Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Good and the Bad

Happy New Year

And may the muse visit often!

Good and bad news on the writing front to close out 2009. The bad news is the closing of the new McNally bookstore in Toronto, open less than a year. I had a signing for Gold Digger in May and thought it a lovely store. The attendance was very disappointing, but I put it down to the fact that the store was new and I am not a big draw. I read in the paper today that they never got more than six to 10 people for the biggest names. Even Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negros) had less than ten people out to meet him. I know that Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale has great success with their author visits; perhaps the formula just didn’t work in Toronto. Not that I am surprised: Toronto can be a very cold, unfriendly city. McNally has declared bankruptcy and this is going to be bad news for Canadian publishers to whom they owe money. And you can probably be sure the publishers will pass the pain on to their authors.

The good news is that my books with Poisoned Pen Press (excluding the newest, Winter of Secrets) are now available at for Kindle. So if you’ve not bought one recently because you only read on your Kindle – hurry on over!

Beginning January 3rd I am joining the happy gang at Fatal Foodies, where I will blog every second Sunday. Between trying to have a writing career and blogging weekly at Type M and now at FF, this personal blog might start to whither away. My intention for this blog has been to write about the writing life, as I see it. If you like it, and would like me to continue, please do let me know.

Whishing everyone out there a Very Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Eve Interview - Talking with Tim

Interview today with Tim O'Shea on his pop culture blog at It is now Christmas Eve I have pies to bake!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bad time to take a break

I am hard at work on my newest novel, tentatively titled Edward County. This is a big departure for me as it will be quite dark and dealing with important social and legal issues. I've really been whipping along. One day last week I wrote over 3000 works in about 3 hours. And they were mostly good words that stayed in during the edit the next day. The thing is, I had a very good idea in my head about the outline of this book. Up until about the 3/4 mark. And then I know nothing except "she takes matters into her own hands". As I write this, I still am not sure how she is going to be able to do that.

And now I'm breaking for Christmas. My family started to arrive yesterday. It's not that I CAN NOT write with guests in the house, it's really more a matter that I can't write with guests in the house. To much aware of what I should make for breakfast, or what I need to get at the store, and if I should start baking pies today or wait until tomorrow. I'll be taking a break from working on the book for about a week.

And not a good week to be breaking. I rely a lot on momentium when I write, the words keep coming, the ideas take shape as I pound away at the keyboard.

I am worried that when I get back to it next week, I'll sit here with no momentium behind me, lost in the great darkness that is 'writers' block'

We will see. In the meantime, I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and Santa is very good to you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What do your characters look like?

I had a radio interview yesterday with a station in Santa Barbara, California. 1290 KZSB, with Baron Ron Herron. This was my third time on his show, and thanks to P.J. Nunn of Breakthrough Promotions for organizing it. Five minutes sure isn’t long, and it’s hard to get too much about a book in, but I tried. He threw me for a loop when he asked who I’d like to see play Molly in a movie.

Honestly – never thought about it. I know that a lot of writers have mentally cast their novels, but perhaps because I don’t watch TV and rarely go to the movies, I haven’t. And it’s not a game I’m going to bother playing now, because it’s not going to happen.

The only one of my characters, in all my books, that I know what they look like is John Winters, detective Sergeant with the Trafalgar City Police. I was on the GO train (the Southern Ontario commuter train) when I’d just begun In the Shadow of the Glacier and a man walked into the car. I looked at him and thought “that’s what John Winters looks like.” I jotted down a brief description and when I went home, I put it in the book.

So there you are, unknown GO train man, you are in a mystery novel.

I saw a cop in Ottawa about a year ago, walking down the street, and I thought “that could be Molly,” but of course by then Molly was already created.

Fiona MacGillivray in Gold Digger would probably be the easiest of my characters to cast. She is described as the most beautiful woman in the Yukon. Not like beautiful women are hard to find in Hollywood, is it?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finished at Last

The last of the Christmas season book signings is over. I had a nice day yesterday at Books and Company in my new hometown of Picton, Ontario. The store was packed, largely because of the local crafts fair up on the second store, but nonetheless it always does the heart good to see roaring business at an independent bookstore. If you are ever in the County do drop in. Say hi from me and be sure and meet the resident cat, Miss Lily. After browsing the books, you can pop into Miss Lily’s CafĂ© for a great sandwich and coffee.

It’s been exhausting and now it’s over. When I look at my calendar, I don’t see a single store listed. I am sure that will change soon enough, after all there will be Gold Fever in the Spring and Negative Image in November.

I actually enjoy doing book signings, once I get there and set up. For some strange reason I am particularly good at it. I have been told many times that I am the best, or one of the best, selling authors they’ve ever had in.

I can only imagine that they haven’t had many big names.

I heard a talk on the radio the other day about selling. They spoke to a man who had worked as a telemarketer (that has got to be among the world’s worst jobs!) and he said the secret to success is being optimistic. You have to approach the 100th call with as much enthusiasm, and optimism, as you did the first.

Perhaps that has something to do with why I do well. I can have been standing there for four hours and when someone walks past, I’ll say, “Hi. Are you looking for a gift today?” and really expect them to stop and look at my books.

Friday, December 11, 2009


It’s cold out there.

But cozy and warm in here.

I’m just back from a walk. A very short walk. I guess I forgot that sub-zero temperatures were cold. I wore my leather jacket, not my winter coat, and no hat. My ears were about to fall off when I decided it was time to turn around and head home. The winds have been very very strong for the last few days; my yard is littered with broken branches. My property and the road are lined by farmers's fields, so the wind can really work up a good speed before hitting me!

I finally joined the 21st century a couple of weeks ago and bought an iPod. I thought that I might go out and walk more if I could listen to music or the radio. And it’s really working out well. I’m looking forward to my daily walk these days.

The woodstove is chewing through wood like crazy. I am impressed at how well it heats the house, even the top floor, is usually quite comfortable in the morning.

I making a mushroom and bean stew for dinner. My first attempt to use the beans I gathered in the fall. It’s looking and smelling yummy.

I want to get a new publicity photo. To that end my daughter took a bunch the other week in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here’s one suggestion. Let me know what you think.

Monday, December 7, 2009

T.V. and Me

Further to my post of a couple of weeks ago, in which I said that no event is too small (becuase anything can happen) I have found a copy of the TV programme that featured me. Click here to see it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How many books a year is too much?

I arrived in Ottawa a day early because #1 Daughter needed some help getting ready for a party she is having on the weekend. Always nice to be needed.
She’s gone off to work, so I am going to spend the morning writing, then wander into the Market, do a little shopping, have a nice lunch, wander back and get ready for my book singing later at Chapters, South Keys. Ah, the life of the Urban Professional.

Nice for a day or two. Then I need to be back home on the farm. I’m getting a bit tired and a bit burned out.

Generally I really enjoy book signings. I find I can really get my energy level going and can run through my patter, “Winter of Secrets is...” with enthusiasm every single time. Last week I was flagging a bit on the Sunday and I actually barked at a woman who asked me a question, thinking I was a store employee. Then she stopped and looked at my books and bought one! I was horrified at how I’d behaved and settled myself back into my groove. And had a very successful day.

Winter of Secrets is my third book out this year, and that’s been too much. Next year I have only (only!) two, Gold Fever in the spring and Negative Image in November.

Tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, I will be signing at Prime Crime on Bank Street. An absolutely fabulous little mystery bookstore that is everything you want in an independent store. Sadly, this will probably be my last event there. I’ll check with them tomorrow on what’s happening, but I know it isn’t good news.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Notes from Book Signings

Book signings are funny things. You have to have a pretty tough skin, which I guess I do, because some people can be darn rude.

Here’s one incident, which will probably go down in the annals of memorial moments: A woman came up to the table, looked at everything, listened to my canned speech, and picked up the last copy of In the Shadow of the Glacier. She said, “I might be interested in this. I’ll look at it while I have my coffee.” And took it away.

For about an hour I explained to everyone who came that I was sold out of the first book in the series. I could have sold that book several times over.

The woman came back just as I was preparing to leave, pointed out a typo, and put the book back.

I was genuinely shocked.

Then there was the woman carrying a couple of paperbacks of bestselling American authors. I said, “I see you like mysteries, may I introduce you to mine?”
She said (having not even picked one up), “I wouldn’t like those. I only read authors I like.”

And I said something like, “That’s too bad for you.” I was not going to bother being polite.

But I have found that the good moments usually outweigh the bad ones, such as last week in Bellville when a woman came in with a bag bulging with books. She had all of mine, even Winter of Secrets, and wanted them signed. Or in Kingston when two women came in with a couple of my books to be signed and bought two they didn’t yet have.

There are people who seem genuinely pleased to have met me, and really interested in my books. And the ones who want to take fifteen minutes to tell me about their writing project.

I try and have fun with it, to roll with the punches and enjoy the good moments. After all, no one is making me do this.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Give a book for Christmas

As we all know times are looking dire for some part of the publishing industry, particularly independent bookstores, these days. At Type M for Murder we'd like to suggest that everyone think of giving books as gifts this year. To that aim, we are running our second annual Give a Book As a Gift Week beginning today. All week we will be recommending books that we have enjoyed and think would make great gifts. Please come on over and see what we loved and add your own suggestions. There are only two rules: the books recommended can not have been written by someone you know personally and they must have been published in 2008 or 2009.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No Event Too Small.

I have often argued that you can never turn down an opportunity because it’s not big enough. If one person comes to your event, well it might just be the right one person.

Case in point. On Tuesday I was the guest speaker at the library in Fonthill, Ontario, a small town located near Niagara Falls. It’s a long way for me to go, but I combined it with a Monday night stop in Toronto to meet with my critique group, a night at my daughter’s place and then a shopping trip with her. I didn’t intend to buy anything for myself, I was just getting my Christmas shopping started, but picked up a sweater and jacket that went well with the pants I had on.

We arrived at the library with a bit of a sinking feeling. Very small town, very small library. Seven people showed up, which is definitely not good. But I gave my talk and they seemed interested and a few people bought books.

What made it all worthwhile? TV was there. The local TV station came. They interviewed me, filmed about half of my talk, and then took more footage of me talking to the audience after, along with a couple of shots of my books arrayed on the table.

And I was in my new clothes!

Apparently this was the first time the TV station had sent someone to one of these library events.

Christmas booktour continues - Burlington/Oakville/Etobicoke this weekend, Ottawa next. Click here for details. Mention you read this blog and you'll receive a FREE bookmark.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Massacre at County Road 10

One of the things about living in the country, I am finding, is that other creatures live in the country also. That is nice when you are sitting at desk writing and look up to see a flock of wild turkeys land in the field next door, or hear a coyote on a winter’s night night or cows lowing on their way to the barn on a long pleasant summer evening.

Not so nice when they decide to move in.

I was away for a couple of weeks and got home to find that mice had taken up residence. I am somewhat of a squeamish sort, so with great reluctance decided I would have to get rid of them. I went to the hardware store and purchased several of those little wooden mouse traps. Several days passed while I worked up the courage to actually use them. I guess I hoped that if I showed them to the mice, they would take the hint and leave.

The other night I set two traps, baited with cheese. One went on the kitchen counter, and the other under the sink.

That night I even dreamt about the darn things.

I got up in the morning and went downstairs with much trepidation. The trap under the sink had not been sprung, but the cheese was missing. The trap on the counter had been sprung and the cheese was several feet away. No mice bodies, but to my horror, there was blood all over the floor! With little mice footprints running through it.

So I now have a half-decapitated mouse dying somewhere in my walls.

What’s this have to do with writing? Nothing. If you are looking for some writerly chat, I posed this week at Poe's Deadly Daughters about the origins of Winter of Secrets.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Report from Capital Crime Writers Conference

I’m giving a workshop tonight in Belleville on writing character. I enjoy doing workshops, I like talking about writing and I like meeting people who want to be writers. It is at the Belleville Library at 6:00, in case you are interested.
Home from Ottawa.

I had a great booksigning at Chapters on Rideau Street, and thanks to Gary and Dan for organizing that. It is a strange store though. It joins one major street to another and I soon came to realize that a lot of the people passing my table were just walking through. Perhaps the highlight was when one man came up to me and asked “Where is the mystery section?” I was standing in amongst all the ridiculous fru-fru that now populates bookstores and waved my arms towards my table and said “Right Here.” He bought two books.

The CCW conference on Saturday was just great. It was very well attended, about 100 people I’d guess, and a lot of fun. I was on the panel on building your characters and moderated the cozy vs. Hardboiled. There were also readings by local celebrities and Linda Wiken from Prime Crime books was there selling books, and appearing to do a roaring trade. There was even a wonderful catered lunch. Free.

After a lot of us trundled down the road to Darcy McGee’s and then I went out to dinner with some of my friends.

A really great day.

Made even better by getting a good review in the Globe and Mail for Winter of Secrets. The Globe has reviewed most of my books, but never the Molly Smiths, so I wasn’t even expecting them to review the new one. She even recommended it as a gift.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Read an excerpt from Winter of Secrets

I'm all over the Internet this week, blog touring and guest posting. You can read an excerpt (not the first chapter, which is posted on my web page) from Winter of Secrets at I continue all week to answer questions from the gang at Criminal Minds at I'm very pleased with the way the release of the book has been handled by Poisoned Pen Press's new distribution organization Ingrams Publishing Services (the Manda Group in Canada). By the time I got around to sending out notices about the book to my contacts list, several people replied to say they'd already bought it. A couple had finished it! Under the old model if the release date of the book was November 1 that meant it would start trickling into the bookstores two or three or even four weeks later. Now November 1 seems to mean November 1. Which is just great for setting up booksignings. On Friday I am off to Ottawa for a signing at the Chapters on Rideau Street, but the big event is the Capital Crime Writers one-day conference. There will be panels and readings and signings and books for sale, and all for free! If you are in the area of our capital city, check it out at So far I am scheduled to be read by TBD. I hope he or she is good!

It is getting cold enough that my furnace has kicked it (and I keep my house plenty cold, let me tell you.) So this morning I laid a fire in the woodburning stove. I use the wood mainly because it is a lot cheaper than the propane that fuels the furnace, and because I like it. Except that the stove is in the same room as my office. I am soon going to be driven out by the heat. For the rest of the winter I'll be moving my laptop into the dining room when not using the table. Seems somewhat inefficent to me - a nice study that I can't use half the year!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Criminal Minds

All this week, I'll be the guest blogger at Criminal Minds ( Yes, that's a whole week with seven postings. So between doing that and working on the edits for Negative Image and sending out notices about the release of Winter of Secrets, and getting the garden ready for winter, I'll be busy. Oh, and today is my day over at Type M. So about all I can do on this blog is post a link to Criminal Minds. See you there!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fatal Foodies

One of my favourite blogs to visit is Fatal Foodies. That picture on the top of their page is really something. They were kind enough to invite me to guest blog this week, and I wrote about how easy it was to create mood and atmosphere in Winter of Secrets because the book is set over the Christmas holidays. The book begins on Christmas Eve and ends on New Year's Day. Take a peek!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Editing Negative Image

Back and home and back to work. I got the editor’s comments on the newest Molly Smith, Negative Image. She likes the book – yeah! That’s always a relief! – but (there’s always a but) she wants some changes. In particular she doesn’t like the motivation for the major plot point. Keep the plot as it is, she said, but the character’s motivation isn’t convincing. Fortunately she doesn’t just say, don’t like it change it, she has suggestions. And I like her suggestion for this one. So back to work I go.

ALso, Andy Smith takes very ill. In my version he has a heart attack, and the editor doesn’t like that either, she wants a different problem. I have been investigating various diseases, but might stick to my guns on this one. Everyone knows what a heart attack is, why go running off in search of something else?

In the meantime I have several guest blogging posts coming up and have pieces to write for them. Generally I like doing those: it’s a different sort of writing than pure fiction and stretches some of my less-used mental muscles.

And then there is my W-I-P (work in progress) that I am anxious to dive back into. My goal for that is just to have the prologue and first scene ready for my critique group at the end of the month.

And, of course, the garden to look after. While I was away the trees dropped all their leaves and the plants all died so there is a lot of cleaning up to do. At least I got the vegetable bed turned over and prepared for next year before I left. I am wanting to plant garlic and that has to be done pretty soon, so I might not get around to it.

P.S. last night’s stew was fabulous. I have enough left over for tonight’s dinner.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beef Stew Tonight

Home, home, home. Thank Heavens. It’s cold and raining heavily and I am looking foward to a big pot of beef stew for dinner tonight. I’ve been eating in restaurants and grabbing meals on the road for two weeks - I’ve also been very tired and feeling sluggish, and I think the two things go together.

So tonight I’m going to do beef stew with mushrooms and carrots (the only time I can stand cooked carrots) and a couple of potatoes in the stew for thickness and a pile of mashed spuds on the side. When the stew has simmered for a couple of hours, I’ll stir in a big batch of Swiss chard and boil most of it down to add extra punch and nutrition to the dish.

Can’t wait.

On Monday I did an interview with Linda Faulkner at her Author Exchange Blog. You can read it at:

And by the way - the car was fixed quickly and we were able to get back on our way. We lost the half day we had planned for going to Peggy's Cove to see the ocean, but didn't miss any book events

Monday, November 2, 2009


Every book tour has its up and downs and this one seems to have had a lot more downs than usual. There were a lot of problems with getting books into the bookstores, the sales were less than stellar although our library and university events were quite successful. Then - car trouble. We are sitting in the waiting room of the Chryster dealership in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia at the moment, while the mechanics check out Robin's car to see what that noise is. Let's hope we can be on our way shortly. On the plus side - we had a super stay with Patti Gouthro and her husband Brian over the weekend and met a lot of very nice people in Halifax.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Louise Penny Country

My record is still in tact – thank heavens. I have never had an event at which I sold 0 books. But yesterday it was getting pretty tight. Robin and I signed at Chapters in Fredericton at noon and for the first half hour not only did we have no sales, but no interest. I was thinking this would be a record breaker, when the tide turned and all the lunch-hour workers and students heading for Starbucks left and the ‘real’ shoppers came in. So we did reasonably well, for a weekday afternoon in a suburban area.

Then it was off to Westminster Books in Fredericton. A very nice bookstore, quite large for an independent, and with a good mystery section. Total attendees: 0. I was lamenting that I had broken my record and had no achieved 0 sales, when Robin reminded me that someone had come in earlier and had bought a book. Yeah! Saved.

The question all authors ask: is it worthwhile doing booksignings. I still think so. We had a nice visit with the owner at Westminster, she now knows us and knows our books. She told us that Barbara Fradkin and Mary Jane Maffini sell quite well at her store after their (also sparsely attended) appearance a few years ago.

This afternoon we are giving a talk at the library which is only a block away from the bookstore and I understand that attendees to their events regularly go down the street in pursuit of books.

We will see. On to Moncton this afternoon.

On another note, the attached picture was taken in North Hatley, Quebec. I know that a lot of you are Louise Penny fans, so thought you’d enjoy a pic of the town that supposedly is the inspiration for Three Pines.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Notes form the Road

Making a quick lunch stop in Lennoxville, Quebec, where Robin Harlick and I are appearing at Bishop’s University this afternoon.

Yesterday was the first stop on the book tour, at Brome Lake Books in Knowlton, Quebec. It is a wonderful independent bookstore owned by Danny and Lucy. We were put onto the store by Louise Penny who kindly introduced us, via e-mail. Brome Lake is her local bookstore, as she lives not far away. Louise and Michael came out to our event, and we had a great time.

Attendance was somewhat selective, shall we say.

Which raises the question: is it worth it? It is worth travelling for hours, paying to stay in a hotel or B&B, meals on the road, to sell and handful of books.
I’d suggest it depends on the store. A local independent bookstore can be the hub of a community. Few people may come to your event; Sunday night isn’t the best after all. But there was a nice display beforehand, and several books were sold before we even arrived, our names and pictures were in the local paper, and people who did come said they would tell their friends.

So was it worthwhile? Well, if we hadn’t gone, we wouldn’t have sold any books and no one would ever have heard of us.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Once more - on the road

Yesterday was the Poisoned Pen Virtual Web Conference, and it appeared to be a huge success. I don’t know how many people participated, but there seemed to be a lot. I moderated a panel on Blog Talk Radio and we had more people listening in that I’ve had in a lot of real-live panels I’ve participated in.

From my POV at least it was pretty much bug-free, which had been my big concern. There were a few people who were having problems hearing etc. but they seemed few and far between.

So, if you didn’t participated be sure and keep an eye out next year. No word if it will be an annual event, but I think the pressure will be on.

From one thing to another. I start my east coast book tour with R.J. Harlick today. First stop is Brome Lake Books in Knowlton, Quebec. We were put onto the store by Louise Penny, as it is in her neighbourhood and they do a lot of events for Louise. I’m quite excited about visiting Louise Penny territory. Monday we have a day’s visit to Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke Quebec with two events and a book signing, and then back in the car for the drive to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The highlight of that will be the evening of Friday Oct. 30 when we’re participating in a mystery writers event at Mount Saint Vincent University. In between we have two library visits and several bookstores including Westminster Books in Fredericton. All details are posted on my web page. If you can make it, we’d love to see you.

Truth be told - I am not really in the mood for this trip. This is my third book this year, and it's too much. I have wonderful ideas for the new book I've been telling you about, and I just want to hunker down at home and work on it. I am sure I will have fun once I get on the road, because I do love doing book events, and Robin is a great friend.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Night in Rochester

I arrived in Rochester, and had a super evening with Rose and Charles Benoit. I'm up now, and about to sign all the books Poisoned Pen sent for me to sign and return. Then I'm off to the southern shores of Lake Ontario to scope out the landscape for a new book project I have in mind. Then up to Ottawa - after a stop in Kingston to collect my own books for the tour that I didn't dare drive across the border with. Good thing I like to drive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Evil Necessity that is Promotion

A great deal of the writing biz these days is promotion. Whether you’re Ms. Mega-Selling Author or Mr. Bottom of the Mid-List, you have to be on the road. A lot.
And so it is for me. I got back last night from Bouchercon. Have two days to do laundry, write some articles for my November blog tour, and on Thursday I am off to Rochester.

The Rochester gig will be nothing but pleasure: I have to sign copies of Winter of Secrets to return to Poisoned Pen bookstore and am staying with my friends Charles and Rose Benoit ( and Type M for Murder). If you recognize the name Rose Benoit, BTW, yes, she is the inspiration for John Winters’ old partner, Inspector Rose Benoit of the Vancouver Police. Rose has appeared in In the Shadow of the Glacier, and Valley of the Lost and the just completed Negative Image. Unfortunatly she doesn't show up in Winter of Secrets.

I then leave Rochester for Ottawa where I’ll be spending Saturday on line and on the phone as part of the Poisoned Pen Virtual Conference. Sunday morning up bright and early to head for Montreal and the beginning of our East Coast Book Tour.

So that's another two weeks on the road.

I have a new book underway, new characters, new series, new setting, new concept. It’s going well, and I am very unhappy at having to give up so much time when I should be working on it.

But, such is the life!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kootenay Kookies

Lucky Smith’s Kootenay Kookies.

1 c. Butter
1 c. Sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. Flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ¾ tsp soda
2 c rolled oats
2/3 c raisins
2/3 c chopped nuts (or can use more raisins)
Combine butter and sugar until creamy. Add molasses, vanilla, eggs. Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, soda, oars, raisins, and nuts. Stir dry ingredients into butter and egg mixture.
Drop by teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 10 – 15 minutes.

Friday, October 16, 2009


The O Canada Panel at Bouchercon. Left to right, Vicki Delany, Anthony Bidulka, Barbara Fradkin, R.J. Harlick, Mary Jane Maffini

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bouchercon Day One

We arrived safely at Bouchercon after two days of much merriment. I will never again be able to see a Bob Evans sign without thinking of Mary Jane’s shudder when someone suggested we eat there. In honour of that, I am thinking of giving Constable Dave Evans a visiting brother named, what else, Bob.

The convention is huge, tons of people all milling about greeting each other. There are signs up promoting a Handshake Free Bouchercon as a way of avoiding the flu. I don’t think so, there are as many handshakes and cheek kisses as ever.

We had a fabulous dinner last night at a place called Palomino. Half price bottles of wine on Wednesdays. Can’t beat that. Tonight is the Poisoned Pen Press get together. And tomorrow Tony Bidulka is taking the Canadian crew to a fancy restaurant.

Yum. Yum. Life on the road.

This morning I was a at a fun panel put on by the Baker Street Irregulars. I am sure, if you are reading this blog, you can guess what sort of group they are. Laurie R. King was one of the panellists and had us all laughing with her dry wit. After a bumpy start, which bothered her not one bit, Laurie’s Mary Russell is now accepted by Sherlockian societies. And so, IMHO, she should be. I think the Russell novels add so much to the Sherlock Holmes canon.

Ran into Deborah Turrell Atkinson and Judy Clemmins, among others in the bar last night. Am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my good friend Julia Pomeroy who I haven’t seen for some time.

And of course this afternoon is the O Canada panel. Mary Jane suggested we subtitle it We’re not as nice as you think.

Monday, October 12, 2009

On the Road!

Today is the last day of peace and quiet for quite a long time. Tomorrow morning I am going to be picked up in Belleville by R.J. Harlick, Barbara Fradkin and Mary Jane Maffini for the two day road trip to Boucheron.

Wednesday afternoon we will arrive in Indianapolis and setting into four days of smoozing and being charming. Shouldn’t be difficult. For those of you attending the conference, a reminder that the four of us, plus the ever-wonderful Anthony Bidulka, will be on the O Canada: A Criminal Romp Through the Wilds of Canada panel Thursday at 4:30.

We’re planning to serve traditional Canadian fare, and are having a lot of fun deciding what that is. I’ve made Kootenay Kookies and have bought Smarties. I think Inuit tea, maple leaf cookies, Nanaimo bars and other such goodies are on the menu. It addition we’re dressing in an assortment of national costume, and will have a contest and giveaways.

Definitely the place to be Thursday afternoon.

Many of the Canadian attendees at Bouchercon have contributed books to a basket for the silent auction. I have both a copy of Gold Digger, and an ARC of Winter of Secrets. Let's try to get the bidding up there!

I will barely be back from Bouchercon before it’s time to hit the road for the East Coast book tour with R.J. Harlick. Details of that are on my web page. Look for the Vicki on the Road link.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Beginnings

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’m off to Oakville in a short while to have turkey and all the trimmings with my mom and my youngest daughter. Eldest daughter is busy, and middle daughter too far away, so it’s just the three of us.
More turkey for me!

Negative Image has gone to the editor at Poisoned Pen Press. I anxiously await her response. I know it’s not completely out-to-lunch, because as per PPP policy, she has already approved the outline and the first 100 pages. Still, there is always that niggling thought that maybe she will hate it.

After a couple of months of doing a bit of this and a bit of that, I’m now ready to dive straight into my new book, which will be the start of a new series. I’ve talked it over with my agent, and they feel it has real potential, so let’s get at it!
Oops. I’m going to be on the road for the next month, and then very busy for a month after that with promotion for Winter of Secrets.

I plan to spend the winter working on it, and as I have nothing on (yet) after the beginning of December, I should be able to make real progress. I'm planning to blog about it as it goes.

The contest to win an ARC of Winter of Secrets is closed, but if you are attending Bouchercon next week please try to make our panel: Oh Canada: A Criminal Romp Through the Wilds of Canada, Thursday at 4:30. Prizes will be awarded and Canadian cuisine will be served.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Critique Group Day

I belong to a super critique group, and today is our meeting day. We don’t meet often, about once every two months. The purpose of the group isn’t really to read everything that each of us has written, but to help with difficult parts.

We meet at a pub in downtown Toronto, which sounds rather strange – how can you have a meeting in a pub? But we’ve found a nice place that has a private, quiet corner. We’ll start off with a drink, and some gossip about the publishing biz, then have dinner, and then open the pages. We send the pages we want to discuss about a week before the meeting so everyone has a chance to read them.

There are plenty of ways of organizing a critique group. Probably as many types of groups as there are writers, but I’d suggest one rule only for anyone looking to form, or join a group. You absolutely have to trust in your group members. You don’t have to accept their judgement, and do everything they tell you – which would be difficult as they can be contradictory! – but you do have to be able to justify if only to yourself why you are not taking their advice. Similarly, you have to believe that their work is good enough to be published, otherwise, why bother?

I belonged to an online critique group some years ago, and when I think back on it, it’s a wonder I kept writing. Some of the members were harsh to the point of being mean; one woman completely rewrote a section of my dialogue and said “There, it works much better this way.”

One of the members of my group, Donna Carrick, has just had her new book, The First Excellence, released. I haven’t read it yet, but certainly am looking forward to it. After all, I know it was well critiqued!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grammar and Your Reputation.

Does grammar matter? You bet it does. I’ve heard beginning writers say they don’t worry much about their spelling and grammar because that’s what editors are for, isn’t it.

Trust me, it matters. Most editors make their living by knowing what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to writing. And they get annoyed, fast, at common or sloppy errors. If you are trying to get that first novel read you do not want the editor at the publisher or agent you are querying to get annoyed at you.

But even more, if you want to make your living with words, how you write is your reputation.

What brought this up is that there is a classified ad in my local small-town newspaper for a course in creative writing. In the context of one brief ad there are THREE grammar errors.

Internationally acclaimed author XX is offering a highly successful Toronto Workshops at XX. Add punch to your prose and learn how to get them published.

Did you spot them?
1) Workshops should not be capitalized as it is not a proper noun.
2) Offering a... workshops. Plural noun, singular article.
3) Your prose and... get them.. Again singular and plural in the same sentence.

If this person can’t get his own three line ad correct, why should I pay him to teach me anything?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Win an ARC of Winter of Secrets

Contest time!

I’m offering two ARCs (advance reading copies) of Winter of Secrets which will be released by Poisoned Pen Press on Nov. 1st.

The first chapter has been posted on my web page ( Send me an e-mail telling me what Constable Molly Smith’s radio call number is, and you will be eligible! Contest closes on Friday Oct. 9th. My e-mail address is Vicki at vickidelany dot com. (you know the drill)

Onto further news – I baked cookies yesterday for our party at Bouchercon. We’ve decided that because the O Canada panel is at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon, when energy levels are starting to droop, we will make it a party, so we’re all contributing something deliciously Canadian.

The picture at the right is of me taken at Word on the Street in Toronto last week. Nice banner, eh? That’s the Crime Writers of Canada logo. The picture was taken by Pam Balance who is one half of the writing team Jamie Tremain. (

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fresh Tomato and Basil Linguini and a lot of work

Spoke to my agent yesterday, and she will have the comments for Negative Image back to me on Monday. So that gives me a couple of days to get caught up in the garden.

Today will be a gardening day. Time to pick the last of the tomatoes, bring them in the house and hope they’ll ripen, and dig up the vegetable garden. I have only been in this house for a year. Last year I had grass dug up and a vegetable bed prepared. I was a bit on the over-enthusiastic side, and ended up with more than I could care for. I had a really good crop of weeds in one corner of the garden, so tossed a tarp on them for the summer. Over the next couple of days I’d like to get the entire bed ready for winter. Next year I’m going to expand into peppers and garlic. I know I have to get the garlic in this week.

I’ve really enjoyed the vegetable garden – lettuce in the spring and early summer and then tons of tomatoes in the late summer and early fall.

I estimate that in the last month 80% of my dinners have been tomatoes, garlic, and basil over pasta with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top. And I’m still not tired of it – yesterday I bought another package of linguini. If you’d like the recipe, ask, but you really don’t need a recipe. Just toss what you have in a frying pan in a splash of olive oil. Even cooked, real tomatoes taste so much better than anything from the supermarket in January.

Today is the County Marathon, and I for one can’t wait. Not that I’m exactly a marathon runner, but as it happens the course goes right by my property. I love living here, in Prince Edward County, and I love my 19th century house and property in the country. The only thing I don’t love is that I am on a County Road. Which means a busy road (never mind summer when it’s the road to the beach!). They’ll be closing the road soon for the runners, and yeah! Peace and quiet for a few hours.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Preparing for Bouchercon and Fall Book Tour

What happened to fall? Two weeks ago I was in the pool, and yesterday I turned the heat on.

I’m stuck between projects right now, and not happy about it. I’ve sent the MS of Negative Image (Smith and Winter #4) to my agent, and waiting it’s return, no doubt with suggestions. I’ve sent a proposal and the first 50pages of a new idea to my agent, and am waiting input before continuing. Gold Fever is at the publisher, and I’m waiting their editorial changes on that. Time to start thinking about Gold Rush book #3. I finished the short story and will get input about that from my critique group next week.

I am not good at starting and stopping something; I want to work on a book in a continuous flow, so I find myself this week in a holding pattern.

Fortunately, It’s not that I have nothing esle to do. My fall is looking to be jam packed with activities. There’s Oakville for Thanksgiving with the family, then the Great Road Trip of ’09 to Bouchercon, then my Quebec and east coast book tour with R.J. Harlick, and back to Ontario for booksignings for Winter of Secrets.

The book tour is really falling into place. We have a lot of bookstores to visit, two libraries to present talks at and not one, but TWO, universities at which we’ll be speaking. Bishops’ University in Lennoxville, Quebec, and Mount St. Vincent in Halifax.

There’s a lot of work that goes into a book tour. Calling stores and arranging the visit, settling details of when and where and what to talk about where we’re speaking, arranging accommodation, working on speeches.

The writer’s life is about a lot more than writing!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bouchercon Road Trip and Party!

This picture is of Rick Blechta and me at Word on the Street on Sunday.

Plans are progressing for the Great Road Trip of ‘09. I am going with Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, and R.J. Harlick; setting off on the 12 hour trip (for me) 15 hours (from Ottawa for them) to Indianapolis for Bouchercon. I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun, not only on the road but also at the conference.

The four of us, along with Anthony Bidulka, are on the Canadian Crime panel. Let me just say that we’re planning to have a lot more than a panel – we’re thinking party!
If you’re going to be at Bouchercon, and you want to know what’s happening in the world of Canadian crime writing, and you like a good party, be sure and look us up in Indianapolis.

Contest News: On Monday, I’ll be having a contest to win an ARC of Winter of Secrets AND I’ll give another copy to anyone who reads this blog and says the secret word to me at Bouchercon.
So stay tuned.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Word on the Street

Rain, rain. Rain all day today and again tomorrow.

I think today is going to be a pyjama day.

Yesterday, I had a great day at Word on the Street in Toronto. I was the organizer of the Crime Writers of Canada booth, so had to be there from 9 to set up until 6 to close down. It was just wonderful to see all those thousands of people, tens of thousands probably, wanting to talk about books and about reading. We had a steady stream of visitors to our booth, to meet the authors and to hear about the organization. It didn’t hurt, I am sure, that Robert J. Sawyer, was at the table next to us.

Over at Type M for Murder, the group blog I am part of, we’re talking about using technology in promotion. I wrote my piece today so won’t repeat it here, suffice to say that I’d rather spend a day at something like Word on the Street, actually meeting people, readers and writers, than sitting at home wondering if anyone is reading my posting on Facebook or watching my homemade video on You Tube.

Finished the short story. I think it’s pretty good!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pictures of Trafalgar, B.C.

I put a few pictures up on the web page album that I took in Nelson, B.C. in April. I decided that they are the view from Molly’s apartment in Trafalgar. Yes, after two books, Molly Smith has moved out of her parents’ house. To see them go to my web page and click on Photo Album in the bottom left corner.

I’m off to Toronto shortly to pick up stuff for the Crime Writers of Canada table at Word on the Street. Then I’m going to have tea with my good friend and fellow-scribe Cheryl Freedman. I am in charge of CWC table this year so will be there most of the day tomorrow (Sunday). I’m actually signing from 1 – 2 (along with Rick Blechta) so please stop by and say Hi if you are in the neighbourhood. If you are in the neighbourhood and haven’t been to WOTS before, you really should. It’s held at Queens’ Park, is huge, and is an all day celebration of books and writing. Great fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A YouTube Effort

In preparation for the upcoming Poisoned Pen Web Conference ( I have been testing out all the technology tools available. The conference is all online, and there will be written, audio and video presentations and talks. One of the things I am going to be doing is a live presentation over LiveStream. So I tested it out by recording something.

It’s now up on You Tube. Pretty amateurish, to be sure, but it’s a lot cheaper than having a book trailer done. Have a look and see what you think. This is titled Vicki Delany introduces Winter of Secrets. It’s just over a minute long – I struggled to keep it that short, long enough to make my point, but hopefully short enough not to lose the audience’s interest.

I finished the short story, titled Sore Feet and Gold Dust. And then decided that it might work in present tense. So today I’ll be rewriting it that way. Normally I don’t care for anything written in present tense, but I thought for a short story it might give a sense of intimacy with the character.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Starred Review for Winter of Secrets

Forgive me a moment of self-indulgence. I was absolutely thrilled yesterday to receive a starred review for the forthcoming Winter of Secrets (November from Poisoned Pen Press). I was particularly pleased that they liked the ending, because that last couple of chapters went back and forth between the editor and me several times. So all that hard work paid off. I will be offering a contest in early October to win an arc of Winter of Secrets, so please stay tuned.

Fiction Book Reviews: 9/21/2009
Reviews of New Fiction, Poetry, Mystery, Science Fiction and Comics
-- Publishers Weekly, 9/21/2009

* Winter of Secrets Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (274p) ISBN 978-1-59058-676-8
The discovery early one Christmas morning of the bodies of best friends Jason Wyatt-Yarmouth and Ewan Williams, two privileged young men from Toronto, in an SUV sunken in an ice-covered river propels Delaney's stellar third mystery to feature constable Molly Smith of Trafalgar, B.C. (after Feb. 2009's Valley of the Lost). Molly investigates what at first appears to be an accident, but when the times and manner of Jason's and Ewan's deaths turn out to differ, she and her colleagues have a murder case on their hands. Whether at the Glacier Chalet B&B, on a black diamond ski trail or in the police station, Delaney glides between scenes with ease. She uses a bare-bones style, without literary flash, to achieve artistry as sturdy and restrained as a Shaker chair. Warmth and menace, past and present, are nicely balanced, with a denouement that's equally plausible and startling. This confident performance is sure to win new fans to the series. (Nov.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Score one for the Good Guys

On the group blog I am part of, Type M for Murder, we often discuss the rather poor reputation mystery or crime writing has in comparison to so-called literary novels. The Americans use the label mystery books, sometimes even, shudder, murder mystery, and in Britain they say crime fiction. I vastly prefer the word crime, because I believe that a good crime novel need not be about a murder, and often not even a mystery. It is, in my definition, a book about a crime, or the threat of a crime, and the consequences thereof.

Anyway, in Canada in particular crime novels are seen as second rate. The wonderful writer William Deverell recently wrote in the National Post about our National Snobbishness Disorder, which Rick Blechta linked to at Type M. My friend and blog-mate Charles Benoit replied that he didn’t care what anyone called his books as long as they call them ‘bestselling’.

It’s a matter of respect I believe. In Canada, because of this ‘disorder’ it is hard for crime writers to get things such as writer-in-residence positions or grants. We’re not seen as writers of serious fiction.

Last week on the CBC radio programme, the Sunday Edition, I heard a writer and teacher by the name of Lorna Crozier confess that on Sundays she indulges in books that are “not good for her”. Mystery novels in general and the works of Peter Robinson in particular. Michael Enright, the host, appeared to agree, calling them “bad books”. Presumably bad, in the sense of a naughty indulgence.

I took offense and wrote a strongly-worded letter to the programme. I won’t reproduce the letter here, sufficient to see we’ve discussed these points at Type M many times. (Look under the tag Genre Fiction) This week they read my letter on the air and Michael even said, “I apologize to Vicki Delany”.

Yeah, I felt as if I’d scored one for the good guys.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Storm Witch by Violette Malan

Last night I went to the launch of The Storm Witch, a new book by my friend the fantasy writer Violette Malan. It was held at Novel Idea in Kingston, Ontario. My daughter, Alex, loves fantasy and she is a huge fan of Violette’s work. For more:

This afternoon I’m off north to the tiny town of Lyndhust to attend tomorrow’s Turkey Fair, where I’ll be selling books. This is my first year at this event, but it sounds like a real, traditional, small-town Ontario fall fair. Should be a blast.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I started on the short story yesterday, with as I said, not much of an idea as to what I wanted to do with it. But I find that once the fingers start moving it engages the brain. I wrote about 1000 words yesterday, getting a good beginning, and this morning when I re-read what I’d written the idea for the ending came to me. Trust in your characters, I say, and then you can trust in yourself.

After two days I am about half finished in terms of word count, but I've decided to take a break to dive back into my books on the Klondike. It's been a while, and I think I've lost some of the colour.

On other news, these sunflowers are in my kitchen. Aren’t they lovely? I did have two sunflowers growing in the garden, but they were too precious to cut and bring indoors. The beans are the ones that I’ve been shelling to store in jars until the winter. Pretty labour intensive, and probably not cost-effecting considering the price of beans, but it gives me a sense of being self-sufficient.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Short stories and new directions

Fall is definitely on its way. The days are warm and sunny but the nights are cool and there is a bite in the air. I am writing this out on the deck, with a shawl over my shoulders. The tips of some of the trees are turning red and yellow and the farm stands are overflowing with vegetables. It’s a lovely time of year.

Something new – I’m wanting to try a couple of short stories. I wrote short stories at the beginning of my writing career, but nothing for years. I haven’t been able to come up with anything much in the way of an idea, so figure that I will just start and see what comes. If anything. Maybe nothing will, but at least I will have tried. When I spent some time with Peter Robinson at Wolfe Island last month he said that writing short stores really stretches him – makes him go in new directions as a writer.

I’ll let you know tomorrow how it turned out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Virtual Mystery Conference

I have spent a good part of the last couple of days trying to prepare for the Poisoned Pen Web Con in October. Haven’t heard of yet? Well gather round.

Poisoned Pen Press and the Poisoned Pen Bookstore are putting on the world’s FIRST virtual mystery conference. Virtual is the key word: there will be panels, author presentations, chats in the coffee shop and hallway, and all done over the Internet.

It’s brave and it’s adventurous and it will be really revolutionary. Almost anyone can participate, just by logging on on the day and reading the text material, but to really get something out of it, it helps if you have audio and video to both listen in and to actively participate.

I’ve been busy getting livestream up and working so I can create live video. I have my panel assignment; I will be moderating a panel over internet radio. When the panellists have confirmed, I let you know the details. Here is the web page if you want to see what it’s all about. The date is Saturday October 24.

On a more personal front - I went to yoga today for the first time since I injured my leg back in early July. I feel just wonderful!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Scene of the Crime Festival board met yesterday to sum up this year’s event and to plan for next year. It was easy to sum up this year – it was great! I’m looking forward to next year already. Here’s the link if you are thinking of checking it out. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out. Wolfe Island Scene of the Crime Festival
Next year it will be held on August 14th, and the Grant Allen award recipient is Gail Bowen.

Today will be a working day, as opposed to a writing day. Work, for me, is anything related to promotion or publicity; anything other than actually writing fiction. I have a couple of blog interviews coming up, and a proposal for a new book to put together. Oh, yes, and grass to cut. I’m getting tired of cutting the lawn.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lyn Hamilton

One of the brightest lights of the Canadian Mystery Scene has passed away. Lyn Hamilton, author of the Lara McClintock series. Lyn was kind enough to provide a cover blurb for Scare the Light Away. In 2005 she came with Rick Blechta and me to New York for a signing at McNally's Bookstore. She was a wonderful person, a great writer, and an inspiration, and mentor, to many.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mystery Fanfare

Today on Mystery Fanfare as part of their Cool Canadian Crime series there is an interview with me. I talk about my writing, and Canadian writing in general.

A Sci-Fi Mystery?

Woke up this morning to fog. Very unusual in this part of the world. I guess Mother Nature wanted to announce that summer was over in a spectacular way. I like it – it looks all creepy and mysterious. The beans in the farmer’s field beside me are yellow, and they really stand out in the fog whereas the green of grass and tress just blends in. See the way the light is shining on the corn silo? Could be an alien landing site.

Hum... do I see a science fiction mystery in my future?

No, I don’t think so. I have way too much on the go as it is. Might make an inspiration for a short story though. Something to think about.

Nothing in the writing world planned today. I have good friends coming, so will be spending the morning getting ready for them.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Plans and Tomatoes

Finished Negative Image yesterday and got it off to the agent. This morning I feel a bit lost. I am sitting here, staring at the computer thinking that I should have something to do!

I have a few things on this week (see attached picture!) and will think it all over while doing other things. The second Klondike book, Gold Fever, will be out in the Spring, so it might be time to start on book 3. As of yet, I don’t have any ideas for that one, but I am sure they will come. In the meantime, I am thinking of trying my hand at a couple of short stories. In August, I spent a wonderful weekend in the company of Peter Robinson and his wife Sheila on Wolfe Island at the Scene of the Crime Festival, and Peter told me that he finds short stories a way of stretching yourself, moving beyond your boundaries as a writer. I want to try that.

For the next couple of days I am going to make tomato sauce, blueberry muffins, putter about the house, go to Stratford with my daughter to see Macbeth. Then by the end of the week I will be brimming with ideas and ready to go. I hope.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Out the door!

Smith and winters Number Four will be finished today. Then out the door to the hardest critics of all, my agent and editor. I am not set on the title, Negative Image, so that might change.

Yesterday I was giving it one last glance over and I suddenly realized that X was never asked for an explanation of where they were at the time of the murder. Considering that X is a suspect, that seemed like a considerable oversight on the part of the police. And considering that in the town of Trafalgar, B.C. the police only do what I tell them, it’s my oversight.

So this morning I am out on the deck – another fabulous day – sending Detective Lopez around to question X. For reasons that will be explained, the formerly almost invisible Ray Lopez plays a prominent part in this book. A brief description: Despite his surname, the detective was red-haired and freckled, and very fond of a pint of Guinness.

In the first three books in the series, I have a Mountie named Ron Gavin and a detective named Ray Lopez. They never interacted, and as I said Lopez was pretty much invisible. Now in book four they come to work together and I find that I have a Ray and a Ron.

Which is pretty much of a disaster. So I use their surnames as much as possible but considering that everyone refers to everyone by their first names it is getting awkward. Bad planning on my part that.

Back to work...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

More on Tomatoes

Tomatoes, tomatoes, big fat tomatoes, and tiny little ones. All ripe and juicy.
This weekend will be all about tomatoes. My garden is overflowing. I’m saving the cherry tomatoes to make pasta for my friends, Helen, Mary, and Jan who are coming to visit next week. The big ones I’ll be using to make tomato sauce for the freezer. I’ll probably have a tomato sandwich for lunch. My lovely neighbour brought over a container of her heirloom cherry tomatoes to put some different colours into next week’s pasta. And shortly I’m going to the annual heirloom tomato event at Vicki’s Veggies. This Vicki has nothing to do with me, it’s a small organic farm in Prince Edward County famous across most of Ontario for the quality of its produce. Each Labour Day weekend they have a heirloom tomato tasting. I went last year and it was wonderful. You wouldn’t believe the sizes and colours and tastes that tomatoes come in.

Now that I’m growing my own, I don’t really need to be buying tomatoes – but I’m sure I’ll find a use for them.

At this time of year, Molly Smith will also be knee deep in tomatoes, particaruly as her mother has a big garden. Fiona MacGillivray would likely kill for one, but even at that price, they were not to be found in the Yukon Territory in 1898.

As well as eating and cooking and dreaming about tomatoes, my plan is to finish the final draft of Smith and Winters #4, still tentatively titled Negative Image, and send it off to my agent tomorrow.

Happy eating!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Gold Fever

They're back! Fiona and Angus and the gang will be back in Spring 2010 with Gold Fever. Contract is signed, blurbs are written! Here's a description:

It’s the spring of 1898, and tens of thousands of people, from all corners of the globe, are flooding into the Yukon Territory in the pursuit of gold. The town of Dawson welcomes them all, except for the people who had been there first. When young Angus MacGillivray saves the life of a Native woman intent on suicide, he inadvertently sets off a chain of events that offers his mother’s arch-enemy Joey LeBlanc, the Madam with a heart of coal, the opportunity to destroy the Savoy Dance Hall once and for all.

Unaware of impending danger, Fiona has other things on her mind: among the new arrivals are Martha Witherspoon, a would-be writer with far more tenacity than talent, and her nervous companion Euila Forester. There’s something familiar about Miss Forester’s cut-glass accent, and Fiona MacGillivray is determined to keep the newcomer as far away from Angus as possible. Twelve-year-old Angus, however, has a better idea.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mann, the landlady, fills the yard with steam and men’s underwear in her new laundry business; Ray Walker, co-owner of the Savoy, a tough little Glasgow street fighter, spends most of his day mooning over Lady Irenee, the most popular dancer in town; Irene carefully guards her secrets; Sergeant Lancaster, the love-struck, ex-boxing champion, pursues his hopeless quest for Fiona’s hand; Journalist Graham Donohue digs the dirt looking for stories; Barney, one of the few successful miners, holds up his corner of the bar; and Constable Richard Sterling guards the morals of the town with steely determination and the occasional glance at Fiona’s ankles. And – joy of joys – a seamstress of unparalleled quality opens for business.

All the while percentage girls and drunks, croupiers and gamblers, prostitutes and clients, bar hangers-on, Bishops and newspapermen, cheechakos and sourdoughs, and the infrequent respectable businessman walk, or fall, through the doors of the Savoy.

Then a killer strikes and the Mounties are determined to get their man... or woman.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Negative Image

Another wonderful late summer day. Yesterday I made tomato sauce for the freezer using my own tomatoes and basil. Such a enormous sense of pride, making such a little thing. A couple of nights this week I’ve had pasta with cherry tomatoes (mine), basil (mine), arugula (sadly, not mine) and feta cheese (definitely not mine!). If anyone knows if it’s easy to grow arugula in S. Ontario – Zone 5 – please let me know.

Got the blurbs for Gold Fever done. I’ll post one shortly as a sort of sneak peek.

Yesterday also I edited part of a MS by a woman who attended my workshop at Wolfe Island. I enjoy doing that sort of thing, and think I’m fairly good at it. I have an Editor’s Certificate from a Community College, so at least I can correct the grammar and punctuation.

I am coming along well with the edits to Smith and Winters 4. The tentative title is Negative Image, because an old photograph provides the major plot point. But I am wondering if I need to have a geographical word i.e. Glacier, Valley, Winter.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Never Forget

Like Bugs Bunny, I never forget. I actually do have a great memory for things I have to do, only last year when I was on the road so much did I start keeping a diary. It probably has something to do with a brain that stores mundane facts – I almost never lose at Trivial Pursuit; when I was a Lan Administer I knew everyone’s password without writing them down. On the other hand I have a dreadful memory for things that actually happened in my life. I’ll get together with my friends and they’ll all be laughing and say “Do you remember when...” Uh, no, I don’t.

Which is a long winded way of saying that I forgot to send the publisher the suggested blurbs for Gold Fever. She had to write and remind me that they are overdue.

I find blubs very hard to write. You have to condense the essence of your story into a hundred words, or four hundred words, while also creating a mood and a sense of tension and conflict. Not easy to do.

The blurb for Gold Digger was all about the characters and the setting, not about the plot at all. But for the second book in the series I feel we can’t do that again. I’ll let you know when I have something. In the meantime, here’s the blurb we used for Gold Digger:

It's the spring of 1898 and Dawson, Yukon Territory, is the most exciting town in North America. The great Klondike Gold Rush is in full swing and Fiona MacGillivray has crawled over the Chilkoot Pass determined to make her fortune as the owner of the Savoy dance hall. Provided, that is, if her 12-year-old son, growing up much too fast for her liking; the former Glasgow street fighter who's now her business partner; a stern, handsome NWMP constable; an ageing, love-struck, ex-boxing champion; a wild assortment of headstrong dancers, croupiers, gamblers, madams without hearts of gold, bar hangers-on, cheechakos and sourdoughs; and Fiona's own nimble-fingered past don’t get in her way. And then there’s a dead body on centre stage.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Summer’s End.

First of September. I live in a major tourist destination, and suddenly it is so quiet and peaceful this morning. The weather is great: blue skies, light breeze. I’ve spent the morning sitting out on the deck, drinking coffee, writing. I usually love the fall, but this year I don’t feel that I’m ready. Here in Southern Ontario we haven’t had much summer. I’d like to go for a swim, but the nights are turning cool and the temperature of the pool has dropped dramatically.

I have plenty of things on the go for the fall. The next Smith and Winters book, Winter of Secrets, will be out on November 1st. I’ll be on book tour with R.J. Harlick to the East Coast in October and then doing signings around South and Eastern Ontario in November and December. (Links to the tour will be posted soon).

The second Gold Rush book, Gold Fever, will be released in the spring so I’ll have edits coming soon. I’m working on the final draft of Smith and Winters #4 (tentative title Negative Image). Final, that is, before it goes to my agent and my editor, so I am sure there will be more work required. I have plans for something very new, of which more later, and I’d like to try my hand at writing a couple of short stories.

All of which should keep me out of trouble at least until Christmas.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Modesty Blaise

My ode to Modesty Blaise is posted on The Rap Sheet. Modesty, in some small way, was an inspiration for the character of Fiona MacGillivray.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lucky Smith's Extra Special Blueberry Cake

Every July Lucky Smith (Molly's mom) makes this cake several times with fresh blueberries. Then they're gone and the family has to wait another eleven months to have it again.

Lucky;s Blueberry Cake

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
Stir together 1/3 cup sugar, water, lemon juice, cornstarch in small saucepan over low heat. Stir in blueberries. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
Whisk together egg, milk, butter, vanilla in a large bowl, then add flour mixture, whisking until just combined.
Spoon batter into baking pan, spreading evenly, then pour blueberry mixture evenly over batter.
Bake about 25 to 30 minutes.
Enjoy while reading a good book.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Forty Reasons to Go On Living

How nice. The next Constable Molly Smith book, Winter of Secrets, will be released November 1st by Poisoned Pen Press. The Rap Sheet listed forty books they're looking foward to in the second half of this year (20 US and 20 UK) under the title Forty Reasons to Go On Living. Winter of Secrets is one of them. I'm delighted. Here's the full list for those of you who, like me, like to drool over your future TBR pile.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Memories of Shenzi

Vicki here today, taking over from Fiona and Molly. My dear dog Shenzi, who I've had for 13 years, died last week. My friend Carolyn house sat for me in the spring when I was on book tour and visiting Nelson, and Carolyn writes about Shenzi at her blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Day in the Life...

Fiona MacGillivrary here today to kick off this new blog that Vicki had provided for us. So kind of her, I'm sure. Here is the original opening to the first book in the Klondike Series, Gold Digger. It was considered too much, too soon, for the beginning of a book and so was relegated to the bottom drawer. Do you think it would have worked?

Blood is so difficult to wash out of good clothing.

Two men came tumbling out of the gambling room in a flying mass of fists and feet, unwashed clothes, manure-encrusted boots, mining dust, Front Street mud, and months of pent-up disappointment. I had barely enough time to dance backwards and thus avoid getting a splatter of blood across the bosom of my green satin gown. I fell backwards into someone, tall and hard muscled, and I felt his strong arms wrap themselves around me and rough hands taking advantage of the opportunity to caress my shoulders. “I’ll have you for that, you lying son-of-a-bitch,” the larger of the fighters shouted, spitting out a tooth along with a mouthful of blood and spit, as he struggled to be the first one back on his feet. A flock of gamblers, still clutching chips or cards in scared hands with nails cracked and stained black with dust and mud, spilled out of the back rooms, eager to follow the action. But, of course, not everyone deserted the game - the croupier’s voice could still be heard calmly saying, “place your bets, gentlemen.” The man whose tooth was now lying in a slimy puddle in the middle of the floor lunged towards the man who’d, presumably, delivered the blow that had split his lip open. The punch landed and the smaller man staggered backwards, falling into the crowd of drinkers gathered crowded around the bar. Old Barney’s stool swayed dangerously, but he merely clenched his glass tighter and took another swallow. Chloe screamed in mock terror and pretended to faint dead away in a flutter of cheap fabric and many-times-mended stockings. Unfortunately for Chloe no one reacted fast enough and she hit the floor with a distinct thud followed by an indignant shriek. Her skirt flew up, high above her ankles, and at the sight of all that exposed leg, men at last rushed to offer her assistance. Irene stood safely back from the melee, watching it all with a smile of mild amusement on her face. A young fellow, dressed as if he were going shooting for grouse in Scotland, extended his arm. She sized him up in an instant, accepted the offer with a gracious nod, and allowed him to escort her to safety. “One hundred dollars on the big guy,” came a shout from the back of the room. A chorus of voices took him up on it. The smaller man shook his head and threw himself back into the fight. He landed a powerful right hook that belittled his scrawny frame. The larger man flew backwards, crashing into a circle of drinkers, clutching their beverages while watching the fight. A glass crashed to the floor. “Why you…” the glass’s owner shouted, raising his fist to send the other man back the way he’d come. “Stay out of it Williams,” one of his group yelled, grabbing at him. His blood up, Williams drove his meaty fist straight into his friend’s stomach. The friend - former friend? - blanched and vomited. “Hey, that was a dirty trick.” A third man hit Williams solidly in the jaw. The violin player, who had been halfway across the room when the fight broke out, clung to the walls, clutching the delicate instrument to his chest as if it were a new-born baby. Without looking over my shoulder to see who was holding me, hands now moving away from my shoulders and inching towards my breasts, I drove my elbow backwards into his midsection, raked the heel of my boot down his leg and planted it firmly into his instep. With a soft grunt the arms released me. “Ray,” I bellowed, wading into the altercation, “where are you?” Sam Collins dashed out of the gambling room and reached the secondary fight, now threatening to spawn a tertiary engagement. “Take it outside boys.” Sam pushed the antagonists apart. For a moment it looked as if Williams was going to take a swipe at Sam, but at the sight of a man almost old enough to be his grandfather, Williams folded. At last I could see Ray. He had pulled a no-nonsense baton out from beneath the long counter of the bar and was advancing on the men who had started the whole thing. “That won’t be necessary, Walker.” Two Mounties, radiating authority in their scarlet tunics, broad-brimmed hats, and polished black boots walked into the bar. “We’ll take care of it.” The patrons parted politely to allow the law passage. A forest of arms lifted Chloe to her feet. Betsy stopped screaming and fluttered her eyelashes at the younger policeman, but he ignored her. The man who was taking bets on the outcome of the fight moaned in disappointment. The sighs of frustration of the two original antagonists sounded like air escaping from a rip in an over-inflated ball. Each Mountie grabbed a fighter by the back of his collar and propelled him towards the door. “It’s a blue card for you two,” the older officer said, “and make no mistake.”

The moment the doors shut behind them, the room returned to normal. The gamblers went back to their games; the drinkers surged towards the bar for another round; the dancers and the musicians, including a pouting Betsy and a weeping violinist, departed to get ready for the night’s show. Barney, not much caring if anyone was listening or not, droned on about the old days. Sam politely asked the man with vomit all down his shirt to go home and change before having another drink, and Ray replaced the baton behind the bar with scarcely a blink. Helen poked her nose out of the back room and groaned at sight of the mess she’d have to clean up. I touched my hair, making sure that every strand was tucked neatly in place, checked that my best-quality fake pearls were still draped around my neck, and straightened the skirt of the green satin gown. I waved to Ray and indicated that I would take a breath of air for a few moments.

I watched the crowds flowing up and down and across Front Street. What had I gotten myself into, was my first thought. A great deal of money, was my second.

Owning a dance hall in Dawson, Yukon Territory, in the summer of 1898 certainly beat dangling from a rope tossed out of the second-story bedroom of a Belgravia townhouse on a rainy February night, dressed in men’s clothes all in black, with a pocket full of rings and necklaces and a sack of the family’s good silver tossed across my back, trying not to breathe too loudly while a constable, tardy on his rounds for one cursed night, stood below, sneaking a quick smoke.

I laughed deeply, winked at a shiny faced cheechako passing by, and returned to the lights of the Savoy with a flick of my skirt.