Review: Uncertain Soldier

Uncertain Soldier
Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Got around to finishing this one last evening. It’s a great read. Loaded with Alberta history, the story offers a glimpse at the tensions WWII had on Albertans and the Prisoners of War who came to be housed in this province.

The story follows two characters. A younger boy named Max and an older teen named Erich. Max is a the son of recent German immigrants to Alberta. Erich was forced to enlist in the German Navy as a 17 year-old. His ship is sunk, and he’s rescued by the Canadian Navy. He’s now a Prisoner of War (POW) in Alberta.

Erich faces discrimination and is hounded by Nazi POWs who are determined to uphold the Nazi perspective in Canada. Max, is squeezed between discrimination and his only family’s pressure to stand up for his heritage. The two struggle against the Alberta wilderness and winter and a series of mysterious accidents that threaten to destroy them both.

The book gives a historical glimpse of Alberta during the Second World War, and a pre-electric Alberta. The writing is often poetic. The story is truly Canadian and raises issues around racism, discrimination, bullying, and the war.

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Review: Power Plays

Power Plays
Power Plays by Maureen Ulrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Power Plays, by Maureen Ulrich, is a lovely read. I finally got around to finishing it last evening. It’s the first of a trilogy. I cared about her main character, Jessie. Small town life alienates Jessie when her dad’s career forces a move from Saskatoon to Estevan. Small-town teenage shenanigans alienate her to the point where a fledgling girls’ hockey team is her only outlet. Even Jessie isn’t sure how her hockey debut is going to work out. The hockey team, too, is on shaky ground. The players aren’t sure the team is worth the investment.

The action includes fairly realistic depictions of teen culture. There is drinking, drug use, and allusions to other teen issues. But it doesn’t wallow in that culture. The descriptions of Saskatchewan hockey culture, not that I’m an expert, are spot on. It probably helped that I’d been to many of the venues the main character visits in her stories. It speaks directly to womens’ sport, womens’ issues, rural living, even touches lightly on gender identity.

Sport-minded readers will love the story. It would probably appeal more strongly to female readers, though the issues are a concern to both genders. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books!

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Time for two pages a day.

January 1, 2016 it all begins. I’m beginning my writing program, and you’re welcome to join me. The goal is to write 500 words a day (two pages), 6 days a week (Sundays off), from January 1 to June 30.

I’m not able to do the NaNoWriMo, thing. It’s too much of a commitment for me. But I can do 500 words a day. In these months, I can turn out a first draft (crappy first draft) of a novel.

I’ve lined up  a couple of stories for the project. I’ve got a general idea for a new novel. I’ve got my starting spot. I’m ready to go because, for me, January 1 is go time.

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Smorgasbook, North!

‘Twas a fine day in Edmonton, where upon did gather 9, yes, 9 Albertan authors for to flog their new books. I being one of the said 9 did a tiny read from my latest tome, Kill Shot. While samewise reminding others of Duck Boy. This is me singing a Debby Boone number.


It was delightful to included with some Albertan greats: Karen Bass, Natasha Deen, Marty Chan, Kate Boorman, Alison Hughes, Steven Sandor, Nicole Luiken, and Jacqueline Guest. Thank you Stephanie and Jenn, for hosting.

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Smorgasbook, Edmonton this Sunday!

Looking forward to hanging with some serious YA bookies this coming Sunday afternoon. It’ll be a delicious taste of some of the best YA around. And you’re all invited!


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Bill on a Taleblazer Tour

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to take part in Young Alberta Book Society’s Taleblazer tour. What a good time! I visited Ecole Sir George Simpson, in St. Albert, and talked to a couple of groups of students about writing. What an excellent visit! Thank you for inviting me! They ask good questions.

Sir George SimpsonI was also able to visit Wolf Creek Academy in Lacombe. We spend the morning in a small group talking about what it takes to write a novel and whether or not students could take on the task.This is a picture of me, there.

CQzirRTUwAApv5kThank you Cheryl Gascoyne for snapping a few pictures. What a great group! The weather was awesome. The company fantastic. Thanks for letting me drop by!

Special thanks to the YABS pros, Stephanie and Jenn. It was well arranged and a lot of fun.

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Book Launch — August 20th @ 7 p.m. @ Owl’s Nest Bookstore

Well, it’s fast approaching. In fact, it’s next week! You’re welcome to join me and a few other summer souls to launch “Kill Shot.” Hope to see you there!

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Kill Shot — Extras

If you’re interested in a few extras to do with the story, this is your page. I’ve got a few things I depended on to create Kill Shot, and a few other things that I found interesting. Most of it has to do with u-boats, u-boat life, and other related matters.

The news story that inspired it all, and some extra u-boat/sub stories

Kill Shot is going to be released May, 2015. To celebrate its release and to provide some background, I’ll post a few background items here, beginning with the news story which began the whole idea in my mind:

The entire Kill Shot plot grows out of this news story. Since that time, there have been several related stories involving old submarines or u-boats:

Then, of course, the recent discovery of a submarine from the American Civil War, the H.L. Hunley:

A German u-boat found in the Gulf of Mexico:

One of the most helpful resources out there is a site called One of the problems of writing a convincing u-boat story is that it’s difficult to imagine being on one. Uboataces puts out a bunch of documentary material to do with u-boats and their role in World War II. Excellent material here. I purchased a DVD with a photographic and virtual tour of a German Class VIIC u-boat. I’ve posted a couple of images from the DVD with Uboataces’ permission.

The first is a labelled schematic which points out the names of things, which were important to me writing the story.


This is an outside shot of VIIC class u-boat on display in Germany:


One last image: this is a shot of the “driver’s seat” of a u-boat, the place where the helmsman and planesman sat to guide the u-boat:


Anyhow, this DVD allowed me to more fully imagine life aboard a German u-boat.

Another site that I visited frequently was This site documents the specific boats, officers and crew of each German u-boat. It helped me locate a probable crew, boat, and situation to involve in my story. There are pictures of the commanding officers, mission routes and all sorts of things, here. Check out U-132. You’ll see I use some of what I found here.

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“Kill Shot” is in my hands!

Officially, Kill Shot comes out in May. Yet, I have a pre-press version of Kill Shot in my hands. I was helping promote the book and Bitingduck Press at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held this past weekend (April 18 & 19, 2015). Bitingduck editor Jay Nadeau had some pre-press copies made and brought them to the event! What a lovely surprise!


Pretty sweet, eh?

Kill Shot was inspired by the 2012 sonar discovery of a vessel with the dimensions of a WWII-era German U-boat–the submarine was detected a hundred kilometers from the ocean, in the Canadian province of Labrador. More than a dozen U-boats remain unaccounted for, the fate of their crews unknown. Fully fictional, the story switches between the events of the war that led the German crew to submerge and eventually die in the river, and the adventures of a young man finding the boat over seventy years later.

Wednesday Smythe is a pimply 14-year-old high school freshman whose parents died when he was too young to remember them. Shuttling between foster care and a group home, he finds himself in a rural trailer with a hair-cutting entrepreneur for a mother and an unemployed father who pawns the foster kids’ goods to pay for fancy shampoos. Without phone, Gameboy, or iPad, Wednesday is forced by boredom into long walks along the river, where the discovery occurs that will change his life.

Wednesday’s first friend at his new home, a girl called “Stump,” has been raised by her reclusive homeschooling father with almost no social contact. She can’t use a phone, but she can wield a chainsaw. Wednesday’s other friend, Wally, is embittered and angry in foster care, lashing out in ways that threaten Wednesday’s growing rapport with his new family. All three are drawn together in a fast-paced adventure pitting their wits against the bad guys who want the boat to stay hidden, and the cops who want to bust them for any number of nefarious deeds.

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U-boat Food

Food Supplies and Planning

Food for the u-boat crew was a bit of a trick. There wasn’t much room for storage and there was no refrigeration.

Check out an excellent article on food supplies and planning:

Sample Weekly Menu Plan

I was able to locate a menu plan for a German U-boat U-510. This material was posted to U-boat missions were often 12 weeks long. This menu plan is for the second to last week at sea.

Menu for the week from 15-21.8.1943 (eleventh week in sea)


morning: chocolate, honey, biscuits, butter
noon: tomatoe-soup, yellow boletus, potatoes, roast veal, fruits
evening: sausage, camenbert, bread,butter, tea


morning: bred, butter, jam, milk-soup
noon: read cabbage, roast-porc, potatoes, soup
evening:liver-sausage, pork, bread, lard, tea, sour-krout


morning: bread, butter jam, coffee
noon: rice, chicken, pudding
evening: maccaroni, goulasch, tee


morning: bread, butter, jam, coffee
noon: cauliflower, veal, potatoes
evening: tunny, sausage, bread, butter, tea,


morning: bread, butter, jam, milk-soup
noon: sour-krout, hip-bone, potatoes, soup, cranberries
evening: green cabbage, fried-potatoes, beef, tea


morning: bred, butter, jam, milk-soup, coffee
noon: brussels cabbage, tongue, potatoes, soup, pumpkin
evening:herring, scrambled eggs, lard, bread, butter, tea


morning: bred, butter, jam, tea
noon: bean-soup, pudding
evening: tube-cheese, black-pudding, tea, bred, butter


German u-boat recipes are hard to find.

However, The Cook Book of the United States Navy is available on line. This cookbook was revised in 1945, but contains many of the recipes that were used during World War II.

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