Bankhead: a hidden treasure near Banff

Our family enjoyed hiking through the ruins of Bankhead this summer on our vacation in Banff National Park. We camped at Two Jack Main, so we were just kilometres away from the ghost town. However, we didn’t realize there was more than a hiking trail at Lower Bankhead until we went on the Boat Cruise at Lake Minnewanka. While we were on the cruise, our guide told us that we should definitely set aside some time to explore the mining ghost town at Lower Bankhead.

We discovered signage for Lower Bankhead is only visible when you’re travelling from Lake Minnewanka back past Upper Bankhead. The hiking trail is 1.1 km, and designated “easy” (the most difficult part is the stairs to get down to the trail). We found the trail easy to follow, mostly marked with coal. Signs with historical information helped us decipher what used to exist in Bankhead.

The mining town of Bankhead only existed from 1903 – 1922. At it’s height, the town was a prosperous, booming mining town of 1,000 people. An amazing amount of coal was mined in those years, a half million tons of coal during peak production. However, I found it disconcerting to read that most of the miners were Chinese and that they lived “on the other side of the slag heap.” The many rhubarb and raspberry plants which still grow are evidence that the Chinese families worked hard, both in the mines and in their gardens. Although the signs pointed to a happy life for many residents of Bankhead, I wonder if the prosperity was shared equally.

Below are some of the pictures I took during our hike.

For more information:,_Alberta



A New Arrival: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers


I’m very excited to share one of my latest projects with you. As many of you know, I serve as President of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. Just over a year ago, during one of our executive meetings, we discussed the possibility of putting together an anthology with contributions from members of InScribe. We organized a volunteer committee and set our sights on having the book published and ready to launch at our InScribe Fall Conference September 24-26, 2015.

The end result is a book with contributions from 28 Canadian authors, dealing with seven key areas for Christian writers: Time with God, Healthy Living, Time Management, Honing Writing Skills, Crafting a Masterpiece, Submitting, and Marketing. The contributing writers, who come from all walks of life and write in various genres for a range of audiences, are all members of ICWF. Through fiction, poetry, and non-fiction such as devotionals, essays, and articles, they generously share their own discoveries, success stories, and hard-won lessons to encourage and support other Christian writers.

The e-book is now available on Kindle:


The paperback version is in process and will be released during conference.

Thanks to everyone who had a part in making this book possible!


“I love seven things about this book: It is practical. It is affordable. It is encouraging. It is worth highlighting, underlining and dog-earing. Plus it made me forget about my toothache. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran writer, you’ll discover 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers to be jammed with instantly actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Dig in.”
Phil Callaway ( is the best-selling author of more than 25 books, a popular speaker, the host of Laugh Again Radio, and a grandpa.

7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is an absolute gem! I love that it covers all the basics a writer needs to know, making them simple and practical. I also love that the book has many authors, giving us ideas and suggestions from their own writing journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone seriously considering writing as a vocation or even an avocation, particularly those writers who see their work as a ministry—which it certainly is!”
Kathi Macias ( is an award-winning author of more than 50 books. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al.

7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is loaded with actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Whether you are a multi-published author or a beginning writer, this book will benefit you.”
Shelley Hitz, author coach and best-selling author 

“This book is a beautiful blend of faithfulness and craft. It will help you answer the practical questions of what it means to be a writer while honoring what you believe. I wish I’d read this when I got started.”
Jeff Goins, Best-selling author, The Art of Work

“There are hundreds of how-to-write books on the market, but none that I know of touches BOTH of the vital aspects of writing as a Christian better than this anthology from InScribe. The practical AND the spiritual are woven into a whole by a remarkably creative group of writers who are in the trenches as we speak. I intend to snack on this fare again and again.”
Nancy Rue, best-selling Christian author and creator of Shadow to Shelf, a mentoring program for writers.

Town of Banff

Our 2015 family holiday in Banff National Park

This past week our family had the opportunity to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Banff National Park. In this post I’m sharing some of my favourite pictures. In the next few posts I’ll provide details about some of the places we visited and activities we enjoyed.

Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep

We were able to see many different kinds of animals. When I commented that the sheep were molting, one of our sons commented, “Well, you know, Mom, it is summer!”

Glacier Sky Walk
Glacier Sky Walk

The Glacier Skywalk topped my list of activities. What an amazing view!

Ghost mining town at Lower Bankhead
Lower Bankhead

Looking for a free, educational activity? Check out Lower Bankhead, which used to be a mining town in the early 1900’s.

Boat ride on Lake Minnewanka
Boat ride on Lake Minnewanka

Although we had been on the boat ride before, we learned many more interesting facts, thanks to our informative guide, Dan.

Hiking in Banff National Park
Hiking in Banff National Park

There is a wonderful variety of hiking trails in Banff National Park – all lengths and levels of difficulty.

Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure

The Brewster bus ride onto the Columbia Icefield Glacier takes you down the second steepest incline (32 degrees) in the world.

Bull and cow Elk near Two Jack
Bull and cow Elk near Two Jack

We were delighted to find this pair of elk just outside the entrance to the Two Jack Main campground.

Elk at dusk in Banff National Park
Elk at dusk

The above shot of an elk at dusk is my favourite photo from our trip.

Bird on sign at Jasper glacier
Lots of natural beauty

A whiskey jack entertained us while we were at the Columbia Icefields visitor centre.

Too close to the bear!

Despite warnings, tourists insist on feeding animals and getting close to the wild animals. One guide asked us if we knew which animal sends the most tourists to the hospital from the national parks. Any guesses?

View from Sulpher Mountain Gondola

We enjoyed a ride on the Sulpher Mountain Gondola. What a view!

Where did you go on your family vacation this year? Any hints to share?

What I Learned at Write Canada 2015 Part 3 – Marketing Tips from Mark Leslie Lefebvre

I decided to take advantage of two last-minute additions to the workshops offered at Write Canada. Mark Leslie Lefebvre describes himself as a Writer, Bookseller, Book Nerd, POD & eBook Keener. He is the Director of Kobo Writing Life & Author Relations. Here are some of the tips he shared:

  • Author involvement in marketing is required no matter which way you get your work published
  • The goal of traditionally published authors is to earn an advance whereas the goal of self-published authors is to cover their costs

Tip #1 – Know Your audience

  • What are your readers like?
  • What problem will your book solve for your readers?
  • Where are your readers hanging out?

Your goal should be to connect with your audience; to engage, not broadcast. Your focus should be on giving, providing value, sharing things that entertain, inform, and inspire.

Tip #2 – Think Long-term: Practice, Patience, Persistence

Rankings go up and down

  • Comparison-itis gets in the way; Follow your own path
  • “Define yourself as the big fish in a small pool.” (Quote from Robert J. Sawyer)
  • In the self-publishing “Gold Rush” most people don’t make #1, but many make a moderate living
  • Don’t forget you’re always “on stage”
  • Focus on the next title

Tip #3 – Build a Basic Website

  • Get your own URL
  • Have a professional photo
  • Share your bio
  • Add links to your books and booksellers
  • Blog on a regular basis
  • Encourage people to sign up for your newsletter

Make it easy for people to follow and connect with you

Tip #4 – Blog to Connect with your audience

  • Have fresh content available
  • Provide value
  • Embed your URL
  • Auto-feed your blog into Facebook and Twitter
  • Add a Twitter feed to your website
  • Share what interests and intrigues you
  • Use free tools like Youtube, Google, and podcasting

Check out the Kobo Writing Life Blog

Tip #5 – Send out an Author Newsletter

-Embed a signup form into your website

-Include your newsletter form link into the e-mail signature

-Share links to blog posts, podcasts, Youtube videos (any content you’ve created)

-Promise you’ll never spam anyone

-Be consistent (at least monthly)

Tip #6 – Social Media (e.g. Twitter)

-Make sure you have a current, professional headshot

-Check your bio and make sure it is interesting, informative, and up-to-date

-Less than 20% of your posts should be about your book

For more information:

Self Published Covers

Maximizing Your Sales at Kobo (Written by Mark)

Ebook Publishing on Kobo (Written by Joanna Penn)

WattPad is a great place to cultivate a team – it’s like Facebook for readers and writers.

Pricing Tips: Optimize your pricing for each country. (Round it up or down to the nearest dollar ninety-nine.) In the UK round the price down. In Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, round the price up.

Launch Day for Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps

It’s launch day! My second book on how to use Twitter is now available. Today and tomorrow I’m offering a special introductory price. Learn Twitter: 10 Beginning Steps is now only $0.99 and Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps is available for $1.99 for these two days. (NOTE: The $1.99 price is NOT available in Canada. BUT, if you purchase the book and send me your invoice, I’ll send you an Amazon credit for $2.00.)

Use Twitter to easily and effectively reach your readers!

Twitter Hashtags

Successful writers take responsibility for marketing their own work. Social media, including Twitter, can be amazing tools. But how do you get started and use Twitter productively without wasting valuable writing time?

In Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps, Ruth L. Snyder explains how to go beyond the basics and use Twitter effectively. Using this manual, you’ll learn how to write great tweets, use hashtags, link shorteners, and Twitter tools, schedule your tweets, use tweet templates, and continue building relationships with your worldwide audience. You’ll also discover many tips and tricks to engage your audience and build a solid marketing platform in minutes a day.

This is the second book in the Authors’ Social Media Mastery Series on Twitter. The first book, Learn Twitter: 10 Beginning Steps, helps you master the essentials. This book builds on the basics and helps you learn to make the best use of your Twitter account.

Become more proficient at using Twitter today!

Bonus Content: Video – 10 Steps to Creating Beautiful Graphics with PicMonkey and E-book – Quotes to Use on Twitter (Inspiring Quotes in 140 characters or less)

Purchase your Twitter books:

Book 1 – Canada –

Book 1 – U.S.A. –

Book 2 – Canada –

Book 2 – U.S.A. –

What I Learned at Write Canada 2015 – Part 2: Indie Writer Continuing Class

The continuing class, Five Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author/Publisher with Linda Hall especially fascinated me since I began the process of publishing my own books this year. (My next book – Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps is launching July 15, 2015.)

Linda started out by describing different ways to get books published (Traditional, Independent, and Small Indie Presses) and shared a brief history of Indie publishing (e.g. Benjamin Franklin, 1732-1758, wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanac). She also reviewed the reasons people decide to go the Indie publishing route:

  • Because I can’t get an agent or a traditional publishing deal
  • Because I want to be in control of my own business

  • Because I enjoy the challenge of being in business for myself

  • Because I want to write what I want to write

  • Traditional houses don’t publish my genre

  • My publisher closed its fiction line

  • I need flexible deadlines

  • As a speaker, I need books to sell at events (business card book)

“If you have 1,000 faithful fans, you can make a living as an Indie writer.” @WriterHall #Indies #quote #writer

Key #1 Pre-book Planning

Is pre-planning different for the Indie Author?

You have to do MORE pre-planning:

  • If fiction: Will it be a series? Length?
  • If nonfiction – Do you have a platform to share your work from? A blog or website?


  • Get involved with communities where your readers spend time
  • Make sure you have a website and blog

Key #2 Writing the book

Your book should be the absolute best book you can write

How many books should I publish in a year? As many as you can write well

Should I format as I write?

  • Only one space after a period
  • Don’t use tabs; use paragraph formatting
  • Use Times New Roman (Serif) (For overheads, use non-serif)
  • Paragraphs should be fairly short


1. Why is everyone talking about Scrivener?

  • Trash doesn’t erase.
  • Character name generator
  • Snap Shot – copies your screen so that you can go back if you want.

2. Simple Note – an easy way to keep notes

3. How to format your novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace…in One Afternoon (for Mac) by Ed Ditto

4. The ebook design and development guide by Paul Salvette

5. Gwen Hernandez – Scrivener course (NOTE: Registration is now open for classes in the fall of 2015.)

Key #3 – Editing

  • Read your piece out loud (Google Play Books reads out loud)
  • Find Beta readers – friends, family members, and readers who will give you honest feedback about your writing.
  • Get an outside editor!

The four types of editing:

1. Concept or Developmental

2. Substantive

3. Copy-editing

4. Proofreading

Key #4 – Covers and Finishing

Go to Amazon and search the genre to get ideas about the style of cover you want and what’s popular.

eBook covers are different than print book covers

3 step judging for covers:

  1. Can you read it from 10 feet
  2. Can your grandmother read it from 10 feet
  3. Title should be in top 1/3 of cover


  • Amazon – mobi
  • Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and others – epub
  • CreateSpace – PDF

Styles (eBooks)

  • Full (left/right) justified
  • Indent or space between paragraphs
  • Fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Geneva) eReaders often use their own fonts
  • Copyright, TOC, end stuff, front stuff, graphics

TIP: Draft2digital – Use instead of Smashwords

Styles (Print Books)

  • Full (left/right) justified
  • Indent all but first paragraph of new chapters
  • First letter or each first paragraph of each new chapter – larger and bolder
  • Fonts your choice (serif)
  • Copyright, TOC, end stuff, front stuff
  • Any graphics must be at least 300 dpi
  • No header or footer on first page of each new chapter or in end stuff or front stuff
  • Start on right side (odd numbered page)
  • Headers – odd numbered page is the title, even number is the author


ISBNs are free in Canada – go to CISS

Turn your book into audio – (Only available in the U.S.)

Key #5 – Marketing 

The Indie Reviewers List (; DO NOT pay for reviews!

Do a Google search for the many sites which list bloggers and book reviewers.

More Information:

Linda gave me permission to share the link to a special page she set up for this class. Check it out at

My two previous posts about Write Canada were: 5 Things I appreciated about Write Canada  and the Magazine Editor Panel.

What I learned at Write Canada: Part 1 – Magazine Editor Panel

Several magazine editors attended Write Canada and shared helpful information for freelance writers. Here’s my overview:

Panel Members: Lisa Hall-Wilson (Moderator), Angela Bick – Christian Courier (bi-weekly Reformed; book reviews, analysis), Andrew Faiz – Presbyterian Record, Fazal Karim Jr. – Christian Herald, Susan King – Upper Room, Stephen Kennedy (Testimony – Pentecostal; 6 features/issue) Karen Stiller/Bill Fledderus – Faith Today


General Overview:

Faith Today (Non-denominational): Very conscious of representing a variety of denominations

Testimony (Denominational): A portion has to address denominational needs; We publish 6 feature articles which can be written by anyone; Conscious living fuels writing; writing fuels conscious living. #quote

Upper Room (Non-denominational): Don’t write about a minority opinion

Christian Herald: (650 churches in Toronto area) Ability to speak to the broader church; focus on things that unite.

Presbyterian Record: Denominational loyalty is not as strong as it used to be. This is forcing magazines to look beyond the walls of the church.

Christian Courier: Freedom to write about anything; honest on any issues; Wider spectrum of positions; practicing how to disagree respectfully; no funding from denomination.

What are your lead times and what does that mean for writers?

Christian Courier: 3 weeks or 4-6 weeks for lead features

Presbyterian Record: 6 months (Issue is locked 4 months ahead of time) Feature issues are required 4 months ahead of time

Christian Herald: Newspaper freely distributed. Printed on Wednesday and arrives on Sunday. Pitches 2-3 months in advance (40 days prior). Material deadline = 15 of the month (1 month ahead).

Upper Room: Over 100 countries in 33 languages. Entire issue is done a year ahead. (Need meditations on Advent or Lent)

Faith Today: 3 months ahead

TIP: If you’re pitching for the first time, leave a lot of time to work with.

What queries are you tired of seeing? What do you wish you would see more of?

Faith Today: We don’t publish opinion pieces (rants) by unknown people; Like to work with people who can meet deadlines, write well, and are easy to work with. Topics are negotiable. Our feature articles are not news stories. Instead, these articles need to approach a story from a variety of perspectives and voices so that the story emerges. Do your research and then turn the story on its head. E.g. Instead of writing about how terrible the new sex education curriculum in Ontario is, write about how to engage effectively with school boards and teachers. Aim for 1,200 words.

Testimony: We’d like to find more Arts and Culture feature stories; Also looking for articles about constructive ways of addressing current issues. We are always looking for interesting personal stories that readers can identify with – passionate, honest, real, not preachy.

Upper Room: Please don’t send cover letters or queries; just send devotionals (2 or 3 every 2 months) Devotionals should be 250 words (maybe 300). The purpose of our devotionals is to teach by moving, inspiring, providing humour. Devotionals don’t have to include personal experience, but they must connect the reader to God.

Christian Herald: Be specific in your query – share about your background, including which denomination you belong to. Please check our writer’s guidelines! We’re looking for fresh pieces that go into different categories like business, travel, education.

TIP: Christian Herald is looking for people willing to write about assigned beats like business, travel, and education.

Presbyterian Record: I’m not interested in “attack” articles. A good opinion piece takes a stand. Cynicism is trendy, but it takes skill to take a stand. Great opinion pieces include logical thought with a narrative that builds an idea from line to line. There should be some element of surprise. Find a way to make sense of things that challenge us.

I’ll give you three seconds to catch my interest: Get to the point! I’m looking for stories with a human element – people interacting with their faith and culture. Each of us is on a journey of faith and sometimes we stumble. Be willing to write with vulnerability. Don’t philosophize. Share about your faith journey in the challenging times we are living in.

Christian Courier: Show me you know about our paper. Use my name! One sample is great. I’m looking for people who are articulate on something of interest to Christians. Suggested topics: Truth and Reconciliation Committee and what it means to Christians; Eastern Religion and Christianity; Photo journalism; Sports & Food Obsessions; Homelessness; Sex Trade.

TIP: DO your homework before you send a pitch!

How do you get assignments?

1. Be excellent

2. Be dependable

3. Be consistent

4. Be on time

InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship is gearing up for fall conference from September 24-26, 2015 in Edmonton. I’d love to see you there! Registration details are at