Friday 28 September 2018

A Thank You to the Original Fashionista


My mother died 7 years ago this week.  Today would have been her birthday.  So I am revisiting this post for the first time since the original was posted.  (Yes, this blog has been going a long time!) 

(That's me on the right, after a modeling job, still wearing the last dress from the show.  Mom is on the left, her sister Marg in between us.  Circa 1986.)

My mother was the original fashionista.  From the day I was born, she dressed me like a princess in petite designer knock-offs.  So it’s no mystery why my latest mystery A PURSE TO DIE FOR (co-written with Cynthia St-Pierre) has a fashion theme to it.

I remember happy Saturdays with Mom traveling the subway to Eaton’s in Toronto, from the time I was five.  I would gaze at the super stylish manikins in the picture windows at Eaton’s and Simpson’s (both long gone) with pure delight.  It was the 60s and fashions were ‘mod’.  Colour sizzled. Makeup was bold.  And 
Mom was a gorgeous diva who turned heads everywhere.

Many years later, I took my own trips down the runway in Vancouver and Toronto, as an occasional fashion model for Marilyn Brooks and others.  And trip is the right word!  Sometimes those high heels were a little too stiletto.

Now, my own daughter Alex rules the runway, and has taken over as the family fashion Diva.  Why?

One of the tragedies of my life is that my mother died mere months before A PURSE TO DIE FOR was published.  It was my gift to her – a fun and heartfelt thank you for the brightness she created in my life.  Mom was the sun around which this family spun.  Her love of beauty in art and clothes reflected the beauty of her soul.

The heroine in A PURSE TO DIE FOR has the same fashion addiction, and the same big heart.  What Gina recognizes – and what my Italian mother so effortlessly portrayed – is that fashion is just downright fun, and we should take joy from it.

So to my dear Mom who walked the Rainbow Runway just months before A PURSE TO DIE FOR came out – this book is for you.  Miss you every day.  Ciao Bella.


Wednesday 26 September 2018

"Not MY body." An Excerpt from my favourite book, THE GODDAUGHTER CAPER

Oh dear.  As authors, we aren't supposed to have favourites.  Please don't tell my other book-children.  Here's the start of Chapter 2, in the book that answers the question:

Do old mobsters EVER retire?

Chapter 2


It was almost nine. I drove to the place I was supposed to go. (Don’t ask—I can’t tell you.) It was a little place behind a little place in a not-so-well-lit area. The guys at the chop shop stared as I emerged from the car. They had the good sense not to catcall.
Tony (my second cousin Tony—meaning I have more than one) nodded at me.
“Gina. How’s things?” He was wiping his greasy hands on an even greasier towel.
“Same ole, same ole,” I said. Except for the dead body in my trunk. “You?”
“Good. The twins are growing. You should come ’round.” Tony looks like a Tony. And his wife, Maria, is equally front-page Italian.
He nodded to the trunk. “The Wanker dude?”
I gestured with both arms. “Not my body. I had nothing to do with it.”
“Strange they dumped it there at the restaurant. But no worries. I’ll get it to the retirement home.”
“The retirement home? Too late for that,” I quipped. “You mean the funeral home.”
Tony stiffened. He tilted his head. “Sure, whatever.”
He looked like he was about to say more, then stopped.
Maybe “retirement home” was new slang for “funeral home”? Like you sort of retired from life there?
“No probs. I’ll call you when the car’s ready,” he said finally.
I wanted to get out of there, but it was really dark. And I had no wheels. And I didn’t want to be seen at this place, so that meant no taxi.
I called my fiancé Pete’s cell phone. “Hey, can you come pick me up?”
“Where’s your car?” Pete asked.
“What?” Pete’s voice always does something to me. I might have been a bit distracted.
“Where is your car?” Pete repeated precisely.
“Oh.” I thought fast. “It needed a little work, so I took it in to the mechanic.”
“Does this have anything to do with the take-out on James?”
I shrieked a bit. Or, at least, that’s what Tony said it sounded like.
“What do you know about a murder on James?” I hissed into the phone.
“I work for a newspaper, remember? I hear everything.”
“Well, un-hear it. And get the others to un-hear it too.” Jeesh. All I needed was reporters following me around, and cops following them.
I gave Pete the address.
“I’m still at work. Pick you up in twenty.”
Before I could put my cell back in my purse, it started singing “Shut Up and Drive.”
“Wally the Wanker got whacked?” It was Sammy the String Bean, Vince’s underboss.
I hesitated. “Looks like two plugs from a .38. You mean you didn’t do it?” I wasn’t going to say we. There is no we in my vocabulary when it comes to murder.
“No way, Sugar. This is interesting. Gotta go talk to Vince.” He hung up.


Saturday 22 September 2018

DO AUTHORS EXPECT TOO MUCH? (wait a minute...this is a serious post! Has Bad Girl lost her mind?

(This post appears on that upstanding international crime blog SLEUTHSAYERS today!  Repeated here for my regular readers.)

by Melodie Campbell

I'm guilty of this one. I'll say it right up front.

Janice Law and O'Neil De Noux got me thinking serious thoughts, which is always risky for a comedy writer.

I make a living as an author.  But not a particularly good one.  Probably, I could make the same working full time at Starbucks.  As authors in these times, we don't expect to make a good living from our fiction.  It's a noble goal, but not a realistic one for the average well-publisher author with a large traditional publisher.

This isn't a new observation.  F. Scott Fitzgerald said something similar about his time:  The book publishing industry makes horse racing seem like a sure thing.

So if we can't expect big bucks from all this angst of writing fiction, what do we expect?

When The Goddaughter came out, there was quite a fanfare.  I was with a large publisher that agreed to pay for refreshments.  Eighty-five people overflowed the place for the launch.  Local newspaper and television brought cameras.  This doesn't happen in mega-city Toronto.  But in Hamilton, a city of 500,000 where my book was set, I got some splashy coverage.

Those eighty-five people included some of my closest friends and cousins.  I was delighted to see them support me.  We sold out of books quickly.

I've had another twelve books published since then. I've won ten awards.  I am still fortunate to get people to my launches.  But the mix has changed.  The people who come to my launches now are fans, not relatives and friends.  With a few exceptions (and those are friends I treasure.)

Back when I first started writing - when big shoulders were a really cool thing - I expected my friends and extended family to be my biggest supporters.  I've been fortunate.  My immediate family has been terrific.

But expecting your friends and extended family to celebrate your success in continual ways is a road to disappointment.

I've come to realize this: if you work, say,  in a bank and get a massive, very difficult project done, there are no parades.  Your friends and family don't have a party for you.  They don't insist on reading the report.  Your paycheck is your award.

Yet as an author, I have expected that sort of response from my non-writer friends.  I expect them to buy my books.  (First mistake: all your friends will expect to be given your books for free.  For them, it's a test of friendship.)  I expect them to show up to support me at my big events if I am in their town.  Maybe not every time.  Is once a year too much?

It's been a lesson.  I have people in my circle who have never been to a single one of my author readings or launches.  I've given my books to relatives who are absolutely delighted to receive a signed copy - but they never actually read the book.

Worse - I've done the most masochistic thing an author can do.  I've casually searched friends' bookshelves for my books.  Not there.  (Note to new authors: NEVER ask someone if they have read your book.  You are bound to be disappointed.  This is because, if they read it and liked it, they will tell you without prompting.  If they read it and didn't like it, you don't want to know.  If they didn't read it...ditto.)

Yet along this perilous, exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking journey, I've made a discovery.  Your closest friends may let you down. I no longer see my closest friend from ten years ago.  I write crime and fantasy.  She let me know that she thought that unworthy.

People like her will find excuses not to go to your events.  I don't know why.  It could be a form of envy.

But the best thing?  Some people you least suspect will be become your best supporters.  This came as a complete surprise to me.  A few friends - maybe not the ones you were closest to - will rise to the occasion and support you in every way they can.  I treasure them.

To wrap:  Most authors need approval.  We're doing creative work that involves a lot of risk to the ego.  There is no greater gift you can give an author-friend than full support for their books.  Be with us at our events.  Talk enthusiastically about our books to other people.  We will never forget it, and you.

Do we expect too much from those around us?  Is it because we don't usually get a constant paycheck? What do you think?


On Amazon