Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Praise of Libraries

Missed my Monday blog post yesterday. The best laid plans and all that. I actually started my post, but I lost it. Been known to happen. I had decided to organize my day and keep to a schedule. You can stop laughing now. Liz is the organized one, but I tend to get distracted by ...just about anything.

After my early morning walk yesterday I thought the best place to get some writing done was a visit to the library. This is to avoid being interrupted by persons, who shall remain nameless, about the most trivial things. Even with a sign on the door and threats to life and limb my husband stands in the doorway of my office to inform me of Harpers latest fiasco in the senate or our maligned Mayor Ford’s indiscretions. My grandson Riley who will be eighteen next week wants to know where his grey shirt is and did I know the cereal was finished. Wheesh! Look for your shirt yourself and as you are the only one that eats cereal how would I know it was finished?

Those are just a few of the daily interruptions. I find FB and all the other sites I have attached myself to take me away from what I want to do, and that is to write.  Which brings me back to my use of the Library. I used to visit and borrow books until I would forget to return them. Then we have Google and other sites for research on my trusty laptop. Well, not always so trustworthy. I’ve fried the battery I’m told by those in the know-it’s getting old. Aren’t we all?

When I took my laptop yesterday to the library the assistant tried to help me connect with their WIFI. She gave me a pitying glance and gave up after ten minutes and suggested I use one of theirs. Now why didn’t I think of that?  Perfect. I had a beautiful spot overlooking the marina, it was quiet, and the keyboard was great. Nobody talked to me or asked me questions they could have answered themselves. I couldn’t see the dust or the laundry to take to the basement or hear CCR playing in the background. That’s Creedence Clearwater Revival to the uninitiated.

I settled in to write my post. I was nearly finished when I spied the time. Dang, I’ll have to go. His nibs has an appointment and needs the car. Saved my work to who knows where and now I can’t find it. It’s out there in cyberspace.

The moral of this story is. Schedule time for the library and take my thingies. You know, these wee travel thinga-ma-bobs that hold all my work and walk to the library for a couple of hours every day. No FB, no Pinterest or even email. That’s for the afternoon. Now I have a plan. Will I keep it? We shall see. I hope they allow large cups of java while I work. One needs sustenance.

  • ·         My reading material this week is a novel by Catherine Astolfo  www.catherineastolfo.com  called Victim-an Emily Taylor mystery  “A disappearance...a Native legend...a murder...a terrific read”– Donna Carrick, author of The First Excellence. So far I agree. Great read.

  • ·         Don’t forget to come back to Jamie Tremain this Friday, Aug 2nd for the interview with Vicki Delaney. Sure to be interesting with news of her new book ‘A Cold White Sun”.

  • ·         It’s the countdown for Scene of the Crime http://www.sceneofthecrime.ca/happening on Wolfe Island the w/e of August 17th. Liz and I are so looking forward to meeting some new friends and old. Workshop with Barbara Fradkin and an interview with Andrew Pyper.

  • This is who you’ll be missing if you’re not registered. Only eighteen days to go.
  • Ian Hamilton, author of the award-winning Ava Lee series
  • Janet Bolin, author of the delightfully cozy Threadville series
  • Linda Wiken (aka Erika Chase) a members of last year’s Grant Allen winners, the Ladies Killing Circle, and author of the Asthon Corners Book Club Mysteries
  • Gloria Ferris, whose first novel Cheat the Hangman, won the 2012 Bony Blythe Award for favourite light mystery
  • Guest lecture by Paul Schliesmann, author of Honour on Trial; The Shafia Murders and the Culture of Honour Killings.

It should be an interesting w/e. Hope you're enjoying the cooler weather.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's for the birds!

Monday's my day to blog. Temperatures have dropped and the living is easy.

While Liz has her commute, reports and dealing with big business stuff I have the pleasure of watching our bird feeder now that the raccoons have left it alone. We take it inside at night as they knocked it right of the branch last week. Today we’re watching the demented action of two squirrels. It’s driving them crazy. After they've eaten everything dropped by the birds they try every trick in the book to get those yummy seeds. Jumping from branch to branch, tails going a mile a minute they've not made it yet. One was hanging upside down on the rope tying it to the tree and still it eluded him or her. What perseverance for some lunch.

The yellow finches are lovely.

Cardinals are my favourite.  

 Not sure what this is.
         Isn't he a beauty?

Blue Jay's this morning were as determined as the squirrels, but they're too big for the feeder.

Enough of the frivolity you say. You're probably murmuring- ‘Pam needs a life’. 

What I should be doing is writing and plotting. The new book is going well, and we’ve  had some good  sessions via Google docs. A story is starting to come through all the verbiage and sharing in real time is great. We are thinking of working with ‘Scrivener’. Has anyone used this?

Off for a day trip to Prince Edward County to visit relatives tomorrow. Must check the weather. Then there is the baby watch.... and I have a few emails to answer and...think I’m having a procrastinator day. Nearly finished Patricia Cornwall’s 'Scarpetta'. Oh my, that woman can put a story together. You could say she is detail oriented, as in, How to garrote a person the easy way. Fascinating; think I will finish it this afternoon with the birds and squirrels and chipmunks to keep me company.

I hope you are enjoying the Interview series. Next month on August 2nd will be Vicki Delany. Sure to be an interesting talk.

Keep cool,


Monday, July 15, 2013

Interview day with R.J.Harlick

A warm welcome to R.J.Harlick (Robin) for our Monday Interview. As its summer we will be sure to find her at her log cabin in the wilderness of West Quebec dealing with a myriad of wild animals and domestic ones as well. Two beautiful standard poodles, Sterling and new pup Molly, keep her company when she is not taking pictures of an assortment of woodland creatures.

   For a city girl she sure likes roughing it.

Canoeing, snowshoeing and hiking in the forests where you live a good part of the year play a big part in your writing of the Meg Harris stories.  The wilderness setting and your knowledge of the First Nations culture contribute a wonderful insight into aboriginal lore. How did you go about researching for this series?

 Let me say how thrilled I am, Pam, to be doing an interview for your blog.  Thanks for inviting me.

They always say write what you know, so I set my series in a place I know and love, the West Quebec wilderness where my cottage is. I also wanted to populate this setting with the people who traditionally live there, English Canadians, Quebecois and Algonquin First Nations. I initially only intended that my Algonquin characters have a walk-on appearance, but as the writing of the first book, Death’s Golden Whisper, progressed, I became very attached to them. And so First Nations people and their stories became an integral part of my Meg Harris series. 
However, my knowledge of their customs was minimal, so I relied on the internet and library for my research. I also wanted to ensure I reflected their culture as accurately as the story would permit, so I consulted with several members of Kitigan Zibi, the closest Algonquin reserve to Ottawa.
When Meg Harris travels to other Native communities, I consult with members of those communities too.  Since I am not as familiar with these settings as I am with the Meg’s West Quebec home of Three Deer Point, I travel to these fare flung places myself and invariably come back filled with story ideas that I never would’ve gleaned from the internet.

 Your sixth book in the Meg Harris mysteries, ‘Silver Totem of Shame’ is in the publisher’s hands and is due for release in 2014. Do you see yourself running out of stories to tell about Meg? Can you tell us a little about it?

 I had great fun writing Silver Totem of Shame. Once again Meg gets to travel, as did I, this time to Canada’s west coast, to Vancouver and Haida Gwaii, the home of the Haida.  I’d grown up with stories about these fabled islands from my father who’d worked in one of the logging camps as a student before WWII. So when the time came to send Meg on another trip, I leapt at the opportunity to explore them and came back bubbling over with inspiration.
As the title suggests the plot revolves around totem pole carving. Meg Harris and her new husband are staying in a houseboat on Granville Island. While out exploring the island, Meg comes across a crime scene where a young Haida carver was murdered. This sets off a chain of events that sends Meg to Haida Gwaii in search of his killer.
During my trip to the islands, I learned that the many crests carved into a totem pole are not haphazard, but are meant to tell a story. So I have interwoven into the plot the unfolding of an ancient Haida story through the carving of a totem pole. Needless to say,it all comes together with a surprise at the end.
I wish I had a copy of the new cover for you to post, but unfortunately it’s still in the drafting stage.
To answer your first question, Pam, I have too many stories about Meg in my head to ever run out. In fact, I am busy plotting the seventh Meg Harris mystery.

Shortlisted for the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel! -
Your fourth book ‘Arctic Blue Death’ is a favourite of mine. You travelled to the Arctic to experience life in the frozen north. Tell us about your experiences there?

I have always wanted to visit Canada’s Far North, so when it came time to write the 4th Meg Harris mystery, I decided to send Meg to Baffin Island, so I could go too. Although so much information about the Arctic is available on the internet and in magazines and books, I felt I had to experience it first hand to get a real sense of this mysterious, barren and hostile land. So during the longest days of the year, I visited Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut and Pangnirtung, an art centre, where I learned about Inuit print making, which became a central theme of ‘Arctic Blue Death’.  I met many people, from a young Inuk RCMP constable to a retired teacher who’d spent over 30 years living in the north. I came away with story ideas that couldn’t have come from the internet or books. Many found their way into the plot.
I also learned that though it was a fascinating land to visit, it was a place where I couldn’t live. As I result I couldn’t write about it with rose-coloured glasses. Many readers familiar with the north have told me how accurately they felt I had portrayed it. I have even had a couple of readers use it as a travel guide on their first visit to Iqaluit. Thanks goodness, I had everything in their right place.

               Robin and I at the Chapters .
In ‘Green Place for Dying’ Meg is a crusader and rails against injustice and the indifference she finds with the authorities when native women go missing.  Are you a crusader Robin? Could you or would you confront the police into more action on these missing women?

 I will make a lot of noise and rail against this or that, but I’m afraid I’m not as brave as Meg.  And although I may carry on about it with my husband, I’m afraid that is usually as far as it goes. Perhaps Meg is my way of dealing with injustice.

You are able to weave city life with the wilderness and two different cultures to blend into a story we can get our teeth into.  Does storytelling come naturally to you?

I find this whole process of storytelling fascinating. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Ask me to fully plot out a story before writing it and I wouldn’t be able to. But put a pen in my hand or more accurately a keyboard under my fingers and the story seems to flow through the writing of the words. Sure I have my moments when I’ll hit a wall and wonder what in the world Meg should do next, but invariably she makes her way through a crack and carries on, often taking a completely different direction from the one I thought we were following.

Without giving too much away we learn that Meg has many human frailties. She battles alcoholism, feels guilty and makes many wrong decisions regarding her relationships. Yet she is a fighter. Is Meg someone you have known or is she truly a fictitious character?

 Meg was spawned in my mind and has taken on a life of her own.  I feel I’ve had little control  in the kind of person she has become and I rather enjoy journeying with her through each successive book. If you were to ask me to describe her, I probably wouldn’t be able to. But I know what she is all about, her likes and dislikes, her reactions to events, to people. Occasionally my editor will suggest a change related to Meg and I will instinctively know that it is something Meg wouldn’t do.

You worked in the corporate world for many years. How hard was it to make the transition to novel writing?

When I decided to write my first novel, I had pretty well finished with the corporate world. It wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Writing was. Writing had been one of the activities I had enjoyed most while working. But it was business writing, which I quickly learned was very different from creative writing. So with the writing of my first book, Death’s Golden Whisper, I learned how to write fiction. I rewrote that book four times until I finally mastered it.

As the president of Crime Writers of Canada http://crimewriterscanada.com/  can you use your crystal ball and tell us how healthy or not Crime/mystery writing is in Canada?

It is a very exciting time for Canadian crime writing. Twenty years ago, there were only a dozen or so crime writers, many of them languishing undiscovered in the back book shelves. Today we have over 250 published members in Crime Writers of Canada with a number hitting the best seller lists not only within Canada but also internationally as more and more readers discover our uniquely Canadian voice. I like to think that the next big wave in popularity will be the Canadians.  Watch out Scandinavians, here we come!

Who has influenced your writing the most?

 Pam, I am not sure if any one writer has influenced me. But I do love reading mysteries and have done so since a child, starting with Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. I have always enjoyed British mysteries and the way they are subtly crafted. Writers like, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. I also have my favourite American writers, like Michael Connelly and Elizabeth George, who is really writing along the British tradition, and Elliot Pattison.  I particularly enjoy reading Canadian authors and do have my favourites to numerous to list.

What are you reading right now and is your next book in the works?

I am currently enjoying the post Great War period of Mel Bradshaw’s latest book, Fire on the Runway. While I haven’t yet put pen to paper, my mind is a whirl of plot ideas for the seventh Meg Harris mystery. Meg will return to her beloved Three Deer Point, and she will find herself cut off from the rest of the world by a major blizzard.  With Eric away, her only companion will be Adjidamo, the boy Sergei saved in Red Ice for a Shroud. And she just might have a new puppy….

Thanks Robin for spending the time with us today. We wish you much success with your series and we look forward to ‘Silver Totem of Shame’ due in 2014.

RJ Harlick is an escapee from the high tech jungle. After working for over twenty-five years in the computer industry, first for major computer corporations such as IBM and DMR Group, then with her own management consultancy practice, she decided that pursuing killers by pen would be more fun than chasing the elusive computer bug.
Originally from Toronto, R.J., along with her husband, Jim, and their standard poodles, Sterling and Miss Molly now bides her time between her home in Ottawa and log cabin in West Quebec. A lover of the outdoors, she spends much of her time roaming the forests of the Outaouais. Because of this love for the untamed wilds, she decided that she would bring its seductive allure alive in her writings. This she has done in her Meg Harris mystery series, where the wilderness setting plays almost as large a role as the main character, Meg Harris. There are currently 5 books in the series, with the sixth, Silver Totem of Shame, due for release in June 2014. The 4th book, Arctic Blue Death, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel.
She has also published short stories with the latest When the Red, Red Robin… appearing in the Ladies Killing Circle Anthology, Bone Dance. One of her stories, Lady Luck, was a winner of the 2002 Bony Pete award and appears in the Bloody Words Anthology.

I hope you are all enjoying these interviews as much as I enjoy doing them. The next author interview is to be posted Friday, August 2nd. Vicki Delaney is in the hot seat.
Keep cool where you are.
Talk soon,

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mid July Weekend

Tools of the Trade

Another very productive writing day for Jamie Tremain.  Pam arrived right on the dot at 9:30.  After a few minutes spent catching up over the first coffee of the day, we got down to it.  Being able to sit outside and work made the day that much more enjoyable and perhaps even contributed to the amount of work we covered.  I think this was probably one of our most successful days in a long time.  We’re excited to be working on a new project, building characters and a back story before we actually start writing.   We’re hoping to spend a day at a nearby ********* farm for some research – don’t want to give away the type of farming activities yet   :-)

We also discussed our upcoming weekend away in a few weeks to Scene of the Crime on Wolfe Island and are excited to be going.  It means a trek east across Toronto late on a Friday afternoon, but we plan on bypassing the 401 and using the 407 – I’d rather pay a toll than be sitting in stop and go traffic for hours.  The day promises to be full of interesting and fun activities!

A Light Summer Lunch to Keep Us Going

Later this week I’ll be spending a couple of days with my daughter as she recovers from some surgery – hope she doesn't mind that I bring my netbook to be working on JT business for some of the time.  But it will be nice to have that time with her – probably not since she was still living at home.  Time speeds by and opportunities to be together don’t come up very often.  Looking ahead to the weather forecast for this week, I'm very happy she has air conditioning!

Pam and I have now realized the advantage of Google docs!  We’d been using Google Drive for a while to store our shared documents, but only recently discovered its ability to edit in real time when we’re both online.  Terrific tool for us when we do our collaborating electronically – just another reason to love Google.

Stay cool, read a book, and come back tomorrow for Pam’s interview with R.J. (Robin) Harlick – you won’t want to miss it!



Monday, July 8, 2013

Am I a farmer yet?

Growing one’s own veggies to supplement the bought groceries from the store has always been, not so much a dream as a passing fancy over the years.

When my children were small, about thirty five years ago, I had the notion to do just that. I held down a day job, and the youngest of my three children was not even in school when I had this notion. I am known for having notions.

Our abode at the time was a high rise condo apartment on the twentieth floor in North York. Not exactly conducive to any kind of plantings. I had window boxes of petunias and a few pots of geraniums, but they did not get enough sun or it was too windy to attempt anything horticultural.

My notion came to fruition when the city of North York placed an ad in the local paper. “Allotments for rent from the City”. For twenty five dollars a year I could rent a 20x20ft plot that was located near the hydro right of way at Victoria Park and Eglinton Ave. The city would supply the water; you supplied the labour to plant what you wished. My application was in the next day.

My husband worked shifts and commuted from the airport so was not on hand to watch me gather up the kids, borrowed shovel and rake and a zillion packets of seeds. We only had the one car so it was the bus for us as it was too far to walk.

The kids were excited as I had promised them they would have their own garden to look after. I borrowed some string from another gardener and staked out my lot. I felt like a pioneer. Loads of advice from the neighbors who obviously had been doing this for a while, but it fell on deaf ears. If I just read on the packets how to plant these little beauties I would be fine. I’m not very good at reading instructions.

Was I ambitious? Carrots,lettuce- lots of different lettuce. Zucchini, squash, cabbage and tomatoes. My thinking was if I had lots of lettuce I would need lots of tomatoes but...25 plants!

Seeds take such little room. Plants will take over your life. The kids had a small corner, and they grew runner beans that we planted beside the fence for them to climb on.

It was a long hot summer. Many evenings the kid’s enthusiasm was on the wane. They would rather play at the pool or with their friends. My gardening buddies would water my plot if I did not show up by six o’clock. Some evenings I was just too tired to make it and fretted about how my Garden of Eden was faring. On w/e’s my husband joined us and I was spared going by bus with my hoe and all my equipment. There was nowhere to store our equipment.

By August the area was a sea of green. Before me was row upon row of my fellow gardener’s beans and tomatoes and everything in between. Then I came to my dominion.

Who knew that you had to thin out lettuce? And the cabbage..if I just leave it a while longer. And what was I going to do with the two foot Zucchini? They were a big success if I could think what I could use them for. But it was the tomatoes! All 25 plants flourished and had more tomatoes than my whole apartment building could use. That’s it! Light bulb moment. Who doesn’t like tomatoes?

So I started harvesting the cherry and stake tomatoes and every other kind on the planet. My favourite were tiny yellow grape tomatoes. We all ate more of these than I gave away. The people on the bus went home happy when one of the kids presented them with a bag of fresh picked tomatoes and a zucchini.

And the moral of the story is...less is better.

Some basil and parsley to go with my two tomato plants.Heaven.

Not quite enough to make tomato sauce but sufficient for us. When I'm not watering these lovelies I am reading. 

Books that I have finished this summer are:

The Book of Stolen Tales                      D.J Mcintosh.

Threaded for Trouble                             Janet Bolen

When the Saints go Marching in.          Anthony Bidulka

The Dead Hour                                       Denis Mina

The Christie Curse                                 Victoria Abbott

A Small Hill to Die on                              Elizabeth Duncan

The Whisper of Legends                      Barbara Fradkin

These are in no particular order and I will review them soon. I can recommend all of them.

This is the schedule and lineup for author Interviews.

Monday July 15th               R.J. Harlick  discussing her Meg Harris series.

Friday  August 2nd            Vicki Delany - tune in to hear about her new book.

September TBD                Rob Brunet

October       TBD                Anthony Bidulka

November    TBD               C.B Forrest

You will find the archived Interviews on the right hand side near the top of the page.

If you are interested in reading an interview from your favourite author please let me know.

Talk soon,

Monday, July 1, 2013


Happy Birthday Canada – 146 Years Young Today

I can think of no other country I’d rather live.  Proud to be a Canadian and even more proud to say so!

The Centennial celebrations of 1967 I remember like it was yesterday.  Not quite a teenager, I didn't have the insight to appreciate what living in this beautiful country means and why others from around the world flock to our land.  Which, of course, can apply to the United States as well – early wishes for a spectacular and heart felt 4th of July for my friends south of the border as well.  But I think there is something special and unique about this amazing land we live in and while it seems we have been a little more reticent about displaying our national pride publicly, it’s always been there.   

Yesterday I had to make a quick stop at a local grocery store and was tickled to see the display in their front entrance.  Made me smile because its one of those quiet, no fan-fare efforts that deepens my sense of being Canadian.  Kudos to Zehrs!   I'm so pleased to see we are becoming more visual and vocal about showing our love for this land!

Last year celebrated the war of 1812 and a pivotal event in that conflict was celebrated a few days ago on June 22 – the historic walk of Laura Secord in 1813.  I mention it because an early foray into my family’s genealogy indicated a familial connection on my father’s side.  Proud?  You bet – and nothing personal to my many online American ‘cousins’.   History shapes our present and today Canada and America are countries with much in common.  Yes, we've had, and have, our differences but still manage to maintain a heritage of shared victories and sense of purpose.   Again my pride in Canada overflows when we are quick to respond to tragedies south of the border.  A helping hand we will always lend – despite politics or grievances.

Did I mention freedoms?  My father fought in WWII, not hesitating to stand for his country of birth.  The older I get the more I appreciate the sacrifices his generation made for us.   And when I'm apt to complain about this or that, sometimes I pause to reflect that it is a gift we've been given to be able to express ourselves in pretty much any manner that suits us – because of what others have sacrificed for us. Never take it for granted.

And while I know this country has its flaws and is far from perfect, I wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else.  I love the United States and have travelled a fair bit through the eastern States, and my roots will always belong to England where my mother’s family came from – but Canada is my HOME – long may she reign as a beacon of fairness, and a haven of security to the rest of the world.

God Bless Canada!

Happy Canada Day and cheers!


Popular Posts Viewed This Week