Friday, August 31, 2012


Reviews, reviews, and what...paid reviews?

This seems to have caught the attention of many writers these past few days, so in case you missed it, have a read. This article appeared in the Globe & Mail earlier this week and it's about paid reviews.

Thought-provoking, isn't it?

What are your thoughts on the subject? Are paid reviews fair play? How can the reader be assured these reviews are accurate and not biased because money has changed hands? You can't. Well, then should these reviews be labeled as such? Like the "Paid Advertisement" page in a newspaper or magazine? I like this idea.

Of course, regardless of the reviews, it all comes down to the individual reader. All tastes are different and while an extremely well-written book might deserve a fabulous review, if few readers find it to their taste, does it matter?

I used to avidly read an arts reviewer in a local newspaper, knowing that if he liked a performance, I wouldn't. And visa versa. I was usually spot on with my assessment of his reviews.

What about the business of cajoling family and friends, particularly those on Facebook or Twitter, to "Like" an author page or vote for your book for some prize or other? This is happening all over the internet these days and my feeling is that readers are becoming jaded. They know that a five-star rating on Amazon could be the result of friends of authors signing in and hitting the "Like" or star icons.

So how will this all end? Will readers, knowing all these efforts in the background, start judging books on a popularity basis -- look at how many stars or likes, therefore this is a well-liked person, so I'll read his/her book? They might. But I think as in all things, if that book doesn't make it to their personal "Best Reads" list, there's little chance they'll read anything else by that author. so, merit will out in the end.

Back to the reviews...I'll be posting one for this weekend. To be up front, I don't review books I have a hard time reading or dislike for whatever reason. And, my opinion is one as a reader, not a literary critic. As such, I don't bad-mouth an author but try to give enough information about the content of the book and its strong points so that other readers can make up their own minds about whether to read it or not. And, I can categorically state...I don't get paid! Hmmmm....

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012; available for pre-order

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Is there a 12-step program for this?

As I push aside a stack of trade paperbacks in order to retrieve a book from the bottom shelf of one of three bookcases in my home office, I guiltily remember that I have five new titles on order.

Where am I going to put them? What was I thinking? Is there no help for my condition, commonly known as book addiction?

That's one of the perils of getting back into the book business, no matter how minutely. I now have a method of buying books at publisher's discount. Not the kind of enabling you allow an addict.

But there's no controlling this 'illness', I'm happy to admit. I'm a bookie, and not the e-book kind of reader. I need the solid cover and pages of a read in my hands. Or in a stack on the floor, as the case may be. Or it could be on my nightside table, on the coffee table in the living room, or stashed at odd angles on any one of the many, many bookcases in the house.

And last night I found myself trying to track down the three Magdalen Nabb titles I'm still missing! What next? Oh, yes...I think there's a Cara Black on that list, too. And then, think of all the new titles coming out this fall and winter -- Louise Penny, Vicki Delany, Peter Robinson, Barbara Fradkin to name a few. Bring on those cold, blustery winter days.

That's when addictions like mine really pay off!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

Berkley Prime Crime, now available
READ & BURIED, coming Dec., 2012 (now available for pre-order)

Monday, August 27, 2012


The idea connection!

This is what writers who are having a tad bit of difficulty coming up with a blog idea do: recommend you read a colleague's blog instead. So, here it is.

C.B. Forrest, in his own inimitable way, explains the secret of being a writer. Not with the aid of performance enhancing drugs but rather, with 'drugs' that happen to wake a person up or/and keep them awake. Caffeine, of course!

Which probably explains why I've resorted to plugging Chris's blog this a.m. Not enough caffeine in my system.

So, while you click over to his blog and settle in for a thoroughly enjoyable read, I'll head downstairs to the espresso maker and try again!

I'm really hoping that with the aid of another two or three cups, I'll be able to return and actually start writing. As in, book. As in, work. Wish me luck!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012


by Morley Torgov
Dundurn Press

If you like a little history, especially of the musical variety, with your mystery, you'll enjoy The Mastersinger From Minsk, the second outing for Morley Torgov's Inspector Preiss.

The setting is Munich, 1868 and someone has threatened the eminent composer Richard Wagner with ruination at the premiere of his latest work, an opera. Fearing the worst, Inspector Preiss is called in to track down the culprit. A good thing, too because suddenly the murders start happening.

Richard Wagner, known for his short temper and arrogance, seems to have no shortage of possible enemies...from the rejected tenor to the beautiful Cornelia who claims to be pregnant by Wagner, even the mastersinger Schramm begins to look suspicious. Preiss, with his immense knowledge of the music wolrd is the ideal sleuth in this case but he's also frustrated by a jealous colleague and his visiting lady friend, herself a singer who agrees to help but may be getting a bit too involved.

Torgov is a writer who knows his musicians and he does a wonderful job of portraying Richard Wagner. The entire cast of the opera and those inhabiting the police world provide an added dimension to this delightful mystery. Murder in A-Major was the first Inspector Preiss mystery. I've heard this one may be the last. If that's true, it's too bad.

Friday, August 24, 2012


What's new?

As I mentioned before, fall is just around the corner. So, what's new with you? Soon a whole new batch of September titles will hit the market, followed by launches and signings. Will you have a new book out this fall?

Or maybe you've finally launched a website or redesigned one. Started your own blog? How about planning a book tour?

I want to know! Please send me details: who, what, where, when & even why. You know the routine. And in turn, I'll post them in upcoming events or maybe try to convince you to write a guest blog. It has been known to happen.

Start schmoozing a la Mystery Maven. And, if it's a book that's coming out, let me know who the publisher is, too. You can find me at

Let's get the news out!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Where has summer gone?

I know it's still summer but don't you feel fall creeping in? After the drought of summer has finally broken, can you feel the cool breezes that start each day off, inviting a light jacket or at the very least, a long-sleeved T-shirt for those early morning walks?

As I mentioned on Monday, the plans of summer are also vanishing. The new forays into writing have not taken place -- although I do have a couple of more weeks to redeem myself. Or perhaps I should think of them now as new writing opportunities for fall.

I'll add them to my list of planned activities which include signing up for a zhumba class, volunteering at the food bank one morning a week, and preparing for Bouchercon. That's the next conference on my list, in Cleveland, Thanksgiving weekend of all times.

I also need to register for Left Coast Crime which happens in March, 2013 and the next Malice Domestic. I've already booked the hotel for both these events. And then we'll have the Arthur Ellis Awards in Toronto, the Bony Blythe afternoon, also in Toronto...and by that time, we're well into summer again. How time flies!

And I'm sure there'll be a lot going on at Britton's, too.

Surely, there'll be time to write a short story or brand new series, shimmied into the writing of the first series.

What about you and your writing? Is there ever enough time?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Monday, August 20, 2012


Freshen up...

What do you do to keep a series fresh? I ask that as I'm plunging into the fourth book, realizing too that summer is almost over and I haven't done most of the things I'd planned to do.

On that list was firstly, to write a short story. I don't have a market in mind nor a deadline but I thought it would be a good way to stir up the creative juices. I'd also wanted to tackle the first manuscript in an earlier series that never went past three rejection letters. I still like the concept, even after putting it aside for several years but know it really needs a another attack. Maybe I'll change it from first to third person. Maybe it won't get done this summer after all.

An aside about that book -- since I've written it, some of the details have changed such as a location and therefore, the description of that place. So, the question is, to leave it as a book set in the late nineties or update it? Of course, electronics are greatly changed, too which could impact some parts of the story. More to consider. Will I ever get back to it?

I've also toyed with the idea of writing a Rapid Read. I'm impressed with the ease my colleagues seem to be turning out these gems. I notice however, that's still on the list. Not much has been crossed off, come to think of it.

I've always looked forward to the fall. Maybe it came from working for the school board once upon a time as a community worker. All things were possible as new programs were starting and eagerness abounded. So, maybe just maybe, I can multi-track and check something off my list, along with writing #4.

But will it give me that extra benefit of writing an Ashton Corners Book Club mystery from a place of freshness? Time will tell.

So, back to my original do you keep a series fresh? Start another one, perhaps?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Friday, August 17, 2012


by Finley Martin
Acorn Press

Grab a comfy chair and get set to do some armchair travelling. We're off to PEI, the setting for The Reluctant Detective, Finley Martin's first mystery. Oh, and you'd better fasten a seatbelt, too because after a slow start, we're into a fast ride.

Anne Brown is a widow with a fourteen-year-old daughter who's just lost her job in Toronto and has no one to turn to. Or so she thinks. Enter her Uncle Bill Darby, a private eye in Charlottetown, PEI. He offers her a job as office manager and some desperately needed security. Fast forward four years and Darby dies, leaving everything to Anne. It doesn't take her long to realize she needs to keep the business going in order to keep her life afloat.

Enter her first two customers. One, a wealthy philanthropist who asks Anne to check out someone who seems too good to be true. Is this man merely after her money? The second client, a voice on the telephone, demands that Anne carry through on a contract he had with Darby. She's to pick up a valise and deliver it, as per instructions. Although hesitant -- and with good reason -- Anne agrees to complete the task, also for a good reason. There's a hefty fee in it for her. And that's where the action ramps up.

In quick order this small in stature, thirty-something, mild-mannered office manager morphs into a smart, savvy and daring private eye. I hope Anne Brown will be back. After all, strong female protagonists don't come around every day. And, the mystery was clever, too.

Finley has strong writing creds which include poetry, short stories, and two books. The writing skills are certainly evident and as I said, it's a great place to travel to.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Mystery Maven's note: The fates have conspired to prevent Barbara Fradkin from submitting a blog today so I thought it would be fun to re-visit one from last year. It's very timely since the new Inspector Green novel she's blogging about is in the final stages of becoming a reality and will be published next spring, now titled, The Whisper of Legends! Read on!

Armchair Traveller

Is there anything more spectacular than the Nahanni River in Canada’s Northwest Territories? A world Heritage site and a National Park Reserve, it has some of the most incredible natural diversity and scenery in the entire world. Miles and miles of wilderness with canyons, whitewater, waterfalls, hot springs, lazy, meandering flat water, and ragged glacial mountains. It is home to caribou, grizzlies, swans, eagles, mountain goats and sheep. Brilliant pink wild flowers cling to its gravel shores, while alpine meadows and jagged spruce forests rise up the slopes around it.

Why am I going on like this? Because this is the setting for my next Inspector Green novel. Yes, that’s Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green, the inner city boy who loves crumbling asphalt and diesel fumes, and who struggles to learn the suburban “dad” skills of mowing the lawn and firing up the barbeque. Inspector Green is going on the Nahanni.

Only one thing could possibly pry him loose from his safe urban world and send him up into one of the last true wildernesses on earth. One of his children has disappeared. His spirited, independent daughter Hannah has gone on a wilderness canoe trip down the Nahanni with a group of friends, and they have failed to show up at their take-out point.

Canoeing the Nahanni has always been a dream of mine, but with the tight timeline of this book and with this summer (not to mention this year’s budget) already spoken for, I will have to content myself with researching from afar. Luckily I have been on a wilderness rafting trip in the Yukon, a very different river and a raft instead of a canoe, but at least I have scanned the distant slopes in search of mountain sheep and watched a grizzly prowl along the gravel shoreline in search of food. I have seen the wild flowers and heard the rush of river current. Along with my research, those memories will have to do.

At the moment my dining room table is completely taken over by topographical maps as I attempt to trace the route his daughter took and decide where she would have gone astray. I will use these maps when I write the search scenes and when Green tries desperately to figure out where she has gone. It is wonderful fun to try to recreate the real wilderness from these lines and squiggles on the page, with the rapids, moraines and creek beds marked. The topographical maps even show the old mining roads and the trappers’ cabins left decades ago by explorers and prospectors who ventured and died in this stunning land.

I am at the beginning of my journey, so stay tuned as I give periodic updates on my progress. With any luck, by the end Faint Hope, Green’s latest adventure, will be born.

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 year.

Monday, August 13, 2012


And a good time was had by all!

I'll bet you're not surprised! Scene of the Crime 2012 is now passed and we're back to laundry and reality today. But what a great event it was!

I'd say each one of us in the Ladies' Killing Circle was just thrilled by the tributes, the care and feeding provided by the SOTC board and its amazing volunteers, the friendship of our fellow authors attending, and of course, the beautiful award.

Each year, a kaleidoscope is crafted by Wolfe Island stained glass artist Linda Sutherland and she's adept at creating an award that relates to the author. In our case, since our logo is six pen nibs, we each received a pen with nib and attached kaleidoscope. The carrying case was also made by Sutherland and has the award title, our own name and the LKC logo. Just beautiful, don't you think?

We truly do feel honoured.

It was also so great to meet the many attendees who love mysteries so much! And what fun to see colleagues in the audience. It also was a rare opportunity to spend time catching up with old friends and new ones, since all authors were in the same bed and breakfast, Dreamcatcher's. Yummy breakfasts and lovely rooms!

The other authors at the event -- those who had to do all the work with readings and panels -- were Thomas Rendell Curran (who can be seen these days swanning around Ottawa in 'Stride 1', his new car/toy with the license plate bearing his Newfoundland detective's name); Y.S. Lee, now known to us as Ying (who writes a killer Young Adult series set in Victorian England and a great read for adults, too); D.J. McIntosh or Dorothy as we like to call her (her first antiquities thriller, The Witch of Babylon, skyrocketed to acclaim); and, John Moss (author of the stylish Toronto police procedural series that was set on the Easter Islands last time out).

Did I mention we had fun?

So, thank you to everyone involved with Scene of the Crime -- Violette Malan and Vicki Delany in particular who, as president of the board and board member respectively, spear-headed such a fabulous event.

Now back to the laundry.....

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Friday, August 10, 2012


In a festive mood!

I'm heading out today, along with my cohorts from The Ladies' Killing Circle -- Joan Boswell, Vicki Cameron, Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, and Sue Pike -- for a weekend of celebrating Canadian crime.

If you haven't already heard (and I don't see how you could have missed it, we've been touting it for weeks now!), the LKC are being honoured with the Grant Allen Award on Saturday at the Scene of the Crime Mystery Festival on Wolfe Island. And, understandably, we're delighted.

We've been together almost 25 years now, as a critiquing group -- in fact our latest plotting is trying to come up with a place (something far away and dazzling) to celebrate. In 1994 we produced the first Ladies' Killing Circle anthology, self-named and thought of during a brain storming session by Audrey Jessup, our lovely, charming member who died in 2003. The intent of the anthology was to provide an opportunity for female Canadian mystery authors to be heard, and to gain that all-important writing credit. We were the editorial board, vetting the contributions and selecting an order for the stories in the book. Our publisher had the final say on what went in.

That's basically the way we carried on through the next six anthologies, refining our technique for choosing stories and enlarging the scope of submissions. This, after each one of us vowing 'never again', after experiencing the amount of time and effort that went into ending up with a final product.

But it was also a lot of fun...and the LKC knows how to have fun. Laughter abounds along with the hard work. And the pay-off for us was anthologies that consistently produced short-listed contenders for the Arthur Ellis Best Short Story Award from Crime Writers of Canada. We also had three winners -- not bad for seven anthologies!

That...and the realization that there are so many really good Canadian mystery authors who have gone on from their early starts with the LKC anthologies. Mission accomplished.

However, it's the friendship that counts the most. The Ladies' Killing Circle has grown into a close, supportive group which extends well beyond our writing pursuits. And, we're grateful for the friendship of the contributing authors...all worth the effort! If you'd like to meet them, visit the Ladies' Killing Circle Facebook page. Or join us on Wolfe Island on Saturday...many will be there celebrating along with us.

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


What I really like about book clubs are the lists. I belong to two clubs and I get lists for several more. These lists provide me with a jumping off point to decide what to read. I go online to look at the reviews and then download whichever one strikes my fancy.

Book clubs themselves vary as greatly as their members. Some are an excuse for a get-together with the members paying only perfunctory attention to the book. Others have each member choose a book, do appropriate research and lead the discussion. A third charge members to attend and hire an ‘expert’ to discuss the book.

I like the ones that provide refreshments but not all do.

Recently I checked out next year’s list for one of the ‘pay to hear the experts’ clubs and went through the list. At the moment I’m not keen on coming of age novels, maybe since it’s so long since I came of age so I relegated two to the ‘maybe some day’ pile.

Instead, I chose Penelope Lively’s, How It All Began, in which events hinge on the repercussions in many people’s lives when a mugger knocks over an elderly woman and she breaks her leg. Occasionally the narrator inserts her own comments on events as they evolve. I found these interjections jarring and somewhat pretentious as if she was really pointing out how clever she was to do this but the novel gallops along and the characters are so engaging this wasn’t very important. Besides, when you’re a prolific author nearing eighty with a Booker prize to your credit you’re entitled to indulge yourself.

The set-up was interesting. Writers all do this - place characters in situations where something will happen that will lead to something else. In mysteries it is a challenge to make the events believable so your reader willingly suspends disbelief and accepts your premise.

Coincidence may play a role but introduce it too often and your credibility will be at stake. And, of course, there’s the ‘smoking gun’ bit. You can’t throw in an exciting event or idea and then not deal with it at some point.

Once you’ve read a book it’s challenging to consider the way in which the author introduced the ideas or events that moved the plot along. Perhaps not as brazenly as Lively does but all authors have to do it. The most skilled writers do it seamlessly and make it seem natural. Lively’s book provides insights into the process and we could all learn something from her.

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.

Monday, August 6, 2012


One of Canada’s Five Most Intriguing Literary Festivals

So says Quill and Quire. They’re talking about Scene of the Crime Mystery Lovers Festival held every August on Wolfe Island, Ontario.

Eleven years ago, when writers Violette Malan and Therese Greenwood began talking about putting on a festival, they had no trouble deciding the venue: Wolfe Island, childhood home of Canada’s first crime writer, Grant Allen. What better place to celebrate the depth and complexity of Canadian crime writing.

And that is what the Festival is all about: Canadian crime writing.

Each year, the board selects one author to receive the prestigious Grant Allen award for Contributions to Canadian Crime Writing. Past recipients have included Peter Robinson, Gail Bowen, William Deverell, Joy Fielding, Maureen Jennings, among others. In addition to the GA honouree, four writers are invited as author guests. The board attempts to choose a combination of sub-genres and both authors with an established body of work and those just starting out who we think show potential for a promising career. The selection committee does not accept suggestions for guests from authors, agents, or publishers. We choose based on books we’ve read; authors we’ve met; authors we’ve heard good things about.

However, the Festival is much more than books and authors. It is also about place. Wolfe Island is the perfect venue for a small intimate festival. There is a free ferry from Kingston, Ontario and from Cape St. Vincent, N.Y. All events are held in
easy walking distance of the Kingston ferry dock. The numbers are kept small by necessity as everything is held in Church halls or sanctuaries, thus there is a feel of intimacy that you don’t get at big conventions in hotels. Have a question for your favourite mystery author? Go ahead, come up and say “hi”. If you want, sit with them at lunch or supper or have a chat under the big trees on the church lawn or by the historic cemetery.

Did I mention the food? We kick the day off at ten with a meet and greet coffee and muffin breakfast, then the United Church puts on a delicious cold meat and salads lunch – and real Church Lady pie! Our famous traditional Church supper wraps up things at the Anglican Church in time for everyone to get the 6:30 ferry back to Kingston, or maybe linger a bit longer over a glass of wine at the Island Grill.

If you’re an aspiring writer, come out earlier for the optional workshop that begins at 9 o’clock. You’ll miss the meet and greet, but still have coffee and muffins at the workshop and all the rest of the day to enjoy the events and meet the authors.

This year’s celebration is on August 11th. We have not one, but six, Grant Allen Award Winners, the much-loved Ladies Killing Circle, and the guest authors are young adult author Y.S. Lee, thriller writer D.J. McIntosh, historical author Thomas Rendell Curran, and mystery writer John Moss. The optional workshop (for which an extra charge applies) is titled: Chapter One, Page One: How to get your crime novel off to a great start.

It’s the best deal in town: Free transportation (via Ferry), three meals, and a full day of author panels, readings, presentations and just plain fun.

There are still tickets available at We accept PayPal.

See you on the island!

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Her popular Constable Molly Smith series from Poisoned Pen Press have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She writes a light-hearted historical series set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush, published by Dundurn. She is also the author of a novel for reluctant readers, titled A Winter Kill, part of the Rapid Reads series. As well, she writes standalone novels of modern gothic suspense. Her latest, More than Sorrow, will be released in September, 2012.
Visit Vicki at ,, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (

Friday, August 3, 2012


A little bit of self-indulgence...

Hope you'll excuse a little bit of self-indulgence this a.m. Okay, I'm always self-indulgent when it comes to this blog. I write what I choose. But today, it's even more-so.

Three and a bit years ago, I closed Prime Crime Books in the Glebe. There were no serious buyers on the horizon -- well, there was one but that didn't work out -- and I felt it was time to move on, for many reasons. At first I mainly missed the customers. Many had become friends and I looked forward to their regular visits. Next, I missed ordering the books. What fun it used to be, perusing the catalogues, talking to the sales reps, and in particular, unpacking the boxes when the orders arrived. It was like Christmas several times a week!

But my book contract came along and I dove into it, re-surfacing for such things as choir tours, conferences, and in particular, my son's wedding! It's when the first book, A Killer Read, came out and I started doing signings in bookstores that the first pangs hit. I really missed being in a bookstore! I missed the customers and I missed being surrounded by all those books.

Then along came Ted Britton at Britton's in the Glebe. It's basically a magazine and cigar store and has been in the Glebe as long as I can remember. Ted's a friendly guy and a fixture in the Glebe. He has his finger on the pulse of the community and knows so many of the locals by name. He started hearing that some of his customers really missed Prime Crime Books. I'd been hearing the same thing, every time I'd run into a familiar Glebe face. So, Ted got to thinking, perhaps he should increase his small section of books to include more mysteries. Eventually, this idea translated into quite a leap of faith for Ted Britton.

The Prime Crime Bookshelf is now a reality in Britton's at 846 Bank Street. It's a wall space of about 12 feet, with a mixture of some of the thrillers he's been carrying and new stock that I've been 'ordering'. Yes, I'm now part of the Britton's adventure and will be in the store every Saturday, noon - 4 p.m., except when I'm traveling (like Aug. 11th to the Scene of the Crime Festival).

We'll be adding author events as things really get rolling.

Our focus will be on Canadian mystery authors, particularly local Ottawans. But of course, we'll carry some Brits and Americans, and some prime international names, too! The space dictates the number of authors and titles but I'm hoping we'll be able to give a good representation of what's happening in the mystery/crime field. It's also an evolving space and I'll adjust authors according to what's selling best and also, what you tell me you'd like to see on the shelves.

So, please stop by and see what's happening; send me an email if you'd like to add your suggestions or a special order, to

Wishing you loads of mysterious reading!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Telling our stories

On Monday we waved goodbye for another year to old friends from Virginia. Tinka and I worked together at a resort at Chaffey's Lock on the Rideau Lakes when we were sixteen. After that, although we went to different high schools in Toronto we managed to get together often and we even saw one another fairly frequently during university days although she went to school in the states and I was at Queen's. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding.

We lost touch for a while in the sixties. Our paths were too divergent. I was having babies and she was having a career in publishing, first in Toronto and then in New York. We found our way back together when she married and moved to a charming old farmhouse in upstate New York.

Now we try to get together at least once a year for a week or so at our cottage, which is just across the lake from where we first met and worked. We talk. Our husbands do helpful things while we talk. They hammer nails into boards and walk our various dogs. They open the wine and roast things on the barbecue while we talk.

We talk about writing. Tinka has a story in the Ladies' Killing Circle's Bone Dance and another one in Locked Up (under her pen name of Kathryn Finn) and she's about to publish her first historical novel, The Juliana Chronicles, about Juliana Berner, who lived in the fourteenth century and is thought to be the first woman ever published.

Lately however, our talk has often been about aging, and our memories. When you're in your seventies you have a lot of memories stored away and it's good to bring them out and give them a little air every once in a while. We don't always remember events that happened fifty years ago in the same way. I have a clear recollection of something that occurred while we were swimming at Chaffey's Lock but she assures me it never happened. She remembers something that happened to me that I'm pretty sure is a figment of her imagination.

This year Tinka brought me a book called THIS is Getting Old, by Susan Moon.There are a number of things about this book that resonate with me but one notion in particular jumped off the page – that we have a responsibility to remember our pasts and to hand them on. This might be in the form of memoirs or stories or simply orally, but we have a duty to tell our stories. If we don't, they will be lost and that would be a loss for humanity. And if we don't tell them, who will?

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 appeared 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.