Mike Parker head shotTwenty four years ago Mike Parker submitted his first manuscript, Guides of the Northwoods: Hunting & Fishing Tales from Nova Scotia, to Doubleday Canada Publishing Group. In a rejection letter dated August 30th, Editor Jill Lambert took the time to add, “P.S. I really did enjoy this manuscript; I thought it was well written and interesting. I’m sorry it’s just not right for our list.”

After researching other publishers, Parker zeroed in on Nimbus Publishing, walked in one morning, and dropped off the same manuscript. The next day he received a call to say it was accepted.  Fifteen books later, Parker is now doing presentations and giving readings based on his latest tome, Into the Deep Unknown: Land of the Tent Dwellers.

How does a historical non-fiction writer capture—and keep—the attention of readers?

I believe the key to writing non-fiction is to write about what interests you, the author—because if the author isn’t into it, the reader won’t be. I go into the research phase of every book without knowing much of anything about the topic other than it interests me, and I want to find out more. Then I try to pass that on to the reader. Thomas Raddall and Pierre Burton are two of my favourite non-fiction writers. Although I don’t put myself in their class (nor do I copy any particular style), I do try to write in such a way the reader remains conscious, and their eyes don’t glaze over.

Mike Parker book coverYou clearly enjoy the thrill of the hunt—for information that is. Paint us a picture. 

While preparing my latest manuscript, Into the Deep Unknown, I really wanted to have a photo or two of Eddie Breck, one of the many characters in my book. I contacted Linda Miller, whose parents were former managers at Milford House where Eddie Breck used to stay. She suggested I contact Tim Coggeshall from the U.S. (a long-time guest at Milford House), whose wife’s grandfather just happened to be Eddie Breck. Sure enough,  Tim Coggeshall—now in his 90’s—had several photos of Breck and the guides; some dated back to the 1890’s. Coggeshall agreed to bring them to Milford House that summer. When I saw them my heart pounded. I scanned photos for nine hours!

Have you ever discovered a “find” after-the-fact? And, if so, then what?

As soon as Into the Deep Unknown hit the stands, I met the granddaughter of Charles (the Strong) Charleton—who also appears in the book. She said to me, “We have a box of old photos the American sports used to send.”  Lo and behold, the box included scores of photos of the old guides, guests at Milford House, and even a rare signed photo of Albert Bigelow Payne who penned The Tent Dwellers over 100 years ago. Although it would have been great to have some of them in the book, it’s never too late to make use of them. So I’ve put them up on Milford House’s Facebook page, titled “Land of the Tent Dwellers—Images From the Past.” By doing so, I hope the public will not only have access to these photos, but that some can also be identified.

If memory serves, you talked about retirement … but rumour has it you’re onto book number 16? 

Mike Parker 1Well now, it’s like this. The last photo you see here was taken by Ralph Harris (1883-1958), a Bear River merchant and professional photographer who produced thousands of pictures throughout Digby and AnnapolisCounties, turning many of them into postcards.  Ralph’s vast collection was lost in an early 1970s fire which destroyed several buildings in Bear River including his one-time store where the negatives and images had been kept in the second floor studio since his death in 1958.

This past summer, Ralph’s niece contacted me and, when I went to visit her, she pulled out hundreds of negatives and prints she had been holding onto since the fire—the majority of which have never been published or seen the light of day since they were taken nearly a century ago. Talk about a treasure trove!

This past November, I was granted permission by the family to publish a book focusing on Bear River as seen through the camera lens of Ralph Harris. Pottersfield Press has agreed to publish the book (Spring 2015) which I envision featuring 300 of Ralph’s images.  I am really excited about it, as the material is rich and original. If folks would like to know more about what I do, please connect to this site: www.smu.ca/gri/mparker

Stay tuned folks! And feel free to send some questions in the comment section (click “comments” under the title) for Mike to answer. He’d love to have a conversation with you.




Doreen PendgracsThis past July, Doreen Pendgracs launched Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate whereby the author invites readers to join her on a sensuous, taste-tempting journey of chocolate discovery. Aside from getting insider information about chocolate from various countries in Europe, Doreen explores topics such as how and where cacao becomes chocolate; various personalities of chocolate;  health benefits of chocolate; “chocogasms” and how to pair wine with chocolate—to name a few. Here we go … take it away Doreen!

Whatever possessed you to write a book about Chocolate?

I’ve always loved fine chocolate and loved to travel. The idea of writing a book that marries these two passions seemed like a good fit for me. Plus, I have a fascination with interesting people who are passionate about what they do. I’ve found chocolate makers to be among the most passionate people on the planet.

Where has your research taken you?

Peruvian women are responsible for cutting open the cocoa pods and removing the cocoa beans; generally the men of the community do the harvest.

Peruvian women are responsible for cutting open the cocoa pods and removing the cocoa beans; generally the men of the community do the harvest.

To 12 countries so far. I’ve done detailed profiles of chocolatiers and chocolate makers in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Spain, and the UK. These profiles are of people I have met and spent time with (for the most part.)

I also visited cacao-growong regions in Peru, Ecuador, and St. Lucia. And I have interviewed many chocolatiers/chocolate makers in Canada and the US.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about chocolate?

How healthy it is, when it’s in its pure, natural state. I did a fairly comprehensive chapter about the health benefits of chocolate and learned that many myths are untrue. Chocolate is not bad for your skin or teeth if you are eating pure, dark chocolate of 70% cocoa or higher.  Chocolate contains many feel-good chemicals and actually has cannabinoid receptors that are similar to the THC found in marijuana. No wonder you can get giddy and feel high when eating several pieces of pure dark chocolate.

I understand you have more than one volume in mind. What’s next?

I had no idea as to the magnitude of this project, when I went on the first Chocolatour to Europe in the fall of 2009. I soon realized it would be an impossible task to try and cover the world in one swoop, so I opted to divide the planet geographically.

La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers in the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, is a terrific place to explore the best of Belgian chocolate.

La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers in the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, is a terrific place to explore the best of Belgian chocolate.

The first volume that was released mid-July focuses on the best (prepared) chocolate of Europe and the UK, with an additional chapter highlighting three growing regions. The second volume will focus on the Americas and the Caribbean, and the third volume will take in Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. I still have a lot of travelling to do for that! And then once the three volumes have been published, I will update and combine them into one mega-volume. That should take me until about 2018.

OK chocolate lovers out there … bring on the questions!

Meanwhile, check out the cover of Doreen’s book in yesterday’s post. And, for regular insights and recommendations about the wide world of chocolate, visit Doreen’s blog titled Chocolate Travel Diversions. http://diversionswithdoreen.com/

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Pendgracs-Chocolatour-CoverHappy to let readers know that this bi-weekly series resumes tomorrow.  First guest is Doreen Pendgracs who will be talking about her new book, “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.”  Her book is delicious … and her interview promises to be yummy as well.

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Saturday, October 26, Haviland Club in Charlottetown, PEI.

This workshop is suitable for both newly-minted freelance writers and seasoned journalists who want to expand their portfolio. Aside from exploring magazine and corporate writing opportunities, participants will also pick up tips on managing the business end of things from how to negotiate and figure out what your time is worth, to how to manage work flow and keep track of things.

AM session: Expanding your freelance portfolio

  • Writing opportunities in the magazine world + hidden markets (trade journals and niche publications)
    • analyzing periodicals
    • queries that work
    • finding different angles for same topic or subject
  • Writing opportunities in the corporate world
    • review sample advertorials, ads, brochures, newsletters etc.
    • how to find clients
    • how to partner with other professionals to offer full-meal deal (translation services, graphic design etc.) to corporate clients

PM session: Becoming business savvy as a freelance writer

  • Organizing your workflow
  • How to figure out what you time is worth and if you are making money (or not) on assignments or projects
  • How to keep track of things: using query/client tracker, sending invoices, tracking invoices/payments etc.
  • Dealing with non payment issues: filing a judgment in Small Claims Court and how best to prepare
  • When is the right time to register for HST? Pro’s and con’s
  • Negotiating tips
  • Marketing tools (portfolio, website or blog, testimonials, business cards, etc.)
  • Networking tips

Workshop fee is $125


For information or to register, contact me at sandracphinney@gmail.com




Stacey Russell from Fredericton Tourism replies to Twitter inquiries.

Stacey Russell from Fredericton Tourism replies to Twitter inquiries.

I keep falling in love. With Fredericton. Sounds schmaltzy maybe, but there you have it. One of the reasons is that it’s so hip and savvy. To demonstrate this, I just wrote an article about how Fredericton’s new “Twisitor Centre” is making headlines. As it happens, I just joined the 21st Century and bought an iPhone. Having a blast learning how to tweet. (Well, if truth be known, I’ve wanted to pitch it in the river a few times but I can’t stand the thought of a phone being smarter than I am. So, I’ve decided to conquer the bloody thing.)

Anyway, back to the Twisitor Centre–it’s the first in Atlantic Canada. I wrote a wee story for Travel + Escape about this. Check it out here.


PEI sunflower field card (2)Heading to PEI this summer and will be delivering a MEMOIR WRITING WORKSHOP on Saturday, August 3rd from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

WHERE: Argyle Shore Community Hall (7654 Route 19 – between the TransCanada Highway and the Bonshaw Road, about 25 min. from Charlottetown).

Fee: $90

Want more information? Workshop outline? Email me at s.phinney@ns.sympatico.ca

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Birchdale thumbWell now. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. Or, when you are in such a spin you don’t know which way is up. Or down.

Mercifully, I’ve come out on the other side … and seem to have most of my marbles intact.

Have also been canoeing of late. Great trip with dear friends into Birchdale and the Barrio system, one of my favourite places on earth. We’ve had days and days of rain here in Nova Scotia … weeks of the wet stuff actually, so I was ecstatic when the sun came out on Day 1 of our 4-day wilderness trip last weekend. It lasted for three solid days.

Mind you, we had an interesting thunder storm with rain showers on on return paddle, Day 4, so we pulled ashore on a wee beach, quickly set up a small tarp, hauled out our thermoses of tea and proceeded to tell yarns until the storm passed.IMG_0281 (2)

Now planning a wilderness women’s trip into Great Barren Lake. But first, need to pay attention to a few deadlines. Reminds me of a quote by David Adams:  “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”


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OK. In my last post I bellyached about how I was away so much that it interfered with my having time to write any posts.

I signed off by saying, “No more excuses.”

I lied.

I got pneumonia. Yep. Just like getting run over by a train. Knocked me silly and put me out of commission for a few weeks. But the good news is that I finally got rid of those nasty bugs that took over for a bit. Hello again to living, working, and just plain being able to breathe again! Mind you, I’m playing serious, very serious catch up. Big time. Once again, aiming to see daylight by month’s end.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo essay I did for Life As A Human about a memorable encounter I had in Vietnam titled “Gifts from Hanoi.”

Carmen and I also wrote some stories about Thailand for Travel + Escape. I’ve imbedded the links into the names of the stories.


Glimpses from Thailand ~

1. Elephants for Beginners

2. The Stories of Thailand’s Temples

3. The Art of the Coverup

4. The Opium Gardens of Thailand

5. 10 Must-see Festivals in Thailand

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If you sensed I was embarrassed when I wrote my last post, I am now mortified knowing it’s been so bloody long since I’ve been posting on a regular basis. My excuse? Tracking down stories … two weeks in New Brunswick, three weeks in Labrador and five weeks in Vietnam/Cambodia and Thailand respectively–all since my last post.

For someone whose business is only partially related to travel writing, I seem to be on the road a lot! Truth is, I also find lots of business stories, human interest stories, interesting people to profile etc. So it’s not all about travel. It’s just that I usually spread things out a bit more and don’t live out of a suitcase for six months like I have this year.

For part of my time in Vietnam, my laptop and I were separated. How, oh how could one leave their laptop (with their entire business) behind you may ask? It’s easy. The weird thing is that I conscientiously removed my camera from by backpack in order to slip in the laptop in the back compartment; dutifully removed the cord/converter from the wall/laptop and stowed it away in the front section; replaced my camera in its rightful place; turned on my heel and left the business centre at the last hotel we we staying at in Hanoi. Only,  my laptop remained on the desk. Not hard at all. Mercifully, with the intervention of a new Vietnamese friend, Hoang Tu Nam, a.k.a. “Larry, ” he was able to track it down in Hanoi and made arrangements to have it forwarded to Ho Chi Minh City where I retrieved it 12 days later.

But oooh the memories of all those trips. And the stories! Now I am in a query/writing frenzy while trying to keep a handle on assignments that are due this month and next. I’m not complaining. I just need to find a way to eek out a few more hours a day.  I reckon that a 36-hour day would do nicely, especially if I only had to sleep for four or five hours.


As this blog is my playpen, and as work does come first, you can see how my posts have taken a back seat for many moons.

Sure hope I catch up before the snow flies as I yearn to have time to get  Author! Author! back up and running, my photo gallery updated, and time to post some random thoughts about the writing life in general, traveling, paddling … or nothing in particular.

Meanwhile, here are three shots from Vietnam. First is from the bizarre and busy streets in the old quarter of Hanoi, the second is from Ha Long Bay, a magical place about three hours from Hanoi city, and the third is on the Mekong River in the southern part of Vietnam.

I also picked up a remedy for a cold from Larry, the same person who rescued my laptop: boil an egg, remove the yolk, put a silver coin in the cooked egg white, wrap egg and coin in cheesecloth then rub on forehead, temples and back of neck. As I developed a devilish head cold after spending 19 hours coming back home, I’ve used that remedy once a day and it seems to help (along with massive amounts of Vitamin C and some Echinacea.) He also provided a great remedy for upset stomach which he made for my sister, Carmen, while on the journey: simmer unrefined rice  for 30 minutes, strain,  and serve the hot rice water. Settled her tummy in a jiffy.

Onward! As far as I know, I plan to stay rooted here in Canaan for the winter. With any luck I can catch up in the next month or so.

No more excuses.








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I’m embarrassed to have such a prolonged absence here. I seem to get sidetracked by life in general and work in particular. Not a bad thing!  But it does seem a pity that we have to interrupt living with getting a few hours leep. Such is life.

You’ll be happy to know, however, that the Author! Author! series will resume in September.

Meanwhile, I’m involved in researching/writing several stories throughout Atlantic Canada.

I’ve also taken on the role of Managing Editor (Atlantic Canada) for a travel website titled Chichaku. I’m currently setting up content for Atlantic Canada and expect that we will be launching  this part of the Chichaku site in August.

Trust everyone is having a joyful summer.

The two photos that you see here were taken at Birchdale, one of my favourite places on earth.  Top photo is first cabin close to lodge. Second photo is from my canoe on a stillwater enroute to Second Carrying Lake. If you look closely, you may be able to see the beaver house on the upper mid-left of the shot on the right.

Just completed a 5-day wilderness paddle into “the Barrio” which is close by (above Birchdale), and will be returning for our annual Birchdale women’s get-away September 26-30. Birchdale is located about a 1-hr. drive from Yarmouth, N.S.  We stay in log cabins (no electricity). Heavenly! Great paddling and fellowship. Oh yeah … we take turns cooking and the food is always beyond wonderful. In fact, I’ve heard it said that this trip isn’t about paddling at all. Rather, it’s all about eating. Contact me for information.


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