Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thank you to readers and reviewers of Stone and Silt!

I thought I would take a moment and say "thank you" to those of you who have picked up a copy of Stone and Silt. I do appreciate it very much! Writing a book is a long, solitary process and it's so gratifying to hear from people who are giving it a read now that it's published.

Some news: my publisher is considering a significant promotion for Stone and Silt, that will put it on one of the largest book mailing lists in the U.S. We'll be able to do so once it has a few more reviews on

The good news is, it has eight reviews now, and a nice average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. Just a few more reviews and we'll be able to launch the promotion.

So I especially want to thank any of you who leave a short review on! Just a few words is all it takes. The link to do so is here:

Whether you leave a review or not... thank you for checking out Stone and Silt!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Stone and Silt" now part of Amazon's MatchBook program

Have you heard about this? Amazon has a new program, called "MatchBook," where you can get greatly-reduced prices on ebooks for Amazon books you've purchased previously in print editions.

Not every book is eligible for this... but Stone and Silt is, thanks to my always-on-the-ball publisher.

What it means is this: if you purchased a print edition of the book from Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for a mere 99 cents. That's a four-dollar savings or, as I like to think about it, two tall Americanos at Starbucks.

You can easily see which of your past Amazon book purchases are eligible through this Amazon page.

I believe MatchBook is only available in the U.S. at this time. Hopefully it'll be expanded to other countries, like Canada and the U.K., very soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


For those of you who are writers (and everybody is a writer)... here's the latest on my author-journey.

Two weeks have passed since my book, Stone and Silt, was released. This is all a new experience for me, and now's a good time to checkpoint how it's all going.

First, the book did well on its opening day, proving once again that it pays to have a broad network of family and friends. The book peaked at #8 in Amazon's Hot New Releases for Young Adult Lit/Fic. That was a "Quick, somebody fan me!" moment. Thank you all!

And it was a delight to see the comments and goodheartedness from near and far, including some old friends I hadn't heard from in a long while.

I feel that the acceptance of the book has put a little bit of British Columbia into bedside tables and living rooms across the US and Canada. That makes me very happy.

The book has six Amazon reviews so far, and a 4.8-star rating. I'm very grateful for readers who take the time to leave a short review. Thank you! You can see all six reviews here. And, if you're so inclined, you can add your own review with any feedback on the book.

The latest two blog tour events took place yesterday. One was a 5-star review from a top book review site, "Books and Pals." The reviewer remarked: "The murder mystery plot was exciting, dangerous, and stressful to read. There were many twists and turns on the way to the resolution. Nikaia, Klima, and Yee Sim were very resourceful and clever. But, my favorite parts were the everyday background details and the interactions between Nikaia’s family and friends. ... The telling of Nikaia’s mountain quest, the Anybody Boat, Charlie Ray’s trap line experience, Annie Adams’ basket weaving, and other stories brought realism to the book by teaching meaningful lessons to characters, and providing insight into the culture of the First Nations people and pioneer life during the gold rush." She had other thoughts and comments which you can read here.

I was asked to guest-post yesterday for Katrina at PageFlipperz, a book review site that has featured hundreds of books since 2010. Here's an excerpt from the post: "It was a time unlike any other. The streets were suddenly energized with miners, riverboat captains, merchants, prostitutes, and government men. In weeks, Yale became known as the largest settlement north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. By 1858, the little town on the banks of the Fraser had become, for many, the most exciting place in the world to be." You can read the rest here.

Coming up, the book has several more blog tour stops, with reviews and guest posts in the works.

Oh, and something exciting took place that has never happened to me before. A book idea, for a contemporary mystery, came to me almost fully-formed while I was riding the bus to Seattle. I filled a small writing pad with plot notes, scene ideas, and character sketches. I think it's going to be viable as a full-length mystery/thriller. At any rate, it will be a fun project to sink my teeth into. I'm energized.

Thank you for riding along with me in this journey.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

25 random things... revisited

About five years ago, there was a little phenomenon that raced around Facebook: posting a list of "25 Random Things About You."

We started collecting those from our members in this KBoards thread. We have almost 1,000 of them, and the thread has been visited 73,000 times. It's quite fascinating to browse... a little glimpse into so many personal lives. Some are heartwarming, some heartbreaking. Others are just delightful nuggets of trivia.

Here are some random selections from all the randomness:

4.  I was born in Dallas, my parents were born in Dallas and my grandparents (all 4 of them) were Texans.

3. My philosophy prof in college was so ornery, he made students cry. He was featured on 60 Minutes twice and even Mike Wallace couldn't intimidate him.

14.   When I drive with my mom as my passenger, I have to ask for permission to change lanes.

3. Married the only girl I ever dated. Turned 19 on July 9, 1971 and was married July 10.  My mother was opposed to the marriage because we were too young. (My wife is 16 months older). 37 years and counting…

26. I am compulsive and will correct spelling errors I see in a post of mine that is over a year old. No, it is not OCD. But I will agree that I am a geek. 

20.  My mother-in-law got remarried when Half-Blood Prince came out and I threatened to skip the wedding

25.  I don't get enough sleep - I stay up too late reading or online or whatever.  I think it's the curse of being a woman of "a certain age".  Like right now - it's 1:20 A.M. 

8.   I have 2 tattoos. A teddy bear wearing sailor whites on my shoulder, and a dolphin on my ankle.

13. I used to be able to carry a tune; not that I was in danger of ever being anywhere near good enough to be professional, just good enough to enjoy singing. Somewhere around age 35 I seem to have lost my ability to sound good enough to sing even when I'm alone (I know this because the cat jumps up on my lap and covers my mouth with his paw when I sing.) That kind of sucks, since I like singing in the car.

My list is below - a few years old but still mostly accurate.

1. My favorite toy of all time is Lego. Not the new fancy pieces. Just bricks. 

2. My first paying job was mowing the nine greens at the town's golf course, for $7 each Saturday. Other paying jobs: gas jockey, river guide, library book-sorter, programmer, and project manager. 

3. I have lived in Lytton BC, Vancouver BC, Boise ID, Honolulu HI, Regina SK, Saskatoon SK, Helena MT, Montgomery AL, and Bellingham WA. 

4. Career pivot-point: In 1980 my dad bought a Radio Shack TRS-80, and my brothers and I started learning to program in BASIC. I changed my major to computer science the next fall. I'm grateful that my dad's interest in this "new technology" led me to a field that I really love.

5. Best career advice I got was from a friend who talked me into joining the university's Co-op program. I learned that you can excel at a job even if you are a so-so student. 

6. It took me nine years to earn my Bachelor's degree. 

7. I am a middle child, an eldest son, a Virgo, and was born in the Chinese year of the Tiger. The stereotypes for each of those fit me exactly. 

8. When my first daughter was born, I was so excited about all the things I could teach her. Ha! I had no idea that nineteen years later I would still be learning from her. 

9. If I have a knack at work, it is that I enjoy solving puzzles. 

10. I am a champion of the underdog. Evidence: I run a website for Microsoft Zune in my spare time. 

11. I have learned a lot from my brothers and sisters, and I love them fiercely, and I should tell them that sometime, but we're Canadian, you know, and that is not likely to happen. 

12. Reading is my comfort food. 

13. Carrie and I picked Bellingham "off the map" - literally. We were on a project in Alabama, and I wanted to live back in the northwest, close to my daughter Celeste. My job requires travel, and Bellingham has the most northwestern airport in the lower 48. Thankfully, Carrie was willing and adventurous. We subscribed long-distance to the Herald for a few weeks, decided this was the place for us, and moved here in February 1997. 

14. For the past twelve years, I have worked out of my home. My various supervisors have been 2,800 miles away, in Virginia. Sometimes that is still too close. 

15. One of the great joys in my life is making my wife and daughters laugh. 

16. I have two must-see movies every Christmas: It's a Wonderful Life, and Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas. 

17. I will go to great lengths for a small amount of praise. 

18. Unfortunately, my employer and my wife have figured #17 out. 

19. My track record of choosing Christmas gifts for my wife is very poor. (I actually spent a lot of time picking out that office chair.) Now, Carrie just gives me a list of SKUs. 

20. Whenever Carrie sings a song, I jump in and harmonize loudly. I cannot help it. And I do not know how to harmonize. 

21. My fortune cookies always come true. 

22. I have been to just two countries so far (Canada and US). I'm a citizen of both. Number of provinces I've been to: 10. Number of states I have been to: 42.

23. Carrie is 118 days older than me. But, really, sometimes she is just so silly. 

24. Some of the people I consider my lifelong friends are also people I haven't spoken with in five, ten, fifteen years. It's a guy thing, I think. 

25. One night at dinner, we were trying to describe each other with "one word". Sarah and Hannah conferred briefly, and came back with "loving" for Carrie, and "encouraging" for me. Thanks, girls. I'll take that, gratefully.

What are 25 random things about you? Post 'em in the thread!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Readers and book reviewers weigh in on Stone and Silt

I must say I'm enjoying these opening days of the Stone and Silt blog tour! Highlights from today:

The well-regarded book review site "I'm a Voracious Reader" posted a review of Stone and Silt. Excerpt:

"I’ve always been up front about how I dislike the subject of History. Put a History book in front of me and I’m bored out of my skull. However, you wrap History up in an excellently told fictional tale and I’m enthralled. This book has a lot of history about the Gold Rush, how people lived in the 1860s, British Columbia and different cultures. Was I enthralled? Hell, yes! Why? Because it has what I so need to make History an exciting and readable subject, historical facts weaved expertly into a fictional tale." 4.5 stars.

This week the review site "My Book and My Coffee" was gracious enough to ask me for a guest post on creating true-to-life historical characters:
"6 Ways to Breathe Life into Historical Characters"

Cresta McGowan posted her take on Stone and Silt in her book review site. Thank you, Cresta!

The book also picked up some additional reviews on Amazon, and has an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Thank you, readers! That makes my day. See the reviews here:

...and finally, not related to the book, I posted in my author blog about a very special southern gal, who was just crazy enough to marry me:
"I hear southern."

Have a good week!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"I hear southern."

My wife has a highly tuned drawl-detector. She's a Georgia girl, uprooted and replanted in the Pacific northwest. In crowded checkout aisles, parking lots, and restaurants, she can pick out a murmured "y'all" or "ma'am" from yards away.

She's quick to engage. "I hear southern," she'll say. Unfailingly, she's rewarded with a warm conversation about the south and its charms.

My wife, you see, was brought up with a sense of place. A notion that where you come from matters. It's a trait she shares with many born in Georgia, Texas, the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee. To me, a native of British Columbia, it's quaint - a contrast to the more portable lifestyle of, well, pretty much everywhere else.

On a recent road trip to Yellowstone, she'd wave excitedly upon spotting cars with Georgia license plates. After receiving a few puzzled looks, she hand-lettered a sign the size of a placemat: "I'm from Georgia, too."

I've pulled her far from Dixie. Living in the northwest, to be closer to my older daughter, was something she committed to seventeen years ago. It was like agreeing to having a limb removed, but she's never complained about it. Commitment is not a fractional thing with her, this girl full of grit and grits. It's body and soul. 100% or nothing.

One might describe our marriage as two spouses separated by a common language. One day we had an out-of-town guest in our home, and my wife gave him directions to find his way back to Vancouver. He looked perplexed. "I'm not familiar with Aff Ave. Where is that?"

My wife and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. "Aff Ave" is how Carrie pronounces the major interstate running through town: I-5.

For most of our years together, life has been an easy walk. We've lacked little, and blessings of all forms have rained upon us. Some recent health concerns haven't changed that. Even now, as we engage in the fight of our lives, we look for and find our small good fortunes. We count every one.

Her instinct to fight for our family has come forward in raging force. It's stirring to see, and shows itself in her courage. Poise. Grace. She wouldn't use those words, but I and others recognize it in her.

Our schedule has become insane. Our busy lives are full of many transient things. But you and me, girl, we go on forever.

Our faith tells us that there is something that awaits us after death. I imagine that place to be full of delights and rich in relationships. And when the time comes, I'll know how to find her. She'll be the one reaching out to strangers, chatting with friends, applying small soothings where she sees the need.

And, more than likely, carrying a handwritten sign saying "I'm from Georgia, too."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Appearing now on "Books and Pals"

One of my favorite book review sites is "Books and Pals." Run by Big Al, the site has 1,500 Facebook fans and blog followers and has been a consistent source of good book recommendations for several years.

This week I was invited to post, and I chose to put a different spin on that old writer's rule-of-thumb "Write What You Know." I call my little essay "Write What You *Don't* Know." Here's a link to the guest post

While you're there, enter the Stone and Silt giveaway for Amazon gift certificates and an eye-catching totebag!

In other news, the book received it's fourth review on Amazon! Here are excerpts from the most recent reviews:

"The author presents some great imagery of the Fraser Canyon during the Gold Rush years as Nikaia's family travels to and from Fort Yale to Lytton. We also learn a lot about the First Nations people (or 'Native Indians' as the author refers in the book) and their rich customs.

'Stone & Silt' is a story for all ages that also leaves behind a great message of the importance and value of family. This story was written from the author's heart, and it shows."


"Hard to put down. This book has many interesting twists and turns I didn't expect. I had a hard time laying the book down at bedtime."

You can see all reviews here:

And finally, we've named more honorary British Columbians on the Stone and Silt Facebook page, as people send in their photos of themselves with Stone and Silt. Our latest pix are from Texas and Louisiana. Thanks for sending the photos in - we love to get 'em!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A chapter reading, a kind Goodreads review, and one square foot of British Columbia

Here's a recap on the latest happenings from the "Stone and Silt" blog tour!

Live Interview. The day started early with a live web-radio interview with WebbWeaver Books. I chatted with the friendly hosts for a few minutes, and they invited me to read a chapter from "Stone and Silt."

Rather than doing the usual first-chapter read, I selected a chapter in the mid-point of the book. It went pretty well, although I've concluded that, while my face may be made for radio, my voice surely is not.

Here's the interview:  

A kind review. My day was further brightened when I read a positive, 4-star review from Goodreads about the book.

Excerpt: "The main character is very well drawn and I want more books featuring her! I enjoyed the setting of 19th century British Columbia; the details of what life was like in that era really enhanced the storyline."

See the complete review here:

Just for fun, and with no authority whatsoever, I've decided to name some readers of Stone and Silt "honorary British Columbians."

After all, when you have the book, it's like having one square foot of British Columbia right in your family room.

So go to the book's Facebook page, and post a pic of yourself with the paperback or e-reader version of Stone and Silt. So far, we have some fine new honorary British Columbians from, er, British Columbia, as well as Virginia, Georgia, and Washington State. Welcome, and thank you for giving the book a read!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The blog tour kicks off with a bang!

Today is the first day of the Stone and Silt blog tour! Some highlights from the day:

I was interviewed by popular YA author Imogen Rose, who asked about my Kindle website and how it influenced my writing. She also asked about how I went about channeling the mindset of a 16-year-old girl for the book. It was a fun interview; you can see it on the Awesome Trilogies and Series website, and (with different candid pix) on Imogen's author website. Thanks, Imogen!

Next, the popular mystery book blog A Knife and a Quill asked me to post about creating a fan base. Now, as a new author, I don't have much of a reader base, but I shared some of the things I've learned with my Kindle website, which has 70,000 members, 2 million posts, and 55,000 Facebook fans. You can read my thoughts about it here. Thanks to A Knife and a Quill for inviting me to guest-post!

My next stop was with Bryan W. Alaspa, author of the newly-released YA paranormal romance, Sapphire. Bryan invited me to prepare a guest post, and I decided to describe some of the surprising challenges in going from a reader-of-books to a writer-of-books. You can see the post here: From Reader to Writer.

Many thanks to these blogs for their interest in Stone and Silt and this newly-minted author.

"Stone and Silt" - first reviews, and a giveaway

Today's the kick-off for the Stone and Silt blog tour, where you can win free goodies like Amazon gift certificates and a stylish tote bag. You can enter to win at the end of this post.

The first reviews for the book are starting to come in. I really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a short review or comment for the book. Some reviews can be seen on the book's Amazon page, and here's one from a beta reader:

When you were a kid, you might have read any of a number of books featuring young people and how they lived in the 19th century – the Little House books by Laura Wilder come to mind. Sometimes you might have wanted something with a little more adventure – a treasure to find or a mystery to solve. The Nancy Drew books come to mind. Harvey Chute has drawn on both those traditions in his debut novel Stone and Silt.

The setting is the Canadian frontier in 1863. Fort Yale, BC is a small town on the Fraser River well upstream from Vancouver. It’s a ‘gold town’ folks come through on the way to the gold fields to make their fortune – and on the way back after their claims don’t pan out.

Nikaia’s mother is a member of the Nlaka’pamux people and her father is a transplanted Welshman. Nikaia and her sister attend the town school, along with Yee Sim, the son of Chinese immigrants who run a general supply store. When Nikaia helps Yee Sim get the best of a group of bullies, the pair become good friends.

The arrival of the sternwheeler Umatilla from Vancouver is a major event in the town. The bank of the river is even busier than usual as the townsfolk gather to welcome the boat. As the adults get busy with the unloading of supplies, Nikaia and Yee Sim go exploring, finding a satchel of gold and witnessing an argument between two of the townsmen. When her father comes under suspicion for the theft, Nikaia and Yee Sim realize they’ll have to figure out where the gold came from, and who the men were, to clear his name. As they investigate, the real thief always seems to be one step ahead.

I really enjoyed the book – though it’s been a while since I was a “young adult”. But it really did take me back to the sorts of stories I read then. And it’s very well-written; I had no sense of language having being simplified for younger readers and the story has plenty of interest to hold the attention of adults as well.

Stone and Silt is available now in paperback or e-book:
Amazon US:
Amazon Canada:

Barnes & Noble:

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 19, 2013

A dream fulfilled

Today is a sweet day for me! My first novel, Stone and Silt, got published this morning.

And, astoundingly to me, this afternoon it hit the top ten in Amazon's Hot New Releases for Young Adult Literature/Fiction.

Stone and Silt is a historical mystery, based in goldrush-era British Columbia. The story's about a 16-year-old half-native girl who finds her family in unexpected jeopardy, and solicits help from her best friend and her sister to unravel a murder mystery. The book has coming-of-age elements and is labeled Young Adult, but is suitable for all ages.

Thank you for all the support you've given me about as I've journeyed through the writing of this book. I appreciate the encouragement!

And if you decide to pick up a copy, do so today or tomorrow! The price goes up after that. Thanks for giving it a try.

August 19th and 20th, the e-book is $2 off at $2.99. And Amazon is currently discounting the paperback copy to $8.99. (USA): (Kindle) (paperback) (Canada): (Kindle) (paperback) (UK): (Kindle) (paperback)

Barnes & Noble: (paperback or Nook) (e-book)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You do what you can

I have people close to me who have endured terrible times. Friends who, even as I write this, are going through life-searing, soul-wrenching times. And I feel helpless, useless. I want so badly to fix those problems, and there's nothing I can do about it.

One day someone I love dearly from my home town told me that she recently had a miscarriage. She was suffering, and I could see the woundedness in her eyes. And stupidly, I said something trite about "trying again." She was gracious, but even as the words left my lips I knew it was the worst thing to say to a woman still grieving for her unborn.

I'm not sure I know how to be a good friend during those times. The right words aren't there. I fumble, with ghastly results. How do you help someone who's suffering? Or a family in pain?

My friend lost his only son to cancer a few years ago. It was a long, anguishing time, full of alternating moments of hope and despair. He said it felt like his soul was being pulled out through his nose.

We were part of a community that stood alongside him and his family. We cheered, and prayed, and cried, and eventually we grieved. One day we saw people gathered in their yard, pulling weeds. "People just want to help," his wife said. "So they do what they can."

People doing what they can. It's a beautiful thing.

This spring my wife and I were out of town for a few days, in Seattle for some surgery. When we came home, we were greeted by the aroma of freshly-spread bark and hanging plants. Friends had gathered in our absence and - anonymously - worked on our much-neglected landscaping. My wife refers to them as our "home beautification fairies." We were touched.

These past few seasons, my family has lived with the reality of a serious cancer that has sprung up in my body. For my wife, it's hard. Cures don't come quickly. There's no quick fix.

But hope is alive and well in our house, and Carrie finds a cancer-research fundraiser in Seattle called "Obliteride." She signs up for the bike ride, and starts training. She artfully taps into her Facebook world and girlfriend network, and surpasses her fundraising goal.

The day comes. She helmets up and checks the pressure in her front tire. The bike is twenty years old, one of a pair that we bought in our courting days. She tells me she hasn't trained hard enough to deserve a new bike yet.

I give her a squeeze and see her off. Down the street, onto the trail. The hills come, and soon she's standing on her pedals.

I breathe in the cool Seattle air, and reflect that I'm fortunate to see grace walk upon this earth. Only today, it isn't walking - it's spinning on two wheels. Weaving through the city neighborhoods. Doing what it can.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Words that carry us

"From this day forward."

It's a phrase from our wedding vows, words we recited to each other in a stately Atlanta sanctuary seventeen years ago.

My wife repeats that phrase when we're going through challenging times. It's part of our shorthand, a way to remind each other that, despite whatever we're facing at the moment, we commit ourselves and our futures to each other.

Those words have power for us.

Love is a funny thing. It settles on you easily and lightly, a sunbeam breaking through a gap in the clouds. It lifts your spirits to soaring heights.

Love that lasts a lifetime: now that's something more. It's a culmination of shared history and caring. It's a bold statement that, because of that history and sometimes despite it, we choose to go forward hand-in-hand... regardless of what lies ahead.

Life has been challenging this past year and a half, with health concerns on my part that have us taking regular trips to the cancer center in Seattle. We're now in the midst of a flood of chemo that will require us to be there for each of the next 42 days.

As we prepared to leave our home town for this trip, a dear friend came by our house to wish us well. She's tiny and white-haired and a generation ahead of us. She has the wisdom of someone who's been through much. And she reminded us of a line from a great old hymn:

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." 

That simple phrase sums up a lot for us right now.

Words have power. Power enough, sometimes, to see us through the night, with calm hearts and eyes resting easily on the horizon of a new day.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Vengeance and virtue in "Stone and Silt"

In Stone and Silt, gentle John Wales is suspected of murdering a local thug, Matthew Doyle.

Matthew's older brother, Elias, isn't waiting around while the colony policy investigate. He swears to avenge his brother's death by wreaking havoc on the Wales family.

Nikaia Wales knows that she's responsible for putting her father into peril, and desperately tries to identify the murderer. Time is short: Elias Doyle is on the move, and the colony judge will soon arrive by sternwheeler to rule on her father's guilt or innocence.

Desperation is a powerful motivator, and I found that it was interesting to explore it in different ways in the writing of this book.

Elias Doyle is seething at the bloody death of his brother. While his tactics are violent, it's not hard to find sympathy for a man mourning a brother who just had his lungs shot through.

The colony police are motivated to lay the heavy hand of justice on murderers and ruffians in the raucous gold rush town of Fort Yale. Quick, severe action on their part is a powerful deterrent to troublemakers... even if that results in an innocent man being found guilty.

Kate Wales, John's native Indian wife, struggles to defend her husband's name while reassuring her two daughters that all will come out well.

And at the center of it all is Nikaia, a brooding 16-year-old who finds herself in the most desperate time of her life. With a noose tightening around her father's neck, she follows clue after clue through the Fraser Canyon and into the bawdy, seedy underbelly of Fort Yale.

Stone and Silt will be released on Amazon (e-book as well as paperback) and on other online sites on August 19th. Sign up for the newsletter to get word on a special discounted price that will be available on that day only!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We have winners! Free copies of "Stone and Silt"

We've drawn our winners for free e-copies and signed print copies of "Stone and Silt," the historical mystery that's about to be released on August 19th.

Thank you for all the interest in this, my first novel. We had 2,665 entries from over 800 people. Wow!

The 18 winners are listed below. The first 16 will receive e-copies of the book - viewable on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, PC, Mac, and smart phones. The last 2 people listed will receive signed print copies of the book.

E-mail notifications will be going out shortly to our winners. Thanks to everyone who participated. And stay tuned for news about a special price on the book, available *only* on August 19th.

(Stone and Silt is a historical mystery, based in 1860s British Columbia, and a cozy read for young adults as well as older readers. Here's a synopsis of the book.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book goodies

My journey into the world of book-writing continues. Here are some of the book-related goodies that have arrived in the mail as part of the Stone and Silt launch.

I'll be using the bookmarks, counter-cards, and poster pictured above for book signings and readings. I think I have everything I need - except, of course, the book itself! Paperback copies of the book (as well as ebook copies) will become available on August 19th, from Amazon and other online retailers.

If you want a free copy of the book, you still have a few days to throw your name into the pre-release drawing. Here's the link to enter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The "Stone and Silt" tour bus

My publisher has arranged a Blog Tour, in which prominent book review sites will feature my upcoming historical mystery, Stone and Silt. The tour will begin shortly after the book is published on August 19th.

So far 18 events are planned, including reviews of the book, interviews, and guest posts. The book launch is less than a month away now!

If you blog, and are interested in posting a review, get on board the tour bus! Just email my publisher at

Here's the schedule of events so far:

August 21: Guest Post on author Bryan Alaspa's blog

August 21: Guest Post on "A Knife and a Quill"

August 22: Interview on "Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews"

August 23: Interview on author Imogen Rose's blog

August 23: Blog Radio Interview on WebbWeaver Books

August 24: Interview on "Into the Land of Books"

August 26: Guest Post on "Big Al’s Books & Pals"

August 27: Review on "Random Musings of a Curious Mind"

August 30: Review on "Literary Musings"

August 30: Review on "I’m a Voracious Reader"

August 30: Guest Post on "My Book and My Coffee"

September 2: Guest Post on "Page Flipperz"

September 4: Review on "Big Al’s Books & Pals"

September 4: Review on "Bookend Babes"

September 6: Guest Post on "Read for Your Future"

September 8: Interview on "The IndieView"

September 11: Review on "Book Babe"

September 13: Guest Post on "Omnimystery News"

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A chance to win a free copy of Stone and Silt

My publisher is offering to give away fifteen FREE pre-release copies of "Stone and Silt"..!

And, two more people will receive signed print copies of the book.

The release date for Stone and Silt is August 19th, but the 15 winners will receive an e-copy of the book early, after the drawing on July 31st. The e-copy is readable on your PC, Mac, or e-reader.

You can sign up below to enter. And there are ways you can get additional entries - see the form below!

On July 31st, a random drawing will determine the winners. 

(Stone and Silt is a historical mystery, based in 1860s British Columbia, and a cozy read for young adults as well as we older readers. Here's a synopsis of the book.)

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sneak Peek! Excerpt of "Stone and Silt"

Getting close now... my new mystery novel "Stone and Silt" is through proof-reading and is on its way to final formatting. All of this is in preparation for its August 19th release.

And now, my publisher has released a sneak preview of the book. You can read its first chapter at the link below!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest blogging for Erica Lucke Dean: "A Pro at Crastination"

I was invited to do a guest post on the blog of Erica Lucke Dean, author of the engaging chick-lit romance, "To Katie with Love."

Check out the post at the link below! And if you're looking for a perfect beach read, grab a copy of Erica's book while you're there, or at the link above!

Monday, June 24, 2013


A "drabble" is a little piece of writing that is exactly 100 words long. A group of friends and I decided to each write a 100-word drabble with the title "Payback."

I found it quite a challenge to write something interesting with such a small word count. Here is my attempt. Below it I've put links to the drabbles from other writers. Check out how each writer had a completely different take on the subject of "Payback"..!

by Harvey Chute

Michael Ewan rarely touched anyone outside his family. That’s life in New York City. Close quarters – it doesn’t bring people together. It drives them apart.

His was an orderly life. His one bold moment? Falling for Ling. Marrying her, despite the looks. He agreed to hyphenate their names, but never did. Ewan-Mi? Nope.

His one good eye was submerged. Through the ripples, he saw glances of horror, then cold indifference.

He tried to pull up, but spasmed. Sank back into the puddle. Water entered his nostrils. People scurried away, each as focused on their life as he was with his.

More of today's "Payback" drabbles:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A piano's story

Horseferry Road, Westminster, London. 1878. A group of craftsmen put the final touches on an upright piano. Through the small factory windows, the December English sky is stingy with its daylight, and the workers rely on swinging kerosene lamps and handheld candles to illuminate their work. Custom-made wooden pieces, each stamped with the initials of the man who shaped and chiseled it, are carefully laid into place. The piano's outer cabinet gleams as a finisher rubs a cloth over the swirling grains of its rosewood veneer.

The factory is owned by the venerable Broadwood & Sons, established in 1728 as a maker of harpsichords. By the late 1800s, the company is producing 2,500 pianos per year. It is the twelfth largest employer in the city of London.

The finished piano is sold for 50 pounds to Chappel and Company, a leading music shop in the London district of Mayfair. There it retails for 75 guineas, and begins its journey into my family's history.

Thomas Tebbutt - a worker for McMillan Publishing, and my great-great-grandfather - acquires the piano. According to my late grandmother, who had the foresight and will to record old family stories, he bought it second-hand and moved it to his home in Greenwich, just outside of London.

Thomas sees promise in his oldest daughter, Edith, who frequently plays by the light of the piano's twin candlesticks. Thomas has four more children, and then a fifth that is stillborn. His wife dies during the difficult childbirth. Edith is raised by her father, and becomes a teacher of piano and voice at Croydon High School. She sings often in public concerts.

Years pass. Edith gives the piano to her younger brother, Thomas Marshall Tebbutt. Thomas, not a robust child, lives at home until the age of twenty-six. He travels often with his father to Cornwall. They stay at the St. Mawes hotel, a seaside inn run by the well-to-do Rickeard family.

Love blooms for Thomas and the Rickeard's youngest daughter, Kate. Thomas buys a small farm in Oakhampton, with a crop-growing and bee-keeping operation. He moves the old piano into an aging farmhouse on the property. Feeling somewhat established, he asks for Kate's hand in marriage.

Kate agrees, but after six months she calls it off. Her mother is hardset against the marriage, forbidding Kate to enter into a marriage that would be beneath her. Despondent, Thomas sells the farm and returns to London.

Before long, Kate rebels against her family's wishes. She slips from her home in Cornwall and marries Thomas in London. The happy couple buys another farm at Burgess Hill.

But hard times lie ahead. Kate has a boy, Bobby, delivered under the stumbling hands of a drunk doctor. The boy is injured at birth. He's sickly, and slow to learn. Kate blames the doctor and never forgives him. At age three, Bobby dies of whooping cough.

Another year arrives, and with it another pregnancy. It's a healthy girl, and they name her Mary Edith.

But the farm is failing now and Thomas can't raise the money to make it productive. The situation becomes dire. Kate refuses to stay in England and be "the poor relation" among her wealthy family.

It's a time of colonization, and Kate and Thomas discuss the possibilities of Canada and Australia. In the end, knowing little of either land, they toss a coin. In that spin of a shilling, fate drives their destiny and that of all their generations to come. As my grandmother put it: "Canada won."

The desperate couple and their baby daughter leave England in April 1911. They board the ship with the piano and their few other belongings.

It's an arduous passage across the Atlantic. Thomas's health is so poor that Kate fears he won't survive the journey. The long sea voyage ends in Halifax, where they board a colonist railway car headed to Vancouver. From there they take an electric railway to the lumber town of Abbotsford, and follow the Yale Road out to a small clearing of land on Poplar Hill.

Thomas builds a simple home, and buys a horse and a few cows. He starts a milk run, carting two large covered cans behind his horse and filling up the villagers' jugs with a tin scoop. Later he works for a local lumber mill. Slowly, the family prospers.

More children come. Most survive. A boy, Tommy, doesn't make it. Thomas and Kate bury him on the property at Poplar Hill.

With five children, the family needs a larger home. So Thomas builds it, and this one has coal heating, a pump in the scullery for well-water, and a fine new outhouse. The family's table is three 2x12 planks set on legs made from alder tree trunks. It serves many duties, including ironing board and sewing table. On Mondays, Kate hoists a wash tub onto it and scrubs the laundry by hand. At meal-times it can seat a dozen people around it. Over the years the table grows smooth and white with use.

The oldest girl, Mary, moves to nearby Mt. Lehman to teach in 1932. Four years later she marries Stanley Harvey, a widower with two children. But Stanley takes ill and dies only two years into their marriage, leaving Mary with a farm, some cows, and a baby girl. With tremendous grit, and the help of her community, Mary survives the difficult months ahead.

In 1941 she becomes engaged to Allyn Harvey - Stanley's brother. The Anglican church frowns on the union, so they find another church to marry them.

Mary's father Thomas dies in 1942, and Kate decides it's time to sell the old piano. Although not a piano player herself, Mary buys it. And so it stays in the family, through Mary's second widowhood, and her years in Abbotsford. The 1940s go by. Then the 1950s, and '60s.

For a time, my grandmother Mary lends the piano to her daughter Peggy in Lytton, a hundred miles north up the Fraser River. It's the first piano I play as a child. But its wooden pegboard is tired and it will no longer hold its tune. We replace the pegs, and have it tuned a couple of tones lower than standard, without success. I like its slightly off-tune sound, which suits the ragtime pieces that I enjoy playing. But after a year, my father buys a new piano and the old one goes back to Grandma.

Twenty-five more years pass. The time comes for Grandma to leave her house, and that means emptying out its rooms. The piano comes to me. I'm now living in the northwest U.S., and I find that, ridiculously, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department restricts the import of old pianos into the USA because of the ivory keys. I remove the keys and leave them in Canada, until I bring them across in a daring night-time run for the border. No elephants were harmed.

One day Grandma visits me in Bellingham. Upon seeing the piano, her eyes light up. “With all of this rain," she exclaims, "it must think it’s back in England!”

Later, I install a digital 88-key keyboard into the piano. I remove the strings and some of the pegs, along with the hammers and key bed. I marvel at the workmanship, and run my hands along the chiseled parts. I imagine that some of them have not been touched since the piano left the factory in Westminster, England.

The project goes well, and the keyboard sounds good. With a little electronic help, the piano is once again making music, after many years of silence.

Today I consider all the lives that this piano has touched over the years. In the simple homes where it stood, babies were lost, and mothers died in childbirth. Young men and women fell to disease, or were ground down by the strains of long hours and hard outdoor work.

And yet, even with the uncertainties of hardship and death that it witnessed, there is a continuity in that old piano that brings reassurance. As I write this by the fire in our living room, it sits a few feet away from me. Across the world, Broadwood & Sons continues to manufacture pianos in London. In the Mayfair district, Chappel and Company continues to purvey fine musical instruments.

And the old piano plays on, now for the sixth generation of our family. My daughter slides onto its bench, and tinkles out one of her made-up melodies. I pause to listen, and watch her slender fingers dance across the keys.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Touring the blogosphere with "Stone and Silt"

Well, Stone and Silt is now through line edit, and heading into the final stages of 'Proofread' and 'Formatting.' The book is on track for its August 19th release date.

And that means I'll shortly be moving into the Getting-the-Word-Out phase.

To help with that, my publisher is organizing a blog tour. The tour kicks off on August 21st, and will be a time where various blogs will post about the book.

Those posts can be:

  • Reviews. Bloggers receive an advance review copy (ARC) of the book in e-book form, and post a review about it. Many bloggers also post their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Interviews. I'll be engaging in Q&A with various bloggers about the writing of the book, and other random topics.
  • Character Interviews. These are fun! They're interviews with my lead character, Nikaia. 
  • Guest Posts. Some bloggers have asked me to prepare posts, on a variety of subjects, for their blogs. 

Also, people who visit those blogs during the tour will have a chance to win from a variety of book-related prizes! You can see the various blogs and the dates their posts will appear on the "Stone" blog tour page.

If you have a blog and are interested in providing a review of the book, please send me an e-mail ( I can pass it on to my publisher and - no guarantees - but you might get an ARC to review for your blog and on Amazon.

The "Stone" blog tour page has a list of bloggers that have signed up so far. Thanks for your interest in Stone and Silt!

Monday, June 3, 2013

"Stone and Silt" - to be released August 19th

August 19th! The date has been set for the release of my upcoming novel, Stone and Silt.

The story is a Young Adult mystery taking place in the historical setting of 1860s British Columbia.

The main character is Nikaia Wales, a 16-year-old half-native, half-white girl. The simple life she leads in the gold rush town of Fort Yale gets turned upside down when she finds a hidden satchel loaded with stolen nuggets. Within hours, a ruffian's bullet-ridden body is found nearby, and her father is accused of murder.

Desperate to reveal the truth behind the killing, Nikaia finds an ally in Yee Sim, a teenage Chinese boy she has befriended - and has growing feelings for. She also draws on some unlikely help from her younger sister, Klima. Together they scramble to trace the thread of the mystery, putting their own lives in peril and testing the bonds of family and young love.

The story carries themes of family, loyalty, and the power of hope in the face of adversity - all placed in the colorful backdrop of British Columbia's pioneering days. It'll be available from Amazon in e-book and paperback formats, as well as from other online booksellers.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stone and Silt... video trailer!

Today, the video trailer for Stone and Silt was released. Check it out below! And thanks to Mary Fan for preparing the video.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Joyful Noise

Several scenes in Stone and Silt involve voices raised - in anguish and mourning, in praise, and in celebration.

At one point, Nikaia is surrounded by village elders who are crying out in grief. In writing that scene, I borrowed heavily from an unforgettable memory: the funeral of one of my closest high school friends. Tommy was quiet, smart, and kind. He had a subtle, wry sense of humor. He had a remarkable side-launched volleyball serve, full of topspin. He had a girlfriend he loved. And he was killed at age nineteen by a knife-wielding, drunken teenager.

In my grief I was unable to talk about it. The words weren't there. But at his funeral, the heartfelt wailing of his family and the elders put a shape around the loss I felt.

There is something transcendent, almost mystical, about voices being raised in community - whether those voices are lifted in communal agony or in shared joy.

I like to make my own joyful noise around the house - playing guitar or singing with my daughters. And one of my annoying traits is that, if I hear a song, I try to harmonize with it.

I have no particular skill in doing so - but it doesn't stop me from trying. My attempts frequently result in protests from my wife, Carrie. I'll get a sharp elbow-dig into my ribs at church. Or when she has Pandora radio playing from her MacBook: "Don't sing louder than the radio!" She doesn't like to hear a good song ruined.

Unfortunately for Carrie, my daughters have picked up on this habit. Our favorite tune to practice harmonies with is "The One Bathing Suit that Your Grandma Otter Wore." It's from Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas.

The other night we were cleaning up in the kitchen, and Hannah started singing Edelweiss. We are no Von Trapp family, but my other daughters and I joined in valiantly. We sang the lyrics loudly and with poorly-rendered harmonies.

At one point, through pure chance, we all hit the right notes to make a chord with the perfect amount of dissonance. We held the note and looked at each other in surprise. Then we burst out laughing and shared high fives. Carrie rolled her eyes and tried to suppress the smile on her face.

Now that... is harmony.

Stone and Silt is scheduled for release in August 2013.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Improving a story through Content Edit

The past few weeks I've been busy working with Red Adept Publishing (RAP) on edits for my upcoming book, Stone and Silt.

As a new author, I've been fascinated with how a novel goes from initial draft to a published book. With RAP, the manuscript goes through the phases of Content Edit, Line Edit, Proofreading, and Formatting before being released.

For the curious, let me describe my experience with Content Edit.

After I submitted my draft manuscript to RAP, and it was approved by an acquisitions editor, the publisher assigned the book to Michelle, a content editor. She conducted a thorough review, pointing out areas that could be improved in character development, storyline, plot, pacing, and description.

Just how thorough was this?

Well, let me put it this way: my draft at that time was about 160 pages, and after reviewing it Michelle sent me a document of notes that was about 50 pages long. It was incredible, and full of smart suggestions on improving the story. She also marked up the pages of the draft with specific ideas.

In addressing her comments, I added about 15,000 words to the story. It improved considerably as a result.

Here's one specific area in which Content Edit improved the book: POV. In my initial draft, I was inconsistent with how I handled the Point of View of the narration. At times I'd be inside the main character's head. Other times I'd zoom out and offer a historical perspective. In other scenes I'd be writing from some third person's perspective.

Michelle taught me to keep the POV consistent... to tell the story completely from Nikaia's viewpoint. I learned a lot from that. In the draft as it is now, the reader gets to see the story unfold as if they're perched on Nikaia's shoulder through every scene. It's an effective device that helps put the reader "in the moment" through all 30 chapters of the story.

What impressed me most of all was how invested Michelle became in the book. She cared about it, believed in it, as much as I did. The energy that she put into the book was encouraging and flattering. It  motivated me to go through the work necessary to make the story the best it possibly can be.

Content Edit is now complete for Stone and Silt, and I'm now entering into the Line Edit phase. I'll give an update on that in the next few days. Getting closer to release!

Stone and Silt is scheduled to be published in August 2013.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Stone and Silt" - cover reveal..!

The cover has been prepared for "Stone and Silt" and I couldn't be happier with it. Here it is!

Here's the publisher's link:

Thanks to the pros at Red Adept Publishing and Streetlight Graphics for this!

Stone and Silt is on schedule to be released in Fall 2013.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Under the Stars

In Stone and Silt, Nikaia spends a night alone in the wild as part of her spirit training - the coming-of-age ritual practiced by First Nations people. It's a transformative experience for her and marks her passage into womanhood.

While not quite as dramatic, I have my own memories of sleeping under the stars in British Columbia. The town I grew up in, Lytton, is hot in the summers, with highs in the 90s and 100s not being uncommon. Being a town of only 300 or so, with maybe fifteen hundred people on the nearby reserves, it was always a thrill to hear Lytton mentioned as "The Hottest Spot in Canada" on the evening CBC weather report. I was pleased that the nearby town of Lillooet, which I suspected was even hotter, didn't have a weather station of its own to usurp these rare mentions of our town on the provincial newscasts.

Located a hundred miles inland from the coast, Lytton is a place of bone-dry heat - no humidity whatsoever. I took full advantage of those hot summers, with outdoor jobs throughout my teens - mowing lawns, pumping gas, guiding river trips.

Days are long in that northern latitude. It wouldn't be until 10pm or so before twilight settled into the canyon. My four brothers and sisters and I would spread a canvas tarp on the grass. We'd lay out pillows and thick sleeping bags. Trixie, our black sheltie, would sit in the grass nearby, her protective instincts on alert for us. Soon the baking heat would give way to cool night breezes, feeling as fresh as a dewy leaf on our cheeks.

Lying on our backs, the musty smell of canvas in our nostrils, we'd see the first night star appear, then the brighter constellations: the Big and Little Dippers, the North Star, the W-shape of Cassiopeia, and the aligned triplet of stars making up Orion's Belt. The occasional shooting star would cause an excited stir among us. Our town was too far south to see the northern lights - except for one unforgettable night when we were treated to a rare display. Massive white bands of light flashed in the sky, then reappeared in different locations, like some elaborate stage lighting. Each band seemed to be thousands of miles long. We ran inside to wake up Mom and Dad so they could see it with us.

My childhood home was 200 feet from the tracks, and every few hours our dozing would be disrupted by the rumbling of coal trains on the Canadian Pacific Railway. In those days the boxcars were uncovered. We'd occasionally have to spray off the coal dust that accumulated on the siding of our home.

Awakened in those moments by the noise and vibration, I'd look up to see layer upon layer of stars and planets above me. An impossible crowding of faraway worlds. I'd nudge one of my brothers or sisters; it was too beautiful to experience alone. We'd point out satellites to each other, and follow them as they traced their paths over and over, tiny glowing spiders weaving an invisible web between the mountains to our east and west.

Our noses cold from the night air, we'd burrow back into our sleeping bags, and try to snatch little pockets of sleep before daylight.

Now that I live on the coast, finding a dry night to sleep outside with my daughters is a rare thing. Mostly we tent out, with carefully tightened tent flies to keep out the rain and heavy dew. I think it's time to see Grandma and Grandpa, and spend another night out in the old backyard, sheltered by nothing but a canopy of starlight.