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 . . .