Last Call Reviews
The first reviews for Last Call are up on Amazon. Very Exciting!
Key West Cemetary
Key West Graveyard in time for Halloween. In 1846 a hurricane washed away the old graveyard. Apparently, there were bodies all over the place so they reburied them here, but this time above ground, nineteen acres of dead people. Some of them look like brick houses, completed with windows that have been cemented over, and some that look like apartment buildings for the dead. This setting was too good not to use. In Last Call, Sherri is in the locked graveyard at night with a murderer.
Florida Writers Association awards night
Beach Kill won the best mystery Thriller of the year! My thanks to the judges, and I hope everyone enjoys the read.
Good Reads Giveaway contest
Over 1,300 people entered to win a free signed copy of Last Call. I want to thank everyone and hope you will all enjoy the read.
To the five contest winners, your book is in the mail! Thanks again to all.
Tomorrow is the last day to win a signed copy of Last Call in the good Reads giveaway.
Another Award for Beach Kill
Beach Kill is a finalist for the gold medal in the Mystery category of the 2017 Canadian Best Book Awards.
This is the 5th award for this Singer Brown Series.
Book Give Away
Five signed, first edition copies of Last Call will be given away free on Good Reads. Apply to win from September 20 to October 20th.
Good luck, and I hope you enjoy it!
The latest Sherri Travis mystery will be available this October.
Chapter 1 is available to read on the Settings/Excerpts page of this website
Linda Pearce is a great line editor and finds the holes in your story. I highly recommend her
Beach Kill Award
BEACH KILL has been nominated for another award.
Does this warrant a trip to Florida for the awards ceremony? A one week holiday for a two hour event...
Beach Kill Award
Beach Kill has been shortlisted by the Next Generation Indie Books Awards in the thriller category. The interesting thing is that it was entered in the mystery section but the judges moved it to the thriller section. Why did they think it was a thriller rather than a mystery? The person who killed the teenage girl isn't revealed until the last chapter. While it definitely isn't a cozy, shouldn't that make it a mystery. On the thriller side, Singer Brown, my homeless protagonist, is in peril throughout and there is a feeling of terror and dread. And the pacing is faster than the normal mystery. No matter which it is, I'm so very grateful for the nomination.
I thought I would never be nominated for anything again.
Last Call a new Sherri Travis mystery, will be published in the fall of 2017.
One night in a bar, down in Key West, Sherri Travis's best friend leaves with an Elvis impersonator, promising to be back by last call. The police tell Sherri she must wait seventy-two hours before she can file a missing person's report. But with the town beginning to evacuate ahead of hurricane Alma, Sherri has run out of time.
Check out the blog of Anne Louise Bannon at:
I've been reading all the posts on the women's march and I thought I'd add my bit. I've never marched for anything in my life and I wasn't planning on joining this one. I was meeting up with my daughter for a coffee when the walk was over, but my timing was off and they were just setting off when I arrived so along I went.
It's true that no one cares what a few hundred people on Salt Spring Island think. It wasn't even about who won an election in another country.
For me it was about saying, "There are lines that must not be crossed," and "We will not go backwards." It was a strangely moving event and for once in my life I was happy to be part of a crowd.
I've just finished a rough draft of Last Call, a Sherri Travis book. I started writing this book about 2004, put it away and picked it up again many times, but now I've passed a milestone. There are many rewrites to come, plus multiple edits, but at least I finally made it from start to finish. I'm never sure when I begin that I can really do it. Time to celebrate. Next week I'll worry about the rewrite.
Click this Widget for a chance to win a free signed copy of my new book Beach Kill.
The first chapter of my new book Beach Kill is available at the settings/Excerpts tab on this website.
I hope you enjoy it.
The full book will be released for sale in print and online at the end of October.
New Book Coming!
I discovered a long pale green leek growing in my compost. Straggly and misshapen, as I turned it back into the soil it made me think that writing is a lot like composting. All the little scraps of your life, leftover emotions and people half forgotten, slowly work their way to the top of the heap. Out of the debris of a whole lifetime come stories. A writer peels away the layers of the heart and reshapes memories out of the darkness of the subconscious, memories and scenes briefly spied but left unexplored; all of this resurfaces from the pile of experiences that make up a life. From that jumble inspiration emerges, and with it a new story to be told.
Long Gone Man Review
Linda Wiken has reviewed Long Gone Man on her Mystery Maven blog at
The Big Thrill Magazine
The International Thriller Writers December issue of their Thriller Magazine gave me a big thrill!
Check it out at http://www.thebigthrill.org/2013/11/long-gone-man-by-phyllis-smallman/
As a special promotion my first Sherri Travis mystery, Margarita Nights, will be offered as a free giveaway starting tomorrow until December 31st at your kobo reader store.
International Thriller Writers
I am now a member of this wonderful organization.
Aqua Magazine article
A nice article on me today by Elizabeth Nolan in the fall issue ofAqua Magazine.
My son, Shawn Smallman, is a professor of International Studies at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. He just posted this on the changing sea levels in Florida. Will the last one to leave please turn out the lights.
Played the first Florida round of golf today. My ball landed just short of the pond, which was exciting, until I saw it was right beside an alligator. The gator stood up and smiled at me. Anyone who knows me will say I'm just plain stupid around gators. Not today. It was the smile that did it. It was the first time in 30 years of golfing in Florida that I walked away from a ball on the fairway.
About the 9th we came to a sign that said, "Order your 6 pack for the turn. Special $12.00." But there's nine holes to play and they're only giving you 6 bottles of beer. I get it. Course management, no beer on the par threes speeds up the game. Everyone picks up their ball and moves along so they can open the next brewski. I like their strategy.
My interview with Canadian mystery maven Linda Wiken is up on her blog this week at
A Silver Award
Champagne For Buzzards won a silver award on the "Best Published Mystery novel in 2013" category at the Royal Palm Literary Awards which were hosted by the Florida Writers Association. The awards banquet was at the Marriott Lake Mary Saturday night.
The 2nd editions of the first four Sherri Travis books are now available in print from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and Powell Books.
Morning mist is filling the valleys and wood smoke hangs in the air. We're eating down the fridge, packing the summer clothes and getting ready to head south. We'll be in Florida for the Florida Writers Association awards dinner on Oct. 19th ,
where Champagne For Buzzards is nominated for best mystery.
It doesn't matter if I'm in Florida or Salt Spring Island, leaving is always heart wrenching for me.
Today I am guest Blogger for Bella McGuire at A Prairie girl Reads
See Bella's wonderful review of Long Gone Man.
Stopping for whales
"Sorry we're late, but we had to stop for whales." How often do you get to use that as a reason for being late for dinner?
In British Columbia whales have the right-of-way and all marine traffic gives way to them. Blessed by nature, we watched as a small pod, two females with babies, and a male with an impressive dorsal fin crossed the bow of the ferry. Not one complaint of a missed appointment could be heard, just "ahhhs" mixed with the sound of their breath escaping blowholes.
Long gone Man Review
Reviewing is an art and one I don't possess. This review is special for two reasons. Not only is it my first English review, it's one of the best written I've ever read. It makes me remember why I always went to the review section first in the weekend paper. This is how I chose my books before DorothyL came along. I used to cut out the review and keep them with the book. Sometimes I liked the review better than the book. I hope this isn't one of those times.
Long Gone Man -- the 1st book in the Singer Brown series
The best advice I ever got.
Not My Dog
When my son first started school he was waiting for the big yellow school bus when a stray dog came by. They started playing. When the bus arrived I noticed that the bus was sitting there for a long time so I went down the lane to see what the problem was and met the driver dragging the dog off the bus. Seems the dog followed my son on board and when the driver said he couldn't take his dog to school my son replied, "It's not my dog," and just sat there. The driver wasn't pleased with him, but I was. Now when people try and hand me emotional crap that isn't mine I think, "Not my dog."
This Beach Is Good enough
Before Lee and I moved to Salt Spring we spent our summers looking at places near water in Ontario. One sunny day our niece and her daughter went along with us to check out Lake Huron. We found a wonderful beach with some condos on it. After we'd eaten our picnic lunch, Lee and I wanted to move along and check out some other waterfront communities. Michelle was playing in the sand and didn't want to move. When I tried to coax her on with, "The next beach is even better," she replied, "This beach is good enough."
So for a life of contentment, listen to the children and remember their wisdom.
"Not my dog," and "This beach is good enough," are words that calm my soul.
Long Gone Man
At the library yesterday I discovered a copy of Long Gone Man on the new book shelf. This is the first time I've seen it out in public. Now I'm waiting to see a review. If anyone out there reads it, and likes it, please post a review.
If you don't like it, don't put yourself out.
I just signed a new contract with Touchwood Editions for my 7th novel.
See what happens when you're having fun?
The Good Reads draw for a signed copy of Long Good Man is over and I've just signed ten copies to be sent out to the winners.
Thank you to all who entered. I hope that everyone who reads Long Gone Man, and likes it, will take the time to say so on their facebook, Amazon and Good Reads.
Writers live for those reviews and kind words. With fewer and fewer book reviews in newspapers, readers words have become much more powerful.
It's readers who now make or break a book.
Give Away Deadline
Good Reads Give-away
There is one week left in the contest for a signed copy of Long Gone Man.
Go to http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/57554-long-gone-man to enter.
This press Release went out today.
All the news that's fit to print!
I've put up a new free short story on Kobo called Pink. I hope you like it.
Award Winning Short Stories Anthology
The Florida Writers Association will release their Anthology FWA Collection #5 - Its a Crime in September. This is a collection of their winning short stories for 2012. My short story Pink is included.
Long Gone Man
Chapter 1 of my new book Long Gone Man is on the Settings/Excerpts page for you. Hope you like it!
Author vs. Writer
People use the word author and writer interchangeably. While they are both painful situations to find yourself in, they are two separate beings for me.
I'm a writer when I have this nebulas idea, this barely seen cloudy hint of a story, that I spend months chasing after only to have it fall short of that first flash of inspiration. I'm an author when I stand in front of a few people with a finished book in my hand and say, "blah, blah blah," which translates as, "Please buy my book that I've worked so hard on."
At any given moment, I'm both of these creatures. Long Gone Man will be out on Sept. 17 and I've started worrying, switching over from writer mode to author mode and donning the hair shirt of uncertainty. It's kind of like a broody hen that goes around and around in a circle, scratching at the ground and stirring up dust. Only, heaven help me; don't let it be an egg. Please, let what I produce get some good reviews. I make all kinds of bargains like this with the great unknown.
Every writer handles this public author differently. My favorite, usually a man, is the one who gets aggressive and nasty. "If you don't like my book, it's because you are a fool." I love that one.
Women tend to be a little more passive - and pathetic. See above, "Oh, please buy my book."
Honestly, we're all fools for putting ourselves through this. There are millions of books out there. We can never get through them all. So why don't we go directly to drink and leave out the lame excuses. "I'm having a drink because my manuscript is going poorly," or "I'm taking to drink because my book isn't selling." Let's have none of that. Let it be, "I'm drinking so I won't start another @#$%#$$ book."
I can rant but I can't stop writing. Poor me.
I'm well aware that every unpublished writer is now grinding his or her teeth and cursing me. Even though the dream comes with hiccups, at least my dream did come true. Yours will too.
Kevin Thornton writes a column in Fort McMurray.
He always gives me a smile.
Here's his latest but you can catch up with the ones you missed here.
I was sent this some weeks ago. It's an advert written by a man selling a motorbike. Next to a picture of a spiffy blue machine that will go from zero to agonising death in about two seconds are the following words. "For sale. This bike is perfect. Only done 7000 kms and no scratches. I'm selling it because it was bought without the proper consent of a loving wife. Apparently, 'do whatever the hell you want' doesn't mean what I thought."
Now I can imagine some of you men agreeing that this man has been unlucky and he should have been allowed to keep the motorbike. They may even be some of you who think that it is within your rights as a man to demand that you be permitted to hold on to the two wheeled example of your stupidity. "If she didn't mean it, she shouldn't have said it." Well you can save a lot of money on real estate, all of you who agree with that thought. That's because all you ever need to buy is a one-bedroomed apartment. If you really believe that women respond to that kind of logic, you are going to have a very lonely life.
Here are 3 of the 27000 issues regarding communicating with women. 1) You are a man, therefore you are not smart enough to win an argument with a woman. 2) Whatever she says is almost never what she means; as a case in point, motorbike guy above. He knew, that taking his wife's comment as permission was not going to end well, yet he still did it. He probably answers the 'does this make me look fat?' question as well. 3) If at the end of the day you have no idea what your wife wants, but she is still allowing you to live at home, then you have been successful. Try and do it again tomorrow.
So much of what is said by a woman to a man is perversely, actually left unsaid, or is approached from an obtuse angle. 'Are you going downstairs?' actually means, 'there is something I need to go downstairs and I want you to intuit what it is and take it down.' 'I'll do it myself' normally means 'You should have done this already' and 'We need to talk' normally means 'You're in a lot of trouble'. 'Fine' almost never means what it is supposed to either.
To further confuse all poor men, things ain't always what they seem. Listening to and learning about the tone she uses may be a lifesaver. 'That's all right' for example, may actually mean exactly what it sounds like. With a more dismissive tone though it could also mean 'You're a moron and when I have worked out how to punish you properly, you are going to be in a lot of trouble'. Also, yes means no, no means yes or no, maybe means no and I'm sorry means you're going to be sorry. Did you get all that?
So how do we fix this, how do we stay out of trouble? I don't know. If you thought this was an advice column, think again. All you can do is find the oldest married guy you know, the one who's been married so long that every anniversary is an event. Ask him what he did for so long that kept them together. One said he never tried to win an argument, while another man once told me he didn't know, he just reckoned he'd been lucky. I asked a man who'd been married for 67 years how they managed to stay together so long and his answer, while enlightening, wasn't very useful. "Beats the hell out of me," he said, "I think she never got round to throwing me out."
If that's about all you can take away from this column this week, it's a start. In answer to the question, "How are you supposed to understand a woman", the only correct answer is "Beats the hell out of me."
Kevin Thornton fully expects to be in trouble after this column gets printed which is fine as he doesn't have enough pain in his life
Good Reads Book Giveaway
The first book in the Singer Brown Mystery Series, Long Gone Man will be released on September 17th.
To celebrate this launch I am giving away 10 signed advance reading copies free.
To enter your name in the draw for these free books go to:
http://www.phyllissmallman.com/news.html and click on the "Enter" button.
Good luck and I hope you enjoy the story.
Royal Palm Literary Awards
The Florida Writers Association has nominated Champagne for Buzzards for best mystery. The awards banquet is on Oct. 19 in Orlando. Looks like an early trip to Florida.
For the Americans reading this, harbour is not a spelling error but just the way it's done in Canada.
We were waiting on the dock in Fulford Harbour on Sunday morning, going to Victoria. There were two musicians sitting outside of the Rock Salt Cafe performing the most wonderful wild gypsy music while they waited for the ferry. You can hear their sound on their website at Jacque & Ian.
When we got to Sidney Harbour and boarded the next ferry to Vancouver, they were in the lounge playing, much to the delight of the other passengers. A little girl, not yet walking, stood on her mother's lap and danced. When Mom's arms grew tired and she set her down, the little one, in her white organdy dress with the red bodice, kept bobbing to the music. Her mother would pick her up again and the child's legs and feet would go crazy.
Behind us were eight Chinese men. Four of them were playing a card game that I didn't recognize accompanied by much laughter and comments from the other men. I didn't understand a word they were saying but it made me smile. Around us were people of all shapes and sizes and ethnic backgrounds, all sailing under the same flag and going to the same place. It struck me that it was much like life. We're all going in the same direction with the same destination. Why get bent out of shape about the little things.
Going to Walmart
The landscape floats by above the railing of the ferry deck. There is nothing to be done, no responsibility and the trip can't be hurried. The rain falls gently. Peacefully, cocooned in a steel pod, we sail towards Crofton.
The ferry disgorges us and we take the back roads through countryside that reminds me of the England we see in an old movie. Everything is unrelentingly green; small fields striped in various shades of greens and dotted with huge marshmallow bales of hay, roll away from dark emerald forests, dripping with rain. After being in the harsh landscape of the city, the Gulf Islands of British Columbia are so beautiful they can make you cry. Sailing along the shore of these islands, or driving through them, it's like stepping back in time, into a perfect world of Dylan Thomas or Agatha Christie.
Of course, that's not true. What we see from the car window tells us nothing of the anguish or pain of the lives lived behind the facade. It doesn't matter. I prefer to live with the world as I perceive it. And what I see is clematis, climbing up to the very top of a mountain ash, and spreading huge mauve striped flowers into the sky, lemon green moss on grey jutting rocks and orange poppies growing along the road.
Around curves and up and down hills, we're going through a world of beauty and wonder to get this most unromantic of items, a cable for a new piece of electronics. Traveling through the past to the future - going to Walmart.
Chronicals Of Crime
Okay, look at those bookshelves. Never mind the crime writers and others standing in from of them. Those shelves are full of mysteries, some you haven't read. Get over to Chronicles of Crime on Fort St in Victoria and start digging.
There's gold in them thar hills. Wonderful night with Cathy Ace, Kay Stewart, Chris Bullock and Ruth Linka from Touch Wood.
The At the Mike talks with authors will start again next fall.
L-R Frances Thorsen, Kay Stewart, Chris Bullock, Phyllis Smallman, & Cathy Ace
May 25, 2013
Last Wednesday I finished the sixth Sherri Travis mystery, Martini. Great excitement and rejoicing and maybe a glass or two of wine was sipped. Thursday I enjoyed lazing around and catching up on things. I had great plans for what would happen when this book was finished, the books I'd read, the gardening and house beautiful projects I'd do. Friday wasn't bad. I finished reading a book on the next industrial revolution, which apparently is a return to cottage industry. Saturday a little depressed and antsy but I finished the 475 page book I was reading.
By Sunday the real craziness started. Martini is now crap and no one will ever want to read it. Here it is Monday morning and I'm convinced I'll never write again. My life is over.
Time to get back to work on something, anything, but I'm trying to hold out until at least Wednesday morning. A week, is that too much to ask? A week of writing sobriety and then I'll be back working on something. Perhaps that short story, One Good Thing, that was so clear in my head a month ago, the piece I wanted to get to as soon as Martini was finished. Or maybe I should start Wasted Days and Wasted Nights, the next Singer Brown book.
Something, anything! I need help.
Off Island/ May 2, 2013
Going to the mainland is all about logistics. We left early, before nine, to catch the ten o'clock ferry for Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. The Skeena Queen is in for repairs, meaning there's a smaller ferry in service, so we want to be in line early. Everyone else leaving Salt Spring Island has the same idea. We barely squeeze into the parking lot and get off the road.
. The third deck of this ferry sways as we head out to the main channel but you'll never get a better view of the world than you do from here. At a table against the window and we watch the crab pots dancing in the sun.
Vancouver Island is amazing in spring. In the distance you see snow capped mountains, perhaps the Olympics over in Washington State, I really don't know the mountains, while the streets are lined with pink blooming cherry trees. Amazing and like nothing I've ever seen. No time to admire the scenery today. Land's End Road is the turn around. We're rushing but there's still forty-five minutes before the next ferry sails. The problem is there are too many people already waiting to catch this ferry and we aren't going to get on. When the attendant sees that we are traveling on a medical pass, she sneaks us into the end of a line that is sure to get onboard. The kindness of strangers means we're one of the last cars loaded. We send out a small apology to the driver left to wait two hours for the next ferry.
People always seem happy on ferries, a time out. A group of teenagers has formed a circle in the middle of the lounge and are singing pop songs from the fifties...Silhouettes on the Shade. Why on earth have they resurrected that old chestnut? Maybe they're doing a spring concert, something like Plaid. There's another group of teenagers, all boys in navy jackets, grey slacks and school ties, traveling with similarly dressed teachers, two worlds colliding.
I'm supposed to be polishing a manuscript but a writer's mind works in strange ways, watching and making up stories for the people around us.
We're early for the appointment. Lee is worried about making it back in time for the five o'clock ferry. No, what he's worried about is that the ferry will be full and we'll have to wait for the next one, the seven o'clock ferry and then we won't make to Swartz Bay to catch the last ferry for Salt Spring. The receptionist says. "I guess I'd better make it work or you'll be coming home with me." Lee gets in thirty minutes early. The kindness of strangers.
Heavy traffic, but we have lots of time to catch the five o'clock. The bad news is... it's full. No time to make the last sailing to Fulford Harbour, if we take the next one to Vancouver Island will be stuck in Sidney over night so we're on the run to Long Harbour, a direct sailing to Salt Spring. It's a three hour wait. The day has turned cold, worse on the dock. On the way into shops and concessions we meet the owner of Foxglove Nurseries, a neighbour. He says, "It's supposed to go up to twenty-three on the weekend. Where are they going to get the furnaces to make that happen?"
At last we're on our way, in rough seas, the deck in the lounge rising and falling from side to side. Three stops along the way. "Passengers for Galiano, please return to your cars." The lounge seems to empty. Too tired to work, I pull out "Unholy Rites," a new mystery by Kay Stewart and Chris Bullock.
It doesn't take long to discharge the cars. In the narrow channel, as the ferry backs out, the waters roil. Flocks of seagulls, hundreds of birds, skim the waters. It's twilight and all the houses along the shore are in darkness, cottages used only at weekends or summer.
Mayne Island at nine and now it's full dark outside but the lounge is bright and warm.
Otter Bay on Pender Island is our last stop before home. Bill Deverell, one of Canada's best known mystery writers lives here. And then it's on to Salt Spring.
We pull into Long Harbour after thirteen hours of traveling for a fifteen minute appointment, the downside of living on an island, but then again there was the singing and the kindness of strangers.
Freezing rain in Ontario and one day to see Mom and then go to a luncheon in Scotland. All of nature turned into an ice sculpture is beautiful but terrifying when you haven't driven in it for twenty years. Lee did all the driving while I set a new world's record for the holding of breath. Funny, I happily paddle down waterways with gators sleeping on the banks. I'm cautious, but not too worried about snakes and other bits of nature 'red in tooth and claw'. BUT ICE? Are you freaking crazy? Remember the pope that used to kiss the ground when he got off the plane? That was me, bum in the air, in the parking lot of the Days Inn. And the worst part? You have to trust the other drivers on the the road, trust them not to make a mistake. Are you freaking crazy? Give me a gator any day.
A wake up call
Woke up in a motel room to hear a baby crying in the hall. I was on my feet and moving before I was even fully awake. It was the security latch on the door that brought me to full awareness. There aren't any of those at home.
I stood there for a minute before realizing the crying infant had nothing to do with me and the interference of a crazy woman, wearing tired sweats, would not be welcomed.
Imagine if I'd charged out into the hall, locking myself out, and snatched up that baby.
The wrong way to get your name in the paper, but once a mother always a mother.
Crime Writers of Canada Conference
On May 25th I will be moderating a panel at this conference to be held at the Greater Victoria Public library
Click on the posters for details about times, location, and subjects
Hope you can attend.
Long Gone Man
Just received the arc cover for Long Gone Man. The first book in my new series set in the Northwest. Touchwood is publishing it and it will be on the market by October this year.
River Walking with John
John Lewis is a guide down in Everglades City. Working out of Ivy's Outfitters, he takes you river walking. In water up to your waist, and using only a long pole to steady yourself, and tap out the bottom, you feel your way along with your toes, trying your best to avoid deep holes and any alligators beneath your feet. Duck weed closes behind you, leaving nothing but a thin trail of open water to mark your passage. It's the only way to see wild orchids and John Lewis claims river walking is safer than crossing the street to get to your favorite coffee shop. But then he's also the man who says, "You're not in trouble until you panic."
Before kayaking or river walking, you'll be asked to sign a paper that says you realize that the activity you are about to engage in may lead to paralysis or even death. That paper also says you acknowledge that there is no way to make this activity safe. It also seemed a good description of sex. I know this may sound strange but blame it on that long ago epidural during childbirth. I remember being told that also could lead to paralysis or even death and at the time I wasn't having near as much fun as I had on the water.
And one small piece of advice. If you're kayaking, sometimes gar or mullet jump into your craft. You see, you disturb them as you go along and their way of protecting themselves is to jump. In the mangroves, the occasional frog will also jump on you. More than one person has been so startled by this that they've tipped.
If all this isn't your style, there are safer ways of getting close to nature. Just driving along Hwy #41 to Everglades City and you'll see alligators sunning themselves along the banks of canals bordering the road. Ibis, anhinga, ducks, herons and egrets ignore the gators. There are ponds full of moorhens and coots. Now, in March, the orchids and bromeliads are blooming. At the back of the welcome centre, manatees hang out. Still for some people this just isn't enough. We met a couple from Colorado who had just driven across the Everglades, one and a half million acres of multiple environments, from prairie, to Cypress swamp, to grasslands, and declared it empty and useless. I guess they missed the malls.
So, here's my epitaph, "Oh, you're gonna hurt in the morning!"
My reply is always, "Ah, but it isn't morning yet."
March 3/ 13
My friend, Kevin Thornton, writes a newspaper column in Fort McMurray. Here's this week's piece.
Turn off the bigot spigot.
A friend of mine, a former South African, moved to Australia. At a social gathering a year or so later he was asked, by a local with two many beers down his gullet, "Are you a racist then?", to which he replied, "No, I'm a category-defined bigot; I hate stupid people and drunks. Now, if you'll excuse me..."
Coming from the country that gave the world apartheid, he was used to such inquisitions and always had a firm yet satisfying answer for any conversational hijacker. Yet his private viewpoint was much more general in scope "It is the truth," he told me, "I actually am bigoted. Deep down, everyone is."
I protested his definition of the world so dismissively. Surely the opposite was true and most people were not?
By definition, a bigot is someone obstinate about his own opinions and intolerant of the opinions of others.
Sounds like Stalin, Verwoerd, Hitler all belong to this grouping, as do all people in the pub after a few beers. Most sports fans are also members, as are nationalist-minded patriots.
And pretty much anyone stuck in a traffic jam.
The subset; bigotry, has suddenly become a lot bigger. How many of us are encompassed by the above? More to the point, how small is the group we left out?
One of my own prejudices came to the fore the other day. We took the tax deduction to a puppet show. He had a great time, but I was irritated by a character who had an unnecessary, and even worse, an inaccurate rhotacism. For those impressed by the big word (I had to look it up) it is the Elmer Fudd equivalent of a lisp. It describes the way some people mispronounce the letter R, inserting a W instead. Back to Elmer. "Be vewwy, vewwy quiet. I'm hunting wabbits", is the famous line that best demonstrates this impediment. Others include the Pontius Pilate speech by Michael Palin in Monty Python's life of Brian, and an excellent scene in the BBC's 'Only Fool's and Horses' involving a Tom Jones impersonator who sings the Gween, gween, gwass of home, followed by Please welease me and then the Johnny Cash cover, Wing of Fire.
Childish, I know. but not especially offensive. I had an issue with rhotacism as a child and still slip on occasion, and I did not feel hurt by the portrayal, although it was puerile and didn't add to the story.
The vexing part was the inaccuracy of their work. The talking canine that was mispwonouncing words was doing it to the wrong ones. He would say pway for play instead of pray, and the word pleasant came out as pweasant. Rhotacism is about the Rs, not the Ls. My bigotry was linguistic in its nature and it was all I could do not to scream at him, "If you are going to be rhotastic, at least do it properly."
Fortunately the puppetry puppy's bawk was worse than its bite (is that rough, or wuff?) and the show ended before I embarrassed myself, but it did leave me thinking about how a little intolerance could soon turn to prejudice and even hatred. Could I one day become a semantic Nazi, screaming at twitterphiles who write 'your' instead of 'you're'? Would I flip or slip at the next misplaced lisp I encountered? Dare anyone ever split an infinitive in my presence again?
We're not all bigoted, yet we do have the potential to be so. The line between an honest opinion and invective is a very fine one, and the only difference is self-control. Next time you are stuck in the right lane at 8:25 AM in the morning going down Thickwood Boulevard and some imbecile scoots past and forces his way in, keep your anger to yourself and your fingers firmly attached to the steering wheel. Think happy thoughts. The one that currently works for me, the one I run through my head whenever I wish to turn a churlish feeling into a finger-raising action, is an old baseball joke. It has been attributed to many managers over the years, but I like to think it was Tommy Lasorda's to begin with.
After a bad call Lasorda walks out to home plate.
"Would you throw me out of the game if I called you an asshole?"
"You know it Tommy."
"What if I just thought it?"
"That's fine, you can think what you want."
"Ok. I think you're an asshole!"
Kevin Thornton has lived in Fort McMurray for 7 years and wishes that just once the timing of his retorts matched those of Tommy Lasorda. Instead he is doomed to walk away from confrontations unfulfilled, thinking of the clever line he should have said only when it is too late.
Statistics from Mystery Writer's of America Conference Feb. 16/13
The MWA held an intensive one day conference at the Hyatt in Sarasota, a beautiful venue on the Bay, and here are a few interesting stats.
Christine Kling gave a wonderful hour long talk on self-publishing. For all of her great links for authors who want to follow in her footsteps go to www.christinekling.com and hit the tab marked For Writers. The most interesting statistic she offered was on income for three categories of published authors. Keep in mind these are average incomes.
Self-published only - $7,600 per annum
Traditionally published author - $27,000 per annum
Hybrid (traditional and self-published) - $38,540 per annum
After you finish saying, "Why would anyone want to be an author?" you can see there is a definite advantage to having a foot in both worlds. Christine pointed out that not long ago authors made 10% of the sales price of a book. That represented what the publisher thought was the value of their work to the whole process. On Amazon a writer gets 70% of the total cost of a book. Of course, the selling price is much lower but the good news is a writer has a bigger audience and a book doesn't become old. In a store there is only so much space and with new books coming in continually, older books have to be moved out. Three months is about as long as you get shelf space in a traditional store but on e-books your words live forever.
There's a new publishing idea starting to take hold. It's called Pub-Slush, a kick start program for writers. It allows readers to invest money in a book so the author has income to write. The best part of this idea is that the readers are involved in the process and become part of the marketing team for the book. It's something to check out if you are considering throwing in the job to finish that book or if you are a published writer and need a little extra income.
I'm guessing here, but I think most of the people attending this conference were unpublished authors. Here's some sad news for anyone looking for an agent. Nicole Resciniti, a literary agent with The Seymour Agency, says she gets 200 to 300 e-mails a day. How do you get through that many messages in a day and if you're an unpublished writer looking for representation, how do you get noticed among the other 299?
Terri Bischoff, Acquiring Editor for Midnight Ink, was on a panel and came across as a really nice person and very approachable. Midnight Ink is looking for crime fiction of all kinds. Goods news! Now here's the bad news. They only publish 30 to 36 titles a year.
If you write young adult mystery check out www.thepoisenedpencil.com, part of Poison Pen.
For anyone starting out these figures are daunting. My suggestion is to join writing organizations and start going to these conferences. You make invaluable contacts and learn how to market yourself. Don't wait until you're published to get in the game. Start now. I know everyone says turn out the best book you can. To do that you need to get your writing read by other writers, professional editors (yes, you have to pay them) and readers. Join writing groups. If you find one but it doesn't work for you, move on and keeping going until you find one that suits you. Unfortunately, I did none of these things. I really wish I'd known that groups like the Crime Writers of Canada offer mentoring programs. FREE. I wish I'd found a community college course in editing. It would have saved me years and a lot of pain. The bottom line - to turn out a book capable of zinging, you need a lot of help and a lot of luck, whether it's your first or your tenth.
Here endeth today's sermon.
FREE flash fiction
I've posted An Accidental Death on all e-reader sites.
This short won an award from the Royal Palm Literary Society of the Florida Writers Association
The Ivey House
For our trip kayaking in the Everglades we stayed at The Ivey House bed and breakfast in Everglades City. The room in the Inn is next to an enclosed swimming pool. The service is special and they run kayak and canoe trips from their B&B.
At the breakfast (which is included) manager Ken Kroll circulates and answers any questions. The guides are also available for questions and planning.
I heartily recommend their place to anyone contemplating a trip to that area.
Mystery Readers Journal
Mystery Readers Journal for the winter of 2012-2013 arrived yesterday. It features Florida Mysteries and my bit, "A Stranger in Paradise," is on page 53. I'm still in my p.j.s with a pot of tea, reading it from cover to cover, and becoming a bit worried that Florida is slipping from eccentric to downright weird.
Omnimystery News Blog
Omnimystery News Blog One of the questions I'm often asked is why do you write mysteries. I always assume that there is a second question there. "Why don't you write something more literary." Here is my answer.
Humans 3 - Alligators 0
Three people went out, Lee and I and a guide, and three people came back from our 4 hour trip into the Everglades. I interviewed the head guide in the afternoon for info for a new book. He said all we had to worry about is panic. "When you panic, that's when things go wrong." No kidding.
We put our kayaks into the East river in a nice bay and crossed it to tunnels cut through the mangroves and running from pond to pond. Now came the second piece of advice. Alligators use these tunnels to travel from one body of water to another. When you meet a gator, stay perfectly still and let the alligator decide what to do. Apparently they don't like to backup, well, who does, so they will either dive under your kayak or they'll push by you. They may even turn over your kayak. Don't panic.
These channels zigzag around things and you can quickly lose sight of the rest of your party. Don't panic. You probably aren't lost.
The paths through the mangroves are very narrow. You can reach out and touch mangroves on each side of you and they form a canopy overhead with roots hanging down. Coming back in the dark I ran into some of these roots. Don't panic, but is it a mangrove root or a snake?
We were back to the pickup point by 8:00 o'clock, soaking went with a cool breeze blowing. We quickly drove back to the B&B and hit the nearest country and western bar for a bowl of soup.
We closed the bar. The waiters were piling up chairs and sweeping under our feet. Don't panic. I figure it's rude to go home before the band.
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the swamp we go!
We are leaving for the Everglades in the morning. The highlight of the trip will be a night kayaking trip out of Everglades City. Four hours in the Everglades at NIGHT with a guide of unknown quality. It seemed like a good idea when I suggested it back in November, just the thing I needed for the new novel.
We're expecting a cold snap down here so we may not see much of the reptile family if it's still cool on Friday night. If we see them they won't be moving too quickly, not slithering through the water and climbing over the gunwales and into the kayak. I'm sorry about that. The good news is that the python hunt has ended and all the good old boys have gone home. Much safer for us that way.
The latest issue of January Magazine is out and it's all about Florida mysteries. I have a small article, A Stranger In Paradise, in there and Lou Allin did a wonderful review of Champagne for Buzzards, saying "No one does Florida as well as Phyllis Smallman. I love hanging out with Sherri and her over-the-hill gang. It's the next best thing to spending the winter in the Sunshine State."
Now isn't that a great start to a day?
See it in pdf format downloadable from MysteryReaders.org
Toronto Star Review of Highball Exit
Whodunit Columnist Jack Batten at the Toronto Star today reviewed Highball Exit
. For the full review go to
Jack Batten Review
Crime Fiction Group on "Linked In"
The Crime Fiction group on LinkedIn has a special eBook promotion for those readers who received book presents during the holiday season. People with new eReaders or Book Vouchers are dying for new crime fiction! Come and find a new-to-you author, visit the promotion at www.reviewsbytdev.com
More Florida weirdness.
This comes under the heading that truth is stranger than fiction, at least in Florida.
Imagine a life guard fired for saving a life, or a man who dies after winning a roach eating contest and....oh, so much more. You have to read it to believe it. I always enjoy these yearend wrap-ups of craziness. Somehow it confirms that things could always be worse and I could have done a lot dumber things than I actually did.
All the best in 2013! May none of us end up on next year's list.
Predictions for 2013 for the book industry
See Mark Coker of Smashword's predictions at
People ask me where I get my inspiration. Well, here's a perfect example of a Sherri Travis news item. You know this is going to end badly, things will go wrong and more than snakes will die.
Florida is the land of crazy. Maybe it's the swamp gas or the heat, but whatever it is the locals that keep me amused and inspired.
I've reached the age of nostalgia and Christmas is now all about the past and not what might be under the tree. This song from 1943 says it all.
Still, I'm looking forward to Christmas dinner at the Gasparilla Inn, and Lee says he can tell it's the season by the jig-saw puzzle set up in the living room. My dad and I always had the best conversations over puzzles.
Cool foggy mornings that turn into afternoon beach walks, perfect weather for working and beach dreaming.
Yesterday I signed a contract with TouchWood Editions for the first book in a new series set in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.
Long Gone Man tells the story of a homeless street singer who arrives on Glenphiddie Island one foggy night on the last ferry. She calls herself Singer Brown, a name designed to hide as well as explain, and she's on the island looking for the members of the band she once sang with.
Singer journeys up Glenphiddie Mountain, twisting and turning around the narrow roads, until her ancient van drops a wheel over the edge of a cliff. Singer stumbles blindly through the fog to the mountain eerie of Johnny Vibes, the leader of the band.
Grateful to be safe, Singer knocks on the door and when it opens Lauren Vibes greets Singer with a gun in her hand. On the floor behind her is the body of Johnny Vibes.
And so begins another adventure, both in writing and in publishing. I like Singer, but even though I have another two books outlined and ready to go, I'm going to hold off starting those books until I see how readers like my homeless singer.
In the meantime, I'm almost finished a rough draft of a new Sherri Travis mystery, My Last Martini. I think it will be my best book, but maybe that's just the shine of romance I always feel when I first start a book. If so, this love affair has lasted longer than most do with a story.
By the time I finished with Highball Exit, I no longer knew what to think about it and I was truly worried about the reviews.
Turns out, Highball received the best reviews of any book I've written! Go figure.
Welcome to Florida
We had an interesting arrival in Florida this year. When I saw that the potato vine had grown over the front steps I should have known that our unpacking wasn't going to be easy. After ripping away the voracious vine to find the entrance, inside we were faced with a bloom of mold and mildew on all things leather. The air conditioner had failed at some point over the summer and there was that lovely smell of mildew in the air. Everything had to be washed in vinegar and after their "bath" the cushions all had to go out in the sun. Yesterday Sandy's winds whipped through here but no harm done. We seem to have conquered nature for the moment but I'm watching and waiting for the next attack. From mutant bugs or crazy weather, I'm ready for it.
Publishers Weekly worst reviews of classic books
I've been worrying and whining about reviews but I feel much better after reading the truly awful reviews that some brilliant writers have received.
I remember my father writing in the front of his books. No author was too great to escape his critique and from Sir Walter Scott to Louis L'Amour, he rated them from poor, fair, good or excellent. I have to say he didn't give out many excellent ratings. I don't even want to think what kind of a rating he'd give to my books.
Florida Writers Association Conference
I picked up two treasures from the Royal Palm Literary Society for An Accidental Death in the flash fiction category and Jack Daniels And Tea in the short fiction.
The Florida Writers Association is a marvelous group with 1155 members.
If that many writers are in the organization, how many writers are there all together in Florida?
It must be a staggering number.
It's very exciting to get the first review. I'm very grateful it's a good one. Here it is:
Highball Exit Phyllis Smallman
Nora-adrienne Deret's review
Oct 11, 12
Rating 5 Stars
Read from October 10 to 11, 2012 - I own a copy
This was truly the most terrifying Sherri story to date. It held me spellbound all day until now at 3:01 am Brooklyn time.
I have finally read the last two words "THE END" and I can finally drag myself off to bed.
It rained. The leaves are falling and the pink roses in the courtyard are still blooming, but they can't fool us.
It's time to go!
As if there wasn't enough to stress over, Amazon.com is ranking all authors. It's like high school where kids play the game of choosing the most popular kids.
And what else am I stressed over? Reviews should be coming in any day now. You know you're going to get criticized when you put yourself out there. It's a bit like waiting for a bomb to go off... or walking naked into church... "Well, she started a little slow and her clothes needed ironing, wobbled in the middle, but I liked when she took out the vicar in the end."
Naked, that's how it feels.
"Leaving on a jet plane..."
Packing, eating down the fridge, cleaning up the garden and running around in ever decreasing circles, we're getting ready to leave early Sunday morning for the sun. First, Oregon, where there will be no sun, and then Orlando, Florida for the Florida Writers Conference. I'm dreaming of sitting by a pool with something in my hand. I may not make too many sessions. Wave at me on your way by.
On Wednesday November 7, 2012 I will be interviewed by Karen Hudson on Salt Spring Radio.( FM107.9 for locals)
You can hear the interview online at www.cfsi-fm.com
The Program, Word on the Rock, runs at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time (2:30 p.m. Eastern)
Highball Exit is back from the printers and speeding to bookstores across the nation.
Oh, how I love saying that! Here is a bit from Highball Exit, a little of Sherri's family history.
"Show a little respect. It took two hundred years of inbreeding to arrive at this level of stupidity."
Bartenders stick together
Rachael Preston didn't start out to be a bartender but it's where she ended up with a master's degree in English and two published books. When I met Rachael she was teaching creative writing at Mohawk College. The joy of Rachael as an instructor was she made everyone one of us want-to-be writers feel good about ourselves. She made each of us better. And now she has a wonderful new book out called Fishers of Paradise.
I've stolen a bit of her blog at Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave to put here. You can read the whole thing at:
I've since graduated to bartending. I'm the face you see when you come in the door, pulling pints, taking orders for fish and chips, flogging my books over the bar (much brighter now, thanks to renovations). It's been five years. We're still in Peg's cabin. I haven't written any more (and possibly less) than I did when we lived in Hamilton. We don't own a cow, sheep or chickens and I have just about given up trying to grow vegetables in the dark, damp lee of a mountain. And in the middle of winter when the sky is hanging around my shoulders and the dog towels are wet and muddy, and the firewood is too damp to do anything other than spit and smoke, and it's dark by 4 p.m. (very dark, Saturna boasts one streetlamp and it's at the ferry terminal), and everywhere you turn someone is grumbling because Ian cut the pub's hours and beer costs more than it did in 1981 and yet another bylaw has gone too far or not far enough and ferry fares have increased again, I wonder not only what I'm doing here but how on earth I've managed to stay as long as I have.
And now for something completely different!
Check this out. Every writer out there is going to wet themselves when they read this!
I really would love everyone out there to give me a review on Amazon...but only if you love it. If you hate it, please, don't put yourself out, please.
I'm wringing my hands and worrying. It really is a time of anxiety, waiting to see what people think and wanting to hide.
I'll post the reviews here when I get them, if I get any...more anxiety.
Stay well and safe.
Cheers from Salt Spring.
Things I wish I'd said.
"If your brains were dynamite there wouldn't be enough to blow your hat off." - Kurt Vonnegut
(There are so many situations where this statement is applicable.)
"A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika." Dorothy Parker
(In my case, I prefer to use bad taste like Louisiana Hot sauce in a New Orleans pub.
And you just thought I was ....well, suffering from bad taste.)
"I must take issue with the term "a mere child," for it has been my invariable experience that the company of a mere child is infinitely preferable to that of a mere adult." Fran Lebowitz
Kids never tell you to quiet down and they are so much easier to cheat.
Highball Exit press release
See the press release for the print version of the 5th Sherri Travis mystery at Press Release
Who's gay, who's straight and who cares?
We're just back from the gay pride parade. Lovely to see the firefighters marching with their rainbow banner, dogs and kids and dust, church women followed by a horse and carriage with a guy wearing a Speedo and a hard hat. There was laughter and drumming and wonderful sugar donuts on the steps outside the coffee shop, and at the end came a lovely pair of guys in floral swimsuits and turbans, driving a vintage Carmen Gia that I coveted.
I love a parade!
Next week is the sixties dance at the Legion and the fair. Big life on a small island.
Weird things on the beach
This jelly fish, with a starfish sitting on top of it, was on the beach way above high tide. Strange, unexpected but very beautiful.
What are Tags?
Tagging helps sell books.
People keep asking me to tag their book and I really didn't understand why. Tagging is a way to help your favorite writer increase their web profile.
Here's how. Go to Amazon and the book you love. At the bottom of the page it will say Tags customers Associate with this product. You'll see how the book has been marked or labeled. The Sherri Travis books have tags for mystery, female sleuth etc. From there you follow the directions and click on the tag or the boxes you think are appropriate to the book. The more times people click on the tags the more times the book will show up when the search engine looks for those words. It's like voting for a particular book or author.
To do this you need an Amazon account or your tag won't count. Still confused? Doing is the only way to learn.
Audio Book Sale
This week only: My audiobook Margarita Nights is on sale @audible_com for just $5.95 (even less for members)!
Check it out at www.audible.com/ACX595 #ACX
Kobo best selling list
Great news! Margarita Nights has made the Kobo Writing Life best sellers list at:
Kobo Best Sellers
Marilyn will forever be 34, never the 86 she would be if she was still alive. Even after all this time there are still questions about her death. When she took her fatal overdose there was little of today's forensic evidence to go on, no phone records, no DNA, and no modern toxicology. One telling fact on the side of suicide and not murder is the fact that she had made multiple attempts before. Check out the latest take on Marilyn's death at the following site.
The latest Sherri Travis mystery, Highball Exit, is about the death of a young woman who commits suicide. Or did she? A suicide note indicates that she willingly took the highball exit but Sherri learns it is something quite different. How does she prove it?
Summer Aug 01, 2012
I guess summer has arrived but while the rest of the country swelters, here on the islands we're still wearing sweaters. I don't mind. The sun shines brightly, the flowers bloom and I can always find a place to be comfortable.
Is it just me or does everyone find it hard to work in summer? Some days I don't even check my e-mails or facebook, which leaves a mess to deal with when I get back to it. It's a strange lethargic time.
Highball Exit is moving on through the publishing line and will be out in time for Halloween. Long Gone Man is looking for a home. I thought I was going back to Last Call this week but another book popped up. I was reading a non-fiction book about Florida and I went, "Oops, there's one more Sherri Travis book to write before Last Call. I always think of Last Call as the final Sherri novel. I keep putting it off by writing other things, first Champagne For Buzzards and then Highball Exit. Sherri isn't going down without a fight.
I'm calling this new book, for the moment anyway, A Hard Road Home. It takes place in the Everglades. I have the opening, which is scary beyond belief, and a bit in the middle. I also know who committed the multiple murders and why. But how do I uncover the truth? In this book Sherri is going to an amazing black-tie fund raiser at Shelby gardens where tickets cost $600.00 per person, well at least that's what they were the last time I checked.
The very rich in Florida amuse themselves by attending fund raisers. Since there are many widows in Florida, this creates a group of men known as walkers...male escorts, who squire these ladies to social events around town for money. Unlike female escorts, at least from what I've been told, there is no sex involved. Still, these men go to all the best places, even to the Sunset, and they know all the gossip. What would we do without gossip? Maybe that should read what would I do without gossip?
So there's something to add to the lethargic season...lots of long silences, of staring off into space and more than a bit of reading going on. It's a strange, uncomfortable process but it has worked before so it likely will this time. I hope.
The print edition of Highball Exit is now available for pre-order at all the usual stores.
I have a wonderful new publisher for my print editions of Highball Exit. The TouchWood people in Victoria are wonderful, enthusiastic professionals who take my breath away with how organized and on top of things they are. I'm so excited to be working with these brilliant people. I hope we sell lots of books.
So, who's going to talk you off the roof?
I met Jim Ordowich in a writing class years ago. Since then we've read each other's manuscripts, broke each other's hearts with truth and cheered each other on. When my first book was coming out the publisher sent me an e-mail that she needed 100 words on what the book was about immediately. My brain went blank. I called Jim in a panic and asked, "What's this book about?" I had no idea. Jim's answer was, "I'm making dinner. I'll call you back." What was an emergency for me wasn't worth a flip of the sausage to him.
We met every Friday for lunch when we were both in town but our own personal lives have remained quite outside of our relationship, except for Jim saying he's off to Hawaii with a load of books and a change of clothes or me saying, "I'm on my way to Ontario, meet me at the usual restaurant." Recently I broke one of my own rules and sent Jim a picture of my grandson...couldn't help it, didn't mean to, not my fault. Here's Jim's reply.
What a cutie. Although I can't help feeling you've crossed a line. I have three grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and another on the way. Plus a dog that's cute as a button (I have a photo of her sitting beside a button for just such a comparison). Add to that number a whole host of Applegate & James TV commercials featuring moi and the potential for boredom is staggering - especially when you take into consideration that I'm of an age where my most recent colonoscopy is now a valid topic for conversation.
Still, one cute picture won't make or break our correspondence. Besides, my popularity is not so broad that I can afford anyone.
In the back of my mind I have this firm conviction that if I ever end up on a roof and about to take that final big step I'll call Jim to talk me down, or really, laugh me off the roof. He could do it. And I think he's lying about his popularity.
New book Cover
I have just received the new cover for the 5th Sherri Travis Mystery novel.
Highball Exit will be out for Halloween.
Words in my head
A friend e-mailed me today about a new lecture series she is getting started in the Hamilton area called 3rd age learning. It's a series of talks for seniors and a steal at 6 for $40.00. I really want to give one of those talks. I'd call it, "words in my heads."
One of the most interesting things that I've learned over the last four years of writing and giving talks is that almost everyone I meet has a story they want to tell, sometimes a true story or sometimes something they made up, images of places, emotions and ideas they carry around with them. I receive letters from people telling me about their lives and begging me to write their stories. Why me, I'm not sure unless the answer is they write to lots of writers in hopes that they'll find their biographer. The thing is, I can't write the words in someone else's head but it's easier than you might think to do it yourself.
The first thing everyone says is I don't know where to start. How about the Cosby answer? "I started out as a child." Or write the worst thing that ever happened to you and the best. Or just start writing the images in your head. It's better than talk therapy and a whole lot cheaper. And who doesn't need the healing power of talking even if it's only to yourself? Lots of pain that I've held onto throughout my life got written away. Don't bother looking for it in my books because very little of it ended up staying there. In the end it just wasn't that unique or interesting.
The one thing that held me back from writing was fear. Oh, not the normal fears of failure but the fear of ridicule, of not being good enough. I wanted to get it right before anyone saw it. I still haven't got it right but I'm no longer worried about standing out there in all my nakedness for the world to see. Get yourself into a course on writing, into a writing group, or any combinations of like minded people, possibly on line. They will inspire you, encourage you and make you better. And here's my brilliant insight...you only learn by doing, not by thinking about it.
And if you fail? So what! Remember how many times your children fell down when they were learning to walk? All part of the learning process. It doesn't matter if you never get published. The art is in the doing.
Tap dancing with killing machines
These days my feet are killing machines as I tap dance down the street, stomping out tent caterpillars. It must look like I have some strange neurological disease as I try to reach them all, an impossible task. The island has been inundated with caterpillars, dropping on the patio from the trees over the fence, covering plants and people and wiping out most of the fruit crops. They've turned me into a killer, chasing them down wherever they crawl and wiping out whole colonies. They challenge my belief that nature knows best, this time she has it very wrong.
I'm in the final polishing stage of Highball Exit. It goes to the line editor on June 21st and a rough copy has gone to the book designer. I've asked for a pale yellow and pink. That should be attention getting. What catches your eye in a cover? Is it the yellow crime scene tape, blood dripping, or maybe a dead body? I'd really like to know. Since at least half my readers are men I don't want it to be too feminine, yellow and pink may be stretching the limit there.
Read Chapter 1 of the 5th Sherri Travis mystery on the "Settings/Excerpts" page.
It will be available in October.
Bored with eagles
This week, as we worked in the garden, we watched the drama as a huge eagle was attacked first by crows and then surrounded by herons. The noise the herons made in the rookery was like metal scratching along metal, raucous and loud. The whole thing went on so long we went back to weeding and only looked up occasionally to see what was happening. And then yesterday, on the beach at the entrance to Booth Canal we counted 13 eagles in the tops of trees and on rocks, waiting for the tide to go out so they could fish the shallow waters. It was an amazing thing to see but we soon turned around and walked back up the beach. A few years ago I would have stood there until every eagle was gone. I guess you know that you're no longer just a visitor when you're bored with eagles.
My short story is now published at:
Crime Writers of Canada Blog
Check how I came to a life of crime at the location below.
May is crime month in Canada. Did you know we have a whole month celebrating crime? Kind of weird isn't it? The question they asked was, "What in your background turned you into a crime writer."
Since I didn't exactly come from an Arsenic And Old Lace family with bodies buried in the basement, well none that I knew of, I had to improvise.
Happy Long Weekend!
No big plans, just hours reading the weekend papers, revising a manuscript and walking down to the allotment. The community garden has become our chief form of entertainment. One man seems to spend his time wheeling loads of wood chips to cover the paths through the garden, a wonderful selfless act. When he grows tired he sits in his barrow and rocks. And then there is the man who covered his 10x25 plot with rows and rows of marigolds...nothing else, just marigolds. The woman who built the huge cedar planters is still moving in yards and yards of top soil into hundreds of dollars worth of wood but I have great hopes of an amazing plant display soon. There are chairs and a picnic table under an apple tree and everyone is so damn cheerful and glad to see you. It's all entertainment.
The mystery magazine, Spinetingler, is running a short story of mine called An Accidental Death on May 25th, and Kobo is using the first chapter of my next book, "Highball Exit" as a promotional handout at Book Expo America in New York City the first week of June. Hopefully it will encourage people to try one of my books. It's all about advertising. I thought all you had to do was write a half decent book and the rest would take care of itself.
CBC Canada Writes Series
Check out today's CBC Canada Writes article
Margarita Nights is out in audio at Audiable.com, Amazon audio books, and Apple iTunes. Hurray!
Talmadge Reagan does a wonderful job.
Monday, May 7/12
Bright and sunny. We're going to have a whole week of it.
The community garden has turned into a small social club where already stars are juggling for position and every plot is being groomed differently. Now these rocky plots are only 15 x 15, and not in metric. One 80lb woman bought a tiller for her tiny plot. I love the crazy courageous woman with a machine that weighs more than her. All she really needed to do is stand in place and go in circles. Remember the rocks? "Duck!"
Another garden, with the addition of hundreds of dollars of spanking new 2 x 12 cedar planking, has been turned into wonderful raised beds. There's a dump truck load of top soil to be wheeled in. In the meantime we have a ragged row of peas up, radishes, onions and beans. With no string and the point of the trowel jiggled about by stones it looks like we were in the grip of alcoholic tremors when we laid out our bed. We'll get the lazy gardener award for sure, but nice to be in the winner's circle even for the worst.
A walk in the woods on Sunday April 29/12
We walked down to the community garden this morning to admire our bumper crop of radishes that are making their appearances. The peas are poking up their heads, as are the green onions. We feel like heroes and we may have to take a stall at the local farmers market. On the way back we followed a path into the woods, a strange little stand of trees that is about two acres and totally surrounded by houses. But with the giant cedars and firs it is a mighty wood. I noticed shattered blue eggs on the ground. They were about the size of chicken eggs. Blue eggs? A little late for Easter and the large amount of bird droppings didn't seem to be part of any holiday celebration I've ever taken part in. I looked up to see 6 big sloppy nests in the top of the cedar. Herons were sitting on those nests. Strangely, they were all on the same side of the tree. Do you suppose, like us, that birds prefer a southern location? I'm torn between wanting to know how that little part of forest got left behind and being afraid of calling attention to it. Maybe the nesting herons were what saved those tree. If so, bless them!
Being a poor speller, and totally illiterate when it comes to grammar, this gave me a smile.
Palm Court Literary Society
Don't you love that name? I have visions of an Edwardian tea party, tea sipped from fine china and cucumber sandwiches, while refined people discuss the merits of a particular work. In reality it is part of the Florida Writers Association. They've chosen one of my short stories to be considered for an award. Very nice!
A $25.00 garden plot may bankrupt us. Tools, manure, lovely gardening gloves, bits and pieces...and we hadn't put a seed in the ground. The beans should be served on a gold platter, peas more expensive than caviar treated worshipfully.
After being assigned our spot, we started picking stones and discovered there's a reason they call Salt Spring "The Rock" and, after taking out all the rubble, we were left with a hollow depression...and not just in the ground. You think euphoria would last longer than two hours but there we were Sunday morning, on the day of rest, spreading manure and putting in our $7.99 rhubarb plant. What sounded like grand idea sitting on a beach in Florida is hard work in British Columbia. The good news is there will be rain here for the next three days so we won't have to feel guilty about ignoring it.
Back in Canada
Returning to Canada after six months away makes you a tourist in your own homeland and you look at everything with fresh eyes. The first amazing thing was a street in Sydney with flowering cherry trees lining the sidewalk and snow covered mountains in the background. You can never get too much of that.
The ferry felt like a special event rather than the nuisance it can be when it's a normal part of your life and the places that looked rundown last fall have suddenly became quaint. I looked for all the familiar things, like the smallholding with the goat pen next to the road. Sure enough, there was the goat standing on her shelter and looking over the fence to watch us go by, as curious about us as we were about her. Her partner now has horns that are six inches long and growing straight up.
At the house, our friend Ann had turned the temperature control up to 75 degrees to bedevil Lee and please me, and then she arrived the next day with wine and flowers. You can never get too much of that either.
It's good to be back on Salt Spring. Today, Friday, Lee went to bottle our wine. Tomorrow morning I go to yoga and Saturday we get assigned our garden plot and visit the market... like true Salt Springers.
Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger
I'm just finished reading this wonderful novel that won the 2009 Governor General's award for literature. Set in the 1860s, it's the story of two women, an aristocrat and her maid, who travel to Egypt for the good of the lady's health. I highly recommend it.
I'm thrilled to announce that CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS has been nominated for
the "Bony Blithe" mystery award. This is a new award and the first year that it is to be
given out. The winner will be announced June 2 at the Bloody Words mystery conference.
Here is the complete list of nominees.
Janet Bolin, Dire Threads (Berkley Prime Crime)
Alan Bradley, A Red Herring without Mustard (Doubleday Canada)
Gloria Ferris, Cheat the Hangman (Imajin Books)
Mary Jane Maffini, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder (Berkley Prime Crime)
Phyllis Smallman, Champagne for Buzzards (McArthur & Company)
A Handsome Man
Once in a while a picture will arrive from a book signing. Most of the time they make me wince, but not this one.
This picture was taken at the Canadian Booksellers Association's annual conference in Toronto in June 2010. The handsome man with me is Mark Lefebvre, President of the Canadian Booksellers Association. Mark is Director of Author Relations at Kobo. Kobo has the most wonderful staff to work with, so helpful and approachable.
Fly away home
We've had the best winter ever! With family renting a house within walking distance for three months, there were lots of before dinner drinks, day trips and long conversations with enough laughter to make the neighbours show up because we were having far too much fun without them. We'll never have this time together again…it was perfect…but we're all starting to look northward. Two weeks from tomorrow Lee and I head to Oregon on the annual migration. I hate leaving Florida. And it's not just the weather. It's only in the forties on Salt Spring Island, cool enough to make be cling to the Sunshine State, but it's saying goodbye. It's a big wrench to leave our little family here. Until then, there's golf to be played, food to be enjoyed and a few more dances out at Snook Haven. Party on!
Who said that?
Jane Barnard had the funniest comment. She said, "There's nothing wrong with her marriage that a shovel and a body bag wouldn't cure." I so wish Sherri had said that. A little mystery!
The Smithsonian magazine has created a little stir. It seems Colonel Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, was not who he seemed to be. A claim has been made that he did not grow up in West Virginia as he claimed. He wasn't even born in the U.S.A. but in the Netherlands.
This article says he fled the Netherlands as a teenager after killing a woman in a home invasion. He made his way to the United States and worked in carnivals as a palm-reader and elephant handler.
Elvis only made one appearance outside of the U.S., in Canada, although he was popular all over the world. The claim is made that this was because Parker couldn't get a passport.
It's all very interesting and the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. I suppose they could solve the problem by a DNA test of the family in the Netherlands that is claiming Parker as their own. Read more at Smithsonian Magazine
March 01, 2012
Yesterday we broke temperature records in three cities in Florida. Spring has definitely sprung. The birds are going crazy, waking us in the morning, and the afternoons are in the 80s. We had a little rain this week, about fifteen minutes, but we need more. We need an all day soaker.
On Salt Spring we now have a plot of land, 10x25, to grow veggies . For the princely sum of $25.00 a year we can grow our own vegetables in a community garden. There has been lots of discussion between Lee and me on what we should try. Peas have been ruled out because they take up too much room for too little return and Lee says no corn because it's too hard on the soil. How very ecological of him, but I rule it out because the coons will come to party. Lots of beans and tomatoes are on the menu - as are rhubarb and strawberries for next year. What an optimist. And I want raspberries.
How Mom and Dad would laugh to see me this excited. They garden-farmed ten acres and had a job getting me out there to pull weeds. Now I'm going eagerly. We'll see if it lasts. I remember Mom planting things in the spring and me asking why she bothered. Her reply was, "How do you know the time of year without a garden?" So I want to know what time of year it is for me…time to pick the rhubarb, strawberry season or time to harvest the tomatoes. I'm trying not to think of time to water and time to hoe. We'll see. Maybe this well be an experience better to think about than to do or maybe I'll reconnect with my past. We'll see.
Tomorrow the Friends of the Bonita Springs Library are having a fund raising luncheon at a local golf club. I'm the guest speaker. I was a little surprised when the facilitator told me that she would leave my name at the gate so I could get in but I'd also have to show ID. Now that was a bit of a surprise. I've never had to show identification to get into a club before. What are they protecting in there, golden tees?
But I'm not quibbling. Right now libraries need all the friends they can get. With the funding cut to all libraries in California, some have already closed. Without libraries, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots will grow even wider. I know, from when I worked in a library, that they are often the only cultural resource that some people have. Unable to afford movies, cds, books, museums, art galleries and computers, the library provides all of this. And where do you go if you can't afford organized sports and clubs? Always welcoming, libraries were a safe place for children to hang out, and yes, sometimes they even hid out there. If we lose our libraries, we not only lose a great cultural resource but we condemn people to ignorance and unfriendly streets. How does that make things better? It's a very short term saving that must be paid for later. So please support your libraries in any way you can.
In the cool, cool, cool of the evening.
Our plants wore bed sheets on Sunday night because a cold front came down from Canada. I don't know if it really came down from Canada but that's usually what the weather man says. I always feel personally responsible. Warming up now, but even if it wasn't it's sunny and beautiful.
Just when you think things can't get worse
I had a note from a friend to tell me that California is closing its public libraries due to financial difficulties. I understand they are in trouble but for me this is just making a bad situation worse. Can't they close all the public golf courses, tennis courts and Frisbee Parks instead? I know that here in Florida, as the economy went down, library use went up. When I was flat broke and even when I wasn't, the library was there to welcome, encourage and entertain. I learned how to cook, do crafts and stone work, and, most importantly, I learned how to dream. I can't imagine life without a library. It truly is a depression for me.
February 8, 2012
All of the outdoor furniture is covered in yellow pollen from the pine trees but at least we've had some rain. Furious rain on Monday and light showers yesterday. I hope it holds off today. We're playing golf with people we only see once a year. There's a lot of catching up to do.
I'm rewriting Highball Exit. I'm hoping to have it finished in a couple of months and ready to publish come fall. This fifth book has probably been the hardest book for me to write. I wanted this novel to be more serious, to talk about grim social ills. When I got my solemn tome back from Elle she'd redlined all my lofty thoughts, wiped out all Sherri's ponderous inner dialogue and basically got me back to basics. So the old Sherri returns from the editor.
I take comfort that the writing experience is just as miserable from one writer to another and that I'm not the only one who isn't in control.
Winston Churchill said, "Writing a book was an adventure. To begin with, it was a toy, an amusement; then it became a mistress, then a master, and then a tyrant."
Oh, yeah, a tyrant. Happiness is writing a line of clever dialogue or figuring out how Sherri will actually discover who the murderer is. Or for that matter, I'm happy when I know who did it. I'm just grateful that I'm not writing the history of the world like Churchill. I can't imagine having to know things, tell the truth and not being able to curse. No fun at all, only a tyrant.
Spring in the South
Spring is coming to the South. The mockingbirds are singing and yesterday it rained, ending our drought at last. The birds wake us every morning and we eat out on the porch to listen to them. The afternoons are hot and the evenings are cool, pure perfection. Gators love the hot weather. They line the banks of the ponds out at the golf course. We're playing golf this afternoon with a couple that we met out there before Christmas. We agreed to meet there the second Saturday in January to play another round. The only problem was they couldn't remember what we looked like and neither could we remember them. I figured out who they were when I saw them going up to people and asking something and then saw those people they questioned shaking their heads. They figured it out when they ran out of prospects. We've played late Saturday afternoons since and it's lovely.
I got the first 15 minutes of the audio tape for Margarita Nights. It's very well done but I have to let go of the voice of Sherri I have in my head and listen to Talmadge Reagan's voice. She's done a wonderful job and the audio will be available later this month. It's a little strange to listen to my words, makes me want to start changing them and trying to make them better. Thankfully, I remember Louise Penny talking about the first time she heard an audio for her book and so I knew what to expect. It really is a bizarre experience.
So spring is coming to the South and we're starting to talk of flying north, checking flights and picking routes, while the rest of the country dreams of coming south. To make up your mind, here's a beach picture. Pull up a chair and sit yourself down.
Fridays with Jim
Here's a little more of that e-mail from Jim on March 7, 2006.
Oddly enough, I was thinking about you one morning while the CBC was recapping the Olympic results. You'd been musing one lunch about whether you'd ever get published and it came to mind during the recap of the bobsled results. We were out of the medals by a few thousandths of a second and away from gold by just a thousandths more. A few thousandths, how the heck do you trim a few thousandths off your time? We writers have it so much easier by comparison. I don't think a story is ever 100% finished. There's always a tweak here and there to improve the story with every reading. Some are the equivalent of those fractions of a second. Sometimes we see a way to improve things that are the equivalent of minutes. Yes, we've got it all over the bobsledders - your first sale could be just a tweak away. Of course on the downside, we don't have their cool uniforms.
Jim has a knack of being supportive while nudging you on and making you laugh but I'm trying hard not to picture myself in a bobsledder's outfit.
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, it's all about how good the rewrite is. Mary Higgins Clark says you can improve what's on the page but you can't do a thing with a blank page. So sit down and start writing. Don't worry if it's good enough, it isn't. You'll have lots of time to rewrite. I wish I could rewrite my books. I could make them much better now.
Maureen Jennings - Season of Darkness
Need a good book to read? Try this new offering from the author of the Detective Murdoch Mysteries. It's set in 1940 England and has spies, love affairs and murder among the hedgerows. It's the kind of book to curl up with and turn off the world.
I met Jim Ordowich at Mohawk College where we were both taking the same short-story writing course. We started having lunch together every Friday over the summer. One week I'd read his work and do a critique and the next week it would be my work. Needless to say our friendship was sometimes tested by the other's words of faint praise but somehow we survived the slings and arrows. When I was in Florida our writing partnership was continued by e-mail. At first I didn't keep those missives but I finally realized what gold there was in them and I told Jim that one day I'd publish our letters, that it might be the only publishable thing I wrote. This week I found an old e-mail that for some reason I'd printed out. I wrote and asked Jim if I could post it. Here's a bit of his answer.
I'm in Hawaii looking out as the sun sinks slowly into the west. Well, technically it sunk twenty minutes ago but I'm trying to teach myself to stretch the truth in the interests of a superior story. I'll start with little lies and work my way up into public office.
Jim's wit would never allow him to get elected. Here's the beginning of an old e-mail to say his renovation project was finished enough for him to start writing again.
Jim/ Mar 7/06
A bird flew in our bedroom window Sunday morning. The screens were in the basement, still covered in construction dust and needing to be taken outside for a good hosing. I was lying there reading the Sunday Star with the window still open from the night before when I heard a scratchy, scrabbly sound I thought was the cat playing with something on the floor. But it wasn't the cat, it was a bird that flapped out from under the blinds and flew across the room coming to light on the corner cabinet where I'm temporarily storing sweaters.
I'm not one of the nuts and berry set. If a flamingo was suddenly to appear in my room I'm reasonably certain I could identify it with three guesses. Beyond that I wouldn't have a clue. This particular bird was black, not as big as a crow, about the size of a smallish robin. He sat on top of a pile of books I had on the cabinet and passed a non-verbal judgment on my reading material. He looked at me ( I say "he" because it was a look of such utter contempt that only a male could pull it off, women by nature being more charitable and prone to compassion no matter how much they loath someone). He looked at me with contempt but when he surveyed the rest of the room he definitely looked pleased with his new digs, as if he was bound to be a hit with the ladies when they saw his pad. And then it hit me: if the place met with the approval of the wildlife, perhaps I could ease up on my frenzy to finish off those last few details. Maybe I could just chip away at them, yes and do a little writing by golly.
So that e-mail is from six years ago. What do you think, has he finished those last few details? In our house they'd never get done. When a job is declared, "good enough" it's over.
From Jim in Hawaii and from me in Florida, all the best.
The craziness that is Florida.
Every New Year's day the local paper wraps up the year with the weird press stories of the off the chart bad behaviour that is Florida. Here are some stories that inspire me:
A 92-year- old woman fired four shots at a neighbour who refused to kiss her. Someone should buy her the book He's Just Not That In To You.
At the Miami airport, a Brazilian man was trying to smuggle out baby pythons and tortoise hatchlings... in his skivvies. Send him All Things Great And Small.
How about this one? A grade school teacher received a gift from her eight-year-old student's GRANDMOTHER. It was a loaded handgun. That woman really understood her grandchild and sympathized with the teacher.
Florida, you gotta love it...and keep your head down!
You need one!
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
Jane Howard (1935 - 1996)
Remember those years from twelve until your children arrived? Those were the years where nothing on earth was as important as your friends. The world was very small and revolved around what was happening in their lives. And then we had children and created a new family that our days spun around and nothing in the world was as important as them. And then things moved on and changed but not the need to hold others close. Friends, family and our network prop us up and make life worthwhile. I don't need a lot of people in my life, just a few who care.
Even a protagonist needs a friend. Sherri's friends play a big part in each of the books. Really, in many ways my books are about friendships as much as they are about crime, none more so than Champagne For Buzzards. Sherri's family and friends come to her rescue. We all hope to have people in our lives who come to our aid when we need them, people who call when they need us.
Just like in the song, we get by with a little help from our friends.
Enjoy this season of friendship - the season of hope and new beginnings. Hold onto the best of 2011 and let go of the rest. Most of all hold onto what we all need, whatever we call it.
My friend, Jim Ordowich, sent along a little essay to share with you. Jim has a sly, slightly askew, sense of humour. I blame this on a life in retail. It's a little too long to put on the blog so clickJim Ordowich Story to see it. Here's Jim's take on the world.
A free Sherri Travis short story has just gone up on all the e-book sites. It is called Bitty And The Naked Ladies.
There is also a second short story called Jack Daniels And Tea which is selling for .99 cents.
The novel I didn't write
Here's a facebook post by Jayne Barnard. She suggested these could all be Sherri Travis novels.
#noveltinis are all the rage on Twitter right now: "Tequila Mockingbird" "Last of the Mojitos" "Catcher in the Rye Whiskey" "Are you there, God? It's me, Margarita" "The Portrait of a Pink Lady" "The Turn of the Screwdriver" Can you come up with any good ones?
There is actually a drink called Love in the afternoon. Great title for a book but I suspect that people would buy it expecting something besides a mystery. I think I shall have to work this into my next book somehow.
Marley asks, "Why is this drink called Love in the afternoon?"
"Because it makes you sleepy."
Sharky's on the beach, December 7th
Still a hot day but there was a brief shower at 4:30 that cooled it right down. From the 80s we are supposed to dip down to about 68 tomorrow.
We had lunch out at Sharky's and then walked out the pier. Everyone call's it Sharky's pier but I suppose it's officially the Venice pier. Today it was definitely a Shark pier. Before we were half way out to the end we saw two small sharks brought in by fishermen. The first was a hammerhead about 2 feet long. A woman stood in the water twenty feet below us hollering at the fisherman on the pier to let the shark go. It didn't seem to worry her that she was in the water about ten feet from the shark and if the guy with the rod cut the line she'd be within biting distance of one angry shark. Her heart was in the right place but I'm not sure where her head was.
As we walked out to the end of the pier we looked down on huge schools of bait fish, so many that the water was black and bubbling from them. The sound of all those fish was almost like rain on the water. Twenty feet off the pier were the pelicans, both brown and white, waiting to feed. I wonder if they were waiting for the bait fish to leave the shelter of the pier. The pelicans sure weren't coming in to feed.
At the fish cleaning table a pigeon was putting his beak up into the hose to get a drink. One of the fisherman said the City of Venice had spent over $300,000.00 to get rid of the pigeons. It didn't work.
This is a quiet time for us, a time to explore all our favourite haunts. Tomorrow we'll wander around old Englewood. Maybe Sunday we'll go to Snook Haven and listen to the music with all the bikers while we eat pulled pork under an old oak. Lovely selfish us time, a time to recharge and breath.
Stay well and safe.
The cool front came through yesterday, high sixties, but today we are back to around 70, perfect weather. And as always, it's sunny. We went out and played golf yesterday. I played really badly so it turned out to be a lot like hard work that left me saying @#$%#@. I'll never understand that stupid game. From not bad to horrendous, sometimes I wonder if I only play because I've already invested so much time and money in it. @#$%##@
Highball Exit has gone to Elle to get a first edit and her comments. I'm expecting them to be harsh, as in, "What the @#$#%#@ is this?" I'm not in a hurry to get her response because I know I have a big rewrite coming. In the meantime I'm going to read Jim's manuscript. I've had it for 2 months and haven't got to it.
Christmas shopping is almost done, one to mail and two to send on-line. I think December should be a quiet month and not the normal hectic runabout. Those are dangerous words, tempting fate. We'll see. In the meantime I'm going to the library and stocking up on great big thick books and lots of films. Let's hope I get to enjoy them.
HOT, HOT, HOT Call the fire department hot and the students at Lemon Bay are setting up their Christmas tree lot. It'll be a Charlie Brown Christmas tree by Dec. 25th, a few sad needles still to fall and the angel dipping towards the floor. Christmas trees wrapped in netting and we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet! Too confusing for a Canadian girl...there we knew the season by the thermometer. The lady in the Target Store line, weighed down by wreaths, said she was getting into the spirit. Now I know how to get into the spirits, but these days the spirit eludes me.
There will be five of us for Thanksgiving. I liked Vivi's attitude to dinner. She said she'd bring anything I wanted for dinner, even a pie, as long as she could buy it at Publix. We laughed and laughed. I should have told her to bring the turkey, although she didn't promise to cook it. While Viv was joking, I wasn't. I didn't tell her that the dressing was coming in a box. To fool everyone I'll put in some apples and dried cranberries. I'm sure no one will be able to tell. Torrey and Carole are driving over from Delray so they'll be too tired to notice unless I find the spirits and forget to take it out of the box before I drop in the cranberries. Now if I can just con Lee into cooking the turkey I'll be all set.
So have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone, even if it does come in a box.
Mail Lady News
Sometimes I worry that when people meet Phyllis Smallman they expect to meet Sherri Travis. What a disappointment! That Sherri is so boring.
I got a lovely surprise this week when the mail lady said she'd read all four Sherri Travis novels. She got them from the local library. It's always so nice to meet someone who has actually read my books. Since she likes the books perhaps I can convince her to lose the bills.
I have a Sherri Travis short story called Jack Daniels and Tea going up on e-books in Dec. I wrote it back in 2002 when I was trying out the Sherri Travis character. It feels like a much younger Sherri, still Sherri but maybe less cynical. It's going to cost 99 cents and I'm hoping to make my fortune off it so I want everyone to buy it. Tell all your friends. Tell all your enemies too, we all have them, some days more of the latter than the former.
And in January, think of it as a late Christmas present and my presents mostly are late except I sent a present to our family in England this week and it cost $56.00 in shipping, only slightly less than the present cost, and it will get there within one to two months which will make it late but I thought it was going to be early - as in don't open until Christmas early- wait a minute, what was I saying? Short stories. Okay, Bitty And The Naked Ladies is going up in January and since it's free I probably won't make my fortune off it but it is special to me. It was my first short story and it won a little award. Again, a much younger Sherri. We're saving on the cover by drawing our own naked ladies. I wish I had the courage to put up Lee's. I laughed 'til I cried. I think it's safer to use my own little doodle. UGLY but, hey, it's free. Wait a minute...3 people coming for dinner...maybe one of them can draw. Can't be any worse than ours and who wouldn't want to spend their Thanksgiving drawing naked ladies?
Home in Florida
Sat. Nov. 12/11
We arrived to eighty degree weather which quickly dropped into the sixties but it's still sunny and nice. We arrived Tues night and by seven-thirty the next morning we were in the pool. Weds morning we went for a morning walk on the beach and watched a fisherman land a baby shark. Makes you wonder what's out there. Best not to think about it or you'd never go in the water.
The orange tree is loaded with fruit...on one side...the oranges have mysteriously disappeared from the north side. I'm looking at a certain neighbour with suspicion. Why wouldn't he pick them from all over the tree so I wouldn't know? Even after picking two baskets, the tree looks like it hasn't been touched so I guess I can share. I'd just like to be given the option.
Another happy thing, a fuchsia coloured orchid growing in a pot we placed under a bush last March, lovely, lovely thing to come home to, it makes up for a kitchen floor covered in dead ants. Seems they had a party after we left. Well, the party is over and I'm ready for them when they return- and they will. If I can kill a couple of people in a book, zillions of ants are no problem. I bet these are the descendants of the ants I fought twenty-five years ago, a continuing problem in the tropics...and the beat goes on.
It's going back to the eighties today and we're heading to Ft. Myers and golf with John and Judy. Hoooorrrray! Let the games begin, we're home.
Changes in latitude, changes in attitude
Five days from now I'll be in Ontario for my mother's birthday and four days later I'll be in Florida. It's time.
This far north, the sun rises late and goes to bed early. Altogether there's an hour more daylight down in Florida. Today on Salt Spring it probably wasn't more than 50 degrees, while down home in Florida it was 80. Oh, yes, it's time. The beach is calling. We're eating down the fridge, wierd meals these last few days with carrots figuring heavily on the menu. I can't bring myself to throw out a thing so carrots it is, plus some unknown casserole and some grey meat to empty out the freezer. Definitely time.
John F. Kennedy
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. ____________________________________________________________
I was part of a tiny article on the CBC radio this week. The report was on e-publishing. Writers seem to agree that e-books are a good thing while the publisher interviewed on the show thought it was a very bad thing. Now isn't that a surprise? I seem to be the exception to the rule among writers; "the hybrid" reporter Margo Kelly called me. I have the e-rights to my books while McArthur has print rights.
Not all of us want to see the change to e-publishing but unfortunately no one ever asks us. Why did we change from albums to c.d.s? I was perfectly happy. Why change from 8 track, or from analogue to digital? Do you remember anyone calling and asking if you wanted to change? It just happens.
I figure that 75% of the books I've read in my life have been used books or library books. That's going to be a huge change for me. I can't see anyone giving me their Kobo or Kindle to read their copy of a book. Fortunately, the prices of e-books are much lower than print. An e-book now is about the same price as a used book but how long will that last? Not a thing to be done but to surf the wave of change and try to keep from crashing on the rocks.
We'll talk from Florida next. Stay well.
CBC Radio Interview
CBC reporter Margo Kelly is doing a special feature on e-publishing on CBC Radio World Report and The World at 6 Thursday and Friday October 27 and 28. I'm one of the people she interviewed for the piece. It's a new world out there.
Some pictures From Saltspring
I haven't had any luck getting pictures of fog but I've taken a few lovely pictures of fall on Salt Spring. Unfortunately this lot look more like a botanical book than a mystery.
How important is a book cover? Would someone buy a book because of the cover? I definitely have picked up a book because of the cover but I've never bought a book because of the artwork. Have I ever not bought a book because of the cover? Maybe. So it's pretty important.
I'm looking for a cover that is different from the Sherri Travis series. I don't want a bright cover but something atmospheric and scary in shades of grey and black with maybe a little red. In the end it doesn't matter what I think because the cover designer will have the final say but it's fun to be out there taking pictures and smelling the wood smoke drifting over the trees. It's coolish here, high fifties or sixties and sweater weather, but sunny.
Not much work getting done here. I'm half way through my revisions. The printout is sitting on the hassock where I dropped it days ago; waiting for me and making me feel guilty. I promised myself to have it done before I leave here a week Wednesday.
Going out for a walk on Thanksgiving Monday, I noticed fog on the hills across the valley...just what I want on the new book cover. Into the car and off we go chasing the fog except, when we get there, it isn't there. We went up Mt. Maxwell as far as we dared on slippery potholed roads and then along Toynbee towards Mt. Belcher. We could see the fog hanging on the outside of the mountains but in among the trees it disappeared. There's some kind of scientific principal in all this but I'm not smart enough to figure it out.
I really want this picture of fog on a road, have a picture in my mind of a rising road disappearing into fog and trees. I took lots of pictures of roads disappearing into tall firs. At one point I realized if I stretched out on the road I'd get a better picture. I was going down when that little voice in my head said, "Hello. What's wrong with this idea? Come on, Phyl, think about it. Does the word ROADKILL have any meaning for you?" I could picture tire tracks along the length of my body. Maybe I can talk Lee into doing it. He's not too smart and doesn't seem to have a tiny voice residing in his head. Besides, I'll listen for oncoming traffic. Let's just hope it's not an electric car. OOPS!
I did take a couple of great pictures of an old barn. Absolutely nothing to do with the story I wrote but maybe I'll just hold on to them in case I write a murder in an old barn.
There was one thing that stood out, a bowl of salad on the gravel road. Obviously someone set the aluminum salad bowl on top of the car while they opened the door and then forgot about it. There it was, upside down in a pile or Romaine and carrots. It was only slightly damaged so I put it on the side of the road to be picked it up on the way home. No one wants salad with turkey and gravy anyway.
#10 Sunday, Oct.2/11
After a gorgeous week the rain is holding off for the weekend, coolish but nice. Much nicer than having filthy hot and humid weather, putting on a sweater doesn't bother me at all and plants really deliver a show this time of year as if they know it's the end of the line for them. I'm looking forward to going out to dinner with friends from Ancaster Ontario tonight and catching up on all the news from home. Notice I didn't say gossip. It's news when we tell it, gossip when others do it.
It occurs to me that I'm nearly finished my tenth novel and I still don't feel like a writer but more like a wanna-be writer. I wonder if that feeling ever goes away because, no matter what, we always know we can get better, know we haven't quite got it right. I imagine artists feel the same way but is it true of other professions?
There's a place in writing a book, between the half way place and maybe two thirds, where I always feel that I can't do it, feel the manuscript is crap and not worth finishing. At this point I always feel that I know nothing about writing. I've been stuck there for a long time with Highball Exit but this week I think I came out on the other side of that dark place. I can see that I can solve the problems in the revisions. That will take months yet but it won't be as painful as what I've been doing, struggling to find the story and push it towards a believable conclusion. I'm eager now to get back to Last Call, book number 6 in the Sherri Travis series. I've only made a small start and I hope to have it in the rough draft stage by the time we return to Salt Spring in April.
With four books already out and two set to go, where are the other four that make up my total of ten? Those four are the ones that haven't seen the light of day, ones for which I couldn't find an agent or publisher. I'm starting to think I'd like to revisit them and see if there is anything to salvage. They aren't mysteries but I have this idea I could make them into smashing historical/romance/mysteries. I don't know if there's a market for a book like that and I don't know where I'll find the time. When I'm out playing golf I feel I should be home writing and when I'm writing on a nice day I feel I'm wasting my time and should just go for a long walk and enjoy the world around me. The truth is I enjoy all these different parts of my life. I just need more energy to pursue them.
We played in a Legion golf tournament Saturday and it was a blast, great friends and fellow golfers and a wonderful steak dinner afterwards. It was a perfect day for golf, sunny and hot. One young golfer got a hole in one and that was followed by a second one when a lone golfer teed off as we walked in from our scramble. He aced the first hole. All alone, he called over as he walked down the fairway to the green to have someone go with him as a witness.
Sunday the rains started. Just when you think it will last forever the world crashes in. The live-a-board workboats were all in the harbour for their annual rally and we watched them sail away, blowing whistles and horns and even an old steam whistle, as horizontal rain whipped us back from the dock. Fall is definitely here. How long until Florida? It's time this snowbird was gone.
by Tana French
A wonderful literary mystery, Faithful Place is a novel to read for the characters and the writing more than the mystery. I knew from the beginning where this was going but I was happy to follow, happy for the flashback to the clothes and the music of the eighties. I read it while flying from California to British Columbia, a two and a half hour flight but a trip that took eighteen hours to complete. I bought Faithful Place at the airport and read it while they tried to find a plane for us, read it while we waited for the cancelled ferry and later while we waited for the second ferry. I read all four hundred pages and didn't complain once for the delays. There aren't many books that could keep me from complaining but Tana French managed it with this beautiful and sad story from Ireland.
Excuse me while I brag!
I just had a message from Kendra at my publisher, McArthur & Co, saying Margarita Nights is on the top 50 list at Kobo, actually at #4. Kobo sells e-books in the UK, in Australia, Canada and the US. Great excitement...almost as good as making the New York Times list, but I know it won't last more than a nano second, as fleeting as a hiccup. The numbers are updated hourly and the next time I look I may not be anywhere on the list but oh, the joy of it! It's wonderful to be there no matter how short a time it lasts. This is almost as good as someone writing on my web-site or facebook that they enjoyed one of my books. That's the best. And here's the fun part, I don't have an e-reader although I borrowed a Kobo reader from our library and really enjoyed using it, easy to read and very light. I'm waiting for the e-readers to fight it out. I always choose the wrong technology and I want to know who will be still standing five years from now. But what am I thinking? Like any electronic thing it will need replacing all too soon. An e-reader won't last five years. Even paperbacks last longer than that.
We're on the dock at Fulford Harbour waiting to board the Skeena Queen. We're off to California for a week to see family, family about to move to England. It will be a bittersweet visit. How often are we going to get to England and children grow so quickly. I'd give up my number 4 spot on Kobo to keep them closer but unfortunately I don't get to choose. It would be nice to have it all, on the Kobo list and my darlings nearby.
We watched Casablanca tonight, one of my all time favourite movies. I love the characters and how they interact... love the tension, which is interspersed with great music, and, of course, the love story made more perfect because it's unfulfilled. I want to write books like that, want my Sherri books to feel exactly like that...me and every other writer in the world. But there is only one Casablanca. How many lines from that movie do we all know? Play it again Sam. Oh, I know that isn't the real line but it's how we remember it. What he really said was "You played it for her, you can play for me." And then there was, "We'll always have Paris." Or, "This may be the start of a beautiful friendship." How many more are there? Something to think about deep in the night when sleep won't come.
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