Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ringing Out the Old

So I got a new iPad and used it to type this morning's post. Unfortunately, after posting, I hit the wrong key and promptly deleted my message. If you were lucky enough to open the post before it disappeared, you might find some repetition :-)

Just when you think you've got a handle on new technology . . . 

The season of merry-making, eating, drinking and visiting is not quite over, but getting there. I've managed some writing in between cooking and gift-wrapping, achieving nearly 22,000 words on the third Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript. I was aiming for 30,000 words before January 1st, but am not sure I'll make it with a few parties to go between now and then.

As everyone considers the highlights of the year that just passed by, I'd have to say in my writing world, my biggest achievement was the release of the two Anna Sweet mysteries from Grass Roots Press - My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall. I also managed a cross-country tour of sorts, visiting libraries in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg as well as speaking to an adult literacy audience in Ottawa. In addition, I finished the third manuscript in the Anna Sweet series and it will be released in early 2014. I have one more to write with a spring deadline.

Other events to come in 2014: Sunday, March 9 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., Dundurn and I'll be launching Cold Mourning: A Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery at Whispers Pub in Westboro (Ottawa). Mark your calendars as all are invited. A few weeks after the launch, I'll be travelling to Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California for a week - this is an annual mystery conference that is held in a different American west coast location each time. I'll be sure to blog that week and let you know how the trip unfolds. I'm most excited to visit San Francisco and to see my first real live redwood forest. In June, I'll be heading to Toronto and the Bloody Words mystery and fan conference.


And my resolutions for 2014 - I have two projects to finish: the third Stonechild and Rouleau mystery and the fourth Anna Sweet - so I need to become more methodical about my writing time. Instead of skipping days at a time, I'm resolving to work at least an hour a day, even when I'm tired after a full day. The thing that is going to help me is this little iPad (as long as I stop deleting my work). What a great little device. How did we ever manage with typewriters and without social media? It might as well have been called the Stone Age.

I also resolve to clean up my office (Ted made me write this one.)

So having just retyped my blog post after deleting it the first time, I'd better wrap up here and get myself organized for the day ahead, which I plan to spend writing. I might take a few egg nog breaks, but they will be strictly regulated.
Happy New Year to everyone and I wish you a most excellent year ahead with many good books to read.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrating the Season

No lack of snow this Christmas. Not one but two winter storms hitting Ottawa this weekend and this the busiest travel weekend of the year. Today is the first official day of winter although it has felt like winter for the entire month of December.

I've started to receive e-mail notices from Dundurn as they get ready to work on the sequel to Cold Mourning, which is due out March 1, 2014. Butterfly Kills is the working title of the second Stonechild and Rouleau mystery. I've been asked for cover ideas and been assigned my editor - Jennifer McNight, who worked with me on Cold Mourning. This one won't be released until 2015 so you can see how far ahead this process begins. I'm currently working away on book three in the series and cracked 20,000 words this week. Each book is very different in shape and plot, and each one has its challenges in bringing the plot together. I realize that writing to a formula might be easier in the long run, but I enjoy the challenge of changing things up. I also like creating characters, such as Kala Stonechild, and following their lives through several books. I have settled on just writing for the adult market now rather than flipping between young adult and adult. It's better for marketing to keep one target audience although even at that, I've got the two series going: one for adult literacy and  the second for the mainstream adult audience.

So today, I'm off to the stores along Wellington Street for some food items as I prepare to start a bit of Christmas baking. I'll be hosting Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners. For me, the best part of the holiday season is serving up a special evening - a fire, music on the stereo, wine and good meal with family and friends. There's a warm feeling that comes this time of year as we all take a break from the cold and darkness of winter to gather and celebrate our lives. People also rally to help others this season, recognizing that not everyone is in a good place and may need a helping hand or not to be forgotten.

My daughters will be sleeping over on Christmas Eve along with a friend whose parents are away for the holiday. We'll also have my daughter's dog George, which last year ate left-over bacon Christmas morning, then promptly threw it up next to the Christmas tree. No bacon for you this year, George.

What a face. (Okay, maybe just one little piece.)
I wish each of you a wonderful, peaceful holiday with special moments to warm your heart. Sleep in, eat too much, get into the egg nog . . . be sure enjoy the spirit of the season no matter where you are or how you celebrate.
Let's all raise our glasses to each other this Christmas and wish for peace and understanding.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

In From the Cold

Back from a week in Winnipeg, Manitoba where the cold wind blows off the prairies and the snow crunches like cornflakes underfoot. We were treated to some fabulous curling, and although our daughter's team lost in the semi-final, they worked hard the entire week and were one of the last teams standing. If you've never been to a major curling event, it is quite a spectacle.

I spent part of Wednesday afternoon at the beautiful Winnipeg Public Library speaking to about 65 adult learners and reading from the Anna Sweet mysteries. I was treated to an attentive audience and some great questions about writing and the writing life. Thank you to librarians Kathleen Williams and Brenda Giesbrecht for organizing the event and making my visit so successful.

Thursday evening, I signed copies of In Winter's Grip and Second Chances at McNally Robinson. What a lovely store! The store is a community gem with a full schedule of author readings, signings and launches. I wish that I'd had more time to look through the books, but after the signing, I instead opted for some supper in their cafe with my friend Karen Cornelius, who put us up for the week and squired us around the city. We had sweet potato soup with peanuts, crusty bread, white wine and the most delectable fruit tart known to man. Sweet dreams are made of this. Karen is on the far right in this picture and my high school friend Teresa is next to me - Teresa and I hadn't seen each other in thirty years!


On our travels around Winnipeg, I was struck by the old stone buildings and graceful architecture. The Assiniboine and the Red River can be seen at various locations, and just across the Assiniboine is Saint Boniface where we drove to find the home of author Gabrielle Roy, who won not one but three Governor General awards. I now have The Tin Flute on my to-read list.

And back in Ottawa, I met up with some fellow Crime Writers of Canada mystery authors at a Royal Oak for a Christmas get-together. A few nights later, I joined the Capital Crime Writers for their Christmas dinner at a local restaurant. This year, Howard Shrier  made the journey from Toronto to read to us from his latest mystery Miss  Montreal and to share a few stories about his writing. (very cool website) I bought a copy and look forward to this latest instalment in the Jonah Geller series - the Calgary Herald says that Howard is "making the world of crime fiction a better place, one Jonah Geller book at a time".

So for me, this is a very busy time of year with Christmas shopping, tree decorating, parties, family meals . . . the list goes on. I'll be rushing around today with the promise of a snowstorm and frigid temperatures starting at dusk. Then you'll find me typing away on my latest manuscript with a glass of wine at my elbow and my gas fireplace taking away the chill. I haven't had much time to write this past week and am itching to get back at the story.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

In the House

Last day of November. Cold and snowy just to put us in the mood for December.

This has felt like a lost week, struggling through dark, freezing mornings waiting at the bus stop on the way to work and returning under much the same conditions. Once home, I haven't felt like doing anything but wrapping myself in a blanket in front of the tv. And yet . . . .

I manged to write a few thousand words on the latest manuscript and caught up on a few publicity tasks, including updating my website about the two Winnipeg events this upcoming week. I'll be speaking to adult learners and their teachers at the Winnipeg Public Library on Wednesday afternoon and just received word that we have a full house booked - five literacy classes are registered to attend. And the Thursday evening, I'll be at McNally Robinson signing books from 6-8 pm. - tell your Winnipeg friends and family to come by and say hello.

So, tomorrow begins the Olympic curling trials - very exciting. We had a send off for the Ottawa players on Wednesday evening. What an achievement for everyone who made the trials - players, coaches, support systems, families and friends. It really does take a village.

Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Lisa Weagle, Heather Smith (5th) and Earl Morris (Ali Kerviazuk missing)

Go Team!

You can watch the games on TSN all week if you're not in the stands. So, I suppose  you can understand my distraction this week and the week to come.

A proud mom and cheering fan.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Where Were You When . . . ?

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. I can recall the moment when a teacher went from class to class with the news that the President had been shot. I had just turned eight and had no knowledge of Kennedy, but I remember this as one of the darkest, saddest days of my young life. I have a vague recollection of later watching the events unfold later on our black and white television. The entire day and week are shadowy and depressing in my memory even still. The rain and grayness of yesterday seemed fitting to mark this day.

I found this week's coverage interesting in that the reporters tracked down many of the people who were in Dallas at Daly Plaza that day. Their first-hand accounts are as vivid for them as the moment the shooting happened. This video is unbelievable if you haven't seen it before.

And my week -- I worked on a scene of about 2000 words last weekend and off and on in the evenings. It's a pivotal scene in the book and I wanted to get it right. I think that I am close. Since it involves an activity my husband knows more about than I, he has agreed to read it and give me technical advice to make it more realistic. Have I whetted your curiosity? Remember to ask me which scene when the book comes out :-)

I've also organized the book launch for Cold Mourning! Mark your calendars so that you are sure to attend if you are in the Ottawa area -- Sunday, March 9 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Whispers pub in Westboro. I launched my first books here and like that you can mingle, have a beer and some appetizers in a relaxed and friendly setting. Books on Beechwood is lined up to sell books at the event. I've also included references to Whispers in my Anna Sweet mysteries, and I brought the manager a copy of My Sister's Keeper yesterday as a keepsake. If you go the photos on the Whispers site, you'll see the outdoor patio where Anna Sweet meets her ex-partner.

The event at the adult high school with Alan Cumyn was on Tuesday morning and it was great. We had about a hundred adult learners and teachers in a large upstairs room. Alan and I each spoke for a few minutes and read from our books. Then, we took questions from the audience, and there was a lot of interest in our writing processes and the way that we capture an idea and turn it into a story. I found it interesting and a pleasure to listen to Alan, who has been in this business a long time with much success since he has so much talent and love for the written word.

So today I need to complete the discussion questions for The Hard Fall, which are due next week. The set for My Sister's Keeper were well received and are to be posted on the Grass Roots Press site soon for tutors to use with their students. I also want to get further along in my latest manuscript.

And Christmas shopping . . . I got out last weekend and will be out there again this weekend. Time is short with parties and get togethers starting to line up. Not to mention next week's Roar of the Rings in Winnipeg where our daughter Lisa's team plays in the Olympic trials. You can watch the games on TSN beginning next Sunday afternoon.

December promises to be a good, good month

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Back Field not in Motion

This has been a slower moving kind of week for me. I was baking a carrot cake for Sunday dinner with family when I felt a pain in my lower back. By the time we sat down to eat, well, I was having trouble sitting. The body is an odd machine sometimes. When you have a sore back, you realize how fragile and intricate its workings. As a result of several days of low-grade pain, I wasn't able to sit and work at the computer as usual so a forced break from writing. Maybe, this is all for the good - a stepping back to approach the manuscript with renewed energy. I could even create a character with back pain at some point . . . no experience is ever a complete waste.

The Q and A with British blogger Susan was published on her site The Book Trail on Thursday. Susan's logo is "Discovering the World One Book at a Time". A very informative site for readers if you have a chance to check it out. Also cool to have a reviewer blogging about my books in Britain, a hotbed of crime fiction . . . think Scotland Yard, MI5, Jack the Ripper, the moors, fog and mist . . .

So this week, I will try to complete the study questions for The Hard Fall and submit them to the publisher for review. I'm also going to work on the next chapter of the manuscript I'm plugging away on - now at 13,000 words and aiming for 80,000. The adult literacy event with Alan Cumyn is Tuesday morning. I'll let you know how this goes next week.

I was typing something on my computer this past week and hit the wrong key. A box popped up telling me how to save a screen shot to a program called Dropbox, which my video friend had me upload a few years ago so that he could send me a video that he was making of my book launch. (A great memory since the bookstore is now a restaurant called The Flying Banzini) If you are like me, you have all these software programs - all this fire power - and no real knowledge of how to use it or even a grasp of what is possible. So if you click on the image below, you'll see a jpeg of the flyer Dundurn sent me this week for the March 1 launch of Cold Mourning.

As I look at the clock, I realize that I'm off to another slow start today. My back is better but a bit tender and achy so I'm now heading into the hot shower to get it mobile. Friends have called this a 'baking injury'. No real glory in that, but at least the carrot cake was good.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Just a Little to the West

I was driving along Richmond Road near Lincoln Fields shopping centre last week and passed by the field where I had an 'incident' occur in Cold Mourning. The field was closer to Maple Lawn, a walled garden with a Keg restaurant in the heritage family home, than I'd indicated in my story. In fact, I had the field further west, closer to a string of apartment buildings.

Which made me think about poetic licence and setting. My first novels were geographically easier to write because I made up the towns although I set them in a real geographical location - for instance, I made up the town of Duved Cove in In Winter's Grip, but I set it north of Duluth along Lake Superior. Duved Cove was a figment of my imagination and if I could picture a street, I could make it real on paper. Grounding the town in a real geographical location helped me to create a more believable setting.

My two latest series are set in Ottawa and Kingston and I do not have as much freedom to invent although I still take the odd liberty with location, such as moving a field a few blocks over. I also create places that aren't real and set them in real locations. For example, I made up the Gadfly Bar and place it on Elgin Street in the third Anna Sweet mystery. I also invented a dumpster in its back parking lot and a body inside the dumpster. So why not use a real bar on Elgin Street? Well, from what I understand, business owners aren't all that pleased to have authors killing off people on their premises. Understandable. And sometimes, I just need to make the real world fit into mine to make my story work. But I always try to keep as many details about a neighbourhood as true as possible and hope the readers who live in Ottawa and surrounding towns embrace the fictional bits. Readers outside the area, of course, never know the difference :-)

I got some writing in last week on my latest manuscript (nearing 11,000 words) and worked on developing questions for My Sister's Keeper. Still lots to get accomplished this weekend, which happily is a three-day one for me. I'm purposefully not reading any novels this week to keep myself on task. I sure miss having a book on the go though for those down moments. I feel like I'm going through withdrawal . . .

November is typically a month that I find grey, cold and depressing. Well, we still have leaves on many trees and no snow so I'm cruising through this month without much angst. I'm staying busy with work, writing, curling , family and friends - hardly cringing at the shorter overcast days. Keeping spirits high.

 I'm learning to embrace the grey.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Blues

This is my second attempt at a blog post today - I had one all set to go this morning when our internet server cut out. This has been happening regularly since last week. Ted and I (okay, mainly Ted) spent several hours on the phone trying to get this sorted with no success. Bell has no idea what is going on, but we are pretty sure it's on their end. Anyhow, my blog ended up being part text and most Bell logo.

Maybe that was some kind of sign.

I've been busy with stuff to do with the business of writing. I finished the answers for the British blogger and sent those off. She had some good questions - I'll link to her blog when she posts. Grass Roots Press also asked me if I would write discussion questions for the two Anna Sweet mysteries - due December 1st. I've started, but am finding this is going to take a lot of thought and time. Finally, this week, the editor and I were doing some to-ing and fro-ing with edits to the third Anna Sweet manuscript and we are now both satisfied with the draft. I'll be seeing it again, but likely not too many more changes.

I got cooking on the Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript last weekend and am about to get back at it. Too much going on!

My server just cut out again. I guess I should keep this short and see if it will post.

Good weekend everyone.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cleaning House

Snowing out west and grey, damp days in Ottawa - winter feels just around the corner. I've done some housekeeping tasks this week, trying to clear the decks for a stint of writing. I'm at 7,000 words in the third Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript and trying to frame the next chapter before writing it. I'm stalled as I contemplate how to move the plot forward, but am happy with the lead up.

The first in the series, Cold Mourning, has received a positive reception from bloggers who read the advance reading copy. The latest review comes from a woman in England, who subsequently contacted me to do a Q and A on her blog. I'll post when that comes out.

The third Anna Sweet manuscript came back a second time from the editor with minor changes. Pam Robertson has a keen eye for making certain that all of the events and facts make sense, right down to which side of the street a car would be parked on. I think I need Pam to visit my house and make some sense of it too :-) Anyhow, I got those changes done and returned the manuscript to her for another look. The cover should be the next bit of excitement for this book, which is called To Keep a Secret.

Pat Campbell, Grass Roots Press publisher, tells me that the two Anna Sweet mysteries are very popular already and selling well. Most encouraging.

Three events now set up:

November 19, Alan Cumyn and I will be speaking to adult learners at the adult high school downtown.

December 4, (time TBC) - Winnipeg Public Library - speaking to adult learners.

December 5 from 6-8 pm  -  book signing in McNally Robinson, Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg trip nicely coincides with The Roar of the Rings when my daughter's curling team (Rachel Homan) will be playing for a chance to go to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Lisa was on a YouTube show this week called Ask Me Anything. You can still watch the show to find out how the team is preparing for such a major challenge.

And I know you're wondering how the back deck is coming along, so I just stepped outside in the pouring rain to give you the following update: Roof on and deck down. Notice the lovely cedar inside the metal roof. Still need to build the back wall before winter sets in. Fingers crossed that the snow out west isn't planning on moving this way.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Busy Autumn

A late blog post today as I got called into work this morning. More writing of a different sort.

I received the edits for the third Anna Sweet mystery and started my review of the suggested changes last Sunday. I have a bit left to do and hope to get through the manuscript tomorrow. I also received a request for an event with Alan Cumyn to present our Grass Roots Press books to adult learners. Looks like I'll be introducing Anna Sweet one morning in November at an adult high school very close to my office. The books received a most encouraging review from Mystery Maven Canada on Friday.

My two publishers are also setting up some events in Winnipeg the first week of December - a signing at one of the bookstores and a library event, hopefully. More to follow.

I've been itching to get back working on my third Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript this week, but editing and work have kept me from the keyboard. I can't believe how time away makes me physically miss writing. I suppose this is a good thing. Once that longing is gone, the time and energy needed to write a book might seem too much. For now, the drive to write is healthy and not going anywhere.

I was worried about how Cold Mourning, the first in the Stonechild and Rouleau series would be received. Like most writers who work long hours on a manuscript, perspective gets lost. So far, I needn't have worried. The ARC has been reviewed by six bloggers and each has given it the thumbs up. One of the comments that brings joy to this old author's heart was: "I could not put this book down". Mission accomplished :-)

So, last Saturday, Ted and I escaped overnight to an exquisite B & B in Perth, Ontario to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversay. Perth Manor is a lovely old home, once owned by Perth's mayor and lovingly restored to its original splendor. We spent part of the day sipping wine in the back garden and then off for supper at the Stone Cellar. Just a lovely day in the Ottawa Valley.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy Reader Faces to Brighten Your Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving weekend and it's looking gorgeous out there. We had our Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday because both our girls are curling this weekend, which in hindsight is rather brilliant - no work preparing a big meal this holiday. Three days to relax.

The Brittons signing last Saturday was a roaring success. We sold most of the Anna Sweet stock (60 books) and the other books of mine that Linda Wiken and Ted Britton had on hand.  I took some photos of some of the readers and here they are:

With Linda Wiken, who looks after the Mystery Book Shelf at Brittons


Thank you to everyone who dropped by - the afternoon was as fun as all the smiles on all these faces.
My other big news is that Dundurn took Cold Mourning to the Frankfurt Book Fair this week. The book was mentioned in a Quill and Quire article and the cover graced a poster in the Dundurn booth.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Good Fall

So, I caught the morning train to Toronto on Tuesday for an evening event at the Downsview Branch of the TPL. Dawn, my good buddy from university days, met me and we found our way to a patio downtown for lunch. Then, the subway to her place in North York and some relaxing time before we made it to the library before seven. The two librarians on the front desk had no idea about the event, so that was slightly disconcerting, but soon sorted. About thirty people were in the audience - adult learners, tutors, librarians and a couple more of my friends, Pat and Susan, who made the trek in from Mississauga. I have such great friends :-)

I read from My Sister's Keeper and then spent about forty minutes answering questions from the audience, everything from where I get my characters and ideas to how long it took to become published to my favourite authors. Lots of laughter and very relaxed time. I 'd like to thank Rachelle Gooden, Adult Literacy Services Specialist, for setting up such a lovely evening.

Today, I'm heading to Brittons in the Ottawa Glebe to sign copies of My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall. I already have several orders from people who can't make it and know some more friends will be stopping by. I'm thinking this could be fun, especially since Linda Wiken will be in the store. I'm not doing an Ottawa launch for these ones and am doing the signing to give friends and the public a chance to pick up the books. They've each gotten a five-star review on Goodreads! 

Here's a bit of one:

The second book in the Anna Sweet series is another great little mystery that is easily read in one sitting . . .  I found The Hard Fall to be slightly edgier than My Sister's Keeper. I enjoyed the quick build-up of suspense and interesting, complex characters. Brenda Chapman has created a very likable and clever heroine in Anna Sweet and it would be great to see her continue solving mysteries in future books.    
It will be a busy weekend ahead since we are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow evening. I'm skipping my second coffee now to go buy some wine and ingredients for apple and pumpkin pies. Family, friends, books and good food . . . does life get any better than this?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Last Days of September

A good week.

Beautiful, warm weather for late September so still pleasant to sit on the front verandah before supper.

I've been writing in the evenings, heading up to 5000 words on the new manuscript. I'm still tinkering with the opening two chapters, getting the engine started up and going in the right direction. This one is the third Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural and set in Kingston, Ontario.

As I posted on my author Facebook page, Cold Mourning (1st Stonechild and Rouleau) received a couple of nice reviews from advance reading copies. I also received an e-mail yesterday from the VP of Dundurn, who just read the book and said that she 'loved it'.  She'd phoned me earlier in the week to let me know that she's taking Cold Mourning to the Frankfurt book fair in early October and has had a poster made of the cover to put up at the booth. Publishers work to sell foreign rights at these fairs, which is a big deal - your book gets printed in another language and distributed in another country.

An unexpected cheque arrived in the mail this week from Orca publishers for The Second Wife. From what I can gather, a whole whack of them sold in the U.S., so that was an uplifting little jolt.

I have a couple of events coming up this week. Tuesday morning, I'll take the train to Toronto for a little book launch for My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall at the Downsview Public Library at 7 p.m. If you're in Toronto and have time, it would be great to see you. The librarian is going to interview me and I'll do a brief reading. Refreshments will be served. The train ride to Toronto and back  through the countryside with the brilliant fall colours should be rejuvenating.

Next Saturday, I'll be at Brittons in the Ottawa Glebe, signing the same two books from 1-3 pm. They also stock In Winter's Grip, so it will be available too. Linda Wiken and the store owner Ted are two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet so it should be a lovely afternoon. I hope my Ottawa friends can pop by:-)

Well, two days ahead with fine autumn weather. I'll be off to the market shortly and will plan a few meals with the fall produce. The garden needs to be tidied up and readied for winter and this will be a good time to get started. Some progress on the new manuscript, time on the verandah in the evening talking to neighbours . . . . the last weekend of September promises to be a relaxing one before a hectic week ahead. Let's hope this gorgeous weather holds well into October.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What's in a Name

My copies of My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall arrived this week. So odd to finally hold copies in my hands after all this time working on them. The feeling of opening the box and actually seeing the new book never gets old.

The opening scene in My Sister's Keeper finds my protagonist Anna Sweet in the oil town Kermit, Texas. Now, you might wonder how I came up with this location - a glimpse into my thinking process, perhaps. This can be a scary journey, but here goes the geography lesson:

I decided to have Anna, a thirty-two year old retired cop, on the run from her life in Ottawa after a few traumatic events. She would be waitressing her way across the U.S., living the bohemian lifestyle with no ties. My first thought was to have her in a Florida town, but after studying the map, I decided she should be further west in an industry town. My other stipulation was that the town have a two-syllable name since the books are for adult literacy. I pulled up a map of Texas on my screen and read out names until I found Kermit in the north west corner of the state. Of course, I thought of that famous frog and so was intrigued. I did a search on Wikepedia and discovered that Kermit is an oil town with a population of just over 5,000. Perfect!

I invented the Dude Bar, and gave Anna a room to rent upstairs and a job waiting tables downstairs. Anna is called back to Ottawa to save her sister from a killer, but Kermit becomes a symbol of freedom and her life on the road. She longs to return whenever life back home gets too complicated.

Amateur psychologists might see links between the freedom of my own childhood growing up in a one-industry mill town and my life in Ottawa with all of my adult commitments and responsibilities. Well, I guess we all have a place in our minds of a simpler time and place. My first paid contract for a story was about my home town vs. life in the city. Canadian Living published "True North" in 2001. No matter where we come from, our home town always holds a special place.

Of note this week, my daughter Lisa's curling team is playing in their first bonspiel in Brockville and they are now three wins and zero losses, playing again this morning. This promises to be an exciting year as they gear up for the Olympic trials in December. You can watch their afternoon game live on Youtube although the 3:45 start might get pushed back if games back up during the day. An interesting coincidence - Lisa happens to look a lot like Anna Sweet . . . .

I've got a little jump on my next full-length manuscript for Dundurn and hope to get more written this weekend. I'm kind of happy to see the rain, which will keep me indoors. It feels like a day to brew an extra pot of coffee, put the feet up and listen to some music on the stereo. Time to slow down and kick back for a few hours.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Colder Days are A-coming

Monday was a very good feedback day. I received the first advance review for Cold Mourning, which Dundurn plans to release March 1, 2014, and it was very postitive. I always like reading the word 'gripping' in relation to my stories :-) 

And, Pat Campbell, Grass Roots Press publisher, gave a big thumbs up to the third Anna Sweet mystery, saying that I've 'raised my own bar'. I got another 'gripping' for this one too. Pam, the editor, sent me a note calling the manuscript 'wonderful'.

Okay, okay. A little horn-blowing, but really, all for the books. If they aren't well received, then four months or a year of work is really for nought. I always prepare myself for the worst and celebrate any successes. Then, I tuck all comments away and carry on writing. The negative comments aren't all bad either because when valid, they help to improve my writing.

So, I've taken the week off to recharge before tackling the third in the Stonechild and Rouleau series. Although maybe not completely off - I've got a crime and character list worked out and am preparing to write the opening chapter. I feel better once I have a solid opening under my belt. It was interesting to hear thriller-writer Linwood Barclay say that he always worries that his last book will be the last good idea he ever has.

The secret is out: writers are a neurotic bunch . . . but then, isn't everybody?

The back deck is starting to take shape. Ted has done a ton of prep work to make this puppy solid and square although purchasing the laser level might have been a bad thing for a guy who is already a perfectionist. But I digress. Here is the latest pic, taken a few minutes ago:

I love watching Ted's projects take shape. Before I met him, I had no opinion on drywall or weeping tile. I had no idea the word 'stud' had a second meaning.

Well, today, our street is blocking of the road and we're having a party. We all cart our lawn chairs half-way down and haul out the barbecues. Everyone brings food and drink, the kids chalk up the street and race up and down, music plays and we have one last neighbourhood fling before settling into our homes for the colder weather ahead. Of course, September could still pump out some hot days - no need to give up hope yet.

One last note. I received an e-mail comment from a fellow in Kermit, Texas, the location of my opening scene in My Sister's Keeper. Hello to Kermit - you are now officially on Canada's friend list!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Power of Words

The printer has delivered My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall to the publisher and my copies are being mailed to me on Tuesday.They're now available for Kindle readers on Amazon, but my understanding is that hard copies of the books will need to be ordered from Grass Roots Press directly. I will be signing copies at Brittons in the Glebe from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, October 5th. I'm also going to Toronto for a little launch at the Downsview Library on Tuesday, October 1st from 7-8 p.m. Rachelle, the librarian who is organizing the event, will be interviewing me and I'll do a short reading. There will be refreshments and books for sale.

I worked away at the third manuscript in this series and finished it up Wednesday evening. I wrote most of the long weekend and then evenings until nine or ten o'clock. I've submitted it to the publisher at Grass Roots Press and am waiting for feedback. This leaves me feeling at loose ends as I take a few days off and contemplate my next project. I'll be plotting the third in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural and getting a jump on that. I have one more Anna Sweet mystery contracted for the spring and will likely have to switch over to that one at some point since the Dundurn books take a year to write. If your head is spinning, mine is going like a top.

I was invited to the Power of Words breakfast yesterday - an event organized by People, Words and Change, which is an adult literacy, one-on-one tutorial service. The keynote speaker this year was Senator Don Meredith, who spoke with passion about overcoming challenges and going for your dream. He's been working with youth to keep them in school.

When I attend events such as this and hear the stories of adult learners, I'm even more satisfied to be writing books for this audience. One woman spoke of immigrating from the Sudan where she was studying business. Without being able to speak English, she became a full-time cleaner. Now, she's learning to read and write in English and cried when she said how her life is changing. Just one inspirational story among thousands.

Well, the weather changed from hot and muggy to downright cold the last few days. School's back in and curling clubs are back in action. I'm on two teams, starting in October. Throwing rocks at houses gives my life balance :-)

I passed by the Parkdale Market yesterday and saw the displays of fruits, vegetables and flowers. I'm going to head over there today to pick up some apples, fresh off the tree. This is the best time of year for eating . . . putting on an extra layer of fat for those cold mornings standing at the bus stop. The extra pounds also give some padding if you happen to slip on the ice. (Maybe, I'll pick up a pie while I'm out.)

And while I've been typing away at my desk, Ted's been in the backyard, working on the deck. He's got the roof covered in and has lots of lumber lying on the ground. I think all systems are on full steam ahead.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The September Start-Over

The last day of August, but not the last day of heat. I'm getting awfully sick of my summer wardrobe I have to say. Ted says to get rid of my old clothes and go buy new . . . just one more reason to love this guy.

The article with my book choices came out in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. Kind of nice that they posted my photo since it makes for good publicity. I had so many fall books that I wanted to choose, but was limited to just the two.

Writing has slowed a bit, but I'm nearing the end of the manuscript. I figure I might be able to wrap it up this three-day weekend. I'm at the point where the clues and ending have to work together. I was going great guns until I had to figure out how to reveal the killer. I'd plotted the storyline - who did the killing and why - but how does Anna Sweet put everything together? It has to be plausible. Like a giant puzzle where you shouldn't ram the pieces into place if they don't fit. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful editor Pam Robertson at Grass Roots Press who is adept at pointing out plot weaknesses. She kind of rides shotgun. I might need her to fire off a few rounds.

Do you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like I do every September? School is back in, fall activities are starting up, new television shows begin airing . . . feels like a fresh start. Exciting even. A fellow named Dave Scharf has used social media to capture the journey of his new enterprise called the Flying Banzini. This is a new restaurant, which happens to be in the same location as the now-closed Collected Works bookstore.

 I rode the bus to work one day a few months back and saw the Flying Banzini sign go up. I did a Google search that evening. I found that Dave was blogging, tweeting and Facebooking about the steps involved in getting a restaurant off the ground. Every day, he posted a 'song of the day', showcasing some of the music he'll be playing in the restaurant. Brilliant really. Dave held three trial runs this week and invited people following him on social media to a free supper. Ted and I went on Thursday and met up with Katherine Hobbs and a few others. We had such a great evening - loved the food, wine and ambiance, not to mention the friendly atmosphere. Dave was a radio disc jockey in Saskatoon but moved here two years ago. He had trouble finding work in his field and so decided to take a stab at this dream he'd always had to open a restaurant. The grand opening is today! Katherine took the photo below - I'm holding up some of the signature mini-cheesecakes.

So, what I take from Dave's experience is that it's never too late to take a chance, follow your passion, make a fresh start. Let's all raise a glass to Dave, to September and to all of life's possibilities, large and small.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Little Interlude and a Dose of Procrastination

Off to a lazy start today. My new assignment at work has me tired. They call it the learning curve.

A knock at the door last night around nine o'clock and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Bill and Jane Guy. A lovely surprise I thought I'd share:

So, Grass Roots Press has posted My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall for order although they do not arrive back from the printer until September 3rd. While they are publicized for adult literacy, they make for good, quick reads for anyone. I'm kind of hooked on the characters myself. I've been working away on book three and am getting close to the climax of the story. I was going great guns all last weekend until about Wednesday evening. Then, the work week caught up with my energy level . . . and, I got my nose into a good thriller that I had trouble putting down - Indelible by Karin Slaughter. I saw Karin on a few panels at Cleveland Bouchercon. Read her bio from the link and you'll see why I started going to the panels that she was on. Great sense of humour and not bad at spinning an up-half-the-night-reading-when-you-should-be-sleeping tale as evidenced by my nose in her book all week.

I received an e-mail from a reporter in Toronto who wanted me to write a few lines about fall books that I plan to read. She's writing an article for the Ottawa Citizen. It was very hard to limit my choices, I have to tell you. It's been fun looking at the lists of new publications - Publisher's Weekly lists over 2000 new fiction releases alone.

Big news on the backyard construction site - the rubble is off to the dump today. One load is gone and another waiting to be loaded. Then, a load of asphalt will join its brothers at the landfill site and we'll be ready to start building. We could conceivably be buying deck furniture before the snow flies. Do they have November sales I wonder?

Well, enough procrastination. Back to my writing. I'll just tuck the two new Karin Slaughter books that I bought yesterday away of sight . . . . time to get this writing party started.

Somebody pass me a Red Bull and they'll be no slowing me down.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Picking Up Speed

A good-looking week ahead as we head into the last two weeks of August. Even a thirty-seven degree day predicted. Not time to put away the bikini yet.

This has been a productive week on a few fronts. I took on a new work assignment . . . at work, and am enjoying the challenges. I also managed to write about three thousand words on the latest manuscript, typing all last weekend and evenings all week. I'm aiming for two thousand more this weekend. The plot is coming together and at this point, I feel like my go-cart is picking up speed on the downhill stretch toward the finish line.

And only two weeks until My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall leave the printer's. Oddly, The Hard Fall is posted on the publisher's site for sale but not My Sister's Keeper, which is the first in the series. I'm sure that will be fixed soon.

The publisher contacted the Toronto Public Library and they are organizing a launch at one of their branches, tentatively the evening of October 1st. I spoke at length with the librarian who is organizing the event, and she told me that they had a group of readers at Frontier College read The Second Wife, a novella that I wrote a few years ago for Orca and the Rapid Reads series. She said that they really enjoyed it and she sent me some of their reviews of the book. Most heartening.

Cold Mourning from Dundurn, the first in a police procedural full-length series is also being sent out to reviewers in advance of a spring launch. Spring seems like a long time to wait. That means getting through another winter first. But winter means curling.

Did I mention that our daughter Lisa will be playing in the Olympic trials on the Rachel Homan curling team? No?! I'm sure I must have mentioned it before now:-) The trials are in Winnipeg the first week of December. You can imagine that we're getting pumped for the season ahead.

We ate Chinese takeout last night and my fortune cookie says, "The current year will bring you much happiness". I'm pretty sure these predictions are rock solid . . . curling rock solid, even.

So I've had several people ask me how the backyard deck is progressing. Well, let's just say that if I posted a photo this week, it would be a photo of the same pile of rubble as two weeks ago. However, I'm convinced this project is like one of those caterpiller into a butterfly miracles. Ted is working away with no outward signs of change. One day, we will all be amazed. Older, but amazed.

This weekend is starting like the last several before it. I'm about to have another cup of coffee while I read for a bit. Next, a bike ride and then, I'll get to the writing. Intersperse that with a trip to the market, time in the garden and dinner out, and the day will roll by, kind of like that go-cart speeding downhill. Next thing you know, it will be Christmas.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

First Impressions

Last week, I got in a good stretch of writing. The word count is now around 6,000 words. I think that I've got a solid, suspenseful opening and am now into the investigation part - hiding clues in plain site and keeping the plot from veering off. This part of the manuscript involves a lot of thinking. The bottom line is that the story has to be plausible. The dots have to connect. Kind of the opposite of real life. This book is due in November. I thought I had a ton of time, but November is only three months away. As a result, I'll be nose to the computer again this weekend.

Tim Wynne-Jones has said that the opening paragraph and chapter really drive the book. If the opening pages aren't spot on, exciting, suspenseful and well written, the book won't have the proper engine. I read an article this week about Stephen King and the amount of time he puts into crafting an opening sentence. I like his statement: "An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this." It's worth giving King's entire article a read (link above). The man is a brilliant writer, but you already knew that.

King got me thinking about my opening sentences. The Cold Mourning opening line in my first draft drove the entire mystery: "The girl had been crouching in the tall grass for what felt like a very long time." The opening line to My Sister's Keeper likewise set the voice of my main character Anna Sweet: "It was the middle of a steamy August night in Kermit, Texas, and my bedside phone was ringing." If you are like me, I always read the opening sentence before buying a book. I'm curious about how every author begins their tale. The art and science of writing.

As we draw closer to the release date of September 3rd for My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall, plans are underway for an event in Ottawa at the Ottawa Tech school on Albert Street and in Toronto at the North York Library. Neither date is confirmed, but both are in the works. Alan Cumyn will also be launching a Grass Roots Press book at the Ottawa event. His novella is part of their Goodreads series.

Alan and I were two of the authors at a Kids Lit Gala some years ago now. We each had to read a short selection from our latest book (I think it was my only book at the time) and I remember being very impressed by his writing. I'm thrilled to be sharing the stage with him as we introduce our new novels. People, Words and Change, an adult literacy organization in Ottawa is spearheading the coordination of the event. Oddly enough, I taught a class for them for a year many moons ago. I was also a speaker at their fund-raising breakfast a few years ago alongside Coach Brian Kilreay, CBC sports anchor Terry Marcotte and Mayor Jim Watson. A very worthwhile organization in our community, helping adults have better lives. Patrick Walton made up a little video of my remarks.

Man, time passes quickly. It's good to have so many good memories.

Another gorgeous weekend in the Ottawa Valley. The cross breeze was lovely this morning as I lay in bed with the skylight and windows open. The sky is a powder blue and the neighbours' kids are already racing around their yards, shrieking with laughter. The sun is filtering through the front pine outside my office window. I've had a second cup of coffee on the front verandah and it's now time to get the day underway. Wishing you all a super August weekend . . . .

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Projects in Motion

So, the two Anna Sweet mysteries have gone to the printer's. The release date is September 3rd, one month from today. The Grass Roots Press publisher and I have been discussing a few events in Ottawa and Toronto. Grass Roots does not sell the books on Amazon but sells directly to customers.

I'll be signing copies at Brittons in the Ottawa Glebe on Saturday, October 6th from one to three in the afternoon. I'm thinking that if you are not in Ottawa, or even if you are and not able to make the October signing, just send an e-mail to me through my website and  we can make arrangements for me to send signed copies. I can buy a bulk order and pass along any savings. I've done this the odd time for people wanting signed copies of other books who do not live in Ottawa or for those who want books mailed to friends as gifts. It would be my pleasure.

I'm hard at work on book three in the series and at the 3000 word mark. I'll be spending a good part of this long weekend at the keyboard and hope to make some good progress. I've signed a contract for this one and it's due in November. The fourth is due in the spring. I'm also working on a plotline for the third Dundurn mystery and have the crime taking shape. That's where I start the story. The crime and the reason why. This line reminds me of that lyric: The needle and the damage done. Neil Young if I recall rightly.

I'm back thinking about characters and plots when I ride the bus home from work or just before falling asleep. I find myself writing when I get home from work and after supper. Some might call this an addiction. All I know is that I still get a little surge of excitement thinking about writing the next chapter.

I'm sure that Ted is feeling the same excitement thinking about the backyard project (or not):-)  Last weekend, he rented a jackhammer as you might recall and pounded up the concrete. The effort put his back out for the rest of the week although he managed a round of golf and didn't miss any work. (Thank you muscle relaxants.) He's off picking up lumber this morning for this weekend's shenanigans. Here's a photo of the deck's progress. Not quite ready for the lawn chairs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Rambling Saturday Morning

I've been thinking about fame and privacy this week. Perhaps it was the sight of the new Royal heir George and all the hoopla aroung his birth. I'm conflicted knowing what is ahead for him. I'm very happy that I am not in his shoes or Kate's. A trick of birth really.

By the number of reality shows and the Youtube videos of bizarre shenanigans, you'd think everyone's goal in life is to be famous, whether with something worthwhile to offer or no. Do those who will do anything for a viral video believe it will validate their existence? Make them worthy people? It's painful to watch the lengths some will go to in order to hang onto fame once achieved. I'd warrent the attempts have destroyed a lot of people.

I used to like watching movies where I had no idea what the actors were up to in real life.
We know way too much about Tom Cruise.

Anyhow, just a litle Saturday morning pondering.

I've been up early. Started the day drinking coffee with Ted, then out to water the garden. Onto a bit of reading - I've discovered an excellent British author named Susan Hill who has created Detective Simon Serrailler. The book I picked up is The Shadows in the Street. Wow, what fabulous writing: effortless, suspenseful, intriguing characters. She breaks the pattern of starting with a murder but builds to the first, followed quickly by a second. I'm going to search out more in this series.

The Kobo I got for Christmas froze up a few weeks ago and I'm back to buying real hold-in-your-hands books. Nothing can compare, really. I missed the sound of the pages turning and the print on page. (I promise to never leave you again.)

I've started writing again after  a little break. I'm working on the next Anna Sweet mystery, due at the publisher's in November. I'm doing more plotting for these ones, and am finding the balance that works for me. I've been reading Elizabeth George's book Write Away, which gives a lot of insight into her writing process. She does extensive research and plotting before she starts writing. Her books are set in England although she lives in California. Many of her experiences and feelings mirror my own, such as reading and rereading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Man, I loved that book as a kid and still do. I'm also a big George fan. I bought Write Away at Bouchercon in Cleveland and stood in line for a while to get her autograph, but gave up after a bit. Back in my hotel room, I discovered that she'd already signed it. Still, would have been nice to meet her if not for the afternoon spent standing in line.

Let me end this rambling blog this morning with an update on Ted's backyard project. The heat over the past few weeks has kept him from making any progress, but he's just headed out to rent a jackhammer. All of our neighbours are in for a treat as he pounds up the old concrete. I know I can hardly wait :-) Advil is at the ready. Aren't you happy that you don't live next door today?

(Destruction photos next week.)

Well, time is a-wasting. All set to get this gorgeous sunny day underway.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Introducing The Hard Fall

Ta da! The new cover for the second in the Anna Sweet mystery series from Grass Roots Press.


I think designer Lara Minja has done a great job with a quite striking image. She also sent me some pretty sweet feedback, which I'm hoping she won"t mind I cut and paste here: 

I am loving your Anna Sweet series. You describe the characters so
well, they seem like real people. Great mysteries too.

If you haven't guessed, I'm trying to whet your whistle, as they say :-)

The manuscript came back one last time for this one earlier in the week. I gave it one last read through. I'm beginning to realize that the odd word gets dropped when the manuscript is being formatted into its final book form. That's why I'm always surprised to see these little errors in my published books that wasn't there on my last read through. Hopefully, we've caught them all this time.

The contract for my second Dundurn book also arrived this week so I'm going through that. It is the sequel to Cold Mourning and already written and submitted. The working title for this one is Butterfly Kills. I moved my cops from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario for book two. There is lots of room for suspense and murder in this little city peppered with prisons and a large university population. Wa ha ha.

So, my next project will be the third Anna Sweet book, which is due in November. Then, I'll be starting on the third Stonechild and Rouleau mystery for Dundurn. It's kind of fun to have two series on the go - keeps the old mind nimble.

I have a fun morning ahead. My daughter Lisa is getting married next July and we are heading out wedding dress shopping in an hour. And tonight, a little engagement dinner with the two families back here. A little prime rib on the BBQ followed by homemade strawberry shortcake and whipped cream . . . taking time to celebrate all our blessings.

Blue Jays and golf on the teli; beer and wine in the cooler. Hope you are managing to while away this July weekend in fine style as are we.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

July Interlude

This has been a quiet week on the writing front. I tidied up a few loose ends with Dundurn editor Jennifer McNight on the Cold Mourning manuscript, which is now off to final design and print. The ARCs or advance reading copies will go to reviewers six months ahead of publication in spring 2014.

I've cleaned my office as I get ready to start a new project. I must have shredded half a forest.

I've also dog sat for my daughter Julia this week. George is kind of a cutey so thought I'd post a pic.

And Ted continues with the backyard reno. The fence is up but still needs finishing details. The early morning shadows make for good working conditions. Later in the day, the full heat of the sun will make this a sweat box.

So, nearly half-way through July and the hot, humid weather took a two-day reprieve. It's making a return today if you believe the Weather Network. It'll be a good week to get going on a new writing project, in the air conditioning with a bottle of something cold at my elbow.

I love summer.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rendez-Vous in Montreal

A wind-swept shot of me in front of the brand spanking new Du Boise Library in Saint-Laurent Montreal. In fact, today is the opening day of this two-year project! I was invited to talk about my books and do a reading in the adult section to a small crowd of mystery fans. It was about a thousand degrees in the shade, so the gust of wind was most welcome.

(I swear to you that there were more people in those chairs.) Posing with Marie-Claude, who organized my trip, and her assistant after the reading. They have a lovely little section set up for events in the adult section that looks out over the woods. The library is monstrous. Apparently, the next stage of the project is a sports facility next door.

So, I spent the week on holiday doing a lot of editing on two manuscripts, finishing up the last on Thursday night. I received confirmation this week that the Cold Mourning sequel has been picked up by Dundurn for a spring 2015 publication - the contract is being drawn up now. I also received two contracts from Grass Roots Press this week for two more Anna Sweet mysteries. My cup really is running over.

I know I promised pics of Ted and the new project in our backyard.  I took these last weekend but no developments since then. Ted worked on a roof in the heat and humidity every day last week, so crashing in the air conditioning after supper seemed like the saner idea rather than slogging out in the backyard. He also drove me to Montreal today so I'm to blame for the lack of progress this weekend.

And now, I'm going to slow his progress a bit more this evening. We're heading out to celebrate those book contracts with a fine meal and bottle of wine :-)

Stay cool, my friends.