Friday, April 25, 2014


Crime Writers of Canada announced, across the country at the same time last night, the shortlist for the Arthur Ellis Awards for excellence in Canadian crime writing. These awards will be given out at the annual Arthur Ellis Awards banquet in Toronto, on Thurs. June 5th, the evening before the Bloody Words Conference kicks off. So, if you're going to one, consider adding the other. All the banquet details are on the Crime Writers of Canada website,

Congratulations to all who are shortlisted! And in Ottawa, we're pretty pleased that Brenda Chapman is up for a Best Novella award.

Best Novel

John Brooke, Walls of a Mind, Signature Editions
Seán Haldane, The Devil’s Making, Stone Flower Press
Lee Lamothe, Presto Variations, Dundurn
Howard Shrier, Miss Montreal, Vintage Canada
Simone St. James, An Inquiry into Love and Death, Penguin Books

Best First Novel

E.R. Brown, Almost Criminal, Dundurn
A.S.A. Harrison, The Silent Wife, Penguin Books Canada
Axel Howerton, Hot Sinatra, Evolved Publishing
J. Kent Messum, Bait, Penguin Canada
S.G. Wong, Die on Your Feet, Carina Press

Best Novella
Melodie Campbell, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, Orca Books
Brenda Chapman, My Sister’s Keeper, Grassroots Press
James Heneghan, A Woman Scorned, Orca Books

Best Short Story

Donna Carrick, Watermelon Weekend, Thirteen, Carrick Publishing
Jas. R. Petrin, Under Cap Ste. Claire, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 2013, Dell Magazines
Twist Phelan, Footprints in Water, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, July 2013, Dell Magazines
Sylvia Maultash Warsh, The Emerald Skull, Thirteen, Carrick Publishing
Sam Wiebe, The Third Echo, Girl Trouble: Malfeasance Occasional, MacMillan/St Martin’s Press

Best Book in French
Chrystine Brouillet, Saccages, La courte échelle
Jacques Côté, Et à l'heure de votre mort, éditions Alire
Maureen Martineau, L’enfant promis, La courte échelle
Jacques Savoie, Le fils emprunté, Éditions Libre Expression

Best Juvenile/YA
Karen Autio, Sabotage, Sono Nis Press
Gail Gallant, Apparition, Doubleday Canada
Elizabeth MacLeod, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, Annick Press
Ted Staunton, Who I’m Not, Orca Books

Unhanged Arthur
L.J. Gordon, Death at the Iron House Lodge
Rachel Greenaway, Cold Girl
Charlotte Morganti, The Snow Job
Kristina Stanley, Descent
Kevin Thornton, Coiled

Thanks to everyone who took part in and attended our Shortlist Event in Ottawa!

Friday, April 18, 2014


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

For writing mysteries, M.C. Beaton has had the greatest influence on me. Her amusing mysteries about Hamish MacBeth, the irreverent copper in the remote highland village of Lochdubh, inspired me to find my own charmed setting (I call it The Shores) right outside my cottage door on Prince Edward Island. Beaton’s books also encouraged the idea of blending tragedy (murder) with comedy (the doings of eccentric locals.) Before I wrote my first mystery, Revenge of the Lobster Lover, I had read all of Beaton’s MacBeth stories, and remember closing the cover on the final one with the clear thought: “I could do that here.” So I did.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m close to finishing Bodies and Sole, the fifth book in The Shores Mystery Series.
It follows Revenge of the Lobster Lover, Mind Over Mussels, All is Clam and Something Fishy.

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

I deliberately set out to make my protagonist, Hy McAllister, not like me at all. I gave her my younger sister’s red curly hair. She’s tall, which I am not. But, she is a writer and the house she lives in at The Shores is a replica of my cottage in Sea View, PEI. She’s clumsy. She doesn’t like to cook. Guilty as charged. There is also the perhaps subconscious fact that her name, Hy, begins and ends with the same letters as mine. Readers tell me they think I am Hy. I’m not, but I do think there is something of ourselves in all of the characters we create.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

Definitely character-driven. The story is there to provide my characters – good and bad – a place to play in and act out. I delight in creating appealing and appalling characters for each new book. My local characters, meanwhile, develop and grow. The Mountie, Jane Jamieson, has gone through the most dramatic changes from the first book to the fourth. My characters are definitely the focus of the stories, more so than the plot.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I am an organic writer. I prefer that to “pantser,” because although I don’t have a perfectly worked plot in advance of sitting down to write, or an outline, I do have a general sense of what’s going to happen. I’m not always right, because the characters do take over, and I enjoy the fun of writing myself into a corner, then figuring out how to write my way out. I’m sure it happens as well to writers who’ve plotted in advance. I admire writers with outlines. I just can’t do them myself. I wish I could. It’s very time-consuming going by the seat of your pants. There’s a lot of rejigging, weaving, moving scenes around that the more well-organized don’t have to struggle with. More room for error too.

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

I hope they will have been entertained, had a few good laughs and some food for thought. I call my sub-genre “village noir satire.” I hope the village and the locals will entertain, the noir give food for thought, and the satire a few laughs.

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

Resting on my laurels! I’d like to see The Shores mystery series on TV or film. I hope to have completed a historical romance that I now have in the works, and possibly a historical trilogy.

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

My readers might be surprised to know that I have never been a reader of mysteries or a watcher of cop and detective TV shows. The first mysteries I read – and certainly the first series—were those Hamish MacBeth stories that inspired me to create The Shores series. I read mysteries now, those of my colleagues, but I have always been mostly a fan of historical novels and 19th century novels.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I read mystery books by my colleagues, writers like the Mystery Mavens, authors I meet in the course of conferences, library readings, etc. I like to know what the people I meet in the mystery community are writing. It’s part pleasure, part business. My pleasure reading at the moment is non-fiction. I read Malcolm Gladwell, sociological journalist, author of The Tipping Point and Blink among others; and Mary Roach, dubbed America’s funniest science writer. Among her books: Stiff, Bonk, and Gulp.

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

Fish fall from the sky, twin kills twin in the womb, a woman dies laughing and a wind turbine whips evil across the cape. Something Fishy.

Hilary MacLeod is the author of The Shores mysteries, a village noir satire series, winner of a CBC Bookie award for Revenge of the Lobster Lover. Her latest in the series is Something Fishy, and work-in-progress is Bodies and Soul.

Friday, April 11, 2014


There's always good reason to cheer when a new mystery series hits the scene. Those of us officially hooked on reading this genre are usually on the lookout for new settings, new characters, and new plots to keep us happy. Well, here's one to add to your reading list!

Kala Stonechild, an aboriginal female who is both running from and to her past, brings an unique voice to the Ottawa Police Service. On her first day on the job with the Ottawa Police, Stonechild, so new to the Ottawa area that she's staying at the Y, is made a part of a specialized police task force, a unit that feels unsupported and doomed from the start. Because it's Christmas, the detectives are handed a missing persons case that quickly morphs into a murder investigation. They're under the gun to solve it before the New Year, after which it gets passed on to Major Crimes. The future of this unit depends on the successful conclusion of this case. No pressure there.

Stonechild has been a police officer for a while but this is her first time in the big city. The missing person is Tom Underwood, a wealthy businessman. The suspect list is a long one including his business partner, his ex-wife, his current wife, his son, and possibly his daughter. Not a very happy family. The detectives are split on who is the guilty party -- the business partner or as Stonechild suspects, someone closer to home.

Stonechild is a complex person. She tries not to let feelings of loneliness and homesickness overcome her. She's left a lot behind but this is where she needs to be. She's juggling the case with her own search for her cousin, who's been moving around for several years and is now believed to be in Ottawa.

The New Year dawns and no one is in jail so Major Crimes steps in and Stonechild is sent on media relations training while the rest of the unit is solving more mundane cases. However, a chance remark sets her back on the trail of a surprising killer.

What's unusual about Cold Mourning is the multiple viewpoints which at times allow the reader to have more information than Stonechild. Chapman handles this style smoothly and it's very effective in moving the story along. She is a skilled writer with nine books already under her belt. This is her second adult novel.

If you live in Ottawa, Cold Mourning will be of particular interest because that's the setting and Chapman makes it come alive. However, you don't have to live here to enjoy the read. I hope that the Stonechild and Rouleau mysteries by Brenda Chapman have a long run. And I strongly advise readers to join in the trek, starting with Cold Mourning.

Friday, April 4, 2014


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

Tough question. Influences decades ago when we are young and naive aren’t the same as today. In the beginning, and we’re talking Fifties, I devoured every Agatha Christie book. During the last twenty years, I was devoted to Nevada Barr. An odd mix! On the other hand, I learn something to do (or not to do) from nearly every book I read. Renni Browne has given me the best tips in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m trying to get my fourth Holly Martin book into shape. The running theme of her lost mother informs the series, and the reveal’s not far away. Clues have to be anticipated in advance, but summed up in every book. It’s been a new procedure for me, but we all need to try something different.

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

My last protagonist and star of my first book, Belle Palmer, was just like me, same house, same lake, same dog, same food, same appearance, had I decided to sell real estate and not teach. By the fifth book, she was entering her late forties and I didn’t want to keep challenging her physical abilities with marathon chases near the conclusion. So when I moved to Vancouver Island, I started another series with a 32 year old lead corporal. Nice to lose sixteen plus years over night. I don’t feel as close to her so far, but we’ve only spent a year together (in plot) and I think she’s jealous of Belle. We all were in our thirties once, so I need to give us both time.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

Which came first, the place or the person or the plot? Since I left thirty years in Ohio to spend thirty years in the Sudbury wilderness, I’d say people are driven by where they live, by landscape. What happens in Athens, Ohio, at a university might not occur in Timmins, Ontario at a mine. Plot and character butt heads but learn to co-exist. In my 20K Rapid Read books, plot slides in before character. In my series, it’s “What will happen to Holly now?”

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Probably a little bit of both. There has to be a master plan, subplot, minor characters, the crime, rationale, and solving. But I plunge right in after that. Plotting extensively saves time later, but some people, like ME, lack the discipline and are too excited to forego getting the scene on the screen. Once when I heard Anne Perry read a “first draft,” it sounded like a final version, but she said that she plotted so extensively that every detail appeared, though not in strict sentence form. Now that’s discipline.

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

For aspiring authors, if you write what you want, and someone wants what you write, you have the perfect combination. That rarely happens, nor do most people get rich. For readers, I want them to experience the landscape as well as the mind of my characters. There is no higher compliment than “I was right there” or “I wanted to go to Northern Ontario, she made it sound so beautiful.”

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

I’d like to finish this police procedural series, sell my historical, and make that a series. I think I belong pre-WW2, just not sure how far back.

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

I wish I had gone into law enforcement at the time (1963), but it was not an option. By now I’d have branched into the K9 Corps, retired, and written a tell-all book. And think of all those wonderful shepherd pups.

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Usually I order library e-books for my iPad. The last three books I read were Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman, The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey, and The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. For bestsellers like Sue Grafton’s series, The Goldfinch or Gone Girl, I get on the long list for the library hardcovers. I read for two purposes: pleasure and comparison. I like to “escape,” but also from a construction standpoint, to see how someone handled a situation. I gravitate to thrillers or suspense, but skip the romance, being a “the next morning” person.

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

Corporal Holly chases a delinquent dumper whose great aunt died suspiciously, muttering about Queenly Treasure.

Lou Allin is the author of the Belle Palmer mysteries set in Northern Ontario, and the RCMP Corporal Holly Martin series on Vancouver Island. Lou also has written That Dog Won’t Hunt in Orca’s Raven Reads editions for adults with literacy issues and in 2013 won Canada’s Arthur Ellis Best Novella Award for Contingency Plan. She lives across from Washington State on the Juan de Fuca Strait with her border collies and mini-poodle. Her website is and she may be reached at