Monday, 28 December 2015

Re-inventing the author

I don't take a lot of selfies, and you'll probably agree after glancing at the one on the left that this is a good thing. Lynn doesn't like this photo because she thinks I look grouchy. Actually, it was taken a few mornings ago just outside Burritt's Rapids, and I'm just very tired.

I'll admit straight out, without sugar coating, that 2015 has not been a good year for us here in Oxford Station. Stuff happens, over and over it seems, and you deal with it and move on. That said, it's time to rise back up out of the static and re-assert myself. As a result, I'm bringing The Overnight Bestseller out of its cryogenic sleep and resuming its Monday posts, starting with this one.

I'm also re-inventing myself as a writer. Thanks to Lynn, as a concerned wife and smart business partner, I've closed down our living room office and opened a new one, offsite. I'm now the new tenant in the basement office of the Burritt's Rapids Community Hall. Located on Grenville Street in the village, this new office will help me restore the writing schedule I used to follow. It will also provide a pick-up point for folks wanting to buy any of our books in the North Grenville area. Just send me an e-mail and we can arrange a time!

Next week I'll show you the interior of my new domain, drop hints about my latest project, and - I promise - try to include a better selfie.

Thanks for checking back in with me here at The Overnight Bestseller. I hope you'll enjoy what follows.



Monday, 10 August 2015

Hiatus

We'll be taking a break from our four weekly blogs, The Overnight Bestseller, Behind the Walls of Nightmare, Open Investigations (Goodreads), and Writing in Retirement (Goodreads). We expect to be back in the fall with lots of news for our readers.

We'll continue to post reviews as part of our commitment to introduce new works to our readers.

Thanks to all of you who support us by following our blogs.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Crime Fiction, Japanese-Style



Publishers Weekly (PW) recommends Yukito Ayatsuji's The Decagon House Murders as a best summer read for 2015. The novel was first published in 1987 and has now been translated from Japanese into English. As noted in PW, the  novel launched the shinhonkaku ("new orthodox") renaissance to Japanese crime fiction by "restoring Golden Age-style plotting and fair-play clues to the Japanese mystery scene."

Members of a mystery club, who are investigating deaths on a small island off the coast of Japan, must survive in a house where they are being targeted by a killer. Sound familiar? Publishers Weekly describes it as a "sophisticated homage" to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

For the PW review, please see http://best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/summer-reads-2015/mystery.

Monday, 27 July 2015

International Thriller Award Winners

The winners of the 2015 International Thriller Writers (ITW) Awards have recently been announced:

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
Megan Abbott – The Fever (Little, Brown and Company)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Laura McHugh – The Weight of Blood (Spiegel & Grau)

BEST SHORT STORY
Tim L. Williams – “The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)


BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Elle Cosimano – Nearly Gone (Kathy Dawson Books)

BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL
C.J. Lyons – Hard Fall (Legacy Books)


As noted on the ITW website, "[t]he International Thriller Writers is an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as 'thrillers'. This would include (but isn’t limited to) such subjects as murder mystery, detective, suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, adventure, and myriad similar subject areas."

For the full list of award nominees, please see the announcement in Crimespree Magazine .

Congratulations to all of the winners.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Review of Inner Sanctum by Darlene Oakley

It's always a pleasure to support other authors, especially ones who live almost next door to you, so The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to review Inner Sanctum, the debut novel of Darlene Oakley


Review of Inner Sanctum

Ms. Oakley is an experienced editor and author of numerous articles so it is not surprising that she is able to shape words in an engaging first novel.

Inner Sanctum is the story of people who have led a subterranean existence to escape the wars raging on the surface of the earth in the mid-2100s. The flight underground has originally preserved a society, but now that society is facing its own threats of extinction through early death and disease. Draconian measures such as an enforced limit of two children per family, early sterilization, and termination of “defective” pregnancies have failed to address the issue of the declining population.

The metaphorical and literal door to freedom is suddenly discovered during an excavation, and the heroine of the novel, Aurora Cassle, urges the mayor and city council to take advantage of this exit to once again become surface dwellers who have the benefit of the sun to sustain their lives. Branded a traitor and abandoned by her husband, Aurora, along with her long-time friend Den, leads a group from the underground to the dawn of a new civilization.

Inner Sanctum is categorized as a “Christian dystopia,” and the parallels with the Biblical themes of escape and exile are well-developed in the novel and add a unique twist to the story because Christian values will provide the basis for the rebuilding of society on the surface.

Ms. Oakley has written a novel that will appeal to a wide audience, including readers of Christian and speculative fiction, as well as lovers of suspense and romance. This is Book 1, and we're looking forward to more in this series.

Inner Sanctum is available at http://www.amazon.ca/Inner-Sanctum-Darlene-Oakley-ebook/dp/B00Q1R6MDA/.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Book Review of A Sporting Murder by Lesley A. Diehl


 
Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to participate in a Tribute Books Blog Tour. Today we welcome Lesley A. Diehl, author of the cozy mystery A Sporting Murder.


 A Sporting Murder Book Summary


It's smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida's Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of 'gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David's supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake's land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports "exotics" from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder.

Blake's nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve's brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends' misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy's extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word.

Price/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Genre:
Cozy Murder Mystery
Pages:
250
Publisher:
Camel Press
Release:
July 15, 2015
ISBN:
9781603819398

Buy Links

Amazon
Barnes and Noble


Lesley A. Diehl's Bio



Lesley A. Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida--cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office. Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.



 The Overnight Bestseller's Review of A Sporting Murder

This is the third in  Lesley A. Diehl's Eve Appel cozy mystery series, and she provides us with an entertaining mix of characters, an engaging setting, and two unsolved murders that baffle the reader until their resolution at the end of the novel.

Her intrepid amateur sleuth Eve Appel is reminiscent of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum with her lively sense of humor, her unresolved love life, and her uncanny ability to get into--and out of--trouble.

At the same time, Diehl touches upon serious themes in the novel, including the mistreatment of foreign workers, prejudice towards Aboriginal peoples, and the illicit trade in endangered species for "trophy" collections.

This novel will appeal to lovers of cozy mysteries everywhere, who will also want to check out Diehl's other series.


Related Sites

Lesley A. Diehl's Web Site:
http://www.lesleyadiehl.com/

Lesley A. Diehl's Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/lesley.diehl.1?fref=ts

Lesley A. Diehl's Twitter:
https://twitter.com/LesleyDiehl
 
Lesley A. Diehl's Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3414925.Lesley_A_Diehl

Lesley A. Diehl's Blog:
http://lesleyadiehl.com/blog/

A Sporting Murder Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25506068-a-sporting-murder

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribute-Books-Blog-Tours/242431245775186


A Sporting Murder blog tour site:
http://asportingmurder.blogspot.com


Rafflecopter GIVEAWAY ($25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash)a Rafflecopter giveaway :

Monday, 22 June 2015

Book Review of Jerome Charyn's Bitter Bronx



The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to be participating in the Tribute Books Blog Tour for Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn.


Book Summary


Brooklyn is dead. Long live the Bronx! In Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an oft-overlooked borough in this surprising new collection.


In Bitter Bronx, one of our most gifted and original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin' Joe.

Bitter Bronx is suffused with the texture and nostalgia of a lost time and place, combining a keen eye for detail with Jerome Charyn's lived experience. These stories are informed by a childhood growing up near that middle-class mecca, the Grand Concourse; falling in love with three voluptuous librarians at a public library in the Lower Depths of the South Bronx; and eating at Mafia-owned restaurants along Arthur Avenue's restaurant row, amid a "land of deprivation…where fathers trundled home…with a monumental sadness on their shoulders."

In "Lorelei," a lonely hearts grifter returns home and finds his childhood sweetheart still living in the same apartment house on the Concourse; in "Archy and Mehitabel" a high school romance blossoms around a newspaper comic strip; in "Major Leaguer" a former New York Yankee confronts both a gang of drug dealers and the wreckage that Robert Moses wrought in his old neighborhood; and in three interconnected stories—"Silk & Silk," "Little Sister," and "Marla"—Marla Silk, a successful Manhattan attorney, discovers her father's past in the Bronx and a mysterious younger sister who was hidden from her, kept in a fancy rest home near the Botanical Garden. In these stories and others, the past and present tumble together in Charyn's singular and distinctly "New York prose, street-smart, sly, and full of lurches" (John Leonard, New York Times).

Throughout it all looms the "master builder" Robert Moses, a man who believed he could "save" the Bronx by building a highway through it, dynamiting whole neighborhoods in the process. Bitter Bronx stands as both a fictional eulogy for the people and places paved over by Moses' expressway and an affirmation of Charyn's "brilliant imagination" (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune).

 Price/Formats: $12.59 ebook,
$24.95 hardcover
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 320
Publisher: Liveright
Release: June 15, 2015
ISBN: 9780871404893


Author Bio
 

Jerome Charyn's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative, Ellery Queen, and other magazines. His most recent novel is I Am Abraham. He lived for many years in Paris and currently resides in Manhattan.




The Overnight Bestseller's Review of Bitter Bronx

Having previously reviewed Under the Eye of God by Jerome Charyn, I was already aware of the intense hold that the Bronx of his childhood has on his imagination. As he writes in the "Author's Note" to Bitter Bronx:
I realized that I had been shaped as a writer not with the words I didn’t have, not with lavish pencil cases, not with library books I had never borrowed, but with some ghost’s vocabulary. I’d filled that amorphous void of the South Bronx with my own imagination.

There is both nostalgia and comedy in Bitter Bronx, and it is written in Charyn's lyrical prose that speaks of eyes bleeding “the viscous color of tears” and of Jackson Pollock's paintings “with their lashing rhythm, as if colors could cry out," to give only two examples of his lyricism.

The thirteen stories in this book are populated by an exotic blend of characters who surprise us with their eccentricities at the same time as they touch us with their unrequited love, losses, and thwarted dreams. There is Lorelei, who lives with her father in a Bronx apartment, never able to move beyond its sad confines. There is the story of Adonis, which is particularly poignant in its depiction of the lonely mob widows who are never able to feel loved once again. There are three stories of the Silks, reminiscent of Salinger's fictional and dysfunctional families. In “The Major Leaguer,” we are reminded of Charyn's abiding interest in the players of a lost era of greatness who emerged from the Bronx such as Joe DiMaggio, the subject of Charyn's book, Joe Dimaggio: The Long Vigil. And, in the background, as in Under the Eye of God, outside forces conspire to destroy the author's beloved Bronx through development and land grabs. The shadow of Robert Moses is felt in each of these stories, a man who created a highway that irrevocably divided the Bronx into north and south.
  
Bitter Bronx will appeal to fans of Charyn's Isaac Sidel series, short story lovers in general, and those readers seeking a refreshing book with unconventional prose and colorful characters brought lovingly to life.

Rafflecopter GIVEAWAY ($25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash)a Rafflecopter giveaway :

Monday, 15 June 2015

Pleasant Discoveries

This weekend the Kemptville District Hospital Auxiliary held its fifty-fifth annual Heyday! garage and yard sale in the North Grenville curling arena. It's almost always raining, parking is impossible to find within a couple of blocks, and I try never to miss it each year. I was there Friday night, circulating with the dense crowd, elbowing my way in to the tables, searching for a bargain.

Among my purchases this year was a pleasant discovery: a Canon PowerShot A550 digital camera in its original box. When it came out in 2007, it was considered a decent, affordable model that retailed at $149 in what was at that time a burgeoning digital camera market. I took it out of the box, found that it still contained batteries and a memory card, and was able to turn it on. I shot a few pictures of boxes filled with cables and power bars and junk, and since it seemed to work all right I asked the volunteer behind the table how much he wanted for it. Five bucks. I gave him a nearly-new plastic fiver and dropped it into my bag.

Yesterday morning, nursing a sore head after a massive migraine attack that lasted all day Saturday, I took my new purchase out into the back yard for a test run, taking random shots, just enjoying being out in the warm morning air. Back inside, I uploaded the photos to my computer for a closer look. No problems. I brought one of the pictures into my copy of old-school Paint Shop Pro 5 (circa 1998) and added a text caption. Something to get the creative juices working before I tackled the manuscript in progress.

When you figure that the camera is eight years old, which is ancient for lifestyle technology and one step away from the local landfill site, picking it up at 97% off its original price was a decent deal. Everyone uses their phone to take pictures now, but I'll carry this little PowerShot in the canvas messenger bag I throw in the back seat of the car whenever I go out, and use it for impulse photography when I'm on the road. Et voilà:


Monday, 8 June 2015

Writer Beware®: Tools for Writers

If you're a writer and you haven't had the opportunity to check out the Writer Beware® website and blog, you might like to do so. Writer Beware® is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and other professional writers' associations and is devoted to bringing writers the latest news on publishing, as well as information on literary scams and schemes. There is also a Facebook page which contains articles of interest to writers and provides a forum for discussion.

An example of a recent post concerns the need for an online licensing system for copyrighted works. It can be found at http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2015/04/finding-authors-importance-of.html.


Writer Beware® also publishes a "Thumbs Down" list of publishers and agents that have been the subject of numerous complaints. Please see http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/thumbs-down-agency/.







Monday, 1 June 2015

Turning the Raccoon Loose on Facebook

Call me a reluctant independent, if you will.

Just like anyone else, I'd love to be working under contract with a traditional publisher, but since that's not currently in the cards it's important, for the sake of morale and courage in the face of the manuscript in progress, to embrace my independence.

Yea, to celebrate it, even.

I have fun with the @PlaidRaccoon Twitter account. For example,

The Raccoon Twitter persona has sort of taken on a life of its own. I have fun tweaking the beak of the Random Penguin while promoting our publications and otherwise fishing for notable trout in the ever-flowing Twitter stream.

So why not, in the spirit of embracing independence, spread the fun to Facebook? This way, the rascally raccoon isn't limited to 140 characters. Hmmm, on second thought......

Check out the Plaid Raccoon Press on Facebook, and if you're so inclined, LIKE us! You may be sorry you did, but oh well. What's life without risks? Just tap your paw on this link: https://www.facebook.com/plaidraccoon

 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Shortlists Announced for the 2015 Crime Writer's Association Dagger Awards

The shortlists for the CWA's Dagger Awards were announced at the 2015 Crimefest held in Bristol, England, in mid-May:

The CWA International Dagger

Falling Freely, As If In A Dream by Leif GW Persson
Camille by Pierre Lemaitre
Cobra by Deon Meyer
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské
The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo
Into a Raging Blaze by Andreas Norman


The CWA Short Story Dagger

"Apocrypha" by Richard Lange – Sweet Nothing
"Red Eye" by Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane – Face Off
"The Hunter" by Dashiell Hammett – The Hunter & Other Stories
"Sweet Nothing" by Richard Lange – Sweet Nothing
"Juror 8" by Stuart Neville – OxCrimes
"The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us" by George Pelecanos – OxCrimes

[NOTE: The Face Off anthology features stories started by one author and finished by another. The proceeds from the OxCrimes anthology support Oxfam.]


The CWA Non Fiction Dagger

In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies
A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer
Ghettoside: Investigating a Homicide Epidemic by Jill Leovy
Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun by Iain Overton
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Ǻsne Seierstad
Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson


The Endeavour Historical Dagger – sponsored by Endeavour Press

Havana Sleeping by Martin Davies
Lamentation by CJ Sansom
The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin
The Seeker by SG MacLean
The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor
The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse


The Debut Dagger – sponsored by Orion

Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
Last Of The Soho Legends by Greg Keen
The Ice Coffin by Jill Sawyer
The Pure Drop by Nigel Robbins
Lock Me In by Kate Simants

 The award winners will be announced on June 30.

(Source: Crime Fiction Lover blog)

Monday, 18 May 2015

An Interview with Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson, the creator of the Longmire novels on which the popular television series Longmire is based, has published a new  novel, Dry Bones. If you're not familiar with the character, he's a Wyoming sheriff who is dedicated to his job and dogged in his pursuit of justice for those who are victims of crime.

In Johnson's latest book, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex is discovered on the property of a Cheyenne rancher, who becomes the murder victim. Not only must Longmire uncover the killer, but he must also deal with the politics of the number of groups--including the rancher's family, the tribe, and the federal government--who are claiming ownership of the skeleton.


Kirkus Review has posted a television interview with Craig Johnson, who talks about his life as a rancher, his use of newspaper articles from Wyoming and nearby states as inspiration for the Longmire stories so that they're firmly grounded in reality, and his enjoyment of book tours where he can meet with his fans and discover what they like (or don't like) about his novels.

To listen to this interview, please click here.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Plaid Raccoon Press Turns Four!

Today, May 11, marks the fourth anniversary of the Plaid Raccoon Press!

Four years ago today the province of Ontario, in its infinite wisdom, issued a business license to this saucy little Canadian procyonid and turned him loose on the world to publish crime fiction and supernatural fiction. Goodness knows, my living room hasn't looked the same since.

As with all anniversaries, it's a time to glance back down the winding gravel road we've been mooching along in search of entertaining stories, modest revenue, and a chance to tweak the bill of the annoying Random Penguin and his ilk whenever possible. Hard to believe we've published four novels in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, a supernatural thriller (The Ghost Man), and Sorrow Lake, the first March and Walker Crime Novel, as well as Lynn L. Clark's debut work, The Home Child in such a short time span. Seven publications in four years! Not bad for a little ring-tailed scamp who'd rather be off raiding someone's corn crib or catching trout in the stream out back.

Of course, being an independent author has its down side. Can't get mainstream media outlets to review my novels. The largest bookstore chain in the country won't stock them on their shelves or list the paperbacks in their database. Not eligible for government grants because I don't fit their definition of a professional author.

It is what it is, right?

On the up side, my fourth Donaghue and Stainer novel, The Rainy Day Killer, was longlisted for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel in Canada, placing ahead of submissions by Margaret Atwood, Linwood Barclay, Louise Penny et al.

I get fan mail from people who've read one of my books and were sufficiently pleased by it to write me an e-mail to let me know.

I meet people at art festivals and craft shows who bought one of my books the last time I was there and have come back for another.

So never mind the disdainful newspaper editors, the elusive agents, and all the other professionals in the industry who consider independent authors such as myself to be a pox upon their house. For each one of you, I have ten who've actually read one of my novels and go out of their way to tell me they can't wait for the next one.

THAT's what it's all about, folks. 

So today we're blowing out the candles on our anniversary fishcake and making a wish for the future.

Hard to believe the Raccoon is already four. He keeps crossing the road on his way to that cornfield on the other side, and he's still fast enough to get out of the way of the trucks before they blast him into next week. Seven books in four years, and two more to come before he turns five!

And as I always say -- there's nothing else I'd rather be doing!

P.S. Don't miss this opportunity to check out our newly revamped website. The Raccoon is very proud of it, and he suggests you peek into the new webstore before you leave!!!  


Monday, 27 April 2015

SORROW LAKE - The Video Teaser

The Plaid Raccoon Press is pleased to present the official video teaser for Sorrow Lake, the first March and Walker Crime Novel.

Video sequences were shot in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, giving it a local look and feel. The novel is set in Leeds County, and I live in neighboring Grenville County.

Additional photography is licensed courtesy of Thinkstock Images, and the music, "Atmospherics Peds," by Themusicase, is provided by CyberLink. The teaser was produced using Cyberlink's PowerDirector 13.

Enough chatter! Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz3uySAROcI

Monday, 20 April 2015

SORROW LAKE - Who Got Killed?

Photo (c) Michael J. McCann
Every murder mystery has a victim.

Learning the identity of the victim is one of the first tasks taken on by our literary homicide investigators, as it is in real life. As John Douglas, the famous FBI profiler, explained in The Anatomy of Motive, understanding the victim is the key to understanding the motive, and once the motive is clear the detective will be that much closer to knowing the identity of the killer.

Victimology is a critical part of the investigation. Knowing the victim's activities before the murder and the relationships between the victim and the people around him help detectives understand who or what may have placed him in harm's way.

In Sorrow Lake, the first March and Walker Crime Novel, the victim is William Hansen, born October 21, 1957. A resident of the village of Sparrow Lake, Ontario, he ran his own business, a car wholesaling operation. He had a wife, Vivian, but no children. As Detective Inspector Ellie March and Detective Constable Kevin Walker move forward in the preliminary stages of the case, they discover that Bill Hansen's life revolved around his business, his cars, and his network of buyers, sellers, and drivers. He and his wife had no relatives in the area and no close friends.

While a search warrant is being executed in the victim's home by the forensics team under the watchful eye of Kevin Walker, Ellie spends time in other parts of the house by herself. "She was here because she wanted to get a sense of the victim and his wife. There were many unanswered questions" (Sorrow Lake, p. 70). Later, she gathers the team to reconstruct the time line of Bill Hansen's last day. "The final day of his life. Hour by hour, minute by minute, if necessary. Somewhere in the last twelve to fourteen hours of Bill Hansen's life they would find the event that would connect him to his killer" (Sorrow Lake, p. 210).

Did Ellie and her team succeed? Download a free review copy of Sorrow Lake from NetGalley and find out for yourself!  https://t.co/MlCnImBBxK


Monday, 13 April 2015

SORROW LAKE - How does the story begin?

In previous posts we've talked about the Canadian setting of Sorrow Lake, about the two main characters in the series, and early reviews of the novel.

Oh, and don't forget, you can still get your free review ARC from NetGalley by following this link

It's time now for a sneak peek at the story itself, to whet the appetite. And what better place to choose than the beginning? So, without further ado.......

SORROW LAKE
chapter ONE

      His breath visible in the early morning air, Detective Constable Kevin Walker made his way down the hill and across the farmer’s field toward the body. There was a crust on the snow from freezing rain that had fallen two days ago, and his boots punched crisp holes as he followed the footprints of the old man who’d spotted something in the middle of his field just after dawn and had come down to investigate.
      As he walked, Kevin kept his eyes moving across the snow, alert for anything out of the ordinary. Other than two sets of tracks, one belonging to the farmer and the other to Ontario Provincial Police Constable Bonnie Charles, the first responder to the scene, the surface of the snow was pristine. He reached the little circle of footprints where the farmer had staggered back and retched, he saw the spilled coffee and the cup the old man had dropped in his shock, and then he stopped.
      Close enough.
      The victim was a man in his fifties. He wore inadequate lowcut boots, grey trousers, and a tweed car coat. No gloves. No hat. The back of his neck was seared where a close-contact gunshot had passed through the base of his skull and out the front of his neck, leaving a frozen bloodstain on the surface of the snow. His face was turned slightly toward Kevin. The eyes were open and lifeless. The mouth was a frozen oval.
      Kevin recognized him. He lived in the village, not two blocks from Kevin’s house.
      He found it difficult to stop looking at the eyes. They had a disturbing cloudiness to them that made him feel uneasy. Kevin had participated in sudden death call outs before and so it wasn’t his first body, but it was the first that was an obvious and violent homicide. The blood, the stains on the trousers, and the cloudy, lifeless eyes were upsetting. He forced himself to stand there, taking in all the details, until he no longer felt repulsed.
      He heard the sound of tires crunching in the farmer’s driveway at the top of the hill and, turning, saw the EMS ambulance arrive. Members of the Sparrow Lake volunteer fire department, they were, like Kevin, residents of Yonge Township, a strip of 128 square kilometres jutting north from the St. Lawrence River between Brockville and Kingston. He watched Constable Charles point the way down the hill, waving her arm to make it clear that they should avoid the farmer’s footprints and follow Kevin’s down the snowy slope.
      As they edged their way toward him, he turned his eyes to the distant line of trees rimming the back of the field. A mixture of evergreen and bare-limbed deciduous, they were white with ice that had formed when the temperature had dropped below freezing again, the night before last. It made a picturesque tableau against the blue morning sky. A crow called out somewhere within the forest. Running his eyes along the tree line, Kevin saw nothing unusual. A second, distant crow answered the first. There was no visible disturbance in the snow between the body and the back of the field.
      Somewhere in that stretch, however, would be the expended round that had killed the victim when it ripped through his neck.
      He turned and looked at the footprints leading from the road to the body and back to the road again. Two sets coming in and one set returning to the road.
      A one-way trip for the victim and a return trip for his killer.
      “Another cold morning, Kevin,” one of the paramedics called out, by way of greeting. Behind him, his partner cursed as his boot rolled over a frozen clot of soil beneath the snow.
      Kevin held up a hand. “Just you, Philip. Come up beside me.”
     The paramedic shifted his equipment bag from one hand to the other and edged forward until he stood next to Kevin. He crouched, resting his bag on the snow, and swore. Behind them, his partner made a coughing sound and turned away. Philip studied the victim for a moment, then stood up and looked at the detective.
     “Obviously dead,” Kevin said.
     “Obviously dead,” Philip agreed. These two words, quoted from the Ministry of Health’s Deceased Patient Standard, obligated him not to touch the body unless directed to do so by the coroner. He turned to his partner. “Let’s get out of here, Dan. We’ll wait for Dalca in the truck.”
      As they hurried back up the hill, they passed Constable Charles, who was talking into her shoulder microphone as she walked down. She took a long look at the body for the second time this morning before making eye contact with Kevin. “The road’s blocked off between Ballycanoe Road and Junetown Road. Everyone’s being advised to approach from the north. We’re setting up the inner perimeters now. You said to use Mr. Lackey’s yard as the command post, right?”
      “Yeah.” The old man, Jerry Lackey, kept his yard well-plowed between his house and outbuildings, and it was large enough for a staging area that would accommodate all the respondents to the scene.
      Kevin watched Charles depart, issuing instructions into her shoulder mike, then pulled off his gloves and used his smart phone to take a few photographs of the body. He brought out his notebook and drew a rough sketch of the scene, made a few notes, then slipped it back into his jacket pocket, put on his gloves, and trudged back up the hill.
************************

If you enjoyed this excerpt, why not download a free review copy of the novel now, while it's still available? NetGalley is free to join and offers you a wide variety of Advance Reading Copies of the hottest books before they hit the shelves-- books like Sorrow Lake! Just click here: https://t.co/MlCnImBBxK



Monday, 6 April 2015

SORROW LAKE - Early Returns on the ARC Review Process

NetGalley
As you may know, the Advance Reading Copy of Sorrow Lake, the first March and Walker Crime Novel, is now available for review through NetGalley. If you're not a NetGalley account holder and would like access, it's free to sign up and free to download a copy of Sorrow Lake. Not a bad deal, right?

If you're interested, click on the cover image on the left, or on the link below. It will take you to a special sign-in page authorizing your free copy.

Not sure if you'd be interested in a crime novel set in Canada featuring homicide investigators from the Ontario Provincial Police? Take a look at the early response to the novel by NetGalley reviewers:

Blogger Mallory wrote: "A really inventive and deeply-characterized mystery/police procedural with a finely-delineated background of rural Ontario, SORROW LAKE is the first of a series, which I can tell will be one of my favorites. The characters are peeled down to the grain, and it's wonderfully gratifying to read of individuals who might be our friends, our neighbors--or even ourselves."  This review has also been posted on Amazon and in Goodreads, for which I'm very grateful.

Librarian Rosemary wrote: "I am thrilled that this is the beginning of a new series. McCann is a new author that I will now be following. And who doesn’t love the name of that publisher?" This review is also posted in Goodreads. Needless to say, the Raccoon is blushing and will probably have a swelled head for a while.

Reviewer Tracy wrote: "An exciting Canadian police procedural mystery that had me hooked from the very first page. A great strong female lead and a nice male counterpart just learning the ropes of homicide. Twists and turns I never saw coming especially leading up to the ending. I would and will recommend this book to friends and family, even strangers should the time and place present itself." Tracy also posted this review in Goodreads. Thank you, Tracy.

I'm also pleased to note that the voting on the cover design is going nicely. NetGalley viewers have so far given it 17 thumbs-up and 0 thumbs down. Thanks!

Now it's your turn, faithful followers of The Overnight Bestseller. Click on this link to find out for yourself why Sorrow Lake is going to make a lot of noise for Canadian crime fiction in 2015!

https://www.netgalley.com/widget/open?widget_id=63547_81503_1427823721551adc69b418a_9781927884034_US


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

SORROW LAKE - Advance Reading Copy Now Available


ARC

The Plaid Raccoon Press is pleased to announce that the Advance Reading Copy of the new Canadian crime novel Sorrow Lake is now available.

The ARC is available in e-book format through NetGalley, the online service that allows all publishers, large and small, to distribute review copies of new books to reviewers.

If you would like an e-book copy of Sorrow Lake, simply click on the cover image on the left or on the link below. If you have a NetGalley account, simply sign in and you will be taken directly to the Sorrow Lake page, where you may download a copy. It's available in .epub, .mobi, and .pdf formats.

If you don't have a NetGalley account, you can register with them free of charge. There's also no charge, of course, for downloading a review copy of Sorrow Lake.

What's the catch? There's only one -- if you like the book, we'd appreciate it very much if you'd let the world know by publishing a short review in your blog or column, or on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or wherever you like to go to spread the word about a book you've enjoyed.

Here's the link: https://www.netgalley.com/widget/open?widget_id=63547_81503_1427823721551adc69b418a_9781927884034_US

Thanks very much for your interest. I hope you enjoy the story!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Cover Reveal for SORROW LAKE - The first March and Walker Crime Novel

The Plaid Raccoon Press is thrilled to unveil the cover art for Sorrow Lake by Michael J. McCann. Set in eastern Ontario, Canada, Sorrow Lake is the first installment in the new March and Walker Crime Novel Series. It features Detective Inspector Ellie March of the Ontario Provincial Police and Detective Constable Kevin Walker of the OPP's Leeds County Crime Unit.



This cover will be available for both the e-book and the paperback editions of the novel. Now, when shopping for a paperback, most people who are attracted to a book by the front cover will pick it up and turn it over to find out more about the story itself. With that in mind....

 

Cover Design Q & A

Now it's time for a quick interview with the author, who designed and produced this cover.

What was your overall concept for the SORROW LAKE cover design?

The novel is set in Canada, as we discussed in a previous post, and takes place in early December. Because the ice on Sparrow Lake, nicknamed Sorrow Lake by the locals, is not yet thick enough to walk on safely, it poses a danger for anyone attempting to cross it.

The footprints through the snow on the surface of the lake in the great front cover photograph by Oleg Koslov, licensed through iStock, suggest that someone has foolishly ventured out onto the lake nonetheless, and it conveys the sense of danger and suspense found in the story itself. The back photo cover, which I took on the road where I live, was shot on a very cold, overcast morning.  Along with the colour scheme, the photos convey a strong sense of a bleak, cold Canadian winter day.


Did you go through several draft designs before choosing this one?

Yes, it's my habit while writing the manuscript to spend my down time drafting cover designs. It helps sharpen my sense of the mood of the story, and it keeps me motivated during the very difficult process of completing the first draft. I had two other possible designs, both featuring photos that were predominantly blue, but one looked too much like a romance novel and the other was too bright and cheerful. Not appropriate for a police procedural set in a cold northern clime!


Everyone wants to know WHY you design your own covers. Isn't that a no-no for an independent author?

Yes, I suppose it is ill-advised in many cases, but I happen to really enjoy the process, and I approach it the same way I do everything else--with a great deal of advance research, with care and attention to detail, and with the proper tools and equipment.

Part of my research is studying the cover designs of the bestsellers. For example, while I'm in the drug store getting my prescriptions filled, I'll wander over to the book racks while I'm waiting and just stand there, looking at the rows of bestsellers, noticing how they arrange the text elements (author's name very often at the top for better visibility in a middle row!), colour co-ordination, how they place graphic elements, and so on. I read somewhere that outdoor photos are more successful on a book cover than indoor photos, and I keep things like that in the back of my head.

My son has a Mac Pro with Adobe Creative Suite 3 on it, and since he's migrated to a PC laptop these days I've confiscated the Mac. I've taught myself how to use InDesign, which is a very powerful tool for creating both the book block and the cover, and I try my best in Photoshop when I need to tweak something. I take however long is necessary to produce a product readers will find attractive and (hopefully) error-free!


If you'd like to see the cover on Amazon, you can find it here.


Do you like the new cover? Let us know in the Comments section below!

Next week: Sorrow Lake becomes available for reviews!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Sorrow Lake: Who are these Canadian detectives?

Last week I introduced you to my new crime novel, Sorrow Lake, which will be making its first appearance next month. In that post I discussed the novel's Canadian setting.

Now it’s time to meet the two main characters who give the March and Walker Crime Novel series its name.

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR ELLIE MARCH is a nineteen-year veteran of the Ontario Provincial Police. A major case manager with the Criminal Investigation Branch at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia, she investigates homicides and other major crimes in the force’s East Region.

Kevin Walker’s early impression of her is of a woman


in her early forties... Tall, slender, a little gawky. Her ring finger was bare. Her nails were closely trimmed. She wore no cosmetics at all and her hair, although neatly combed, was straight and unattractive. Her cheekbones were high and prominent. Her eyebrows were unplucked. The eyes beneath them were narrow and sober. He’d yet to see her smile. Even when she joked, revealing an active sense of humour, her wide, pursed lips didn’t participate. She was a very strange and intense person who didn’t seem to care what anyone thought about her.

Ellie is divorced. Her ex-husband, Gareth Miller, is an economic advisor for the federal Conservative Party. Her two daughters, Melanie (16) and Megan (12), dislike her intensely. They believe she is “the unhappiest person, like, ever. You make happy people feel unhappy.” Ellie, though, thinks this might be a somewhat unfair assessment.

DETECTIVE CONSTABLE KEVIN WALKER has been assigned to the OPP’s Leeds County Crime Unit for two years. Born and raised in Brockville, he completed a two-year college program and was hired by the Sparrow Lake Police Service as a constable. He spent nine years in the village, the last five as their only detective, before transferring to the OPP when the SLPS was disbanded and Yonge Township awarded their policing contract to the OPP.

Ellie first sees Kevin at the crime scene. He’s standing near the body of the victim with forensic Identification Sergeant Dave Martin:


The one in the ski jacket and toque was big and looked very young, while the other, the Ident officer in his white coveralls and hood, was short and middle-aged. The kid looked like a football player in full pads standing next to a referee.


Young and enthusiastic, Kevin is pleased to have an opportunity to work with Ellie, whose reputation as an interrogator and case manager precedes her. He hopes that his intelligence and insatiable curiosity for esoteric information will compensate for his lack of law enforcement experience. However, at least one of his colleagues in the crime unit feels strongly that Kevin doesn’t belong with them.

Next week: your first look at the cover of Sorrow Lake!



Monday, 9 March 2015

Sorrow Lake - What's all this about a Canadian setting?

As spring approaches, work is underway to prepare my next novel for publication. Sorrow Lake, the first March and Walker Crime Novel, is set in eastern Ontario and features homicide investigators of the Ontario Provincial Police. The advance reading copy for review will be available next month in e-book format through NetGalley and in paperback through my imprint, The Plaid Raccoon Press.

I'm very excited to talk about this new series, which is a bit of a departure from the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series familiar to readers through Blood Passage, Marcie's Murder, The Fregoli Delusion, and The Rainy Day Killer (yes, a fifth novel in the series will eventually join them!). First and foremost, crime fiction fans will be interested to note that this Canadian crime fiction author is now using a Canadian setting for his mysteries!

Canada can proudly boast a strong lineup of home-grown crime fiction authors including Barbara Fradkin, Robert Rotenberg, Giles Blunt, and Louise Penny.  While Penny was quoted in the past as saying that “it was excruciatingly difficult to find an agent or a publisher in Canada or elsewhere interested in a procedural with a Canadian setting,”  her success with the Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec's  Eastern Townships and the popularity of Blunt's John Cardinal series set in a thinly-disguised North Bay (population 64,000) are proof that Canadian settings need not be a deterrent to success in the crime fiction market.

The OPP provides policing services to more than 300 communities in Ontario, including rural Leeds County, where Sorrow Lake is set. Homicide investigators in the force's East Region--where Detective Inspector Ellie March, one of two lead characters in the series, is assigned--investigate major crimes in a land area of  35,000 sq. km. with a population of over 900,000 people.  Stories in the series will be set not only in Leeds but in other parts of the region as well.

It's very interesting to compare the scope of this setting to, say, Iceland. Scandinavian crime fiction, still immensely popular in Canada and the US, includes bestselling, award-winning Icelandic novelists such as Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and Arnaldur Indridason. In fact, I have copies of their novels on the bookshelf in my bathroom.  How do we explain the amazing success of Icelandic crime fiction, set in a country with a population of only 323,000 people (a third of eastern Ontario)? A question for another day, but further proof that crime fiction with underpopulated settings can be surprisingly successful.

I'm very anxious for you to have a chance to experience March and Walker in action as they investigate the brutal execution-style murder of a local used-car wholesaler in Sorrow Lake. As procedurals go, this one is well-researched, carefully told, and features intriguing, engaging characters you'll want to follow through each of their upcoming adventures.

Stay tuned for more!


Monday, 2 March 2015

The Inimitable Leonard Nimoy

Like many others, I was saddened to hear of the death of Leonard Nimoy. I was a fan of the Star Trek series and of the character Mr. Spock.

 Leonard Nimoy was teaching method acting in his own studio when he was cast as Mr. Spock. Gene Rodenberry, the creator of Star Trek, would later refer to Nimoy as the "conscience" of the show.

Although he will always be associated with Spock, Leonard Nimoy had many other accomplishments. Here are some highlights of his life from the New York Times:

He served in the US Army for two years;

He appeared in television series such as Wagon Train, Rawhide, and Perry Mason before being cast as Mr. Spock. Later he would have a starring role in the television series Mission Impossible;

He returned to college in his 40s and obtained a Master's degree in Spanish from Antioch University. Later he would be awarded an honorary doctorate by that university;

He directed two of the Star Trek movies, as well as the film Three Men and a Baby;

He was nominated for an Emmy for his role as the husband of Golda Meir in a made-for-television movie depicting her life. Ingrid Bergman played Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel;

He published two autobiographies, as well as books of poetry and photography;

He frequently appeared on stage, including performances in Fiddler on the Roof;

He recorded music, and his first album was called Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space;

He did voices for Disney animation, as well as the voice-over for the computer game "Civilization IV"; and

He had a recurring role in the science fiction series Fringe.

 For the full text of the New York Times article, including two videos, please click here. For additional information and links showing Leonard Nimoy's versatility, please click here.  

RIP Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Monday, 23 February 2015

Living with Alzheimer's Disease


Alzheimer's is a disease that you may be aware of only peripherally unless it has touched your family or friends. The following are the statistics from the Alzheimer's Society of Canada website:

  • In 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia (approximately 15% of Canadians 65 and older).
  • By 2031, if nothing changes in Canada, this figure will increase to 1.4 million.

 Researchers are still uncertain as to the exact effect of Alzheimer's disease on the brain, although they do know that cells are damaged and eventually die in different areas of the brain. The death of brain cells leads to dementia, characterized by memory loss, impaired judgment, and behavioral changes.
Although no one knows the exact cause of the disease, there are a number of risk factors that have been identified such as head injury, vascular disease, and gender. For example, women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease.

There are ten major warning signs of the disease:
  1.  memory loss that affects day-to-day function
  2. difficulty performing familiar tasks
  3.  problems with language
  4.  disorientation of time and place
  5.  poor or decreased judgment
  6.  problems with abstract thinking
  7.  misplacing things
  8.  changes in mood and behavior
  9.  changes in personality
  10.  loss of initiative  

It's important to note that there are major differences between symptoms of Alzheimer's and signs of normal aging:


Normal Aging 
Dementia 
Not being able to remember details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago  Not being able to recall details of recent events or conversations 
Not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance  Not recognizing or knowing the names of family members
Forgetting things and events occasionally  Forgetting things or events more frequently 
Occasionally have difficulty finding words  Frequent pauses and substitutions when finding words 
You are worried about your memory but your relatives are not Your relatives are worried about your memory, but you are not aware of any problems

 At this time, there is no treatment to delay, cure, or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Approved drugs temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for about six to twelve months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them.

It is vital for family members who are caregivers of persons living with Alzheimer's to seek help-- without guilt--to cope with the disease and to safeguard their own physical and mental health.


There are multiple resources and support groups.  For a list of Canadian web resources, see http://www.forgetfulnotforgotten.com/caring/resources/canadian-sites.The Alzheimer's Society of Canada also has a list of provincial societies: http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/provincial-office-directory.

In the United States, please see the Alzheimer's Foundation of America's site at http://alzfdn.org/.

In the United Kingdom, please see the Alzheimer's Research UK site at http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/. 

Please remember that exercise, healthy eating, and brain boosters such as crossword puzzles and computer games can help in keeping your brain healthy. For more information, visit http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Living-with-dementia/BrainBooster.
 
.






Monday, 16 February 2015

Irish Crime Fiction: Moving into the Mainstream

It's refreshing to note that crime fiction is gradually being accepted into the mainstream of literature, and is hopefully shedding its image as "genre" fiction and therefore a poor cousin to "literary" works.

Trinity College in Dublin is now offering a course on Irish crime fiction writers, and if you enjoy Irish crime fiction you'll recognize many of the authors: Tana French, Arlene Hunt, Eoin McNamee, Stuart Neville, Declan Hughes, Benjamin Black, and John Connelly, among others.

The course syllabus indicates that Irish crime fiction is "perhaps the fastest growing area of contemporary Irish literature".

For more information, including the course syllabus, please see Declan Burke's post on Crime Always Pays.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Let's Talk--About Better Assistance on University Campuses

Each year I do a post on Bell's Let Talk Day with the goal of helping to publicize the need for talking openly and ending the stigma of mental illness.

However, a recent incident involving a student in resident at a Canadian university might have the unfortunate effect of discouraging young people from coming forward in search of assistance when they urgently need it.

This student's appeal for help to cope with his depression and suicidal thoughts ended in a demand that he leave the university's residence before he even had a chance to meet with a mental health counsellor.

The day before he was to attend a counselling session on campus, he was advised by university officials that he had to immediately vacate his room because he posed a risk to other students. If he did commit suicide, this would adversely affect the mental health of the other students in residence. His mother was called to come pick him up. He could attend classes, they said, but he couldn't stay in residence.

According to a university spokesperson:

There has never been a case [here] where a student has been removed from residence for the sole reason that they have threatened self-harm. We simply would not do that. . . . There have been times, though, where the special needs of an individual have exceeded the university's capacity to provide the adequate and necessary support for their own safety and well-being, as well as supporting and protecting others who are in close proximity or have direct contact with the individual.

This story clearly underlines the necessity to talk openly about our universities' "capacity to provide the adequate and necessary support" to young people in urgent need of help at a very vulnerable time in their lives. While money is hard to come by all around, and budgets are constantly under scrutiny in every organization, universities included, I would suggest that the mental health and well-being of the young people in their charge--many living away from home for the first time--should be considered a very high priority rather than something for which "adequate" is a target not always attained.

Our youth need to feel it's permissible to ask for help when they're struggling with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental distress. The last thing they need is the unspoken message that they're only going to "cause trouble" for their school and themselves if they do find the courage to come forward.

Our institutions need to change their priorities and do a much, much better job of listening and helping whenever someone within their walls reaches out to them in times of need.

For the CBC story, please click here.


Monday, 2 February 2015

The Day After

As you are reading this, the 49th Super Bowl is history, and your team has either won or lost. About all that's left to determine is who had the best Super Bowl ad.

Of course, that won't stop you from debating who showed up for their A-game and who stank; which calls from the officials were dead wrong; and what coaching moves should have been second-guessed. Ah, nothing like the Monday morning quarterback.


If you're a die-hard fan, you're already looking forward to the 2015 NFL scouting combine, which will be held February 17-23, and the draft itself which has a new venue and airs from Chicago on April 30 - May 2.

And for those of you whose team didn't make it to the Super Bowl, remember--there's always next year.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness


One in five Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Nevertheless, fighting the stigma of mental illness is an ongoing battle in which victory is long overdue.  Research shows that:

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds. Sadly, Canada has the third highest suicide rate for youths in the industrial world.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.
 (Statistics are from the Canadian Mental Health Association's "Fast Facts about Mental Illness" at http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.Ut61P_tOldg.)


We can start to help those affected by mental illness by debunking the myths associated with it. For example, many adolescents (and adults) think that depression is just part of “growing up” and will disappear on its own, but we need to appreciate instead that depression may be a life-long challenge. The Kids Help Phone helps youths who are suffering from depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other mental health concerns or who just need someone to listen to them. The telephone number for the helpline in Canada is 1-800-668-6868. 

One of the underlying causes of depression and suicide in adolescents is bullying (especially cyber-bullying).  This topic is finally receiving national attention, and there are numerous resources available.  The Kids Help Phone website at http://kidshelpphone.ca/Teens/InfoBooth/Bullying.aspx?gclid=CI7K2ciVpbUCFfBDMgodKV8AyA has extensive information on this subject and also has a bullying forum where teens can post questions. In addition, many websites now provide resources to combat bullying, including incident reporting for schools.  See, for example, http://www.stopabully.ca/bullying-resources.

In Canada, there are also numerous other Internet and local resources for those of all ages seeking help. For a list of crisis intervention resources in the province of Ontario, please visit http://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/services-and-support/crisis-support/. For further information and to locate the chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association nearest to you, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at http://www.cmha.ca/.

This Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Bell Canada is sponsoring its fifth annual “Let's Talk” Day. The four pillars of the Let's Talk initiative are anti-stigma; care and access; workplace health; and research. To download a complete copy of the "Let's Talk" toolkit, please visit http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/toolkit

Mental health is a global concern.  Please check your internet and local resources if you live outside Canada.

Let's help put a human face on this suffering and end the silence.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Winter in the Limerick Forest

Winter is a time for writing. It keeps me busy and warm on these short, cold January days. I've been working on something new, The March and Walker Crime Novel series. Set in eastern Ontario, it features homicide investigators of the Ontario Provincial Police. The first novel, Sorrow Lake, has been completed in manuscript and is being read and evaluated. The second, Burn Country, is on my mind every morning when I wake up, and I expect it'll keep me busy until the snow is gone.

While the snow's here, however, I bundle up each day and take the dogs for a walk in the back forest. Our property is a long, narrow strip extending into former pasture that's now busily reforesting, if that's a word. The other day we were watched by a large barred owl as we meandered along my home-made foot path. We often startle ruffed grouse and cross the tracks of deer as they travel back and forth along their own trails. It's a great place to get out and clear my head, breathe the cold fresh air, and, yes, daydream.

Foremost in my daydreams these days is a plan to create an oval back there where I made a small clearing in the fall. It's a place where I've put a chair and bench for sitting when the weather's warmer. You can see the spot here, on the right. In the foreground on the right is the trunk of a white pine that fell a few seasons ago; it'll become another bench for sitting. There's a dead tamarack just out of the frame to the left that will provide logs for raised beds filled with wild flowers. When I cut it down, of course.

Meanwhile, we wander and daydream. My retriever, Charley, noses around beneath one of our tall white pines. If you look up, you may spot a porcupine who's spending the winter in this particular tree. He's something of a problem, because he's stripping the tree for lunch, and I don't want him to kill it. So far, stern warnings and cuss words have had little effect. Next I suppose I'll try a few snowballs. It's worked before on his cousins. Porcupines are shy and don't like people, particularly noisy ones like me, but this fellow's being stubborn. They really don't like snowballs, though, so I think I may change his mind about hanging around.

Back inside, at the keyboard, I'm in complete control of the world in which my stories are set. As much in control, I suppose, as any of us when it comes to the universe of the imagination. But out here, in the forest, control isn't an issue. I'm a participant. A partner. I've noticed in the snow that the rabbits and deer like to use my paths when I'm not back there.  I hope they find my oval beneficial, when it's done. On the other hand, I still have a bone to pick with that porcupine.......!




Monday, 12 January 2015

Upcoming Let's Talk Day for 2015

On January 5, Bell Canada launched its Let's Talk campaign for 2015. The official Let's Talk day when you can talk and tweet in support of mental health is January 28, 2015, and this will be a subject of a later post. In the interim, here are some suggestions from the campaign launch on how you can help in ending the stigma of mental illness:

  • Language matters - pay attention to the words you use about mental illness
  • Educate yourself - learn, know and talk more, understand the signs
  • Be kind - small acts of kindness speak a lot
  • Listen and ask - sometimes it's best to just listen
  • Talk about it - start a dialogue, break the silence 
For the full text of the campaign launch, please see http://www.newswire.ca/fr/story/1468543/bell-let-s-talk-day-2015-is-january-28-join-the-national-conversation-about-mental-health.

And please stay tuned for a future post on supporting the January 28 Let's Talk day.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Anne Tyler: Fifty Years of Writing

The British Broadcasting Corporation, in its online list of novels to look forward to in 2015, indicates that Anne Tyler will celebrate her 50th year of writing with the release of her 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, a family saga set in Baltimore. Ms. Tyler, whose understated writing style, quirky characters and family dramas, and ability to use symbols to convey complex layers of meaning and emotion, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Her previous novels include Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist.

The BBC interviewed Anne Tyler in 2013 when she was in the process of writing A Spool of Blue Thread. She was 71 at the time and speculated that this would be her last novel. Ms. Tyler obviously has a keen sense of humor as she jokes about her decision to put aside her pen. To listen to the interview, please click here.

For the full text of the BBC article, including other novels that will appear in 2015, please click here.

A Spool of Blue Thread will be released on February 10, 2015.