Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Some Alberta History

Some Alberta History

I began my writing career as a travel writer and I drove and camped through all of British Columbia, Alberta, 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.

My first mystery (Illegally Dead) of my Travelling Detective Series is set along the Crowsnest Highway in Southern Alberta

The following 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 boxed set.

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 1873. The next year 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
4. Towels are changed weekly; insect powder is for sale
at the bar.
5. Special rates for Gospel Grinders and the gambling
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.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Dealing With Rejection Letters


Dealing With Rejection Letters from Publishers

Rejection: the act of rejecting; the state of being rejected; a thing rejected.

Rejection slip: a note from a publisher rejecting the accompanying returned manuscript.

Like most writers I have received form rejection slips and form rejection emails telling me politely that the publishing house is unable to accept my manuscript. An example: Thank you for considering ECW. Unfortunately, Controling (sic) Her Death is not right for us. I wish you every success in finding a home for your book.

However, I have also received emails and letters giving me more details about the rejection and adding a few encouraging words about my manuscript.

Dear Joan,

Thanks for submitting Controlling Her Death: My Mother's Date With Suicide to Coach House Books. Our editors noted that there's both an immediacy and a poignancy to the prose that draws the reader in from the first page.

Sadly, however, we can't offer to take it on for Coach House. We can publish only a few novels each year, and we have a surfeit of exceptional manuscripts. This leaves us in the unfortunate position of being unable to house many of the fine manuscripts we receive. We’re sorry to say that we aren’t able to fit your work on our list. 

We wish you all the very best in finding a good home for it. 


Coach House Books

Dear Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

Thank you for submitting your manuscript The Nursery to Ronsdale Press for possible publication. Our readers have now made their reports, and I am sorry to inform you that they have recommended against publication.

After reading your excerpt our principal editor noted, "This is well written and has a great opening, but I find that it moves too slowly and that her memories-at least at the beginning-are the sort of thing that has been often written about. There is little sense of excitement or the strange. The Stone Angel does something similar, but with more verve.

We wish you well in finding a publisher for your manuscript.

Yours sincerely,

Publishing Assistant.

But a rejection, however nicely worded, is still a rejection and it is hard to accept. In the beginning of my writing career I went through a three day grieving process each time I received a rejection letter.

On the first day I would feel totally depressed. I would question why I was writing, who did I think I was trying to write a novel? I would decided that this would be the last day that I wrote anything. I would wallow in self-pity, shed a tear in frustration, and even kick a door.
Day two would bring anger. Anger at the publisher for rejecting my manuscript. Anger at the months it had taken me to write the seventy-five thousand words. Anger at myself for not having written a publishable novel. I would try to figure out how to change it to make it better.
Day three brought a realization that maybe a different publisher might like it. There is the saying: right idea, right publisher, right day. With a renewed enthusiasm I would send it out again and again. I would decide that no one could take away the fact that I had written a manuscript, that I had had the nerve to send it to a publisher.

We writers are supposed develop thick skins. We are supposed to detach ourselves from our work. We are supposed to realize that we are not being judged, that our intelligence, our sense of humour, our sex appeal, and our character are not on the line. What is being judged is just that one piece of writing we have done. But it is a piece of writing that we have written, that we have spent hours at producing. Sometimes, it is tough not to take a publisher's rejection personally.
But the point is to carry on. With multiple submissions being allowed if one publisher rejects my manuscript I have the two or three others to look forward to hearing from. Sometimes I can have two manuscripts and two or three short stories out in the 'please publish me' world at one time. And when I finish one novel, I start another so I am engrossed in it to spend much time worring about the previous one.
The difference between being a success or being a failure is quitting too soon. And we all know of famous writers whose works were rejected many times before being accepted and becoming best sellers. Here are a few of the rejections letters:

"We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."
Stephen Kings first published novel, Carrie, was rejected so many times that King collected the letters on a spike in his bedroom. When finally published in 1974, 30,000 copies were printed. A year later the paperback version sold over a million copies in 12 months.

"You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future."

One publisher sent this to a colleague after turning down The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

"For your own sake, do not publish this book."
A publisher wrote to DH Lawrence about his novel Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Maybe rejection letters make us better writers, maybe they make us better people, or maybe they just annoy us. Whatever our reaction we have to remember that, with publishers receiving thousands of manuscripts each year, being rejected is just one part of the whole writing process.


Friday, May 7, 2021


A Global Coupon code:
Canadian Historical Brides books, one for each province, one for the Yukon and one for Northwest Territories/Nunavut combined, are on a site wide sale at Smashwords for the summer using the above code. The twelve books fall in the Fiction, Historical, Canadian, and Young Adult categories. The coupon is public so anyone going to the site will see it and get the 50% off price. Below is a list of the novels to choose from. Mine is Romancing the Klondike.
Barkerville Beginnings, Canadian Historical Brides British Columbia
Envy the Wind, Canadian Historical Brides Prince Edward Island
On A Stormy Primeval Shore, Canadian Historical Brides New Brunswick
Romancing the Klondike, Canadian Historical Brides Yukon
Fly Away Snow Goose, Canadian Historical Brides Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Pillars of Avalon, Canadian Historical Brides Newfoundland and Labrador
Where the River Narrows, Canadian Historical Brides Quebec
The Left Behind Bride, Nova Scotia
Landmark Roses, Canadian Historical Brides Manitoba
His Brother's Bride, Canadian Historical Brides Ontario
Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, Canadian Historical Brides Saskatchewan
Brides of Banff Springs, Canadian Historical Brides Alberta

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Little Explanation About the Month of January


The original ten-month Roman solar calendar began in March in order to mark the March equinox. However, that left 61 days in winter without a name so in 700 BC January, along with February, were added as the last months of the year by the Roman king Numa Popilius. In 450 BC January and February were moved to the beginning of the year and in 46 BC January, which initially 30 days, was given another day by Julius Caesar’s astronomers.
In spite of January 1 being considered the first day of the New Year, many religions continued to celebrate March 25 or December 25 as the beginning of their New Year. It wasn’t until 1582 when Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian calendar that most of the religions accepted January 1 as the first day of the New Year. The nations France, Italy, and Spain quickly acknowledged the new calendar while other Protestant and Orthodox countries held off. Finally, in 1752 Britain and its colonies converted to January 1 as the start of a New Year. Eventually, other non-Christian countries switched although some retained their traditional or religious calendars. An example is China that celebrates its new year according to the lunar calendar which is based on the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases. Some, like Ethiopia, never accepted the solar calendar and celebrates its New Year in September.
Some January facts:
The name January comes from Janus the Roman two-faced god, who was the protector of gates, doorways, and transitions and represents new beginning and the door into the New Year.
The birthstone is garnet and the flowers are carnations and snowdrops.
The full moon in January is known by many different names: Wolf Moon after howling wolves; Moon After Yule; Ice Moon; and Old Moon.
In spite of the days getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere January is usually the coldest month and the reverse in true in the Southern Hemisphere where the days are getting shorter but January is the hottest month.
Some famous people born in January include Edgar Allan Poe, Dian Fossey, Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King and his son Martin Luther King Junior, Virginia Wolfe, JRR Tolkien, and A.A. Milne.
During the regular years January starts on the same day of the week as October and ends on the same day of the week as February. In Leap years it starts on the same day as April and starts and ends on the same days as July.
Many people consider January to be the month where they embark on something new in their lives such as starting a hobby, learning a different language, planning a trip, or just relaxing more. While some manage to hold onto their changes through the year, alas most get drawn back into their old habits by February. Fortunately, January always comes around again in a few months.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Famous Canadian Authors from Quebec
Canadian Authors

Marie-Rose-Emma-Gabrielle Roy was born on March 22, 1909, in Saint Boniface, Manitoba, which is now part of Winnipeg. After her early education she took teacher training at the Winnipeg Normal School. She taught in rural schools in Manitoba until she was appointed to the Institut Collegial Provencher in Saint Boniface. She saved her money and moved to France and England to study drama but after two years returned to Canada when WWII broke out in 1939. She settled in Montreal and earned a living as a sketch artist while writing. She became a freelance journalist for La Revue Moderne and Le Bulletin des agriculteurs.
     Ms. Roy’s first novel, Bonheur d'occasion (1945) was an accurate portrayal of Saint-Henri, a poverty-stricken neighbourhood of Montreal. It was published in French, earning her the Prix Femina award in 1947. The book was also published in English under the title The Tin Flute and won the Governor General Award for fiction as well as the Royal Society of Canada’s Lorne Pierce Medal. It was the first major Canadian urban novel.
     The novel sold almost a million copies in the United States and the Literary Guild of America made the novel a feature book of the month in 1947. Because of all the attention the book received, Gabrielle moved to Saint Boniface to escape the publicity. There she met a doctor, Marcel Carbotte and three months later, in August, they married. They headed to Paris for the next three years where Carbotte studied gynecology and Roy wrote. On their return to Canada in 1950, they settled in Montreal for a couple of years and then moved to Quebec City. Carbotte took up a position at the Hôpital du Saint-Sacrement and they lived in an apartment. Wanting a quiet place to write, Grabrielle bought a cottage in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, Charlevoix County. There she wrote the bulk of her work. In total, she wrote twenty books.
     Gabrielle and her husband didn’t have any children. Besides writing she travelled around the world and spent time visiting her family.
     Gabrielle Roy is considered to be one of the most important Francophone writers in Canadian history and one of the most influential Canadian authors. She became a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967 and won many awards, including the Governor General Award three times. She was on the panel in 1963 that gave the Expo ’67, Montreal World's Fair and Canada’s 100th birthday celebration, its theme: Man and His World (Terre des hommes).
     Gabrielle Roy died of a heart attack on July 13, 1983, at the age of seventy-four. Her autobiography, La Détresse et l'enchantement, was published posthumously in 1984 and the English translation, Enchantment and Sorrow won the Governor General Award in 1987.
     In 2004 the Government issued a $20.00 bank note in its Canadian Journey Series which had a quotation from her 1961 novel, The Hidden Mountain: Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?

 Mordecai Richler was born on January 27, 1931, in Montreal, QC. He was raised on St. Urbain Street and learned how to speak English, French, and Yiddish. He studied at Sir George Will College (Concordia University) but left before getting a degree. He moved to Paris at nineteen and lived there for two years before returning to Montreal. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) for a short time then moved to London, England in 1954 where he married Catherine Boudreau. She was a non-Jewish French-Canadian divorcee who was nine years older. Just before their wedding he met and was infatuated by another non-Jewish woman Florence Wood Mann, who was the wife on his close friend, Stanley Mann.
     While in England he wrote and had published seven novels, the most well-known one being The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959). The story was about Richler’s favourite theme: the hardships of Jewish life around St. Urbain Street in Montreal in the 1930s and 1940s. He wrote a screen play for the novel and it was made into a film in 1974 starring Richard Dreyfuss. In 1960 Richler divorced his wife and Florence divorced her husband and they were married in 1961. Mordecai adopted her son and they had four more children.
     Richler and his family returned to Montreal in 1972. A compilation of his humorous essays was collected into Notes on an Endangered Species and Others (1974). He also wrote the Jacob Two-Two series of children’s fantasy books (1975, 1987, and 1995). His novel Joshua Then and Now was published in 1980 and made into a film in 1985.
     Besides writing novels, Richler also contributed articles to magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Look, The New Yorker, and The American Spectator. He wrote a column for The National Post and Montreal’s The Gazette and wrote book reviews for Gentleman’s Quarterly.
     His last novel, Barney’s Version (1997) was based on the events surrounding his divorce and remarriage. Barney’s Version was made into a film in 2010.
     Richler was awarded the Order of Canada in 1999. He died of cancer on July 3, 2001, at the age of 70.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Famous Canadian Authors from Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Clifton, now New London, Prince Edward Island on November 30, 1874. Her mother died of tuberculosis two months before Lucy’s second birthday. Lucy was put in the custody of her maternal grandparents in Cavendish by her father who later moved to Prince Albert in what is now Saskatchewan.
     This was a very lonely time for Lucy. She spent much of her childhood alone so she created imaginary friends and worlds. Lucy kept a diary and when she was thirteen years-of-age, she wrote that she had early dreams of future fame. After completing her education Lucy moved to Prince Albert and spent a year with her father and step-mother. While there she had two poems published in The Daily Patriot, the Charlottetown newspaper.
     Lucy returned to Cavendish and obtained her teacher’s license, completing the two year course in one year. She went on to study literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She worked as a teacher which gave her time to write. From 1897 to 1907 she had over one hundred stories published in magazines and newspapers.
     Lucy had a number of suitors over the years and turned down two marriage proposals, one because he was narrow-minded, the other because he was just a good friend. She finally accepted a proposal from Edwin Simpson in 1897 but came to dislike him. She found herself in love with another man, Herman Leard. She refused to have sex with him but they did become quite passionate in their kissing and petting. She finally stopped seeing Herman in 1898 and was upset when he died of influenza in 1899. She also broke off her engagement to Edwin Simpson.
     Ms. Montgomery moved back to Cavendish to look after her ailing grandmother and began writing novels. Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, was published in June of 1908 under the name L.M. Montgomery and was an instant success, going through nine printings by November of 1909. Lucy stayed in Cavendish until her grandmother’s death in March 1911 and shortly after she married Ewen (Ewan) Macdonald. Ewen was a Presbyterian minister and they moved to Leaskdale in present-day Uxbridge Township in Ontario where he took the position of minister at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. The lived in the Leaskdale manse and she wrote her next eleven books while there.
     Lucy and Ewen had three children, the second one being stillborn. Lucy’s second book, Anne of Avonlea was published in 1909 and The Story Girl, came out in 1911. She went through several periods of depression and suffered from migraine headaches while her husband had attacks of a major depressive order and his health suffered. She almost died from the Spanish flu in 1918, spending ten days in bed. She began an Emily trilogy with Emily of New Moon in 1923.
     When Ewen retired in 1935, they bought a house in Swansea, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto which she named Journey's End.
     On April 24, 1942, Lucy Maud Montgomery was found dead in her bed in her Toronto home. The primary cause of death recorded on her death certificate was coronary thrombosis. Montgomery was buried at the Cavendish Community Cemetery in Cavendish. In 2008, Lucy’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, said that because of her depression she may have taken her own life through a drug overdose.  
     Writing was Lucy’s comfort and besides the nine books of the Anne series she wrote twelve other novels and had four short story collections published. Nineteen of her books were set in Prince Edward Island and she immortalized the small province with her descriptions of the people and community. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, come to Prince Edward Island to see the place that Lucy loved so much, and to visit Green Gables, the house and farm where ‘Anne grew up.
     Lucy Maud Montgomery was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by King George V in 1935. She was given a special medal, which she could only wear out in public in the presence of the King or one of his representatives such as the Governor-General. Montgomery was named a National Historic Person in 1943 by the Canadian Federal government. On May 15, 1975, the Canadian Post issued a stamp to Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. The Leaskdale Manse was designated a National Historic Site in 1997. Green Gables, was formally recognized as "L. M. Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site" in 2004.
     In terms of sales, both in her lifetime and since, Montgomery is the most successful Canadian author of all time.

Milton James Rhode Acorn was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on March 30, 1923. At the age of eighteen, he joined the armed forces and was stationed mainly in England. On an ocean crossing, he was injured as a result of depth charges. He returned home and received a disability pension. He moved to Montreal in 1956 where he self-published a chapbook of his poems titled, In Love and Anger. His poetry was also published in New Frontiers, a political magazine, and in Canadian Forum magazine.
     Milton moved to Vancouver in the mid-1960s and helped found the ‘underground’ newspaper, Georgia Straight, in 1967. The newspaper is still in publication. His collection of poetry I’ve Tasted My Blood, was published in 1969 and he received the Canadian Poets Award in 1970. He wrote three more books of poetry and in 1976 received the Governor General’s Award for The Island Means Minago.
     Acorn liked to be a man of mystery. He disguised and altered his background so that biographers and anyone wanting to find out more about him did not learn anything that he did not want uncovered. Because of the many different versions he told of his life it is difficult to know where reality ended and fiction began. He was also considered to be a hostile and quarrelsome man. However, Milton Acorn was deemed to be one of Canada most well-known poets by the early 1970s. Thirteen collections of poetry were published before his death and five more were published posthumously.
     Three documentaries were made about Milton Acorn: Milton Acorn: The People’s Poet (1971; In Love and Anger: Milton Acorn-Poet (1984); and A Wake for Milton (1988).
     Milton suffered diabetes and moved back to Prince Edward Island in 1981. He had a heart attack in July 1986 and died on August 20, due to complications from the diabetes and his heart attack.
     Milton Acorn was known as the ‘People’s Poet’. The Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award was established in his memory in 1987. It consists of $500 and a medallion and is given to an exceptional ‘People’s Poet.’

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Famous Canadian Authors from Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia
Joyce Barkhouse (nee Killam) was born in Woodville, Nova Scotia on May 3, 1913. She earned her Teachers License in 1932 and began teaching in Sand Hill, now known as East Aylesford. At the age of nineteen she had her first short story published in Northern Messenger, a Baptist Church paper for children. She moved to Liverpool, Nova Scotia, to teach and met her future husband, Milton Joseph Barkhouse. They married in 1942 and had two children. They lived in Halifax, Charlottetown, and Montreal and after his death in 1968, Joyce moved back to Nova Scotia.
     Mrs. Barkhouse wrote many young adult adventure and secular stories for other church papers, anthologies and had articles published in teacher’s publications, school text books, and the Family Herald and the Weekly Star. She also wrote a self-syndicated column for weekly newspapers across Nova Scotia titled For Mothers and Others.
     Although Joyce had begun writing in 1932, her first historical book, George Dawson: The Little Giant wasn’t published until 1974. Joyce’s niece is Margaret Atwood and the two of them co-wrote Anna’s Pet, a children’s book that was published in 1980. Her most notable novel was Pit Pony, a story about the friendship that developed between an eleven year old boy who was forced to work in a coal mine and a Sable Island who was a pit pony in the mine. The novel was published in 1989 and won the first Ann Connor Brimer award in 1991 for “outstanding contribution to children’s literature in Atlantic Canada” and was chosen by the librarians of Nova Scotia to be produced as a talking book for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Pit Pony was also made into a television film in 1997 and a television series in 1999.
     Joyce Barkhouse wrote eight books and was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2007 and a year later she was made a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to children’s literature. She died at the age of ninety-eight on February 2, 2012.

Evelyn May Fox was born on May 16, 1902 on Emerald Isle (Stoddard Island) and raised on Cape Sable Island. Both islands are off Shag Harbour, which is at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. She went to high school in Halifax and then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Dalhousie University. She taught school until her marriage to Morrill Richardson in 1926. They moved to Massachusetts and then in 1929 they bought the 600 acre Bon Portage Island, a three kilometre boat ride from Shag Harbour. There, Morrill took over the duties of light keeper.
     Evelyn Richardson helped with the lighthouse duties, raised their three children, and began her writing career. During their thirty-five years of lighthouse keeping, she wrote many articles and several books about her experiences on the island.
     She won the Governor General’s Award for her memoir, We Keep a Light, in 1945, and the Ryerson Fiction Award for Desired Haven in 1953. The Evelyn Richardson Memorial Literary Award is an annual award given to a Nova Scotian writer of non-fiction.
     When the lighthouse became mechanized in 1964, Evelyn and Morrill left the island and retired to Doane’s Point near Barrington, Nova Scotia. She died on October 14, 1976 at the age of 74.