Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Trip to Tucson by A.M.Westerling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

NWT -- A Few Fantastic Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Earthquake of ice in New Brunswick by Diane Scott Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kennebecasis River Valley
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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.