Saturday, June 30, 2007

Magical Places

I'm planning a series describing magical places in the world. I'll start with the Holy Isle, Iona. Iona is a small island off the west coast of Scotland. Getting there is half the fun. To reach Iona the intrepid traveller has to cross the Island of Mull by bus or by car. We chose the bus. The road across Mull is one lane. There are marked "pull outs" where you can duck for safety if a tour bus or large car is bearing down on you.

At the end of the road you reach Fionnphort where a converted landing craft awaits to ferry you across to Iona. No cars or buses allowed on the island. Once on Iona visitors walk. We stayed on Iona at the St. Columba Inn. Columba came from Ireland in the eleventh century with a few monks to build a monastery. (If I have the exact century wrong, forgive me. My history of Iona has disappeared from my bookshelves.) The little group prospered. Build a church. Tilled the fields. And drew converts. The dreaded Viking hordes pounced on Iona,burned the church and raided the farms. Columba and his followers rebuilt a larger church and it became the foundation for the present day Abbey.

Walking the island, for me, was like walking on holy ground. There is peace there. The only sounds are birds, the lowing of cattle and the whisper of waves on the shore. The sea around Iona is crystal clear and cold. The stones are mostly white.

It is pleasant to stroll the land or sit and think about life. The restored Abbey is magnificent. Services are held daily. A foundation cares for the building and raises money to maintain it. Once again, it is a place to worship quietly if one wishes or attend a service. Macbeth is buried in the abbey cemetery. So the history books tell us.

On the walk to the abbey you pass the ruins of a Benedictine nunnery. To me it is as sacred as the abbey. I liked sitting on a bench and imagining the lives of the nuns in the fifteenth century. Pretty flowers grow in the cracks of the broken down walls.

My husband and I have returned to Iona three times to savor the quiet and to walk the paths Columba trod centuries earlier. It is a blessed place. There is nothing to do so if you want lively night life or noise give Iona a miss.

The Island of Mull is also worth a visit. I heard many a strange tale from the bus driver who entertained us with stories during the drive. I'll save those for another time.

Let me know if you enjoyed your trip around Iona.

Anita Birt

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dragon fruit

Funny how a new friend appears on the horizon. I was shopping in my usual supermarket and happened to stand beside a young woman holding a dragon fruit in her hand. If you haven't seen one, they are very odd looking. Not quite like a dragon but with twists and turns and little tendrils and they are pink and white with touches of green

She asked if I had ever tasted one. I said "no." She decided to buy it but before I parted company with her I gave her one of my bookmarks for A Very Difficult Man. She lives in Kelowna and was visiting Victoria. I heard from her. She asked how I began writing. I told her. She is an amateur photographer and is fascinated by broken down old barns, neglected farm houses. She is creating an album. I suggested she might want to think about the lives lived on those farms and create her stories. In her last e-mail she was poetically inspired to write about one of the farms.

Oops. I forgot. My first e-mail from her was about the dragon fruit. Very boring, she said. A soft white interior with little taste. Not an inspiring fruit when there are fresh strawberries available and black cherries (early and delicious) Next come raspberries, peaches, plums. We are blessed.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I lived in Welsh mining valley for a number of years. While they were still coal mines and before the age of television. Time was when families strolled out on Sunday afternoons and dropped in on relatives for a cup of tea or a gossip. I heard many supersititions that still resonate in my head. My mother-in-law, a very sensible woman, would never wear green clothing. She believed that if she wore green someone close to her would die. Another one I heard. Never put brand new shoes on the bed. Never put your hat on the bed. But the one I like best and still practice.

If you look through a window and see a new moon, turn the ring on your left finger five times to bring you luck. Sometimes I have taken off my rings when I see the new moon but I pretend to turn an invisible ring. Why not?

My husband,who was born and raised in Wales, doesn't wear green. He says he doesn't like the colour. But I think that old supersition hangs around.

I have received a contract from Cerridwen Press for my fourth book. A time tavel titled Rind Around The Moon. Now if I could just figure out how to tranfer my book covers to my Blog.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Coastal weather

What happened to June? Having lived on the north west coast for eighteen years I should know by now that June isn't summery. The flowers grow, the strawberrries are fantastic but the weather is very cool with lots of wind. At seven in the morning it has been 10 deg.C for weeks and warms up a bit during the day. I think 10 deg.C is about 50 Deg.F. Here ends the weather report.

I have 17,000 words in my Regency romance. It's going fairly well. I also am writing a contemporary gothic set in one of my favourite places - Cornwall, in and around a pretty village where smugglers used to come and go with brandy and other contraband good.

Research can be a pain at times. In my historical romance, The Scottish Witch, my Scottish heroine has to escape from the third story of a mansion by creeping out of a window and making her way along the slate roof. She has to lie flat on the roof with her feet braced on the iron eavestrough. One of my critique partners asked about eavestroughs and whether they were such things in 1820. I couldn't find anything on the Internet to I turned to my Welsh nephew who lives near Usk. He knows a lot about a lot of things and turned up information related to the Great Fire of London in 1666. After the fire London's streets had to be wide to prevent fire crossing from one side to the other. Among the new fire regulations ...roof coverings and rainwater gutters and down-pipes were to be installed.

I am taking my husband out to dinner this evening to celebrate Father's Day. Our son, Martin, is a father but he is laid low right now with neck and back spasms. I'm wondering if his years as a tank officer with the Canadian Forces might have damaged something in his neck. He's been out of the forces for years but these things can sneak up on you. Battle tanks are noisy, bumpy, bone rattling devils.

I've been filling out the Cover Request for RING AROUND THE MOON, my time travel romance. Always an interesting exercise.

Anita Birt

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I have to make nice to my Blog again and I'm not a very smart Blogger. No jokes. No witty dialogue. No erotic tales. What do people write on their Blogs? What makes a snappy interesting Blog? My grandson,Fraser, says it has to be intersting - like what I ask to which there was no reply. Interesting to whom?

About the strawberries. It's June out here on the west coast and the strawberries on Vancouver Island are the best in the world. We drove to one of the farms and bought a lot of luscious red berries. Instead of Blogging I made freezer jam. It's easy. I never do anything hard.

Wait a minute! Writing is hard. I'm writing a Regency romance and wierd things are happening. No Ouija boards or tables moving around the room or ornaments flying off the walls - although that would be interesting. I think I've written about this in a previous Blog so will cease and desist.

Have I mentioned Ring Around The Moon by Time Travel romance? Probably. Writing is my game and I have to promote every one of my books and urge you, whoever, you are to order copies. One copy? Go to and order my historical romance, A Very Difficult Man. Make me happy.

Bye for now.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

How did I get here from there?

I didn't start out to be a writer, famous or otherwise (at the moment it's otherwise!)but I was coerced into it by a Franciscan friend of mine. My husband and I were visiting the home/convent of the Franciscan Sisters of The Eucharist, Bridal Veil, Oregon. I was strolling through the grounds with Mother Mary Michael and looked up at the magnicent mansion the Sisters had rescued from a slow death. I made a statement. "Someone should write the history of this place." Quick as a flash Mother Michael posed a question, "Why don't you?"

And that's how I started writing my first book. I had to research the house from the time Dorothy and Clarence Jacobson decided to build their summer home on the banks of the Columbia River at Bridal Veil in 1917 and their choice of Morris Whitehouse as the architect to plan and oversee the building of the mansion. It was an inspired choice. He created an Italiante mansion with a long winding drive leading to the front of the house. There was a swimming pool. Rose gardens. And of course, Coopey Falls,cascaded over the rocky escarpment up behind the house.

If you are interested in reading the story of the house and its many owners, used copies of my book, The House At Bridal Veil, are for sale at and ABE books. Or visit my website, for more information and a map showing how to find the House at Bridal Veil.

Enjoy the rest of the day. It's 3:51 pm on the west coast and the Blue Jays are beating the LA Dodgers!

Anita Birt

How did I get here from there?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Book cover

Cover for A Very Difficult Man. There's a way to transfer it to my Blog but I haven't figured out how.

In the meantime let me tell you about a very obnoxious neighbour two doors up from my home. He feeds crows, gulls and squirrels in his back yard. I have spoken to the man and have sent him a letter signed by my husband and me and our next door neighbours to no avail. I notice the birds swirling around his back yard. So he doesn't give a damn for the rest of us who have asked him to cease and desist. There isn't a By-Law in Victoria forbidding the practice.

Victoria is a port city so we do have to keep watch on the rat population. Rats invaded the house next to this man! Not pleasant and costly to eradicate. The peanuts and bits of bread and buns attract the rate!

Okay, that's my rant for to-day. One last note. I'll take time away from my writing to see if there is a possibility a neighbourhood delegation might influence City Hall to write a B-Law forbidding the pracitice. Or, we might gather a delegation and knock on his door and ask him to STOP!



I'm not sure if anyone has found my Blog but I soldier on hoping for the best. A comment would be nice. However, I am not a diary-keeper by nature and keeping a Blog is like keeping a diary. Nattering away about little incidents in my life isn't exactly earth shaking stuff. Are you (whoever you are) interested in the process of writing? On my last Blog I briefly noted my writing style. How I get started, etc. Presently I am re-working scenes. The working title of my book is Estella. She's one of my heroines. The other is her niece, Victoria. Fascinating women each in her own way.

Okay. I will go on about my book, Ring Around The Moon. It's a time travel romance, contracted by Cerridwen Press. Unlike most time travel romances, where the heroine travels back in time, my hero travels forward in time from 1807 to 2007. Imagine the problems he has in the present time without a modern identity. How can he acquire one? More of that when my book is fully edited and has a cover I can put on my Blog.

That reminds me. I'm going to sign off and see if I'm clever enough to put the covers of A Very Difficult Man and Isabelle's Diary on my Blog. It will pretty it up!


Monday, June 4, 2007


"June is busting out all over ..." and my hands have been in the dirt planting and planting and pulling weeds and I've been neglecting my Blog and my writing.

I have my own style of pulling a story together. I start off with a cast of characters in my head and briefly sketched in a file. I reach 15,000 or so words and things begin to happen - unexpectedly. This is when I have to go back and make changes in various scenes. One of the male characters has turned out to be a sociopath - not a nice person at all. When I first thought about him he was like the Prodigal Son returning from abroad to make amends to his family for leaving home and never writing.

I liked him until something scary happened to my heroine. One thing led to another and I now have a sociopath in the story. A charming young man to be sure. Instead of a simple Regency I have the makings of a mystery. Possibly a murder. Who knows? This is the fun part of writing. A character comes along and changes the direction of the story.

I'd love to hear from you. Comment on my Blog. Ask me anything - within reason!

Anita Birt