Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our Gold Claim by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

                                                              Our Gold Claim

       In the late 1930s my father, Oliver Donaldson, and his brothers, Gib and Albert, made their living by panning for gold on two gold claims on the Salmon River, now called the Salmo River, in southern British Columbia. In 1980, Dad, my Mom, my husband Mike, our five children, and I went on a holiday to the Salmo River and the site of the former claims. We found the bottom two rows of logs, all that was left of one of the cabins they had lived in and the second cabin, which was still standing, on the other side of the river.
       Under Dad’s direction we all panned the river. The children were quite excited at finding gold to take home. We toured the area seeing where Dad and his brothers had walked into town to sell their gold and buy some staples and where they had hunted for deer and picked apples to live on. After the trip, Mike and I vowed that someday we would return.
       In the spring of 1992, Mike, and I found ourselves preparing for a death and a wedding in our family. At the beginning of that year, Mike’s oldest sister Sallian had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and one of our sons and his fiancĂ© had set a wedding date. For almost five months we visited Sallian, first at home and then in the hospital. I cannot describe the anger, sorrow, and frustration I felt as I watched what the disease was doing to her. She lost weight and the ability to look after herself. During her final month she was hardly more than a skeleton.
       For those same five months I experienced a mother’s delight and happiness as I helped with the marriage plans. I made the cake, watched my son pick out his tuxedo, found my dress, arranged for my hairdo, and planned a mixed shower of friends and family.
       Balancing my life while dealing with the opposing emotions was truly hard.
       Sallian died on May 25 at age 54. On June 27 over 300 people attended my son's wedding and partied well into the night.
       Like most people it took the death of someone close to me to make me realize how important really living is. I knew Mike and I had to do something adventurous with our lives, something out of the ordinary.
       That summer of 1992 we decided to leave life as we knew it and get a gold claim. Mike found books on gold panning and spent many hours talking from my Dad. He bought new rectangle-shaped, plastic gold pans, vials, and snuffer bottles. I phoned the Minerals Branch of the B.C. government. They sent us a map showing the separate gold claim regions of southern B.C. We set our sights on the Salmo River area.
      For our home we found a used twenty-four foot holiday trailer that had a large bathroom with tub and shower and a floor plan we liked. Coincidently, the people we bought it from had two gold claims in the Yukon. We sold out house, quit our jobs and on September 1, we began our journey west. Mike was pulling the holiday trailer with our half-ton truck, which had our all-terrain vehicle in the back. I was in our smaller four-wheel drive pulling a utility trailer with our prospecting equipment and other paraphernalia we thought we might need.
       It took two days of slow travel to reach the Selkirk Motel and Campsite on the side of the highway at Erie, about three kilometres west of the town of Salmo. We set up camp, hooking up to the water and power. We had until freeze-up to find a claim.
       Next morning we were up early and off to the Gold Commissioner’s Office in Nelson. There were no changes in the maps we had been sent. Since there was no need for both of us to get a Gold Miner’s Certificate, Mike bought one, two red metal tags, and a topographical map, and was given his recording form. We were hopeful as we headed to the Salmo River.
       Although the open spots we were looking for were on a different section of the river from my fathers, we didn’t mind. Getting a claim on the Salmo was what mattered. As we neared one location we slowed down and began watching the bush for a post with a tag on it that would show the boundary of the neighbouring claim. When we found it we checked the number on the tag with the number on the map and it matched. We went down the steep bank, holding onto small trees and bushes to keep from sliding. Mike ran a few pans from the downstream side of a large rock, one of the places Dad had told us that gold collects. Others were on the inside of curve on rivers and in the roots of trees beside the water. However, at this part of the river there wasn’t any gold to be found.
       We drove to another site further downstream. The bank was a sheer drop to the river. Discouraged, we returned to the campsite.
       The next day we went to find Dad’s former claim. We drove down to the border crossing at Nelway and turned right just before the Custom’s office. We travelled beside ranches and alongside the Pend D’Oreille River. After we crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Salmo River we turned right onto a narrow, gravel road. It was steep in places and there were many sharp curves just as we remembered. We drove over Wallach Creek but after that we couldn’t find anything else that looked familiar. It had only been twelve years since we had been there. When we went in 1980, it had been forty years since Dad had lived there, but he found it. Our memories were not quite as good as his.
       With a growing sense of urgency we spent days checking Rest Creek, Erie River, Limpid Creek and many others with little success.
       The Salmo River kept calling us and we returned to the bridge and mouth of the river. Mike tried for gold. No luck. We drove along the south side of the river where we found the second cabin Dad had shown us. There was a truck and camper in the yard. We stopped to talk to the man there and learned that four people, three men and a woman, now had my Dad’s and my uncle’s claims. He told us they were the two best claims on the river.
       I explained where the cabin had been on the north side and he told us how to reach it. This time we found the trail to the river and came upon the remains of the log cabin. Just past it we stood on the bluff looking down on the river as we had done twelve years earlier with my parents and our children. The memories came flooding back: the walk to the river with each child carrying a pie plate to use as a gold pan, finding gold only to discover that we had nothing to put it in, one daughter coming up with the idea of sticking it to bandages, camping near the river.
       But we didn’t have time to linger. We were working against the weather. Mike went over our maps of the Salmo River again and this time noticed that there is a small portion on the curve of the river near the old cabin that was open. Because the claims on either side formed rectangles it was missed by both of them. We found the posts of those claims then hurried to Nelson to confirm that the piece was available. It was.
       There wasn’t time to stake it that night so we had to wait until morning. We rose early, went out to the river and put one of Mike’s red tag on the post of the claim to the east of ours. Mike took a compass and orange flagging and we began to mark off the distance, tying the flagging to trees as we went. At the end of five hundred yards Mike cut a tree, leaving a stump about three feet high. He squared off the top and I nailed up our final tag with the information scratched by knife point onto it. The claim was five hundred yards by five hundred yards and was called the Donaldson.
       We hurried back to Nelson and handed in the recording form. We were ecstatic. Not only had we located an area on the same river as my father, but we actually had part of his old claim. We went to the river and found a clearing for us to set up camp the next spring. Mike took his gold pan and headed down to the water’s edge.
       I followed and sat on a large rock. As I watched the water flow sedately by, a deep sense of relaxation settled over me, the first I had felt since the beginning of the year. It helped me begin to deal with the fact that I had witnessed Death at work.
       Sallian was the first one in either of our immediate families to die. I had seen the tragedy of death strike my friends but didn’t understand how devastating it could be until it happened to me.
       We spent the winter in our holiday trailer in a campground in Vancouver and returned to the claim in the spring. Our campsite was in the middle of tall pine, birch, spruce, and cedar and I could just barely see the mountain tops to the south. The mountains to the north were higher and made a lovely backdrop to the trees. Each morning I walked through the bush to the river. I sat on a large triangle-shaped rock and watched the water drift by. A partridge sometimes drummed in the distance. Birds sang in the trees. I would take a deep breath of the cool, fresh air and feel that it was a good place to be.
       We panned for gold, explored the area, and generally enjoyed our freedom. But soon our adventure was over and in the fall we returned to the real world. We never did find much gold but then, for me, it really wasn’t about the gold. It was about learning how to live my best life. There have been times over the years when I have forgotten that lesson but all I have to do is remember that Sallian was only 54 when she died. She missed out on so much that I still have a chance to experience. 

       My latest mystery/romance ebook, Gold Fever, is loosely based on my gold claim experience.

Gold Fever


 Books of The Travelling Detective Series boxed set:
Illegally Dead
The Only Shadow In The House
Whistler's Murder

Friday, December 12, 2014


What story structure dominates your novel?  The choice is yours, the writer.  Every novel contains four elements that determine structure; setting, idea, character, and event.  You decide which matters most to you and that structure will drive your story.

Setting – We know many stories that are setting driven.  How about Gulliver’s Travels or Into the West?  These stories always evolve around the setting.  Into the West is structured around Indian country and compared to the tame East and the people striving for a better life.  The focus or whole point of the story is for the reader to see the differences between the land and the people.  How do they handle these differences?  What conflicts and resolutions occur from beginning to end? How does this change or transform the characters?  The story begins with the arrival and ends when the character(s) decides to stay or leave.

Idea – This structure is simple; it begins by asking a question and ends when the question is answered.  We know this structure well.  Mysteries are a great example of the idea structure.  The story begins when a crime takes place.  Everyone wants to know who did it and why.  The story is over when we discover the killer and his/her motive.

Character – With character you need to focus on the internal growth of your character(s) throughout the story.  The story most likely isn’t about the growth, it’s about the plot, but character growth is important – it makes us care about him/her.  Character driven stories start the moment your main character(s) find themselves in a situation or crisis they aren’t sure how to deal with.  They are miserable or angry and know they need to make some changes in their life.  The story is about how they handle the situation and their process of change.  At the end either they make changes or settle into accepting their unhappy situation.

Structure – We all love ‘the sky is falling’ story.  You know the earthquake that can potentially destroy the world, or create enough havoc that it is apocalyptic.  Perhaps it’s the death of a king or queen, or even the Vikings conquering new lands.  In all cases the world our characters exist in is being disrupted or turned upside down.

The story begins when the character’s world is threatening chaos or has already begun.  Note that it’s the viewpoint character, not the narrator that guides the reader into the state of circumstance.  

At the beginning you don’t need a long, dragging-on prologue to describe the state of the world.  Why?  To be honest the reader isn’t emotionally invested in the characters at the beginning and they won’t care.  I hate prologues – and I never read them.  Personally, I think they’re useless.

Begin in the midst of action . . . and draw your reader in slowly . . . carefully . . . make them feel, make them care, make them pull for the character(s) – and you’ve got them until ‘the end.’

 Rita Karnopp
Author ~ Romancing the West

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Celebrating Independent Bookstores by Karla Stover

In September 2013, author Sherman Alexi sat down with his agent, Nancy Stauffer, and Betsy Burton, co-owner of the King’s English Bookshop to have a little chat about the demise of so many bookstores.  Starting with the question, “What can authors do to help the Indies?” Alexie came up with the idea of sending letters to a small group of authors, whom he called on to “become superheroes for independent bookstores,” and the letters started a movement were writers worked at Indies for a day, drawing in customers and recommending books. Over 400 national and international bookstores participated in the inaugural, Indies First on November 30th, 2013. This year, in Washington State, alone, thirty-two bookstores participated, and I was one of the featured authors in Tacoma, at King’s books.
Tacoma has four main Indies but only King’s participated. King’s has a great reputation for hosting community events: featured poetry readings with open mike, a religion and spirituality book club, a YA Book Club for adult readers, a Banned Book Club, and the LGBTQ Book Club, to mention a few. The local vegan organization meets there as does the sword and laser group. And those are just the regularly-scheduled groups.

Anyway, on Indie day, authors worked in shifts, were asked to provide recommendations for customers, and given the opportunity to read from their own books. I was lucky enough to have two friends face a bitterly cold day and come out to support me, one of whom was visiting from New York, where he is an occasional soap opera actor and Broadway dancer. Now, at least one of my books is headed for the Big Apple. Yay!

Last year my closest writer friend died, and this year my critique group dissolved. Indie day was an opportunity to be with other writers as well as book buyers. Unfortunately for me, the writers were all men who knew each other, and I’m shy when it comes to breaking into groups. Also, I simply had nothing to say to the fellow who wrote about his girlfriend forgetting (maybe on purpose) to flush the toilet, and their urine comingling. I mean, who would have anything to offer, other than an uncomfortable laugh? And the story went one and one and on.

Though no one asked for my book recommendations, it was a good day and I hope I can participate again next year. I’d love to hang around all day and talk books. But if I don’t, it was fun and Indies deserve and need support.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Sparkle by Cheryl Wright

Over the years I've accumulated a ton of Christmas stamps, which I regularly use to make cards. This year I vowed I would not, under any circumstances, buy any more Christmas stamps. I could make do with what I already had.

Yeah, sure. And pigs might fly.

I belong to a Facebook group where retired Stampin' Up products are sold. Some are new, some are  second-hand, it depends on how old they are, and who is doing the selling.

Most of us buying these sets are doing so because they became unavailable (due to limited quantities) when they were in the catalogue. Or because we didn't know they existed back then.

I managed to get an incredibly elegant set called "Special Season".  (If you would like to check it out, go to my Pinterest board featuring this set here.)

The greeting shown on this card is from that set. The wreath however, is not a Christmas stamp at all. It's from a set called Stippled Blossoms, which is a fabulous set, and I use it regularly for birthdays and thank you cards.

Again, you can check it out on Pinterest. This is another retired set, which I've had for several months now.

While I was in the process of making my Christmas cards recently, I found a video that uses the leaves from the Stippled Blossom set to produce a Christmas wreath.  (You can see the video here, or at the latter link.)

It was actually incredibly easy to do. Much easier than I'd anticipated.

While I've made a wreath using the technique shown in the video, the card itself is nothing like the orginal card shown.

To sparkle up my card I've added some glitter glue, some matching glitter paper, and some gold ribbon.

This close up gives you a bit more detail.

Til next time,

p.s. The winner of my last giveaway was Karen H. Congratulations Karen!!


My website: 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lovely Maeve Binchy by Karla Stover

A biography on Maeve Binchy just hit our library shelves, and I snatched it up. I think I read all her books and bought a few to reread. I remember when Minnie Driver was hired for the movie, Circle of Friends, my favorite of all the Binchy books and how displeased (but in a gracious way) Ms. Binchy was because heroine, Bennie, was a big girl and Minnie Driver wasn't. What I didn't realize but learned in the bio. was Ms. Binchy was six-foot tall and what Alexander McCall Smith would call, "traditionally built."

In reading the bio, I learned what a penny candle is (Light a Penny Candle), and also that not every author makes for an interesting biography. Ms. Binchy traveled a lot, partied a lot, and drank a lot. She lost her faith but, nevertheless, was buried with Catholic rites. More of her books were made into movies than were shown here, at least in the Puget Sound area--more's the pity. But here's the cool thing: she lives on in uTube and was a delightful speaker. It's easy to spend half-an-hour or so listening to a charming Irish brogue tell stories. Goodbye and God bless, Maeve Binchy, thanks for the many hours of good reading.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Traditions Warm the Heart by Betty Jo Schuler

     Christmas Eve, late at night, my husband Paul and I pour a glass of
wine, sit on the floor by our fragrant long-needled pine, the room lit
only by the tree's soft lights, and exchange gift-wrapped boxes
containing ornaments we bought one another.  This tradition began
twenty-five years ago, the year we met, when he gave me a breathtaking
bauble—a clear glass pear-shaped ornament containing a partridge and a
pear tree.  Every Christmas Eve since, we've exchanged ornaments in a
special moment of quiet, peace, and love.  A Candlelight Service at our
church, early in the evening, followed by family gift-giving at my
mother's, sets the tone for this special night.

     Our Christmas tree, cut from the forest days earlier, is decked
with love and memories, and on this particular night, we reminisce.
There's a tiny red-and-white striped stocking, yellowed over the years,
that I bought the year my first son was born.  (Paul wasn't a part of my
life then; we married when my youngest son was in high school, but they
are like his own and he's a beloved stepfather.)  A "God's Eye" made of
Popsicle sticks woven with yarn nestles in the branches, a gift made by
our first grandson, his initials on the back, written in crayon.
Picture-frame ornaments with photos of other grandchildren, when they
were small, evoke tender memories.  A smiling ice cream cone, a gift
from my daughter and her husband, marks the sale of my first published
children's book, Ice Cream for Breakfast.  A china bell with shamrocks,
brought from Ireland, and a gold cross from Rome, are mementos from my
youngest son and his wife's travels.  Paul's and my trips are noted too,
and there are decorations given to us by his brother and sister, and
mine, and my favorite cousin.  Beaded candy canes and wreaths were made
by an aunt that's deceased.     And the lights that bubble around the
bottom of our Christmas tree were purchased only a few years ago, but
reminders of Paul's childhood, they still intrigue little ones. The
quilted tree skirt, hidden by piles of gifts before our family opening,
bears a large green S on a background of red and white—a treasured gift
made by our daughter-in-law.  Our middle son and his wife gave us
appropriate ornaments for our interests, a golf club for my husband and
a book for me.

     The day we take our ornaments, some shimmering, some dulled by the
years, from their boxes, is a special one at our house.  Most of the
boxes are labeled with the date, and a description, but others are
labeled in our minds.  And each year on the night before Christmas, we

Merriest Christmas Ever by Betty Jo Schuler  

A Poodle, a Wedding Anniversary, and a Opossum By Connie Vines

I had an article about the craft of writing written and ready to post.  I decided, instead, to share that post next month. Why? For thos...