Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Safari 2011

Herewith, some pictures from my safari in Kenya. We had an unbelievable time – I think it was the best vacation I’ve ever had.

We stayed at Kicheche Camps in Laikipia and Masai Mara. The trip was arranged by Karen Oliver at Uniglobe Glen Abbey Travel in Oakville (http://uniglobeglenabbey.com/) and we were assisted on the ground by Kennsington Tours. (http://www.kensingtontours.com)

The game parks were amazing; we saw absolutely everything we wanted to see (lions, leopard, cheetah, elephants, graph, hippo, rhino, and millions of zebra, gazelle, and impala). We saw an impala being born and a lion dragging home her kill. We saw hippos fighting, enough to draw blood, and lions mating. There were no crowds at all, which impressed me no end, and most days we didn’t see one other group of tourists all day. (When we got stuck at one point, there was no point in waiting for a passer-by to come to our aid). The camps were luxurious, the food fabulous, the hosts charming, the guides super-efficient.

Here is a variation of the trip we took: highly recommended. http://www.kicheche.com/camps-bush-rates-Kicheche-Conservancy.shtm

Monday, November 28, 2011

Land of the Giants

Juba, South Sudan.

The people here are TALL. Wow. Many of the South Sudanese are from the Dinka tribe, which is famous for the height of their people. It’s not uncommon to see people 6’5 and above on the streets. And that includes the women! There is a shoe market near where I walk most days, and the size of some of the shoes!

Generally they are also thin, with long, long arms and legs and necks. South Sudanese are, generally speaking, very black. As in black, not dark brown.

I wish I had some pictures to show you, but I really can’t take pictures of people on the street.

My daughter went to an official event recently and had her picture taken with a couple of dignitaries. She is a normal sized Canadian woman and looks like a little child standing with them.

It is the dry season now, and dry is the operative word. As there are so many unpaved roads the dust is incredible. It’s a reddish dust. I have developed a very bad cough which I suspect is because of the dust and the smog. As in any third world city, the environmental standards are not, shall we say, quite what I am used to. It is also the custom to burn off the fields in the dry season and ash is falling from the sky. \

Saturday I went to the town of Nimulai on the Ugandan border with a group of my daughter’s friends. The intent of the trip was to visit the National Park. Unfortunately we didn’t see any wildlife, but the trip was very interesting and we had a great hike to see the cataracts on the Nile. At one point we were very high up looking down over the plains and the Nile meandering into the distance.

En route to the cataracts we passed a UN police vehicle driven by an RCMP officer on temporary duty with the UN. They invited us to the UN compound for a cold drink before heading back, and I took the opportunity to pounce on him for information about his job here.
Fodder, I hope, for a story soon.

The road to Nimulai is being paved and parts of it were in very good condition. Parts, shall we say, were not. And the dust was incredible. At times we couldn’t see the car in front of us. Not a safe road either, as overloaded buses to and from Uganda kept passing us , on the left, when visibility was about 10 feet.

We passed some de-mining camps and work areas. A reminder of what this country is coming out of.

The International community here is very vibrant and friendly and the social life is great. My daughter had a dinner party on Friday evening. Sunday we had TWO social engagements. A lunch party to meet the new Dutch Ambassador, and then a BBQ dinner. Interestingly, the International community also consists of Africans from other African countries. The BBQ was at the home of a Kenyan woman who runs a car rental agency (car rental in some cases includes drivers) and her Canadian partner. A fun day.

To complicate things: imagine trying to find a house you have not been to before in a city with no street name signs our house numbers. Can be tricky.

There are no districts in Juba. Meaning no suburb for the nice houses and shantytowns on the outskirts. Everything is jumbled in together. It did seem odd to be at the lunch party in a lovely cool house full of Dutch furniture and art, drinking nice wine and eating excellent food and talking about Holland and International politics and then step out the gate into a street that is a dusty track filled with garbage where the neighbours live in mud or thatch shacks and little children run through the streets with feral dogs and goats.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kayaking the White Nile and Falling Mangos

Saturday, I had the extraordinary opportunity to kayak down the White Nile. A friend of my daughter brought an inflatable kayak to South Sudan. My daughter drove us into the countryside, to a nice quiet spot at the banks of the While Nile and we loaded up and took off. The current is very strong and it was work to get across the river to a quiet channel, from then on I lay back and let my guide and the current do the rest. It is not as lush and tropical here as I might have expected, largely because it’s the dry season. But the mango trees are large and green and papyrus grows along the banks.

Children were getting water and people crossing in boats carved out of tree trunks, either poling across or using shovels as paddles. We saw plenty of birds – no crocodiles though.
When we approached town (and the only bridge for the next 1200 KMs) we stopped at a restaurant for a beer. Then on for another while to where my daughter waited for us quite near to her house.

A really lovely outing.

I took this picture of a ladder at a construction site. I wonder what the WCB would have to say about that.

I’m writing this at a compound on the banks of the Nile on Sunday, just relaxing and having a drink and reading (Pirate King by Laurie R. King, if you’re interested). The mango trees are ripe and children are collecting the fruit. A sudden wind just came up and the mangos are dropping to the ground, and the umbrella tops, and the roof of the bar hut like explosives. At first we thought the children were running in fear, but nope they’re busy collecting the fruit. The cooks came hurrying out of the kitchen as well, armed with buckets.

I think Mango salsa is on the menu for tonight.

Incidentally the compound I’m reading in right now is where George Clooney stays when he’s here on humanitarian aid missions. No George sighting as of yet; I’ll keep my eyes open.

I checked with my housesitter yesterday. She tells me it’s turned quite cold in Ontario. Nice to be basking in the heat here in South Sudan on the banks of the While Nile.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Out for a Walk

I’ve ventured out on the city streets for a walk. This doesn’t sound like anything terribly exciting, but it’s rather daunting. First, there are no street signs. If I get lost, I might well never get back. Fortunately downtown Juba is a grid pattern. So if I walk as long as I want, turn left, go one block, turn left, I will get back to Caroline’s street which is conveniently at the bottom of the grid.

I don’t have many pictures to show you, although I’ll try to get some. The big issue about taking pictures is the security forces. DO NOT, I have been told, take your camera out if any police or soldiers are around. You cannot take pictures of infrastructure or strategic places and they will decide what counts as strategic. Definitely do not take pictures of cattle pens! I won’t take my camera with me when I’m walking alone. If I get into trouble, I want someone to be with me.

When I go for a walk, I quite likely do not see a single other white person. Yet no one bothers me: no one stares at me, little kids do not ask for money (although they might well say Hello), street vendors don’t even beg me to sample their wares. Everyone just goes about their business regardless of this rather clueless blond woman in their midst.
The streets are absolutely packed. There are a few dirt patches that might count as a sidewalk but in most cases you walk in the road, trying very hard to stick to the side without stepping into the open ditch. Trucks, 4*4s , cars, scooters they call boda bodas, motorbikes. No street signs, no traffic lights, just a mad scramble as everyone hits the intersection (including the aforementioned white pedestrian) at the same time. The odd goat, chicken or dog as well.

There are tons of NGO and foreign government aid organizations here. Plenty of
mud-spattered white 4*4s on the street with UN stamped on the side. Many aid-organization trucks have signs in the window with a machine gun and a red line through it. No arms. I’ll try to get a picture. My daughter’s primary focus is health – a major challenge in a county with no hospitals. Her colleague works in food security, which I find really interesting.
Went to the market with Caroline after work. It’s just a short walk from her house. As you might expect, the market is mostly women with goods (mainly fruit and vegetables) laid out on a blanket in front of them. We bought tomatoes, avocados, cucumber, tiny bananas, and a papaya.

I don’t think there is anything better in this world than a big African avocado, unless it’s a personally picked cherry tomato. The Mexican avocados you get in Canada? Don’t even begin to compare.

I am told that almost all of the food for sale is trucked in from Kenya or Uganda. After twenty years of war, the infrastructure of South Sudan is just about non-existent and there is nothing in the way of commercial agriculture.

A county with a lot of challenges., But from what little bit I’ve seen, they have the people to match.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not just Another Day in South Sudan.

It was my birthday!

I am writing this in the restaurant next to my daughter’s house so I can use the Internet. For the astronomical price of 100 S. pounds (about $33) I get 12 hours of time. The Internet isn’t working in my daughter’s house and even she has to come here if she needs to check her mail when not in the office.

Or when the power in the office is off and she has to work in the restaurant. Electricity in Juba goes out regularly for several hours. They have generators, but the office generator ran out of gas yesterday. Problems problems.

It’s nice, though, sitting here in the bar. The staff are so friendly. Everyone seems to like my daughter and was quite excited to hear that I am her mother. They said they didn’t believe it, but I’m sure they were being nice. There’s a difference also, I guess, between me and a woman of my age who has worked in the fields in the hot sun every day and lived in a mud hut and had 12 children.

The street pictures were taken as I stood at the gate to my daughter’s house. Not exactly the leafy suburb of colonial dreams.

We went to Da Vinci’s, a restaurant on the Nile, last night for my birthday with some of Caroline’s friends. As we arrived the wind came up – what they call a black storm. And what a wind. We dodged mangos falling from trees on the run from the car. The wind blew and waiters were running after napkins and bringing in cushions. Caroline had planned on us having a table on a raft on the river. That plan was quickly shelved but we had a lovely table inside – inside meaning a thatch roof overhead, there are no walls. We’d sat down, taken a few pictures, when the wind and the rain were over. Five minutes later – calm and peaceful. I had grilled Nile perch and it was very good. Two small desserts were presented to the table with a candle in each and Happy Birthday Vicki written in something pink on the plate. I blew out the candles, and up they popped again. Trick candles.

The Nile is very brown and muddy here and very fast moving. On Sunday I’m going – Kayaking! On the Nile! That will be an experience.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Here I am in South Sudan

Juba, South Sudan. The World’s Newest County.

I am now in Juba, capital of the brand new county of South Sudan. I have been to Africa many times before, but even for me Juba is a real eye opener.

This is not the Africa of luxury game resorts, sundowners around the pool, leafy suburbs. This Africa is harsh, friendly, raw and new. South Sudan got its independence in July from Sudan after a long and brutal civil war. The county is essentially starting from scratch and there are a lot of people here determined to see it succeed.

Juba, the capital, has pretty much nothing in the way of buildings higher than two stories, or buildings at all, come to think of it. Lots of tin or mud shacks. There are no Western amenities here. I haven’t seen a McDonalds or a Quality Inn. In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t seen a single recognizable Western brand at all. The roads in the center of the city are paved, but a chaos of scooters, cars, trucks, 4 wheel drive, bicycles, pedestrians, goats and chickens and the odd big-horned cow. Bad enough, but my daughter drives a right-hand drive car – on right hand drive roads! (Neighbouring Kenya is left-hand drive, but South Sudan is right).

I was exceptionally lucky to be allowed to accompany my daughter out in the field. We left Sunday afternoon in a convoy of two 4*4s to the town of Yei. (Pronounced YEAH) where we were to meet community health workers. Malaria is the number one killer of children under 5 and my daughter was taken to see promising initiative of local villagers who are trained to recognize and treat malaria. They are hoping to expand the initiative to include other diseases.

Go a few kilometers from Juba city centre and the pavement ends. Think you’ve driven on unpaved roads? Think again. On Sunday we drove the approx.. 160 KM (about 100 miles) from Juba to Yei. It took 4.5 hours. And was I tried – it’s tough just holding on! I announced that I’d like to stop at the next Tim Hortons. Ha Ha. There ain’t nothing in the way of facilities – not even a bathroom never mind a coffee shop. Nevertheless in Yei we went to dinner at an acceptable restaurant and the guest house we stayed at was clean and comfortable although basic.

It is surprisingly dry here in Juba, but at Yei it is much greener and lusher.
Monday we left the main road at Yei to head into the bush. Good thing we were in 4*4s. Nothing else would have made it. At times the water was up to the top of the vehicle’s tires. The reason they have to travel in convoy – so one truck can pull another out if necessary.

I greatly enjoyed the visit to the village (a collection of mud and straw huts in the midst of a very prosperous looking corn field) to meet the village health worker. We then went to the medical clinic. Basic is the word, but it was very busy with women and their babies. They are trying hard to deliver antenatal care and assisted childbirth as well as basic health care for children. Not easy in the bush. A baby goat wandered in to check us out.
Then it was the loooong drive back to Juba – more bumping and holding on. We went to a small farewell dinner for a colleague of my daughter.

Today is my birthday! We’re going to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Nile. I’m quite excited; I haven’t seen the Nile yet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finding Time to Write

Today, I'm very pleased to have my good friend (and wonderful crime writer) Rick Blechta guest at One Woman Crime Wave. Please welcome Rick

Writing is obviously something that’s very difficult to do to a schedule. When the muse speaks, you’d better be listening and have your pen (virtual or not) in your hand. Trouble is most of us have day jobs, have other important things to do with our lives, and our writing time comes very dearly bought. So when you do have time to sit down and exercise that writing muscle in your head, you want to make the most of that time. Here are a few hard-earned tips to help.

1. Tell people that when the door to your “writing room” is shut, you do not want to be disturbed – unless the world is coming to an end or the Publisher’s Clearing House people are at your door with that million dollar cheque. It’s easy for others to think, Oh, he’s just writing. I only need to disturb him for a moment to ask what he wants for dinner. Even a small interruption can completely destroy a writer’s train of thought. If those around you don’t get the message easily, put a sign on your door saying, “Do NOT disturb!!! I will be done working at [insert time here] and will speak to you then”. Ever wonder why so many successful writers have little shacks at the bottom of their gardens or cabins in the woods where they disappear to? Keep writing.

2. Don’t answer the phone. Same reason as #1. If it’s important, they’ll either leave a message or call back. Keep writing.

3. Whatever you do, don’t check your email, don’t even have your browser turned on. If you’re like me, you don’t have several computers, but I do know writers who have bought a cheap second one that they use for writing. It’s not connected to the Internet and it’s strictly used for writing. It is tempting when writing to check a quick fact by browsing the Internet for the info. Unless you’re made of really strong stuff, I guarantee you won’t look up just your quick fact, you’ll check a sports score or glance at your Facebook page to see if someone has poked you (what is poking anyway?). Let’s face it, you can always look things up later, be it how to spell a word or the reasons why World War One took so long to end. You’re writing, right? Research can be done anytime. Keep writing.

4. Don’t go back to fix what you’ve just written. You may know that last sentence was a complete dog, but it’s the information you want to get down, the flow you want to develop and maintain. When you’re on a roll, just keep going. I try to not even correct mistyped words or add missing punctuation. If you noticed it now, you’ll notice it later, and it can be fixed then. Keep writing.

5. Write to the bitter end. You probably know from the start of your session, how much time you have to work. Even if you reach the end of a chapter close to the end of your session, keep writing until you’ve reached your time limit. Quite often it will help your next day’s work because it will be clearer where you wanted to go next. In short, writing requires discipline. There are a lot of unsuccessful writers out there who never grasped that point. They might even be very talented, but you know what they say about talent. It’s easy to just waste valuable time, make up excuses to yourself,let other people get in your way, but the writers who complete novels are the ones who sit down and do it.

Rick Blechta is the author of seven crime novels, the most recent of which is Orchestrated Murder, part of Orca Book Publishers Rapid Reads line. This novella is aimed at those with poor reading skills, but it’s also a compelling quick read for anyone. Next fall, Dundurn Press will be publishing The Fallen One, a full-length novel about an opera singer who just might be seeing dead people. His novel, Cemetery of the Nameless, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Best Novel award in 2005.For more information, visit his website: www.rickblechta.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Now On Kindle: Among the Departed

At long last Among the Departed is available for your Kindle. At only $6.99 What a bargin. I actually stumbled across it when searching for something else. My name is spelled wrong - sigh - so it doesn't link up with the other versions of ATD. Anyway, click here.

And remember - it has been out for some time for Nook and Sony.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Depth Interview with Fiona MacGillivray

Fiona has been interviewed extensively over at the Historical Mystery Blog. See what she has to say about her life and times. Click here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Klondike Friday: Law and Order (Sometimes)

In Gold Mountain, the third in the Klondike Gold Rush Series, due out next April from Dundrun Press, there are some flashbacks to when Fiona and Angus first arrived in Skagway, Alaska in August of 1897. Fiona’s on the run from the law in Toronto. She has no intention of going on the difficult trip to Dawson, and thinks it might be a nice idea to set up a theatre in Skagway, something for the entertainment of all the eager prospectors sure to follow.

Then she has an encounter with the legendary outlaw Randolph Jefferson Smith, and decides it expedient to take her prospects across the border into Canada and then to Dawson City.

Smith (aka Soapy) is a real historical character and I did a fair amount to research into him for his small part in this book. There was pretty much nothing in Skagway before July of 1897, when news of the gold strike hit the cities of the south and tens of thousands of people headed north. Skagway, and nearby Dyea, were the jumping-off points for the interior. Passengers travelled by ship from Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver or Victoria and disembarked at Skagway or Dyea to head overland into Canada.

The aforementioned Mr. Smith, who got his nickname from a confidence game involving a bar of soap, was one of the first on the scene. Seeing an opportunity, he quickly took over the town, and ruled Skagway for the next year.

What little there was in the way of law and order, looked the other way. (The Marshall was in Smith’s pocket.)

Smith was killed in July of 1898 in a shootout on the Skagway waterfront. His killer died of his own wounds a few days later. The picture of Smith on the horse was taken was he was the Grand Marshall of the July 4th parade, but a few days before his death.

Meanwhile, at the top of the Chilkoot Trail, at the Canadian border, the North-West Mounted Police kept a Maxim Machine Gun with the express purpose of keeping Soapy and his gang out of Canada.

Many an American was not impressed to arrive in Canada and find that there were rules and the law was enforced. For example, the NWMP inspected all boats leaving Lake Bennett for sea-worthiness, and insisted that women and children get out and walk around the rapids. In town they kept an eye on the gambling halls and cribs, enforced Sunday closing, and banned firearms from town and the Creeks.

And created a very Canadian version of the not-so-wild west.

The picture to the right is of Sir Sam Steele, who in typical Canadian fashion, gets far less recognition than he deserves.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day of the Triffids

I've always thought the sure sign of mega-success would be to have one word or one phrase from your work so well known that all anyone has to do is say it, and everyone knows what you're talking about. Such as a huge, tall plant. A triffid. You know what that means. Here's my own visit to the Day of the Triffids.

This picture was taken in the farmer's field beside my house. Today is the Labour Day weekend, a popular time for tourists where I live. All day cars have been pulling up and people getting out and taking pictures.

One of my friends said that she wouldn't be surprised if I woke up one moring to find the plants surrounding the house.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Klondike Friday: A Day Off

I'm taking a day off today. Yup, a holiday. Normally, when I'm at home I write every day until about noon or one-ish. Yesterday I realzied that summer is ending, I have a fridge full of blueberries, a counter-top covered in tomatoes, and almost nothing made for the freezer. I have books to read and a swimming pool to enjoy while I still can. So I'll take a day off.

But wait - the last-minuite edits for Gold Mountain are due today. I can do those quickly. And it's Klondike Friday!

Sunday was the Lord's Day in the Yukon. Everything was shut down, the bars, the dancehalls, the shops. People could be (and were) fined for chopping wood for their own stoves on a Sunday. So consider this my version of Sunday, and that's the end of Klondike Friday for this week!

One more thing - the release date of Gold Mountain has been moved up to April.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Klondike Friday: Gotta Spend it.

When I sent the manuscript for the first book in the Klondike Gold Rush series, Gold Digger, into my editor she returned it questioning every instance in which I’d specified the amount of money flowing.

Yup, I said, they really did spend money in those quantities.

Very few people made much money in the rush: of all those tens of thousands of people who set off for the Klondike, almost all of them were too late. By the time they heard the news, headed to Seattle or San Francisco or Vancouver, bought the required one ton of possessions, got on a boat to Skagway or Dyea, carried all their things over the passes and into Canada, made a boat and braved the rapids on the Yukon River, and finally arrived in Dawson… all the claims were taken.

There were a few exceptions of prospectors who got lucky, but generally speaking the only ones who truly stuck it rich were already in the area when the initial strike was made.

Aside, that is, from those who mined the miners – the bartenders and dance hall girls and far-sighted shopkeepers.

Yet for those who did strike it rich it was a time of almost unimaginable indulgence. Any luxury available in the South – champagne, oysters, pâté, silk dresses, ostrich plume hats, not to mention real luxuries like fresh eggs! could be had for the right price.

Men dropped ten thousand dollars in a night at the gambling tables (in 1898 dollars!), threw nuggets at the feet of their favourite dance hall performer, bought drinks for all and sundry. A dancer known as Diamond Tooth Gertie (incidentally, you can visit Diamond Tooth Gertie’s in Dawson today) reportedly said, “The poor ginks have just gotta spent it, they’re that scared they’ll die before they have it all out of the ground.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Win a signed copy of Among the Departed

Haven't read Among the Departed, the fifth in the Constable Molly Smith series? Well, hasten over to Dru's fabulous blog and read all about a Day in the Life of Constable Molly Smith, and you can enter your name to win a signed hardcover book. http://notesfromme.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/a-day-in-the-life-of-molly-smith-by-vicki-delany/

Friday, August 12, 2011

Klondike Fridays: A newspaper story run amok.

The Promised Land. Not.

In her book Gold Diggers (a non-fiction account of the Klondike Gold Rush) Charlotte Gray points out that the rush was largely a journalistic or media event.

That there was gold in the Yukon was not exactly a big secret. People had been mining there and finding gold for more than twenty years. So what happened in 1897 that set off a world wide rush that saw tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of people from all parts of the world packing up all their worldly belongings and rushing into the wilderness?


There was a severe depression going on in the United States. When word arrived that a ship was heading to Seattle, carrying gold and now-rich gold miners, the newspapers, particularly the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Seattle Times, saw the opportunity to pump up the business prospects of Seattle. And they played it up for all it was worth. They made the arrival of the Portland in July 16, 1897 into a media event of unprecedented proportions. Other papers, of course, picked it up, and the news spread to a highly receptive audience like wildfire.

The amount of gold in that first shipment wasn’t really all that impressive. The papers reported it in weight – which did sound pretty good – rather than value – nothing too special.

Once the story had legs, as they say in the newspaper biz, everyone else was jumping on the bandwagon. Outfitting shops sprouted overnight, stores put ads in newspapers and hung signs and banners, books and maps were printed by the boatload, and everyone with a boat rushed to the docks to provide transportation. That the books and maps were likely to be laughably inaccurate, and the goods one supposedly needed wouldn’t do much other than take money from a wanna-be prospector’s pocket, was of no relevance. People needed to believe and other people were happy to take advantage of that need.

Unfortunately for the tens of thousands who made it to the Klondike, the reality was a lot different. There wasn't gold lying on the ground waiting to be swept up, and the profitable mines were already owned by those who’d been in the area when the strike happened.

The only real money to be made was in the shops or the saloons and dance halls.

Enter Fiona MacGillivray.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Scene of the Crime - Sat. August 13th

Colour me excited! Scene of the Crime is on Saturday. One of my very favourite weekends of the whole year.

And you're invited!

Scene of the Crime is the annual mystery lovers festival held on Wolfe Island, Ontario. It's a celebration of crime writing and crime reading and crime authors and crime readers. This year the Grant Allen award winner for contributions to Canadian crime writing is Maureen Jennings, who should need no introduction. We're thrilled that she's joining us just days after the release of the first book in her new series set in England in WWII. It's called Season of Darkness and I was lucky enough to get an early copy so I can lead the afternoon panel discussion. It's a great book and an exciting new venture for the popular Maureen.

The other guest authors are C.B. Forrest, Elizabeth J. Duncan, Howard Shrier, and R.J. Harlick, wonderful authors all. The guest lecture will be given by Staff Sergeant Kristina Patterson of the Belleville Police Service on Tactical Survival.

If you haven't sent in your registration, here are the "Walk On" rates: $70.00 if we can still seat you for meals; $50.00 if we can't (there are other places to eat). Just be sure you're on the 9:30 ferry leaving from Kingston.

I will be giving the optional extra workshop this year, and it's on Writing Believable Antagonists. If you'd like to take the workshop, please check if there is still space available.

For all the details including ferry schedule have a look here: www.sceneofthecrime.ca

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Klondike Fridays

Time to head back to the wild days of the Klondike Gold Rush. And wild days they were.

Gold Mountain is on schedule for a May 2012 release and I am sitting down this morning to begin plotting out the next Klondike Gold Rush book. No title as of yet, but ideas are simmering. Last night when I pulled out my history books to start getting back into the sense of the time period, I thought it might be fun over the next year to post things of interest on this blog, for anyone wanting to know more about the background to the books. I’ll try to keep to a regular schedule of Klondike Fridays. Yes, yes, today is Saturday, but I only thought of the idea last night.

One of the reasons the Klondike Gold Rush is so well known (and so darned easy to research) is that it was not only the last great gold rush, but it was also the only one to be captured extensively on film.

You all know those iconic images of the lines of packers trudging up a 45 degree slope in the snow.

In the 1890s, the camera and all necessary supplies for it had become small enough that photographers were able to get out of their studios and stiffly posed portraits and take their camera not only into the streets but also the mountains and the gold fields and peoples’ homes. Thus we have a fully documented photographic record of the period.

Some were professional photographers, perhaps the best known of which was Eric A Hegg, who opened a studio in Dawson City and made a living taking photographs of Klondike scenes to sell in an early version of the postcard. There were many amateurs as well, people who loved their cameras and the new art of photographer such as George Hicks. The White Pass & Yukon Route company employed a full time photographer, Harry Barley, to keep company owners and shareholders informed about the progress of the railway.

One of the books I rely most on for my research is The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay 1897-1899 by Pierre Berton. It’s a big beautiful book packed with wonderful photos of the amazing people who made the great journey to the promised land.

That the promised land didn’t turn out to be quite so promising will be the subject of my next posting.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vicki Delany's Summer Newsletter

I send a newsletter out quarterly, just updating friends, family, and readers on where I've been and will be and what's happening in my little part of the book world. The summer newsletter went out this afternoon. If you'd like a copy, but are not on my mailing list, please let me know. I guarantee that I will not sell your e-mail address to anyone! No matter how much they beg.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Modern Gothic Novel

As followers of this blog (thanks!) know, I’m taking a break from the Constable Molly Smith series to write a new standalone novel for Poisoned Pen Press.

My first two books for PPP were standalones, Scare the Light Away and Burden of Memory. I wrote the type of books I like to read, specifically the traditional British gothic, full of family secrets.

Who knew (not me!) that the gothic is back and as popular as ever, now in modern dress. Rather than poverty-stricken (yet well-bred) governesses banished to bleak Scottish castles, we might have Australian women travelling to English villages to discover the truth of their past (Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden) or a new teacher at an private school in New York fearing that something is moving in the woods (Carol Goodman’s Arcadia Falls).

In the afterword to The House at Riverton, Kate Morton describes the Gothic: The haunting of the present by the past; the insistence of family secrets; return of the repressed; the centrality of inheritance (material, psychological and physical); haunted houses (particularly haunting of a metaphorical nature; suspicion concerning new technology and changing methods; the entrapment of women (whether physical or social) and associated claustrophobia; character doubling; the unreliability of memory and the partial nature of history; mysteries and the unseen; confessional narrative; and embedded texts.

Burden of Memory and Scare the Light Away follow the gothic tradition of family secrets, haunted houses (in one case physical in one just metaphorical), entrapment of women into assumed roles, partial nature of history, and most certainly embedded texts. Burden of Memory, perhapss the most truly gothic of the two, concerns an elderly woman who hires a biographer to help her write her memories of her time as a Nursing Sister in the Army in WWII. The biographer arrives at the old family cottage (i.e. Estate) on Lake Muskoka to find a tough old lady who’d fought her father’s expectations in order to lead her life her way, a large extended family full of secrets, and something moving in the woods (or is there?).

In Scare the Light Away, also set in in the Near-North of Ontario, the protagonist comes home for the first time in thirty years for her mother's funeral and discovers her mother’s diaries and the secrets therein. In both novels, of course, there is a modern mystery as well.

The new book, More than Sorrow (release date Sept. 2011) is with my critique friends now. I’ll be telling you more about it later, but in the meantime here are some links if you’d like to find out more about Burden of Memory and Scare the Light Away. Both are available on Kindle, Sony e-reader, and Nook as well as still in print.

Kindle: Scare the Light Away. Burden of Memory.

Nook: Burden of Memory, Scare the Light Away

Sony e-reader: Scare the Light Away , Burden of Memory.

If you pefer to buy from your local independent bookstore, many still have the books in stock (try Posioned Pen, Mystery Lovers, Aunt Agatha's, Books and Company or Novel Idea) or can order them for you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


One of my favourite mystery writers, Jan Burke, has created a great new web page called Spoilerville. It's simply a place where people can gather to discuss a book with other readers and the author. Four of my books are up, two from the Constable Molly Smityh series, one from the Klondike Gold Rush, and one of the standalones. Pop over and say Hi, and lets talk books. You'll find many of your other favourite mystery writers there too.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Poisoned Pen Press Authors Blog

Because I don't have enough to do, I decided it was time for a blog strictly for Poisoned Pen Press authors. We're a varied bunch in terms not only of personalities and locations but in the type of books we write. And I figured that people who like one Poisoned Pen author might find another worth looking into. So, a blog looked like the way to go. The Press was happy to have a blog as part of their web page, I put out the call for volunteers and presto - we're off to the races. We had more people wanting to participate than we could accomodate in our monthly rotation, so even have a waiting list. The authors have a set day of the month in which to post, so there will be something new every day of the month. My day is the first. Here's a link to my blog which ran on Friday on When Life Immitates Art. And here's the link to the blog page. (Note that to leave a comment or to read comments you have to click on the post itself and open it in a new page - somewhat awkward.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canadian Bookshelf

Here's a great new web site I've just discovered. It's called Canadian Bookshelf and has been put together by the Canadian Publishers Association. A wonderful resource on what's what in Canadian published books. It's still a beta site and there are a few glitches (I've tried to tag my books with but it keeps giving me an error).

My main publisher is Poisoned Pen Press which is not a Canadian publisher, so although the books are distributed in Canada they are not published in Canada thus don't show up on the Canadian bookshelf.

But I'm okay with that.

Hopefully people can find out about my Klondike books and a bit more about me and then look futher.

And I'm pleased that someone is doing something to help out Canadian books. Check it out

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writing the Climax

I'm in the midst of writing the climax of my new standalone for Poisoned Pen Press. Tetative title: Walls of Glass.

It's not easy. In this book I want an action-packed ending. But the heroine isn't a cop or a soldier or a judo master. She's an ordinary woman, with serious brain trauma, up against two big men, one with a knife and one with a Glock. How to get her out of this predicament believabily is the question.

Believability counts. For some reason writers seem to be able to get away with total fabrication in movies in a way that we can't in crime fiction. In a movie, she'd step forward, grap his wrist, and flip him onto his back. Or she'd leap into the air and use both feet to strike him in the chest so he falls, unconscious, to the ground. Perhaps she'd have a knife concealed on her body (don't we all walk around the house like that?) and throw it from the far side of the room to fasten his hand to the wall?

None of that is going to work in this book. One thing she has on her side is that she has a child to protect. I do believe that people can find hidden strength when someone they love is in danger.

There has to be a certain amount of luck involved. One of the men turns away at the wrong (for him) time, or steps in the wrong (for him) place? Perhaps a falling out among thieves? Or an intervention by another person. Nope, don't want the big strong man coming to her rescue. The gun jams? Why not?

This requires a lot of thought. In my head I have to position the characters, move them around the space. Know where they're looking when they speak, know where they're standing at just the right time. I am not particuarly quick-witted, nor am I fast and agile, but my character has to be to save herself, so I have to think like I'm smart and fit.

Let me pour another glass of wine and think smart and fit.

Okay, she got lucky and the knife guy is out of action. Now there's the guy with the gun to deal with. Hum...

Is that a siren I hear in the distance?

No, cop outs now, Vicki. Stay focused. You can do this. She can do this.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Joy to be Home

I'm home. Hurrah! The trip was great but it is so nice to be home. I wouldn't normally go on a long trip in Spring but my cross-Canada book tour for Among the Departed was planned around Bloody Words in Victoria so I had little choice. When I left, the garden was a bunch of stubby hosta tips poking out of the cold ground. Now it's a riot of peonies and iris and the hosta are HUGE. I won't get my vegetable garden in this year - it's getting too late and my priority will be the annuals and cleaning up the perennial gardean and the weeds that have had their way with the edges of the lawn. Fortunately a neighbouring boy came regularly to cut the grass.

I have lost six weeks of writing time. I don't write when travelling, but i did do a lot of thinking about the new standalone and am really eager to dive right in. I find that I am able to do edits when in cheap motel rooms, so was able to get the editor's suggestions incorporated into Gold Mountain (coming March 2012).

Good thing I like to drive - I put in over 10,000 Kms on the car in five weeks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Art in Nelson, B.C.

I've arrived in Nelson for a week.

I have a few book events (http://booktour.com/author/vicki_delany) but am mostly here to soak up the atmosphere. Like the pew auction to benefit Grans for Grans, an organization in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Several promient Nelson artists (including my good friend Carol Reynolds) were given a pew bench from an old church and told to have at it. The art work they created will be auctioned off on Saturday.

Carol broke the pew in two to makea garden bench and a chair, and created a painting on each back section - ie four full paintings - of a birch forest. It's beautiful. A woodworker took his pew and created a desk and a metal worker made an enormous and elaborate swing set.

Several youth from the Youth Centre got chairs and created art work from their chairs. The chairs will be auctioned as well.

Over at the Oxygen Art Centre there's another art auction this week to benefit the centre to which Carol donated a painting.

There's always something fun and interesting and community minded going on in Nelson, B.C.

To see more of Carol's art (such as the painting above): http://www.carolreynoldsart.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Some pictures from the road

I'm spending tonight in Pincher Creek, Alberta. I loooove Pincher Creek. It's a tiny little town with nothing of merit except that it sits right at the end of the prairie and the beginning of the Rocky Mountains. So, if you look east you see flat open prairie. Turn around and face west and it's towering mountains. Tomorrow I pass into the mountains, which is one of my very favourite moments in all the world.

It's been a wonderful trip so far. A great combination of work (booksignings) and fun (touristing). Here are some pictures of the Alberta Badlands, the Royal Turrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, and just driving across the praries. Oh, and of a NWMP Sergeant in full regimental dress uniform as displayed at the NWMP Museum in Fort McLeod.