Interview on CBC’s Fresh Air

I got to sit down with with host CBC Mary Ito to chat about some Canadian book series to get your kids hooked on this summer:

The books and links I mentioned:

Books for 3 – 6 year-olds
Gabby by Joyce Grant
Giraffe Meets Bird by Rebecca Bender
Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark
Discovering Words by Neepin Auger
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Books for 6 – 12 year-olds
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Neil Flambe by Kevin Sylvester
The Seven Series by various
I am Canada series by various
Books for 13 and up
Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri
The Agency by Y.S. Lee
Bookweird by Paul Glennon
The Madgeburg Trilogy by Kat Kruger
Transcendent by Leslie Livingston

Interview on CBC’s Fresh Air

I was lucky enough to chat with host CBC Mary Ito about how to get your kids writing – take a listen (yes, I know it gets cut off at the end – I’ve sent them an email about it).

The links I mentioned:

Teaching Kids News

Pedro Mendes on 1930s Mens Fashion

From Flux magazine online

The following is a guest post by men’s style expert Pedro Mendes.

The 1930s are widely considered the apex of modern men’s style. After the restrictive and drab dress of the Victorians and Edwardians, but before the grey uniformity of post-WW2, the 1930s saw men’s fashion express itself like never before, and perhaps, like never since. Despite the Great Depression, this was not a time of deprivation in clothing – like the rationing to come in the 40s that almost killed three-piece and cemented flat-front pants. Instead, the biggest change from the 1920s was a sobering of colours and patterns. The wild abandon of the Gatsby era was toned down, with a return to more sober greys, blues and subtle patterns. That’s not to say that there wasn’t colour in the 1930s, it just wasn’t the rainbow of the previous decade.

The other great development that was born in 1930s London was the “drape” suit. Meant to enhance and exaggerate the male form, more fabric was used in the torso and the jacket was shaped to nip in at the waist while tapering in the sleeve. Pants continued to be wide, but again tapered at the ankle. It all was meant to broaden the shoulders and lengthen the legs, making men look more muscular and manly. Perhaps this was an emotional reaction to the Depression – all the unemployment had undermined men’s self-worth and their roles in society. But more likely it was simply an evolution in taste as English tailoring began to be influenced by Italians – who used more fabric, less structure, and a severe V shape in their tailoring.

Over in the United States, young men started challenging the norm by wearing blazers and sport jackets in town, mixing athletic wear with suits and ties. Button-down collars with ties and tweeds, Fair Isle sweaters and the more relaxed “sack suit.” As society became more casual, and young people, especially in university and college started to have more influence on fashion, odd jackets became more acceptable. Some of this look was itself influenced by England’s Prince of Wales on his journeys across the pond. Unlike his father, the Price was a much more casual and relaxed dresser and a huge influence on British style.

All of the above, however, relates mostly to the upper and moneyed classes. The regular person on the street kept wearing what they had been wearing for years, unlike today when clothes are regularly thrown away and replaced every year or two. Perhaps you could afford to have a suit made at a local tailor and so you could follow the trends of the day, which at the time were reinforced by Hollywood movies. One way the average person was able to afford more clothing than before the Depression was the widespread popularity and availability of off-the-rack. But whereas today you can find some off-the-rack of exceptional quality, the first mass produced suits, when seen with a keen eye, were miles away from custom work.

Pedro Mendes in Leon Drexler homburg-style hat.

Pedro Mendes is an expert in men’s style and the editor of The Hogtown Rake, which you should check out and follow immediately!

Follow the Hogtown Rake on Tumblr, on Instagram, and on twitter.

Best writing advice: from you

This post was prompted by the following tweet from @stefgunning :

I think @stefgunning has gathered some encouraging quotes to be sure, but I got to thinking about all the great advice I’ve gotten from the blogosphere about writing. Truth is I care more about what my virtual friends say than ‘famous’ people who know nothing about me, my passion or my writing.

So here is some of the best advice that has been given to me on this blog by all of you:

Christine's advice on researching historical fiction (though there are a 10 other examples of her advice on this site!)
Christine’s advice on researching historical fiction (though there are a 10 other examples of her advice on this site!)
MJ's advice on how to write a villain!
MJ’s advice on how to write a villain!
Ram’s advice on book events (but honestly, he has so much great advice it was hard to pick just one!)
Phantom Writer's advice
Phantom Writer’s advice on writing a series
Chris' advice on the best swag
Chris’ advice on the best swag
Andrew has some advice about writing a secret note
Andrew has some advice about writing a secret note
Vevacha weighs in on the same topic!
Vevacha weighs in on the same topic!
Kate Person has some ideas about historical maps
Kate Person has some ideas about historical maps

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about writing?

Mme. LaPointe’s distinctive hat

Burnt Orange Feather Cocktail Hat
Burnt Orange Feather Cocktail Hat

Imagine this fabulous hat in green and you have this scene from Jewel of the Thames:

” I headed downtown. In the millinery, I made some small talk with one of the ladies behind the counter before describing the hat I had seen.
“Oh yes, that was a special order from Madame LaPointe of Archer Hall. I remember it well,” she assured me. “Green velvet with a hawk-feather bouquet. Really a one-of-a-kind creation.”
I thanked her kindly and took the next cab to Archer Hall in Hampstead Village.” 

One Fictitious Moment: Writing Historical Fiction

It’s been a while but the latest instalment of One Fictitious Moment is on YouTube.

I love to lose myself in a good historical fiction novel (must be why I’ve read every Phillipa Gregory book!) but writing one is even better.

Any excuse to watch Downton Abbey and re-read Gone with the Wind, Of Mice and Men and many others — right? Getting in the mindset of my 1930s detective requires immersion in the media of the time, and a lot of research into what was happening in Europe and the rest of the world.

Hope you enjoy the video friends!

The number of books written in Starbucks

Comic by Jeff Stahler
Comic by Jeff Stahler

Do you ever find yourself wondering just how many books/articles/short-stories were written in your local Starbucks?

I think if someone actually tracked it people would be amazed.

I often sit in my local Starbucks all morning, drinking coffee, sucking up wi-fi and incorporating various patrons in my character descriptions.

Do you have a favourite writing spot you frequent in your ‘hood?

Wattpad writings (and readings!)

Check it out on Wattpad!
Check it out on Wattpad!

When I joined Wattpad a few months ago I was using it as a reader, enjoying the fan fiction and original writings posted by thousands of people.

I finally decided to contribute to the Wattpad bookshelf, and have put out the first chapter of a story told from the voice of Constable Dawes. It’s kind of Jewel of the Thames as told from his point of view (the original as you know is told from Portia’s POV).

It’s called And in Walked Portia Adams.

Anyway, it’s a bit of an experiment, and I don’t know if I’ll do the whole book or just certain scenes where I think Brian’s POV adds to the overall character development.

Let me know what you think?

For the love of words

For the love of words!

This post was inspired by my friend Rami’s post on being brief in his writing, and made me think about all the words I come across that I wish I could incorporate into my own writing. I shouldn’t say ‘I wish’ because of course, I am in control of what I write, but sometimes the words just don’t fit, and you don’t want to write a sentence or a scene JUST to use a word do you? I’m talking about the words that taste amazing in your mouth, that make you smile at their usage, those kinds of words.

Do you have a running list of awesome words you’re just looking for a place to use in your own writing?

Here are some of mine (all definitions from :

Miasma [mahy-az-muh, mee-] 1. noxious exhalations from putrescent organic matter; poisonous effluvia or germs polluting the atmosphere. 2. a dangerous, foreboding, or deathlike influence or atmosphere.

Rudimentary [roo-duhmen-tuh-ree, -tree]  1. pertaining to rudiments or first principles;elementary: a rudimentary knowledge of geometry.2. of the nature of a rudimentundeveloped or vestigial. 3. primitive.

Calamitous [kuhlam-i-tuh s] 1. causing or involving calamitydisastrous.

Vapid [vap-id] 1. lacking or having lost life, sharpness, or flavor;insipid; flat:  2. without liveliness or spirit; dull or tedious:

Acerbic [uhsur-bik] 1. sour or astringent in taste: 2. harsh or severe, as of temper or expression.

Chimera [ki-meeruh, kahy-] 1. A mythological, fire-breathing monster, commonly represented with lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.  2. Any similarly grotesque monster having disparate parts, especially as depicted in decorative art. 3. A horrible or unreal creature of the imagination; vain or idle fancy.
4. Genetics. an organism composed of two or more genetically distinct tissues, as an organism that is partly male and partly female, or an artificially produced individual having tissues of several species.

What are yours?

On Writing: the Chapter Synopses strategy

What you need is a strategy!

One of the things I’ve been using lately to hone my story for book 4 of this Portia Adams series is the concept of Chapter Synopses (in other words a synopsis for each chapter in the book).

This is not my idea of course, many people have talked about its usage including my agent and many others but I wanted to share it in case it could help you in your writing process.

Basically you write a short paragraph synopsis of each chapter in your book (proposed or completely written, I find this works at both stages). Try and focus on the action in the chapter (what actually happened) rather than details. Don’t worry so much about the length of each paragraph — some will be longer, some shorter. Also don’t worry about the number of chapters you have set out on the page.

Now if you step back and look at it as a whole you should see a few things:

1. Synopses that are really short and may indicate that this is not a new chapter at all and should just be absorbed into another chapter.

2. By the same logic, synopses that are too long may indicate you are trying to cram too much story into one chapter and it should be divided into two.

3. I don’t know if this is specific to detective fiction, but I also find this kind of layout shows me if I’m laying out the clues in the right order and if my climax and denouement sit in the right places.

4. You can do this for parallel story arcs, line up the chapter synopses next to each other to make sure they are progressing the way you want them to.

5. This is a trick I learned from doing this a few times, but what I find is that if there is no action in a chapter, it may be a chapter or a scene that can be dropped. If it’s just dialogue and the story doesn’t progress in the chapter, let it go, or at least put it aside and see if the story is stronger without it.


Chad R. Allen has a different goal in mind for his post on chapter synopsis but also has some good points about what works and what doesn’t.

Writer’s Digest also has some tips and tricks on synopses you can look at.