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.