LitFest’s Summer Reading List

LitFest2013-ImageOnlyWondering what to take along on your summer vacation? Or maybe what to kick back with on the hammock during one of your many summer “sick days.”

The good people at LitFest, Canada’s only nonfiction book festival, have put together an awesome list of five must-read Canadian nonfiction books.

This year’s list is a diverse selection:


Don’t forget to Tweet and read! Tweet your review with #litfest13 to win tickets to LitFest.

Quote/Unquote: Wayne Arthurson on Edmonton as a Character

Wayne Arthurson receiving the inaugural Alberta Readers’ Choice Award

Anyone who has read either of Wayne Arthurson’s Leo Desroches mystery novels knows the presence of the city of Edmonton in his stories. It’s more than setting, more than exposition, but a character in itself.

Though our June 30th talk at the Stanley Milner Library (along with Janice McDonald of the Randy Craig series) is focused on the craft and business of mystery writing , I wanted to hear from Wayne about why he’s so transfixed by his hometown and why he made it so prominent in his book. Here’s what he had to say:

A year ago, I was fortunately placed on a panel with Ian Rankin, writer of the bestselling Rebus series. And at the panel, he said that when he wishes to learn about a culture or a place he knows nothing about, he reads the crime fiction from that area. Because through crime fiction, you truly get to see what a place is like, the side streets the tourism bureau doesn’t want you to see, the political shenanigans, the social structure, how things actually get done and how people actually feel and talk. You truly get to understand the foundation of a place.

I found that quite telling because if you read enough crime fiction, you realize that sense of place plays a major role in these novels. The setting isn’t just where the story takes place, it become almost another character, interacting with all the other characters, especially that main character, through its geography, weather, history, the social and political structure, and the people who live there.

And during the writing of my Leo Desroches novels (Fall From Grace and A Killing Winter), I worked hard to make the City of Edmonton a key part of the novel. And not just in the topography of where things are and where Leo walks when he goes home (because actually I did change a few things so people wouldn’t know which strip mall Leo goes to, stuff like that). But in the way sunlight is of a different wavelength of colour during the late fall, what kind of houses we have in our central neighbourhoods, and how easy it would be to kill someone just by leaving him out in the middle of nowhere when it’ s -30.

Sadly, I’ve been asked too many times why I set my novel in Edmonton, as if it was an odd thing to do. And my answer is simply: Where else would I set these novels? New York? Minneapolis? Toronto?

I know little of those cities so if I tried to put Leo there, he wouldn’t fit.  Leo belongs in Edmonton because it’s where I live, it’s the city I know and understand best.

Wayne Arthurson’s latest installment in the Leo Desroches series, A Killing Winter, is available now at Audrey’s books and, of course, your local library.

Join Wayne Arthurson, Janice MacDonald and me at the Stanley Milner library Sunday, June 30th at 1:30pm for a fun and insightful discussion on what makes good mystery writing.

The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction

condemned cover

“Condemned to Repeat” now in stores

Leading up to June 30th’s Writers’ Corner on Mystery writing, I asked one of two panelists, Janice MacDonald (author of the Randy Craig Mysteries) for a list of common genre cliches.

Turns out, someone consecrated this list almost a hundred years ago during the Golden Age of detective fiction.

Ronald Knox, known to admirers like MacDonald as “Father Knox,” was a humorist literary critic and, of course, detective fiction author. He formed The Detective Fiction Decalogue in the preface of the anthology Best Detective Stories of 1928-1929.

“Father” Ronald Knox / Wikipedia

“While a lot of Father Knox’s ‘Decalogue of Detective Fiction’ have been challenged by very good writers,” says MacDonald, “there are good reasons behind every one of these.”

Join Janice MacDonald, Wayne Arthurson and me at the Stanley Milner library Sunday, June 30th at 1:30pm for a fun and insightful discussion on what makes good mystery writing. In the meantime, study the words of the Father.

Here are his 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction:

  1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
  9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Local comic book creativity a novel idea

By Trent Wilkie, Sherwood Park News
Monday, June 17, 2013

One of the perks of being a community journalist is that you get to meet people who, like yourself, are doing things because they love to.

It isn’t like people doing things they love is a rarity, but every once in a while an opportunity to work with like-minded people rears its head.

Such an occasion has happened recently with the Strathcona County Library, its writer in residence and a local comic book illustrator whose business attire is “cowboy casual.”

Sally Neal, the communications assistant at the library, and writer in residence Natasha Dean have constructed an idea where a local writer, namely me, and a local artist, namely Daniel Schneider of Smashed Head, combine our wiles in creating a comic book that is relevant to the community.

Read the full article here.

Mysterious World of Mystery Writing Revealed at Stanley Milner

Writers’ Corner with Mystery Novelists Janice MacDonald and Wayne Arthurson

Are you an aspiring mystery writer, or maybe just a crime book junkie? Learn more about the craft you love from two of Canada’s best in the genre, Janice MacDonald and Wayne Arthurson.

When June 30th, 1:30 pm
Where Stanley Milner Library
Cost Free
Register? Drop in – No registration required

Writer Janice MacDonald is best known for writing four novels featuring amateur sleuth Miranda “Randy” Craig. The Randy Craig Mysteries were the first detective series to be set in Edmonton. The latest installment, Hang Down Your Head, was published in 2011, and a fifth Randy Craig adventure is slated for release in May 2013.



Wayne Arthurson is the author of Fall From Grace, his debut novel that also won the inaugural Alberta Readers’ Choice Award from the Edmonton Public Library. His most recent book, A Killing Winter, is a sequel.

Guest Post – Alicia Dean

Horror…Gothic Mystery…Paranormal…Suspense…Thrillers –
How to distinguish between all the ‘creepy’ genres

I love the dark, spooky, edge of your seat creepy stuff. Love writing it, love reading it. But there are so many different categories and sub genres out there, it’s hard to keep track of what’s what. I am not an expert, and I do not have an official definition of each, but in my experience of reading/writing, I have come to some conclusions.

Horror – Normally involves monsters of all types, as far as the imagination can stretch. These stories are often gory, extremely frightening, and they definitely do not guarantee a Happily Ever After. They do not guarantee that the Protagonist will survive, but most of the time the monsters are defeated. Even if the MC (Main Character) has to sacrifice himself or herself in order to ‘win.’

Paranormal – Usually associated with a basic group of Supernatural creatures, i.e, Vampires, Werewolves, Shape Shifters, Demons, Zombies, Grim Reapers, etc. Most of the time, these stories have a romance element and usually, Good trumps Evil in the end. Although Good can often be the creatures themselves. (More often than not, a Supernatural creature is the MC).

Gothic Mystery – Are almost always set in a remote town, usually but not always a coastal town. They normally feature a young woman as the MC, one who is away from her family, or has no family (which is actually more common), and this MC travels to this spooky, faraway place. She always has a compelling reason to visit this strange land and always becomes involved in a mystery which puts her at risk. Oftentimes, she ends up having a connection to the town or a resident of the town. Sometimes, that is why she journeys there in the first place. Usually, she finds love, but that’s not a ‘must.’

Suspense – These stories are fast-paced and danger of some kind is normally the theme. Usually, the danger is personal, and it is to the MC and/or someone they love, rather than on the broader scope of a thriller. Oftentimes, the villain is known, it’s just a matter of catching them and/or surviving. Suspense stories can have romance, which would put them in the Romantic Suspense category, but it is not required.

Mystery – These are your basic ‘Whodunits.’ They are necessarily fast-paced but should be intriguing, compelling. Readers typically like to solve the mystery along with—or preferably before–the MC. A well-written mystery will not allow the reader to unravel the mystery/identify the bad guy with certainty, but the person who is ultimately the villain should probably have been one of the reader’s guesses. Not necessarily, but sometimes if the bad guy wasn’t on the reader’s radar, then the author is ‘cheating’ the reader by making the villain someone too unlikely. Enough clues should have been dropped along the way that, even if a reader doesn’t solve the mystery, once they learn the truth, they can say, “Ah, yeah. I should have figured that one out.” Again, romance can be a part of the story, but it’s not a must.

Thriller – These are basically like a suspense but are usually more fast-paced with higher stakes. They involve a broader scope of danger, such as to an entire community, or even an entire country. Thrillers are often International, and can take the MC, along with the reader, to all sorts of foreign, exotic places. Sometimes a relationship is a part of the story, but romance isn’t usually a focus. (Under the Thriller heading, there are various sub headings, such as, Crime thrillers, political, legal, psychological, etc.)

That is my interpretation of all these exciting and dangerous genres. I might not be 100 percent accurate, but it’s not all that important what you call them, as long as they keep you turning pages and make your heart beat just a little faster.

What is your favorite of the above genres? What is it that keeps you coming back to these kinds of stories?

Alicia Dean Tin Man ColorAlicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the mother of three grown children. Alicia loves creating spine-chilling stories that keep readers on the edge of their seats. She writes paranormal and romantic suspense for several different publishers and is excited to be a launch author for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds with two Vampire Diaries stories and one Gossip Girl story.


Let the Fun Begin!!

Friday was the first official meeting to launch the comic book project with Strathcona Library! I’m so excited to be working with Sally (librarian), Trent Wilkie (Journalist Extraordinaire), & Dan Schneider (Amazing Illustrator) as we develop our comic book, A Cowgirl Named Boy.

Stay tuned for updates & keep Halloween open for our grand launch!

SCL Comic Book

L to R: Trent, Dan, Sally, and Natasha

Edmonton Writer’s unBlock Group set to launch in Callingwood

New writing club in Edmonton. Contact Mansum Yau to get involved.

While most writing groups focus on editing members’ writing, the Edmonton Writer’s unBlock Group will not be doing any editing. Instead, this new group will focus on a variety of different writing activities or exercises such as writing prompts and flash fiction. Writers of different genres will be meeting once a month on a Wednesday evening at a café in the West End (Callingwood neighbourhood). At each meeting, time will be given for writing exercises followed by time to read one’s writing out loud if one wishes to for constructive feedback. The goal is to spark new ideas that you probably won’t get sitting in front of a blank piece of paper or blank computer screen at home by yourself.