Monday, 25 January 2016


The United Kingdom is a hotbed for crime fiction these days. The genre receives very good coverage from the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, and Stirling hosts the well-attended Bloody Scotland conference each year. Numerous bloggers feature crime fiction news and reviews, and one of the best and most-respected of these is MYSTERY PEOPLE.

This blog is run by Lizzie Hayes, who was a founder of the group Mystery Women in 1997. When this group closed down, Ms. Hayes founded Mystery People in 2012. As a lover of crime fiction, she has been a tireless supporter of the genre. She maintains two blogs, Mystery People and Promoting Crime Fiction.

I'm pleased that SORROW LAKE has been reviewed for Ms. Hayes by Marsali Taylor. She found it to be "an enjoyable and detailed p[olice] p[rocedural] set in rural Canada" with "an interesting set of characters.... The plot moved at a good speed, and the final twist was unexpected, but fairly clued."

Thanks to Ms. Hayes and Ms. Taylor for reviewing the novel. I'm very happy to see it receive positive attention in the UK.

You can read the full review on Promoting Crime Fiction here

Monday, 18 January 2016

Q & A With the Author, Part One

I enjoy using social media to chat with readers and get a feeling for what they like and dislike in the books they read.

I recently sent out an invitation on my Facebook page to ask questions about the writing process, where the ideas come from, or anything else readers are curious to know. In this post I'll tackle the first question, which was posed by friend and former colleague Lorna:

Q: How do you get into a Character's head when you've had no personal experience. I finished reading The Goldfinch today and it was uncanny how the female author got into two male teenage heads.

A:  A difficult question to answer, Lorna, because it cuts right to the heart of what writers do. Without a doubt, great characters make for great stories, and it's my ambition to develop characters that are as round and realistic as possible while still being quirky and original enough to be interesting.

Writers are a little odder than usual folk. Maybe you noticed that when we worked together! It's always been very important for me in my personal life to say as little as possible and to listen and watch other people as much as possible. I remember being in a Tim Hortons one day drinking a coffee, in a foul mood. People around me were getting on my nerves. I caught myself and said, "Listen to them, Mike. Stop crabbing to yourself and listen. They're trying to tell you who they are and what they want from life." It was a good lesson to stop focusing on myself and start focusing on people around me. As soon as I start doing that, I learn things about them I can bring into the characters I develop in my stories.

As for being able to work with female characters, I have to say I'm pleased with the way both Karen Stainer and Ellie March have come along (I've included in this post, at the top, the stock photo I've used as a reference for Ellie).

I've been fortunate to have had an extremely positive relationship through the years with my mother and my wife, and they've taught me things about the female experience that have served me well in life. I'd describe myself, without hesitation and with pride, as a feminist. Many of the things I've learned from them and from other women I've known find their way into my female characters.

Ultimately, though, I suppose it comes down to empathy. As a writer, you need to develop the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and feel what they feel, think what they think, desire what they desire. I haven't read Donna Tartt's book, but I expect she has this talent. I figure if I can develop this talent as well, I'll be able to speak through characters in a voice that is a perfect blend of theirs and mine.

Thanks to Lorna for a great question. Please feel free to stop by my Facebook page and leave a question of your own for another future installment of Q & A With the Author!

Monday, 11 January 2016

What to do about Brownie?

As regular readers of The Overnight Bestseller know, I've moved my authoring operations to a basement office in the Burritt's Rapids Community Hall. The building was constructed as a general store in the middle of the nineteenth century by John French, and when I tip my head back to gaze heavenward for inspiration I can stare at the original heavy wooden beams and floor planks of this solid neo-classical structure.

It's a very quiet work environment, without distractions, and my productivity has thankfully improved since I moved in about a month ago. No more cats running across my keyboard for attention or yelling for food or searching endlessly for the door into summer. Just Mike, his computer, and........

Image: Public Domain
I've seen him twice now. A plump, healthy-looking brown mouse running along the baseboard under the chalk board. I think he's coming from a storage room just to the right of my workspace and heading for the furnace room down yonder at top speed. So ... I'm not alone after all.

Ever the responsible tenant, I informed my lessor of my uninvited guest and suggested I could bring in one of my cats (am I nuts??) to put the fear of Felix into him and encourage him to move elsewhere, or else get caught and suffer the consequences. (A word on gender: I refer to him in the masculine in the fond hope that he's a lone bachelor and not a female looking to nest and produce more Brownies.) She replied right away, letting me know that her daughters had seen the mouse before while taking art lessons from the previous tenant. Oh yes, by the way: his name's Brownie.

I'm toast. He has a name. What do I do now? I can't just up and kill Brownie, can I?

There's an old box of Warfarin on a shelf in the storage room, but unless he's suffering from blood clots I wouldn't do that to him. I've seen rodents killed by mousetraps before, and it's a horrible sight. So I'm back to the cats. We have mice in our house in winter, since we live in the country, and we've refined a system where they chase and trap a mouse in a corner, I put on gloves and grab it, then I take it off a ways from the house and toss it into a pile of leaves. I guess I'll give that a try, after all, because I have an obligation to my lessor to take care of it.

But here's the thing: he has a name. Brownie. I've started talking to him. I ask him how he's doing. Sometimes I get up to take a break, and I give him an update on how it's going. This chapter's looking good, Brownie. What should I do here, Brownie? How does this sound?

I'm toast. I have a new pal, and his name is Brownie.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Going Inside the New Wordshop

Now that we've finally made it to 2016, there are going to be some changes made. As I mentioned last week, I've relocated my workplace to a basement office in the Burritt's Rapids Community Hall. As you can see on the left, I'm just getting settled in with my 1960s vintage rock posters, computers, pencils, and all the rest. Not shown in the picture are the whiteboard on wheels and great big chalkboard I'm already using extensively to work out the kinks as I make my way through the first draft of my current manuscript.

For those of you who enjoyed SORROW LAKE and are looking for the next novel in the Ellie March and Kevin Walker crime novel series, do not despair. The second installation, BURN COUNTRY, is well in hand. However, it is temporarily on hold as I complete the above-mentioned draft of a new manuscript featuring a new character, Tom Faust. This series will be set in central Ontario and, in a departure for me, will be told in the first person. More on Faust later.

Before I let you go on to much more important stuff, I promised last week I'd include another selfie in this week's post. A better one. Well, anything would be better than that sad-sack selfie from last week, so here you go. This was taken this morning, during a light snowfall, and is part of a new set of publicity photos I'm taking to promote SORROW LAKE. I hope you like it:
All the best for 2016, everyone.