Friday, May 17, 2019

Apple Peels and Snails to Snare a Husband by Diane Scott Lewis

My Canadian Brides novel turns on a betrothal gone wrong. To celebrate May, I leave Canada and travel to England, and the serious search for a mate in the eighteenth century.

Folklore abounds in the villages of England around the single girl’s search for a husband—as in the eighteenth century marriage was what most young women had to look forward to, or they’d be ridiculed and regulated to spinsters, farmed out as governesses, or forced to live on the charity of their family.

Most of these search-for-true-love customs revolved around the seasons.

At the ruined Abbey of Cerne Abbas in Dorsetshire, girls flocked around the wishing-well in all seasons. To obtain their heart’s desire, they’d pluck a leaf from a nearby laurel bush, make a cup of it, dip this in the well, then turn and face the church. The girl would then “wish” for presumably a man she already has in mind, but must keep this wish a secret or it wouldn’t come true.

Other customs included, in Somersetshire on May Day Eve or St. John’s Eve, a lass putting a snail on a pewter plate. As the snail slithered across the plate it would mark out the future husband’s initials.

On another ritual to this end, writer Daniel Defoe remarked by saying: “I hope that the next twenty-ninth of June, which is St. John the Baptist’s Day, I shall not see the pastures adjacent to the metropolis thronged as they were the last year with well-dressed young ladies crawling up and down upon their knees as if they were a parcel of weeders, when all the business is to hunt superstitiously after a coal under the root of a plantain to put under their heads that night that they may dream who should be their husbands.”

Throwing an apple peel over the left shoulder was also employed in the hopes the paring would fall into the shape of the future husband’s initials. When done on St. Simon and St. Jude’s Day, the girls would recite the following rhyme as they tossed the peel: St. Simon and St. Jude, on you I intrude, By this paring I hold to discover, without any delay please tell me this day, the first letter of him, my true lover.

 On St. John’s Eve, his flower, the St. John’s Wort, would be hung over doors and windows to keep off evil spirits, and the girls who weren’t off searching for snails in the pastures, would be preparing the dumb cake. Two girls made the cake, two baked it, and two broke it. A third person would put the cake pieces under the pillows of the other six. This entire ritual must be performed in dead silence-or it would fail. The girls would then go to bed to dream of their future husbands.

On the eve of St. Mary Magdalene’s Day, a spring of rosemary would be dipped into a mixture of wine, rum, gin, vinegar, and water. The girls, who must be under twenty-one, fastened the sprigs to their gowns, drink three sips of the concoction, then would go to sleep in silence and dream of future husbands.

At All Hallows Eve, a girl going out alone might meet her true lover. One tale has it that a young servant-maid who went out for this purpose encountered her master coming home from market instead of a single boy. She ran home to tell her mistress, who was already ill. The mistress implored the maid to be kind to her children, then this wife died. Later on, the master did marry his serving-maid.

Myths and customs were long a part of village life when it came to match-making.

In my novel, On a Stormy Primeval shore, which takes place in eighteenth-century Canada, Amelia is slated to wed one man (a match made by her father), but refuses him, and through no effort of her own, the perfect man comes along in the guise of Gilbert, an Acadian trader. A bear is involved...

A short blurb:

In 1784, Amelia sails to New Brunswick, a land overrun by Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, to marry a soldier whom she rejects. Acadian Gilbert fights to preserve his heritage and property—will they find love when events seek to destroy them?
To purchase On a Stormy Primeval Shore or my other novels at Amazon or All Markets: Click HERE

For further information on me and my books, please visit my website:

 Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Source: English Country Life in the Eighteenth Century, by Rosamond Bayne-Powell, 1935.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Trip to Tucson by A.M.Westerling

Okay, so Tucson doesn’t really have anything to do with Barkerville and the Canadian brides collection other than there was a fair bit of mining in the area about the same time as the Cariboo Gold Rush. Silver and copper mostly and gold later on once Arizona opened up a bit more.

So why Tucson? My sweetie and I head south every March to get away from the Canadian winter. Actually, it’s not that we mind winter so much, it’s that Calgary simply doesn’t have a spring! March is dreary, brown and interminable so although we don’t do the full on snowbird thing, we do spend 5 or 6 weeks touring the southwestern U.S. to get away from it. We don’t plan anything other than we know we’ll hit the I15 which is a straight run south for us. Usually the road is pretty clear but we hit a snow storm this year in Montana. 

Once we reach Las Vegas, we sit and thaw out for a few days then start watching the weather to decide where to go next. It was a cold spring everywhere this year so we drove further south than we usually do and ended up in Oro Valley, on the northern outskirts of Tucson. Tucson is a great spot, with lots of interesting things to see and do plus it’s not a mega city like Phoenix and area which suits us perfectly. 

We tend to visit railroad museums wherever we go and Tucson was no exception. The original train station is right in the heart of the city and has a small museum plus a vintage steam locomotive. 

Why railroad museums? My husband is a model railroad enthusiast and of course I love any kind of history so win win! Anyway, you always discover something new when you’re out and about and imagine my surprise to discover that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday shot and killed a fellow by the name of Frank Stilwell in revenge for the death of Wyatt’s brother Morgan. Where? In Tucson’s train depot! A bronze statue commemorates the event. That worried look on my face? Those fellows have rifles pointed at me!

Of course I’d heard of both Earp and Holliday which is why it surprised me to learn they’d been in Tucson all those years ago. Little tidbits like that really bring history to life for me and as I stood on the railroad platform, I could just imagine the men laying in wait for Stilwell. I could imagine the horrified gasps and whispers of onlookers, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the dry smell of dust, and the slowly spreading crimson stains on Stilwell’s clothes. (You can read more about it here:

I did the same thing the various occasions I visited Barkerville. I wandered the wooden sidewalks and imagined the town as it might have been 150 years ago. I imagined the streets crowded with wagons, mules and cattle, the smell of wood smoke, the clang clang of the black smith’s hammer, the thump of boots on the walkways, the shouts of joy from miners who struck it bit, and the sobs and groans from those who didn’t.

Anyhow, as a writer of historical romance and fiction, my goal is to bring history to life for my readers. I try and envision life as it might have been for my characters, a kind of time travel if you will. If I can take you back to a different era, then I feel I’ve accomplished my goal.


Find Barkerville Beginnings at your favourite online store here:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

NWT -- A Few Fantastic Facts

A Yank, I knew next to nothing about Canadian history, but this has certainly changed since I became joint author with John Wisdomkeeper of Fly Away Snow Goose, one of the books in the Canadian Historical Brides series. The first fantastic facts I learned were political, from the period of European migration, after these (already occupied) lands had been parceled up by European nations.

The Northwest Territories remain an immense region today, but once they were even larger, comprising the entire midsection of Canada. In the 1870's this vast area--which had been designated Rupert's Land* and The Northwestern Territories--was acquired by the Canadian government from The Hudson's Bay Company and Great Britain.

Prince Rupert, swashbuckling, semi-piratical nephew of the hapless, beheaded Charles I
In those days, the Northwest Territories stretched from Ontario to the Yukon and included today's provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. It grew even larger in 1880 when many Arctic Islands were transferred to the Canadians too. Sir John Macdonald, the first Prime Minister, wished to construct a British nation and also to keep out American settlers. This is analogous I think to the period in American history when the Louisiana Purchase during the time of Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of The United States.

The geological age of the region is immense, tickling my "way back machine" fantasies. The Canadian Shield is 3.96 billion years young, some of the oldest rocks on the planet. They have been stripped bare by a series of glaciations, the last of which came in the Pleistocene. Those ancient miles thick sheets of ice that once covered this land have left their tracks in meandering waterways, low undulating plains piled with heaps of sands and gravel, bogs and tundra, places where the permafrost is just now is beginning to melt. Those barren lands are the home of caribou and many of the fur-bearing animals that the Europeans were eager to buy. They were also the hunting grounds of the Tlicho, Dogrib, Yellowknives and other aboriginal people of the region.

Read the names of the aboriginal people who still comprise one half of the population of the NWT:  Dene, Inuit/Invialuit & Metis, Chipeweyan, Dogrib, Yellowknives, South and North Slavey, Gwich'in and Sahtu. There are still eleven languages spoken in the NWT: Chipaweyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich'in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North and South Slavey and  Tlicho. (The young couple, Sascho and Yaotl, whose story Fly Away Snow Goose tells, are Tlicho.)

Recently, I've been reading some human history of a different kind, the astonishing discoveries that appear almost daily in science columns, the marvelous stories written in our human DNA.  There have been many ideas about where the original aboriginal people of the Americas came from, but the most recent discoveries, tracing DNA, seems to point toward a group of people who came from Siberia, perhaps as long as 24,000 years ago. These people may have crossed the glacial maximum land bridge from Asia to a now drowned land called Beringia.
Rising sea levels may have been the culprit that left these migrants, who probably came hunting big game across the glaciers, isolated for a very long time--5,000 to 8,000 years. The "Beringian Standstill" as this theory is called, is now well on its way to being proven. During this immensely long interval, those hardy Asian adventurers, carrying fifteen mitochondrial DNA strands, developed some notable genetic variations that were adaptive to enduring the frigid climate and to metabolizing an oily fish-and-meat-heavy diet. These same adaptive markers have been shown to exist today in all populations of First Nations, in both North and South America. Imagine what a strange and isolated frozen world these First People inhabited! Imagine the mega fauna and other wonders they discovered as they moved into a hemisphere innocent of human beings. The Inuit and their cousins, the Athapascans, were the first enter North America and make these lands, thousands of years ago, their home.

~~Juliet Waldron
See all my historical novels @

(A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Earthquake of ice in New Brunswick by Diane Scott Lewis

Spring, April, is a month to savor, especially after a long cold winter. In New Brunswick, Canada, the setting for my novel, On a Stormy Primeval Shore, the rivers, which have frozen solid, start to break up, the ice melting. The event is so powerful, people have described it like an earthquake.

All winter the rivers freeze solid and people travel by sled, sleighs and toboggans. With today's warming temperatures, sometimes the ice breaks up as early as March, causing floods, and roaring ice jams, which puts life and land in danger well before people are prepared. In the eighteenth century it was both a blessing (spring has arrived) and a curse (treacherous ice jams and floods). The settlers faced many challenges.

Excerpt from my novel when Amelia, a young Englishwoman, is about to meet her love's (Gilbert) Acadian mother. Here, she first experiences the breaking up of one of the rivers:

Amelia smoothed her hair with nervous fingers as Gilbert escorted her and Louise in a cart to a hamlet of houses and a gristmill. The Kennebecasis River was mostly frozen, a gleaming ribbon in the weak sunlight. The mill wheel was stilled in the ice. They approached a cedar-shingled, log home where smoke drifted from the chimney.

The ground started to quake, and a great cracking sound rent the air.

“Mercy, what is that?” Amelia asked, pulse skipping. She fidgeted to retain balance. Louise hunched close, staring at her feet as if they might fly out from under her.

“Only the ice breaking up in the mountains.” Gilbert chuckled, laying a warm hand on her shoulder. “It happens every spring, and is late this year.”

“Then I must get used to it.” Amelia laughed to disguise her amazement. He opened the door and she was anxious to leave the wind and any cracking ice, though cautious of what lay ahead.

Kennebecasis River Valley
To purchase On a Stormy Primeval Shore or my other novels at Amazon or All Markets: Click HERE
 For further information on me and my books, please visit my website:

 Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Teaser from Barkerville Beginnings by A.M.Westerling

In today's blog post, I'm sharing the beginning of Chapter Seven of Barkerville Beginnings. In this scene, single mother Rose Chadwick has just arrived in Barkerville with her daughter Hannah and is looking for a place to stay even though she has no money.
“May I help you, ma’am?”A clerk leaned against the chest-high desk tucked into the corner of the hotel foyer. The man, elderly, with a straggly beard and wearing a rumpled white shirt, appraised her from top to toe. His gaze slid down to Hannah and disapproval stiffened his lip.

“Yes.” She grabbed Hannah’s hand, proceeding to the desk with what she hoped was a purposeful air. “I need a room for the night.”

“Only a couple of rooms left,” he grunted. “You’ll have to share the bed, though.” He pointed to Hannah. “This is a fine establishment. Last bunch we had in here, the kids raised a ruckus, running up and down the stairs, shouting, that sort of thing. People were none too pleased, I can tell you. She better behave or else.”

The hotel must be reputable if other families stayed here, thought Rose. “My daughter is very well behaved.” She clasped her hands, wondering what the man meant by “or else.” It sounded dire.

The clerk continued. “Our guests expect only the best here. That means no noise.” He shoved the register towards her, along with a worn wooden pen and an inkwell. “Fill this in. Rate is seventy five cents per night. Up front.”

“What?” Rose couldn’t believe her ears. The clerk wanted payment now. Not only did she not have a cent to her name, she didn’t even have the chance to have a few days to look for work. She made a show of fishing through her pockets. “I, er, seem to have misplaced my purse. Could I bring you the money when I find it?”

He frowned. “Awfully convenient to lose your purse.”

“Please, I’m sure it’s somewhere in my carpet bag.”

He folded his arms. “No payment, no room.”

Desperate, Rose searched for the words that might persuade him to change his mind. She twiddled the braided gold band on her left hand. The wedding ring that had belonged to her mother. She looked at it, swallowing hard then pulled it off. “How about if I give you this for now? It’s gold. When I find my purse, I can pay you properly.”

“If it’s money you want for gold, go to the assay office down the street. Or the bank.” He pointed.

“Please, my little girl is hurt. We’ve had a long day. Could you give us the night? I’m sure I can find my coin purse. In the meantime, you can hold on to my ring.”

He looked at her long and hard, as if scouring her face for any hint of dishonesty. Rose waited, stomach churning like a swirling eddy on the Fraser River.

“All right. It’s not regular, mind, but you seem like a nice lady. I’ll expect to see you in the morning.” He tucked the ring in his vest pocket.

“Thank you.” At least they would have a comfortable place to sleep tonight. She dipped the pen in the inkwell and signed her name. It was only a hotel room.  Why did it feel as if she signed away her life? Maybe it was the veiled threat he uttered over Hannah’s behaviour that unsettled her so.

Or maybe it was the fact she had no money and had just given away her most cherished item.

“What brings you to Barkerville?” Business complete, the clerk became chatty. He patted the pocket where her ring nestled.

“I, er, we’re meeting my husband. He’s a miner,” she added.

He cocked his head. “A miner? Didn’t he know you were coming?”

His implication was clear – what kind of man wouldn’t arrange for accommodation for his own family?

“No. I wanted to surprise him. We’re not supposed to come until later in the week but the trip upriver went a lot faster than expected.” Another lie that flew easily from her lips. She would have to figure out how to redeem herself, she thought wryly. Bald faced lying was not a particularly good habit to cultivate.

“Anyone I know? A lot of miners come here when they’re in town.”

Rose froze and she stared at the man. “Er, Chadwick. Mr. Harrison Chadwick,” she blurted. Goodness, now how did Harrison’s given name slip off her lips so easily?

The clerk’s eyes narrowed and he tapped a gnarled finger on the desk. “Hmph. Can’t say that I know him.”

Because he doesn’t exist, thought Rose. How soon would it be before anyone realized that?
Intrigued? Are you wondering how Rose manages to wiggle her way out of this scrape? You knew the sales pitch was coming *wink* and find it at your favourite online store HERE.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Aurora Borealis Tonight!

Back in the 50's when I was a kid, the U.S. was just in process of building its interstate highway system. My parents had money back in the day--my dad was one of those "Mad Men"--and good at his job--so every winter Mom and her annual bronchitis and me went for a month or so to the West Indies. It was good for her health; it was also very cool thing that no one else did. In those days, the West Indies were truly paradise. There were no high rises, no mobs on those pristine, pre-plastic white beaches; it was our Island in the Sun.

One March, while flying home, we had to lay over in Bermuda because of a huge winter storm that hit the coast. The next day we flew into what was then Idlewild airport (JFK now). First adventure, we got stuck upon landing, in a snow bank, and the next plane coming in flew right over us in order to use the runway to land. We were sitting there, feeling the pilot trying to move the plane--this after a very rough flight--when the other guy roared over our heads. We already had stuff in the aisles and people screaming, and that sound, of another plane approaching, set off more noise. I didn't scream; I was too busy puking into one of those brown bags.

Then, after finally reaching the terminal, Mom and I found my Dad, who'd spent the night there waiting for us. He, of course, had to return home after two weeks and get back to work, leaving Mom and her yearly bronchitis, and me, in the West Indies. He'd driven from Syracuse, NY the day before to pick us up.  Now we'd have a long haul home, through a snowed in world.  The Thruway A.K.A. I-90 was still in pieces of construction, so we'd drive through the city until we could connect with one of the sections which was complete and open to traffic. With all the snow and the blowing, we found ourselves following snowplows more often than not. Progress was slow.

The sun had gone down. We were still not home. Dad drove and drove. Mom was asleep in the back seat. The snow was in high banks all around us, glittering, while a northern high drove it in long moving snakes across the road, the surface of which began to vanish as fast as the plows passed. That night was the single time I've seen Aurora. She appeared as the post storm high moved in. Pale red curtains that moved and shook across the sky; my Dad explained what they were.

We were absolutely alone on the nighttime highway, so he stopped the car and told me to roll down my window. White snow! Black sky and stars like jewels! Hallucinogenic blobs of red--and a faint crackle and hiss, as if we could hear those heavy curtains shaking! I've never forgotten it, this other worldly phenomenon. I'd love to see Aurora again before I die, and I know that the NWT, about which I've written, is THE place to go to see this wonder.  So I'm adding to my "dream trip" list--because today, Aurora tourism is now a "thing" in the NWT.

Circumpolar folk stories are very similar. There are lonely spirits trying to speak to the living; there are spirits of animals and ancestors, some of them dancing, some playing games. Europeans told of the  shields of the Valkyries gleaming, or saw a rainbow bridge to Asgard where dwelt their ferocious Gods. The Inuit tell of walrus skull games played by the dead. The Athabascans speak of ancestors who are ever present, looking down upon their children. Northern people world wide gazed into the aurora filled sky and made stories to explain what they saw.

"The ends of the land and sea are bounded by an immense abyss, over which a narrow and dangerous pathway leads to the heavenly regions. The sky is a great dome of hard material arched over Earth. There is a hole in it through which spirits pass to the true heavens, only the spirits of those who have died a voluntary or violent death--and Raven--have been over this pathway."

We know more about what causes Aurora today than was known in my childhood. We've discovered that this phenomena is caused by our solar wind, constantly blowing from our own mighty local star, when it collides with Earth's magnetosphere. In a way, the original inhabitants of the land are correct--the "hard material" arched over Earth is our planetary shield--and we can see the lights dancing as the solar winds strike.

NWT has plenty of aurora tourism available for the hardy traveler, from Yellowknife to places north, closer to the magnetic pole, where the magic is most reliably to be seen. You can fly or snowmobile or travel in great ice road vehicles farther north; you can even, I read in my wishful thinking ravel brochures, sit in hot tubs and watch the skies, which has to be the height of blissful decadence. I hope to see Aurora again, before I check out, and NWT is clearly the place to go.

Coincidentally, tonight will be a good night to look out for Aurora, perhaps dancing in a cold clear sky over your fortunate head! If you are in Canada, keep a sharp look out! It seems that Old Sol has actually sent a Coronal Mass Ejection our way. Maybe I sensed Aurora coming, dreamer that I am, as I pondered what to write for Canadian Historical Brides...

~~Juliet Waldron
For all my historical novels:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick

In my research for my novel set in New Brunswick, I came across the two main native tribes that lived there. I touched briefly on them in On a Stormy Primeval Shore, but they deserve a more in-depth introduction.

First, the Mi'kmaq people. Known as one of the original settlers of the Atlantic provinces, oral history (and archeological discoveries) suggest the Mi'kmaq have been in eastern Canada for over 10,000 years. The name is thought to mean "one of high ability." Other sources say it means "my friends." They refer to themselves as First Nations.

The men hunted and fished, and went to war to protect their families. Women tended the children, gathered herbs, and built the traditional wigwam. These homes are made of wood covered in birch bark. The people lived in villages, usually near water sources.
Men wore breechcloths (a skimpy garment that covered their privates) and leggings. The women wore tunics, long skirts and a peaked hat. They decorate their clothing with dyed porcupine quills, a skill they are famous for.
Traditional quill box
Chanting is another tradition, consisting of vocables (broken syllables) that express emotion rather than words with meaning. The Mi'kmaq language is part of the Wabanaki cluster of Eastern Algonquian languages.

Feathers are only worn in their hair during ceremonies. Bothe men and women wore their hair loose and long. White settlers complained, "I can't tell the men from the women."

The Mi'kmaq paddled in canoes, or traveled through the winter snow in sleds and snowshoes. The English word "toboggan" comes from the Mi'kmaq word for sled. Dogs were their pack animals in the years before colonists brought horses to Canada.

Traditional military coat, rear view. Courtesy Glenbow Museum/Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

When the French came in the 1600s many of the Mi'kmaq converted to Catholicism. But European diseases resulted in the death of half their population. Conflicts with the French ensued, though the natives worked together with the French in fur trade.

The British colonization of the eighteenth century brought about the slaughter of the French (Acadians) and breaking and remaking of treaties. The Mi'kmaq were pushed off their fertile land.
The English wanted to alter the indigenous peoples' way of life. Today the 'rights' of the Mi'kmaq are better protected, but their lifestyle is forever changed, their traditions usually limited to special  ceremonies.

View of a Mi'kmaq wigwam, a man, and a child, probably Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, photographed 1860. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Photo NO. 47728.

To learn more about the Mi'kmaq please see the Canadian Encyclopedia link below. 

To find out more about the formation of New Brunswick in On a Stormy Primeval Shore, or to purchase my books at Amazon or All Markets: Click HERE

 For further information on me and my books, please visit my website:

 Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.
Source: Canadian Encyclopedia