Thursday, October 25, 2018

Surprising Facts about Barkerville by A.M.Westerling

At the height of the Cariboo Gold Rush, Barkerville was the largest settlement north and west of Chicago. Estimates put the population there as high as 10,000. Now what’s surprising to me about that is that even today, with the advent of paved all weather roads, motor vehicles and air travel, Barkerville is remote. It’s situated in central British Columbia between two major inland centres, Kamloops and Prince George. Once you reach Quesnel,(about halfway between those two) it’s still an hour’s drive east to reach the ghost town. Vancouver at that time had only a few thousand residents so picture how uninhabited the western part of Canada really was compared to now.

Imagine thousands of men and women traveling by paddle wheeler, stage coach, horseback, wagon, on foot, whatever means they had up the Fraser River and east into the mountains to reach a gold rush town in the middle of nowhere. The lure of gold was such that the Royal Engineers built the Cariboo Road, which some considered at that time to be the 8th wonder of the world.  I posted a picture of it in my post last month but I'm posting it again - so much traffic traveled this road that today, 150 years later, you can still see signs of it. 

Another interesting fact I unearthed is that the men (mostly) and women who peopled the area were law abiding, peaceful citizens. They wanted law and order, they wanted a hospital and doctors. They wanted services such as restaurants, theatres, dancing halls and stores. At the end of the day, it was the merchants who provided these services that made the money, not the gold miners.

If you're interested in learning more about the Cariboo Gold Rush, this is a terrific website: 

Barkerville Beginnings is Book 4 in the Canadian Historical Brides Collection. You can find it HERE at your favourite online store.

Find all the Canadian Historical Brides Books HERE at your favourite online store.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tlicho Spirits

I have to define them as "spirits," because the Tlicho didn't have "ghosts" as the dominant cultures imagines them until after they made contact with Europeans. Digression: during the last 300 years, though, they've taken on some new religious beliefs, in their case, Roman Catholicism. Along with that, I think, came the sort of 'ghosts' that I've read reported in books written by recent researchers into the culture. Those modern spirits are just like ours: the restless and sometimes violent echoes of the bad, the mad, or the murdered. 

Before the Europeans brought their sometimes sad, sometimes scary spooks, the Tlicho could hardly be called "spirit-poor." An almost endless number of supernatural beings inhabited their everyday world, but in ways it took me a while to get the hang of. Mostly these beings are not angry or bent on vengeance. They are simply part of the fabric of the world the Tlicho observed. Staying right relationship with nature, staying in balance, was a central thought in this world view. This careful observation of the world around them, led them to see their position in relation to their environment as a thread woven into a greater fabric, part of which was a vast host of unseen--but--undeniably present beings.

Pre-contact, they were nomadic hunters whose survival depended upon the weather and the movements of animals, so they paid close attention to every detail of their surroundings as they moved about the dè--modern Canada's NWT.

Yearly, they traveled across an immense territory following the annual migrations of birds, fish, and caribou. Their prey, however, was not a simple commodity. The animals collectively and individually had spirit, just as the men who hunted them did. If a hunter disrespected the caribou, they might walk another path the following year and not come the expected way.

It was believed that the caribou willingly gave their bodies to the hunters. As one should when given a gift, the giver should be gratefully and politely thanked. This was done with certain prescribed rituals (which the Tlicho saw simply as "rules of behavior") for the sacrifice of their living bodies. Those gigantic herds were not just food animals, but fellow beings, in relationship with their Tlicho hunters, emanations of the "Great Spirit," all beings going about their business as instructed by the first great Tlicho magician, Yamǫǫ̀zha.*1

Over centuries, The People walked the same trails and canoed the intricate network of waterways. The landscape itself, from forest to tundra, was filled with a species of entity which I first learned about in long ago Latin classes, supernatural beings which the Romans referred to as "Numen." These spirits of place might occupy rocks, trees, camping spots, waterfalls and lakes, all of which frequently had a "power" or "powers" associated with them. 

Small tokens of respect are still left after camping near one of these places, or after fishing, or even simply as one travels past a sacred rock or waterfall. This is called "paying the land." According too Allice Legat: "People leave on site something they value and use, such as coinage, spruce boughs, or rosaries. A student gave a pencil because it was important to her success in school." Further, "...if human beings ignore rules and do not show respect, they will probably have a difficult time because these entities may withdraw their assistance."* (from Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire.)  (*1)

Spirits could sometimes be malevolent. One kind called "weyèedii or 'animal-beings' were "regarded as dangerous, and consequently, always avoided. Through dreaming and the acquisition of ı̨k’ǫǫ̀ or “medicine”, sometimes “power,” “knowledge,” or “luck”, a person could prepare to deal with the world," and the varied powers which inhabit it.(*2)

Spirits of earth and rock were not invulnerable. In order to explain the "continuing death and decay" in the toxic areas which continue to exist around the polluting Rayrock Uranium mine, Elder Romie Wetrade told a story.* Rayrock, he said, used to be called "The Happy Place," because hunters who traveled through the area felt liking singing. When the mine opened, however, in the 1950's, the happy spirits were driven away by blasting and other human activities. The closing down of the mine has not brought them back, either. Displaced by the tearing up of the earth and breaking of rock, these once joyous spirits are now presumed to be fading, homeless wanderers. The very character of these spirits requires a "home place." 

Spirits could be wind or water as well as rock. One modern story I read concerned a wind coming up so heavily that a gathering of elders and teenagers was trapped beside a lake when their float plane could not take off. While the campers waited it out, an elder told them stories about the wind, "in the boreal forests and on the tundra and on large lakes." When the stories had been told, another elder "built a raft, placed burning spruce boughs on it," and pushed it out onto the lake.  As he did so, he asked for "calm winds and a safe journey. It only took two hours for the wind to die down..." so that their journey could safely continue.  (*2)

Where I stand is holy

Holy is the ground 
Forest, mountain river
Listen to the sound 

Great Spirit circles all around me.

~Juliet Waldron
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This Tlicho story reminds me of the "The Crab Who Played with Sea" in the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling. Here, all the animals "played the play the great magician taught them at the very beginning." Kipling probably borrowed this notion from the indigenous people of India where he did military service. 

~In Europe, all through the 19th century and into the 20th, many historians, artists  and literary figures avidly collected, studied, and wrote and made collections of "world-wide" folkloric traditions. To me, all these tales of every nation appear so intertwined--culturally altered echoes of common themes-- that they must be part of our common "out of Africa" psychic past.

~In Miyasaki's Spirited Away, there is a character who befriends the heroine that is a wandering spirit. In this case, it is that of a river which was relegated to underground channels when a city built over it. This seems to be a Japanese version of the Rayrock story of the way things sometimes happen with displaced spirits. This particular spirit has managed to stay positive about humans, which is not always the case.

Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire, Knowledge and Stewardship Among the Tlicho Dene 
by Allice Legat


From The Tlicho Nation homesite:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Vanished Beothuks

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Newfoundland/Labrador, land of the Beothuks
When I began the process of studying Newfoundland/Labrador, I expected a plethora of native peoples’ lore but found little to none. The Beothuks were a native peoples who have supposedly become extinct after thriving in the north-eastern province for over 2000 years.

Word has drifted down they were tall. They colored their black hair and arms in red ochre. Lighter skinned than expected, they were broad faced with flat noses. They also tinted their clothes with red ochre. Nomadic, the land provided their food. They were ingenious and lived well, with fences 30 miles long that penned in deer. Their steam baths with hot stones were covered with skins. 

They were there when the Vikings landed on L’anse Aux Meadows. Sabastian Cabot either briefly met them or saw them from a distance before being cast adrift by a mutinous crew in Hudson Bay to never be seen again. Columbus never got that far north so he never saw them.

By the 17th century, they lived in the fringes of Newfoundland, away from all the settlements. After the summer fishermen left the area, it was said they would venture to the abandoned sites and take what they could, i.e., fishing lines, spoons and trinkets left behind but they were a shy people, never mingling with the newcomers. Even as they stayed hidden, they were still subjected to the European scourge of disease, which annihilated the majority of their tribe by the beginning of the 19th century.

Beothuk Woman
Another source says their demise came from hostilities with another tribe, the Micmac, that settled in NL in the 18th century. The French, tired of the hostilities, offered a bounty on every Beothuk head brought to them. The Micmac hunted the Beothuk to near extinction. By the first quarter of the 19th century, they had died out. By 1827, not one Beothuk remained.


Many thanks to:

Chappell, R.N., Edward, Lieut. Voyage of His Majesty’s Ship Rosamond to Newfoundland and the Southern Coast of Labrador, London 1818

And Wikicommons, public domain.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Brunswick, forming a New Province

The most surprising fact I learned when I first began to research my Brides province of New Brunswick was that in the year I chose, summer of 1784, there was no New Brunswick. The long, stretched out colony was part of Nova Scotia.

When thousands of Loyalists (people still loyal to King George III) fled the American War of Independence, they were promised land and funds in this colony to the north still owned by Britain. The capital was in Halifax, many miles from mainland Nova Scotia. The Loyalists landed in the village of Parr Town on the Bay of Fundy. A place with a few traders and soldiers, and Fort Howe dominating a limestone hill above, the Loyalists began building shops, townhouses, and coffee houses.

Governor Parr, the governor of Nova Scotia, was considered too incompetent to manage all this new activity. The Loyalists demanded their own capital and their own colony.

Soon Parr Town was renamed Saint John, and the portion of Nova Scotia to the west of the Isthmus of Chignecto was partitioned off and renamed New Brunswick, after one of King George's many titles.

Flag of New Brunswick

The capital would later be moved up-river to a safer place, far from the bay where American raiders could attack, and called Frederick Town, soon shortened to Fredericton.

I incorporated the formation of this new province into my story. My heroine Amelia arrives in Parr Town, to marry a soldier she's never met, shortly before the declaration of New Brunswick.
Canada 1791

Novel blurb:

In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to the new colony of New Brunswick in faraway Canada. She’s to marry a man chosen by her soldier father. Amelia is repulsed by her betrothed, and refuses to marry him. She is attracted to a handsome Acadian trader, Gilbert, a man beneath her in status. Gilbert must fight the incursion of English Loyalists from the American war to hold onto his land and heritage. Will he and Amelia find peace when events seek to destroy their love and lives.

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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.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Women Actually Hiked the Chilkoot Trail to the Klondike by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

I had been to the Yukon twice and hiked the Chilkoot Trail in 1997, the hundredth anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, so I knew some history of the area before I started my research for my novel Romancing the Klondike. But I didn’t know anything about the north prior to gold being discovered on Rabbit Creek. When I began my reading I learned that there were good sized towns such as Circle City in Alaska and Fortymile in the Northwest Territories (the Yukon Territory was not formed until 1898) with theatres, libraries, schools, stores, and medical doctors. One little known fact, though, was that while most of the residents in the north before the gold rush era were men, there were also many women who lived there with their prospector husbands or who came as nurses, teachers, cooks, dance hall girls, and ladies of the evening.

       One such woman was Ethel Berry who made the trek from California as a newlywed with her husband, Clarence, in 1896. When they heard about gold being found on Rabbit Creek (later named Bonanza Creek) Clarence staked a claim on Eldorado Creek, a tributary, and the couple set up camp in a 12X16 foot long cabin. There was only a dirt floor and a window that was covered with a flour sack. The winter was cold and Ethel spent her time keeping the wood stove going and cooking and cleaning. Clarence’s claim proved to be one of the richest claims in the Klondike and when they returned to Seattle with two hundred thousand dollar’s worth of gold in the summer of 1897, Ethel was dubbed the Bride of the Klondike by the newspapers. In 1898, they crossed over the Chilkoot Pass with thousands of hopeful millionaires and went back to their claim again.

       Another woman who struck it rich in the Klondike was Belinda Mulrooney. She was raised in Pennsylvania and left home at twenty-one. She worked in Chicago and then San Francisco before heading to Juneau, Alaska, in 1896. When she heard about the gold strike in the Klondike she decided to go there. She bought the necessities she would need but she also thought ahead and purchased silk underwear, bolts of cotton cloth, and hot water bottles. These she carried with her over the Chilkoot Pass in the winter of 1896.

       When the ice melted on the Lindeman and Bennett lakes and Yukon River she floated down the river to the new town of Dawson City, reaching in it June of 1987. According to Belinda Mulrooney herself, when she finally reached Dawson and the gold fields after many months of hardship, she tossed a 25-cent piece, her very last coin, into the Yukon River for luck. She was 26 years old and full of confidence. And rightly so for she sold her silk underwear, bolts of cloth, and hot water bottles for six times what she had paid for them.

       With this success, Belinda turned her attention to the prospectors in gold fields. She set up a lunch counter to feed the single men and then added a bunkhouse for those who didn’t have a cabin to stay in. Eventually she built the two story Grand Forks Hotel and Restaurant, with multiple bunk beds on the second floor, at the junction of the Eldorado and Bonanza creeks. The hotel also acted as a trading post, a gold storage, and sometimes as a church. In the back were kennels for the husky dogs used to pull the sleds which were the main transportation in the winter.

       Being the smart woman that she was, Belinda had the floor swept every evening and those sweepings run through a sluice box. This earned her as much as $100 a day from the gold dust that fell from miner’s pockets and clothing. And she began to delve into the gold claims themselves, owning or co-owning fiving mining claims by the end of 1897.

       Belinda turned her entrepreneurial skills to Dawson and bought a lot on the corner of Princess Street and First Avenue. She sold Grand Forks for $24,000 and used her profits to construct the three-story high Fair View Hotel which opened to enthusiastic and impressive reviews on July 27, 1898. This was the most impressive building in Dawson and held thirty guest rooms and a restaurant.

       Impressed by her strong business sense, a local bank asked Belinda to pull the Gold Run Mining Company out of the red. She had the company in the black in 18 months.

       Belinda married and divorced and eventually moved to eastern Washington State and built herself a castle. She and her siblings lived there until her fortune ran out and she began to rent out the castle. She died in Seattle in 1967 at the age of 95.

        These are just two examples of the many women who lived in the north, who took part in the Klondike gold rush, and who are not included in most of the books written.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

When The World Is Your Stage

Visit André K. Baby's BWL Author page for Purchase Information from your favorite online or print bookstore

Hi everyone,
As a newcomer to this group, I would like to share with you few thoughts on the “métier” of writing thrillers.
One of the first challenges a thriller writer faces when putting down the foundations of his/her story is choosing the size and type of stage on which to set the story.  Will it take place in a room, on a ship, a train, in a town, or will the action take place in many locations?  Each scenario has advantages and disadvantages, while having its own set of opportunities and restrictions.  The one-location thriller will be perfect for the exploring of personal relationships and the intensifying of conflict between the characters.  Added tension is provided by the constricting aspect of the limited dimensions of a room, plane, train (aka “Murder on the Orient Express”), submarine (“Hunt for Red October”), etc.…
Alternatively, the story tension in the multi-venue thriller will be provided in part by the external stimuli offered by the various locations. The reader is transported to the locale, and will enjoy, tolerate, or suffer the physical characteristics of that locale along with the protagonist/antagonist. He’ll freeze in an Alpine mountain shelter, sweat and be thirsty in the Libyan Desert, enjoy the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, etc… Well developed, settings virtually become characters in the story.
Having been a longtime reader and admirer of the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Robert Ludlum, John Le Carré, Ken Follett and others, the multi-venue stage has always held a particular attraction for me.
In “The Chimera Sanction” (and its stand-alone prequel “Dead Bishops Don’t lie”), I like to think I’ve brought the reader to out- of- the ordinary locations, thrusting my protagonist Dulac into the throes of conflicts  at these  sites.  Having the action take place at the Vatican, on the searing sand dunes of the Libyan Desert, then in the middle of a storm in the Mediterranean offers reader stimuli unavailable in a single-venue story. These settings offer unique opportunities for tension, without the loss of focus on the story. Another benefit of the multi-location thriller is that it allows the author to develop parallel story lines, which funnel down into one towards the end of the story.
In my latest thriller “Jaws of the Tiger” published by BWL, I thought I would try the other option, the one locale setting in the form of a hijacked cruise ship where the action story develops, and combine it with the follow-up investigation of the crime. One might say it’s a cross-genre, combination action thriller and whodunit, and I hope it will appeal to readers of both groups.
Comments anyone?
André K. Baby

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Polar Bear in Banff by Victoria Chatham

Some people don’t enjoy research others, like me, thoroughly enjoy it. I love delving around in old records or talking to people who are more familiar with a subject than I am and, like a prospector mining for gold, always hoping for that one nugget that will make my story shine.

Brides of Banff Springs is set in 1935, so fairly recent history. This made it a bit easier for me as I was able to talk to people whose parents had settled in Banff and told me stories of their childhoods. One gentleman told me how he and his friends had more or less made the Banff Springs Hotel their playground and knew their way around it like the backs of their hands. They nipped in and out of the complex more or less at will and if they were ever caught, he never mentioned it.

I collected a vast amount of material in my research for this book, but I think the biggest surprise was finding that Banff once had a small zoo. It opened in 1907 in what is now Central Park, beside the Bow River. The enclosures were well designed and most had water running through them helping to keep them clean. Amongst the exhibits were monkeys, raccoons, wolves, coyotes, lynx, cougar and bears and turkey vultures in the aviary. But the biggest surprise for me was that Banff Zoo had a polar bear called Buddy.

From the records of the
Canadian Museum of History

 As tourism expanded, visitors to the area were just as likely to spot coyotes and wolves along trails and roadsides and watching bears at the town dump became a popular summer pastime. The more wildlife people could see, the less they needed to visit the zoo. It wasn’t only dwindling revenues that saw the end of the zoo, but rumors and concerns of animal cruelty. The zoo closed in 1937 and Buddy and the remaining animals were moved to the Calgary Zoo, which was much bigger.

Had it been necessary, I would have dug deeper to find out what happened to Buddy after he was relocated. But part of doing research is knowing when to quit, knowing when there is enough material to add interest to the story and when there is too much, however interesting, and that’s a fine line that changes with every author.

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