Tuesday, December 11, 2012

EmSun - Blog Tour Review of The Summer Before the Storm

Somehow I missed posting this wonderful review on the day it was posted. Here is EmSun's review, which Downton Abbey fans may find interesting!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why I Chose to Write About This Era - Guest Blog & book giveaway

Guest Blog on To Read or Not to Read - Why I Chose to Write About  This Era - enter to win a copy of The Summer Before the Storm

Remembrance Day – Every Day!

Menin Gate, Ypres (Ieper) Belgium
Photo copyright Melanie Wills

We take a few minutes every November 11 to be mindful of and thank those who endured and sacrificed so much during the wars.  But every evening the people of Ypres (Ieper) commemorate those who died in the liberation of Belgium during the Great War of 1914-1918. In a city lovingly rebuilt from rubble to resemble its former medieval splendour, a ceremony is held at the Menin Gate, where 55,000 names of those Allied troops who have no known grave are inscribed. Nearly 7000 of them are Canadians. Aside from a few years during WW2, this moving homage has been taking place every day since 1928! It includes the playing of The Last Post, which you can see in this YouTube video. If you have 8 minutes, watch this lovely short film as well. For more information about the Menin Gate ceremony and its history, visit this website. And if you have a chance, do go there and experience it yourself. My family and I will never forget our trip to Ypres!

You might also be interested in my WW1 website – Odd, Intriguing, Surprising Facts about WW1 - which is being used by educators and researchers worldwide.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Virtual Book Tour

The Summer Before the Storm and I are embarking on a virtual book tour Nov. 1. Every weekday until Dec. 7, someone will be reviewing the novel, and interviewing me or posting one of my half-dozen guest blogs on theirs. Ten books will be given away during the tour as well. For more information about the novel, visit my website, where you can read sample chapters, see reviews and readers' comments, and so forth.

Below is the blog tour list. Many thanks to Teddy Rose of Virtual Author Book Tours for arranging this! I will also be following the tour on my Facebook Page.

Books and Needlepoint  Nov 1 Review
Books and Needlepoint  Nov 2 Guest Post & Giveaway
Broken Teepee Nov 2 Review
Bags, Books & Bon Jovi Nov 5 Review
BookNAround Nov 6 Review
Historical Tapestry Nov 6 Guest Post
Griperang’s Bookmarks Nov  7 Review & Giveaway
To Read or Not to Read Nov 8 Review
To Read or Not to Read Nov 9 Guest Post & Giveaway
ReadingPenguin Nov 9 Review
PopcornReads.com Nov 12 Review
Bassgiraffe’s Thoughts Nov 13 Review & Giveaway
West Metro Mommy Nov 14 Review
Celtic Lady  Nov 15 Review
Celtic Lady Nov 16 Interview & Giveaway
Bodice Ripper Novels Nov 16 Review
The Eclectic Reader Nov 19 Review & Giveaway
Book Dilettante Nov 20 Review
No Wasted Ink  Nov 21 Interview
Em Sun Nov 22 Review
J.A. Beard Nov 23 Interview
Blue Book Case  Nov 26 Review
My Devotional Thoughts Nov 27 Review
My Devotional Thoughts Nov 26 Guest Post & Giveaway
Book Lover’s Library Nov 28 Review
Butterfly-o-Meter Books  Nov 28 Excerpt & Giveaway
Peaceful Wishing Nov 29 Review
Peaceful Wishing Nov 30 Guest Post & Giveaway
Stitch, Read, Cook Dec 3 Review
Stitch, Read, Cook Dec 4 Guest Post
Sweeps4Bloggers Dec 5 Review & Giveaway
Mom In Love With Fiction Dec 6 Review
M. Denise C. Dec 7 Review

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Libraries Forever!

As a lover of books and someone who (having librarianship qualifications) spent years volunteering and working in school libraries, I’m always delighted to hear good-news stories about libraries prevailing despite local government cutbacks. It came to my attention yesterday that the citizens of Walker’s Point on Lake Muskoka have done something rather amazing – they banded together last year to save their library. With almost 200 members, it is now completely managed and staffed by volunteers.

I’ve treasured these venerable places since I was a child wandering among the silent, lofty corridors of books in our elegant Carnegie library. I know that there were always plenty of other people around, but I have this sense that I was often alone in the slightly dim and mysterious aisles populated with adventure and humour and tragedy, each book waiting to invite you into its world. Was that the mischievous Cat in the Hat peeking around the corner? And surely that was brooding Heathcliff whom I just glimpsed out of the corner of my eye. I loved the weight of the books I was hauling home, excited to climb into them as soon as I could. Just as good, was sitting at the polished tables doing research for a school project, lingering late into the evening in that special place where books were cherished and respected.

So when I was asked by the Walker’s Point Community Library if I would be willing to donate three of my novels I was happy to do so. Honoured, in fact, that they liked the two Muskoka Novels they already had and wanted more. It’s exciting to see your books on a shelf, with the possibility that they will touch the hearts and imaginations of those who choose to delve into them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Aboard!

 Wenonah II - photo by Melanie Wills

Thanks to devoted fans, there will be a celebration of my third Muskoka Novel, Under the Moon, aboard the vintage-era Wenonah II. Step "into the book" and enjoy a 3-hour luncheon cruise with me on beautiful Lake Muskoka, serenaded by music of the 1920s performed by the Gravenhurst Saxophone Quartet. Then tour the impressive Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre, and watch my short pictorial presentation "Fact in Fiction". Feel free to wear your favourite dress and/ or hat from the 1920s era!

The cruise departs at 11:30 AM on Sunday August 26, 2012 from the Muskoka Steamship Company docks in Gravenhurst, Ontario.

Lunch is breast of chicken drizzled in tarragon mushroom sauce, creamed potatoes, market fresh vegetables, bread rolls, and seasonal market fresh fruit crumble. A vegetarian/gluten-free option is also available.

Cruise + lunch + admission to Boat & Heritage Museum is $55 + HST

Call Carlson Wagonlit Stewart Travel to reserve your seat today!
1-800-561-4275  or  705-743-868.

Buses are being arranged from Peterborough/Lindsay and Guelph. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Under the Moon

Book 3 of The Muskoka Novels is now available! 

When Chas Thornton returns to the mystical island of Wyndwood as a decorated hero, more than flesh wounds remind him of his tumultuous past. Once merely a realm of carefree indulgence, this lavish retreat in the vast, haunting wilderness has now become a place of healing and rebirth. But can the serenity and stirring beauty that he abandoned five years earlier to fulfill his patriotic duty ever again feel the same? 

For Chas, his wife Ria, and their family and friends who survived the catastrophic war, the final battle is to rebuild their shattered lives. From the ruggedly genteel Canadian Shield to the cafés of decadent Paris and opulence of the blossoming Riviera, some seek to reinvent themselves among the avant-garde. Moving on and ascending the social hierarchy comes naturally to opportunistic cousin Jack, as he never had much to lose – until now. But for those whose sorrows and secrets lie in foreign graves, resolution seems impossible.

Meanwhile, the inevitable momentum of civilization ushers in a daring new era of scandalous excess and social upheaval that threatens the strictures of Edwardian society. On the forefront of this revolution are two diametrically opposed Wyndham cousins, Lizzie and Esme, who struggle to defy convention in the name of love and ambition. Only time will tell whether their worlds are ready to embrace change.

In this gripping third volume of the acclaimed Muskoka Novels series, Gabriele Wills vividly evokes the triumph and tragedy of the glittering Jazz Age as it seduces a privileged summer community, and we stand witness to its sultry dance on the dock, Under the Moon.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Sassy Jazz Age

Those who were young in the 1960s tend to think that theirs was the first era of social and sexual revolution.  But the 1920s was a time of radical change when  Western civilization truly entered the modern age. The burgeoning middle class embraced consumerism, and soon there was a Model-T Ford – available for as little as $290 - or other automobile in nearly every yard. People enjoyed new innovations such as radio, Kleenex, rayon, electric shavers, Popsicles, air conditioning, and Jantzen swimsuits – “The Suit that Changed Bathing to Swimming”.  

Liberated from confining corsets and floor-sweeping gowns, women stepped out of parlours as well as domestic service to pursue careers, or at least jobs that afforded them independence. Unchaperoned, they smoked, drank illegal booze, wore daring makeup, bobbed their hair, danced the Charleston with wild abandon in nightclubs, necked with boyfriends in the back seat of automobiles, and sometimes believed in “free love”.  Poet Dorothy Livesay spent a summer at the Muskoka Chautauqua where she went blueberry picking in the nude with friends. There were topless shows on Broadway, and Hollywood movies became so steamy that moral censorship guidelines were instituted through the “Motion Picture Production Code” in 1934. Banned on screen were such things as “excessive or lustful kissing” and profanities, including “God”,  “Christ”, “hell, and “damn”.  

But Paris was much more liberal. Homosexuality wasn’t a crime there, and sexual predilections of all kinds enjoyed unprecedented freedoms. With the franc devalued to mere cents compared to the dollar, it was little wonder that so many North Americans – then under Prohibition - moved to the “City of Light”. Among the 30,000 plus ex-pat Americans were artists and authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It was an exciting time to be young and mingling with the artistic and intellectual avant-garde, whose names still resonate as the voices of their generation.

It was great fun to portray this sassy era - which is remembered as both “The Jazz Age” and “The Roaring 20s” - in my latest novel, Under the Moon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

This could have been you 95 years ago

If you were a young Canadian man in 1917, you might well have been involved in the Battle of Vimy Ridge on this day. Here’s an excerpt from my novel, Elusive Dawn, from the point of view of one of the Canadian officers. Some of the women working as nurses and ambulance drivers were waiting behind the lines to pick up the pieces.

Justin Carrington was thankful to be out of the deep subway and cave where the slimy chalk walls had begun to close in on him, reminding him of the suffocating mud of the Somme, making him ashamed of the panic that he had to force back into the pit of his belly. By now he should have been used to the sweat and latrine stench of war, but with men packed so tightly together in these underground tunnels grey with cigarette and candle smoke, the oxygen seemed to have been used up. So he breathed deeply of the cold, pre-dawn air.
           Like most of the men, he hadn’t been able to sleep, even if it had been physically possible to find a comfortable place to rest. For months the entire Canadian Corps had been training for this day. Over and over they had practiced behind the lines – their objectives carefully laid out, the timing of their advance coordinated to the split-second – so that every last man knew exactly what to do….
           The men had had their rum ration, and boxes of Canadian Lowney chocolate bars had miraculously appeared. Justin savoured every bite of his, while relishing the reminder of home.
           So now they all stood silently in the trenches, in the rain that was turning to sleet, many up to their knees in icy sludge. 30,000 Canadian infantry strung along the four miles of Vimy Ridge. With another 70,000 soldiers in support roles behind – the gunners, engineers, medics, cooks, and so forth – it meant that the entire Canadian Corps was here, together for the first time….
           Justin checked his watch yet again. 5:15. Almost Zero Hour.
           His company of four platoons would go over in the second wave, leap-frogging those leading the assault at a predetermined line. The first battalions were already in the shallow jumping-off trenches and craters in no-man’s-land.
           After a week of constant shelling that had pummeled the German trenches and defences with a million shells, the silence now was eerie. And taut. Every one of them knew only too well that the Allies had tried and failed to take this strongly fortified and tactically important ridge during the past two years…. Despite some trepidation, Justin felt confident that their intense preparation and unprecedented bombardment would surprise and overwhelm the Germans.
           And he felt buoyed by the latest letter from Antonia Upton. She had written, “We have been evacuating the wounded from the base hospitals in large numbers recently,” which, in the parlance of censorship, insinuated that she realized space was being made for an onslaught of new casualties. She went on to say:
           We often hear the remorseless guns, and I wonder how you can stand the diabolical noise that surely threatens the very sanity of civilization. When we have air raids here, I sometimes find it difficult to muster the courage to keep going, cherishing the sanctity and preciousness of life too much to lose it. There is so much yet to experience, so much promise to fulfill. It seems almost treasonous to admit that I don’t want to sacrifice myself or any of my friends to the dubious glory of the Empire. Forgive my womanly heart, for I do not mean to diminish what you men are trying and dying to achieve.
           I expect you will soon be preoccupied, and trust you will be careful as well as lucky. I enjoyed our perambulations about the Hampshire countryside, and hope we can repeat those when the wildflowers are in bloom and the trees, lushly green. And perhaps you will take me sailing and canoeing when I come to visit your magical Muskoka. I have presumptuously included a photograph of myself in the event that you may wish to recall your correspondent.
           Fondly, Toni
           He had chuckled at the formality of that last sentence, which was no doubt intended to make the gesture appear less intimate. But he was delighted by the photograph and studied it frequently as if he could delve better into her psyche. To him it was evident that she was transparent, her inner beauty reflected in her outer attractiveness. From her perceptive, forthright gaze shone humour and a joie de vivre that captivated him. He had the picture tucked into his breast pocket, and felt the intoxicating stirrings of love.
           Joyfully he had replied to her:
           Your photo has brought me much cheer, but I hope that I may see the real you before long. Not in your capacity as an ambulance driver, however!
           I applaud your womanly heart, and agree with your sentiments. I have done much soul-searching over the past two years, caught between my civilized conscience and the dictates of war. I have seen both the best and the worst that human beings can do, the many and ever more mechanized ways we can slaughter one another, although we are more alike than dissimilar.
           Your friendship has revived in me the determination to survive this war and to make a difference in a world changed forever, but open to new possibilities. Our generation must try to right the wrongs that brought us here and for which so many, as Rupert Brooke so aptly said, ‘poured out the red sweet wine of youth’.
           Be assured that your thoughts and words comfort and sustain me, Toni. I long to sit in the sunshine with you, listening to the birds, but without the guns which now disturb their songs. The larks here seem forever hopeful. So shall I be.
           Affectionately, Justin
           It was snowing now, the wind whipping up a blizzard.
           5:28. Two minutes to go. After a passing whisper, the tiny clinks of bayonets being fixed to rifles coalesced and tinkled down the line.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Elusive Dawn" Review by Writers’ Digest Magazine

I was thrilled to receive this 5 star review from Writers’ Digest Magazine:

“In Elusive Dawn, author Gabriele Wills shows talent that is anything but elusive. Her skillfully crafted scenes populated by well drawn characters will pull readers into the story and not let go until the very last page. Although this is the second book in the series, it also works as a stand-alone. I appreciate some of the extras Ms. Wills incorporated into this book, including the map, the list of characters, and the “Author’s Notes” after the story ends. The author’s passion for this story shows through her powerful descriptions, emotional turning points, and bigger-than-life setting. The cover is attractive and simply elegant.

"With a story this awesome, I’m sure fans will be looking for more from Gabriele Wills…. The story is strong and has emotional arcs in all the right places. The most important thing Ms. Wills can do now is effectively market this book.”

Which is harder than researching and writing! So marketing has been put aside until Book 3 in the series is finished.


my inspiration for a series of novels - visit theMuskokaNovels.com for more info

Goodreads Ratings

Gabriele Wills's books on Goodreads
The Summer Before The StormThe Summer Before The Storm
reviews: 2
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.50)

ratings: 4 (avg rating 5.00)

ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.50)

A Place to Call HomeA Place to Call Home
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.00)