Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hidden Remains

Hiking is one of my favourite things to do but I also love visiting historical sites. Having either of these activities as part of my day uplifts my soul but having both happen at the same time is just fantastic!

A few weeks ago my family and I completed an 8 kilometre hike at Hardy Lake Provincial Park outside of Gravenhurst, Ontario. It's a gorgeous spot. Quintesenisally Canadian. Though we've hiked numerous provincial park trails we hadn't traversed this one. It's like a hidden gem, a beauty of a lake hidden behind a pretty unimpressive parking lot. Had I not already driven over an hour to get there I doubt I would have stopped to hike it.

I am so glad the internet pointed me there.

Halfway through our hike we stumbled upon a rickety shed and then the remains of a stone foundation complete with stairs to a cellar and central chimney. Previous explorers had compiled a collection of found objects, pieces of china, old glass and other bits of history. They displayed them along one ledge.

My kids wanted to add a discovered Pepsi can to the collection but I drew the line even though it looked to be a logo from the 1970s, I doubted it would fit with the other treasures.

I tried to determine if it was the remains of a cottage or residence. It seemed an odd spot to build a homestead with no roads. The lake as well was small, doesn't connect to other larger lakes in the area and wouldn't make going to town or coming home very easy. My guess was it was a cottage, a mighty fine one at that considering the considerable work that went into the foundation and property.

Am I the only one who imagines what it would have been like fully constructed, wood smoke rising from the chimney while sitting out on the porch listening to the loons on the lake. What a lovely pioneer image!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Peter Ainsley... in Triplicate

I hit a milestone this summer. I published my third novel, which also happens to be the third instalment of the Peter Ainsley mystery series.

THE DEAD AMONG US continues the story of Peter & Margaret who face off against a horrendous criminal who is targeting pauper children.

It's been such a wild ride writing these books, and self-publishing them has been just wild. I remember agonizing over what to do with Chorus of the Dead. I wondered at the validity of self-publishing and whether the publishing industry would look favourably at my choice. All three of my books are now ranked in Kindle's Top 100 for mystery/thrillers-historicals. They generate hundreds of downloads each each month, narrowing in on one thousand for July. This translates as a nice income for myself, compensating me nicely for the hours of dedicated work I put in to each title.

But there's still work to be done.

Mystery is a difficult genre to compete in. I still have less than 10 reviews for each of my books and often that muddies the waters regarding my success. I honestly don't know how to generate more reviews. I don't believe in hard core soliciting or creating duplicate accounts (sock-puppeting). I don't believe in spamming my twitter feed or spending hundreds of dollars on internet ads. What I do believe in is a good story and that is where I lay my focus. I want to tell the best story I possibly can.

Recently another indie pointed out to me that I am a slow writer. Each of my books have been published a year a part whereas others aim to have a new title every 3-4 months.  I may not be out-selling other indie-authors  and my sales maybe paltry compared those in erotica or fantasy but I stand by my stories. I stand by my process, slow as it may be.

I do not see self-publishing as a get rich quick scheme. I have been writing and educating myself on writing since I was in high school. I majored in Journalism in college and achieved an advanced diploma in Creative Writing shortly thereafter. The only thing I have ever wanted to be was a writer so I can safely say I am not going anywhere.

I will continue to write compelling stories with layered characters and fabulous covers (cheeky, aren't I?). I have recognized a trend with each of my books, a steady incline in readership and loyalty. This is what I will build my career upon, without chasing trends or including gratuitous sex.

I am a writer.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Old Man Winter, I'm taking the pineapple down!

If you have ever toured an old, manor house I have no doubt you've seen carvings of pineapples in the wood trim, mantel decorations and displayed on staircase bannisters. In Victorian times the pineapple was a symbol of hospitality. A home which displayed a pineapple prominently, usually at the formal entrance and often attached to the bottom of the stairway bannister, either inside or outside, meant guests were expected to arrive and would be welcomed.

These bulbous displays, also known as finials, could sometimes be removed and replaced with a sphere or other non-symbolic item. It was widely understood that a guest had outstayed their welcome when a pineapple was removed.

It's no secret that in my neck of the woods the snow and ice have been persistent this winter. As I type this the temperature outside sits at -24 degrees Celsius, and technically the transition to spring is only days away.

My friends and neighbours are desperate for the spring thaw after a particularly harsh winter. Because of this I have decided to revoke my hospitality, and invite you all to follow suit.

Old Man Winter you have outstayed your welcome. Feel free to move along. We will welcome your next visit when the time comes, but for now take note, the pineapple has been removed!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BOOK: Jane Austen's Guide to Thrift

This book, JANE AUSTEN'S GUIDE TO THRIFT, is on my night stand right now. I am a huge fan of the well crafted, entertaining non-fiction read and I have been delighted by this unique look into Jane Austen's famous novels.

Anyone who has read most of Austen's books (and really who hasn't) will know money plays an important role in the characters lives. Either the revenue abounds or there is a complete lack thereof. An independent female at a time in history when females were not valued or protected by law, Austen had her own small nest egg to handle and handle it she did. She did well to stay within her means and left a tidy sums for her family upon her passing.

Austen's opinions regarding prudent spending and careful penny pinching abound in her books. Men who gambled their money away were painted as rogues, the types of men who could not be trusted. The men and women who were careful with their expenses came across as wise and organized.

This book has a different take on thrift than others I have read (and believe me I have read many, many books on the subject) and that makes it entertaining, fascinating and fun. Halfway through the pages I have yet to stumble upon any nugget of information that I had not come across before but that is not where this book gets it's value. The value is in the comparison between what Austen's characters would do, how they would perceive a situation and how Austen imparted her own opinions on the subject through the deeds and misdeeds of her characters. Call it a wake up call from two centuries prior. Debt was still debt in the Regency era with the only major difference between then and now being society's willingness (dare I say eagerness) to take it out.

All in all, it's an interesting book for fans of Austen and anyone looking for a recharge to their financial health. But I would charge you not to buy it, rather check your local library first and Jane Austen would approve.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Guest Blogging: Victorian Children

I'm guest blogging for New York Times Best Selling author Deanna Raybourn today. I'm writing about Victorian Children and the struggles they faced.

If you want to learn more about my forth coming book THE DEAD AMONG US, stop over.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Salem Witch Trials

October has a real historic connection to witches but it’s not about Halloween or ghostly ghouls. A real life horror took place in North American three hundred years ago that resulted in the deaths of 19 innocent people and only came to an end during the month of October many, many moons ago.

In January 1692, three preteen girls became ill, suffering fits of hysteria, arching their backs, screaming uncontrollably and pointing to figures that weren’t there. After three hundred years the cause of the sudden outbreak remains debated. More recently scientists have suspected tainted wheat as the culprit, identifying a certain strain of mold that could have brought about the girls antics. Others suggest it was all a game, a series of tricks to bring some excitement to their otherwise monotonous and homogeneous lives.

 It cannot be blamed entirely on the girls, however. Medical science of the day was largely based on superstition and an old boys’ club of information being passed on down through the graduating classes with little scientific advancement. This was largely because autopsies were not permit and so indepth studies could not be done to learn the true workings of the physical body. When the girls became sick the doctor, limited by his archaic training, said it was the work of the supernatural. The Witch Craft Craze that had been stagnant in Europe for over 300 years was winding down (tens of thousands of accused witches, many of them women, lost their lives during that time) but that seemed to have little effect on the hysteria that betook the New England town of Salem.

Hounded by the local magistrates to confess the origins of their bewitched ways, the girls pointed an accusatory finger at three local women: Tituba, a slave from the Carribean, Sarah Good, a homeless woman and Sarah Osborne, an old, impoverished woman. All three were brought before the court and while Good and Osborne denied the accusations, Tituba confessed saying the devil bid her to do it. Interestingly Tituba survived the year-long hysteria of accusations and executions while the two Sarahs did not.

Many women were brought before the court including Martha Corey, a devoted church attendee. It took little to accuse a person of practising witch craft in those days. All it took was a single word and like children in a modern school yard the people of Salem Village and Salem Town were quick to point fingers to others in the hopes it would keep suspicion away from them. In May 1692 a special court, the Court of Oyer and Terminer,  was convened to deal with large numbers of supposed witches and the first person brought forth was Bridget Bishop, an outspoken older woman who had taken to wearing red (the devil’s colour) and was known to be promiscuous. She was tried, found guilty and was the first to hang.

Spectral evidence was all that was needed to deem a person guilty. A dream or vision seen solely by an accuser was the only evidence required to sign a person’s death sentence. After Bishop, five people hanged in July, five more in August and then eight lost their lives in September. It’s hard to imagine how accusers slept at night knowing they had sent a number of innocent people to early graves.

 In October two men, Cotton Mather, a respected minister in the area, and his father Increase Mather, then president at Harvard, denounced the use of spectral evidence. Governor Phipps agreed, though this may have something to do with his own wife being accused of witchcraft.
Witch House in Salem where Jonathon Corwin lived while persecuting the women

On October 29th, 1692 the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved. The damage had already been done. 19 people lost their lives including Giles Corey, a 71 year old man who was pressed to death under tonnes of rocks in a slow, painful torture.

By May 1693 56 people were discharged from jail, though they were still required to pay money to the town to cover their confinement costs! Overall nearly 200 people had been accused of witchcraft.

To read about my family’s modern day trip to Salem, Massachusetts and see more pictures, visit Mysteristas, where I had the opportunity to guest blog about our experience. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Time Stamp

Yesterday I ventured to a nearby archaeology  here in southern Ontario where historians have found evidence of a native long house village. In the 1800s the Crawfords, a pioneer family settled along the shores of a small lake in the Niagara Escarpment. Though they lived on this land for a short period, during that time they found countless artefacts linking the area to a native village that once stood on the site in the 1400s. Because of their discoveries the lake was named after them and today the land is a conservation area boasting reconstructed long houses and archaeological dig sites.

The largest artefact found on the site is a stone once used to ground dried corn. You can see in the picture how the rock had been indented and when I felt the surface it was smooth. The guide, who was a member of the First Nations, explained how the tribes people received their calcium needs from small particles of rock that would end up in the food after  grinding.

The village housed over 250 inhabitants, men, women and children of the Iroquion nation lived here for a short time but left their mark on the landscape nonetheless. Corn pollen had been found at the dig sites and carbon dating assisted in tracing the time period for when the village would have thrived.

In recent years I have developed an interest in native culture and its historical context. It was not really my intent to write a book involving this time period of North America. I doubt I could ever truly capture the essence of their belief structures or their way of life. I am however working on a fur trade mystery set in the Canadian Rockies and I am glad I will get an opportunity to look into the lives of the Native tribes from that place and time. My research continues and my knowledge grows. This book will be different from my Ainsley books and it's a prospect that excites me and scares me at the same time.

People of the Longhouse (Iroquois, #1)

I recently read a book, People of the Long House by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear. The book is really good and I devoured it quickly. It's part of a long series that I will complete because I just need to know what happens. Suspenseful, educating and fascination, this book is great for anyone looking to escape into native culture, the good, the bad and the terrifying.