Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Fregoli Delusion: Progress Report #2

As I mentioned in my previous post last night, this week I began to write the third novel in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, The Fregoli Delusion, and I promised to provide a running commentary on my progress.

Today was a family-related day, so I spent less time than yesterday at the keyboard. As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I'm the primary caregiver for my remaining parent, who has Alzheimer's Disease. We've been fortunate to be able to arrange home care every day and now the amount of time I'm responsible for meal preparation, dispensing meds and so on has been reduced. Today I went over to the apartment and did the housework, vacuumed and cleaned the floors, did the dishes, prepared the meds for the week, went shopping for a few things missing from the fridge, then had a nice visit.

So today my output was only two pages. But I feel very good about it, and I'll tell you why. When I woke up this morning I felt terrific, energized. Although I knew a big chunk of time would be spent away from home, I also knew exactly what I would write today. I could feel it. I couldn't wait to get to the keyboard. The outline, you see, is my friend. It keeps the story living inside my brain like a shimmering, bright thread. It's like listening to your favourite song. An interruption comes and you press Pause, but the song is still bouncing in your head and when the interruption is over and you press Play, it carries on exactly where you left off.

I love this. When I'm writing a book, when it's Game On and the story is getting told, I feel very alive. Everything around me resonates. I turn on the radio and they're talking about something that catches my interest. I turn the pieces around in my head, wondering if I can fit them in somewhere. I see a face on the street and a character begins to stir in my mind. My brain is on hyperdrive and everything is fuel.

Today I began Chapter Five. This chapter is important in the early portion of the book because it will relate to a significant theme regarding Karen Stainer and her devotion to law enforcement. Karen is aggressive, tough, and self-confident but not everyone thinks it's a good idea to be a police Lifer. The Job can consume you, if you're not careful. Cross the line between cop and civilian, go too far, and you might never find your way back. Has this happened to Karen? This theme is part of the overall story arc of the series.

Chapters must begin well. Much has been said, in the context of literary agents and attracting notice, that the first five pages of your novel are crucially important. The axiom states that if the first five pages suck, chances are the rest of the manuscript will suck. There's a certain truth to this notion, at least as far as the corollary is concerned, in that if your first five pages are good, they set the tone for a good book. In the same way I believe that the first few pages of each chapter must also work well. They must establish the tone of the chapter, identify clearly to the reader what's happening next, and bring them right into the fun.

This chapter finds Hank Donaghue arriving at a particularly horrific crime scene in Chinatown where a home invasion has resulted in four homicides. It will turn out that the case belongs to someone else, but Hank is there to support one of his detectives, who is in distress. I needed to set the proper tone. I only got two pages in, but I found the tone. Short sentences, few modifiers, steady movement forward. Tomorrow is a full writing day, and the rest of the chapter should get written. We will see.

As a teaser before I go, I should explain the basic premise of The Fregoli Delusion.

Fregoli Syndrome is a rare delusional misidentification syndrome, or DMS, in which a person believes that they are being persecuted by a someone who assumes multiple disguises while stalking them. In other words, they have a paranoid belief that a specific person, say John Smith, has it in for them. They will see someone else on the street, a stranger or even someone they know, and believe that this person is John Smith in disguise, plotting to do them harm.

So what would you do if you were a homicide detective investigating the murder of a very important person, you had a single witness who saw a man running from the scene and no other concrete leads, and you were told this witness suffers from Fregoli Syndrome and his testimony is worthless because the man he has identified is the person he believes is persecuting him? If you're Karen Stainer, that is, and your gut tells you the witness is reliable, despite what everyone else says?

Stick around. You're going to want to read this one when it's done.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A New Novel Begins


This week I’ve begun to write the third novel in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, The Fregoli Delusion.

For those of you keeping score at home, Blood Passage is the first novel in the series, published this summer by The Plaid Raccoon Press. The second novel, Marcie’s Murder, is in pageproofs. After I hear back from one more reader it will receive a last revision and a final proofreading before going to press. Fregoli, the third in the series, will hopefully be finished in draft form by April, when Marcie’s Murder is published. After passing through my team of readers and going through the usual revision and proofreading process, it will hopefully go to press in Fall 2012. That’s the plan. The upcoming year will be a very busy one, I hope.

I don’t normally talk about what I’m writing until after it’s done. This time, however, I’m going to try an experiment of sorts. I have now moved my blogging from the morning, which is when I write best, to the evenings, when I write the worst. Hold on, though, that’s not the experiment I meant. Some writers, such as David Hewson for example, blog while they’re writing their next book, and David also tweets while writing, often telling us how many words he produced that day. I plan to post a few of my experiences here on The Overnight Bestseller while writing Fregoli in the hopes that you may find it interesting to follow the ups and downs of the novel-writing process as I happen to live it over the next few months.

I’m nervous making this kind of commitment because it’s something of a risk. I could conceivably crash and burn, the story could abandon me, I could jinx myself and develop a severe case of writer’s block. Who knows?

Might be interesting to stay tuned, though, to see how it goes. Don’t you think?

UPDATE #1: This week gets it off to a good start. Today I finished the fourth chapter and my word count currently stands at just over 10 k.  That's all right, I suppose, given that I hope to finish in the mid-90s. I'm not going to worry about the word count, however. I intend to follow my outline, tell this story as I want to tell it, and deal with the length of the MS afterwards.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Photo: MJ McCann
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! It's been a pleasure to make contact with so many wonderful people around the world through this amazing technological medium, and I've greatly enjoyed interacting with each and every one of you.

I wish you all good health and happiness. While we all aspire to be rich and successful in our lives, it's important at times like these to remember that our primary ambition should be to be good husbands and wives, good fathers and mothers, good sons and daughters, and good to everyone around us. Be patient, be kind, be peaceful, be loving, be good.

Mike

Friday, 23 December 2011

Follow Friday, Dec. 23, 2011

It's another edition of Follow Friday, as hosted by Parajunkee.com and http://www.alisoncanread.com. This week their featured blogs are from the shadows i review and Cece's Garden of Reviews. Be sure to hop over to these fine blogs and take a look.

Today's question is: If you had to spend eternity inside the pages of a book, which book would you choose, and why?

This question definitely strikes a chord with me. When I was a kid I spent most of my spare time reading. The worlds I entered through those SF, historical and sports novels were wonderful places to be and I still remember how wistful I felt when I finished the last page and had to close the book. Soon I began to choose my books based in part on the width of the spine: the larger the book, the longer I could spend in that wonderful world.

If I had to choose one of those worlds, the one that has stayed with me the most, I'd have to choose the one created by Samuel R. Delany in his Fall of the Towers trilogy. I realize this is reaching back a ways through the years, as the three novels were published in the late 1960s and re-published in revised form as a single book under the title The Fall of the Towers in 1970, but I think if you were to find a copy today and started to read it, you'd understand what I mean when I say that this is a world not to be missed. Given that Delany wrote his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, when he was 19 and published the first novel in the Towers trilogy, Captives of the Flame, when he was 21, you can perhaps understand why this story resonated so strongly with me when I was 15.

I identified with the young fisherman's son, Tel, who ran away to the island city of Toron, capital of Toromon, and fell in with an amazing assortment of people, including the mesmerizing young acrobat Alter, Prince Let, Tel's opposite, the intellectual Clea, the poet Vol Nonik, the giant Quorl and the dwarf Lug, and of course the protagonist, Jon Koshar.  I thrilled at the danger of the plot against the young king and the risk of going into the radiation zone, I savored the poetry of Delany's prose (since he is dyslexic, it was a marvel that he wrote so magnificently!), and I brooded over the secret meaning of the Lord of the Flames. It was a wonderful place.

As an adult I enjoy re-reading many of the stories I loved when I was younger, but to be honest with you I've not been able to re-read The Fall of the Towers for a long time. In the 70s Delany made radical changes in his fiction and lost the poetry and magic that had infused his work when he was young, so I stopped following him. Toromon is now my Arcadia, remembered paradise, sacred in the past, still so very close, but now, alas, unattainable.

But I would love very much to go back there.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Writer's Methods: Point of View

You’ve been there, admit it – trying to follow a story that hops around from character to character so many times you eventually give up trying to keep them all straight. Or the story where the first-person narrator knows things about other characters he or she shouldn’t know. Or even the best-seller that switches back and forth between first-person and third-person narrative so often you lose track of which character currently holds the stage.

Point of view is, without a doubt, one of the most important elements of fiction. How you choose to narrate your story determines how your readers experience it, and for the most part the best narration is transparent and seamless: it doesn’t intrude, distract or confuse.

In previous posts I’ve discussed the use of outlines and characterization. In the former I suggested that an outline ensures control over your narrative and the objectives of each chapter you write. In the latter I discussed the difference between round characters, which are complex and can surprise you, and flat characters, which are stereotypic and predictable. Point of view takes your story to an even higher level of consistency and control where you determine exactly what the reader learns and experiences each step of the way.

Almost everyone is familiar with the basics of point of view, but it doesn’t hurt to review them briefly so that we’re all on the same page (pun intended). As M.H. Abrams explains in A Glossary of Literary Terms, “point of view signifies the way a story gets told – the perspective or perspectives established by an author through which the reader is presented with the characters, actions, setting, and events which constitute the narrative in a work of fiction.”

As an author you can use first-person narrative to bring the reader very close to the main character whose point of view they will follow throughout the story. Tone of voice, vocabulary, regional expressions, level of awareness and other elements used in first-person narrative contribute to our understanding of the personality and outlook of the hero, and they must be carefully controlled. How many times have I read a book where the first-person hero uses words in descriptive passages they would never use in dialogue? Or randomly slips in and out of slang? When using first-person, the author must maintain careful control of the narrative, because it is the very embodiment of their main character and readers demand consistency.

Third-person narrative offers another set of choices. The narrator may be omniscient, godlike in their knowledge of all things happening in the universe of this story. Omniscient narrators can be impersonal, reporting without bias, or intrusive, providing us with editorial comments, judgments and opinions in little speeches here and there, functioning almost as another character, albeit at a superior level.

Alternatively, a third-person narrator may take a limited approach, restricting our view to the main character only, telling a story much the same way as in first person but maintaining a distance, often ironic, between the narrator and the third-person central character.

How to decide among these many ways to tell your story? Many beginning writers choose first person because they don’t feel a great deal of difference between themselves as author and their narrator as hero. Sometimes, then, the inconsistencies I mentioned above creep into the story. But if a writer maintains a solid control over first person, and understands the importance of keeping a bit of distance between author and narrator (there is a difference, because this is fiction), this choice can be extremely effective because it can engage the reader much more intimately than third person. The gap between narrator and reader becomes quite small, and the reader readily identifies with your hero. Mission accomplished!

Third-person narrative gives you much more room to maneuver as a storyteller. It allows you, for example, to shift between the perspectives of hero and antagonist, or among several key characters, while still maintaining the omniscient control of the godlike narrator. Your narrator functions like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, bringing each section into the foreground in turn as the music dictates. But you must be careful not to shift among too many characters, or it will become too confusing.

This was a mistake I made in early drafts of Blood Passage, the first in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series. While using a third-person omniscient narrator, I initially told the story from the perspective of too many characters. The impulse was to allow the reader to follow the footsteps of all these characters so they would understand them better. Through the revision process I realized that some of these characters were better handled from the “outside,” rather than the “inside,” because they just weren’t important enough to drag the reader away from Donaghue and Stainer themselves. Additionally, Donaghue and Stainer were detectives, so why not let them “detect” the motivations and actions of these characters? Ah, the light begins to dawn.

Now the series is told from the perspectives of Hank Donaghue and Karen Stainer themselves, and an additional character as necessary. In Blood Passage the additional perspective is that of Peter Mah, the young traditionalist Triad figure. The objective is to present Peter as a round character and have him develop a complicated relationship with Hank  Donaghue. In Marcie’s Murder, the second novel in the series which will be published in April 2012, the additional perspective is that of Chief Billy Askew of the Harmony, Virginia police department. The perspectives of Donaghue and Stainer provide a counterpoint between two very different points of view, and the additional perspective allows my omniscient narrator a bit of room to develop the story outside the immediate awareness of the two protagonists.

We all have different comfort zones as writers. Some of us can work in either first- or third-person point of view, and some of us prefer to stick to one. Lee Child is an example of an author who can write well either way. Some of his Reacher novels are written in third person and others in first. Both approaches are very effective.

Unfortunately, some bestselling authors try to use both in the same novel. This fall Michael Connelly’s The Reversal combined his two best-known protagonists, Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, in a single book. To keep them apart, Connelly told the story in first person from Mickey’s point of view – it was billed as a Lincoln Lawyer mystery, after all – and in third person from Bosch’s point of view. The result, to my mind, was a confusing patchwork quilt in which the transitions were jarring and frustrating. With each new chapter it took me a page or two to adjust to which character’s point of view was now on stage. I would definitely not recommend that you try this at home!

To me, it reinforced the importance of remaining consistent in whatever approach you choose. Consistency proves to your reader that you have a solid level of craftsmanship and that you have control over the story you want them to read. If they feel this way, they’ll trust you and commit to the fictional world through which you want to lead them.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Follow Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

It's another edition of Follow Friday, as hosted by Parajunkee.com and http://www.alisoncanread.com. This week their featured blogs are Books Are Vital and Once Upon a Time. Be sure to hop over to these fine blogs and take a look.

Today's question is: When you've read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it...?)

Oh boy, if you could see my house, you'd know I've kept pretty much every book I've ever brought home since high school. That, folks, is a lot of books. There have been days I've looked at the stacks of bestsellers and thought, you know, if you could soak those fat paperbacks in something like resin that would make them hard and water-resistant, you could build a really, really big house with them.

I've started to cut down though, more through necessity than choice, giving away bag after bag to library book sales, the Goodwill, neighbours.... There is a core collection, though, that will always be with me. A selection (okay, a BIG selection) that I treasure along with my vinyl LPs as my most valued possessions. Now, if only I can find that one in particular I've been hunting for over the past week.....!

Don't forget, loves! Today is Free Shipping Day in the USA and it's your chance to add BLOOD PASSAGE to your own collection by following this LINK to Barnes and Noble and placing your order today, just in time for Christmas!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Free Shipping Day on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

A brief reminder to all my followers and readers in the United States that tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 16, 2011) is Free Shipping Day. This is the day on which more than 2,000 participating merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve in the contiguous United States.

For more information on Free Shipping Day and to find the place where I swiped the previous sentence, follow this link.

The point of this post, of course, is to draw to your attention the fact that Barnes & Noble is one of the retailers in the "Books and Media" category participating in this event tomorrow according to freeshippingday.com (apparently the other, bigger guy isn't). Which means that the opportunity has arrived to order your copy of Blood Passage in trade paperback now from Barnes & Noble and receive free shipping AND delivery of the book in time to stuff it in the stocking of your favorite crime fiction reader!

Don't pass up this opportunity to get your hands on a real, physical, glossy-cover-cream-pages-perfect-bound copy of the first novel in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel Series!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Indie Music Note: Dec. 11/11

Beck Goldsmith's home page
Regular followers of this blog will know that from time to time I like to post a short feature on indie musicians I happen to come across during my cyber-travels. On October 24 of this year I made note of Indie Music Filter, a terrific blog spotlighting indies such as Savoir Adore, Adam & The Amethysts, M83, and the High Highs, and on November 6 I posted on Michael Martyn of Orillia, Ontario.

Today I'd like to draw your attention to a remarkable talent I came across while reading a blog post by Karen de Lange, an indie writer whose website and short stories deserve your attention. Karen describes how she was inspired by a song recorded by Beck Goldsmith, an English indie musician originally from Nottingham. I followed the link she provided in her blog and discovered a sound I could instantly fall in love with.

Beck Goldsmith's website describes the "soundscape" she creates as "uncharacteristic of the traditional singer-songwriter. Growling textures, shifting time signatures and instrumental peculiarities all create an atmospheric backdrop to Beck’s stark lyrics and haunting voice." There are four songs available for play, and all I had to do was listen to "Shards," the song that in particular inspired Karen de Lange, and I was hooked. But just to be sure, I then listened to "Stella's Telescope." Okay. Wow. These songs are innovative, creepy, engaging and exciting all at once. When I listen to "Stella's Telesecope" again, as I just did now as I was writing this post, I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me I'm listening to something exceptionally good. All I can say is, go go go, click on the link above and listen for yourself!

I've said it before and I'll say it again (repeatedly, no doubt): the world is teeming with innovative, fresh, new independent talent that you will enjoy reading and listening to, so take a few moments to look them up and give them a try!

Friday, 9 December 2011

A Walk in the Snow

This morning the weather decided to make another attempt to cover eastern Ontario with snow. It has been a very mild fall and the snow that has fallen so far hasn't stayed. It's mild again today, hovering close to the freezing mark, but the landscape when I got up this morning was white, rather than dull green and brown, and perhaps this time it will stay.

This afternoon, after my errands in town were all done, I took my border collie out with me for a walk to the back of our property. We own a seven-acre strip in the Limerick Forest, and I thought I'd bring the camera with me to share some of the sights with you.


As I followed my path back into the forest my border collie ran on ahead, as he always does. When we go on these walks he runs like a fool the entire time and is usually out of sight. I don't worry because when I call he comes running along the path, buzzing me like a jet on a fly-over, and disappears again up ahead. It's in his nature as a border collie to love to run.

As I walked I thought about my work and what I might be able to accomplish this afternoon. I'm outlining the third novel in the Donaghue and Stainer crime novel series, and I mulled over a few decisions I need to make. By the time I took this picture on the right, however, I was thinking mostly about how quiet it was around me and how free of stress I suddenly felt. Although the snow was starting to melt in the branches above me and drip down onto my head, I decided to keep the camera out, rather than put it back into my jacket pocket as I had been doing. I was becoming completely involved in my surroundings. My brain was becoming very quiet, as quiet as the forest around me.


Once I reached the rear of my property the cigar I was smoking was half-finished. I try to time my walks accordingly, lighting the cigar in the yard when I begin a walk and putting it out when I return, so I felt I was in a good rhythm. The property behind mine consists of several hundred acres of pasture in gently rolling hills. My border collie loves this part, running in wide figure eights as though herding invisible sheep. He was out of the frame when I took this final picture, though. I was fascinated by the dusting of white snow against the dark mid-afternoon sky.

It was silent back there. I felt very much at peace. Very happy to be a participant in this remarkable world.

Monday, 5 December 2011

A Writer’s Methods: Characterization


Illustration: Tim D. McCann
 This past Friday I participated in a blog hop that featured an interesting question: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? As I toured the many participating book blogs I was very interested to see that a common peeve centred on poor characterization.

Many bloggers complained about stereotypically weak heroines (The Write Obsession), mean girls and cardboard villains (Alison Can Read), and protagonists who are so dumb you spend more time mentally head-slapping them than following the story (Fiction Book Reviews).

Readers crave believable characters that will hold their attention and offer  more food for thought than what you’ll find in Saturday morning cartoons.

As a former lit student I’ve always kept in mind the distinction E.M. Forster made in Aspects of the Novel between flat characters and round characters. A flat character is built around a “single quality or idea” and doesn’t receive much development through the course of the novel, whereas a round character is “complex in temperament and motivation” and is capable of surprising us as the novel progresses. In other words, you could describe a flat character with a single sentence but would struggle to sum up a round character in a paragraph. (See M.H. Abrams, “Character and Characterization,” A Glossary of Literary Terms, for a good summary.)

As a reader I grow bored very quickly with predictable, flat characters, particularly in fiction that is meant to challenge me as an educated adult. As a writer I try very hard to ensure my characters have a roundness that will sustain and engage readers. Homicide Lieutenant Hank Donaghue and Detective Karen Stainer might appear on the surface to be a typical male-female odd couple, with Donaghue as the cultured, calm one and Stainer as his hot-blooded, foul-mouthed foil, but readers will find they have depths and complexities only glimpsed at in the first novel and follow-up short stories such as “Knock and Talk” and “The Long Snapper.” In the same way, readers are cautioned not to assume that Triad Red Pole Peter Mah is simply a cold-blooded, vengeful executioner. His relationships with other people, particularly with Donaghue, make him difficult to pigeon-hole. The story arc of this series will provide many opportunities to explore these characters in more depth, to decide whether you like them or dislike them, with plenty of time to change your mind before you're done.

Life sometimes seems to be the same story told over and over again, but people are always complex. We can never be entirely sure we understand the human being next to us. Shouldn’t our fictional characters engage us the same way?

Friday, 2 December 2011

Follow Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

It's another edition of Follow Friday, as hosted by Parajunkee.com and http://www.alisoncanread.com. This week their featured blogs are Lalane's Fiction Book Reviews and Lauren Gets Literal. Be sure to hop over to these fine blogs and take a look.

Today's question is one to get us up and hoppin' for sure. What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books?

1. Prologues. I can't stand picking up a book I haven't read before and thumbing to the first page to get that first delicious taste, only to discover I have to get through a bunch of preliminary stuff before I can start reading the actual story. I went on about this in an earlier post.....

2. Stories that spend too much time on the point of view of the evil, insane bad guy. To take one quick example, I was much more interested in the point of view of Clarisse Starling than Hannibal Lecter....

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Writer's Methods: Using an Outline

Over the next while I will be posting a few observations on methods I’ve chosen to follow as an author. I hope that those of you who are beginning to write your own fiction may be able to find something useful in my approach that you can apply to your own work. I invite you to add your own comments and links!

I thought I’d begin with a step that always draws much debate: to outline or not to outline?

Many writers use an outline to plan their way through a story, but others react rather violently to the entire notion. “I know where I want to start, and I know where I want to end. The journey from Point A to Point B is what makes writing fun!” they insist.

Fair enough. I understand completely the need to feel free and unconstrained. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and no two writers approach their craft in exactly the same way, or else we’d be stuck reading computer-generated fiction rather than stories produced by the wonderfully quirky human imagination.

Consider, though, all the elements you have to juggle over the course of writing your manuscript: maintaining a balance between “showing” and “telling”; developing your characters and staying consistent within them; making sure your dialogue is not only realistic but, again, consistent to each character; setting a pace from chapter to chapter and ensuring that the reader is moved constantly forward…. There’s an awful lot to keep track of as you’re writing your story.

I’ve found there’s a certain amount of comfort to be found in working from an outline when I’m writing the actual manuscript. It’s like working with a safety net. Most of the risks have been worked through and planned for. I know not only where I want to start and where I want to end up, but also how I want to get there and what I want to accomplish on the journey.

These last two points are important. If you write an outline of your story first, you’ve made a dry run through your plot and proven to yourself that it works and that it will be something readers will want to read as you’ve designed it. In addition, you’ve blocked out the themes you want to explore and have either embedded them into the storyline or at least spotted places where you’ll be able to bring them out. You’ve also had a chance to watch your main characters move through your plot and perhaps found opportunities to develop them that didn’t occur to you up front when the “great idea” formed itself in your head.

During the outline process you may also have an opportunity to do most of your research and collect the information you’ll want to use during the story-writing process. Because you’re working with the storyline and characters at a somewhat lower level than when you got that “great idea,” you’ll be picking and choosing the subject areas you want to focus on as you write the story, and identifying those which need a bit of research before you’re comfortable writing about them. The outline phase is a great opportunity to dig around. Sometimes, when you run into plotting snags as you’re writing the outline, a bit of research will suggest a solution to the problem you hadn’t considered before. It may even suggest an entirely new direction for your plot or subplot.

You’re working with ideas in the raw, mixing and matching, picking and discarding, tinting and coloring, weaving and unweaving and weaving again until you like the way it will look.

As I say, by writing an outline first you decide how best to move your readers from the beginning to the end of your story. As well, though, you have a chance to bring a very clear focus to what you want to accomplish on the journey from word alpha to word omega, and I want to stress this point a little before I get down off my soapbox for today.

Designing a story involves a lot of problem-solving, as I mentioned. When things aren’t working the way you initially imagined them in a particular scene or with a particular character you need to back up a step and take a second look. Why doesn’t it work? What do I need to do differently here to make it work? 

Most often the solution to these various problems will come more easily if you ask yourself the following: what the hang am I trying to accomplish here? What’s my point? What’s my objective?

When I’m writing my manuscript and working from an outline, I know every morning when I get up and turn on my computer where I am in the story and where I need to go next. I’m following a plan. Most importantly, I know which chapter I’m working on and WHAT I WANT THAT CHAPTER TO ACCOMPLISH. The best stories are well-crafted, and much of the craft involves deliberately leading the reader from point to point to point, hitting each note clearly and in the correct key.

Lest you think this approach to writing lacks creativity, spontaneity and freshness, consider this: I haven’t actually told this part of the story yet, have I?

I’ve imagined it, I’ve planned for it, but I haven’t told it yet.

Now comes the part that’s the most fun for me: actually telling the story. Choosing the words, finding the rhythm, imagining the reader with me now, word for word, as we watch my characters actually perform the dance with all the emotion, pathos, violence, grit and humanity that I’ve been planning for, all this time. How long have I been anticipating this moment of telling? Getting impatient for it? Knowing how good it could be? Now finally, here it is, this scene I’ve been building toward for the last few days, here it is, the payoff!

How delicious to write those passages I knew were coming and worked so hard to set up. These are the times when I look up at the clock, see I’ve been writing for four hours and wow! where did the time go? And there it is. On the page. Done. The dance has been danced.

So. What’s next?

Back to the outline for my next cue.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Follow Friday, Nov. 25, 2011

It's another edition of Follow Friday, as hosted by Parajunkee.com and http://www.alisoncanread.com. This week their featured blogs are Books and Beyond and The Book Addict. Be sure to hop over to these fine blogs and take a look.

Today's question is Thanksgiving themed: what are you thankful for (blog related)? Who helped you along the way? What books are you thankful for reading?

There are many people in my life I've been very glad to have known, and grateful for their help, including my parents, my wife and my son. In terms of writing, though, to remain within the scope of the question, I'd say I'd have to reach way back to high school to begin with. English teachers Bill Tapp and Smokin' Joe Carey were a perfect good cop-bad cop combination who not only insisted that I must write well but that I could. As an undergrad at Trent University I was fortunate to study under New Zealander Geoffrey Eathorne, who introduced me through his Comp Lit course to The Viper's Knot (Francois Mauriac), The Counterfeiters (Andre Gide) and other remarkable stories (in translation) I might otherwise have overlooked. As a grad student at Queen's University I was very thankful for the kindness of John Stedmond who, although an 18th century specialist, stuck with me manfully as I ploughed through my thesis on Sherwood Anderson, and to second reader Kerry McSweeney, who wrote stuff like "fatuous" in the margins and was, of course, correct. Another excellent good cop-bad cop combo.

There are so many books I'm glad I've read that it's hard to focus on just a few. Perhaps one of the most special for me was Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury, which I read as an impressionable teenager and still think about quite often. Just the names Cooger and Dark still give me chills. This novel taught me that the darkness can still produce enlightenment.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Different Kind of Morning

Of course, today would be a day I have to go into town to do a bunch of stuff, so naturally there would be a surprise ton of snow on the ground when I got up!

My word, they were forecasting freezing rain and I'm very glad we ducked that one. Ever since the horrible Ice Storm that hit eastern Ontario in 1998 I'm deathly afraid of freezing rain, and I'll take snow instead any day. But I have to admit I wasn't quite ready for this much snow on the ground, piling up to about a foot on my driveway.

As I sat here a few minutes ago, cramming caffeine into my blood stream getting ready to go out and clear the driveway, I watched the blue jays, cardinals, juncos and other regular visitors try to find something at our bird feeders, which are covered with snow. Then they all disappeared. After a few minutes I discovered why, when this hawk, shown on the left, landed authoritatively on a branch right outside my window and began to survey the yard for stragglers. It's not much of a picture, shot in haste through the window, but it looks like it's a sharp-shinned hawk. Tough-looking little fellow.

Things change so quickly. One day we're having record mild weather for November and the next I'm getting ready to go out and start my new snowblower. Now, as I type, the juncos and cardinals are ducking in and out of the mock orange bush right in front of me, against the verandah, trying to verify that the hawk has gone to better hunting grounds before making another try at the feeders.

Nature copes, it adapts to whatever the morning brings, it follows the curve and takes whatever experience gives. A good morning lesson for me to remember....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ottawa Authors and Artisans Fair 2011


Yesterday I was very pleased to be a part of the annual Ottawa Authors and Artisans Book Fair, sponsored by the Ottawa Independent Writers, to sign copies of Blood Passage and The Ghost Man. It was a very busy afternoon and I had an opportunity to chat with a great many interesting people, which is what makes these events so special for me. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by my table. I enjoyed meeting each one of you.

As always with book fairs such as this, I was able to take a few minutes to get to know some of my fellow authors and their work. Jasmine Aziz was signing copies of her novel Sex and Samosas while children's authors Neven Humphrey and Claude Cardinal, Margaret Singleton, vampire novelist Patricia K. McCarthy and Darren Jerome, who writes short stories based on the history of the Rideau Canal as Craig McCue, were also in attendance.  I spent a pleasant afternoon chatting with Laurel Balsor Pardy and her husband Gar Pardy at the next table. Laurel was signing two books, one a historical novel based on her ancestor and another a collection of essays and anecdotes drawn from her experience as the spouse of a Canadian diplomat.

Congratulations and many thanks to the OIW executive for having organized this event and to Randy Ray for the publicity.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Chapters Kanata Book Signing

This afternoon I appeared at the Chapters book store in Kanata to sign copies of Blood Passage. It was a very busy day with everyone getting a head start on their Christmas shopping, and I was happy to be able to chat with many very interesting people. As you can see, I was right at the front of the store next to an island featuring the new book on Stephen Jobs, which drew a lot of interest.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and bought a book, and a special thanks to Fred Lemay, a former Canada Customs colleague whom I hadn't seen in quite a few years. Fred, you're always a pleasure to talk to! Special thanks also to William and Roberta Sherman of the Pen and Paper group for sharing part of their afternoon with me. Much appreciated.

In addition, thanks to Kevan and Shelley of Chapters Kanata for their help, their kindness and their infinite patience.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Book Signing Weekend

Although today is Friday, I've decided to skip the usual Follow Friday blog hop in order to concentrate on preparations for this weekend's book signing events.

Just a reminder that I will be appearing tomorrow, Saturday, November 19, 2011 at the Chapters Kanata in Ottawa, Kanata Centrum, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to sign copies of Blood Passage.

On Sunday, November 20, 2011 I will be appearing along with my fellow Ottawa Independent Writers at the annual Ottawa Authors and Artisans Fair from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 203 of the Jack Purcell Community Centre in Ottawa, located just off Elgin Street. For more information on this event, click here.

Next week things should settle down, my nerves will be less jangly and I can get back to regular blogging, tweeting and, oh yeah, writing!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Reminder: Chapters Kanata This Saturday

Here's an early reminder to readers in eastern Ontario that I will be appearing at the Chapters Kanata this Saturday, November 19, 2011 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to sign copies of Blood Passage.

This is a golden opportunity for you to get a head start on your Christmas shopping and pick up a special gift for the avid reader on your list!

The Chapters Kanata store is located at Kanata Centrum, 400 Earl Grey Drive. See you there!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Salvage Sunday

So I'm driving home from town at noon today, a fifteen-minute drive on a few back roads that are relatively quiet, and at the half-way point I stop at an intersection and notice a car door sitting on the shoulder of the road. No cars in sight, no people anywhere, just a red car door sitting there.

Curious, which I guess is my middle name, I pulled over and got out for a look. It was a car door, sure enough. Red. No handle. Big dent and a scrape in the middle of it. It must have fallen off a junk yard truck.  The driver must have been bringing a load to his scrap yard, stopped a little abruptly at the intersection or took off a little too quickly, and the door fell off the load without being noticed.

I was about to get back into my car when I realized the window was still in the door, and it looked unattached. Curious (my middle name, again), I reached down and sure enough, I was able to pull the window right out of the door. It was a driver side window from a Honda. (No, I won't ship it to you.) Stricken by inspiration, I threw it into the trunk of my car, left the door where it was, and drove home.

Here's what I'm going to do with that darned window. It has a really cool tapered shape, almost like a fish's fin. I have a large white pine tree back on my property that was blown down in a wind storm last year, and I've been bringing up chunks of it now and again to do stuff with. So I'm going to cut a chunk of pine big enough to make a slab coffee table,  put that window on top of it, trim the pine to conform to the cool finny shape of it, and have it as a glass top outdoor table. How neat is that?

Of course, I was supposed to come home with beer and I forgot. But I did come home with a car window. Close, right?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Plaid Raccoon is happy to note that avid readers have now passed the 1,000 mark in downloads of Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel publications on Smashwords since July of this year. Since this is an average of about 250 downloads a month, the Raccoon thinks this is pretty good for starters.


Thanks very much to everyone for your support!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Follow Friday, Nov. 11, 2011

Yes, it's another edition of Follow Friday, as hosted by Parajunkee.com and http://www.alisoncanread.com. This week their featured blogs are Motherlode, a.k.a. Grace Krispy, and The Book Nympho. Be sure to hop over to these fine blogs and take a look.

Today's question is an appropriate one on this 11.11.11: Tell us about your favorite soldier and how he or she is saving the world.

I've chosen to honor the memory of two family members. My grandfather Harry Brook (left) lied about his age as a boy to join the British Army and saw action in the Boer War. Later he was on the ground with the 4th Middlesex of the British Expeditionary Force in World War I and become known as one of the "Old Contemptibles" who defied the Kaiser. He suffered a leg wound in Belgium that bothered him the rest of his life.

My uncle Wilfred McCann (right) was born and raised in Westport, Ontario. He was killed in action in France during World War II, far too young and much too far away from home.

My respects to all veterans and their families who are marking this day. We're very grateful for their sacrifices.

 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Blood Passage E-Book Giveaway

That's right folks, now's your chance to grab a free copy of Blood Passage in the e-book format of your choice. Simply bang on this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/72770 and enter coupon code NC87T to download a free copy of the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel.


Don't delay, because this current giveaway expires at 8:00 a.m. Pacific time on November 12, 2011 (by Smashwords reckoning).

Enjoy the book, folks!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Life, Interrupting


Recently I read a tweet from Rick Mofina, a local mystery author, reminding his followers that writers must show discipline and write every day in order to be a success. I realize the truth in his words and I think about long stretches I've had where I've been able to hit the keyboard every day and produce, and believe me, those times are golden.

Recently I've been able to publish the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, Blood Passage, complete the manuscript for the second, Marcie's Murder, and write the outline and about 20 per cent of the draft of the third book in the series, The Fregoli Delusion. I consider this to be pretty good output, but for the most part 2011 has been a difficult year to maintain the pace. Without getting specific, I’ve found that the world has a way of taking over your life despite your best efforts to resist. Those golden hours have been very scarce this year.

Perhaps worst of all in terms of time stealing has been the work necessary to market Blood Passage. Every writer out there with a book to flog knows what I’m talking about, especially when I say that this summer marked my first entry into the e-book universe and online marketing. Again, without getting specific, I can tell you I’ve opened up 25 different online accounts so far that are connected to the production and marketing of my book. Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. A year ago I swore I’d never be dumb enough to do online banking. Are you kidding me?

But the brain has ways of compensating, and through experience I’ve learned to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut, because while life is busy interrupting me it’s also revealing itself. If I’m observant, it may show me something resonant.

This week is a good example. Yesterday morning I couldn’t get anything done because I had to drive into town for an appointment, then make several other stops before I could come home. But by the time I walked out of the office after the appointment I had a full-blown protagonist and his environment expanding like a balloon inside my head, based entirely on what I’d seen and heard in the building while I was there. Then this morning I had to take the car in to have the winter tires put on. While I sat there waiting I borrowed some paper from the guy at the service desk and wrote an overview of the storyline around this character, realized it was too similar to a well-known crime novel I won’t name, tore it down and wrote a better one that I know will work. When I got home after lunch, I spent the afternoon online doing technical research to begin fleshing in the details. Next on the agenda will be the outline.

I’ve discovered that writing the actual fiction engages my brain differently than this other stuff. It requires deep concentration and emotional equilibrium. I’ve discovered, for example, that if I begin the morning by writing a blog post and commenting on other blog posts, tweeting on Twitter and all that other stuff, my brain sometimes finds it difficult to switch gears and slip into that semi-coma which produces pages of actual story. Perhaps it’s a question of different brain waves or something. If I can’t slip into that semi-coma, I’ll move sideways into background sketches or whatever I can do to contribute toward the overall construction of the story that needs to be written.

Writing for many of us is a compulsion. It’s something we have to do. When we can’t get at it, it eats us alive.

So to compensate, we do whatever it takes not to be defeated by life’s interruptions.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Indie Music Note

Thanks to this great, buzzing, crowded, noisy platform on which we're all working, trying to draw attention to the product of our creativity, it's possible to find all kinds of wonderful people doing terrific things.

In another post dedicated to our brothers and sisters in the indie music scene, I'm pleased to direct your attention to Michael Martyn, formerly of the Michael Martyn Trio. His current website is deliberately cryptic and offers little more than a selection of mp3s and some great photos, but if you want to hear a guy with an acoustic guitar and a compelling voice singing some very good songs, bang on this link and enjoy: http://www.michaelmartyn.ca/.

I did a bit of a Google search looking for background on Michael and discovered he was active a few years ago in my home town, Peterborough, Ontario, and was organizer of the Peterborough Folk Festival. His Myspace page and Twitter profile (@michael_martyn) tell us he's now employed by the city of Orillia, Gordon Lightfoot's home town. As I say, his current website is a little cryptic and I think it's because he's offering us a challenge: listen to the music as it is, and judge it on its own merits. Well, all I had to do was listen to "Long Way Down" and I was convinced. (By the way, I hope it's okay that I copied your pic and stuck it here.)

Record the rest of that stuff you mentioned, Michael. And good luck.

Thanks to Kate Burns, Ottawa author of The Ophelia Trap, for a great tip in her blog, which you can read here: http://kateburnsauthor.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/a-little-saturday-music/#comment-23.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Book Signing, Ottawa Small Press Book Fair

Today I appeared at the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair to sign copies of Blood Passage. It marked the public debut of The Plaid Raccoon as a small press in the small press crowd, and he got through the event without rummaging in the trash can or stealing anyone's corn. I also had with me copies of The Ghost Man, my first novel, in case anyone was in the mood for supernatural fiction.

Book fairs like these are an opportunity to meet a wide range of interesting people, and today was no exception. Friend and fellow OIC members Jasmine Aziz and Dwight Williams were in attendance. Thanks to Jasmine for snapping the photo above.

I also had a chance to meet Juliana McDonald, a visual artist with a remarkable vision. She was displaying a small portion of her 16-foot "book" consisting of photographs and text rendered as transfers mounted on acrylic, and was selling small hand-made versions of the book printed on vellum paper. I highly recommend a look at her website,  http://www.julianamcdonald.ca. Her work is quite amazing and the book is exquisite.

I also chatted with Marcella Kampman, who has published a book retelling Sumerian myths in an interpretation suitable for young readers. Inanna, Goddess of Love is visually very attractive and the stories are  well-told.

All the best to everyone in attendance today.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Follow Friday, Nov. 4, 2011

Yes, once again it's Follow Friday, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee, with this week's feature blog The Magic Attic.

This week's question is an activity, to post a fun pic either with our current read or doing something we enjoy doing.

It's way too early in the morning to take a picture that wouldn't scare people real bad, so instead I'll pull this pic from my jump drive. It shows me doing something I enjoy tremendously, giving my energetic border collie a hug. Cody showed up in our yard one day and decided to adopt us. I usually tend toward labs, but this guy was a revelation. Anyway, here we are.

Oh yeah, while you're here, give my book trailer a quick peek and tell me what you think. Appreciate it!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Saturday Ottawa Small Press Book Fair

Just a reminder to everyone in eastern Ontario that I will be appearing at the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair this Saturday, November 5 from noon to 5:00 pm in Rm. 203 of the Jack Purcell Community Centre, just off Elgin Street.

We will be flying the colours of The Plaid Raccoon Press and I will be signing copies of Blood Passage, the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, but I will also be signing copies of my first novel The Ghost Man, which is supernatural fiction.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Blood Passage Book Trailer

A trailer for Blood Passage has been uploaded to Vimeo, which you can view below. As always, comments are most welcome.



Blood Passage Trailer from Michael J. McCann on Vimeo.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Venturing Forth Into the Twitterverse

Okay, so now I've gone and done it. I've opened a Twitter account and I've begun to tweet. All suggestions and tips for the effective use of Twitter to get the word out there would be gratefully received!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thursday Themes

The beauty of the blogosphere lies in part in the fact that it's a rich field of opinions on a wide range of subjects. You never know when you're going to trip over a thread that can lead to insight. Such was the case the other day when I read a post by BJ in her blog The Dark Side of the Covers on the subject of free prequels. I posted a comment on her blog at the time but it's been percolating in the back of my mind ever since, so I've decided to take it up where she left off.

You can read BJ's post here.

To summarize, she noted that the e-book phenomenon has bred free spinoffs, often of the prequel variety, that authors will publish in order to publicize an upcoming book. Effective freebies are self-contained and whet our appetite for more, while poor freebies seem truncated or stagnant and can be sloppily edited.

As followers of this blog will know, I've used this technique to spread the word about Blood Passage, the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel. I've published six free short stories featuring Donaghue and Stainer so far that can be found here. Others will follow this fall and winter until the collection is complete. The idea is to eliminate cost barriers and give readers a chance to become familiar with the characters and my writing style. Hopefully those who enjoy police procedurals and like the stories will take a shot at the novel, which is now only $0.99. (End commercial.)

Here's the thing: I'd like your opinion on the effectiveness of this approach as a marketing technique. Each story tends to attract the same number of downloaders. I'm assuming/guessing/hoping that people are collecting all the stories as they appear. At the same time, I'm aware that Smashwords has a reputation for being a place to trawl for freebies but not a place where people tend to spend money. So here are a couple of questions:

  • do readers of e-books who download free offerings tend to be willing to pay a buck or two for the primary product if they like the freebie, or do they tend just to graze on the freebies?
  • if you're a downloader of freebies, how long do they tend to sit in your reader before you get around to reading them (ie, how long should I wait before I decide this strategy doesn't work)?
I look forward to your comments on this subject. Fire away!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Indie Writing and Indie Recording

Those of us in the indie book business regularly find inspiration in the scores of indie recording artists who keep producing outstanding music at the ground level. Recently I came across a terrific blog called the Indie Music Filter, produced by fellow Canadian Chris Budd in Toronto. He welcomes mp3s from emerging performers and features the best on his blog, which I encourage you to look up.

Among the links that I followed were four that I'll quickly mention.

A name familiar to many, M83 is the electronic pop act of Anthony Gonzalez. Indie Music Filter has embedded the new video "Midnight City," a very catchy tune.

Next up was Savoir Adore, which features singer/songwriter Deidre Muro and drummer Paul Hammer. Indie Music Filter links to their song "Dreamers." Their website and blog are a little disorganized but I found a couple of singles that had me very excited. These guys are GOOD. Check out as well this article published online in The L Magazine, featuring Savoir Adore as one of eight NYC bands you need to hear.

Also of note from the Indie Music Filter was the band the High Highs, a Brooklyn band with a soft retro sound that really appeals. I particularly liked "Ivy" and "Horses."

Finally, it was fun to discover the Montreal band Adam & The Amethysts, featuring Adam Waito, originally from Thunder Bay. Indie Music Filter featured their single "Dreaming" from their album Flickering Flashlight. Apparently I missed them in Ottawa not too long ago. Next time.....

If you're interested in new music, I encourage you to follow Indie Music Filter and to check out these performers.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Follow Friday, Oct. 21/11

Once again it's Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View  and Alison Can Read. This week their feature bloggers are The Bursting Bookshelf and Book Savvy Babe. Hop by and take a look.

This week's question: What superhero is your alter ego?

I'm afraid my answer is pretty mundane. My favorite superhero was always The Amazing Spider-Man. I bought each issue as they appeared in the drugstore down at the corner and kept them in a special place, in order, in my bedroom closet. I really wanted to be able to swing from rooftop to rooftop the way he did, and I thought it would be great to be able to snare that bag of chips on the other side of the room just by shooting web at it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

What Compels Us Toward Tales of Violence and Murder?


Yesterday NPR ran an interesting, if short, book review by Bruce Machart entitled “Devil in the Details: 3 Artful Tales of Murder.” You can find it here: http://www.npr.org/2011/10/19/139002629/devil-in-the-details-3-artful-tales-of-murder. While the article offered brief reviews of three novels, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hansen, The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock and So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell, I was mostly attracted by the question Machart posed at the beginning of his piece, which I’ve paraphrased as the title of this post.

What, indeed, draws us to fiction that focuses on the worst aspects of human nature?

As a reader I’m attracted to crime fiction that features a strong protagonist as the representative of law, order, rationality and the human need to challenge and defeat the brutal side of our nature. Perhaps it was my misspent childhood reading comic books with shining, invulnerable heroes that’s responsible, but there you go.

As a person I abhor violence and I’m afraid of death. Much of my life has been a process of trying to come to grips with the existence of these things in life and to find ways to cope with them. I read fiction not only to be entertained but to learn what I can about perspectives other than my own, so as a result I’m drawn to stories featuring a central character who can move in these worlds and handle these things better than I can. Even if they fail, it represents the struggle to do what’s right in this life, to resist, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” if you will.

As a writer of crime fiction my motives are essentially the same. The central characters in the Donaghue and Stainer series deal with death and brutality every day. When Hank Donaghue’s mother, a retired State’s Attorney, asks him in Blood Passage how work is going, he jokes that it’s the same as usual: “The hours suck, the pay is worse and all my clients are dead.” Law enforcement officers are notorious for their black humor, but it’s a defense mechanism, a way of depersonalizing the horror they witness every time they punch the time clock.

Is depersonalization the key? Are we drawn as readers to crime fiction because it gives us a chance to deal with death and brutality from an objective, third-person perspective? Does it provide an opportunity to examine the horror and the emotional reactions of others through a filter, to imagine from a safe distance how we would cope if we were put in such a position? A rehearsal against the day when we might have to face such horrible things head-on?

What draws you as a reader to crime fiction?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Book Launch, Jasmine Aziz

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Jasmine Aziz's novel Sex and Samosas at the East India Company restaurant, 210 Somerset St. W. in Ottawa. Jasmine's book is erotica with a distinct comic flavour, and anyone with an interest in that genre should definitely check it out at Amazon.com. Congratulations to Jasmine on a great launch!

Props as well to Donald Lanouette of Partner Publishing for a terrific-looking cover. I also had a chance to meet Karen Opas Lanouette, editor-in-chief at Partner Publishing. This company deserves consideration by anyone looking for assistance in book design, editing, and other related services.

Finally, the East India Company was a great venue for the launch, and although I didn't try the food it looked and smelled wonderful.

Well done, Jasmine.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Found Books, a special edition

I'm a fool for books and always have been. As I mentioned in a previous post, Found Books is a little feature where I highlight a book I've found second-hand somewhere, at a yard sale or rummage sale, the Goodwill or what have you. It's a book that's been published for a while, sometimes a long while, and I just want to talk about it because I like it.

Yesterday was hound dog heaven for me because it was the day of the eighth annual North Grenville Book Fair. So far I haven't missed one. They charge a buck a book, no matter what the book, and the proceeds are used to support programs at the local library and the local Community Living organization. This year they claimed to have 25,000 books, so I spent 3.5 hours there yesterday afternoon/evening and I know I didn't look at every one of them, but I sure tried.

My modus operandi is always the same. When I get through the door I head straight for the cookbooks, because competition is fierce and the really cool ones go fast. This year's finds included Mary Emmerling's American Country Cooking (Clarkson N. Potter, 1987), a beautiful table top book with stuff like creek soup from Texas, country garden chicken from Virginia, and crunchy oat and cranberry muffins from Seattle, all of which I'm likely to try. Also very nice was The Herbal Pantry by Tolley and Mead (Clarkson Potter, 1992) which had a recipe for coffee anise liqueur I'm definitely going to riff on. I just took a nice crop of anise from my herb garden, and an enormous crop of chocolate mint, so I'm going to combine those two as an infusion in the vodka this recipe mentions, then slide it into coffee. MMM mmm.

Also got a bunch of crime fiction, as always, but this time I've decided to take a shot at the Scandinavian stuff. I haven't read Stieg Larsson yet, so I picked up a copy of the Hornet's Nest one, plus a couple of Henning Mankell and an Arnaldlur Indridason (Iceland). We'll see.......

Lastly, for now, I'll mention that I found a copy of David McCullough's massive biography of Harry Truman. I was hoping I'd find his John Adams, since it's a period I'm more interested in right now, but no luck. I was also hoping I'd find Ron Chernow's new bio of Washington, but that was really stretching it. I'll settle for Truman, which should keep me busy!

With any luck, the two boxes I lugged home with me will see me through the long winter that's surely coming.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Follow Friday Once Again

Here we are at Friday once again. How quickly the weeks seem to go by! Time to participate in the Follow Friday festivities, hosted by Parajunkee's View at her new website and Alison Can Read. This week their feature bloggers are Confuzzled Books and Life Between Pages. Check these blogs out; they're delightful.

This week's fun question: If you could have characters from a particular book meet and form an epic storyline with characters from a particular TV series, which would you choose, and why?

This is a tough question, because characters sets are usually pretty complete and it would be a challenge to splice them together, but two characters from a book instantly spring to mind. Young bloggers may not have had a chance to read the early novels of Samuel R. Delany, but I'd choose Katin and The Mouse from Nova, and I'd have them wander onto the set of the next Joss Whedon edition of Firefly. Katin's intellect and The Mouse's gutter sense and the "music" he creates on his sensory syrynx would lend a fascinating dimension to a new epic quest of the Serenity.

Enjoy your Friday, everyone.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Back To Work Tuesday

After a very pleasant long weekend celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving, it's time to get back to work. My objective is to have a new Donaghue and Stainer short story ready to upload to Smashwords by the weekend, and I will celebrate this addition to the collection with a new list price for the e-book version of Blood Passage. Stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone downloading copies of the short stories. I'm surprised and gratified that so many people are showing an interest in the collection, which has cascaded over to Barnes & Noble as well. The first Donaghue and Stainer short story listed by Barnes & Noble for the Nook, "Invisible Boy," has reached the top 5,000 in total e-book downloads, which I find absolutely remarkable. Fans of Donaghue and Stainer may rest assured that this is only the beginning.

All right, enough procrastination. To work,.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Follow Friday

Once again it's time for Follow Friday, in which we find new and interesting blogs to follow.

This week I'm focusing on co-sponsor Parajunkee, at http://www.parajunkee.com and her featured blogger of the week, Jagged Edge, at http://klearsreviews.blogspot.com.

The fun question of the week is the following:  If you could pick one character in a book, movie or television show to swap places with, who would it be?

This is an interesting challenge, because there are so many fascinating characters, going back a long way. I think if I were to choose someone right now from television, I'd choose:
Danny Reagan, homicide detective on the CBS television show Blue Bloods, played by Donnie Wahlberg. It would be a fascinating experience to have the self-confidence, determination and edge that this character has, but there's one qualification: I'd only want to be him for a day. I couldn't do what a homicide detective does for a living!

Enjoy your stay here at The Overnight Bestseller, and don't be shy to click that Follow button!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Halloween Heads-Up

Now that October is here it's time to plan ahead for your Halloween reading. If you like to curl up with a ghost story on All-Hallows-Even, then The Ghost Man is for you!

The Ghost Man is the story of Simon Guthrie, a reluctant passive medium trying to rebuild his life after personal tragedy. He discovers his new dream home in the country on the Rideau Canal Waterway is haunted by a restless ghost whose family met their own tragedy more than a century and a half ago, and Simon must survive the manipulations of a powerful demonic entity before he can find peace in his own life.

The Ghost Man is available in paperback through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Ghostman-Michael-J-McCann/dp/189751221X or in Canada at http://www.amazon.ca/Ghostman-Michael-J-McCann/dp/189751221X.

You can also order it through Barnes & Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ghostman-michael-j-mccann/1016521469.

For further information, check out my website at http://www.mjmccann.com.

End infomercial!