FEATURED EXCERPT
A Daughter’s Gift – 10th Anniversary Edition
A Daughter’s Gift – 10th Anniversary Edition

Every summer while I was growing up, we would spend two weeks at the most beautiful beach in the world. It wasn’t sandy, and the waves that crashed into the shore to awaken me every morning as I lay in my dark green sleeping bag were far too cold to surf or swim through. Sometimes the sun shone and it was hot. Other times the beach was shrouded in a cold, bone-chilling fog that all but hid the nearby rugged cliffs. Sometimes there was even cold, driving rain, the kind that comes at you sideways and makes it impossible to stay dry. It didn’t matter. This beach called Bellevue on the rugged island of Newfoundland was, to me, the most beautiful place in the world. Whether the sun was shining or fog swirling through the campsite, I would awaken in … Continue reading

The Champions of 1940
IPPY Silver for A Daughter’s Gift
IPPY Silver for A Daughter’s Gift

WATERLOO, ON – Ten years after its original release, the powerful story of a father-daughter relationship that defies the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease has won an international award. The special tenth anniversary edition of A Daughter’s Gift, by Canadian author Jacqui Tam, has won an Independent Publisher Book Awards –– or ‘IPPY’ –– silver medal.

“This book is my dad’s story,” Jacqui says. “I’ve always hoped sharing our experiences could help the families of people struggling with Alzheimer’s. To receive this kind of recognition is truly an honor.”

The IPPY awards accept submissions from independent and university publishers, and this year received more than 5,200 entries from 10 countries. A Daughter’s Gift took silver in its Memoir category, with gold going to a title published by Michigan State University Press. Other winners came from publishers such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the White House Historical Association, and Princeton University Press.

A Daughter’s Gift, Jacqui’s first work, serves as the cornerstone for the book list of her family’s award-winning independent publishing house, Iceberg Publishing. With Tam as its editor-in-chief, Iceberg celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2012, and has been noted for its innovative approach to the use of new storytelling platforms, such as ebooks.

“We’re a small, family-run publishing company, but we like to punch above our weight,” explains Kenneth Tam, Jacqui’s son and fellow Iceberg author.

Recent days have indeed been busy for Waterloo-based Iceberg Publishing. Last week, the company won a Hermes Gold marketing award for one of its book websites, championsof1940.com, while Kenneth was invited to Halifax to specially donate a selection of his science fiction novels to the Royal Canadian Navy, and Canada’s Naval Memorial, HMCS Sackville.

While still accommodating Iceberg’s current release schedule, both Jacqui and Kenneth plan to travel to New York City later this month, for the IPPY Award Ceremony in Manhattan on May 29, 2013.

“We’re very glad of the opportunities we’ve had, and recognition we’ve received of late,” Jacqui concludes. “We look forward to continuing to tell stories that encourage people to look beneath the surface. Forgive the pun, but A Daughter’s Gift is just the tip of the Iceberg.”

 
 
LATEST AUTHOR NOTES
Jacqui Tam: Closet Treasures
Jacqui Tam: Closet Treasures
I have taken a day off today to extend the Easter weekend and get a start on what I’m calling spring cleaning. Mind you, this isn’t the traditional spring cleaning that my mother did at 22 Penetanguishene in St. John’s when I was growing up. In reality, my task today mainly involves tackling the closet in my studio, which has all since lost its usefulness because I keep shoving things into it that have no other home. But I’m calling it spring cleaning because it makes it feel less of a chore and more of a welcome to the season that has been a long time coming this year. In this particular closet there is a set of heavy-duty plastic shelves that have long since sagged under the weight of the stuff I’ve piled on them. Emptying the shelves one by one is actually proving to be much more interesting, and distracting, than I had anticipated. For instance, there’s the box that holds the original Standing Tall manuscripts, a red file folder that contains all the correspondence from the days when I was negotiating with an agent, a plastic sleeve with the original flyer from the printing company in Calgary (Blitzprint) that followed us from Alberta to Ontario, all so that we would, I believe, start Iceberg. There are binders with presentations, magazines with articles I’ve written, gifts that I don’t quite know what to do with but can’t bear to part with, and the list goes on. [caption id="attachment_7676" align="alignright" width="350"] The direct mail piece that is a key part of the Iceberg Publishing story. It had gotten forwarded from Alberta to Ontario after we had moved, arriving around the time I ended negotiations with an agent.[/caption] What compelled me to stop my work and come to the keyboard (yes, at this moment, my studio looks like a hurricane ran through there and scattered stuff all over every available surface), was the box marked KENNETH MANUSCRIPT 1. Despite knowing what was inside, I couldn’t resist the urge to open it and take a look at the first manuscript printing of Defense Command: Guardians of Earth – Book One: The Fleet Clash by Kenneth Tam (copyright 1997). This, as Kenneth has mentioned in previous Notes, was the origin of what would eventually become the 20-book Defense Command (DC) series –– the love story with a war in the middle. In this first version of Defense Command, the main character is Kenneth Tam, parents Peter and Jacqui appear from time to time, there are three German Shepherds aboard the space cruiser Wolf, and the main female character is, well, Karen McMaster. There is and could only ever be, one Karen. This version of DC will never be published of course, and that is as it should be. But the first three paragraphs will remain forever as some of my favorites. Maybe that’s partly because I can so clearly picture the real, then-13-year-old author doing exactly what is described. Mostly it’s because I knew, by the end of page 187 and in the places where I know things that I shouldn’t in fact know, that this would eventually become something very special. So for DC readers, here’s a look at where it all started. And while you’re reading, I'll head back to my closet, and see what other treasures I will find. Beams of sunlight streaked into my bedroom and blanketed my bed like a comforter. The alarm clock buzzed loud enough to wake the dead. I rolled over. Would another ten minutes make much of a difference? Probably. Half-heartedly I made an attempt to roll out of bed, but my fatigue was overwhelming. My eyes managed to open, letting beams of light in. Too bright. I rolled again and buried my face in my pillow. I heard myself groan. One leg pushed its way out of my bed. After swinging around for a bit, it found the floor. Soon, the second leg followed. Uneasily I stood up, blinking and getting focused on the day ahead. © Kenneth Tam, 1997
Kenneth Tam: Just Call Him Evelyn
Kenneth Tam: Just Call Him Evelyn
When our Royal Newfoundland Regiment set off on its ill-advised cross-country drive towards an unknown Hubrin base in 1920, the one most responsible was a Major General named Evelyn Hughes. Son of forceful Canadian politician Sam Hughes, Evelyn used his influence to compel Sir Julian Byng and Arthur Currie to launch the motorized mission, even though every expert warned him that it would be a disaster. And a disaster it mostly was. As I've already explained at some length, the trucks and scout cars available in 1920 were not equal to the demands of a thousand-mile cross-country trek. Land Rovers were still two decades away, so the mission was doomed before it was launched. Only the creativity of the b'ys, and the abilities of the alien lorries they'd captured, allowed some success to be retrieved. All that trouble because of one man –– one character who assumed he knew better than everyone else… and who, during the drafting stages of The Expedition, was not named Evelyn. See, Sam Hughes' actual son was named Garnet, and as I explained (at some unnecessary length) in The Expedition's historical notes, Canadian history widely regards him to be a villain. The story goes that Garnet –– who was good friends with Arthur Currie leading up to the First World War –– responded to the first-ever gas attack launched by the Germans in 1915, by launching a night attack across no man's land. Men from the 10th and 16th battalions were sent over the top shoulder-to-shoulder, supported by nothing at all, and with no reconnaissance to guide them. They suffered terribly, and remembering this after he was promoted to command the Canadian Corps, Currie made certain Hughes never rose higher in the ranks. Feeling scorned, Hughes spent the rest of his life trying to assassinate Currie's character. Or so the story goes. As I said in The Expedition, I haven't dug into any primary source material about that collision of egos, and because it's possible that history can condemn men unjustly (especially officers from that era, who are often unfairly treated), I didn't feel it right to simply include 'villain Garnet' in the series. Instead, it seemed wiser to insert a doppleganger –– in this case, Evelyn. This wasn't a one-off decision. Before starting His Majesty's New World, I set a rule for myself: only include real historical figures if you're going to say something nice about them. Villains and fools would be fictional; any real characters involved would have to be be treated fairly. Thus, Sir Julian Byng, Sir Andrew Skeen, Arthur Currie, and even Harry Crerar are all real people from Canadian history, and while I don't profess to having gotten everything right about each of them, I've done my best. Everything from Byng's refusal to take his hands out of pockets, to Skeen's book on Afghanistan (which was difficult to get a copy of) are drawn from reality, and when I had to fill in the gaps with fiction, I always erred on the side of positivity. In Champions, this pattern was repeated with Douglas Bader. As I've mentioned, my portrayal of our double-amputee hero probably better resembles Kenneth More's portrayal in Reach For the Sky, than it does the real man… but that strikes me as fine. I'm not trying to whitewash anyone's history –– by now it should be plain that I'm aware of the flaws apparent on various sides of most historical issues. But it would seem the height of disrespect for me to sit here and smugly cast unsubstantiated (or plainly fictional) dispersions on real people, especially when those people fought for the benefit of the country that's afforded me my easy life. I'll repeat it again: we writers are privileged to have the time and education to practice our craft. Using it for needless slander just seems untoward. And yet, it's common. Last week, I tuned into AMC's new show, TURN. Purported to be an authentic portrayal of America's first spy ring, the program brings viewers into the early days of the American Revolution, when British troops (of the apparently 'Royal' Army) have arrived in the colonies to stamp out insurrection. It is meant to be visceral, sophisticated, and accurate… but it's not off to a good start. I can't comment on how TURN will tackle the many issues surrounding the Revolution, but I can say that its first episodes have already violated my rules about historical characters. The victim: John Graves Simcoe. Canadians who stayed awake in some of the more boring days of history class will distantly recognize that name; Simcoe became the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. A dedicated Imperialist who suffered not at all from modesty, he founded Toronto, and did other significant things –– for instance, naming the largest lake he could find... after himself. In TURN, he is played by Samuel Roukin, and the writers suggest to us that he's a sort of sociopath, who is predictably obsessed with a beautiful revolutionary inn-keeper. He is also shown to be vicious, relentless, and entirely sadistic in his efforts to quell the savage Americans. Well... nope. American writer Greg Caggiano has already dismantled some of this portrayal, and you can read that here. Allow me to add a Canadian perspective, courtesy of the ever-useful Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Simcoe was known to be accessible, pleasant, and eager to please. He was the only surviving son of a British father who died on the Quebec campaign in 1759, and followed a similar career path, but intelligently; he became a proponent of light infantry (that is, soldiers who didn't fight in line). When he arrived in the Americas in 1775, he took command of the Queen's Rangers –– an irregular outfit that wore green coats instead of red. I suspect this is where the TURN writers got the impression of him as a murderous villain; they seem determined to treat the Rangers as a band of killers available for hire... when their ranks were, ultimately, filled by Loyalist refugees who'd been driven from their homes by the Continental Army. Simcoe drilled the Rangers into a highly-disciplined force, but then he was captured for six months, and was eventually invalided home. Perhaps ironically, history remembers Simcoe as an admirer of the American way of life... he just couldn't understand why Americans thought that lifestyle was incompatible with the King. When he returned as Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, he hoped that the family feud between Britain and the colonies would soon fizzle out, and that everyone would come back together, stronger than before. Obviously, he read that one wrong… but in the meantime, he got other things very right. In 1792, for instance, he convinced the Upper Canadian assembly to phase out slavery, decades before Britain and the United States did the same. Clearly, this was the act of a one-note villain. I bet he only did it because he was trying to cheat a conveniently powerless female character out of her corset. I've written before of the accuracy requirement in fiction, and here again is an example of it being abandoned for no good reason. Want a sadistic soldier to create tension in your plot? Fine. One might argue it's a tired trope, but if it's what you need, then do it –– and do it well. Just be sure that you don't attribute those characteristics to a man who doesn't at all resemble them. To earn his pay cheques, Simcoe navigated through a war against people he admired, then put an end to the institution of slavery in Canada. To earn their pay cheques, TURN's writers invented a fictional sociopath, then pasted a real person's name onto him. They can do better, AMC usually does better, and our American friends deserve better. So next time, just call the bastard Evelyn.
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