Ghost Writer: Another fabulous read!

As we continue on our journey through the wonderful mystery novels published by Imajin Books, the sale continues. Today, Alison Bruce is here to share a story that gives us insight into her and her characters…

Ghost Writer is on sale for $1.99.

Are all writers Stubborn?

By Alison Bruce

2013-Bruce-author-400My life isn’t so much an open book as a Columbo episode. 

Columbo, an American mystery series starring Peter Falk as the eponymous homicide detective, always started with the murder. The mystery wasn’t a whodunit; it was all about Columbo working it out, gathering the clues and getting a confession. Not that my life adventures required many confessions. But I’ve always been fascinated why things happen and why people do things…including myself. 

Once I decided to take a different route home from school. There was an apartment building at the end of my street.  That is, there was an entrance to the apartment building’s parking lot. I reasoned that the front of the building must be on Kingston Road, which was the road I walked along to get to my high school. If that was the case, I should be able to cut through the parking lot to get home.

This wasn’t a shortcut, by way. I had to go past the street that most directly led home. I was also wrong about the building. Another apartment building fronted Kingston Road. The one I knew backed onto it. The parking lots could have been connected, if someone hadn’t put an eight foot link fence in between.

A reasonable person would have backtracked. A more athletic person would have had no problem scaling the fence. I was neither athletic nor reasonable, but I was stubborn. I managed to climb the fence but just barely made it over. I left a swatch of denim and a chunk of my skin behind.

I do my best to make my protagonists different from each other. They have different family situations, different professions, different skill sets, different tastes (coffee excepted). However, I think all of them have the similar dumb episode in their past. Like me, they hate backing down.


By Alison Bruce

Bruce-GhostWriter-400She has to deal with two kinds of spooks: spies and ghosts.

But which one is trying to kill her?

Jen Kirby has seen ghosts since she was a child, but she can’t talk to them or help them cross over. And, after a violent death in the family, she doesn’t want to see them anymore. 

In her role as ghostwriter, Jen joins a Canadian Arctic expedition to document and help solve a forty-year-old mystery involving an American submarine station lost during the Cold War. The trouble is, there are people—living and dead—who don’t want the story told, and they’ll do anything to stop her.

Now Jen is haunted by ghosts she can’t avoid or handle alone. That means confiding in the one man she doesn’t want to dismiss her as “crazy.” But can he help? Or is he part of the problem?

Alison writes novels that combine mystery, well-researched backgrounds, a touch of romance and lots of coffee. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.


Twitter: @alisonebruce 



Amazon Author Page: 

Mystery Monday: Connie Johnson Hambley on Book Marketing From the Other Side

This week on Mystery Mondays, we have author Connie Johnson Hambley here to talk about marketing your book – but from a different perspective. She’s here with super helpful advice on a topic that as authors we many not think about…

Marketing Your Book? Watch Your Back

by Connie Johnson Hambley

We’ve all heard the advice about creating the best cover for your book. Read the majority of posts regarding book covers, and you quickly realize all the buzz in on the front cover.

My advice? Watch your back.

Getting the best quality design and format for your front cover is essential, but most authors neglect the importance of a compelling back cover. Don’t let a frontal focus limit you from creating the best back cover you can.

I can hear you thinking, “Um, eBooks don’t have back covers. Why bother?”

Simple. Even if your book will not be released in paperback or hard cover, having a back cover image in a jpeg, png, gif or other format adds another level to your marketing efforts. Social media loves pictures that convey information quickly. Back cover images that combine words and pictures give your potential readers more reasons to buy your book.

The back cover is an open canvas for content. The best covers may contain the following elements:

  1. The compelling question your book answers or hook.

“What if your very existence threatened an empire?”

Gosh! I never thought of that before! My first book, The Charity, answered that question for my trilogy’s main character, Jessica Wyeth. The question itself leads the prospective book buyer deeper into your world. A good hook does the same thing. For mystery The Charity - Cover_new.inddlovers, there’s nothing like hinting someone is recently dead or going to die that peaks interest.

  1. Blurbs and excerpted reviews.

Readers want to know their money is going to something good. They want to see a stamp of approval for the book from authors they may be familiar with or organizations they trust.

  1. Book Summary

A good summary contains a snapshot of the main characters, setting, goal, obstacles, and conflict. Leaving the reader at a cliff-hanger is a great way for them to understand the context for the compelling question. The summary provides insight into the world you created in your story in no more than two hundred words.

  1. Images

This is the fun stuff. Settings? Main characters? Cool technology? Murder weapons? Sure!

THE WAKE - BACK COVERThis is where the back cover can be more powerful that the front. Select three or more images that highlight something your reader is going to care about. I write mainstream thrillers with a world-class equestrian as the main character. Readers who enjoy the world horses inhabit (think thoroughbred racing, rodeo, stadium jumping, cattle roping. . . you get the idea), are quick to have more interest in my books when they see a horse on the back cover.

For the third book in my trilogy, The Wake, the top image of a horse and a wheelchair provides a strong hint that something goes very wrong. That image combined with a positive blurb from the CEO of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (horse-based physical and emotional therapies) begins to inform readers of a storyline they didn’t see coming. The bottom picture of Cumann n mBan, a female member of the IRA, ties the books to the Irelands and is a powerful image for today’s readers.

  1. Series Continuity

Informing readers a book is a part of a series is an essential part of marketing. I’ve used my back covers to show continuity as well as content. Taken as a whole, a reader can see the trajectory of the storyline.

  1. ISBN and Barcode

If you go to the trouble of making a back cover, be sure to allow for barcode placement in the lower right-hand corner. A quick search will provide you with the information you need for dimensions and proper placement. 

The Charity: Witness to a gang-style slaying, a young woman is hunted to stop her from exposing the money and the people behind a Boston-based terrorist cell.

The Troubles: Deceived by her family, a rebellious woman seeks to unearth how Northern Ireland’s Troubles are buried in her mother’s secret past.


The Wake: A shattered heiress’ family secret is exploited by her spurned lover to blackmail her into engaging in international terrorism.


THE WAKE answers the question, “Is a terrorist born or made?”

World-class equestrian, Jessica Wyeth, is thrust into the middle of a game of geopolitical warfare. Reeling from revelations of her connection to the violent struggles to expunge Britain from Northern Ireland, she’s blocked by unseen forces from returning to the United States.

The facts of Jessica’s birth become her deepest secret. Her late mother was considered by Northern Ireland to be a terrorist and her father is a key negotiator between violent Irish Republican Army (IRA) factions in Belfast and the British Government.

Jessica vows to keep her father’s identity hidden at all costs.

Only one man knows Jessica’s truth. Michael Connaught, heir to an international crime family who profits from political uprisings, struggles with his own legacy. He is torn between protecting the woman he loves or using her secrets as a catalyst for inciting global unrest.

When a terrorist bomb rips through the crowd at the Atlanta-based Summer Olympic Games, Jessica is forced to fight for her life in ways she never dreamed.

The Wake is available for pre-order on Amazon.



Hambley Business HeadshotCONNIE JOHNSON HAMBLEY embraces the changes in the publishing world by being both traditionally and independently published. Growing up on a dairy farm in New York meant she had plenty of space to ride one of her six horses, and all would have been idyllic if a pesky arsonist hadn’t burned her family’s barn down. Bucolic bubble burst, she began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, real and imagined. After receiving her law degree, she moved to Boston and wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nature and other wonky outlets as she honed her skills of reaching readers at a deep emotional level. Her high-concept thrillers feature remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes and walk the reader on the razor’s edge between good and evil. Connie delights in creating worlds where the good guys win–eventually. Her short story, Giving Voice, won acceptance in the award-winning New England’s Best Crime Stories: Windward, published by Level Best Books. The Troubles, is a 2016 Best Fiction winner at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City.

Connie keeps horses in her life by volunteering as a horse handler at a therapeutic riding center. Look for updates and information on and follow her on Twitter at @conniehambley.



Mystery Mondays: M.H. Callway on Short Stories Vs Novels

It is my pleasure to welcome fellow author M.H. Callway to Mystery Mondays. Madeleine and I met online and have since become friends. Her novel Windigo Fire was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. She writes both short stories and novels, and she’s here to tell you about that.


I often give talks on how to get published to aspiring writers. One tip I pass on is to start writing shorter pieces. As an author, I found great encouragement when one of my stories was accepted for publication and/or became a finalist for an award. The boost gave me the will to continue and to believe that I had enough talent to pursue my writing dream.

That’s not to say that writing a short story is easy although it is easier than tackling a novel. To use a running analogy, it’s like preparing for a 5K as opposed to a marathon. You need good basic cardio to run a 5K and most people can finish, but running a marathon introduces a whole new level of complexity. It requires far more endurance, experience and will power – and you won’t be able to complete one without the right training.

Would that I had followed my own advice!

I had always wanted to write a novel so that’s where I started. In 2002, I began my learner novel. Ignorance was bliss so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I ended up with 140,000 words of mishmash. Patient author friends ploughed through my verbiage and gave me excellent advice. I revised the draft several times, reduced the length to 100,000 words and mailed it off to multiple rejections and a few near misses.

By now, it was 2006. The Crime Writers of Canada announced a short story contest and several of my friends planned to enter. We are always advised to write what we know and since I’d spent most of my career working in the civil service, I wrote a comic short story about two hard-working civil servants saddled with a new Boss from Hell. To my great surprise and delight, “Kill the Boss” won first prize.

“Kill the Boss” was picked up by Silver Moon Magazine and reprinted in Mouth Full of Bullets. It proved to be a turning point for my writing career, mostly because I’d devoted four years to improve my writing skills.

I spent the next few years writing short stories. In 2009, I decided to try novel writing again. That work eventually became my first published novel, Windigo Fire. Writing and publishing short fiction kept me going through Windigo Fire’s ups and downs and continues to do so while I wrestle with the next book in the Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.

My short fiction starts with a simple idea. When I write a short story, I’m a complete pantser though I usually know how the story is going to end. Often I have the closing line in mind. What I don’t know is how long it’s going to take to get to the end. I simply write until the story is fully told.

I find the process of writing short fiction immensely freeing. Also since I tend to write long, I’ve started exploring the novella form. In our digital age, we aren’t as constrained to rigid word limits as we once were because of the mechanics of print publishing. Nowadays, too, readers have less time, so I believe that the novella form has potential to become popular.

Readers can now find my published stories and novellas together in my new book Glow Grass and Other Tales. It’s available on Amazon in print and digital form.

I love to hear from readers. Do visit my website and leave me your comments at Or you may contact me at

M.H. Callway’s Books:


12000831_10154197942864018_1649104801334232488_oWINDIGO FIRE

A  Canadian noir thriller.

Danny Bluestone, a young Native man, overeducated and underemployed, is drawn into an illegal bear hunt to escape his stultifying hometown of Red Dog Lake in Northern Ontario.  Things quickly go violent and he must fight to survive both the killers and the wilderness.




Revenge, guide dogs, cats big and small, beleaguered ladies of a certain age and a cop with a tarnished heart, meet them all here in Glow Grass and Other Tales.

The characters in the seven stories and two novellas fight for justice even when their sense of justice is warped.  The tales include winners of The Bony Pete and Golden Horseshoe awards as well as the finalists for the 2015 Derringer and 2016 Arthur Ellis Best Novella Award.



BLAZE Available At The General Store, Panorama, BC

Locally owned businesses love to support local artists. The General Store in Panorama is now selling both DESCENT and BLAZE.

General Store Sign

The wonderful employees placed both books right at the register where every person who enters the store sees them.

BLAZE Geneal Store 2
DESCENT and BLAZE at the register.

Billy, the manager, listened to my blurb about the books and what he might say to customers who ask about them, and he put up sign in case more was needed to drive a customer’s eyes to the books .

The General Store and Panorama Mountain Resort Rock!

Skiers and snowboarders: check out the snow. My gear is ready. My warm woolies are out. Lifts open December 11th. It’s going to be an awesome season.

Snow Falling at Panorama
Snow Falling at Panorama

Thanks for reading.

BLAZE Available for Pre-order (Stone Mountain Mystery #2)

Working with a modern publisher such as Imajin Books has advantages.

I counted on the Imajin Books website, and the company currently has 26 authors including me. This means each author gets individual attention and a fast track to publication.

So let me define fast. DESCENT was released July 25th, 2015.

BLAZE is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released October 25th, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.31.28 AMDoes this mean I wrote two books in one year?

No. I wrote four novels during the five years I lived on a sailboat. I’m currently working on the 5th. I think I needed to write four books to learn how to write a book. When I finished the fourth, I went back to the beginning of the series and rewrote all four novels. Only then, did I feel ready to submit to the first two.

It takes time to create fiction, but now that The Stone Mountain Mystery series is underway, I’m glad to be with Imajin Books and get the novels published quickly and professionally.

Forest fires are a hot topic this year in North America, and I’ve brought it close to home for Kalin Thompson…

Instead of exchanging vows, Kalin Thompson spends her wedding day running from a forest fire near Stone Mountain Resort, and the pregnant friend trapped with her has just gone into labor. Meanwhile, Kalin’s fiancé, Ben Timlin, hangs from the rafters of a burning building, fighting for his life. Can the situation get any hotter?

When the fire is declared as arson, finding the firebug responsible becomes Kalin’s personal mission. In the course of her investigation as Director of Security, she discovers that some people will go to extreme measures to keep her from exposing their secrets.

If you haven’t read DESCENT yet, now is your chance before BLAZE comes out. Find it at:

And if you have read DESCENT, I’d be very excited if you pre-ordered BLAZE.

Thanks for reading…

Spread Sheets and Novels

#writetip I don’t know how anyone writes a novel without spread sheet. The more I write, the more columns my spread sheet contains.

What I’ve discovered writing my third novel, Burnt, is that I needed to add two new columns. These columns are helpful if you are writing a mystery novel.

One column is used for clues to solving the crime. This means the reader knows the clues, but the main protagonist might not. This is especially helpful if you write from multiple points of view. If not, you probably don’t need this one.

The second column keeps track of clues the main protagonist knows. This ensures the character doesn’t mysteriously know something at the wrong time.

For a more detailed description of my complete spread sheet and how I use it, please see:

Sentence Structure

Variety  in sentences can reduce choppiness and smooth the narrative. #writetip

Early in my writing, one of my mentors (Joan Barfoot) suggested I work on variety in sentence structures. I decided to be methodical, about it and here is a method I use to check for variety.

Randomly choose a page of your novel.

Hit return after each sentence. Basically, you form a new paragraph with each line.

Run through the following checklist:

– Are the sentence lengths different? If not, you might want to vary the lengths.

– Do you ever use introductory phrases or clauses. If not, why not try it and see if it changes the sound of your writing.

– Do you use sentences that contain conjunctions? Are they different or do you repeat the same ones?

–  Short declarative sentences can be powerful, but if used to often can lose their power.

Where Ideas Come From

The hair salon? #writetip I went out for a hair cut and came back with a plot solution. The man who cuts my hair is chatty. He talked about his life, current events, etc. He’s funny, and I was enjoying his stories, and then it occurred to me he’d given me a solution for a plot problem I was having.

My problem: I still haven’t figured out how to politely pull out my notebook in the middle of someone’s sentence and write down what they’re saying.

Being a writer means you’re always working. Is there ever a time when you don’t think about your novel? When you are not hearing what others say and playing with it, altering it, and seeing where it might fit  in a story?

I guess it pays to  listen, no matter where you are.

Is your protagonist likable?

How do you know? #writetip I ask four or five early readers. On my first novel, my husband was my first reader. I expected him to tell me I was fabulous, my writing was great, and he’d never read anything better. Well, that’s what husbands are for. Right?

So after he did all the above, he said he didn’t like my protagonist. Wasn’t I surprised. She was whiny and negative. Not a great personality if you’re going to spend 300 pages with her. We had a detailed discussion about why he thought this and it was back to work for me. I liked her, but I had to think hard about why others might not.

Now, I ask all my early readers to tell me what they do and don’t like about my main characters. This helps me gain perspective on the characters and think about who I want them to be.

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll know I depend on my early readers. I can’t thank them enough for helping me, spending their time reading my drafts, and being willing to comment. The conversations after they’d read my work are often invigorating. Who said writing was lonely?

Back to School

The writing profession is like any other when it comes to keeping your skills honed. #writetip

For me, fall is an exciting time of year. The change of seasons, the freshness in the air clear my mind. Fall in Canada means new clothes, colour in the trees, candlelit evenings, and late dawns.

This is the time of year I study. Maybe it’s because for many years fall meant a new term at school or maybe it’s because it’s dark in the evenings, but every year, I read one grammar book. I choose a recently book published with exercises in it. The exercises make the reminders stick and ensure the material is understood. The exercises seem like crosswords puzzles and keep me entertained.

Even If I only learn one new grammar rule or new trend with punctuation, it’s worth the time. More time spent studying rules means less time spent looking them up when writing.