Fun At Left Coast Crime

Whale of a Crime

Left Coast Crime writer’s conference: Thursday panel discussing different types of publishing. Panel members are (left to right): Robert Downs, Anne Barton, Russell Hill, Cathy Ace, and Anne Louise Bannon (moderator). Photography by LCC photographer Darrell Hoemann.

Thursday through Sunday. Twelve to fourteen-hour days. Half day on Sunday. Two floors of the Hyatt Hotel. Every place where I needed to go was down a long corridor on the other floor from where I was. Exhaustion! But I had a whale of a time. Pun intended as the conference was called A Whale of a Crime.

There were four panels at a time, six times a day. I got to quite a few of them in between manning the Sisters in Crime or the Crime Writers of Canada tables. Topped off by a huge banquet on Saturday night. I needed that, as I hardly had time to eat anything else. My creaky eighty-seven-year-old bones were complaining enough that I would end up taking a taxi the two or three blocks to the hotel where I was staying. Neither my retirement income nor my writing income is enough that I can justify staying at the Hyatt.

I was on a panel on the subject of ways books are published, probably because of my experiences with a variety of them, resulting from publishers going out of the e-book or print book business or going bankrupt (one of the reasons for my writing income not being what it should have been.) Other panels were more exciting, with former cops, lawyers, private detectives and one judge talking about police procedure, courtroom scenes, and other such things that come up in any crime novel or non-fiction crime book.

When you go to a writers’ conference, the first thing that happens when you register is that they give you a bag full of books donated by publishers. I brought books of my own to sell at a bookstore, set up at the far end of a long corridor, of course. I sold some, bought some more and, to lighten my load on the way home, I gave some away. Of the donated books in the bag given to me, I put three on the exchange table and kept one. It was an excellent one, written by a federal prosecutor in the US about the American justice system: Doing Justice by Preet Bharara. I highly recommend it.

Since carrying bags of books around all day was a bit of a chore, many people would just dump their book bag temporarily. A man who did not belong at the conference should have looked at the exchange table and and noted the type of books that the 400 plus authors had written. One of the detectives at the conference decided that this man was up to no good and took him into custody. Nothing like having a bunch of cops at your party!

Mid-morning Sunday I stepped across the street to the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) to attend church, as I like to do whenever I’m in Vancouver on a weekend. I sat closer to the front of the nave than I usually do and observed something I had never noticed before. There is a section set aside for people who are hard of hearing, with a translator giving them the entire service, as it happens, in sign language. Besides having an award-winning choir, organist and choral director, Rupert Lang, Christ Church lives up to its motto, which is “Open doors, open hearts, open minds.”

The flight home to the Okanagan Valley was beautiful, with the snow-covered Coast Mountains rising up ahead of us just at sunset.

Anne Barton
Author of The Simple Life Is Murder. Life in an isolated mountain valley is not so simple. In fact, it can be murder.
http://annebartonmysteries.ca/

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The Simple Life is Murder!

New Book Release :

My latest book, The Simple Life Is Murder, by Anne Barton, is now available in both electronic and trade paperback form. There is a history involved in my writing this book.

As a small child, my family lived in a town where there was a highly regarded small liberal arts college, Antioch College. We lived across the street from the campus. I had been born in Drumheller, Alberta where we had a wheat farm. But in the early thirties, when drought and the Depression both hit, we went to live with grandparents in the U.S. My grandfather had once been a professor at Antioch College.

We attended a private school run by the college; for me two years of kindergarten and grade one. But my parents decided to move back out west, to northern Idaho. To say that this was a culture shock would be a vast understatement. The small town in Idaho was still living as if in the nineteenth century. After a couple of years, my parents bought a plot of land out in the woods, and we moved into a 16 by 20-foot tent until a log cabin could be built (it never was). We had no modern appliances, no electricity, no running water, no phone and worst of all, no insulation. Winters in the mountains of northern Idaho can be brutally cold.

I hated it!

Every few years someone writes about the joys of going back to nature to lead the simple life. Well, let me tell you, it isn’t so simple. It’s damned hard work, even for children. My chores included sawing, splitting and carrying wood for the stove, carrying buckets of water from the spring in a large copper pail that weighed much more than the modern plastic kind, and helping clean the lamp chimneys and the kitchen stove pipe. The only chores I liked were feeding and harnessing the horse, and milking the goat.

No one ever writes books debunking that kind of life, though for every family who claimed to enjoy it, there have been thousands who couldn’t wait to get away from it. I have always felt they needed a spokesman (or woman), and I decided to be that person. Since I write mystery novels, I set a mystery in an isolated mountain valley in British Columbia. My protagonist is a fourteen-year-old boy. Why a boy? I didn’t think a girl would let herself get into the scrapes that a boy would.

So here it is! The Simple Life is Murder!

The Bony Blithe Light Mystery Awards

In late May I went to Toronto for two mystery writers’ events. I took the VIA Rail train, The Canadian, from Kamloops to Toronto. Three relaxing days, with excellent food, a comfortable bed and service for my every need. I came back home by train as well.

Crime Writers of Canada holds their annual Arthur Ellis Awards for the best crime writing in seven categories. The main one, of course, was the prize for best crime novel. My novel, Cui Bono? was entered but didn’t win. However, one of the judges praised it and thought it should have been included in the finalists at least. That made me feel pretty good!

The next day, the people who used to put on the Bloody Words mystery writers’ conference held a mini-conference and awards banquet for “books that make us laugh.” It is called the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award and was won by Margaret J. Duncan for her novel, Murder on the Hour, published by St. Martin’s Press.

Anne Barton at the Bony Blithe Mini-con 2017

The mini-con was a whole lot of fun. I have found that mystery writers are one of the nicest bunches of people I have ever been with. That seems strange since all of us are constantly trying to figure out novel ways of killing people!

I hope that next year I will have a book that will be considered for this award. I’m working on it now. It will be about a young teenager who has been dragged out into the wilderness where his parents want to lead “the simple life.” Life isn’t simple, he learns. In fact, it can be murder!

Here Be Dragons

My new novella is now in print!

Here Be Dragons has been available in e-book form, published by Books We Love, since April, but is now available in its print version, published by Carrick Publishing.

I introduce what I plan to be new series characters, Gail and Anton Schild. Gail is a veterinarian, Anton a plant geneticist. The location is a small prairie city called Drayford, roughly based on Drumheller, Alberta, my birthplace. Anton, newly graduated with a PhD, has been hired by the Drayford Agricultural College. Gail will operate a veterinary emergency clinic.

They have barely arrived when they have dinner with math professor, Jon Mendel. Later that night, Mendel is murdered. He is found in his swimming pool with his throat slashed. A knife from his own set of knives is found in the pool of the Dragon Fountain on the campus. Gail and Anton are logical suspects, and things don’t get better when they discover that they may have walked off with what might be a clue to the murder.

Their private investigations lead them to the hoodoos and to the dinosaur museum. Their observance of one of the other suspects leads Gail to propose a motive and a means for the murder.

Procrastination In 10 Easy Steps

I’m a writer, so my job requires sitting down at the computer and putting words onto the screen. It used to be called words on paper, but word processors make some older expressions obsolete. I’m procrastinating, of course, but that’s the point of this little essay. It can be hard to actually get around to doing the work, and there are innumerable ways to get around doing so. Let’s start with the beginning of the day

  1. Of course, the cats (dogs, birds, horses, whatever) have to be fed. Can’t let the critters go hungry.
  2. Must have coffee to get going. But first, the coffee pot has to be cleaned because you didn’t do it last night.
  3. Breakfast. Can’t start work without food in your stomach. Think of something unusual and time-consuming to try out. How about eggs Florentine? That takes time to do.
  4. Dishes. First unload the dishwasher because you didn’t do it yesterday, and then stack the newly dirty dishes in it. That’s another reason for a fancy breakfast that takes a bunch of pots and bowls to put together.
  5. All right. Now what? Must go out and take a look at the flower borders to see whether the crocuses (daffs, tulips, irises, roses) are in bloom yet. Note that the things growing best are the weeds. Hate pulling weeds, but it’s a good diversion.
  6. Tired? Sit and read the newspaper if you haven’t gotten so disgusted with it that you don’t take it anymore. If no paper, read a chapter of that new book you just started. Must read a lot to know what other writers are writing. This can be put down as working on your own writing (and it can also be tax-deductible if you bought the book).
  7. Remember that you need to wash a load of dark coloured clothes. While the washer is going, put away the whites you washed yesterday.
  8. Must call the friend you owe a call. Talk for at least an hour.
  9. Exercise. Very important to do something active. Get out the bike and go for a spin.
  10. Forgot to take your morning dose of medicine (vitamins, minerals, whatever.) Do it now.

There! I’ve given you ten ways to avoid sitting down at the computer. So now you have to finally do it. But you’re so tired now from all the work you’ve done that first you really need to take a nap.

 

A Storybook Ending for Brad Gushue

A storybook ending for Brad Gushue

If I wanted to write an adventure story about curling, I couldn’t do any better than the real life story of Brad Gushue and his dream to win the Brier, the Canadian men’s curling championship.

Brad Gushue and his team of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker are currently considered to be the best in the world. Gushue himself has won nearly every curling championship there is except for the Brier and the World Curling Federation’s world championship, which can only be entered by winning a national title. Brad, with other team members, was the first Canadian men’s team to win Olympic gold. He had a bucket list of ten things he wanted to achieve in curling. He had done nine of them and the Brier title was the only one that had eluded him.

Brad had been responsible for getting the Brier in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s easternmost province, in 2017.

He reached the final in the 2016 Brier but lost to Kevin Koe of Alberta. It was his second final, losing both. Though only 35 years old, St. John’s was to be his fourteenth Brier, and he had a winning record in thirteen of them. But injuries began to take their toll. In the fall of 2015, he fell on the ice, splitting his eyebrow and suffering a concussion. In that game, he left the ice, went to the ER, had the wound sutured and returned to finish the game before taking time off to recover from the concussion. Then he missed the first half of the 2016-17 season with a hip injury. He returned to finish the season, playing with pain and getting treatment for his hip after every game he curled.

During the opening ceremonies in St. John’s, all the members of his gold medal team at the 2006 Olympics were celebrated, as was the only other Brier winner from Newfoundland, who won his title before Brad was born. Mark Nichols was the only member of his curling team who had been on the team at the Olympics. Brad was so wound up he was reported to be shaking during the opening ceremonies. The whole country was expecting him to win, and the pressure of trying to do it in his hometown was tremendous.

He started off well, winning his first game and scoring 100% on his shots, almost unheard of in games at that level of competition. He then lost to the hottest team of the moment, Manitoba’s Mike McEwen. Then he reeled off three more wins. In one of the odd little sub-stories of the event, he then lost to the last-place team in the event, the Northwest Territory team of Jamie Koe. It was the only game Jamie Koe won in the event. Not to be dismayed, Brad finished the rest of the round robin undefeated, including a last-ditch win over Kevin Koe’s defending champion team.

In the playoff game between the first and second place teams, Brad beat McEwen. Two nights later he met Kevin Koe again in the final. But Brad’s lead, Geoff Walker, had hurt his shoulder and it was so painful he was unable to sweep the stones. The team had to depend upon one sweeper, though Walker was able to throw his stones. Ironically it was the Gushue team that experimented with sweeping styles and came to the conclusion that it is the sweeper closest to the stone that does the vast majority of the work. So the one person sweeping was not new to them. A number of times the skip had to come out to help, however. Walker’s injury and the fact that Gushue’s sore hip prevented him from being able to throw his stones as hard as he usually could meant that the hit game was not in the game plan. However, the team is good at the finesse game. Gushue started off with a three-point end, but Koe whittled away at the lead, and the score was tied after nine ends.

Here is where I want to comment on the sportsmanship shown by players and fans in the sport of curling. It is one of the few sports left where sportsmanship reigns. When Kevin Koe went down the ice to throw his last stone, the crowd, which had been cheering the hometown team to the rafters, quieted down so that the opponent could throw his stone without distraction. The place went silent. Koe put his stone in a place that helped block one of Gushue’s paths to the button. The crowd politely applauded the good shot. When Gushue threw his last, an in-turn that had to reach the full eight foot circle around the Koe stones, the crowd was silent, but as the stone progressed down the ice, the roar began softly, then became an ear-shattering outpouring of delight as the stone approached the rings. Gallant was sweeping with all the strength he could put onto his broom. Nichols came out to help. As the stone cleared the last of Koe’s, the whole place exploded. I’m sure the wind helped the stone reach the rings!

The players were leaping and dancing on the ice and seemed to be hugging and kissing anyone in site. As they had on the night Gushue had beaten Koe in the round robin, no one wanted to leave. They wanted to stay as long as they could, to drink it in. Gushue’s crippled team had done it at last. They were Canadian champions and on their way to the world championship. Brad Gushue could check off the last box on his bucket list.

Epilogue

The morning after the Brier, I picked up my paper and saw a photo of people holding a Newfie flag. Good, I thought, curling has made the front page of the Toronto Globe and Mail. But the story was not about Gushue’s spectacular win. On the same day, the musical Come From Away had opened on Broadway to an enthusiastic audience and good reviews. It is based on the true story of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, on 9/11/2001 taking in the passengers, crews and animals on over 50 planes bound for the US that were diverted to Gander.

The small town of Gander is there because of the airport, one of the most important airports in the world. From World War II to the advent of long-range jets, Gander was the staging area for almost all the flights across the north Atlantic. It is also the home of the Air Traffic Control Centre that handles all north Atlantic air traffic, going both east and west. The coastlines all around The Rock, as Newfoundland is known, have hundreds of tiny fishing villages. Gander isn’t on the coast, but on flat inland land. But its importance may be as great as all the fishing villages put together. The town is there to serve the airport. The people of Gander, with no warning, were faced with housing, feeding and entertaining 7,000 people for several days. How they did it is the story of Come From Away.

I imagine that as I write this two days later, the parties are probably still going on all over The Rock.