Writing Process Blog Hop

When local teen fiction author, Margaret Buffie, tagged me to participate in this writer-oriented blog hop, I wholeheartedly accepted the challenge. When I first decided to turn Withershins into a novel for a teen/young adult audience, I was unfamiliar with the genre. It had been decades since I was a teen, reading the limited selection of fiction out there at the time, so I went on the hunt for current teen fiction to make sure I was on the right track. I picked up Margaret’s novels, The Dark Garden and My Mother’s Ghost – and I’ve been a fan ever since. She has an impressive list of titles and has been nominated – and won – many awards for her writing. In addition to being a writer, she also has a Fine Arts degree and has created some breathtaking paintings, which she sometimes shares on her blog. I love that she lives in my hometown and I feel honoured that she thought of asking me to participate in this blog hop. To learn more about this extraordinary writer, please check out her blog at http://www.margaretbuffie.com

In order to take my place in the hop, I also have to tag three other writers, who will post their thoughts on the writing process later in the month. I was hoping to feature writers from the huge literary base here in Winnipeg, but most are so busy or too ill to participate, so I turned to my on-line writer friends. You can read their bios at the end of this post.

Okay, on with the show! 🙂

I was asked four questions, which I will attempt to answer as concisely as I can.

1. What am I working on?

My son designed the cover. Cool, isn't it?

My son designed the cover. Cool, isn’t it?

Currently, I am in the process of getting a chapbook produced with my writers group. It is an anthology of short stories about the Sasquatch, interspersed with poems in Haiku style, as well as reports of Sasquatch sightings collected by our own paranormal investigator and group member, Chris Rutkowski. We’ve also included sketches and photos to round out the content. We should have it ready for sale by the end of June. We are self-publishing through the Expresso Machine at McNally Robinson Booksellers and it will also be available for e-readers. Details to follow in the coming weeks.

I have also been accumulating information on Louis Riel to work into a sort of sequel to my other two books, Withershins and Spirit Quest. Revolution (working title) will be set at the time in which Riel took over the provisional government here in Manitoba, 1869-1870. The daughter of the character in my first two books will be travelling back in time to meet him and learn more about how the Métis people fought for their rights within the French/English community known at the time as Red River.

 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

bookmark front

My published novels are historically based time-travel novels set in Manitoba’s past. There haven’t been too many other teen novels that I’ve come across that have been set here with that time-travel theme worked in as well, so I think they are rather unique.

As for the chapbook, my writers group and I decided to write about Bigfoot and the Sasquatch because we thought to get a jump on ‘the next big thing’. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies have been done to death, so to speak, but not much fiction has been written about those huge hairy beasts that peek out at us from the forest. Ironically, there have been recent ‘sightings’ in BC and a local retailer (Two Rivers at The Forks Market) has brought in a truckload of stuffed Sasquatches to sell in his store. (Sassy came from there. She’s cute, isn’t she?) He’s even got a petition to ‘Save the Prairie Sasquatch’, which people can sign when they visit the shop. I think we’re just on the cusp of this wonderful new trend.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

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Sassy sporting my red hat.

Having an Education background, I want my books to teach kids in an entertaining way. Growing up, I always found history a chore. Trying to link dates with events and historic figures was so difficult for me because I tend to be Mathematically Challenged, a sort of Dyslexia but with numbers. I did like the stories, though. Learning about the people and why they did what they did is fascinating to me. That’s why, when I started writing the first two books in the series, I wanted the story to be historically correct, so readers would get a sense of the time and the attitudes prevalent in the 1800s. Quite often, those who have read Withershins and Spirit Quest comment to me that they didn’t know certain things in Manitoba’s history, so I think my work is done – until the next novel, of course!

I wrote the short stories for the group’s chapbook because I’ve got a soft spot for those big-footed mythical creatures. A few years back, I started writing a novel about them, creating a whole history of their existence and why colonies of them live underground, beneath the outskirts of North Vancouver. While the story has yet to find an ending, I still work on it, occasionally, when inspiration strikes.

That is not all I write, though. Dreams inspire other stories, (science fiction, fantasy, murder mysteries, etc, both for kids and adults) which I start to write, only because the words need to find paper before the memories melt away with the dawn. I have shelves full of novels and short stories that haven’t been published, yet, and just as many (if not more) that are unfinished, to date.

To get at the nitty gritty; why do I write? Teachers used to say I’d achieve better grades if I didn’t daydream so much, so I guess this is something I was destined to do. If the stories don’t get written down, my dreams become more and more bizarre and nightmarish. I write for my own peace of mind!

4. How does my writing process work? 

A good night’s sleep is essential because, as I mentioned earlier, so many of my story ideas occur to me in those first few moments before I wake up. I have very vivid dreams and those that have a lasting image for me are often the dreams that I am compelled to write about and form the first few chapters of a novel or become a short story. One dream, in particular, was one I had when I was 16. It haunted me for decades until I finally wove it into a fantasy novel. Unfortunately, my first writers group wasn’t all that impressed, so it’s sitting on a shelf, awaiting revisions.

When I was creating Withershins, I wasn’t working. I just had to get the kids off to school and then I would sit down at the computer and write my little heart out! If I ran into a snag, I’d think about it as I fell asleep and by morning my brain had worked out enough details that I could write the next chapter before lunch. If there was something I needed to know for the next segment, I’d head off to the library or archives and research it, then weave that newfound knowledge into a scene with my character.

Once a story is finished, however, the work doesn’t stop. Any writer knows that! I must have reworked the beginning of Withershins a dozen times before coming up with the one the publisher liked. Originally, the book was aimed at an adult audience, but my first writers group suggested gearing it to a younger audience. That required some major work because, by then, it was too long for a publisher to consider, so I had to break the book into two novels. That required me to rework the beginning of Spirit Quest many more times until my editor was satisfied with the result. I also needed more research to flesh out the second half of the story. It was a long hard process getting it to the point of acceptance by my publisher.

Sassy going incognito.

Sassy going incognito.

For the chapbook, I thought about the Prairie Sasquatch for days without much inspiration. Then, I mentioned the project to a close friend and her friend at lunch one day. It was suggested I look at the subject from the point of view of the Sasquatch. Brilliant! So that’s how Gemma came into existence. She’s the character I created for the short stories and I have a few more stories I want to tell about her adventures ‘In The Woods’ that will probably meld into a novel for Middle Grade audiences.

Well, I hope that gives you some insight into my writing process. While I look for that elusive third writer who will agree to join this blog hop, please check out what these fellow writers & bloggers have to say. I will let you know when they have their posts ready for the blog hop. In the meantime, you can always pop over to their sites to learn more about them.

 

Jennifer M. Eaton has a lot to say about writing on her blog, which can be found at http://jennifermeaton.com. Her blog is amazing – colourful & always interesting. She calls the East Coast of the U.S. her home, where she raises 3 boys when she’s not writing or being a Corporate Team Leader. She has recently had many short stories published by J. Taylor Publishing.

Jennifer’s perfect day includes long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but her greatest joy is using her over-active imagination constructively… creating new worlds for everyone to enjoy.

 

Like the Prairie Sasquatch, C.B. is a little camera shy! :)

Like the Prairie Sasquatch, C.B. is a little camera shy! 🙂

C.B. Wentworth has a lovely blog that I’ve been following for about 2 1/2 years. She has traveled extensively and often posts gorgeous pictures of the places she’s visited and tells wonderful stories about her adventures.

She is a writer, blogger, and artist who thrives on following her muse. Aside from writing novels, she dabbles in poetry, short stories, and travel writing. Currently, she is working towards her “big break” into the publishing industry with her Young Adult fantasy novel, The Muse. You can visit her at http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com     

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing, Everyone! 🙂

 

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Scary October #28 – Sunday Interview

Hello readers! Today, I thought I’d do something completely different. Instead of an author interview I thought I’d do a character one, so it is with extreme pleasure that I introduce Michelle, the main character of my two YA novels, Withershins and Spirit Quest. It’s been 25 years since the end of ‘Spirit Quest’ and, upon the suggestion of one of my readers (thank-you, Diane), we are joined by her daughter, Kristen. 🙂

Me: Ladies, would you please tell my readers a little about yourselves.

Michelle: Certainly! I am . . . uh . . . 40-something. (Smirk!) I live in a small neighbourhood near the centre of Winnipeg, a community known as St. Boniface. I teach Aboriginal Studies at the University of Manitoba. I’m married with three lovely children (glances at her eldest daughter).

Kristen: (squirms uncomfortably) Mom, are you sure you want all this out in the open? (eyes flick to her mother’s face and sighs) Fine! Hi, I’m Kristen. I’m 16 and go to River East Collegiate. My friends and I like going to school football games because the quarterback is really cute. (blushes)

Me: Michelle, would you mind describing your adventures when you were Kristen’s age? What made you decide to go to the St. Andrew’s Graveyard with Kevin & Jason?

St. Andrews Church on the Red River, Manitoba

Michelle: (chuckles) Wow! That was such a long time ago! You probably won’t believe any of this. Goodness knows, Kristen has her doubts about the stories I’ve told her. (She clears her throat) Well, we had a high school history project to do. We thought, or at least, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the oldest church in the area and check out some of the names on the gravestones to inspire my research. I convinced the boys it would be a fun way to do the research. Jason was able to borrow his Dad’s car, so he offered to drive us. We wandered around the graveyard until it closed, then went to eat. Despite the warnings, we went back and waited until midnight, then Jason suggested we do the withershins.

Kristen: (leans forward, insistent) Mom, you said it yourself, you hit your head! You must have blacked out for awhile. You just had a very complicated dream. (She turns to me)Why are you’re encouraging her?

Michelle: Honey, I thought the same thing, at first – that it was all just a dream. After everything I experienced, it could not simply have been a dream.

Me: Michelle, would you please explain what ‘withershins’ means?

Michelle: According to Jason, it was a ritual where a person runs around a church three times at midnight. He claimed we’d meet the Devil or be transported to the Netherworld. I’ve since discovered, it simply means traveling counter-clockwise or ‘contrary to the sun’, and when you do it with all the right elements, you can travel back in time.

Kristen gives a snort of derision.

Me: Why would you participate in a ritual like that, Michelle?

Michelle: For one thing, I didn’t think anything would really happen. For another, when Jason begged me with those puppy dog eyes, I couldn’t say no. I had such a crush on him back then! I’m just glad I didn’t meet the Devil or go to the Netherworld, although there were times I thought I really was in H-E-double hockey sticks, if you know what I mean. 🙂

Kristen: (rolls her eyes) There’s no need to protect me from bad words, Mom. I’ve heard a lot worse at school, you know!

Me: Michelle, what was your first clue that you’d been transported back in time?

Michelle: Once the swirling portal thing stopped and the fog disappeared, everything was so different. There was absolutely nothing around me – no trees, no buildings, no power lines anywhere. In the back of my mind, I knew I hadn’t run that far from the church, but I really couldn’t believe I had actually time-travelled. Would you?

Me: (Chuckle!) No, I suppose not. What finally convinced you it wasn’t a dream?

Michelle: I’ve had vivid dreams before, but nothing compared to the sights and smells of being back in the mid-eighteen hundreds. When I stepped in that horse poo and tried to get it off my runner, I knew there was something all too real about that place! What really convinced me was when Bear brought me to his grandfather and he started talking about everything that had happened leading up to that spinning vortex. That’s when I knew for sure. After all, no one else in that place could possibly have known, unless it was all some huge practical joke, but I didn’t think Lower Fort Garry would have gone to all the trouble and expense of removing a building and replacing it with a log cabin, all for the sake of a joke.

Kristen: Mom, you’d been doing research. All that stuff must have been in your mind when you hit your head, so you simply dreamed it all. It just seemed real.

Me: (ignoring Kristen’s outburst) It must have been hard to live in a time without all our modern conveniences. How did you manage?

Michelle: (with a rueful smile) Faking amnesia helped a little. Anytime someone questioned me about not being able to do things, I just chalked it up to forgetting. I was also a Brownie and a Girl Guide, so I had been camping before. I knew some basic survival skills and when I first arrived at the Lower Fort, I was thrust into a maid’s position. It didn’t take long to learn how to cook over a fire, how to mend clothing and a whole bunch of other stuff. Bear’s mom, Swift Doe, knew where I was from and taught me all kinds of things native women learned when they were young. Also, Owl, Bear’s grandfather, taught me some spiritual stuff and Bear taught me how to hunt.

Me: Kristen, does your mom do any of those things now or when you were younger?

Kristen: Well, she used to make moccasins for us when we were little. We used to go to Pow Wows. I was given a native name when I was 12. Last year, Mom and Dad prepared me for a sweat lodge ceremony.

Me: How do you think your mom knew about all of these ceremonies if she didn’t learn them from the past?

Kristen: Mom knows a lot of elders. Perhaps one of them taught her all that stuff.

Michelle: Sweetie, I didn’t meet those elders until after I returned from the past. Your Auntie Sherry introduced me to them after I told her what had happened to me.

Kristen: (folds her arms across her chest and scowls)

Me: (turning to Michelle) Tell us about some of the people you met in the past.

Lower Fort Garry, NW turret used for baking ‘hard tack’, a bread used by voyageurs and hunting parties

Michelle: Well, I first met the Reverend Cochrane and his wife, Annie. They lived in the original rectory at St. Andrews. They helped me a lot. I was scared and I’d bumped my head and sprained my wrist falling out of the time tunnel thingy, so the reverend took me to the Lower Fort where there was a doctor. Doctor Buchanan had just come to Red River with the 6th Regiment of Foot and had a little office inside the fort beside the trade store, about where the museum is now. He fixed me up and asked Governor Simpson if I could stay at the fort until my head healed.

Oh, yeah, before meeting the doctor, I was feeling a little light-headed because of the bump on my head and I fell into the arms of a rather handsome Scottish stonemason, Duncan MacRae. He was in charge of the St. Andrews Church construction. There were also a couple of girls I became friends with, the Sinclair sisters, Harriet and Maria. Margaret was sort of a friend, but hung around too much with Elizabeth, who hated me the moment she set eyes on me. I think it had a lot to do with her father being with the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was friends with the Chief Factor and his wife, Mrs. Wilson – and a more spiteful woman you’d never hope to meet! There were quite a few others, like Doctor Buchanan’s patients that I helped and Bear’s sister, Fawn, and the store clerk, Ian McNally, but we don’t have time to get into all that, right now.

Me: Now, you went through the withershins ritual not once but twice, is that right? Why would you put yourself through that again?

Michelle: I probably wouldn’t have considered it, as much as I missed Bear – and I missed him A LOT! Missing him, though, was the reason I went to the Manitoba Archives to learn what might have happened to him and my other friends. I came across an old article that talked about a trial that took place after I came home. The article said Owl had been hanged because they thought he had murdered me. You see, when I suddenly disappeared from the past to come home, the nosy Mrs. Wilson claimed she’d seen Owl and I leave the fort late at night, but only Owl returned – with my olden days clothes. She made such a fuss, that the courts decided Owl had killed me. I couldn’t let them hang Owl, so I used the arrowhead talisman that Owl’s spirit guide had given me and went to the church on the night of a full moon. I went back to try and stop them from killing Owl. I had no idea if it would work or not, but I had to try.

Me: Wow! Who would have thought your sudden disappearance would have caused such a tragic event! Did you manage to save Owl?

Michelle: (winks) I wouldn’t want to spoil the story! If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the book!

Me: Oh, you are a sneaky one, aren’t you? From the title, I imagine you learned a lot more spiritual stuff in your second adventure. Care to tell us about it?

Michelle: Well, let’s just say, I found it quite life-changing. There were moments I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the challenges and many times I doubted my resolve would last. If it wasn’t for the faith that Bear and Owl had in me, I don’t know where I would be today or if I’d even be here to talk to you. I owe them my life, body and soul.

Kristen: Mom, don’t you think you’re being a little melodramatic?

Me: They sound like the sort of friends everyone should have. (I turn to Michelle) Do you have any parting thoughts you’d like to share with my readers?

Michelle: Only that my appreciation for history has grown immensely because of my adventures. I still don’t like having to memorize dates, but I have a greater love for the people who made up our history, those who influenced changes in our society and helped to make our future better. These are things I hope Kristen will come to appreciate, one day (fondly casts her eyes to her daughter and smiles).

I’m also grateful for some of the progress that’s been made since then, like indoor plumbing, but I have to wonder whether the cost of some of our modern conveniences has been worth the price to our environment. When I consider all the plant and animal species that have become extinct over the past hundred and fifty years, it makes me cry. When I think of all the polluted rivers and landfills that mar the land, these days, I shake my head and wonder whether it’s all been worth it. I see the greed of huge corporations who are responsible for our disposable society and want to shake some sense into them for not finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint and I blame the current governments for not taking a stand and creating a bill to protect the environment from those corporate piranhas. My long talks with Owl and Bear, and all the time I spent in the past, have made me more aware of our shrinking landscapes (shrugs her shoulders and smiles, briefly). Sorry for the rant. I guess I’ll stop now. 🙂

Me: I can’t help but agree with you. Progress does seem to be getting out of hand. What do you think about what your mother said, Kristen?

Kristen: I suppose she has a point regarding the environment. I still don’t see the need to study history, though. A bunch of old dead people – what can studying what they did make a difference to what happened?

Michelle: Sweetie, you don’t get it, do you? There are people in the past who fought for the rights and freedoms you enjoy today. If they had not done what they did, our lives would be very different and much more difficult.

Kristen: People like who?

Michelle: If Chief Peguis hadn’t helped the early Scottish settlers by bringing them down to Pembina before the snow came, your great-great-great-great-grandfather would not have survived the winter and you probably wouldn’t be here. If Louis Riel hadn’t stood up for the rights of the Métis people, you’d still be considered a second class citizen, treated badly just like your great-great grandmother was at the residential school.

Kristen: (sinks lower in her chair and pouts) If you say so, Mom.

Me: (to Kristen) Then you don’t think you’d ever want to go on an adventure, like your mother?

Kristen: Are you kidding me? You believe what happened to Mom was real?

Me: You mother’s adventures were well documented in both ‘Withershins’ and ‘Spirit Quest’. You still don’t think they were real?

Kristen: Haven’t you ever heard of FICTION? That’s all it is, you know.

Me: Then, if you had the chance to do the withershins thing you wouldn’t do it?

Kristen: I may try it, but I certainly don’t expect anything to happen.

Michelle: (smirks) That’s what I thought, Honey.

Me: (I notice something around Kristen’s neck) Is that what I think it is?

Kristen: (touches her chest and groans, then pulls out the arrowhead necklace) Mom gave it to me for my birthday, a few days ago.

Me: That is very cool! 🙂 (I catch Michelle’s eye and she winks at me) Well, I want to thank you both for joining us, today, Michelle and Kristen.

Michelle: Thanks for having me, Susan. 🙂

Kristen: Yeah. Whatever.

Me: Michelle’s adventures can be found in both books mentioned above. Maybe one day you’ll be able to read an adventure about Kristen, too! 🙂

Kristen: Or NOT!

Some of the settings in which Michelle was known to have traveled can be found on my Withershins Facebook page, here. I will also be posting more pictures of St. Andrews Church, the graveyard and Lower Fort Garry on this blog, once I have gone through the hundreds of photos and video clips I took out there this past summer. I can also be found, occasionally, on Twitter and Goodreads.

Hope you enjoyed this whimsical interview, inspired by other bloggers like J. Keller Ford, who have done similar interviews with their characters. 🙂

2012 YA Author Blog Takeover

Something exciting is beginning on Jenny Keller Ford‘s blog beginning this Sunday. She will be featuring 9 YA authors, one each day until the end of the month, including me. 🙂

We will be discussing our books and our thoughts on writing, publishing and life.

Her line-up will be as follows:

Sunday, June, 22 – Kim Richardson, author of ‘The Soul Guardians

Monday, June 23 – ME! (Susan Rocan), author of ‘Withershins‘ & ‘Spirit Quest‘.

Tuesday, June 24 – Emi Gayle, author of ‘After Dark

Wednesday, June 25 – L. S. Murphy, author of ‘Reaper

Thursday, June 26 – Kevin McGill, author of ‘Nikolas & Company: The Merman and the Moon Forgotten

Friday, June 27 – Jus Accardo, author of ‘Touch‘ and ‘Toxic

Saturday, June 28 – Michael Conn, author of ‘Maxwell Huxley’s Demon

Sunday, June 29 – Jamie Ayers, author of ‘18 Things

Monday, July 30 – Rachel Coker, author of ‘Interrupted: life beyond words‘ and ‘Chasing Jupiter

Please come by and see what we all have to say. Each day, the featured author will be hanging around Jenny’s blog to answer any questions you may have for them. To get there, just click on the picture, which will link you straight to Jenny’s site. Hope to see you there! 🙂

Time Travel

borrowed from howeswho.blogsot.ca

Time travel seems to be a popular theme for writers. It’s a topic dear to my heart, too, so I thought it would be an interesting topic for today’s post.

I think my obsession with time travel began when I saw the first Time Tunnel episode back in 1966 (Yes, I know I’m dating myself!) Although the series only ran for a year, I loved it.

Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season

 

 

 

Then, when Quantum Leap came out several decades later, I was enraptured with the concept of ‘making right what once went wrong’. For me, Quantum Leap is the definitive series about time travel. Mind you, I still liked watching Primeval and Flash Forward (I had to go and read the book, when it ended). The new series, Continuum, was what prompted me to explore this topic, today. Is anyone watching it? It’s got me hooked.

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Although I haven’t actually read many books that used time travel as their plot, I looked them up on Wikipedia. I discovered that the first ever time travel book was called Letters from the Twentieth Century by Samuel Madden. It was written in 1733! Even Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from 1843 had an element of time travel – to Scrooge’s past and his future. Mark Twain’s 1891 story A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was about a 19th century American citizen who travels back to King Arthur’a time of 528 AD. In the late 1800s, H. G. Wells wrote two time travel tales, The Chronic Argonauts and the more famous The Time Machine. C. S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov all wrote stories about time travel, The Hideous Strengths, A Sound of Thunder, and The End of Eternity, respectively. Of course, I could not help but mention Diana Gabaldon’s books beginning with Outlander. (I absolutely LOVE her books!)Outlander (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel

Almost 150 books are listed on Wikipedia, not including over 500 Dr. Who novels, and there were a couple of blatant omissions on the list – A Wrinkly In Time  and The Olden Days Coat by Margaret Laurence – so there may be many more. Maybe Wikipedia didn’t bother to list kids books.

The Final Countdown [Blu-ray]

Also listed on this site are 100 movies that use time travel as the plot. Many are based on the books listed above. Of those hundred, I have seen A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  and The Time Machine, both versions, and I must say that I prefer the original black & white versions. Hubby and I have watched all of the Planet of the Apes movies many times as well as the remake and, again, found the original better, although I have to admit the special effects were better in the remake. We’ve also watched Time After Time, where H. G. Wells and Jack the Ripper travel to the future. I loved The Final Countdown, where a warship goes back to the bombing of Pearl Harbour, as well as The Philadelphia Experiment. Then, of course there are the Back To The Future movies, the first one being the best, in my opinion. We’ve also watched Time Cop. (What can I say? I had a thing for Jean Claude Van Dam movies in my youth AND it involved TIME TRAVEL!)

Millennium

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Others we’ve watched include Masters of the Universe, Millenium with Kris Kristopherson and Cheryl Ladd (I LOVED this one!), the 3rd Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where they went back to ancient Japan (We only watched it because our kids were into TMNT at the time!), Groundhog Day, 12 Monkeys, Frequency (another one I’d recommend), Kate & Leopold (a sweet love story with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman), The Time Traveler’s Wife, and, of course, our time travel repertoire wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the Star Trek movies, The Voyage Home (THE BEST!) and Next Generations First Contact and the recent Star Trek movie by J. J. Abrahms. There’s also the Stargate movie Continuum.

No discussion of time travel would be complete if we didn’t mention the ‘butterfly effect’. It was coined by Edward Lorenz in 1969 and its far-reaching consequences were first explored in Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder. According to Wikipedia: “The name of the effect … is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before … The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with hypotheses where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.”

When using time travel as a plot, one must consider the ‘butterfly effect’. For the purpose of the story, do we WANT to change the future if we go to the past? Do we want the character to inadvertently change the future, thus creating a conflict that must be resolved? When traveling to the future, there isn’t such a great concern, unless the sudden absence of the person traveling ahead in time causes a major disaster. These were some of the things I had to consider when I decided to use time travel in my novels.

In Withershins, when Michelle broke down and decided to tell Dr. Buchanan and Duncan MacRae where she was really from, she was very careful not to reveal too much, although she had to show them her modern things to make them believe she was from their future. She had heard about the butterfly effect and worried that her presence in the past might change her future, so once she had revealed her items, she hid them, hoping no one would find them.

In Spirit Quest, I used the last device so that the sudden disappearance of Michelle when she returned to her present time, caused suspicions in the nosy and bigoted Mrs. Wilson. As a result, the doctor and her love interest were arrested and Michelle’s mentor was hanged because Mrs. Wilson accused them of murdering Michelle.

 

What about you? Have you read any of the books or seen any of the TV series or movies that I’ve mentioned? Did you like them? Would you recommend any other books, movies or TV shows involving time travel that I haven’t mentioned?

Manitowapow

Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water

I was going to call this post Literary Post part 2, but the first session on Friday was given by contributors of an anthology of Aboriginal Writers to promote their book Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water. From their readings and discussion of the book, I knew immediately this was a book I needed to have in my home library. The group explained the name of the book, which is the Aboriginal pronunciation of Manitoba and means “mystery life water”. Since the land of Manitoba sits on the bed of the former great glacial Lake Agassiz and much of the land is broken by rivers and large lakes, the name is definitely appropriate.

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While I haven’t had the chance to read anything from the book except the back cover blurb and the Foreword by Beatrice Moisionier (author of In Search of April Raintree) it promises to be full of historical writings from important people such as Louis Riel, Chief Peguis, Cuthbert Grant and Gabrielle Dumont; literary work from current eminent Aboriginal writers like Tomson Highway, Beatrice Moisioner, Duncan Mecredi and Rosanna Deerchild; political and non-fiction writings from contemporary Aboriginal leades such as Phil Fontaine, David Courshene and Justice Murray Sinclair; local storytellers and those from far-reaching Manitoba communities; new and vibrant voices expressing modern Aboriginal experiences (including an excerpt from the graphic novel 7 Generations: Ends/Begins). The contributing authors are representatives of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Metis and Sioux writers of Manitoba. Their work is prefaced by a brief biography. Some pieces have been translated from the original text/story. Others remain in their original form. This is a book to satiate, at least partially, the thirst for knowledge about the Aboriginal people.

I can’t wait to jump into those pages!

After listening to them speak about their book, I felt a little intimidated. They were a hard act to follow! But follow, we had to do. As much as I wanted to follow them into their next session, Julie Burtinshaw and I were obligated to present our panel on Young Adult fiction. As the Manitoban and the historian, I presented the beginnings of YA fiction by jumping back in time with the use of a literary device – the imagination! I asked the audience to imagine a crazy-haired scientist (in keeping with Christopher Lloyd’s character in Back To The Future) bursting into the room carrying a metal box with a huge red button on top. He points at all of us and says, “Now, I’ve got you!” He slams his hand down on the button. The air shimmers like a hot desert mirage. Our stomachs feel like plunging down in a fast elevator. When everything returns to normal, we find ourselves in a bookstore. As we look around, all the faces are those of teenagers. The calendar on the wall reads 1982, the first official year of the Manitoba Writer’s Guild. Since we are all avid readers and we are in a bookstore, we look for books to read. We check out the shelves and find all the favourite classics, but the only Canadian author we notice is Lucy Maude Montgomery’ of the Anne of Green Gables series. Glancing about, we notice a table of newer books written by Canadian authors, mostly from Manitoba. Eric Wilson’s Canada-based books are there among newcomers Carol Matas and Martha Brooks, both authors from Winnipeg.

I continue on to the next decade, naming the latest titles, then the next decade and the next until we arrive back in our current year. (I will list all of the Manitoba authors I uncovered and spoke about in a future post, as it is a very lengthy list.) There are currently 81 Manitoban authors with about 90 new titles that came out in the last decade alone. It’s possible those numbers are higher, as there are new writers and new books coming out all the time. I doubt that I found all the independent and self-published authors and I am sure there are many who have produced e-books, as well, that I have failed to mention. We also have two main publishers (Great Plains & Pemmican) who make a serious effort to produce the work of young adult authors in this province and several more of the 13 largest publishing houses, here, have YA titles in their current catalogues. In light of this, I am very proud to count myself among the other Manitoba authors of Young Adult fiction, with two novels (‘Withershins’ and ‘Spirit Quest’), both published by the local Great Plains Publishing company.

Freedom of Jenny

My co-panelist from British Columbia, Julie Burtinshaw, explored the current status and future of YA authors. She described the atmosphere of the writing industry, that setting plays a big part of Canadian writing because it often determines where the story can be sold. Regional material sells best in the province it portrays. She mentioned that royalties alone do not make up the bulk of a writer’s income, that we have to rely on income from school visits and giving workshops and attending writer’s festivals in order to make a living, especially if this is our only full-time job. Most writers, unless extremely prolific, need a ‘day job’. She also argued that the comment she’d heard at the previous day’s panel of publishers regarding publishing as ‘the authenticator’ of a writer’s work is not entirely true, anymore. She believes it is the READERS who are the authenticators, for they are the ones who choose whether a writer’s work is worth reading again. She also mentioned a quote by Donna Besel from Thursday’s panel Writing from the Margins, “Urban publishers don’t see the value of country mice. They pour boiling water on your heads!”

“Not a ringing endorsement for the established publishers,” Julie said. “Some might say we are in a publishing revolution and I would agree, and as in any revolution there are casualties. In this new world, all too often those casualties are writers.”

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She mentioned Seth Godin, who spearheaded the Dominoes Project with Amazon. He intimated that success as a writer no longer depends on booksellers or best-seller lists. Julie said that self-publishing is now cutting out the ‘middle people’, that it is important for the writer to get good ideas out there quickly and to as many people as possible. We, as authors, must become our own advocates, because marketing budgets are no longer available to authors – except maybe those best-sellers. We need to get out to the schools, to festivals and bookstores to promote our work. Videos and YouTube book trailers are another good way to get ourselves noticed and presented to the world.

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Julie went on to say that a good portion of her workday is spent building bridges on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogging and all those other ‘get-to-know-me-better’ places out in cyberspace. A writer has to learn what will work best for them, explore all the options, and put themselves out there.

In addition, she felt that any discussions about the future of writers, whether YA or any other genre, would not be complete without acknowledging e-books and the way kids read and continue to read in the future. That includes the social networks and sites like Pinterest. She feels that “reading has devolved from books, to  newspapers, to magazines, to comics to facebook to 145 character tweets to texting and finally to Pinterest (no text at all), or as I like to say, we’ve gone from Page to Pixels in a very short time.” The kids of today are so visually stimulated. She feels all that she has mentioned above is what it takes to reach them.

The Darkness Between the Stars

Considering e-books, she cautions that there are horror stories about work being taken and used without permission, e-book publishers who do not honour contracts with authors and the fine print in contracts, all of which means no royalties being paid. Do your homework, she advises because “information is power.” Despite the negative press, there is good news. Parents still want their kids handling ‘real’ books, information is better absorbed through books, and e-books do sell. In short, authors need to embrace all the new technologies/mediums (e-readers, audio-books, paperbacks, collectibles, flexible pricing, & value packs) if they want to be successful. Authors must also be aware of the drawbacks. Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak.

Young Adult authors must familiarize themselves with the trends. Be aware of the pitfalls and also be conscious of what the kids are reading, what they are interested in, and what their lifestyles are. So, what are they reading? she asks. Easy chapter books (short, high-interest novels about 78 ages long), contemporary stories, compelling characters, linear plots, trilogies (especially with the younger end of the genre), books with captivating covers, and those with regional interest do well locally, but not as well nationally. Another new trend is embedding bar codes into books so the purchaser can access on-line videos and songs related to the book. In conclusion, write what you think the kids want to read in the medium they prefer and you have yourself a winner!

Well, I suppose this is long enough for now. Hope I didn’t bore you all! 🙂

Do you have any advice for young adult authors that I haven’t mentioned here? Please feel free to add your advice in the comment section. 

Real People In Historic Fiction

Writing historical fiction can be difficult, but a lot of fun. The difficult part is doing the research. One wants to be thorough despite sometimes conflicting data. Going through archival books, papers and journals myself, I have come across information where dates don’t jive with other historic records, but I have to consider the source. Was it Wikipedia? Was the information written by someone of that era or someone else who had to research the period and may have slipped up on the dates or was it a typo?

Once you have the facts straight – or at least as close to accurate as they can be – how will your character interact within this historical time period? Will your character be meeting any of the real people that might be walking past them or are they introduced to anyone famous? If so, you need to do a little more research about that particular person. Look for anecdotal accounts about that person. Look at their actions as recorded by historians. These pieces of information paint a picture about the person in question, gives clues as to their personality and how they might react given the scenarios you dream up for them. Examine the manner of speech for that time period so that it doesn’t sound contrived or too modern. Read old literature to learn the grammatical patterns and turns of phrase that were common in the era you are writing about.

This isn’t always easy because sometimes you want to include minor historic figures about which little has been written. Then, it’s guesswork, for the most part. That happened to me when I decided to introduce my character, Michelle, to Duncan McRae, the Scottish stone mason who built St. Andrews Church. All I could find out about him was that he was a Scottish stonemason who built St. Andrews Church (as well as Little Britain Church), and married a woman from London after my character left the time period, built a house in the Little Britain area and had a large family! I was well aware of the fact that he still has living relatives here, so I gave him favourable traits, although they might be a bit annoyed that I gave him a personal interest in MY character instead of letting him stay true to the woman he eventually did marry.

Women of Red River

Harriet Sinclair was a woman I read about in the book Women of Red River. Her story was written from anecdotal accounts given by the woman herself. I got a real feel for her character and knew she would be the perfect girl to befriend Michelle.

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As for Governor George Simpson, I had read accounts of his dealings with the Hudson Bay Company and he had been described as the ‘Emperor of the Plains‘ by both admirers and detractors. He also had a reputation as a bit of a philanderer, having taken many ‘country wives’ and siring several illegitimate children. he had also been described as ‘cold-hearted, but fair‘. I was able to work in a lot of the information when creating the living character for Michelle to meet. He was stern when he thought she was slacking but kind enough to let her stay at the fort as long as she worked to earn her keep.

Once you have done all your research and decided on the traits you want your real historic person to present to your character, you are ready to dive into the story. THAT’s the FUN part!

Hope you found this useful, or at least, I hope it’s given you a little insight into what went into ‘Withershins’ and ‘Spirit Quest’.

Have YOUR characters ever interacted with real people?

Multiculturalism

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I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures, as might be evident by my books, Withershins and Spirit Quest. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that treasured tolerance and acceptance of others, so was free to delve into the mysteries of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or native spirituality, if that was what I wanted to do.


Growing up with a Hebrew school across the street from my elementary school, I acquired many Jewish friends. As I got older and learned about world history, I was horrified to learn about the Holocaust. I could not understand why anyone could let such an atrocious thing happen to the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of my friends.

I wept for them.

Mississippi Burning (Signet)

I soon realized that this sort of bigotry was not new. In school, we read Mississippi Burning, about the racism in the southern United Stated between the white and black residents, there. I could not understand why people could hate another person merely because their skin colour was a little (or a lot) darker than theirs, any more than I could understand why one culture was persecuted because they had different beliefs.

I still can’t understand it.

When I read about how the Europeans treated First Nations peoples in North America and other places, like Australia, I was appalled that my ancestors were really no better than the Klu Klux Klan. I think that’s why I am glad to see so much Young Adult fiction on bookstore shelves, today, that deals with bigotry and racism. We need to show our young people the horrors that man can inflict upon another.

With any luck, they will begin to see that we cannot perpetuate the hatred.

Even as adults, we all should just let it go and embrace our fellow man (or woman) whether he/she has red skin, black, yellow, blue or purple. We must love our neighbours, whether they are Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim or First Nations because, when you get right down to the roots, the basis for all religions is peace among all people. It is only the fanatics that take a small portion of their religion and distort it so that they feel the need to exterminate ‘The Unbelievers’.

For those of you who feel as I do, I want to share excerpts from a few books I have on my own bookshelves (most by Manitoba authors, I’m proud to say) that illuminate bigotry for the evil it is and how it affects our children.

A Place Not Home

Eva Wiseman’s ‘A Place Not Home‘ is about a Hungarian Jewish family who must flee their country because they are afraid they will be killed. Here is an excerpt:

“Mother warned us not to make a sound. She covered us, even our heads, with the blanket. I wished I was invisible.

Father walked to the door hesitantly. ‘Who is it?’

‘It’s Erno Gabor.’ Father let him in. I peeked out from under the blanket. Although the voice was familiar, I felt afraid even to breathe. Dr. Gabor’s face was as white as snow; sweat was pouring off his brow. He looked very different from the last time he paid a house call, when I had whooping cough.

‘My God, Erno, are you ill? Kati, get him some brandy!’

‘No, no, I’m okay. I must contact all the Jews in Veszprem. I’ve heard rumors that some of the former Nazis are making a list of all the Jews who are left. They are planning a pogrom. They want to kill us all.’

Mother muffled a cry of terror. Father was ashen.”

The Kulak's Daughter

A Kulak was a term used by Stalin’s Communists who did not conform or ‘share’ with the community. Farmers were expected to give up everything they worked for during the growing season for the good of the country, but it was not shared equally. In ‘The Kulak’s Daughter‘, by Gabriele Goldstone, Olga’s father tries to hide grain stores but there are spies everywhere.

“One morning, when I got to school, everyone’s talking in whispers about Michael’s papa. He’s disappeared overnight.

It’s not the first time a black car we’ve nicknamed ‘The Blackbird’ swooped into a farmyard to arrest a kulak during the night. But it’s the first time it involves one of my classmates. People say Michael’s papa had an anti-communist attitude. We all wonder who reported him. I know it can’t be Michael. Michael would never report on his father. Would he? . . .

One day, when the dark, heavy clouds that have settled over November smell like snow, the storm hits again. It’s almost four weeks since papa’s disappearance. This time, the storm doesn’t strike as a fancy, important looking black automobile. It comes, instead, as a big, noisy transport truck.

We go out to watch as two OGPU officers, with long guns leaning against their shoulders, get out. I notice their clunky boots.

‘You must leave,’ one of them says, handing Mama a letter. ‘Deportation orders. Everybody out of here. There will be a train in Zhitomir. You must be on it by noon tomorrow. This farm land will be shared by all people. It will be part of a collective for the Soviet workers.’

He looks at us children. We’re standing right behind mama. ‘Bring food,’ he adds, ‘if you want to eat.’

Then he touches his royal blue cap, gives a nod and stomps back to the rumbling truck. Doors slam metal on metal and the truck sputters down the leaf blown trail.”

Zlata's Diary:A Child's Life in Sarajevo

Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic is about the conflict in Bosnia. A young girl with a normal life is suddenly torn away from her home because of the war. It’s a true story. She often directs her comments in her diary to her fish, Mimmy.

“Dear Mimmy,

BOREDOM!!! SHOOTING!!! SHELLING!!! PEOPLE BEING KILLED!!! DESPAIR!!! HUNGER!!! MISERY!!! FEAR!!!

That’s my life! The life of an innocent eleven-year old schoolgirl!!! A schoolgirl without a school. A child without the fun and excitement of school. A child without games, without friends, without the sun, without birds, without nature, without fruit, without chocolate or sweets, with just a little powdered milk. In short, a child without a childhood. A war time child. I now realize I am living through a war, I am witnessing an ugly, disgusting war. I and thousands of other children in this town that is being destroyed, that is crying, weeping, seeking help, but getting none. God, will this ever stop, will I ever be a schoolgirl again, will I ever enjoy my childhood again? I once heard that childhood is the most wonderful time of your life. And it is. I loved it, and now an ugly war is taking it all away from me. Why? I feel sad. I feel like crying. I am crying.”

In My Enemy's House

In My Enemy’s House, by Carol Matas

The scene takes place in Germany during WWII and begins with two girls hiding in the basement where a Nazi sweeper team finds them and throws them in a truck with other neighbours they have caught:

“Finally, the trucks stopped and we were pushed out. We were at the old castle. In front of the castle before the parapets was a deep ravine — what had been a moat. There were lines of German soldiers with machine guns. There was a long line of Jews. I watched as the Jews were pushed in front of the ravine, five at a time, and then the soldiers opened up on them and they dropped into the ravine. Little children, women, old men . . . Mothers begged for their children’s lives, babies screamed in terror, the old men chanted the Shema. Fanny and I were near the end of the line. I wished we were near the front. Then our suffering would be over.

Fanny said, ‘It’s the Zuckermans.’ I watched Chaike’s mother standing by the ravine, beside her three sons and Chaike. The machine guns exploded. They cried out and then they were gone. I felt woozy and I dropped to the ground, head between my knees.”

These are only a few of the stories that delve into the subject of war and hatred and the atrocities one group of people inflict on another, just because they are different or won’t conform to an expected  political view. I have a few more on my shelf that I still need to read, so I will review them another time.

Have you read any YA fiction that deals with this subject? How did the authors handle it?

Poetry

In case you haven’t heard, April is National Poetry Writing Month according to those who are taking the 30-day Poetry Challenge. I haven’t created any poetry lately. For me to write poetry, I need inspiration that compels me to write in that format, which doesn’t happen often. I normally write prose, something more like this:

The Wolf

He is close.

He laughs at me with his doggy grin, tongue lolling out one side, eyes twinkling with amusement. Suddenly, he bounds away. He runs with his pack, his family. They chase a herd of dear and feast, replenishing their strength. He joins his mate, nuzzling her face and neck as she nurses her pups.

Twilight descends and the full moon rises, washing the fields and woods with silver. He feels compelled to find a higher place, a rocky plateau. He lifts his voice, praying to the grandmother as she slips across the inky sky. He prays for a bountiful hunt, a healthy family, to live long enough to see his pups grow strong. He thanks the grandmother for the light in the midst of darkness, for the freedom to live as he chooses.

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In some strange way, watching him is like watching myself. He is a nurturer, loving, giving. He dotes on his family, cares for them, lives for them. He is my spirit that longs to be free, free to travel the great expanses as does the wind, free to choose whatever path makes him truly happy. And yet, he IS happy at that moment to be with his family, happy to grow with them, happy that they travel with him.

He is me.

The inspiration for the piece above was a song presented by a native elder as he beat his drum. Although I did not understand the words he sang, the images above came to me as I listened to him, eyes closed, heart and mind open. I used these images in ‘Spirit Quest‘, when Michelle had her first sweat lodge experience. I was surprised at how much the music had moved me, but I felt an affinity to the culture. The beat of the drum stirred my blood. According to the elder, visions of a wolf represents your inner self, and so the wolf piece was born.

I also wrote a couple of free style poems based on my feelings and all I had learned at the time:

Wind

Once, the breath of the Mother caressed my face.
Fingers of cool air reassured me that all was well in the universe.
The cries of eagles floated on the wind’s feathery back.
The burble of a clear stream brought the blood of the Mother to sustain me.
Now, all I hear is a single voice echoing the songs of our ancestors.
Her haunting tune plucks at my heart.File:Golden Eagle flying.jpg

Tears form trails on my cheeks
Like the path of the buffalo, so long ago.
It saddens me to know that so much has been lost
Because of man’s foolishness.
It is time to recover what has disappeared,
If not in the flesh, then in the spirit.

Noble beasts, their homes destroyed, search for other places.
Birds fly far from us as cities engulf the land.
Trees become our homes, but we do not hear their cries.
Their voices are silent, their dignity stripped from them.
Our most ancient ancestors, the rocks, are torn from the Mother,
Crushed, set aflame, reshaped.

I feel the pain of the Mother.
I long to embrace Her, comfort Her.
How can I stop Her suffering?
My fingers must tell Her story.
My voice must warn of Her plight.
Let the wind carry my words.

File:JingleDress.jpgThe Dance

Hearts beat
Feet thump
Rattles clatter

Hands rise
To the sun
Give thanks

Twirl
Spin
Pound your feet

Faster thrums the drum
Voices honour the ancestors
Hands give offerings

Sage and cedar
Sweet grass
Cleansing smoke

Souls are light
Happy
Free

Poetry is driven by feelings and usually evokes emotions in those who read it. Yesterday, I was perusing a close friend’s blog who has recently taken on a 30-day  health-related writing challenge and one of the challenges was to write a Haiku. When I read her Haiku, I was really touched and it brought home some of the physical challenges she has faced. I asked her if I could re-post it here, to share her thoughts on a debilitating condition. For the past three and a half years she has been struggling to recover from a stroke that paralyzed her entire left side of her body. Here is what she wrote:

How life will slow down
when the signals get so lost
and confusion starts.

His words would sputter
listeners look away since
He does not matter.

Helping hands reach out
She, glad not to be alone
Grasps at salvation.

After reading this, I hope you are able, in some small way, to appreciate the hardships she has faced. For those who might want to check out her blog and some of her other writing challenges, Linda can be found at Leading a Healthy Life here.

I have a few more poems to share, but I think I will save them for next Sunday.

[All photos in this post were taken from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the picture to link with the original site]

So, how many of you are participating in the 30-day Poetry Challenge? For those taking part, how have you been doing?

Michelle’s journey

Although it’s been awhile since I’ve been on a school visit, last week I decided to follow the trail that my character took and take some pictures of the old historical sites. Eventually, I want to put together a slide show for the next time I’m in the schools or do a reading, so those who haven’t been out to Lower Fort Garry or St. Andrews Church will get a better picture in their heads about what things looked like. As much as I tried to describe the settings in the books, there really is no better way to show people a place than with pictures. For those of you who haven’t read ‘Withershins‘ or ‘Spirit Quest‘ let me give you a little background: (I’ve put the story line in italics and the historical information is in standard font.)

Michelle heads out with a couple of friends one Friday evening late in October to do research for an upcoming history project. They drive out of town a little way to St. Andrews Church, the oldest stone church in Western Canada.

It is located on the Red River that flows north from the United States and empties into Lake Winnipeg, which is much like an inland sea. At its widest point one cannot see across to the other side.

The first 2 pictures show the graveyard on the south side, where you can see the flowing river. It’s very low this year because of the mild winter we had. Usually, the Red River is much higher and swifter.

The next 2 photos show the north side of the graveyard.

Back to the story: The idea for the evening was to take down the names of some of the earliest settlers buried at St. Andrews and then research their lives. Michelle wanders through the graveyard making notes while the boys sit in an old tree, chatting about sports.

soldiers' gravestone

Although I don’t mention Michelle noticing the newer gravestone above, I do mention the deaths of these young soldiers of the 6th Regiment of Foot later on in the books. I also mention Michelle taking note of this stone coffin. You may recognize it as the Gravatar I used when I first started blogging, although I did crop out the other gravestones). Here is a close-up of the inscription on the sarcophagus. It’s a bit hard to read unless you click on it. You should bring up a bigger version.

When the caretaker tells the teens it’s time to leave, they head out to a local drive-in for dinner.

Skinner’s is a well-known establishment at Lockport, just outside of Winnipeg. It was so popular they even opened another one across the highway as well as a booth in The Forks Market food court. This is the original one, the one I used to go to with my parents as a kid. There used to be a carnival set up behind where the new Skinner’s is now located, about where the water slides are situated. It was a wonderful summer outing with the family – fun houses, carnival rides, cotton candy with a stop at Skinner’s for ‘The World’s Best Hotdogs’. I don’t remember whether they had all the hockey memorabilia lining the walls back then, but I do remember the jukeboxes in every booth. They still have them, although some of the songs have been updated. You can see the steel grid work in the background. That is the start of the bridge that spans the Red River and continues on over the locks.

Michelle and her friends go to the locks after dinner and watch the rushing waters.

In the early days, the Red River was a busy highway to The Forks, where the Assiniboine River joins the Red. Around the St. Andrews area the Red River was shallow (during the summer) and fraught with rapids. Often travelers would have to portage around them.

In the middle of the 20th century, the lock system was constructed to regulate the river levels so that boats could easily travel through this treacherous stretch of the river. It was also around this time that the Floodway was built to divert winter run-off and spring rains so the city would not flood, which has happened often in this ‘flood plain’. The reason for this is most of Manitoba was once covered by a huge glacier which carved out and became Lake Agassiz. Once the glacier  and the waters retreated, it left behind a couple of large lakes (Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba), lots of little ones and a vast amount of prairie. While this is great for farming, when there is a lot of snow and heavy spring rains, the water spills out across the flatlands and floods acres of property, as well as towns or cities that happen to be in the way.

After listening to the roar of the locks, Michelle’s friend Jason suggests they go back to the church to try the withershins, a ritual where one runs around a church three times at midnight. Michelle protests because trespassing on church grounds after hours is illegal.

Her friends convince her to try it anyway. When she does, she is transported back in time. Since she is injured during the ritual, she is not sure what has happened to her. Nothing is familiar, so she seeks the assistance of an older couple living in a wooden house reminiscent of ‘Little House On The Prairie’. As it turns out, the man is the same one who will be buried in the sarcophagus, although he is not an Archdeacon, yet. Reverend Cochrane and his wife Annie, are worried about the gash on Michelle’s forehead.

The Reverend loads Michelle into a Red River cart (above) and bounces her off to Lower Fort Garry where a portion of the Sixth Regiment of Foot is residing along with an army doctor, who will attempt to patch up Michelle’s injuries.

As they approach Lower Fort Garry around dawn, Michelle recognizes the outline of the old historic site, although things aren’t quite as she remembers them. There were no fences around the properties on the outskirts of the fort and there were many more tepees in the space behind the blacksmith’s shop.

This is how it looks today (well actually, as of Thursday last week!). The wooden building in the foreground is the blacksmith’s shop. The house on the right is where the Chief Factor resided. For the purpose of my story, the fictional Chief Factor and his wife, the nasty Mrs. Wilson, lived here. Although the actual building had been demolished, a similar style old house has been moved onto the site so visitors can see what it looked like back then. The same goes for the Farm Manager’s house, shown here:

The Reverend brings Michelle through the river gate on the east side of the fort. Michelle looks up at the flagpole and notices that the British flag with the initials HBC, representing the Hudson’s Bay Company, is flying instead of the familiar red and white Canadian flagInside the gate, a trumpeter plays Reveille below a bell tower. 

The bell tower, I believe, used to be inside the gate to ring visitors in for meals. It is now located behind the museum. The Hudson’s Bay Company, which at the time that Michelle visits, owned the trade rights in the area after buying out The Northwest Trading Company, it’s fierce competitor.

Ruperts Land

At the time of my stories, the HBC owned the area known as Rupertsland (the area that now encompasses Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and northern Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland). The Governor of the HBC was George Simpson, who was the man responsible for having the Lower Fort constructed. He lived in the Big House, the focal point of the fort.

As with the out-buildings, it would not have had a fence during the time of Michelle’s stay, or the trees, for that matter.

To the left of the Big House stand the trade store and what is now the museum. I have seen old pictures that show a small building beside the trade store instead of the museum, which I use as Doctor Buchanan’s office.

The Reverend drives the ox-driven cart up to the trade store boardwalk, where they dismount. He directs Michelle towards the doctor’s office, but Michelle steps in manure. While she concentrates on the foul-smelling goo on her runner, she bumps into the handsome stone mason, Duncan McRae. Whether it’s her head wound or the effect of those big blue eyes of his, Michelle nearly collapses. Duncan swoops her up and carries her into the doctor’s office.

Little Britain Church

Monument to Duncan McRae in the graveyard at the Little Britain Church just south of Lower Fort Garry

Duncan McRae was the stone mason in charge of building the St. Andrews Church for Reverend Cochrane, who was an Anglican minister. Later, Duncan built the Little Britain Church, a Protestant church, where he and his wife Charlotte are buried. The monument on the right bears their epitaphs as well as some of the generations that followed. The Little Britain Church is just south of the Lower Fort Garry historical site. It was built in 1853, six years after Michelle left the past and returned to the future.

Armory in NE turret

Some of the other buildings in Lower Fort Garry include the barracks on the north side of the fort, the armory in the NE turret, the summer kitchen in the NW turret, the ‘men’s house’ where the voyageurs stayed when they brought goods in their long boats from the northern outpost of Norway House or from Upper Canada in the east. The SW turret is where I had some of the characters detained in ‘Spirit Quest‘, pending a murder investigation.

Summer kitchen in NW turret

Men's House near west gate

Since I was unable to go inside the buildings yet, I have to rely on photos taken with an old 35mm camera (without auto-focus) that were taken before I got my bi-focals, so a lot of them are pretty fuzzy and dark (the flash didn’t work too well, either). The museum is supposed to open on May 7th, so I will post some of the important indoor shots at a later date.

SW turret (jail)

Long boat used by voyageurs

The Lower Fort Garry historical site is one of my favourite places. In the summer, costumed students and Historical Society volunteers play the parts of the former residents. They represent the era when Governor Colville and his wife lived here, which is a few years after Michelle’s adventures.

Hope you liked this virtual historical tour.

Do you have any favourite historic places near where you live?