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.






Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lining up the Ducks

Another rainy Saturday May morning, but the tulips are blooming and the temperature is gradually climbing. Ted and I even managed to sit on a rooftop patio yesterday afternoon!

Been a quiet, routine kind of week on the writing front - not a lot of outside commitments so I fell into a routine, working on the main idea paragraphs in the morning and writing in the afternoon. Writing going slowly at this point but I'm still plugging along.

I went to the Capital Crime Writers monthly meeting on Wednesday evening. Madona Skaff and Michelle Yuan-Innes and I judged this year's Audrey Jessup short story contest and were recognized at the meeting for our efforts. The awards will be announced at the Louise Penny event on June 16 as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Tickets should still be available - Louise is a terrific speaker with a huge Canadian and international following for her crime fiction.

CCW President Michael Murphy, me, Madona, Michelle and VP Patricia Filteau

I've been lined up for two more Chapters signings. Chapters Indigo is promoting Canadian writers in its stores as part of Canada 150 celebrations and Rideau Chapters will be featuring one Ottawa author  every Saturday throughout the summer. My date is July 29. Not certain about the time yet but I imagine it will be late morning/early afternoon. I'm also invited back to Chapters Kanata and will be in the store Saturday, June 24 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Another nice invitation arrived this week to visit a book club in the west end and we settled on a date in November. I love visiting book clubs and hope I get to visit a few more this year.

I've decided to go to the Arthur Ellis awards dinner on May 25 and my friend Katherine Hobbs has agreed to come along. We'll drive to Toronto the day of the event and back the next morning so a very quick trip. It's at the Arts and Letters Club so a lovely old building. Here's a photo of the bar from one of the dinners I attended a few years ago.


I'm also signed up for Bouchercon in Toronto this October and you really should think about registering if you enjoy crime fiction and meeting writers. I've been to two previous Bouchercons in Baltimore and Cleveland and each had about 1500 attend. Some very interesting panels and lots of mingling in the pub and other events. I believe this is only the second time it's been held in Canada so you might not get this chance for a while unless you want to travel further afield. On the website, you can click on the Attendees link to see everyone registered so far. The team pulling the conference together has been working full out to make sure that it's a huge success. Don't be left out!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

May Settles In

Good (early) Saturday morning. Early because we have company this weekend ... I see a game of fetch in my near future


This week, Pat Campbell and I settled on a cover image for the next Anna Sweet, entitled Missing Her. None of the first five images presented by the designer grabbed us so we both pondered on what would work, oddly coming up with the same idea. The designer used it to come up with several more images, from which Pat and I chose the same one. The cover has now been mocked up and looks terrific. It's off to the printer's and I'll show you the final once it's ready for release.

I completed that author grid for Dundurn and continued on with my recent manuscript, heading up to 28,000 words this weekend. I was aiming to have 30,000 written by the end of May, so am well ahead of schedule.

 On the main idea paragraph front, I submitted the science unit and am now working on the environmental paragraphs. The depletion of the coral reefs and debris in space were my focus this week -- man, our planet is in bad shape. Did you know that only 50 per cent of the coral is in decent shape and we've already lost 19 per cent? Coral reefs protect the land from ocean surges so with it gone... Don't even get me started on what could happen if the junk in space should start colliding and fragmenting in a chain reaction. A piece of debris the size of a paint chip strikes like a grenade, travelling at speeds of 17,500 mph. Not going to be any cheerier this week as I tackle Chernobyl and the garbage crisis.

I've had a bit of time to read (what with all this rain) and just completed Adrian McKinty's latest Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly. This is a terrific series if you're looking for a recommendation. Start with the first in the series and work your way through. I've just started reading Leslie Shimotakahara's novel After the Bloom, which talks about the Japanese being put in camps during the war in Canada and the U.S. Leslie's book received a wonderful review in the National Post a few weeks ago. Another book to add to your reading list!

And finally, I had a fun but tiring last Saturday, spending the morning at Perfect Books as part of Authors for Indies Day, and then across the city to Chapters Kanata where I spent the afternoon. Thank you to Michael Murphy for coming out to Perfect Books and bringing me a coffee and granola bar to keep me going, and to Judith Kalil and Catherine Brown for dropping by Chapters Kanata. So great to see you all.



 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Keeping Out and About in April

My April 'book tour' is drawing to a close along with the month. Today, I'll be at Perfect Books (Elgin and Somerset) from 10:00 a.m. until noon as part of Authors for Indies Day. This is when authors visit independent bookstores to highlight what a terrific resource they are for our communities. If you are able, visit your independent bookstore and make a purchase - you may get to meet a local author or two!

Then, I'll be cutting across the city to Chapters Kanata from 1:00 until 3:00 p.m. to sign more copies of Shallow End and the rest of the Stonechild and Rouleau series. I hope you can come by at one location or the other to say hello.

Last Saturday's visit to Coles Carlingwood was a relaxing and rather fun afternoon. I met lots of customers and was gratified when three different strangers each came up over the course of the afternoon to say hello and to tell me that they'd read all four in the Stonechild series and were waiting for the next. Another happy moment was when a woman stopped as she left the store with her book purchases. She said that she wished she'd seen me before she paid as she would have liked to buy mine instead. Some fifteen minutes later, she came back to the store, scooped up a copy of each of my books, returned the ones she'd bought, and replaced them with mine :-) Here's a photo of my friend Maureen Johnston who stopped by for the latest book.



I visited the Russell Library Monday evening and talked writing and the Stonechild series with about twenty-five mystery fans. They were an attentive audience with lots of good questions to make the evening fly by. I read from the first Anna Sweet novella, My Sister's Keeper,  and later from Shallow End to give an idea of the different writing styles and levels.

Ted tells me that we were in Russell once for a curling bonspiel, but I can't say that I remember. It's a growing town of about 3000 people with subdivisions of new homes as well as the older residences. The public library is new as are other buildings like the high school. About forty minutes from the west end in the middle of farm country, it's a lovely little community.

I've been juggling different writing projects. I've been judging a short story contest along with two crime fictions writers, Madona Skaff and Melissa Yuan-Innes and we've had a lot of back and forth. All the work finished up on Friday with the winners being announced at an Ottawa International Writers Festival event with Louise Penny on June 16.  The upcoming Anna Sweet manuscript (Missing Her) also came back for a final read-through as well as five cover designs. The publisher and I weren't blown away by any of the concepts so we've been brainstorming and think we may have lighted on something. I'll share when it's ready. And, I've gotten word that the process is starting for the next Stonechild book and I have to review my author grid for Bleeding Darkness - this is an excel spread sheet of contacts and marketing information. I'll have to get my head around it tomorrow.

I also finished a science section of main idea paragraphs for the workbooks and hit 25,000 words on my latest manuscript. I feel like I'm starting to get ahead of the eight ball.

At last, some decent spring weather to lift the spirits. A thunder storm rumbled across the city overnight so you know the cold and warm air are up there duking it out, but my money is on the heat coming out on top for a few months anyhow. It'll settle in long enough for drinks on the verandah, barbecues, evenings on the back deck and long bike rides... summer can't make it into the Ottawa Valley fast enough for me.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

April Sightings and Excellent News

Such a week! Signing at Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto on Saturday, presentation at the Ottawa Independent Writers' meeting on Tuesday, and an Arthur Ellis Award shortlist nomination on Thursday. And the fun isn't over yet. You can catch me at Coles Carlingwood today from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

But first, back to last Saturday.

I met the Sleuth owners for the first time although I'd heard mention of their mystery store often in the past. Marian Misters and J.D. Singh co-own the store and greeted us warmly - by us, I mean me and my co-authors at the event: Steve Burrows and Leslie Shimotakahara. The store soon filled with readers and friends and we got busy signing and chatting. I was particularly delighted that a woman who used to live on the same street as me growing up in Terrace Bay came out to meet me - once again, it was great to see you Paulette! Steve, Leslie and I rounded out the afternoon with short readings from our books followed by an interesting question and answer session. I also thank my good friend Dawn Rayner for spending the afternoon with me and my husband Ted for driving us about.  Here are a few photos.

Me, Leslie, Steve and Marian

Tuesday evening, I spoke for about an hour to the Ottawa Independent Writers Association at the Hintonberg Community Centre. The topic was writing crime fiction and the very welcoming group asked many follow up questions. Thanks to Katherine Hobbs who came along for the presentation and who took the following pic of me in action. You can see the camera to my right - they recorded my talk and I'm told that parts of it will be on YouTube at some point.


Then, yesterday morning, I woke up to find that No Trace landed on the Arthur Ellis shortlist for crime novella of the year. This is the fifth book in the Anna Sweet mystery series from Grassroots Press, a series geared to adult learners. The Hard Fall, second in the series, was also shortlisted a few years ago so good acknowledgement for the books. The entire list can be found on this CBC link.

Writing went well this week on my latest manuscript as I managed a few full days at the keyboard. But for today, I'm off soon to Coles Carlingwood, a mall in my neighbourhood. Tuesday evening, I'm going to the Russell Public Library to meet readers and to do a reading and talk. 

Next Saturday, April 29, I'll be at Perfect Books on Elgin as part of Authors for Indies Day from 10:00 a.m. to noon; and then I'll be at Chapters Kanata from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. that same day.

I've had lots of writing events going on this month with a few more to come. I hope to meet up with you somewhere along the way!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Out and About in April

Today, I'll be reading, mingling and signing alongside Steve Burrows and Leslie Shimotakahara at the famous Toronto mystery bookshop Sleuth of Baker Street. I hope you can come by if you're in the area!

Back in Ottawa, I'll be at Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, April 22 from 11-2; and Perfect Books from 10-noon, then Chapters Kanata from 1-3 on Saturday, April 29. I'm also giving a talk about writing a crime fiction series to the Ottawa Independent Writers on Tuesday, April 18 at the Hintonburg Community Centre starting around 7:20 p.m.

As promised last week, here are some photos from the Shallow End book launch taken at the Heart and Crown on Friday, April 7. Thanks to Fred Taylor for being the evening's photographer :-)

MC Mary Jane Maffini