“The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane” by C.M. Millen
**Throwback to 2016** – From the time Thomas and Lillian were born I read to them nightly before going to bed; leading to some time in 2017 when we all decided to discontinue doing so. Their tastes in what interested each of them had solidified by this point. We all continue to be heavy readers, reading daily.
Another book we really enjoyed. A wonderful fiction based on the monks of the Middle Ages from Ireland who established monasteries throughout much of Europe and parts of the Middle East. The monasteries were the place where books were made. The monks carefully translated and copied the great written works of antiquity. – Camilla
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Today we travel to Toronto, Ontario, Canada to chat with Peter Staadecker about how Canada’s mountainous West Coast, mushroom picking, Cape Town, South Africa, vervet monkey thieves, being an unwilling soldier, and photography set the scenes of Peter’s past and current life.
Have you lived there in Toronto your entire life?
Not yet. I moved there in 1981 thinking it would be temporary because Toronto is flat and I missed the mountains. All these years later, it’s still flat, it’s still temporary. I’m still here.
Why are you still there?
Ask my wife. I would have liked Canada’s mountainous West Coast. My wife is from France. She says the West Coast is too far from her mother and family.
And you still believe Toronto is temporary?
Don’t trample on an old man’s dreams.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Africa back then had (and still has) some very wild spots. One night four of us were camped in Botswana by the Chobe River under nothing but mosquito nets when a pride of hunting lions walked through the camp. We had thought our campfire would keep them away. It didn’t. Another night, vervet monkeys stole freshly baked bread right off our campfire. We had thought the fire would … I’m not even going to finish that sentence. One monkey also stole some crucial antibiotics out of our parked car. We had detoured three days from Botswana into what is now Zimbabwe to get those precious antibiotics for a sick friend. The monkey thief sat out of reach in a tree, calmly watched our tantrums far below, opened the childproof lid with ease, poured the pills onto the ground, and took off through the trees with the empty bottle, the childproof lid and an enamel mug.
There are also wonderful mountain ranges in Africa. Did I mention mountains?
I’ve had jobs as varied as mushroom picking, salvaging a sunken yacht, being an unwilling soldier, etc. I studied and became a mathematician, worked in business and am now retired with time to write.
What do you do when you’re not working on your books?
You mean aside from time for books, house, garden, wife, children, pets, etc.? It depends on the season. Right now it’s still winter, which is cross-country skiing time if I’m free. For those that don’t know cross-country skiing, if you do it right it’s like flying. Unfortunately, I often plummet. I recently put up a video clip of myself x-country skiing, here https://vimeo.com/393348449. It shows both the flying and the onset of the plummet stage. The clip also contains some of my photography—another hobby when I get time.
What have you been reading recently?
Last year, I was bowled over by J.L. Carr’s “A Month in the Country.” I’ve reread it three times to analyze it and to steal the secret sauce behind J.L. Carr’s magic.
And the secret is?
I don’t know. Each time I read it, I forget that my goal was industrial espionage; I become an entranced reader all over again. I’ve given up trying to analyze it.
Another thing that bowled me over recently was an award acceptance speech by the late poet/musician/singer Leonard Cohen. You can see a video version at
It’s a wonderful example of a poet using language to put a spell on his audience.
Did you like the movie version of A Month in the Country?
For me, the magic is in the book, not the movie.
Did you always write?
Not before the age of about five. But after that, yes. I tried to publish a magazine when I was about ten. I sold one copy. Since then I’ve written occasional journal or newspaper articles and published four books.
My first book, and the one I’d like to focus on today, is called “The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir.” The closest genre it approximates is historical fiction. Specifically, it’s based on an actual historical event, but it fictionalizes the event and transports it into modern times.
How did you get the idea for it?
Toronto has no mountains—did I already mention that—so, I started sailing on Lake Ontario. As a sailor, I became aware of an 1884 sailing tragedy that set a legal precedent for much of the world. Three men and a cabin boy survived a shipwreck in the Atlantic. They were adrift in a lifeboat for 24 days. The digits 2 and 4 look so harmless in print, but think about it: twenty-four days. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the key events that took place during those 24 days. The survivors were rescued and returned to Britain. The British Home Secretary took an interest in the events. He decided to bring two of the men to trial in spite of the public support the men had received. Again, I won’t reveal details for fear of spoiling the story. What I will say is that I discussed the trial with my teenage boys. I told them why, although the case was controversial, I supported the judge’s ruling. I found to my surprise that my boys were totally opposed to the judge’s ruling.
Fair warning: do NOT EVER, ever, ever find yourself shipwrecked with my teenagers. They are savage little so-and-so’s. You have been warned.
Anyway, I couldn’t get the case out of my mind, so I wrote the book. I was delighted to find it shortlisted for the Kobo-Rakuten Emerging Authors prize. I’m also delighted that copies are held in the USA by library of The National Registry of Exonerations and by the Equal Justice Initiative.
What advice would your now-self give to your younger-self?
Don’t camp where lions hunt. That’s stupid.
If you like the smell of freshly-baked bread you’ll be at peace with all creatures.
If you like the taste of freshly-baked bread you’ll hate vervet monkeys.
Also, find out in advance where your future wife refuses to move to.
It was great having you be a part of MTA, Peter. I very much enjoyed your sense of humor and wish you all the best with your books! –Camilla
Where can readers find your books?
Two of the books, including “The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir”, can be found on kobo.com in epub format
All the books can be found on Amazon sites world-wide in Kindle format, and in paperback wherever Amazon sells paperbacks
Most bookshops can special-order the paperback versions
A while ago my 14-year-old son asked me to help him find some juvenile and young adult fiction books having to do with mental health issues. This is one of them. I decided that instead of just giving him a list, that I’d read the books too.
It’s about a 16 year old girl who has a hell of a time with her spiraling thoughts. I really enjoyed the story and loved reading and getting absorbed in it.
However, I had something odd happen that is unique for me as something in the story triggered some issues from my own childhood and teenage years. This caused me to not like the ending of the story (but had to do with my own triggers). Seriously, it was pretty wild. I was angry and irritated for two days after finishing the book. Had to walk into the issue in my morning journal writing so I could connect with some issues, feel the discomfort of it all. Once I looked at it, embraced it and stopped rejecting it, I was able to move past it.
Again, totally unique to my situation as it triggered some deep hurt and pain within me from my past. Yet, that’s the beauty of life … We never know when or what is going to invite us to release past issues buried within.
Having said all of that, I did enjoy the book and I’ll be adding his other book, The Fault of Our Stars, to my list.
The fourth in the time quintet series, I enjoyed this one. Much more so than the last one, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. It was great getting to know the twin boys more and having an adventure with just the two of them. I didn’t really like how quickly the story ended, I suppose I would have liked a different ending. Yet, I’m prepared to go ahead and read the last book in the time quintet.
It’s clear I’m in for the long haul with this series. I have much catching up to do as this was published in 1996 and Nancy Atherton is still writing this series! I’ll be reading them for a while! HA!
Since this is still near the beginning of the series, more characters were introduced and it was great getting to know them. I loved the mystery to be solved, yet, this has been my least favorite so far. I still very much enjoyed it and enjoyed learning about the history of Lori’s husbands family.
Phaedra Patrick’s latest book. I read her first two and love each book more than the one before! I read the entire book in just a few sittings. I could not stand to stop. Just had to keep reading! I love a GREAT mystery; yet also want it to be a mystery that doesn’t involve murders or deaths. Phaedra does not disappoint with delivering a whopping mystery, with lovable characters to get to know (and some you’d rather not know). I’m already excited for her next book!!
I interviewed Phaedra Patrick on this website in June 2019. You’ll want to check that out too! –Camilla