Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Finding Memère and Pepère

I'm back from a very exhausting, but exhilarating trip to Saskatchewan that took place over the course of 2-1/2 days, where I sought out the places I had always heard tell tales of in my childhood. You see, my grandparents, Napoleon and Leopoldine de Montigny, were one of the first homesteaders in Southern Saskatchewan shortly after WWI. Together they cleared the land, and tried to build a life for themselves during the twenties and the dirty thirties while bringing up seven children. Today, I will tell their story with the photos I took while there.

I drove the 3-1/2 hour trip from Regina to Val Marie at night, lovely at first as the sun set until I hit Cadillac at dusk and the road changed from a modern highway to some bumpy and narrow wagon trail full of potholes marked by small, red signs. I managed to miraculously arrive in Val Marie with no flat tires, but I couldn't find my hotel, The Convent Inn, because there were no streetlights and my GPS was freaking out. (They're not built for small towns, I guess.) Finally, in frustration, I stopped at some place and went in to ask for directions. Turned out it was the right place. And what a place! (Although I'm kind of ashamed to admit that since it was an old convent, I was worried about ghosts.)

I slept well that night because it was so quiet. No cars, not even a rooster. And definitely no ghosts. Phew!

In the morning, after a delicious breakfast, I went to the Municipal Land Claims office and found out exactly where the homestead had been. But I have this terrible problem -- when I listen to people talk, I fade in and out a lot. So I wasn't sure if the information was quite right. But here's what's left of Masefield, the closest town to the homestead.

After passing Masefield, I found what I thought was the road that lead to the homestead and traveled down it, looking for the two hills that marked the opening to where my grandfather had built the tiny house and dug a beautiful dam, planting trees beside it. Couldn't find the two hills, so when I saw a truck coming along the gravel road, I flagged it down. Two Hutterite men gladly stopped and chatted with me. One of them told me that when he was a boy, he used to play in that dam and that the Hutterites now owned the land. He said they had drained the water and cut down the trees that once stood beside it, providing much-needed shade. He pointed me in the direction of where the dam had been. So off I went, walking through the prairie, just me and fields of gold under incredible blue skies dotted with puffy clouds. Fortunately, I didn't run into any rattlesnakes or aggressive bulls (another thing I was worried about), just some muck from time to time. (My boots are still crusted.) I never found the damned dam, but I did make it all the way across to the highway. That's a lot of land. When I got to the road, I had walked so far, I had to flag down another car whose driver gladly took me back to my vehicle. Not Hutterite this time.

I paid another trip to the Land Claims office because I was deeply suspicious that I hadn't been in the right place. Turns out I hadn't. So back I went to the same road and took pictures of the surrounding area, this time standing on my grandparents' land. Could this be the two hills?

I took lots of pictures, then drove back to Val Marie to look for the house Pepère built for his ever-growing family after leaving the farm. It was still there, but someone was renovating the inside. My father was very proud of this house. He was supposed to have dug the basement, but never did because he kept being distracted by pretty girls in town. 

Here's the wheat pool.

And here's the school they attended for a while.

I'm wondering if this was the general store. Aunties and Uncles? Would you know?

Anyway, after filling my car up at the local card lock, something I'd never done before, I went off to Ponteix where my great grandfather had lived. What a charming town! Here's his house. It too is being renovated and has changed.

I had some help finding this house. A couple in Quebec City - Louise Lupien and her husband, Guy Ferland walked me around on Facetime until we found it. Louise Lupien's grandfather was the first pioneer prairie doctor in the region. He lived two doors down from the de Montignys. His house is being renovated too. Apparently it was a house they ordered from the Eatons catalogue.

And now, here's the church the de Montignys went to every Christmas when my grandparents went to visit the family. There's a convent and a school too.

Then there was the sad part of the trip, going to the cemetery and finding the graves of the twin baby girls Memére had lost to meningitis as well as the baby boy who died a couple of months after birth. This is what had brought me to Ponteix. I had been so moved by that story that I vowed to place flowers on their grave some day. And here it is. It still makes me want to cry.

I also tried to find my great grandfather's grave, but many of the graves were so worn that the names were no longer legible. However, I did find Uncle Levi's grave. Apparently, this man was quite the musician - a kindred spirit, a fiddler. And it was my great grandfather who made the cross, according to a relative.

And of course, I found Dr. Lupien's grave too and placed a rose on it.

After I was done grave hunting, I went back to Regina. (Still can't believe a queen named her daughter Regina. What was she thinking?) This is where my grandfather came to meet my grandmother after WWI. He'd proposed to her in Belgium, but she told him to go back home and think on it and that if he still wanted her, to send for her. Well, he went back home and worked as a cowboy until he'd made enough money for her passage. Memère then left her hometown of Chatlineau, Belgium and traveled to Halifax, across Quebec and Ontario, and then the prairies where there was nothing. Just fields of snow for miles and miles. She finally arrived in Regina at the Union Station (which has now been turned into a Casino - so much renovating).

That night, they were married with only two priests as witnesses. I believe this was the church they were married in. It was called St. Mary's at the time and is now Blessed Sacrament.

Here's the inside of it. It's quite lovely. Can you imagine it through her eyes? 

Then, apparently, after supper, they went and saw a show. I figured it was at the Globe Theatre which still exists. 

I had a tough time finding old hotels dating back to that time, but was very surprised to discover that the Holiday Inn was once The Champlain, renovated some years back. Could this be where they stayed? This is what it looks like today:

The rest of my trip was taken up by a bit of sightseeing and shopping. When I got back to Vancouver, my husband and the dog welcomed me home at the airport. (The dog looked bored to see me.) Tomorrow, I continue to write the story that has been haunting me, that has been calling my name for years. And now that I've been where it all took place, it's all the more real to me. Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies to be released in September, 2017.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In Search of Memère and Pepère's Homestead

Today is the day I leave for Saskatchewan in search of Memére and Pepére's homestead near Val Marie, Saskatchewan. As I approach the end of my historical novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, I've grown to know my grandparents much more intimately than ever before. I've learned who this jolly, little French-Canadian man from Trois Rivières really was, and what this mysterious lady from Belgium endured as they took up a homestead in the 1920s only to have their dreams dashed by the Depression era.

But there are more than just them I seek to know. It's also my great grandfather, Levi, and his wife, Emma, as well as the uncles and aunts who convened each Christmas, playing their fiddles and guitars, their Quebecois joie-de-vivre lighting up the festive season. I'm hoping to find their house in Ponteix as well as the graves of my baby aunts and uncle who died in infancy.

And finally, there is one more person I must mention -- A pioneer doctor named Dr. Onile Lupiens. A man who devoted his life to his practice, often treating patients for free, lighting fires in peoples' homes who were too sick to tend to it themselves during the Spanish Flu. A more devoted man never existed.

Who knows what I will find when I arrive. In the meantime, here is the blurb and cover of my novel, slated for release in September, 2017. 

French-Canadian soldier, Napoleon, proposes to Lea during WWI, promising golden fields of wheat as far as the eye can see. After the armistice, he sends money for her passage, and she journeys far from her family and the conveniences of a modern country to join him on a homestead in Saskatchewan. There, she works hard to build their dream of a prospering farm, clearing fields alongside her husband through several pregnancies and even after suffering a terrible loss. When the stock market crashes in ’29, the prairies are stricken by a long and abysmal drought. Thrown into poverty, she struggles to survive in a world where work is scarce, death is abundant, and hope dwindles. Will she and her family survive the Great Depression?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Katie Carroll's Cover Reveal of Pirate Island

Cover Reveal is Live for Katie Carroll's Middle Grade Adventure PIRATE ISLAND

It’s here! The cover reveal for Katie Carroll's upcoming middle grade adventure PIRATE ISLAND is live! All exclamation points because she's so excited to share. Illustrator Susan Tait Porcaro did such an amazing job bringing Billy and the spirit of the book to life. 

And here's the link to Katie's blog if you'd like to know more.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Trip to the Past - A Treasure Trove of Knowledge

As summer draws to a close, I look back at all that transpired and what life has brought me. I know there are skeptics who say life gives back what you put into it, but I say, many events just happen along the way. 

Take for example, the planning of our summer vacation. I was thrilled to go to Europe, but wasn't exactly delighted when my husband announced that he and our two boys wanted to do the WWI, WWII route. I mean, how dull, right? Visiting old graveyards, army bases, etc. Not my idea of fun by any means.

... little did I know.

Before the trip, I decided to write a historical novel based on my grandparents' lives. It's a novel that had been calling my name for quite some time. But what I never imagined was that I'd find the very house my grandmother left Belgium from to marry my grandfather in Canada, that I'd trace their very footsteps.

My grandmother lived in a small town called Chatlineau over a hundred years ago at #117, Rue de Gilley. On a spur of the moment decision, I suggested we try to find it, certain it wouldn't have survived, but it did, and here it is.

The only regret I had was that I didn't knock on the door. I was too shy. If only I could have stood in the very rooms where my grandmother slept, ate, and laughed with her family.

The next really cool thing we did was to travel to Arras close by Vimy Ridge where the Allies finally won the upper hand over the Germans. We wandered around in the tunnels that transported the soldiers to the very place where they surprised the Germans by their sudden appearance. We navigated the trenches, constructed over the originals. (They had no choice but to follow the originals because there are thousands of unexploded bombs beneath the grounds.) Had my grandfather stood in these same trenches? Did he have trench foot, like so many soldiers did? Was he plagued by rats? The only thing I know for sure is that he had body lice.

Then we traveled to the future visiting Juneau beach where a cousin of mine survived the Normandy Invasion, a terrible ordeal that would leave him troubled with PTSD all his life. It ws so strange to stand on a beach that's so beautiful and serene, the waves lapping in rhythm along the shore, to realize that this was once the scene of mass destruction with bodies littering the ground like driftwood.

Returning to Britain, I had the honour of seeing the White Cliffs of Dover. How often I'd heard of this famous landmark. What were my grandmother's thoughts when she spied these cliffs from a distance. How did she feel when she disembarked the ferry, having little or no English and had to find her way to the train station that would take her to Liverpool and hence to Halifax? Did she have the proper currency?

We'll never truly know. But on my return, I discovered my sister held a treasure box of love letters between my grandparents that were perfectly preserved. My father had put it in her care before he died. Postcards from WWI that displayed horses and wagons near well-known British structures like Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge, etc. As you can imagine, I've been pouring over them with great fascination. As a child, I'd only known my grandparents as old people, worn out from a difficult life. And now, I had a chance to get to know who they really were.

And so what looked like a very boring 'guy' trip turned out to be a memorable experience, and a treasure trove of valuable information. How special to step into the past and to meet my real grandparents whom I shall forever cherish.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Another Great Book From Canadian Author Simon Rose

Today, I'm interviewing Simon Rose of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He's just released a fascinating novel called Future Imperfect. Welcome Simon.

Simon, please do tell what your novel is about. 
Future Imperfect is an exciting technology-driven adventure featuring teenage geniuses, corporate espionage, and mysterious messages. In the novel, we’re introduced to Andrew Mitchell, who was one of the leading experts in highly advanced technology in Silicon Valley, until he vanished following a car accident, which also injured his son, Alex. When a mysterious app later appears on Alex’s phone, he and his friend Stephanie embark on a terrifying journey involving secret technology, corporate espionage, kidnapping, and murder in a desperate bid to save the future from the sinister Veronica Castlewood. The story will appeal to all young readers for whom technology plays such a large role in their lives, whether it’s cell phones, laptops, tablets, gaming, or the online world, but it’s also a very compelling adventure story, with lots of cliffhangers, twists, and turns. There might even be a couple of sequels, but we’ll wait and see what the future holds, I guess.
How long have you been writing? 

The first novel, The Alchemist’s Portrait, was published in 2003 and written over the previous couple of years. The others followed on a regular basis since then.

What made you begin writing?

I always had lots of ideas for stories but never thought about creating my own novels until I became a parent. Around that time the Harry Potter books first appeared, as well as The Golden Compass and its sequels, and these books inspired me to create stories about the topics that interested me, such as history, time travel, fantasy, science fiction, comic books, the paranormal, superheroes, ancient civilizations and mysteries, and the unexplained.

What other novels have you written?

Future imperfect is my tenth novel for young adults. The other novels include The Alchemist's PortraitThe Sorcerer's LetterboxThe Clone ConspiracyThe Emerald CurseThe Heretic's TombThe Doomsday MaskThe Time CameraThe Sphere of Septimus, and  FlashbackI’ve also written more than 80 nonfiction books for children and young adults, but have also written books for adults. These include The Children's Writer's GuideThe Working Writer's GuideThe Social Media Writer's GuideSchool and Library Visits for Authors and Illustrators, andExploring the Fantasy Realm. 
What's next?

My previous novel, Flashback, is a paranormal adventure involving psychic phenomena, ghosts, imaginary friends, mind control experiments, secrets, conspiracies, and time travel with a difference. Flashback has two sequels coming out in 2017, one in the spring and the third installment in the summer. I'm also working on plans for some sequels to The Sphere of Septimus and as I mentioned earlier Future imperfect may also generate some more adventures. I'm also working on a parallel universe trilogy which I hope to have completed later this year.  

So what are your purchasing links?

Future Imperfect is available at local bookstores, online at Amazon Canada, Amazon USAIndigo/ChaptersBarnes and NobleAmazon UK, and other locations, and autographed copies can also be purchased directly from me via my website. You can also always buy autographed copies of all the other books from me and they're all available at all the usual sites online.

Well, that's pretty impressive. Thanks, Simon. I can't wait to read your books.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Finding Thor - Giving Away Swag.

Have you found your Thor? Kai Strand wants to help with that. Be sure to check out the giveaway below.

International intrigue hits small-town America.

Tragedy has left Cara Cassidy broken and the only thing keeping her from giving in completely is her guilt. Until Nik Rock.

Nik stirs up feelings in degrees she has never experienced, and causes her to do things that most assuredly give him the wrong impression – like kiss him before their first date. Somehow, he breaks down the walls around her emotions until she has no choice but to forgive herself and feel again.

But a mysterious, troubled past follows Nik, and Cara may prove to be his weakest link.

When a royal princess shows up looking for Nik, and an international gang arrives looking for missing jewels, Cara lands in mortal danger. Will she be able to save herself? What will happen to her newly repaired psyche if she loses Nik?

Romance, mystery, and high stakes – just another day in high school.


The veil dropped over Nik’s expression so fast, it told her exactly what she didn’t want to know. Nik had indeed seen her mom. Cara turned away from him again intending to trudge back into the classroom.
“By the crown, will you stop already?” Nik begged.
The exasperation in his tone and the odd choice of words piqued her curiosity. Cocking her head, she asked, “By the crown?”
The frustration melted away and Nik pursed his lips, which almost distracted Cara enough to forget the thread of conversation, but she tore her eyes away and asked, “Is that what they say in Seattle?”
Nik’s eyes lit with appreciation. “Aren’t you clever?”
“Am I?”
He nodded. His appreciative appraisal and half smile wreaked havoc with her supposed cleverness.
“Nik?” she breathed.
“Yes?” He tilted toward her giving her the impression he hung on her every word. His eyes were glued to her lips, which she realized were parted and ever so slightly panting.
She gulped. “Can we perhaps do this after school?”
When he raised his gaze to meet hers she almost liquefied under the heat of it. “Can I trust you?”
“Trust me to do what?” Cara asked. She was losing the ability to think.
“Show up.” He slid closer and she held her breath hoping he would take her in his arms.
“Show up where?” she asked.
A full-blown grin curved across his face and she thrilled with the knowledge she’d put it there. Then she realized she couldn’t remember how.
“Actually, I was going to ask you that,” Nik said. His eyes roved her face.
“Wait. What?” Cara’s voice was so breathy she wasn’t sure if she spoke or gasped.
“Where should we meet? After school.”
She itched to rise up on tiptoe and kiss that stellar grin off his mouth.
A low chuckle rumbled through him. “Why don’t you tell me in gym class?”
She nodded slowly. Was he a drug? Or maybe the male version of a siren. Did they have those?
He tipped further forward and she caught her breath. Then he sighed.
“See you next period.”
Her mouth fell open as he walked away. He hadn’t even touched her and she was burning with need.
At the end of the hall, he glanced over his shoulder and grinned when he saw her still gaping after him. When he walked out of view she let out the breath she’d been holding. It stuttered and shook, but was relieved to escape her burning lungs. How long had she been holding her breath?
By the crown, Nik Rock was dangerous!

Finding Thor is available in print or electronic format from the following:
Add Finding Thor to your to-read shelf on Goodreads

About the author:
When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.

Swag alert! Looking for your Thor? Look no further, Kai’s got you covered. Enter to win a custom tote bag for all of those books you like to carry with you, and a Thor baseball cap. Easy entry for those in a hurry, or many other ways to earn more entries for contest junkies. FT swag pack can only be shipped in the United States. If first winner is International, an Amazon gift card will be substituted and another winner will be chosen.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It's Release Day aka my Book Birthday! That's right. Today is the day book 2 of my Shadow of the Unicorn series officially comes out as a print book, and I can't tell you how happy I am. I'm jumping for joy, I'm giggling like a fool, I'm ... well, anyway, here's the blurb:

Sixty years after the unicorns’ narrow escape from extinction, Azaria's Legacy has gone wrong. The new generation barely exists, hidden in the depths of the forest. Their cruel and ruthless leader, Icarus, threatens them daily with Jaresh, an invisible being capable of taking away their powers. Angry, the young colt Ulysees and his friend Téo rebel, following an old, abandoned trail where they’re discovered by humans. Now the entire herd must flee. But Ulysees learns there’s a far greater danger than humans when he meets a giant creature who warns him of impending doom…

And here's the cover. Is this beautiful or what? This was created by Michelle Lee.

Now in case you haven't read the first one, The Legacy (Shadow of the Unicorn, book 1), here are the blurb and cover:

Azaria, a unicorn colt, is intrigued when the young, clairvoyant dinosaur, Darius, foresees a terrifying change to their world. When a giant fireball smashes into the earth, the unicorns struggle to survive the hurricanes and starvation that follow. But nothing compares to the danger when the creatures-that-walk-on-two-legs settle in the valley, and their leader discovers the healing power in the unicorns’ horns. Greedy and ruthless, Ishmael will stop at nothing in his pursuit of wealth – even the complete extinction of the herd. Azaria must find a way to outsmart Ishmael before it’s too late.

Again, Michelle Lee created that stunning cover.

Now watch the book trailers: 


The best part about these novels is that for every book I sell, I give half of my proceeds to the Third World Eye Care Society. Long story. Basically I went through a vision crisis three years ago, had great care because I live in Canada, and now I want to give back.  

Here are the links if you'd like to buy a copy of either book:

And stop by my on-line launch party. It's lots of fun. There's great cyber-food, prizes, and mysterious animals!