Saturday 25 March 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Zev Bagel of Shediac, NB, Canada.


This is not Zev’s first time as a guest on the Scribbler and we hope it won’t be the last. He shared an excerpt from one of his novels – Bernie Waxman & The Whistling Kettle. Check it out HERE.

Zev and his artist wife, Nicole Tremblay, were also guests on a joint posting. Please go HERE to see it again.

This week he will share the Story Behind the Story with his latest work.


Zev Bagel lives in Shediac, where he can look out of his window onto Shediac Bay – an inspirational setting. His short stories and poems have been published in several anthologies, and he is the author of four novels to date: Bernie Waxman & the Whistling Kettle, which was shortlisted for the Atlantic literary awards, Secrets, Solitary, winner of the David Adams Richards Award, and his latest, The Last Jew in Hania. As Warren Redman, he has published seventeen books of non-fiction, including the Canadian award-winning The 9 Steps to Emotional Fitness. Many of his poems are inspired by the work of his wife, artist Nicole Tremblay.

Title: The Last Jew in Hania. 


Synopsis: May 29th, 1944. The last of the 2,300 year old Jewish community of Hania is rounded up. Nazi soldiers load them onto a cargo ship, their final destination Auschwitz. They don’t get far. Just off the coastline of Crete, the vessel is torpedoed and sunk. Every one of the Jewish community is lost. Except for one young woman, Olympia Surmon, and the baby she rescues. The synagogue, Etz Hayyim (Tree of Life), is left in ruins for over fifty years. The Jews are forgotten. Olympia is a lost soul. The baby grows up not knowing who she is.

In January 2010, Judith Hamilton arrives in Crete from her home in Canada, determined to trace the roots of her family, in time to witness an arson attack on the local synagogue. She uncovers the dark truth about the lost Jews of Hania, and becomes embroiled in a mysterious plot that threatens her own survival. Based on real events, The Last Jew in Hania brings new life to a community that perished apart from one survivor.



The Story behind the Story: When my wife and I visited Hania in Crete some years ago, we came across an old synagogue which had been recently refurbished after a fire, and discovered the incredible history of the Jews of Hania. The story stayed with me. Apart from some archival material and the briefest of information about the tragic events of 1944, I could find nothing substantial that had been written. It was a story that had to be told. We returned to Hania for a longer visit, when I delved more into the atmosphere of the place and its people, and the book gradually emerged. Wanting to bring the Jews of Hania to life, rather than simply relate the tragedy of their loss, I invented a baby, and a contemporary Canadian character, Judith, who returns to Hania to search for the roots of her family. The result is a historical fiction, which I hope serves to honour and celebrate the lives of the Jews of Hania, as well as brings to light the terror of the Nazi regime and the crimes committed in its name; the kind of crimes that, sadly, are being committed to this day in other contexts.






A question before you go Zev:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


The setting I write in is perfect for me – it’s like being on a retreat every day. Not that I write every day, or have a specific time that I set aside. It’s whenever the urge (and the inspiration) impels me. I jot down notes on bits of paper that litter my desk. I keep little treats in my desk drawer and nibble away when tension mounts. Sometimes I use the App Coffitivity, which brings up the sounds of a coffee shop, so it’s as though I’m surrounded by other people. Seems to help feeling that others are watching me work!



Here’s an excerpt:


Hania, Crete, Monday, May 29th, 1944


Boots clattered on the street below the rabbi’s bedroom window, breaking into his fragile sleep. His small house shuddered as fists beat upon the door. A bombardment of shouts burst upwards. The rabbi began to recite the Shema, the Hebrew prayer.

He heard his daughter Roza, already a widow, go down the creaky stairs. He heard the door open. He heard the contempt in her voice.

“What do you want? Can’t you leave us alone?”

Rabbi Ilias Osmos stirred his bones from his narrow bed. He dragged on his robe, straightened the yarmulke on his head, and opened his bedroom door. Squinting down from the top of the stairs, he saw the German officer looking up at him. Behind the Nazi, Roza clutched her gown around her slender body. More soldiers stood just outside the door.

The officer was pleasant at first; almost apologetic. He sat at the kitchen table, his hat with its shining insignia placed at a right angle in front of him, explaining that he had been instructed to collect the list of names of all the Jews in Hania.

“For our records, you understand.”

“And what will you do with the names?” asked Rabbi Osmos.

“I am simply instructed to collect them for the record.”

“Suppose I refuse to give them to you?”

“I will arrest every Jew I can find and ask them myself. It’s not too difficult; you all live together in this hole.”

“It is not so easy to gather all the names. Where do you expect me to begin? It will take weeks.”

The officer leaned forward.

“Look, you old yid, don’t play games with me. You have everyone’s name written down somewhere. I’ll tear your house down and then the synagogue until I find what I want.”

Bile rose in the rabbi’s chest. He fought back the bitterness. He had been abandoned to this. The community leaders had left him to face these invaders alone. Rabbi Osmos had done his best to placate them. Only a few weeks ago he had attended the funeral of the Nazi consul.

The rabbi swallowed hard and opened his mouth to speak, but the German beat him to it.

“And then I will start shooting Jews one by one until you give me the names of every Jewish man, woman, and child in Hania. I will shoot the woman here first. You will be the last. I will start this morning. You have one hour.”

The officer stood, replaced his cap, clicked his heels, and flung out his arm.

“Heil Hitler.”

He turned sharply and strode past Roza, who was flattened against the wall. The rabbi finally exhaled. Two soldiers remained in the house.

The rabbi went to his desk in the corner of the room. He opened the lower drawer, extracted a book. There was one newborn whose name he had not yet entered. He gestured to Roza, who sidled over to him. He whispered urgently.

“Go find Revekka Elhais. Tell her to hide the baby. Tell her the Germans are coming for us.”

Roza’s way was barred by one of the soldiers.

“My daughter must go to find the register with some of the names I do not have. She will be only five minutes.” He turned to Roza.

“Be quick,” he said. “You will find the book under the bimah. Be back here in five minutes.” He prayed she understood.


 Zev is one of the Participating Authors at the Greater Moncton Riverview & Dieppe Book Fair on April 22nd, 2023. 10am - 4pm. 701 Coverdale Road, Riverview. He will be there with all his books.

Visit the GMRD website and check out his profile and website.


Thanks for being our guest this week, Zev. And for the excerpt. Wishing you continued success on your writing journey.


And thanks to you, our visitors and readers.


What is the one book you would never do without?

Saturday 18 March 2023

Come meet Editor-in-Chief James Fisher of The Miramichi Reader.


If you are a book lover, you need to connect with one of Canada’s major book review web sites - The Miramichi Reader.

Let’s welcome James Fisher – Editor -in-Chief. It’s not James' first time on the Scribbler. A lot has changed since then. I invite you to take a peek at his previous visit HERE.

Let’s chat with James.


Scribbler: Thanks for taking the time to be our guest James. When we talked about TMR before, it was in 2018 and you mentioned TMR had been in existence since 2014. What is the one major change during these years of which you are the proudest of?


James: I am very proud of the coverage we are able to provide to Canadian book lovers. While I started out with the Atlantic coast publishers and authors in mind, TMR has expanded its coverage nationwide. In addition, I hear great things spoken about TMR from my contacts in the publishing world, which makes me feel good. Blurbs from our reviews can be found on many publisher’s websites, and even in books themselves. I am very happy that TMR grew so organically, and in the process, gained credibility as a trusted source for book reviews.


Scribbler: TMR now has many contributors to the site. Can you tell us something about the growth and how do you find reviewers?


James: The addition of more reviewers, which really took off during the initial years of the Pandemic, has been wonderful, Allan. Many of these – including some who are authors themselves - were invited by myself, and others stepped forward when I put out a call on social media for more reviewers. I really wanted to cover more of the Canadian publishing scene and I can now boast that we have around 50 reviewers on the team, some contributing more frequently than others, but all are doing a fine work for TMR. One of our reviewers, Carrie Stanton, also doubles as our social media person, and that frees up more time for me to keep the site current.


Scribbler: What are important elements in a review?

James: Avoiding spoilers! Seriously, a good review should be balanced, mentioning the positives as well as the negatives about the reading experience. For instance, I recently reviewed a book that claimed to be a “true story” about a certain historical Canadian. However, instead of the expected non-fiction book, it read more like a novel with plenty of invented dialogue. In addition, there was no bibliography or list of references. No photos, nothing that would mark this “true story” as being authoritative. I mentioned all this in my review. I didn’t say that people shouldn’t purchase this book, just be aware of what they are getting.

In addition, a good review should elaborate on the book’s synopsis so that a person reading the review will either be intrigued to buy the book, or think “that topic doesn’t interest me” and move on.


Scribbler: You recently started a funding program through Patreon and Ko-fi. Can you give my readers some direction with how they can be an active part of TMR?


James: I began looking for funding sources, as up until last year (2022) I was funding all the expenses of TMR out of pocket. As the site grew, I needed to purchase a more comprehensive web hosting package, full versions of newsletter services, and WordPress plug-ins to keep the site running smoothly and looking professional. There are also some postal expenses and so on. I didn’t want to apply for a government grant, as I wanted the funding to come from the readers I knew were out there. I went with Patreon initially, then got onboard with Ko-fi as it easily allows one-time donations of $5 and up. I put a little “tip” button at the end of each post, so that if a reader appreciated that particular post, they could leave a tip. Every little bit helps!

Another great feature of TMR. Go HERE.


Scribbler: Anything else you’d like to share?


James: In 2022, I tried going the podcasting route as I had been avoiding getting into it for some time. While it was fun to talk to authors on Zoom, it involved a lot of my free time to edit the audio and create an episode that sounded somewhat professional. Eventually, I could see that podcasting wasn’t worth the effort for TMR. It was through our newsletter, social media, and the website that we were reaching the most people. So, I hung up the microphone. One has to try new things, but keeping the status quo is working for us quite well.



Thank you for being our guest, James. Thank you for the great site.


Dear Readers, be sure to visit The Miramichi Reader.


And thank you to all our visitors.

Sunday 12 March 2023

The Story Behind the Story with British Author Mary Lay.


Let’s welcome Mary to the Scribbler.

It’s always a treat to have a guest from “across the pond.”

When you visit her website, you will read this:

“Welcome to the era of Art Deco, Jazz bands and flapper dresses!”

Sounds good to me.



I grew up in rural Berkshire, then spent over 15 years in Devon and Cornwall before settling for now in the Cotswolds. I taught myself to read and write when I was 4 because I was convinced I would be allowed to go to school if I could do those things. I’ve been writing ever since, though not always stories. I’ve also had a variety of other jobs including a support assistant for an autistic boy, a giftware model maker, proofreader, and digital learning manager. I’m a Royal Horticultural Society trained garden designer, and also have qualifications in agile product development.

Much of my life has had similarities to the Miss Read stories, and they are definitely my go-to comfort novels.



Working Title: I am in the final proof stages of my third novel, Birds of the Storm.



Synopsis: It is the third in the series; we are following Caroline as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery through 1920s England. Caroline Munhead has spent two years catching up with her old school friends and taking her first tentative steps as a young woman. Now in 1927 she spreads her wings a little further and finds herself in north Somerset in a rented cottage. A new group of friends and a new set of challenges bring Caroline to an unexpected proposal. Will she make Somerset her forever home? Will a message from beyond the grave prove true?




The Story behind the Story: This all started during lockdown in 2019. I would go out for our permitted 30 minutes of exercise and walk the streets of Cheltenham, looking at the buildings and wondering who first lived and worked there. Readers might not know, but Cheltenham is a Regency town, but with housing from different eras radiating out from the centre, and with lots of tree-lined streets and parks. I started to research some of the areas online and as I continued my walks, some of the characters came into focus for me.

I had read some of Elizabeth von Arnim’s novels but couldn’t find anything else in a similar vein. So, I decided to write my own. I wanted something easy to read, a gentle story of ‘normal’ people. I often think of these stories as a historical soap opera. There are occasional big events, but more often than not we are just spectators watching someone else’s life unfold.

Once I started, the first story, Catching Up, flew out of my fingers. Writing at evenings and weekends, it was done in just over 2 months. I couldn’t stop! The characters kept talking to me and I drove on with the second novel, The Price of Coal. That too was completed in 3 months. I took a short break and then continued with the instalment that is due for publication in March 2023, Birds of the Storm. There are two more complete novels, the ideas for number six, and also a companion book of short stories, because some of the minor characters have been rather cross that they didn’t play bigger parts and want to tell their stories too!

The narrative is driven by real events. That’s my starting point when I am thinking about the story first: what actually happened in that year and what effect might it have had on my characters? The event might become a backdrop, or it might influence the story – I’m never entirely sure when I start to write, and it’s not unusual for me to stray completely away from my original plot line as I discover some other true story that I can borrow from.

I pitched to a number of agents and publishers. I received three separate offers of hybrid contracts, but the more I learned about traditional publishing and how I could lose creative control of my work, I decided that I would self-publish. I work with a professional designer, Chandler Design Associates in Norfolk, and John there immediately understood the concept I had for the covers.

I’m under no illusions that I will be able to retire on my book sales alone! I see these novels as an achievement that I never imagined I would have, and a welcome supplement to my retirement plans. Of course, if someone is interested in turning them into a television series I would be interested, but I write mainly because the characters simply will not be quiet.



A question before you go, Mary:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


I actually wrote almost all of the five novels so far while sitting on my sofa. I have a very small flat, and no room for a desk – certainly no spare room to use as an office or library. In an ideal world I would have a small house somewhere in a cold country; Scotland, Canada, Scandinavia, somewhere like that. I find the quietness of snow captivating. A room with a desk that looked out onto a garden or countryside covered with snow, a log fire, a comfortable armchair and foot stool, plenty of reference books on the shelves and a small radio. I listen to classical music when I write, or nothing at all. I adore the Russian composers, particularly Shostakovich.

If someone could bring me a fresh pot of tea every hour or so, that would be appreciated. Either a good Assam, or a blend called Russian Caravan. There would be plenty of room for the tea pot as I don’t tend to write notes, though I am known to have piles of things – mostly knitting, books and piles of letters that I need to respond to.



Thank you for being our guest this week, Mary. Wishing you continued success with your writing.



And a Grand Canyon thank you to all you visitors and readers?


What are you reading?

Saturday 4 March 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Author DC Malcolm of New Brunswick, Canada.


This week on the Scribbler, we are featuring another New Brunswick Author.

I’m pleased she accepted our invitation to share the good news about her debut novel.

Read on.


Born and raised in New Brunswick, D.C. Malcolm has always been fascinated by literature and had a vivid imagination. Whether she was going on some magical adventure; or making up scary stories about the house next door with her friends. As D.C. got older, D.C. started to write down her ideas and transform them into short stories. In the third grade, after winning a short story contest, her teacher suggested she become an author, and D.C. has been chasing that dream ever since. At 36 years old, she dedicated her spare time to launching her writing career.



Working Title: Guilty Deceptions



Synopsis: I am Sheriff Dawson, and things are usually quiet in this small town. Let me tell you why September 1869 changed my life. Young Caroline found what was left of the poor souls in Willow Grove, leading to the most complex investigation I have ever seen, let alone investigated. Sometimes I think I will never find answers as I try to make sense of this case. Even the clues that point to the prime suspect, a famous architect, complicate things. Now, I must prove his innocence before it's too late!



The Story behind the Story: I have always been interested in True Crime. I grew up with Robert Stack’s Unsolved Mysteries.

I watched every Friday night and never missed an episode. I became obsessed with local crimes, and read up on Allan Legere and Noel Winters among others. That’s when I stumbled upon a case from 1869. It was the case of Maggie Vail.

That case intrigued me because there were so many holes. So many unanswered questions that it made me wonder if they got it right.

In 2013, the first idea for Guilty Deceptions surfaced. After a single trip to the library and many late nights online researching about Maggie, and Saint John in the 1860s and I was finally ready to write. In my early drafts of Guilty Deceptions, I included real names as the book followed the truth of the case. Yet, time went on and the story evolved, and last names got changed because the story had transformed and leaned away from the truth. Suddenly it became a fictionalized story based on a real-life murder.

It took me eight years to publish Guilty Deceptions but it needed time to grow. Finally, in 2021 it was complete.

My mother, an avid reader had read the first five chapters and helped me get inside the characters' heads. She taught me how their personality would be at that time, and how they’d react to certain situations within the story. Many of the places mentioned in Guilty Deceptions were real places in Saint John or Willow Grove at that time. Like the gallows rumored to have been built by John.

In high school, I had toured the old courthouse for Law class and when I used the spiral staircase, I got sick and dizzy. Thus Sheriff Dawson had a problem with the stairs. On the same trip, I stood in the very spot the gallows once stood.

My brother had heard the story many times because I read out loud when I’m editing. He loved the scene: Get out of me house! He burst into fits of laughter whenever he heard it so I knew that scene was a keeper.

I had fun writing Guilty Deceptions and I have been told by others that they have fun reading it. There will be at least two other books featuring Sheriff Dawson, Saint John, and Willow Grove sometime soon.






A question before you go, DC:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


Over the new year, I finally got my desk for a semi-office space in my living room. My apartment is small and before that, I was writing on my couch! I usually start writing at 6 AM and continue writing off and on throughout the day until about 6 pm. I tend to write better when I listen to music (the track list depends on what I’m writing) currently the track list on my Spotify is 90s music, as I’m writing a romance based in the 90s. I usually have a coffee at my side. Most
 of my notes are on my laptop, but my desk can get messy sometimes. I also don’t stop writing  when I travel, but usually take a notebook and pen as opposed to my laptop.



An Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Guilty Deceptions:


Chapter One

Who would have dreamed that something like this would happen in a quiet town such as here? I've lived it and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself. I tend to do that. Anyway, it all begins with the Sheppard family.

Billy and Anne Sheppard lived out in Willow Grove, on Black River Road. They were farmers because men of Billy's complexion got little education, but, Billy’s content with his little farm. They had three daughters. Margaret, the oldest, looked just like Anne. The middle child, Martha, a perfect mix of the two, and the youngest Caroline was Billy through and through. On September 12th, 1869, young Caroline stumbled onto the horrifying scene that altered our lives; forever.

Caroline and her sisters Margaret and Martha were out picking blueberries at the junction of Black River and Quaco. Caroline wandered off the main road and ended up a little way into the Barrens. As she plucked blueberries, she noticed a bit of cloth sticking up from beneath the brush. Now Caroline was a curious child and so she pulled at it with her hands. Caroline’s high-pitched scream echoed around the barrens and alerted her sisters, who rushed to her side. In a state of shock; all three of the girls threw their buckets of blueberries on the ground and ran all the way home. Swearing to keep what they discovered a secret; forever.

Where was I? At the police station, sitting at my desk and reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue for the thousandth time. I’m not alone, Deputy Patrick Jackson sat at his desk, fiddling with a deck of cards and I was reminded of the interview for his job.

“What do your folks do?” I asked. Patrick leaned forward and folded his hands on the desk.

“Well, my father, Thomas, is a banker. My mother passed away about ten years ago,” he said.

I frowned. “So sorry for your loss,” I said. Patrick shifted in his seat.

“Thank you,” he said. “It was a long time ago now. I barely remember her. Father never remarried, instead he focused all his energy on me.”

“Yeah, well that's the thing about fathers, they tend to do that,” I said. “So, tell me what makes you want to be deputy?”

Patrick crossed his arms. “Not my father. He doesn’t approve. He feels it’s a dangerous job,” he said.

“I certainly can relate,” I said. “I notice you’re rather young. No wife or a girlfriend to speak of, why is that?” Patrick glanced down, wringing his hands. He hesitated for a moment it could have been two before he shook his head.

“No,” he said. “I’ve got no interest in settling down with a woman. I hope that doesn’t stop me from getting this job.”

“Of course not,” I said.
Patrick’s odd. His lack of desire has very little to do with his looks. In fact, it's not that Patrick isn't handsome. With his wavy blonde hair, he parts in the middle–to cover the slight scar under his left eye. His green eyes and ivory complexion make Patrick look like a prince in shining armour; even with the scar.

The door opened and John Riley walked in like he owned the place. John’s my brother-in-law, of course, but truth be told, I didn’t like him all that much.

“Hello, John,” I said.

John nodded. “Stephen,” he said. He was being very formal this morning and I wasn't sure why.

I nodded. “How’s your father?” I asked. John shrugged and his eyes narrowed, and he was glaring at the wall behind me.

“I don’t care,” he said.

“You don’t?” I asked.

“My entire life he has done nothing for me,” John said.

“He gave you life,” I said.

“Father only cares about his stature in life,” he said.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” I said.

“I might be his son, but he doesn't care about me,” he said.

“How’s Annie and the boys?” I asked, changing the subject. This made John smile.

“They are doing well, thank you,” John said. John married my sister, Annie, in 1862. They have three youngsters, the oldest is about seven. John, a middle-aged man, has a thick red mane that curled around his ears and sticks out about an inch. His eyes are the colour of emeralds and he has a very thick and prominent scar that runs down his left cheek. He hovered over my desk like he’s the most important person in the room; I hate that.

“What brings you in today?” I asked, rolling my eyes. For about a year now, John has been coming in everyday without fail and he always has a feeble excuse for his visits.

“I wanted to remind you to bring a bottle of whisky to dinner tomorrow night,” he said, his eyes locked on mine as he waited for an answer. I blinked and shook my head.

“Don’t I always?” I asked. John peered at me and nodded.

“Yeah,” He answered. I peered back at him and furrowed my brow.

“Of course I'd bring one tomorrow,” I said.


Monday, September 13th, 1869

That morning, Billy and Anne were sure that something happened the day before with their girls. While all of their girls seem bothered by something, young Caroline’s the worst. She isn’t eating, and she isn’t sleeping, she’s ashen-faced, and Billy even noted her mumbling to herself a few times. That’s what made him decide to talk to Caroline. She’s sitting on the porch when he found her and she’s staring at her feet. He sat down beside her.

“Caroline, why are you not eating or sleeping?” Billy asked and glanced at the ground. Caroline sighed and pressed her lips together.

“Something bad,” Caroline said, not looking up at him. Billy glanced at his daughter, and noticed she’s trembling.

“What?” He asked. Caroline shook her head.

“Me can’t tell, me promised to not tell,” Caroline said and Billy pressed his lips together.

“What did you see out there in them Barrens? Can you show me at least?” Billy asked. Caroline sighed and nodded.




Thank you for being our guest this week, DC. Wishing you tons of success with your novel.


Thank you to all our readers and visitors.


I dare you to leave a comment.