Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fucking Pirates! Arrhh!


The e-book version of Dead Light District is available for sale on Amazon and Smashwords. You can buy your very own copy for $2.99.

Or, you can download a pirated electronic version for free!


I found out about the pirated version a couple of weeks ago. As it happened, it was the same day I was meeting up with Paul Alves, mastermind behind the books books books website

When I told Paul that I was a bit fahrklempt about my book being pirated, his reaction surprised the hell out of me. He said it was a good thing, a mark of success in a way.

As Paul put it, people aren’t pirating “Coping with Liver Spots” by Edna Schwartz or “Adventures in the Frozen Food Aisle” by Egbert Knobsplot.

Paul has a point.

However, as I’ve looked further into the pirate thing, I've gotten angrier.

Given the very nature of piracy, it’s hard to get accurate figures, but it appears that “Dead Light District” has been pirated about 40x more than it’s been purchased. That hurts. Forty times more!

It’s frustrating for me to look at the stats (pageviews, sample chapters, blogposts, etc.) and see how much activity there is around Dead Light District, and then to reconcile that with low sales. For example, on one site (and obviously I won’t say which one) there were just under 100 views in one day of the sample chapters of Dead Light District.

But there was not one single sale.

(I should mention that there have been several good reviews of the book.)

Granted, some people may have read the sample chapter and decided they were not interested in the book. That’s fine – we all have different tastes in reading. But you’d think that out of 100 there would be a small percentage, maybe 1% to 5% who wanted to keep reading and would buy the book. That’s all; just a handful of people might purchase a legal copy. If that were the case, I’d be delighted.

What seems to be happening instead though, is after reading the preview, people are downloading the whole book for free from a pirate website.  Fuck fuck fuck!

It appears that the pirated version was available within about two months of the authorized versions being available.

I have no way of knowing who made the book available to the pirate sites (and it seems that there is more than one site where the book can be downloaded for free).

I can’t do a damn thing about it. Digging through the “about us” and “contact us” sections of pirate sites eventually leads you to a post office box in Idaho. Besides, the sites are full of all sorts of disclaimers, “we are not responsible for content...”

I suppose, if I really put time and effort into it, I could maybe get XYZ pirate site to remove my book, but it would just turn up a day later somewhere else.

I recognize that piracy is inevitable, and I guess in a weird way it is a mark of success. I know I just have to suck it up. However, I wish the piracy downloads were on par with, or lower than the number of paid for downloads... not 40x more pirates!  (Keep in mind, this is the approximate number for only one pirate site - gawd knows how many times its been downloaded from other pirate sites...)

Since I apparently have to live with piracy, I wish the playing field were a little more even. Ideally, the pirates could give the creators a head start, say six months, before making pirated versions available. At least then the artist has a fair shot. I’m just saying...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sample from "The Lies Have It" - part 6

Sixth and final part of the excerpt from The Lies Have It - coming this November!

Sunday, 7:51 pm

“You know we have a dress code, right?” Shane asked when I walked through the back door into the kitchen of Pastiche. He shook his head at my scruffy sartorial choices. Shane was standing over a hot stove stirring a curry coconut broth for the mussel dish featured on tonight’s prix fixe menu.

“Yeah, I don’t exactly class up the joint, do I? I can eat in the kitchen.” I said.

“Pass me a bowl.” Shane pulled a tureen out of the refrigerator, and ladled out a serving of the soup du jour. He had his back to me and busied himself for a moment adding this and that to the dish.

I ate standing up, leaning against one of the prep tables. Not the most elegant way to eat soup, but gift horses and choosy beggars – and I eat at Shane’s place for free. A bit of cool soup dribbled onto my shirt. I left it there; I thought the stain might lend me some unkempt credibility with the street kids I was planning to canvass after dinner.

“Damn, this is good. Sweet and spicy? I can taste lemongrass.”

“Yeah. Chilled Spicy Thai Watermelon soup with Crabmeat. There’s lemongrass, cilantro, Serrano chilli, and ginger. You like it?”

Shane knew he didn’t have to ask. The fact that I was practically inhaling the bowl showed how much I liked it, but Shane is a chef and he loves to hear feedback on his latest creations. “A mouthful of heaven,” I said.

“This week, except on Thursday when we’re having the Nealson party, the restaurant’s doing a theme on Asian-inspired dishes. With a twist, of course. You can try some mussels if you want.”

“Bring ’em on.” We chatted while I ate and Shane cooked and fretted, and occasionally barked at the kitchen staff. Frankie, the line cook, told Shane to take a flying leap, to which Shane said something about hell freezing over. It was all good-natured. A salty, weathered army vet, Frankie – probably more so than anyone else on staff – keeps Shane from completely losing his mind on busy nights.

“You know, Sasha, the Asian menu theme reminds me of my friend Percy.”

“Do I know him?”

“Probably not. A good guy. We worked together years ago at that Italian place in Woodbridge?”

“I remember the place. That’s where I got food poisoning.”

“How many times do I have to tell you that wasn’t my fault?”

“I lost five pounds in less than a week.”

“It saved you the trouble of going to the gym, didn’t it?”

“Yeah right. Anyhow, what about Percy?”

“He opened a pan-Pacific restaurant called Monsoon a few months ago. He’s pretty sure someone on staff is ripping him off.”

“Theft in a restaurant? No, you must be kidding.” I was well aware of how often restaurateurs got robbed blind by their employees. “Give him my number and I’ll see what I can do.”

Sunday, 9:12 pm

After dinner at Shane’s place, I made the rounds of the blocks near the Eaton Centre. A crazed old gummer, wearing a white terry cloth robe and misshapen top hat, and holding a crucifix made out of tinfoil, was standing on a crate while warning passers-by about the pending day of reckoning. I wondered if the aluminum wrap interfered with the telepathic messages being sent to him from homicidal zombies in New Jersey. I flashed him a peace sign as I passed. He curtsied and then spat at me. I fleetingly contemplated the symbolism of the moment, but came up empty.

A gaggle of kids in faded jeans were playing hacky-sack in Dundas Square. They hardly stopped playing long enough to look at Macy’s photo. I talked to anyone and everyone who looked to be in Macy’s age group, but scored exactly zero. My feet were getting sore from all the walking. The pool halls and coffee shops I popped into didn’t net me so much as a nibble, but there was no reason to expect that they would have. It was safe to assume that Macy didn’t have a lot of cash, so she wasn’t likely to be anyplace that cost money.

A few of the punks hanging out in front of the Evergreen Centre for Youth were borderline helpful.

“I know for sure I seen her around here a coupla days ago,” said a guy in a hoodie. He passed the photo to the freckle-faced girl standing next to him.

“Yeah, for sure, it was yesterday,” she said. The girl looked about fifteen years old, and about six months pregnant.

“She asked about places to hang out, you know, the scene.”

“I’m flattered you think I’m hip enough to know the scene, but I haven’t got a clue what you mean.” There is nothing more humbling than vocalizing one’s unhipness. If I were going to spend much more time talking to the under-twenty crowd, I’d have to bone up on current slang. An Urban Dictionary tutorial might be in order.

“She asked about scoring some Clarity,” said Preggers.

“Clarity?” it was anything but clear to me.

“You know, Adam, the Love Drug, E.”

Ah yes, E. Ecstasy, the latest drug to capture the attention of teenaged morons. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine – short form: MDMA, which explains the street name “Adam.” I’m unsure what would explain the nickname “Clarity,” but I sensed I’d have to actually try the drug to understand, and I’m just not that dedicated to my job.

“And where might she find that?” I asked.

“Where can’t you find it is a better question,” said Hoodie. He had me there.

“Well, if you see her, give me a call,” I said as I dug in my purse for one of my business cards. Preggers pocketed my number. “When are you due?” I asked her.

“He’s s’posed to pop out on December twenty-fifth. He’s gonna be a boy.”

“I’m very happy for you,” I said. Actually, I wasn’t. Call me old fashioned, but I think there should be a checklist before people are allowed to reproduce. Finishing high school would be the first parental criterion. A fixed address would be number two. “Have you chosen a name yet?”

“I’m gonna name him Noel, like, you know, for Christmas?”

“That’s a good choice,” I said.

“Yeah, you think so? I think so too, but what if he doesn’t come exactly on Christmas Day? Would Noel still be a good name?”

“Well, if he comes out on December twenty-sixth, you could think about calling him Rocky.”

“Uh, maybe…” she said.

I admit the Boxing Day reference is rather oblique.

“Here,” I said, passing her twenty bucks. “Grab a bite. You’re eating for two.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Part 5 - excerpt from "The Lies Have It"

Next excerpt from The Lies Have It (picks up where the last one left off...)

Sunday, 4:29 pm

Back at Dad’s house, I started digging through my closet. No one could ever accuse me of looking like a suburban middle class parent, but I didn’t exactly blend in with the chip-on-their-shoulder teen set either. I knew no one would talk to me if I looked like a square, so I dug through some of the clothes from my rocker chick band days. A faded and frayed, ratty old pair of black jeans - held together by little more than a hope and a prayer - looked anti-establishment enough for the job. A ragged Ramones T-shirt and no bra seemed to fit the bill, complemented by a battered old pair of Doc Martens boots that were out of style enough to be retro. I swapped my blue leather purse for a tan canvas US Army Surplus bag with a Union Jack patch sewn onto it, and mussed my hair a bit. I washed off my usually subtle make-up and then smudged a lot of black eyeliner around my eyes and headed downtown to pretend to be a cool older chick who belonged on the scene. Sort of.

I got off the 505 streetcar just south of the Toronto Coach Terminal. A handful of ragamuffins in dirty clothes with safety pins poking through every facial orifice were panhandling a block from the bus station. They had a scrawny, mangy husky with them. The dog look marginally cleaner than the five teens, but that’s only because he could lick himself. Clearly these losers were too apathetic to shower even once a week.

“It’s not much, but I’ll give you ten bucks if you answer a couple of questions for me.”

A punk dude with dirty blond hair answered, “Ten bucks each?”

“Hell, no. How about twenty for the group? You can get Rover there some dog biscuits. He looks hungry.”


“Anyone seen this girl? Name’s Macy. She’s sixteen, came here about a month ago. From Peterborough.” I passed around the few snapshots Mom and Pop had given me.

“I seen her around the Eaton Centre coupla times,” Dirty Blond said.

“Know where I can find her?” I asked.


“Does she have a usual hangout? A usual crowd?”

“Dunno,” they mumbled in unison.

“I think I seen her hanging with a bunch of cutters,” said a girl with torn fishnet stockings and lime green streaks in her platinum hair. “They usually chill somewhere around Kensington Market,”

“Thanks a bunch.” I handed the girl two tens and started walking towards the market.


Describing Kensington Market is a pretty tall order. First of all, it’s not a market per se, but a neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, loosely bordered by Spadina to the east, Bellevue to the west, College Street to the north and Dundas to the south. Yeah, the druggies and the skinheads hang out here, but to leave the description at that would do the neighbourhood a disservice. It’s like the area has a split personality and alternate versions of itself appear throughout the day. Buskers, panhandlers and artists are generally here around the clock. Ditto a few neighbourhood drunks. However, the area has some super-cool funky shopping, especially when it comes to vintage clothing and army surplus. The presence of these stores is no doubt a response to the presence of aging hippies and artists. The street life in Kensington has changed little over the years. The same few buskers are always on the same old corners, strumming acoustic guitars and hoping the open guitar case would fill with people’s spare change. As for the disaffected Gen-X layabouts, well, they’re interchangeable with new teens from one year to the next. They all have the exact same ways of being non-conformist, anti-establishment rebels.

The first teens I talked to were sitting on the steps of a vacant storefront. A guy and a girl, both about seventeen, each appeared malnourished and dirty. The guy had a newish looking tattoo around his neck. It was supposed to be barbed wire or thorns or something, but the amateur job looked more like a string of the letter “C” in Old English font. The tattoo itself was puffy and red, and I’d wager that within a day or two, buddy would be in need of penicillin for the pus about to ooze out of his newly inked neck.

“Hey, wassup?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

“Yo,” answered Ink.

“Know many of the people who hang here?”

“Why ya asking?” He sort of thrust his chin out when he answered. His twiglike girlfriend stared blankly at me.

“I’m looking for my little sister. Her name’s Macy.” I passed them the photo. “Seen her around?”

“Maybe,” Ink said. The Twig just shook her head. Twiggy had a bunch on short scars on the inside of her forearms. It was plain to see she was into self-mutilation. Each scar was about an inch wide, and they ran perpendicular to her veins, up and down the length of her arms, from wrist to elbow. God, I hoped Macy wasn’t into self-inflicted pain, although the kids by the bus station had alluded to Macy hanging out with a bunch of cutters. This didn’t bode well.

“You see, our mom was in a car wreck. She might die any day now. Macy’s been on a tear for a couple weeks. She doesn’t even know about the accident.”

“Mighta seen her a while ago, but I dunno. The last few days was a blur.” His girlfriend giggled a bit.

“If you see her, gimme a call.” I gave them a piece of paper with my cell number on it. I had no illusions they’d see Macy, nor did I think they’d put my number in a safe place where they wouldn’t lose it, but this is my job. It just takes one person out of a string of dead-ends to help me crack a case. Maybe Ink and Twiggy would be the ones. And maybe leprechauns are real. After I gave them my cell number, I thought fleetingly about Ian and his BlackBerry. I thought it was odd that he hadn’t yet returned my call. I made a mental note to try calling him again later.

One great thing about Kensington is the food. Over the years, Kensington market has been populated by various groups of New Canadians: Eastern Europeans at the turn of the century, Portuguese in the 1950s, Jamaicans in the seventies, and more recently Latinos from Central and South America. You can get wonderful empanadas and gorditas on one block, on another you can stock up on goat roti, around the corner you can find an unending selection of cheeses that’ll knock your socks off, and there are a number of Asian grocers with a wide array of unidentifiable legumes, fungi, and dried shellfish. The neighbourhood smells wonderful and repugnant all at once. This is the Kensington Market suburbanites visit on a casual, lazy Saturday, or where tourists – consulting dog-eared copies of Lonely Planet travel guides – come to take in a heady dose of multiculturalism.

Kensington Market is also an edgy urban enclave, long popular with counterculture groups, from Rastas to punk rockers to artists. I’ve had my share of hanging in Kensington Market over the years, but it was usually related to something from my band days. Some of my first gigs when I was playing the Toronto music scene were at Graffiti’s, a bar that paid so very little that any starving new garage band who wanted to play there could. As I poked in and out of storefronts and taverns, I recognized more than a few nameless faces, pickled barflies who never seem to leave their usual barstools. I recognized a white-haired Irish man who had once been one of the best Flamenco guitar players in Canada. For the last decade or so, ever since he lost his wife to lung cancer, he’s been trying to slowly kill himself with copious amounts of whiskey and his own three-pack-a-day nicotine habit. The woman a few stools over from him reportedly had once been a wildly popular call girl. She now seemed threadbare all over, from her clothes to her hair to her teeth. But if you checked her out with half-closed eyes, and let your imagination fill in a few blanks, you could see that she had once been very pretty. The word on the street was that she was now on welfare and was HIV positive.

A young girl with black stringy hair was walking just ahead of me. I knew the odds were slim, but I picked up my pace to catch up with her.

“Hey Macy,” I said, tapping her on the shoulder.

“Huh?” The girl jumped a bit.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. Thought you were someone else.” The girl’s face was rather cherubic, despite the blood-red lipstick and slashes of black eyeliner. Anyone with naturally chubby cheeks would never be convincing as a Goth. “From behind, you resembled the person I’m trying to find.” I shoved Macy’s picture in front o her.

“That doesn’t look like me.”

“I know, I said from behind. Same height, same hair. Any chance you’ve seen her?”

“Nope.” And with that, Cherub walked away.

As an older, inner-city neighbourhood - established back in the days when Toronto had a population in the low thousands - Kensington Market remains rather small and claustrophobic. I guess, back in those horse-and-buggy days of yesteryear, no one had planned ahead to make Kensington vehicle friendly. Finding a parking spot around here is a bitch, but then, only an idiot would choose to drive here. The narrow, one way streets are hellish for drivers to navigate, but with the crowds and congestion, cars can rarely move at much more than fifteen or twenty kilometres an hour, so pedestrians are fearless about zigzagging across the street mid-block. It could even be argued that cyclists pose a greater danger to walkers than cars do, given that many bikers ignore stop signs, or ride the wrong way on Kensington’s one-way streets. I narrowly escaped being plastered to the road by a stoned slacker on a pimped-out BMX.

“Whoaaa, sorry lady,” he intoned in a sleepy voice, as I jumped back from the curb.

I walked to the next block and waited for the light to change, but I needn’t have bothered. There was absolutely no vehicular traffic in Kensington Market today. One of the cool things about Kensington is that on the last Sunday of every month – in other words, today – the neighboured is a car-free zone. Pedestrian Sundays in the Market are wonderfully busy and laid-back. I traipsed around a while longer, and talked with another dozen teens or so. I got a lot of shrugs, was told to fuck off twice, and one guy asked me if I wanted to do a few hits with him. He failed to specify hits of what, and I was afraid to ask.

All in a day’s work. I was tired and hungry, so I decided my brother would love to treat me to dinner.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Excerpt from "The Lies Have It" - Part #4

This picks up where the previous excerpt left off...

Sunday, 2:05 pm

“We’ve been wandering all over the city looking for her,” Mrs. Edquist said.

“And you’re certain she’s in Toronto?” I asked.

Mrs. Edquist, in a basic pair of navy gabardine slacks and a rather ugly white and blue polka dot blouse with batwing sleeves, was sitting on the edge of a neatly made bed in a standard room at the Best Western Hotel downtown. Her hair was neatly combed and a few grey roots were poking through. Her husband, a seemingly affable, middle aged man with a bit of a paunch, was pacing back and forth in front of the window, and I was in the beige vinyl club chair beside the bolted-down television. Mrs. Edquist was calm and businesslike right now, but her red-rimmed eyes told me she’d cried more than a few tears of worry over her daughter this morning.

“Her friends all said she was coming here. Macy always talks about getting out of Peterborough and coming to the big city. She says small towns stifle her.”

Macy is the sixteen-year-old angst-ridden, angry Goth offspring of Mr. and Mrs. Small Town Middle Class. Peterborough, about an hour and a half from Toronto, began as a farming town, then became a factory town of sorts, and now was mainly a university town. Mom and Pop both had administration jobs at Trent University, she in the Registrar’s Office and he in Alumni Affairs. The daughter in the photo looked like she would prefer hanging out in dodgy back alleys with a bunch of skinheads rather than trying to decide on her eventual major. Her dyed black hair was shaved about an inch above both ears. She had on way too much black eyeliner, and seemed to be sneering at the camera.

“Well, Mrs. Edquist, a lot of runaways end up here. Has Macy taken off from home before?”

“Please, call me Phyllis.”

“And call me Harold. Or Harry if you prefer. She’s taken off four or five times in as many months,” Mr. Edquist said. “But she always comes back in a couple of days. This time it’s different. She’s been gone almost a month.”

“We had to come here to look for her. We couldn’t just stay home and wait for the phone to ring.” Mom’s voice cracked a bit.

“The Toronto cops were no help?” I already knew the answer. There was little the police could do since, at sixteen, Macy was no longer a child.

“No. We tried, and they were sympathetic, but impotent. We’ve put up posters all over downtown. We’ve canvassed the streets where we’ve seen kids hanging out. None of them could help us,” said Phyllis.

Pierced and tattooed teens hanging around the usual inner-city haunts wouldn’t be inclined to speak to such examples of Suburban White Bread under any circumstances. Rebellious youths would stay mum out of spite just because the Edquists had “Conformist Parental Units” written all over them.

“Where have you been looking?” I asked.

Mr. Edquist rattled off a list of neighbourhoods and intersections. Parkdale, the Eaton Centre, Yorkville, College Street.

“And when have you been doing this?” I asked.

“Since the week after she left.”

“No, I mean, what time of day?”

“We hit the streets right after breakfast, and keep going, off and on all day, until suppertime, maybe five thirty or six.”

“That’s your mistake. The goths and punx and emos and phreaks don’t even start to come to life until noon. I’ll begin looking in the late afternoon and go until two or three in the morning.”

“Thank you so much for helping us. Harold and I can’t take any more time off work. We’ve used up all of our vacation days. We’re not exactly poor, but we can’t afford to take unpaid time off work. We still have a mortgage.”

I was reluctant to bring up the subject of my fees.

“Today’s our last day in Toronto, we’re going to check out soon, and drive home. We both have to be back at work tomorrow.”

“I’ll give it a whirl, but only for a couple of days. I don’t want to waste my time or your money.”

I gave them the contract I had tucked into my purse. The bleeding heart in me wanted to help these folks. Sympathy prompted me to shave about twenty percent from my usual rates. They gave me all the info they could on Macy Edquist, plus a few more photos. We shook hands, and I bid them farewell, already feeling guilty that I would be profiting from their pain and worry.

Such is life. I’ve got to make a living. I can bartend at fetish parties only so often.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Excerpt from "The Lies Have It" part 3

This continues where the previous blogpost left off...

Sunday, 11:15 am

“Can I get a large orange juice, please, and a coffee?” I said to the waiter as I took my seat at a sunny patio table. Toronto was currently experiencing a welcome blast of, ahem, Aboriginal Peoples’ summer, and patios all around the ’hood were jammed. Today’s brunch was at Kilgour’s, near Bloor and Bathurst, one of the Annex’s hidden gems, and home of the best eggs Benedict anyone could ever ask for.

Jessica and Lindsey had gotten here before me and were already on their second cups of coffee. No doubt Jessica needed the caffeine as much as I did.

“Sorry I’m late. I slept through the alarm.”

“I could hardly drag my ass out of bed this morning. That was quite a night,” Jessica stifled a yawn as she spoke. “At least I’ll be able to sleep on the plane tonight.”

“So, tell me all about the fetish group,” Lindsey said.

“I have no idea where to begin,” I said.

“I can sort of get my head around the dominant and submissive part of it, but the role-playing stuff I just don’t get,” Jessica said.

“Like the ancient cowboy?” I said.

“Exactly. This grey-haired old dude, he had to be at least 168, was all tricked out like a wrangler from the Old West,” Jessica said. “And this chick – she was probably in her early thirties and pretty good looking – well, she was letting him bronco bust her or something. Giddy-up.” We both snickered

Lindsey gave us a look of utter disbelief.

“You should have seen them, Lindsey,” I said. “The girl was down on her hands and knees, and the old guy was whipping her ass like there was no tomorrow.”

Our waiter, who happened to be delivering our meals at this exact moment, gave me a quizzical look, then asked if anyone needed ketchup. We all said no, and he walked away, no doubt wondering about the rest of our conversation.

“Wow. I hope you earned good tips. Tell me at least the money made it worth your while.”

“Meh. They tipped okay, but they weren’t exactly big drinkers. I probably made more money for less hassle back at the slut mines.” If nothing else, the phone sex job had paid well, and had given me a unique insight into human nature.

“All this talk about kinky sex makes me want to become a born-again virgin,” Lindsey said.

“It was surreal,” Jessica said. “But enough about that. What’s happening in your world, Lindsey? Any appointments today?” Lindsey, who is a real estate agent, usually has to devote most Saturday and Sunday afternoons to open houses and viewings of resale homes priced well above market rates. Such is the Toronto real estate racket.

My purse started ringing.

“Hello,” I said, fumbling to grab the phone before the call went into voicemail.

“Hi, is Ian there?”

“Sorry, wrong number.” I clicked off. A moment later, the phone rang again, and the same guy asked again for Ian. “Sorry, it’s still the wrong number,” I said and hung up. I took a closer look at the BlackBerry and realized toot sweet that it wasn’t mine.

“Ooops,” I said. “I think this is Ian’s phone. I must have picked it up last night by mistake.”

“Shit happens. I’m sure he’ll call the bar looking for it,” Jessica said.

“I bet he’s got some juicy stuff on it,” I said, flipping through the menu. “Maybe some kinky photos….”

“You’re not really going to poke your nose in his business, are you?” Lindsey said.

“Of course not. I’m just saying I could, if I wanted to. That’s all.”

“About the last thing I want to see after last night is pictures of kinky sex,” Jessica said. “Anyhow, Lindsey, what have you got on this afternoon? Want to tag along while I do some impulse shopping?”

“My afternoon has unexpectedly opened up,” Lindsey said. “I kept today free from clients because I was supposed to go to some rah-rah-rah political group hug at around four, but it’s been cancelled.”

“You mean the community BBQ or picnic or whatever with Mr. Plastic Fantastic wannabe mayor and his Barbie Doll wife?” I asked.

I was only half listening to Jess and Linds. My thumb was poking through the text messages and callers list on Ian’s phone. I wanted to get his BlackBerry back to him as soon as I could. I know how lost I’d be without mine. I scrolled through the directory to see if he had a home number or a work number stored in his contact list.

“I know these political events are pretty lame, but they’re good for networking. There’s always a chance I’ll get a listing out of it,” Lindsey said. “Besides, Shane’s an ardent supporter of Tim Nealson.”

“I know.” My brother had never before shown even a slight interest in politics, but that was before he started working for himself. Now, as a small business owner, he was becoming something of an activist, at least at the municipal level.

“Why’s it cancelled? The election’s only three weeks away. You’d think Nealson and whatsherface would be out there glad-handing everyone and taking pictures with cute little babies,” Jessica said.

“Gwendolyn. The missus is Gwendolyn. She was in a car accident this morning,” Lindsey said.


“I don’t think it was very serious. All I heard on the radio was that she’d been in a fender-bender and was taken to hospital.”

“Yikes. Not exactly what the Nealsons needs to deal with right now,” Jessica said.

“Sometimes I think she campaigns harder than he does. She gets her name into every news release and every sound bite. If Tim Nealson gets elected mayor, I have a feeling his wife will be the one who’s really running City Hall,” I said.

“It may not be such a slam dunk. Cooperman and the Italian Stallion are gaining in the polls,” Lindsey said.

“And the right-wing blowhard has a loyal following.”

“Anyhow, I’ll have a chance to do my bit to support Nealson later this week,” Lindsey said.

“Oh yeah, he’s doing that dinner at Shane’s place,” I said.

Shane’s place is a wonderful restaurant called Pastiche. It’s a five-star fine dining room with five-star service offering five-star cuisine at five-star prices. Luckily, I usually eat here for free.

“I’m kind of surprised to see this side of Shane. He’s normally so passive, but Nealson’s positions on small business and taxes have won him over. Shane’s really excited about the shindig at Pastiche,” Lindsey said, more to Jessica than to me.

“What night is it again?” I asked.

“This Thursday. It’s being arranged by some group called the Egg Business Improvement Association,” Lindsey said.

“It’s not egg, you idiot. It’s E.G.G., which stands for Elm, Gould, and Gerrard streets,” Jessica said.

“Whatever,” Lindsey retorted pithily.

“I totally get why Shane supports Tim Nealson, but honestly, none of the candidates in this campaign really bowls me over. I don’t think any one of them is cut out to be mayor,” I said.

“I hate to sound like a bimbo, but can we get off this topic?” Jessica said. “It’s a bit heavy for me right now. Keep in mind, less than twelve hours ago, I was watching people in leather and Saran Wrap paddle each other. I’m still suffering from the aftershocks.”

“I think I’m permanently scarred from last night, too. I can’t get rid of the images,” I said, flipping again through Ian’s phone.

“For crying out loud Sasha, that’s not a toy. Why don’t you just call back the wrong number? Maybe whoever that was has another number for Mr. Spank Me.”

“There are times I don’t feel I deserve to call myself a sleuth.” I hit recall. The wrong number dude was a guy named Andy.

“There seems to be a mix up, and I somehow ended up with Ian’s phone,” I said. “You’re the last guy who called this number, so I thought maybe you could help me track down Ian.”

“He has a land line,” Andy said. “Why don’t you call him at home? His number is –”

“Just a sec, let me find something to write with.” I dug through my purse. Wallet, a hairbrush, some tampons, two tubes of lipstick, a ring of keys – some legal, others not – gum wrappers, my iPod, a broken pencil, a golf ball – not sure from whence that came – a few hair scrunchies, a green marker, and my own cell phone, way down at the bottom of my bag. “Okay. Fire away.” I scribbled the number in Kelly green felt-tip on a paper napkin. When I hung up, I immediately called Ian’s home number and left a message for him to call me.

“So are you all packed for your trip, Jessica?” Lindsey asked.

Jessica was booked on an overnight flight to London Heathrow for a family reunion planned around her great grandma’s hundredth birthday.

“Pretty much. Just a couple last-minute things. I have to make a pit-stop on my way home, and then I’m all set.”

“Since I’m free, I can drive you to the airport, if you like,” Lindsey offered.

“Thanks, but no need. I’m carpooling with my cousin Zack and my aunt and uncle.”

“What did you decide to get Great Granny for her birthday?” I asked. “It’s gotta be pretty hard to shop for someone’s hundredth birthday.”

“I got her a pair of argyle socks.”

“Tell me you didn’t…” I said.

Long before Jessica was a twinkle in her daddy’s eye, Jessica’s great grandmother had both legs severed just below the knee after an unfortunate incident involving railroad tracks and too many glasses of dry sherry. The old bird never bothered with prosthetics and has spent the last forty-plus years in a wheelchair.

“You’re positively deranged. GG’s going to write you out of her will.”

“The old broad still has an off-the-wall sense of humour. Zack is giving her a pair of tap dancing shoes,” Jessica said.

“What in the hell is she going to do with any of it?”

“She’ll use the socks as mittens, and the tap shoes will probably become a doorstopper or bookends.”

My jaw dropped as the waiter came by to clear our plates, and to offer coffee refills or dessert.

“I’ll pass. It would be extravagant to have dessert after Eggs Benedict,” I said, in a rare instance of self-restraint.

“Before I forget, here’s the key to my apartment and the key to my mailbox,” Jessica said.

I tucked them into my wallet.

“Thanks again for offering to cat-sit and apartment-sit for me,” she said. Jessica’s big fat lazy Himalayan cat Bella was like a baby to her. I’m kind of neutral on cats, but this twenty-pound ball of grey and white fur, with a face that looked like a ping pong paddle, was okay. Low maintenance and occasionally affectionate. “And help yourself to whatever you want. Mi casa su casa.”

“No sweat. I’ll enjoy the peace and quiet,” I said.

“Hey, I resent that,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey is my brother Shane’s girlfriend – actually, they’re engaged now. Even though Shane and I are both in our early thirties, we both still live at home with our resignedly indulgent and frequently befuddled dad Jack. Lindsey stays at our place two or three nights a week, so the Jackson abode is often pretty busy. Moments of solitude are cherished for their rarity.

“Well, if you weren’t allergic to cats, you could apartment-sit and use the place as a love nest,” I replied.

“Bella doesn’t eat much. Just measure out a scoop of cat food every day and make sure the water bowl is full.”

“I think I can manage.”

“And the litter box is in the bathroom”

“I know,” I said.

“Yeah, but you’ve got to change it as often as you can. It starts to stink really quickly. The ventilation in the bathroom is terrible.”

“No worries,” I said.

“So what time do you have to meet your new client?” Lindsey asked me.

“In about half an hour. We should get the check.”

A Mr. and Mrs. Edquist had left me a message on my office number yesterday morning, but I wasn’t able to schedule a meeting with them until this afternoon.

“Do you know what kind of a case it is?” Jessica asked.

“Yeah. A teenage girl who ran away from home. It promises to be frustrating. Runaways always are.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sample from "The Lies Have It" - Part 2

This picks up where the previous excerpt left off...

Although the night had started off rather slowly, by eleven o’clock, the party was in full swing. I suppose, if one were to choose, The Stealth Lounge is the ideal setting for a fetish party. The walls are painted one shade lighter than black. There are several oversized, ornately framed mirrors hung at odd angles behind the bar. I glimpsed at myself in them, and thought for the hundredth time that it would have been funny to replace them with the convex and concave mirrors found at funhouses and carnivals. I checked my reflection and was satisfied with the appearance of the slender, blond girl in a slim-cut, short, black skirt, and a scooped-neck, clingy, white top who smiled back at me.

The furnishings of The Stealth Lounge run to glass and chrome, the upholstery is a velveteen zebra print. Pairs of loveseats at right angles to each other are at the far end of the bar. Exposed ceiling beams, with their guts painted matte silver, give the room an industrial feeling. Blue-tinted lighting completes the mood. The music – all techno heavy instrumental, with throbbing, reverberating bass – comes over an audio system with crystal clear sound. Yeah, I guess if I were to host an S&M party, this would be the place to do it.

Couples and trios had started to pair off, and they were strapping, whipping and spanking each other with reckless abandon. Most of this pheromone themed hand-to-hand combat took place in the loveseats near the back. Those who hadn’t yet met the bolt to go with their nut were milling about the bar area like dogs in heat. No doubt some of the sexual tension came from folks who had miscalculated the targets of their pick-up lines. One dominant trying to pick up another dom was just not good for anyone.

“Hey Jess,” I said, “maybe next time we should offer sticky name tags and pass them out at the entrance: S for submissive, D for dominant, B for bondage, and Y for why the Hell don’t I find another job?” Jess laughed.

Moose, a florist by day and The Stealth Lounge’s doorman by night, was busy manning the entrance. I imagine it’s rather difficult to be macho and intimidating when you smell like roses, but Moose seemed to be doing okay. A dark-haired Latino behemoth, Moose checked IDs and names on the guest list, plus he had the unenviable task of screening people for dress code infractions.

“Oh c’mon, lemme in! I wanna check it out!” slurred a skanky looking bit of trailer trash who looked like she’d be right at home in a bowling alley.

“Sorry, but your name’s not on the list.” Moose’s face was impassive.

“Wassa matter? I don’t look sexy enough? Here, how’s this?” she wailed as she unbuttoned her shirt and flashed her saggy boobs at poor Moose and the folks standing near the entrance.

“Lemme in!” She cupped her breasts and continued to demonstrate her lack of both dignity and self- respect.

Her toothless Neanderthal of a date tried to finesse his way in with a bribe. He slipped two dollars into Moose’s palm and said, “That oughtta take care of things.”

Moose scooped the Neanderthal into a headlock with his right arm, and firmly gripped Skanky’s wrist with his left hand, and unceremoniously ushered them downstairs. A twenty might have worked, but not a deuce.

“That woman was unreal, wasn’t she?” he asked me when he came back into the bar. I chuckled and slipped him a shot of vodka. He tossed the toonie onto the bar as a tip.

The bar area was quiet for a moment; everyone’s drinks had been replenished. Jess and I leaned back against the beer fridge and simultaneously sighed, smirked, and surreptitiously stared at the group before us. A rather pudgy woman was prancing around wearing a nippleless pink teddy on top and nothing, nothing on the bottom. She had a fluffy purple feather boa around her neck and was asking guys to slap her cottage cheese butt. Ian, ever the gracious host, happily obliged, while I averted my eyes and tried not to toss my cookies.

Jess had seen most of this crowd at the previous soiree and she filled me in on whatever catty gossip she had about them.

“See that guy?” she asked, indicating a well-preserved senior with giant nipple rings, “he’s into golden showers, giving and receiving. I think he left alone last time. Can you imagine being into that?”

I cringed. “Never, no way, not in a million years.”

I folded my arms across my chest, and pressed my knees closer together than words in a dictionary. Right now, I kind of wished I were wearing a medieval chastity belt.

Jess continued, “See those two bottle blonds with black roots over there? Wearing fishnets? They’re looking for a third chick who likes to talk dirty and wants to be paddled. Do you ever think of switching teams? I could introduce you.”

“Ha ha. Piss off, Jess, or I’ll give Assless Leather Chaps your cell number. Besides, Derek satisfies me more than anyone in this room ever could.”

Derek Armstrong is the new man in my life. Our romance is still in its nascent days, but I swear that since we started seeing each other, the skies are bluer, the sun is brighter, and the birds sing more sweetly. Oh barf. I don’t do well with mushy sentiments, but Derek really rocks my world. I couldn’t imagine doing any of this kinky stuff with him, although handcuffing him might be fun. And maybe gagging him, but that’s only because there are times when I’m not even remotely interested in him for conversation. Sigh. Derek had left on Tuesday to work on a trial out of town, and I was really starting to miss him.

Beyond the bar area, in the dimly lit corners of the room, there was a lot of yelping and moaning going on. Ian and several people were clustered around the stocks, and another group was parked near the upside-down hangy thing, so I still couldn’t see how it was being used. Perhaps it was best not to know. A moment later an extremely sexy man wearing nothing but a skimpy pair of red underwear approached me. He set down his role-playing toys – a gaudy looking crown and sceptre – on the bar.

“How ya doing?” the Regal Romeo asked.

He was so handsome and cocky standing there in his undies without even a hint of self-consciousness. It unnerved me and I got all tongue-tied.

“Great! The fun sure seems party…I mean, it seems like everyone’s having a good time.”

He winked at me and said, “How about a Bombay martini? Shaken. Really dry, with a twist. By the way, everyone around here calls me King Arthur.”

“Good to meet you. I’m Sasha.” I tried to look cool, holding the martini shaker in one hand, and shaking it in rhythm with the music. This guy’s smile was electric, and he radiated sex appeal. Why do guys like him instantly make me feel self-conscious? I tried to think of Derek, but His Royal Hotness in front of me was just too yummy to ignore. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with looking. I sucked in my tummy and tried to look cool. The charade came to an abrupt halt as my hand slipped, and the lid from the martini shaker flew off, splashing icy gin all over the front of my top.

“Guess I’m the top contender in the wet T-shirt contest.” I discovered the hard way that my clingy little white T-shirt is fairly transparent when it’s wet. Oh dear.

I measured out another couple of ounces of gin and started again. “Interesting crowd. I guess you know most of the people here,” I asked, holding the shaker a little more tightly this time.

“I’ve talked to most of them online, but this is only my third or fourth party with this group. I go to whichever parties I can. It’s a great community. Everyone’s completely at ease.”

I tried not to stare, but his undies left nothing to the imagination. Some lucky woman was in for a treat later tonight.

“Oh. That’s interesting. I never really thought of it as a community,” I said, effortlessly demonstrating my stellar conversation skills.

“Yeah, Ian hosts this group –”

“They’re called Bound for Glory, right?” It was a safe bet that the fetish group hadn’t named themselves after a Woody Guthrie song about a train. Was that a Woody song?

“Yeah. And there’re lots of other groups and chat rooms too, you know, like Second Life, FetLife, sites like that. I belong to those as well, but I prefer this group because all their events are downtown.”

“How convenient.”

I passed the cocktail to King Schlong and was instantly repulsed. He reached into the front of his undies and whipped out a gold Amex to pay. Eeeeeewwww! The credit card was warm.

“It’s on the house, handsome,” I forced a smile and nudged his card back to him. I washed my hands again, this time with scalding water.

Around 1:30, the party started winding down. Some people paired off with others to go to hotel rooms, and a few partiers invited their sex slaves home for a night of obedient lovemaking. Only three or four people left alone, including the Golden Shower Guy and King Arthur of the Red Undies. Other than them, the fetish crowd seemed to be batting just under a thousand. Ian was practically chained to Minerva, a raven-haired barracuda with never-ending cleavage who had shown up around eleven o’clock. Minerva looked like she had a long list of commands in store for Ian later tonight.

“I’ve packed up everything I can for now,” Ian said. “I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon for the rest of the gear.”

“That’s cool,” Jessica said. “Everything will be locked up when we leave, but I won’t be here tomorrow. I’m starting my vacation in about half an hour, as soon as this shift ends.”

“Well then, bon voyage. Is there someone else I should speak to tomorrow?”

“Just ask whoever’s on duty downstairs to open up the second floor for you.”

“Thanks. Can you pass me my jacket and my bag, please?”

I handed Ian his things from behind the bar and bid him adieu.

By 2:30, thanks to some help from Moose, we had cleaned up, cashed out, and were ready to go home.

“Just let me set the alarm, then we’re outta here,” Jessica said.

“Do either of you want a ride home?” offered Moose.

“Absolutely,” we both answered.

“I’ll get the lights,” I said.

“Here, Sasha, don’t forget your phone.”

“Duh.” I stuck it in my purse as Jess locked the door behind us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sample "The Lies Have It" - part one

Excerpt from "The Lies Have It" .

Saturday, September 29, 7:00 pm

“See a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck,” my friend Jessica said, as she leaned over to grab the shiny copper coin on the sidewalk. We were heading into The Stealth Lounge, the private party room on the second floor of The Pilot Tavern.

“See a penny, let it lie, then bad luck will pass you by,” I replied.

I’ve never let it cripple me, but I do happen to be a tad superstitious. Penny or not, I didn’t have a great feeling about the evening ahead of us.

Bound for Glory, a sado-masochist fetish club was booked into The Stealth Lounge tonight. The same group had rented the place two weekends ago, and poor Jessica had been the only bartender on duty that night. Dear friend that she is, Jessica had suggested that I pinch-hit at the bar with her this evening. I do have a real job as a private investigator, but all too frequently I find myself needing to supplement my income. Friends take pity on me, and occasionally offer me casual jobs that even welfare recipients would turn down, but I don’t have that much pride. Besides, The Pilot’s one of my favourite watering holes.

“Hand me the knife, will ya?” Jess asked as she dumped a bunch of citrus fruit on the bar.

She got busy slicing lemon and lime wedges while I stocked the beer fridge. We were in the midst of setting up the bar for the evening when Ian Dooley, the guy who spearheaded this dominance and submission social club, arrived.

“Hey, I’m Ian,” he said, leaning against the bar. His voice was a little on the high-pitched nasal side, and had more than a hint of a Maritime accent.

I expected some wimpy little milquetoast with a sign on his forehead saying “beat me.” Instead, when I looked up, I saw a hefty but solid guy in his late thirties. He was tall, easily six feet two inches. He was wearing a red plaid shirt and faded jeans, and had thick scruffy, dark hair and a firm jaw. He looked like Paul Bunyan’s long-lost cousin.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Sasha and this is Jessica.” I wanted to be polite, but I didn’t stick my hand out for him to shake. Something about a dude who hosts fetish parties gives me the heebie-jeebies.

“Ian and I met couple of weeks ago,” Jess said.

“Oh yeah,” I said.

“It should be a pretty good crowd tonight,” Ian said. “I’ve really been putting the word out. A lot more people were invited for tonight than last time.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’m gonna start bringing stuff up, but can I leave this behind the bar for now?” He handed me his jean jacket and a Nike backpack. I tucked them onto the shelf where Jessica and I had stashed our purses.

“Could one of you unlock the back door for me?” Ian asked.

“I guess so. Jess, do you have the key?” I asked.

“Can you grab it?” she replied. “My hands are sticky. It’s under the drawer of the cash register.”


“Thanks,” Ian said. “It’s a lot easier to bring things up the back stairs. I can pull my truck right up to the back door.”

Ian headed out to collect the accoutrements for the S&M funfest. Jessica checked to make sure the cash register had enough change for the night, and I stocked up the straws and swizzle sticks.

Once we got everything set up behind the bar area, Jessica and I took a moment to freshen up.

“Do you think this colour is okay on me?” Jess puckered as she applied a shiny coat of Candy Apple lip gloss.

The bright red tone flattered her complexion and suited her chestnut hair, but I’m not one to toss off compliments freely.

“Yes my dear,” I mumbled through the bobby pins I was holding between my teeth. “All the bondage boys are going to be begging for you.” I was alliterating while trying to get my hair to co-operate, but gave up, and just stuck it into a random pile at the back of my head. My hair’s a lost cause these days. A good chunk of it was burned during a fire a few weeks ago, when I wrapped up one of my more unusual cases. The case had started with a missing hooker and had ended with me dousing out flames on my head. All in a day’s work. I had some hair extensions put in, but right now they seem like more bother than they’re worth.

By nine o’clock, The Stealth Lounge had been transformed into a spank-me paradise. The stocks were in place, a St. Andrew’s cross had been set up, and the lights were dimmed. An upside-down hangy thing that Jess had described to me after the previous event was set up. I looked it over, and could not figure out who was supposed to use it or how. Ian reclaimed his knapsack and went into the men’s room to change into his party clothes. He came back shirtless, wearing only a black leather “kilt” and black lace-up army boots. I couldn’t tell if he was wearing socks.

He passed his knapsack back to me, flexed his muscles and asked, “Whaddaya think?”

I checked him out from head to toe, and really didn’t have any opinion, except for flinching when I noticed his pierced nipples. Ouch.

“So, is it true that men don’t wear anything under their kilts?”

Shortly after nine o’clock, the first few partygoers began to straggle in.

“Coupla Stolies, neat,” commanded a man in a leather hood as he dropped a fifty dollar bill on the bar. He groped and grabbed at his partner while I poured their shots of vodka. The man looked like he wanted to devour the woman for breakfast, and she hung onto his arm like the ditz I’m sure she is. After the guy paid and scooped up all his change, I gave my hands a quick rinse. Everything about this evening felt grimy. It suddenly seemed like my uncareer had been downgraded from unconventional to uninspired. I reminded myself that I had options. I could go back to school and train as a nurse or something.

The next twosome to belly up to the bar were in character, and they dashed the career choice I’d just made. She was Florence Nightingale in a micro-mini and see-through blouse. A cute little nurse’s cap with a red cross on it was perched jauntily on her head. Her partner was dressed in green hospital pants and a white lab coat, and looked ready to give her a cervical exam.

The Missing Hooker case I had worked on this past summer had exposed me to the world of commercial sex. I had learned more than I wanted to know about what people do behind closed doors. However, my education in non-traditional sex is mostly anecdotal, and I’ve never actually seen anyone acting out their fantasies like I was seeing here tonight. In fact, in another former job of mine, I’d talked people through their wet ’n wild fantasies, but that had been on the telephone. I usually played solitaire or surfed the Internet while horndogs got their rocks off, but I digress. Tonight was a real eye-opener.

Ian greeted guests as they arrived, high-fiving some of the guys. He pointed out the coat rack to the left of the entrance where people could dump their jackets and bags, and then he steered people towards the bar to order themselves a glass of liquid courage. Yet another couple walked in, and they too were dressed to role-play. They were in leather from head to toe, though she had on considerably less of it than he did. The red-haired chick had a studded dog collar around her neck, and her partner had a leash attached to it. He didn’t pull the leash taut, but the message was clear.

They came straight to the bar and I asked them something along the lines of “what’s your poison” although I reworded it – some jackass in this crowd may have taken the cliché literally. Jess threw a smirk my way as she handed a Corona to a wrinkly old man wearing nothing but assless leather chaps and a pair of handcuffs dangling from his left wrist. I didn’t watch to see where he kept his wallet. The master and slave duo in front of me looked at the array of bottles behind the bar.

“Johnnie Black and Coke. On the rocks,” Master said. I was about to ask his pet what she’d like, when her master continued, “She’ll just have water.” I didn’t ask if I should pour it into a bowl or serve it in a glass. The girl never even made eye contact with me.

I have to admit, the people – at least those who were permitted to speak – were rather nice and generally polite. But with some customers it was hard to hear their orders – the music was blaring, and leather facemasks aren’t especially conducive to enunciation.

I flirted with a couple of the wussier-looking guys, correctly guessing they’d respond well to a stern dominatrix, a role I’d learned to vocalize all too well during a period of financial meltdown, when I’d briefly worked at an X-rated call centre. There’s something to be said for transferable skills. You’d think that someone with my rather sullied curriculum vitae would be blasé about bartending at a fetish party. I wasn’t necessarily offended by what was going on, but it was beyond my ken, although sort of interesting and rather surreal. Right now, I kind of wished I were a pothead. A joint might have helped make sense of this night. Alas, I’m not a toker.

I made the next customer beg me for his bottle of micro-brewed light beer.

“Are you sure you want it?” I purred as I uncapped a bottle of organic lager. “How badly do you want it?” I held the bottle just beyond his reach.

“Oh Mistress, you know I want it…bad…Please, please tell me you’re going to give it to me,” the guy replied.

A couple feet away, Ian, who’d been watching this whole transaction, gave me a thumb’s up.

Jess rolled her eyes at me, and poured a Scotch on the rocks for a woman wearing nothing but Saran Wrap.

“Careful not to spill any on your lovely outfit,” Jess deadpanned as she handed the Saran Siren her libation.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Busy writing? Actually, no.

People think that I've been toiling away at my desk, burning the midnight oil to write the next book.  But it just looks that way... I haven't really written much since Christmas vacation.  But the assumption is understandable.

Blood and Groom (the 1st Sasha book) came out in November 2009.
Dead Light District (Sasha #2) came out in March 2011.
The Lies Have It (Sasha #3) will be out in November 2011.

From that timeline, it does indeed look as though I've been typing away, but release dates have nothing to do, really, with when the writing actually happened.

Blood and Groom was done - fully written when I signed a contract in November 2008 for it to be published.  The publisher decided on the release date, and their decision was to have it come out in November 2009.  So, it was in limbo for a whole year. 

During that year, I wrote and finished Dead Light District - it was done a few months before Blood and Groom was even released.

I decided to go with a different publisher when it came time to bring out Dead Light District, so that explains part of the reason for the long delay in its release. 

During that lull before Dead Light District came out, I finally finished The Lies Have It.  I actually began writing The Lies Have It in 2005!

The Lies Have It was the hardest of the three to write.  I liked the overall idea of the book (set against a fetish/S&M backdrop) but couldn't make the plot work.  So, I started and stopped it many times between 2005 and the last year.  In early January 2011, I completed the first draft of the whole manuscript.  In May 2011, I did some revisions, and then in July it went to the editor. 

So there you go, three books in two years, but the behind the scenes real timeline is actually quite different from how it seems.

I guess I'd better get busy writing #4 and #5.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Character's name...

I really like the name of my sleuth: Sasha Jackson.  I like how the first and last names sound together.

I chose "Jackson" as Sasha's surname as a nod to my father, whose name is Jack.  And I've just always liked the name "Sasha" (but don't like the way it looks when a "C" is added to it, as in Sascha - ugh).  I just like the way the name sounds... but...

I pronounce her name so that it rhymes with dash or bash or hash or sash.  Sa-sha.  A lot of people (readers and/or fans) will talk to me about the books and say they really like the character "Saw-sha" or "Sahhh-sha" which to me is a different name.

So, I'm just saying, it's Sasha.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Food in the Sasha books.

It sometimes seems as though mystery writers are wannabe restaurant critics, or perhaps they're frustrated chefs. Whatever the reason, food is frequently mentioned (along with wine, beer, and hard liquor) in crime fiction. 

Nero Wolfe is perhaps the luckiest PI in fiction as he has his own chef! The meals served to him are nothing short of gourmet. 

Robert B. Parker's sleuth Spenser seems to know his way around a kitchen (although his girlfriend Susan seems to only eat air), and Archie McNally (created by Lawrence Sanders, continued by Vincent Lardo) mentions several fantastic meals at The Pelican Club.

So, what does Sasha Jackson eat? Just about anything! Her brother Shane owns a restaurant, so I get to have fun "serving her" whatever he's cooking. In Blood and Groom Shane served her Lobster Truffle Risotto and Pan-seared Bison Tenderloin with Chanterelles and Stewed Apples.

When Sasha's not eating at Shane's restaurant, she eats just about anywhere that's handy: Indian buffet, Thai take out, or a good delicatessen.  Then of course, there are Sasha's brunch outings with Jessica and Lindsey. Bacon and eggs, eggs Benedict... and always lots of coffee.

Notice I don't say anything about her own cooking... 

It's fun giving Sasha permission to not worry about her weight. Her eating habits and food preferences are essentially the same as mine.

In the soon to be released The Lies Have It, Sasha has some wonderful dishes at Shane's place, including Chilled Spicy Thai Watermelon soup with Crabmeat, Coconut Curry Mussels, and Sesame Crusted Tuna with Wasabi and Ginger.

No wonder I usually get hungry when I write!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Real Places in the Sasha Jackson Mysteries

They always say "write what you know..." and I know several fine restaurants and watering holes around Toronto.  In the Sasha books, I often send the characters to places that I frequent in real life, and that I really do like, such as:
Two places that have been mentioned in the Sasha books have gone out of business since the books were published: Monsoon (fine dining, downtown) and Myth (resto-bar, on the Danforth).

I don't always use real places, some are entirely fictional and a few are fictionalized versions of actual places, including:
  • Bartholomew's
  • Penelope's
  • The Danforth Cafe
  • Moishe's
  • The Purple Door
Generally, I use a fake place if my portrayal of it is negative (i.e. bad food and service), or if I need to invent a bar-restaurant-cafe somehwere in order to move along the plot.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So you think you can dance...

I run for the bus. I make something for dinner every night. I dance when I go to a wedding reception. Doing any of the aforementioned does not mean I'll sprint in the Olympics, open a gourmet restaurant, or become a contestant on "So You Think You Can Dance".

People write every day: emails at work, Facebook status updates, job applications, shopping lists and so on. Being able to put words on paper (or a screen) does not mean you can be a writer any more than nuking dinner means you're the next Gordon Ramsey.

It's astonishing how many people assume that penning a book is something they can do whenever they get around to it.  Whenever I do events or book signings, I always meet a few aspiring writers who seem to think that the only thing standing between themselves and a bestseller is enough hours in a day to tap away on the keyboard.  

My favourite comment on this involved (I believe) Margaret Atwood.  A fan met her at a book event and told her he was a surgeon.  He said that when he retired, he planned to write a novel about his years in medicine.  Atwood (or whoever it was) replied that when she retired from writing, she planned to start performing surgery.

Writing well takes a lot of work, and a lot of practice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Means, Motive & Opportunity...

I love the idea of writing a whodunit, but the whole point of a whodunit - they mystery of it all - can be frustrating as hell at times.

I find it easy to create characters.  Coming up with a victim is the easiest.  Creating a villain is also pretty easy (and a lot of fun).  Deciding on a motive is usually pretty smooth (they basically all boil down to one of the seven deadly sins).  And, choosing the murder weapon isn't too difficult.

What I find really hard is to figure out HOW the crime was committed, not just the moments of when it occurs (that can be easy or hard, depending on the story), but writing it so that the crime and clues to it are peppered into the story.  The author should play fair with the reader and give enough clues so that a reader has a chance of solving the crime, but not in such a way as to make the plot a dead give-away.  And the commission of the crime has to be believable, but cannot be too obvious.

So, once I get my head around that, then the writing goes very quickly.  But until then, I stare at the computer screen, drink tons of coffee, pull my hair out and often lie awake until the wee hours of the morning. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

A bit more on becoming a writer...

If you really, really, really want to become a published author, it's actually pretty easy (at least in Canada - more on Canadian publishing in another blogpost).  Or, I should say it's fairly simple to get published if you do your homework. 

Aha... that's the problem... 

There are always exceptions and wild stories of overnight success, but the reality is that most writers have to have some kind of credibility before an agent or publisher will even look at them.  It's like that old circle of (il)logic: Can't get a job without experience, can't get experience without a job...

If becoming published really, really matters and it's your number one dream, then you're going to have to jump through a few hoops and do some work for free.  Suck it up, Princess...

Few agents/publishers will give you the time of day if you don't have a track record... so build one. 

In my case, I checked out some community papers.  Little monthly papers usually operate on a shoestring budget... meaning they don't really have much of a staff roster... meaning that they are receptive to content they don't have to pay for. 

"The Voice" (a monthly paper centred on and available in East Toronto) published three separate articles I sent them. 

The first article (which I sent in time for their September issue) was about learning opportunities in the area: yoga classes, French instruction, music lessons, etc.  Their September issue (naturally) focused on Back to School, so my little piece on general interest courses and lifelong learning fit in.

The next piece I sent them was timed for their February issue.  Brrr... Winter, cold, snow, Spring Break soon, get away, go south... I wrote a little piece on vacations in warm places, but with a twist: I wrote about "volunteer vacations" - building a school in Guatemala, helping out at an orphanage in India, etc.  Sure enough, The Voice accepted this article.

The third piece I had published in The Voice was another article centred on the neighbourhood, and the idea relates a bit to the article mentioned above.  I wrote about volunteer opportunities in the East Toronto and included a range of ways to give back to the community.  There were descriptions of volunteering at hospitals and long term care facilities, working with animals at a shelter, and so on. 

While I wouldn't say that these articles directly landed me my first publishing contract, they certainly helped.  When I began querying agents (only two) and publishers, I could honestly claim that I had been published.  To prospective agents and publishers, this can matter a great deal. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

So ya wannabe a writer...

I'd say that the first thing an aspiring writer MUST do is get a good, REALLY GOOD handle on language. Learn the rules (then you can break them effectively!) Learn the conventions, styles, spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, grammar of the language, inside out.

I got an email from an aspiring writer asking "Would you mined looking at my writing sample? They're are only ten pages. Its a thriller, set in the future..." The three mistakes in the previous sentence are obviously NOT typos. This is a case of not knowing (or showing that you know) the difference between:

it's and its
there and they're
mind and mined

As boring as it might seem, you should get a stack of grammar books or take a refresher course.  

An author once visited my book club and spoke to us about re-learning English.  When he first set out to tell a story, he had no idea what a dangling participle was and couldn't tell a preposition from a proposition.  But he recognized that if this writing thing was ever going to pay off, he needed to brush-up on language. 

A friend from the book club later slagged the writer in a conversation with me.  I didn't say a word to her at the time, but I mentally corrected her grammar about a dozen times during our chat (she never uses the past participle with modal verbs.  If you don't understand what I just said, Google it). 

I guess the point is that, even though you may read and speak and write in English all day, every day, you may very well be making mistakes that you're unaware of. 

Second, you should know your genre. If you want to write science fiction, check out the GREATS (Asimov and Bradbury, I guess?) Read blogs about the genre and pay attention to fans' comments about what they liked (or not) about the latest hot new title. Learn who's publishing what kinds of titles. This way you can determine if there's a fit for you with that publisher's line-up. Learn the genre so that you can spot the gaps, and then offer something to fill them.