Past Newsletters

December 2023

Introduction

Traditions vary from culture to culture and home to home, but whatever way you celebrate, I hope you take time to relax and cozy up to those you love. Many are alone, and let’s take time to remember them and drop by to say hello and remind them they too are important.

Last month I launched my new book, Lakeside Beauty, set near Port Hope and Rice Lake, and this month I have caught up with one of the characters to tell us about his seasonal traditions. Enjoy the interview and then take a look at the ‘news’ section for the latest about my new audiobook.  

Feature Interview

This month I’m talking with Piet Van Loo (whose last name is pronounced to rhyme with ‘go’ not ‘Sue’), whom we meet in the story Lakeside Beauty.

Renny: “Hello Piet. During this time of holiday and celebration, I’m curious about what culturally unique tradition you celebrate?”

Piet: “I’m first generation Canadian of Dutch parents and while we now celebrate Christmas like other Christians in Canada, our cherished tradition falls on December 6. It’s the feast of Sinterklaas.”

Renny: “What happens on Sinterklaas?”

Piet: “We exchange gifts anonymously since everything comes from Sinterklaas. The gift is almost irrelevant though. It’s all about the poem that accompanies the gift which is typically a small inexpensive gift that is hidden in an elaborate packaging called a surprise.”

Renny: “A poem? How creative!”

Piet: “The poem doesn’t need to be spectacular. We’re not competing with Michael Ondaatje. The poem is a chance to poke fun at someone; to comment on their habits or something that happened to them during the year.

Renny: “What did you receive this year?”

Piet: “It was a short poem commenting about the year I had as you know from the book. The poem accompanied a small cottage made out of a shoebox and the gift was a bottle of my favourite aftershave, disguised as the old sofa in the cottage. Here’s the poem:

Stay away from forest houses,

With their spiders, bodies, and mouses.

Perhaps even find a new friend,

One that won’t lead you to your end.

Renny: “Well Piet, thank you for sharing that unique tradition. It sounds like you had fun! Have a lovely Christmas.”

Would you like to read about the adventure Piet’s friend Shannon Coyne led him on: Pick up the book Lakeside Beauty here:https://mybook.to/LakesideBeauty

Announcements and News

The audiobook for Garden Girl is nearly here! The narrator finished his work and after some back and forth between us, it’s done and in the hands of Amazon to run their quality assurance review. I expect it to be available on Audible by the 29th of December (assuming all goes smoothly). I’m very excited. Nathan has done an amazing job and I’m already looking forward to working with him in the new year on book two – Sea Child.

November 2023

Introduction

The holidays are in sight and the end of the year is on the horizon. With that, it’s a time to reflect on the changes we’ve encountered during the year. Here in Chapel Close, we’ve said goodbye to Abbey, my 13-year-old Great Pyrenees-cross and bid welcome to Regal, a Great Pyrenees puppy. During these times when every day brings reports of new tragedies and grief, I feel blessed to live where I do and take time to delight in the joy a new puppy brings. Each morning we walk in the woods and feel grateful for the serenity of the forest. I hope that you too have times of peace and beauty to bring you joy.

I’ve had a particularly exciting fall with the launch of my new book Lakeside Beauty. It’s been read by folks near and far (you can see the countries where Amazon purchasers live in the image below). Thanks to all of you who already picked up your copy, and I’m especially grateful to those who took a few moments to write a short review on Amazon. Thank you! Here’s the Amazon link if you’re still looking to get your copy, or write a review: https://mybook.to/LakesideBeauty

Announcements and News

I mentioned previously that I’m venturing into the audiobook format, and to that end, I’m very excited to share with you today a short clip from Garden Girl (book one of the Cape Breton mystery series). You can see actor/narrator Nathan Foss working away in the studio and listen to a clip by clicking on the mp3.

Enjoy!

July 2023

Introduction

Ahh, July – a time for growing things and enjoying the harvest of early vegetables. I’ve had several dinners featuring my own potatoes so far, and now I’m watching, with joy the development of my beans and tomatoes. Is there anything nicer than picking something edible from your own garden and immediately preparing it for your plate?

July wasn’t such a joy 107 years ago, during the Battle of the Somme. The 1st of July, 1916 was the beginning of 141 days of terrible loss, with over a million men (from all sides) killed, wounded, and captured.

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 Margaret MacIsaac, whom we met in After Paris. She was a senior nurse at the hospital in le Pré-Catelan, run by the Netherlands Ambulance Service in France.

Renny: “Hello Margaret. The Battle of the Somme was several years ago now, beginning in July 1916. What do you remember of that time?”

Margaret: “When I think back, it’s hard to imagine what the world was like then. Even here in Antigonish Nova Scotia, the Highland Games were temporarily suspended for the duration of WW1, but there, in France, it was surreal.”

Renny: “You worked at the hospital and were in the thick of things, there in Paris, weren’t you?”

Margaret: “Yes, definitely. Our nurses were quite well-trained by then, which was a blessing because there was no time to stop and train. We were run off our feet with the casualties, and just prior to it all kicking off, we were cramming beds together so there was hardly any space to even walk between the beds. I suppose the head of the hospital, Max Bos, had been given the word that we should expect casualties, but we never imagined what was coming.”

Renny: “It must have been intense.”

Margaret: “It was crazy. The first convoy of injured men started arriving around three in the morning on July 2nd. They all needed surgery of some kind. The less injured were sent to other places, often straight onto ships going back to Britain. My friend Liesbeth Zwart had a fast education in becoming a surgical nurse. She’s a quick learner and did well. None of us had any time off for about two weeks. I think I had an afternoon off on the 13th of July and I just slept.”

Renny: “What a contrast to your life now.”

Margaret: “Yes, thank goodness. I’m married now and we’re taking the baby to the Highland Games tomorrow. The weather is beautiful and most importantly, it’s all so peaceful.”

Renny: “Enjoy your day and thank you for sharing your memories with us.”

Announcements and News

While Heritage House did not move forward to the finalists round in the Whistler Independent Book Awards competition, I’m honoured to have had the book Shortlisted!

Pick up a copy of Heritage House here: https://mybook.to/HeritageHouse

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I’ll be:

22 July 2023, 11 to 4: Baltimore ON


Baltimore Recreation Centre Arena
23 Community Centre Rd, Baltimore, ON

23 July 2023, 11 to 4: Shamrock Festival Ennismore

Ennismore Arena

553 Ennis Rd, Ennismore

27 July 2023, 3:30 pm – 8:00 pm: Port Hope Bandshell

Market and Concert, Hector Street

Port Hope, ON

30 July 2023, 10 to 3: Peterborough

Made by Me Market, Silver Bean Café

130 King St., Peterborough

3 Aug 2023, 3:30 pm – 8:00 pm: Port Hope Bandshell

Market and Concert, Hector Street

Port Hope, ON

6 August 2023, 9 to 1: Golden Beach Resort


7100 County Rd. 18
Roseneath, ON K0K 2X0

10 Aug 2023, 3:30 pm – 8:00 pm: Port Hope Bandshell

Market and Concert, Hector Street

Port Hope, ON

12 Aug 2023, 11 to 4: Bridgenorth ON


Lion’s Park, Chemong Ave,

Bridgenorth, ON K0L 1H0

13 Aug 2023, 9 to 1: Golden Beach Resort


7100 County Rd. 18
Roseneath, ON K0K 2X0

19 Aug 2023, 11 to 4: Bobcaygeon ON


Location TBC

Bobcaygeon, ON

Check out the ‘Events’ page with more information about where to find me!

June 2023

Introduction

June is a time in Canada for bright fresh colours as everything explodes into life again after winter hibernation. It’s the season for new challenges, opportunities, and experiences. What new challenges are you taking on this season? Send me a note and let me know so I can cheer you on!

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 Detective Roxanne Albright. In Heritage House, she takes on the role of lead detective for their latest investigation.

Renny: “Hi Roxanne. You’ve just been assigned a new challenge, so I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.”

Roxanne: “Part of being the lead detective includes speaking to people about the case, so I’m happy to be here.”

Renny: “Taking the lead for the first time is a big step. How do you feel about it?”

Roxanne: “I’m excited. I’m also nervous. There are moments I think ‘you got this’ and other moments I think ‘what the heck are you doing?’”

Renny: “That makes sense. You’ve been working with Detective Gordie MacLean for a couple of years now. I expect you’ve learned a lot in that time.”

Roxanne: “Definitely. He’s been a great partner and an excellent teacher. The problem is that not everything can be taught. Sometimes you go by instinct, and MacLean’s instinct isn’t the same as mine, necessarily.”

Renny: “What happens then?”

Roxanne: “Well, the lead detective makes the call, whether everyone likes the decision or not.”

Renny: “That sounds like a big responsibility.”

Roxanne: “It is, and I think it’s taken a toll on our partnership. I hope things get better again in the future. This is what I want from my career, and I’m not prepared to miss an opportunity like this investigation.”

Renny: “Good luck to you Roxanne. The world can always use strong women. And good luck solving the case.”

Announcements and News

I’m thrilled to announce that Heritage House has been shortlisted for a Whistler Independent Book Award. This is a very prestigious award and I’m so very honoured to have my book join four others in the category of fiction as a shortlist selectee. On July 17th the finalists for each of the three categories will be announced. Stay tuned!

Pick up a copy of Heritage House here: https://mybook.to/HeritageHouse

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I’ll be:

24 June 2023, 11 to 4: Whitby

222 McKinney Drive, Whitby ON

25 June 2023, 11 to 4: King Edward Park Arena, Brighton

75 Elizabeth St, Brighton, ON K0K 1H0

1st July 2023, 11 to 4: Lakefield Fairgrounds

25 William St., Lakefield, ON

2nd July 2023, 11 to 4: Millbrook Fairgrounds

13 Frederick St, Millbrook

9 July 2023, 11 to 4: Newcastle

TBC

15 July 2023, 11 to 4: Roseneath Fairgrounds

9059 45, Roseneath, ON K0K 2X0

16 July 2023, 11 to 4: Norwood Fairgrounds

48 Alma St. Norwood ON K0L 2V0

22 July 2023, 11 to 4: Shamrock Festival Ennismore

Ennismore Arena, 553 Ennis Rd, Ennismore

Check out the ‘Events’ page with more information about where to find me!

May 2023

Introduction

On the 10th of April 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast, laying the foundation for a lasting peace after decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles. This extraordinary achievement was the result of significant effort by many Irish and international organizations and individuals, including Canada’s own General John de Chastelain, who played a key role in crafting the accord and leading the International Commission on Decommissioning (of armament); a process spanning years.

On this 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, I want to shine the spotlight on my book Torn Asunder, which opens during the Easter Rising (aka Irish Rebellion) of 1916 and follows Emmet Ryan and his family across years of difficult choices between country and family.

Included below is a link to a YouTube video with a short reading from Torn Asunder.

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 Maeve Ryan, a young woman growing up in a turbulent Ireland. This interview takes place in 1941, when the world is at war, and Maeve is 18 years old.

Renny: “Maeve, first let me say how much I love your name.”

Maeve: “Thank you. My father gave it to me when I was born in 1923 because he felt it was a strong name, fit for a queen. He expects great things from me. It’s a name to live up to.”

Renny: “It sounds like you and your father are close. He’s a journalist. Do you plan to follow in his footsteps?”

Maeve: “Not exactly. I am studying literature and history and I see myself as a teacher, but then again, I’ve always seen my Da as a teacher as well. With every article he writes, he teaches his readers something. He doesn’t always understand the power of his words.”

Renny: “Ireland is neutral and yet the war is present even here. How does that affect you?”

Maeve: “My brothers are fascinated by it all, but until now I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Now we have an old friend of my mother’s from England staying with us, along with her son, and I’ve had to look at it from a new perspective. It’s become more personal somehow.”

Renny: “How so?”

Maeve: “I’ve always been very focused on Irish history. My father raised me on brilliant stories drawn from Irish mythology and his own experiences during the Rising and other times so that always made Irish history the most important to me. Now I’m opening my eyes to the wider world as well.”

Renny: “Does that change your passion for Irish history?”

Maeve: “Oh no, not at all. It just reminds me that the problems of the world touch us even here, but at the same time, for me, Ireland remains my first interest. I want to make a difference here at home. That’s what my studies will help me to do.”

Renny: “Wherever your future takes you, I wish you the best with it. Thank you for meeting with me today.”

Click here to listen to a reading by Jimmy Carton from Torn Asunder (5.43 minutes), accompanied by historic photos and music clips:  https://youtu.be/QHiA7Jtc-GA

Announcements and News

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I’ll be:

27 May 2023, 11 to 4: Millbrook Fairgrounds

13 Frederick St., Millbrook, ON

28 May 2023, 11 to 4: Fenlon Falls Fairgrounds

27 Veterans Way, Fenelon Falls, ON K0M 1N0

04 June 2023, 11 to 4: Thomas A Stewart Secondary School Gym Peterborough

1009 Armour Rd, Peterborough

10 June 2023, 11 to 4: Port Hope Town Park Recreation Centre

62 McCaul St, Port Hope, ON L1A 1L2

11 June 2023, 10 to 2: Orono Arena

2 Princess St, Orono, ON L0B 1M0

17 June 2023, 11 to 4: Grafton Arena

10766 County Rd 2, Grafton, ON K0K 2G0

24 June 2023, 11 to 4: Whitby

TBC

25 June 2023, 11 to 4: King Edward Park Arena, Brighton

75 Elizabeth St, Brighton, ON K0K 1H0

Check out the ‘Events’ page with more information about where to find me!

April 2023

Introduction

It’s been an exciting and busy few weeks for me, with Heritage House’s launch and a trip to the Netherlands to spend time with family. I was very lucky to have purchased tickets to the Vermeer exhibit at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam before they were sold out. I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with my aunt, being inspired and awe-struck by these beautiful pieces of art. While The Girl With The Pearl Earring is one of his more popular works, my favourite is The Little Street (The Little Street – Wikipedia ). This piece is so full of tales that it appeals to the storyteller in me.

And speaking of stories, 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 Gretha Braun. We meet Gretha at her home, Heritage House.

Renny: “Gretha, you have come to Cape Breton Island from Germany. Tell us a little about where you come from.”

Gretha: “I was raised in the small community of Mietersheim which is quite close to the Black Forest. I grew up enjoying the outdoors and the beauty of nature.”

Renny: “It sounds beautiful. What brought to Cape Breton Island?”

Gretha: “I moved away from my home village many years ago and have lived in various cities since then, including London, England. Perhaps my soul was searching for a more peaceful, natural world again.”

Renny: “Do you plan to make Cape Breton Island your permanent home then?”

Gretha: “Currently I maintain my flat in Germany, but one never knows what the future will bring. I have enjoyed my time here so far and people are, for the most part, very friendly.”

Renny: “You are an Art Historian. That sounds fascinating and I imagine the job allows you some flexibility about where you live?”

Gretha: “I love the job. I am indeed fortunate to be able to live anywhere I choose and of course, I travel a considerable amount to go where the art takes me.”

Renny: “What, exactly does an Art historian do?”

Gretha: “I conduct research to discover the history of a piece of art. I advise institutions such as galleries and universities, or individual collectors regarding investments and purchases.”

Renny: “Interesting! And now you have bought this old house and are restoring it to its former glory. Do you see it as a sort of art project?”

Gretha: “Perhaps I do. It is a beautiful structure and I enjoy bringing it back to life again. I feel there is such history here.”

Renny: “I wish you much luck and pleasure with the house and your future here on Cape Breton Island. Thank you for your time.”

Announcements and News

Thank you to all those who pre-ordered and ordered Heritage House on Amazon. I was thrilled when the new book was flagged by Amazon as a ‘Hot New Release’ in its category and made it into the top ten.

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I’ll be:

22 April 2023, 11 to 4: Campbellford Arena

313 Front St N, Campbellford, ON K0L 1L0

23 April 2023, 11 to 4: Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute

260 Kent St W, Lindsay, ON K9V

29 April 2023, 11 to 4: Grafton Arena

 10766 County Rd 2, Grafton, ON K0K 2G0

30 April 2023, 11 to 4: Ennismore Arena

553 Ennis Rd, Ennismore, ON K0L 1T0

27 May 2023, 11 to 4: Millbrook Fairgrounds

13 Frederick St., Millbrook, ON

28 May 2023, 11 to 4: Fenlon Falls Fairgrounds

27 Veterans Way, Fenelon Falls, ON K0M 1N0

Check out the ‘Events’ page with more information about where to find me!

March 2023

Introduction

Winter has come back with a vengeance here in Ontario. The daily walks are often daily flounders through the snow (my elderly dog sometimes gets stuck in the heavy snow, and I must haul her out) but the whole thing sure provides us with our exercise each morning! After getting my daily serving of fresh air, I’ve been coming back to work on the final edits for the new Cape Breton mystery. Last month I shared with you the back cover description and the prologue. Today I’m delighted to show you the cover art.

Heritage House

Just for my newsletter readers – I’ll share some ‘insider’ information about this image. This is a house that belongs to a friend of mine, Anja, and is actually located on Cape Breton. She graciously allowed me to take and use a ‘before’ photo of the house which is now well on the way to being transformed into its former splendour. My cover artist (the brilliant Robert Scozzari) was able to take my photo and change the setting to give this haunting appearance. Notice the font is an old-fashioned type, suitable for the era of the house, and how the oat colour of the font is a reflection of the overgrown grass.

The ebook of Heritage House is available now for pre-order, and hard copies are scheduled for release on April 8 (but may be available earlier!)

Announcements and News

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in the series yet, they are available on Amazon, Kobo and other digital retailers. As a reminder, I also have large print editions available from Amazon or in person.

https://www.amazon.ca/Sea-Child-Breton-Mystery-Large/dp/1998891011

Looking for a signed book? Here’s where I’ll be:

1 April 2023, 11 to 4: Cobourg

Cobourg Community Centre, 750 D’Arcy St, Cobourg

2 April 2023, 11 to 4: Bowmanville

Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex, 2440 Durham Regional Hwy 2

15 April 2023, 11 to 4: Trenton Banquet Hall

Heroes Landing, 57 Stella Crescent, Trenton, ON K8V 1W6

16 April 2023, 11 to 4: Port Perry H

1655 Reach St, Port Perry, ON L9L 1P2

23 April 2023, 11 to 4: Campbellford Arena

313 Front St N, Campbellford, ON K0L 1L0

29 April 2023, 11 to 4: Grafton Arena

 10766 County Rd 2, Grafton, ON K0K 2G0

Check out the ‘Events’ page with more information about where to find me!

February 2023

Introduction

The weather here in my part of Ontario has been spectacular these last few weeks, if you are like me and enjoy mild weather that is. I’m sure all those ‘winter people’ who love the snow and cold, and those who make a business from it (ski hill operators, etc.) are cursing the weather. I’ll take it. Between walks outside, I’ve been busy with the new book and am ready to share a little about it with you now. Instead of having an interview with one of my characters this month, I hope you enjoy the introduction to book three of the Cape Breton mystery series, entitled Heritage House.

Heritage House

Back Cover Description

Leaving her past in Germany, Gretha Braun’s new life on Cape Breton Island Canada is cut short when she is brutally murdered.

With international and local pressures urgently demanding they find the killer, Detectives Gordie MacLean and Roxanne Albright sort through a suspect list that ranges from overseas to Maclean’s own backyard. Frustrated when he is relegated to a backseat role on the case, MacLean finds himself in a dispute with his partner as their priorities diverge.

If you enjoy police procedurals in the style of P.D. James and Louise Penny, you’ll love the Cape Breton mystery series.

Prologue

March 2021

Gretha Braun bolted upright in bed to the sound of shrieking coyotes. They wailed and yipped with excitement as the pack followed their prey, ghostly howls echoing through the forest surrounding her small, rented cabin in an isolated spot in Nova Scotia, Canada. The hair on her arms stood, and she shivered in this lonely place. She had considered renting a cottage on Cape Breton Island itself to be closer to the as-yet, strangers, but decided against it, not knowing how it would all go. She needed to study the people before getting too friendly.

The keening of the coyotes faded, and Gretha lay back down. Her racing heart slowed, and she lay thinking about the house on Isle Madame she had just purchased, making plans for the renovations to make it her own. Naturally, she thought in German since she had only been in Canada for a week, but she reminded herself that she must practice thinking in English to ensure her communication with the locals would be seamless.

Gretha loved the house and the land already, even though she’d only seen it once. She felt a part of it. In her heart, she didn’t feel like a foreigner but believed she belonged there. She was delighted with the new home and couldn’t wait to start the adventure of her new life.

As she drifted off to sleep and with her defences down, she wondered if she was stepping into a future life, or simply running away from her past one.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in the series yet, they are available on Amazon, Kobo and other digital retailers. As a reminder, I also have large print editions available from Amazon or in person.

Large Print available for the mystery series https://www.amazon.ca/Garden-Girl-Large-Print-Mystery/dp/1998891003/ https://www.amazon.ca/Sea-Child-Breton-Mystery-Large/dp/1998891011/

Announcements

Looking for a signed book? Check out the ‘Events’ page for where to find me!

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