News: April, 2011

My Grandmother Turns 100!

Apr 21, 2011

I don’t often post items unrelated to crime fiction, but this one has to be included. We celebrated my grandmother’s 100th birthday on April 17th. Her actual birthday is the 27th, but everyone was going to be in town for Passover last week so the party was Sunday. Bubby Jean still lives independently, goes to the mall most days, and I would advise you against playing gin with her for money. She received congratulatory letters from the Queen, Prime Minister, Premier of Quebec, Governor General and MP, and there was a roomful of loving friends and family on hand who couldn’t say enough good things about her. Three of her granddaughters are pregnant, so we’re all hoping she stays healthy enough to enjoy all the new arrivals. I’ve posted great photos in the gallery: check them out!

Arthur Ellis Shortlist Event

Apr 15, 2011

It’s Crime Time in Toronto: The Arthur Ellis Awards shortlist will be revealed Thursday, April 28, at the Manulife Centre Indigo (Bay and Bloor), 7-9 p.m. Join a bunch of past winners, including Linwood Barclay, Maureen Jennings, Rosemary Aubert and Eric Wright. And me. And a crowd of other Canadian crime writers. Nine of us will read, talk and sign books, so come on down to meet us and hear who makes the shortlist for books published in 2010. I was wound good and tight before they announced the nominees last year, beaming like a searchlight after. This year, without a book in the running, I get to relax and observe and tilt a glass with friends. See you there!

My NCWM Blog: Surprise Update

Apr 12, 2011

No sooner had I sent off the copy for this blog than a staggering surprise popped into my in-box: an invitation to submit my biography to Canadian Who’s Who 2011. And the reason:

“We are currently researching award-winning authors and your accomplishments have come to our attention.”

So there’s another thing you can do by winning awards: make your parents proud.

My National Crime Writing Month Blog: What winning awards did, and didn’t do, for my career

Apr 12, 2011

With the nominations for this year’s Arthur Ellis Awards to be announced April 28, National Crime Writing Month organizers asked me to blog about what winning awards for my first two books did, and didn’t do, for my career. My answer is posted below.

http://nationalcrimewritingmonth.blogspot.com/2011/04/howard-shrier-winning-awards.html

The 2009 Arthur Ellis Awards didn’t get off to the best start. The first thing I saw in the foyer outside the banquet room was an easel on which the names of all nominees were posted. Mine had been misspelled. Either that or some guy named Howard Schrier had also been nominated.

Remaining calm, I took out a pen, crossed out the offending C, then began doing what anyone in my position would do: get nervous.

Now competing in the hundred-yard stomach jump: Howard Schrier!

Amazingly, by evening’s end, I was holding my first Arthur Ellis Award and grinning like a lobotomized idiot.

The feeling was amazing. I had devoted four years of my life to my debut thriller, Buffalo Jump, had quit a secure, well paying job to finish it. To have it not only published by Random House Canada, but named best first novel by the Crime Writers of Canada had me soaring.

The same was true the following year when High Chicago won the Arthur for Best Novel. Again, just being nominated had been a thrill. Winning—on my son’s birthday, and with my agent and publishers in attendance—put me back up in the ether, there to remain for some time.

So what has capturing these awards done for my writing career?

Some things but not others.

There is no doubt it raised my profile among Canadian crime writers and fans. I began to receive more invitations to read, sign books, take part in panels. Calls came in from Sisters in Crime, Bloody Words, Durham’s Dark Lit Festival, Word on the Street, Scene of the Crime and other organizations and event planners. I was invited to contribute to blogs such as this one. My name appeared in dozens of Canadian newspapers from coast to coast as wire services picked up the Crime Writers’ news release on the winners. E-mails poured in from friends and fans. There were even cash awards from sponsors Book City and Sleuth of Baker Street respectively.

What winning did not seem to do was have a major impact on my book sales.

Oh, there was a flurry at first. When High Chicago won, the rankings of both my books on amazon.ca soared to the top and stayed quite high—for a week or two—before returning to earth, along with my spirits.

Okay, that was just amazon. What about bricks and mortar booksellers? Did readers stream in to scoop up the Arthur winner? The short answer from my publisher was: No. In their opinion, a positive review from a respected critic like Margaret Cannon of the Globe and Mail was more likely to generate sales than any award.

One reason the awards didn’t jack up my sales may have been that both books had already been out for nearly a year when the winners were announced; maybe most people who wanted to buy them already had.

There’s also the question of how well known the Arthur awards are, and how much weight they carry with readers. The organizers work unbelievably hard to put together the awards and publicize the results, and did so very successfully this year, but the name simply does not resonate as deeply as, say, the Gillers. And as we all know, publishers have fewer resources these days to throw at author promotion. In better times, they might have done more to capitalize on awards like the Arthurs, leverage them into interviews and appearances. Today it’s mainly up to the author to promote their work and achievements. Which I did. I emailed everyone I know about the awards, posted the results on my web site, blogged here and there.

But that initial light flurry aside, sales didn’t jump enough to make a noticeable difference. Which is not to say it won’t happen in the future to deserving winners.

The bottom line for me is I could not be prouder of these awards. Whatever else I accomplish in my career, nothing will equal the thrill of winning them, especially the first, because you’re only eligible for that once. The wonderful wooden statuettes occupy a prominent place on my mantle and always will. To me they embody the respect of my fellow Canadian crime writers and that is incredibly important to me.

Plus my name is spelled right on both.