Friday, July 18, 2014

SCHMOOZING WITH SUZANNE KINGSMILL


1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?


My mother made sure I was never without a good book, when, from an early age, she started giving me some of the classics. I was a voracious reader but she always had a book for me. If I didn’t like a book she would invoke the 50 page rule: I had to read at least the first 50 pages and if I still didn’t like the book I could abandon it. I remember when I abandoned Dr. Zhivago at page 50 and she looked at me and said, “Ah, but Dr. Zhivago is worth 100 pages.” She was right. She gave me a love of reading and the English language that laid the groundwork for my writing career.


2. What are you working on now?


I am working on a fourth Cordi O’Callaghan mystery and playing around with a thriller and a novel about the relationship between a 17 year old mentally challenged boy and a famous octogenarian who befriends him.

3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?


Cordi has the same moral values as I do and we are both zoologists, although I’m a lapsed one. Other than that, she is fictional and I am real!

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

Depends on the book. My Cordi books are predominantly plot driven but I like to think that my main characters stand out.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I do not write to a plot. I have a basic idea of whom the killer is and how the murder will take place and the motive, but after that it’s just sitting down to write and letting my characters lead the way. However, for it all to work, the main plot has to be good enough to really grip my attention, and the attention of my characters, right to the very last polished word.

6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?


A sense of having been transported to another place, at least for a while.

7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?

Still writing! More mysteries. A thriller. At least two non-mystery novels. Maybe another non-fiction book. Editing some fiction and non-fiction books, because that is such a challenge and really keeps you on your toes as a writer.

8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?


The scene in Dying for Murder, where Cordi gets cut off from land by a shark, actually happened to me. That and the fact that I make furniture for a hobby. I know that’s two things, but….

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Thrillers, literary fiction. I just finished reading The Bear by Claire Cameron and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Both about young girls and both powerful, haunting and disturbing. I also enjoy reading murder mysteries, but there is definitely an involuntary work element to it, so it is not entirely carefree reading.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet:

In Suzanne Kingsmill’s Dying for Murder, Zoologist Cordi O’Callaghan, solves a murder at a biology station on a remote U.S. barrier Island during a hurricane.



Suzanne Kingsmill has a B.A. in English literature from the University of Toronto, a B.Sc. in biology from McGill University and a M.Sc. in zoology from the University of Toronto. She has written three Cordi O’Callaghan murder mysteries, Forever Dead, Innocent Murderer and the latest, published in May, Dying for Murder. Search Suzanne Kingsmill on Youtube for an 80 second book trailer on Dying for Murder. Kingsmill has also written four non-fiction books, including The Family Squeeze: Surviving the Sandwich Generation and Beyond the Call of Duty – a biography of a war vet who won the V.C. She has written for numerous Canadian and international magazines on eclectic topics and is the Managing Editor of the peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine. She has two sons and now lives in Toronto, after spending 25 years in rural Quebec.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MYSTERY REVIEW - UNDER COLD STONE

UNDER COLD STONE
by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press



This review will be biased as I always look forward to the latest book in the Constable Molly Smith series and am in a very good mood when I get my mitts on it. Vicki Delany has managed to hold my attention through six previous novels and she didn’t let me down this time.

The central characters in this excellent British Columbia-based police procedural series are Constable Molly (Moonbeam) Smith and Sergeant John Winters of the Trafalgar police, but Molly’s mother, Lucky Smith, adds verve and humour to each book. Lucky is my favourite character in a crowd of major contenders. Lucky’s hippy leanings and environmental activism have been at odds with her daughter’s choice of career and have made the young officer’s life more difficult than it needed to be. They’ve also given the reader much enjoyment. Lucky’s full of surprises though and the latest one is her deepening relationship with the Chief of Police, Paul Keller, despite their differences over, well, practically everything.

Their romantic Thanksgiving getaway to Banff Springs Hotel goes off the rails when Paul’s estranged son, Matt, becomes connected to a murder and the subject of a manhunt. But Lucky also has a connection to Matt and it’s not a good one.

Meanwhile Molly is trying her hand at making her fiancé a traditional Thanksgiving meal with hilarious results. Next to that, solving crimes looks easy. Good thing, because Molly is soon on her way to help her mother and the resulting search in the back country makes for gripping reading. Once again, Delany uses the setting to enhance a strong plot. The relationships are deep, interesting and unpredictable throughout this series. Molly continues to grow and develop as a police officer.

Vicki Delany never fails to deliver strong female characters who don’t shy away from conflict or danger. She does a great job of exploring family bonds and conflict with characters you care about. No wonder I stayed up half the night.



Reviewed by Mary Jane Maffini
As half of the writing team Victoria Abbott,
The Wolfe Widow, #3 in the Book Collector Mysteries,
is coming in Sept., 2014.

Monday, July 14, 2014

BLOG HOPPING FOR A DAY


This is something fun and different. I’ve been asked to be part of a Writing Process blog hop, so hope you don’t mind this bit of diversion. You can blame my friend Cathy Ace if you’re not pleased! :) She invited me to join this cross country check-up. It's for one day only, though. Tomorrow this blog site reverts back to the Vicki Delany review.

Here's where you'll find more about Cathy Ace as she blog hops along. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cathy-Ace-Author/318388861616661?ref=hl

And here is mine!


1. What am I working on?

I’m looking ahead here because once Erika Chase (my alter ego) sends in book #5 in the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries, I’ll be starting on a new series for Berkley Prime Crime. Written by Linda Wiken! So, while I’m not actively writing it at this point, the ideas are congealing way back there in a corner of my brain. I can tell you it will be called the Culinary Capers Mysteries and it’s about a supper club.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Cooking and food mysteries are very hot right now in the cosy world but this will be the only one with a supper club as the theme. These five people meet monthly, taking turns at hosting. That host chooses a cookbook (a real one) and an entrée from it, while the others each bring another course, also chosen from the book. There's a lot of discussion about the book and the food. And of course, it’s understood that one of the courses will be a murder! Should be fun…and deadly.


3. Why do I write what I do?

I write cosies because I want to entertain readers. Also, I write what I enjoy reading. I do read the occasional edgy crime novel or thriller but mainly because I want to stay on top of what’s happening in the publishing world. But these days, I like to unwind with a lighter read. That’s not to say a cosy can’t be serious or be about a meaningful topic. In fact, I think the best ones do just that. They combine the elements.

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s a fluid system, in transition at times. Mainly the part about what time of day I write. I used to write early mornings but now that time is devoted to power walking. Then, it was mid-morning. But now I find that a good time to deal with the 'business' of writing -- the emails, Facebook, Twitter, guest blogs, all those necessary but fun tasks. Writing time is now all afternoon long, or whatever portion it takes to write my minimum 1000 words. What does remain the same is I start with a synopsis. It’s a valuable tool that my editor inflicted on me when I started my other series. But it’s made all the difference. I wouldn’t start a new book without one. It provides a road map I can follow, very handy if I take a wrong turn. However, seldom is the completed book a complete match with its synopsis. It’s written in pencil, not in stone!



Don't miss the rest of the blog hop. Posting on July 28th, at their own sites are my writing pals Vicki Delany and Jamie Tremain (aka Pamela Blance and Liz Lindsay):


Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. Under Cold Stone is the seventh in the Smith & Winters police series set in the B.C. Interior. She also writes the light-hearted Klondike Gold Rush books, and Rapid Reads novellas, including Juba Good. In February, look for By Book or By Crook, the first in the new Lighthouse Library series from Penguin Obsidian by Vicki’s pen name, Eva Gates.


Find Vicki at www.vickidelany.com and Eva at www.lighthouselibrarymysteries.com.




Jamie Tremain is the pen name for Pam Blance and Liz Lindsay. These yet to be published friends and collaborators are finishing their third novel. You can find out more about Pam and Liz on their blog where they enjoy interviewing other authors to help promote their books.

http://jamietremain.blogspot.ca https://www.facebook.com/jamietremainwrites Twitter @PamLizWrites







Friday, July 11, 2014

MYSTERY REVIEW - UNDER COLD STONE

UNDER COLD STONE
by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press



This review will be biased as I always look forward to the latest book in the Constable Molly Smith series and am in a very good mood when I get my mitts on it. Vicki Delany has managed to hold my attention through six previous novels and she didn’t let me down this time.

The central characters in this excellent British Columbia-based police procedural series are Constable Molly (Moonbeam) Smith and Sergeant John Winters of the Trafalgar police, but Molly’s mother, Lucky Smith, adds verve and humour to each book. Lucky is my favourite character in a crowd of major contenders. Lucky’s hippy leanings and environmental activism have been at odds with her daughter’s choice of career and have made the young officer’s life more difficult than it needed to be. They’ve also given the reader much enjoyment. Lucky’s full of surprises though and the latest one is her deepening relationship with the Chief of Police, Paul Keller, despite their differences over, well, practically everything.

Their romantic Thanksgiving getaway to Banff Springs Hotel goes off the rails when Paul’s estranged son, Matt, becomes connected to a murder and the subject of a manhunt. But Lucky also has a connection to Matt and it’s not a good one.

Meanwhile Molly is trying her hand at making her fiancé a traditional Thanksgiving meal with hilarious results. Next to that, solving crimes looks easy. Good thing, because Molly is soon on her way to help her mother and the resulting search in the back country makes for gripping reading. Once again, Delany uses the setting to enhance a strong plot. The relationships are deep, interesting and unpredictable throughout this series. Molly continues to grow and develop as a police officer.

Vicki Delany never fails to deliver strong female characters who don’t shy away from conflict or danger. She does a great job of exploring family bonds and conflict with characters you care about. No wonder I stayed up half the night.



Reviewed by Mary Jane Maffini
As half of the writing team Victoria Abbott,
The Wolfe Widow, #3 in the Book Collector Mysteries,
is coming in Sept., 2014.

Friday, July 4, 2014

CRIMINAL TENDENCIES


Thanks for all the feedack about the first Criminal Tendencies blog. In it, four Ottawa crime writers, Barbara Fradkin, R.J. Harlick, Mary Jane Maffini, and Linda Wiken/Erika Chase answered a question about writing, and in effect, we had a writing tips blog!

These questions were "left over" from a panel we appeared on earlier in May. We thought they were such good questions, we're writing them up for Mystery Maven Canada, one a month. Here's today's question:


Which character (protaganist, villain or victim) has more freedom?


MARY JANE MAFFINI:

When I grow up I want to a villain! What? Oh. You're right, of course. I'm a good guy. But the villains can do anything. They can not only kill and mame, but they can be rude, forget to walk their dogs, break all the rules and not show up for Christmas. Try any of that if you're a protagonist. And really? A victim is dead. Not so much freedom there, unless they arranged their own funeral.

As a writer, I can have fun with villains. Of course, I feel for the victim and am fond of the protag. Sometimes it's good to be bad.


R.J. HARLICK:

A tough question. I would like to think that the protagonist has the most freedom in a crime novel, but he or she doesn’t, particularly if they are a series character. To be credible as a person, they have to operate within the boundaries of the personality that the writer has developed for them. He or she can’t suddenly do something that isn’t in keeping with this personality. For example a shy protagonist can’t become the life of the party unless a credible reason is provided for this dramatic change in behaviour.

Similarly the villain is also bound by the character that the writer has developed for them. Though I think he or she has a bit more freedom, since often the character of this person isn’t as well developed as that of the protagonist. Still you can’t have a villain who has been portrayed as anti-social suddenly becoming Mr. Nice Guy whom everyone loves.

Perhaps the individual who has the most freedom is the victim, primarily because often his or her character is the least developed. Though it seems counter intuitive to say a dead person has more freedom. Usually though during the course of the murder investigation aspects of the victim’s character are revealed to help flesh out the motivation behind his or her murder. But again like the protagonist and the villain, anything the victim did before they were killed must be within the boundaries of their character.


ERIKA CHASE

I would have to go with the villains. We don't have to like them, in fact it's better if we don't. Therefore, they don't have to play by the rules, they don't have to be fair, they don't have to be nice. What freedom!

In fact, the meaner and nastier they are, the more we cheer for the protagonist, who does have to play by the rules. Go get 'em!

And while the good guys use mainly their wits along with the possible backup of a weapon, the villains can concoct methods to torture and kill that make the reader shudder. Now, understand that by villain I don't necessarily mean the "bad" guy. Who doesn't love Bernie Rhodenbarr, the "bad" book thief in the burglar series by Lawrence Block. Yes, sometimes we do root for the person breaking the law. But they're not villains. They're not Hannibal Lector. Three cheers for that!


Barbara Fradkin


The villain, of course! The protagonist has a specific job to do, and everything he or she does has to drive the story forward towards the solution. Even a moment of play or fun had better serve the story. He or she also has to live up to certain standards that we as readers expect from our heroes. Flaws are okay, but if the hero does something really stupid, illegal, or even nasty, the reader may well toss the book aside. The victim has no freedom of action within the book. They may have done all kinds of wild and crazy things to stir things up and get themselves killed, but once they are dead, they are silenced.

With the villain, however, the possibilities are endless. They can be any sort of person, motivated by the vast range of human conflicts and needs. They can be desperate, frightened, vengeful, clever, bumbling… They are a blank canvas on which the writer can play. In a good whodunit, the reader meets the villain early on but doesn't know their guilt and their motive until the end. That's 300 pages of freedom for the villain. Freedom to lie, manipulate, create red herrings, or to panic, despair, self-destruct, and wreak more havoc as they try to stay one step ahead of capture. Every character in a book should be textured and human, but none more so than a good villain.

Friday, June 27, 2014

SCHMOOZING WITH JILL DOWNIE


1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?


There has been a multiplicity of influences, rather than one writer or person above all. I was taught by some wonderfully talented and dedicated women, who influenced me with both their encouragement and constructive criticism. I was raised in a home full of books of all genres, from literary to popular fiction, including all the great writers of the Golden Age of mystery writing in Britain, and that master of setting and atmosphere, the French mystery writer, Georges Simenon. And here I am now, writing mysteries myself!

2. What are you working on now?

I am somewhere around the middle of the fourth book in the Moretti and Falla mystery series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey, where I used to live. Its working title is Death Under Glass. I have the idea for the fifth tucked away in the back pocket of my mind, not to be thought about yet. The third in the series, Blood Will Out, comes out in September 2014.

3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?


I have two main protagonists, one male, Detective Inspector Ed Moretti; and one female, his partner, Detective Sergeant Liz Falla, and I like to think both characters have something of me in them. I suspect, actually, that my taste in music, movies and books is closer to Ed’s than to Liz’s! But Liz is the kind of young woman I admire very much and hope I would have been, if I had been born into her generation.

4. Are you character or plot driven?

Character, character, character. Although I usually have an idea in my mind for the book, it floats around in there until the characters nail it down for me.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

The answer to this is very much linked to the fourth question. I had written in many genres before starting to write mysteries, and it is quite fascinating to me how the characters in the mystery genre often provide twists and turns I never thought of when I started – almost as if they had minds of their own. Which, of course, they have! So, yes, I am a pantser.

6. What do you hope readers will take away from your writing?

That they had a good time – such a strange thing to say about murder! – and that they were taken into the world of my characters with all its complications. Also, that they feel the attraction of my island setting: atmosphere in my mysteries is important to me.

7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in ten years?

Ah, the tempting fate question! Still writing about my beautiful island, perhaps writing another series, perhaps writing a historical mystery. I’d love to do that. But always writing.

8. What is the one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?


This is a tough question to answer. I have given it some thought, and this is what I came up with, which surprised me also: I was an actress, I’m married to an actor, I love performing, I love reading from my books to an audience – but essentially, I am a loner. Which is why, I guess, writing is a good career choice!

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?


Mysteries of all kinds, from cozies to noir. Over the past few years I have been rereading some of the classics I read as a child and teenager – Dickens, Trollope and so on – and, to keep my little grey cells working and active, I have a subscription to the Times Literary Supplement. Oh how I enjoy all that academic infighting on the letters page!

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet.


Witches, theatrical vampires, family secrets impede Moretti’s investigation into a hermit’s suicide. Or is it murder? And if murder - why?


Jill Downie was born in Guyana, lived in England, Guernsey in the Channel Islands, studied in Paris, before settling in Canada. She is the author of plays, short stories, historical fiction, biographies, and currently writes the Guernsey-based mystery series, published by Dundurn, starring Detective Inspector Ed Moretti and his partner, Detective Sergeant Liz Falla. The first, Daggers and Men’s Smiles appeared in 2011, the second, A Grave Waiting, in 2012, and the third, Blood Will Out, appears in September, 2014. She lives in Ancaster, with her actor husband Ian.




Friday, June 20, 2014

CRIME ON MY MIND


Taking time to highlight some of the recently released mysteries by Canadian crime writers! As always, this is just a sample of what’s come out in the past few months. The way I choose them is if I hear about them, either from the authors themselves or their publishers. If you’re not on this list, please keep in touch at mysterymaven@rogers.com.

So, starting locally, R.J.(Robin)Harlick has recently launched the sixth Meg Harris mystery, Silver Totem of Shame (see my review from June 6th), this one set on the West Coast, mainly on the fascinating islands of Haida Guaii. Launching with Robin was Vicki Delany, whose seventh Const. Molly Smith mystery is set in the equally compelling Banff area and includes a stay in the Banff Springs Hotel. It’s called Under Cold Stone.

Vicki had a second book she was launching at the same event, Juba Good, part of the Rapid Reads line and featuring RCMP officer Ray Robertson, on duty in South Sudan.

Mike Martin
has a third book in his RCMP Sgt. Windflower series set in Newfoundland, Beneath the Surface.

Deryn Collier has a second book out with coroner Bern Fortin, set in the Kootenay region of B.C., Open Secret.

The Quin and Morgan Mysteries by John Moss, continue with this latest addition, Blood Wine. It’s a police procedural set in Toronto.

And, Suzanne Kingsmill has a third book in the Cordi O’Callaghan series, Dying for Murder, just out.

As does Janet Bolin with Night of the Living Thread being the fourth in her Threadville Mysteries.

Earlier this year, Something Fishy was added to the Shores mystery series, by Hilary MacLeod. That's the title, folks!

There’s a lot of reading in this list, especially if you haven’t yet gotten to this fine line-up. But you’d better hurry and get started because there’s a lot more coming out in the next few months!

In August, Erika Chase has the fourth book in her Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries out, Book Fair and Foul; and Sam Wiebe’s first mystery, Last of the Independents, which won the 2012 Unhanged Arthur Award from Crime Writers of Canada, will be on the shelves.

Other titles to watch for: The Wolfe Widow by Victoria Abbott (aka Mary Jane Maffini and Victoria Maffini); from Cathy Ace, Cait Morgan Mystery #4, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair; Blood Will Out by Jill Downie; None So Blind by Barbara Fradkin; Put on the Armour of Light by Catherine MacDonald; Roses for a Diva by Rick Blechta; and, Thin Ice by Nick Wilkshire.

There is no editorial commentary tied to their order of appearance in this blog. I've listed authors and title by their publication dates.


For a more complete listing, check out the Crime Writers of Canada website at http://www.crimewriterscanada.com.