A-R International: Tim Baker

Tim Baker
Authors-Readers International


Let me begin by saying I hate writing bios about myself. I’ve had to do it a few times since I became an author, and it doesn’t get any easier.

It would be nice if I had somebody else to write it for me, but sadly I can’t afford such luxuries yet. I suppose I could have written it in the third person, talking about myself as if I were not me…but I am me so I just couldn’t do it.

Anyway, I was born and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island. I’m old enough to remember Get Smart, The Flintstones and Hogan’s Heroes when they were on in prime-time. I moved to Palm Coast, Florida in 2006 and I love it here. Before I moved, my older brother suggested I visit Florida in August to make sure I could handle the heat. I told him if I never have to hear the words “the high temperature today will be six” I can handle all the heat in the world.

I am the fifth child of seven, I have a sweet tooth (at least that’s what people tell me – I don’t see it, myself), I’m a Libra and I’m left-handed (all the great ones are!). My favorite movie is Jaws, I believe that Adam West is the ONLY Batman and I think shoes and neckties should be issued only as forms of corporal punishment.

I love music – all kinds of music. Having four older brothers, all teenagers during the sixties, I was raised listening to The Beatles. I was the only kid in the 3rd grade to know who Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jimi Hendrix were.

I am a lifetime member of Red Sox Nation (sort of mandatory if you’re a member of my family). I have played just about every sport you can play at some level or another. I hold a Black Belt in Kenpo (Nick Cerio’s Kenpo – Rest in Peace Professor Cerio) and I taught martial arts for two years before moving to Florida.

In 1992 I read a small article in the local paper about an organization called Guiding Eyes for the Blind looking for volunteer puppy raisers. It took me all of about 12 seconds to decide to call the number and for the next eight years I raised and socialized puppies as potential Guide Dogs (part of the story behind the “Blindogg” moniker).

I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but it wasn’t until 1988 that I actually tried to write something. It was a story called Full Circle and I managed to write about 15 chapters before I put it aside (temporarily).

About a year after I moved to Florida I had a dream about two old friends. It was, like most dreams, very bizarre. The next day I couldn’t get the dream out of my head…it was such a strange little vignette that I felt compelled to figure out “the rest of the story”. When I got home that night I sat down in front of the computer and began writing the story down. I began with the words “The whole thing started with a dream.”

Six or seven months later I had a first draft and after a year it was a completed manuscript, which would become my first novel, Living the Dream.

Before it was even published I began writing my second, Water Hazard, and I haven’t stopped since. I have even completed (re-written is probably a more accurate word) Full Circle!

~

This is the cover that attracted me to Tim Baker and his writing in the first place! I don’t know why it popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook – I’d never heard of this Florida-based author and we didn’t have any mutual friends online. It must have been kismet! I sent Tim a message about how much I liked the photo on the cover, that the book was obviously set in a tropical place – MY novel was set in a tropical place!! – and Tim accepted my friend request. What also interested me about Tim was that he was trying some different methods of publicizing and marketing his books, so we talked about that. Then he began his career as a DJ on Surf 97.3 Flagler Beach Radio and was co-hosting a weekly show on writing and writers. I was able to listen in online while living on Bequia (which was kind of cool at the time when you think of it) and I was hooked! That show didn’t last long, but it gave me the idea to create the blog Reading Recommendations to give (mainly indie) authors some much-needed promotion. Tim Baker was the second author I promoted on the site and he’s been back for many more visits since that time.

I’ve read (almost) everything Tim has written and published, and own just about every book in paperback editions (and even have a couple of promotional T-shirts and Blindogg Books stickers and beer koozies!). Tim’s books are in residence on both my Bequia and trailer bookshelves. I’ve been a beta-reader, and even at times an editor, for a number of his books and usually know ahead of time what he is working on at any given moment. Then when the new books are released, I help by promoting them online and recommending them to my friends in Canada. In turn, Tim has helped me with my own writing and publishing by sending me a “digital” swift kick in the butt whenever I procrastinate – which is far too often, I’m afraid. Possibly more important to me, however, is the connection we’ve had through music since he became a regular Friday night music DJ on Surf 97.3 and plays all the music Dennis and I love to hear. Many a Friday evening we’ve spend here on the verandah on Bequia listening to great music, while I chat with Our Own Personal DJ on Facebook, sending him requests, or making comments from the cheap seats. Cool, because he knows what we like! When he learned of my life-long love of the Beach Boys, as well as The Beatles and Van Morrison, Tim sent me this photo taken in the Surf studio …

My short story, Bequia Blues, was also included in the anthology, Path of a Bullet. Tim wrote short stories of his own then invited several of his friends to contribute. He edited and published this book of stories that all involve his main character, Ike! (In my story, Ike comes to Bequia!)

 

Tim Baker is also the only person I know who ever came up with this brilliantly unique way of “displaying” all his own favourite album covers – or CDs in this case. Pelican Floor Coatings of Flagler Beach created the coolest floor ever in Tim’s sunroom …

I would love to do something similar in my own trailer’s sunroom, but … with BOOK covers! What do you think, Pelican Floor Coatings? Are you up for a trip to Canada?

~

And here is what Tim Baker is up to right now: “Over the Xmas vacation I finally got my self back to work on finishing my latest WIP Rising Tide – I am hoping to have it to the editor in February which would mean a March or April release. I also have two more story ideas on tap and am going to make a concerted effort to release at least one of them in 2020 which would be the first time since 2012 that I released more than one book in a year.”

For more information about Tim Baker, his writing and books, and his music and DJing, please see his website and blog.
And … just like an end-of-year miracle, what appears but a brand new blog post from Tim Baker today!

Tim Baker has been featured many times on my blog Reading Recommendations since the first time in Nov. 2013.

A-R International: JP McLean

JP McLean
Authors-Readers International


JP (Jo-Anne) McLean is a contemporary fantasy and thriller author best known for The Gift Legacy series. The first book of the series received Honourable Mention at the 2016 Whistler Independent Book Awards. Reviewers call the series addictive, smart and fun. Her books include endorsements from award-winning author Jennifer Manuel and bestselling authors, Elinor Florence and Kristina Stanley. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated.

In 2016, JP’s body of work was included in the centennial anthology of the Comox Valley Writers Society, Writers & Books: Comox Valley 1865–2015. She is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her articles have appeared in WordWorks Magazine, Wellness and Writing hosted by Colleen M Story, Mystery Mondays blog hosted by Kristina Stanley, and others.

Jo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing.

JP (Jo-Anne) McLean lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast.

~

I have only ever met JP McLean online, but that was when I first set up the Reading Recommendations blog in late 2013, and Jo-Anne has been a stalwart supporter of me and the many other authors we’ve met online since then. Plus she’s an excellent writer! I’ve read almost all of the books she’s published so far. We also share the background of growing up in Ontario and spending summers at a family cottage north of Toronto. That’s why I particularly appreciated Jo-Anne’s review of my novella That Last Summer on Goodreads … she gets it! Some day, Jo-Anne, we will be in Ontario at the same time and will finally meet in person. In the meantime, let’s continue sending each other photos of the view from our respective deck/verandah!

JP McLean’s view …

~
The Gift Legacy

I didn’t start out to write a series. My intention was to write a one-off book. But after I finished writing the first novel, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters or their story lines. I knew they had legs. Before long, I was back at my keyboard. Soon I had a rough outline for two more books. At that point, the first book hadn’t yet been published, so I decided to call the series a trilogy.

However, after I finished writing the second book and was halfway through writing the third, I knew that Emelynn’s story would breach the trilogy framework. The fourth book put the final nail in the trilogy coffin and I renamed it The Gift Legacy. There are now six books in the series and one book in The Companion series. At this point, no more books in this series are “planned” but you know how well my best laid plans turn out.

A brief summary of the series: The Gift Legacy is a contemporary fantasy series set on the coast of British Columbia. It’s the story of Emelynn Taylor. She’s struggling to live with a mistake she made many years earlier. That mistake was accepting a gift from a stranger; a gift that develops into unpredictable episodes of weightlessness that send her skyward in terrifying uncontrolled flights.

Recently, JP McLean has completely redesigned her website and, if you sign up for her newsletters, you may also download free eBooks as she makes them available. So far I have received copies of Boone Park and Ghost Crimes. Click here to find out how you may also receive newsletters and free stories from JP McLean!

For more information about JP McLean, her books and writing, please click on this link to her website.

JP McLean has been featured on Reading Recommendations a number of time: Jan. 2014, July 2015, Feb. 2016, Dec. 2016.

A-R International: Don Gillmor

Don Gillmor
Authors-Readers International


Don Gillmor is a Canadian journalist, novelist, historian and writer of children’s books, and is the recipient of many awards for this journalism and fiction.

Gillmor’s writing has appeared in Saturday Night, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Rolling Stone, GQ, National Geographic, Toronto Life and The Walrus, where he worked as senior editor. He also served on the faculty of the Literary Journalism Program at the Banff Centre.

Gillmor’s magazine writing has earned him three gold and seven silver Canadian National Magazine Awards, and he has been called “one of Canada’s most celebrated profile writers”. In 2014, he won a National Newspaper Award for an article on baby boomers and suicide.

Gillmor is the author of three works of fiction: Kanata (2009), a Canadian historical epic, Mount Pleasant (2013), a comic novel about debt and Long Change (2015), which explores the life of an oilman (Gillmor worked on an oil rig in the late 1970s). He’s also written five books of non-fiction, including the two-volume work Canada: A People’s History, which accompanied the award-winning television program of the same name, and won the 2001 Libris Award for non-fiction book of the year.] Among his nine children’s books are Yuck, A Love Story (2000), which won the 2000 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, and The Fabulous Song (1996), which won the Mr. Christie Book Award.

Gillmor graduated from the University of Calgary with a B.A. in 1977. He currently resides in Toronto.

In 2019 he won the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction for his book To the River: Losing My Brother.

~

Long before I ever met Don Gillmor, even before his own writing and publishing career began, I was friends with his mother, Donna Gillmour. When I moved to Calgary in 1978 and began working in a bookstore, Donna was one of the first sales reps who came to see me, and we became good friends, surviving through my several moves of houses and bookstores over that next decade. I also got to know Don’s father Doug during that time, but never actually met “Donnie” as his mother referred to him. Then when Donna decided to retire from repping she recommended me to replace her, and I will be forever grateful for her confidence in me! Donna didn’t retire completely from the business, though, as she partnered with Marilyn Wood to offer publicity services in Calgary for all the publishers. I got to meet a great number of authors who I didn’t necessarily represent, all because of my close connection with Donna and Marilyn. I was a sales rep for Groundwood Books when they published Don Gillmor’s children’s book, The Trouble With Justine. Still, in all that time, I never met Don. I’d hear about him – a lot! – because his parents were understandably proud of his achievements, and I also heard many of the family stories and about a few of his “escapades” while he was growing up. Donna particularly laughed when she told me about an article Don had just published in one of the Canadian magazines that was about wanting cowboy boots when he was a kid. His mother had bought him saddle shoes by mistake, thinking “cowboy/saddle” – same thing! Oh, the embarrassment! So Don hid those shoes in the one place he knew his mother would never look … the vacuum cleaner box! (I always loved that story, but especially for the way Donna told me about it, and how she laughed over that clever son who had known her so well.)

So, even after a decades-long friendship with his parents, I never got to meet Don in person until we were both in Calgary at the same time for Canadian Thanksgiving, Oct. 2015 – me to speak at the library and he as a guest at Wordfest for his novel, Long Change. I was invited to join the Gillmor family and their friends for a wonderful dinner … and I had the chance to meet and speak with Don, finally!

Then this past May when I returned to Calgary to take care of some personal business there, I was unable to connect with Donna and Doug. Their phone number had been disconnected and I couldn’t find a new listing for them. I had dinner with my good friend Judy Gardner, another long-time friend from the book business who knew the Gillmors well, and we spoke of the family. Judy handed me a hardcover copy of the new book Don had just published and I took it back with me to Ontario. I cried when I read this exploration of his brother’s suicide, because really, for me, this was the story of his family, people who I had known so well and for such a long time. This account was so well-written that I predicted at the time it would win prizes, so I was not at all surprised when Don received the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction. For me though, what I loved most about this book is how I was able to reconnect, through the story, with people who had been a big part of my life. Thanks for that, Don!

~

To the River

The Governor General’s Literary award-winning exploration of suicide in which one of Canada’s most gifted writers attempts to understand why his brother took his own life. Which leads him to another powerful question: Why are boomers killing themselves at a far greater rate than the Silent Generation before them or the generations that have followed?

In the spring of 2006, Don Gillmor travelled to Whitehorse to reconstruct the last days of his brother, David, a talented musician whose truck and cowboy hat had been found at the edge of the Yukon River. David’s family, his wife and his friends had different theories about his disappearance. Some thought he had run away; some thought he’d met with foul play; but most believed that David, who at forty-eight was about to give up the night life for a day job, had intentionally walked into the water. Just as Don was about to paddle the river looking for traces, David’s body was recovered. And Don’s canoe trip turned into an act of remembrance and mourning.

Though David could now be laid to rest, there was no rest for his survivors. In this tender, probing, surprising work, Don Gillmor helps those left behind understand why people kill themselves and how to live with the aftermath. And he asks why, for the first time, it’s not the teenaged or the elderly who have the highest suicide rate, but the middle aged. Especially men.

For more information about Don Gillmor, his writing, journalism, and his books, please see his website.

Don Gillmor was featured once on my Reading Recommendations blog in Oct. of 2015.

A-R International: Sharon Butala

Sharon Butala
Authors-Readers International


Sharon Butala is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, numerous essays and articles, some poetry and five produced plays. She published her first novel in 1984, Country of the Heart, which was nominated for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, followed closely by a collection of short stories, Queen of the Headaches (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award). She was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, she taught English in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. She eventually returned to Saskatoon, before moving near Eastend, Saskatchewan, to live on her husband, Peter Butala’s ranch. Since her husband’s death in 2007 and after 33 years on the land, Sharon now lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta.

In the last few years her interest has turned to the lives of aging people, and to the condition of being old in this society, and inevitably, to the issue of ageism and how it blights the lives of those advanced in years, but still very much alive and capable, and also, how society is greatly diminished by its unwillingness to accept aging and the aged. Beginning with a “Walrus Talk” on ageism in 2017, she is in demand to give talks on these subjects, which inevitably also touch on grief and loss, as well as on the richness of the inner lives of the thoughtful old, and the gifts they have to offer others and to society.

~

The first time I met Sharon Butala was in 1992 when I was her sales rep for the book Harvest: A Celebration of Harvest on the Canadian Prairies published by Fifth House. Sharon was invited to attend my Canadian Day presentations I gave in Regina for the benefit of my customers, the booksellers and librarians in Southern Saskatchewan. Gail Bowen also took part in this same event. After that time Sharon went on to write and publish many more books, but unfortunately for me none were published by companies I represented. It wasn’t until we were both living in Calgary again that we reconnected. I’ve been doing some promotion for Sharon (see below for her listings on Reading Recommendations) over the past few years, and I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve read that she’s been publishing. But I absolutely loved reading Sharon Butala’s latest collection of short stories, Sound of Fury and Wonder because, as a woman in her (now) senior years, it spoke to me. And I have so many friends who are of the same vintage and would “get” the stories and characters in this book. I want them all to read this! It’s a book I would also like to put into the hands of those who are not older women, so I could say to them, “Read this. Understand us and know that this is who we are and this is how we feel.” Thank you, Sharon, for speaking so eloquently for us about all our lives.

~

Season of Fury and Wonder

“Crone lit” stories that are examples of the wisdom and insights of older women and at the same time tributes to the classic literature that inspired them.

“There are things that it is impossible to learn when you are young, no matter how much you read and study.” The season of fury and wonder, in Sharon Butala’s world, is the old age of women. These stories present the lives of old women – women of experience, who’ve seen much of life, who’ve tasted of its sweetness and its bitter possibilities, and have developed opinions and come to conclusions about what it all amounts to. These are stories of today’s old women, who understand that they have been created by their pasts.

Not content to rest on her considerable literary laurels, Sharon Butala continues to push the boundaries of her art. The stories in Season of Fury and Wonder are all reactions to other, classic, works of literature that she has encountered and admired. These stories are, in their various ways, inspired by and tributes to works by the likes of Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, James Joyce, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Conner, John Cheever, Alan Sillitoe, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Edgar Allan Poe and Anton Checkov.

For more information about Sharon Butala, her writing and her books, please see her website.

Sharon Butala has been featured twice on my Reading Recommendations blog: Oct. 2015 & April 2017.

A-R International: Ranjini George

Ranjini George
Authors-Readers International


Ranjini George holds a PhD in English Literature from Northern Illinois University, USA, an MA in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, Canada. More recently, she won the first place in Canada’s inaugural Coffee Shop Author Contest for her travel memoir, a work-in-progress, Miracle of Flowers. She was a Georges and Anne Bochardt Fiction Scholar at the Sewannee Writers’ Conference and a recipient of the Arnold B. Fox Award in Research Writing.

She was an Associate Professor of English at Zayed University, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. She currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program, SCS, University of Toronto; among other classes on mindfulness and writing, she teaches a Meditation and Writing Intensive at their Summer Writing School (St. George Campus) and No Mud, No Lotus: Writing and Breathing Your Way to Transformation and Healing (Mississauga Campus). In 2019 she won the Excellence in Teaching Award at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. (Here’s the link to the university’s announcement about the award.)

A Shambhala Guide Meditation Instructor, she has studied with teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Lama Tsultrim, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, Pema Chodron, Hari Nam Singh Khalsa and Lama Pema Dorje. Raised in the Christian wisdom tradition, she draws from Sufism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Stoicism, Mystic Christianity, and Buddhism in her writing and teachings.

She ran the Teaching with the Mind of Mindfulness series at Zayed University; she was the founder and editor of Studies in TESOL and Literature and The Arabia Review and the founder and Chair of the Literature Special Interest Group of TESOL Arabia. She has published literary criticism, stories, poetry and nonfiction in journals such as AGNI, The Ontario Review, WRITE, The Victorian Newsletter, Hamlet Studies and A Room of One’s Own. Her book, Through My Mother’s Window: Emirati Women Tell their Stories and Recipes, was published in December 2016.

~

Ranjini George was the first-place winner in the inaugural Coffee Shop Author Contest I created in 2010 when I was promoting authors and living in Calgary. This was an idea that came to me while I was spending a great deal of time in a particular coffee shop in Toronto writing my own novel. I had looked around the shop and noticed there were many others just like me, sitting alone and either writing on a pad of paper with a pen, as I was doing, or tapping away on their computers. And I wondered how many of them were writing creatively, penning the next great novel or non-fiction, and wouldn’t it be great to find a way to encourage writers to write in public so readers could actually see them working at their writing … So, with the help of Randal Macnair of Oolichan Books, we set up the contest and ran it nationally. Ranjini George entered with a travel memoir, Miracle of Flowers, and that submission was so exquisitely written that she was the favourite of the judges to win, hands-down! As first-prize winner, Ranjini was flown from Toronto out to Fernie, BC, for the Fernie Writers’ Conference, and was enrolled in Stephen Heighton’s classes for the duration of the conference. Since that time, Ranjini and I have met several times in person, the most recent being Oct. 2018, when we got together, along with her husband, author Lee Gowan, at the original shop in Toronto where the seeds of The Coffee Shop Author Contest were sown, The Remarkable Bean in my old childhood ‘hood – The Beach in Toronto!

Another author friend, Amy MacDonald, wrote an article in The Missisauga News about Ranjini winning the Coffee Shop Author Contest. And I previously promoted Cristy Watson in this A-RI series. Cristy won Honorable Mention in the same first year of this contest. Here’s a complete list of the winners in 2010: Coffee Shop Author – The Winners! Leslie Scrivener also wrote an excellent article that was published in the Toronto Star in June, 2010, titled “Got writer’s block? Try your local coffee shop.”

All this reminiscing lately about Coffee Shop Author and the great authors I’ve met has got me thinking about bringing back the contest … All I need is a sponsor and a few helping hands. WATCH THIS SPACE!

~

Through My Mother’s Window: Emirati Women Tell Their Stories and Recipes
Through My Mother’s Window: Emirati Women Tell their Stories and Recipes celebrates the voices of Emirati women and retells the stories of their mothers and grandmothers. Through narratives, photographs and recipes, this book offers a poignant, celebratory and wistful window into the landscape and culture of the Emirates–its past and its present, its food, weddings and important festivals. Through My Mother’s Window showcases the beautiful and vibrant city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Through My Mother’s Window takes readers into the heart of Emirati culture through its most essential ingredient — food. I savoured stories about mom’s cooking and memories of family traditions and cultural celebrations that nearly always revolve around food. Delightfully, this book opens a culture to us through relatively easy and accessible recipes that range from everyday to fancy feast. ~ Margaret Webb, author of Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover’s Tour of Canadian Farms

Here’s the link to a podcast of an interview with Ranjini George about “Mindfulness, meditation, creative writing and the art of coming home …”

For more information about Ranjini George, her writing and teaching, the UofT Workshops, and Tara Mandala Retreats, please see her website.

A-R International: Linda Granfield

Linda Granfield
Authors-Readers International

Linda Granfield is an award-winning children’s writer and popular speaker at schools across the country. She has also written and co-written more than 20 books for children. She lives in Toronto.

I grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts, a beautiful city north of Boston. My first paying job was at Melrose Public Library. As a high school and later a college/university student, I worked in the Children’s and the Reference Departments and that’s how I learned about children’s books, and research. My family lived at 105 Green Street for forty-four years. The house is over 100 years old now. On hot summer days, I sat in the screened porch and played with my dolls, or read my library books and ate lots of Popsicles. The black sign that was displayed on the railing is my father’s “lawyer’s shingle”–it is now on the wall in my study where I write. I went to Melrose High School during the 1960s– “Swinging Sixties.” I wrote for The Imprint, the high school newspaper, and The Melrose Free Press, the city paper. Since then there’s been university and graduate school and a move to Canada. And marriage and a daughter and a son, and now a wonderful daughter-in-law, and a grandchild.

And LOTS of writing about history, sharing my books at schools and libraries, going to places like China (Ni hao!) to do research for more books … And meeting and listening to and connecting our veterans with young readers everywhere. When I’m visiting a school to discuss one of my books about wars and remembrance, I’m often asked by students if anyone in my family served in the armed forces. Yes, indeed. Some of my relatives, like 16-year-old Thomas Ivan Proudler, fought in the Canadian/British Army in the First World War. Thomas was killed at Vimy Ridge, France, aged 18. He is buried in France. My father, Joseph J. Granfield, served in the Second World War. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Force right after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. At the end of the war, he came home, married, and had a family. Dad and five of his brothers served in either the Second World War or the Korean War. Two of my brothers made the Army their career. My family’s commitment to service is part of the reason I have written so much about our veterans and their families.

~

In 1993, Douglas & McIntyre published Linda Granfield’s non-fiction book, Cowboy: A Kid’s Album, and I was her Southern Alberta sales rep – Canadian Cowboy Country! Linda came to Calgary and spoke at the Glenbow Museum as part of her promotion tour. Then I offered to take her on a drive so she could at least see the Rocky Mountains, because she told me she’d never been out west before. So we drove along the highway south of Calgary towards Priddis then turned on to Hwy #22, what’s known as The Cowboy Trail, heading towards Longview. Linda was (uncustomarily for her, I soon realized) quiet as I drove. Then she suddenly shouted out in her Boston accent … “STOP THE CAR! STOP THE CAR!” I pulled over to the side of the highway, figuring Linda was going to be sick or something (I’d had lots of personal experience with that situation when I was a kid and driving to the cottage with my parents). She grabbed her camera, threw open the door, and said, “I’ve got to take a picture!” Phew! I thought. Not an emergency after all! And the views of those mountains just continued to get better after that! (This was always my favourite highway to drive in my entire territory of pretty spectacular drives.)  At the end of that day, Linda signed my copy of Cowboy: for Susan, You can be my buckaroo sidekick any day! – And that’s what I’ve been, ever since!

Also, thanks to Linda, I got the name of someone at Frontier College in Toronto who helped me organize myself when I was planning to teach literacy on Bequia. Linda and I have been in contact throughout the decades and I continue to promote her and her books whenever I can. But I’ve always been envious of that Cowboy book of hers … and, like Linda, I always wanted to be a cowboy! Attending the Calgary Stampede and this photo were the closest I ever came to that dream. But thanks, Linda, for keeping that dream alive!

~

As Linda mentioned above in her biography, she has had a special interest in researching and writing books on veterans, wars, and remembrance. I have featured three of these books on my Reading Recommendations blog (see links below), but you may see her complete list here on her website. The most recent addition to this list, however, was published in Feb. 2017 – The Vimy Oak: A Journey to Peace.

For more information about Linda Granfield, her writing and books, please see her website.

Linda Granfield has been a guest on Reading Recommendations three times: Mar. 2014, Nov. 2014 and Feb. 2017.

A-R International: Cristy Watson

Cristy Watson
Authors-Readers International


I am a teacher and writer living in Surrey, British Columbia. I host open mic at my local coffee shop and enjoy entering poetry contests. I have worked with a Young Adult population for most of my career and I wanted to help readers find books to enjoy that were both at a level they could manage and that shared interesting and pertinent themes. The Orca Currents and Soundings Series, and the Lorimer Sidestreets are perfect for this YA audience. I feel privileged to now have eight accessible novels published by Orca Books and Formac/Lorimer Publishers. Room 555 and Unlocked are my newest releases!
Cristy Watson is an award-winning author of eight accessible novels for young people, and has three self-published chapbooks of poetry, with poems recently published in The Poetry Marathon Anthology, and CV2. She is passionate about teaching and writing and enjoys when the two passions overlap. Cristy loves hiking in the mountains and enjoying leisurely strolls by the beach. She also hosts a literary Open Mic in her local community, and she volunteers every year with the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, and with the Beach House Theatre in the summer. Over this break for the holidays, she hopes to finish book two of the fantasy trilogy for middle-grade and YA readers that she began writing during NANOWRIMO 2019.

~

What Cristy Watson does not mention in her bio, and the reason we “know” each other, is that she was one of the contestants in the Coffee Shop Author Contest I ran for a couple of years, and that her entry also placed in the first year. As she has reminded me:

It turned out you actually created the category of Honourable Mention for my poetry – you only had 1-3 places to begin with, so it was a real honour for me to win this!! My original book was called, The Coffee Shop Series but I later changed it to Poetry from the Pelican because the coffee shop I wrote most of the poetry in, is called The Pelican Rouge.
I had three sections in the book with coffee quotations to open them. I focused on the past, present and future. I had so much fun with the contest, and the Open Mic I now host is with the time-keeper and a ‘reminder’ of the event, Jim Williams (James) who also entered the contest with his book, which is now published – The Coventry Ghost.
So cool to have had the opportunity and I wish it could have gone on for several years. It was a great idea!

So, while Cristy Watson and I have never had the chance to meet in person, we’ve kept in contact over the years since that contest ran, and I have watched her publications grow in number. We’ve chatted often on social media about the idea of bringing back this contest in some form or another. And Cristy isn’t the only former contest winner who has gone on to publish, and remained friends with me over the years. I’ll soon be promoting a couple of these authors as part of this series. Oh, and the other connection I have with Cristy is that, long before the contest, I was a sales rep for both publishing companies that are now publishing her books!

~

Locked Up
When he was fifteen, Kevin took a car for a joyride and got in an accident that seriously injured a pedestrian. Now known as “Strider” in juvie, he has spent more than two years incarcerated, learning the hard way how to survive on the inside. Strider keeps his head down and in exchange for protection from another inmate, Strider provides “loans” of money and helps him cheat on schoolwork. But when his parole officer suggests that he apply for early parole, Strider realizes it would be hard for him to survive on the outside. Is there anything waiting for him back home, or should he stay where he thinks he belongs?

For more information about Cristy Watson, her writing, books, and teaching, please see her website.

Cristy Watson was a guest on my blog Reading Recommendations in Jan. 2014.

A-R International: Aritha van Herk

Aritha van Herk
Authors-Readers International

Aritha van Herk is a cultural commentator as well as an award-winning Canadian novelist whose work has been acclaimed throughout North America and Europe. She has given readings, lectures, and workshops on culture and community, literature and life, in the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore, Australia, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria, the Baltics, and Scandinavia. Her popular, creative and critical work has been widely published and her work has been translated into ten languages.

Aritha van Herk was born in central Alberta, read every book in the library at Camrose, and studied at the University of Alberta. She first rose to international literary prominence with the publication of Judith, which received the Seal First Novel Award and was published in North America, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Her other novels include The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey, Places Far From Ellesmere, Restlessness. In Visible Ink and A Frozen Tongue collect her essays and ficto-criticism.

Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta offers an unorthodox narrative of that province’s past. Mavericks so inspired the Glenbow Museum of Calgary, that they created a permanent Alberta gallery and named the gallery after the book. Aritha van Herk returned to her Alberta stories to create Audacious and Adamant: A Maverick History of Alberta, the companion book to the exhibition.

Aritha van Herk is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Professor who teaches Canadian Literature and Creative Writing in the Department of English at the University of Calgary, but first of all, she is a writer who loves stories.

~

Aritha van Herk is the author I’ve known longest of any here who I am promoting in this series. I was working at The Guild Gallery of Artists and Authors in Calgary during 1979 when Aritha won the first-ever Seal First Novel Award for Judith and we hosted her at the bookstore for a signing. This was the biggest monetary prize ever offered in Canada so a Calgarian winning it was a big deal indeed! Fast forward to the mid-80s when I was working for another Calgary bookstore, Books ‘N’ Books. Aritha would come into the store regularly to browse and buy, because we had such a good selection of international fiction. Aritha has always been a huge reader! Then flash ahead again to the early 90s when I became a publishers’ sales rep and was selling books for Red Deer College Press. The publisher, Dennis Johnson, was then publishing Aritha’s books, so I became her sales rep! I studied a brilliant course offered at UofC on medicine in literature that Aritha taught along with a medical doctor. And I attended a number of lectures and talks about writing she delivered whenever I had the opportunity. We even drove to Fernie together for the Fernie Writers’ Conference and I enrolled in her class. We’ve kept in contact sporadically since then, together mourning the loss and paying tribute to two very important men in both our lives (Robert Kroetsch and Dennis Johnson), and getting together for a glass of wine and a catch-up a couple of times when I was in Calgary. So I was quite pleased when I learned that Aritha van Herk’s first novel, Judith, had been adapted into a play and the premier performance would be held in June 2018 at the annual Blyth Festival. Blyth is less than an hour away from the trailer park where I spend my summers! I contacted Aritha immediately and found out she and her husband planned to attend the opening night “gala” – which included a Pork Dinner beforehand, as this performance of the play was sponsored by the Pork Producers of Ontario. (You’ve gotta love these small rural communities!) So I drove to Blyth and parked on the main street. As I was getting out of my car, another car pulled into the space behind me. It was Aritha and her husband, Bob! That was a great evening we had, and I thought the play was an excellent adaptation of the novel! The theatre was packed, too. My only regret was that Aritha and Bob had to leave Ontario the next day, so I could not take them back with me to the trailer for a longer visit. Here are the festival and play programmes, my hardcover copy of Judith (signed by the author!) and one of the little paper “pigs” that were part of the dining table decorations. (Aritha had grabbed the few from our table and handed one to me – a little momento of our evening together.)

By the way, Aritha, while I’ve been preparing your promotion, I’ve also been doing the laundry.

~

I recently included Aritha van Herk in a blog post I wrote about my new TBR list, since earlier in the year I had “repatriated’ to my trailer all the books (and there were A LOT!!!) I’d previously left behind in a Calgary storage unit for a number of years.

And while I was reading through previous posts on my blog in which I’d mentioned Aritha, I discovered that this interview first broadcast on the old “Bookmark” programme on CKUA Radio is still available. Aritha van Herk speaks with host Ken Davis about literacy.

For more information about Aritha van Herk, her writing, books, teaching and travels, please see her website.

A-R International: Allan Hudson

Allan Hudson
Authors-Readers International


I live on the east coast of Canada where the moody waters and fabulous sunrises inspire me. I’m married to a wonderful lady, Gloria.

I love reading and writing.

My short story The Ship Breakers received Honorable Mention in the Writers Federation of New Brunswick short story competition and has been selected by McGraw-Hill Ryerson to be part of their iLit collection.

My short stories have been published on commuterlit.com and in The Golden Ratio. I published my collection of short stories, A Box of Memories, in April 2019.

I have self-published two action/adventure novels in the Drake Alexander Adventure Series, Dark Side of a Promise and Wall of War, that are available in both print and eBook formats through Amazon. I am presently working on a three volume historical fiction project tentatively titled The Alexanders.

I work as a jewellery consultant by day. I write as often as possible. I love adventure and change.

I am fortunate to have a loving family and am a very happy man.

~

I have only ever met Allan Hudson online, but that was through a very good mutual friend, Lockie Young, a fellow-Indie author who has since died, unfortunately. I promoted both Lockie and then Allan on my Reading Recommendations blog, and have read much of Allan’s earlier work he published as eBook-only at the time. Allan is extremely enthusiastic about both writing and reading, but he has also been a very stalwart supporter of other Indie authors, such as me, and has provided a forum over the years to many of us on his South Branch Scribbler blog. He has hosted me there a number of times by posting my guest blogs, his reviews of my writing, and even a couple of short stories I’d written. Allan has done the same kind of promotion for many, many other authors over the years, and we all really appreciate the added exposure his blog gives to us and to our work. But wait, there’s more! Allan is also indefatigable in sharing, reposting and reblogging, and commenting on social media whenever we post something on our own blogs! Especially with regards to promotions like this one I am currently writing, Authors-Readers International, I can always count on Allan to share my posts with his own friends and readers. He gets the idea, and has always understood that it helps ALL authors if we promote each other. He gives as good as he gets, and for that, I am very, very grateful to Allan Hudson!

~

Detective Josephine Naylor receives an email telling her where to find the last body. The messenger tells her “only you can stop this madness”. Discovering a shattered figurine on the corpse, she’s overwhelmed by the possibility it might be the one she sold in a yard sale. If so, she knows who the killer could be. She prays that she’s wrong.

For more information about all of Allan Hudson’s published print books and eBooks, please see his website.

Allan Hudson was a guest on Reading Recommendations in Feb. 2014.

A-R International: Gail Bowen

Gail Bowen
Authors-Readers International


Gail Bowen is a Canadian playwright and writer of mystery novels.

Born in Toronto, Bowen was educated at the University of Toronto, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964. She then studied at the University of Waterloo, where she received a master’s degree in 1975, and the University of Saskatchewan. She subsequently taught English and was associate professor of English at First Nations University of Canada before retiring from teaching. She currently lives in Regina.

Bowen’s mystery novels feature Joanne Kilbourn, a widowed mother, political analyst and university professor who finds herself occasionally involved in criminal investigations in various parts of Saskatchewan. Many have been adapted as Canadian television movies by Shaftesbury Films.

Several of her plays have been produced, including Dancing in Poppies, an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, The Tree and an adaptation of Peter Pan, all premiering at the Globe Theatre in Regina.

Bowen was selected as the writer-in-residence for the Regina Public Library from September 2013 to May 2014. She has previously served as writer-in-residence at the Toronto Reference Library (2009) and Calgary’s Memorial Park Library (2010).

~

I have had a long and enjoyable friendship with Gail Bowen that began when her first Joanne Kilbourn mystery novel, Deadly Appearances, was published by Douglas & McIntyre in 1990. I wasn’t just one of her Canadian sales reps, but was THE rep for Southern Saskatchewan! Not only did Gail live in Regina, but her new series of mysteries was set in the city as well. Sales of the book in my territory were HUGE! And Gail and I hit it off right from the very beginning, too – I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much or as hard as we all did whenever lunching with the late Mary Sutherland, one of the city’s booksellers, and already Gail’s good friend! Gail also took me in as part of her family over those years, and we always kept each other informed as to what was going on in our lives. When Gail and Ted Bowen came to Calgary for book promotions, Dennis would often be invited to join the three of us for dinner. One memorable evening was the closing night of the tiny, and very crowded, Latin Corner on 4th St., which we all loved. (The live music that night was supplied by Oscar Lopez who had to sit in the kitchen to perform, because the front was was so tightly packed with diners.) The author photo I’ve used above is one I particularly like, because I know exactly where it was taken as I visited that cottage while Gail was staying there, writing; and that area of Saskatchewan eventually became the “setting” in some of Gail’s mysteries. While we’ve kept in contact over all these decades, and I’ve purchased each new hardcover as soon as it was released, we hadn’t had any opportunities to actually see each other in person – until Sept. 2018 when Gail and Ted came to Kincardine, near to the trailer park where I live in the summer months, to promote her latest book. Dennis was visiting then as well! We both went to the event at the library and then drove Gail and Ted on to Collingwood the next day for another library event. We had lots of time then to catch up.

Event posters at the trailer

Gail Bowen at the Kincardine Public Library

Gail wrote in my copy of Deadly Appearances … “Here’s where we came in,” and we’ve lasted through 17 more Joanne Kilbourn novels since then as well as several novellas in the Rapid Read series published by Orca Books (because I was Orca’s sales rep, too!). This has been a complete pleasure, my friend, and I look forward to many more books from you, dear Gail Bowen. The Ottawa Citizen definitely called it right: “Bowen is a national treasure.”

~

News from Gail Bowen:The Unlocking Season, Joanne #19 will be published by ECW in 2020 — change of publishers and I am so happy about it. I’ve taught two on-line classes in mystery writing for U. of Toronto and I’ll be teaching a third starting in February. I’ve been invited to speak at the University of Marberg in Germany in October and will attend the Frankfurt Book Fair, so big doing there!”

For more information about Gail Bowen, her books and writing, please see her website.

Gail Bowen has twice been a guest on my blog Reading Recommendations: March, 2015, and March, 2016.