Friday, February 26, 2010


I just came across this review on (learned of it via Google Alerts):
It's a fun and well-written review... and it's a very favourable review - here's an excerpt:

"Edmondson has a sharp and sassy style that’s deliberately not patterned noir, but a fresh and contemporary approach perfectly suited to her characters. It’s a remarkable first novel."

A great way to start the weekend!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writing Column from today's Globe and Mail - Russell Smith

This is a neat article on what advice established authors have for aspiring writers.  Lots of it, it seems.  Interestingly (but not surprisingly), much of the advice is contradictory.  Hmmm...  what works for you?

Click The Writing Advice Industry to read the article.

I read a few books on writing when I began my first manuscript.  I came across many valuable tidbits.  I also came across a lot of drek, or at least advice that didn't seem like it would suit my needs/plot/personality (especially being told to write everyday, set aside an hour a day, etc... For me, long chunks of time - ten hours on a Sunday, for example, works best, but I digress...)

What I did find helpful, though, and I mean really helpful, was reading books on how to get published, how to query an agent/publisher, how to prepare a manuscript, and similar topics. 

I think each writer's voice is unique, as is each writer's story.  But we all work within the same industry (a surprisingly small one at that), and learning about the techniques and tricks to get your ms or query noticed was immensely valuable.  It also yeilded results.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


When you're first starting out in a field or when you're learning something completely new, it's almost as if you're stumbling around in the dark.  You don't know what's out there, you don't know what questions to ask, you don't know where to get information.

Throughout the whole experience of completing my first manuscript, shopping it around, landing a contract, and having "Blood and Groom" published, I have been on one helluva learning curve!  I am amazed at all the things I didn't know, and at all the resources available.

A great starting point to get a ton of information is with the Writers' Union of Canada.  Their webpage has links about festivals, writing organizations, residencies and so on.  Check it out at:

Another equally valuable resource is the Writers' Trust of Canada.  It also has information on and links to events, contests, and other items of interest to writers.  Check it out at:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Author Interview: Dorothy McIntosh

Hey mystery fans!  Here's a heads-up on an author to watch.  Dorothy McIntosh has signed a three book deal with Penguin for her Mesopotamian trilogy!  Dorothy is represented by the Bukowski Agency , and Dorothy is also actively involved in Crime Writers of Canada.   

Here's the interview!

1. You have a BA in English from the University of Toronto. What areas of literature did you most enjoy studying?

Amid rather intensive partying, student politics and other diversions, recalling all the literature I studied is a bit of a challenge! I loved the great English novelists and attended memorable lectures from Adrienne Clarkson on them. Thomas Hardy – a huge favourite, George Eliot and Dickens. Closer to the contemporary, D.H. Lawrence and F. Scott Fitzgerald were notable. I recently re-read The Great Gatsby and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and found them spellbinding all over again.

2. Next question – and surely you saw this coming – which areas of literature did you least enjoy studying?

I do remember having trouble with the antiquated language and syntax of earlier English authors. Edmund Spenser and John Milton would be two examples. I regret this now especially because I missed out on the great body of classic knowledge they opened doors to and now find that it’s very relevant to my writing.

3. You’ve obviously been a bookworm for many years, but what about the leap from reading to writing? Has writing been a life-long passion or dream?

From grade school on I loved writing poetry and essays but I had a real talent for drawing and painting and always assumed I would become a professional artist. Those plans faded when I had my daughter and started a planning career with City Hall. From time to time throughout that period I’d try my hand at writing but it was much more fantasy than practical reality. Being a single parent with a full time job simply did not leave me enough space to “write.” Only when I left my job could I fully concentrate on a new career and by then I knew with certainty that I wanted to become a “painter” of words on the printed page rather than on canvas.

4. You have had some early success with short stories (Hounds of Winter 2007, and A View To Die For). What was the most challenging thing about writing a full length novel?

There are so many challenging aspects to writing a novel it’s hard to pick just one out. For Hounds I do remember  the literally dozens of revisions I made to the original story and thinking at the time, well, I could never do this for a full length novel! Well guess what, I’ve lost count of the number of revisions The Witch of Babylon has gone through at this point. That requires stamina and perseverance. And you end up only seeing trees and completely lose sight of the forest. A debut author must carry through all that without any certainty the words will find a home with a publisher.  I’d also mention that cranking out a first draft, for me, is one of the single most difficult tasks. Apparently Jack London’s drafts were virtually ready for publication – the man was a genius!

5. Did you have a clear vision from the start that this would be a trilogy?

The Witch of Babylon focuses on Mesopotamian mythology so there is a certain logic to three books, each devoted to one of the great Mesopotamian cultures: Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian. That said, the more concrete idea for a trilogy tended to arise organically as I was writing Book One.

6. Now what about history meets mystery? Have you always been a history buff? 

Short answer? No. In fact it’s a case of “mystery meets history.” I’ve developed a strong interest in history due in part to all the historical mysteries I’ve read which do a brilliant job of making “history” come alive. A central premise of The Witch of Babylon is that myths originate with real events but their meaning changes over time depending on which culture communicates the myth. The original Sumerian story of Cain and Abel for example, differs significantly from the Judaic one. It was, in fact, an interest in mythology that first spurred my interest – adding the historical detail came much later.

7. Which authors do you think had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

For the most exceptional writing that I could never hope to emulate but am inspired by: Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses), Anne Michaels (Fugitive Pieces), Rawi Hage (De Niro`s Game), Jean Rys (The Wide Sargasso Sea) and Lawrence Durell (The Alexandra Quartet). I love poetic writing. Equally and closer to our genre - James M. Cain (Double Indemnity), Cornell Woolrich (The Night Has A Thousand Eyes), Richard Neely (Shattered), J.G. Ballard (The Drowned World).

8. In one sentence, how would you describe The Witch of Babylon?

What is the link between the ancient science of Alchemy, an Old Testament prophetic book and the great Assyrian empire – New York art dealer John Madison must uncover the secret or forfeit his life.

9. How do you research your novels?

Three words: Google, Google, Google. An absolute gold mine for any researcher; would be lost without it.

10. What is your writing routine?

I get up every day at 6 a.m., and armed with a strong cup of coffee, sit at my desk and churn out 3000 words then quit six hours later.   Ha! That is the ideal of course – in my case an absolute fabrication. If I told you my real writing routine you’d faint.

11. With whom do you share early drafts of your manuscripts? What kinds of feedback did you receive?

With my agent, close friends and my writing group. All provided excellent guidance on credibility gaps, writing style, characterization, plot points and more generally whether they felt compelled to turn those pages.

12. Every novelist has a half-written, unfinished manuscript tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Do you have any early works that you’ve orphaned, and if so why? The second part to this question is whether or not you’ll ever try to rescue an older, abandoned project?

I have one long abandoned manuscript and whenever I feel the need for a really good laugh, I take it out of the drawer. On the second question, I have several incubating short stories I’d like to get back to some time. I find the gaps of time allow me to see what’s good about them and where they need improvement more clearly. I do intend to finalize them in the future.

12. This last question may seem banal, but, really, I want to know, how has the whole Mesopotamian experience felt?  How has it changed your life (and don’t say it hasn’t because a three book deal is a doozy – every writer’s dream)?  Surely the roller coaster – from winning the Unhanged Arthur Award – to signing with Penguin – has been head spinning. Tell me about it.

I think 'head-spinning' is a very accurate description. I attended lots of ‘how to get published’seminars on the long trajectory to complete  this novel and by the time I had a respectable manuscript, the prospect of getting published seemed harder than sprinting up Mount Everest.  The first glimmer of the snow-white summit occurred when I was short listed by the estimable Crime Writers Association UK for the Debut Dagger.  Eureka moment! Things changed radically after that. I began working with a literary agent and won the Unhanged. Penguin’s endorsement arrived followed by sales to major publishers in Germany, Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Serbia and Bulgaria.

I can only say it’s been truly euphoric at times. Great luck to work with a consummate literary agent and a really skilful editor. Gratitude for all those who’ve helped me. I’ve gained a lot of confidence but I must point out, the jury awaits. The only test that really matters is whether the reading audience gives The Witch of Babylon gains their stamp of approval. That is ahead.

And there we have it folks!  Thank you Dorothy!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bleeeep!!! The F-word

One of the first reviews of "Blood and Groom" was posted on the Dorothy L listserv by Don Longmuir of Scene of the Crime books.  It was a nice review, rather complimentary, except for one thing (sort of):  Longmuir mentioned that there were some, ahem, four letter words in the book.  He went on to say that the swearing wasn't gratuitous, and that it did indeed fit the character/the scene, and that the salty language didn't bother him. 

But, his comment made me wonder:  What do readers in general think of naughty words?  Do readers steer clear of effing authors who effing swear?  Do readers make alowances for four letter words when they're used by the bad guys or when naughty words clearly fit the character?  And, as a writer, would you sacrafice you voice (the character's voice) to please your audience (and your publisher)?

Just effing wondering ;-)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Famous/Funny Epitaphs

"The best is yet to come." Frank Sinatra 

"That's all, folks!" Mel Blanc

"I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter." Winston Churchill

"She did it the hard way." Bette Davis

“Curiosity did not kill this cat." Studs Terkel

"I told you so, you damned fools." H. G. Wells

Mock Epitaphs

“This is on me.” Dorothy Parker

“Pardon me for not getting up.” Ernest Hemingway

“This is all over my head.” Robert Benchley

“I knew if I stayed around long enough, something like this would happen.” George Bernand Shaw

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Conferences and Conventions

I'm starting to think about writers' conferences and convenions (and similar events)...  I have never before gone to one.  I have always wanted to go to "Bloody Words" - the one and only mystery fiction convention in Canada (usually held in Toronto).  For years, I just couldn't make it, but this time I'm in!  I've already registered and paid, and I am really looking forward to it.

But what about other conventions and conferences?  I know there are several that pertain to crime fiction, held in various milieux around the USA (Bouchercon, Killer Nashville, Sleuthfest, Left Coast Crime, and so on). 

I recognize  that conventions can be a lot of fun and a great way to network or to meet fans.  However, some of them get rather expensive, especially if you plan to attend more than just one or two.  Besides the enrty fees, there are also travle and lodging expenses, plus plus plus.

On the other hand, perhaps the connections made, or the sales generated, or the word of mouth created make it all worthwhile.

What are your own experiences with conferences and conventions?