When I’m on holiday my mind reboots. I wrote today’s BWL blog before my trip and had forgotten the topic I chose until I checked the BWL website today. Turns out I wrote about how biking inspired my new novel, Spring Into Danger, and how I came to set the story during the first pandemic lockdown. Here’s the post: https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
I flew back last night from my ten-day holiday in Southern California. Now there are ten days to go until the book launch party for my new novel, Spring Into Danger. I’ve bought the wine and liquor license but still have invitations to send, a program to prepare, and food to get. The event will take place Thursday, September 21, 2023, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at cSPACE Marda Loop, 1721 29th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta
My holiday began in San Diego, where I attended this year’s Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. I enjoyed attending numerous panels and events and meeting fellow mystery writers and fans. Highlights for me were the Guest of Honour interviews — it’s always interesting to hear what makes a great author tick.
The convention’s setting in the marina was ideal. Above is a photo of the night view from my hotel room. I loved watching planes descend behind the high rise buildings and land at the airport, which is surprisingly close to downtown.
Author Joanna Vander Vlugt interviewed me for her podcast series. I really enjoyed our conversation. You can listen to us here: https://jcvartstudio.podbean.com/e/e157-susan-calder-spring-into-danger/
I spent the August long weekend at Calgary’s When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers. After three years of attending the festival online, it was great to see familiar faces in-person, make new connections, and participate in panels in front of live audiences. I also enjoyed spreading the word about BWL and Bouchercon Calgary 2026 at their Merchants’ Room tables, which were conveniently located next to each other.
As usual I especially enjoyed WWC’s opening evening keynote addresses. The four Festival Guest Authors were each given twenty minutes to talk about anything they wanted. This year’s speeches were intensely personal and brave. Writing coach and international speaker Angela Ackerman shared her struggle with imposter syndrome despite selling almost a million books in ten languages. I’m sure every writer in the room could relate. Stacey Kondla spoke about her stroke, which prompted her successful new career as a literary agent. Nicole Baart, author of “race-to-the finish family dramas,” discussed how her need for multiple surgeries during childhood led her to becoming a writer.
On my seven panels I discussed such topics such as creating characters, writing mental health, fiction in a world with COVID-19, putting your characters in danger, and how to write a series without losing your way (or your mind). About the latter, I confessed my method of combing through my notes and earlier series novels to recall a character’s eye colour, age, or divorce date wasn’t the most efficient way of keeping track of continuing series characters and suggested authors use a spreadsheet. Fellow panelist Cathy Ace prefers a series bible, which she described as a word document that she searches for a character’s pertinent details. Whatever works for each writer.
At the keynote event, WWC chair Randy McCharles passed the torch (a dragon statue) to the festival’s new management, the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. The AWCS was busy taking registrations for next year’s festival in the Merchants’ Room. WWC 2024 is already 70 % sold out. AWCS has put together an interesting lineup of Guests of Honour and Special Guest authors. Check their website for updates and to register for When Words Collide Volume Two: Every Chapter Has Another Great Story.
Thanks to Diane Bator (above) for organizing the BWL table. Author Layton Park stopped by to chat with Diane and do a table shift. Diane went home with ideas for sprucing up the BWL table next year. Even the Merchants’ Room can be inspiring.
I’m excited about two upcoming events. Next week I’ll be on a panel at Bouchercon, San Diego, with four talented writers. It promises to be informative and fun. https://www.bouchercon.com/
On Sept 21st Owl’s Nest Bookstore will host the book launch party for my new novel, Spring Into Danger. The event will take place at cSpace Marda Loop, 1721 29th Avenue SW, 4th floor Treehouse. Scroll down Owl’s Nest’s Event page for details. Owl’s Nest Bookstore (owlsnestbooks.com)
Last weekend I spent a busy three days at Calgary’s When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers. This was supposed to be the ending of the festival’s successful thirteen-year run, but it will continue next year under new and enthusiastic management. You can read about my experience this year on today’s BWL author insider blog. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
I look forward to connecting with new and old WWC friends next year!
In May my husband Will and I spent a delightful day in Haworth, West Yorkshire, UK. We visited the home of the famous Brontë writing family, followed in the footsteps of siblings Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, and enjoyed lunch and snacks in cafés with views of the picturesque dales.
Curators of the Brontë Parsonage Museum say the village of Haworth and the surrounding countryside would be recognized by the Brontës today. We took the train and bus from Leeds and walked up the steep high street to the centre of Haworth village.
Our first stop was the Brontë Parsonage Museum, which is full of artifacts and descriptions of the family’s history and the sisters’ writing. As children, the girls and their brother Branwell loved making up stories for his toy soldiers and creating imaginary worlds and adventures for their characters. Charlotte named her favourite soldier after the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the year before Charlotte’s birth. The siblings would walk around the dining table developing their tales, which speaks well for the value of writing groups and walking as stimulation. As they grew older, they acquired portable writing desks so they could write in different parts of the house.
Emily’s portable writing desk
The family history was a sad one. Maria Branwell Brontë died the year after her youngest child, Anne, was born. Four years later her two oldest daughters died, probably of tuberculosis contracted at boarding school. Her son Branwell became a painter and struggled with addiction. He died at age thirty-one. Emily died three months later, at age thirty, and Anne died the following year, age twenty-nine. Charlotte married her father’s curate and lived to age thirty-eight, when she died of complications from pregnancy. Her husband remained in the house with her father, Patrick, who died at age eighty-four, having survived his wife and six children. All except Anne are buried in the neighbouring church, where Patrick served as rector for forty-one years. Anne died while recuperating from tuberculosis in coastal Scarborough. Charlotte had her buried there to spare her father yet another funeral.
Brontë burial site in St Michael and All Angel’s Church, Haworth
After the museum, we boosted our mood with lunch on a café patio overlooking the Yorkshire dales. Then we walked up to the moor behind the Brontë home and followed a favourite path of the siblings. We didn’t mind that it wasn’t Brontë-esque rainy, windy, and cold. Actually, one museum display featured an academic’s chart that shows sunshine appears in more Brontë novel scenes than readers tend to remember.
Then it was time for an afternoon snack in another café’s garden.
The Brontë Parsonage Museum hosts talks, children’s programs, and other events through the year. I wish I lived in Leeds so I could attend events like Women of the Wild, which will be held this September. I have a slight personal connection to Haworth. My aunt’s family came from the village and my aunt inherited Charlotte’s umbrella, which she later donated to the museum. Unfortunately for us, the museum keeps it in storage along with other personal items and clothing, which they only bring out for special exhibits. But my aunt would be glad to know the umbrella was home in lovely Haworth.
Haworth village viewed from the moor. My hair suggests the day was a tad windy.
Today on the BWL author blog I write about my trip to Haworth, UK, the home village of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
BWL’s Art Director didn’t set out to create a cover brand for my Paula Savard Mystery Series. The first cover that Michelle Lee designed for me was for book # 2 of my series, Ten Days in Summer, published in 2017. The process began with me filling out a BWL Cover Art Form (CAF). I provided details about the story, its setting in Calgary, and the two main characters and suggested images related to these. At that time, BWL required that most novel covers include at least one image of a person.
I plugged keywords into the photo image website, searching for ones that suited my protagonist and the story antagonist, a wannabe cowboy. None were exactly right, especially for Paula, my insurance adjuster sleuth. “Female detective” turned up images of young women peering through magnifying glasses. Paula is fifty-two and doesn’t use that prop. Keywords “female insurance adjuster” showed women examining cars. The story involves a building fire insurance claim. I tried “businesswomen” and got images of women sitting in meetings, while Paula spends her time out on the case.
I selected the best images for Paula that I could find along with images for my antagonist, which included a silhouetted cowboy. I also suggested images of the Calgary skyline, fires, and a boarded-up house for the burned building. I don’t think Michelle used any of the exact images I sent, but she meshed my ideas into a cover that was better than one I could have designed (see cover image above). The fire suggests the heat of summer in the title.
Two years later, BWL republished A Deadly Fall, book # 1 in the series. During that short time period, book cover fashion moved away from portraying people and toward crisp and intriguing images that evoke a sense of the story. Now BWL’s CAF stated that most covers would not include a person. I sent people image suggestions anyway, but I found it easier not to have to focus on finding an image that fit the characters in my head. On my CAF, I suggested images for the Calgary skyline and fall — fall leaves on water, a path in fall, trees with colourful fall leaves, and falling leaves. Again, I doubt Michelle chose my actual suggestions, but they were her starting point to create this golden cover.
When the third series book, Winter’s Rage, was ready for a cover two years later, we were on our way to a series cover brand. My CAF included a few people image suggestions — a woman texting, a man in a snowstorm, but I focused on images of the Calgary skyline in winter and winter driving, since this story was about a hit-and-run collision. For the first time I considered colour. While red, orange, and yellow suited the fall and summer seasons of the first two books, I saw winter as white, blue, and black (night). Michelle came up with a cover that continued the brand with snowflakes and a frozen Calgary. Winter’s book cover was blue, with yellow lettering that linked it to the colour of the two earlier books in the series.
By book # 4 of my Paula Savard Mystery Series, the series brand was established: Calgary skyline, colours to suit the story season, and additional images related to the season or story. Since bicycles feature prominently in Spring Into Danger, I included bicycle images among my CAF suggestions and chose Calgary skyline images that had a place for a bike or cyclist in the foreground. Here’s the cover design for Spring Into Danger, which is scheduled for release in September.
I like how the cyclist pops into view. Whenever I look at this cover, I don’t notice him until he emerges from the shadows. The book’s blue cover with yellow lettering matches Winter’s Rage and the covers for the four books have come full circle by including a silhouette on the first and last design. I look forward to seeing Spring Into Danger sitting on a bookshelf.
Today, on the BWL Author Blog, I write about the cover for my new novel, Spring Into Danger, which is scheduled for release in September. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
I’m now busily finishing the proof read for the novel. My next step will be to plan a book launch for this fall — my first in person event since COVID-19.