Saturday, 25 August 2012

Crime Fiction Grab Bag No. 3

It's the weekend, which means it's time for another crime fiction grab bag here on The Overnight Bestseller, where we're constantly beating the bushes for the best new tidbits in the world of crime fiction.

Jonathan Santlofer, Director of New York's Crime Fiction Academy, gives us a heads-up on this fall's workshops, including participation by Lawrence Block, Susan Isaacs, and Dennis Lehane, along with editors and agents to discuss the ins and outs of the publishing world. If you'd like to brush up on crime fiction writing fundamentals and you've a hankering to visit NYC, this might be for you.

"If you haven't heard of the insanely talented and clever Wolf Haas," tells us, then it's about time you did. One of the best-selling crime fiction authors in Germany, Haas features private investigator Simon Brenner in a hard-boiled series of which Brenner and God, the first translated into English, is the latest.

Ian Rankin gives us a look back at his Inspector Rebus series, and chooses some of his favourite moments, courtesy of the Guardian UK:

From the "are-you-freaking-kidding-me" category, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports on Hollywood's incredible goof in casting Tom Cruise (I'm a fan, just not right now) in the role of Jack Reacher in the upcoming film based on Lee Child's bestselling series featuring the ex-Army M.P. major: "Okay, he doesn't look exactly right," Child finally admitted.

And finally, a generous new profile of the Canadian author of the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, by Joseph Morin in the EMC News/Advance, in which he looks at the long road to publication and the development of "memorable and richly detailed characters."

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Donaghue and Stainer Join the Prime Crime Bookshelf at Britton's

Photo by Amanda D. (Yelp)
As readers of The Overnight Bestseller may recall, I have blogged before about my affection for independent bookstores and how much fun it can be to see my name up in chalk.  In an age of economies of scale, it's increasingly difficult for local businesses to compete with large chains, particularly in the bookselling business where even the large bricks-and-mortar bookstores are threatened with extinction.  That's why I urge people to support their local independent bookstores wherever they are, whenever possible.

You can imagine, then, why I had a smile on my face this Saturday when I walked into Britton's in the Glebe in Ottawa and took a look at the new Prime Crime Bookshelf, the brainchild of Linda Wiken and store owner Ted Britton. For fourteen years Linda owned the Ottawa mystery specialty store Prime Crime Books, which closed in 2010. She is now the author of  the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries as Erika Chase, the first novel of which, A Killer Read, was recently published. It would seem, though, that bookselling was an itch she still longed to scratch, and when Ted Britton decided to expand the small book section in his magazine and cigar store, crime fiction and Linda Wiken presented the perfect opportunity.

As Linda explains in a recent post on her blog, Mystery Maven Canada, the focus of the Prime Crime Bookshelf "will be on Canadian mystery authors, particularly local Ottawans," with the usual suspects such as Stieg Larsson, Michael Connelly, and other bestsellers in their own little ghetto on the side. The objective will be to "give a good representation of what's happening in the mystery/crime field."

How pleased and honoured was I, then, when Linda and Ted agreed to accept the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series as part of their new venture? And how much fun was it when a loyal customer, Johanne, purchased a copy of Blood Passage and allowed me to sign it for her before the books even made it to the shelf?

On the subject of book signings, I also was pleased to accept their invitation to serve as their first book signing event on September 15, 2012, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. More to follow on that score later.

I should mention that Britton's is located at 846 Bank Street, Ottawa. I should also mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that before I left I bought a nice selection of cigars to enjoy while the weather's still nice outside. And the next time I'm there, I'll probably pick up a fistful of magazines you don't see hardly anywhere else. How perfect is this? Great cigars, eclectic magazines, and crime fiction. The best of all possible worlds, perhaps?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Guest post by author Ginger Marcinkowski

The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to welcome author Ginger Marcinkowski as our guest today. A native of Maine, Ginger was raised along the Canadian border and spent many summers in New Brunswick, in the area of Perth and Plaster Rock, where her first novel, Run, River Currents, is set.

A public speaker and visiting lecturer for many years, Ginger has been a reader for the James Jones First Novel Award and is currently a judge for the East-West Writer's Contest. Her works have been awarded honorable mentions and she has placed in several writing contests. She is looking forward to writing full-time in 2013. She took time from her busy schedule to describe the process she followed to publish her first novel. So without further ado, will ...

Someone Find My Hair, Please?

I’m writing this post while I'm in the final stages of publishing my new novel. Run, River Currents is slated to be released on or around August 3. Edits, book cover design, contracts, interviews, blog posts. I’m pulling my hair out in clumps, I’m so busy.

Throughout this process I’ve been asked a million times, “How did you get your book published?” I know there are a thousand books on that subject alone, but what I think people are aching to hear is a simplified version of how to get it done. That’s why I’m here. Simple advice, from a simple kind of girl. After all, I am blonde.

Here’s the Simpleton’s Guide. Follow it. Get published. Really.

Have a real desire to write, and then write a lot. Every day.

Learn the craft of writing. That means you need to learn to understand these simple terms:
  • Voice
  • Structure
  • Sense of Place or Setting
  • Syntax
  • Dialogue
  • Character
  • Genre
  • Showing, Not Telling.
That’s what my M.F.A. (Master’s of Fine Arts Degree) did for me and no, I’m not going to explain. Figure it out any way you can. Take some courses. Go to some writing conferences, get a degree or simply pick people’s brains. You HAVE to know craft before you can become really good, or at least good enough that publishers will take notice.

Network. There is so much truth in the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The other side to that is that it’s easy to get to know people. Don’t lock yourself in a closet. Find a conference or a writer’s event and even if you can’t afford to pay to go, you CAN afford to volunteer at the event! It’s amazing how many contacts I made by giving my time!

Write a good “log line.” I’ll give you this one. A log line is a one-sentence attention grabber, as you only have a few seconds to get the pitchee to ask more questions about your story. Here was mine. Got me a boat-load of agent and publisher business cards with this one:

Twenty-seven-year-old Emily Evans, stands over her father’s coffin, lifts her arm, and punches full force into his face. “You’ll never be dead enough, “she says. “Never.”

Doesn’t it make you wonder why she’d do such a thing? Well, that is why your log line is so important. With the little bit of time you usually have to pitch your story, make it worth their while.

Now write a “pitch.” For those unfamiliar with that word, it’s the “story” you want the editor and publisher to know. It comes right after the “log-line.” It should come off the top of your head after many, many rehearsed hours. It should sound as natural when you share it with them as it does when you tell a friend about your manuscript. And it’s still a manuscript until it’s published, so don’t go and show your “newbieness” off by calling it a book. Also, a “pitch” can be part of a “query” letter if it is sent in written form to an agent or publisher. The style is the same. Short. To the point. The only difference to me was the fact that I was face-to-face in pitch conferences and I was not in an e-mail query. Both required the same kind of intensity.

Here’s the written part of my pitch and then how I broke it down so I’d remember it when I gave a verbal pitch.

The rage-filled act sets Emily on journey to rediscover the peace she’d lost as a child at the hands of her father. Memories of her father’s brutal attacks battle the lessons of hope and forgiveness she’d learned at her grandfather’s side along the banks of the Tobique River. As she recalls the summer tent revivals and baptisms, the harvest of the forests and potato fields, the drowning of her best friend, and the fly-fishing excursions with her Bible-toting grandfather, the weight of her present life choices balance precariously between the horror of her past and the uncertainty of her future. Emily is at a crossroads. No longer able to live with the rage that boils inside, a rage she has taken out on her husband and her siblings, she determines to end her personal struggle beneath the waters of the Tobique. She wades into the river and, taking one final breath, presses beneath the rushing flow. Will the Tobique finally cleanse her of her past, or will it take her life? The Women’s Fiction manuscript ends with Emily’s renewed ability to forgive.

When I pitched in person, I kept in my head, Who? What? When? Where & How?

    Who?    - Emily, her father, her mother & her grandfather
    What?   - She had to find escape from the memory of her father’s attacks & her
                   mother’s emotional abandonment
    When?  - She had to act now
    Where? - Emily had to return to the good memories of her youth

By categorizing what I needed to say and explaining my genre, I was able to pass on my thoughts seamlessly in a conversational manner, instead of stuttering or talking too long, both things agents, and publishers really prefer you not do.

When written, I kept the story idea short and to the point.  Sure, it’s not the perfect pitch, but it did let the intended listener know that the story was a balance of good and evil and had a strong “sense of place.” I also told them the ending. No one who wants to publish your manuscript will want to wait to read the whole thing before knowing the conclusion of the crisis.

Work up a short bio. Publishers, agents and editors need to know a bit about you. Don’t make it long, but make it pertinent to your story.  Here’s mine:

Although a fictional story, many of the happenings in the manuscript are based on true events, as I grew up in the north woods of New Brunswick, Canada, the setting for Run, River Currents. I’ve recently graduated from Wilkes University with my M.F.A., and interned with Etruscan Press. I was a reader for the 2011 James Jones First Novel Award, as well as a judge for the East-West Writing Contest. I travel over 160,000 miles a year teaching business courses at colleges across the nation and am a public speaker and blogger for my company.

By giving your audience a peek at your knowledge base (i.e., based on true events, I grew up there, I have learned the craft of writing and I have read, critiqued others' works, and have a built in base for marketing because of my travel and speaking), you let the person know and understand why you were the best person to write this particular story.

Then you start looking up every single agent, editor and publisher who might want your particular genre. I found the following two sites to be my best resources:

www.fundsforwriters A great blog by Hope Clark. It’s $16 a year for a membership and is filled with loads of contests, job and grant opportunities around the world.
This is another subscription site, but I will tell you, the resources are up-to-date, listing agencies and publishers for your book, all easily found with a simple search engine.

Continue searching for outlets by asking your friends for contacts, or look in the acknowledgement pages of other books in your genre. The editor, agent and publishers are always mentioned there. E-mail a query letter to them. Keep e-mailing. Follow up. Save the many, many rejection letters you’ll get. Someday you’ll get to say, “What did they know?” Then maybe, soon, someone will say yes!

There’s no perfect way to get published. It’s all about hard, hard work. Took me many conferences, many pitches, tons of rejections and a little dumb luck.

So, there you have it. A one-two-three guide for figuring out how to get your first story published. I call it the Simpleton’s Guide, because, after all, I’m still blonde, hairless right now, but blonde. Oh, as a disclaimer, I got published because a friend recommended my work to her publisher!

Ginger Marcinkowski's novel Run, River Currents may be found at

Follow her blog at

Friday, 3 August 2012

Illuminé, an exhibit of encaustic works by Linda Girard

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending the vernissage for Linda Girard's new exhibit of encaustic works. It was held at Ben Franklin Place in Ottawa, ON, in the Centrepoint Theatre Gallery, where the works will be on display until August 22.

It was my first chance to look at encaustic art in the flesh, as it were, and I was very pleased. I've been aware that a growing number of visual artists have been exploring this medium, but I've never had a chance until now to examine it up close.

The encaustic technique involves heating beeswax, adding pigment, and then applying it to the surface of the work while experimenting with layering, texturing, and marking. I would have thought, not knowing any better, that this would be a rather transient, impermanent medium, but I've learned that there are early Christian iconic encaustic works still extant that date back to the sixth century, and much older examples produced by the Egyptians that may be seen in the British Museum. Obviously, a visual artist choosing encaustic as a medium can produce works for the ages, as opposed to the moment.

Illuminé is the result of almost two years' work by Ms. Girard and consists of thirty-seven works in total. Her overriding theme is an exploration of place, and I must admit my personal favourites were her earliest encaustics in the show, the "South Branch River Series," which were inspired by the Oxford Mills area, not far from where I live. These four paintings were framed in natural, unfinished wood, and seemed to jump off the wall at me, especially "Barnes Creek, South Branch River," for which she has received an Honourable Mention from the Marianne Silfhout Gallery.

Also remarkable are the "Old Florida Series," inspired by her time spent in the Sarasota area, one of which is reproduced in the exhibit poster, above.

As I was leaving, though, I was stopped dead in my tracks outside the library by her tribute to Gwendolyn MacEwan, which I had missed on the way into the building. It was displayed by itself, around the corner from the gallery proper, and I might have walked right past it again, but I felt a sudden pull from a magnetic pair of eyes, looked at the glass display case, and stopped short. I've always felt drawn to the late Ms. MacEwan's poetry, an excellent example of which is "Dark Pines Under Water," from The Shadow-Maker (Toronto: Macmillan, 1972), which begins:
                                    This land like a mirror turns you inward
                                    And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
                                    The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
                                    You dream in the green of your time,
                                    Your memory is a row of sinking pines.
I took my time studying Ms. Girard's tribute to this under-appreciated Canadian poet. She had, in her own words, focused on MacEwan's "haunting Egyptian like kohl eyes and tiny pursed lips [and] frankly intelligent gaze." I've seen a copy of this piece online before but to see it in person was something else again.

If you live in the Ottawa area, I urge you to visit the Centrepoint Theatre Gallery this month and experience this exhibit for yourself. It's definitely worth your while.

All other lovers of fine art can visit Linda Girard's blog at, where she has posted most of the works included in the show. Take the time to explore her blog, which will give you an excellent feel for her work and her vision. And for goodness sakes, don't miss the post featuring the MacEwan encaustic, as I almost did!