Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dating Deal Breakers: Sasha & Clare

Detectives and Dating Deal Breakers

Sasha Jackson and Clare Vengel, two sassy, sexy sleuths, discuss men and sex and dating. These two aren’t exactly experts... Romance advice from them is kind of like asking PETA for barbecue tips...

Sasha: I’ve sown enough wild oats. It’d be nice to meet someone more serious. I’m definitely not looking for a one night stand.

Clare: No? I like one-night-stands. I'm open to more – I'd love to fall in love one day – but until I do, I don't see the harm in having fun with the search.

Sasha: The search can be fun, up to a point, but there’s nothing worse than a disappointing one nighter. You know, the kind where you want to ask him “is it in yet?”

Clare: Ha ha. Trying to remember if I’ve ever been drunk enough to ask that out loud...

Sasha: Actually, I’ve only said that twice. In both cases, the guy was out the door within minutes. So, um, physical attributes aside, what are you looking for in a guy?

Clare: A body I want to wrap myself up in. I think I have fairly classic taste – tall, strong – I like dark hair, but blond is OK as long as he's manly enough to compensate. And he has to have a brain. Nothing turns me on like conversation.

Sasha: Ha! I expected you’d say that he should have a motorcycle and know how to fix cars. My ex-boyfriend Mick would be great for you.

Clare: Yeah, Mick’s hot. But musicians are so temperamental and angsty. It's like they're looking for a shrink and a mother, not just a girlfriend. Plus it would be awkward, dating your leftovers.

Sasha: I wouldn’t turn down a date with that professor guy you did, what was his name? What was his name... Matthew?

Clare: His name was Dirty Dog. A great lay, but he’s a dog. I should have made him wear three condoms. Anyhow, I thought we were supposed to be talking about dating and not just sex.

Sasha: Oh, yeah. Um, so our dating criteria so far is a brain, right?

Clare: Yes. A brain that can penetrate mine. I don't even mean that sexually. But I like a guy who challenges me – makes me think about things differently than I did before I met him. You know what I mean?

Sasha: Definitely! And a pulse would be good too.

Clare: They’re better in bed if they have a pulse.

Sasha: Ah, we’re back to sex again...

Clare: There's no avoiding sex. Chemistry tells you a lot about how you connect with a person.

Sasha: Does it ever! Anyhow, well, what about style? I’m not into a metrosexual who dresses better than I do, but it’s good if the guy doesn’t wear black shoes with a brown suit.

Clare: Suits are just bad all around – they tell me that he takes life, and himself, way too seriously. And I could not agree more about metrosexuals. I want a man to look like a man. My perfect guy dresses like the Marlboro Man. Maybe minus the cowboy boots.

Sasha: Agreed. What about hobbies or interests? I’d like a guy who’s in good shape, but not super-jock, and even worse, I can’t handle a couch potato sports junkie.

Clare: Yeah, muscle guys who put in too much gym time are a turn-off too. I'm cool with sports fans, as long as they're not into football. I like watching sports that have excitement – hockey, NASCAR, even soccer's okay. But football? I want to slit my wrists, that game is so pointless. But you hate all sports, don't you?

Sasha: Guys who scream at the TV and plan their week around the NFL, NHL, NBA. I like actually going to sports events, but I just don’t get them on television. I roll my eyes when I see guys start screaming at the TV.

Clare: Oh – I agree about the fanatics. Sports obsession is stupid. But so is obsession in general, don't you think?

Sasha: Don’t get me started on obsessive-compulsive types. Remember Victor?

Clare: Oh, yeah. The shooting. Forgot about that. Sorry. But at least you’re still alive.

Sasha: Hard to argue with that. Anyhow, back on track. Another deal breaker is if a guy’s a complete redneck.

Clare: That means you’ll never date any of my cousins.

Sasha: Well, if they’re anything like your cousin who can burp the whole alphabet, I’m okay with taking a pass. Being a little bit cultured is important.

Clare: Sure. As long as he doesn't want to drag me to the opera—

Sasha: —he should know that the “T” in merlot is silent! And he should know which fork to use.

Clare: I don't care about wine and forks. Give me a beer and a pub meal any day. But I care a lot about how he treats the staff. If he's rude, entitled, or condescending, he's so not getting into my bed.

Sasha: Being snotty to bartenders is a deal breaker. And cheap tippers suck.

Clare: They're the worst. I don't mind frugal guys – it's good to be smart about money. But cheapness says two things to me: (a) Selfishness. A cheap tipper isn't thinking about how good the service was, how good the meal was, or anything outside of himself. He's thinking, How can I keep the most money in my wallet? And (b) Limitation. Someone who's too reluctant to part with their money isn't experiencing all they could in life. I don't want someone who racks up huge debt because they want to drive a flashy sports car. But I do want someone who wants to try new things – like snorkelling or skydiving – and isn't overly concerned about hoarding those dollars instead.

Sasha: I’ve dated a few guys I’d like to push out of a plane or hold underwater. Okay, now, ’fess up. Do you do a background check on a guy before the first date?

Clare: I should! I've actually never thought of it before, but I do have access to information most civilians don't. Thanks for the idea. What about you?

Sasha: Uh, well, usually, yeah. Let’s just say I regret the times that I skipped the background check. Like, I wish I’d known in advance about the guy with pigeon fixation, and the guy with no gag reflex, and the guy who wears his dead mother’s housecoat every Saturday.

Clare: Wow. Well, if you ever need info only cops can get, you can always call me.

Sasha: What’s the worst break-up or date you’ve ever had?

Clare: Worst break-up: Lance. I caught him in bed with another woman – I'd say she was the town ho, but it turns out our town has a lot of hos. In the aftermath, my friends started telling me about things they'd seen, rumours they'd heard . . . other women they hadn't wanted to mention when Lance and I had actually been a couple. Some friends, right? Wait until it doesn't matter, then drive in the pain with a corkscrew. What about you?

Sasha: I was on vacation once, with a guy I’d been dating about 4 months. We were at an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, and he was acting like such a jerk. To him, all inclusive meant drinking his face off—

Clare: —like he had to get his money’s worth.

Sasha: Exactly.

Clare: Fucking cheapskate. Did I mention I hate that in a man?

Sasha: Me too. Anyhow, halfway through the trip, I took off. We were at the buffet restaurant at the resort, and I said I had to run back to the room for something. I’ve never packed so fast in my life. I bolted outta there, checked into my own room, and never spoke to him again. Didn’t even make eye contact with him on the flight home.

Clare: That's actually kind of funny. I've never had anything that dramatic, but some friends once tried to set me up with a guy a few towns over from mine. They told me his lawyer was working on getting his conviction overturned, like that was a selling point.

Sasha: Oh, my god!

Clare: And once when I was on a bus, I met a guy who leaned in real close and told me he was in the CIA. I must have looked interested, because he kept talking all the way from Toronto to Orillia about the people he'd “silenced.”

Sasha: Did you give him your number?

Clare: I gave him yours.

Sasha: Okay, so the checklist for dateable guys then is a pulse, decent manners, a bit of culture—

Clare: A sense of humour.

Sasha: A brain...

Clare: And – okay this one might sound weird – but you know how in some relationships, it's like your personality gets swallowed? I want a man who makes me feel more like myself – stronger, not weaker.

Sasha: He’s got to be confident and comfortable in his own skin. Anything else?

Clare: A nice cock.

Sasha: I just might start blushing...

Clare: I think that covers the must-haves.

Sasha: It’s a rather short list, when you think about it. We’re really not that hard to please. What about the deal breakers?

Clare: For me? Cheapness, criminal records – unless they've been overturned – and metrosexual angsty musician-types. For you?

Sasha: No more stalkers, and I’d better not recognize the guy’s voice from the 1-900 smut call centre!

For more on Sasha Jackson,
For more on Clare Vengel,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Anthony Bidulka: On Cellphones, Will & Kate, Poplars,and Scrolls.

Carol Channing, I mean, sorry folks, today we're talking with mystery author Anthony Bidulka.  I became hooked on his Russell Quant series a few years ago when I read Tapas on the Ramblas.  Russell is a fun character and Bidulka's mysteries will keep you guessing. 

And here we go...

Jill:  What can you tell me about your current work in progress?
Anthony:  I am currently working on the eighth instalment of the Russell Quant mystery series. As you may be aware, in each book, in addition to his home town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan , Russell always spends some time in a foreign locale in pursuit of bad guys and good wine. I’m considering calling this one either “Dos Equis” or “Two X’s”. You figure out where he’s going this time.

Name one living and one dead writer whom you were influenced by/whom you emulate. Tell me why.
The incomparable Gail Bowen, author of the Joanne Kilbourn series, certainly made me aware that a mystery series based in Saskatchewan could be successful beyond provincial boundaries. She also taught me that a key to growing compelling and realistic series characters is to write about them as if they exist and have lives even between books.

Robert B. Parker showed me that a good writer can deliver meaning, humour, intent, menace, whatever, with very few words. It was as if he only had so many words to spend in his lifetime, and didn’t want to use them up all at once.

(Aside from Jill:  Okay, who doesn't like Robert B. Parker & the Spenser books.  But what about Susan Silverman?  Is she annoying or what?)

Jill: What’s the most unusual place and time that a great writing idea came to you?

Anthony: I don’t think this is unusual, but my best ideas come to me while I am travelling and out of my usual element. There are certain moments during great trips where you can be sitting, let’s say, in a beautiful vineyard, sipping a fine wine, the air is warm, the smells not quite familiar, and your mind is suddenly free of day-to-day shackles, left to roam, to contemplate beauty, to believe in dreams and achieving the nearly impossible. For me, that is when greatness finds a fertile field to plant its seeds. However, although ideas often develop when I am away, they rarely come to fruition until I am back home, in my familiar, comfortable setting.

How close – give a fraction or a percentage if you want – is your sleuth to you?

Name four LIVING famous people (with whom you have no relation or connection) that you’d enjoy having cocktails with. Tell me why or what you’d like to discuss with them.
Any living PAST President of the United States – To discuss what it felt like to be, for a time, the most powerful man on earth leading the most powerful nation. What were their greatest fears and joys during their time as president? How did it feel to step down from the role and become a civilian?

Oprah Winfrey – To discuss her views of the world, giving, spirituality, fame, religion, education, love, power, Nate Berkus.
 Osama bin Laden – To discuss evil, the use of power, destruction, murder to achieve a goal, the single-minded pursuit of an ideal, to investigate a perspective for which I have little or no understanding of.

Carol Channing – for the sheer fun of it.

Worst memory of school (any grade/level).
Only the first twelve years of it.

What are your writing requirements (place, atmosphere, etc.) and your usual writing routine?
Quiet. My home office. I’ll start with creating an outline that details whodunit and the story arc for each major character, then off I go. When I am in full time writing mode (ie not promoting, doing book tours, researching, travelling, etc), I tend to write Monday to Friday, early morning to about mid afternoon. I’m also a draft writer. I don’t send in a manuscript to my editor until I’m quite sure it is as perfect as I can get it. The key is knowing when it’s time to let it go.

The one thing you wish you had known before getting your first book published...?That the publishing industry was about to be turned upside down and inside out. Then again, I don’t know if knowing it would have made any difference to me.

Who is (are) your favourite minor/supporting character(s), from your own work?
Although Sereena Orion Smith, Russell’s mysterious next door neighbour, and Kay Quant, Russell’s mother, quite regularly rank amongst reader’s favourite, the supporting character I enjoy writing the most is Errall Strane. I think it has something to do with the fact that amongst all the characters, Errall can be flawed, nasty to Russell, and thinks she is the star of the series. I think this makes the dynamic between the two characters crackle and unexpected, for me as well as the reader.

Name the last two NON-fiction books you read. Comment on them as desired.After a great deal of resistance, I read Eat Pray Love. Totally loved it. I enjoyed how Gilbert tells a story, and I appreciated how she investigated concepts and ideas which I was unfamiliar with and hence, learned a great deal about.

Inside the Magic Kingdom : The Seven Key’s to Disney’s Success. Simple basic rules for success, that needed repeating, told in a unique setting. Stuff like never be late, under-promise and over-deliver, say please and thank you.

Strangest thing a fan/reader has ever said or done to you (online, at a signing, whatever...)Arrived at a party I was hosting, sat alone on the pool’s diving board all night watching me like an owl, then was the last to leave (by invitation).

Somewhere... in a closet, in a desk drawer, under your bed... you have an early draft, an old manuscript, an outline for a book you never finished writing. It was probably one of your very first attempts at writing. What’s it about, and will you ever finish it?
It is a thriller called “On the Eighth Day”, sort of a futuristic, doomsday type of storyline, about what happens when the world suddenly stops working. The timing was bad for this manuscript. I completed it right around the time of the Y2K craziness about what would happen on New Year ’s Eve 1999. By time it was ready to go, the market was already flooded with this type of story. Perhaps some day….

What would you like to write outside of crime fiction?
I’d love to try fantasy, romance, children’s books. The problem is finding the time.

Who would Russell rather dine with: Berlusconi or Sarah Palin?Berlusconi. If nothing else, at least the wine and food would likely be fantastic.

Turn back the hands of time... reverse technology... pretend you’re in a world sans electronics, which means no e-books. You (and Russell) have a choice: would your stories be told on scrolls delivered by carrier pigeons, or chiselled into stone tablets? Why.
Totally the scrolls. Easier to work with. Easier to pass around and get into different markets across my kingdom. (I am king in this scenario, right?)

The famous stupid question by Barbara Walters: if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? What about Russell?
I would be a Poplar. Russell an Aspen.

Your pet peeve? Russell’s?
People who stand in the middle of doorways, grocery aisles, hallways, sidewalks as if the world belongs only to them. Noise polluters: Public whistlers. People who yell/talk loudly at the beach or other public places. People who use cell phones loudly in public. People who walk around with those little cellphone ear-and-mouth pieces in even when not talking to someone, because they think it looks cool.

Russell’s thoughts on the pending nuptials between Kate and Wills?
Is wondering whether Kate’s love for a good hat will transfer to hubby once the rest of his hair is gone. And, feeling triumphant because he was amongst the first to predict that after an initial awkward phase, it would be brother Harry who would be the hotter prince. Should Kate change her mind? Nah. She’s gonna be queen!

Russell’s stance on marijuana use?
Although personally an abstainer, and currently residing in a one-time Temperance colony, is thinking it’s about time to legalize the damn thing, and regulate its use and distribution, just like beer and Baby Duck. Let’s move on.

So there you have it folks... Inside the heart and mind of Anthony Bildulka (and Russell Quant).  Pass me a glass of Baby Duck and bring on the carrier pigeons and the scrolls!

More on Anthony's latest release:  Date with a Sheesha

Learn more about Anthony Bidulka and the Russell Quant series at:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sasha's Dad: The Gambler and His Hair Colour

Here's a little more info on Sasha's dad Jack Jackson.

His real name is Jedediah Jackson, but everyone's been calling him Jack since he was a teenager (about 173 years ago). 

Jack's a bit of a nerd.  He's had a calculator attached to his wrist since he was in diapers.  His love of statistics and probabilities led to a career as a math professor.  Sounds dull, so far, right?  Just wait...

What Jack really loves is gambling.  He taught Sasha and her brother Shane how to handicap the ponies when they were still in grade school.  "Family Time" at the Jackson house usually meant scanning through listings in the Daily Double and then screaming at the televised horse races.  Sasha used to sneak out of the house to go and watch Sesame Street at the neighbour's place.

Since retiring from academe, Jack has been gambling full time, trying out his card counting strategies in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and other gambling  milieux.  Jack's game of choice is Blackjack and some of his card counting theories have been published in various gambling magazines.

Once when he was at a casino on the Las Vegas strip, Jack got nailed for being a professional card counter.  The casino manager, who looked like a side of beef, told Jack he was permanently barred from said casino.  Jack was then escorted out of the premises by four security guards... none of whom had necks.

Jack decided to outsmart the casinos, and began wearing a disguise.  He let his short grey hair grow longer and dyed it dark brown; he started sporting facial hair.  His goatee (also dyed brown) was bad enough, but he also grew a mustache.  Not just a normal mustache, no no no.  Jack grew a big long handlebar mustache (also coloured by Clairol's #623 'Chestnut Charm') and waxed the tips.  To complete the ruse, Jack got some coloured contact lenses, thus chaging his eyes from blue to brown, and he accentuated these with a pair of oooversized horn-rimmed glasses.

Privately, the family accepts Jack as he is and they understand why he does what he does.  But it's a little embarrassing trying to explain Jack to others.  For instance, a couple of months before Sasha's college graduation, she had the following exchange with her father:

"What colour would you like my hair to be when we go to the convocation ceremony?" Jack said, stroking the tufts of his beard.

"Um, plaid?" Sasha replied as she reached for a bottle of vodka.

"There's going to be a photographer there, right?"

"Um, I was thinking, maybe, skipping the graduation ceremony..." Sasha said, knocking back a double shot of Smirnoff.

"What?  Miss your own graduation?  Over my dead body."

"That can be arranged," Sasha replied with a shit-eating grin.

"We're going to take lots of graduation photos.  Would you rather have pictures of me with dark brown hair, or would you prefer pictures with my natural colour?  I need time the let the dye grow out and the grey to grow back in."

"Are you sure I wasn't adopted?" Sasha asked, pouring yet another stiff shot of vodka.  "Do we really share the same DNA?"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sasha's brother Shane: Why My Sister Drives Me Crazy

Hi folks, this is Sasha's big brother Shane.  Let me say right off the bat that I love my sister, but she really tries my patience at times. 

Imagine what it's like to comment on your sister's new hairstyle and to hear her say: "I had no choice.  The fire burned most of it."  Normal people don't have flames bursting out of their heads.  I'm just saying...

I'll never forget the time I got the call from the hospital.  It was late at night and someone from the Emergency called, and said to get down there right away.  Sasha had been shot... in the boobs.  There's no "Get Well" card for that.

I admire the fact that she has a lot of guts, but she doesn't seem to know her own limits.  She equates the desire to do something with the ability to do something.  Among her many talents are singing and being a rather adept burglar, but she can't drive worth a damn and her cooking, oh , God, her cooking...

She decided one summer Sunday that she'd make dinner for the family.  I'll give her creidt for the steaks - she grilled them, and they were tender and tasty, and perfectly seasoned.  But the side dish... ugh.  She made veggies, green beans maybe, or broccoli?  Whatever.  It would have been okay if she had just left it alone, steamed them and served them.  But no.  Not Sasha. 

She had a recipe for some kind of creamy sauce to put on the vegetables.  The recipe called for half a cup of cream, 18% cream maybe?  35% maybe?  Whatever.  Liquid.  Cream.  She probably could have even used Half and Half.  We were out of cream, and milk too for that matter.  So Sasha used a half cup of Ready Whip, you know, the whip cream you spray out of a can?  It was disgusting.  Of course, she didn't tell me or Dad that until after we had eaten everything on our plates.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to Spell "Fellatio"

Hi folks.  Sasha here.  I've been hearing some stories around town, and I'd like to set the record straight.  I admit it; I was a bit of a brat when I was young, but it was innocent, usually.  I can't tell you how many times I've said "It seemed like a good idea at the time." 

Like the incident with the CN Tower.  I was only about 8 or 9, yet Dad brings up the story every so often, usually when he's trying to talk me out of something... or when the cops bring me home.  He usually pops a couple of Rolaids right after telling the tale. 

You see, I was just a kid, and Dad took me and Shane to see the Canada Day fireworks.  I can't remember where we were exactly, but the CN Tower blocked part of my view of the fireworks and I was mad.  The next day, I posted handmade signs - written in purple crayon - all around town offering to sell the CN Tower for $25 dollars.  I guess to a kid $25 is a lot of money.  The signs didn't work, so a week later I made new signs offering someone the right to blow up the CN Tower for $25 dollars.  The Police and some angry city officials had a rather stern talk with my Dad.  They suggested that I have more rigorous supervision.

Then there was the time in grade 5 or 6.  I was in the semi-finals of the city-wide Spelling Bee. 

I hijacked the word list before the spelling competition.  When the judges called me to the microphone, they asked me to spell the word "fellatio".  Most of the parents gasped, and a few of the kids snickered.  As per the Spelling Bee rules, I asked the judge to use the word in a sentence.  I wish I could remember what she said.  I know she turned beet red.  Whatever it was, there were several muffled guffaws from the parents in the audience.  I bit my tongue to keep from laughing. Then I asked if the judge could mime out what the word meant, and my teacher, Mrs. Dumbrowski, immediately hauled me off stage.   I still don't think it was fair to give me a month of detention. 

Sasha Jackson's Hangover Cures

1. Stave off hangovers forever: Stay drunk.

2. Don’t get drunk in the first place.

3. Eat burnt toast. Toast must be blackened to the point of becoming a piece of charcoal. It will taste awful, but you’ll forget about the hangover.  You may end up with the runs.

4. Voodoo cures are effective if you have been drinking wine. Stick a dozen straight pins in the cork from the offending wine bottle(s).

5. Kudzu extract, from the vine Pueraria lobata, available at health food shops, is a Chinese herbal remedy that claims to reduce the effects of heavy drinking.  If you can pronounce "Pueraria lobata" you should probably go to the nearest Emergency Centre.  If you cannot pronounce "Pueraria lobata" then you likely haven't sobered up yet.

6. Have a big bowl of New England Clam Chowder. If you aren’t a fan of gelatinous seafood soups, this may have not have a soothing effect and might actually make you blow chunks.

7. Melt it away. Get into a steamy hot sauna for 15 minutes and you’ll feel like new.  You might not smell very good, though.

8. Blast the hangover out of your system. Have a shot of tequila (2 ounces) mixed with an equal amount of Tabasco sauce.

9. Ginseng. It seems to cure everything.

10. Vegemite (or Marmite) on soda crackers. The crackers soak up the liquid in your stomach and the leftover brewer’s yeast extract will duke it out with whatever chemicals are floating around in your innards.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest blogger Alex Carrick tells us about his writing journey...

Hey Folks!  Let's give it up for Alex Carrick, the first of several guest bloggers to drop by over the next few weeks.

Alex Carrick is the author of two books of short stories, Two Scoops” Is Just Right and “Three Scoops” Is A Blast! His piece, The Size of the Skip was an honorable mention among 1,700 international entries in the 2010 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. He lives in Toronto with his wife Donna (also a writer), three children, a lazy dog and an oddball cat.

A Path More Easily Taken

For me, and I’m surprised to say this, the most important thing about writing is the fun. Coming up with an idea and building on it is a solitary pleasure like few others. Sharing the finished product is the icing on the cake. Even the editing has its rewards. I love tweaking the language, massaging the rough spots and making sure the plot progression is logical and consistent.

I don’t always feel this way. Sometimes I grapple with anxiety if a story doesn’t develop properly or I’m not expressing exactly what I want to say. I’ve also stumbled over a writer’s block or two like so many others. But when I sit down of a morning and the words form a story and the whole appears fresh on my computer screen like scripted marble, I feel pretty good.

I’ve been lucky in my writing in many ways. As a professional economist, my day job has required that I write consistently and voluminously. The practice has been invaluable. I’ve developed the discipline to concentrate and record something no matter what the circumstances. The strange thing I’ve discovered is there are a bazillion stories and they only need unwrapping.

My serious writing is now being accompanied by more casual pieces. This has happened for several reasons. My wife Donna is well recognized for composing mystery and adventure novels. Watching her commitment and dedication, I could not help but become caught up in the idea myself. Writing a book had always been at the back of my mind. A core truth of life is how quickly the time passes and it’s the things we regret not doing that come back to haunt us.

The technology is now available to make wishes reality. Self publishing and print on demand provide the means on the output side. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter help with the marketing and brand awareness. The final piece of the puzzle has been provided by e-books.

Anybody anywhere in the world with access to the Internet, can order one of my books and be reading it in two minutes. It’s a wonderful new world of opportunity for both readers and writers.

The actual spur to my short stories was initially provided by the blogosphere. My employer asked me to start writing an economics blog. Okay, that proved interesting, but a little dry. So I began writing entertaining and/or amusing short pieces to intersperse with my serious work to break up the flow, stir up the creative juices, keep me sane and provide more appeal to readers.

Quickly, the short pieces evolved along a separate path of activity. I began to post them on my personal blog site to distinguish them from my business side. Never mind that my employer was quite happy to see the disconnection. This has also given me more freedom of subject matter.

I should also mention that the emotional satisfaction from writing a good economics story is one thing. Hearing positive feedback from readers for my entertaining stories, based on created-from-scratch characters and story lines, is a whole other and higher level of satisfaction altogether.

My interest and focus so far has been on short stories. For whatever reason, perhaps rooted in my own attention-challenged personality, novel writing has held little appeal for me. I like to take a single idea and build it up, but not linger over it. I’ll start with a “hook.” It can be in the form of a great title or some quirk of psychology or even a joke as long as it’s original. And I always try to keep in mind one critical question: Is this something that will hold a reader’s interest?

Don’t get me wrong. In the course of my 63 years, I’ve read every genre of writing there is, beginning with the classics in my 20s and progressing in stages through science fiction, fantasy, detective novels and whatever bestsellers were hottest in my 30s through 50s. My reading interests now centre on history and learned tomes (best if they’re entertaining) on the fine arts.

I try to draw on all of these for subject matter. The thrill is in finding new juxtapositions of ideas to take plot lines in unexpected directions. And in putting words together in novel combinations that open up imagery in some poetic or lyrical manner that hopefully hasn’t been done before.

I’m finding the social media is a spur to creative thinking. Having to express oneself within a limited number of characters is a valuable exercise in precision. One must be concise but also informative or affecting. Social media also provides writers the chance to showcase their talents.

Some would decry the lack of descriptive powers in much modern writing. What can I say? We live in a video age. Based on all the movies and TV we’ve seen, we can all provide most of the background scenery that’s required in a story. That’s why I tend towards sketching in only what is most essential in terms of what a reader needs to know to understand what is going on.

One of the most significant benefits of my personal writing has been the feedback loop. The loosening up of my style on the creative side has spilled over onto my business side, making my economics stories more approachable. Whether writing for serious intent or to amuse, it is important to make the reader want to read the next passage. With my tongue tickling the inside of my cheek, if you’ve hung in with me to this point in this article, then I’ve done my “job”.

Finally, have I mentioned the “thick skin” side-effect? Not everyone is going to like one’s work. Maybe I should add that’s been my experience, at least. This is part of growing as a writer. I pay attention to criticism, mull it over and adapt if there is validity. But I’ve also learned critics reveal a great deal about themselves in what they say. That can be good or bad, depending on the context. If one believes in oneself, a thick skin will eventually become a welcome coat of armor.

Now enough with the self-absorption and lecturing, time for me to get back to having some fun!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guest Bloggers

Just a quick update...

I'm pleased to say that I have a few guest bloggers lined up for the next while:

Therese Greenwood (follow on Twitter @wolfeislander).  Therese has edited two crime fiction anthologies, and has contributed to Ellery Queen.

Aex Carrick (follow on Twitter @alex_carrick).  Alex is the author of Two Scoops Is Just Right and Three Scoops Is A Blast!

...and DJ McIntosh will be a guest blogger a little bit further down the road.  DJ's first novel, The Witch of Babylon (part one of the trilogy), will be published by Penguin this June.

I look forward to sharing their posts with you!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"A is for the Case of the Burglar Prey"... huh???

Today, I'm the guest blogger over at the Type M for Murder blog, which is hosted by some wonderful writers, including Rick Blechta, Vicki Delany, Donis Casey, John Corrigan, Barbara Fradkin, Hannah Dennison, Frankie Bailey, and occasional guests.

I chose to write about mystery series and titles.  You can probably guess from the title of this post that I'm referring to Sue Grafton, Stanley Gardner, Block, et al.

Swing by the Type M for Murder blog and have a look. 

Cheers, Jill

Follow up:  I have had a few title suggestions posted in comments under the original blogpost @ Type M.  One suggestion is "Lash and Burn" and another is "Spanks for the Memories".  I like both of these!  Thanks Mark!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Walking away from traditional publishing...

This article was really interesting!  It's about an established author's decision to go it alone,  instead of staying with an established publishing house.  Much food for thought...

Alisa Valdes & The Dirty Girls Books & Self-Publishing

Given changes to the industry (i.e. Kindle et al), there may be some very solid arguments for switching gears.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: The Ever-Awesome Mystery Author Vicki Delany! (And a woman with exceptional taste in hats!)

Molly Smith and the Evolution of a Character and a Setting.

As far as I know the protagonist in my Constable Molly Smith is unique in the world of crime fiction. She’s a cop, and the series in which she appears is a fairly traditional police-procedural novel, but Smith is not a detective. When the series begins in
In the Shadow of the Glacier, Molly’s just a probationary constable. By the third in the series, Winter of Secrets, she’s a constable third class. She’s twenty-six years old.

Molly Smith is more Sasha Jackson than DCI Banks.

I created her young, naïve, green and very eager, because I am hoping to get the chance to watch her grow and change and learn about becoming a woman as well as a police officer.

Of course probationary constables and constables third class do not assist with major crime investigations. Other than to stand outside and take notes of everyone who enters the crime scene. In any big city Molly would spend her time writing traffic tickets.

Veracity is important to me in my books, particularly when it comes to policing. It was therefore necessary to put her in a small town. The sort of small police force where everyone multi-tasks. Thus I created Trafalgar, British Columbia, a town nested in the mountains of the Southern Interior. Not at all loosely based on the real city of Nelson.

In order that it’s somewhat realistic for Smith to become involved in major crimes, I made her a local. Born and raised in Trafalgar, her parents own a store on the main street and are involved in everything that goes on (at least her mother, Lucky, is). The detective sergeant is John Winters, recently arrived from Vancouver. Because Winters is unfamiliar with the town and the residents, he knows (initially against his will) Smith can help him negotiate the waters.

In Valley of the Lost, Winters reluctantly realizes he needs Smith:

Smith should be out on the beat. Patrolling the streets of Trafalgar. She was a probationary constable, not a detective. But he was lost in this small town. Only ten thousand people, everyone of them connected to everyone else by a myriad of invisible threads.

Not that the small town setting is a disadvantage. Small communities are great places to set mystery novels.

“Do you know what Sherlock Holmes said about the countryside?”


“’The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside,’ The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.”

“The great detective never came to Trafalgar, sir. I think he’d find it peaceful here. Most of the time.”

“I’m not interested in what happens here most of the time.”

Sergeant Dick Madison and Constable Molly Smith, Negative Image.

Molly Smith does find being local somewhat of a disadvantage sometimes:

Smith’s mother, Lucy, whom everyone called Lucky, was no less idealistic now than she’d been back in the day. Which also didn’t make it easy to be an Officer of the Law in this opinionated, left-leaning, artistic, independently-inclined town nestled in the mountains and forests deep inside British Columbia.

In Negative Image, Smith has come to realize that if she wants to get ahead in her career she will need big-city, big-police force experience. She is highly reluctant, however, to leave the town she loves, her parents, her new boyfriend.

We will have to see, in later books, what her decision is.

Vicki Delany writes the Constable Molly Smith series of which the latest is Negative Image. The fifth book in the series, Among the Departed, will be released on May 3rd.

She is also the author of the Klondike Gold Rush series (Gold Digger, Gold Fever), and novels of psychological suspense.

Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany,
on facebook (
or twitter @vickidelany