Saturday, November 7, 2009

VICKI DELANY - The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – for Writers

It’s that time - the Holidays are coming!  I’m pleased to welcome my guest blogger today, Vicki Delany, my blogmate at Type M 4 Murder. Vicki’s newest novel, Winter of Secrets, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which said, “she uses…artistry as sturdy and restrained as a Shaker chair.”   Winter of Secrets is the third in the Constable Molly Smith books, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the Interior of British Columbia.  She is also the author of the Klondike Gold Rush series beginning with Gold Digger, set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush, and standalone novels of suspense.


It’s easy to set a book around Christmastime. Want to create the mood, describe a scene, generate some emotion? Never easier. 

Allow me to illustrate my point by referring to my new book, Winter of Secrets, which begins on Christmas Eve and ends on New Years Day.  

Need some pathos? A drunken argument in the street on Christmas Eve leads two adults to spend the night in prison and their teenage children to contemplate that they might be better off without Mom and Dad. 

Need background action? Christmas tree fires, pedestrians tumbling on icy sidewalks, bars and parties.

Need colour? Twinkling lights, beautiful ornaments, softly falling snow, brightly coloured scarves and mittens. 

Need atmosphere? A Christmas tree, decorations, piles of presents, candles and good cheer. 

But what makes the holidays particularly easy to write about, they are almost synonymous with food. You can come up with a food reference to suit any and all situation. Allow me to illustrate my point with some scenes from the book.

Happiness and family: Mrs. Carmine and Kathy, her daughter, returned moments later, carrying trays precariously balanced with glasses of pale yellow eggnog, platters of sliced shortbread, mince tarts, cheese and crackers. 

Contentment: She took the last piece of shortbread. Homemade, packed with so much butter it melted in her mouth.

Mild disappointment: her hand hovered over the plate of treats before settling upon a cookie formed into the shape of candy cane. Bands of pink and white dough wound through the cookie. She took an exploratory bite. Not as good as the shortbread.

Obligations and too-high expectations:  (Molly Smith is on duty Christmas Day and contemplates having to rush dinner at her parents.) She’d help her mom in the kitchen, go for a walk with her dad and the dog, eat an enormous turkey dinner, and then head home to change and be at work by three. She wouldn’t even be able to have a glass of wine with the meal. There would be apple pie for dinner tomorrow – later today, that was – and banana cream, her dad’s favorite. Smith liked banana cream pie just fine, but some years ago her mother had gotten it into her head that her daughter’s favorite was apple.  And so there was always an apple pie. 

Tragedy? (Tragedy seems so much more acute at a time of family and celebration, doesn’t it?): she couldn’t help but be aware of the piles of cast-off gift wrap littering the floor, the glasses stained with reside of eggnog and wine, half-eaten cookies and crackers and smears of cheese and pâté on paper plates decorated with a cheerful assortment of holiday motifs. 

A touch of romance: He reached over and took the bottle out of the silver cooler. Ice, melting and soft, clinked. He filled her glass. Let her drink as much as she liked; she rarely did, and she wasn’t driving anywhere tonight. 

Family conflict: The Champagne arrived; a bottle was presented to Dad and the cork popped. Dad tasted, nodded, and one waitress began to pour, while another placed flutes in front of everyone. 

And Wendy knew that this was going to be perfectly horrible.

Of course it doesn’t have to be Christmas for food to take its well-deserved place in matters of seduction: He slipped up behind her, as she accepted the money for two hot chocolates, and whispered, “Anything you don’t eat, Madame?”

Charmed, she’d laughed. “I eat anything and everything.”

He soon was back to pay, pushing two trays along the line. Salmon burger with side salad, spinach salad, sweet potato soup, hamburger and fries, curried chicken and rice, Thai noodle salad, scrambled tofu.

“Anything and everything,” he said as she racked up the bill. 

Happy Holidays, and happy reading, to everyone!


 Vicki lives in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she rarely wears a watch. Visit Vicki at She blogs with five other mystery writers at and about the writing life, as she lives it, at



Marian Allen said...

Thanks for the wonderful post, Vicki--except that now I'm hungry! (Oh, dear Lord, when am I ever NOT hungry...?) Ever write anything set on Prince Edward Island with an Anne of Green Gables tie-in? "But officer, I HAD to kill him--he called me 'Carrots'."

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks for the idea Marian. You could do a lot with a PEI setting and a Anne tie-in.

Donis Casey said...

I have to read snowy books every year to get myself in the mood while I'm putting Christmas lights around my palm trees. Just reading this post makes me want to throw a Christmas party.

Dana Fredsti said...

Good god, I'm starved after reading that post... And I loved all the examples of how to set the mood with food!