Posted on October 31, 2014
The Ghost of What Might Have Been
In celebration of Halloween, and Golden Days
Some of us have seen a ghost or other gruesome event. But for most of us, the scariest thing is the Ghost of What Might Have Been.
Isn’t that what many of us fear, that we will miss out on an opportunity for a rich life, a rewarding career, the love of a lifetime, if we don’t take the fork in the road? That’s what leads to sayings like Carpe Diem (Seize the day).
I have tried to live my life by that saying. It’s led to two fulfilling careers, a small bank account, and lots of good memories with people I love. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am glad I jumped at every opportunity to lead the life I was meant to have.
The main characters in my next young adult/new adult historical romance Golden Days have similar desires to lead rich lives. Elizabeth wants to be a professional artist, which is rare for women in 1906. James aspires to be an engineer, which is more common but not easy when you’re a young man coming from nowhere. They support each other in their dreams during hard times, and fall in love—which leads to even more complications for them. But they make the most of every opportunity. They seize the day. I admire that.
I’m looking forward to introducing you to them directly when the novel is released on November 12th. And I’ll reveal the cover to you here in my next post, on November 7th. Stay tuned!
And I hope you seize your day and keep the Ghost of What Might Have Been away from your door. Happy Halloween!
Posted on October 24, 2014
Fairbanks, Alaska was founded in 1901 when E. T Barnette was dropped off on the bank of the Chena River and established his trading post there. Felix Pedro (Felice Pedroni) struck gold nearby, and soon Fairbanks became a boomtown.
Like most Gold Rush towns, Fairbanks had its mix of cultures. Aboriginal and Russian descendants interacted with recent arrivals. Citified businessmen worked with scruffy miners. And the location held challenges. Winter temperatures plummeted far below zero. Spring break-up ice tore out the bridge several years in a row.
As happened in many towns with wooden structures, fire destroyed much of the town in 1906. Congressional delegate and judge James Wickersham coordinated federal support for rebuilding Fairbanks. The population rallied and the town grew.
Founder and mayor E. T. Barnette created some complications too, when he bought neighboring mining claims through surrogates and some of his men jumped claims that others had worked on legitimately. When word got out that he had a criminal background, things really heated up.
Many of these historical facts are woven into the story of my next novel, Golden Days. Stay tuned to hear more about that as we get closer to the release date, November 12th!
There are several great sources of information on Fairbanks history. I recommend Terrence Cole’s Crooked Past: The History of a Frontier Mining Camp: Fairbanks. Alaska (published by University of Alaska Press, 1984) if you’d like to read more about this fascinating town.
Photo of Wickersham House via Wikicommons (Wickersham House NRHP ref #79003757, Fairbanks, AK author Durkeeco)
Posted on October 17, 2014
I’ve been traveling with my husband for the last four weeks. If you follow me on social media, you probably know about the Alcan part of the trip. We also drove through parts of Canada and the United States to put the bus to bed for the winter, visited with friends and relatives en route, and attended a reunion in California. Good thing we’re great companions for each other—that’s a long time living in close quarters! But the point is, we did fine and had some lovely moments. Here are a few:
Walking around the remains of the old bridge at the Sikanni Chief River in British Columbia. (The photo is at the interpretive sign for the bridge.)
Sipping beer in a pub in Alberta, discussing why my mother had a crush on Joe Montana.
Staying up late talking with our friends in Minnesota, each person adding an element to the conversation.
Showing the bus to his cousin’s 6-year-old son. My husband was almost as enthused as he was.
Talking with people at my husband’s high school reunion, watching people listen to and enjoy his stories.
When people ask me why I write romance, I give one of several answers, depending on the person and the occasion. But one of the main reasons is my marriage. I am so lucky to be married to the same person for thirty years and still have a romantic partnership with him. I want to share this good feeling with others. Thanks, Darlin’. It was a wonderful trip, and I am glad to be home with you.
Posted on October 10, 2014
Alaska Book Week October 4-11, 2014
Perhaps you’ve heard of Alaska Book Week. It’s a celebration of Alaskan books and authors held every October. Booksellers, libraries and others host book signings and author events, readings and book displays. This year I’m feeling a little out of the loop, since I’m not home to participate. But I can contribute by telling you about some of the best Alaskan authors. Some had books released in 2014, and some I just got around to reading or I met the author this year. But they are all outstanding in their genres.
For literary fiction, you can’t beat Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child. This book’s images and characters stayed with me long after I read the last pages. For crime fiction, John Straley’s prose is so well crafted that you’ll forget it’s not poetry. I am looking forward to reading his latest, Cold Storage. Heather Lende’s nonfiction sounds like you’re sharing a cup of coffee with her. Her most recent book is Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. For picture books, Cindy Pendleton’s illustrations are beautiful and lighthearted at the same time. The Pirates of Kachemak Bay, written by Amy Murrell-Hausold and illustrated by Cindy, is a lovely romp through childhood in Alaska.
Alaskan Cinthia Ritchie is underrated, in my opinion. Her novel Dolls Behaving Badly is still one of the funniest, most soulful books I have ever read. And the setting and characters are purely Alaskan. Even if you don’t normally read women’s fiction, give it a try. Carla and her family will steal your heart.
I should also mention the great writers’ groups in Alaska. I belong to 49 Writers, AKRWA (the Alaska chapter of Romance Writers of America) and SCBWI-Alaska (the Alaska chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I gained so much from each of these groups from formal workshops, to critique groups, to friendships that have sustained me in my writing and personal life. Their support helped me develop my craft and continues to guide writers all over Alaska.
Happy Alaska Book Week! Next time you are looking for a new book, try one of these books or check out the ABW website at http://www.alaskabookweek.com.
Posted on October 3, 2014
We’re near the southern end of the Alcan. (See the last two posts to learn more about the rest of our trip.) On the next part of our drive, we took a brief stop at the Sikanni (also called the Sikanni Chief) River, where the U. S. Army’s African-American 95th Engineering Regiment built a bridge in three and a half days. (No, that’s not a typo, but a huge accomplishment.) The original bridge is gone, but the remnants of the steel replacement show the location pretty well.
After that, we stayed in Fort St. John, where the PRA (Public Roads Administration, the civilian side of the project) had a headquarters and the 95th were stationed nearby in the summer of ‘42. (Did you guess one of the main characters in my work in progress is in the 95th and the other in the PRA?) Manager/curator Heather Longworth at the Fort St. John North Peace Museum was very helpful, and guided me to some great sources of information. Raven 1 decided not to start after that visit, but a nice mechanic helped us get on our way.
The next stop was Dawson Creek, Mile 0, the southern end of the Alcan. They really celebrate the history of the Alcan here. The Northern Alberta Railways Park includes the Mile 0 Cairn, the Alaska Highway House, and the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. I had a ball here!
We made a detour to the Kiskatinaw Bridge, a curved wooden bridge built by the PRA as part of the Alcan. Now the new highway bypasses it, but it can still be driven and is an engineering marvel to behold.
Now we are done with the Alcan portion of our trip. It sure has been beautiful, and good for my manuscript. I’ve been very impressed with the the friendly Alaskans and Canadians. But Raven 1 (our bus) still has a ways to go before she sleeps for the winter. Onward!
Hope you enjoyed my little travelogue. For the next post, I’ll go back to more writerly topics and tell you about Alaska Book Week!
Posted on September 26, 2014
Post #2 of our Alcan adventure! (See the last post to find out more about our trip.) After Whitehorse, we drove to Watson Lake to see the signpost forest and the visitor/interpretive center. The center had a great exhibit on the building of the Alcan Highway. Watson Lake is probably most famous for its signpost forest; in 1942, a homesick solider named Carl K. Lindley put up a sign to Danville, IL. People started adding to it, and now there are more than 71,000 of them. It’s a cool thing to see. My husband and I added one of our own too:
Then we hit the twisty-turny part of the highway, where we wove through mountains and down onto flat ground. (Very dramatic, but unfortunately my iPhone was out of juice so no photos to share.) The next stop was Fort Nelson. I hoped to visit the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum, which I had heard was a good source for WWII/Alcan information. The museum itself was closed, but they have a monument to the Alcan construction project and tons of vehicles and other items around its grounds. I spent over an hour just walking around taking notes of things. They had a community fundraiser event at the airport that day, so we got a free helicopter ride over the area. And I got a good tip on a local expert I can contact later, so it worked out okay. Here are some photos from Fort Nelson:
We ended up with an extra day in Fort Nelson due to a minor glitch. (Nothing major, don’t worry Dad!) We discovered that A & W has free wifi, so caught up with our emails, etc. and had our first poutine there. (It was okay, but not an improvement over plain french fries in my opinion. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.) It’s been kind of fun to see the differences in the culture here. Canadians say “washroom” instead of “restroom” and “take away” instead of “to go” and they are very polite about letting pedestrians cross the street, to the point that every time I stopped on the curb drivers waved me over. Much nicer than some places in the States where you wonder if anybody would stop for you.
More later, hope you’re having a good fall too!
Posted on September 19, 2014
My husband and I are traveling the Alcan, or Alaska Highway, for a couple reasons. First, we are taking our vintage tour bus down to the Lower 48. Second, we are using the opportunity to do some research on the building of the Alcan.
About the bus: it is a 1976 MCI tour bus that my husband ran as Raven 1 of the Laughing Raven Touring Company for many years. We have retired the tour company, and are going to take the bus Outside. Phase one of the plan is to get it to his cousin’s property in Missouri and park it there for the winter Then we’ll start on the conversion to an RV next year. Here is a photo of the bus next to the world’s largest gold pan in Burwash Landing, Yukon!
About the research: I am drafting a book about the building of the Alcan in 1942. I have already done a lot of research through books and the internet etc. Now I can see the places in person and stop at museums, etc. Today we were in Whitehorse, the terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad and where many steamboats made the trip down the Yukon River. There are still some buildings around from the Gold Rush, and they have restored the S. S. Klondike so you can see what there sternwheelers were like. Whitehorse was also where many supplies came in for the construction of the Alcan, but there’s not much left from that time period.
I found some good historical details at the MacBride Museum here.
Posted on September 12, 2014
This blog post first appeared in Prism Book Group’s Irish Gold Blog Hop, March 15-18, 2013
Jeannie Kelly is the main character in my novel Quicksilver to Gold.
What are you wishing for at the end of your rainbow?
by Jeannie Kelly
That’s funny, my Irish father always told us stories about leprechauns and the end of the rainbow, so I’ve thought about this question before. My answer is three things: true love, respect, and the big strike.
I suppose all girls wish for true love. No reason to settle down and get married otherwise. I’ve met my true love, Clint. He is strong and honest and has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. But he won’t pursue me for some reason, so I’m taking lessons on how to be a lady so he’ll pay more attention to me.
I wish for respect, from my family and others. Everybody treats me like the same little girl, not noticing that I’m grown up now and I’m a good miner to boot. I wish people would listen to me. On top of that, claim jumpers took our mining claims, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Why won’t they show respect for us hardworking miners and get those thieves off our land?
I also wish for the big strike. As I said, I’m a miner. I’m better at finding gold than anybody else in my family. And one day I’ll prove it by hitting the mother lode. Won’t that get everybody’s attention?!
In the meantime, I’ll work on my lady lessons and help fight the claim jumpers. I hope to get back to our claim soon. Maybe I’ll find that rainbow by working toward it.
Hoping you find the end of your rainbow too,
Quicksilver to Gold is available in print or ebook formats. See details at http://www.prismbookgroup.com/QuicksilvertoGold.html
I will also have a guest post on Romancing the Genres on Sept. 13, at http://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com
Posted on September 5, 2014
My novel Quicksilver to Gold is dedicated to Kelly and Katy. Let me tell you about these young ladies, and why the book is dedicated to them.
Kelly’s full name is Kelly Jean Horner. She was one of my students when I was a DDF (drama debate and forensics) coach at a high school. I worked with Kelly for three years until she graduated, and saw her a few times afterwards. She was bright, vivacious, always ready to jump in and help or participate. Kelly had a great sense of humor and a hatred of injustice, wanting everything to be fair for everyone. We shared a love of music, books, and writing. I read a few of her suspense stories, and her voice and word choice were excellent. We talked a lot about common interests and she kept me entertained during the long nights at tournaments. When my Katy joined DDF, they grew to be friends and debate partners.
Katy is my daughter. She and Kelly were a great team, their skills leading to a strong showing at the State tournament that year. Katy is also intelligent, full of life, and a natural leader. And she’s beautiful and talented enough to earn the title of Miss Alaska (which she did, but that deserves its own story another day). Both Kelly and Katy displayed roller-coaster emotions and unending enthusiasm in their teens.
Kelly died from an undiagnosed heart condition in her sophomore year of college. It was devastating for her family, but heart wrenching for all of us. It is hard to lose someone so young and so full of potential. At the time, I was just starting to plan the book that became Quicksilver to Gold. I decided to base the main character on Kelly, as a tribute.
Of course, I couldn’t transplant Kelly directly into Nome in 1900. For one thing, Kelly wasn’t used as a first name back then, so I made it her last name and used her middle name instead. Jeannie, like most girls from mining families then, is largely uneducated, so I directed Kelly’s intelligence into her ability to mine gold and learn new things. Her zest for life and keen sense of justice were easy to apply. As time went on, the book became my homage to both Kelly and Katy. Jeannie’s beauty, and a few other qualities, are borrowed from my daughter. By the time the book was complete, Jeannie had become her own person, with her own qualities as well. But the inspiration was definitely from Kelly and Katy.
To two young ladies I will always adore, I dedicate this book.
Enter the Goodreads giveaway for Quicksilver to Gold at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/103539-quicksilver-to-gold. You can buy Quicksilver to Gold in ebook or print format directly from Prism Book Group or from your favorite online retailer. To learn more, see http://www.prismbookgroup.com/QuicksilvertoGold.html. If you’re in Alaska, it’s also available at the UAA Bookstore. Thanks for your support!
Posted on August 29, 2014
It’s a good time to take a break from talking about myself. Today I want to tell you about my colleague, author Suzanne Lilly.
Suzanne’s books are about a gold rush too, but a different one: California. Her new book is the second one in her California Argonauts series, Gold Rush Deluge:
Sacramento is underwater. A deluge of epic proportions has engulfed the town, leaving Lucinda Martin York and George Arnold stranded. Lucinda uses her medical skills to help save the citizens of Sacramento, working as a physician’s assistant to Dr. Mitchell Kersey. When she uncovers lies and treachery in the doctor’s past, she becomes enmeshed in dangers even more deadly than the flood. Lucinda must fight to save her life, her dreams, and her future with George.
Based on historical events of 1850 Sacramento, Gold Rush Deluge is riveting and romantic.
About Suzanne Lilly
Suzanne Lilly is a teacher and a writer who occasionally takes time off to zipline in Alaska, teach in China, and traipse around Rome. She writes sweet stories with a splash of suspense, a flash of the unexplained, a dash of romance, and always a happy ending.
Find Suzanne Lilly online at these sites:
Author website: http://www.suzannelilly.com
TeacherWriter blog: http://www.teacherwriter.net
Buy links: Amazon iBooks Smashwords Barnes and Noble Kobo Books Google Play Books