11/11/2012 Remembrance Day   Leave a comment

Attended a good Remembrance Day ceremony today at our local high school The auditorium was full; lots of veterans, cadets and scouts, several mounties in red serge, a good slide show and meaningful words. The Sgt. at Arms had us pay special appreciation this year to Afghanistan veterans of which there was a surprising number. It has been part of my mission this year to acknowledge the younger veterans and remind my fellow citizens that they are all around us.

I was impressed with the numbers of young people who attended this year. Also the cadets were great; very well drilled.

Left to right – Afghanistan veteran, WWII, a Lion’s Club volunteer, Peacekeeper -Yugoslavia veteran

Someone this morning asked me what I thought about the “white poppy.” I told them I thought it was a bad idea on Remembrance Day for sure, even though I get the intention behind it. I don’t necessarily disagree with that. The problem is, and I’m thinking especially of WWII veterans here, for many of them, their experience in WWII has defined their entire lives. The red poppy also is a defining symbol for most of them, worn in devoted remembrance of friends and loved ones lost. We cannot imagine what they saw, did and lived through. No matter the intention of the white poppy, it is perceived as a hurtful affront to them, and all they suffered and lost. I would say it is a legitimate symbol, but not to wear it on Remembrance Day. That is not the time or place for it. That’s my opinion.

McCrae funeral photo from the Bonfire book. Notice at Bonfire’s head; General Currie 6’5″ and McCrae’s best friend, General Morrison, 5’6″

Let us be worthy of them.


Posted November 11, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Remembrance Week Events for, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman   Leave a comment

Bonfire liked to carry caps and swagger sticks

Book signings in Calgary:
Thursday, November 8 – Chapters/Indigo Signal Hill 6 – 10
Saturday, November 10 – Chapters/Indigo Signal Hill 12 – 4
Friday, November 16 – Chapters Shawnessy 4 – 8
Tuesday, November 20 – Owl’s Nest Books in Britannia 7:00

Also available at: http://www.thebonfirebook.com

Posted November 6, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman launch, launched successfully!   Leave a comment

MMWG member, Marika d’Ailly and launch MC, Karen Gimbel

I’m not quite recovered but I still did a book event at beautiful Bluerock Gallery today. The launch at Lougheed House on Friday night was wonderful. A full house, a classy MC – Karen Gimbel, special guests, and robust book sales before and after. After a brief talk by me about the McCrae journey, our teenaged readers from Oilfields High School in Black Diamond began the program by reading a short chapter from the book, followed by Captain Reg McMichael of the PPCLI who gave a powerful and moving talk about his service in Afghanistan and what remembrance means from a “young” veteran’s point of view. I’m trying to create awareness that not all veterans are in their 80s and 90s! No disrespect meant, but veterans are all around us and are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.

CSM Brodeur, Captain McMichael and me

Then he was followed by the men’s vocal ensemble, Il Sono, who performed for the first time a setting of McCrae’s last poem, The Anxious Dead 1917 – music by me, and arranged by Steven Baric.

Il Sono sings McCrae poem, The Anxious Dead

To hear it for the first time was very emotional for me. Gave me goosebumps. A cappella and in four part harmony. After that their bass soloist sang two pieces from the book that John McCrae liked; The Minstrel Boy and Drink to me Only With Thine Eyes.

Attentive guests

Historian, Victor Taboika generously provided two WWI uniforms from outfits that feature in the book; one from the 10th Battalion and one from the 1st Brigade CFA – Canadian Field artillery, as well as a CAMC, Canadian Army Medical Corps cap, and field medical kit.

“Fighting 10th” Btn uniform on left and 1st Bde CFA on right

It was an exciting beginning to the marketing of this book. I really believe that this book will be on bookshelves for a few decades. It is basically the beating heart behind the poem, In Flanders Fields. Monday Morning Writers Group member, Angela Simmons took these pictures and there will be more great photos to follow from photographer, Monique de St.Croix. Monique took the head shot of me on the cover of the book. Stay tuned for more book news!

Bruce Nickel, PPCLI veteran and President of the 3rd CAV, Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Unit/Ypres that I belong to as a Supporter, and Suk Wong

the author looking chuffed

me with the choir, Il Sono

Posted November 4, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

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The books have arrived!   2 comments

The Bonfire books arrived today and they are gorgeous! It’s a slim volume, but it packs a punch, is full of amazing archival photographs, and contains the very soul of the story behind the poem, In Flanders Fields. Another precious item arrived today too, on loan from award winning author, Terry Fallis.

It is one of John McCrae’s actual spurs, brought home after his death by Fallis’s grandfather who served with McCrae from 1916 until his death. Given that all of McCrae’s personal effects from the war went to the bottom of the ocean with the sinking of the hospital ship, Llandovery Castle, this is too special for words.

More praise for Bonfire:
“I enjoyed the book! Well done.” – Major (ret’d) Marc George, Director – Royal Canadian Artillery Museum, Shilo, Manitoba

“Could not put it down. I sobbed like a baby through much of it. Well done girl!” – Wendy Dudley, author and journalist

Three days until launch. Stay tuned!

Posted October 30, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Bonfire book news   Leave a comment

Had the first book event for the Bonfire book at Okotoks Public Library’s Parade of Authors yesterday. Fun event and great chatting with readers and the other writers, too. The books were diverse; from fiction and science fiction, to history and memoir. Lee Kvern’s book, Afterall, is on the CBC Canada Reads list which is HUGE! Wendy Dudley read a charming excerpt from her book, Don’t Name the Ducks. The title is based upon a warning she was given by a neighbour when she moved onto her wilderness acreage, who knew of the possibility of “pets” being consumed by wild, four-legged residents. I had this driven home lately by my very last two cats disappearing this spring. One, 16 year old female Isis, was my very first cat when we bought this farm in 1997! She had survived so much over all these years but maybe her age made her a good target. Her nephew, Tyrone – 14, disappeared, too. Pretty sure they were dispatched by coyotes, or maybe the fox I saw several times this year. Although he’s not much bigger than they are, correction…were.

Anyway, it was a fun event and I gave the first public reading from, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman. We authors were served a unique and delicious cake as well!

As for reading, I need to slow down and enunciate better. I was a little nervous. Good practice for event number 2, Sheep River Library’s, Authors Among Us event, 27 October in Turner Valley, Alberta.

In the meantime a couple more reviews have come in:
I read your manuscript, great story!!!!(reviewer’s exclamation marks) A great perspective on Canada’s WWI war efforts and should be a must-read for anyone interested in Canadian history, especially Remembrance Day. I have to admit, I wanted the story to go on…
– Christian McEachern, 42, Canadian Army veteran

Raby-Dunne tells an incredible and very human story which will be enjoyed immensely by readers of all ages. I couldn’t put it down! – Karen Robinson, 64

Also today I was back in touch with General (ret’d) Ernie Beno, about restoring Major-General Sir Edward Morrison’s gravestone in Beechwood Military Cemetery in Ottawa. We began this initiative in 2008 but have been delayed because we can’t find a drawing or photo of what it used to look like. Morrison was a hero of WWI and figures prominently in Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman. He and John McCrae were best mates since the Boer War. I plan to try and track down that information this spring when I do a book event or two in Ontario.

Morrison’s decrepit marker at Beechwood. Something used to be on top of it, like a bronze cross or something. We need to find an original image to proceed with restoration. Or come up with something new; classy, but subtle, in keeping with his down-to-earth way of going.

Posted October 21, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

The “McCrae Effect” continues…   Leave a comment

I was telling McCrae biographer, Dianne Graves (A Crown of Life: The World of John McCrae © 1996 – Vanwell Publishing) about some of the extraordinary “coincidences” that have happened to me since I started my research on John McCrae in 2005. She said she was familiar with this phenomenon and referred to it as The McCrae Effect. I have about 5 typewritten pages going back to the beginning, of coincidences and synchronistic events that give everyone, including me, goosebumps. They happen on a regular basis and are part of what makes this whole thing such a thrill.

So…I was invited on short notice this last Saturday by Sheelagh Matthews from my MMWG writers/publishing group, to go and hear Terry Fallis – Stephen Leacock Humour Medal winner, at the Sheep River Library in Turner Valley, Alberta. It was part of Calgary’s festival of books and authors, WordFest. It was great, and he is a very funny writer and speaker. He read from his new book, Up and Down, and also told the humorous and exciting story behind his medal-winning book, Best Laid Plans.

After, I was talking to him and mentioned my new book, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman. I gave him a book mark which he studied for a second and then exclaimed, “My grandfather served with John McCrae in WWI.” “You are kidding!” I said. He said he was not, and that his grandfather, Leslie Clinton Fallis, had brought one of John McCrae’s spurs home from the war and his family still had it. Unbelievable. 600,000 soldiers went to war from Canada and this guy’s grandfather served with my subject, John McCrae!

Speaking of the Stephen Leacock Humour Medal, it was fun to tell Terry that John McCrae and Leacock were friends and used to belong to a writers club in Montreal called, The Pen and Pencil Club. They would meet every two weeks and share their poetry, essays, short stories, etc. In the Bonfire book, Colonel Morrison says, “The Pen and Pencil Club was actually code for the Scotch Drinking Club.”

the note was written by Terry Fallis’s late mother

I went straight home and logged onto Library and Archives Canada, and found his grandfather’s attestation papers. Then I looked in the official book/war diary of the hospital where McCrae worked after he was taken out of the artillery and yep, there was Terry’s grandad in a list of reinforcements to the hospital in 1916. Every other day there is something like this. If you are seized by a fascination with a subject; an event or person, and devote time and intense focus on it, stuff starts to happen. I mean powerful, thrilling, sometimes otherworldly stuff. Who said research was boring?

Terry and his family are generously going to loan me the spur and it will be at the book launch! along with other fascinating WWI artefacts. But to have an actual, personal item that belonged to John McCrae when there are so few – all of his personal effects from WWI were sunk and lost with the torpedoed ship, LLandovery Castle – this is special! Stay tuned for more…happenings.

Posted October 15, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Bonfire – a smattering of advance praise, and some interior pages   Leave a comment

Part One

The book design guy is doing a stellar job. Love his two page spreads for each of the five parts.

Praise so far has been uniformly positive. It’s getting exciting!

I’m reading your awesome book and loving every page! I LOVE it and it NEEDS to be in stores! –Gracie, 12

This story is entertaining and very informative, and Bonfire is a likeable character who offers a unique perspective on the horrors of war. –Lynne, 26

Oh, my this was well done! I really enjoyed the voice of Bonfire and the archival pictures added a lot to the authenticity for me. –Sandy Day, 59

I’m all misty-eyed! Just finished reading Bonfire – I loved it! The writer has done an amazing job. The equine point of view felt realistic, believable and fun. I found the story very touching. One can tell how much research is behind this. I certainly learned a lot. Younger readers will surely be affected emotionally by details of the war. Fortunately there’s humour liberally thrown in to ease the serious subject matter. –Paula Kroeker, 52

As I began reading it, my mind flew back to my boyhood experience of reading Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty,” and what a gripping hold that tale held on my mind. “Black Beauty,” was much longer than this book, but in places, the vivid narrative about the battlefield disasters, the military bureaucracy wanting to deprive commissioned medics (of) the use of horses, and the ghastly suffering of combatants was just as compelling. –Ralph Hancox, one-time editor of Reader’s Digest Canada, and latterly the President and CEO

That one will be on the back cover! Stay tuned.

Part Two, The 10th Battalion ( now Calgary Highlanders)

Posted October 1, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

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