FEATURED EXCERPT
The Grasslands
The Grasslands

The trail unwinding before Smith was just the sort he liked. Quiet. A crisp wind was cutting through the valley, on its way west from the mountains behind him, through the trees around him, and out to the grassy plains ahead. It was a good feeling, calming and fresh. That was what this new planet did best: made a man feel fresh. These valleys and the foothills and grasslands beyond were filled with men and women looking to make money. They wanted to find their gold mines, their coal deposits, anything they could take out of the land and send back to civilization to make a pretty penny. Smith didn’t want any of that. No, he was a drifter. He’d come to this world with his horse and his gun because he wanted to be left alone, like the drifters … 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: My Father’s Hands
Jacqui Tam: My Father’s Hands
The Iceberg partners, as Kenneth mentioned in his last Author Note, have returned to the land that inspired the new world in the His Majesty’s New World and Champions series. New career opportunities –– the kind that surprise you but you can’t ignore –– inspired the shared decision to empty our home in Ontario, and pack all of our belongings into a 53-foot moving truck, after which our convoy of two Jeeps and one Land Rover traveled the more than 3,500 miles from Waterloo in southern Ontario to Edmonton in northern Alberta. We’ve been here less than 48 hours now and the main focus, before we all start new jobs on Monday, is to find a place to live. In future blog posts I’ll write more about that roller coaster experience, as well as Alberta’s key role in our decision to launch Iceberg 12 years ago, which somehow makes this move, at this particular time, all the more significant. Today it’s time to pause, at least for a little while, to remember and reflect… because 20 years ago today we technically lost my father, and yet all these years later he is still so strongly with us. There are some memories that are almost physical from this 24-hour period two decades ago. I can still feel my father’s forehead beneath my lips when I kissed him goodnight late on the evening of October 29th, after the nurse had arrived at my parents’ house so that my mother could try to get some sleep. I can hear the sound of the telephone ringing about five hours later, and feel the mattress moving as Peter launched himself from his side of the bed to answer it. I can feel myself shaking as I drove through the darkness to the house on 37 Penetanguishene and pulled into their driveway. I can recall the intense shudder that passed through me as I stood inside the door and the news of his death was confirmed, tears I didn’t think I had left rolling down my face. But mostly I remember the instant I felt his presence again, the restoration of the connection that Alzheimer’s had severed. It was a connection that had existed from the moment of my birth -- on that night in 1960, despite being more than 1,000 kilometers away, he had awoken to the knowledge that his daughter had been born even though my mother would not be able to get the news to him for hours yet. For a time, Alzheimer’s had succeeded in locking my father away, and except in a few rare and precious instances, he’d been unreachable. But on October 30, 1994, I got my father back. You never stop missing the people you love most –– missing their physical presence in your life –– but they never really leave you either, and my life is, in so many ways, a legacy to my father. Before this latest move to Edmonton changed the plans of the past few months, the intent had been to have the second Standing Tall book –– A Father’s Legacy –– ready to release today. That didn’t quite happen, and based on the number of stargazer lilies I’ve seen since the first email about the opportunity that started this new phase, I’ve no doubt my father is more than fine with that. However, I will share the prologue… in honour of my father… in recognition of this important day. Prologue (Standing Tall: A Father’s Legacy) When I was growing up there was a white boot box filled with photographs under the double bed in my parents’ bedroom. Some of the pictures had been taken before my parents were married, but most captured moments from the years that followed the birth of their three children –– two boys, Steve and Rik, and one girl. The photos were ultimately destined for albums, but that was an organization project still decades in the future. Most of the time, when I climbed onto the bed as a little girl to snuggle into my father’s side, his outstretched arm acting as my personal pillow… or to watch my mother don her white nursing uniform as she got ready for work… the existence of the box was the furthest thing from my mind. But every so often, for reasons I no longer remember, I’d be compelled to lie on my stomach on the dark gray, cool linoleum floor, slide myself far enough under the side of the bed to reach it and slowly pull it out, lift it onto the bed and climb up to sit beside it. Then, with the cover set aside, I would select one picture and study it before I laid it on the floral patterned bedspread and selected another. One of the first things I remember noticing was how the number of photos decreased when you moved from first son to second son to only daughter. My oldest brother Steve occupied the largest portion of the box, and my other brother Rik ran a relatively close second. There were photos of me of course, but in much smaller quantities. This puzzled me at first. Seeing things through my child’s eyes, I was unable, perhaps understandably, to appreciate why my stack was so small… to recognize how the addition of each successive child would decrease the time available to take photos, or the money available in those days to develop them. It made sense though, when my mother explained it to me. That room, that bed, that boot box… all of these are just things of memory now. The majority of the photos are long gone, discarded when my mother took on the task of sorting through them after my father died. Others sit in the albums she prepared for each of her children, or in other boxes and albums that now reside in cases holding treasures rescued when the contents of my childhood home were emptied after her own death 12 years following my father’s. And some have been transferred to electronic images that sit on computers and iPads… my own modern-day boot boxes. As I look back at these images now, as I frequently do, I am inevitably drawn to those where I’m with my father, a tall distinguished man standing behind his daughter, his hands resting gently on her shoulders. I don’t remember for sure when I first recognized this characteristic pose of ours, but certainly it was after Alzheimer’s had stolen him from us, I think when I began putting images together for presentations related to the book that would tell that particular story. Some things can be right in front of your eyes for years, it seems, before you actually see them. Then when you do, you wonder how you could possibly have missed them for so long. My father, Richard Joseph Barron, was my dear friend, my teacher, my protector, and the best father a daughter could ever hope to have. He taught me about respect, honour, perseverance, humbleness, loyalty, and the incredible power of unconditional love. The photographs of us together, the ones that show him standing guard behind me with his hands resting gently on my shoulders, are etched not just on my mind, but on my heart and soul as well. There was nothing in those hands that would ever hold me down or back. There was only the knowledge and security of his support, always and in all things. Love and strength flowed out through those fingers and down through me. Love and strength and pride, and a promise to always be there, no matter what. Our relationship, captured so simply and yet so profoundly, in the photos stored in a white boot box. Under my parents’ bed. My father died when I was 34-years-old, after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer’s. In Standing Tall: A Daughter’s Gift, I recounted that journey and told the story of a remarkable father-daughter relationship. And I talked about how after he died I felt that I had gotten him back –– the separation Alzheimer’s had imposed when he ceased to recognize his daughter was finally severed and the connection that had always been ours restored. I could not walk down a beach beside him, or watch him skillfully cast his line into the water after putting the worm on my hook on a Sunday morning trouting trip. I could not walk into a room and stand quietly for a moment just to watch him sitting on the floor with his small grandson, heads bent together as they shared some private conversation and mischief written over both of their faces. I could not stop at the door before I left his house and give him a good-bye kiss. And, of course, he’s no longer in family photos, standing behind me with his hands resting lightly on my shoulders. But he is there still, as he always has been. And now as I reflect on the two decades that have passed since his death, I know he’s been with me through them all. Our connection, temporarily interrupted, has somehow grown stronger, as impossible as that may seem or sound. I do not know why I was gifted with a father as special as Richard Joseph Barron. The best of who I am, I think, is because of him, because he loved me. And because the lessons he taught me guide my life still, in both the simplest and most profound ways. I thought, when A Daughter’s Gift was completed, that I had told all there was to tell of his –– of our –– story. But over the years I’ve come to realize that wasn’t, in fact, the case. My father’s legacy lives on, and there is a story that extends well beyond his death in 1994. It is that story –– the story after –– which I share with you now (soon). And if ever our paths cross, and you see me, where I sit or stand, reaching up to rest my hands on my shoulders, and wonder why I smile or shed a tiny tear, now you know. I touch not my shoulders, but my father’s hands. I love you dad. I will celebrate you… I will honour you… and I will love you forever. 
Kenneth Tam: Return to the New World
Kenneth Tam: Return to the New World
Mountains, foothills, and wide open prairies –– by now, readers of His Majesty's New World and Champions are familiar with the landscape of the planet that Britain and the United States began colonizing in 1881. Whether it be the Royal Newfoundland Regiment marching into the unknown in 1919, Alex and Stephanie fighting Scourge in 1942, or the veterans of Sergeant Barnes' outfit seeking a fresh start in 1896, the new world has been an essential part of every story I've told since Defense Command wrapped up in 2012. And now, at last, I'm moving back there. Sort of. You already know the most tired cliche about writing: you must write what you know. This gets over-used and misconstrued, but there's definite value to including as much reality as possible in what you write. However, there's a more important philosophy that I subscribe to: write what you long for. I eternally want to be in Newfoundland, but the reality is that I can't be right now. The opportunities to do what I'm good at full-time don't quite exist (yet) in wonderful places like Woody Point; until they do, I can live vicariously through Alex and Stephanie, who spend a great deal of time on the island (whether they like it or not). The same can be said of the new world. I lived for three-and-a-half years in Lethbridge, in southern Alberta, and though at the time I may have been too young to realize what was happening, Alberta's big skies and big mountains were being etched into my subconscious. Nothing can supplant a Newfoundlander's love of home, but when it came to creating a new world for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to march across, there was no other place I wanted to go back to. If Waller's b'ys couldn't have the mighty Atlantic, they could enjoy the majestic mountains and endless prairies. And because they could enjoy them, I could too. After living with the new world in my head for seven years, I'm delighted now to have the opportunity to return to the province that inspired it –– in this case, to the capital city of Edmonton. North America's northernmost city with a population over 1 million will be my new home, and Iceberg's new home. Indeed, all three of us partners are packing up and making this move –– by some welcome machination of fate, we've been presented with opportunities in Edmonton that we can't ignore. As it has for countless families over the past few centuries, opportunity is taking us west. We're very excited. Of course, the logistical challenges of such a move are considerable. For those unfamiliar with Canada, the driving distance to Edmonton from our current base in Waterloo is some 3,500 kilometers –– a little shorter than the distance between New York and Los Angeles, but considerably longer than the distance between Paris and Moscow. Unfortunately, we don't have a real skycruiser to carry us there in 30 minutes (though if anybody has one we can borrow, we'll certainly take it). We therefore have to do it the old-fashioned way, and though we've moved across Canada twice before, knowing what we're in for doesn't reduce the time required to wrap up affairs in Ontario. We've had to push back some timetables. Owing to the way Outports ended, we knew we had to keep Progeny on schedule –– that's why it released yesterday, after some editing tactics that I suspect Jacqui will write a note about (when time permits). However, we've had to delay the launch of our new HMNW project (featuring images from South Africa, courtesy of the Dundee Diehards) until January, and we'll be announcing a new schedule for the 2015 Champions releases. All of that will come soon, but in the interim we'll continue to be relatively quiet as we pack up and hit the road. Stay tuned for updates… and in the meantime, have a look at our real new world. It won't be hard to see why I long for it:
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