13 Claws: A Sample Bite of Stories, Part 4


Do join us for our launch on Saturday, October 28th, 2 pm at our favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street. Treats and readings and more!


The Lion King by Lynne Murphy

Lynne Murphy is one of the founding members of the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Her crime fiction short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Thirteen, 13 O’clock and The Whole Shebang. Lynne’s stories often centre on the comic antics of a group of ladies at a seniors’ condo. But in “The Lion King”, she shows her dark side and poses the question, are pets really our friends?

The Woman should not have called me Mopsy.

My first human, Daniel, called me Simba, a lion’s name, a proper title for a member of the Royal House of Abyssinia. Mopsy is a name for a tabby,  something meek and helpless. I have never been helpless.

Daniel understood that I was his equal. I came to live with him as a kitten. His female offspring thought he was lonely after his mate died and brought me to him.

Daniel looked at me and said, “An Abyssinian cat. I hear they are as intelligent as Siamese and not nearly as noisy. Thank you, Sarah.”

Daniel and I were very comfortable together for five years. We would go for walks most evenings and he would tell me about Abyssinia, now called Ethiopia, and about the importance of lions there. Their emperor was called The Lion of Judah. Then one day Daniel collapsed on the floor, and I couldn’t wake him up, no matter how hard I licked his closed eyes. At last I remembered the collar he wore around his neck. Sarah and he had talked about it. I pressed the button with my paw. Then people phoned and banged on the door, but it was too late.


Ed Piwowarczyk

Snakebit by Ed Piwowarczyk

Ed Piwowarczyk is a veteran journalist and professional copy editor. His dark crime fiction stories have been published in many anthologies including 13 O’clock and The Whole Shebang.  Snakebit goes even darker into noir relating what happens when  an army vet with a sinister secret meets a femme fatale bent on revenge.


Rodriguez grabbed the snake with his left hand and fit the snake’s fangs over the side of the funnel. The rattler bit the membrane, releasing a yellowish venom. With his thumb and middle finger, he depressed two glands near the reptile’s jaw to extract all the venom. Then he maneuvered  the snake back into its bin.

He repeated the procedure with more snakes that hissed and rattled to signal their displeasure, until the vial was about three-quarters full.

“All that trouble for that?” Turner remarked.

Oro, señor,” Rodriguez replied as he capped the vial.

“Liquid gold,” Sadie said. “It’s worth thousands. He freeze–dries it and ships it to clinics, labs and universities. They use it for research and to make antivenom .”

Rodriguez beckoned them to follow him into the snake house. “Come! Let me show you my beauties.” He ushered them in and stopped to place the vial in a compact fridge. Then he pointed to racks that the length of the building along two walls, and beamed. “There are Mojaves, western diamondbacks, sidewinders, corals—”

“That’s it for me.” The snake house was creeping Turner out. “I’ll wait outside.”

Rodriguez shook his head in feigned disappointment and pointed at Turner’s tattoo. “Señor, I thought you might enjoy being among your own kind.”



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The biggest event of the Mesdames’ year will take place Saturday, Oct. 28th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. when we launch the print copy of our new anthology, 13 Claws, published by Carrick Publishing, at our favourite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street, 907 Millwood Rd.

There will be readings, signings, not to mention drinks and good things to eat. There is a rumor that the authors will be costumed as the animals in their stories—come and check it out.  Admission is free!

In the run-up to our print launch, Carrick Publishing is holding the 13 Claws Pre-launch Party  with prizes.  Simply send us an email: MesdamesMayhem @ gmail . com (Remove spaces.) Subject Line: 13 CLAWS PRE-LAUNCH PARTY

Each week, we’ll give away:
two e-copies (Kindle or e-pub) of Thirteen, our 1st anthology; two e-copies of 13 O’Clock, our 2nd Crime Anthology; and one Print Edition of 13 O’Clock


As we steam forward to the October 28 launch of 13 Claws, the Mesdames of Mayhem have teamed up with Carrick Publishing to present a series of special promotions!

Be sure to visit our Facebook Event 13 Claws Pre-Launch Party
often to enter for your chance to win books and e-books by the Mesdames of Mayhem.



Last Sunday, Sept. 24th, Mmes Jane Burfield, M. H. Callway, Lisa De Nikolits, Cathy Dunphy,  Sylvia Maultash Warsh, Lynne Murphy and Rosemary McCracken  ran the Mesdames of Mayhem booth at  Toronto’s biggest literary event at Harbourfront. Mme Caro Soles, a veteran WOTS participant, was back to promote the Bony Blyth and her latest novel, A Friend of Mr. Nijinsky.

Mad and Cathy did set up! Lisa designed the fab poster!

Lynne captained the booth!

Lisa beating the sun looking fab and mysterious!

We survived record breaking 40 degree temperatures to introduce 13 Claws to the public.  Sales were great and the Mesdames reported good sales of their novels. Several of us helped out at the Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime booths as well.

The photos show what a fun day it was for us and our fans: we beat the heat but stayed hot!

Rosemary at CWC

Caro and Mr. Nijinsky


At the end of the long, hot day, Mmes Sylvia and Mad got a little crazy with the neighbouring Vikings!


This year Bouchercon is in Toronto! North America’s biggest conference of crime writers and fans takes place at the downtown Sheraton Centre Hotel, 123 Queen St. W. Wed. Oct.11 to Sun. Oct.15. The Mesdames will be taking part in panels and other events so if you see us there, please say hello.


The fun starts Wednesday, October 11th, when Mme. M. H. Callway will be reading with renowned author Hilary Davidson at Noir at the Bar, 9 pm, The Rivoli Bar, 334 Queen St. W.  The Rivoli, a Toronto icon, is a short walk from the Sheraton. In addition to writing two novellas and publishing her collected short stories, Glow Grass and Other Tales, Madeleine is completing the sequel to her first novel, Windigo Fire.

Thursday, October 12th

8:00 to 10:00  Mme M. H. Callway is part of Author Speed Dating (by invitation). This event proved so popular remaining spots were assigned by lottery.

1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Mme. Caro Soles  takes part in the panel, “Recent History”. Caro’s new novel is A Friend of Mr. Nijinsky.

4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Mme. Jane Burfield moderates the panel, “The Best Medicine”.

Friday, October 13th

8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Mme. Catherine Astolfo moderates the panel, “Mixed Media.”

10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Mme. Lisa de Nikolits moderates “Urban Noir.” Lisa’s newest novel, No Fury Like That, launches on Oct. 5. See details below.

Also at 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., Mme. Melodie Campbell takes part in the panel, “A Symbiosis”. Melodie’s newest book, Worst Date Ever! launched in September.

12 noon to 2 p.m. Mmes M. H. Callway and Rosemary McCracken head up the lunch for members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society at Shopsy’s Deli in the Sheraton.

3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mme. Rosemary McCracken takes part in the “Location, Location” panel. Rosemary’s short story, “The Queen Sized Bed”, was chosen for this year’s Bouchercon anthology, Passport to Murder.

6:00 to 7:30 pm  The International Authors Reception. Several Mesdames attending.

7:00 pm The Nero Wolfe Banquet. Mme Rosemary McCracken and M. Ed Piwowarczyk are attending.

9:30 pm Mmes. M. H. Callway and Lynne Murphy will be among the competing team leaders for the CWC Pub Quiz. Expect a pitched battle!

Saturday, October 14th

7:30 to 9:00 am   Several Mesdames are attending the Sisters in Crime breakfast.

8:30 to 9:30 am Mme. Sylvia Warsh  moderates the panel “Creative History”.

10:30 am to 4 pm CWC hosts a day-long Meet The Author event in the lounge area with several Mesdames taking part.

7:00 to 8:00 pm  Mme Rosemary McCracken signs copies of Passport to Murder with the contributing authors.

Sunday, October 15th

11:00 am to 12 pm  Bouchercon Brunch followed by the Anthony awards. Several Mesdames are attending.


Thursday, Oct. 5th: Mme. Lisa de Nikolits will launch her newest novel, No Fury Like That, Inanna Publications, at the Women’s Art Association, 21-23 Prince Arthur Ave., Toronto at 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 17th Mme. Melodie Campbell  joins two fellow authors on a panel discussing “Ten Secret Ways Writers Use Libraries” at the Burlington Library, 6:30 pm.

And the Bony Blithe Award is now accepting entries. More details in Mesdames on the Move for November!



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13 Claws: A Sample Bite of Stories, Part 3


Mesdames Lisa de Nikolits and Cathy Dunphy are thrilled to be appearing at Life in the Beach, the Authors’ Dinner, next Thursday, Sept 28th, 6 pm at the Balmy Beach Club, along with Peter Robinson, author of the Inspector Banks mystery series, and Mike Downie, documentary film maker and co-founder of the Chanie Wenjack Fund.

Mike worked with his brother Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip to bring Chanie’s story to life in the film, Secret Path. Both are committed to improving the lives of native Canadians.

The dinner will benefit St. Aidan’s Anglican Church, Queen and Silverbirch. Tickets are $75 and must be purchased in advance from the church office at 416-691-2222 or email staidan@eol.ca.



Our upcoming anthology, 13 Claws, is now available on Amazon! Join us for the official launch on Saturday, October 28th, 2 to 4 pm at our favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street.

And enjoy these extracts from authors in 13 Claws.

Animal Crackers by Catherine Dunphy

Catherine Dunphy is a veteran journalist, biographer, YA author and more recently a writer of short crime fiction centred on spirited research librarian, Winona. In “Animal Crackers”, Winona tries to help a homeless man and stumbles onto a crime…

Winona marched over to the corner table where she knew the men from the hostel would be, dozing behind their book wall. She was in luck. The man with the blue gaze from last week was back. He looked up from the Carl Sagan book he was reading as she thrust the package at him. “For Johnny.” Of course she remembered the old man’s name.

He closed his book, but not before inserting once of the library’s bookmarks to hold his spot – Winona couldn’t help but be impressed. He opened the package; his features hardened when he saw the cookies.

“You have no idea what you are doing, do you?”

Winona rocked back on her heels.

“These are the ones he wanted.” She jabbed at the package. Damn it! First Jason, now him.

He stood up and leaned towards Winona. “Forget he ever told you about this, you hear me?” He stared right into her eyes, frightening her. “Forget you ever saw him. And get rid of those.”



The Ranchero’s Daughter by Sylvia Maultash Warsh

Sylvia Warsh is a critically acclaimed literary and crime fiction writer, winner of the prestigious Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Paperback Novel. Her characters are often outsiders fighting trauma by seeking resolution in the present. In “The Ranchero’s Daughter”, a small dog holds the key to a family mystery rooted in madness.

This was not my father talking! He had never demeaned himself with gossip.

“The girl was a beauty, but completely mad. One never knew what to expect from her. She whirled around when there was no music. She talked to the horses and cows, and claimed they talked back. She would scream for no reason, as if someone were killing her. They could not keep maids because the girl would curse them and prick them with a fork, threatening to eat them.”

My brilliant father was disappearing. In his debilitated state, his low raspy voice arrived slowly, between halts.

“Such a beautiful girl, with long black hair and dark green eyes like a forest. The only creature she truly loved was her Chihuahua , Conchita, a demanding little dog who ate the shredded beef out of the girl’s tortillas. She had the seamstress sew a special pocket in all her skirts so she could carry the dog around, its ugly little head poking out.”

With effort, my father sat up and glanced at the Chihuahua lying at my feet. Luz lifted her fawn-colored  head, alert. “Your dog could be her sister, they’re so much alike.”


Rosemary McCracken

Homebodies by Rosemary McCracken

Rosemary McCracken’s novels and short fiction have been short-listed for several awards including the Derringer and the Debut Dagger. She is the creator of the popular Pat Tierney series. In “Homebodies”, Rosemary shows her humorous side: a retired teacher’s quiet life goes off track when a stray cat enters his life.

“This cat is not a good idea.”

“Nonsense, Henry. You think you don’t like cats, but you’ll come to love this one. I promise.”

Ellie always got her way. She’d got her way ever since we’d married 35 years before, and I had no idea how to change tack at this point.

She’d spent three decades teaching high school English, so when the cat discovered the Juliet balcony off our main-floor family room, she named him Romeo. But she soon admitted that was a misnomer. Not only had this cat been fixed, but he was a house cat. Other than demanding to be let out on the balcony now and then, he showed no inclination to go outdoors. “Should’ve called him Henry after you,” she said, patting my paunch. “Henry I and Henry II, my two homebodies.”

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Mesdames Abroad Part 4

On Location…in the west of England, long ago…

Melodie Campbell

In Part 4 of our travel series, Melodie Campbell, our Queen of Comedy, tells us how travel lead to a haunting and inspiring setting for her comic time travel novel, Rowena Through the Wall.

Rowena Through the Wall (Imajin Books) was featured on USA Today and was a top 100 Bestseller on Amazon.com, sandwiched between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts.

And don’t forget pick up a copy of Mel’s new book, Worst Date Ever.

 “Setting as character.” You hear it a lot in first year writing classes.  But what do we mean by that?

Setting is important in helping to establish the mood of your story. We mean it should be treated with as much attention as you would give any other character.

The trouble with many beginning writers is they set their novels in ‘Anytown USA.’ Thus, no character, no unique feel to the place…the ‘why is it different from everywhere else?’ is missing.

As a writing instructor, each term I tell students to go to the places they want to write about. Know your setting.  Don’t set your book in Seattle if you’ve never been to the West Coast.  It simply won’t come off as believable.  You’ve got to experience the unmistakably salty odor of the sea air as it rushes in from the Pacific.

But what if your book is set in the past? Obviously, you can’t travel to 17th century France if you’re planning to set your story there.  But you can visit the country today.  You can visit museums there and find out details of the time and place in the same way you need to find out details of a current setting.

So that’s what I did. I traveled back to the west of England, to a place I knew from my childhood.  A land with verdant rolling hills, where sheep are more common than people.

This piece of Shropshire claims a part of my heart. The original stone castle, erected after Harold fell to William in 1066, went to ruin in the early 1500s.  The ‘new’ abode, Hawkstone Park, was built in 1556; it was forfeited in 1906 to pay off the gambling debts of my rakish relative.  You can still see it; it’s open to the public every August.


Tony Clegg-Hill (original name Huel) was the previous Viscount Clegg-Hill, and my late cousin. I adored him.  He had that particular dry British wit that reminded me seriously of David Niven.  It was his great-grandfather who lost the castle.

Tony would regale me with anecdotes about the family villains: the original Viscount Huel, who was basically a henchman for William the Conqueror. More recent rogues like Sir Rowland Hill gambled away anything that could be taken as a stake.  It’s a damning history, yet a vibrant one.

But not all the family were black sheep; one Lord Hill distinguished himself as the second in command to the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo.  When Wellington was made Prime Minister in 1824, Hill succeeding him as commander in chief of the army.  The coat of arms (which illustrates the family tree with all the crests of family intermarriage) is twelve feet long.

So when it came to writing Rowena Through the Wall, I had to feature my favorite place.  The original Norman castle, with its rounded turrets, crenellations and merlons has been in my imagination for decades.  It’s not there anymore.  But the land survives.  It vibrates with history.  Stand still, if you go there.  If you are really quiet, you might hear a ghost or two.

Do you know the scent of dusty stone? The smell of the rain on the moors?

Rowena walks through the wall to her ancestor’s land, and she falls in love with it too.

Follow Melodie at http://www.melodiecampbell.com/


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WE’RE BACK!! And Fall 2017 is going to be hot and super busy for The Mesdames.


Our first Big News item:

13 Clawsour latest anthology is going to press! We have received a wonderful endorsement from renowned Canadian crime author, Maureen Jennings, who writes:

A great mix of shuddery dark and tongue-in-cheek funny. What devious minds all these nice women haveMurdog liked the stories as well.”

Murdog, of course, is named after Maureen’s wonderful Victorian detective, Murdoch.

13 Claws is now available for pre-order from Apple I-books, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and NobleKobo and Smashwords


Advance print copies will be available  at Word on the Street and at Bouchercon.

More Big News:

The Mesdames will be back at Toronto’s Word on the Street on Sunday, September 24th from 11 am to 5 pm. The festival takes place every fall at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queen’s Quay West.

This year we will be at Booth 5 in Writers Block (Zone 1).  Here is the  map.

And here are a couple of pics from last year:








Word on the Street celebrates books and literacy. There are a host of events, readings and vendor booths to explore. This year Mmes Cathy Astolfo, Jane Burfield, M. H. Callway, Lisa De Nikolits, Rosemary McCracken, Lynne Murphy and Sylvia Warsh will be back to promote Canadian crime fiction.

Books, Books, Books!

Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell, our Queen of Comedy, has a great new book out: Worst Date Ever is now available at Chapters / Indigo and on Amazon.

Here’s the teaser: Jenni has been widowed for two years and everyone is pressuring her to get back into life. She signs up on a dating site. It’s only a date for one night. How bad could it be?  We have a fair idea!

Rosemary McCracken

And Rosemary McCracken’s  story, “The Queen-sized Bed”, is part of the Bouchercon anthology, Passport to Murder, now available for pre-order on Amazon. The book has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.  If you are attending Bouchercon 2017, you can get your copy signed at the group author signing on Saturday, October 14th. More details in next month’s Mesdames on the Move.







Events and Readings!

TOMORROW:  September 1st to 2nd Melodie Campbell, will join crime fiction authors from Ottawa and Eastern Ontario at the first-ever crime writers festival in Prince Edward County, Women Killing It .  The afternoon tea on Saturday, Murder at the Vicarage is sold out but other events are still open. Best to check that tickets are available before heading down to beautiful Picton, Ontario.

On Saturday, September 9th, 1:00 pm, Rosemary Aubert, M. H. Callway and Rosemary McCracken will be guest panelists at the Bootmakers  of Toronto to show how Sherlock Holmes led them into a life of crime…writing.

M. H. Callway

Rosemary Aubert

This promises to be a terrific meeting with Monica  Schmidt, a Sherlock Home Adventuress, presenting  Deduction is a Hell of a Drug: Holmes, cocaine, and the ICD-10,  a craft table (food!), quiz, song and an appearance by Mrs. Hudson.


The featured Sherlock Holmes story is “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”.  The Bootmakers meet at the Beeton Auditorium, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St at 1:00 pm. Tickets for non-members are $12 at the door.

Lisa De Nikolits

Lisa De Nikolits has two great events coming up. On Wednesday, Sept 20th, 8 pm, she will be reading at the Chi Series, Noir Night, together with Terri Favro and other masters of noir whose stories appear in the anthology, Pac ‘N Heat.

The event takes place at Round Venue, 152A Augusta Street, Kensington Market, Toronto.

Lisa’s latest book, No Fury Like That,  launches on October 5th! This fascinating metaphysical mystery is already getting warm reviews.





And on Thursday Sept 28th, Lisa and Cathy Dunphy, will be discussing crime fiction with Canada’s legendary author, Peter Robinson.  The event is being organized by the Kew Balmy Beach Club to showcase local authors living in the Toronto Beaches.  Details on time and venue later this month!

More News!

D. J. MacIntosh

Lisa De Nikolits has devoted her new blog, The Minerva Reader, to showcasing accomplished literary authors and their books. Rosemary Aubert and her noir thriller, Terminal Grill, are featured. Most recently, Lisa interviewed D. J. MacIntosh and showcased Dorothy’s acclaimed Mesopotamian trilogy.

Melodie Campbell’s course, Crafting a Novel 1, starts Wednesday, Sept 13th at Sheridan College.  Emerging writers take note!



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A Hot Wind in August plus 13 Claws: A Sample Bite of Stories – Part 2!

Melodie Campbell

The fall promises to be hot for the Mesdames! Mme Melodie Campbell, our Queen of Comedy, has just announced her new book, Worst Date Ever! Just looking at the rogues gallery on the cover will make you dial 911 for help but failing that you can pre-order it from Amazon. Worst Date Ever launches soon so check Mesdames on the Move for September for details.


And mark your calendars: on Labour Day weekend you can meet Melodie in person at the Women Killing It event in Picton ON. Check the FB page here for details.  Again more details in our September newsletter.


And congratulations to Mme Rosemary McCracken who was Imajin’s best-selling author in July for her Pat Tierney mystery, Safe Harbour. Full details here.






Here is Part 2 of the preview of the stories in our upcoming anthology, 13 Claws.

M. H. Callway

Snake Oil by M. H. Callway

Madeleine H. Callway writes crime fiction novels, novellas and short stories. Her work has won or been short-listed for numerous awards, including the Derringer and the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel award.

In her noir novella, “Snake Oil”, a real estate intern with a fear of snakes learns how vulnerable a lone woman can be in a stranger’s house.

“I—I was bitten by a snake.” Bella could barely get the words out. The memory charged at her in irregular flashes, like crumpled black-and-white photographs. “I walking on the beach by our cottage. I felt something sharp. Like I’d stepped on a piece of glass.”

She felt Amelia’s slanted eyes on her like a pressure. She must stop talking, she was being horribly unprofessional, but she couldn’t stop the eruption of her words any more than she could stop the winter wind pummeling her car. “Robert, my stepson, wanted to take me to the hospital. Barry, my ex, thought it was nothing. That I was overreacting . He said I’d stepped on a garter snake, but when it…when it rustled away in the leaves, it looked much bigger. And it had black spots, not stripes.”

“But you’re still here, Bella, alive and healthy.”

Bella’s words stormed out with the rush of remembering. “My leg swelled up. The pain was excruciating. Robert took me to the hospital. Barry wouldn’t…he didn’t believe me.” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’d stepped on a Massasauga rattler. The doctors had to inject me with antivenom. They had a hard time finding enough of the antidote, because poisonous snake bites are so rare in Ontario. Antivenom  goes off if it’s stored too long. I—I nearly lost my leg.”

“Sounds like your divorce was a good idea,” Amelia said after a time. “Feel better for sharing?”


Melodie Campbell

Dog Trap and The Coffee Tin, both by Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell is a master of flash fiction with many awards to her credit, including the Arthur Ellis and Derringer. She is the author of the hilarious Goddaughter series of crime novels. Though she’s our reigning Queen of Comedy, her two stories in 13 Claws, “Dog Trap” and “The Coffee Tin”, have a darker edge.

In “Dog Trap”, a lonely man worries about the friend he met on an internet dating site and in “The Coffee Tin”, a homeless teenager finds a companion and maybe a friend…

From “Dog Trap”:

It wasn’t her.

Rick knew it now, scrolling through email messages, stopping on the last one. The words were there, purportedly from her, but written by someone else. Now he was certain. The trap had been set, and he had proof.

He slumped back in the worn gray swivel chair to think. And mourn. On the floor beside him, the small golden retriever puppy whimpered in sympathy.

More than a week ago, suspicion had set in. How could he  explain it? A different use of words…not something you could explain to anyone else. But somehow, it seemed forced. It wasn’t right.

From “The Coffee Tin”:

Jess walked over to the dog and lowered the cup to his level. “Drink this,” she said.

The little dog moved forward with caution, and began to lap frantically. Jess had to keep tipping the cup as the water level went down.

She tried to recall his name. Something cutesy, she remembered. Muffy? No, that was the Maltese in the corner house.

She thought back to the old woman. What name had she yelled from the top of the stairs? Lucky! That was it.

Well little guy, you haven’t been lucky for either of us.


Lisa DeNikolits

Blood and Apricots and Mad Dog and the Sea Lion, both by Lisa De Nikolits

Lisa De Nikolits is the award-winning author of seven novels that explore crime, religion, psychotherapy and relationship challenges. She is a master of noir crime fiction.

In “Blood and Apricots”, a family adopts a dog with a dark provenance and in “Mad Dog and the Sea Lion”, two sisters plot to take down a ruthless crime boss.


From “Blood and Apricots”:

“What do you think happened?” my mother asked in a low voice.

She pressed the lighter into the dashboard, waited for a few seconds, lit a cigarette and passed it to my father. Then she lit one for herself and inhaled deeply.

“His breath stinks,” I said, shifting away from the dog who was sharing the backseat  of the Volkswagen Beetle with me and my sister.

My sister put her arm around the dog. “I love him.” She drew him closer, and I moved as far away from both of them as I could.

My father looked grim. The skin across his beautiful hands was stretched tight, and he gripped the steering wheel as if it might get away from him. He didn’t say anything, just smoked now and then.

And from “Mad Dog and the Sea Lion”:

He paused to take a breath. “The whole Esposito family was  hoods. The  father had done time, the third brother was in prison, the two sisters were thieves. But the mother was behind the whole thing. Mothers. The root of all evil, if you ask me.”

He fell silent and turned to look at Mad Dog Esposito again.  I thought I had lost him, and I struggled to think of something to say. I panicked. Things had seemed to be going really well, but now they  had come to a grinding halt. My sister had given me a bunch of lines to use but I couldn’t remember any of them. My mind was a complete blank, and I felt close to tears. I was going to ruin this before it even started.


See you in September, Readers!



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Mesdames Abroad Part 3: Follow Your Love

This is the third in our series of travel blogs by the Mesdames. This month we feature Mme. Caro Soles, whose most recent novel, A Friend of Mr. Nijinsky, was published this spring. Here  Caro shares her  passion for opera and the ballet, the inspiration for much of her writing.

Follow Your Love! or Why I Love Opera Tours

Caro Soles

Caro Soles

By Caro Soles

I have always loved the theatre. I love just going into the buildings, letting the atmosphere wrap around me! Even our quite new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts with its warm wood and airy light pouring in all those huge windows is exciting. But so much more are the old history-soaked theatres of Europe.

When I was young, many, many decades ago, I travelled with my mother for over a year, visiting England, France, and finally touring through Spain to come to rest in Barcelona, where a world- renowned ophthalmologist was going to take a look at my eyes to see if I was a candidate for eye-surgery. That part is not really germane to the story, except as an explanation of sorts as to why we were doing this ‘Grand Tour’ sort of thing in the first place!


While in London, we went to Covent Garden and I saw my first opera in that lovely theatre. It was La Traviata, and although I was familiar with the music, the performance lifted me right back to the 19th century. Luckily this was before the era of so much experimenting with modernization of productions. After that we went to theatres in the west end to see some plays– Sheridan comes to mind– and again the buildings themselves contributed to the experience. This was long before the building of the Globe, by the way. This was the 1950s: there was still some rationing and bombsites were visible around every corner. But the theatres were flourishing in all their glory!

In France we made it several times to La Comédie Française and bathed in the glories of the French Alexandrine. Though at the time I did not get more than about a third, like the audience the plays were written for, I knew my classic mythology! We went to some ballet, too, at the incredible Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera and one of the grandest theatres I have ever been in, and that is saying something!

In Spain the theatre I remember from those days was the Liceo in Barcelona.  Have been back there since several times for opera, but this first time it was Spanish dancing, Antonio and Rosario as I recall, and they were amazing! Catalan was forbidden under Franco, of course, so there was not a speck of it around.

I have traveled in Europe many times since, visiting friends, doing research in the Comédie Française for my thesis, but I didn’t start seriously seeking out opera on my travels until my brother began organizing trips for opera-lovers in London and Toronto. I had never gone on any organized tours before, thinking it would be too much like being shuffled about like cattle, but going with this group, many of whom were familiar to me from the opera here, was different. We did not hop from place to place, with no real time to get to know the atmosphere of the cities and towns we visited. There was time to sit in cafes and people-watch, time to wander, time to get familiar with the byways, as well as the highways.

Best of all, there was the chance to see rarely performed opera, like the one we saw in Prague, The Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov; and the amazing experience of being in the elegant but small gem of a theatre where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni, also in Prague. And Venice, in the wonderful Teatro La Fenice, for Traviata again, ironically the Toronto production in modern dress, with Violeta wandering around in her black satin slip in the last act, dragging her mink coat behind her.

And then there is the incomparable Saltzberg Festival! It is very difficult to get good tickets so going with a group is the easiest way to do it. This is a formal event, which does much to lift the experience! Imagine yourself in your long dress wandering through the elegant crowds of Austrians, dressed in silk and satin and velvet versions of their national consumes, carrying your champagne out into the cobbled courtyard at intermission, as the moon rises over the battlements of a castle. Around you the polyglot crowd ebbs and flows, discussing the production. And these productions tend to be amazing! The singers are all superb, of course and the directors outdo themselves in their efforts to catch the bravos of the opera-lovers. It does not always work! Don Giovanni shooting up in the park comes to mind. It’s a production one would never forget!

I could go on and on, waxing poetic about theatres, opera, and travel, but I think I have made my point! I love it all: the trips, the music, the old buildings with their wonderful atmosphere of bygone days, but I will spare you. I leave you with this photo of me at Saltzberg, about to head out for yet another wonderful evening in Europe.



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13 Claws: A Sample Bite of Stories – Part One!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be giving readers a sample bite from the stories by each of the authors featured in our new anthology, 13 Claws.

The stories range from cozy to true noir. Are our animal friends our protectors or predators? Angels or demons? Read these engaging tales to find out!


Cathy Astolfo

The Outlier by Catherine Astolfo

Catherine Astolfo’s is the author of many popular crime fiction novels and a winner of the Arthur Ellis Short Story award. In crafting “The Outlier”, Catherine was inspired by a visit to Newfoundland and the strange folk who take refuge there to become hermits. As you might expect, her tale takes an especially dark turn…


I was comin’ back from one of those voyages to the city when we were stopped on the highway by a rollover.

From out of the damaged back end of the truck, down the road trotted a whole bunch of pigs. They’d been hauling them off to the bacon factory.

Only Marvin made it as far as my car. The rest of the porcine escapees got recaptured, run over by traffic on the other side, or disappeared into the brush. I watched this big guy waddle along the side of the highway, head up, going who knew where. He was simply scramblin’ fast as he could in the opposite direction of that truck.

Thing is, I didn’t think about what I did. I certainly didn’t expect the result I got, either. I admired that pig’s determination to get away so I leaned over and opened my passenger door. And into the old car hopped Marvin.

As it turns out, pigs make great pets. They’re clean, smart, they’ll eat whatever’s on offer, and they like people.


Rosemary Aubert

Kitty Claws Saves the Day by Rosemary Aubert

Rosemary has won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel and Best Short Story. She is the author of the popular Ellis Portal crime fiction novels. In “Kitty Claws Saves the Day”, Rosemary explores the perils of a senior citizen living in a low-rent apartment building and the pro’s and con’s of a kitty companion…


I thought at first that it was the cry of a child. Great gasping screams only a few feet from my doorstep sounded through the door itself and echoed down the narrow outer hall, which, though thickly carpeted, seemed to absorb none of the sound.

So, of course, I went to the door and carefully opened it.

The second I did so, the wailing stopped and I found, staring up at me, the most beautiful pair of blue-green cat eyes I had ever seen. I also saw in those eyes a look I’d never seen in an animal before. Odd as it sounds, I’d have called that look sweet cunning .


Jane Burfield

There Be Dragons by Jane Burfield

Jane Burfield’s debut short story won the Bony Pete Award and she has never looked back. Most recently, her short fiction in the Edgar Allan Poe tribute anthology, Nevermore, was singled out for critical praise. In “There Be Dragons”, Jane turns her hand to young adult fiction in a light-hearted, mysterious tale that we hope will grow into a series.


“There be dragons,” Katie read aloud from the illustration. As she squinted at the map in the old book, the creatures that illustrated the manuscript swirled. A soft green glow lit the map from within. Startled, Katie let the book slip from her fingers onto the dusty desktop.

“We’re not supposed to touch that book,” Georgie mumbled. Ever since their mother had died, he’d spoken in soft whispers.

“I know, Georgie.” She sat in the chair behind the carved oak desk and turned over another page. “Where do you think the dragons lived? I’m not sure I believe in dragons. Maybe they lived a long time ago.”

“Of course, there are dragons,” Georgie murmured. “Mother told us about them. She showed me one once. I remember going out to the garden with her. We ran around the pond. There was a splashing sound, and a dark shadow came out of the water... I think it was a dragon.”








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Mesdames Abroad Part Two: Cruising with Crime on My Mind

This month we present Mme. Catherine Astolfo in the second of our series of travel blogs. She describes the delights of her recent visit to the Baltic.

Cathy Astolfo

As a mystery/psychological suspense writer, I have the what-if-someone-did-this-and-why gene. Therefore I am compelled to think about crime, nefarious schemes or horrific evil even as I vacation.

In May, I went on the trip of a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to cruise, I highly recommend this one! We travelled along the Baltic Sea (Norwegian Cruise Lines) from Denmark, to Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and back to Denmark. It was spectacular and excellent fodder for my imagination.



Sinister rocking horse


In Copenhagen, Denmark, my companions and I toured the Tivoli Gardens, (the inspiration for Disneyland). But what do I photograph? A rocking horse, trapped in the tower of an ancient building. My criminal mind goes into overdrive. What’s the horse doing there? Why is it framed by darkness? What horror befell the child who used to ride it? (Because of course it has to be something evil.)

Spooky wind turbines




As we cruise the sea, I am haunted by the wind turbines. Somehow they are wrapped in mystery, not mere fog.





Our first stop is the coast of Germany, where we took a train to Oranienburg and Berlin. I have convinced my friends to visit a concentration camp with me. I want to pay tribute to the victims. I want to feel the horror. In Sachsenhausen, we tour the places of degradation and death with respect and disbelief. How can people be so evil? How does this happen? Why does the cruelty continue to occur? The roots of my writing – the desire to understand, the desire to have control over the outcome in fiction at least – are essentially explorations of the human condition.



Tallinn, Estonia, feeds my writing in a different way. My companions and I meet my online friend, favourite blogger, author-promoter, Inga Kupp-Silberg (http://www.ingasilberg.com), who lives in Estonia. She kindly tours us around the spectacular medieval town.





St. Petersburg, Russia, is breathtaking in every way. I am drawn into a history I have loved, it seems, forever. The fascinating life of Catherine the Great (obviously) and Nicholas and Alexandra, the latter an almost classic mystery.  At times I turn away from the opulence and wonder about the people who looked out these windows centuries ago.

Did they consider the poverty of their subjects? Did they know the foundations upon which they governed were essentially evil and greedy? Were they simply overwhelmed by the size of the crimes, unable to change a thing, or were they content and pampered and ill-advised? Is their state of mind accurately portrayed by the statue holding a severed head – a monument that they thought was appropriate for their garden?

Catherine the Great’s writing desk

Catherine the Great’s writing desk looks so much like mine that I shiver. I imagine her skeletal touch on my shoulder.

Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood








A mosaic face gazes down at us in the Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood. What does he see? Was he a saint or a sinner?

In Sweden, I look up at the clouds swirling around the clock tower crowning city hall, and I think of dark and stormy nights and the evil that lurks.

If you’d like to hear about the less criminal side of my trip, you can always tune into my blog: www.katywords.blogspot.com where the travel posts are still arriving.

And lest you think I am a sinister and serious gal, I did have to include a couple of pictures of me having fun, too. It’s the inner writer person who’s mysterious.









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Mesdames on the Move: July /August 2017

The Mesdames of Mayhem are taking it easy this summer to laze in the sun like our kitty companion here, to travel and to write, write, write!

Throughout the summer, we’ll be featuring more blogs on how we’ve combined our love of writing with our love of travel.

We are looking forward to a busy fall with Word on the Street, Bouchercon 2017, the launch of Mme Lisa De Nikolits’ new book, readings at libraries and the Toronto Bootmakers and most of exciting of all –  the publication and launch party for our third anthology, 13 Claws!




The Mesdames are delighted to introduce the winner and two finalists of our contest for first-time writers of crime fiction – with a preview of their stories!


Winner: Mary M. Patterson for Night Vision

Bio: Even though Malachi, the hero of Night Vision, is a cat,  Mary confides that she’s never owned a cat, because for many years she bred show canaries and tropical fish. She’s actually a dog lover! She used to write the Basset Hound newsletter, known as All Ears for obvious reasons, as well as being a regular contributor to the Canadian Kennel Club magazine. Besides writing, she loves to paint, do pottery and engage in extreme gardening.


A sneak preview: 

As the man hung up the phone, he turned to Malachi. “Got to get some sleep. I’m back on duty again tonight. Want to come with me? I could sure use some company out there.”

Malachi purred his assent, though he was fairly sure his message wasn’t understood. “Sure I’ll come along, if you’ll guarantee some refreshments,” he meowed.

That evening, as the man donned his coat, Malachi planted himself firmly at the front door, ready for an evening’s outing. That was one of the drawbacks of this new man. Malachi was never let outside for the night, his favorite time to be out on his own.

“Hey! That’s right! You can be my partner tonight. Two sets of eyes are better than one, they say, and for a private eye, that goes double!”

Partner! That appealed to Malachi.


Runner-up: Rosalind Place for Dana’s Cat

Bio: Rosalind was born in England and emigrated to Canada at age five. An interpreter by profession, she is a published writer of literary short stories and has just completed her first novel. Dana’s Cat, which is written entirely in dialogue, is her first foray into the mystery genre and she is thrilled to be part of 13 Claws.


A Sneak Preview:

You know, Cat, I haven’t talked to him in what, 20 years maybe? That’s the third call in three days, and now he wants to meet for coffee. I guess it’s the house going up for sale.

He was heartbroken when Dana left him. I used to go over sometimes. She didn’t have any friends or family, he said. No one else he could talk to about her but me. Grief had made him gentle, and the way he spoke…well, I believed he really loved her. It made me regret all the times I’d thought badly of him.

We’d been secret friends, Dana and me. She didn’t have to tell me. It was the way she came over only when he wasn’t there, and never called or invited me to join them or anything. Jack had a temper—I knew that from work. And there was something else about him, you know? Charming as all get out, but there was something you couldn’t quite put your finger on that made you want to leave the room.

Oh, he was grief-stricken when she left him. And then he wasn’t, had no interest in talking about her anymore. So in the end, it was a relief when he sold the place and moved on. A relief that he moved on, that is. Him selling, well, that just meant it was his to sell, you know? Which meant someone, somewhere, decided Dana was dead.



Runner-up: Marilyn Kay for That Damn Cat

Bio: Marilyn debuts two crime short stories this fall: “That Damn Cat” in 13 Claws and “Journey into the Dark” in the Bouchercon 2017 Passport to Murder anthology. She began writing as a contributor to the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, before working as a business journalist, then in government communications and social media coaching. She is an executive member of Sisters in Crime – Toronto.

A sneak preview:

Bile burned Detective Constable Maureen’s throat and mouth; she wished she hadn’t bought that Starbucks coffee.

Detective Sergeant Lou  continued, “Probable time of death was sometime on the Sunday night. Recovered nail scrapings and some fine cement dust powdering parts of her body indicate possible confinement in an unfinished or partially finished basement or a garage.

“We’re extending door-to-door canvassing to the neighborhoods surrounding the entire Small’s Creek ravine network.”

As an afterthought, he added, “A further consideration is to look for cats. Forensics found cat dander and a few long orange cat hairs stuck in the victim’s dark brown hair.”

“So we’ll be interviewing all the cats in the neighborhood, too?” Detective Constable Joe quipped. There was a collective groan. But as Lou allocated assignments, Maureen could see crooked smiles on a number of her colleagues’ faces as they grabbed their notebooks and proceeded to their tasks.


Rosemary Aubert

News Flash: Mme. Rosemary Aubert is not taking the summer off from readings! On Mon. July 24th, she will be at the Pape-Danforth Library, 701 Pape Ave. at 6:00 p.m. to discuss mystery writing and her recent book of short stories, The Midnight Ferry to Palermo.


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