Friday, April 29, 2011



Here they are, the best in Canadian mystery and crime writing for 2010. Of course, there's still another "Best" list to come out of these shortlists and the winners will be announced at the Arthur Ellis Awards banquet in Victoria, B.C. on Thurs. June 2, the day before Bloody Words starts.

So, congratulations to all on these lists!

Best Crime Novel
A Criminal to Remember, Michael Van Rooy, Turnstone Press
Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny, Little, Brown UK
In Plain Sight, Mike Knowles, ECW Press
Slow Recoil, C.B Forrest, RendezVous Crime
The Extinction Club, Jeffrey Moore, Penguin Group

Best First Crime Novel
The Damage Done, Hilary Davidson, Tom Doherty Associates
The Debba, Avner Mandleman, Random House of Canada
The Penalty Killing, Michael McKinley, McClelland & Stewart
The Parabolist, Nicholas Ruddock, Doubleday Canada
Still Missing, Chevy Stevens, St. Martin's Press

Best French Crime Book
Cinq secondes, Jacques Savoie, Libre Expression
Dans le quartier des agités, Jacques Côté, Éditions Alire
La société des pères meurtriers, Michel Châteauneuf, Vent d’Ouest
Quand la mort s'invite à la première, Bernard Gilbert, Québec Amerique
Vanités, Johanne Seymour, Libre Expression

Best Crime Nonfiction
Northern Light, Roy MacGregor, Random House
On the Farm, Stevie Cameron, Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Our Man in Tehran, Robert Wright, HarperCollins Canada

Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book

Borderline, Allan Stratton, HarperCollins
Pluto's Ghost, Sharee Fitch, Doubleday Canada
The Vinyl Princess, Yvonne Prinz, HarperCollins
Lost For Words (The Worst Thing She Ever Did), Alice Kuipers, HarperCollins
Victim Rights, Norah McClintock, Red Deer Press

Best Crime Short Story
In it Up to My Neck, Jas R. Petrin, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
So Much in Common, Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
The Big Touch, Jordan McPeek,
The Piper's Door, James Powell, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
The Bust, William Deverall, Whodunnit: Sun Media’s Canadian Crime Fiction Showcase

And, in case you missed it, we have two Ottawans on the list: C.B. Forrest for Best Novel and Mary Jane Maffini for Best Short Story...yay!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
Mystery Book Club series coming
from Berkley Prime Crime, April, 2012

Thursday, April 28, 2011



Last Thursday, after reading Sue Pike’s blog about sentences and her review of Stanley Fish’s, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, a book examining and extolling the virtues of the ‘perfect’ sentence I downloaded the book. I had never realized the importance or the difficulty of fashioning the perfect sentence and as I continue to browse in Fish’s book I become ever more aware that I need to pay more attention to each and every sentence.

However what really struck me about the book was the author’s passion. He cares deeply and might even be said to be obsessed with the sentence.

At the same time as I dipped into this book I was reading The Paper Garden, Mrs. Delaney (Begins Her Life’s Work) at 72 by the poet, Molly Peacock. This is the biography of an extraordinary woman, a member of England’s aristocracy, who was born in 1700, married off at seventeen to a drunken sot of sixty-one and widowed at twenty-five. She turned down a number of suitors including John Wesley of Methodist fame and didn’t marry again for twenty years. In the meantime she lived a creative, independent life.

Her letters to her sister and her journal reveal that she approached every day with passion and enthusiasm. Mary Delaney made it her business to notice the details of everyday living, to comment on them and to try new things.

At seventy-two, widowed after a happy marriage, she invented a new art form - mixed media collage. In the next decade she created 985 botanically correct, beautiful cut-paper flowers that are now housed in the British museum.

To invent a new art form is no small achievement and to do it at seventy-two is even more remarkable. She took her life’s experiences, her life long commitment to handwork, to painting, to botany, to gardening and melded these elements to create the mixed media flower collages that are her legacy.

It seems to me that passion connects Stanley Fish and Mary Delaney. Both pursued and Fish continues to pursue their particular passion in a single minded way and achieved impressive ends.

Writers who commit themselves to their work no doubt find the same satisfaction in the process and in the end product as Fish does with his sentences and Mary Delaney did in her collages.

The question - can creative individuals succeed without this passion?

Joan Boswell is a member of the Ladies Killing Circle and co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Book Shopping in Disguise

Several bloggers have established before in this space that there are numerous pressures on an author – keeping up their characters’ fashion forwardness, spicing up their love lives, etc. And there are also expectations put onto an author by his or her passionate readers, admirers and booksellers.

Well, I am about to add one more to your load.

One of the most enjoyable occupations of a bookseller is watching what books customers buy. And how much more interesting if that customer is an admired author. A few years ago I managed the petite and compact but very busy Ottawa airport bookshop. It had a steady stream of shoppers and browsers from 5:30 a.m. through to midnight, 365 days a year. We were ideally placed right between the airline checkins and the escalator to security for pre-boarding. What better place to be for the last-minute plane ride read than when the Amex is still in the hand after shelling out for an expensive trip to Toronto or Washington?

Ottawa travelers tend to be an eclectic and interesting bunch too. My staff and I started a spotting list that included Olympic athletes, Senators hockey players, actual Senators, ragged night owl musicians the morning after, assorted politicians, high tech geeks off to North Carolina to meet other high tech geeks, and a variety of authors the day after the-night-before gala or festival. And we booksellers waiting with bated breath to see what book each would buy.

The staff was all university students who were huge bibliophiles & quite territorial about their own subject sections of the shop. When Carol Shields wandered in one afternoon, Lisa, who stocked our Canadian Fiction, was too overwhelmed to speak to her, and just grinned while I asked Carol for an autograph for Lisa. Carol also did not disappoint in her book choices for her trip, with some excellent Canadian fiction – of course we were watching!

P.D. James (Lady James) resplendent in her tweeds wandered in one morning after an evening book event, and was lovely & low-key, and asked for recommendations for some take-home Canadian mysteries. We happily filled her Harrods bag for her trip home.
Very early one morning, a certain Maritime politician entered the store, browsed quite some time, until there were no other customers around, then hoping for anonymity, brought the ‘sexy’ fiction to the counter, and verified my suspicions by using his credit card proving his name. I silently told him, “Oh, I think you can do better than THAT!”

So, you see, even though you think that you are out in the world away from your computer and anonymous to the general public, your readers are watching you. Do you desperately want a mental vacation from the murderous intents of your latest murder mystery in-the-works? All you want is to schlep to the local independent bookseller & choose a bodice ripper with the most buff Fabio on the cover – RETHINK !! Is there a lovely photo of you on the back cover of your novels? Do you post an earnest pic of yourself on your website? Well, your readers are out there waiting to spot you. And to find out what great Canadian novel you are reading.

This might be an opportune time to consider adopting a disguise when purchasing your adult magazine, or a Harlequin. Is a large hat, oversized black sunglasses and leather gloves (no fingerprints!) too much to ask to spare the lofty opinions of your loyal fans & readers?

In London this week, there will be a veritable sea of very large hats and proper gloves, and the most perfect time to blend in wearing such a disguise. Plop your Philip Treacy on your head, grab the black D&G shades, and fill your bag with Fabio-covered paperbacks & the Secret Life of Wills & Kate Revealed (really?) and revel in breaking free.

But if you’re in London this week without a hat and buying some sketchy reading material, better pay cash.

Confess to me what guilty pleasure you have bought, and were you wearing a disguise (or should have been)?

Catherine Lee (Cathy) is a college textbook buyer in Ottawa, has been a bookseller and book buyer by trade for most of her life, and is a member of 2 book clubs. She became a book lover on her parents’ knees at story time & by flashlight under the bed sheets. One of her greatest pleasures is sharing great books with friends, of course while sipping wine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Canada’s Caribbean: Come Prepared!

Culture shock is guaranteed when you set foot on magical Vancouver Island. Whether you soar over the emerald jewels in the sparkling blue water or mingle with the mists as your ferry threads its way to paradise, you have left behind the familiar frosty country. Some say it’s the climate. Others claim that retirees are to blame. Still more fault the hippie infusion from the US in the Seventies and all those VW vans and llama farms.

First, take a deep breath. Welcome to island time. What’s the big hurry? Go too far in any direction, and you will fall into the ocean. If you’re from the Big Smoke and miss traffic jams, drive to the McKenzie and Island Highway interchange at 8:00 am or 4:30 pm. Slow down, wave to the Serious Coffee drinkers, and wait up to an eternity of ten minutes before traffic picks up.

Leave all snow paraphernalia behind. In Victoria, you need it
once every few years. Even then, the snow melts within a day or two. If you pine for twenty feet of the white stuff, go up island to Mt. Washington and rent a ski chalet.

Should you be here in the winter, you will need raingear and an umbrella only if you are a fuddy duddy. Our young people trudge in the rain in shorts and hoodies. In January. Mothers push their strollers covered in plastic, and scooters have awnings. Geezers thump along with their carved walking sticks, splashing in puddles. Some rain falls horizontally. SWOW for “solid wall of water.” The rest of the time, it’s RATH, or “rain, at times heavy.” This poem illustrates:

If it’s sunny in Victoria, it’s cloudy in Vancouver.
If it’s cloudy in Victoria, it’s raining in Vancouver.
If it’s raining in Victoria, it’s pouring in Vancouver.
If it’s pouring in Victoria, God help Vancouver.

Leave all bug dope behind. Flies do not thrive in salty air. Now and then some wise guy says, “I saw A mosquito.” The correct reply is “Really? Where?”
You will notice many vehicles carrying surfboards or wave boards. Winter is even better. More storms. Wetsuits are toasty. This is not Malibu. Para-kiting is also very popular and makes colourful pictures. Seals and otters may come out to bask and watch.

Bring your own foxes and skunks. They didn’t make the trip. In addition to brown bears, elk, cougars, and displaced rabbits exiled from the University of Victoria to Texas, the rainforest has one of the most marvellous creatures on earth: the amazing banana slug. They come in three basic varieties: black, leopard, and khaki, though the black version is a garden slug. Slugs are detrivores and ooze around cleaning debris at the bottom of the rainforest. They adore rotting vegetation, horse manure, and other dead slugs. With only one lung, they hump around without complaint. They are also hermaphrodites with the world’s most bizarre mating ritual. I cannot describe it here for fear of censors and even censures. Huge equipment, slime and cannibalism are involved.

Victoria is called the City of Flowers. Ever April we do an elaborate count and snicker at the rest of the country, still plowing snow. Banana trees, though an herb, are common. Rhodos and daffodils start our spring, and roses aren’t far behind. Fields of heather and lavender stretch into the distance. Growing lemons is our last challenge. There are rumours about a few in sheltered spots in Sidney.

Should you decide to stay, you will not be alarmed at house prices if you come from Toronto. For the rest, assume that your 2000 sq ft lakefront home on one acre in Sudbury will buy you a nice garage with an upstairs suite. In yee-hah Sooke, not the big city. BC is short for “bring cash.”

Tides are important to us. A high 10.0 rolls in heaps of seaweed, which has its own aroma, although it is also made into cosmetics, soil enhancer, and even eaten in gourmet restaurants. Low tides, 1.0, are good for strolling beaches. Do not pick the mussels. Red tides happen. Gumboot chitons have been eaten in desperation, but they are not recommended.

You’re in fishing country, too. Salmon, halibut, and crabs are yours for the taking. The prize-winning hali this year weighed 162 pounds. And it has eyes only on one side of its face, unlike politicians..

Look over at snow-capped Washington State from the southern parts of the island. Yanks are pretty much the same folk as we are, but they like parading their navy across the strait and shooting off munitions in gunnery practice. Our west-coast sub is very old. We bought it second hand from the Brits. Not that we’re competitive, but it helps to close our eyes and think of the loonie, now at $1.05 US.

The ferries are our life blood even though we complain about the rising costs. But the chow is great, and you can get a facial and manicure while you sail. Besides, an island’s not an island if it has a bridge. At one time, 95% of our food was grown here. Now it’s 5%. We could be in big trouble with our transport lines cut, during a tsunami, for example. Tsunami warning signs used to dot the coast from Victoria to Port Renfew. Then most were removed due to complaints from nervous business people who thought they would deter tourists. To me, they added an exotic flavour, and with their image of a little person running up a hill, it was clear what to do.

So many features, so little time. Whales, sheep, border collies, wineries, meaderies, Chinatown, fine dining, museums, shopping, Rogers chocolates, and even ghosts! These attractions you can discover for yourself. It’s easy to get here, but be warned. It’s hard to leave.

Born in Toronto, Lou Allin grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She received a PhD in English Renaissance Literature. In 1977, she returned to Canada, finding herself in Sudbury at Cambrian College, where she was a professor of English. Her Belle Palmer series is set there.
Now retired, Lou lives with Friday the mini-poodle and Shogun and Zia the border collie in Sooke BC, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. She is BCYukon Vice President of the Crime Writers of Canada. In addition to her new series set near Victoria in Fossil Bay, Lou has two standalones and an Orca Rapid Read, That Dog Won’t Hunt.

Monday, April 25, 2011


So these three authors were hurtling along a highway

One thing about a car full of mystery authors hurtling along highways for days: they will never run out of things to talk about. The topics on our southern rampage included:

The weather: I will not bore you with these endless discussions but they frequently revolve around how glad we were to leave endless winter behind. So long snow!

Food: Is it time to eat yet? Where will we eat? Can we hand out bookmarks to the other diners without getting thrown off the premises?

How to kill people and who to kill: I can’t reveal names, but I suggest that everyone reading this remain vigilant and be very very nice to us, especially when it comes to comments on our headgear. Check it out.

The police: the topic of how to win friends among the constabulary and what useful information police officers can provide was like a rolling workshop.

Books: what we’re reading, what we’ve read, what we’re looking forward to reading, what we’ve added to our To Be Read lists based on these conversations. Again, a fertile source. Of course as Vicki Delany’s latest Among the Departed is about to be on the shelves and we spotted the first paperback copies of Elizabeth Duncan’s new book A Brush with Death in Fearrington Books in North Carolina, so those are naturally on our lists, as is, ahem, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder: the fifth Charlotte Adams mystery, in case anyone missed it on April 5.

Headgear: what should be the appropriate Canadian headgear for our trip? We settled on toques, although we noticed that Elizabeth Duncan said she’d take the pix rather than be in them. Hmmm. Let’s hear your opinions.

We can’t drive far without talking about bookstores: as the trip wears on it is obvious that the three of us are besotted with them. Eventually on a road trip you get where you’re going, in our case North Carolina which has some wonderful bookstores. So the love affair continues. I figured that if you read this blog you would also love bookstores so have included their links. Have a quick visit! On Friday we were in Fly Leaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (home of the University of Carolina Tarheels for those who know what that means) for a luncheon and signing. Fly Leaf is a year and a half old and is obviously run by people who live for books.

As always on book tours, we met congenial, interested readers. We were as pleased to meet them as they are to meet us. The food? Wonderful sandwiches catered by Sara Foster (whose restaurant is conveniently located next door). I felt pampered. Food, books, readers, a beautiful bookstore made for a great start to our tour.

We also buzzed the delightful Quail Ridge Books (in Raleigh) which is providing the books for the non-bookstore portion of our trip. Again, this is a bookstore that I could move into and just live there. So far, North Carolina seems to be a state with very special bookstores.

Saturday afternoon we had a wonderful welcome in Fearrington Books in the legendary (but real) Fearrington Village. This was the first bookstore that I have heard described as luxurious. We enjoyed meeting readers who knew and loved the mystery genre and were eager to learn about authors new to them. Also enjoyed seeing the Tennessee fainting goats which weren’t all that far from the bookstore. NC is obviously a state full of surprises.

We are grateful to our wonderful hostess and tour coordinator Molly Weston! We can’t stop talking about that either!

We have three book events left before we leave for Malice Domestic. Stay tuned for further conversations. And keep looking over your shoulder. Beware of toques.

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder, which hit the bookshelves this month, is brimming with names, no two the same.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press

Vicki Delany's Const. Molly Smith & Sgt. John Winter series just keeps getting better. And that's no mean feat, since they've been an engrossing read since book #1. That's four books ago.

What keeps this series fresh are the characters and the setting. Const. Molly Smith is young and eager. She's at the lowest point on the police roster but eager to learn and get ahead. Fortunately, she gets that opportunity time and again when Sgt. John Winters involves her in the major crimes cases, having her ferret out information and attend crime scenes. She comes by that part naturally in Among The Departed, accompanying her RCMP boyfriend Adam Tocek and his police dog Norman as they're are called in to search for a small boy lost in a wilderness camping ground outside the town.

Don't worry, this is not a child-in-jeopardy story. But one with many layers that has at its core the remains of a man Molly knew as a child. He was the father of a childhood friend who disappeared 15 years ago. Norman uncovers his bones and the cold case takes on a new life.

We're learning more about Molly Smith each time out. We see her handling the tough brawlers on her beat, relating to her recently widowed Mom, and growing in her relationship with Tocek. She's an interesting character, tough and yet vulnerable, caring and yet insular, doing a tough job in her hometown.

Sgt. Winters is also a complex guy. A dedicated cop with a beautiful wife and a home life that's recently taken on new meaning to him. He's smart and knows the importance of some mentoring when it comes to Molly and her career.

Trafalgar is its own character. A small town nestled in the B.C. wilderness that keeps going because of that location. In winter it's a tourist mecca with great ski trails on nearby mountains. In summer, the tourists eat up the wilderness experience. Its charm is its size and location but like any town or city, it has a dark side.

This case has special meaning as it delves into the lives of Molly's childhood friend and her family. It present new challenges to Molly, both personal and professional, and is a journey worth taking with her.

Linda Wiken

Friday, April 22, 2011


Malice, here I come!

In just a short week (notice how weeks & days can be much shorter if there's a deadline of some sort looming, even a good one?) I'll be attending the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, MD. If you're a cosy type, this is the place to be.

The last Malice I attended was just after 911. It was held in Washington D.C. at that point, needing a larger space after many successful years at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda. I stopped attending because other conferences were wooing my travel budget. And, to a small extent, because the conference vibes had changed when it moved into the big city.

Now, it's back in Bethesda again, in the same great hotel with the rooms that wind around an open walkway which allows one to peer down into the lobby and eyeball who's where. It also has a marvelous glass elevator, and while I cringe, hugging the back wall if such an elevator climbs the exterior of a building, this one is inside and not quite so hard for someone with vertigo to manage. It's also the elevator in which I was stuck with my favourite author of the day, Nancy Pickard, for 20 minutes while the maintenance staff worked to get it moving again. We enjoyed a nice visit, Nancy gave me the name of her agent, and the elevator continued on its way. Ah, conference memories!

It's not all fun and games though. Well, always fun...yes. The panels are always entertaining and informative. And I'll give a small plug to the one I'm moderating about mysteries set in the New England states. it's called, Cold Winters, Deadly Nights: Murder in New England and I've just finished reading the latest books by my panel of authors -- Sharon Love Cook, Katilyn Dunnett, Lea Wait, and Heather Webber -- and thoroughly enjoyed each of them. So, I'm really looking forward to meeting this crew and I guarantee, it will be a panel to attend, if you're attending Malice.

The size of this conference means there's a lot of schmoozing that goes on -- always a chance to hook up with an author you've been dying to meet, someone from the publishing world, or readers who delight in mysteries. It's very similar to our own Bloody Words in that way.

There's the Agatha Awards banquet on Saturday night and this year, it's even more exciting because Mary Jane Maffini is on the short list for the Best Short Story award! Her nominated story, So Much in Common, appeared in Ellery Queen magazine Sept/Oct 2010. Go Mary Jane!!

So, my panel notes are prepared, plane tickets printed out, banquet meal already ordered. There's just the small problem of packing. What to take, what to wear. I'm starting on that one early because you can never change your mind too often.

And then, I'll be going through the same routine all over again for Bloody Words 2011 which is being held in Victoria, B.C. the first weekend in June!

Conference season is in the air! Will I meet you at any?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
Mystery Book Club series coming
from Prime Crime Books, April 2012

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The First Sentence

I've been reading Stanley Fish's, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. This is a slim volume (only 164 pages) but it's dense and complex and demanding. It's a rewarding read though and I find myself dipping into it again and again.

It's a book to be lingered over and pondered rather than gulped whole in some sort of speed-reading frenzy. Fish is a connoisseur of sentences and he quotes his favourites liberally. He acknowledges Strunk and White but takes The Elements of Style to another level. He asks the reader to enjoy a sentence that is not just grammatically correct and faultlessly logical but a feast for the soul. In one instance he quotes a particularly fine sentence and then invites the reader to try his hand at composing a similar one. It's an intriguing exercise.

Fish has devoted an entire chapter to first sentences and he quotes some splendid ones. I was interested to note that some of the first sentences we were forced to memorize as children are not his first choice. The first line from A Tale of Two Cities - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times etc." - is summarily dismissed.

In Fish's opinion first sentences should have what he refers to as "an angle of lean". They incline towards the rest of the novel, giving a hint of where the book is going. He starts with the first sentence of Agatha Christie's Nemesis . "In the afternoons it was the custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper." Fish tells us the sentence seems simple but in fact it communicates a surprising amount of information. "Miss Marple has a routine," he says, "she follows it and it occurs daily." It is not a custom easily trifled with. The reader knows immediately that there will be something written in this second newspaper that will be pivotal to the novel that follows.

Here are a few first lines that I think meet Stanley Fish's criteria:

"They're all dead now," from Anne Marie MacDonald's Fall on you Knees.

Once read, who could ever forget Ruth Rendell's first line in Judgment in Stone? "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write."

Declan Hughes gets off a zinger in The Wrong Kind of Blood: "The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband."

Peter Temple, my favourite Australian crime novelist, writes many exquisite sentences. Here's the first line from Bad Debts: "I found Edward Dollery, age forty-seven, defrocked accountant, big spender and dishonest person, living in a house rented in the name of Carol Pick."

And finally, I'm a big fan of Mary Jane Maffini's Camilla MacPhee series. Here's the first line from Speak Ill of the Dead: "That particular morning all I could think about was getting rid of Alvin." Whenever I read that line I feel an instant empathy for Camilla but it turns out Maffini's fans are divided on the issue. Some of us would cheerfully drown the irritating twerp but others can't get enough of him and have even formed the Alvin Ferguson Fan Club.

Have you a first sentence that you particularly like and that you'd share with us here?

Sue Pike has published a couple of dozen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted will appear in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Dealing with addictions while writing...

I'm sorry to say, this won't deal with those other addictions, like booze, cigarettes and secret medications. If that's your poison, may I suggest one of the many "Anonymous" groups and websites.

This is the serious addiction. I'm speaking about Eagle cams. If you've never tried one, take this warning to heart. They're very addictive -- you try it once, then maybe a second time when no one is looking. And before you know it, that's the first site you go to every morning, last thing at night, and any other time you're at your computer. And guess what? You're hooked! At this stage there's nothing to do but give in to your addiction. And enjoy it!

There are many Eagle cam sites, with even more cams across this continent and others. My two favourites are the Sydney, B.C. eagles and the Hornby Island (also, B.C.) eagles. I've been hooked for a couple of years now and start watching late winter when Ma & Pa Eagle return from their wintering food quests to their homes. They mate for life (wonder how they do that?) and always go back to the same nests.

You watch them doing the renos -- tossing out all twigs and moss, wedging new into the gaps. Both of them working side by side although it's often up to Ma to take over when their at the redecorating stage. Then she sits...and sits...and eventually lays her eggs. Three eggs in the Sydney nest this year; two at Hornby. Then she sits...and he sits...and she sits again for the gestation period which I think is about 3 weeks.

Then the magic starts as the eaglets start with a 'pip', a crack in the egg, then hatch to become 'bobbleheads'. Since the eggs are laid on different days, the hatchings are also staggered. Soon Ma & Pa are taking turns sitting on the young ones, flying off to shop for food, returning to feed the hungry gang.

You, oh addicted one, try to time your viewings to the feedings and before you know it, a few of months later the eaglets will be fledglings and learn to fly. Then comes the empty nest syndrome and the whole cycle begins again. And you, suffer from ENS as much as the parents, probably more because they just fly off and do their own thing, too.

It can be heart-breaking, as tragedy strikes in many forms and sometimes the young don't survive. But it's exhilarating and joyous, too.

The only problem with this addiction is trying to keep it under control while writing. You know, that manuscript with the deadline? That short story you need to submit? That proposal just itching to see the light of day? What has helped me is writing on a different computer from the one I use to surf the internet. And, they're in different rooms. So, write for a respectable amount of time or pages, then a treat -- tune in on an Eagle cam. And so it goes for most of the day. By the way, here are my two favourite sites (same cams but one has more options): and

Of course, you best not get trapped while looking at eagles, by those other addictions: email, Facebook & Twitter.

So, do you think we need another Twelve-Step program...or what?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
Mystery Book Club series
coming from Berkley Prime Crime, April, 2012

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Bloody Words 2011, the mystery conference taking place in Victoria on June 3-5, is approaching swiftly and I have a problem.

I've been put on a panel talking about humour. I have no sense of humour. Just ask my children. Never mind that Margaret Cannon said, "The dialogue is crisp, the jokes are funny and the setting as nutty as any city slicker can credit." What was she talking about? I was writing serious stuff in Champagne For Buzzards. People were murdered, guys with tattoos were acting badly, and someone put a dead body in the back of Sherri's pickup.

And now they've put me on a panel where listeners will expect to laugh. I think it's like choosing sides for basketball. After all the good ones had been picked there were one or two of us hanging about on the sidelines. With arms crossed, and unable to meet each other's eyes, we tried to act like we didn't really care. So, just like in team sports, I had to be put somewhere.

Why couldn't it have been somewhere I would fit in? How about murder for the deeply depressed? And just like in basketball, I'll go where I'm told and just try to stay out of the way, try not to get hurt. But just in case, has anyone got a joke? Wait, how about the one that goes, a priest a rabbi and a minster walked into a bar? That's a good one will have heard that one before. Check out the web-site at to see a truly marvelous list of speakers and panels. And don't forget Michael Slade's ghost walk.

Maybe they'd let me be the ghost.

Phyllis Smallman’s debut mystery won the first Arthur Ellis Unhanged Arthur in 2007 and was short listed for the Debut Dagger in the UK. In 2009 MARGARITA NIGHTS was shortlisted for best first novel by the Crime Writer’s of Canada. In 2010, Good Morning America named the Sherri Travis mysteries as one of the top six series for a summer read. Smallman worked in a library and as a potter before turning to a life of crime. Depending on the time of year she can be found on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia or Manasota Beach, Florida.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Road trip!

I am very excited about a rampage of three women Crime Writers from Ontario to North Carolina, Maryland and Pittsburgh.

Vicki Delany, Elizabeth Duncan and I have a whirlwind series of activities scheduled in the Raleigh, NC area, all organized by mystery book loving dynamo Molly Weston. In our lighter moments we call it The Older, Hotter, Deadlier Tour.

Then we’re off to the Malice Domestic Conference which is back in Bethesda, Maryland after years in Arlington. This excellent conference celebrates the traditional mystery. After Malice, while Elizabeth jets home, Vicki and I will head out to Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA, an intense and amazing book event that draws readers from at least four states.

Vicki, Elizabeth and I will hitting the road on Wednesday. It will be good-bye Dad and Doggies and off on the 14 hour trip. Look out below the 49th parallel!

As for now, the office is full of packing paraphenalia. There’s still a lot to do.

Passport? Check!
US dollars? Check!
Gadzillion bookmarks for The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder. Check!
Business cards? Check!
Five jackets for different events? Check!
Clothes for cool weather? Check!
Clothes for warm weather? Check!
Donation basket contents? Check!
Notes for Malice panels? Check!
Maple syrup for gifts? Check!
The right shoes? Check!
The wrong shoes? Almost certainly.
Comfy slacks for long drives? Check!
Phone number, maps, addresses? Check!
Vote in Federal election? Done!
Conference file? Check!
Copies of my Agatha nominated story? Check!
Tribute to my friend, Lyn Hamilton for Malice Remembers? Keep polishing!
Summer tires on car? To do list!
What have I forgotten? Car registration renewal? Eeep! On the list!

This trip represents weeks of planning and organizing and maybe a bit of obsessing. It has been a lovely dream to keep me going when winter became tiresome and to do lists long and dreary. North Carolina and the DC area will be way ahead of us in weather. Flowering shrubs should be in their glory. Boots can be shed and sweaters ditched. Friends will be hugged and readers connected with. Bars will be filled with laughing colleagues and fun will be had. Room mates (including our own mystery maven Linda) will be gossiped with and many laughs will be exchanged. The car will be filled with new books, our heads with new information and our hearts with the joy of meeting readers and other writers. For a full list of the book events, visit my website and click on the events button.

What a wonderful reading world we’ll be traveling to. Hope some of you can join us for some of it. If not, watch for updates here.

I can’t wait! Stay tuned.

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder, which hit the bookshelves this month, is brimming with names, no two the same.

Friday, April 15, 2011


A feast of crime!

We're sure lucky to be living in Ottawa, the crime (writing) capital of Canada! My condolences to those of you who aren't within driving distance. Why, you may ask? Have you taken a look at the 'Events' section of this blogsite? Just to the left of your screen. That's your answer.

In the space of one month, Ottawa mystery writers and readers will partake of a feast of some of the top names in the country. And, in this age of increasing social networking and decreasing opportunities to meet and schmooze in person (fewer bookstores mean fewer signing opportunities and in our national big boxer, it isn't always that easy to snag some floor space), events such as these really area an treat!

Just to recap the list: on Thurs., April 28th, 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalfe, it's a panel discussion entitled The Perilous Road to Publication featuring local authors who have traveled a variety of those roads -- Peggy Blair, whose first novel will be published by Penguin, UK; Randall Denley, local newspaper columnist and author; and, Barbara Fradkin, whose Inpsector Green series was published by RendezVous Press & has moved over to Dundurn (with their recent acquisition of Napoleon/RendezVous), and whose latest book is a Rapid Reads published by Orca. That's quite a selection of exeperiences for both fans and writers to enjoy. MC is Katherine Hobbs, City Councillor and member of Capital Crime Writers.

Also at this event, the shortlists for the Arthur Ellis Awards, given by the Crime Writers of Canada, and the Audrey Jessup Award, from Capital Crime Writers, will be announced. You can bet that in itself will bring out a feast of writers -- good news for readers!

Then the spring launch season begins! On Monday, May 9th, at the Library & Archives Canada, sunken lobby, 395 Wellington St., local award-winning author of three series, Mary Jane Maffini, launches book #7 in her Charlotte Adams series, The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder. Joining her will be Vicki Delany, well-known to Ottawans, author of two series and several stand-alones. She's launching the 5th in her Const. Molly Smith series, Among the Departed. There will be refreshments (I can already taste the chocolates), a donation wine bar, books for sale by Books on Beechwood, readings and signings. Not to be missed!

Following closely is a triple-header launch on Sunday, May 15th at the Clocktower Brew Pub, 575 Bank Street, 4-6 p.m. Two new Rapid Reads titles, the popular new line for reluctant readers from Orca Press, are being celebrated -- Brenda Chapman's The Second Wife and Barbara Fradkin's The Fall Guy. And, Jeff Ross will launch his new book, The Drop. Brenda Chapman has recently added an adult mystery to her popular series for young adults and Barbara's award-winning Inspector Green series has already been mentioned in this blog. Books, brew and schmoozing....great combination!

Keep your launch shoes polished because on Wednesday, May 18th, Thomas Rendell Curran's third Eric Stride mystery, Death of a Lesser Man, is being launched at Collected Works Book Store,1242 Wellington, at 7 p.m. More details will follow so keep your eyes on the Events section. But all who devoured the first two Strides have been waiting for this event with much anticipation.

There you have central...Ottawa, crime capital of Canada! Pass the word, it's okay to squeal, really it is! Enjoy the opportunities to dis-engage from your computer and get out there to meet these terrific authors, as well as many others in the Ottawa mystery writing community, and readers galore!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
Mystery Book Club series,
coming April 2012 from Berkley Prime Crime

Thursday, April 14, 2011


My new baby is two weeks old today, having burst forth on the scene on April Fool’s Day.

No, not my new puppy, my new book. I feel guilty because until now, I have not even sent out birth announcements. Cedric O’Toole already has enough to feel inferior about, without adding maternal neglect. So I’m going to brag a bit.

The Fall Guy is the first in what I hope will be a new series featuring simple country handyman Cedric O’Toole. It is part of Orca’s Rapid Reads imprint of short, entertaining novels aimed at the busy or reluctant reader. This book is quite different in style, setting and characterization than my Inspector Green novels, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to delve into something new, play with an entirely new set of characters and setting. Cedric couldn’t be more different from Michael Green. He lives alone with his dog on a hard-scrabble farm he inherited from his mother, he’s a dreamer and a tinkerer who collects junk in the hopes of scoring the next great invention. He barely made it through high school and finds his tongue tied in knots whenever the spotlight shines upon him. But he’s good with his hands and ekes out a living as a handyman. A perfect way to accidentally stumble upon people’s secrets.

The setting for The Fall Guy is the rural Ontario countryside, dotted with lakes, cedar swamps and craggy Canadian Shield hills. Although serene and beautiful on the surface, it provides plenty of opportunity for trouble, from decades-old grudges between families to simmering tensions between cottagers and locals. I use my own cottage area around Sharbot Lake as the inspiration.

All the Rapid Reads books have a brisk, punchy style that keeps the reader wide awake and turning the pages. But they are big stories in small packages, written with an eye on character and emotional depth. Perfect for a quick read on the deck at the cottage, or on an airplane, or as a refreshing break from the Stieg Larssons threatening to topple your TBR pile. Written by some of Canada’s foremost crime writers, they are well worth a peek at

In keeping with Cedric’s style, my launch for The Fall Guy will be unlike any I have had in the past. I have always wanted to throw a party in a pub, and this is my chance. I am teaming up with two other Orca authors, Brenda Chapman, who is launching her own Rapid Reads title The Second Wife and Jeff Ross, who is launching his young adult novel The Drop. We are throwing a party at the Clocktower Brew Pub at 575 Bank Street in the Glebe (Ottawa). There will be pub food, beer on tap, door prizes, and of course, books for sale, courtesy of Books on Beechwood.

So if you live in Ottawa or want an excuse to visit the city during the Tulip Festival, come on down on May 15 between 4 – 6 pm and raise a pint to Cedric.

It’s his day.

Barbara Fradkin is a child psychologist with a fascination for how we turn bad. In addition to her darkly haunting short stories in the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, she writes the gritty, Ottawa-based Inspector Green novels which have
won back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, which explores love in all its complications, is hot off the press.