Skip the Meeting at Your Peril

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of facilitating my So You Want to Be a Writer? workshop at a meeting of the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association. We plotted a murder mystery set at the meeting and can you guess who we opted to make the victim?

A local thriller author who failed to appear.

Ideas for potential suspects and their motives abounded. We’re talking as diverse as an Argentinian in search of the grandson of W.E.B. Griffin, world-renowned author of spy novels, to an anger-management-challenged attendee whose parking place the victim scooped.

Nothing like a good brainstorming session to get the creative juices going.

We opted to make a librarian, who sat in on the meeting, our sleuth. Her stereotypical quiet, studious nature brought a lot of strengths to the investigation. And her introvert nature and resulting low self-esteem allowed us to show her personal growth through solving the crime.

I’m so glad they didn’t pick me as the sleuth. I REALLY didn’t want them to speculate on the areas of my life that could use improvement!

Hopefully, many of the attendees will take up the challenge to write a short story based on our brainstorming session. If you’d like to read one I wrote after a similar session last spring at a volunteers retreat, subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll email you the link and password.  😉 (Membership has its privileges)

Join Me Today at:

International Christian Fiction Writers, where I’m talking about family food favourites, inspired by my character Serena’s British heritage (which also happens to be mine.)

And for an interview at Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish Wisdom Blog No, there are no Amish characters in my novels, but if you’re burning to know the answers to such questions as can you make a living from writing and what do you like least about writing, I will tell all (more or less). 😉  And…there’s a giveaway!

Have a blessed Easter Week!


Feeling Stressed?

Tell me about it! My characters are out of control.

FBI agent Serena Jones has taken on a life of her own and is appearing around the blogosphere.

Today she’s blabbing about me and about painting to relax and about I’m afraid to look what else. But if you want to, you can check it out here:

If colouring to relax is more your speed, here’s a blog I found where you can download adult colouring pages:

I’ve decided to colour the peacock. 🙂

I have to try something. My characters are stressing me out!

Later this week, Serena’s Aunt Martha gets into the act with an interview at Jaunty Quills. And when she talks, there’s no telling what she’ll say. I’ll share the link once it’s live on March 11th, if…I’m not too mad at her.  😉

In the meantime, have a great week. Happy colouring or painting or whatever you do to relax. If it’s reading, and you enjoy the thrill of entering giveaways, check out this book review blog: 

Google alerted me this morning to the reviewer’s giveaway of A Fool and His Monet. Kav is a voracious reader and posts a new review (often with giveaways) almost every day.


Why Art Crime?

With only 3 weeks until A Fool and His Monet releases (2 weeks for the Ebook release), I thought it would be a great time to share with you some of the inspiration behind the Serena Jones Mysteries series, which tracks the exploits of art crime agent Serena Jones.

Art thieves aren’t as cultured and clever as shows like the Thomas Crown Affair and White Collar would have us believe. But when they succeed in making off with millions of dollars worth of fine art in a daring or brazen escapade, their thefts do make for sensational news stories.

Gardner Museum Courtyard 1
Central courtyard of the Gardner Museum during my visit last year

The arguably most famous is the 25+ year old, unsolved case of the Gardner Museum theft. In the wee hours of Mar 18th 1990 (while Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were beginning to wind down), two thieves disguised as police officers entered the museum, tied up the guards and proceeded to steal 13 very different works of art. Considering the specific pieces stolen, some have speculated that it was a theft to order. Others, such as Robert K. Wittman, founder of the FBI’s art crime team, believe the men were merely incompetent. Art that hot is impossible to sell. The buyer could never display it.

Yet, the museum remains optimistic that the stolen art will yet be recovered. Until then the empty frames from which priceless paintings such as Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee remain hanging on the walls as haunting reminders of the collective heritage stolen from all of us that night.

Screenshot 2016-02-08 09.18.50

To aid in their recovery, the museum is offering a $5 million reward for their recovery. Click the image above to link to their virtual tour of the theft and pieces stolen. Maybe you have a clue to where one of these pieces could be now and don’t even realize it!

As I began communicating with the FBI during my research for this series, one person suggested I write a mystery to solve this case. Maybe it would help the FBI solve it, she said.

Wouldn’t it make an intriguing story for a fiction writer to elicit the help of her readers in recovering priceless paintings and solving a 25+ year old crime?  😀

Your Turn: What do you think? Have any theories?

Promotional Freebies – the fun side of marketing

A Fool and His MonetWith a new mystery series set to debut in March, I’ve been perusing the gamut of products out there that can be personalized with book and author info. Bookmarks, of course, are a given, but I love to be able to share something unique with my readers, too.

Which is why I’m super-excited about what we’ve created for the Serena Jones Mysteries.

The first is a very unique USB key embossed with the series’ logo and my web addy.

Promotional USB key

These are from USB Memory Direct and the salesman I worked with there was awesome at answering my questions and providing quick delivery of a well-constructed product. I’d highly recommend them. They have a phenomenal range of USB style choices and accessories, as well as, options to include preloaded content on the keys, or what I did, configure it to appear in the Windows viewer as an art frame logo.

I plan to share these with my editors and critique partners; bookstore owners who have me in for signings; as a thank-you to the authors who endorsed A Fool and His Monet; and in gift baskets at events.


I also wanted to have something I could economically mail to lots of readers or give away at events that would:

  1. be useful for years to come and
  2. be related to the series.

This is what we came up with:

Purse-sized first aid kit

It’s a mini-first-aid kit for your purse or briefcase, complete with bandaids, antiseptic wipes and a quick reference guide. The plastic pouch is credit card sized and can easily be restocked as needed. I figured my heroine is an FBI agent. Law enforcement are supposed to help people…so now my readers can, too.  😉

If you’d like me to send you one, email me your address and I’d be happy to do that. I can even include a couple of extra for you to share with friends.

If you’re looking for similar items for your own promotional needs, I found them at Hit Logic. Darryl, the owner, was another awesome guy to deal with. I met him at Write Canada and we talked about a lot of different things–no high-pressure sales tactics, at all, and a great selection at economical prices.

For Deadly Devotion, the first book in my Port Aster Secrets mystery series, I shared marigold seed packets, since the victim was believed to have died from drinking the wrong kind of marigold tea. One of my Facebook fans actually proposed the idea and even sent me links to a site that sells them!

Deadly Devotion Seed Packets

These proved very popular with readers. Many of my newsletter subscribers contacted me to receive packets for themselves and to share. Bookstores were also happy to include them in bags. And browsers at book signings enjoyed having something to take home to plant. Several emailed me pictures of their flowers at the end of summer.

For Blind Trust, we created whistle key chains with a light–something every amateur sleuth, putting her life in jeopardy, could use, right?  😀  These were a lot of fun to share. The kids especially loved the whistle. But they proved to be pricey to mail, due to their thickness, so I wasn’t able to share them as widely.

Blind Trust Key Chain

So…I’m learning to balance the fun, the usefulness and the affordability.

Your Turn: What is the most useful or appreciated promotional freebie you’ve received from a company or author?