Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Guest Author - Alison Bruce

Cats! Why did it have to be cats?
By Alison Bruce

First off, I’d like to say that no real cats were harmed in the making of this book. I love cats…even though I’m allergic to them. Only a strong sense of self-preservation stops me from bringing home every stray (cat or dog) I meet.

It’s the cozies that are to blame. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my share of Lillian Jackson Braun and other cozy authors with series that have cats who assist amateur sleuths or at least soothed them on bad days. Most of the cats I know are more likely to compromise evidence than find it, but I’m not dissing the genre. My intention was to put a twist on the modern cozy by making the cats the victims rather than the detectives.

Someone is killing the cats in East Hills and leaving them on the doorsteps of their owners. The police have investigated but they can’t give the case much more time. Carmedy & Garrett are called. Specifically, Chief Thorsen calls in his goddaughter and former rookie detective Kate Garrett because he knows she won’t refuse the case.


Violent death was never pleasant. The cold hadn’t diminished the smell of blood, piss and stool—or if it had, I didn’t want to think about it.

A dart, the kind animal control officers use in their rifles, was sticking into the ribs. Instead of delivering a tranquillizer, its payload was poison. The feathery stabilizer at the end was red and green. Very seasonal.

“Do we know what the poison is, Chief?”

“Looks like cyanide. Samples were taken from the last victim. I’ll let you know when the latest batch have been processed and compared.”

Igor Thorsen, Chief of Detectives and my godfather, bent down and offered me his hand. I let him pull me out of the crouch I had been sustaining for several minutes while I examined the body. I didn’t need the help, but it was a warm gesture on a cold night.

“I could use your help on this, Kathleen. People are getting nervous but I can hardly free up a detective for a serial cat-killer. I can authorize support services for a week and the East Hills Neighbourhood Group will pay your fees.”

I stripped off my gloves and ran my fingers through my hair, pushing back the auburn strands that had blown into my face. Time for a cut. Or maybe not. I didn’t have to keep up the uniform code for keeping hair short or worn up.

I looked up at the Chief. Way up. And I’m not short. Or particularly tall.

I nodded.

My name is Kate Garrett. Up until recently, I had been a rookie detective in the violent crimes unit. The chief was my boss. Almost one month ago my father, the Joe Garrett of Garrett Investigations, was killed in a pedestrian-vehicle incident. Now I was the Garrett of Carmedy and Garrett Investigations.

Last month I was a homicide detective. Now I was a pet P.I.?

An Imajin Qwickies™ Mystery/Crime Novella

A Carmedy & Garrett Mini-Mystery #1

By Alison Bruce
Imajin Books
November 2015

Last month Kate Garrett was a Police Detective. Now she’s a Pet P.I.?

Kate recently inherited half her father’s private investigation company and a partner who is as irritating as he is attractive. Kate has been avoiding Jake Carmedy for years, but now her life might depend on him.

Kate and Jake are on the hunt for a serial cat killer who has mysterious connections to her father’s last police case. Kate’s father had been forced to retire when he was shot investigating a domestic disturbance. Is the shooter back for revenge? And is Kate or Jake next?

Available at:


Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western romance novels. Three of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.

have laptop, will travel

Monday, 16 November 2015

New Book - Maverick Publisher

Maverick Publisher: J. Patrick O’Callaghan; A Life in Newspapers  
is the culmination of a labour of love for Pat’s widow, Joan O’Callaghan, a founding member of the Mesdames of Mayhem. Lynne Murphy talked to Joan about her work on the memoir and Pat O’Callaghan’s life.

The launch will be held on November 26th from 7 to 9 p.m.at Owl’s Nest Books, 815A 49th Avenue, S.W., Calgary, Alberta. 

(Interview first published on Mesdames of Mayhem Blog)

L.M.: First I want to ask about the title. Why the term “maverick”?

Joan: We took the title from a comment by Brian Brennan, a former Calgary Herald journalist, on his blog. He described Pat as a “maverick publisher.” Editor of the book, and former employee of Pat’s at the Windsor Star, Ed Piwowarczyk, thought it was an apt title and I agreed. Pat did not run with the herd. He lived and breathed newspapering and did not hesitate to stand up to government, Southam head office, or anyone whom he felt placed obstacles in the way of an effective and free press. He was something of a pioneer. He was one of the first to appoint women, outside of family-owned newspapers, to senior editorial posts (The Sun used to refer to the “girls who ran the Herald”) and was the first in Canada to convert a large auditorium in the Herald building to a daycare centre for the children of Herald employees. This did not endear him to other publishers who found themselves lobbied by their own employees to follow suit. He also broke the sex-barrier at the Petroleum Club in Calgary, which prior to this, did not accept women as members.

L.M.: Pat was born in Ireland. What brought him to Canada?

Joan: Pat was born in Ireland but grew up in England. He was working at the Liverpool Daily Post when it bought the Red Deer Advocate in 1958. Pat was sent to Red Deer in 1959 as Managing Editor to turn the paper from a weekly to a daily. But before going to Red Deer, he spent six months at the Peterborough Examiner learning about the Canadian newspaper industry. He worked for Robertson Davies!

L.M.: He worked on a number of Canadian newspapers before ending his career at the Calgary Herald.

Joan: Yes, after Red Deer, he went to the Edmonton Journal as Assistant to the Publisher, later to the Windsor Star as Publisher, back to the Edmonton Journal as Publisher, and then to the Calgary Herald as Publisher.

L.M.: Mme. Rosemary McCracken, who was a reporter on the Calgary Herald during Pat’s time there, says he was the best publisher she ever worked for. What made him so good at his job?

Joan: A combination of factors, I’d say. First of all he was a working journalist. Exactly four weeks before he died, he wrote an article that was published in the Globe and Mail. He was one of the last publishers to come up through the editorial stream so he knew what constituted a good newspaper and insisted on putting out as good a product as humanly possible. His battles with Southam’s head office over new presses for the Edmonton Journal nearly cost him his health, but in the end he got them. Reporters and editors respected him for his talent, his skill, and most of all his integrity. Second, he believed in his staff and supported them wholeheartedly but at the same time he wouldn’t put up with nonsense. There was a reporter at the Herald who was just obnoxious – as an example, he had a habit of driving staff cars out onto the prairie until they ran out of gas, then calling the paper, cursing and swearing until someone drove out to get him. Pat fired him.

L.M.: I understand a number of members of the Mesdames have helped you with getting the memoir ready for publication.

Joan: The Mesdames have all been wonderfully supportive and cheering me on. I have to give credit to Rosemary McCracken. I don’t think this day would have come without her invaluable advice, support and encouragement. And I have mentioned Ed Piwowarczyk, and of course, Carrick Publishing.

L.M.: As Pat’s widow, was it difficult for you working on his memoir?

Joan: Actually, no. To the contrary, I enjoyed it. Pat wrote the memoirs with a light touch and a conversational tone. When I sat down at the computer to work on the book, it felt like I was having a visit with him, that he was sitting next to me, telling me his stories. It was very comforting – so much so that once I have the actual print copy in hand, I intend to put it at my bedside where I can dip into it.

L.M.: You are a writer too. What influence has Pat had on your work?

Joan: Pat was wonderfully encouraging! When Scholastic Canada sent me the contract for my first book, Amazing Days, he ran around the house shouting, “Author! Author!” When Scholastic told me that they wanted the manuscript for the second book submitted on disk (this was the mid-nineties), he went out and bought me what was then a state-of-the art computer. He would get excited when we saw my books displayed prominently in bookstores or when Scholastic’s clipping service sent me reviews. I could not have asked for a more wonderful life partner. He made me believe that I could be whatever I wanted to be!

L.M.: Thank you, Joan. We look forward to reading Pat’s memoir.

Maverick Publisher: J. Patrick O'Callaghan: A Life in Newspapers 
Carrick Publishing, 2015

Paperback: $16.99

Kindle ebook: $6.99

Saturday, 3 October 2015

8 Essentials for a 5-Star Anthology

Many thanks to Donna Carrick of Carrick Publishing for permission to repost her excellent article on the components of a winning anthology!

Throughout this writing and publishing journey, I've been known to wear a number of different hats.

Today, in honor of the Mesdames of Mayhem and in celebration of our soon-to-be released crime anthology: 13 O'Clock I'll slip on my purple chapeau.

While sporting my Carrick Publishing hat, I've managed to acquire my fair share of experience in producing short story collections and anthologies. Given the unique challenges they present and the special place they hold in the hearts of readers, anthologies require extensive care in the creative process.

Here are a few of the essential ingredients needed for crafting a killer anthology:

1- A seasoned and professional gathering of willing authors

In our 2013 crime anthology, Thirteen by the Mesdames of Mayhem (Carrick Publishing) we were fortunate to include an exceptional lineup of Award-winning authors:

Catherine Astolfo, Rosemary Aubert, Jane Petersen Burfield, M.H. Callway, Melodie Campbell, Donna Carrick, Vicki Delany, Catherine Dunphy, Rosemary McCracken, D.J. McIntosh, Lynne Murphy, Joan O’Callaghan, Sylvia Maultash Warsh

As a result, the anthology was the recipient of two nominations for the coveted Arthur Ellis Award 2014 for Best Short Story, as well as one Derringer Award nomination!

Arthur Ellis Nominations for Best Short Story: "Watermelon Weekend" by Donna Carrick and "The Emerald Skull" by Sylvia Maultash Warsh.

Derringer Award Nomination for Best Short Story: "The Sweetheart Scamster" by Rosemary McCracken.

2- A universally accessible theme

In our newest anthology, 13 O'Clock, our theme is that age-old thief, time.

In particular, we asked our authors to explore the inter-action between time and crime; to reflect upon crime throughout ages past, or in future eras, or how the passing of time either heals old wounds, or refreshes them to spur on evil deeds.

3- A collection of exceptional and entertaining stories

It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. As writers, we rely on readers. For this reason, we owe it to them to offer stories that are entertaining, exhilarating....hell, interesting!

In the 2014 anthology, World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing, in conjunction with the Facebook group Excerpt Flight Deck for readers and Authors) we asked our EFD authors to bring us their very best in short crime fiction.

The result? Another industry-acclaimed anthology by Carrick Publishing!

Arthur Ellis Nomination for Best Short Story: "Writer's Block", by Kevin Thornton.

Derringer Award Nomination for Best Short Story: "The Ultimate Mystery", by M.H. Callway.

4- An experienced, skilled project manager

Every project needs one. The Mesdames of Mayhem founder, author M.H. Callway (Windigo Fire, Seraphim Editions, 2014) has been at the helm every step of the way.

Madeleine (to her friends, among whom I'm blessed to count myself) keeps her eye on the ball at all times, never losing sight of the goal.

Mad, you're a true champion!

5- A dedicated editor and a professional copy-editor

In my dual capacities as author and publisher, I maintain a strict policy: All work must be thoroughly edited.

I've been lucky over the years to be able to fortify my own careful (though not flawless) eyes with those of my husband, Economist, author and seasoned editor Alex Carrick.

In the case of the Mesdames' crime anthologies, several of the Mesdames pitched in for a final proof-reading marathon.

We were fortunate, with our latest title 13 O'clock, to have the help of author and seasoned journalist/copy-editor Ed Piwowarczyk. His assistance was invaluable, and it shows in the polish of the stories within.

Authors, I cannot emphasize this enough: we are not working in a void, and no matter how well our hold may be on the language, we are not infallible. Please, give your readers the benefit of your best effort. Engage the help of a second, or even a third, set of professional eyes.

6- Original cover art that is both attractive and representational

7- A publisher who holds these authors and industry professionals in the highest regard, and is willing to invest the necessary time and effort to produce a quality reading experience

At Carrick Publishing, we're committed to helping Indie authors excel in their literary goals. From copy-editing, formatting and making your product sale-ready, we will guide you.

Our work for the Mesdames of Mayhem as well as for the Excerpt Flight Deck authors has been a source of great pride as well as an opportunity for continued growth and learning.

8- An innovative and consistent approach to marketing in a changing industry landscape

Whether you're an author or a publisher (or as many are these days, both), you need to broaden your understanding of what it means to earn readership.

The Mesdames of Mayhem have been blessed beyond gratitude to have the on-going help and support of dear friend and marketing wizard Joan O'Callaghan.

Joan's genuine love of people, of meeting them, getting to know them and talking about her equally passionate love of books has been the mainstay of our continued success.

We don't say it nearly often enough, but thank you, Joan.

The Mesdames of Mayhem are 16 friends who share a common bond: their love of literature in general, and crime genre in particular. Look for us at events in southern Ontario, and be sure to read our work, available at fine retailers everywhere!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Hey Shortie!

A great many people I speak to tell me there are few pleasures they enjoy more than losing themselves in a novel. I can relate to that. I love hunkering down in my chair, feet up, mug of tea at my elbow, cat curled up in my lap.

And – if it is cold outside – a fire burning merrily in the fireplace.

Short fiction however is enjoying a new surge in popularity. Regardless of whether you are a reader or a writer, there are lots of reasons to pay attention. Fortunately, there is a virtual smorgasbord of types of short fiction, ranging from flash fiction to the novella, to choose from.

Generally speaking, younger people have shorter attention spans. The popularity of computer gaming, movies and television has bred a generation of readers and viewers accustomed to quick scene changes and lots of action. One article I read likened current attention spans to about eight seconds, less than that of a goldfish. Short fiction appeals to these people, especially flash fiction which is generally under 2000 words. My flash fiction story, Torch song for Two Voices (That Golden Summer, Polar Expressions Publishing, 2014) came out to just under 600 words.

The increasing popularity of using electronic devices, especially tablets and even cell phones for reading, invites shorter pieces. It is hard to imagine someone reading War and Peace on a cell phone. One friend of mine tells me she reads on her cell phone while standing in line at the checkout counter in the supermarket.

Travel is a third reason for the popularity of short fiction. The frequent distractions associated with sitting in airports and on planes lend themselves to shorter reads.

For the same reason, I think short story anthologies are ideal gifts for people recuperating from illness or surgery. Illness, medication, discomfort all contribute to short attention spans. The collective of which I am a member, the Mesdames of Mayhem, have been able to make copies of our 2013 anthology Thirteen available for sale in the Toronto Hospital gift shop.

I’ve also given a copy of Thirteen to my hairdresser to keep in the salon. He tells me that many of his clients pick up the book and read a story or more while having their hair attended to. A client can easily read two or three stories in that time and not feel frustrated at not being able to finish the book while there.

Studying the craft of the short story is excellent training for aspiring writers. Like the novel, the short story by and large depends on Freytag’s Pyramid for structure.

And while the short story has characteristics of its own, it is an excellent way to focus on the elements of plotting, character revelation, setting and perhaps most important, learning to write tight.

Writing short fiction, as the name suggests, also allows the aspiring author to complete a work and to critique it. And with the many short story anthologies and competitions available, it gives him/her an opportunity to get published and gain recognition, all of which are important when trying to market the manuscript of a novel.

And for the experienced author, he or she can write short fiction alongside longer pieces and thus keep their name in front of publishers, agents, and especially readers, while working on their next bestseller!!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Selling the Book

When my first books, Amazing Days and Places to See, People to See, Things to Do, All Across Canada, were published in the 90s, marketing them was easy -I didn’t have to do a thing! My publisher, Scholastic Canada, did it all – sent out review copies, saved reviews for me etc. My job consisted of filing my reviews, cashing the royalty cheques, being interviewed by my local weekly, and answering “fan mail” from two youthful readers in Labrador who felt I had given that part of the country short shrift.

Ah! The changes wrought by the passage of time! Authors no longer have to search for agents and publishers willing to take them on. The computer has put paid to all that, creating a book bonanza on the internet for readers. This has resulted in a seismic shift in traditional publishing, as these companies struggle to cope with fundamental changes to their industry. Among the changes is the way promotion and marketing is now handled.

Regardless of whether an author has signed on with a big press, a small press, or has decided to go it alone, there is a new onus on him/her to promote as well as write. Traditional publishers are now embedding marketing requirements into their contracts and watching closely to ensure that their authors are adhering to their agreements.

One needs to have a purpose for marketing. In the case of the Mesdames of Mayhem, it is exposure. And so by forming a collective, we hoped to pool our resources, skills and audiences to increase our reach. So what do we do?

Social media is the first and most obvious place to start. A Facebook page, Mesdames of Mayhem, Twitter account @MesdamesMayhem, and a website and blog are de rigeuer, along with tweet teams and blog tours to help spread the word.

Being alert to opportunities can also result in some exciting and non-traditional venues. This has been the case with the Mesdames’ anthology, Thirteen. With help from Friend of the Mesdames, Jane Coryell, we entered into two promotional opportunities with theatre groups who were staging mystery productions. In return for using our website, Facebook page and Twitter account to promote their production, we were given permission to have a table at the theatres in question, sell our books, and be given a boost in the printed programs.

While at the theatre one evening, Madame Madeleine Harris-Callway and I noticed a bookstore at the corner. We walked in, introduced ourselves, and handed the owner a bookmark and a book. He immediately told us he would take some on consignment and invited us to do a signing at the store. The local newspaper was on hand to photograph and interview us at the signing.

We contacted several Ontario wineries and invited them to contribute wine to our launch. Most didn’t express an interest, but one sent us a lovely letter wishing us well and enclosing a gift certificate for 10 people to tour the vineyard and enjoy a tasting.

The Mesdames have bookings with several libraries in Ontario, to read and discuss the process behind creating and selling Thirteen. We have been invited to participate in some book clubs as well.
There are other irons for the Mesdames in the proverbial fire, but these will keep for another day. In the meantime, we continue to look for opportunities to showcase our wonderful book and our very talented collective of writers.

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Monday, 13 July 2015

See You Later, Alligator

If there is anything an ice storm teaches us, it is how helpless we can be when confronted with the forces of nature. And while there is much to be said for the traditional weaponry when plotting a murder, I find myself drawn to the natural world to do my dirty work.

In my novel manuscript, Tooth and Claw, Laura Jensen, an attractive wealthy woman with a past and some strange predilections, travels to New Orleans for a business conference. There her past catches up with her. What should have been a peaceful and enjoyable cruise on the Mississippi turns into her worst nightmare; and her body is dumped in a bayou and into the jaws of a very hungry alligator.

Although I have vacationed in New Orleans, one of my favourite cities, and have in fact, enjoyed a bayou cruise, I was not that familiar with alligators, so some research was necessary. While visiting my friends Janice and Larry Hatt at their West Palm Beach condo, I prevailed upon them to take me to see alligators. We went to a place in the Everglades called Shark Valley. Why it is named Shark Valley is a mystery to me since it is not a valley and there was a noticeable absence of anything resembling sharks. But there were alligators galore, and after, wandering off on a trail during a break in the tour and nearly stepping upon one – fortunately for me fast asleep – I wisely stayed in the tram for the duration of the outing.

Alligators continue to fascinate me, albeit from a safe distance. Genetically, they are linked to dinosaurs and have been around for some 230 million years, without evolving much. And while human beings are not part of their usual diet, they are considered opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat anything that comes their way. In 1995, a nuisance alligator was killed. The ‘gator, estimated to be about 50 years old, had seven dog collars in its stomach, one from a dog that had been missing for 14 years.

The jaws of the American alligator can exert 3000 pounds of pressure per square inch- enough to crunch bones. They generally kill their prey by rolling until the prey drowns. They then stash the kill in a muddy bank or underwater cave until it is putrid enough for the alligator to tear off pieces.
Alligators were hunted almost to extinction for their skin which is made into fashionable leather goods – shoes, handbags and belts, until they were declared an endangered species. However in recent years, their numbers have increased dramatically, and there is now an annual hunt in the bayous. Hunting licences are required for this. The recent series, Swamp People, on the History Channel, documents the hunt.

The supremacy of ‘gators in the Florida Everglades is now threatened by pythons. While not native to this part of the world, the giant snakes have found the Everglades to be an ideal home with no natural predators. The pythons are thought to number in the hundreds of thousands. An urban myth is that people adopted the snakes when babies as pets, but as they got bigger and threatened small children and family dogs and cats, the owners irresponsibly released them into the Everglades. A more plausible theory is that the snakes originally escaped from a breeding facility that was damaged in a hurricane. Winters in Louisiana tend to be about ten degrees colder than Florida which is too cold for the pythons and probably explains why the Louisiana alligators have not been threatened by the snakes.

If history stays the course, the alligators will prevail and continue on for many more millennia.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Idea Shop

If I were to take a poll of writers to find out what question they are asked most frequently, I’m betting it would be, “Where do you get your ideas?” Author Stephen King once joked that there’s a company in Cleveland or some such place, called The Idea Shop and every month it sends him a box of ideas.

Appealing as the notion of an idea shop is, it really isn’t necessary. Ideas are all around us all the time. Really!!

Some writers find inspiration in careers they’ve had; education; family experiences and family histories. Other sources for ideas are in newspapers, magazines, the Internet. We’ve all seen medical thrillers written by doctors, legal thrillers written by lawyers, mysteries based on cooking, on knitting and on quilting.

Most of my own ideas have come from simply looking and listening. Inspiration is never very far away. The idea for my story George came to
me one day in late October when I was driving along a country road and saw a gallows (a Hallowe’en decoration) with a dummy hanging from it. My mind immediately began to play with the possibilities – what if that’s not a dummy? What if a real person is hanging there, but because it’s Hallowe’en, people just assume it’s a dummy?

Driving along another country road with a friend, she pointed to a pretty frame cottage and remarked, rather casually, that the cottage was supposed to be haunted. From that casual remark came the ghost in For Elise. My story, Sugar and Spice to be published in Thirteen, had its origins in an incident described by a former student of mine, and Stooping to Conquer (EFD1: Starship Goodwords, Carrick Publishing) was inspired by the commentary of a tour guide in one of the great country houses in Ireland, which I visited many years ago.

Future plans include a fictionalized account of a bit of family lore involving a young boy who died under mysterious circumstances, and a story based on some intriguing material I happened upon while researching my novel which is currently undergoing revisions.

A favourite technique is one I came across from author Anne Bernays in her book What If (HarperCollins). Consider a perfectly ordinary situation, then add a “what if” question. For example, you are driving home from the supermarket and stop for a red light. What if a man opens the door on the passenger side, jumps in and points a gun at you and tells you to keep driving? There you have a complication and the beginning of what might be an exciting plot.

Award-winning author and teacher (and the most recent of the Mesdames) Rosemary Aubert, gave each of the students in her class at Loyalist in June a little notebook to keep track of ideas. In fact, I’ve been keeping an “Ideas” notebook for years. It’s crammed full of my jottings, musings, and clippings from newspapers and magazines that could morph into a short story or novel one day.

Carry a little notebook around and jot down ideas as they occur. Who knows? If you don’t use them in a story, perhaps you could open a Stephen King-type Idea Shop of your own and send a box of ideas to authors every month.