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.



Writing Retreat

Taking a moment to share some photos from my writing retreat at our camp on Lake Superior. The writing is going slowly, the ideas are percolating fast & the sunsets have been spectacular.

Gibbs waiting for the sun to set on Lake Superior.

Happy Canada Day!

About Canada Day: On July 1, 1867, Canada was officially born when the Constitution Act joined three provinces into one country: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which then split into Ontario and Quebec. However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982. The holiday, called Dominion Day, was officially established in 1879, but it wasn’t observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens. Dominion Day started to catch on when the 50th anniversary of the confederation rolled around in 1917. In 1946, a bill was put forth to rename Dominion Day, but arguments in the House of Commons over what to call the holiday stalled the bill.

The 100th anniversary in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism and Dominion Day celebrations really began to take off. Although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (Fête du Canada in French), the new name wasn’t formally adopted until October of 1982.

My story: Both my parents immigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 1952 from Nottingham, England (by way of war-torn Germany/Yugoslavia, now Poland/Serbia), and became citizens as soon as their five years was up. They quickly adopted “Canadian” customs, like celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, vs. Christmas Eve, as is done in Germany.

My mother learned to read English by reading stories to me (I remember Heidi being a particular favorite). My father did crossword puzzles with a dictionary—but always with a pen, and never a pencil. Is using a dictionary cheating? Not if that’s how you’re learning the language. There were no ESL programs in the 1950s. (And to this day, if I’m reading a book and there’s a word I don’t know, I look it up in the dictionary, just the way he made me, all those years ago.)

Not content to continue working in a factory, my father went back to school to learn about blueprints and other technical things I don’t understand. Soon after he got an apprenticeship as a Sheet Metal Worker, a job he proudly worked at until the day he died of stomach cancer at the far too young age of 42. (Those of you in the Toronto area: he and his co-worker built and installed all the ductwork in Yorkdale Shopping Mall.)

My mother (who, truth be told, never did acclimatize to Toronto’s hot, humid summers, and cold, snowy winters) left her job as a retail sales clerk at Zeller’s Dept. Store, and started working at a local branch of the Bank of Montreal as a teller. She was soon promoted, and eventually worked her way up the ladder to join the International Banking team, a position she loved until the day she retired. I can remember meeting her for lunch one day in downtown Toronto and thinking, “Wow, she looks so PROFESSIONAL!”

As I was growing up,  my father would always tell me how lucky I was to be born in such a wonderfully inclusive country, a place where there was opportunity for anyone who was willing to work hard and follow their dreams.

My father was right. I took a long, meandering road to get here, but today I’m living my dream of being a published author.

Thank you mom and dad.

Thank you, Canada.


New Release Mondays: Too Many Women in the Room by Joanne Guidoccio

TIP: Be sure to read to the end! There’s a giveaway!!

Author Name: Joanne Guidoccio

Book Title: Too Many Women in the Room

Book Genre: Cozy Mystery

Release Date: May 19, 2017

Synopsis: Gilda Greco’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Excerpt: Carlo’s hand caressed my thigh. More sex. The man could be insatiable. And it had been almost two weeks since our last romp. We started to kiss and then his cell phone vibrated.

Carlo groaned as he leaned over and picked up the phone. He sat up, his back to me. “What’s happened?” he barked. Carlo’s shoulders tensed. A long sigh and then his terse words. “Clear the perimeter, stat.”

Clear the perimeter. My heart beat faster as I recalled the last time I had heard those dreaded words. It could mean only one thing. Another murder. Two murders in less than twenty-hours. What were the chances of that happening in Sudbury? At the Christmas party, the police chief had bragged about one of the lowest murder rates in Canada during the past twelve months.

I swallowed hard. “What’s wrong?”

Carlo turned and gave me a long glance. “Andrew Frattini was found dead in the alleyway behind the ReCareering office.”

The nightmare couldn’t be starting again. This time with different players but still with the same intent. To pin the murder on me. But that strategy wouldn’t work. I had an iron-clad alibi no one could refute.

Carlo dressed quickly. He picked up his phone and then turned toward me. “Stay clear of this, Gilda.”

“How can I ignore it?” I said as I felt myself tearing up. “Someone’s trying to frame me again.”

He leaned over and kissed me. “Well, they didn’t succeed, did they?”

About the Author: In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side and utilized her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.  Find Joanne on her website.

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Before They Were Authors: Christina Hoag

Before I was a novelist, I was a journalist, specifically a newspaper reporter. The two are obviously linked as they both involve writing, albeit from very different angles: fact-based versus imagination-based. But frankly, I cannot think of a better foundation for writing novels than writing news stories, at least for the type of fictional stories I want to tell. That’s probably the way journalism has most influenced my fiction, my short stories as well as novels.

I’m drawn to writing stories set in the real world, as opposed to, say, science fiction or fantasy. My novels also gravitate toward exploring social issues, which I consider one of the primary missions of journalism, and which I wrote about a lot as a reporter.

Much as I did as a journalist, as a novelist I want to make a point by exposing readers to experiences they may not have lived, or cultures and places that they have not been exposed to. For me, this is vital role of fiction and one of the key reasons I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. You can learn, as well as be entertained, through novels by vicariously experiencing other worlds–and character’s bad choices!–without having to live them.

My YA novel “Girl on the Brink” is about dating violence in a middle class New Jersey suburb, while “Skin of Tattoos” is about gang violence in a gritty immigrant neighbourhood of Los Angeles. For both I relied on firsthand experience, research through memoirs and other nonfiction books, and interviews, all skills that are an integral part of a reporter’s job, as well as the essential tool of a novelist: empathic imagination.

News events and feature stories I wrote as a journalist are also a source of things to write about as a novelist. The novel I’m currently working on is also rooted in real-life circumstance. “The Revolutionaries” is a political thriller set in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2002 during the coup attempt against then-President Hugo Chavez. I was living there at the time and reported on the coup for various media outlets.

Having interviewed people from all walks of life also helps me with developing characters. Reporters interview scores of people over the course of their careers, but there’s always a couple interviews that stay with you.

“Skin of Tattoos” grew out of interviews I did for a magazine story about former L.A. gang members who were deported to El Salvador. Several years later, I still vividly remembered being out of the streets of San Salvador with those guys. I sat down and banged out a ten-page outline for a novel about gang members, although the actual novel turned out quite differently than that early outline.

Coverage of specific news events and stories and covering beats like cops, courts and business gave me a wealth of knowledge about how the world works, whether it’s the legal system, police procedure, or corporate regulations. That always comes in handy in different ways, though I often have to complement the generalist’s thin layer of knowledge with research to acquire the level of detail required by a novel.

So while I certainly admire writers of fantasy and science fiction, you won’t likely catch me writing those genres. My focus in fiction was honed by my three decades as a journalist and at this point is pretty engrained in me, but that’s what makes fiction so valuable, everybody contributes their own life experiences.

 About Christina: Christina Hoag’s YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Melange, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 list, while Kirkus Reviews praised her as a “talented writer” with “a well crafted debut” in Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown, 2016), a gangland thriller. A former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press, she reported from Latin America for Time, Business Week, Financial Times and the New York Times. She lives in Los Angeles and on the web at www.christinahoag.com.


Summer Daze eBook Sale!


From June 21 through July 4, all e-book versions of The Hanged Man’s Noose will be on sale for $1.99. Find it in Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, GooglePlay, Nook, and on the Barking Rain Press website (which also includes buy links for all of the above).

If you have read Noose already, why not check out one of the many other great books available on the Barking Rain Press website?  The eBook sale extends to all titles.


A Hole in One: A Glass Dolphin Mystery #2, is scheduled for release in March 2018. ARCs will be available in print, PDF and ebook format at the end of October. If you’re a professional reviewer, please contact me.




New Release Mondays: Parent Teacher Association by Jennifer Soosar

Author Name: Jennifer Soosar

Book Title: Parent Teacher Association

Book Genre: Psychological suspense

Release Date:  June 24, 2017

Synopsis: Fresh out of a mental hospital, Lizanne Demeter is thrilled when she’s hired as a schoolteacher in a backwater town.

But hopes for a peaceful life are ruined when ‘helicopter mom’ Naomi pushes Lizanne to the brink.

As Lizanne unravels the secret behind Naomi’s agenda, deadly clues emerge.

With her life teetering on chaos, Lizanne risks everything to expose the truth. But first, she must prove herself a more dedicated teacher than anyone dared imagine—the kind who makes ALL the difference.

Excerpt: There hadn’t been a letter back from Clint in a while. The window of time between previous back-and-forth letters had passed. And then some.

Lizanne knew she needed patience with the prison system, and the speed at which mail travelled within it, but she couldn’t help feel more and more anxious each day nothing arrived from him. There should have been something by now. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect something, in this long time.

All she wanted was a fresh letter from Clint to luxuriate in. Confirmation that her romance was growing—expanding—and that he still needed and loved her. Lizanne Demeter needed it now desperately.

What if he didn’t like the tattoo?

Had she gone too far with that? Had it scared him off?

Yes, it was a bit crazy, a bit impulsive. But it was romantic, too. Plus, he had wanted a gesture, had asked for one and left the door open to interpretation. No, the Clint’s Girl tattoo couldn’t be the reason he hadn’t written back yet.

What if some other woman is writing to him? What if he’s busy with her? Falling in love with her?

Then Lizanne logged onto Clint’s profile on LockUpLink.com. Mother of pearl, it was still up! Even though they were a couple, he hadn’t bothered to take his listing down. Anybody could still write to him—any woman out there in the whole world!

Maybe he has no control of it. Just ask him nicely to take it down next time he gets computer privileges. He’ll understand. He will.

But would he? The relationship was still young. What if he got offended at being told what to do? Men didn’t like that. But the profile needed to be removed. It wasn’t an unreasonable request. They were boyfriend/girlfriend—they were in love.

It was of utmost importance to Lizanne that she maintain her position of control here. Clint Hubert was a gorgeous, intelligent, decent man—a prize catch—and any dumb skank trolling the LockUpLink website would recognize that for herself.

No, no, no, no, no. This needed to be rectified immediately.

About the author: Jennifer Soosar watched too much America’s Most Wanted’ growing up and has been writing about shady characters ever since. She was born and raised in Toronto and has a degree in anthropology. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. To find out more about Jennifer and her writing projects visit her website www.JenniferSoosar.com

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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.