Blog & Updates

Congrats!

Congratulations to two of our members for their recent nominations for Arthur Ellis awards!

Loreth Anne White’s novel In the Dark is shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel.

Liz Walker’s manuscript, The Dieppe Letters, is shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur award for best unpublished crime manuscript.

We wish both Loreth and Liz best of everything in the final round of judging.

Members Face-to-Face

Join your siblings at the Troller Pub, Horseshoe Bay, BC on Thursday, June 20 (5:30 pm to 7:30 pm) for a casual evening get together: no host beverages and food. On the agenda:  great conversations about all things writing.

Amber Cowie, our Member at Large for Howe Sound, is heading up this event, and would like to have a good idea of numbers, so please RSVP to Amber by Tuesday, June 18th if you plan to attend.

Winners of Early Renewal Prize Draw!

We are pleased to announce the winners of our draws for early renewal prizes (eligible members are those who renewed their membership for 2019 before December 31, 2018).

We had two prizes to offer this year: first, a refund of our chapter membership dues for 2019, and second (thanks to the generous folks at Sisters in Crime National) reimbursement of the registration fee for Whale of a Crime, the 2019 edition of Left Coast Crime, taking place in Vancouver in March, 2019.

And the winners are…..

Chapter membership dues — Winona Kent

Left Coast Crime registration fee — Loreth Beswestherick

Congratulations to the two winners and thanks to all who renewed their membership early. Your support is deeply appreciated.

Member New Book Alert: Murder Knows No Season by Cathy Ace

When we hear that one of our members has a new book coming out, we know we’re in store for a treat. Sometimes we don’t hear about it until after the fact, which always makes us feel like we should have known sooner. (Moral of the story: if you have a book coming, please let us know well in advance. It’s our pleasure to add an item right here on our web site to help spread the word.)

Of course, a new book by Cathy Ace is such a treat, it almost doesn’t need introduction. Yet we’re glad to know about Murder Knows No Season, which is available now.

Murder Knows No Season is a terrific introduction to the world of mystery by Cathy Ace.

The book is comprised of four very different novellas, one for each season.

WINTER: The Corpse with Eight Faces: A Cait Morgan Mystery
Trapped in a snowbound lodge in the Canadian countryside, Cait is faced with a corpse, and a group of eight suspects. A classic closed-circle mystery featuring Cait Morgan, before she and Bud Anderson knew each other well enough for her to be able to call upon him for help.

SPRING: The Case of the Desperate Duchess: A WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery
Christine Wilson-Smythe’s cousin, Lady Jacintha Wraysbury, calls in the WISE Enquiries Agency to hunt for a missing girl: her assistant at her flower shop. In this early case for the agency, readers join the private investigators as they scour West London for a girl who’s in more danger than any of them imagine.

SUMMER: A standalone thriller Out and About in a Boat  
Meet the Golightlys, an average Canadian family. When dad Dave wants to take his fifteen year-old son Zack and thirteen year-old daughter Becky for a weekend at a local lake, mum Debbie is hesitant. After all, she and Dave are separated for good reason. But what could go wrong in just thirty hours? When there’s a dead body involved, quite a lot.

AUTUMN: The Fall: A DI Evan Glover Case
Not all Welshmen are rugby fans, only the ones who breathe. DI Evan Glover has played and loved the game since he was a boy, so when the body of one of Wales’ most celebrated rugby players — GGR Davies — is found at the bottom of a cliff, the question “Did he jump, or was he pushed?” is one of national significance. As he digs into what might have led to the tragedy, Glover discovers his hero might not have been the man he — and all of Wales — thought he was.

You can read more about Cathy on her web site here.

Summer Writers Retreat

The first ever Sisters in Crime – Canada West retreat took place on August 18th. As things evolved, though, it ended up being two days of fun activities intended to allow the attendees to network and soak up information about all things writing.

Chapter Vice-President Charlotte Morganti at the Summer Writers Retreat in Victoria, B.C., August 2018.

Laurie R. King, Janice MacDonald and S.G. Wong share an enjoyable conversation at Swan’s Pub.

We began with a social event on the Friday evening, August 17th. Well attended, the casual event brought together more than 40 sisters (and one brother!) in crime at one of Victoria, British

Columbia’s landmark social spots: Swan’s Pub on Pandora Street in the historic part of old Victoria. Guest of honor Laurie R. King happily schmoozed with BC and Pacific Northwestern siblings and other attendees in a casual and convivial environment.

The Retreat itself took place on Saturday. Tickets were sold out nearly two months in advance for a day of lectures by several of our esteemed membership. Chapter Vice-President Charlotte Morganti acted as emcee. The seminars opened with a very timely talk by Janice MacDonald called “Inclusion Rider: Populating the 21st Century Novel” that introduced the concepts of inclusion to her very interested audience. After a break, Kristina Stanley spoke on the always interesting topic of “Self-Editing for Writers” after which organizing committee member and past-president S.G. Wong spoke on the ever-popular topic of author marketing.

From left authors and siblings Linda L. Richards, Merrilee Robson, Marcelle Dubé enjoying the pre-Retreat social at Swan’s Pub.

Sisters in Crime member James W. Ziskin and featured speaker Laurie R. King toast the retreat at the historic Swan’s Pub in downtown Victoria, B.C.

After lunch, Chapter president Linda L. Richards gave a talk on some of the open secrets of the publishing world. The day’s main event, of course, was international bestselling author Laurie R. King’s talk on sustaining a series. King spoke to a rapt audience, many of whom had shown up especially to see her. The Canada West Chapter was gratified that the Sisters in Crime Speakers Bureau made it possible to invite someone of King’s calibre to speak at our inaugural event. Superstar King was warm, approachable and very welcoming of all of the fans who turned up.

On Saturday evening, a multi-author panel spoke in front of a well attended community audience on the topic of “Author Alchemy: Spinning Facts into Fiction Gold.” Here again, anchoring star Laurie R. King showed her grace in giving warm and equal time to moderator and fellow panelists S.G. Wong, Janice MacDonald, Marcelle Dubé and Liz Freeland in an enthusiastic discussion right on topic.

The first ever mini-conference hosted by Sisters in Crime – Canada West was an unqualified success. Kudos go out to Retreat Committee Chair, S.G. Wong, and Committee members Charlotte Morganti, Marcelle Dubé, and Anne Hopkinson for all their hard work​.

Facts and Fictions by S.G. Wong

August 18, 2018: Author Alchemy Panel, moderated by S.G. Wong
Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, writing our best copy involves research of one sort or another.
Sometimes, we can do our best piece with a few hours of online sleuthing, proud of cleverly formulated search terms and the lack of a single Wikipedia article in the results. Other times, we pack ourselves up and brave social interactions for an archival library, giddy as we slide into a favourite carrel amid the smell of aging paper, our eyes already blinking against the dry air. Still other times, we steel ourselves to begin the chain of emails and phone calls that will track down that one expert scholar on a particular point of contention that we cannot. let. go.

Research can be our grounding in reality, in history, in the gritty details of life. Research can also be the infamous proverbial rabbit hole, tempting us to sidle down dark corridors and twisty paths until we end up uncountable levels away from our original question. Whether or not that’s a bad thing, in my experience, depends on the day, the topic, and how closely a deadline looms…
But I freely admit: I love it. I love getting haplessly lost in beautifully-letterd missives and intimate journal entries. I love discovering new stories and heretofore hidden perspectives. I even enjoy skimming pages of cramped, spidery handwriting or dry typewritten facts. I’m fairly certain that in another dimension, I’m a nerdy scholar of history and lore. (This would be the same dimension where artists and scholars are at the top of the socio-economic pyramid, mind you.) Though, as an author of alternate history novels and short stories in this universe, I feel pretty blessed all the same.
And as such, of course, the point of all this research is actually the writing. How does one condense a week’s worth of research into just the right turn of phrase? Is three hours of research worth that one sentence in the manuscript that maybe 1 out of 50 readers will note for its verisimilitude? If what we write is fiction, what do we owe—and to whom—to get our facts straight?
Lucky me; I get to explore these questions and more on August 18th with a group of erudite and accomplished crime fiction writers. My plan is to elicit lively anecdotes and useful tips. My hope is that readers and writers alike will tap into a sense of wonder at this seemingly straightforward process, a process which I assert is nothing short of alchemical magic. ◊
S.G. Wong is Past President of SinC—Canada West and Chair of the 2018 Retreat Committee. An Arthur Ellis Awards finalist in the First Novel and Short Story categories, she writes the Lola Starke novels and Crescent City stories: hard-boiled detective fiction set in an alternate history 1930s-era “Chinese L.A.” replete with ghosts and magic. Her next publication is “Survivors’ Pension” in the Vancouver Noir anthology, coming November 2018 from Akashic Books. Connect with her at sgwong.com and on Twitter @S_G_Wong.

Writer-you and Author-you by S.G. Wong

Sometimes, I’m tempted to envy writer-me.

Writer-me doesn’t worry about social media platforms or search engine optimization or A/B testing. Writer-me doesn’t worry about Amazon algorithms or Facebook ad buys or email subscribers. Writer-me just worries about plot lines and character motivations and conflict in every scene and hitting those keys one after another, hoping and praying the frenzied images and thoughts in her mind translate even fractionally into something coherent that will entertain and engage complete strangers who will fork over their hard-earned money in order to spend a few hours of their busy lives with the twisted creations of her imagination…

On second thought, writer-me has plenty of worries.

Which is probably a good reason for writer-me to give up the reins to author-me when it comes to marketing.

Whether or not you’re published right now, if you hope/plan to publish your books or publish more books, author-you is a great asset. This is the part of your brain that takes writer-you’s work and makes sure it finds its readers. I like to think of writer-us as inward-focussed—the part of us driven to spin stories from what amounts to nothing more than firing neurons. That means that author-us has to take care of focussing outward, on our readers and how to entice them to commit time and money to our books.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

I think it can be, once we build a proper framework for approaching marketing. Like a musician’s instruction to ‘return to note,’ if author-us lays the groundwork, we’ll always have a place to start when considering where next to aim our marketing efforts. And the best part is that we have the power to make it simple—simple and fun.

 

S.G. Wong is the Arthur Ellis Awards finalist, Whistler Independent Book Awards nominee, and indie author  who 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.

Skin in the Game by Janice MacDonald

Mystery fiction, with all the requirements and conventions of the genre, leaves quite a bit of room open to writers to examine the social and political overtones of a time or place. Many otherwise marginalized people or ideas find their way into detective fiction long before they reach the pages of mainstream novels. Perhaps, because the mechanics of the genre are so fixed in terms of plot (murder, puzzle, sleuth, clues, suspects, villain, solution), mystery writers use the descriptive details of the world or time around the plot to really make their individual mark. When creating a fictional world, even if it’s a fictional overlay of a very real world – like the Edmonton of my amateur sleuth Randy Craig – the dedication to detail is both what makes it come alive for readers and what makes the task of writing it the most satisfying.

Of course, when I say detail, I am not talking about overloading your manuscript with page after page of description, listing every book on a suspect’s bookshelf, or every dessert on the restaurant’s menu, offering every historical fact you have unearthed in your research. Unless you are creating a character with a troubling level of awareness of the world around them, too much detail can actually dull the reader’s senses to the world they are being shown. The trick is to know which detail to linger on, which flower to paint in lovingly while smudging the rest in as only a swirl of colour.

When it comes to populating your fictional world, the same holds true. As your character walks down the street, not everyone catches her eye, and gender or ethnicity is not always what she reflects on. However, if her attention does snag on something, this is a writer’s perfect opportunity to dive into enough detail to bring the scene to life and add to your character’s complexity or backstory.

Do the pasty white arms of the fellow drumming outside the concert venue match the plastic buckets that he’s wailing on, leading her to wonder if he only comes out at night, and lives underground during the day, perhaps close to the subway, where the thrumbling of the train would soothe his rhythmic soul? That might be a useful way to provide a sense of what sort of person busks for change on the streets of your fictional city while showing the capacity for your protagonist to extrapolate and imagine.

On the other hand, if you are describing a panhandler or dissolute person, is there any reason to note their ethnicity? Surely how they are dressed, what they say, or whether they look you in the eye with the rolling gaze of a skittish racehorse when they speak to you are all far more interesting aspects for sketching in their character. Leaving racial traits blank in this case can open the door of possibility to your reader that they themselves may be only one or two paycheques from this character themselves.

If your protagonist needs to visit a banker, or a lawyer, or some other person in a position of power or authority, why not make them female? Why not make them people of colour? Why not make them openly gay? All of these characters showed up as the main characters in detective fiction long before they populated mainstream novels. Without being heavy-handed about it, you can find all sorts of places to work against stereotype and move your world forward to a more egalitarian playing field. The great usefulness of literature is to show people what is possible. Without example, no one realizes they too can be part of the picture. It took a book set in Edmonton to let me even dream that I too could really become a writer.

Part of our job as writers is to present a recognizable world to our readers, one they can believe in so that they can easily suspend disbelief and enjoy the story we are spinning. Another part of our job is to show them a world of possibilities – to present them with distinct people in clearly defined worlds who could be mingling and connecting and supporting each other in a civilized and temperate society. Except, of course, for that pesky murderer.

 

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.

 

Guest Post by Linda L. Richards

When I am asked to attend writers festivals, one of the things I love doing are the blue pencil editing sessions. I’ve been doing this all long enough and from such different angles, that sometimes sitting there, across from a new writer, I feel like a fortune teller. A few pages of any manuscript and I am forming opinions: on how to make it better. On how to mold it. On how to sell it. On who to sell it to.

And so, in this fortune teller mode, I opine and have watched while fledgling authors look at me with their jaws shaped into an “O” that looks something like amazement. It’s a fun feeling, being able to share my accumulated knowledge, but it’s not amazing. I’ve just been driving this highway a lot and for a really long time and I care about it all a great deal.

My first book was published in 1994. It was non-fiction, and I had been a journalist and sometimes an editor for many years before that. By now, I am the author or co-author of 15 books. I have professionally edited for individuals and for publishing houses. I have been the publisher and editor-in-chief of a respected book publishing house. I have taught writing and publishing at the college level, as well as others. I have been the editor of an online magazine about books almost (it feels) since the dawn of the Internet. I am passionate about books, how they are created, made and marketed and, on this highway, I’ve learned a thing or two. I have a lot of information to share. I know that in the allotted hour at the Sisters in Crime Summer Retreat, we won’t have time to cover even the beginning of everything, but we’ll take a run at it together. Bring your questions.

 

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 Self-Counsel Press. She has also taught writing and publishing at the college level.

 

On “Siblings” & Community by Linda L. Richards

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.