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Posted in mysteries, writing, blog tour, guest author

Guest blogger: Author F.M. Meredith on Dialogue

I’m joined today by prolific author F.M. Meredith, whose new book Unresolved (Rocky Bluff P.D. Series #13) is available now. She’s here to share some tips on how to write compelling dialogue. Take it away, Ms. Meredith:

Though you want dialogue to be realistic sounding, don’t copy how we really talk such as: “Hello, how are you.”  “I’m fine, and you?” Leave all this greeting stuff and comments about the weather out unless it is important to the plot.

Dialogue should do one of two things: Move the plot along or reveal character.

Said and asked are better than the multitude of other dialogue tags such as responded, agreed, etc.

Better still, use the character’s action as a dialogue tag instead: “No way.”  Dan pulled out his gun.

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Posted in Legwork Wednesday, life, writing

Legwork Wednesday for April 26, 2017

Legwork Wednesday is a weekly writing/reading/general life update. By recounting my week’s activities, I can chart my progress, update any of you who might be interested, and keep myself accountable. You’ve got to do a lot of legwork to solve the puzzle and reach your goal.

Writing: My short story for the OBPO What’s Your Story? contest is finally done and edited. It took a lot out of me! Finding the balance between description and emotion, and trying to convey something actually happening to someone I hope the reader cares about in the space of 1400 words was not easy. Now I’m working on a draft for the Malahat Review Far Horizons short fiction contest (3500 words, deadline May 1). It’s a story that came out of nowhere, the first thousand words dropping fully-formed from my brain in twenty minutes of typing. Figuring out what happened next was something of a challenge, but I like where this strange little story is going. Ideally I’d also like to finish something for the Cosmonauts Non-Fiction Prize, mostly because it’s judged by the glorious Roxane Gay, but I don’t think I’ll have time. It’s also due May 1st. We’ll see how the weekend goes…

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Posted in Art Heist April, movies

Art Heist April: Heist movies!

It’s Art Heist April on Kat’s Clues! Join me all month long to discover books, movies, and more, all featuring art heists.

A great heist is unlike a regular mystery because it aligns the audience with the criminal. Whether they’re rough and tumble or gentleman (or gentlewoman) cat burglars, we buy into the story from the thief’s point of view. The law enforcement characters are often bumbling, stupid, or vengeful. We have reason not to want justice to win. We like the thief because they are charming, interested in the thing they’re stealing (and not just in its dollar value), and above all intelligent. They’re willing to use that intelligence in daring ways. We want to see them create a plan and set it in motion, watching as its Rube-Goldberg components set each other off and allow the thief–we hope–to make their getaway in the nick of time. And we like watching how they react when things inevitably go wrong.

Here are some great art heist films, with a few bonus non-art heists that are too fun not to mention.

1. The Art of the Steal (2013)

This funny Canadian art heist boasts an ensemble with wonderful chemistry, a few different factions who may or may not be working together or double-crossing each other, and a strong appreciation for the art being stolen. It’s the story of underdog Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell), who took the fall for his half-brother Nicky (Matt Dillon at his delightfully sleaziest) during an art forgery gone wrong and lost a few years of his life in a Polish prison. Now he’s back home, working as a motorcycle daredevil (and just as often deliberately crashing for a few extra bucks). When a violent lowlife shows up demanding recompense for a Georges Seurrat painting Nicky stole, Crunch gets the old gang back together again for a classic “one last score” story. It’s a funny movie, with a lot of ad-libbed lines from Crunch’s protege, played in a affably nervous way by Jay Baruchel. The Art of the Steal brings together elements of forgery, con, old-timers mentoring the new generation, humour, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

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Posted in books, Legwork Wednesday, life, writing

Legwork Wednesday for April 19th, 2017

Legwork Wednesday is a weekly writing/reading/general life update. By recounting my week’s activities, I can chart my progress, update any of you who might be interested, and keep myself accountable. You’ve got to do a lot of legwork to solve the puzzle and reach your goal.

Life: I was on vacation last week in the nation’s capital. I love Ottawa. It’s a beautiful city, lots of museums and points of interest, very walkable, and great restaurants and cafes for lounging. The trip was a combination anniversary gift to ourselves and much-needed break. Ottawa is just far enough by comfy train ride from Toronto to feel like you’re genuinely away while also being cost effective. We checked out the Alex Janvier exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada, Parliament, Rideau Hall, the Byward Market, Chinatown, and many other places. We ate poutine and strolled along the Rideau River. We even walked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his way in to work! I did a lot of reading, napping, relaxing, and…

Writing: This has been a rewarding couple of weeks. I completed and submitted a short piece to Paper Darts’ microfiction contest on the theme of cleanliness and a draft for the OBPO’s What’s Your Story? contest. One thing I’m really focusing on is plot: it’s great to have an image of X as a starting point, but that setting or character sketch isn’t often enough. I ask myself all the time now: “Why is this something someone would want to read? What is interesting here? What keeps someone from putting down a book or closing a tab?” From that focus on “but what happens, and why is that interesting?” I’m finding more depth to characterization. The OBPO story needs a lot of refinement, but at least it’s down on the page.

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Posted in Art Heist April, books

Art Heist April: The Goldfinch

AHA banner KC updated

It’s Art Heist April on Kat’s Clues! Join me all month long to discover books, movies, and more, all featuring art heists.

In 2013, the book world was abuzz with news that the new Donna Tartt was finally here. Tartt had previously written two highly acclaimed novels, The Secret History and The Little StrangerThe Goldfinch became an instant sensation and it deeply divided readers. Some people disliked it’s sprawlingness, its subplots, or its hefty length. I was on the other side, loving this book and falling completely into the world Tartt created. The Secret History is one of my favourite books, and The Goldfinch was a more than worthy successor.

The book begins with Theo Decker ill and alone in a hotel room in Europe, sweating out something major that has just happened. Is he going to be arrested? What criminal dealings is he mixed up in? We jump back in time to the young Theo, visiting the Metropolitan Museum with his mother. . . just before a bomb goes off. Dazed and in shock, Theo searches for his mother and instead finds a dying man who insists Theo take a painting by Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt’s. Before he knows it, he’s stumbled outside, painting rolled up in his bag.

Goldfinch

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Posted in Art Heist April, books

Art Heist April: Hot Art by Joshua Knelman

AHA banner KC updated

It’s Art Heist April on Kat’s Clues! Join me all month long to discover books, movies, and more, all featuring art heists.

Let’s kick off the month with a real-life account of how art thieves operate and move art all over the world. Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art, by Joshua Knelman, is part-caper, part–true crime. The story begins when Knelman is approached by an art thief in Toronto who wants to tell his story about a small but lucrative gallery heist. From there, we dive into a global investigation of how the art-theft world works, following cops in Hollywood, lawyers specializing in art theft, Interpol agents, and known thieves.

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Posted in Legwork Wednesday, life, writing

Legwork Wednesday for April 5, 2017

Legwork Wednesday is a weekly writing/reading/general life update. By recounting my week’s activities, I can chart my progress, update any of you who might be interested, and keep myself accountable. You’ve got to do a lot of legwork to solve the puzzle and reach your goal.

Writing: I’m hard at work on a short story for the Ontario Book Publishers Organization’s 2nd annual What’s Your Story? Short Prose and Poetry Competition for Emerging Writers (deadline: May 1st, 2017, 1300 to 1500 words). The very short word limit and the setting (one of four main Toronto neighbourhoods) makes for a unique challenge. As a new(er)comer to Toronto (I’ve been here about a decade and lived in two of the four neighbourhoods), I’m thinking a lot about authenticity and what story I want to tell. My goal is a workable draft finished by Friday. I’ve also set up a calendar of interesting story competition deadlines for May. Having returned to writing after a five-year hiatus, I want to build up a new portfolio of work, so writing a new story for a number of deadlines creates a helpful schedule and structure. Finally, I’m planning some site research for my novel, visiting a few places that I can walk through and take in to help the setting for my mystery novel come to better life in my head.

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Posted in Art Heist April, mysteries

Art Heist April

 

I love heist stories, especially ones about art theft. The double-crossings, the high stakes, the larger-than-life personalities. There’s something elegant about the archetypal art thief, someone who isn’t just stealing whatever they can get their hands on but who loves and appreciates art, has a strong aesthetic sense, and possesses a keen mind able to map out elaborate plans and evade security systems and the dogged law enforcers on their tail.

Sometimes the valiant detective is the protagonist of the tale, but more often we’re on the side of the clever, plucky, or downright ballsy criminal. While in most detective fiction we’re following along with the detective, hoping for justice to win the day, with heists, we get a peek at the other side of the curtain. We want the band of rogues to get away with the crime, often cheering as our Robin Hood relieves the rich of that pesky Picasso they probably don’t appreciate anyway.

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Posted in books, Legwork Wednesday, life, writing

Legwork Wednesday for March 29, 2017

Legwork Wednesday is a weekly writing/reading/general life update. By recounting my week’s activities, I can chart my progress, update any of you who might be interested, and keep myself accountable. You’ve got to do a lot of legwork to solve the puzzle and reach your goal.

General writing: I’ve officially sent off my short story for the Alice Munro Short Story Competition! I’m really excited about this. It’s the first completed-and-sent story I’ve worked on since returning to fiction writing after a five-year hiatus. Now I’m doing some research for the Ontario Book Publishers Organization’s 2nd annual What’s Your Story? Short Prose and Poetry Competition for Emerging Writers (deadline: May 1st, 2017, 1300 to 1500 words). This is a neat one, as the story needs to set within one of four defined Toronto neighbourhoods. I have the germ of an idea and the faintest whiff of a main character, so I’ll be spending some time teasing out what kind of plot might come out of the germ.

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Posted in detectives, life, mysteries

Playing detective: Sherlock Holmes, the board game

Think you’re good at solving puzzles? Always figure out who the murderer is in the book you’re reading before the sleuth does? Then this game is for you.

In the board game Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, you and your fellow players are part of the Baker Street Irregulars. At the beginning of each case, Holmes briefs you about the situation: the crime, the location, any other information he might know. Then he goes off to solve the case and leaves you to try to do the same. The goal is to see if you can solve it as fast or even faster than Holmes does.

The game is cooperative, which means you’re working with your fellow players to figure out the culprit, their motive, and answers to other case-related questions (the murder weapon, say, or where the stolen object was stashed). The game comes with ten cases, a detailed map of Victorian London, a newspaper for the day the case occurs full of news stories, personal and social notices, and advertisements, and a directory, where you can look up pretty much any person, place, or service you might need to visit to solve the case.

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Obviously the brie and crackers are integral components of solving the crime.

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