Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Here be dragons ... maybe, we aren't quite sure.

Old maps are, quite simply, fascinating.  They are a glimpse into the past, often while cartographers were trying to look into the future (and figure out just what is beyond the horizon).

Let's start our journey today with a visit to the Library and National Archives of Canada's website, and a wonderful article on early cartography.

I love this line from the article:"Few cartographers saw first-hand the regions they were expected to map".

A fascinating look into the history of cartography wasn't it?  I loved the information on the early 17th century and why so many old maps have such breathtaking detail along the margins.

Earlier this year, the Toronto Public Library had an exhibit of The Art of Cartography, and had on display maps from the 16th to the 19th century.  It is now off exhibit, but you can visit a digital archive of the exhibit.

Not all of the maps are the typical country maps you might be thinking of.  One of the incredible pieces shown was this map of plans for Toronto, circa 1848.

(Click on the images to view them in full size.)

Probably my favorite from the exhibit was this one, hailed as "A new and most exact map of America" from 1668.  Notice how the western half of the continent of North America is just kind of missing?

After you are done checking out the 55 maps the Toronto Public Library had on display, swing by the the Canadian Geographic Society for an in-depth article about the exhibit.

You can read more about some of these maps, including this beauty - the first map of the North Pole, in which Mercator "envisioned the Arctic as four mountainous islands surrounding a black magnetic rock, itself surrounded by a whirlpool and river rapids".

Need just one more map?

Check out the first map of Canada's West, circa 1857 and read the accompanying article.

Still can't get enough maps?  Then I strongly suggest you check out the Library and National Archives of Canada virtual collection, starting with the Map of the World, circa 1508.  Each map has an accompanying description and details. The Newfoundland, 1775 is worth taking a look at.  As is the Canadian Arctic, 1853.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Greetings from Randall Sawka and wife Nancy

(High praise from an Amazon reviewer for "Raining Trouble", he says "Louis L'Amour would love it").  Available now.

We have put off visiting the nearby "Puzzlewood" area in the Forest of Dean. That is solved today. Sunny and fairly warm, so off we go.

My writing routine fell in to place nicely as the wet weather set in. I popped in to town early and wrote for hours. Dear Nancy joined me at noon for lunch (see above).

We move on to Bristol for five days over Christmas, Bournemouth for the following eight days, then settle in to Weymouth for two months. It will be quite different from the trees and animals of Ross. We are one block from the sea and long walkways in both directions. Interesting sites abound there.

Looking foreword to it.
Please have a great Christmas and New Years.
Randall and Nancy

Friday, December 23, 2016

Finding History in Canada

Victoria Chatham just posted today on our sister blog, Inside Books We Love, sharing some of the discoveries she's made as she delved into the historical subjects she started researching for her books, as well as just for the love of history.


In school, history was never my favorite subject. I couldn’t remember dates.1066 and 1492 are ingrained in me, but don’t ask me about the succession of kings or when the Industrial or French Revolutions began.

It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I read Jean Plaidy’s The Sun in Splendour. What a difference that made. I could see the characters in history, the people behind the words on the page. I scrambled to read all I could, both fact and fiction, about the Plantagenets, the Tudors and the War of the Roses. My history teacher would have been proud of me.

Today I write historical romance set in my favorite eras, the Regency and the Edwardian, but I still read historical novels from any period. History comes alive for me between the covers of a good book but I do understand that it is subjective.

What happened yesterday, a minute or an hour ago becomes history and we all have our own. My history is growing up in Clifton, a suburb of Bristol, England. Today it’s known not only for its Regency era architecture but also the palatial homes built by the merchant venturers of Bristol, a society of businessmen formed in 1552.

When I immigrated to Canada in 1990, I frequently had people tell me ‘you won’t like it here, we’re not old enough’, or ‘Canada has no history’.

I will admit my ignorance at that time. After all, what did I know about Canada other than it’s a very big country, the Mounties always get their man (or woman) and it’s cold in winter. After nearly twenty-five years I am happy to beg to differ with those early and misleading statements.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of her post ...

Interview with Victoria Chatham

Bet you thought I had forgotten to interview Victoria Chatham.  But you were wrong ... here she is!

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

I had a varied education due to being an army brat and finished my English schooling with passes in five subjects, the exams being similar to the North American graduation system. I couldn’t wait to leave school and work with horses, but back then it wasn’t legal to leave home until the age of eighteen, so for two years I slogged it out first in a bank, then in a local factory’s wage payment office. Horses are my life-long passion, from my first ride on a beach pony when I was five, to the palomino quarter horse I rode on my last trail ride this summer. I loved the discipline of side-saddle and dressage, enjoyed riding cross-country but show jumping was never really my favorite thing to do. However, I do enjoy volunteering at Spruce Meadows, a world-class show jumping venue just south of Calgary, Alberta.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was at school. I loved my English classes, both Literature and Grammar. I wrote several prize-winning essays but my attempts at writing fiction, while I enjoyed writing stories, was a source of amusement to my family. Writing was always referred to as my ‘little hobby’ and I did not have the confidence to try again until I was in my fifties. So, if there are any late bloomers reading this, take heart. It is never too late. Find yourself a good writing group and get to know other writers. Only writers understand writers so it’s important to get that support.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Manic. I would love to have a process! When I wrote His Dark Enchantress I was very disciplined. 9am-1pm or 10am-2pm every day except weekends. I’d sometimes go back to it in the evening and revise what I’d written in the morning, but not very often. His Ocean Vixen was written scene by scene whenever I felt like it and quilted together. Loving That Cowboy was again a scene by scene quilting effort. Brides of Banff Springs was somewhat more orderly. First I did my research, again usually four hour stretches of reading and making notes. Then, because I was so spoilt for choice with the material I had, I discarded several chapters because the flow was not there and the story felt so contrived. Then it was back to what material did I have and where did I want it to come in the story? Most days when I’m working on a book I try for those four hour periods, but then when the writing starts to come together I will write as much as I can.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

This is such a pertinent question for me! My characters tend to take over and sometimes I have to put them in their place. The most intrusive character of all was Lady Juliana Clifton in my first Regency romance, His Dark Enchantress. She was the hero’s sister and every time I started to bring in his love interest, Emmeline Devereux, Juliana would butt in. Finally I promised her a book of her own (she has the lead role in His Ocean Vixen). She is such a tenacious character that she is also mentioned in my Edwardian trilogy as she is the great-great-grandmother of my heroine in that series, Lady Serena Buxton. I don’t think she’s likely to surface again, but I who knows?


What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Oh, gosh. Take my pick why don’t I! Reading, of course. I don’t think anyone can be a writer without first being a reader. I love movies and go every other week to the cinema and also watch movies on Netflix. I’ll watch anything except horror movies as I don’t like being scared but if I’m honest I love animated movies the most. My all time favorite is Disney’s Robin Hood with The Jungle Book being a close second. When I get out of the house, I hike, trail ride and camp in summer and snowshoe in winter. I love meeting up with friends and just chatting. I’m now retired but quite honestly, with all I do, I don’t know how I ever had time to work at a full time job.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That it takes a village to write a book! Honestly, by the time you’ve done your research and possibly had some brain storming sessions, you really do have a team to work with. It took me a long time to open up to the idea of working with critique partners, but now I have two who I trust implicitly. Wherever they pick me up, I know I have to look at it carefully. It might be Point of View (mine can still sometimes go awry), or an undeveloped plot point, or a grammatical issue. I also have two very good beta readers who will point out any weaknesses.

Well there you have it folks - the wonderful Victoria Chatham.  I wonder if I could convince her to start singing "Robin Hood and Little John, walking through the forest ..." with me. I LOVE that movie!   Although, Fantasia will always hold a special place at number one for me.

Anyone has any questions for our Vicki?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Interview with Jude Pittman

Part ninja, part Yoda, this ball of energy was difficult to track down, but I finally managed to get Jude Pittman to sit still for more than five seconds so I could interview her.

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

Since I am the publisher for Books We Love and one half of the management team (retired lawyer Brian Roberts being the other half) I don’t have as much time to work on my novels as I often wish I did, but when I’m writing it’s like I escape to another world.  My Kelly McWinter series, now expanded and launched into a brand new direction, with the release in fall 2016 of New Directions by Jamie Hill and Jude Pittman.  Yep, Jamie Hill, one of my favorite romantic suspense authors and myself have teamed up to write the McWinter Confidential mystery series.  Book 1, New Directions (of course) has been piling up five star reviews for us, 12 so far, and we are very, very grateful to our fans and faithful readers.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I finished reading through all the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries and mom let me start on her Agatha Christie’s.  I’ve always loved mysteries and I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book?

Usually about six months.  The first three months on just drafting and writing and the next 3 months are editing, fine tuning, rewriting and finally coming up with exactly the book I want to write.  Then of course there’s the next 3 months of re-editing, rewriting, re-polishing and finally getting it ready for publication.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I’m retired from my former job (working in a law office) and work from home as Publisher for Books We Love Ltd., so my hours are erratic.  We have authors in the UK and Australia, and sometimes I like to be able to correspond with them in real time (so that they’re not always having to wait an entire day to hear back from me) which means often I’ll get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and work until 6 or 7 and then go back to bed.  When I’m writing I tend to write in the evenings while my husband is watching television, and then again in late morning when co-author Jamie Hill will send me back a piece she’s worked on or an update of one we’re doing together, and then of course I have to get right to that.  As I said, a very erratic schedule.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I have a pretty good idea of what my characters are going to be doing and how the story is generally progressing, but definitely I have characters who do not follow through on ideas that I have, or don’t deal with things the way I originally wanted them to, they’re influenced by actions of other characters, and stuff that just seems to materialize and demand to be included.  Lot’s of stuff like that.  Always lots of voices demanding attention – mine, Jamie’s, Kelly’s, Stella’s Gillian’s.  Oh I could go on and on, but hopefully I’ve whet your appetite and you’ll read the books.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written five books, Deadly Secrets, Deadly Betrayal and Deadly Consequences (all part of the original Kelly McWinter PI mystery series), as well as Sisters of Prophecy, Ursula – written with paranormal authors Gail Roughton, and Bad Medicine a novella featuring a Metis youth support worker.  Deadly Secrets, my original, and the book that introduces Kelly and Cam and Bubba and Stella is probably my favorite, but maybe that’s just because I have a soft spot for those Texas Creek folks.

Who is your favorite author?

Rex Stout, known as the Grand Master of the American Detective novels and the creator of the Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin characters has always been my favorite.

What is a favorite childhood memory you can share with us?

I grew up in rural Alberta, Canada.  Back in the 1950s, my younger brother and I used to climb up in the hayloft of our family barn on cold winter nights and dig down into the hay to keep warm while we watched the Northern Lights dancing across the sky.  That’s an unforgettable memory, I’ve never seen anything like the way they looked back then and don’t suppose I ever shall again.

Open your most recent story to page 12 and tell us the fifth complete sentence on the page.

New Directions (print version): So as long as he tended to business and kept Marcy safe, it sounded like just the kind of adventure he and his newlywed bride would thoroughly enjoy.

What genres do you like to read?

Mystery, paranormal romance, romantic suspense

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

How extremely difficult it is for even the most talented authors to get their books in front of the reading public.  Amazingly talented authors are so often overlooked in favor of the big $$$ names promoted by multi-national corporations whose main concern is how much money the book will add to the bottom line,  not how much reading pleasure the book will give to the reading public.

One experience we had back in 2010 when Amazon was having their fight with the big 5, Books We Love was newly formed as a sole proprietorship and I released the back-lists of several of our very experienced authors who had been writing for a long time.  Those books in the next two months went to the top of the lists and stayed there for weeks, right up until Amazon buried the hatchet with Hachette.  It was so rewarding.

Of course Amazon, in typical corporate raider style changed their algorithms so that our books disappeared and the big 5 offerings dominated the list (did I mention they have to pay a certain commission to Amazon to get them there) and of course all the promotions we’d been doing by letting readers sample one or two of each author’s books for free, got split off into a different list, and basically hidden from view.  It wasn’t long before our books disappeared from the front pages and we’ve had to fight for every bit of exposure on Amazon ever since.  Of course, Books We Love authors write exceptionally good books, which is exactly why we’re still writing and still publishing.  Fortunately we have enough fans out there who know how good our authors are and what great books they write, so that Amazon – even after buying up a bunch of small publishers to make another grab at monopolizing the market – still haven’t been able to bury us.  All of our authors are seasoned veterans, they’ve been writing for years, and most of us are women, used to dealing with corporate raiders and bullies.

Well, there you have it.  Our own Jude Pittman is a (not so secret anymore) fan of Rex Stout, paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels, and watching the northern lights while snuggled down in hay.  Sounds like a perfectly nice way to spend an evening, or five.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Interview with Ronald Ady Crouch

Next up is Ronald Ady Crouch.  Brave soul that he is, Ron is one of only a couple men working on this project.  Let's read what he has to say about himself, and then like always, you will have a chance to pick his brain in the comments.

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know? 

I started my merchant navy navigating career with BP Tankers in January 1972, just before my nineteenth birthday. Achieved my 2nd Mates Foreign Going Certificate of Competency. Sailed frequently to the Middle East. Suffered the Crossing the Line Ceremony (first-timers crossing the equator) by having all my hair cut off with nail scissors and then dunked with rotting liquefied garbage saved by the ship’s cook for the ceremony. Favourite trips were to Scandinavia, particularly Norway. Breathtaking scenery. Then worked on middle trade ships and coasters with various other companies before joining the Sussex Police in England in 1978. One of seven children, five sisters. Immigrated to Canada July 1990 and eventually became a Canadian citizen.   

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

At age 14, I was daydreaming in class (a usual pastime of mine) and thought about how I’d like to be a poet living in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Even prior to that, probably about age 10, I loved writing stories for English homework. I always did well at that. Interestingly, in my book, O’Malley’s Cottage, I suppose I’m the old guy writing away in the cottage in the middle of Algonquin Provincial Park.  

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book?

Normally about a year. My crime novel, Officer Down took me far less, but then it was my second novel in the Sam Stephens series. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Disorganized and chaotic. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I need strong coffee all day and red wine in the evening and preferably no interruptions. 

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

Sometimes they hijack me. Before I retired I was driving to work one afternoon and said to myself, “I really ought to give Rebecca a call and see how she’s doing.” I was concerned about her, she’d been through an awful ordeal. Then I realized she was the main character in O’Malley’s Cottage. It was a surreal moment. 

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? 

This is from my novel, Murder on Spithandle Lane. I’d like to spend the day at Rose Cottage on Spithandle Lane, Sussex, England with WWII veteran, Harry Davidson. After lunch we’d go for a hike through the beech woods and over the rolling hills by the cottage with his two Rottweilers. In the evening we’d drive over to the Shepherd and Dog in the quaint village of Fulking and have a beer together. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

In the morning, sitting in the breezeway with a large cup of coffee listening to the CBC radio. After that, walking my two dogs over the golf course. Depending on the time of year; planning camping trips in the wilderness park. Hiking, sometimes canoeing. In the winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sometimes winter camping. Summer, cycling, kayaking and paddle boarding. Gardening, one of my favourites. Every evening practising the guitar. 

What does your family think of your writing?

I think they’re actually proud of me. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That the easiest part of the whole process is actually writing the book. The hard work comes afterwards. Proofreading, finding a publisher, the most challenging part of all,. Rejection letters can be very demoralising. My wife Cathy is the one behind me doing all the hard work. I wouldn’t be published without her.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Four novels for BWL. Two self-published children’s books. Murder on Spithandle Lane is my favourite. It’s personal to me. After work during the summer I’d sometimes cycle home along Spithandle Lane. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven travelling along that country road. 

What do you think makes a good story?

One that captures you quickly. I’m getting too old to waste time reading a book I can’t get into. I like description, I like to feel I’m there among the characters, that I can see everything they can see. A book that engrosses you so completely, that if the story takes place in freezing conditions and you are sitting in the sunshine, you suddenly feel cold. 

Who is your favorite author?

Lee Child.

What is a favorite childhood memory you can share with us?

In Sussex, England. Cycling home from school on a balmy summer afternoon, over the Toll Bridge in Shoreham-by-Sea, turning off by the pub called the Sussex Pad and eventually off-road onto the bridle path, Lancing College off in the distance to my right. Cycling the South Downs Way, past the semi-detached cottages right on the path, past the chalk pit and eventually home. I was probably about eleven. 

Open your most recent story to page 12 and tell us the fifth complete sentence on the page.

I was smiling at him, gun pointed at his balls.

What genres do you like to read?

Crime thrillers. Anything by Lee Child or James Lee Burke. Plus true adventure stories, and wilderness camping books. 

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents? If so, what are they?

Watercolour artist. Practiced Russian Martial Arts before retiring. Now learning to play the acoustic guitar.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

Sam Stephens. When horrific things happen to good people, a man like Sam Stephens takes care of business and saves the tax payers a fortune in judicial proceedings. An eye for an eye, my kind of guy.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

How difficult it is to get yourself known. You can have written the most wonderful masterpiece, but if nobody knows who you are, it will remain collecting dust.  

If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose? Why? 

Harry Potter … I could pay my mortgage off.

What would the main character in your most recent book have to say about you?

He’d say I’m stubborn, loyal, and honest.

If you could go anywhere, be anyone, do anything for 24 hours, what would it be?

Sailing aboard a square-rigger somewhere warm among tropical islands.

If your life were a movie, what would you call it? What would the theme song be?

Crouch’s Chronicles. The theme song would be, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” by Monty Python.

If you could travel through time to visit a special time period or famous person, what or who would it be and why?

Rural England before the Industrial Revolution, when the horse was the main means of travel, or shanks’s pony, if you didn’t have a horse. A simpler way of life. 

Ah, gotta love a fellow Monty Python fan.  The Knights who say Ni!

Is anyone else wondering just which book is was that he opened to page 12?  Because I have to know ... 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Drum Roll for Brides of Banff Springs, #5 Canadian YA historicals

How exciting to check the listings for Brides of Banff Springs and discover it listed as #5 in the young adult historical.  Check it out here, and if you've read the book this is a great place to leave a review.  Thanks

Amazon #5 Best Seller

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Enjoying Holiday Lights with Brides of Banff Springs author Victoria Chatham

BWL publisher Jude Pittman had the pleasure of hosting Victoria Chatham Friday evening.  A really fun evening discussing the Brides series and some of the fascinating research Victoria did for her Brides of Banff Spring story.  Victoria's book is the first in this series that aims to bring Canadian history to life through the use of fictional characters to represent the men and women who built their lives together during the founding years of this great country.

Dinner and conversation were followed by a trip out on a very cold but fun night to view the fabulous light display held each holiday season in Books We Love's home city of Airdrie.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Origin of the Name Canada

I found this interesting tidbit on the Canada Government website.

Here's what they have to say on the matter:

"The name “Canada” likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement.” In 1535, two Aboriginal youths told French explorer Jacques Cartier about the route to kanata; they were actually referring to the village of Stadacona, the site of the present-day City of Québec. For lack of another name, Cartier used the word “Canada” to describe not only the village, but the entire area controlled by its chief, Donnacona.

The name was soon applied to a much larger area; maps in 1547 designated everything north of the St. Lawrence River as Canada. Cartier also called the St. Lawrence River the “rivière du Canada,” a name used until the early 1600s. By 1616, although the entire region was known as New France, the area along the great river of Canada and the Gulf of St. Lawrence was still called Canada.

Soon explorers and fur traders opened up territory to the west and to the south, and the area known as Canada grew. In the early 1700s, the name referred to all French lands in what is now the American Midwest and as far south as present-day Louisiana.

The first use of Canada as an official name came in 1791, when the Province of Quebec was divided into the colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada. In 1841, the two colonies were united under one name, the Province of Canada.

Leading up to the proposed confederation, a number of names were suggested for the northern half of the continent of North America, including: Albertsland, Albionora, Borealia, Britannia, Cabotia, Colonia, EfisgaFootnote 1, Hochelaga, Norland, Superior, Transatlantia, TuponiaFootnote 2, and Victorialand.

The debate was placed in perspective by Thomas D’Arcy McGee, who declared on February 9, 1865:

“I read in one newspaper not less than a dozen attempts to derive a new name. One individual chooses Tuponia and another Hochelaga as a suitable name for the new nationality. Now I ask any honourable member of this House how he would feel if he woke up some fine morning and found himself instead of a Canadian, a Tuponian or a Hochelagander.”

Fortunately for posterity, McGee’s wit and reasoning – along with common sense – prevailed, and on July 1, 1867, the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick became “one Dominion under the name of Canada.”"


1. A combination of the first letters of England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Aboriginal lands.

2. An acrostic for the United Provinces of North America. An acrostic is a composition in verse of an arrangement of words in which the first, last, or certain other letters in each line taken in order, spell a word or a phrase.

Directly Quoting from Source: http://canada.pch.gc.ca/eng/1443789176782

Friday, December 16, 2016

Interview with A M Westerling

And now it is A M Westerling's turn to answer some questions.  Let's see what our sports fan has to say!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

I know some authors have always had a burning passion to write but that wasn’t me. I love historical romance and read tons of them during the 1980’ and 1990’s. It was a popular genre at the time and it got to the point that publishers were pumping them out so fast, the ensuing books were dreadful. Like I-couldn’t-even-finish-them dreadful!

I decided if I couldn’t find the kinds of stories I liked to read, I would write my own. That was the mid 90’s. About the same time my husband and I started our business. I had nothing to do in the office so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start writing. That book, a Regency set romance, garnered a few rejections but the feedback I received on it encouraged me to continue writing. 

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book? 

A year and that includes research and editing. I wrote Her Proper Scoundrel in eight months but that’s fast for me.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 

Nothing in particular, although I do set a target of 1000 words a day. That can take me anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

I love having sports on in the background when I write – particularly Monday Night Football, or Calgary Flames hockey games.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? 

Oh, my characters definitely take over. It’s probably the biggest reason I’ve stopped spending a lot of time on preliminary outlines and plotting – the characters run the story, not me! That includes secondary characters too.

What does your family think of your writing? 

They’re definitely proud and supportive! I think my daughters in law think it’s cool their mother in law is a romance writer.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? 

I’ve written 5 full length books and one novella. Four of the novels are published through Books We Love, and I self published the novella. I don’t have a favorite. Each story is different with unique characters. I feel the same about my two sons – they’re both unique individuals but I love them equally. How can you have a favorite?! 

Open your most recent story to page 12 and tell us the fifth complete sentence on the page.

She gripped the edge of the counter and leaned forward. “Please, I must be on the morning ship.”

What genres do you like to read? 

Historical romance! 

There you have it folks - A M Westerling!  Anyone have any questions for our lover of historical romance and sports?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interview with Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

Wow - is it our sixth interview already?  If you haven't read the previous interviews, I would strongly suggest you do so.  There are some interesting tidbits, story teasers, and some funny stories shared in them.

Now we are moving right along to Joan Donaldson-Yarmey.

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book?  

For my historical novels it usually takes me about a year to write a book because I do a lot of research ahead of time and while I am writing it I am constantly checking my facts.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?   

I try to write every day. Mostly I write in the morning but if things are going very well I will write all day.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?   

I like to think that I am in control of my characters but usually I’m not. I was working on one of my mystery novels and wasn’t sure who of two characters had done the murder. Near the end a third character stood up and admitted to having done it. Sometimes my characters will do or say something that makes me wonder what that came from and what was I going to do now.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?   

I hike, read, travel, think about writing, plan my next book.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?   That I have an imagination that goes in many different directions.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?   

I have written seven travel books, four mystery novels, three young adult novels, two sci/fi, one holiday romance/comedy and now this historical novel for this Canadian Brides series. My favourite book is the one that I am writing at the moment. Sometimes I can’t wait to get back to my writing and into that world again.

What genres do you like to read?    

My favourite genres are mystery novels and historical fiction and non-fiction.

If you could travel through time to visit a special time period or famous person, what or who would it be and why?  

I have traveled through the Yukon twice. I hiked the Chilkoot Trail in 1997, the hundredth anniversary of the Klondike gold rush. I fell in love with Dawson City the first time I was there and renewed that love the second time after my hike. I feel that in a past life I may have been one of the thousands of men and women who headed to the gold fields of the Klondike Gold Rush. That is one time period I would visit if given the chance.

Wow indeed!  With a love of the Yukon it is no wonder that Joan snatched up that part of Canada for her Romancing the Klondike.

As always, comments can be left for Joan ... 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Interview with Katherine Pym

Alrighty, up next is Katherine Pym.  You have to check out her uncommon talent.

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book? 

The characters and their story hold my full attention approximately a full year. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 

I write every day if I can, from the time I get up in the morning sometimes all the way into the deep night. 

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? 

I like to hold the reins of the characters, but sometimes, they say or do something that I don’t anticipate, although they remain in character. 

What does your family think of your writing? 

Strangely enough, most of my family won’t read my work because they say, ‘I still see Kathy, not the characters.’ My husband supports me in my research and he’ll beta read for me, which is very nice.  

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? 

I write under both Katherine Pym (historical fiction) and Eleanor Stem (strange and unearthly stuff). Between the two of us I’ve written 9 novels. The Canadian Brides series, Pillars of Avalon, will be my 10th. 

Under Katherine, I’m very proud of Erasmus T Muddiman. While writing this one, I found some very apropos research material that I used. Under Eleanor, Miri’s Song came as a big surprise. I had never anticipated writing this one. One night after dinner, I felt compelled to put pen to paper, and this is the result. 

What do you think makes a good story?

Human interest stories where the reader can easily relate. That’s why I like to use the weather, how they feel walking down a lane, what they smell, how something feels in their hands. 

Who is your favorite author?

Conrad Richter

Open your most recent story to page 12 and tell us the fifth complete sentence on the page. 

Toward the poop deck David saw a man fitted in silk and ribbons who fought like a cornered animal.

What genres do you like to read?

Historical fiction, which includes time travel, but I’ve been ruined. So many authors’ history is not correct or it’s out of sync. 

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents? If so, what are they?

Simultaneously, I can write with my left and right hands, backward with my left and forward with my right. 

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

How much I like it, need it to fulfill who I am as a being. 

If you could travel through time to visit a special time period or famous person, what or who would it be and why?

I’d go back to 17th century London, primarily the decade of the 1660’s where so much happened in an amazing short time. It was filthy there, though. I’d have to be able to come back to the current time to shower and use the loo. 

Score another one for the visit to 17-18 century England.  

Do you have any pressing questions for Katherine?  If so ... leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cover Reveal: On A Stormy Primeval Shore

It's been a BUSY month for the Canadian Historical Brides series.  In addition to the pre-release of Brides of Banff Springs, we have two new covers.  

This time the cover is for Diane Scott Lewis and Nancy M Bell's On A Stormy Primeval Shore.

Cover Reveal: Barkerville Beginnings

I am thrilled to unveil the cover for the upcoming BARKERVILLE BEGINNINGS by A M Westerling.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Interview with Diane Scott Lewis

Whew, we are rolling right along through the month of December.  Can you believe it is already the 10th?  Time sure does fly!

Despite being super busy with writing and the upcoming holidays, Diane Scott Lewis is with us today to answer some of my challenging questions.

If you have a questions for her that she doesn't answer here, simply leave it in the comments field.  

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

When I was five. I illustrated my story and told my mother what to write (since I hadn’t yet learned how to write). I wrote my first full-length novel at age ten, a novel of ancient Egypt and Rome. The movie Cleopatra might have had an influence on me. I’ve written poems, short-stories and novels ever since. I wrote my first serious novel in the 90’s, set in Cornwall, England during the French Revolution.

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book?

The first book took me over ten years. I’d forgotten everything I learned in high school about grammar and structure, and had to re-teach those skills to myself to enhance the book. My friends call me the Grammar Witch. I used to write huge, epics. Now I keep my novels at reasonable lengths, under a hundred thousand words. Since I do so much research, as I mainly write historicals, it usually takes me at least a year to finish a novel. I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel to the places I write about: England and France.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

My characters always hijack my stories. I’m a ‘pantser’, in that I write by ‘the seat of my pants’ with only a vague outline in mind. I envy people that can outline and stick to it. As my story grows, I come to know the characters better, as they insist on, and I go back to the beginning and make changes to suit their personalities and desires.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Since I write historical novels, I spend time reading research books and scouring the internet for information. In the old days, pre-internet ‘gasp’, I visited The Library of Congress and their vast collection to access research books. I was in writer’s nirvana there. I was able to read one book that was published in 1817, the very year I was writing in on one book. I also read for pleasure, love to travel, design with graphics, and play with my beautiful granddaughters. Oh, and I stick now-retired-hubby in there, somewhere, lol.

What is a favorite childhood memory you can share with us?

Is age thirteen still considered a child? Yesterday I spoke to an old friend via phone and I remembered when we were both thirteen, she lived across the street from me. On summer nights we’d lie on the still-warm pavement and stare up at the sky, at the stars, and talk about the likeliness of life on other planets, and other matters important to girls who are barely teenagers. The cars coming up the street weren’t happy having to drive around us. You’re fearless at thirteen! What a great friendship.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

I love Branek Pentreath, my brooding hero from The Apothecary’s Widow. He’s cynical, blunt, with a dry sense of humor, but he’s also honest and caring. He had a terrible marriage and thought he’d never find love…however, when he does it’s with a most unsuitable woman. I enjoyed writing his character arc, his struggles with a murder suspicion hanging over his head, his trials to keep his estate solvent and his growing affection for the apothecary’s widow.
If you could go anywhere, be anyone, do anything for 24 hours, what would it be?

I’d like to go back to the eighteenth century in England. Then I could experience all that my characters experience in their everyday lives. I like to make my stories as authentic as possible. However, I’d be grateful for the 24 hours. With the sanitary conditions—or lack thereof—in that era, I would soon insist on modern times. The women wore no underwear, a fact that flabbergasted me. I’d also never fit into those ‘stays’ (corsets).

I tell you, these historical authors and their going back to the past.  :) Diane did bring up a wonderful point though, thankfully it would only be for 24 hours.  No indoor plumbing?  Back before washing hands before surgery?  No idea of the germ theory if disease? No thank you.  It might be nice for 24 hours though, to see some of the wonderful things we can only read about in history books.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Excerpt from the Brides of Banff Springs


Victoria Chatham

Monday, May 27th, 1935. It should be spring yet snow still dusted the mountain framed in the railway station’s open doorway. The pine-scented breeze wafted across the woman’s cheek and tugged a curl of hair from beneath her hat. Going through that doorway meant stepping into a new life. The possibilities intrigued and frightened her in equal measure.

She hesitated, dragging her feet a little as she exited the railway station. Now she was here, all the excitement and pride of being accepted for a position at the Banff Springs Hotel evaporated. Despite the late May sunshine, chills rippled through her. Why had she allowed herself to be persuaded to leave? Couldn’t she have found work in Medicine Hat or Calgary? There were hotels in both cities. But no, here she was, stranded miles from anywhere, still able to hear the fading rattle and clack of wheels on the rails as the train sped on to its next stop.

All she knew, all she had ever known, lay in a quarter section of farmland in southeastern Alberta, one hundred and sixty acres in sight of the Cypress Hills. Now the farm, seared by years of drought and the ensuing debt from one crop failure after another was, like her parents, gone, leaving her to provide for herself as best she could.

Her vision blurred momentarily. In the recesses of her mind she heard her mother's disapproving admonishments and her father’s slightly softer, “Now, now, Tilly, tears don’t solve problems.” She blinked quickly to dispel them and squared her shoulders.

That’s enough of that Matilda Margaret McCormack, she admonished herself.

There was nobody come to meet or greet her, nor had she expected there to be, but that fact brought a sudden lump to her throat. The weight of being alone in a strange place bore her down. She swallowed hard and took a couple of deep breaths to reorient herself.

The chug of a motor followed by the blare of its horn drew her over the doorstep and onto the boardwalk. She was too late. Her hesitation had cost her a seat on the last automobile that might have taken her to the hotel. It chugged out of the station yard, its horn blaring and she watched with dismay as it gathered speed and disappeared from view.

The hopeful butterflies that had assailed her stomach when she got on the train in Medicine Hat were now jangling nerves. How could she have ever thought making this move was a good idea? If someone walked up to her right now and gave her a ticket, she would leave on the next train and go home.
Except there is no home, she reminded herself. There is no family, nor anyone who would be happy to see her again.

She stood on the boardwalk and stifled the sigh that built up in her. Well, she was here now and would just have to make the most of it.  The only form of transport that remained in the yard was a wagon being loaded by a young man. The ease with which he lifted and stowed boxes and trunks in its bed indicated a muscular frame beneath his open-necked shirt. From the style of his hat and his worn, dusty boots, Tilly thought he might be a cowboy. He was no stranger to manual labor that was for sure. As if he felt her gaze on him, he looked over his shoulder and flashed a grin.

“Are you going to the Banff Springs Hotel?” he called.

Tilly walked towards him. “Yes. Do you know how far it is?”

“It’s about a twenty minute ride but far enough that it would be a good walk. I'm headed there myself and can take you if you like.” He heaved a trunk into the back of the wagon then turned to her, holding out his hand. “The name's Ryan, Ryan Blake.”

She liked his friendly grin and twinkling brown eyes and took his hand in her own. He had a warm, firm grip. “Tilly McCormack, and thank you. A ride would be much appreciated.”

“Hop up then.” Ryan indicated the driver's seat. “I've only a few more boxes to load. Is this your first time in Banff?”

“First time anywhere.” Tilly tossed her suitcase into the wagon and clambered up by way of the wheel.
Ryan, having finished stowing the last trunk, climbed up beside her. “Where have you come from?”
“Medicine Hat.” Tilly tilted her head a little so that she could see Ryan from the corner of her eye. The brim of his hat shaded the upper part of his face, but she could see the wedge of auburn sideburn inching down his cheek and sprouting into day-old fuzz across the line of his jaw.

“I hear it’s been a tough time for ranchers and farmers around the Hat and across the prairies.”

“Very tough,” Tilly lapsed into silence as Ryan picked up the reins and slapped them on the rump of the patient old bay horse in the traces. Small puffs of dust rose up from the horse's hide in protest at this treatment.

Ryan guided the horse out of the station yard, yet Tilly sensed the animal knew its job well enough as it trotted along the route the automobile had taken. She glanced over her shoulder at the load of expensive looking trunks and valises in the wagon bed. Luggage labels declared they had visited London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, and Bombay. Places she had read about but could barely comprehend. Her own battered grip, a relic of her father's World War 1 service, fared poorly in comparison but she imagined it had its own stories to tell despite not bearing labels advertising its journeys.

Available for pre-order  Will be released December 31st

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Interview with Anita Davison

Next up on the clopping block, errr, the witness stand, sorry - the interview chair is Anita Davison.

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

I’m far too uninteresting – which is why I write. My characters live the lives and do the things I haven’t – and all in a different time.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Growing up, I always found it easier to write how I felt than voice my thoughts to anyone. I was a different person on paper, a more thoughtful, considerate person. The letters of apology for bad behavior soon became stories, although I never aspired to be a writer, I wrote because it was a means of self-expression. It wasn’t until a friend read a few chapters of my first book that the idea was planted. Some years on, I summoned the courage to submit to an agent, and have several books to my name. Not a famous name but mine. 

How long does it take you (on average) to write a book?

About a year. I write historical fiction so the preparation time is spent mainly on social research, immersing myself in the era so I have some idea of what I am talking about before I begin the writing process. Every book I write is submitting to my critique group, who are brilliant at telling me whether or not my characters are credible or not.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Chaotic. I try to set aside specific time in the day to write, but I have to be in the right frame of mind, and if not, complete rubbish comes through my fingers onto the keyboard which I end up deleting later. If I am in the wrong mood, I cannot get inside my main character’s head and turn into an unsympathetic listener and tell her to get a grip.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have tried setting up a neat and tidy desk under a window with a calming view to create a productive working environment. Within half an hour I have graduated to my favourite squishy armchair, laptop open and a packet of Haribos at my side That and a cup of hot coffee and I am set for the day when time has no meaning.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I start off with a very clear idea of how my characters will react to certain situations. However when the writing begins they often don’t follow that path at all. Grace, my main character began as a rather shy late bloomer due to a restrictive childhood, but when she broke free of her controlling family, she developed a mind of her own and now I cannot control her! 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Writing is what I like to do most of all, but sometimes it’s relaxing to do something physical rather than cerebral – but not too physical – like baking! it’s therapeutic to produce something everyone enjoys without having to edit it four times.

What does your family think of your writing?

They are pretty ambivalent. About half of them have read my books, and then only one or maybe two, but I don’t get many comments. Maybe they don’t like them, as not everyone likes historical fiction, or maybe they think I’ll get big-headed if they complement me. I’ll settle for the second reason.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The historical research fascinates me, and if I’m not careful I tend to get too enthusiastic and want to include everything. One of the things I didn’t realise about the early 20th Century, was that Edwardian women did not eat in public restaurants without a male escort. Partly because there was no such thing as public restrooms, which kept ladies at home for obvious reasons. 

In 1904, Simpsons of the Strand started to allow women into their upstairs dining room, but not the main one on the ground floor until 1984. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Envy the Wind will be No 12, although one remains unpublished. Which indicates it needs more work!

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Not trying to suck up or anything here, but my son was on a student foreign exchange program and spent a year at university in Ottawa, and met us in Montreal for Christmas. We all drove up to Mont Tremblant and holidayed in a cabin by the lake near St Jovite. We went horse riding in the snow on Christmas Eve, Snowmobiling on Christmas Day and Dog sledding on Boxing Day. Plus getting up every morning to watch the sun rise over the frozen lake as we drank our morning coffee. It was the best holiday – ever.

Open your most recent story to page 12 and tell us the fifth complete sentence on the page.

He had neither sought her opinion on the matter, nor had she ventured one to a man who had never been challenged either in business or in his home. 

What genres do you like to read?

Historical Fiction and Cosy Mysteries are favourites, but I do move beyond those occasionally as I review for blogs. 

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

That just because your book is out there, you cannot sit back and expect it to sell without some sort of promotional campaign. I was also amazed to discover that Twitter actually works!

If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose? Why?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I loved the imagery the author conveyed with the black and white tents with a touch of red, each of which contained a degree of magic. The idea the circus existed for its own sake without apology or explanation and kept all its secrets.

What would the main character in your most recent book have to say about you?

Why does she keep putting me into situations where I need rescuing – it makes me look feeble and unintelligent. I’m not really as impulsive as she makes me look, I simply refuse to let people get away with murder and when the police won’t listen I have no choice but to show them myself.

Is there anything in your closet that your fans would be surprised by?

I was told to keep this interview PG so I ain’t saying!

If you had to write yourself as a heroine, what kind of heroine would you be? What would you be named?

I’d be a Marvel Comics superhero with exceptional powers. A telepath maybe so none of the villains could fool me and I would know everything about them in the first five minutes.

If you had to write yourself as a villain, what kind of villain would you be? What would you be named?

I don’t do villainy very well. I’m too empathetic with the victims so I dilute their suffering – I would order my henchman to issue punishment and after the first scream, say. ‘Oh, sorry, did that hurt. I didn’t mean it.’

If you could travel through time to visit a special time period or famous person, what or who would it be and why?

Edwardian London to absorb the atmosphere of all the places I describe in my books. I know what they looked like from photographs and old film reels, but to absorb the atmosphere of the city, the poor areas and the wealthy ones would bring an extra dimension to my stories. 

Well there you have it folks, the non-villain Anita Davison (which is good for us - writers can be downright diabolical so it's always best when they are on the side of good).  

Do you have any questions for our interviewee?  Leave them in the comments sections and she will get back to you.