Virtual Mystery Conference, May 24 – 28

I’m back to babysitting this week, so things are a little slower on the writing front, however, I wanted to share info about the Maple Leaf Mystery Conference coming up next week.

It’s a virtual event and for a $25 fee you can attend interviews with Ian Rankin, Rick Mofina, Maureen Jennings and many others. There will also be several panel discussions over this four-day event on a variety of topics for mystery readers and writers. For more info about the program and registration, please check out the link HERE.

I’m not affiliated with the conference and won’t be able to participate this year, but a number of my colleagues are taking part, and I’m excited for them. I will be taking part in a conference in mid-August, but I’ll save that info for a later date.

Free and Discounted Mysteries For You

Before I launch into today’s topics, I want to say that Canadian Independent Bookstore Day last Saturday was a great success for our local store, Western Sky Books. This was their best event ever, and it was heartwarming to see supporters come out in droves. It was great fun to see a number of writers I hadn’t seen in person in more than two years, and one author I hadn’t seen in a decade!

So, here we are in May, one of my favorite months of the year. The weather’s warming slowly although there’s still a fair bit of rain and cloud hovering over BC’s lower mainland these days. Flowers are blooming, albeit slower than last year. Since I was married in mid-May nearly 34 years ago and our family always celebrates Mother’s Day, it’s a special month.

This weekend, I’m offering great deals on most of the titles in my 6-book Casey Holland series this weekend, which ends on May 9th. You can find the link to the entire series with just one click HERE. By clicking on that page, you’ll see that the combined price for all the books is under $10.

I’m also taking part in two BookFunnel events offering free mystery ebooks all month. One is the Leading Ladies of Mystery giveaway featuring female lead characters. The link is HERE.

The other offer focuses on mystery and suspense titles, with either male or female protagonists, which you can find HERE.

So, please take advantage of these opportunities. Summer’s coming and it’s time to load up your devices with new books as you prepare for holidays or at least a little more downtime. Couldn’t we all use some R & R and escapes into great fiction?

Celebrating Canadian Independent Bookstore Day

Every year, Canada celebrates independent bookstores and this year the celebration takes place on Saturday, April 30th.

As stated on the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association (CIBA) website, this is a day when authors, illustrators, readers, publishers, booksellers, and other supporters come together to celebrate indie stores. Managers and staff go out of their way to support authors, and as you can imagine, they’ve had a tough go of it during the pandemic. This year, stores are welcoming people back with open arms. The CIBA is also offering a contest for book lovers which you can check out on their website HERE.

For my local blogging friends, Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam has invited me to take part in selling my books from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. I’m thrilled to be sharing space with fellow authors Janie Chang and Priscilla Omulo. So, come by and say hi. Other authors will be at Western Sky throughout the day. To learn more, check out their website HERE.

Western Sky is the venue where I launched my 6th Casey Holland mystery in February 2020.

To those of you outside Canada, do you have similar events in the U.S., UK, or Australia?

Welcoming Guest Mystery Author, Winona Kent

I’m delighted to host colleague and fellow BC mystery author, Winona Kent, this week. She’s just released her 4th Jason Davey mystery, Ticket to Ride, which I’ve finished reading and really enjoyed. If you like entertaining whodunits set in England and are a music fan, then this book is a must read. Winona’s post discusses an interesting and relatable aspect about herself and one of the characters in her book so, take it away Winona!

After a gap of about eight years, I’ve made a concerted effort to embrace social networking. I’ve just released a new novel, and this time I’m determined to work flat out at promoting it online. If nothing else, it’s causing my creative brain to go into overtime. I haven’t been this busy in decades.

I’ve written all kinds of posts (I know I’ve driven my friends crazy on Facebook). I have a mix of out-and-out promo’s for Ticket to Ride, along with personal things like photos from my recent trip to England, and random, off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts. What’s been an eye-opener to me is the popularity of one of posts on my personal Facebook page…a celebration that I’d lost 45 pounds over the past couple of years, got my Type 2 diabetes stabilized, and managed to get myself off insulin in the process.

At last count, that post had 111 reactions and 124 comments. I think that must be some kind of record for me.

I guess the weight loss thing resonates with a lot of my friends. We’re all getting older (I’m 67), and we’re all going to come to terms with health issues, sooner or later. Obesity has recently been officially recognized by medical communities as a chronic disease, rather than a behavioural issue, and that’s opened up all kinds of avenues for therapies that are more successful than the usual “eat less and exercise more” advice that our GP’s have issued in the past.

One of the other things that has resonated with my friends is the upsurge in Type 2 diabetes. I was diagnosed in 2009, but I wasn’t at all frightened. My husband had been diagnosed ten years earlier, so I knew it could be treated and managed with meds, lifestyle and diet changes.

What I didn’t know – until it was pointed out to me by the physicians at the medically-supervised weight loss clinic I attended – was that insulin actually promotes weight gain. It’s a sad irony. I was told that if I could lose weight, I could take the strain off my pancreas, and it might start to work more efficiently again. Yet, the one therapy that helps regulate our blood sugar the most, and which is prescribed routinely as standard treatment, is insulin. Go figure.

Anyway, long story short, I lost 45 pounds and because my pancreas was able to start working more efficiently again, I was able to stop taking insulin. I’m still on three other meds which control my glucose levels (one of them is that once-a-week shot which, as a side effect, also promotes weight loss). But I’ve been able to say goodbye to those nightly injections into my upper thigh. (I could never inject into my stomach – it’s far too sensitive.)

One interesting side-effect of being familiar with insulin, however, is that I was able to use my first-hand, intimate knowledge of the stuff in my latest novel, Ticket to Ride.

I did quite a lot of research on top of what I knew. I tasted it. Interesting. I smelled it. (Yes, insulin has a very distinctive smell – it’s the preservative.) I looked into all the different types (there are several, long-acting and short-acting, depending on your particular needs). And I looked into real cases of deliberate massive insulin overdose. And how they were treated. And what the recovery rate was. I had to read a lot of articles in peer-reviewed medical journals. Fortunately, before I retired, I worked in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.

It was all for a good cause. My main character has a particularly harrowing run-in with insulin in Ticket to Ride. And you can be absolutely certain, when you read it, that I know exactly what I’m talking about.

Ticket to Ride was released on March 26.

More info at my website:

http://www.winonakent.com/tickettoride.html

Winona Kent is an award-winning author who was born in London, England and grew up in Canada, where she completed her BA in English at the University of Regina. After moving to Vancouver, she graduated from UBC with an MFA in Creative Writing. More recently, she received her diploma in Writing for Screen and TV from Vancouver Film School. Winona has been a temporary secretary, a travel agent, a screenwriter and the Managing Editor of a literary magazine. She’s currently serving on the Board of the Crime Writers of Canada and is an active member of Sisters in Crime – Canada West. She lives in New Westminster, BC, where she is happily embracing life as a full-time author.

Here’s some ordering links for a Ticket to Ride:

Amazon Canada: Paperback, ebook

Amazon US: Paperback, ebook

Amazon UK: Paperback, ebook

Barnes & Noble: Paperback, ebook

Apple books, Kobo

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

My Odd Relationship with Instagram

Last month, the Alliance of Independent Authors posted a good article about how to boost your presence and ultimately book sales on Instagram. There was a lot of useful advice, which you can find HERE. The more I read, however, the more my head started to spin. Among the many suggestions were preparing reels, posting high-quality content regularly, creating a theme, hashtags, being creative in the captions, and much more. Of course, there was the issue of snapping quality photos, which is where I really run into a snag.

Although I enjoy viewing photos on Instagram, I’m not much of a photographer at all. In fact, I rarely think about taking pictures unless on holiday. When I go out for a walk, which isn’t often enough these days, it rarely occurs to me to snap a picture of anything, so you can see my conundrum. I’m just not sure what to photograph. I don’t have a pet right now and when I sit down for a meal, even a fancy scrumptious one, it never occurs to me to take a picture of it. I just can’t seem to get my brain around the idea of integrating photography into my life. On the other hand, I like the quick simplicity of Instagram.

While I like my life, I can’t say it’s overly exciting. I write. I babysit Ellie. I do chores, run errands, exercise a little, and read. I am going for a CT scan this week, which might count as exciting but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see a photo of that. I sure don’t.

I know some of you are on Instagram because we’re following one another, and if you’d like me to follow you, let me know and I’ll do my best. Right now, I’m just starting to develop the habit of checking in daily, but sometimes that doesn’t happen either. My question is, as writers, do you use Instagram? What is your best means of acquiring followers? Do you feel it’s helpful to find new readers or grow your brand?

Meanwhile, the BookFunnel promo I mentioned a couple weeks ago is midway through, so if you’re interested in a chance to win a $250 gift card or looking for other great mystery reads, please check it out HERE. My 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, will be on sale for $.99 until March 31.

Title Chosen, and Knock Knock on Sale!

I want to thank those who provided feedback on the pending title for my upcoming Casey novella. Your comments were invaluable! I cut and pasted all of them on one page, along with the potential titles, so I could carefully review everything, and I made a decision.

The title will be A Gold Satin Murder. The title is shorter than the original, eliminates the controversial ‘thong’ word, offers intrigue, and fits with the type of titles already in the series. Won’t it be interesting to see what the jacket designer comes up with?

To help on that end, the designer always asks me to share examples of covers I really like in my genre, so I’ll start researching that soon. The cover will need the transit theme that appears on each book in the series, but I want the colors to be lighter than they are in the last two books to reflect the lighter tone of the story.

I’ve just wrapped up the changes suggested by my beta readers, and the book’s off to the editor shortly. It’s hard to believe I’ve finally reached this point, but there is still work to be done before a launch date is set.

Meanwhile, in my ongoing experiment with BookFunnel promotions this year, I have a new $.99 promotion, this time for my fifth Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock at $.99 for the month of March. This is a big event, with nearly 100 authors offering ebooks for sale. Based on the promo organizer’s description, authors need not offer their books at a special price. I have, but that’s just me.

Note that this event is for mysteries, suspense, and thriller stories, although I did notice a couple of cozy titles thrown in. This organizer is also offering other perks, which you’ll see when you click the link HERE. One of them is a chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card!

Here’s the book blurb for Knock Knock:

When a home invasion kills senior Elsie Englehart, security officer Casey Holland is devastated. Part of her latest assignment is to watch over elderly bus riders in an area frequently targeted by a group of thugs. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts an elderly man right to his home, only to come under attack by an armed intruder.

Hospitalized and angry, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues, and the postponement of her wedding. Yet another home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health and her relationships?

Seeking Input on a Title

Before I start today’s topic, just a reminder that two BookFunnel promos are still live until February 27. One is an offer for free ebook excerpts, samples, and books that are primarily suspense and thriller mysteries. The link’s HERE.

The other is a collection of mystery authors offering full ebooks at discounted prices. Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, is included in this group for $.99. The link can be found HERE.

Pixabay Image by Gerd Altmann

As mentioned in an earlier blog, thanks to great feedback from beta readers I’ve diligently been working on another round of edits these past couple of weeks. My only dilemma is the mixed opinions about the book’s title, which I’ve tentatively titled Man in a Gold Satin Thong (trust me, this piece of clothing is part the story 😊). So, I’m seeking your feedback on the title that most grabs your interest. This novella has a lighter tone than the previous books. To help you decide, here’s the blurb I’ve come up with so far:

Transit cop Casey Holland has never met a bus passenger like the charming artist and exotic dancer, Eduardo. When he’s charged with murder, his friendship with bus driver Lily erupts into a legal mess that could cost Lily her job and custody of her son. Convinced of his innocence, Lily begs Casey to help find the real killer before her life implodes.

Lily’s not only a coworker but a friend, so Casey agrees ask a few questions. Those questions lead Casey and her best friend Kendal to a troupe of strippers calling themselves Man Cave. While the men are busy peeling off their clothes, Casey’s peeling back layers of secrets and betrayal. Nuttier and more raucous than her usual investigations, the risk is just as deadly.

Aside from the title mentioned above, here’s another list I’ve come up with.

The Gold Satin Murder

The Satin Thong Murder

A Gold Satin Killer

The Gold Satin Lover

As readers and book buyers, do any of the above grab your interest, or do you think my original title works best? Titles are so hard to come up with, aren’t they? And thanks for your help!

Blending What You Know with Research in Fiction

Author, Jacqui Murray, wrote a great blog recently called ‘How To Write What You Know’, which you can find HERE. Jacqui started writing stories based on things she knew, but her desire to write fiction set in prehistoric times made research essential, and even then some things had to be left to her imagination.

I’ve read many other articles about the value of research, as well as cautionary tales about overdoing it. Although I like research, I’ve never wanted to spend huge amounts of time embroiled in it. I chose, therefore, to set my mysteries where I live in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, which made detailing specific locations easy. The few scenes set in Europe in my first Casey Holland mystery, were all places I’d visited.

Some of my plots are inspired by actual events that have been well documented in local newspapers, such as street racing which appears in #3 Beneath the Bleak New Moon and attacks on bus drivers, which appears in #6 The Blade Man. Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, however, is the one that draws most heavily on my own experience.

Back in the day, while studying criminology, I spent a year volunteering inside a youth detention center. I met all kinds of residents, some serving a sentence, others awaiting trial. The youngest was twelve years old, the oldest seventeen, including a boy who’d stabbed his mother over 40 times. I learned a lot about the juvenile justice system then, and about teenaged girls who only wanted their mother’s love and attention, and got neither. I learned about lockdowns and suicide attempts, and the importance of boundaries between residents, staff, and volunteers. I kept journals from those days and used snippets of those entries to incorporate in this book. I also spoke with a man who’d just retired as director of a newer detention center, to discuss changes over the previous twenty-five years.

The Deep End is part of this month’s BookFunnel event and is now on sale for $.99. Other great suspense and thriller novels are available through that site, which can be found HERE.

Here’s a short blurb:

MPT transit officer Casey Holland’s first volunteer shift at Fraserview Youth Custody Center turns deadly when the center’s director dies from heart failure. But all is not as it seems, and there are rumors that his death was no accident. Life soon becomes perilous for residents, Casey, and her best friend, Kendal. — “Well-crafted book with lots of teasers”-Night Reader”

How about you? Do you also blend what you know with research in your fiction? I’m curious, how much time do you spend on research, and is it before, during, or after you’ve written a couple of drafts?