Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 235 - 13 Facts-are-Stranger-Than-Fiction Things About the Halifax Explosion as Told by Guest Author Jennie Marsland

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For this week's Thursday Thirteen,

I'm handing the mic over to my fellow Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada author Jennie Marsland.

Welcome, Jennie!

Julia, it’s great to be here today.

As a fellow history buff, you know I love chatting about the real event that serves as a backdrop for the love story in Shattered, my latest release, set in 1917 in our hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Great War era fascinates me, because of the scale of the conflict and the dizzying pace of change that went with it – which is also a novelist’s dream.

Between 1914 and 1918, the Victorian way of life was swept away by new technologies, morals and manners. Women got the vote and entered the work world in droves. Cars, electricity and telephones became commonplace. The generation that fought in the Great War experienced the Great Depression and sent their sons to World War 2. They grew up with horses and buggies and lived to see men walk on the moon. I can’t help but admire them.

So, I’ve written a story about two people struggling to find their place in the face of all this change – and ultimately, disaster.

I’ll give you the cover blurb of Shattered for details:

Liam Cochrane no longer belongs. He lost his youth and his brother on the battlefields of Europe. Now he’s home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, trying to dull his pain with liquor and the occasional willing woman. He’s become a stranger in the North End neighbourhood where he grew up.

Alice O’Neill has never belonged. Able to read music, but not words, she dreams of teaching piano – and of Liam, who has held her heart for years and never known. But Liam has shadowy ties in England that he’s revealed to no one, and in that fall of 1917, Halifax is on a collision course with fate. On December 6, a horrific accident of war will devastate the city’s North End. What will be left for Liam and Alice when their world is shattered?

That ‘accident of war’ was the Halifax Explosion of 1917, an event that changed the face of the city forever. For Thursday Thirteen, here are the facts of what occurred on the fine morning of December 6, as Halifax geared up for another busy wartime day.

1 -In Halifax in the fall of 1917, you could get a dinner of roast chicken with steamed potatoes and creamed carrots, followed by a choice of desserts – apple pie, custard, tapioca and other sweets – for 25 cents. A new business suit cost $18 to $35.

2 -The reason for Halifax’s existence is its harbour, one of the largest and deepest in the world. As an added bonus, the harbour proper is connected by a narrow channel (The Narrows) to an inner harbour (Bedford Basin) that can’t be seen from the open ocean. This made the city strategically vital as a shipping point for troops and supplies during both World Wars.

3 -14 harbour pilots and 8 apprentices were handling a shipping volume of 17 million tonnes a year at the time of the explosion. Traffic on the Harbour had never been so frantic.

Those working on the water knew an accident was inevitable, but everyone was more concerned about the possibility of enemy attack. In 1917 aerial warfare was in its infancy, and no one could be certain that Germany hadn’t secretly developed planes that could fly across the Atlantic or take off from the decks of ships to bomb North America. Submarine attack was an even more real possibility. The entrance to the Harbour was closed with nets from dusk to dawn, meaning all traffic had to come and go during daylight hours, increasing the congestion.

4 -The Explosion occurred when the French vessel Mont Blanc, loaded with picric acid, TNT, benzol and gun cotton, collided with Imo, a Belgian relief vessel, in The Narrows. Fuel drums on Mont Blanc’s deck caught fire, turning the ship into a floating bomb that drifted into Pier 6 in the city’s North End and detonated, destroying the community of Richmond and killing over 2000.

5 - The Halifax Explosion is still the largest non-atomic, non-natural explosion in recorded history. It was used as a case study in predicting the effect of the atomic bomb.

6 -A half-ton piece of the anchor from Mont Blanc landed over 2 miles away from where she exploded.

7 -A huge tidal wave followed the blast. Sixty-four workmen at a pier were killed by a boulder believed to have come from the bottom of the Harbour. Ships touched bottom as the wave swept outward to shore.

8 -One sailor was swept off the deck of his ship by the wave, then dumped on the deck again in the backlash. He survived.

9 -Another sailor was blown half a mile from the deck of his ship to Needham Hill. He was picked up later, semi-conscious, wearing one shoe but not a stitch of clothing, battered but with no grave injuries.

10 -300 train cars and 20 locomotives were destroyed at the rail yard and the North Street train station.

11 -Halifax’s first motorized fire truck, the Patricia, responded to the fire on Mont Blanc and was destroyed at the waterfront along with the fire chief’s car. All in both vehicles were killed.

12 -After the Explosion, while everything possible was being done for the human victims, a committee was also formed to rescue injured and homeless animals. Horses, of course, were still very important in 1917, and many were killed or hurt.

13 -The youngest victim of the explosion was six days old.

The Serialists - Scene 77

I'm now posting with The Serialists which appears on Wednesdays.

To recap this dark fantasy story so far:

As a small boy of seven, Scorpius was fetched from the nursery where he'd been raised to live among the nobility - fetched not by his family, but by a falconer to serve as his apprentice.

Scorpius soon learned that a close encounter with a dragon was preferable to the cruelties of the nobles he'd once hoped were family. His master did whatever he could to shield Scorpius from the world outside their cottage, but the falconer was merely a servant who must obey his own masters.

An attempt on the life of a young noble while on a hunt sent the falconer and his apprentice on abruptly different paths, bringing Scorpius into the service of Lord Thibault's noble house.

We now continue with Scorpius at age nineteen.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 77

Scorpius sank down upon the hay, arms gathering up his dog as he closed his eyes against the graying sky. He hadn’t realized he’d slept until two booted feet stopped in the hay beside his head.

Instantly awake, he grabbed for his knife but only managed to cut his hand along the edge of the sword that had anticipated his move. When he heard the dog growl, Scorpius barked the command to stay, sick at the knowledge he may have delivered the animal’s death sentence.

But a chuckle soon dispelled that fear—only to replace it with the hair-prickling realization that these were the chancellor’s boots and sword.

“You only come out here when you’re troubled,” the chancellor said.

“My lord Chancellor,” Scorpius said, pulling himself to his knees.

“Bring the dog.” The older man turned and strode from stables, barely rustling the straw. Scorpius gazed over at his former master’s hunting dog, crouching at the ready but awaiting his signal. No wonder he ran to him when he needed solace. They understood each other.

Trotting to catch up, Scorpius pressed a kerchief to his hand to stop the bleeding.

“You have reason to be troubled,” the chancellor said when they were out of range of eyes or ears from the stables and storage huts.

Scorpius tried to form a way of saying why he’d done nothing but lay there all night staring into the gloom while his master slept soundly. But there was no way of doing so without betraying Lord Thibault’s trust. The only sound was their footsteps over the forested path as they made their way into the trees left unshaped by the gardeners.

Finally they came to a sheltered grove with an overturned tree that the chancellor sat upon. Scorpius stood before him with the dog at heel. A sense of dread warred with curiosity inside him.

“Your master has made no advances toward the young lady who showed interest at the ball.”

“He knows she meets with the dukessa’s approval, my Lord Chancellor. And yours.”

“Then why does he meet with the Sibian?”

Scorpius’ heart seemed to stop beating. Yet he took in a steadying breath. He must not falter before the chancellor. “Why do you think, my lord?”

The chancellor blinked and looked away. “This is most unexpected.”

The memory of the young lady’s edge of ferocity when compared to the other prospective brides brought a wry smile to Scorpius’ face. “It isn’t really, my lord.”

Training his gaze upon Scorpius, the chancellor’s own worry lined his face in a way Scorpius had never witnessed before. It flooded Scorpius with a desire to reassure the older man, though speaking for his master was folly.

“You have been very discreet,” the chancellor said. “I have merely been doing this longer than you have.”

Scorpius bowed in acknowledgment.

“You must tell me if you think your master intends to ask for her hand.”

“What would happen if he did?”

“Our kingdom and Sibiu have been at odds for twenty generations,” the chancellor said. “I don’t know why her name was approved for the guest list.”

“But who else approves it except you, my lord?”

Scorpius watched in fascination as the older man paled and looked away.

© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 95

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

This week's set goes out to all you Walking Dead fans out there, or lovers of apocalyptic fiction.

1 - It's the End of the World as We Know It - R.E.M.

2 - Until the End of the World - U2

3 - The End - The Doors

4 - The End of the World - Skeeter Davis

5 - Nothing But Flowers - Talking Heads

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American friends and family.

Join me at The Popculturedivas for my reasons to be thankful this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Scorpius will return in 1 week

The latest Scorpius episode has been delayed due to my extremely bad reaction to the flu shot I received on Tuesday.

Please join me next week when Lord Thibault heads down a path that Scorpius suspects will lead to regret - if not worse.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Blogging for 5 on Friday - Set 92 is over @ Amy Ruttan's blog

I'm also guest blogging @ Wired Flare - scroll down for the link

CLICK HERE to listen to this week's music set over at Amy Ruttan's blog.

CLICK HERE to read my guest post @ Wired Flare

SAINT SANGUINUS Review @ Melissa's Imaginarium

CLICK HERE to read the book review by Melissa Bradley

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 234 - 13 Ways Gerard Butler Serves as My Muse

Last weekend on Nov. 13th, the actor who serves as muse for my Peredur character turned 42.

To mark this milestone--as well as my debut release featuring the character inspired by Gerry--here is a series of 13 screencaptures from several of his projects, standing in for my own fictional character, Peredur.

I hope Gerard Butler had a birthday as wonderful as my debut novel release day has been. Thank you, Gerry, for giving me such an incredible character.


An elite brotherhood stands between humans and vampires, preventing one side from annihilating the other. Who are called to this service? Only those warriors who curse God with their dying breath.

Welsh warrior Peredur falls to a spear before he can claim Tanwen for his bride. Raging on the battlefield, Peredur utters the curse that seals his fate and leads him to another life. Using the power of a saint whose bone makes up an amulet, Peredur takes on the trials to become a true member of the brethren.

Yet his need for the chieftain’s daughter Tanwen still burns.

Tanwen resists her father’s command to take a husband. The only one who understands her sorrow is Cavan, the wise woman’s son. When he promises that he can reunite her with her beloved, she agrees to his terms. But does Tanwen truly understand the depth of the price that must be paid?

Screencaptures from:
Beowulf and Grendel
The Butterfly
Dracula 2000
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Law Abiding Citizen

The Serialists - Scene 76

I'm now posting with The Serialists which appears on Wednesdays.

To recap this dark fantasy story so far:

As a small boy of seven, Scorpius was fetched from the nursery where he'd been raised to live among the nobility - fetched not by his family, but by a falconer to serve as his apprentice.

Scorpius soon learned that a close encounter with a dragon was preferable to the cruelties of the nobles he'd once hoped were family. His master did whatever he could to shield Scorpius from the world outside their cottage, but the falconer was merely a servant who must obey his own masters.

An attempt on the life of a young noble while on a hunt sent the falconer and his apprentice on abruptly different paths, bringing Scorpius into the service of Lord Thibault's noble house.

We now continue with Scorpius at age nineteen.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 76

It was a blessing that Scorpius had taken to dancing so readily. Keeping one eye trained to the next figure in the promenade, while the other eye scanned the room--in particular the other dancers—was no small task.

No less distracting was the exotic beauty who’d obviously captured Lord Thibault’s notice. To his master’s credit, Lord Thibault spread his charmed responses equally among the assembled young ladies. Not even the fair-haired favorite of the dukessa and the chancellor could suspect what Scorpius knew with certainty.

By the time the night gave way to dawn and the guests made their yawning reverences to Lord Thibault and the dukessa, Scorpius bristled with the need for sleep. But there would be none, as Lord Thibault brushed past him briefly to conceal a murmured request.

Scorpius fought to conceal his expression, unable to prevent himself glancing through the crowd toward her.

The mysterious one’s retinue didn’t miss Scorpius’ interest. He saw how they reached subtly for their sword hilts.

Lord Thibault strode forward to take his delighted mother’s hands in his, bending his head to kiss her cheek and leaving Scorpius to devise a means of stopping the unknown beauty from departing. How was he to arrange a decidedly unofficial meeting with her, when her kinsmen never left her side?

Scorpius forced himself to walk toward them, still unsure of how he would phrase his master’s request. Yet he saw the men fan out slightly around their prize, standing as tall as they could, broadening their stances. He judged from their reaction to his approach that it was he who held the upper hand, and slowed his pace accordingly.

Once he stood before the mysterious one, Scorpius felt the pull of her allure like a lethal undertow. He quickly dropped his gaze, unwilling to look into those violet eyes. Taking her hand in his, he bowed and kissed her knuckles.

“My Lord Thibault requests that you stroll with me into the garden,” Scorpius said. “He regrets that the evening sped by so quickly that he was unable to get to know you…better.”

The young lady curtsied to him with an aggressive movement unlike any other lady present. Her guard also bowed quickly to him. Imagine it. As easy as that.

Striding toward a far doorway, leaving his master to chuckle and quip with the last of the departing guests, Scorpius led the exotic beauty and her kinsmen into the dew-chilled air. The sky lightened in gray warning.

Their steps echoed on the empty flagstones, their path twisting farther into the recesses of the garden. Scorpius ignored the tightness in his gut as he wiped the stone bench dry. The mysterious one settled herself to wait, which wasn’t long.

When Lord Thibault arrived, Scorpius and her retinue stepped into the shadows with one accord. Glancing back at his master, Scorpius’s breath caught in his chest as he saw Lord Thibault’s hands slip the young lady’s headpiece and scarf aside.

Tumbling free, the mysterious one’s hair wasn’t simply dark, or fiery, or fair as Scorpius had longed to discover. No, her locks fell in black and white stripes such as he had never seen before.

Turning to the men surrounding him, he saw now that each one also hid his hair beneath a scarf and cap. In their gazes Scorpius saw ferocious pride in the secret he now held about them.

The young lady returned Lord Thibault’s kisses and embraces with matching ardour. Scorpius hoped his master knew what he was doing. Wordlessly, Scorpius raised one finger to his eye and then swept his hand toward the estate grounds.

The men turned and kept watch while Scorpius kept his eye on Lord Thibault and his lady. It would be hours yet before Scorpius saw his bed, and even then, how would he rest when this was where his master determined to lead them?

© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 91/Resistance is Futile Blog Tour of the Universe Base Camp Celebration

Welcome, everyone, to a very special edition of 5 on Friday.

On 11 - 11 - 11, I'm celebrating both my birthday and the upcoming release of my debut novel, SAINT SANGUINUS, due to hit e-retailer virtual shelves in a matter of days.

My hoped-for release to coincide with my birthday is only slightly delayed - stay tuned to my website or here on my blog for the go-live announcement.

In the meantime, let's PARTY.

To join the stops on the Resistance is Futile Blog Tour of the Universe, click on the links below:

A Chat With Jennie Marsland

Adventure into Romance

Apprentice Writer

Cathryn Fox

Janet's Journal

The Redneck Romance Writer

Tara MacQueen

Trav's Thoughts

Sans Pantaloons - Andy is the designer of my kickass book cover

West of Mars

And now...

Let the good times begin!

1 - Gone Wild medley - University of Wisconsin Marching Band

2 - Get the Party Started - Pink

3 - Dance to the Music - Sly and The Family Stone

4 - Cup of Life - Ricky Martin

5 - Various samba tunes - Performers from Imperatriz, Brazil during Carnival in Rio


Coming soon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 233 - 13 Things About the year 577 in Dark Age Wales

I'm guest blogging over at The Otherworld Diner today - drop by and find out what my main character Peredur's world is like in my debut vampire novel, SAINT SANGUINUS.

CLICK HERE to read my Thursday Thirteen

A note about Scorpius:

I wasn't able to post anything for this week. Scorpius will return in 1 week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dona Nobis Pacem / 5 on Friday - Set 91

Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic

This year's Blogblast For Peace is dedicated to the late Jack Layton, the newly-elected leader of the opposition here in Canada who passed away after scoring a nation-changing victory in the spring.

On the day of his passing, his family released a Letter to the Nation from Jack.

In his closing words, Jack has left us all a legacy that resonated deeply with millions of people.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

He was known as a scrappy political opponent in earlier days, but in his statesman years Jack had perfected the art of reaching compromise between radically opposed parties. He knew how to listen past the rhetoric, and had the iron will to insist on taking action that included practical solutions, not just lip service.

Jack is the ideal embodiment of the Blogblast For Peace movement. He sought dialogue and action together.

Here's my Blogblast For Peace 5 on Friday set - and here's to you, Jack.

1 - Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) - George Harrison


2 - Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World - Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole


3 - Rise Up - The Parachute Club


This was performed at Jack's state funeral, held at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

4 - (What's So Funny 'Bout)Peace, Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello

5 - Into the Mystic - Van Morrison

This was also performed at the funeral.

Peace to all from Julia @ A Piece of My Mind.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scorpius will return in 1 week

I'm busy gearing up for my debut novel release, Saint Sanguinus.

Hope to see you here next week for the latest instalment of Scorpius' 19-year-old story arc, where he and his youthful master Lord Thibault find themselves fighting to keep their heads above dangerous political waters.

You can catch my first two stops on the Resistance is Futile Blog Tour of the Universe:

CLICK HERE to read the interview

CLICK HERE to read the interview

CLICK HERE to read press release

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I'm being interviewed today @ Angela Guillaume's blog

CLICK HERE to read my interview by Angela Guillaume who is a fellow blogger @ our group blog, The Popculturedivas.