FEATURED EXCERPT
The Count
The Count

The meeting was not going well. “I appreciate you taking the time, Sergeant Barnes,” the businessman, Travers, said kindly as he leaned forward in his chair and linked his hands on the table before him. It was the sort of earnest gesture that was undoubtedly meant to seem warm. “We have reviewed your plan most carefully, and because we will adopt some of the recommendations you’ve suggested, I will insist that we pay you a fee for your help.” As much as he wouldn’t admit it, those words actually took some of the sting out of what Edwin Barnes knew was coming next. “But for the mission itself, we have decided to go with a different provider of security.” There it was. As he heard the familiar words, the ex-Sergeant – who still wore his khaki, perhaps in defiance of some … Continue reading

The Champions of 1940
Iceberg Reaches South Africa
Iceberg Reaches South Africa

Khaki-clad soldiers spent Saturday, July 26 advancing up a dry, grassy hill called Talana, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Some 115 years ago, this hill had been the site of the first battle of the Second Boer War; this time, the soldiers were members of the Dundee Diehard historical re-enactment team, and their foes were neither Boers or British, but savages of the new world. Their mission: to provide images for a new project from award-winning Canadian publisher, Iceberg Publishing.

“We can now say we’ve conducted an inter-continental photo shoot,” says Iceberg Senior Partner and Editor-In-Chief, Jacqui Tam, “and we’re absolutely delighted with the outcome.”

This fall, a new entry will join Kenneth Tam’s His Majesty’s New World universe, which is currently progressing with the Champions series. Set in 1896, the project will fill in some of the universe’s backstory, but its plot presented certain logistical problems when it came to covers.

“With His Majesty’s New World and Champions, we’ve built a tradition of strong, historically-authentic, photographic covers,” explains author and Iceberg Partner Kenneth Tam. “We wanted the same for this new project, but the right sort of re-enactors simply don’t exist in Canada. Our military history doesn’t include many ‘khaki soldiers’, so groups like the Canadian Military Heritage Society usually start with the War of 1812, then jump to the First World War. We needed someone in between.”

Diehards-Webstory-01Enter the Dundee Diehards. Based in Dundee, South Africa –– at the foot of Talana Hill –– the group was formed in 1991 when the Duke of Kent opened the Talana Museum, to help preserve their country’s military history. Throughout the ‘new Imperialism’, modern-day South Africa was the site of numerous British colonial wars, including the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, and the Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. The Diehards routinely re-enact engagements from these conflicts, while also appearing at historical events, participating in commemorative ceremonies, and taking part in media projects. Their expertise was perfect for Iceberg’s project.

“As soon as we found the Diehards, we knew we wanted to work with them,” Kenneth says. “The only problem was geography –– could we coordinate a photo shoot from the other side of the Atlantic, and the other side of the equator?”

Though a small Canadian company, Iceberg has a long history of punching above its weight; the decision was quickly taken to try. Contacting the Diehards, Kenneth outlined the project, its requirements, and Iceberg’s past experience working with the Canadian Military Heritage Society. The South African team quickly came on board –– and, most importantly, put their experience and expertise at Iceberg’s disposal.

Diehards-Webstory-02“We obviously have no infrastructure on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal,” Jacqui says. “The Diehards handled the location scouting, the equipment, the uniforms, the transportation, and the timelines. What might have taken us months to put together, they managed in a matter of weeks. We went from first conversations to camera in just six weeks. Full credit to them for making it possible.”

The Diehards also recommended South African photographer Pierre Janse van Vuuren for the project.

“We were very anxious to find the right person to go behind the lens,” Kenneth states. “We had a good team on the ground for the His Majesty’s New World shoot in 2007, and Olivia Witzke sets an extremely high standard with her work on Champions, so there was a lot of pressure. Pierre couldn’t have been a better choice.”

While the Diehards were cementing plans for the location and equipment, the Iceberg team was in regular contact with Pierre, discussing details from photo composition, to lighting, to poses, to style.

“Anything that could possibly come up, we tried to discuss in advance,” Kenneth continues. “When we’re present at a shoot, we can improvise to take advantage of things we see on the day. We needed to give Pierre an idea of what we’d be looking for, so he could keep an eye out on our behalf.”

The preparation worked. Through multiple setups across the day, Pierre and the Diehards captured images that fit perfectly with the style established in His Majesty’s New World –– and with what the project demanded. Armed with these images, Iceberg can now target a fall launch, though details about the project remain limited.

Diehards-Webstory-03“Readers of The Grasslands will probably recall the significance of the year 1896,” Kenneth deflects, “but that’s all we can say for now.”

Although the full details of the story remain under wraps, the photos are a point of pride for the Canadian company.

“We had to draw on all our experience to commission this shoot,” Jacqui Tam concludes. “If we hadn’t done the same sort of shoots numerous times before, in Canada, we couldn’t have been able to try to execute one half a world away.”

“We were also very lucky with the people on the ground. The web has made the world smaller, but finding people with the both the talent and dedication that we found in KwaZulu-Natal is rare. The Diehards and Pierre took onboard all the information we offered, then added their own expertise and passion,” Kenneth elaborates, then smiles. “The results speak for themselves –– Mike Strong would be impressed.”

Diehards-Webstory-04

More information about Iceberg’s newest project will be available on this website in the weeks ahead. Additional stories about this shoot, and other Iceberg projects, can be found here in the Author Notes of Kenneth Tam and Jacqui Tam.

 
 
LATEST AUTHOR NOTES
Jacqui Tam: Nine
Jacqui Tam: Nine
My mother died nine years ago today. Nine. A cancer diagnosis on May 5th. Surgery on May 16th to remove a mass from her abdomen. Intubated on May 21st because lungs weakened from tuberculosis (TB) were filling with fluid. Coming off the ventilator on May 23rd and rallying for my brother Steve’s birthday. Deteriorating throughout the day on May 24th then refusing any additional mechanical intervention when offered on the morning of May 25th. We all understood that likely meant her remaining time would be measured in hours, but there was no changing her mind. So in keeping with her wishes, we made the phone calls to the people she wanted to see. Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, she somehow found enough breath and voice to say her good-byes and deliver whatever private messages she wanted to the people who came single file to her bedside in the intensive care unit. There were two messages for me. First, she told me, remember, I will be with you always. Second, there was the sign that she would send from the ‘other side’: Roses – One red. One white. Many of you will already know that story. If you don't, you can read it here. Ultimately, there were no other messages she needed to give me, on this, her final day – she’d already imparted countless lessons that would not willingly be forgotten. So to honor her memory on this ninth anniversary, I share nine of these mother-daughter teachings… and my memories of how they manifested so powerfully in her daily life. One. Remember what’s important. My mother had a saying that expressed this teaching in an especially powerful way. Better gone than a leg or an arm, she would say, when one of us broke something, or something was damaged or lost. No matter how precious or valuable the item, no matter how difficult the situation… as long as everyone was fine… as long as we were healthy and in one piece… well that’s what really mattered. It was all about remembering what was truly important. And giving thanks the situation wasn’t worse. Two. Take pride in appearance. [caption id="attachment_8118" align="alignleft" width="300"] My mother on her hotel balcony in Regina, stylish in the late 70s.[/caption] Born in the late 1920s, the global backdrop for my mother’s childhood and early adult years included the aftermath of the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. She studied nursing in the days of crisp white uniforms, white hats with black bands, and the beautiful blue capes lined with red. She was married in the era of beautiful tailored suits and hats. Women of her generation were expected to succumb to ‘middle-age spread’ and adopt a matronly hairstyle. They were not, in Newfoundland at least, expected to be chic. My mother never thought herself a beauty –– the opposite in fact. Her sisters were the beautiful ones, especially Margaret, Trix, and Sheila. But she dressed to accentuate her positives and mask any perceived flaws. She hated and refused to wear the tight velour track suits that became so popular in the 70s, or leave the house wearing those pink sponge curlers in her hair, as so many of her contemporaries would. She paid attention to fabric, to details, to accessories. Whether in her uniform or ‘street clothes’ (as she called her non-working attire), she was stylish, imminently tasteful, classy. But taking pride in appearance wasn’t just about how she looked. As I wrote in a previous post, taking pride in appearance was about pride in self, about strength and confidence, about meeting the expectations she set for herself, and about being and doing the best she possibly could. Three. Tackle the less pleasant tasks first. I never recall my mother complaining that she needed more time for herself, even though she had very few hours that could be categorized as such. She did enjoy shopping, though, and when I was growing up one of our treats was “going to town” on Saturday morning to browse and bargain hunt. If a trip to the mall or downtown was being planned, it meant the weekly housework had to be completed on Friday night, because the thought of having to go home after shopping to do housework would significantly dampen the morning’s pleasure. I’ve admittedly tried to shake this particular mindset… so that when life makes it impossible to get the less pleasant tasks done before the more enjoyable ones, those I enjoy most aren’t somehow ruined… but I’ve never quite managed to do so. And my mother was right of course. Four. Make education a priority. [caption id="attachment_8124" align="alignright" width="300"] Heading to my high school graduation ceremonies. Next step–Memorial University of Newfoundland.[/caption] My mother’s early learning took place in a small school in Ferryland, Newfoundland in the days when all the grades were together in one room, when nuns imparted severe discipline, and when students did their sums and practiced their letters on chalkboards roughly the size of today’s iPads. Nan and Pop Morry, her parents, had endeavoured to instill in their children the importance of education, and when she finished high school she went to St. John’s to study nursing. If she’d been able, she would have gone to university, but that was not an option at that point in her life. For her children though, university was assumed. It was our best chance at having a successful career and a good life, and she wanted only the best for us. She advised me to finish my education – i.e. get my Master’s degree – before marrying or becoming a mother. She knew from experience it would be so much harder to find the time afterwards. She worked for years on a university degree in psychology. A course a semester or if that couldn’t be managed, a course every year or so… The demands of home and career, and then my father’s illness, meant she was never able to finish it. But she never stopped learning. Five. Have faith. I grew up in a Catholic family. We attended church every week, wearing our Sunday best. We entered the same pew in the same order every week – my mother first, followed by me, my two brothers, and my father. But having faith wasn’t just about going to church each week, or doing the stations of the cross during Lent, or saying the rosary as we all knelt on the linoleum floor around my parents’ bed. Having faith was knowing she could ask St. Anthony to help find a lost wedding ring and it would be located… knowing that St. Thérèse, introduced to us after my bone-cancer diagnosis when I was 14, answered our prayers with roses. Having faith was even knowing and understanding that sometimes prayers would not be answered… that things we could never understand would happen, but there was always a reason, and sometime, in this life or the aftermath, we would understand why. Six. Both the thought, and the action, count. If my mother was still alive, I would go into my office on Wednesday morning this week knowing that there would be a voicemail waiting for me. After logging in and entering my passcode, I would start my workday with the sound of her voice singing Happy Birthday. If my mother was still alive, on any given day someone she knew would receive what she called a ‘happy day gift’. There would be one of her much-loved chocolate cakes sitting in her freezer because someone had said they were wishing for a piece. There would be hours spent chatting on the phone with someone who needed to talk, whatever she had planned to do taking a back seat. They say it is the thought that counts, and this, of course, is true. But as my mother's life taught, it’s the action too. Seven. Never give a friend or a loved one the gift of hand gloves. I realize this may seem an odd teaching in light of the others shared so far, but it is actually quite serious. She’d seen the results too many times – a gift of gloves followed by a falling out or loss. If a relationship is important to you, treasure it. And don’t risk it by giving, or accepting, a gift of gloves. Eight. Give everything you possibly can. One of the things my mother had to do when she was a nursing instructor was schedule the shifts for her students. This was the kind of tedious and time-consuming task that should have been done during regular work hours, but there was never enough time, so it inevitably was tackled at home, late in the evenings, after all the other home and family demands had been taken care of. She would sit in the living room, surrounded by papers. The nights that are especially vivid in my memory are the ones when she sat up into the wee hours, toiling over the paper, despite the raging migraine she was dealing with. There had to be nothing left when she finally laid her head on the pillow, nothing at all. She had to be in the most excruciating pain. But she would give everything she had to complete the job required of her. My mother was also the person everyone turned to in time of crisis, such as a serious illness or death in the family. She would stay up all night and then work all day. She seemed to have an endless capacity to keep going, to be the calm in the midst of the chaos. She didn’t, of course. She was human. And what most people didn’t see was the inevitable crash that occurred when the crisis was over. She had to know it was coming; even as a child I knew it was. But that never stopped her. She gave everything she possibly could. Nine. Don’t waste a single moment. [caption id="attachment_8119" align="alignleft" width="600"] The St. John's Sanitorium where my mother spent a year of her young life.[/caption] Diagnosed with tuberculosis when she was a nursing student, my mother spent a year in the sanatorium in St. John’s with her lung collapsed, hoping that rest would allow it to heal. She didn’t know if she would ever leave the San alive when she entered; she’d already lost a brother to the disease. And we never discussed the apparent connection between the year she’d lost and how she lived the rest of her life. I don’t think we needed to. It’s simple really: when you’re given back a life you expect to lose, you know that if there’s any way you can get out of bed in the morning, you do that. Because life is a gift, and you can’t take even a single moment for granted. It's been nine years since my mother's last day, but now as much as ever, I know that she made the most of every moment she was given, and that my moments – and those of all my family's moments – have been somehow shaped by her life. For that I will always be grateful.
Kenneth Tam: Writers On The Town
Kenneth Tam: Writers On The Town
Three writers get together to celebrate the impending marriage of one of them. This story isn’t quite a cliche, but it’s highly predictable: a lot of drinking, probably some debauchery, and an awful lot of existential talk about the future, regrets, and failed hopes. Writers are endlessly moody, and there’s no way they could pass by a life milestone without some heavy atmosphere. Unless, of course, they’re Wes Prewer, Charles Chiang, and me. A lot has changed for all three of us since we collaborated on Finding the Range. Most notable among these changes: Wes is less than two months away from marrying his bride-to-be, Jamie. Given these circumstances, it seemed essential that I take a trip from Edmonton to Ottawa to celebrate the impending end to his bachelordom… and since I was making the trek east, Charles turned north from Toronto, and joined us. This was a surprise for Wes, of course –– he knew I’d be present, but the involvement of the third Seas of Sand writer was unknown, as were our plans for the day. And in defiance of all stereotypes for young men (worse, young writers) on the town, those plans included… museums. Indeed, we are that boring. The Canadian War Museum is one of my favorite destinations in Ottawa. I’m biased, because my thesis advisor from bygone days, Roger Sarty, was one of the historians behind its design. Andrew Iarocci, one of the experts who taught me First World War history, also ran its vehicle collection for some time. It’s informative, interesting, and fun… and because he lives in Ottawa, Wes had never been (you know how it is, you often never visit the ‘tourist’ sites in your own town). A morning there -- including me smelling Phosgene (yes, from The Dark Cruise), Charles running NORAD’s control center during a Cold War nuclear apocalypse, and Wes getting ideas about 'recognition models' for the DCN — was hugely enjoyable, and greatly inspiring. The afternoon was when we really got into it, though: crossing the river into Quebec, we arrived at the similarly-excellent Canadian Museum of History, where a room had been prepared for us — a room with a view. This is about as close to Defense Command’s Admiralty House as you’re going to get: a view of the Parliament buildings while you settle in around a table to decide the fate of Empires. We were working, of course, on Black Sun, a series in which characters overtly based on both Wes and Charles factor largely. It’s no secret that I’ve been working on various concepts for the series for a few years, but as with so many things, sometimes you just need to be patient, and let them soak. I don’t think there’s much soaking left to do, though. After nearly six straight hours of discussion and brainstorming, the arc of the series seems very much in hand, and the characters are coming together. Insightful feedback from fine writers –– both about what characters based on them might do, and on what their expertise suggests might come out of the plot –– is endlessly useful. I’ve said it before, but I can never say it enough: I’m privileged to have great people involved in all these stories. We also spoke of Seas of Sand –– about how the publishing world has changed since our collaborative effort in Wes’s universe. Expect to see a return to the sands of Mars someday in the future… in the meantime, we’re all rather caught up in other important things. Wes most of all, because in June he’s taking on a whole new set of responsibilities –– responsibilities of the best kind. I’ll undoubtedly share more of what we discussed about Black Sun in the near future. Wes will also be deeply involved in something coming up next year –– the year that marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of Defense Command. But for now, I’ll just thank the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History for being such excellent hosts for our day on the town, and close simply with this: Wes and Jamie, very best wishes from all of us at Iceberg. I’ll see you in June.
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