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: Iceberg Chasers
Jacqui Tam: Iceberg Chasers
The Iceberg Publishing partners are currently in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. In addition to technically being something of a vacation –– anyone who runs their own business will tell you there really is no such thing –– this year we’re spending part of our time here shooting video related to both historical and upcoming projects. Newfoundland, or Newfoundland characters, feature prominently in our titles –– His Majesty’s New World, Champions, and Standing Tall especially. As thousands of international (particularly American) readers are introduced to these stories, we wanted to provide a glimpse of what makes our home province so spectacular. So far, Newfoundland has been incredibly cooperative. This is our fifth straight year staying in Woody Point in late July/early August. Every year I’ve watched icebergfinder.com prior to arriving to see if, this late in the season, there are any icebergs on the nearby coasts. The numbers seemed relatively low and the distances far when I checked this year, so I set aside any iceberg-chasing hopes. Until yesterday afternoon, when we were told about the one in King’s Point. One that was reportedly quite close to shore and relatively large. I’ve referenced the story of how Iceberg got its name many times, mostly in conversation, but also in my “Iceberg Season” post from 2013. People who’ve heard the story, or read Standing Tall: A Daughter’s Gift, know how my dad and I trekked across Bellevue Beach in Newfoundland in an unusually cold 1974 summer to see if we could touch an iceberg that looked particularly close to shore. That day we were rewarded with our own small chunk of ice that had washed up on shore, which we carried it back to the campsite, and kept in our freezer for years. Those who know our story know how much that day –– that iceberg –– have always meant to me. The truth is, we didn’t plan to start a publishing company when I wrote A Daughter’s Gift. It was the furthest thing from our minds. When we ultimately decided to take this path, we had no idea what to call our venture. But when one of us said we should call it Iceberg –– we actually don’t remember who –– we immediately knew that had to be the name. It was a kind of destiny –– the fulfillment of a mission begun with that walk across Bellevue Beach, almost thirty years earlier. Yesterday, the Iceberg we found was a little further out than the one my dad and I hiked towards in 1974, but new technology that Iceberg Publishing had purchased allowed us to reach it in a way that would have been impossible for anyone but the gulls to imagine back then. My dad, the engineer, would have been grinning as we orbited this berg with a DJI Phantom 3 aerial drone. He would have had a go at the controls, and he would have loved chatting with the ‘skippers’ and young people who gathered around us. We’re very fortunate to have the abilities we do today –– to have technology that puts our dreams in reach. And I’m very fortunate that, all these years later, the spirit that began when we chased that iceberg is continuing to be embodied through Iceberg Publishing. Indeed, it didn’t occur to me until we got back to Seaside Suites just before dark last night that our trek to King’s Point was in exactly the same spirit as the one my dad and I took across Bellevue back in 1974. In both instances, it was an early afternoon, should-we-go, shouldn’t-we-go, spur of the moment decision. In both instances, the journey was around two hours each way. In both instances, there was no guarantee we’d find what we were hoping to find. And in both instances, we were rewarded far beyond our hopes. Stay tuned to this website for more video in the weeks and months ahead.
Kenneth Tam: Fashion for Champions
Kenneth Tam: Fashion for Champions
You learn a lot when you moderate writing panels. While I was appearing as a guest at the Toronto Trek convention around ten years ago, I chaired an author panel about writing female characters. It was there that I picked up a piece of advice from one of my colleagues, which I remember to this day. It had to do with fashion. "Female readers really appreciate the women I write," he explained to our audience. "Because I keep lots of copies of the Victoria's Secret catalogue, and I use those clothes for my characters. I make sure the clothes my women are wearing are in style." Believe you me, I wrote that down and underlined it. As someone with very little grasp of what's fashionable, I figured this was my only chance to win over a female audience -- I had to make sure Karen McMaster's outfit didn't clash. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I never followed through… and actually, I may have gone the opposite direction. People who know me -- work with me day to day -- known my personal style could charitably be called Edwardian. I wear suits. All. The. Time. The hot Edmonton sun has forced me to give up my beloved tie and waistcoat this summer, but even so, I'm always working in at least two pieces. It's very convenient. For instance, when I went to Halifax in 2013 to see my beloved lady, HMCS Sackville, all I needed to pack was a trio of tweed three-pieces. Each day, the only clothes decision to make was between blue, grey, and brown. These days, such suits are dismissed by many men as uncomfortable and unnecessary. The latter is undoubtedly true, but when you get the right fabrics, and -- vitally -- get them made to your measurements, suits are honestly about as comfortable as sweatpants and a t-shirt. But they have more pockets, are well-engineered for layering against temperature changes, and you can wear them doing almost anything. For instance, after the Iceberg Tenth Anniversary Gala in 2012, I helped break down the entire event without changing. I even did the ice bucket challenge in an admittedly old, ill-fitting suit. It's worth remembering that, prior to the Second World War (and for some time after), men wore suits in all circumstances. These garments are designed to work, so long as you've invested in one that wasn't crudely built just to get you to prom and back. Or that's what I think, anyway. You probably think I'm insane, and fair enough… but the reason I explain this now is because, frankly, my twisted perspective on clothes has rubbed off on the characters I spend time with. Nowhere is this more evident than in Champions. Dressing Alex and Stephanie -- two young, dynamic women at the start of exciting careers in the 1940s -- would be the dream of many costumers. Big hair, retro dresses, polkadots, lots of lipstick… the pinup look of the 40s seems to be coveted by many, because it hails from a time when women were women, and men were happy to explain what that meant. Fortunately, one of the benefits of writing an alternate history -- complete with another planet, alien dragons, and genetically-enhanced Champions -- is that you get to come up with your own style. And as a guy who like suits, I didn't bother looking up the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (from 1939?) for inspiration. Why do Champions wear button-up shirts with breeches, tall boots, and coats? If you read Whitecoat, it'll tell you that their style evolved from what Lady Emily wore in 1919-20, during the His Majesty's New World novels. That's true. But it's also because I think this look suits both men and women. [caption id="attachment_8155" align="alignright" width="271"] Lady Alex: always ready for a press conference, or a gunfight.[/caption] Considering the civilization-defending that Champions must do, and the fact that they're also quasi-celebrities thanks to the PR machines of the British Empire and United States, they have to look dignified while also being able to work in the field. I'd say Alex's wardrobe strikes that balance quite nicely… aside from her ongoing problems trying to keep her white coat clean. She really should have chosen green… Meanwhile, because Stephanie joined the Special Service Regiment, you might think there were fewer choices for her wardrobe. Not necessarily. In our real history, World War Two offered numerous opportunities for women in the armed forces… though admittedly, none of those 'girls' was trained to be as capable with a pistol as our Lieutenant Shylock. No matter, their uniforms worked well in the field, and I like them even better from a style standpoint. British Battle dress coming out of the 1930s was really quite sharp. Because warfare was moving into an era of mechanization, when men were expected to get in and out of small vehicles on a regular basis, the army needed a battlefield uniform that wasn't going to get caught in doors, snag gear shifts, or hitch on equipment. Facing this challenge, someone seized upon a brilliant idea: base the new uniform on the latest fashions in European ski wear. The result was very handsome. As Stephanie and Mike Strong prove, British battle dress works for both men and for women, and can be customized to meet different needs –– a shirt and tie underneath the battle dress blouse for Stephanie (because she's an officer), just a crew-neck shirt for Sergeant Strong. Both look pretty snappy. [caption id="attachment_8157" align="alignnone" width="584"] Lieutenant Shylock and her trusty Sergeant Strong. They appear to be wondering what someone else is wearing.[/caption] Realizing this style on the page is a lot of fun… though when it came to putting together a wardrobe for shooting covers, it proved somewhat complicated. That challenge has previously been touched upon here and here, but suffice to say that Stephanie's battle dress was actually easy, and Alex's coat wasn't too difficult to source from China. The surprising difficulty came with the more ordinary things: trousers for Alex, and shirts for both Alex and Stephanie. Apparently, getting practical, utilitarian clothes for women isn't as easy as it is for us boorish guys. We ended up with multiple sources -- Sears, Land's End, and even (ironically) Victoria's Secret for Alex's trousers. The searching around was worth it, though -- as the covers of the last few years demonstrate. And there are still four years of books to come... On a few occasions, I've been asked whether I would opt for a more 'provocative' look for future covers. My answer: how? In Alex and Stephanie, you have two good-looking, dynamic young leaders, dressing sharp in clothes that work for their jobs. Call me an Edwardian, but that seems pretty provocative to me. And fortunately, I'm not the only one in favor of this sort of style. Over the past few weeks, I noticed that Canada's National Women's Soccer team travels in button-down shits and bespoke blazers, which it turns out were custom made for them by Vancouver's Peau de Loup (a company in which Team Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod is a partner). If it works for such elite athletes, it's certainly good enough for Alex and Stephanie. Indeed, it's too bad we've already locked Alex's wardrobe -- finding new shirts now wouldn't be difficult at all.
Personally, I'd love it if everyone (male and female) started wearing buttoned shirts and suits all the time. Maybe even bowler hats and umbrellas... ahem. But for now I can console myself by spending time on the page with Stephanie and Alex, as well as some of the other ladies who are joining the roster for this year's five Champions novellas. Stay tuned –– they're all launching in November.
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