Friday, December 23, 2016

Eating Christmas

Traditional Turkey - Alison style
It Ain't Christmas Without the Turkey...

...Not in our house. Not for as long as I remember.

We are a very traditional family, at least where holidays are concerned. My mother's family emigrated from England in the 50's, though bringing Anglo traditions to Anglo-Canada was a bit like taking coals to Newcastle back then. The biggest change in the traditional meal was switching from goose to turkey.

Christmas was spent with my mother's sister's family in Beaconsfield, Quebec. We'd make the seven to ten hour drive from Toronto every year in a car laden with presents, potables and comestibles for the holiday. We left a house which never got decorated beyond a few coloured lights in the window and arrived to place where the halls were decked along with every other room in the house. Decorations notwithstanding, my aunt always said it wasn't Christmas until we arrived.

Besides the turkey, stuffed with dressing my mother always made, there were always peas and corn, roast and mashed potatoes and gravy which I got to make under the supervision of my aunt, I was also the tea maker. My sister and younger cousins had the job of setting the table. I don't remember my older cousin being in the kitchen much. I think this was because they were always busy with the last minute wrapping of tree presents.

Dessert was my aunt's specialty. She made fruit pies and mince tarts, shortbread and iced sugar cookies, two kinds of Christmas cake with marzipan and royal icing and, of course, the figgy pudding. The cakes didn't come out until tea time, however. That's when we gathered in our Christmas finery and exchanged tree presents. Up until then, from opening stocking to Christmas dinner, a significant number of us stayed in pyjamas.

On Boxing Day we always had cold turkey, hot fries, salad and bubble and squeak, the traditional English answer to "what do we do with all this left over veg?" For dinner we always had tortiere, a traditional French Canadian meat pie made by my aunt's traditional French Canadian cleaning lady, Rose.

A lot of the traditions I grew up with had to be adapted when I began to host our holiday meal. For one thing, I wasn't feeding as many as my aunt did. I'm not the baker my aunt was and neither is the one baker in the family. He's very good, don't get me wrong, but has a different repertoire which does not include mince tarts or fruit cake.

We still open stockings first thing, but first thing is around noon when I've picked up my kids from their dad. We still have tree presents, but earlier, often with dessert and coffee. We can't go too late because my nieces have other family to visit.

This year I'm going to try to revive one old family tradition, tortiere on Boxing Day. Since I'm making the pie, it may be a short-lived tradition.

https://meatsrootsandleaves.com/2009/12/16/tourtiere/

Monday, December 19, 2016

Let's Get Cozy

"The weather outside is frightful..."

Does anyone besides me feel like hibernating in the winter?


I don't feel that way all winter, just on the frigid grey days. I don't even mind that the weather is frigid and grey... as long as I don't have to go out in it. Give me a hot cup of tea, a comfy blanket, a good book and a working furnace and "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Naturally, if you're reading this, I hope you also read my books. My books don't quite fit the cozy genre but I enjoy reading the odd cozy (especially the odd cozies). In fact, I feel a sudden need to read Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod. (It's still available in print and ebook but shown here in it's well-worn glory with the original cover.)

The set up alone is worth the price of the book. Professor Peter Shandy's idea of holiday decorating is hanging a wreath on the door. That isn't good enough for the powers that be at his college. The annual winter festival is a big fund raiser and he's letting down the side. So he gives in with a vengeance then goes off on a cruise. The result is deadly.

Charlotte MacLeod has the distinction of being one of the few mystery authors that I introduced to my mother. Two of my regrets are that my mother died before I was published and before I could introduced her to a whole gang of mystery authors from Crime Writers of Canada, including a few cozy writers I know she'd enjoy.


My mother would have got a big kick out of the Threadville Mysteries by my fellow Deadly Dame Janet Bolin. If you have an interest in needle craft, as my mother did, this is a great series. I'm looking forward to Janet's next series that revolves around a donut shop.

The Deadly Dames have something for everyone from the dark and psychological suspense of Catherine Astolfo to the comic capers of Melodie Campbell, Joan O'Callaghan's awards winning shorts to my award finalist whodunits.


Enough. The kettle is calling. Time for tea and a cozy... or coffee and writing.

So, what is your favourite Christmas themed book?


Friday, December 16, 2016

Coffee and a Good Read

Scene by a campfire...

"I see a sock in that pot."

"Yep.

"You doin' laundry or makin' coffee?"

"Coffee."

"Good. Can't drink laundry water."

"Did last week."

"But it smelled like Cookie's soup."

"That it did."

"There are many things that a cowboy can do without. Coffee is not one of them."
("Cowboy Coffee", American Cowboy.)

I may be allergic to horses and other livestock. I might not be able to throw a rope or hit the broadside of a barn, I have a cowboy's need for coffee. I'm practically famous for being a serious coffee drinker. Imagine my chagrin finding out there was a method of brewing I hadn't heard about - Sock Coffee.

"Also known as “hobo” or “open-pot” coffee, this calls for putting the grounds into a (clean) sock and chucking it into the coffee pot... If you’d rather not use one of your socks, use a muslin bag or a commercially made coffee sock. Let steep until desired strength is achieved."
("Cowboy Coffee", American Cowboy.)

It struck me as funny and maybe a bit desperate, but it makes sense. It's the mama of the drip coffee filter and close cousin to the teabag. I just hope they used clean socks.

Here's the recipe:
Step 1 - Put cold water in the cup and medium to coarse ground coffee in the sock. Use 2 scoops of coffee to every 12 ounces of water. You can do this in individual mugs. Just buy a commercial coffee sock (see above) or maybe a baby's sock will do the trick. 
Step 2 - This part is so controversial, I couldn't find any real cowboys to demonstrate.
You either put the sock in the cold water and bring the water to a boil. then you take the pot off the stove and let it sit a while. OR...
You boil the water. Let it come off the boil, then pour the water over the coffee in a sock which is in a second pot (or mug). You let it steep for five minutes or until it's as strong as you like it. (I Need Coffee.) 
Everyone agrees on Step 3 - Pour the coffee and enjoy with a friend.
 (Originally published 2015 Cowboy Kisses.)



UNDER A TEXAS STAR
Also available with Kindle Unlimited

HAZARDOUS UNIONS
Also available at other retailers


Sunday, December 11, 2016

History, Mystery and Romantic Suspense


Gift giving was easy in my family. Give a book.

I have never asked for a Western or Historical Romance for a gift. I've never had to. If there was a Western I wanted to read, I'd give it to my father for Christmas. My mother was the go-to person for historical romance. I'd never gift them to her, however. She would have bought the books she wanted as soon as they came out. I had an in-house library of paperback fiction with two "librarians" who would direct me to the kinds of books I would enjoy.

Under A Texas Star would never have been written but for my parents... and not just because I wouldn't have been born. The story was influenced by the books of Georgette Heyer (her historical romance) and Louis L'Amour (his westerns). (I never really got into Heyer's mysteries or L'Amour's contemporary adventures.)

Hazardous Unions was a collaboration. Kat Flannery and I created the sisters and their back story together, then took them off on their own adventures. In the writing process, it was also a collaboration between the novels I grew up loving and the history grew to love.

UNDER A TEXAS STAR "It's a love story and an adventure that anyone can enjoy."
Kindle http://getbook.at/UnderTexasStar

HAZARDOUS UNIONS: "Love never fails even in war time."
Kindle http://getbook.at/HazardousUnions
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/hazardous-unions
Google Play http://ow.ly/Zv14306H4Qb



Check out http://www.imajinbooks.com for all the sale books. 



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I Love a Mystery


Books have always been at the top of my Christmas list. I remember the year I put Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe and Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov on my list and got both... in hardcover. I also remember my boyfriend borrowing the books and never returning them. (I still want them back, Dan!)

When I didn't get any books for Christmas (or I finished them) I'd check out my aunt's paperback collection of mysteries. There was some overlap with the authors my mother collected, but not a lot. I discovered new authors. Unfortunately, they were only new to me and I couldn't always find their books in print. That made it difficult to put them on my next gift list.

I've always loved a good mystery, even if book's genre wasn't Mystery. Having been brought up on Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Nero Wolfe, I wanted all the authors I read to play fair in the tradition of a Whodunit, whether it was a detective novel or science fiction adventure. 

I also want to like at least one of the protagonists. After all, I don't want to spend a few hours to a few days hanging out with someone I can't stand, or at least understand. 

That pretty much sums up my writing aims: playing fair with the readers and having characters they'll want to spend time with... especially at Christmas.

DEADLY LEGACY "a fast-reading, fun whodunnit"
Kindle http://getbook.at/DeadlyLegacy

DEADLY SEASON "... a great mixture of humor, clever quips and mystery."
Kindle http://getbook.at/DeadlySeason
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/deadly-season
Google Play http://ow.ly/7iUI306H4RG


Check out http://www.imajinbooks.com for all the sale books. 


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Daft, Obtuse, and Hapless



Thank you Matt Groening, wherever you are. 

You created the perfect word for those moments when you realize you've done something totally daft, been ridiculously obtuse or generally hapless. (The acronym was my idea, by the way.)

He, or one of the other writers working on The Simpsons, also came up with one of my favourite word plays when Homer almost hits a deer.

Homer: D'oh!
Marge (screeching): A deer!
Maggie (pedantically): A female deer.

 I've had a few "D'oh" moments this week. The daftest was when I thought the house phone was broken.


My son Kit is painting the kitchen. His prep work was amazing since he cleaned everything, not just the walls. Of course, this has created a new (but temporary mess) in the dining room and pretty much made the kitchen useless for food prep.


Note, in the picture on the right, the coffee maker is set up. The microwave is also plugged in. What wasn't plugged in until a few minutes ago was the phone base, the part that connects all the portable phones to the phone line.

A close second for daftest and the winner of hapless is my inability to remember to post on my own blog site. Maybe it's because I have so many other schedules to keep. Or maybe I don't want to bore you with forced posts. (Yeah! That's the answer... or so I shall maintain from now on.) Nevertheless, it's pretty daft to forget to use your blog to promote a big sale of your ebooks.

D'OH! I still haven't.


UNDER A TEXAS STAR "It's a love story and an adventure that anyone can enjoy."
Kindle http://getbook.at/UnderTexasStar

HAZARDOUS UNIONS: "Love never fails even in war time."
Kindle http://getbook.at/HazardousUnions
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/hazardous-unions
Google Play http://ow.ly/Zv14306H4Qb

DEADLY LEGACY "a fast-reading, fun whodunnit"
Kindle http://getbook.at/DeadlyLegacy

DEADLY SEASON "... a great mixture of humor, clever quips and mystery."
Kindle http://getbook.at/DeadlySeason
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/deadly-season
Google Play http://ow.ly/7iUI306H4RG


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Deadly Season - Now in Paperback


Last month Kate Garrett was a Police Detective. Now she’s a Pet P.I.?

Kate and Jake are on the hunt for a serial cat killer who has mysterious connections to her father’s last police case. Kate’s father had been forced to retire when he was shot investigating a domestic disturbance. Is the shooter back for revenge? And is Kate or Jake next?



Excerpt:

“I’m missing Senior Idol,” said Mrs. Parnell, checking her watch for the umpteenth time. “Paulo isn’t going to be happy.”

I’d only been half listening to Mrs. Parnell’s running commentary on her neighbours. It was my second time out with the woman and most of the stories were reruns, but something didn’t jibe.

“Isn’t your husband’s name Graydon?

“Of course, dear. Paulo’s our neighbour. He watches Senior Idol with me—sometimes World’s Funniest Vids too.”

“Can’t he come over later? You can stream them whenever you want.”

She poked me in the arm. “Oh he doesn’t come over dear. He watches through the window. I think he has limited access at home, and I’m sure our wall screen has better resolution.”

When Mr. “Just call me Gray like my hair” Parnell took his turn on patrol, I asked him about Paulo.

“Can’t stand the little snot!” He stopped, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Sorry. I’m sure he has reasons for being the way he is. I’m sure it’s not his fault he’s creepy.”

“Creepy?”

“I shouldn’t have said anything. Stella feels sorry for him. I suppose I do too.” He started walking again. “That doesn’t mean I have to like him.”

“Of course not. What does he do that strikes you as creepy?”

Mr. Parnell looked heavenward, as if for guidance.

“You’ll think I’m crazy, but I think he has a thing for my wife.”

Only professional training kept me from smiling.

“She thinks he’s watching our vid. But I caught him watching her. I don’t think she’s the only one either.”

That was nothing to smile about.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

I'd rather be writing but...

I used to have more time to write before I was published.

It's true. Most this is because, once you're published, you have to promote your books. That means appearances at stores, libraries and, if you're very lucky, book clubs. It mean creating, or having created for you, bookmarks and other things you can hand out at these events. And it means maintaining a daily presence on social media.

[Note to writers trying to get published: develop your social media platform now.]

In order to effectively use social media you have to be... well... social. You can't just keep saying "buy my book". You have to engage. And that's another thing that can cut down on writing time.

I know it happens to other authors besides myself. Sometimes I think, I'd rather be engaging via social media than writing. To a person who spends hours alone in front of my computer (since most of my day jobs require it) getting virtually out and connecting with people is a nice change. Where else can an author directly interact with fans and fellow authors on a daily basis?

Social media can be addictive. Fortunately, for me at least, so is writing.

Find me on these social media venues:
www.facebook.com/alisonbruce.books
www.facebook.com/alison.e.bruce
twitter.com/alisonebruce
www.pinterest.com/alisonebruce
www.instagram.com/alisonbruce


Thursday, October 13, 2016

FREE BOOKS


"This is a complex and intelligent murder mystery with intriguing personal conflicts and a sparkle of wit. Guelph writer Alison Bruce has obviously done substantial research into policing and private investigations. Her style? Mix some Richard Castle with some Dashiell Hammett, add a dash of Max Headroom and garnish with murder. Serve iced with a Agatha Christie-worthy finale."
K-W Record

"Deadly Legacy is a masterful who-done-it mystery. The suspects are many. The characters are all well developed, and the dual protagonists are extremely engaging."
Lee Holtz

http://getbook.at/DeadlyLegacy


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Guest Donna Galanti with FREE BOOK


FREE THIS WEEK!

A HIDDEN ELEMENT, book 2 in the Element Trilogy
by Donna Galanti

EXCERPT:

Laura ran to the window. Cold gusts blew in like stinging daggers on her skin. She looked down at the short drop to the ground. Part of her wished Charlie had run away. Maybe he went to the forest to let loose his rage. With all her heart she wished he was in the forest finding comfort in the darkness.
Anxiety clawed up her throat.
“Charlie.” She called to the wind and the dark. Nothing but the forlorn wind returned her call, taunted her. She ran through every room calling his name. Sharp pains tore at her abdomen. She doubled over and gasped. Loss welled in her from the place where her deepest love resided. She wailed with grief as she searched the house for some sort of sign of where Charlie had gone.
Or who had taken him.
She accepted the truth she had wanted to banish. They were being hunted. And her son was the first taken. The man in her dreams was real. He had controlled Ben and tried to kill her using his strength. And he had taken her son. As he had taken her baby in her dream. Oh, my God! Her baby. He had come back for her baby.
“Charlie,” she screamed. Something caught her eye on the floor of his room. Something that didn’t belong in their home. She snatched it up. A leather whip. Its handle was braided with nine leather strips tied to it. Red tinged the ends of the strips. A torture device. She held it in her shaking hands and closed her eyes, not wanting to see the images it carried. But she had to. For her son. For Ben.


ABOUT A HIDDEN ELEMENT:
Evil lurks within…
When Caleb Madroc is used against his will as part of his father’s plan to breed a secret community and infiltrate society with their unique powers, he vows to save his oppressed people and the two children kept from him. Seven years later, Laura and Ben Fieldstone’s son is abducted, and they are forced to trust a madman’s son who puts his life on the line to save them all. The enemy’s desire to own them—or destroy them—leads to a survival showdown. Laura and Ben must risk everything to defeat a new nemesis that wants to rule the world with their son, and Caleb may be their only hope—if he survives. But must he sacrifice what he most desires to do so?

"Chilling and dark…a twisty journey into another world."
J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of When Shadows Fall

FREE On Amazon Kindle 10/9 – 10/13: http://myBook.to/AHiddenElement


ABOUT DONNA:
Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is an International Thriller Writers Debut Author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element and its sequel, A Hidden Element, the Element Trilogy story collection The Dark Inside, and the children’s fantasy Lightning Road series. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks and fireplaces but sadly no ghosts. 



Monday, October 10, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving


“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
- Maya Angelou


“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
- Alphonse Karr





HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Everything I Needed to Know About Grief I Learned from Harry Potter

Book cover

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Harry Potter came into my life at an interesting juncture. My mother had died of aggressive small cell lung cancer a year and a half before. My sister Joanne had just been released from hospital after almost dying. And I was coming to terms with the fact that my postpartum depression wasn’t going away any time soon.

In order to be allowed to come home, Joanne needed constant care. That meant I had to move in with my toddler son and preschooler daughter. My nieces also came home. They had been staying with their father while Joanne was in hospital. The living room transformed with the addition of a hospital bed, oxygen machine, commode, and lift chair. There were a lot of changes and huge helpings of stress. The Harry Potter books eased the tension.

"There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other." 
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

This was our “best of times and worst of times.” When my sister first came home, we weren’t sure whether she would get any better. In addition to twice daily visits from a nurse, she had Hospice Wellington volunteers helping out.

At the same time, my sister and I connected at a level deeper than I could imagine… and we were always close. She encouraged me to start writing again and, a bigger step, submitting my work for publication. My nieces became my other children, my daughter their little sister. My son forged an alliance with the dog… but that’s another story.

My niece Sophie had just discovered Harry Potter and Joanne wanted to find out what all the excitement was about. We worked our way through the series from The Philosopher’s Stone  to The Goblet of Fire. Then we had to take a break to read The Lord of the Rings while we waited for The Order of the Phoenix to be released.

We didn’t get through all of that while living with Joanne. She got well enough to take care of things on her own and we moved out of her bedroom. We didn’t go far, though. Me, the kids and my dad moved into the same townhouse complex. When things got bad, as they did, on and off, I could take care of my sister and still go home to my own bed.

"It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

There came a time when I was carting a Harry Potter tome (the books were getting weighty now) between hospitals. I’d been taking books to read to all my sister’s treatments and post-op visits. When my dad had a major stroke, I was going back and forth between two hospitals to read to both of them. 

In our family, it was a series for all ages.

You can probably see where this is going. My sister never got to read… or hear the end of the series. My father read or heard all but the last book. We stopped reading the books aloud. Sophie preferred reading and her sister Claire wasn’t as interested in the magic world. She had twinkling vampires on the brain.

It doesn’t matter. Harry Potter was there for us. The books carried the kind of messages we needed to hear at the time, messages that still resonate.

"We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on."
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


(Re-posted - more or less - from Pop Culture Divas.)


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Judy Penz Sheluk: Skeletons in the Attic

Please welcome guest blogger Judy Penz Sheluk with her new book, Skeletons in the Attic.

Judging a book by its cover

In an ideal world, we would never judge anyone by their appearance, and yet most of us do. The impression may change if we get to know the person (and in fact, often does), but if we don’t get to know the person, that first impression, good or bad, will stay with us.

The same is true of book covers. See a book cover with at white picket fence and a cat, and it’s a fair bet that it’s a cozy. Now if you enjoy cozy mysteries, you’ll probably read the back cover blurb. If that grabs you, you’ll probably by the book.

As you can imagine, a lot of thought goes into designing a book cover, from the background color to the font and imagery used, and that process is left up to graphic artists, albeit with input from the author.

When it came to the cover design for Skeletons in the Attic, here’s how it went:
Publisher: What kinds of images do you imagine on your book cover? What elements from your novel would be important to represent?
Me: I think a skeleton would be too obvious, and the Skeletons in the Attic also refers to all the things Callie finds in the attic that lead her to learn more about her mother’s life. One major find was a locket from a man named Reid. I’ll send a jpeg of the locket that inspired the one described in the book. Callie also found six tarot cards: III: The Empress; IV: The Emperor; VI: The Lovers; The Three of Swords; XIII: Death, which are important to the story. The neighborhood itself might also provide inspiration; a typical 1970s subdivision in a suburb, where all the streets are named after wildflowers. Callie’s house is at 16 Snapdragon Circle.
The locket.
Armed with that information, artist Ryan Thomas Doan designed my cover. Notice how he’s used the attic as the backdrop (can’t you just imagine the secrets buried in there?), but he’s also included the tarot cards, and the locket.

Making the title pop is every bit as important as the rest of the artwork. You want folks to be able to read it from a distance, and there’s lots of experimenting with the size and color before making a final decision.

Next up: the cover endorsements by other authors. I was so fortunate to have several authors read my ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) and provide reviews. Selecting what goes where (front cover, back cover, inside the book) is debated between author and publisher.

Last but not least is the back of the book blurb. In the case of Skeletons in the Attic, there were nine revisions before we were satisfied. And here it is:

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there… 
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder. 
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?


Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic: http://www.imajinbooks.com/skeletons-in-the-attic

Find Judy on Facebook (www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk), Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk), Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/judypenzsheluk) and Amazon (amazon.com/author/judypenzsheluk).

Monday, August 15, 2016

An Author Confesses



One of the problems with being a published author is that people start asking you how you managed it. There are certain general expectations, like taking writing and/or literature courses, and some specific ones, like having a past career related to what you write. (Being a former teacher or journalist is acceptable across all genres.)

Well, here's the truth about me...

I hated English class. The only good thing about high school English studying the requisite Shakespearean play. The only English course I took that that didn’t involve Shakespeare, was Science Fiction. The only reason I took it was because it had a writing component.That was the only writing course I ever took.

I’m not dissing writing courses. Had I the time and the money, I probably would have taken them. Unfortunately, student debts put the kibosh on that. When I had time, I had no money. When I had money, I had no time.  And then there were those periods when I had neither time nor money.

Everything I learned about writing I learned by reading, listening and doing.

Long before the blog, authors were using their introductions and author’s after words to share their process. Some even wrote books on the topic. Even if they didn’t, everything you need to know about authors can be divined by reading their books. 

Although I had road blocks to taking formal courses, I took every opportunity I could to listen to authors I respected talking about their craft. This might be at a conference or author appearance or while sitting around drinking coffee with friends (who happen to be authors and one even teaches writing). I only hope listening to me has been as beneficial to them.

Actually writing stuff is key, of course. Almost anything will do for a start. I started writing fan fiction before I knew what it was. In my early teens, I'd write myself into adventures with the crew of the USS Enterprise. My sister would read these stories aloud, exactly as written, which really brings home your mistakes.

At university I'd write mash-ups, bringing two or more fictional worlds together. The most elaborate was the epic tale I co-wrote with my roomie that brought together all our favourite TV action heroes with our own creations and, of course, the crew of the Enterprise. I still have most of those stories, all handwritten, many with class notes written in the margins. Some of the storytelling was good and most was entertaining. A lot was embarrassing. But all of it was good practice.

Ever since I realized that I wasn't going to be an overnight success as a novelist (after the first few publisher rejections for my first original stories) I knew I'd have to get a day job. I planned to become a teacher, but I picked the worst time to graduate for that. Instead, I learned layout and copy writing as part of various jobs I took during and just after university. I taught myself web design back when it was brand new and learned graphic design by necessity. When I was between jobs, I started to work freelance. Not an illustrious career, but a useful one.

Meanwhile, I kept reading, listening and above all, writing.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hero Types

 "Everyone's a hero in their own way."
Joss Whedon, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog


I was doing a bit of research on cyber crimes when I came across this link to this article about heroes: 7 Types of Heroes by J.S. Morin.  Naturally I followed it.

The article didn't exactly contain groundbreaking information, but it did illustrate the different types of heroes and the types of stories they work best in. I only had one problem really: almost no women were used as examples.

The one woman named (as far as I know since some of the names I didn't recognize) was a good one, mind you. I'll forgive a lot from a person who uses Granny Weatherwax, the senior witch of Discworld, as an example. Even so I was driven by this shortage of women (and my own need to procrastinate) to balance the examples.

Hero Type Morin's Example My Supplement
The Paragon Superman Wonder Woman
The Misfit Harry Potter Hermione Granger
The Grizzled Old-timer Gandalf, Dumbledore, Granny Weatherwax General Leia Organa
The Every-man Arthur Dent (great choice) Lt Uhura
The Anti-hero Han Solo Catwoman
The Prodigy Anakin or Luke Skywalker Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Un-hero Rincewind (Discworld) Dorothy (Wizard of Oz)

 “Nobody is a villain in their own story. We're all the heroes of our own stories.”
George R. R. Martin
 As a mental exercise, I tried to fit the heroes of Game of Thrones into the table. It doesn't work well because George R.R. Martin deliberately made it so. I lean that way too when I'm writing... though you won't find Pru Hartley or Kate Garrett turning themselves into assassins or killing family members in the bathroom.

Then I got to thinking about the examples that Morin and I came up with and realized there's a lot of grey area there too.

Superman and Wonder Woman are paragons, but they are also misfits. Harry and Hermione are misfits, but because they grew up in Muggle society, they are also our every-man when it comes to the magical world. The line between anti-hero and paragon can be one decision, or a matter of good or bad public relations. Prodigies and anti-heroes turn into wise old-timer (if they don't become villains and they survive that long).

“Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate — and quickly.”
Robert A. Heinlein

George R.R. Martin, Robert A. Heinlein and Joss (no middle initial) Whedon all have said, in one way or another, that everyone is a hero in their own story... or at least not a villain. I think we're all a bit of both, but mostly we're just people doing what what we think is best at the time.
“We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.”
Brad Meltzer


Thursday, July 14, 2016

What are you reading this summer?

I melt in the heat and neither my laptop nor I function well when it's humid. I don't have air conditioning. I can't afford to spend every day in a coffee shop. So, I'm a fan of fans. And, in the hottest parts of the day, I'm a fan of sitting in front of a fan with an ice tea and good book. This makes summer an ideal time an ideal time to catch up with books I've been meaning to read.

I just finished Plague by C.C. Humphreys, in preparation for reading Fire, the second in the series, which was a gift. This is a Historical Mystery/Suspense in the vein of Paul Doherty (an author I need to catch up with). Like Doherty, Humphreys gives the reader an eye level view of history.

In his author's note at the end, he mentions growing up in London and how the scars from the plague still haunt the metropolis. My mother was a Londoner before she emigrated to Canada. She returned with our family when I was ten. She took us to the usual tourist spots: the Tower, the British Museum,  Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus... But the first thing she showed us was were the plague pits. Not all of them, of course (we were only in London for a couple of days) just the ones she walked over everyday when she worked in the City. I don't remember everything about that trip, but I remember that. It gave me chills then and now.

For something completely different, my summer reading so far also includes DC: The New Frontier.

In fact, it isn't as different as it seems. Like Plague, it's all about the history. In this case, the era is post WWII United States.

"In the 1950s, Cold War paranoia has resulted in the mystery men of the Golden Age being outlaws." Or, what the period between the Golden Age of comics and the Silver Age would have been if written from the perspective of hindsight and no fear of being persecuted for criticizing the politics of the time.

History, politics, superheroes... It's like it was made to order for me. After graduating with an honours degree in History and Philosophy, I managed a comic book store for five years. I have a Wonder Woman poster signed by George Perez and the Perez Wonder Woman comics in pristine condition in my basement (along with 2000+ other books).

So, what are you reading this summer?




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer Sizzles - Debra Purdy Kong

School's out for summer. Time to stock up on summer reading material. Imajin Books is celebrating with the Summer Sizzles eBook Sale. I'm celebrating by featuring some of my fellow "Imajineers" during the sale.

Debra Purdy Kong

DEAD MAN FLOATING

One wrong decision…
Security guard Evan Dunstan didn’t expect to find a body floating in a campus stream. An empty vodka bottle nearby suggests that the highly despised George Krenn, head of the plumbing department, had drunkenly fallen in. Refusing to let the death of a vile man ruin his romantic plans, Evan decides to leave the body for the next shift to find.

One friend in trouble…
When it’s discovered that Krenn was murdered, Evan has a lot of explaining to do. So does his friend Sully, Krenn’s least favourite student. Evan uses his hacking skills and campus knowledge to keep them both out of jail, but the investigation forces him to question Sully’s innocence.

One mystery to solve…
Uncovering the truth proves to be more than challenging. It may cost Evan his job, his friendship, and his woman. Will Evan find the killer, or will the killer find him first?
Meet Evan Dunstan

Not the greatest great crime-solver, but at least he tries.
“Everything okay?” the football player asked Evan

“I’ll know in a second.”

“They found a teacher in this stream the other day.”

Evan kept his gaze on the water. “I heard.”

As the object floated nearer, the player said, “What the hell is that?”

Something round and light protruded from the bag.

“Not again!” Nausea roiled in Evan’s stomach.

While more of the players came forward, Evan couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. An inflated pink balloon was attached to the top of the bag. Round eyes, bushy eyebrows, and a gaping mouth had been drawn on the balloon with a thick black marker. Inflated latex gloves protruded from each side of the bulky bag. Police tape was wound around the bag with a sign that said, HELP! I CAN’T SWIM!

“For shit’s sake,” Evan muttered, his face growing warm.

The team burst out laughing.


Sale prices are in US funds

Go to Sale Page