Sunday, December 26, 2010

So this is Christmas

Boxing Day 2010.

Christmas to me is those unexpected moments that lighten your heart or make you realize how fortunate you are to have special people in your life. It can be my daughters sleeping over Christmas Eve; opening Christmas stockings on our bed with the kids like we have every year since they were born; finding time for a hot bath and a read before preparing the Christmas dinner; sharing a meal with friends and family long into the night.

Every Christmas, I wait for those few magical moments. This year, I had several, perhaps because I let the holiday flow as it would without worrying about outcomes. It began at work Thursday morning where I thanked the cleaning woman as I do each time, for collecting my garbage. I told her that I would not be in Christmas Eve and wished her a good holiday. She spontaneously flung her arms around me in a hug and wished me a Merry Christmas. It was an unexpected gesture that had me smiling all day.

I send a Christmas card to my all-time favourite English prof from Lakehead U. every year and have done for over 35 years. This year, I did not receive a card back. I worried that he might be too ill to write and fussed about it to Ted a few times over the last week. Christmas Eve morning, his card arrived to my delight. Also in the mail that morning was the Orca spring catalogue with The Second Wife displayed in three places. Another little gift for the holiday.

This Christmas we spent much of our waking hours talking, laughing and reminiscing. A steady stream of old records on the player, too much food and wine and late nights - it has been a mid-winter break from routine and commitments. Ted and I have another luncheon today with old friends and then I will have two days to write and to finish reading C.B. Forrest's second mystery Slow Recoil. Chris is a falulous writer and I'm happy to report that we will be touring together with our new books in the new year.

I hope that you are also taking the time to let the season flow around you and to find those magical moments that warm your heart.

Happiest of holidays to you and all those you hold dear.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fending Off the Panic Zone

So, one week to the big day. Still no tree bought or Christmas lights up outside. No baking done. Gifts not wrapped. Seems to me, things are running right on schedule.

I'll bet you're wondering how I'm going to pull this one off seeing as how I still have a week in the office ahead of me. I'm actually beginning to wonder a bit myself. The photo above was taken last Christmas in Vegas. One of the hotels had this amazing display - obviously the hotel staff had some time on their hands.

You can come out and commiserate with me about Christmas pasts and the state of this one on Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 at the Ottawa Citizen Conference Centre at 1101 Baxter Road - Randall Denley, Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, C.B. Forrest, R.J. Harlick and I will be selling and signing copies of our books - nice Christmas gifts for readers on your list.

I've been working away on a new manuscript and like how it's coming along. I hope to complete a chapter today in between finishing up my shopping and heading out for another Christmas dinner with friends. About the only thing I've managed to stay ahead of this season is the socializing - but maybe that's what it's all about anyhow - getting together with friends and family over some good food and wine.

Time to put on some Christmas music and crank up the gas fireplace. I have another hour or so before I need to go outside. Plenty of time for another cup of coffee while I get myself organized . . . .

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tis the Season

Last year, my family and I ran away for Christmas. I saw the glittering lights of Las Vegas and the desert for the first time in my life. I have to say that while I liked the reprieve from all the work that goes into a traditional Christmas, I'm not sorry to be home this year. That said, two weeks from today is Christmas Eve and I have blessed little done. I'm convinced it will all fall into place. There will be turkey and stuff in the stockings. I am not delusional. I am not delusional.

This week, was the annual Capital Crime Writers' dinner at Robbie's restaurant with The Ottawa Citizen's Randall Denley as guest speaker. He's released his first murder mystery entitled One Dead Sister set in Ottawa and New England. It was a fun evening - I realize how many good friends I've made in this group. I always like getting together with others who think about killing people off . . . in fiction.

I also happened upon the cover for my April Orca release, The Second Wife. Very cool cover and all who've seen it are giving it the thumbs up. You can check it out on the Orca site under Rapid Reads. I'm currently working on a sequel and hope to have it done in a few months. Gwen Lake is a character I like immensely. My daughter Lisa (who's read The Second Wife manuscript) tells me that she likes what a mess Gwen's life is - a divorced desk cop who likes the odd bottle of wine and sees the world through sardonic eyes. Much like most of my friends except for the divorced desk cop bit.

So writing, gift buying, partying (three lunches, a wine and cheese and a couple of dinners coming up this week), curling, baking and tree putting-upping on my horizon - oh yeah, and my full-time job. I'm actually starting to get in the Christmas spirit . . . time to deck the halls.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Canadian Mysteries Need Your Support

These are difficult days in Canadian publishing. My publisher sent out a notice to her authors yesterday, informing us that while our latest books are in the Chapters/Indigo warehouse, and have been for over a month, they will not be in the stores until after Christmas. For smaller publishers and authors who have not written blockbusters like Going Rogue (and you might ask yourself how Sarah Palin became a bestseller in Canada), this lack of distribution is like a death knell. Our work is good. It deserves to be on the shelves.

I encourage each of you to take the time to write to Chapters or to call your local store and ask that your favourite Canadian mystery author's work be brought into the store right away. If we do not take a stand, good, new authors will stop writing, smaller publishers will go out of business, and a blossoming segment of Canadian writing will disappear. We need to start making noise.

On my writing front, Kitchissippi Times printed a little article this week about my book launch with Barbara Fradkin - it was a well written piece and will help to get our names out locally. I've been settling in to write the next installment in the Orca Rapid Reads series and have the first three chapters written. I'm still sorting out in my head where the storyline will go. I'm happy to be working on a new piece and not editing.

Well, the weather in Ottawa has been unbelievably mild as we head into December, with the odd sprinkle of snow followed by above-freezing temps and rain. As I look out the window, I see green grass and a coating of frost on the roofs across the street. Makes it hard to get motivated to go Christmas shopping. We better get some snow soon or there won't be many gifts under the tree.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winding up November

In Winter's Grip is now in stores across the country and the U.S. Unbelievable really when I stop to think about it. I've been getting some very postitive reviewing from those who've read the book, including an unexpected note from Tim Wynne-Jones - award winning children's author - saying he was at the launch and really enjoyed the suspense and story. Good to get such good feedback from another author, especially one as well respected as Tim.

I spent the week curling - five games since last I blogged. Yesterday, I curled in the morning and then drove out to Beaverbrook branch of the Ottawa Public Library to teach kids a short story-writing workshop. This is part of the Awesome Authors contest - all of the judges teach a workshop before the entries are due. I've agreed to judge the English short stories again this year and expect to spend several hours reading stories in the new year. Thirteen kids attended the workshop and they were just a great group - enthusiastic, engaged and filled with good questions. After a fun hour, I rushed back to Westboro to curl in the B-side final, and am happy to report victory.

I also spent part of last week looking up lyrics and notable quotes from 1970 and 1971 for my YA manuscript set in the Vietnam era - 1971 to be exact. I decided to add a quote to the beginning of each chapter, so that meant rereading each chapter, coming up with a theme or link to a quote. I'm thinking I got some spot on, but will wait to see what my editor thinks. Anyhow, I feel a big lifting of weight with the final submission of this manuscript to Napoleon. It was called "After Annie" but the title has now changed to Second Chances. I rewrote the ending and think the story a lot tighter. On va voir.

I also heard from Orca that they will entertain the idea of a sequel to follow The Second Wife. I'm going to take a little breather to get Christmas together before tackling an outline. Give the ideas time to ferment, like good wine.

So now the season of parties, dinners, shopping and decorating begins. I've ventured out to neighbourhood stores and started the annual gift-buying dance. I imagine you are all involved in the same tango. It's an annual ritual that unites us one and all.
May the sales be with you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

So, In Winter's Grip is officially launched. The evening was hugely successful for Barb Fradkin and me as we launched our adult mysteries. Lots of people turned up to buy the books, listen to our readings and mingle over finger foods and wine. Most civilized although I have to say, I felt a little pang of longing for my pub launches of old. Thank you to all who came to help celebrate and who bought books. Your support means more than I can ever say.

My two curling teams waited patiently while I book toured, flew to Saskatoon for work and lounged sick at home - three weeks gone from my regular life. I've curled two club games this week and have a full day with my ladies' team this weekend at a spiel in Navan. It's good to have a balance between sitting at a desk typing and socializing over curling rocks and glasses of wine that follow the games. lately, I'm thinking some wine before the game might help me throw the rocks better, but the wiser course might be to get out and practise.

Also around this time of year, I start to get little twinges about Christmas. I don't know if others are the same, but by December 1st, the pangs turn into outright panic at the thought of all the work ahead - planning meals, baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, socializing. Last year, my family escaped to Las Vegas for Christmas week and I have to say, I loved being away. Still, just like this week's launch away from the familiar pub, I also missed being home and doing all the traditions. Life can be poignant when you least expect.
I'm planning to finish editing my Vietnam era YA manuscript this week and think I've come up with a title. I agonize over titles. In fact, I spend more time coming up with one than I do writing a chapter, several chapters even. I had the same trouble naming my daughters. Books are kind of like children. You also don't want to send them into the world saddled with the wrong moniker, or worse, one that makes you wonder years later just what in god's name you were thinking.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Down but not out

A week ago at this time, I was on a plane flying home from the work retreat at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, fifteen minutes outside of Saskatoon. I'd never set foot in Saskatchewan before and had my first look at the flat land that stretched for miles only ending when it ran into the robin's egg blue prairie sky. Anyhow, when my plane finally landed in Ottawa after midnight and I'd made it safely home, a sore throat decided to take hold. My body was of the opinion that I needed another week off work to pay for my travels. It might have tried for two weeks but for a trip to the doctor and some mighty fine antibiotics that are working their magic.

Before taking to my bed, I managed to complete a review of the edits from Orca for the Rapid Reads manuscript. Most of the changes were style and some were questions about plot details so it didn't take me too long. The next time I see the manuscript, it will be the page proofs. I'm also looking forward to seeing the cover - I've no idea what it will be.

I also fit in a coffee chat with Barbara Fradkin last Sunday morning before I crashed. We divided up a few tasks for our launch this coming Tuesday evening - 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Library and Archives on Wellington Street - everyone is invited. Mary Jane Maffini will MC and it should be a fun evening. We're even going to do short readings, not something I ever managed for my kids' book launches in Whispers pub. (Kids' books in a pub; adult books in a library - not sure I got the sequence right.)

Well, this promises to be another gorgeous November weekend with temps around nine on Saturday. I swear to you and my sick husband (whom I can hear coughing upstairs) that I am planting tulips tomorrow and washing the car. Enough procrastinating. If I don't get the bulbs into the ground, just what are the squirrels going to dig up for their mid-winter snack?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Catching Up

Home sweet home after nearly two weeks on the road.

I flew to Saskatoon on Wednesday for work and fit in a signing/reading at McNally Robinson bookstore. I was greeted by Nicole Berard and made to feel most welcome. The photo above is just some of the in-store publicity for the event. A few from the local community came out for the reading, including a girl from my old home town, whom I hadn't seen since we were kids. In fact, our families used to spend Christmas dinner together for a number of years. Hearing from people from my past is one of the most wonderful benefits of publicizing books. A number of my colleagues also came to the reading after a long day of work, many of whom I met on the trip. I was quite humbled by their support of me and my writing. A huge thank you to all who came out and bought books.

And now, down to the business of Barb Fradkin and my book launch on November 16th. We have details to sort out and people to invite. It promises to be a fun evening with my road trip mate Mary Jane Maffini as MC. I hope all can make it. Who knows what road stories she'll tell :-)

Also waiting in my in box is an edited version of "The Second Wife", the Orca Rapid Reads book due out this spring. That makes two manuscripts I'm editing for publication next year. Luckily, I have until December for the second one. Whew. Lots to do!

I never did get those tulip bulbs planted. Let's hope the snow holds off for a while.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Almost Home

We arrived back at Shelley's in Chagrin Falls just after five-thirty this evening. This morning, I was part of a second panel, which dealt with early book, movie and tv influences on our writing. It was like a trip back down memory lane. We drove straight here after the panel and book signing ended.

All in all, it's been a great experience. The fans who come to these conferences are knowledgeable readers who love sitting with authors and talking about books and writing. I met so many lovely people, including two retired school principals whom I sat with at dinner last night. It turns out one has a review column on kids' books, and she was keen to get my book info for the YA books. I left two copies of In Winter's Grip with two other reviewers this morning. Not only do the people at these conferences expect you to promote your writing, they demand it - they are looking for new authors to read!

Tonight, we are heading into town to a wine bar and then back to Shelley's for the meal prepared earlier today (it smells like ambrosia). I'll be rounding up Mary Jane early tomorrow to get on the road before 7:30 as we have about a 10-hour drive ahead of us. Mary Jane is not an early morning person so we'll be fueling up on coffee as we cut across the states to Watertown. All in all, this has been a great road trip - we've spent a good deal of our time laughing - if you know Mary Jane, you'll understand how that happened! Looking forward to home . . . .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Murder in Muncie

Well, we're nearing the halfway point in the conference. We pulled into Muncie around five o'clock yesterday and realized we had no idea where the six o'clock dinner was to take place, or the conference for that matter. Oops. Also turns out we are the only two authors in this particular motel. So, another mad scramble to change clothes, trowel on the make up (Mary Jane's expression, not mine) and careen over to the conference centre after only losing our way I once. You'll be glad to know they were short four dinners so we had to wait another half hour anyhow while they cooked new dinners for our entire table.

We've met many great readers and authors since then. This morning, I was interviewed for a PBS and Utube clip as were over twenty other authors, then had my panel on creating setting. It went well, and I even sold some books. Now, we're back in the motel resting up for the banquet and a night of networking.

As promised, Mary Jane has agreed to be my first ever guest blogger, and here she is to say a few words!

I am glad to be here and even more glad to be alive. Brenda is a great travelling companion, although our third passenger, Jeeves the GPS, tends to misbehave. One of the best parts of this trip has been the discovery of a reading America in the most unexpected places. On our way to Muncie, driving through Ohio (a very wide state it seemed to us) we needed to have a rest break and lunch. We were on a highway (don't ask us which one) surrounded by fields which seemed to stretch forever. Brenda and Jeeves got us off in search of a place to eat and we went backwards and sideways and through (big surprise!) fields when we got to the Village of Bluffton, which was nicely picturesque. At the Common Grounds Cafe, we discovered not only that the manager has Canadian friends, kids who are voracious reader, is a reader herself and also runs the cafe book club. Who knew? We got a great reception there and exchanged bookmarks, cards and promises of Facebook, blogs and more.

For me that was almost as much fun as being 'carded' in Muncie (a highlight of the trip) when I bought a replacement bottle of wine. I guess the drinking age is 62.

Now we are off to the dinner to schmooze and laugh. My big challenge is getting Brenda to wear the witch's hat that our good friends John and Toni at Foul Play gave us. I may have to blackmail her into it, so wish me luck. The adventure continues. And it is Brenda's birthday, so who knows what will happen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night

Good morning from Chagrin Falls just outside Cleveland, Ohio. Mary Jane and I drove upstate from Columbus yesterday and landed in this picturesque town where we are staying with local author Shelley Costa and her husband Michael in their lovely home at the end of a cul de sac.

Ohio is a beautiful state - rolling hills and autumn colours with a lot of farm land and large homes. It's been warmer here than in Ottawa and most of the leaves are still on the trees - shades of yellow and orange.

The librarians from the Cuyahaga County Public Library took Mary Jane, Shelley and I for dinner last night at an Indian restaurant before we headed over for a talk and reading. We couldn't have been made to feel more welcome. Wendy Bartlett, Chris, Paula and Laurie - thank you for all the work you did to make the evening special. I know I've missed other names from your team and we thank them too. There were between thirty and forty mystery fans who came to hear our talk in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch, which is a converted mansion. The room that we read in was stunning with a fountain and dark woodwork. With the rain lashing down outside, the evening had a mysterious feel - perfect for two Canadian mystery authors.

This morning, we are heading back into town for breakfast with Shelley at a local, very American diner. Then, Mary Jane and I are heading to Muncie, Indiana for the Magna Cum Murder mystery conference. It begins with an author dinner tonight. Heading into the final leg of our road trip!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the Road Again

Greetings from Columbus, Ohio. Mary Jane Maffini and I have been on the road since Tuesday. We spent the first night in Oakville with my good friends Deanna and Bill - Deanna had chicken in the slower cooker and wine at the ready upon our arrival. We'd made one stop along the way in Toronto at our publisher's new office and had coffee with Sylvia and Allister. I met Emma Dolan who was the creative mind behind the book cover for In Winter's Grip. Anyhow, back to Oakville where the weather had turned nasty just around the time we were to set out for Chapters for our signing. In fact, meteorologists were calling for a 'weather bomb', apparently scary enough to keep people indoors and away from bookstores. We managed a very pleasant evening anyhow since Deanna came with us and a few of Mary Jane's friends braved the dire weather forecast. A few strangers bought books too, and the Chapters staff couldn't have been more welcoming. Then, back to Deanna and Bill's for a few hours of wine and conversation with a fire burning in the grate. It was a lovely start to our trip.

Yesterday, Mary Jane and I puttered our way across the border and across upstate New York and Pennsylvania to the fine Ohio state. We are using GPS - a British man's voice - that gets quite upset if we make a wrong turn. Unfortunately, 'Jeeves' has led us to a few detours that added at least an hour to our trip. One very funny moment: We had entered Pennsylvania and smelled this strong odour of manure. Mary Jane said, "You sure can tell that we've entered farm country." I looked up and saw the head of a cow in the truck ahead of us. "I think if you get into the passing lane, we'll soon be out of farm country," I said.

We reached our hotel in Columbus around six in the evening, not the two or three o'clock that we'd planned (no more long lunches, we've now decided). We quickly changed clothes and hopped back in the car. "Two and a half kilometres to Foul Play bookstore," said Mary Jane. Jeeves led us to a bridge that was out and we had to back track and circle for a while until we found a way. Two and a half kilometres took us half an hour. Luckily, the store owners Toni and John waited for us with some book club members. We spent a few hours talking about books and sharing stories before Toni and John took us for pizza at a local restaurant - it was just terrific. Apparently, people drive down from Cleveland just to eat this pizza. I could taste why.

We slept in today and will soon be heading to Cleveland for a library visit tonight. Jeeves is helping us locate some fine shopping en route. One more cup of coffee and we'll be on our way. Let's hope we don't run into anymore detours :-) Until tomorrow . . . .

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Indiana Wants Me

The weather has turned. Frost on the pumpkin, wood smoke in the air, gloves and hat put on for the morning walk to the bus in darkness - winter is around the corner.

Mary Jane Maffini and I have been working on the details of our road trip south. We leave Tuesday morning with a quick stop at RendezVous Crime in Toronto, then on to Oakville for a Chapters booksigning. Wednesday morning, we cross the border into Ohio where we have a booksigning at a bookstore called Foul Play. The next night, we are reading at a library just outside of Cleveland, then on to Muncie, Indiana for the Magna Cum Murder conference. We are both on two panels - my first is on setting and the second is about books that influenced my writing.

One goal of these trips is to meet people and make connections. The mystery-writing community is smaller than you might think. There is definitely a pecking order with the best-selling authors like Michael Connelly and Lee Childs at the top. They do not attend smaller mystery conferences like this one unless they are guests of honour. For lesser known authors, the smaller, local conferences can widen your fan base and get you the exposure that is often hard to come by. They can also be a lot of fun! I'm going to attempt to blog while on the road, so please check back next week to follow along with me. I'm sure I'll be able to get Mary Jane to type a few thoughts as well.

(Okay you music fans - Who sang the 1970 hit "Indiana Wants Me"? No checking on the internet!)

Katherine Hobbs invited me to go with her to Randall Denley's book launch at the Heart and Crown pub on Wednesday evening. Randall is a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen and he writes a column giving his opinion on politics - you can imagine how much fodder there is lately with the municipal election this Monday. Anyhow, there was a list of politicians mingling in close quarters, including Larry O'Brien, Allan Rock, John Baird, Pierre Poilievre and a host of city councillors. it was all rather surreal. I kept expecting the Prime Minister to walk in! I bought Randall's book entitled One Dead Sister and am looking forward to giving it a read, perhaps while on the road.

So, lots of little details to take care of this weekend, including hauling out the suitcase. The weather people are calling for rain all week, but today the sun is out and it should be a wonderful day to be outside running errands and enjoying the fall colours.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Room With A View

My office. Years ago when I started writing, I didn't have a spot in our little house to work. Ted decided I needed my own space and worked with an architect to create this room for me. The window in front of my desk looks out over our pine and balsam trees and it's one of my favourite places to be. I have a reading nook at the opposite end of the room where Ted and I spend time every evening after work, catching up on our day. If a room could have personality, mine has become a friend.

I've had a busy week - Monday, I cooked a turkey dinner for ten - great fun. Tuesday night I read from In Winter's Grip at the Ottawa Library along with other writers in the Canadian Authors Association. Lots of variety in reading selections and an interesting evening. Wednesday, I began sending out notices about Barb Fradkin's and my launch on Nov. 16th at the Library and Archives. Publicity is time-consuming - that took all evening. Thursday, I appeared by phone on CBC Radio to talk about advance voting in the municipal election, then went curling. Friday, dinner with friends - and of course full work days all week. Today, I still have lots to do but will set aside writing time.

This week as well, In Winter's Grip also received its first review in Unfolding online magazine's blog. You can read it at About the book's release. There has been an issue with the printer, which I hope is soon resolved. I will have some books for my trip south and have my fingers crossed that the rest are available soon. I know lots of people are waiting.

So time to get the day underway. I think I'll start with another cup of coffee . . . .

Saturday, October 9, 2010


October 9, 2010 - If John Lennon had lived, he'd be 70 years old today. Imagine. I remember the first time I heard of the Beatles. We were visiting friends of my parents and their son Mark somebody told us we had to listen to this new record he'd just bought - my sister and I went into his basement and listened to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on his little record player. We found it revolutionary. I was probably in Grade Five. Shortly after, the four mop tops appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and I was convinced Paul McCartney was my destiny - me and a billion other young girls believed the same . . . uh, hormonally charged fantasy. Back then, you were either a 'John' or 'Paul' girl. I fell into the latter group. Amazing that two such talented blokes got together at the right time and place, not to take anything away from George and Ringo. Ah yes, those were the days, my friend.

I haven't gotten in much writing this week but am itching to get back at it. Whenever I take a little break from the keyboard, I start to get this overwhelming need to write. I'll start rearranging my commitments to give myself time. This weekend could be tough to find that time. My nephew arrives this afternoon from Toronto where he's going to college and I'm cooking the big turkey dinner for nine on Monday. I bake pies and cook up cranberries - the whole she-bang. I love doing it, but the preparation is time-consuming.

Just two weeks until Mary Jane Maffini and I hit the road to promote our books. Our first stop is Oakville Chapters on October 26th. My friend Deanna is putting us up for the night so that will be a wonderful start. From there, we go to Ohio and Indiana. Just to keep my stress factor on red alert, there was a hold up at the printer and In Winter's Grip is still not available. Time is getting tight if the book is to be in all the places we'll be visiting. Keep your fingers crossed - the book should be out any day now.

Well, I have a full day ahead. I start with some door-to-door campaigning at noon with Katherine Hobbs, who is running for city counsellor in my ward (Kitchissippi). She has a lot to offer and my great hope is that our voters recognize gold when they see it. Then, we're off to the train station to pick up Dylan and the weekend festivities get underway.

Wishing each of you time this weekend with family and friends, a good meal and moments to recharge and reflect. The beauty of the fall colours is a gift to all of us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Photographs and Memories

What a gorgeous day we having going out there this first weekend of October. Ted and I sat on his new front deck this morning drinking coffee and watching the pine needles fall. I have tulip bulbs that need planting and a few plants that need to be moved around in the garden. We got in a cord of firewood as we start to batten down the house for the cold days ahead.

I spent a great part of the week rewriting the Viet Nam manuscript. What fun listening to music from the 70s on Utube. That was such a creative, passionate era in music. it was a great time to be in high school - hippies, long hair, bare feet, hitchhiking, rock n' roll, protest rallys, smock tops, clogs . . . . a free, exciting period, all in all.

The other day, I was remembering my first waitressing job at a pizza joint in Thunder Bay in the late 70s. It was the summer of my first year in university and I'd spent two days tree planting next to a busload of convicts and their armed guard. It seemed like a good time to make a career change. I got an interview for the waitressing job, which amounted to me trying on the red hotpants uniform. The manager and owner (yes, both men) had a look at my legs and said I would do. I'm almost certain I could file a complaint somewhere if this happened today. I lasted the summer, working the night shift and avoiding propositions from customers - made me realize why I was still in school.

As of this week, no In Winter's Grip on the shelves yet. It seems to have been delayed slightly, but I hear it should be out very soon. I'll post on my site when it is released. I'm looking forward to holding a copy. The Orca book, slated for spring 2011, now has a title - The Second Wife. Editing starts on this one soon.

So do you know who wrote the song title up above? "Photographs and Memories"? Think way back . . .

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Old Dogs and New Tricks

Technology is a wonderful thing. Twelve years ago when I began my first job in the government as a writer/editor, I had to ask how to turn on the computer. Who knew that one day I would be blogging, twittering, facebooking, Blackberrying and uploading? Yesterday at work, my coworker Katherine Brown showed me how to post pictures within the text of my blog. To the left and above is a photo that was taken at the Capital Crime Writers pub night in the spring and the big one above that (I can adjust size :-) is in Toronto at Bloody Words mystery conference this past spring. This is genius. Now, if only I could learn to work the remote and reset digital clocks, my world would be complete.

This week, I completed a detailed questionnaire for Orca publishers. I also confirmed a signing at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon on November 4th, a signing at Chapters in Oakville on October 26th with Mary Jane Maffini , a reading at Canadian Authors Association meeting at the Ottawa Public Library on October 12th, and the bookseller Books on Beechwood for the November 16th launch with Barb Fradkin. It's going to be a busy season. I also have to get working on completing the manscript for Napoleon due out next fall. Oh yes - curling starts this week with an opening bonspiel.

I think this calls for a list.

We were out to dinner last night with our good friends Ann and Ken at Petit Bill's restaurant on Wellington Street, just outside Westboro village. What a great little spot - I had crab cakes and shrimp and scallop on angel hair pasta topped off with the bread pudding. A place to try if you ever are in Ottawa. (I could come with you, if necessary.) We then dropped down to Whispers to see our daughter Julia.

I love watching my daughters, waitressing, curling, it doesn't matter - just seeing them makes my heart full and proud. This is a mother moment.

It's time to make another cup of coffee and get the day gently underway. I hope you are having a relaxing weekend and refueling for the week ahead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September Saturday Morning

Another weekend. "Fall is in the air," I said to Ted last night as we left Whispers pub. Every Friday night for the entire summer, we've made Friday night date night. We've taken to capping off the evening by dropping in on Whispers to have a chat with our daughter Julia, who waitresses there.

"Just what I was saying this afternoon," replied Ted. "Summer is pretty much over."

The circle of the seasons.
Great minds that think alike :-)

I love autumn. Planning Thanksgiving dinner for our family and friends - fresh turkey and homemade apple and pumpkin pies - pulling out the warmer clothes, beginning the curling season, watching season openers on tv, stretching out with a good book next to the fireplace . . . All satisfying. All good.

This fall is going to be particularly busy. Mary Jane Maffini and I are planning our trip to Muncie at the end of October with visits to a bookstore and library for readings along the way. I'm still waiting for the final word on when In Winter's Grip will be released, but it went to the printer's a few weeks ago and the target is the beginning of October. I'm also planning a joint book launch with Barbara Fradkin on November 16th. We were thrown a bit with word of the closing of Shirley Leishman bookstore, but we have time to line up a new bookseller.

Such a loss to have Leishman's close. I remember speaking with co-owner Diane Walker about my first manuscript, Running Scared, before I'd sent it off to any publishers. I briefly told her the premise and asked her if she knew of any publishers I should approach. At the end of our chat, Diane said, "I'd love to do your launch when you find a publisher." Since then, Diane has been the seller at all four launches and hosted signings in their store. She's become a friend. I mourn the loss of her store because I know that Diane and Sally are passionate about books and the community and the business they have built over so many years. Along with the closing of Prime Crime earlier this year, they will be sadly missed.

I received the final contract from Orca for my Rapid Reads book . I've sent in the manuscript and am awaiting feedback. I've got to say though, I'm happy with the story. A little murder mystery, colourful characters, humour and pathos - all in under 20,000 words.

So, this morning, Ted has ripped apart the roof to replace the skylight above the back entranceway. It's been leaking like a Swiss cheese all summer and driving him to distraction. Neighbours are already stepping outside to have a look. Along with the truck outside my office window, pumping insulation into my neighbour's newly renovated house and the sewer work going on down the street, it promises to be a lively and noisy Saturday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book 'em Dano

Fall activities are revving up. I attended the first Capital Crime Writers meeting of the season where we learned about homicide investigations from Sgt. Tony Gagnon from Ottawa Major Crimes Unit. A few things I didn't know:

The police can't bring you down to the station for questioning unless they arrest you for investigative purposes (usually at the point where you become a suspect). They need to convince you to go to the station otherwise, and people sometimes refuse to go. Boy, I wouldn't have ever thought to say no if I was asked by the police to 'go downtown'. I'd be saying, "How fast do you need me there?"

The RCMP do not investigate homicides in Ontario although they do in other provinces. If somebody was murdered at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, they'd have the Major Crimes Unit in to investigate. Of course, Major Crimes don't ride around on horses - hard to be an expert in everything.

Sgt. Gagnon also told us that a spin guy is someone working surveillance while the slab is what they call Highway 417. Little bits of trivia that can make a mystery authentic.

I guest blogged Monday, Sept. 6th on Mystery Maven Canada, which is the brainchild of Linda Wiken, previous owner of Prime Crime bookstore. In addition to blogging, Linda will also be posting book reviews and she'll continue with guests, including authors, librarians and others in the book industry. It's a site worth checking out:

I"ve also figured out how to post photos on this blog, so there'll be more visual interest from here on in. Sad to say though that Ted has pretty much wrapped up the deck project. We'll have to wait to see what he tackles next.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Last Days of Summer

The Labour Day long weekend. Kids are getting ready to return to school, and the weather has turned from hot and stifling to cool and breezy. This always feels like the beginning of a new chapter - like one should sign up for courses and programs and get serious about doing something constructive. It also felt like a good morning to sleep in, so I went with that.

I've been reworking the ending of After Annie and will be giving the manuscript a new title. My Napoleon publisher tells me it is slated for release next fall, giving me lots of time to rejig. It's a YA book, but for older teens and set in the seventies. When I told my daughter about the setting, she asked what I knew about the seventies. I replied, "I lived through them." She said, " I forget how old your are." I'm thinking that's a compliment.

It's been a behind-the-scenes kind of week. Chris Forrest is trying to organize a launch of our new books in Toronto this November, but coming up with a date has proven to be difficult. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing with no resolution. I'm also in contact with Barbara Fradkin about our November 16th launch in Ottawa and we're meeting for supper next week to sort out details. The business of writing.

I met with Mike Levin, publisher of Unfolding online magazine, for coffee earlier this week. He wanted to talk about In Winter's Grip as he plans to put out a review closer to the date of release (end of September/beginning of October). Anyhow, it took me a bit to realize he was interviewing me and taking notes about the Orca book project. Another clue was when he pulled out his camera and had me sit on some steps to get a head shot. You can find the article on his blog (

The deck railing and caps for the posts are installed. My weekly updates will be trailing away but rest assured. Ted has new projects on his radar. Wait until you see what he has planned for the back yard.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wakefest Equals Fun

Well, I'm a bit late this weekend with the blog, and somebody actually noticed! This feels like a weekly tv show, like Glee or House - people actually wait for it. I'm suitably humbled.

I just got back from Wakefield. What a gorgeous day to be in this small Quebec village - we had to postpone the workshop since the kids who were interested were mainly out of town for the weekend, but the readings carried on. There were five of us and a gathering of people outside in front of Solstice bookstore. The owner Roberta is just great - I haven't met any independent bookstore owners I haven't liked!

Phil Jenkins hosted and read from his poetry between authors. It was the first time I met Phil and hopefully not the last - great sense of humour and good writer. I particularly liked his poem about a girl he should have kissed in the parking lot . . . but didn't.

Nadine Dolittle read first. We met a few times before, and it was good to be reacquainted and to hear her read from her upcoming book. Tom Henighan was next, reading from his new adult murder mystery called Night Shade. I actually hitched a ride to Wakefield with Tom and his wife Marilyn and we had enjoyable chats each way. Tom was a prof at Carleton in the English department (now retired) and lives around the corner from us. I marked papers for his one of his mythology classes a number of years ago. There's that small world again.

I was third up and read two passages from In Winter's Grip and told a narcissist joke beforehand. If writing ever fails, I might try my hand at stand up comic. I'll keep working on my act. One joke might not cut it.

I also met the most lovely woman named Glennis, who is a retired volunteer at the Wakefield library - she even bought me Wakefield's fourth annual naked calendar, which has upstanding Wakefield citizens in artistic stages of undress. A great parting gift I'd say. Anyhow, photos of the day posted on my Facebook page (but none from the calendar - you'll have to imagine those).

I've carried on with my writing projects this week and am happy with my Orca story. It was so much fun to write. I also will be blogging for Mystery Maven Canada on Sept. 7th. I'll be sure to post on Facebook and Twitter. I actually stick to one topic :-)

Ted is working hard on the front deck - I'll post a photo tomorrow as I want to give him a chance to finish the day's work. Keep an eye out for the reveal. He still will have the fiddly bits to do, but the progress this week is stunning.

Friday, August 20, 2010

So Many Projects. So Little Time

My seven a.m. walk to the transit station has gotten decidedly cooler this week. It's even dark when I wake up at six. I'm not sure I'm ready for jackets and sweaters, but it's not like there's a choice . . . unless you are my neighbour who dresses only in shorts, a tee-shirt and rubber boots in the dead of winter. Ted and I walked by him one 30 below evening, and he was shovelling his driveway in his shirt and shorts - we were so bundled up, all you could see were our faces peeking out of scarves (that's a bit of exaggeration as I've never actually seen Ted wearing a scarf). Anyhow, my neighbour has been reported on the radio: "Man in tee-shirt seen biking through Westboro during snowstorm." Yes, he's quite a sight to behold.

Anyhow, not sure why my mind went there. It is still hot in the afternoons. I should just cling onto that.

I had great fun writing the book for Orca. I'm done the first draft and have my critiquers giving it a read. So far, feedback has been most encouraging - glowing even (thank you Catharine Brown and waiting on you, Lisa Weagle). I'm also reading through In Winter's Grip one last time before it goes to press. I think I've read it just forty-five thousand times already - there's no more surprising me with the ending.

This is going to be an extremely busy fall. It all starts with Wakefest next Saturday. I'm teaching a three-hour workshop in the morning, then a little break, then readings from one to three. I've been preparing for the workshop and think it should be great fun. Also just got signed up to do a workshop at the library in November as I am going to judge short stories in the Awesome Authors contest again this year.

And the front steps . . . the lattice work is in and the railing is on the back of Ted's truck. Almost there - and we're now wondering if a hammock will fit so Ted can rest after all this exertion. As always, the weekly photo is on my Facebook fan page.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Lull

This has been a fabulous week - weather-wise and writing-wise. The Orca contract arrived today, but I've been working all week on the manuscript. I'm really liking the main character of this story. It's great when the writing is flowing and sitting down at the computer is a pleasure. My next big task is to come up with a title. I'd rather write an entire book than have to come up with a title. Now that's where I get writers' block!

So, the rest of my life has been quiet - lots of thinking about the plotline when I'm not writing. I did hear from Rachel (publicist) and she'd putting posters for In Winter's Grip in all the B.C. Chapters. She's working on building a buzz. I'm also finishing up some preparation for my workshop and reading at Wakefest - only two weeks away. The summer is going way too quickly.

BIG NEWS - the steps are finally on the front deck. Neighbours are coming over and people are stopping by. I'm beginning to think people were getting worried that the project had stalled for good. This little bit of progress has been the talk of the neighbourhood :-)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Laying the Groundwork

My big news this week is a contract with Orca Publishers in Vancouver to write a book for their Rapid Reads series. The editor sent e-mails to some mystery authors asking for proposals. I submitted two chapters and a synopsis for a story idea and he liked it! These books are short - about 15,000 words and aimed at adults with literacy issues. It's a relatively new project but one that has been well received so far. I'm really thrilled to be writing one of these books since I taught reading for so many years to kids and adults who were struggling - it was difficult to find books at lower reading levels with appropriate, age-level content. Anyhow, I have to get writing as Orca want this book for the spring 2011 list.

Emma Dolan of RendezVous Crime sent along the final front and back covers of In Winter's Grip for me to see, and they are absolutely fabulous. Our good friend Frank Bowick (who was best man at our wedding some years back) took a photo of a forest in winter that I knew was perfect for the cover, and he agreed I could use it. Emma took the photo and came up with the final concept. It meant a photo shoot in Toronto to get the woman's face that you see super imposed on the woods. The final result has a thriller feel that reflects the suspense inside the covers. I hope you think so too.

Travel news: I'll be heading to Saskatoon in November for work and Rachel has set up a book signing and reading at McNally Robinson for the evening I arrive. I've never set foot in Saskatchewan and am looking forward to the visit. I hear Saskatoon is a pretty city - I'm hopeful it won't be snowed in by early November!

So, my evenings and weekends are busy with writing. In addition to the new manuscript, I'm revising the ending of another and waiting for the final draft of In Winter's Grip from Allister to give it one last going over before it goes to printing. We're getting close . . ..

And on the home renovation front, progress on the front deck stalled this week as Ted fusses with final measurements and prepares to build the steps. A few tenacious door-to-door salesmen have managed to ignore the fact we do not have stairs and climbed up to ring the doorbell. (I wonder if our insurance covers broken legs and sprained ankles if they were to slip or something.) In any event, stay tuned for next week. Ted promises the progress will be rapid from here on in . . . . and who am I to question such optimism?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Taking Care of Business

It's a fabulous sunny Saturday morning to start the August 1st long weekend. I've been up early reading Harlan Coben's thriller One False Move, realeased in 1998. It's a snappy read, full of humour and one-liners. But enough frivolity. I need to get down to business.

I heard from my publisher about the manuscript entitled After Annie. While she likes all the plotlines, she would like me to pick one to bring to the fore and pull the book together. I think she's hit a flaw in the book, but now it's what do I cut and what do I beef up? Whatever I pick, it means a lot of reworking . . . and I'm already working on two other projects and have a final review of In Winter's Grip coming. Like that old Tommy Roe song . . . you're making me Dizzy, My head is spinning, Like a whirlpool it never ends . . . I'm known for botching up lyrics and getting the names of singers (and friends) wrong so hope that was a proper rendition. Anyhow, you get the idea.

Mary Jane Maffini and I have booked two events on our road trip to Muncie Indiana. In addition to the Foul Play bookstore in Westerville, Ohio, we've now got a stop in the South Euclid branch of the Cuyahoga Public Library in Ohio. The library is in an old mansion and there is a fountain in the room where we'll be reading. Both stops include dinner or lunch with the organizers - this trip is shaping up to be great fun. I've never set foot in Ohio so it'll be a new state notch in my belt.

So, an update on what you're really interested in - our front steps. Two photos on my Facebook fan page this week - one of the progress and one of the reason why. Ted might just get to the backyard projects if this keeps up. Ted, Tiger and Weirsy are all in a slump, and that's not all bad.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back to Work

A sluggish kind of week - back at work and catching the early bus to settle into the office routine.
Working five days a week is hard on the system. Today is Saturday, and I could barely get myself out of bed. I'd probably still be in it if Ted hadn't climbed the stairs with a cup of coffee.

I did some housekeeping this week behind the scenes, including signing up for Bloody Words 2011 in June in Victoria and updating the appearances on my website with more additions to come. This should be a busy fall. Only two more months before In Winter's Grip is released and the date of the launch with Barbara Fradkin has been set - Tuesday evening, November 16th at the Library and Archives in Ottawa. Barbara writes the Inspector Green series set in Ottawa and two of her books won the Arthur Ellis award for crime novel of the year, so a popular local author with a growing fan base. It's odd that all the launches for my kids' books were in a pub and my adult one will be in the Archives. We'll still have wine available though!

I wanted to say what great friends and family I have. I am humbled by the support I have received and am often amazed by your generosity. Thank you for coming out to my events, sending encouraging e-mails, travelling around the city and province with me and enjoying my books - I am one fortunate cookie.

Well, Ted has been beavering away on our front steps. The latest photo on my fan page shows incredible progress. The orange thing is still there but now is just for show (he tells me). At this rate, we'll be sitting on the deck, drinking our morning coffee before much longer. I might not even have to wear my parka. Speaking of coffee, there's time for another cup before I start on the day. I will be going through my current manuscript beginning to end to adjust the plot as required and to tidy up some editing before I head into the home stretch . . . . but no rush today. I have no buses to catch or deadlines to meet . . . life is all good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Holiday Continues . . .

My holidays are drawing to a close and just when I was getting into a good rhythm of reading, writing and visiting friends. Yes, the log jam in my noggin with my latest manuscript has been broken and I am back writing away with ideas coming freely. I'm liking it again!

I've also been back working out, believe it or not, to get in shape for curling this fall. I'm on two teams - skipping a ladies' team and playing lead in the open competitive - as we say in curling, I got "picked up" by three men. Perhaps, they should look at changing this expression. Playing lead means a lot of sweeping, which requires lots of muscles if you would like to be effective. Anyhow, my recent workouts have been balanced out by eating in restaurants and drinking wine in the evenings. (I'm on holidays after all, not in boot camp.) Therefore, the before and after photos of me show about as much progress as our front steps being built by Ted. Have a look at my Facebook fan page for the latest development (yes, development is singular on purpose).

A little article by Katherine Hobbs is in my community paper this week about the library award I received a few weeks ago. Very nice and mentions my upcoming release. Thanks Katherine!

The manager of the Chapters in the Pinecrest mall invited me to a book signing tomorrow from 1:00 to 3:00 so that's where you'll find me. I'm hoping to see a few familiar faces :-)

I've was invited yesterday by the Ottawa Public Library to lead another writing workshop for kids in November and we've settled on a Saturday. I'm not sure which branch yet - it's kind of cool when you start getting invitations without advertising. Other authors had told me this starts happening once you've had a few books published, and I'm becoming a believer.

Well, two weeks of vacation have left me very relaxed and full of energy. I'll just go have a little nap and watch some of the British Open while I think how to put this energy to good use . . . .

I hope you are letting the long, lazy days of summer take hold too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

When the Weather is Hot

The heat this week has been incredible - mid-forties every day since the weekend if you include humidity. (I could be a stand in for Shirley Temple if she needed a hair double.) Luckily, I am on holidays and have access to a pool and air conditioning and hair gel.

Ted and I went to see a matinee - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo yesterday at the Rainbow theatre in St. Laurent shopping centre. I had no idea they even had a theatre but that was the only place this movie was showing in Ottawa. The theatre was cozy and freezing - I stumbled when we walked out after the show, my feet were so cold. The oddest thing. Two women sat down behind us (there were empty seats everywhere) and spoke to each other through all the opening trailers until another person told them to be quiet. As the movie started, one of these two women tapped my on the shoulder a few times and asked me to move seats - she said she couldn't read the subtitles . . . and she came in after me! I stayed where I was. sheesh. Then, another woman behind us (not in the same two) kept getting up to leave when a violent scene was on - she had to step over several people each time. As the ending carnage began, she and her husband excused their way down the line and out the door. I think the heat is making people stranger than normal.

I've been writing every day, trying to get past the feeling that I don't like the manuscript anymore. This seems to happen with every one at some point. I think it's spending too much time going over the same words and losing perspective. I'm around 50,000 words though and reluctant to stop until I see it through. I wonder if this happens to Atwood?

I've also been finalizing what I'll be doing for Wakefest in August and setting up a book launch for November with Barbara Fradkin. Diane Walker of Leishman books is booking the Library and Archives but having trouble getting the date we want. Fingers crossed.

So, I have another week off. Tonight, my old bookclub is meeting for the first time after a brief hiatus. We are about ten women, mostly neighbours or neighbours who've moved away, and we try to meet once a month. To belong, you have to host once a year and supply wine. We select a book every month, but very few ever read it. Our main rule is the one about serving wine.

I hope everyone is managing to stay cool. Environment Canada is calling for lots more heat ahead . . . .

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hot Time Summer in the City

The day after Canada Day and the official first day of my summer vacation. I spent a lovely afternoon with author Mary Jane Maffini - lunch on her balcony overlooking the Rideau River - and then, we got down to business. We're plotting our October road trip to Muncie Indiana where we will take part in Magna Cum Murder, an annual mystery conference. We managed to book an engagement at a bookstore called Foul Play in Westerville, Ohio en route, and the store owner would like to take us out to dinner after our readings. We've sent out e-mails to other spots along the way, gauging where we will be when and then figuring out what we can manage. Mary Jane has a lot of contacts in the U.S. and that makes planning much easier. It's a thirteen hour drive each way so lots of potential bookstores and libraries. I'll post a listing on my website once all is finalized.

If you've read Mary Jane's books, you know that she has three series going, all mysteries with a comedic bent. Mary Jane is also a very funny lady so if we manage half the laughter we had over lunch, this trip should be a ton of fun. Too bad we can't bring everyone along with us :-)

I'm settling in to a bit of writing. It's felt more like work than fun lately so I'm hoping to get into a writing groove now that I have time to relax and rejuvenate. And the meteorologists are calling for sun and heat all week . . . does life get any better?

I've taken a weekly photo of 'my front steps', which my husband optimistically tells me should be done in two weeks (which is next weekend since he made the pronouncement last week). I'm thinking the odds in Vegas would not be in his favour on this one. Have a look on my Facebook fan page and you be the judge.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shaken, Not Stirred

So, the earth shook two days ago while I was in my fourth floor office, a point five on the Reichter scale. It was enough to have the floor and walls move and was about as surreal a feeling as one can expect mid-afternoon on a typical work day. My first thought was earthquake, but as it built in intensity, I thought the building might be going down. It was ten seconds of disbelief and some fear. I met co-workers in the hallway and everyone was confused about what to do - we had a huddle and talked over options. We were calm but definitely worried. In the end, we evacuated like everybody else. Our fear was an aftershock or damage to the building's structure. In the end, we found out that our building is a solid structure that should withstand even stronger quakes. I've got to say though, the floor shifting under my feet gave me pause.

I've been invited to my first writers' festival! The bookstore owner of Solstice Books in Wakefield, Quebec has invited me to be part of Wakefest - the website is not up yet, but it looks like four days of fun and local artists at the end of August. I'll be there on Saturday, August 28th to teach a writing workshop to kids in the morning with an author event in the store in the afternoon. The day culminates with a local performer who has reached 'international fame' at the Black Sheep Inn that evening. It would be great to get a crowd out for supper and music - I'm just planting a bug in your ears . . .

I also was interviewed by a L.A. magazine called Eerie Digest with the article coming out August 1st. This was set up by Rachel (publicist) in advance of In Winter's Grip. I'll give the link once it is released. The editor was super to deal with.

Writing went slowly this week. I wrote my character into a bit of a boring corner and am trying to change direction in my mind before sitting down again. I'm also about to start holidays and will be disciplined - at least 1,000 words a day is my target. I might have to buy some super glue to keep my butt in the chair.

Our front steps are progressing as fast as my manuscript. I'm posting weekly photos of the progress on my fan page. I'm not telling my husband, so keep the secret :-)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June Heat

The heat has settled over Ottawa like a warm blanket . . . and it's not a dry heat. Ottawa summers can be so humid, you're left with curly hair and the need to stay inside with the air conditioning cranked up. In 2001, we were renovating our house and had the air conditioning disconnected. It happened to be one of the hottest summers ever. We would go into our neighbour's pool before bed and just float there for an hour or so trying to get cool. I'd go to bed with an ice pack between my legs and would wake up an hour later with the ice pack warm and no use whatsoever.

Lee Child. An American author I met at Bouchercon two years ago in Baltimore. He's a tall, quiet man who writes the Jack Reacher series - I'm currently reading Gone Tomorrow, which starts with Jack trying to prevent a woman from committing suicide on a subway train. Jack is an ex-major in the U.S. army who's given up on living a conventional life - he travels around the U.S. without any possessions, plans or family - he always ends up in a heap of trouble and always with a new woman who ends up alone but better for having known him. Good escapist reading if you're looking for a new author to read.

My latest manuscript is coming along. I'm about half way through the first draft and still not sure if it is all hanging together. My plan is to keep on until the end and then reshape and edit. Summer holidays are coming soon and I'll have more time to write in my deliciously cool air conditioned office. Happily, this year, the renovations are going on outside. Our front steps are now a heap of rubble and the deck has been hauled away in pieces. We should have a completely new deck . . . well, before the snow falls. My husband is doing all the work himself and he tends to take a long time on projects. He's a perfectionist who also likes to go golfing . . . and in the big scheme of life, who really needs a front door anyhow?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And the rains came. It's a soppy day to run errands, but I'll soon be forced outside. Today is a luncheon for some children's authors and illustrators in Ottawa at a friend's home not far from mine. I've been invited before but never able to attend because the get togethers were mid-week when I was working. Anyhow, I have to get to the store and get some ingredients for my donation to the potluck. I'm thinking something simple with smoked salmon.

Media kits. Rachel (publicist) sent me proofs yesterday for a little kit to send out to bookstores and reviewers - it's attractive with a wintery grey background on each page. Marketing is such a big part of this writer business. I'm glad to have a professional helping me. Latest word is that In Winter's Grip will be out end of September. I'm planning a joint launch with Barbara Fradkin, author of the Inspector Green series set in Ottawa. We're looking at November 9th at the Library and Archives, but the date is to be confirmed. Barb's book is out after mine and we needed to allow a bit of time.

Monday, I'll be hiking it out to Cumberland with J.C. Sulenko (poet and picture book author) to receive an award for volunteer work from the Ottawa Public Library. I'll post a pic or two on Facebook as Katherine is coming to take some for the Capital Crime Writers' newsletter.

This is a special day - my good friend Carol's daughter Karly is getting married this evening and we will be at the church and cocktail party that follows. We spent a lot of time visiting when they lived six doors down - from the time Karly was three years old. I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone about the swift passage of time :-)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

So much to do and so little time.

My weekend ahead has a number of things I need to accomplish: update my website, send a book off to a reviewer for a podcast in September, write to our foster child in Bolivia, update my expenses for my tax return next year, get groceries, work on a manuscript . . . and read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (because my friend Ken is waiting to read it on his holiday in a weeks' time).

Hornets' Nest is an interesting read - I'm just over half way through. It's less action than the previous two books by Larsson in this series, and the plot intertwines and folds back on itself with lots of political shenanigans. Steig Larsson died before any of the trilogy was published - I wonder if he imagined the universal success these books would have - I doubt it.

I met with a New York agent at Bloody Words. The idea is to pitch a book and hope they will ask to see it. I wasn't really prepared but had signed up weeks ago and figured it was a chance to get an agent's take on my work. She said that they are just looking for the next blockbuster and middle-list mysteries were dead. Books need 'a hook' to reel in readers. What do you think? Do you like formula-type blockbusters or do you prefer something more subtle?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hazy Monday.

I stepped outside at my usual 7:15 a.m. to walk to the transitway where I catch the bus to work - and partway down the first street, I smelled something burning. It was a whiff of what seemed to be burning garbage. I stopped and searched for smoke in case someone's shed or house had caught on fire, but I saw nothing. When I went out for a lunchtime walk, the air was thicker and the smell of burning filled my nose and throat. News reports said the wind had shifted and brought smoke from forest fires burning in Quebec across the Ottawa Valley. We just had a taste of how horrible it must be for communities close to the blaze. Let's all start wishing for a steady all day rain across Northern Quebec and Ontario.

I arrived home from Bloody Words in Toronto late Sunday afternoon. It was fun to meet up with friends I haven't seen in a while and to meet new ones. The Friday night panel on bad girls in crime fiction was a hoot - good crowd and lots of laughter. Therese Greenwood, a Kingston short story writer, is an adept moderator, and she kept the questions coming. We had varied backgrounds - Pat Capponi (Toronto) writes about poverty and mental illness in her mysteries and she is herself an activist fighting for systemic change in how we look after marginalized people. Mary Jane Maffini (Ottawa) has three mystery series underway, all featuring comedy and strong female protagonists. Jill Edmondson (Toronto) is a professor at George Brown College, and her main character works for a phone sex line when she's not detecting. All interesting people with great senses of humour.

I've posted photos on my fan page (link at if you want to see the panel in question.

There were two cocktail parties, one foolishly before our panel, perhaps explaining some of the laughter, and one before the banquet on Saturday night. All in all, we were well fed and watered and it was an enjoyable few days away. Still, nice to get back home.

Next on the social agenda is Capital Crime Writers' wind-up pub night at the Brewmasters Pub.

Cocktail parties, pub nights, nights at the Hilton - this writing life isn't too hard to take at all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just back from my visit to Mrs. Webster's Grade Six class at Leslie Park School. It's a little school, one story smack in the middle of a residential area, with about 130 kids. My group of 30 grade sixers was an enthusiastic lot with questions about the writing process and inspiration. My neighbour Carol is principal and she took me on a tour after the class, which was the last one of the day. The best thing was when three boys stayed behind to ask for my autograph - (I hope those weren't blank cheques they placed in front of me.)

I arrived home to a Winter's Grip manuscript in my in box from Allister, editor for RendezVous Crime. They've gone through it once and have some suggestions for me to wade through this weekend. Not too many though so it won't take all my time. I might have time for some writing if I can keep myself inside.

We're looking at a hot, sunny weekend and up to 35 or so by Tuesday. May has turned into July! I want to get to the plant store tomorrow and into the garden. May 24th weekend. This is when I'm all gung ho about gardening. The feeling wears off by end of June and then it's every plant for itself.

Next Friday, I'll be heading to Toronto with three girlfriends to take in Bloody Words mystery writing and fan conference. I'm on Friday night panel that has a bad girls' theme. I'm pretty sure they mean our characters and not us personally, but I can come up with some stories if pressed:-) Rachel Sentes even put out a news release that you can find on my website under media. The title makes me laugh.

Well, off to find some shade. Happy long weekend everyone.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The weeks sure go fast.

But this is my favourite time. Friday, home from work, with a weekend ahead.

My daughter Lisa's article was in the Wednesday Globe and Mail. A lot of people have told me how much they like the story - I think it is a terrific bit of writing, but I'll let you be the judge. (The link won't copy here so I'll try to attach when I post this in Facebook.) Lisa, I'm proud of you kid.

I wrote a bit but probably read more this week. For those of you looking for a good read, Harlan Coben is an American thriller writer and one of the best, in my humble opinion. He spins good suspense with likable protagonists. I just finished reading Long Lost, published March 2010 - hot off the press, as they say. Anyhow, Harlan is the reason I didn't write as much as I should have this week. I have to say that I'd never heard of him before I went to Bouchercon (mystery writers' conference) in Baltimore two years ago. He was on a panel and an engaging speaker with one of those fine senses of humour. I've since read a few of his books and enjoyed them. If our paths ever cross again, I think he owes me a beer for this fine review of his work :-)

Well, almost time to wander down to the local pub with my husband for a bite to eat served up by out youngest daughter. Since she moved out last summer, we look forward to seeing her at her place of work . . . and it doesn't hurt that she's now waiting on us. Sometimes, life has these full-circle moments.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Well, I was thinking this was going to be a boring week for the blog, and then, Thursday happened! It opened with my daughter Lisa telling me her article that she submitted to the Globe and Mail Facts and Arguments page will be printed this coming Wednesday. Be sure to check it out!

Next, I get word from the fabulous author, Mary Jane Maffini that she is keen to go on a roadtrip with me to Muncie, Indiana at the end of October to a writers' conference.

I'm pumped.

I'm thinking Thelma and Louise. . . well shorter, better dressed versions of Thelma and Louise . . . with credit cards and nice shoes.

Then, (this is deeper into Thursday morning), I received an e-mail from my publisher at Napoleon that they would like to publish a stand-alone young adult book I submitted a few months ago. It is tentatively called After Annie and set in the Vietnam era. So, you can imagine, that had me smiling. No date of release yet, but possibly in 2011. The story will have you reliving the seventies (or what you can remember of them:-) and remembering what it was like to be sixteen.

The day was capped off with an e-mail from the children's book manager at Chapters Pinecrest to do a book signing in July.

All in all, a pretty good day.

My latest manuscript is coming along. I'm at 40,000 words with rain in the forecast. That'll keep me out of the garden and at the keyboard.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I think my blog is working . . . I got feedback today!

My daughter called me at work. "Mom, I'm reading your blog right now, and ewww."

It takes me a split second. "Are you referring to the last entry?"

"I am, and my friend has it open on his computer too. How could you? You're a . . . you're my mother!"

"Well, I used the word 'racy' to make the writing sound exciting. Maybe the passage I wrote wasn't exactly racy. More like integral to the plot. Don't forget, I have to make this blog interesting. I'm building a fan base."

"I don't know if you're qualified to talk about such things."

"You mean . . . ?"

"Yeah, s . . .e . . .x. It makes me wonder just what is going on inside your head."

"Uh, I wonder sometimes too, but trust me, I know a bit about this subject."

"Eww! Double eww!"


I think I'm onto something. A few more weeks of creative spin and this puppy could go viral.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Well, I'm starting to enjoy the characters in this latest manuscript. I've been writing during my lunch hour at work and managing to get a flow going. Sometimes, I find myself still working on a scene just before bed. This book is taking a few twists I hadn't planned on, including a few racy, sex scenes. Something to read out loud at library events . . . or maybe not.

Anyhow, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the next scenes and what happens to the characters as I ride home from work on the bus. (A few times, I've almost missed getting off at my stop.) Characters really do start taking on a life of their own. It's odd, but you start to think of them as real people. I have trouble putting the ones I like in harm's way or having something horrible happen to them, and when bad things do happen to characters I like, it's draining. Readers go through the same experience - you become personally invested in characters' lives once you're hooked on the story.

I have some housekeeping stuff to do this weekend, including an update of my website and some publicity work that Rachel sent me in an e-mail yesterday. Rachel is contacting blogs and book reviewers for In Winter's Grip, which will likely have a September release. She's starting to get the ducks in a row.

I'm reading Linwood Barclay's novel, Never Look Away. It's a 2010 thriller, and I think, some of his best writing. The plot has a great premise and some unexpected twists. Definitely worth a read. This week, I'm going to try to get to the theatre to watch The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - I hear it's excellent - Swedish with English subtitles. I want to see this version before Hollywood gets its hooks into the script.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Capital Crime Wave rolled into the Ottawa Public Library last night. Ottawa journalist Kate Jaimet did an amazing job interviewing four authors - Tom Henighan, R.J. Harlick, Brian McKillop and . . . me. We each read for a few minutes from our work and then Kate chatted with each of us in turn about writing. What struck me as we were doing our schtick, was how varied our work is and our different life experiences that have all led into the writing field. Tom is a retired English prof from Carleton who specializes in mythology. I know this because he lives down the street from me, and one year I graded papers for his mythology class. Small world. R.J. or Robin is another Capital Crime Writer whose series is set in West Quebec - both of us are published by Napoleon/RendezVous so we're almost related :-) Brian is a historian and head of the history department at Carleton - his 800 page book is a bio of Pierre Burton and sounds fascinating.

The Arthur Ellis awards shortlists were announced last night (the real reason for the event) and kudos to fellow Ottawa authors Robin, Chris Forrest and Rick Mofina for their nominations. These are national awards with lots of competition for those few spots on the shortlist.

Writing has gone slowly this week. I need to buckle down. Some weeks, it just goes that way. If someone out there wants to pay me to stay home and write, I'm listening. Shakespeare had a patron and what's good enough for the bard is good enough for me. I could be a kept author.

A nice note in the mail today from Ottawa Councillor Jan Harder - the Awesome Author judges are being awarded the OPL Order of Friendship for "outstanding volunteer work". There will be a little ceremony in June.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I awoke to rain pattering on the skylight and birds singing in the pine tree outside our bedroom window. Spring has truly arrived.

It's been a busy week on a few fronts. Writing was going well early on as I was closing in on 35,000 words, but then, life started happening. I curled three games so far this week and have one more tonight. My ladies's team won a B side trophy and tonight, my mixed team goes for the B side championship. That will wrap up curling for the season - I'm ready for a break!

I've been looking into writers' conferences and am considering ones in Indiana, Chicago and Vancouver next year. This May, I'll be going to Bloody Words in Toronto. These conferences are good ways to introduce fans to your work and to make connections in the industry. They can also be a lot of fun since each time you go, you make more friends. I'll blog more about the Toronto conference to give you the flavour of what goes on.

Two events coming up this week. Thursday is an evening at the Ottawa Public Library to announce the Arthur Ellis shortlist. These are the national crime writing awards and it is quite prestigious even to be nominated. I'll be reading from In Winter's Grip for the first time and will be interviewed along with three other authors by Ottawa Citizen journalist and author Kate Jaimet. Then, Saturday is Write Night at the GCTC where I'll give some opening remarks before the play by Arthur Milner. This is an event organized by Capital Crime Writers and includes a wine and cheese beforehand.

Speaking of Capital Crime Writers, the Wednesday meeting's guest speaker was Bill Bartlett, senior lawyer at Department of Justice (my workplace!) and he spoke about gangs in Canada. Most interesting and lots of writing ideas there. I've been asked to write up a synopsis of his talk for the Purloined Newsletter so hope to get to that today.

On an uplifting note, I had a bone density test and saw my doctor yesterday. He tells me I have the bones of a woman in her twenties. I told my husband he's got a young wife and didn't know it :-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Last night, I met up with two friends from Capital Crime Writers, Katherine Hobbs and Alex Brett. Katherine is editor of the Purloined Newsletter and currently running for city council in Kitchissippi ward. We worked together on the Crime Writers executive for four years and Katherine organized Bloody Words national mystery writers' conference last year while I handled publicity. (She will make an excellent councillor.) Alex Brett is one of the first mystery authors I met in Ottawa and a solid talent. She has two books out with Dundern in Toronto and is currently close to finishing up a manuscript, which I can't wait to read.

Anyhow, we met after work at a little pub in Westboro called Trio. Trio is a long, narrow space with high seats and tables, a choice wine list and upscale finger foods. The place opens at 4 p.m. and is packed from then to closing. All three of us live in Westboro, which is a residential neighbourhood just west of the downtown that is labelled one of the 'trendy' places to live. It's become a mix of small, older houses and new development but still has lots of green space and a small town feel.

We were lucky enough to get a table (there are not that many) and whiled away the evening talking about writing, books, politics, our lives - everything that matters. Alex has a new hobby, making podcasts of short stories for people to download or listen to on their computers. One of my short stories entitled "Evening the Score" is in line to be recorded and will be up on my website. Very cool.

Writing is going well this week. Some new scenes coming together.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What wonderful weather for the second of April - twenty-six degrees and sunshine. The heat brought out neighbours and the day was spent catching up with old friends. I managed to get in a bit of writing and wrote about 2500 words since last weekend. Not quite 30,000 words yet, but I should be by Easter Monday.

The Awesome Authors' awards evening went like a clock. It was held in the Chambers at Ben Franklin Place - basically a theatre, which was packed with kids and their families. We were three judges, each responsible for a different category. I judged English short stories while the two other judges handled Enlish poetry and French poetry and short stories. The spirit of the evening was to encourage all of the kids to keep writing, whether their submission won or not. Lots of door prizes and every kid got a package of stuff.

I came home Thursday to an e-mail from Gillian O'Reilly Editor for the Canadian Children's Book News, a magazine with national distribution. She asked to interview me for an issue which will contain an article about different children's mystery authors. I should be in good company as there are a lot of good mystery authors across the country.

Well, tomorrow promises to be an ever warmer, sunnier day than today - we're breaking records like never before. One amazing record is that Ottawa had no snow whatsoever for the whole month of March. Luckily for the trees, we are having rain later this week - and lucky for authors as the rain keeps us indoors at our computers!

Happy Easter, everyone.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wednesday after work, I hurried over to Cafe Toulouse to meet publicist Rachel Sentes and her partner, agent Brian Wood for some tea and conversation. Rachel lives in Edmonton and Brian in Vancouver, and they are on a tour of authors, publicists, agents - people in the business. Networking is a major part of any profession, but especially so for publicists and agents. Rachel and I discussed the release of In Winter's Grip and she is keen to start ramping up the publicity. Our goal is to get my book into the western and U.S. markets. She meets with my publisher in Toronto early next week so there will be another connection made. All very exciting but daunting too.

This week, I will attend the Ottawa Public Library's Awesome Author contest event at Ben Franklin Place. I'm to hand out the English short story awards so I'll fill you in on that next week. From what I understand, most of the kids who entered the contest show up with their families - there were about a hundred short stories alone (also poetry and French short story categories) so it could be a packed room.

My writing started off great guns last weekend until a doozie of a headache hit and laid me up for a few days. I'm now at 27,000 words. Tune in next weekend to see if I hit 30,000. Could be close. I give five to one odds.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It has been an unusual week of record-breaking warm temperatures for March. The snow is gone and spirits have been lifted, mine included. I've been back in the writing saddle and cracked 25,000 words on the latest manuscript. Ideas are beginning to flow like spring sap. (Okay . . . that was a sad reach.) Anyhow, it's good to have some ideas bubbling up. I'm playing with point of view in this manuscript, and it's fun but also daunting. So far, I think it's coming together, but I still have a long stretch to go. I aim for 80,000 words, which equates to about 325 pages.

Writing events - I'm going to be part of the Arthur Ellis shortlist event at the Ottawa Public Library on Thursday evening, April 22nd and will take the opportunity to read for the first time from In Winter's Grip. I'll be discussing writing with three other mystery authors - R.J. Harlick, Linda Wiken (owner of Prime Crime) and Brian McKillop. Kate Jaimet, another young adult author and Ottawa Citizen reporter, will be leading the discussion. I've also been asked to work on publicity for the event with my buddy C.B. Forrest and will be sending a notice out to blogs today.

Also this week, I'm meeting with Rachel Sentes and Brian Wood, who are in from Edmonton for a few days. Rachel is doing publicity for my adult book and Brian is an agent. More about the visit in my next blog.

Guy Mercier created a funky little animation on my website on the Contact page. Check it out:

Friday, March 12, 2010

This week has been a write-off, writing-wise. I must have spring fever. My lofty goal of 500 words a day might have been a tad ambitious.

What did I do instead you ask?

I seem to have this curling addiction. I'm on three teams - two as skip (the one who decides strategy and throws the last two stones) and the other as third (the one who helps the skip with strategy and throws the second last two stones). I also like watching the sport on tv. Olympics, Briar . . . both take up a surprising amount of time. The good news is that all this wraps up in April.

I did accomplish a few things though. I wrote some Q's and A's for a press kit that my publicist Rachel Sentes requested, and we also set up a meeting. Rachel lives in Edmonton but will be in the Ottawa at the end of March. We've never met so I am looking forward to a visit over coffee. I also finished reading and judging all the short stories for the Awesome Authors contest. The library asked me to present the winners at the awards night on March 31st. The reading and judging also took up a surprising amount of time. There are some good young writers out there.

Oh yes, and last night, I finished reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It closes in on 900 pages, also taking a great deal of time to read. I'm going to put off reading the last in the series to give my eyes a rest . . . and to write a few pages . . . .

Saturday, March 6, 2010

An early morning. I wake up before six a.m. weekdays to go to work and can't seem to change my schedule much on the weekends . . . but this promises to be a warm, spring-like weekend so it's good to be up and about.

Still a lot to accomplish over the next few days. I intend to finish reading and deciding on stories for the Awesome Authors contest. My latest manuscript is now 23,000 words long and ideas are starting to flow. I'm aiming for 500 words a day, but don't always make it, finding little spaces of time to write. I'm at the stage now when I'm wondering if the story is going to come together. I haven't yet hit the period of thinking it's all a load of rubbish as I do with every book. Something to look forward to . . . The trick is to keep writing through the times of self-doubt and to ignore the critical self hovering over the keyboard.

I'm reading a good book - the second inthe Stieg Larsson trilogy called The Girl Who Played With Fire. The first is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Stieg wrote about corruption in Sweden in these murder mysteries and ended up dying, some argue suspiciously, of a heart attack in his early fifties. These books are well worth a read and have received much international critical acclaim.

Highlight of the week: Katherine Hobbs posting my info on Wikipedia. Very cool to be part of the encylopedia as it feels like a milestone - one of the most exciting moments for me was when I saw my first book on Amazon. It's all about having the impossible become real.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday morning. The time of day with endless possibility. My office window looks out over pine trees and uneven heaps of snow. Today, I need to keep reading Awesome Author short stories. I narrowed down the second batch last weekend and will determine order of finish by tomorrow. That leaves the 15-17 year entries. I'm also working on a new adult murder mystery manuscript and am about 21,000 words in. This one has been a bit of a struggle to pull together since I haven't had much extended time to work on it. I'm promising myself three weeks in the summer to sit down and go at it every day. Working full time makes a writer's life challenging!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The new cover for In Winter's Grip arrived today. The background trees are a photo taken by my friend Frank Bowick, who has given permission to use the image. It's also the image on my website. The woman's face came from a photo shoot in Toronto. The cover will be unveiled on my website tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My multi-tasking weekend: Reading Awesome Author entries, fine-tuning my website with Guy Mercier, visiting Prime Crime to pick up some books, working on a new manuscript, cracking a novel by Lee Child and watching lots of the Olympics! I wish the weekends lasted longer than two days . . . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

The package of short stories for the Ottawa Public Library Awesome Authors contest arrived yesterday. It looks like I have a lot of reading to do - there has to be over a hundred stories! I'm looking forward to seeing what story ideas they've come up with. They are organized into three age groups between nine and seventeen year olds. Great fun.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday, February 6th - my new website goes live. Thanks Jay Blackwood for all the work you did on my old site and Guy Mercier for my spanking new one!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Welcome to my first blog entry! The talented Guy Mercier has redesigned my website and set me up with this blog with the intention of sharing the road to publishing my first adult murder mystery. The manuscript is in my publisher's hands and we are currently settling on the cover. We had a picture that worked extremely well, but couldn't get copyright so that means a photo shoot. Not much gets done in the book world until the cover is ready to go. It's the anchor for marketing and publicity, which starts months before the manuscript goes to print.