Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Writing--sometmes
Romancing the Klondike is available this month in bookstores and on line.
I had worked off and on at various jobs for many years while raising my children and when I began taking writing courses I still had teenage children at home. I wrote some historical and travel articles and had them published in Canadian magazines. My children had left home when I got my first contract for a non-fiction travel book, which morphed into seven travel books about the backroads of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon and Alaska. Researching and writing each one of those took up my days, evenings, and nights for a year. When I finished the last one, I decided to try fiction writing.

     I also decided to get a job since writing can be very lonely. I took training to be a nursing attendant also known as residential care aide and began working in a long-term facility. I also started writing my first mystery novel. Then my husband and I moved to a small acreage Vancouver Island and I got a job in a group home looking after disabled adults.

     I do not like getting up to an alarm clock so I took a position in the afternoons from 4-9 pm. This gives me time during the day to work in my yard, hike, dragonboat, pick and can or freeze fruit from my trees, and of course, write. I am thinking about retiring so I could have more time to write, but I have a feeling that I would also travel more, sit and enjoy the sunsets more, visit family more.

     I try to write something every day, even if it is just some ideas for a scene or someone the main character of my WIP will meet. Usually these ideas occur in the middle of the night so I always keep paper and pen by my bed to write this down.
     And I must be doing something right because I have had seventeen print and e-books published since I began my writing career.

Friday, May 12, 2017

How Hoarding Inspired My Murder Mystery Novel

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

Mystery writers joke that one thing they love about the genre is that they get to kill off people in their lives who annoy them. In the case of my new novel, Ten Days in Summer, this joke is mostly true.   

At the time I was developing the idea for the story, my siblings and I were engaged in assorted legalities regarding our late grandmother’s house. With our mother also gone, we had to deal with her only sibling, a hoarder who occupied the home’s second floor. He drove us bonkers.   
Grandma's Bed
Long before my grandmother died, my uncle’s stuff started taking over her premises on the ground floor. I don’t remember visiting there without passing stacks of paper and boxes in the hall. Her living room gradually filled up with television sets that my mechanically-inclined uncle had offered to repair for his neighbours and friends. One afternoon, my young sons counted 22 TV sets in the room. Undoubtedly, the owners had long ago given up on my uncle getting around to repairing them.   
Procrastination is a common trait of hoarders. They can’t decide what to do with an object, so do nothing. A more surprising trait, I learned from my research, is perfectionism. Since they must do something perfectly right, they end up not doing it at all.
                                                 Grandma's Table
When it came to dealing with the house that he and my mother inherited, my uncle let everything slide. Scaffolding erected to repair the siding became a permanent fixture. The front steps were a hazard for postal carriers. Notices for unpaid bills accumulated.

My siblings and I left him alone with all this until he told us the house would go to auction if he didn’t pay the city taxes by a cut-off date. Since his respectable amount of pension money had gone somewhere, we paid the tax bill, then paid the next year and the next. We realized the only way to get our money back was to sell the house. My uncle dug in his heels. This was his mother’s home; he would die there.
Except, we discovered, he wasn’t living there anymore. After a water pipe burst, the house became uninhabitable. He lived in his car for several years and ate all his meals at places like McDonald’s. We had assumed that whenever we phoned he just happened to be driving.

Grandma's back porch 
In short, as I was mulling story ideas, my uncle was being a huge pain in my neck. I decided this novel would involve my insurance adjuster sleuth, Paula Savard, investigating a suspicious house fire, where the owner died. I made my victim a hoarder.
The suspects were stand-ins for my siblings and me: two nephews and a niece concerned about their inheritance. Curiously, the annoying uncle I killed off turned out to be the most sympathetic member of his fictional family. I learned much about hoarding while writing the book and confess I understand it better than I’d like, since I have a little of that tendency.
What happened to my real-life uncle? The police found him passed out in his car and brought him to the hospital. They patched him up with medical treatment and decent food and released him to a nursing home. 
Now aged 83, he probably could live independently, but he’s a sociable type and enjoys the residence environment. He loves the politics of the place, especially advocating for the residents against management, and has taken up a new hobby: chess. The first time I visited him at his residence, I couldn’t get over the neatness of his room.  
However, on a recent visit, I noticed stuff creeping in. I suspect some of the staff find him frustrating, and others think he’s a hoot. I thank him for the inspiration.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cliches: Avoid Them Like the Plague, by Karla Stover

Product DetailsProduct Details
                              karla stover

In 1988, Brunswick, Maine's Chief of Police told his police force to quit using the phrase, "Have a Nice Day," when on duty. He called it, "an absurdly shallow insult," And since the phrase is over 800 years old, it's also a little shopworn. The 12th century British poet, Layamon used it in Chronicle of Britain, writing its variant, "Have a good day." A couple of hundred years later, Chaucer became a devotee of the phrase. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says "Have a Good Day became popular in the 1920s and the rest, dare I say, is history.

The word, cliché, has interesting history. In 1725, the Scottish goldsmith, William Ged, patented a printing process where moveable type struck soft lead to create a duplicate plate. The action made a clicking or clacking sound. Not long after, French printer/engraver, Firmin Didot, (among others) improved the process, and Firman called it stereotype from the Greek words for solid and type. Then printers began calling the plate itself, le cliché, cliché being the past participle of the verb, clicher, which describes clacking sounds. Thus, a cliché was a duplicate of the original and, by the 19th century, when the English adopted the word, it was used to describe something timeworn.

Alexander Pope gave us one well-known cliché: "Hope Springs Eternal," but William Shakespeare gave us dozens: Too Much of a Good thing; "Seen Better Days;" and my personal favorite, "Cry Havoc and let Slip the Dogs of War." He also borrowed from the Bible: "Skin of My Teeth (Job 19:20) and Job also gave us, "Have a Narrow Escape."

Athletes seem as if they never met a cliché they didn't like. Consider the following: "This is a Good Win For us;" "My Comments Were Taken Out of Context,"and my personal favorite, "A Tie is Like Kissing Your Sister."

And then there's politics: "The Buck Stops Here," (about responsibility); "The Smoke-filled Room," (where deals are done); and my personal favorite, "I Know it When I See it," (about obscenity.

In his book, Tales of a Traveler, the American author, Washington Irving wrote, "The inn had been aroused several months before, on a dark and stormy  night" thus giving us one of our best known clichés.

Anyone who Googles or Yahoo(s) the word, cliché, will see that there are dozens of books listing them but few ideas on how to eliminate them. Reading your writing aloud seems to be the best bet. Others include, know your subject; avoid copying another's writing style and, probably the best piece of advice: "be direct, simple, brief, lucid, and vigorous."

As Samuel Goldwyn, head of MGM, once said, "Let's Have Some New Clichés."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

History of the Tribe of Possum

So I looked into the natural history of my marsupial buddies today, and here’s what I found. Once upon a time, 70 million years ago or thereabouts, these little guys emerged from the Cretaceous North American underbrush. The proto-possums are called Peradectids, at least, that’s the latest research from the University of Florida and those sooooooutherners  should know a thing or two about possums, after all.

Proto-possum was sharing his territory with the dinosaur, so things were probably pretty tough. Then, just 5 million years or so later—the mere blink of an eye in geologic time—that famous or infamous asteroid struck, putting a sudden, dramatic end to the long reign of dino domination. Possums survived.

What is more, they used the new space they’d acquired, after emerging from various fallout shelters—probably the gigantic ribcages of their now deceased neighbors—and, in a fit of exuberance, split into several families. Eating insects, fruit and eggs and other people’s leftovers, they trudged down Mexico way and over the land bridge into South America, where they continued to evolve. At this time, South America, Antarctica and Australia were still cuddled up together on a big comfy couch of floating basalt, and so from here, the proto-marsupials marched on to find new homes.

The three continents finally parted company and drifted away from one another. Eventually isolated in Australia, the marsupial line would proliferate into many strange and wonderful shapes. Sadly, most of these exotic critters are now extinct or on their way out, like the legendary Tasmanian Devil, who is really—cartoon aside—quite a fetching little beast.   

Meanwhile, in North America, all the possums went extinct during a time when North and South America were no longer connected. Therefore, for an epoch or two, North America was deprived of this a vital member of Nature’s clean-up crew.   Fortunately, for fans, like me, a short three million years ago, the land bridge between North and South America rose again—or the ocean receded, locked up in the polar ice caps or whatever—and possums returned to their ancient point of origin once again.

Now, while you are laughing at possum—mashed by the side of road—no doubt intentionally driven over by some bully of an ape with delusions of grandeur because he sits in a machine with an internal combustion engine—well, think again. The “dawn of man” --and guess what, guys? There wouldn’t have been any “dawn” at all without woman, too—this “dawn” began a mere 3 million years ago, about the time possum was returning from his successful South American road trip.

Now, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit—true proto-primates of our line came on the scene some 55 million years ago—but essentially, possum is, was and has been, possum. You’d recognize a Peradectid as a possum, but you sure as heck wouldn’t recognize that little shrew type critter with the forward facing eyes hanging in a tree as a member of your family.

There’s something to be said for plain and simple, for humility, for making do, and the will to survive, which this primitive, nearly defenseless little beast has in spades . And that’s why I love Possums.  

Newest Releases from Books We Love

Pre-Order Now

New releases from Books We Love


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Something to Celebrate

This year my great country turns 150 years old. July 1st. We're young as a nation, but this is worth celebrating. It's a vast, diverse, beautiful country. I'm proud to call Canada home.
A Toronto radio station did a poll in April. If neither money nor time were an issue, where would you travel to. 
British Columbia is gorgeous. We have been a few times. Tofino on Vancouver Island, the coast of BC with the ocean and the Rockies in the distance. And of course the wineries. 
Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. Words can't describe how beautiful this area is. We are heading to Canmore and the Badlands in Alberta for our summer vacation this year. I'm looking forward to it.
Ontario, my home province is amazing. Rolling countryside, rocks and lakes and waterfalls. North, south, east and west. It's an incredible province. We take day trips, with picnic lunches regularly with our dog.
I love the east coast as well. It's relaxed and the people are so friendly. The food. The aroma alone is mouth watering.
The answer to the poll?  

Newfoundland. Otherwise known as "The Rock"
Proper pronunciation: Here's a little trick. Understand, Newfoundland. 
We went to The Rock two years ago with our best friends. It was on my bucket list and it didn't disappoint. It's best described as heaven on earth. We drove the western arm and stopped a number of times along the way to hike or just appreciate the view. Gros Morne is a must see. We took the boat to Labrador and had a wonderful meal in a lighthouse. 
We saw icebergs and humpback whales during our trip. And we saw one moose. Woohoo. Rumour has it there are more moose than people in Newfoundland.

The hospitality is second to none. 
We were on the final days of our holiday, and looking for someplace for lunch. We pulled into a small restaurant / convenience store and walked in. There were probably eight tables, all of which were occupied. 
A young father hopped up from the table. He asked in his Newfie twang if we were there for lunch. 
We informed him we needed a table for four.
I just about died when he responded. 'He would kick his family out.'
I'm not quoting here. It would be impossible to remember his exact words. The Newfies have a dialect all of their own, but it's something you can understand. 
He told us they ate there all the time and that they were done anyway. 
He turned to his father and two kids and told them to make room. They got up with their drinks and we took their place. We enjoyed a fantastic meal.
We have travelled a lot over the years. We've been to Europe, travelled the USA, have been to Caribbean islands and to Central America. 

Canada ranks right up there. If you haven't been, it's worth the trip.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dame Catherine Cookson and the Ducks by June Gadsby

It all started with a phone call to my husband, Brian, from the world-famous author, Catherine Cookson. Brian, at that time, was the curator of Sir Peter Scott’s charity, the Washington Wildfowl Park [north-east England – where the ancestors of the American president hailed from]. We lived on site with 1200 rare wildfowl – ducks, geese, swans and many more beautiful, endangered birds.

Catherine said she had a problem and asked Brian if he could help her. She had two ducks on her pond that she was very fond of, but they couldn’t seem to produce any young, although they were a loving pair. Brian and his manager arranged to go up to Catherine’s home to see if they could sort things out for her. This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, having been a fan of Catherine’s books from an early age. I took a day off work and went with Brian and Ken, thinking that I would, at the very least, get to meet this grand lady. It all turned out very much more than any of us were expecting.

The Cookson’s mansion house in Northumberland was surrounded by beautiful countryside and there was a large lake that was home to the afore-mentioned ducks.  Catherine and her husband, Tom, a lovely, gentle man, welcomed us warmly – no sign of a servant anywhere, despite their millionaire status. I expected to accompany Brian and Ken to the lake, but no…Brian mentioned that I was a aspiring writer and would love to spend a little time with Catherine. She was not only gracious enough to let me stay with her in her cosy sitting room, where we talked non-stop for two hours and found we had a lot in common. We had been born only a few miles apart, neither of us knew our fathers, neither of us had children, and we were both artists as well as writers. She took me to her studio to show me her paintings, which were big, beautiful floral studies. Then she asked me if I would like to see her office.  As the men had returned by then, they were also invited to join us up a winding iron staircase to her office – a huge room filled with her books and as yet unpublished manuscripts.

But the news about the ducks wasn’t good. They turned out to be two females, which made Catherine laugh heartily. “Trust me to have two lesbian ducks!” she said. Brian later provided the ducks with fertile eggs and a brood was happily hatched.

Job done, we expected no more than a thank-you, but instead were invited to take afternoon tea with Tom and Catherine – both tea and cake made by Tom himself. It was obvious throughout our meeting that Tom adored his famous wife. It was an unforgettable meeting and I left, totally inspired, with Catherine’s parting advice: “You don’t always have to have a happy ending as long as you leave your heroine with hope.”

As we left, my husband stopped to admire a large painting on the hall wall. “Is that a real Canaletto?” he asked and Catherine smiled and told him: “If it isn’t, I paid an awful lot of money for it!”

As a thank-you for Catherine’s hospitality on this occasion I painted a small portrait of a fluffy duckling and she sent me a lovely letter of thanks, which I treasure to this day. I later found out that my little duckling was hanging in her hall next to the Canaletto.

Catherine later donated rather a lot of money to the Washington Wildfowl Park which allowed them to build a flamingo house and I suggested that we name the flamingos after characters in Catherine’s books. She was delighted to hear this.

Coincidentally, some time later she phoned the Human Genetics Department in the hospital where I worked as a medical PA and donated even more money to the research that was going on there. 

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...