Sunday, February 26, 2012

Homicides and Writing

This week, Detective Sweet from the Homicide Unit of the Calgary Police Service  gave a talk "Dead Men Do Talk," which was about homicide investigation, to my writing group (ARWA). 

My stories to date have never included police, murders, or mysteries, so I wasn't sure if I would come away with anything useful for my writing.  However, I was certain I would have some interesting water cooler conversations following the workshop... and it didn't disappoint.

I've known for a long time that my cats would eat me if I had the misfortune of dying at home and not being found right away.  I once had a cat that would occasionally nip at my face while I was sleeping.  I'd swat him away and say: "No, I'm not dead.  Go away."  Now, thanks to Detective Sweet's presentation, I know what I'd look like after that happened.  (Pictures above are of the two cats who presently own me.  Yes, even in their cute little domesticated hearts live carnivorous beasts.)

Wow, what a presentation!  He did a fantastic job of presenting a disturbing and horrific topic in a way that was respectful, light when appropriate, and informative.  He threw out so many juicy details that I filled fifteen pages in my notebook.  Actually, all of the attendees seemed to have a curious detachment to the images we saw, which perhaps suggests writers are eager sponges who soak up all kinds of information in case we might need it some day. 

I have a lot to mull over after that talk, and I wonder if, after all these details have simmered in the back of my brain for a while, my next story will have something a little more sinister.  

A BAKER'S DOZEN: Little Things I Learned at "Dead Men Do Talk":
  1. People generally have misconceptions about what "murder" is.  Murder is violent, messy, smelly and sad.
  2. Homicide investigation is the search for truth.
  3. A DNA test could take 40 days (it is sent to Edmonton for testing).  DNA is not found in fecal matter or urine.
  4. Calgary may have had one serial killer, who was never caught.
  5. Most common method of homicide in Calgary is with a knife.
  6. Most homicides in Calgary happen in January and August, the least in June.
  7. Most homicides happen on Saturday, the least on Monday.
  8. Most homicides happen between 3-4am, the least between 5-6am.
  9. Psychic evidence happens a lot (in 1 of 5 cases).
  10. Body identification is rarely done by photo ID.
  11. Never underestimate threats and threatening phone calls.
  12. "Locard's Principle" is the theory of transfer.  (Professor Edmond Locard, 1877)
  13. Things don't happen as they do in CSI and other fictional crime shows on TV, which confuses families, jurors and other lay-people.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reading and Reviews: Beauty and the Beast Novels

Here are some of the "Beauty and the Beast" books I have on my bookshelves.  I've ranked them with my favorites on top.

TO BEGUILE A BEAST by Elizabeth Hoyt
Beautiful Helen Fitzwilliam is a woman with a past who is trying to escape with her children to a better life when she arrives at the ancient Scottish castle of Sir Alistair Munroe. He was severely scarred while in the Colonies and wants to be left alone, but Helen's future depends on hiding as far away from her former life as she can and there is no better place than with the reclusive botantist.

WICKED by Shannon Drake
The Earl of Carlyle, a man who wears a mask over his face to hide his reputed hideous scars, is determined to solve the suspicious deaths of his parents at an archaeological dig in Egypt. When fate sends Camille Montgomery, an expert in antiquities who works at the Museum with his parents' former colleagues, across his path, the Earl seizes the opportunity to use her to gain new access.

YOURS UNTIL DAWN by Teresa Mederos
Gabriel Fairchild returns from the Battle fo Trafalgar blind and angry. Jilted by his fiance, Gabriel hides in his home. Samantha Wickersham, a nurse hired by his father, forces him to accept his situation and find a reason to hope for the future.

Zsadist, vampire and former blood slave, is savage - the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but inspite of his reputation and his constant rejection of her, Bella is drawn to him. When she is kidnapped, Zsadist becomes obsessed with the need to find her, and when he does, Bella has to overcome his old emotional wounds to find her future with him.

LOVE IS BLIND by Lynsay Sands 
This is twist on the Beauty and the Beast story.  The hero, Adrian Montfort, has been scarred during the Napoleanic Wars and considers himself a freak to whom no woman could be attracted.  Lady Clarissa Crambray, the heroine, has been denied the use of spectacles by her stepmother, so she is 'blind as a bat' and cannot see Adrian's scars.

Beatrix Hathaway has corresponded with the handsome Captain Christopher Phelan while he was away fighting, except he thinks he was corresponding with one of Beatrix's friends.  So, when he returns  emotionally scarred from his time on the battlefield, he can't understand why he is drawn to Beatrix, an unconventional beauty. 

Linnet Thrynne is a beauty running from a scandal, and Piers Yelverton has an old injury and a bad temper. Piers' father plays matchmaker and brings the two together.

RAVEN PRINCE by Elizabeth Hoyt
Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, a brusque and demanding employer, needs a secretary, but he keeps scaring them away. Anna Wren, a widow, needs money, so she decides to be his new secretary. Much to everyone's surprise, they suit one another.

TAMING THE BEAST by Heather Grothaus
Roderick Cherbon has returned from the Crusades scarred, wanting only to hide in his ruined keep, but to retain his home, Roderick must marry. Lady Michaela Fortune is humiliated and near poverty when she hears of Roderick's situation. Knowing it is the only way to keep her family from destitution, she decides to court the beast.

I love 'Beauty and the Beast' stories and am always looking for new ones. 

Any recommendations?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

12 Shakespearean Quotes on Love and Seduction

(Image: © Sunspotkat |
In honor of Valentine's Day this past week, here are twelve quotes from Shakespeare on love and seduction:

1.  For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me? Much Ado About Nothing 5.2.56-57

2.  For your lovely sake / Give me your hand and say you will be mine. Measure for Measure 5.1.489-90

3.  Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?  As You Like It 3.5.82

4.  I dedicate myself to your sweet pleasure. Cymbeline 1.7.136

5.  O my dear lord, I crave no other, nor no better man. Measure for Measure 5.1.423-24

6.  I do not desire you to please me, I do desire you to sing.  As You Like It 2.5.15-16

7.  I am one that loves [you] more / Than words can witness or your thoughts can guess.  The Taming of the Shrew 2.1.328-29

8.  Consent... that we may enjoy each other.  As You Like It 5.2.9

9.  That I might touch! / But kiss, one kiss.  Cymbeline 2.2.16-17

10. A heaven on earth I have won by wooing thee.  All's Well That Ends Well 4.2.66

11. Thou shalt be worshipp'd, kiss'd, lov'd, and ador'd.  The Two Gentlemen of Verona 4.4.197

12. I do love nothing in the world so well as you - is not that strange? Much Ado About Nothing 4.1.266-67


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

12 Amusements for When I'm Sick at Home

What do you do when you're too sick to go to work
and you're trapped in your house?
(Image: © Sommai Sommai |
  1. Spend the day in my PJs.
  2. Read the first lines of the books on my bookshelves because I can't concentrate enough to read a full book.
  3. Change my blog template.
  4. Drink 10 cups of herbal tea.
  5. Do a search and destroy of adverbs in my current WIP.
  6. Brainstorm blog topics.
  7. Search for new apps for my smart phone.
  8. Re-read the opening chapter of some of my first stories for a laugh.
  9. Download new books to my e-Reader.
  10. Curl up with my heating pad and a bottle of cough syrup.
  11. Alphabetize my bookshelves.
  12. Feel guilty about not going to work.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

E-Readers: Changing the Way I Read

(Image: © Alexander Kharchenko |
I was a late arrival to the e-reader world. I admit it: I was reluctant to give up the feel of paper under my fingers and the scent of the newly minted pages. Still, I could see the benefits of the digital book: I wouldn't have to buy more bookshelves, I could take advantage of the great deals I'd seen advertised for e-books, and I could comfortably read books by authors who only published digitally (I'd previously tried to read on my computer, but found it awkward).

So, for Christmas, I asked for an e-reader, and my mom gave me one. (Thank you, Mom!)
The week following Christmas, I was sick, but it didn't matter because I could buy books with a tap of my finger from the warmth of my bed. I read nine books that week.

Since then, I've purchased even more books. My purchasing habits could easily spiral out of control. (I recently decided having an e-reader and such easy access to books is like having a box of chocolates in the house - it takes restraint to stop at one.)
However, the benefits don't end at the convenient purchasing. I've started tucking my e-reader in my purse when I leave the house in the morning. I have used my e-reader at work, among colleagues and clients, and they have no idea what I'm reading. Though most everyone knows I read romance, I still find the anonymity of an e-read's blank back to be freeing. Yes, e-readers are brilliant and addictive, but I can see now that my e-reader is also changing the way I read.

I used to read quickly, skimming over slow sections, skipping to the end on occasion to ensure I would be rewarded satisfactorily (I love my HEAs), monitoring where I was in the book, and flipping back to re-read if I needed to refresh my memory of names or situations. So, in other words, I didn't read linearly, systematically working through the book page by page.
What I've discovered, however, is the difficulty in skimming, skipping, monitoring and flipping with an e-reader. There are steps involved and they take time. For example, what should be a quick glance to see if I'm halfway through the book now involves taps, screen changes, waiting, and then more taps, changes and waiting to get back. I read more slowly... almost trapped on the page I'm reading, making sure I've captured and absorbed all pertinent information because it is more difficult to track down the information later if needed. And, I haven't effectively skimmed forward in a book to see if it is salvageable, which I think makes it more tempting to abandon a book rather than trying to find the potential gems that may come later.
I wonder if other people have noticed any changes in their reading habits. If so, will the rise of the e-reader change the way that authors write? Or, does it just mean that the "guidelines" for writing become even more important - tension on every page, smaller cast of characters, distinctive voice and name for each character, etc.? 

What do you think? 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

If Words were Trees...

On Saturday, we drove into Spray Valley Provincial Park, just south of Canmore, Alberta. What a great escape - the weather was superb, the sky was sapphire blue and the roads were nearly empty.

The Trees. (Lorraine's picture)

I did not read, write or edit this weekend - instead, I dedicated my time to thinking and planning.  I figure it is important to take a step back and consider the bigger picture once in a while.  I liken it to the "can't see the forest for the trees" saying - sometimes in the midst of revising a story I can't see the story for the words.  I'm edging toward that right now, so perhaps this weekend away was timely.  So, my goal this week will be to re-read my story front-to-back before I do any more edits. 

The Forest. (Lorraine's Picture)