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.

NEWS: Bouchercon Noir at the Bar

I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the line-up at Bouchercon Noir at the Bar, representing my hometown of Toronto!

Crime Fiction Authors Bring Their Gritty Side to the Rivoli

Noir at the Bar Toronto is hosting ten international crime fiction authors at the Rivoli, 334 Queen St West, Wednesday October 11, 2017. Door opens at 8:30pm, readings start at 9pm.

Gritty crime fiction, read in a bar, the flash fiction phenomenon has taken off over the past half dozen years across North America and around the world. The Toronto event—hosted roughly three times a year since 2014 by Rob Brunet and Tanis Mallow—is marking its tenth edition during Bouchercon 2017 (Passport to Murder) the World Mystery Convention which takes place in a different North American city each fall.

Readers will share some of their nastiest, roughest, dirtiest stories in a raucous bar filled with crime fiction authors from around the globe. Always dark, the material read at the Bouchercon Noir at the Bar is often a degree darker than usual, as invited authors seek to outdo each other in front of their peers.

At the October 11th event, the featured authors are Scott Alderberg (New York City) Eric Beeter (Los Angeles), M.H. Callway (Toronto), Hilary Davidson (New York City), Sheena Kamal (Vancouver), Owen Laukkanen (Vancouver), Jamie Mason (North Carolina), Thomas Pluck (New Jersey), Zoë Sharpe (UK) and David Swinson (Washington DC).

This year’s Bouchercon edition of Noir at the Bar Toronto is sponsored by Meridian Artists, who will be offering T-Shirts to the first hundred attendees.

For more information, please contact:

Rob Brunet

Noir at the Bar Toronto

416-788-3500

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.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA – How Small Towns Celebrate!

Greetings Readers!

I’m back! June was crazy busy with numerous readings and writerly activities – and of course, the Ride to Conquer Cancer. My tenth Ride went very well despite the 30 degree temperature: full details in a future blog.

On July 1st, Canada turned 150 years old. I’m old enough to remember Expo 67 and the celebrations of Canada’s 100th birthday. (See my blog Expo 67 Then and Now.) But nothing is as charmingly and wholeheartedly Canadian as small town Ontario.  In Goderich, where we have our cottage, the party began on June 30th with fireworks at the harbour beach. (Click on each image to enlarge it.)

Sun sets over salt mine
Kids, sparklers & lake freighter taking on salt

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

On July 1st, everyone lines up for free hot dogs and soft drinks at The Square (actually an octagon).  After downing your nitrate and sucrose-laden treats, you can escape the official speeches by grabbing an ice cream at Cravings or an Americano at Cait’s, the new hipster café.  Then settle back in your lawn chair, digest and watch the parade!

Historical society float

It begins with the resounding sirens of Goderich’s fire engines, followed by one of many piper bands to celebrate the region’s Scottish ancestry.

Piper band

 

Everyone takes part in the parade: hobbyists, local businesses, churches, charities, old, young, human and animal!

Fincher’s: Best bookstore in Huron County!
Boating safety – very Canadian
Model aircraft – very Flight of the Phoenix

Some Canadian institutions:

Zamboni or what, eh?
Ye old chip wagon

 

 

 

 

 

Goderich has not escaped the decamping of industry to China.  For nearly 100 years all the world’s road graders were manufactured in Goderich. Not any more.

Road graders now only history
21st century industry

 

 

 

 

 

Steadfast parade participants:

The Shriners
Knights of Columbus

 

 

 

 

 

The International Order of the Daughters of the Empire

And my personal favorite: the Lions! Many years ago this venerable lion was self-propelled by a Volkswagen Beetle underneath. Alas, the vehicle is gone and our moth-eaten friend needs mobility assistance.

Old Faithful hits wheelchair stage

 

New lion in vintage car

A breakthrough for Goderich: the first Pride floats in the parade ever! And rainbow flags decorated the lampstands around The Square!

Drag queens in Goderich!
Pride flag in Goderich!

 

 

 

 

 

Any vehicle can be in the parade!

Vintage car
Golf cart

 

 

 

 

 

Mobility scooter
Captain Canada in go cart

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Canadian: even our bikers are polite!

Most enthusiastic Canadians ever! 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD!

A Fairy Tale Authors for Indies

The Village Bookshop, Main St., Bayfield ON

Saturday, April 29th was the third annual Authors for Indies, a day on which authors and booksellers together celebrate independent book stores. In previous years, I’ve had a great time at Books and Company in Picton and Book City at the Beach in Toronto.

So imagine my delight when I learned that the Village Bookshop in Bayfield was one of the participating indie bookstores this year. Bayfield lies 10 minutes south of our family cottage in Goderich (of tornado infamy) and this was a great opportunity to meet some Huron County writers.

Spring flowers

The Village Bookshop has a fairy tale setting in the heart of Bayfield, one of the prettiest towns in Ontario. Many years ago, this lovely yellow building housed a bakery and tea room. Sadly, it closed, but happily The Village Bookshop moved in. Golden hardwood floors, an eclectic mix of books for all tastes, a children’s play area and an emphasis on local authors -what’s not to love!

Bayfield’s bookstore has a long tradition of supporting authors. A few years ago, my friends Cathy Astolfo, Janet Bolin, Alison Bruce, Mel Campbell and I had a wonderful time as authors at a mystery-themed literary festival.  

 

Wine, beer, Culbert’s goodies and Glow Grass!

Martha Beechie, the present owner, loves to support local authors. She spoiled us on April 29th by serving sparkling wine, local craft beer and pastries from Goderich’s beloved Culbert’s Bakery!

I joined local mystery author Judy Keightly and Andy McGuire, poet and new father, in meeting local readers. Windigo Fire sold out immediately as well as all my consigned copies of Glow Grass and 13 O’clock. (Should have brought more!)

In between writing mysteries, boating as well as creating and producing plays with Bayfield’s community theatre, Judy and her husband are embarking on a new adventure. They are the new owners of a vineyard. Huron County promises to be the next wine-growing region of Ontario.

 

Martha and Munro

The Village Bookshop shares space with an artist who teaches painting during the summer months. Luckily, the only fox in the area is the one decorating the studio wall because Martha owns a brood of chickens who provide fresh eggs every second day. A pretty, fluffy-feathered breed, Martha has named each bird after a distinguished author.

My personal favorite was Munro named after Huron County’s most distinguished local author: Noble prize winner, Alice Munro who wrote her world famous stories in nearby Clinton, Ontario. Martha let us in on a secret: Ms Munro slips into The Village Bookshop from time to time to sign her books.

Next time you are visiting the Grand Bend or London area, drive a few miles north and Eat the Local Books in the Village Bookshop.

 

 

 

 

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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Eat this Book: Windigo Fire goes to school!

12742381_10156530658650150_2448979545047805041_nGreetings readers!

Eat this Book is about an adventure I had with my thriller, Windigo Fire: a school outing! You have to stay scared to stay sharp, right?

 

12000831_10154197942864018_1649104801334232488_oOur good friend, Steve, approached me about doing a talk at his son’s school.  I said yes then thought: what did I just do? What’s scarier than facing sixty 13-year-olds trapped in library class. Well, erm, nothing!

How did this come about? Steve’s son, Francis, picked my novel, Windigo Fire, as his Canadian novel for his school book report. His English teacher, Ken, read and loved it – and so did some of Francis’s classmates. And so when Ken  invited me to meet his students to talk about my book and the life of a writer, I said YES!

I was a little worried that I might be playing Officer Stodenko to Ken’s Sister Mary Elephant (see Cheech and Chong in Wikipedia, young readers – ed), but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as an author. Good thing though that I could draw on my experience as a retired management consultant doing focus groups, seminars, sales pitches, etc. and winning over skeptical clients.

Here are some observations and tips for the unwary author embarking on their first school talk:

  • Kids are smart, Marv!

Remember how Harry and Marv, the two bungling burglars were outwitted by 8 year old Kevin in the movie comedy, Home Alone? Because they thought kids were stupid. Do not underestimate the tough, intelligent and insightful questions kids will throw at you. They have no qualms asking you how much money you made on your book, why you write for so little money, why you let publishers tell you what to do, why you don’t just self-publish and so forth. 

Tip: Be prepared for hard-nosed questions and have your answers ready!

  • Break the ice early!

There’s nothing worse than a disinterested audience. Silence is deadly. Kids are shy at first. After all, you’re a grown-up and a figure of authority. I broke the ice right away by asking the class who wanted to be a writer. Who was working on a book right now? It didn’t take long to unleash a flood of questions.

Tip: Break the ice by asking about their writing. And about their favorite books.

  • It’s all about respect!

From the kids’ point of view anyone over 25 is O-L-D. At the same time, kids respect anyone who really knows their stuff, is confident and doesn’t talk down to them. Assure the kids that you value their opinions and that you consider every question they throw at you to be a valid one.

I found that making the session an interactive one worked really well. Lectures don’t work in our digital world where attention spans are short. I bled the info out to them by answering “long” to certain questions like: “Who decides what your book cover will look like?” And occasionally, I tossed a question back to them.  For example, they asked “How did J. K. Rawlings get rich?” So I asked them what they thought. It surprised them that they already knew the answer. (Hint: It’s movie rights.)

Tip: Try to answer every single question. A challenging question often leads to a good discussion.

Tip: Make the session interactive and keep the lecture part short.

  • Learning is a 2-way street!

You will learn as much from the kids as they do from you. I learned that they read almost exclusively on I-pads. E-readers are passe, but printed books are still cool.

I never dreamed that Windigo Fire could work as a YA read, but the kids loved it. But then I realized that my protagonist, Danny is young and my second protagonist, Rachel is a 10-year-old kid. To my surprise, their favorite character was Santa, one of the villains. I really enjoyed giving Santa a hard time when I wrote the book – he fails at driving a Prius and he’s outfoxed by Rachel – and the kids did, too.  It was a no-brainer which section I chose to read to them.

Tip: Keep an open mind and you will be happily surprised by what you will learn.

Tip: Give students a choice about which pages you read.

  • The teacher is your best friend!

One reason my visit worked so well was because of Ken, the teacher. We planned the session together and he kept things moving by throwing in a comment or a question. Teachers can also rein in some of the more extroverted students.  Ken is working on a children’s book so it was great to meet and exchange information with another writer.

Tip: Plan your visit with the teacher beforehand.

At the end of my talk, the students presented me with a wonderful card they had all signed and a keepsake globe. A new world really awaits.

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Oh, and EAT MY BOOK, WINDIGO FIRE. (Very unsubtle sales pitch- editor)

 

 

 

 

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.

mesdameslaunch2015
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!