Oh No! A Name change!

I read somewhere, in one of the many posts I come into contact with every day, that it’s preferable to use your full name in the title of your blog. That’s if you have a writing blog—which is what I’m attempting to do (although sometimes I’ll blog about my loyal plants or my adorable blond Labrador). Other types of blogs live by different rules.

Apparently, it’s all about branding. If your ultimate goal is to bring attention to your books—which would certainly be nice—then your writing, or your pen name, needs to be seen.

So I decided to follow that advice, but I didn’t want to start a new blog and lose contact with all my faithful followers who have put up with me all this time. I simply changed the identity of the blog, and muriellerites became Murielle Cyr blogs. Simple enough, but why do I feel as if I’ve just gone through a divorce. Of course this doesn’t involve lawyers, court appearances, legal bills, and a trip to the pawn shop with your wedding rings, but I am still left with that nostalgic feeling of having let go of a part of me—like stamping it Nolonger Exists in bright red ink. It brings back that empty feeling of having your divorce finalized, of pressing the delete button that erases all past aspirations and emotions that come with a broken partnership.

Have you ever had to go through a change of name along the way, and how did you feel?  

Posted in On writing | 11 Comments

Montreal’s taverns; relics of the past | DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society

The ‘Men’s Corner’ no more …

Source: Montreal’s taverns; relics of the past | DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society

Posted in On writing | Leave a comment

Gmail – TheBookDesigner: Using Family Photos, Letters and Stories

If you’re wondering if you can use Grannie’s old photo in your writing project, this interesting post will help you out.

Source: Gmail – TheBookDesigner: Using Family Photos, Letters and Stories

Posted in On writing | Leave a comment

More from Paul.


Here is Part Two of Paul’s backstory from the previous post. Your comments are much appreciated.


008_8 - Copie.JPG  AlbertinePaul crossed Rue Saint-Joseph, normally abuzz with all the hotels, restaurants, shops, and lively cabarets, which now seemed abandoned with the prohibition of all gatherings and crowds. The few strollers he saw were mostly window shoppers who chatted through their protective masks of cloth. He paused at the corner to stare up at Salle Frontenac alongside Place Jacques Cartier where he had met Rose for the first time.

The building housed a covered market on the ground floor with a cultural center where the local youths gathered to play card games and Jeu de dames on the top floor. The twin Brault brothers had been the undisputed champions of Cinq-cents until Thomas left for the war. Paul was left without a partner, so his good buddy Gilles suggested he team up with Rose who had just joined the card group that week. So when Paul looked up to wait for his new partner’s bid and noticed the stunning, olive-skinned beauty studying her cards across from him, he felt his heart race and forgot all about the intricate strategies he had planned for the cards he held in his own hand. Rose placed her card trick on the table and glanced up at him, an expectant look in her eyes. He fumbled, and laid down his hold hand before his opponent had a chance to bid. He had lost the game and his reputation as a card shark, but he had won her heart. She loved the earthy smell of trees in his hair and the way he stood, tall and firm like the mountains protecting the small village she came from. Her dark eyes and gentle smile stirred the deep recess of his soul and awakened in him the need to always have her by his side.

They met every evening after she came back from her nursing training until he left for the logging camp in the late fall. Rose’s aunt Lea who lived in the Irish district of Saint-Roch, made a habit of never giving her Paul’s letters until she had at least finished washing the supper dishes and tucked her two young cousins in the bed she shared with them. Three years later when the lilacs bloomed in the wealthy gardens of upper Quebec City, Paul had managed to save enough money to buy a proper ring and a wedding dress for Rose, and they married, moving in with Paul’s parents.

Seeing Salle Frontenac always triggered ambivalent emotions for Paul. A slow ache tugged at his heart for the many happy hours spent here playing cards with Thomas before the war, and … after he was gone … that floating, light-hearted sensation of meeting up with Rose during their courting years. Overshadowing these tender feelings was the painful memory of the last spring’s Easter riots here that had forever widened the cultural gap between the English and the French.

On that fatal evening of Easter Sunday, Federal troops had opened fire on the anti-conscription protesters with their Lewis guns, the same machine guns used to kill Germans on the western battlefields. Four innocent bystanders were gunned down, one of them a fourteen year old crossing Place Jacques Cartier on his way home from church. Paul’s good friend Gilles had been one of the 70 wounded in the shootings, and had died two days later from the infection caused by the explosive bullets used by the soldiers. Paul felt his stomach heave the next morning wondering if some of the chunks of human flesh clinging to the wire fence alongside Place Jacques Cartier belonged to his childhood friend. His teeth clenched as he glared at the soldiers armed with long rifles patrol the streets of his hometown. War had come to Canada after all. Quebec was now under martial law—a land occupied by their own countrymen—and would remain so until the Great War ended in November of that year.

He continued down the narrow streets towards the industrial district where all the tanneries and shoe factories were scattered. His parents lived not far from there, in walking distance to the old shipyards where most of the Irish immigrant families had settled years ago. After 4 years of working at the logging camps, Paul knew he wasn’t always going to be a lumberjack. He enjoyed working surrounded with nature with the sweet smell of cut wood, and being with a group of guys who became family after living so close together in the shanty from late autumn to the spring thaw in the spring. The loggers arrived with the first signs of snow in the fall to build the shanty and outdoor toilettes. Tree felling could only start once the shanty was completed and the rugged roads needed to lug in the equipment and supplies as well as haul the logs to the rivers and streams in the spring were cleared. Their living area was cramped with the foreman’s office in the corner, a section of a wall reserved near the stove with protruding nails near the top to hang the bucksaws and lean the axes on the bottom, the cooking area with a long, roughly built, wooden table for meals, large barrels of melted snow for wash water near the kitchen area, and the bunk beds lined with straw where the men slept with their clothes on because of the cold wind blowing through the crevasses in the walls and ceiling. Lice and ticks were an everyday occurrence, and mice were quick to locate the bags of provisions. The cook didn’t have a big variety of food to serve them: beans, porridge and bread for breakfast; beans, salt pork with turnips for lunch; and fish with potatoes for supper. On the rare occasions when the cook received a letter from home, there’d be apple pie or cake to go with their tea.

Paul sometimes lay awake nights imagining how to make life a little easier for the loggers. On the stormy days, when the blowing snow made it impossible to cut trees, he’d sometimes help the foreman—who was anxious to join the guys howling with laughter as the cards scraped across the rough table—take care of all the forms and calculations needed to run the outfit. He learned the tricks of balancing books, the cost of provisions and equipment, and the names of the logging companies who hired contractors like his boss to cut the trees in specified areas of the Canadian forests. His most valuable lesson was discovering that contractors could still make a profit without cutting back on food and housing for the men.

The anticipation of seeing how much bébé Janette had grown since he had left in mid-October made him quicken his steps. Rose had written that the tip of their baby’s first front teeth were showing, and Paul’s heart almost exploded when she added that Papa was the very first word Janette had pronounced loud and clear. She was the most beautiful baby Paul had ever set his eyes upon with big brown eyes and a thick head of black curls like her mother. He’d have to remember to wash his hands before taking her in his arms. Rose had been strict about that since the second wave of Spanish flu scare had started up again earlier in the fall. Just a few weeks ago, hearses were so hard to get, closed coffins had to be loaded on streetcars to transport them as close as possible to the cemetery. Calgary had run out of coffins and his boss had obtained another urgent order for pine logs. When Paul first started at the camps, the loggers were felling trees for the British shipyards; now each tree they cut down was destined to become someone’s casket. More people were dying from this flu than the tens of thousands of soldiers who were killed by mustard gas or bullets in the Great War. Paul’s stomach turned rock hard at the possibility that his family might fall victim to this killer disease. So far there had been the sad story of his two young cousins who had been placed in the same pine box because of lack of money, and then the mother’s own coffin nailed shut and buried the very next day.

He could hardly wait to tell Rose his good news. Living with his parents hadn’t been easy for her and the baby, but he had enough money saved up now to afford the furniture they needed for them to get their own place to live. She’d be able to look around the stores when he returned to the logging camp in two weeks, and they’d buy what they needed when he came back in the spring. There would be enough construction jobs for him during the summer to keep a salary coming in until the logging camps opened again in the fall.

A light snowfall had fallen earlier and Paul’s work boots left a lone trail of wide prints behind him on the sidewalk along the row of three-story brick tenements where his parents lived. By the light of the dim streetlights he could see that several other footprints, some just as large as his, had crisscrossed the thin coat of snow on the front porch of the first-storey flat. He straddled the steps two at a time and came to an abrupt stop in front of the front door. Someone had left it ajar, something that never happened during the cold weather in this house. The flat was so drafty that Anne had to tuck old blankets at the base of each door and window to block the cold air from entering. Anyone who didn’t make sure to stuff the blanket back into place after entering would get an earful from her. Something was definitely wrong. Paul felt a tingling in his chest and his hand trembled as he nudged the door open. The strong smell of disinfectant and camphor took his breath away. He reached back to close the door and kicked the old blanket back with his heel.

“Leave it open a crack, son. We have to clear the air in here.” Anne was standing near the opening of the kitchen at the end of the darkened hallway. She wore a thick wool sweater buttoned up to her neck and a rosary dangled from her fingers. She didn’t rush to greet him as she usually did, but huddled her small frame against the wall and clutched her rosary to her chest. “It happened … so fast. The priest got here just in time to—”

“The priest? Paul blurted out. “What are you trying to say, Maman? ” His heart was pounding so hard his breath came out in gasps. He glanced at the bedroom door he shared with Rose and the baby and noticed the plain wooden rosary hanging from the doorknob. “Non … pas bébé Janette?” He bolted down the hall, shoved the door open and glanced around in a panic. The smell of disinfectant was stronger than in the hallway, and the baby’s crib was missing. He screamed out his daughter’s name. “Where is she, Maman? Is she at the hospital?”

“Please … pour l’amour du bon Dieu … don’t touch anything, Paul.” Anne stood behind him in the doorway, tears running down her cheeks. Her words came out slowly, laden with pain. “Rose came home from work yesterday morning…the poor girl looked so tired … she … told me to stay away … and … to take the baby to the emergency nursery.”

“Why the nursery? Isn’t that only for … ” He swerved towards the open window. A prickly wave of cold sweat surged from his shoulders down to his lower back. “Nonpas ça Jésus pas nôtre Rose.” The sheets and blankets had been stripped off the bed and their pillow was nowhere to be seen. He turned towards Anne. “Where did they take her, Maman?”

Anne shook her head and lowered her gaze. “She didn’t … last 24 hours, son. The priest came just in time this morning … for the Last Rites. They … took her right away… that poor girl … not even a church funeral. Your father has gone with them to … help bring her to the ceme—”

Paul didn’t wait for his mother to finish and hurtled out the front door towards the church grounds. By the time he reached the corner of the cemetery reserved for the flu victims, the priest and the caretaker were just leaving, and Roger was staring down at the wooden cross rising from the soft ground where Rose’s pine box had just been buried. For the first time since Paul was a toddler, Roger reached over and placed his arms around, letting his son’s tears soak into the fur collar of the tweed coat he always reserved for Sunday Mass. It would be their last time together. Roger woke up next morning, his pillow stained from a violent nosebleed, and his throat too sore to call out his wife’s name. Paul planted his father’s cross the very next day, only a few feet from where Roger himself had hollowed out the soil to place Rose’s own wooden marker.

Paul felt an urgent need to escape the greyness of city life with its crumbling sidewalks, the suffocating pollution from the towering chimneys of factories and mills, and the nauseous gas fumes and deafening noise of all the street traffic which seemed to worsen with each one of his visits. War and disease had stripped him of any sense of belonging here. He had come to associate death and sorrow with the hometown that had once housed all his loved ones. A troubling thought surfaced as he lowered his father’s pine casket into the freshly dug soil of the cemetery. Death had visited his loved ones so often that he wondered if he had somehow done something to offend the laws of the universe that governed such things.

He left his daughter in his mother’s care and returned to his refuge in the sanctity of the pristine pine forests of northern Quebec only returning to Saint-Roch for the important events in Janette’s life. He wrapped Rose’s letters with soft green lace of cedar leaves and stored them in a small pine box he kept under his cot. When the other loggers would see him tuck the box under his arm and walk out the door of the cabin towards the thickest part of the woods they knew he wouldn’t be back until well after sunset.

He’d share the occasional letter he now received in his mother’s arthritic handwriting with the loggers at the dinner table and to smile with pride as she updated his daughter’s progress. Although many tried, no woman was able to mend the deep crevice Rose had engraved in his heart. Rose would often visit his dreams, usually standing among the trees that had stood guard over her in her youth, always with her gentle smile and that dark, sad look in her eyes. Paul would reach out then, but as soon as his hand was about to touch her, he’d jolt awake to find himself in the darkened cabin amidst a clamour of snoring loggers. It came to him one day that if he wanted to keep Rose coming back to him in his dreams, he’d have to remain living among the trees that she had loved so much.



Posted in On writing | Leave a comment

Meet Paul.

Here is the first installment of my Backstories. I’m presenting  Paul in two parts because of the length–the original version was much longer. I’ll be posting part two next week. Remember this character appears in my work in progress, but most of this will only serve to build him up behind the scenes. I wish I had known him in person. Please post your thoughts–they will guide me.


Saint-Roch, Québec 1918

Paul Brault lowers his gauze mask and hops down from the train at the Saint-Roch station of lower Quebec City. The late afternoon winter sky has already started to darken. He glances around a few times, puzzled. Rose isn’t there to greet him. Four years now that he’s been riding the train to the logging camps, and not once has she missed his train arrival.007_7 - Copie.JPG Grandpère Leonard

The few people standing around or sitting on benches, as well as the ticket agents behind the counters, all have cloth masks covering their mouth and nose. He drags his feet towards the exit, an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. In the few months he’s been away at the camp, the Spanish flu scare has managed to reach his hometown. Since the Great War finally ended in November, all those recruiting posters that had instilled fear in the heart of everybody in his neighbourhood for the last four years were now plastered over with ones warning against the deadly epidemic.

He had just read a newspaper story on the train about a San Francisco health officer who had shot a shoer in the downtown area for refusing to put on his influenza mask. He shakes his head thinking how fear always brings out the worse in people. The Spanish flu scare had the same effect on the minds of decent folk as the Great War had—driving normally honourable men to do the most despicable acts. Life seems to him just a continuous reaction to fear of some kind. A heaviness settles in his stomach as he steps out of the station without Rose’s delicate hand tucked into his. He sighs and starts the long trek down to his parents’ home in the lower part of Saint-Roch—a walk that always flew by at a gallop with Rose chatting beside him.

Rose likes to wear her best outfit to meet him at the train—usually something borrowed from her Aunt Lea who works as a seamstress from her Saint-Roch flat. Her wealthy English customers from uptown sometimes decide the finished dress isn’t exactly to their liking, so Aunt Lea sells it to someone else. Unlike her local customers who can only pay her a few coins each week—the uptown ones pay up front, so Lea never comes up short and is happy to let her favourite niece borrow a dress anytime she fancies one.

Paul smiles softly remembering how elegant Rose looked the last time she met him at the station. The loose one-piece frock of beige charmeuse with a short vest front of light brown crepe that stopped just above her ankles had taken his breath away. The matching veiled hat enhanced Rose’s dark hair and eyes, and when she took his arm and beamed up at him, he felt his chest swell.

Rose had written in her last letter that their eight-month old daughter Janette had been coughing a lot. Maybe the baby’s illness had kept Rose from coming to meet him, although his mother Ann is always there to watch the child. Rose finished her nursing training last month, so she wouldn’t panic over a simple cold. Anybody who coughs or has a fever these days instantly thinks they’re going to die of Spanish flu. Paul quickens his step. If the child is still sick, he’ll get a doctor to come to the house. Bringing her to the hospital is too risky. Flu patients are corded like rotting logs in hallways and empty spaces

Except for the odd person passing by him on the street, the neighbourhood seems quiet for a Christmas Eve. Public gatherings have been banned everywhere, so churches, schools, theatres and taverns are all closed until the Spanish flu is under control. The big department stores and banks that he passes are still open but their employees are all wearing gauze masks. He glances up the street expecting to see Rose running up to meet him. She’s probably so busy with the Christmas preparations that she forgot till the last moment that he was coming home. They’d laugh about this when they eventually met somewhere along the way. Unless … she was still upset about him not making it back in time.

Janette was born during the busy spring drive when loggers work non-stop to float the logs down the river to the mills, and he wasn’t able to take time off to be with Rose.

“Once you plant your seed in a woman, she leaves her old self behind. Forget that silly girl who smiled at your every word, and embrace the strong woman who will nurture your child.” Anne rarely gave her opinion about things, but when she did, Paul paid attention.

Thinking back, he could’ve risked trekking in the woods that followed the muddy road to town, but it was a six-hour walk through hard terrain with hungry black bears roaming around at that time of year. Had she expected him to come home at all cost? His mother and her aunt Lea had never left her side during the long agonizing hours of childbirth, and the doctor had arrived just as she gave the final push. Her cries of pain would’ve paralyzed him, making him no help to her at all. No mention was made in the days and weeks that followed about the slight fissure that had formed in their young relationship, and Paul spent the rest of the summer working at construction jobs and making sure he took an active part in his role as husband and father. When he left again in the fall, he swore to her on his grandmother’s grave that he’d be with her and Janette for their first Christmas as a family. He promised her to only return to the logging camp after the New Year, in time to haul the logs to the banks of the river to be ready for the spring thaw.

Rose started nursing at Hôtel-Dieu Hospital right after she received her diploma. With all the excitement of starting her new job and taking care of the baby, she might have gotten confused about his train arrival. The kerosene lamps used at the logging camp hung around the kitchen area and over the long rough pine table where they sat drinking tea and playing cards at night. Paul didn’t like having the guys hovering over his shoulder and commenting on everything he wrote to Rose; so he sat on the edge of his cot where the lighting wasn’t too good. He might have jotted down the wrong arrival time on his letter; the guys were always haggling him to stop writing his dirty letters and come join them at cards.

Only two trains ran from Montreal to Saint-Roch per day, the early one at nine in the morning, and the next one at four o’clock in the afternoon. Rose knew that if he had missed the morning one, he’d be on the later one. No matter the weather, she was always there to greet him with that broad smile of hers. It gave her the chance to take a break from his father Roger’s constant grumblings. Janette was a happy, curious child, and had started crawling earlier than most babies her age. Roger would often look down from his rocking chair to see her little fingers plucking at his shoelaces and shoving them in her mouth. He’d roar at Anne then—well aware that Rose was working at the hospital and wouldn’t hear his offensive words.

Roger hadn’t been any easier on his own two boys when they were toddlers. There was something about sticky little fingers clutching onto his pant legs, and the twins’ disgusting habit of rubbing their snotty nose on the sleeve of his Sunday shirt that turned Roger off. He tolerated them better when they were old enough to sit quietly at Mass without tugging on Anne’s rosary and scattering the beads on the church’s ceramic floor.

Paul and his twin brother Thomas had started working as shoe buffers in the factories at thirteen to help the family make ends meet. They’d spend 12 hours a day, six days a week, sanding the leather soles before the shoes were then sent to the next group responsible for polishing. Their father, who should’ve been a foreman by then after spending most of his young manhood breathing in the woody residue of tannic acid used to transform animal skins into leather, worked the same long hours snipping the heavy leather hides into shoe parts in the cutting room on the first floor, stopping only to share his lunch with his boys when the dinner bell rang.

In most factories, hard workers who spoke both English and French had a better chance of being promoted to factory foreman. The average workers on the assembly line were usually French speaking, but English was the language of money and power. It was uncommon for a foreman with a French family name to be considered for any executive position—these decision-making jobs were normally filled by the English. The French-Canadian who happened to operate a successful business in Saint-Roch would eventually move his family up the hill to the wealthier part of Quebec City where all the English upper class lived among the tree-lined, wide avenues and well-kept parks.

Roger, like most working class French-Canadians boys, had started working long hours in the factories at 12 years old. There was no time, nor the need, to learn a second language. English was never heard at the local Sunday Mass gatherings, or at the pool halls and bowling alleys where the youth met on Saturday evenings, nor in the drafty classrooms and grimy playgrounds of poor districts like Saint-Roch. It was, however, the dominate language in large department stores, the cinema, fancy restaurants, bars, and at all the large companies of upper-town Quebec City. To be served in their own language at those places was something French-Canadians had to insist upon, even to employees who were fluent in both languages.

Paul could still remember the fumes from the glue and the shoe polish in the factory. It permeated the workers’ hair and clothes. A film of acrid residue from the dust of the sanding machines coated the inside of their mouth and made their eyes water. The smell of unwashed bodies and tobacco smoke on the hot days of summer contributed to the insufferable working conditions. The foreman would lock the doors during the day so the employees wouldn’t waste time going outside for a breath of fresh air, or vomit behind the garbage bins. The pay was low, but it covered the rent and the children’s contribution helped put meat on the table a bit more often. When Paul kissed his mother on the cheek and proudly slipped his first week’s pay into the pocket of her apron, she leaned forward at the kitchen table where she was peeling potatoes and sobbed. Accepting her son’s small contribution to the family meant closing the door on his childhood. Thomas, who was never far behind his brother, ruffled her hair and pressed his meagre pay into her closed fist. She pulled out her handkerchief from inside the sleeve of her sweater, and wiped her eyes before reaching for her paring knife. There was chicken stew and dumplings that week for dinner after Sunday Mass.

It was three years later in the autumn of 1914, that the Federal recruiters came to Paul’s part of town. England had declared war on Germany and Canada, being part of the great British Empire, had no choice but to follow. Prime Minister Borden only called for volunteers and promised Canadians never to impose conscription. Rumours that it would be a short war, possibly over before Christmas, inspired some of the unemployed in his neighbourhood to enlist right from the start.

Thomas jumped on the chance to escape the slave labour of the factories by secretly enlisting in the army. He was mesmerized by the maze of colourful recruiting posters attached to billboards and electric tramways, hanging on the sides of tall buildings, clipped to telephone poles and on restaurant walls. He didn’t quite understand the words on the English posters, but he admired the images of the brave soldier in full army attire holding a rifle over his shoulder with a huge Union Jack in the background. He didn’t feel the urge to fight for a country whose imperial arm had dominated his people for centuries, but he found the lure of heroism hard to ignore. The poster that finally convinced him to jump ship from his boring factory job was one written in his own language. Two soldiers stood proudly with an arm resting on each other’s shoulder: a Canadian infantry soldier in his smart khaki regalia, and a French soldier in his dapper blue jacket and bright red pants casually standing both rifles on the ground like they were baseball bats. The poster alluded to the legendary French military hero, Marquis de Montcalm, who was killed in the 1759 battle to defend Quebec against British attackers. Although France had completely forgotten that Quebec even existed since then, the thought of foreigners invading the country of his ancestors prompted him to step up to the recruiting desk and lie about his age.

He towered over the recruiters, and the doctor declared him fit enough to go into battle. Although his boyish grin and teenage acne were a sure indication that he was under the minimum age requirement to carry a gun, the army was more than willing to let him borrow one to protect himself against assault and injury. The recruiters turned a blind eye on his peach fuzz and the large infantile way he signed his name on his enlistment papers. All the forms were written entirely in English. The recruiters simply pointed at the blank spaces and told him what to write, and he was good to go.

His parents, as did many French-Canadians Paul knew, openly opposed fighting for a British war. Apart from unemployed workers, a good majority of English-Canadians who lined up to enlist at the start of the war were British born and their loyalty to their homeland was still heartfelt. French-Canadians felt neither affinity for France, nor any kind of allegiance to Britain. Quebec wasn’t the only province to resist the lure of the imperial war. Farmers from across Canada needed their sons to help with the farm work. If they were to produce wheat for the British, they needed to keep their farm labourers at home. Immigrant and religious groups in the other provinces were unbending in their staunch resistance to the frantic call to arms.

Thomas kept his plans secret and continued to work in the factory beside his brother until the very last minute. Paul woke up one morning to see the gray wool blanket on his brother’s narrow bed neatly tucked under his mattress, and his most prized possession—his 1911 Imperial Tobacco hockey card of Eddie Oatman with the Quebec Bulldogs—placed on top of the rickety dresser separating their cots. Thomas had penciled over Eddie Oatman’s hockey stick to make it look like a rifle. Paul felt a painful tightening in his throat with the knowledge that he would never see his twin brother again. His knees buckled and he lowered himself back down on the edge of the bed, gasping for breath as the hatred of those who had just sent to slaughter the only one who had ever owned his heart and soul, penetrate every cell of his body. He swore never to participate in a war that depended on the spilling of blood to win, and if conscription would one day come to pass, he would rather hang from the imperial gallows or be shot on the spot with his head held high than to be part of these killing games.

In October of 1914, Thomas was part of the First Canadian Troops to arrive in Britain. The news that his son had boarded a warship sailing for England enraged Roger. Paul had waited until the ship left port before saying anything to his parents who were confused about his sudden disappearance. He knew Thomas well enough that once his mind was made up there was no stopping him. He would’ve found a way to climb aboard that warship no matter what.


Paul, who had always worked alongside his brother, couldn’t get used to having a stranger share the same cloud of brown leather dust at the sanding station, so when the cold and snow hardened the ground in November he shook the foreman’s hand and joined the group of lumberjacks travelling to the logging camps of northern Quebec. Strong and robust like all the Brault men of his family, his large boned hands made him a welcome candidate with the axe men who stripped the bark from the heavy logs and squared them to make them easier to transport. The pay wasn’t any better than factory work, but the air was fresh, and for the first time in his life he found a sense of freedom and camaraderie with these woodsmen who spoke his language and shared the same background.

When Thomas’s postcard arrived 6 months later showing him smiling knee deep in mud on the training fields of Salisbury Plain of Northern England, he was already buried in French soil. Anne emptied out the cracked cup half-full of coins from her laundry jobs and asked the priest to hold a Mass for her dead son, thanking Jésus that, at least, Thomas was resting in the land of their ancestors. She pinned his postcard on the wall beside her bed along with a rosary blessed by the priest from the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré where healed pilgrims leave their crutches and braces as proof that miracles do happen. Not that Anne expected her Thomas to rise up from his shallow grave, but that his spirit would stop his surviving twin from joining the senseless carnage overseas.

Paul’s young age had saved him from enlisting until the spring of 1918. Prime Minister Borden’s Military Service Act of the year before had cancelled all previous exemptions to the draft. Married males between the ages of 20 to 45, and the sons of farmers needed to work the land were no longer exempt and were to register for the selection process. Local Tribunals were set up to decide whether a Certificate of Exemption could be issued for special cases. Spotters, Dominion Police hired by the Ottawa government, were sent out across the countryside to arrest any male who couldn’t produce exemption papers. Only certain religious pacifists could now claim exemptions.



Posted in On writing | 15 Comments

Backstory Battles




I’ve decided to place my children’s writing on the back burner for now and try my hand at creating a historical fiction novel. It’s my all-time favourite reading genre since I discovered Thomas B. Costain way back in high school. It’s turned out to be quite a challenge for me. I’ve rewritten the story at least three times since I started last year. Of course this means my other writing projects have to wait—I’m not the type of writer who can work on different projects at the same time.

My biggest hurdle is the dreaded backstory—the historical background as well as the character’s life history—both necessary ingredients in historical fiction, but not something you want to bore your readers with. You have to be careful to weave it into your plot without distancing the reader from the characters and their conflicts. I usually write up a detailed character backstory, which sometimes ends up longer than the story itself. This was often included in classic novels, but today’s readers don’t have the patience for all that detailed background. So I’m always left with tons of character backstory, which never appear, in my stories. I end up feeling sorry for those characters I’ve gotten to know so intimately and whose stories will never be known—who said writers don’t lean toward the strange side?

So … I’ve decided to pull out a few of my favourite characters’ backstories out of obscurity and present them on the blog. Maybe you’ll meet up with them in my writing. I usually find a suitable picture on Google and work from there, but I won’t be posting those on the blog since I’m allergic to copyright fines. My next post will be about Paul: (tall, dark, loyal, and fiercely independent), a strong Quebec lumberjack who refuses to fight for an English king.


Posted in On writing | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger @ThorneMoore | writerchristophfischer

Reblogged on WordPress.com

Source: #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger @ThorneMoore | writerchristophfischer

Posted in On writing | 2 Comments

Inside Historical Fiction with Greg Taylor winner of the M.M. Bennett’s award | A Writer of History

Source: Inside Historical Fiction with Greg Taylor winner of the M.M. Bennett’s award | A Writer of History

Posted in On writing | Leave a comment

Here’s your chance to get great books at half price! Mine are there too! https://goo.gl/WnQ0Vy

Source: Save Your Readers 50% Off On KWL Titles–On Us!

Posted in On writing | Leave a comment

Review: CULLOO by Murielle Cyr — What Is That Book About

Just discovered this  review while browsing for middle-grade genres. I’m a bit late to see this since it appeared quite a while ago. Made me think that bits of us continue to exist beyond our mundane existence. We think by stepping out of a situation that it will cease to exist, but does it, or does the foot print we left behind take on its own life? That’s how Google has transformed our lives, our foot prints no longer disappear with the tide.


Source: Review: CULLOO by Murielle Cyr — What Is That Book About

Posted in My publications | Leave a comment