Today, on the BWL website, I blog about my experience of having my novel, Ten Days in Summer, produced as an audiobook. Here’s narrator Janice McNally’s view of her side of the experience. For some reason, I wasn’t able to open my blog post on the BWL website. You might have more luck. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bwlbookswelove/posts/2229715693873905
Tag Archives: #amwritingfiction
Short stories, novels & writing festivals
This week I had an interesting chat with Erik D’Souza about my short story, A Deadly Flu, which appears in the Crime Writers of Canada Cold Canadian Anthology. We got into lots of other things. You can watch it on Youtube. https://youtu.be/l0ce-9aY320
The Novel I Wish I’d Written
My book club chose the classic novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for our October meeting. This was the third time I’d read the book. I’ve loved it each time for slightly different reasons.
I was in my twenties when I first read this story of a young woman who marries a wealthy older man she meets on a holiday in Monte Carlo. His late wife, Rebecca, looms larger-than-life and haunts the tale from beginning to end. Gradually the story builds to a series of plot twists. I didn’t see any of them coming, yet I instantly recalled clues the author had planted along the way to make the surprises completely believable. The only author I’ve read who did this almost as well was Agatha Christie. Literary writers often dismiss such twists as mere plot. In Rebecca, every twist is embedded in character. If the story narrator, her husband Maxim, Rebecca, and all of the secondary characters had been different people, the story and twists wouldn’t have happened exactly as they did.
About twenty years later, I started writing mystery novels. Whenever the subject of favourite books came up, I’d say that I couldn’t choose my favourite as a reader, but Rebecca was the novel I wished I’d written, mainly for the author’s handling of surprise. Perhaps this prompted me to read Rebecca a second time. By then, I’d seen several movie versions and remembered all the twists, but I still found myself gripped by the suspense of what was to come. Fans will recall a scene where the narrator breaks a valuable figurine. As the narrator struggles to cover her action up, I was on the edge of my seat, worried for this sympathetic character.
This third time reading Rebecca, I was mainly drawn in by du Maurier’s writing. The novel struck me as a cross between two other classics written by women, Jayne Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, with mystery and suspense thrown into the mix. Rebecca features the grand passion and gothic qualities of Bronte’s story, with subtle Austen-like touches of social observation and humour. All three books are about women who fall in love with men who are far superior to them in wealth and social status. I interpret each of the stories as showing how the woman becomes the man’s equal. Perhaps this partly explains why these novels resonate with modern readers.
In addition, on third reading, I realized that Rebecca contains a number of life lessons, about such things as not making assumptions about other people, assuming you know what they are thinking, and speaking out for yourself. In middle age, I read a popular book on cognitive therapy, which is commonly viewed as the most effective psychotherapy method. Everything in the book was already there in Rebecca. I wonder if this is why I easily grasped the therapy concepts and if, subconsciously, I applied them to my life after reading Rebecca when I was young.
Our book club discussion leader also brought up some modern interpretations of Rebecca that I hadn’t heard before. Maybe I’ll grasp them if I read the novel a fourth time. You can dive into Rebecca forever it seems and surface with something new.
When I reached the end of the novel last month, for the third time, I decided to go out on a limb say, Rebecca isn’t only the book I wish I’d written, it’s my favourite novel ever. Admittedly, I’m the only member of my book club who rated it this high. A couple of people didn’t like it. Others had mixed feelings. A surprising number hadn’t read the book before. Nobody predicted the twists on their first time. Rebecca is worth reading for that reason alone, and for so many more
Today, on the BWL Author Blog, I write about my book club discussion of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
Christmas Shopping for Readers of Crime Fiction
Cold Canadian Crime
[From gritty noir to dark humour, 21 short stories from Canadian Crime writers perfect for curling up with on a chilly winter night.
“Crime Writers of Canada members have produced a winner…professional story tellers all of whom got it right. “
Don Graves, Canadian Mystery Reviews
Available from :
Ageism in Writing
Some years ago, I read an award-winning novel about intergenerational family relationships. Every character in the story over age fifty was physically or mentally decrepit, and often both. The author was in her thirties. This was a comic novel and I realized she was exaggerating the characters for laughs. As an official senior citizen, I didn’t find it funny.
Physical and mental problems do tend to creep in with age. Aching joints, dementia, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and a host of cancers strike seniors in large numbers. I know several seventy-year-olds who have broken bones from a simple fall. In their youths, they’d have escaped with a scratch, which healed quickly. I find recovery from injuries and medical procedures takes longer now and my body parts don’t always return to their former normal. “You’re only as old as you feel” would be nice, but it isn’t quite true. Portraying seniors as no different from fit twenty-somethings only works in science fiction and fantasy — my fantasy, in particular.
But I also have many friends over age seventy-five who regularly spend full days hiking up steep hills, over rocky and rooted terrain. And don’t try to put something over on my ninety-year-old uncle. He’s as sharp as most people decades younger, although he needs a wheelchair.
I think one trick for writing realistic older people is balance. For each character brought down by the trials of advanced age, show another senior in peak form. I wouldn’t have minded that award-winning humour novel as much if one character over fifty, and preferably over seventy or eighty or ninety, climbed a mountain, clobbered a skilled opponent in chess, or published a successful humour book.
It’s not easy to avoid ageism in writing. A friend, who is a few years older than I am, once admonished me for having a character in her mid-fifties struggle to rise from sitting on the floor. I’d thought this was realistic, since most people in my seniors’ gym class hoist themselves up awkwardly from the mats. Kudos to my friend for being able to leap to her feet.
Look closely at the photo at the top of this post to see a group of seniors hiking. They’re specs on the landscape.
Writing Older Characters
Today, on the BWL Author blog, I rant a little about how some authors portray older characters in novels. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
Back to Work
Yesterday I flew home from a trip to Minneapolis. On November 12th I leave for a three-week holiday in Mexico. This gives me a two-month window to write draft # 3 of my novel-in-progress. I have to complete this work to make the deadline for the novel’s scheduled release in September 2023.
It’s a challenge for me to think of my writing as work, since I don’t come close to making a living from it. But I have to do this in order to finish a long project like a novel. Otherwise I’ll let other activities completely consume my time. I wrapped up the first draft of this novel in late May and have given the book little thought since then. A break of almost four months should be good for returning to the story with fresh eyes. I don’t regret my travels to Ireland and Ontario and warm summer days spent hiking, biking and hanging out with family and friends, when I could have been writing.
While it’s hard to drag myself back to the computer, I know from numerous past experiences that once I start I’ll soon be into the writing groove again. This helps me avoid procrastination and plunge in, as I would into cold water. Once I’m swimming in the story, I’ll need to avoid distractions and limit them to important matters like family, friends, exercise, and volunteer work. Turning off my instant email notification will be essential. I’ve taken on a commitment to co-chair Calgary’s committee to host the Bouchercon mystery convention in 2026. It will be tempting to get sidetracked into concrete organizing tasks that can feel easier than pulling characters out of the air and resolving plot glitches.
I did use my summer time for some research relevant to the novel. The first draft unexpectedly veered into areas outside my knowledge zone. One of these was the opioid crisis. Drug dealer killings appear frequently in current mystery novels, but I’d thought the subject wouldn’t interest me. I prefer to write about ordinary people who kill for personal, social, or psychological reasons; people who might be me or a friend driven by a particular situation. But people like this are the drug dealers in my novel-in-progress. They operate a low-key business out of a bicycle store. During the summer, I read two excellent books on Canada’s opioid crisis and now feel capable of handling the topic in a novel.
This new book also gets more into police work than the first three novels in my Paula Savard Mystery Series because I made two police officers point of view narrators. This fall I hope to fit in a research visit to Calgary police headquarters and will look for a beta reader or consultant knowledgeable in police work, without letting this research distract me from writing.
For my last two novels, I discovered a useful trick – those mornings that I wake up early, rather than lie in bed drifting in and out of consciousness, I force myself up, make coffee, turn on my computer, and write while the sun rises outside my window. I’m amazed by how much I can accomplish before the day’s usual activities get started.
In short, I find the key to writing novels is to treat them like work. Don’t wait for mood and inspiration. Grab your time at your writing desk, sit down, and do it.
September is back to work time
Today on the BWL website I blog about my fall writing plans. https://bwlauthors.blogspot.com/
New Life for Ten Days in Summer
My publisher BWL was awarded funding under their CBF Accessible Audiobook application to produce a group of audiobooks. They’ve chosen my novel, Ten Days in Summer, to be one of the books. This is exciting new territory for my Paula Savard Mystery Series. BWL has found a narrator — Janice McNally. She’s from Ontario and has been to the Calgary Stampede, which forms the backdrop for the novel setting. Release is scheduled for early 2023. BWL says Janice’s voice sounds great. I look forward to hearing her 15 minute demo recording.