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.

BIG SALE for LEFT COAST CRIME!

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GREETINGS READERS!

As part of Left Coast Crime, my e-books will be on SALE on Amazon from March 16th to March 23rd at 12:00 am. The discounted price for each book is $0.99.

So if you haven’t had a chance to read my books on Kindle, you can now get ’em cheap.

ENJOY and many thanks!!

 

SURREAL TRAPDOOR: Marihuana in Legoland

Life does indeed imitate art – but, hey, Windigo Fire did it first!

ce3489971f4d58cd34e8614f532a7312In Windigo Fire, my villain, Santa is the owner of a seedy roadside attraction, Santa’s Fish Camp. Of course, he has a large crop of marihuana plants flourishing in the “service area”. 

I got the idea after we visited  Santa’s Village  in Bracebridge, Ontario with our then 4 year old  daughter. She absolutely loved Santa’s Village, but as a mom chasing after an active kid, well, my thoughts turned dastardly.  As I tell aspiring writers: ask the “What if” question. What if this clean, family-friendly attraction masked a grow-op?

Thus the seeds of Santa’s Fish Camp were planted so to speak. But now Legoland UK has followed suite! th2

2861129_2PgBfsPCZrJOlDrPa-M4Q3NzNHABmxp15VDg2rgUaG4Recently, a grow-op was discovered at Legoland UK. Two enterprising b*stards planted 50 thriving marihuana plants inside a cottage at the boundary of the theme park. Even cheekier, the ambitious  herbalists accessed the cottage through Crown Estate lands –  at Windsor Castle where the Queen lives!

Read the full story in the Huffington Post here. As they say, man, Legolize It!

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WOW What a Year!

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Me & best buddy, Marc, at The Ride to Conquer Cancer

Greetings and a Very Happy New Year, Readers!

The media’s consensus is that 2016 was the Year of Crap.  Mad violence, racism, gender wars, the sanctioned rise of tyrants and unbridled greed, more wars…nice, huh? No wonder so many crime writers are turning to noir. Makes me  proud – and relieved – to be a Canadian.

Despite the mayhem on earth, 2016 treated my family, friends and myself pretty well. One of the biggest highlights was my 9th Ride to Conquer Cancer with my best buddy, Marc, in support of cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital.  The doctors, medical staff and researchers at PMH are truly the A-team. Because of them, many of our friends have beaten back this horrible illness and continue to live happy and fulfilling lives.

I devoted much of 2016 to building my social media presence via my website and Twitter.  Blogging has been immensely freeing, allowing me to explore and share my love of street art, travel and the weird and wonderful. Readers around the globe and as far away as Macau have visited here though most of my followers live in Canada, the USA, Brazil and Germany.  As of now,  I have 1600+ followers on Twitter: mostly fellow writers or fans of crime fiction and street art.

Windigo Fire continues to draw interest. Seraphim Editions sent me my first royalty cheque, which was more than my initial advance. Wow! I also received my first payments from Public Lending Right (libraries) and Access Copyright. In December, I learned that WF was being studied by a high school English class as an example of Canadian literature – and the teacher invited me to meet his students in the New Year.  Will the students be scarier than a roomful of hostile IT clients???

1-Triple-Release-Nov_6-16-WebglowgrassIn November, Carrick Publishing released my latest book, Glow Grass and Other Tales, a collection of my published short stories and novellas. My friends, Rosemary Aubert, Donna Carrick and I made it a Trifecta launch at our favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street. We packed the store with friends, family, fans and well-wishers.  And all three of us sold out our supplies of books!! 

This year I participated in 20+ author events, flying solo or teamed up with fellow crime writers through our group, the Mesdames of Mayhem or with Crime Writers of Canada. I gave several workshops on How to Get Published at the Toronto Public Library as well as at my friend, Rosemary McCracken’s Novel II course at George Brown College. And I attended three literary conferences – whew!

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Dale Berry, me, Sarah Chen, Steve Burrows, Mysti Berry at LLC
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Meet the Canucks!

 

 

 

 

 

Left Coast Crime in February in Phoenix, Arizona was terrific. I was honoured to be on the short crime fiction panel and I partied with new and old friends at the Short Fiction Mystery Society reception, Noir at the Bar and the Meet the Canucks event hosted by CWC.  I met two of my favorite authors, Ann Cleeves and Tim Hallinan. Even fitted in a sightseeing tour of wild west ghost towns and rattlesnakes! (See my previous blogs on both subjects.)

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Coffee with Tim Hallinan, standing
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Lunch with Ann Cleeves, 2nd from left

 

 

 

 

 

Limestone Expo in Kingston, Ontario last July, was an intimate, multi-genre festival organized by horror author, Liz Strange.  Ed and I made a fun weekend of it, staying at a haunted B&B, the fab Rosemount Inn and connecting with friends, old and new. I was delighted to share a table with speculative fiction author and aardvark lover, Ira Nayman, who in another life was our daughter’s film professor at Ryerson University! Thoroughly enjoyed being on the multi-genre panel, Monstrous Imaginings.

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Selling Windigo Fire and MoM anthos
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Ira Nayman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madonna Skaff
Madonna Skaff – Up and coming YA author
Brian Lindsay
Brian Lindsay – Fellow finalist for AE First Novel award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gators love marshmallows!
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Mardi Gras event

Bouchercon 2016 took place in September in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The exotic location drew in thousands of crime fiction authors and fans from North America and overseas. Easy to get lost in the crowd as a newbie Canadian author, but also great to be in the Mardi Gras parade, to nom down Creole treats at publishers’ events and to hear some of the best Noir writing ever at the Voodoo Lounge. (See my blog on Bouchercon) And during the swamp tour, we learned that gators love marshmallows!

Highlights included interviewing Hank Phillippi Ryan on behalf of Toronto Sisters in Crime, meeting Peter Rozovsky, the founder of Noir at the Bar and dinner at Arnaud’s with friends and fellow authors, Mar Preston, Nancy Cole Silverman and Ellen Kirschmann. Thanks, too, to New Orleans detective and award-winning crime writer O’Neil de Noux for organizing the Short Mystery Fiction Society lunch at Napoleon’s.

Hank Ryan – The Real Deal!
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Ayo Onatade & Peter Rozovsky
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Mar Preston and Nancy Cole Silverman

 

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Ellen Kirschmann
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Spooky Napoleon’s bistro

NaNoWriMo in November got me back to doing what writers are supposed to do: to write. Under the guiding hand of my friend, TO Poet, I hunkered down and got to work.  Impossible to match TO Poet’s staggering output of 75,000+ words, so I settled on a focused approach this year and drafted two short stories and more chapters for the WF sequel, Windigo Ice.

December was devoted to family, friends and Christmas. Much to look forward to in the New Year. Several public events coming up as well as friends’ book launches and Left Coast Crime in Hawaii and Bouchercon right here in our own city of Toronto.

We Mesdames of Mayhem will be releasing our third anthology, 13 Claws, featuring dastardly, animal-centred crimes. For the first time, we have a contest to discover one or more authors previously unpublished in the crime fiction genre. Stay tuned and hope we survive 2017!!

 

 

 

NEWS: Books, books, books!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, READERS!

12742381_10156530658650150_2448979545047805041_nIt’s December and HOLIDAY MADNESS! My friends, the Mesdames of Mayhem and I, published a lot of books and short stories this year.  Do visit our website to find out about our doings at www.mesdamesofmayhem.com.

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L to R Sylvia Warsh, Donna Carrick, Joan O’Callaghan, Rosemary McCracken, Ed Piwowarczyk, Cheryl Freedman, Lisa De Nikolits, Cathy Astolfo, M. H. Callway; Front L to R Rosemary Aubert, Jane Burfield, Melodie Campbell, Lynne Murphy

We wish you Happy Holidays and EAT OUR BOOKS!  These goodies are good for you!

 

SURREAL TRAPDOOR: Brantford – Retro Bizzaro!

Cathy Astolfo
Cathy Astolfo

My friend and fellow crime writer, Cathy Astolfo, recently moved to Brantford.  I’ve made flying visits there to give talks with other crime writers that Cathy arranged with her local Brantford library.  My impression: Brantford’s nice and quiet – a typical small Ontario town.

How wrong can you be! 

Follow the link here to fall through the Surreal Trapdoor and discover Brantford’s loveable eccentrics, like Mike on a Bike and Captain Kindness.  And time warps like the Dairee Delite selling ice cream  so good, Canadians line up for it in winter!

Directions to Surreal Trapdoor here: http://katywords.blogspot.ca/

Cathy writes two series: the light-hearted Kira Callaghan series set in the ReVisions Retirement Residence and the darker, Emily Taylor series. She’s also penned the standalone noir psychological thriller,  Sweet Caroline and published many crime fiction stories. Do check out this Arthur Ellis award winner’s  books here.  http://www.catherineastolfo.com/.

NEWS: MESDAMES OF MAYHEM CONTEST

MESDAMES OF MAYHEM SHORT STORY CONTEST

12742381_10156530658650150_2448979545047805041_nThe Mesdames of Mayhem are delighted to announce a crime fiction short story contest for Canadian writers previously unpublished in the genre. The winning story will be included in our third anthology, 13 Claws, to be published in 2017.

One of the principles we share in the Mesdames is to encourage other writers. Many of us teach creative writing and most of us give regular talks to readers and aspiring writers at libraries, book clubs, arts fairs, literary conventions, etc., etc. This contest is our way to Walk the Talk another 100 miles!

Judging of the stories will be done blind by a committee. All personal identifiers must be removed from the header, footer and body of the story submission. The Rules for Submission are reproduced here. Do check the Mesdames of Mayhem website regularly for updates on the contest.

13 CLAWS: Rules for Submission:

  1. The story must be about a crime, either solving it or trying to prevent it from happening.
  2. An animal must be central to the story. Any animal is allowed: for example, a cat, dog, rabbit, bear, snake, even a dragon or other mythical beast. The writer’s imagination is the only limit. The animal must be a main character or pivotal to the plot. In other words, if the animal was taken out, there would be no story.
  3. Writers must not have had a work of prose crime fiction published (i.e. short story, novella or novel) in either print or electronic form. Writers whose stories appear on their own personal blog(s) and writers who have had poetry or non-fiction newspaper or magazine articles or non-fiction books about crime are allowed to submit a story for this contest.
  4. Writers must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident in Canada.
  5. The story length should be between 2000 and 5000 words.
  6. A maximum of two submissions per writer.
  7. Formatting requirements:
    1. No personal identifiers anywhere in the header, footer or body of the story
    2. Include the story title and page number in the document header
    3. Story file in .rtf format, double-spaced, Times New Roman (12 point) or similar, 1” margins and please, no unusual formatting.
  8. Each submission must include a title page with the story title, name of the author and the word count of the story.
  9. Deadline for submission: March 15, 2017. All submissions must be electronic and sent to mcallway1@gmail.com.
  10. The contest judges reserve the right to name more than one winner. They also have the right to not declare a winner if none of the entries meet a standard suitable for publication in the anthology.
  11. The winning author(s) must be prepared to sign a contract with Carrick Publishing.
  12. Royalties will be shared equally between all contributors to the anthology after the publisher’s expenses are recovered and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Toronto Humane Society.
  13. GOOD LUCK! After all, thirteen is the Mesdames’ lucky number.

 

CYBER CAFE: Kristina Stanley, Writing Biz Dynamo!

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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

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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!

 

 

MY NEW BOOK: GLOW GRASS & OTHER TALES – LAST EXCERPT!

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AMDUR’S CAT

This light-hearted story is my personal favorite. Tiddles is based on one of our beloved cats and he lives again in this story. Some of the antics at the Ministry of Health were inspired by a certain notorious Toronto mayor – and I leave to you, dear reader, to decide which ones are true and which are pure fantasy!

 Published in Thirteen, An Anthology by the Mesdames of Mayhem, Carrick Publishing, 2013.

            On a snowy December night Benjamin Amdur saw a lion. It was gamboling about like a kitten swatting at the fat, wet snowflakes that tumbled through the dark. Right in the centre of Riverdale Park by the children’s wading pool.

            Under the lamps of the park’s snowy pathway, the lion’s tawny fur glowed like the back of an old velvet sofa. For a brief moment – that gap between the surreal world and biting reality – he watched Rousseau’s painted lion came to life.

            Then he remembered the sleeping gypsy – the minstrel who was about to eaten.

            He grasped the icy black iron fence beside him. The house it surrounded lay dark. At two in the morning, its inhabitants, like most normal people, were in bed. By the time he woke them up screaming for help, the lion would have torn out his throat.

            With infinite caution, his eyes on the animal, he edged back into the shadows of Winchester Street, the road he’d weaved down moments before. Behind him, three blocks away, lay Parliament Street with its strip bars, eateries and mini-marts. Surely to God one of those places had to be open!

            The lion leapt in the air. It snapped at the snowflakes as they fell. He heard the crunch of its jaws, saw the flash of its teeth. Its tail lashed back and forth.

            Then it paused, raised its huge head and sniffed the air. Its nostrils twitched.

            He saw me!

            Amdur turned and ran like a mad man.

            Adrenalin buoyed him up for the first few feet but deserted him almost immediately. He was forty-eight and twenty pounds overweight. His regular habit of walking to work did nothing to bolster his panic-stricken need to run. He tore down the slushy sidewalk, his mind fixed on the zebras of the veldt. Zebras that ran far more swiftly than he. Zebras brought down and eviscerated alive…

            By the time he reached the yellow lights of Parliament Street his chest was heaving. He doubled over, gasping for oxygen. If the lion got him now, he was dinner. But he couldn’t take another step.

He looked frantically up and down the street. Every storefront was dark.

No buses, no taxis, no cars.

Then he spotted an angel standing under a streetlight a few yards to the south. Well, not an angel exactly, but a young police officer, her uniform immaculate, the brim of her cap spotless, her leather boots and gun holster gleaming with polish.

            He summoned his remaining strength and stumbled over to her. “Oh, thank God…an animal…danger…” He couldn’t stop panting. “Very dangerous. Over by …Riverdale Farm.”

  She raised a tidy eyebrow. “Are you quite all right, sir?”

            “No…no, I’m not all right.” With the dispassion of his medical training, he estimated his heart to be thumping at 180 beats per minute. His blood pressure didn’t bear thinking about. “You…help…must get help.”

            “How much have you had to drink tonight, sir?”

            “Drink?” he echoed.

            “Quite a few, I’d say. Identification, please.”

     “What?” Finally he caught his breath. “Please, you don’t understand. There’s a bloody great animal running around loose. It’ll rip someone apart. We have to stop it.”

            “Your ID. Now!” Her hand moved toward her baton.

            Amdur dragged out his wallet and handed her his driver’s license. Her laser stare burned through its laminate cover.

            “Dr. Benjamin Amdur.” She studied his face with more than an element of disbelief. “So you’re a doctor.”

            “Yes, I’m with the Ministry of Health. I’m Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of OHIP.”

            That made no impression on her whatsoever. “OHIP?”

            “Your, I mean, our free medicine in Ontario. Look here, we’re wasting time.”

            “How many drinks have you had tonight, sir?”

            “What the hell does it matter? I was at a Christmas party, for heaven’s sake. At the National Club.” That lofty name made even less impression on her. “I tell you I know what I saw. There’s a lion on the loose.”

            “Lion! Why didn’t you say so!”

            “I did say so.”

  “Where? Where did you see it?”

            “In Riverdale Park, by the children’s wading pool…the farm.”

            She shoved his license in her tunic and tore down Winchester Street, leaving him standing there like an idiot. He chased after her, but she set a blistering pace. He only managed to catch up with her at the edge of the park.

             Amdur squinted through the heavy curtain of falling snow. Where was the beast? Where was it? The grounds of the park stretched out before him, white and featureless under the thick drifts.

     No sign of the lion.

**