Blood for breakfast

It’s Sunday morning, the final day of the Bloody Words conference held at the Hotel Grand Pacific on the Inner Harbour, and a group of Canadian crime writers are examining the evidence of a suspicious death.

From the framed photo in the hallway, I knew the woman once studied the world through curious ice-blue eyes. Slumped on the floor beside the bed, the ice remained, but the blue . . . its colour had diluted into a milky glaze with a pebble of granite at each core.

Her hands were turned palm-side up in repose as though she had just been too damn tired to stay on her feet. The pillow beside her was soaked in blood.

In another room, just a few steps further down the hallway, the woman’s husband was alive but confused. He told the attending paramedics that he thought his wife had been hurt, but couldn’t remember how.

It’s Sunday morning, the final day of the Bloody Words conference held at the Hotel Grand Pacific on the Inner Harbour, and a group of Canadian crime writers are examining the evidence of a suspicious death. Under the tutelage of Victoria coroner Barbara McLintock, plus Det.-Sgt. Nancy Melville and Forensic Ident Sgt. Rick Gosling from the Saanich Police Department, the forensic evidence — blood spatter, neighbour interviews, time of death, etc. — was laid out in graphic detail before the audience.

Not your usual breakfast conversation, but then this wasn’t your usual hotel crowd. Held for the first time outside Ontario, Bloody Words brought together crime and thriller writers from across the country to mingle, talk and learn a few secrets of the trade along the way.

The first thing you quickly discover about people who write about the darker side of life is that, for the most part, they’re very friendly and cheerful. It seems that when you get all of your rage and frustration out on the page, you’re left with a cuddly and happy-go-lucky centre.

And this couldn’t have been more true of New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen with whom I was fortunate to interview in front of a packed audience. Tess was a complete delight, full of humour, intellect and an eagerness to share her incredible knowledge of the publishing industry. We touched on advice for the beginning writer (keep writing, finish that manuscript, and make time every day to get your butt in that chair and write — even if it’s only a page) the mid-list author (write a book a year; build your backlist) and the bestseller (a good agent goes a long way).

Next year, Bloody Words is back in Toronto, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it return to our shores someday. The audience of over 200 writers and readers certainly showed we have a healthy appetite for mystery.

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