Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lost Continents

An Early Map of Atlantis
Most people are familiar with Atlantis, the sunken continent, first written about by Plato. Supposedly situated in the Mediterranean Sea and inhabited by a war-like people, they embarked on  a naval siege of ancient Athens. Due to its superior political system, ancient Athens, Plato’s “ideal state,” was able to repel the invasion. The Gods, angered by the hubris of the Atlanteans, withdrew their favor and Atlantis submerged into the sea. While Plato’s story centered around an ideal political system and the arrogance of nations and their eventual demise, the mythical aspects of the lost continent caught the public’s imagination, and many attempts were made to locate this place. Fascination continues to this day, with a continuing cottage industry of books, films and comic books based on this legend.

Lost continents and civilizations have a long history, with stories and legends appearing in many cultures and places. Often, these catch the imagination of a people because they combine myth with national identity. One of these is Kumari Kandam, a lost continent supposedly drowned in the Indian Ocean, and the original home of the Tamil people of South India and named after the Hindu goddess Kanya Kumari. While belief in Kumari Kandam was a long history, it became more prominent in the twentieth century, as part of a popular revival of Tamil culture, which coincided with the ending of colonial rule in India. Supposedly ruled entirely by women who chose their husbands and enjoyed full property rights, it is said to be the origin of Tamil ‘Sangams’, or literary traditions, and seen as an ideal ancient civilization, excelling in all arts and sciences and the cradle of Tamil culture.

La Morte D'Arthur by James Archer (1860)
A similar idea forms the basis of Avalon, a lost island west of England. Featured in the tales of King Arthur, it appeared first in the Historia Regum Britanniae, Lord Geoffrey Monmouth’s account of early British history. He mentioned it as the place where King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, was forged. This mythical island was seen as a type of paradise, where fruits and flowers grew profusely, and ideal human behavior was exhibited. For a long time, it was believed that Avalon was the home of model and original English culture, no doubt inspired by the ideals of chivalry, courage, romance and gallantry displayed by King Arthur and his court, including his ideal wife Guinevere and the knight Lancelot. Inspiring the imagination to this day, Camelot, the name of the King’s court, and Merlin, the court magician, remain popular literary prototypes.

The Island of Thule (surrounded by whales)
Further to the north lies Thule, an island variously located near Shetland or Norway. Appropriately, it is a land of eternal sunshine. First appearing in Greek epics, it supposedly exists in the frozen seas well north of Britain. Inhabited by blue-painted people who are expert warriors, it grows barley in the summer and provides honey, from which the inhabitants make mead, an intoxicating liquor, evidently, a gift from the gods.

Maui holds up the Sky 
On the other side of the globe, in the Pacific, lies the island of Hawai’iki (not to be confused with Hawai’i,) the legendary home of the Maori people. Its actual location has never been confirmed, as appropriately enough, it is seen as a physical as well as a spiritual place. Greatly important to the Maoris, it is the subject of many of their songs, stories and cultural lessons. As an indication of its significance, many Maoris trace their genealogies, from the original man and woman to the current generation, to that island. It is also the home of the Polynesian gods, including the trickster demigod Maui, famous throughout the Pacific, and a character in the Disney movie, Moana. Its central importance to Maori culture can be appreciated by the understanding that it is the place from which every person (soul) comes, and where each returns.

Finally, the lost continent of Lemuria actually has a quasi-scientific background.  When the zoologist Phillip Sclater, in 1864, noticed similarities between mammals and fossils in both Madagascar and India, he proposed a continent, now disappeared, which once connected the two lands. He named it Lemuria, after the small monkey-like mammals found in both countries.  Strangely enough, there seems to be concrete evidence for this theory. Plate tectonics, which describe the drift of continents, posits that Africa and India were, at one point, part of a super continent named Gondwana. Furthermore, in 1999, drilling by a research vessel in the Indian Ocean discovered evidence of a large island which was submerged about 20 million years ago by rising sea levels. In 2015, researchers from South Africa, studying the island of Mauritius, came across geological formations that strongly suggest that the island is the above-ocean part of a much-larger, now-sunken, land mass. Culturally, the famous theosophist and mystic Helena Blavatsky of the late eighteenth century, considered to be the mother of modern spirituality, provided Lemuria with a mythical history as the home of an ancient, highly-evolved people, after which it became popularized in the public’s imagination.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of The Yoga Zapper ( published by Books We Love (

Friday, April 14, 2017

Serendipity is a Book Sheila Claydon

Mending Jodie's Heart, Book 1 of my When Paths Meet trilogy, has just been chosen for next month's read by a local book club. It goes without saying that I am beyond excited. I'd like plaudits of course but even if I don't get them, just knowing a group of people are going to read it and discuss it is enough.

How did this happen?

Well Mending Jodie's Heart is a story woven around the countryside and the village where I live. This is unusual for me because the ideas for most of my books are triggered by other places. Maybe getting away from the humdrum of everyday life gives my imagination the freedom it needs to create. This wasn't the case with Jodie however. She didn't need creating. She arrived fully formed in my mind the way the best characters always do, and so did Marcus, the hero, and the other important characters in the book.


I know it started when I spent an evening listening to a jazz band with a fantastic pianist but how that segued into Jodie's story I have no idea. Maybe it was the closure of a local bridle path and the ensuing campaign to get it re-opened. Maybe it was the demolition of an old farmhouse. Maybe it was the sight of a pretty, dark-haired girl on horseback. I'll never know exactly what started the story, and what made me continue it into Books 2 and 3. What I do know, however, is that to write it I had to 'borrow' the old farmhouse and the new house that replaced it, the same as I had to 'borrow' the bridle path, and the local riding stables.

Once the book was published I moved on, as writers do, except that I always thought of the 'borrowed' house as Jodie's house whenever I walked past it. Then Books We Love decided to make its digital books available as paperbacks and that changed things. As soon as I received a print copy of Mending Jodie's Heart I crossed my fingers and wrote to the owners of the 'borrowed' house explaining what I had done, and offering them a copy.

I posted the note into their mailbox  when I took my dog for a walk, and then turned into the adjoining woodland and set off down a narrow path between the trees...too narrow for dog walkers to pass one another without giving way. And this is where it gets weird but in a good way. I was halfway along the path when  I saw a pretty blonde woman walking towards me with her dog...a dog I recognised as belonging to Jodie's house, even though I had never seen the owner. With no option but to stop I introduced myself and told her about the letter I had posted. After all if she did decide she wanted a copy of my book I was going to meet her anyway.

How was I to know that she was an avid reader who has run a book club for the past ten years? How was I to know that she would be thrilled beyond belief that I had written a story around the building of her home, and how was I to know that she would be unbelievably friendly and interested. She even joked that she was going to see how her husband scored in comparison with the hero.

So there you have it. I, in true writerly fashion, nosey around other people's lives watching their house being built, and my eventual reward is a new friend and a book in her book club. And what of the happy coincidence that took us down the same path on that windy morning when we had spent the previous 5 years never setting eyes on one another. Serendipity is a curious thing that might just be prompting me towards another book...the second of my Mapleby Memories, but that's another story!

And there's still another copy of Mending Jodie's Heart to give the Riding School that let me watch the stable girls take their horses through their paces, so maybe some more friends too.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Writing Historical Novels by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

For more about Joan Donaldson-Yarmey's novels and to purchase visit her Books We Love author page

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 how I write my historical novels.

When I was in school I was told that Canada was too young a country to have a history and what it di have was boring, so I learned the history of the United States, England, France, ancient Greece and many other countries. Since then I have read many historical, non-fiction books written about Canada and have found that my country does have a long and exciting history. I decided to write a series of historical novels about Canada. My first two novels in the series are: West to the Bay and West to Grande Portage.

     Some writers have a historical period that they like to set their stories in. I don’t. I never really know what year or time period I am going to write about when I start to research a historical novel. So the first thing I do is begin reading non-fiction books looking for some historical event or person who grabs my attention. If it is an event, then I try to learn all I can about that occurrence: when it happened, what happened, who were the famous people involved, who were the ordinary people involved. Once I know that then I have to figure out who is going to be my main character and how that person is going to take part in that event.

     If it is a legendary person I want to include in my story, I have to decide how much action that person will have and how that person will know or be related to the main character. I don’t write a novel with a well-known person as my main character.

     When I have decided on the event or person, I read about the time period so that I make sure I have the food they ate, the clothes they wore, their transportation, and their home and furnishings correct. It also important to make sure that their speech is right for that time. Words that were first used in the 1850’s cannot be spoken by people in the 1750’s.

     I don’t outline my novel but during my research I write down all the details that I can find about the time period to make sure I have the incidents that happen in order. Then I decide on my characters and weave them through the history. If I include a well-known person, I have to find out about their lives and their families and how I can weave them into a story that does not suggest anything that will ruin their memory.

     As the story progresses it is important to keep track of the details that I am including or a secondary story line that I am setting up. If I have a character thinking about something or starting something or saying something at the beginning of the book that leaves the reader hanging, I write it down on a piece of paper to make sure that I clear it up before the story ends.

     I enjoy researching the history and sometimes spend more time on that then is necessary. But I don’t mind. I want to be sure my account is as correct as I can make it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How I Start a Mystery Novel

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

People often ask, how do you write a mystery novel? The problem is that when I’ve finished a book, I’ve usually forgotten how it all began. Right now I’m at the stage of forming my concept for my next mystery, which makes it a good time to reflect on how this beginning process works in my case.    

Of course, every writer is different. Especially different from me will be those writers who start with an outline. I tried this with my first mystery novel attempt, believing that for a murder mystery you had to know exactly how the plot will evolve to whodunit at the end before your first keyboard tap.  My problem was, that as soon as I’d write anything, the story would want to go in another direction. I felt hemmed in by the outline and dropped the whole idea of writing murder mystery.
Over the next years, writing other types of stories taught me that intricate plots could grow naturally from characters, a premise, setting and problems, and resolve in a satisfying way. I thought, why couldn’t this work for murder mystery? I also discovered that many published mystery authors write by the seats of their pants. One told me she didn’t know who was her killer until after her novel was accepted by a publisher. She learned whodunit by sitting down in a coffee shop with her fictional sleuth and discussing the case. 

I wouldn’t go that far and I doubt publishers today would be as welcoming of unfinished books, but as I set out now to write this next mystery I don’t know who my killer will be. Among the cast of suspects I have in mind, there’s one I would like to be the killer, although I’m missing a motive and am also keeping my options open for one of the others to have done the deed.     
This novel will be the third of my mystery series set in Calgary and featuring insurance adjuster sleuth Paula Savard. This means I have some character, setting and other details in place before starting and I know that Paula needs to stumble upon this mystery through her insurance adjusting job. In book two, she investigated a building fire. For her next outing, I decided on a hit and run collision, mainly because my ten-year insurance career specialized in automobile claims. I’m also making things easier for myself by having the collision occur in my own neighbourhood, unlike the murders in my previous books, which took place in parts of Calgary I had to go out and research. One character might even live in my house.  
Books one and two were set, respectively, in fall and summer. I had decided the next two in the series would be winter and spring, although the order didn’t matter. But hit and run struck me as suited to winter’s icy roads and dark evenings. I also wanted this next book to be the darkest of the series. So winter became the season for novel number three. Since the first books, Deadly Fall and Ten Days in Summer, contain the season name in the title, I’d like the word ‘winter’ in the title of book three, which is limiting. I came up with a title Dead of Winter, which I thought was great until my Amazon search turned up seventeen books with this rather obvious mystery title. For now, I’ll go with a working title.
Another key aspect of a murder mystery premise is the victim. This time, it will be a woman killed by the hit and run driver. Paula’s investigations fuel a suspicion the driver acted deliberately. But why? It will take Paula the first quarter of the book to figure this out, as she interviews suspects, a witness, the insured who insists his car was stolen and the victim’s husband who was seriously injured in the crash.
Meanwhile, things are happening in Paula’s personal life. Her mother is getting married, her brother visits from Montreal, her daughter launches a restaurant business, her office has hired new staff and Paula’s boyfriend stuns her with news that threatens to destroy their relationship.
The novel’s second quarter will deal with the fallout from these developments and, hopefully, lead to surprises and twists that will keep things hopping through the last half of the story and propel it to a thrilling climax and conclusion. That’s the goal.
Now I’m ready to go. All that’s left is the hard part—writing.    

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

War Watch by Karla Stover

Product Details karla stover

April 1917--on the 6th, to be exact, the United States entered World War I. As wars are want to do, this one gave us a number of new inventions: hydrophones, pilot- less drones, air traffic control, tanks, flame throwers, poison gas, tracer bullets, interpreter gear, depth charges, aircraft carriers, mobile x-ray machines, wrist watches, camouflage, tube socks, and sanitary napkins.

In 1914, the Kinberly-Clark Company used processed wood to create "an absorbent wadding. "It was five times as absorbent as cotton and cost only half was much to produce; the product was dubbed Cellucotton. Kimberly-Clark gave up its profits and made Cellucotton available to the War Department at cost. After the war (1919), and faced the question of what to do with Cellucotton, the company hit upon the notion of marketing disposable sanitary napkins.

However, this blog is about wrist watches.

A 1916 New York Times article went as follows: “Until recently, the bracelet watch has been looked upon by Americans as more or less of a joke. Vaudeville artists and moving-picture actors have utilized it as a fun maker, as a ‘silly ass’ fad.”

Americans may have been looking at wrist watches as a joke, but not so men who fought in the Boer War. Soldiers jerry-rigged pocket watches to their wrists, making it possible to synchronize military moves. Then the war ended and a watch on a wrist became a female accoutrement. In 1912, that observer of all-things-feminine, the Times wrote that “The wrist watch is the fashion of the hour in Paris. It is worn over here by women who have to work as well as those who play. Not only that, but “it is the most useful piece of jewelry that has been invented for many decades. …"

Less than two years after the above comments on ladies' fashions, World War I began and a new type of watch evolved — trench watches, also called tank watches or campaign watches. They had enamel dials, wide white numerals on a black background, and a luminescent hour hand. Like its ancestor, the pocket watch, the trench watch had hinged front and back covers. They eventually became the look of the day for men’s fashions.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, and telephone and signal services, which played important parts in modern warfare, made wearing a watch obligatory. By the time the Great Depression came on, wristwatch production had eclipsed pocket-watch production; by World War II, the pocket watch was obsolete.  As one newspaper pointed out, “The Great War in 1919 made the world safe for men who wear wrist-watches.” For historical fiction writers like me, knowing little details such as these is imperative. My book, Murder, When One Isn't Enough should have included a bibliography. My bad. However, in my defense, my family has deep roots on Hood Canal where the book takes place. Many now-deceased family members who lived there had friends older than they, and who told stories of their days fishing and  logging. We hiked all over the hills and fished in many of the lakes. My descriptions, observations, and dialogues are as accurate as possible. To me, historical accuracy is important.  A recent article in the Guardian, a British daily newspaper, tackled the question. It quotes author Sarah Churchwell, who claimed that some historical novelists use "poetic license" as an excuse for sloppy or minimal research, and novelist Sarah Dunant, "who argued forcefully that authors have a responsibility to not present readers with deliberately false information about a historical character or period, and to make clear how much they have invented." However, S. J. Parris felt differently. "Although I do agree with Churchwell on the paramount importance of meticulous research," he told the Guardian, ."novelists are not history teachers. It's not our job to educate people, and if we start using words like "duty" and "responsibility" about historical fiction – or any fiction – we're in danger of leaching all the vigour (sic) out of it with a sense of worthiness." Apparently, historical accuracy is whether the writer wants to do the research and whether the book buyers care about accuracy. As an historian, that laissez faire  attitude makes me crazy.


Monday, April 10, 2017






Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pucker UP


   Last month on the blog I discussed the average attention span. Picking up on that theme, I heard another interesting statistic. 
   This one has me equally baffled. According to a survey, people are willing to watch a kissing scene for twelve seconds. Now granted, twelve seconds doesn't sound very long, but think about it. 
  This survey wasn't using a couple having short sweet kisses while talking or giggling. We are referring about a full blown, wet, get the heart pumping kiss. 
I challenge you. Set a timer for twelve seconds.
Now, imagine watching a couple go at it. Not a couple on the big screen, but an average couple. 
One thousand…two thousand. 
Keep watching that couple.
You're not even half way there yet. 
When you've had enough, how many seconds area left on the timer?

  There is a reason the camera angle changes during a 'Hollywood' kissing scene. You've watched the characters in that relationship grow and develop, but still, enough is enough. I think that is why the director uses sheer curtains, a fence, something, anything to add dimension to the scene. Even the character's hands get in the way of the lip lock. 
  As you can guess, twelve seconds, in my mind, is way too long to watch. 

So, back to the 8.5 second attention span. I think during the kiss the viewers mind is wandering for at least 3.5 seconds. 

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?

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...