Below are summaries of past events hosted by Sisters in Crime-Canada West, arranged alphabetically by topic. Recordings of the events are available for viewing by current members of the chapter. Members can access them by logging in and visiting Member Content.
ADS FOR AUTHORS, WITH ALEC PECHE
With nearly 8,000 books published each day, every author needs to help readers find their books by running ads on major platforms. This webinar will walk you through setting up basic ads on Facebook Amazon, and BookBub.
About our Presenter:
Alec Peche is the California author of 18 mystery thriller books in three series. The Jill Quint series features a part-time vintner/private Forensic Pathologist who solves murders along with her three best friends. Book 10 of this 12 book series is set in Ontario and Quebec, while other stories are set across the states and the world. The Damian Green Series features a computer genius and inventor who live on a private island in San Francisco Bay. He helps the SJPD solve cold cases and find the parents of a teenager that he has become a guardian to. The third series features Michelle Watson, a 50-something CIA Case officer, who was shot in the line of duty as a cop. After her near-death, she came back with the skill of teleportation which she uses to save the world. Alec also served on the National Board of Sisters in Crime from 2018-2021. She’s a member of the NorCal and Coastal Cruisers Chapters. Find out more at https://alecpechebooks.com.
AUTHOR PROMO FROM 30,000 FEET, a webinar featuring siblings Karen Dodd and Shelley Adina
Karen Dodd and Shelley Adina discussed the basics of gaining and keeping readers for your work.: touching on building relationships with readers and other authors through newsletters, magnets, using social media effectively, and how to best position your work on sites such as Amazon so that it grabs and keeps a reader’s attention.
About our Presenters:
A natural communicator, Karen Dodd has made it her life’s work to forge powerful and long-term relationships with fans and potential readers. She speaks eloquently about the power of creating a content-rich and engaging newsletter, a high-quality reader magnet, and a professional web presence, all of which lets you put your writing first. She’ll show you how to consistently build a loyal following that unlike social media, you own. Going from zero to a high four-figure subscriber base is attainable–for introverts and pre-published authors alike!
Karen’s Nicoló Moretti Crime Thriller series takes readers from Calabria, Italy to historic Malta and into the wild world of assassinations, political intrigue, and money-laundering. In her Stone Suspense series, Canadian investigative reporter, Jordan Stone, encounters international murder and corruption that takes her on a wild chase from Vancouver, BC to Calabria, Italy. Scare Away the Dark, the second book in the series, won the Chanticleer CLUE Award. Karen lives in a tiny seaside village on the west coast of BC with her infinitely supportive husband, and one assertive cat. Find out more at Karen’s Website.
Shelley Adina has made a study of what the experts say about the algorithms that power retailer search results and influence the reader experience. From Amazon A+ content and an appealing author page to the keywords embedded in your Google Play book page, she will pass on her tips for ensuring that your books get noticed by the algos—and consequently, by readers.
Shelley is the author of more than 40 novels published by Harlequin, Warner, Hachette, and her own independent press, Moonshell Books, Inc. As Shelley Adina, she writes steampunk adventure and mystery; as Charlotte Henry, she writes classic Regency romance; and as Adina Senft, she is the USA Today bestselling author of Amish women’s fiction. Shelley holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the UK. She appeared in the 2016 documentary film Love Between the Covers and is a popular speaker and convention panelist. When she’s not writing, Shelley is usually quilting, sewing historical costumes, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued chickens. Find out more at Shelley’s Website.
BOOK BRUSH, a primer
A discussion about Book Brush tools, to create eye-catching graphics and professional-looking ads that will take your social media presence, book covers, and more to a whole new level! Kathleen Sweeney shared some of our favourite Book Brush tips and tricks for making your marketing efforts fun and easy.
About our speaker, Kathleen Sweeney
Kathleen is the Manager of Marketing and Customer Service at Book Brush. She has over 20 years of marketing experience and has presented Book Brush How-To sessions to over 200 author groups. She thoroughly enjoys working with authors and helping them create eye-catching images and more with the Book Brush tools. She lives in central Illinois with her husband, three busy boys and two handsome cats. Her hobbies include eating tacos and turning socks right side out.
BREAKING INTO THE FILM INDUSTRY, with Garry Rodgers
Retired homicide detective and coroner Garry Rodgers shared his journey from being a bestselling crime author to how he scooped his upcoming Netflix TV crime series.
About our presenter:
Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective and coroner, now international best-selling crime writer and deadly blogger. Recently, Garry joined the film industry with his new venture, Twenty-Second Century Entertainment. He lives on Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast.
CHARACTERS — A WORKSHOP WITH GAIL BOWEN
Creating Characters with Backstories and Beating Hearts
Virginia Woolf wrote that her process for creating dimensional characters involves digging beautiful caves behind them to give them humanity, humour, and depth. This workshop focused on strategies for creating characters that engage the readers’ interest and stay in their minds forever.
About our Presenter:
Gail Bowen’s first Joanne Kilbourn mystery, Deadly Appearances (1990), was nominated for the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada Best First Novel Award, and A Colder Kind of Death (1995) won the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel; all books in the series have been enthusiastically reviewed, and recently, The Winners’ Circle, was been named a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. Sleuth: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries (U. of Regina Press, 2018) has been met with enthusiasm by critics and readers.
In 2008, Reader’s Digest named Bowen Canada’s Best Mystery Novelist; in 2009 she received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada; and in 2018 she was recognized with the Crime Writers of Canada Grand Master Award. Bowen has also written plays that have been produced across Canada and on CBC Radio. In 2018, she was invested with the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the province’s highest honour. Now retired from teaching at the First Nations University, Gail Bowen lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.
CORONERS AND THEIR ROLE IN DEATH INVESTIGATIONS
This was a fabulous interview/question and answer session with Garry Rodgers, dealing with coroner investigations, hearing, determinations and more. A recording of the event is availabe for members of the chapter under our Member Area.
Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective after serving twenty years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, nearly all on the Serious Crimes Section where he was a pioneer in DNA evidence processing. Following that, he took a coroner appointment and furthered his forensic experience in human death investigation. Now, Garry has reincarnated as a crime writer with over twenty indie-published books including an eight-part, based-on-true crime series about cases he was involved in. Garry also maintains an active blog at his website, DyingWords.net and is a regular contributor to the Kill Zone group of thriller and mystery writers. Outside of the dark world of death, Garry Rodgers is a certified Transport Canada marine captain and uses that skill to putt around the saltwater near his home on Vancouver Island.
CRIMINAL LAW – A LAWYER’S PERSPECTIVE
The Canadian criminal justice system from a British Columbia defence lawyer, Jeffrey Ray, Q.C., who spoke about procedural matters (preliminary hearings, bail applications, trials, sentencing), ethical dilemmas facing criminal lawyers, and a day in the life as a defence lawyer.
Jeffrey Ray, Q.C. represents clients charged with a variety of criminal offences. He also provides advice to individuals facing criminal investigations or criminal charges. In addition, he has represented small and medium sized businesses engaged in quasi-criminal regulatory investigations. He has appeared in all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada on both Conviction and Sentence Appeals, and often provides advice to other counsel on appeal matters.
We learned about forensic procedures from SERGEANT JONATHAN P.R. SHELDAN, M.O.M., a member of a British Columbia municipal police department.
Sergeant Jonathan Sheldan is currently in his twenty-eighth year of police service with a municipal department in British Columbia. He served as a Forensic Identification Specialist from 2001 to 2011 and returned to Forensic Services as the Sergeant in charge of both the Forensic Identification Services and Integrated Tech Crimes Units in 2017. Sergeant Sheldan has experience as an Integrated unit Homicide Detective from 2011 until 2016; and as a Patrol Road Supervisor (2016/17). Prior to his Law Enforcement career, Sergeant Sheldan was a Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces serving as an Armoured Officer.
HOMICIDE: FROM CRIME TO COURTROOM, WITH DET. DAVE SWEET
We interviewed Calgary Homicide Detective Dave Sweet (twice!) about homicide investigations and a detective’s involvement in the case–from discovery of the body, to identifying and interviewing the suspect, to the trial–and about the stresses and rewards of life as a homicide detective.
About our Speaker:
Detective Dave Sweet is a 24 year member of the Calgary Police Service, with over 20 years of specialized investigative experience in the areas of drugs, guns, gangs, organized crime, missing persons, and homicide. During his 14 years as a member of the homicide team, Dave has been involved in more than 700 suspicious death and homicide cases. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award in 2010 and 2018, the Chief’s Award for Investigative Excellence in 2017, the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal in 2021 and the Queens Platinum Jubilee Medal in 2022.
Along with Sarah Graham, Dave co-authored Skeletons in my Closet, Life Lessons from a Homicide Detective. He is currently working with Susan Forest on a new book, scheduled for release this year. Detective Sweet has also been featured in several documentaries and podcasts including The Detectives, Crime Beat, Bend Don’t Break, Murder Board, and The Cases that Haunt Me.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FOR AUTHORS
Two Canadian lawyers provided insights into intellectual property for authors — for example, what is copyright, how do you obtain it, how do you protect it; the correct way to use images, personalities, lyrics, titles; avoiding libel and slander; and much much more.
A recording of the event is available for members of the chapter under our Member Area.
Our speakers for this event were Mike Reid and Tyson Gratton, lawyers with the Vancouver office of the global law firm of DLA Piper.
Mike Reid is a corporate law generalist with a technology focus, often working with entrepreneurs, founders and other executives in startup and growth-stage companies. He works with companies in a wide variety of sectors, from software to e-commerce, gaming to productivity tools, artificial intelligence to VR/AR, healthtech, fintech, consumer goods, food and beverage, life sciences and everything in between, at all stages of a company’s life cycle from startup, through growth, to exit. Prior to practising law, Mike had a career in marketing and communications, working for a wide range of clients. He brings to his legal practice a practical understanding of what is takes to grow successful business ventures in the modern economic landscape.
Tyson Gratton’s business law practice focuses on advising video game, virtual and augmented reality, information technology, and ecommerce businesses. Tyson leverages his expertise to assist clients with drafting effective licensing and master service agreements; negotiating publishing and distribution deals; and advising on consumer protection and privacy matters. He also advises clients on drafting employment agreements, negotiating contractor relationships, and advising on related royalty matters. As a former television executive, Tyson knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the lawyer-client relationship and actively works to not simply flag issues but to provide effective solutions as well.
INTERVIEW WITH A CANADIAN JUDGE
On Saturday January 9, 2021 Sisters in Crime-Canada West interviewed Laura Bakan, P.C.J., a Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, to gain insights into the Canadian justice system, the jurisdictions of various Courts, procedural matters, and a day in the life of a Judge.
About Laura Bakan, P.C.J. — After thirty-one years as a civil litigator, Ms. Bakan finally became Honourable, joining the British Columbia Provincial Court as a judge in 2015. She hears criminal, family, child protection and civil matters.
INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE FONG, RETIRED SPECIAL AGENT, FBI
We interviewed Retired Special Agent (FBI) George Fong about life as a member of this famed agency.
About our Guest:
George Fong’s journey started in 1983. After working full time during the day and going to school full time at night, he graduated from college, married and within a month, was sworn in as a special agent with the FBI. Assigned to the Seattle field office, Mr. Fong chased bank robbers, surveilled kidnap suspects, and investigated violent criminals. In 1998, he transferred to the Los Angeles field office where he worked international drug traffickers, organized crime, and violent gangs. Over an 11-year period, he spent time undercover, targeting drug organizations, mob members and Asian gangs. He also was a lead instructor at the FBI’s International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary.
In 2002, Mr. Fong was promoted to Supervisory Special Agent, managing the Violent Crimes squad in Sacramento, to include the undercover program and the Forensic Evidence Response Team. He was part of the team that investigated the high profile murders of four victims by Cary Stayner in the Yosemite Valley.
In 2007, he was promoted to Unit Chief, overseeing the FBI’s Violent Gang Program in Washington DC before retiring in 2010. He is now ESPN’s Director of Security and Safety for the western region.
His first book, Fragmented, was published in 2014, followed by The Coldness of Night and Blind Eye, based on cases he investigated while in the FBI. For the past 15 years, Mr. Fong has been a faculty member at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, California. He is married with two children and his dog, Scout. The kids have grown up and are out of the house. Scout keeps watch for their return. Find out more at http://www.georgefong.com
INTERVIEW WITH SGT. G. REID, RCMP
On Sunday, February 21, 2021 Sisters in Crime-Canada West interviewed Sgt. Gord Reid, a member of the RCMP, about policing in Canada (with a focus on major crimes).
About Sgt. Reid — During his years with the RCMP Sergeant Gord Reid has worked General Duty, Youth Section, Drugs, Vice and Sex Crimes, and has been a member of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the Integrated Proceeds of Crime Section. Ten years ago he transferred to the Serious Crimes Section in North Vancouver and for the last three years has managed Professional Responsibility within the detachment. Sgt. Reid grew up in Quebec, travelled extensively (both after high school and after university), and worked as a teacher before joining the RCMP. In addition to travelling, he enjoys reading, listening to music, and socializing.
JAN BURKE – November 20 and 21, 2020
Thanks to Sisters in Crime, Inc’s Speakers Bureau, we were able to host Jan Burke for three events in late 2020:
Ask Me Anything (About Writing). An opportunity to ask Jan how she handles plotting, drafting, revising, writer’s block, fear of rejection, staying motivated when life intrudes, or the thousand other questions you have.
The Essential Triangle – The sleuth, the victim, the villain
What makes a great protagonist? What are some of the considerations you need to bear in mind about your subgenre that may affect choices about your sleuth? What are the “must haves“ concerning any sleuth? Does the victim need to be anything more than a dead body? Should the antagonist be anything more than a creepy dude with a knife? What do you need to keep in mind about these characters and the tensions between them?
Clues, Red Herrings and Suspense
What are some of the most basic mistakes writers make concerning suspense? How can you create a suspect who didn’t do it without making a reader immediately say, “Oh, this one didn’t do it!” What are some of the tools you can use to create clues that work? How do challenges with these elements differ based on point of view?
About Jan Burke — a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jan Burke has won the Edgar for Best Novel, and the Agatha, the Macavity, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award for Best Short Story, among other honours. Her books have been published internationally and have been optioned for film and television. She is the author of over thirty short stories. Jan’s work in nonfiction includes serving as the associate editor (with Sue Grafton) for MWA’s Handbook, Writing Mysteries. Her forensic science and criminal justice columns appear in Sisters in Crime’s InSinC Quarterly. For more about Jan Burke and her books, click here.
PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS: BEING THEM, WRITING THEM
Moderator Sam Wiebe, and panelists Shoshona Freedman and Colin Worth discussed the realities of life as a private investigator and the challenges of portraying private investigators in fiction.
About our Panel:
Sam Wiebe is the award-winning author of the Wakeland novels, one of the most authentic and acclaimed detective series in Canada, including Invisible Dead, Cut You Down, and Hell and Gone. His other books include Never Going Back, Last of the Independents, and the Vancouver Noir anthology, which he edited. Wiebe’s work has won the Crime Writers of Canada award and the Kobo Emerging Writers prize, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar, Hammett, Shamus, and City of Vancouver book prizes.
S.M. Freedman is the author of The Faithful, Impact Winter, The Day She Died, and Blood Atonement (October 2022). She studied theatre at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and worked as a private investigator on the not-so-mean streets of Vancouver for almost a decade before returning to her first love: writing.
After 27 years with the RCMP, Colin Worth started the Cornerstone Protection Agency in 2007. Cornerstone provides private investigation and protective services to a wide variety of clients including law firms, individuals, and the film industry. He balances his week between wife Leslie, dogs Dexter and Callie, Cornerstone and his favourite charity, West Coast Kids Cancer Foundation.
PUBLISHING – AN EXPERTS’ PANEL
Accomplished members of the publishing community shared tips about what writers can do to secure a publishing contract and, once an author is published (either traditionally or indie) what she can and should do to keep her books in the public eye and on the “must-read list” of crime fiction lovers everywhere.
You can find some of the resources that our experts shared on our Helpful Resources page.
Our sibling, AMBER COWIE, moderated this panel. Amber is a novelist and freelance writer living in a small town on the west coast of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Crime Reads and Knitty, among other publications. Amber’s first novel, Rapid Falls, was a runner up in the Whistler Book Awards and hit number one on the Kindle Bestsellers list as well as the top 100 books in the Kindle Store. She has appeared at Left Coast Crime, the Pacific Northwest Writers Festival, and the Whistler Writers Festival.
In alphabetical order, our panelists were CRYSTAL (C.J.) HUNT, JENNIFER SOMMERSBY, and GORDON WARNOCK.
Crystal (C.J.) Hunt (crystalhuntauthor.com) is a writer, creative mastermind, health psychologist, productivity geek, and strategic authorpreneur who has 40+ published books to her various writing names. She is passionate about helping writers embrace technology and succeed in the brave new world of indie publishing. She writes non-fiction for writers as Crystal Hunt, contemporary romance as CJ Hunt, and kids books as Crystal Stranaghan and various pen names. She has helped hundreds of books through the publication process over the past 15 years, and held leadership positions in numerous writing organizations. Crystal is also the co-founder of the Creative Academy for Writers (creativeacademyforwriters.com), and co-host of the Strategic Authorpreneur Podcast (strategicauthorpreneur.com).
Jennifer Sommersby is, among other things, a collector of elephants, a Superman freak, a wearer of tattoos, an author, a Shakespeare nerd, and a copy and line editor. She lives in Coquitlam with her darling husband and kids and two Very Spoiled Tuxedo Cats.
Gordon Warnock, Partner at Fuse Literary, works with New York Times bestsellers and debut authors alike, representing high-concept suspense, psychological thrillers, and graphic novels. His clients include Amber Cowie (Loss Lake), Steena Holmes (The Perfect Secret), and Kerry Lonsdale (Last Summer). He is a helicopter dog parent and lives in an island fortress off the coast of Vancouver. www.fuseliterary.com, @gordonwarnock
All things research, featuring our sibling, Tara Moss who has done a fair bit of research (it’s definitely not all about internet searches!) and moderated by another sibling, Amber Cowie.
Tara Moss is the author of 13 books, including 11 novels, most recently the internationally bestseller, The War Widow, which has received excellent reviews. She is also a documentary writer and presenter and is known for her extraordinary research, which has included touring the FBI and LAPD, shooting firearms, being set on fire, being choked unconscious by Ultimate Fighter ‘Big” John McCarthy, flying with the Royal Australian Air Force, spending time in morgues and courtrooms and obtaining her Cert III credentials as a private investigator. She has also been a race car driver, and holds a motorcycle licence and wildlife/snake-handling licence.
SHORT STORIES, AN ENCORE
This was an encore presentation of this workshop in which we discussed what makes a short story work, how to write one, and tips about finding a market for your work.
Merrilee Robson has placed short stories with several publications, including Alfred Hitchcock magazine, and Malice Domestic.
Marcelle Dubé has also placed short stories with many publications. Her story Cold Wave, which appeared in our Crime Wave 1 anthology in 2020, won the 2021 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for best short story.
Karen L. Abrahamson is both a Derringer and Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence finalist. Her short fiction has been in many magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen.
THRILLING THRILLERS-HOW TO WRITE THEM, with Amber Cowie
Amber Cowie covered key elements of writing riveting stories that make readers want to stay up all night. This workshop focused on the specific expectations of the genre (including the inciting incident, gathering allies and enemies, and the “all is lost moment”) that ratchet up tension and lead to a satisfying conclusion. In the session, participants developed a story outline that employs twists, tropes, and turns to create thrilling fiction.
About our Presenter:
Amber Cowie is a novelist living in a small town on the west coast of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Globe and Mail, Crime Reads, and Scary Mommy and has been endorsed by numerous bestsellers including Samantha M. Bailey, Shannon Kirk, Kerry Lonsdale, Catherine McKenzie, Robyn Harding, and Blake Crouch. Her first novel, Rapid Falls, was a Whistler Book Awards nominee, hit number one overall on Amazon, and was a top-100 bestselling Kindle book of 2018. Her next book will be released by Simon and Schuster Canada in February 2024.
WRITING TRADITIONALLY UNDER-REPRESENTED CHARACTERS, with Anthony Bidulka and Hyacinthe Miller
In this panel discussion, moderated by Amber Cowie, Hyacinthe Miller and Anthony Bikulka discussed diversity in Canadian crime writing, addressing tropes, stereotypes, and crafting an authentic cast of characters.
About Hyacinthe Miller:
Hyacinthe M. Miller is an award-winning author of short stories, magazine and newspaper articles, contemporary women’s fiction and non-fiction. She’s been published in Borealis magazine and in Herotica 7, Whispered Words, and Allucinor, The Elements of Romance anthologies.
Her debut novel, Kenora Reinvented, (Investigations, Mystery and Seasoned Romance) was published in 2019. Her current works-in-progress include The Fifth Man, book two of the Kenora & Jake series and a general interest text based on interviews with over seventy current and retired police officers around the world about challenges, rewards, and leadership in their chosen profession.
About Anthony Bidulka:
Anthony Bidulka has dedicated his career to writing traditional genre novels in an untraditional way, developing a body of work that often features his prairie roots and underrepresented, diverse main characters. He tells serious stories in accessible, entertaining, often humorous ways.
Bidulka’s books have been shortlisted for numerous awards including the Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence (three times), the Lambda Literary Award (three times), the Saskatchewan Book Award (five times). Flight of Aquavit was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery, making Bidulka the first Canadian to win in that category. 2022’s Going to Beautiful about a gay man rising from the depths of despair in search of joy on the Saskatchewan prairie won the Independent Publisher Book Award as the Canada West Best Fiction Gold Medalist and the Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for Best Crime Novel.
The University of Saskatchewan inducted Anthony into the College of Education Wall of Honour and presented him the College of Arts and Science Alumni of Influence Award. He received the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Nation Builders Award and was named, along with his husband Herb, Saskatoon Citizen of the Year. For his promotion of Saskatchewan through his writing, co-founding Camp fYrefly Saskatchewan (a leadership retreat for gender and sexually diverse and allied youth), and widespread volunteer and philanthropic efforts in the community, Anthony was honoured by the selection of a two-part park in Saskatoon named Bidulka Park and Bidulka Park North.
In his free time Bidulka loves to travel the world, collect art, walk his dogs, obsess over decorating Christmas trees (it’s a thing) and throw a good party.
About Amber Cowie:
Amber Cowie is a novelist living in a small town on the west coast of
British Columbia. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Globe
and Mail, Crime Reads, and Scary Mommy. Her first novel, Rapid Falls, was a
Whistler Book Awards nominee, hit number one overall on Amazon, and was a
top-100 bestselling Kindle book of 2018.Her next book will be released by Simon
and Schuster Canada in February 2024.