“Number 10 Marlborough Place” on shortlist for CWC Awards of Excellence

I am so thrilled to see that my latest story for EQMM, set in Post-War England, has been nominated for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence. I was inspired to write the story after watching an episode of The Crown that featured the 1952 Great Smog of London. A child at the time, I remembered the fog, and that memory triggered recollections of two other events that seemed somehow connected in my mind. One of these was the terrible three-train collision at the Harrow Wealdstone station that is still listed as the worst peacetime rail crash in the United Kingdom. The other was the gruesome string of murders that came to light when bodies were discovered in the house of murderer, John Reginald Christie.

When I researched these events, I saw that the train crash had occurred in October of 1952, only two months before the Great London Smog, and the discoveries at 10 Rillington Place had burst onto the news in March of 1953. Having realized that there had been three dramatic incidents, all through one winter, lurking in the background of my family’s everyday life, I decided to weave a mystery combining those events with my other childhood memories.

The result was “Number 10 Marlborough Place” which was published in the November/December 2021 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and is now a contender for Best Short Story in the Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence. I feel very honoured to have made the short list among so many fine writers. Congratulations to all the nominees, and thank you Crime Writers of Canada!

 

Thrilled to be featured on the cover of Black Cat Weekly!

A man is shot dead inside a locked room. He’s found seconds later. No one else was there. Suicide seems the obvious answer, yet Detective Constable Annie Blake thinks it was murder. Can she prove it? Find out in my locked-room mystery, “The Chess Room.” Lots of other fascinating reads within the magazine, too. A treat for mystery lovers. The issue can be purchased here: https://bcmystery.com/black-cat-weekly-28-1/

 

Writing for the Short Story Market

With the pandemic decimating live theatrical productions, not to mention live book events, marketing novels and plays has become more of a challenge than usual.  Therefore, I’ve been delighted to discover the enjoyment of writing for the short-story market. Until I started to explore the opportunities, I never realized how many magazines and anthologies put out calls for mystery stories. Having done so, I was delighted to have four stories in print during 2021, all fun to write, and all with a personal twist lurking behind the mystery plots. “Ill Met by Moonlight, Proud Miss Dolmas” in Moonlight and Misadventure used my experiences as a high-school drama teacher; “The River of My Return” in This Time for Sure used a past trip to Louisiana for a setting; “The Three Lives of Thomasina Bug” in Pets on the Prowl unashamedly related details of how we acquired our cat; and “Number 10 Marlborough Place” in EQMM was built around memories from my childhood in post-war England. Now, with 5 new stories already scheduled to be published in 2022, I’m definitely inspired to keep writing. More details soon on those to come in the future. In the meantime, it’s time to get to the laptop and produce a few more!

 

Bouchercon may be cancelled but the wonderful anthology is still available. Don’t miss out on the great mystery stories in THIS TIME FOR SURE!!

So sad that the conference had to be cancelled but it’s time to show some Bouchercon love! We’ll all miss being in New Orleans together–but maybe a book will help? And buying the terrific Bouchercon Anthology THIS TIME FOR SURE will make a huge difference. This gorgeous limited-edition hardcover will include bookplates from some of the authors–and when the books are gone, they’re gone! It will definitely be a collector’s item–the anthology from the conference that didn’t happen!

With brand new short stories from Craig Johnson, Charles Todd, Kristen Leopionka, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Alexia Gordon and Elizabeth Elwood, and edited By Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Click here to snag your copy before they are all gone!   https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/bouchercon-2021/

Moonlight, Misadventure and Memories of a Drama Teacher

When I saw the title, Moonlight and Misadventure, the first thing that came to mind was a quote from William Shakespeare: “Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.” After all, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the epitome of moonlight and misadventure—and having thought of the play, I immediately thought back to the time I spent as a high-school drama teacher. What better subject for a mystery story to fit the theme!

I had many great memories to inspire the plot. One was slipped in early in the story. I really did have a Principal who had my studio theatre dismantled because a maintenance supervisor complained that it had not been built with union labour. It was so satisfying to sneak that tidbit in: how, with the help of the Math teacher who taught on the floor below my English room, I filed a grievance and got the theatre restored. However, the main conflict in the story arose from differences in philosophy of education. When I began teaching in the seventies, I was hired as an English teacher, but, because of my stage experience, was assigned drama classes. Traditionally, these had been held in an ancient portable unit where the noise level was least likely to intrude on academic classes. Drama classes in recent years had been improv sessions where students were encouraged to let it all out as exuberantly as possible.

I resolved to change that. If I had to teach drama, students were going to study stagecraft and voice projection, and what’s more, they were going to learn lines. The students rose to the challenge, and before the year was out, my enthusiastic troupe was itching to attempt a full-length production. Rather than use the stage in the gym, with its poor acoustics and lack of ambience, I asked the principal if we could convert our portable into a studio theatre where I could double-cast plays, mount longer runs and provide more opportunities for students to showcase their talents. Having got the okay, we scrounged the necessary equipment, and with help from janitors and shop teachers, converted the portable into a fifty-seat studio theatre. An exciting two years followed and the program was a great success.

However, when a new Principal arrived the following year, he, like Miss Dolmas, was all for free-expression and questioned my structured classes. Also, like Miss Dolmas, he was gone within the year, but not in the drastic fashion depicted in my story. And, to be fair, before he left, he changed his tune and admitted that he was impressed with our program. Still, the memory of that initial confrontation gave me the stimulus for the “misadventure” in my plot. So thank you, Moonlight and Misadventure. It was great fun being able to relive those experiences in my story. Fiction is always full of truths, and it’s deliciously satisfying to use those moments to drive a plot.

Oh, and one point that didn’t make it into the story, though I relished the memory all the same: The Math teacher who advised me to file a grievance—he and I will be celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary this December.

 

Whether it’s vintage Hollywood, the Florida everglades, the Atlantic City boardwalk, or a farmhouse in Western Canada, the twenty authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “moonlight and misadventure” in their own inimitable style where only one thing is assured: Waxing, waning, gibbous, or full, the moon is always there, illuminating things better left in the dark.

Featuring stories by K.L. Abrahamson, Sharon Hart Addy, C.W. Blackwell, Clark Boyd, M.H. Callway, Michael A. Clark, Susan Daly, Buzz Dixon, Jeanne DuBois, Elizabeth Elwood, Tracy Falenwolfe, Kate Fellowes, John M. Floyd, Billy Houston, Bethany Maines, Judy Penz Sheluk, KM Rockwood, Joseph S. Walker, Robert Weibezahl, and Susan Jane Wright.

Click here to find it at your favorite retailer.

After Rebecca and Other Mystery Stories – The latest addition to the Beary Family Mysteries

I first read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca when I was fourteen and was so enthralled by the book that I continued reading long into the night. I would never have thought of basing a story on the novel’s theme, but there is a stretch of road on the Sunshine Coast that evokes the description of the approach to Manderley and the power of suggestion has been at work every time we have driven that route. Since the Coast is the place where I do most of my writing, it was inevitable that a story on the Rebecca theme would ensue one day.

That story became “After Rebecca”, where Philippa Beary, travelling through a storm on her way back from Montana, is unnerved when she comes upon an eerie lakeside estate that bears a remarkable resemblance to the setting of the book. She is even more disturbed when she learns that the eerie mansion holds the secret to a murder. Between the thoughts of the troubled wife whose husband is suspected of murder and the narrative that follows Philippa’s adventures as she tries to unravel the truth of what really happened at the estate, “After Rebecca” provides an intriguing puzzle for mystery lovers and nostalgia for those who remember the book that inspired the story.

With the War Veterans

“After Rebecca” is followed by seven mystery stories, many of which have roots in settings that are familiar to me. I spent several years as a Pets and Friends visitor at the George Derby War Veterans’ Hospital and have many happy memories of the people I met there. From those experiences came “Remembrance Day”, a story that tells how the search for a missing veteran ultimately provides the solution to a local murder.

La Boheme – a very old picture from my opera-chorus days.

“Mimi’s Farewell” stems from my years in the chorus of the Vancouver Opera, and “The Camera Lies” was prompted by the periodic visits of movie crews to Robert Burnaby Park. A trip to PEI and the Charlottetown Festival inspired “Journeys End in Lovers Meeting” and “The Boat Chain” was suggested by the sight of boats rafted together off the Marine Park in a sun-drenched Pender Harbour.

The Boat Chain

As a reader, I always gravitate towards cold-case scenarios or historical mysteries, so I enjoy writing these types of tales as well. Therefore, two stories in the book deal with incidents from the past. “The Feast of Stephen” is set in a late-Victorian mansion during a snowy Christmas and it tells how a child’s kindness to a vagrant brings closure to a mystery that dates back to World War II. “Two Late the Verdict” harks back to the Swinging Sixties and is set during the trial of two teachers who are facing charges of sexual assault forty years after the fact.

The towers and turrets of a late-Victorian New Westminster mansion

In spite of the variety of subjects and settings, all eight stories continue the ongoing story of the Beary Family, and particularly provide a satisfying conclusion to Philippa’s story. When I first published this post, I asked the question: Will the series end here, or will there be a seventh Beary book? Maybe. After all, Richard is still at loose ends.  Well, as it turns out, one of my pandemic projects has been to write that seventh book, but this time, it is going to be a Beary mystery novel.  More to come on this in the next few months.

 

To order After Rebecca and Other Mystery Stories: https://amzn.to/2u21n6o

Christmas Present, Christmas Past

There we were, forced to spend Christmas apart from family and friends, our bubble consisting of me, Hugh and Thomasina Bug. As we toasted each other over the dinner table, elegantly set with the good china for our turkey dinner for two, alongside a third placemat on the floor set with the good china for a Fancy Feast turkey and giblets dinner for one, we observed the fact that Christmas Present had been notably more serene than many Christmases Past. Our zoom meetings with our daughters and their families had been enjoyable; our present opening had been considerably less messy than usual; our turkey-breast dinner had been far less arduous than cooking for a crowd and had allowed us ample time to put our feet up, relax by the fire, and read our books.

Over dinner, Hugh and I gleefully reminisced about some of the more memorable Christmases of previous years. There was the year that Max, our not-so-ho-hum husky bit Katie’s godfather and caused the evening to end with a hospital visit. Another year, my father flew into a rage because dinner was held up when my brother and his wife spent the day visiting friends and didn’t dawdle in until late-afternoon. That was a particularly memorable occasion for me as it was the Christmas I’d brought my future husband home to meet my family. Amazingly enough, Hugh still married me, and very sweetly confided that he was used to these sort of ding-dongs. I thought he was just being kind, but a few years later, I learned the truth of his words when his mother announced that she would not be attending Christmas dinner if we invited Hugh’s Aunt Doris. Thus Christmas Day was spent in a drama of negotiations as Hugh’s sister tried to make her mother stay for dinner, after discovering that we had ignored her edict and that Auntie was enjoying a glass of sherry in the living room. No, Christmas was not always a time of peace and goodwill. Our daughters’ godmother, a charming, highly educated woman of First Nations heritage always enjoyed political sparring with my charming, highly educated father of British heritage, but after the third drink, the atmosphere deteriorated. The moment I heard the word, Colonialism, it was time to escape to the kitchen and lie low.

I had my gripes too. The thing that rankled me the most about hosting Christmas dinner was the fact that the guests inevitably arrived early in the afternoon; drank and socialized all day while I slogged through the cooking; ate heartily once dinner was served; and continued to drink and socialize while I slogged through clean-up. Then, the moment I took off my apron, prettied myself up and returned to the living room, ready to party, they generally all stood up and said it was time to leave.

Yes, COVID, for all its horrors, has definitely changed the format for Christmas Present. No carol services, no family gatherings, no parties, but we’ve also avoided the months of debate over whose turn it is to host and which set of parents are to visit which set of kids. We’ve avoided the battle of who goes where, because no one is going anywhere. And instead of seeing our girls, their mates and our grandchildren on separate days and travelling miles to do it, we saw them all and chattered with them, courtesy of technology, as we cooked dinner on Christmas Day. And after dinner, we put our feet up, tucked Thomasina Bug in our laps, and watched a fabulous production of Holiday Inn taped from PBS. Christmas Present was really not so bad after all.