Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Claus

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

Welcome everyone to the last Nighthawk Talks for 2011. We've managed to nab the big red elf himself for a quick interview.

Tell us a bit about the real Santa Claus.
<Ho-ho-ho> The average person over the age of ten would say there’s no such person. But here I am.

You certainly are, red suit and all. But this is a relatively new look for you, isn’t it? You’ve worn white furs, red velvet, coloured robes... Not to mention different names: Father Christmas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle...
Don’t forget Pere Noel, Sinnterklaus, and Basil.

Greek tradition. I answer to many names. Festo Spiritu is another one.

Holiday Spirit?
You know your Latin. I predate Christianity and transcend religious differences - or should. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that they designated my season as the birthday of Jesus. It’s not historically accurate, but I don’t believe letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

You don’t mind that it get’s called Christmas and that you’re called Father Christmas?
<Ho-ho-ho> Call it a gift. That’s what it’s all about, you know. There’s a reason my day falls in the dead of winter and that the earliest gifts I gave were food-related. Winter can be harsh, food scarce. The spirit of the holiday is all about generosity.

And the toys?
Hey, winter is long where I come from. Books and toys make the time pass. Time to play games, visit family and friends. Once the spring came, with the planting, lambing, calving, shearing and so on, things got busy. They'd stay pretty busy too – until the after harvest.

Do you really have a workshop run by elves?
<wink> If I told you...

You’d have to kill me?
<Ho-ho-ho> Not my style. I don't get much harsher than an occasional piece of coal. There's one line of that song you were singing that I really like: "You better be good for goodness sake." I believe doing good is its own reward.

That doesn't answer my question. Santa? Santa?
Oh well, folks - see you next year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

From Whistler's Murder

With Joan Donaldson-Yarmey’s Travelling Detective Series, the trick is to pin down a character long enough to interview them. Elizabeth Oliver proved challenging, until she got waylaid by murder.

Welcome to the show, Elizabeth. You’re a part-time travel writer, what’s your day job?

I work at a long term care facility in Edmonton. While I like my job, my real passion is to travel and write about the places I visit.

And still you find time to get involved with murders.

I was trying to write an article on the resort town of Whistler.

Are the victims anyone you know?

Two people died before I got there and the third victim I only knew briefly.

How did you get involved?

I really don’t know. I came to Whistler with my friend Sally who was attending a Science Fiction retreat. But seems that every time I begin my research I get drawn into a mystery. Like when I travelled to the Crowsnest Highway in Southern Alberta, I hadn’t even made it to my destination when I met a man who had discovered a body in a septic tank. There was another death before the mystery of who the body belonged to was solved. Last year, though, my boyfriend, Jared, asked me to find out if his mother had actually committed suicide when he was four years old or if she was murdered. That was really tough on him because he found out a lot of secrets about his childhood.

Yikes! That would be tough.

Finding out what really happened to Jared’s mother took a toll on our relationship for a while.

I can imagine. But tell us about Whistler. When did things start to go wrong?

As soon as I arrived at the Bed & Breakfast and saw the house next door being demolished. The owner of the B&B told me that there was a rumour that a body had been hidden in the house years ago.

That might distract you from writing.

Actually, solving mysteries has made me decide to branch out into true crime writing. I don’t know if I’m a better person for my experiences, but hopefully I’m a better writer, since I sold an article to a true crime magazine.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I want to travel across Canada and write about the places I see. I would like to write a travel book and also a true crime book about the mysteries I have been involved with. I can even see myself writing a mystery novel.

Let us know when you do. Meanwhile, anyone out there wanting to learn more about Elizabeth Oliver’s adventures - or should I say misadventures - should check out Whistler’s Murder, published by Books We Love, available in eBook and trade paperback.

Next week, you better watch out, you better not cry... you know who is coming to Nighthawk.

Monday, December 5, 2011

From Safe Harbour

Why is the wife the last to know? We ask Pat Tierney, whose story has been told by Rosemary McCracken in Safe Harbour. Tell us a bit about yourself, Pat.

I'm a 47-year-old financial advisor. I'm also a mother, and I was a wife for nearly 20 years when Michael had his fatal heart attack. I'm a smart cookie in some ways, but pretty darn clueless in others. When Safe Harbor opened, I was the epitome of clueless – a woman too stupid to realize that her late husband had been sleeping around.

Did you know the Other Woman?

I met Jude Seaton only once, on the day before her death. She barged into my Toronto office and asked me to look after her son for a few days. I was gobsmacked. "I'm a financial planner, not a daycare worker," I said.
"I didn't think you'd turn Tommy down."
"Whatever made you think that?"
And then she told me that Tommy was my late husband's son.

Gobsmacked. That’s a great word. Still, you must have had some idea your husband wasn’t faithful?

As I said, I can be pretty clueless. I had no idea what Michael was up to that summer when I took the girls to England for a month. He was supposed to join us for the last week of the holiday, but he called to say he was too busy at the office looking after my clients as well as his. And I felt guilty that I was on vacation and he had all that work to do. Bastard!

How did you get yourself involved in a murder investigation?

When I refused to take her kid, Jude told me that someone had threatened Tommy and that he was in danger. I didn't believe her. I thought she was stringing me a line, and I stuck to my guns: I wasn't taking Tommy.

So she simply walked out of my office. Left me with a seven-year-old boy, a backpack filled with his clothes and his booster car seat  - at seven, Tommy was small for his age.

And you just let her go?

I went over to her home, and she wasn't there. I tried calling her all evening, but she didn't answer her phone. The next day, the police contacted me – they'd found my business card beside her phone and my voice mail messages on her line – and told me she'd been murdered. In her own living room.
Tommy stayed with me for the next few days because the police thought it would be risky for him to be with Jude's relatives. They said the killer might want him out of the way too.

That’s taking a lot on.

Tommy is a special little guy, and it didn't take him long to find a place in my heart. In spite of who his father was, or maybe even because of it. And he was in danger. Well, I couldn't let anything bad happen to him, could I?

How do you feel about Jude now?

It's pretty difficult to hold a grudge against somebody who's dead. And somebody who died so horribly...and long before her time. At some point it hit me that Jude had really been terrified that her son was in danger or else she never would have approached me. She didn't want to leave Tommy with family or friends because that was the first place anyone would look. So she came to me.

I'm a mother, too. I know how it feels to be willing to give up your own life in a heartbeat to save that precious little life. And when I started seeing Jude as another mother, a mother who was trying to save her child...well, I couldn't hate her anymore.

And, as they say, it takes two to tango. Michael had a big part to play in their affair. But he's dead too. I can only feel sorry that he never knew his son.

So now you have a young child again. That can’t make it easy to get on with your life - especially your love life.

The whole thing has actually helped my love life. Michael had been gone for four years when Jude came into my office, but he was still very much top of mind. No one could hold a candle to him. I'd met my current guy, Devon, the summer before but I wasn't sure about him. He lives in the United States, and we hadn't seen each other for months but, as it happened, he was flying in to see me the day after Jude's visit. I was nervous, didn't know what I wanted from him, didn't know what he expected. And then Jude dropped her bombshell. I was so angry at Michael that I turned to the only available man around. For comfort, for revenge, for sex.

And I'm glad I did. I don't know if Devon is Mr. Right, but he's Mr. Right Now, and that's good enough for me at the moment.

How about your career?

What I’ve been through has reinforced my commitment to my clients, even difficult ones like Luella Cruickshank. In situations where an adult child is preying upon an elderly parent, the client may be blinded by loyalty to the child. But it is my duty to work 100% in the client's interests. I have zero tolerance for anyone in my industry who fails to do so.

Do you think the crisis has made you’re a better person?

I don't think I'm a better person than I was before Jude's visit. But I've had my capacity for love and acceptance tested, and I think I passed the test. I didn't turn my back on Tommy, and that may have saved his life. And now he's a big part of my life.

I've learned that when a life crisis occurs you have to pick up the pieces and carry on. I could have turned my back on Tommy and wallowed in my misery, but I didn't. I let Tommy and Devon into my life, and I said goodbye to Michael. Life is for the living.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Right now, I'm living out in the country, about a two-hour drive north of Toronto. I'm supervising the opening of a branch of our brokerage firm up here, and I'm trying to get to the bottom of another murder: An old man died when he drove into his garage and it burst into flames. And some nasty bikers are hanging around here and they think I'm involved in the local grow-op.

Sounds like you need to move back to the City.

On the whole, I like it up here. Haversham County is a beautiful part of the world and the people are just great. I don't think I want to go back to Toronto. So there may be a move in my future.
But first, we need to find out who murdered that old man. And get those bikers to go away.

Any last words of advice for others gobsmacked as you were?

Err on the side of generosity. My daughters call me a pushover, and they're probably right. But you have to be able to live with yourself, and I wouldn't be able to do that if I'd turned my back on Tommy.

Look for more about Pat Tierny in Safe Harbour, being released by Imajin Books in Spring 2012. Visit Rosemary McCracken's website at and her blog at Follow Rosemary on Twitter @RCMcCracken and at