A Positive Approach to Winter

In an If-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em approach to the snow this winter, I’m trying my hardest not to complain about the white stuff. Besides the fact that complaining doesn’t do one iota of good, I’ve also been trying to busy myself with other things—writing being first and foremost. Truthfully, not complaining helps keep the cranky away. I’ve come to realize the more you complain, the more you enjoy it until it almost becomes an Olympic sport. Not only that, you find others to join your team in your quest for gold. We’re usually good at finding teammates.

SO enough of the grumbling about the snow. Spring will come sooner or later. I say this with conviction as we’ve never yet had a winter that lasted 365 days—not to my memory at least. So here are a few things I’ve been doing to keep that four letter word from making me gripe.

1. Write, write, write: Okay, no surprises here. I’ve been making great headway on a project I started several years back. I’ve come back to the place where I’m enjoying the story again. Here’s where I’ll let you all in on a secret, we writers sometimes come to despise the story we’re working on. It’s true! We lose all objectivity about our own work. We can’t seem to put a sentence together with eloquence, our plot line stinks to high heaven. Sometimes we pull our hair and gnash our teeth. Sitting at the computer and opening that file can be pure hell. But even at that it still beats four feet of snow!

2. Knit, knit, knit: I’m a knitter, have been since I was a kid trying to knit a scarf with two nails and a ball of cheap yarn I found lying around the house. Not an easy thing to do, knitting with two nails that is, but even so I wasn’t complaining about the s***. You’ll be happy to know that I graduated to knitting needles many moons ago. I’ve made socks and mittens, sweaters and even afghans over the years. This winter I’ve picked up where I left off three years ago. My rippling wave afghan didn’t go anywhere during that time. Maybe this winter I’ll complete it.

3. Housework: Okay, that’s just a little joke to throw you off.

4. Reading, reading, reading: I’ve read some great books this winter, one for book club coming up next week and several simply for enjoyment. Actually, all the books I read are for enjoyment. Here’s where I want to mention that I love reading books from local authors and Canadian authors in general. We have a lot of talent in this country. I’ve some great local books coming up on my reading list. Hugh R. MacDonald and his novel Us and Them the sequel to his book Trapper Boy. Meghan Marentette’s The Stowaways , Shatterproof by Jocelyn Shipley and Keeper of the Light by Janet Barkhouse. Maybe you’ll have time to check out some of these great reads.

5. Treadmill: Yup. I’ve been faithfully working out this winter. Okay, so we all know that treadmills are like THE most BORING thing on the face of the earth after the first two minutes, but I’ve got a little secret. I read while I’m walking the miles. Yes, I do. Many people say they just can’t do it. These same people can’t read while riding in a vehicle. I can do both. Lucky me. No complaints here.

6. Snowshoeing: I’ve been making an effort to get out there when the weather’s good which hasn’t been all that often this past week. (Nope, that’s not a complaint…just stating facts.) The good news is next week’s forecast is looking up.

7. Gourmet Cooking: Haha! Not really. That one was actually for my kids if they happen to be reading. I figure they could do with the belly laugh after the snowy week we just had.

8. Snow racing: Admit it, this one sounds impressive. Snowracing—whizzing down the slopes, wind on my face, sun in my eye, the taste of freedom on my lips. Here’s the real scoop: when our grandson came for a visit a few weeks back, Guppy and I each took some turns on the Snowracer. (Sorry no photos as proof.) First time ever for me; not sure about Guppy. Oh, the things we do for grandkids.

9. Join the circus: Surprised ? Me too. This winter watching the news has been like having a front row seat at the circus. I’m not looking to get into any political debates here, but daggum it’s been interesting to say the least. All the juggling of news and fake news, people walking a very tight rope, a pretty sad bunch of clowns making us laugh and cry. Yes, indeed, there has been a lot of interesting acts taking place under the big top this winter. Every night there seems to be a new attraction added to the show. I wait in anticipation. All that’s required is for me to bring my own popcorn and drinks…lots of drinks.

So there you have it, my positive approach to this snowy Nova Scotia weather. While I may not love the mounds of snow we’ve been getting I’m doing what I can to keep from complaining about the things I can’t change.

What have you been doing this winter instead of complaining about the weather?

Guest Blog–Hugh R. MacDonald

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Hugh R. MacDonald to my blog. I’ve invited Hugh to talk about where the inspiration for his book Trapper Boy came from. The sequel to Trapper Boy, Us and Them was released this past October.

 

Thank you to Laura for the invitation to be a guest on her blog.

While in university, I took an Atlantic history course from Don MacGillivary, and one of the readings dealt with boys in the coal mines, working as trapper boys. It was an eye-opening moment for me, reading about how boys as young as nine or ten, some even younger, spent their lives in the mines. They would spend their days in darkness, opening and closing the trap doors that controlled the ventilation to the mine,rats scurrying around their feet in search of crumbs from their food.

MacDonald-Us-Them-poster.inddIt struck me at a deeper level than most other courses. The other history courses were ones I needed to complete my history degree, but this one was like a novel set in my back yard. Except it wasn’t fiction. Over the years I’ve written a number of songs, and I felt I needed to write something about what I’d learned from that short reading that had been assigned for the class. I wrote a song entitled Trapper Boy, and I played it at some of the gigs I was playing at the time. A few of the Men of the Deeps heard it and suggested I submit it to Jack O’Donnell, the Musical Director of the Men. It was given to one of the members of the group, who said he would get it to Jack. Much time passed and I never gave it any more thought.

Although the song told the story quite well of how I saw the life of the young miner, highlighting the loneliness and solitude of the trapper boy job, the fear of the rats and the absolute darkness, it wasn’t enough, so I decided to try a few chapters of a story, and then got it to Mike Hunter, Editor-in-Chief at CBU Press. To my surprise and relief, he said he was interested in seeing more, and over a few years the story came to be, and more importantly, Mike agreed to publish it.

It was then that I got to put my history degree to work and did some research. I read and reread articles about coal mining and miners. I wanted to get a more visceral feeling for the job of a miner, so I decided to speak to some of the retired miners, whose fathers and grandfathers had been trapper boys. The best place for me to go was to the Cape Breton Miners Museum located in Glace Bay. There are many artifacts located there, from the early days of mining, and they have several former miners, willing to share their stories. The miners act as tour guides, bringing small groups of women, men and children underground in a mine that was built to give the general public a little taste of what it was like to be in the bowels of the earth. I went on the underground tour several times and used what I felt and heard to help write the story.

In October 2012, “Trapper Boy,” the novel, telling the story of thirteen year old JW Donaldson, which included incredible sketches by my brother, Michael G. MacDonald, came to life, and it has been a dream come true to see it being enjoyed by many who’ve read it, providing wonderful comments. The book was included in the Best Books for Kids and Teens, 2013 Spring Edition. And I got invited to read at Word on the Street in Halifax in September 2013, which is where I got to meet the very talented Laura Best, and even got to share the stage with her. Also, a teacher resource for “Trapper Boy” was developed(as a free download for teachers) by CBU Professor Dr. Patrick Howard, and his B.Ed.students, and ”Trapper Boy” has been used in some classrooms in Cape Breton. I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to go into some of the classrooms to do presentations to the students. In April of this year, the Men of the Deeps recorded my song, Trapper Boy, and included it on their 50th Anniversary CD.

But just as the song was not enough to tell the full story, neither was “Trapper Boy” enough to tell the full story of JW Donaldson. A number of people who’d read the book asked me what happened next, so I decided to sit down and figure out what was going on in JW’s life and that of his friends.On October 20th of this year the sequel to “Trapper Boy,” “Us and Them” was launched.

I believe the story of JW and his friends comes to a nice conclusion, but . . . I have written a chapter or two of what might happen in the future, just in case there is an interest, so book three or four could happen. Thanks for reading. Take care.

 

getcontent7b0pbhvlHugh R. MacDonald is an author and singer/songwriter. His YA novel, “Trapper Boy” was included in The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids and Teens. The sequel, “Us and Them” was released in October 2016. Hugh is a graduate of Cape Breton University, and works in the human service field. His song, Trapper Boy, which he wrote prior to the novel, was included on the world famous Men of the Deeps Coal Miners’ Chorus’ 50th Anniversary Compilation CD. Hugh is a member of the Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. He lives in Cape Breton, NS with his wife, Joanne.

To hear the song that inspired the book  follow the link here.

Follow Hugh on Facebook  Twitter

 

Trapper Boy is available from Amazon.ca, Chapters.ca, Nimbus PublishingUs and Them is available from  Amazon.ca  Nimbus Publishing  Chapters.ca 

 

Books for the Young and Young at Heart

I like supporting other authors, especially local authors. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you’ve probably clued into that. Whenever possible I try and pick up local books in the bookstore. They make wonderful gifts. Then again, I’ve been known to order books written by some of my blogging friends as well. It’s kind of a nice feeling to support those we have some connection to. I mean, why not?

Here’s a list of books for the young readers on your Christmas list. I’d mention “Flying With a Broken Wing,” but that would be a little obvious.  😉  So I’ll leave it off, but instead will list some of the local books I’ve recently read, or have purchased as gifts for Christmas.

1. The Power of Harmony written by my friend Jan Coates. Don’t forget to check out her Governor General nominated book, Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk as well. Power of Harmony - cover Jennifer’s best friend has moved away and she has become the sole focus for the mean-spirited teasing from the “mean girls” and the “bad boys”at school. But when the new girl, Melody, joins their class the bullies have a new victim. Melody is native and has moved from the recently closed residential school to join the fifth grade class at Summerhill. At first Jennifer is nervous about becoming friends with Melody. She has heard what people (including her grandmother) say about “those people.” But as she gets to know her new classmate, she discovers that they have more in common than she first thought – both of them find sanctuary amongst the books in the town library and both of them love music and being outdoors. Set in a small town in the coal mining regions of Nova Scotia during the late 1960s, this story of discovery and friendship perfectly captures time and place through the voice of its young narrator, Jennifer.

2. Buried Secrets At Louisbourg by JoAnn Yhard. Fred has had a 1771080183rough summer. His secret crush on Mai is going strong, his mother has barely recovered from a battle with cancer, and his unreliable father’s diving business has gone completely underwater. Now Fred, Mai, and Grace, extraordinary fossil hunters, are at the Fortress of Louisbourg hunting a different kind of treasure. They are secretly excavating the historic site, trying to find a mass of jewels Fred’s ancestor may have buried there-jewels that could save Fred”s family. But Fred uncovers far more than he bargained for, including a dangerous plot that could leave Fred”s family in even more serious trouble. The young detectives from the bestselling The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines shine in this fast-paced mystery for middle readers.

3. OakIsland Revenge by Cynthia D’Entrement. Jonah is fourteen 1551098997and lives on the Western Shore of Nova Scotia in 1958. He and his best friend, Beaz, have figured out a way to get to the forbidden OakIsland to seek treasure. They find a gold locket down one of the treasure shafts and can’t believe their luck-until they realize that the locket is not pirate’s booty but possibly evidence in a current murder investigation, one which Jonah already knows more about than he can handle. Beaz is in danger from his abusive mother if she finds out he’s gone to OakIsland, so Jonah keeps the secret even though there is a killer at large in his small community. OakIsland Revenge is a coming-of-age story, with much higher stakes than most teenagers have to contend with.

18948389984. The Sewing Basket by Susan White. (I bought this one the other day for myself but don’t tell anyone!) Dealing with a parent’s illness can be difficult at any age It is 1967 and twelve year old Ruth Iverson’s world pretty much revolves around her friends, a boy she likes, the Monkees and spending time with her Dad doing special stuff like watching the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. But she is soon to realize that her mom’s strange behaviour which has become an embarrassment, are symptoms of a disease that will affect the family’s life and possibly Ruth’s future. While she watches major events like the marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the birth of Priscilla Presley, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, Ruth faces some major life events of her own and struggles to come to terms with the changes they bring.

18970097395. Trapper Boy by Hugh R. Macdonald. I read on stage with Hugh at Word on the Street this year. Set in a 1920s coal-mining town, Trapper Boy is the story of 13-year-old JW Donaldson, a good student with a bright future. As school ended for the year in 1926, JW was looking forward to summer. Sure, he would have chores – feeding the horse and milking the goat, tending the garden, that kind of thing – but he would also have lots of time for fishing, building his cabin and reading. Lots of reading. But there is something worrying his parents. His father works in the mine, and there is a lot of talk around town about the mines. JW doesn’t know the details – Adults had a lot to worry about, and he was in no hurry to become one. Slowly, JW’s parents reveal the truth: his father’s hours at the mine have been reduced and they face difficult decisions to try to make ends meet. One such decision will have a previously unimagined impact on the young man’s life.

6. Me and Mr. Bell by Phillip Roy      Alexander Graham Bell, Baddeck’s most illustrious resident, and one of the 1927492556world’s greatest inventors, is also famous for the greatness of his compassion. It’s 1908, and ten-year-old Eddie MacDonald shares the friendly inventor’s passion for solving problems and for taking long walks in the fields above Bras d’Or Lake.
But whereas Bell is renowned by many for being the smartest man in the world, Eddie is just a local farm boy who struggles to learn to read and write. After a few chance encounters, the elderly Bell befriends the young boy, and takes an interest in his struggle – encouraging Eddie to celebrate his successes and never give up.
When Bell’s long ambition for manned flight culminates in the Silver Dart soaring over Bras d’Or Lake, Eddie is inspired to find solutions to his own challenges.

While any of these books would make a great gift for that young person on your list keep in mind that adults might enjoy them as well.  Of course there are plenty of great books out there for young people that I haven’t mentioned. Do a little digging around. Find out who your local talent is. Here’s hoping you find the right book for the right person on your list. Drop in next week to find out what books for adults I have on my list. Lots of loca

Now it’s your turn. What books for young people would you recommend? If you’re an author, it’s okay to mention your own book, after all we’re looking for book suggestions!

Doing the Street

I was doing the street on the weekend.—Word on the Street, that is–down at the Halifax waterfront. I was on stage at the Vibrant Voices tent with Hugh R. MacDonald, and I apologize to Hugh for the lack of photo. My cameraman seemed to be preoccupied and only took two shots of me as it was. This one turned out the best. None of Hugh, I’m afraid. Hugh read from his ya novel, “Trapper Boy,” of which I am now the proud owner of a signed copy. Hubby is reading it at the moment and when things die down a little in the Best Household –post book launch—I’ll be diving i next

DSC04152This year was a bit different being on the author side of things, even though I also love being a spectator at these events. I got there in time to see friends, Jan Coates, JoAnn Yhard and Jill MacLean, all super great YA authors, at the Vibrant Voices tent. If you haven’t checked out their books yet, you really should. I was amazed at how these ladies can speak so fluently in front of a crowd, something I one day hope to achieve. But for now, I have a long way to go.DSC04134

Kathy Stinton was also there. I love Kathy, but only had a few moments to listen in. I discovered Kathy about 30 years ago when my second daughter was born. A copy of her book, “Big or Little” was included in a hospital pack they gave new moms back then. Little did I know I’d get to see her in person. Wish I would have had time to say hi. But I was too busy doing the street.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Jackie Halsey, either. It was a busy day for me with book signings at both the Nimbus Publishing table and Woozles  table—and  doing the street.

DSC04129

Did I mention I got a really neat Nimbus Publishing T-shirt? I probably would remember if I had mentioned it already. I’m in heaven! And yes, a few people even wanted me to sign copies of my book for them! I met up with Lesley Crewe at the Nimbus table and got to personally congratulate her on the movie deal for her book, “Relative Happiness” which will be filmed in Hubbards starting in November. Lesley has even promised me a small part in the movie. Just kidding, but I bet I’d be in there if Lesley had any say in the matter.  😉

I also met Patti Larson at the Woozles booth when she popped in to sign copies of her picture book.

I had a bit of time to listen to Susin Neilson talk about her new book, “The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larson.” So proud to say that my niece was part of the TD book club who interviewed her for the CBC. Yay Emma!

DSC04150I’m trying recap everything and remember all that happened. It could be some time before I’m invited to do the street again. I do have to mention meeting Patrick Murphy, managing editor of Nimbus Publishing. We had a nice little chat while I was at the Nimbus table. I saw him again while he was on the panel for  “Pitch the Publisher.” I could’t get over all those brave souls pitching their books in front of three editors. I never would have done that, coward that I am.

The coolest moment of the day was meeting blogger, and now author, Libby Schofield.  I had no idea she’d be at Word on the Street. Made my day.  🙂 Thanks for stopping by Libby. I hope you enjoy the book. So there you have a bit of a rundown on my day at Word on the Street. Wish you all could have been there to see the local talent. I know you would have enjoyed it.

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