Last Sunday my husband and I decided to drive to a favorite spot just to see if and how the St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market might be open. We really just wanted a drive up through Mennonite country where some of my ancestors lived. After we checked out the market–yes, it was open but in a diminished sort of way–we drove further northeast to a place that is a remarkable piece of Ontario history–the West Montrose Covered Bridge.
We had to ask the two couples who had settled for a chat in front of this sign to move so that we could read it (in this time of Covid, you see), but they were most cooperative.
For those who love historical romance I’ve put The Loyalist’s Wife into this Giveaway! (even though my book is really historical fiction.) You’ll love it! Check out all the books included at the link access icon below.
Contest is from June 8-June 17.
Another contest I’ve entered with The Man Behind the Marathons: How Ron Calhoun Helped Terry Fox and Other Heroes Make Millions for Charity is the Inspirational and Non-Fiction contest run by BookSweeps from
June 21-July 1.
There will be beautiful graphics coming soon but I wanted to give you an early heads-up. Watch my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for more info on June 21. Meanwhile enjoy your reading!
In the latter part of August, my husband and I took a trip to Gananoque, Ontario to see a performance at the theatre there. My sister was one of the actors; hence, our trip to that lovely part of Ontario. On the way, we detoured through Prince Edward County and boarded the Glenora ferry, pictured below.
The ferry goes about every 15 minutes in the summer so our wait was not too long, even though lots of cars were lined up. We filled in the time enjoying the waterfront.
Many sailboats and other craft used the waterway which we had to cross to get to Adolphustown on the road to Kingston, Ontario.
This is Loyalist country and I got to see a U.E.L. cemetery along the way. Here is the Loyalist flag flying above the cemetery which is enclosed by a beautiful metal fence. In the distance you can see the stones of many of the Loyalists buried there. The stones have been cemented into a long monument as a way of preserving this history.
A few of the stones stand on their own.
Here’s a closer view of the fence and of the stones.
I was intrigued by the wording on this sign telling of the coming of the Loyalists to the Kingston area. For my Loyalist trilogy I started the first book in 1778 during the American Revolutionary War that precipitated the flight to Canada of those loyal to Britain, from what had been the Thirteen Colonies and became the United States.
Here is another view of the monument and stones.
Many of the women in those times died early from childbirth and several of the stones showed how young these women were.
The stone below tells the story of a mother dying, presumably in birthing the child who died two months later.
This stone memorializes a “much loved wife”. She lived to be 51 so presumably either didn’t have children or survived that ordeal.
This stone reminds us that though a multitude of stones remain across our land, many markers made of wood have disappeared over the years.
The Frontenac, the first steamship on Lake Ontario, was built near Kingston in the early 1800’s. The sign below and the Canadian Encyclopedia shed light on the ship’s history. I was intrigued to learn that the population of Upper Canada was too small for the ship to make much money and it was about to be scrapped when an arsonist burned it.
This, too, is part of our early Ontario history and the plaque below is near the Loyalist cemetery.
Preserving our Ontario history has become very important to me. Whenever I find efforts to do just that I am thrilled. Those who came before us would be pleased, too.
For my take on the Loyalists, try my Loyalist Trilogy, linked below.
When you think of it, every story we tell is historical. As soon as we use the past tense, as in “my daughter woke up in the middle of the night with red spots all over her chest”, we are dealing with history. To be considered a part of the historical fiction category, though, the subject matter should be at least fifty years in the past, a rule set and followed by the writing community.
That idea of categorizing sometimes leads us writers to wonder just what genre our new story actually fits into as it may have historical elements but they are more fantasy than history. Or it may have historical elements as the backdrop for a murder that needs to be solved. Is it historical or is it crime fiction?
This leads to agents having difficulty knowing where to sell a story. It may be excellent but their job is to sell it and they do all they can to figure out where their market might be. At lunch yesterday this very problem led me to suggest my author friend might be better to self-publish her book as it does not clearly fit into one category or another and I wondered if an agent would struggle to find a market for it. The book is extremely creative in its structure and story line, something readers love to see, but the author must decide how best to actually get it to those readers. Should she try to traditionally publish or do it herself?
In a similar vein, the new book I’m writing started out as creative non-fiction but I’ve completely restarted it as a biography. You see, the framing device that I had thought was so clever, actually began to be extremely unwieldy, so much so that a few weeks ago, lying awake at three o’clock in the morning, I decided I had to start over and write this thrilling and uplifting story about Ron Calhoun and Terry Fox and a lot of other amazing people as Calhoun’s biography.
That decision is allowing me to use a more sequential time line and include a rising action aspect just as I do in my historical fiction. And it relates to my historical fiction very well as I’m telling the story of a man born in 1933 who came to be so connected with historical figures during his long lifetime (and he’s still going!). My working title for this is The Man Behind the Marathon of Hope: The Story of Ron Calhoun and How He Helped Terry Fox Raise Millions for Cancer.
Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:
If you love to read I hope you’ll be interested in these Family Sagas and Historical Novels. My latest book is there, too. And writers, here’s a good company where you might list your books, too. They have many categories. I hope one of you wins!
Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with 30+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of historical fiction & family saga novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!
Oh, and did I mention you’ll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering? ;D
You can win my novel, The Loyalist Legacy, plus books from authors like Fiona Davis and Stephanie Dray.
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.
Today I am most pleased to welcome to my blog the multi-talented and extremely capable Erin SweetAl-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.
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:
One of the people from whom I’ve learned a lot on my own writing journey is the very successful historical fiction author, Barbara Kyle, whose Thornleigh books just grab the reader and won’t let go. A former actress whose talents there helped her achieve success as an author, Barbara joins us today with an important tip for writers. For readers, I give you many hours engrossed in the books of this talented lady.
A few weeks ago Barbara put her years of writing, editing and teaching excellent workshops (I’ve been to two of them!) into a new publication. Page Turner is sure to help all writers and I’m pleased to help Barbara let people know about this new book.
Thanks so much for visiting, Barbara!
Making an Entrance
by Barbara Kyle
First impressions are crucial. We all know that about “real life.” It’s equally true of a reader’s first impression of a fictional character. Their response to your story’s protagonist is especially important.
Yet new writers often waste this opportunity by introducing their protagonist in idleness or passivity. Be smart – put the visceral impact of the 1st impression to work for you.
Think of your story as a movie, and your protagonist as the star, and give him or her a dynamic and meaningful entrance. Focus on two steps:
Determine the character’s defining quality
Show that quality through action
Action is the key. Description of a character tells the reader mere facts and has little visceral effect, whereas showing the character’s defining quality through action produces an emotional response in the reader, leaving a deep and lasting effect.
Screenwriters do this very consciously. Watch any film you admire and notice how the scene in which the hero or heroine first comes on screen demonstrates their defining quality. In other words, it shows the character’s essence.
When actors first read a script this “essence in action” is the very thing they look for. I know – I made my living as an actor for twenty years.
As a writer of fiction, you can use this screenwriting technique to powerful effect. Strive to write an entrance scene for your protagonist which, if your story were made into a film, would attract an A-list actor to the role – a star.
Here are three examples of the kind of dynamic entrance I mean:
In A.S. Byatt’s POSSESSION, the young scholar Roland Mitchell, researching a Victorian poet, opens an old book in the London Library and out fall two unsigned love letters written by the poet. Roland impulsively steals the letters – and thus begins his audacious quest for the truth about his subject. Roland’s essence is his ambition to excel as the foremost expert in his field.
Ian McEwan’s ATONEMENT opens with Briony Tallis, a precocious child, obsessing about the play she has written, and orchestrating her young cousins to take roles in her fictional world. Her need to control people, and her obsession with storytelling, are the essence of her character.
My novel THE QUEEN’S LADY, set in London, England in the reign of Henry VIII, opens with seven-year-old Honor Larke risking her life to try to find her servant-friend amid a May Day riot. When she sees the mob viciously attack a foreigner, then move on, Honor’s curiosity and pity drive her to help the dying stranger. This is her essence, shown in action.
The examples above are all opening scenes with a protagonist, but your opening doesn’t have to feature the protagonist. You may want to kick-start the story with some other event – for example, one featuring the antagonist. What’s important is that when you do bring your protagonist on stage, give them an entrance in which the action they take resonates on a meaningful, emotional level with your reader.
Whether your hero or heroine is a rogue, a lost soul, a killer, or a saint, their entrance is your opportunity make them a star.
Barbara Kyle’s Bio
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels (“Riveting Tudor drama” – USA Today) and thrillers, with sales of over half a million books. The latest in the Thornleigh Saga is The Traitor’s Daughter.