Tunnels of Time and Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink

I popped into the Red River Used Books store next to Artspace, where I was supposed to be attending a meeting of the Writer’s Guild. A miscalculation on how long it would take to maneuver through traffic and around road construction, allowed me about half an hour to spend strolling through the many crowded rows of books. Normally I’d head straight to the Mystery or SciFi section, but wasn’t really in the mood to focus on book titles in the hopes of finding something that would appeal to me, so I wandered to the back and found the YA section. One title nearly jumped off the spine at me: Tunnels of Time by Mary Harelkin Bishop.

Tunnels of Time

How perfect! Anyone who has been following me for awhile will probably guess why this would attract my attention. The title simply screamed TIME TRAVEL! Since The Time Tunnelwas one of my favourite shows growing up, I had to take the book off the shelf and read the blurb at the back. (Here’s part of what Amazon tells of the book:

At a family dinner party in a local restaurant, Andrea agrees to look at what she thinks is just a phony tourist attraction: the tunnels beneath the streets of Moose Jaw. Legend has it that in Prohibition days the tunnels sheltered crooks, maybe even the notorious Al Capone! Andrea scoffs, until she has a small accident at the tunnel entrance and wakes up in another time.)

Even more perfect than I first thought! It was about the old bootlegger tunnels in the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Most of you will not know that, during Prohibition, Al Capone is said to have set up shop in central Canada to sell booze, using tunnels beneath the town of Moose Jaw to avoid revenuers. For more information, you can check out the tunnels here.

A couple of times, we’ve taken road trips out west to visit family and friends in Alberta and B. C. and have passed through Moose Jaw. The first time, while having lunch at a roadside cafe, I noticed the brochure for the tunnels and had hoped that the next time we passed through Moose Jaw we would visit them, since they  have  reenactments of some of the things that went on back in the 1920s. Unfortunately, on our second trip, there were delays in our departure that made time too short to spend there. So, that is why I was so excited to see Tunnels of Time on the bookstore shelf. I can’t wait to dive into its pages. I’ll review it at a later date.

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink

The other book I picked up was also of interest to me, as I have always loved the reenactments at our own Lower Fort Garry historical site. Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm is about a 17 year-old who gets a summer job working in a ‘living museum’. The book claims it’s ‘A story of crushes, corsets, and conspiracies.’ Sounds like a fun summer job, don’t you think?

Here is the Amazon blurb: Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to take part in the summer program at Lower Fort Garry, so I think this story will be fun to read, too. I’m glad I had the time to spend at that used book store. It’s never a waste of time. 🙂

Have any of you picked up some special finds in a used bookstore lately?


More Granddaddies on my Bookshelf

As promised, here is the other half of the old books on my shelves.

Let’s start with these two copies of David Copperfield. The original title was The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant To Publish On Any Account).

What a mouthful!

It was Dickens’ 8th novel, first published in 1850. As with most of his work, it had previously appeared in serial form. Although neither of my copies has a stated copyright or publishers date, the plainer one on the right does state that it is a reprint of the first edition printed by M. A. Donahue with a preface written by Charles Dickens ‘the younger’. The version with the black and gold label was printed by Grosset and Dunlop, New York.

On the shelf is another volume of Dickens – his Christmas Stories, including ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘The Chimes’ and ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’. Again, there is no publishing date, but I do know that is part of a 24 Classics series with illustrations. Unfortunately, there are no credits listed as to who sketched them. It was produced by the World Syndicate Publishing Company, New York. The dust cover is a little ratty, but it has helped keep the hard cover clean.




My Dad’s mother loved poetry and had many volumes by various poets. Here we have a copy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, produced by McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart Ltd, Toronto. It was covered in soft black leather and embossed with gold leaf. There is no publishing date, but there is an inscription dated 1919. It really is a beautiful volume.

In the background, you can see three golden-coloured books. The thickest one is The Complete Works of Shakespeare. The other two books contain Robert Browning’s Poems and John Milton’s Poems. Both the embossed covers and page edges have been gilded. The three books were published by the Oxford University Press. Shakespeare and Browning were printed in 1919. Milton was printed a year later.

To the right are two volumes that include poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. They were both produced by Walter Scott Ltd, London. The page edges are gilded as well as the embossing on the covers. Whitman’s book was inscribed in 1894 by my great grandmother before she was married. Emerson’s volume must have been purchased after she was married, as the inscription includes her married name.



I was surprised to see among the other books a narrow volume with the title Ancient Mariner by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I have often heard it quoted, but didn’t realize we actually had a copy. It’s quite a pretty little book, published by Cassell, Peter & Galprin, New York with gilding on the front cover. It contains illustrations by E. H. Wehnert, Birket Foster and E. Duncan. It has no publishing date.




My favourite book on the shelf has to be this volume of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I love the red leather gold-embossed cover and gilded pages. The first inscription on the cover is dated 1897. It appears to have been a wedding present from Ross E. Cook to his bride May in 1908. How we ended up with this copy I’ll probably never know. Perhaps it was given to one of my grandparents by May. I just remember it being on their shelves for as far back as I can remember, so I’m thrilled to now have it on mine.

While cleaning out the cottage in preparation for its sale, we came across some treasures. The first is an old writing notebook that I think belonged to my grandfather.






It’s rather interesting how they learned cursive writing back then. They used these notebooks with sentences at the top of each page and lines beneath it where the student could copy the words in their best handwriting. I estimate it must be from the turn of the last century.

Another school book I came across was this one, my grandmother’s Home Ec notebook. On the inside cover, it contains two addresses where my mom’s mother had resided while she was still attending school back in 1920-21.






The notebook had some of Grandma’s hand-written notes as well as what appear to be typed pages from a cookbook or magazine. There was information on different types of food, where it came from, how to prevent it from spoiling and how to cook it. I found it rather interesting to read and learn how differently food was prepared back then – before all the artificial preservatives were put into food to keep it fresher longer. Some of the recipes looked pretty yummy, too! 🙂

Finally, we come to the oldest book in my possession. The year before my father died, he had a visit from one of his Ontario cousins on his mother’s side. His cousin handed him a book that he claimed no one else in the family really wanted. The large volume, measuring 9 1/2″ x 16″, was wrapped in cloth, like an old pillow case. I assume it was wrapped to protect it, but I think the material kept in the moisture, as there is a fair amount of mildew damage, as a result. On the cloth, was written, “This bible is also on your Grandpa Harding’s side. It could be your Great-Great Grandparents’. It is old enough. 1704”. Whether the inscription was written by Dad’s cousin or his cousin’s father or mother, I’m not certain, only that it is old.




The inscription refers to it as a ‘bible’, but it is entitled The Works of Flavius Josephus. I believe this book pre-dates the King James version of the bible. There is a section, although not at the beginning of the book, that begins, “In the beginning, God created…” and continues on much like any other bibles do, today.










The preface was written by Roger l’Estrange, who provided the English translation of “The works of Flavius Josephus” and dated 1704. Apparently, it was later translated by William Whiston, 1737. (The link here is only one of many pages that discuss the book)








The illustrations are amazing and the book also includes many very old maps of the middle east circa 65 C. E. The book really should be skillfully restored and put in a museum, but there haven’t been any takers, so far who have the resources to fix it and a place to store such a relic. It really should be in a cold room so further mildew damage can be limited. I will continue my search for some place where it can be treated properly. In the meantime, I can lay claim to this ancient book and pray it doesn’t deteriorate and further.

Hope you enjoyed this peek at my old books! 🙂

The Granddaddies On My Bookshelf

In the past, I have shared some of the books found on my bookshelves. Today, I want to talk about some of the oldest books in my collection. Most of these have a printing date around the 1900s. Some are a little more recent. Many of them belonged to my parents and grandparents. Some may even have been brought to Canada by my great-grandfather, they are so old. I will save the oldest book for last, since good things come to those who wait. 🙂

I have two sets of old books – the adult set and the kids set. The first photo (above) represents the books that were mostly written for adults, although a lot of them have been shared with young adults over the years, like the poetry books and Shakespeare. The photo on the right shows the kids books. Some of them (okay, most of them) I read as a kid. And then, there is the most recent acquisition, but I’ll tell you more about that later.

When I started taking pictures, I didn’t realize just how many there were, so I think I will start with the kids/teen books and save the rest for a different day. Most of these books are a little newer, too, so then I can work backwards towards the books that really have some age. I’ll start with a writer I’m sure you’ve all heard of, Louisa May Alcott. I don’t seem to have “Little Women“, although I’m sure I have it somewhere. I did, however find this one:

Eight Cousins” is Louisa May Alcott’s classic children’s tale. It is the story of Rose Campbell who, when her father dies, is left orphaned and must go to live with her six Aunts and seven cousins. “Eight Cousins” is a young girl’s story to overcome the sadness of the loss of her father and the hardship of adapting to a new environment following that loss. It is one of Alcott’s most loved tales and can be enjoyed by readers both young and old alike. (Amazon.ca) My copy is a 7th Imprint, copyright 1927 by Little Brown & Company, published by Grosser & Dunlap. In 1874 it was first copyrighted by Louisa May Alcott.

No children’s collection would be complete without an Enid Blyton story. Here, we have a 6th Impression copy (1951) of “Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm” illustrated by Peter Beigel, published by Evans Brothers Limited, London. Her original was copyrighted in 1948. In this story, the 3 children on Mistletoe Farm dread the arrival of their 3 spoiled city cousins, after their home burns down in a fire.

You’d think there was a theme happening here, but these are actually the only two I have about cousins. I do have a 1940 copy of “The Yearling” by Marjory Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Edward Shenton, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. The original was printed in 1938. I remember reading this as a pre-teen and really wished I could have a young deer as a pet. Hated the ending, though. If you’re interested in learning the history of this book, you can check it out on Wikipedia.

This edition of “Ann of Green Gables” by Lucy Maude Montgomery belonged to my mother. It is in pretty rough shape, I’m afraid, but it was like that before it came into my possession. It’s original copyright date was 1908. This copy is from 1920, a 52nd Impression published by C. H. Simonds Company, Boston.






My father owned this old copy of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum. It was published by Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis.

The colour illustrations were created by W. W. Denslow. This book also includes a Preface by the author written in 1900. The original copyright was 1899, but this book does not include a publishing date. I assume this copy must have come out around 1939 after the movie, because it includes pictures of the actors on both inside covers.




Unfortunately, at some point in its history, one edge of this book got wet and it has a bit of mould on some of its pages. Does anyone know what to do about that?




Another book belonging to my Dad was Tom Sawyer. What boy hasn’t read about his great adventures? The book contains a Preface written by Mark Twain himself in 1876, although the book does not appear to be that old. It was published by the Musson Book Company in Toronto, but has no publishing date.

Also in my collection is a copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). It was originally published in 1865.  This copy was published by Henry Altemus Company but there is no date listed, that I could find, even after checking out their website. There is, however, an inscription dated 1911. It could have been from the company’s ‘Boys and Girls series 59, but doesn’t really fit their description of the books. Most likely, it was published as a separate entity, although the picture on the cover is similar to the one on “Tom Brown’s School Days” so may have been published around the same time. The writing on the cover is very faint, but I love the embossing (must be the scrapbooker in me!). Although it is illustrated, it gives no indication who drew the pictures.

Finally, the oldest book in my Children’s Collection is “Home Painting for little folks” by K. T. Boland. It was given to my grandfather with the inscription, “To my dear Arthur from his loving mother. Many happy returns of the day” and dated November 14, 1898, which would have been Grandpa’s 6th birthday. It was “adapted from Foster’s Complete Course of Drawing, approved by the Department of Science and Art, published by the Juvenile Publishing Company, copyrighted in 1899. How my great-grandmother got a copy of it a year before it was published, I’ll never know unless she had something to do with the company who published it, or maybe she was so ill she did not know what year it was! (I know she wasn’t a well woman and died when Grandpa was in his early teens) Although it does not detail where it was published, the introduction mentioned Frederick Froebel (the inventor of the Kindergarten System of Education) It also had some interesting illustrations.

For example, under the heading ‘Embroidery, Modeling and Stick Building’ were these two. One shows the completed work, the other could presumably be painted by the child or copied and embroidered, as the chapter suggests.

This book is by no means the oldest of my collection. I will try to post about my older classic books next Monday, so please stay tuned.

If you’d like to see some more old books, pop over to Cheri Champagne‘s blog (featured in my Sunday Interview #5 – Happy Canada Day post) to see what old books she has in her collection. Look for the post entitled “Passionate About Antiques”.


What would you do if you suddenly found yourself back in the middle of the eighteen hundreds? If you were in the middle of nowhere with not a soul in sight, would you be able to survive? I don’t think I would. I would be too squeamish to kill something, clean it and cook it. I’d be the berry picker who would probably starve because it would be fall or winter and all the berries would have been picked over by birds and bears or spring when they haven’t bloomed yet. It’s one thing to have all the books in front of you and reiterate what they say so it appears that the character you’re writing about has the knowledge in their head. It’s another thing altogether to be plunked down in a survival situation and try to live. My character in ‘Withershins’ and ‘Spirit Quest’ was able to rely on the kindness of strangers and learn survival skills from them – skills that I learned from books so I could plant that information in the story.

The best advice anyone can give a writer is to write what you know and what you don’t know, research. I know Southern Manitoba, especially the areas around Winnipeg. That includes my favourite place, the Lower Fort Garry Historical Site.

My second favourite place is the old St. Andrews Church, Rectory and Cemetery. The best part of these places is how well they have been preserved. In the summer, history students and volunteers from the Manitoba Historical Society play the characters from our past. It is basically like walking into the past. No survival skills necessary. This really helps me, as a writer, to visualize what it was like back then.

My Research Shelves

What I couldn’t discover by wandering through this historic site, I researched from the internet, but mostly from books. Some of the books I have relied on the most came from my research shelves. These shelves include history books (like the History of Lower Fort Garry, above), biographies, maps and a few other subjects, as I will show you.

Women of Red River

In one of them, I discovered a woman I really wanted to be a part of my story. Her name is Harriet Sinclair. I found her story from this fantastic resource, Women of Red River. These are the stories of Manitoba’s earliest pioneers, collected from the women themselves around the turn of the last century. I highly recommend reading their amazing stories.

My grandfather had a pretty extensive library including many books on the history of Winnipeg. Here are a few of those old books that have many sketches of the area done in the middle of the eighteen hundreds, which really helped me visualize the past.

The Nor’Wester & Winnipeg 100

The Nor’Wester was a newspaper published in the Red River area, depicting life at that time. This is a hundred year anniversary version, including excerpts from the archived newspapers. One must take some of the editorial comments with a grain of salt because its publisher was an Orangeman, a supporter of the Upper Canada regime, not a fan of the Metis and French residents, so some of the features have a slant in that direction. Winnipeg 100 was published in 1970 to commemorate the birth of our city. There are many pictures and articles about how the city began and all that had been accomplished since its conception.

Winnipeg’s Early Days

There is also the pictorial Winnipeg’s Early Days. It’s hard to tell by the cover, but it does contain many sketches of the area done in the eighteen hundreds.

The pioneers were not the only residents of the area in the mid-eighteen hundreds. Cree and Ojibway tribes had wandered the area for thousands of years, using the forked rivers as a meeting place for trade. They welcomed the settlers that Lord Selkirk sent from Scotland and helped them through the first few years as they established their farms. The early pioneers arrived with very few possessions and no idea how harsh our winters could be. If it wasn’t for the help of Chief Peguis and his people the settlers all would have died during their first winter here. A lot of this struggle was described by the Women of Red River.

The Mystic Warriors of the Plains

In order for me to understand some of the native lifestyle at the time, I turned to a huge tome, Mystic Warriors of the Plains. Although it is written by an American mostly about the Sioux, a lot about the way they lived is similar to those who lived in the prairies of Canada as well. Thomas Mails does a great job of describing every detail, from making moccasins to all the uses of bison parts, how they carved their arrowheads and cooked their meals.

Earth Signs

My Bookshelf


When I do school visits to talk about my books, I have often been asked what are some of my favourite authors. This is a hard question, because I have such eclectic tastes. I like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mysteries, Spy Stories, Adventures, Forensic Science stories, Historical Fiction, Teen Fiction and everything in between as long as I think it’s been well-written.

You might have noticed my historical fiction in the top left corner. James Clavell’s Shogun and Noble House were two of my favourites of all time. On the shelf below that are some very old books saved from my grandfather’s library, including the complete works of Shakespeare. Sprinkled among those are a few romance stories. I don’t tend to read romances as a rule, but I was trying to write one for a contest a while back and thought I should read a few to see if I could pick out the formula. The romance I did come up with was rejected because there was too much story and not enough romance. Go figure!

The shelves on the left contain my professional books as well as my husband’s, which also includes handyman & DIY books. (My man is quite handy.) Above the National Geographic magazines are my favourite Sci Fi and Fantasy stories as well as the ‘based on TV series’ stories (Star Trek, Babylon 5, Earth 2, X-Files, Stargate, etc).

Some of Clive Cussler’s adventure novels

Here is a stack of Clive Cussler’s rollicking Dirk Pitt stories. You may have seen the movie Sahara, which was based on one of his novels. As with any movie based on a book, there were definitely some inconsistencies. The most glaring was the producer’s choice for the actor who played Dirk Pitt. Normally I would not complain about any movie starring Matthew McConaughey, but he certainly isn’t the ‘tall, dark & handsome’ type that I had envisioned Dirk to be.

Anne McCaffrey

Hiding behind some of the other books are SciFi & Fantasy novels by Ann McCaffrey, one of my favourite authors in the genre. While I have never read her Dragon Rider series, I loved her Powers That Be series among others. I had the opportunity of meeting her when she came to WorldCon back in 1995. She was a kind and gracious lady whose talent will be greatly missed.

If you look closely at the bookshelf, again, you should see the photographs and the scrapbook of our Las Vegas adventures. When we were there in 2005, my hubby & I went to the Star Trek Adventure at the Hilton Hotel. What a trip that was! Hubby got his picture inserted into the Borg pic on the right. (Have you ever seen a Borg with a moustache? ha! ha!) I ‘joined’ the Enterprise crew in the picture on the left.

There are also books from some of my favourite local authors: Chris Rutkowski, Alison Preston, Karen Dudley and Michael Van Rooy. First, I will talk about Chris, our ‘Fox Mulder’ of Manitoba.

books by Chris Rutkowski

He investigates and writes about strange phenomenon such as UFO sightings, and Alien Abductions, among other things. His book, Unnatural History, includes information on the Lake Manitoba monster called Manipogo (something like the Loch Ness Monster). He also reveals local places where ghosts have been sighted, as well as discusses crop circles and alien encounters. He has even written a children’s book, I Saw It Too based on the eye witness accounts of children who have seen UFOs and alien creatures. He also writes a blog to keep his readers apprised of the current UFO sightings. (see the Blogroll below for his link)

Alison Preston, Karen Dudley and Michael Van Rooy are all local writers of mysteries but each has their own distinct style.

Alison Preston

Alison’s books are set in the Winnipeg neighbourhood called the Norwood Flats. She has created a set of interesting characters who reside there and the unusual goings-on are investigated by one of Winnipeg’s finest, a cop nearing retirement, Frank Foote.

Michael Van Rooy’s Criminal series

Michael’s books are set in Winnipeg’s north end, a seedier sort of neighbourhood which suits the ex-con character quite well. Montgomery “Monty” Haaviko is trying to forget his criminal past for the sake of his wife and baby son, but finds it difficult as his past often comes back to haunt him. I love his dry humour and his innovative ways of dealing with the criminal elements while keeping the police off his back. Sadly, Michael was taken from the literary world too soon, suffering a massive heart attack, so we will not have the chance to read any more of his brilliant adventures.

Karen Dudley’s Robin Devarra mysteries

Karen Dudley’s books all have wonderful titles. Each one has a bird reference that is also a pun on a murderous expression: Hoot To Kill, Ptarmigeddon, Red Herron and Maccaws of Death. Her humour is evident, not just in the book titles, but also in the way her character, Robin Devarra solves the ecological mysteries. Each story revolves around a particular bird and their environment, which is being threatened by unsavoury people and/or corporations. Karen is currently writing a completely different set of books called Food For The Gods. If you would like to keep apprised of her activities, check out her blog (in the blogroll).

Well, I think I will wrap it up for now. Next time, I will discuss all the wonderful Canadian teen-fiction authors and the books of theirs I have on my shelves. Until then, happy reading…and writing!