Friday, April 18, 2014

SCHMOOZING WITH HILARY MACLEOD





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

MYSTERY REVIEW - COLD MOURNING


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

INTERVIEW WITH LOU ALLIN


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 www.louallin.com and she may be reached at louallin@shaw.ca.





L









Friday, March 28, 2014

CRIME ON MY MIND

THE WEEK THAT WAS


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

MYSTERY REVIEW -- THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE

THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE
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

SCHMOOZING WITH VICKI DELANY

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 www.vickidelany.com, on Twitter @vickidelany and Facebook at www.facebook.com/Vicki.Delany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

CRIME ON MY MIND

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!