Thursday, December 9, 2010


The Ladies' Killing Circle: thoughts on writing and shopping...

Vicki: We've been asked to say a few words about the Ladies' Killing Circle. We are definitely Ladies, and there are six of us: Joan Boswell, Vicki Cameron, Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, Sue Pike and Linda Wiken, so that makes a Circle. As to the Killing part, we have killed a few bottles of wine and several cheesecakes in our 18 years together. We began as a critique group, with a mission to help each other grow as writers. We are possibly the longest running critique group in Canada, and definitely the most successful, with seven anthologies of crime stories published. Maybe we should say a few words about the anthologies and how we decide on the theme and title of each anthology.

Barbara: With lots of wine and laughter. In one case, we were sitting around the living room of Joan's house in Florida, on our third annual "writer's retreat", with the requisite Shiraz and Chardonnay on the table, and we were tossing around possible ideas for themes. None of them seemed compelling enough, until one of us - whose identity was lost in the ensuing gales of laughter - remarked, “Well, you know, we've never actually done 'Sex'!” Hence Going Out With a Bang was conceived. So to speak.

Linda: This is possibly the most important part of the process. We've been known to toss titles around while in the car on the way to or from a gathering, while dining out en masse, or sitting around the table at a critiquing session.

Vicki: There was the time we were hanging about on Sue’s cottage deck, and Mary Jane blurted out ‘Menopause is Murder’. Another book was born.

Sue: It's hard to imagine something this much fun could also provide a worthwhile service to the writing community. But it does. In each anthology we've included stories by new, previously unpublished writers,many of whom have gone on to enjoy success with novels and other anthologies.

Vicki: Not to mention our own successes. Barbara, Mary Jane and Joan have novel series. Sue did an anthology. I did a couple of short story collections and young adult novels. Linda's first book in her mystery book club series will be published in early 2012.

Sue: Our book launches at the lovely Library and Archives Canada are renowned for the crowds of fans we attract. Maybe it's all the food, wine and chocolate but we prefer to think it's our sunny personalities. Although we're pretty good at our computers we're even better on our feet. Our ‘dog-and-pony’ show has been the feature entertainment at several fundraising galas in and around Ottawa. We've even taken it on the road when our six busy schedules can be coordinated.

Mary Jane: Perhaps it's best we not mention the time most of the group walked across the bridge from El Paso to Juarez, Mexico, for dinner and attempted to find a cab. It's just a matter of time until someone gets a story out of that.

Vicki: Oops, I better rein this in. I can tell we’re about to go off on a tangent of tossing ideas around and killing ourselves laughing. Here's the first question we were asked: How does being a part of the LKC make your writing life fuller and more interesting?

Mary Jane: Life more interesting? Well, for one thing, there's the look on the mail carrier's face when he delivers a piece of correspondence to the Ladies' Killing Circle Inc. Sometimes men step away from us, nervously. That's always amusing too. Life fuller? There are the many adventures we've had together, most of which seem to involve ladies' wear shops and restaurants, both well-known incubators of criminous ideas and some of which are very relieved when we leave.

Vicki: People might think we do nothing but eat. About the writing… I think the group made me a more efficient and prolific writer. We used to meet every two weeks. Since I had to drive for an hour into the city to get to the meeting, there was no way I was going to go empty-handed. So I wrote a new chapter or a new short story every two weeks.

Linda: Being a part of LKC has made me more focused in my writing and given me that extra incentive to actually write, knowing I'd have to face a critiquing session. The comments are usually not too brutal and more often than not, right on target.

Barbara: I was not one of the original six, but I had my very first publication in the inaugural edition of The Ladies Killing Circle in 1995. I remember rushing down to Prime Crime Bookstore when the shipment arrived from the publisher, and opening the book to see my name in print for the first time. What a thrill! Since then, I've been privileged to become a member of the "Circle". The critiquing is inspirational, but I cherish the friendship. And the laughter. Who else would join me over a nice bottle of Australian Merlot, debating the relative merits of the gun vs. the bludgeon?

Joan: Thoughtful, even-handed criticism fostered my growth as a writer. Because we encouraged each other to aim ever higher I reached goals I might not have attained had I not been part of a supportive group. I also prize the friendship and support we provided for one another in times of joy and sorrow.

Vicki: Let’s have a look at the next question on this list. What is the edible/drinkable Christmas treat you anticipate the most?

Joan: Being a writer I love Christmas letters, love finding out what's been happening in friend's lives and figuring out what they aren't writing about. Also love beautiful Christmas cards supporting charities especially if they feature dogs.

Vicki: I think shortbread cookies are the treat I wait for. I usually bake a couple of double batches. I also look forward to a full-on Boxing Day dinner at my sister-in-law's house, with turkey, meatballs, venison, moose, twelve salads, ten side dishes and a partridge in a pear sauce. Followed by 4 kinds of pie and a birthday cake for Jesus. Not that I eat it all, but I sure like not having to cook for a day. When we come home we feel like we don't need to eat again until Tuesday.

Barbara: For me, the festive season is a doubly dangerous time, since I get to celebrate not only Christmas at my sister's place but Hanukah at my own (for eight, diet-defying days, no less!). Latkes with sour cream, eggnog, plum pudding with hard sauce, mince meat tarts... LoCal all the way.

Mary Jane: Our special LKC Christmas lunch has great meaning for all of us and I always look forward to it. We look extremely ladylike (coifed and jacketed and necklaced) and all six make at least a half-hearted effort not to discuss the digestive turbulence of our various (mostly dogs) pets in whatever elegant restaurant has been chosen. We also try not to speak too loudly of garrotes or guillotines.

Vicki: The next question is, do we have any tips about shopping, wrapping, gift-giving, entertaining, etc? Being a Virgo, I shop early and fast. I like to get it over with. I find gift-giving quite stressful, trying to find something the other person might like. Memorable gifts I have received include the corner stones for my grave, given by my practical mother-in-law. I wonder if there was a secret message in that?

Barbara: I think the Christmas types among us have it easy! Hanukah is eight days long, a nightmare for parents with multiple children. When my three children were little, that meant 24 presents for them alone! Luckily, the perpetually penniless adults were cut back to one.

Linda: Be sure to give a book to everyone on your Christmas list, preferably by a Canadian mystery author. Even better, an LKC anthology! Let me review the titles that are still in print: Fit to Die, Bone Dance, When Boomers go Bad, and Going Out with a Bang.

Mary Jane: Gift giving? We Ladies are all about saving the economy book by book. After all the fuss, I think the best day of the year is Boxing Day, with a house full of food and drink, Christmas chores over, and time to sit and read. So, if Santa doesn't put a pile of Canadian mysteries in my stocking, he's going to have to watch his back. I have a head full of dangerous ideas and I'm not afraid to use them.

Vicki: We’re at the end of the questions. Any final thoughts, Ladies?

Linda: Give books...give often!

Vicki Cameron is the author of Clue Mysteries and More Clue Mysteries, each
15 short stories based on the board game Clue. Her young adult novel,
Shillings, appeared in 2007. Her stories appear in the Ladies' Killing
Circle anthology series and Storyteller Magazine. Her young adult novel,
That Kind of Money, was nominated for an Edgar and an Arthur Ellis.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gail,

    Thanks for the insider look at the life of a WIR. Sounds like it was extremely rewarding for all involved!