Book Review: Before the Frost

I rate this book a 4 out of 5

I rate this book a 4 out of 5

Originally Published in Spruce Grove Examiner on December 28, 2012

I read this book like my youngest daughter enjoys an unexpected treat – savoring each bit with delight and gratitude, proceeding ever more slowly and with a growing regret that the experience will soon end.
The first Linda Wallander Mystery, (and Mankell’s tenth novel featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander) ‘Before the Frost’ joins Linda as she endures the waiting period required before she may begin her career at the same police station as her father. In forced stasis, she kills time, hangs out with her girlfriends and quarrels with her father… all quite boring, until her friend Anna disappears.
Since no one else believes it atypical of Anna to have vanished, Linda investigates the disappearance on her own. Linda’s concern, inexperience and persistence generate a few rookie mistakes, placing her in danger—and exposing a connection between her investigation and her father’s current case. When another of Linda’s friends disappears, father and daughter join forces, racing against time to stop a tragedy, the seeds of which were planted decades before.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy crime novels. The plot is intricate without fussiness, there is enough police procedure and not so much that one becomes mired in red tape, and Mankell’s characters are incredibly compelling.
Henning Mankell has written over thirty-five novels and many plays. Published in thirty-five countries, he consistently tops Europe’s bestseller lists. His work has been adapted for numerous television and film productions. He also won the German Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Macallan Gold Dagger.

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We’ve Got the Whole World, In Our Hands…

I really am starting to like facebook, twitter, et al.  Well, I liked them before, but now I LIKE-like them.  In fact, if there were a “love” button for those apps, I would probably click on that.

The power of social media to draw us all together, introducing disparate people from across the World, is staggering. Mass media is about making news; social media is about making connections.  Yesterday, something happened that brought that point home to me.

I had written a (previously posted here) book review on ‘Call Me Princess’ by Sara Blædel, and I decided to send her information on it.  Remember that she is DENMARK’s “Queen of Crime”—and I reside in Alberta.  Canada.  On the opposite side of the Earth from where she holds Court.

I searched facebook, and hadn’t finished typing ‘Blædel’ when her profile popped up.  I “liked” her page, sent the link to my blog, and thought, “Well, that’s that.”

But that was NOT that; she responded to me (see below)!  And she did so kindly, graciously, and personably.  Thank you so much, Ms. Blædel.  Making that connection absolutely made my day.

Sara Blædel

Hi R.D Girvan! Oh, what a fab review! Thank you SO much. I am so very, very happy you liked my book. And so grateful for your words. Big thanks Sara

  • Wednesday
  • R.d. Girvan

    Sara, you are so welcome.  Would you mind terribly if I added your above reply onto my blog post?  (Sorry to be so star-struck, but.. 🙂  Rd

  • Today
  • Sara Blædel

    HA! 😉 NO not at all – I will be very pleased to have my comment on your blog ;-)And big thanks again!

Balance, Schmalance

I so admire the traits of moderation and balance.   I aim for them constantly.  I plan, schedule, research, limit, design, check and re-check my life and activities with those ideals held firmly in my mind.  “All things in moderation.”  And, “Balance.  Ba-lance.  Baaaaaa-lance.”

For most of the year, I diligently aim for balance and moderation.  For example, balancing work and health (or, at least, attempting to) is the only way I can manage several projects at once.  I take time to exercise, etc, giving myself energy to work fast enough to have time left over for exercising, thereby giving myself energy to work… it’s a nice cycle.

However, half-way through the month of November (otherwise known as “National Novel Writing Month”), I start to change my tune.  As the days dwindle and the EXPECTED word count outdistances my ACTUAL word count, I start to not even care about balance.  Let alone, moderation.

In fact, by now, November 20th, I am figuratively wadding up my revered ideals and tossing them out the window, because I’ve arrived at my favourite part of NaNoWriMo.  Now, eyes fixed on my word count and deadline, I am allowed, encouraged, even expected to forget about balance for a bit.  For the last 10 days of this wonderful, flat-out busy, tumultuously creative, “no, I can’t do the dishes, I’m writing” month, I get to tip the scales towards an excess of two of my favourite things:  writing and coffee.

So, until December 1st, I take time to drink coffee, giving myself energy to work fast enough to have time left over to drink coffee, thereby giving myself energy to work… it’s a nice NaNoWriMo cycle.  As Mark Twain said, “All things in moderation… including moderation.”

Stubborn as the Day is Long

A 2012 Participant, R.D. Girvan hopes to bat 1000, earning her 4th NaNoWriMo win.

My friend Natasha Deen is a terrific writer who is also participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  This is an annual contest where over 300,000 writers from around the World must write a 50,000 words novel within the 30 days of November.  It’s like a marathon:  cross the 50,000 word finish line and you win.

This morning, Natasha posted:   Day seven of NaNoWriMo and in order to reach my 1667 words/day, I’m tempted to start writing sentences like: She was sad, depressed really. Actually, she was despondent, very, very, very, very, very, very, very despondent…

I replied:  That’s a really, really, really, really, good idea. In fact, I am tempted to say that again… that’s a really, really, really… 🙂

Holy Hannah, is 50,000 words in 30 days ever a LOT!  I am so behind…

If you’ve experienced me NaNoWriMo-ing before, this will sound familiar.  Even the kids have heard this so often about NaNo that when I say, “I am so behind…” they are not alarmed or distressed.  They just smile and nod.

One year, I still had about 10,000 words to go and only 2 days left to do it.  That’s the year I got my scar:  I slipped on a front walk and cracked my chin open on a concrete step.  In the process, I sprained both wrists while trying to break my fall.   After returning home from the hospital (6 surface stitches and 2 deep tissue), I noticed that my wrists were starting to stiffen up.   I figured that if I went to bed, they would seize up entirely and I wouldn’t be able to type the next day.  So I stayed up until I was done, hitting 50,002 words at about noon on the 30th.

This is a good indicator of how determined/persistent (perhaps “stubborn”) I am, but it’s still no guarantee, so I repeat:  I’m so behind…really, really, really behind.  🙂 Rd

Fingers Crossed…

Philippine Tarsier (NOT a self-portrait, LOL)
subject of one of my kids’ non-fiction books

One of my favorite parts of writing adult suspense novels is, well, the suspense part. I get to keep people guessing about what’s going to happen next. I can’t help it, I just find that fun.

For example, my 2012 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month competition) novel features a man named Leon who has taken to saying ominous things to rationalize some highly inappropriate behaviour.  He’s been a very bad man.

When asked, I like to give friends little snippets of what Leon has been working on lately.  I tell them breathlessly, my eyes wide, with a “can you believe THAT?” expression on my face, and I end it with an enraptured, “Isn’t that just aw…”  I want to say ‘awesome’ but they look both hooked AND horrified, so I quickly amend it.  Instead, I finish with, “…aw…ful?!”  Then when they want to know what happens next, I thwart them.  I leave and dash off to write some more.  Usually giggling.  Gleefully.

Recently, though, I took a fun and satisfying break from my usual pursuit of the unusual.  I used it to work on a great idea I had for a neat series of kids’ non-fiction books.   Mailing the query letter was very exciting.  I dropped the envelope in the post box, thinking, “Bye…  Hope to see you again…fingers crossed…”  The publisher’s website says they will respond in about six months.  That gives me plenty of time to wonder what will come next.  Talk about being kept in suspense!  Serves me right, I guess.  Payback:  isn’t it just awe…SOME?!  🙂  Rd

Better to Light a Candle than Curse the Darkness (and other Proverbs)

Better to Light a Candle than Curse the Darkness

(and other Proverbs)

I read the blurb on the back of Robert Fulghum’s book “Maybe (Maybe Not)” yesterday, where he speaks of holding opposing notions at the same time. He says, “…I wore two buttons on my smock when I was teaching art. One said, “Trust me, I’m a teacher.” The other replied, “Question Authority.”…’
It’s a concept that resonated with me, how we can simultaneously believe equally valued—and wildly conflicting—ideals such as:
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and “Risk is a four-letter word”;
“Honesty is the best policy” and “Don’t tell tales out of school”; or
“Pride goeth before a fall” and “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”

Brought up in a very English environment, I developed qualities our family valued, such as a stiff upper lip, a sense of reserve and a touch of understatement. But if I would like to get a word in edgewise at home nowadays – well, let’s just say that one needs to be a little more forward in order to be heard. My mother would call that type of wading into a verbal melee “interrupting.” This forum, however, is loud, it’s excitable, it’s quick and witty, and if you don’t sharpen your elbows at the buffet, there will be nothing left but salad. Luckily, I like salad. I guess that set would be: “One can never be too rich or too thin” and “Life’s short, eat dessert first.”

On October19, 2012, I attended the LitFest Panel discussion, “Author Promotion in a Digital Age” with a friend of mine. It was fantastic. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail was the facilitator, and Dana Di Tomaso, Alexis Kienlen and Noah Richler covered items such as blogging and social media in an informative discussion on digital marketing techniques.

Following that, organizers found space for extra chairs, so we were able to buy tickets to Richler’s sold-out workshop, “Narrative Construction in Literary Nonfiction.” This talk addressed life as a writer and provided writing tips to improve the story so the idea can stick better. He also gave encouragement that struck home for me, saying that one doesn’t need to be young to be a “fresh new voice” as a writer. He said many people do not begin their writing career until much later in life, and that if one is compelled to do so, one should just write. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – and “Truth will out.”

Afterwards, so fired up and enthused by the event and the atmosphere, I saw someone I wanted to talk to and marched right over there. Unfortunately, the individual was speaking with somebody else at that moment. Even less fortunate was the fact that they both seemed firmly ensconced in the Reserved Section, rather than the Festival Seating of Communication Techniques… Now, I’m there as a newbie writer, the ink is barely dry on my figurative press card, and I would have preferred to impress them favourably. “There’s many a slip, betwixt cup and lip” and “I got nuttin’…”

The embarrassment of that faux pas still sniggers at me, heckling from the cheap seats in my mind. “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it” and “Let it go”.

A few days later I was at my writer’s group, telling this story, carefully threading my way through the minefield between self-deprecating and self-denigrating humor. “Know thyself” and “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

I had just reached the part where my enthusiasm overtook my manners and I interrupted a private conversation, when my daughter came up and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but…” Then, confused by our collective reaction, she asked, “Why are you all laughing?”

This brings me to my last and favorite dichotomous duo: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and “Every generation, better than the last.” Thank goodness.

Canadian Karma

Leanne Myggland-Carter, Marketing & Communications Supervisor, Spruce Grove Public Library (on left) presenting Award Certificate to R.D. Girvan

I had entered Spruce Grove Public Library’s Post Card Travel Story Contest… and on October 20, 2012, I was thrilled to discover that I had won the Contest!  Here is my entry:

Canadian Karma ©2012 R.D. Girvan

On our last road trip, I stopped for fuel at a station with a drive-through.  I can’t mention their name, but it rhymes with “Lim Lorton’s.”  Not needing gasoline, I aimed for coffee, dispensed around back.

Two lanes waited, merging at a red-on-white sign that read:  “Please Alternate.”  That’s so Canadian.  Like a commercial for “Jim Jorton’s.”

We proceeded politely: right, left, right.  Then it happened: left, right, left, left…  A woman driving a small car scurried before a gentleman piloting a pick-up truck.  Occupying his rightful place in line, she sat squeezed against my back bumper like a spider evading a broom.  So close, you could not have slipped a “Gim Gorton’s” gift card between us.

The lady in front of me saw everything in her Lexus’ rearview mirror.  We shook our heads in shared disapproval.

The gentleman acted like a prince.  He was honorable.  He was dignified.  He was on the phone and may not have noticed a thing.  Not to worry.  Karma was calling, and I was just the girl to answer.

Reversing my SUV into Small Woman’s vehicle seemed slightly overzealous…  perhaps, instead of punishing her behavior, I should reward his.  I ordered Prince Pick-up a donut.

At the window, I overheard employees congratulating Prince.  He and I exchanged solemn nods, saluting through our side mirrors, right over Small Woman’s head.

It was fair.  It was just.  Then, I discovered Lady Lexus had bought my coffee.  It was karma—to go—at “Rim Rorton’s.”