Monday, 6 April 2015

Clayton Bye: An Author with Life Experience

My guest today is fellow author Clayton Bye, who has self-published another collection of ten short stories he wrote. Behind the Red Door is just going to print now. Welcome, Clayton!

When do you find the time to write?

I used to write in the evenings and on the weekends. Did it for over a decade. Now I begin writing (or writing related work) at 6 a.m. and quit between 4 and 5 p.m. I get to do this because of a physical disability that keeps me confined to the couch.

Will you be Indie publishing, looking for an agent/publisher or a combination? 

I’ll be Indie publishing. I’ve been an Indie publisher for 20 years. I made the decision when I began writing that I would publish my own work, and I’ve seen no reason to do otherwise. In fact, I’m a traditional publisher on the side, and I’ve found it less lucrative than publishing my own work. This is mainly due to authors who don’t want to market their books or they don’t understand marketing.

Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life? Why?

Damon Knight, Steven King, John D. MacDonald. Damon Knight was an editor and a fantastic author in the heady days of the dawn of modern science fiction. I loved his writing. But the thing that influenced me the most was his comment, “No one should be allowed to write before the age of 40—they don’t have enough life experiences.” I was unable to produce any writing of note until I was in my 30’s. His comment gave me hope to keep on trying.

Steven King creates characters and stories like no other. His book on writing gave me a style of writing that fundamentally changed the way I work. Basically, you treat a story like a fossil you’ve found in the ground. Sometimes you can break of large chunks that allow you to see the shape of what it is you’ve found. Other times you must chip and brush with painstaking care in order to tease the thing out of the rock that surrounds it.

John D. MacDonald was a prolific writer who could create atmosphere that could rise right up off the page, yet his style was simple and straightforward. I’ve tried to emulate that in my work.

What would you say is an appropriate balance, percentage-wise, between time for writing and time for promotion/building visibility?

I spend a year writing a book and a year marketing it. Why? The average book now sells about 40 copies. This is due to the influx of POD authors. It takes an awful lot of work to rise up out of the masses and catch the eye of the prospective reader. If you aren’t prepared to promote your work with everything you’ve got over a long period of time, you might as well not publish.

What is especially near and dear to you – a key cause you support?

I’m a Mason and a Shriner. The charity work Masons quietly do in the community is astounding. I know of no other organization like it. To be a Shriner you must first be a Mason. I think this is important, because Freemasonry teaches a moral code and instills the desire to do charitable work. You see, The Shriners are the world’s greatest philanthropic group. They exist only to support injured and sick children. All their efforts raise money to support the 22 Shrine Hospitals for Children, hospitals that have no cash registers. That’s right, the children are treated free of charge!


Will it be humour? Or will it be horror? Will you find stories both modern and fictional or will you find the end of the world? Perhaps it will be all these things and more. Because if there is one thing you can say about author Clayton Clifford Bye it is that he loves to jump from one genre to the next. His writing is eclectic, his style as variable as his stories and the content is consistently 5 out of 5 stars. So, come .... walk with him through the red door into places you would never have imagined and that will give you reason to pause and think and feel. Come ... Open the door.


Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 11 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews, he has also published four books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. These books, published for others, include three award-winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it's like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at


Monday, 30 March 2015

Killer Music is a Killer Detective Story!

Hi all! I’m back with author Tammy L. Grace and her brand new detective novel Killer Music.

What gave you the idea for Killer Music?

I went on my first trip to Nashville a few years ago. I spent about a week there and visited all the tourist spots and had a great time wandering around the city. I love to visit capital cities and spent time touring the legislative and capitol buildings. While I was driving through Belle Meade, I thought it would make a great setting for a book. I loved looking at all the gorgeous homes and came up with the idea for the main character of the book to live with his aunt in the exclusive neighborhood. It’s a terrific city with so many things to see and do and I thought adding a little murder, while weaving in a bit of the country music scene and some of the local sites, would be fun.

How much and what kind of research did you do into police procedure, some of the specialized terms used and especially the political aspects of the story?

I retired from the legislative branch of government in my own state and wanted to use some of my knowledge in that area in this story. The political process is interesting and, at times, baffling. I knew it would be fun to exploit some of the processes and the antics of politicians make great fodder for fiction, embellished or not. In addition to my own experience, I researched the Tennessee General Assembly to find out a few things and even called a former colleague to ask specific questions about parking and facilities to make sure I was accurate.

My dad is a retired sheriff and has been in law enforcement since I was a small child. I’ve grown up immersed in stories of crimes and procedures my entire life, so I picked up on much of the process. I relied on my dad’s expertise in fleshing out details and making sure I was accurate with regard to forensic evidence processing and legal procedures for warrants and judicial matters.

Did you block out the entire story in advance or did some of it develop by the seat of your pants?

I outlined 90% of the story, which is different from my last three books in the women’s fiction genre. I found with writing a detective novel I need to delineate the plot points with regard to clues, suspects, and action. I did add a few things as I followed the characters, but most of what I added was related to character development, rather than the murder and subsequent investigation, which were plotted out in detail.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Elsie MacGill - A Woman of Many Firsts

It's been a while coming but here is the first official author interview of 2015! I met Dr. Crystal Sissons at a book launch she shared with my daughter Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail last fall at the Canadian Aviation Museum. She introduced the packed room to a relatively little known Canadian phenomenon named Elsie MacGill. But let's let historian and author Crystall Sissons tell this fascinating story! 

What gave you the idea to research the biography of Elsie MacGill?

I was doing my teaching placements as part of my degree requirements for a Bachelor of Education at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and I was teaching about the Second World War. Elsie’s name came up in the range of historical personalities to introduce to the Grade 10 students. Initially, to them, she was just another name in the maze of facts they were trying to sort out related to the war. But, when I noted that she worked only blocks away from the high school where we were sitting that got their attention. Elsie had local ties – and while the name of the plant was no longer Canadian Car and Foundry, the students knew the Bombardier Inc. plant and wanted to know more about her.

Shortly after that time, having decided to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Ottawa I received a phone call from Dr. Ruby Heap. She was responding to my interest in pursuing a topic related to women’s history and she asked me if I knew the name Elsie Gregory MacGill, as she was having her records at the Library and Archives of Canada catalogued. 

Having only a basic knowledge about Elsie from my teaching experience and being intrigued by this possibility I told her I was familiar with the name and interested in knowing more – the rest is history as they say!

What interested you most about her – personally and professionally?

I think the key features of Elsie’s personality that make her fascinating are passion, determination and perseverance. Once she latched on to an idea or a cause she put all she had into it and moved steadily forward even if that had to be at a slower pace than she wanted. She was also a problem solver – challenges were simply something to overcome – and as a trailblazer in women’s education and engineering, a polio survivor and a prominent Canadian feminist she knew the power of combining these aspects with teamwork to effect change.

How long did it take you to conduct all the research and interviews that fill this book?

If we count all my graduate work, which set the foundations for this work, the full duration is 11 years.

What anecdote would you like to share about that research process?

Elsie Gregory MacGill was a key member of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (est. 1930).  She ended up as the Provincial President of Ontario and the National President (1962-1964). As I followed her progress with this organization through her papers I found that I agreed with many of their aims and objectives and I asked my supervisor if joining this organization would be a conflict of interest. 

When I found out it was not, and that it might actually help me obtain some interviews I joined and attended the national convention in Toronto. Right away I understood what drew Elsie to this organization – and I did indeed obtain some interviews. Not too long after I also had a chance to attend the meetings of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs is a founding member of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW) which holds consultative status at the UN.

I loved and still love the look in the eyes of members when they ask me where I learned about the club and I say in the archives! This experiential learning was something I had not anticipated as part of the historical process, and it is something which still enriches my life. 

I have also been fortunate to connect with the incredibly rich world of women engineering organizations and explore the various possibilities offered by aviation. During my graduate work I was able to spend some time in a flight simulator, and since the publication of the book I have been fortunate to have my first orientation flight where I was allowed to take the controls of an aircraft under the instructor’s guidance. I look forward to seeing what new heights that will lead to!

Do you have any idea how many hours it took to produce this history book?

Research is a funny thing – you never know where it will take you. On account of my research I have read countless books, spent many, many hours in archives and as noted above been blessed with incredible life experiences.  Counting hours is impossible, and I have no desire to do so, because even at the most frustrating moments when I was sure I would give up, the goal of sharing Elsie’s story and the support of an incredible range of friends and family pulled me through. This has been a real labour of love – and while I never met Elsie – through my research and her family, friends and colleagues I feel like I have come as close to meeting her as history will allow.

Elsie MacGill was one of many women in her day who made a difference in the status of women both in Canada and around the world. What made her really stand out for you, as a researcher and as a feminist?

From my perspective as a researcher and feminist Elsie stands out for many reasons. As noted above, she had incredibly strong personality traits. She faced a wide variety of challenges and somehow always pulled through, like a pilot focused on the horizon. She was always able to see it, and recognize the potential it offered. She knew that the only way to make progress was to move towards it, even if that meant facing seemingly impossible odds. 

Elsie also knew the importance of teamwork. As an engineer, she knew that no project could be completed alone and that each one required a diverse range of expertise. She brought this thinking to feminism as well, along with her belief that nothing could be achieved if men and women worked in silos.  Changes, whether technological or societal, required all Canadians to work together, for their mutual benefit, and the benefit of the nation as a whole.

In the midst of all of this Elsie did not take herself too seriously. Her friends and colleagues remember her joking nature and have told me often of her laugh. To be such a trailblazer and still leave the echoes of your laughter warming hearts behind you is a wonderful legacy. 

How did Elsie get the name “Queen of the Hurricanes”?

The name “Queen of the Hurricanes” is based on a 1930s comic book story in an American comic book series, True Comics, of the same name.  The cover of the book is based on that comic, and since that time Elsie has been associated with it. 

This association was simply one of many accounts of her work during the Second World War as being a Chief Aeronautical Engineer in wartime was highly unusual. As a result the media did their best, as they did with other women in prominent non-traditional roles, to “normalize” her. This meant that featuring her in a news story would mean highlighting her femininity at the same time as whatever key point the story was mentioning. 

An example would be something to the effect of: “Woman Aeronautical Engineer Advances Plane Designs by Day and Bakes Pies at Night.”

Elsie had many “firsts” for women in Canada and around the world. Based on your research, what would you say were her most significant “firsts”? Why?

Elsie’s most significant “firsts” that readily come to mind are those she accomplished in engineering. She was the first woman to graduate in engineering from the University of Toronto (1927), the first woman to graduate with a Master’s of Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan (1929). 

As a result, she went on to become the first Canadian woman professional engineer, and the first woman aeronautical engineer. These early achievements were ground breaking and opened the doors for her to become the first woman to become a Chief Aeronautical Engineer and design and oversee the production of an all-metal aircraft (the Maple Leaf II).

She is therefore a very important role model and historical foremother for women in engineering today. These women are eager to own their history and Elsie’s story is an incredibly important one for them. Her story also challenges the North American literature which has often seen women engineers and feminists at odds because Elsie merged these two diverse worlds into a unified vision of life. They caused some tension in her life, but she demonstrated that it was possible to take the best from both worlds and move forward to effect positive changes in the world around her.

Are you working on another history book? Please tell us a bit about it.

Yes. While working on Elsie’s biography many people asked me if I would write a book that was accessible for young adults. At the time, I was too engaged with finishing that project to give it serious thought, but after a presentation of my book to the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group in Ottawa the question was raised again. This time, it took hold of me and I had ideas for dialogue racing through my mind.

I am still at the drafting stage, but this project while being based on the biography I’ve just completed, allows me the creative liberty to imagine what Elsie was thinking during her many “firsts”. It opened a whole new range of possibilities for me to explore her engineering, her time as a member of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women and as a Commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada.

About You

Queen of the Hurricanes: The Fearless Elsie MacGill is based on my Master’s and doctoral studies at the University of Ottawa.  After I graduated in 2008, I continued researching and developing my manuscript. My book is the fifth Feminist History Society (FHS) book and I am indebted to the support and guidance of the incredible women within this organization most notably Dr. Constance Backhouse and Dr. Diana Majury.

I live and work in the National Capital Region [Ottawa/Gatineau, Canada] with my incredibly supportive husband Dr. Teva Vidal. No matter how many times Elsie’s books and papers have encroached on our living space, or how many drafts I have asked him to review he has always stood strongly beside me as my number one cheerleader. His support is a precious and priceless gift.

I am an active member of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Ottawa Club. I love to write and read, usually I have between 5-10 different books on the go and my new Kindle has only enhanced my reading addiction! Depending on the season you can usually also find me snowshoeing, biking and swimming or heading back to my family’s camp outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario.      

Social media links:

·       Website: 
·       Queen of the Hurricanes:  The Fearless Elsie MacGill Blog:
·        Twitter handle:  @CrystalSissons

Links for the Book:
·       Feminist History Society:

·  Perfect Books, Ottawa, ON
·  Beechwood Books, Ottawa, ON
·  The Northern Woman Bookstore, Thunder Bay, ON
·  Thunder Bay Historical Museum, Thunder Bay, ON
·  Vintage Wings, Gatineau, QC