Monday, May 26, 2014

Author Interview: Julie H. Ferguson (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second half of my interview of author Julie H. Ferguson: 

How much time do you spend writing as opposed to marketing?
At the moment, 20% writing and 80% promotion. But that is the way it goes.
Usually I write more than 50% of the time, and much of that is now articles not books.

What were your personal connections to submarines and the navy generally?
In 1979, as a naval reserve officer, I was taken on a tour of HMCS Okanagan as part of my orientation. I fell in love with submarines and Okanagan’s CO at first sight. Soon after we were married I asked him over a bottle of Chianti what books had been written about the Canadian submarine service and he said, “None as far as I know.”
With the bravado of wine, I said, “Well, I shall write one!”
If I’d known it would take eleven years from concept to launch, I would never have had the guts to start it.

What other books that you have written are you particularly pleased with?
 All of them — two on submarine history that we’ve already discussed; one about bishops of BC, Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada’s Crusading Bishops; and one about the fur trade, James Douglas: Father of British Columbia, which is a young adult biography that reads as an adventure story. All are Dundurn books. The last one was researched, written, and revised in under four months, which I didn’t think I could achieve and was thrilled it came out as well as it did.
My bestselling book is Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors, one of my six self-published books for Canadian writers.
I have also self-published eight photo portfolios, but they are an ego thing!!
All this makes me a successful hybrid author, both self- and traditionally published; the blend improves my revenue.

What is your routine for writing—a particular place, or time of day?
Deadlines drive my writing, always have. I write like a fiend until a project is finished and then take a vacation! Not like many colleagues who prefer a writing routine of a set time and place.
I like peace and quiet to write with no distractions so I can get into “the zone” quickly and stay there. I do listen to baroque music as I write and have a small fountain in my study. When I’m stuck, I go for a walk and think it through. Always works for me, and has recently been proven by research at Stanford University.

If you were to give one piece of advice to new or emerging writers, what would it be?
Engage in your writing community. Take advice from published authors about good critique groups, workshops and conferences to attend, and use a good professional freelance editor who will teach you bucket-loads about craft.

Do you have a project you are working on that you can tell us about?
I will be away on travel writing assignments until the beginning of October, so I’m researching those destinations at present. Additionally, I am writing and illustrating some presentations for the submarine centenary. No more books on the horizon, but I do have a mid-grade novel series underway with the first book in the can — I have yet to pitch it.

Julie Ferguson blogs at and is on Facebook, Her books are available on

Part 1 of the interview is in an earlier blog post.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Author Interview: Julie H. Ferguson (Part 1 of 2)

 Julie H. Ferguson is an author, travel writer and photographer. She has an abiding interest in Canadian submarines. I recently interviewed her; here is part 1:

Product DetailsIt’s pretty common for authors to find cartons of unsold copies in their basements or their publisher’s warehouse. I take it you had the opposite problem with “Through a Canadian Periscope”?
Periscope sold two thirds of its print run in the first three months, and was out of print a couple years later. I attributed this to the book being selected for Books for Everyone just before Christmas 1995 — no social network or Internet campaigns in that era, just personal appearances on national radio and lots of positive reviews in the print media. I didn’t have a website until late-1996. How times have changed!

Who put on pressure for the second, updated edition, which just came out in March this year? Was it from your end, or from your publisher?
It was a joint endeavour — I’m fortunate to be close to my publisher, Kirk Howard, of Dundurn and also have had an ongoing relationship with the VP Sales and Marketing since 1993. Dundurn had published two other books of mine in 2006 and 2009, so I just told them about the submarine centenary over dinner one night. This is the huge advantage of building a strong and long relationship with your publisher and staff.

Were you anxious to do an update, in order to discuss the acquisition of the Victoria-class submarines and recent developments?
I was more eager to celebrate the submarine centenary in the only way that I could contribute. It was more that, than a desire to update Periscope. After all, I had another submarine book, Deeply Canadian, that detailed the acquisition of the Victorias after a ten day visit with the RN Upholder Sales Team in the UK. All I had to do was to discuss the activation, operational and maintenance processes with the RCN Submarine Force to get the books current. One benefit of second editions, however, is the ability to correct a few mistakes that became known after publication and another is the opportunity to restore the old images and add new ones.

What were the challenges in putting out the second edition?
None for Periscope. Also as all rights to Deeply Canadian had reverted back to me, I was free to make the changes to that book and publish it electronically using Kindle Direct Publishing, which I know how to do.

How have sales been?
Periscope: Don’t know until I sit down with the team at the end of June, and really we won’t know the details until after the centennial Submarine Week in August.
Deeply: I had 300 downloads of the digital second edition over Easter following a giveaway on Amazon and a huge promotion campaign on social media. I expected about 50 copies max, so was thrilled. This also caused a spike in Periscope sales apparently, but I don’t know the figures.
That was precisely my intention.
As an aside, this campaign also directly garnered invitations to do signings, media interviews, and presentations from the promotion of Deeply. A good result all round.

Julie Ferguson blogs at and is on Facebook, Her books are available on

Monday, May 12, 2014

HMCS Victoria to headline RIMPAC

RIMPAC 2014, a major international naval exercise, will kick off on June 26th this year and run through August 1st. Once again the RCN will be represented by HMCS Victoria and surface ships. Two years ago, during RIMPAC 2012, Victoria sank a decommissioned American ship with a live and highly successful torpedo firing.

Increased tensions at sea are current challenges for western navies. In the far east, the Peoples Liberation Army Navy is only one part of Chinese aggression toward her neighbours in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, in the Black Sea, Russia has increased its naval grip on the area with its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Submarines were a major part of intelligence-gathering during the Cold War. Details of those activities are slowly surfacing, with books (eg Hunter Killers, by Iain Ballantyne) and a recent newspaper article in The Australian about the Royal Australian Navy's "secret submarines".There is no reason to think that submarine intelligence-gathering is no longer taking place.

Here is a look at an earlier post about Victoria's torpedo firing in 2012. Video footage of the target vessel sinking is here

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Battle of the Atlantic

Seventy-one years ago this month marked a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Slow Convoy 130 sailed from Halifax for Liverpool, escorted by ships of the Royal Canadian Navy. Up to that time, slow convoys had been easy pickings for U-boats of the Kriegsmarine, though less so with allied advances in equipment and technology.

A turnover of escort duty was duly made to a Mid-Ocean Escort Group, aided by long-range patrol aircraft. Three waves of German submarines were vectored onto SC 130, but every ship of the convoy made it safely across the Atlantic. German losses to aircraft and ships were at least three submarines with others damaged.

The month termed "Black May" by the German submariners was the pivotal point in World War II's longest-running battle.

HMCS Sackville, Canada's last surviving corvette, one of the many small ships of the RCN and RN that were a major force in the Battle of the Atlantic. Sackville is on display in Halifax and is a crucial piece in a major planned Battle of the Atlantic museum.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Battle of the Atlantic at HMCS Discovery

I was honoured to be the speaker at the Naval Officers Association of British Columbia's annual Battle of the Atlantic dinner held on May 3rd at HMCS Discovery. Discovery is the Canadian navy's reserve division headquarters in Vancouver.
Some sixty-five or so members and guests attended. The attendees enjoyed a fine meal and interesting company, with ship's officers leading the way in impromptu renditions of "Heart of Oak" and "What Shall We do with a Drunken Sailor".

Following the formal parts of the dinner I presented a brief overview of Canadian submarines and submariners, tracing back from the present-day Victorias to CC1 and 2. In the photo above, taken during my talk, it was fortuitous that a new painting of CC1 and CC2 by our very accomplished marine artist, John Horton, was on display. It is visible in the background.

Also present were John Molyneux and his grandson, Philip. John is a long-standing member of the NOA of BC. In the photo they are in front of a painting of HMS Hood during a visit to Vancouver between the wars. John had the distinction of serving in Hood--and the good luck to be drafted off scant weeks before she sailed on her final voyage and her fatal meeting with Germany's Bismarck.

Photos courtesy Mary Horton