Doing rounds

I’ve been doing some promo for the re-release of Small Reckonings lately. Thanks so much to the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and Debbie Sunchild-Petersen (Indigenous Program Coordinator) for inviting me to be part of the Reader’s Corner event at D’Lish on Thursday night in Saskatoon. I really enjoyed meeting fellow authors Jennifer Wallace, Cort Dogniez and Theressa Slind and, of course, the venue put me dangerously close to the best cheesecake in town. Too close, as it turns out. Thanks to my brother Nels and sister-in-law Gwen for coming all the way from Oregon to attend, and my mother made it over from Luther Tower (though I think they really came for the cheesecake). On Friday morning, I had a fascinating wide-ranging conversation with Siren Radio hosts Alex Lewczuk (University of Lincoln, England) and Jessica Burtis (in Dublin, Ireland). And just this morning, I read a very nice review of the novel by author Anthony Avina. A good few days for Violet and the gang.

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Author of the Day on Manybooks

My interview on Manybooks was a lot of fun to do and got me thinking again about the novel and its origins. Funny, now that I’m knee-deep in the sequel, I found it very useful to go back and be reminded of the true story upon which my novel was based. The sequel is a twist on what characters (and readers) assumed about what happened originally‚Äďand what I thought at the time I wrote it! I can’t wait for readers’ reactions when the sequel gets out there!

You can have a look at the Manybooks interview here. And I’m proud to officially show off my shiny new Author of the Day badge! Remember the re-release of Small Reckonings is available from, Amazon.ca, Shadowpaw Press, and from all major online bookstores.

Houston, no problem!

I had a lot of fun yesterday morning as a guest on the Conversation Show out of Houston, Texas. Greg Kelso and I compared extremes in temperatures where we live before getting down to talk about researching historical prairie fiction, writing what you know (like chopping kindling and going to the outhouse at -30), and my recent re-lease of Small Reckonings with Shadowpaw Press. It went like this. Thanks, Greg, that was a fun way to spend the morning!

A little shift in the Universe

Byrna Barclay. The editor and publisher of my debut novel died last week. It’s filled my head for the last couple of days since I found out. This is what I contributed to the condolence book online today. Still not sure if I got it right:

“I was so sorry to hear of Byrna’s passing. We worked together so closely on the editing and publication of my debut novel, and I know for certain it wouldn’t have happened without her. She took on a naive fiction writer and helped craft a story I’m very proud of and, although I’m sure I exasperated her to no end (in ways only Ron probably knows), she was always ready with encouragement. When she’d find something in the manuscript that wasn’t right yet, she’d say, “It’s good. But just a little more, just a couple of sentences…” She pushed to make the story, the characters, the setting better, and she did it in a way I felt I could accomplish what she was asking. We butted heads now and then, and threw her hands up about how often a particular character kept showing up. I kept the page with her note scrawled across the top: “Are you in love with this guy? What in the ding dong is Hank doing in this scene???” She pulled 50 pages off the manuscript and said “This will be your second novel” when I wasn’t sure I’d get the first done. She invited me to visit in Palm Desert so we could hammer out what we needed to do to get this first one published. I got horribly lost, showed up nearly two hours late, but she and Ron were both gracious and welcoming. A favourite photo I have is the two of them in the doorway as I left, both adamantly pointing me in the right direction: “Go back the way you came!” I owe Byrna so much and I’m grateful our paths crossed. And that second novel? It’s a sequel and Byrna will be thanked yet again for believing it would happen. My condolences to Ron and the rest of the family.”

A few images from my time with Byrna; at our first meeting at the Parktown Hotel in Saskatoon after she had gone through my original manuscript the first time. She’d made “a few comments” and I was daunted by the number of paperclips alone. We had breakfast and were suddenly joined by Lois Simmie. At Ron and Byrna’s house in Palm Desert where we talked long and hard about what this novel was going to be. Me at work on deciphering her notes at our rented trailer in Indio down the road and trying hard to write “just a couple of sentences.” And finally mailing that revised work to her. It was a go. Thank you, Byrna. This wouldn’t have happened without you. You really made me believe I could write a novel.

Gordon Lightfoot, late night comfort

My introduction to Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot was as a 10-year-old newbie babysitter in Atlin, British Columbia in 1969, maybe 1970. First, why the local RCMP constable thought I was competent enough to babysit his child, I’ll never know. But, the best thing after the baby was down was their collection of albums and the record player — which I knew how to operate with instructions from my 14-year-old brother. The albums my employers had were an odd batch, but they did have Gordon Lightfoot. I played those over and over; remember now, this is waiting for the album to run its course, then lifting the needle to start again. It made a 10-year-old babysitter stay awake even after midnight when I made one dollar an hour.

But Gordon Lightfoot. I remember clearly, as a 10-year-old, thinking, “He is telling stories in songs. I’m learning Canadian history.” It was my first realization that was possible. And his music, his lyrics, how beautiful. How poignant. I knew I wanted to tell stories like that one day.

The next ‘meeting’ I had with Gordon Lightfoot was in the early 1980’s when I worked for a local newspaper in Saskatoon and had a chance to interview The Good Brothers. Remember them? They were fun. I think, if I’m not mistaken, they played The Manhattan, and I interviewed them the next day. The chat came around to Gordon Lightfoot and how they revered him! The next half hour was all about Gordon and how much they respected him as a musician, a mentor, and especially as a Canadian. No one, one said (I can’t recall which one) is more Canadian than Gordon Lightfoot.

We’ll be asking Alexa to play a lot of him in the next few days. And maybe some Good Brothers, too.