Category: Uncategorised (page 1 of 10)

Name that Hero

 

I’m working on a new story with an “interesting” hero. He’s a medical doctor in a gold rush town. He is highly skilled but has no bedside manner. He has red hair that sticks up in a halo around his head. His childhood was marked by abandonment – mother died, series of housekeepers, father oblivious to child.

He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a doctor. He and his father lived together in the family home and worked together in the family practice. There were no women in their lives. My hero had been in love once, but she’d walked out on him.

His life seems set on its course and he has given up on feeling lonely. This is just the way it is.

Stuff happens– don’t want to give away the story– and he heads west, ending up in Prospect. He’s the only doctor for miles around so no one argues with his dictates, even though his patients grumble at his high-handed methods.

For some reason, I want to name him Rupert. It’s an odd name, but, in my mind, it suits him.

Here in British Columbia we have a town of Prince Rupert and when the Hudson’s Bay Company sold their holdings to the Dominion of Canada, the area was called Rupert’s Land. Both were named in honour of a cousin of Charles 1, Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

Prince Rupert’s family fled civil unrest when he was a baby. He grew up in exile, then landed at the court of his English royal relatives as an adult,  He was a skilled horseman and soldier, fighting for the Royalist cause against the Roundheads. He was also a businessman who became the first governor of the  Hudson’s Bay Company.

Other Ruperts include

The name seems to have been much more popular in Britain than in North America.

So, what do you think? Could you fall in love with a hero named Rupert?

1918 – 2018

 

Remembrance Day this year is particularly significant as it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, the War to End All Wars.  With that hopeful thought in mind 620,000 men and women from Canada, with a population of just eight million, enlisted. In 1914 they went off with flags flying and trumpets blaring only to land in a hell none could have imagined. When they died, more took their place.

The impact on the country was incalculable. We lost 66,000 men, while another 127,000 were wounded. At that time, no one counted the mental wounds of returning soldiers. One mother in Winnipeg had seven sons in the army and two were killed. Countless families lost fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and uncles. Losses were staggering. For example, at the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel  800 Newfoundlanders went into battle on the first of July, 1916.  Only 68 could answer roll call the next day. The dead included 14 sets of brothers.

So many leaders of the future were lost, artists, writers, industrialists, politicians, inventors, educators and bread-winners. The loss to the country goes well beyond mere numbers. The heart of Canada had been broken. The memorial at Vimy Ridge, shows the figure of a mother weeping for her sons. It is called Canada Bereft.

My first emotional encounter with the war came in my adolescence when I read Rilla of Ingleside, the last of the “Anne” books by L.M. Montgomery. Rilla, Anne’s youngest child comes of age during the Great War. Her favourite brother, Walter, says, “Before this war is over. . . every man and woman and child in Canada will feel it. . .It will be years before the dance of death is over . . . And in those years millions of hearts will break.” 1

In the end, Walter goes to war to save his own soul for he cannot live with the knowledge that the weak and defenceless are dying. I had an uncle who fought in the first war, he was wounded and the bullet hole in his shoulder made his young nephews stare. But my uncle never spoke of his experiences. Walter Blythe, a character in a book, made the war real for me. That’s the power of fiction, it can speak truth in ways real people cannot.

In later years, I’ve watched old film and been angry and heart-broken by the stupidity of trench warfare – all those young lives squandered for a few meters of mud. I’ve hated the generals and the politicians and armament manufacturers  who created the war. I’ve questioned the history books who spoke of “winning.” I’ve been heart-sore at the images of laughing faces eclipsed by carnage.

But whatever my mood, whatever the weather, whatever my view on conflict,  on November 11, at the eleventh hour, I honour the brave men and women who left home and country and sacrificed their all to do what they thought was right. Duty seems an outmoded concept in our time, but for those who followed the drum, it was the highest calling.

One hundred years since the guns fell silent on that first Armistice Day. Pray God, they fall silent again.

1  L.M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside,  McClelland & Steward, Ltd. Toronto, 1947, p.84

 

 

 

The Look of Love

Just what is the look of love? Artists have tried for centuries to capture it in oils. Poets write verses to it and writers of romance cover pages and pages with words to describe that special quality of expression.

Sara Teasdale wrote: Strephon kissed me in the Spring, /Robin in the fall, /But Colin only looked at me/And never kissed at all.  Sterphon’s kiss was lost in jest,/Robin’s lost in play,/But the kiss in Colin’s eyes/Haunts me night and day.

“. . . take down this book/And slowly read, and dream of the soft look/Your eyes had once. . .” W.B. Yeats

The look of love is that glow in the eye, the softness of the mouth, the unmasked face. It is the longing to gaze endlessly at the beloved. There is a tenderness that moves me to tears — usually.

Last week, at the mall, I saw that look, but this time it made me smile. On a bench sat a very large dude. He looked like a pro football player, maybe a linebacker. In his big hands he cradled a tiny, little baby.  He raised her up so they were nose to nose and the look on his face was pure love. My heart melted, but I had to smile at the incongruous picture they made.

Years from now, when his teenaged daughter is driving him nuts, I hope he remembers that moment.

I hope we all remember such moments when stress, fear, worry, deadlines, and endless demands overwhelm us.

Love is stronger than hate. 

Memories

I’m just back from a trip to my home province.  While there I had the opportunity to check out my alma mater, Queen’s University at Kingston. I’m so glad I did.  The last time I visited I came away feeling disappointed — so much had changed.  This time, I had fewer expectations and came away elated.  So much is still there!

 

The trees are gone from the boulevard but Grant Hall, the symbolic centre of the university still stands sentinel on University Avenue. Lucky me, it was open.  This is the hall where my convocation ceremony took place.

Ontario Hall with its beautiful curving staircase was a favourite place for pictures when I was a student.  There are matching wooden curved staircases inside. At one point there was a move to tear the place down as being too inefficient, but alumni sentiment proved stronger than money and this castle-like building graces the campus.

The student body is four times the number it was in my day, but their faces are still bright and eager and hopeful.  We stopped at the student pub for a sandwich and chatted with the wait-staff, all students.  They made my heart lift when they talked about school spirit and the importance of century old traditions.  In our world that changes so fast — all my computer programs were updated while I was away — it is reassuring that things like duty and honour and public service still matter. This corner stone is dedicated to Sir Sandford Fleming, past chancellor.

Today’s students have chucked textbooks for ipads, and Google has replaced the dictionary, but the desire to seek knowledge is still there. The fresh-faced students taking the first steps toward their future, are still excited and glad to be at this institution.

This is the address where I worked for a few years after graduation.  At that time it was part of the registrar’s office and a green, tin, temporary structure.  Now it looks like this! But it still houses the admissions office.

 

 

 

I came away from my whirlwind tour of the campus with a smile on my face and a lift of the heart.  For a few brief moments I relived the excitement of my first semester. I belonged to something good and grand.  I was part of a tradition. I’m still part of that tradition. Cha Gheill — College of the Queen forever!

 

Doors to History

A visitor to Victoria today is greeted with all the accoutrements of a building boom.  Cranes dot the skyline. Streets are torn up, traffic diverted and sidewalks are barred with portable fencing. On a recent trip into downtown I discovered that most of the antique stores I intended to visit, had closed up shop.  Welcome to the twenty-first century.

 

I guess today’s Victoria is somewhat reminiscent of the days when gold-seekers swarmed the streets. It all began on Sunday, April 25, 1858 when townsfolk were returning from church.  The “Commodore” – a wooden side-wheel American steamer, entered Victoria harbour and 450 men disembarked – typical gold-seekers, complete with blankets, miner’s pans and spades and firearms. Within a few weeks a town of approximately 230, had been invaded by over 20,000 adventurers and gold prospectors.

While the great majority of these people were transients, the rush of gold-seekers transformed the sleepy village of “Fort Victoria,” into a bustling centre for commerce.  A wild land-boom followed.  Lots that had languished on the market for $25.00 were snapped up a week later for $3,000 each.  For most of the nineteenth century, Victoria remained the largest city in British Columbia and was the foremost in trade and commerce.

I’m sure the original residents felt as bewildered as I do at the sudden and drastic change to their home town. Suddenly there was building everywhere. And what building it was!

The Empress Hotel greeted travellers arriving by water. Rattenbury had designed the elegant legislature building to replace the burned down “bird cages.”

Banks created cathedrals of finance, complete with coats of arms. Church spires dominated the skyline.

Victoria looked the part of a jewel in the British Empire.

Subsequent building booms have seen many historic buildings torn down and others altered dramatically. But there are still hints of Victoria’s Imperial past.  You find it in funky doorways. 

Morris Tobacconist

Many of the original rounded entries, with curved windows on the side have been modernized in the interests of economy and efficiency, but a few remain.  Look for them in “old towne” along Government and Wharf Street.

 

 

These are just a few of the treasures I found.  Do you have a favourite doorway in Victoria?  In your hometown?  Why do you like it?

Joy and Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving occurs this weekend.  It is one of my favourite holidays, celebrating harvest and the abundance of the land. During our stretch of sunshine at the end of September I got into Thanksgiving mode a little early.  

We picked pumpkins, 

                                                              harvested apples,

 

and gathered seed for next year’s flowers.

.  

 

  

                                    We were dazzled by dahlias and 

enchanted with a late blooming rose.

 

My world teemed with abundance.  My soul stretched and soared in gratitude.

Then, to top it all off, we attended a stage production of “Glorious” by Peter Quilter.  This is the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the world’s worst opera singer.

And she was a terrible singer.  She tackled the most demanding coloratura repertoire and murdered it in spectacular fashion.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  Apparently her real life audience laughed too, but they loved her and she was invited to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Why?

I believe it was because of her exuberant joy.  She loved music, loved singing.  It brought her unparalleled  happiness and she wanted to share that happiness with the world.  I think she felt the same way on stage as I feel when I gloat over the harvest from my garden.  We are uplifted, exultant and full of joy.

At this time of thanksgiving, I wish all my readers overwhelming joy, the kind that cannot be contained in a safe, conventional life.  I wish you the exuberance of my dahlias and the bursting enthusiasm of Florence Foster Jenkins.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I

The Real Thing

I grew up with the iconic television series, “Perry Mason.” starring Raymond Burr.  It came on an hour past our bedtime, but if we got into our pyjamas and stayed very quiet and unobtrusive, we could usually stay up and watch.  I really wanted to be Della.

So, when I saw a classic movie channel showing a 1930’s film of Perry Mason, I tuned in to watch.  I thought it would be fun to see another actor in the role.

I was astounded.  the Perry Mason in the movie was nothing like the one portrayed by Raymond Burr.  This Perry moonlighted as a chef in a fancy restaurant.  He spent his off hours attending swanky parties and was a bit of a womanizer.  Long-suffering Della wasn’t invited.

What?!!!

I set out to find the real Perry Mason

I confess, I’d never read one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s books, but assumed they’d be easy to come by.  Wrong again.  My library didn’t have one.  My local second hand bookshop said they couldn’t keep them on the shelves and another dealer want $125.00 for a “rare” copy.

Finally, Amazon turned up an electronic copy at a reasonable price and I settled down to discover the character as written by the author. The result? The Raymond Burr version is much truer to the book. In the book version, Perry Mason worked all hours–nary a party or a socialite in view–and he certainly didn’t spend time in a commercial kitchen. He treated Della with great respect and affection, but no romance.  I am relieved.

The entire exercise taught me to not trust Hollywood for my research.

As a writer of historical fiction it is easy to fall into the trap of believing the tropes seen in the movies or on television are accurate portrayals of the era.

In my WIP, I decided it would make a good scene to remove a bullet from a wounded man.  A little research showed that instantly removing a bullet is not only unnecessary but may actually do more harm than good. Hollywood likes the drama of bullet removal from the flesh, usually without anaesthetic, because it makes good theatre. Not because it makes good medicine or is a true account of the practice of medicine at the time.

Lesson learned.  I’m still going to remove the bullet, but I’ll find good medical reasons to do it.

What about you? Have you ever seen favourite book characters mangled in a movie or television series. How did you feel? Shocked? Angry? Disappointed?

Kneading the Generations

I made scones for lunch the other day. I did it the old-fashioned way with a sifter, a pastry cutter and my hands. No machines.  Don’t get me wrong. I love my bread maker, but I miss the experience of working the dough. There is something eminently satisfying about kneading bread. I love how the dough changes from sticky and formless into a smooth, round ball as I work it.  I love the gentle movement of pressing the heel of my palm into the dough, flipping and turning it.  I like the way this timeless activity connects me to my foremothers.  Generations of women have performed this same task, turning flour, fat and yeast into tasty food for a family.

This photo of my grandmother, at an advanced age, baking bread at the kitchen table evokes feelings of warmth, and family, and connection. You can’t see it in the photo, but all around her, her daughters and granddaughters are preparing Christmas dinner. It’s one of my favourite memories.

In my wip, the heroine has devoted herself to making a home for her sister. She succeeds, but her success is hollow when she realizes that she had provided shelter, but not “home.” I think I’ll have her make bread.  The kneading will connect her to the place.  The smell of fresh bread will put heart in her hearth.

Any other fans of kneading out there?

Life and Roses

This week my blog takes a break from writing mode to real-life mode.  It’s my annual brag-fest. 

The fall fair in my region was held over the Labour Day weekend.  I entered a number of roses and I won a lot of ribbons, including a couple of “best in show.” 

Of course, I only enter the exhibit.  The roses grow and flower and fill the air with sweet scent just because they are roses.  How often we humans try to take credit for something the Creator has done. Still, I get a big kick out of being part of the fair — and the ribbons are nice too.

 

 

If you’d like check in on me wearing my writer’s hat this week, go to  the North of the Border — a segment on the Get Lost in a Story blog, where I am the guest of Jacqui Nelson.  You’ll find lots of information on some of my favourite spots in Canada and one of my favourite Canadian authors.  You can also enter a draw to win a book. The post goes up on Thursday, Sept. 6,

Writers Extraordinaire

Thanks to Marion Ann for the photo

Summer time and these writers are taking it easy.  This is my local authors group, VIRA.  On a hot, sunny Saturday we retired to the front porch to enjoy a picnic pot luck and talk writing.  The food was delicious.  The company was entertaining and the writing was downright terrific.  Part of the day included an anonymous reading for one or two pages of a member’s wip.  The pages were all dropped in a basket. Volunteers selected one submission and read it out to the group.  We then did a little kindly critiquing.  And we weren’t being kind just because we’re nice people.  We were kind because the writing was excellent.  We had to really nit-pick to find something that could be improved.

I’ve always enjoyed and admired the women in my group, but this week I really applaud them for their creative talents, their command of language, and their ability to spin a tale.

I recommend you check them out here.  There’s a new release page on the website.  I’d encourage you to look at both the romance releases and the non-romance.  These writers are funny, clever and daring.  Read one of their books.  You’ll be glad you did.

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