On my website you will see a few quotes from various readers about my Loyalist trilogy and I’d like to talk about one of those today. A friend of mine knows a lot about history in general and much more about the Rebellion history of Norwich; she and I spent time bicycling around that area many years ago with our young mothers’ group. No matter where we went this friend would point out places and tell the history. It was all fascinating.

With The Loyalist Legacy, I brought the Garners into my part of Ontario. I was very careful about my facts. When my friend wrote me the comment below I was so pleased I just had to put it up on my website:

“I was delighted with the way you handled the Norwich Rebellion in the last Loyalist book, Elaine, and have heard many positive comments about it.” Marie A.

I feel historical fiction can have lots of fiction in it but the details of actual history just have to be correct. Marie checked my facts as I’d written them and I checked over and over with reference books as well.

The fiction comes with adding fictional characters, places, details, and events. I remembered my daughter talking about a house where she cleaned for an old lady. One day the lady moved the kitchen table and pulled back a rug to reveal a door in the floor. She pulled it up and asked my daughter to go down and retrieve something for her. Beth took one look at the deep, dark hole with a rickety ladder leading down into the abyss and visions of that door slamming down over her flashed through her mind. My normally very compliant daughter just was not going down there. That scene was still in my mind when I wrote the story of two black former slaves at the time of the Rebellion of 1837. You’ll find that story near the end of The Loyalist Legacy.

The Garner family in the Loyalist trilogy are fictional even though they are based on and often named for my ancestors. I’ve had to decide what they might have looked like but draw on things I know about my father’s family to flesh them out. Someone has a widow’s peak and someone else has a prominent chin dimple. These family traits helped me give character to the fictional family. I’m not sure anyone in my family has ever said anything about the resemblance to my dad but it’s been fun for me.

I know my father told a story of a native woman coming to visit one of my ancestors, leaving her papoose on the porch while the two talked inside, and the child being carried off by a wild animal–bear or lynx, I’m not sure, as my cousin told me two different versions of the story. I decided to use the lynx because of the sly nature of cats and, believe it or not, the appeal of a lynx’s strange pointed tufts on its ear tips.

In the second book of the trilogy, The Loyalist’s Luck, I brought in the historical fact of the burning of Newark (present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake) but I also added a wonderfully sad story I discovered in my research. The residents had been given one hour to retrieve what they could from their homes before the Americans burned the town. This was in December, 1813, a very cold and snowy time of year in the Niagara peninsula. I found a story of an old lady, sick and unable to leave her bed, who was carried out into the street to watch as the Canadian Volunteers (siding with the Americans) burned her house to the ground. Through that old lady I was able to make my readers feel the absolute pain of war.

Another decision that just seemed to push itself into my mind was having Robert Garner, fictional brother of William, decide to sever off small sections of his land right where the present-day village of Thorndale is located, north of London, Ontario. Interestingly a relative of mine named Robert Garner did donate that land in the second part of the nineteenth century for municipal purposes and today there are playing fields and community buildings there. My niece’s house is actually located on the land donated by our relative. This has little to do with the plot of the book or even with the characters but it helped me add a layer of feeling that otherwise might not have been there as Robert suffered through his wife’s illness. I hope it helps my readers empathize with these characters who could very well have been real.

We never really know what facts or nuances from our own past will pop up in our writing. For me they are most pleasing. They make the story really my own. No one else could have written what I’ve written. There is an extra layer of richness that I feel each and every time I read from my work for audiences near and far. And there’s a connection to my family and my memories. If only history in school could have been taught from the point of view of the people involved instead of the memorize-the-six-reasons-for-whatever method.

 

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I can hardly remember back to the time when research for school essays, for tidbits to enliven the lessons I taught, and for more background about subjects that intrigued me all took place in the library. I knew the hours of all the libraries around and the best librarians to help. Even when writing my first historical novel, my librarian’s help was very important.

With the advent of the WEB, virtually any piece of information became accessible and the trips to the library were more for books to read or book clubs to join.  My research moved to my computer and to related historical museums and forts.

With those changes in mind I wanted to share some very cool things I’ve found that help me every day as a writer:

  1. I like the daily email I get from Google Alert about subjects that I’ve noted. This year being Canada’s 150th birthday and that linking so well with my Loyalist trilogy, I’ve kept abreast of everything across Canada that is remotely related. I had no idea the word loyalist was so widely used. And for many things not connected in the least to my books. Someone advised me to put in my actual titles and I did. That is how I found out about scammers offering my books for sale! A few ‘cease and desist’ letters seem to have eliminated that but Google Alert keeps an eye out for me.

  2. A virtual mecca of how-to information is at my fingertips and yours. Rather than go to manuals written in Chinese English, I now use the http line whenever I have a question about virtually anything. I just typed in ‘What is historical fiction?’ and ‘What is a musket?’. Click on the links to see the variety of sites I can explore about those topics.

  3. For my new book about Dr. Ronald G. Calhoun and his part in the Terry Fox phenomenon in 1980 and beyond, I’m looking for an agent here in Canada as both Fox and Calhoun are Canadian icons. Here’s a list of agents I found. If you are a possibility feel free to get in touch with me as my queries are going out soon.

  4. Even the magazine I get in my post office mailbox every month, The Writer, has an online version which is wonderful to receive, especially if I’m going to be traveling and can put it on my iPad. It is always full of interesting hints and full-fledged writing ideas–writerly gems, I call them. This month (November) the back page article by Allison Futterman is about television host Mike Rowe who gives writing tips in the article. He says if he didn’t have deadlines, he’d never finish anything as he is a picker who constantly makes changes: “sometimes making [the writing] better, sometimes making it worse.” Recognize yourself, anyone?

  5. Just a few weeks ago, I got an email about something called Bibliocommons. Of course I checked that out on the web and ended up submitting The Loyalist’s Wife so that the ebook version can be listed on library websites and more people will get to see my work. I don’t know how far this exposure will take me but the Bibliocommons people say every book gets read and this approval process can take 4-6 weeks.) I’m hopeful it will broaden my reach. I’m at Stratford Public Library this Saturday as part of their author group in connection with launching Bibliocommons.

This past weekend I was honoured to be speaking at the Colonel John Butler United Empire Loyalist branch in Niagara Falls. There are over twenty of these in our country and a few have engaged me as a speaker. This one was particularly thrilling as this is the largest UEL group in Canada and Colonel Butler and the whole Niagara area figure prominently in my trilogy. The members there were gracious and knowledgeable about Loyalist history. I was speaking to my peeps, you might say.

Of course I mean that as a writer of historical fiction about the Loyalists, specifically a Loyalist couple who came into Canada across the Niagara River in present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake. While that story is fictional, my own story is not. I could really relate to the Niagara group.

What is the fun I mentioned in the title? Well, Sunday we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving at our son’s home by the pool which is still open for business! Crazy weather, we’ve been having here in Ontario. My grandson and I had a lovely few moments talking about rocks and shells and semi-precious stones as he showed me his burgeoning collection. It was all fun and I hope my Canadian friends had similar moments of Thanksgiving over the weekend.

 

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Today is the first Wednesday of the month and I’m delighted to bring you another wonderful guest author. Jane Ann McLachlan has written several books in various genres although she says this latest one, The Sorrow Stone, is her first historical. A seasoned writer and wordsmith, Jane Ann’s biography is below for readers to peruse. A riveting segment from her book is also waiting for you. I have to go buy The Sorrow Stone after reading that and I’m sure you will, too.

    1. Jane Ann, when were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

I’ve been writing all my life, and have had my poetry and short stories published since university, but the significant point for me was getting my first novel published in 2012.

   2. Describe your current project.

I’’m delighted to be launching my first historical fiction novel, The Sorrow Stone. Apparently, in the middle ages peasants believed a mother mourning her child’s death could “sell her sorrow” by selling a nail from her child’s coffin to a traveling peddler. I first heard this bit of folk lore at a talk given by a midwife about medieval childbirth practices. I began wondering, What if you could pay someone to bear your sorrow? In my story, Lady Celeste is a young mother overwhelmed with grief when her son dies. Desperate to find relief, she begs a passing peddler to buy her sorrow. Jean, the cynical peddler she meets, insists she include her ruby ring along with the nail in return for his coin. They both find themselves changed greatly by their secret transaction. When Celeste learns that without her wedding ring her husband may set her aside, she determines to retrieve it —without reclaiming her sorrow. But how will she find the peddler and convince him to give up the precious ruby ring?

   3. What other books have you written? Are they in the same genre as this latest one?

 I’’ve also written a science fiction novel, Walls of Wind, in which males and females are two separate species, and two young adult fiction novels, The Occasional Diamond Thief and The Salarian Desert Game, both of which have won awards and been recommended by the Canadian and the US library Associations.

4. Are you planning to continue writing more historical fiction?

 Yes, I’m currently writing another historical fiction, an amazing story also set in the 12th Century. This time the characters and events are real. It’s the story of two people, one a former slave the other a fisherman’s daughter, who rose to hold the highest positions at court. Honestly, it’’s such an amazing story no one would find it credible if it wasn’t actually true.

  5. Has The Sorrow Stone been the title of this book from the very beginning?

Yes.

  6. What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?

 To get the time period and setting for The Sorrow Stone right I did a lot of online and library research, then I went to the south of France, where my story takes place, and traveled the route Jean the peddler takes from Cluny, to Lyon, down to the Mediterranean and across to Marseilles. I talked to guides and historical interpreters all along the route to learn what vegetation was native to the area, what the weather was like, which towns and cities, cathedrals, castles and monasteries had existed there in the 12th Century, which trades were practiced in the region then. I wanted to be able to describe these places, to take my readers with me on Jean’s and Lady Celeste’s journeys in an authentic way.

  7. That must have been a unique and amazing journey! Back to the questions, what is the most compelling thing in your current book to attract readers? 

The idea of selling your sorrow, I think, and the realism of the setting, as well as the gradual revealing of the dark secrets buried in Celeste’’s and Jean’’s pasts, juxtaposed against the dramatic things that happen to them on their respective journeys. Readers have said it is “haunting”, “gripping” and they “couldn’’t put it down.”

J. A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, Connections, published by Pandora Press and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. Walls of Wind was her first published Science Fiction novel. Her YA SF novels, The Occasional Diamond Thief (2015) and The Salarian Desert Game (2016), are both published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Her first historical fiction novel, The Sorrow Stone, is available now. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency, who currently has on offer Jane Ann’s next historical fiction novel.

Excerpt from The Sorrow Stone:  This passage occurs when Jean the Peddler is an unwilling witness to the stoning of an adultress.

 The thud of stones meeting flesh filled his ears. He felt, in his own body, the hot, burning pain as each one hit, tearing the thin fabric of her shift, digging into her bruised and bleeding flesh. It should be him there, not her. He could not move, speak, breathe…

Something shoved up against his leg. His breath emerged in a gasp.

“Mama!”

A girl of five or six squeezed past him. She pushed her way through the crowd till she reached the front, crying all the while, “Mama! Mama!”

The woman’’s face was hidden, covered by her hair. The air was thick with stones. Again and again they struck her, but still she did not cry out.

“Mama!” the child screamed again.

The woman looked up.

“Mama!” She sprinted across the open ground. A stone whizzed past her ear. A second hit her back, flinging her to the ground.

The woman cried out then, a wild, animal shriek. It echoed, hideous and compelling, across the square.

She would be killed! The horror of it swept over Jean as he stared at the fallen child. No! He could not bear that! He shoved his way through the crowd, unable to look away from the woman, unable to escape the terror in her eyes as she strained against her bonds, struggling to reach the child sprawled on the ground. She shrieked again, a high, keening noise. Jean gritted his teeth to keep from screaming with her.

At the edge of the crowd he stopped. What was he doing? What in the name of Heaven had come over him?

Then the child moaned and the woman screamed again and Jean ran forward, unable to stop himself. The little girl tried to roll over as Jean reached her. He was no longer looking at the woman, but he felt her strain toward him as he bent down and scooped up the child. A stone struck the side of his head as he straightened. He staggered, almost dropping the child. He regained his footing and turned to race back to the safety of the crowd.

“The adulterer!” a man cried.

Other voices took up the cry. He stepped forward, but the gap in the crowd where he had pushed through to get to the child had closed against him. A second stone hit his arm. There could be no mistaking that this one was meant for him. He saw the metal smith among the crowd, his arm drawn back, aiming. As Jean watched, he flung his stone. It hit Jean’s shoulder with a stinging blow that took his breath away. He crouched over the child, holding her tightly to him, more aware of the woman’’s anguished cries behind him and the child’’s terror than his own pain. Two more stones came flying at him; one missed its mark but the other hit the child’’s leg. She screamed and twisted, trying to burrow into him. A third stone hit her cheek, drawing blood. He wrapped both arms around her, leaving his own head exposed as he searched for an opening in the crowd.

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A few days ago my husband and I took an afternoon away from our computers and drove the approximately two hours to a spot near Dresden, Ontario. I’ve known about this place for over forty years and even visited it when we first starting teaching in nearby Wallaceburg where we lived for three years.

The brain child of Josiah Henson and today called Uncle Tom’s Cabin after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous book, this settlement–the Dawn settlement, it was called–came about because Josiah Henson bought two hundred acres and called all those Blacks fleeing slavery south of the border to come and settle. For an excellent accounting please click the link above for the full story now. Remember to come back and view our pictures from last week’s visit to this historical site right here in Ontario.

We took the back roads from Woodstock preferring their quiet but forgot what a long drive it is to Dresden and didn’t arrive at our destination for over two hours. It was a lovely day driving the back roads of Ontario, some we’d never traveled before, and we reached Uncle Tom’s Cabin about 3:30 with lots of time before closing at 5:00. The docent rushed us inside to see an excellent movie before a busload of visitors would arrive. She was most helpful.

It was a perfect blue-sky-white-cloud day, and the plain but sturdy buildings stood out beautifully. This plaque is for the Dawn settlement.

You can see the time of day from the way the light is in the west. I should have taken my shots from a better angle.

Off to the side was this plaque about Josiah Henson. While I thought I knew the story I was glad to reread this and also to remember that Stowe’s book was loosely based on Josiah Henson.

I just loved the serenity of this shot. The whole property with its few buildings was clean and neat. Nothing was wasted. This experiment of Henson’s is most interesting to see.

In the church where Henson preached, excellent carpentry, plain lines, and functional furniture predominated. This old stove would have heated the whole church. I wonder how hot it might have been sitting right next to it!

Here you can see the front of the church with its piano holding a photo of Josiah Henson and simple bench behind the preacher’s pulpit.

I particularly liked this shot which the parishioners would see as they headed out into the world beyond their church. Very uplifting.

This plaque tells the story of the settlement and its evolution. I wonder how many of our southern neighbours are descended from Blacks who went back to the States after slavery was abolished.

Here is Henson’s house, very simple by today’s standards but quite elaborate when compared to the other homes in the Dawn settlement.

Above, Henson’s grave monument shows Henson’s stature in the community and, indeed, in North America. (If you haven’t clicked the link above, now would be a great time to do it. This man was amazing.)

Facing Henson’s grave monument were all of these very old markers gathered together in a protective wall under the shade trees. I like to think they are placed this way in order to listen to their preacher for eternity.

One of the themes in The Loyalist Legacy is slavery. In this book I mentioned Robert and Mary Anne who lived in Buffalo and helped slaves escape across the raging Niagara River to Upper Canada.  And I also brought a small Black boy into the story through William and Catherine. These were the stories of the times after the War of 1812 and while my instances are fiction, the tales could easily have happened. Visiting Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought it all back to me and I am so glad it did.

 

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Captured by my grandson. No computers here!

Does this ever happen to you? Your blog post is calling you, CALLING YOU, CALLING YOU and all you want to do is anything but write that post. Here’s a list of suggestions that work well for me at those times:

  1. Clip your toenails…..and then clip them again

  2. Tidy your desk

  3. Upload your audio interview to your computer and send it to be transformed into Word

  4. Get the mail

  5. Pay bills

  6. Go for a walk

  7. Answer all twenty emails in your InBox

  8. Get a glass of water

  9. Throw out the garbage if your husband/wife forgot

  10. Prepare supper early in the day. That’s really good planning!

  11. Have a nap

  12. Do some more research for your work-in-progress even though that phase is done

  13. Call your sister and talk even though you get a busy signal

  14. Organize the sticky notes on your To/In Progress/Done white board. Put them all in the Done column

  15. Check your Facebook Author page. Maybe someone has “liked” it

  16. Get a glass of Diet Coke even though you know it’s terrible for you

  17. Sign up for Tumblr or some other social media site you’re not on yet

  18. Check  your InBox again. Maybe there’s something new and exciting there

  19. Have another nap

  20. Try to change the date of one of your speaking engagements

  21. Enter a contest

  22. Writing contest, that is

  23. Check the oven

  24. Get out your tweezers. Nuff said

  25. Turn off your computer and realize that you need a break.

 And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists. You see? Lots of days I get loads done!

 

 

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Today I am most pleased to welcome to my blog the multi-talented and extremely capable Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. Erin has always been the first out of the gate to help me, another writer, whenever I’ve asked. She has reviewed my books, done interviews with me and used her multitude of talents for my advancement over and over. For a list of those talents just take a look at her email signature:

 

 

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, B.A. English, Journalism, History
Publicist, Editor, Writer, Journalist,
PR and Marketing Professional

Addison’s Compass Public Relations, Owner
Hook of a Book Media and Publicity, Owner
Sinister Grin Press, Marketing and Publicity 
Bloodshot Books, Marketing and Publicity
DarkFuse, Advertising and Publicity
 
Co-Host and #MarketingMorsels Director – 
The Mando Method Podcast on Project Entertainment Network! Download each Wednesday!
Offering freelance editing, publicity services, and marketing consultation! Over 20 years of experience in editing, PR/media, publicity, professional writing, advertising, marketing

Yup! That list is at the bottom of each and every one of her emails to me. And she has one of the most pleasant personalities I’ve ever encountered. Thanks so much, Erin, for joining me here today.

Erin is also a poet and a few months ago put out Breathe. Breathe., a collection of her poems. She says it has been so well received that a more formal edition is planned for the next few months. Meanwhile here is her guest post:

From the Nile to the Victorian Age: Writing History into Poetry

By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, author of BREATHE. BREATHE.

As a poet in the modern age, I often hear people dismiss poetry as a style of writing they don’t read, or stereotype it as mushy love musings, or even simply that they don’t understand it. I’m glad that readers have thought enough of me as a person and writer to at least tell me they will attempt to read mine, but what I long for is that they will come away with a better appreciation of what poetry can be, which urges them to think outside their box (and that readers who don’t know me will be swayed to pick it up and appreciate it). I can understand the apprehension about some of the poetry that’s out there today. I, too, have a hard time understanding the structure, the meanings, and the feel of some of the mainstream thoughts which seem a little bit of a re-working of older quotations. However, what I’ve tried to do with my own writing is just to put the emotions and feelings I have (stemming from my life experiences) down on the page, or write about what I have been inspired by, to channel the images in my mind to paper. The effect that they would hopefully have on readers is that they’d at least be able to capture the images in their mind too. You know when you read a book and it’s so good you feel as if you’ve watched a movie? That’s what I hope to do through my poetry as well, to create snippets and scenes for readers that are highly visual, and in some cases, visceral.

Recently I had a limited edition poetry and short fiction chapbook published by Unnerving Magazine, a print and online magazine that also publishes a select amount of standalone collections, novellas, and novels. Called BREATHE. BREATHE., it encompasses two sections of poetry—one about breathing through pain; the pain of spousal abuse, rape, illness, anxiety, and more darkness of the human race, and the second, about breathing through fear; the fears that we house from childhood, in our lives, in our blackest nightmares, monsters, serial killers, etc. The two short stories are dark fiction as well, one based on the mire of human nature, which I penned after being inspired by Crayola discontinuing their dandelion yellow crayon, and the other, a story spawned after I had been reading about an Egyptian goddess named Anuket, which I coupled with a recurring nightmare I had in my childhood of being drowned.

For some of the guest articles I am writing in promotion of my book, I have written about the reasons for writing my chapbook, for instance, because some of it was based on my own personal experiences. It was therapy. Since Elaine herself is not only a lovely person and host, but an author of a spectacular series I’ve loved of historical books in her Loyalist series, I’ve decided to switch gears and tell you a little about how history influences my work, even this dark fiction chapbook.

I’ve always been interested in history, reading books of historical basis from a young age, and then getting a bachelor’s in history (as well as journalism and English) mostly just because I enjoyed taking the classes (and maybe had a bit of a dream of writing for National Geographic). So not only does the Goddess of the Nile, Anuket, make her presence known in one of the short stories within this chapbook, I also feature a poem of a Native American tribe’s “spirit of winter” who wreaks havoc when the icy frost appears for its season, which is a real legend. Sometimes my poems, though dark as featuring a serial killer or an unknown creature, are set in various eras, such as the Victorian era or the Gilded Age. I almost prefer, unless using my writing to deal with my own past or present fears, to set my characters in the past.

After the success of my limited edition work, which sold out, the publisher agreed to publish an expanded print and digital version of BREATHE. BREATHE. to enable more readers to enjoy my work. I’ve been busy writing not only stories of various dark fiction genres and styles, but more poetry that has allowed me to play around with time periods and characters from the past. That’s where my forte for history and the Gothic comes in and I have loved every minute of the creation process. It’s fun to imagine me in the mind of a character, whether on the end of giving or receiving evil intentions.

Poetry is much more than about love, though some of mine is about the wrong end of love as you might see if you read my almost gut-wrenching words, but about a slideshow of the past as well. My poems could be the start to a story, as I’ve had readers ask me for more about a character they’ve been given a sneak peek of, or they could seem as a scene from an Agatha Christie novel. I gather my inspiration from mystery and historical fiction books, magazines, from non-fiction reading on Native Americans or myths and legends from various time periods, and from movies. However, I gather a good amount of inspiration from road trips with my partner, Tim, and our three kids to art and historical museums and locations, the shores of Lake Erie—where historical lighthouses, buildings, and shipwrecks abound (oh, and lake monsters?), libraries, and nature. My family is used to hearing all my new ideas for pieces of work as we drive home. You’d think they’d roll their eyes by now, but they don’t, and I appreciate so much all the encouragement they give me to showcase a woman of the 1890s (you know, the one with the dark eyes and with the white gloves in the photo at the museum), a Viking legend read about while looking at an artifact (what did he use that weapon for?), a French spy from the French-Indian War (how did she feel?)….

Poetry gives me a great outlet to practice my sentence skills, to create lyrical phrases, or to condense action. It’s actually good homework and a way to download from your brain to your pen. Emotionally, this is a wonderful therapeutic way to encourage healing in yourself and others. For those non-emotionally driven poems, say with the historical bent or that of a Gothic character or monster, I always say if I think a story deserves more, or the muse hounds me to it, I can always turn that character or scene into a longer story later. But if not, or until then, why not let others enjoy scenes from my head in giving them something to ponder, and if they want more, let it ignite their own thoughts.

In late September, my poetry and short fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., will be publishing in its expanded version with a brand new cover and will be available for order on Amazon in various formats. I hope you’ll take a chance on the stories and the poetry, which readers have told me read more like tiny stories rather than a honeycomb they can’t get through. In all seriousness, reviewers, fellow authors, and readers have called me “brave,” and my writing “emotional and raw” and “action-oriented.” For those that enjoy history, I hope you will enjoy my dark tales and poems featuring historical characters as well and that they will transport you to another time and place. Though these are Gothic and darker in nature, I hope to one day publish a collection of historical poetry too and I plan to keep working on my historical fiction novels and stories that are in the works. I would love for you to follow my writing and connect with me on social media. I always love to hear from readers and fellow writers.

Thanks so much to Elaine for her friendship, support, encouragement, and tireless personality, which serves as such an inspiration to me.

Find me online at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com for news of my writing, author interviews, and reviews of the latest books I’ve enjoyed, most of them historical fiction.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/almehairierin

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ErinAlMehairi

Instagram: www.instagram.com/erinalmehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is the author of BREATHE. BREATHE., a collection of dark poetry and short stories published by Unnerving Magazine. She will also be featured in the upcoming anthology HARDENED HEARTS, also publishing by Unnerving at the end of 2017. Erin has been a writer for over 25 years, knowing she’d never stop writing after winning her local newspaper’s essay contest in high school, moving on to garner degrees in history, journalism, and English. A professional editor and writer for over 20 years, she also works in public relations, marketing, and publicity, currently owning Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, the latter from which she offers editing and marketing and publicity consulting and work for writers, authors, and publishers across many genres. She also is a co-host on The Mando Method Podcast with her Marketing Morsels segment, offered on the Project Entertainment Network and available on iTunes and iHeart Radio. She has a wide range of interests (such as hunting treasure on the shores of Lake Erie and perusing bookstores) she enjoys when not driving her three kids to a myriad of activities or cooking them somewhat healthy dinners. Don’t worry, she balances that out with lots of baking. She tries to squeeze in writing, even if her cat always chooses that time to sit on her lap (or notes). Erin and her family live in rural Ohio. Find Erin on almost all social media outlets and at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com.

 And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists:

 

 

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Author Jim Sellers’ soon-to-be-released latest book, A Death of Cold, is the first of his YA books I’ve read and I’m glad I did. The book takes us to a plane crash in the mountains of British Columbia and shows the heart wrenching details of a Youth bag-pipe band hoping for rescue. Sellers manages to get inside the heads of these adolescents in a meaningful way. Remember they are teenagers, not fully adult, so that this situation is doubly difficult but Sellers never denigrates them as they try to survive.

I was most intrigued by the difficult story of Jacky and his parents. In the interests of not spoiling it for readers I’ll not go into detail except to say Jacky’s growing up has not been easy. He ends up on the crashed plane with no Internet, trying to figure out how to get his secret application off to an educational institution and thereby escape living with his father any more.

The role of one of the accompanying teachers for this group seems real to me, having been in that type of position in my former life. Mr. Stewart has the horrendous job of trying to help all of his charges with their aches and pains but especially with their fears of never getting off the mountain. He does it well.

Sellers’ previous book about Jacky. Click for buy link.

A subplot that I loved was the absolute musical talent of these kids, especially Jacky. Through the bagpipes Jacky finds his way, not only forging a bond with his dad but ultimately–well, you’ll have to read the book.

While you wait for A Death of Cold you might try Jacky the Brave. Here is the cover and Amazon link.

A Death of Cold will be available this Saturday, September 2, 2017 on Amazon and Kobo. Its cover is certainly true to its title!

 

 And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists:

 

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In the writing of my Loyalist trilogy, close to one thousand pages of fiction which delves into the history of Upper Canada, now called Ontario, one of the first Natives I named was Black Bear Claw. Part of a subplot, I called him an Indian as that was the term used at that time of little understanding between those of European descent and the Natives. Black Bear Claw comes to represent some of the things that happened to our first Nations’ People throughout the first and second book.

A severely wounded man, he is dropped off at Lucy’s cabin where she nurses him back to health. In The Loyalist’s Luck, she encounters him again in the forest about four years later, and further on in the book he comes to live with her and John at their mill near the Fort which at present-day Fort Erie across the river from Buffalo. I had the chance to tell some of the horrific history of the Mohawks who were abandoned by both the British and the Americans in their treaty making after the American Revolutionary War.

Here Lucy asks the wounded man lying on her floor what has happened since she saw him last.

“I will tell you,” he said. “But only you.” He tried to sit up but settled for leaning on one elbow, looking at her, his face more animated than she had seen it in a great while.

“I went back. To my old lands.”

“Do you mean to the United States?”

“Yes. My woman was there. And my sons.” His voice echoed his pride and she thought of the man she had known. Black Bear Claw’s words came out softly, at first, as he told Lucy things she already knew about the revolution but soon the voice took on a bereft and barren sound. He told of the savagely reduced numbers of Indians. Their rights and lands had been devastated. The war over, a whole new wave of land-hungry settlers had pushed toward the western reaches of the former colonies, this time with the support of the new states, many of whom could not see beyond their own need for land to the rights of those who had lived there for centuries.

The British were no better. Many of the Five Nations tribes had fought for the British in hopes of being on the winning side and keeping their lands but they were forsaken in the treaty negotiations. Their lands were ceded to the Americans. When Black Bear Claw finally found his people there was no peace for him in that land. He and his brothers and sisters tried to keep their traditions and their ways but instead were bribed with trinkets and alcohol until their old ways were no more.

Black Bear Claw stared beyond Lucy to some imaginary window into the past. She had no words. Presently, under the unbroken glare of the slanting sun and perhaps the kindness in her eyes, he stretched up to sit as tall as he could. “My sons are dead,” he said. “And all of my people.”

“But you came back here,” she whispered.

“I remembered a time…when a white woman,” he looked at her and continued, “when a white woman was kind.” His voice broke. Immediately he lay down again and looked away.

Near the end of The Loyalist’s Luck Black Bear Claw’s story is concluded as the denouement of this novel unfolds.

Another Native I included in my books is Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant as he was known to the white people at the time. Brant easily came to mind as he had been the topic of my Grade Eight speech which I researched, wrote and recited by memory to my class. I loved that assignment and immediately respected Joseph Brant. Somehow he was still in my subconscious when I wrote the first book in the Loyalist trilogy.

Joseph_Brant_painting_by_George_Romney_1776_2.jpg

Brant was a war chief entrusted with fighting for their Confederacy and well versed in dealing with the British and warfare in general. His pact with the British made a relationship between him and my character, John, possible. John is rescued by Brant’s warriors and brought to the Mohawk camp in New York state where the women care for his wounded friend, Frank, and John wrestles with whether to rejoin Butler’s Rangers or go back home to Lucy for the winter. I used these scenes to again look into Native ways such as the different clans within a tribe and their javelin game. Here John meets Brant for the first time.

The boy ahead of him stopped so quickly John almost ran into him. He stepped aside and John met the dark eyes of a chief staring at him. The eyes were set in a broad, determined face with a full nose, thick lips and a dark cleft in the chin. He wore a feathered head­dress, a mark of his rank, but his clothes were not Indian. Rather he wore a tan, collared shirt, and breeches of the white people.

“Who are you?” the chief barked.

“John Garner, sir. I have a farm in New York.”

The Indian stared at him.

“What is your name?” John thought he knew.

Still the Indian was silent.

“Are you Joseph Brant?”

“I am Thayendanegea, chief of the Mohawks.”

“I am honored, sir.” John dipped his head respectfully. “Are you known as Joseph Brant?”

“How do you know the horse in the pen?”

“I beg your pardon?” The topic change had jolted John. He stood tall and swallowed, breathing in the fumes of the fire. “That is my horse. It was stolen from me a few weeks ago a long way from here.” He stopped as the Indian stiffened and glared at him.

“Are you a fighter? A militia man?” The chief looked aside and his voice was soft.

John thought quickly. He didn’t know what the right answer was but he had to take a chance. “Are you Joseph Brant?”

The Indian chuckled. “I am Thayendanegea to all the Mohawk people but, yes, I am also known as Joseph Brant, friend to the great King George in England.” Suddenly his eyes bored right into John and he barked. “Who are you?”

John smiled. “I am John Garner, a cavalry man with Butler’s Rangers. I, too, am a friend to the British.”

“Sit.”

John sat cross-legged by the fire. Its warmth cast a ruddy glow over his face as he stretched his hands to the heat. “Do you know where Butler’s Rangers are now?”

Brant did know and wasted no time sharing with John, who began to trust him.

“But how did you get my horse?” John finally asked.

Brant’s eyes were patient. “We did not steal your horse. One of our hunting parties met a band of the Tuscarora, those that are fighting against the British. Our braves relieved them of the burden of their horses and brought them back here. You may have your animal back.” He nodded at John.

“Thank you, sir. My friend, also with the Rangers, is here wounded. His horse was stolen, too. May I have it back as well?”

“Certainly, if it is here. I trust your friend will soon be well.” Brant made to stand up and John hurried to do the same.

“Thank you, sir.”

Chippewa Indians Genealogy: FamilySearch Wiki

In the third book of the trilogy Chippewas by the name of Migisi and Kiwidinok have a wee child who is left on the porch as his mother sips tea inside the cabin with Catherine Garner. Here is a segment of a story my father used to tell about his ancestors and which works well in The Loyalist Legacy.

Catherine was just about to answer when a terrible cry broke their peace. She and Kiwidinok raced to the porch. A huge yellow cat of an animal crouched beside the wailing baby. It rested a giant paw on the tiny laced-in infant as though not at all sure what it had discovered. Kiwidinok howled and threw herself toward her wailing child but Catherine grabbed her and together they stared at the spiked ears with the telltale black tufts pointing straight up and the long mustard fur darkly spotted. The lynx looked toward the women but didn’t move its paw.

She thought of her rifle, as the animal’s eyes bore into her own in a staring contest the like of which she’d never before experienced. Her fingers tightened on Kiwidinok’s arm, pulling her back ever so slowly. “Shh,” she whispered, thinking to remove the threat and mollify the big cat.

But even though Kiwidinok retreated with her, the screaming went on, both hers and the child’s. Catherine willed calm into those cream and black eyes and forced deep breaths up from her own churning insides. That cat could be on them in the blink of an eye and then how could they help the child? She forced a smile.

And slipped inside. She grabbed the rifle, jerked it down, and shoved Kiwidinok aside. As she sighted along the barrel, the lynx’s eyes narrowed; it turned back to the whimpering baby. Her finger pulled the cold metal trigger but just as the shot fired a crushing blow smashed her left shoulder. She missed. Kiwidinok’s hand rested in mid air. “I thought…the baby.” The woman had destroyed her aim.

The lynx tore the child off its board and leaped off the end of the porch into the long grass around the corner of the cabin. Catherine grabbed up her rifle that had fallen and again pushed past Kiwidinok as she darted inside for bullets, knowing full well she couldn’t stop the lynx now. Outside, she raced after Kiwidinok who was already staggering around the corner.

At the front of the house they stopped and listened. Silence. They crept to the roadway. Nothing. Across the dusty strip. Still listening. Still nothing. Kiwidinok straggled along beside her, quiet at last, as she edged into the woods across the road. An eerie feeling gnawed at her innards. Was someone watching her? Or something?

Kiwidinok caught up to her. Gone was the calm and composed person who had sat across from her sipping tea just moments ago. Her hair tumbled about her face, frowsy and frazzled, her arms criss-crossed her breast, and her hands beat a soft tattoo on her arms. The worst was her eyes. Always beautiful, black, and brimming with joy, they exuded terror. Catherine pushed ahead.

She could see where the animal had dragged its find in the long grass. She dropped to study the ground. Was that blood? She stepped over it quickly, blocking Kiwidinok’s view. Not much farther along, she raised her arm and stopped. A soft crunching sound came from just up ahead in the trees. Her companion heard it, too, but this time kept quiet. They stepped closer, listening and looking.

Catherine checked the rifle but looked up when Kiwidinok strangled a sound. Ahead, partially hidden by the dead bottom branches of a tall pine, the lynx lay on the ground eating. She moved closer. The animal’s wide jaws opened to reveal for a second its terrible bloodied teeth before red paws stuffed the gaping maw once more. Kiwidinok slumped against her and she eased her to the ground.

The gun on her shoulder, she sighted once more, forced concentration, thought of Lucy’s instructive words, didn’t even breathe. This time she’d kill the beast. The trigger moved with a deadly silence until the sound erupted and the head of the lynx split into red bits flying up and floating down to the ground to settle on the already bloodied blanket of the tiny baby.

Kiwidinok groaned. She knelt down and sat on the ground, cushioned by the coppery pine needles, and cradled the woman in her arms.

Of course this is a very sad tale but I wanted to use it to accentuate the plight of this Chippewa couple and all of those First Nations people who had to find a way to live once Europeans settled in North America. My characters, Migisi and Kiwidinok, do not want to stay on the reservation set aside for them after having lived most of their lives with no such restrictions.

Today we have to be aware of all of our North American first Nations people as we celebrate Canada 150 and the beginnings of European settlement in the whole of North America. Many of us are caught in between the horrors of the residential school history which has come to light and the reality of just what constitutes a status Indian and what does not. For some of the history which has led us to this point in Canada, please take a look at Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of Pauline Johnson by Charlotte Gray. Your eyes may be opened as mine were.

These, then, are some of the sub plot themes that interested me as I told the story of the Garner family throughout the American Revolutionary War and afterwards. Of course the main story is that of John and Lucy Garner and their extended family. The books are available on Amazon and many other places. Click on cover for information below. Enjoy!

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Today’s post is reblogged from a post by Jeff Selingo, New York Times bestselling author, Washington Post columnist, higher education strategist, LinkedIn Top 10 Influencer, on August 11, 2017. Let’s jump right in:

Jeff Selingo

A few months ago I was having breakfast in downtown Washington. I couldn’t help but overhear a casual job interview happening at the table next to me. The interviewer owned a government contracting business and was looking to hire a person to help write proposals to federal agencies.

Near the end of the conversation, the interviewer complained about how difficult it was to find good writers these days. The two men talked about their college experiences, majors, and how they learned to write.

“I was a math major,” the interviewer said [to] his companion, “but the biggest differentiator in business now is good writing.”

He’s not alone in his opinion. According to national surveys, employers want to hire college graduates who can write coherently, think creatively, and analyze quantitative data. But the Conference Board has found in its surveys of corporate hiring leaders that writing skills are one of the biggest gaps in workplace readiness.

“The biggest differentiator in business now is good writing.”

That’s why so many employers now explicitly ask for writing and communications skills in their job advertisements. An analysis by Burning Glass Technologies, which studies job trends in real time by mining data from employment ads, found that writing and communications are the most requested job requirement across nearly every industry, even fields such as information technology and engineering.

Good writing takes practice and it seems that many college students, especially outside of writing-intensive liberal-arts majors, are just not being asked to write often enough. In the book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, the authors described a study that tracked more than 2,000 students enrolled at four-year colleges. Among those who graduated on time, exactly half said they took five or fewer courses that required at least 20 pages of writing.

“If students are not being asked to read and write on a regular basis in their course work,” the authors wrote, “it is hard to imagine how they will improve their capacity to master performance tasks that involve critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.”

Training for any activity in life requires practice that usually exceeds the tasks we will need to handle later on.

Extensive writing is rarely assigned in many college courses because it’s a labor-intensive activity and raises the workload for students and professors. Students don’t understand why they need to write five-page papers, let alone 20 pages, given many of them won’t write much more than PowerPoint slides, e-mails, or one-page memos once in the workplace.

But training for any activity in life requires practice that usually exceeds the tasks we will need to handle later on. Not every college graduate needs to be a novelist, but if college students become competent writers who draft clear prose, then they’ll also be able to compose anything on the job, from PowerPoint slides to reports.

Recently, I asked a few of the best writers I know, including high-school teachers and college professors who taught me how to write, what can be done to improve the communications skills of college graduates. They offered plenty of good advice for how students can develop their writing and approaches teachers and professors can use in the classroom. Among them:

  • Writing takes time, in preparation and in actually writing. Students shortchange the research and organizing necessary to be good writers. “Too often students let their brain spill onto a page and then they submit their masterpiece,” said Leslie Nicholas, my high-school journalism teacher and a former teacher of the year in Pennsylvania. “They need to learn that the writing process is not linear.”

  • Drafting is a critical part of the writing process. Instruction in schools encourages writing on the fly by requiring students to compose essays during class time or to submit only final papers rather than drafts along the way. One problem with a single deadline for writing projects is that it doesn’t introduce students to the idea that self-editing is a critical part of good writing. Art Markman, a prominent author and psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he shares the “awful drafts” of his own papers with students to show them that good writing doesn’t just happen, but rather is the result of multiple iterations.

  • Don’t forget to edit yourself. Barbara Adams, an associate professor of writing at Ithaca College, told me that after every draft, students should print out what they’ve written, wait a while—maybe an hour or a day—to view it with fresh eyes and edit it on the printed page. “Read everything you write aloud to see how it sounds,” she said. “Then cut out the fat, redundancies, repetitions. Let it flow. Don’t worry about sounding elegant or smart or literary, just be clear, direct, purposeful.”

  • Writing is not a solitary experience. The best writers learn from others. Without sharing multiple drafts of their writing with anyone else, students never get the chance to apply feedback to improve their work. But feedback also needs to happen quickly. Too often students hand in a paper only to get it back weeks later, by which time they don’t care or have moved on to something else.

  • Writing is meant to be shared with more than a teacher or professor. Sharing the final product with an audience outside of a classroom is important in engaging students in the writing process, Nicholas said. “It is frustrating for students to put a great deal of effort into a writing assignment and then share it with just one reader, the teacher,” he said. “How many actors would perform for an audience of one?” Technology has allowed students to distribute their writing more widely through blogs and wikis, and even podcasts, Nicholas added. “Because podcasting is audio only, students are forced to convey their message clearly,” he said.

  • Read good writing. Perhaps the best way to improve writing is to read good writing, and not just 140-character tweets or Facebook shares. We develop an ear for language, sentence structure, and pacing by reading others and trying out something we learn from them.

What are some of your tips for improving writing of students coming out of high school or college? How did you learn how to write?

Jeffrey Selingo is author of There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow. You can follow his writing here, on Twitter @jselingo, on Facebook, and sign up for free newsletters about the future of higher education at jeffselingo.com.

He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, and a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.

This post is adapted from the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog.

Elaine Cougler’s historical fiction trilogy:

     

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Behind all those books on store shelves, library databases, home libraries, audio devices, and e-book formats are a zillion authors churning out words in wonderful medleys for your reading and listening pleasure. And we love it. Most of us never reach the big time but we love the writing itself.

Writing is a satisfying reward for me, too. Getting inside the head of one of my characters, feeling what they feel and struggling for just the right words so my readers feel it, too, is most satisfying. On the days when I write a sad scene, I know it’s working when my tears stream as quickly as my fingers type.

I am that rare author bird, though, who loves many of the other author duties that come with having a trilogy out and a new biography on the way. Perhaps my readers will be surprised to know that often I could work 5-6 hours a day on my writing business and never once do any creative fiction or non-fiction writing. That is why I am most diligent at setting aside my two hours writing time in the morning before I let the rest of the job take over. I unplug my landline, turn off my cell, shut down my Outlook and close my office door as a sign for my husband who often works at home, too.

Once the actual writing is done for the day a whole lot of other things flow into the suddenly vacant space like water when we pull a finger out of the glass. Here is a list of some of the main time suckers that haunt me.

Ten Things Authors Must Do To Survive

  1. Write summaries of various lengths to submit with book proposals or to contests, etc. Every avenue of advancement has differing requirements, all of which take up time and if we  don’t follow the rules, our submissions will be ignored.

  2. Read books related to the subject you might be writing about or researching. For a writer of historical fiction, this is huge. Luckily, I love it!

  3. Write queries for agents and/or publishers. Even though I have my own publishing company I’ve done my share of this tedious job and expect to do more of it with my new project. Again each must be personalized for its intended recipient.

  4. Interview other writers and be interviewed yourself. People love to hear what makes a writer tick. I really like doing both sides of this and take time to compose intriguing and thoughtful questions and answers.

  5. Write newsletters to and for those treasured readers who have signed up for your list. I love these people and will go to great lengths to give them interesting stories twice a month. They are the best. Oh, and my weekly blog followers are on that list of fabulous people, too.

  6. Support fellow authors by interviewing them, reading their work, following them on social media, and writing reviews for them, not to mention actually attending their book launches as they attend mine. We are a kind community.

  7. Sign up with Google Alert and check the daily emails. I put certain topics that relate to my books there in order to see what’s related in the news and online. Putting each of my book titles on there brought me a few surprises, not all of them pleasant.

  8. Send threatening letters to thieves of my work. Yup. You read that right. Through Google Alert I found my book titles offered for free in PDF formats. It’s taken me 10 years to produce the Loyalist trilogy so I was not pleased to learn of this insidious practice by unscrupulous people offering my books for free. Another writer yesterday told me most of these people are looking to get email addresses so that they can use them for nefarious practices.

  9. Google Alert also gives me places where I might offer my services as a speaker or to a reporter in connection with a topic they are covering. There are also other places to do that and I must start working to build a list of them.

  10. Prepare speeches and workshop materials for speaking engagements. I like to tailor my talks to a particular group’s interests and that works well. It also takes time.

You will note I said 10 things but there are thousands of other things. I just don’t have time to write them all down.

Oh, one more I must mention. This Canadian author has spent hours trying to get the proper IRS documentation which will make my life a lot easier and my pockets a little fuller. My accountant husband has carried the torch for this but we’re still not out of the red tape.

So all you readers, know we love you all the more because you make our hard work so worth it. Thanks to each and every one of you!

About Elaine Cougler’s Loyalist Trilogy

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