Sunday, 23 December 2012

A White Christmas in Oxford Station

Last week in eastern Ontario we were hearing from Environment Canada that there might be a green Christmas in this part of the country this year. Over the last two days, however, Mother Nature has delivered a stiff rebuttal to those computer-generated predictions with a heavy snowfall.

I took a break from shovelling out my 150-ft. driveway to take this picture of a pickup truck crawling down the road toward me. I had time to walk back up the driveway and take several more pictures before the truck passed. Driving conditions were hardly optimum, to say the least.

The black dot in the middle of the photo on the right is my border collie, who made a beeline for the back trail, hoping we would go for a walk in the forest. Not a chance: I knew the work that lay ahead of me.

After taking these photos, I tried unsuccessfully to start my snowblower, which is a year old. Perhaps mice have built a nest inside the engine, I don't know. At least it would be good for something. Instead, I grabbed my plastic scoop, which works every time I pick it up, and spent a couple hours clearing the snow, which was wet and heavy.

The snow kept coming down, and continued through the night and into the morning yesterday. Because it was wet snow falling on top of a coating of freezing rain, it made the tree branches very heavy. I have a number of birch trees in the yard that will probably have to come down if the caked snow stays on them much longer, because they'll be permanently stooped over to the point that you can't walk beneath them.  Too bad, because I love the birches, but they grow like weeds around here and will soon be replaced. Which reminds me, the local Walmart was selling bundles of three four-foot birch poles for $15 each. Given the amount of birches I have on my property, I figure I must be sitting on a million dollars worth of wood!

Needless to say, there was no time during most of the day to get any work done on the next Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, which I'm currently researching. Once I came in I was pretty much exhausted, but it was a pleasant fatigue, because there's no prettier sight than winter in Canada when the snow is new and the world seems to have taken on a whiteness that makes everything that much brighter.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Fregoli Delusion: My Interview on The Commentary

Publicity for The Fregoli Delusion, the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, is now underway, and the first stop is, where I'm interviewed by Joseph Planta.

Listen to the interview here:

Edited by Joseph Planta and based in Vancouver, BC, began in June 1999 as an e-mail newsletter of editorial comment.  It has been online since September 2003. Since August 2004, Mr. Planta's On the Line supplement has also featured more than 350 interviews with renowned bestselling and prize winning authors, Canadian newsmakers and political figures, journalists, academics and public intellectuals, as well as noted artists and personalities.

Guests have included Gloria Loring, Deepa Mehta, Shelagh Rogers, Warren Kinsella, Lorna Crozier, and Will Ferguson.

It was a great pleasure to have been interviewed by Mr. Planta, who has a relaxed and engaging style. I think you'll enjoy our conversation.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Crime Fiction Christmas 2012 Grab Bag

Now that the holiday season is arriving, we thought it would be fun to scan the headlines for book-buying suggestions for your favourite crime fiction aficionado. After all, what's better than a wintry evening spent in front of a fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine or hot chocolate, and a good mystery?

Margaret Cannon of the Globe and Mail shows us how we can enjoy murder at Christmas with a guide to the latest crime fiction releases, including Beware this Boy by Maureen Jennings and Eleven Pipers Piping by C.C. Benison.

Laura Wilson of the Guardian runs out her list of best crime and thriller books of 2012 for that special Christmas gift, including Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth, and Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin.

On books in general, Sophie Hardach of the Telegraph  looks at Liz Mohn, the woman behind Penguin Random House, and comments on the shifting landscape of publishing. For example, she notes, "on a recent New York Times bestseller list, 11 out of 15 titles were published by an imprint belonging to either Penguin or Random House. Agents often try to raise an author’s advance through a bidding war, but why would imprints owned by the same group bid against each other?"

Additionally, the Telegraph published a very nice obituary of well-known mystery author Margaret Yorke, who passed away at the age of 88.

Here's a bit of fun. No Exit Press will be publishing Philosophies of Crime Fiction by Dr Josef Hoffmann in June 2013, and have decided to seek help in choosing their final cover design. According to their press release they "thought this would be an ideal opportunity for a bit of 'crowdsourcing' and to consult the great crime reading public on the best cover to use." Follow the link and cast your vote. What's your favourite?

Finally, here's a link to the press release on my last signing at Collected Works bookstore in Ottawa, as discussed in the previous post. This might be a great place to do some of your Christmas shopping.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Collected Works Book Signing, Dec. 8, 2012

Yesterday, December 8, I had another chance to see my name up in chalk at the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffee Bar on Wellington St. West in Ottawa, where The Fregoli Delusion joined Blood Passage and Marcie's Murder on the shelf as the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel.

It was a quiet afternoon for a book signing, as steadily-falling snow kept many people off the streets, but it made for a very pleasant atmosphere as we watched the big snowflakes come down, and everyone who came in from the sidewalk took a moment to shake off a coating of wet snow inside the door. A young lady sat down at the piano and played for fifteen or twenty minutes, bringing a smile to everyone's face. It was a rare afternoon when books, music, and the beauty of a Canadian December reminded us that bookstores such as Collected Works occupy a very important place in our culture.

Lately the news for independent bookstores in Ottawa has not been very good. In October the Ottawa Citizen reported that Books on Beechwood, an independent that has operated in the city for 18 years, will be closing its doors at the end of January 2013. While a neighbourhood fire had an adverse effect on business in the area, owner Jean Barton said that "declining book sales, the emergence of e-books and more people ordering books online" were also contributing factors in the closing of the store. As she said to reporter Tony Lofaro, "I think bookstores are probably going to go the way of record stores, eventually.”

As the quiet afternoon passed in what is normally a very busy time of year, I couldn't help but worry that Collected Works would soon suffer the same fate as Books on Beechwood, Nicholas Hoare Books, and Mother Tongue, which also closed their doors in 2012. While I'm not a person who believes that large corporations are malevolent or evil by their very nature, I'm convinced just the same that as consumers we have a role to play in ensuring that independent businesses can not only make their rent each month, pay their employees and even turn a bit of a profit, but also keep their doors open so that we can all enjoy alternative sources of culture, literary and popular. When it comes to books, think independent first, because when it comes to local authors and their books, you're very likely to find them in an independent bookstore such as Collected Works.

Although weather conditions and business conditions seemed to dampen things a bit, yesterday was none the less a chance to bring this author together once again with avid book readers, who always make things fun. Chris of Collected Works, pictured on the left, once again did a great job of scheduling the signing, publicizing it through the Collected Works website and on Twitter, and keeping the mood light thanks to his thirteen cups of coffee and indomitable spirit. I asked him to try to look studious and business-like for this picture, and he almost made it.

Thanks very much for everyone who came in yesterday and stopped at my table to chat, and special thanks to those who bought a copy of one of my books, because you contributed not only to the efforts of this local independent author but also to those of a worthy local independent bookseller!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Kicking Off the December Book-Signing Schedule

This past Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon at Britton's in the Glebe, 846 Bank St., in Ottawa, for the kick-off book-signing event for The Fregoli Delusion, the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel.

The event was hosted by Mr. Ted Britton, a very well-known businessman in the Glebe district, and scheduled by Linda Wiken, who is the manager of the Prime Crime Bookshelf in Britton's.

As you can see from the photo (I'm behind the camera), there's an incredible array of magazines offered in a very modest space. I've always been a magazine lover -- I love the look and feel of them -- and every time I'm in Britton's I'm mesmerized by the wide range on display. Everything from magazines specializing in whisky or tole painting or Christmas decorations to magazines on Buddhism. Magazines from around the world, and local magazines such as Ottawa at Home. While I was there, Mr. Britton fielded a call from someone in Toronto, hoping he stocked a specific magazine about wine. If I wanted to find a very esoteric publication, I'd call him, too!

As an author, I find this store to be a terrific venue for a book signing because the atmosphere is something special, and even if I didn't sell a single book I'd still consider it time very well spent. The traffic in and out the front door (which my table faced) is non-stop, with people coming in for newspapers from around the world, tobacco products, and the coffee at the front counter. Best of all, Mr. Britton seems to know everyone, and always takes the time to chat them up. Then, of course, there's the Prime Crime Bookshelf, which is tailor-made for my novels and features every other well-known local crime fiction author, including C.B. Forrest, Mary Jane Maffini, Brenda Chapman, and Erika Chase, to name a few, which draws many local crime fiction aficionados looking for their next read. For a people-watcher like me, it's enormously fun.

Thanks to Mr. Britton for his kindness and patience, to Linda Wiken for having me back to Britton's for a second time, and thanks to everyone who purchased a book or just stopped by to chat.

This coming Saturday, I'll be back in Ottawa looking for my name up in chalk once again as I sign copies of The Fregoli Delusion at Collected Works and Coffee Bar, 1242 Wellington St. West. Talk about a special atmosphere! I can't wait for this one.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Tag

Blog tags are always a lot of fun, and today I've been tagged to participate in the Next Big Thing, in which authors describe what's going on with their current work in progress. Before I begin, I should say that I had the pleasure of being tagged by Brenda Chapman, the well-known Ottawa mystery author whose blog, and Next Big Thing post, may be found here: Also participating with us with week is Young Adult author Jeff Ross, whose contribution to the fun is found here:

As followers of The Overnight Bestseller will know, I just published The Fregoli Delusion, the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel. While for the sake of my mental health I should probably take a bit of a break first, the compulsion to jump right into the next one has proven to be irresistible. Mind you, I'm right at the very beginning of the process, as my answers to the following Next Big Thing questions will show:

What is your working title of your book?
The working title of the next Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel is The Serenity of Night. At the moment it's strictly a working title, but if you like it and think I should keep it, let me know.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
This novel is part of the overall story arc for the series that I developed while writing the first novel, Blood Passage. In this installment of the series, Detective Karen Stainer marries her ever-patient, doting fiancé, FBI Special Agent Sandy Alexander, while a serial killer who is the subject of an ongoing investigation decides that she would be an amusing target for his next horrific murder.

What genre does your book fall under?
The Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series is categorized as Mystery/Thriller or Crime Fiction. Its subcategory is police procedural, as the novels describe in realistic terms the homicide investigations of the Glendale, Maryland Police Department.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version? 
This is a difficult question for me to answer. As far as Hank Donaghue is concerned, I think Jeremy Sisto would be great casting for the role, although he's about eight years younger than Hank. I'm going to pass on a choice for Karen Stainer, though. I'd rather have readers answer that question!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
While Homicide Detective Karen Stainer finally takes the big step and marries her ever-patient, doting fiancé, FBI Special Agent Sandy Alexander, a serial killer who is the subject of an ongoing investigation decides that she would be an amusing target for his next horrific murder!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I haven't started writing the draft yet. At the moment I'm designing the character of the serial killer and designing his crimes, as creepy as that sounds, while doing my research. I plan to begin writing the manuscript in the first week of January. I'd like to have the first draft done by the end of April 2013, but we'll see what life brings. Marcie's Murder took about six months from Word One to final revision, while The Fregoli Delusion took more than a year. We shall see. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This is another question I'd rather leave to readers and reviewers to answer once the book comes out. I'm not a great reader in this sub-genre, myself, so I'm not really sure about comparisons. I will say, though, that for me, the sub-genre begins and ends with The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Just the same, I'm going to try to approach the subject of serial murder, which has been worked and reworked a thousand times, from a fresh perspective if I possibly can.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Many readers have asked me, when I've met with them, if I've considered writing from the point of view of the murderer. I usually respond that I prefer to tell the stories from the point of view of the law enforcement officers who devote their careers and their lives to this dangerous and life-consuming work. Peter Mah, of course, is an exception to this rule, and I will return to his point of view later in the series, but for the purposes of The Serenity of Night I will once again tell the story through the eyes of Hank Donaghue and Karen Stainer. However, I have a trick up my sleeve that will take readers into the mind, and the sickness, of my serial killer, just the same. Stay tuned.

So, to make a long answer short, this book will be inspired by my readers, the fans of Donaghue and Stainer.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The Fregoli Delusion explored the background and life of Hank Donaghue. Fans of Karen Stainer will be delighted to know that in The Serenity of Night we will finally get to the bottom of Karen's chronic anger and anxiety. Attending the wedding from her side of the family will be her brother Darryl Stainer, a veteran Oklahoma state trooper, brother Delbert Stainer, a Houston auto mechanic who fixed up her beloved '79 Firebird for her, and even brother Bradley Stainer, a building contractor in Plano, TX, whom she used to protect from bullies when they were kids. Youngest brother Jimmy Bob Stainer, serving time for armed robbery, will not be able to attend, however.

You'll want to grab a seat at the table while Darryl orders a round of beer for everyone, including you. Sit back and listen to the Stainers talk about their childhood, their beloved late father, Texas State Trooper Bobby Stainer, and their mother, Mary Beth, who is still institutionalized in Texas with severe schizophrenia.

Then ask yourself: what kind of serial killer has the moxie to stalk a veteran homicide detective as his next victim in a small town in Bath County, Virginia, where almost every wedding guest is a cop, a state trooper, or an FBI special agent?

You're not going to want to miss this one!