Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lots of Excitement at Books We Love

Victoria Chatham (BWL author of Brides of Banff Springs) and Nancy M. Bell (BWL author of  His Brother's Bride) the first two books in the Canadian Historical Brides series, both held very successful book signings in Calgary and they were both featured in local newspapers in Airdrie and Carstairs, nice going ladies.

The Owl's Nest bookstore in Calgary hosted BWL author Susan Calder for the launch of her new mystery release, Ten Day In Summer.  Susan was also featured on the front page of the Calgary Herald's Arts & Entertainment section.

Congratulations ladies.

If you haven't read these books, you will find them in print at your local bookstore and at all the Online Retailers, like Amazon, Kobo, Overdrive, Smashwords.

Check out all the Canadian Historical Brides books and their release dates here:

Also visit the Canadian Historical Brides blog to learn more about these exciting new books and their authors, as well as the provinces they feature

Canadian Historical Brides series 
being released by Books We Love

12 books celebrating Canada's provinces and territories

We are still missing the cover for Quebec, Where the River Narrows, Book 12, but it's coming soon.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Kavanagh Clan and the elusive Leprechaun

P&E Reader Poll, Best Young Adult Novel of 2016
J.C. Kavanagh Books We Love author page
It's the day before St. Patrick's Day, more commonly known as St. Paddy's Day to the Irish and all wanna-be's. Here's some advice to ensure you don't insult the Irish folk: make sure you say Paddy, not Patty. The Gaelic name for Patrick is Padraig, thus the 'd.' And Patty is the abbreviated form of Patricia. There now, you're prepped for St. Paddy's Day!

In keeping with the Irish celebrations in March, I did a little research into another well-known but completely fabricated (?) sprite, the leprechaun. I had a little help from me mather, who hails from Dublin, Ireland and says, by the way, that I am a descendant of the Irish Kings of Leinster.


"Does that make me a princess?" I ask.

"Wellll," me mather says, "once upon a time, in a land far away, where the snakes never roam and the leprechauns hide, you might have been."

"Well then, where's my crown and my castle and my land?" I could really use one, or all of them right now. Selling books is hard.
The remains of a Kavanagh-clan castle in Leinster,
circa 1100 AD

A strange look comes over me mather's face and I could tell from her gaze that she is transported back in time... back to the 12th century when Domhnall Caomhánach (Kavanagh) the illegitimate son of Dermot McMurrough, was crowned King of Leinster. The McMurrough-Kavanagh clan owned all the lands in the south-east, ruling under Irish law. Unfortunately, internal power struggles over the next 400 years, including poisoning, murderous scheming and adulterous affairs - all similar to the plotlines found in the TV show Game of Thrones - weakened and divided the clan. The treachery simmered and then boiled over when the English invaded and successfully 'occupied' the land in the 17th century. The turmoil was so great that the clan slowly began to unravel. The final nail in the coffin came when the English demanded that the Kavanagh clan surrender their lands to the Crown, or be forcibly removed. Recognizing that their survival hinged on the decision, they reluctantly handed over the land. Then, with backhanded benevolence, the Crown re-granted the land back to the clan, with restrictions. The Kavanagh's could build on the land, work the land, but not own it. An annual tax, or 'ground rent' was imposed and paid to the Crown or to the English baron who, in recognition of his allegiance to the Crown, was gifted the surrendered land. This imposed tax carried on for centuries and is now slowly being dismantled.

"I remember Daddy discussing the 'ground rent' dues with his brother," explained me mather in a soft voice. "It was during World War II and there was no extra income. I don't know what they did."

Borris House, the ancestral home of the
McMurrough-Kavanagh's, Kings of Leinster.
Through plagues and wars, the McMurrough and Kavanagh clans had grown from their kingly start in 1166. It was only after the English occupation stripped all the clans of land that the title of 'King' or 'Queen' or even 'Princess' became moot. The entitled Kings were entitled no more, learning to work the land in order to put food on the table. Alas, there may be blue blood in my veins but there is no golden tiara.

Recovering from this bombshell news, I asked me mather, "Why didn't you share this history with me years ago?" She shrugged. "We're in Canada now." I guess it doesn't really matter because this new knowledge of my ancestry deserves further research - more to come!

But back to the sprites.

The rolling hills and mountains around Leinster - excluding Dublin and the major cities - are home to Ireland's other famous attraction: the leprechaun. The wee fellows, and there are only fellows, stand about two feet tall and are known for their mischievous ways and aversion to regular folk. They are talented shoe-makers (only the Irish would conjure up a tradesman fairy) and love to dance so much that they wear out the soles of their shoes. True! If you are able to outsmart a leprechaun and catch him, you may be able to find his pot of gold. He will grant you three wishes in order to be released but since he has magical powers and can disappear in an instant, the chances of having your wishes granted are slim.

If you scoff at the idea of actual leprechauns dancing around the Irish countryside, scoff no more. Under European Law, leprechauns are an endangered species. Don't laugh, it's true, I'm not uttering one single dollop of Blarney. In 1992, the European Commission declared that a forested area in County Carlingford be officially protected land for the 200+ leprechauns that live there. This land is under the European Habitats Directive.

Oh, those Irish!

Hope you enjoyed reading a wee bit of Irish history and folklore. If you love a good tale, then you'll love my book, The Twisted Climb. I'm at the Chapters store at the Toronto Eaton Centre on March 18. Come on by and say helllloooooo!

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers' Poll
A novel for teens, young adults and adults young at heart.
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Festival of Colours

            As a child growing up in North India, I vividly remember Holi, the Festival of Colours. At that age, it meant a time when adult control over children disappeared and I could get away with all sorts of naughty things. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, I dowsed family members, what to speak of complete strangers, with buckets of water and handfuls of vividly colored corn starch without fear of punishment.
            Holi is a time when social barriers of class, age and even of gender disappear and one can, under a disguise of color, celebrate in equality.
            As with most things in India, the festival is cloaked with legends. In one, a devout young boy, Prahlad, is tortured by his evil aunt Holika. She has the power of being unaffected by fire. She carries the young Prahlad into a bonfire, expecting him to die, but miraculously, he escapes harm while she is consumed. Indeed, one of the traditions of Holi, named after Holika, is the burning of a bonfire during the (usually) two-day festival.
      Another legend has to do with Radha and Krishna, the Divine lovers who are worshiped across the sub-continent. Krishna, in his boyhood, would engage in any number of pranks to tease Radha, the leader of the Gopis, the cowherd girls in the village of Vrindavan, where they grew up. The current festival is a remembrance of those playful pastimes in which Krishna splashed of water and threw colored flower petals at his beloved.

Lathmar Holi
            Interestingly, in one village called Lathmar in the Vrindavan region, the women folk exact revenge for this teasing. During the Lathmar Holi, the women of the town gather the men from their town or neighboring villages and,  ritually, but gently, take sticks to their menfolk. Needless to say, the playful revenge creates a great deal of mirth for all.
            The celebration, which coincides with the beginning of spring, is celebrated throughout India, Nepal and several other South Asian countries. Increasingly, it is now appearing around the world and attracts not just ethnic Indians but locals. “Color Festivals” as they are known, are observed in many parts of Europe, Australia and the United States.
Surprisingly, one of the largest such festivals occurs annually at a Krishna temple near Salt
American Festival goers in Utah
Lake City in Utah. In 2016, an astounding thirty-five people, mostly young college students, showed up for two days of color throwing, music and dance. Holi has become so popular there that tour buses ply visitors from around the Western states, and being alcohol and drug free, it suits well the local Mormon ethos, whose adherents form the vast majority of the celebrants.

Indeed, in keeping with its original intent, Holi is becoming a celebration observed all around the world, rising above all human dualities, whether color, nationality, class or gender.

-Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper," published by Books We Love. ;

Love is the only thing by Sheila Claydon

Although my books have heroines in them, this is a tribute to a real life heroine.

A few days ago I attended the funeral of a very dear friend. She was 93 years old, and if I am lucky enough to reach such a great age myself, I would love to leave behind the same legacy. We met 25 years ago, and from that day on I have always wanted to be like her. She has always been my ultimate heroine. 

Although there is always sadness when someone dies, the memories  recalled and the stories exchanged sometimes offset the grief and this was certainly the case at Shirley's funeral. 

Why, despite her death, is she my heroine? It's simple. She loved people so people loved her.  Her default setting was to think about others, which meant that visiting her was always a joy. Yes, the hot drinks and chocolate biscuits (never plain) were welcome, as was the white wine (after 6 unless it was lunchtime), but the real pleasure was Shirley herself. She was so interested in everything, and who doesn't enjoy a conversation with someone who genuinely wants to know how you are feeling and what is happening in your life. Also, and this is perhaps the most important thing, she never complained. While she had a never-ending supply of sympathy for others, she rarely talked about herself, and if she did it was about happy things, not about the pacemaker she had to have fitted, or her failing eyesight.

Listening to her adult grandchildren recall their childhood visits and holidays with Nanna was heartwarming too. She has left them with so many wonderful memories. The annual family holidays in Greece with anything up to 20 adults and children participating sounded idyllic and yes, the white wine featured there as well. Then there were the bedtime stories, the walks in the woods and on the beach, the meals, the fun.  Making sure that other people enjoyed themselves and had fun was one of Shirley's greatest gifts. 

Her other great gift to her friends and family was her insistence on remaining independent. When her sight failed and she could no longer drive, she moved to a ground floor apartment in the centre of the village so she could continue to do her own shopping and meet friends for coffee or a meal without inconveniencing anyone. Then, at 90, too frail to continue alone, she sold up and moved herself into a care home, still in the centre of the village so she could carry on with her social life. This was despite the fact that both her daughters wanted her to live with them. 

Once settled in the care home she had more visitors than anyone else, and those family holidays continued even though they were now a bit closer to home. Christmas and Easter and many weekends were spent with the family too, and in between she saw old friends and made many new friends. 

I know she was supported by a strong faith, but only once in all the years I knew her did she mention it, and that was when she told me how much she was enjoying her Bible study class and learning how to meditate. She started these new activities when she was 91!

Finally, and the greatest proof of all that love is what everyone craves whether of the two-legged or four-legged variety, was her relationship with dogs. There were always dogs in her life. Her own when she was still able to care for them, and later other people's. For 8 years she provided daycare for one of my dogs while I was working and the intense love between them was mutual. In fact the last time I saw her was when I took my latest dog to see her. In my house the dog is not allowed upstairs (not always enforceable if the grandchildren are around!), and she is certainly not allowed on the beds. When we visited Shirley at the care home, however, they both snuggled up on the bed together without any reference to me whatsoever. 

In addition to all of this, Shirley remained extremely pretty even in old age, and very elegant too. Despite losing most of her sight she continued to dress beautifully, and her hair and nails were always immaculate. This was also part of her attraction. As well as her loving kindness she made sure she was as good to look at as possible despite her extreme old age.

As the priest said at the funeral, 'everyone here now has a Shirley shaped hole in their lives, but it is a hole that is filled with loving and joyful memories.' 

What a way to live, and what a way to go. No wonder she was and will remain my heroine.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Struggle to Bring Life to My Historical Novel 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 some of the struggles I have to bring life to my novels.

Struggles to bring my story to life.

I have written in many different genres, non-fiction, mystery, romance, and historical and in each one I have had to make sure that my characters are multi-dimensional, my story plot is fast paced, and my setting is exciting. Readers what to identify with the main characters so they have to be believable and likeable. Readers want action in the story so the plot has to move along at a good clip. And readers want to learn about the place where the story is set, so it is important that I know the setting itself. This is much harder in a historical novel because that setting is no longer readily available in the way it was in the time period I am writing about. So this is where non-fiction books, museums, archives, and paintings or photos of that time come in handy.

     In any novel it is important to make sure the plot moves forward, the characters grow, and the setting is described at the same pace but, for me, it isn’t necessary to write that forward movement in sequence.

     I imagine I am like most authors in that I never write a book in the order that the reader will read it. As I am writing the first chapter, later scenes develop in my mind and I will jot down notes on them. When I come to a standstill in the progress of the story, I turn those notes into the scene. That way I seldom have writer’s block. And it gives my subconscious mind a chance to work out the next stage in my story.

     Sometimes I have an idea as to the ending of my novel but I never write it down because it is subject to change at the whim of the characters for, although I am the writer, it is their story.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

How the Calgary Stampede Inspired My Murder Mystery Novel

For more information about Susan Calder's books, or to purchase, please visit her Books We Love Author Page

How the Calgary Stampede Inspired my Murder Mystery Novel
My first published writing was a travel article about the Calgary Stampede in The Montreal Gazette newspaper (May 1, 1993). At the time, I was living in Montreal and had no clue I’d be moving to Calgary three years later. 
Saddledome, fairgrounds site and Calgary skyline

In the summer of 1992, my husband and I had made a trip west with our two young sons. Our holiday goals were to see the Rocky Mountains and visit a cousin who lived in Calgary. As I was looking through travel information, I noticed we’d arrive in Calgary the last day of the Stampede. Why not buy tickets to the rodeo? I didn’t expect the festival to be much more than that and didn’t allow any time for other Stampede activities.

When we got to the fairgrounds, I was surprised by the extent of the offerings. A hilarious hypnosis show, many other shows, midway rides, a marketplace. I even liked the food. And we didn’t touch on all the rest—the downtown parade on opening day, free pancake breakfasts, everyone dressed in western wear, stores decked out with bales of hay, the party atmosphere in the city.
Calgary Stampede parade

I figured if I was ignorant of the Stampede’s scope, it’s likely my fellow Montrealers were too. In the fall, I signed up for my first creative writing course, Magazine Writing. Our final assignment was to write a non-fiction piece and a query letter targeted at a specific magazine or newspaper. I was an avid reader of The Gazette travel section and wrote an article about our visit to the Stampede. The teacher liked the piece, so I sent the query to The Gazette travel editor.

Little did I know how slowly the publishing industry generally operates. I also didn’t know that rejection was par for the course. When several months passed with no reply, I was despondent. Then I got the call. The editor was enthused about my idea. He especially liked the family angle.
“Most people I hear from are yuppies,” he said.
Who knew something ordinary like having kids would be a selling point?
I couldn’t stop smiling for days. My writing career was launched. A couple of weeks later, my feature titled “Canada’s Wild West: The Calgary Stampede” appeared on the front page of The Gazette travel section.

While I went on to write three more travel articles for this editor, I discovered how hard it was to break into other publishing. I queried magazines with travel ideas and got no interest. So I returned to my first love, fiction, and wrote novels and short stories. As the years went on, I learned that publishing acceptances are rare. 
Finally, a small press accepted my murder mystery novel set in Calgary, my current hometown. It struck me this book could become a series. Since its title was Deadly Fall, I decided the next books in the series would take place in Calgary's other three seasons. I settled on summer for book two. For me, summer in Calgary means the Stampede. My new novel Ten Days in Summer, set against a backdrop of the Calgary Stampede, feels like a return to my writing roots and the article that made me a published writer.
My husband Will and me at the Stampede parade

I still enjoy the Stampede as much as I did on that first visit. During my 20 years in Calgary, I’ve come to know it more. I rarely miss the fairgrounds and the parade, usually catch a pancake breakfast and have acquired some western wear. Stampede is like Calgary’s Mardi Gras, or two weeks of western-themed Hallowe’en that takes over the whole city. I hope my novel Ten Days in Summer captures some of this atmosphere.  
I wanted the cover of my new novel to include a Stampede image. BWL designer Michelle Lee came up with this striking silhouette of a cowboy against a background of the Calgary skyline and the fire that sets off the novel action. 

If you're in Calgary this Tuesday, please join me at my book launch for Ten Days in Summer: Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Owl's Nest Bookstore, Britannia Shopping Plaza on Elbow Drive at 49th Avenue, 815 49th Avenue SW, Calgary. Free. Refreshments. Everyone welcome. RSVPs are appreciated but not required. contact@owlsnestbooks or (403) 287-9557.   


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