Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Alberta History in My Writing

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.bookswelove.com/donaldson-yarmey-joan/

I began my writing career as a travel writer and I drove and camped through all of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon and Alaska, writing about what there was to see and do in those provinces, and the territory and state. I learned a lot of history, saw a lot of beautiful scenery, and met a lot of wonderful people.

The following historical excerpt is about Fort Macleod, along the Crowsnest Highway, from my travel book the Backroads of Southern Alberta. Fort Macleod, coincidently, is the setting for the novel, Illegally Dead, the first book of my Travelling Detective Series.

The Only Shadow in the House is set north and east of Edmonton, Alberta, and Whistler’s Murder takes place in Whistler, British Columbia.

After the Hudson's Bay Company sold Rupert's Land to the Canadian Government in 1869, fur traders from Fort Benton in Montana travelled north into present day Alberta and set up illegally trading posts called Whiskey Forts. They brought wagon loads of whiskey and guns to trade for furs with the natives. The watered down whiskey, laced with any or all of Tabasco, red pepper, tobacco, ginger, molasses, tea, sulphuric acid and ink, drove the natives wild and they brutalized and killed their own tribesmen, other bands, and some whitemen. Sir John A Macdonald, prime minister of Canada at the time declared that the area should be safe for settlers moving west and he formed the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1874. They marched west and established Fort Macleod, which is southern Alberta's oldest settlement.

The downtown district, on 24th Street between Second and Third Avenues, was declared Alberta's first provincial historical site on May 14, 1984. There are many wood frame buildings that date back to 1890s and some brick and sandstone ones from the early 1900s.
The Empress Theatre opened in 1912 and was used for vaudeville acts, minstrel shows, silent films, political rallies and talking films. It has been renovated, but the original pressed metal ceiling, double seats in every second row, and the old radiators remain. The Empress Theatre Society presents movies or live performances during the summer.
The present-day Fort Macleod is a reproduction, but some of the log buildings inside the Fort Museum are original and house numerous historical native and North West Mounted Police-Royal Canadian Mounted Police artifacts. A Musical Ride is staged four times a day during July and August. Young men and women dressed in replica North West Mounted Police uniforms present an exhibition of horsemanship and precision, similar to the world famous Musical Ride.

Harry `Kanouse' Taylor, a former whiskey fort owner, set up a hotel in Fort Macleod after the arrival of the NWMP-the original name of the RCMP. Due to the changing times and transient population, there had to be certain rules in his hotel. They were:
1. Guests will be provided with breakfast and dinner,
but must rustle their own lunch.
2. Spiked boots and spurs must be removed at night
before retiring.
3. Dogs are not allowed in bunks, but may sleep
underneath.
4. Towels are changed weekly; insect powder is for sale
at the bar.
5. Special rates for Gospel Grinders and the gambling
profession.
6. The bar will be open day and night. Every known fluid,
except water, for sale. No mixed drinks will be served
except in case of a death in the family. Only
registered guests allowed the privileges of sleeping
on the bar room floor.
7. No kicking regarding the food. Those who do not like
the provender will be put out. When guests find
themselves or their baggage thrown over the fence,
they may consider they have received notice to leave.
8. Baths furnished free down at the river, but bathers
must provide their own soap and towels.
9. Valuables will not be locked in the hotel safe, as
the hotel possesses no such ornament.
10. Guests are expected to rise at 6:00 a.m., as the
sheets are needed for tablecloths.
11. To attract the attention of waiters, shoot through
the door panel. Two shots for ice water, three for
a new deck of cards.
No Jawbone. In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail

 


 

https://www.bookswelove.com/donaldson-yarmey-joan/

 My husband and I hiked the trail in 1997, on the hundredth anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush. We were in the Yukon and Alaska so I could research the state and territory for my travel book Backroads of Alaska and the Yukon. That hike and my two trips to Dawson City were what made it possible for me to write Romancing the Klondike, book three of the Canadian Historical Brides Collection. The sequel, Rushing the Klondike, is out this month.

     Many of the men and women who went to the Klondike in the first year starved and froze because they hadn't brought along enough supplies. To combat that, the North West Mounted Police decreed that the prospectors had to have 907 kg (2000 lbs) of  provisions in order to cross the border from Alaska into British Columbia and then onto the Yukon. The NWMP set up a scale to weigh each person's supplies before letting them climb the Chilkoot Pass.

     My husband and I each carried about 16kg (35 lbs) on our five day hike up to and over the pass. Besides our food, we carried a tent, sleeping bags, two changes of clothes, an extra pair of shoes in case the pair we were wearing got wet or to change into in camp to give our hiking shoes a breather.

     The Chilkoot Trail was called the `poor‑man's route'. It ran from Dyea to Bennett Lake following an old, first nations path. The men and women who travelled to the Klondike in hopes of getting rich had to haul their supplies up and over the summit. Some were able to hire indigenous peoples to help but many had to do it themselves. They would carry as much as 36kg (80 lbs) up the `Golden Stairs' (steps cut into the solid snow of the pass) each trip, then slide back down to their cache and begin again. Most made 40 trips to do so. Once a miner got onto the steps he didn't dare get off until the top. If fatigue forced him to step out he seldom managed to make it back on.

     Most of the people who started for the Klondike were Cheechakos, a native word for `greenhorn'. It was after a person had spent a winter in the north that he or she became known as a Sourdough.

     The 53 kilometre (33 mile) long Chilkoot Trail is called the `Longest Museum in the World'. There are 10 campsites along it so we had plenty to choose from. We wanted to make sure our daily hikes weren’t very long.

     The trail started out with the Taiya River to our left. We were continually climbing and descending beside it through a rainforest whose tall trees created a nice, cool shade. We had to watch for tree roots, stumps, and rocks and in places there was a drop-off so we made sure our packs were secure and didn't wobble. We crossed a number of bridges, made of metal, split logs, planks or boardwalks.

     At kilometer 8 (mile 5) we reached Finnegan's Point, the first campground on the trail. This was named after Pat Finnegan and his two sons who set up a ferry service here in 1897. Later they built a road through the damp, boggy areas and charged a toll. This worked only in the summer because the prospectors pulled their goods on sleds on the frozen ice in the winter. This point was also used as a cache where the stampeders left their first bundles of supplies while they went back to Dyea for the rest.

     4.8 kilometres (3 miles) from Finnegan's Point we reached Canyon City campsite our first stop. We set up our tent then cooked our supper. Once we had washed our dishes, we drained the water down the screened-in pipe for gray water and scrapped the small food particles off the screen into our garbage. This we hauled out with us. At the time we had to hoist our food and garbage up on the bear pole to keep it from attracting bears into the camp. We also made sure not to keep any food with us in our tent.

     To reach the actual site of Canyon City, we continued down the trail 0.8 kilometre (0.5 mile) past the camp until we reached a sign with the distances to places: Canyon City Shelter 0.5 mile; Dyea 8 miles: Sheep Camp Shelter 5 miles; Chilkoot Pass 8.5 miles.

     We followed the path to the left, crossed over the suspension bridge and came to a sign that stated: Canyon City Historical Site. We were now walking where Canyon City stood over 100 years ago. We passed an old, rusted, cook stove and come to a huge, rusted boiler. This 50 horsepower steam boiler was used to operate an aerial tramway between here and the Chilkoot Pass. It cost 16.5 cents per kilogram (7.5 cents per pound) to send goods over this tram. Few of the Klondikers could afford it.

     Stamped on the boiler was: Union Iron Works SF 1886.

     The next morning we headed to Pleasant Camp which was 4.5 kilometres (2.7 miles) from Canyon City. The climb out of the canyon between the two camps was thought to be the worst part of the trail by some stampeders. A little ways past the Pleasant Camp we crossed a suspension bridge over a series of cascades. And in 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) we arrived at Sheep Camp beside the Taiya River. This camp is the last stop before the Chilkoot Pass and a ranger gave a talk about the conditions of the pass at 7:00pm Alaska time. Other words of advice were to leave by at least 7am, drink 2 litres of water on the trail and expect to take 10 hours to reach Happy Camp.

     When we left Sheep Camp the next morning the ground was level for the first bit and we came across a building that looked almost like a train station. After we began climbing there was an old log building with glass windows, little patio, and cooking utensils hanging on the wall. We were climbing mainly on a path but sometimes over boulders and we left the trees and were in alpine meadows.

     The bears like to use the trail so we had to be on the lookout for them, since they own the trail. It’s best if one gets far off into the trees and let them have the right of way.

     It was a 6.8 kilometre (4.2 mile) climb to the Scales. This is where the prospectors who had hired professional indigenous packers had to reweigh their goods. The packers wanted more money, up to $2.20 per kilogram (1 dollar per pound) to carry the supplies up and over the pass. Consequently, many items were left behind and some still can be seen.

     From the Scales we could see the Chilkoot Pass and we crossed alpine tundra to reach the base. Past the Chilkoot is Peterson Pass, a longer but easier alternative to the Chilkoot which was used by some Klondikers.

     Those who travelled the trail in the winter climbed the 'Golden Stairs' cut in the ice and snow up the side of the pass. Those who came in the summer, when the snow was melted, had to traverse over the huge boulders and loose rock left from a slide. That was what we climbed on.

     The climb was steep and we had to lean forward as we went from solid rock to solid rock. If we straightened up the weight of our pack threatened to pull us over backwards. Other hikers walked up it as if they were on stairs. Near the top we reached a plateau. To our right was a cairn marking the border between Alaska and BC.

      When we reached the top we had climbed 823 metres (2700 feet) from Sheep Camp. At the summit was a shelter and outhouse. We stayed only long enough to use the outhouse and take pictures because it was still a 6.4 kilometre (4 mile) hike to Happy Camp.

     As we hiked down the Canadian side of the summit we had the most magnificent view of Crater Lake, the short purple, white, red, yellow, pink flowers of the alpine tundra, and the mountains. We didn’t walk on the tundra because it’s not easy for the flowers and grass to grow that far north. At Stone Crib there was a pile of rocks that anchored the cables for the aerial tramway on this side of the summit. Here also is a large saw blade from a saw mill that someone decided he didn't need any more.

     Happy Camp is on a river between Crater Lake and Long Lake. After spending the night we continued our hike and when we reached a sign pointing for Deep Lake we turned in that direction and climbed above Long Lake. We came over a rise and saw a lovely lake, a bridge over a river, trees, and a camp in the centre of the mountains. We crossed that bridge and arrived at Deep Lake Camp. A wagon road ran from here to Lindeman City and we could still see some old sleigh runners.

     As we left Deep Lake Camp we walked beside the lakeshore and came upon a metal boat frame. Then we left the lakeshore and followed along Deep Lake Gorge. The further down we went the more trees there were. It was very beautiful and peaceful as we walked through the tall pine trees and finally reached Lake Lindeman Camp (4.8 kilometres (3 miles) from Deep Lake Camp.

     Some Klondikers set up a tent city here and built boats during the winter for sailing across the lake. At the other end of the lake they portaged around the rapids between Lindeman and Bennett lakes. Others carried their supplies along frozen Lindeman Lake and built their boats at Bennett Lake.

     We visited the museum near the river and looked through the gold rush exhibits. A Rufous hummingbird flitted in front of me attracted by the red hoodie I was wearing.

     The next morning we passed Bare Loon Camp and made it to Bennett Lake. The largest tent city in the world was set up here during the winter of 1898. In the spring, the residents of this tent city built boats from the trees around the lake. Over 7100 crafts set sail down Bennett Lake, beginning the 900 kilometres (560 miles) journey to Dawson City. Records show that about 30,000 people travelled from Bennett Lake to Dawson City in 1898. Sadly, when they arrived they found out that the best claims had been staked by the prospectors who already lived in the north.

     Bennett grew after the railway reached it from Skagway in 1899 and it had warehouses, shipping offices and steamer docks. The St. Andrews Presbyterian Church was built in 1898 by volunteer workers and it is the only gold rush building still standing in Bennett. There is also a train station and a train that takes hikers back to Skagway.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Staking A Gold Claim

 

    

 


https://www.bookswelove.com/donaldson-yarmey-joan/



https://www.audible.ca/pd/Romancing-the-Klondike-Yukon-Audiobook/B09Y62PLWV?ref=a_series_Ca_c10_lProduct_1_3&pf_rd_p=e54256e9-89bd-44c1-980b-adcad688db4e&pf_rd_r=Q9TGZH9B27KBHZP9Z7XY

         https://www.bookswelove.com/donaldson-yarmey-joan/                                               

       In the late 1930s my father, Oliver Donaldson, and his brothers, Gilbert and Albert, made their living by panning for gold on two gold claims on the Salmon River, now called the Salmo River, in southern British Columbia. In 1980, Dad, my Mom, my husband Mike, our five children, and I went on a holiday to the Salmo River and the site of the former claims. We found the bottom two rows of logs, all that was left of one of the cabins they had lived in and the second cabin, which was still standing, on the other side of the river.

       Under Dad’s direction we all panned the river. The children were quite excited at finding gold to take home. We toured the area seeing where Dad and his brothers had walked into town to sell their gold and buy some staples and where they had hunted for deer and picked apples to live on. After the trip, Mike and I vowed that someday we would return.

       In the spring of 1992, Mike, and I found ourselves preparing for a death and a wedding in our family. At the beginning of that year, Mike’s oldest sister Sallian had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and one of our sons and his fiancĂ© had set a wedding date. For almost five months we visited Sallian, first at home and then in the hospital. I cannot describe the anger, sorrow, and frustration I felt as I watched what the disease was doing to her. She lost weight and the ability to look after herself. During her final month she was hardly more than a skeleton.

       For those same five months I experienced a mother’s delight and happiness as I helped with the marriage plans. I made the cake, watched my son pick out his tuxedo, found my dress, arranged for my hairdo, and planned a mixed shower of friends and family.

       Balancing my life while dealing with the opposing emotions was truly hard.

       Sallian died on May 25 at age 54. On June 27 over 300 people attended my son's wedding and partied well into the night.

       Like most people it took the death of someone close to me to make me realize how important really living is. I knew Mike and I had to do something adventurous with our lives, something out of the ordinary.

       That summer of 1992 we decided to leave life as we knew it and get a gold claim. Mike found books on gold panning and spent many hours talking from my Dad. He bought new rectangle-shaped, plastic gold pans, vials, and snuffer bottles. I phoned the Minerals Branch of the B.C. government and they sent us a map showing the separate gold claim regions of southern B.C. We set our sights on the Salmo River area.

      For our home we found a used twenty-four foot holiday trailer that had a floor plan we liked. Coincidentally, the people we bought it from had two gold claims in the Yukon. We sold our house, quit our jobs and on September 1, we began our journey west. Mike was pulling the holiday trailer with our half-ton truck, which had our all-terrain vehicle in the back. I was in our smaller four-wheel drive pulling a utility trailer with our prospecting equipment and other paraphernalia we thought we might need.

       It took two days of slow travel to reach the Selkirk Motel and Campsite on the side of the highway at Erie, about three kilometres west of the town of Salmo. We set up camp, hooking up to the water and power. We had until freeze-up to find a claim.

       Next morning we were up early and off to the Gold Commissioner’s Office in Nelson. There were no changes in the maps we had been sent. Since there was no need for both of us to get a Gold Miner’s Certificate, Mike bought one, two red metal tags, and a topographical map, and was given his recording form. We were hopeful as we headed to the Salmo River.

       Although the open spots we were looking for were on a different section of the river from my fathers, we didn’t mind. Getting a claim on the Salmo was what mattered. As we neared one location we slowed down and began watching the bush for a post with a tag on it that would show the boundary of the neighbouring claim. When we found it we checked the number on the tag with the number on the map and it matched. We went down the steep bank, holding onto small trees and bushes to keep from sliding. Mike ran a few pans from the downstream side of a large rock, one of the places Dad had told us that gold collects. Others were on the inside of curve on rivers and in the roots of trees beside the water. However, at this part of the river there wasn’t any gold to be found.

       We drove to another site further downstream. The bank was a sheer drop to the river. Discouraged, we returned to the campsite.

       The next day we went to find Dad’s former claim. We drove down to the border crossing at Nelway and turned right just before the Custom’s office. We travelled beside ranches and alongside the Pend D’Oreille River. After we crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Salmo River we turned right onto a narrow, gravel road. It was steep in places and there were many sharp curves just as we remembered. We drove over Wallach Creek but after that we couldn’t find anything else that looked familiar. It had only been twelve years since we had been there. When we went in 1980, it had been forty years since Dad had lived there, but he found it. Our memories were not quite as good as his.

       With a growing sense of urgency we spent days checking Rest Creek, Erie River, Limpid Creek and many others with little success.

       The Salmo River kept calling us and we returned to the bridge and mouth of the river. Mike tried for gold. No luck. We drove along the south side of the river where we found the second cabin Dad had shown us. There was a truck and camper in the yard. We stopped to talk to the man there and learned that four people, three men and a woman, now had my Dad’s and my uncle’s claims. He told us they were the two best claims on the river.

       I explained where the cabin had been on the north side and he told us how to reach it. This time we found the trail to the river and came upon the remains of the log cabin. Just past it we stood on the bluff looking down on the river as we had done twelve years earlier with my parents and our children. The memories came flooding back: the walk to the river with each child carrying a pie plate to use as a gold pan, finding gold only to discover that we had nothing to put it in, one daughter coming up with the idea of sticking it to bandages, camping near the river.

       But we didn’t have time to linger. We were working against the weather. Mike went over our maps of the Salmo River again and this time noticed that there is a small portion on the curve of the river that was open near the old cabin. Because the claims on either side formed rectangles it was missed by both of them. We found the posts of those claims then hurried to Nelson to confirm that the piece was available. It was.

       There wasn’t time to stake it that night so we had to wait until morning. We rose early, went out to the river and put one of Mike’s red tags on the post of the claim to the east of ours. Mike took a compass and orange flagging and we began to mark off the distance, tying the flagging to trees as we went. At the end of five hundred yards Mike cut a tree, leaving a stump about three feet high. He squared off the top and I nailed up our final tag with the information scratched by knife point onto it. The claim was five hundred yards by five hundred yards and was called the Donaldson.

       We hurried back to Nelson and handed in the recording form. We were ecstatic. Not only had we located an area on the same river as my father, but we actually had part of his old claim. We went to the river and found a clearing for us to set up camp when we came back the next spring. Mike took his gold pan and headed down to the water’s edge.

       I followed and sat on a large rock. As I watched the water flow sedately by, a deep sense of relaxation settled over me, the first I had felt since the beginning of the year. It helped me begin to deal with the fact that I had witnessed Death at work.

       Sallian was the first one in either of our immediate families to die. I had seen the tragedy of death strike my friends but didn’t understand how devastating it could be until it happened to me.

       We spent the winter in our holiday trailer in a campground in Vancouver and returned to the claim in the spring. Our campsite was in the middle of tall pine, birch, spruce, and cedar and I could just barely see the mountain tops to the south. The mountains to the north were higher and made a lovely backdrop to the trees. Each morning I walked through the bush to the river. I sat on a large triangle-shaped rock and watched the water drift by. A partridge sometimes drummed in the distance. Birds sang in the trees. I would take a deep breath of the cool, fresh air. It was a good place to be.

       We panned for gold, explored the area, and generally enjoyed our freedom but soon our adventure was over and in the fall we returned to the real world. We never did find much gold but then, for me, it really wasn’t about the gold.

       My mystery/romance novel, Gold Fever, is loosely based on my gold claim experience.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Sayings

 

https://www.amazon.ca/Killer-Match-Joan-Donaldson-Yarmey/dp/1990086241

https://www.audible.ca/pd/Romancing-the-Klondike-Yukon-Audiobook/B09Y62PLWV?ref=a_series_Ca_c10_lProduct_1_3&pf_rd_p=e54256e9-89bd-44c1-980b-adcad688db4e&pf_rd_r=NK4TC033H9WRYYTRK4FJ
 
 https://www.bookswelove.com/donaldson-yarmey-joan/
 
                                                      
 

Be Careful What You Wish For is an old saying with an ominous warning to it and Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining is also an old saying but it has an upbeat tone to it. Both of them apply to my story.

Be Careful What You Wish For

For years women who had had breast cancer surgery were told not to use their arms for any strenuous activity for fear of causing lymphedema, a build up of fluid in the arm. Don McKenzie, a Canadian sports medicine specialist at the University of British Columbia, opposed this idea. In 1996, he formed a dragon boat team composed of 24 women with a history of breast cancer in Vancouver, B.C. They called themselves Abreast in a Boat. And they proved that strenuous exercise was good for their arms and for their overall health.

A few years later, they entered in the Vancouver dragon boat festival and I saw them on the television news. I had never heard of dragon boating before and I said to my husband. "That looks like fun. I'd like to try it sometime."

In January of 2001, I was doing a breast self examination and found a small lump. My annual mammogram at the Breast Centre in Edmonton was scheduled for February but I called the centre and told them my news. They booked me an appointment in two days. Although no one said the C word, after the questions, the mammogram, and the ultrasound, I was pretty sure it was cancer. Then I was told that I needed a biopsy and that it could be scheduled for the next week. However, they added "We have an opening in the next hour and we can do it today." I knew for sure it was cancer.

At my pre-op session a woman came in to tell me about a group of women living with cancer or who had had breast cancer that met every month for coffee and to offer support. I asked her if she knew of a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team in the city. She found the contact information for Breast Friends and two weeks after my surgery I joined the team. I wasn't allowed to get in the boat until three months after my last radiation treatment so I didn't get to actually paddle until 2002. Each summer we practiced on the North Saskatchewan River and attended dragon boat festivals in Alberta and British Columbia.

When I moved to Vancouver Island in the fall of 2004, I joined Angels Abreast in Nanaimo. We practiced in Departure Bay (staying out of the way of the ferries) and on the narrow strait between Vancouver and Newcastle islands. We went to festivals up and down the island and in Vancouver.

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

In 2006, an international festival was held in Vancouver to celebrate the ten year anniversary of breast cancer dragon boating. Besides the teams from Canadian, teams came from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Italy, and Asia. It was great to walk through the paddler's village and meet fellow survivors from around the world.

In Sept. 2007, another international breast cancer festival was held in Caloundra, Queensland, Australia, and Angels Abreast went to that. What a wonderful time we had. The residents of the city were friendly, the venue was excellent, and the hosts did a great job of organizing. The 100 teams of twenty-four paddlers, steersperson, and drummer paraded through the streets dressed in pink, and many people yelled "Canada" or honked their horns when they saw our Canadian flag hanging from our balconies. The festival lasted three days and again I met many special women. After the festival some of us toured around Queensland and New South Wales. We went out to the Great Coral Reef and even with my fear of heights I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From Sydney we flew to Fiji for a week.

The next international festival was held in Sarasota, Florida, on October 24, 25, 26, 2014, and the team decided to attend. The other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home. I wanted more than that, so my husband, Mike, and I decided to do a three month tour of the U.S. Since I needed to be in Sarasota by October 22 to practice with the team, we picked September 23 as our leaving date and Dec. 16 as our return date. I applied for and was given three months off work.

We had such a great time touring through nineteen states. In Sarasota I stayed in the hotel with my team for the three day event. Again, such a wonderful venue, although at 6:00am it was dark and cool. Once the sun came up, we warmed up fast.

The last international festival was in Florence Italy in 2018. Again, rather than fly there for just the festival and maybe some local touring, I opted to spend nine weeks in Europe. I did two bus tours, travelled by train and stayed in hostels and hotels for eighteen days and then did a Baltic Sea cruise.

Since my diagnosis I have met so many strong, caring, fun-loving women plus I have visited some awesome places around the world. I am now back living in Edmonton and paddling with Breast Friends again. Only one woman is still with the team from when I paddled here years ago.

I am looking forward to paddling this year and many years to come, the silver lining to my cloud.

 

 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Putting Puzzles Together VS Writing a Mystery Novel

 

https://www.amazon.ca/Killer-Match-Joan-Donaldson-Yarmey/dp/1990086241

https://www.rcn.media/product-page/secrets-of-a-town-s-cursed



https://www.rcn.media/product-page/Banished-To-The-Fifth-Planet



https://bookswelove.net/donaldson-yarmey-joan/

My daughter and son-in-law gave me a one-thousand piece puzzle. It has been years since I’ve put a puzzle together and I thought it would be fun. However, as soon as I dumped out the pieces on the table I realized that putting the puzzle together would be much like me writing a mystery novel.
     First, the big pile of pieces is like the big mishmash of ideas, clues, scenes, characters, and settings that make up the notes I have for my mystery. Before I can start the puzzle I have to turn all the pieces upright so I can see their colour, just as I have to sort through my notes when I start my novel. I have to decide where in the story my book begins much like I have to decide how to start my puzzle. I can outline my novel as some writers do or I can jump in and start writing. With the puzzle, I can find all the outer edge pieces and put them together or pick scenes of the picture and find the colours to match.
     I decide to start with outer edge and I sift through the pile to find them. I return the rest to the box. As I work on the edge I have to go back through the box to find edge pieces I missed, just like I have to go through my manuscript and find where I have missed adding some important information or missed putting in a misdirection.
     Because of the way they are cut, it is hard to decide if a piece is part of the outside edge or if it is a regular piece. Just like writing, is that a clue or a red herring?
     With the puzzle I know at the beginning what the end result will be because of the picture on the box. Sometimes when I start my mystery, I know the ending, however sometimes the characters say or do something that I hadn’t planned on and I am left trying to figure out how to get them out of a situation or how to diffuse something they have said.
     I learned that there are various names for the parts of a puzzle piece: loops and sockets; knobs and holes; tabs and slots; keys and locks; even outies or innies. Sometimes it is frustrating to try and get knobs to fit into the holes. The colour looks the same only the tab doesn’t fit correctly into the slot. Or the pieces lock perfectly but there is a slight difference in colour. If one doesn’t seem to fit in a spot, I have to match it somewhere else. That is the same with my writing. Sometimes I come up with a good line or a scene only to find that it doesn’t suit where I want it and I have to find a better match somewhere else.
     When I get stuck with trying to figure out where my story goes next, I can work on a different section in my novel. In the puzzle if I can’t seem to make a scene come together I can go to a different part and work there. Every puzzle piece is tailored to go with the rest to make the picture just like every clue, every scene, every red herring has to fit into the story properly.
     What is frustrating to a puzzle solver is finding that one or two pieces are missing at the end. This is true for the reader of a mystery. All the clues have to be pulled together, the red herrings explained, the mystery solved, and the murderer caught. I can’t leave any pieces out.
     And the last thing I realized about how putting puzzles together and writing mysteries are similar is that both of them are an excruciatingly slow process for me.