Monday, December 30, 2013

CRIME O N MY MIND

HAPPY NEW WRITING YEAR!



This is the week we say goodbye to the old year and hello to another year of what I hope will be a successful writing year for you. Looking back, I'd say it's been a pretty amazing year for Canadian mystery authors, which will be very apparent when the Arthur Ellis Awards from Crime Writers of Canada roll around.

I feel blessed to have be a part of this scene and also want to thanks so many of you for providing me with hours and hours of wonderful reading. Hopefully, many of you received some new Canadian mystery reads under the tree this Christmas.

I'm taking yet another week off but will jump right into this writing life next week, working on a new book and also, a new blog. Another review. Finally, you might say.

So, best wishes for a New Year filled with much happiness, many delights, and mucho sales!


MMC

Saturday, December 21, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Wishing you a Merry Mystery!



I can't believe it's that time of year already but what a perfect day to be writing this blog. It's snowing (again!) and I'm not setting foot out this door. I decided not to post the usual mystery review but instead, go for a holiday greeting.

It's been a very busy year in mystery land and I want to thank everyone from the readers of my series to the readers of this blogsite and most especially, to all the wonderful colleagues who write such marvelous mystery and crime books. Everyone has been so eager to contribute to Mystery Maven Canada and all are helping to spread the word.

I know the word is out -- that Canadian mystery writers are a truly criminous group and their books are great reads!

So, to all of you amazing people, my very best wishes for a wonderful holiday season, whatever you may call it. For me it's, Merry Christmas! Here's hoping it will be a season of many delights.

Linda/Erika

Friday, December 13, 2013

SCHMOOZING WITH VICTORIA ABBOTT!




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

From MJ: Three big influences: first, my writing group, now the Ladies Killing Circle. From them I learned that you have to take advice and fix your work. Second, the authors I enjoyed reading, specifically those who wrote mysteries with humour. They taught me that it could be done and done with style. Third, Sue Grafton, who once gave a very inspiring talk to unpublished writers. She said many things, but she told us how long it took her to get published and how she kept at it although it took seven years for her to sell her first book!  As I’d been writing for seven years, this was welcome news.

From Victoria:  MJ is definitely my biggest influence, everything she has learned on her own journey, she passed on to me, patiently, I might add.  My second biggest influence would have to be Janet Evanovich and her way of creating deliciously flawed characters.

2. What are you working on now?

We are working on The Wolfe Widow, the third in the book collector mystery series. The Rex Stout books and the wonderful characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin will work their way into the story. Sure is fun to reread all these classics for research. These are books that stand the test of time.


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

From Vic:  I would happily wander the isles of a Flea Market any day of the week, just like Jordan. I’m a vintage fashion lover.  The thrill of finding something great is something Jordan and I could bond over definitely.

From MJ: I think I’d love to have Jordan’s job, maybe not her boss though. Like Jordan, I enjoy the lure of the Golden Age of Detection. Good thing, because we are rereading them all.

For the record, neither Victoria nor I own a set of lock picks.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?  

We are fascinated by characters and probably read for character too.  However, we value plot and work hard to make sure that works. But if the characters don’t ‘sing’, for us there’s no music in the book.


5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?   

We’re very pansty, but we know we should be more plotsy.  With two people writing a book, it’s extremely hard to keep it together if you don’t both see it going in the same direction. In fact, sometimes … but that’s a story for another day.


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


That there is much joy in the classics of the mystery tradition and that the relationships with family and friends are actually the most interesting part of a book. And finally, that humour is always worthwhile.


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

Besides having more naps?  Well, MJ would like to try her hand at a play and a PI novel and has a few books left in her other series that need to be written. Vic would love to keep on painting the night away but wouldn’t mind dabbling in a screen play or novel of her own.


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

Vic watches Coronation Street...don’t judge her!
MJ thinks that with all this social media, people know she knits, loves dogs and reads in bed.


9. What do you like to read for pleasure?


Oddly enough, mysteries. We read a lot of them!  We like all types of mysteries from those dark Scandinavians to funny cozies. We read tons of Canadians and, of course, we love all our friends’ books. We have to be careful not to read books that will influence our current project too much.  

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet.
Stolen Sayers first editions, a body in the backyard, romance in the air: Jordan Bingham seeks answers and finds danger. Do you smell fire?


That shadowy figure known as Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between the always very funny and creative artist, photographer and short story author, Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories. Their first book in the series, The Christie Curse, has received excellent reviews and the second, The Sayers Swindle, will hit the shelves in December 2013. They are hard at work on the third installment: The Wolfe Widow (September 2014) and haven’t killed each other yet.
You can keep up with their characters on the thirtieth of the month over at www.killercharacters.com and their culinary adventures at www.mysteryloverskitchen.com or by signing up for their newsletter at www.victoria-abbott.com or www.maryjanemaffini.com

Friday, December 6, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

LONG GONE MAN
by Phyllis Smallman
Touch Wood Editions




This is something new for Phyllis Smallman. A gripping mystery that's not part of the Sherri Travis series. For one thing, Long Gone Man has moved from one hot sunny vacation spot to the area sometimes aptly called, the Caribbean of Canada, the B.C. coast. Although, we're not really on the coast but rather on an island,Glenphiddie it's called, possibly part of the beautiful Gulf Islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island. She knows this area well because it's her home, half of the year.

Enough for the geography. What really stands out is the main character, the singer as she's referred to at first. But we know it's a Singer Brown Mystery, so that's her name. We know little about her to begin with, except that she has a past and that's what's driving her to a confrontation and her future. Early on, after a heart-stopping near-plunge over a steep embankment on a foggy night, the singer finds her way to a cabin and finds a woman with a gun and a dead body. Johnny Vibes, the man she'd come for; her goal, revenge.

From there the story unfolds, a tale of a rock band from the seventies when she was, for a short time, the lead singer for the group. The story is sad but explains how Singer's life degenerated into that of a stalker, someone always on the move, and even for a while, an addict. When the remains of a young man who'd been shot decades ago out on a Nevada desert are uncovered, Singer pursues the members of the band, who now all live within walking distance of each other on this island. She's searching for the truth and something that was stolen so long ago. Everyone had a motive for this new murder and Singer is certain it's tied into the old one.

It's a riveting tale of betrayal, greed, and jealousy. What better ingredients for a murder?

Smallman writes strong women and she writes them really well. Sherri Travis, whom we've gotten to know and root for over five novels, is such a woman. And Singer Brown is someone to be reckoned with. She's determined and daring, not always a good thing, but she's also clever and that's what takes this past a gothic sensibility. Because many times I had the urge to call out to Singer, telling her to back off and lie low. Just shows that I was really drawn into the story. It's no wonder. Smallman is an award-winning writer and one worth reading.

Friday, November 29, 2013

SCHMOOZING WITH CATHY ACE


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


This has to be a combination of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, with a bit of Sue Grafton thrown in for good measure.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m currently plotting and researching Cait Morgan Mystery #5, which I am due to send to my publisher mid-February 2014, for publication (I hope) in the spring of 2015. Her third mystery, The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb will be published in the spring of 2014, and her fourth, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair, in the fall of 2014.

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


Oh heck – I have to be careful here! Cait Morgan is very much like me in some ways, but very different in others. She was born a few years later than I was, but I’ve given her my general upbringing and career – up to a point. She’s also similar to me in terms of likes and dislikes when it comes to food and drink, so we share a body type and similar issues with weight and will-power! But I’ve given Cait talents and traits I do not possess, which help her to solve the complex puzzles she encounters. I’m delighted to say that I tend not to trip over corpses when I travel, but I think it’s essential that Cait continues to do so. One thing I decided to make a big difference for Cait is that she lost her parents in a motor vehicle accident – she keeps their ashes in matching urns on her mantelpiece. Because my Mum is the first person to read anything I write, I wanted her to be very clear that anything I write about Cait’s feelings toward her parents is not what I feel about mine!

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

The plot is paramount, but my characters have to act within the parameters of what they would, or wouldn’t “really” do, in the circumstances I set up for them. As such, while the plot might kick-start the problems, the way that characters react to the situations in which they find themselves can sometimes compound the initial problems, on the way to discovering the final solution, of course.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?


Plotter! I’m a very detailed plotter, note-maker and planner. I enjoy plots where there are twists and turns, and that sort of thing really doesn’t work well if you don’t plan ahead. I also make copious notes about the entire life stories of all my characters – the main ones who live from book to book, of course, but also those who appear in only one book. For me, these are living, breathing people, so knowing where they went to school, what sort of a home they live in, how they live their lives, is vital for me, before I start to put them onto the page. These back-stories don’t often end up on the page, in their entirety, but it helps me, as a writer, to really know them. I often find myself telling myself “so-and-so wouldn’t say or do that” so I feel this insight helps me keep characters true to themselves.

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


A feeling that they’ve enjoyed spending time with Cait Morgan. That maybe they’ve learned a little something about a certain bit of history, or art, or geography, and had fun doing it. That they found the characters they met, and the places they visited, to be interesting. That the total, ultimate solution to the puzzle/s are satisfying. Overall, I hope they have fun…and I hope they see my books as an absorbing, gratifying entertainment.

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

The real answer is that I hope I sell enough books that I still AM a writer in ten years’ time, and that, if I keep writing for that period, I keep getting better and better. There’s always room for improvement and as I write I learn…I hope to have the chance to keep learning. If people are still enjoying spending time with Cait Morgan in ten years’ time, I would hope that by then my husband would have retired and we’d be able to spend more time together. If that means we can travel as a couple while I research books, and meet readers, that would be the perfect life!

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


I always eat and drink everything Cait Morgan does just so I can be sure I describe it properly. It’s fun, and sometimes a challenge!

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I still return to my Agatha Christie collection, like an old pair of slippers, when I want some comfort reading. PD James is the perfect companion on holiday, because of the pace of her work, as is anything by Colin Dexter. Louise Penny, Linwood Barclay, Erika Chase, Alan Bradley and Peter Robinson are five fabulous Canadian authors, writing today, whose work, between them, meets any mood that I’m in. Ian Rankin, Tamar Myers, Sue Grafton, Katherine Hall Page, Rhys Bowen, Andrew Pyper, Lynda La Plante – all are on my bookshelves, along with works by the late Reginald Hill, Tony Hillerman, Robert B Parker and Elmore Leonard. Tolkien, Goethe, Mann, Zola, Austen, Camus, Sartre, Pinter, Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer – these are some of the authors whose works are on my shelves, and who I think of as old friends I am happy to visit when I can.

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


THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE (published March 2013):

Eccentric Welsh Canadian foodie criminologist Cait Morgan tackles a complex, closed circle mystery at a gourmet event in BC’s wine country.


Friday, November 22, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW - SHOOT THE DOG

SHOOT THE DOG
by Brad Smith
Scribner

Okay, full disclosure right at the start. I'm a huge Brad Smith fan. I've thoroughly enjoyed every one of his books from the comic noir stand-alones to the recent Virgil Cain series. So, don't be surprised if I state I really enjoyed Shoot the Dog, the third Cain novel.

So, why review it? Because you never know. Not everyone has a winner every time. But Shoot the Dog didn't let me down. It's the same laid back guy with his own code for living and that includes his view of justice. He's still occasional bedmate of police investigator Claire Marchand, the woman who first arrested him in Run Red Run, the first book in the series. Yes, he's been in and out of jail. The out part is what counts. Because Cain, former ball player turned farmer, is one of the good guys who just seems to fall into bad situations and he takes it on the chin, knowing that good trumps evil.

This time, Cain finds himself in the middle of a feature-length movie being filmed in the area. His two Percherons have been hired to use in the western, and Cain is also on the payroll as their handler. When the female lead is murdered, Cain tries hard to just carry on with his work but of course, he's eventually pulled into the fray when he tries to help a young actor who looks lonely and lost. If you've ever wanted to hang around a movie set, this is your opportunity.

This time out, there's not too much chance Cain will end up in jail, although past antagonisms with one of Claire's co-workers always hover. It's Claire who takes the lead and we follow along with her investigation, as seen through her eyes. This is one of Brad Smith's talents -- multiple viewpoint characters, a technique that in many writers' hands can lead to confusion or dissatisfaction for the reader. Smith handles it effortlessly and what the reader gets is a fully-rounded story with well-developed people and multiple motives for everything from jobs to murder.

His writing is clean and detailed, peppered with information that may appear to be extraneous but really adds value to the characters, setting, and plot. He knows about details -- which ones to put in and which one's to leave out. It's a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to hone their writing skills. And besides that, it an enjoyable read with a satisfying mystery.

Friday, November 15, 2013

SCHMOOZING WITH RICK BLECHTA



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


That’s sort of a tough one. If you mean for crime writing, I’d have to say there are three: Dick Francis for how he handled the horse racing backgrounds in his novels. I always felt there were just enough interesting informational tidbits as well as a clever way of working the racing background into the plot of the story. Even though the main character became pretty repetitious after awhile, Francis books are a good, fun read.

For dialogue, hand’s down, it has to be Rex Stout. He was such a deft hand at it, you seldom noticed how much information he was feeding you, not just with the words, but also with the actions and reactions of those speaking. There’s a lot to learn about good writing from reading Nero Wolfe.

Among current writers, I would have to say I really admire the way Michael Connelly and Val McDermid put their books together. They make very few missteps in plotting and can paint a pretty amazing picture with just a few, very spare phrases.

2. What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a full-length novel for Dundurn which happens to be a sequel to my previous publication with them. This is called Roses for a Diva and even though it was a very difficult and time-consuming job, I really enjoyed it and am quite happy the way it all turned out. Roses will be released sometime late next year – at least, that’s what I’ve been told. Readers will like it (I hope) because this time the story travels to Italy for much of the book.

Also out next spring will be a new Rapid Reads novella titled The Boom Room. This is another Pratt and Ellis story and concerns a murder at a nightclub. I enjoy writing these stripped-down works a great deal. I think it improves my prose-writing in general since you have to say just as much with a greatly reduced palette.

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


Since I don’t have a main protagonist that travels from book to book (except for this current one), there are only so many generalities about their personalities that they might share with me. My characters don’t give up easily, very much like me, and while they may be occasionally unsure of themselves, they know how to think things through. Some of them also have a rather ironic view of the world, which I definitely do. I do wish I had the amazing musical talents a few of them possess! In which case, I probably wouldn’t be writing novels…

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?


I’d have to say both. I have to really be engaged with the characters in my novels, the good as well as the bad, in order to write each one. They usually have some sort of flaw they have to overcome during the story (or not, if they’re a baddy), but I also feel the plot needs to be strong and compelling in order for the book to be ultimately successful for readers. So let’s put it this way: I like to explore my characters, but I don’t want that to get in the way of telling the basic story. Since not a few of my novels are whydunits rather than whodunits, the plot can be especially important. Above all, everything has to be believable. I’ve occasionally been told (by reviewers as well as readers) that my characters are very much like most people they know, but I take that as a compliment. How many really outré people does the average person know?

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?


Lately, I’ve been told by both my publishers that they want at least a detailed plot outline, if not a chapter-by-chapter summary. Because they require it, I do it, but I can’t say I like it. It does help sort things out for plot requirements, but once I send it in, I generally never look at it again while I’m writing the story. If I were to follow things off my summary, I would certainly be more apt to miss those interesting and exciting plot twists you come up against along the way. For instance, with The Boom Room, I got to the final chapter and realized the wrong person did it! If I’d followed my chapter outline, the storyline wouldn’t have changed enough to allow that to happen. As a sidebar, when you work this way it’s very interesting to finish a novel, then look at your long-forgotten summary and see how well you did at following it. To sum up, I would much rather work through my plots without the aid of too much forethought.

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

A sense of enjoyment, certainly, but since I write about music and try to do it authoritatively, I would hope they might enjoy the insights into how music is made, both internally and externally, since to many, being a musician or involved in the music biz is something mysterious and arcane. Foremost in my mind as I write is in producint “a good story, well-told” to quote one of my publishers.

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

I would like to not have to rely on a day gig to earn my living. I work best when I can concentrate totally on writing. Currently, that only happens on vacations or if I don’t have any graphic design work on my desk. And I sure hope that happens sooner than in ten years!

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


Probably that I can be very unsure of myself at times. I have learned how to think my way out of tight corners, but sometimes I’m very much up against it. They might also be shocked to find out that when I write I always wear a pirate costume – complete with eye patch and a live parrot on my shoulder. Just kidding…

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Anything that strikes my fancy. My wife and I both love looking at maps (we have a large number of British Landranger maps for instance), and I often read history. We have amassed over 150 cookbooks. I read one or two biographies every year – usually about musicians. I wish I had more time to read, actually, since it is one of life’s great pleasures. If I have a novel on the go, it’s extremely hard for me to feel anything but guilt that I’m reading instead of working on it.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet (140 characters or fewer).

Operatic soprano Marta Hendriks is being stalked as she travels the globe. Is it just an over-enthusiastic fan – or something more sinister?


Rick Blechta is a musician as well as a writer of crime fiction. He has successfully melded the two in his critically-acclaimed thrillers. His 9th and 10th novels are scheduled to be published in 2014. First, another novella for Orca Book Publisher’s Rapid Reads imprint will be released in spring. Next fall will see Dundurn publishing his full-length novel, Roses for a Diva, the sequel to his very popular The Fallen One.

Rick posts every Tuesday on the long-running Type M for Murder blog (http://typem4murder.blogspot.com) and you can visit his website at http://rickblechta.com.

Catch Rick playing trumpet with The Advocats Big Band on the first Monday of every month at Seven44 Restaurant and Lounge, located just south of Eglinton on Mount Pleasant in Toronto.

Friday, November 8, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

INSINUENDO: Murder in the Museum
by Miriam Clavir
Bayeux Arts, Inc



Miriam Clavir's first mystery novel has all the right ingredients: a determined middle-aged (that really appeals to many of us) female heroine, a museum with all the attendant inside info on its workings; and a terrific setting, the UBC campus in Vancouver, B.C. It also has an intriguing death that may or may not be murder.

For Berry Cates, almost a fully-accredited art conservator, the internship at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is an ideal job and she's hoping to make it permanent. Recently divorced and graying, she desperately wants to make the most of this new beginning to her life. However, when a visiting art dealer and expert in antiquities drops dead and what was first thought to be a heart attack starts looking more like murder, Berry finds herself dragged into a new role as sleuth.

For starters, her supervisor, Reiko looks like a prime suspect and Berry's worried that without Reiko, she's without a job and her much needed credits. But what Berry finds is much more than she's bargained for. It seems Foley also had a reputation for some shading dealings in the art world. And long-time friendships may mask a deeper sinister bond. Not trusting anyone she's working with, Berry follows the leads to bogus statues and revenge. Bruised and disillusioned, Berry eventually tracks down the killer but at what cost?
Clavir has created a gutsy, witty mature female sleuth who doesn't back off. Hopefully, Berry Cates will be returning. This novel will really appeal to anyone with a fascination for the behind-the-scenes workings at a museum, from the nitty-gritty of art conservation to the politics of self-preservation in a museum environment. Miriam Clavir's own background shows in the amount of background information she deftly weaves into the tale. By the way, the MOA on the UBC campus is a real site; the murder is fictitious.

Friday, November 1, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Busy month ahead!

If you haven't heard about my latest blogspot woes, this time I've not been able to post my usual Events column. I must admit, I have only so much patience when it comes to anything electronic. Maybe one day, when my frustration is a dim memory, I'll try again. In the interim, I thought I'd use today's blog to highlight some of the book events coming up in November. There are a lot more happening in this city, Ottawa being a city that's brimming with mystery writers, however these are the signings that I know.


Sat. Nov. 9 -- Erika Chase signs her latest, COVER STORY at Books on Beechwood, 35 Beechwood Ave., 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Mike Martin signs his second mystery, THE BODY ON THE T at Brittons, 846 Bank St., 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sat. Nov. 16 -- Erika Chase signs COVER STORY at Perfect Books, 258 Elgin St., 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sun. Nov. 17 -- Sandra Nikolai signs her second book, FATAL WHISPERS at Brittons in the Glebe, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sat. Nov. 23 -- Barbara Fradkin signs her latest, THE WHISPER OF LEGENDS at Brittons in the Glebe, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sat. Nov. 30 -- Vicki Delany signs her newest mystery, A COLD WHITE SUN at Brittons in the Glebe, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.



For a more complete list of book events happening across the country in November, I suggest you visit the Crime Writers of Canada website, always a good place to keep on top of mysterious happenings! www.crimewriterscanada.com

Friday, October 25, 2013

SCHMOOZING WITH PHYLLIS SMALLMAN



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


Agatha Christie has always been my ideal of the perfect mystery writer. She leads you down a path that you're totally committed to, only to finds that it goes nowhere. I've looked at her books again and again to see how she does it. She sets the stage, creates tension, and delivers death with a minimum of words and description. My latest book, Long Gone Man, is really a salute to Christie. The opening was inspired by a Christie play. A car goes off the road in a fog. The driver goes to the nearest house and knocks on the door and it’s opened by a woman with a gun in her hand. On the floor behind her is a body. The woman says, “Come in.” The book ends with all the characters in sitting in one room for the unmasking of the murderer.

2. What are you working on now?


I've just signed a contract for my 6th Sherri Travis novel, which will be out in the fall of 2014. While I'm waiting for the final edit on Martini, I'm working on the second Singer Brown novel. Singer finds the diary of a teenage girl and the next day, before she can return the diary, she learns the girl has been murdered.

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

I always feel if the protagonist is like his or her creator than so is the worst character in the book. Do we want to hold our hands up to that as well? Maybe Sherri Travis is the woman I'd like to be, young, a scratch golfer and fearless...well most of the time.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

I don't feel that character and plot can be separated. The plot evolves out of the characters and their interaction. The same plot, with different characters, would create a different story.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Both, I start out with a plan and never stick to it. Somewhere along the way dark forces take over and lead me astray. At that point I need to trust that somehow I'll get back on track and it will all work out. It's a little bit like following a recipe where you accidently put in the wrong spice, cloves instead of cinnamon. Like storylines, the best dishes are the ones you play with and tweak.

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


This is an interesting question and one I've been thinking about a lot lately. Initially I just wrote without thinking about what people take away from these stories. Now I realize that there is a reoccurring theme in them, something that has a lot to do with the way I view the world. Friendship and survival are at the heart of every book. Surviving the evil that life throws at them, Sherri and Singer get by with a little help from their friends. Isn't that something we all need?

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


Well, if I'm very very lucky, I'll still be sitting here in front of my computer -except I'll be older. I’ll be very, very, old. I have three books outlined and I would like to finish those. Beyond that I can’t begin to guess. The truth is, I have more story ideas than I will ever be able to use.

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


Nothing! Pretty much what you see is what you get, except maybe I'm not as brash inside as I am outside.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I read mysteries. I only dip into literary fiction for my book club. Most of the time it just frustrates me, much ado about nothing, and I want to yell, "When is something going to happen?" I dip into a lot of books I don’t finish. In fact, I probably only fully read about one in five of the books I pick up. The ones that I put aside are the ones where I start editing, tweaking the plot in my head, and redrawing characters. Writing changes the way you read and makes you far more critical.

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



Singer Brown arrives on Glenphiddie Island to kill a man. Someone has already done the job. Now the murderer is coming after Singer.



Phyllis Smallman’s first novel, Margarita Nights, won the inaugural Unhanged Author award from the Crime Writers of Canada. Her work has appeared in both Spinetingler Magazine and Omni Mystery Magazine and she has received two awards for her short stories. The Florida Writer’s Association shortlisted Champagne for Buzzards as the best Florida book for 2012. Long Gone Man is her 6th book.

Friday, October 18, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

MY SISTER'S KEEPER
by Brenda Chapman
Grass Roots Press

THE HARD FALL
by Brenda Chapman
Grass Roots Press




Ottawa mystery writer Brenda Chapman has launched a new series, one of the first with Grass Roots Press, an Alberta publisher that is looking at the growing "reluctant reader" market. The first two in the Anna Sweet series, My Sister's Keep and The Hard Fall, were released earlier this month and the appeal of this series goes well beyond its intended market.

Anna Sweet is a former Ottawa police officer who returns to her hometown when her sister's life is threatened in My Sister's Keeper. She comes bearing baggage -- five years of moving around the US, working in bars and waitressing, outrunning her past which includes being jilted by her lover who turned to her sister, and killing a teen in the line of duty. She's at outs with her family but still, when family calls, Sweet answers. No one believes her sister is at risk. Until Sweet takes on a killer.

In The Hard Fall, Sweet has stayed in Ottawa to take care of her sick father, and joined a new PI firm. The case is a tough one -- a high profile married business tycoon, one of the movers and shakers in town, accused of murdering his mistress. Only his wife believes he's innocent until Sweet starts nosing around but even she is surprised by where her investigations lead. Her own life in danger, Sweet sets a trap that could be her last.


These novellas are the perfect length for that wait at the dentist's office, that short plane ride or just a time when you don't want to commit to an entire evening of reading. Fast paced and gripping, well-drawn characters, and dialogue that says volumes, the Anna Sweet series will also be a hit with those of us already committed to reading. Brenda Chapman has perfected the skill of saying a lot with a few words. Don't let the size of these books nor their designation stop you from reading them. You'll find a satisfying read awaiting.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How Close is Too Close to Home?
By Melodie Campbell




It all closed in on me at the launch of The Goddaughter mob caper in Hamilton. Eighty-five people stood waiting.

The local television station had cameras in my face. So far, it had been an easy interview focused on my awards and comedy career. The fellow was charming. I liked him a lot. Then he dropped the bomb.

“So…have you ever met a member of the mob?”

I didn’t like him so much anymore.

Yikes! Hesitation. A lot of feet shuffling.

“Yes.” I said, very precisely. So precisely, that everyone in the room laughed nervously. “In fact, I had to wait until certain members of my family died before getting this book published. ‘Nuf said.”

The ‘nuf said’ was the closure. He got it. Being a smart lad, he even let it drop.
But it made me think about how close you want to get in a book to real life.

As writers, we research a hell of a lot. Of course, I did research for The Goddaughter series. Some of the study was pretty close to home, as I riffed on memories from my childhood. But I write comedies, so perhaps the expectations aren’t as great for me to be entirely accurate. Good thing about that.

In the screwball comedy The Goddaughter's Revenge, I am not very close to real life. Gina must get back fake rings from some of her best clients. So she masterminds a bunch of burglaries that go…well…wrong. It’s great fun, and rather innocent on the grand scale of criminal activities.

But I do cut pretty close to the wire in describing Hamilton. The streets are real. The names of the neighbourhoods are real. I even describe the location of the restaurant where the mob (in my books) hangs out. I changed the name, of course, because the last thing I want is readers thinking this hot resto is really a mob hangout. And besides, it’s fun when fans email me to say, “When they all meet at La Paloma, did you really mean XXX?” Readers feel they’ve been part of an in-joke.

How close is too close? Here’s what I’ve learned. You never want to offend anyone by:
1. Using real names of mobsters past or present. They have ways of finding you. Even the dead ones. We are Sicilian, after all.
or
2. Using a street number that is real and can be tracked down. Especially if you are describing a call girl establishment. Believe me, this is not cool. Mrs. Harmon hated it. Mrs. Murphy, on the other hand…but I digress.

So in The Goddaughter's Revenge, I want you to feel Hamilton. To smell the smoke of Steeltown and experience the ambiance of a post-industrial city in decline. Like parts of New Jersey, The Hammer is rife with delightfully quirky areas that lend themselves perfectly to a mob caper.

I love this city with character. And I hope that comes through in The Goddaughter's Revenge.


Melodie Campbell has over 200 publications and was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer, and both the 2012 and 2013 Arthur Ellis awards. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.
Library Journal says this about Melodie`s third novel, The Goddaughter (Orca Books):
``Campbell`s crime caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans. Wacky family connections and snappy dialogue make it impossible not to laugh.``

THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/kmgjgsf
THE GODDAUGHTER on Amazon http://ow.ly/dnObH
Follow Melodie’s comic blog at www.melodiecampbell.com




Friday, October 4, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Many legacies in crime.



I was guest speaker at a seniors' centre function the other day and someone asked me about Patricia Highsmith. Now there's a name from the past but she's regained new fame with the recent re-releases of her Ripley series, long after her death. I guess that's the thing about solid writing, it may dated but it's never out-of-date. New readers may be found and old flames ignited. Certainly the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers are still widely-read and acquiring new, younger audiences each year.

There are several Canadian mystery writers we haven't heard from for years. Eric Wright, although I understand he is still writing, and Howard Engel come to mind first off. How about Medora Sale, Lyn Hamilton, Ted Wood and Alison Gordon? Then, searching back further there was L.R. Wright, Scott Young, Ross Macdonald, and Margaret Millar to name but a few. They all certainly left their marks on the Canadian scene as well as a much wider mystery reading arena, too. And we all, writers and readers, are indebted to them.

Who comes to mind when recalling mystery authors from the past?

On another note, I'm having great difficulty with Blogger these days as it won't allow me to insert the Events feature in the sidebar. I know, it's probably me not finding the right keystroke or something. Anything, until I get on top of it, I'll mention upcoming events at the bottom of each new blog. And by the way, next Friday there's a guest blog by Melodie Campbell. You won't want to miss it!


EVENTS:

Sat. Oct. 5, 1-3 p.m. BRENDA CHAPMAN signs her two new mystery novellas at Brittons in the Glebe, 846 Bank St.




Friday, September 27, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Nothing like a new cover!


Today I'm taking some time for a little self-indulgence. Some space, too.

I've discovered that the next best thing to receiving a box of author comp copies of your new book is that first peek at the cover of your latest offering. Yesterday was such a day. And it's so good to have those types of days when you're slogging towards a deadline.

I've been so fortunate in having an artistic team assigned by Berkley Prime Crime to create each cover. They get it. They have a true sense of the books and this shows every time. All they need from me is a brief description of the plot and my own suggestions for a cover. They don't always follow my suggestions entirely -- sometimes the sales department has its say as to what will work. But with each cover, I've never been disappointed and I can usually find at least a grain of my original idea in the finished product. Most time, more like the entire kernel.

That's the wonder of this business. Sometimes an author hits it right with a publishing team that is open to input, even welcomes it, and is charmingly easy to work with. In those cases, it makes it easier to accept suggested changes made by the editorial team.
And, if the author is really lucky, the publisher gets behind his or her promotional attempts, lending support in many different forms.

Writing is not for sissies, someone once said. How true; it's hard work. But the payoffs are amazing (and I don't mean the royalties kind).

So, please allow me to present the cover of book #4 in the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries, by Erika Chase, that will appear next fall.



Friday, September 20, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

THE BODY ON THE T
by Mike Martin
Baico Publishing


Reviewed by Carole Dalgleish


This is the second book in a good “down home” series set in Newfoundland, with characters you'd enjoy spending time with in real life. You'd also learn to cook – the descriptions of the Newfoundland cuisine had my mouth watering throughout the story.

RCMP Sergeant Winston Windflower is a Cree from Northern Alberta, who has lived in Grand Bank, Newfoundland for three years. He doesn't want to leave. He has a girlfriend, Sheila Hillier, and has gained the respect and acceptance of the locals – most of them anyway.

However, the local bad guys threaten to turn his newly-settled world upside down and shatter it. Discovery of a floating body in the sea nearby is the beginning of an ugly, wide-angled case connected to a previous one. (Recommendation: Read the first book in the series, The Walker on the Cape.)

The story takes the readers into Windflower’s and Sheila's deepening relationship as well as through an RCMP investigation that takes in aspects of Newfoundland history. This includes present day conditions after the collapse of the centuries-old cod fishing industry.

Windflower's ways of dealing with life blends his Aboriginal heritage well with the fast-changing Newfoundland culture as a crisis hits him an Sheila.

A good read. Enjoy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY BIDULKA


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

Before I wrote my first word as a fiction author there were certainly many writers who inspired me to try my hand at it; Gail Bowen, Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, Patricia Cornwell, David Eddings and Michael Nava to name just a few. In the list are writers who write in varied genres, from mystery to thriller to fantasy to romance. I wanted to be all of them but of course ended up being none of them. Which is a good thing. A writer has to find their own voice. No matter how much you think you are a certain kind of writer, until you’ve put pen to paper you really don’t know what voice will emerge. Now I realize that the way these writers influenced me was not so much by the specifics of their words but how they made me feel when I read them – inspired, entertained, happy, sad, on edge, comfortable. I want to make readers feel something and have a special ‘experience’ when they spent time with my books. Knowing it’s possible is how I was most influenced by these great writers. And continue to be.

2. What are you working on now?

For a decade I wrote a mystery series featuring a Canadian detective named Russell Quant. In the spring of 2013 I released my first book in what I hoped might become a new series. In a new genre. New protagonist. New style. Risky. Scary. Exciting. The first book, When The Saints Go Marching In features Canadian Disaster Recovery agent Adam Saint. And, happily, I am now working on the second Adam Saint book.

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

That’s an interesting question for me right now. I’ve always held that an author always leaves a part of themself in almost every character they create, even if just a wee tint. With Russell Quant that is certainly the case. Although we have many differences, I can safely say we are more alike than different. With my new protagonist Adam Saint, the opposite is true. This is a wonderful challenge for me after spending a decade with Quant. I am constantly having to bring myself to a shuddering halt as I write scenes having Saint react in a very Quant (Bidulka?) manner. Quant knows when to stop for a good meal and bottle of wine. Saint goes until he’s bloody and bruised and long out of ammunition of any sort. With Quant you see the character’s inside life very clearly. Saint is—sometimes frustratingly so—much harder to read. His shell is thick and harder to penetrate. This resistance to show who he is, what he feels about things, about people, ends up being part of the voyage that we’ll see develop in these books. And I as a writer right alongside.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

As a mystery/suspense writer plot is undeniably important. It’s the layer of steel girders upon which I rest everything else. Like any big building, without the girders of plot, story falls apart. The book falls apart. Characters fall flat on their faces. That being said, the true driver of my books—and me as a writer—are my characters. Thinking about, creating, molding, giving birth to and guiding through (fictional) life is what I love to do. I know many of my readers would agree. When they discuss with me whatever recent book they’ve read, they always refer to characters rather than plot.

5. Are you a 'pantser' or a plotter?

As I’d not heard the term ‘pantser’ until this interview, I am confident in saying I’m totally Team Plotter! In my early years as a writer I would create three outlines for every book. One was the ‘whodunit’ outline, one was the ‘character arc’ plotline, and the third shmushed (Is that a word? Hope so!) the first two together. Today my version of outlining is a little more streamlined. I still have a general outline that tells the story from beginning to end, which I later apportion into bite-size chapters. (A process that never ends up with the book having the same number of chapters as I’d thought I’d have). I also create an ever-evolving biography for each of a book’s main characters. These include everything from eye colour, family background, favourite foods, and names of pets.

I’ve evolved into a process where I am comforted by a certain adherence to a storyline/plot that I know works and has a definite beginning, middle and end, but freed from the shackles of a pre-defined inflexible structure. Which is why I never end up with the same number of chapters I planned for (see above). I know the direction I’m going but not all the side roads and back alleys I’ll end up taking to my final destination. Part of the fun of fiction is spontaneity and the freedom to create and use your imagination. I suppose this is a bit of a reflection of how I live life. I’m a planner. The cost, at times, can be spontaneity. But boy do I get a lot done. And along the way I always make time for creativity and a little bit of uncertainty.

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

There are books that I read that whenever I’ve put them aside because of sleep, work, life I find myself thinking about them. When it’s time to return to them I get a deliciously satisfied, warm, happy, cozy feeling. This is what I want readers to take from reading a Quant or Saint book. I want them to have an experience, a moment, a communion with the characters. I want them to be taken away on a journey where they might laugh or cry or learn something or simply be entertained. I like nothing better than when a reader writes to tell me about how they enjoyed a hot summer afternoon on their deck with a cold pitcher of lemonade or curled up on a couch in front of a fire, dog at feet, rum toddy in hand and spent a few hours in the company of Russell Quant or Adam Saint.

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

Ooooo, good one. Let me think about this.
Well, I do like change. Yet I love being immersed in the lives of familiar characters. I think it might be perfect to have…isn’t that funny…I was about to describe a scenario not too dissimilar from what I have now. Two series. One established, one new and untried. Maybe have a book out each year in alternating series. Whenever one of the series has reached the end of a nice lifespan, try out another. Maybe inch into a new genre or try to reach a new type of readership. A mix of comfort and nervous newness at the same time. Then again, I like to travel and entertain and sit in the sun, so maybe I’ll just do a lot more of that in ten years!

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

Between Facebook and websites and Twitter and YouTube and Flickr, how could there be anything? I think newer readers might be surprised to know that I have three university degrees and spent a decade as a corporate auditor. Others might be surprised to know that I left that well-paying career to write full time without an agent, potential story line, or even one publishing credit to my name. All I had was the desire (and support of a fantastic spouse) to use an undetermined chunk of my lifetime to pursue passion.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?


Mysteries. Thrillers. The occasional fantasy novel. Travel magazines. When no one is looking: Entertainment Weekly.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet (140 characters or less)

Man of action Adam Saint: tough-as-nails, luxury-loving, Canadian Disaster Recovery Agent whose job it is to take care of you on the worst day of your life.


When the Saints Go Marching In is the first book in the highly anticipated new series by author Anthony Bidulka. The fast paced suspense novel features a new kind of hero, Disaster Recovery Agent Adam Saint.
Bidulka is best known for the long-running award-winning mystery series featuring Russell Quant, a world-travelling, wine-swilling, wise-cracking, gay, Canadian PI.
The Quant series is a multi-award nominee including for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award, ReLit Award, Lambda Literary Award and Saskatchewan Book Award. Flight of Aquavit was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery.
Mystery Scene Magazine proclaimed: “Quant makes for a riveting hero…the kind of friend you want to have—unless you’re a killer.”
Anthony has toured extensively and spoken at conferences and literary events throughout Canada and the United States and is a great believer in community involvement. He lives in Saskatoon, Canada and loves to travel the world and throw a good party.
Please visit Anthony at www.anthonybidulka.com, Facebook, Twitter (@abidulka), and YouTube.

Friday, September 6, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

A COLD WHITE SUN
By Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press


This is the sixth outing for Const. Molly Smith of the Trafalgar Police Service in B.C. In many ways, Molly’s still learning her job while in others, she’s yearning for much more. Policing suits her well and she’s morphed over the series from an awkward newbie to an officer who is more restrained, questioning more, and therefore, a better cop.

A lot of this is thanks to Sgt. John Winters who sees her potential and unofficially mentors her on the job. This case is no different. Winters is faced with a baffling murder, that of high-school teacher Cathy Lindsay, wife and mother of two, whose body is found with a bullet in the back, on a trail one morning during March break.

As is the procedure in most murder cases, the marriage is analyzed and the husband scrutinized. What surfaces is not a very happy scene. An adulterous husband; one child bordering on delinquency. And then there’s Cathy’s own flirtatious behaviour at work. A teacher who’s facing down his own personal demons. There are red flags everywhere on this case.

Winters is also drawn into a complex situation at his wife’s art gallery involving an employee who seems to have lost touch with reality. And Molly is in danger of being swept off her skis by a charming stranger she meets on the slopes. Even a small town like Trafalgar is not immune to the evils of the outside world with a large development project threatening to take over nearby property, much to the chagrin of Molly’s mom.

It the day-to-day stuff of community life that makes this murder seem even more obscene and for the police in this picturesque town in ski country, the ultimate challenge.

Vicki Delany is a prolific crime writer with two series (Const. Smith, and the Klondike series), mysteries for reluctant readers, and numerous stand-alones to her credit. And, she’s now embarking on yet another series, this one a cosy series set in the U.S.

It takes great writing skill to be able to produce top notch stories in so many different styles. Just as Molly has blossomed in her career as a cop, Delany has grown into a writer to be taken seriously, with mysterious tales to tell and an impressive way with words. She definitely should be on your bookshelves.

Friday, August 30, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Something new!

It's time to give Mystery Maven Canada a bit of a new look. Not in the design but rather the content. I'll continue with the reviews of new mystery and crime novels, hopefully every second week, although the timing is flexible.

What I'm adding is, on alternate Fridays, interviews with Canadian mystery and crime writers from across the country (and beyond, when they choose to stray!). There are a lot of other blogs out there doing this but my thought is, the more exposure the better.

So, on Friday, September 13th, the first interview will be posted. I hope you'll visit regularly and get to know your favourite authors a bit better, and also, find some news ones to try. I'll also continue with occasional guest blogs by authors, particularly when a new book is due.

Don't worry about leaving comments -- I know it's hit and miss these days. You're welcome to send me an email at mysterymaven@rogers.com if there's a comment you're dying to make (I'd love to hear from you) or if there's a particular author you want to make sure is on my list.

I hope you'll enjoy this new feature! I know I will love getting to know more about my guests and the wide variety of books being written by Canadians. Excellent books, I might add! You might also want to visit the website for the Crime Writers of Canada association where you'll find invaluable information about just this topic. http://www.crimewriterscanada.com

Happy reading!

Friday, August 23, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW


TAKE FIVE
By Jack Batten
Thomas Allen Publishers

Crang is back and he’s as gutsy, smart-mouthed, and clever as ever.

It’s been a few years, twenty it says on the book flap, since the Toronto criminal lawyer known by one name, Crang, graced the mystery bookshelves. And the hiatus hasn’t tamed him in any way. Who else would impersonate a judge, break into his client’s house, and then do it again?

He has a reason. Crang’s latest client has taken off before a court date for sentencing, stiffing him for $75,000. Good reason for the above-mentioned actions, I’d think. When he finally does catch sight of this grow-op fugitive, Grace Nguyen, she’s deeply embedded in another get-rich scheme and not about to place nice and follow Crang back to court.

As he follows the trail through a mobster’s home and to a ceramics museum, Crang is aided by various wise cracking sidekicks: from the slightly sleezy Maury, who is a retired independent burglar; his live-in companion, Annie who has a lot better sense than Crang, most of the time anyway; some elderly gents with a penchant for sleuthing; and various colleagues from the legal world in which he travels.

Along the way, someone dies, surprisingly not Crang, schemes are thwarted, and justice prevails. Somewhat.

If you like your crime with an edge that’s tinged with sarcasm and smart remarks, the Crang mysteries by Jack Batten are for you. There’s a lot of jazz info, one of Crang’s passions, that’s sure to delight music lovers. And the reader takes a tour of Toronto, comparing neighbourhoods, and indulging in some tasty meals. There’s a lot going on in Take Five along with a very smart mystery.

Friday, August 16, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

The Book of Stolen Tales
D.J. McIntosh
Penguin


My first impression after finishing The Book of Stolen Tales was, what an incredible amount of research, what a vivid imagination, and what a great writer! I enjoyed the mixture of history and adventure in her first book, The Witch of Babylon but this, her second in a trilogy, gripped me from the start. Might be partly because of the notion of ancient books and the quest to recover them. Whatever the reason, this is a book I couldn’t put down.

We meet New York art dealer John Madison, several months after his earlier adventure where he barely escaped with his life and tattered reputation. This time, he’s asked to travel to London to bid at an auction on a rare seventeenth century book of Italian fairy tales, on behalf of a mysterious purchaser. He’s successful but before delivering his purchase, he gives into temptation and opens the book. He’s been forewarned though about the book’s dark history and the dire consequences that might befall him. Foolish man!

It turns out the purchased book is not a series of five within one cover as stated, but only one.Next thing we know he's confronted by a mysterious, perhaps even a bit magical, dark stranger who manages to steal the book. From that point, Madison’s life is filled with fear and anger, as he pursues not only the stolen copy but the other four books also, in order. He travels to Naples, where the writer had lived, to meet the person who consigned the book to auction. Here we’re treated to wonderful historical images and tales of long ago.

He meets up with a mysterious woman who, it turns out, was the actual seller of the books. However, she had stolen them and her life is in danger. Her intermediary is murdered and, she and Madison are forced to evade several pursuers as they continue the chase together.

The Book of Stolen Tales is a weaving of fairy tales, examining the same tale as presented or re-told through the ages, becoming what we loved as children. It’s a tale of strange disease that leads to death and draws the U.S. army into the fray. There are dark and dangerous islands, moments of total terror for the two, and a breath-taking ending.
D.J. McIntosh, who lives in Toronto, is currently working on the third book in this trilogy of historical thrillers. The Globe & Mail asks if she's the next Dan Brown. She doesn't have to be. She's D.J. McIntosh. Write it down.

Friday, August 9, 2013

GUEST BLOG

Standalones vs. Series
by Vicki Delany


There are, basically, two types of mystery novels: standalones, in which characters appear once, never to be seen again, and series, in which characters feature in book after book.

As a reader as well as a writer, I am torn as to which I prefer. I believe that in real life a person, unless they’re a secret agent or bodyguard to a crime boss, has only one great adventure in them. Police officers will tell you that the job’s pretty boring most of the time, and crimes, even murders, are mundane things, easily solved.

A standalone novel gives the protagonist that one opportunity to achieve great things; to have that grand adventure; to meet the everlasting love of their life; to conquer evil, once and for all. In a standalone, the characters face their demons and defeat them.

Or not.

My first books were standalone novels of suspense. In Scare the Light Away the main character confronts, for one last time, the debris of her traumatic childhood. In Burden of Memory, the protagonist faces down the ghost of a past that is not hers, but is still threatening what she holds dear.

I then switched to writing series books, but returned in 2012 with a standalone gothic thriller, More Than Sorrow, about a woman attempting to recover from a Traumatic Brain Injury caused by an IED explosion in Afghanistan. The focus of the novel is on Hannah Manning’s attempts to recover her life while she experiences visions and fears she is losing her sanity. Her inability to explain where she was and what she was doing (even to herself) when a woman disappears, puts her in the cross-hairs of an old enemy.

Not a story line you could drag out over a series of books. How many old enemies can a woman realistically have?

As Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale says. “In a standalone the reader has no safety net. The reader knows it is possible the main characters may die. You can assume in a series they will not.”

Now I’m back to Constable Molly Smith, Sergeant John Winters and the town of Trafalgar, B.C. with the sixth book in the series, A Cold White Sun.

Series novels present different problems. The central character, or characters, confronts their demons, but they do not defeat them. Their weaknesses, all their problems, will be back in the next book. In each story the series character stands against, and usually defeats, someone else’s problem or society’s enemy, but she or he moves only one small step towards the resolution of their own issues, if at all.

It can be a challenge to keep the main character interesting and growing and changing (and not dying) but to do it so slowly that the reader’s interest in the character can be maintained over several books and several years.

In the Constable Molly Smith novels, set in a small town in the mountains of British Columbia, Molly is haunted by the death of her fiancé, Graham. It was a meaningless, preventable, tragic death and, even in her grief, Molly knows that returning to the small town in which she grew up and becoming a cop won’t help her to make sense of Graham’s death. But she does anyway, and as the series unfolds, Molly is able to confront the gulf that Graham’s death has left in her life and, eventually, move on. By the time we get to the sixth book in the series, A Cold White Sun, Molly has put Graham’s death behind her, and said her good-byes. Now she has a new man in her life, Constable Adam Tocek of the RCMP. But new problems arise.


`Was Tony flirting with her? He certainly was. It felt nice. He was a good-looking guy; he obviously found her attractive. He was a good skier. What could it hurt? She thought about Graham, her fiancé, dead for almost five years now. She thought about Adam. She thought about putting in a twelve-hour night shift and how she’d feel following that.
“I won’t be here until around one.”
He gave her a huge smile. “What a coincidence. So will I. Probably hanging around at the top of Hell’s Vestibule.”
“Molly, are you coming? I’m starving!” An exasperated Glenn said.
“I’m coming. Don’t be so impatient.” They carried the laden trays to their table.
Molly Smith knew Tony’s eyes were following her.
A Cold White Sun by Vicki Delany


Which do you prefer, standalones or series?

I suspect that, like me, you’ll vote for both.


Vicki Delany’s latest book is A Cold White Sun from Poisoned Pen Press. If you’d like to read the first chapter, please go to: www.vickidelany.com. Vicki can be found on www.facebook.com/vicki.delany, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

CONDEMNED TO REPEAT
By Janice MacDonald
Ravenstone (imprint of Turnstone Press)



One of the things I like best about Janice MacDonald’s Randy Craig mystery series (besides the fact that she’s a darned good writer) is how much the series is about Edmonton.

In this fifth book, she doesn’t disappoint as the historic Rutherford House is the setting for what starts out as an Evening of Illusion, a special event put on by the Friends of Rutherford House as a fundraiser, and ends up as murder. It’s not as if Randy Craig goes looking for dead bodies but it happens and this time her contract job helping to create a virtual website to celebrate the 100th birthday of the House brings her into the killer’s trajectory. From there, the chase is on and Randy’s own home suffers some consequences. But that won’t stop her quest and while doing research for the website, Randy also finds clues that lead to the murderer.

There really is a Rutherford House, adjacent to the grounds of the University of Alberta. Try googling it and get further immersed in its history and sights. However, MacDonald provides enough background, starting the original owner of the house, Alexander Rutherford, who founded the university and was at one time, a premier. She takes us on a tour of the house, being preserved and restored by the Friends, providing a cultural history for those of us who might not be able to visit any time soon. MacDonald excels at interweaving these aspects along with a good puzzler.

We also get to travel to the provincial Archives, to Fort Edmonton and of course, stroll (sometimes sprint) through the university campus.

This is truly a Canadian mystery and as I’ve noted elsewhere, Janice MacDonald should be given an award from Alberta Tourism. It’s also a riveting tale that will appeal to a wide spectrum of readers.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

MYSTERY REVIEW

FIRE ON THE RUNWAY
by Mel Bradshaw
Dundurn




Fire on the Runway
is not so much of a mystery as a spy story set mainly in Toronto during the Jazz Age, after World War I. It's the second outing for Bradshaw's Toronto cop, Paul Shenstone, a man who like many at that time, had served overseas during the war.

The story is as much that of 'Lucy', a mysterious woman who is found unconscious at the scene of a bomb blast in a downtown hotel. When she comes to, it appears she doesn't speak English so Shenstone has her taken to the hospital while he continues the on-site investigation. When it comes time to further question Lucy, she's done a runner and Shenstone blames himself.

Lucy's story is intertwined throughout the novel. We learn of her early days growing up in Poland and the point at which her sympathies turned to the Marxist credo and her loyalties, to Russia as they invaded her home country in 1920. Her life as a spy and temptress is as intriguing as the details of the war unfolding in that part of the world. Her story continues as, disillusioned, she flees to the U.S. with stolen film outlining German rearmament, with the aid of Russia. Turns out, she's being tracked every step of the way and the bomb in Toronto was meant for her.

As Bradshaw finds Lucy again, rather she finds him, and he learns of her story, he's drawn into the urgency of her quest. At this point, she wants to turn over the film to the Canadian government. Unable to elicit the support of the Toronto police, Shenstone turns to the RCMP, and eventually to a WWI flying ace, Kip Whitehead which leads to a betrayal that shocks them all.

There's plenty of action in Fire on the Runway to keep readers turning the pages. The attention to historical detail is well worth the read. In fact, this novel can be read on many levels -- as history, as spy thriller, and as the continuing adventures of a Toronto cop.

Mel Bradshaw, nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel for Death in the Age of Steam, continues to delight crime fans who enjoy delving into the past, along with solving their mysteries.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

That whole promotion thing!

With my new book coming out in a few weeks -- Cover Story, the third in the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries -- at the same time as I'm trying to whip through book #4, it's priority time once again.

Every author knows how much time and energy can be, and is expected to be by the publishing world, eaten up with promoting a new book. It is a necessity if you want the sales which lead to a renewed contract. The world of promotion has taken on new complexities over the past decade, as we're all well aware. Social media is first and foremost in most writers' arsenals of tactics. And I'm a part of it -- Facebook pages for the real me and for Erika Chase; ditto with websites and Twitter accounts; Pinterest; guest blogging...you name it, I'll usually try it.

But I've been reflecting while scrolling through all the author promotions that appear each hour on Twitter. What does it all mean? There are too many authors to count flogging their wares, many more than I'll ever read or even have an interest in reading. How does the average reader (that would be me)whittle it all down for allotting reading bucks? I know one thing, I won't rely on Twitter and probably not even Facebook to help me make those choices.

What works the best, IMHO, is the personal recommendation. Friends telling friends, getting them hooked on new authors, sharing the word in the reading wilderness. Of course, a Facebook recommendation by a real friend, someone you really do know, counts as a personal recommendation.

Call me old fashioned but that's what works best for me. Hopefully, for you, too. Or, do I have it all wrong? Has social media tipped the scales yet again and I'm getting left behind in the dust with my meager postings?

And what about the writing part of it all?





Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

READ AND BURIED
Berkley Prime Crime, now available
A KILLER READ, also available at your favourite bookstores and online.
Agatha Award nomiee, Best First Novel 2012
COVER STORY available for pre-order; coming Aug. 2013.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Travels with my characters.


A writer never travels alone. And I'm not referring to the 40 other choir members on this concert tour of Romania. I find that Lizzie Turner and the gang from the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries are tagging along, eager to pop into my brain at more relaxing times. Like on a 6 hour bus drive from Constanta to Brasov. Or while wandering through a perfectly sculpted park in the centre of the thriving city.

They're there to provide solutions to a plot problem I've been having, complete with dialogue to drive the story forward. Of course, I think they also want to enjoy the trip and see some of this wonderful countryside. They've been staying quiet in Brasov though but I suspec that's because it's been such a busy few days with some shopping time, some side tours, rehearsals, concerts and a lot of eating, wining and even, folk dancing. I do think Lizzie was involved in that though.

I have managed to carve out some writing time but mostly I've been immersing myself in this learning experience. There is such wealth in the oldness of countries like Romania. I'm overwhelmed by the beauty and sense of history to be found in the buildings, particularly the churches. If Canada lacks anything, it is this intense sense of a past which is present in everyday life. I love it.

I'm wondering if Lizzie will want to take a trip here sometime, maybe solve a murder or two, although I highly doubt it. Enough that she's visiting it now. It will give them all something to talk about.

Of course, that's what all writers experience. Travels with their characters. Where have yours been lately?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Scratchings

My first manuscripts were pages of wavy lines. I didn’t know how to read, but I’d seen my parents put pen to paper and squiggle out symbols. So I sat at a desk and scribbled page after page of wavy lines. I loved the look of my creation. I loved the sound of the pencil on paper.

Learning to read was magic. And then I learned to print. Other people could (usually) read what I printed. What power!
I wrote a serious poem and read it to the extended family at one of our frequent get-togethers. My aunts praised me, but laughed. I thought they were amused because I’d written the word “he’ll”, and it did sort of look like a word that made seven-year-olds giggle, but I had very carefully added the apostrophe, so what was so funny? It took me a few years to figure it out. I’d written about “my” kitten—I’d never owned one—and had included this gem: “And then he’ll have kittens.”

Pleased with my great success with poetry, I planned to write more. I decided that when I grew up, I would write whole entire books.

Handwriting turned out to be even better than printing. The scratching sound of the pencil (usually dull because who had time for sharpening pencils?) flowed like a sort of music (this will give you an idea of my musical talent…) on the rough yellow paper they gave us.

I branched out from poetry to plays, and was frustrated because although writing was faster than printing, I still couldn’t write as quickly as the dialogue came to me (probably a good thing…)

And then, when I was about twelve, our class visited the local water works. I liked field trips, but they always had this downside of having to write reports afterward. My teachers wanted facts, not fiction. What fun was that?
As usual, I procrastinated about writing that paper until very late, and then, at the last minute, the beginning of the waterworks report came out as two lines that rhymed. I thought of two more rhyming lines, and added those. I wrote the entire report, all about chlorine, underground rivers, pipes, and pumps, in rhyming couplets.
Luckily, my teacher appreciated my . . . we’ll call it originality. She didn’t need to know that the poem had stemmed from desperation and a form of laziness. She decided that our year-end assembly would be a play featuring my poem. And I was to head the team of playwrights.

By some miracle (like maybe I was casting director?) I ended up in what I considered to be the lead role—an eccentric aunt who read the poem about the waterworks to her adoring nephews and nieces. I’m sure that the entire school, plus whichever parents could attend that day, were entertained, educated, and edified.

I grew up (well, maybe) and had a real career—working mostly with numbers, which was often less interesting than writing reports about field trips. I never stopped wanting to write fiction, though, and now, finally, I tap keys on a keyboard, and the equivalent of wavy lines appear on a screen and end up bound into books--real ones! I remember that tiny girl at the too-high desk, scratching out page after page of wavy lines, and I see my published books, and I pinch myself.

Everyone has to start from scratch, I guess.



DIRE THREADS, the first book in Janet Bolin’s Threadville Mystery series received a nomination for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. It was also shortlisted for the 2012 Bony Blithe. Janet’s second book, THREADED FOR TROUBLE, was shortlisted for the 2013 Bony Blithe. Her third book, THREAD AND BURIED, was a National Bestseller in the U.S. All of Janet’s books can be ordered at your favorite bookstore.
Visit Threadville, read excerpts from Janet’s books, and find booksellers at http://ThreadvilleMysteries.com/
“Like” her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janet-Bolin/267325191115Follow her on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/@JanetBolinAnd keep your eyes open for information about the fourth Threadville Mystery, coming in June, 2014.

Friday, June 21, 2013

CRIME ON MY MIND

Blogging can be good for your health!



So, I'm on a blog tour right now. Or at least, Erika Chase is. It's my first time taking a tour although I've had requests from authors to include Mystery Maven Canada in their 'travel' plans. I'm having a lot of fun and it's all thanks to Bella at Cozy Mystery for arranging it. I won't give you any more Cozy Mystery details as she's taking a break for a while. I can understand why. It's like being a travel agent, planning someone else's itinerary. What a task!

I'm so pleased she included the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries on her roster, though. I've had such a variety of questions/interviews from the different bloggers and some are doing reviews, so it's a nice mixture and not too demanding of my time, if I keep on top of sending the information in time.

In case you're interested, these are the sites I've either visited or am headed to:

* Omnimystery
* Socrates Book Review
* Book of Secrets
* Books-n-Kisses
* Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries & More
* Melina's Book Blog
* Cozy Up with Kathy
* Book Lady's Book Notes
* Cozy Mystery Book Review
* Shelley's Book Case

Quite an array, isn't it? It's been a wonderful way to get in tune with a lot of new bloggers and their readers and I invite you to visit these sites, even if you miss my post. Just Google their sites. In fact, I'm inspired to start running more interviews on Mystery Maven Canada in the future. Stay tuned!

Best of all, it sure shows that the mystery is alive and well and thriving -- YAY!





Linda Wiken/Erika Chase

READ AND BURIED
Berkley Prime Crime, now available
A KILLER READ, also available at your favourite bookstores and online.
Agatha Award nomiee, Best First Novel 2012
COVER STORY available for pre-order; coming Aug. 2013.