Saturday, September 23, 2006

Toronto, Muncie and Me

This weekend Rose and I and some friends will be heading up to Toronto for Word on the Street (Sunday Sept 23rd), the big ‘ol book and magazine event that takes place across Canada. I’ll be joining my pals at the Crime Writer’s of Canada booth (just look for the mobs of savvy book buyers), hawking my wares and buying more books than I will ever read.

For me, any time I can spend in TO is a treat, but I’m really excited about this trip since I’ve just finished Maureen Jenning’s Except the Dying, the out-frickin’-standing mystery set in the bitter Toronto winter of 1895. I’m looking forward to trekking through the same King Street/Queen Street neighborhoods Miss J describes so vividly, tracking down the Rhodes’ home, visiting St. Paul’s, heading to John O’Neill’s for a beer (or settling for a modern equivalent). It’s going to be fun and, hopefully, warmer.

Now I’d like to say that I have been a fan of Maureen Jennings for years but the truth is I may have missed her if it wasn’t for Muncie, Indiana. You see this year’s Magna Cum Murder mystery convention is suggesting that all attendees read the same book before they arrive, that way we can all have something in common to discuss. (It’s a great idea, by the way, and I recommend it to conference organizers everywhere, especially if you can use one of my books.)

So it’s off to pack. Drop by and say hello and if you mention this post I have a special gift for you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Always a Bridesmaid - and glad of it!

Okay, maybe that should be “best man,” but it doesn’t have quite the same ring (sorry). When I was twenty-one or so, I had a girlfriend who worked in a bank in downtown Montreal. The bank she worked in had set some kind of record as the most robbed bank in the city. I had just become interested in writing mysteries and thought it would be cool to be in a bank robbery. She didn’t think being in a bank robbery was cool at all.

A few years later my former wife was briefly taken hostage in a bank robbery – or at least that’s what she thought would happen when she was the only customer in the bank during a robbery. By this time I was more deeply involved in writing mysteries, and thought, “Why her?” My former spouse concurred: “Why her?”

A couple of years later, the same former spouse, who was afraid to fly, had to go to Quebec City from Montreal on business. Her train derailed just outside of Quebec. In February. The passengers were evacuated by snowmobile to the local funeral home.

When I started working for CN, a colleague was on the “Gimly Glider”, the Air Canada flight that ran out of gas over Manitoba as a result of confusion over kilograms and pounds.

Are you starting to see the point of the title? Interesting things kept happening to people I knew, but I, the writer, had to make it up.

Yesterday, at about 12:30 p.m., a young man wearing a long black trench coat and combat boots and sporting a Mohawk haircut, walked into Dawson College with three guns, one of them a semi-automatic rifle, and started shooting people. Less than twenty minutes into his rampage the police shot him dead, but by then he’d killed one student and wounded twenty others, five of which are still in critical condition at the Montreal General Hospital. The police finally removed the bodies of the gunman and his victim at 6:00 a.m. this morning.

Dawson College is less than two hundred metres from where I live. If you watched the video footage taken from the TVA news helicopter, you would have seen my apartment building on Atwater Avenue, police cars and ambulances parked out front.

I watched the drama unfold on television. Classic fog of war. No one really knew what the hell was going on. There was one shooter. There were four. One was loose in Alexis Nihon plaza, where I do my grocery shopping, armed with a machine gun. Semi-hysterical witnesses reported hundreds of gun shots. As usual, the media did its best, and its worst. There were the usual bunch of self-proclaimed experts in love with the sound of their own voices.

I thought to myself, as I sat in front of the TV, that I could go out, walk fifty metres down the road, and be in the thick of the action. Real life. First hand experience. Cops running around with their guns drawn. Bloody bodies in the streets. I’m a mystery writer, after all.

Thanks. I’d rather make it up.

Some good news. I’m signing Overexposed in Quebec City on Thursday, September 28, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., at La Maison Anglaise, 2600 Laurier Boulevard. La Maison Anglaise is an indy English bookstore – in Quebec City!

Michael Blair
Montreal, Quebec

Monday, September 11, 2006

Book Events and (No) Bike News

Book Events

Vicki here...
I still haven’t decided how I feel about book events. I started thinking about this on the weekend when Charles told me that he went to Virginia for the annual Book Em event. I had been thinking about going, there was a great line up of writers, but it’s a long way from Oakville, Ontario. So should I drive for 10 hours, stay in a hotel overnight, then drive home for 10 hours in order to have a chance to sell a handful of books? And probably take a day off work to do it. It doesn’t seem cost effective – well, it isn’t cost effective in the least from a purely monetary standpoint. But some writers think it’s well worth doing just to get your name and your books out there.

The sort of thing I’m talking about is different from a book store visit. I do see the value of visiting bookstores. Particularly for writers with relatively small presses like me: My book won’t get in a lot of the stores unless I go there with it. And when I leave, hopefully the books will be on display and people will come in and buy them!

I’d be interested to know what other writers think of events. Do you find them worthwhile in the long run?

Speaking of bookstores, I had a great surprise the other day. I was walking to work thought the Toronto underground world (not the subway – the entire Toronto downtown core is connected by tunnels full of shops and restaurants) and there was an entire window display of MY BOOKS in the Coles at Royal Bank Plaza. My, but it looked nice. The reason the store has a window full of books, is that I am doing a signing there this week (Thursday, Sept 14th, at noon, if you’re interested). I haven’t even been there yet, and it is already paying off.

And for all you that have been asking about my bike (sniff, sob) – I haven’t heard anything. Not that I really expected to. However in the every cloud has a silver lining department, the bike theft ring has moved up to play an important part in my new book. So when I get my Pulitzer or Edgar, I might even be able to thank the thief. Then I’ll kill him.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hearing Voices, Part 2

I’m going to make this easy. Take everything Michael says in his blog (below) on rewrites and sign my name to it. The man hit it dead solid and I’m not going to improve on it.

But since you’re here, I gotta tell you about the audio book version of Relative Danger that’s coming out from Blackstone Audio in a couple weeks. Now my debut mystery is available to a lot of folks who can no longer enjoy reading and those, like me, who make their drive time bearable with a book on tape (or in my case CD). But what makes me really excited – and a bit anxious – is hearing how somebody else reads my book.

As I was writing it and all during that revision process (again, see Michael) and then during that final proofreading time, I must have read Relative Danger three hundred times. Now that sounds impossible but just ask any writer how many times they’ve ever typed a line, read it a few times, read it in context with the rest of the paragraph, wrote the next line and gone back to read that other line…now that I think about it, maybe three hundred is way low. And other than a line here and there, I’ve never heard anyone else reading my books. Now someone I don’t know will be reading the whole book and I can’t wait to hear it.

Patrick Lawlor is a veteran stage, screen and TV actor who has also distinguished himself in the audio book world. He’s won the AudioFile Ear Phones™ award, he was a finalist for an Audie™ and my wife would like to note that he is also a “cutie”. Patrick’s been the reader for books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (an author that clearly influenced the kind of books I write), Max Brand and the highly acclaimed mystery writer, Richard Barre. Now he’ll be reading my book.

How will he approach the voices? Will he get all the Arabic words right? Will the parts I thought were funny come across as funny in his version and will the dramatic parts be dramatic? Will he pause where I would have paused, will his voice go up where mine always went up? And the sex scenes – come on, I can’t even read those out loud, how will he do it? I can’t wait to hear.

But what if his reading of it is better than the one in my head? That might screw me up real good. I wouldn’t be able to write without thinking of him and how he’d read it. What if I freak out and think that I have to hear him read everything I write, just to see if it’s any good? I’ll be calling him all the time, or worse yet, moving next door, just so I can run over every five minutes to have him read the latest line. The poor man will end up getting a restraining order, he’ll live in fear of that whacked-out author – which would be me – and he’ll wish he never heard of Relative Danger. And then he’ll think it’ll happen with the next book he reads, I mean there are plenty of crazy authors out there, believe you me. I won’t be able to write, just sitting in the corner, rocking back and forth, and he’ll switch careers, refusing to ever speak in public again, except at my trail when he shouts, “That’s the man that ruined my life!” And that’s the last thing I’ll hear before they lock me up in a nice padded room.

Thanks a lot, Patrick Lawlor. If you weren’t so good, I’d be a free man