Monday, 12 December 2016

Trudeau book reviewed by Barbie Thompson

Today Canadian writer Barbie Thompson sent a quick review of my latest book, a biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. You can learn a little about Barbie and her writing on her Facebook page.

Barbie had this to say about the book:

I congratulate you on a wonderful book on Trudeau, pointing out, as you rightly did, the great things that man accomplished which many Canadians oft choose to ignore or on which they were never educated. Your series will go far in improving Canadian school childrens' knowledge of their great leaders and this great country. I wish I had had such a valuable resource when I was in school.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Trudeau biography released from Five Rivers

Today my newest book has been released from Five Rivers Publishing. It is a biography of Canada's fifteenth prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. There's always something new to bring to a study of the life of such an active person. I'm particularly proud of pulling together so many moments in his life as an enthusiastic canoeist!

cover of Trudeau book

This book is my third from this expanding press based in Ontario, and either my thirty-first or thirty-third overall .. time to check and update my C.V.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Roosevelt and the Black Troopers

I promised to post again about the information on the regiments of Black Troopers which I was able to bring to the revision of my book The Spanish-American War.

Now available in hardcover or e-book formats, through Amazon!
Stories of Theodore Roosevelt and his hastily created cavalry regiment of Rough Riders tend to dominate most commentaries on the Spanish-American War. But they were out-performed time and again by the experienced regiments of African-American soldiers, the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 24th and 25th infantry, who were known as Black Troopers. A sergeant from the 25th infantry, Mingo Sanders, even shared B Company's hardtack rations with the unprepared new regiment, when Roosevelt came to him and admitted he'd set out for Cuba without checking if there were any food supplies packed for his Rough Riders.

Sergeant Mingo Sanders was partially blinded when the 25th Infantry came under heavy fire at El Caney. Because of his record later in the Philippines, Colonel A. S. Burt, the regiment’s commanding officer said, “Mingo Sanders is the best non-commissioned officer I have ever known.”

And eight years later, when Roosevelt was president, his life crossed paths with Mingo Sanders once again. In Brownsville, Texas, the 25th Infantry was accused of a shooting incident. President Roosevelt sent officers to conduct an inquiry, who could find no witnesses. Roosevelt ordered the men to be given dishonorable discharges without any kind of trial, including Sergeant Sanders, the man who had shared food and a daring battle with him. He waited to order the discharges until November 7, 1906, one day after Congressional elections, so that black voters would not abandon the party. The discharges were not forgotten in later years. President Taft appointed Sanders to federal positions as an anti-Roosevelt reminder.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Yippie ki yay, a history book

Ever hear much about the Spanish-American War? Most of the little that's taught about it these days focuses on Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. But there's a helluva lot more going on in that story than one battle on Kettle Hill. Even that battle got that name only because nobody wants to brag about fighting on "Washtub Hill." The other option for naming the battle was "I thought this was San Juan hill -- damn this lousy map" which didn't really work either.
I was assigned a book to revise for a series on The United States at War, from Enslow Publishing. This assignment was a revision of an existing book by Robert Somerlott, so I wasn't starting from scratch. I was able to bring to the book some particularly interesting material about the Black Troopers, who were an important part of the American troops. The American army was not integrated in 1900, but there were regiments for men of colour, who were known as the Black Troopers. Two regiments of infantry and two of cavalry served during the Spanish-American War, as well as several men in the American navy, which was integrated.

The war was part of what brought Teddy Roosevelt to the American presidency, and there are many connections between him and the Black Troopers. From the mustering in Florida, the landing in Cuba, and the battles on Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill, Roosevelt and his hastily created regiment of Rough Riders were out-performed time and again by the Black Troopers, who even shared their own rations with the unprepared new regiment. And in years to come, when Roosevelt was president, there was an incident that really takes more time to tell than I can today. I'll post about it in the future.
For now, ask your library to order in a copy of The Spanish-American War from Enslow.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Blog Tour -- Flames of Nevyana by Edward Willett

catalog listing for this book

It's always a treat to find a new book by Edward Willett. He's a Canadian writer who can be relied on to put narrative -- story, if you prefer -- before anything else in his books, whether fantasy, or science fiction, or even the nonfiction writing he's done. As a friend of Edward Willett's, I'm pleased to be able to participate in his promotional blog tour this October. I've been a fan of his work since before Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star was first released!

Willett's newest fantasy is Flames of Nevyana, from Rebelight Publishing. Though many YA fantasies are coming-of-age novels, this one is different in that perhaps its time not only for the young protagonists to take on active, responsible roles, but for their communities at large to leave behind old behaviours and interactions. Click here for a link to this book's listing in the publisher's online catalog.
In a few images, Willett presents the differing communities of his protagonists, making these young people and their surroundings distinct and memorable.

One very young woman lives in a community like gypsies or Travelers:
Amlinn might have been imagining it, but it seemed to her that the gathering twilight darkened at the same instant that Samarrind touched the rod to the sigil of the Keystone.
With a crackle, the Fence sprang instantly to life and a wall of glowing blue light surrounded the Freefolk camp. The hair on Amlinn’s head and arms stirred as though alive, and a sharp smell assaulted her nostrils. Some Freefolk claimed to hate it, but she loved that smell. It meant the Fence was working. It meant the Nightdwellers couldn’t get in.
It meant tonight, no children would lose their parents to the monsters of the forest as Amlinn had when she was four.

There's a different barrier, but of a similar magical kind, surrounding the temple Petra is patrolling:
Occasionally, the gloom was lit by distant lightning-like flashes of blue from atop the dark bulk of the Temple. All around City Primaxis, magical Hearths took in that Blue Fire and turned it into the light and heat Petra was currently in such desperately short supply of.
As he and Cort passed each other at the gate, the rain redoubled its efforts to drown them. Even through the tin-roof patter of the drops on his steel helmet, Petra heard the Curtain hiss like a giant teakettle. Vast clouds of blue-tinged steam rose from it into the night.
The icy water poured over Petra’s helmet and down his neck. Useless and sodden, his blue woolen cloak hung heavy as lead from his mail-clad shoulders. His boots squelched with every step. His damp leather trousers chafed his thighs. He couldn’t even feel his fingers: they’d gone numb inside his soaked gloves eleven circuits ago.

And when Jin dares to stand outside his warren for a few moments at sunrise, one of the other boys tells him:
“I thought your head was on fire.”
Jin laughed. “My fur wasn’t even singed.”
The truth was, in the last thirty seconds he had stood under the brilliant glare of the sun filled with both pride and terror, he had felt something—but not the agony Scrollkeepers swore would befall any Nightdweller touched by the unholy rays of Arrica’s sun.
No. All he’d felt had been warmth.
A pleasant touch of warmth.

Anyone who can write with such immediacy about light, rain, and mystic discipline has my attention! If this book is the first in a series, I'm up for reading any book with the same subtitle: A Voltpunk Novel. There are steampunk elements in many kinds of science fiction, but Willett is ringing his own changes on the charm and appeal of the technology of electricity as it is introduced to people of differing cultures.

I've read this book only in e-format, not in print format, but I've got to say how much the cover art pleased me. A lot of books available as e-books have "cover art" that doesn't work for me, either as art or as the cover of a book. There is considerable tradition about how to present information on a book cover, and what to expect from the art elements -- and I am impressed with the design choices for this book cover. Clear lettering for the author's name is a good choice, and imaginative serifs on the lettering for the title told me to expect a fantasy element even in a story subtitled: A Voltpunk Novel.  The interlocking gears of the art reminds me of how technology can seem magical, and how magic is intended to fit together effectively.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

My latest science book from Rosen Publishing

It's always interesting to write a book on science for Rosen Publishing. This time, my assignment was to write about archaeology, the science that studies early humans. My book is called The Paleolithic Revolution, and it focuses on that time in the Stone Age when humans began using a variety of tools, and speaking fluently. Though the book is listed as published in 2017, copies are available now and can be ordered from the publisher, or through Amazon, or by placing an order at any bookstore.

The Paleolithic Revolution
from the series The First Humans and Early Civilizations
Rosen Publishing 2017
ISBN : 978-1-4994-6316-3
available as a library bound book, or an e-book
Includes: Bibliography • Detailed Table of Contents • Full-Color Photographs • Further Information Section • Glossary • Index • Primary Sources • Sidebars • Timelines • Websites 
- click here for a link to the publisher's website, where this book can be ordered -
- click here for a link to Amazon -

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Smashwords Sale Ends Soon!

We're at the last couple of days for the Smashwords sale of the ebook editions of my books from Five Rivers Publishing. If you're needing some good ebooks to read this summer, look here for not only my novel Tower in the Crooked Wood, and King Kwong (my biography of hockey hero Larry Kwong), but my biography of Pierre Trudeau that's due to be released in December.

It's always fun to have plenty of ebooks on a reader. When you go to the link, be sure to look at the other fine titles from Five Rivers too!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Smashwords Sale of My Books at Five Rivers

Another great ebook sale for this summer! Five Rivers Publishing has just announced a half-price sale of all their ebook titles on Smashwords, for the month of July. Time to load up on summer reading.
The ebooks on sale include my novel Tower in the Crooked Wood, which makes excellent summer reading as a novel short enough to read while you can still remember the beginning. Or if you're into print copies, it's a book slim enough to fit into your lunch bag or beach bag.

For those who are more sports oriented, my bio of hockey hero Larry Kwong will score. King Kwong is also available in print copies that fit neatly into a sports bag for moments when you're sitting around waiting for the game to start or your ride to get there.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Kobo Sale of my books at Five Rivers!

Five Rivers Publishing has announced a Kobo Sale. All their titles are being sold at 50% off during June 25 to 27. This is an excellent opportunity to pick up e-book copies of my two books at Five Rivers. One is my novel Tower in the Crooked Wood. The other is King Kwong the biography I wrote of Larry Kwong, the Canadian hockey hero. Here's a link to Five Rivers Publishing's announcement of the Kobo Sale. Don't miss it!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Trudeau Biography Announced!

Good news came today! My biography of Pierre Trudeau is scheduled for release from Five Rivers Publishing. They've got a great cover for it, one that fits well into their series Prime Ministers of Canada.

What can you say about a prime minister for whom suspending civil liberties with the War Measures Act wasn’t even his most controversial decision? At least, it wasn't to those folk who are still stuttering mad about his National Energy Program or White Paper on Indian Affairs, forty years later and counting. This book was fascinating to write! I hope that canoeists and outdoor enthusiasts will like the focus on Trudeau's wilderness interests.

Click here for a link to their listing. The book will be available December 1st,  2016, but orders can be taken now.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Rocket ships, telescopes, and astronauts! My computer brings me NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day and Image of the Day. NASA's space program has been fascinating since I was a child. These days, it's interesting in more ways, and the information is much more accessible than it ever was. 

Mike Collins in a command module simulator on June 19, 1969 during a practice rendezvous
 and docking maneuver with the lunar module. Credits: NASA

Did you know that since it was founded, NASA makes heaps of learning materials available for free? Fifty years ago, there were only newspaper articles for me and my brother to read about the Apollo program. We watched the moon landings on our family's black-and-white television. Then in a science magazine we found the mailing address for NASA. In reply to our questions about astronauts, NASA sent us free pamphlets and posters and booklets. We sent blank videotapes and got back recordings about Mars and Venus probes. We were the space program experts at our school back then! 

That same feeling of “kid in a candy store” is what I get today at NASA's website at . It's wonderful to see the photos and videos of images from telescopes and from probes that visit other planets. Banners at the top of the screen organize links to many pages on different topics. When I wanted detailed articles to read on Curiosity Mars rover, it was easy to find information. Social media links are there, for daily updates from NASA on current events such as the Pluto fly-by. I even found podcasts and ebooks to download for my phone and tablet, and ringtone mp3s for my spouse to mix into Acid music loops! There is material of interest for people of every age or reading level, and particular attention is paid to teachers and students. For young children, there are NASA Space Place at and NASA Kids Club.

This Jan. 19, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle 
at "Namib Dune," where the rover's activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel 
and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis.

I'll never forget watching the dawn sky from an isolated farm north of Edmonton as the space station went by, and feeling connected to the space program because I looked it up at . The information NASA gathers on Earth and in space is for everyone. International scientists study data and draw conclusions that are wide-reaching. Doctors in Canada's North use monitoring and communications systems originally developed for astronaut safety. Artists are inspired by images and ideas from programs that study the solar system and galaxies.

We may never know how many people are helped by NASA making this knowledge available. You can look at NASA's web pages on Benefits To You to get some idea of the impact. The weather data alone is priceless. As for my brother who made an astronaut costume for Hallowe'en, he grew up to test computer games and security programs, and edit Neo-opsis Magazine. I'm the author of over two dozen books on science for educational publishers. With my friends and colleagues I write for our blog Sci/Why which has a list of family-friendly science books you can find in the left-hand column on this page. Whenever someone says they want to know more about astronomy and the space program, I send them to NASA's website for all kinds of information.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Vegan Brunch, or How I learned to stop worrying and promote my books

There's a lot to learn about what a writer can to to promote book sales. One of the techniques that I've been working on is using social media to increase the chances that a reader will have heard about my books. As Cory Doctorow says, of all the people who didn't buy my book today, the majority didn't buy it because they never knew it existed.
So I'm learning Twitter in hopes of helping people who are interested in books find out that my books exist. I'm finding it fun. There are some commercial comments people make, so I'm learning how to make them. That's why I posted on Twitter and here on my website a note about Kobo's ebooksale, with a link to my books.
There are some funny & interesting comments people make, and when I know how to make them everyone will know it because my fame will spread far and wide on Twitter. So far, I've made Krista D. Ball laugh once, so that's something.
And then there are things I learn, such as the fact posted by
The phrase "vegan brunch" is googled 74,000 times per minute in the Vancouver area
Sounds to me like a niche that needs to be filled with a book titled Vegan Brunch. Opportunity is knocking! I need to write a small ebook that's easy for someone to download and read on a phone. Now THAT'll be a fun thing to do.

Friday, 29 January 2016

yay!50% off ebook sale!

I just learned there's an ebook sale at Kobo that ends January 31!
Go to  for my ebooks & use code JAN1650 for 50% off my ebooks! This is your chance to read King Kwong! or Tower in the Crooked Wood! & more.
The code works for other ebooks as well. Check 'em out!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Selling Books at Craft Fairs

This Christmas I did something I haven't done for the last few years: I had a table at a craft fair. Twice.
Sure, my table was more than half-covered with big rolls of woolen quilt batting and some knitted hats, mitts, and baby booties. But the other half of the table had several copies of a few of my books.
It's always nice to actually SEE someone pick up a book I wrote, instead of just imagining what my possible readers might do. There is one big difference between imagined possible readers and real ones. Real ones squint a little. I bet way more people kinda need reading glasses than would ever admit it.
The craft fairs were a pleasant way to spend two of my weekend days this winter. I'll have to get more copies of my newer books, and be ready for more craft fairs in the future!