Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book promotion north of 60

Hello crime writers and fans. This is my first post to Mystery Writers Ink, so I'll start with a short introduction.

When I was 11, I told my mom I'd be a writer. In fact, I'd be a long-haul truck driver and write about what I'd seen from an 18-wheeler. Great idea, until I turned 16 and realized I can barely drive around the block. I'm still a crappy driver, but the writing thing stuck.

In October, 2009 my first Markus Fanger adventure crime From Ice to Ashes was published by NeWest Press in Edmonton. In From Ice to Ashes Fanger and a young offender fight a terrorist threat on the course of the Yukon Arctic Ultra. It's a thriller set in today's Yukon. The only corsets and garters you'll find are in our annual Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival.

From the day the first box of books arrived, I went into the bookselling business, Yukon style. With only four bookstores in the territory, most sales are rung in at gas stations (good thing I work at one), cafes, gift shops, and museums. Writers have to make our own marketing opportunities, so this winter I jumped on the Alberta SuperNet, and followed it way off the beaten track to Delia, in the Hand Hills.

The SuperNet connects Albertans to every government facility in the province. It achieves exactly what the province wants: for Albertans to leap the digital divide. Tandberg Communications unifies all the disparate operating systems, from dial-up to high speed to fiber optic for podcasts, broadcasts and live play. Presenters can display photos, clips, other websites, and record the presentation. It's a vast improvement over video conferencing.

Delia is linked to 35 libraries in the Marigold region and 338 branches province-wide. Regardless how much money and energy I had, I could never reach that many venues on a physical book tour.

Like filaments of a web, the SuperNet is lightweight and invisible. The hour-long reading flew by in real time as natural as if I'd been in the room. To "sign" books, I mailed bookplates commemorating Delia's first "no-fly author at home".

Two weeks later, I was in Scroggie Creek, the heart of Jack London country, staffing a Yukon Quest Dog Drop. We hosted two dozen dog teams on the 1000-mile international sled dog race.

Each musher who crossed our threshold received a complimentary copy of From Ice to Ashes from NeWest Press.I wasn’t going to make everyone pack an extra 12 ounces for 400 miles of trail, so at Meet the Mushers I handed out the copies.

From there Adventure Canada asked me to read to their Yukon Quest tour guests. After a short walk to the Takhini River with visitors from Ontario to California we returned to a roaring bonfire with reading and discussion

Not everything I try is a raving success. On a recent trip to Toronto I learned other tactics are needed for the big city, but to reach the Yukon’s 30,000 residents, and beyond, a personal touch works best.

For more on Jessica's distance-promotion techniques, check out:

Authors on the Delicacy of Foreshadowing

"For me the problem with obvious foreshadowing--the "had I but known" variety--is that it makes the reader aware that this is a story of past events, being retold, AND that the narrator got away safely, or wouldn't now be telling the tale.

I like my readers to feel that a story is unfolding before their eyes, that they are watching from behind a curtain, so to speak. Also that the outcome is not certain."

Rhys Bowen, author of the Evan Evans, Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mystery novels, winner of the Agatha and Anthony Awards.

"You lay the groundwork early, well before you need it. For example, show up-front that a supporting character's morals are ambiguous, then plot your protagonist into a position of being forced to trust that supporting character at a crucial moment. By the time your protagonist goes forth to trust the other character, you don't need a blatant "If only I had known" statement because the reader is already squirming with implied foreshadowing."

Suzanne Adair, author of Paper Woman (2007 Patrick D. Smith Award winner), The Blacksmith's Daughter, Camp Follower (2009 nominee for Daphne du Maurier and Sir Walter Raleigh awards)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

MWIS June Meeting & AGM

Mystery Writers Ink will meet at the usual time and place
(7 p.m. second Thursday of the month, at Owl's Nest Bookstore in Brittania Plaza, SW Calgary).

On the murderous menu are:

* the Annual General Meeting & induction of new executive

* readings from some Master Class participants

* a mystery readers' scavenger hunt through the bookstore (time permitting)

* refreshments and volunteer appreciations

Postcard Perps 2010: Fatal Family Reunion

Postcard Perps 2010: Fatal Family Reunion

The Challenge:

Old Ebenezer is making his will at last, and he wants one more look at all his descendents before picking his main beneficiary. Eccentric uncles, outrageous aunts, cussing cousins and a few obnoxious in-laws are gathered at a guest ranch for the first family reunion in forty years. Mix a bit of brotherly loathing and some seething sisters-in-law with plenty of plain old greed, and one or more of them will not survive the weekend. Your narrator might be a family member or an outsider, a do-gooding sleuth or a villain in mild-mannered disguise. Surprise us. Who dies, how, and why?

The Solution:

Head for Business
by Sherry Wilson McEwen
All Rights Reserved

A spasm of pain shot through me. I gritted my teeth and looked out the big picture windows at the Cypress Hills. The great room of the Bar None Guest Ranch easily held all my estranged relatives-my older brother Silas, younger brother Harold, their wives and miscellaneous grown children-as well as my lawyer and my personal nurse. Only when I had the stabbing pain under control did I turn back to the assembled group.

Harold waved a dirty and crumpled piece of paper. "What'd you say, Ebeneezer? Winner takes all." Following my careful co-ordinates and map, Harold had managed to pull a metal container out of the roots of a twisted pine. Inside was the first page of my will, which Harold now held up in triumph.

Silas's beefy face turned red. "What kind of contest d'you call that?" He groaned and nursed his arm. "Sending us racing over the prairie horseback ... white-water rafting down a river for gawd's sake ... then wandering around in the back woods with the bears, grubbing for a blasted piece of paper. You trying to kill us?"

The thought had crossed my mind. If my useless brothers and their scruffy offspring hadn't survived the test I'd set them, it was no loss to the world. "You haven't changed a bit, Silas. Still a poor sport."

My sister-in-law Dora's shrill shot through the room like a dentist's drill. "Well somebody cheated." She shot a venomous look at Harold. "Besides, Silas didn't have enough time to learn that fancy GPS gizmo of yours."

I shifted in my wheelchair. "Seems fitting that my beneficiary learn how to use the device that made the family business a success."

Harold's wife Gwen snorted. "You were handed the business on a platter. Why your father chose to leave it all to you with nothing for Harold or Silas . . ."

I swivelled my head in her direction. Hard to believe she'd once been the belle of the Mount Royal debutantes. The only remnant of her beauty was the same musky perfume she'd used back then. "It was an obvious choice, my dear. Father recognized me as the son with enough brains and guts to build a small electronics company into the leading corporation it is today-which I accomplished with my GPS invention."

I motioned to my lawyer, who stepped forward and cleared his throat. "It's highly unusual, but my client has asked me to read out the contents of his will before his, uh, passing. In essence, he has allotted enough funds for his funeral, death duties, and creditors. The remainder is to be disbursed to the residuary beneficiary-the winner of the race. As it stands, I estimate this amount will amount to roughly, ah, one hundred dollars."

Later that night, after my nurse had settled me in bed, I savoured the eruption that had followed the lawyer's reading. Disbelief, outrage, shock and anger. I smiled in the dark. All the elements needed to stir up old resentments that had been simmering for forty years. The group reaction only confirmed my opinion-none of them had a head for business. Otherwise they'd have understood about the economy, high research and development costs, overextended credit, and eventual bankruptcy. Weaklings, all of them. Yet even I had a weakness-my penchant for TV reality shows. The Amazing Race had given me the idea for pitting my brothers and their families against each other in a survival of the fittest, winner take all. The joke was there wasn't much to take.

The house was quiet and dark. When the door to my room opened I could see a shadowy figure in the doorway. I lay still. The shadow slipped across the room, drawing nearer. There was a clunk followed by a muffled oath. The person, en route to the bed, had met up with the wheelchair. I smothered a laugh. Even as murderers my relatives were inept. As the figure bent over me, I caught the faint musky scent-the same perfume she'd used four decades ago during our secret affair. Gwen hadn't been too happy when I ended it. Her hurried marriage to Harold was just in time for the child that came along nine months later. I never believed her claim it was mine.

I wondered if they'd drawn straws and she'd won. Through my lowered lids I could see the pillow in her hands. Even a woman should be able to smother a feeble old man. As death neared I congratulated myself on my scheme. No lingering final months of pain and medication for me. I had brokered the last and best deal of my life.

Contests, conventions, submission calls

CanWrite Victoria June 24-27, 2010

Wicked East Press Anthologies: Open Calls

International Thriller Writers Contest: scripts for radio, screen and stage

Love is Murder Conference (includes short fiction contest) February 4-6, 2011 in Chicago

Arthur Ellis Award Winners

The Arthur Ellis Awards took place on May 27th at Mysterious Yours Dinner Theatre in Toronto.

Best Novel - Howard Shrier High Chicago
Best First Novel - Alan Bradley The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Best Non-Fiction - Terry Gould Murder Without Borders
Best Juvenile - Barbara Haworth-Attard Haunted
Best Crime Writing in French - Jean Lemieux Le mort du chemin des Arsene
Best Short Story - Dennis Richard Murphy "Prisoner in Paradise"
Best Unpublished First Crime Novel - Gloria Ferris The Corpse Flower

Congratulations to the winners! For a description of all short-listed books and short stories, visit our website