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!