Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Location with Melodie Campbell

On Location…
in the west of England, long ago…

Sometimes you fall in love with a place. Never mind that it has not been in existence for several hundred years, or at least not in the family anymore. My particular place of love resides back in the days shortly after the Battle of Hastings, in a corner of England more known for sheep than people.

There is a piece of Shropshire that claims a part of my heart. The original castle, erected after Harold fell to William in 1066, went to ruin in the early 1500s. The ‘new’ abode, Hawkstone Park, was built in 1556; it was forfeited in 1906 to pay off the gambling debts of my rakish relative.

Tony Clegg-Hill (original name Huel) was the previous Viscount Clegg-Hill, and my late cousin. I adored him. He had that particular dry British wit that reminded me seriously of David Niven. It was his great-grandfather who lost the castle.

Tony would regale me with anecdotes about the family villains: the original Viscount Huel, who was basically a henchman for William the Conqueror. More recent rogues like Sir Rowland Hill gambled away anything that could be taken as a stake. It’s a damning history, yet a vibrant one. But not all the family were black sheep; one Lord Hill distinguished himself as the second in command to the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. When Wellington was made Prime Minister in 1824, Hill succeeding him as commander in chief of the army. The coat of arms (which illustrates the family tree with all the crests of family intermarriage) is twelve feet long.

So when it came to writing Rowena Through the Wall, I had to feature my favorite place. The original Norman castle, with its rounded turrets, crenellations and merlons has been in my imagination for decades. Rowena walks through the wall to her ancestor’s land, and she falls in love with it too.

Melodie Campbell’s comic novel Rowena Through the Wall (Imajin Books) is available at and Smashwords.

Follow Melodie at Funny Girl Melodie

View trailer and read opening scene at

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Location with Robert Landori

A Good Memory is a Shortcut to Great Locations

I wrote my very first book on a dare, for a girl-friend whom I had indelicately criticised for reading trash. She had reposted with: “All right smart aleck, if you’re so intelligent why don’t you write me a book that’s better?

Within a year she was reading my first novel.

I hurried to finish the book because I had bet her a dinner that I could perform within twelve months. So I had to look for short-cuts and there was no time for researching “locations”. To solve this problem I delved into my memory banks and chose the venues I knew intimately: Montreal, the Laurentian Mountains, the hospital in which I had worked to earn money as an undergraduate at McGill, the countryside around the English public school I had attended, Georgetown near Washington etc…

I am a lucky man. My work has allowed me to travel far and wide, and to visit enough locations to “situate” at least ten novels.

Galindo’s Turn
(my first novel)

Before he became Robert Lonsdale his name was Bernard Lands.

He lived with his wife, Andrea, in a remote area in the Laurentian Mountains near Montreal. (Picture 1). Islamic terrorists, tipped off by a mole inside the CIA as to his real identity, attempted to assassinate him while he was cross-country skiing, but only managed to wound him.

He was treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital (Picture 2) where the assassins struck again, missed once more, but killed his wife.

Land fled to the Washington area and entered the CIA’s Employee Protection Program where they gave him a new name, a new face and a new identity. He became Robert Lonsdale an obscure analyst with the US Environmental Agency. He bought himself a condo in Georgetown (Picture 3) and started to work for the Agency’s super secret Counter-Terrorism and Counter Narcotics Division.

It took him a year to identify the mole who had betrayed him and whom he then hunted down and neutralized at Frensham Ponds in Surrey, England (Picture 4).

Robert Landori went to school in England, France, Switzerland and Hungary; of necessity he learned eight languages in the process. He completed his education at McGill University in Montreal, became a Chartered Accountant then traveled for over twenty years in the Caribbean and South America as an exporter‑importer, business consultant and trustee in bankruptcy.

Charged with espionage in Cuba, he spent sixty-six days in solitary confinement, and was eventually ‘let go’ without explanation. His experiences in prison prompted him to write his fifth book, Havana Harvest (a story about a Cuban general, condemned to death by the Castro regime).

His first book, GALINDO’S TURN, was the result of a challenge, twenty-five years ago, by a girlfriend to “write an intelligent book within a year”.

 Shh... "The Agency’s super secret Counter-Terrorism and Counter Narcotics Division"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Season - On Location

Heat of the Crime: 
A Summer of Dangerous Getaways

Location, location, location: the key to valuable real estate, a successful business, and atmosphere in a mystery or crime novel. Also the theme for the summer season here at the NCWM Blog.

From the exotic to the mundane, places often act as supporting characters in books.Whether the twin moons of an alternate world or the Twin Towers of pre-9/11 New York, landmarks place us in time and space. The cultures and laws of different countries allow events to occur that would be improbable in Canada. Just crossing our own country, the character of small town New Brunswick will be different from small town Alberta.

Summer is also a good time to go on book tours. The driving is better if nothing else. Several of our authors have hit the promotional trail already, visiting towns while going to and from Victoria BC for the Author Ellis Awards and Bloody Words conference.

Our first summer getaway starts next week with Robert Landori, author of Havana Harvest. He'll be telling us how location figured into his first novel - holiday photos included!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Postcards from Victoria - 3

Bloody Words Begins

It seems like only yesterday that I was jetting off to the Canadian crime writing conference Bloody Words in Toronto, but it was in fact a whole year ago. And what a difference a year can make!

Last night’s Arthur Ellis Awards banquet is a case in point. Last year, I knew exactly one person when I walked into that restaurant in Toronto. (My aunt – she was my date.) Last night, after working as the banquet chair for over six months with an amazing team from the Crime Writers of Canada – it felt like old home week. I had met, or emailed, or Skyped or phoned every single one of the 75 people in attendance, and many others besides.

Deryn Collier
(For full story read Deryn's Blog: "Good Things Come")

"The Millionaires Club"
On the Range Panel

For more photos check out the CWC page on Facebook 

Check out Writing the Open Range for more coverage of the weekend in Victoria.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Postcards from Victoria - 2

June 2: Arthur Ellis Awards Tonight!
Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria BC
Despite it being a dull grey day, Barbara Fradkin, Sue Pike and I had a fantastic, albeit windy trip through the Gulf Islands to Victoria. We met up with Sylvia Warsh and her husband on the trip. And now we are enjoying the luxury of the Grand Pacific Hotel and getting ready for the big dinner tonight. Can't wait to see who are the winners. 
R.J. (Robin) Harlick

Banquet Chair Deryn Collier and MC Anthony Bidulka

For the winners list go to the CWC Arthur Winners Page or check out the National Post on Friday June 3.

Check out Arthur Ellis Awards on Facebook for more photos

Check out Writing the Open Range for more coverage of the weekend in Victoria.

More "Postcards from Victoria" to come...

Postcards from Victoria - 1

This year the Arthur Ellis Awards Banquet, Crime Writers of Canada AGM and the Bloody Words conference are taking place in beautiful Victoria BC. Unfortunately, I can't be there. Instead, I asked fellow CWC members to send me "postcards" of their trip.


June 1: Getting there is half the fun...

   I'm driving from Calgary to Victoria to attend the Bloody Words conference. Along the way, I stopped at three bookstores to sign copies of my novel Deadly Fall.
    Vernon, BC:  A woman bought Deadly Fall for her 90 year-old father, a retired policeman. A man bought the novel for his mother as a belated Mother's Day gift. Another man told me his wife, an aspiring writer, is going to the Bloody Words conference. I hope to meet her there. 
    Kelowna, BC: Interesting chats with an aspiring writer from COWS - Central Okanagan Writers' Society - and a Calgary woman who knows a couple of my writing friends.  
    Kamloops, BC: Two of the bookstore staff members bought Deadly Fall. With luck, they'll love it and recommend it to customers. The three signings done - now I'm on real vacation.
Susan Calder

When I heard that Bloody Words was to be held in Victoria, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to pay a visit to Nelson, B.C., the inspiration for the fictional town of Trafalgar, B.C. in my Constable Molly Smith novels. On May 10th, I set off from Ottawa, Ontario. The trip began on a low note when I found the side window of the car smashed and my GPS stolen. However, the window was soon repaired and a new GPS installed. Since then I've battled floods in Manitoba, isolation in Saksatchewan, dinosaurs in Alberta, tricky mountain roads in British Columbia. And a moose attack somewhere in my imagination.
Vicki Delany

This is the magnificent view from my hotel room in the hockey capital of Canada, where the only thing on people's minds and lips is the Stanley Cup finals. With the first game tonight Hockey has taken over the entire town of Vancouver. Unfortunately tonight is also the night Barbara Fradkin and I are at the Vancouver Public Library reading from our latest books. What are the odds we'll have a sellout crowd, even a handful? But hey who cares as long as the Canucks win.
Tomorrow Barbara, Sue Pike and I make our way to Victoria via the ferry, a trip I have always wanted to do. See you all at the Arthur Ellis awards dinner. 
RJ (Robin) Harlick 

Sorry you're not here. 

Victoria's gorgeous inner harbour - I'm getting set to MC Thursday night's Arthur Ellis Awards. The town is abuzz with the excitement of it all. Canucks? What Canucks...the Crime writers are in town!
  Anthony Bidulka

Next... From the Arthur Ellis Awards Banquet