Friday, March 28, 2014



Just back from Left Coast Crime in Monterey, CA. It's a mid-sized conference, getting bigger every year it seems, with about 800 participants this time. So, not as big as Bouchercon.

I remember my first mystery conference, Malice Domestic in Bethesda sometime in the late 1980's (I think). It was on the small size, which helps when it's your first time. I and my Ladies' Killing Circle pals were bright eyed and eager to learn. Of course, we were also looking forward to discovering the charms and bargains of Washington, DC, just as short subway ride away. However, back to the conference. We appeared armed with notebooks and pens. We sat in on as many panels as we could manage, sometimes having to split the hour between two competing topics. Did I mention we were there to learn?

The by-product was meeting so many new people who were readers like us and sharing favourite reads. The bonus was meeting our favourite authors. I considered myself lucky at being trapped in a hotel elevator for 20 minutes with one of my heroes, Nancy Pickard. Not only did she share her agent's name and contact info, she also distracted me from the view from the glass elevator. Did I mention I become decidedly uneasy with heights?

We were also there when the now famous Sisters In Crime was in it's early stages, and even took on the role of starting a Canadian chapter. You cannot imagine the high we felt from this weekend. We all came back eager to write. Now, after many years of writing and attending mystery conferences, we're there as published authors.

The high is still the same. Meeting readers who are fans is exhilarating. Meeting authors who are favourites is equally so. Now it's a mixture of networking and attending panels. Of course, we're also participants on the panels, another experience all together.

I'm more convinced with each conference that there's bang for your buck in attending. Next on my agenda is Malice Domestic, of course, May 2-4 in Bethesda, MD. And that's followed by Bloody Words, another favourite, in Toronto, June 6-8.

What's been your best conference experience?

(I know it's difficult at times to post comments on this blogsite -- I haven't been able to figure out how to solve it. You can post your comments on my Facebook page, also. Linda Sundman Wiken.)

Friday, March 21, 2014


by Cathy Ace
Touchwood Editions

I'm late coming to this series. The Corpse with the Golden Nose is the second Cait Morgan Mystery and now I want to go back and read the first one, too.

This one combines essentials I appreciate -- a strong female lead character and a memorable setting. Cait Morgan is such a woman. She's a criminal psychologist at the fictitious University of Vancouver who solves crime along with her male sidekick, retired police detective Bud Anderson. They have worked together professionally many times and have now moved onto a personal partnership.

The setting is Kelowna, B.C. in the beautiful Okanagan. I'm a big fan of all things B.C. (having grown up there)and what makes this even more enticing is the fact that the Vancouver couple visits thia wine country in order to determine if a suicide is indeed murder.

Cait has special abilities that aid her in her work as a criminologist. One of those is her astounding memory and the other is a technique called "wakeful dreaming". Her insights are critical to the solving of the mystery -- the first part being, was it suicide? The victim was the part owner of a vineyard and another big shock comes from the fact that she left her half not to her sister and business partner but rather to a vintner from another winery. As the story unfolds, over the period of a weekend featuring a Moveable Feast with some mouthwatering food and wine pairings, the cast of eclectic characters each reveal, if not a direct motive, at least the fact that something is going on in each life.

Cathy Ace has packed her novel with lots of texture, from the scenery to the food descriptions, to character descriptions. Cait is smart, determined and a woman in her late forties who worries about the extra pounds and is sometimes haunted by dreams of her late husband. Just your everyday female sleuth, right? Wrong.

The first book in the series is The Corpse with the Silver Tongue. Any bets on what the third will be called?

Friday, March 14, 2014


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

My friends. And I have so many friends. When I decided to take up the life of a writer, about the last reason was to meet interesting people and make new friends. And that's turned out to be the very best part of it. The Canadian crime-writing community is close, and I cherish the support and friendship it gives me very much.

2.What are you working on now?

The second book in the Lighthouse Library series for NAL-Penguin. The first book is titled By Book or By Crook and will be released in Feb 2015. I am using a pen name this time out - Eva Gates.

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

I am always a bit stumped by this question, because I have so many protagonists. Constable Molly Smith of the series of that name is a young policewoman. She is nothing at all like me. Fiona MacGillivray of the Klondike Gold Rush series is smart, ruthless, determined, and totally without scruples. She is also the most beautiful woman in the Yukon. She is not the least bit like me. Perhaps the protagonists of my standalones are more like me. Just ordinarym women, caught up in events beyond their control, trying to do the right thing.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

Again, depends on the series. I'd say usually character driven, certainly in the standalone novels and the Klondike books; the Molly Smith ones are more plot driven. The Klondike books are probably more setting driven. Everything that happens and all the characters are determined by being in Dawson City, Yukon in the summer of 1898.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

In the past I would have said a pantser with a bit of an idea for what I wanted the plot to do. But with the Lighthouse Library books I have to submit a detailed outline first, and I've found that I really like working like that. So from now on, I intend to be a plotter.

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

The love of reading and the tremendous variety to be found between the pages of a book. My books are not intended to provide biting social commentary, and they have entertainment value first and foremost. But I hope they have something to say about the world we live in. In the standalone novels I try to say something about the present, through giving the reader a glimpse of the past.

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

I really can't say. On April 1st, I will have sixteen published books. I have a three book contact for the Lighthouse Library series, I hope to do another cozy series. I'll write as long as I enjoy it and then I won't any longer.

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

I am one of the world's great introverts.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Crime novels almost exclusively. I love the modern gothics by the likes of Kate Morton, and I love the British police procedurals by people like Susan Hill or Peter Robinson. I read a lot of Canadian mysteries, often for the setting. Our people, telling our stories.

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

Under Cold Stone: A Constable Molly Smith Novel Banff National Park. A hotel inspired by a Scottish castle.A romantic weekend. An unlikely couple. An estranged son, and a call for help.

Vicki is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. She is the author of the Constable Molly Smith series and standalone Gothic thrillers from Poisoned Pen Press, as well as the light-hearted Klondike Gold Rush books from Dundurn. Her first Rapid Reads book, A Winter Kill, was shortlisted for the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for best novella. In April she will see two books published, Under Cold Stone, the seventh book in the Smith & Winters police procedural series and Juba Good, a Rapid Reads Novella from Orca Books set in South Sudan. Visit Vicki at, on Twitter @vickidelany and Facebook at She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Building Blocks

My Dad was a builder of houses. I can remember the many times throughout my childhood we'd visit his creations in various stages of being built. I also remember house plans being spread out on his desk in his home office, with pads of paper beside them, and his jottings written down. Sometimes he'd be on the payroll of an architectural firm but for most of his building career, he was his own boss. These were his creations as he took great pride in the finishing touches and building houses of quality.

I often bemoaned the fact that I learned nothing from him. I can't even hammer a nail in straight and usually end up hitting my thumb. Definitely not a chip off the old block.

However, I've come to realize, we're more the same than I'd originally thought. First of all, I take great pride in my writing, as he did in those many, many houses he built. And also, as he was a constructor of houses, I am a constructor of stories.

I, too work from a plan -- the synopsis I create at the outset of each project. I take care in crafting a plot that will be sound, much as a house needs to be strong to withstand the elements. I populate my stories with characters who are real to me as his houses eventually housed families.

Okay...maybe I'm stretching this entire analogy a bit too much. But it's clear to me now. Each time I'm starting a new book, as I am doing right now (#5 in the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries) each time I'm editing and often re-jigging a plot line, each time I send a finished manuscript off to my editor, I've created or constructed a book. Just as he did a house. I am my father's daughter. Who needs a hammer and nail!

Friday, March 7, 2014


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

I’ve learned a lot about writing from reading authors such as Ernest Hemingway—the art of saying a lot with a little; Harper Lee—how to write compelling characters and weave subplots in with the main storyline; Michael Connelly—lead cop Harry Bosch (say no more); and just about every novel I’ve ever read, beginning with Enid Blyton and the Secret Seven/Famous Five novels. However, I’d have to say that the person who influenced me the most would be Professor Claude Lyman from Lakehead University, who taught me during a year of creative writing classes to avoid using melodrama in my stories wherever possible. His advice is based on that old chestnut ‘show don’t tell’ and keep the writing tight and lean. Skip the overwriting!

2. What are you working on now?

I am currently about half way through the first draft of the third Stonechild and Rouleau mystery for Dundurn. I have a June deadline and am trying to pick up my pace. My editor and I will be starting the first edit of Butterfly Kills, the second in the series, in April. I also have a contract to write a fourth adult literacy novel in the Anna Sweet mystery series for Grass Roots Press due this fall. The third in that series entitled To Keep a Secret will be released this September.

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

Kala Stonechild is quite different from me. She’s in her late twenties, Aboriginal, tall, grew up in foster homes and is courageous as a lion. She also has a great sense of direction and doesn’t mind driving all over the country alone in her truck. We do both come from small northern communities and love the outdoors so there is that.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

I would have to say both. Plot and characters have a symbiotic relationship in all of my favourite books. The plot has to move along and grip me and I have to care about the characters and what happens to them.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I’m a pantser with plotter overtones. I outline in my head but do a lot of ‘flying by the seat of’ as I get into a manuscript.

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

I hope that readers are entertained first and foremost. I am most gratified when someone says that they could not put the book down. I also am satisfied when readers speak about the characters as if they are real people because this means that readers connected with them.

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

It would be great to have an international readership and to get invited to some overseas conferences! Other than that, I see myself fully engrossed in writing a new manuscript and carrying on as I am now, but perhaps with more Facebook likes and Twitter followers. You can never have too many.

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

Readers might be surprised to know that I skip a ladies’ curling team and that my daughter Lisa Weagle is on the national championship curling team skipped by Rachel Homan—they’ll be playing for Canada for the second year in a row at worlds in March. Readers might also be surprised to know that I dislike mashed potatoes and never touch brussel sprouts, parsnips or lima beans if I can help it.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I read crime fiction for pleasure – Ottawa and Canadian mysteries top my list. I’m also a big fan of British mysteries.

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

A week before Christmas, a dysfunctional police team must find a missing Ottawa businessman with lots of people wanting him dead #lotsofsuspects

Brenda Chapman is an Ottawa mystery writer for both teens and adults. Her latest novel Cold Mourning was released by Dundurn in March 2014. A former teacher, she now works as a senior communications advisor for the federal government.