Welcome to my blog. I write the acclaimed Meg Harris Mystery series set in the wilds of Quebec. While I'm not exactly a diligent blogger, I'll try to keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings in the Meg Harris Mystery series, on events I'm attending and anything else that takes my fancy.
Your last chance before Christmas to buy signed copies of mysteries by your favourite Ottawa crime writers. On Tuesday, Dec. 21 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 come to the Ottawa Citizen at 1101 Baxter Road in Ottawa. Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, Brenda Chapman, C.B. Forrest and I will be joining Randall Denley in a Christmas crime novel extravaganza. This is your chance to buy copies of their latest books that are already sold out in area stores. Hope to see you there.
I’ve just come in from an invigorating walk through the season’s first snow. Even though it is a rather meager amount, just enough to obliterate November’s depressing greyness, I still get a thrill out of tramping through its pristine whiteness. If it were deeper I would be tempted to make snow angels. Sterling, our young standard poodle, found it equally thrilling, as he leapt, bounded and kicked up waves of frothy white. His muzzle was soon encased in the frosty stuff, as he discovered the benefits of eating it.
And with the first snow comes the reminder that we aren’t the only ones inhabiting this vast Quebec wilderness. The fox, who unbeknownst to us likes to include our bird feeder in his rounds, is now fully revealed by his tracks. Similarly the horseshoe hares we never see lurking under the spruce trees, except that is for the one Sterling flushed last week, suddenly become numerous as their tracks crisscross the whiteness in front of us. We only know a moose paid us an overnight visit by the tracks he left behind. Tracks in the snow can also foretell disaster, like the time I saw a wolf track along side that of a deer. Although I didn’t come across the deer carcass, I have come across them at other times, while out skiing the trails in the surrounding forest. Invariably a chill runs down my spine as I glance around to see if there are any watching eyes.
The one track that always makes me smile is that of the otter. His long sliding path through deep snow suggests he is having the time of his life as he slides down an embankment. One time I came across an intermittent sliding pattern through a fresh dusting of snow covering an iced-over lake. In between the slides were a couple of rows of paw tracks. Clearly the animal had been scampering over the ice to gather speed, then off he went sliding over its smooth surface. When he came to a stop he repeated the fun and did this for quite a few times. I would have loved to been there watching, except my presence probably would’ve ended his fun.
These photos are from past winters, but if I come across an interesting set of tracks this winter, I will post the photo.
Launching a book can be a little scary and it can also be lots of fun.For months, only your eyes read your creation as you nurse it through the ups and downs to fruition. Then you pass it around to a chosen few for their first take and wait with baited breath for their verdict. After more massaging, your treasured words pass under the critical eye of your editor and publisher, who invariably come up with more improvements.Finally it is deemed fit for printing and out into the big wide world it is launched.
As an author you just can’t sit back nervously biting your nails, waiting for the reviews to come in, for readers to comment and for the sales to climb. You have to help it along. So you have a formal launch to which you invite the world and you go on a book tour.
I thought you might enjoy some pictures from the 2006 launch of the 2nd Meg Harris mystery, Red Ice For a Shroud.That fall I joined forces with Barbara Frakin who was launching her 5th Inspector Green mystery, Honour Among Men and Rick Blechta, who was launching When Hell Freezes Over.
Over five weekends in October and November, the three of us travelled all over Eastern and Southern Ontario, spending Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in bookstores, Chapters and independents, usually two stores per day. At times it got confusing trying to remember which town we were in, particularly when doing Chapter signings. Like any big box store, one Chapter looks like another. Although I prefer the individuality of the independent bookstore, they don’t always bring in the traffic. Sadly, two of the mystery stores we visited have since closed, one in Kingston and the other in Waterloo.
I also learned about the vagaries of book distribution to big box stores.Even though my book had been out for several weeks it still hadn’t made its way from the Chapters distribution centre to the individual stores, so for the first weekend of signings, I was forced to lug boxes of books into the stores.
One of the highlights for me was having a reader rush up with the just published Globe & Mail review of Red Ice for a Shroud in hand all excited that I was in the store to sign the book. Another highlight was Rick cooking us a scrumptious chicken cacciatore the night we spent at Barbara’s cottage.
Despite the hectic nature of the tour, mind you most tours are probably hectic, it proved very worthwhile and I believe helped expand the readership of the Meg Harris mystery series to a wider audience. I also discovered that doing a tour with other authors was a lot of fun. So for my fourth book, Arctic Blue Death I did a similar book tour, this time to the Maritimes, with Vicki Delany.
For the upcoming A Green Place for Dying, I haven’t quite decided yet what I’ll do, but since I will be out in B.C. in June for Bloody Words, I will be organizing some store signings in Vancouver and Victoria. I’ll keep you posted, when and where.
I'm very excited to show you the cover for the next Meg Harris mystery, A Green Place for Dying. As you can see the theme of this book is green. I even include a brief visit from a popular Ottawa detective with a similar name, star of another Canadian mystery series.
A Green Place for Dying is about a growing issue in Canada, that of missing aboriginal women. Currently there are over 580 missing and murdered women and little is being done about it. Sisters in Spirit, an organization associated with Native Women’s Association of Canada has been spear heading a movement to raise awareness of this alarmingly high number in an attempt to ignite police and other authorities into action. In my own small way, I hope by making missing native women the central theme of this book, that I too might contribute to the raising of its profile.
In A Green Place for Dying, Meg returns to Three Deer Point, her wilderness home in West Quebec, to discover that the daughter of a friend has been missing from the Migiskin Reserve for over two months. Treating her as a runaway, the police refuse to do little more than a nominal search and continue to stall even when the girl’s friend turns up murdered.
As the mother struggles with her daughter’s disappearance, Meg vows to do what she can to find her and in the process uncovers an underside of life she would rather not know existed. But the search takes a turn, which forces Meg to finally face her own demons and admit to the guilt she’s been hiding since a teenager.
A Green Place for Dying is due out next Spring and I’m looking forward to meeting you on another round of book events and store signings.
I’ve been enjoying the changing parade of photos that are displayed on my computer’s desktop. Many bring back fond memories. This photo, in particular, brought back one very memorable magic moment.
Jim and I, along with several of our hiking buddies, had spent the day hiking along the high ridge of the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec. Sated after a delicious dinner at the hut where we were spending the night, the group of us had gone down to the water’s edge to admire the spectacular sunset. The night was still, the water calm. A perfect evening for absorbing the land’s tranquility.
But a sudden gasp told us we were not alone. The water rippled. A white nose poked above the surface, sent out a puff of spray and sank back into the water.Another joined it and then another. Soon there were several places where the flat, red-reflected water was breaking into rippling concentric circles.
There was only one mammal they could be; the Saguenay Fjord’s famous beluga whale. For the next long while the group of us sat transfixed as several pods of the small white whales fed in the water in front of us. We daren’t utter a word in case we disturbed them. As the red sun sank behind the distant shore, they fed. The only sound was the expulsion of their breath as they broke the surface to breath.
Only when the coolness of the night arrived did we move, while the belugas continued to feed.
It was a treasured moment, one that will always be with us.
I’ve added a few more photos from that spectacular 4 day hike along the north ridge of the Saguenay Fjord.
Summer is over and I’m back in the groove with several events in the offing. In between I will be busily finalizing the next Meg Harris mystery, A Green Place for Dying, to be published next spring.
This Saturday, September 18, I’ll be at the Lyndhurst Turkey Fair held in Lyndhurst, Ontario, north of Kingston, off hwy 15. I’ll be hanging out in the back room of the Lyndhurst Library from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm with fellow writers; Rick Blechta, Susan Gates, Violette Malan, Sue Pike, Mary Mueller and Mike Harper. If you’re in the area please drop by and say hello and even buy a book or two.
The following weekend on the Sunday, I’ll be doing something I really enjoy, attending a book club meeting at Mont Cascades, Quebec. I love meeting readers and discussing my books with them.
On Saturday, October 16, I’ll be at the Thousand Island Writers Festival being held in Brockville, Ontario. This is the second year of the 2-day festival and given the exciting line-up of authors, including Charlotte Gray, Helen Humphreys, Roy MacSkimming and of course moi ;), it promises to be a terrific event. I’ll be on from 2:00 pm to 5:00 with fellow crime writers, Janet Kellough and John Moss. Our event, called “Words and Wine II” Murder at the Courthouse is being held in the turn-of-the-century Brockville Courthouse, a rather fitting place to be discussing murder, eh?
As promised in my previous post, here are the photos of our 11 day canoe trip down the Upper Thelon River in the Northwest Territories. Ten of us, including me and my husband, Jim, and our guide Alex Hall of Canoe Arctic, took off from Fort Smith in 3 float planes and flew north-east for a little over two hours to a small lake north of the tree line, where we spent our first night in The Barrens.
The Barrens is a vast, empty land of arctic tundra, mostly flat with water making up at least 50% of an area that covers thousands of square miles stretching eastward from Great Slave Lake to Hudson’s Bay and northward to the Arctic Ocean. We were easily two hundred and fifty miles from the nearest habitation and wouldn’t see another human being for the entire trip or even a suggestion that someone else was sharing the river with us.
For the next ten days, we paddled along the mostly smooth, sometimes windy and occasionally turbulent waters of this great northern river as it passed through large expansive lakes or narrowed between banks of sand, stone and tundra. We portaged five times, averaging a kilometre in length, around rapids and one dramatic falls. We camped out on the open tundra in the full glare of the northern sun. Several nights we camped amongst the stunted trees of eskers, the sandy remnants of glacial riverbeds from the last Ice Age. In total we paddled a little less than a hundred miles.
While we saw only a few animals; one caribou, some fox kits and a cow moose and calf, we saw lots of birds, including arctic terns, wimbrels, parasitic jaegers, bald eagles, Bonaparte’s gulls, Canada geese, common loons, red throated loons, a yellow billed loon, willow ptarmigan, Harris sparrows and Lapland longspurs to name a few.
I must not forget to mention the weather, after all I’m Canadian. It was fabulously hot and sunny for all but one day of rain and another windy, cold day that reminded us that we were indeed North of 60.
By the way, I must've killed a million black flies.
And if you think this canoe trip won't provide fodder for another Meg Harris murder mystery, think again... I am, after all, a crime writer. :)
You can see the photos here. And if you want to learn more about our trip, please read the previous post.
Summer has come to a sudden chilly end with a cold drenching rain. I even put a fire on last night to banish the chill from the air. But what a glorious summer it has been. Endless days of hot, lazy, sun, one for the memory banks. And I got to do what I love best, roaming the Great Canadian Outdoors.
I spent three weeks with my husband north of sixty in the Northwest Territories, a week and a half of that paddling through the Barrens on one of the great northern rivers, the Thelon. A memorable experience shared with eight other paddlers, including our guide, Alex Hall, a man who has spent more than thirty-five years paddling the Barrens intricate waterways.
It was our first time in this vast empty world of big sky, tundra, rock, sand and water with only the occasional fringe of stunted trees and we were in awe. Rising hills of golden sandy eskers shone in the sun. Arctic terns cavorted around us. Flocks of geese fled at our sight. A lone caribou watched transfixed as we silently sliced through the water towards it. Paddling through crystal clear water, over shimmering green water grasses wavering in the river’s strong current, like the tresses of some mythical mermaid.
We often came across the tracks and spore of animals that had tread before us; wolves, caribou, moose, muskoxen, fox and geese. We even found the occasional set of bleached caribou antlers. But only twice did we see evidence that man had once roamed this barren land and these were old, very old; an ancient stone caribou fence more than a thousand years old, a prehistoric stone arrow and tent poles at least a couple of hundred years old. This is not a land where man can easily survive and in years past the few that tried often starved to death. But today no one lives in the thousands of square kilometers that make up the Barrens.
It takes a long time for wood to decay in the sub-arctic, the same way that it takes a very long time for plants to grown. In the harsh climate, where winter reigns 8 months of the year, a hundred year old tree is less than 10 feet tall with its trunk only 4 inches thick and plants are only a few inches high. But they sure can produce fabulous berries. We snacked on bearberries, cloudberries, bill berries, crowberries and cranberries. It was a veritable feast.
Sadly we saw only a handful of animals. Ten years ago these lands overflowed with the 200,000 strong Beverly herd of caribou. Today it is estimated less than 2,000 survive and no one knows why. They only know that few young are being born or are surviving to adulthood. And with the decline of the caribou comes the decline of the arctic wolf. We’d also hoped to see the mythical muskoxen that have made these Barren lands their home since prehistoric times, but again we saw none. But we don’t know whether it was because their numbers are down too or they were just being shy.
We’d come prepared for chilly arctic weather and were warmed by hot southern temperatures instead. It was rather nice, except it did bring out the bugs. And if there was one aspect of the trip I didn’t like it was the bugs, relentless, ravenous, flesh eating blackflies that forced us to flee to our tent or encase ourselves in bug juice and bug jackets. They crawled over everything and flew into every orifice and cranny. They were awful. Only on the open water were we really free of them.
But the white nights were magical. At 9:00 at night, the sun was still high in the sky. By 10:30 it was setting only to return at around 3:30 a.m. It never really got dark, just a greyish twilight. Needless to say we made little use of the headlamps we’d brought.
I have loads of photos and when I finally manage to upload them to an album I will do a link. Until then enjoy one of my favourites taken at around 3:30 a.m. of a setting full moon in the pink sky of the rising sun.
I'm off to Toronto this coming week to attend two of the most significant crime writers events in Canada. It starts off with the annual Arthur Ellis awards dinner on Thursday night, May 27, where I shall be trying to enjoy myself without thinking too much on the culmination of the evening, the announcement for this year's winner for Best Novel! Tickets can still be bought online.
But I almost forgot, before I even get to the dinner, CBC Ottawa's All in a Day radio show will be interviewing me on my nomination for the award.
Then on Friday Bloody Words 2010, Canada's most prestigious crime writing conference, begins with a welcoming reception at 5:30, then I'm off to my panel at 8:00. Titled 'Where the Wild Things Are' we'll be discussing detecting far away from the mean streets of the urban sprawl.
At 10:00 pm is the big 10th anniversary celebration. That's right, Bloody Words is ten years old and I was there at the first one held in Toronto in 1999. Despite the sweltering heat of that first one, which was held at the un-air-conditioned Arts & Letters Club, I thoroughly enjoyed it and have attended every conference since.
Next morning if there is still room, I hope to participate in the inaugural Author Speed Dating. Mirrored on the Malice Domestic Author-Go-Round, it promises to be great fun and a chance for you to meet new authors and reacquaint yourself with ones you know and love.
And then I get to relax and enjoy the many exciting panels scheduled for the rest of the day.
I always have a terrific time at the conference, renewing my acquaintance with fans, meeting new ones and schmoozing with my fellow authors.
If you haven't already signed up, you can at the door. I hope to see you there.
On May 20th I am heading out to the wilds of Ontario to participate in a library event. Well.. it might not be exactly wild, but the Elgin branch of the Rideau Lakes Library is in the gorgeous cottage country of the Rideau Lakes. I'll be joined by Barbara Fradkin and Violette Malan. It starts at 7:00 pm and in addition to us reading and discussing our books, Sue Pike is bringing brownies and I love brownies.... and maybe you do too.
I'm heading off to the Malice Domestic conference in Arlington Va. tomorrow with my car loaded up once again with fellow crime writers, Vicki Delany and Mary Jane Maffini and my poor suffering husband. It promises to be a whirlwind of a conference starting with the Author-Go-Round 10:00 on Friday morning. I've done this before and it's always a great hoot. Gives you a chance to spread the word about your books and to meet new readers. Then on Sunday at 11:40, I'll be participating in the panel Town and Country: how setting affects the story, a topic I particularly love. Book signings will take place afterwards. So if you are attending the conference be sure to drop by and say hello.
The three of us then drive to Oakmont PA to participate in the Festival of Mystery on Monday, May 3 from 4:00 until I don't know when, maybe when the books sell out. This event is put on annually by Mystery Lovers Bookshop. Tickets are available for $7 on online or at the door for $8. There are going to be over 40 authors, all frantically signing their books.
I'm thrilled to announced that Arctic Blue Death has just been shortlisted for the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel, Canada's pre-eminent award for crime fiction. The winner will be announced in Toronto on May 27 at the annual awards dinner. Needless to say I'm absolutely overjoyed with this recognition of the many long hours spent in front of a computer creating the world of Meg Harris. And feel particularly honoured to be in the company of such great writers as Anthony Bidulka, Lee Lamonthe, James W. Nichol and Howard Shrier.
Ottawa's Arthur Ellis shortlist event is happening this Thursday, April 22 at 7:00 pm. Please note the change in time from my earlier blog. I will be joining Brenda Chapman, Tom Henighan and Brian McIllop on the hot seat as we're grilled by journalist Kate Jaimet about our penchant for killing off people, by words that is. It takes place at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library on Metcalfe St.
But of course we are only the lead up to the main event, the announcement of the shortlists for this year's Arthur Ellis Awards. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that some of my favourite writers will be nominated.
The evening will end with the shortlist announcement for the Audrey Jessup Award for Best Short Story, a local award given out annually by Capital Crime Writers.
One of the reasons why Arctic Blue Death is set in Canada’s far north is because I’ve always wanted to go there. So when I was deciding the plot and setting for the 4th Meg Harris mystery, I thought what better way to see it than to have Meg go there. That way I get to go too.
A couple of years ago, during the longest days of the year, I hopped on a plane and flew to Iqaluit, where I spent several intriguing days and then onto Pangnirtung for a couple of more. Although I was a little more than seven days on Baffin Island, I came away with more than enough material, impressions and plot ideas to keep Meg busy.
It’s a harsh and brutal land and it took me awhile to appreciate its underlying beauty. As Meg keeps telling herself, I had to put aside my southern sensibilities and see beyond the dirt and barren rock to what the land had to offer. And for me, that was the people. I met some very kind and wonderful people both in Iqaluit and Pangnirtung that helped give me some insight of what it is like to live in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet.
On the longest day of the year I was in Pangnirtung where the sun doesn’t set, but runs just below the mountain ridge on the southern shore for an hour or so before popping back up again. No one seemed to sleep, including me. In fact at any hour of the ‘white night’ people, including kids, would be seen out walking or playing.
When I’d flown to Iqaluit, I’d had a vague idea for a plot. I knew it would be about Meg’s father, who’d died while traveling in the Arctic when she was a child, but I wasn’t sure how he had died. I just knew that something related to his death would prompt her to go to Baffin Island. While I was being shown the Iqaluit RCMP detachment by a young constable, she happened to mention one of her cold case files. It had to do with a plane that had gone missing over 20 years ago and was never seen again. The minute she said the words “missing plane” the light bulb went on. I knew I could do a lot with a missing plane and I have in Arctic Blue Death.
To learn more about my research trip to Baffin read the November 2009 issue of Mystery Scene Magazine in which I talk about my trip and how it influenced the shaping of Arctic Blue Death.
I also took many photos, some of which I include below. But I’ve also set up an album, so click here to access the album.
The busy spring season is about to begin. On Thursday, April 22, I'll be participating in Capital Crime Wave, Ottawa's Arthur Ellis short list event. I, along with Brenda Chapman, Linda Wiken and Brian McKillop will be grilled by Ottawa lawyer, Kate Jaimet. It promises to be great fun. And of course we will all be anxiously awaiting the short list for this year's Arthur Ellis nominees. It starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.
Then a week later, I head off to Washington, D.C., well actually Arlington, Va., for Malice Domestic, which runs from Apr. 29-May 1. It will be my third visit to a conference I always enjoy. The conference also gives me a chance to meet up with old friends I haven't seen since our diplomatic days in Washington in the 1980's. I'm quite looking forward to it.
On Monday, May 3rd, I will join a host of other mystery writers at Festival of Mystery held every year by Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pa. I attended a couple of years ago and couldn't believe the rush of avid mystery readers intent on snatching up the latest books. It was a very busy couple of hours.
At the end of May, I will be in Toronto for Canada's own Bloody Words Conference. I've been attending since that hot, steamy weekend, when the event began with great fanfare in the illustrious halls of the Arts and Letters Club in 1999. So this year there will be much celebration. And even though the venue quickly shifted to the air conditioned comfort of hotels, it has kept its uniquely Canadian format. It takes place from May 28-30 at the downtown Hilton Hotel. Don't miss this opportunity to mingle with Canada's popular crime writers. Sign up now.
I've had to set up a new blog, because my old one uses an outdated format that Blogger will no longer support. Unfortunately my old entries will be lost, but anything I think would be of interest to you I will include in this new blog. If there is a particular entry that you liked let me know. The old one will exist until the end of April.
It may take me awhile to get this fully up and going as I'm trying to fit this into my busy writing schedule, so please be patient.