Sabrina coxed Juniper, her pet duck, into her special backpack on Saturday morning. The white duck ruffled her feathers in anticipation of an adventure, being accustomed to these trips from a duckling. The plan was to meet Sabrina’s friend, Alison and meet another duck fancier. The back pack allowed Juniper a view of the world with a clear plastic panel with strategic air holes so the little duck’s nostrils could pick up the various aromas as they walked. The path from Alison’s house was a steep downhill trek, boarded by a low stone wall and many shrubs and trees. Juniper quacked as the backpack moved side to side in time with Sabrina’s steps. Soon the sounds of traffic and the bustle of the small town overtook the birdsong. The two friends looked across the road before stepping out and making their way to the special waterfowl event.
Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane
I really enjoyed the building tension, the red herrings and the characters within this narrative. Skillfully plotted and written with great twists to get the reader guessing.
The Doll’s House by A.J. Arlidge
Once again M.J. delivers a tension packed, fast paced, twisting tale that elicits page turning. His skill with short chapters packed with characters and their journey is exceptional. I highly recommend these stories of DI Helen Grace.
As many of you know I am plunging into National Novel Writing Month* this month to begin the second book in my detective trilogy, The Delphic Murders. This second book is entitled The Tainted Search. My process is not that complicated -bum in seat – so to speak, and to avoid external distractions as much as possible. This, of course, isn’t always the case, take this past weekend for example. I had a board meeting to attend and a radio interview recording to participate in on Saturday and then Sunday was family time. And as I am working full time that has a major effect on my writing time.
*National Novel Writing Month – write 50,000 words in the month of November* As I write this blog post on Sunday morning my total is 11,748 words, which is on track, thankfully.
The crime fiction genre is a new genre for me to write and I have been enjoying the research process, as well as planning a three book series. There are many sub-genres to this type of fiction as you can see from this list.
Locked room whodunit
Locked room mystery
Parody or spoof
The commonality of these sub-genres is a lot of suspense, hidden clues, a charismatic detective and an elusive criminal. I have added a ‘side-kick’ to my main protagonists, which is a fairly common duo seen in most detective TV shows and movies. The first book has a secondary romance, this second a professional conflict and the third? Well, that remains to be seen, I haven’t started writing it yet!
As a special treat, I am sharing the draft prologue from the first book. An Elusive Trail. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Three vehicles converge at an abandoned farm, the sun-bleached buildings collapsing and twisting into the earth. Melted snow and slush is piled up against the dilapidated structures glistening in the only illumination for miles – headlights and a full moon. Three men exit their vehicles and stand facing each other. A red glow from a single cigarette gives one man a fragmented face, his eyes watching expectedly. The smoke joins the puffs of cold night air emitting from his companions mouths. A middle aged man with a slight paunch straining against his thick coat faces his colleagues as the smoker, Allan asks.
“What’s so important you drag us out at this time of night in the cold, Craig?”
“We have a problem, Allan, Travis and his name is Detective Daniel Markum.”
Allan stamps out his cigarette before asking.
“How much of a problem is he?”
“I’d say the biggest. He’s been reviewing some of our old cases.”
“Shit! How did you find out?”
“I’d set up an alert on our contrived cases and nine have popped up in the last three weeks. We have to eliminate this threat and real soon.”
“I can set up something with Raul. Can you make sure Markum is on scene first, Travis?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, Craig, I can patch through to a false call. It’s not like I haven’t done it before, right?”
“You meet him there soon after and Allan and I will set up the ambush. It’ll be easy to make it look like an ‘in the line of duty’ incident. I have several unmarked, untraceable handguns stashed away.”
“How soon can this be set up, Travis?”
“Is next Tuesday soon enough, Craig?”
“Sure. Then we need to consider lateral transfers. We can’t all stay in Edmonton. Raul has been asking for assistance in Red Deer and Calgary to expand his drug operations. This might be the time to do it.”
The three detectives shook hands, returned to their vehicles, and drove away from the remote meeting place. Their plan set in motion, their victim unaware of his fate.
Do you read crime fiction? What do you like about the genre? Who are your favorite authors in the genre?
When I unpublished these books, it was because I was embarrassed of the quality. But when I looked through them again, I realized my embarrassment had nothing to do with the quality of my work. It had to do with the fact that I wrote these books while I was still raw from my mothers passing. It had two years when she passed away when I started working on book 1. I had never written a novel before. I was a screenwriter at the time. I wanted to write stories without dealing with the competition. So, even though I thought writing a novel would be much harder, I switched to novels. Over time it became the format I loved.
As for why I decided to republish, it’s because I’m proud of every step I’ve taken to get where I am now and am excited for what the future holds for me.
Can you us tell about the stories and how the ideas came about for Unforgiven and All in the Family?
At the time the idea stemmed from my grieving process of my mother’s passing. Feeling as if my emotional state and process was quite different from my family. There is a scene in book one where the truth of why the family split up and kept Henry (main character) in the dark of the truth. My perspective of my family was rather negative and dark. Which is why I originally unpublished my work. It felt like I was using an outlet to deal with my frustration, anger, and morose state.
Somehow, as time went on, I saw these books as a much needed and healthy part of my past. That I dealt with my emotions in a creative and human way. Sure, the ideas came from a creative place, but at its core, it came from a tormented and lonesome place.
I believe our fears can create beauty.
On a more literal standpoint, Unforgiven is about Henry reuniting with his family. While questioning his life choices and how he will get himself and his family out of this chaotic mess. As for what the family business is, I will let that be a surprise.
Which genre do you enjoy writing the most?
Mystery. When I wrote book 1 of Boone and Jacque, I found joy in creating layers around the central characters.
Where did the idea come from to writer this fantasy series?
I wouldn’t consider this a fantasy series. It’s more of a thriller and suspense duology.
Do you have other books published?
Yes. My Urban Fantasy/Fiction series, Boone and Jacque. Book 1, Saddleton’s Secret, Book 2, The Brothers’ Odyssey are available on Amazon in paperback and kindle format. Book 3, Saddleton Haunting, will be out in Kindle format in early August. For paperback, sometime in September.
What is your writing background?
I did my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Besides books, I’ve written several poems, short stories, and research articles.
Do you belong to a writing group?
On Facebook: Author Nation, World Poetry Café; Author/Publisher/Editor/Book Readers, Start in Screen – Canada, BC Writers, Authors and Editors, and countless others.
Has the pandemic affected your writing/promotion? If so how?
Not at all. Overtime I’ve certainly evolved as a writer and adapted to change in life. But how often I write and put my work out there hasn’t changed.
However, the pandemic did make me let go of certain fears. One being fantasizing about things I want to do. For example, acting. Starting in August, I’ll be doing a three monthacting program. I don’t know where it will take me, but I’m excited about it.
Which authors influence you?
Good question. It changes over time. Right now it’s Leigh Bardugo, whom wrote the Grishaverse. She is the first fantasy writer to envelope me in the universe she created since I read Harry Potter. I’m not sure why, but something about her style is quite inviting.
I still look up to Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Handler, but I’m expanding my horizons.
With ‘time’ on our hands many of us have been reading – which is great. However, have you returned to a favourite book (or even books?)
I have several that I have returned to over the years but one seems to be above the others. It is Ferney by James Long. When I think of the story the characters come back like old friends, which is why many of us love a book. If a character spills into your normal life then the author has done their job.
In such narratives we want the characters and their lives to continue, we imagine what happens next and where they are now. It is the same with these characters as it is with long lost friends.
If you are interested in reincarnation (as I am) then this novel is for you but it is also a lovely love story too.
When Mike and Gally move to a new cottage in Somerset, it’s to make a new start. But the relationship comes under strain when Gally forms an increasingly close attachment to an old countryman, Ferney, who seems to know everything about her.
What is it that draws them together? Reluctantly at first, then with more urgency as he feels time slipping away, Ferney compels Gally to understand their connection – and to face an inexplicable truth about their shared past.
In fact James did write a sequel some 13 years later and although the characters are following on it did not grip me like the first one. However, please don’t be put off by my thoughts. It is still a great story.
It is interesting that the first book was published in 1998 and James didn’t write the sequel until 2011…! That’s some wait for a sequel.
The other book which I reread some 35 years later (yes I know showing my age) was The Stand. I picked it up at the airport prior to flying to Canada for the first time (a long time ago) because it was a nice thick book. We’ve all been there prior to a long haul flight – right? Anyway, once I started reading I was completely hooked. This was my introduction to Stephen King and his storytelling. When I read the special complete & uncut edition all those years later, it was still gripping and sucked me into the narrative.
Just a quick sidebar – I had watched the movie Carrie years before but had no idea it was by Stephen at that time.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I find it very satisfying to challenge myself to write in different genres and especially enjoy incorporating storytelling into nonfiction. I’m published in nonfiction, literary nonfiction, fiction, self-help (Give Yourself a Pep Talk, Pelican Publishing), and travel (Day Trips From Edmonton, Whitecap Books). Two of my Scholastic titles are “info-fiction fantasy,” a classification I always found amusing!
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
With nonfiction, I start with an outline that sometimes resembles a very detailed table of contents. As I research and discover new irresistible facts, I find ways to work them in. Hooray for sidebars! They allow me to expand on main text or add unexpected tidbits. With fiction, I start with a rough outline of events and see where they take me. This approach can be exhilarating or frightening, depending on how long it takes to find a way to get my characters out of the trouble I’ve conjured.
The stories in Dark Matters, Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press) began with a list. I compiled an inventory of events in my life relating to astronomy, wildlife, and the environment, then matched them to the points I wanted to make about how light at night impacts different species. Enormous fun, this approach triggered me to remember stories from my childhood, teen, and early adult years that I hadn’t thought about for a long time. I feel any writer can benefit from the activity of matching personal stories to a theme, and this is an exercise I incorporate into creative writing workshops. (As a follow-up to the question above, it’s interesting to note that Dark Matters, being part memoir and part science, doesn’t fit into a traditional genre. Even more fun!)
What is your best marketing tip?
When approaching traditional media sources, make your potential interviewer’s job easy. Find a way to tie your content to current events or trending topics. For example, if proposing an interview about Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Clouds—Weather Science and Mythology from Around the World, I could point out connections to thunderstorms, frost warnings, or climate change.
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. When not working on my own books, I offer freelance writing and editing services though my business MoonDot Media [moondotmedia.com]. I edited a magazine for several years and take on freelance projects that have included speechwriting, writing/editing website content, museum panel text, grant applications, magazine articles, advertising, annual reports, educational materials, and a myriad of other projects, as well as manuscript and publishing consultations. I have produced radio programming and other projects for broadcast, and offer writing and creativity workshops. Writing as a career can take many forms and every type of writing helps you to build your skills by teaching you to write for different audiences.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?
While an abundance of ideas are tempting me, I expect to especially continue exploring themes relating to space, astronomy, and ecology. An upcoming title is Absolute Expert: Space (National Geographic Kids).
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Chocolate is essential to good writing, especially chili pepper dark chocolate.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
I’m an occasional contributor on the the Sci/Why blog, where Canadian children’s writers discuss science, words, and the eternal question – why? http://sci-why.blogspot.com/
Joan Marie Galat is an international award-winning author whose career began at the age of 12 when she was hired as a newspaper columnist. Now she is the author of more than 20 books, including a Canadian best seller. Joan shares her love of the night sky in her Dot to Dot in the Sky series (Whitecap Books), which partners sky science with the stories early cultures first told to explain their observations. Dark Matters—Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press) offers personal stories, revealing how light at night impacts wildlife, while Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You (National Geographic Kids) encourages young readers to explore hands-on problem solving.
A professional speechwriter, former radio show host, and frequent presenter, Joan has traveled across Canada and around the globe to deliver presentations promoting science and literacy. She has been featured at a United Nations event in Seoul, Australian observatories, the International Dark-Sky Association conference, and numerous other events. When not writing or talking about writing, Joan can be found enjoying the outdoors.