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.”


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.

Kenneth Tam: The Cowb’ys
Kenneth Tam: The Cowb’ys
His Majesty's New World only came together as a series when I realized it could include Newfoundlanders. It's been a few years since I explained this, but it bears repeating: as an MA student, I'd done all sorts of research that helped inform the alternate history of the series. However, the intricacies of a world in which Britain and the United States started colonizing another planet in 1881, and skipped the First World War in 1914, would mean nothing (to non-historians) if there weren't good people involved in the resulting adventure. Being able to bring Newfoundlanders to another planet in 1919? That made it work. And invoking the name of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was essential, because it allowed me to use science fiction to give modern readers a glimpse of the realities of that period -- a time most of us know little about -- without it seeming like a history lesson. If you happen to learn about the sorts of men who went to the trenches on the Western Front because you read about the RNR fighting savages? Works for me. Of course, the RNR in His Majesty's New World is wholly fictional -- an homage to the original, meant in no way to tarnish or abuse the memory of the men who marched to the Western Front. Instead of basing our fictional characters on real historical people, I drew on people I knew -- people I grew up with -- to make sure it is an authentically Newfoundland formation. Granted, some Newfoundland readers think it's a bit too good -- that everyone in the whole regiment is suspiciously 'best kind' (as we say), but that's my conceit as an author. I like hanging around with good people, especially when what they're about to face is almost certain to destroy the world(s). And besides, after everything they've been through together, I think those b'ys have earned the right to be good to each other. I also don't mind that those b'ys are the first Newfoundlanders many readers will ever have encountered. I've been noticing something interesting in our sales reports of late: a huge number of American readers are joining His Majesty's New World. Obviously, I'm delighted that they're now marching with the b'ys -- the fact that Smith, an American drifter, is so vital to the series is indicative of how important I believe the Canadian-Newfoundland-American relationship is. We're all family, and I don't think we say that enough. But if you're an American reader who's never met a Newfoundlander, I wonder how we must sound to you? Perhaps the same way Texicans from the Alamo sound to us outsiders: like slightly-larger-than-life (and possibly insane) people who'd be good to know? Well, if you want a good sense of what Newfoundlanders are really like, there's a show for you to track down. Many people know The Deadliest Catch; the Discovery Channel here in Canada realized it had access to a similar cast of characters. In Cold Water Cowboys (I like to say Cowb'ys because I'm stupid), you get a first hand look at how some modern Newfoundland fishermen live and work. Now, not all Newfoundlanders work on the sea -- indeed, these days, too few get the chance. I certainly have never worked on a fishing boat, and were I to try, I expect I'd be the guy who somehow allowed the fish to stage a coup, and take over (Planet of the Turbots?). But fishing has been in the bones of Newfoundland society since before the thirteen American colonies were even founded. We've been doing it since the 1500s, so at least a little bit of the fishing life is baked into every aspect of the Rock's culture. And hard though it is, it's a good life. It's one that teaches you that you that nothing is certain, but that if you're willing to go out -- to cross the horizon -- you might find whatever you're looking for. It teaches you to overcome fear, to chase your dreams, and to work yourself ragged in the process. It teaches you to love your days alive, because they'll be too few, and to look after each other, because even if you don't like the b'y next to you, the two of you are in it together. You can go at each other all day long, but if the sea comes for one of you, it'll discover that it has to tangle with both of you. I've said before that being a Newfoundlander is like being a member of the crew of a giant ship made of rock. I think being from many places on the Atlantic is probably similar. It shapes the way you see the world. It informs how you treat other people. It keeps you moving. If you told me that, effective tomorrow, I'd never be able to move again -- that where I stood would be where I spent the rest of my life -- I'd be headed to the airport before you could finish the sentence. Of course I'd be on the next flight to Newfoundland -- and most Newfoundlanders, I believe, would be on the plane with me. It'd be a cheerful flight. But here's the thing about all of us: whatever accents we do or don't have (I sound like such a mainlander), whatever our trade or skill (me: none), whatever corner of the province we hail from (I'm a Townie who loves Woody Point), none of us want to believe we'll face a day when you can't move again. As these cowb'ys go where the fish are, the rest of us will always go where we can be of some use. And then, if fate allows, we'll make our way back to home port. Most of the time, there are only two things that can stop that ability to get home: weather and health. Everything else can be managed. So don't be surprised if, when you hear two Newfoundlanders catching up, those two subjects monopolize the conversation. How are you? How's the family? How's everyone's health? How's the weather been? It's not just small talk, it's asking after your crewmates -- hoping that they still possess the great power all Newfoundlanders long for: that ability to find the mother lode, and get home for dinner. That desire beats in my heart, anyway. And because of me, it also guides the b'ys of the Newfoundland Regiment in His Majesty's New World. They've been away for years -- to a different planet, even -- but Sergeant Dunphy will always carry his bag of beach rocks, and every man who follows the Wall wishes for one place: home. So to all the new readers from abroad who are discovering the new world alongside Tom Waller, Jimmy Devlin, Skipper Miller and the b'ys: if you want to see real Newfoundlanders, track down Cold Water Cowboys. Hopefully, you'll feel like you already know a little bit about the men and women you'll meet… though, depending on where you're from, you'll really need the subtitles. Oh, and sorry for all the swearing. Cold Water Cowboys airs on Discovery Canada, Tuesday nights at 10:00 EST. From what I understand, viewers outside Canada can look out for it on National Geographic International and (appropriately enough) the Weather Channel in the U.S. Like they always say… check your local listings!
Jacqui Tam: Looking Good
Jacqui Tam: Looking Good
Way back in 1980, when I was a 19-year-old Mathematics major at Memorial University of Newfoundland, I entered the Flare magazine $1000 Question essay contest. The question: Looking Good: Will it still matter in the liberated 80s?  Apparently what I wrote resonated with the editors, because much to my surprise and delight, I won the national competition and the $1,000 prize of Chanel accessories –– a leather purse, a scarf and two belts (which, incidentally, I still have). My article was published in the April 1980 issue and it included words like ‘fabulous’ and ‘smashing’ as I made the case that women didn’t have to look anything less than amazing as they did everything males could do. “Yes, we’ll look good, better than we ever have,” I wrote, “for that’s part of our liberation. We’re just as good as the men we love, just as able to succeed. We are only restricted as they are restricted. It’s a two-sided coin. We don’t have to give up looking good to instill this realization; we don’t have to give up anything. We’ll just add to, enhance and broaden the meaning of “woman” to its greatest, most special potential.” [caption id="attachment_8043" align="alignright" width="311"] The young Jacqui Barron's award-winning essay as it appeared in Flare's April 1980 issue.[/caption] Reading the short article 35 years later –– it starts on page 38, and is continued on page 110 –– my first thought is I would have worded things differently now. But more importantly, I am reminded that the house I grew up in made it extremely easy for me to write, with youthful exuberance and certainty, that equality was in fact possible. In my world, in our home, it already existed. I have two older brothers, as regular readers would know, and we all grew up with the mindset that we could do anything we put our minds to. But gender had nothing to do with our unique talents or shortcomings, obviously, and so whatever level of success we attained wouldn’t be tied to whether we were female or male. To be honest, I don’t recall ever hearing that boys were better at some things than girls (like science), or vice versa. Come to think of it, in the all-girls high school I attended from 1975-1977 –– Holy Heart of Mary –– the top class was expected to do the most difficult science subjects so they’d have the prerequisites for anything they might want to do at university. Between my father and mother, and my teachers, I had some incredibly strong role models. So I grew up knowing women and men were equally capable, equally strong… just equal. [caption id="attachment_8044" align="alignleft" width="300"] Boots fit for a Lieutenant.[/caption] I'm not sure why I was reminded of that article when I recently came upon a pair of lace-up, calf high, black leather boots while shopping. I guess the mind really does work in mysterious ways. My first thought was the boots would be the perfect dress footwear for Stephanie Shylock –– in addition to being not-quite-patent-leather shiny, they had straps and buckles that made them especially stylish while still being entirely practical. They were even her size (and mine) –– 9. Stephanie, as some readers will know, is a character from my son Kenneth’s Champions series. I actually bought her a pair of boots once... Or more precisely, I bought a pair for the model who played Stephanie in the Champions photo shoot back in May 2012. Wardrobe and accessories were a huge part of that memorable day. But that’s actually a story for another time and I’d best resist the urge to go off on a tangent and start talking about sourcing exactly the right items from places as far away as China and unlikely as Victoria’s Secret. If you’ve read Whitecoat and any of the following installments, you’ll know the series’ two female lead characters –– Lady Alex Smith and Stephanie Shylock –– are accomplished young women. They’re also youthfully exuberant and confident. Stephanie, as her bio points out, is “smart, headstrong, and capable. Her godfather, the slightly-notorious gunfighter Cameron Kard, started teaching her to shoot as soon as she was as tall as her dad’s rifle. Her mother started teaching her to read and write around the same time.” She’s a graduate of Memorial College in Newfoundland, and a Lieutenant, the first human female to earn a commission. I have to admit that as mother, as Iceberg's Editor-in-Chief, and (in my other life) as an Associate Vice-President, it makes me more than a little proud to see strong female characters with prominent (often the most prominent) roles in all our series –– Alex and Stephanie in Champions, Karen McMaster and Lia Hawke in Defense Command, and Ursla and Liz Hastings in the Equations series, to name just a few. In these stories, gender equality is as inevitable as breathing. So is mutual respect, and a commitment to doing the best job possible. As for appearances, no one in these books spends much time talking about whether 'looking good' is important. They don’t need to, because in a way, that’s a given too. Taking care with appearance –– which includes everything from having the right military footwear (like those black leather boots) and perfect accessories (whether those be Browning Hi-Power pistols, or green nail polish) –– is simply an extension of being and doing the best you can. Characters take the same kind of care with their appearance that they’re expected to take in every other aspect of their lives. It’s not overt; it’s not the topic of conversation; it just is. What I didn’t write back in 1980 but would write now is that looking good is always important. But looking good isn’t about being classically beautiful, or wearing a size 2 designer dress, or erasing the wrinkles earned during a life well-lived. It's not governed by anyone else's definition of how 'good' looks. Looking good is about pride in self, about strength and confidence, about meeting the expectations you set for yourself, and about being and doing the best you absolutely can. And if that happens to be while wearing a pair of kick-ass boots or booties, and a tailored shirt with necktie under a double-breasted jacket, well I’m just fine with that. [caption id="attachment_5265" align="alignleft" width="700"] Looking good while saving two worlds: Lady Alex Smith and Lieutenant Stephanie Shylock, from Champions. Kenneth also insists I name the third  lady in this photo: HMCS Sackville, who proves that looking good isn't restricted to humans. [/caption]
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