Past Newsletters

November 2022

Introduction

November is always the month during which we are encouraged to remember those who served to bring us the freedoms we enjoy today. On November 11, 1918 an armistice was called to end the fighting of World War 1.

In Paris, France, the Netherlands Ambulance Service sponsored a hospital where my character Liesbeth Zwart and her sister went to work. Paris went mad with celebrations when the armistice silenced the guns and everyone who could go, went into downtown Paris to join in.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional people will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little bit more!

Feature Interview

This month I’m talking to Liesbeth Zwart to hear about her experiences of the 1918 armistice firsthand.

Renny: “Liesbeth, we’ve all seen the pictures of Paris during that happy, heady time when the war was over. Were you able to participate in the celebrations?”

Liesbeth: “We were all very, very happy of course. We’d seen such terrible things, so we were all keen to go into the city to be a part of the excitement. We took turns as our shifts allowed, to go and see it for ourselves.”

Renny: “And was it as you expected?”

Liesbeth: “We led a pretty secluded life at the hospital out in the Bois de Boulogne. It was quiet amongst the trees and gardens, so I wasn’t prepared for the noise and crush of people.”

Renny: “But it must have been a joyful crowd.”

Liesbeth: “Yes, everyone was happy, but there was almost an air of hysteria about it all, and then there was quite a bit of alcohol being passed around which made it even more extreme.”

Renny: “It sounds like you didn’t enjoy the celebrations all that much.”

Liesbeth: “I’m very glad to have seen it and to be a part of it all, but at the same time, I had enough of it pretty quickly. I was with my friend Max Bos, and he might have stayed longer if I hadn’t been there, but as it was, we left after a short time. I was uncomfortable being pushed and crushed by all those people. He was very artistic and did a little drawing of the chaos of that day.”

* Note from Renny – See the image at the top of the newsletter of the drawing done by Max (my grandfather) of Armistice Day, Paris 1918

Liesbeth: The truth is, I couldn’t wait to get back to my patients.”

Renny: “Of course, you still had work to do.”

Liesbeth: “That’s it exactly. I am a nurse, and I couldn’t help but think, not only of the patients who couldn’t come out themselves but of the Spanish Flu that was going around. All those people celebrating and no one wearing masks. No one in the crowd was thinking of that.”

Renny: “Despite that risk, it must have been thrilling to know the end had arrived.”

Liesbeth: “Of course. I stayed on for several weeks after that. As I said, we still had patients to care for and arrange their placement closer to home. Then we had to transform the hospital back to the beautiful restaurant it had been prior to the war.”

Renny: “Thank you for sharing your memories of Armistice Day. I always imagined it was just filled with excitement and joy. I see that for a nurse, it was also a day of mixed feelings.”

You can read the full story of Liesbeth Zwart in After Paris:

After Paris

Announcements

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I can be found in November:

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Port Hope:

Port Hope Town Rec Center

62 McCaul Street

Port Hope

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2022: 1 PM TO 4 PM

Cobourg:

Palisade Gardens pop-up market

240 Chapel St. Cobourg

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Cobourg:

Cobourg Community Center

750 D’Arcy St. Cobourg

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2022: 11 AM – 4 PM

Bowmanville:

Clarington Central Secondary School

200 Clarington Blvd

October 2022

Introduction

There’s a definite chill in the air. On the morning walk today I felt the first snowflakes on my face. In my garden, the pond continues valiantly to circulate, and the fish enjoy their last weeks of unrestricted swimming before the ice and snow develop a layer between their secret underwater world and the rest of us.

The world can be a cold place which made me think of one of my characters, who discovered this truth.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional people will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little bit more!

Feature Interview

This month I’m talking to 19-year-old Sarah Campbell. This interview comes from my archives of August 2009.

Renny: “Sarah, you live in Port Mulroy, Cape Breton Island. You’ve recently finished high school and are now working full-time.”

Sarah: “Yes, that’s right. I work at the local grocery store. I enjoy it because I work with some great people, even the boss.” (she smiles as she thinks of her co-workers)

Renny: “Do you see yourself making a career there?”

Sarah: “Probably not. I’m learning about customer service and things like that, so it’s a good stepping-stone, but no, I have dreams.”

Renny: “What sort of dreams? Do they include your boyfriend?”

Sarah: “Oh no. Not him. I once thought so, but now, well, things change, don’t they”

Renny: “Do you want to tell us more about that?”

Sarah: “No. The less said about that, the better. The past is the past, right?”

Renny: “OK. You have good friends to help you through tough times though.”

Sarah: “Oh yes. Where would we be without our girlfriends? I have Mary-Catherine Cameron. She’s my best friend.”

Renny: “You look a little troubled when you mention her name.”

Sarah: (shrugs) “There have been a couple of times I wasn’t so sure I can totally trust her. That’s probably just me. I’m like that now and then. It happens because sometimes the people you think you can count on, aren’t there for you.”

Renny: “You’re very wise for a young woman your age, Sarah. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. It’s always lovely meeting someone taking your first steps on the journey of your adult life.”

Two weeks after this interview, Sarah Campbell went missing.

You can read the full story of Sarah Campbell and the mystery of her disappearance in Garden Girl (Book 1 of the Cape Breton Mystery series):

Garden Girl (A Cape Breton Mystery)

Announcements

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I can be found in November:

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Lindsay

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2022: 10 AM to 4 PM

Kendal Community Center

6742 Newtonville Rd, Orono, ON L0B 1M0

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2022: 11 AM – 4 PM

Oshawa

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Peterborough

1135 Lansdowne St W #200, Peterborough, ON K9J 7M2

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Port Hope

September 2022

Introduction

The fall in Canada is a time of cooling temperatures and extraordinary beauty as the trees take on their splendid colours. From the bright vermillion of maples to the sunny yellow of poplars and all the various colours between, it’s a time of peace after the hustle and bustle of the summer and before we begin the long wait that will take us through winter.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional people will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little bit more!

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional characters will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little bit more!

Feature Interview

In the story of Torn Asunder, Bridie Mallon is relieved when a ceasefire is announced in Ireland in July 1921. She has remained true to her love, Emmet Ryan during his incarceration and in September of ’21 she relaxes in the peace of the country and looks to the future with Emmet despite the disapproval of her parents for her young man.

This month I talk to Bridie as she recalls the fall of 1921.

Renny: “You must have been so full of hope after the terrible times between the Easter Rising of 1916 and July 1921 when it seemed that you could finally look forward to planning your future life with Emmet?”

Bridie: “I was, yes. I thought we were done with all the trouble once Emmet was released. Mammy and Daddy thought he was dangerous and didn’t want me to see him. I was twenty though, so they let me make up my own mind, and he was the one I wanted.”

Renny: “What happened to change that?”

Bridie: “It wasn’t enough for him, was it? I wasn’t enough. The Cause was everything to him and away he went to America to be part of the fundraising work for de Valera.”

Renny: “And you broke it off with him?”

 Bridie: “I tried to. We met in St. Stephen’s Green. I thought he was about to propose, more fool me. Instead, he tells me he’s away to America to write fine speeches and articles for newspapers. He told me how important the work was for Ireland. I told him he was welcome to it then and I meant it. I thought it was the end of us.”

 Renny: “What changed?”

Bridie “He wrote to me. He wouldn’t stop. He wrote me long letters about the things he saw and did every day. It seemed like I was right there with him. He told me of the big events they’d hold, and he’d be the one behind the scenes writing the speeches. His letters weren’t full of words of love for me, but they were words that made me see through his eyes, and that was a gift, wasn’t it?”

Renny: “Did you believe in the importance of his work then?”

Bridie: “I understood why he believed with his heart and soul that it was important. It made me see things differently. We all read his articles that were published regularly in the paper. Even Daddy did and I knew he was impressed, and I felt proud of Emmet. I still hurt that he chose Ireland over me and didn’t know if I wanted to marry a man like that, but after a while, I wasn’t angry with him anymore.”

Renny: “His words must have been powerful.”

Bridie: As mighty as any weapon out there.”

Renny: “Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Bridie.”

You can read the full story of Bridie, Emmet and the other Irish characters in Torn Asunder, recipient of an Honorable Mention in the Historical Fiction category of the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards contest:

Torn Asunder

Announcements

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I can be found in October:

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Personal Touch Banquet Hall

1135 Lansdowne St W #200, Peterborough, ON K9J 7M2

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Blackstock Recreational Complex

3340 Church St, Blackstock, ON L0B 1B0

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2022: 11 AM – 4 PM

Bowmanville (location TBC – check http://rennydegroot.com for details)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2022: 11 AM to 4 PM

Little Britain (location TBC – check http://rennydegroot.com for details)

August 2022

Introduction

As the world copes with extra-hot days; many of us doing so without air conditioning, I’m grateful for the cooler nights that are finally edging out the humidity and heat. The hot days made me consider another time when the world seemed to be in flames, with no respite for those caught up in the fray. The Battle of the Somme was waged in France as a major offensive, running from the 1st of July 1916 to the 18th of November 1916.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional characters will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little bit more!

Feature Interview

This month I am meeting with Alida Zwart, the younger of two Dutch sisters who went to Paris to work as nurses with the Dutch Ambulance service (Red Cross) in the hospital Le Pré Catelan in the Bois de Boulogne.

Renny: “Alida, you were a junior nurse in Paris during the Battle of the Somme in the fall of 1916. Can you tell me what an average day was like then?”

Alida: “Before that battle started the days were somewhat predictable. We worked in 12-hour shifts, so if I was on days, I began my shift at 07:50 which started with a ten-minute briefing from the outgoing staff and then I worked until 20:00 hours. We each took a half-hour lunch hour and a couple of fifteen-minute breaks as well, but that all changed in July.”

Renny: “How so?”

Alida: “We knew something was up when we were instructed to cram more beds into the wards. At first, we used all the beds we had spare in storage, but after a few weeks that wasn’t enough. The orderlies built additional cots that were more like wooden pallets with legs than beds. It was nearly impossible to move between rows to look after the patients.”

Renny: “What sort of work did you do as a junior nurse?”

 Alida: “Those fine distinctions went out the window when the Battle of the Somme started. After that, regardless of what your official role was, you just threw yourself in and did whatever was necessary. Before July I did lots of cleaning and sterilizing of equipment, but once the Somme started, I found myself dressing wounds, recording my observations on the official patient records, giving baths and applying poultices and inhalations just as much as my sister Lisbeth, who is an experienced senior nurse. I still did things like sterilizing, making beds and feeding patients, but I also ended up doing just about everything.”

 Renny: “How did you manage all the extra work?”

Alida “The orderlies were fantastic. They jumped in as well and without being asked, they started to empty buckets and clear up the discarded dressings. They helped with the beds and carried meals. They took some of the heavy work off our shoulders and I know how grateful I was for that.”

Renny: “It sounds like you didn’t have much time off. Were you still on twelve-hour shifts?”

Alida: “The shifts were impossible to predict. Sometimes we’d go 18 hours and even skip meals just to look after everyone. On those days, you’d just drop into bed when you finished. Sometimes we’d have a little lull and then we’d go around and help write letters or postcards for the patients. The hospital had cards that we’d give the patients, and they could just dictate a short message so their families would know what was happening with them. Sometimes the men were in excruciating pain with limbs having been blown right away, but you know, they’d dictate these happy little messages. The men were so awfully brave and strong.”

Renny: “I think the soldiers weren’t the only ones who were brave and strong. Thank you, Alida, for sharing your memories with us.”

You can read the full story of Alida Zwart and her sister Liesbeth Zwart in After Paris http://mybook.to/AfterParis

Announcements

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I can be found in August:

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2022 AT 9 AM – 1 PM

Golden Beach Resort

7100 County Road 18

Harwood, ON, K0K 2X0

SUNDAY, AUGUST 14, 2022 AT 11 AM – 4 PM

Norwood Curling Club

48 Alma St., Norwood ON K0L 2V0

SATURDAY AUGUST 20, 2022 AT 11 AM – 4 PM

Orono Arena and Community Centre

2 Princess St, Orono ON L0B 1M0

July 2022

Introduction

Ahh, summer! Hot sunny days, cool water and long walks. Nature helps us to slow our pace and encourages us to relax. As an author, I enjoy walking in quiet forests and seaside beaches where my imagination runs free. I’m also loving the summer markets where I’ve been meeting readers; some of whom buy one of my books and others with whom I enjoy lively conversations about various books and adventures.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional characters will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little bit more!

Feature Interview

This month, with the help of a local dog whisperer, Taz, the companion great Pyrenees of Detective Gordie MacLean, gives us some thoughts on her relationship with him.

Renny: “Taz, what are some of your favourite summer activities of life in Cape Breton Island?”

Taz: “I love my walks, especially when we go to the shore. There I can roll in the seaweed, paddle in the water and crunch on old lobster and crab shells. I don’t like the heat too much, so I love the breeze that usually blows off the water, and if it’s very hot, sometimes I just go and sit in the water to cool off.”

Renny: “What do you like most about being with Gordie MacLean?”

Taz: “I know my human is a very important person and he often has to go places to meet people or sometimes he studies the ground for what he calls clues. If he had my nose, he could read the stories on the ground much better, but he’s limited that way. I do like it when he takes me along on those trips. Sometimes I can meet new people and I always enjoy the new smells.”

Renny: “So do you think of yourself as a detective as well?”

 Taz: “No. Some dogs are detectors, but my main job is as a protector. I can identify threats even when they can’t be seen.”

 Renny: “And how do you let someone know if there’s a threat?”

Taz “I have a very big voice when I need it so I bark of course, but I also raise my hackles and then I can look very big, and that warns everyone that something is up. Humans that know me can also read my ears.”

Renny: “Your ears?”

Taz “I have very expressive ears. When I am relaxed, they lay down. When I am a little suspicious, one stands up. When I am on high alert they both stand up and I can hear danger coming.”

Renny: “That’s amazing! Gordie and his friend Vanessa both feel that you are very friendly though. Do you agree?”

Taz:Of course. My best non-human friend is Sheba. She’s a golden retriever that lives with Gordie’s work friend Roxanne. Sheba has a great nose and makes a good detector, even if she is a bit rambunctious”

Renny: “I’d like to thank you for working with our dog whisperer to give us this interview today. We look forward to seeing more of you and your people in future stories.”

Taz’s ear language (1 – relaxed, 2 – questioning/suspicious, 3 – high alert):

Catch up on the Cape Breton Mystery books (Garden Girl and Sea Child) to read about Gordie MacLean and his police procedural stories. Available on Amazon, Kobo and other online retailers.

Garden Girl: http://mybook.to/GardenGirl

Sea Child: http://mybook.to/SeaChild

Announcements

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I can be found in August:

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2022 AT 9 AM – 1 PM

Golden Beach Resort

7100 County Road 18

Harwood, ON, K0K 2X0

SUNDAY, AUGUST 14, 2022 AT 11 AM – 4 PM

Norwood Curling Club

48 Alma St., Norwood ON K0L 2V0

SATURDAY AUGUST 20, 2022 AT 11 AM – 4 PM

Orono Arena and Community Centre

2 Princess St, Orono ON L0B 1M0

May 2022

Introduction

Spring has finally reached Ontario Canada, and with it comes tulips, and with the tulips comes the reminder of the glorious tulip fields in the land of my roots – the Netherlands. May is also the time in the Netherlands when people remember the hardships of WWII and the joy of their liberation. In this month’s feature interview with a character from my debut novel (shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize), Family Business, we talk about both the 1945 liberation and tulips.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional characters will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know the people a little bit more!

Feature Interview

We’re talking to Johan Meijer, youngest son of widowed mother Agatha, about the liberation of the Netherlands in May of 1945.

Renny: “Johan, the war in Europe was such a time of deprivation and hardship, so when the liberators came, it must have been a time that no one would ever forget. Tell us about the most memorable events for you in those joyful days.”

Johan: “Yes, we were starving, so of course, my greatest memory was when the food drops began. The first one was in late April, and I heard afterwards that it was an RAF bomber called Bad Penny, crewed by men from Ontario Canada. Between the RAF and the Americans, the food drops saved so many lives, and I know that these planes were still being shot at. We were so grateful for the risks they took. It was tulip time, and I heard that some tulip farmers spelled out the words ‘many thanks’ in tulips so the pilots could see that for themselves from high above.”

1By Unknown author – Original text: Imperial War Museum? – picture scanned by me Ian Dunster 15:01, 30 September 2005 (UTC) from the They Fell Right In The Larder article in the May 1985 issue of Aeroplane Monthly and uncredited., Public Domain, https://c

Renny: “It must have given you such hope, along with the actual food that you so desperately needed.”

Johan: “Yes. And then when May came and the cease-fire was in place, that’s when the real celebrations began. From those days, one event really stands out in my memory. My friend Hank lived in Haarlem and had found work as a caretaker in a small hospital, so I went there to be with him to watch the arrival of the liberators.

When the Canadians drove into the city, they were mobbed by the crowds. It was really overwhelming. In the hospital, many of the patients were far too ill or wounded to come out and participate in the celebrations but wanted to share in the joy of the moment. As one convoy came past, the hospital Matron ran out into the street and stopped a jeep carrying an officer. I listened as she explained how the patients would be so grateful for a chance to thank the Canadian liberators. That officer, along with his small entourage immediately parked and went inside. Hank told me later they spent the next hour going from bed to bed shaking hands, touching gently and speaking to the patients. You can imagine that many cried with gratitude for the liberation and for the thoughtfulness of the soldiers who took the time to stop to meet them. That memory stays with me. The fact that these Canadians took the time to stop and go inside the hospital.”

Renny: “Johan, thank you for sharing these memories with us today.”

Read the story of Johan Meijer and his family in FAMILY BUSINESS

Announcements

I’m delighted to reveal the cover of the second book in the Cape Breton Mystery series:

Sea Child will be available for pre-order on Amazon, Kobo and other online bookstores on June 1st, 2022.

Caught up in an investigation that threatens the lives of those he loves, Detective Gordie MacLean and his partner are drawn into a dark world far removed from the seemingly simple life of a lobster fisherman.

June 2022

Introduction

With the arrival of summer, we here in Ontario experience the annual rebirth of the natural world. The snow is truly gone, and everything is in bloom. The blossoming fruit trees, my purple irises, red roses, and fragrant white lilies of the valley surround me with scent and colour. After the first excitement of witnessing this annual miracle, my thoughts turn to vacation, and my writer’s retreat in Nova Scotia.

In the monthly Feature Interview section, one of my many fictional characters will talk about something that has not been included in any existing book. I hope you enjoy getting to know the people a little bit more!

Feature Interview

This month, we’re talking to Gordie MacLean, a detective with the Cape Breton Police Services Major Crimes Unit.

Renny: “Gordie, readers have been interested in following your case files; first with Garden Girl, and more recently with Sea Child. What I think people would like to know though is a little more about you, the man rather than the detective. We’ve seen that you enjoy spending time alone. Why is that?”

Gordie: “I’ve always been a solitary person. When I was a child, other kids were not welcome at my house, and because it would have been odd to be invited to the homes of other kids and not reciprocate, I just kept to myself. My sister Jean was my closest friend, and she probably still is.”

Renny: “You say visitors weren’t welcome. Is that because of your alcoholic father?”

Gordie: “Yes. There were days when he would be fine, but others when he wouldn’t be. I never wanted to take a chance. The good thing about the home situation is that it fine-tuned my ability to read people, which has been of great value to me as a police officer.”

Renny: “Thank you for your honesty. You’ve been a bachelor all your life, but now we see you developing a relationship with Vanessa Hunt. What’s it like to be part of a couple instead of on your own?”

 Gordie: “It’s quite a change for me. I’ve been in relationships before, but never for this long, and quite honestly, I never had such an interest in making it last. I’ve had to take a look at myself to try to do things differently this time. I’ve been used to just having Taz, my dog, and she’s much more forgiving when I mess up.”

 Renny: “Speaking of dogs, we know that Taz is a great Pyrenees, but you probably have had dogs before her. Tell us about your first dog.”

Gordie: “I was a teenager when I got my first dog. She was a shepherd cross called Bailey, and I think she was my saviour. I was at a stage where I needed a friend, and my mother must have recognized that, so she allowed me the dog. To this day I believe she was the smartest dog I’ve ever owned. She could read me even better than I could read my father. We took a lot of long walks together. I guess that’s when I developed that habit of walking off my problems with my dog as my sounding board.”

Renny: “One last question Gordie. I heard a rumour that Tim Hortons is discontinuing their oatcakes. What will you snack on if that happens?”

Renny: “Readers – Gordie MacLean is wearing a look of horror on his face and has nothing to add while he mulls over this news, so we’ll close by thanking Detective MacLean for his time today.”

Catch up on the Cape Breton Mystery books (Garden Girl and Sea Child) to read about Gordie MacLean and his police procedural stories. Available on Amazon, Kobo and other online retailers.

Garden Girl: http://mybook.to/GardenGirl

Sea Child: http://mybook.to/SeaChild

Announcements & News

With the publication of Sea Child, I have put together a book trailer.

Enjoy: https://youtu.be/V1o7Q9EegQU

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I can be found in July:

SATURDAY, JULY 2, 2022 AT 11 AM – 4 PM

Lakefield Outdoor One Stop Shopping Event

25 William St, Selwyn, ON

SUNDAY, JULY 10, 2022 AT 10 AM – 3 PM

Craft & Vendor Show
Ennismore Arena
553 Ennis Rd
Ennismore, ON