10 Cool Facts About the Mesdames of Mayhem

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.

Here’s Madeleine!

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.”

Amazon Buy Links

Thirteen | 13 O’Clock | 13 Claws


10 Things about Susan Hogan…and Cozy Heroines

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Judy Alter to the Power of 10 series. Today, Judy shares ten interesting facts about Susan Hogan, the protagonist of her latest release, Pigface and the Perfect Dog.

Here’s Judy!

Susan Hogan is the protagonist of my Oak Grove Mystery series. I meant her to be a bit different than the stereotypical cozy heroine. To some extent, I succeeded, because my main beta reader confessed he didn’t like her as well as the women in my other series, and one reviewer called her “prickly.”

With this list, I give readers a chance to judge for themselves, but I hope the list will make you want to read about Susan’s crime-solving adventures.

–Susan Hogan, associate professor of English at the fictional Oak Grove University, is thirty-five, single, and never married; she has, in fact, a bit of a fear of commitment that sometimes gets in the way of her relationship with Jake Phillips, chief of campus security.

–Susan Hogan’s romance with Jake pairis, a cop (pardon, law enforcement officer) and falls into the cozy cliché trap of heroine and police officer but works well for plot purposes.

–Susan is an energetic, stimulating classroom teacher; her field is American literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

–Raised by a maiden aunt in Wichita Falls, Texas Susan would like to feel she’s a free spirit, but she clings to many of Aunt Jenny’s preachings about life, morals, and manners.

—-She can cut up a salad and set a proper table, but don’t ask Susan to cook. Jake is a master at the grill, and Aunt Jenny cooks everything from pots of soup to King Ranch chicken, but Susan can’t figure out Hollandaise sauce.

–Susan wears her hair in a spikey cut and runs her hands through it all the time. She can’t be bothered with hair-styling and prefers jeans or, at the least, slacks, hasn’t worn a skirt in years.

–Susan is not status conscious. She drives a battered, old Honda but would really love to go back and forth to campus on Jake’s moped. Since she once wrecked it, Jake fears for the safety of both Susan and his moped and has forbidden her to ride it.

–Susan was at odds with the former chair of the English department, and she finds university rules and regulations cumbersome and restrictive. Professors whose field is Renaissance literature seem to irritate her.

–Susan is cautious about warming up to people—the city police lieutenant, the sheriff—and she can get crosswise, as she does with Marge the waitress who thinks she’s guilty of murder, but she’s fiercely loyal to those she loves—Jake, Aunt Jenny and her paramour Judge John Jackson, her fellow teacher Ellen Peck, and newcomer to the series, Gus Conroy.

–Susan Hogan is, at best a free spirit, representing contemporary feminist thinking in moderation and without the extremes, but tempering her freedom with a bit of the traditional role of women.

In short, Susan Hogan is someone I’d like to meet and hang out with.


Susan Hogan thinks she’s about to meet her maker when she confronts a rifle-carrying man, who looks like a pig, in a grocery store. Jake investigates the body of a young college student, shot in the back and found in an empty pasture. Aunt Jenny showers love on the new puppy a young man from the grocery gave her but she has to get rid of that heavy collar.

Susan is associate professor of English at Oak Grove (Texas) University; her partner, Jake, is Chief of Campus Security. Aunt Jenny, the maiden lady who raised Jenny, came to Oak Grove to help Susan, who was accused of murdering a coed in The Perfect Coed, first book in the series How much help Jenny was is debatable, but she made a fast friend in Judge John Jackson and stayed in Oak Grove.

Trouble in Oak Grove begins with the open-carry protestors in the store and leads to a shooting, breaking and entering, threats and an attempted kidnapping, a clandestine trip to the woods late at night. Will Susan Hogan land in trouble…or the hospital…again? Will Susan and Jake survive this as a couple? Susan is still prickly but she learns some lessons about life, love, and herself in this second Oak Grove Mystery.



Judy Alter is the author of seven books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, two books in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries. Pigface and the Perfect Dog follows The Perfect Coed in this series of mysteries set on a university campus. Judy is no stranger to college campuses. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults, primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.

The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her perfect dog, Sophie.

Where to find Judy Alter…

Blog | Amazon | Facebook

Nuts and Bolts of Writing

L-R Alison Bruce, Donna Warner, Liz Lindsay, Joanne Guidoccio

Yesterday evening, I participated in a lively panel discussion with three other mystery writers at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library. We are all published authors and members of Crime Writers of Canada.

We gave mini-presentations on our favorite nuts and bolts of writing—The Right Opening, Character Development, Self-Editing, Building Your Author Brand—and read excerpts from our recent novels. During the Q & A sessions, we delved into a variety of topics, among them short stories, writing and critique groups, conferences, and contests.

Thanks to librarians Andrea Curtis and Deb Quaile for organizing and facilitating this event.

To learn more about Guelph Partners in Crime, visit our websites:

Alison Bruce

Joanne Guidoccio

Liz Lindsay aka Jamie Tremain

Donna Warner

On Sale for 99¢

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Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.


“A well-written, character-driven murder mystery that genuinely had me scratching my head until the very end wondering who dun’ it!?” The Romance Reviews

“Guidoccio creates her latest mystery with stylish yet easy to follow writing and a plot that keeps you on your toes, without becoming convoluted. The sense of community that runs alongside the mystery of the novel was quite engaging.” Pure Jonel

“The story builds slowly, letting you know many of the characters and leading you on a merry chase. It’s good entertainment and thoroughly enjoyable.” The Reading Cafe

“This story grabbed me from the very start, I literally could not put it down. It is to be devoured like a decadent dessert and finished with a strong espresso!!” Miss Lill

Buy Links

Amazon Canada | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AustraliaBarnes & Noble | Kobo

Featured on Sisters of Suspense


Last week, the lovely and talented Jo-Ann Carson invited me to join the Sisters of Suspense, a dynamic group of Canadian and American authors who write romantic suspense. Honored, I accepted the invitation and look forward to learning, sharing, and growing with these wonderful companions.

Today, I’m sharing my reinvention story on the Sisters of Suspense blog.

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.