CYBER CAFE: Meet Hank Phillippi Ryan

This June, Toronto Sisters in Crime welcomed Hank Phillippi Ryan as guest speaker to celebrate the 30th anniversary of SinC “mothership”.  I had the privilege of interviewing Hank Ryan on behalf of Toronto SinC last fall at Bouchercon in New Orleans. She is a delightful, warm person with a staggering list of accomplishments.

Hank has been the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate for 30+ years. For her ground breaking journalism work, she has been awarded 33 EMMY’s, 14 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens more honours. She is also the bestselling author of nine mystery novels which together have earned five Agathas, two Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne and the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award!

Throughout her career, Hank has worked to support women. She was 2013 President of the USA Sisters in Crime and is a founding teacher of Mystery Writers of America University. She also sits on the board of the Lyric Stage of Boston where she founded the “First Curtain” program to bring theatre to underprivileged students.

Hank lives in Boston with her husband, a renowned civil rights and criminal defence attorney.

 

How did you choose journalism as your career?

I grew up in rural Indiana. As a kid, I was bookish and nerdy. I had no friends so I read all the time. Books were my real friends.

I attended Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio where I really came into my own. At the same time, I really had no idea what I wanted to be or do. I ended up studying English, majoring in Shakespeare while I minored in listening to rock and roll records. But while I loved college, I felt that I should be out in the world making a difference.

At first, I believed that politics was the best way to change the world. I was a political campaign worker and then a press secretary to a US congressman. Later, I put in a two-year stint at Rolling Stone Magazine where I worked on the political column “Capital Chatter” and even organized the coverage for gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson’s presidential campaign. Then I decided that I could do more good on the other side of the microphone, asking the questions rather than answering them.

I love how you landed your first job in the media. Do share your story with us.

I simply walked into the newsroom of the biggest radio station in Indianapolis and asked for a job as a reporter. Back in the 1970’s, they didn’t have any women reporters working there. I mean no women at all. But we were also right in the middle of the Women’s Movement.

I argued with the news director. Every time he raised an objection, I shot it down. He kept telling me he couldn’t hire me because I had no experience. In the end, I pointed out that the station’s FCC licence was up for renewal and he told me the job was mine.

What inspired you to become an investigative journalist?

I always want to be a detective: to find out the truth. A journalist and a detective always seek out the hidden truth, the deeper story behind events.

As a journalist, I always ask: What is the real story? And I ask WHY? For example, why would that corrupt politician take the money? As an interviewer pursuing the truth, I ask WHAT IF? To illustrate, see how the reporter unmasks the priest in the movie, Spotlight.

How do you manage the stress of your job?

You’re right, the stress is there. You can’t last in this business if you don’t love it. I can never make a mistake. I can never call someone the wrong name, be late or have a bad hair day.

I truly love my job. I’ve battled hurricanes, floods and blizzards. I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, chased criminals and confronted corrupt politicians. I’ve revealed mistakes in the 911 system that sent emergency responders to the wrong addresses, a failing jury selection system, firefighters given faulty equipment, corruption in the mortgage industry and unfair practices by powerful contractors. My work has helped to change laws, send criminals to prison, remove homes from foreclosure and to provide millions of dollars in refunds and restitution to victims and consumers. I’ve been able to change lives.

What led you to take up mystery writing?

As I said, I always wanted to be a detective. And I’ve been a lifelong mystery reader, starting with Nancy Drew.

I tell my readers and fans that I’ve really been writing for over 35 years. My first encounter with publishing was in 1969 when I had a summer job as a proof reader. I had to read the entire Indiana Code of Laws out loud.

But seriously, every day, when my team and I put a news story together, it’s like making a small movie. We start with nothing and at the end of the day we have a story. The only difference is that in my mystery novels the story that I’m telling is one that I’ve made up.

Tell us about your two mystery series.

My first four mysteries featured Charlotte McNally, a Boston television reporter, who feels a lot like me but is separate from me. The first book in the series, Prime Time, won an Agatha for best first novel. I’m happy to tell you that the entire series is now available in all-new editions.

My second series centres on Jane Ryland, a TV reporter who struggles with serious personal and professional challenges. The first book featuring Jane, The Other Woman, won the Mary Higgins Clark Award as well as being nominated for the 2012 Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Shamus and Daphne awards for Best Novel. I’ve written four more books featuring Jane, the most recent being Say No More, which was released November, 2016.

Tell us how you write. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I typically write in the evenings between 7 and 10 pm and on weekends. I strongly believe that the truth behind my mystery’s plot must be consistent with the real world. And I make sure that my characters’ motivations are always consistent. Otherwise my readers will not find the story believable.

I would describe myself as a “pantser”. I have no idea where my story will take me: I never know who the murderer is until I get there. When I sit down to write, anything can happen and I look at that unknown with joy. If the story is real, the words will come.

 

What brings you to Toronto, Canada?

Every year national Sisters in Crime sends speakers to selected chapters in North America and Toronto SinC was chosen for 2017. My husband and I have always wanted to visit Toronto and I’m very much looking forward to meeting my Toronto Sisters in Crime in June.

 

Hank’s visit was a huge success. For pics and details do check out Toronto SinC website and FB page.

CYBER CAFE: Kristina Stanley, Writing Biz Dynamo!

KS 75 High Res
I'm delighted to welcome back Kristina Stanley to Cyber Café. We first became friends at Bloody Words, Canada's late great national mystery conference. Both of our books had been finalists for CWA's Debut Dagger and the Arthur Ellis Unhanged Arthur awards.

Kristina very generously shares her writing skills and techniques on her website - a must for all aspiring writers. She's also superb at book marketing. Her book, The Author's Guide to Selling Books to Non-book Stores, is a must-read for all authors.

Like most writers, I find rewriting a challenge. Kristina is developing a digital tool to help authors reshape their manuscripts into books that readers will love. I can't wait to apply it my own work!!

Today Kristina tells us about this innovative approach to rewriting.

 Rewrite Your Way to a Great Novel Readers Will Love

Do you want to write a novel readers will love? If the answer is yes, you probably know that means a lot of hard work rewriting.

Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, once you’ve completed a first draft you might be asking yourself:

  • Where do I start my manuscript rewrite?
  • How do I keep track of all the writing tips I’ve read and apply them to my story?
  • What should I change to make my story better?
  • Am I ready to share my manuscript with others?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that would help you through the rewriting process?

What is Rewriting?

A rewrite is the first step in the self-editing process. I’m not talking about copyediting or proofreading. You can do that after you’ve completed your rewrite.

Rewriting your first draft means analyzing your story from a high-level perspective and fixing any weak areas. You want to make sure that the story structure makes sense, the scenes are tense, there are no plot holes, and you haven’t left any subplots unfinished.

Plot describes the events that take place in your story. The events occur in a sequence, and that sequence forms the structure of your novel. You’ll most likely have a main plot and one or two subplots. Your protagonist (main character) follows the main plot. Secondary characters follow the subplots.

During the rewrite, you also take a hard look at your characters. When you’ve finished your first draft, you know who your characters are, what they look like, where they work and so on. But what about how they fit into your story structure?

To understand this and make the most of it, you evaluate your characters in the context of the structure of your novel. How often do they appear? What are their goals? What gets in the way of their goals?  Characters will drive the tension in your story, and tension is what keeps a reader reading.

Finally, the rewrite should examine your settings. Do you make the most of your settings? How often do you use the same setting, and is it too often? Do your settings help with the tone of your scenes, add conflict or tension, or show characterization? Make your setting work hard to keep the reader engaged.

Once you’ve determined the setting for each scene, ask yourself if the setting is the best place for emotional impact. This one little question helps you increase or decrease tension, set the mood and/or show characterization.

That’s a lot for a setting to do for you, but thinking about setting in terms of emotional impact will wake up your creativity.

How can Feedback help you?

We’re building Feedback, an app for writers that provides a guided approach to tackling comprehensive rewrites. Save time by rewriting efficiently. Save money on editing by doing as much as you can yourself.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

With Feedback, you focus on plot, character, and setting. You evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Feedback is a learning tool. If you’re having trouble with a certain element of fiction, just click on the rewrite tip associated with that element and find out how to improve your writing. There’s no need to search through dozens of writing books to find the piece of advice you need.

On the technical side, Feedback will be a secure, web-based app. This means you will be able to access Feedback from any device you use.

Find out more:

Our goal is to launch Feedback in the spring of 2017. In order to create an app that is valuable to writers, we’d like your input on building Feedback. Sign up, and we’ll send you updates on the development progress and ask you the occasional question to help define the product. As a bonus, we’ll send you rewriting tips available only to our subscribers.

Are you as excited about Feedback as we are? Show your support by helping us spread the word and share this post. You can find us at www.FeedbackForFiction.com.

Your support means a lot to us, so thank you!

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT (Imajin Books, July 2015) for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE (Imajin Books, Oct 2015) for the Debut Dagger. Imajin Books published her third novel in the series, AVALANCHE, in June 2016. 

Her short stories have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES. 

As the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Feedback Innovations, a company started to help writers rewrite better fiction, she made up her own job title because she thought it sounded cool! 

To learn more about Kristina and her books, visit her website at https://kristinastanley.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

CYBER CAFE: Meet June Lorraine Roberts

june headshot
June Lorraine Roberts

I first met June in cyberspace. She’s a great supporter of fellow crime writers, their books, events and websites via her blog, Murder in Common.  We finally met in “meat space” at Toronto’s latest Noir at the Bar event organized by fellow crime writers, Tanis Mallow and Rob Brunet. A true pleasure to chat and to listen to her work!

Fans of crime fiction will enjoy June’s book reviews and recommendations.  Read on!

 

Welcome, June! Do tell us how you started Murder in Common. 

Thank you Madeleine for inviting me to your blog. It’s great getting to know new authors and I’ve been a fan of your work since you read Windigo Fire at Noir at the Bar Toronto.

Crime fiction (CriFi) is the main theme of Murder in Common. Occasionally you will find opinion pieces on writing and the terrors and joys of expressing yourself with the written word.

I had to look-up the date of the inaugural post, it was October 7, 2013, and was titled “The Art of Reading.” It took a while for me to find my online voice for this blog and for now, I’m happy with it.

Generally my posts are published weekly from mid-September to the end of June. The summer hiatus provides reading time and a brain refresh. I can however, be coerced to post by a debut author’s book launch.

Why crime fiction?

Reading crime fiction is something I’ve done from a very young age. Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Roberts Rinehart and Patricia Highsmith are the authors I remember most. Of course all Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were devoured.

Tell us about your followers.

What a pleasure to discover that my blog has reached readers from around the world. No surprise , of course, that CriFi is of interest. Geographically, the furthest readers from Canada are in Australia. The countries of readers that were a surprise: South Korea, Finland, Romania and Russia.

When someone asks for more information about a book, I know that my post has captured enough attention to warrant the question. That’s really how I write most of my posts, to initiate conversation. The dialogue with my readers is really the best part of writing online.

An author once referred to Murder in Common as a curated site. That took me aback and had me thinking about what I was putting out there. The truth is she is correct, and the basis for curation is opinion. I am opinionated about the books I’ve read. However, I don’t view my site as a review site exactly. I refer to the books I post about as “Recommended Reading.”

While my preference is Noir, there are lighter crime books that I have enjoyed and therefore I write about them. All in all, those books that have captured me for various reasons: characters, plot, deviousness, imagination and that certain turn of phrase that makes me smile. Or horrifies me.

I’m also quite pleased when my posts about writing garner feedback. My contribution in this area seems to be appreciated which is both rewarding and informing.

Which blog is your personal favorite?

My personal favourite is “Come Home to Giles Blunt” where I talk about leaving the mainstream of highly promoted USA best sellers, and discovering the writers producing wonderful work right under our noses. (Hear! Hear! MHC)

Almost three years later I had the privilege of reading my flash fiction at Noir at the Bar Toronto the same night as Blunt. The group picture was the bonus of reading with other Canadian talent and it was a terrific experience.

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Authors: Back L-R: June, Peter McGarvey, Rob Brunet, Dee Wilson, Tanis Mallow                                     Front L-R: Giles Blunt, John McFetridge, Dietrich Kalties, Rosemary McCracken

How can readers follow your blog?

Murder in Common has a Follow button which most WordPress users take advantage of. Otherwise you can sign-up via email subscription. All constructive feedback is greatly appreciated.

Thank you, June. It was a pleasure to meet in Cyber Café and I look forward to reading your own crime fiction soon!

 

 

CYBER CAFE: Meet Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz ShelukI first met Judy through Toronto Sisters in Crime when she organized a crime writers' reading in East Gwillimbury. Judy's debut novel, The Hanged Man's Noose, was published in 2015 and her second novel, Skeletons in the Closet, this month, August, 2016.

Judy's short crime fiction has appeared in the anthologies: World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy and I share a passion for sports. Did you know that she completed a half iron man? Wow! And she's also biked in the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Do visit Judy on her website / blog, A Writer's Journey, where she generously shares her experiences with the writing life and interviews and supports other authors. Here is the link: www.judypenzsheluk.com


Your blog is called One Writer’s Journey, where you enjoy sharing your personal experiences as a writer.

Yes, my blog first appeared on April 2, 2013. I wrote about my experience having three flash fiction stories (not crime fiction) published in THEMA, a New Orleans-based literary journal. At the time, I probably had about 10 followers.

I publish once or twice a week, but I take most of July off all social media and recharge.

The most successful blogs are based on one’s personal passion. What passion(s) led you to create your blog?

When I was writing my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, I thought it would be easy to sell it. The protagonist’s sidekick owns an antiques shop, and I’ve been the Senior Editor at New England Antiques Journal since 2007. I had also developed a strong reputation as a freelance writer, with articles in dozens of U.S. and Canadian publications.

It didn’t make a bean of difference!

So, I wanted to let other writers know they weren’t alone in their journey of rejection (did you Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was rejected 61 times?). And I wanted readers to know I was honest and willing to share my experiences with them.

Tell us about your followers.

Most of my followers are in the US and Canada, but also in the UK. And I had a woman from Australia bid on my “Have Judy name a character in her next book after you” at the Bouchercon 2015 Raleigh fundraiser auction. So that was cool.

I like to think my followers enjoy the honesty about the writing journey. I do interview other authors, and I have introduced a New Release Mondays to showcase fellow authors, but people seem to love it when I say, “Hey, I’m just like you. My life isn’t perfect, either.”

What has been your strangest feedback?

So far, nothing crazy…crossing fingers that stays the same. But I remember doing a book signing at Chapters in St. Catharines, Ontario. A woman holding Louise Penny’s latest told me she wouldn’t buy my book because she didn’t read Canadian crime fiction!

What have proved to be your most popular topics?

Without question, my most popular blog was the one titled “Calling all Agents,” published February 15, 2016. (Do read it here http://wp.me/p3yeUA-DE )

Another of my most popular posts was called “The First Cut is the Deepest” where I talk about an agent I met at Bloody Words 2012 (Toronto) and the lessons I learned. I published it in January 2015. ( http://wp.me/p3yeUA-Cs )

Polls also do well. I’ve done polls on where people write, where people read, and what format people read in. I use Polldaddy, which is easy and people seem to like voting. But you have to keep it simple.

You also interview many other authors on your blog. Do tell us more.

When it’s an interview with an author, I ask the author to tackle something about writing. For example, Cori Lynn Arnold wrote about setting her book, Northern Deceit in North Pole, Alaska (which is a real place). I’ve also interviewed publishers, and ask them what they’re looking for/not looking for/what excited them/turns them off.

Probably my favorite guest post was Guelph, Ontario, author Joanne Guidoccio’s post on Open Mic Readings. She gave straight forward advice and it came at a time when I needed it! (Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p3yeUA-11O )

What’s next for Judy?

My debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville Mystery Series, was published this August, 2016 by Imajin.

Skeletons in the Attic Front Cover

I’m always thrilled to have new followers for my blog (see the link above). I also put out a newsletter, at no fixed schedule, two to three times a year. Here’s the link for that: http://eepurl.com/b4cQvP

Thank you, Judy. It was a pleasure to have you on Cyber Café. And congratulations on your new book!

CYBER CAFE: Meet Rosemary Aubert

Rosemary HP
Rosemary Aubert is a marvel: a poet, award-winning novelist, editor, visual artist and a sought-after speaker and teacher, beloved for her generosity in sharing her extensive knowledge and encouraging fellow artists. She is also a criminologist who worked for many years in Canada's court system.

In crime fiction circles, Rosemary is best known for her popular, critically acclaimed Ellis Portal series. But she has also penned a gripping noir novella, Terminal Grill and short fiction. Her story, "The Midnight Boat to Palermo", winner of the Arthur Ellis Award, is both poignant and terrifying and one of my personal favorites.

For details about Rosemary's new works and her events and seminars, follow her website.

Your first love  has always been poetry. How did you start writing?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in poems and storytelling. What attracted me were the things read to me by my mother, father and grandmother, especially at bedtime. What I consider to be my first publication was a poem published in the school paper when I was 18. I remember being rejected by Hallmark Cards when I was little. I had sent them a verse and they sent me back a card that said, “Better Luck Next Time.”

I picked poetry then for the same reason I write it now. It’s fast, it’s beautiful and it tells the truth.

Your readers may be surprised to learn that you worked many years as a romance writer and editor. Do tell us about it!

I was looking for a job and I dropped by Harlequin unannounced. Someone at my library job had told me that Harlequin was hiring. Well, to my great good luck, they were. The person who was supposed to be there for the job interview didn’t show up so they hired me instead—on the spot. That’s how I became a Harlequin editor. Later on, I became a writer there as well.

I was attracted to the romance genre because I thought, and still think, that romance is one of the greatest experiences a human can have. I haven’t had a romance published in a long time, but you can probably get one of my old ones for ten cents somewhere on the internet!

Why did you turn to crime fiction?

Like so many of my students, what attracted me to crime writing was a pair of detectives that I loved without reservation: Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes. What attracted me then, I think, was the power of logic. What attracts me now, after reading hundreds upon hundreds of mysteries and after having published my own novels as well as working as a criminologist for many years, is the insight such works give the reader into the reality of being a human being: a normal one, a criminal one and one in whom both worlds meet. Which is to say—almost everyone.

Your first crime fiction short story won the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award.

Yes, “The Midnight Boat to Palermo” is a story of desperation, murder, cleverness and regret. I can’t remember exactly where I got the idea for it, but it probably was after reading a true-fact account of the Sicilian trade in opium. It also makes use of my grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti sauce!

 Your popular Ellis Portal novels have won and been short-listed for many awards, including the Arthur Ellis Award. How did you come to write this enduring series?

That would take a book in itself to explain. . One day a character came to me and said, “I am Ellis Portal. Write about me.” (BTW Ellis Portal’s name was inspired by the sign on a tunnel in the TTC subway system. We challenge readers to find it. – MH Callway)

I wanted to write about crime, Toronto, the street and homelessness. I also wanted to write about decline from a great height.

Your recent book, Don’t Forget You Love Me, is the sixth in the Ellis Portal series. Will there be a seventh book?

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Ellis has recently told me that our work together is done.

Your novella, Terminal Grill, took a dark turn. Why noir?

41-IPp5BlaL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What led me to write Terminal Grill was the setting, not only in the physical bar, which is a real place, but in the underworld of poetry in Toronto. Though I don’t think that world is as hidden now as it once was. And I wanted to write another romance, even if it was a dark and frightening one.

Of all my work, it seems to me that Terminal Grill has had the most overwhelmingly positive response from my readers.

 

What would you like to tell your readers?

I love my readers. I love their comments, which have always been positive. I love it when a complete stranger tells me that they read and liked my books.

The strangest feedback I ever got was from a man who told me he’d found all sorts of factual errors in one of my books. He said that nevertheless, he liked it and had read it superfast. When I looked up the errors, there were none. He’d read the book so fast he got it all wrong!

Tell us what’s next for Rosemary Aubert.

I’m hoping to launch my new book, The Midnight Boat to Palermo and Other Stories in the fall. You can learn about this and other appearances I’ll be making on my website: www. rosemaryaubert.com.

EAT THIS BOOK: Sellers & Newel Second-Hand Books – A Must for Noir Fans!

12742381_10156530658650150_2448979545047805041_nPeter Sellers, Ed and I became friends during the early days of Crime Writers of Canada. And we share a love for Toronto's demi-monde of burlesque, adult clowning and alternative music. Not only that, our kids went to school together and grew up to work in media.

In 1992, Peter won the CWC Derrick Murdoch Award for his work in revitalizing the crime fiction short story. His off-beat, often chilling and highly engaging tales have appeared in every major mystery magazine and numerous crime anthologies. He is a four-time finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story.

On November 12, 2011, Peter opened Sellers & Newel Second-Hand Bookstore in Toronto's Little Italy. His passion is hunting down rare and collectible volumes for his clients.

Visit Sellers & Newel at 672 College St., Toronto. Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 7 pm; Sunday 12 to 5 pm. Mondays, by chance.

And be sure to visit the bookstore's website at www.sellersandnewel.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@sellersandnewel).

BTW click on any of the images you'd like to explore more closely.


Sellers & Newel Exterior
Sellers & Newel, street view
Store Interior
Inside looking out at Little Italy

 

 

 

 

 

What books will we find at Sellers & Newel?

We carry second-hand only. Mostly 20th Century literature, crime fiction, poetry, lots of weird fiction. Some are antiquarian, but we have lots of affordable reading copies. Our books range in price from $1 to several thousand dollars.

What led you, a writer, to open a bookstore?

SAM_book_bookstore__sam2302
Peter, buried in his passion: books!

I love books. I like the fact of them as much as anything and I’ve always bought many more than I could ever hope to read. Now I buy many more than my customers can ever hope to read. I also like working for myself and working without a net. It’s all up to me. I love going out and finding books, making house calls, visiting other dealers, especially when I’m out of town. Buying books is almost as much fun as selling them.

What do you find fascinating about crime fiction?

To be honest, I don’t read nearly as much crime fiction as I used to. But my initial interest was most likely fuelled by black and white crime films of the 1930s through the 1950s. They used to be on TV a lot, and I grew up on Bogart, Cagney, John Garfield, Mitchum, and other actors like them and the films they made. When I started reading books seriously, the first novel I can recall buying was a stunning 1971 Ballantine edition of The Big Sleep that I still have. I was 15 or 16 and bought it from a bookstore across the road from my high school. From then on it was mostly mysteries and thrillers for years.

I love the pulp books you have collected, especially the lurid book covers. What attracts you to the pulp era?

A lot of that stuff is crap, really. But there are some occasional gems. John D. MacDonald, for example, in his non-Magee stuff, is great. He is better than anyone else at giving you this awful feeling that something is going to go really bad really soon. Mickey Spillane I used to love, not because he was good but because he wrote like he was insane, all kinds of repressed sexuality spilling out in this remarkable violence (in tone as much as action) that nobody’d done like that before.

Why noir?

I hate happy endings. I like books that end badly. Nasty people treating each other shabbily has a certain appeal to me. (And a twisted sort of  justice, which is why I love noir – M. H. Callway)

Tell us something about your customers.

There is no typical customer, though I was surprised to realize, soon after I opened, that most of them are under 35. That was not what I had expected.

Coffin
Cool coffin
Leather Chair
Neat reading chair

My customers seem to like the coffin, which gets photographed a lot. Some people find it creepy but most love it. They like the crooked walls, the metal ceiling, the mismatched floor tile and the big leather chair. They seem to like my selection and the fact that the books are all in really good shape, and that I have lots of unusual stuff.

 

Which of your books have proved to be the most popular?

First editions are popular and I have a lot of collectors who come in for the Weird Fiction, which includes some very scarce titles. They also like the fact that I will track down books for people, even if they cost as little as five bucks. And I never give up. A few months ago, I found a book that a customer had asked for three years before. She was surprised that I had kept at it for that long, especially an inexpensive paperback, but her reaction when I called her was priceless.

But my unscientific survey says Hemingway, Steinbeck, H.P. Lovecraft and an obscure British author named Simon Raven because I love the guy and plug the hell out of him.

You’ve embarked on two cool innovations at your store: music and film nights. Tell us about the music events.

Corpusse
Corpusse: music of the macabre

The concerts are working out really well. I do two a month from September through May. None in the summer because of the heat. I started because I wanted to do something that no other bookstore is doing, and I find readings and signings to be pretty darn boring most of the time. Live music has always been important to me, and I still go out and listen to as much of it as I can. This also seemed a good way to promote the store and to bring new people in.

Performers are usually local people I like and who are all really good. Styles of music so far have ranged from Medieval to modern performance art. Past performers include outstanding singer/songwriter Kevin Quain (3 times), the wild, 300-plus-pound Corpusse (twice), country singer Zachary Lucky, singer/songwriter Ryan Cook from Nova Scotia, and remarkable guitarist Andrew Mah from Ottawa.

In the fall we have some jazz shows booked for the first time.

How do we find out about concert dates and times?

The shows are usually on Thursday nights at 8:00 pm. Cost ranges from $10 to $20 depending on who’s playing. Capacity is up to 35 depending on how much space the act takes up.

If you get on our mailing list, or check us out on Facebook, you can get all the details for future shows.

You’ve also tried film nights. How did they work out?

I did two film nights as part of Canadian National Film Day, screening classic Canadian horror films, like Terror Train, but neither evening was a big hit. I have one more thing I’d like to try so I may or may not continue the film nights. 

Before we sign off, Peter, what is the strangest customer experience you have had?

There’s been no shortage of those. One of the most charming was a very enthusiastic teenage girl who came in and, with a big smile and shining eyes, asked me if I had a copy of “How to Kill a Mockingbird”.

 

Thanks, Peter! Your store offers a truly magnificent feast for booklovers. So readers, get yourselves over to Sellers & Newel, soak in the entertainment and eat those books!! 

 

CYBER CAFE: Meet Rosemary McCracken

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Rosemary McCracken
Rosemary and I first became friends through our literary critique group which continues to thrive 15 years on. When we met, we'd each had one or two crime short stories published. Since then we've both published several more stories and been short-listed for the Unhanged Arthur and the Debut Dagger awards. And together we have broken through the barrier of traditional publication though Rosemary continues to set the pace!
 
This week Imajin Press released Raven Lake, the third book in Rosemary's popular Pat Tierney series. Rosemary draws on her work experience as a business journalist to create Pat, a tough, warm-hearted financial manager who runs her own business, deals with her family's many problems and solves crimes faster and better than the police! Jack Batten, the Toronto Star's crime fiction reviewer, has called Pat "a hugely attractive  sleuth figure". 

Subscribe to Rosemary's blog, Moving Target. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her website, too.

The most successful novels are sparked by their authors’ passions. What passion did you follow in Raven Lake?

Gliding in my kayak over a quiet lake or creek, preferably one with no cottages, I feel completely plugged into nature. I come upon turtles sunning themselves on logs; loons teaching their chicks how to fish; herons blending in with marsh vegetation as they stalk their suppers; mink and bobcats drinking from the edge of the lake. One day, I rounded a bend in a creek and found a young bear fishing. Surprised to see me, he scrambled up the bank and disappeared into the woods.  

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So it was mandatory that I get Pat into a kayak—and, of course, she loves paddling as much as I do. And when Imajin Books asked me for suggestions for the Raven Lake book cover, I immediately thought of a figure in a kayak. I was thrilled with the cover that artistic director Ryan Doan came up with—complete with the shadow of a raven on the water. The back cover has a flock of ravens—an “unkindness” of ravens is, I believe, the collective noun.

I set Raven Lake in Ontario cottage country in the summertime to celebrate my many wonderful summers in the Haliburton Highlands north of Toronto—God’s country, it surely is! During those months, I spent a fair amount of time in my kayak exploring the lakes of the Leslie Frost Centre, a spectacular 32,000-hectare Crown land nature preserve that was accessible from my cottage.

Did you revisit any favourite topics in Raven Lake?     

In Raven Lake, I took on a new financial crime based on a real scam that was plaguing Ontario cottage country two summers ago: cottage rental fraud. Con artists were posting photos of lakefront properties on legitimate internet vacation rental sites. Would-be renters would wire their money to the “property owner” – discounts were given for payment in full – and when they arrived for their vacations, they were told by the real owners that the property was not for rent. 

A crime perfectly suited to cottage country.

Like Pat, I’m appalled by the financial exploitation of unsuspecting people that is rampant these days. Con artists are swindling their victims out of their savings through investment frauds, identity theft, telemarketing scams and loan schemes. The penalties for these crimes aren’t tough enough in Canada to deter these crooks.

Where can readers buy Raven Lake?

Click on the book cover image above. It will take you directly to the Amazon store in your country. And here’s the link, too: myBook.to/RavenLakeTierney

What do you like about the crime fiction genre?     

Crime fiction gives me an opportunity to work with some great bad guys and gals, characters I can really love to hate. I believe the antagonist is the second most important character in a novel, after the protagonist. I avoid completely evil antagonists because I can’t believe in them. No one is bad all the time.

I like the sense of closure at the end of a mystery or thriller. Peace and order has returned to the world. It may only be a temporary state of order; the antagonist may still be out there. But it’s peace and order for a time.

Tell us about your readers. Where are they located? Which topics have proven to be the most popular with them?     

Many of my readers are women, and judging from readers’ reviews, they seem to be taken with Pat Tierney’s ongoing family problems. They like the fact that she’s an Everywoman: a single mom who supports her family, does her very best for her clients, and has to deal with a whack of domestic problems. They can relate to a character like her.

The beauty of e-books is that authors can reach people who read English throughout the world. Safe Harbor, my first mystery, currently has 115 reader reviews on Amazon.com, and I think it’s safe to say that most are American readers. There are 15 reviews on Amazon.co.uk, so I know I have some British readers. And, of course, I have many readers in Ontario and I credit public librarians with bringing Ontario writers to the attention of library users.

Will there be a fourth Pat Tierney mystery?

I certainly hope so, although I’m not sure where Pat will take me next. I need to spend some quiet time this coming summer listening to her.

 Where can readers buy the first two Pat Tierney novels?

Click on the images below or use these links: Safe Harbor can be purchased at myBook.to/SafeHarborTierney. And Black Water at myBook.to/BlackWaterTierney. These are universal links that will take you to the Amazon store in your country.

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CYBER CAFE: Meet Pat Flewwelling!

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Pat Flewwelling

Pat and I are cyber-friends. We have yet to meet in “meat space”. We first became friends when my debut novel, Windigo Fire, was published by Seraphim Editions. Pat invited me to be a guest on her blog and I was delighted to accept. Pat’s passion, in addition to her busy life as an author, is to promote Canadian authors and Canadian culture through her blog, Nine Day Wonder. Visit her blog by clicking on the above link. Follow her on Twitter and on her Facebook fan page here.

 

How did you start blogging?

The purpose of www.ninedaywonder.com has always been to spotlight authors and introduce them to a brand new audience. My blog has undergone some facelifts over the years, but has been in operation since about 2010, with interviews starting in 2012. I focus on authors, editors, and other artists from small presses, because I’ve never felt like they had enough exposure (and I can only buy so many books on my own).  I wish I could write more consistently, but for the last few months – and for the next few months – I’ll be updating the blog at random. It’s all good news – two editing contracts, a new book being published this fall and another to be written on deadline, plus two short stories accepted for publication, and a horror movie script, all while moving from Ontario to Quebec, and while starting up a travelling bookstore. These days, I post when I can!

What passions keep you going?

I love introducing new authors to an audience, and making those authors shine. I feel like I’m really doing something for authors and for our national culture at large.

Almost all of my interviewed guests have been writers, so we typically talk about the latest book they’re launching, as well as what personal interests help them strike a balance between their writing career and their lives at large. There was, however, one interview that stands out as one of my most challenging: I interviewed a reader who set the record straight on what a “strong female character” really means, and how I’d been wrong all along.

I especially love it when I toss out a bonus question, and the author throws back a wild and hilarious response. For example, I’d been interviewing Alison Sinclair, who writes science fiction and has four science degrees to back it up. At the end of the interview, I asked: “Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, and Marie Curie are sitting down to tea, and there’s only one piece of cake left. Only the craftiest of minds may take the cake. Who wins?” And she replied: “Nobody. They’d forget all about it because the conversation would be so absorbing, and the cake and all the silverware would wind up incorporated into a model of a device they’d invent between them.”

Tell us about your followers.

The majority of my followers are Canadian, which is all right. I spend a lot of time focusing on Canadian authors, Canadian content, and Canadian small press, so a Canadian audience seems pretty inevitable. But Canadians only represent about 65% of the following. After that come the Americans at about 20%, and the remaining 15% are scattered all over the world. I have one particular favourite blog visitor from Italy – an independently published author herself – and she ended up being on the blog as a guest as well. But I’ve also had regular visitors from Russia, Germany, and India.

What feedback have you had from your followers?

My followers really like the fact that the questions I pose in interviews are thought-provoking, none of the “where do you get your ideas from” sort. I spend upwards of 2-3 hours researching a guest’s work, their own blogs and websites, etc., and then I read through any other interviews they might have participated in before. This way, I tailor the questions to the author, to their work, to their particular interests, and I make sure the questions haven’t been asked before.

 I’ve been fortunate when it comes to feedback. Those who leave a comment are genuinely interested in what they’ve been reading, and they respond positively. The rest end up trapped in my spam filter. I don’t mind. Those comments rarely make grammatical sense, and they always tell me to buy Gucci handbags or Ray-Ban sunglasses or something.

Which blog is your personal favorite?

“Worms on a Train” was my all-time favourite post, even though it was the hardest one I ever had to write. In it, I had to come out and admit that I was struggling with my own internalized systemic prejudice, while at the same time witnessing overt racism in action. It’s not an interview, it’s not fun, it’s not funny, but for a few hundred words, I was more painfully honest and clear than I’d ever been before.  Here’s the link: http://www.ninedaywonder.com/2015/worms-on-a-train

 

Thank you, Pat! It was a pleasure to be a guest on your blog. Thanks for all you do to promote Canadian authors and best of luck in getting all your writing projects done in good time!

 

 

CYBER CAFE: Meet Gail Hamilton

WBLView2Gail Hamilton and I first became friends through the Canadian Authors Association. I was in total awe of her because Gail was a published author - and she earned her living through her writing! To this day, I remain in awe of Gail and her accomplishments. She has had an extensive career as a copywriter and produced nonfiction reference books. Altogether she has written 24 books, including several romance novels for Harlequin and adaptations of the critically acclaimed TV series, Road to Avonlea for Harper Collins.  

These days Gail lives on a farm in Prince Edward County, Ontario and has ventured into historical fiction with The Tomorrow Country.  A talented nature photographer, she shares a few of her pics today at Cyber Cafe. Visit and learn more about Gail here.

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Madeleine has asked me to chat about my blog so here goes.

I started the blog back in 2010 but didn’t take it seriously until a couple of years ago when told all authors need blogs for promotion and I better get busy. I did try but seem constitutionally averse to flogging my work. First it was difficult to think of something new. Second, a blog about writing ends up aimed at writers who already know everything I could talk about and don’t need more about conversations with the cat when stuck. I won’t even mention the constant battles with WordPress.

My next bright idea was to rustle up curious lore from the era of my book, THE TOMORROW COUNTRY, set in Victorian London. Only that dragged me back into a time and place I had long ago left behind. I started avoiding it. The blog, which I had committed to publish every week, suffered yawning gaps. I found so many other things to do on blog day.

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Curious Cows

The only things I wanted to write about were the rural everyday happenings around me, backed by photos from my trusty little camera. So the blog has evolved into snapshots of country life interspersed with periodic rants on things I feel strongly about: banning bottled water, solving male violence, chronic bad temper in movie monsters.

 

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Snapping Turtle
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Peony

This worried me until I stumbled upon the concept of relationship marketing. Yes, I cried, that’s what I’m doing. People get to know fascinating me and then rush to read my equally fascinating works. Love the idea!

However, by far the majority of my blog readers are from, of all places, China. Next comes the United States, Ukraine, France and Canada, followed by the Russian Federation, Germany, Poland and a whole raft of other countries that include Sweden, Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Romania, Israel, Viet Nam, Thailand and Hong Kong.

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Luna Moth

I am at a loss to explain my appeal to the Chinese even as I picture some Beijing urbanite riveted by pioneer plowing in rural Ontario. Nor can I explain my most enduringly popular post, entitled Old Friend Crashes to Earth, about an oak that blew down across the lane. It runs neck on neck with another favourite about the Victorian corset and Waking the Fire Goddess, describing the first lighting of my wood stove in the fall. Titles surely help. A post called Beaver Balls, attracts lots of hits from folks who may even stay to read after finding it’s about mud ball towers marking beaver territory. My theory is that so much of the world’s population is now urbanized and run ragged that there is a hidden thirst for simple messages from the natural world.

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Mouse in Rain Gauge

Does this blog impact book sales or make more savvy marketers shake their heads? I don’t know. I do know it is the only blog that is going to actually get written because it is so much fun to do.

Currently, I am working on a sequel to THE TOMORROW COUNTRY set in Canada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyber Central: The Joli Pantry

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Today, my daughter and her husband launched their new blog, The Joli Pantry, where they share cooking tips and enjoying life in Canada’s food capital, Montreal!

First recipe, Jul Glogg, or a very spirited warm Christmas drink from Sweden.  I grew up on it so I can guarantee it’s a panacea for winter chills and blahs!

Second recipe, Spaghetti Carbonara, which they made for us and it’s excellent though Montreal has better cremini mushrooms so I’ll leave the cooking to Mitch.