Monday, October 29, 2007
Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie was my introduction to crime writing. I was ten and thought it had something to do with mice. Many though would say that Agatha Christie's novels are not crime writing. There is a crime for sure - usually murder - but yet it's so lightly done. Not really realistic, one could say. A cozy mystery I believe is the current label.
Then I moved onto Daphne Du Maurier's books. Now I can't quite say if there are actual criminal acts in her stories but they always feel like there is. All the way through Rebecca I was waiting for the crime to be revealed. Crime writing? Probably not, more likely it's labelled gothic or maybe historical romance.
Who came next? Dashiell Hammett. Now there can't be any dispute that he was a crime writer. In fact, one editorial review on Amazon states: Complete in one volume, the five books that created the modern American crime novel. Yet, he's also put in the box labelled hard-boiled.
And to my favorite living author, Dick Francis. There's always something unlawful in his stories. However, they're labelled mysteries or suspense not crime. And my novel Murder Makes Mischief even I don't call it crime writing. I describe it as airplane or vacation reading.
So what's this thing called Crime Writing? It's a label; it's a genre. Does it matter? Regardless of a book's label, the important thing is if you as a reader enjoy it or not. After all, a rose by any other name or a genre by any other name.....
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Twenty minutes later they walked in the other direction, still carrying the coffin....
Five minutes later they walked back again, still carrying the coffin.
Sat in my car, I thought to myself....
"They've lost the &"@K*!&# plot!"
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Author Karen Harrington invited Cheryl to share a bit about her mystery/suspense novels and while visiting Karen's blog A Writer's Diary, Cheryl decided to hold an impromptu and ‘deadly’ little contest.
Check out Karen Harrington: A Writer's Diary.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Begging for Change
First, I’d like to pose a few questions. If you saw a beggar on the sidewalk, hand out for a bit of change, would you scowl, judge him and walk by? Or would you say ‘Sorry, I don’t have any change.” Or would you buy him a coffee and donut? Or would you hand him some money?
I know that these questions pose a moral dilemma for most. The first thing that seems to come to mind is that the beggar will only use the money for nefarious purposes--booze or drugs. And we have an aversion to helping anyone with those addiction problems. We also judge these people. Some of us think, “I worked hard for my money. Why should I give it to him when he can’t be bothered to get a job?” Some of us feel that we should ‘protect them’, buy them food or drink so they don’t spend it on a bottle of rye. Some of us give the money, thinking ‘it’s his choice’.
A while ago I heard two girls in a downtown Wendy’s discussing a man pushing a cart outside. They called him a “bum”, laughed at him, and said he “should get a job”. In their callous naiveté, they thought a job would solve everything for this man. They had no concept of the fact that a person with addictions is physically and mentally unable to keep a job, without a lot of support and therapy. Spurred on by a burst of anger, I stormed outside the Wendy’s with a nearly full container of fries and I asked the man if he wanted them. The light in his eyes was the only answer I needed. Everything he owned was in that shopping cart, with no money for the day’s meal. I talked to him for about 5 minutes, and that man had stories to tell. An avid reader and educated fellow, he once had a job, a family…everything. Then he lost them all. I gave him some money, let him make his own choice for his life.
The opinion of these girls is a common one, and I will admit that even I have had those thoughts, once, about two years ago. Until something happened to change the way I view other people, especially those begging for change. Something that made me want to face those girls and yell, “Don’t laugh at him! That could be your father! Your brother!” But I didn’t. Instead, I went outside and spoke with a man whose life was measured by the belongings in a rusty shopping cart. I’m glad I did. And I owe my actions to my brother Jason.
A number of years ago, I invited my younger brother to come stay with us in Edmonton, Alberta, to look for work and help him get a fresh start. He had been living on Salt Spring Island in BC, and like a typical young person, he’d been getting into some minor trouble. In his early 20s, he moved to Edmonton, and everyone thought his life was just beginning. We never suspected what would happen. Not really.
On January 23rd, 2006, my 28-year-old computer-genius brother with his crazy humor, copper hair and freckled face was brutally murdered. It happened early in the morning in a cold, dark alley not far from the Mustard Seed Church, with no witnesses. I try not to think of his last moments, but it is hard not to imagine him begging for help, or crying for my Mom. Even typing this now is difficult. It’s been over a year since Jason died, yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. I miss him. I miss his laughter, his practical jokes and his generous spirit.
My brother led the life of that man with the cart. He had been homeless for a time, had tried numerous jobs, but his alcohol addiction overwhelmed him. He was on medication, off and on, for depression, and refused to keep in touch with our family. In some ways, he was determined to break free from his lifestyle; in some ways, he wanted us to be separate from it. Even though he lived in the same city, I never knew where he was from one day to the next, and long months would go by with no contact. To be truthful, I was relieved. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love spiral out of control and know that there’s nothing you can do to stop it. His choice, his life.
The morning that the police found Jason was a day like any other for me. I didn’t see the news, and even if I had, they had not released a name. So I went to work, writing in my office like any other day. I was finishing a second version of Whale Song in hopes that it would get picked up by a bigger publisher. And then someone knocked on my door…or the doorbell rang. I don’t remember. When I saw the two men on my doorstep I immediately assumed they were politicians. It was election day. They asked if I was Cheryl Tardif. I said yes. Then they asked me if I had a brother named Jason Kaye. I said yes and let them inside, thinking my brother was in trouble with the law.
It’s funny, that day--funny in a weird dreamlike way. Everyone in my family, including me, had always said that we were expecting a call from the police to say Jason was dead. We had even imagined that he’d end up in an accident, or stagger into a ditch and peacefully fall asleep. We knew he was an alcoholic and we knew he suffered from mental illness. But still, as I sat at my kitchen table with the two detectives, I didn’t really see it coming. Not at first. Not murder.
But someone was watching over me. My brother had left me some ‘gifts’. My husband showed up a minute later. He’d finished work extremely early that day. (Thank you, Jason.) When the detectives told me my brother was dead, that he had been murdered, there was no screaming or crying, no sinking to the floor like I would have imagined. Just a quiet calm that settled over my heart, and a quiet voice in my head that said, “This is the day you knew would come. Jason’s gone.”
The police told me that they had some problems tracking down Jason’s next of kin. After all, my last name is Tardif. I use Kaye, my maiden name, for writing purposes only. They called some Kayes in the area but none of them are related to us. And here was another gift. Jason had told his friends that his sister Cheryl (no last name) was an author in Edmonton who had wrote a book about whales. That’s it. That’s what the police had to go on. They Googled my name--and there I was.
Another gift: three months later, Whale Song was picked up by a bigger publisher and was re-released as a special, revised and expanded edition in April 2007, with a special dedication to my brother Jason. Whale Song is his book now. And as a result, I decided early on that it would benefit others who are struggling with life, addictions and mental illness.
That is why every time you buy a copy of Whale Song, you are helping three organizations: Hope Mission, Mustard Seed Church and the Bissell Centre. 5% of my royalties will go to EACH of these, to help combat poverty, homelessness and addictions. I invite you to order today, spare that bit of change, because I’m begging for it now…on behalf of those in need.
Thank you again for letting me share my brother Jason with your visitors. For more information on Jason Kaye, please visit his memorial site at http://www.jaysporchmonkeys.com/
I am also begging for change—not money, but change in how we look at others. The next time you see a beggar with his hand out, I hope each of you will think for a moment, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Spare a little change in how you think, grow mercy…and gain a bit more soul.
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention
Saturday, October 06, 2007
It's very strange to find myself writing mysteries as creating harm and suffering of any kind will send me running under the covers or to the back of the closet faster than than lightning ... so why pick murder?
I am actually picking the cluetrail, but so far haven't found a better format to put it in. Heists seem to be more about planning and robberies in and of themselves, needing to be solved, don't seem to hold an audience without a couple of stiffs thrown in. Does anyone want to solve who did something good? Where's the motivation for that?
Maybe I'm a throwback, in as much as the artists in a culture, whether writers or painters, or others, are apparently representative of that cultures subconscious of their time. Maybe I long for a more innocent time - or has time ever been more innocent?
I believe in the basic goodness of people but attention seems to be turning towards the dark side. Perhaps this is so that a light can be cast on it; child abuse, spouse abuse, elderly abuse can only be stopped once it is acknowledged to be happening. Violence, whether by nations or individuals seems to be such a childish response to apparent conflict and unexamined misunderstandings that it could be very depressing wondering if we will grow up before we destroy ourselves. But if people acted as adults, and there were no kidnapping, rape, or murder, what would mystery writers write about? It's an insane world we live in and trying to find common sanity can be challenging.
Lastly, the picture doesn't really have much to do with the posting, but I believe that writing, like life, should be colourful and illustrated. Or maybe it's depicting that one should be able to get drunk on innocence.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
A mother's descent into alcoholism and madness leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son--a man known only as...
Read an excerpt from Children of the Fog
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I am referring to the recent non-fiction title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by the Goldman Family, which made #2 on the New York Times bestselling list. This is the confession of all confessions--if it's true. Or a warped piece of creative fiction, if it isn't.
Eric Kampmann, publisher of what many seem to be calling "the O.J. book", spoke tonight at the Express Yourself...Authors' Conference held at the Sheraton Park Ridge Hotel in Valley Forge, PA. As a Canadian visiting Pennsylvania, but being familiar with the O.J. media blitz and news about this book, I found it interesting to observe the faces of the people in the room as Kampmann described his passionate belief that this book has its place. Many showed a hint of distaste--not necessarily because of the decision the publisher made to tackle such a sensitive issue, but perhaps more because O.J. Simpson's theoretical 'confession' was being told at all, and in such a shocking way. Kampmann's connection to the Goldman family and to seeing that a certain subtle justice was served by publishing If I Did It seemed apparent in some of his speech, and one could only admire that he saw the people and emotions behind the book and not just dollar signs. Certainly, this story/confession/non-fiction work would have been told eventually, and I can relate to the emotion surrounding the murder of a loved one and to wanting a sense of justice.
My youngest brother Jason Kaye was murdered in Edmonton in January 2006. Since around 2000, he had lived a troubled life of alcoholism and mental illness, making him an unstable and unreliable employee. Without a job, he quickly found himself out on the street. But Jason had a heart of gold and a wacky sense of humor. And this kid was amazingly brilliant with a computer! He was only 28 when he was beaten and left to die in a cold, dark alley. His murderer has not been identified or found; he will probably never be found.
I truly empathize with the Goldmans. No none wants to feel that a murderer has gotten away with the crime. Or even worse, bragged about it or profited in any way from it. The Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice was set up to "empower, inspire, motivate and assist those people that are victims of crime" and "positively impact the lives of these survivors who start each day with pain, grief, trauma and injustice". This book, O.J.'s alleged confession, was their way to ensure that any profit would benefit other victims. Good for them!
Believe me, murder affects people in different ways, even the strongest of people. People who know me would say I'm pretty levelheaded and strong--stubborn even--but I had an extremely hard time leaving my house after my brother's murder. I lived in the same city but far from the rough east end where Jason had died. Yet, I had problems facing people and constantly felt anxiety and panic because even my neighborhood, which was far removed from Jason's world, didn't feel safe anymore.
Although I didn't have the resources to set up a foundation, I found my own way to make some sense of a senseless death, which is what I believe the Goldmans are trying to do. My brother read one of my novels--and only one. Whale Song. I had given him a copy of the original 2003 version shortly after it was released. I found that copy in his room when I went to clean it out. The pages were stained and worn, the cover dull in places. But that book was the most wonderful, beautiful thing I saw in that dingy room. It meant that my brother, throughout all of his downs and being homeless and moving from shelter to street to shelter, had kept a fragile grasp on at least one possession that meant something to him.
Seeing that battered, bruised, worn copy of Whale Song was a gift. For me. And I value it. In response to Jason's murder and finding my book, I have dedicated the new, improved, expanded version of Whale Song to my brother Jason. You will read about him in one of the front pages, and I am permanently donating a percentage of my royalties to the 3 organizations that did their best to help him. Hope Mission, the Bissell Centre and the Mustard Seed Church are doing what they can to make a difference--to combat addictions, homelessness and poverty.
Doing this won't bring my brother back. Neither will the Goldmans' book bring back their son. But out of grief and despair can come the most defining moments of clarity and hope. And we all deserve to find that, and some smeblance of peace and acceptance.