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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Love of Writing by Victoria Chatham

I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t write. I was always scribbling something first with crayons, then with pencils and finally, the joy of joys, my very own fountain pen. My first typewriter was an Olivetti and my first computer, circa 1997, a Compaq. I thought I had finally arrived with that equipment sitting on my desk but, back then, what I wrote seemed to be far less important than what I wrote with.  

I told stories to my children when they came along, and we had tremendous fun with what we now call brainstorming. Each child had their chance to pick a topic, or start a story and off we would go, following the thread wherever it led us. I suppose I had always had a good imagination partly, I think, from being an early reader myself. Like so many teenage girls my daughter became obsessed with ponies and that prompted me to write a story about them for her thirteenth birthday.

I had no idea what I was doing, of course. I mistakenly thought writing chapters would be like writing lots of short stories and putting them together. Instead, I found that creating a narrative and keeping all the threads comprehensible was much harder work than I ever imagined it to be. However, I quickly learned that writing is a craft and can be built on. I joined writing groups and learned from other authors. I read craft books and attended writing workshops and found greater satisfaction in writing than I ever imagined I would. I started writing romance because I love a happy ending and, because my favorite romance genre is Regency romance, I started writing Regencies.

This, in turn, has led to my writing other historical fiction, The Buxton Trilogy set in the Edwardian era, and Brides of Banff Springs set in 1935 AVAILABLE HERE. I also had a hand in Anita Davison’s Envy the Wind, set in Prince Edward Island in 1905. I like discovering quirky facts that may or may not make their way into my pages and always plan the happy-ever-after ending. Of course, how that ending is arrived at depends entirely on my characters and on that note, I must return to my current couple in His Unexpected Muse.

Victoria Chatham