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!

BIG NEWS: Glow Grass and Other Tales Published This Fall!

Greetings Readers!

This eerie picture is the cover art for my upcoming book, Glow Grass and Other Tales, published by Carrick Publishing.

My short fiction has appeared in several anthologies, print magazines and ezines. In Glow Grass though you can read seven stories and two novellas at once, including my Arthur Ellis short-listed thriller, Glow Grass itself.

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Re-reading my stories, I see that they are noir, but the beginning tale, “Kill the Boss” and the ending novella, Amdur’s Cat, are comic romps born out of my frustration while working for the government. My tribute to Yes, Minister.

Many of the stories are winners or finalists for awards: Arthur Ellis, Derringer and Bony Pete.

I’ll keep you posted about the upcoming cyber launch and print launch of Glow Grass, most probably in mid to late October.

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.


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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?

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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.

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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!! 

 

EAT THIS BOOK: Reading with Sam Wiebe!

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Looking for a summer thriller? Happy to recommend my friend, Sam Wiebe’s new book, The Invisible Dead! Last week Margaret Cannon, crime fiction reviewer of the Globe and Mail, gave it a rave review, calling Sam “a writer on the rise”.  Read the full text here.

Sam and I were both finalists for the 2012 Unhanged Arthur (Sam won). Subsequently Sam’s book, The Last of the Independents, was published by Dundurn and mine, Windigo Fire, by Seraphim Editions.  And then we were both short-listed for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award!! (Steve Burrows won).  Sam went on to win the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Best Mystery.

What I especially enjoy about Sam’s writing are his engaging characters, but even more so his darkly complex plot twists that plunge deeply into noir. He breaks many mystery conventions and rules: no cozies here.

I’ll be reading with Sam and fellow noir writers, Rob Brunet and John McFetridge on Thursday, July 14th, 6 pm at Sleuth of Baker Street to celebrate the launch Sam’s new book and series, The Invisible Dead. Join us for a great evening of noir crime fiction.

AND EAT SAM’S NEW BOOK, THE INVISIBLE DEAD!

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Surreal Trapdoor: Cat Marihuana – Our street is now cool!

Mt. Pleasant Road was once colourless, staid and outdated, lined with dusty antique stores. Nothing happening, certainly not in the evening after a pensioner’s bedtime. 

To be fair though, it always had some neat retro stuff. Penrose Fish and Chips hadn’t changed its décor, menu or deep fryer since the 1940’s.  They still wrapped your take-out fish and chips in newspaper. George’s Trains  sold my fav childhood toy: electric trains! And two ancient movie houses, The Regent and the Mt. Pleasant,  showed stale-dated films to tiny audiences of the faithful.

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Late, great Penrose
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Cinema treasure

 

 

 

 

 

And we found great food at The Longest Yard pub, our home away from home, as well as yummy cakes at the sadly gone Sweet Gallery and noms at Le Feuvre’s Chocolates.

Mind you, Mt. Pleasant had, probably still has, its seamy side.  Above those silent-as-tombs antique shops – knocking shopsSmart of them to hide in a deadly boring, whitebread family neighbourhood over stores bereft of customers. I’m not kidding: read this. There’s even a “rub map” of Toronto with Mt. Pleasant taking…erm…undue prominence! (No links, guys- you’re on your own!)

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Naughty and not so nice

Change has surged into our hapless backwater. Condos, Starbucks and Second Cup have invaded. All our favs now swept away, except, inexplicably, the movie theatres.  But wondrous new things have birthed:  Thobor’s Parisian chefs make the best bread and pastries in North Toronto and Belsize Public House is trying to fill The Longest Yard’s big shoes.

A tear and a beer at the Longest Yard farewell party. Even Mayor Tory dropped by for last call!

This week a Surreal Trapdoor opened up. On one side of one of the last chandelier-crammed antique stores,  I spied the Green Room, a medical marihuana shop, with a brew pub-like menu of plant materials on display. And on the other, Meow Coffee, a cat café! Police raids and grumpy Toronto Humane Society notwithstanding!

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Medical? Sure, do you want it to be?
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My soft spot – kitties!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are now 21st century – and cool!  I leave you, readers, with this song by Japanese pop group, Shonen Knife about bad kitties and cat mary-jane.  And guessing which  shop will become my new haunt….

 

 

 

 

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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News: Blatant Self-Promotion – My Novella “Glow Grass” Arthur Ellis Finalist!

WOW! I attended the Arthur Ellis short list event at Indigo Manulife Centre last night on April 21st with fingers crossed for our anthology 13 O’clock. Competition this year was tough in the short story category with nearly 50 entries and many established authors.

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Finalist-400My suspense story, “Glow Grass”, was entered in the novella category.  And it is an Arthur Ellis finalist. I could not believe it!!

I’m honoured and delighted to be in the company of my friends and fellow authors, Barbara Fradkin and Alison Bruce.  Do check out their books.

And special thanks to Carrick Publishing who made both anthologies of the Mesdames of Mayhem possible.

Read an excerpt of “Glow Grass” on this website.

Our Mesdames of Mayhem anthology, 13 O’clock, has garnered two recent reviews, both great.  Don’t miss out on some great stories by leading Canadian women crime writers.

Vanessa Westermann writes in Vanessa’s Picks in the April issue of the Sleuth of Baker Street newsletter:

M.H. Callway very kindly sent me a copy of 13 O’Clock ($15.99), the second crime anthology by the MESDAMES OF MAYHEM. I normally prefer to pick up a novel, rather than a short story collection, when looking for reading material. However, having just worked with a group of budding young authors in a creative writing club and given advice on crafting short fiction, it was a pleasure to read an anthology by lauded female Canadian crime writers and class it as ‘research’. These twisted tales offer entertainment to suit your every whim or perhaps, more appropriately, to suit the time of day. Over crumpets at breakfast, perhaps you’ll find yourself reading “Pulling a Rabbit”, about a woman whose adventurous spirit leads her from theft to abduction. Over a pre-dinner glass of merlot, you may choose to read “Glow Grass”, about dark deeds and blood-shed at a decayed family cottage. Whichever story you choose to read, at whatever time, you’re sure to find a tale of crime that will appeal to you, from the supernatural to comedy capers.

And Don Graves writes in Canadian Mystery Reviews. Don has given us permission to reproduce his review here. It will be up in a forthcoming issue.

A book of short stories is like a box of chocolates. There are those decadent dark chocolate truffles, those syrupy little beehives with a cheery inside and then…you get the picture.

Short story writing is a style where the author gets about a minute to ‘reel ‘em in and land ‘em’. No time to waste words. The author gets one shot to score. Short story writing can be the Waterloo that some authors fear. Enough.

13 O’Clock is a box full of delights. No assembly line writing here. It is short story writing that delivers. Did I like each story equally? No, but all of them got me in that critical first minute. In a long list of fine, hand-made “chocolates” includes “Perfect Timing” and “The Test of Time” by Melodie Campbell, “Thrice the Brinded Cat” by Joan O’Callaghan, “The Bench Rests” by Rosemary Aubert; this story took me back to those poignant legal series featuring Ellis Portal. Stories by Donna Carrick, Catherine Astolfo and M.H. Callway hit the spot. And I must mention one other. I’m sure you’ve heard the oldie about those can’t do…teach. Well, some say, those who can’t write…edit. But “Mirror, Mirror” by Cheryl Freedman blows that saying out of the water. Here’s one of Canada’s finest editors who can write!

 

 

Excerpt: “Glow Grass”

cover4The smash success of Thirteen, the Mesdames of Mayhem’s first anthology led to our second collection of twisted tales of time and crime, 13 O’clock.  It contains stories by 14 of Canada’s leading crime writers and just received a warm review by Canadian Mystery Reviews critic, Don Graves.

Don singled out my noir suspense story, “Glow Grass”, for special mention! In this excerpt, Paula discovers an unofficial grave site in the woods of her derelict family cottage.  

 

Sark will realize I’m here alone…

            She ran down the eastern side of the cottage away from the drive, her mind working. I’ll head up to the beaver pond while it’s still light, she thought. Wait him out.

            The trail to the beaver pond started behind Dad’s shed. She had no choice now, she had to cross over the horrible spot. A shimmering tongue of glow grass leaked out into the trail as though pointing the way to the pond.

            Fire shovel in hand, she dashed over the sinister spot and plunged down the narrow track into the safety of the trees. The path snaked deeper into the forest, the glow grass dwindling out behind her.

            The beaver pond lay buried in the woods half a kilometer north of the cottage. At one time, homesteaders owned a farm there with an apple orchard – or so Sark had told Dad. But the settlers had departed long ago and over time their log house had crumbled into the forest soil. The orchard had grown wild until beavers dammed the creek that cut through the forest, drowning the apple trees, turning their dead trunks silver.  

           The lost farm made Dad melancholy. It reminded him of time’s passing, he said. But in the beaver pond all she saw was life: frogs, dragon flies, turtles, snails and minnows. Once a pair of Canada geese nested there. Another time she even caught a perch, which Dad cooked for dinner. She’d always meant to find out who owned the land around the beaver pond. All Dad could tell her was that it lay well beyond their property line.

            The trail suddenly veered right not left. She stopped, bewildered, faced with a tangle of brambles and reeds

            The path turns left here, she thought. Dad cut the trail along the left side of the pond so we could walk along its edge to the far end. Too many cedar trees on the right side: Dad never owned the heavy tools he needed to cut through them. I’ve used this trail since I was a kid. It turns left here, not right

            She clutched the fire shovel as though she could beat her memory into submission.

            Oh, God, this divorce is driving me crazy.

            Crazier, wouldn’t you say?

            Go away, Brian.

            She took the path to the right.

            It led into the shadows of the now-towering cedar trees. A short distance along, she spotted a soft green light: glow grass growing into the trail.

            It spilled out from a tiny track that branched away through a clump of alders. Dodging the leafless bushes, she followed it into a small clearing.

            There a stone garden bench rested in a soft carpet of glow grass. Several small stones bordered its circular edge. On closer inspection, the stones proved to be store-bought garden ornaments, inscribed with a single word like “Forever” or “Remember”. Between the stones stood small plaster statues of angels holding soiled plastic flowers or soggy, bedraggled ribbons. One angel held a glass engraving of the poem, Desiderata, the relic cracked and damaged by the weather. Votive candles in red glass holders lay scattered among the stones, most burned down to the end.

          This was a memorial garden. But for whom?

            She sank down on the bench. The tiny monuments were cheap: she’d seen them for sale in dollar stores. None bore a date or name. Perhaps the strange garden was an amateurish, heartfelt tribute to a family pet.

            But what if it wasn’t?

            She shivered. Who built the garden? Why hide it in the woods away from prying eyes? Was it the unknown owner of the beaver pond?

          Over the years, she and Dad had found evidence of strangers round the pond: cigarette butts, fish line and hooks, empty beer cans… Anyone could pass through their cottage property when she and Dad weren’t there.

            The mysterious gardener had taken glow grass from the cottage and replanted it here. That felt like a warning, a challenge even. As if the unknown gardener was telling her: You abandoned the cottage. Now it’s mine to do with as I like.

           The woods were deathly silent. Yet she had an uneasy sense that someone lurked in the shadows. Watching, waiting, matching her breath for breath. She felt in her jacket for her phone and remembered she’d left it in the car.

            She stood up slowly, wielding the puny fire shovel. Saw nothing but lifeless bushes and dark cedar trees.

            Heart pounding, she stumbled back to the main trail. She walked briskly, faster and faster through the waning light until she was running flat out. She didn’t stop until she burst clear of the trees.

            The porch light was on. Under its harsh light, the glow grass had turned a chalky, sepulchral white.

            Sark stood on the front porch, his bulky form blending into the dusk.

To read “Glow Grass” and the other 14 fine stories in this collection, download 13 O’clock from Amazon here.

 

NEWS: Great Review of 13 O’clock and “Glow Grass”

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Many reviewers avoid anthologies. That’s why the Mesdames of Mayhem were blessed indeed when noted Canadian crime fiction reviewer, Don Graves, agreed to take a look at their second anthology, 13 O’clock for Canadian Mystery Reviews.

According to Mr. Graves,  we hit it out of the park!! And I’m especially delighted that my story, “Glow Grass”, was singled out for special mention!

Here’s the full text of the review:

A book of short stories is like a box of chocolates. There are those decadent dark chocolate truffles, those syrupy little beehives with a cheery inside and then…you get the picture.

Short story writing is a style where the author gets about a minute to ‘reel ‘em in and land ‘em’. No time to waste words. The author gets one shot to score. Short story writing can be the Waterloo that some authors fear. Enough.

13 O’Clock is a box full of delights. No assembly line writing here. It is short story writing that delivers. Did I like each story equally? No, but all of them got me in that critical first minute. In a long list of fine, hand-made “chocolates” includes “Perfect Timing” and “The Test of Time” by Melodie Campbell, “Thrice the Brinded Cat” by Joan O’Callaghan, “The Bench Rests” by Rosemary Aubert; this story took me back to those poignant legal series featuring Ellis Portal. Stories by Donna Carrick, Catherine Astolfo and M.H. Callway hit the spot. And I must mention one other. I’m sure you’ve heard the oldie about those can’t do…teach. Well, some say, those who can’t write…edit. But “Mirror, Mirror” by Cheryl Freedman blows that saying out of the water. Here’s one of Canada’s finest editors who can write!

Canadian Mystery Reviews. Don Graves