I’m happy to welcome M.H. Callway and the Mesdames of Mayhem. Today, Madeleine (M.H.) will share ten cool facts about this intriguing group of Canadian authors and their anthologies: Thirteen, Thirteen O’Clock, and 13 Claws.
On Saturday, October 28th, 2 pm, the Mesdames of Mayhem are launching their third anthology, 13 Claws at Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore, 907 Millwood Rd, Toronto. Our new book contains 17 crime fiction stories by 15 authors, all of the tales centred on animals. Three stories are by writers new to the crime fiction genre.
Here are 10 cool facts about the Mesdames of Mayhem:
1. We are all CANADIAN
Our goal is to promote Canadian crime fiction at home and abroad. Many readers don’t know that their favorite crime writers are Canadian – and many people in the USA and in Europe know little about Canadian crime fiction though it has been flourishing for decades!
2. We are four years young
Early in 2013 M. H. Callway persuaded her two literary critique groups to get together to learn more about and to master social media. Donna Carrick designed our website, set up our FaceBook and Twitter accounts – and the Mesdames of Mayhem were born.
To get our name out there, we decided to put together an anthology so that readers could sample our writing. If they liked our story telling, they could go to read more of our books. Promoting our anthology led to numerous public readings, warm partnerships with our public libraries and community theatres, participation in literary festivals like Word on The Street, radio interviews, you name it – more publicity than we ever anticipated or imagined.
3. Thirteen is our lucky number
When we put together our first anthology, we puzzled over the title. As luck would have it, 13 of us were able to contribute stories. With 13 authors in the book, we thought why not simply call our collection Thirteen? Even better, Thirteen launched close to Halloween.
To our delight, Thirteen, did really well with readers. Stories by Donna Carrick and Sylvia Warsh were nominated for the Arthur Ellis Short Story award. We were so encouraged, we went on to our second anthology, 13 O’Clock with crime stories focused on time. And now we have our third collection, 13 Claws.
4. We are not all women
In 2013, when the Mesdames first formed, we were all women. And indeed, one of our most important goals is to support the work of Canadian women crime writers.
Most of us are also members of Sisters in Crime, which has been working for more than 30 years to promote equality for women crime writers. Readers may not know that Sisters in Crime has Brother members, men who also strive for better recognition of women authors. The Mesdames also have a Monsieur of Mayhem, Ed Piwowarczyk.
5. Most of us are published novelists
Most of the Mesdames of Mayhem are published crime fiction novelists and many of us have written several books as standalones or as part of a series.
Many of the Mesdames are also proficient in other forms of fiction: Lisa De Nikolits and Sylvia Warsh are both literary authors; Melodie Campbell and Caro Soles have written many books in fantasy and speculative fiction; and Rosemary Aubert is a respected poet.
6. All of us are published short crime fiction writers
All of the Mesdames – and our Monsieur – are traditionally published short crime fiction writers. In addition to our three anthologies: Thirteen, 13 O’Clock and 13 Claws, many of our stories appear in the three Toronto Sisters in Crime anthologies, The Whole Shebang series.
7. All of us love animals
Choosing animals as the connecting element for 13 Claws came naturally, because everyone of us loves animals. Caro Soles has worked for many years rescuing dachshunds from puppy mills and Melodie Campbell‘s pet, affectionately known as “Frankenpoodle”, works as a therapy dog. All of us own – or have owned – a cat or a dog and in many cases, several of each at the same time! Cheryl Freedman though favours much more exotic pets: ferrets!
8. We love to teach
One of the best ways to promote Canadian crime fiction is to seek out and encourage emerging writers. Several of the Mesdames teach or have taught creative writing: Rosemary Aubert, Mel Campbell, Cathy Dunphy, Lynne Murphy, Rosemary McCracken, Caro Soles and Sylvia Warsh.
When compiling 13 Claws, we decided to run a contest for writers who had never before published a crime fiction story. Our winner, Mary Patterson, penned a delightful story about a cat detective though she’s actually a dog lover. Our finalist, Roz Place, had published literary stories, but had never before attempted crime fiction: she wrote a chilling suspense tale about a disappearance revealed by a cat. And in runner-up Marilyn Kay’s police procedural, a stray cat is at the heart of dark crime.
9. We are truth seekers
Many of us are working or retired journalists like Cathy Dunphy, Rosemary McCracken and Lynne Murphy, spent their career in regulatory agencies like M. H. Callway or were down in the trenches teaching like Cathy Astolfo. And consequently, we don’t shy away from touchy subjects like financial fraud, residential schools and mental illness in our fiction. Readers might expect that 13 Claws contains nothing but cozies, but though we do have some in our collection, on the whole we have, in fact, taken a darker turn.
10. We are critically acclaimed.
Most of us have won or been nominated for awards: the Arthur Ellis, Edgar, Derringer, Debut Dagger, Bony Pete and Ippy. (For details visit the Mesdames website at http://www.mesdamesofmayhem.com)
Our previous anthologies have been warmly reviewed but we were especially delighted to be singled out by Jack Batten, the crime fiction reviewer at the Toronto Star, who had this to say about 13 Claws:
“In one especially clever story by Catherine Dunphy, we get a plot built around boxes of animal crackers.
But just because the contributors to the collection write out of an affection for animals doesn’t mean readers need similar feelings to appreciate the stories. There’s enough suspense and intellectual fascination built into the plots of the majority of stories to satisfy even the most ferociously cynophobic reader. Catherine Astolfo’s story involving a pig offers an intriguing way of giving Paul Bernardo himself a case of the chills. And M. H. Callway’s tale mixes snakes and the real estate business in a way that will make readers run a mile from both.”
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