Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Monday, December 4, 2017

My Ups and Downs of my South Saskatchewan Tour - and They Said It Was Flat!

So everyone thinks Saskatchewan is totally flat, right? Wrong! It definitely has hills and even hoodoos. But like the name of my latest novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, the whole province is just that - gold with amazing skies! Except in winter, of course. Then it's white with amazing skies. 


Grasslands Nation Park near Val Marie

I recently did a two-week book tour of South Saskatchewan, visiting schools and libraries and doing book signings  from Leader all the way to Saskatoon. How did I do it, you ask? Well the first thing I had to do is finance the darn thing. And the easiest way to do that was to do school visits. And so I did. I sent out a poster to various school boards in Saskatchewan explaining my services, and they in turn sent out my poster to the schools within the district. Libraries, I called separately. 



Poster at Leader Library

High school kids in Frontier

Intermediate class in Val Marie. Each child had a computer.



Now libraries in small towns in Saskatchewan have a problem in that there is little government subsidies. As a matter of fact, the government had seriously thought of shutting down libraries all over South Saskatchewan to reduce costs. So I didn't charge them. I told them I'd do it for free if they allowed me to sell books.


The library in Val Marie.

And how I sold books - tons of books. I sent an order form ahead of time before arriving at any school. Sometimes I had to come back to that school because they'd forgotten to distribute them with great results. More books sold - heaps!

The next problem, of course, lay in keeping my costs down. So anywhere I could, I'd stay in B&Bs. And where there were no B&Bs, I used my friend Expedia. Now I'll be honest in saying that some of my stays weren't up to standard, but hey, this is small town Saskatchewan, right? It is what it is. Then there was food. I decided I wouldn't eat in any restaurants, you know, expensive meals and tips? And so I ate in food fairs, bought tv dinners or deli food at the grocery store, and carried food around with me all the time in case I ran out of fuel and was stranded somewhere. And speaking of fuel, I didn't bother flying, renting a car, and shipping books because I have a great little car that barely uses up gas - a 2016 Prius V. Besides, Saskatchewan isn't that far away from Vancouver -  a day and a half. Why not drive a vehicle I know rather than some clunker/gas guzzler, right?


Shirley of Shirley's B&B, Leader, Sask.

And so I drove. And drove. And drove. I'd heard prairie highways could be mighty boring so I stocked up on my favourite CDs. Heck, with no one complaining about my taste in music, I could play the same ones over and over again, singing at the top of my lungs. I wasn't bored at all. How could I be when Saskatchewan is so beautiful! And fascinating! And my favourite music was playing.

When my grandparents first met, the fairly new province of Saskatchewan was busy setting up new towns and handing out homesteads. It was easy to get one. All you had to do was pay your $10, apply, and once you got the land, build a small house and barn on it, cultivate 40 acres, and voila! Problem was, the Dirty Thirties hit and that's what my story, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is all about.
My grandparents' homestead, Val Marie

The dam my grandfather built on the farm.


My grandfather's old plow

As I traveled about to the various towns, I was saddened to see so many of these places I'd heard about growing up, reduced to ghost towns or on their way to becoming one. I drove past farm after farm where ruins of once-vibrant houses crumbled to the ground. And I thought, "What family lived there, and what kind of humour flew around?" I saw faces of children in large families, really large families, and imagined what Christmas must have been like - and Easter. 


An abandoned house in South Saskatchewan.

St. Elizabeth Church near Gravelbourg - a heritage building.
A crumbling house in Masefield.

Another crumbling house. Who lived here and when?

One town I made a point to seek out is called Bracken. This was a rather important town because there used to be a baby clinic there where many an infant who wasn't thriving was saved, including my Aunt Claire. As I drove through, I searched for what could have once been a clinic, but all I was found plenty of ruins amidst newer houses. 

Another town that fascinated me was Vanguard. I drove into the town figuring it'd be easy to find the school, and it was...except it was totally abandoned. It was bizarre. I thought, "Did I get the day wrong? Is there a pro-D day today?" I wandered about empty hallways, where echoes of children's laughter filled my imagination, then finally left. When I stopped and asked a woman, she pointed me in the right direction. "The new school's that way." 

And what a school! So modern! So vibrant! And such an ethos! As a matter of fact, all the schools I visited in Saskatchewan were modern, vibrant and full of ethos. They had the latest technology, oftentimes were fairly recently built, and the teachers were really with it. I mean, small town doesn't mean small education in this province. I was really impressed!

Then there was Val Marie. They had three classrooms from K - 10. Again, really modern and with it. And then there was a little girl who had no language. She had her own attendant, and her own little computer that helped her communicate. And that really floored me that you can get this calibre of help in a village. 

But what amazed me most was the people. Nice people. Small town humour, small town camaraderie - really decent folk! Something you don't find as often in a big city.


My Aunt Lilian - a nice person from Saskatchewan.

Anyway, I loved Saskatchewan, but then I've always loved Saskatchewan. There's nothing backward about this place. The only thing missing for me, was a ski hill close by. Snowboarding is my passion. But for anyone who doesn't snowboard or ski, I highly recommend living in Saskatchewan. You can get a really nice place for inexpensive, have modern amenities, and know amazing people.

And if you want to read my novel that takes place in Saskatchewan, here's the book trailer: 



And here's my Amazon link: bit.ly/prairiebridebit.ly/prairiebride

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

First They Took Downtown and Now the Mall - Is this Amazon's Fault?

I'm a 57-year-old woman from Vancouver, Canada. I grew up in Chilliwack. And I still remember when I was a girl, if you wanted to go shopping, you went downtown. That's where the Eaton's Department Store was, the Sweet Sixteen Store, and all kinds of mom and pop businesses. But of course, that all changed in the 70s as malls rose from nothing all over the lower mainland... including our small town. 




Well at first, we loved it. Heck, you could go and try on all kinds of different things in stores in very close proximity without getting cold and wet. It gave you time to make up your mind. But then downtown died. It became a haven of second-hand clothes and used furniture shops. But now the malls have all changed too.

When I go to most of Vancouver's malls, stores sit empty, their windows boarded over. And I can't help but think, "What's going on here? Have people gotten so lazy they can't get up and go to the mall anymore? They'd rather stay home staring at a computer screen, too busy to enjoy life a little? To go for a walk? To meet with a friend for coffee?"




Seems it's true. 

I've watched over the years as department stores have disappeared - Eaton's, Zellers, Woodward's, Saan's, Field's. Even boutiques have gone the way of the cemetery: Mariposa's, Rickie's, Dalmy's, Radio Shack, names that have all slipped from the public's minds.

Is it Amazon's fault? I mean, they make it so easy to purchase anything with just one click. And they're sure giving Walmart a run for their money. Walmart's scrambling to catch up. Some author friend of mine posted today that she was a Walmart Bestseller? She was so happy! A what? Seriously? A Walmart bestseller?



What's our world coming to? We are slowly but surely being alienated from one another. Folks sit at home watching Netflix instead of going out. Teens text instead of having a friend over. People order things instead of going to the mall to buy them. People, can't you see, we're all sitting around alone!



It makes me think of Petula Clark's song, Downtown, where all the lights are bright. But that day is gone, and now our malls are dying a painful death too. Slowly, we're being taken over, our own slovenliness handing the control to the giants: Amazon, Walmart...

Think about it...


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Embarrassing Truth About Book Launches

So I just had two book launches for my new novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, a book based on a true story that I poured my soul into. It was exhausting meeting the deadline and perfecting it before handing it back to my publisher, BWL Publishing so they could push it out into the world, the young innocent babe it is. And then...I had to do the book launch.

Well, let me tell you, book launches are the hardest work of all because no one likes going to book launches unless it's someone really famous. Sometimes only two people show up. 



But a typical book launch consists of 15 or 20 people who have been forced to come because either they're related to you, or in your writer's group, or because you twisted their arm to breaking point. And that's me - the arm twister.


So I start out by making an invitation that sounds like it's going to be the most sensational event ever. I provide live music, food, and prizes. I do FB ads, Twitter ads, send out press releases, personal invitations. I make sure it's on a day that will have no soccer practices, isn't a long weekend, and is convenient for everyone. My image is that 100 people will show up. Sigh.


To begin with, no one in my writer's group could come. And my dear old aunt who I was thinking of the whole time, went away on a trip for two days, and arrived back a half hour after the launch was over. Cousins were working. Someone got sick. A couple of people had unexpected company. And then there are the pingers and ringers. You know, those people who either call or text you at the last minute to say they can't make it?

But strangely, despite the embarrassingly small crowds (if you can call them crowds), there's always the handful of people who did come three hours out of their way to support you, or the cousin who just had her teeth pulled and is sore, or the friend from childhood who's a die-hard. And they buy books. And they tell all their friends. And that's who I'm doing it for.



And so I swallow my pride, realize I'm not alone. (I've been to many book launches that are poorly attended.) And I go on. And I dream that some day, I'll have that huge crowd going out the door. 



In the meantime, here's the book trailer for Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies.



And here is the link. Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Big Book Giveaway in Honour of the Canadian Historical Bride Series

I’m very excited to blog about the Canadian Historical Bride series published by BWL Publishing. These are books created especially to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. My novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is coming out on Sept. 19th. Can’t wait. So to promote the Canadian Historical Bride series, I’ve asked the various authors to give one of their other novels for free! And to start out, here’s mine: www.instafreebie.com/free92piu.

Today, I’m interviewing Victoria Chatham, author of Brides of Banff Springs, book 1 of the CHB series.



So tell us about your Canadian Historical Bride novel. I loved the paranormal element in it. Who knew that the Banff Springs Hotel was haunted?

The story of the Ghost Bride has been around since the late 1920s. According to the story, while she descended a winding staircase at the hotel, her heel caught the hem of her wedding gown and she fell. Other reports state the skirt of her gown brushed against a candle flame, causing her to fall. The sad fact is that, whatever the cause, the bride did not survive her fall. Guests and hotel staff have reported seeing a veiled figure on those stairs or a figure in a wedding gown dancing in the ballroom, so the story has had a lot of publicity.

Ohhhh, I love it – a good ghost story! What made you decide to write about Banff besides the awe-inspiring beauty and the ghost?

I’m a very visual person and the photographs I’d seen of Banff as it was prior to the hotel being built to the town, and as it is today, intrigued me. When I started researching my story I found there was so much more to Banff than I had realized, much of it because of its connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway. It really wasn’t difficult to go and do on-site research as Banff is only roughly an hour’s drive from where I live. Here’s the blurb:

In the Dirty Thirties jobs were hard to come by. Having lost her father and her home in southern Alberta, Tilly McCormack is thrilled when her application for a position as a chambermaid at the prestigious Banff Springs Hotel, one of Canada’s great railway hotels, is accepted. 

Tilly loves her new life in the Rocky Mountain town and the people she meets there. Local trail guide Ryan Blake, is taken with Tilly’s sparkling blue eyes and mischievous sense of humor, and thinks she is just the girl for him. Ryan’s work with a guiding and outfitting company keeps him busy but he makes time for Tilly at every opportunity and he’s already decided to make her his bride. 

On the night he plans to propose to Tilly another bride-to-be, whose wedding is being held at the Hotel, disappears. Tilly has an idea where she might have gone and together with Ryan sets out to search for her. 

Will they find the missing bride and will Tilly accept Ryan’s proposal?
I so enjoyed reading this. I may just have to read it again. So what’s the link to buy it?

Just click on the book cover and it will show all available markets.

And what’s the book you’re giving for free?



His Dark Enchantress. It’s a Regency romance and the first in my Berkeley Square series. You download it here: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/FI0wg

Great! Thanks! I’m off to download it.




Sunday, September 3, 2017

Big Book Giveaway in Honour of the Canadian Historical Bride series.



I’m very excited to blog about the Canadian Historical Bride series published by BWL in honour of  Canada’s 150th anniversary. My novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is coming out on Sept. 19th. Can’t wait. So to promote the Canadian Historical Bride series, I’ve asked the various authors to give one of their other novels for free! And to start out, here’s mine: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/92piu

Today, I’m interviewing Katherine Pym, co-author of Pillars of Avalon, book 5 of the CHB series. Hey, Katherine, how’s it going?

Great, thanks.

So tell us about your Canadian Historical Bride novel. I’m reading it right now and I have to say I’m really impressed with the realistic language you use from that era. I feel as though I’ve gone back in time.





The language comes from reading so much of the era, so it attaches naturally to my thought processes as I write.

Now, to tell you of Pillars of Avalon, a story that covers several decades and centers on the early colonization of Newfoundland: King Charles I gives David Kirke a letter of marque, allowing him the freedom to pillage any French ports in New France (now Quebec). He is successful but after King Louis XIV cries foul, King Charles reneges and forces David to return everything he’d fought for, even furs he’d negotiated on his own.

He marries Sara Andrews whom he’s known most of his life and refers to her as ‘Twig’, since she’s so slight. They are each other’s match and support each other during their marriage. David gives Sara free reign to run portions of their companies which she does very well. I had to make her a strong woman because Lady Sara Kirke is considered the foremost North American Female Entrepreneur, and there is an award given each year in her name.

How did you come up with this idea?

I discovered David and Sara Kirke one day while searching for information on events of the 17th century. You see, my expertise is London 1660’s, which I’ll admit is pretty narrow, but due to the heavy tomes I borrow or purchase, a lot of history expands to both sides of the 1660’s. During the research phase, and again during the writing of Pillars, I found some amazing books published in the 17th century that helped me with the colonial days of Newfoundland.

I love Newfoundland. I had an ancestor land there only to move to Quebec later on. So what’s the link to buy it? https://books2read.com/u/3k0pWR

And what’s the book you’re giving for free? 


Erasmus T. Muddiman, a story of a lad who is caught up in the buildup of the 2nd Anglo/Dutch war. He’s press-ganged to caulk new and used ships at Deptford. After he escapes, he finds London embroiled in the great plague of 1665. 





Great! Thanks! I better go and check this out. Nothing more fascinating than the Bubonic plague!!!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Big Book Giveaway in Honour of the Canadian Historical Bride Series

I’m very excited to blog about the Canadian Historical Bride series published by BWL Publishing. These are books created especially to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. My novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is coming out on Sept. 19th. Can’t wait. So to promote the Canadian Historical Bride series, I’ve asked the various authors to give one of their other novels for free! And to start out, here’s mine: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/92piu

Today, I’m interviewing Nancy M. Bell, author of His Brother’s Bride, book 2 of the CHB series. Hey, Nancy, how’s it going?



Hi Suzanne, thanks for inviting me. Things are crazy! It’s been a busy summer with book signings and events to promote the Brides collection. I’m excited to report that in October I’b going on a 20 library/10 day tour of northern Alberta for the Northern Lights Library System. I’ll be talking to various age groups about my books, books in general and the writing process. I’ll also be seeing you at the Surrey International Writers Conference at the end of October. Always so much fun.

Wow! Sounds like you’re the hot author of Alberta! I totally understand why. So tell us about your Canadian Historical Bride novel. I absolutely loved it. It was poignant and kept me on the edge of my seat, plus I didn’t see that ending coming. You totally got me.

Thanks for the kind words. His Brother’s Bride is set in Ontario during the first world war. The location is Eaganville and then the Sprucedale/Huntsville area. It touches on the story of the “Dr. Barnardo children” those who were sent to Canada as children to be ‘adopted’ by families here. Some were treated well, some were no more than endentured servants who were not treated so well. Annie Baldwin is the youngest daughter of a reasonably well to do family who farm outside Eaganville. She meets and becomes friends with two brothers who were both sent to Canada from Liverpool, England as Dr. Barnardo boys. They were lucky enough to be placed close to each other even though they came at different times on different ships. Both boys end up going to France while Annie waits at home for them and her brothers to come back.  The trio also take a bit of a side trip early in the story to explore the caves along the Bonnechere River. Today the caves are a tourist attraction with guided tours, but in the early 1900s they were entered via a sink hole and the explorers were on their own.   

What made you decide to write this particular story?

The premise of the novel is based very roughly on my grandparent’s story. I took some liberties with their actual story line, but the foundation is there. It just seemed like it would be a good story to tell and it had a lot of personal meaning to me. I felt closer to my grandfather and his brother as I delved into the research. It also helped that I’ve been to the places in the novel, Sprucedale, Doe Lake, the Bonnechere Caves and the Haliburton Highlands.

I know what you mean about feeling closer to your grandfather. My story is about my grandparents as well, and even though I’ve never met my great grandfather, I feel like I know him well after having written this story. Now please do tell where can we get His Brother’s Bride?

His Brother’s Bride is available in e-format and print. It can be found on all the normal ebook sites as well as in print from Chapters/Indigo in Canada and the Red Tuque Books website.
Here is the link to my author page. If you click on the cover of a book it will take you to a page where you can take your pick of vendors. 



And what’s the book you’re giving for free?

I thought I’d add some humour here, so I’m giving away The Teddy Dialogues.  Here’s a bit about Teddy, a most remarkable dog.


Do you ever look at your dog and wonder what he’s thinking? Well, wonder no more. The Teddy Dialogues takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of what goes in a dog’s mind and how they perceive the odd way their humans behave. Teddy’s dry wit and irascible personality make this a quirky and fun read. You’ll never look at your dog the same after you read The Teddy Dialogues. Prepare to be entertained.

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/lB5uZ  Here’s the giveaway link.

Great! Thanks! I really laughed when I read that book, but His Brother’s Bride is my favourite so far.

Thanks Suzanne, I always enjoy reading your work. Love those unicorns.

And in case you'd like to be one of the first to read Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, you can pre-order it here:






Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Grouchy Amazon Guy - Could Have Sworn it was Donald Trump

I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it seemed I had signed myself up for a free Amazon course of two hours in Burnaby, B.C. 

Why not go? I thought, being an author and all. After all, Amazon keeps changing the algorithms in favour of their self-published books (so rumour has it). Perhaps this lecture will reveal the secret to getting around these mysterious numbers. And so I showed up, grabbed my free cup of coffee and sat down.



In walks the presenter. Handsome, tall, thirty-something, his hair greased back as slick as the talk he was about to give.  And no sooner did he begin, did he utter a serious Canadian faux-pas. He said, "You can make a lot of money on Amazon despite your race."

Ahhhhh! What????? I immediately turned around to see what the demographics were in the room and discovered there were only three white people there. My hackles raised at his divisiveness, and I nearly let out a low growl, but instead decided to listen to what he had to say. After he's only human, right? We all mistakes.

That's when I noticed his accent was American, and thought, "Perhaps he doesn't know. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt and tell him afterward." 

Soon he was tempting people to sign up for a three-day Amazon course for only $1299 by offering them a free kindle. Then he explained the strategy of buying top selling items at wholesale price and selling them on Amazon at a profit. Hmmmm. So much for my writing career. But still, I had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of the talk, I went to him and asked him about the book algorithms, and he didn't deny it. When I asked him how I could get around them, he suggested I sell something else. (Good thing I didn't pay for this lecture.)

But my kinder side prevailed and I said, "May I give you some feedback?" still reeling from the race thing. 

"No!" he recoiled in true Trumpian fashion, his arms crossed, and face in a scowl.

"But it's important," I said.

He acquiesced, but still looked ready for battle.

"When you said that bit about selling things on Amazon despite your race? Well....this is Canada. We don't have racial problems like you guys have in America. There are some, but all in all, we just get along. It's easy. It's not necessary to say that in Canada."

The handsome young man suddenly transformed to Donald Trump himself, red faced as Potus and began arguing with me.  Real professional.



My reply? "My hackles were raised when you said that. It's just a suggestion. Take it or leave it."

And with that, I left, not having signed up for his course on how to peddle on Amazon and a bad taste in my mouth for the world's largest on-line company.

As I was catching the elevator, I spoke with an Asian man who'd sat through the speech. Turned out he was as offended by the race comment as I was. 

How marred my image is of Amazon now, me, an Amazon Prime holder. Think I'll go hang out at the old-fashioned mall instead of on-line. (Huge sigh of relief.)