent these photos from the North Kawartha Library. How great is this!


The editing for Bleeding Darkness was delayed a few days and I'll be getting the Dundurn editor's changes to go through on Monday. She was a third of the way through the manuscript mid-week and said it was in good shape so hopefully my review won't take too long. She was enjoying the story so first comments are good. Until then, I'm plugging away on my latest manuscript, now into the last third.

We're into the August long weekend and hard to believe the summer will soon be morphing into autumn. I received the names of the other authors on my police procedural panel at Bouchercon in October and looks like  a most interesting group that includes, two Scots, three Americans, one of whom lives in Greece, and one Canadian (me).  October isn't that far off!

But for now, still lots of long summer days to enjoy....

Last week, Ottawa was host to a giant mechanical spider and dragon. I came upon the dragon in the Byward Market after my Saturday signing. Mighty impressive!





Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chapters Rideau Signing Today!

A good-looking Saturday morning underway. I'll be signing the Stonechild and Rouleau series today at Chapters Rideau from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. You can come downtown to see the giant spider and dragon and pop in to say hello! This will be my last book signing of the summer.

There's lots to see downtown - I was there for lunch yesterday at the NAC patio overlooking the canal, then a wander up to Parliament Hill. Today, I'll check out the Byward Market on a search for the big machines after my signing and might hang around to see the Northern Lights light show on the Hill.


The one bad thing about the lovely summer weather we had this week is that I've been spending less time in front of the computer. Instead, I've been visiting with friends and neighbours and enjoying being outside. I did manage to complete the main idea paragraphs although I have to spend a bit of time going through the last few to tweak wording and make certain they hit the grade 4/5 grade level.

We're getting ready to edit Bleeding Darkness and I was asked to write a synopsis for marketing earlier this week. I continue to plug away at book six, now two thirds of the way through the first draft. I'm at the point where the characters are ramping up the action and all their secret, nefarious activity is coming into the light.

Thank you to those who've emailed me about the books. I always enjoy hearing from you. A few readers have suggested we line up a bus and take a Kingston bar hop of the pubs in my books. Maybe, I should apply for a grant ....

So, one more cup of coffee, a bit of writing at my computer and then I'll catch the bus downtown to Chapters. Should be another fine day.

Raining sparkles in the National Arts Centre

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July News

A glorious day today! Not only is it promising to be sunny and hot, but my good friend Katherine Hobbs is getting married this afternoon :-) Congratulations Kath and Ric!!



And on the book circuit, next Saturday, July 29, I will be at Chapters Rideau from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. as part of the store's 150th Canada birthday celebration of Ottawa authors. Come by if you get the chance and say hello. This will be my last store signing of the summer.

The Kitchissippi Times latest edition is out with various residents giving their summer reading picks ... including mine! They also gave a bit of my writing bio, which is great for getting the word about about my work.

One last bit of writing news. I've been assigned a panel at Bouchercon in Toronto. The date is Saturday, October 14 and the time slot is 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. The topic is "Blue Detectives" or police procedurals. The other panel authors haven't been shared yet but I know there are some fine authors writing in this genre so I'm excited to see who else will be sharing the stage. If you go to the link and click on attendees, you'll see how big this conference is. There's still time to sign up, but the main hotel is likely full.

I've been spending my mornings this week researching and writing the main idea paragraphs for the adult literacy workbooks. In addition to Ernest Shackelton, the topics were Helen Kalvak (prolific Inuit graphic artist who began painting in her early 60s), Florence Nightingale, and Harvey Milk. Milk was the first openly gay politician elected in San Francisco in 1977. After eleven months in office, he and the mayor were both shot and killed by a city supervisor who'd resigned and then tried unsuccessfully to get his job back. Some interesting footage on Youtube.

Work on my latest manuscript is coming along too. I've been writing in the afternoons, enjoying the great weather this week by taking my laptop outside. Summer feels like it has finally arrived!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Raining and Writing

So, surprise ... we had more rain this week. More rain, every day ... in a row.

I am thankful for one thing, however. This record, never-ending rain is not snow. We'd have broken our snowblowers and thrown out our backs by now.

The writing is coming along. I think I've worked out most of the last third of the book (which I've yet to write) and some of the dangling story lines appear to be coming together. I know I'm not the only author who wonders if the magic will happen and the chaos will become coherent. I'm almost at 54,000 words now and the action is beginning to pick up. I'm mulling over killing off two characters and not sure if both, one or none will survive. Pretty sure about one's fate but not the other. Hard to bump a character off when you've grown fond of them ... but needs must.

Wa ha ha ....


Tuesday morning, Judith Van Berkom from Kitchissippi Times stopped by to interview me about my summer read picks. We took cups of tea into the backyard and discussed books, and after the interview, flowers and gardening. The article will be in the August issue so those in the neighborhood will soon know my choices :-)


I received an email yesterday from a Dundurn editor letting me know that we'll be editing Bleeding Darkness the first two weeks of August. The editor will be going through the manuscript first and sending their proposed changes to me. I'm not sure who the editor will be on this book. My writing will pretty much go on hold once the editing starts so I'll try to pick up my pace now. I submitted the health unit main idea paragraphs for the adult literacy workbooks to Grass Roots Press last week and am starting the last unit on people. First up is Sir Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer who led quite the exciting life. I've done the research and will now get writing. There are six paragraphs left to complete.

Back to the Canadian preoccupation - the weather - after a night of steady rain, the sun is trying to break through the cloud cover and a rainless day is predicted. Looks like a busy day ahead with some writing and reading in my plans but also some time outside. It would be a crime not to enjoy the pockets of good weather when we get them.





Saturday, July 8, 2017

For the Love of Books

At last, a string of hot, sunny days to make this feel like summer. I've been taking my laptop into the back garden with a cup of tea and writing through the afternoons. This being a full-time writer is a bit of all right.

I took the bus downtown on Wednesday morning and after a bit of shopping, walked down Elgin Street to Perfect Books, one of our few remaining independent bookshops. Jim, the owner, and Michael, the store manager, were both working but both had time for a chat. Apparently, they'd sold a copy of Cold Mourning ten minutes before I arrived! I topped up my Ann Cleeves collection for some summer reading before making my way back up Elgin to catch a bus home. Perfect Books has a fabulous selection of mystery books (in addition to every other genre) and very knowledgeable staff - well worth a visit if you're looking for summer reading suggestions. A friend sent me this photo on a visit to the store last year :-)


Cortez ringing up a sale at a signing last year! 

I was approached through email last week by a reviewer named Dimple, a young woman who lives in India. She had posted a review of Tumbled Graves asked if I would write a blog post and answer some questions to post on her site to follow up. I submitted both and you can read the blog post which is about writing believable characters. The interview will be posted soon. Dimple also posted a video on Youtube about her love for books that shows off her wonderful creativity. I'm so pleased to have contributed to her site!

I was also approached this week by Judith, a reporter from our local paper Kitchissippi Times to share my summer reading picks, and she'll be coming by Tuesday morning. Should be fun. Judith interviewed me a few years ago for an article, which made the front page. Here it is again for old times sake :-)

July is a month to slow down and enjoy the gardens and long, lazy days. I've been biking a lot and exploring the bike paths and pedaling to the shops to pick up supper most mornings. Waking with the birds and morning sun streaming in through the windows. Reading on the back deck late afternoon with a glass of wine. Watching the Blue Jays on tv in the evening.

Life is sort of like a .....


Happy week, everyone!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy 150th Canada!!

Happy 150th Canada!


I remember 1967. I was living in Terrace Bay so a bit out of the hub of the action, but the Confederation train came through. There was also a reenactment of the fur traders with Courier du bois paddling canoes onto the beach and setting up camp near the school. We had fireworks at the beach too - beautiful sparkles of colour against the backdrop of darkness over Lake Superior.

So, this year, I'm living in Ottawa, which is throwing one gigantic party on Parliament Hill. I'll watch some of it from the comfort of my living room at noon, but I'm also preparing for a BBQ with some friends and hoping the sun comes out this afternoon. Thinking back, Ted and I have seen in many new years and Canada days with these good  buddies :-)  I even went berry-picking yesterday morning in the mist to make strawberry shortcake - an annual tradition. I usually go with my daughter Lisa, but this year, we couldn't get the timing right between the rainstorms. I know she was with me in spirit as I slogged through the mud! We're also going to a pub at the edge of the downtown early in the afternoon to watch a friend's band play to get the party started.


A blast from the past - 2011

Writing slowed a bit this week although sometime in the middle of the night a few nights ago, I woke up with an idea to move the plot forward. Eureka! I've been struggling with what to do plot wise with  one of the pivotal situations and now have a plan. I also continue to plug away on the main idea paragraphs and am nearly done the health unit. (I now know more than I ever wanted to about cholera and bed bugs.) (Been scratchy and nauseous all week ....) Finally this week, I've been sent questions and asked to write a blog post for a reviewer and I've spent some time working on my responses.

But for today, another cup of coffee and then in the kitchen to bake a cake. It's been raining almost steadily in Ottawa the last few days with thunder storms periodically rumbling across the valley. Still, I don't think the weather can dampen the enthusiasm and celebrations going on here and across the country. We're blessed to live in a land with so much space and freedom and plain old-fashioned friendliness. Milestones such as today unite us and let us know how far we've come and how far we need to go to make Canada fair and equal for all. But for now, we raise a glass to the nation-building that has gone before and make wishes for the future.

A day to wave the flag proudly.





Saturday, June 24, 2017

Long Summer Days

This has been a good writing week. I've settled into a rhythm, working on the main idea paragraphs in the morning and writing through the afternoon with the odd bike ride, hour working in the garden, or walk thrown in. I was aiming for 45,000 words by the end of June on this latest manuscript and am almost at 47,000 with a week to go. Now, they might not all be the right words yet, but that's to be expected on the first draft.

I made it out to the Capital Crime Writers wrap up evening at the Barley Mow pub in Ottawa South on Wednesday. It was an evening to listen to the Audrey Jessup contest winning authors read from their short stories, and to honour our outgoing president, Michael Murphy, who has given tirelessly of his time and energy to further the interests of the crime fiction community. Michael was head of the adult section at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library before his retirement a few years back with a love of books and a good story. I cannot say enough about the support he has given to me personally and to all the writers in our group. Bravo Michael!

 Michael Murphy

Two of my favourite partners in crime Darlene Cole and Katherine Hobbs

Wynn Quon reading from his dryly humorous short story

Summer solstice arrived on Wednesday as well and the warmer weather and bouts of rain are making the city green and lush. I've been biking and walking, getting out to enjoy the sun and fresh air and the gardens around the city. Ottawa is a gorgeous place to be in the summer. A week from today is Canada Day when the country celebrates our 150th year since Confederation. We'll have some friends for a barbecue and toast in the monumental day.  


Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Week in June

Good Saturday morning. These weeks seem to zip by as we cross over the half-way mark in June. I've had a quiet week, writing a bit and looking after Lisa's dog Trooper after his surgery last week. He's still very active and we've been on many a short walk around the neighborhood.


I went to the Louise Penny event last evening. Louise was interviewed by Patricia Filteau at a church in Ottawa South as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. It was a sold out affair with the pews filled to overflowing. The Capital Crime Writers' Audrey Jessup short story contest winners were given out before Louise was interviewed, and she graciously announced and handed out the prizes. Order of finish from first to third is:  Theresa Wallace, Pam Isfeld, and Wynn Quon. As one of the judges for the contest, I was provided a front row seat :-)

Theresa, Wynn and Pam waiting for the award presentation. A snippet of the crowd behind!

Patricia asked Louise Penny many thoughtful questions about her book A Great Reckoning and Louise also spoke about writing being her solace through difficult years, the characters in her series now friends whose world (Three Pines) she loves to spend time visiting. Louise's easy laugh and wit made for a delightful evening.


So this week, I have to firm up my main idea paragraphs on the environment section for the adult literacy workbooks and submit them to Grass Roots Press. That leaves the health and people topics to go. I'll also hit the half-way point on the latest Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript. At this rate, I should have a few months holiday at the end of the year - maybe, I'll get some closets and cupboards cleaned out as I keep promising myself. I'm comforted to read that creative people are messy in general. I imagine my brain looks a lot like my desk.

I also plan to go to the Capital Crime Writers closing evening at a pub in the Byward Market on Wednesday. Meetings start up again in the fall and new members are welcome, be you a writer or reader. They get in some terrific guest speakers to talk about every facet affecting crime fiction, from psychologist to detectives to private investigators. I've learned a lot of valuable information over the years.

I've been taking a weekly morning bike ride with friend and neighbor Katherine Hobbs and here are a few pics of the peonies from out Tuesday outing to the Experimental Farm. So much beauty!



Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sunny June Days

So this week, the Bleeding Darkness cover came together. I worked with the designer Laura Boyle to come up with the concept, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to fine tune, she created a cover that I think works really well. I wanted the mood to be dark and ominous with the woods as the main image. I hope you like it as much as I do :-)



The Chapters Kanata signing went well last Saturday - such terrific people working at this store and always make me feel welcome. In fact, the general manager Amanda invited me back as often as I would like! I always meet interesting people as I stand offering bookmarks and try to introduce my books. I'm getting comfortable with the sales bit although I wouldn't say I'm a natural. And you wouldn't believe how many people ask if I'm really the author of these books (as opposed to a Chapters employee).



Another week settling in to write although I spent the last few days working on my laptop out on the back deck. I've fallen into writing in the late morning/early afternoon and sometimes edit after supper. Approaching 41,000 words this week. I've also been mulling over a title as Dundurn would like a title and synopsis - on my to do list. Here's my shady spot in the back yard.




This Friday evening, Louise Penny will be appearing at the Ottawa International Writers Festival and I'm very much looking forward to her interview. I met Louise for the first time at the start of both our writing careers at an Arthur Ellis dinner in Toronto in 2004. Both of our first books were released that year, mine a young adult mystery named Running Scared, and Louise's the first in her Inspector Gamache series, Still Life.  The next year, we were both back at the Arthur Ellis dinner and Louise's book won every award going! Her writing career has skyrocketed as she consistently writes international bestsellers. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with Louise at Left Coast Crime in Monterey in 2014 along with Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie and Kathy Bennett. If you're unable to attend this Friday's event, Louise will be the Canadian guest of honour at Bouchercon in Toronto this October. Ann Cleeves will also be attending. Should be another great event.

             Sharing a laugh ( l to r) Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny and me
                      Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, me and Kathy Bennett

The weather has made a turn for the better this week! Sunshine and warmth at long last. My garden's in bloom as summer sweeps into the Ottawa Valley. I love this time of year.






Saturday, June 3, 2017

Settling into June

Good Saturday morning.

My news to start off the day: I'll be at Chapters Kanata today from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. signing the Stonechild and Rouleau series as part of the store's early July 1st celebration - come by and check it out. The store has a great selection of books and the staff is terrific. This will be my third visit this year!


A productive writing week. I fell into a routine, writing every morning into mid-afternoon. I worked on a couple of main idea paragraphs for the workbook adult literacy project and will have the environment unit done in the upcoming week. I also hit 37,000 words in the latest Stonechild manuscript. Coming along.

The Dundurn designer Laura Boyle was in touch this week to get my ideas for the next cover. With the title Bleeding Darkness, I'm picturing something moody. This book has that Hitchcock suspense which I hope will get some reader nail-biting going on, so I'd like the cover to capture something of the darkness and tension. I love seeing the cover concept for the first time - never gets old.

Bleeding Darkness will be released in May 2018, but its already available for pre-order on Amazon and looks like it's made some sales. The cover blurb gives an idea of the plot although there's a lot more to this one than captured in the synopsis. I'm excited for this book to make it to readers. Here's the cover blurb:

David McKenna lies dying in a Kingston hospital, his children gathered from across the country to say a final goodbye. But the family reunion opens old wounds. David’s only daughter, Lauren, never recovered from the unsolved murder of her high school best friend Zoe Delgado fourteen years earlier — or the suspicion that her brother, Tristan, was behind it. 

Before David breathes his last, Tristan’s pregnant wife, Vivian, disappears and the Major Crimes Unit is called in to help find her. With Kala Stonechild stuggling to reconnect with her foster niece, and Woodhouse making trouble for Staff Sergeant Jacques Rouleau, tensions are running high on the team, but they must put their personal problems aside when a woman's strangled body is found frozen on the Rideau Trail.

With a winter storm sweeping the shores of Lake Ontario, the team uncovers unspeakable betrayals that give more than one suspect a reason to kill … and raise fears that the two killings were only the beginning …


 I also asked about the release date for the Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills audio books when I was at Dundurn last week, and they are still in the editing phase. These books are two of the first being made into audio books and the editing process is taking longer than anticipated.

So, settling in to researching and writing this first week of June. The rainy, cool weather has helped keep me inside at my computer although I managed to make use of two good days last weekend to get some planting done. I'm hoping to finish up tomorrow with one last trip to the Parkdale Market, but more rain is on the way. Hard to believe it's June and I'm still wearing my fall/winter coat the odd evening and we're turning on the furnace in the mornings to take off the chill.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Quite the Week

This week included a quick trip to Toronto with my good friend Katherine Hobbs, who accompanied me to the Arthur Ellis Awards dinner at the Arts and Letters Club. We first went to a wine and cheese gala at Dundurn where we met many of the staff and other Dundurn authors. Lots of mingling and book talk :-) Once we arrived at the Club, everyone gathered in the bar where we wine and hors d'oeuvres before we found our seats in the dining room. After a fabulous meal, all of the short-listed authors received a scroll containing a certificate and then the winning titles were announced. No Trace didn't take first prize, making this a hat trick of nominations and losses for my books, but being nominated is wonderful in and of itself.

with Dundurn Vice President Beth Bruder

 Chatting in the Arts and Letters Club bar with Ottawa authors Mary Fernando (shortlisted for best unpublished novel) and Linda Wiken
 My travel mate Katherine Hobbs - you can see Maureen Jennings in the background :-)
 Dundurn President Kirk Howard
 with author Rachel Greenaway who was shortlisted for Best First Novel
 Getting the scroll - on my right is author Elle Wild who won Best First Novel

Back home, I received an email that a talk I gave in April at the Ottawa Independent Authors Association meeting was posted on YouTube. The talk was about writing a crime fiction series and includes many words of wisdom from author friends as well as insight into my writing process. Here is the link if you'd like to check it out.

I'm also thrilled to report that the sixth Anna Sweet novella entitled Missing Her is now available. Very pleased with the cover!



Saturday, May 20, 2017

May Musings

Where has May gone? It's been a crazy weather ride in Ottawa. Snow one week and plus +37 C the next. We began the month with days of heavy rain that flooded out several towns and parts of Gatineau and Ottawa bordering the Ottawa and Rideau rivers. So much devastation. But the late spring weather is leveling off and the tulips and flowering trees are in bloom.


So this week, I'll be going to Toronto with a friend Katherine Hobbs to take in the Arthur Ellis awards dinner at the Arts and Letters Club. We've been invited to a pre-event get together at Dundurn. I hope to have some photos of the evening to post next week. I've also gotten word that Bleeding Darkness, the fifth Stonechild and Rouleau, will be pushed back a month with release now scheduled for May 2018. Actually, this will be better timing for a launch and signings.

My June Chapters Kanata signing has been moved up to Saturday, June 3 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. so that it is part of the store's July 1st celebration. I'll be at Chapters Rideau on Saturday, July 29 - these are the only signings I have scheduled this summer thus far.

Writing is coming along. I was aiming to have 30,000 words written by the end of May and am now heading up to 33,000 so not too bad. I think I have to stop for a bit and reassess the plot lines. That might become this week's work. I've been writing rather than work on the main idea paragraphs but hope to finish up the environment unit by the end of May.

So, looks like another busy week coming up. I'm hoping to spend some time in the garden as well and have some pots to fill with annuals. I love this time of year even with the crazy weather. It feels like a time of rebirth and possibility and the spring sunshine is mighty welcome too.

Good week ahead, everyone.