Staying in with Debra Purdy Kong

I’m delighted to be featured at Linda’s Book Bag today! She has a wonderful “Staying in With Linda” segment that I enjoy reading every week.

Linda's Book Bag

Knock Knock, front cover

What with one thing and two others it’s been a bit manic here on the blog of late so it gives me great pleasure to put my feet up and stay in with Debra Purdy Kong today whilst she tells me all about one of her books.

Staying in with Debra Purdy Kong

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Debra. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s a pleasure, and thank you for the invitation.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Knock Knock, front cover

I’ve brought my latest mystery novel,Knock Knock which was published in November 2017 and is #5 in the Casey Holland series. It’s been a long and interesting journey to write about the same protagonist all these years and I’m pleased, not to mention a little relieved, to have finally finished this book!

(I’m…

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Researching the Ten Pound Poms

Sydney_Opera_House_Sails_edit02[1]Last week, I blogged about listening to a radio show on coded knitting that inadvertently sparked ideas for a new novel. This week, novel research is being approached from the opposite direction. The work is written, but now I need to flesh out the details.

One section of the contemporary fantasy I’m writing takes place in York, England in the 1950s. My protagonist, a widow with two young children, needs to flee the country to escape her wealthy, predatory father-in-law who’s scheming to take her children away.

Originally, I thought she’d go to South Africa, but after reading a few pages aloud to my critique group, two key questions came up. Why South Africa and how could she afford it? Good questions indeed. I began some research and soon came across an article about the “Ten Pound Poms” as the Australians once called British citizens who migrated to Australia and New Zealand after WWII.

You see, after the war, the Australian government decided it needed British workers (partly due to the Australian government’s racist whites-only policy back then) to build its economy, so they offered passage for only ten pounds, including free passage for kids. Tired of food rationing and probably the weather, among other things, nearly 400,000 Britons applied in the first year alone. The catch to the offer was that the Britons would have to stay for two years before they were allowed to return. Otherwise, they’d have to pay back the full fare.

Many built new lives there, but a minority loafed around not doing much of anything until they could return home, according to the article HERE. Also, those without money were shuffled into former army barracks when they arrived, so needless to say, conditions were less than ideal.

It’s a fascinating story to me, most of which I’ll never use in the book because my protagonist actually winds up in Canada, due to a dramatic change in circumstances. Still, like last week’s knitting story, this is a bit of real history that I knew nothing about until I began the research, and for that I thank my critique group!

The Secret World of Knitters

knitting_250x251[1]When I was a girl, my grandmother taught me to knit. I kept it up for a few years, but then stopped. I’m not sure why, but it was probably because school and the many ballet classes and practices that demanded my time. Perhaps I haven’t lost interest completely, though, as my most recent Evan Dunstan mystery novella has a ball of yarn on the cover and a couple of key characters are knitters.

What really sparked my interest again was part of a radio discussion I heard while driving home from work last week. It was about women who had used knitting to implant coded messages during WWII. In fact, apparently Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities has a French character who knitted the names of people who were being beheaded into her work.

After I got home, I googled coded knitting and found interesting articles on the topic. In a book called Writing Secret Codes and Hidden Messages it’s stated that after Morse code was invented it was soon realized that yarn or well would work quite well as a way to send messages.

I learned that an ordinary loop knot can make the equivalent of a dot, a knit stitch looks like a ‘v’ and a purl stitch could look like a horizontal line or a little bump. Even a dropped stitch had meaning, so you can see how messages could have been embedded in a scarf, for example.

A great example in the article HERE tells the story of a female secret agent who parachuted into Normandy in 1944 and began speaking with the Germans, pretending to help them. The information they inadvertently gave her was then embedded in her knitting and passed onto the British.

The other article (HERE) indicates that the Office of Censorship (in Britain) banned people from sending knitting patterns through the mail in case they contained encoded messages. Did you know that older Belgium women whose windows overlooked the railyard were recruited to note the trains coming and going, and embed that information into their knitting?

All this got me to thinking about the whole concept of coding, from early times to what we think of as coding today (something my son learned in computing science courses). Maybe there’s a mystery novel to write that incorporates different types of coding. The idea’s percolating in the back of my brain. If it has merit, it’ll surface, and a new novel will begin. Meanwhile, perhaps I should take up knitting again. Their world sounds pretty awesome.

A Story State of Affairs

nobel-prize-logo-300x225[1]I’ve never paid much attention to major writing awards. I know they’re important to many writers and other hardworking people in the writing community, but they’ve just never meant that much to me. After reading a headline in CBC News stating that the Nobel prize for literature won’t be award this year due to scandal, perhaps I should be paying more attention.

What the heck is going on? If this was April 1st, I’d take it as a joke. Sadly, it’s no joke. In fact, serious allegations of sexual abuse and financial conflicts of interest, have been exposed.

My first thought was how could this happen? My second thought was why am I being so naïve? Over recent years, a number of institutions have had their seamier sides exposed. Misbehaving members of these institutions are finally learning that they can no longer get away with manipulative, predatory behavior.

The Swedish Academy has been a fairly secretive institution since it began in 1901, and for me, its credibility is deeply tarnished. Members claim they’ll work to clean house and regain their reputation, but will they be successful? Entrenched values, behaviors, and regulations are not always easy to break.

Perhaps the entire Swedish Academy should be sweeping out dusty old traditions and practices to rid themselves of the cockroaches hiding inside their privileged, cloistered world. The windows are opening up and people are peering in. It’s about time. You can find the highly interesting CBC article HERE.

Write On, Vancouver 2018

On Saturday May 12, from 10:00 to 5:00, the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library (on Georgia Street) will host a day of day-long celebration of local writers and publishers.

I haven’t attended one before, but I’m happy to be volunteering at Crime Writers of Canada’s table this year from 2 to 4 pm.

The Write On website lists a number of different workshops and panel discussions that sound terrific. Check out the website HERE, and if you have a chance, take part at this free event, and come by and say hi!

VPL-Biblioevents-Special-Events-Default_760x230

 

Book Reviews Given & Book Reviews Sought

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon.com prevented me from posting a book review because I hadn’t purchased $50.00 worth of products (I’m not sure if this just means books or other things) from them. Fair enough. It’s their rules and I have no issue with that. Amazon’s been battling with fake reviews, paid reviews, and writers’ trading positive reviews for years, so I guess they’re clamping down and attempting to improve credibility.

By the way, see Anne Allen’s insightful blog about a host of other Amazon measures to clamp down on other types of cheating. Unfortunately, innocent authors are getting caught in the net, and Anne explains it clearly HERE:

Usually, I buy ebooks because they are cheaper and delivered instantly. As a Canadian, I would pay 30% more for a paperback from amazon.com. But what frustrates me and many other Canadian authors is that because I have a Canadian account, I’m not allowed to buy ebooks on amazon.com either. In other words, their restrictions (we’re not allowed to even gift books on amazon.ca) won’t let me abide by their reviewing rules. Needless to say, I’ll be sticking with amazon.ca and Goodreads, and might even start posting reviews here on my blog.

As an author, I might have an even harder time getting reviews on .com from Canadian reviewers, but I’ll keep trying! In fact, I am indeed looking for reviewers from any country for my 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, published in Nov. 2017. If anyone’s interested, please let me know at debra_kong@telus.net. Here’s a short blurb:

cropped-knock-knock-front-coverA series of violent home invasions is terrorizing Vancouver seniors. When the latest invasion kills Elsie Englehart, security officer Casey Holland is devastated. Determined to protect other seniors on her watch, Casey escorts an elderly man home only to find herself ambushed by a knife-wielding assailant. Healing from serious injuries, Casey struggles to regain control of her life. She needs to get back on the job and finish preparations for her upcoming wedding before everything falls apart and more people die.

The back cover blurb is posted on the home page of my website at www.debrapurdykong.com

I can send an epub. PDF, or mobi version. Thanks!

Arthur Ellis Shortlist Nominees Announced

arthur-200Last night, the Vancouver branch of Crime Writers of Canada enjoyed a terrific evening of discussion, nominee unveiling, book buying, and cake to celebrate Crime Writes of Canada’s 35th birthday this year.

Turnout was great at the VPL’s central library, and it was lovely to catch up with writing colleagues and my favorite mystery booksellers, Dead Write Books. Owners Jill and Walter have been one of the few constants in my writing career, and Vancouver is lucky to such knowledgeable independent booksellers. By the way, they also own White Dwarf Books, for all you fantasy and science fiction fans. Check out their website HERE.

I think this was the fourth or fifth AE Shortlist panel I’d been on over the last decade or so. If there was an award for the panelist who’s been at this writing/publishing game the longest, I’m pretty sure I would have taken one! It was great fun to sit beside two panelists who’ve just had their very first titles published. I remember those days, and wish them great success!

Please take a look at Crime Writers of Canada’s website for a complete list of this year’s nominees. The photo, by the way, is a picture of the Arthur Ellis hangman statue that winners will receive. Some categories also have cash prizes, so if you’re a Canadian crime writer with a book coming out in 2018, you might want to think about entering this fall. You don’t need to be a CWC member to enter. Winners will be announced on May 24th at gala in Toronto. For more info check out this link.