Sunday, August 25, 2019

On Writing Barkerville Beginnings by A.M. Westerling

Some books are easier to write than others and I don’t know why that is. I write historical romance so maybe it’s the volume of research. Or maybe it’s uncooperative characters or a matter of simply not being in the right frame of mind to craft that particular story at that particular time. I struggled a bit with my books A Heart Enslaved and The Countess’ Lucky Charm but Barkerville Beginnings was such a pleasure to write that it almost wrote itself. Let me explain:

As far as the heroine, Rose, I chose her name because that was the name of my accountant’s former receptionist and I liked the historical feel of it. I imagined Rose as a single mother because I wanted to make things as tough for her in Barkerville as I could – single moms were frowned on in those days. I can’t remember how I came up with Harrison’s name but I knew he had to be a Viscount as my tag line is “From Vikings to Viscounts, Join the Adventure, Live the Romance” and up until Barkerville Beginnings, none of my books had a viscount.

As an author of one of the Canadian Historical Brides books, I had to incorporate real people so I did. ie Wa Lee, who gives Rose a job in his laundry, Judge Begbie, (known as “The Hanging Judge” and doesn’t that tweak your interest!), Madame Fannie Bendixon, the hotelier and saloon keeper (who may or may not have run a brothel!) who also offers Rose a job, Dr. Wilkinson who treats the injured leg of Rose’s daughter Hannah, and Wellington Delaney Moses, the barber, because Harrison needed a shave after being out in the gold fields. 

To ensure historical accuracy of the book, I worked with one of historians from Barkerville, a lovely lady by the name of Caroline Zinz, and I hope one day to meet her. 

I’ve been to Barkerville so I wanted to mention the lonely grave you drive past on your way in from Quesnel. Here is Rose’s impression as she passes by:

The wagon slowed as the road neared a fenced grave, enough that Rose could read the headboard: Charles Morgan Blessing.

“Lonely spot to be buried,” Harrison commented and he doffed his hat as they drove past.

Rose nodded. “It is.” A chill tiptoed down her back at the forlorn sight, a reminder of the fragility of life in this wilderness. She craned her neck for one last glimpse before the road twisted away.

I was also quite taken with the wooden sidewalks so of course I had to mention those as well:

Looks like we’ve arrived,” said Harrison as a cluster of buildings came into view. Once again the mules, sensing the end of a long day, picked up their pace and the wagon bounced and rattled down the last little bit of the Cariboo Trail.

Rose hadn’t known what to expect but her first view left her numb. This was Barkerville? The town that gold built? This jumble of wooden, mostly single story buildings tottering on stilts alongside a wide, muddied creek? Surrounded by steep hills stripped bare of trees? How unattractive, brutally so.

The road through town was in poor shape, rutted and puddled with patches of drying mud. In consideration for pedestrians, raised wooden walkways fronted every building like planked skirts. Rose could only conclude the creek must flood frequently. Her poor boots, already soaked through once since embarking on the trip, would certainly be put to the test here.

The closer they came, the more her heart sank. What had she got themselves into?”

Here I am on Barkerville's Main Street and you can see how high the sidewalks are raised because the street used to flood quite frequently.

As an author of historical romance, it’s my job to place my readers in the proper time frame and I hope I’ve accomplished that in Barkerville Beginnings! 

Would you like to read Rose's, Hannah's and Harrison's story? You can find Barkerville Beginnings at your favourite online store here:

Or in print at your favourite book store. :) 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Jumping Mouse

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This is an attempt at  retelling of a "plains Indian" story I read a long time ago in a powerful book called The Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm. These are tales of tribes called by their white man names Cheyenne, Crow and Sioux. Their actual names, according to this author, were Painted Arrow, the Little Black Eagle, and the Brother People, names with true poetry and power. I hope to honor my fellow author, John Wisdomkeeper, who has spent his life reclaiming his heritage, by offering a First Nations' tale for this month's blog. We will walk through the four directions and then upward toward the Sacred Mountain.

Little mouse was busy, as are all of his kind, searching, searching, gathering seeds, eating seeds, but today there was a new sound, a roaring, roaring in his ears.
"Do you hear a noise, my brother?" He asked another mouse who was nearby, also busy with his work.
"No, no, I hear no noise. Let me be now. I am busy with my work."
But the first mouse still heard the noise and it puzzled him. He asked the same question of the next mouse he encountered, as they scrambled through the grasses, but the answer here was rude: "Have you lost your wits? I hear no noise. Go away; I am too busy now."
But the roaring did not stop. Then the mouse heard a voice.
"Little Brother, I hear the noise. It is the sound of a river."
Little mouse looked up and saw a Raccoon.
"Would you like me to show you?"
The mouse thought when I find out it will be a help to all the others, perhaps with our examining and collecting, the work the Great Spirit has set for us. So he went with the Raccoon and soon he saw the river.
The river was astonishing. It was large; it roared; it cried; it sang. The mouse was dumbstruck.
"It is a Great Thing," said Raccoon. "Let me take you, small seeker, to meet a friend who lives here. I too need to go about my business here at the river."
They walked along the edge until they found a quiet backwater they found some lily pads. Upon one of these sat a frog.
"This is my friend," said Raccoon. "He was seeking to know about the river."
Raccoon left the mouse and went about his business of of finding food and washing it in the river.  The mouse had never met a Frog before--so green and very strange, half in the water and half out of it.
He as filled with wonder when the Frog spoke and said, "I have the gift of living above and below water, and my name is Water Keeper. Would you like a Medicine gift from me?"
"Oh! A Medicine gift for me? Yes!"
"Crouch down and jump up as high as you can, look up as you jump, and you will see something," said the frog.
Little mouse did as he was told and as he jumped, he suddenly caught sight of a prairie and beyond, a most beautiful mountain. When he fell to earth, though, he slipped on the mud and fell into the river. Angry and scared, he pulled himself out, shaking off the water.
"Never mind being wet," said the Frog. "Did you see the Great Medicine?"
The mouse had to admit that the sight was the most wonderful thing he'd ever seen.
"Now you have a new name," said the Frog. "Jumping Mouse."
The mouse returned to his people, but no one cared about what he had seen. They were all too busy. Besides, he was all wet and maybe, they thought, crazy. Still, Jumping Mouse continued to think of the wonder of the great world that he had seen.
Now the prairie called to him, but because it was open, it was a dangerous place for a mouse to go. Still one day, he decided he would run out upon it and try to reach the sacred mountain. So, although he was terrified, he ran and he ran, fearing any moment that an eagle or other bird of prey would find him and eat him. At last he found a patch of sage and grasses and went in to hide. There was another mouse there and he asked Jumping Mouse to stay with him there, for there was plenty to eat and much to investigate, there under the sage. "Can you see the Sacred Mountain and the River from here?" 
"No, I cannot see them, but I know they are there."
This was not good enough for Jumping Mouse. The desire to stand upon the sacred mountain filled his mind, and he knew he'd have to go on, despite his terror of the eagles. So, after resting and eating, he dared to cross the prairie again, running this time till his heart was near to bursting, always fearing the shadow which could so fatally fall upon him. 
Finally, he found another patch of grass and brush and ran in, glad to be alive and puffing and panting. When his own breathing quieted, he heard the sound of another's breath coming and going, only very hard and loud and pained. He crept toward the sound and saw an enormous Being, so huge, so very woolly, lying in the brush.
"I am Buffalo," said the Great Being, when he saw the mouse staring in wonder at him. "But I am dying."
"I am trying to reach the Sacred Mountain and wondered if you could help me get there, but now I see you cannot. I am very sorry you must die. You seem far too great a Being for such an ordinary fate."
"I can only be cured by the eye of a mouse."
Jumping mouse was very frightened at that. He ran away into a mound of grass to hide and think. He thought for a long time and finally decided that he had two eyes and that he could spare one. So he returned to the Buffalo and said, "Brother Buffalo, you may have one of my eyes."
And it was gone! The mouse felt even more frightened now, with only one eye to see the world through, and so many eagles hunting everywhere.
After a time, Brother Buffalo stood up and said "Now I am well, Little Brother. I give you my thanks and the thanks of The People to whom I will be a gift because of what you have given. I will soon be a give-away Gift to the People as Creator intended. Let me take you to the foot of the Sacred Mountain. Walk beneath my belly and do not fear I will step on you, for I walk the Sun Dance Path."
So Jumping Mouse ran along beneath the belly of the Buffalo safe from eagles until they reached the slopes of the Sacred Mountain. Mouse looked up and up, seeing the rocky way ahead, but wanting to climb higher. The Buffalo spoke and said, "I can go no higher up these rocks, for now I must return to The People to become a Gift to them. You stay here, Little Brother, safe in these rocks, and another Guide will come."
The mouse was still very frightened when the Buffalo left, for above him, even with one eye, he could see the eagles circling. 
After a time, a wolf came down the slope, but he was walking in circles. When Jumping Mouse spoke to him, he only said, "Wolf- Wolf -Wolf." Wolf moved slowly and stumbled as he went, like a man who had drunk too much of the stinging water and lost his mind.
In Jumping Mouse's mind a voice, said, "You must give your other eye to the Wolf, little Brother if you wish to reach the top of the sacred mountain."
Jumping Mouse shed tears. How would he see the Sacred Mountain he had so longed for when he was blind? The smells, the sounds of wind and birds and trees, would be all that was left for him. Nevertheless, he would at last reach the top of the Sacred Mountain! And so he gave up his remaining eye.
"Thank you, dear Little Brother," said the Wolf. "Now I have my wits again, and I will take you to the top of the mountain." Very gently and carefully, the Wolf led Jumping Mouse along, up and up, until they reached the side of a lake. Jumping Mouse could no longer see, but he could smell the clean fresh water, and he and the Wolf drank deep and refreshed themselves.
"Now I must leave you here," said Brother Wolf, "for there are others I must guide to this place."
Jumping Mouse understood that the Wolf followed his duty, but he was terribly afraid, for he could tell by how the wind blew that this place was without cover. He felt sure that the eagles would find him here. 
He sat there, by the lake, feeling the sun on his back, until a shadow passed over him. He crouched down low and waited for the claws of the eagle. 

Jumping Mouse awoke. His vision was back, both eyes, but very blurry. "I can see! I can see!" he cried. All the colors were bright, so bright and beautiful that he could almost hear them. He heard a voice, saying, "Hello, my Brother. Do you want some Medicine?" 
"Some Medicine for me? Yes! Yes!" Jumping Mouse replied.
"Then crouch down as low as you can and jump as high you can."
Jumping Mouse did so, crouching low and then jumping with all his might and main, with the pure joy of being alive. This time, the wind caught him and blew him upward, Higher and Higher. 
"Do not be afraid," said the Voice. "Hang onto the wind and trust."
Jumping Mouse did. He was going higher and higher, wind blowing around him, sun shining. His eyesight had cleared and now he saw the Sacred Mountain with the beautiful clear lake below him and the wide prairie beyond. There, on a lily pad in the Medicine lake, he saw his old friend, the Frog, Water Keeper.
"You have a new name now," shouted the Frog. "You are Eagle."

~~Juliet Waldron
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Red & White, at War in the World, and in her Blood.

about what he had seen.