Limestone Genre Expo!

 

Huge book event! Workshops, panels, readings and … books, books, books!

This weekend! Saturday May 26 and Sunday May 27.

Holiday Inn Waterfront, Kingston, Ontario.

Check out the schedule here.

 

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The Mesdames love a good chat!

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This weekend, four Mesdames of Mayhem — M.H. Callway, Melodie Campbell, Lisa de Nikolits and myself — got together with Vanessa Westermann to talk about our writing, and why and how we do it.

It was great fun to revisit how we came up with the animals we wrote about in the Mesdames’ most recent anthology 13 Claws, the Canadian settings — or not — in our fiction, and our advice to aspiring writers.

This is what we chatted about with Vanessa.  Check it out!

Vanessa Westermann is an avid crime fiction reader, a reviewer, a blogger, a former Arthur Ellis Awards judge and a writing instructor. She is also the author of a mystery novel, An Excuse for Murder, which she is currently sending out to agents and publishers.

Thank you, Vanessa Westermann, for hosting the Mesdames of Mayhem on your blog. And much success with you mystery novel.

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Ed makes his Noir debut

Hubby Ed Piwowarczyk made his debut at Noir at the Bar last night, joining Rick Blechta, David Chilton, J. Kent Messum, Jeffrey Round and Jessica L. Webb in the spotlight at Toronto’s Wallace Gastropub.

Here’s the excerpt he read from his noir tale “Snakebit” in 13 Claws:

Sadie motioned Turner to come over. “Meet Mateo Rodriguez. Best snake wrangler in Arizona.”

Rodriguez grinned and squeezed Turner’s hand.  “Pleased to meet you, señor.”

Turner flinched and turned away from the small dark eyes boring into him.

Then Rodriguez fixed his gaze on the snake tattoo on Turner’s right forearm—a diamondback rattlesnake with an oversized head, fangs bared, coiled and ready to strike. “El serpiente. You like?” He laughed. “You have come to the right place.”

Turner flexed his fingers as Rodriquez released his grip.

Rodriguez turned to a cinder-block building and motioned Turner and Sadie to follow him. “Come! I have some work to do. Sadie, she has seen this many times, but you will find it interesting, señor.”

“How did you meet this guy?” Turner asked Sadie as they followed him.

“I used to ride horses out here when I was a teenager,” Sadie replied. “One day, my horse got spooked by a rattler. I was thrown, but luckily for me, Mateo was in the area hunting for snakes. He captured the rattler, calmed my horse and got me back to the base. The medic told me I was lucky I hadn’t been bitten and only had a few scrapes and bruises.

“I looked Mateo up to thank him. He showed me around his place and explained what he did. I became fascinated with his snakes and his work, and offered to help him in any way I could.”

“This is a business?”

“Quite profitable, actually.” Sadie paused. “I guess you could say Mateo became my mentor. I learned about snakes and the desert. We kept in touch after I went to college—and after I married Charlie.”

Rodriguez stopped in front of the cinder-block building. “Mi casa de serpientes. Wait here, por favor.”

“That’s Mateo’s snake house,” Sadie said. “He’s got about a dozen or more species in there, mainly rattlers, a couple of hundred snakes altogether. The interior is light- and temperature-controlled.”

Rodriguez emerged from the snake house with a few clear plastic bins, each holding a rattlesnake, and long-handled metal tongs with a C-shaped end.

“What’s he going to do?” Turner asked.

“Milk them.” Sadie laughed at Turner’s puzzled look. “Extract their venom.”

Using the tongs, Rodriguez lifted a snake about three and a half feet long from one of the bins. The rattler had brown blotches that stretched down its back and faded into white and black bands at its tail.

“That’s a Mojave rattler,” she said. “It has the most potent rattlesnake venom.” She paused. “There are two strains of Mojave rattler venom. One strain, considered the more lethal, attacks the nervous system; the other destroys red blood cells. Some Mojaves have strains of both.”

“What happens if one of them bites you?”

“Let’s see.” Sadie counted off on her fingers as she recited. “Shortness of breath, double vision, difficulty swallowing and speaking, nausea, weakness or paralysis of the lower limbs, involuntary tremors of facial muscles and respiratory failure.”

“How do you know this?”

“Research. I’ve learned to respect all rattlers. It’s best to stay out of their way.”

Rodriguez placed the snake on a foam pad on a small table. At the table’s edge was a glass funnel—its mouth covered by a thin, waxy membrane—suspended over a vial.

He grabbed the snake with his left hand and fit the snake’s fangs over the side of the funnel. The rattler bit the membrane, releasing a yellowish venom. With his thumb and middle finger, he depressed two glands near the reptile’s jaw to extract all the venom. Then he maneuvered the snake back into its bin.

Rodriguez repeated the procedure with more snakes that hissed and rattled to signal their displeasure, until the vial was about three-quarters full.

“All that trouble for that?” Turner remarked.

Oro, señor,” Rodriguez replied as he capped the vial.

“Liquid gold,” Sadie said. “It’s worth thousands. He freeze–dries it and ships it to clinics, labs and universities. They use it for research and to make antivenom.”

Rodriguez beckoned them to follow him into the snake house. “Come! Let me show you my beauties.” He ushered them in and stopped to place the vial in a compact fridge. Then he pointed to racks along two walls. He smiled. “There are Mojaves, western diamondbacks, sidewinders, corals—”

“That’s it for me.” The snake house was creeping Turner out. “I’ll wait outside.”

Rodriguez shook his head in feigned disappointment and pointed at Turner’s tattoo. “Señor, I thought you might enjoy being among your own kind.”

 

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Carrick Publishing hits the big leagues!

Last night’s Arthur Ellis Award Shortlist Event proved that Carrick Publishing has come into its own.

No less than four works in Carrick’s most recent Mesdames of Mayhem anthology, 13 Claws, are finalists for Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Awards for excellence in crime fiction. In the Best Short Story category: Catherine Astolfo’s “The Outlier,” Jane Petersen Burfield’s “There Be Dragons,” and Sylvia Maultash Warsh’s “The Ranchero’s Daughter.” And in the Best Novella category: M.H. Callway’s “Snake Oil.”

“I’m over the moon,” publisher Donna Carrick, who founded the Toronto-based company with her husband Alex Carrick in 2010, said earlier today. “We strive for excellence in presentation and I believe we achieved it with this great book!”

For the full roster of Arthur Ellis finalists click here.

The award winners will be announced at the Arthur Ellis Gala at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club on May 24.

Established in 1984, The Arthur Ellis Awards are named after the nom de travail of Canada’s official hangman and are awarded annually by Crime Writers of Canada.

 

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Spring means…hibernation has officially ended

Spring is here, hibernation season is over, and the month of April is chock full of sales, contests, workshops and reading.

Imajin book sale, April 1-15. April kicks off with Imajin Books’ annual spring sale that opens on April 1 and runs through April 15. Most Imajin books will be priced at US99¢ or US$1.99. Click here to see the entire Imajin sale inventory for your summer reading.

Imajin Shower Me With Books Contest, April 15-30. Enter to win one $25 Amazon.com gift card, one $25 Amazon.ca gift, or one $25 Kobo gift card. Send an email to imajinbooks@shaw.ca with your name, country of residence and gift card preference. The draw will be held between May 1 and 7, and winners will be notified by email.

How to Develop Your Novel, starting Tuesday April 10. My novel-writing course Novel Writing II: How to Develop Your Novel starts up again at George Brown College. Classes are every Tuesday, 6:30-9:30 p.m., through June 26. That means 12 three-hour classes to bring your novel-in-progress closer to the submission stage. Two hours of each class will be devoted to critiquing students’ work. Prerequisites are the college’s Novel Writing I or an approved equivalent. Register by clicking here.

Location and time: George Brown College, St. James Campus, 200 King St. East, Toronto, 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Contact: 416-415-5000, ext. 2092.

Arthur Ellis Shortlist Event, Wednesday April 18. The Arthur Ellis Shortlist Event is a big date on the calendar of Canadian crime writers. That’s because the finalists for Crime Writers of Canada’s annual Arthur Ellis awards for excellence in crime writing are announced at it, and no less than five shortlist events will be held in major cities across the country: at the Vancouver Central Library, Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, Indigo at Toronto’s Yonge-Eglinton Centre, Chapters Rideau in Ottawa and Halifax Central Library.

I’ll be joining guest authors Alison Bruce, Pamela Blance, Mel Bradshaw, M.H. Callway, Sharon Crawford, Lynn McPherson, Lorna Poplak and Ann Shortell at the Toronto event. We’ll be pitching our newest works to the audience, and author Elizabeth J. Duncan will emcee the proceedings. Special guest Maureen Jennings will announce the finalists for the eight Arthur Ellis Awards, which will be presented at the awards gala on May 24.

Location and time: 2300 Yonge St., Toronto. 7-8:30 p.m. Open to the public.

Richmond Hill Library, Monday April 23. I’ll join mystery writers Sharon Crawford, Nanci Pattenden, Mel Bradshaw and Cynthia St. Pierre on an interactive crime-writing panel at the Richmond Hill Public Library, Richmond Green Branch. We’ll discuss why we write crime fiction, self-publishing and the current publishing landscape and, of course, our own intriguing works. We’ll also give impromptu critiques of the first page of short stories or novels submitted from the audience; we will randomly select the pages that will be critiqued.

Contact: 905-780-0711. This is a drop-in event, so no need to register or buy tickets.

Location and time: 1 William F. Bell Pkwy, Richmond Hill, Ont., 4-5:30 p.m.

Noir at the Bar, Thursday April 26. Author Rob Brunet will host another of his great Noir at the Bar evenings. Noir at the Bar is popular in the U.S. with those who like their crime fiction served dark, and Rob took the idea to Toronto in 2014. Several authors–including my hubby Ed Piwowarczyk–will give short readings of their gritty crime fiction. There’s no cover charge, and there’s plenty of time out to buy drinks and socialize.

7 p.m., Wallace Gastropub, 1954 Yonge St., Toronto.

Whitby novel workshop, Saturday April 28. I’ll be holding a 3-hour workshop—suitable for all skill levels—on the craft of writing a novel at the Whitby Public Library. We will be looking at creating a cast of characters, deciding on which character’s eyes readers will be looking through, the four-act plot structure, and much more. AND the second half of the work workshop will be devoted to critiquing the FIRST PAGE of novels-in-progress. This page may be crucial in getting your novel published because literary agents and publishers often read no further if it doesn’t spark their interest.

Participants will need to register with library staff by dropping off a copy of your first page on or before Saturday April 21. Place your first page in an envelope marked Attention: Central, Reference Dept., and drop it off at the Central, Brooklin or Rossland branch. (Format: Times New Roman font, 12-point type, 1.5 spacing, one-inch margins. Include the title of the novel.)

The workshop is free but group size is limited to 16, so register early.

Contact: 905-668-6531 ext. 2020, askreference@whitbylibrary.ca

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Judy shoots for A Hole in One

Judy Penz Sheluk returns to Moving Target today. This prolific Canadian author has just launched A Hole in One, her third mystery and the second novel in her Glass Dolphin mystery series. This fall, she’ll see the release of her fourth novel in three years.

A Hole in One plays out against the backdrop of golf—but not to worry if you don’t play the game. This is a great read for all cozy mystery fans. Judy brings back her characters from her popular début novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, along with more murder, mayhem and plot twists.

Judy’s protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, is playing in a charity golf tournament, and her antiques shop, The Glass Dolphin, is sponsoring a hole-in-one contest. When Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods, she stumbles upon a dead man with a gunshot wound in his chest. The novel’s title is clearly a play on words.

Judy is a long-time golfer, but she has never had a hold-in-one. “I wish!” she says. “Birdie’s the best I’ve ever done, and that was on the ninth hole of the Briar Hill course. But this may be my year. The timing would be perfect, don’t you think?”

Moving Target: Judy, you created an enjoyable world for your readers in The Hanged Man’s Noose. What has changed and what remains the same in the sequel?

Judy tees off.

Judy: My three main characters—Arabella Carpenter, Emily Garland and Levon Larroquette (Arabella’s ex-husband)— are all back, although in Noose, Emily was the protagonist and Arabella was the sidekick. They’ve reversed roles in A Hole in One, though the POVs shift between them.

What’s different? Well, Emily has a new man in her life, Luke Surmanski. Arabella and Levon’s relationship gets even more complicated. And Emily’s arch-nemesis from her Toronto days, Kerri St. Amour, has moved to Lount’s Landing.

Moving Target: Did you worry about satisfying established readers’ expectations with Emily and Arabella’s second adventure?

Judy: Of course I did. As an author, my goal is to become a better storyteller with each new book. I sent an advance copy to my friend, Michelle, and worried, What if she doesn’t like it? But she gave me the greatest compliment after she read it and said, “I’d forgotten how much I love these characters.” I hope my other readers feel the same way.

Moving Target: What are the challenges of writing a second novel in a series?

Judy: There are pros and cons. The pros are that you’ve created a setting and you’ve established your main characters. But it’s also important to write the book that can stand alone because not everyone reads a series in the order of its publication. There’s a delicate balance between repeating information from the first book, without giving any spoilers, but also without boring folks who are coming to book two after having reading Noose. But it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?

Moving Target: Your characters’ backstories and their goals were already established when you started work on A Hole in One. Did that make it easier to write this second novel?

Judy: In some ways, yes. I knew that Arabella is a stickler for authenticity, and loves shortbread and Levon (though she won’t admit it to him). I knew Emily is always punctual, that she enjoys running, and she is a vegetarian. But in real life, people change, based on their experiences and circumstances, and so it was important to have my characters grow and evolve in this book.

Moving Target: Do you expect marketing a second novel in a series to be different from marketing a first novel?

Judy: I know a lot more about marketing than I did in 2015 when Noose was released. Back then, I assumed the book would sell itself (ha ha ha!). I soon learned that if I wanted to sell books, I would have to become more active on social media and develop a better website, and I’ve done both of these. For A Hole in One, I’m writing a number of blog posts, such as this one, over the next two months, instead of just focusing on the days around the release date. I’m also doing a number of local events, bookstores, libraries, town fairs, that sort of thing, from March through August. They may seem “local,” but you never know who you’ll reach. One thing I have learned is that you should never underestimate the power of networking. And, in my experience, events are more about networking than selling books.

Moving Target: The sequel to your second mystery, Skeletons in the Attic, will be released this fall. Would you consider writing a standalone?

Judy: Yes, the sequel to Skeletons, the first in my Marketville Mystery series, should be out this fall. I’m currently working on a standalone novel, but there are miles to go before I can sleep on that one. Still, there is something freeing about knowing that those characters will have a clear beginning, middle and end, with no need to set up book two or three.

Moving Target: Why do you write mysteries, and cozy mysteries at that?

Judy: I like to think my mysteries showcase amateur sleuths with an edge rather than the cats-crafts-recipes type of cozies, but as for the why – I primarily read mainstream mysteries (although not the aforementioned cats-crafts-recipe types). My objective is always to write a book that I’d want to buy and read.

Moving Target: Would you consider writing a mainstream novel?

Judy: My late mother had a saying, “Never throw never far away, for you’ll pick never up some day,” so I won’t say never. I might consider writing a psychological suspense novel, because I love these novels, but I have no immediate plans in place. I’ve been doing research for a non-fiction bookl that has nothing to do with the mystery genre, but it may be a few years down the road before it’s completed. I’m always juggling multiple projects.

Moving Target: On your previous visits to Moving Target, you called yourself a pantster when it comes to plotting. Does that still hold true for you?

Judy: Sadly, yes. I would love to be a plotter, because I am sure that would be easier, but I just can’t seem to do it. When I’m in full book-writing mode, I aim for a chapter a day, and honestly, I never know where that chapter will take me. The non-fiction project I’m researching will require a proper outline, but because it’s non-fiction, it will be about recreating the story versus plotting.

Moving Target: Thank you, Judy. All the very best with A Hole in One!

Judy Penz Sheluk.

Amazon international bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE and A HOLE IN ONE) and The Marketville Mysteries (SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC). Her short crime fiction has appeared in several collections, including LIVE FREE OR TRI.

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

Find Judy on her website/blog where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life. For guest appearances, contact Judy at judy@judypenzsheluk.com.

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Sleepless nights on the crime beat

Just as exploring the minds and motivations of dark characters may be disturbing for crime fiction writers, journalists covering cases of violent crime may find listening to court testimony unsettling.

Jeremy Grimaldi

The 10 months he spent covering the Jennifer Pan murder trial for YorkRegion.com and other news outlets, and the subsequent year writing A Daughter’s Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story (Dundurn Press) were intense and stressful times for Jeremy Grimaldi. “I stopped sleeping well, I stopped doing yoga. It was tough being in this young woman’s world,” Grimaldi told Sisters in Crime Toronto this week.

“But I had to write about it. It was such a crazy, powerful story, and there was no one else to write it.”

In 2015, Pan was convicted of first-degree murder for hiring hit men to kill her parents four years earlier. The attack was intended to look like a home invasion gone wrong. Pan’s father survived.

Grimaldi talked about the pressure to succeed that the children of immigrants are frequently under. Pan went from being a straight-A elementary school student in Markham, Ont., to doctoring marks on her report cards. She dropped out of her final year of high school, and pretended to attend and graduate from university. When her parents discovered her lies, she was confined to their home.

“At what point did she turn from being a dutiful daughter into a sociopath, and why?” Grimaldi asked. “And what role did her parents play in it?”

He said the Jennifer Pan case was the most complex and layered that he has come across. He wonders if Pan, “in her twisted way, thought that by killing her parents she was saving them from further disappointment in her.”

Many women who commit violent crimes have a man behind them, but Grimaldi noted that Pan planned the murders herself. “If her father had died and she had got rid of her cell phone, she might have got away with it.”

Pan is now 31, and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole until she turns 53 in 2040.

Grimaldi still thinks a lot about the case, and about the possible fallout from covering a crime beat. “Every time I drive down my street I wonder who may be out there. I make sure that nothing online leads to my address.”

Why does he continue? “These are often great stories filled with raw emotion. It’s a chance to shine some light on these people’s lives.”

A Daughter’s Deadly Deception won Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book in 2017.

 

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