Charles Web Journal

My blog is intended to show how I construct and write a historical novel. It will be a journal of my daily writing activity, as I write a new historical novel.

Location: Evansburg, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired school teacher with a B. Ed in English literature a B.A. in History. After a long career as a teacher of English and history, I now write historical novels based on Canadian history.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The meeting

Because Daniel sympathizes with the Indians and Metis, he seeks a meeting with Big Bear an important chief of the Cree who are restive because of their treatment by the Canadian government.
When he goes to the Cree camp he meets with Raven, Sparkling Eyes uncle, who believe he is there to retrieve her as his mate. When Daniel inidcates otherwise, Raven is not prone to help him meet with the great chief.
Sparkling Eyes, on the other hand, believes that it is important and helps him achieve his mission since a confrontation between the government and the Indians, Crees, and some disgruntled whitemen seems very likely.
This scene is mainly historical in nature.

The meeting

Because Daniel sympathizes with the Indians and Metis, he seeks a meeting with Big Bear an important chief of the Cree who are restive because of their treatment by the Canadian government.
When he goes to the Cree camp he meets with Raven, Sparkling Eyes uncle, who believe he is there to retrieve her as his mate. When Daniel inidcates otherwise, Raven is not prone to help him meet with the great chief.
Sparkling Eyes, on the other hand, believes that it is important and helps him achieve his mission since a confrontation between the government and the Indians, Crees, and some disgruntled whitemen seems very likely.
This scene is mainly historical in nature.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Starting Chapter Seven

Today, I started chapter seven.

The setting is Edmonton in early March 1885 prior to the beginning of the North West Rebellion led by Louis Riel. Although the center of the violence was in the District of Saskatchewan, most people in the North West are worried about the involvement of the Indians who were assigned reserves after the signing of treaties with the government of Canada.

Daniel, like others, is concerned about possible violence, yet he understands the plight of the Métis, the Indians, and many settlers.

During a meeting that is held in Edmonton, John Winter, who is now married to Geraldine, clashes with Daniel over the role that should be taken by the people of Edmonton because fear is rampant over the likelihood of the Métis of St. Alberta and the local Indians’ bands possible involvement.

This discord only increases the conflict between the two men.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Chapter Six finished

Before the start of the Easter holiday season, I finished chapter six, The Suitor. Daniel, althoug he and Geraldine love each other, is foiled in his desire to marry her. She is betrothed to his rival, John Winter, who has become a partner of Geraldine's father, Edouard, in the freighting business.

This, of course, increases the animosity and rivalry between Daniel and John Winter, whom he now considers as his enemy. This happens in 1884 in the area that will eventually become the Province of Alberta. The coming of the railroad to Calgary and then to Edmonton opens the area to an influx of settlers mainly from the United States and eastern Canada, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Both Calgary and Edmonton are developing into populous towns, appraoching cityhood. Most of the First Nations have been forced to reserves by various treaties although they are unhappy about the curtailment of their movement.

The North West Rebellion of 1885 is approaching with the truculent Metis led my Louis Riel, the exile who returns to help them in their quarrel with the government of the Dominion of Canada. That's the next phase of the novel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Daniel successfully resisted Marguerite’s attempt to seduce him because he aspired to make Geraldine his wife.

He again attempts to seek permission from Geraldine’s father, Edouard, to court Geraldine.

Although Edouard is certain that his wife, Agathe, will never allow it, he does tell Geraldine about Daniel’s request to see her.

Daniel meets Geraldine secretly and they confirm their attraction and love for each other, but they are discovered by Agathe who separates them and vows that neither of her daughters will ever have any relationship with him.

This is the crux of the scene that I wrote today. One important aspect was to research the practice of courtship during this French Canadian era to which Daniel and the Beauregardes belong. This was 1884 in the North West Territories of Canada.

It was interesting to learn that many marriages at this time were arranged by the parents of daughters who had little input into the pact. Also most females married at a very young age, some hardly reaching puberty. Most people lived with a strict code of conduct.

This was a driving force for many young people at this time.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Rejected, maybe?

Today the plot thickened.

Daniel decided to seek Edouard Beauregarde’s permission to court the daughter, Geraldine. At first, the father appeared favorable to his request, but Agathe, the mother soon intervened and denied his suit.

Disappointed, Daniel prepares to leave Edmonton and return to his homestead when Marguerite, the fourteen year old younger daughter, finds him with a message from Geraldine.

Marguerite also is attracted to Daniel and tries to seduce him, much to his surprise and consternation.

Now the characters have taken over the story, and history is only incidental although it cannot be neglected and forgotten. Still the culture, the mores, and the locale must be kept in mind as the story proceeds.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Writing a Historical Novel

Writing a historical novel is an interesting endeavor. Besides plot and characters, setting is an important part of the story as the time and locale become integral to the project.

The plot must be in keeping with the history of the time; the characters must live in the culture of the period, and the setting must be realistic and relevant to the locale and the era of the novel.

Usually, this requires research to find the details that make for realism and this includes elements of weather, architecture, clothing, tools, language, etc.

The historical novelist should enjoy this or the writing becomes a chore. Sometime frustration sets in as it becomes difficult to find a tiny bit of information that is relevant to the realism.

Another aspect is whether the narrative is plot or character driven. Both are important to the historical novel, but usually one dominates.

Personally, most of my historical novels are, I think, plot driven although I do spend time on developing the characters before they ever appear in the story.

These are a few of my views on writing a historical novel.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Some of my favorite links are:

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Suitor

Today I started chapter six with the working title "The Suitor." Daniel, against his better judgment, allows the young Cree woman, Sparkling Eyes, to live with him. Although he finds her attractive and satisfying, he feels guilt and uncomfortable with her presence.

He goes to Edmonton for a few supplies and while at the Hudson's Bay Company store, he meets Geraldine Beauregarde to whom he is immediately attracted and she to him; her mother sees this and berates her daughter and, in a tirade, scolds Daniel.

Obviously, he has fallen in love with this young woman--sort of love at first sight, but already there are obstacles.

An excerpt

Claude, here is a snippet of the first chapter of the novel of my WIP. It's the first draft so it will probably be revised in the rewrite. I hope you will find it of some benefit.

Chapter One—The Orphan—Fort Calgary, 1880
Daniel removed the copper kettle from the mud and wattle fireplace of the small log cabin that he and his parents, Robert and Angeline Martin, called home. For the past three days he attended them, as they lay ill on the narrow bunk along the west wall.
As he poured water into the small pot he used to prepare tea, he turned to the bunk. “Maman, how are you this morning?” A groan was his only answer.
“Daniel, you mother is not better. She had a very bad night.” Robert raised himself to his right elbow.
“Papa, are you better?”
“I think so…but not much.”
“Do you want some tea?” Daniel cocked his head questioningly.
His father nodded.
“What about Maman?”
Robert turned to his moaning wife. “Ma chère, do you want some tea? Daniel is preparing some for us.”
A deep whimper was the only answer.
“Your mother is too sick.”
“Papa, what can we do? Should I get the doctor?” The small cabin was outside the stockade of Fort Calgary, the North West Mounted Police post, at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers in the southwest corner of the District of Alberta, a territory of the North West Territories of Canada.
Robert shook his head. “What can he do?”
“I don’t know…but he will be more able than I am.”
“Son, you are doing a good job.” Robert gazed at his fifteen-year-old son with glazed, fever-filled eyes.
“But you and Maman are not getting better. I think you have the pox!”
Robert dropped to his back, heaving a great sigh. He shivered. Daniel is probably right, he mused. “I am getting better. I’m not so hot.” He reached with his right hand to feel his wife’s head. “And Maman is not as hot either. I think we are over it.”
His wife groaned but lifted her head as she whispered, “I feel better. I will have some tea.”
Daniel smiled. “I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better, Maman.”
“Thank goodness its not the pox…just the grippe. I’m feeling better too.”
“Papa, I’m happy to hear that.” Daniel turned back to preparing the tea.
For several moments, a deep silence filled the small room except for the clang of metal against metal as Daniel pour the steeped tea into two tin cups. Then he brought the steaming containers to his parents.
Both hoisted themselves to a sitting position as he handed each a cup. Daniel smiled. This was the best his parents appeared for the past three days.
His father took the vessel in both hands, sniffed at the contents, and smiled. “I feel so much better. I think I’ll get up.”
“Papa, you better rest some more. You’re not completely well yet. Neither is Maman.”
Robert nodded. “Maman needs more rest…but I think I’m well enough….”
“How are you, Maman?” Daniel reached to touch his mother’s hand. It felt cool. “I think you are better.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Fortunately for Daniel, Sparkling Eyes, the young Cree woman, arrives with her uncle Raven and her testimony frees him. A short time later, Raven and Sparkling Eyes appear at Daniel's homestead. Raven wants some ammunition for his rifle from Daniel, and in return he wants Daniel to take Sparkling Eyes. Daniel does not want her although he finds her attractive and desirable.
He gives Raven some bullets and tells him to take the woman with him, but Raven leaves without her; she, according to the custom of her people, expects to become Daniel mate and makes herself at home in Daniel's cabin.
So ends chapter five.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Daniel rescues a young Cree Indian woman from the drunken group of men, but is arrested by Corporal Ed Shepherd and accused of kidnapping and rape. The next day he appears in court and Shepherd brings evidence against him, but Sparkling Eyes, the young woman ran away and disappeared. So Daniel is at the mercy of the police officer who believes that he is guilty.
It does not look good for Daniel although the judge does ask some pointed questions.
The scene today took place in the courtroom, a simple process presided over by a judge, a procecutor, the accused, and the witnesses.
In those days, justice was simple and usually swift. Even murder trials were brief and sentencing quick and not always just.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The secret

Daniel soon finds out that the men have kidnapped a young Cree Indian woman whom they plan to use to satisfy their lustful desires. As the drinking continues and the young woman is brought from the nearby tent, Daniel feels his urges taking over.
His conscience bothers him and he tries to rescue the maiden from her captors. He is jeered and sneered at by most of the men, but Jake Darby agrees that they should free the young woman.
And so ends today's writing.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Chapter five

Today, I started chapter five. Daniel spent the winter on his homestead near Fort Saskatchewan in a small log cabin that he built complete with birchbark shingles and a wattle and daubed clay fireplace.
Spring arrived so he decided to got to Edmonton for some much needed supplies before the heavy work of clearing, breaking, sowing and other chores took up most of his time. On the trail that evening he comes upon a group of men drinking and carousing. To his surprise, two of them are acquaintances from his railroad days, Jake Darby and Barnie Gray who invite him to join them.
The half inebriated men suggest that they have a a great evening in store although they are secretive about it.
That's where the story is at now.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Chapter four is finished

I finished chapter four today. Although Daniel tried to appease John Winter, he was unsuccessful. John threatened him and invited him to a fight, but Daniel declined although John called him many different things to entice him into it.
The result was that they were further estranged.
Life must go on. Tomorrow is another day in Daniel's life as he prepares to build his future on a homestead near Edmonton during the late 1800's.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Another week--another chapter, almost

Another week and another chapter almost finished.
Daniel and John Winter get into an argument over the rights to a particular homestead quarter of land. Daniel learns that John is not the friend he thought he was as he finds out about a serious flaw in John's personality and character.
Another possible antagonist for Daniel. At least it seems that way at this point in the chapter.
Today, the writing went exceedingly well and in little time had had my quota done for the day.
I don't write on the weekend, so tomorrow and Sunday are days to rest the mind and the creative process.
If anyone is interested, I might post a smidgen of a chapter to let you see how I write. :)
But someone will have to ask for it before I post!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Straight Flush

Yes, Daniel won the last poker hand by beating the crew foreman, Jake Darby. Jake has become a character to reckon with in the novel. He was never originally planned for, but is is becoming a serious antagonist. I may have to give him a greater role.
Jake accused Daniel of cheating to win, but he could not prove his accusation. He threatened to get even.
With the money Daniel won, he and John Winter decided to leave the railroad job and head for Edmonton where they plan to acquire homesteads.
That's what happened in today's writing.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The poker game

Would you believe it? Daniel got involved in a poker game that included Jake, the crew supervisor, his friend John Winter, another railroader by the name of Clem. His luck started out bad, but seemed to be getting better as the game progressed.
As I left him he had the makings of a very good hand, and the stakes were getting high. I'm not sure how the game will end and how Daniel will fare. That's for tomorrow. Oh, by the way, Daniel motive for getting into the game is to make enough money to get a homestead and to set up as a farmer although he knows little about husbandry or horticulture. As well, he has hopes of finding a wife although nubile women are few.
We'll have to see how he accomplishes his desires and goals.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Finished Chapter Three

Last Friday, I finished chapter three, but I'm not very satisfied with it. I'm sure I will revise it, rewrite it. Somehow, it just do not seem to fit.
Today, I started chapter four. I got off to a good start so I hope it ends up better than chapter three.
Although, I know I will redo chapter three, I will let it set for a while, probably until I've finished the entire story.
Daniel Martin is now eighteen and thinking seriously of his future. He knows that he wants a wife and to acquire some land, probably a homestead somewhere near Fort Edmonton as he believes the land is better for agriculture. At the moment, he is back working for the railroad on the line being built between Fort Calgary and Fort Edmonton when he meets John Winter, the young NWMP constable who has now left the fort and plan to become a homesteader too.
Continued tomorrow.