Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mimi/Minerva Character Profile

In The Lies Have It, we'll meet Mimi/Minerva, artist by day, dominatrix by night.  Here's a little bit more about her...

Real name: Mimi Geraldina Westlake.  Minerva is her "scene" name for when she's participating in the fetish scene.  She frequently uses a flip-flop or a sandal to slap the firm buttocks of hirsute, blue-eyed men.

Occupation: Artist and sculptor.  Her last exhibit was at the Portent Gallery and featured a series of
decorative accessories made from discarded bidets.  One antique bidet from Belgium had been remodelled into an aquarium (bring your own goldfish).  With another bidet, Mimi covered it in fake gemstones, added a bevelled mirror as a lid, and turned it into a one-of-a-kind jewellery box.  It sold for $6000 to an anonymous art collector from The 'Shwa.

Favourite quotations:
  • If sex doesn't scare the cat, you're not doing it right.
  • A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession. 
  • Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word itself.
Heroes: Lorena Bobbitt, Lady Godiva, Mae West.

Favourite authors: Marquis de Sade, Hunter S. Thompson, and Bill Watterson.

Surprising fact: Was in Brownies, Girl Guides, and other paramilitary organizations until she was about 15.  She was quietly asked to leave after an "incident" involving Girl Guide cookies, lighter fluid, inflatable water-wings, and a myopic boy from the Cub Scouts camp down the road.  However, before her halo became tarnished, she won the orienteering prize for three consecutive years.  To this day, she can identify weeds and deciduous tree bark by smell. 

Fears: Rice Crispy squares and brass.

In College she was voted most likely to:  Beat Paul Newman's (Cool Hand Luke) record for eating hard-boiled eggs.  On her 20th birthday, she ate 54 eggs in just over an hour.  Her prize for winning the bet involved a waterbed, several ostrich feathers, and 24 hours alone with Jared Finkletsein.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The last two Spenser novels

There are certain authors I can't wait to read, and Robert B Parker and his Spenser novels are (were?) long time faves.  On Tuesday I picked up his last two Spenser books: Painted Ladies and Sixkill.  By Thursday afternoon, I had finished both books. 

Parker died rather suddenly in 2010, and the jacket flap for Sixkill refers to the book as being "the last
novel completed by Robert B Parker."  I was really sad to hear of his death when it happened, thinking that I'd have no more chances to get together with an old friend.  I do wonder though how many works-in-progress may be lying around... might there be another installment or two in the Spenser series? 

(For the record, I have read a few of the Jesse Stone series and a couple in the Sunny Randall series... neither one grabbed me the way Spenser did, I may read more of each, but probably not...)

Forty Spenser novels have been published, and I've read them all, and loved most of them (let's be honest, one or two of them were clunkers).  Sixkill, the 40th, was one of the best ones, although this book (and Painted Ladies, #39) did not feature Hawk, Spenser's right hand man.  Instead, Spenser flies solo (professionally) in Painted Ladies (given the plot and setting, this is (was) no big deal ... Hawk wasn't in every book), and in Sixkill, he takes on, shall we say, an apprentice named Zebulon. 

Zebulon Sixkill, known as Z, is an American Indian whom Spenser first meets when Z is working as a
bodyguard.  He loses the job and ends up being sort of mentored by Spenser.  Z comes across like a young Spenser: a drinker and a fighter with a sly wit. 

The absence of Hawk in the last two books, along with the introduction of Zebulon Sixkill, makes me wonder what plans Parker had for his series and his characters.  I would have liked to see more of Z (and there's no "goodbye" to him in Sixkill...), but I was starting to miss Hawk. 

According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know, it's not the best source) there is another as yet untitled Spenser novel due in 2012.  I am dying to read it.  I want to see which right-hand-man (or men) is in it.  Will Z and Hawk meet? (That would be cool!) And who is going to finish the incomplete manuscript?  (Big shoes to fill for whoever does it).  And are there outlines or synopses for additional Spenser novels? I certainly hope so... I hate goodbyes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Horse, a Wolfe and a Runaway Wagon...

Today I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Therese Greenwood, author and editor of mysterious short stories, crime fest organizer extrordinaire, and I think she stole my grandpappy's old Palamino, Clive. 

Whenever I can, I like to work a runaway horse and wagon into a story. The first piece I published, in the anthology Over the Edge, edited by Peter Sellers and Robert J. Sawyer, was about a runaway horse and wagon. I’ve published a few more runaway wagons, maybe half a dozen — although once the horse was not running, more plodding, being an old mare. I slipped my favourite horse and wagon story into an anthology Mystery Ink, I edited with my pal Jake Doherty. Some day, I’ll have enough stories for a runaway horse and wagon anthology. I plan to call it "Tales of Whoa."

It’s easier to work in a horse and wagon when you write historical mysteries, which luckily I do. A horse and wagon does some things for your story, like give the readers a clue to the time period without sentences like, "It was the windiest day yet in this year of our Lord 1867, the match seller thought, as she pondered how the winds of change would blow now the Dominion of Canada had been confederated."

It lets you do fun things with character, too, creating relationships without having to add another suspect to the mystery, like a Christmas story I wrote about a movie cowboy who hates his Wonder Horse.

I like these stories because when I was kid on Wolfe Island, my grandfather had a doozy of a story about a runaway horse and wagon. It was THE last word in stories, let me tell you. The stakes were high (bystanders in danger), the action swift (fast horse, expensive wagon), the hero brave (Grandpa), the setting colourful (Wolfe Island).

Wolfe Island is a great setting for a story. It has all the basics: An insulated place where the limited suspects know each other, where a crime tears through the tight-knit community like a runaway wagon through the middle of town.

It’s a great setting for a crime writing festival, too, because it’s the birthplace of Canada’s first crime writer, Grant Allen. Allen churned out more than 40 books and was a great pal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In his book, Canadian Crime Fiction 1817-1996, my great pal David Skene-Melvin wrote a fine profile of Allen — "one of the cornerstones of the crime writing genre," David says. That’s why some friends and I founded a crime writing festival, Scene of the Crime, on the Island and we named an award in Allen’s honour, for pioneering Canadian crime fiction. This year’s Grant Allen Award winner is Maureen Jennings, who writes Canadian historical fiction, which pleases me immensely.

It’s a great festival. Mystery fans love it and they love the Island, too, so I am delighted to write about it in a guest blog for Jill Edmondson. But I couldn’t resist working in a runaway horse and wagon.

Therese Greenwood grew up on Wolfe Island, Ont., the largest of the Thousands Islands, where her family has lived since 1812. The region forms the backdrop for her historical crime fiction, twice short-listed for the Arthur Ellis Award. Therese is co-editor of two mystery anthologies, as well as the Sun Media Summer Mystery in newspapers across Canada.

Therese tweets about authors, writing and mystery happenings on Twitter at Follow @wolfeislander . Her story "Wrecked" — which, sadly, does not feature a horse and wagon — will appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in the spring of 2012.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview with Author Bill Cameron

Today I'm happy to share an interview with mystery author Bill Cameron with you.  Bill's newest book, County Line, will be released next week. Bill has several novels under his belt, plus a number of short stories.

1. What can you tell me about the writing of your newest release, you know, the behind the scenes story that readers don’t know...

County Line is the most autobiographical story I’ve written in many a year. In the acknowledgements, I describe a bit about my years in Farmersville, Ohio. A lot of the story is crafted around my memories of that time, though the specific events aren’t anything I experienced myself. But there is one thing which happened to me before it would happen to Ruby Jane in County Line many years later. 

As a football player in training, I got into a fight with a teammate, and the coach sentenced us both to run the bleachers at the football stadium every day for a week. When it was over, I’d gained the same ability Ruby Jane would gain after her own stint running those same bleachers. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t say what that was, but I will say Ruby Jane used her newfound talent to much more dramatic effect than I ever did.

2. Who would you rather dine with: Don Henley, Don Knotts or Donald Trump? Why? 

Well, Donald Trump is totally out after the way he ate his slice of pizza with a fork. What the hell was that about? Don Knotts always kind of creeped me out. That, coupled with the fact that “The Boys of Summer” is one of my all-time favorite songs and the edge goes to Don Henley. But we’re not allowed to talk about the Eagles.

3. How close is Skin Kadash to you (give a % if you like). Have any friends or family been inspirations for characters?

Skin and I are both bird watchers, though he’s much more knowledgeable than I am. In addition, we share a kneejerk hostility toward authority, and we both value compassion and empathy. Beyond that, differences mount. Skin is more dogged than I am. He’s tough in ways I can only dream of being. I’m not sure where the percentages would be, but in the small stuff we are more different than similar. My feeling is the differences add up quickly, but Skin is still someone I could be friends with, even if he would probably intimidate me.

I try not to actively base characters on real people. That means I’m doing it unconsciously, of course. Little pieces of friends and family do make their way into my characters, but more often than not it’s a synthesis. I don’t think it’s fair to put people onto the page, whole cloth. It’s also not as interesting as building my characters up piece by piece.

That said, there is one character in County Line who is drawn more directly from life than most. Mrs. Parmelee, Ruby Jane’s English teacher and advocate, is named for my favorite high school teacher. While I’ve given the fictional Mrs. Parmelee her own life history, the caring aspects of her personality are based on my memories of the real Mrs. Parmelee.

4. What manner of killing would you like to use in a future book/story?

There is a defenestration in my future. I love the word defenestrate, so I really have no choice in this matter.

5. Which provides a greater challenge: novels or short stories? Which provides greater satisfaction?

Short stories are more difficult on a word-for-word basis. I often struggle to my focus enough to write a short piece. Even when I do write a short story, it’s likely to trend long. My average is about 6,000 words. So pulling off a short story can be a real treat. But the long haul of the novel offers its own pleasures, and the satisfaction I feel upon completion has more staying power.

6. Is there such a thing as too many bodies? What’s the optimal number of corpses in a whodunit? Do you think readers of today have a greater tolerance for death and violence than readers of a generation or two ago?

This is a tricky question. I do believe there’s been a kind of arms race on the dark thriller side for a while now. You only have to look at the Thomas Harris/Hannibal Lector arc for the archetypical example. The push to kill more people, more horrifically, more quickly has probably been most evident in movies, horror in particular, where they are now buying fake blood by the tanker truck. But there’s no doubt it’s happening in print as well.

At the same time, I think the broader category of mystery is about people more than bodies. Though “character-driven” is a phrase which oversimplifies a complex approach to storytelling, in recent decades it’s fair to say we’ve seen a significant shift toward stories which fall into that category. Mystery is often glibly described as being about the puzzle, the plot, or the solution. But look at any great mystery and at its heart you’ll find fascinating, richly-drawn characters. I think the blood-soaked arms race at the fringes will ultimately be overshadowed by these great characters.

7. Your thoughts on social media and book promotion...

For me, the key to social media is to keep it social. While I know it has a certain promotional value, my first interest is in getting to know people. I want to chat with friends, make goofy jokes, see what others are up to. If some book promotion comes along for the ride, great. I’ll mention events and releases, or share a good review. But the first order of business isn’t business, it’s friendship.

Book promotion is tough, because I don’t think anyone is all that sure what works. Oh, some people THINK they know what works, and when they do, they won’t shut up about it. Is it about appearances, blogging, Twitter and Facebook? The answer is most likely a little of all of it, but measured and with a mind toward engagement rather than the hard sell. If all you do is fill your Twitterstream with pleas for people to buy your books, then I’m going to stop following you. You’re not talking to me, but at me … or past me.

But if you talk to me like I’m another person, not just a credit card number, there’s a good chance I’ll take a look at your stuff without you even having to ask. And if I like you, I’ll probably end up promoting for you. Because what are friends for but to support each other? And share bacon recipes.

8. What would Skin Kadash say to Glenn Beck if they ever happened to meet?

Skin doesn’t fault anyone for being wrong. Being wrong is a side effect of being alive and taking risks. Most of us are wrong more often than we’d like, and we can only hope our mistakes aren’t too harmful for ourselves or others, and that we learn from them. But there’s wrong, and there’s venally, wilfully, malevolently wrong. Skin’s response to someone like Glenn Beck would be not to the demonstrably false nonsense he spouts, but to the fact the makes money by hypocritically exploiting and encouraging other people’s fear and ignorance. He probably wouldn’t have much to say to Beck—waste of breath—but he would look for any opportunity to take him down.

9. Name a favourite NON-MYSTERY author. What do you like about his/her writing and what did you learn from him or her?

It’s hard to point to one. I adore Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude more times than I can count. If I’ve learned something from him, it’s to appreciate the wonder and beauty and sorrow of life.

I grew up on science-fiction and fantasy (with lots of mystery mixed in). Robert Heinlein was huge to me. I probably learned more about dialog from him than anything else. Stephen R. Donaldson was a master of the unsympathetic protagonist.

In the last few years, I’ve become a huge fan of a number of young adult authors. Courtney Summers stands out for me there (and she both inspired me to attempt the young Ruby Jane’s story and helped directly by reading and commenting on an early draft). I am also a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson.

10. I’d love to hear your thoughts on motive, in my opinion the whole raison d’ĂȘtre for a mystery novel...

I see motive as at the heart of all storytelling. We don’t just want to know what happened, we want to know why it happened. Our day to day lives are bound up in trying to make sense of world; we’re always looking for reasons. Stories are one of the ways we do that.

The old saying, “truth is stranger than fiction,” is a clichĂ© for a reason. Events in real life often make no sense, are beyond our understanding. Stories serve as one way to make sense of the senseless. Ripped from the headlines books, movies, and television all attempt to make fathomable the unfathomable.

While I don’t go for the ripped from the headlines approach myself, I still see the act of writing as one which is about making sense of the inherent ambiguities of existence. Yet, that said, I don’t always feel the need to explain everything away. Some things we can never know, so all my work features some element—a character choice, an event, something—which remains unexplained.

11. What’s on Skin’s iPod?

If Skin had an iPod, it would be mostly 60s cool: Creedence, Stones, some Dylan. He wouldn’t skip the Beatles, but for the most part they were a little too giddy for him. Of course, while Skin is hardly a Luddite, he’s not interested in gadgets much. He has a low-end cellphone, a three-year-old computer, and no DVR. He’s content to listen to whatever music is playing in the coffee shop, from Lady Gaga to Philip Glass to Blake Shelton. What’s important to him isn’t what’s playing or the device doing the playing, but who he’s with and what they’re talking about.

12. What are your thoughts on settings? Does the city/setting almost become a character?

To me, setting isn’t almost a character; it IS a character. Sometimes it’s a background presence, like that creepy guy eavesdropping on your conversation in the coffee shop, sometimes it’s directly involved in the action at hand. Our decisions can be shaped as much by our environment as by our feelings and reactions to other people. The same can be said for who we are.

In developing characters, my first step is to map out their personal landscapes, how their environment influenced and tweaked the raw genetic material they started with. Skin would be a different person if he came from somewhere else. Portland is infused in him as surely as rural Ohio is infused in Ruby Jane. Understanding their environmental biographies is as important as understanding the interpersonal aspects of their lives.

13. What are you working on now?

Well, it’s half secret, half a YA mystery. I’m putting more time into the secret project at the moment, though I plan to get into the YA mystery as the summer wears on. Both are a departure from the world of Skin and Ruby Jane, though I’m not leaving them behind. Just shifting gears for a little while.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

OUCH! Criticizing the Critics.

“Having the critics praise you is like having the hangman say you've got a pretty neck.” -Eli Wallach  

“Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.” –Brendan Behan

“Critics are like pigs at the pastry cart.” –John Updike 

“Pay no attention to what the critics say... Remember, a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic!” -Jean Sibelius  

“The world has paid too great a compliment to critics, and imagined them to be men of much greater profundity than they really are.” -Henry Fielding 

“Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.” –Christopher Hampton  

“Critics search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find.” –Peter Ustinov 

“I never read a book before reviewing it - it prejudices a man so” –Sydney Smith

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Death by Bear and other Unusual Ways to Die

Last week, a freak accident led to two deaths near Luskville, PQ (about 25 miles from Ottawa).  A 440 lb. black bear became airborne after being struck by a car.  The bear was launched into the path of an oncoming vehicle.  It went through the windshield, killing the driver and a passenger in the seat behind the driver.  The bear then sailed through the rear window. The person sitting in the passenger seat up front suffered only minor injuries, and the two men in the car that initially struck the bear were unharmed.  The bear did not survive.

This is a horrible and unfortunate story and is much stranger than anything I could ever write in a mystery novel.  I can imagine the reaction from a publisher if I were to write such a scene in a novel.  But the whole thing got me thinking about truth being stranger than fiction. 

Here are some other stories of unusual deaths:

Bazooka Joe:  In 2009, a Ukrainian student named Vladimir Likhonos died after accidentally dipping a piece of homemade chewing gum into explosives he was using on another project.

Bad Moon Rising:  Two years ago a Canadian folk singer named  Taylor Mitchell was fatally attacked by two coyotes. 

Men will do anything for sex... A horny 28 year old Russian guy, Sergey Tuganov, died after winning a bet.  The wager? He bet two women he could have non-stop sex with them for 12 hours.  He won the bet but then died of a heart attack, apparently caused by ingesting an entire bottle of Viagra just after he accepted the bet.

Get that Monkey off My Back:  A few years ago, the Deputy Mayor of Delhi, India died a a result of monkeys in his home.  Surinder Singh Bajwa fell from a balcony as he tried to chase off several Rhesus Macaque monkeys in his apartment.  He suffered from fatal head injuries after the fall.

Skin is Porous: An unnamed Taiwanese woman died of alcohol intoxication after she spent 12 hours in a bathtub filled with 40% ethanol. At the time of her death, her blood alcohol content was 1.35%. Apparently, she immersed herself in alcohol in an effort to prevent or ward off the ongoing SARS epidemic.

Source for above - click here.

ALSO (update added July 14, 2013) Death by Cow Falling through Bedroom Roof  
See story HERE

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Synopsis: The Lies Have It

Now available on Amazon!


It’s election time in Toronto, and this year’s mayoral race is hotly contested. However, private investigator Sasha Jackson is more focused on bondage than ballots. After a wild night at a fetish party, a man Sasha had briefly met is found murdered near Cherry Beach, the whip marks on his back punctuated by two bullet holes. It initially seems like naughty sex that went a bit too far, but Sasha soon discovers that politicos like to play rough too, and might be hiding more than just their handcuffs. 

Meanwhile, Sasha has two other cases on the go. A couple of distraught parents have hired her to find their runaway daughter Macy. Sasha’s search for the girl leads her to some of Toronto’s shadier neighbourhoods where she learns more than she wants to about teenaged angst and Ecstasy. Sasha soon discovers that Macy is a stoned cutter, and has been chillin’ with squatters and squeegee kids.  

On top of the spank me, shank me cases, Sasha’s restaurateur brother has referred her services to a fine dining colleague who is convinced that someone in his restaurant is cooking the books instead of cooking five-star meals. Sasha should have just asked ‘Where’s the beef?’ but instead she spends a rainy night looking for it.  

When Sasha dries off, she encounters an artistic dominatrix with passion for the environment, a political wife who never met a camera she didn't love, and a furry white cat that will inadvertently help to expose everything about Sasha’s latest case.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Scene of the Crime (sort of...) Part 3

The style of dress among the S&M crowd is interesting, to say the least.  At the fetish parties in The Stealth Lounge at The Pilot Tavern the dress code was strictly enforced by the party organizers (this kept gawkers and tittering teenagers at bay). 

I never stuck around after my shift to see the party once it was in full swing.  But, for the brief crossover during shift change, I saw more than enough... probably more than I wanted to.  Some of the more outrageous outfits are described in The Lies Have It, which starts off with Sasha bartending at a fetish party at The Stealth Lounge.

I saw people wearing every conceivable style of studded dog collar, leather and PVC outfits, face masks (they took them off to eat), pierced nipples galore (men and women), chaps, miniskirts, bustiers, pink feather boas, plus lots of chains and handcuffs... the list goes on.  There was a guy who looked like the Count from Sesame Street, a few chicks who looked like Morticia Addams, a couple of role-playing nurses and doctors, and there was a guy who came as the back end of a horse (everyone called him Pony Boy). 

With all these strange outfits and costumes, and given the nature of the bondage and domination setting, it struck me way back then that this scenario would make for a great murder mystery.

So, I finally wrote it.  The Lies Have It will be out in November 2011.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Urban Dictionary....

New words for me and Sasha.  I admit to being a word nerd, but I'll also (reluctantly) admit that I'm not up on the latest slang used by those crazy kids nowadays...  I am familiar with many of the acronyms, like LOL, BRB, IMO, CUL8R, etc.  I know many of the words or terms teens today think they invented, ecpecially for drunk (shitfaced, plastered, etc.) or joint (spliff, blunt, etc.).  However, after whiling away a morning on Urban Dictionary, I did learn a few things:

Rendezbooze: When a group of people (friends, co-workers, acquaintances) get together to drink.

ProcrastinEating: Do I really need to explain this one?  Usually involves chips or ice cream.

PWN (or PWNed):  Means losing badly at something/getting your ass kicked.  (At the Olympics, we PWNed the podium.)  This apparently comes from a misspelling of 'owned'.  Seems logical.

Beef Walk: Going outside or away from the group in order to fart with less consequence.  In other words, leaving the room to break wind or toot.  We said "cheese" kids now say "beef". 

Netglow: Someone (or something) that is better online than in real life.  Term is frequently used in reference to cyber-dating and vacation spots. 

MMORPG:  Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. A treadmill that makes you fatter.  In other words, sitting on your ass in front of the screen.  Get outside.  Get some fresh air.

MBAese: An  indecipherable language taught in MBA factories where the user has mastered the art of using large, multisyllabic words to make meaningless, intelligent sounding action statements.  This is becomingan epidemic.    

Edgehog: A passenger on the bus/subway who hogs the aisle seat so that you either have to climb over them to get the window seat or so that they have the two seats to thelselves.  Basically an asshole.

Bed Gravity:  Happens to me every weekend.  An irresistible force that draws you back to bed, or toward any mattress, couch, or other soft horizontal surface. Usually stronger when one or more persons are already on said furnature.  Also happens often when you have an 8:00 am class.

Powerpuff Presentation:  Love this!  All sizzle, no steak.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Scene of the Crime (sort of...) Part 2

Disclaimer first: The Lies Have It is a work of fiction!!!  Nobody I know from The Pilot Tavern has ever been murdered, or been accused of murder, or ever even jaywalked for that matter.  In fact, I don't even think they'll serve you if you have unpaid parking tickets.

But The Pilot, especially the second floor Stealth Lounge, is a great inspiration for the plot of a murder mystery. 

While I was in university, I worked at The Pilot.  It was a great job, I met a lot of people who remain close friends, I made good money and had a lot fun.  Back then (before a new team of managers came along sometime after I left), the management was, um, lackadaisical on one hand, and, um, edgy on the other. 

Manager X. was balls-out batshit crazy, Manager Y. was seldom sober but a genuinely nice person, and Manager Z. was an absolute bitch (who was ultimately deported, dunno how or why that happened... I was living in Mexico at the time...)

I don't know which of the three of them gets credit for the following, but since it went on for a few months, I guess all of them were in favour of it.

As mentioned in the previous posting, The Stealth Lounge is reserved or rented out for private parties or special functions (being near Yonge & Bloor, they do a lot of corporate gigs).  Back in my days working there, The Stealth was rented out two Saturdays nights a month for fetish/S&M parties.


Every Saturday, I worked the jazz matinee on the main floor.  My shift was roughly 1:00 pm to about 7 or 8 (the crowd would trickle out after the music ended ).  The Pilot gets some great jazz bookings and the customers are a fairly loyal bunch of pretty serious jazz fans.  The regulars will shush the uninitiated for talking too loudly during a sax solo. 

On the Saturdays when the upstairs was booked for the fetish parties, we'd often get some crossover between the studded leather dog collar fetish crowd and the professorial tweed jacket with elbow patches jazz crowd. 

The doors opened at 8:00 pm for the fetish party upstairs.  Often, though, the S&M folks would come a bit early to catch the tail end of the jazz matinee and grab a bite to eat before going upstairs to spank each other.

Then, when my shift finished, I'd help out a bit with the staff upstairs: making sure they had enough lemons and limes, bringing up a case of beer, getting change for the till and such. 

For however brief my exposure to the fetish corwd was, it was eye opening!  The way some of these folks dressed when they were at the jazz downstairs was pretty far out, but once they got upstairs to the private party room, well... they let it all hang out, so to speak. 

More on "hanging out" in the next post.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bitchy Obituaries... Really Bitchy!

Since I write about murder mysteries and unfortunate deaths, a quick look at some obituaries seems like a good idea.  These obits are anything but warm and fuzzy, though. 

H.L. Mencken on William Jennings Bryan (Scopes Monkey Trial) "To Expose a Fool"
They say it's not nice to speak ill of the dead, but that didn't stop Mencken from saying:

"His last days were spent in a one-horse Tennessee village.  The man felt at home in such scenes. He liked people who sweated freely, and were not debauched by the refinements of the toilet.... He was, in fact, a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without any shame or dignity."

Hunter S. Thompson clearly didn't shed any tears over the death of Richard Nixon "He was a Crook".  Thompson comments on the bonds of hatred:

"Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.... If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president."

Rufus Wilmot Griswold on Edgar Allan Poe "The Ludwig Article"
It makes sense to finish off this posting with the obituary of the father of mystery fiction.

"Edgar Allan Poe is dead. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it... Irascible, envious--bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold, repellant cynicism, his passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral susceptibility; and, what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honor."

Ouch.  R.I.P.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Scene of the Crime (sort of...) Part 1

I am heading into the homestretch re: editing the third Sasha Jackson mystery, The Lies Have It.  Once again, the book is set in Toronto, and like the other books, many of the places mentioned in the novel are real.  I do, however, take some liberties (occasionally a lot of liberties) with locations.

The Pilot Tavern has been mentioned in both Blood and Groom and Dead Light District as one of Sasha's favourite hangouts, whether she's eating a Patty Melt to help cure a hangover, or drinking gin & tonics on the rooftop patio on a sunny day. 

The Pilot is a real place, obviously, and it is one of my favourite hangouts, which is why I've included it in my books.  I go where Sasha goes (or she goes where I go...?  Wait, Sasha Jackson is fictional...) 

The Pilot is located at 22 Cumberland Street (a stone's throw from Yonge & Bloor).  As mentioned in my books, The Pilot has three levels: The main floor is a tavern/restaurant with good food (love the Thai Noodles and the California Salad), great atmosphere and fantastic jazz matinees every Saturday.  It's also got some of the best bar staff in the city: Masoud and Derrick have both been there for years and I'm always glad to see them when I go in.  I name-checked both of them in Blood and Groom.

The third floor is a rooftop patio called The Flight Deck.  It's a huge patio - one of the biggest in downtown Toronto - with a great view, a full menu, and a nice selection of draught beers, but unfortunately NO SANGRIA!    Recently, I was on the roof with a friend and it was the perfect day for sangria, so we made our own.  We ordered a half litre of red wine, soda water with lots of fruit slices, a shot of Triple Sec and a couple of empty pint glasses.  We didn't spill too much and our low-rent sangria was actually pretty good!

The second floor of The Pilot is known as The Stealth Lounge, and it's used for private parties and special functions - everything from bridal showers to polticial fundrisers to office Christmas parties to poetry readings.  I had both of my book launches there, and the third one will be there as well.  In fact, the idea for the third book came from an event held there long ago, and The Stealth Lounge is a significant part of the plot in book three.

Also, I used to work at The Pilot, so you must check my next posting for the "story behind the story."  Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reviews for DLD - Round Up of Good Karma!

I am very fortunate (and proud!) to have received a number of favourable reviews for Dead Light District in the last little while.  Here are some of the highlights:

Reviewer Amy Steele of Entertainment Realm says: "Dead Light District makes the reader adore Sasha even more ... Dead Light District makes the perfect summer read as it speeds along and follows Sasha’s train of thought as she works to solve the case." 

Lynn Farris, who reviews mysteries for The says:  "While the book is well written, offers solid characters and an interesting plot, the strength of the book is based on philosophical questions and the research that went into telling this fascinating story. Edmondson shows extreme finese at attacking these deep subjects, while keeping the story still enjoyable to read and exciting."

The love keeps flowing with this review by Joan Barfoot in The London Free Press where she says: "interesting moral ambiguities get discussed in Dead Light District, and Sasha continues to be an appealing character."

There are also some very nice reviews posted on Amazon, some of the warm fuzzies include: 

"Sasha Jackson is a spunky, vibrant, witty girl that gets caught up in the seedy underworld of prostitution and sex slavery while investigating her latest case. This is a fast paced novel ... The author's sense of humor is prominent throughout the book and has many points where I actually Laughed Out LOUD!" From BobbiD. 

 Another review says:  "DEAD LIGHT DISTRICT is another fun romp by Jill Edmondson... The storyline keeps the reader turning the pages right up until the surprising conclusion. Sasha Jackson is sexy, funny, irreverent, hard-working and many other things besides." From Bryan Bessner.

And there's some good karma on Good Reads:

"It's a soft-boiled, sometimes madcap mystery ... but its heart is always in the right place and, despite some of the more outrageous things she does, it's hard not to be routing for Sasha ....A recommended diversion, perhaps over a freshly made mojito." From Alexander Inglis

Of course, I was really happy to see all of these reviews - they sure put a smile on my face!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Recent Reads: Beyond Street Bach First Professional Brain Thursdays Society Name

I've had two long vacations in the last six months had a chance to do some reading, finally!  Here's a quick look at the last few books I've read:

Beyond the White House by Jimmy Carter 
Wow, he's been more effective and more productive in his post-presidency years than he was in office.  I learned a lot from this, about all sorts of things, including foreign relations and diseases.  A tad self-serving (but how could it not be?), but a thoroughly enjoyable read!  Kudos to the Carter Center.


Street Gang by Michael Davis    Okay, so this is a history of Sesame Street, but is is SO MUCH more than that!  It's about education and educational theory, social policy, economics, Disney, income levels and differences, inclusiveness... and Gordon was a cokehead.  Fascinating story.

Bach, Beethoven and the Boys by David W. Barber  Pretty good, I guess. I know nothing about classical music and I wanted to get a basic foundation out of this.  However, it was a bit more on the people and their (personal) lives than about the music and its impact/importance.  Having said that, I still enjoyed it because they style of writing was great: irreverent, tongue in cheek, witty, funny... 

The First Excellence by Donna Carrick     Despite the fact that this blog post has three fiction books on it, I rarely read fiction.  The First Excellence is the first mystery I've read in quite a while and I really enjoyed it.  The story has many layers, tied together very smoothly.  I actually wrote a review of this one on  A wonderfully mysterious escape.     

The Professional by Robert B. Parker   Hmm... I guess this will be the 2nd last Spenser book :(    I wonder how complete this (and the yet to be read Painted Ladies) were at the time of Parker's death?  I love Spenser and have read every single one of them.  This wasn't one of the best, but I like getting together with old friends.     

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitan    Interesting, clever, edifying, down to earth.  I learned a lot from this one and enjoyed the way Levitan explained things.  He gave great examples to illustrate his points and spoke in plain, simple language.  The subject matter was at times a tad out of my league, but that didn't seem to diminish the enjoyment index.    

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde  I love Fforde and the Thursday Next series.  Love them, love them, love them!  I also love the Nursery Crimes books and am anxiously awaiting the next one.  Jasper Fforde is awesome!  He is one of a handful of fiction authors that I turn to without question, without hesitation.  Funny, clever, many oblique or inside jokes, brilliant literary references and send ups.  Keep 'em coming! 

Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano   
What can I say? I've met Robin several times and our professional lives have overlapped here and there.  I knew before reading this that I would enjoy it - and I did, very much so.  Spano's sleuth is Clare Vengel and Clare rocks, the mystery is solid, the dialogue is snappy.  I can't wait to see what she gets up to next in her coming release Death Plays Poker (Fall 2011).   

Slavery By Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon    
This book will wake you up and make you angry.  Blackmon tells the story of how blacks were treated in the years (roughly four decades) after the end of the Civil War. The research and sources are solid, the personal strories are poignant.  Blackmon aims a magnifying glass at topics that make people uncomfortable but that shouldn't be ignored. Should be required reading for any course on American History.