Friday, November 8, 2013

Looking Forward to May

 Looking back and going forth.

By Alison Bruce

It started with National Crime Writing Month - an annual event run by Crime Writers of Canada. This in turn started with National Crime Writing Week followed by National Crime Writing Fortnight.

Events are held at libraries and bookstores in cities across Canada. But, I asked myself, what if you don't live in a major city? What if you don't have a crime writer within a hundred kilometres of you?

That was how this blog was born.It was so popular, one month led to three years. In that time we're run topics including: Great Detectives; Great Villains; Evil; Suspense; Location and even the Weather.

But, several of us asked ourselves, if it goes on all year round, what's so special about May?

So, we're going back to what the blog was supposed to be: an annual virtual event. If you have any ideas about what our topic should be, please put them in the comments.

See you next May!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Arthurs

The Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing

The Arthur Ellis Awards, established in 1984 and named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman, are awarded annually by the CWC in the following categories.

For published works: (Click here for rules)
Best Crime Novel
Best Crime First Novel
Best Crime Novella
Best Crime Short Story
Best French Crime Book
Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book
Best Nonfiction Crime Book

For unpublished authors: (Click here for rules)
The Unhanged Arthur Award
for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel

Stay tuned for a new topic for The National Crime Writing Blog, coming in September.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Deleted Scenes - Cut to Suit

Getting to the Finale

Firewalls, the third book in my BackTracker series (from which this scened was deleted), will be released later this year. The first book in the series, The Traz, explores issues such as grief, depression, illicit drugs and gangs. Its sequel, Fatal Error,  looks at guilt, blame, betrayal and ultimately, forgiveness. Firewalls portrays the destructive nature of post-traumatic stress disorder and the healing power of love.

This deleted scene narrates an intricate police sting. Undercover cops, Katrina and Shrug, toil in tandem to find the source of data leaks from Canada’s National Police computer system.

Alas, I soon discovered that my beta readers were impatient to finalize Katrina’s romance and not in the mood for brilliant police work. Cutting this scene, sliced the denouement in half, hustling my star-crossed readers to Firewall’s grande romantic finalĂ©.

“Our deal’s off,” Katrina said. Unease washed Les’ face. “Today you raised suspicions about my qualifications and yesterday you refused to let me set the meeting place. Plus, I have it on good merit that you showed up for our supposed date with buddies. I can’t work with control freaks. My cop friend is coming in an hour and I’m handing him the evidence I uncovered.”

“You have a lot to lose by doing that.”

“Losing this deal with you will be worth the pleasure of seeing you go down, down, down. I’ll find some other way to pay for the hot red mini I have my eyes on—the car not the skirt.” She gave Les a look of extreme satisfaction. They stared at each other, long, hard and silently.

“Let’s try this again,” he finally conceded. “Where and when do you want to meet?”

She set the place and time and the moment Les left, she dialed Shrug. “I have us a date,” she told him. “The Screaming Greek Restaurant. It’s an open setting and lighting is good for your surveillance shots. 7:30.”

“I’ll be there,” Shrug said.

Les was late again but Shrug showed right on time. He wasn’t wearing a disguise. He’d simply stripped to a muscle shirt and his biceps and Traz tattoos instantly transformed from cop to biker. He settled into a booth by the window. She noticed his eyes appreciatively followed the waitress in the short skirt. What a jerk! He likes her leg show but complains about mine.

Les finally showed and slipped in across from her.

“I said 7:30 not 7:50,” she said.  “I’m out of patience. I’m not—”

“Whoa! Slow down. Traffic out there is a bitch.”

“The woman at this table’s bitch, too. Sorry you chose the wrong bitch.”  She grabbed her purse as if ready to leave.

“No,” he said.  “Please stay.”

“Tell me why I should.”

“I’ve got what you want.”

“I haven’t told you what I want.”

“A red mini, the car not the skirt.” He pulled out an envelope.

“I wanted two.”

“It’s here. I know what you’re worth, BackTracker.” She reached for the envelope. “Not so fast. You gotta tell me what I’m getting for my money.”

She needed to get him to talk more, expose his guilt to her tape recorder. “I think you are at the point where you just have to trust me.”

“Two red minis are worth more than just trust.”

She nodded to the envelope. “How much are we talking?” He opened the envelope and riffled the bills so she could see.  A quick count put it at $40,000.00. “Give me a sample.” She reached in and pulled out a fifty. “Another.”  He passed her a hundred dollar bill.  They were real. She handed the money back. “Forty grand is cutting it thin.” If he’d asked what she wanted, she would have told him $50,000.00

“A pair of red minis for backtracking my name out of your report on the computer breach.  A matching pair,” he said, pulling another envelope out, “for covertly granting me your level of security clearance.”  He waived the envelopes gently in front of her.

Wow, bonus! This guy doesn’t just want his name cleared, he wants to take over the entire Northern Police computer system.  She wasn’t expecting that.  She would have loved to have stood at that moment and said, “You’re under arrest,” but she couldn’t.  She didn’t know where Shrug was at with his end of the investigation; he might still need Les behind his keyboard.

“Tomorrow, 11:00 a.m.” she said.  “Done.”

“I love you, BackTracker.” He dropped one envelope onto the table.  “You get the matching set when its done.”  He took the other envelope and sauntered off.

“Can I buy the lady a drink?” Shrug asked, taking Les’ spot across from her.

She fondled the cash. “A rootbeer would be nice.”

“Lucky that he didn’t know money is never your motive.”

She traced the raised ink patterns and the smooth metallic inlays on the colourful bills. “I like the feel of it. Maybe it’s time to change my motives.”

“If you’re gonna change something, change to real beer instead of that rootbeer shit. What did you get on tape?”

“I quote, ‘A pair of red minis for backtracking my name out of your report on the computer breach. A matching pair for covertly granting me your level of security clearance.’ How much better does it get?”

“Good stuff.”

“When is Head Office planning to end this?” I wonder what Chad’s doing; it’s early evening in Alberta.

Shrug scooped their winnings from the table. “I’ll let you know.”

Eileen Schuh has published two novels in her young adult BackTracker series,  The Traz and Fatal Error, as well as an adult SciFi novella, Schrödinger’s CatThe Traz is also available in a School Edition.

Schuh lives in Canada’s northern boreal forest and draws her inspiration from the wilderness, her family and friends, and her adopted community of St. Paul, Alberta.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Deleted Scenes - Editor's Cut

Lost Love, Lost Scene

The theme of the second book in The Shores series was lost love. I tried to weave all my main characters into this theme with a story of their own, apart from the main narrative.

Annabelle Mack is my heroine Hy’s best friend. Annabelle’s relationship with her husband Ben is beyond lost love, so close are they. But they have experienced it, in the most powerful way.

The worst thing that can happen to a mother had happened to Annabelle – she and Ben had lost their first child. A beautiful bouncing baby boy – ten pounds five ounces at birth. So what could possibly have happened? Sudden Infant death syndrome. One moment, alive and chortling, then falling asleep with Annabelle’s good milk trickling out of one corner of his always-smiling mouth, and then gone. Gone.

The silence in the house – and between the two of them – was eerie. Annabelle said nothing, her face a blank, her movements those of one not quite alive. When the paramedics had come and gone, Ben and Annabelle held onto their dead baby and their private grief as long as they could. Then Ben did what had to be done, called the people who had to be called. The undertaker came and took little Ben away. Annabelle stood, numb, on her doorstep for more than an hour – until Ben finally coaxed her inside. She was barely able to place one foot in front of the other.

And then she broke.

She was like a madwoman. Her cries, screams of disbelief, mounted into one long heart wrenching cry that sliced through the heart of the village. Ben, roaring like a bull beside her, in his grief. His let up. Hers did not. Day followed night and it did not let up. Ben, distorted by grief, not knowing where to put his rage, this new thing, this anger he had never experienced, didn’t know how to dispel her sorrow.

He tried to comfort Annabelle, but there was no comforting her. For once, he was not enough. Finally, the paramedics came back and gave her a sedative, knocking her out for her own good. They took her to hospital, where she was lost in confusion for days, thinking she was back there, giving birth, just as they were putting little Ben’s body in the ground.

She missed her baby’s funeral. She heaped that fact onto the guilt and misery already suffocating her heart. She stayed inside. She didn’t talk to anyone – except Ben. The silence emanating from their home was as deafening in its way as the full-voiced despair had been. It cast a canopy of grief over the entire village.

Slowly, over one long summer, Annabelle resurfaced. She was not a malingerer. She gradually came back to life, became Ben’s wife again, and the birth of Nathan helped soothe her maternal grief. Now she and Ben lavished enough love on their two remaining children to count for three. Each got the extra doses that would have been young Ben’s.

It had been a long haul, though. Annabelle couldn’t bear to pass on young Ben’s clothes to Nathan and she couldn’t bear to part with them.

In the end, the ever sensible Gus marched over to Annabelle’s, bustled around the baby’s bedroom, packed everything up, and took it to the Institute room at the Hall, planning to turn them over to a women’s shelter.

Gladys Fraser thought she had a better idea. A fundraiser for the Hall. She stuck a sign on the main road:

“For Sale Cheap: Baby clothes. Hardly worn.”

It didn’t stay up long – just long enough for Annabelle to see it, turn white, and yank it out. Blaming Gus, who hadn’t seen the offensive sign, Annabelle marched over there and demanded the box of clothes back. It was the only disagreement they ever had. When they sorted it out and Annabelle got over it, she took the box to the women’s shelter. She burned the sign.

On the advice of my editor, who said it distracted from the story, I cut the scene. I still like it. I used it in a much-condensed form in a later book, but I’d like to put it all in somewhere, sometime.

Hilary MacLeod is the author of The Shores Mystery series, set on Red Island aka Prince Edward Island. Her background includes 20 years in broadcasting as a host and writer/broadcaster for CBC Maritimes and News Director for CHUM Ltd. in Montreal.  She was also a Professor of Media Studies at Loyalist College in Ontario for over 20 years.As a result, there isn’t much that she takes seriously.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Deleted Scenes - Trimming the Fat

Dead and Going

Been to a lot of funerals? I have. If I had the writing of the romantic comedy, it would have been "Four Funerals and a Wedding."

My mother's funeral inspired the following scene. My father decided that there should be a viewing, even though Mum had said she hadn't wanted a lot of fuss for her funeral. Viewing generally means open casket. That's where my sister and I drew the line. Since I was pregnant, in my first trimester, I was the one who got to have the minor freak-out and insist that the casket be closed. No sane person argues with a grieving pregnant woman.

Kate Garrett lost her father instead of her mother. Since she was in uniform, it would have been unbecoming of her to freak out. But that doesn't mean she had to like the open casket. However, the scene was going on a bit and something had to go, so these two paragraphs hit the cutting room floor.

Kate had left the arrangement of the church to her mother and Father Augustus. Joe Garrett lay in an open coffin, surrounded by flowers, with a large portrait set at either end. One was a picture of him at the opening of one of the first community precincts; the other was at his award ceremony, his last official function in uniform.

There had been no visitations. Instead, the church had allowed the chapel to be set up an hour before the service to allow friends and family to do whatever they felt they needed to say goodbye. Father Augustus told her, when she arrived, that Carmedy had been there at the beginning of the hour. This surprised Kate a little. She couldn’t bear to look at the coffin, let alone sit with it.

Copywriter and editor since 1992, Alison Bruce is the Publication Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, the Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator, and a part-time tech guru to the technologically challenged. In addition to Deadly Legacy (2012), Alison is the author of Under A Texas Star (2011), Hazardous Unions (2013) with Kat Flannery, and Men in Uniform (TBA).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Deleted Scenes - Kay Stewart

On Not Cutting to the Chase

Where to begin. That proved a difficult question for the fourth Danutia Dranchuk mystery. I’m doing this one on my own, so Chris wasn’t much help as I stewed and started over. Remember the advice to cut to the chase?  Tried that. See what you think.

Chapter 1
He bent over the kitchen table, lettering the last of the four rectangles he’d marked out on the plain white paper. When he’d finished he straightened, wincing against the pain. Bending was hard on his back, but it couldn’t be helped. Fifty copies at five cents each plus tax, less than three bucks to send his message to two hundred people or more. He’d have to wait till the performance had started and it was getting darker to tuck the slips under wiper blades.

First he’d carry the sign, and hope the cops didn’t hustle him away. They wouldn’t like him raining on their parade. Cops for Cancer. That was a laugh. Like they were out there rooting for the thugs that broke into your home, took what you valued most, and ground it into the dust.

Anger surged through him as he contemplated the words he’d written.

        BE BEATEN                BE BEATEN

        BE BEATEN                BE BEATEN

Don’t like it? Neither did my writing group. Left too much unexplained. So I tried following another piece of advice: Begin at the beginning.

To see whether that works better, you’ll have to wait till March 2015, or thereabouts.

Kay Stewart is the author of police procedurals featuring RCMP Constable Danutia Dranchuk. Unholy Rites, written with husband Chris Bullock and released in March, is the third in the series. Kay has also published short stories, personal essays, and writing textbooks. She taught at the University of Alberta before moving to Vancouver Island to devote her time to writing. She is active in the crime-writing community, having served as National Vice President and President of Crime Writers of Canada and co-chair of Bloody Words 2011.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Deleted Scenes - Melodie Campbell

No Sex Please,
We’re Crime Writers!

I write short. This stems from my comedy writing roots, where each word must be carefully chosen for impact. So my publishers don’t delete a lot of scenes from my books. In fact, they usually tell me where to add more words.

With one exception.

There seems to be a convention that crime books shouldn’t contain sex. Oh, they can refer to sex. Sex can be a powerful motivator for all those violent scenes we are allowed to describe in painstaking detail. (Irony alert here.)

So you can refer to sex. But Lord help you if you – ahem – ‘Show-not-Tell.’

Okay, so I show a bit. But just a little bit. I don’t write X-rated, honest. In fact, I write with the sort of silliness that might be associated with old Benny Hill skits. So we’re not talking 50 Shades of Naughty here. Still, my naughty bits get censored.

No sex please, we’re crime writers!

It’s a crime . Heck, it’s enough to make a poor gal swap genres. Have you read any steamy romance books lately? Those novels can be practically pornographic.

When did romance books become more adult than crime books?

I explained to one publisher why a certain sexy blackmail scene was essential to the story. It provided motivation that was completely necessary. So here was their admittedly canny solution:

Leave the dialogue, but take out the other senses – the sounds, the visuals, the - let’s leave it there.

Gotta say, it worked. You get what’s going on by what is being said.

Does it lose impact? Well, yes. I work hard to include all the senses in my writing.

But does it work for the plot? Yes, it does. It might even be funnier without the senses.

You be the judge.

From The Goddaughter's Revenge, release date October 1

“Now Carmine, move up front here and pay close attention to this video. You might know the people.”

Everyone came closer. You could almost hear each individual breath. Except then I turned up the volume and you could only hear the heavy breathing and moans coming from the laptop.

“Oh Carmy! Do it – do it – ahhhhh”

“I’m doin’ it, babe – I’m doin’ it –“

“Faster, Carmy! Faster – don’t stop”

All eyes were glued to the screen.

“Oh, gross,” said Lou.

“Holy shit!” yelled Carmine. “How did you get that?”

“Carm, that ain’t your wife. Tracy’s not a blond.” Bertoni was confused.

“How the heck is she doing that?” Pete stared at the video with far too much interest.

Melodie Campbell got her start writing comedy. She has over 200 publications including 40 short stories and five novels. Melodie has won six awards for fiction and is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

The Goddaughter is available at Chapter-Indigo and

You can follow Melodie at and