Saturday, 31 January 2009

Writers Read

All writers read books to get their creative inspiration or research details for an ongoing project. The more information a writer has at his/her fingertips the easier it is to write that compelling yarn just itching to be told. I tend to mix my genres from historical suspense, paranormal suspense, historical biography, fantasy, historical fiction, romantic suspense, crime, science fiction, speculative fiction, and non-fiction in science or physics.

Accompanying the list of books I read in 2008 are several mini-reviews. A few of the books in the list have had a full review done that can be located on the side bar under "Book Reviews".

Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock

This book was first published in 1995. Graham Hancock contends that an ancient and highly advanced civilization had existed in prehistory sometime after the end of the last Ice Age. This civilization had passed on to its inheritors knowledge of astronomy, architecture and mathematics. The evidence is in the descriptions of Osiris, Thoth, Quetzalcoatl and Virachocha which predate-history.

From the back cover: “And Fingerprints of the Gods tells us something more. As we recover the truth about prehistory, and discover the real meaning of ancient myths and monuments, it becomes apparent that a warning has been handed down to us, a warning of terrible cataclysm that afflicts the Earth in great cycles at irregular intervals of time—a cataclysm that may be about to recur.”

I loved this book from the beginning, with its interesting correlations and illustrations to support his theories. Readers to take note this is a tome which will take a long time to read and think about.

The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake - Samuel Bawlf

On September 26, 1580, Sir Francis Drake arrived in Plymouth on the Golden Hinde, completing an epic 65,000-km circumnavigation of the globe. Drake had been gone almost three years, long enough for his wife and others to give him up for dead. No European had set eyes on Drake from April 1579 to November, until a Portuguese galleon was astonished to find an English ship south of the Philippines. Those seven months were under a “royal cone of silence” by order of Queen Elizabeth I. Drake’s sailors were forbidden to reveal their route on pain of death.

Samuel Bawlf provides a compelling case that Drake went much further north than the Californias, as far as southern Alaska. Nova Albion was at Comox on Vancouver Island, and Drake was the first European to visit British Columbia, two centuries before James Cook. The secrecy covered a secret strategy of England to establish its own trade route to Asia while keeping King Philip II of Spain in the dark. Bawlf had discovered over 20 16th-century Dutch maps that accurately described the Pacific northwest coast while those of the official maps of Drake’s voyage do not show those details. Drake’s maps had been censored by shifting the latitude south by 10 degrees. By comparing the old Drake maps with modern ones they show British Columbia’s complex Inside Passage: Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands to the Fraser River. There is also the mystery of the seven missing months in mid-voyage and the puzzling written accounts where Drake turns south because of “biting cold including freezing rain and floating ice”. It was thought that a Little Ice Age had occurred in the northern hemisphere at California.

I enjoyed reading this revealing history of Drake’s secret voyage which coincides with some of the theories from Graham Hancock’s book above, concluding in my mind that humans in control of their respective parts of the planet have been hiding information from the populations for centuries.

The Dragon Reborn - Robert Jordan

The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan

The Fires of Heaven - Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos - Robert Jordan

New Spring - Robert Jordan

A couple of years ago I had been given books 7 and 8 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, and once I was fifty pages into the seventh, I realized I needed to start at the beginning. The story was told as if the reader already knew the histories of the many characters, though the prologue was intriguing enough that I wanted to keep reading. There have been many comments about this series, not all complimentary; though from what I have read of the series so far the majority of negative comments come from people who must have short memories. There are so many characters, primary and sub, events, and background history, that it is difficult at times to keep track of everything. This is an epic series not unlike Tolkien’s masterpiece “The Lord of the Ring”, but instead of three books there are currently 11 volumes with a 12th being written by Brandon Sanderson who had been chosen by Harriet McDougal, (Robert Jordan’s wife), after Jordan’s death in 2007.

The Wheel of Time Series, in the high fantasy genre, began with “The Eye of the World”, followed with “The Great Hunt”. The Dragon Reborn is the third book in the series of a young man, Rand Al’Thor, afflicted with an inherited ability of being able to channel psychic power known as the “One Power”, though he has great difficulty in controlling it. He is destined to fight to the death against the Dark One.

For an overview of this series and the individual books Wikipedia has incorporated many of the major elements into several summaries. It can be found here.

For those readers and fans of The Wheel of Time series my favourite characters are Al'Lan Mandragoran, a body guard who is a weapons expert and very dangerous, and Matrim "Mat" Cauthon, a young man always into mischief and consequences of that mischief.

The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracey Chevalier

I started this book twice and never got beyond the first chapter. A book needs more than a famous painting on its cover to keep me reading; and the cover intrigued me enough to take the book home. Currently, the book is in the bag slated for the library donations and might face a reprieve if a commenter can tell me why I should try a third time.

Conquistador (alternate history) - S. M. Stirling

I loved this book from the start though it takes about 90 pages in before the story becomes really exciting. He has a nice lead-up into the action providing the backstory in easy doses. I am unable to provide a proper mini-review of this book because I never finished it; not because it failed to keep my interest. I had other pressing matters to attend to and never got back to the book. Once I have completed this book I will write a review, probably later in the year.

The following list of books have had full reviews done on them and are listed on the side bar under "Book Reviews".

Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard - Patrick O'Brian
Lady Chatterly's Lover - D. H. Lawrence
The Reincarnationist - M J Rose
Dissolution - C. J. Sansom
Dark Fire - C. J. Sansom
Vive Madame la Dauphine - Andre Romijn
The Memorist - M J Rose
Quantum Shift in the Global Brain - Ervin Laszlo

The following non-fiction books were partially read to provide information for my history and hiking posts on Canada.

The Penguin History of Canada - Robert Bothwell

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpacking by John Hart - To get an updated copy go here.

A Veteran of 1812: The Life of James FitzGibbon by Mary Agnes Fitzgibbon (1894)
The Battle of Queenston Heights - Edited by John Symons (1859)
The Life and Times of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. by D.R. Read, QC (1894)
The Makers of Canada - General Brock by Lady Edgar (1904)

The Illustrated History of Canada - Edited by Craig Brown

The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813 - Pierre Berton

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Thursday Hikes - Tonquin Valley - Part 2

This is a continuation of the post from last week where the hike stopped at the Portal Creek campground. I have been to Tonquin Valley, but only through the other entrance via the Astoria River Trail past Lake Edith Cavell. The hike will be passing over that trail at the end of the series.

Beyond the Portal Creek campground the trail continues upward to Maccarib Pass along the meandering Maccarib Creek to the north end of Amethyst Lake.

[18- Climbing to Maccarib Pass]

[19 -Looking back down the Portal Creek Valley]

[20- View toward Maccarib Pass - click to enlarge]

Maccarib is the Quinnipac Indian word for caribou, which can be seen in this area.

[21- Woodland Caribou – These animals are legally designated as threatened Canada-wide and in Alberta. They rely on lichen for food, which is found only in old-growth forests. These forests are now fragmented as they are rapidly being cut down. Also, caribou avoid forests within one kilometre of a road, wherever it is: mountains, foothills or the boreal forest. The Woodland Caribou face imminent extirpation if not protected. There is a herd of 100 animals in South Jasper ranging between Tonquin Valley and Maligne, but are declining in numbers.]

[22- Maccarib Pass - click to enlarge]

From the summit it is all downhill.

[23- Wildflowers near Maccarib Pass]

[24- Wildflowers near Maccarib Pass]

[25-Hikers headed toward Tonquin Valley, coming down from Maccarib Pass in July]

[26- Heading down from Maccarib Pass]

[27- First glimpse of the Ramparts heading down the Maccarib Creek Valley - click to enlarge]

[28- Hiking down Maccarib Creek Valley toward the Ramparts - click to enlarge]

[29- Hiking down Maccarib Creek Valley toward Ramparts - click to enlarge]

[30- Looking back towards Maccarib Pass]

The willow wetlands west of Maccarib Pass are infested with mosquitos, so roll down your sleeves and slip pants back on. DEET is recommended.

[31-Wetlands west of Maccarib Pass - click to enlarge]

[32-Ramparts from Maccarib Trail - click to enlarge]

[33- Mount Maccarib - click to enlarge]

[34 - Maccarib Creek and the Ramparts - click to enlarge]

Maccarib campground has eight tent sites, bear cables, tables and privy.

Sources: ParksCanada link for backpacking into the wilderness here .
Maccarib Place Name
Woodland Caribou here

Photo Credits: [18][19][20][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr; [21]-BinoCanada CC=nc-nd-flickr; [22]-Feffel CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Samuel de Champlain - Part 2

[1-Samuel de Champlain (c. 1575 - 25 December 1635) by Roynat]

In the spring of 1608, three ships left the French port of Honfleur, one of them, the Don-de-Dieu (the Gift of God), commanded by Champlain.

[2-Tadoussac by Bete a Bon-Dieu]

In June, the small group of settlers arrived at Tadoussac (photo). There, they left the ships and continued to Quebec in small boats. In Algonquin, “Quebec” means “the place where the river narrows”. On July 3, 1608, Champlain and a party of workmen landed at the foot of Cap Diamant, the rock that now dominates Quebec City to build a cluster of fortified buildings: three main buildings (each two stories tall), to which he referred collectively as "l'Habitation", and also a moat 12 feet (4 m) wide. This was to become the city of Quebec. Twenty of Champlain’s twenty-eight men died the first winter.

The native nations of Canada had since the early 1500s traded furs for iron axes, copper pots, cloth and decorative beads brought by visiting fishermen and traders. For control of this trade, they had fought bloody wars, which by 1600 made the St. Lawrence valley a no-man’s land hotly contested by two Native Alliances.

One of the Alliances was the League of the Five Nations, or Iroquois Confederacy, a farming and trading society of about 30,000 people. The Iroquois lived in what is today New York state with a network of allied tribes covered the area south of the St. Lawrence River. The other Native Alliance lay north of the St. Lawrence River.

The most powerful were the Huron Confederacy on the Georgian Bay shores of Lake Huron. The 20,000 Huron (or Wendat, as they called themselves) resembled the Iroquois in their language, agriculture and sophisticated politicial confederacies. The Huron and Iroquois Confederacies were long standing rivals for power and influence. The Huron Montagnais who were hunting and gathering tribes were most familiar with the French.

The French persuaded the Huron that a permanent French presence would be a bulwark against their rivals. For Champlain to see his colony grow and survive, he demonstrated its usefulness to his Native allies, the Montagnais, and in July 1609 he set forth to aid them by making war on the Iroquois. He was accompanied by 9 French soldiers and 300 hundred Algonquins and Hurons to explore the Rivière des Iroquois (now Richelieu River) (photo) when he subsequently mapped Lake Champlain. Having had no encounters with the Iroquois at this point, many of the men headed back, leaving Champlain with only 2 Frenchmen and 60 natives.

[4-Champlain Map of Richelieu River to Lake Champlain]

Encountering rival Five-Nations Iroquois on the shores of Lake Champlain, the Algonquins and Hurons prevailed in a brief battle. Champlain assisted by using his firearm, a clumsy arquebus, [photo] to intimidate the enemy. His first shot killed three Iroquois leaders, resulting in victory and an established presence for security of trade on the St. Lawrence River. The French and Huron became close partners for the next one hundred years.

[5- The arquebus (sometimes spelled harquebus, harkbus or hackbut; from Dutch haakbus, meaning "hook gun") is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. In distinction from its predecessor, the hand cannon, it has a matchlock. Like its successor, the musket, it is a smoothbore firearm, but it is lighter and easier to carry. It is a forerunner of the rifle and other longarm firearms.]

After this expedition, he returned to France in an unsuccessful attempt, with the Sieur de Monts, to renew their fur trade monopoly. They did, however, form a society with some Rouen merchants, in which Quebec would become an exclusive warehouse for their fur trade and, in return, the Rouen merchants would support the settlement.

He was also integral in opening North America to French trade, especially the fur trade, more particularly the beaver felt hat which became popular as a staple of commerce. The beaver hat remained firm, waterproof and durable in any shape or style.*

Sources: wikipedia
Library and Archives Canada here
*The Illustrated History of Canada, edited by Craig Brown, pp. 99-101.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia.


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Tuesdays for Travis - Lily Lake



[3- Sunset at Lily Lake]

Lily Lake is near Middleton, Nova Scotia.

Photo Credits: [1][2][3]-Grant MacDonald CC-nc-flickr.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

My Town Monday - Marie Curtis Park (Toronto)

[1-Watching the waves from the pier - click to enlarge]

This 62.8 acre park is located on the banks of the Etobicoke Creek where it flows into Lake Ontario. The First Nations people frequently visited the area and named the creek Etobicoke which means “place where the wild alders grow”.

What are these two guys looking at?

[2-Two Drake Mallards on Lake Ontario - click to enlarge]

What all guys like to look at...

[3-Female Mallard with cold feet - click to enlarge]

In 1954 after Hurricane Hazel devastated a number of low-lying properties, the park was created. Further parkland was acquired from nearby municipalities and the governments of Ontario and Canada.

[4 -West side of Etobicoke Creek emptying into Lake Ontario - click to enlarge]

The park is named after Marie Curtis, a reeve of Long Branch, to commemorate her outstanding contributions to municipal government in the village of Long Branch and the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto from 1953 to 1962.

[5 - Public beach in winter - click to enlarge]

Source: City of Toronto

Photo Credits: [1][2][3][4][5]-Grant MacDonald CC=nc-flickr.

Travis Erin from Amarillo, Texas is the founder of My Town Monday. For other locations to visit please visit Travis' site here.

There have been requests as to the location of this park, here is a map taken from Google maps for your ease of reference. Or an aerial map here.

Beat the Slush Pile at HarperCollins

HarperCollins has an online manuscript site, where writers submit their unsolicited manuscripts to be read by book readers. These book readers endorse new talent and validate its commercial appeal as part of HarperCollins’ acquisitions process. The manuscripts which are voted to the top are guaranteed to be read by a HarperCollins editor each month.

Harper Collins just purchased three books straight from this manuscript site which were Miranda Dickinson's romantic book Coffee at Kowalski's, Steven Dunne's detective story The Reaper, and Lynne Barrett-Lee's real life story, Never Say Die. All three authors sold world rights as well.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Winter in High Park


[2- Northern Cardinal - male]

[3- Northern Cardinal - female]

The Northern Cardinal is a common and popular bird living in a variety of habitats including city parks and back yards. It mates for life and will return to the same breeding area each year. Mated pairs communicate with complex songs. Their preferred habitat is forest edges, swamps, hedgerows, suburbs, and anywhere with small trees and shrubs.

[4- Wood beyond the pond - click to enlarge]

In the summer the beavers are busy enlarging their beaver lodge and reinforcing the dam to make the pond larger.

[5 - Southern end of Grenadier Pond]

[6 - Looking west from south end of Grenadier Pond to Ellis Avenue]

At Ellis Avenue and Queensway is the location to catch the Long Branch Streetcar to return to your destination or a cafe for a hot drink.

Source for birds: A Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Michael Vanner, pp.236-237.

Photo Credits: [1][4][5][6]-Grant MacDonald CC=nc-flickr, [2][3]-gmnonic CC=flickr.

Friday, 23 January 2009


This interesting photo is taken of a hoarfrost night in Brandon, Manitoba. It is as if the moist frigid air transcends the picture itself. This is the time of year, on the Canadian prairies, the humidity accompanies the cold fronts leaving drivers to bitterly complain when their vehicles' windshield wipers and defrost systems do not completely, if at all, disperse the frost left on the windshields. The outside temperatures will be frigid, often -30C and colder, complete with windchill factors. While walking on snowy streets or sidewalks, boots will squeak at each step.

Photo Credit: dexotaku CC=nc-nd-flickr.

The Eastern Wolf - Species of Concern

Canada’s Eastern Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) is considered a species of concern by ParksCanada, Ontario and Quebec.

The Eastern Wolf is a subspecies of the Gray Wolf and is found mainly in Quebec and Ontario where it helps to balance the forest ecosystem. To protect the Eastern Wolf in La Mauricie National Park, Parks Canada carried out a major study on wolves and continues monitoring and public education efforts.

Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (1997), the wolf is classed as a furbearer and there is a regulated hunting season in Ontario. Wolves cannot be hunted in provincial parks and reserves that they inhabit, including Algonquin Park which is the largest protected area for the Eastern Wolf in North America.

The following video is about wolves in general, including the Gray Wolf (Timber Wolf) and the Eastern Wolf. For those readers whose computers do not read embedded commands for videos, go here.

Photo Credit: mannyh808 CC=nc-flickr.

Royal Ontario Museum
ParksCanada link here

Ontario (SARO) here

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Hiking Trails - Tonquin Valley - Part 1


Tonquin Valley is in a wilderness area of Jasper National Park, in the Province of Alberta. The elevation of the valley is 2,000 metres (6,500 feet). A previous post on August 5th, 2008 was done on Amethyst Lake here which will provide extra information.

Hikers going into the wilderness areas will need a wilderness pass for access, as well as a permit for overnight camping. National Park Wardens patrol the backcountry areas throughout the year. Hikers should not count on being able to find a Park Warden in case of an emergency. Hikers are expected to be self-reliant.

Fees for backcountry use and camping which are valid for Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks:
Overnight, per person = $9.80
Season, per person = $68.70
Reservation = $11.70
Daily Fishing Permit = $9.80
Annual Fishing Permit = $34.30

The length of the trail is considered moderate for 72 km over a duration of 5 days. No dogs are allowed on this trail.

Rservations must be made three months in advance for the campsites. There are 7 campsites where use of a stove is mandatory as no open fires are permitted; inluding the Wates-Gibson ACC Hut where reservations can be made through the Alpine Club of Canada and two back-country lodges that specialize in horse trips but accept hikers as well: Tonquin Adventures and Tonquin Valley .

Elevation gain is 700m
Maximum elevation is 2210m

The trailheads are at 12.7km on Cavell Road and at 6.3km on the Marmot Basin Road.

The best time for hiking to Tonquin Valley is in the fall due to the rainy weather and muddy trails in the summer.

The first trail to Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park, Alberta is the Portal Creek Trail.

The hike for this post begins at the parking lot on the Marmot Basin Road and ends at the Portal Campground, approximately 9 km up the trail. Next week's post will detail the next part of the trail to the Maccarib Campground at the Tonquin Valley.


[3 -Indian Paintbrush-click to enlarge]

[4- Columbine wildflower at Portal Creek Valley]

Three hundred metres up the trail from the parking lot will bring the hiker to a bridge over the Portal Creek.

[5 - Portal Creek]


[7-Lectern Peak, Portal Creek Valley]

The four kilometres to Circus Creek is forested, and here it is recommended the hiker with his/her fellow travellers make sufficient noise to be heard by any bears in the area.

[8 -Circus Creek]

Once the Circus Creek bridge has been crossed, the forested area thins and more scenery is available.

[9 -Hikers crossing Circus Creek]

[10 -Lectern Peak and Portal Creek Valley]

[11 -Hiking up Portal Creek Valley]

[12 -Portal Creek Valley from slopes of Perevril Peak]

After the hikers cross the scree slopes beneath Perevril Peak the trail drops down an avalanche slope to the valley floor.

[13 -Waterfall into Portal Creek Valley]

[14 -Looking up Portal Creek Valley]

[15 -Columbine and Portal Creek Valley]

[16 -Portal Creek and Oldborn Mountain-click to enlarge]

[17 -Alpine Meadows below Maccarib Pass - click to enlarge]

The Portal Creek Campground is reached, which has four tent pads, two tables, a bear pole with cables and a privy.

Photo Credits: [1] to [17] inclusive: brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Sources: ParksCanada link for backpacking into the wilderness here .