Saturday, January 14, 2017

I cried when I reached the end... but in a good Sheila Claydon

Katy was used to losing things. First she’d lost her childhood home, then her career and reputation, and finally, and most dreadfully, her identity, so she knew she should be used to it. She wasn’t though and she couldn’t bear the thought of having to leave her job and start over, not now she was beginning to make a new life for herself. On the other hand she wasn’t prepared to play second fiddle to her boss’s girlfriend. Thank goodness she’d found out what he was really like before it was too late…or had she?

We have all read books which made us cry. Stories that have so gripped our emotions that we have totally identified with the characters even though we know they are fictional. It happened to me earlier this week...except it wasn't quite like that. You see I wrote the book!

It was Saving Katy Gray. I developed the storyline and created the characters. I knew the outcome too, obviously, so why on earth did I cry? There are two possible explanations. The first is that I need to get a grip! The second is that I might...just might... be a halfway good writer. I hope it's the second one but the only way a writer can ever really know is if a reader posts a good review, or makes contact by email or letter, and when that happens it's thrilling.

Saving Katy Gray is the final book of my When Paths Meet trilogy and it was published in 2014. As is the way with most writers after the excitement of publication day, I moved on and started writing another one. Now, several years later, Books We Love is adding a print format to all those eBooks, something that thrills me greatly even though it entails a considerable amount of work. As well as having to reformat the books, there is an opportunity to re-edit before they go into a second edition, so that's what I was doing. Re-reading and editing. What I wasn't expecting was that one of my own books would make me cry..

It also made me realise how much emotion a writer invests in each book and, in my case, even more when it is a series. By the time I finished writing the third book the characters were like family. Even now I think of the local but anonymised house and garden that I 'borrowed' for Book One, as 'Marcus' and Jodie's house' whenever I walk past it. The same goes for the local riding stables. Although I moved their location in my book, they still  belong to 'Jodie' in my mind.

Re-reading a book published several years ago was interesting too. I was surprised by how much I wanted to tweak things...not the story, but some of the dialogue. Some of the prose as well. While it was fine (and edited) the first time around, reading it again in a couple of sittings made me want to tighten it up. It was a good exercise and well worth it because now I'll be able to have print copies of each of my books too.

I know fellow writers will understand  about the crying and the relationship with my characters. I'm less sure about the reading public, but if they like the books then that's enough. I just hope they don't think I need to get a grip!

My books can be found at Books We Love and on Amazon
I also have a website and can be found on facebook  and twitter

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Short History of the Yukon Territory by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday Books We Love Ltd is publishing twelve historical novels, one for each of the ten provinces, one for the Yukon Territory, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We Canadian authors were asked to pick one of the provinces or territories to write about or to do the research on for a non-Canadian author. I chose the Yukon because I have been there twice and love the beauty and history of the territory. The following is a quick summary of the Yukon’s beginning.

The Yukon
The name Yukon is derived from the Loucheux first nations word Yukunah which means `big river'. The land was mainly occupied by the Tagish and Tlingit native people for centuries before the non-native explorers arrived in the 1820s. In the 1840s fur traders set up a few Hudson's Bay Company posts along the Yukon River. When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, there wasn’t a clear border between Alaska and the Northwest Territories, as the land was known then. In 1887-88 William Ogilvie, a Canadian surveyor, surveyed the area making the 141st meridian the western boundary with Alaska and the 60th parallel the southern border with British Columbia. Hence the phrase North of 60.
     Prospectors went north looking for gold in the 1880s and there was a gold strike along the Fortymile River, which drains into the Yukon River, in 1886. There were other smaller strikes until 1896 when gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek later renamed Bonanza Creek. A town named Dawson sprang up on the Yukon River at the mouth of the Klondike River. When word of the gold discovery reached the outside world in the summer of 1897, thousands of men, women and children hurried to Dawson during the winter of 1897-1898 hoping to find their fortune.
     Because of the rush Dawson grew quickly to be the largest city north of San Francisco and it became known as the `Paris of the North'. It had hotels, dance halls, daily newspapers and saloons for its 30,000 inhabitants. Fresh eggs were brought by raft on the Yukon River; whiskey came in by the boatload before freeze-up; gambling made rich men out of some and paupers out of others; dance hall girls charged $5 dollars in gold for each minute they danced with a miner; the janitors made up to $50 dollars a night when they panned out the sawdust from the barroom floors. Due to the influx of people, the region officially entered into the confederation of Canada and was designated as the Yukon Territory on June 13, 1898. Dawson became the capital. Eventually the word `territory' was dropped and it was called The Yukon.
     A Territorial Administration Building was constructed in 1901 for the territorial seat of government and Dawson was the centre for the government administration until 1953 when the capital was moved to Whitehorse.
     The Klondike gold rush ended in 1899 when word of a gold discovery in Nome, Alaska, reached the prospectors and they headed further north. However, over the next few decades gold companies were formed and continued to mine the creeks, this time using dredges to dig up the creek bottom. They left behind huge piles of gravel called tailings. The dredging lasted until 1960 when gold prices declined making the operation uneconomical. Today, mining is done with big trucks, huge sluices, and back hoes.
     The north is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun after the words in Robert W. Service’s poem The Cremation of Sam McGee:
                    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
                      By the men who moil for gold.

     The Arctic Circle is the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude of the Earth. It is an imaginary line that marks the southern edge of the Arctic at 66 degrees 30' north latitude in the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, and in Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia. The land north of the Arctic Circle gets 24 hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year, June 21st. The further north of the circle you go the more days of total sunlight in the summer you will get. This is because the North Pole is tilted towards the sun and gets direct sunlight from March 20 to September 22 as the earth rotates. Conversely, on the shortest day, December 21st, the land north of the Arctic Circle gets 24 hours of darkness because the North Pole is tilted away from the sun.
     The Yukon is a great place to view the aurora borealis or northern lights. These are bright dancing lights that are really collisions between the gaseous particles of the Earth’s atmosphere and the electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The most common colours are pink and pale green produced by oxygen molecules about sixty miles above the earth.  Silver, blue, green, yellow and violet also appear in the display. Red auroras are rare and produced at high altitudes of about 200 miles. The lights are best seen in the winter and the further north you are the better they appear.
     The Yukon has the smallest desert in the world, the Carcross Desert, near the town of Carcross. It is an area that was once covered by a glacial lake. As the glaciers melted the level of the lake lowered until just the sandy bottom was left. Winds off Lake Bennett keep the sand moving and prevent most plants and trees from taking root on this.
     During the late Wisconsin ice age (10,000 to 70,000 years ago) an arid section of the northern hemisphere was not glaciated because of the lack of moisture to support the expansion of the glaciers. The area, called Beringia after the Bering Strait which is near the centre of the region, encompassed parts of present-day eastern Siberia, Alaska, The Yukon, and ended at the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories. The growth of continental glaciers sucked up moisture which led to the sea level dropping by up to 106 metres (350 feet). As a result, a land bridge was formed between northwest North America and northeast Asia.
     It is believed that parts of western Beringia (eastern Siberia today) were occupied by man 35,000 years ago. The forming of the Bering Land Bridge allowed the first humans to travel from Asia to North America. There is evidence that the history of man in North America goes back 25,000 years ago.
     Some of the animals that survived for thousands of years in this arid land surrounded by glaciers were the North American horse and camel, the steppe bison, the giant beaver that weighed up to 181 kilograms (400 pounds), the Mastodon, the woolly mammoth, the giant short-faced bear, the scimitar cat, the American lion, and the giant ground sloth. All of these are extinct.
     The territory of The Yukon was founded on gold mining, but there has been coal and silver mining in the territory also. It is now a favourite destination for tourists.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book 2 in the Canadian Historical Brides series is Ontario, releasing in March


The Story ...


The youngest child of the local doctor and evangelical preacher, Annie Baldwin was expected to work hard and not protest. Life on a pioneer farm was tough so neighbors helped each other.

George Richardson the underage Doctor Bernardo Boy, orphaned and shipped to Canada a few years earlier, is loaned to the Baldwins to help bring in the hay. Younger brother Peter Richardson was placed with another neighbor, so the brothers stayed in touch with each other. The Great War brought a lot of changes to life even in the back woods of Ontario. In spite of the differences in their social standing, George and Annie fell in love.

When George departed for France they had an understanding and he promised to return to her when the war was over. Alas, fate had other ideas. After a long silence, Annie received the much anticipated letter. But it wasn’t from George, but from his brother, Peter. Also in the trenches of France. George was killed during the final push on August 8, 1918 at Marcelcave near Amiens. The two who loved him form a long distance bond via censored letters. When Peter is sent back to Canada, rather than return him to the east where he enlisted, he is discharged in Vancouver.

Sick from mustard gas poisoning and penniless, Peter finds work at Fraser Mills. Once he could save enough money he planned to return to the small farm in the northern Ontario bush, but before he does, he sends Annie a box of chocolates in the mail. Inside the box he hid an engagement ring. Bound together by their love for George, they find solace in each other. Will it be enough to last?

Book 1, Brides of Banff Springs (Canadian Historical Brides series (Alberta)) now available from your favorite bookstore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Who Else Dislikes Book Blurbs? by Karla Stover


     I just finished reading Stephen King's book, Joyland. Brian Truitt provided a recommendation on it for USA Today. He called it "tight and engrossing. The Washington Post's Bill Sheehan called it,
". . .appealing coming-of-age tale that encompasses restless ghosts, serial murder, psychic phenomena and sexual initiation." Mr. Truitt has a book about the movie, Twilight available on Amazon. Sheehan has one about Peter Straub, a horror-fiction author. I guess that is supposed to make them experts but I will never take their reviews seriously, again. Joyland was a dull--308 pages with the above-mentioned "restless ghost" etc, making weak appearances on page 271.

     So I ask myself, does anyone read a book based on these blurbs? And who is responsible for providing them, the publisher or the author?

     The first thing I did (naturally) was Google. Here are some quotes from the website, ( says websites should be italicized).

     "Most often its someone in the marketing department at the publishing house."

     "They are usually arranged side-by-side with pull quotes (blahs) by authors. These are usually people working in the same genre and often in the same publishing company."

     "packaging/marketing firms."

     And the saddest one:  
     "I once had a job, among other things, writing back cover copy for books. My official title was "marketing assistant," and I was completely unqualified to do such a thing. I was right out of college, I was writing blurbs for academic books in disciplines which I had never studied, and I often had no more than the introduction to go by. I'm sure my blurbs were often highly misleading. I apologize."


     From this website, I went to Here's what one author had to say:

     "I wrote critiques for them (well-known authors) and asked if they could kindly say this. They agreed. Saves them time/effort."

     More than one person on that website said they wrote their own endorsements.

     Back when I was a newspaper reporter, I interviewed an east coast news journalist whose name I've since forgotten but who had written a book and who was doing a signing tour. I asked her about book cover endorsements and she said they were very important to east coast publishers. I wonder if that still holds true, or if more people look to Amazon. My bet is Amazon.

     For my first nonfiction book on Tacoma history I asked a couple of local, well-known historians provided endorsements. For the second I didn't bother. My opinion is that an attractive cover is more important to potential reader/buyers that a quote from the Seattle Times. Jo Linsdell on seems to agree.

     "With millions of books for readers to choose from," she wrote, "the first 'sales pitch' is the cover."
     Sometimes it seems as if the three-legged stool of writing--plot, place and people--are the least important things about a book, but not to readers and certainly not to me. Sometimes getting rich means finding those little gems in plain green covers that everyone else has over looked.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Beginning a New Experience in a New Year

Christmas is over, the New Year already begun and here we are on the 8th January, my umpteenth birthday, shared with Elvis Presley and, I dare say, lots of other Capricorns. Everybody assumes that, because of my name, I was born in June. When I was a child our milkman used to serenade me with the song “It’s June in January, because I’m in love...”

I certainly wish I had been born somewhat apart from Christmas as I was invariably given one present with the understanding that it was for Christmas and my Birthday. Talk about losing out. Having said that, I’m a true Capricorn and happy to be one.  I also married a Capricorn and tend to get on best of all with people of the same birth sign.

So, what will 2017 bring? Last year was pretty disastrous in so many ways right up to the end and I’m still receiving treatment for two fractured vertebrae in my lumbar spine. But, thanks to Books We Love, I’ve started writing seriously again after a long break – I won’t bore you with the details - swapping the artist’s hat for the writer’s hat. 

I have a long saga in the final stages of editing and then I can concentrate on my historic novel for the Canada Brides series - “Veils of Angels” - set in Manitoba in the 1800’s and written with the assistance of a Canadian researcher.  I've never worked with a researcher before so even this is a new experience.  

The storyline is slowly evolving in my head and once I have the historic research sorted I can get on with the writing of it.  That’s such a challenge, but how exciting. I love writing about mountains and snow. 

My previous historic novels have mostly been set in places I have visited, such as Patagonia where I walked by glacial lakes and watched icebergs and glaciers, which inspired my novel “To The End of the Earth”. 

 So, because I’ve never been to Canada, I need to immerse myself in the research from my assistant so that I will feel I know it like my own backyard – which is in France, by the way, down by the Pyrenees.  We’ve lived here for nearly 26 years and this is the first time our mountains haven’t been blanketed in snow. The seasons, like my life, are changing. C’est la vie!

 JUNE [Gadsby]

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Joys, and Challenges of Writing

   I finished my latest manuscript and gave it to my husband. My fingers, toes and every other body part were crossed. He probably assumed I had to urinate given the intense expression on my face. It’s always a nervous time. 

Writing isn’t only creative, it’s a  personal endeavour. Each manuscript is a labour of love. Allowing someone else to criticize it, takes thick skin. I don’t have thick enough skin. I doubt I ever will. This manuscript had to show that I had grown as an author. That I had read the reviews from The Natasha Saga and applied what I had learned.  

I remember writing The Natasha Saga thinking, ‘what will hubby think?’ Given the amount of time I’d spent on it, I didn’t want him to say. ‘Seriously? This is what you’ve been doing? What a waste of time’ Of course my husband would be far more diplomatic, but the point would be there. I’d need another hobby. Worse still, he may consider sending me back to full time employment.
No-o-o-o. Don’t make me!
He didn’t say that. He finished The Saga and said,‘I like it, but you can’t stop it there.’
Shock to the system, he liked it. Hubby Liked it! I jumped up and down for joy that day, and then I continued working on the manuscript. The plot grew.

   I always had a problem classifying The Saga into a specific genre. It has a romance component, but it isn’t a romance. The plot breaks the rules of traditional romances. Therefore, it isn’t one. It’s a family saga.

   When the book(s) were ready, I sent the first one to three publishers. I never considered self-publishing. In my mind, if it was a worthy plot, I’d find a publisher. Mission successful, one of them accepted my manuscript. I was assigned not one but two editors and a cover artist. Today, I’m a traditionally published author.

   With The Saga behind me, I finished my second novel, more than a little optimistic. After all, all four books within The Natasha Saga were available at major on-line distributors.
Hubby read my second labour of love, yet to have an official name, while I kept myself entertained. When he finally finished reading it, he said, and I quote, ‘You’ve done better.’
It was as if he hit me with a sledge hammer. That comment could have sent us to divorce court. Boom, you’re out of here. It didn’t. Common sense kicked me in the butt. It brought me back to earth with a hard thud. Plunked me down, right on my arse. That plot is still on the back burner, otherwise known as a file on my computer. I haven’t decided what to do with that story, yet.
So you understand my fear handing this manuscript to him. Officially, labour of love number three.

   Well, you will have to wait for the second part of this blog post for his reaction. Now you know how it feels. The anxiety of not knowing. 
I ended each of the saga books with a wee cliff hanger as well, but lucky for you, if you’re interested in reading it, they are available. Amazon, Kobo, iTunes. They are even available in the library system. You may have to ask your library to bring them in. I did, but I do like borrowing books to read.

   If you ask and say please, I’m still in the giving mood. I’ll email the PDF copies of the book to you. One wee request. Please post a review after you finish reading Natasha’s Legacy, the conclusion.

The Natasha Saga
Empowerment shatters traditions and lives. Greed and pride have devastating consequences. Sacrifices must be made. Written on multiple levels, the saga deals with hope, relationships, and giving, set against a background of conflicting values.

Through a series of dreams, modern day couple Keeghan and William follow the triumphs and tragedies of multiple generations of the Donovan family. A chance encounter changes Natasha’s life, forever. In her diary, Natasha writes of her dream, and her hope to escape a horrid dictated future.

Will Natasha's legacy survive an uncertain future?

Heather's website

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