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Category Archives: Mystery Novels

Pat Tierney Mystery Series Protagonist for Our Time: Rosemary McCracken

Rosemary McCracken author of Pat Tierney series

Rosemary McCracken turned the tables on me, interviewing me about my memoir for her blog. Now it’s my turn. Seriously, Rosemary has created a likeable and believable mystery protagonist – a financial advisor – who keeps running into crime, and not just financial misdeeds, but murder. Today Rosemary is my guest and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pat Tierney was nearby.

Sharon: Welcome Rosemary. Let’s go back a bit. You started your writing career as a journalist and you still do some freelance writing in that area. What made you start writing crime fiction?

Rosemary: Well, Sharon, I always wanted to write fiction, but I knew that very few writers are able to earn a living from their fiction. So, I did a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English literature and became a journalist because I could earn a living writing, albeit not writing fiction. About 20 years ago, I started writing mainstream fiction on the weekends. At some point, I was exploring plot and plot structure, and I decided to take a closer look at crime fiction, which is known for its strong plots. And I fell in love with crime fiction. It can offer wonderful insights into society and human behaviour, and, in the best works in the genre, has a tight cause-and-effect structure.

Sharon: How did the Pat Tierney mystery series evolve? Is Pat based on a real person or is she a composite?

Rosemary: I was a financial journalist when I started to write my first mystery novel. I decided on a woman in her mid-40s as my protagonist. At first, I considered making her a journalist, but I’d lived that role for many years, and I hit upon the idea of making her a financial planner instead. At the time, I was interviewing financial planners and money managers for my articles. I attended their conferences, and I knew the issues they were grappling with. The Bernie Madoff investment scandal had just broken. Madoff, a New York money manager, had defrauded his clients of $64.8 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme. And in Canada, we had financial scamsters of our own such as Patrick Kinlin, the Bay Street financial advisor who stole millions from his elderly clients. Kinlin died in Kingston Penitentiary in 2001 where he was running a pension cheque scam using a prison computer.

            Pat is appalled by people like Madoff and Kinlin who ruined countless lives without remorse. She wants much tougher penalties for financial fraudsters. The anger and outrage she feels is how I would react if I was in her shoes. But Pat is clearly not me. I’m not a financial planner. I’m not responsible for clients’ financial wellbeing. I don’t have sleepless nights when stock markets are down.

Sharon: I am impressed with the plots you have come up with. Do you get these ideas from real life or does real life spark ideas?

Rosemary: All the crimes I write about are real crimes that have been committed at some point. And I’ve written articles about all the financial crimes in the Pat Tierney books. Because Pat is a financial professional, it is essential to have financial wrongdoing (which often leads to other crimes including murder because greed is a powerful motive for all sorts of bad behaviour) in her stories. And she has to use her knowledge of the financial world to recognize and solve these crimes.

            So, I generally decide on the financial crime that will figure into my story, and how Pat becomes aware of it. One of her clients may have fallen victim to it, or it could be someone else she encounters. Because the books are murder mysteries, the major crime will always be a murder, the most heinous act humans can commit. But the financial crime will be tied to the murder or the murderer’s world in some way.

Sharon: In your Pat Tierney novels, you give brief explanations of what financial advisors do. This background information blends well with the characters and plots. Why do you use this approach?

Rosemary: I write to entertain readers, not to instruct them. My target readers are mystery readers over the age of 25 and all the way up to 125, who enjoy good stories. Some of these readers may know a little or a lot about personal finance from the work they do or from managing their own investments. Others know next to nothing about the financial world, and I need to show them—rather than tell them—the basics of what Pat does for her clients through her interactions with them. But readers don’t need to know the details of how Pat goes about managing and investing clients’ money; that is backstory and I keep it way back, out of sight for the most part. However, they need to understand the importance of the trust clients place in her and the accountability she has to them.

Sharon: Please give a brief summary, with no spoilers, of each Pat Tierney mystery, including the timeframe and setting of each?

The first three Pat Tierney novels

Rosemary: The four Pat Tierney novels, all of them contemporary stories, take place over one year in Pat’s life. Safe Harbor, the first, opens on Dec. 30 when a distraught woman bursts into Pat’s Toronto office and tells her that Pat’s late husband was the father of her seven-year-old son. Pat is stunned by the revelation, and even more shocked when the women bolts from the office, leaving young Tommy behind. When the woman is found murdered in her Toronto home, the police tell Pat that the boy may be the killer’s next target. Searching for the truth, Pat uncovers a deadly scheme involving illegal immigrants and money laundering.

            Black Water opens in March when Pat’s daughter Tracy tells her that her sweetheart, Jamie Collins, has gone missing. Pat heads up north to cottage country where Jamie grew up. An elderly man has recently died in a suspicious fire, and the missing Jamie is the prime suspect. Pat takes charge of a new branch that her investment firm has opened in the area. Her search for Jamie Collins takes her through a maze of financial fraud, drugs and murder.

            Raven Lake opens in late June. Pat is still in cottage country, and plans to spend the summer in a rented cottage by a sylvan lake. But her dream vacation turns into a nightmare when the body of an elderly woman is discovered in a storage locker. Bruce Stohl, the woman’s son and Pat’s friend, is pegged by police as their prime suspect, and Pat rallies to find his mother’s killer. Meanwhile, a con artist has targeted cottages in the area, and vacationers are arriving only to learn that they are victims of a rental scam. When disgruntled renters show up at the door of her rented summer home, Pat fears for her family’s safety.

            Uncharted Waters takes Pat back to Toronto in September. She has left the big investment firm, and plans to open her own financial planning practice in the city. She has found a small practice that looks like a good fit for her. Its purchase means taking out a large loan, and she has no idea whether the clients she acquires will stay with her. It’s risky, but she’s willing to proceed. But the one thing she hasn’t factored in is murder. Dean Monaghan, the business’s vendor, is found stabbed to death in his office shortly after the sale document is signed. To protect her business’s reputation, Pat searches for Dean’s killer, and the reason why he was killed. When Dean’s sun, Lukas, tries to put her out of business, Pat finds herself living her worst nightmare. She has ventured into uncharted waters that are teeming with sharks.

Sharon: Pat has to overcome a personal hurdle in each novel, which ties in with the main plot. What was your purpose in doing this?

Rosemary: This is what is called creating a character arc for the protagonist: giving her an internal goal and well as an external goal to work toward. Pat’s external goal is finding the murderer and the reason for the first murder in each story, and this is what drives the plot forward. Her internal goal involves overcoming a weakness, or getting around an obstacle that threatens her on a personal level such as Lukas’s attempt to put her out of business by spreading a terrible lie. An internal goal adds dimension to a character; without one, a protagonist may come across as flat. And working toward an internal goal adds more conflict to the story.

Sharon: Do you create a detailed outline of your plot before you start writing? If so, how closely do you keep to it, or does Pat take over at any point?

Rosemary: A major assignment in Novel Writing 2: How to Develop Your Novel, the course I teach at George Brown College, is creating a detailed plot outline for students’ novels-in-progress. The purpose of this exercise is to familiarize students with a novel’s major plot points—the Inciting Incident, the Point of No Return, the Midpoint, It Looks Like All is Lost, the Climax and the Resolution—as well as subplots. These classic plot points form the structure of most successful novels and movies. They can be compared to the poles holding up a tent. Without them, the story would sag.

            I don’t create a detailed outline before I start writing. Rather, I list my plot points on a chart on my wall, and fill them in as I go. And I keep checking the list to see if I’m on track.

            And I refuse to let Pat take the story in new directions. If I find her trying to do this, I give some serious thought to why she’s doing it. Getting her back on track usually means rewriting earlier parts of the book.

Sharon: Jack Batten, who reviews crime fiction in the Toronto Saturday Star, has called Pat “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.” He has also reviewed the Pat Tierney novels. How did this come about?

Rosemary: I sent Safe Harbor to Jack at the Star when it first came out, and he was gracious enough to read and then review it. And he did the same with the following three books. I’ve been very fortunate, as his review column now only runs once a month.

Sharon: You also write short stories, some of which have featured Pat Tierney. Can you elaborate on them?

Rosemary: Many of my short stories were written in response to publishers’ calls for anthologies they were compiling. They announced a theme, a word count ceiling, and other rules for submissions. I work well to guidelines of this kind—it must be my journalism background—which narrows my focus and gives me direction. For example, three of the Mesdames of Mayhem’s four anthologies had specific themes: stories in 13 O’clock involved time in some way; 13 Claws was a collection of crime stories involving animals; and In the Key of 13 featured stories about songs or music.

            You can check out the complete list of my short fiction and where it appeared on my website at www.rosemarymccracken.com.

Sharon: Which do you prefer to write and why – short stories or novels?

Rosemary: I like to write both in tandem. A Pat Tierney mystery novel takes me at least three years to complete, so it’s good to have a story or two to work on as diversions.

Sharon: You belong to a number of professional organizations for mystery writers. Which ones are they and how have they helped you with your writing and publishing?

Rosemary: I’m a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto, Sisters in Crime International, Crime Writers of Canada, the Short Mystery Fiction Society and the Mesdames of Mayhem. They offer opportunities for promoting members’ works, educational opportunities and the fellowship of other writers. In non-pandemic times, Sisters in Crime Toronto https://www.facebook.com/groups/SinCToronto/ holds monthly meetings featuring speakers on a variety of crime fiction topics. These meetings, and pre-meeting gatherings at a local restaurant, are attended by members who are both writers and readers, providing great opportunities to network with other writers and potential readers. During the current pandemic, monthly meetings are held online. The mothership organization U.S.-based Sisters in Crime International https://www.sistersincrime.org/ hosts webinars on a variety of crime fiction and literary topics, often hosted by famous American writers; it also sends out monthly e-newsletters with timely articles on the publishing world.

Crime Writers of Canada’s local chapter organizes readings and panel discussions at libraries and other venues—great opportunities to meet readers. Check out more about the CWC at https://www.crimewriterscanada.com/.

The U.S.-based Short Mystery Fiction Society, the organization that confers the Derringer Awards, posts members’ publishing news on its blog at https://shortmystery.blogspot.com/, and members exchange information about markets for short stories and guest blogging on its Listserv.

And the Mesdames of Mayhem, a collective of Canadian crime writers, post members’ publishing news on its blog at https://mesdamesofmayhem.com/, and organizes reading and discussion opportunities at libraries and book clubs.

Sharon: Some authors decide early on that they will limit their series to a certain number of novels. Will there be more Pat Tierney mysteries in your series? If so, have you decided just how many?

Rosemary :I’m gathering ideas for a fifth Pat Tierney mystery, but I can only think about this work right now, and not too far into the future. I’m sure that Pat will let me know at some point that the well is dry—and her stories are over. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Sharon: And that’s good news for your readers. Thank you, Rosemary for stopping by my author blog and sharing information about your novel and short fiction writing story. We get to know both Pat and you, her creator.

Rosemary McCracken is the author of the Pat Tierney Mystery Series. Safe Harbor, the first novel in the series, was a finalist for Britain’s Debut Dagger Award. It was published by Imajin Books in 2012, followed by Black Water in 2013, Raven Lake in 2016, and Uncharted Waters in 2020. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney short story in the anthology Thirteen, was a finalist for a Derringer Award in 2014. Jack Batten, the Toronto Star’s crime fiction reviewer, calls Pat “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.” Born and raised in Montreal, Rosemary now lives in Toronto. She teaches novel writing at George Brown College.

Links

Rosemary’s Website

Rosemary’s Blog, Moving Target

Mesdames of Mayhem

Rosemary’s books are available at:

Amazon

Kobo


Barnes &  Noble:

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir and the Beyond mystery series.

 

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Using bad life events in your writing

Pi Dana Bowman holds Beyond novels

When I was a journalist, often something happening in my life triggered a story idea. Not necessarily something personal in my life; it could have been something in my neighbourhood or  someone I knew or had just met. A big one was when I went through a few years of suffering from debilitating migraines. That one generated several stories published in several newspapers. The stories weren’t about me, but about migraines, headaches, and dealing with pain, including a story on the migraine sufferer who started The Migraine Foundation.

Fast forward to several years later when I am writing the Beyond mystery series. I made one of my re-occurring main characters, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding a migraine sufferer, who was the main character in a short story “The Headache Murders ” (Wordscape 5 Anthology, 1999 MTB Press), and also a main regular character in the first novel in the Beyond Series – Beyond Blood. It is the novel where my main character PI Dana Bowman meets Fielding when there is a weird Break and Enter at her house. Then her son is kidnapped and a murder is committed. You guessed it – Fielding comes down with a migraine and Dana, being Dana, tries to help Fielding in her in-your-face way. Here I use some of the tricks of the migraine suffering “trade”.

For me it was at a party at my house when I got a migraine. The stress of the party, coupled with dealing with a boarder co-organizing the party (and getting on my nerves). One of my friends sat me down in the kitchen, asked for a brown paper bag and told me to hold it over my nose and mouth and blow into it. as I recall, it didn’t completely get rid of the migraine.

But I thought it would work in Beyond Blood for Fielding and Dana to connect as they had started off getting on each other’s nerves (and continued and still continue to do so). I decided to put it in a bedroom scene – no, not what you are thinking. Dana and her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are bunking overnight  in spare bedrooms at their next door neighbours’ house, because the twins’ house is a crime scene and they have to get out for now. The next morning Fielding bangs on Dana’s bedroom door to question her further and brings her a change of clothes that Constable Nivens (female cop) had gathered. Dana was still in her dress-up clothes from the reception opening for her and her brother’s Attic Investigative Agency the previous evening. Some of the conversation goes like this:

Thanks.” I grabbed the bag. “You look like hell. No sleep?””

“Just a migraine. I get them all the time. It’ll pass.”

“Migraine. Here come in and sit down on….” A quick look around the room showed an ironing board piled high with clothes standing beside a chest of drawers. A basket of clothing sat in the only chair.:..the bed.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“No, it isn’t. Migraines are awful. My mother used to get them, but thankfully I don’t. She used to blow in a a paper bag, to get rid of the pain, I mean. Maybe there’s one here.” I started rummaging in the dresser drawers.”

Ms. B…B…Bowman, it’s all right.”

“Here we are.” I shook a scarf from a Fashion Shoppe bag and shoved the bag at Fielding. He ignored it. “Put it over your face and blow.”

He stared at me, for once speechless, took a deep breath and sputtered.

“Take the damn bag and blow. And go and sit down. I don’t want to have to deal with a cop passing out in a bedroom.”

A little colour hit his face for a second. He staggered over to the bed, plunked down on the edge, leaned over and blew. (From Beyond Blood, copyright 2014,  Sharon A. Crawford, published 2014, Blue Denim Press)

You can see how this pans out – and based on personal experience as mentioned previously. And there is something else different about Fielding from your usual police officer characters.

He stutters. Also from my life, but not me – a classmate from grade school. Not to be disrespectful to my classmate, but it triggered another different character trait to use.

So, the take-away idea is: what can you take from your life to use in your short story or novel? Something a little different than falling down drunk or an argument – although those could be used with a twist.

One piece of advice for writers is to write about what you know. I prefer to use that as the bare basis and go from there. You may also find (particularly in non-fiction where you write fact, not fiction), you will become involved in a lot of research, including interviewing several sources. And in fiction, you may also need to go beyond your own experience as I had to in Beyond Faith when Dana is pushed down onto the cement and suffers a concussion.

And not I did not fall down on the cement or get someone to push me – although I have tripped over weeds and plants in my garden, and fallen down a few stairs – but those are for other stories.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The former migraine sufferer – real life

 

 

 

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Crime Beat Confidential Returns on thatchannel.com

PI Dana Bowman doing her thing on Crime Beat Confidential.

Crime Beat Confidential, the TV interview show I host on thatchannel.com has returned after a few months. Well, actually it is co-hosted by my main Beyond mystery series book character, the mouthy private investigator, Dana Bowman. The current show features our guest Marian Misters, who co-owns the Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore.

Marian Misters in her bookstore

Despite the store’s name it is not located in London, England (or London, Ontario either) but in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And it is full of mystery books, a mystery reader’s haven. There are even shelves of books in the basement although it is the main floor’s selection that are for sale. The space is small, but Marian has managed to fit in a lot of books including newly published books..

Bookstores are important for authors, even with e-books. And especially a genre-specific store because…

If you think that all bookstores do is sell books, think again. Books are written by authors and readers want to meet their authors and vice-versa. And for some reason we (hey, I am also a big book reader, particularly mystery and memoir) like going to book launches – and not just our own. And it is not the wine and food, although that helps.

What better place for book launches or readings and the like than a bookstore? Not noisy and dark like a pub. I’ve had book launches in a pub when I could use a flashlight to see people and once on stage to present, the light are so bright when I peer into the audience I don’t see much – because it is dark there. The most embarrassing moment was when I re-connected with an old friend and I couldn’t make out his face so he had to introduce himself. I knew he was coming to the launch and I knew what he looked like now. Bad lighting.

And bookstore owners are very knowledgeable about their books and their authors. Readers can go in and browse to find something they want to read or have a specific book (or books) they want to get. Or ask the owner questions. Should a bookstore not have the book in they usually can order it in.

You can also order books online from Sleuth of Baker Street.  And if you want to know what’s going on with them and their authors you can get their free monthly e-newsletter called The Merchant of Menace.

Not sure if Sherlock Holmes visits Sleuth of Baker Street, but I bet his spirit hovers in the bookstore.

For info on Sleuth of Baker Street and the Merchant of Menace go to their website.

Or for the visual, watch that episode of Crime Beat Confidential here.

And let me know what you think.

Note: This post is a few days late as I was in meetings and working on editing client manuscripts late last week. But, after this post I will get back to  my every-other-week postings on Thursdays/Fridays.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Sharon hosting Crime Beat Confidential

Two of Sharon’s Beyond mystery books

 

 

 

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Crime Writers of Canada 35th Anniversary book signing

CWC Book Signing coming up

Authors brandishing swords, pointing guns, rushing with knives? Not quite. All this murder and mayhem we may create is between the covers of our books. Of course, our lips are not sealed about what goes on between the book covers with our characters and in our plots and in our minds. We will be glad to share. And Chapters Newmarket will have copies of or books should you wish to buy. And we will sign copies of our books – but not in blood – with pen and ink.

Here’s the blurb from the Crime Writers of Canada website events calendar:

The 35th Anniversary celebration of the Crime Writers of Canada continues to be at hit at Chapters Newmarket, this time on October 27, 2018.

Join CWC authors Tracy L. Ward, Nanci M. Pattenden, Sharon Crawford, K.J. Howe, Lorna Poplak, and John Worsley Simpson at the Newmarket Chapters for a day of crime.

Hope to see you there.

These are my two Beyond mystery novels that will be at Chapters Newmarket.

The second Beyond book (2014) and first novel

 

The third Beyond mystery book (2017) second novel.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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The rocky road of book promo

Sharon at CWC Arthur Ellis short list Marilyn Kay photo

The aftermath of getting Beyond Faith published has been nothing close to easy, especially in the book promo department. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing book promo and I realize it all takes time and some of it will get put temporarily in Pending. But …

Well, let’s say that all did not go well for me…and apparently some other authors had the same problem – at the CWC Arthur Ellis Awards. Even CWC itself ran into a few snags – but Elizabeth Duncan who organized it with the Indigo Bookstore venue, fixed them very well. For example, the main guest who was to announce the authors shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis awards was ill and couldn’t make it. Elizabeth had some of the mini-presenters – one per category – go up to the podium, open the envelope(s) and read out the shortlisters. It was such a great choice and maybe could be done in future years.

The venue was good, a little oasis set up for the event surrounded by shelves and shelves of books. What more could an author want? Well, maybe spring weather outside.

Everybody’s presentation went very well and was interesting – much more interesting than eight authors reading excerpts from their books, one right after the other. We had to talk about our books in whatever way we wished. I chose not to do a Dana Bowman skit, but the nosy Private Investigator had apparently jumped out of Beyond Faith a a busy subway transfer station enroute to the bookstore and was lost in the rush-hour crowd. But Dana is not stupid and I knew she would show up. After thanking CWC for arranging the event, I went into my presentation – holding up a photo of Dana Bowman and asking “Have you seen this woman? She is….” After the escaping-the-book business I segued into a bit about what the book  is about from the viewpoint of what Dana and her twin PI investigating brother Bast Overture have to contend with. As I neared the finish, I thought I saw Dana darting between the bookshelves, said so, thanked the audience, grabbed Beyond Faith and Dana’s photo, chasing towards the books. A few seconds later when I showed up at the back of the audience, Elizabeth from the front asked, “Did you find her?”

“Yes,” I answered. “She’s back in the book.”

So, what was wrong with this picture? Both Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith, hadn’t arrived at the bookstore and it’s all the distributor’s – Ingram Sparks – fault. First because of all the nonsense with BF not able o be ordered in the Indigo chain stores, yet available for online orders  – which had to be fixed twice and also as the bookstore manager told  me “sometimes it takes six weeks for books to arrive from Ingram.” But the manager had contacted me beforehand about BF’s not arriving yet and we arranged I would bring in three copies for show and sell that evening, and any left could also be left in the store afterwards to go through usual ln-store selling procedure. When the shipment from the distributor arrived, I could come in to get three copies back from that.

But what happened to Beyond Blood? There were no issues with ordering it in – at least as far as availability was concerned. It has to be Ingram’s tardiness, although another store in the chain had already ordered in copies of Beyond Blood for another event with me and those copies arrived in two weeks time.

And I found out some other authors had the same problem – their books didn’t arrive on time either. No idea if their publisher uses the same distributor.

I know this has happened before to authors, but it is frustrating to an author, especially as I didn’t know about Beyond Blood.

Still, it was a great event.

And there is another CWC one Monday, April 23 in the Richmond Green Library in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Five of us crime novelists are on a “crime” panel there. Here are the highlights.

Crime Writers at RG Panel

If you’re are in the Greater Toronto Area, why not drop in? It’s free and an interesting time is guaranteed.

And our books will be there – we five are bringing copies from our own stashes.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

all

 

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