Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wilds to Riches documentary

I'm doing editorial revisions on my manuscript for a book I'm writing about Jean Caux, also known as Cataline. He was a pack train operator who came to British Columbia in 1858, and worked at his profession until he retired in 1912. A long haul (pun intended)!

Because his career spanned such a long time, I've got files for each decade, and I'm working on the 1890s right now. A busy time in British Columbia, and culminating with the building of the Yukon Telegraph in 1899, which was a response to the Yukon Gold Rush. Government and industry wanted a way to keep in touch with the remote and somewhat mysterious Klondike.

Cataline also he packed for the miners and merchants of the 1862 Cariboo Gold Rush. So I was OK with sneaking a bit of time away from writing and editing this morning to look at the trailer of a CBC documentary that's showing on July 6th at 7 pm. "Wilds to Riches" is about the characters who have come  to the Cariboo country to seek gold--both past and present. Starting in 1862 and up until right this minute,the search for gold has been a draw, an entrancement and an addiction for many. Some strike it rich, but many more go home broke.

This documentary interests me in two ways. First, because Jean Caux, the guy I'm writing about, packed for years into the Cariboo country. He and his pack train of mules and horses brought supplies up from Yale and later Ashcroft into this area to supply the local miners, merchants, farmers and everyone else. Unless you've ever lived or visited here, and travelled the back roads and trails, you can't imagine how hard these packers worked. Everyone worked hard in those days. The miners had it rough, too. Terrible living conditions, mud in the summer, insects, poor food, and bad liquor. In the winter, cold cold cold, and lots of snow. Many left during the winter for warmer places like Victoria, but some toughed it out and stayed through the coldest months.

And of course, the documentary interests me because I live in Quesnel, in the heart of the Cariboo country. The fabulous historical gold rush town of Barkerville is just down the road, bringing history to life. I have friends and relatives who have placer gold claims, and the signs of how important gold is to the economy are everywhere. Isn't it thrilling, in a way, to know that the shout of "gold" is just a mountain away?

The documentary looks great, and I'm marking the date on my calendar. Check out the trailer here:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview: The adventurous, reflective Rhea Rose

SSJ:Tell us about yourself. 
RR: I call myself a dual citizen. I work as a Language Arts and Fine Arts teacher in an alternate program, but I also have a full-time interest in writing. I write short stories, poetry, and lately, I’ve written a webisode series that I will turn into a novel series, too. I just completed the MFA (creative writing) program at UBC.

What are your newest works? 
This year (2013) I have three short stories coming out in three different anthologies. My first story, “Leaf Man” has appeared this spring, April, in Masked Mosaic Canadian Super Stories, published by Tyche Books (rhymes with Nike); the next anthology is called Dead North and it’s a collection of Zombie stories published by Exile Books. 

My story is called, “The Adventures of Dorea Tress,” and this collection will be out in October 2013. The last story, “The Wall” will appear in an anthology called Tesseracts 17, again in the late fall, published by Edge Press. So far, it’s been a good year for short stories.

What else is new with you? 
At the moment I’m on a personal crash course in marketing my writing online. Although I have always published through the traditional method, mail out, get rejected, mail again, most writers know the traditional publishing world has been knocked from its kingpin position by the onslaught of epublishing. This change of venue for writers requires us to become better marketers of our own work; she who knows how to blog, tweet, build a website, and crowd source, then write a good book, will do well.  

That being said, I am still earning to think differently about how I approach my own writing projects. I decided to graduate from UBC with a webisode, the writing of which was very much like writing a novel. I created a world and characters and dialogue, now I can finish the job by turning the stories into novels, or produce them as webisodes or do both. Although the project is ready “to go” in terms of writing (that’s done), the marketing is not in place yet.

What did you learn during the writing process? 
Can you give us any tips? 

One of the best things I’ve learned to do is write anywhere. If you have a laptop or something small like that and learn to take it with you, like you do your purse and make yourself write, you will end up with completed projects. I’ve also learned that if you write it “they will come,” for those of you that remember the movie Field of Dreams. Today more than ever that holds true. Writers have become suppliers of content. Don’t ever throw away an idea. I once wrote a vampire story that I couldn’t sell for ten years. Everywhere I sent it, they said, “OMG, a vampire story. We don’t do those.” Then with the rise of the Twilight series, my vampire story became the hottest thing since, well, you know.

Tell us about your previous projects. 
I tend to be a short story writer and most of my work has been published in Canada, but some of it has been published in the US. In the world of Canadian speculative writing, which includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Myth and anything in between, one of the writers’ awards is called the Aurora. I’ve been nominated for it, but have yet to win it.

What is it that you like about science fiction? 
Not just science fiction but the entire field of speculative fiction attracts me because it allows the adventurous side of me to explore realms that I can’t otherwise go to. There is much hullabaloo in the genre about the fact the Margaret Atwood insists that she doesn’t write science fiction, but it’s very clear to those of us that do, that she does also. That’s not to say that I don’t write literary fiction or don’t enjoy it, I do, and have published both short stories and poetry in more literary publications, but for now it’s not where I like to live most of the time.

What books are you reading right now? 
I just finished the third book in the Game of Thrones series (George R.R. Martin) and a collection of short stories called, Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumiere. I am reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, For One More Day by Mitch Albom and am about to start another short story collection called Push of the Sky by Camille Alexa, like most writer my reading list is infinite, eclectic and random. If someone puts a book in front of me and says read this I will, at some point.

Tell us about your next project.
I’d like to bring some of the writing projects I began in my UBC classes to completion and get them marketed. My next big love is poetry and did do some serious poetry writing in a class with Susan Musgrave. I love poetry. To me it’s the heart of all writing. I may do a poetry collection.

How can people buy your book? 
These are links that will take you to my work.


How can people find you on –line?
Ha, ha, I am on Facebook and I do have a blog called; The Essence of the Rose, but I am still very new at all this and to prove it if you look for me on Facebook you’ll soon see I have to different pages. This is because I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning and created two, now that I know better, I rather like having two. Tweets and websites are being worked on. I’m on LinkedIn and Good Reads.

Thanks, Rhea! I look forward to reading more from you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Interview: the energetic and informed Julie H. Ferguson

SSJ:Tell us about yourself.

JHF: A non-fiction writer for 42 years and an avid photographer, I am also a hybrid author of twenty-one books— including four commercially published about Canadian history, six self-pubbed for writers and teachers, and six photo portfolios. 

My articles and images have appeared in national and international markets, both print and online. I am also an addicted freelance travel writer and photographer.

My company, Beacon Literary Services, provides services to writers yearning to get either commercially or self-published, in book and magazine industries that are in constant upheaval. 

I am proud to be a member of The Travel Media Association of Canada, the International Travel Writers Alliance, the BC Association of Travel Writers, and the Federation of BC Writers, as well as a former member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.

What's your latest book?
My fourth traditionally published book is James Douglas: Father of British Columbia, a young adult biography (Dundurn 2009 – Quest Library series), which was voted one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2010 for grades 7 to 12 by Resource Links Magazine for teachers. I’m also delighted to be able to say that JD has been enjoyed by as many adults as school students.
This creative nonfiction adventure is mostly set in pre-Confederation Canada from 1803 to the end of JD’s life in 1877. Part-Black and illegitimate, fifteen year-old James Douglas sailed alone from Scotland to join the fur trade and later became the governor of the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. The story weaves through the heart of Canadian history when BC was a wild land, Vancouver did not exist, and Victoria was a muddy village. The foreword is by Stephen Hume. 

How did you get started writing this book?
Dundurn’s managing editor phoned me and asked me to write James Douglas for their biographical series for school libraries. I had not queried them nor did I have to write a book proposal because I had done two books with Dundurn before. This is one of the bonuses of being in a publisher’s stable of authors.
Dundurn gave me only four months to do the research, creative writing, and revision. Fortunately, I knew the period well and some of the characters from work on a previous book.
The work was brutally hard and all-consuming; I ate, slept, and dreamed of James Douglas. But I achieved the deadline and was satisfied with the manuscript.

What did you learn during the writing process? Can you give us any tips? 
To be honest, I would never undertake to research and write a book in such a short period again and, indeed, refused when Dundurn asked me to write another book in six months.
I’ve learned since 1984, when I began work on Periscope, to immerse myself in as many original sources as I can find, write without the research beside my keyboard, and ruthlessly revise to meet my book’s overarching theme and throughlines. (I use the material I cut for my articles, etc., that promote the future book.)
Also it is imperative to start getting articles pubbed on the nonfiction topic as soon as you can in markets that your book’s potential readers read; to create and activate your online presence years in advance of publication; and to speak on your subject whenever you can. Promotion needs to be relentless, both in person and online, well in advance of your book’s appearance and afterwards.

Tell us about your previous books.

I have written two books about the Canadian Submarine Service: Through a Canadian Periscope: The Story ofthe Canadian Submarine Service (1995) and its sequel, Deeply Canadian: New Submarines for a New Millennium (2000). My next book for Dundurn was Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada’sCrusading Bishops (2006), that features biographies of four BC Anglican bishops who changed the world. (The first, George Hills, was a contemporary of James Douglas.) 
I self-publish (print and electronic) my books for writers and teachers as mini-guides, and my own photo portfolios (print and iBooks). My overall-bestselling book is Book Magic: Turning Writers intoPublished Authors, now in its third edition, which is also self-published.

What is it that you like about British Columbia history?
Almost forgotten, BC sat at the final frontier of the British Empire and was wild and unspoiled when the Europeans discovered it. Today, I can still see the same geography and nature they did—unchanged and beautiful. I often imagine what it must have been like to live then with no toilet paper, no running water, no medicines, no transportation but canoes and horses, and have to make journeys of five thousand plus miles each year to feed the fur trade. Every time I drive the highways in BC, I remember that am using those fur trade routes and seeing what they saw. It’s an amazing sensation that invigorates me to search out more about it and then write stories of the place and individuals in a way that lets our population discover their predecessors. Magic!

I feel exactly the same way about British Columbia, Julie!

What are you reading right now?
·       Above All Things by Tanis Rideout ( McClelland and Stewart 2012). A superb debut CNF biography of George Mallory who died on Everest in 1924.
·         Rough Passage to London by Robin Lloyd (Sheridan House, forthcoming). A fictional account of Ely Morgan, a famous trans-Atlantic packet (sailing ship) captain, who rose to master mariner from serving before the mast as a boy.

 Tell us about your next project.
I have just finished preparing my first book, Through a Canadian Periscope, for re-release in March 2014 to celebrate the centenary of the Canadian Submarine Service. It will be a trade paperback this time round with the images embedded in the text, a feature that pleases me. Technology has also meant that the old print images could be restored, which I did myself.
I have also finished the first in a mid-grade novel series set on one of the last great sailing ships.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Canadians who write well have a much better shot at getting published than Americans. We don’t need an agent to approach any Canadian publisher and our government extends grants to publishers, which assist those of us who write for small markets in keeping the Canadian voice not only alive, but loud.

How can people buy your book?
All my books can be accessed through links on my website:

How can people find you on-line?

Beacon Literary Services' online presence includes:
·          Website: www.beaconlit.com
·          BLS Facebook biz page: www.facebook.com/BeaconLiteraryServices
·          The Beacon Blog for Writers: http://beaconlit.blogspot.com
·          Twitter: @BLSJHFerguson
·          ​Google+: https://plus.google.com/115278493724561706262/posts
·          LinkedIn: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/juliehferguson

And Julie's includes:
·         Through a Canadian Periscope: www.CanadianPeriscope.ca (New - January 2013) and www.facebook.com/CanadianPeriscope
·          My travelog: Stamps in My Passport: http://stampsinmypassport.blogspot.com
·          My YA biography blog: James Douglas: Father of BC: http://jamesdouglasofBC.blogspot.com
·          My online photography portfolio: www.juliehferguson.crevado.com 
·          My travel videos and book trailers: www.youtube.com/user/beaconlit?feature=mhee

Saturday, June 1, 2013

An interview with the driven and dedicated Robert C. Belyk

SSJ: Give us a bit of background about you?
RCB: Before writing full-time, I worked in psychiatric facilities, drug treatment units, a maximum-security penitentiary and similar ”fun” work places. I have had the privilege of being involved in two riots at a penitentiary and one insurrection at the Riverside Forensic Treatment Facility. During much of this time I managed to complete dual degrees in Political Science and Sociology. Although I’ve never taken a history course, in graduate school, my thesis was in the area of early British Columbia’s 19th century socio-economic development.

Tell us about your previous books?
My first book was a collection of ghost stories that appeared in 1990 under the title, Ghosts: True Stories from British Columbia. John Tod: Rebel in the Ranks, the biography of a HBC chief trader appeared in 1995. Great Shipwrecks of the Pacific Coast was published in 2001. My last collection of ghost stories was published in 2006. Between authoring books, I write articles on 19th and early 20th century history for Canadian and American publications.  

Tell us about your latest book?
I have recently completed my third collection of ghost stories. This work includes stories from the Prairie Provinces as well as British Columbia. Like my other ghost collections, the book is intended to be for readers who are interested in more than the quick, “fright rollercoaster” type of stories. Wherever possible I have researched the history of the haunting and attempted to draw the readers a dramatic picture of events leading up to, and surrounding the haunting.

What did you learn during the writing process? Can you give us any tips?
One of my interests has been collecting Canadian ghostlore. We sometimes hear a person tell us about their haunted house but the stories are never recorded and they are eventually lost in the ether. My purpose is to collect these accounts and present them in an interesting form. This latest book is my most ambitious ghost project. My wife and I spent more than a month on the road recording interviews across the four western provinces.
My advice to a beginning writer is to be prepared to spend many long hours researching your subject. Many old newspapers, for example, are now available online, but depending on the subject, one has to be prepared to make many trips to various archives to complete a major project.

What is it that you like about British Columbia history?
British Columbia has always been a “get-rich-quick” province. Entrepreneurs have come with the idea of making a fast dollar from our resources and then spending it somewhere else, rather than reinvesting it here. That is why this province lacks a secondary industrial base.
During boom periods, employers have relied on importing labour to keep wages down. In the long-term, the result has been to produce a culturally variant society divided along not only racial, but class and geographical lines. All this is the foundation of our interesting, colourful and conflicted past that puts the lie to any idea that Canadian history is boring.

SSJ: You're a dedicated researcher and writer, Robert.
RCB: Once I begin a project, not only am I committed to it, but also I’m its slave. Working on a book is more than a full time job. Much of my time is spent not only in writing, but also in thinking about the project. I am particularly fortunate in that my wife, Diane, has been supportive over the years.

I simply like to play with words. Not as in Scrabble where no one cares much about what the words mean, but the broader dimensions of the words themselves. Some words I think are beautiful, like “meander,” others seem to be ugly, like, “grizzle.” Interestingly, word meanings can be subtly altered simply in the way they are strung together in a sentence. I can remember a line from the classic film, Network—a writer was harassed by a couple of semi-literate bullies. He had the perfect retort when he turned to them and said, “You’ll never know the joy of writing a perfect sentence!”  (I’ve forgotten the movie’s plot, but not that line.)

That's a great quote. What are you reading now?
Thomas Hardy’s, The Woodlanders. I enjoy 19th century fiction, for it offers a portal into a time I find singularly fascinating.

Tell us about your next project.
A: My latest book, Spirits of the West, will be out in the spring of 2014. I haven’t given much thought to what I will write next.

How can people buy your books?
All my books are available by searching “Robert C. Belyk” at www.amazon.ca