I am happy to be a member of London Writers Society which meets once a month in London, Ontario. Tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018) we’re launching another writing contest in connection with the fact that women finally got the vote in Canada in 1918, a hundred years ago.

If you check out the web you’ll see that didn’t mean all women and, indeed, women of colour didn’t get the vote here until the late 1940’s. Not long ago.

And in Canada women weren’t actually considered “persons” under Canadian law until 1929. I’ve no idea how they could vote before that considering they weren’t persons!

In London a group has taken on the task of helping all Londoners and those surrounding the city celebrate the hundred years date. I went to an organizational meeting at Eldon House whose group has chosen to offer a series of events under the title “A Century of Women: Votes, Voices and Choices.” Good ideas ensued from all of the people there.

My idea was to have London Writers Society host a writing contest linking to the theme. Below is the contest information and rules. Feel free to enter as long as you’re a member of LWS. (Yearly memberships cost $25.)

London Writers Society

Short Story Writing Contest:

“Women’s Rights and Struggles”

 

Held to honour the 100th anniversary of Canadian women getting the vote: May 24, 1918.

Contest Information and Rules

  1. Submitted stories must relate to the following theme: women’s rights and struggles.

  2. Maximum word count: 2500 words. There is no minimum word count.

  3. Any genre will be accepted.

  4. There is no submission entry fee. However, all entrants must be members of the London Writers Society in good standing at the time of submission, so please ensure that your membership is current.

  5. The submissions will be judged blindly. Therefore, print your name, contact email, contact phone number, and the title of your submission on a separate sheet. Put your submission title on an additional title page without your personal information.

  6. Stories cannot have been previously published.

  7. Send submissions by email to londonwriterssociety(at)gmail.com.

  8. Submission deadline is April 1, 2018.

  9. Winners will be announced April 17, 2018 at our regular LWS meeting.

  10. The first prize winner will receive: their story distributed to the LWS membership and the rest of our newsletter list; their story published on our website if the author so desires; an LWS merchandise package; a $75 Chapters gift certificate.

  11. Two runners-up will each receive: an LWS merchandise package; a $50 Chapters gift certificate.

Note the email address if you are interested. You can also contact me.

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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According to our calendar a new year is upon us whether we want it or not. In the tradition of writing resolutions which many have done for years and years, I’m going to make my own list.

 

Resolutions For 2018

  1. I resolve to say no as often as I can so that my ‘must do’ duties do not get so overwhelming.

  2. I resolve to finish my current WIP as soon as possible, hopefully by summer time. Then I can work on having it published by October.

  3. I resolve to keep up my blog post schedule of a new post almost every Wednesday of the year.

  4. I resolve to keep up my twice monthly newsletter to my followers and to continually search for new and interesting tidbits to share with these wonderful supporters.

  5. I resolve to lose ten pounds. (We always have to put one of those resolutions in, don’t we?)

  6. I resolve to figure out how to best make use of my new Pico projector as I go out on my speaking gigs.

  7. I resolve to get the most out of Quantum Leap in the remaining two months I have with them.

  8. I resolve to record the third book in my Loyalist trilogy and get them all on a platform so they’re available for purchase.

  9. I resolve to get back into painting and to stretch my creative side a little more in this way.

  10. I resolve to keep my email InBox as empty as I can by unsubscribing to anything I don’t absolutely need or want. Time to be ruthless about guarding my time.

  11. I resolve to practice singing and get my voice back into shape so that I can record a CD for my family. Sh. This is a secret!

  12. I resolve to continue the daily Gratitude Journal I do with my daughter in order that, miles apart, we can keep up on what each other is doing.

Well, there you have it. Twelve resolutions. One for each month. Come next December I’ll try to do a rehash and see how well I’ve done. You might consider doing the same and telling us your plans.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

 

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three score years ago less six, my seventeen-year-old’s world slid off its axis one November afternoon in French class. Part way through a group recitation of je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, the intercom crackled to life and the voice of Mr. Ferguson–the principal we students called Chrome Dome!–came into our class and our lives. President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. It happened thousands of miles from where we sat in Woodstock, Ontario but I still remember the gasps, the sniffles, the outright bawling and one girlfriend dashing from the room, her blond hair flying across her red face and wet eyes as she grabbed the door handle, yanked it open, and fled.

As though that would help.

There was no more French that day. The final bell rang and students rushed to lockers, to coats, to buses, and home. Mom had the TV on. In a silence not normally found in my large family we sat side by side on the gold leather couch, for once not shoving our siblings for more room, as Jackie Kennedy stood on the plane beside Lyndon Johnson while the hastily located judge administered the oath of office making him officially the new president. We watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald dead right at the police station and we saw over and over the scene surrounding the Texas Book Depository from whence the assassination shot reportedly came. The video of Mrs. Kennedy crawling over the trunk of the car, the secret service men striving to protect the bloodied president, the sirens wailing as the motorcade roared off to the hospital, and the shock and fear of every bystander, all of these scenes are as vivid today as I write this as they were on our black and white TV that horrific day.

Here is a video encapsulating many of those events shared by the world which, still today, makes me cry. Wait especially for the words at the very end. They are words we who lived through that unheard of event have echoed ourselves all these fifty-four years since. Here is the Smithsonian Channel’s excellent video.

President Kennedy’s death was the beginning of a changed world. Five years later Robert Kennedy was assassinated and Martin Luther King Jr., too. It seemed the good guys were losing whole acres of ground to the bad guys. That was the world in which I came of age.

Today I write of a history long before those events in the sixties and I’m sure people living then many times felt just as shocked and bereaved as I did in the nineteen sixties. It does seem to me now, though, that the bad things are more expected and have gotten worse. As we mark the fifty-fourth anniversary of that day in 1963, let us still strive to look for, to nourish, and to give birth ourselves to the good that I know is out there.

What is your story of that day when Camelot came crashing down?

 

 

 

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Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Canada or Memorial Day in the U.S. and I got to thinking again about my Uncle Frank who died in Italy in WWII. This past summer my husband and I had a special experience related to that. I’ve linked to that post here. Please click to see our family’s story about war and remembrance in photos and words.

I Came, I Saw, I Cried.

And, of course, you can always read about other wars, families, and remembrances in my Loyalist Trilogy. Links are below.

 

Click on the books below for the Loyalist trilogy:

 

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So there I was! Table dressed, poster positioned, Square device details in my head, books, cards, bookmarks and newsletter signup forms at the ready. This was going to be a great weekend. I’d get to talk to loads of people about my writing and, hopefully, sell books and get a couple of speaking gigs. Oh, and I had been asked to be a panelist talking about self publishing.

What could go wrong?

The workshop was well attended with lots of people anxious to hear what my co-panelist and I had to say about self-publishing. Good questions abounded and Carolyn Arnold and I got into a great rhythm, each drawing on our own self publishing experiences. I even sold four books that first day even though crowds were minimal.

Actually there were no crowds. A better phrase would be dribbles of people. And when Sunday morning we opened to basically no one there it was time to take action. Here is a list of what I did to use the time wisely.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Time at a (Failed) Book Fair

  1. When no one is at your table or any of the others near you, check your email, tweet about the event, or text friends to come visit you.

  2. Take pictures of the other authors at the event. This is a great time to make connections and new friends.

    Dominique Millette and one of her books in French

  3. Talk to the other authors. You can learn a lot. I found the name of a company to question about cards with a free gift link to my eBooks. And you can meet some really great people. Authors are almost always ready to share.

  4. If time is really dragging pull out your iPad and write your blog post or newsletter for the coming week. Make lists of marketing things to do. I got my newsletter for Tuesday roughed out so that Monday night I just had to transfer it to MailChimp, do a few fixes and such, and my newsletter for my very special list people was all ready. It was so ready that inadvertently I sent it Monday night! Anxious or what?

  5. Figure out a way to make lemonade. What could I do to find the positive in Sunday’s abysmal showing? (I sold nothing. Neither did many others.) Well, I decided to write this blog post with a positive slant on my weekend event. I also got two writing pieces out of the weekend so my time was far from wasted.

Al McGregor and Terry Carroll renewing old acquaintances.

Two of the volunteers and Floyd the bunny.

Jen Romnes, author of Entangled

Pat Brown author of many books in several genres.

 

 

Author Carolyn Arnold, my clever panel partner, and her husband.

This is often the life of an author. We plan as best we can but sometimes venues are just not what we planned and we must be ready to make the best of the situation. I hope that this event next year is better attended, for sure, but my weekend was useful and fun just the same.

 

Click on the Loyalist trilogy books below for great historical stories:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping This Writer in the Game

Sometimes I just have to walk away from all the email, the Tweets, the Friend Requests, and the hundreds of other time-stealers that threaten to take me away from my writing. I did this short video to share some of my strategies for keeping my time my own. Feel free to borrow from my ideas and to suggest your own in the comments. Here’s the link to my Facebook Page where you’ll find the short video that I posted yesterday.

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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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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.

Click on the books below for more historical stories:

 

 

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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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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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