Stormstruck Excerpt

A voice cackled through a long tube that jutted down into the captain’s quarters and Frederick leapt to his feet. He put his ear to the tube, his eyes growing wide. “They’ve spotted a boat, port side.” Michael, Jolene and Em followed him onto the deck, grasping the steel railing and holding on for their lives. The blizzard raged around them, stealing their words and reducing all communication to hand gestures and signals. Michael pointed into the water where the ominous hull of a freighter wallowed upside down. A man’s head bobbed to the surface, then another beside him. Pulling a life preserver from its hook, Frederick tossed it to the man. Beside him, a sailor tore another from the wall and hurled it into the sea. Jolene watched the men grab for them. It would be impossible to attempt a rescue in these seas. She watched a life preserver rise and fall at the mercy of the waves, and shouted to the men. The wind silenced the words on her lips. A hand broke free of the surface then sank. It did not reappear. The life preserver was swept away.

Frederick gestured at them to return to the cabin, but as they tried to turn back, a wave hit the pilothouse, knocking out two windows and smashing the wooden door. The boat heeled sharply, threatening to tip. Jolene screamed and they grabbed for the railing. She saw the wheelsman skid across the pilothouse. He pulled himself to his feet and grabbed the wheel. The boat lurched into another trough, the storm knocking Jolene to her knees. She felt Frederick’s strong arm around her and rose as the boat recovered. With slow, measured steps, the three of them and Frederick managed to return to the captain’s quarters.

“I’m going up to the pilothouse,” said Frederick after they had struggled to close the door against the violence of the storm. “You stay here and listen at the speaking tube. Do what the captain says, understand?” For a moment, he reminded Jolene of Grandpa. He pried the door open and ventured out into the elements. Jolene wondered if she would ever see him again.

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?” Em’s eyes were blank.

Michael said nothing. Jolene made no response. The same thought had occurred to both of them.

Suddenly the boat surged forward. Jolene pressed her face against the ice-covered windows. Michael came to stand beside her. “I’m betting the Regina was lost with all hands,” he said solemnly.

Jolene buried her face in his shoulder. Tears welled up in her eyes and her body trembled. They couldn’t die like this. They weren’t even supposed to be here. A voice hollered down the listening tube and Michael bounded towards it. “Anchor,” he repeated. “They’re anchoring the ship.”

“Really?” asked Em. “Maybe we’re close to shore.” Jolene felt hope nudge her despair. She heard the muffled banging of machinery and Frederick burst through the door.

“We’re taking on water,” he told them. “The captain’s going to anchor and save the power to run the pumps.” He stroked his beard as if he couldn’t believe what was happening. “Let’s hope we’re in close enough for the anchor to hit bottom.” He raised his eyes towards the heavens and waited. Jolene felt the boat continue to heel. Then suddenly it steadied. Frederick did not move. “Hold,” he breathed. “Hold.” The Regina held. Frederick exhaled. “Now it’s up to the pumps.” He disappeared into the wind and weather.

Jolene, Michael and Em clung to the little hope Frederick had given them. If the pumps could keep the boat from flooding, they could ride out the storm safely anchored in water deep enough to keep them from being run aground on the rocks. Together they waited, time weighing heavily on their hearts. The listening tube rumbled again and Jolene pressed her ear to it. The captain’s words stopped her heart momentarily.

“What is it?” asked Michael.

In a daze, Jolene stepped away from the tube. “An order to abandon ship,” she stated finally. The three of them stared at each other. The air in the suite grew thick with fear. Em whimpered and Michael trembled. Jolene reached beneath her dress collar and pulled the hood of her drysuit over her head, instructing Michael and Em to do the same.

“Let’s go!” Frederick, his hair plastered against his head and his eyes crazed, was standing at the door. “We’ve lost power.” With no further explanation, he handed them each a life jacket, which they pulled on and tied with nervous fingers. Frederick herded them onto the icy deck towards a lifeboat suspended over the side of the Regina. A sailor steadied the lifeboat and Michael climbed over the icy railing, followed by Em and Jolene. Frederick pressed a heavy coil of rope into Jolene’s hands. “Lash yourselves to the boat,” he thundered in her ear.

Jolene wound the rope around her waist, securing it with a bowline before passing it to Em and motioning for her to do the same. Em managed to do so as Jolene tried to tie the rope to the boat. The lifeboat lurched then plummeted as Frederick manned the pulleys. Jolene gripped its edges as Em handed Michael the remaining rope coil. If they could just wrap it around themselves and secure the ends. The boat dropped. Terror seized Jolene. Out of the darkness, a wave smashed the lifeboat into the steel hull of the Regina. Jolene heard the wood crack, felt the lifeboat teeter, then tip as the wave surged back from the boat. The freezing waters of Lake Huron engulfed them.

Stormstruck Cover

Stormstruck Synopsis

Stormstruck Cover

Once again we meet Jolene and her twin brother Michael, this time in an RV on the shores of the Great Lakes, where her father and grandfather are conducting research into the Great Storm of 1913. Away from home, twelve-year-old Jolene feels fragile and lost, lacking a sure sense of direction in her life. When Grandpa discovers a time crease that enables them to step back into 1913, Jolene embraces the opportunity, feeling that she may find some help for her self-doubts in witnessing an earlier time. At first, however, the past offers no answers. Jolene’s high-spirited new friend Em is a total mystery, and her ardent support of the suffragettes reinforces Jolene’s self-doubts. Then Em inadvertently leads the twins onto the Regina as the ship sails onto Lake Huron and into the Great Storm. When the order to abandon the sinking ship comes, they manage to escape and spend a night clinging to a raft in frigid waters. With her twin brother injured, Jolene is forced to draw on all her resources to allow the threesome to survive. In the process, she discovers her inner strength and a new passion for life.

Shadows of Disaster Excerpt

A thin beam of moonlight trickled into the room. A woolen jacket hung on the back of a chair. She crept quickly across the planks towards the bed.  A man snored beneath a woolen blanket. A moustache twitched.  “Gramps!” she whispered, shaking the blankets.  “Gramps, it’s Jo.  Wake up!” Grandpa groaned in his sleep. She caught a stiff whiff of whiskey on his breath, then tugged at the blanket, pulling it completely off the bed.  “Come on.  We’ve got to get out of here.” Grandpa moaned again and rolled over.  “Get up!” ordered Jolene, as her grandfather’s body rolled towards the edge of the bed.

Slowly, Grandpa opened his eyes.  “Jo?” he asked.

“It’s four in the morning on April 29th.”

“April 29th?” he asked groggily.

“In 1903!  The slide is going to come down.  We’ve got to get out of here!”

Her voice was panicky now.

Grandpa leaned into the moonbeam and looked at his watch.  “Goodness, Jo, you’re right.” He struggled to his feet and pulled on his shoes. “I meant to come find you last night after I’d had a few drinks with the baseball team. But Karl was there and I…”

“Never mind,” called Jolene, urging him towards the door. Together they raced down the stairs and burst out into the night.

The air whispered and the mountain shrugged.  Jolene stopped and looked in the direction of the cottages.  “Shouldn’t we do something?” she gasped.

Grandpa shook his head.  “No time, Jo, no time.” She ran a few steps and stopped again.  “Come on, Jo.  It won’t make any difference anyway.”

Above them the mountain crackled softly.

Grandpa grabbed Jolene’s arm.  “Run!  Now!  As fast as you can.”

Jolene needed no convincing.  She ran, tears streaming down her face, her heart pulsing in her fingertips.  They lost their way and circled blindly about until she found the railway tracks. “Over here!” Grandpa ran towards Jo’s voice. “Stay on the tracks!” she called.

Their feet pounded down the railway ties. Jolene concentrated on keeping her stride strong and even, so as not to trip. They were almost at the field near the time crease.

Behind her, she heard a heavy thud and a crash. She whirled around. Grandpa lay sprawled across the tracks. She raced back to him, dropping to her knees. “Gramps, are you okay?” Blood trickled from a cut on his forehead. He moaned softly. Jolene put an arm under his shoulders and shifted him until he was half-sitting. “Come on, Gramps, up,” she urged. She had to get him on his feet, had to get him to the time crease. He murmured something incoherent and dabbed at the wound on his forehead. “Up,” she repeated as he struggled to his feet. Above them, the mountain crackled again. It wasn’t far, maybe a hundred metres. She put her arm around his waist and wrapped his around her shoulders. “Lean on me,” she breathed, staggering under his weight. They stumbled forward through the field.

He was breathing hard, drawing breath in great gulps. “Jo,” he whispered, stopping. “You go. Go ahead without me. You’re young. You still have…”

“No!” she said sharply. “Don’t talk. Walk!”

His feet resumed their motion. They were in the crocus field now, his body leaning heavily against Jolene’s.

“I can see the silhouette of the erratic. Straight ahead,” she said, urging him on.

Grandpa’s breathing grew heavier, more rapid.

Behind them, the mountain rumbled.  Jolene looked back over her shoulder. Just a few more steps. Could she get them through the crease this time? She’d never done it before. Above them, there was a loud roar, like an almighty clap of thunder.  An enormous slab of rock broke off and hurtled itself into the valley.

Shadows of Disaster Cover

Shadows of Disaster Synopsis

Shadows of Disaster Cover

“Sometimes it’s good to take a risk.” Twelve-year-old Jolene knows that her grandfather’s words are true, but she’s not a risk-taker like her twin brother. Frustrated, Jolene convinces herself that it would be easier to take risks if she were a boy. Her grandfather disagrees, but then her father thinks her grandfather might be as crazy as his old stories. For her part, Jolene thinks her father, who’s trying to preserve history in a Museum of Disasters, is the crazy one. Jolene learns the truth when they take a trip to the Crowsnest Pass to research the Frank Slide, and she discovers that her grandfather has found a way to step back into time. In 1903, disguised as a boy, Jolene must face the wrath of an impatient teacher, challenge her ability as a gymnast, and disentangle herself from an embarrassing love triangle. She must also face the fact that the generous people of the town of Frank are living in the path of disaster and she cannot save them. She can, however, save herself and her grandfather and does so in a desperate race against time. But the lessons of the past are not lost in the present. Jolene discovers a way to revitalize her father’s museum by preserving the story in history, and she prepares herself to take a few risks herself – as a girl.

Chaos in Halifax Excerpt

“There!” Michael raised his arm and pointed towards the Narrows just beyond Pier 6. Jolene’s eyes followed his outstretched hand and the two of them stood like statues erected on the hillside. From their vantage point, they could see the Mont Blanc. Just metres away from her was the Imo, steaming forward on a path of collision. Whistles shrieked, horns blew frantically. In desperation, the Mont Blanc veered. The prow of the Imo ploughed into the munitions ship’s deck.

Jolene stared at the two vessels locked in an odd sort of embrace. Slowly, they pulled apart, metal screeching against metal and emitting a shower of sparks. “The benzol is in barrels on the deck,” whispered Jolene. As if on cue, the flammable liquid burst into flame, throwing a dark billowing cloud of smoke into the air. A barrel exploded, shooting ribbons of fire into the clouds of steam and smoke. A kaleidoscope of colours swirled in the sky. Another barrel exploded into spectacular fireworks, then another and another.

“Come on!” cried Michael, racing down the hill.

Jolene watched him in horror. “No!” she screamed. “Michael, stop!”

But her words were lost in the deafening roar of the fire and the shouts of the people now pouring onto the streets. A column of oily black smoke towered above the ship. Balls of fire ripped through it dispersing into showers of light. Jolene dashed after her brother. By the time she’d reached Campbell Road, she could feel her skin tighten in the incredible heat of the burning ship. Fire bells clanged and a fire engine raced past her. She caught sight of Michael trying to manoeuvre through the crowd and sprinted after him. Hundreds of people were flocking to the dock. Some of the serious spectators had climbed to the top of the fifteen-storey sugar refinery for a bird’s eye view of the burning Mont Blanc, which was now drifting towards Pier 6. Jolene finally caught up with her brother as the crowd blocked his way. Cries and exclamations went up from the throng as if they were at a carnival. Michael climbed onto a large wooden crate and Jolene scrambled up behind him. From there, they could clearly see the burning ship.

Jolene grabbed Michael’s jacket. Heat seared her face and fear made her heart hammer. “Michael, we have to get out of here. Now!”

Michael whirled around to face her, his eyes bright and alive. “You’re right,” he shouted over the explosive crackling of the flames. Relief flooded over Jolene. She let go of his jacket. “We’ll never get to Roome Street this way. We have to find another route.” Jolene watched in disbelief as he leaped from the crate, dodged two sailors and bolted back across the cobblestones of Campbell Road up the hill. She followed frantically, sidestepping around the motorcars that had ground to a halt in the street. A horse reared, terror in its eyes.

Jolene followed Michael as he turned right on Albert Street and raced onwards. At the corner of Mulgrave Park, he paused to watch the burning ship in the harbour. Another vessel had come alongside, probably intending to tow her away from the pier. A boy on a bicycle screeched to a stop in front of Michael as Jolene caught up with them. “Hey Michael,” called Reg. “I bet you’ve never seen the likes of this.” His voice resounded with excitement. “That ship has a cannon on board. I’ll wager it’s carrying ammunition.” He stood up and pedalled furiously down the hill.

“Reg!” called Michael, but the boy was gone, his cap flying off his head.

Jolene gripped Michael’s arm. She was panting and sweat soaked her blouse. “Please,” she pleaded. “We have to go back. That ship’s going to explode.” Desperation ran deep in her words.

For a moment, her brother hesitated. “I don’t want Cassie to die,” he shouted. He wrenched himself free of her grip and started to race across Mulgrave Park.

“Yeah, well I don’t want you to die,” she screamed after him.

At that instant, Jolene was acutely aware of an ominous unnatural silence. A blinding flash of light illuminated the world and simultaneously, she heard the ear-splitting boom of an explosion. A blast of air swept her forward and sent her crashing to the earth. Looking up, she caught sight of an enormous mushroom cloud. Something struck her head and pain racked her body. Her head slumped and her eyes closed. “Michael,” she whispered as the world turned black.

Cover image

Chaos in Halifax Synopsis

Chaos in Halifax Cover image

“I wish I wasn’t a twin.” Twelve-year-old Jolene is determined to find independence from her brother, Michael, during a family trip to research the Halifax explosion of 1917 for her father’s Museum of Disasters. When her grandfather finds a time crease into the past, Jolene discovers a new friend and the importance of family and loyalty in a world torn apart by World War I. When Michael joins them, however, the past suddenly becomes much more complicated. He inadvertently threatens Jolene’s friendship with a grieving family, and his careless comments spark speculation that they are spies. Together, the twins try to reconcile the honour and horrors of the Great War as they struggle with the knowledge that their new friends are living in the area soon to be devastated by the explosion. Jolene knows they can’t change history, but Michael is determined to try and leads them into the midst of the danger that threatens Halifax on themorning of December 6, 1917. In the harbour, the Mont Blanc, laden with explosives, collides with the Imo and bursts into flames. Minutes later, two thousand are dead, and nine thousand more are injured or trapped in shattered burning buildings. The day that changed Halifax forever also changes Jolene and her twin brother.