Saturday, December 29, 2018

Cheers to 2018!

So the end to 2018 is a few days away. Time to recap the writing year and look ahead.

In February, I travelled to Toronto to take part in the Ontario Library Association (OLA) annual conference. The OLA had shortlisted No Trace (Anna Sweet mystery novella) for the Golden Oak award and I was invited to their breakfast. I also signed copies of Shallow End at the Dundurn booth.

Signing with Barbara Fradkin and R.J. Harlick at the Dundurn booth

No Trace was also shortlisted for a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award in April. While the book didn't take home either award, its double nomination felt like a win :-)

Later that same month, Ted and I flew to Pyeongchang, South Korea to watch our daughter Lisa curl in the Olympics. Not a writing event, but it sure was a highlight! I did do a bit of writing though - you can read the article here.

Team Homan representing Canada at the Olympics
Such beautiful topography - sunset in Pyeongchang

Bleeding Darkness, fifth in the Stonechild and Rouleau series, made it to store shelves with a May release. The Ottawa launch was held at The Cross on Elgin and turned into a great party with  Green Floyd playing and Perfect Books on hand to sell copies - we even sold out! It was so great to see everyone who came out, many old friends and some whom I'd never met before but who are fans of the series. My cousin Janet from Montreal and my friend  Dawn from Toronto even made the trip to help celebrate, adding to the specialness of the day.

 Cortez from Perfect Books
 Lead singer Bernie from Green Floyd
Photos by Fred Taylor

I followed up the release with some media, including an overnight trip to Kingston to appear on the Morning Show and sign books at Novel Idea bookshop. I also appeared on CBC Radio's All in a Day with Gerald Lynch on a series that paired two local authors to interview each other. (link to interview)

Other television appearances included Daytime Ottawa on Rogers Cable 22 and Hollywood in the Valley with Matt Demers (you can find it on Bell Fibe television - season three). In addition, I did seven guest spots on The Power Lunch with host Mark Sutcliffe and another alternating guest as we discussed the news of the day. All this to say, lots of media exposure and fun along the way.

With host Dylan Black on Daytime Ottawa

With host Matt Demers
The Power Lunch - 1310 News

As for bookstore signings, in addition to the Novel Idea visit, I spent two afternoons at Coles Carlingwood, another at Chapters Gloucester in August signing with Robin Harlick, and a stint at Chapters Barrhaven with Jim Napier and Barbara Fradkin as part of a mystery writers' weekend. I also took part in a most pleasant evening at Books on Beechwood with fellow authors Barbara Fradkin and Iona Whishaw hosted by Linda Wiken.

Barbara Fradkin and Kathy Prairie, Eastern Ontario rep for Crime Writers of Canada
 - Chapters Barrhaven

(l to r) Iona Whishaw, Linda Wiken, Barbara Fradkin and me - Books on Beechwood

I had a few speaking engagements including a talk in May about the Stonechild mysteries at the Abbotsford House, which is a seniors' centre, and two visits to the Emerald Branch of the Ottawa Public Library in October to introduce the Anna Sweet mysteries to new Canadian women's groups. Along with four other Ottawa mystery writers, I attended a Sorority Sisters event, which included supper and interesting discussion about our books and writing.  I also had a lovely afternoon visiting a book club in the East end of Ottawa to discuss Cold Mourning .

(l to r) me, R.J. Harlick, Barbara Fradkin, Linda Wiken & Mary Jane Maffini

Mixed in with all these great events, I managed to complete editing book six in the Stonechild series, Turning Secrets, which is now being circulated for advance reviews. The book is slated for release in early May so looks like another launch to plan. Green Floyd has said they'd love to play again since they had so much fun last time around - another party coming up! I've also written book seven entitled Closing Time, and will be submitting it to Dundurn in a few days. This has been the project consuming me for this year.

Looking ahead, I'll be travelling to Vancouver in March to attend Left Coast Crime. I've also been invited to be one of the authors at a festival but you'll have to wait for the announcement to find out which one :-) I also have two Anna Sweet mysteries due for the fall with Grass Roots Press planning a campaign to launch them together since these will be the last two books in the series.

The past year has been busy, great fun and highly entertaining. I'm excited to find what new adventures the new year holds. Happy 2019, everyone - cheers to the year that was and the new year to come!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Visions of Sugar Plums

Two days until Christmas Eve. Yesterday was the first day of winter and Ottawa celebrated with a record rain fall just to make the season that much more jolly for all those last minute Christmas shoppers. The rain turned to snow overnight and it's looking like a mess out there. I'm in no hurry to run errands.

I completed my second edit of the latest manuscript on Tuesday and have set it aside until after Christmas when I'm hoping to have enough time to go through it for one last edit before sending it off to the publisher on January 1st. Luckily, I've had a lot to occupy myself with because it's all I can do not to delve right back in.  I think that working on my computer for several hours every day has become a habit - more than I realized. I've actually been feeling a little lost without the writing work anchoring my day.

This past Monday, I answered the question about books that I would recommend on 7 Criminal Minds blogspot and you can find the link here. The other contributing authors have each given their choices if you scroll through and you can find lots of good ideas for future reading, crime fiction as well as other genres.

One more bit of news this week concerns my Stonechild series being optioned for a tv series. The L.A. screenwriter who optioned the books was in touch with the news that he has a producer interested in the project. Nothing firm yet, but good to know that there is interest and people in the industry like the books and the characters. If anything develops, I'll be sure to let you know :-)

So, today is baking day. I'm starting with a tourtière and working my way through several batches of Christmas cookies. We're hosting three suppers and while I should be stressed, I'm feeling organized and on top of things  ... (Are these famous last words?) I've even got the gifts wrapped and under the tree and the house cleaned. This busyness is all that's been standing between me and that editing. Well that and the Netficks series Ozark with Justin Bateman. Ted and I have three episodes to go and I've got to say, a darker series would be hard to imagine. After every episode, I feel emotionally exhausted - but in a good way. I recommend the series if you're looking for an involved plot, good acting and some WTF moments.

This year's balsam

Time to put on some Christmas tunes and give my mix master a workout. I hope that you also have a lovely holiday season with family and friends. The magic of this time of year is the genuine hope and caring that brings people together in all parts of the world, no matter culture or religion. This is a time to reflect and to celebrate all of our blessings. I wish each of you those moments that bring genuine happiness and peace to the soul.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Time to Break Open the Egg Nog

Only a week and a few days before Christmas. (Did your heart just lurch?) I must admit that I'm feeling distracted and having a hard time settling down to work at my computer.
However, I completed my first edit of my latest manuscript and am half way through a second edit, which I plan to have done before Christmas. I'm hoping to have a third read through before sending it off to Dundurn for January 1st. I have a few trips coming up in the early new year and will be happy to have some time without an imminent deadline. My next contract is with Grass Roots Press for another Anna Sweet novella but I have until the fall. I next have to start working on a plot idea, but lots of time for that ....

One of my trips is to Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in March. I've booked my flights and will be sharing a room with Kingston author Katherine Prairie. As I blogged previously, I've been to two LCCs - one in Monterey, California in 2014 and the other in Phoenix, Arizona in 2016. This spring book conference rarely comes to Canada so there will definitely be a Canadian slant to the events. - a chance to showcase some terrific Canadian crime writers.  Here are a few memorable moments from past LCCs since I haven't much novel (wink wink) to report this week.

Time to finish shopping, get baking, listen to Bing, and drink some egg nog. Cheers to a fun week ahead!

 On the tour up the Big Sur north of Monterey
On a panel with Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny & Kathy Bennett 
Outside our hotel in Monterey
Shopping in Carmel with Linda Wiken and Mary Jane Maffini
A side trip to San Francisco on the way home.

And on to Phoenix two years later...

Supper in Scottsdale with Linda Wiken, Mary Jane Maffini, Ian Hamilton and Alex Brett, along with other Canadian writer friends

Canadian author evening at the famous Poisoned Pen bookshop in Scottsdale
 An afternoon at the botanical gardens in Phoenix with Barbara Fradkin, R.J. Harlick & Alex Brett (who took the photo)

 Loved the cactii

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Into December

Good morning everyone. A bit of a chilly one here in the Ottawa Valley, hitting about -20 C. overnight. Might take me a while to make my way outside.

I spent the week editing and reworking my manuscript and am about done the first go-through. I aim for about 90,000 words when all is said and done, but on the first draft, try to be closer to 85,000 words as I always add text on the first edit. I'm now at 88,000 words so added 4,000 words on this first edit. Anyhow, I have enough time to have at least one more edit and might try for two before I turn this last Stonechild book in to Dundurn.

I wrote a blog post for 7 Criminal Minds blogspot on Monday about my writing routine and whether or not I ever break it. Those of you who follow this blog know that I'm not dogmatic about my schedule and often get pulled all over the place on publicity, events and work for the publisher. Not to mention my active social life :-) Anyhow, click this link and read more about my days!

Most of you also know that my daughter Lisa plays lead for the World Champion and Olympian ladies curling Team Homan and my younger daughter Julia plays second for team Cadorin. We spend a lot of time following their games and travel to play downs when we can. Lisa's team is playing in Estavan Saskatchewan this weekend and the games are on TSN with two on today. All this to say, my 'writing schedule' is out the window. You can check out the games: 10 a.m. EST this morning with the semi-final at 2:00 p.m.

So, time to get my day underway. This means another cup of coffee and reading a few chapters of Starlight by Richard Wagamese - such a lovely book if you're looking for some evocative writing. I'm taking my time and savouring his words.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Bring on the Glitter

A decent week.

I completed the first draft of my latest manuscript and am about a quarter of the way through it again making revisions. I plan to keep editing until it's time to turn it in to the publisher on January 1st. That'll be something worth toasting!

Mystery Weekend at Indigo Barrhaven last Saturday and Sunday was a solid success by all accounts. I was there from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., manning the table with Jim Napier the first two hours and Barbara Fradkin for the last one. We met a lot of readers and sold quite a few books in the process, many for Christmas gifts. Thank you to those friends who came by. This was a Crime Writers of Canada event organized by our regional representative Katherine Prairie so hats off to her and to Shelley, the Indigo rep who set everything up. We certainly felt welcome.

 With author and book reviewer Jim Napier
Barbara Fradkin, Katherine Prairie and me

I do not have any planned events in December although Barbara Fradkin and I are dropping by a fondue later today put on by one of our readers who also organizes a book club or two. Should be a fun time to kick off the season.

Speaking of which, we've turned the calendar into December so only three weeks until the big day - although it feels as if we just had Christmas. It is a good time of year to get together with friends and family for dinners and festivities and I like the lead up for that reason. I've also got some magpie in my bloodline because I'm attracted to all the glitter and sparkle and twinkling lights that brighten up the dark days of winter.

Christmas display in Tivoli's, my neighbourhood flower shop

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Signing at Indigo Barrhaven Today!

Good Saturday morning from Ottawa where we've gone from -18  to +3 C. overnight. The weather is as crazy as American politics.

So, for all of you wondering what to do today before the freezing rain sets in around suppertime, come out to Indigo Barrhaven and start your Christmas shopping with a few autographed mysteries. Local crime fiction authors will be on hand all weekend and we're happy to discuss books by all the writers who are taking part. I'll be there with Jim Napier from 10:00 a.m.  to noon and then with Barbara Fradkin from noon p.m. to 1:00 p.m. today.

Writing went well this week. I'm starting the final chapter and will have the first draft wrapped up this week for certain. I'm quite sure I have a bit of rewriting and tidying up to do in places so the work is far from over, but I'm getting there. I'm still aiming for that January 1st deadline!

I made another guest appearance on 1310 News The Power Lunch with host Mark Sutcliffe this past Thursday. This was my seventh time since the spring and every time, I've been on with a different guest so great meeting so many new and interesting people. This week, the other guest was Sam Laprade who works with charities and has a Saturday show on 1310 News.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be interviewed for a writing podcast that originates out of British Columbia. I'll let you know how that goes next week.

But for now, I've got to get myself in gear to be on the road to Barrhaven. I hope to see you there :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Out and About

Good Saturday morning.

Two events coming up this week. On Thursday, you can catch me again on 1310 News Radio's Power Lunch with Mark Sutcliffe discussing the news of the day. Every week brings new topics in this off-kilter world so tune in if you have time to hear our take on the goings-on of the day.

Then on Saturday, I'll be at Indigo Barrhaven from 11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m., the first two hours with Jim Napier and the last hour with Barbara Fradkin. This will be my last signing before Christmas so please drop by and say hi if you're in the area and maybe get a jump on your shopping. I've always bought books for my daughters for Christmas gifts and think what could be better than giving several hours of escapism into a good story? I've been lucky to be on the receiving end as well - makes my holidays that much more relaxing to bury myself in a book between visiting and eating. You can also meet other Ottawa crime fiction authors on Saturday and Sunday as part of the store's Mystery Weekend and check out their work.

Last Saturday, I signed for a few hours at Coles Carlingwood and met some new readers and had some good chats. We sold out of Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills so I hope that I hook them on the series! Here I am getting set to meet people.

I've buckled down at the computer this past week, writing about 1000 words every day and getting so close to the end of the manuscript's first draft that I can see the finish line. I'm actually into the big reveal scenes and lo and behold, the plot is holding together. I'd hoped to be done by today, but there's still a bit more story to unfold. This will give me five or six weeks to whip the draft into shape before January 1st. I'm told that I'll be working with Shannon Whibbs who edited the last couple of books. Things are falling nicely into place, much like the snow falling outside my window.

Winter  arrived in full force Thursday night with our first major storm of the season. Hard to believe Christmas is slightly over five weeks away ....

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Waiting on Winter

Nothing like a bit of freshly fallen snow to make you think of Christmas shopping. I'm going to be at Ottawa's Coles Carlingwood from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. today (Saturday, Nov. 10) if you want any signed books for your gift list ... or for yourself.

So my plan to finish my latest manuscript got sidelined by seven curling games, including last Saturday's charity event run by the marvellous Kelly MacNaull. It's the fifth year with the money raised going to a different charity each year. This year, we raised over $12,000 for the Ottawa Heart Institute. I raffled off a name in Closing Time, my last Stonechild book. I've done several name raffles over the years for different charities and the winning names are sprinkled throughout the series. None of the winners was killed off or did the killing although I've had people say they wouldn't mind being the bad guy :-)

The Curling for a Cause teams in 2017 at the Ottawa Hunt Club

On Monday, I posted in 7 Criminal Minds blogspot. The week's topic concerned picking a fictional world I would like to enter and a character that I would like to become. So, check out my choice! What would yours be?

Turning Secrets is now posted on NetGalley for those reviewers wanting an advance read.  The first couple of reviews have been decent, always a relief. The book is also available for pre-order on Amazon, Chapters, etc. I've put in a request for bookmarks and I'm already thinking about the May launch. Time does trundle along ....

I have a quieter week ahead - well, the start of the week anyhow - so I'm hopeful that next week when you check in, I'll have completed the first draft of Closing Time. Maybe this is all psychological - I'm having a hard time finishing because I know this is my last foray into the world of Stonechild and Rouleau. Good thing I have a deadline to force me to wrap things up sooner rather than later.

Friday, November 2, 2018

And the Days Get Shorter ...

Ah, the lovely month of November.


This is my least favourite month of the year ... well this month and February because of the crappy weather and early darkness. But on we go ...

Not a great deal to report this week. I spoke with my Dundurn publicist Tabassum for a while by phone earlier in the week as we plan the Turning Secrets release in May. The book went up on Net Galley the same day - this is the place reviewers (usually blog) go to read an advance copy and give their assessments. Tabassum said that the newspaper reviews are being given less and less space in their respective papers and reviews in mainstream media are becoming harder to come by as a result, something of which I was well aware - just look at the book section in The National Post and the Ottawa Citizen. The infrequent reviews or even stories about authors are tragic for writers. Many readers buy based on the reviews and unless people hear about a book or an author, sales stay low.

I've been fortunate to have started in this industry when newspapers were still a prime source for getting the news, and my first Stonechild and Rouleau books were reviewed in The National Post, Ottawa Citizen and  Globe and Mail as well as local community papers. These reviews definitely helped me to build an audience. Whenever a review came out, sales skyrocketed on Amazon. Happily, Margaret Canon still reviews crime fiction for the Globe and Mail on quite a regular basis and the book section is updated constantly so a good paper to read for book news and recommendations.

So, now us authors have to get creative and look for new avenues to get the word out :-) the best way though, remains word of mouth because readers only recommend books they like. I've been fortunate here as well and am forever grateful to everyone who mentioned the books to friends or gave a copy as a gift.

I've got two signings coming up: Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, November 10 from 1l:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and Indigo Barrhaven on Saturday, November 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. as part of the store's Mystery Weekend. The Mystery Weekend will see a number of local crime fiction writers and I'll be spending the first few hours with Jim Napier and wrapping up my last hour with Barbara Fradkin so I hope you can come by one store or the other!

One good thing about this rainy, grey weather - I'm spending a lot of time at my keyboard working on the latest manuscript. I should have the first draft wrapped up in a week or two and then the first rewrite begins. I might just make that January deadline yet :-)

And thanks to Courtney Mellor, librarian at the Emerald Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, who took this photo from our presentations last week to the new Canadian women's group. A nice memory from a lovely afternoon.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Frost on the Pumpkin

How can this be the end of October already?

Monday, I posted my blog on 7 Criminal Minds and you can read where I'd go if I could time travel and find out what other authors think about the idea. Tuesday, I was invited back to the 1310 News Power Lunch, the day after the municipal election. The other guest was David Thompson, ex-mayor of Deep River ... so guess what we talked about with host Mark Sutcliffe? I follow the news quite closely so this gives me a reason to stay on top of events, and I get to give my opinion!

I also went with librarian Courtney Mellor to visit a second group of new Canadian women at a community centre on Thursday. Courtney talked about all the great services and ESL books in the public library and I introduced the Anna Sweet novellas along with a short reading. A woman translated everything into Arabic - again, a very welcoming group and fun afternoon. Courtney and I met several years ago when I was giving a writing workshop to kids at another branch so great to meet up again.

And between gigs, I was back at the keyboard but progress is going slowly. I think it's because I'm working out the ending and still not certain where this one is heading or how to tie everything together. I've jumped out of the plane and not sure if the parachute is working ...

Speaking of not working, my computer went on the fritz again so back we went to Staples where I'm on a first name basis with Steve and Steve (manager and repair guy with same name) who know their stuff and have been nothing but reassuring and thorough at getting the problem sorted. My computer is running much better now, and I've purchased additional Malware protection so fingers crossed this is the end of my problems.  Luckily, no writing lost.

I'm reminded of when I started working in the government with zero computer skills. We're talking twenty years ago when computers were just getting off the ground. Anyhow, it got so when I'd call the Help Desk, no matter who answered, they'd say, "Hey Brenda, how's it going today?" The worst was the time I deleted an entire drive and the tech guy worked for a couple of hours to find it. He didn't even seem all that surprised. Who knew you could even do that?!

I trust the Staples guys and I won't become  that chummy :-)

Looks like snow in the forecast tonight and tomorrow for the first time. I will admit that November is not my favoritest month of the year. The darkness comes so early in Ottawa and the days are often gray and overcast.

Good murder mystery weather though. Also, the perfect weather for some spooky Hallowe'en shenanigans. Have a good week treatful everyone.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Giving 'Er

Such a busy week working at my desk. You know when you wake up in the middle of the night because you have all these things to do and know you should already be working on them? Well, that happened Sunday so I knew I had to get myself in gear.

Dundurn marketing team kept sending me more tasks to do over the week, all needed urgently. The biggy was a complete plot outline of Turning Secrets. Luckily, I had started a chapter synopsis, but it was far from complete or usable for the purposes of the marketing folks so I spent two days reworking it. They also wanted advance materials for the book out two years from now, including the cover blurb ... and I got that finished in time for a request for a cover letter to go out with the ARCs for Turning Secrets. I finished that yesterday and actually managed to get back writing on the latest manuscript. I also received the catalogue with Turning Secrets listed so onwards and upwards.

I had considered going to Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in the spring and had all but decided not to go. But a few pushes from a few people and I changed my mind and registered. I've also found a roommate not only to share the cost of lodging. but also to hang with, so I'm thinking this could be a great time. I previously attended the LCC in Monterey and Phoenix and really liked the feel of the conference, which brings together crime fiction authors, people in the industry, and readers. So I checked that bit of business off my to-do list.

Thursday afternoon, I met a librarian Jessica at the Emerald Branch and we went to another location to meet with a group of new immigrant women. I quickly realized that the talk and readings I'd planned were not going to work as most of the women did not speak much English and a translator was repeating what I said in Arabic.  I improvised and enjoyed giving them information about my Anna Sweet novellas (with a very short reading, first in English and then in Arabic) and sharing coffee and a snack with them after our presentations. I return next Thursday to meet another group of women - such a welcoming and lovely community.

And in addition to signing at Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, November 10, I'll be taking part in a crime writers' weekend at Chapters Barrhaven on Saturday, November 24. I'll be there between 10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. with fellow authors Jim Napier (10-noon) and Barbara Fradkin (noon to one) (although they are yet to be confirmed). So two chances to come out and chat and perhaps buy some Christmas gifts!

I appear to have a quieter week ahead and plan to make inroads with my manuscript. Wish me luck:-)
I hope you're also having a productive autumn and are getting ready to snuggle in for the winter on our doorsteps.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Autumn Celebrations

I spent a lovely Friday evening at Books on Beechwood, one of Ottawa's treasures for book lovers, and a great place to kick start Christmas shopping. The bookshop hosted three crime fiction authors - Iona Wishaw, Barbara Fradkin and me with Linda Wiken making introductions. We each chatted for a few minutes about our series and gave brief readings, but the bulk of our time was spent speaking with readers around a table laden with finger food and glasses of wine.

Iona, Linda, Barbara and me

Iona hails from British Columbia and is making stops in Montreal, Ottawa and Southwestern Ontario to promote her latest book. She was a school principal before retirement, and tells interesting stories with a series set after the Second World War that I'm looking forward to delving into. The lead character is Lane Winslow, an ex-intelligence officer who leaves London to settle in a secluded hamlet in the mountains.  I bought A Killer in King's Cove, the first in the series, which Iona recommends for those starting her series.

Iona with a crime fiction fan

Barb Fradkin has a new book out too this week - Prisoners of Hope, which is the third in her Amanda Doucette series from Dundurn. I'm waiting to buy my copy at her launch this Tuesday night at the Clocktower Pub on Richmond Road. She'll be launching her book alongside Vicki Delaney who is also releasing a new mystery. Everyone is welcome to stop by to raise a glass and hear about their books.

On my agenda this week besides more writing and a visit to the Emerald Branch of the Ottawa Public Library to speak to a group of new immigrant women about my Anna Sweet novellas for adult literacy. I'm excited to meet them! I also have some work to do for Dundurn to pave the way for my last Stonechild book, not due out until 2020 ... one has to be organized in this business :-)

Also, a note that I'll be signing at Coles Carlingwood on Saturday, November 10 from 11:00 to 1:00 if you're missing any of the Stonechild series or want signed copies for Christmas gifts.

So Ted and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last weekend in Stowe Vermont, travelling south of the border with two other couples, our neighbors, who coincidentally celebrate their anniversaries the same weekend. We booked a house outside the town and enjoyed three days hiking around the town and settling in each evening around the fireplace. The autumn leaves were at their glorious peak and it was an idyllic break from 'real' life.

 Ted and I on the gondola - a misty morning on top of the mountain

Hiking up the mountain