Monday, May 23, 2016

If you haven't heard of this delightful Steampunk sport for ladies yet, here's the Parasol Dueling Regional Championships report to get you up to speed:

2016 Prairie Spring Regionals

  Photo credit to Karlo Keet of Catstar Images

For even more information on Parasol Dueling rules, outfits and people around the world who are participating, see

Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Dueling League for Steampunk Ladies

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why did Golden Age Detective Writers situate their Murder Mysteries on Holidays and Modes of Transport?

An excellent essay discussing the why, when, and how of Golden Age Crime Writers using travel in mystery fiction:
Is it just to dazzle the reader with exoticism and provide a means of escapism? Or is there something more to it? After a lot of head scratching and pondering here are 8 possible reasons I have come up with…
Golden Age Crime Writers 

All those early Agatha Christie travels in Mesopotamia had a decided influence on my fascination with deserts and excavations, which led - by a decades'-long reading line of mysteries by other authors - to my starting Maddie's debut adventure in Egypt.

Have you a favourite Golden Age mystery, or travel mystery of any era?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Short Fiction: Looks Just Like the Sun

 Now live on LitBreak, Looks Just Like the Sun was a semi-finalist for the Broken Social Scene/House of Anansi short fiction contest in 2013.
 “Hey, Dan. Borrow your twelve-gauge? Gotta go shoot up a house.”
Yeah. Like that would fly with a guy you haven’t seen in three years. Maybe put “Merry Christmas” first?” While he waited, Marcel shifted kindling from the porch’s woodpile into his backpack and crammed the day’s Northern Times in on top. He zipped up just as the door opened.
“Marcel. Thought you was in rehab.”

“They let me out for the holidays.”

He was supposed to be at Odelle’s in Hearst already, two dry weeks for the recovering drunken Indian. She’d be pissed when he didn’t show up, afraid he had veered into the first bar instead, but this side-trip was her Christmas present. She’d understand.

He followed Dan indoors, dropping his backpack and parka on a chair. He kicked the snow off his boots but kept them on, against the cold and the decades of dirt on the hallway floor.

“Borrow your twelve-gauge?”

“You going bush in this weather?”

“Nope. Gonna shoot up a house. You can have the shotgun back right after.”

Dan peered at him, unsure about the humour. “That’d make me an accessory. They’d throw both our asses in the can.”

“No place else to go until spring.” Marcel pulled a chair toward the gray-topped table, nudging aside a sleeping mutt with his boot.

Read the rest at LitBreak. Looks Just Like the Sun

Rooted in my teen years living in Kapuskasing, and written in part as tribute to friends who survived the foster care system, this story is a companion piece to "Trail of the Wolf" which won the NOWW short fiction contest in 2013.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An Unhanged Arthur Finalist

For the second time, I've got a manuscript on the shortlist for the Unhanged Arthur. 

To learn more about the Arthur and the story, see When the Flood Falls

Here are the complete shortlists. Congratulations to all my friends listed in the various categories. 

Best Novel
Peggy Blair, Hungry Ghosts, Simon & Schuster
John Farrow, The Storm Murders, Minotaur
Andrew Hunt, A Killing in Zion, Minotaur
Peter Kirby, Open Season, Linda Leith Publishing
Inger Ash Wolfe, The Night Bell, McClelland & Stewart

Best First Novel
J. Mark Collins, Hard Drive, iUniverse
David Hood, What Kills Good Men, Vagrant Press
Ausma Zehanat Khan, The Unquiet Dead, Minotaur
Alexis Koetting, Encore, Five Star
Brian R. Lindsay, Old Bones, Volumes Publishing

Best Novella
Jeremy Bates, Black Canyon, Dark Hearts, Ghillinnein Books
Alison Bruce, Deadly Season, Imajin Books
M.H. Callway, Glow Glass, Carrick Publishing
Barbara Fradkin, The Night Thief, Orca Book Publishers
Brian Harvey, Beethoven’s Tenth, Orca Book Publishers

Best Short Story
Karen Abrahamson, With One Shoe, Playground of Lost Toys, Exile Editions
Hilary Davidson, The Seige, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
Sharon Hunt, The Water Was Rising, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
Scott Mackay, The Avocado Kid, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
S. G. Wong, Movable Type, AB Negative Anthology, Coffin Hop Press

Best Book in French
Luc Chartrand, L'Affaire Myosotis, Québec Amérique
Jean-Louis Fleury, L'affaire Céline, Éditions Alire
André Jacques, La bataille de Pavie, Druide        
Jean Lemieux, Le mauvais côté des choses, Québec Amérique
Guillaume Morrissette, L'affaire Mélodie Cormier, Guy Saint-Jean éditeur

Best Juvenile/YA Book
Robert Hough, Diego’s Crossing, Annick Press
Jeff Ross, Set You Free, Orca
Kevin Sands, The Blackthorn Key, Aladdin
Allan Stratton, The Dogs, Scholastic
Stephanie Tromley, Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Kathy Dawson Books

Best Nonfiction Book
Gary Garrison, Human on the Inside: Unlocking the Truth about Canada’s Prisons, University of Regina Press
Dean Jobb, Empire of Deception, Harper Collins Publishers
Debra Komar, The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin Jr., Goose Lane Editions
Jerry Langton, Cold War, Harper Collins Publishers
Colleen Lewis and Jennifer Hicks, Mr. Big: The Investigation into the Deaths of Karen and Krista Hart, Flanker Press

The Dundurn Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
Jayne Barnard, When the Flood Falls
Alice Bienia, Knight Blind
Pam Isfeld, Brave Girls
J.T. Siemens, Better the Devil You Know
J.G. Toews, Give Out Creek

Monday, April 4, 2016

That says it all!

Wish me and Maddie luck when fans start voting in June.

If you're a member of CSFFA (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association), or want to be, you too can vote. 

Membership is only $10 Canadian. Best membership perk in the reading world: you get Maddie and all the other nominated works in your in-box.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sleuthing for Girls

Did you know Nancy Drew wasn't the first young, female sleuth in the annals of American mystery literature? Did you read Nancy, or some other contemporary crime-solving girl detective?

By pure coincidence, my bedtime book is a mystery by Susan Kandel, author of "Not a Girl Detective" which is not about Nancy but about the obsessive fans who collect her books, go to conventions, and even mimic Nancy in their clothing and decor. An author worth sampling if you enjoy well-crafted mysteries about Golden Age American mystery writers

Back to Girl Detectives: 

I favoured Trixie Belden over Nancy, in large part because Trixie's community felt more real and accessible to me than Nancy's idealized, chore-free existence ever could.

 In adventures published between 1948 and 1986, Trixie dived headlong into risky situations in a way that made my timid pre-teen heart beat green with envy. And she had friends, staunch ones, who had her back and helped her out of scrapes while still carrying on with their own lives. I yearned for friends like Trixie's. She got to go exciting places (in the vein of the Bobbsey Twins I'd read voraciously in my earliest reading years). 

The series didn't age gracefully as it grew; the later books lack the lively curiosity of the younger Trixie and acquire a more formulaic feel akin to the Nancy Drews. See more about Trixie at this website run by devoted fans

Pre-dating Trixie was Judy Bolton, created by Margaret Sutton. I discovered Judy in my 20s, though, by the accident of working in a small prairie library in the 1980s. The elderly librarian there hadn't yet seen the need to weed out Judy Bolton books in favour of more modern series. Older by five years than Trixie at the start of her series, Judy had more personal autonomy (more like Nancy) and a strong sense of what some call moral justice, rather than legalist justice. While solving a mystery, she looked at people as much as at objects. She grew up, got married, moved along with her life. That series ran to over 30 books between 1932 and 1967, with one new title (finished by another author) released in the late 1990s and the 39th book published in 2012.

Nancy and Judy were approximate contemporaries, Trixie came a bit later. Years before them all, books were being written about teenage and young adult girl detectives. This article linked below is a good introduction to some of the most popular. The social and historical root-stock - the Women's Suffrage movement and the First World War, for example - were particularly interesting as (I almost blush to confess) I had not considered how the great social changes of the early 20th century would naturally have been reflected in books for girls as much as for any other audience.

I've read some of the authors discussed in this article, but not heard of others that were likely quite popular in my grandmothers' youth. More books to seek out and add to my teetering To-Be-Read pile!

The Secret History of the Girl Detective

Who's your favourite girl detective? 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

On this Easter Sunday, while the West is warm and sunny, while my Eastern and Central Canadian friends are still struggling with ice-storms, blizzards, snow-blocked roads, what is more appropriate than the Imperial Winter Egg?

This egg, from 1913, is made of carved rock crystal thin as glass - so thin the surprise is visible (albeit clouded). The egg is engraved with frost-flowers and ornamented with platinum and diamonds. The base is rock-crystal carved to resemble a block of melting ice. 

The surprise, so suitable for Spring spreading across the country even where the land seems most winter-locked, is a platinum basket of flowers. 

Resembling the early-Spring anemone blossoms, these are made from white quartz, nephrite, gold and green garnets, set in a bed of moss made of green gold. 

With that materials list, it may not surprise anyone to learn this was the most expensive Imperial Egg of the lot, for all its apparent simplicity. It was an Easter gift from Tsar Nicholas II to his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.