Wednesday, April 27, 2011

He Got Into My Pants!

Hey folks, Sasha here, talking with Lindsey about men and sex and dating.  There is always so much to say on all of those subjects!  And, you never forget the first time a guy gets into your pants...

SASHA: Everyone knows that chicks worry about their weight and body image, right?

LINDSEY: Even the ones who pretend not to.  I punish myself after eating at KFC.  An hour at the gym for every drumstick...

SASHA:  I've heard some guys say they're self conscious about their weight too, and I always say not to worry.

LINDSEY:  I like a guy with a little bit of meat on him.

SASHA:  Beefy is good.  Just about every chick I know thinks so.

LINDSEY:  You don't want to feel fat or look fat next to a skinny guy.  Even if it's just his natural body type, a guy who's really lean can make you feel like a cow.

SASHA: Totally!  One of my worst experiences with that was the first night I slept with James. 

LINDSEY:  You dated him just after high school, didn't you?

SASHA: Yeah... The first time we slept together was one of those weekends when I had the house to myself.  We'd been dating for a while and I finally decided to bring him back to my place to do the nasty...

LINDSEY: And...?  What does this have to do with making you feel fat?

SASHA: We threw our clothes on the floor and had a wild, wonderful night.  We didn't bother to set the alarm, and the next morning James woke up late for work.  He pulled on his shirt and grabbed jeans from the floor.

LINDSEY: You still leave your clothes on the floor.

SASHA: Yeah, I know.  Anyhow, in his rush to get dressed and run out the door, he pulled on my jeans by mistake.  Normally, I wouldn't care about that, but they were rather loose on him.

LINDSEY: That's really not what I thought you meant when you said he got into your pants...

SASHA: I tried his on, just to see, and I really had to suck in my tummy. 

LINDSEY: That sucks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bloody Words 2011

It looks like plans are coming along smoothly for this year’s Bloody Words conference. The Bloody Gang has switched things up a bit this year: the conference will be held in Victoria, BC instead of Toronto. That should make things interesting and will perhaps bring some new attendees, whether authors, industry personnel, or fans. 

The Bloody weekend kicks off with the Arthur Ellis awards dinner on Thursday night. These awards are given to excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. The name of the award comes from the pseudonym of Canada’s last official hangman. 

Following the awesome awards party kick-off, there are many great events scheduled for the weekend. Michael Slade will be making people shiver with a blood curdling 1940s radio play and Ghost Walk (there are many angry and unsettled spirits and phantoms in Victoria... it is God’s waiting room, after all).  

The conference has some awesome guests on deck. This year’s International Guest of Honour is Tess Gerritson, author of some kick-ass medical thrillers. The Special Guest of Honour is BC’s own William Deverell, a proud Arthur Ellis winner, who will be receiving a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to Canadian crime writing. 

Bloody Words also runs the Bony Pete short story contest. This year’s winner will be published online in Monday Magazine (an alternative Victoria, BC newspaper).  

The murderous hoe-down has many other good things on deck as well: They’ll have a discussion on The Future of Publishing, a Canadian Mystery Trivia Game, a CSI Victoria workshop, a Social Media workshop, chances to meet with agents, manuscript evaluations and more.  
It’s very, very cool that we have Bloody Words. It is the only Canadian Mystery Conference and I’m glad we have it. It really does give authors and fans a chance to connect, it gives a boost to new and aspiring writers, and it gets people talking about Malice and Maple Syrup.  

Knock ’em dead!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Meth Lab, Contractors, House from Hell, and Sasha's Next Case

As some of you may know, I live in a house from hell.  It was cursed from the moment I moved in, if not long before then.  

First of all, it turned out that the house next door to mine was a meth lab.  No one in the neighbourhood suspected a thing... until the fire.  The fire happened 2 months after I moved in here.  It was 4:00 on Friday the 13th of March.  I heard screams and smashing glass, and saw flames, so I called 911.  The dude who was cooking meth ran out of the house wearing just his shorts.  He was on fire and skin was falling off him.  

Meth Dude was airlifted to a special burn victim unit in a New York hospital.  Last I heard, he was on parole awaiting the trial. 

The cops said to me at the time that if I hadn't called 911 when I did, that there were enough explosives in the meth lab to have taken out 6 or 8 houses in the vicinity.  The fire fighters and cops kept my end of teh street closed off until 3:00 pm Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the owners of the meth lab (not the dude cooking the meth) walked away from the house.  The bank now owns it, and they - along with lawyers and insurance companies - have been fighting over who's going to pay to fix it up.

It's been over two years now since the fire, and the repairs/de-contamination of the Meth House are still not done. 
(Plot idea #1)

Then, I found out that the house I had bought had been part of a mortgage fraud, a while before I bought it.  In Sept. 2007 the house sold for $160,000.  Five days later, it sold for $320,000.  The buyer who paid $320K bailed on the mortgage, and in March 2008, the bank foreclosed the mortgage and became the owner of the house.
(Plot idea #2)

Several months later, Mr. W ended up buying the house from the bank for market value.  Mr. W bought the place as a "fixer-upper".  He lived a few blocks away, and worked on this house on weekends.  Eventually, he was offered a job out of town, so he hired a contractor to finish the renovations for him.

The contractor, Mr. S. was either lacking in competence or lacking in integrity, or both. The house looked great, all shiny and new.  However, there were several "behind the scenes" problems with the home, none of which were visible when I had the home inspection. (Home inspections are supposed to be non-invasive, so they don't get to knock down plaster and see what's underneath.) 

Long story short, Mr. S. did a fly by night and was nowhere to be found when the problems became aparent.  There were many issues, and the contractor was only one of the several people involved with the renos and sale of the house who fucked up big time.  On the one hand, Mr. S did the shoddy work, but since he did not work for me (he had been hired by the guy I bought the house from), I didn't really have a lot of recourse with him.  Fast-tracking to the end of this part of the story: lawyers got involved, I got the resolution I wanted, and the house is now fixed.

Two days ago, I got a random email from a lawyer.  She asked me about contact info for Mr. S. saying that her client had given Mr. S a deposit for his work, and had paid in advance for materials, and then she never saw him again...
(Plot idea #3)

Truth really is stranger than fiction...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Character Bio: Jessica... Pickles, Cowgirls and Shoelaces


Sasha Jackson's two best friends are Lindsey and Jessica.  We don't see much of Jessica  in Blood and Groom, but she figures much more prominently in book two, Dead Light District and then makes a return appearance in book three, The Lies Have it.  

Here's a little bit more about Jessica:

Name: Jessica Molly Mercouris (Greek on my Dad's side, British on my Mom's).

Age: 32

Sign: Cancer if you mean zodiac sign.  Otherwise "Don't Feed the Animals". 

Occupation: Bartender/Waitron at The Pilot Tavern (and The Stealth Lounge above it).

Education: One year of College, studying nursing.  Dropped out.  I want to take care of people, but I just can't stand blood.  Two years in University, majoring in Psychology... I'll finish someday...Freud was really whacked, eh?  I really don't think "Little Red Riding Hood" is a rape fantasy or anxiety over menstruation.

Favourite Food: Anything without garlic.  Is there something green stuck in my teeth?

Favourite Book: Chick Lit.  Anything Chick Lit.  The forerunner of Chick Lit has to be Valley of the Dolls.  I re-read it about once a year.

Favourite Quotations:
"Pickle make squishy bookmark" -Confucius
"I'm desperately trying to figure out why kamikaze pilots wore helmets" -Dave Edison

Favourite Position: West, I like sunsets.  Oh, you mean sexual position?  Then I'd have to say Reverse Cowgirl.

Once Dumped a Guy For:  Bleaching his shoelaces.  Who bleaches their shoelaces?  Loser.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not Only Will Indies Survive, But They'll Thrive

With the news about Borders, Angus, et al filing for bankruptcy, I've been mulling over a theory I heard recently (sorry, I don't recall where or when).  The theory is that even though the book world is changing - and e-Books are a huge part of this - smaller independent stores will become more and more successful. 

How and why, you may ask? 

1.  Personalization.  Customer service is and ought to be a big part of book selling (and any other retail enterprise as well).  Being greeted by name matters.  Having a book store clerk suggest titles to you because he knows what your interests are matters. 

2.  Specialty items.  In terms of books and selling them, small stores may be able to create niches of unique book related products, such as signed copies of books.  Yes, you can get these on eBay or similar, but it's nice to be able to look at that autographed first edition and see what kind of shape it's in. 

3. Indies have freedom.  They do not have to stock and display all the titles that head office tells them to. 

4. Customers do care.  Not all customers are seduced by the convenience of the big box stores.  Many customers go to the indies precisely because they are not part of a big corporate chain.

5.  Community.  A small local bookstore is likely to be involved in its neighbourhood, schools, churches, book clubs and so on.  People like this.

Here are links to three articles that explore the topic of Indies vs. Chains: 

The Winnipeg Free Press

Associated Content

Forest Bookshop

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guys: This is Why You're Still Single

Really Unsexy First Dates

Sasha’s standards are notoriously low, but even so, some things that guys do are just unforgivable on a first date.

Men: make note of these comments and keep them in mind next time you’re trying to impress the ladies...

1. The Baseball Cap. Unless you’re a fourteen year old boy, or unless the first date is actually going to see a baseball game, lose the cap. There may be some times when the cap is acceptable outdoors, but not indoors. Unsexy. It’s awkward to kiss a guy with the peak of his hat poking you in the eyes.

2. The Door.  It may well be that the days of ladies first, holding the door open, and all that are long gone, but still... The guy probably shouldn’t walk through the door first and then let it swing shut behind him. Just saying...

3. Her Coat. Yes, she can put on her own coat, but why not hold it out for her and be a gentleman? No doubt about it: This will score you some points.

4. Showing Off.  Bragging about your car/house/investments or whatever will only impress the kind of chick who is only interested in your for those things and nothing more. Water sinks to its own level.

5. Lothario/Don Juan Boasting.  Talking about your prowess in bed is tacky, presumptuous, a waste of your time... and every girl knows that it is sure to lead to disappointment. Women know that a guy who has to brag about it can’t actually deliver. And you’ll need to stock up on Viagra.

6. The One Word Text.  Sending her the one word text message. Are you a caveman? Can you not think of anything to say to her or to ask her beyond a one word text? And just what is it that makes a guy think that one word is enough to capture her interest? Unless it’s a big, cool word like sesquipedalian, don’t even bother to send it. It’ll just annoy her.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fancy Book Learning Stuff & Talking About Dicks

Today was the fourth and final post in the "Mysteries and More" blog run by Bill Selnes.  It's been fun reading Bill's two reviews, plus doing the Q & A with him, and then the follow-up discussion. 

I miss being a nerdy academic!  I had a lot of fun doing my MA.  I did a lot of work on detective fiction in general, and women in crime fiction in particular.  I'm not really into the "cozy" types of mysteries - hardboiled was more my thing.  So... I did a great deal of reserach on the hardboiled gumshoe when I was working on my Master's, and I loved every minute of it.  (By the way, I did my MA online via Athabasca University - awesome experience!!!!) 

In Bill's fourth and final post, he comments on some of my MA research and analysis of (women in) crime fiction.  Here is a link to excerpts from the Essays I did on mysteries and Bill's thoughts on the essays vis a vis the Sasha Jackson series. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading his comments and will post my own responses in a day or two.

Cheers, Jill

Website Update & Review Clips & Interviews & Condom Covered Cucumbers...

So, I've gotten a few reviews for Dead Light District in the last couple of weeks, plus I've done two interviews.  Rather than posting everyting, I've cobbled together some of the highlights and added them to my updated website and have excerpts below. 

Two bloggers in particular have done interesting things with me and Dead Light District, and I thank them both for it.  Rebecca Emrich, who runs the blog "Living a Life of Writing", covered Dead Light District over a series of three blog posts on writing and publishing.  Bill Selnes, who runs the blog "Mysteries and More" posted reviews of both my books, plus a Q & A section and a follow up discussion. 

I really got a kick out of doing the Q & A with Bill.  He only asked five questions, but gave me as much room as I wanted with my asnwers.  In one question, he asked about  tough, edgy sleuths.  That  brought to mind the world of the hardboiled PI and what events or influences in my life inspired such a setting for the Sasha books.  I think much of my writing is influenced by all the years I worked in bars while I was a student (I did more than eleven years of post-secondary schooling). 

Once upon a time, a guy tipped me a condom covered cucumber.  It was autographed.  That was weird, of course, but over the years that I worked in bars, I met more than my share of freaks... the guy who ate fettucini alfredo with his hands, the crackheads who asked me for empty coke cans, the suave playah who liked to get it on with women in the washroom, the drunk manager who habitually fell into the ice machine, the weirdo who kept sending me flowers and teddy bears at work, the gambling addict who lost $2500 playing Trouble (remember that game: pop-a-matic pops the dice, pop a six and you move twice...)  I don't think a writer can completely divorce himself from his experiences.  The influences are always going to be there, and they shape the writing, even if only peripherally.

Finally, Professor Gloria Filax from Athabasca University interviewed me for the MAIS newsletter.  I did my MA at Athabasca; my area of concentration was Cultural Studies, and I did several papers on women in mysteries during my MA.  I loved every minute of working on my Master's and much of the work from my program found its way into my creative writing.  It was great fun talking to Gloria about the academic side of crime fiction, and I look forward to seeing the interview when it's posted later this month. 

Bye for now... Jill

Snippets from reviews for Dead Light District

"Dead Light District was sure worth the wait. Jill writes great mystery novels. The book flows... Dead Light District is well written and very interesting. Sasha is a good character, but the key to a good plot is a bit of surprise. Dead Light District is a light read... where I find the plot is good enough to sit and read it all the way through. I didn't suspect the ending... Jill has a surprising way to keep me reading" -Rebecca Emrich, Living a Life of Writing

"Sasha Jackson is back... searching for a missing prostitute in a milieu suited to her tough girl personality. Trashily dressed and heavily made up, the remarks of attempted clients on a hot summer night, confirm Sasha has successfully gone undercover as a call girl. With the book in first person narrative by Sasha I found the short first person comments of Mary Carmen made her character come alive. Mary Carmen’s painful past and ongoing desperate decisions are vividly expressed. [The] plotting is more assured. I liked Sasha better in this book. She was wittier and a little less sarcastic, while remaining as strong willed and stubborn. Sasha reminds me of Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s series. With the growth of Sasha’s character I am looking forward to the third in the series" -Bill Selnes, Mysteries and More

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sasha's Taste in Music (...with a dash of stream of consciousness...)

My musical tastes are all over the map. The songs I was listening to when I was trying to solve the case of The Missing Hooker don’t really fit into any one category.

While I was looking for Mary Carmen, The Temptations came up on my iPod. The song was “Ball of Confusion” and that could well have been the theme song for that whole damn case. Of course, once I figured out where the Old Lady was, “I Can’t Get Next to You” was stuck in my head. Really, I didn’t want to be in the same room as the Old Lady... much less next to her.

The Dead Light District days really stressed me out, and at times the only way I could chill was to jam for a while. Usually one of my favourite bands to play along with is Sublime, but every time the song “Caress Me Down” came on, I started thinking about sex and a certain pair of hands caressing me up and down and everywhere in between, and... Well, I had to take a cold shower. Of course, I could say the same about Franz Ferdinand and “Lucid Dreams”. Very lucid. I had a craving for a cigarette when I woke up.

I still have mixed feelings about Mary Carmen. It’s not up to me to make judgements, at least early on it wasn’t. Until she tested my moral compass, I was on her side. I remember being in a Led Zeppelin mood, and playing “Living, Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” and thinking that song title pretty much sums up Mary C. Plus, with her green eyes and body to die for, “Heartbreaker” is not an exaggeration.

As much as it might make me cringe, but because of Todd the Drag Queen, I’ll forever have a soft spot for Sonny and Cher’sI Got You Babe”. I had never really liked the song, and I’m even less keen about singing the male part, unless we’re talking the version Cher did in 1993 with Beavis and Butt Head... Somebody pass me a chain saw, please.

I think, for now, I’ll switch to classical; it usually mellows me out. Time to cue up Bach