R&R (rum and rumba) in Cuba

dscf1007Sure didn’t feel like winter on Cayo Santa Maria with daytime highs around 29 C. And our timing was pitch perfect–missed a lot of snow in Toronto while we were hoisting mojitos.

The highlight of the week was the Legendarios del Guajirito show with artists from the Buena Vista Social Club and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. El Guajirito is the Havana club made famous by the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, and on Monday nights its show comes to Cayo Santa Maria. The music sets the crowd on its feet!

Shots below: Ed in his element, our perfect beach and the Legendarios del Guajirito with Tropicana star Maida Mitchell in centre stage.


dscf0988 dscf1085

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Two minutes with librarians

shiny1Joined 18 other crime writers at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this afternoon pitching our books at the Ontario Library Association’s annual Super Conference. Each writer had two minutes to tell librarians about his or her most recently published book or novel. I spent mine talking about Raven Lake and the cottage rental scam.

I thoroughly enjoy these visits to the OLA conference. They are opportunities to catch up with crime writers from across the country. And they’re golden opportunities to meet some of the people who run our public librarians. Librarians are truly writers’ best friends. They support us, promote us and seem to enjoy reading our books.

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Learning about story structure

This Tuesday evening, my 12-week course, Novel Writing II: How to Develop Your Novel, starts up again at George Brown College. Will it guarantee that students write a best-selling novel? Nope. Sorry, but too much depends on the individual writer. Learning to write fiction is something like learning to roller-skate. You fall, you get up, you try again. And you only succeed if you keep at it. And having the completed novel published is yet another series of hoops to go through.

thBut I’m looking forward to working with a new group of writers. They’ll all come to the class with some background. Most will have taken Novel Writing I at George Brown or an equivalent at another institution, some will have had short stories published. So they’ll all be familiar with the all-important “keeping at it” aspect of writing. And, best of all, they’ll all have started novels, which we’ll workshop in class.

We’ll be looking in depth at story structure in the weeks ahead. Because if a writer doesn’t have a structure for his or her novel, he won’t have a novel, just a series of scenes.

Plotters will learn to plan out a story framework before they start writing. And pantsters–those who like writing organically or “flying from the seat of their pants”– will have a road map they can check as they go along to see if they’re on track.

A great byproduct of understanding story structure is that it cures writer’s block. The reason for writer’s block — that sorry state of staring at the computer screen with no words coming — is not knowing enough about the craft of novel writing know what has to come next. But writers who understand where they are in terms of plot points will know the next steps they need to take in building their novels.


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2016, year of the Raven

2016 has been a good year. Although, after 2015 went out with a dreadful bang, I wasn’t sure how it would shape up. In December 2015, I sold my beloved stone cottage in the Haliburton Highlands, and the decision to sell was a difficult one. I loved my retreat on Saskatchewan Lake, and the Highlands township with its granite rock formations and its waterways, but maintaining two homes had become too much work. I had to choose between them, and Ed, my husband, is a city boy. What more can I say?

The Stone Cottage

The Stone Cottage

I must have subconsciously wanted to make my departure as difficult as possible, and this resulted in a terrible fall down stairs when I was alone at the cottage. I missed my footing when I was carrying down a large bag of bedding. For weeks, I looked like a battered wife, my face black and blue, the muscles in my arms and legs and shoulders aching. A bruise on my leg became infected, and I couldn’t leave home for weeks. To say the year ended badly would be an understatement.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00070]Six months later, Raven Lake, my third Pat Tierney mystery, was released. And it was the major highlight of my 2016. The novel was inspired by my summers in the Highlands, and it is my tribute to a very special part of the world: there are kayaks; a chain of lakes; the fictional town of Braeloch, which is a composite of Minden and Haliburton Village; the storage lockers in the village of Carnarvon; the Dominion Hotel; the sport of snowmobile skipping; and much more.

Although I am no longer a Highlands property owner, I’m keeping my ties with the area. Ed and I rented a cottage on beautiful Boshkung Lake for a week in July, and I discovered a sweet little bed and breakfast in Haliburton Village where I spent a few days in August, and to which I hope to return in 2017.

And the Highlands community continued to back a writer who has set two mysteries in the

Minden, Ontario

Minden, Ontario

area. (Black Water, my second Pat Tierney mystery, took Pat to Braeloch for the first time.) After Raven Lake was released, The Minden Times interviewed me for a third time. As did the community radio station, Canoe FM. These two media outlets have supported all three Pat Tierney novels.

The Raven Lake in my novel is a fictional lake, not the real Raven Lake off Highway 35 south of Dorset. But several Raven Lake cottagers liked the reference and purchased the book. When I arrived for the book launch at Toronto’s Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore on June 25, I was told by the store’s co-owner Marian Misters that the president of the Raven Lake Cottagers Association had just ordered six copies.

In the fall, the Haliburton Highlands Writers and Editors Network invited me to give a workshop on novel writing for its members. It was held October 15 at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.

Have you ever noticed that when one door closes, another opens? In 2016, I was no longer dividing my life between my home in Toronto and the stone cottage on Lake Saskatchewan, which freed up more of my time. Which was a bonus, because in January 2016, I started teaching novel writing at George Brown College in Toronto. Working with students who are seriously honing their writing (Novel II, my course, is designed for students who have already taken a beginning level course) is exhilarating, but takes a lot of my time. Two hours of each three-hour class are devoted to workshopping students’ writing. And that means a lot of reading each week.

Novel II: How to Develop Your Novel starts up again on Jan. 10.


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Time to load up your Kindle!

thumbnail-2-aspxToday is the first day of Imajin Books’ annual Christmas e-book sale. A range of wonderful titles — mystery, thriller, fantasy, horror, historical, chick lit, young adult, romance, sci fi and Western — are priced at $1.00 for a limited time. Including my Pat Tierney mysteries, Safe Harbor, Black Water and Raven Lake. Check out all the Imajin sale books here.

Then go over to the Mesdames of Mayhem’s blog. Madame Madeleine Harris Callway has put together a fabulous page that details the Mesdames’ book releases in 2016, with purchase links to the books. Take a look and see what the Mesdames have recently written.

There is still time to gift e-books and order paperbacks for Christmas presents!


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Opportunity for budding crime fiction writers

The Mesdames of Mayhem are planning their third collection of crime fiction stories, which will be released next fall. Titled Thirteen Claws, the anthology will showcase stories by the 15 Mesdames–I’m putting the final touches on mine right now. AND one spot will be reserved for a story by a Canadian writer who has never been published in the crime fiction genre.

Submissions will be judged blind by a committee. All personal identifiers must be removed from the header, footer and body of the story submission.

thThis contest is a great opportunity for unpublished fiction writers. The winner will have his or her story in a paperback and an e-book, and have a publication credit to add to query letters and resumes. Winning or being shortlisted in a writing contest is a shot of adrenaline for writers who are honing their craft in isolation.  I consider being a finalist in Crime Writers of Canada’s inaugural Unhanged Arthur contest (for unpublished crime novelists) in 2007 a major turning point in my fiction writing career. The fact that the judges included my manuscript in the top five submissions meant they liked my work! It was the fuel I needed to keep going.

Here are the submission rules for Thirteen Claws:130926-scary-cat

  • The story must be about a crime, either solving it or trying to prevent it from happening.
  • An animal must be central to the story. Any animal is allowed: for example, a cat, dog, rabbit, bear, snake, even a dragon or other mythical beast. The writer’s imagination is the only limit. The animal must be a main character or pivotal to the plot. In other words, if the animal was taken out, there would be no story.
  • Writers must not have had a work of prose crime fiction published (i.e. short story, novella or novel) in either print or electronic form. Writers whose stories appear on their own personal blog(s) and writers who have had poetry or non-fiction newspaper or magazine articles or non-fiction books about crime are allowed to submit a story for this contest.
  • Writers must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident in Canada.
  • The story length should be between 2000 and 5000 words.
  • A maximum of two submissions per writer
  • Formatting requirements:
    1. No personal identifiers anywhere in the header, footer or body of the story
    2. Include the story title and page number in the document header
    3. Story file in .rtf format, double-spaced, Times New Roman (12 point) or similar, 1” margins and please, no unusual formatting.
  • Each submission must include a title page with the story title, name of the author and the word count of the story.
  • Deadline for submission is March 15, 2017.
  • All submissions must be electronic and sent to mcallway1@gmail.com.
  • The contest judges reserve the right to name more than one winner. They also have the right to not declare a winner if none of the entries meet a standard suitable for publication in the anthology.
  • The winning author(s) must be prepared to sign a contract with Carrick Publishing.
  • Royalties will be shared equally between all contributors to the anthology after the publisher’s expenses are recovered and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Toronto Humane Society.

GOOD LUCK! Thirteen is the Mesdames’ lucky number. It may be yours too.


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Toronto Public Library week for me!

tpl-logoIt’s Toronto Public Library week.  Tonight, I join authors Heather Babcock,  Lisa de Nikolits, Terri Favro and John Oughton at Annette Street Library, 145 Annette Street, at 6:30 p.m. We’ll be talking writing and books, and reading from our works. There will be surprises in store!

Thursday, Nov. 17, I’ll be running a 2-hour workshop on Writing Mysteries at Toronto’s Kennedy/Eglinton Library, Liberty Square Plaza, 2380 Eglinton Ave. East. It’s part of a series of workshops developed by Scarborough Arts for local writers, and it’s funded by the Government of Ontario’s Seniors Secretariat. It starts at 1 p.m. and it’s free of charge.

And Thursday evening, I’ll swing over to the Northern District Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd. (Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood), where Sisters in Crime Toronto will celebrate the release of its latest crime fiction story collection, The Whole She-Bang 3. The fun starts at 7 p.m.

Right now, I’m off to pick up a book I have on hold at my local TPL branch.

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