Thursday, April 13, 2017

Writing Historical Novels


 
 
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday Books We Love Ltd is publishing twelve historical novels, one for each of the ten provinces, one for the Yukon Territory, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We Canadian authors were asked to pick one of the provinces or territories to write about or to do the research on for a non-Canadian author. I chose the Yukon because I have been there twice and love the beauty and history of the territory. The following is how I write my historical novels. 

 
Some writers have a historical period that they like to set their stories in. I don’t. I never really know what year or time period I am going to write about when I start to research a historical novel. So the first thing I do is begin reading non-fiction books looking for some historical event or person who grabs my attention. If it is an event, then I try to learn all I can about that occurrence: when it happened, what happened, who were the famous people involved, who were the ordinary people involved. Once I know that then I have to figure out who is going to be my main character and how that person is going to take part in that event.

     If it is a legendary person I want to include in my story, I have to decide how much action that person will have and how that person will know or be related to the main character. I don’t write a novel with a well-known person as my main character.

     When I have decided on the event or person, I read about the time period so that I make sure I have the food they ate, the clothes they wore, their transportation, and their home and furnishings correct. It also important to make sure that their speech is right for that time. Words that were first used in the 1850’s cannot be spoken by people in the 1750’s.

     I don’t outline my novel but during my research I write down all the details that I can find about the time period to make sure I have the incidents that happen in order. Then I decide on my characters and weave them through the history. If I include a well-known person, I have to find out about their lives and their families and how I can weave them into a story that does not suggest anything that will ruin their memory.

     As the story progresses it is important to keep track of the details that I am including or a secondary story line that I am setting up. If I have a character thinking about something or starting something or saying something at the beginning of the book that leaves the reader hanging, I write it down on a piece of paper to make sure that I clear it up before the story ends.

     I enjoy researching the history and sometimes spend more time on that then is necessary. But I don’t mind. I want to be sure my account is as correct as I can make it.

 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Struggle to Give Novels Life


 
 
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday Books We Love Ltd is publishing twelve historical novels, one for each of the ten provinces, one for the Yukon Territory, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We Canadian authors were asked to pick one of the provinces or territories to write about or to do the research on for a non-Canadian author. I chose the Yukon because I have been there twice and love the beauty and history of the territory. The following is an overview of some of the struggles that writer's have bringing their stories to life.
 
 
Struggles to bring my story to life.
I have written in many different genres, non-fiction, mystery, romance, and historical and in each one I have had to make sure that my characters are multi-dimensional, my story plot is fast paced, and my setting is exciting. Readers what to identify with the main characters so they have to be believable and likeable. Readers want action in the story so the plot has to move along at a good clip. And readers want to learn about the place where the story is set, so it is important that I know the setting itself. This is much harder in a historical novel because that setting is no longer readily available in the way it was in the time period I am writing about. So this is where non-fiction books, museums, archives, and paintings or photos of that time come in handy.
     In any novel it is important to make sure the plot moves forward, the characters grow, and the setting is described at the same pace but, for me, it isn’t necessary to write that forward movement in sequence.
     I imagine I am like most authors in that I never write a book in the order that the reader will read it. As I am writing the first chapter, later scenes develop in my mind and I will jot down notes on them. When I come to a standstill in the progress of the story, I turn those notes into the scene. That way I seldom have writer’s block. And it gives my subconscious mind a chance to work out the next stage in my story.
     Sometimes I have an idea as to the ending of my novel but I never write it down because it is subject to change at the whim of the characters for, although I am the writer, it is their story.
 

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Short History of the Yukon


 
 
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday Books We Love Ltd is publishing twelve historical novels, one for each of the ten provinces, one for the Yukon Territory, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We Canadian authors were asked to pick one of the provinces or territories to write about or to do the research on for a non-Canadian author. I chose the Yukon because I have been there twice and love the beauty and history of the territory. The following is a quick summary of the Yukon’s beginning.

 
The Yukon

The name Yukon is derived from the Loucheux first nations word Yukunah which means `big river'. The land was mainly occupied by the Tagish and Tlingit native people for centuries before the non-native explorers arrived in the 1820s. In the 1840s fur traders set up a few Hudson's Bay Company posts along the Yukon River. When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, there wasn’t a clear border between Alaska and the Northwest Territories, as the land was known then. In 1887-88 William Ogilvie, a Canadian surveyor, surveyed the area making the 141st meridian the western boundary with Alaska and the 60th parallel the southern border with British Columbia. Hence the phrase North of 60.

     Prospectors went north looking for gold in the 1880s and there was a gold strike along the Fortymile River, which drains into the Yukon River, in 1886. There were other smaller strikes until 1896 when gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek later renamed Bonanza Creek. A town named Dawson sprang up on the Yukon River at the mouth of the Klondike River. When word of the gold discovery reached the outside world in the summer of 1897, thousands of men, women and children hurried to Dawson during the winter of 1897-1898 hoping to find their fortune.

     Because of the rush Dawson grew quickly to be the largest city north of San Francisco and it became known as the `Paris of the North'. It had hotels, dance halls, daily newspapers and saloons for its 30,000 inhabitants. Fresh eggs were brought by raft on the Yukon River; whiskey came in by the boatload before freeze-up; gambling made rich men out of some and paupers out of others; dance hall girls charged $5 dollars in gold for each minute they danced with a miner; the janitors made up to $50 dollars a night when they panned out the sawdust from the barroom floors. Due to the influx of people, the region officially entered into the confederation of Canada and was designated as the Yukon Territory on June 13, 1898. Dawson became the capital. Eventually the word `territory' was dropped and it was called The Yukon.

     A Territorial Administration Building was constructed in 1901 for the territorial seat of government and Dawson was the centre for the government administration until 1953 when the capital was moved to Whitehorse.

     The Klondike gold rush ended in 1899 when word of a gold discovery in Nome, Alaska, reached the prospectors and they headed further north. However, over the next few decades gold companies were formed and continued to mine the creeks, this time using dredges to dig up the creek bottom. They left behind huge piles of gravel called tailings. The dredging lasted until 1960 when gold prices declined making the operation uneconomical. Today, mining is done with big trucks, huge sluices, and back hoes.

     The north is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun after the words in Robert W. Service’s poem The Cremation of Sam McGee:

                    There are strange things done in the midnight sun

                      By the men who moil for gold.

     The Arctic Circle is the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude of the Earth. It is an imaginary line that marks the southern edge of the Arctic at 66 degrees 30' north latitude in the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, and in Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia. The land north of the Arctic Circle gets 24 hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year, June 21st. The further north of the circle you go the more days of total sunlight in the summer you will get. This is because the North Pole is tilted towards the sun and gets direct sunlight from March 20 to September 22 as the earth rotates. Conversely, on the shortest day, December 21st, the land north of the Arctic Circle gets 24 hours of darkness because the North Pole is tilted away from the sun.

     The Yukon is a great place to view the aurora borealis or northern lights. These are bright dancing lights that are really collisions between the gaseous particles of the Earth’s atmosphere and the electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The most common colours are pink and pale green produced by oxygen molecules about sixty miles above the earth.  Silver, blue, green, yellow and violet also appear in the display. Red auroras are rare and produced at high altitudes of about 200 miles. The lights are best seen in the winter and the further north you are the better they appear.

     The Yukon has the smallest desert in the world, the Carcross Desert, near the town of Carcross. It is an area that was once covered by a glacial lake. As the glaciers melted the level of the lake lowered until just the sandy bottom was left. Winds off Lake Bennett keep the sand moving and prevent most plants and trees from taking root on this.

     During the late Wisconsin ice age (10,000 to 70,000 years ago) an arid section of the northern hemisphere was not glaciated because of the lack of moisture to support the expansion of the glaciers. The area, called Beringia after the Bering Strait which is near the centre of the region, encompassed parts of present-day eastern Siberia, Alaska, The Yukon, and ended at the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories. The growth of continental glaciers sucked up moisture which led to the sea level dropping by up to 106 metres (350 feet). As a result, a land bridge was formed between northwest North America and northeast Asia.

     It is believed that parts of western Beringia (eastern Siberia today) were occupied by man 35,000 years ago. The forming of the Bering Land Bridge allowed the first humans to travel from Asia to North America. There is evidence that the history of man in North America goes back 25,000 years ago.

     Some of the animals that survived for thousands of years in this arid land surrounded by glaciers were the North American horse and camel, the steppe bison, the giant beaver that weighed up to 181 kilograms (400 pounds), the Mastodon, the woolly mammoth, the giant short-faced bear, the scimitar cat, the American lion, and the giant ground sloth. All of these are extinct.

     The territory of The Yukon was founded on gold mining, but there has been coal and silver mining in the territory also. It is now a favourite destination for tourists.

The Bride of Romancing the Klondike


 
 
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday Books We Love Ltd is publishing twelve historical novels, one for each of the ten provinces, one for the Yukon Territory, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We Canadian authors were asked to pick one of the provinces or territories to write about or to do the research on for a non-Canadian author. I chose the Yukon because I have been there twice and love the beauty and history of the territory. The following is a quick introduction to the bride of my novel Romancing the Klondike.

 
Bride of Romancing the Klondike

In 1896, nineteen-year-old Pearl Owens and her cousin, Emma, are on their way up the Yukon River to Fortymile. Pearl is on an adventure to the north where she will be writing articles about the area for her hometown newspaper. The two women meet up with Sam Owens, Emma’s brother, and his two friends, Donald and Gordon, in Fortymile. The men, who have been searching for gold in the north for five years, have just returned from staking a claim on Rabbit Creek.

     Sam and his friends move to their claims on what is now known as Bonanza Creek. Against Sam’s instructions Pearl and Emma follow them, setting up a tent on a bench at the mouth of the Klondike River overlooking the Yukon River.

     Pearl meets Joseph Ladue, the first man to ever set her heart aflutter, while Emma’s teenage feelings for Donald are rekindled. Pearl spends her time speaking with the men and women of the north and sketching the scenery. She writes about what it is like to be in the middle of a gold strike. She also describes the early development and growth of a town eventually known as Dawson.

     During the ten months they live in the north Pearl and Emma make friends, celebrate holidays, and suffer through tragedy. One of them finds love, one does not. Of the three men two get rich, one does not.