Monday, 11 July 2016

Updating me

Now that I'm officially "retired" from the library, I'm getting around to doing a few things like updating my author page. Other wonderful stories have also come to me over the years and I hope to distill and write them down too before my age catches up with me or family life completely overwhelms me again:

"Karen E. Black lives in Toronto, Canada. Her debut novel about the Devereux cousins "From the Chrysalis" begged for a sequel, so she wrote "Feeling for the Air" about Dace's escape from a corrupt penitentiary system and his dual mission to clear his name and find out where the Canadian monarch butterflies really made their winter home.

In January 2016, she finally visited Michoacán, Mexico and saw the monarchs' wintering grounds for herself. At the El Rosario colony, high up in the rugged forested mountains, millions of monarchs colored the oyamel trees orange and bent their branches under their collective weight. Black's timing seemed perfect. She could still get on a horse. Also, the monarchs, long threatened by illegal logging, the use of pesticides and the eradication of milkweed, had made a big comeback. However, six weeks later, at least 1.5 million monarch butterflies were hit with a deadly freeze as an unusual ice and wind storm moved through the monarchs' wintering grounds in the Michoacán mountains. The storm hit just as the spring migration to Canada was beginning. Luckily, many butterflies had exited the mountains before the unexpected freeze.

Black is currently working on the the last novel in the Devereux Trilogy,"Take to the Sky" which is set mostly in Toronto. This book takes its title from the same Emily Dickinson poem as the first two books in this trilogy.

Black did her Master's in Library Science at the University of Toronto (because she loved books and research) and completed several certificates at the Institute for Genealogical Studies (because also loved family history), but she did her undergraduate degree in sociology with a minor in English at the University of Western Ontario. Though Black's first love was and always will be English literature, she is grateful for the insight she gained into social problems, human social relationships and institutions when she studied sociology."

Friday, 4 March 2016

BB (1947-1991)

The anniversary of my cousin's murder is one of many anniversaries I feel compelled to observe. Twenty-five years have passed since he was murdered while he slept in a third floor bedroom in the same kind of house I raised my family in, on the same street where I grew up,
There's what was written in the newspapers, there's what somebody said in a book, but if you're asking why, we still don't know.There simply is no why, no rhyme, no reason. In spite of the collateral damage and the after effects that ripple down the generations, a tragedy is a tragedy, that's all, something terrible that wasn't supposed to happen, but did. My cousin's family (several of whom are dead or dying now) will never find any answers as to why somebody so charismatic, so gifted, so loved would be born with one fatal flaw that drew him to the dark side and put him in the proximity of people so fundamentally flawed, that they had absolutely no respect for life.
For a time, I thought I knew why, or had an idea anyway. Or that I could at least find out. That I'd understand. I was the only one in my cousin's large extended family with the education and resources to make sense of everything. But I haven't. I can't.
In the past several weeks, three other much loved young men in my extended family have also died--one was murdered while two were in some very dark places in their lives.
All I can do now is worry about the descendants of my cousin and myself, our children, our grandchildren and our nieces and nephews and try and transform their lives into fiction, so the young men my family has lost can have new stories and live again.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Mariposa Monarca!

At last my husband and I saw the monarchs' overwintering grounds at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve and what an experience it was. (El Rosario is a World Heritage site and the largest of five preserves open to the public.The preserve is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests ecoregion on the border of Michoacán and Mexico State, 100 km northwest of Mexico City.)  We drove by rental car three hours out of Mexico City (yes, that's how long it took us), spent three nights at Rancho San Cayetano, a lovely rustic resort near Zitacuaro and then rode horseback nearly 10,000 feet up a mountainside to see these amazing, plucky creatures in their natural habitat. I had written about visiting the monarchs' overwintering grounds in my second novel, Feeling for the Air, but I had only seen them in videos and on an IMAX screen. I think my previous description was adequate, but nothing--no words, no pictures can really do these little characters justice.

Luckily for us, the monarchs (who are threatened by climate changes, illegal logging of their favorite oyamel trees, the use of pesticides and the eradication of the milkweed they are so dependent on) were stronger and more numerous than they have been in previous years. Our Mexican guide, Marcello (who is also a part time migrant worker and as such follows the same migratory routes as the monarchs), told us people were also concerned this year when the first monarchs failed to arrive like they usually do on November 1. But come they did, a few weeks later, robust and healthy, well-prepared to take a long, well-deserved rest before it was time for them to leave in March, mate in Texas and for their descendants to find their way back to Canada. They have been doing this forever.

It was a sunny day when we visited, a real plus.If it isn't sunny, the monarchs cluster together for warmth like huge, sagging bunches of grapes on the oyamel trees. They need the sun to fly. I felt a little like Dr. Fred Urquhart and his wife Nora must have felt the first time they visited. The Urquharts and my husband and myself were about the same ages as they were when they confirmed that Canadian butterflies really do fly so far south. All of us (the Urquharts,  myself and my husband) were almost too old to go.

Riding horseback at my age especially with my lack of experience was definitely daunting, but well worth the experience we had. In a very short time, we were surrounded by butterflies as numerous (at least to my eyes) as the stars in the sky. Visitors, almost without exception, were silent and awestruck except to say inadequate things like "Oh,my." People stood stock-still when the butterflies landed on them, staring at them transfixed. 

We took many pictures, but none of them do the monarchs justice.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

"Feeling for the Air" is in paperback!

Hurrah--after a couple of re-formats, the paperback version of my sequel "Feeling for the Air" has been available on various Amazon sites ( except ! ) for a couple of weeks now. If you do order a copy, I would be thrilled to get your feedback. Please check out the following link:…/…/0987986643/

Great, Prolific British Women Authors

Ruth Rendell Critical After Stroke

First Maeve Binchy, then Doris Lessing and P.D. James and now Ruth Rendell, all prolific and inspirational British female writers even in their later years...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sequel to "From the Chrysalis" finally published!

I've finally released the sequel to From the Chrysalis. What a relief! Feeling for the Air (which also takes its title from the same  Emily Dickinson poem) kind of wrote itself, but tweaking this and that and fooling around with the formatting has been maddening. 

Here's the Amazon book description:
"In Feeling for the Air, Karen Black offers a remarkable sequel about the unconventional Devereux cousins, Dace who’s determined to clear his name and Liza, a gifted college student who’s still crazy in love with him. Like Black’s first book, Feeling for the Air is a rare combination of literary suspense and emotional truth. The realism and piercing psychological insight into the penal system so aptly demonstrated in Black’s debut novel From the Chrysalis is here too. When the story opens on a picturesque but perilous Ivy Lea Parkway, Dace—alleged member of the Wolfhounds motorcycle gang, riot leader and possibly a murderer— has escaped from a brand-new Canadian penitentiary built to house the “worst of the worst.” For his pregnant cousin Liza, he heads to Mexico via an Indian reserve to find out where the monarch butterflies really over-winter. Isolated by her choices and hounded by people in Dace’s hometown, Liza keeps studying while she struggles to raise their baby alone and find out who’s really persecuting Dace. Feeling for the Air is a unique novel, focusing on love and longing, want versus need and how we come to terms with our choices and the lives we're given."

Getting Feeling for the Air professionally edited really gave me the boost I needed. A big thank you to award winning Can Lit novelist Diane Schoemperlen who is also a meticulous editor and knows a thing or two about a prison town and the Canadian penal system. I still can't believe she had the time and energy to check my manuscript for plot implausibilities, missing words, consistency in spelling and font styles and the occasional misuse of lie/lay. Diane's umpteenth book By the Book has just been published to rave reviews.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Cool Heads at Kingston Pen

Ron Haggart's book Cool Heads at Kingston Pen (published posthumously by his daughter) interested me very much. I had never seen the Telegram's coverage of the Kingston Penitentiary Riot, but Haggart is clearly the journalist mentioned in book Caron's Bingo! and Bell's Birdsong.

He confirmed what Caron didn't--that Barrie Mackenzie was the "friend" who freed my cousin Brian Beaucage from his cell during the riot.

Here is Amazon's description of Haggart's book:
"In April 1971, journalist Ron Haggart helped resolve one of Canada’s most serious prison riots. When maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary fell under the control of 500 rioting prisoners, the inmates summoned his help. As a crusading newspaper columnist and police watchdog with a reputation for fairness, he had won their trust. Haggart and four lawyers went inside Kingston Pen and, along with one remarkable hero inmate, were instrumental in mediating an end to the crisis. His gripping account of the four-day stand off, now available digitally for the first time, earned him a National Newspaper Award."