In memory of Auld Lang Syne

How music and memories entwine

I am not as musical as I would like to be, not as musical as my brother, father and paternal grandmother that’s for sure.

Granma Jessie Caulfield was a fine pianist. She could play practically anything by ear. I used to love listening and watching her play In the Mood, Baby Elephant Walk and the mournful Godfather theme song. She never seemed to tire. She had a pianola, which we all wanted to play. Even though it was hard work pressing those pedals, press we did, hoping that by osmosis we too could tinkle the ivories just like her.

Granma Caulfield 2My grandmother had been playing the piano since the nineteen teens. During the second world war her husband, my grandfather, a taxi driver, would often arrive home for dinner, calling out as he came up the stairs, ‘Another one for dinner, Mama,’ giving her five seconds warning to rise, warmly greet a US soldier and put on more vegetables. But it was never a bother. She loved welcoming people into her home. Afterwards, she would play the piano for them with my aunt and uncle joining in for sing-alongs.

She played at country dances and private parties as well, and as my father grew up, he too would join her, playing the piano accordion. Years later when my brother, Greg, and I arrived we would tag along to these social events and at the end of many a gathering, everyone would form a large circle, hold hands, sing and charge to Auld Lang Syne – literally translated as ‘old long since’ but commonly translated as ‘for the sake of old times’.

It was my favourite part of the entire evening, albeit a challenge sometimes for me to stay awake till this climax – particularly on New Year’s Eve. To me, singing Auld Lang Syne was a sacred ritual that bound people together in a way that words or physical actions rarely ever did. To stand in that circle and hold someone’s hand gave me a palpable sense of belonging. This humble Scottish tune fills me with bittersweet nostalgia every time I hear it. It fills my throat with a great lump of emotion every time I sing it. Sadly it’s an important tradition, a beautiful tradition, that is dying.

In Come What May there is a moment when something sacramental is called for to mark the significance of an occasion. And in that moment one of my characters steps forward and sings Auld Lang Syne.

This version and this clip come close to capturing what that moment was like. The singer is Daniel Cartier from New York; the clip was filmed on a windswept winter’s day on Cape Cod.

Daniel in water

Daniel 2 in water

Years ago I went to Cape Cod on a windswept winter’s day. I was in Boston attending meetings with a spare weekend in between. My partner, Mark, was with me and we decided we’d go to Provincetown, even if were January and far from sunny. We’d seen enough of Boston in winter. (Seriously, this was my fourth winter visit.)

Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, was charming, full of wooden clapboard houses  and shopfronts. I bought a set of earrings made from space shuttle material, or so I was told. The Sonoma chardonnay we drank over dinner was mellow and superb. Everywhere we went the people were wonderfully friendly and as Mark and I discovered wonderfully gay. We could very well have been the only straight couple in town. We stayed in a place that reminded me of the inn from Nights of Rodanthe. Being the quiet season we had a choice of rooms. We chose one on the bottom level at the rear with glass windows around three sides opening to a bleached wooden deck hovering just above the grey sleepy sea. Late that afternoon a storm with winter lighting (!) swept across the harbour. It was exciting and elemental, lashing all around us while we were high and dry in our glass cube.

Years later when I was writing Come What May and wanting my character to sing Auld Lang Syne I went searching for the song, just for the pleasure of listening to it once more. And that is when I stumbled upon Daniel. His version warmed my heart in so many ways, reminding me how fortunate my life has been, reminding me of loved ones who are no longer with us, reminding me of the beauty of wide open spaces and the communion of kindred souls.

I hope you love it just as much as I do and come back here again when you get to that part in Come What May. Here’s what Daniel has to say about his rendition:

It’s one of those rare songs that makes me feel joy and sadness all at once. Faces from the past… faces from the present… all come together and tug at my heart. 

The one constant we have in life is change. In every life there are heartwarming hellos and heartbreaking goodbyes. That’s not always easy to handle. Embracing the new. Letting go of the old. Laughter and tears. This song has always driven these points home to me.  

I recorded this version in my home studio. The whole process took 10 minutes. I had a good cry when I was through. A few days later – my partner and I filmed the video with a cellphone, on a deserted beach of our beloved Cape Cod. It was well below freezing and very windy. I think we were on the beach for 15 minutes.

Come What May is close!

Come What May is close 2


Dear Readers

Thank you for your patience with me as you wait for Come What May, Book 2 of The Iceberg Trilogy. I have spent the last five weeks doing rewrites and edits of my manuscript. The good news is nothing much has changed in the arc of this novel. I’ve just been able to add greater insights, emotions and depth to the characters and some of the events that they go through. I’m much happier with the novel now and I’m hoping it will have a similar emotional resonance as my debut novel, Seldom Come By.

I am aiming to release this in mid-late September – the exact date will be advised shortly – with the Advanced Readers Edition (ARE) for Netgalley, bloggers and review sites being available on 1 September.

However, as a thank you to my supportive readers of Seldom Come By I am also going to GIVE AWAY 6 copies of the ARE (ebook) on 1 September as well.  I’m running the competition over here on my Facebook page.

The competition is geared around reviews of Seldom Come By.

3 winners will be drawn from people who have already written a review.

3 winners will be drawn from people who write a review between now and 31st August.

(Cut off will be midnight Hawaii time.)

So if you have been meaning to write a review of Seldom Come By I hope this will be the incentive you’ve been looking for.

If you haven’t read Seldom Come By yet but have been meaning to, well great news, the ebook is on sale for $1.99 until 31st August. You can buy it here.

Here’s the various locations where you can write a review:

The site where you purchased your ebook from:

Or Goodreads or Book Movement

You have to signup to be a member of both Goodreads and Book Movement but membership is free, painless and worthwhile and I would really love it if some of the book clubs who have read my book could write a review on Book Movement!!


My Writing Process

Come what May Landing Page

Thank you to my dear friend, and highly versatile writer and author, Julie Fison, for inviting me to be part of My Writing Process Blog Tour. Julie and I go way back. In fact that tiny faded pic is of the two of us holidaying one summer on Great Keppel Island. These days, Julie writes travel articles, children’s books (The Hazard Rivers Series), teenage romances and more. In fact she’s going to be a guest here next week to celebrate the launch of her upcoming book, How to Get to Rio, so please pop back next week.

In the spirit of this tour I am going to answer 4 questions about my writing:

1)     What am I working on?

I am currently itching to work on Come What May, the second novel in The Iceberg Trilogy. I’m hoping to launch it in the second half of 2014. It’s sitting at around 108,000 words and I thought I had finished it a few years ago but the characters have been talking to me of late and I realise I have more of their life to tell. Consequently, I’m excited and longing to get back to them. The story is set in the years 1939 through to the mid 1970s. It starts in Newfoundland then moves across Canada so that a lot of the story takes place in Northern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. It continues Samuel and Rebecca’s story while moving to the next generation, primarily their daughter, Evangeline – Gene as she is known by everyone. In Come What May readers get to meet a wonderful new character by the name of Sonny (pronounced Sunny) who is a very talented pilot.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think this question could perhaps be more objectively answered by my readers!  I write epic adventurous love stories. Seldom Come By and Come What May are historical and maybe by the time Come Full Circle is released it will be historical too! (It’s set in the 1990s). And they’re romantic as well…however if you put the words ‘historical romance’ together you might think bodice ripper and if you did, you’d be way off the mark.

I think there are three aspects to my writing that I hope over time will define my style:

Intensity of emotions. I want my characters (and my readers) to go through the full spectrum of human experiences and emotions. Their lives are certainly deeply felt by me as the writer. I cried for them as I wrote about them. Even this line got me started: as three generations of Dalton men folded their hearts and their lives in each other’s arms.

A sense of place. I love landscapes, seascapes and nature. I want my writing to reveal the visual splendour of a place in a way that has almost a cinematic quality to it. I want to capture the imagination of my readers and transport them to places that are almost otherworldly. There are other books that do this as well so I can’t say that’s unique about my work.

‘Signature Moments’ are where I combine the two, so where emotions like elation, heartbreak and enlightenment unfold in a sublime setting, creating an intense emotional connection for the reader. The iceberg scene in Seldom Come By is one such example.

The unexpected. The other element, which I do see as a hallmark of my work, is an unexpected and shocking plot development. I can’t really say much more than that other than to say people will be reading along with a sense of where my story is going and then something happens that totally challenges that. Some in my inner circle call this the ‘Gasping Moment’.

3)  Why do I write what I do?

A starting point was to come up with a story that would explain one unusual woman I encountered during my travels in Canada.

But now that her and others’ stories have evolved it’s almost in a bizarre way like I know these people and have been given permission to tell their story, to bear witness to their pain and suffering, but also their joy, and that there are learnings to their stories.

But why did I want to write in the first place? I think it comes down to that Helen Keller quote: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” I wanted to connect with people’s hearts.

4)     How does your writing process work?

I am not a full time writer. I long for the day when I can be. My year tends to be made up of chunks of marketing project work  – the feast and famine adage applies – so what I like to do is carve out several weeks at a time when I can, as much as possible, lock myself away and write and write and write. So that’s long hours at the computer where I drink copies amounts of tea – Earl Grey, Chai, Jasmine or Russian Caravan – interspersed with walks or swims. I find that when I get a block or can’t figure something out I need to get out and get moving and the fresh air seems to help unravel things for me.


I hope that gives you a little more background on my writing. At this point I am meant to introduce you to the author who will continue the tour next week but I’ve been a bit snowed under so haven’t got round to doing that as yet. (I know, slack!)… but I’m hoping Jennifer Collin might be able to tell us about her writing process…  I’ll post the details on my Facebook page. Stay tuned 🙂

Meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to add a comment and I’ll respond.