Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Writing Companions Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

I first began my writing career with a short story about an injured hawk my son and I found beside the highway. We took him home to our acreage and named him Highway. We nursed him for a few days then set him free. He decided he liked us and moved into the bushes around our acreage.

       This story lead to the publication of historical and travel articles and finally seven travel books. To research these books over the years I travelled and camped throughout British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon and Alaska. My travelling companion was a cockapoo dog named Chevy. He inspected attractions with me, hikes trails with me, and waited patiently in my vehicle when I had to go into a building. We would be on the road for a month or more at a time taking pictures, learning history, and meeting people.

       At the end of each trip I’d be glad to get home and begin to unload my vehicle. Chevy would jump out and check the house and yard. I thought he was happy to be home also until I would go into my vehicle and find him lying in his place on the seat. I’d tell him we were home to stay and put him on the ground. I’d gather up more stuff to carry into the house and when I came out for my next load he was once again on the seat. I guess he wasn’t taking a chance that I would leave him. That little guy lived to be seventeen and was a great companion.

       I have had as many as five cats at a time over the years—I’m now down to three. When I am writing, one’s favourite spot is on my lap, another likes to sit on the desk between me and my computer screen, and the third one sits on the floor and talks to me trying to distract my thoughts. But I don’t mind. They are a joy to have.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Author Companions by Anita Davison

I don't have any furry companions, other than the squirrels who chase around the trees outside my window. However I do have virtual ones. I am a member of an online Historical Fiction Critique Group who critique my chapters and give me feedback on whether or not they think my characters are engaging and the story line is credible or not.

My main challenge was to write about a place I have never visited. Without an image of Prince Edward Island in my head, I had to manufacture one from photographs and personal accounts of those who lived there at the time. My Canadian counterpart,  Vicki Chatham, whom I regard as a companion, has offered some good plot revision thus far. I imagine I shall be calling on her again in the near future too.

My heroine and her story were the easy part, but fitting Grace Aitken MacKinnon into a community with unfamiliar architecture, geography, weather and social attitudes was more difficult. Some of the most interesting details I unearthed included the fact that in 1905, PEI once had a railway system, which no longer exists. There was also prohibition on the island. No one could buy alcohol, unless you had a doctor’s certificate, this exception being that rum and whisky had medicinal properties! There were a total of three motor vehicles in that year, which the locals hated as they scared the horses, leading three years after my story is set to an actual ban.

From being initially overwhelmed – I immersed myself in as much local colour as I could find, on the web, in libraries and bookshops, tourist literature and hundreds of photographs available of PEI in the early 1900’s – I soon became fascinated. I can also call on my virtual companions for help with language, customs etc, and as the story progresses I feel sure I will need their local knowledge.

Although I doubt the UK would ever entertain prohibition, in some ways PEI reminded me of Cornwall, with its fishing communities, strong ties to the sea and its ghosts and legends. I also discovered the traditions of the Miq’Mac Indians and their annual St Anne’s Day celebrations on Lennox Island which I found fascinating. I hope I can give a flavour of the island in my story, and one day my ambition is to visit Prince Edward Island, a place which has certainly captured my imagination.

Anita's Contacts
FACEBOOK:     TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Fiction and Fact - by Rosemary Morris

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Fiction and Fact

                             “They seek him here, they seek him there,
                             Those French men seek him everywhere.
                             Is he in Heaven? – Is he in hell?
                             That damned annoying Pimpernel.”

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy’s most famous character, is Percy, the gallant daredevil, Sir Percival Blakeney Bart.  He is the hero of her novels and short stories set in The French Revolution, so aptly nick-named The Reign of Terror.   
Orczy was a royalist with no sympathy for the merciless Jacobins who spared no efforts to achieve their political ambitions.  Historical accounts prove everyone in France was at risk of being arrested and sent to the guillotine.  Orczy’s works of fiction about the Scarlet Pimpernel display her detailed knowledge about revolutionary France and capture the miserable atmosphere which prevailed.
When writing about her novel The Laughing Cavalier, Percy’s ancestor, Orczy described Percival’s “sunny disposition, irresistible laughter, a careless insouciance and adventurous spirit”.
As I mentioned in my February Insider Blog about Baroness Orczy, Percy revealed himself to Orczy while she was waiting for a train at an underground station. She saw his apparition dressed in exquisite clothes that marked him as a late eighteenth century gentleman, noted the monocle he held up in his slender hand and heard both his lazy drawl and quaint laugh.  Inspired she wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel in five weeks.
On the second of August 1792, Percy founded his gallant League of Gentlemen composed of nine members.  When ten more members enrolled in January 1793 there was “one to command and nineteen to obey.” Percy and his league saved innocents from the French Revolutionary Government’s tool, Madame Guillotine.
London society speculated about the identity of The Scarlet Pimpernel but, with the possible exception of the Prince Regent, only the members of Percy’s league knew his true identity.
  Percy, a man of wealth and influence well-acquainted with the Prince Regent, heir to the throne, married Marguerite St. Just, a French actress.  Until Percy discovered Marguerite was responsible for an aristocratic family’s death he was an adoring husband. Percy kept his alias, The Scarlet Pimpernel, secret from Marguerite for fear she would betray him.  Still loving Marguerite in spite of her crime, he feigned indifference, treated her coldly, shunned her company and acted the part of a fool so successfully that he bored her. However, Marguerite discovered the truth about Percy and saved his life.  After the romantic couple’s reconciliation, Marguerite is mentioned as a member of the league in Mam’zelle Guillotine.
At the beginning of each of Orczy’s novels about The Scarlet Pimpernel and his league, the current events of the French Revolution are summarised.  Thus, Orczy weaves fiction and fact by not only featuring English and French historical figures such as Robespierre, d’Herbois, The Prince of Wales, and Sir William Pitt, the younger, but by making use of historical events.  For example, in Eldorado Orczy describes the Dauphin in the care of the brutal shoemaker, Simon, who teaches the prince to curse God and his parents. 
In the midst of horror, Orczy uses romance and heroism to defeat evil, as she did as a child when playing the part of a fearless prince while her sister acted the part of a damsel in distress.
Orczy spent 1900 in Paris that, in her ears, echoed with the horrors of the French Revolution.  Surely, she had found the setting for her magnificent hero, The Scarlet Pimpernel, who would champion the victims of The Terror.   But why did she choose such an insignificant flower for Percy’s alias?   It is not unreasonable to suppose a Parisian royalist organisation’s triangular cards, which were hand painted with roses that resemble scarlet pimpernels, fuelled Orczy’s imagination. 
Further fuel might have been added by a man called Louis Bayard, a young man with similarities to the real life Scarlet Pimpernel, although he might not have been motivated by Percy’s idealism
William Wickham, the first British spymaster, engaged the nineteen-year old Louis Bayard. Louis proved himself to be as elusive as Percy. Like Percy, Louis had many aliases. Not only did Orczy’s fictional hero and Louis fall in love with actresses, they appeared and disappeared without causing comment. Real life Louis’s and fictional Percy’s lives depended on being masters of disguise. 
In disguise, Percy fools his archenemy, Citizen Chauvelin, who Orczy gives the role of official French Ambassador to England. It is an interesting example of her distortion of historical personalities and incidents for them to feature in her works of fiction.  In fact, it is doubtful that Bernard-Francois, marquis de Chauvelin ever assumed a false identity as he did in Orczy’s novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel, about Percy and his League of Gentlemen, among whom are such fictional but memorable characters such as Armand St Just, Marguerite’s brother, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, Lord Hastings and Lord Antony Dewhurst.
Another example of Orczy weaving fact and fiction is Louis-Antoine St Just, a fanatical revolutionary, who she describes as Marguerite’s cousin.  Louis-Antoine St Just, a young lawyer, was Maximillian Robespierre’s follower. He supported the punishment of traitors as well as that of anyone who was a ‘luke-warm’ revolutionary.  In The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel Marguerite’s brother, the fictional, Armand St Just, meets with Robespierre and other Jacobins.  Orczy portrays him as young, fervent and articulate as the real-life Louis-Antoine St Just.

Throughout the history of publishing countless authors, who became famous and whose work is still enjoyed as books, films, plays and television adaptations, found it difficult to place their work.  Orczy’s most famous novel was no exception.  Percy took the leading role in her play called The Scarlet Pimpernel and captured the audience’s hearts. Subsequently the novel was published, and Percy became famous.  His fame increased with each sequel about his daring exploits.
Orczy did not write her novels featuring Percy and his brave companions in historical sequence, but for readers who might prefer to read them in that order instead of the order in which she wrote them, they are as follows.

              Title        Chronology                                          Published                                             

*The Laughing Cavalier     January 1623                                                                1913
*The First Sir Percy                      March 1624                                                     1920
**The Scarlet Pimpernel                September – October 1792                              1905
Sir Percy Leads the Band                          January 1793                                        1936
I Will Repay                                                          August-September 1793                       1906
The Elusive Pimpernel                                            September–October 1793                    1908
Lord Tony’s Wife                                      November-December 1793                  1917
The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel              late 1793                                                          1933
Eldorado                                                               January1794                                         1913
Mam’zelle Guillotine                                              January 1974                                        1940
Sir Percy Hits Back                                               May – June 1794                                             1927
A Child of the Revolution                           July 1794                                                         1932
The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel                                                                                 1922
***Pimpernel and Rosemary                                 1917-1924                                                       1924

*   About Sir Percy’s ancestor.
** Play 1903.
***    About Sir Percy’s descendant.

Short Stories

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel          July 1793                                                         1919
Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel           Possibly 1794                                       1929

Of Further Interest.

Links in the Chain of Life.  Baroness Orczy’s biography.

A Gay Adventurer.  A biography of Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart (1935) written by ‘John Blakeney’ pseudonym of Baroness Orczy’s son John Montagu Baroness Orczy Barstow.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

My Writing Companions by Victoria Chatham

Each author has their own tried and true method of working. What works for one, won’t work for another. Some like to write in a pub or coffee shop. Some like to work early in the morning or late at night, some have to have music playing while others (myself included) need peace and quiet.

When I first started writing seriously, and by that I mean actually finishing what I started, I needed that peace and quiet. As I became more comfortable with my process my dogs, Sooty and Jay, joined me. I had the pleasure of their companionship and best of all, if I happened to ask the ‘what if?’ question out loud, they never confused my thought processes with an answer.

Anyone who has ever had a pet knows the time will come when you have to part company. Sooty, the sweetest natured dog I ever had, went over the Rainbow Bridge at age twelve, Jay at age sixteen. They could never be replaced but a friend, knowing my fascination for moose, bought me a stuffed moose toy. I have no idea why his name is Stan, but there you are, it is.

My writing time these days is aided and abetted by Xena, Warrior Princess. Yes, that is her full name. When I first saw her, she was a bundle of black and white fur, cute as a button and I immediately
Xena, Warrior Princess
called her Precious.

She’d been acquired as a companion to our resident cat who was badly missing his next-door buddies whose owners moved. However, he thoroughly objected and growled, hissed, and spat at the newcomer who growled, hissed, and spat right back. There was no way she was going to be intimidated and very quickly ruled the roost. I am pleased to tell you that after eighteen months of grumbling at each other, stalking and pouncing on each other, power plays and mood swings, they are now best buddies.

Xena will mostly sleep on a blanket on my bed while I am at my desk. Often, she will want to sit on my lap and – oh, look? Moving fingers! Can I play too? So occasionally the words don’t come out quite right but isn’t that what spellcheck and autocorrect are for? Right now she’s sitting in front of the warm air vent, and on a day like today with the temperature at minus-thirteen plus the wind chill and blowing snow, who can blame her?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

In The Name of Love by A.M.Westerling

The topic for this month’s post once again has me stumped because, you guessed it, I can’t think of anything special or outrageous that was done in the name of love! I suppose there are some obvious ones, like the verandah scene in Romeo and Juliet, or the guys who propose to their girlfriends in the spot where they met, like at the ball park or on the bus. Or down on one knee at an old Irish castle. I must say, that last one is pretty romantic.

I guess when it comes right down to it, I’m rather pragmatic when it comes to romantic gestures. For our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband bought me a dozen long stemmed red roses. Apparently he’d bought them at lunch time and all the ladies in the office swooned when he opened the box to show them.  As did I, of course, when he brought them home but you know what? Roses don’t last! Bah humbug. Actually, I'll just grow my own.

For me, I appreciate the little things more. Like my sweetie getting up first in the morning to make coffee. Or taking me shopping for shoes in Las Vegas. Or driving me all across British Columbia to Fort St. James (twice!) and Barkerville (twice!) so I could research two of my novels - The Countess’ Lucky Charm and Barkerville Beginnings. Or, like right now, when he poked his head in my office door to ask me if I’d like tea. 

Or just being my best friend. The one who listens to me, who supports me in what I do, who keeps me grounded, who helped me raise two wonderful sons. That’s all the romance I need. 

A good romance is always fun to read. How about the story of Rose and Harrison in Barkerville Beginnings? Find it here at your favorite online retailer. 


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Love is in the Air by Katherine Pym



Johnson Space Center Houston

I was born in Milwaukee Wisconsin. When I was 16 my dad landed a job at NASA in Houston, so we loaded up all our stuff and headed down there. 

Texas Country Road
Steer Skull

I knew nothing of Texas. My imagination considered it a scrubby land with cactus and steer skulls scattered about, from the Panhandle down to the Gulf of Mexico. Was I wrong? Oh my yes. 

Early NASA, Mission Control
We landed at Hobby Airport in mid-July. When the airplane door opened, the hot humid air took my breath away. I’d never seen palm trees and the highways were lined with them. The land was flat and you could see a long way, much different from where I’d come from. 

When I started school after Labor Day, I wore a long sleeve blouse and woolen knee-high socks. I don’t know what I was thinking. The days were still warm and I was miserable.

During the hottest part of the year, I walked outside and saw how heat had burst the rear window of a car. At Christmas, I was amazed we could wear flip-flops and shorts instead of heavy coats and scarves. I found out later that had been a warm winter.

But I adjusted. 
Apollo 11, the Lem on the Moon 1969
The kids at my new high school aligned themselves into two groups, the surfers and the cowboys. The surfers wore their hair longer, the cowboys drove trucks with rifles in the back windows. Along with most of the astronaut's kids, I fell in with the surfers. After all, Galveston wasn’t far away. It was wonderful to be so close to a warm seaside.

I made some good friends, with whom I am still in contact today. The school year rolled around to spring. The high school campus had an open air courtyard. As the prom neared, my best friend, Teri, waved me over one day. She stood near a boy who sat on a brick wall that lined a flowerbed. She said, “Kathy, this is Ricky. You are going to the prom with him and you'll be doubling with us.”

Ricky and I looked at each other. We shrugged and said, “Okay.” It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship we have to this day. 

 Many thanks to Wikicommons, Public domain.
 Images in this blogspot fall under US copyright Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107
Photograph, Aerial view of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Courtesy of NASA. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107