Alliston Potato Festival

This past Saturday, I was a vendor at the Alliston Potato Festival, an event that closes off the main (Victoria Street) of Alliston, Ontario, where vendors — selling everything from soap to art to books to jewelry to food — line the street. As a member of the South Simcoe Arts Council, I was invited to share a booth.

This was my first time as a vendor at Potato Festival — the past two years (I moved to Alliston in 2015) I was a curious customer. Unfortunately, afternoon thunderstorms forced us to call it an early day, but I’d definitely do it again next year. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea!

Yours truly before the rain!

Battle of the Brushes! Artists were given 30 minutes to paint a picture with 7 acrylic colors.

Painting in earnest.

The winners!

South Simcoe Arts Council members selling the Spirit of Canada, a collection of short essays and stories.

Jewelry is always popular…

The Carrot Sticks. Find them on Facebook! A terrific Country/Folk/Rock group.

New Release Mondays: Ruined Stones by Eric Reed

Eric Reed is the not-so-secret pen name of Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, adopted to distinguish their new WW2 mysteries from their long-running John, Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mystery series, the eleventh entry in which, Murder In Megara, appeared in 2015. They have been writing together since 1992 and also co-author short stories. The most recent, Time’s Revenge, was published in March 2017 in Bound By Mystery, a collection of over thirty stories by Poisoned Pen Press authors celebrating the publishers’ 20th anniversary.

Author Name: Eric Reed

Book Title: Ruined Stones

Book Genre: World War Two mystery

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Synopsis: Women’s Police Auxilliary Corps Constable Grace Baxter moves to Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1941. The city’s bone-numbing cold, fogs, and constant threat of bombing, as well as the peculiar behavior of some residents, test her resolve to be an effective officer. What role do ancient rituals play in murder and what follows? Her investigation must continue despite the blackout, fear, and the hostility of her male colleagues. Will it also endanger her life?

Excerpt: She tried to put doubts out of her mind. She crossed her arms and hunched her shoulders, attempting to keep warm. A chill drizzle, not quite fog, not quite rain, flled the grey metallic air. She might have been back in Noddweir, standing in the middle of the stone circle on the summit of Guardians Hill. The remains of the temple walls, half hidden by tall grass, were like the smaller, overgrown boulders in the circle. The pair of four foot or so high altars resembled the larger stones.

The place gave her the same shivery sensation she received from Noddweir’s stone circle. The ancient rocks still breathed out the past and caught within their compass, like a wasp in amber, was something unthinkably old and powerful. Did everyone feel this? The Romans who built the temple must have. Or was it simply her overactive imagination? As she turned to look around, a cold droplet fell from the brim of her hat and hit the back of her hand, startling her out of her musings. Surely it was only coincidence that her first official investigation should, like her frst unofficial one, involve an ancient pagan ruin. She needed to be concentrating on her new job, not daydreaming about the countryside and her old life. By contrast, fogs here were sulfurous, thick and oppressive, not the white, gentle blankets common to the countryside.

She could imagine the fog was smoke from the fires of a Roman encampment on the furthest border of the empire. Here civilization took its stand against the savagery beyond. Even as today the line was drawn here, Britain standing almost alone against Nazi savagery. For an instant ghostly walls rose around her and she sensed murmurous words she could not understand. She shook herself free of the illusion. Certainly it was nothing but an illusion. She needed to examine the site of what Baines had described as “the incident.”

Mary and Eric’s website is at http://home.earthlink.net/~maywrite/

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New Release Mondays: The Walls by Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton is a TV writer, producer and novelist. She has written for Shadowhunters, Cold Case, and The Client List, Hollie’s debut thriller, BABY DOLL was an international bestseller and published in eleven countries. Hollie lives in Hollywood with her husband and rescue dog.

Book Title: The Walls

Book Genre: Thriller

Release Date: 8/08/2017

Excerpt: Kristy regarded the sign posted at the entrance to the cellblock: NOTE. NO HOSTAGES WILL EXIT THROUGH THIS GATE. This sign served as a reminder that on death row these inmates were not to be trusted, that in here, your life hung in a delicate balance. For some reason, right Kristy glanced over at one of the cells, inexplicably drawn to it. Through the tiny sliver of glass, she spotted an inmate, his body splayed out on the floor beside his state-issued cot. Baby Killer Harris. That’s what the press and some of the guards called him. Kristy knew him as Clifton Harris. He had been sentenced eight years ago for killing his two young children.

Jesus Christ, he’s bleeding,” Kristy said, turning toward the warden. She hated how shrill and high-pitched her voice sounded, like this man had a paper cut and not wrists that were flayed open. The warden stepped forward, looking through the window to confirm that what Kristy was saying was true.

“Get some more officers down here. Now!” Warden Solomon shouted to Bruce, who pressed a button on his radio, the squawking sound echoing down the halls.

“Get back,” the warden yelled at Kristy. The buzzer sounded and the cell door’s lock opened. Unable to wrench her gaze from Clifton’s pale face, his blue lips, his eyes rolling back in his head, Kristy rushed past the warden and pushed the door open, kneeling beside Clifton, touching his neck and searching for a pulse.

“Hold on, Clifton. Just hold on.”

Clifton’s eyes fluttered open, haunted, life slipping from them. A bloodstained hand reached out, grasping Kristy’s wrist.

“Ms. Tucker, I can’t do this no more. I can’t,” he begged, that same hand now reaching up to grab Kristy’s collarbone. “Just let me go,” Clifton begged, his hand starting to squeeze.

In this moment Kristy’s wondered if Ryan had been right all along, that by staying in this job, by accepting what they did here, she had made a fatal mistake.

 

For more about Hollie visit www.hollieoverton.com

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Free Short Story: The Cycopaths

Something you may not know about me is that I used to do triathlon. I started back around 2005 with a try-a-tri, gradually built up my distances to sprint and Olympic, and completed a 70.3 (Half Ironman) in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 2009. Once that was off my bucket list, I went on to complete the 200-kilometer Toronto to Niagara Falls Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2010. I sold my bike a year later, ready for the next adventure.

This short story was loosely inspired by a training camp I took in Collingwood in the early days, minus the dead body, of course. It’s part of my Live Free or Tri collection, and has been reprinted by Kings River Life Magazine with my permission. I hope you enjoy it!

The Cycopaths: Mystery Short Story

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New Release Mondays: Look the Other Way by Kristina Stanley

Author Name: Kristina Stanley

Book Title: Look the Other Way

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Excerpt: CHAPTER ONE

Shannon

Kingston, Ontario

“We’re letting you go.”

Shannon Payne inhaled deeply, but the breath didn’t ease the tightness gripping her throat.

“I thought I was getting a raise today.”

Veronica Smythe slid an envelope across the surface of her desk.

“I’m not sure why you’d think that.”

The dreaded envelope of doom sat inches from Shannon. Did she dare flick it back at her boss?

“Because that was part of my contract. I accepted the lower wage with the understanding I’d be given a bump in pay at the end of three months.”

Veronica reached across the desk and tapped her acrylic fingernails on Shannon’s name written in sloppy cursive across the center of the unsealed envelope.

“It’s all explained in there.”

“You can’t just let me go because my three-month probationary period ends tomorrow.” Shannon fidgeted with the jacket of her favorite pantsuit, pulling the front seams tight over her blouse. She jammed her stiletto heels into the plush carpet, subduing the tremor that had taken hold of her legs.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“We don’t have the budget to keep you on. It’s nothing personal.”

“Of course it’s personal. I quit a good job and took a risk on this upstart newspaper. You persuaded me to do that.” Shannon’s heart hammered in her chest, and she tried to focus her attention on Veronica, but there was Lance to think about, too. What the heck was she going to tell him? Hi honey, how was your day? By the way, we can’t afford the house we looked at last night.

“I didn’t persuade you to do anything.” Veronica walked to the window and rested her backside on the ledge. The skirt she wore was an inch too short and pinched her thighs. She crossed her arms and looked down her long nose at Shannon.

“When is this effective?”

“Immediately.” Veronica twisted a gold bracelet around her wrist, playing with the sculpted butterfly that connected the chain together. “Obviously, you knew about the probationary period.”

Shannon shoved her own bracelet underneath her sleeve. She’d rather hide the bracelet than let Veronica know they had the same taste in jewelry. On her last birthday, Lance had left the gift on her pillow, and knowing Veronica had an identical one diminished its sentimental value.

“How long have you known this?”

“I’m not sure how that’s relevant.”

Rain pelted the windows framing the corner office. The waves frothing across Lake Ontario matched the motion in Shannon’s stomach.

“You could have given me more time to find another job.”

“I suggest you start looking now for somewhere else to work.”

“Do I get a reference?”

“Yes.” Veronica nodded at the envelope. “It’s in there.”

Shannon didn’t understand the coldness of Veronica’s tone. The change in her behavior had started a month ago, but she couldn’t figure out what she’d done to offend the woman. Female competition in the workplace? Not likely. Otherwise, Veronica wouldn’t have hired her.

“Kingston is a small town. There aren’t many jobs available in our industry.”

“You’re a reporter. Do some investigating, and you’ll find something.”

Shannon dropped her gaze to The Kernel’s competing newspapers. The Whig Standard and The Herald were strewn across Veronica’s desk, highlighted and written on. Three months ago, Shannon left a secure job at The Whig to join The Kingston Kernel, thinking working for a new paper would be exciting. The Kingston Kernel targeted the online market, and Shannon mistakenly believed her career would soar if she was part of a company that embraced new technology. Now she needed to find a new job and fast.

Veronica twirled a pen between her thumb and forefinger, examining it as if it might do something interesting.

“You could move to a bigger city. That might be easier for you.”

What? Leaving the company wasn’t good enough. Veronica wanted her to leave Kingston, too.

“I can’t. My fiancé is doing his residency at the hospital.”

Synopsis: SUBMERGED BENEATH THE DEPTHS IS A SEA OF SECRETS…

A year after her Uncle Bobby mysteriously disappears in the turquoise waters surrounding the Bahamas, Shannon Payne joins her grieving aunt to trace Bobby’s last voyage. Shannon hopes the serenity of the sea might help her recover from a devastating breakup with her fiancé.

Sailing the 38-foot catamaran, A Dog’s Cat, is Captain Jake Hunter, a disillusioned cop who has sworn off women. While Shannon tries to resist her growing attraction to the rugged captain, she uncovers dark truths about her uncle’s death that might send them all to the depths.

About the author: Kristina Stanley is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Feedback Innovations: a company created to help writers rewrite better fiction. She is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. DESCENT, BLAZE, and AVALANCE are published by Imajin Books. THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES is her first non-fiction book.

Before They Were Authors: Heather Weidner

Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers. Her debut novel is Secret Lives and Private Eyes.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Let’s find out what her best, worst, and funniest job memories are before she became an author.

Judy: What was the worst job you ever had, and how has it influenced your writing?

Heather: When I first moved to Richmond, Virginia, in the early nineties, I took a job as Director of Special Projects (aka all the tasks that no one else wanted to do) with a company that did band, choral, cheerleading, and dance competitions. They also did a sleep-over band camp in the summer. They sent me to band camp as an adult. We worked fifteen-hour days and didn’t get much sleep. There were several high schools on the campus at the same time, and we had to monitor teen behavior around the clock. And if that weren’t bad enough, I can’t tell you how many weekends I spent with thousands of screaming cheerleaders. On the plus side, I met some interesting folks at that job, and some of their quirky characteristics have appeared in characters in my work.

Judy: What was the best job (besides being a writer) that you ever had, and how has it influenced your writing?

Heather: In the early eighties, I landed my first part-time job at the Virginia Beach Recreation Center in Kempsville. I was the part-time weekend receptionist. When it wasn’t busy, I could read or do my homework. You don’t have to tell me twice to bring a book. Plus, every teenaged boy within a twenty-mile radius came there to swim; play racquetball, basketball, or soccer; lift weights, or shoot pool. I would have done that job for free. It was such a fun place to work, and I kept it all through high school and college.

There was never a dull moment at this job. I learned a lot about customer service and how to handle a variety of situations. Most of the job was fun, but I often had to call the police, fire, or rescue squad for emergencies that happened. Several of my co-workers, our regular clients, and several funny situations have made it into my Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries.

Judy: What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you at work?

Heather: One Christmas, I volunteered to go with Santa Claus to drop off gifts to one of our angel tree sites in rural Virginia. I reserved my Mrs. Santa suit at the costume store way ahead of time. When I went to pick it up, it was raining, and I cut my tire when I parallel parked. I finally made it to the costume shop, and I was horrified when I found out they didn’t have any traditional Mrs. Santa outfits. The only ones they had on the rack were the sexy, short ones. The racy costume wouldn’t do, so I became a fully dressed elf for the visit. Who knew you had to specify what type of Mrs. Claus outfit you wanted?

Synopsis for Secret Lives and Private Eyes: Business has been slow for Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago, still be alive?

And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out why landscaper Tripp Payne, keeps popping up in her other investigation. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder – possibly her own – takes place?

Secret Lives and Private Eyes is a fast-paced mystery that appeals to readers who like a strong, female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations.

Find Heather just about everywhere:

Website/blog

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Goodreads

Amazon

Pinterest

LinkedIn

 

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My Writer’s Toolbox

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Daytime notebook

I’ve decide to have a bit of fun and show you what’s in my writer’s toolbox beyond my trusty 21.5″ iMac and my somewhat overactive imagination. If you’re a writer, you’ll totally get this. If you’re not, well . . . don’t say I didn’t warn you!

My daytime ideas notebook. Note that it has a pretty cover (this is very important). It’s here I jot down story ideas, character names as they come to me, and other assorted ramblings. Yes, I’m sitting at my computer when I’m writing in my notebook. There’s something about pen and paper that makes the idea seem a bit more “real.”

My nighttime notebook has permanent residence on my bedside table. Did you know the best ideas come to you in the middle of the night? Of course, it’s difficult to write in the dark —and it can be downright annoying to turn on the lamp at 2 a.m. My husband found a solution and gave me some ballpoint pens with an LED light inside of them. Inspired genius! I also have a mini notepad and pen (not shown), which I carry in my purse (are you sensing a theme here?).

But enough about me. What’s inside your writer’s toolbox?

Nighttime notebook.

Nighttime notebook.

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LED light pens: priceless!

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N.B. A version of this post was first published in July 2015. 

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Writing Retreat: Part II

My summer vacation on Lake Superior comes to an end tomorrow, when I head back home, Gibbs in tow for the 7 1/2 hour (mostly scenic and peaceful) drive. Mike will stay up until sometime in August doing the zillion projects he has on the go — build a gazebo, split wood for kindling, stack firewood (we have electric baseboard heat but mostly use the wood stove to heat when necessary), move rocks, plant perennials…his list goes on!

For me, Monday is back to reality — my “summer” reality which involves walking and playing with Gibbs, a lot of golf (we live in a golf course community), working as the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal — we’re starting September issue if you can believe that — doing some volunteer work as part of my duties on the Board of Directors of Crime Writers of Canada, and of course, getting back to writing crime fiction.

I thought I’d do a lot of writing here, as I did last fall, and while I did get some writing done, most of it is in rough form as I scribbled in a notebook (see picture above) while watching the lake. At first, I beat myself up about it. I should be writing hours every day in this magical place, not daydreaming the days away. And then I thought…I’ve finished writing 2 books this year (one comes out March 2018, the other TBD) started 2 more, and completed 1 short story with a solid idea (developed here) for another. I told myself, it’s okay to take a 2 1/2 week break. And so, I did. And I enjoyed every sunset. (If you remember the late great singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, you should Google his interview with Dave Letterman when he says “Enjoy every sandwich.” Wise words.)

As for the books I read, they are as diverse as the landscape and lake that surround me.

SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane (Suspense) 4 Stars. The first half is great. The second half stretches the realms of plausibility to the breaking point. But Lehane’s prose and characterization are, as always, perfection. But it’s not as good as Mystic River (also a great movie) or Shutter Island (terrible movie)– my two favorite Lehane novels.

STARTING OVER: A Trina Ryan Novel by Sheri S. Levy (YA — was sent an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 5 Stars!) If you know a kid who loves dogs or horses, be sure to pre-order this now. August release by Barking Rain Press.

FACEOFF: A collection of short mystery stories where well known ITW authors  and one of their characters “face off” — my favorite was Jeffrey Denver’s Lincoln Rhyme vs. John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport in “Rhymes with Prey.” Each story is introduced by David Baldacci (editor) who tells us a bit about the authors’ works, how they collaborated etc. I plan to read MATCHUP, the next ITW collection of short stories, soon. 4.5 Stars. I’d give it 5, but there were a couple of faceoffs I didn’t enjoy…bound to happen in any anthology. This is one of the best I’ve read.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr — Won the Pulitzer for fiction – – this is one thick book and I just started it, but so far, I’m hooked. I take comfort in the fact it took him 10 years to write it. Maybe he had a place on the water…

Gibbs enjoying the sunset.