My short story, The Mercy Killer, will be going up on the Mysteryrats Maze podcast on October 16. Here’s my interview with editor Lorie Lewis Ham from Kings River Life magazine.
KRL: When did you first write “Mercy Killer” and where did you get the idea?
Merrilee: I got the idea for this story after spending a few days in Lyon (which is an amazing place to visit – great food, a historic district with Renaissance buildings, and a museum next to a Roman theatre still in use.) I saw a street musician dragging what looked like a heavy sound system around and thought it looked like a difficult life. Then I thought, what if my first impressions were completely wrong?
KRL: Has it been published?
Merrilee: This is a new story making its first public appearance.
KRL: Have you written and published many short stories?
Merrilee: Yes, I had a number of short stories published when I was in my 20s. Then for a long time I primarily wrote non-fiction. I started writing fiction again a few years ago and I’m very glad to be back at it. I have several short stories, all crime fiction, coming out over the next few months.
KRL: I understand you also write mystery novels, what is easier writing short stories or books?
Merrilee: I would never have said this when I was writing my first novel, but in many ways, writing short stories is more difficult. You have to develop characters and plot in a very few words. But that also makes short stories kind of exiting. You can explore an idea and tell a tale without the huge time commitment a novel requires. On the other hand, a novel gives you the opportunity to explore a more complex plot and involve more characters, which can be very satisfying. I like to think of a short story as like an amuse bouche at the start of the meal, something small and intriguing, whereas a novel is more like the main course, more filling.
A year and half ago I was honoured to be elected to the board of directors of Crime Writers of Canada as the regional representative for British Columbia/Yukon/Northwest Territories. CWC is the national professional association for mystery and crime writers in Canada. Our mission is to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and the media.
Whenever we organize an event, such as the panel presentation and display table we set up at Word Vancouver at the Vancouver Public Library on September 30, I usually present it as an opportunity to sell books and connect with readers.
But, inevitably, the thing that members comment on is how much they enjoyed spending time with other members. And new writers say how surprised they are at how supportive other members are.
As well as CWC, I belong to Sisters in Crime, which promotes the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers, and our local chapter, Sisters in Crime – Canada West. I also belong to a number of online discussion groups.
For people involved in an occupation as solitary as writing, it’s a pleasure to connect and share information with other writers.
I always encourage other writers or aspiring writers to join a professional association. You’ll be glad you did.
I’m giving a workshop tomorrow, May 12, at the Write On Vancouver festival being held at the Vancouver Public Library’s Central branch. Tips for Starting your Mystery Novel will help aspiring writer’s create their characters, develop their setting, and draft that all-important first sentence. Join me from 2:15 to 3:45 pm in the Alice MacKay Room on the Lower Level. This is a free event.
You’ll also have a chance to browse authors’ and publishers’ tables in the library’s atrium. Crime Writers of Canada will have a table there. Stop by and meet AJ Devlin, Jay Allan, Storey, Debra Purdy Kong, and me at the table from 10:30 – 4:30. The adjacent Sisters in Crime Canada West table will be staffed by Kathryn Jane, Loreth Anne White, Karen Dodd, and Karen M. Owen. Learn more about both crime writing organizations, sign up for newsletters, and find out about planned events.
This afternoon I moderated a session at the Firehall branch of the Vancouver Public Library which gave a sampling of the depth and range of crime fiction in this part of Canada. Carys Cragg read from Dead Reckoning, her heartbreaking and uplifting memoir about meeting the man who killed her father. AJ Devlin had us laughing out loud with his brand-new debut novel, Cobra Clutch. And Robert W, Mackay thrilled us with his story of wartime bravery, Soldier of the Horse. Thanks to the Vancouver Public Library for hosting this author reading event, part of a series of events celebrating Crime Writers of Canada’s 35th anniversary.
It’s so exciting to see writer friends from other countries arriving in Toronto for Bouchercon. While my jet lag will be nothing compared to theirs, I’m off today. Looking forward to seeing everyone. #Bouchercon2017 @SINCnational @SINCCanadaWest @crimewriterscan
I’ve seen what a difference an affordable home can make in people’s lives. But I had no idea about the role co‑op housing played in the civil rights movement in North America. #housing #BlackHistoryMonth
Thanks to CHF Canada for sharing this information for Black History month and to David J. Thompson and the National Association of Housing Co-ops for documenting these important stories (follow the links below to link to newsletters containing the full versions.)
In Murder is Uncooperative, all Rebecca wants is a safe, affordable home. Many people struggle to find affordable housing. For some, available options were even fewer because of their colour. Co-operatives provided a solution.
In 1958, famed entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte and his young family found it difficult to find an apartmentin New York City and he ended up sending his (white) publicist to the rental broker to collect a lease agreement for an apartment. A year later, Belafonte led a consortium that bought the apartment building and then offered co‑op shares to the tenants, creating a desegregated housing co‑op.
Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice and the lawyer who won the historic “Brown vs The Board of Education” case that opened the doors to desegregation, was exposed to co‑ops early in his career. In 1958, Marshall and his family moved out of the Edgecombe Apartments (which would later become co‑op apartments) and into the Morningside Heights Housing Co‑op in the upper east side of Manhattan. His focus in co‑operative organizing was to develop interracial co‑operatives, and he fought for a fair regulatory environment, taking the Federal Housing Authority to task for their discriminatory ‘redlining’ practices.
Bayard Rustin’s co-op apartmentin New York City, in the South Penn Housing Co‑operative, became the initial hub for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – the 1963 protest featuring by the Rev. Martin L King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.