Saturday, December 6, 2014

Deadly Dozen Redux

Have you ever looked at a book title and imagined what it might be about without looking at the blurb and finding out? Fifty Shades of Grey, for instance, might be a how-to book about decorating executive offices.

How about looking at twelve titles and making them into one story?

Bob The Bridgeman sat in his booth taking tolls all day. Between cars, he worked on his Sociology essay on the Deadly Legacy of imperialism on third world economies.

He was just composing a brilliant closing line to his introduction when he was interrupted by a text message from his sister. She had just found A Purse to Die for and could he lend her a hundred bucks.

Train of thought derailed, Bob turned his attention to Cheat the Hangman, a role playing game he was developing with his college roommate. They had their steam punk world all worked out, but were having problems with A Human Element, their main non-player character: Lakota Honor.

Suddenly a pickup truck ran the toll gate. Bob speed dialed the OPP and took note of what details he could see. It was a late model, white Chevy Silverado with a Pelican Bay logo painted on the side. That was the resort down the road on Safe Harbor.

A moment later, a black Ford Explorer came through, lights flashing. When he got through to the dispatcher, he was able to tell her that a police vehicle was already in pursuit.

"What is it about that bridge that attracts so much trouble?" Bob asked. "I'm beginning to think you arrange for these incidents to happen when I'm on shift so you can talk to me."

The dispatcher huffed. "That's a fine thing to say on a call that's being recorded. You're going to get me fired or worse. I'll be here today and just Soul and Shadow tomorrow."

"I was just joking. Joking is one of the Innocent Little Crimes."

"Say that when you joke your way into the Room of Tears."

"Does this mean you won't go out with me Saturday night?"

"Only with Divine Intervention."

Reviews for the books in Deadly Dozen:

"You won't catch your breath until the last page [of The Bridgeman] turns."--Lou Allin, author of She Felt No Pain

"Deadly Legacy grips your attention from the first page...a treat for the senses." --Garry Ryan, award-winning author of Malabarista

"[A Purse to Die For has a] page-turning pace, fascinating characters, sly wit, and a plot that will keep you guessing." --Janet Bolin, Agatha-nominated author of Dire Threads

"Cheat the Hangman is a refreshing and chilling paranormal mystery you won't want to miss." ―Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion

"A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart. Highly recommended." --Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Code Zero

"Transport back to the old west with this paranormal historical [Lakota Honor], and its alpha hero, and a heroine hiding her secret talents." --Shannon Donnelly, author of the Mackenzie Solomon Urban Fantasy series

"Christiansen offers a tale sure to entrance readers--a story of love and wisdom and the mystery of a forgotten graveyard under the waters of Pelican Bay." --Man Martin, author of Paradise Dogs

"[Safe Harbor] offers a coherent structure, an exact feel for the Toronto locales, and, in Pat, a hugely attractive sleuth figure." --Toronto Star
"Soul and Shadow is a deep and complex tale of deceit, danger and love. Well plotted and extremely engrossing that I couldn't put it down." --Romance Junkies

"Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold in this fast-paced, thrilling story...[Innocent Little Crimes is] a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breath the whole way through." --Publishers Weekly

"[Room of Tears is] a beautiful and gut wrenching story...Miss Merlino weaves a flawless tale that will have you sobbing by the end of the book." --#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Rachel Van Dyken, author of The Bet

"Great imagination, fabulous imagery...This chilling page-turner [Divine Intervention] is a genuine Canadian crime novel...Tardif gives her readers plenty of twists and turns before reaching a satisfying ending." --Midwest Book Review


Monday, December 1, 2014

Dear Santa

 "May you live in interesting times."

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a Chinese curse or even Chinese. But it can be a bit of a curse.

For instance, after finalizing a manuscript that includes a character suffering a concussion, my son got a concussion. Interesting. The writer in me wonders why he couldn't have done this while I was in the editing process so I could use the first hand knowledge I've gained. (The mother in me wants to slap the writer silly.)

Twenty-two years ago, when I first had Bell's Palsy, I was told that I'd never have to go through it again. Ten years later, I was told that I wasn't supposed to get it again. Ten years after that, the same thing. Two years later, I found out that it is rare for Bell's Palsy to affect someone twice, but if they get it twice, they might get it a third time. However, only a tiny proportion of those people ever suffer it again.

I'm one of the rare few. Interesting.

When I was an adolescent, I actually wished for my life to be more interesting. By this time I had traveled to Mexico, across Canada, to London, Paris, Rome and through what used to be Yugoslavia. My life was already pretty interesting, I just didn't appreciate it. My day-to-day life was safe, stable and financially secure. I didn't know a good thing when I had it.

So, dear Santa, my Christmas wish is for my family to have good health and to enjoy less stress.I'm not against adventure, but I could do without the curse of Interesting Times.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Poppy Days

Poppies at the tomb of the unknown soldier.


When I was in university, I went through an ambivalent phase when it came to wearing the poppy and Remembrance Day. It wasn't that I didn't honour the service of veterans so much as I wondered how much good came of the campaign as a fund-raiser. Were we financing more monuments to the glory of war?

Seaman Nelson Bruce, 1940
A veteran and member of the Royal Canadian Legion set me straight. Though monuments are raised "To our glorious dead", no veteran, whether they saw combat or not, believes that war is glorious. The poppy may symbolize the dead, but the poppy campaign is to serve the living.

The money raised by selling poppies helps the Legion help veterans in need.  Many years later, the Legion purchased a lift chair for my father after a major stroke. That chair helped him stay home for a few more years and was a great asset when it went with him to the nursing home. For my father and other veterans, the Legion fills the gap between what is needed and what veterans' benefits and health care provides.

My father has passed on and his chair is helping another veteran somewhere, but I am still a benefactor in the Legion's work.

Poppy money also aids the Navy League, Sea, Air and Army Cadets. These programs keep participating youth active and engaged, as well as encouraging good citizenship, teaching Canadian history, and practical skills -- not unlike Guides and Scouts which I grew up with, but more financially accessible.

Cadet Sam Bruce-Ireland, 2012
Membership,  programming -- which includes camping, sailing and band -- and kit (2 uniforms, gym gear, coat, boots and even socks) are supplied free of charge, thanks in part to contributions made possible by the poppy campaign. The way my son grows, I wouldn't be able to afford to keep him outfitted otherwise.

My father served in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. My aunt was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. My mother was in the Observer Corps. My grandfather was in the Royal Air Force. Kids I knew when I managed a comic book store served in Afghanistan.

So, I wear the poppy to remember. But I stick extra change in the boxes because I know it's going to a good cause.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Scary Stuff

What Scares Me...

I used to have nightmares about wild animals loose in my bedroom. Evidently, tigers were a favourite for showing up. They came when my parents were out and I was left with my Nana. She used to shoot them for me.

I don't remember any of that.

I do remember my closet door. It never closed properly. The darkness escaping that slightly open door freaked me out at night. Pulling the covers over my head was the only escape.

Through my closet was the way up to the attic. We lived in an old home which creaked ominously as it settled at night. Racoons and squirrels regularly found their way into our eaves. There was a lot of aural fodder for a creative young girl's imagination.

Later, when I moved up to the attic, I became enured those natural sounds. But, before I fully opened my walk-in-closet door, I'd reach in and turn on the light. And before going to bed, I made sure the door was fully closed and latched.

To this day, I like doors to be full open or fully shut. In between gives me the willies.

Related to closets, I don't like toilet lids left up. This isn't just the usual women's complaint about men leaving the seat up causing awkward moments when we sit without looking. I want the lid down too. That dark hole in the bottom of the bowl can be as bad as the shadows in a closet.

It's not that I believe the urban legends about snakes and the like coming up through the drains... at least I don't think it's going to happen to me here in Ontario... but you never know. (Anyway, it was a good story to tell my son to get him to put the lid down.)

Ghosts, in comparison, don't scare me. Well, I'm sure they could if they tried, but so can my children.

I saw my first ghost when I was six. It was my grandmother coming to say good-bye the night she died. Actually, that's the last ghost I saw. When my mother-in-law visited, I never saw her exactly. I just knew she was there checking up on her son. I could sense when she came and went and knew when she had moved on, satisfied that Ross was okay. (He was very sick at the time.) She made me a little nervous, of course, but my live father-in-law scared me more.

I've sensed other ghosts since then, but they've always been people I had a close connection with. One day I'm going to go on the Ghost Walk in downtown Guelph and see if I can meet some strange ghosts. The Albion Hotel, our oldest extant tavern, has several, including one of Al Capone's mistresses. Local legend says Capone used to stop at the Albion during (smuggling) business trips.

 True or not, we have enough spectral action to have our own Ghost Hunters of Guelph whose goal is "is to reduce fear of the spirit world by increasing ones understanding of spirit energy."

Vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night make great stories and fun costumes for Halloween. Until I meet one, I don't think I'll worry about being scared of them. Even in stories, it's not the monsters but monstrous actions that are really frightening. If anything, having a monster to kill gives us a cure for our fear.

Or does it?

What scares you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Question of Image

Venus Looking in the Mirror by Rubens
Adding up the Figures

October is Women's History Month in Canada.

I was trying to think of something to write  on the subject. Not coming up with anything on my own, I asked my fourteen year old son. He suggested I talk about how the fashion for different types of women's figures has changed over the years.

I've often said I was born in the wrong century. This is untrue. Peter Paul Rubens was born in the wrong century. I'm sure he'd prefer the twenty-first century with indoor plumbing and modern medicine more than I'd enjoy seventeenth century Europe during the Thirty Years War.

Speaking of war, one of few benefits of World War I and II were the changes to the status of women. Being called upon to do "men's work" in the factories, shipyards and in the military, changed how women saw themselves and how they were portrayed in the media. The muscular Rosie the Riveter comes to mind. Photos of sturdy young women were used to promote the Land Army. Attractive but business-like women in uniform were used to entice recruits for the women's army, navy and air force auxiliaries.

Canadian expat Elizabeth Arden was commissioned to create makeup set for the US Marines Auxiliary. The cosmetic maven promoted good health as well as the right makeup to achieve beauty. The clear message was that women could be pretty and useful at the same time.

Post World War II, an equally vigorous campaign was waged to send women back to the kitchen. What real women wanted was a new washing machine or vacuum cleaner, not independence. It wasn't enough to be pretty, you had to be glamorous. The model of beauty became Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield.

Young women exercised to chants of "We must... we must... we must develop our busts." Lifting a separating was important. Tight sweaters and big skirts were in vogue. (Not unlike tight, rip-able bodices and bustles a century before.)

At least Marilyn Monroe and her contemporary pinups* were meatier than the average starlet these days. That trend started with Twiggy. She popularized the notion that you can't be too skinny.

The frail, almost anorexic look isn't new. Lord Byron made it popular with his passion for Caroline Lamb. But you had to be a member of the small number of elite to have the time and inclination to subsist on a diet of vinegar and wafers. The thin poor didn't choose to starve themselves.

It took mass media to get a hold on the collective women's conscious and convince them they didn't look right. Too fat. Too flat. Too sort. Too tall. Too not like the models seen in ads. With the help of Photoshop, the models don't look like the ads either.

So, will the pendulum of fashion and history swing the other way? Or will we look beyond fashion to define beauty?

[* Note: I have a great deal of respect for Marilyn Monroe's ability as a comedic actor. For that matter, I don't have anything against Twiggy. I do object to how they were used to objectify women in order to sell products. Advertisers should stick to kittens and cartoon bears to do that.]

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Tour

The Long and Deadly Road

For the month of October, the DEADLY DOZEN authors are on the virtual road with a Pump Up Your Book book tour. I'll be at Beyond the Books on Wednesday October 8.

Monday, October 6

Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Book Featured at Maureen’s Musings

Tuesday, October 7

Interview at The Writer’s Life (Cheryl Kaye Tardif)

Wednesday, October 8

Interview at Beyond the Books (Alison Bruce)

Thursday, October 9

Interview at I’m Shelf-ish (Donna Galanti)

Friday, October 10

Interview at As the Page Turns (Catherine Astolfo)

Monday, October 13

Interview at The Dark Phantom (Linda Merlino)

Tuesday, October 14

Interview at Review From Here (Rosemary McCracken)

Book Featured at CBY Book Club

Wednesday, October 15

Book Featured at I Heart Reading

Thursday, October 16
Book Featured at Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews

Monday, October 20

Interview at Literarily Speaking (Kat Flannery)

Tuesday, October 21

Interview at Deal Sharing Aunt (Gloria Ferris)

Wednesday, October 22

Book Featured at Carol’s Notebook

Thursday, October 23

Interview at The Book Rack (C.S. Lakin)

Monday, October 27

Book Review at My Life, Loves and Passion

Book Featured at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 28

Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth (Susan J. McLeod)

Wednesday, October 29

Book Review at Hezzie D’s Books and Cooks

Thursday, October 30

Interview at Book Marketing Buzz (Cynthia St-Pierre & Melodie Campbell)

Friday, October 31

Interview at Lori’s Reading Corner (Jesse Giles Christensen)

Book Featured at Booklover Sue

Book Review at Undercover Book Reviews

Monday, September 29, 2014

Creativity: Fertile Soil

On a regular basis, writers get asked where their ideas come from. The ideas are all around us, like seeds blown on the wind. When they land on me, they generally find fertile soil, which is to say I am well composted and full of ...

Deadly Beginnings

It was a bright, sunny day. I sat under a beer umbrella in the square drinking Sleeman Cream Ale from a plastic cup. Guelph was celebrating it’s annual Multicultural Festival and I was celebrating the end of a long hot day. In no hurry to go anywhere, I pulled out my notebook and started writing...

It was a bright, sunny day. I sat under a beer umbrella in the square drinking Sleeman Cream Ale from a plastic cup. The beer was warm. I’d been nursing it for an hour, waiting for my client to leave his office.

So started my first draft of Deadly Legacy. When I decided to set the story in the near future, bright and sunny gave way to incessant rain as a nod to Blade Runner. It took a while before “the client” got a name, but his physical description was cemented that first day.

His pale face was a map of worry lines and a fixed frown. He wore one of those endurable overcoats and a matching hat, both advertised as 'guaranteed to protect your clothes from anything nature or environmental pollution throws at you.' It made the short, stocky man look like a walking tent.

The walking tent was really a man in his eighties. His coat probably fit him just fine when he bought it. Both hat and coat were almost certainly Endurables. Nothing else would have held up for so long. The short, stocky, worried man was wearing a business suit and had just walked out of a bank. The client was like Frankenstein’s monster, made from gathered parts. Not so the detectives.

Kate Garrett and Jake Carmedy came to me in a dream. If I tried, I could probably deconstruct the different elements that got mashed together. I know that our dream are a result of our minds making sense (more or less) of the flotsam and jetsam of nightly mental housekeeping. But, from the start, Carmedy and Garrett were more than the sum of their parts. They were real characters in search of a story... a story that had been started, years earlier, on a bright sunny day.

Deadly Legacy is available as part of the Deadly Dozen Collection as well as being a stand-alone novel.