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More Florida weirdness.

This comes under the heading that truth is stranger than fiction, at least in Florida.

Imagine a life guard fired for saving a life, or a man who dies after winning a roach eating contest and....oh, so much more. You have to read it to believe it. I always enjoy these yearend wrap-ups of craziness. Somehow it confirms that things could always be worse and I could have done a lot dumber things than I actually did.

All the best in 2013! May none of us end up on next year's list.

www.heraldtribune.com/article


Predictions for 2013 for the book industry

See Mark Coker of Smashword's predictions at
http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/mark-cokers-2013-book-publishing.html?spref=fb

Inspiration

Python kill-a-thon

People ask me where I get my inspiration. Well, here's a perfect example of a Sherri Travis news item. You know this is going to end badly, things will go wrong and more than snakes will die.
Florida is the land of crazy. Maybe it's the swamp gas or the heat, but whatever it is the locals that keep me amused and inspired.

Nostalgia

I've reached the age of nostalgia and Christmas is now all about the past and not what might be under the tree. This song from 1943 says it all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTwqsvb9U30

Still, I'm looking forward to Christmas dinner at the Gasparilla Inn, and Lee says he can tell it's the season by the jig-saw puzzle set up in the living room. My dad and I always had the best conversations over puzzles.

Cool foggy mornings that turn into afternoon beach walks, perfect weather for working and beach dreaming.

Yesterday I signed a contract with TouchWood Editions for the first book in a new series set in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

Long Gone Man tells the story of a homeless street singer who arrives on Glenphiddie Island one foggy night on the last ferry. She calls herself Singer Brown, a name designed to hide as well as explain, and she's on the island looking for the members of the band she once sang with.

Singer journeys up Glenphiddie Mountain, twisting and turning around the narrow roads, until her ancient van drops a wheel over the edge of a cliff. Singer stumbles blindly through the fog to the mountain eerie of Johnny Vibes, the leader of the band.
Grateful to be safe, Singer knocks on the door and when it opens Lauren Vibes greets Singer with a gun in her hand. On the floor behind her is the body of Johnny Vibes.
And so begins another adventure, both in writing and in publishing. I like Singer, but even though I have another two books outlined and ready to go, I'm going to hold off starting those books until I see how readers like my homeless singer.

In the meantime, I'm almost finished a rough draft of a new Sherri Travis mystery, My Last Martini. I think it will be my best book, but maybe that's just the shine of romance I always feel when I first start a book. If so, this love affair has lasted longer than most do with a story.

By the time I finished with Highball Exit, I no longer knew what to think about it and I was truly worried about the reviews.
Turns out, Highball received the best reviews of any book I've written! Go figure.

Welcome to Florida

We had an interesting arrival in Florida this year. When I saw that the potato vine had grown over the front steps I should have known that our unpacking wasn't going to be easy. After ripping away the voracious vine to find the entrance, inside we were faced with a bloom of mold and mildew on all things leather. The air conditioner had failed at some point over the summer and there was that lovely smell of mildew in the air. Everything had to be washed in vinegar and after their "bath" the cushions all had to go out in the sun. Yesterday Sandy's winds whipped through here but no harm done. We seem to have conquered nature for the moment but I'm watching and waiting for the next attack. From mutant bugs or crazy weather, I'm ready for it.

Publishers Weekly worst reviews of classic books

I've been worrying and whining about reviews but I feel much better after reading the truly awful reviews that some brilliant writers have received.
I remember my father writing in the front of his books. No author was too great to escape his critique and from Sir Walter Scott to Louis L'Amour, he rated them from poor, fair, good or excellent. I have to say he didn't give out many excellent ratings. I don't even want to think what kind of a rating he'd give to my books.



Florida Writers Association Conference

I picked up two treasures from the Royal Palm Literary Society for An Accidental Death in the flash fiction category and Jack Daniels And Tea in the short fiction.
The Florida Writers Association is a marvelous group with 1155 members.
If that many writers are in the organization, how many writers are there all together in Florida?
It must be a staggering number.

















First Review

It's very exciting to get the first review. I'm very grateful it's a good one. Here it is:

Highball Exit   Phyllis Smallman
Good Reads
Nora-adrienne Deret's review
Oct 11, 12
Rating 5 Stars
bookshelves: mystery
Read from October 10 to 11, 2012 - I own a copy

This was truly the most terrifying Sherri story to date. It held me spellbound all day until now at 3:01 am Brooklyn time.
I have finally read the last two words "THE END" and I can finally drag myself off to bed.

Rain

It rained. The leaves are falling and the pink roses in the courtyard are still blooming, but they can't fool us.
It's time to go!

Amazon ranking

As if there wasn't enough to stress over, Amazon.com is ranking all authors. It's like high school where kids play the game of choosing the most popular kids.

And what else am I stressed over? Reviews should be coming in any day now. You know you're going to get criticized when you put yourself out there. It's a bit like waiting for a bomb to go off... or walking naked into church... "Well, she started a little slow and her clothes needed ironing, wobbled in the middle, but I liked when she took out the vicar in the end."
Naked, that's how it feels.

"Leaving on a jet plane..."

Packing, eating down the fridge, cleaning up the garden and running around in ever decreasing circles, we're getting ready to leave early Sunday morning for the sun. First, Oregon, where there will be no sun, and then Orlando, Florida for the Florida Writers Conference. I'm dreaming of sitting by a pool with something in my hand. I may not make too many sessions. Wave at me on your way by.

Radio Interview

On Wednesday November 7, 2012 I will be interviewed by Karen Hudson on Salt Spring Radio.( FM107.9 for locals)
You can hear the interview online at www.cfsi-fm.com
The Program, Word on the Rock, runs at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time (2:30 p.m. Eastern)


Highball Exit is back from the printers and speeding to bookstores across the nation.

Oh, how I love saying that! Here is a bit from Highball Exit, a little of Sherri's family history.

"Show a little respect. It took two hundred years of inbreeding to arrive at this level of stupidity."

Bartenders stick together

Rachael Preston didn't start out to be a bartender but it's where she ended up with a master's degree in English and two published books. When I met Rachael she was teaching creative writing at Mohawk College. The joy of Rachael as an instructor was she made everyone one of us want-to-be writers feel good about ourselves. She made each of us better. And now she has a wonderful new book out called Fishers of Paradise.
I've stolen a bit of her blog at Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave to put here. You can read the whole thing at:

http://tweedling.com/2012/09/guest-post-notes-from-a-very-small-island-or-i-wanna-live-in-a-log-cabin-and-write-rachael-preston

I've since graduated to bartending. I'm the face you see when you come in the door, pulling pints, taking orders for fish and chips, flogging my books over the bar (much brighter now, thanks to renovations). It's been five years. We're still in Peg's cabin. I haven't written any more (and possibly less) than I did when we lived in Hamilton. We don't own a cow, sheep or chickens and I have just about given up trying to grow vegetables in the dark, damp lee of a mountain. And in the middle of winter when the sky is hanging around my shoulders and the dog towels are wet and muddy, and the firewood is too damp to do anything other than spit and smoke, and it's dark by 4 p.m. (very dark, Saturna boasts one streetlamp and it's at the ferry terminal), and everywhere you turn someone is grumbling because Ian cut the pub's hours and beer costs more than it did in 1981 and yet another bylaw has gone too far or not far enough and ferry fares have increased again, I wonder not only what I'm doing here but how on earth I've managed to stay as long as I have.

And now for something completely different!

Check this out. Every writer out there is going to wet themselves when they read this!

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2012/09/one-star-amazon-reviews-make-me-feel-better.html

I really would love everyone out there to give me a review on Amazon...but only if you love it. If you hate it, please, don't put yourself out, please.
I'm wringing my hands and worrying. It really is a time of anxiety, waiting to see what people think and wanting to hide.
I'll post the reviews here when I get them, if I get any...more anxiety.
Stay well and safe.

Cheers from Salt Spring.

Things I wish I'd said.

"If your brains were dynamite there wouldn't be enough to blow your hat off." - Kurt Vonnegut

(There are so many situations where this statement is applicable.)

"A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika." Dorothy Parker

(In my case, I prefer to use bad taste like Louisiana Hot sauce in a New Orleans pub.
And you just thought I was ....well, suffering from bad taste.)

"I must take issue with the term "a mere child," for it has been my invariable experience that the company of a mere child is infinitely preferable to that of a mere adult." Fran Lebowitz

Kids never tell you to quiet down and they are so much easier to cheat.

Highball Exit press release

See the press release for the print version of the 5th Sherri Travis mystery at Press Release

Who's gay, who's straight and who cares?

We're just back from the gay pride parade. Lovely to see the firefighters marching with their rainbow banner, dogs and kids and dust, church women followed by a horse and carriage with a guy wearing a Speedo and a hard hat. There was laughter and drumming and wonderful sugar donuts on the steps outside the coffee shop, and at the end came a lovely pair of guys in floral swimsuits and turbans, driving a vintage Carmen Gia that I coveted.
"Hello darlings."
I love a parade!
Next week is the sixties dance at the Legion and the fair. Big life on a small island.

Weird things on the beach

This jelly fish, with a starfish sitting on top of it, was on the beach way above high tide. Strange, unexpected but very beautiful.




What are Tags?

Tagging helps sell books.

People keep asking me to tag their book and I really didn't understand why. Tagging is a way to help your favorite writer increase their web profile.

Here's how. Go to Amazon and the book you love. At the bottom of the page it will say Tags customers Associate with this product. You'll see how the book has been marked or labeled. The Sherri Travis books have tags for mystery, female sleuth etc. From there you follow the directions and click on the tag or the boxes you think are appropriate to the book. The more times people click on the tags the more times the book will show up when the search engine looks for those words. It's like voting for a particular book or author.

To do this you need an Amazon account or your tag won't count. Still confused? Doing is the only way to learn.

Audio Book Sale

This week only: My audiobook Margarita Nights is on sale @audible_com for just $5.95 (even less for members)!
Check it out at www.audible.com/ACX595 #ACX


Kobo best selling list

Great news! Margarita Nights has made the Kobo Writing Life best sellers list at:
Kobo Best Sellers

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn will forever be 34, never the 86 she would be if she was still alive. Even after all this time there are still questions about her death. When she took her fatal overdose there was little of today's forensic evidence to go on, no phone records, no DNA, and no modern toxicology. One telling fact on the side of suicide and not murder is the fact that she had made multiple attempts before. Check out the latest take on Marilyn's death at the following site.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201208/marilyns-forensic-legacy

The latest Sherri Travis mystery, Highball Exit, is about the death of a young woman who commits suicide. Or did she? A suicide note indicates that she willingly took the highball exit but Sherri learns it is something quite different. How does she prove it?

Summer Aug 01, 2012

I guess summer has arrived but while the rest of the country swelters, here on the islands we're still wearing sweaters. I don't mind. The sun shines brightly, the flowers bloom and I can always find a place to be comfortable.

Is it just me or does everyone find it hard to work in summer? Some days I don't even check my e-mails or facebook, which leaves a mess to deal with when I get back to it. It's a strange lethargic time.

Highball Exit is moving on through the publishing line and will be out in time for Halloween. Long Gone Man is looking for a home. I thought I was going back to Last Call this week but another book popped up. I was reading a non-fiction book about Florida and I went, "Oops, there's one more Sherri Travis book to write before Last Call. I always think of Last Call as the final Sherri novel. I keep putting it off by writing other things, first Champagne For Buzzards and then Highball Exit. Sherri isn't going down without a fight.

I'm calling this new book, for the moment anyway, A Hard Road Home. It takes place in the Everglades. I have the opening, which is scary beyond belief, and a bit in the middle. I also know who committed the multiple murders and why. But how do I uncover the truth? In this book Sherri is going to an amazing black-tie fund raiser at Shelby gardens where tickets cost $600.00 per person, well at least that's what they were the last time I checked.

The very rich in Florida amuse themselves by attending fund raisers. Since there are many widows in Florida, this creates a group of men known as walkers...male escorts, who squire these ladies to social events around town for money. Unlike female escorts, at least from what I've been told, there is no sex involved. Still, these men go to all the best places, even to the Sunset, and they know all the gossip. What would we do without gossip? Maybe that should read what would I do without gossip?

So there's something to add to the lethargic season...lots of long silences, of staring off into space and more than a bit of reading going on. It's a strange, uncomfortable process but it has worked before so it likely will this time. I hope.


Highball Exit




The print edition of Highball Exit is now available for pre-order at all the usual stores.















TouchWood Editions





I have a wonderful new publisher for my print editions of Highball Exit. The TouchWood people in Victoria are wonderful, enthusiastic professionals who take my breath away with how organized and on top of things they are. I'm so excited to be working with these brilliant people. I hope we sell lots of books.


So, who's going to talk you off the roof?

I met Jim Ordowich in a writing class years ago. Since then we've read each other's manuscripts, broke each other's hearts with truth and cheered each other on. When my first book was coming out the publisher sent me an e-mail that she needed 100 words on what the book was about immediately. My brain went blank. I called Jim in a panic and asked, "What's this book about?" I had no idea. Jim's answer was, "I'm making dinner. I'll call you back." What was an emergency for me wasn't worth a flip of the sausage to him.

We met every Friday for lunch when we were both in town but our own personal lives have remained quite outside of our relationship, except for Jim saying he's off to Hawaii with a load of books and a change of clothes or me saying, "I'm on my way to Ontario, meet me at the usual restaurant." Recently I broke one of my own rules and sent Jim a picture of my grandson...couldn't help it, didn't mean to, not my fault. Here's Jim's reply.

What a cutie. Although I can't help feeling you've crossed a line. I have three grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and another on the way. Plus a dog that's cute as a button (I have a photo of her sitting beside a button for just such a comparison). Add to that number a whole host of Applegate & James TV commercials featuring moi and the potential for boredom is staggering - especially when you take into consideration that I'm of an age where my most recent colonoscopy is now a valid topic for conversation.
Still, one cute picture won't make or break our correspondence. Besides, my popularity is not so broad that I can afford anyone.
Best
Jim

In the back of my mind I have this firm conviction that if I ever end up on a roof and about to take that final big step I'll call Jim to talk me down, or really, laugh me off the roof. He could do it. And I think he's lying about his popularity.

New book Cover

I have just received the new cover for the 5th Sherri Travis Mystery novel.
Highball Exit will be out for Halloween.

Words in my head

A friend e-mailed me today about a new lecture series she is getting started in the Hamilton area called 3rd age learning. It's a series of talks for seniors and a steal at 6 for $40.00. I really want to give one of those talks. I'd call it, "words in my heads."

One of the most interesting things that I've learned over the last four years of writing and giving talks is that almost everyone I meet has a story they want to tell, sometimes a true story or sometimes something they made up, images of places, emotions and ideas they carry around with them. I receive letters from people telling me about their lives and begging me to write their stories. Why me, I'm not sure unless the answer is they write to lots of writers in hopes that they'll find their biographer. The thing is, I can't write the words in someone else's head but it's easier than you might think to do it yourself.

The first thing everyone says is I don't know where to start. How about the Cosby answer? "I started out as a child." Or write the worst thing that ever happened to you and the best. Or just start writing the images in your head. It's better than talk therapy and a whole lot cheaper. And who doesn't need the healing power of talking even if it's only to yourself? Lots of pain that I've held onto throughout my life got written away. Don't bother looking for it in my books because very little of it ended up staying there. In the end it just wasn't that unique or interesting.

The one thing that held me back from writing was fear. Oh, not the normal fears of failure but the fear of ridicule, of not being good enough. I wanted to get it right before anyone saw it. I still haven't got it right but I'm no longer worried about standing out there in all my nakedness for the world to see. Get yourself into a course on writing, into a writing group, or any combinations of like minded people, possibly on line. They will inspire you, encourage you and make you better. And here's my brilliant insight...you only learn by doing, not by thinking about it.

And if you fail? So what! Remember how many times your children fell down when they were learning to walk? All part of the learning process. It doesn't matter if you never get published. The art is in the doing. Take those words out of your head and put them where they need to be, in black and white. The words are waiting for you.

Tap dancing with killing machines

These days my feet are killing machines as I tap dance down the street, stomping out tent caterpillars. It must look like I have some strange neurological disease as I try to reach them all, an impossible task. The island has been inundated with caterpillars, dropping on the patio from the trees over the fence, covering plants and people and wiping out most of the fruit crops. They've turned me into a killer, chasing them down wherever they crawl and wiping out whole colonies. They challenge my belief that nature knows best, this time she has it very wrong.

I'm in the final polishing stage of Highball Exit. It goes to the line editor on June 21st and a rough copy has gone to the book designer. I've asked for a pale yellow and pink. That should be attention getting. What catches your eye in a cover? Is it the yellow crime scene tape, blood dripping, or maybe a dead body? I'd really like to know. Since at least half my readers are men I don't want it to be too feminine, yellow and pink may be stretching the limit there.

Highball Exit

Read Chapter 1 of the 5th Sherri Travis mystery on the "Settings/Excerpts" page.
It will be available in October.

Bored with eagles

This week, as we worked in the garden, we watched the drama as a huge eagle was attacked first by crows and then surrounded by herons. The noise the herons made in the rookery was like metal scratching along metal, raucous and loud. The whole thing went on so long we went back to weeding and only looked up occasionally to see what was happening. And then yesterday, on the beach at the entrance to Booth Canal we counted 13 eagles in the tops of trees and on rocks, waiting for the tide to go out so they could fish the shallow waters. It was an amazing thing to see but we soon turned around and walked back up the beach. A few years ago I would have stood there until every eagle was gone. I guess you know that you're no longer just a visitor when you're bored with eagles.

Spinetingler Magazine

My short story is now published at:
Spinetingler Fiction

Crime Writers of Canada Blog

Check how I came to a life of crime at the location below.

CWC Blog

May is crime month in Canada. Did you know we have a whole month celebrating crime? Kind of weird isn't it? The question they asked was, "What in your background turned you into a crime writer."

Since I didn't exactly come from an Arsenic And Old Lace family with bodies buried in the basement, well none that I knew of, I had to improvise.

Happy Long Weekend!

No big plans, just hours reading the weekend papers, revising a manuscript and walking down to the allotment. The community garden has become our chief form of entertainment. One man seems to spend his time wheeling loads of wood chips to cover the paths through the garden, a wonderful selfless act. When he grows tired he sits in his barrow and rocks. And then there is the man who covered his 10x25 plot with rows and rows of marigolds...nothing else, just marigolds. The woman who built the huge cedar planters is still moving in yards and yards of top soil into hundreds of dollars worth of wood but I have great hopes of an amazing plant display soon. There are chairs and a picnic table under an apple tree and everyone is so damn cheerful and glad to see you. It's all entertainment.

Spinetingler

The mystery magazine, Spinetingler, is running a short story of mine called An Accidental Death on May 25th, and Kobo is using the first chapter of my next book, "Highball Exit" as a promotional handout at Book Expo America in New York City the first week of June. Hopefully it will encourage people to try one of my books. It's all about advertising. I thought all you had to do was write a half decent book and the rest would take care of itself.
If only.

CBC Canada Writes Series

Check out today's CBC Canada Writes article

Audio

Margarita Nights is out in audio at Audiable.com, Amazon audio books, and Apple iTunes. Hurray!
Talmadge Reagan does a wonderful job.

Monday, May 7/12

Bright and sunny. We're going to have a whole week of it.

The community garden has turned into a small social club where already stars are juggling for position and every plot is being groomed differently. Now these rocky plots are only 15 x 15, and not in metric. One 80lb woman bought a tiller for her tiny plot. I love the crazy courageous woman with a machine that weighs more than her. All she really needed to do is stand in place and go in circles. Remember the rocks? "Duck!"

Another garden, with the addition of hundreds of dollars of spanking new 2 x 12 cedar planking, has been turned into wonderful raised beds. There's a dump truck load of top soil to be wheeled in. In the meantime we have a ragged row of peas up, radishes, onions and beans. With no string and the point of the trowel jiggled about by stones it looks like we were in the grip of alcoholic tremors when we laid out our bed. We'll get the lazy gardener award for sure, but nice to be in the winner's circle even for the worst.

A walk in the woods on Sunday April 29/12

We walked down to the community garden this morning to admire our bumper crop of radishes that are making their appearances. The peas are poking up their heads, as are the green onions. We feel like heroes and we may have to take a stall at the local farmers market. On the way back we followed a path into the woods, a strange little stand of trees that is about two acres and totally surrounded by houses. But with the giant cedars and firs it is a mighty wood. I noticed shattered blue eggs on the ground. They were about the size of chicken eggs. Blue eggs? A little late for Easter and the large amount of bird droppings didn't seem to be part of any holiday celebration I've ever taken part in. I looked up to see 6 big sloppy nests in the top of the cedar. Herons were sitting on those nests. Strangely, they were all on the same side of the tree. Do you suppose, like us, that birds prefer a southern location? I'm torn between wanting to know how that little part of forest got left behind and being afraid of calling attention to it. Maybe the nesting herons were what saved those tree. If so, bless them!












Being a poor speller, and totally illiterate when it comes to grammar, this gave me a smile.











Palm Court Literary Society

Don't you love that name? I have visions of an Edwardian tea party, tea sipped from fine china and cucumber sandwiches, while refined people discuss the merits of a particular work. In reality it is part of the Florida Writers Association. They've chosen one of my short stories to be considered for an award. Very nice!

Sunday 15/04/2012

A $25.00 garden plot may bankrupt us. Tools, manure, lovely gardening gloves, bits and pieces...and we hadn't put a seed in the ground. The beans should be served on a gold platter, peas more expensive than caviar treated worshipfully.

After being assigned our spot, we started picking stones and discovered there's a reason they call Salt Spring "The Rock" and, after taking out all the rubble, we were left with a hollow depression...and not just in the ground. You think euphoria would last longer than two hours but there we were Sunday morning, on the day of rest, spreading manure and putting in our $7.99 rhubarb plant. What sounded like grand idea sitting on a beach in Florida is hard work in British Columbia. The good news is there will be rain here for the next three days so we won't have to feel guilty about ignoring it.

Back in Canada
April 12,2012

Returning to Canada after six months away makes you a tourist in your own homeland and you look at everything with fresh eyes. The first amazing thing was a street in Sydney with flowering cherry trees lining the sidewalk and snow covered mountains in the background. You can never get too much of that.

The ferry felt like a special event rather than the nuisance it can be when it's a normal part of your life and the places that looked rundown last fall have suddenly became quaint. I looked for all the familiar things, like the smallholding with the goat pen next to the road. Sure enough, there was the goat standing on her shelter and looking over the fence to watch us go by, as curious about us as we were about her. Her partner now has horns that are six inches long and growing straight up.

At the house, our friend Ann had turned the temperature control up to 75 degrees to bedevil Lee and please me, and then she arrived the next day with wine and flowers. You can never get too much of that either.

It's good to be back on Salt Spring. Today, Friday, Lee went to bottle our wine. Tomorrow morning I go to yoga and Saturday we get assigned our garden plot and visit the market... like true Salt Springers.

Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

I'm just finished reading this wonderful novel that won the 2009 Governor General's award for literature. Set in the 1860s, it's the story of two women, an aristocrat and her maid, who travel to Egypt for the good of the lady's health. I highly recommend it.

Short Listed

I'm thrilled to announce that CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS has been nominated for
the "Bony Blithe" mystery award. This is a new award and the first year that it is to be
given out. The winner will be announced June 2 at the Bloody Words mystery conference.
Here is the complete list of nominees.

Janet Bolin, Dire Threads (Berkley Prime Crime)
Alan Bradley, A Red Herring without Mustard (Doubleday Canada)
Gloria Ferris, Cheat the Hangman (Imajin Books)
Mary Jane Maffini, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder (Berkley Prime Crime)
Phyllis Smallman, Champagne for Buzzards (McArthur & Company)












A Handsome Man

Once in a while a picture will arrive from a book signing. Most of the time they make me wince, but not this one.






This picture was taken at the Canadian Booksellers Association's annual conference in Toronto in June 2010. The handsome man with me is Mark Lefebvre, President of the Canadian Booksellers Association. Mark is Director of Author Relations at Kobo. Kobo has the most wonderful staff to work with, so helpful and approachable.








Fly away home

We've had the best winter ever! With family renting a house within walking distance for three months, there were lots of before dinner drinks, day trips and long conversations with enough laughter to make the neighbours show up because we were having far too much fun without them. We'll never have this time together again…it was perfect…but we're all starting to look northward. Two weeks from tomorrow Lee and I head to Oregon on the annual migration. I hate leaving Florida. And it's not just the weather. It's only in the forties on Salt Spring Island, cool enough to make be cling to the Sunshine State, but it's saying goodbye. It's a big wrench to leave our little family here. Until then, there's golf to be played, food to be enjoyed and a few more dances out at Snook Haven. Party on!

Who said that?

Jane Barnard had the funniest comment. She said, "There's nothing wrong with her marriage that a shovel and a body bag wouldn't cure." I so wish Sherri had said that. A little mystery!

The Smithsonian magazine has created a little stir. It seems Colonel Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, was not who he seemed to be. A claim has been made that he did not grow up in West Virginia as he claimed. He wasn't even born in the U.S.A. but in the Netherlands.

This article says he fled the Netherlands as a teenager after killing a woman in a home invasion. He made his way to the United States and worked in carnivals as a palm-reader and elephant handler.

Elvis only made one appearance outside of the U.S., in Canada, although he was popular all over the world. The claim is made that this was because Parker couldn't get a passport.

It's all very interesting and the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. I suppose they could solve the problem by a DNA test of the family in the Netherlands that is claiming Parker as their own. Read more at  Smithsonian Magazine

March 01, 2012

Yesterday we broke temperature records in three cities in Florida. Spring has definitely sprung. The birds are going crazy, waking us in the morning, and the afternoons are in the 80s. We had a little rain this week, about fifteen minutes, but we need more. We need an all day soaker.

An allotment

On Salt Spring we now have a plot of land, 10x25, to grow veggies . For the princely sum of $25.00 a year we can grow our own vegetables in a community garden. There has been lots of discussion between Lee and me on what we should try. Peas have been ruled out because they take up too much room for too little return and Lee says no corn because it's too hard on the soil. How very ecological of him, but I rule it out because the coons will come to party. Lots of beans and tomatoes are on the menu - as are rhubarb and strawberries for next year. What an optimist. And I want raspberries.

How Mom and Dad would laugh to see me this excited. They garden-farmed ten acres and had a job getting me out there to pull weeds. Now I'm going eagerly. We'll see if it lasts. I remember Mom planting things in the spring and me asking why she bothered. Her reply was, "How do you know the time of year without a garden?" So I want to know what time of year it is for me…time to pick the rhubarb, strawberry season or time to harvest the tomatoes. I'm trying not to think of time to water and time to hoe. We'll see. Maybe this well be an experience better to think about than to do or maybe I'll reconnect with my past. We'll see.

Bonita Springs

Tomorrow the Friends of the Bonita Springs Library are having a fund raising luncheon at a local golf club. I'm the guest speaker. I was a little surprised when the facilitator told me that she would leave my name at the gate so I could get in but I'd also have to show ID. Now that was a bit of a surprise. I've never had to show identification to get into a club before. What are they protecting in there, golden tees?

But I'm not quibbling. Right now libraries need all the friends they can get. With the funding cut to all libraries in California, some have already closed. Without libraries, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots will grow even wider. I know, from when I worked in a library, that they are often the only cultural resource that some people have. Unable to afford movies, cds, books, museums, art galleries and computers, the library provides all of this. And where do you go if you can't afford organized sports and clubs? Always welcoming, libraries were a safe place for children to hang out, and yes, sometimes they even hid out there. If we lose our libraries, we not only lose a great cultural resource but we condemn people to ignorance and unfriendly streets. How does that make things better? It's a very short term saving that must be paid for later. So please support your libraries in any way you can.

In the cool, cool, cool of the evening.

Our plants wore bed sheets on Sunday night because a cold front came down from Canada. I don't know if it really came down from Canada but that's usually what the weather man says. I always feel personally responsible. Warming up now, but even if it wasn't it's sunny and beautiful.

Just when you think things can't get worse

I had a note from a friend to tell me that California is closing its public libraries due to financial difficulties. I understand they are in trouble but for me this is just making a bad situation worse. Can't they close all the public golf courses, tennis courts and Frisbee Parks instead? I know that here in Florida, as the economy went down, library use went up. When I was flat broke and even when I wasn't, the library was there to welcome, encourage and entertain. I learned how to cook, do crafts and stone work, and, most importantly, I learned how to dream. I can't imagine life without a library. It truly is a depression for me.

February 8, 2012

All of the outdoor furniture is covered in yellow pollen from the pine trees but at least we've had some rain. Furious rain on Monday and light showers yesterday. I hope it holds off today. We're playing golf with people we only see once a year. There's a lot of catching up to do.

I'm rewriting Highball Exit. I'm hoping to have it finished in a couple of months and ready to publish come fall. This fifth book has probably been the hardest book for me to write. I wanted this novel to be more serious, to talk about grim social ills. When I got my solemn tome back from Elle she'd redlined all my lofty thoughts, wiped out all Sherri's ponderous inner dialogue and basically got me back to basics. So the old Sherri returns from the editor.

I take comfort that the writing experience is just as miserable from one writer to another and that I'm not the only one who isn't in control.

Winston Churchill said, "Writing a book was an adventure. To begin with, it was a toy, an amusement; then it became a mistress, then a master, and then a tyrant."

Oh, yeah, a tyrant. Happiness is writing a line of clever dialogue or figuring out how Sherri will actually discover who the murderer is. Or for that matter, I'm happy when I know who did it. I'm just grateful that I'm not writing the history of the world like Churchill. I can't imagine having to know things, tell the truth and not being able to curse. No fun at all, only a tyrant.

Spring in the South

Spring is coming to the South. The mockingbirds are singing and yesterday it rained, ending our drought at last. The birds wake us every morning and we eat out on the porch to listen to them. The afternoons are hot and the evenings are cool, pure perfection. Gators love the hot weather. They line the banks of the ponds out at the golf course. We're playing golf this afternoon with a couple that we met out there before Christmas. We agreed to meet there the second Saturday in January to play another round. The only problem was they couldn't remember what we looked like and neither could we remember them. I figured out who they were when I saw them going up to people and asking something and then saw those people they questioned shaking their heads. They figured it out when they ran out of prospects. We've played late Saturday afternoons since and it's lovely.

I got the first 15 minutes of the audio tape for Margarita Nights. It's very well done but I have to let go of the voice of Sherri I have in my head and listen to Talmadge Reagan's voice. She's done a wonderful job and the audio will be available later this month. It's a little strange to listen to my words, makes me want to start changing them and trying to make them better. Thankfully, I remember Louise Penny talking about the first time she heard an audio for her book and so I knew what to expect. It really is a bizarre experience.



So spring is coming to the South and we're starting to talk of flying north, checking flights and picking routes, while the rest of the country dreams of coming south. To make up your mind, here's a beach picture. Pull up a chair and sit yourself down.




Fridays with Jim

Here's a little more of that e-mail from Jim on March 7, 2006.

Oddly enough, I was thinking about you one morning while the CBC was recapping the Olympic results. You'd been musing one lunch about whether you'd ever get published and it came to mind during the recap of the bobsled results. We were out of the medals by a few thousandths of a second and away from gold by just a thousandths more. A few thousandths, how the heck do you trim a few thousandths off your time? We writers have it so much easier by comparison. I don't think a story is ever 100% finished. There's always a tweak here and there to improve the story with every reading. Some are the equivalent of those fractions of a second. Sometimes we see a way to improve things that are the equivalent of minutes. Yes, we've got it all over the bobsledders - your first sale could be just a tweak away. Of course on the downside, we don't have their cool uniforms.

Jim has a knack of being supportive while nudging you on and making you laugh but I'm trying hard not to picture myself in a bobsledder's outfit.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, it's all about how good the rewrite is. Mary Higgins Clark says you can improve what's on the page but you can't do a thing with a blank page. So sit down and start writing. Don't worry if it's good enough, it isn't. You'll have lots of time to rewrite. I wish I could rewrite my books. I could make them much better now.

Maureen Jennings - Season of Darkness

Need a good book to read? Try this new offering from the author of the Detective Murdoch Mysteries. It's set in 1940 England and has spies, love affairs and murder among the hedgerows. It's the kind of book to curl up with and turn off the world.

January, 10/12

I met Jim Ordowich at Mohawk College where we were both taking the same short-story writing course. We started having lunch together every Friday over the summer. One week I'd read his work and do a critique and the next week it would be my work. Needless to say our friendship was sometimes tested by the other's words of faint praise but somehow we survived the slings and arrows. When I was in Florida our writing partnership was continued by e-mail. At first I didn't keep those missives but I finally realized what gold there was in them and I told Jim that one day I'd publish our letters, that it might be the only publishable thing I wrote. This week I found an old e-mail that for some reason I'd printed out. I wrote and asked Jim if I could post it. Here's a bit of his answer.

Jim's words

I'm in Hawaii looking out as the sun sinks slowly into the west. Well, technically it sunk twenty minutes ago but I'm trying to teach myself to stretch the truth in the interests of a superior story. I'll start with little lies and work my way up into public office.

Jim's wit would never allow him to get elected. Here's the beginning of an old e-mail to say his renovation project was finished enough for him to start writing again.

Jim/ Mar 7/06

A bird flew in our bedroom window Sunday morning. The screens were in the basement, still covered in construction dust and needing to be taken outside for a good hosing. I was lying there reading the Sunday Star with the window still open from the night before when I heard a scratchy, scrabbly sound I thought was the cat playing with something on the floor. But it wasn't the cat, it was a bird that flapped out from under the blinds and flew across the room coming to light on the corner cabinet where I'm temporarily storing sweaters.

I'm not one of the nuts and berry set. If a flamingo was suddenly to appear in my room I'm reasonably certain I could identify it with three guesses. Beyond that I wouldn't have a clue. This particular bird was black, not as big as a crow, about the size of a smallish robin. He sat on top of a pile of books I had on the cabinet and passed a non-verbal judgment on my reading material. He looked at me ( I say "he" because it was a look of such utter contempt that only a male could pull it off, women by nature being more charitable and prone to compassion no matter how much they loath someone). He looked at me with contempt but when he surveyed the rest of the room he definitely looked pleased with his new digs, as if he was bound to be a hit with the ladies when they saw his pad. And then it hit me: if the place met with the approval of the wildlife, perhaps I could ease up on my frenzy to finish off those last few details. Maybe I could just chip away at them, yes and do a little writing by golly.

So that e-mail is from six years ago. What do you think, has he finished those last few details? In our house they'd never get done. When a job is declared, "good enough" it's over.

From Jim in Hawaii and from me in Florida, all the best.

The craziness that is Florida.

Every New Year's day the local paper wraps up the year with the weird press stories of the off the chart bad behaviour that is Florida. Here are some stories that inspire me:

A 92-year- old woman fired four shots at a neighbour who refused to kiss her. Someone should buy her the book He's Just Not That In To You.

At the Miami airport, a Brazilian man was trying to smuggle out baby pythons and tortoise hatchlings... in his skivvies. Send him All Things Great And Small.

How about this one? A grade school teacher received a gift from her eight-year-old student's GRANDMOTHER. It was a loaded handgun. That woman really understood her grandchild and sympathized with the teacher.

Florida, you gotta love it...and keep your head down!

You need one!

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
Jane Howard (1935 - 1996)

Remember those years from twelve until your children arrived? Those were the years where nothing on earth was as important as your friends. The world was very small and revolved around what was happening in their lives. And then we had children and created a new family that our days spun around and nothing in the world was as important as them. And then things moved on and changed but not the need to hold others close. Friends, family and our network prop us up and make life worthwhile. I don't need a lot of people in my life, just a few who care.

Even a protagonist needs a friend. Sherri's friends play a big part in each of the books. Really, in many ways my books are about friendships as much as they are about crime, none more so than Champagne For Buzzards. Sherri's family and friends come to her rescue. We all hope to have people in our lives who come to our aid when we need them, people who call when they need us.

Just like in the song, we get by with a little help from our friends.

Enjoy this season of friendship - the season of hope and new beginnings. Hold onto the best of 2011 and let go of the rest. Most of all hold onto what we all need, whatever we call it.

Cheers,
Phyl

Subversive Humour

My friend, Jim Ordowich, sent along a little essay to share with you. Jim has a sly, slightly askew, sense of humour. I blame this on a life in retail. It's a little too long to put on the blog so clickJim Ordowich Story to see it. Here's Jim's take on the world.

Free stuff

A free Sherri Travis short story has just gone up on all the e-book sites. It is called Bitty And The Naked Ladies.

There is also a second short story called Jack Daniels And Tea which is selling for .99 cents.

The novel I didn't write

Here's a facebook post by Jayne Barnard. She suggested these could all be Sherri Travis novels.

#noveltinis are all the rage on Twitter right now: "Tequila Mockingbird" "Last of the Mojitos" "Catcher in the Rye Whiskey" "Are you there, God? It's me, Margarita" "The Portrait of a Pink Lady" "The Turn of the Screwdriver" Can you come up with any good ones?


There is actually a drink called Love in the afternoon. Great title for a book but I suspect that people would buy it expecting something besides a mystery. I think I shall have to work this into my next book somehow.

Marley asks, "Why is this drink called Love in the afternoon?"

"Because it makes you sleepy."

Sharky's on the beach, December 7th

Still a hot day but there was a brief shower at 4:30 that cooled it right down. From the 80s we are supposed to dip down to about 68 tomorrow.

We had lunch out at Sharky's and then walked out the pier. Everyone call's it Sharky's pier but I suppose it's officially the Venice pier. Today it was definitely a Shark pier. Before we were half way out to the end we saw two small sharks brought in by fishermen. The first was a hammerhead about 2 feet long. A woman stood in the water twenty feet below us hollering at the fisherman on the pier to let the shark go. It didn't seem to worry her that she was in the water about ten feet from the shark and if the guy with the rod cut the line she'd be within biting distance of one angry shark. Her heart was in the right place but I'm not sure where her head was.

As we walked out to the end of the pier we looked down on huge schools of bait fish, so many that the water was black and bubbling from them. The sound of all those fish was almost like rain on the water. Twenty feet off the pier were the pelicans, both brown and white, waiting to feed. I wonder if they were waiting for the bait fish to leave the shelter of the pier. The pelicans sure weren't coming in to feed.

At the fish cleaning table a pigeon was putting his beak up into the hose to get a drink. One of the fisherman said the City of Venice had spent over $300,000.00 to get rid of the pigeons. It didn't work.

This is a quiet time for us, a time to explore all our favourite haunts. Tomorrow we'll wander around old Englewood. Maybe Sunday we'll go to Snook Haven and listen to the music with all the bikers while we eat pulled pork under an old oak. Lovely selfish us time, a time to recharge and breath.

Stay well and safe.

Friday, December-02-11

The cool front came through yesterday, high sixties, but today we are back to around 70, perfect weather. And as always, it's sunny. We went out and played golf yesterday. I played really badly so it turned out to be a lot like hard work that left me saying @#$%#@. I'll never understand that stupid game. From not bad to horrendous, sometimes I wonder if I only play because I've already invested so much time and money in it. @#$%##@

Highball Exit has gone to Elle to get a first edit and her comments. I'm expecting them to be harsh, as in, "What the @#$#%#@ is this?" I'm not in a hurry to get her response because I know I have a big rewrite coming. In the meantime I'm going to read Jim's manuscript. I've had it for 2 months and haven't got to it.

Christmas shopping is almost done, one to mail and two to send on-line. I think December should be a quiet month and not the normal hectic runabout. Those are dangerous words, tempting fate. We'll see. In the meantime I'm going to the library and stocking up on great big thick books and lots of films. Let's hope I get to enjoy them.

Nov. 22/11

HOT, HOT, HOT Call the fire department hot and the students at Lemon Bay are setting up their Christmas tree lot. It'll be a Charlie Brown Christmas tree by Dec. 25th, a few sad needles still to fall and the angel dipping towards the floor. Christmas trees wrapped in netting and we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet! Too confusing for a Canadian girl...there we knew the season by the thermometer. The lady in the Target Store line, weighed down by wreaths, said she was getting into the spirit. Now I know how to get into the spirits, but these days the spirit eludes me.

There will be five of us for Thanksgiving. I liked Vivi's attitude to dinner. She said she'd bring anything I wanted for dinner, even a pie, as long as she could buy it at Publix. We laughed and laughed. I should have told her to bring the turkey, although she didn't promise to cook it. While Viv was joking, I wasn't. I didn't tell her that the dressing was coming in a box. To fool everyone I'll put in some apples and dried cranberries. I'm sure no one will be able to tell. Torrey and Carole are driving over from Delray so they'll be too tired to notice unless I find the spirits and forget to take it out of the box before I drop in the cranberries. Now if I can just con Lee into cooking the turkey I'll be all set.

So have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone, even if it does come in a box.

Mail Lady News

Sometimes I worry that when people meet Phyllis Smallman they expect to meet Sherri Travis. What a disappointment! That Sherri is so boring.

I got a lovely surprise this week when the mail lady said she'd read all four Sherri Travis novels. She got them from the local library. It's always so nice to meet someone who has actually read my books. Since she likes the books perhaps I can convince her to lose the bills.

Short Stories

I have a Sherri Travis short story called Jack Daniels and Tea going up on e-books in Dec. I wrote it back in 2002 when I was trying out the Sherri Travis character. It feels like a much younger Sherri, still Sherri but maybe less cynical. It's going to cost 99 cents and I'm hoping to make my fortune off it so I want everyone to buy it. Tell all your friends. Tell all your enemies too, we all have them, some days more of the latter than the former.

And in January, think of it as a late Christmas present and my presents mostly are late except I sent a present to our family in England this week and it cost $56.00 in shipping, only slightly less than the present cost, and it will get there within one to two months which will make it late but I thought it was going to be early - as in don't open until Christmas early- wait a minute, what was I saying? Short stories. Okay, Bitty And The Naked Ladies is going up in January and since it's free I probably won't make my fortune off it but it is special to me. It was my first short story and it won a little award. Again, a much younger Sherri. We're saving on the cover by drawing our own naked ladies. I wish I had the courage to put up Lee's. I laughed 'til I cried. I think it's safer to use my own little doodle. UGLY but, hey, it's free. Wait a minute...3 people coming for dinner...maybe one of them can draw. Can't be any worse than ours and who wouldn't want to spend their Thanksgiving drawing naked ladies?

Home in Florida
Sat. Nov. 12/11

We arrived to eighty degree weather which quickly dropped into the sixties but it's still sunny and nice. We arrived Tues night and by seven-thirty the next morning we were in the pool. Weds morning we went for a morning walk on the beach and watched a fisherman land a baby shark. Makes you wonder what's out there. Best not to think about it or you'd never go in the water.

The orange tree is loaded with fruit...on one side...the oranges have mysteriously disappeared from the north side. I'm looking at a certain neighbour with suspicion. Why wouldn't he pick them from all over the tree so I wouldn't know? Even after picking two baskets, the tree looks like it hasn't been touched so I guess I can share. I'd just like to be given the option.

Another happy thing, a fuchsia coloured orchid growing in a pot we placed under a bush last March, lovely, lovely thing to come home to, it makes up for a kitchen floor covered in dead ants. Seems they had a party after we left. Well, the party is over and I'm ready for them when they return- and they will. If I can kill a couple of people in a book, zillions of ants are no problem. I bet these are the descendants of the ants I fought twenty-five years ago, a continuing problem in the tropics...and the beat goes on.

It's going back to the eighties today and we're heading to Ft. Myers and golf with John and Judy. Hoooorrrray! Let the games begin, we're home.

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude
Oct. 29/11

Five days from now I'll be in Ontario for my mother's birthday and four days later I'll be in Florida. It's time.

This far north, the sun rises late and goes to bed early. Altogether there's an hour more daylight down in Florida. Today on Salt Spring it probably wasn't more than 50 degrees, while down home in Florida it was 80. Oh, yes, it's time. The beach is calling. We're eating down the fridge, wierd meals these last few days with carrots figuring heavily on the menu. I can't bring myself to throw out a thing so carrots it is, plus some unknown casserole and some grey meat to empty out the freezer. Definitely time.

John F. Kennedy

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. ____________________________________________________________

I was part of a tiny article on the CBC radio this week. The report was on e-publishing. Writers seem to agree that e-books are a good thing while the publisher interviewed on the show thought it was a very bad thing. Now isn't that a surprise? I seem to be the exception to the rule among writers; "the hybrid" reporter Margo Kelly called me. I have the e-rights to my books while McArthur has print rights.

Not all of us want to see the change to e-publishing but unfortunately no one ever asks us. Why did we change from albums to c.d.s? I was perfectly happy. Why change from 8 track, or from analogue to digital? Do you remember anyone calling and asking if you wanted to change? It just happens.

I figure that 75% of the books I've read in my life have been used books or library books. That's going to be a huge change for me. I can't see anyone giving me their Kobo or Kindle to read their copy of a book. Fortunately, the prices of e-books are much lower than print. An e-book now is about the same price as a used book but how long will that last? Not a thing to be done but to surf the wave of change and try to keep from crashing on the rocks.

We'll talk from Florida next. Stay well.

CBC Radio Interview

CBC reporter Margo Kelly is doing a special feature on e-publishing on CBC Radio World Report and The World at 6 Thursday and Friday October 27 and 28. I'm one of the people she interviewed for the piece. It's a new world out there.

Some pictures From Saltspring

I haven't had any luck getting pictures of fog but I've taken a few lovely pictures of fall on Salt Spring. Unfortunately this lot look more like a botanical book than a mystery.

How important is a book cover? Would someone buy a book because of the cover? I definitely have picked up a book because of the cover but I've never bought a book because of the artwork. Have I ever not bought a book because of the cover? Maybe. So it's pretty important.




I'm looking for a cover that is different from the Sherri Travis series. I don't want a bright cover but something atmospheric and scary in shades of grey and black with maybe a little red. In the end it doesn't matter what I think because the cover designer will have the final say but it's fun to be out there taking pictures and smelling the wood smoke drifting over the trees. It's coolish here, high fifties or sixties and sweater weather, but sunny.








Not much work getting done here. I'm half way through my revisions. The printout is sitting on the hassock where I dropped it days ago; waiting for me and making me feel guilty. I promised myself to have it done before I leave here a week Wednesday.




Chasing Fog

Going out for a walk on Thanksgiving Monday, I noticed fog on the hills across the valley...just what I want on the new book cover. Into the car and off we go chasing the fog except, when we get there, it isn't there. We went up Mt. Maxwell as far as we dared on slippery potholed roads and then along Toynbee towards Mt. Belcher. We could see the fog hanging on the outside of the mountains but in among the trees it disappeared. There's some kind of scientific principal in all this but I'm not smart enough to figure it out.

I really want this picture of fog on a road, have a picture in my mind of a rising road disappearing into fog and trees. I took lots of pictures of roads disappearing into tall firs. At one point I realized if I stretched out on the road I'd get a better picture. I was going down when that little voice in my head said, "Hello. What's wrong with this idea? Come on, Phyl, think about it. Does the word ROADKILL have any meaning for you?" I could picture tire tracks along the length of my body. Maybe I can talk Lee into doing it. He's not too smart and doesn't seem to have a tiny voice residing in his head. Besides, I'll listen for oncoming traffic. Let's just hope it's not an electric car. OOPS!

I did take a couple of great pictures of an old barn. Absolutely nothing to do with the story I wrote but maybe I'll just hold on to them in case I write a murder in an old barn.

There was one thing that stood out, a bowl of salad on the gravel road. Obviously someone set the aluminum salad bowl on top of the car while they opened the door and then forgot about it. There it was, upside down in a pile or Romaine and carrots. It was only slightly damaged so I put it on the side of the road to be picked it up on the way home. No one wants salad with turkey and gravy anyway.



#10 Sunday, Oct.2/11

After a gorgeous week the rain is holding off for the weekend, coolish but nice. Much nicer than having filthy hot and humid weather, putting on a sweater doesn't bother me at all and plants really deliver a show this time of year as if they know it's the end of the line for them. I'm looking forward to going out to dinner with friends from Ancaster Ontario tonight and catching up on all the news from home. Notice I didn't say gossip. It's news when we tell it, gossip when others do it.

It occurs to me that I'm nearly finished my tenth novel and I still don't feel like a writer but more like a wanna-be writer. I wonder if that feeling ever goes away because, no matter what, we always know we can get better, know we haven't quite got it right. I imagine artists feel the same way but is it true of other professions?

There's a place in writing a book, between the half way place and maybe two thirds, where I always feel that I can't do it, feel the manuscript is crap and not worth finishing. At this point I always feel that I know nothing about writing. I've been stuck there for a long time with Highball Exit but this week I think I came out on the other side of that dark place. I can see that I can solve the problems in the revisions. That will take months yet but it won't be as painful as what I've been doing, struggling to find the story and push it towards a believable conclusion. I'm eager now to get back to Last Call, book number 6 in the Sherri Travis series. I've only made a small start and I hope to have it in the rough draft stage by the time we return to Salt Spring in April.

With four books already out and two set to go, where are the other four that make up my total of ten? Those four are the ones that haven't seen the light of day, ones for which I couldn't find an agent or publisher. I'm starting to think I'd like to revisit them and see if there is anything to salvage. They aren't mysteries but I have this idea I could make them into smashing historical/romance/mysteries. I don't know if there's a market for a book like that and I don't know where I'll find the time. When I'm out playing golf I feel I should be home writing and when I'm writing on a nice day I feel I'm wasting my time and should just go for a long walk and enjoy the world around me. The truth is I enjoy all these different parts of my life. I just need more energy to pursue them.

Rain

We played in a Legion golf tournament Saturday and it was a blast, great friends and fellow golfers and a wonderful steak dinner afterwards. It was a perfect day for golf, sunny and hot. One young golfer got a hole in one and that was followed by a second one when a lone golfer teed off as we walked in from our scramble. He aced the first hole. All alone, he called over as he walked down the fairway to the green to have someone go with him as a witness.

Sunday the rains started. Just when you think it will last forever the world crashes in. The live-a-board workboats were all in the harbour for their annual rally and we watched them sail away, blowing whistles and horns and even an old steam whistle, as horizontal rain whipped us back from the dock. Fall is definitely here. How long until Florida? It's time this snowbird was gone.

Faithful Place
by Tana French
Penguin Books

A wonderful literary mystery, Faithful Place is a novel to read for the characters and the writing more than the mystery. I knew from the beginning where this was going but I was happy to follow, happy for the flashback to the clothes and the music of the eighties. I read it while flying from California to British Columbia, a two and a half hour flight but a trip that took eighteen hours to complete. I bought Faithful Place at the airport and read it while they tried to find a plane for us, read it while we waited for the cancelled ferry and later while we waited for the second ferry. I read all four hundred pages and didn't complain once for the delays. There aren't many books that could keep me from complaining but Tana French managed it with this beautiful and sad story from Ireland.

Sept 13/11

Excuse me while I brag!

I just had a message from Kendra at my publisher, McArthur & Co, saying Margarita Nights is on the top 50 list at Kobo, actually at #4. Kobo sells e-books in the UK, in Australia, Canada and the US. Great excitement...almost as good as making the New York Times list, but I know it won't last more than a nano second, as fleeting as a hiccup. The numbers are updated hourly and the next time I look I may not be anywhere on the list but oh, the joy of it! It's wonderful to be there no matter how short a time it lasts. This is almost as good as someone writing on my web-site or facebook that they enjoyed one of my books. That's the best. And here's the fun part, I don't have an e-reader although I borrowed a Kobo reader from our library and really enjoyed using it, easy to read and very light. I'm waiting for the e-readers to fight it out. I always choose the wrong technology and I want to know who will be still standing five years from now. But what am I thinking? Like any electronic thing it will need replacing all too soon. An e-reader won't last five years. Even paperbacks last longer than that.

We're on the dock at Fulford Harbour waiting to board the Skeena Queen. We're off to California for a week to see family, family about to move to England. It will be a bittersweet visit. How often are we going to get to England and children grow so quickly. I'd give up my number 4 spot on Kobo to keep them closer but unfortunately I don't get to choose. It would be nice to have it all, on the Kobo list and my darlings nearby.

Sunday Night

We watched Casablanca tonight, one of my all time favourite movies. I love the characters and how they interact... love the tension, which is interspersed with great music, and, of course, the love story made more perfect because it's unfulfilled. I want to write books like that, want my Sherri books to feel exactly like that...me and every other writer in the world. But there is only one Casablanca. How many lines from that movie do we all know? Play it again Sam. Oh, I know that isn't the real line but it's how we remember it. What he really said was "You played it for her, you can play for me." And then there was, "We'll always have Paris." Or, "This may be the start of a beautiful friendship." How many more are there? Something to think about deep in the night when sleep won't come.

What I'm Reading

I picked up three hardcover books off the sales table at Chapters, Stephen King's Duma Key at $4.99 regular $32.00...all 607 pages, less than a penny a page. Who can resist a bargain like that? I started to read it yesterday afternoon and was still reading at midnight. I'd call it magic realism not mystery, killing someone by painting his picture. This isn't really my kind of book. So why read for ten hours when the subject doesn't interest you? Because Stephen King is a knock your socks off writer without a hiccup or a burp, an under-rated writer who will eventually be recognized as one of the best of his time. He can make you believe anything, make you feel his pain, and invest in the impossible. Will I finish the last 250 pages? I don't really think so. It's not a book that would read well in small bites but it left me feeling, "Man I wish I could write like this."

Michael Connelly /The Scarecrow

More than the mystery itself what held my attention in this book was the parallel between the newspaper business and the publishing industry as a whole, another story of print giving way to the internet. Jack McEvoy is laid off as the crime reporter for the L.A. Times just when he uncovers the biggest story of his life. It's told in the first person when we're in the reporter's head and in the third person when the reader is seeing things from the killer's point of view. I thought this was one of Connelly's better books except for the romance. Connelly cannot write a love interest. The conclusion of the book makes it seem that this might be the first in a new series featuring the reporter and the FBI agent of the love story.

Killer Year/ edited by Lee Child

This is a excellent book of short stories by thirteen authors who made their debut in 2007, one year before my first book, Margarita Nights, came out. There are some wonderful writers here and the best of them is Sean Chercover. His story, One Serving Of Bad Luck, was a brilliant PI story, featuring Ray Dugeon from his novel Big City, Bad Blood, a book I'll look for.

Sept. 6/ll

Sunny and warm...mid seventies
The first day of school always feels more like the beginning of a New Year to me than Jan.1st ever does. It's definitely a time of change, an adjustment for students and parents alike. And for cottagers and Snowbirds like me it means it's time to start tidying up and packing, getting out before things turn nasty. On Salt Spring,we aren't eating dinner outside anymore...too many wasps come to dine with us and the nights are coolish. Everyone can feel fall in the air now, a change we all want to deny, so every sunny day becomes more precious and special. We raise our faces and say, "Isn't this wonderful? How long will it last?"

Nurture or Nature

Which is more important our innate nature or the way we are nurtured? I've always wondered if I had been raised by different parents would I be a different person. Somehow, inside, it doesn't seem like it. Not even nurtured by Einstein would I be able to do algebra. With different parents my morals and beliefs might be different but I suspect most of who I am would still be there. My talents, or lack of, and interests would be the same. I come down on the side of nature. Check out this link to find some interesting research on how the brain controls who we are.

http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/

Blackberry Days

There's a lushness to the island at this time of the year that makes you want to hold on with both hands. The ditches are lined with ten foot high blackberry canes that arc out to the road and tempt the unwary to reach too far, to step forward into that deep trench. A walk becomes a moveable feast of plums and early apples while on the golf course dragonflies fill the air like fluff from dandelions.

There's an urgency in the air, to do all the things that were planned in the briskness of spring and put aside during the lazy days of heat. In the coolness on the shoulders of the day, signaling that fall is waiting to take his place, those agendas come back to us. We're making lists of things to be done before we fly south with the birds, people to see, details to finish... but not yet, not yet. Let's just hold on to the loveliness that's now.

August 11, 2011

Listening to the news I have to shake my head and wonder if I understand anything anymore. When you spend your life building things up it's hard to watch it being torn down, to see governments that don't work, markets that don't make sense and youth thrilled by random violence. But just maybe there is nothing new under the sun.
What have we learned in 2,064 yrs:

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
Cicero - 55 BC

Saturday, August 6/11

Lee is in Washington so I've been eating while standing in front of the open fridge door, writing in my pyjamas until noon, and basically living like a hermit. This is my only chance to write until the second week of September when the last of our summer company leaves. I used this time to read through Highball exit, found it wanting and began pruning...take out 100 words, put in 3. Still taking out stuff, shrinking the draft, and deciding how to make it better, so it really shouldn't be called writing...maybe unwriting. Great depression follows this kind of rewrite. Add to that the craziness that happens when you only talk to yourself for days, and get answers that don't enlighten you, and it's a good thing he's coming home. I don't get what is so great about living on your own. I really hate it and a week is about my limit before life loses all meaning. I've seen the enemy and it is me.

The Ladies' Killing Circle, a group of writer's in Ottawa, has an e-book anthology out, Little Treasures. If you have an e-reader check it out.

When seven award-winning women authors with crime on their minds join forces the result is seven anthologies in just over a decade. In these stories from the first anthology, The Ladies' Killing Circle, everyone has secrets and sometimes murder is the only way to keep them safe. Some of the stories are sweet, others spicy. Others are haunting and tragic. All to say, the ladies will slay you!

July 29, 20ll

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx

A cool and overcast start to a long weekend on Salt Spring and I'm trying to kick myself into getting back to work on Highball Exit. The thing is, the best part of writing is the conception...sort of like having children. Writing books or having kids, the beginning is fun. The first gleam of an idea is like the heady thrilling part of first love. After that comes all the hard work...also like having children. Is that why authors are always comparing writing to child birth?

So after you get this really neat idea, you start to think you should do something with this fixation that just keeps growing. (No, I'm not continuing my analogy. Don't even go there!) It's all write, write, write - you scribble away until you've used all the words Webster has to offer and then you discover that it's crap and isn't the story you envisioned. Not even close. You pull and twist and try to bludgeon it into something that has life but it just lays there dead on the page, making you feel like a failure. The thrill is definitely gone now. It's all sleepless nights and caca. Revision after revision, and nothing is helping, so somewhere along the line you decide to just write the book you can and not the book you dream of turning out. For me writing is a matter of always settling for second best but sometimes, if I'm lucky, I read it and say, that's not half bad.

At one point I almost abandoned Champagne For Buzzards. I'm glad I didn't because I think it's the strongest of the books and something I wanted to write about. I have to remember that now because I am at the caca stage with Highball, thinking it's a piece of crap and wanting to hit delete. But I'm 64,000 words into this, the teenage years, and you don't throw out a teenager no matter how much you might want to.

I'm trying to remember that the idea was an interesting one. My instincts were confirmed when I went to a book club meeting. We were talking about crime and would we use a weapon to defend ourselves. How far would we go to protect our family? Where is the line? This is where those women set the bar. If you hurt one of mine, I'm going to kill you. Children, grandchildren, that's the line you don't cross. I think people will be able to identify with this book...maybe...I hope.

The other thing bugging me about Highball is this; it's very different from the other books. Are people expecting certain things from Sherri? How will they feel when I don't deliver? So many things to worry about and so little time. Caca, all is caca!

July24/11

Cutting back the roses, so we can use the path to the front door, my mind dwells on the horror of so many people being slaughtered on an island called Utoya. The bright chartreuse toad the size of a nickel on the clapboard denies the possibility of such horror happening here, but it can. The whys and hows can't alter what is. And that's not the very worst of it. What is done can't be undone. So many lives changed, even mine cutting back roses on another island so far away.

Zoomer Magazine ~ July/August 2011 Issue

Zoomer Magazine chose the Sherri Travis Mystery Series as one of three Canadian mystery series for their Best Cottage Reads feature.

See their quotation regarding the series on my Books & Reviews page.

Where have all the libraries gone?

We spent a few hours this week helping to pack up the books from our local public library for their move to temporary quarters. Salt Spring is building a new library! This was exciting news a few years ago but now I'm starting to have doubts. Will there be new books to put on the shelves in another five years?

Amazon sales are already 50% e-books. In five years publishers may have given up printing books altogether and only offer books in e-book formats, forcing the rest of us to buy an e-reader, something I've been reluctant to do although I've tried them out and like them well enough. So those people that are always saying, "I'll never buy an e-reader. I like to hold a real book in my hands," won't have a choice. That's what they're missing in all this, we don't get to vote on it and like it or not it will happen. It's all about the economics of the book world not the emotions.

I just worry that we are committing too much of our world to electronics, putting too much of our lives in one basket. I have a science fiction sort of mind. What if some evil party wipes out the world's ability to communicate electronically? Do you notice I don't balk at using an ATM or paying all my bills on line, or giving up on Canada Post, but I'm terrified at the thought of being cut off from reading material?

As a writer I worry about being paid for my work. Now libraries have the ability to buy one electronic copy of a book and to then send it out to hundreds of people who never have the need to set foot on library property. Why would I ever go into a bookstore and buy a book, or go on Kindle for that matter, when I can sit in the comfort of my own home and have it magically appear? Libraries are negotiating with the Writers Union on how many times they can rent out an electronic book before they must re-buy it. Theoretically, they would only have to buy one copy of a book and lend it all across Canada. Then what will happen to all those librarians and buildings? They'll all be redundant. Mommas, don't let your kids grow up to be librarians.

There will be this lovely new building on Salt Spring, which we will be paying for years from now, with no one in it. Everything will be done electronically. And don't tell me we still need to go there for research, much easier to get information on the computer, and more up to date information, especially if your only access is a small branch library. So what will be happening in that lovely new building? Well, people will still go there to use computers. There will also be public meetings and probably people like me will still be there teaching others how to write. Libraries will also lend e-readers and put the books on them. The most important thing about libraries is that they deliver equal access to information. That's why I'm glad that we will have the physical building even if we don't have any books.

Maybe I'm wrong about all this. Heaven knows it has happened before. But still, I wouldn't be spending a lot of money on shelves.

July 15/2011

I was thinking this week of all the things I wanted to do when summer arrived then suddenly had to give my head a shake. It's the middle of July. This is summer. It's still cold here, in the 60s, the great summer that never was, April in July. Actually, I'd much rather have it 67 than 97. I've got lots of sweaters. Putting on one today and going out to clean the garage, in the hopes of one day actually putting a car in there, I realized that the garage is the repository for all our good intentions. The projects and hobbies begun with such enthusiasm and put down in such shocking haste are what keep us cramped and dusty. I can never bring myself to commit to failure, and that's what the stuff in the garage represents...as in, "This was a dumb idea." I tease myself there may be room for resurrection. Surely one day we will actually make beer so best to keep those bottles we've collected, never mind that I don't even drink it, it would be a fun thing to do. And that old painting, crackling surface and all, could be worth a fortune. Two children's life jackets, folding chairs, a floor lamp, all still good and only waiting for someone to need them, all of those things escaped the pile for the Lion's Club sale. The pitiful small pile to take to the Lion's Club is actually quite embarrassing but I promise I'll do better next year. I think there's something about growing up poor that makes me hold on to things...at least that's my latest theory. Don't give it away because you may never get another one of whatever it is, but next year we'll be able to get a far bigger car in that garage than my 11 year old Kia, next year I'll be able to let go.

Two New Reviews for Champagne For Buzzards

Today Jim Napier posted his review of Champagne for Buzzards on his Deadly Diversions website.
It will appear in the Sherbrooke Record newspaper in August.

My First American review of Champagne For Buzzards was posted today by Allene Reynolds on her Mystery & Me Blog of July 12, 2011.

Excerpts and links are also on the "Books & Reviews" page.

Very Exciting!

Watermelon Splash









Watermelon juice makes a wonderful cool summer drink. Take the pulp of a seedless watermelon and blend it into juice. Serve the juice in a tall glass with lots of ice and a sprig of mint. For the adults, add an ounce (or more) of vodka and stir well. It is now a Vodka Smash.





New Review from the Hamilton Spectator

See the latest review for CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS by Don Graves in the July 2, 2011 issue of the Spectator. The link is on my "Books & Reviews" page.


Cool Canada Day

And I don't mean cool the way we used it as teenagers but as in, the weather is cool, in the sixties. Where are those hot, hot, July firsts of memory? Did they ever exist or is it all those posters for Beach Blanket Bingo that makes me think I remember doing cool things on scorching holidays? Sandra Dee and Annette had far more fun as a teenager than I. So many of my memories aren't real, but come from movie stills, newspapers and old family black and white snaps and events that I never witnessed are more true to me than my real life. Those pictures are burned into my mind, making them seem part of my life. Come to think of it, I've never seen any of those films of Annette, Sandra and Connie Francis. It's just that when anyone talks about summer and teenagers those old movie posters get pulled out and held up as the ultimate in fun teenage experiences ...fun times a light years away from me. Try surfing on Lake Erie, the closest I ever got to a beach. I do remember one hot July on Mill Lake. Four of us were supposed to be sleeping in the loft space of a cottage. It must have been 100 degrees up there so we decided to go skinny dipping, probably the most daring thing I ever did...and the coolest.

Happy Canada Day!

I hope it is both hot and cool for you.

Unwanted

I think that Unwanted is finished, except for some polishing. I started this book back in the summer of 2007. If there is one consistent thing people say about my books, it is that they are a fast read. It took me a while to understand that this is a compliment. It means they flow smoothly and you don't have to reread a sentence two or three times to understand what's being said.

The thing is, they aren't written quickly. In fact, I'm a slow writer. Every word and every sentence gets written again and again...methodically over years. I recently read an essay by Margaret Atwood that said she wrote The Blind Assassin in six months. Great grinding of teeth here, a masterpiece in six months...it takes me six months to write a grocery list, which probably explains our weird and wildly interesting meals.

So how was I able to bring out a book a year for the last four years? Because I had a backlog of completed books when I finally got published but my book drawer is now empty of manuscripts except for Unwanted. I either have to bring out a book every two years or learn to write faster. I worry that if I only bring a book out every second year I'll lose my audience and if I write faster the quality will slip. I don't suppose it matters to anyone else but me but it is a problem to be solved. And the other problem I have to solve is when is this series over? I have two Sherri Travis mysteries to finish, Highball Exit and Last Call. I thought Last Call was the end of the series. The moment I named it last call I felt it was the end. But then I got this terrific idea for a novel about the night Sherri left Jimmy. It happens up in Georgia when Jimmy was playing on the pro golf tour and Sherri is working in a bar, a real dive. Out behind that bar, about one in the morning, she finds Jimmy in the backseat of a car with a woman. Before Jimmy can pull up his pants, Sherri has dumped his clubs in the parking lot and taken off back to Florida. On her own, and late at night...well, if you know Sherri you know that things won't go well. This is the best opening of any book I've written. Wait a minute; didn't I say that about Unwanted? Well, it's a good one. I can't wait to get at it but first I have to finish Highball. This book is giving me grief, has from the get go, but then there's a point that I feel that way about every one of them. This too shall pass.

June 22, 2011 ~ Body/Mind/Spirit

I've been on a little holiday to Portland Oregon. Using the Blackball ferry to Port Angeles, Washington, we can get there in a day but I realized that it was a much bigger trip in terms of mind, body and spirit.

The night after we arrived we went to see Cirque Du Soleil in their performance of Dralion. It's unbelievable what the performers can do with their bodies, doesn't seem humanly possible and no matter how many years I'd trained, I know I could never make my body do what theirs can. They must be born with some special ability the average person doesn't have.

And then there was the mind part of the trip. I went to Powell's Books to hear Ann Patchett speak about her new book. Powell's bills itself as the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. It covers several blocks, my idea of heaven. I could take a lunch and spend a whole day...oh, wait, they have a restaurant. Forget the lunch. The reading was on the third floor and it was packed, like groupies waiting for a rock star. One woman climbed on top of a set of bookshelves and made herself comfortable while I waited for the whole thing to come crashing down. It definitely was an audience of fans and I would have loved to have talked to them after to see what they got out of it...if it was what they expected.

I read two books while I was away. Two books in a week was lean in terms of reading for me. Normally I inhale books. The one that exemplified spirit was a book called Shanghai Girls. It was set in the thirties and told the story of two sisters, how they came to America and what they found when they arrived. To say their lives was difficult was undervaluing their ordeal. Their father sold them as wives to American men. Horrible as this was, it may have saved their lives as it got them out of China just as the Japanese were attacking.

So that was my tour of the mind, body and spirit. The soul part of the trip was my time with my family and truly the very best bit.

Ellis Awards

It was my great pleasure to present the Ellis award for Unhanged Arthur to John Jeneroux. When I got home I read his winning entry. Very scary! If I'd read it before we met I wouldn't be standing so close to him in this picture. Now John is off on the hunt for an agent/publisher. I wish him the very best in this adventure and
I know he will be a great success.





Bloody Words

Well the circus has left town and the great convention that was is over. ..very very successfully I might add. New friendships were made and even a few book deals were consummated. My favourite panel was the CSI 3 hour panel put on by the police on Sunday morning. Despite what we see on television most crimes, like about 90%, are still solved by fingerprints and footprints... 70% of convictions come from fingerprints and 20% come from footprints. Don't criminals watch television? All the fancy stuff like DNA only accounts for convictions in 10% of cases. And guess what costs the most?

And here is a piece of advice that I thought we all needed to know whether we want to or not. If you have a family member who dies at home of natural causes, a death that was expected, DO NOT dial 911. If you call for emergency assistance, the coroner and the police have to be involved and that starts a long and horrible process you don't want. Instead, call the doctor that has been in charge of that person's care. They can pronounce the person dead and sign the papers. Then the funeral home comes and takes away the body.

As I said, not information we really want but something that is good to know. Don't you just hate being a grownup?

June 1/11

We leave today for Victoria and the Bloody Words conference. While I'm trying to figure out what I've forgotten I thought I'd do a post. I was recently asked to write an essay about Sherri Travis and her character. I let Sherri do the talking and here she is in her own words.

Sherri Travis

Don't listen to what people say. Here's what you should know about me.

Ruth Ann, my mom, kept us alive by working every hour God sent but she had one fatal flaw...she was a woman in love with love and she brought home the wrong kind of man. I swore I'd never be like her but I pretty much blew that resolution when I married Jimmy Travis. A guy like Jimmy will quickly destroy your faith in romance and leave you thinking Cinderella is dead and the prince is gay.

So one night I am tending bar at the Sunset when a cop walks in and tells me my god-awful husband is dead... kind of a good news bad news situation, the downside being I'm the prime suspect. Having friends in low places can come in handy and in the Sunset a girl can find lots of those.

The thing about a bar, besides the guys that are always coming on to you, is you get to hear all sorts of things... who did what to whom, and how many times... who has the door open and is peaking out of the closet... and these days, so many times it could make you weep, who is about to lose everything. All good stuff to know. And in a bar you hear different versions of the same tale. To discover which story is true you just have to pour another drink. It's hard to hide secrets behind a vale of alcohol, and stories just naturally come unravelled in the Sunset.

I try not to get sucked into any of this but good intentions and I never have been the best of friends. Another thing I blame on Ruth Ann. Caring was another bad example she set for me. Like the time I got trapped on an island with a dead body, a murderer and a hurricane storming towards us. That was all her fault. And when her old boyfriend, the guy who abused me when I was a kid, comes back to town with another single mother and her young daughter, how do you look away from that situation?

So I pour the drinks and listen to the stories and try not to get involved but what's a girl supposed to do?

May 28, 2011

One of the great things about this new writing life of mine is the wonderful people I meet. I want to introduce you to some of them over the coming months. These people make me shout with joy, people who are starting new lives and new careers past the time when we thought it was possible. Isn't it wonderful to know life isn't over when you reach 60? All kinds of adventures and people are waiting for you.

Linda Wiken is the former owner, or the owner of the former Prime Crime Books in Ottawa. After 15 years of selling mysteries, she's now writing them and has a 3-book contract with Berkley Prime Crime. The first in the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries, A Killer Read, will be published in April, 2012. She has morphed into a split personality, however and is writing as Erika Chase. Erika, like her main character Lizzie Turner, loves singings in a community choir and lives with two Siamese cats.

Today Linda is writing about, well, writing and how to do it. It's a question I hear all the time. "I want to write a book but I don't know how to start." Here's Linda's answer.

Just Get on With It

I must say, one unsuspected benefit of writing a blog is that one has to WRITE. Writers do know that you have to keep writing. All the time. No matter what it is. Not only is it a good way to beat that nefarious 'writer's block' but also, it turns the action into a habit. Somewhat like singing. The more you practice, the more your vocal chords retain a muscle memory and it does become easier to produce the end result.

After one of the fabulous Bloody Words conferences in Toronto, Maureen Jennings held a morning-long workshop on writing, based on her book The Map of Your Mind. Maureen led us on many a writing exercise aimed at getting that pen moving. I have to admit, I'm often a bit of a skeptic when it comes to techniques (sorry, Maureen) however, I set pen to paper and just kept writing until time was called. And, I was pleasantly surprised to read what could have been the start of a short story. It was there, hidden until released. I'm finding that's happening now, too when writing my novel. Suddenly, I'm in a scene that just keeps moving forward into the next scene and so on and so on. What a powerful feeling that is!

So, the moral of this story is, write a blog, write a letter, write in a journal. Write utter nonsense. Write that story that's been teasing the back of your brain. Write a letter to the editor. As Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge writes in her wonderfully inspiring book, poemcrazy, "Keep writing. If you focus on your surroundings, the words may just help you be there. But if they want to take you somewhere else, follow them."

Of course, it does help to have your muses. And, never under-estimate the power of those dangerous writing pals

So, happy writing, whatever it may be. Just do it. And I will, too. Let's make a pact.

May 22, 2011 ~ Book Review

See the new review of Champagne for Buzzards on my Review Page or go to
National Post

Yahooooo!

May 21, 2011 ~ Coffin Making

Happy long weekend. Given the weather across the country it's a raft we should be building and not a tiny coffin. Yes, we've gone into the coffin making business, at least Lee has. I'm just helping with the finishing touches, like the red lining. You see Bloody Words 2011 is coming up on the first weekend in June and there is a short story contest, the Bony Pete. The award is a coffin with a skeleton inside. Someone had to make the coffin. I have to say it's so real it freaks me out. I didn't know I was so superstitious but last night I made sure the door to the garage was locked...and put a chair up against it just in case. No bony fingers are going to creep over the side of the coffin to grab me by the neck. All those horror movies I've watched over the years are obviously still ratting around in my brain. Why is it I can't remember my SIN number but I can remember every plot turn to every 1 star movie I ever watched? And by the way, for those who don't speak Canuck, SIN stands for Social Insurance Number. I like SIN better. Makes me feel like something naughty is happening in my life and, really, it describes how our taxes are collected. In Canada you pay to sin...cigarettes, alcohol, movie tickets, gasoline, snacks...anything that is sinfully good is taxed. Don't ban it, tax it! That's the Canadian way.

Slave Lake

Every morning this week the first thing I've done when I got up is checked how Slave Lake is doing. The answer is not well. It seems the forest fires have taken out most of the town.

Once, leaving Florida to go north, we got caught in a forest fire. It was a Sunday morning in Georgia on the main north south freeway with pine woods on our right and pine trees on our left, separating us from the two lanes of traffic going south. Without warning, no signage, no state trooper to stop traffic, the pines along the right of the freeway were on fire. It was a full, ongoing, blaze. As we drove by green trees would suddenly burst into flames, an incredible and terrifying sight. There was no place to go and nothing we could do. I was driving and my inclination was to move to the left lane to be further from the flames but other drives decided they needed to drive faster to get away. Not a really good idea. One little mistake, causing an accident that blocked the highway, and we would all be trapped there. I could picture us abandoning our cars and fleeing through the forest in the median to the south bound lanes with the fire nipping at our heels.

This week the pine trees bursting into flames was the picture in my mind as I thought of the residents of Slave Lake fleeing their homes, leaving everything behind, and driving out the only remaining highway. They had under an hour to do it but they all managed to get out safely...accomplished it without panicking, without leaving anyone behind or losing anyone. Bravo! But now they are all waiting in shelters to see what happens next, to see if they have anything to go back to. We work so hard to make ourselves safe but in a blink of an eye it can all change. There is no perfect security. We are at the mercy of random acts of nature and other humans. We just do our best and hope to get lucky. But every morning I think of all the fire fighters and all the people from Slave Lake and I whisper, "Hang on. Stay safe." And to all of you, my friends, I say, "Stay safe."

Saturday, May 14, 2011 ~ Write Your Life

I had an e-mail from a woman this week who wanted me to write the story of her life. From the short description she gave me there was more than enough material for a novel... but it isn't my novel. It's hers. She can feel the sun on her shoulders, the fear in her heart and what the blows felt like. If you're going to describe those scenes to me you might just as well write them down and do it yourself. I haven't seen that landscape nor walked that road. The description will be more real if it isn't filtered through someone else's eyes. People often ask me to write their stories. Somehow people I know, and even strangers, think I will understand, and while I'm flattered, it isn't something I want to do nor am I capable of doing it. We each have to walk that road for ourselves.

When I told her this she worried that her grammar wasn't good enough and that she couldn't spell. Well, neither can I. Thank goodness for computers. And you don't need a special vocabulary to write your story. Write what you feel and how you remember it. Write it all down and set it aside for six months while you mull it over and then go back and see if it is the story you wanted to write. And read. Read other people's biography's to see what works and what doesn't, what holds your interest and what bores you. We all have a sad story in us, that's part of living, but is it an interesting story? That's where art comes in. You know that old cliché, "There's two sides to every story," well there's two sides to every life. I could write the story of my own life and make it a tragedy or I could write my story and make it a comedy. It's all about balance. And balance is what we all strive for in life and what we get when we write.

Psychologists use journaling and writing to help patients work through trauma. Writing is therapeutic. Even if you never get the story of your life published you will have the experience of putting it together and it will be a treasure for the people that come behind you. It may even help them understand their own lives more fully.

The lady that wrote to me was very traumatized by life. I really hope she does write it down because only then will she really take control of it and move beyond the horror.

Stay well until next time.

May 10, 2011 ~ Our Brilliant Conversation

So there we were on a Saturday afternoon having drinks and nibblies with friends when the conversation turned to really important stuff. Gordie said, "I wonder what A&W stands for. I know its root beer and all that but what does it mean?" Lee was sure it was for Atlantic and Western. Lee is crap at trivia. When this was tactfully pointed out to him he changed it to Atlantic and Pacific for A&P, a far cry from A&W. That's when google came in and Ann found that it stood for Allen and Wright, the guys that invented root beer.

Like Gord, I've had a deep and troubling question that I wanted an answer to. You know that little triangle of fat on the back of a chicken where the pin feathers are? It was always called the Pope's nose where I grew up but surely this is a slur that Catholics wouldn't use. What do they call the part of the chicken that goes over the fence last? I asked a couple of people and now the rumour is going around that I've lost it for good this time. Back to google...and the answer is...they call it the Parson's Nose. A perfect example of tit for tat. Oh, wait a minute, what does tit for tat mean? More brilliant conversation to come.



This is the post office in Fulford Harbour, on Salt Spring Island. Is it the smallest post office in all Canada? There were three postal stations when we moved here in 2007 but now we're down to two. Changing times. With e-mail, automatic payments, and all those other things we couldn't have imagined a short time ago, I wonder how long before little outlets like this will be a thing of the past. For that matter daily mail delivery could be a thing of the past.



And for boaters, I saw the perfectly named boat. It was called the Moneysucker.








May 2, 2011 ~ Rain Anyone?

We had a week of rain, briefly interrupted by moments of sunshine. Then we had two great days on the weekend. This morning we awoke to more rain.

Despite the weather the polling station was really busy. For me it says people care more about this election than I thought they would when it was called. I think we're all scared because Canada is starting to seem like the last sane, secure, and safe place on earth. Or perhaps I only think that because I'm hiding away on a small island, a very safe and secure place.

Champagne For Buzzards is finally in the stores. My box of books arrived amid a deluge. I was surprised to see how bright the cover was, sort of a slutty tramp in a bar purple. I quite like the colour. Now I can't wait to hear if people like the story.

It's the last Sherri Travis for a bit. I've put her aside for the moment to introduce a new series, starring a singer... just so I never have to be too far from something cool and refreshing let's make her a bar singer who ends up on the street, singing for coins.

I'm almost through a rewrite of Unwanted. I'm considering renaming it The Unwanted And Uninvited to give equal billing to the other woman in the tale. Maybe I should have a vote to see which title is the catchiest. If anyone has an opinion I'd be happy to hear it. And if you can do better with this title I'd really be grateful. Think fog, murder, strangers showing up in the middle of the night and all the suspects locked up together in a house on top of a mountain. This is a very traditional mystery.

When I finish this rewrite I'm going back to Highball Exit, the fifth Sherri Travis story and one that's giving me grief. It all went wrong the day that little guy walked into the bar. He may be only 4'6" but he's bullying everyone and making my life a misery. I may have to kill him. If it keeps raining he may not be the only one that gets whacked. Can weather be used as a defence? "The rain made me do it, your honour."

I hope the sun is shining wherever you may be.

Camellias

Spring in the Pacific Northwest may be cool and damp this year but it does have its advantages. This Camellia was blooming when we arrived three weeks ago and it is still full of buds. It will probably be flowering three weeks from now. However, on the downside, Saturday is our last day of sunshine for awhile. After Saturday we are expecting five days of rain. Pass the web-feet please.



Good Friday

Sunny and warm on this Good Friday, so we went off to the golf course for the first nine holes of the year. I know real golfers don't play nine holes but I work in the mornings and for an hour or so after lunch so I like going out about three in the afternoon. We're back in plenty of time to stick something in the oven and enjoy a glass of wine before dinner. Work, wine and a little golf, that pretty much sums up life for me.

Blackburn is still wet but in beautiful shape. All the streams and gullies which will be bone dry in July are running with water. Even the fairways seem to be singing with moisture when you walk over them.

Blackburn is the best kept secret on the island. After saying hello to the man in the club house we didn't see another soul until we returned to the club house. It was like having our own private course. A good Friday indeed.

April 14 ~ Clouds of yellow skunk cabbage

Skunk cabbage blooms in exactly the colour of daffs...only they're bigger, like maybe 6" long. The boggy areas are full of them. We are on the way to the ferry, past fields full of lambs, through woods turned yellow with skunk cabbage and below the snow still on Mt. Maxwell. In a paddock near the road there's a llama acting badly. Head up, lips peeled back, the shaggy beast is chasing a horse. From deep in my memory come the words, "NOK, dear." I remember the first time a Hamilton matron whispered those words to me. I had to ask what NOK stood for. "Not our kind, dear." And here I was under the impression there was only one kind, the humankind. Apparently I'd spoken to the wrong person and she felt the need to correct me. What that matron didn't realize was that I wasn't her kind either. I was in my respectable disguise. NOK - I don't think those words would ever be heard on Salt Spring - except in the barnyard where they belong when a confused llama chases a filly.

Margaret and her husband are right behind us as we pull onto the dock. Margaret is on the way to the Mainland for some surgery on Friday. Waiting for an operation your life becomes before surgery and after surgery. I've always wondered where someone finds the courage to cut into the flesh of a living human being. Thank God there are people who have what it takes. It would never be me. I'm easily distracted and prone to situations that begin with, "Ooops."

Stay well.

Another Arthur Ellis winner

I won the Arthur Ellis award for an unpublished manuscript in 2007. The next year I got to give out the award to Dorothy McIntosh. I've never seen anyone so excited, and grateful, in my life. Now Dorothy's book is about to come out. Check out the Penguin web page for The Witch of Babylon.
All the best, Dorothy.

April 13 ~ How Time Goes By

A friend is house sitting a place high up at the north end of Salt Spring and overlooking the ocean. We're going for dinner tonight. I'm really looking forward to it...not only wonderful people to spend time with but this fantastic view. It's a house you drive by and wonder about. I'm taking the smoked salmon appetizer so the procurement officer, sometimes known as Lee, is out hunting it down at this very moment. And best of all we have J.D. to drive us home. Have you noticed how popular the non-drinkers in the crowd have become? They're invited everywhere. These roads are narrow and twisting and you can't believe how dark it gets on this island at night... hard enough to drive these roads sober and definitely not something to try after even one drink. Shooting off into space without a last good-bye does not appeal.

Tomorrow I have an interview on Salt Spring radio. This book program is about a half hour long. I have no idea what I'll say. That's the really scary part, never knowing what will come out of my mouth. Hopefully it's nothing that will get me arrested or have people hurling rotten vegetables...or just hurling. That's when it's good to have someone experienced asking the questions and Karen will jump in and shut me up if things get dicey. If all else fails, she can turn off my mike.

Thursday we are taking the ferry into Victoria for a committee meeting on Bloody Words 2011. This committee has been one of the best I've ever been on and I'll miss all of them when the conference is over. Not the work, just the people.

So that's the way time goes by, a little of this, a little of that. Best of all it is wonderful to have this life, our time of contentment and joy. Who says growing old is a bad thing?

Mary Jane Maffini

My friend and fellow writer Mary Jane Maffini's latest Charlotte Adams mystery (I think this is the 7th in the series) is out. It's called The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder. Now don't you love that title? All of her titles are great. Like, The Dead Don't Get Out Much. Check out her web-site at
www.maryjanemaffini.ca


April 4 ~ The New Apple Canadian iBook Store

The new Apple iBook Store in Canada is an app for iPads and iPhones.
The home page features "Champagne for Buzzards"!
You can see how it looks from you iPad or iPhone or from this link: iBook Store

Wow!

April2 ~ Are You Kidding?

Okay, the first review is in for CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS. Margaret Cannon at the Globe & Mail said, "The dialogue is crisp, the jokes are funny and the setting as nutty as any city slicker can believe."

(See the full review on the "Books & Reviews" page)

I don't get it. I'm writing serious stuff here folks. Why does everyone insist on seeing humour? There's murder, mayhem and all sorts of villainous acts. I just don't get it - this isn't funny. My editor made me take out the funny bit... the crystal pasties. She thought it was too over the top. Now I wish I'd left it in.

Sherri was putting up the baubles on a crystal chandelier and hooked crystal drops on the front of her tee and did a bump and grind on the table. Now that was a funny scene. And it was real. My mother and I went to a shower together, something that shouldn't be allowed, where my mother, in her sixties at the time, won a box of specialty teas in some trivia game. The next person, a woman in her twenties and flat as a board, won pasties. Mom spent all evening trying to trade her tea bags for the pasties, arguing that she was much better equipped to get those babies swinging. Hilarious! While Mom and I don't share the same...how do I put this nicely? We don't share the same mammary genes but we do share the same sense of humour. Neither of us can resist a one liner or a zinger, so maybe we got a little bit out of control. Just a tad.

It was the last shower we were ever invited to. It saved us a whack of money and we didn't have to play those silly games anymore so it wasn't all bad. But we never got the pasties.

Back on the "Rock"

Being clever folk, we got out of Tampa just before the tornado hit. It was a bumpy ride to Toronto but we congratulated ourselves on our good planning. Same with the trip across the country, it went like clockwork, although they had to hold the plane from Vancouver to Victoria for us. Again we celebrated our specialness. And we even made the ferry with seconds to spare. Are we good or what? High fives all around.

Someone forgot to tell the suicidal deer that we had an agenda. He just jumped out of the ditch in front of the rental, threw himself on us, and begged to be taken out. We tried to oblige. If I'd been driving my ten year old Rio, my Korean tank, his plan would have worked, or maybe we would have driven right under his belly. Anyway, it was a mere flesh wound not a mortal blow. He got up and staggered into the bushes and we went on to Ganges.

We're just fine. The car was a little worse for wear. Lee thought if we cleaned off the hair and stuff no one would notice the wonky bumper. Right, Lee, but only if the intake person is blind. Lee has a history with rental cars and it isn't good. He'll soon be banned across two countries. But the daffs are blooming, the cherry trees are thrilling and yesterday there were Orca whales in the Strait. It's good to be home once again.

March 28~ Another good idea...

"Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea". Iris Murdoch

No matter what idea I start out with, or how hard I work to stay true to the original vision, things never quite meld the way I plan. The story I start out to write never ends up being the one that appears on the page, close but not quite. Why is that? Maybe the idea isn't clear enough or maybe I'm not talented enough to write it. When I found this quote by Iris Murdoch I felt much better. If she feels the same maybe it's not entirely my fault and not unusual. Maybe the dream never lives up to the image of it.

We're leaving the heat of south Florida and returning to a wet and cool British Columbia on Weds. The furniture on the screened porch has to be washed down and brought in, the gardens cut back, clothes packed and everything cleaned. When you leave things for 6 months there's a lot to do. No one wants to come back to nasty surprises. Changing houses after six months feels like the end of a year, making time go at double speed. Still, living in two beautiful places is worth anything.

March 22, 2011 ~ Why Mysteries?

On Thursday I'm going to be at Boynton Beach Library. I bet it will be a sparse audience. The weather is just too good to sit and listen to anyone yammer on - but if people do come out, one of the questions asked will be, "Why do you write mysteries?"

First of all, I love to read mysteries. Mysteries are epic adventures, life and death struggles to right wrongs, to see justice done and to discover truth. Often reluctant and unprepared, the hero or heroine goes on a quest, taking us with them.

Stories of crime explore the darker side of human nature, greed, anger, jealousy and love… all of these emotions are at the heart of a good mystery. More than this, stories about crimes explore our fears. One of the things we all fear is being the victim of crime. Each of us feels as vulnerable to crime as we do to disease. We were very excited when our son got a scholarship to Yale for graduate school… not so excited when the letter arrived laying out the crimes on campus. It seems that a young woman was murdered on campus and the parents sued the university, saying if they had known the extent of the violence they never would have sent her there. We lived in Ancaster, a suburb of Hamilton Ont., a gritty steel town much larger than New Haven Conn., but there were more murders reported on campus at Yale than in Hamilton. More rapes and more murders! Our son was a teaching assistant. One of his students was killed in a drive by shooting while standing on the steps of the library. Money doesn't protect you from crime…nor does education…nor culture… and while we know how dangerous the world is without mysteries to tell us, our fear holds us enthralled because we can identify with the stories.

As I grow older a phrase comes back to me…. "things are going to hell in a handcart." From the bible to Star Wars the fight against evil goes on. In fact the first crime stories appear in the bible…Cain murdering Able...Joseph being sold into slavery… the bible is full of tales of theft and murder…tales of the killing of babies. And you think identity theft is new? Think of Jacob stealing Esau's birthright. These stories tell us things are not getting worse, they were always like this and for me this is a comforting thought. We may not be winning but we're not losing either. It is a struggle that goes on day after day and generation after generation.

Stay safe and well.

March 13, 2011~Dolce Vita






Sunday afternoon on the river, watching the canoes drift by and eating pulled pork on a bun. The sweet life...precious and perfect.










Goof off weather is here. Time to study your toes on a railing. Who wants to work? I have an edited manuscript sitting there waiting. Let it wait. In two weeks we leave for Salt Spring. No early spring there this year. Cool and rainy weather is the time to stay indoors and work. For now I think I'll go study my own toes on a railing.


Losing My Mind

How do you know when you've lost your mind…know when those little blips of forgetfulness, like what to put down when they ask for your maiden name, have crossed over the line to Never-Never Land? You know when someone sends you a picture like this. To be fair, maybe I was following the Boy Scout motto and just being prepared. Who knows when you'll need an extra pair of sun glasses.

However this was the same day that I went to pick up Lee and Dom after golf and found when I was half way there that I was wearing my slippers. I didn't think it mattered. When I got to the club there was no sign of my gentlemen friends. Now when I lose Lee I always know where to find him…check the nearest bar. But I wasn't going in there in my big floppy Mickey Mouse slippers so I took them off. I still wasn't happy to go into the bar at Boca Royale in my bare feet so I ran over to the bag boy, age 105, and excitedly said, "I'm looking for two men." He started laughing. What's with people? I explained that I'd left potatoes boiling and I was supposed to pick up a bald guy. The bag boy said, "I just saw him leave with a blond." Yuck yuck., you're killing me here. I finally got him to go in and check out the bar and guess what… it wasn't a blond but a pale ale that had caught Lee's attention.

Two pair of glasses, slippers to the bar…and did I mention pushing a stroller a block, complaining the whole way, before I realized the brakes were on? Oh God, what comes next, diapers?

Dog Parade

Two weekends and stopped by two parades. This time it was a dog parade...I kid you not. We needed to get downtown in Deland to sign some books and then get out of there to reach Maitland in time for a library talk. I always wondered why people felt it was necessary to cross the street just as the parade was about to start and then run back through at the first break in the action. Now I know they were authors going to sign books. That's probably why chickens are always crossing the road.

Janet, the owner of The Muse Bookstore, had a great sense of humour but in between laughs there was a bit of tension. Outside people on the opposite side of the street started to scream and point up over the bookstore and then all the people packed on the sidewalk in front of the store started yelling and moving onto the street, looking up and pointing. It seems above the store a small child was leaning out of a window to watch the parade. The screaming was because the child was in danger of falling. All ended well when an adult inside the apartment pulled the child back inside.

The Maitland book talk was fun. I enjoy talking about myself. Who me? Yup. And I love discussing writing and books. As always, more writers than readers showed up.

I've decided that the glamorous life of a writer shares a lot with the glamorous life of a traveling salesman. Both need three things to be successful, a sense of humour, a full gas tank and an enormous bladder. Oh, the good life of the road.

Central Florida is full of small towns that grew like Topsy and then fell into a coma for years. Their streets are filled with ancient trees, sheltering interesting old houses, and their main streets could all be used in a movie set in the twenties...small town America at its best.

Deland, Maitland, Avon, Florida

These were the towns we visited this weekend. Avon has an incredible old hotel called the Jacaranda. Back in the twenties movie stars came there because it was the place for spring training for the likes of Babe Ruth. The stars came to watch the Babe practice and to lie in the sun by the lake. I'm sure that Clark Gable did other interesting things while he was there.

The hotel has an arcade, a covered shopping area, with a glass roof. The only shop open there now is a co-op of artists. But the hotel has been restored and if you listen closely it seems like you still hear the echo of laughter or smell a wisp of perfume. I never enter a building like that without thinking of all the hopes and dreams that have passed through. From the dreams of the merchants to the hopes of the starlets, hangers on, and rookie players, how many were left behind there?

We have one day to pull ourselves together, do the laundry and clean out the dead things in the fridge before company arrives tomorrow. There's a lovely little two year old I can't wait to hug. Lee has cut down a golf club for him and bought plastic balls. Two years is about when you should start playing, isn't it? No writing this week. This week is all about playing.

February 22 2011 - White Pelicans

We went down to Fort Myers on Saturday to play golf with someone I've seen about 3 times since high school. It could have been a disaster but it was absolutely the perfect day. And Donna and her sister bought lunch. Even more perfect.

After the golf we went from North Fort Myers to South Fort Myers, a trip that turned out to take 2 hours. We were planning on 20 minutes at the most but we didn't know about the parade. We were horribly late for dinner with friends there but they were too sweet to complain.

We stayed overnight and the next morning we had fresh strawberries in February. I still think of fresh strawberries at anytime besides late June in Ontario as impossibly decadent. ..only for kings and queens and not ordinary people like us.

Their lanai overlooked a small lake and there, coasting regally by, were white pelicans...eighteen of them. I've never seen even one before. Brown pelicans are the one that are indigenous to Florida. It seems that white pelicans are exactly like me...spending the summer in Montana and Utah and flying down south for the winter. They can't dive so they work together to herd fish into shore where they scoop up the tightly packed fish, using their pouches like dip nets.

Pity the poor pelican!

His beak can hold more than his belly can.

In the picture below you'll see wood storks and small egrets working along the shore and taking advantage of the pelicans' hard work. Can you imagine the organization it takes to not only fly as a group to Florida, (and how do they find it anyway when I can barely find the grocery store two blocks away?) but to work as a team to stay alive...like helican...this is amazing. ..living like kings and queens in Florida.


Foggy, foggy, beach

The beach was packed with visitors all sitting in the fog and trying to get a tan. Truthfully, it doesn't have to be a sunny day to be beautiful on a beach. Pretty much every day is beautiful; in fact I never saw a day on the beach I didn't like. At 2:00 in the afternoon the fog was still rolling by like smoke.

I've just sent off a short story to a contest. Hope and I are old friends. He beats down that nattering nabob of negativity in my head that says, "Are you crazy? Who do you think you are? You're not good enough for this." I like hope better - even if he and the nabob have the same chance of being right. Like those pelicans, we just have to go out there and try. "Like Helican," I say.

Feb.-17-11 and it's hot in Florida!

I'm not complaining, mind you, but it would be nice not to go from the heating to the air conditioning.

I'm doing a series of library talks around Florida and a week or two ago, when I called a Borders store in the town where I was to speak to make sure they had my books, I was told by the manager that they only had two and they couldn't order any more. After reading this article I understand why.

Sarasota Herald Tribune

I hope this doesn't cause a domino reaction in the publishing business. Borders owes millions of dollars to the publishers.
At least I only have the weather to worry about - at least until my next book comes out. Champagne For Buzzards will be in the stores in another few weeks in Canada. It doesn't come out here in the US until Aug.

Until next time...stay well.
Phyl

Michael Van Rooy

When MARGARITA NIGHTS came out in 2008 I was lucky enough to be sent by my publisher to Thin Air, a writer's conference in Winnipeg. It was a really big deal for me. First I had to take a seaplane from Salt Spring to Vancouver airport. I hate flying and I'm a bit claustrophobic, not the best characteristics to have when you're locked in a coffin with wings and you're flying over water. To ratchet it up a notch this was my debut speech as a writer. One thing no one tells you before you're published is that as soon as you sign the contract you have to go out and start talking about your book.

Thin Air turned out to be one of the great events of my life. Don't tell my children, the high point of my life wasn't their birth; it was this weekend in Winnipeg with Micheal Van Rooy. This giant of a man, standing 6' 6" tall, met me at the airport. He was the other mystery writer for the weekend and he took on the chore of escorting me to events. Things started cautiously but definitely lightened up when we got to Michael's car. It was a car for a midget and even I found it a squeeze... he had to fold 6'6" of himself into a space for a 5' person to get into it.

At the hotel, Michael took me to the green room, introduced me to everyone in sight, tried to feed me and wanted to make sure I got safely to my room. It was like having a six foot tall mother. I liked it a lot.

We spent most of the next day together, doing a reading in the most wonderful pub setting and being treated like celebrities... I thought this was how writers were always treated. Wrong again. It's never happened since.

We were also part of the rural tour, and late that Saturday afternoon we drove in Michaels small car out west of Winnipeg into the setting sun. Michael's son went with us. The countryside was all gold and red from the sunset on wheat fields and rolls of straw. The prairies were like nothing I'd ever seen and it felt like we were driving into a giant painting.

We spoke in a small town where they had turned the train station into an arts centre. An amazing number of people had turned out for this event, most of them around retirement age. Now this was where it got interesting. Michael panicked when he saw the audience. You see, his protagonist is an ex-thief, ex-drug dealer who is trying to go straight. It was Monty Haaviko's language which was scaring Michael. A gentleman in every sense of the word, he didn't want to use those words in front of people who looked like his parents. He apologized over and over and even left words out. Finally someone in the audience rescued him, saying, "We've heard it all before, just read it."

On the way back to Winnipeg, about eleven o'clock at night, Michael stopped along the highway in the middle of nowhere so I could see the stars. My really bright comment was, "Has there always been so many?" Dah..

This kind considerate man and award winning author - an arts ambassador for Winnipeg - had a past. At age 21 he was convicted of two charges of armed robbery and spent almost 2yrs in prison. This seems so at odds with the man I met, although he talked about what society does to cripple people and turn them into something they never wanted to be. I didn't realize it was from personal experience. I thought his knowledge came from perhaps being a parole officer or social worker... someone on the other side of the bars. Whatever happened half a lifetime ago he more than made up for it in the end.

Michael Van Rooy died of a heart attack in Montreal at age 42 while on a book tour.

Look for his books and help keep him alive.

An Ordinary Decent Criminal (winner of the John Hirsch Award)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Criminal

Old Florida

If you like being alone hustle on down to the Chokoloskee Bay area of Florida on the western edge of the Everglades. They bill themselves as Old Florida. There's lots of aloneness to be found here around Everglades City and out in the 10,000 islands off the coast. Who counts these islands anyway? There's 10,000 island in the St. Lawrence and another area of 10,000 islands off the west coast. How come lots and lots of islands always turns out to be 10,000?

We took a tour boat out of the National Park in Everglades City to the Gulf. When you start out it looks like one large barrier island but as you get closer it breaks down into individual islands. To be classed as an island it has to have one tree on it. Most of those trees are mangroves with roots that grow out into the water and prevent you from landing.

And if you're down in that area on Feb. 12 and 13 be sure to take in "Jammin' in the Hammock" the 4th annual Bluegrass Festival at Collier-Seminole Park. I'd like to be there to see the Bean Pickers. I can picture that band. Camping is $15.00 a night. Sounds like a long night and a good time.

Tornado Warning

It was 75 degrees and windy on the beach when we went down to enjoy the day before the cold front comes in. Even in the time we walked the sand the day changed - the wind grew stiffer, the water roiled and the sky blackened. When the cold front hits this warm front we're basking in there will be a chance of tornados. They blow in quite often down here in Florida and there's no way to prepare for them or run away from them. It's a matter of luck if nature drops down and wipes you out. Even if we don't see any severe weather we'll get heavy winds and we'll likely lose the electricity, so we're ready for a dark and noisy afternoon.

Tomorrow is Lee's birthday and instead of a cake I'm making a chocolate soufflé. My chances of having it rise are about the same as getting hit by a tornado. On Saturday we are heading down to Everglades City and a little canoeing through the mangroves. Sunday we will drive back up to Naples to pick up a friend who will stay for a bit. Tornados and guests, we get both down here. I much prefer the guests.



"Introducing...."

I'd like to introduce my friend Kevin Thornton. Kevin and I met at an awards dinner... when we were up for the same award. What sadist seats 3 people up for the same award at the same small table? It could have ended in a massacre. Then there was another awards night when Kevin and I were both up for awards, but different awards thank goodness. Who wants to go through that twice? Anyway we were sitting next to each other... but that's another story and not one either of us is likely to tell.

Kevin is a Kenyan by birth and an adventurer by nature. Before moving to Fort McMurray, Alberta, he was a civilian working in Afghanistan. Or maybe there was another country in there before he got to Canada, not really sure because there have been quite a few countries, anyway he lives in Fort McMurray now and writes a weekly column. He is also one of the founders of Canada's latest literary magazine, North Words.

Jealousy is a nasty characteristic and not one I really have a problem with until it comes to writing. I'm jealous of Kevin and here's why.
You can find more of him at Kevin Thornton Blog

Three men walk into a bar. Ouch.
by Kevin Thornton

Every writer has a book inside him if he only had the time/ an agent who cared / a publisher/ a family who understood his need to create/ an independent income. I have two. In addition to one day joining the list of great Canadian crime writers with a tale maybe not as weird as Linwood Barclay’s as brilliant as Gail Bowen’s or as smart and engagingly deft as Phyllis Smallman’s but one that aspires to their heights. I also have a second book I will write one day. It will hopefully be published by one of the great academic houses; Harvard or Oxford, maybe even Athabasca if they ask first and shell out the bread, and it will be considered one of the great works of the 21st century. I am talking about 'Thornton's guide to humour in the English language'. It will be a smallish tome, no more than 5 or 6 volumes, and it will be considered the definitive work; no joke left out, no pun untended. Even limericks will have their place as part of the way to debase, the poetic norm with the jocular form, and the rules that keep them in place.

Therefore, dear readers, because there is not much happening right now in this wonderful town of ours I am delighted to share with you my thoughts on that classic form of risible tale, the saunter into the public house, not unlike the one I so rarely frequent.

Elsewhere, in volume 2 I will give much space to the geographical nature of jocular storytelling and the need to denigrate as a means of verbal schadenfreude; reasons why, inter alia an Englishman who perceives an Irishman as thicker and less well off than himself is perversely made happier by such a tale.

Originally known as a story that starts along the lines of 'An Englishman, and Irishman and a Scotsman walk into the bar, the format has no hard and fast rules as to type or number (1. A horse walks into a bar, barman says, 'So, why the long face? 2. The four horsemen of the apocalypse walk into a bar. The end)’ and scant rules. In its original form the joke centres on the perceived nature of the people walking in or the oddity itself of the walker-inner. (Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender asks, "Olive or twist?") The joke can move location but it is essentially a commonplace tale that of necessity needs riffs off the original idea to sustain its lifespan, as in the first two examples above. Indeed that is the essence of humour, the unexpected. (A redneck saunters into a saloon on Wall street. “Did y’all go to Harvard?” he says to the bartender. “Yale” DID Y’ALL GO TO HARVARD?”).

So it is that the quirky walk-into-a-bar joke is the one nowadays that gains the most laughs. In much the same way that no one finds the original chicken crossing the road joke, (covered in Volume 1) amusing anymore, so anyone hoping to entertain an audience with this type of humour better have either a tolerant crowd or a new twist on the tale.
Here's how not to do it. A seal walks into a bar. “What’ll you have?” “Anything but a Canadian club.” Instead, try this one. A giraffe, a polar bear and a stuttering donkey walk into a bar. After the barman says to the giraffe, “Why the long face,” (barmen never tire of the classics), the polar bear says, “I'll have 2 highballs for stretch, a beer for my donkey friend...... and a martini for myself. “Puzzled, the barman says, “Why the long pause?” and the donkey says, “Hee-haw, hee-haw, he's hawlways had them.”

The beauty of the form is that it is essentially limitless. A sans-serif font may walk in to find his type is not served here, nor a mushroom even though he is a funghi. Jumper cables are told not to start anything while a neutron gets his drinks no charge. Don’t forget to feel for the dyslexic who walks into a bra, the brain refused service because he was out of his skull and the Newfie who walked out of a bar. Hey, it could happen. As for me, I walked into a bar with an Englishman and an Irishman and realised my life was a joke.

Till next time.

Adieu 2010

It's been a great year. A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN not only made Good Morning America's list for the top 6 mystery series for a summer read, it is on the list for January Magazine's top ten mysteries for 2010...a great way to start the New Year.

And CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS is up on Amazon for pre-sales. Check out the cover.

Now if I can stay awake until midnight, well, that will be a bonus. I woke at 4 am with an idea and spent my day in pyjamas writing. This means by the time I get back in bed I'll be up for, oh, twenty to twenty four hours. Way too old for this! The crazy group we're spending the night with will keep me going. It's nice to be with people that make me feel quiet and reserved. When they start playing, "Play That Funky Music, White Boy," I'll know it's time to leave.

It's New Year 's Day that's the big deal for me. Every year I sit down and write out my hopes and dreams and goals for the coming year. Even something as simple as, "paint the living room" goes on the list. I find once it's on the list, it's going to get done. I put down my weight as well. Lose five pounds went to lose ten pounds about twenty years ago. No need to talk about what that number is now. Surprisingly, things went better in the old year than I'd hoped. But there is also a record of the people that went out of my life that year. It's the losses that make you realize what you had.

I've got about forty years of those letters, little snap shots of my life. I notice how modest my goals were in the beginning…" replant the garden, pay off the car," which meant, "buy a new car and go back in debt." Funny, it seems I've spent my life waiting for something. But again, isn't that what looking to the future is all about?

Have a safe New Year's Eve and all the best for 2011.

Chicken soup

Just in case you think nothing interesting happens down here in Sherri Travis land, the Herald Tribune had this headline today, "Deputy hits chicken crossing the road." The squad car was damaged but the officer was not. The chicken, however, didn't make it. I wonder if that officer really tried to save him. Did he give mouth to mouth? Inquiring minds want to know. I'll let you know when the headline reads, "Chicken hits deputy crossing the road." I see a vendetta in that officer's future.

Holly Jolly

On Black Friday we were stuck in traffic out on Tamiami Trail. It was hot. We had the windows rolled up and the air-conditioning on. While we waited for the accident a block and a half ahead of us to be cleared away we watched some guys unload a truck full of Christmas trees. It gave us a good laugh to think what those trees were going to look like in another month. Charlie Brown's tree, all bare branches with one red light bulb left hanging forlornly on a drooping branch.

Behind us a guy in a big assed pickup grew tired of waiting and pulled up on the sidewalk, drove along that same sidewalk to the corner and made a right to get around the accident. Now why didn't the guy at the corner think of going right to get around the accident? After calling the truck driver an idiot everyone followed the guy in the pickup around the corner. Ho ho ho, the season had begun.

I know, I know, I'm a Grinch. Right up until these last few days. Now I get it. And that's because of the pictures. We have a wonderful picture of friends from Arizona, laughing and with their glasses raised, shining up at us to lift our spirits. I smile back at Ron and Mary Anne every time I look at it. And then there are the children, friend's grandchildren and school pictures of our small relatives. We would never know them without Christmas pictures. They lift my heart.

I only sent one Christmas card this year, to my grandson ... a card that played a loud obnoxious rendition of Jingle Bells, to drive my daughter crazy so she wouldn't miss me too much. You're welcome, dear.

So, since I now have the Christmas spirit, I think I'll go elf myself. Have a jolly holly.

Cool in Paradise Dec. 12, 2010

Everyone is getting nervous down here. It's way too early in the season to have temperatures in the fifties and sixties. We need it sunny and hot to get tourists shelling out for a ticket to Paradise and they don't do that for lukewarm. Still, the sun shines and it is great weather for golf.

I've finished the final edit of Champagne For Buzzards. The line edit is to catch all the typos and plain stupidity. With me, there is quite a lot of those two things. Line edits are designed to show you how truly stupid you really are. Seems I know nothing about punctuation. I just take random squiggles and throw them at the page. Never mind if I sometimes change a character's name half way through a book, I can't spell it anyway. If I'd only known back in grade school that I might be able to use some of the stuff they were trying to teach me I might have paid more attention. But really, I haven't used any of it up until now so why bother? And even though Pamela worked very hard on all this a few typos will still slip by and someone will write to tell me about them. But the beast is off my back. It's someone else's problem now. The next time I see it, it will be a real book. That's exciting! And I think it's a good book. Friendship is an important theme in all my books but nowhere more than here. I think this might be my best book. Have I said that before? I'm just so glad to be done my joy spills over to even liking the book after months of not being sure.

One of the neat things about this book is that Sherri is in a new part of Florida, the dusty little town of Independence. The town comes with the nasty little bar called the Gator Hole, which Sherri takes to, but Independence turns out to be no safer than Jacaranda. The story speeds along like a runaway train. I tried to slow it down, I really did, but in the end I just let it go.

Now that the edit's done it's time to get back to the 5th book, Highball Exit. I'm still at the hating stage with this one. Okay, here and there I think it might be passable but on the whole I'm not having fun yet. Is this normal? I wonder what writing is like for other people. If it like this for everyone, why do we do it?

Clay

I had a note from someone who had just read Brewski. She seemed to like everything about it except Clay. I get this a lot. He seems to be the least favourite character I write. People can get quite worked up about him. I don't understand it. Sherri and Clay have a long distance relationship. It seems to work for Sherri. She can get into all kinds of trouble without anyone telling her to smarten up and be sensible. Without a fulltime partner, there is room in her life for mayhem.

I think it's the age thing, the fact that Clay is fourteen years older. I don't know how that happened - it just did and I've had to live with it since Margarita Nights. I didn't think too far ahead in these books, didn't even know I was going to write a series, and just like in real life, you make decisions you have to live with. I've toyed with the idea of Sherri having an affair but I really am not interested in writing about the romantic side of her life. I'd like to take the love interest out of her life and stick to the mystery side. That wouldn't be well received either. Funny, the smallest things sometimes nag you to death.

Thanksgiving

Hot, and in the eighties, a beautiful day. We went out to play golf at Sarasota National while everyone else did the family thing. It's out in the middle of an empty wild life preserve that was meant to be full of houses but that hasn't happened because of the economy. You really feel isolated out there. You can only see the people in front of you and behind you. Around you are grass and brush six feet high. You really couldn't walk across country to the club house, providing you knew in what direction that might be, because it's all bracken and ponds and all the things that come with underbrush in Florida.

Our cart got slower and slower and by the 14th hole it would hesitate and nearly stop on any slight upward grade in the path. We decided to follow the path in...well the sensible half of us did, I would have kept playing. I paid for it, right, and I want to get my money's worth. But in we went. We were at the end of the field and went by a group on every hole...all very polite. By the time we got to 18th and paused for the players on the green, we were in real trouble. There was a slight grade. The lovely strangers ahead of us came back and pushed us up that grade.

When we got into the pro shop, at about a walking pace, there was no one there but two teenage boys loading up clubs for the last few players. They had no idea who was still out there and were about to leave for their turkey dinner. We would have been out there alone if we'd broken down...with dark coming on. Too scary to think about...we were happy to be home...Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Oranges in November

Some years ago our area of Florida was hit by frost, a hurricane and an outbreak of canker disease in the orange crop. What trees didn't get killed by the frost or hit by hurricanes got canker disease. It was said to be spread by the winds of the hurricane. I don't know about that. What I do know is it sent panic through the farming community. Teams of men went through everyone's back yard cutting out diseased citrus trees. You had no choice if they entered your property or cut your trees.

But we were lucky. Our orange tree, the one our friends Brian and Marg planted, escaped. This year it's loaded with fruit. More than we ever had before. All of the citrus trees are drooping to the ground, heavy with fruit. Some people have boards holding up limbs. It will be interesting to see if the price of citrus goes down this winter. I doubt it. Labor and transportation and overheads haven't changed. The price of oranges is probably the cheapest part of the jug of orange juice on your grocery shelf.

There is nowhere near the numbers of trees that there used to be. Most people didn't replant the trees in their backyards and lots of large growers went out of business. Florida is no longer the largest producer of oranges in the world. That honor now goes to Brazil. Land and labor are cheaper there. Things change but for us the juice is still sweet. Thanks Marg and Brian.

The Beach

Early morning on the beach and the world belongs to us and a thousand shore birds. The water is warmer than the air but the best news is there is no oil. No balls of goop foul the sand, just endless holes of fiddler crabs.

All summer we watched the news and worried, tracking the slick as it spewed out into the Gulf. It hit up in the Panhandle, Sherri's redneck Riviera, but not here. The turtles, if they steered clear of the mess out there, can come back to our beach to nest this winter as they've done for thousands of years. One night this spring, when the moon is full, their off-spring will dig their way out of the sand mounds and scuttle out to sea where they'll stay until they're mature enough to mate.

Fishing has been good along Manasota Beach. King mackerel, Spanish mackeral, blue runners and Lady fish. Even sail fish, not normally seen in our shallow waters, have been seen two miles off the beach. The fisherman are guessing they've moved over here from the Louisiana side of the Gulf to avoid the oil. Whatever the reason, it's good to see our shores teeming with life. This morning there were swarms of birds over the water to the north of us, a sure sign that large schools of fish were making their way down the beach. In my twenty-seven years on this beach I've never seen the sky so full of feeding birds.

And it's just not the beaches that look good. All around us there are fewer abandoned homes and fewer for sale signs. I've yet to see one hand lettered sign by the side of the road offering a home for sale at a ridiculously low price. They were everywhere last year, depressing and worrisome. I always wondered if they were some kind of a scam. So much alike, they all looked like the cardboard was all ripped from the same box and written by the same hand with a black magic marker. Things are looking up here if what I see is true, a glimmer of hope after three years without any. Florida was hit sooner and harder than other places because we depend on people with disposable income, to visit and to buy second homes. Vacation properties are the first thing to go in bad times, the last things to come back, but it seems to be happening. Man and nature are doing just fine on the beach.
Hallelujah!

San Fransisco was a blast!

Loved the 2 hour tour of the city on the open trolley, through China town, Nob Hill and all the other sites. Only one small problem, the driver was directionally challenged. We soon learned that when he said, "On your right," we looked to the left. It was cool- in the 60's- and what our guide said was pretty typical of the weather in San Fran.

The tour of the bay wasn't up to much. After the B.C. ferries it's hard to impress me. Even San Quentin didn't seem all that impressive, although the prisoners did have a grand view if the fog ever lifted.

On Saturday night we went to a fantastic restaurant that you must try if you're ever in San Fran. The Boulevard Restaurant is at #1 Mission Street. A block long and narrow, it's Art Nouveau decor is a winner even before the fantastic food arrives. A mosaic glass floor and coffered herringbone brick ceiling sets the scene for the stained glass and bronze statues in between.

Sherri would love the story of the French style Audiffred building, built in 1889, where the restaurant resides. Back in 1906 it was a saloon. After the earthquake, the saloonkeeper held off firemen about to dynamite the building to make a fire break. He offered them each 2 quarts of whiskey and a cart of wine not to use their dynamite. Who knew firemen came so cheap,and what does the safety of the city matter when there's drinking to be done, boys.

The building also survived the 1996 earthquake which destroyed the freeway overpass between the Boulevard Restaurant and the harbour. The expressway is gone now but the Audiffred building lives on with a clear view of the harbour.

It was only 6:00 p.m. and the place was packed. We got the last small table near the bar and the best steak I've ever had in my whole life!

Bouchercon

We're having a beautiful sunny Thanksgiving Sunday on Salt Spring. We went for a long walk, which we could do because someone else is cooking the turkey.

Hope it is just as nice wherever you are and someone else is doing the cooking. I'm getting ready for the mother of all conferences starting next Wednesday in San Francisco. I've heard numbers like 1700 and over 2000 attendees. It's like a Star Trek convention for mystery fans and they come from all over the world to take part. You might ask, "What possesses people to be one of thousands lining up to see their favourite author. As a famous man once said, "Follow your own weird." For me, San Francisco is the draw. We are stealing time away from the panels and going on a dinner cruise around the harbour and on a trolley car tour of the city. And then, a week from today, we're off to visit family.

After ten days in California we make our way to Florida, back to the sunshine and the beaches. October and November are spectacular months in the south. The weather is moderating and the beaches are still empty. With any luck, the ocean will have cooled enough to kill all the hurricanes.

I'm taking with me half a novel, to be finished this winter, with lots of holes to fill and problems to work out. Really, I have the whole vaguely in my head but it has to be smoothed and polished and explained. Writing is much like putting a jig saw puzzle together. You take pieces from here and there and make it into a whole. Sometimes a small story I heard, or saw, years ago is the missing piece to be added so that the whole makes sense. I often only begin with a one fixed problem and from that comes a novel. In Champagne For Buzzards I saw a piece on the news about buzzards returning every year to the same place and imagined looking out to see them sitting on my vehicle. What would I think?

For Sherri it turns out the buzzards have found a dead body in the back of her little red pickup. When I started this book, two or more years ago, I had no idea of what happened after she found the body. Nor did I know who the dead man was or how it would end. The fun is sorting through the how and the why and solving the problems. It's the multiple reworks and rewrites that come after that are difficult... sometimes twenty or more rewrites. Imagine reading the same book twenty times. Are we having fun yet?

So, my plan for the next six months consists of; walking the beach; playing a little golf and solving this jig saw I'm calling Highball Exit. If life gets any better than that, I don't need it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Fun and relaxing!

I got the most wonderful note from someone named Candace. I wrote back to ask her if I could put it up on my blog and she said she didn't care what I did with it, just hurry up and get the next book out there.
It's coming, it's coming.
CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS should be out next March.
I can't believe anything could make recovering from surgery fun or relaxing. I'm thinking Candace is a far nicer person than I am, but that's exactly how I want people to think of my books.
Thank you, Candace.


Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed all three books (which I read this week). It made recovering from surgery a fun and relaxing time. Thanks again and can't wait for your 4th book.
cheers
Candace

September 27, 2010

Lists

The birds are starting to flock together and I'm making lists, migration time is here. Nothing happens for me without a list and once an item is on this epic composition I stop worrying about it. It's as good as done. I've been known to wake in the middle of the night and get up to add to my list. If I don't get up, I just lie there and worry, no more sleep for me. In my coffin I'll have a list... "1. stay very very still - 2. jump up and go boo." I can probably remember that without a list but I'll make one anyway. Maybe that's what all that chatter is among the birds, "Ethel, did you remember the brown mustard?" Or maybe they're just trying to make sure someone booked the Holiday Inn. Whatever, when you're going away for six months there are lots of things to make a note of and all those things on the list get collected and piled where we'll trip over them enough times we won't forget to take them.

The antique work boats were in Ganges Harbour this week. The weekend before was the fall fair, notable for the number and style of gumboots being worn in the rain, and next week is the apple festival. Last week we went over to Vancouver Island and drove up the coastal highway as far as Comox. When you leave the settled area along the coast and go a bit inland you see all the people living out in the back of nowhere, people who, like Greta Gabor, want to be alone. We figured that all the really social people in the islands headed for Salt Spring where everything gets celebrated. Mind you it isn't just for the fun of it; festivals do keep the tourists coming. Love those tourists...and their money. Off to check the list now.


Sept. 12/2010

Cold rain and heavy fog, we're leaving early to catch the ferry for Victoria. The fog is so thick I wonder if it will sail. The 35 minute crossing from Fulford Harbour to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island is our life line. Only once has it let us down.

I can see the ferry, at least the flags at top of the mast, over the other vehicles as it slides into its berth. There are three flags, Canada, British Columbia and the blue and white flag of the B.C. ferries. The sight of them coming out of the fog grabs at my heart.

Now the thing I'm asking myself is, "Will we be able to get back?" Later in the day the fog will be even heavier. Best not to worry until we know there is a problem.

Once we've boarded, everyone hunkers down in their car, no walking the deck, gossiping or even going into the passenger lounge to watch the scenery. Can't see a thing, not even the shore, so it's best to stay put and do a crossword or write in my journal. I'm keeping my safety belt on just in case of sudden stops

Sunday, 5:00 p.m. return
The ferry arrives right on time. Visibility is a little better until we reach the mouth of the harbour. Then the engines are cut. Is it because of the dense fog? I hope there's no fool out there in a small boat. We just seem to drift silently up the channel to the dock. Last week, when we delivered our last summer visitor to Victoria Airport, there were only a few trees turning along the edge of the water. Four days later, the numbers seem to have doubled. As the trees turn to browns and golden, the hills, that were browns and golden last week, are becoming green again from the rain. It's almost time for us to be going. I hate going away, happy when I get there, but the leaving is a wrench. Seems I'm not really a traveller.

9/11/2010 Gay Pride on Salt Spring

How fitting is that? On 9/11 we are celebrating tolerance and diversity on Salt Spring. The lack of tolerance and diversity led to the tragedy of the twin towers - how much better to be dancing in the streets... rather than fleeing smoke and fire. And without tolerance, that's exactly what we will be doing.

I grew up in a time when homosexuality wasn't ever mentioned. So deep in the closet that no one even opened the door or turned on a light. Today, not only were children in the parade and waiting on the sidewalks with ice cream cones, but the RCMP were there in scarlet tunics selling charity tickets. The Raging Grannies and United Church members also strutted their stuff to support the idea of "One Community." With loud speakers blasting out Abba's Dancing Queen, followed by the Village People with YMCA, people danced on the sidewalk, raised their arms into a Y and laughed and enjoyed being one in their community.



Truthfully, we went for a laugh. What it turned into was a very touching event.

God, I love this island.

Sunday, August 29, 2010
It started with a dinner

Sometimes ripples go out from events that we can never anticipate. When I got to the 2007 Ellis awards dinner I learned that my husband and I were seated at a table with two other nominees for the "Unhanged Arthur" award. Kevin Thornton and Jennifer Hemstock were both from Fort McMurray but they had never met. Jennifer’s husband, Blair Hemstock, was also there. Needless to say it was an anxious time, waiting there for the announcement of the winner, and not the best circumstance for any of us to meet. One day I’ll get Kevin to tell you what happened to the fork he was holding when my name was announced as the winner. But strangely, good things have come out of this unlikely beginning.

The three of us kept in touch, an e-mail or two a year. Jennifer, Blair, and Kevin did more than that, they became friends and founded a new literary journal of Canada's north called North Word. Their summer issue for 2010 is number 3. The theme of this issue is “Twist.” My warped entry is called "Pink".

The cover, by Keyano College student Carli Gaudet, is brilliant, or as Kevin says, “…stunning and, dare I say it, twisted.”

How likely was any of this to happen? Never mind all of us meeting in Toronto but how likely was it that those three people from Fort McMurray would become friends and start a literary magazine. Oh, yes, there is one more twist. This year, at the awards dinner, I got to announce the nominees for the "Unhanged Arthur" award in Toronto. One of the nominees, the one from the original awards dinner who hadn’t been nominated, Blair Hemstock, was nominated in 2010.

It’s not just about winning; sometimes it’s the good things that come after that really count. Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Today I am guest Blogger on Linda Wilkens Blog site about Canadian mystery writers.

Check it out at Mystery Maven Canada Blog

All That Jazz

It was a busy week. Thursday we got up at 6:00 to catch the 7:50 ferry. Plenty of time, unless you both sit down at your computers to fix a problem and forget to watch the clock. I checked the time. It was 7:12.
I was still in my pjs. A funny thing happens when I get hyper...my voice raises to a decibel level that only dogs can hear and I start running in ever decreasing circles.

It's a twenty minute drive to the ferry on a good day and there aren't many of them in the summer with everyone coming and going. I raced to my closet and pulled on jeans and the first top to come to hand. It was orange and sparkly. I had a meeting at a television station at 10:00 and this top wouldn't have been my first choice for an ensemble. I couldn't find my purse. It wasn't fun. Normally I would have planned ahead but then normally I wouldn't be worried about the font on a brochure for a meeting that afternoon in Victoria.

Unlike me, Lee likes to do that calm Zen thing. I really hate it. He says stupid things like, "We'll either make it or we won't, don't get so excited." It's that kind of crazy attitude that makes people in front of you insist on driving the speed limit when there is no place to pass them.

The ferry was moving into the dock when we arrived. No breakfast, hairy teeth and eyes twirling in their sockets, we made it on time, and the lovely woman I met at CHEK News pretended I looked just fine, pretended she sees people who look like that all the time. She probably does...in traffic accidents. But sometimes things do work out, no thanks to that stupid Zen thing.

It was after 8:00 when we dragged ourselves in that night so we decided to go golfing Friday morning, you know, balance things out. Great idea. At the golf course Lee went off to the first tee while I checked out the ladies washroom. It's on the outside of the building...at the end...away from everything, where no one can hear you when you scream because you can't get the door unlocked.

Knocking on a door with your fists is a really dumb idea. Better to kick it like I did. What was really freaking me out wasn't that Lee might play on without me but that the only window, high up on the wall, didn't open. I was trapped in there. This is a golf course that leaves a sign on the door that says, "Go ahead and play. You can pay us when we get back." Nice.

Panic and claustrophobia build excellent attention getting skills. Finally another golfer came along and got Ann from the pro shop to get a key and unlock the door. Embarrassing.

Lee wanted to know why I took so long and then he said, "You know, I thought I heard something. I thought it was a woodpecker." Guess what I told him. But I played the best game of my life. Seems adrenalin is good for the swing.

This weekend there is a Jazz Festival on Salt Spring. We are also supposed to have record temperatures...Jazz and hot steamy weather...how good can it get?

Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010-08-05

There was rain last night, the first in over a month. It started with thunder and lightning, which was scary given the dry conditions. The last thing we needed was another forest fire. It rained for almost an hour, just what we needed. The climate on Salt Spring Island is classed as dry Mediterranean. There is almost no rain in the summer months and the meadows and hills turn golden brown. No camp fires, in fact no open fires, of any kind are allowed. Dust covers everything. Many of the roads are gravel, as are many of the parking lots, so all of the island cars are covered in dust. That's how we tell the tourists among us...clean cars are a dead give away.

Weds. Aug.4 2010

We are on the ferry headed for Vancouver Island. There is a haze hanging over everything. Is it the weather or smoke from all the forest fires burning in B.C.? Today is supposed to be the warmest day of the summer, in the 80's but it is always cool on the water, which stays at a constant 53 degrees. The talk on the dock before we sailed was all about the "Hard landing," that a B.C. ferry had on Mayne Island on Monday. A "hard landing" is how it's described in the transportation industry, like when the airplane hits so hard the fuselage disintegrates or when the ferry fails to slow down as it comes into the dock... an " OOPS" in layman's terms. Fortunately, while there were a few people injured, no one was killed. There was a female B.C. ferry employee on the dock, waiting to assist with the landing, who realized the ferry was not slowing down. By all accounts she broke several world records for sprinting. I bet her heart is still pounding.

The words, "hard landing" reminds me of an old Charlie Farqeson joke I heard on CBC radio back in the eighties and never forgot, mainly because I didn't think you could tell that kind of joke on the radio, especially not on the CBC. It seems Charlie and his wife were going to a costume party dressed as moose. She had a pink bow in her hair to show she was a girl moose. They had a flat tire. Charlie got out to change the tire and she got out to watch. Unfortunately, they forgot that it was mating season for moose. They heard this terrible racket and looked up to see a huge male moose pawing the ground. His wife said,

"Oh, Charlie, what are we going to do?"

Charlie answered,

"Well, dear, I'm going to put my head down and pretend to eat grass. I suggest you brace yourself for a hard landing!"

Okay, I changed the ending but you get the picture.

On the shore I can see an eagle sitting in a dead tree, a dead tree that looks like a giant hydro pole. Isn't that the iconic B.C. picture?


Thoughts on Long Weekends

I've always had conflicted thoughts about long weekends. If I had nothing planned, I felt like a loser. If I was invited somewhere it often was somewhere I didn't want to be and getting there and back or preparing for it seemed to swallow up the whole weekend. Like the three hour drive to a cottage that turns into a six hour drive, spending a couple of hours and turning around and coming home. What fun!

I just never got long weekends right, always felt that everyone else was having more fun or living a more interesting life than I was. Most of the time long weekends turned into the time to catch up on chores and big jobs around our ten acre place.

Fortunately I grew old and I no longer care what I'm supposed to do or feel or take part in. I don't feel I have to join in the national pastime of being somewhere I'm not, doing something exciting. I don't have to celebrate.

The Gulf islands are cottage country for Vancouver and much of B.C. By ten o'clock yesterday morning, three sailings of the ferries from the mainland were already filled and another was ninety percent filled, leaving lots of impatient people waiting in the terminal for hours. What fun. But some of them do manage to enjoy it. They play cards or Frisbee, some nap or read…all manner of things. I'm just not built that way. Too impatient. I'd be saying, "Let's go home now." And then they'll have the same amount of fun getting back to the mainland.

The Sat. market in Ganges, which is a cross between a craft fair and an organic food sale with entertainment, and with all the feeling of a medieval fair…with stilt walkers and fortune tellers but no fire eaters… will be crazy this morning. You won't be able to move or park a car. And the beautiful park next to the market, along the edge of the harbour, will be covered with people stretched out on the ground resting, talking or eating, and playing with children. Those are the truly social people among us. As for me, I no longer feel bad that I'm not that social. I don't like sitting on the grass - I'm always looking for dog doo or something else disgusting - with dozens of people around me when I can be home in a perfectly comfortable chair with a whole room to myself. And I've got a good book. I may take part in the holiday spirit enough to walk up to the bakery and buy a treat, something really fattening because you're supposed to eat and drink too much on holidays. Now that's something I can get into.

I hope you have something fattening to eat, and something you really enjoy doing - like reading a really good book. Happy long weekend.

Hard Knock Life - Sunday, July 25/ 10

It's a hard knock life. This morning I had to decide if I was going to get down to work and stagger through the bars of Sarasota with Sherri or go golfing. I've found with temptation it's always better to give in gracefully, otherwise you waste a lot of time, so off I went to play nine holes of golf with Jack and Lee at Blackburn on a beautiful Salt Spring morning. You couldn't ask for a more perfect day or more perfect playing partners. Late this afternoon, Gord and Ann are coming in for drinks. I've poached a little salmon to have on toast with cream cheese and capers. See what I mean? Life is hard.

My week is shaping up to be just as difficult as today. Tomorrow we are going off island to look at a new computer for me. Actually, Lee is looking at computers; I'm looking at the sales. I'm only interested in computer shopping if they come in patterns and colors…make mine silver with a nice pounded metal strip and a thin line of red. Yeah, that would do it. Tuesday a man who is about to be published is taking the ferry over from Sidney to Salt Spring in the hopes that I can tell him something about marketing books. I didn't tell him that I know nothing about book marketing. I'd never meet anyone new if I was that honest, if I told him my marketing plan consists of begging my friends to buy lots of books. I didn't tell him that on the phone because it might discourage him. Or he might want me to urge my friends to buy lots of his books. Wednesday, I'm meeting the people who bought the naming opportunity in Champagne For Buzzards. They're from Seattle. Here we are on Salt Spring talking about a book set in Florida. Lovely! I hope I don't have to tell them that they end up as bones that a dog digs up…but really, where else can I put them in the book?

See how I struggle? I hope, wherever you are, that your life is no harder than mine.
Cheers!

July 21, 2010 Christopher Robin came to Salt Spring

A little boy, very like Christopher Robin in looks and thoughts, came for a visit so we've had two weeks of dropping Pooh sticks off bridges, beaching at St. Mary's Lake and turning over rocks to catch crabs by the ocean - back to childhood for a brief time. Sat. the two of us were kicking a ball around in the back yard when a bald eagle swooped by our heads to settle in a tall fir tree. I pointed it to CR before I realized that the eagle had a small gosling in its talons. The eagle was in no hurry to dine but just waiting until the gosling stopped struggling before it started to pull it apart. A shocking reminder of how brief life and innocence are. I decided it was time to go inside for treats. Sometimes it's good to put off reality.

I've started a new book. It's very very hard and scary this time. I don't know why I'm having trouble, maybe it's because this time people are watching. Before, when I started a new book, I wasn't sure if anyone would ever read it besides Lee and Jim. Now I know that it will probably be published I'm frozen. I feel like I'm going out on a high wire without a net and everyone's watching. Can I get to the other side without falling? At this point I don't think I can so I'm frozen here in mid air, afraid to go forward and unable to go back. Even though I have as much of a plot as I've ever had when I've started a book, this time I can't see how it will work. I think the only thing to do is to sit down on my chair every day in front of my computer and stay there until noon. Write or not, I'm going to be there. Something is bound to happen. It may not be pretty.

Happy July 4th weekend!

Hurricane season is here and this is what we just received from our insurance company. I love how they say "move to higher ground." You have to go to South Carolina to find higher ground in Florida. The point is, you're much likelier to die from drowning in a hurricane than you are from the wind. I also love the advice to take duct tape. Red Green would be so proud! Stay safe wherever you are and have a glorious weekend.


Most people don't think about their cars during hurricane season, but your car may just be your key to safety. If a hurricane is severe enough, you may need to use your car to get to a safer place. Make sure your car is ready for a hurricane or a possible evacuation and that you understand how to drive in severe storm conditions.

Hurricane safety tips

Make sure you have a full tank of gas before a storm arrives.

Store a crate in your trunk with emergency supplies:
" a first aid kit
" duct tape
" jumper cables for a dead battery
" one or two blankets
" a flashlight
" bottled water
" some sealed, shelf-stable food (like energy bars)
" some basic tools like a screwdriver and pliers
" a couple of brightly colored cloths to tie on your rear-view mirror to signal for help if you need it

Make sure you have a good spare tire.

If you're evacuating, bring your (fully charged) cell phone.

If you're evacuating or returning home after a hurricane, avoid driving through water. The average car can be swept off the road by as little as 12" of moving water. According to the National Hurricane Center, more than half of all hurricane deaths in the last 30 years have resulted from inland flooding. Of those deaths, one in four was someone who drowned in her car. Find an alternate route.
If your vehicle stalls in deep water, you may need to restart the engine to make it to safety. Please know, however, that restarting may cause severe damage to your engine. If you can't restart your vehicle and you become trapped in rising water, IMMEDIATELY ABANDON IT FOR HIGHER GROUND. If you're unable to get out of the vehicle safely, call 911 or get help from a passerby or someone standing on higher ground.

After you and your vehicle are out of deep water and in a safe area, depress your brakes slowly several times to help dry them out. And remember, if you're evacuating an area and leaving your car behind, be sure it's not left in a low-lying area prone to flooding. Rising water can seep in and damage your vehicle.

If you need to file a claim:

We personally handle your claim from beginning to end to provide fast, caring service and get you back on the road. In the event you're affected by a hurricane, report your claim online.

We hope these tips help you this hurricane season.
Be safe


July 1
Happy Canada Day!

Working in my office, I could hear Valdi singing down in the park. I opened the door so I could listen to the music but when I saw my breath in the air I quickly closed it again. Then it started to rain. Is global warming over? Did I miss it?
We walked up the hill to the Country Grocery Store, to get the stuff for peanut clusters, and everyone had red maple leaves on their cheeks. The weather didn't seem to bother anyone else. When we got home, Valdi was back on stage, a true trouper. I wonder if he's got on his shorts and red socks and red shoes that he always wears on Canada Day?
I've only got 42 pages to go on the rewrite. See you next year, Valdi.

We’ve just updated the “Settings” page on my web site. There are some new pictures and excerpts from the Sherri Travis series, bits of the next two books.


June 27, 2010 Salt Spring Island

I've just finished reading Blood Safari by Deon Meyer. Deon Meyer was a guest of honour at Bloody Words 2010. Blood Safari is a story of eco-terrorism, greed and assassination. The writer's view of consumerism and self-indulgence came through loud and clear.

Set in South Africa, this book was translated from Afrikaans. The translation presented some problems. e.g. "Quite a way. Just over three hundred kilos." What? It's true, 300 kilos is quite a long drive. Did any English speaking editor ever read this book?

Blood Safari got brilliant reviews but I'm not sure I liked it. First, there was the macho hero of the piece who walked into a strange bar on New Years Eve, grunted twice, and the female bartender gave him the keys to her house and welcomed him into her bed. I'm willing to admit that I've lived a sheltered life by I have doubts that that would ever happen outside of a book. And there you have the biggest problem for me. The characters in the story didn't come across as real people, although Margaret Cannon called them "complex, original characters."

So why did I read all 372 pages of it? The sense of place was very strong, you could feel the heat of Africa, and the problems of life there were written into every page. And most of all, something happened on every page. Not big things, but something. Questions were raised that I wanted to have answered.

Would I have read this book without the sticker on it saying, "A Globe and Mail Best Book." Probably not. Just shows how important reviews are, how much advertising influences us, and how much I always want to know about the hot new writer. I'm a sucker for all of the above. Will I read another? Yes, if I can get it from the library but I certainly wouldn't buy it.

There you have me in a nut shell, easily influenced, curious and cheap.

Fallout from a dinner

Sometimes ripples go out from events that we can never anticipate. When I got to the 2007 Ellis awards dinner I learned that my husband and I were seated at a table with two other nominees for the Unhanged Arthur. Kevin Thornton and Jennifer Hemstock were both from Fort McMurray but they had never met. Jennifer's husband, Blair Hemstock, was also there. Needless to say it was an anxious time, waiting there for the announcement of the winner, and not the best circumstance for any of us to meet. One day I'll get Kevin to tell you what happened to the fork he was holding when my name was announced as the winner. But strangely, good things have come out of this unlikely beginning.

The three of us kept in touch, an e-mail or two a year. Jennifer, Blair, and Kevin did more than that, they became friends and founded a new literary journal of Canada' north called North Word. Their summer issue for 2010 is number 3. The theme of this issue is "Twist." My warped entry is called Pink.

The cover, by Keyano College student Carli Gaudet, is brilliant, or as Kevin says, "…stunning and, dare I say it, twisted."

How likely was any of this to happen? Never mind all of us meeting in Toronto but how likely was it that those three people from Fort McMurray would become friends and start a literary magazine. Oh, yes, there is one more twist. This year I got to announce the nominees for the Unhanged Arthur in Toronto. One of the nominees, the one from the original awards dinner who hadn't been nominated, Blair Hemstock, was nominated in 2010. Next month, when Blair and Jennifer come south to check on their future home on Pender Island, B.C., they'll come to see us on Salt Spring Island.

It's not just about winning; sometimes it's the good things that come after that really count.



June 19, Salt Spring Island

The temperature is in the high sixties, perfect for golf. We played a very fast nine, didn't see another golfer, and went back north of Ganges to the gun club. It was open house and my chance to fire a handgun to use as background for my book. The indoor firing range on Salt Spring is nothing like you see on television. Here, shoulder high piles of telephone books separate each shooter on the range. All that stands between you and death is the yellow pages.

What I fired was a pistol. I learned a revolver is the one that looks like it comes out of the old west while the one we see on television, the one used on The Closer, my favorite show of the moment, is a pistol. First I had to load the bullets into the magazine. Not easy. You have to shove one bullet down while putting in the next. You're working against a spring so it takes some strength. Then you have to put the magazine into the butt of the pistol handle. This is why you see people slamming the butt of their guns with the heel of their hands. They're banging the magazine into place. This isn't easy either. To load a bullet into the chamber you have to pull back the slide. You often see shooter's doing this on TV before they fire. Make sure it comes back all the way or you'll have a bullet jammed in the chamber. Actually you should pull so hard your hand slides off the end. Now it's ready to fire.

I shot six rounds and only hit the target, about the size of a person's head, once. Even if I had a gun, someone breaking into my home would be perfectly safe, unless I shot them by accident.

I don't think guns are for me. There're loud even with ear protection. And they smell. Maybe I should learn something about poison or how to stab someone. Any volunteers?

June 14, 2010

A warm sunny day on Salt Spring and I'm trying to revise a book which I hate.

Oh, it has some good parts in it. The opening works and the ending sings but in between is this horrible great bloated beast that just lies there.

I wrote Unwanted back in 2007 when we first came to Salt Spring and I was still staggered by the number of homeless people I was seeing. I think the weather in lower B.C. is more to blame for this social crisis rather than any systemic problem, but you certainly can't miss the homeless when you get here. I started to wonder how and why a person ends up on the streets. I'm sure there was never a point in their lives that they said, "When I grow up, I want to live on the streets and beg for change."

One day, walking down to Ganges, I had a brief encounter with a woman living in her van. She asked for the time. Simple enough. Our exchange was short, but it hit me that this woman was different from other homeless people I'd met; drugs, alcohol and mental illness were always part of their stories. This woman had an aura of pride and self confidence about her. She seemed to be right where she wanted to be, doing right what she wanted. The how and why of it drove me crazy.

It probably takes about twenty minutes to walk downtown. By the time I got there, did my errands and walked back up the hill, I had a back story for her, a reason for her to be on the island. This woman was a hunter, not a victim, and I by the time I got home I knew the man she was hunting for… and why.

Now when I read this novel all of that excitement and sureness has leaked away. What I saw there two years ago, the motives and emotions, has died on the page and I'm left with the reality of the thing, left poking the beast with a stick to see if I can awaken it.

I wonder how often we get it wrong, read things into words that aren't there, feel emotions that were never meant - words and emotions that change everything. And what would I make of that woman if I met her today? What would my reaction be to her? I'm a little more blasé, a little more accepting. I'd probably walk by without noticing her.

June 4, 2010

Salt Spring Island is in the high sixties, clear and cool.
Ontario in June is incredibly beautiful but I'm grateful to be back on Salt Spring and the quiet life. Books signings, speeches and meetings all went well but the best part was seeing old friends and relatives and catching up on the news. After a day of bills and laundry I'm looking forward to getting back to polishing CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS before I deliver it next week. Maybe I'll even get in a game of golf this week and I brought back a backpack full of books. Then there is a rewrite for a novel called UNWANTED waiting for me and the gardens are over run with weeds. I haven't planted any flowers yet but with all the roses climbing over the house and clematis everywhere, annuals aren't missed. I had a brain storm today that we should put on a sunroom. Lee's reply was unprintable. Maybe I haven't quite got this quiet life down pat yet.
Englewood Florida is 90 degrees and raining. Unless you've been in that kind of a Florida day you can't imagine the weight of the heat. It always feels physically heavy to me, pulling me down to exhaustion. But there are worse things than heat and humidity to worry about. Everyday we watch the news to see if the oil has made it to our beaches yet. In the Panhandle, where I keep sending Clay to get rich, people are out picking up gobs of oil off the sand. What do they do with them? Is the congealed oil put in landfills? That doesn't seem right…just moving the problem from one place to the next. The oil spill is so huge, so depressing, it's almost impossible to get your mind around. It's hard to watch the news. From the financial news, to the oil spill…it goes on and on. Like heat and humidity it pulls me down into exhaustion, grief and fear. Surely better days will come.

June 2, 2010

Just got the new review of A Brewski for the Old Man from Connie Gregory. Check it out on my "Books and Reviews" page.

May 25, 2010

Check out the review article for A Brewski for the old Man by Rosemary McCracken in the CBC Cutting Edge on my "Books and Reviews" page.

May 13/10

A shockingly gorgeous day, in the seventies and crying out for us to play hooky. I made lots of calls this morning, arranging things for Ontario next week. Then I climbed over the pile of laundry, heading for the garage and my golf clubs. Days like this were not meant for laundry.

May 12/10

From Key West, Florida in March to Port Angeles Washington on the Straight of Juan de Fuca - 3589 miles or 5742 km. You've come a long ways, Baby, as far as you can go in the continental United States and still be on US soil.
Leaving at 7:00 am from Portland, Oregon we set out along the Olympic Peninsula for Port Angeles, Washington to catch the Black Ball ferry for Victoria, B.C. We have to be there by 12:00 to get in line for the 2:00 ferry or lose our reservation. Don't ask me why we have to be lined up 2 hours early, there are no customs to clear until we hit the other shore, but I suspect it's so you leave some money in Washington State when you park your car in line and go off to stroll through the town.
Hwy #101 takes us along the edge of the Olympic Mountains and the Hood River. Along the broad beach people are bent over collecting clams like they are picking strawberries. Everyone has a pail. Out on the water are small fishing boats, dozens and dozens of them. Not only are halibut running but the highway is dotted with signs of shrimp and oysters and clams plus the halibut for sale, natures bounty at its best.
The road, with mountains on one side and the river down below climbs sharply, creating a nerve jarring drop on the right. When the road says 25miles an hour you'd better believe it. There are slow vehicle turn-outs but if you get trapped behind someone who doesn't want to move you're stuck with no place to pass. We watch the clock and search for a radio station. Soft rock fades out and a country and western channel comes in to fade away and give us NPR. Talking, making plans and wondering about the lives of people we pass, without their knowing we are even there, we watch the clock as our ten year old Rio climbs further up the edge of the mountain. We can see snow in the high forests. By the time we get to Sequim the mountains will be taller and there will be snow above the tree line. But now everything along the highway is green and moss covered, green on green from all the moisture. Water weeps off the rock wall with tears enough to keep the face black. Ferns grow in the crotch of trees. But in every widening between the river and the road, houses are huddle together and surrounded by rhoddies of every hue.
Mist comes down the mountain, stealing our sun. I count the great names, Duckabush/Hamma Hamma Indian Reserve/ Chicken Coop Road/S'Klallam / Dabob Bay, delightful and strange. No wild life except three bald eagles. And then we're down again onto the delta. Five hours after leaving Portland we pull into the ferry dock, three minutes early, Smallman Time.
The Coho leaves on time. A ferry from the fifties, she bucks and rolls and fights the waves. People walk by like staggering drunks, lurching suddenly to the right than running back to the left with tiny little steps to grab for a seat or a railing. I'm a poor sailor so I listen to my Ipod and watch for whales, fixing my eye on the horizon to keep from parting company with my stomach. As always, Lee is stalwart and unperturbed. Sometimes I truly hate him.
We arrive safely in Victoria. Waved through by a custom agent, uninterested in Grandpa and Grandma in their ten year old car, we were able to catch the five o'clock ferry for Salt Spring, arriving their just before six - eleven hours door to door. It's good to be home, to check out the garden and poke through the mail. Lovely to go but, oh, so wonderful to be home.

Reading to children May 4, 2010

I read an interesting article recently. A psychologist decided to see what one thing successful people had in common. It came down to this - they were all read to as children. So her conclusion was, if you want your children to be successful later in life, read to them when they're very small.

We all realize the linguistic value of reading to young children but there's more than that happening. The very first thing the child will learn is how to sit still and listen. Think of the advantage this gives them over the child bouncing off walls. When they start school and they're able to listen and pay attention, they are already well ahead of those who can't.

When you have that little person tucked up beside you and you've read the story, then come the questions. "Why did the boy take the ball?" and "What should the girl have done?" Through questions and answers, both the child's and yours, they learn to analyze a situation and they learn about consequences of actions.

Let's think what makes a leader of men. How about someone who listens well, can analyze a situation and can understand the consequences of actions?

So read to every child in your life. Not only will you bond with them, you'll make them leaders of men. Who knew it was that simple.

May 2, 2010

See the New review of A Brewski for the Old Man by Don Graves from the Saturday issue of the Hamilton Spectator in the Books and Reviews section.

Mellow Yellow Days On Salt Spring April 30, 2010

Spring on Salt Spring comes with lots of yellow, not only the normal spring yellows of daffodils and forsythias, but yellows that are new to me. All the wet areas, of which there are plenty on our rock, are filled with the yellow of skunk cabbage flowers. Bright yellow and about 6" to 8" in length - like giant calla lilies- skunk cabbages are everywhere. So much so, I'm starting to like the smell.
And then there is the Scottish broom that some silly homesick Scot imported. It's a plague on the island. Blooming all over the place, covering the sides of hills and the ditches, it is lovely but dangerous. It's very oily and turns into a torch in the dry summer season and it's almost impossible to eradicate. Environmentalists hate this transplant but, oh, it brightens our days and our hearts.
And then there are the humming birds. They are as ubiquitous as the Scottish broom. Darting here and there, they seem quite unimpressed with humans while lifting our spirits.
This week there was something that didn't lift my spirits - snakes - a bush full of snakes. Well, maybe not full, but one bush had three snakes basking in the sun. Lee pointed out the first one. And then I saw the next one. "There's another one," we both said as we quick stepped away, not waiting to really check out the bush.
They were small snakes mind you. Curled up in a knot, they were about the size of the opening of a coffee mug. And as we race walked off the boardwalk at Grace Point it wasn't just one bush that was decorated with snakes. Harmless I'm sure; snakes awake some primeval panic, a yuk factor. Only one kind of shrub seemed to be home to snakes and, trust me, I'll never plant it. It gives, "Beating the bushes," a whole new meaning doesn't it?"

The Skeena Queen to Sidney April 22

At the dock in Sidney, waiting to board a ferry for Salt Spring, an eagle flies over head with a stick about five feet long in its talons. The branch looks far too large for the size of the eagle. Seconds later another eagle appears with a whole batch of sticks in its talons…nest building time in the islands.
Spring, the things we like and the things which make us say yuk, leaves me crowing, "Thank God we haven't destroyed all of nature."

Great new Review

See the April 18th review by Moira Dann in the Victoria Times Colonist on the book & review page

Little Things

Sometimes the little things in life are the best. Like the little places in our neighborhood that didn't get developed, the path along the stream and the one that leads up the hill through the trees to the Country Market.
I was hurrying along the path bordering the stream, head down and thinking great thoughts, or more likely, "What's for dinner?" thoughts, when I noticed a California quail on the path in front of me. Lovely little things not much bigger than a pigeon, they have a tuft of black feathers standing up like a crown on their head. I've never seen one on its own before, they usually hustle about in large flocks. I stood still while he decided what he wanted to do. While I waited, I looked up at the flowering cherry tree he stood under. I would have walked by without noticing it if I hadn't stopped for the quail, and as I watched a humming bird went from blossom to blossom. Little things make the world better.

Alligators looking for love…

I took this picture while playing golf at Myaaka Golf Club the last week of March. He was HUGE.

April is the month that male gators travel from pond to pond looking for a mate. They end up in bizarre places, swimming pools and even sun rooms. I read a story of a family awakened by a terrible ruckus - their small terrier barking like crazy and their cockatiel screaming. Seems they had lots of jalousie windows in their family room which they'd left open on this warm April night. An alligator, looking for love, smelled the dog and decided on a snack. When the homeowner turned on the lights, there was an eight foot alligator chasing her dog around the room.

And then there was the woman who hit a gator on her way home from a bar one night. Seems she was troubled by an overwhelming conscious and she felt very very sorry for this gator lying on the road. She picked it up, don't ask me how or why someone would pick up a six foot alligator, but anyway she picked it up and managed to put it in the back of her car. She was going to take it somewhere for medical attention. Can you imagine pulling in to a vet's with an alligator in the back of your car? Unfortunately the stunned gator roused himself as she drove down the street. Now it's hard to pay attention to traffic while watching a beast like this in your rearview. She had an accident with another car. It isn't really a surprise is it? Knowing she would blow over the limit, the woman decided to flee the scene of the accident. On foot. No way anyone would ever connect her to the car would they? But her pesky conscience raised its head again, just like the gator, and she stopped and called out before she ran away, "Don't go near my car, there's an alligator in it." Truth is stranger than fiction.

Easter Sunday, Salt Spring Island

We arrived back in British Columbia the day before the storm that swamped boats and cancelled ferries. One ferry had a window knocked out by a wave - but don't let Alison know that or she'll never come over to Salt Spring again.

Snug in our little house we watched branches come down and the rain lash about. There's nothing in the world to make you feel secure like a really bad storm when you're tucked up safely inside with no intention on going out. Throughout the islands people lost hydro. Ours flickered a few times, went out for ten minutes once, but stayed on throughout the storm.

During the storm, I wrote and rewrote and wrote some more. I sent Buzzards off to my friend Jim, a great editor, in January. He came back and said the ending stunk and some other parts were pretty smelly too. I pretty much know I don't send something to Jim unless there's a problem I want to ignore so his comments came as no surprise. I worked on it the last few weeks in Florida, worked on it on the plane to Toronto and then on the plane from Toronto to Vancouver. I worked Thurs., Fri,. and half of Sat. Over the next two weeks I'll finish it. I'm feeling much better about it now…not quite so stinky, but there are still problems.

It moves like a speeding bullet. Now I'm worried the pacing is too fast. Like the movie that's one long car chase, you start yawning and wondering what's in the fridge. You have to get the pacing right, give the reader time to relax and catch up or exciting can turn boring. I use lots of fun conversation (well, at least to me it's fun) to slow things down. That's where Marley comes in, to help people to relax. And then you have to scare them again. That's my theory of plotting. It's like a roller coaster ride, scary/funny, scary/funny.

It's supposed to rain all week. That's fine with me. I'll just cuddle up with my blanket and computer and watch the world go by…scary/funny, scary/funny. My dream is to have Jim one day say, "This is absolutely terrific, don't change a thing." Aint going to happen but still I dream.

March 19, 2010

See the Sherbrooke Record review of Brewski at   A Brewski for the Old Man  Review

March 13, 2010

Thoughts on Sleuthfest

The great thing about going to conferences is the people you meet. David Morrell, the writer of the novel from which Rambo was created, was one of the guests of honor. He was born in Kitchener, Ontario, an hour from where I came into the world. A down to earth approachable person, we stood together at the back of the room while we were waiting for a panel to begin and had a conversation about electronic rights.

Friday night two women joined us for dinner, unexpectedly I might add. The small dining room off the bar was packed. They'd heard me speak on a panel earlier that day and asked if they could join us. It was a lively and interesting dinner. Before the check arrived one of the women got up and left without saying a word. A little strange but we thought she'd just gone to the ladies room. But she took her glass of wine with her! That should have set alarm bells ringing. When the bill came she still hadn't come back,- in fact she never came back. We never saw her again although I looked all over the hotel for her the next day. The woman who came to the table with the missing diner picked up her tab. They'd only just met at the panel.

And then there was the elegant lady I sat next to at lunch on Saturday, the day David spoke. She told me she had come down from Washington with two friends, all aspiring writers. We talked about getting published and I said that the hardest part came after you're published. First you have to write the book and then you have to talk about the book. I suggested that she might want to go to Toastmasters to prepare for the speaking part. "Oh, I don't think that will be a problem," she said. "I've done quiet a bit of public speaking. I was in Congress." Well shut my mouth! That was the last advice I gave anyone.

March 8, 2010

See the new review for "A Brewski for the Old Man"

... "The action never stops at the Sunset Bar in Jacaranda, Florida, but Sherri Travis’s past is converging on her favourite spot. Dad Tully Jenkins wants her help in an elaborate revenge, while the man who raped her at the age of 13 is in town, spotting other young girls. There’s also a lot of action in the swamp with alligator poachers. Smallman, winner of the Unhanged Arthur Ellis for her first Travis novel, is at the top of her game in this fast-paced tale."...
Margaret Cannon reviews "A Brewski for the Old Man" ~Globe& Mail~
March 7, 2010


Feb. 23/10

I woke up yesterday with the flu which seems to be turning into a horrendous cold. I've been feeling pretty pleased with myself that I've gone all winter with perfect health so I was more than due but the timing is awful. I'm going to the Mystery Writer's of America conference in Deerfield Beach on Thurs. I'm on a panel on Friday and I have a reading to do. How do I get rid of this fast? Can I pass it on to someone else quickly? Does that shorten the time? Where's Lee? Except of course he's already had it twice this winter. He's not eager to take this off my hands…or my head. In fact he's strangely absent. Still, being ill now isn't as bad as it was when I was a kid. My mother took her cures from the Marquis de Sade book of home remedies. The theory was if they don't make you suffer they aren't doing you any good. All of them included mustard plasters, goose grease, Vick's vapor rub and fried onions for your feet. Oh the stink of it! After twenty four hours you crawled out of the house claiming to be completely cured and reinforcing Hazel's confidence in her potions.

We've had two almost perfect days for weather but the cold stuff is set to come back for at least another week. I think I'll just spend the next two days in bed and hope I'm ready to travel on Thurs. We're gone for a week. After the conference we're going to Key West. I'm working on a novel set there. I need background so I'm doing a little research (that's what I call it now when I check out a bar) Key West has an incredible grave yard. Like New Orleans, the dead are buried above ground in elaborate concrete crypts. You just know Sherri is going to get into deep doo doo one night in that graveyard. Like my mother, I figure if it scares the hell out of me it has to be good.

After Key West we go back to Delray Beach for a book signing on March 3. Three weeks later we will be heading back to Salt Spring. I hear the daffodils are blooming on the island, time for us to fly off with the rest of the birds.

Off to bed, without the fried onions and dirty sock…it's true…a soiled wool sock around you neck heals a sore throat. My throat doesn't feel that bad, truly.

Feb 16, 2010

Today, I am the guest blogger on Donna Lea Simpson's
Cozy Murder Mysteries blog site.

Check it out at Cozy Murder Mysteries


February 9, 2010

Letters from home,

It's lovely to have friends that keep you amused! Here's an e-mail from my friend and fellow writer Jim Ordowich. Jim should be writing a humor column for the New York Times but instead he only gets to be on my blog.

"I read yesterday that increased sun spot activity threatens to cause havoc with the world's communications system just as the winter Olympics are getting under way in Vancouver. We can expect static on cell phones, snowy pictures on cable and the very real possibility of GPS instructions from Toronto to Burlington leading to Flyspeck, Manitoba instead.
I bring this up because I feel a certain sense of responsibility. You see, the other day I caused a cosmic shift in the universe and the ramifications are fairly staggering.
It began with an e-mail through Facebook from somebody who went to the same high school as me. She was in another grade and she thought I might have been tall. Clearly she wasn't that familiar or she would have known the correct description was tall and good-looking - a qualifier often missed for some inexplicable reason. I did know her brother however. He was in my grade 9 class and remains green in memory for his effort to turn in a book report based on a Classics Comic. The poor sap chose something by Sir Walter Scott that in the original was barely recognisable as English. When questioned by the teacher he clearly had no grip of the nuances and about 90% of the plot. It was a sobering lesson to the rest of us. We based our future submissions on movies instead.
Anyway, after sending back a chatty response about high school days - and in a moment of supreme serendipity - I went off to the local office of Works Ontario to get what I needed to file for early retirement benefits on the advice of my accountant and investment advisor. The forms were under a sign that said "Seniors". Can you imagine the shear capriciousness of reminiscing about high school days only an hour before and then confronting a sign that said "Seniors"? It was at that moment that the cosmic shift occurred!
I must have stood there lost in the implications of my new status for some time because I attracted the attention of an ancient security guard incapable of defending the place from anything more menacing than a particularly aggressive pussy willow.
"Can I help you?" he asked in a voice full of compassion. Clearly my epiphany was not uncommon to the premises..
"Early retirement benefits," I said numbly.
"Right here," he said taking down an envelope and opening it up for me. "See, it's written with big type so it's easy to read and the questions are very simple."
What else could it be when no words in the application ran to more than two syllables? No wonder the elderly are perceived as only capable of being Wal-Mart greeters and security guards at Works Ontario.
The world was a little greyer when I left. The cold bit harder and my car felt bigger as I backed it out of the parking space. I caught a glance of myself in the rear view mirror. I was wearing a hat. Old men driving excessively slow on the highway are always wearing a hat. I was one of them now.
My mood didn't lighten until I went to lunch - senior's menu of course. I sent back the sandwich because the toast was cold and the drink because there was too much ice in it. What the hell, if I'm going to walk the walk I might as well talk the talk.
I never thanked you for the column you sent me from Kevin Thornton. Funny guy and very talented. I hate him.
You asked me once about blog material. If you think it appropriate use whatever you want from here."
Best
Jim


Florida Feb. 8/12

Are we having fun yet?
This is the winter of our discontent. The ditches are full of water and the beaches are empty. Lee went out this morning to play golf. He was wearing a toque, gloves, and a down vest under his jacket. To bad he didn't have his handsome snowmobile suit with the droopy bum and inch of grease covering it. That's what he really needed. The weather is not improving and it's hitting a damaged economy hard, plus there's the toll the weather is taking on the natural world, turning what one newspaper article called "the everglades into burial ground for scores of wildlife. " Every pond and lake is surrounded by dead fish and the cold weather has created an "ecological disturbance equal to a fire or hurricane." One wildlife official reported seeing over 60 dead manatees, an animal that is already endangered. One bright spot is the report that the severe cold has killed lots a pythons, Florida's newest invasive species. For anyone feeling sorry for themselves that they didn't come down this year, you made a wise choice.

On Saturday we took a little road trip down to Pine Island. You have to want to get to Pine Island to get to it - it isn't on the road to anywhere, in fact it is the end of the road and very undeveloped. You take Burnt Store Road West, through Matlachaa to Bokeelia. Aren't those great names? I wish I could make up names like that.

West of Punta Gorda, this area is a place where developer's dreams ran ahead of reality and there are many partially finished housing estates out in the middle of nowhere, a really freaky place to buy a home with boarded up houses and everything for sale, and only about one in three houses occupied. And then come acres of deep underbrush and woods. I saw three wild pigs in a deep ditch. Having wild pigs in the neighborhood wouldn't be all bad, could be better than some of the neighbors. Checking out houses for sale on the internet can't tell you what really happens on the ground. I hope people aren't dumb enough to buy these places without looking at them - although we bought our van, a mighty nice used vehicle, on the internet without ever seeing it. But don't buy a house that way.

When we got to Bokeelia and parked outside a little restaurant there, the waves were coming over the retaining wall and hitting the van. Cold, cold , cold. We said, "Yup, it's pretty," and ran for the warmth of the building. The island is mostly nurseries, the kind that grow plants for sale, not the human kind. It doesn't have the great beaches of Venice but it is a great place to fish the Gulf…except for this year.
Stay warm and stay well!








Living the Good Life in Matlacha Florida on a Saturday afternoon





Why mysteries?

When I was asked why I write mysteries it didn't take me long to come up with a dozen solid reasons. To start with, writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on, and mysteries are the most popular form of fiction in the world. But more than that, I love mysteries, love to read them and love to write them. The often reluctant and unprepared hero or heroine goes on a quest - often a life and death struggle, taking us with them on an epic adventure to right wrongs, to see justice done or to discover truth. Stories of crime explore the dark side of human nature; greed, anger, jealousy and even love when it's beyond control. All of these emotions are at the heart of a good mystery. Cautionary tales, they tell us what happens when our emotions get out of control. Mysteries hold up a mirror to society, showing it without its make-up on, revealing all its warts. Mental illness, drugs, and the social problems we have to deal with in our neighborhoods, workplaces and yes, even our families are examined. We see how ordinary people deal with extraordinary circumstances, how they cope with what life sends them. And all this wrapped up in a puzzle.
Stories about crimes spot-light our fears. Each of us feels as vulnerable to crime as we do to disease. All those little security signs in flower beds are the new crosses over doors to tell misfortune to move on.
And how many of us think human beings are becoming less moral and more violent? Remember the first crime stories appear in the bible. Cain murdering Abel, Joseph being sold into slavery, the bible is full of tales of theft and murder and even tales of the slaughter of babies. And you think identity theft is new? Think of Jacob stealing Esau's birthright. Human nature flows through crime books, entertaining us, frightening us and even educating us. That's why I love a mystery.

Jan. 19/10

The weather is still cool here after the big freeze but the sun is shining. On the golf course yesterday hundreds of dead fish had washed up around the ponds where the birds were busy pecking away. Ibis and Wood Storks worked along the banks. The Wood Storks were eating the fish while the Ibis flipped them up on the bank into a pile. Everywhere you look you see dead plants, from citrus trees to flowers to vegetables. There is some talk that the citrus growers will not replant. Brazil has become the biggest grower of oranges in the world and is undercutting the price enough that growing oranges in Florida is no longer financially viable. Who would have thought the day would come when Florida did not lead the world in producing orange juice? Aren't Florida and orange juice one word?

We've been talking about playing bridge, joining the Tuesday bridge club but there's a problem and it goes like this …if we play together a domestic will break out worthy of UN intervention. I can't understand why a perfectly intelligent man loses all his marbles when he picks up a deck of cards. And bridge is where the weakness of his positivity shows its cracks - when living with hope and expecting the impossible turn out to be fallible.

I'm a cautious player which doesn't allow for brilliance or what looks like brilliance which occurs when hope and stupidity get lucky. The luck often happens because the opposition can never believe things are as bad as they appear. Apologetic, as they put us three down, they always look befuddled, wondering how we could ever have expected to have made it with the hands we held.

And I hate it when my partner says, "It's only a game." It's not only a game, its life and death. It was never just a game when I played cards with my Dad for nickels as soon as I was able to tell a heart from a club. I kept myself in nickels from a pretty young age because my father, like my husband, lived with great optimism that things would magically work out. So don't tell me it's only a game. My attitude has always been, don't play if it's only a game….oh, wait a minute…Tues night bridge…playing with strangers…not a good idea. The week after I joined they'd disband.

Computer scrabble was invented for people just like me who shouldn't be around other humans when there's winning and losing to be done.

Stay well.

Venice Florida, Jan. 16/09

Venice has a wonderful downtown with a main street divided by palms. On one side of the street are unique shops selling everything from clothing to wine and cheese. If it's something you don't need for survival you'll find it there. On the other side is a huge parking lot with flowering trees and a band shell, not much like a normal parking lot at all. On Saturday they close off part of the lot for a farmer's market.

It's a rag tag little market, with the usual bread to vegetables, plus a woman who sells a line of pet clothing. Now why a dog or cat living in Florida would need a jacket I'm not sure but she has them. Then there's a woman selling orchids, hanging orchids, trailing orchids and upright orchids, an amazing and beautiful display. But Lee and I were on a hunt for orange blossom honey. There's nothing like it.

Strolling through the vendors, maybe picking up a fresh crepe is not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning and after we got our honey for our toast we went over to Milan Street, you see all the streets in Venice have Italian names. Milan Street is full of restaurants, one that spills over the sidewalk so you're walking among the tables and jostling the waiters, never mind the huge cage with the green parrot. Milan Street also has many second hand stores. We went in and out of junk stores they way we'd gone in and out of the restaurant tables. In one of the charity shops we found a lovely little wicker table and a bed tray, not so lovely nor so little but it was only ten dollars and maybe one day I can talk Lee into serving breakfast the way it should be delivered, on a whapping great tray with a flower in a vase.

On the way home we stopped at the nursery and picked up some flowers to replace the ones taken by the frost. A simple little day, nothing important or very interesting happened. But how blessed we are to have the simple days, when nothing is more important than a little honey for your toast. Reading the paper while I eat that toast, looking at the pictures of Haiti, I realize how blessed I am that there is nothing big or important in my life - to need, nor want, anything more important than honey and a few flowers. I always knew that life wasn't fair but it never seemed more so than it does now.

Stay well.

Jan. 4/09

Cold here in Florida. All of the tender plants are wearing bed sheets. I look around the neighborhood and see some very strange combinations. Why would anyone ever buy sheets with purple and yellow flowers? Of course, mine are wearing pink and green sheets from the eighties to keep warm. It's too cold for that morning walk, but the sun is shining. All over the north people would think this was a perfect day, think we're just whiners.

Looking forward to many things in 2010: SEX IN A SIDECAR comes out in paperback in Feb. and I'm hoping to get the cover for A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN later today. I don't have much say in the cover design, which is just as well. Tania Craan is a brilliant designer. I'll put the cover up as soon as it arrives. I'm really excited about this book.

Other New Books
PD James has just written a book out called Talking About Detective Fiction. Basically in this book she says that it's a reassuring form of fiction because mysteries make order out of disorder. If that's all there was to crime fiction we'd watch it on HGTV and not on Law and Order.

Mysteries are epic adventures, life and death struggles to right wrongs, to see justice done and to discover truth. Often reluctant and unprepared, the hero or heroine goes on a quest, taking us with them.

Stories of crime explore the darker side of human nature, greed, anger, jealousy and love…all of these emotions are at the heart of a good mystery. More than this, stories about crimes explore our fears. One of the things we all fear is being the victim of crime. Each of us feels as vulnerable to crime as we do to disease. Money doesn't protect you from crime…nor does education…nor culture… and while we know how dangerous the world is without mysteries to tell us, our fear holds us enthralled.

From the Bible to Star Wars the fight against evil goes on. In fact the first crime stories appear in the Bible…Cain murdering Able... Joseph being sold into slavery…the bible is full of tales of theft and murder…tales of the killing of babies. And you think identity theft is new? Think of Jacob stealing Esau's birthright. These stories tell us things are not getting worse, they were always like this and for me this is a comforting thought. We may not be winning but we're not losing either. It is a struggle that goes on day after day and generation after generation.

P.D. James was asked in an interview about her book why so many women write detective novels. This was her answer, "Murder arises from strong emotions, and we're particularly interested in strong emotions, rather than the guns and the messes". Well, perhaps…but I think women write and read mysteries, the most popular form of fiction, for the same reasons men do…for the adventure, for the puzzle and because we can identify with these stories more than any others.

Happy reading in 2010!

Notes from Florida from Nov. Dec. Friends are better than jewels and all I want for Christmas!

I haven't written anything since I came to Florida except to do the rewrites on A Brewski For The Old Man on my neighbor's kitchen table. Thank God for friends. They're better than jewels and I really counted on them these last two months.

Our kitchen floor had turned into a trampoline, lovely and bouncy, over the last few years. Lee was very concerned about it, well he would be wouldn't he as he's always been the sensible half of the pair, but I rather like having a floor that spoke back. I could weigh myself in the waves I made in front of the fridge without the hard numbers between my toes -depressing news made easy. But Lee, well he decided this fall something had to be done. When the carpenter pulled back the flooring and promptly fell through even I had to agree that something had to be done. And when the kitchen cupboards all but fell off the wall because the pressboard flooring under them had turned to sawdust, well I even agreed to that as well. Depression set in when they followed the line of rot. It seems that the water lines for the plumbing had been notched into the boards below the floor and then when the floorboards were nailed down they had nailed into the plastic water lines. Now, thirty years later, the nails had rusted away and water under pressure was spraying up onto the floors, returning them to the sawdust from which they'd sprung.

The floors had to come out right through the house. That meant all the furniture had to come out and all the rugs were gone. We dragged our belongings out onto the front porch just in time for the rain and wind. Everyone commented how unusual it was to have rain in Nov. and Dec. Somehow this did not make me feel better. Oodles of plastic were found to cover everything and pots and pans were set on top of bundles to hold down the plastic. I started bailing out the water gathering on the plastic where it slumped onto the seats. A tin pie plate worked well for this chore and heaven knows when was the last time it actually held a pie.

Before this all started I'd asked Bettie and Carl if I could use their house to do the rewrite because I knew the work would be noisy. They weren't coming down to well after Christmas and generously agreed. They were also agreeable when we moved into the Pink Palace, or maybe they realized it was just too late to say no…hard to get sitting tenants out, even ones that don't pay rent.

About a week into our home rebuild, Lee's father had a heart attack and died the following Sunday. We went back to Ontario on Monday. Al Smallman was a lovely man, a true father to me. Kind and gentle, he cried at soppy father's day cards and cuddled children, rocking them to sleep on a generous belly. We will all miss him but at 91 it was time for him to go. Life wasn't fun anymore. Still, no matter what his age was or our own, it's a loss.

When we got back to Florida, Scott and Fred, the two men contracted to replace the floors, were almost done. Because everything was such a mess, I'd decided to knock out a wall and move the fridge. They'd done a brilliant job on this and even painted the new wall board. What they didn't do was the wash down the walls, closets, and cupboards. Everyone disappeared when that work started. The new kitchen cabinets went in, without doors but they should arrive today. They've been promised since last Friday but they said for sure that they would arrive today and hey, we all know contractors don't lie.

There will be a Christmas after all, Virginia. Nicole is making a wonderful French Canadian dish of turnips, potatoes, parsnips and carrots all mashed together with cream. Lou and Jim are bringing dessert and wine and Andrelle has the Christmas crackers. We are supplying a Kosher turkey, (don't ask how come it's Kosher because that's another story).

And Bettie and Carl will have the Pink Palace back just in time for their arrival the day before New Year's eve and just in time to celebrate with us. Having friends to share Christmas, New Years and houses with is better than having jewels. Hope the coming year is full of gems for you as well! Happy Holidays!

Dec. 22/09 - ONLY IN FLORIDA

A Florida T.V. station decided, as a public service, to show how dangerous it was to deep fat fry the Christmas turkey. So out they went into the parking lot with a nice big turkey, gallons of cooking oil and a deep fat fryer. They explained that they were prepared for a small fire so they took the office extinguisher with them. It wasn't enough for the fire they got. Unfortunately, they didn't move the station van to safer ground. After the fire, burst out of the cooker and ran across the pavement it burnt up the van. That's when the fire department was called. One fireman was injured and the T.V. station was given a fine. Do you think those reporters are looking for a new job? And will it stop other Floridians from trying this at home? One of our neighbors has a deep fat fryer that he uses on his car port and another couple I know take theirs on camping trips. Bring it on!

The ladies drop in - Notes from Florida Nov.11/09

Ida came to call. Saturday the wind started. Lee and I went out in the afternoon to play golf and chase our hats. When we had no trouble getting a last minute tee time and there was no one else on the course we should have been warned but we're Canadian, eh, what's a little weather? Two wonderful sand hill cranes were also ignoring the weather. Standing on the path, each on only one leg, they weren't intimidated by the golf cart bearing down on them so we took to the rough and the palmettos to get around them.

Sunday there was an art show in Venice. The winds were even worse. One vendor, a painter, hung on to the cross beams in the centre of his tent to hold it down while his paintings lifted six inches off the wall before settling and lifting again. It was a very moving art show.

Monday the palms were bent sideways and by Tues it was boring. Around supper time the rain came. Up and down the street people backed their cars out of their carports to get a Florida carwash. Rain in Florida, driven by a tropical storm, is pretty much like a car wash. It rained like that most of the night - all from a storm that missed us on its way up the Gulf to Alabama.

And another lady dropped by, this one from Montreal. My friend Nicole is French but her English is excellent. It has to be because my French is non- existent. She lost her husband recently and I called her to see how she was making out. She told me that she was not doing well but she had her husband's urine and it gave her great comfort. More than that, she informed me, she had started talking to it. Did I think it was strange? Well, yes, as a matter of fact I did think it was strange to talk to someone else's urine, I don't even talk to my own, but I didn't want to upset her. Heaven knows I've been told often enough that I'm crazy so I know how it feels. I said, "If it helps you, what harm can it do?" Subtext, check yourself in immediately. But Nicole went on happily talking about these conversations with urine until I couldn't stand it anymore. I asked, "What exactly does it look like?" "Oh," replied Nicole, "It's just a urine with his ashes in it."

Nicole was coming down from Montreal this week, driven by a man who said he loved to drive, no problem to get her here. He called her on Saturday to say he'd changed his mind. Late that night she phoned us to say she'd decided to drive herself down, fourteen hundred miles alone for a woman that went several years of not driving at all before her husband died. Lee answered the phone, and not being one to tell another human being what to do, he just told her to be careful. Now isn't that the most useless piece of advice you've ever heard? Who in hell sets out to be reckless? I was not happy with him. At six on Sunday morning I called Nicole to tell her not to come but there was no answer.

Every day I expected a call to say she'd seen sense and turned back. Tues evening we were sitting on the lanai, having a drink before dinner and waiting for the rain, when a car came around the corner, horn tooting and with an arm waving wildly out the window. Nicole had arrived. She says if she can do that she can do anything and I'm inclined to believe her. Maybe inside all of us is more potential than we will ever know or realize…we just have to want it enough. Stay safe and well.

Manasota Beach November 4, 2009

Beaches are living, changing entities and each year when we return they've transformed themselves. One year we came back to find the swimming pool of the motel hanging in the air where the Gulf had rushed in and eroded all the sand around it. The beach has grown since last year, broader and somehow steeper. Walking down the shore only the roofs of the houses were visible beyond the sea oats. At eight this morning the tide was out, leaving tidal pools where the beach ended last season. We splashed through the trapped water to the sand bar beyond and into the surf, amazed at how warm the Gulf was, warmer than the air, hurricane warm. There's still a month to go before we are safe from those monsters and at the moment there is a storm forming down in the Caribbean but the weather here, soft and sultry, is too beautiful to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow doesn't exist on a beach. When you walk to near exhaustion and turn to come back your tracks are already gone. It puts life in perspective; a foot print on the shore that disappears with the next wave is how important we all are.

No turtles nests, perhaps it's too early. I'll have to check.

Florida Oct 31/09

The treat is we're home again in Florida, back in the warmth… no the heat of Florida, record breaking heat. When you walk out the door you hit a wall of blast furnace temperature and humidity. We live in a community of part time residents, most of whom haven't made their way back yet. It's quiet. You feel like you can spread out, like you own it all and lovely to stroll past empty houses with overgrown gardens. These first days are busy, putting out the garden furniture, fixing the things that are broken - like the television, perfectly fine when with left last January but not working now. Lee suddenly realized it was analog. The fridge, which we empty and turn off, also has a little problem. The door doesn't want to stay shut. I suggest a bungie cord. I think Sherri would think holding the fridge door shut with a bungie cord was perfectly normal. And the phone doesn't work. I didn't realize how addicted I am to being on-line, to being constantly in touch. Halloween with empty houses all around us and no telephone and out there is…? Easy to imagine strange and eerie things. If you don't hear from me again…

The days are longer here, about an hour extra daylight between Salt Spring Island and south Florida. When it's seven o'clock at night and it's still eighty degrees out you think you have all night to barbie, at least two hours of light left but it's not a northern summer but winter in the south. Night comes as a surprise, faster than you expect, even faster tomorrow after we change the clocks. Its time to get back to writing, to sink back into my characters and polish book four before I write a rough draft of book five. But first there's the beach to check out and the stores, the neighbors to catch up with…oh, the distractions.

My orchids are beautiful. They're inexpensive orchids from Home Depot but I couldn't bear to let them die when we left for B.C. so I put them in the downspouts from the roof so they get water over the summer and it seems to work. One is healthy but isn't blooming but the other two both have two spikes of flowers each. The one looks like purple velvet. Such a nice welcome back.

Bits and Pieces from Salt Spring Island, B.C Oct21,2009

When I drive around Salt Spring I fall in love with it all over again. Steep hills, yellows, golds, and rich browns and reds climb from green valleys full of sheep, vineyards and orchards. Now that the days are cool the air is full of wood smoke and apples. If I didn't already live here, I'd move to Salt Spring immediately.

Last Saturday there was a huge yacht tied up to the dock at Ganges. It was at least a hundred feet long, berthed where normally two or three boats would be. Locals, like us, stood on the dock and tried to peer through the windows but the tinted glass gave only a hint of the luxury within. Alberta oil money, whatever that is but definitely something that we don't have, was the whisper that ran along the dock. There were lots of jokes, requests to share in the good life, perhaps a wee bit of jealousy and then we all moved off to admire the Tiki, a party boat enclosed with glass and coco matting with 2 huge alligators riding on the bow. More laughter but this time with requests for drinks. It's hard to say who was more entertained by the harbor visitors - us or them.

Monday we were in line for the ferry to Victoria and everyone was heading for their cars from the coffee shop as the car carrier entered Fulford Harbour when a woman discovered she'd locked herself out of her car. Now if you don't make the ferry it means you're going to be late, not just fifteen minutes but maybe two hours, before there's another one and going off island always means you're going somewhere important. People gathered round offering advice but like in any situation there are those who talk and those who do. A coat hanger and pliers materialize from a fellow traveler and a ferry worker who obviously had been through this before. The ferry edged closer, nosing into the dock while the two men worked furiously. At last a collective cheer went up, followed by excited joyous laughter, as the door opened and the ferry started off-loading cars. For a brief time, strangers came together for a common goal, wrapping us all in a warm feeling of communal spirit, before we ran for our cars.

One of the pieces of news in the Island Tides this week was about the ferry captain that sailed within twenty feet of a pod of Orca whales. Not only did the captain not try to avoid them, he didn't slow down for the Orcas. Keeping to his schedule must have been more important than protecting this endangered species. There are only about twelve breeding females left in our southern population.

Speaking of conservation, Oct. 24 is the global action day for climate change. What are you doing to bring climate change to the attention of the UN leaders meeting in Copenhagen? Here on Salt Spring the theme is Ganges Underwater. There's a song and everything. We are all asked to come to the harbour, wearing underwater gear, snorkels, life jackets, etc. for a group picture to be sent to the UN. I hope they like it. Transportation to the harbour will be environmentally friendly as well…decorated bikes with the theme cycling underwater. It won't be as exciting as Gay Pride day, nothing could be as exciting as thong man, but it will be a happening. Did I mention I love this silly island?

October 17, 2009

Great News!
Amazon.com #1 Reviewer Harriet Klausner has posted her 5 star reviews of both Margarita Nights and Sex in a Sidecar. They are on Amazon and Barnes and Noble,as well as blog spots such as Genre Go Round and Book Crossings. To see them, go to the review links on the "Book & Reviews" page of this website.


Thanksgiving Monday in Canada

We were in California for a week and when the flight home touched down in Victoria it was exactly 6:00 pm. There's a 7:00 o'clock ferry for Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring and another one, the last one of the day, sailing at 9:00 pm. As the plane taxis up to the terminal we're discussing the possibility of collecting our bags and getting through Canadian customs and making it to the Sidney ferry terminal in an hour. Can't be done - or can it? We shuffled down the aisle and off the plane, no accordion walkway here, and than speed across the tarmac like demented hamsters. All of which does us no good because the baggage handlers don't have a ferry to catch. They're on a more leisurely schedule than we are. And just to make matters worse, as our luggage gets to the bottom of the belt the handlers decided the wagon is full and stop unloading. They could have put another hundred bags on that wagon, or at least ours. Our luggage was thrown on the very bottom of the next wagon. We looked at our watches and scan the backup at customs. Goodbye ferry. Now we're discussing if we should go to the ferry terminal and get in line for the last sailing and eat junk food or is there time to stop in Sidney for a real meal and risk the ferry being full if we're late? But even at a snails pace things get done. The luggage comes through the little door and we get in the line for freedom where at exactly 6:30 the custom's agent says, "Welcome home."
To the chorus of clinking duty free the race is on. But there's a lot of people running somewhere and just getting out to the highway is a hassle and then we hit every red light, sitting there watching the dashboard clock, arguing if it's a minute fast or a minute slow, driving too fast, yelling at other drivers and then unbelievable, as we race up to the kiosk to buy our ticket, some woman employed by B.C. ferries is out with a broom sweeping the road in front of us. Crazy, they still discharge the toilets into the ocean but someone is sweeping the roads. That's as close to death as she ever came. They're already loading, a little late, so we latch onto the end of the line and high-five our way onboard.
Pulling away from the dock, just dark, the lights of Sidney are spread out behind us, enchanting and sparkling and all dancing on the water. Once the ferry pulls away from the dock all of the lights are turned off. In darkness now, we sit in our little cocoon and silently drift towards home. Living on an island brings blessings and frustration and amazing moments. Happy Thanksgiving!

Salt Spring, Saturday, September 26, 2009

The harbour is full of heritage working boats, some of them nearly 100 yrs old, boats that once trawled for fish and now are homes or vacation spots for their owners. These boat owners were nice enough to open them to anyone who showed up on the dock at Ganges harbour today. Everyone was in a party mood. I met a couple from St. Catherines Ontario who now live aboard a rebuilt fishing boat named the C-Buster and spend their lives motoring through the Gulf Islands. The living space aboard their boat is no bigger than a mid size motor home but it works well for them. A surprising number of people had dogs on board. I don't even want to think of the problems that necessitates. The queen of the fleet was the Midnight Sun, a mini Titanic four stories high and 80 feet long, built in 1938. The top storey contained four kayaks, the back deck had teak furniture and a couch full of large cushions in an arc around the back. We walked around the outside of the cabin. Inside was a huge living area with a brass circular stairs probably to bedrooms below. The mahogany and brass was shining in the wonderful fall sun. I wonder how many people went home with a new item for their bucket list, a new dream to lust after.

Sunday

At eleven o'clock this morning, sounding their whistles as they cleared the dock, the heritage boats started out of the harbour. One of them still ran on steam so the whistle came with a great belch of grey steam. As the flotilla headed in a line for the mouth of the harbour I couldn't help but think of long ago women standing on a dock not much different from the one I was standing on and watching their lives leave like this, husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, going fishing in these very boats. The ocean is a risky mistress with fog and wind ready to do their worst.

Other people - other places, watching kin go off to Dunkirk to bring back the remains of the army or leaving from Portugal for the outer banks of Newfoundland to fish. At the mouth of the harbour the antique fleet, the best of the past, turned and sailed back once again to salute those of us remaining on the dock.

Salt Spring Island Sept. 22, 2009

Beautiful weather on Salt Spring, sunny and in the seventies - impossible weather to be inside - I know it won't last but oh, does it feel right.

Yesterday we caught the 8:00 am ferry for Vancouver Island out of Fulford Harbour. Waiting for the ferry, people walk up and down the dock with coffee in hand and talk to neighbors and even strangers. Deals are done, things are bought and sold, appointments and plans are made as the big white beast slowly makes its way up the narrow channel to collect us all on its back and carry us off to Swartz Bay. Yesterday, while we waited, an eagle flew past, the quintessential image of British Columbia.

We had a short meeting in Sidney and then the rest of the day was ours. We started from the University of Victoria, down to Cadboro to visit a wonderful little bookstore next to a coffee shop, and then followed the shore up to Cordova Bay. Before moving to B.C. Lee and I spent a lot of time discussing where we would like to live when we were no longer restricted by jobs. Location hunting was a form of entertainment. We visited lots of places on water all over Ontario, water being the number one requirement. One summer day we visited places along Lake Huron with Lee's niece and her daughter. We found a wonderful beach for a picnic but when it was time to move on the youngest of us refused. I tried to coax her along by telling her we were going to find a better beach to which she replied, "This beach is good enough." Wisdom from a five year old. Yesterday on Cordova Bay, the only two people sitting outside at a restaurant patio, we looked down on a sand beach with only a small boy and his mother enjoying it. The ocean was spread out before us, a small island at the mouth of the bay and Mount Baker in the background. Lee repeated those words, "This beach is good enough."

Sometimes even when we aren't on a beach we have to stop and say, "This beach is good enough."

In the air Sept 14, 2009

-4 passengers, a pilot and a dog flying down to Seattle on 9/11

Float planes that take off from the harbor can be exciting especially when you get to the dock and the pilot opens the door and jumps out while the plane keeps drifting along. You can only hope that the pilot doesn't (a) miss the dock and (b) fail to catch the rope to secure the plane to the dock.

From a small plane flying over the Gulf Islands and then down through the San Juan Islands and into Puget Sound it is staggeringly beautiful. When you leave Salt Spring you're flying over heavily treed islands with the denim blue mountains and the hills of other islands in the background and inland one jagged snow capped mountain. This heavenly view, God's view of the world, looks tidy, peaceful and orderly, nothing bad could happen down there, except on one small barren island with a lone white house and tiny out building on it. Strangely sinister, I believe the worst of things happen there.

As ZoZo the dog looked over the seat at Lee with longing in her eyes, we flew over the Black Ball ferry heading for Victoria out of Anacortes, Washington and a line of cruise ships coming out of Seattle. Flying over marinas, where masts stood up like toothpicks on a tray of canapés at a cocktail party, we skimmed the mainland of Washington with its patch work farms laid out below us.

An hour and bit after leaving Salt Spring things got weird. I was on the right side of the six-seater plane, in the tail and looking out towards the Pacific, when the plane banked and turned east. And there we were in a plane on 9/11 and heading into a forest of office towers. Thursday night I'd watched a program on the death of the Twin Towers and I couldn't help but think of that other September day. I was filled with panic. It just seemed wrong to be among those office buildings. Then our plane swept down to land on Lake Union and we were floating again, past a topless woman working on a burn and boats of all sizes and styles and people who waved, a surreal and beautiful experience.

Salt Spring Island September 10, 2009

Today I got a hole in one. A hot day, I was having a terrible game, dragging myself around and wishing I'd stayed home. On the seventh hole I teed up my ball and realized I had the wrong club. Too lazy to walk the ten feet to my bag and back again I decided I could just take a half swing. The ball hit well short of the green and scudded along the ground. Lee said, "I'm going to be pissed if that goes in." Plop… It only took twenty-five years and thousands of dollars of lessons, green fees, equipment and memberships to attain perfection. It's all down hill from here.

Salt Spring Island - September 8, 2009

The most nostalgic time of the year for me is when school goes back after the Labor Day weekend. It really is the end of summer no matter how much nice weather is yet to come, and I'm sad to see it end. This has been a long summer with dream weather - the way we remember summers used to be but the way summers never were.

Besides beautiful weather that began in April this summer was special for other things. We had lots of company, lovely people who took time out of busy schedules to visit - including friends from high school. Visitors bring the gift of memories and memories, like Labor Day and falling leaves, are the essence of nostalgia.

At the end of summer I'm remembering the words of my favorite philosopher, Dr. Zeus, who said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it was."
I'm smiling.

Salt Spring Island, Aug. 29/09

Here's a tip: When the path up the mountain says 'Assault Course' don't try it carrying a purse and wearing pink crocs. Pink crocs are great for oyster shell beaches and tidal pools but are crap for mountain climbing. And if on some mad impulse you decide to see what that crazy steep climb is like, don't wait until you can't breathe anymore before you turn around and look down to see how far you've come, how steep it really is, and just how far you're about to fall. It's at that moment you know exactly how that kitten up a tree feels. It was the, "No, you can't dial 911, even if you don't care about being embarrassed," that really ticked me off. There's always someone making you do things the hard way, isn't there? So it's back down the way you came up. One good thing, the path up was so steep the person following me, the person who didn't want to dial 911, couldn't pass to let me go down first so at least I had something, or in this case someone, to stop my descent besides trees and rocks. At one point, when Lee stopped to offer me his hand, I said, without looking up, "I'm alright, keep going." I really was worried about sliding on the loose stones underfoot and wiping him out, bowling for dollars off a mountain and where are our wills? "I just thought you might need a hand here," he said. I looked up and realized why he'd stopped. The path made a sharp left turn and if I got going too fast, slid on the stones or any other little mishap like that I was going to shoot off into nothing. Sitting on my behind and inching my way down looked like the best idea of all or maybe just sitting there crying until he gave in and dialed 911. Sweat really does pop out all over you in scary moments. At the bottom, with no harm to anything but my dignity, I got a fit of the giggles…a fit of relief more like. On the way home we stopped at the fairgrounds for a sale of what the sign said was "Asian Décor." Turned out to be a truck load of beads and wall hangings that came over to the island on the ferry and set up for business in the farm building. Now that was the perfect place for pink crocs.

Salt Spring Island, Aug.22/09

One day you realize that thirty years have passed while you were doing laundry and there's nothing to show for it but more laundry. There's not even failure to show you've tried.

I was well into my forties and at a turning point in my life when a friend asked me what came next. "I want to write," I said. This was an old daydream, a fantasy to be dredged up on sleepless nights and certainly not something I'd ever shared with another human being. But having blurted out my dream some ethic made me try...and try and try and try, through reams of rejections, a whole forest of rejections.

But failure is better than never making the attempt. At least trying gives you hope. Each time you send out another SASE you think, "Maybe this time". I'll take the burst of hope followed by rejection over the emptiness life would have held for me if I'd never followed my dream. Being published was the icing on the cake but I'd still have the cake, the substance of the dream, without ever seeing my book in print. If I'd never followed my dream I'd just have the empty cake pan.

And now, on top of the whipped chocolate icing is a big red cherry. MARGARITA NIGHTS is coming out in the U.S. this September. So you see, Virginia, dreams do come true.


Salt Spring Island Aug.10, 2009

I'm trying to become leaner and meaner…doing fine with the meaner but the leaner bit is a bust…one week on a diet and I've put on a pound. What part of the word diet didn't I understand? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

My good news is that McArthur and Co. is taking the Sherri Travis series into the USA this fall. I'm looking forward to visiting book stores and doing book signings around Florida this winter and hoping to meet lots of readers. I really look forward to getting some feedback on my books so tell all your American friends to rush out and buy it...or three or four.

Our long hot summer, like the summers of memory, long and hot and lazy, is fading. Summer started here in April, record breaking and dry, and of course the days were long, literally…by five or five thirty in the morning it was light and it was after ten before night began to close in. But now, with the coming of August, the heat has backed off and we've had a little rain. The days are already closing in. I'm beginning to think of Florida.

Like a migrating goose, when fall is in the air I get restless, eager to be gone and back to my other world. Now, with a book being launched in Florida, I'm even more ready to fly south. But first I must finish the fourth book in the Sherri Travis series, Champagne for Buzzards. It's all there but it needs tidying and tying up of loose ends. Champagne feels more like a thriller than a mystery, scarier and faster paced. Well…maybe I'm wrong about that. I'm often wrong about things. My biggest wish is that each book is better than the last. And maybe a little different.


Saltspring Island, July 13, 2009

This is a cautionary tale. I've just lost the complete fourth Sherri Travis mystery off my computer…gone… everything…nothing but the header to let me know that it was ever there. We always think it can't happen but even the tech support guy I hired to retrieve it agreed it was gone. All you have to do is to try to stand up, holding the computer and not paying attention to the series of keys your hands are covering, first highlighting and then deleting, and bingo, it's all gone but the title. Anything deleted inside a document is deleted as a working change and not retrievable once you go out of that document.
The good news is I backed up this file last May so I have a rough draft left. It would be oh so nice if I had backed it up every day but that would be far too sensible wouldn't it? So do as I say and not as I do…it's so easy to prevent this pain. I wonder if the final copies of my other books are backed up? Excuse me while I check.

Saltspring Island June 19, 2009

Want a special gift for a mystery lover? Want to see your own name in print? Saltspring Island, a small gulf island off British Columbia's west coast and two ferries from the mainland, has an amazing artistic life. To support the art centre there will be a Treasure Fair, the ninth annual, along with a live auction on July 16-18.

One of the items for sale is a naming opportunity in my third book - A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN - due out in the spring of 2010. This would be a great gift to help a great organization and I promise I won't make the winner the victim…you won't end up in a pool of blood from a knife to the heart.

To place a bid contact    treasurefair@artspring.ca

Ottawa, June 7/09

Well, not only didn't I win an Arthur Ellis for best first novel - I nearly got taken out by a chip wagon. How Canadian is that, eh - a loser run over by a chip wagon? A Red Green moment!

After I crawled over the curb and picked the French fries out of my hair we went to the war memorial and the tomb of the unkown soldier. I hadn't expected it to be so moving. I actually found myself crying. I found the images of the female nurses, walking along beside the men, particularly gripping. They could have stayed at home, no one expected anything of them, but they went anyway. Losing an award and being chased down by a red fry truck isn't worth a second of the misery they went through. It puts the world in proper prospective and tells us how truly blessed we are.

This afternoon, three of us are going for a cruise on the canal and having dinner at an Irish pub. Tomorrow we leave for Hamilton, home, and a chance to catch up with family and friends. Thank goodness Hamilton doesn't allow those silly wagons driven by maniacs.

Salt Spring Island, May 31, 2009

Yesterday was a great day at Victoria Library - panels all day on writing. I was on a panel talking about settings, a subject I'm passionate about. It really is the skeleton for the story. People seemed very interested and it's always lovely to meet people who write -plus I never get tired of talking about the art of writing. We leave Weds for Ottawa and the Arthur Ellis Awards dinner for the Crime Writers of Canada. Margarita Nights is short listed for the best first novel. Actually not looking forward to sitting there waiting for the envelope to be opened…nerve wracking, but I am looking forward to meeting everyone, some new people and some I've met before.

It's hard to leave Salt Spring at this time of year. Everything is blooming, the rhododendrons are spectacular and the ditches are full of wild roses and broom. On the golf course there are the tiniest blue butterflies hovering over the grass, no bigger than the first joint on your little finger.

I haven't been working, going through one of those dry periods but after having completed ten novels I know it isn't anything to worry about. I've just finished the rough draft of the 4th Sherri Travis book and it needs some time to settle before I start reworking it.

Tomorrow I have a radio interview from Halifax. I pray I don't go off on a tangent or say something really dumb, both possible scenarios. You never know before the interview what they are going to ask you so I always prepare a cheat sheet for myself, gives me a few things I feel confident about speaking on. So far it has worked and I've always been asked one of the subjects I've prepped.

Time to do a little gardening before we leave.

May 4, 2009, Salt Spring Island

Louise Penny has just won the Agatha best novel for THE CRUELEST MONTH. I'm delighted for Louise but there's something extra in my joy. Let me explain.

The Crime Writer's of the UK have an award called the Debut Dagger which is open to any unpublished mystery writer in the world. The only stipulation is you must write in English. In 2004 there were almost 900 entries. Two Canadians made the short-list of 12, Louise Penny and Phyllis Smallman. Louise got the honourable mention and went on to get published while I worked away on a new book.

Louise belonged to the Crime Writer's of Canada (while I didn't even know there was such a thing) and when she returned to Canada she suggested to them that they have a similar contest. In Jan. 2007 I received an e-mail from the Debut Dagger people saying, look what our runner up has done. The contest closed in two weeks. My entry was in the mail that day and in the end, I did win the first ever Unhanged Arthur Ellis award in June 2007. Along with a fellow hanging from a gallows came a reading by Louise's Canadian publisher, McArthur and Co., Toronto.

And that's how I came to be published…thanks to Louise and the CWC. I never met Louise until June 2008 and when I did I burst into tears. It was a very poignant moment for me. Louise looked mystified, as in, "Who is this crazy person?" I'm really very grateful to her and very emotional at her win. Our books couldn't be more different, our characters are from different worlds, but for Louise and I, well, I like to think there is a special connection and her success gives me hope for the future, although for me the dream has already come true.

Have a happy Spring!

April 25 - Great News

MARGARITA NIGHTS
has just been short listed for the Arthur Ellis award for best first novel by the Crime Writers of Canada.

The timing couldn't be better. The second book in the Sherri Travis series, SEX IN A SIDECAR will be in the stores next week.

This makes me the poster child for never giving up on your dreams. "Yes, Virginia, dreams do come true."

Best,

Phyllis

Salt Spring Island - April 2009

On April 25 I will be conducting a workshop at Salt Spring Library. I love doing these workshops because it allows me to meet other people as passionate about writing as I am. And there are so many writers on this island. The workshop was full within 48 hours of the sign up sheet being posted so a second list was started for the overflow, a second workshop in May. Twenty writers on an island of 10,000 people - and that's only the unpublished writers willing or able to come out for two hours on a Saturday. How many people are out there writing? I'm more and more convinced the numbers are enormous. Everywhere I go I meet people who are writing journals, blogs, family history, poetry and, yes, even novels. Story telling is innate to human beings. Each and every one of us is a storyteller with our own unique voice and plot. Think of it, everything the world knows about you comes from the stories you tell about yourself or those told about you by other people - whether they're true or false. "You'll never guess what happened to me last night…" the daily rhythm of life, somewhere along the road is turned into fiction. Why some of us are content to tell our stories over dinner while others look for a larger audience, well that's the mystery. Can't wait to hear what's waiting for me on Saturday, it's never disappointing.

March 7, 2009 Salt Spring Island


Spring, hovering on the edge of winter, with geese, the sound of the changing seasons, breaking the silence of dawn on Salt Spring Island. In Duncan the marshes are filling with waterfowl, hundreds of geese, swans and ducks while around the harbour in Nanaimo the grass is sporting crocuses - spring is birthing in all colors of life in the Gulf Islands. And today there is more snow, the big fluffy kind that falls straight down, blanketing the violets.

March 29, 2009
As my friend David quipped, "Time runs away like Bernie Madoff with other people's money." It certainly did. I got distracted and never finished my post and now I can't remember where I was going with it but spring seems to have arrived without any help from me.


February 2009/ Salt Spring Island

Inspiration is the strangest thing. At the end of one long day and evening - after breakfast, golf, drinks and dinner - and more drinks on the lanai - a friend said, "Call in the dogs and piss on the fire, it's time to go home."

Those words hung around, to amuse and bedevil me, and out of that was born And A Brewski For The Old Man, the third Sherri Travis mystery. At the time I didn't have a character that might use those words so I brought Sherri's father back into her life. I was going to make those his dying words - now wouldn't they be absolutely the best words to exit the world with- but I fell in love with Tully Jenkins and couldn't kill him. Instead I sent Tully and Sherri deep in the swamp to exact justice on some very bad people.

This is my favorite Sherri Travis mystery, the one I feel closest to. It tells the story of the return to Jacaranda of Ray John Leenders, the man who abused Sherri when she was young. Back in town, he's living with a woman with a teenage daughter. Sherri doesn't want to get involved; it's none of her business - except - except she knows the woman and her daughter and it's impossible to stay uninvolved.

From murder to alligator poaching, Sherri weaves her way through people with guns and nature that kills - thank you for the inspiration, John.