Socializing Through a Pandemic

Summer’s here and many fun events are returning to British Columbia. I’ve just finished facilitating an 11-week long spring session of the creative writing program offered in our city. The group was small, but I’d still been a little worried about exposure to Covid. Hospitalization rate were still fairly high in April but have been going down since then. Happily, the rec center gave us a large room in a quiet part of the building, so we felt safe. One of my students came down with Covid and was away for one week, but no one else was impacted.

As I write this, my daughter’s place of employment currently has about ten percent of their staff sick with Covid, after having been encouraged to return to work. As you can imagine, those who work in a common area are the ones who are sick. Those who have their own offices are so far staying healthy. Still, ten percent is a lot.

The cautionary tales I’ve been hearing from medical experts tells me that it’s probably still a good idea to wear my mask in public indoor places. Like many of you, I’m also eager to get back to socializing, especially when it comes to writing events. I turned down two invitations to indoor book launches this spring. I had no idea how many people would attend, how large the venue was, or whether the room was well ventilated. Generally, I don’t feel particularly anxious about most things, when you’re babysitting a two-year-old most weekdays it seems wise to be cautious.

Having said that, I’m attending two outdoor events this week. One is a BBQ with my old employer at Simon Fraser University. Since 97% of the university’s population is vaccinated, I figure it should be okay, although I’ll keep my hand sanitizer close by.

I’m also a vendor at an outdoor mini-craft fair at the TownShip7 Winery this Sunday. This is one of my favourite venues, as the event has musical entertainment and the artisans will be spread apart. Wine tasting, bookselling, and music in a vineyard is a wonderful way to spend the day. The event is also fundraising for the Osteoporosis Society. I know that some of you live in the Lower Mainland, so if you have some time and enjoy wine tasting, this is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy what will be a bright, sunny day.

I’ll be participating in another Art on the Vine event in late August and also selling books at a local Farmer’s Market on Thursday July 14th. So, yes, I’m socializing more, but honestly, I’ll be taking precautions.

For those of you who are looking for more free crime fiction reads, I’m taking part in another BookFunnel offering until the end of June. This is the Women Solve Crime Mystery Giveaway and a good number of the 30+ offerings are cozies, which make great beach reads. The link HERE.

How about you? Are you over Covid anxiety and attending events this summer, or are you still a little anxious?

My 5-Star Reads So Far This Year

I’ve been catching up on reading these past few weeks. So far, I’ve read 20 books this year, which is five books behind my normal schedule. But whenever I’m staying over at my daughter’s for babysitting duties, the evenings are spent catching up on blogs, newsletters, and books.

The eclectic mix of genres have been truly enjoyable reads. Two of the crime fiction authors, J.T. Siemens and Winona Kent, were guest bloggers earlier this spring, but I want to mention them again as they’re excellent writers who deserve more attention.

To Those Who Killed Me by J.T. Siemens, is a gritty, noir mystery that reveals the darker side of Vancouver. J.T.’s Instagram account shows interesting black-and-white photos of some of the actual venues mentioned in his book. The photos beautifully capture the book’s noir feel.

Ticket to Ride by Winona Kent is a delightful amateur sleuth-based mystery set in England, featuring musician and new private detective Jason Davey. I love Winona’s descriptions and the way she incorporates family dynamics into her stories. There’s a lot of heart in her books as well as terrific storytelling.

Silver Bells by C.J. Hunt, is a heartwarming Christmas romance. It’s also a novella that you can read quickly. The romantic scenes are nicely written and the book’s contemporary concepts about a single dad trying to run his business and a woman who’s sold her startup company and is rethinking career options are relatable topics.

Given all the cold, rainy weather in my area last month, it seemed only natural to read another Christmas novella. Crimson Frost by J.P. McLean is a suspenseful supernatural story. Given that the protagonist is only 19, it likely falls into the YA category, but this is a riveting story for all ages at any time of year. Grief, turbulence, and the supernatural elements added to the enjoyment for me.

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang is an amazing historical fiction novel set in China in 1937. The Japanese have invaded the country and the university students are forced to flee by undertaking a 1,000 mile trek to safety in the country’s interior. What struck me was the exceptional writing and the way Janie incorporates mythical fantasy with reality. The story is based on her father’s real-life experience. Absolutely riveting.

Last but not least, is the romantic suspense story Lure by W.L. Hawkin. To me, this book raises the bar by incorporating exquisite writing with real-life tragedy centered around missing  Indigenous women, a topic that has a troubling, longstanding history here in British Columbia. Wendy adds layers to the story by adding a mystery whodunit and a haunting, spiritual component. It’s one of those stories that’s stayed with me.

That’s it so far. I’ve read a number of nonfiction titles related to writing but I hope to explore many other topics this year.

Introducing Guest Author, J.T. Siemens

This week, I’m delighted to introduce you Vancouver mystery author, J.T. Siemens, who’s just released his first thriller, To Those Who Killed Me. How’s that for a great title? Jeremy kindly sent me a copy of his book, which I read and absolutely loved. This is a gritty, hard-boiled novel that depicts the darker side of Vancouver in a realistic, heartbreaking way. Check out the book blurb:

Disgraced ex-cop Sloane Donovan has relied on her job as a personal trainer to keep her mental illness and PTSD in check—until she finds a close friend dead, apparently by her own hand. Obsessive demons triggered, and doubtful of the official narrative, she teams up with Wayne Capson, a law-bending P.I., to find out who really killed her friend. The search leads Sloane from Vancouver’s wealthiest enclaves to the street’s darkest corners, questioning and tracking millionaires, predators, sex workers, and even former law enforcement colleagues—as she uncovers a shadowy web of deceit. J.T. Siemens’s To Those Who Killed Me is a debut that provides a heavy dose of hardboiled suspense and introduces a fiery new heroine in crime fiction.

In many of the mysteries I’ve read over recent years, the majority of male authors choose to write about male protagonists, but Jeremy hasn’t. So, the question is:

Why did you choose a female protagonist?

Answer: The character of Sloane Donovan came out of a short story I wrote a while back, in which a woman discovers her friend’s body hanging in the woods. It was well received, and I was fascinated with the character enough to want to explore her further in the form of a crime novel. In the fitness industry where I worked at the time, some of my colleagues were kickass, athletically dynamic women, who could probably clean the clocks of most men. Aspects of Sloane’s physicality come from some of those women. Sloane also has bipolar disorder, and has an on-again/off-again relationship with her meds, which makes her unpredictable, as well as someone who frequently steps outside of conventional means to achieve her ends. I was also fascinated to explore how someone’s mental illness, while initially perceived as a liability, might actually be an asset when it comes to getting the job done. As a result, Sloane uses methods in To Those Who Killed Me that a man simply could not get away with. Those elements make for a fun character to write, and hopefully an exciting one to read.

Jeremy’s bio:

Photo by Tamea Burd Photography

J.T. Siemens moved to Vancouver to become a personal trainer, but feels fortunate to have discovered his true love: writing crime fiction. After studying screenwriting at Capilano University, he followed it up with creative writing at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. To Those Who Killed Me, his first book in the Sloane Donovan series, was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Unhanged Award, and will be published by NeWest Press in spring of 2022. His short fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly, Down in the Dirt, and CC&D.

For more information about Jeremy, check out his website at jtsiemens.ca

To order the book, please check out any of the following links:

From publisher, NeWest Press: https://bookshop.newestpress.com/products/to-those-who-killed-me

Cdn. Amazon

U.S. Amazon

UK Amazon

October Sale for Crime Fiction Fans!

I’m delighted to be taking part in a sales promotion event this month, featuring suspense and thriller novels.

5th in series

Two ebooks in my Casey Holland mystery series, Knock Knock (#5) and The Blade Man (#6), are on sale for $.99 each. You can find the link to the promo event HERE:

For those of you who enjoy crime fiction with an edge, this is a great opportunity to stock up on your fall and winter reading.

6th in series

Prices vary among the 60+ plus titles available, and I’m finding plenty of intriguing reads to choose from.

If you have any problem with the link, please let me know. Thanks for your support. We all appreciate it!

New Giveaways and Crime-Writing Award Winners

This month, I’m taking part in another giveaway of mystery and suspense ebooks. For anyone looking to load up on summer reads, this is an opportunity to sample the work of authors you might be unfamiliar with. Please check it out HERE:

Speaking of crime fiction, on May 27th Crime Writers of Canada announced winners of the Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing awards (formerly known as the Arthur Ellis Awards). I’ve been part of this organization for over twenty years and it’s a great one for crime writers. Their link is HERE:

Now for the winners!

Best Crime Novel: The Finder, by Will Ferguson (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Best Crime First Novel: The Transaction, by Guglielmo D’Izza (Guernica Editions)

The Howard Engel Award for Best Crime Novel Set in Canada: Stay Where I Can See You, by Katrina Onstad (HarperCollins)

Best Crime Novella: Never Going Back, by Sam Wiebe (Orca)

Best Crime Short Story: “Cold Wave,” by Marcelle Dubé (from Crime Wave: A Canada West Anthology, edited by Karen L. Abrahamson; Sisters in Crime- Canada West Chapter)

Best French Crime Book (fiction and non-fiction): La mariée de corail, by Roxanne Bouchard (Libre Expression)

Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book (fiction and non-fiction): Red Fox Road, by Frances Greenslade (Puffin Canada)

The Brass Knuckles Award for Best Non-fiction Crime Book:Missing from the Village: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community, by Justin Ling (McClelland & Stewart)

The Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript: The Future, by Raymond Bazowski

Congratulations to all the winners!!

More Free Writing Workshops and an Editing Booster

Last week’s newsletter promotion has resulted in 155 downloads of my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, so far, which is great. The downside is that there aren’t nearly as many new subscribers. In other words, people check the subscribe box, download the book, then immediately unsubscribe. But free things rule this year, right? If you had a chance to check out free mystery and suspense novels, you can find the link HERE. Clearly, you don’t have to stay subscribed!

Now for another freebie. ProWritingAid is offering four days of workshops on crime fiction from April 19-23. Presenters include Karin Slaughter, Ian Rankin, and Lisa Gardner among authors. If you’re interested in attending, check out the link HERE. You’ll see a registration button on the page.

The beauty about registering is that if the timing doesn’t work for you, you can view them later for up to a seven-day period. I learned a lot from the fantasy workshops I took in February. Although I’ve been writing mysteries a while, there’s always something to learn.

During the fantasy week workshops, ProWritingAid organizers offered a significant discount on their editing program. I signed up for a year because I was hoping to find a way to speed up my editing process. I’ve been trying it on my mystery novella and so far find I’m finding it quite helpful. It’s designed to assist with copyediting needs and does everything from pointing out overused and repetitive words, to grammar glitches, punctuation errors, passive sentences, overlong sentences, and so forth. The program also gives me a summary report that lets me know how strong some areas of my writing are and where I could use some tweaking. The link to the editing program is HERE, but if you hunt around, maybe you can try it for free.

They also offer a ProWritingAid university program, which I haven’t signed up for, but I won’t rule it out in the future.

Welcome Guest Author, Winona Kent

I’m delighted to host Canadian crime-writing friend and colleague Winona Kent today. She’s just released a new mystery that music fans will especially love, called Lost Time, which you can learn more about on her website at  http://www.winonakent.com/losttime.html

Also, the first two chapters are available at http://www.winonakent.com/losttime-chapters.html

Winona’s prepared a fascinating piece for this blog about an intriguing connection between her life and that of her fictional character, Jason Davey. Now, in Winona’s words:

I’m terrified of lightning – and so is Jason Davey, the main character in my new mystery Lost Time.

Jason has good reason to be afraid – his father was killed on a golf course by a rogue lightning strike. There are a couple of thunderstorms in Lost Time and I have no trouble at all describing Jason’s terror when they happen – one jolts him out of his sleep, and the other strikes when he’s sheltering in the back of a police car. Here’s a spoiler: the police car gets a direct hit.

My fear of lightning comes from growing up in Saskatchewan, which has some of the most spectacular thunderstorms in the world. Our back yard was home to the biggest tree in the neighbourhood, an 80-foot-high balsam poplar. When the storms blew over (usually in the middle of the night) I’d bury myself under the sheets and blankets and, nearly-suffocating, I’d count the seconds between the immense flashes of white light and the inevitable crashes of thunder. My biggest fear was that our tree would be struck and that the electricity would travel through its massive root system and come up into our house and kill me. Or the charge would jump from the tree to my bedroom window and explode through the glass and kill me. Or the lightning would splinter the tree and it would crash down on our roof and onto my bed and kill me.

I have actually been in a building that got a direct hit and I noted two interesting things. One, there was absolutely no thunder. Just an immense flash. People across the street heard the deafening boom. But not us. And two, at the moment the lightning struck, I was sitting at my computer and the computer blinked off and I felt like I’d been punched hard in the chest.

Jason experiences much the same phenomena in Lost Time. And the result has an incredibly profound effect on him.

In all the years I lived in Saskatchewan, our tree was never hit. It was a majestic specimen – a bit messy, with its sticky buds and its red hanging catkin flowers – but we loved it. It survived the storms and lived on after my dad died and my mum moved away to Vancouver to be with us. Its end came when the new owners of our house decided the back yard would look better without a big messy tree blocking their view of the sky. But then again…who knows…perhaps they, too, were terrified of lightning strikes in the middle of the night…

Winona Kent

Amazon Links: (this is Canadian but the ebook and paperback is available on all Amazon sites)

Winona’s website: http://www.winonakent.com
Social media:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/winonakentauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/winonakent
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/winonakent

The Post-Publication Hangover

Publishing a full-length book is a momentous project that often takes years to complete. So when publication date finally arrives, it’s certainly cause for celebration, not to mention some relief. For me, acknowledging release day might involve a dinner out, a book launch, a library reading, or perhaps just a special glass of wine at the end of the day.

The Blade Man, front coverAfter a book’s release, I always feel somewhat discombobulated (I love that word). I have trouble sleeping, feel a bit anxious, lethargic, and can’t fully concentrate on anything for long. I start second-guessing myself as to whether the book should have been published. It’s the kind of niggling that I suspect most creative people suffer.

This has been happening a lot these past two weeks, so I’m not jumping into marketing and promotion tasks with great gusto at the moment. There’s a long list of things that need to be done…approaching libraries, bloggers, and reviewers, for starters. I haven’t had the incentive to do any of those things, which tells me two things. One is that it’s time let my mind and body relax. The other is that old post-publication habits might not work anymore.

1431975253_60f22e0295_n[1]So, I’m now engaging in a little TLC. I read an article a couple days back about self care (you can find it HERE) and there were good tips on inexpensive ways to look after ourselves, and don’t we all need more of that in what’s proving to be a rather stressful 2020?

Until recently, I drank four cups of coffee every morning, which pretty much took all morning. After lunch, it was caffeinated tea right until supper time. It’s no surprise that I recently began to feel like I was carrying a large, hot rock in my gut. I’ve now cut back significantly on caffeine and it’s helped a lot.

I’m also managing to keep to a regular gym routine this month, combining resistance and cardio workouts with core strengthening. Some of the other tips mentioned in the article include meditation, reducing social media time, eating more vegetables, and so forth. I’ve been doing most of the above except meditation, but I keep forgetting about the importance of deep breathing.

The author also offers another great tip called checking in with yourself. For me this means putting writing, publishing, and promotion into perspective. Although writing is hugely important in my life, this type of work doesn’t deal with actual life and death matters. I’m not a surgeon, or a search-and-rescue patrol person, or a soldier, or a cop. I’m an author who isn’t perfect, but who keeps striving to do a little better with every single sentence. And I’m trying real hard not to be a perfectionist but, oh boy, it’s a battle.

The Blade Man is available at:

Amazon: mybook.to/TheBladeMan

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-blade-man

Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1495092401

UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LDre1

Cover Reveal for The Blade Man

Today’s the day! I’m delighted to reveal the cover for Casey Holland Mystery #6,The Blade Man. Once again the designers at Deranged Doctor Design have done a terrific job.

The Blade Man, front cover

Some of you know that this series features the personal and professional life of transit security officer, Casey Holland, so every cover has some sort of transit theme. This cover captures the noir feel of this story.

The book will be launched on Wednesday February 12th, and goes to the printer this week. I’m still in the midst of preparing the ebook version but it will be done before this month is over for pre-orders. Meanwhile, here’s the back cover blurb:

Who is the Blade Man and why has this mysterious loner been attacking Mainland Public Transport bus drivers? And who is trying to burn MPT down? The company’s president suspects an inside job and orders security officer Casey Holland to launch an internal investigation or face termination.

Convinced that she’s being set up to fail, Casey feels the pressure. With her and Lou’s wedding only weeks away, Casey desperately needs answers, but anger at work and on the streets thwart her efforts. Nor do the police welcome her help.

More employees are attacked, and the president forces Casey to take deeper risks. But how much is too much? How far must she go before facing off with him and MPT’s enemies? Find out in this explosive sixth installment of Casey Holland transit mysteries.

Stay tuned!

The Opposite of Dark, Free Dec. 31!

The Opposite of Dark, amazon imageA quick update to let you know that my BookBub Feature for my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, is today! I had a few tense moments yesterday when I went to check my links and discovered that the change from $4.99 to Free hadn’t been made on Kobo.

A fast email to Draft 2 Digital (D2D) who format and distribute my ebooks through Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, etc. told me that I didn’t override territorial pricing, so outlets outside the U.S. wouldn’t have picked up on the sale. Obviously, I had no idea I was supposed to do this, but live and learn, right?

The support person advised me to cancel my D2D promo right away and create a new one, which I did. Within two hours, the Kobo link had been changed to Free. I also let Amazon know about the free book on competing sites and they immediately price matched. So all of my links should show that the book is free.

Whew! Given that this is the holiday season, I wasn’t sure if I’d get a timely response, but both D2D and Amazon came through, for which I’m grateful.

Here’s the promo I’m doing on Facebook and Instagram: There’s a slightly different version for BookBub:

FREE on Dec. 31st : 1st Casey Holland mystery, THE OPPOSITE OF DARK. When the cops tell Casey that her father was murdered the previous night, Casey doesn’t believe them. After all, she buried her dad three years earlier…or did she?

Amazon: myBook.to/TheOppositeofDark

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposite-of-dark-debra-purdy-kong/1101958680?ean=2940153393650

I’ll let you know how this turns out, but perhaps not right away. If readers are interested in purchasing the other four books in the series, it might not happen this week. We’ll see what the month of January brings. Right now, I’m just glad that I did what I needed to and learned something in the process. Not a bad way to end the year.