On “Siblings” & Community

Sisters in Crime was originally created in 1987 as a safe and supportive community for women crime writers, when such women’s works were rarely seen face-out on mystery bookshelves, let alone on bestsellers and awards lists. Fast forward 30 years and many wonderful changes have happened in the publishing industry—while many issues have also remained stubbornly unresolved.

One thing SinC has always stood for is inclusion. That’s often a lot easier said than done for Canada West, a chapter that spans four western provinces and two northern territories. While online technologies are integral to connecting members, the sheer vastness of our chapter’s territory makes in-person meetings a definite challenge.

So it’s easy to imagine the excitement of the chapter Executive when the idea of a live retreat first came up. Though the planning committee volunteers were naturally star-struck at the possibility of meeting and learning from Laurie R. King, an incredibly successful SinC sibling (multiple New York Times bestseller, anyone?), they were just as jazzed about the potential of creating a true community builder.

The Summer Writers Retreat is about supporting and encouraging writers of all genres and experience with a day of professional development and opportunities for new friendships and career connections. (Sprinkling in a few fun events can’t hurt, either.) The retreat is meant to give like-minded people a place to “geek out” on writing craft topics and industry tips and then, to take home things to try within a cloud of happy feelings of camaraderie and community.

The publishing industry has certainly changed since 1987, but our commitment to inclusion and uplifting one another remains as strong as ever.

SinC Canada West interview: Loreth Anne White

Sisters in Crime – Canada West interviewed Loreth Anne White on the occasion of the release of her latest book, The Girl in the Moss, which debuts today, June 12th.

Loreth Anne is an internationally bestselling author of thrillers, mysteries, and romantic suspense. A three-time RITA finalist, she is also the Overall 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award winner, and she has won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Romantic Crown for Best Romantic Suspense and Best Book Overall, in addition to being a Booksellers’ Best finalist, and a multiple CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award winner.

​A recovering journalist who has worked in both South Africa and Canada, she now resides in the haunting mountains of the Pacific Northwest with her family where she tries to avoid the bears, albeit not always unsuccessfully. When she’s not writing, you will find her skiing, biking, hiking the trails with her dog (aka the Black Beast), or open water swimming. She calls this work, because that’s when the best ideas come.

 

SinC-CW: Tell us a little about your most recent story, The Girl in the Moss.

Loreth Anne White: The Girl in the Moss is a cold case mystery/thriller that kicks off when a shallow grave in a mossy forest exposes the bones of a decades-old secret. Early reviews have described the story as dark, atmospheric, and twisty with a shocking conclusion. While it can be read alone, The Girl in the Moss is book 3 in the Angie Pallorino series which also has a romantic thread playing out over the arc of the three books.

A larger philosophical question around cold case detecting also plays throughout this book. As one Goodreads reviewer wrote: “If history allows those in grief to move forward with their lives, trying to breathe new life into a cold case threatens to upend everything for survivors. On the other hand, those who have gotten away with murder are eluding justice. Angie clearly represents Justice in this book, even at times when nearly everyone is against her and when some of the opposition’s arguments make some sense.”

So yes, Angie is dogged, but hopefully for good reason—the mystery of her own tragic childhood is another cold case that is solved over the course of the three books, which includes The Drowned Girls, book 1, and The Lullaby Girl, book 2, and that past informs her character.

Where is the series set? What is it about that location that made you want to set your latest book there?

Victoria, Vancouver, and other (augmented) parts of Vancouver Island are the prime locales for this series. (I have a passion for setting my work in Canada!) I particularly love the moodiness and atmospheric mystery of the Pacific Northwest. The weather here, and the terrain, shapes the people, and I think it all lends itself so beautifully to the Scandinavian noir atmosphere of crime fiction that I love. I wanted to try and tap into that tone with my Angie series.

Imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

 Angie Pallorino! This one is a no-brainer… did I mention Angie is stubborn, dogged. She will not give up on a mission she has set her heart on. She’s also empathetic and resourceful, and when her friends have her back, she by heaven has theirs. And she did a pretty darn awesome job of saving homicide detective James Maddocks and his daughter at the end of Book 1, and some other characters in the following books who I won’t name for fear of spoilers. J

Describe your current writing workspace(s).

I am blessed to have a place I can call an office these days—a long way from the half-closet in our tiny bedroom where I started my fiction writing journey after coming home from a full day’s work on the local newspaper. My desk faces a large window that looks over trees toward the slopes of Whistler Mountain. And I always have orchids on my desk now. For various reasons the flowers remind of who I am and where I came from, and of people I love who are both present in my life and gone. Kind of a totem, I suppose. J

What’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

Right this moment I am in love with my work in progress. But speak to me in two more minutes and it shall once again be the largest pile of dreck you ever did see! Ah, those teeter-totter mood swings of a novelist. The Dark Bones is the tentative title for this work. It’s an atmospheric mystery/suspense/romance set in Cariboo country in the B.C. interior, and while it is a standalone, it links to A Dark Lure, which was an Amazon #1 bestseller and is still currently ranking in the top 100 in Germany (in its German guise as Winterjagd). If all goes to plan—and things do yet all have to slot into place—the book will see the shelves early next summer.

Do you belong to any writer’s groups or communities? Do you think these types of social interactions are important for writers?

I belong to several. Romance Writers of America, Kiss of Death (which is the mystery and suspense chapter of the RWA), Novelists Inc (Ninc), Sisters in Crime and the local chapter Sisters in Crime-Canada West, Crime Writers Canada, and many online groups, loops, and communities. These connections and conferences like the RWA annual convention, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, the Surrey International Writers Conference, Writers Police Academy, and the Ninc cons have been key for me. I’ve learned to write commercial fiction through them. And if one wants to be a working writer, a selling writer, a commercial writer—it helps to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry: what’s selling, what isn’t, who’s buying, what agents want, how to work with or without an agent, what editors are buying and seeking, various publishing choices, marketing, Facebook ads, Book Bub, newsletters, networking, contract negotiations, what kind of money is being earned and where… it’s ever-evolving.

Have you had to deal with bad reviews? How do you manage them?

Many! What published author hasn’t? And they do hurt. I do read my reviews when I happen across them because if I see a common refrain—well, that’s something I can either use, or lose, in future work, depending on the refrain. I can learn from reviews. Then there are those negative slams that are just out there. Those I try to just look away from and keep on going.

Are there certain themes that keep coming up in your work? If so, is it intentional, or something that just happens.

 Good question! I realized just recently that I tend to write primarily about survival in one way or another, and about finding one’s tribe.

Do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

Definitely! I grew up on Enid Blyton stories about intrepid kids who solved mysteries on dark and stormy moors and who stalked wicked smugglers in rugged coves with dangerous seas and blinking lanterns in the dark. And I went on to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and Willard Price’s tales of adventure with dangerous animals in wild places. I think all those elements I adored in those early tales still fire me now.

You are well published, with a number of romantic suspense titles from Harlequin as well as four single title romantic suspense books. What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in 2018? What’s the best thing?

I have published 26 works of fiction now, and the last decade in the publishing industry has been one helluva ride. We’ve watched traditional publishing nosedive through the gold rush of the self-publishing/digital revolution. We’ve seen brick and mortar bookstores closing in the face of the Kindle evolution and Amazon dominance. We’ve seen traditional markets and shelf space shrinking. At the same time I have never met so many writers whose names you don’t know who make more than an incredible living (millionaires, many). This was not that case prior to the digital revolution. The big challenge now, however, is how to navigate the end of the indie gold rush, and how to crack the ‘discoverability’ conundrum that is the Great Wall of Content that keeps on growing and growing, minute by minute… both in backlist and frontlist. What was working last month is just not working now, and so on. Another challenge we’re seeing a lot of in my writing communities is burnout. Pedaling that indie hamster wheel is taking its toll. I’m seeing writers of many years flat out quit.

What advice do you have for writers of fiction starting out now?

Write what you love to read! Hands down, number one. Chasing the market year after year after year will exhaust the muse and can cause bitterness and frustration down the road. And you’re going to spend an awful lot of time reading and re-reading and proofing and editing and rewriting your own work along the way so having passion for the genre will help keep the energy there.

And define what success means to you early on. Is it to make lists, hold a hardcover in your hands, see your book in an airport bookstore, win some award, secure literary accolades, speak on panels, do book tours, be your own boss, make a fat living selling millions of mostly-digital copies, be available on all platforms… because your definition of success will help decide what publishing route to pursue in this shape-shifting, often demoralizing, but also very exciting business filled with tons of truly awesome people.

You can visit Loreth Anne White at her web site here.

Guest post by Laurie R. King

When I sat down in 1987 and wrote the opening line of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, what did I—an at-home, 35 year-old mother of young children—imagine would happen?

I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him.

Did I have the faintest glimmer of an imagination that, three decades later, I would be thinking about my sixteenth novel in the series? Would my wildest dreams have known that most of those would be New York Times bestsellers? Or that people—readers, other writers—might regard me as any kind of an expert on…well, anything, really?

Nope. At the time I sat down and wrote those words, I knew nothing about the early 20th century, or about southern England. I knew less than nothing about Sherlock Holmes. At the time, I wanted to tell a coming-of-age story about a young woman with a mind like that of The Great Detective.

But once your character has come of age—which happens for Mary Russell in the second book, when she turns 21 and has to decide which path her life will follow—then what?

A series is faced with that same decision. Do I write characters who are fixed, in personality if not in time, and give them adventures that can be read in any order? Or do I let each episode shape those characters, giving the series an overall narrative arc?

When I began the Russell “memoirs” (they’re written in first person) I was not terribly interested in Sherlock Holmes. As a supporting actor, as the pattern on which Russell’s mind was formed, Holmes was both fun and useful—if nothing else, contrasting a middle-aged Victorian male to a young 20th century feminist offered me a near endless source of conflict and snappy dialogue.

But one of the intriguing things about the Conan Doyle detective is how somehow, despite his façade of being a cold and unresponsive thinking machine, we feel that Holmes is driven by very human impulses—a passion for justice, a deep need to set things right. As John D. MacDonald put it (in the 1984 edition of Mystery Writing Handbook):

We remember Holmes as a man who, primarily, was troubled in spirit, was obsessed with the sense of evil, whose arrogance was defensive.

In other words: anything but coldly inhuman.

The awareness of that side of the man gradually permeated my own version of him, and made possible a series of 16 books that still interest their writer (and, one gathers, their readers). Around the fourth or fifth book, I started to become interested in Holmes as a character, rather than as a foil for Mary Russell. How would the devastation of the Great War have affected him, I wondered? What about the man in 1915, as opposed to 1880, opened him up to taking an apprentice—and a female one at that? And how would that apprentice-turned-partner have challenged him, as clearly Dr. Watson had not?

How would both of these extraordinary characters have changed, over time?

And with that, the Russell & Holmes series developed a narrative arc, about something larger than the adventures of two phenomenal minds.

 

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2018’s Island of the Mad).  She has won an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe, been chosen as guest of honor at several crime conventions, and is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology. She was inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars in 2010, as “The Red Circle.”

 

What Can You Expect from Laurie R. King at the Summer Writers Retreat?

Session 5 at our Summer Writers Retreat, (last and definitely not least!) will be presented by Laurie R. King at 3:15pm

Sustaining a Series with Laurie R. King

Every writer who starts a series hopes it will be a success—but what happens when it is? How do I keep the sixth—or sixteenth—book in a series as fresh and unpredictable as the first? Is it a matter of changing the setting? Do I (gasp) kill off my supporting actors? Or do I keep bringing in new ones, juggling them in with the characters my readers have come to know and love? And what do I do about my less popular series, or the standalones I long to write? How can I as a writer have it all?

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2018’s Island of the Mad).  She has won an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe, been chosen as guest of honor at several crime conventions, and is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology. She was inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars in 2010, as “The Red Circle.”

What Can You Expect from Linda L. Richards at the Summer Writers Retreat?

Session 4 will be presented by Linda L. Richards at 2:00pm

Secrets of the Publishing World with Linda L. Richards

This 60-minute event gives you a fast and furious glimpse behind the scenes of publishing. Richards will talk about finding and attracting an agent, pitching your book at various levels, how to decide when it’s time to self-publish and other topics relevant for those anxious to find the edge in this competitive world.

 

Linda L. Richards is the award-winning author of 15 books, a highly sought after professional editor, and the former Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of both Self-Counsel Press and January Magazine. She has also taught writing and publishing at the college level.

What Can You Expect from S.G. Wong at the Summer Writers Retreat?

Session 3 at our Summer Writers Retreat will be with S.G. Wong at 11:30am

Tinker & Tailor: Author Marketing That Suits Best

Marketing means different things to different people. For writers, it can often mean anything from panicked avoidance to an ongoing resentment to feelings of overwhelm. But what if you could choose exactly what to do and when? What if you could take all those hundreds (or thousands!) of pieces of advice about author marketing and create a plan that perfectly fits you and your career goals?

This session will include discussion about marketing tools and guide you through the many considerations in creating a strategy to entice and keep readers—and to let your work and you shine.

 

About S.G. Wong

Arthur Ellis Awards finalist, Whistler Independent Book Awards nominee, and indie author S.G. Wong writes the Lola Starke series and Crescent City short stories: hard-boiled detective tales set in an alternate-history 1930s-era “Chinese L.A.” replete with ghosts and magic. As an acclaimed moderator and creator, she presents on panels and workshops in venues ranging from ChiSeries Winnipeg to Bouchercon 2017 to Ignite Change Global Gathering for Human Rights. She is based in Edmonton, Alberta where she can often be found staring out the window in between frenzied bouts of typing.

What Can You Expect from Kristina Stanley at the Summer Writers Retreat?

Session 2 of our Writers Retreat will be presented by Kristina Stanley at 10:15am

Self-Editing for Writers with Kristina Stanley

Sharing a draft of your novel for the first time can be scary. So, why would you share your work before you’ve revised your first draft, making sure it’s as good as you can make it before anyone else reads it?

You wouldn’t. That’s why you perform a story edit.

To make sharing easier, this workshop will teach you how to edit your own story on a scene-by-scene basis. We’ll focus on character, plot, and setting.

To get the most out of the workshop, please bring one scene from a story you’re working on.

 

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series, the stand-alone mystery Look The Other Way, and The Author’s Guide to Selling Books To Non-Bookstores. Her publishers are Imajin Books and Luzifer-Verlag. Crime Writers of Canada nominated Descent for the Unhanged Arthur Award. The U.K. Crime Writers’ Association nominated Blaze for the Debut Dagger. She is the CEO of Fictionary.co, a company started to help writers tell better stories.

What Can You Expect from Janice MacDonald at the Summer Writers Retreat?

Session 1 at our Summer Writers Retreat will be with Janice MacDonald at 9:00am

Inclusion Rider: Populating the 21st Century Novel with Janice MacDonald

A mystery novelist has a duty to her readers to be stimulating, entertaining and accurate—delivering a fascinating puzzle wrought by complex and intriguing people within a closed society the reader is eager to explore. Within all those strictures, is it possible to be part of the wave to bring about art that mirrors the reality of today? And if so, how does one write diverse characters without stumbling into traps of appropriation or pitfalls of inaccuracies?

Janice explores the ways in which secondary and tertiary characters can provide a more diverse and multicultural background, especially here in Canada.”

 

Janice MacDonald is the creator of the Randy Craig Mysteries, the first detective series set in Edmonton, Alberta. Her reluctant heroine was born as Janice was working on her MA thesis titled “Parody and Detective Fiction.” Janice’s career has been one of writing and reading – and lecturing about both. She has been a book reviewer, university lecturer, radio interviewer and editor, as well as writing 12 books, numerous short stories and articles, several plays and the songs for two musicals.

Education Grant Money Available to Members

With so many demands on our pocketbooks and our time, it can be difficult to justify participation everywhere there is a call. This is one of the things your executive is keeping sharply in mind as we negotiate the waters around our young chapter. How do we bring the highest possible value to our members? And how do we make our organization relevant to our membership: present and future?

One of the ways is to share the opportunities available only to members of Sisters in Crime. For example, each year our parent (mother!) organization gives out money to members looking to enhance their profile and their knowledge in the form of an Education Grant fund.

All it takes to begin the process is a simple application. All it takes to qualify is attendance at an approved workshop/class/or conference and three previous years of continuous SinC membership.

You can see a list of approved educational opportunities here. Submit your application for a grant of up to $150 here.

We think this is a wonderful membership benefit, and we hope you will take advantage of it. If you have any questions, you can e-mail the grant team at EdGrantTeam@sistersincrime.org.

Summer Retreat Schedule Revealed!

We are delighted to be able to reveal the lineup and schedule for our first ever Western Canadian Chapter’s Summer Retreat,

In addition to New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King (Island of the Mad, Mary Russel’s War) there will also be workshops and panels led by Janice MacDonald, Kristina Stanley, S.G. Wong, and Linda L. Richards: these are all powerful and talented women with a lot to share but, maybe best of all? They are your sisters. It’s going to be a great weekend!

We hope you will join us. Follow the link if you’d can’t wait another second and want to sign up right now, or read more about the retreat we’re cooking up below.

 

Friday Evening:

7:00 p.m. August 17, 2018

Friday evening social: Swans Pub, 506 Pandora Street.
A casual (no host) social. Get to know other writers attending the Retreat, including Sisters in Crime members.

Saturday Schedule:

August 18

Registration: 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., Magnolia Room at the Magnolia Hotel and Spa in Victoria
9:00 – 10:00 Janice MacDonald, “Inclusion Rider: Populating the 21st Centruy Novel”
10:00 – 10:15 Break
10:15 – 11:15 Kristina Stanley, “Self-Editing for Writers”
11:15 – 11:30 Break
11:30 – 12:30 S.G. Wong, “Tinker & Tailor: Author Marketing That Suits Best”
12:30 – 2:00 Lunch (on own)
2:00 – 3:00 Linda L. Richards, “Secrets of the Publishing World”
3:00 – 3:15 Break
3:15 – 4:15 Laurie R. King, “Sustaining a Series”
4:15 – 5:00 Wrap-up / Final Remarks

Saturday Evening:

Bolen Books, #111-1644 Hillside Ave.
7:00 – 9:00 PM
Author Alchemy: Spinning Facts into Fiction Gold
A multi-author panel event moderated by S.G. Wong, featuring Laurie R. King; open to the public and free to attend.