NEWS, NEWS, NEWS! THE MESDAMES OF MAYHEM’S 4TH ANTHOLOGY

The Mesdames of Mayhem are delighted to announce their fourth anthology, In the Key of 13, a malicious medley of music, mischief and …murder!

This year’s book contains tales and a satirical poem by 19 Canadian crime writers, award-winning established authors and talented new-comers.  Each story has a backdrop of music: Beethoven, Mozart, war songs, folk tunes and even Elvis. And they range from comedy to thriller to noir.

My own story, “Brainworm”, relates how a worn-out caregiver is slowly and relentlessly driven mad by her conniving family – and a French chanson that lodges in her mind and refuses to depart. It’s a dark one again, readers: couldn’t help it.

Here’s an excerpt:

Sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse, l’on y danse.

Damn that tune! Even thirty years later, Fiona still hated that tune.

It was Chérie’s favorite ditty. She made all her students sing it in French class. Fiona, who had no ear for languages, had provoked both Chérie’s and her classmates’ laughter by mouthing: “Sur le pont d’Artagnan, lorry doh-sa, lorry doh-sa.”

Chérie had entered her and Dad’s lives a short year after Mother died. All Fiona’s friends raved about their new French teacher who’d left the lights of Paris to teach in boring old Hamilton. Imagine!

Chérie had thick black hair, smoothed into a chignon. Her egg-yellow cardigan, red shoes and clanking costume jewelry added le punch to her wardrobe as she put it to the class. Nothing though struck Fiona as more profoundly stupid than the name Chérie called herself: Madelle. A witty contraction of Madame and Mademoiselle, the French version of “Ms”, très chic, non?

Chérie liked to single Fiona out in class, asking her questions about tricky French spellings with a twist to her cherry red lips. She lingered beside Fiona’s desk, scanning her work before departing with a small tap-tap of her fingers on Fiona’s notebook. That Dad would consider dating her, let alone marry her, was beyond unthinkable.

But time erodes everything. Dad and Chérie’s 30 year marriage, with its ups and downs, foreign travels and family festivities had faded into memory. Their only son, Bertie was now 29 years old, a sought-after data base analyst. And Chérie was no longer glamorous, dwindling into a frail shadow of her younger self.

Fiona forced her eyes back onto the road. The weather had deteriorated. Clouds of blowing snow wrapped everything in a haze; oncoming headlights loomed toward her like the dull, yellow eyes of beasts. She slowed to a crawl, terrified she might need to swerve or brake.

The Royal Botanical Gardens were barely recognizable under the heavy shroud of snow. She inched past them.

It’s like the ice age has come again, she thought. Grinding human civilization, our history, our lives into nothing.

Available on Amazon.ca AND through Sleuth of Baker Street and selected bookstores.

 

CYBER CAFE: Welcome Jayne Barnard!

Jayne Barnard and I first became friends in cyber space. We met in Real Space at the 2016 Arthur Ellis Banquet where to my delight, she won the Unhanged Arthur for her first crime novel, Where the Flood Falls (Dundern). Her hero, Lacey McCrae, is a former RCMP officer fleeing domestic abuse. Lacey is rebuilding her life in the Calgary foothills but gets drawn into solving homicides.

The second book in the series, Where the Ice Falls, debuted on August 10th, giving me an early read of this terrific thriller. The story touches on serious social issues, like cyber fraud while chasing down the true killer through a frigid Alberta winter.

In addition to crime, Jayne writes historical and speculative fiction. She is the creator of the YA steam punk heroine, Maddie Hatter. The first book in the series, Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge, won the Alberta Book of the Year Award. Jayne unleashes her wild imagination in a cozy, vine-covered cottage where she lives with her husband and orange tabby cat.

All these great reads are available on Amazon. Where the Ice Falls is also available through Indigo/Chapters, Barnes & Noble, and at Jayne’s long-time home bookstore, Owls Nest Books in southwest Calgary.  So readers, EAT THESE BOOKS and welcome, Jayne, to Cyber Café!

 

Jayne, how did you become a writer? Did you know from childhood?

The first time I really threw myself into writing a story was in Grade 3. My teacher let me have a whole week to finish it to my satisfaction. I sold a couple of poems in early adulthood and averaged two sales of short pieces (fiction and non-) per decade until my oldest child hit university.

How do you carve out time write?

I didn’t sell my first novel until after my last child left home. It’s a common trajectory for female writers with families; carving out the time and, more importantly, the mental focus to write, is a challenge.

How did you turn to crime…fiction?

I actually started selling historical short crime stories. “The Medicine Line” and “Tommy Palmer’s Ghost” were finalists for the Great Canadian Story prize from the now-sadly-defunct Canadian Storyteller Magazine. “Each Canadian Son” won the Boney Pete at Bloody Words 2011 in Victoria, BC. I’d written a handful of speculative short stories along the way but none got published until I was already working on my first Steampunk novella, Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond (Tyche Books, 2015).

What was your inspiration for the Falls series and the main character, Lacey McCrae?

At heart the series is about women and the friendships that support us as we grow through the upheavals of early adulthood. Long ago, my best friend from high school joined the RCMP. Back then we were both into running, cycling, swimming, so the fitness requirement wasn’t a big problem for her. By the time she left the Force ten years later, we both had half-finished university degrees and failed marriages. In addition, she had PTSD and I had already been diagnosed with the illness that still rules my life (ME/CFS).

Lacey is loosely based on my friend’s experiences adjusting to civilian life, but her running and other active scenes are rooted in my kinetic memory from those active olden days with my friend. The character of Jan is in many senses my current life; she studied what I studied, and she has ME/CFS which limits what she can do. We both still crave exposure to the arts world we had to leave.

Where the Ice Falls is the second book in the series. How does it continue on from When the Flood Falls?

Where the Ice Falls takes place from early December to early January, six months after the events of Where the Flood Falls. Lacey and Jan were the main players in Flood; Lacey and her roommate Dee are central to Ice.

Dee’s mother is terminally ill, and determined to have a last Christmas with her only child before seeking a medically assisted death. Dee relies on Lacey’s support to come to terms with her mother’s wishes. But Lacey’s already crispy at the edges after months of looking after Dee during her long recovery from last summer’s injuries.

A new character, Zoe, is near breaking point from work, Christmas prep, and her stepsons’ impending visit. When Zoe’s teenage daughter finds a dead intern outside their borrowed ski chalet, all the women are yanked into a chilling holiday season filled with family dysfunctions and psychological stressors that lead inexorably toward danger and death in the cruel wilderness west of Calgary.

Tell us about your Maddie Hatter novella series (Tyche Books).

The Maddie Hatter Adventures are frothy romps that chase Maddie, renegade daughter of Britain’s most respected Steamlord, as she attempts to make her living by investigative reporting. Except no editor will give a young lady an investigative assignment; she’s trapped on the Society pages, writing about women’s fashion.

She has to break out of what we’d now call a ‘pink ghetto’ on her own. Whether hunting for batty Baron Bodmin and his mysterious bloodshot diamond across three seas and two continents, or parasol duelling in Gilded Age New York City with a devious Russian countess, or hunting industrial spies across the calles and alleys of Venice during Carnivale, Maddie needs all her wits – and the help of her clockwork bird, Tweetle-D,  to catch the crooks and pen the exposés, or she’ll be relegated to hats-and-hemlines stories forever.

Maddie Hatter is Steampunk-inspired. (I love steam punk BTW) Do tell us more about Steampunk. 

Steampunk got its start in the late-Victorian adventure tales of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, the creator of Sherlock Holmes wrote a few Professor Challenger novels too, questing for lost worlds.

The modern twist on this genre is that the gasoline engine was never invented. Steam power kept evolving instead, with new gadgets and advanced transportation and communication technology. Nowadays, Steampunk is not limited to British literary tradition nor to Victorian England. In Australia, Japan, India, Russia, and all across the Western world, Steampunk sub-cultures are flourishing, with festivals bringing together hundreds of costumed revelers ready to show off their gadgets while they participate in parades, teapot races, and, increasingly, parasol duelling.

To be totally honest, my husband and I – both involved in the Alberta Steampunk community for many years – invented parasol duelling for Maddie Hatter’s world and are thrilled that it has been adopted by Steampunks around the globe. The World Championships are held in Alberta each September, but there are duelling groups in England, France, Australia, New Zealand, and several US states.

Both of us contributed stories to the noir anthology, The Dame was Trouble. Your story is cross-genre: a futuristic PI story set in space. Do you see an increasing trend in cross-genre crime fiction?

I think there’s a bright future in SFF/ crime crossovers. Modern readers live in a technologically complex world and expect their fiction to mirror that, but at heart we all want characters we can identify with, whether they’re human, humanoid, android, or entirely alien. Crime writers have been studying the human psyche across the full spectrum of good and evil for a long time; the more we’re able to expand our work to settings beyond the limits of contemporary Earth, the more new readers we’ll find.

What challenges face the cross-genre crime writer?

To write good crossover fiction, you must know the conventions of both genres well before deciding which ones you’ll break, bend, or stand on their heads. While crime fiction is based on human nature and the solution of a puzzle, SFF readers want exotic settings and alternative social structures that challenge them to imagine life outside the confines of the world they know.

It’s not enough to set a crime story on a space station or alien moon if you don’t think about what new opportunities and limitations the setting imposes on the criminals and the detectives. In “Painted Jade”, my story from The Dame Was Trouble, the body is found floating outside the station, all forensic evidence perfectly preserved by the vacuum of space. However, our intrepid detective must go out there to bring it in, and if you’ve ever felt that leap in your stomach on a carnival ride, imagine how your stomach will feel as it tries to keep your breakfast from rising in the absence of gravity.

Ideally you should be reading in the genres you’re writing in, so you can avoid the unrewarding task of crafting, for example, a compelling mystery in a setting that’s been thoroughly explored by a dozen masters of SFF already. You don’t want half your potential readers to dismiss your masterwork as being out-dated, or the other half to toss the book aside because they guessed the murder plot in the first few pages and aren’t interested enough in your careful world-building to keep reading.

What’s next for you, Jayne?

First off, I’ll be editing the third book in The Falls Mysteries. Why the Rock Falls picks up with Lacey and Jan the following summer, when Jan’s old university roommate comes to Bragg Creek with her movie-director husband and promptly attracts old lovers and new dangers in the sun-baked foothills. It will be released in the summer of 2020 by Dundurn Press.

Next, I’ll work on a contemporary Young Adult thriller in which a teenage foster child gets tangled up with a land-developer, a politician, and a deceptively mild-eyed collie with a penchant for escape. I’m quite excited about this blending of my crime-writing background with my YA adventure style. You could say it’s another kind of crossover.

Great having you on Cyber Cafe, Jayne. Really looking forward to reading your new books.

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog. Always a pleasure to chat with you.

 

 

 

 

 

EAT THIS BOOK: Forgotten Mystery Writers #1 – John Dunning

My friend and fellow crime writer, Rosemary McCracken’s recent read is Death Cleaning, a new take on decluttering.

Argh!  The bleak title stems from my mother’s  birth country of Sweden, creator of IKEA, the cashless society and self-serve everything.  With cold-hearted pragmatism the book tells you to throw out your shit before your kids do.

Sigh.  I’m a keeper, especially of books. Each one of them retains an emotional memory.  But my office is filling up and I’m unlikely to reread most of them.  So I’m diving in and sharing my relics with you, readers.

And I’ll decide whether to GIVE AWAY, SELL or KEEP.

 What better place to start than with Booked to Die by John Dunning. Dunning had written a few mysteries already but in Booked to Die he wrote about his passion: books themselves. It was hit!

 His hero, Cliff Janeway, is a former homicide detective obsessed with tracking down the killer of a rare book hunter. Leaving the police force, he sets up his own bookstore to buy and sell valuable first editions and after much murder and mayhem, catches the killer.

Booked to Die is full of neat details about the rare book trade. I learned about book scouts, typically impecunious types who scour used books stores, church fairs and garage sales for valuable editions, buying them cheap then hawking them to antiquarian book dealers. I also learned about bookstore owners helping each other out, sharing leads and so on.

Of course, what really got my friends and me juiced was the hope that somewhere in our well-thumbed collections lurked a priceless edition. Dunning hooked me on the first page with his Rare Book Quiz : What book found in a used bookstore bin for $15 sold at auction for $250,000? And that’s at 1992 prices!

Of course, I’m still looking for that priceless edition. How does one even find out what one’s precious hard covers or paperbacks are worth? There are two sources: eBay and Abe Books.

I find that book prices in Abe Books vary greatly. For a more realistic take, I look at Canadian bookstores where these are listed. And prepare to be disappointed.

So how much is Booked to Die worth? For my well-read copy, anywhere from $1 to $10. Sigh.

John Dunning went on to write four more books in the Bookman series, the last one, The Bookwoman’s Last Fling, published in 2006He describes himself as a poster-child for ADD, quitting school in Grade 10 to hold a series of interesting jobs: glass shop worker, racing horse trainer and investigative reporter. He always relied on a typewriter to write.

In 1984, he and his wife opened The Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver, Colorado. Ten years later, it became a virtual bookstore which still operates today. He is also an expert on old radio shows and hosted his own show about them on Denver radio for more than 25 years.

In 2006, Dunning was diagnosed with a brain tumour that led to a long recovery period and sadly, to no further books.

DECISION? KEEP 

Happy New Year!

Greetings Readers!

I’m back! Just attended the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas from Jan 7th to 10th.  Look for my pics and take on the future of robots, self-driving cars, Big Brother ad machine in your home and TV screens you can fold away or spread on a wall.

If you detect a trace of cynicism…well, you’d be right. I’ve seen 3D television and virtual reality rise and fade. Perhaps these, too, shall pass.

I’ll be blogging more regularly in 2019. Lots of Wanderings and Surreal Adventures to share.

R2D2…not

 

MORE FAB NEWS!

Blatant self promotion, Readers!

I’m delighted to announce that I have a new story in Coffin Hop Press’ noir anthology, The Dame was Trouble. The collection features stories by leading Canadian women crime writers – and every story features A Dame.

My story, “The Seeker”, stars Terry Snow, a tough 62 year old who handles fast cars, guns and gangsters to find her missing son.


The Dame was Trouble was released this August and is available in print and e-book on Amazon.ca.

And 13 Claws struck gold at the Arthur Ellis Awards with a win by friend and fellow Madame of Mayhem, Catherine Astolfo for her story, “The Outlier”.

This is a tale so noir, Jack Batten, the Toronto Star critic said: Catherine Astolfo’s story involving a pig, for example, offers an intriguing way of giving Paul Bernardo himself a case of the chills. 

Not to forget that we received THREE further nominations for “There be Dragons” by Jane Burfield and “The Ranchero’s Daughter” by Sylvia Warsh and my own novella, “Snake Oil”, about which Jack said: M. H. Callway’s tale mixes snakes and the real estate business in a way that will make readers run a mile from both.

And as it this wasn’t enough, I’m delighted to share that both Cathy and Sylvia’s stories were long-listed in Otto Penzler’s  Best American Mystery Stories for 2018!!

GREAT NEWS FOR 13 CLAWS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL 18TH, the Arthur Ellis short list event was a triumph for the Mesdames of Mayhem – and a personal boost as well!

My fingers were crossed for one, maybe just one, nomination from our third anthology. I could not believe my ears when not just one but FOUR of us are finalists.  And that includes my noir novella, Snake Oil!

Three fellow authors and dear friends have their stories nominated:

  • Cathy Astolfo for “The Outlier”
  • Jane Petersen Burfield for “There Be Dragons”
  • Sylvia Warsh for “The Ranchero’s Daughter”

None of this would have happened without editor, Donna Carrick and Carrick Publishing.

Here we are with dear friends and authors, Lynne Murphy and Sylvia Warsh, at Chapters / Indigo still incredulous!

Sylvia Warsh, Lynne Murphy, Mad and Ed Callway

 

NEWS! New Story in Mystery Weekly Magazine

Blatant Self Promotion, Readers!

My story, “The Cry”, is published in the April issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine!

In 2012, Ed and I visited Hiroshima, Japan to tour the Mazda factory, an enormous place with its own deep sea harbour and engineering university. Later we felt a duty to view the Peace Park, the site of the first atomic bomb explosion. Sobering, to say the least.

The park stretches nearly a mile in length and contains numerous memorials, virtually all of them in bleak Brutalist style, i.e. grey concrete.

I felt compelled to use this setting some day. In “The Cry”, an elderly assassin, suffering from early dementia, hears a murder being committed. Or does he?

Mystery Weekly Magazine is available in print from Amazon here.

It’s also available on digital newsstands and Kindle Newsstands subscriptions: https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Weekly-Magazine/dp/B01N4NJL91

Or directly from The Mystery Weekly Magazine  website: http://www.mysteryweekly.com/subscribe.asp

Readers may also access Mystery Weekly FREE at over 30,000+ libraries and schools worldwide through their online system called Flipster.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, READERS!

Very excited to start 2018 with a new adventure. My friend, Donna Carrick of Carrick Publishing has launched a new podcast, Dead to Writes. I’m honoured to be one of the first authors featured on the podcast. I’ve been on radio once before on Sirius XM as a guest of Allison Dore.: a breathtakingly stressful adventure. We went overtime on our talk, which means all went well and Allison and her radio crew earned my undying admiration. Huge amount of work and prep goes into every minute of a radio interview.

Tonight, January 8th, my interview with Donna goes live followed by the audio version of my story, “Snake Oil”, from the Mesdames of Mayhem’s latest anthology, 13 Claws. Stand by for a thought-provoking discussion on crime fiction and writer’s craft.

Tune in via iTunes or Google Play. See you tonight!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, READERS!

 

Greetings Readers!

I’ve been away in Iceland, a fascinating spot. Photos and fab street art soon in my next Wanderings.

2017 was a year of peaks and troughs, but two best-ever events really stand out. On a personal level, my husband and I are going to become grandparents. Holy Cycle of Life, Batman. Some days I feel like I’m in a time machine except I age along with the scenery.  As my kid says: This Time Machine Sucks!

And 13 Claws, the Mesdames’ new anthology launched to great success. (Read all about the event here.)

Even better, the book received great reviews from Maureen Jennings, creator of the acclaimed Murdoch detective series and Jack Batten, mystery reviewer for the Toronto Star.

Warning: Blatant Self-Promotion! My story, “Snake Oil”, received a shout-out!

Here’s what Jack Batten wrote:

The gimmick in the third annual collection of crime stories from this group of Canadian woman writers is that an animal plays a role in each tale…But just because the contributors to the collection write out of an affection for animals doesn’t mean readers need similar feelings to appreciate the stories. There’s enough suspense and intellectual fascination built into the plots of the majority of stories to satisfy even the most ferociously cynophobic reader… And M. H. Callway’s tale mixes snakes and the real estate business in a way that will make readers run a mile from both.

And Maureen wrote:

A great mix of shuddery dark and tongue-in-cheek funny. What devious minds all these nice women have.

More blatant promotion: 13 Claws makes a great stocking stuffer. It’s available on Amazon and at my favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street.

 

 

LAUNCH OF 13 CLAWS!

Excited about the launch of the Mesdames of Mayhem’s third anthology, 13 Clawswhich I believe is our best collection yet.

Many years ago, my friend and fellow author, Jane Burfield had the idea for an anthology that centred on animals: animals as heroes – or villains. In 2016, our publisher, Carrick Publishing, gave us the go-ahead and here we are, better late than never.

Jane is a champion of  encouraging new writers.  The Mesdames held a contest and three authors new to the crime fiction genre, Mary Patterson, Roz Place and Marilyn Kay, have stories in the book.

If you’re in the Toronto area, do join us at the launch. There will food, drink and readings. Come out and support our favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street.