Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tying up 2012

Another Christmas here and gone. This year, I received two hardcover books (A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs) and . . . a Kobo. Yes, I've joined the e-reader generation.

It took me an afternoon to figure out the password and set up the Kobo. My first download was Michael Connolly's The Overlook, which I finished reading yesterday. I have to say, I like the backlit feature and the ability to download books anytime. It will be very handy for travelling. However, I missed turning pages and holding a book in my hands. I think the Kobo will not replace books for me, but it will be a convenient option.

Writing went well this week in admist the Christmas festivities. I'm honing in on 50,000 words and the threads of the plot and subplots are starting to come together. The finish line is almost in view! When I get to this stage, I take whatever scrap of time I have to write and I spend non-writing time thinking about the plot and characters. This is the fun part.

I have a few events coming up mid-January:  I'll be teaching a short story writing workshop for kids at the Carlingwood Public Library on January 19th and will be on a writer panel with Mary Jane Maffini and C.B. Forrest, moderated by Councillor Katherine Hobbs, the evening of January 16th as part of a Granite Curling Club fundraiser. There'll be wine and food and books for sale courtesy of Perfect Books, one of our few remaining independent bookstores. Collected Works closed Christmas Eve but a buyer stepped forward to purchase Books on Beechwood, so one store has been saved. Also, a shout out to Linda Wiken and Ted at Brittons for their mystery bookshelf and author signings.

So, 2013 is but three days away. I have two adult books being released in the fall - Cold Mourning from Dundurn and My Sister's Keeper from Grassroots Press (adult literacy). Both books are the first in a series and will keep me writing novels for the adult audience for the foreseeable future. I've enjoyed writing the young adult books, but believe it's time to settle into writing for one age group.

I'm planning to do some travelling to help publicize the books when they are released - some book conferences and possibly to Northern Ontario and around the Ottawa Valley. Looks like a busy, exciting year ahead!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Winter's Day

 A few days to Christmas and the Ottawa Valley is a snowy winter wonderland. A storm moved up from the U.S. Thursday night and dumped 42 centimetres on the city with more swirling down this morning. Over 125,000 homes in Quebec are without power this morning but we've been lucky so far. I remember having to cook a turkey on the barbeque one Christmas day when a storm took out our power in the 1980s. We still got together that afternoon with friends and had a cosy candlelit dinner.

I've been writing away on the manuscript and just past 46,000 words now. The minimum for an adult novel is 50,000 words, but I'm aiming for 80-90,000. I find the beginning usually comes easily and the middle takes a long time. The last 30,000 words are like the downhill part of a race, sometimes the easiest part. I actually had to cut out 20,000 words or so when I finished Cold Mourning, so I'm getting more wordy with practice.

I'll be writing off and on today between shopping for food, baking cookies and tourtiere. Gingerbread cake and pumpkin pie are also on the baking agenda for this weekend. My daughters along with pup George will be arriving Christmas Eve. We'll have a houseful for Christmas supper as well.

Traditions are an important part of the holidays although they evolve. For instance, I used to make a raspberry/cranberry fruit punch for Christmas morning but now we have mimosas. We still open our stockings before Ted makes a bacon and egg breakfast and then we open gifts from under the tree. The turkey goes into the oven soon afterward and lazy afternoon ensues with a fire in the grate. It's a time to slow down our lives and to enjoy what is really important - the peace of a winter day, the warmth of family and friends.

Well, it's time to head out into the snowy morning to do some food shopping, and then, home to putter around the kitchen with some Christmas carols playing. Already, I feel the joy of the season and hope that you are feeling it as well. I wish each of you peace this Christmas and time together with those people you cherish.

I'll leave you with a few mood-invoking lines from the poem "Late November" by Archibald Lampman (1888).

The hills grow wintry white, and bleak winds moan
About the naked uplands. I alone
Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor gray,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15, 2012

I feel so much sadness for the twenty children and six teachers killed yesterday in Sandy Hook Elementary and all who loved them. These tragedies are senseless. Utterly senseless and horrific. I find it difficult this morning to blog with this sorrow I feel for these victims and their community.

As a society, we are witness to cruel and unspeakable acts. When we believe that nothing could ever be worse, something unthinkable happens to shake us again and to take away another piece of our collective innocence. Yesterday was such a day. We will grieve a long time for these young children and their teachers.

The two writing events that I took part in this week were chances to get together with old friends - in my mind, the best thing about this time of year.

The Capital Crime Writers dinner was held at KS on the Keys. We were about fifty people in a private room - good service and good food if you are ever looking for a place to hold an event. Tim Wynne-Jones, two-time Governor General award-winner and recent inductee into the Order of Canada, gave a funny, poignant and uplifting talk.

Tim Wynne-Jones
Good friends Katherine Hobbs and Darlene Cole
Tim and me
Thursday night, Books on Beechwood hosted six local mystery authors for what felt like a Christmas party. This community bookstore is closing in January so it was a bittersweet evening. I snapped a few pictures, which make for some good memories.
(left to right) Erika Chase (aka Linda Wiken), R.J. Harlick, Mary Jane Maffini, me, Barbara Fradkin and C.B. Forrest.

Barb Fradkin and R.J. Harlick
C.B. Forrest and Linda Wiken
A mystery fan with Mary Jane Maffini
We will miss the Books on Beechwood staff. Thanks for all your support and love of books. All the best in your future endeavours!

Jean Barton, owner of Books on Beechwood.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December Lights

A couple of writing updates to report this week.

First, I guest blogged for Leanne Dyck and she posted yesterday. Leanne is a woman's fiction writer who lives in British Columbia and belongs to Crime Writers of Canada. I very much appreciate that she is helping to get the word out about Canadian authors and that she took so much time to research my background.

And next, I'm going to be at Books on Beechwood with a great crew of mystery authors this Thusday evening (December 13) between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. at an event called Murder, Mayhem and Mistletoe: Hot Mysteries for the Holidays. All of my books will be available for Christmas reading as will the books of Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, Erika Chase, C.B. Forrest and R.J. Harlick. We'll also have refreshments and snacks so it promises to be a great opportunity to come out and socialize with some of Ottawa's best mystery authors.

I've also been involved in organizing the Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner, which will be this Wednesday evening with special guest speaker Tim Wynne-Jones. We have room for fifty and most of the tickets are gone so a great evening in store at KS on the Keys.

Writing has been humming along this week as I hit 42,000 words on my latest manuscript. I'm carving out time this weekend and aiming for the 45,000 word mark. The freezing ran/hail/snow today will keep me at it.

Can you believe just over two weeks to Christmas?! We had an odd 17 degree day last week and Ted took advantage to put up some outdoor lights, so way early this year.

I've got my Christmas cards in the mail, turkey on order from the butcher and nearly done my shopping - I've been shopping in the neighbourhood independent shops as opposed to the malls for most of my gifts. The U.S. President is promoting supporting the small business owner, something I also believe in doing. One of the shop owners told me that the businesses along Wellington Street depend on good sales this time of year to stay viable. Not only can you find unique presents, but it's a fun day going store to store and chatting with the owners.

I love the lead up to Christmas with all the get togethers and anticipation, lights and glitter. I think, this year, the world needs the Christmas magic more than ever.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Next Big Thing

So for something a little different this morning with your first cup of coffee . . . .
Mystery author Barbara Fradkin invited me to participate in the Next Big Thing blog series, sort of a chain letter for authors with 10 questions about our work in progress. (You can read Barb's responses at her blogspot
This blog series has been completed by many, many authors, so many in fact, that participants are having trouble finding authors to 'tag'. I've been fortunate to have two great fellow Ottawa authors joining me as we're all posting this morning and linking up. I'll give their links at the bottom of my post!

So, here goes - 10 questions about my work in progress:

Q1 What is your working title of your book?
Cold Mourning
Q2 Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea to have a young female Aboriginal cop working with an older male French Canadian detective came from my work in the federal government – I work on the Aboriginal files at the Department of Justice and read the daily news to stay current on the issues. A number of articles sparked ideas for themes and story lines.
Q3 What genre does your book fall under?
It’s the first in a police procedural/crime series.
Q4 Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie
The Aboriginal Canadian actress Tamara Podemski and Robert De Niro would make a great detective team.
Q5 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An Ottawa businessman leaves for work early one morning a week before Christmas and disappears into thin air – Detectives Rouleau and Stonechild will spend the holiday season tracking a killer.
Q6 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Dundurn will release Cold Mourning in fall 2013.
Q7 How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About a year, which is standard for every one of my full length books. The adult literacy novels usually take two to three months.
Q8 What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m a big fan of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series as well as the Elizabeth George, John Harvey and Denise Mina mysteries – while my books are not copies of their work, I’ve taken pointers from their story-telling.
Q9 Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I began writing an opening scene about two young girls getting into a stranger’s van and the rest of the story flowed from this opening scene.
Q10 What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The book not only has a murder puzzle to solve, but also delves into the psyches of the detectives and main characters. The book is set in Ottawa in the dead of winter so it's a chilling visit to Canada’s capital city.
Now, please read up on the latest projects currently underway by my two author buddies -

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holidays on the Horizon

I've been reliving Bouchercon in Cleveland because I was asked to submit an article about it for the next Capital Crime Writers newsletter. In some ways, it seems like such a long time ago, but was just last month! I'm also organizing the Crime Writers' Christmas dinner in a few weeks' time at a local restaurant. I'm so looking forward to hearing our special guest speaker TIm Wynne-Jones, who just received the Order of Canada - he is also a two-time Governor General award-winning author and a heck of a good writer, not to mention great guy.

So lots of little tasks to keep me busy. I lost the access info to my website and have to sift through the stack of paper on my desk to find the printout - I know it's here somewhere. I also volunteered to write another article about our last Crime Writers' meeting for the newsletter and need to get on that.

What else? Christmas cards to write, gifts to buy and calendar filling up with events . . . it's getting tough to fit in writing time on my manuscript. I've got the next few scenes plotted out and am eager to get writing them. Once I get my errands done today, I'll be at the keyboard and have all day tomorrow. It's a balancing act. Real life vs. fantasy time.

Friends who follow the blog have asked if Ted got the outdoor Christmas lights up yet. The answer is not yet. Perhaps, we should run a pool. Ted used to go shopping for my gift on Christmas Eve, but he's now backed that up a few days. I never really minded though as he'd traditionally find his way to a jewellry store. I'm a sucker for anything that glitters. I think there's a magpie somewhere in my lineage.

If you have fifteen minutes, the video of opening and closing remarks and my reading from Chapter One of Second Chances is up on Youtube.  A bit of fun.

Just seeing some snowflakes swirling outside my office window. It's time to get dressed and head to the shops. I avoided them yesterday, Black Friday - not too sure why we want to emulate the greed and frenzy in the American stores that we've been seeing on the news, but I understand the need to spend our money in Canada. Still, I'd rather chew off an arm than get into a pulling match over a purse or other bit of merchandise. It kind of kills the whole idea behind Christmas. I wonder if others see the irony.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Morning Underway

This was the cozy set-up for my signing at Books on Beechwood last Saturday afternoon. I sold a decent amount of books, met some new readers and browsed through the mystery book selection. Books on Beechwood is hosting a mystery evening on December 13th and I'll be there alongside Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, C.B. Forrest, Robin Harlick and Linda Wiken. It's your last chance before Christmas to come out and meet the gang and get some Christmas shopping done at the same time. Sadly, Books on Beechwood is closing at the end of January - we're really going to miss Jean and her crew. They've been supportive of us as local authors and often sell books at our launches.

My launch video by Patrick Walton is now on Youtube.  You can access it here hopefully and if not, just copy this link into Youtube: Kind of a funky little piece. Patrick also recorded remarks by Counsellor Katherine Hobbs and MPP Yasir Naqvi and my brief reading from Second Chances and will be posting that on Youtube as well this week. The videos may never go viral since I'm not singing Justin Bieber songs in my nightgown alone in my bedroom with an adorable puppy, but fun memories nonetheless.

I've played hooky from writing this week. I'm on an assignment at work for five weeks and busy learning the ropes so a bit tired when I come home. I also curled Monday and Tuesday evenings and then went to Capital Crime Writers on Wednesday evening. We had a fascinating speaker, retired Staff Sergeant Syd Gravel, who spoke about the post traumatic stress he suffered after shooting and killing a robbery suspect in 1987. He held us spellbound as he walked us through that evening step by step and the event that changed him forever. I gained insight into the trauma from which police officers are not immune whether they shoot someone or are shot themselves in the line of duty. Seargent Gravel's moving presentation will stay with me and will certainly inform my writing (which I will be getting back to today) (I promise).

Did I mention that I am also on the Program Committee for Capital Crime Writers? You might wonder where I'm finding the time. I'm beginning to wonder myself. In any event, I'm organizing the annual Christmas dinner next month and have lined up two-time Governor General award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones as our guest speaker. I'm most excited to hear Tim talk about his writing and he will also be reading from his work.

So, a bit of writing this morning before I head off to do some Christmas shopping along Wellington Street. Then home to watch some curling on tv (while I write) (I promise). My daughter Lisa is curling with Rachel Homan and they have qualified for the quarter-finals in a grand slam event in Brantford. Some of the games are being televised - Homan plays tonight at 8:30 and while they likely won't be the feature game since the men and women are also playing at the same time, there are updates and key shots shown from all the sheets. Go team!

And now, for a little de-stresser as we all get our day underway, with a photo of our first fire in the grate last weekend - picture the room in darkness, you with a glass of wine, good music on the turn table and nothing that can't wait for the next hour  or two . . .

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Keeping Track

It's been a cold, crisp November - gray skies and shivery mornings at the busstop at seven a.m., heading off to work. I even found myself in some stores Christmas shopping - not that I bought anything - but, I almost did. The annual panic should be over taking me soon. I'll begin hounding Ted to put up outdoor lights and we'll carry on that discussion until Christmas Eve or so when he figures it's time.

Me:  "I think it's time you put up some outdoor lights."
Ted:  "It's not cold enough."
Me:  "We're the only house on the street without any."
Ted:  "Lots of time."
Me:  "Just throw up a string. Doesn't have to be elaborate."
Ted:  "Is it Christmas Eve yet?"

Ah, the traditions.

I wrote a lot this week on my new manuscript for Dundurn as well as jotted down plot points for the second in the Anna Sweet series for Grassroots Press. While it's tempting to start writing the second Anna Sweet, I'm going to wait until I have a solid draft of the Dundurn book completed. With everything else on my plate, working on two manuscripts will just get confusing - and life is confusing enough as is.

I often plot in my head on my way home from work on the bus and many times, I lose track of where I am. Some day, I'm going to overshoot my stop and I'll have to back track. Maybe it's time to invest in a GPS or one of those tracking devices like they use in spy movies. Ted could monitor me from home and pick me up, if necessary. (Speaking of which, I hear the new Bond movie is excellent - looking forward to seeing it.) (I wouldn't be adverse to Daniel Craig tailing me too.)

Patrick Walton attended the launch of Second Chances in September and has just completed a two-minute video, which he's loading onto Youtube and will be available later today. I'll post the link on my Facebook site and this blog next week. He also recorded remarks from Ottawa City Councillor Katherine Hobbs and MPP Yasir Naqvi and my reading of the first chapter and this longer footage will also be posted. You can watch with a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers and you'll feel just like you're at the launch from the comfort of your computer screen.

Today, I will be at Books on Beechwood from one to three, signing copies of Second Chances. If you're in the neighbourhood, drop in and say hello. You could even get some Christmas shopping done and nip that annual panic in the bud.

Just six weeks till Christmas Eve.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Prime Crime Bookshelf - A Mystery-Reader Treasure

If you live in Ottawa, you have to stop in at Brittons in the Glebe at Bank and Fifth. Not only will you get to meet Ted the owner, but you'll have a chance to chat with Linda Wiken, former owner of Prime Crime bookstore, and now, manager of a mystery book section in Brittons. She's there on Saturdays , amongst other days, and  if you time it right, you can meet a local crime author most Saturday afternoons. Linda also has a Berkley cosy series on the go under the pseudonym Erika Chase - I've read her first A Killer Read and am looking forward to the second in the series due out soon.

LindaWiken  with Brittons owner Ted
I spent a few hours in this great shop last Saturday and met people from the neighbourhood and a few friends who dropped by, including my travel mate Mary Jane Maffini, another fine cosy mystery writer whose trademark is a killer sense of humour. Even her two dachshunds came to look over the book selection, dressed in their Hallowe'en costumes. They kept barking, "Trick or dog treat".
Life has been much too busy lately with not much chance of slowing down in the foreseeable future. I snatch hours of writing between work, curling, social events and sleep. Today is one of those rare gems when I have a whole day to write . . . well, with time outs for grocery-shopping, laundry etc. etc.
And a few events on the horizon:  Next Saturday, November 10, I'll be at another great bookshop, Books on Beechwood from one to three, signing copies of Second Chances. Come by and chat if you get the chance.
Books on Beechwood is also hosting a mystery-author evening before Christmas and I'll post more about that next week. I'll be part of a Granite Curling Club fund raiser on January 16 (yes, that's in 2013) alongside Mary Jane Maffini, C.B. Forrest and moderator, City Counsellor Katherine Hobbs. (How fun will that be?!) I also heard from the Ottawa Public Library that I'll be teaching a short story workshop to kids as part of the Awesome Authors contest in early January. So happy times ahead.
Some lovely reviews showing up on Amazon and other book sites for Second Chances. The feedback I've been getting from adult readers is that the book really does take them back to 1971 - odd to see it listed in the history section by some of the booksellers! Thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to let others know about my books. You keep me motivated and busy at my keyboard working on that next manuscript.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wrapping Up Autumn

It's been an unusually warm week for the end of October, but the rain clouds have moved in as Hurricane Sandy moves up the Eastern Seaboard. The high winds and rain will just about do in the last of the fall colours, which have been splendid this year.

I've had a busy week but managed some writing in the evenings. Sometimes it's harder than others to get started, but I'm always happy to get back into the story for an hour or two. The trip to Kingston was a great help in grounding me to the setting and logistics. I lived in Kingston for a year many moons ago when I was in teachers' college at Queen's. It's a beautiful little city right on Lake Ontario with old limestone buildings and history dating back to Sir John A. MacDonald. We even happened upon a house where he lived for a time.

Today, I'm off to Brittons at 846 Bank Steet (at Fifth) in the Glebe to sign copies of Second Chances and In Winter's Grip from one to three p.m. I'm looking forward to meeting up with Linda Wiken who is looking after 'Prime Crime Bookshelf' in Brittons, offering a wide selection of mystery and crime novels. They are also inviting local authors to sign on Saturdays, so it's a great place to drop in on every weekend. It would be great to see you today if you're in the neighbourhood :-) It feels like the week ahead will be a good one for lighting a fire, making some tea and curling up with a good book.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Location, Location, Location

This photo arrived from Wynn Quonn which he took during Meet the Canucks night in Cleveland - I'm handing a copy of In Winter's Grip to a winner in the audience. Nice to recieve this little memento of the evening a few weeks after the fact.

Well, Ted and I spent last Saturday and part of Sunday in Kingston scoping out scene locations for the manuscript that I'm currently working on. We walked around the downtown and the area just west and south of Queen's, finding the perfect spot for my murder. Ted knows just about everything about construction and he was able to help with details. For example, I have an unfortunate event happen in a basement not far from campus. Ted pointed out that the homes didn't have basements until after the 1930's when octupus furnaces were installed. A lot of the homes in the neighbourhood where this . . .  uh unfortunate event will take place, do not have basements, but we found some that do. It was a eureka moment.

I also needed a pub for some of my scenes and we stumbled upon one that will suit perfectly. We even tasted the beer, all in the name of research. I'm thinking one of my characters might enjoy a day at the spa too. It's all about the realism.

I have to say that when I tell people that Ted and I are making field trips to distant places to find places to murder my characters, I get sideways looks and comments about life insurance. There are limits to my research, I can assure you.

Another eureka moment - the Grass Roots Press publisher, editor and I brainstormed for a name for my adult literacy book, which I had tentatively called "The End Game". After some to-ing and fro-ing we came up with My Sister's Keeper.  Quite excited about this project.

Next Saturday, I'll be at Brittons in the Glebe signing copies of Second Chances and In Winter's Grip between one and three p.m. I hope you can stop by for a visit.

To warm you up for a read of Second Chances, read this great review posted today on Mystery Maven Canada.

Good end to October everyone.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Autumn Colours

All of a sudden, autumn has arrived with cooler temperatures and falling leaves. I have family here from Thunder Bay and we took a drive to Wakefield, Quebec on Thursday for lunch and a tromp along the river.

I've mightily enjoyed the last two weeks off work. Yesterday, we wandered around the Parkdale Market in Ottawa. The vendors are packing up for the winter but the late-summer vegetables are on display.

And today, Ted and I are taking a little drive to Kingston to scout out settings for my next book - the sequel to Cold Mourning due out next fall. I'm settling into the writing again after the trip to Cleveland.

Next up on the book signing schedule is a Saturday afternoon at Britton's in the Glebe on October 27th from one to three p.m. Linda Wiken has a 'Prime Crime Bookshelf' and I'm looking forward to checking it out in addition to meeting readers. Come by for a chat and there will be copies of Second Chances and In Winter's Grip available.

Thanks again to my Cleveland travelling mates, Mary Jane Maffini, R.J. Harlick and Erika Chase (aka Linda Wiken) for a wonderful trip. You have me eager to sign up for more conferences!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Heading Home from Bouchercon

The last few days have been super busy. I've sat in on some interesting panels  yesterday - how to keep a mystery series going and another on villains and heroes. Karen Slaughter, very good American author, happened to be on both.

My travelling companions and I took a trip to Chagrin Falls for the afternoon, a 45 minute drive to the outskirts of Cleveland. We had lunch at an inn and then did some shopping at Chico's, mecca to my friends, and wine store (mecca to me). We made it back in time to attend the Anthony awards ceremony - Louise Penny won for best novel so a huge congrats to her. I sat next to a wonderful couple from Florida who'd never been to a Bouchercon before. She's a newly retired English college prof so we had lots to talk about.

Of course, we had to round out the weekend with supper at a Mediterranean restaurant (although I'd stopped eating desserts by then). Nine of us walked to the restaurant district and had the upstairs to ourselves.

So, I'm now in the lobby of my hotel, waiting for Mary Jane and Linda to pick me up in half an hour. It's been a lot of fun being here. I've met some great people and spent a great deal of time discussing books and the industry. For instance, Rick Mofina and I spent Friday afternoon in the hotel bar talking shop. I used to sit beside Rick when we both worked for Health Canada and we had regular 'book talk' sessions. It was fun to catch up.

Star sightings:  As I sent off the last blog entry, a woman sat beside me and we discussed logging onto the internet (you have to pay $13 a day to use it in your room but it's free in the lobby) and I asked her about the book she was reading. Mary Jane and Linda happened to walk by and MJ said, "Well if it isn't Brenda Chapman and Sara Paretsky." Sara is author of the VI Warshawski novels and spearheaded the Sisters in Crime organization. While I didn't recognize her, I sat in on the interview with Mary Higgins Clark. I was walking out for dinner and spotted her having a drink - I was very bold and asked if I could take her photo. She graciously agreed and I got a lovely pic that I will post when I get home. Michael Connelly also walked past me in the book room, but I didn't approach him - a regret, I'd have to say.

Time to pack up and head to the main entrance. I'll be home tonight tired and some pounds heavier, but it has been an interesting, fun and overall worthwhile trip to the U.S. Midwest.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Still Kicking in Cleveland

Once in every person's life, you should take a stroll through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We hiked it over there last night for a cocktail party, which was a zoo of people. After a glass of complimentary wine (it liked what I was wearing), and some mingling, Linda Wiken, Anthony Bidulka and I headed into the exhibit area. So cool to see Michael Jackson's clothes from the Thriller video, the sparkly dresses from the Supremes, handwritten lyrics from different artists, Elvis Presley's Chrysler, and my favourite, Janis Joplin's sports car with its vibrantly painted pictures. We stood for a while and watched clips from American Bandstand - needless to say, rock music is playing in every room with videos of the artists. I could have spent an entire day wandering around reliving the seventies.

We took the shuttle back to the hotel and found our way to the bar for some late supper and wine. I woke up in good time today to make it to Mary Jane Maffini's nine o'clock panel, then took a little break before mine at 11:30. Oddly enough, Linda Wiken and I were on the same panel speaking about crime in small U.S. towns - odd because we are both Canadians. We had a decent crowd, which was something of a relief because we were up against all the big name authors like Michael Connelly. Anyhow, it went well since we had an experienced moderator Sandra Parshall. Linda and I got a lot of air time as one person dropped off the panel early on and another had the flu and couldn't make it last minute. A new author named Dana King rounded out our group.

After that, we signed a few books before heading over for a free lunch at another hotel, courtesy of the public library - cake so filled with gooey chocolate, it gives one a buzz. I feel like jogging around the downtown, but luckily, the rain started so I'm just typing really really fast.

After lunch, I sat in on a bit of a Michael Connelly interview before slipping out to catch the last half of a panel with Elizabeth George and Val McDermid. I bought a George book in the bookroom so that I could get it signed, but after half an hour in the slowest moving line imaginable, I gave up. I headed up to my room and discovered the book was already signed anyhow.

So, now a little rest before meeting R.J. Harlick for supper (I have to start skipping the desserts) and then it's Meet the Canucks hour. I imagine we'll find our way to the bar afterwards.

I'm beginning to see why people keep coming back to these conferences :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rocking and Rolling in Cleveland

Our carload of Ottawa mystery authors, Mary Jane Maffini, R.J.Harlick, Linda Wiken and I, arrived at our respective hotels last night around nine o'clock, a mere 13 hours after I left home. We leapfrogged our way across New York and Pennsylvania into Ohio without incident. The only snag when I tried to book into the hotel with Mary Jane and Linda only to discover I was in a different hotel ten minutes away. Turns out I'm in the conference hotel so not bad in the end.

We decided to have supper in my hotel bar where the lighting was dim enough that Mary Jane ordered two glasses of red wine without realizing they were $20 per glass (she thought she was splurging on $10 a glass).  All in all, a rather brazen price to charge, in my view. The presidential debate was on television, which I would have been watching if I'd been home. Might have been less stressful to miss the whole thing anyway.

The topic of conversation this morning was that our bookseller Don Longmuir from St. Catharines got stopped at the border for nine hours and U.S. Customs refused to let him take all the books across. He was the only one who was to sell our books so it's somewhat grim. A lot of books normally get sold at these events as these are the diehard readers who are eager to try new authors. I'd brought eight books and was able to give them to Don to sell. Other authors had a few as well but others have none.

Anyhow, I attended a few panels this morning - the first on 'The Writing Life" - Halifax author Anne Emery was on the panel and we'd corresponded beforehand; and "Murder in the Great Outdoors" with Robin Harlick. Afterwards, five of us headed out on foot to a street of restaurants where we sat outside and enjoyed the 75 degree afternoon with a glass of wine (or beer) and a bit of lunch. I indulged in the bread pudding doused in bourbon and caramel sauce.

I just came from watching an interview with Robin Cook - remember Coma? - and he was articulate and scathing about the American medical insurance and the large pharmaceutical companies. He also didn't have much comforting to say about the quality of medicine and care, especially in hospitals, especially at night.

So, I'm still looking to run into Elizabeth George and Michael Connelly . . . . maybe, I'll see them tonight at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reception. Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Trek into the Ottawa Valley

To mark Culture Days on Saturday, I took a short road trip to Smiths Falls to teach a short story workshop at the Smiths Falls Library. I'm pictured above with some of the creative kids who took part. A big thank you to David Hoffman for inviting me and to librarian Debra Kuehl, who made me feel so welcome. Debra remembered me from a workshop I gave in 2005 when my first YA book Running Scared. was released. She said she still remembered parts of the story and really liked the book. She wasn't aware there are three more books in the series but said she would look into having them ordered.

Well, just three more days until I leave for Cleveland. I'll be driving down with Mary Jane Maffini, Robin Harlick and Linda Wiken since Katherine and Darlene had to change their plans a few weeks ago and won't be going. Between now and then, I'm on holidys and have a few guest blog posts to write. I'm also going to blog from Cleveland if all goes as planned so check back in over the course on next week.

It's been a busy week sports-wise as well. I began curling and have had a practice and two games already. Regular team play starts Monday and the way the schedule falls, I won't be missing any games because of Bouchercon. Ted and I also spent this morning visiting furniture stores as we search for the perfect couch to go in the newly finished bedroom. Hopefully, this will not take a year to accomplish :-) (Just kidding, Ted.) He's done a fabulous job of the room so I can't argue with that.

Not much else to report today except that I'm very happy to have the next few mornings to sleep in. I'm feeling like I need to recharge my battery.

Good week ahead, everyone.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Autumn Events

Well, it turned into a fine day for the launch of Second Chances at Collected Works bookstore on the official first day of fall. Close to a hundred people dropped by with food and wine to help with the mingling. Around three o'clock, Councillor Katherine Hobbs introduced me and said some very kind words about my writing and Second Chances, which she said moved her to tears toward the end. High praise to have someone feel what your characters are feeling. Also, MPP Yasir Naqvi came by and spoke for a few minutes to the crowd. A huge thank you to both Katherine and Yasir for your support and to all those who came out, especially my good buddy Dawn Rayner who came all the way from Toronto.

Unfortunately, I was so busy that I didn't remember my camera until the end of the event; however, my friend Patrick Walton was there with his video camera in hand and I should soon have a video of the afternoon to share.

I've got a few events and signings on the horizon.  This coming Saturday, I'll be travelling to Smiths Falls to give a short story workshop to kids at the Smiths Falls Public Library. This event is part of Culture Days and I'm looking forward to getting creative with the kids.

Then, the first week of October, I'm off to Cleveland to Bouchercon and upon my return, Ted and I will be heading for an overnight in Kingston where I'll be scouting out locations for my sequel to Cold Mourning. Cold Mourning is set in Ottawa, but I move my protagonist to Kingston for the second book. I lived in Kingston for a year when I went to teachers' college. I wanted a smaller city for the setting and Kingston is such a beautiful location, especially in the fall. (I promised Ted that she might go on an Italian boat cruise next.)

I'm also slated to be on a Capital Crime Writers panel with Jeff Ross and Barbara Fradkin on Wednesday, October 10 to speak about the adult literacy market and Rapid Reads. I'm sure we'll get into a discussion about publishing in general and writing for different markets.

Two Ottawa book signings are also coming up: 

Saturday, October 27, Brittons's in the Glebe (846 Bank Street) from one to three p.m.; and
Saturday, November 10, Books on Beechwood (35 Beechwood Avenue) from one to three p.m.

And perhaps even more monumental this week, Ted completed the small bedroom and we're getting ready to buy furniture to populate it . . . he finished this painting project in just under a year.

Lots of reasons to celebrate :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

And We Have Take Off

One week to Second Chances book launch at Collected Works bookstore! I dropped by yesterday to speak with Chris Carroll about the set up and book order and all should be ready. This week, I have to get the food and wine organized - I'm hoping that a lot of people drop by to say hello. Councillor Katherine Hobbs will give a welcome and intro and I'll do a brief reading. All in all, it should be a relaxing, mingling couple of hours so please come along if you are able.

I'm working with an editor for Grass Roots Press on the manuscript now entitled "The End Game" which is the first in an adult literacy mystery series featuring Anna Sweet. The publisher and editor have both given great feedback on this one. It does a writer good to hear the words 'gripping' and 'perfect writing style'. While this one is written at a lower reading level, the story is one that everyone will enjoy. This is a two-book deal and they're asking for book two in the spring if possible. I'm excited to see what happens next with Anna who has some demons to conquer. She's also got that dry wit going on.

But for now, I'm working on the  sequel to Cold Mourning, the full-length adult mystery coming out from Dundurn in fall 2013. It's actually very odd to be working on so many projects with them at such different stages in the publication/writing process. I'm starting to wonder if I need a flow chart to keep everything straight. Maybe, I need an assistant. A person to sort through all the papers in home office . . . clean the house, cook a few meals . . . maybe, I'm talking more maid than assistant, but one sure would come in handy. Do you remember the tv show Hazel? Now there was a gem.

The plans to get to Cleveland have changed. I'm now driving down with fellow Ottawa authors Mary Jane Maffini, R.J. Harlick and Erica Chase (aka Linda Wiken) and we depart on October 3rd. We should have a few laughs en route, I imagine. Mary Jane and I made the road trip to Muncie, Indiana a couple of years ago to a writers' conference and had a great time. Anyhow, I'm on a panel Friday morning to talk about finding people to kill off in small towns. Hmm.

All I can say is be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Two Weeks to the Launch!

I'd say the drought is officially over in the Ottawa Valley. I feel like a cat, waiting to see when the rain will let up so I can stick my paws outside.

In the meantime, I'll catch up a bit on the writing news.

Two weeks to the launch at Collected Works and I've been busily inviting people. I think of these as a kind of coming out party for the book. Sort of like sending them off to university to see what they can do (hoping they don't return to live in my basement).

Launch details:  Saturday, September 22nd at Collected Works bookstore (Holland and Wellington) from 2:00 to 4:00. Councillor Katherine Hobbs is MC. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome :-)

So, I'm most pleased to talk about the two-book deal I just made with Grass Roots Press out of Edmonton for an adult literacy mystery series. I finished the first manuscript in this new series and the publisher is very happy with it. I'll now be working with an editor to make sure all the language is on target for this market. My heroine is named Anna Sweet and the books are set in Ottawa. I'm really excited about this project. The first book is scheduled for release next fall.

I went on a tour of Joliette Prison for women (just past Montreal) on Thursday as part of my work for the federal government. The institution has a little school set up there for the women, who often come in without a grade eight education - it is hard to imagine, I know. I taught adult learners in my previous career as a teacher and some could barely read. I remember wishing that there were books available at an adult comprehension and interest level but at a lower reading level. I never would have believed that I'd be writing some, but I'm very glad that I am.

I'm now returning to working on my full length adult murder mystery for the general market (sequel to the upcoming Cold Mourning) and will try to get back into my pacing of 500-word minimum a day. I've taken the last week off to recharge and do some publicity stuff. There are a few events on my horizon that will interrupt the pace, but it's all part of the business.

I've been hearing from old colleagues and friends whom I haven't been in touch with for years and love that about the writing. I'm grateful for everyone's continued support - from Janice Murdoch who bought signed copies of the Jennifer Bannon series for her friends' kids in PEI to Carole Gage who volunteered to make cookies for my launch to Kathy Adair who always 'likes' my Facebook posts . . . and so many of you who support me by buying and recommending my books. It's good to be sharing this journey with each of you - they say it takes a village to raise a child so if we go back to sending my little book off to university analogy, you're all helping to keep my offspring from living on my couch and eating me out of house and home . . . .

Saturday, September 1, 2012

We Have Lift Off

Second Chances has arrived! My author copies were delivered by courrier on Wednesday, and Dundurn tweeted that they began shipping to stores yesterday. It still gives a thrill to hold that finished book for the first time.

The official launch is three weeks from now at Collected Works - the first time I've held a launch in a bookstore. I have wonderful friends who've offered to help me get food ready and others to serve the refreshments. Councillor Katherine Hobbs will MC with some opening remarks and I'll read a short passage. It should be a relaxed, busy afternoon as I send my book out into the world of readers.

I've finished another little project I had on the go for the past couple of months and mailed it off to the publisher this morning. Now, I wait for the feedback - this is the first time I signed a book deal ahead of them seeing the manuscript.

I also heard this week that I'm on a panel at Bouchercon on Friday morning - Bouchercon is in Cleveland and runs the first week of October. That same evening, I'll be one of the authors participating in 'Meet the Canucks', a cocktail kind of event to introduce Canadian authors. Normally, this conference gets about 1500 people attending so a huge undertaking. The U.S. Midwest is known for being a hotbed of mystery fans.

So lots of busy times ahead. This, however, is the Labour Day long weekend and I'm happy for the break from real life. I hope you too are managing to kick back with family and friends to enjoy the dog days of summer.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One week to Release!

One week until Second Chances hits the shelves. It was mentioned in the Quill and Quire this month in its fall preview of books for the younger set. It's in the seventh paragraph down and begins with the word 'Sex'. While I have a seventeen year old character named Elizabeth who acts out and likes boys, perhaps a bit too much, there isn't any actual sex in the book. But what is it they say about sex selling? Quill and Quire, you are going to make this book a best seller :-)

Two-time Governor General award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones read the manuscript early on and gave the following cover quote:  The plot of Second Chances crackles like summer lightning ... Chapman skillfully weaves together a story, sensual and taut, that is a slow burn from the very first image.

(Okay, I'm on a roll - gearing up to promote.)

Now, the new Dundurn mystery series for adults, which begins with the release of Cold Mourning in the fall of 1213, has actual sexual shenanigans. Not 50 Shades of Grey kind of carryings-on, but enough that I wouldn't give the book to my twelve year old to read.

I've maintained my writing pace this week. I've given myself a 500-word a day minimum. The not-too-high, not-too-low word count seems to be working for me. Some days, I even get a thousand words written. I start in the evening after supper during the week and write off and on all weekend. I'm almost done a new little project I've had underway this month (details to come).

My next task is to do a bit of editing on Cold Mourning - I had Damien Coakley, a retired Ottawa cop, read it for technical advice. I'm happy to report that he only found a few inaccuracies, which I need to go through to update the manuscript. The cover concept should be arriving soon. I've given suggestions and am awaiting the first design from Dundurn. It's always a thrill to have that first glimpse. Covers are done way ahead of the editing process so that the book gets into catalogues and online bookstores.

Well, in line with my push to promote Second Chances, I'm going to spend some time this weekend e-mailing out the book launch invitation. I've heard from lots of people that they'll be coming by and I hope you can too - it's a little celebration really. A chance to raise a glass and catch up with friends, old and new.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What Lies Ahead

Another busy week - busy in my day job, busy writing, busy getting publicity stuff in order . . . boredom is a word I seldom use.

I was invited yesterday to give a workshop at the Smiths Falls Library one Saturday in September. I'll be teaching the short story workshop that I give to kids as part of the annual Awesome Authors contest for the Ottawa Public Library. It's part of Smiths Falls' culture days so should be a fun time. It's the week after the launch of Second Chances (Sept. 22nd from 2-4 at Collected Works) (I know you already have it on your calendars:-)

I don't get to too many events as a rule. There just aren't that many hours in my week once you factor in the full time job. I also start curling in October and am on two teams again this year. Actually, when I start to think about all the things I have to do this fall, little beads of sweat break out on my forehead.

I am really looking forward to the first two weeks in October though. I'm on holiday - Katherine Hobbs, Darlene Cole and I have rented a car to drive to Cleveland (9 hours) to attend Bouchercon. I'm hoping to be on a panel but already am lined up to be part of 'Meet the Canucks' night and the organizers have asked for bio and photo for the program. If I'm lucky, I'll meet Elizabeth George in
the pub or somewhere as I'm a huge fan of her Inspector Lynley series.We're going a day early to take in the sights of Cleveland, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'll bring along my laptop and will blog at the scene. You may never have to leave the comfort of your living room again.

On my return to Ottawa, my sister and brother in law will be visiting from Thunder Bay and the following weekend, Ted and I will be going to a B & B in Kingston for a night so I can walk the streets . . .  (now that came out wrong) . . . to get the geography down for my second mystery in the adult series from Dundurn. (We'll be looking for more places to dump bodies.) The first called Cold Mourning, set in Ottawa, will be out in fall 2013.

Well, I've just exhausted myself so time to go mop my brow and have another cup of coffee. Hope everyone is having a great end of summer and enjoying the absence of oppressive heat. It's strange days when 25 degrees C feels cold.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Going for Gold

This has been a wonderful week - much needed rain and steady writing. I've set a 500-word minimum for myself each day and have managed to meet or exceed without exception. I'm like one of those long distance runners in the Olympics only with less sweat and heavy breathing.

So here is one of Ottawa's better kept secrets - the walled garden of Maplelawn. It's not too far from our house and a good place to sit and contemplate life in the middle of the city.

It's maintained by a group of volunteers 'The Friends of Maplelawn' who work away every Sunday throughout the spring and summer. Every few weeks, new perennials are in bloom. Hard to believe this little oasis is open to the public with a picnic table and benches in the shade.

The building in the background is the original residence and now a Keg restaurant - another lovely place to spend an evening although costing your wallet somewhat more than a walk around the garden.

Okay, enough of an interlude. It's time to get back at the writing and make my word quota. I have two books on the go and some accounting work to take care of today. I've set up a giveaway of Second Chances on Goodreads this morning - Dundurn will donate and mail out the book to the winners so enter if you are able: Just three weeks until the book is officially available although you can preorder now . . . marketing should be another Olympic sport.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Heat, Sweat and Beers

And the summer heat is not letting up. We're hitting 40 degrees C again today with the humidex, which is way hot for this August long weekend in Canada. It's a challenge to stay hydrated, but we're giving it our best shot..

It has been a good writing week. I've set aside my manuscript for a few weeks for the sequel to Cold Mourning (1st in an adult mystery series coming out next year from Dundurn) to work on a new project for adult literacy. I'll tell you more as it unfolds, but it is quite an exciting opportunity.

We've stayed in the city this weekend. With the Olympics on, I like to be close to a television to take in the events. So much sacrifice and work on the part of each athlete from every country- they are inspiring. Their success after failure and struggle makes a few rejection letters from publishers seem inconsequential!

Rosie MacLennan just won Canada's first gold medal this morning on the trampoline and talked about her grandfather as her main inspiration. He told her to enjoy each step in the process and not to just focus on the outcome. I feel the same about writing - enjoyment should come from the writing itself - the rest will fall into place (hopefully!). The same can be said of most of life's endeavors.

Well, the posters for the Second Chances book launch arrived from Dundurn and I'll be dropping some off at Collected Works later today. I'm timing it to meet Cathy Astolfo, who is in town for a booksigning. She writes a mystery series and is also past president of Crime Writers of Canada. That's another great thing about writing - all the people you get to meet along the way.

A neighbour was asking about Ted's latest bedroom 'painting' project and where it stands now. As it so happens, Ted told me yesterday that he decided that he needed better track lighting before he could put another coat of varnish on the floor - it was just too difficult to get it right with the poor lighting. He ordered the track lighting in April  . . and it arrived this week. Yes, it really took over four months to ship from point A to point B - I'm beginning to think there's a conspiracy going on . . .

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wine Connoisseurs

Ted and I set out for VanKleek Hill Vineyard  this morning to investigate a winery with the possibility of purchasing some for the upcoming book launch. Taste-testing wine at 11:00 in the morning is a pleasant start to the day. It was also lovely to drive into the country and have breakfast in the little town - VanKleek Hill is closer to Montreal than Ottawa so it was about an hour and a half drive each way.

The vineyard has been featured on Regional Contact, which is where we heard about it. The wine is organic without additives and surprisingly hardy. The recent drought hasn't damaged the crop this year at all and the owner Marty anticipates a bumper yield.

In the end, we decided not to purchase the wine for my upcoming launch because it's not available in the LCBO or in Ottawa. I wanted  to promote a local entrepreneur, but with the trek so far to purchase any as it's only available at the vinery or a few restaurants around VanKleek Hill, it didn't seem worthwhile.  Still, it was a nice trek on a sunny Saturday and we purchased a few bottles for our troubles. You should drop in if you're out that way. Here's an article about the enterprise, which includes an address.

Other writing stuff:  I've been doing some publicity tasks for Dundurn and also booked a signing for November 10th at Books on Beechwood, another great little independent Ottawa bookstore.  I've gotten in some writing but not as much as I would have liked. I'm aiming for daily but missed one evening. Still, I've cracked the 20,000 word mark.

Alison Bruce of Crime Writers of Canada posted my blog entry on their site on Tuesday for the series on heroes and heroines. Here is the link if you missed it.

So, the day is quickly whiling away and I'm about to take my laptop out on the front deck to get in some writing. I might just have to taste test some more wine in the process. In fact, we could make it our summer mission to taste test lots of wine for the launch - maybe, off to the Niagara region next?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Social Side of the Writing Life

Part of the fun stuff about being in the writing business is getting together with people who share the passion. Capital Crime Writers (CCW) is an Ottawa-centred group of writers and crime novel fans who meet the second Wednesday of every month (except summer) at the Library and Archives to listen to guest speakers on every subject you can imagine, from art fraud to human trafficking to the art of writing believable dialogue.

Monday after work, I met with my fellow CCW program-committee buddies Wynn Kwon and Thomas Curran at the Southern Cross restaurant on Bay Street downtown. (We've discovered that they have half-price appetizers until six every evening.) (yay) Anyhow, we came up with lots of great ideas for speakers and I was tasked with getting the first one lined up for September.

You might just want to come out for this one - Gary Holdsworth PI and lecturer and coordinator of public and private investigations at Algonquin College has agreed to come talk about the business. At $30/year to join our group, we really are the best deal in town. We also have a monthly newsletter and Christmas dinner with a well known guest speaker. Check out the site at

So, Darren 'Ottguy' McEwen set up and sent out a Facebook invitation  to the launch of Second Chances on September 22nd from 2:00-4:00 pm at Collected Works bookstore (Thanks Darren!) Dundurn is also making up posters and electronic invitations for me to send out and these should be available soon. Katherine Hobbs is going to be my MC and we'll have wine and refreshments. It'll just be a relaxed, mingling kind of event. Ted will even pull himself away from working on the upstairs bedroom to attend :-) and no, it's not done yet.

And the last thing I've been working on this week is helping to plan our trip to Bouchercon in Cleveland in early October. Darlene Cole, Katherine Hobbs and I are now thinking of making it a road trip and looking into renting a vehicle for the five days. Could be fun. (Ted's mentioned Thelma and Louise a few times.) Since the vehicle will be a rental, we'll steer clear of cliffs.

Writing is slowing but still going well this week. I'm soon going to go on a trip to Kingston for some research. Maybe, I should think about Paris for the next book . . . . I'm sure that would require at least a month of on-location research, probably in the springtime. Of course, I could always set something in Bermuda in the dead of winter.

Anyone up for another road trip?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hot and Lazy

It is hot, hot hot with no relief in sight.  A drought in Eastern Ontario and across chunks of the country. My garden is surviving though - we water in the evening when the sun goes down since there are no water restrictions yet. Fingers crossed for rain next week.

I spent a few days working on guest blog requests - one for Crime Writers of Canada and their summer series on heros and heroines and what makes an interesting one - and the other for Dundurn, answering five questions about my book Second Chances. I also managed to keep my latest manuscript moving along.  I don't mind staying inside in the air conditioning during the evening and typing away at something.

One nice thing about this writing business is connecting with other authors. I got an e-mail this week from Anne Emery, a crime writer I'd heard about from the East Coast. She had questions about publicity (not that I'm an expert by any means), specifically publicists. Anyhow, we are both going to Bouchercon in Cleveland in October and hopefully we'll meet up. I'm going to pick up one of her books in the meantime - they've gotten good reviews and won a few awards. You might also want to give one a read:-)

Bouchercon is the U.S. crime writers' conference that brings together about 1500 fans and authors. I went to the one in Baltimore a few years ago and had the best time. I was on a panel but spent most of the time listening to big-name authors and even meeting some of them. I have to confess that I'd never heard of many of them, but have since bought their books and expanded my reading horizons, proving the value of these events. I'm hoping to get on a panel this time and will take part in the 'Meet the Canucks' night. I'm also excited to see Elizabeth George, one of the guests of honour - I've read every book in her Inspector Lynley series except the most recent. Should be a whole lot of fun.

Nearly lunchtime and I'm going to see if my neighbour has her pool open. It feels like a good time to have a dip before I get down to something productive. I hope you are managing to stay cool wherever you are.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stranger Than Fiction

This guy has the right idea. Take all your clothes off and sit in a fountain because it sure is hot in the Ottawa Valley, across Southern Ontario and the Eastern seaboard. Every morning I think, how few clothes can I get away with this work day? So far, nobody has picked me up for indecency so I haven't crossed any lines . . . yet.

The hot weather has me writing up a storm. It has been a very productive week and I'm pumped. Part of the fun of writing is creating a world populated by interesting people, some you might like to get to know and others, well . . .  I am writing murder mysteries. Some of the characters are on the shady side and others are just plain killers.

In this particular manuscript, the murder has me a little spooked - for real. I actually woke Ted up screaming in terror around three a.m. In my dream, a man was trying to drag me out of bed.  Hmmm.  Some might consider that a good thing, but I can assure you, it wasn't in this case.

Ted had been away for a few days last week and returned home on Thursday evening. I hadn't quite adjusted to him being back so when he came up to bed around midnight, I half-woke up from a deep sleep, thinking I should be alone in the house. For a few moments, panic took over as I got ready to do battle with an intruder. "What do you think you're doing?" I asked. Ted had to remind me that he lived here. He said later that he was very glad we don't own a gun.

So, I'm going to blame all this on the heat and will continue on with my latest storyline.

(Ted is hoping I write a romance novel next.)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Rock in Every Pot

Canada Day weekend and it's a hot one in the Nation's capital. I'm sure that like me, everyone is happy for a break and a change in focus as we celebrate the onset of summer and a more relaxed few months.

I've been writing. Not as much as I would like, but there's just way too much to do in my free time these days. Just watering the garden and keeping the plants alive takes up a chunk of time every evening. I've written about 13,000 words in my latest manuscript, but have put on the brakes as I go back to record plot and character outlines. I know this organization will help me moving forward since this is proving to be a complicated story on some levels. I might need to cut out characters or a storyline at a later date, but for now, I'm keeping everything and everyone in to see if the tale comes together. I know where the plot is heading but this is a bit like diving off a cliff - you know the water is a distance below, but just not sure if you'll make a solid dive or a belly flop. Ahh, the adventure of it all.

The business of writing is taking up a bit of time as I head to the September launch of Second Chances. I've been updating my website with the help of the designer in Toronto - just minor tinkerings to add the latest news to the main page and the Goodreads link. Jared says an overhaul would take time but we might aim to do one in a few years. I've also been to and fro with Collected Works bookstore, attending fellow author events and lining up publicity for my launch. I have to visit them this morning with a few questions about posters, which Dundurn's creative team is working on. The list goes on.

After an meandering-kind of evening out in Westboro with our neighbours (which included sitting a stone's throw from Jose Canseco in the Royal Oak), I watched Bill Murray on Letterman talking about publicity for his films. He said, "The best publicity is a good film". I've heard similar advice about books - just write a good book and publicity will take care of itself. Meaning, word of mouth will make it a best seller. Maybe, it is that simple, but I don't think so.

Do you remember the pet rock? It was marketing to the masses at its best. Suddenly, everyone thought they had to own . . . a plain old ordinary rock, and people were willing to pay good money for one. There was no 'quality' or use to the item, but it caught on, sort of like a Chia pet without the vegetation. I've read bestsellers that frankly aren't well written or interesting, and other books that should be bestsellers but consumers skip over. I have no answers to the marketing mysteries, but it makes for interesting study.

So, heading into the heat to start the Saturday errands. It's days like this I think having an air-conditioned car might be pleasant, but it's worth remembering that people pay to sit in saunas, and I get this experience for free every time I drive to the store.

Happy Canada Day.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Procrastination and Other Failings

Is anyone else finding it hard to settle in at the computer these hot summer days? There is just so much else to do . . . my garden is crying for a bit of attention, I'm currently reading four novels simaltaneously, mainly sitting on the front deck in the shade, and then there's my neighbour's pool with an open invitation and other neighbours who keep droppng over with glasses of wine . . . . none of which one should miss. There is way too much to do . . . not to mention that pesky full-time job.

I was getting back on writing track, working faithfully every evening and giving myself a firm word count until my chapter didn't save on Tuesday night and I thought I'd lost 3000 words. Luckily, it turned out to be only 400, but it was enough to set me back. Anyhow, onwards and upwards as they say. I'm planning an overnight trip to Kingston one of these fine Saturdays since my latest novel is set there. I want to scout out locations and take photos - I plan to bring along my trusted side-kick Ted, who has a good eye for places to dump bodies - oddly, we've both opted not to have life insurance.

I've discovere the video function on my new Canon camera and filmed, quite shoddily I might add, some of the places we visited in Italy. Just like Where's Waldo, Ted appears in every one although he's not so difficult to find - usually his head fills the screen at some point. Anyhow, I thought you might like to get a feel of Positano on the Amalfi Coast where we spent a day. The film is mercifully short but really gives a feel for the place. Let's see if it uploads. Fingers crossed . . .

Hmmm. It took an awful long time and results are sketchy. Perhaps I'll try uploading it directly into my Facebook page (go to for the link to my fan page).  It seems cruel to whet your curiosity and then have let us all down. Maybe you'll have to come over and visit so I can show it to you on my computer. (I could set aside my writing for a bit.)

Well, before I get down to it, the butter should be softened for the strawberry shortcake I'm about to bake for supper tonight. My daughter Lisa and I made our annual trek to pick berries this morning and now I have to do something with them.  I know. I know. Where is my self-discipline? Today, it's hiding under a heap of strawberries and whipped cream oozing over  a crumbly cake base.

I write better on a full stomach.