Thursday, March 18, 2010

Debut Mystery Author Linda Kupecek: As Inspired By...

Deep breath. My debut blog. Should I be inspiring, confessional, funny or soul-searching? Should I rant? Should I riff? Should I rap? Should I gaze at my navel or at my shoes? (Shoes are infinitely preferable, just check out the cover of Deadly Dues and you will totally know what I mean.

I have made a decision. Let's talk mysteries, the first ones I read and the ones I read now, and how they have influenced me. (If I may be so presumptous as to refer to great writers in the same breath as MOI.....)

I read my very first traditional mystery when I was barely a teenager. The book was a black hardcover, Vamp Till Ready, by Terry Rieman. I think my mother had picked it up on a sales table at the old Eaton's store in downtown Calgary. I loved it. I read it again and again, sometimes three times in one year. As a young artist (really young) I reveled in the world of classical and jazz music which was the setting for this book. I adored the strong, savvy first person heroine, Gerda Leedon, a singer with a big heart and a jaded eye. Our home reverberated with opera music and classical piano, and I was agog, at my young age, that there was actually a mystery set in the world of opera. The characters were vividly written. The dialogue was great. Ms. Rieman knew how to make a restaurant or hotel come alive on the page. I especially liked the clarity of the first person dialogue. Of course, at that age, I didn't know this consciously. I just knew I loved the book and wished I could live in that sophisticated world.  I had no idea, that years later, the structure of this book might guide me through my first mystery. When I was into the second or third draft of Deadly Dues, feeling slightly befuddled by what I had taken on, I found Vamp Till Ready in my basement, and re-read it in one sitting. It inspired me to focus.

I put mysteries aside for some years, reading non-fiction and drama in university. Then, for a while, I read serious self-help, spiritual books, which were dull as dishwater but made me think I was becoming a wonderful, evolved person, haha.  Then I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, and suddenly, the world opened.  After months of the morning pages,  I roared into a new life as an author with a vengeance.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a Mary Roberts Rinehart mystery at a garage sale. It was old, it was yellow, it made me sneeze, but I couldn't put it down. I read it in one sitting. It might have been The Circular Staircase. I enjoyed it so much, as a welcome escape into fiction, that I started looking for more Mary Roberts Rinehart. I then found Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L. Sayers. I loved them all, especially A Surfeit of Lampreys.  Of course, I had read Agatha Christie, and still enjoy every one, but, finding these new (to me!) authors got me hooked on actively looking for mysteries to read.

I found an old Eric Ambler at a flea market, and was entranced. Wit, suspense, character, in one package. Then I revisited some of my favourite films, The Maltese Falcon, Mask of Demetrious, Laura, and realized they had originated with great detective mystery novels. Of course, I had to go back and read them all. I have a battered copy of Laura, which is falling apart, but which I revere. 

As I realized that reading mysteries was a therapeutic exercise, I began discovering more authors. On a library clearance rack, I found two books by an author I had never heard of: Four to Score and High Five by Janet Evanovich. When I laughed out loud in the first paragraph of Four to Score, I knew I was hooked. I remember standing in the hushed Shaganappi Library, hooting, while more serious citizens looked at me askance. I now have every book in the Stephanie Plum series, most of them first editions. 

Although it sounds as if I buy books exclusively secondhand, this is not the case. Buying on the cheap allows one to discover new authors without risk, and then one can zoom to the retail bookstore and search for their latest. I buy books from independent bookstores, large chains, and 

Then I expanded my reach. Elizabeth Peters, so witty, so erudite. I love the Vicky Bliss series, more than the Amelia Peabody.  Dorothy Gilman, not the Mrs. Polifax series as much as the stand alones, like The Tightrope Walker (a wonderful mystery set in the world of antiques, with compassion and dry humour) The Nun in the Closet (laughs, with spirituality) and Caravan (which may be less of a traditional mystery, but still has a surprise ending). I laughed out loud when I read K.K. Beck. Then I discovered Jeff Cohen, with his hilarious Double Feature mysteries. And Kerry Greenwood. When I read Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, I was stunned: such depth, character, wit. I had met Louise at Wordfest in 2007 (I was at Wordfest with my humour/entertaining book, The Rebel Cook: Entertaining Advice for the Clueless, while she was one of the big stars with her latest mystery. Meeting her was an inspiration.) A playwright friend recommended M.C. Beaton and I was delighted. Sometimes I wanted to box Agatha Raisin on the ears. Other times, I wanted to snort with laughter at such an unreasonably crabby protagonist. My editor, Frances Thorsen, of Chronicles of Crime (a wonderful bookstore in Victoria, B.C.) sent me a copy of Anthony Bidulka's Aloha Candy Hearts, and I became a fan of yet another mystery author: an offbeat hero who is gay, funny, tough, compassionate and who gets the job done. Sharon Wildwind has written a great series about a nurse returning from a tour of Viet Nam. I was sorry to hear she is ending the Pepperhawk series, because I was hooked, there, too. I enjoyed Garry Ryan's The Lucky Elephant Restaurant, and am just about to start another of his mysteries. I recently discovered Lou Allin's mysteries set on Vancouver Island and look forward to finding more. Last week, I read Jeri Westerson's Veil of Lies, and was mesmerized. Love the whole medieval noir concept. Nash Black has a great short story collection, Haints, which was a different genre for me to explore. 

How does reading mysteries inform one's creative process? I don't have a definitive answer. I don't know how much I have been influenced by the multitudinous mysteries I have read, except for perhaps having my mind permeated by plot. And this is a good thing, as in my conscious mind, I do not see plotting as one of my strengths. But I am guessing that osmosis has helped me plot, even though I don't always know what I am doing. Strangely, it seems as if the most significant influence was that long ago book, Vamp Til Ready, which affected me so much.

I am pleased (flattered, even) that you might think my words useful. Thanks so much for asking me to contribute. A year ago, I never dreamed that I would have a Lulu Malone mystery series on the go, my very own website and a YouTube book trailer, and be asked to share my thoughts on mystery writing. Go figure.

Perhaps, I might add - that to read and then, to write, is a wondrous gift.
Deadly Dues (TouchWood Editions, 2010)

New Research Links of Interest to Crime Writers

Lying for DNA - when and how it's legal to obtain a suspect's genetic blueprint

Short video on the interior of a modern Canadian police car

Mapping out the scene of the crime 

Classes and Awards Announcements

On Thursday, April 22nd, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm,  there will be an Arthur Ellis Awards short list announced at the W.R. Castell Central Library in downtown Calgary.

Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) and Writers Guild of Alberta (WGA): Albertan writers and publishers will toast the best in Alberta books with the 2010 Alberta Book Awards Gala on Friday, May 14 in Edmonton. Among the awards at stake will be the inaugural Reader Choice Award. More details on this event will be available soon on the BPAA’s website and the WGA’s website

Reminder: Ink's Master Class on the Mystery Novel with Garry Ryan 

Saturday afternoons - April 17, 24, May 1, 8 - at Louise Reilly Branch in the annex. Free to Ink members but you must register your intent to attend with Anne Jayne or email to reserve your seat. You must submit some writing for critique and put your best effort into critique of other participants' writing (minimum and maximum page limits will apply). 

Bloody Words 2010 - Toronto Canada's Crime and Mystery Conference May 28-30, 2010

Online Classes of Interest:


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review of Writer's Software: Scrivener

Reviewed by Anne Jayne

Scrivener is a word processing and project management program for writers.

Designed for writers who have projects that require research and structure, including novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, academic writers, journalists, non-fiction writers...

Available: Scrivener at Literature and Latte
Mac OS X 10.4 and higher (including Snow Leopard). No Windows version.
Price: U.S. $39.95 (About $43 Canadian)

If you’re writing a mystery, and you own a Mac, check out Scrivener.

A writer friend who had used Scrivener to write her novel strongly recommended this program to me. I took advantage of the 30-day free trial, and decided to buy it within a week. It is a brilliant program.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Two industry views on ebook publishing

New York Times article on ebook pricing

Macmillan ceo John Sargent on ebooks and the agency model of pricing

Ink March 11th Meeting

Next meeting: 7 pm, March 11, at Owl's Nest Books, 815A 49 Ave SW, Calgary.

Do you set your stories in Canada? If you do, don't miss this speaker.

Every Canadian mystery writer needs to understand how our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms affects the way that the police and the courts handle criminal cases.

Our speaker on March 11 is the ideal person to guide us through the Charter in the criminal justice system.

Linda McKay-Panos
is an Alberta lawyer who started her legal career as a staff lawyer at the Alberta Court of Appeal. She is now the Executive Director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre. She also teaches courses on civil liberties and human rights at the University of Calgary.

The Charter sets out fundmental principles. As courts decide, case-by-case, how to apply these principles, the rules are clarified.

So what does the Charter cover, when it comes to criminal law? Here are some examples:

- What is a legal search and seizure?
- What happens if the police don't follow the rules when they search someone or someplace?
- In the movies, the police officer might tell someone: "You can talk to us here or we can go downtown." If Canadian police want you to go "downtown" to be questioned, do you have to go?
- What do the police have to do if they want to arrest someone?
- In American movies, the cops "read them their rights"--their Miranda rights, that is ("You have the right to remain silent...."). In Canada, we have Charter rights. What do Canadian police tell someone they're arresting? What are the consequences if they don't get it right?
- What rights does a person have, once arrested?
- Does a person who has just been arrested get just the one call?
- What information does the prosecutor (the Crown) have to give to the accused person before trial? What about the other way around: what does the accused person give to the Crown?
- How does the Charter affect the way that the trial is conducted?
- What happens if the prosecutor or the judge makes a mistake? What are the consequences?

And more! Bring your questions to this meeting.

If you would like to read the sections of the Charter before the meeting  Charter Excerpts Here
Look for Legal Rights, sections 7-14.

Calgary Mystery Author Signing

Mystery author Linda Kupecek will be signing her debut mystery DEADLY DUES (TouchWood)

at Indigo Signal Hill in SW Calgary on Saturday, March 6 from 1-4 p.m.

Contests, Classes, Manuscript Calls


Postcard Perps 2010: Fatal Family Reunion

MARCH 15 DEADLINE: Mystery Women Short Story Competition 1,000 words, open to unpublished writers only. Full details here

Scene of the Crime Short Story contest.  $100 first prize. Mystery/crime etc. open to Canadians who have not previously published in the mystery/crime genre. Full info here

For the crossover writers:  Wild Rose Press is seeking romance novellas 25,000 - 64,000 words for e-book-only publication. Submission guidelines here

Sage Hill Summer Adult Experience will take place July 19-29, 2010 in Lumsden. Application deadline is April 19, 2010. 

FEMFEST 2010: On the Edge is currently seeking submissions of finished scripts and proposals of work in progress. Subject matter is wide open but our focus this year is ‘edgy’ work that takes risks. The play must be written by a Canadian female playwright and have a running time of no more than one hour. All submissions must be received in the office by April 1st, 2010  Details and link to past Femfests