Friday, June 24, 2011

Enough about me

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. 
Ernest Hemingway

I had a conversation with a woman at a wonderful gathering held recently at a historic stone mill in our village. She asked me about writing. Was it a huge undertaking to write a book and how did one start? I blinked back tears. How did one write a book. I wish I had asked myself this question back in 1995. Is it a huge undertaking? No, unless you consider your life an undertaking.

Books are sneak attacks. They take an unsuspecting soul by stealth. How does one write a book? By ceasing to care about anything or anyone until the story is out. At which point you throw it at an agent who will try to midwife it into the world.

Sounds glamorous. It's not. It's not showering. Teethbrushing is forgotten. Writing means you stop doing the things normal people do. When you do find yourself out somewhere where you're expected to enjoy yourself, all you can think about is the work in progress. It's putting on a smile for family and friends when the rejections are rolling in. It's finding peace only with other writers who are suffering or musicians who are always suffering. It's a blinding obsession that in our current culture you're pretty sure you need to be medicated for.

But the book demands to get out. Is it a Great Novel? Hell no. Stephenie Meyer didn't wonder if her fledgling unknown was the Great Novel either as it pulled her out of sleep and drove her to write where ever and whenever she could,  with little kids and a husband in tow. She wrote. Obsessed. That is what it is. And it is lonely.

I haven't read the Twilight saga. The success of the final product isn't the point. Because you have no idea what that success might be. Meyers didn't know. Anymore than I do. That's the point. To be a writer, you have to surrender to the unknown and write anyway.

So to the lady who asked: How does one start? One doesn't. One is taken by force.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mystery Maven Canada

At the moment my writing life is not terribly interesting. I sit down at the computer at 7:00 am, struggle mightily to shape the manuscript into something readable with flashes of brilliance before 12 noon. Then I eat sugar and noodle around the Web to read about lives more interesting than my own.

And guess who I found! Linda Wiken at Mystery Maven Canada! Linda is the former owner of Prime Crime Mystery Books in Ottawa and was (and is) a tremendous supporter of my first novel, ICED UNDER. She invited me to her bookstore for a signing happening at the same time as the Great Glebe Garage Sale. If you know anything about garage sales, yard sales, or tag sales I need not say more. Even my own kid popped in to say an extremely brief hello before whipping out to cruise the sale.

But Linda's store was soul quenching. The equivalent of cosying up to a blazing fire on a rainy day with your favourite mystery. I loved every minute of it. I'm no saleswoman though. I kept poking over the books. One woman thought I worked there. She asked me if I could recommend a good medical mystery. I actually felt sorry that I couldn't think of any.

On the journey to becoming an established author it's easy to forget those moments or to remember them as being unsuccessful. I think I sold three books (of mine) that day. But you know, it was a great experience. I have that book signing in my writing arsenal. I was sweaty and rattled and I felt like a fraud--it was amazing!

Linda Wiken now has her own booksignings to look forward to after landing a contract with Berkley Prime Crime for her series, writing under the pen name Erika Chase.

Congratulations Linda!! I'm very happy for you and I can't wait to read your first title when it's released in 2012.

Pay a visit to Mystery Maven Canada. They have exciting lives over there.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And the winner is....

The 2011 Arthur Ellis Award winners were announced on June 2nd in Victoria, British Columbia to kick off the Bloody Words Conference.

Very exciting...some surprises and delights!

Best Crime Novel
Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny, Little, Brown UK

Best First Crime Novel
The Debba, Avner Mandelman, Random House of Canada

Best French Crime Book
Dans le quartier des agités, Jacques Côté, Éditions Alire

Best Crime Nonfiction
On the Farm, Stevie Cameron, Alfred A. Knopf Canada

Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book
The Worst Thing She Ever Did, Alice Kuipers, HarperCollins

Best Crime Short Story
So Much in Common, Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Best First Unpublished Novel
(Unhanged Arthur)
Better Off Dead, John Jeneroux

Mary Jane Maffini is a masterful mystery writer and hilarious in real life. I read a short story of hers some time ago that was published in Ottawa Life Magazine. Nuanced and gripping--I loved it!! Well-deserved award Mary Jane! Congrats!
Congratulations to all of the winners!