Saturday, March 28, 2009

Getting Real, Man

I don’t usually make up very much when I write.  As a rule, I  just rearrange and manipulate versions of actual events. I often write about true historical events, since I write a historical series.  But more often the events that inspire me are those that I have heard or observed, things that once happened to me, or to people I know.  

Is there anything new under the sun?  Can characters and events be imagined in a void?  Did Charles Dickens’ characters spring fully formed from his forehead, like Athena?  Did he pluck them from the ether,  or are they all based on people of whom Dickens knew, and then exaggerated?  Were there  living, breathing, people who we have to thank for giving Dickens the notion to create Uriah Heep, or Fagin, or Miss Haversham?

And what about events?  Has there lived an author who created a totally original reason for murder - that is, a reason that has never, ever, been used to justify murder - or a method of killing that no real-life killer has employed?  I have read that there are only seven plots, and that all stories are nothing more than variations of thereon. (If you are curious, Dear Reader, the purported seven plot lines are: human vs. nature, human vs. human, human vs. the environment, human vs. technology, human vs. the supernatural, human vs. self, and human vs. God). 

Is it so?  When I think about my own books, and most mystery novels, the basic plot is some form of human vs. human, with bunches of the others thrown in, in one fashion or another.

Rick wondered if it is kosher to use an actual event as the backdrop to a story, but I wonder if it is possible not to do so, in one way or another?  The events may or may not be recognized by the reader as having really happened, but what else can the author use for inspiration but reality? And how else could we speak to our readers, how else could we communicate but though the common ground of shared experience?

I’ve always thought that a great author was a great observer and interpreter of the way things are.  Not someone who makes things up, but perhaps someone who sees what is in a whole new way.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reality Check

Charles here, envious of Debby and Vicki but eager to chat about Rick’s question.

As you no doubt recall, Rick asked if it was ‘fair’ to use real events as a jumping off point for a story.* After much internal debate and spirited arguments with the voice(s) in my head, I have decided that the answer is: hell yeah.

My entire third book, Noble Lies, is based on the fact that a tsunami struck Thailand and many people were killed and that today roughly 5,000 and still missing. Not unidentified, missing. )Now did I do it successfully? I’d like to think so but I’d love to hear what you think.)

So, resolved, using actual big events as background for a novel is permissible. Have at it Rick, old pal.

Not to get all philosophical on you, but every story is based on reality. With the possible exception of stories that appear in Letters to Penthouse Forum.

On a side note, scoot over to YouTube and check out what someone posted under my Advice to Authors video. I refuse to respond to someone who can not even grasp the basics of sarcasm, the lowest of all comedic forms. However you, dear reader, are welcome to add your comments.

BTW-Speaking tonight at The Century Club. Hope to see you there. In a few weeks I’m in Phelps so alert the media.

*That may not be the actual question Rick posed, but I need it to be the question for my blog to make what little sense it does.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The "TOUR"

Vicki dropped me at the San Francisco airport early Tuesday morning and went on to visit more stores, though at a slower pace than we'd been blazing. When we first started, I told Vicki that in the islands, if we more than an hour and a half, we usually spend the night. Vicki laughed. And I loved the drives we did. And the bookstores, and the book lovers, mystery enthusiasts especially. And meeting Donis for the absolute BEST Mexican food (and a much-enjoyed Mexican ale). What a trip! Vicki's and my luggage expanded with books we got along the way. Wish I had more pictures, but here are a few.  I must have slept 12 hours Tuesday night.  Vicki, are you catching up on your Z's, too?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Using real current events in a fictional work

Blechta here.

Something major happens in the world, everyone is fascinated by it, appalled by it, frightened, happy, sad, whatever. What if those of us who write fiction make use of it? Is it crass commercialism, a savvy move, in bad taste? Or is it really smart, a great way to increase the verismo of our plotlines?

This is something I’ve always struggled with. I don’t mean that we should necessarily use whatever this event is as the main component of our plots, but would that little bit of current events add a frisson of realism to an otherwise completely made up series of events?

I’m sure everyone reading this is thinking, “9/11, of course,” and that overwhelming event still casts a large shadow over all of humanity. We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we found out the tragic events that had happened in New York on that dreadful morning, don’t we? I sure do. (If you’re old enough, I can also tell you exactly where I was when I found out JFK had been assassinated in Dallas.) The death of Princess Diana also comes to mind.

There are writers who have done this, of course. Unfortunately, I’m too brain-dead at this point to think of any of them, so can anyone help me out? Do you know of anyone who has — successfully or unsuccessfully — used a real life event as the backdrop to their story?

Would you think any less of me if I did that?


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Weather Report

I, too, have heard that one should never begin a book with a weather report, and am always conscious of that bit of writerly folk wisdom every time I do it.   I have managed to include a weather report of some sort in the beginnings of all four books I’ve written thus far.  In fact, weather plays an important role in all my writing.

It would seem unnatural to me if it didn’t.  I grew up in Oklahoma, a place where the state of the weather looms large in everyone's life, every day of every year.   This is smack in the middle of the Great Plains, where, as the old saw goes, there’s nothing to stop the wind between the Gulf of Mexico and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.  Oklahomans enjoy and/or suffer through every sort of weather known to nature, and in short order, too.  A February day of 15 degrees Fahrenheit and 3 inches of ice can be followed by a day of 70 and sunshine.  Weather moves through fast and furious, and this is why there are so many violent storms.

How could one write about people who live in such a place, whose lives are lived mostly outdoors, as well, and not write about the weather?  The characters are certainly aware of it.

I decide what season it will be before I begin to write an Alafair Tucker book, for the atmosphere will influence the plot - snow to hide a body, a dust devil to lead Alafair to rescue her daughter from a killer, a spring breeze to shower apple blossoms over young lovers.  

Until I moved out here to Southern Arizona some 25 years ago, where there is no weather other than warm and extra-hot*, I didn’t realize that I had spent thirty-some years of my life in a state of tension and hyper-vigilance.  When I began to realize that I didn’t have to check for some life-threatening atmospheric phenomenon every single morning upon arising, I swear to God that the muscles in my shoulders relaxed for the first time in my adult life. 

Now, I can’t finish this post without mentioning two things : First, I had a great St Patrick’s day with Vicki and Debby as they passed through my bailiwick on their Extra Mighty-Big Book Tour.  I met up with them at Tempe Public Library in the afternoon, after which we drove north to Scottsdale and ate supper together on the patio at Frank and Lupe’s New Mexican restaurant.  We partook of fish tacos and happy hour, and finished in a nicely buzzed state just in time to go to Poisoned Pen Bookstore for their gig at 7:00.  A lovely time was had by all.

Second, my Murder workshop on Sunday for the Tucson Festival of Books went swimmingly.  The room was packed.  I won’t go into detail here, since I begin to wax long, but suffice it to say that I was so happy to get out of the house, and Don did fine on his own for the day.   I wrote a bit more about the day, the trip with my friend Nan, and my conversation with Nancy Turner, on my own web site, if you want to know more, Dear Reader.  Perhaps I’ll go into my brilliant insights on mystery writing in a future post.


*Yes, I know all about rattling Arizona monsoon storms, flash floods, and dust storms that would choke a horse, not to mention the 115 degree summer days.  I have lived here for 25 years, after all.  Those are indeed scary and dangerous.  The relentless heat ain’t no fun, though the rest of the year is heaven, and as they say out here, you don’t have to shovel sunshine. The others are relatively rare and often rather beautiful.  Not like the malevolent threat of a Great Plains event that tracks you, hunts you out, and then tries to come into your house to kill you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weather or Not

Charles here.

Rick’s blog (below) on weather in books really got me thinking, and the more I thought about it I realized I seldom thought about weather in my books. Maybe it was that old bit of writer’s advice, more remembered in its warning than in its practice, of not starting a book off with a weather reports. Everyone knows that old Bulwer-Lytton line, “It was a dark and stormy night…” and the contest it spurred, and maybe it’s out of fear that one day there would be a Benoit contest where writers are encouraged to mimic the late and forgotten author’s flowery observations on all things meteorological that has kept the weather to a minimum in my books. Or maybe I’m just not that observant, missing out on a great detail that could flesh out my books. In either case, Rick got me thinking. Thanks a lot, pal.

My first book was set in Pottsville, PA, Casablanca, Cario, Bahrain and Singapore and maybe it was my sunny disposition but I don’t recall mentioning any weather in that book – other than the obvious stuff about it being furnace-like in Egypt. It rains every day around 2ish in Singapore, but you wouldn’t know it from Relative Danger. My second, Out of Order, takes place (mostly) in India and while they get these fantastic monsoon winds which bring the rains, in the dry season it can be really dry. Since I’ve only traveled to India in the summer, all my experiences have been dry ones. (Weather-wise). I only recall it raining once in all my trips, a mighty downpour while I was in the Mumbai airport. So it’s no surprise that Out of Order is rain free. My third, Noble Lies, takes place in Thailand and I really have no excuse for not having it rain in that one since I’ve spent many a rain-soaked afternoon in that country. But since I was usually on a long-tail boat heading to or from a dive site, it didn’t register.

As for the YA book my agent just sold to HapperCollins (yeah, I had to get that in there, didn’t I), it takes place in somewhere in the Northeast/Midwest US in the fall and early winter so there are a few passing references to the falling temps, but no pages describing the foliage or anything. Now that I think of it, the early sunsets do have something to do with the plot. It couldn’t be set in the summer and still make sense, so yes, weather plays a role, albeit unintentional.

Weather steps up front and center in the adventure I’m writing now—in fact, the weather is what ends up driving the story. The climax of the story coincides with the unbearably harsh winter weather that made the Battle of the Bulge so hellish for both sides. Our hero finds himself wearing a German lieutenant’s uniform, stuck in a wave of troops heading west out of Frankfurt and smack into the thin defenses of the Allied troops scattered in the Ardennes forest. I’ve been reading (incessantly) all about this campaign and let me tell you, even Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would have a tough time accurately describing how bone-cracking cold it was that mid-December in 1944. So what’s a poor writer like me to do? I’ll tell you what I’m doing, I’m avoiding the topic. I simply have the hero say things like, ‘If I told you how cold it was you wouldn’t believe me anyway, and the guys who were there would say I made it sound practically balmy compared to what it was really like.’ I also toss in stuff about skin ripped off fingers that grabbed exposed metal and piss freezing before it hits the ground, but basically I’m keeping the descriptions to a minimum.

So thanks a lot, Rick. I never worried about weather before and now it’s all I can think about.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It’s that time of year...

Blechta here.

I’ve often wondered how stories (my own included) come to be set in a specific time of year. Apart from those books where the season is a crucial part of the plot, is it an accident or a conscious decision on the part of the writer?

There are certainly novels, that by their very nature need to be set at a specific time of the year. Giles Blunt’s incredible Black Fly Season is one that comes to mind, Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season is another. (They also happen to be favourites of mine.) You could hardly set these stories in another time of year and expect them to have the same weight. In Giles’ case, it also obviously wouldn’t work in fall or winter, or even late summer for that matter because there ain’t no black flies – and at the very least, he would have lost a terrific title. In Peter’s book's case, the reasons are more subtle. Yes, the town wouldn’t have appeared from its watery grave unless there were a drought, but I’m sure Peter could have invented the bursting of a dam or some other plot device to accomplish this deed. In his case, though, the weather becomes a tangible part of the plot and works beautifully.

But back to the rest of us: why or how do we make our choices? For the novel I’m currently finishing up, The Fallen One, I could have set it in the dead of winter or in spring, or even summer (although that would have necessitated a number of plot changes in order to work). Right from the beginning, though, I visualized it taking place in the fall. Why? I wish I could tell you. It just felt “right” set in the months where the weather is getting cooler.

So, you writers out there, does the time of year weigh heavily as one of the choices for the setting of your stories or novels? Does it just happen? Are you always conscious of this choice when you conceive your works?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Report from Left Coast Crime

In place of the Sunday guest blogger, I’m posting a few pictures taken around the resort at Left Coast Crime. It was a great conference, and a wonderful blend of vacation and work. Off to Phoenix tomorrow to start the mega-book tour. The first picture is of Debby and me. A reader at the pool. The mystery world power couple.

Tucson Festival of Books

Oh, man, I don’t have anything nearly as exciting to report as any of my blogmates.  I certainly don’t have a book contract with Harper Collins!  Nor has my agent told me my new manuscript should be longer.  And, sadly, I am not on a lengthy international book tour after attending Left Coast Crime in Hawaii.

No, I am dull.  I am one of the faceless masses of journeyman writers, toiling in anonymity, hoping for a break, or at least a good idea.  I will get to see Vicki and Debby next week, if all goes well, when they come through the Phoenix area on their glittering, whirlwind tour, so that’s good.  

I will also be traveling to Tucson on Sunday, to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona.  This is quite a big deal.  Over 300 authors from all over the country attend over the weekend.  Many come simply to sign their books, and many participate in panels, talks, and workshops.  I will be giving a mystery writing workshop, which I call “How to Commit Murder,” at 2:30 on the 15th.  I’ve conducted this workshop in its many variations several times over the past couple of years. I always have a wonderful time at it, and the participants seem to, as well.  I talk about the elements of a good mystery, and how one can construct a mystery novel that is both satisfying and unique to the author. 

This will be the first time I’ve left Don alone for more than three or four hours since he got sick last January.  I’m a little anxious about that, though he’s getting around the house very well on his own, now, and we have friends on alert if he needs something.  Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to attending such a writerly event, and being able to spend the day talking about mysteries.  Perhaps I’ll inspire myself.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ever hear of HarperCollins?

Charles here, sore from pinching myself.

Regular readers of this blog may recall that a year or so ago I completed a YA novel, tentatively called YOU. I said that I felt it was the best thing I ever wrote but feared that it would never see print because a) it was unrelentingly dark, what one person called "YA noir" and b) it was written in 2nd person, hence the obvious title.

Well surprise, surprise. It seems that my agent, Patrica Moosbrugger, recomended to me by Louise Penny, sold YOU to HarperCollins Children's Books, the first book in a two-book deal.

The deal was signed just this week so all of the interesting details - like when they want the next book - are yet to be revealed, but I'm sure it's coming. For right now I think I'll just continue grinning like an idiot. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When is enough enough?

I currently find myself in a very odd situation. My agent actually feels I need to put more into the novel I’ve been working on for the past 6 months. When she first broached the subject, I was completely dumbstruck. I think I actually blurted out, “You mean you want me to add something?”

Now, I don’t want anyone who has yet to enjoy one of my novels to get the idea that they’re overly wordy. I don’t go in for long descriptions, nor are there a lot of subplots. But usually “those in power” are asking me to take stuff out. Another writer whom I respect a great deal and who has won multiple awards once said to me after reading a late draft of one of my novels, “I really love the scene you did in the small Welsh inn. That was quite a fine piece of writing. I could almost smell that sausage stew your characters ate.” Then he paused. “But you really should decide whether you’re writing a crime novel or a travelogue.”

I put that scene in because I thought I was doing a nifty bit of character development. Unfortunately, the stew and its surroundings got in the way to the point where anything other than the meal was completely lost. Hmmm... I took my friend’s advice and removed the scene. (I should put it up on my website one day so people can see what they missed. I can even include the recipe.)

So what do I do now? I mean I thought the book was complete! It’s not like my agent was saying the novel was missing a crucial plot point or that some character needed developing or clarifying. What she said next really stunned me, though. “I always come out of your books feeling like I’m smarter.”

Say what? “You mean I’m like having your unborn child listen to Mozart?”

“No, but music is such a huge part of your novels. I really think you pulled your punches on this one. Your main character goes through the story and I feel like music is just her day job.”

Whoa... If you’ve been following the saga of writing this novel that I’ve shared with Type M readers as its creation has gone on, you’ll know that my main character is an opera singer. A lot of the general population is terrified of what goes on in opera houses. I mean, to hear them talk, you’d think they were dens of iniquity, that opera lovers are a group of aliens and operas singers something akin to demons. So naturally, I soft-pedaled the opera parts a bit.

“Well, I did write more stuff that I didn’t put in...”

The agent was firm. “Put it back! I’ll tell you when you’ve gone too far. Trust me.”

This author is one happy camper. I feel like school has just been let out...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Guest Blogger Kim Garza

It's hardly a secret that libraries are suffering from the hard times along with everyone else, but Kim Garza, Collection Management Librarian at Tempe Public Library in Tempe, Arizona, has noticed a reading trend that should cheer mystery writers considerably.


The fact that public libraries are busier than ever in tough economic times has been all over the news lately. Of course , the unfortunate part is that because of the economy, libraries are also facing historic budget cuts.  People are not only coming in for free entertainment and the internet, but they are using the public library as a major resource in their job hunts.  In fact, Tempe Public Library was pictured as an example in an article in the New York Times on Sunday, March 1, in an interview with a job hunter.

One thing that is not in the news, though, is the resurging popularity of the old fashioned mystery.  By this I mean a good cozy murder, and not a thriller or suspense novel.  You can call these English country murders, cozies, domestic mysteries, whatever.  It seems that in bad times people want a nice comforting murder to help them get by.

There definitely is something comforting in revisiting a favorite sleuth or village.  These books are predictable in a good way.  The traditional mystery is not like real life.  It has a beginning, middle and an end.  Everything gets wrapped up, and justice is served.  This is why we read mysteries.  We want to get lost in a world we wish really existed and forget about our grocery costs and our mortgage payment.  

We are in the process of planning a remodel of our library, so I have been massaging, weeding, whatever you want to call it, our mystery collection.  While I have been out there I have had many library users commenting that they are re-reading their old favorites because there haven’t been any new books by certain authors.  I have also noticed how battered and worn out most of the old-faithfuls are, and I am busily replacing those I can.  Most of these books are still checking out at a rapid rate no matter how they look.  I get excited whenever I discover one that is still in print.

These days because of shows like CSI we know too much forensically.  A crime scene no longer holds the surprises it used to.  This is also why an old mystery is more comforting. Because we only know the clues the author wants us to see.   Most of us don’t read for the puzzle anyway.  It is for the setting, characters and atmosphere.  Pick up a Christie, Allingham or Sayers if you don’t believe me.  You will fall in love with mysteries all over again.

Kim Garza

Collection Management Librarian

Tempe Public Library

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Writer's Drought

I never really believed in writer's block.  Anybody can write something if she'll just sit down in the chair and start typing, and the resulting product can turn out pretty well.

I do very much believe in writer's drought, however, because I've had personal and painful experience of it, more than once.  I'm undergoing a severe drought right now, in fact.  It's not that I can't put words on the paper - just the opposite, in fact.  

I'm reminded of the movie Wonder Boys.  I have become Grady Tripp (except for the pot and the lover on the side.  Too dull for that.)  I have an endless manuscript in progress, but it isn't going anywhere.  Like Grady, I can't make any choices.  I have long scenes that contradict other scenes, and I can't muster the intellect to decide which direction is best.

Of course, I maintain that intellect isn't the defining element in writing, anyway.  Often I find myself creating wonderful scenes or characters, and I have no idea where they came from.  I certainly didn't think them up - they sprang from my forehead fully formed.  I have an intimation that our brains don't create thought, but are more like radios, and only receive and transmit thought that is out there somewhere. (Who thought it?  I don't know.  God?  My higher self?  The collective consciousness?  How can you know?)

So, I suppose it only makes sense that sometimes we can tap into something mysterious and brilliant, and sometimes the equipment is on the fritz and we just can't.  You can't make it come.  You can only be patient and keep trying.  I read somewhere that "more than success, the gods love the effort."

During times of drought, I cling to that thought as I pray for rain.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Two easy steps

Charles here, requesting two things.

First, enjoy the final word on realistic villains:

Second, reread Debby's post below and be amazed at their upcoming adventure.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A New Adventure

As Vicki said, we're off. It's a big adventure for the two of us, promoting our newest books like this. As you know by now, Vicki's is Valley of the Lost and mine is Pleasing the Dead. The two of us are meeting up at Left Coast Crime on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and then we do a handful of signings in Honolulu and Kailua on O'ahu. One of them is a wine and cheese party, so if you're in Kailua on Thursday, March 12, please come to BookEnds. Wouldn't it be fun if our entire blog group could do this together? We will get to see Donis in Arizona, though, which will be wonderful. Here's the schedule, because we'd love to have you join us:
Mon, March 16, 10:30, Scottsdale Public Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Monday, March 16, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble #2680, 10500 N 90th St, Scottsdale 85258
Tuesday, March 17, 11:30-12:30 lunch, Clues Unlimited, 123 S Eastbourne Ave, Tucson
Tuesday, March 17, 3:30 p.m., Tempe Library, 3500 S. Rural Road, Tempe
Tuesday, March 17, 7 p.m., Poisoned Pen Bookstore, 7 p.m., 4014 N Goldwater Blvd. Scottsdale
Wednesday, March 18, noon, Mesquite Branch Library, (part of Phoenix Pub. Lib.), 4525 Paradise Village Parkway North, Phoenix
Wednesday, March 18, 2 p.m., Velma Teague Library, 7010 N. 58th Ave., Glendale
Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m., Well Red Coyote, 3190 W. Hwy 89A, Suite 400, Sedona

We are going to DRIVE (in Hawaii, if the drive is more than an hour, you need to spend the night! Forgive me, I live on an island) from Sedona to Los Angeles. Here's our L.A. schedule:
Friday, March 20, 1-2:30 p.m., Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Thousand Oaks 91362
Saturday, March 21, 11 a.m., Mystery Bookstore, 1036-C Broxton Ave, Los Angeles 90024
Saturday, March 21, 2 p.m. Book ‘Em, 1118 Mission St, South Pasadena 91030
Saturday, March 21, 4 p.m., Vroman’s, 695 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena 91101

We're going to drive again (!) from L.A. to San Francisco, where we will visit:
Sunday, March 22, Sunday 2 p.m., M is For Mystery, 74 East Third Avenue, San Mateo 94401
Monday, March 23, 1 p.m., Maria Roden, Orinda Books , 276 Village Square, Orinda 94563
Monday, March 23, 7 p.m., Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera 94925

As Vicki noted, this information is available under either of our names on, a great site. But I'm hoping that printing it here will make it easier for you to find us. Come one, come all. We're going to have fun!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The last of our e-book survey

Blechta at the wobbly controls of his keyboard.

Sorry about my electronic travails of last week. They still continue somewhat but that’s not due to my Internet Service Provider pooping out on me, but on my computer just getting old and creaky. Guess it’s time to move on from steam-driven to something more modern...

It’s good that I was delayed, though, because two more people I’d contacted weighed in on the remaining questions. Here are the results once again in point form:

5. For authors: I would prefer my work to published in electronic form only. (Y/N)

The common response from 15 authors was that we all seem to want our works to come out in book form. Most (13) said they wouldn’t mind if e-books were also published, but several wouldn’t want an either/or situation. In other words, we want to sell books first, e-books second.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to send in their thoughts. Some of you took a lot of time on it, too, with very considered responses!

6. For authors: I would prefer my backlist to be available in electronic form only. (Y/N)

This was a resounding yes! And based on what the few publishers who responded are telling me, they’re thinking in this direction, too. Let’s face it, it only makes sense. When you have “live stock” sitting around in a warehouse, it costs money, and if you’re only selling a few books per year out of that stock, it makes no sense to keep it around. At a certain point, you must realize that it’s costing more for fulfillment than you’re making from these reduced sales. With e-books, all those costs are pretty well gone, certainly down to a profitable level.

7. For authors: If I’m going to be published, it’s books only for me! (Y/N)

The answer to this is above. Only 2 authors wanted nothing to do with e-books. That’s sort of silly from where I’m sitting, but there you go.

8. For publishers: We already publish e-books. (Y/N)
9. For publishers: We are planning on publishing e-books. (Y/N)

Two out of 6 publishers who responded answered yes to this, and 1 said they were already working on it. All indicated that books are still solidly in their line of sight, but that e-books are looking more attractive, especially for non-fiction. This could be a growing trend. Self-help books are already strongly in the e-book camp. Fiction less so.

10. For publishers: Our backlist will only be available as e-books. (Y/N)

Four of the publishers indicated that this is completely an economic decision that they are going to be forced to make. All used the word “forced”. I think that’s very interesting...

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Excitement Builds

Vicki Here. What a nice discussion we had last week about villains, says she twirling her moustache. Gave me lots of ideas for our workshop in Hawaii.

Can’t wait! The house sitter is in residence, the reading material is packed, the passport checked, the U.S. money purchased. Off to Hawaii for Left Coast Crime, and then a two-week book tour with Debby, followed by one week touring on my own, and then two weeks in my favourite place in the world, Nelson.

I need to go to Nelson. I’m working on the next book set in the fictional town of Trafalgar, and have realized that I’ve lost some of the feel for the place. In my mind the colours are washing out, the background characters are becoming beige. That special sense of place is getting harder and harder to conjure up.

But before I can get back to writing, I have a lot of talking to do... (and a bit of swimming, maybe some tourist things, might even have a Mai Tai or a Mojito.)

While I am in the States, I will give a free copy of Whiteout to the first person who tells me that they read about it on Type M!

Once again: To check if Debby and I will be in your area, please go to BookTour.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Scene of the Crime

Our guest blogger this week has something to sell you. No, not cheap viagra or replica watches. If you like crime fiction, you’ll want to know about this: a one-day mystery event in the Thousand Islands on the historic St. Lawrence River. With Kingston, Ontario, nearby and Ottawa and Montreal not far away, you have the makings of a terrific long summer weekend!

Violette Malan is a fantasy novelist who dabbles in mystery. Along with Therese Greenwood she co-edited Dead in the Water, and she’s one of the founders of the Scene of the Crime Festival, where she's now president of the board.


Wolfe Island. Population 1300. Largest of the Thousand Islands. Accessible only by boat or private plane. A haven of peace, rural beauty and centuries-old farms.

Sound like a setting for a good old-fashioned mystery novel? Yeah, we thought so too. In fact, that’s why we thought it would make the perfect setting for a crime and mystery festival focusing on Canadian writers. Then, in a plot twist worthy of Dame Agatha herself, we discovered that Wolfe Island happens to be the birthplace of Grant Allen (1848-1899), internationally recognized as the first Canadian crime writer. You know, it’s true — it really is better to be lucky than good!

We’re now in our eighth year. We have an annual short story contest for beginning writers. We’ve given the Grant Allen Award for pioneering work in Canadian crime fiction six times — this year we’ll give it to Peter Robinson. And as in other years, we’ll have a brand new writers’ workshop, this time given by our very own Vicki Delany, as well as readings, panel discussions, and lectures. But the important thing is you get to meet — and sit down and eat with — five Canadian mystery writers. Along with Peter, we’ve invited Rosemary Aubert, Rick Blechta (don’t I know that guy?), Barbara Fradkin and David Rotenberg.

Come join us. We’re just a ferry ride away.