Monday, August 29, 2016

Ho Ho Ho and Oceans of Rum

Regrets or Not

My life has been busy, crazy, varied, sad and happy. Generally, I have no regrets because what I lived through made me who I am today, and I'm okay with that.

Reading Oceans of Rum triggered regrets.

And no, not of the alcoholic variety. This book, whose subtitle is The Nova Scotia Banana Fleet in Run Rummer Heaven, details many of the acts and events of the rum runners from Rosebay and Riverport on Nova Scotia's South Shore. Reading it, preparing to write a book set in that area during those years, I wish I had asked more questions earlier in my life.

Many of the ships and their captains came from Riverport. The crews came from surrounding areas, many of them arriving home from the war to find fishing no longer lucrative. Rum running offered another chance at excitement as well as money.

Much of the booze came from St. Pierre and Miquelon, the French Islands off the coast of Newfoundland. It consisted of whiskey from Scotland, wine and champagne from France and beer from Germany. After running such a load down the Rum Coast of the United States, the ships often went on to Barbados where they did pick up rum, or the makings of rum, and dropped it off on the return trip. It was dangerous and hard work.

The Regret

My regret is that, as a young woman, I knew some of the rum runners and their families. (I married into one of them.) I visited Riverport more than once, and both the families who came from there, and these stories are part of my children's heritage. And I never asked the "old timers" about it. Of course, they might not have told me.

But what I regret the most is not talking to the women. There are records of the ships and the men, but little is said of the wives and sweethearts. Lots of pictures of flappers, stories of the suffrage movement, and tidbits of life can be gleaned if you look hard enough. But what about the individuals and their fears, tasks, hopes and more. Maybe out there is a book where the author interviewed the women, but I have yet to find it. (Still looking.) However, with stories, if we know a person, we value their story even more.

What to do about your family history.

When we are young we are interested in our lives going forward. It is only later in life we appreciate those that came before. How will our children and grandchildren think about us? What will they marvel at about our lives? Are we leaving stories for them to read? Are we retelling the family legends/stories or our parents? If you are a baby boomer you are the link between two amazing generations and of course your own. We cannot always go back but we can record NOW for the future.

My challenge for you to write down your stories. Find old pictures and write what was happening on that day, with those people, at the point in time. Include all the details, even those mundane ones you have almost forgotten. One day in the not too distant future, other generations will look back and be happy you did so.

My Grandmother's Story Starts Here:

Born Lena Harriet Marshall on January 31, 1874, she lived in Westville, Nova Scotia. Her father, Sam Marshall, was principal at the high school and she had numerous brothers and sisters. (I think 11 in the family but not sure.) The photo is from a class picture taken when she was at the Pictou Academy for Young Women in Pictou. She traveled to classes on the local rail line.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Steps to Creating a Contemporary Setting for your Novel

World Building - Creating Fictional Communities

Red fisheries sheds, Tancook Island
Writers can be inspired by characters or an event, but as the story evolves the characters need a place to live. Setting is a character is it's own right and often dictates direction in the story. Some writers set books in real places. In a large city, this works. However, using a smaller, limited population creates privacy issues and limits events. The solution is to create a fictional community to showcase the story. Caleb's Cove in the Caleb Cove Mystery series is a created community inspired by three real-life geographical locations.

Although a contemporary setting is easier to create than a fantasy world, it's still necessary to define geography, to understand and remember the residents' philosophy and to know who in "town" your characters can trust.

To create your fictional, contemporary world:

Brainstorm what type of community you want.

  • Do you want a large place or a cozy, hamlet? 
  • Will you locate it on the ocean's edge or the prairie's bold sweeping field?
  • Canada has been settled by varied ethnic groups over the years. 
  • What is the origin of the community? Has the town grown from the WW11 interment camps in Canada? Or did its settlers arrive in the 1700s?
  • Is a second language spoken in the area you are creating?
  • What about the geography, the buildings, the occupations in your newly created town?

Find towns and locations that have your wanted ingredients.

  • You do not have to take a whole town,  you can choose elements and relocate them to wherever you like in your town. I found elements in a number of places and combined them to create Caleb's Cove, set on Dane's islands off Nova Scotia's South Shore. following are some of those places. 
  • Several real locations provided inspiration, visuals and ambiance for Caleb's Cove. However, all people and story events are products of my writer's imagination and other than the awesome ocean setting, bear no connection to any real person in the three background communities.

Create your town, describe it, download pictures and draw a map of the areas in your book.

TANCOOK ISLANDS, Nova Scotia, Canada 

Tancook Island started it all. I've had a fascination with Tancook for decades. My sister-in-law's mother worked on Little Tancook and I loved her stories and the name. At eight I thought it a great setting for a mystery and wrote (longhand in a Hilary Scribbler) The Mystery on Tancook Island.

Accidentally, or at the bidding of  my unconscious, my mystery series is set on an island off Nova Scotia. Additional details and ideas for Caleb's Cove came from Tancook and two other Nova Scotia locations. (For more on Nova Scotia visit:


What is know as Bell island today is actually three older islands that were combined when the road through the LaHave Islands was built. The road now joins Jenkin's Island, LaHave Island and Bell's Island into one large island know collectively as Bell Island.


  • Caleb's Cove is on a fictional set of islands modeled on current day Bell Island. Bridges join the three separate parts and the main fictional island is larger than the real one.
  • The hamlet and various buildings and stores are based on Petite Riviere along the 331 and Fisherman's Wharf located in Eastern Passage, back of Dartmouth.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What the heck are forerunners of death?

The East Coast of Nova Scotia, 

as well as other parts of the province, have unlimited stories of forerunners, ghosts, apparitions and all things other-worldly.

Forerunners are those ghostly events that foretell a death. 

They include:
- three knocks on the door with no one outside
- visions of a relative seen in the night
- ghostly figures following you on the road
- non-existent figures seen in a rear-view mirror
- footsteps heard on the stairs with no one there
- footprints seen on a floor where no one has walked recently
- the sound of a vehicle coming to the house but no one is there

Usually these forerunners are followed by a death of a family  member or friend within a few months or less and well before that person has reached a ripe old age.

For two real ghost stories of this generation, visit my blog on legends and ghosts.

Ghost story collections. 

Stories of these events and their outcomes are available in a number of books. The most famous eastern story collector is Helen Creighton whose books, Bluenose Ghosts, are well known.
(All titles are linked to if you would like the book.)

Ghost Stories of Nova Scotia
I've also shivered to the tales of local authors like Veron Oickle and others.

Ghosts of the Titanic
Julie Lawson

Haunted Harbours - Ghost Stories
Steve Vernon

Friday, August 5, 2016

3 things I learned from a fourteen year old.

Have you ever hung out with someone a few decades younger?

Someone who is not a grandchild. I did this recently. The neighbors daughter was visiting her dad for a month. A lovely, curious teenager getting ready to turn fifteen.

I needed help with a glue gun and a stack of things for making steam punk jewelry. My thought that she might be able and also like to help was right. We ended up hanging out together for several days.

We built the jewelry. 

She turned out to be a whiz with the glue gun and had a great eye for adding one more detail that just made a piece "pop."

We  picked cherries off the neighbor's tree (with permission) and made cherry juice. She picked, squashed, stirred and strained to get her own jar of juice.

Shopping and hair things

Shopping at a thrift store for old jewelry to convert is way more fun with a teenager. But the crowning piece (and that is a pun) was my hair cutting visit. We stocked her with a full Mac Meal, and she ate as I took the chair.

A visit the day before had left her hair an amazing mix of blue, black, and sort of a pewter color with a funky short one-side cut. At my hair salon, she sat in a chair backing on the main store and people stopped to comment on her "do." It is an amazing, creative statement of  "look out world, here I come and I'm ME."  (Photo here does not do it justice.)

Meanwhile, I mentioned that I'd have loved hair like that as a teen. Both my young friend and my hairdresser jumped right on that comment and said, "so what's stopping you now?" I absorbed the possibility while the stylist fetched the samples of colors available. The teen picked purple and the stylist went to work.

End result: I now have purple streaks and I LOVE THEM. 

(they are plum purple in real life)

3 things I am taking away from this week

1) Teenagers have optimism and expansive creativity. 

And occasionally the let it all hang out and it is infectious. I enjoyed my designing and jewelry building way more because of her presence. A few "old" scales have fallen from my eyes, and I'll work to make sure they don't come back.

2) The young, when alone with an older person not a relative, just might ask surprising questions.

 And make comments they wouldn't with a parent. The opportunity to be invited to drop small bits of information into their lives is a gift. It reminded me of how much I've learned over the decades. A satisfying and rewarding feeling.

3) They tackle what is at hand without worry.

 Although sometimes confused about what life should be and where it will take them, they power ahead. They have a view unencumbered by decades of layers of trying, failing, hard times and pain. That reminder of all the wonderful, new things to learn, and the known things to enjoy in life, is great.

We usually recognize that babies and younger children offer a renewed view of the world. But teenagers sometimes get a bad rap for their attitudes and habits. I learned that they too have much to offer us.

My advice to you: 

If the opportunity to hang out with a young teenager arises, take it. I believe that there are more great teens than not. When they have nothing to prove to parents, teachers and friends, they often show their true selves. And those selves are terrific.