Thursday, May 31, 2012


Annual meetings are a good thing.

I came to this conclusion after attending the weekend annual meeting of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild (no, not that kind of hooking) in North Bay. Many months before I’d signed up, sent my money and committed to making a piece that reflected the theme of the meeting “All Abuzz About Bugs.”

But towards the end of last week when it was time to organize the dogs and myself I wondered if I should stay home, forget about the money and not go.

I didn’t make that decision because organizers know a thing or two about human nature. I’d spent months designing and making the rug, I’d signed up for classes to learn new skills and I knew the merchants would be there with fabric and wool and all sorts of other enticing items. I couldn’t walk away from my commitments.

In addition, I’m sure my dogs were looking forward to a weekend at Happy Tails Camp. So I went.

By Sunday afternoon when it was time to go home I felt rejuvenated, inspired by the wonderful work I’d seen and ready to start new projects. My wallet was lighter as I hadn’t been able to resist the siren call of woolen fabric in glorious shades, of a new frame which promised to allow me to work faster, of a new hook made of exotic wood. I’d met people, shared stories and planned to attend an October retreat.

The meeting had achieved its purpose.

So too with Bloody Words, the annual get together of Canada’s mystery writers. We may grumble and think we won’t go but we’ve made commitments to help or be on a panel or critique. Missing the event is not an option.
When the weekend ends we’ll be pleased we’ve connected to old friends, met new ones, bought too many books and generally had a good time.

Creative people, whether they choose textiles or paint or words usually work alone. Not only do they spend hours by themselves they, or should I say we, sometimes lose our perspective. We begin to doubt the validity of what we’re doing. We question spending our time locked away with our computers, paints or fabric.

The Annual meeting validates our reason for being who we are and it shouldn’t be missed.

A member of the Ladies Killing Circle, Joan Boswell co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit to Die, 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. The latest in the series, Cut to the Bone, will be published by Dundurn in November. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Writing in the Dirt

I spent some quality time this weekend poking in my little garden patch to see what was missing and what was needed, writing my wish list, choosing a suitable sunhat, then driving to my favourite nursery haunt. I had a lovely time wandering the paths dreaming of all the sunny colour combinations that I could create on our little piece of the earth, and visualizing how each plant would look next to the others, how the whole thing would flow.

Swayed by some of the showy perfect photos and descriptive promises, I tried hard to stick to my plan and the list. On Saturday, on my own, that mostly worked. I ticked off several items and only added 1 or 2 small uninvited ones.
On Sunday, my husband joined me, and we had a happy time strolling the paths of our other favourite garden centre, where I easily let him talk me into a couple of quite large potted perennials not on the plan at all. So much for the plan.

When we got home, we plunked down the new pots in the spaces that were planned for their new homes – the ones on the original plan. Then came the adopted ones, not on the plan. We walked around our petite space to see things from every angle, hoping to find an empty spot to fill. Eventually, we managed to wiggle them all in somehow, as most of the original ‘keep it simple’ plan happily went out the window.

This gardening thing to me is a bit like writing – at least the way I approach it. You start with an idea, and sketch out your plan, and it all goes swimmingly – in your head. In your head, it is a beautiful thing.

Then you start. And as you get digging into it, you hit a few rocks, and a few unexpected details, and some flowery stuff that doesn’t always quite fit in with the original plan -- the one that went so smoothly from start to finish, in your head.

Oh well, I think that this is really the fun of both gardening and writing. You can begin in one direction, with an orderly image in your head, and no invasive weeds or too-tall bushes, and with no unexpected dead-end twists or annoying facts ever appearing to tangle you up. But life isn’t like that. And really, neither is gardening or writing. And I think that is what makes it all fun. You never know what is going to grow.

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. Her blogs appear the final Wednesday of each month.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Word of Mouth

“In a lot of ways, the greatest marketing tool we have in publishing – and probably that will never change – is word of mouth.” This statement on the NPR Book Blog comes from Heather Fain, Marketing Director for Little Brown & Co., so she knows whereof she speaks.

In a village, a tribe, or indeed any circumscribed community, word of mouth is a primary communication tool. Without it, Miss Marple would never have solved the alarming frequency of crimes in St. Mary Mead. Especially when it comes to new authors, the challenge is to foster “word of mouth” so that it spreads beyond a small circle into the wider community of readers. If you only had to sell your book within your town it would be a slam dunk. One book club would do the trick. But how is this achieved when you’re talking about nations, continents or even globally?

Fortunately we have some gaudy new tools whose raison d’etre is the very definition of word of mouth. Facebook and Twitter. When launching The Witch of Babylon I found Facebook particularly helpful. But only for one reason. The great good fortune of friends, relatives and other writers who generously shared news about my book. Facebook and Twitter are flooded with promotions now, and this has probably diluted their effectiveness, although they remain useful allies.

I’d thought of word of mouth as being principally focused on readers telling other readers about your book but when looking into the topic, learned that it begins much earlier on the publication arc. You may have a literary agent who initially talks the book up among industry colleagues. And publishing house staff who are enthusiastic about your novel and talk about it set the ball rolling in a major way. This is otherwise known as creating buzz. Marketing staff make strategic decisions about which ‘influencers’ to pitch in the hope their enthusiasm will catch fire.

Choosing those influencers carefully can deliver great results. One story concerns a novel we’re all now familiar with – The Red Tent – that had a slow start. Within four years it emerged as a huge bestseller. A key factor in the book’s success was word of mouth – the author wisely sent many copies of the book to influencers – in this case, Christian ministers, Indie booksellers and Rabbis - whom she correctly believed would love the book and spread the word.

Today we have Amazon and Indigo reviews, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari and a host of other enablers to help us. The rise of book clubs has been another great boon. Word of mouth has never had such a wealth of opportunities to get us started. The challenge is, deciding which are best targeted to the character of our book.

In Canada, D.J. McIntosh’s first novel The Witch of Babylon hits bookstores and online retailers as a mass market paperback, today. It will be released by Forge in the United States this fall. Any help to “spread the word” would be greatly appreciated.

D.J. (Dorothy) McIntosh’s debut novel The Witch of Babylon was first published by Penguin Canada in June 2011 and will be released by Tor/Forge in the United States in October 2012. It has been sold in twenty countries around the world. The novel was chosen by as one of the top five mystery/thrillers of 2011 and by CNN International as one of six enduring historical thrillers.

Dorothy divides her time between her cottage on the shores of Lake Huron and Toronto where she indulges in two loves: live music and museums. She’s a strong supporter of Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dundurn Press

Say it isn't so! That this isn't the final Charlie McKelvey novel! But, alas, it is. Even though detectives have been known to come out of retirement and even rise from the dead, C.B. Forrest, the creator of McKelvey, has stated that this is his final book in the series of three.

That this is the finest in the series makes it even more poignant. That's not to say that The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil were lesser books. They weren't. In fact, the first was short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Best First Novel. And Slow Recoil was short-listed for Best Novel. They are all well-crafted novels, all award-worthy.

The sad thing about no more McKelvey is that there goes a very human character, someone who has no illusions when it comes to his world and himself. He's an ex-cop by novel three, having survived the death of a fellow officer, his own wounding, the breakdown of his marriage, and most tragically, the murder of his son. He has abused his body and his sense of morality; he has doggedly sought the truth and struggled to help the victims; he has finally, in The Devil's Dust run away from himself but found himself in so doing.

This is not just the story of a rundown cop returning to his home town and then slipped back into cop-mode to help yet another victim -- the town itself. The story goes beyond the drugs that are crippling the town's youth, the backroom deals that put the brakes on the progress each segment professes to be pursuing, and the fact that Charlie McKelvey has cancer.

Forrest has the gift of getting into McKelvey's soul and sharing that with the reader. We live his anguish and his redemption. We feel the despair of the town and the hope. We're invested in tracking down the drug kingpin, solving the murders, and facing the truths. C.B. Forrest is that powerful a writer that the characters are real, therefore the story is also real.

I get it -- why this is the final McKelvey. There is no more to be said about the man. It is a fitting ending to a powerful series. Which leaves all readers wondering what's next for C.B. Forrest and hoping it won't be too long before we read all about it!

The Devil's Dust is a June release! Be sure it's on your reading list! The launch date is Tues., June 12th in Ottawa.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Why do we do it?

That question came to mind via a circuitous route. A colleague asked me how my sales were going and I thought, 'I haven’t a clue'. My next thought was, what’s wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be in tracking mode?

I’ll admit to being terrified when A Killer Read came out, that no one would buy the book. When it hit #2 on the Barnes & Noble bestselling list and #28 on their overall list, I was gobsmacked and then heaved a sigh of relief.

The terror then shifted to the reviews and assorted comments from readers. What do you know…they liked it, generally speaking. There was the reader who didn’t finish it because there were too many references to other titles and their authors. Uh…that’s what the book’s about. There was the email from the reader who pointed out an author error. I thanked her, pleading carelessness. What I really meant was a brain that wasn’t functioning at the time. But in general, the book was well-received.

But I’d never thought to track the sales. Sure, I’m hoping they’re strong so that the series will continue. But basically, I’m writing it because I enjoy doing so and also, because I want readers to feel a connection to the characters and setting.

I feel challenged each time I re-enter this world I’ve created and try to choose the right words, plant the enticing clue, play logic games with myself, and basically make it all make sense.

I think most writers write for themselves first, for the readers second, and thirdly for all those other trappings. Do you agree?

However, I'm now wondering how those sales are doing...

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012


May is madness...

In her blog on Wicked Wednesday, Linda commented on the crazy life of a writer. I had to smile, because it all sounded so familiar. I too have a looming book deadline, May 31, for my latest Inspector Green novel. I am down to the wire on final rewites before sending it off into the publisher’s hands. I too had to interrupt that process to deal with the proofs of another book and to answer the long, convoluted marketing questionnaire sent by the Inspector Green publisher. And with a publisher’s party, a Scene of the Crime board meeting and the Bloody Words Mystery Conference all coming up within the week, I have two trips to Toronto, a panel to prepare for, a manuscript to critique and numerous wardrobe choices to make. Yikes. For a writer who spends most of her days in T-shirts and jeans, finding two clean banquet outfits that fit is enough to boggle the mind!

Meanwhile, in between the rewriting, blogging, Facebooking, emailing and what-not, there are the demands of daily life. An elderly mother who requires a lot more emotional and physical support than she used to, grown children who thankfully still turn to me for advice and support. A house in dire need of a spring cleaning, a yard being overtaken by weeds, a cottage in the midst of do-it-myself renos, and dogs that insist on walks and games of fetch every time I stand up. Not to mention a six-year old computer that requires much prayer and cajoling as it wheezes its way towards its grave.

Oh yes, I’m also supposed to be hosting fifteen people for dinner on Saturday night. Or maybe not. I hope I know that before I head off to Toronto this morning, as I will have to find time to shop.

Sometimes I meet people from my previous (very busy) professional life, who ask me how I like retirement. They remark, with a wistful tone, that it must be wonderful not to have to rush out in the morning, fight the traffic, juggle appointments, deal with pressures, conflicts and deadlines, and all that stuff I left behind. I reply that yes, I love easing into my day by lingering over coffee in my pyjamas, and my blood pressure thanks me for not climbing onto the Queensway every morning. And it’s true that a writer’s pressures are mostly self-imposed. But life has a way of tangling you up in it, and once you embark on a path, it quickly gets cluttered up with expectations. I’m not complaining. It’s a wonderful life, but I do find myself muttering, just like the old days, ‘Once I get through the next two weeks, it will get easier’. It may, but if the past is any predictor of the future, not likely.

Besides, if it did, I would probably get bored and go looking for trouble.

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 havewon back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, explores love in all its complications. And, her Rapid Read from Orca, The Fall Guy, was launched last May.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I'm back....

Vacation is over. It’s back to work. Everyone faces that reality at some point or many points in life. However, I got to thinking, what is the perfect place for writing. Actually, what got me thinking was the fact that Erika Chase
was lucky enough to be interviewed by Elizabeth Duncan for her blog. It’s posted now at

One of her questions was just that –If you could choose anywhere in the world to write your next book, where would it be and why?
I said, Sicily, being still in love with that country – the culture and the scenery, although I have to own up, I never tried writing there.

Having just returned from B.C., I did find an idyllic place to write and I made good use of it, too. Another bit of luck – a timeshare on Victoria’s beautiful inner harbour. I’d glance out the patio doors from both bedroom and living room, out onto the water, the ships at anchor, and a well-used path along the seawall. It certainly helped that the weather was ideal, also.

I could have spent my hours just staring at the scenery, and I was tempted. But it also energized me and as I said, I accomplished a lot, which is a good thing because book #3 is due to my editor on June 1st.

This is not a minor task to complete as I’ve been interrupted by the editor’s edits, a cover conference, pre-publicity for book #1, A Killer Read, a wedding in the Dominican Republic, a book launch, a mystery conference in Bethesda, MD, a mystery festival just outside Pittsburgh, my choir concert, and said trip to B.C. Also coming up, on the fated deadline weekend is Bloody Words in Toronto.

But I’ve discovered that’s a writer’s life. Just when you think you might have a breather (and an actual life), in role the emails and more work appears.

I have also toyed with the idea that next year when I return, it would be great to hook up with a writers' shared office space co-op or some such arrangement. If you know of one, please let me know.

So, thinking about the idyllic place to write is like those mini-vacations I’d hear about at staff development days when I had a regular job. Just sit back, close your eyes, and picture the spot. I’m back in that timeshare. Now that I’ve set the scene…maybe the work will continue to flow.


Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Waiting for Arthur

In Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, two men wait in vain for someone named Godot. Of course, he never shows up, and it turns out that they wouldn’t have recognized him even if he did. To while away the time, the two “eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats”—anything "to hold the terrible silence at bay."

In my case, I am Waiting for Arthur. He, too, may never show up. However, I do know what he looks like! He wouldn’t be hard to recognize, in any case. He’s a lovely soft light brown with lots of lines and spots (even though he’s only twenty-nine, he’s made out of natural wood so his complexion makes him look older).

Try to disregard the fact that he’s been hung from a rope until dead. Arthur is, after all, the award for excellence in crime writing. He’s even named after the penname (so to speak) of Canada’s hangmen.

I have definitely been employing the various ways that the two Beckett characters used to fill the time, all except the swapping of hats. But maybe I can do that on Awards Night. I have eaten a lot (always do when I’m excited and happy), slept, talked (incessantly about Arthur), argued, sang (Will I Be Blue? or Winner Takes All?), played games with the grandkids, and exercised (not as much as I should, but still…).

I’ve added one other activity: writing. I’ve tweeted, facebook’d, blogged, googled, articled, librarything’d, pinterest’d, goodread, and texted. I’m famous for writing my way through almost anything, and this waiting period is obviously no different.

I have to use at least one cliché about my experience. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be Waiting for Arthur, I would never have believed it. In fact, a year ago, I had just finished radiation for breast cancer and had no traditional publishers for my books or my recent stories.

Suddenly, here I am, a finalist for the most prestigious award for mystery and crime writing in Canada. All four of the novels in my series (and the fifth one in progress) have a home with Imajin Books. The short story that’s Waiting For Arthur was published by NorthWord literary magazine, and they are publishing another, non-mystery story of mine too. One of my personal favourite Canadian writers, Louise Penny, emailed me the morning after the shortlist to congratulate me! I have been asked to be a guest blogger for all sorts of writers and readers (including the Mystery Maven, my literary heroes). I entitled one of the blogs, They Like Me, They Really Like Me. That just shows how Flying Nun I’ve been feeling.

On the evening of the Arthur Ellis shortlist event, I was so busy organizing that I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d react if I actually made that list. My friend and I (who both had stories submitted) declared that simply making it as a finalist would be enough. And that night, it was more than enough. I was ecstatic, excited, honoured, humbled…all the emotions one might expect. (Plus my friend is on the list too!)

I have stayed buoyed ever since. Right now, I am a little overwhelmed with organizing the actual Arthur Ellis Awards Dinner, but essentially, I am thrilled. I wake up in the morning thinking about Arthur and pretty much spend all day with him on my mind. My husband is beginning to get suspicious.

But the real point is: it doesn’t actually matter who wins on May 31 (Awards Night). I’ll have had six whole weeks of pleasure. Forty-two days of anticipation, that delicious feeling of being on the cusp of something great. A thousand and eight hours to realize that my esteemed colleagues have judged my writing to be commendable. It’s rare to have such a sustained period of time where every few seconds you break out into a satisfied grin.

I almost hope the “terrible silence” doesn’t end. I like it here, in the quiet before I know for sure whether or not Arthur will show up. Right now, it’s delicious.

Catherine Astolfo is the author of The Emily Taylor Mysteries, published by Imajin Books. Her novels have been optioned for film by Sisbro & Co. Inc. Catherine is a Past President of Crime Writers of Canada and a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto. Visit Catherine and discover her series at:

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Creative Writing

Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed - Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, an autobiography, notes that early in her career she applied for and received a fiction writing fellowship at an artists’ colony in Cape Cod. On a windy, cold March day she went to have a look and reached conclusions about what she called the transcendentalist New England culture of ‘creative writing’ and asked herself why it would be good for her to read short stories by short-story writers who didn’t seem to be read by anyone but embryonic short-story writers?

She found it a puritanical culture embodied by colonies and workshops and the ideal of ‘craft’. This didn’t appeal to her because she believed writing was the means to deal with the human condition, to search for meaning, to celebrate the never-ending fascination of human interaction.

Craft said nothing about this. Instead it focussed on the negatives: show don’t tell, murder your darlings, exorcise the passive voice, omit needless words etc. It was a culture of the negative paired with the challenge of using active, brisk verbs and vivid nouns.

I don’t agree with all she said because in any discipline you have to learn the basics, the ‘how’, before you can move on to deal effectively with large topics. In painting when you want to learn how to manipulate a medium it is not helpful to have an instructor tell you to express yourself because you don’t have the technical ability to do that. So too with writing. It’s true that emphasizing the negatives, may seem a joyless approach but how do you show or tell the aspiring writer how to choose the perfect word.

Despite the fact that I didn’t totally agree with her the following paragraph in which she deals with modern short stories amused me.

“The first sentences were crammed with so many specificities, exceptions, subverted expectations, and minor collisions that one half expected to learn they were acrostics, or had been written without using the letter ‘e’. They all began in medias res. Often, they answered the “five W’s and one H.””

Certainly, in mystery writing we are exhorted to grab the reader’s attention as quickly as possible but perhaps we overdo it?

Batuman goes on to attack the use of proper names in modern stories. As she says, ‘they come flying at you as if out of a tennis machine.’ “Each name betrayed a secret calculation, a weighing of plausibility against precision”. She gives examples and then discusses the fact that Tolstoy often used the same name for two characters in the same book or that Chekhov’s characters often had no names at all.

Speaking for myself, and who else can you speak for, I found the how-to books, and the summer as well as the year-long program at Humber immensely useful but perhaps this was because I aspired to write mysteries not literary fiction. I do recognize the validity of her comments and they made me think about rules and writing and the unwillingness of some writing teachers to concede that there is so much more to writing than following rules.

How important are the rules that circumscribe our writing? Does knowing the rules give you license to break them?

A member of the Ladies Killing Circle, Joan Boswell co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit to Die, 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. The latest in the series, Cut to the Bone, will be published by Dundurn in November. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Off again!

Okay…I must confess…another blogoliday starts today. Look on the bright side – this leaves you more time for your writing!

I may surprise you with a blog thrown in here or there…as time and inspiration dictates. But for now, I’m sticking with family (on the west coast) and working to that June 1st deadline (in between family events).

Remember Bloody Words is coming – hope to see you there!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


What Will People Think?

“Stop that, Janet! What will people think?” As a child, I heard those words often. I didn’t always pay attention. Now I seem to have nearly lost the knack of hearing them in my mind’s ear.

This is probably good. Imagine if someone overheard me saying, “I have just returned from malice and am going to bloody words.”

Imagine the swath that my travelling companions (mystery authors Linda Wiken/Erika Chase, R.J. Harlick, and Vicki Delany) and I cut through New York and Pennsylvania with our cheerfully morbid discussions in restaurants on our way to and from the Malice Domestic conference and the Festival of Mystery

Imagine the conversations that go on among writers and readers at these events…

And then there was the Incident of the Coffee. Actually, there were several Incidents of the Coffee. My favourite morning beverage seemed to have a curse placed on it. Or maybe the curse was placed on my clothing. The worst incident involved a doughnut, a car, some coffee, and my pants. If you wish to replicate the Incident, try this:
1. Accept half a Krispy Kreme chocolate doughnut from the driver.
2. Hold cup of warm (fortunately, not hot) coffee between knees while tearing off piece of doughnut.
3. Pass remainder of doughnut to other occupant of the back seat
5. Notice that the coffee has tipped and is pouring into your lap.

What will people think? Well, we know exactly what they would have thought if my pants hadn’t dried before the next time I had to clamber out of the car.

If you missed Malice and the Festival of Mystery, don’t despair. The fun is not over for the season. We still have Bloody Words . Not attending the conference might not be a crime, exactly, but just think what you might miss . . .

Janet Bolin’s first novel, DIRE THREADS, was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel and is shortlisted for the first ever Bloody Words Light Mystery Award (aka the Bony Blithe.) Her second mystery, THREADED FOR TROUBLE, comes out June 5. You’ll be able to pick up an early, signed copy at Bloody Words. The third mystery in her Threadville Mystery series will be published in June, 2013.

Visit Janet at facebook and twitter

Monday, May 7, 2012


Who am I?

I never thought that having an alter-ego would be so tricky.

Do you give much thought to your name? I do whenever it's misspelled. I thought I'd abandoned that problem when I switched from my much more complicated maiden name but that isn't so. Most of the time, I give little thought to my name which is why I often forget to tell people that the Erika Chase on the cover of A Killer Read is me. Not good when you're trying to flog a book to a hometown audience.

I found that at Malice Domestic, there were a number of people who remembered me from years gone by -- and it was a long time since my last Malice -- and had no idea that Erika & I were the same person. I was so into the 'Erika' persona (even my name tag) that I at one point, didn't answer immediately to 'Linda'. Which is good and bad. It can also make it tricky when signing books. I've decided that if it's someone I know, they got both names, otherwise, I stick to the cover name.

Richard Castle is another interesting name game. You know the TV show, Castle -- one of my favourite, I might add -- well, the book that Castle first wrote in the show was published in real life under the name Richard Castle. Of course, Castle is a character...who writes a book in the series and, so it would seem, also in real life. It's a clever marketing scheme but you really do need your wits about you when thinking it through.

I don't feel any different, regardless of which name I happen to be using. What about you? Do you use a pseudonym and if so, who are you at this moment? Is it really you?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012


There are mystery conferences in the air!

Just back from Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD. It’s been about ten years since I last attended and while it’s changed in many ways – programming being the most obvious – it’s still the same for what counts. It’s a terrific way to network with other authors, mostly those writing lighter mysteries or cosies, and of course, a great place to meet readers!

The enthusiasm is at a very high level throughout, which explains why I’m dragging around since coming back. It’s a challenge to maintain that ‘conference high’ and keep going at full throttle for the entire weekend. But Malice Domestic is a well-oiled machine. It should be. The folks running it have been in training with previous conference committees, or may even be those doers and shakers, and that’s been going on since the late 1980’s.

We then, on our road trip of four Canadian authors, made our way to Oakmont, PA for the Festival of Mystery. About 50 invited authors got to schmooze at a tea at the library and meet those who love recommending books to readers. After that, we all trucked on over to a huge church hall. I’d been told there’d be a line-up stretching around the block of eager readers. And there it was. In the 27C weather. These keen fans paid to get in and buy books and have them signed by the authors who were all seated at signing tables.

What a thrill it was. And eager they were. This is organized every year by Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont and booksellers everywhere should be in awe.

So, that was our ten-hour-plus road trip. At the end of this month, we’re all heading to Toronto for the Arthur Ellis Awards Banquet on May 31st followed by Bloody Words, our own, Canadian mystery conference.

If you’re a mystery author and haven’t yet attended, I’m wondering why not? And if you’re a mystery reader and planning on attending, you’re in for a treat. Check out the website at if you dare!

Hope to see you there!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Canada Writes Crime… Oh yeah!

The month of May began with a bang, or possibly a gunshot. It is National Crime Writing Month, and the CBC has teamed up with Crime Writers of Canada to celebrate the flourishing but under-appreciated Canadian crime scene. Check out Louise Penny’s opening blog to get a flavour of what’s to come.

Louise sets the scene with a quick who’s who of Canadian crime writers, both old and new. As an aside, I am amazed and honoured that she placed me on the list with “some of the world’s best crime writers… Giles Blunt, Maureen Jennings, Barbara Fradkin, Peter Robinson, William Deverell…” Right back at you, Louise.

Keep a bookmark in the site for the month, as there is much more to come. Short stories by some of Canada’s finest writers, writing challenges, daily writing tips by established authors, and Louise’s master class in writing. Canadian authors find it hard to compete for shelf space and ad space with the more familiar names from the US and the UK, whose publishers have bigger budgets and a longer reach. The front tables at Chapters and the book racks of drugstores, Costco and Walmart have nary a Canadian book among them. So it’s particularly thrilling that CBC and the National Post are shining a crucial spotlight on us in this month leading up to our national annual Arthur Ellis Awards for best crime writing, and our annual national mystery conference Bloody Words.

The CBC site is packed with information for readers and writers alike. Over the month, readers will meet favourites such as Gail Bowen and Mary Jane Maffini and will also discover the many new talents on offer. Crime fiction is a wonderfully diverse genre with books for every taste and mood. Whether you’re in the mood to be entertained, terrified, thrilled or moved to tears, there is a book for you. Among those new talents, of course, is the Mystery Maven herself, writing as Erika Chase and transporting us to the genteel and deceptively dangerous mansions of Alabama.

While you’re at it, why not check out and sign up for the quarterly e-newsletter Cool Canadian Crime, which contains listings and brief descriptions of new releases for that quarter. It’s a great way to keep abreast of the crimes we are plotting.

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 havewon back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, explores love in all its complications. And, her new Rapid Read from Orca, The Fall Guy, was launched last May.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Dreams and Goals
Dreams are a good thing in our lives. When we are stuck in traffic, in the line-up at the drug store, or having our teeth drilled at the dentist (my personal favourite), we need somewhere to go that is better than Calgon or not as strong as Bailey’s. Most people have bigger dreams than a soak in a foaming bubble bath. They often include outlandish things like winning the lotto -- I had a neighbour once who actually did win a million dollars on a scratch-n-win, but she was one of
those people on whom it was wasted. It’s all gone now. Then there are the dreams that involve things like exploring the North Pole, discovering the cure for cancer, or creating a world peace plan that works. Some dreams involve Brad Pitt, one that I could never see, but I am pretty sure now that he is engaged again that this one is out of range (not to mention the 6 kids).
And again like most people who dream, many of us just dream and do not make a plan. But there are some people who have a dream and make a plan and work towards it and never let go of that plan. Those people have changed the dream into a goal. And a goal with a plan and hard work is so much more attainable and real for those who work on it and stick to the plan, whatever happens or however long it takes. A couple of weeks ago I was a guest at the launch of my friend Linda Wiken’s first published book (She is also the famous Mystery Maven Canada). Linda is one of those who had a dream that she turned into a goal. She approached it with a plan, and quietly worked steadily towards her goal, attaining other rewards and great accomplishments as she went, but never losing sight of the ultimate goal – publishing her first book. I was very proud to be there cheering her on, as she was surrounded by friends, Ladies Killing Circle colleagues, former loyal customers of her mystery shop Prime Crime, many friends and connections, and various publishing & other dignitaries. It was great to be a part of the celebration of the prize at the end of the goal. Linda, I salute you for your eye-on-the-prize, your unwavering determination and hard work, and your dream that turned into a wonderful book. Lizzie, Sally-Jo and Andie in A Killer Read are cheering for you too. Here’s to the next 2 books in your Ashton Corners series, and then, who knows, maybe you’ll need another goal. 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. Her blogs appear the final Wednesday of each month.