Category Archives: One Writer’s Journey

Crime Writers of Canada

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’ve recently been voted into the Board of Directors at Crime Writers of Canada (CWC), representing Toronto and Southern Ontario for the 2017-18 term (June-June). It’s quite an honor, and an even bigger responsibility, one that I won’t take lightly.

For those who don’t know, CWC is a national non-profit organization for Canadian mystery and crime writers, associated professionals, and others with a serious interest in Canadian crime writing. Their mission is to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media.

I first joined CWC as an Associate Member in 2012. At the time I was just starting to work on my first project, and the book that would evolve into The Hanged Man’s Noose. In 2015, with the publication of Noose, I was changed my membership to that of Professional Author Member (PAM). I can remember being so excited—especially since my name follows Canadian mystery legend, Louise Penny, on the PAM roster list. I felt a bit like fairy dust was being sprinkled on me.

If you’re a Canadian with an interest in crime fiction or non-fiction, I encourage you to check out everything CWC  has to offer. If you’re in the Toronto/Southern Ontario area, please feel free to contact me with your questions. We’d love to have you on board.

 

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The BOOKSHELF!

If you live in the Greater Toronto area, I hope you’ll come out and join me and 50 local authors and publishers at The BOOKSHELF this Saturday, May 13th 9-2 a.m. in Newmarket! I’ll be reading at 11:50, and will be available for book signings throughout the event.

Be the first to know when my next book is available! Follow me on BookBub to receive new release and discount alerts.

New Release Mondays: The Hatbox Murders by Jennifer Berg

Author Name: Jennifer Berg

Book Title: The Hatbox Murders

Book Genre: Historical mystery

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Synopsis: Seattle, 1956. Inspector Riggs doesn’t believe in “women’s intuition.” But when a sharp stenographer keeps insisting that her friend’s death was no accident, Riggs agrees to have another look. The more he investigates, the more he realizes the dead heiress was leading a mysterious double life. His former partner, Victoria, agrees to go undercover, but when the murderer strikes again, Victoria will have to play a leading role in order to catch the killer.

Excerpt:  Riggs raised his eyebrow. “So, how long had you known her?”

Sylvester gulped down a bite of meatloaf. “About ten months. I met her at the Blue Bay Tavern. She was new in town and I bought her a beer. By the end of the night, she gave me her telephone number, Eastlake 243.”

Riggs poured some milk in his coffee. “What did you argue about that night?”

“I don’t know,” Sylvester groaned. “Ruby was short on cash, as usual, and she was all excited about this crazy scheme to come up with some dough. It was something to do with her friend, Ann Marie.”

“What was her plan?”

“I told you, I don’t know! Ruby was always inventing crazy stupid plans.

Something with her friend, or she was going to be able to use her friend to pull it off. Ah,

I don’t know, I don’t listen to that sort of junk. I’d already had a couple beers and I wasn’t paying attention. I told her if she was hard up for cash, she should just go ask her rich uncle.”

“Is that when she left?”

“Yeah, I guess so. Maybe. She told me I could go to hell, and she grabbed her purse and left.” He looked down and whispered, “I never saw her after that.”

“You stayed in the bar?”

Sylvester leered at Riggs. “Yeah, I stayed in bar. I ordered another beer if you want to know. And another one after that, and if you don’t believe me, you can go ask the bartender ’cause he was there all night. He can tell you that I stayed ‘til closing. So I couldn’t possibly have killed Ruby Pike.”

Riggs sipped his coffee and said, “Mr. Finnegan, Roberta Pike committed suicide.”

About the author: Jennifer Berg grew up on a small peninsula on Puget Sound where she dug for clams, built her own rafts and camped in a tree house, a tool shed, and a teepee. She attended the University of Washington where she majored in History. When she’s not concocting new mysteries, Jennifer spends her time painting watercolors, gardening herbs and succulents, and knitting odd creations. She currently lives in San Diego with her husband and their Appenzeller Sennenhund. Visit Jennifer at https://jenniferberg.me/

Buy the Book

One Writer’s Journey: Radio Interview!

I was on Yvonne Mason’s Off the Chain radio program on May 5th talking about writing, the importance of memberships, and my books.. This also became an interview about what to do and not to do to get published. It’s available in a few formats, here’s three of them (pick your poison!). 

Mix Cloud Yvonne Mason’s Off the Chain May 5, 2017 

Sound Cloud Yvonne Mason’s Off the Chain May 5, 2017

Archives Yvonne Mason’s Off the Chain May 5, 2017

One Writer’s Journey: Malice Domestic 2017

Crime Writers of Canada members at Malice: Mary Jane Maffini, Vicki Delany, Linda Wiken and Cathy Ace.

Last year, I attended Malice Domestic as a debut author. It was my first Malice and my first visit to Washington/Bethesda, and as you can imagine, it was beyond exciting. I was almost not going to attend this year, but something made me decide to go for it. I’m very glad that I did, because it reinforced, once again, how supportive the mystery writer/reader community is. And it is very much a community (although we do tend to use our books to murder people who annoy us!)

One thing that really resonated with me was the number of authors and readers who stopped me to say they loved one or both of my books AND that they recognized me from my author photo. A very good reason not to photoshop your author photo to the point where you’ve aged backwards by two decades! For those of you who may not have read it, here’s a link to my author photo post.

Another thing I LOVED was meeting new authors. I remember how exciting and nerve-wracking that process was. A special shout-out to: Karen Neary…I know you’re going to get a contract… and to Micki Browning, whose debut novel, Adrift, is an Amazon bestseller.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s conference. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos (yet) of my panel (Thrilling Suspense) on Saturday, but it was an amazing panel with great audience participation. After the panel, I popped into the dealer/book room and was beyond thrilled to see a line of people with one of my books in their hand!

At the Agatha Banquet. Author Jane K. Cleland, the host of our table, won for best non-fiction.

Jane K. Cleland with her Agatha teapot!

The line-up for author signing at 5 p.m. Saturday!

With Diane Vallere and Susan Van Kirk at the author signing.

Author signing! Copies of The Hanged Man’s Noose sold out in the book room within 10 minutes of my panel and Skeletons was selling up a storm!

NEXT CONFERENCE: Bouchercon Toronto!

Malice Domestic Bound!

If all went according to plan, by the time you read this, I’ll be in Bethesda, MD, (or headed there) for Malice Domestic, a mystery reader’s conference. This will be my second Malice, and my second time in Washington, DC, and so, unlike last year, I have some idea of what to expect. I’m also hoping to get some sightseeing in. Last year, I saw the White House and the war memorials. This year, I’m planning on visiting Arlington.

So far, my schedule includes:

A Friday Breakfast with other members of Crime Writers of Canada.

A Friday Dinner with other members of Sisters in Crime — Guppy Branch.

A Saturday Breakfast with other members of Sisters in Crime International.

Saturday evening banquet, where I’ll be at the table hosted by Agatha nominee Jane K. Cleland.  I love her Josie Prescott series!I’m sure there will be a couple of lunches in there, not to mention some time at the bar sipping on wine!

It’s not all about food and drink, though. I’m part of a terrific panel of authors on Saturday  3 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.
Thrilling Suspense
Doris Ann Norris: Moderator
Lee Hurwitz
Lori Rader-Day
Eileen Rendahl/Kristi Abbott
Sarah Shaber
Judy Penz Sheluk

Book signing from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday: Homeward bound, exhausted, but hopefully filled with new ideas and inspirations, and the memories of time spent with old and new friends.

I’ll be posting pictures on my Facebook Page! Hope you can stop by and check them out. Update next Friday!

A Volunteer’s Perspective: Bouchercon 2017 Anthology

Bouchercon (pronounced Bough-chur-con) is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, which holds an annual convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, a distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor and author.

In 2017, Bouchercon will be held in Toronto. The first Bouchercon took place in 1970 in Santa Monica, California. Recent Bouchercons have been held in many cities across the United States, including Albany, NY, Saint Louis, MO, Raleigh, NC, New Orleans, LA, and Long Beach, CA.  Future conferences are scheduled for St. Petersburg (2018), Dallas, (2019) and Sacramento (2020).

Because Toronto is my home patch, I signed up as soon as registration opened in 2015, and checked off the “Volunteer” box. It wasn’t long before I agreed to take on the task of working on the Bouchercon anthology. These collections of short crime fiction are a means of fundraising for a local charity; the judges, the editor, and the authors do not receive any payment or royalties. The charity for A PASSPORT TO MURDER is Frontier College, a Canadian national literacy organization.

I learned a lot as a volunteer on this project. Here’s a bit of a rundown:

Step 1: Interview four publishers to determine the “Best Fit.” Important considerations included being an Mystery Writers of America approved publisher, past experience producing anthologies, and a commitment to contributing to the charity after publishing costs had been recouped.

Step 2: Selecting the publisher (with input from the Bouchercon Chairs and other volunteers). The publisher selected was Down & Out Books, who had published prior Bouchercon anthologies, and agreed to contribute all profits to Frontier College.

Step 3: Selecting three judges to read the submissions, and an editor. This responsibility fell primarily on the part of the Bouchercon Chairs, with input from the volunteer committee.

Step 4: Defining the guidelines and timeline. We were open to submissions from November 2016 through January 30, 2017. Here’s the fine print:

  • The story must include travel and at least a strong suggestion of murder or a plot to commit  murder
  • Story length: a maximum of 5,000 words
  • Electronic submissions only
  • Formatting requirements:
    • .DOC format, preferably double-spaced
    • Times New Roman or similar font (12 point)
    • Paragraph indent 0.5 inch (or 1.25 cm). Do not use tabs or space bar to create the indents
    • Include story title and page number in document header
  • Maximum of one entry per author
  • Open to writers who have been previously published, in any format, and those who have never been published
  • The story itself must not have been previously published in ANY format, electronic or print.
  • Please remove your name or any identifying marks from your story. Any story that can be associated with the author will either be returned for correction (if there is time) or disqualified.

Step 5: Set up an Excel spreadsheet to log all submissions. Author name, email, story title, story/batch number, date received, date to judges.

Step 6: Each story received was stripped of any identifying marks (yes, about 50% of authors left them in under “Properties.”) Log the story, author information (from entry form), and rename the stories, i.e. Batch 1, Story 1 would be B1-S1, and so on. Batches of eight stories were sent to the judges. Each story submission was acknowledged within a day of receipt.

Step 7: In all, there were 116 submissions, of which approximately half came in on the last two days. About a dozen came in during the last hour. Three came in after 11:55 but before 11:59 p.m. This surprised me (and the judges). It also served as a reminder to me: Don’t be so last minute! It’s just plain annoying and you run the risk of something going wrong (i.e. internet problems) and missing the cutoff. The latter “almost” happened to one author, who managed to squeeze in at 11:59 p.m. with a panicky email saying their internet had been down all evening. If it had been the next day, it would have been too late. (The dog ate my homework comes to mind as an excuse).

Step 8: The judges did their thing, reading and rating each story as the batches arrived. I did not read any of the stories. Two stories were disqualified for having known characters. One story, judged “the best” by all three judges, was rejected because it did not meet the travel criteria. It was my unhappy task to inform those authors of the decision. One story came in at 4,015 words. Since it was not a last minute submission, I returned it to the author, who managed to get it to 3,999 words. But had it been last minute, it would have been DQ’d.

Step 9: After the judges culled the list down to 24 stories, I submitted them, and their comments, to the editor,  John McFetridge. John pared the list down to 18.

Step 1o: Draft a rejection and acceptance letter, and send them out. It was more than a bit humbling to send myself a rejection letter, but the competition was fierce, and I know a lot of great stories from some very well-known authors didn’t make it in. I’m going to revisit that story, hopefully make it stronger, and find a new home for it.

What’s Step 11? Not sure…yet…but one thing is certain. My work on the anthology is not yet done. To see the list of authors who did make the cut, visit the website. Kudos to all who made it. It’s quite an accomplishment.

To register for Bouchercon, or find out more about it, visit the Bouchercon website

 

Before They Were Authors: Nalini Warriar

Winner of the 2002 QWF McAuslan Award for her first book, Blues from the Malabar Coast, Nalini Warriar spent her childhood in Assam and Mumbai. She worked as a molecular biologist before turning to writing. She lives in Napanee, Ontario. Her latest novel, Fireflies in the Night, has been chosen as ‘Best Indie Books 2016’ by Kirkus Reviews.

Here’s Nalini’s story:

I set my first novel, The Enemy Within, in the scientific world I’m familiar with. I wanted to portray the inner workings of a federally funded scientific research center and took all the liberty the setting allowed me to. I tried to keep the science part to a minimum but the story got away from me. I followed where the characters and story took me.

The novel is set in Canada-in French Canada-with a female protagonist who is a minority within a minority, a situation perfectly suited to the unique social and political climate in Quebec. I had plenty to work with, inspiration coming at me from all sides: my workplace, the malls and the community. It took me more than six years to find a publisher, partly because I was so out of the literary world in Toronto. And I wrote in English. Local presses did not ‘read’ English, in Quebec City, I must stress. The editors told me they didn’t know what to do with my book. Translation did not come to their minds. Plus my novel was not the story of the ‘immigrant experience.’ With a name like mine in Quebec City, they expected a story steeped in hardship, poverty, violence and I don’t know what else. I was unique. My book is unique. This was too much uniqueness for me to handle. So I moved away from Quebec and now am happy to call Ontario my home.

My second novel, Fireflies in the Night, was published in 2016. Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review and it was chosen as ‘Best Indie Books 2016.’ It is a finalist in the Foreword Reviews Best Indie Books 2016. I couldn’t be prouder.

My latest book, Green Monkeys is a cozy mystery, and is about clinical trials and drug research.

I worked as a cancer researcher and around the time I hit my very own mid-life crisis, I remembered a forgotten dream: writing. I’ve loved books and the places they took me. As a child, I devoured fairy tales. Novels set in far off places are my adult fairy tales. In a house full of family and noise, words spoken in a language I hadn’t heard in decades, set off a series of memories. Working in a lab was a perfect balance. In science, the writing is factual, short and concise. And above all, there were guidelines in order to prepare a manuscript for submission to scientific journals. I found these same rules in the literary world as well. They were familiar, un-daunting.

Organization skills and discipline were a few of the other characteristics I took away from my science job and transposed into my writing. In the lab, I followed a protocol; I established parameters; analyzed the results and drew conclusions. This required organizing and following a timetable. At the end of the experiments, I wrote the article with a synopsis, and conclusion. Pretty standard stuff. I did the same with my writing: I organized pretty notebooks and pencils; booted my laptop; and poured over my notes. I always kept one in my lab coat pocket. I observed all the other stressed out crazy scientists, the rooftop terrace that I had my lunch on; and made notes about whatever and whoever struck. This was my raw material.

At home, after dinner, I sat down at my desk, plugged my ears with music and wrote with no obvious purpose. I like novels with good structure and a consistent voice. I disliked change of tense within a paragraph or chapter and I hated it when authors jumped from the first person to third person in their books. So I did none of the things I disliked and embraced everything I admired, aiming for a structurally sound base and strong characters.

Balancing science and writing came easily to me. I put up with science as it gave me the liberty to obsess about writing. I never thought about my science when I was creating. And science never gave me as much pleasure as writing. In the end, I ditched science and opted for writing full time.

 

Find Nalini Warriar on Facebook. Her books are available through all worldwide outlets of Amazon.