Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Heart Of The Raven is finished!!!

After ten months of pounding out the story letter by letter on my Ipod Touch, The Heart Of The Raven is finally a finished book! The final editing is going on as I write this, the cover art is finished, and the whole thing should be pieced together and ready for proofing by this evening. I hope to be able to make it available locally for Christmas sales, at both Leeds County Books on King St. in Brockville, and Coles in the Thousand Islands Mall. It will also be available on, and for all of you with e-readers, as an e-book.

  The story plunges the characters of my children into a quest to find a lost amethyst crystal, blessed by an Indian Shaman. The crystal is part of an ancient prophecy, and has the power to heal sickness and injury. Once they find it however, they are constantly pursued by people who wish to steal the Heart from them, as they try desperately to get to their Grandmother, who lies in a hospital bed dying of cancer.
  It will be the first installment in a series of novels, following the characters through many different adventures...

  Once the proofs are approved, I will post the expected arrival date of the first shipment of books to be made available!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Steel Trail

By : Dennis Stein

   What is today used by cyclists, dog-walkers, and children began in some areas as the Brockville and Westport Railway. The 6 Km of the aptly named Brock Trail wind through Brockville following Butler’s Creek, upon part of the old roadbed of this historic railway line. Started in 1884, and making its final run in 1952, The Brockville and Westport was originally supposed to be a much more ambitious project than it ended up being. The intent was to have rail service all the way to Sault St. Marie, but the costs associated with building the rail line shortened it to Westport. The first passenger train left Westport for Brockville in 1888, the track joining the Grand Truck Rail lines to get into town. A trestle bridge was eventually built over top of the Grand Trunk line, where the Brockville Country Club is now, connecting to the Church St. Station, and further down to the rail yards at the waterfront. Jones' Mill, which still stands, is at the very south end of the path, and its logging ponds were removed to put in the rail line around 1884. Regular passenger service ran between Brockville and Westport, but eventually, the cost of running the rail line became too much, and the railway went into receivership. In the early 20’s, The Brockville and Westport eventually ended up as a part of the newly amalgamated Canadian National Railways. In October of 1952, a special train made a last run from Westport to Brockville to pick up any equipment left along the line. It was then abandoned and later dismantled. Old railway ties can still be seen near Church St. alongside the path, left over evidence from the past, now overgrown with mosses.

  Further north along the bicycle path, in some areas especially in the summer months, the city seems to disappear, as you walk through areas with hanging wild vines and thick undergrowth, even though you are really walking almost right behind homes and businesses. It becomes almost jungle in some areas, and wildlife can usually be spotted on any given day. Bridges occasionally cross the creek, and the city parks staff have done a fabulous job with cement planters, flower beds, and park benches along the way. Planted trees serve as memorials, all decorated with small plaques to immortalize the beloved departed, and tablets with various interesting historical facts line the way in spots. The scenic Brock Trail takes people from Brockville’s waterfront, and through the city to its north end, passing residences and businesses alike, tying in city parks, and quiet shaded areas. The gurgling creek is always present, flowing swiftly with the spring run-off, and slowly by the end of summer. It houses fish, turtles, frogs and waterfowl, along with a myriad of plant life. Many residents have helped with the cultivation of the Brock Trail, as almost an extension of their backyard, clearing brush and planting perennials at times right up to the shore of the creek. Ducks are ever present along the way, even during the winter months, and nest with young along the creek banks in early summer.

  I personally enjoy walks along the path, and it becomes functional to me as well. There is little sense of even starting our truck for a trip down to Metro for a few needed items for dinner, when a pleasant walk of 15 minutes takes me there and back. It is a much better way to spend time than waiting for traffic, and burning expensive fuel. It is great exercise, and a ‘free’ entertainment to walk with your family, a friend, or even by yourself. Next time you are looking for something to do that doesn’t cost a thing, try walking the Brock Trail, there is always something to see, you don’t have to worry about parking to see one of our downtown events, and it will fit in with anyone’s fitness level. We all seem to be looking for ways to exercise and relieve stress these days, and a good walk to get your blood pumping on the Trail is the perfect answer…

Photo from Brockville Museum Collection...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Return Of The King

By : Dennis Stein

The Thousand Islands Poker Run was another full house event this summer, coupled with the ever-popular Ribfest. Many popular boats returned for the Brockville stop, including the area favorite, My Way, the aptly named 'King Of The 1000 Islands'. Owned by Bill Tomlinson of Rockport, this large 50 foot catamaran is always a spectacle of performance watercraft as it enters the waters of Brockville Harbour. People crowd around the immense boat as it docks, its twin turbine engines roaring like some kind of spaceship, snapping pictures and looking on in awe. My Way is truly an extreme machine.
  It all begins with the hull. In this fourth inception of My Way, it comes from Mystic Powerboats in the form of the C5000-R catamaran hull. The previous version used a silver Outerlimits Powerboat hull, a design which although striking, was limited. The streamlined, stepped Mystic hull however, could take Tomlinson and Throttleman Ken Kehoe beyond 220 mph if equipped with the right engines. Those came in the form of T-55 Lycoming gas-powered turbine engines, which were purchased from the Miss Geico offshore racing team. They each produce a whopping 3000 Horsepower, almost double that of similarly equipped turbine boats. All that power is then transferred to BPM drives, through a special braking system and crashbox style transmissions, and finally out to custom made Propellers. GPS assisted speedometer, and tons of high-tech gadgetry adorn the full-canopy enclosed cockpit, complete with every safety option, right down to the HANS device worn around the neck, favoured by NASCAR, and five point seat belts. There is also an escape hatch on the floor in the cockpit, in case the boat goes wrong-side-up. All of this equipment was custom rigged into the boat by Mr.Tomlinson, Mr. Kehoe, and friend Jamie Auld.
  Despite a couple of near disasters this season, the team has rebounded quickly, officially tying last year's speed record at Lake Of The Ozarks of 208 mph, and thrilling crowds there with 'unofficial' runs of over 221 mph!
  With her bright red paint job, sporting the same logo as each of her three predecessors, My Way is truly a bullet with butterfly wings, and even after a devastating accident in the recent 1000 Islands Poker Run, I have been assured that the return of the King is... Imminent.
  Now it is time for my own shameless plug. Bill, Ken, I would love a ride in that boat someday, but forget the lifejacket, I'll bring an extra pair of shorts!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Lost Warship

By : Dennis Stein

  At Fort Haldimand in the shipyards on Carleton Island in 1779-1780, the largest and most powerful British brig sloop ever to sail the Great lakes was taking shape. The Thousand Islands was a strategically sensitive area for both British and American, not to mention the French in years before. Operated by the Royal Navy, she had 22 guns, and weighed in at 226 tons when completed, a double mast warship which was over 80 ft. long, and had a beam of 25 feet, built to guard British assets in the colonies from attack during the American Revolutionary War. The ship was christened the HMS Ontario, and the boat herself was shrouded in secrecy. The British didn't want the Americans to be fully aware of its capabilities, and she routinely sailed between Carleton Island at the head of the St.Lawrence, and Fort Niagara, ferrying troops and supplies. She was fast and well armed, used to guard the entrance to the St.Lawrence against american attack.
  Only six months after her launch, on Hallowe'en 1780, the most powerful hurricane of the 18th century churned north out of the Carribean Sea, across the New England coast and into Lake Ontario. The Ontario was returning from Fort Niargara with over 130 souls aboard. She floundered in the rough waters, sinking in the storm, lost. The ship's Captain and crew, Canadian soldiers, 9 women and children, 1 mohawk, and possibly 30 or more American prisoners-of-war all died. Very little wreckage was ever found, and six bodies from the ship which washed up on the southern shore of Lake Ontario were the only evidence of the ship's loss. Even after the Ontario sunk, the british kept it a secret, not wanting George Washington to know how weak the Canadian defenses had suddenly become, fearing the Americans would attempt an invasion.
  For over 220 years, the HMS Ontario remained in a watery grave, lost to time. In 2008, Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville, using sophisicated side-scan sonar, re-discovered the Ontario, lying near the southern shore of Lake Ontario in about 500 feet of cold water. She was remarkably intact, resting upright on the bottom and leaning slightly to one side, her masts still standing 70 ft. above the decks. The two men used sonar and a specially developed Remote Operated Vehicle with cameras to document and image the wreck site, which was far beyond the reach of diving. British Admiralty maintained that the site was still British property, and should remain undisturbed. It was designated as a war grave, and enough video and imagery was taken to positively identify the Ontario, so that any return to the site would be unnecessary. It remains historically as one of the worst maritime disasters in Canadian History. For more historical articles, visit

Cropped from Legend of the Lake by Arthur Btitton Smith

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plum Hollow's Witch

By: Dennis Stein

 Eastern Ontario is home to its fair share of strange and wonderful stories, told by local authors, reporters, and spoken of around many a campfire. One such tale involves a very special woman, who managed to achieve everything she did, despite the hardships she faced...
 Although exact dates are sketchy, as is sometimes the case with people or events early in Canada's history, Elizabeth Barnes was born in either 1794 or 1800 in county Cork Ireland. She was supposedly the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and even though that was never confirmed, it is used to explain her unnatural abilities. At around the age of twenty, she eloped with a young man by the name of Robert Harrison to Canada, settling here in Ontario around Cobourg. They had a son there, but tragically, Elizabeth was widowed when Harrison died a few short years later. She remarried, to a shoemaker named Barnes, and they came to live in Sheldon's Corners, just outside of Athens. They had nine children, and lived in a small homestead, until Mr. Barnes decided to leave his family behind, with the exception of his two oldest sons, moving to Smiths Falls to make a living at shoemaking. Now alone and caring for seven children, 'Mother Barnes' as she had come to be known, began using her talents reading tea leaves to tell people’s fortunes. She charged 25 cents to earn extra money, and her fame quickly spread. People came from all over to consult her, by horse and carriage, for everything from lost livestock, to murders, and even buried treasure. Even Sir John A. McDonald consulted Mother Barnes, and was told, among other things, that he would become the leader of the new country. Entering the small house, people would be led to an upstairs room where Elizabeth would be sitting at a table with a pot of tea. They would be invited to 'turn a cup' and would have their fortune told...
 Author T.W.H. Leavitt speaks of interviewing the 'witch of plum hollow' as he describes her in his book of the same name, and the designation stuck. Today the homestead where Mother Barnes lived is still standing, having been bought recently, and restored. Elizabeth Barnes died in 1886, and is buried in the Sheldon's Corners cemetery. She lived to be over ninety, and is credited with solving a murder, locating buried treasure, personal items, and unraveling 'ghostly events'.
 Though she was not really a witch in any real sense of the word, nor did she live in Plum Hollow, Elizabeth 'mother' Barnes is and will remain another of the interesting stories in our area. One can envision the wise old woman, sitting with her pot of tea as she looks into the future...For more historical articles, visit

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blooms and Books Garden Tour

The weather is beautiful this morning, and I am sitting in a garden belonging to Rob Davidson and Karen Green. Two garden ponds, and a wide variety of perennials serve as a nice backdrop for me to sell and sign copies of The Magic Cat. Their home is located at 7024 Connell Rd. east of Spencerville, and is one of six gardens on display for the Garden Tour...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Garden Of The Great Spirit

By : Dennis Stein

  One of the most beautiful waterways in the world lies only a short distance from most of us, its 1,864 islands beckoning boaters, fisherman, and divers to explore a wealth of picturesque bays, channels and beaches. Geologically, the Thousand Islands is a piece of the Canadian Shield which runs across the river into New York State to meet the Adirondack mountains. The largest Island is Wolfe Island, on the Canadian side of the river, and the smallest is little more than a rocky shoal just above the water, providing home for a single small tree. The islands were formed during the Great Ice Age, as glaciers retreated across land, carving out the Great Lakes and the St.Lawrence river, slowly eroded and changed by billions of liters of water in constant motion toward the Atlantic Ocean.
  Native Canadian and American legends have several stories of how the Thousand Islands were created, one legend involving a battle between two Great gods, one good, and one evil, hurling rocks at one another across the river. Good finally prevailed, and the rocks which had landed in the river became islands, and was ever after known as Manitonna, or 'Garden of the Great Spirit'. During the American Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812, the islands became the site of several battles between the Americans and the British, and a large fort was established on Carleton Island by the British, Fort Haldimand, to guard the entrance to the St.Lawrence river from Lake Ontario. It was later captured, and remains part of New York State to this day. Legends of buried treasure on some of the islands, and sunken French pay ships in the channels persist, and have made the waterway a popular tourist destination.
  In the early part of the 1900's, the islands became a summer resort for the wealthy, and entered into what is commonly known the 'golden age'. During this period, several 'castles' were built by noteworthy businessmen such as George Boldt, and Frederick Bourne. Boldt castle has been restored, and like Singer Castle, can be toured by the public during the warm months of the year. It was during this period that the area lent its name to a salad dressing first served by a woman named Sophie Lalonde, for guests of her husband at dinner. The recipe was later shared with New York City stage actress May Irwin, who in turn shared it with George Boldt.
  The Thousand Islands is also a world class diving destination, with shipwrecks in as little as 15 ft. of water. Thousands of divers come to this area every year, exploring famous wrecks such as the Keystorm. The clarity of the waters has been greatly improved thanks to an invasive species, Zebra Mussels, which came to the St.Lawrence seaway and the Great Lakes in the 1990's in the ballast tanks of large ships. St. Lawrence Islands National Park is made up of approximately 20 of the islands near Mallorytown Landing, and is Canada's smallest National Park. The entire area was declared a UNESCO world biosphere reserve in 2002. Campsites and beaches also lure tourists during the summer months, and the Brockville group of islands on the very east end of the formation offers seasonal campsites, washroom facilities and boat docking. The Lake of the Isles is another popular destination for swimming and anchoring, it shallows are sheltered by two large islands, and it can be accessed only by two narrow channels. Eel bay is well known for its fishing and this bay can resemble the caribbean from the air with its sand bottom and turquoise waters.
  Authors, Photographers, poets and famous people have used their craft to document this waterway, and its beauty is unlike any other area on earth. Whatever way one decides to explore the Thousand Islands, it proves to be rich with history, culture, and biodiversity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

History of the Apple McIntosh...

By : Dennis Stein

   No, I'm not talking about the computer, I'm talking about apples. The early history of our nation is full of small surprises if you look around, and a United Empire Loyalist who settled in Dundas county in a place which is now Dundela after being awarded land for his service to the British crown gave Canada something very special. The man's name was John McIntosh, and one day in 1796, he was clearing farmland on the property near his house when he discovered a small clump of apple tree seedlings amongst the bush. As there were few settlers at the time, and life was very hard for the Loyalists, John saved these seedlings, replanting them close to the farmhouse, most likely hoping to provide another means of feeding his family. All but one of the trees died, leaving a solitary survivor which proved to be a very hardy variety of winter apple. It grew well, bearing fruit for many years, and the family collected the harvest of this single tree, apples with a beautiful red colour. It wasn't until John's son Allen grew up, that the apples became very famous. He began a nursery, selling shoots of the original tree, which became widely known in Ontario. All McIntosh apples throughout the world are a direct result of that single native apple tree, and its taste and colour are revered worldwide.
  When the tree became old, having beared many seasons of fruit, tragedy nearly claimed it. The Farmhouse at Dundela burned to the ground in 1893, the heat and flames destroying half of the ancient apple tree. Still the tree endured, giving fruit for more than a decade more before finally dying one summer 15 years later. The 'McIntosh Red' was finally gone. It is now honoured by a sign which reads:   The Original McIntosh Red Apple Tree Stood about twenty rods north of this spot. It was one of the number of seedlings taken from the border of the clearings and transplanted by John McIntosh in the year 1796, Erected by Popular Subscription, 1912.
  Smyth's Orchard resides near Dundela between Iroquois and Morrisburg just north of highway 401, still continuing early traditions and providing tours of their nearly 100 acres of orchards. It is a family business, and works to preserve the famous names of John and Allen McIntosh, another piece of early Ontario history nearby. For more historical articles, point your browser to

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Now Available! The Magic Cat

It's now available as an Ebook from Amazon Kindle! Price is $1.99 and is available here.... There is a spot on the page for likes on Facebook, so show me some love!

The Magic Cat is now available for purchase in print form from my Createspace estore here or from retail within the next 5-7 days.. Price is $5.99. ISBN 9781469916767

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Waterway Built by Necessity

By : Dennis Stein

  Ontario contains by far one of the most beautiful waterways in North America, residing right here in Ontario, and the only continuously operated canal system on the continent. The Rideau Canal, with 47 locks, spans 202 km of lakes between Kingston at the foot of Lake Ontario, and Ottawa.
  The canal was designed and engineered by Leiutenant Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers, charged with the daunting task of finding a safe passage for British ships from Montreal to the Great Lakes, out of range of the american guns after the war of 1812. Begun in 1827, and opened in May of 1832, the rideau is one of the greatest engineering feats of the nineteenth century, its exquisite stonemasonry and buildings standing today just as they were when the canal opened. The Rideau begins in the Ottawa river, rising 275 ft, through 35 locks to the summit at Upper Rideau Lake, and then descending 166 ft. through another 14 locks to Kingston. During the war of 1812, when naval strengths were a continuous issue, a secure supply route between Montreal and Kingston was a must, and thousands of labourers were contracted to perform the massive construction of 45 locks, (plus 2 locks on the Tay canal), and 52 control dams. The conditions were hard, with many men dying of malaria. Yes, you heard right,... Malaria. Approximately 500 men were lost to the disease during construction through the harsh Ontario wilderness. Some of the areas between locks had to be flooded to achieve the 5 foot uniform depth that the canal was designed for, and the control dams accomplished this task, including the dam at Hog's Back, which suffered three collapses before it was able to be completed. All of the work was done by hand, through virgin forest, swamps, and wilderness with few roads, and fewer settlements. Pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows were used for excavation, and powder was used to blast in some areas. The large stones which line the locks and dams were cut mostly by French Canadian stonemasons, and lowered into place by simple hand cranes. Despite cost overruns, 2000 men per year worked to complete the Rideau Canal in a few short years, accomodating ships as long as 90 ft. It takes from 4 to 6 days to travel the complete waterway, and picnic sites with full facilities have been established by Parks Canada at many sites along the system. Original blockhouse buildings, which were built along to route to defend the canal against attack, still stand today.
  Many people traverse the Rideau Canal each year by boat or on land, and Parks Canada staff operate the lock system just as it was in the 1800's. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, and government money is being spent to preserve the waterway for future generations to enjoy...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lost Loyalist Gold In The Thousand Islands

By : Dennis Stein

  If you haven't heard of William 'Billa' Larue, the witch of Plum Hollow, or the 'Legend of the Black Cattle', you don't know what you're missing in local Ontario lore. A great treasure legend, with a ghost story to boot. I first was told the story over 25 years ago, by a man in Mallorytown, and it has captivated me ever since.
  William Larue, or 'Billa' as he came to be known, was a United Empire Loyalist who came to this country before 1800, and was given a crown land grant of 200 acres on the west side of Larue Mills Creek. All of the 'loyalists who had remained loyal to Britian after the American Revolutionary War had been rewarded for their service with land in the original nine Royal Towships. He erected a mill on the creek, and amassed quite a fortune. He ran the mill at night to grind flour for bread and during the day to cut wood for British defenses when England requisitioned his mill during the war of 1812. As time went on, he bought up land around him, eventually owning about 1000 acres in the area around Larue Mills. Billa and his wife Abigail had nine children, but at least six of them died while still very young, the times being as hard as they were. Some of the daughters in particular lived little more than a few months or years. It was well known that Billa kept his fortune concealed somewhere on his property, and several attempts at locating it by fortune seekers have occured over the years. Supposedly, on his death bed, Billa uttered what may have been the only clue to the gold's location. "My treasure lies there..." He was in one of the upstairs bedrooms, overlooking the small family cemetery to the west of the original house, which still stands today. Did Larue mean his fortune? Or was he refering to his children? Whatever the case, William larue died in November of 1832, taking his secret with him to the grave. He left everything to his daughter Sarah Larue, not to his wife, instead offering her a measly sum of forty pounds if she agreed to live somewhere else. She died two years later...
  One famous attempt at recovering Larue's fortune happened around 1855, when a small group of men, after consulting the witch of Plum Hollow ( a local fortune-teller named Elizabeth Barnes ), set out for the property in hopes of unearthing Billa's prize. They began to dig at a certain spot on the west side of the old house, under cover of darkness. They excavated a considerable hole, and suddenly one of the men hit what he thought was a large round stone, with the sound of coins beneath it. It was then, as legend has it that all at once, a cold wind blew through, and the men were suddenly surrounded by dark silhouettes which they thought were black cattle. They became so afraid, that the dig was quickly abandoned, and the group ran off, fleeing the frightening scene. It was decided that they would return the next morning in daylight. The following morning, the men found their picks and shovels, but no sign of the stone or any gold within the hole... The concensus was that a spirit of some kind had whisked away the gold, and re-hidden it so as to protect it from being found. One of the gentlemen amoung this group later detailed the story exactly, a man by the name of Haskin, who lived in New York state, who claims he was the young man in the hole when the stone was struck. He was nine years old at the time. All of this interesting story can be pieced together, and at least partially proven to be true. T.W.H. Leavitt's History of Leeds and Grenville devotes space to the story, and the local Service Ontario office has copies of his original land grant information, as well as a copy which I have read of his Last Will and Testament.
  Did some of the men return to the hole in the night and take the fortune? Did Sarah Larue get the location from her dying father? Perhaps. Or just maybe, the gold is still buried out there somewhere, awaiting discovery. Definitely an interesting piece of local history and folklore from the earliest days of settlement here in Ontario...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Done!!!

My first book is finished, and ready for printing!!! It should be available on within a week or so, and available for Kindle as well... Once I approve the proofs being shipped to me in the next few days, it should be ready for sale!