Sisters in Crime – North

Madeleine Callway, Catherine Astolfo, Janet Costello, Helen Nelson, Jill Downie, Susan Daly

Madeleine Callway, Catherine Astolfo, Janet Costello, Helen Nelson, Jill Downie, Susan Daly

This past Saturday, I hopped on Highway 24 in Guelph and drove to Brantford for a lively panel discussion with six dynamic mystery authors. All are members of the Toronto Branch of Sisters in Crime, and two of them—Madeleine Callway and Catherine Astolfo—also belong to Mesdames of Mayhem.

The topic, “Women as Crime Writers,” was a timely one. The hour-long discussion flew by as the authors shared opinions and advice on everything from powerful openings to strong female protagonists to chick noir.

Thanks to Programs and Outreach Coordinator Robin Harding for organizing this event, one of seven in the Mystery Month series at the Brantford Public Library.

The Right Excerpt

32400961_sIt’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

For years, I heard my author friends complain about having to select, and in some cases, create appropriate excerpts for guest blogs and readings. I would politely listen, sympathizing but wondering what could possibly be the problem after countless rewrites and edits.

As I prepare to write a series of guest blogs and organize readings in the area, I realize that picking the right excerpt can be a daunting task. What looks good on paper does not necessarily work in a live situation.

I can still recall an Open Mic I attended several years ago. I took mental notes as brave participants ranging from pre-teens to seniors shared their poetry, personal essays and short stories. The most effective readings were the shortest, and many of us were disappointed when those presenters sat down. We did not feel the same way about the gentleman who rambled on for twenty minutes, determined to read his entire short story (at least ten pages). As I surveyed the room, I caught glimpses of polite smiles, yawns, and collective watch gazing.

Continue reading on the SMP Authors Blog.

First, Second and Third Acts

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Vonnie Hughes sharing insights from her multi-act life.

Here’s Vonnie!

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I haven’t had only two acts in my life, but three. I enjoy change. It challenges the brain. But switching from one career to another was not just because I needed a change, but also of necessity.

For about twenty years I worked in legal offices in Auckland, New Zealand, first as a legal secretary and then as a legal executive. Very long hours at a set salary but with nice surroundings in the main. After a while it began to grate on me that I was doing the work of a qualified solicitor but without the money. Sure, someone signed off on my more ambitious cases but rarely bothered to check them over. “Where do I sign? Thanks Vonnie.” And off they’d go for a game of golf.

About this time I began to help job seekers within the offices where I worked. Some wanted to leave that particular office, and some wanted to work there. I had a few notable successes and thought, “I’d like to do this for a living. Not so much recruiting as head-hunting.” Saw an ad for an executive search administrator/researcher, answered it, got interviewed and bingo, my Second Act was born. And this was exciting. Yep. Late forties and finally found what I wanted to do. Any time to finish my degree? You must be joking. Rotary, overseas students, two adult sons, running marathons for ‘relaxation’ and work. Just did a few business diplomas instead.

Then we moved from New Zealand to Australia and retirement smacked me in the face. Didn’t want to carry on with executive search/recruiting because I didn’t know about the background of many Australian companies or the general working ethos of the district. Unlike some, I don’t see recruitment as ‘sales.’ Where to? Too young to retire, surely?

So I picked up an old hobby. Writing. Had never really stopped writing since I was seven. Poetry, short stories etc. But this time I jumped in boots and all and began to write a Regency novel. Got accepted. Joined a couple of writers’ groups. Settled in to researching and writing more Regencies. All got published. Then social media got in the way. Spent more time doing PR than in writing. Then…I got weary of an overcrowded, under-researched market. Every man and his dog were writing Regencies because the cycle of popularity had turned their way once more. And I began to read more and more romantic suspense and general suspense. Then I began to write it. And voilà! I enjoyed writing once again.

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So now my incarnation No. 3 part (b) keeps me busy although I still LOATHE the pirating and the endless PR. But I write more for myself now, and less for publishers. And I’ve made a lot of on-line friends. So I’ll just keep chipping away.

I don’t have any advice for anyone attempting a second act. Why? Because everyone’s needs are different. Their general outlooks are different so their plans of attack will vary considerably.

We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.
Harrison Ford

Vonnie’s Books

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Where to find Vonnie…

Website | Facebook | Amazon

Joanne here!

Vonnie, thanks for sharing your business and creative successes. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.

10 Ideas for Shaking Bad JuJu

I’m introducing a new series on my blog – The Power of 10. In numerology, the number 10 resonates with the vibrations of so many positive energies, among them creativity, originality, adaptability, and individuality.

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome author and social media consultant Joanne McAlpine.

Here’s Joanne!

joannemThis week, I met someone who lectured me for a half hour. The topic had nothing to do with me, rather her fears and that I should be fearful too. I don’t want to go into details but it left me with a depressed feeling that typically sticks with me for a few days, sometime weeks. As some of you know, I was participating in the free e-course given by a procrastination coach. There was great energy in that group so I brought my issue to them and asked for advice on how to shake this bad juju. I was amazed by the great advice and by the end of the day I was in good spirits again. I thought I’d share the advice here. Disclaimer: Keep in mind, this is just advice from your average joe schmo, I’m not a professional. I’m just passing on what has worked for me and others.

1. Run – It was the first advice given to me and that’s exactly what I did. It was a sunny day too which I think helps the mood.

2. When you are in work, find a private place to meditate a bit then go to the gym at night to work it off.

3. Change your body posture – and was given this great youtube video, I highly suggest because I find it works.

4. A walk in nature – when I went for my run, I was thinking this and went for a run in the park. I interval run so I run a bit and walk a bit. I find nature to be non-judgemental and un-demanding.

5. Get your brain to work on it – ask yourself, “What can I do right now to make myself feel better?” And the great and glorious brain that we have will go to work on it.

6. Call a friend.

7. Brain Gym – this was a new one for me. I’ve used it to help DD with her left and rights when she was little but never used it as a way to put myself in a better mood. I’ll say this, you get so focused on the exercises you forget what was bothering you.

8. Yoga – I agree. It has helped me in the past and I need to get back to it. I found a free monthly class through meetup.com. Check it out, you never know what you might find.

9. Gratitude List – list what makes you grateful.

10. Ask for Help.

Other ideas for fighting the blues: gardening, getting that sunshine, standing on your head (if you can’t do this try hanging off the side of your bed, being inverted for a couple of minutes has helped me hold back the blues), spending some time with pets, watching fish, healthy eating.

In the end, it was a beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly. I ran and walked in the park. I listened to music for a bit then turned it off and asked myself why I was upset. I didn’t want to suppress the feelings but rather understand why I had them without dwelling on them. When I realized this was about her fears and not mine, I was able to let it go. By the time, I got home, that nagging feeling was gone and my good jujus were back.

Joanne’s Video


Joanne’s Debut Novel

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At the dawn of colonizing planets, humanity supports a bold new experiment on Earth to create three self-sustaining habitats, one underground, one above, and one under the sea. With dreams of colonization, they test human capacity by isolating the inhabitants from the outside world for a year.

Telsa and Simon join the first inhabitants on Oceanus, the undersea habitat. Simon leaves his youngest, Rosie, with her grandmother. It would only be a year, what could go wrong?

Everything runs smoothly until Simon discovers a network of surveillance throughout Oceanus, then Telsa uncovers a rumor of a devastating virus on the Earth’s surface. Central Command insists on their isolation but a new security force infiltrates the habitats under the guise that they are there for everyone’s protection.

All the while, unbeknownst to any of them, a religious zealot sees the habitats as his destiny, a place where he and his fellow believers can embark on growing a new country.

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Where to find Joanne…

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

Spotlight on Bethany Turner

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Here’s Bethany!

bethanyThe first time I realized I was a decent writer was way back in second grade. Incidentally, at the exact same moment, I realized for the very first time that my creativity set me apart. As a finalist in a state-level writing competition in Kentucky, I was asked to select one living person with whom I would have lunch with if given the opportunity, and then write an essay explaining why and describing how I envisioned the lunch would take place. It was the late 1980’s, and my fellow finalists chose all of the usual suspects ‒ Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Princess Diana…

I chose John Stamos. Yes, that John Stamos. At the time he was Uncle Jesse on “Full House”, and I was much more interested in talking about that than I was communism or the economy. I wrote about what was interesting to me, and I was rewarded with a medal. From that moment on, I never looked back.

My Abigail Phelps series of books (I’ve Loved These Days, Scenes From Highland Falls, and Two Thousand Years) have carried on that tradition. My writing is saturated in pop culture, full of my favorite celebrity guys, and most of all, it’s made up of what is interesting to me. When I began writing the Abigail trilogy, I was working more than fifty hours a week as Vice President of a commercial bank which was in the beginning stages of a merger. I was active in my community, on the boards of several civic organizations, and involved in so many different things I couldn’t begin to list them all. More important than any of that, I’m a wife and a mom. What I wasn’t, I thought, was a writer. Certainly not an author ‒ that intimidating title which I was certain I would never deserve. I wrote for fun. I wrote as a release. I wrote because it was nice to spend late nights creating dialogue for George Clooney and JFK Jr.

Now that the books are out there, and I call myself an author, I still do it because it’s fun. I do it because writing dialogue for George Clooney will never be boring. And I do it because it’s interesting to me ‒ and I can’t tell you how grateful and humbled I am to discover that it seems to be interesting to others as well.


Bethany’s Books – On Sale for 99 cents! – May 15th only

I've_Loved_These_Day_Cover_for_Kindle (3)“The very first time you met me you knew that he would never be the same again, didn’t you? For the record, I was never the same again either. And while times have changed and opportunities have been lost, I still know in my heart of hearts that I never will be. But we can’t go back, and we can’t undo. What’s more, I don’t really want to. While my life is not perfect, it is uniquely, ridiculously mine, and I would not trade it.”

Abigail Phelps has written her memoirs, but the world has never heard of her. So why should anyone care? Perhaps no one would, if the letter in which Abigail reflects on changing times and lost opportunities weren’t addressed to Jacqueline Onassis, and the man who would never be the same weren’t John F. Kennedy Jr.

Put aside all you think you know and jump into the greatest love story the world has never known.

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Scenes_From_Highland_Cover_for_Kindle (3)“I knew that Senator Kennedy would not accept defeat. He would not step aside and allow his horrible error to be a wake-up call. He would not reach out to me and suggest we put our bitter feud behind us. He would try again, for Kennedy men do not give up. They don’t give up on their dreams of the White House, they don’t give up once they decide they want to spend their lives with the woman they love, and they don’t give up until they’ve gotten rid of anything standing in their way.”

The delusions of a woman detached from reality? Or the scandalous, well-kept secrets of the greatest love story the world has never known? In the second installment of the Abigail Phelps Series, Abigail’s stories become even more difficult to believe, and absolutely impossible to deny.

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Two_Thousand_Years_Cover_for_Kindle (3)“Women half Abigail’s age would envy her body – a body fitting a star athlete, a Hollywood actress, or a young lady desired by scandalous politicians. Her face showed depth of character, a result of more sorrow but also more joy than most of us could handle. And her hair. The breathtaking auburn curls remained, and though there may have been isolated streaks of gray throughout the voluminous strands, I found it impossible to not picture Christopher Dean playing with the curls in a café in Vienna, and Sergei Grinkov unknowingly causing pain, but more importantly comfort, as he caressed her hair after the attack by Ted Kennedy. And I couldn’t help but visualize John Kennedy’s jaw dropping to the floor when he saw her for the first time in so long, gorgeous in a purple dress, hair down though she so often wore it up. Some things I envisioned had occurred, others had not. But they were all unmistakably Abigail Phelps.”

Abigail Phelps and John Kennedy Jr. weren’t destined to live happily ever after. In this, the dramatic conclusion to the Abigail Phelps Series, we learn that there is something even better than a fairy tale ending. Sometimes it’s better to have no ending at all.

“How do you know your heart is still beating? Do you have to see it or feel it to know? No, you just know. You know because you live. Well, Abby is my heart and I’m hers. We just know.”

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Bio

Bethany Turner was born and raised in Kentucky, but now lives in Colorado with her husband and two sons. She studied theatre at the University of Kentucky before going on to a career in bank management, which eventually gave way to writing. She finally knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

Where to find Bethany…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Where to find Abigail Phelps…

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Spotlight on The Missing Mah Jongg Player

I am thrilled to spotlight Iris Wynne’s debut novel…

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Blurb

Steve Wade is an ex cop with an ex-wife and girlfriends he could never commit to. Now he’s a private investigator known for his knack in solving crimes.

This handsome private eye never has a problem finding clients. His newest case involves five frantic Mah Jongg players who are in search of one of their players who disappeared after meeting a man on an online dating site.

Steve Wade is reluctant to take the case. He believes she is just another woman not wanting to be found. But the women are insistent that their missing Mah Jongg player did not vanish on her own. In the meantime, they organize a Valentine’s speed dating gig inviting all the suspects who dated Marilou Dickson, the missing Mah Jongg player, in an attempt to find out what happened to her.

As he watches the dinner play out he begins to realize she may not have gone willingly when all the suspects are presented before him. He even hires his sometime drop dead gorgeous girlfriend for the event to lure the culprit out into the open. Steve just hopes no one goes home with a potential killer.

He has to work fast when the case begins to unravel as lies and betrayal become evident and the truth of what happened to the missing player becomes clear. Will he be able to find the suspect before they choose another victim? This may be his biggest challenge yet.

Excerpt

Marilou Dickson was sitting at the bar, sixty miles away from Toronto on a Saturday night waiting for her date. The only problem was she didn’t know who he was. She got in touch with him on an online dating site and his picture looked great, even though he was much younger than her. A full head of dark hair, straight nose, large hazel eyes and great abs from a previous picture he sent her. She imagined his strong arms wrapped around her as he made love to her. She was tired of being alone as age and beauty were slowly taking its toll while drinking and smoking was becoming an obsession that a good man could help her control.

The noise in the bar was unbearable and she was dying for a cigarette. At least in the old days before cell phones and Internet, you could smoke. The place was packed with pretty girls in floozy outfits, some displaying unwanted flesh. Youth could get away with many things and the sleazier you got, the more attention from the men.

It was like that years ago before marriage and grown kids.

Her phone buzzed which made her spill her drink on her new gold cashmere sweater.

“Damn!” she said.

“May I buy you another drink?”

She looked up and there was her man, looking better in person.

“Hi!” she said tying not to slur her words.

“Let’s get out of here,” he whispered to her.

“What about my drink?”

“Let’s go to my place.” He smiled as his white teeth flashed at her.

She wanted to stay here and enjoy the bar and perhaps dance. She wasn’t ready to go to his place yet. She sighed and smiled up at him.

“Why don’t we just stay here?”

“You’ll get too drunk.”

She grinned at him, thrilled that he should be so concerned about her. Her phone buzzed again. She gave him a shrug.

“Sorry–I may as well answer this or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

She was going to tell him her friends were worried about her, warned her about going out with strangers–blah-blah. She decided not to say anything. She noticed that his hair was an unnatural black hue, almost like a wig. She wouldn’t care less if he was bald–didn’t men understand that? His glasses were tinted unable to really see the color of his eyes. Something in the pit of her stomach was telling her something was off. She answered her phone walking a distance away from him and the bar. He was watching her though, his look almost a leer. Perhaps it was because she was drunk that she thought this. Nevertheless she would not leave alone and go back into an empty house especially on a Saturday night.

“Marilou is that you?” Harriet said, her voice full of concern.

“What’s up, I’m in the middle of a date.”

“Just checking to see if you’re okay.”

“I’m fine really, you don’t have to worry.”

“Where are you?”

“Outside of Toronto.”

“What!”

“Harriet, I’m a big girl.”

She glanced over at him. He bought a drink and was sipping it rather quickly. He was watching her so she waved to him.

“What does he look like?”

“I don’t know, he’s wearing a dark wig and glasses.”

“Marilou, that is not a good sign.”

Harriet could hear a deep voice asking her friend something.”

“Gotta go Harriet, see you Monday night.”

There was a click and the line went dead.

Pre-order on Amazon

Canada | United States | United Kingdom | Australia

Bio

irisphotoIris Wynne is a book lover, a day dreamer and a hopeless romantic. She is a writer of cozy mysteries with an element of romance. She is a mother of two girls and in her spare time she dog walks, plays golf in the summer and of course grabs a game of Mah Jongg whenever she can. ‘The Missing Mah Jongg Player’ is her book debut.



Where to find Iris…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


An Artist’s Prayer

On Monday evening, I participated in another session with The Artist’s Way group, facilitated by Lisa Browning of One Thousand Trees. Lisa shared the following prayer, written by visual arts teacher and writer Marion Reidel.

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I will step out of the shadows
And will accept all invitations
I will seek out play dates
Down the spiritual path
In the realm of the sacred
Paying attention to life around me
I am witness to my own life
I will practice being kind to myself
And experiment with solitude
Welcoming my inner silence
What is unsought, will go undetected
And what I focus on will expand

I will create for my own satisfaction
And be happy with what I create
Giving myself permission to be a beginner
I will evict my inner critic
So I will surrender the need to be perfect
For there are no mistakes
For I have all the courage I need
Yet, I will admit when I need help
Letting go of the negative
I will feel less frustrated
I don’t know yet what I can do
And clarity will find me