Saturday, November 29, 2014

IN THANKSGIVING

SIMPLE GIFTS-~WATER
by
Juliet Waldron
 



Today, I was in the kitchen hand-washing mugs and scrubbing pots. Hot water came from the tap and a nice container of blue Dawn (c) sat by the sink. As I washed, I felt slightly put out. Always some darn mess to clear up! If you cook at home, you clean-up at home, and because we are mostly stay-at-home eaters. That's our daily reality.

The water was hot, the sponge was clean. (I've got a thing about laundering sponges every other day so they don't inadvertently become hosts for exactly the bugs you're trying to wash away.)  The task was not really unpleasant. I'd already cleared away the grease from a frying pan with a paper towel and put that into the trash.

I've a habit of turning the water off and then turning it back on again as I repeat the cycle of wash and rinse. I reached to close the faucet with one hand, and, with the other, set a clean pot to drain in the rack.

As I did this, I abruptly realized how lucky I am that this clean--potable, actually--water just emerges from the faucet simply because I turn the handle.  I can ask that it arrive ready heated to the temperature I desire. If I drink from the cold tap, it won't taste that terrific and probably isn't, long term, that good for my gut, but even without filtering, it's not going to give me cholera or dysentery. I live in one of the places on this planet that provides this luxury, this despite the fact that in my well-to-do town, we're  considred pretty much po ' folks.

Thinking over the images I've seen of women and girls trudging hot, dusty miles every day lugging heavy sloshing pots in order to supply the bare minimum need, I thanked my stars that I was washing dishes in a fine stainless steel sink with plenty of hot water issuing from the tap.  And although I've been washing up since I was a little kid--in this life, it appears that "doing the dishes" is an unvarying part of my destiny--for the first time, I felt a real change of heart, an attitude adjustment at a deep level.

From now on, I'll give thanks for the good fortune I enjoy, while I--ever so effortlessly--wash those daily dishes.


 

~Juliet Waldron

http://www.julietwaldron.com

Historical Novels ~
Mozart's Wife ~ 18th C Vienna
Roan Rose ~ Wars of Roses
Genesee ~ American Revolution
Black Magic ~ Paranormal

and many others

Friday, November 28, 2014

Research or Over-Research – Where Does a Writer Draw the Line?

Every writer knows even when writing a nonfiction novel: making it up requires research.

Like storytelling, the mind of the writer to research never stops. Isaac Asimov once said he was writing every minute he was in the shower; in the shower, he was only thinking about his writing. In the same way, research for my novels has become a part of me.

Romantic Suspense requires its writers to be reliable witnesses. Contemporary Romance requires its writers to pay special attention to details which enhance the emotional connection. Biting humor/chick lit requires the writers to take contemporary events and spin them off kilter.  While young adult/tween fiction requires a lighter touch-- with a connection to the teachable psyche and the future of humanity.

Most writers try to strike a happy medium when conducting research, leaving enough wiggle room with reality to spin a good yarn. Yet research has a cumulative effect. Once you start, you don’t stop.

You can already where I fall on the research graph: once I start, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for me to stop conducting my research.

So, here are few of my research questions (Gumbo Ya Ya: for women who like romance Cajun & men Hot & Spicy):  can a true gypsy (real medium/fortuneteller type) foretell her own future? What does a television producer do during the course of her day—when she’s key suspect in a murder investigation? What does it feel like to be on a pirate ship during the 1600s? Does time travel hurt? Bachelor Auction--what goes on during a Bachelor Auction? How does one concoct an accidental love potion? And, lastly, from my next “Fun and Sassy Fantasy” series: do gargoyles really know how to fly?

Remember research is not story. Trivial facts gathered from a variety of experiences can change the course of a future narrative.

Growing up in a career naval family gave me an almost inherent knowledge of the sea and maritime history. While residing in San Diego, California I visited the “Star of India” (16th century sailing vessel) moored at the harbor. My husband, being from Louisiana, made Cajun country and New Orleans frequent vacation destinations, and gave me ‘instant atmosphere’ for my setting. While I reside within driving distance of Hollywood, Universal Studios in the like, aside from a short internship in theater makeup technique, I am not a ‘go-to-person’ in all things Hollywood.

What am I to do?

I went to a local Starbucks, ordered a tall Pikes blend (1 Equal, nonfat milk), selected a table by the window and plopped down my iPad, pulled a chair near my table and conducted a Google search. Alas, Google is not the Oracle of Delphi. My next step was to log on to the local library Web site where I selected related research materials and reserved them for front desk pickup.  This I knew, would not quench my search of knowledge.  

With a heavy sign (knowing what weekday traffic was like) I decided to participate in a SoCal tourist day at Universal Studio (tour and City Walk).  I paid careful attention to all things visible during the freeway drive, my impression of the back lot and studio history.  I also interviewed employees and tour guides, and park visitors. Later, while grabbing a quick snack and the “Hard Rock Café” I spied the red carpet being set-up for a movie premier.  

Yay, pay dirt! 

A few more questions, observations, and a few interesting true stories (no names mentioned) told in passing, and I was good to go.

Will everything I discovered end up in my Anthology?  Most likely not.  Have I completed my research on the above mentioned topics?   Since my husband frequently asks if my office is a satellite branch of the public library, I know if I’m not researching this topic I will find another point of interest.

Reading isn’t a spectator event. 

You experience life.  The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.

No matter know much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story.

May your holiday season be filled with joy, peace, and love.

Connie Vines


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks as an Author - by Vijaya Schartz

Jasmine, the calico who sits on my pages and steps on the keyboard
You could say we authors are not quite like other humans. For many, Thanksgiving is about family, the great stuffing controversy, who's going to win the game, and they are grateful for health, shelter, and company.

Of course I am celebrating with friends (since my family is in France). But unlike most people, we, authors, see the world in terms of stories and characters... and while we strive on human emotions, we often seem aloof, as we take a step back to observe and notice the details of all life surrounding us, true or imagined.

So, let me tell you about an author's thanksgiving.

As an author, I am grateful for the freedom to write the stories in my heart. Despite all the upheavals in this ever-changing industry, I am thankful to have a publisher daring enough to publish what I write, and smart enough to ride the crest of this drastic revolution, constantly exploring new avenues for the benefit of their authors.

I also want to thank my supportive fellow authors, always generous with a kind word. I find your chatter comforting and often enlightening. No matter how much your family loves you, they do not understand the twisted worries and strange concerns we have for our characters.

I am thankful for internet research, providing bountiful fodder to spark my imagination. I should also thank my kindle for holding all my favorite books in one very small package, ready to travel anytime.

I'm thankful for the calico cat snoozing on my lap while I write, or stepping on the keyboard to remind me it's dark out, and way past feeding time.

I am thankful for the joy of a new release, for the first look at that new cover, for the exhilarating smell of fresh ink on paper and the comfortable weight of that book in my hands.

But most of all, I'm thankful for my readers, those who push me to write yet another book in their favorite series, those who stay late at night, turning the pages. They are the ones who perk me up and keep me going whenever I'm down, the ones whose voices urge me on to write. And when they share their love of my books, or tell me they enjoyed the last one, my heart warms up, and I experience this fuzzy comfortable happy feeling only equaled by love.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
http://bookswelove.net/vijayaschartz.php

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tricia McGill--on Rock and Roll



I’ve been watching a series on our Aussie National TV station about the early days in Cilla Black’s singing career and it brought back so many memories. Some younger people might not be familiar with Cilla, but guess you’ve all heard of the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. You’d have to have been living on another planet not to have heard of them. Anyway, back to Cilla. I was fortunate enough to have lived through the early days of Rock and Roll. I say fortunate as I don’t think any music has matched up to those glory years of the late fifties and 60s.


When I first attended dances at my local town hall in my teenage years we mostly did a sort of shuffle around the floor as in those days it was strictly ballroom dancing and who could do the foxtrot or tango—certainly none of the young men I danced with. But then Rock and Roll came on the scene in the form of Bill Haley and his Comets, and the like. My cousin, who was also my best friend, and I began to excel at dancing this new-fangled Roll and Roll. I can still remember how my brothers, all much older than us, laughed at our antics. Little did they know how this new ‘craze’ would catch on. It spawned some of the greatest rock musicians ever. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and let’s not forget Elvis. I can still recall vividly the first time I heard Elvis on the radio. My cousin and I were enjoying a refreshing drink during a break at the dingy little dance club we went to twice a week, when the announcer came on to introduce this new singer who was sweeping all before him. I still get that same old tingle up my spine when I hear him singing Heartbreak Hotel. 


Now I think about it I was so lucky. I saw so many stars live in their early years as performers, including Bill Haley and the Comets, Frankie Laine, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eddie Fisher, Matt Munro. Probably a few of them are long forgotten but there are two groups who are well known even today. We would go to the local market Saturday morning and buy the records of our favorites. Those round plastic things that apparently are coming back into fashion by the purists. I think I had every record made by Frankie Laine and stupidly left most of them behind when I left England. 


Moving on a few years, and I met my husband, who shared my musical tastes. How we loved to rock and roll the night away. I met him many, many years ago on Christmas Eve at the Tottenham Royal, a dance hall. I Googled it and it doesn’t exist anymore. Pity, as it was a wonderful venue.


Getting back to Cilla. My husband and I went to a dance hall every Saturday evening and the manager there got a batch of tickets for a Beatles performance and I was lucky enough to be included in the select group who went along to a local theater. To be honest I can’t recall one song the Beatles performed as the screaming from besotted girls was so loud they could have been playing rubbish. But then one of them introduced Cilla, and I can still see this girl standing there singing her heart out. I believe her first hit was ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’. Well anyone with a heart had to fall for her then and there--and many did--and remain fans to this day.


We also went along to see one of the early Rolling Stones performances. From memory it was at a Boat club along the River Thames at Richmond. It must have been a huge place with rafters as some boys stripped their shirts off to hang from the rafters. I was an arm’s length away from this skinny bloke called Mick Jagger as they performed on the stage and who would have guessed that 50 odd years later he and the Stones would still be a household name.




I do hope my reminiscences have brought back some happy memories for others.



Tricia McGill’s books can be found either on her webpage: www.triciamcgill.com

Or on her Books We Love page: http://bookswelove.net/mcgill.php

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Story Behind the Story by Gail Roughton

As a reader, have you ever read a novel that seemed so real you could smell baking bread, feel the heat of the sun beating down on your head, hear the roars of a crowd? If you’re a confirmed reader, one who always has a book going (usually one in each room), you almost certainly have.  Because it’s those moments, those scenes, those books, that make reading so much more than a pleasant diversion and turn a casual reader into a book addict.  Those moments, those scenes, those books—they take readers to another world, another place, another time and introduce them to characters they feel they know, folks they’d like to sit down with over coffee.  Or beer.  Depends on the time of the day, I guess.

So here’s the Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar question.  How does a writer write such scenes, such books?  Not that I’m saying I do, mind you.  I’d like to think so, at least occasionally, and I know that while I’m writing, I myself am in another place and time. But not because I’m using my imagination to create them.  Because I’m tapping my memory to reproduce them.  Not exactly, of course.  Not the actual moment, the actual event.  I want the feel, the flavor, the taste, of that memory.  And I want it to come through to the reader.  But even more than that, I want to put that memory into words that I can take out and visit with whenever I so choose. Bet you didn’t know that, huh?  That basically, writers are selfish people who in the final analysis, write for themselves and not for others.  Which isn’t selfish at all, really, because by doing so, they create those scenes that turn readers into book addicts.

In other words, there’s always a story behind the story.  Always.  My “darkest” work came from a real-life ordinary moment.  In a law office.  In my early twenties, I worked for a lovely, lovely gentleman, an older attorney known to all in Macon as “the Judge”.  One day the phone rang, I answered like a good little secretary and explained that the Judge was currently out of the office, might I take a message?

“This is Jim Smith (not really, I don’t remember the real name, it was a long time ago) at Riverside Cemetery.  Please ask him to call me at xxx-xxxx.”

Okay, I was in my early twenties but I was possessed by the devil on occasion even then.  I wrote up the call and under “About” added:  “Has a vampire in one of the mausoleums and would like him evicted.” 

The Judge came back, read his message, went “What?” and we all had a good laugh.  But the idea never left me, the idea that this would be an hysterical short satire, a “Night Court” sort of satire, wherein the poor vampire had to defend his right to live in the family mausoleum.  I mean, his family paid for it, after all, for the use of dead family members.  By what legal remedy would you evict a vampire?  He’s family.  And he’s dead.  Sort of.

Somewhere along the line, the story line ceased to be humorous and it dang sure ceased to be short.  Final product:  The Color of Seven


You can find all my titles at http://bookswelove.net/roughton.php. And there’s a story behind every last one of them.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Hazards of Dental Hygiene—and tooth extraction, Eighteenth-Century Style, by Diane Scott Lewis


It’s almost Turkey Day! Fun with family, (or arguments) and all that food...stuck in your teeth. In England, where they didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they still needed to clean up those pearly whites, and the eighteenth century had a unique manner of dental hygiene.
Up through the seventeenth century, dental care was erratic. Tooth extraction was usually performed by barber-surgeons and had a horrific and painful connotation. That pain and irregularity continued into the eighteenth century.
Teeth were hammered loose and jerked out sideways. Sometimes the patient was laid out on the floor with his head between the surgeon’s knees for the extraction of rotten teeth.

To advertise their services as “tooth-pullers,” these barber-surgeons hung rows of rotten teeth outside their shops. That must have been gruesome.

Thankfully the dental field did evolve in this century. Frenchman Pierre Fauchard (1678 –1761) is considered the father of modern dentistry. A highly skilled surgeon, he made remarkable improvements in dental instruments, often adapting tools from watch makers, jewelers and even barbers. He introduced dental fillings as treatment for dental cavities. He insisted that sugar derivate acids like tartaric acid were responsible for dental decay—a man ahead of his time.
In Britain “Operators for the teeth” developed into “dentists.” Samuel Darkin, who practiced in Whitechapel in the 1760’s, advertised himself as “Surgeon-dentist to his Majesty; Families attended by the year.” Several women combined dentistry with other skills, such as the enterprising Madame Silvie who made and fitted artificial teeth. “Those who don’t chuse to make their grievances known by asking for the Artificial Teeth-maker may ask for the Gold Snuff-box and Tweezer-case Maker.”

British surgeon John Hunter penned two important books in this time period, Natural History of Human Teeth (1771 ) and Practical Treatise on the Diseases of the Teeth (1778). In 1763 he entered into a period of collaboration with the London-based dentist James Spence. Hunter theorized the possibility of tooth transplants from one person to another.

The fear of tooth-pulling remained widespread (and without modern pain-killers it was understandable). After her niece’s excruciating experience, Jane Austen declared she would not let Mr. Spence “look at my teeth for a shilling a tooth and double it!”

Basic dental hygiene was little more than a toothpick and wiping down your gums with a cloth. Women suffered tooth loss worse than men due to vitamin loss during pregnancy. The poor also struggled with dental care.
Horse hair toothbrush
They were more concerned with buying food for their family than paying for tooth powders and the newly invented mass-produced toothbrush.

But dental procedures and care gained respect in the later eighteenth century. To avoid the pain of tooth extraction, or the expense of dentures, the art of teeth cleaning advanced.

England’s William Addis (a rag trader) is believed to have invented the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. In 1770, jailed for causing a riot, he found the prison method to clean teeth—rubbing a rag with soot and salt over your teeth—ineffective.  From one of his meals, he saved a small animal bone, drilled it with holes, and obtained bristles from a guard. He tied the bristles into tufts in the holes and sealed them with glue.
After his release, he started a business that would manufacture his toothbrushes, and he became very rich.
With the desire for better hygiene came the marketing of Toothpaste and powders. These were hyped as not only keeping teeth clean but in a time of rampant Pyorrhoea and scurvy, useful for fastening in those pesky loose teeth. Toothpowder came in a ceramic pot and was available either as a powder or paste. The ingredients could include crushed bones, oyster shells and pumice. The rich applied it with brushes and the poor with their fingers. 

 
A 1780 receipt for tooth powder:
1 1/2 oz. dragons blood  (not easy to find I imagine)
1 1/2 oz. cinnamon; and 1 oz. burnt alum.
Beat the above ingredients together and use every second day.

Horace Walpole put his faith in alum. He’d occasionally dissolve a lump in his mouth to keep his teeth strong. It must have tasted terrible.
Fauchard recommended using your own urine to clean your teeth—something that was always handy. Another method was bashing the end of a wooden skewer, to render it brush-like: “You must clean your teeth with this brush alone...once a fortnight, not oftener, dip your skewer brush into a few grains of gunpowder...”

Not surprisingly, most of these concoctions and methods did more harm than good by destroying tooth enamel.
Lord Chesterfield warned against the use of these sticks or any hard surface, as they “destroy the varnish of the teeth.” Smart man.

Delicate gold-handled toothbrushes, sometimes with replaceable heads, were included in the cases of toilet instruments for the rich. Toothpicks made of quills were the eighteenth-century dental floss and were kept in pretty jeweled boxes.
Toothpick box
Sounds more for show than practical use.
Fortunately for us, the knowledge and advantage of dental hygiene improved greatly in the years to come.

Sources: Dr. Johnson’s London by Liza Picard, and Wikipedia.

My eighteenth-century characters, strong-willed women, had healthy teeth: check out my website to visit the wilds of Cornwall:
http://www.dianescottlewis.org
http://bookswelove.net/lewis.php

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Horses and History by Victoria Chatham

I admit it. I am mad about horses and have been since the age of five. I was lifted onto a hairy little beach pony and I just fell in love. In one way or another, horses have been part of my life ever since so it really is no surprise that they should find their way into my historical novels.

Prior to the advent of the automobile, the horse was the main form of transport. Then, as now, a horse was not a cheap item to buy so it was imperative that they are kept as well as possible and a good groom or coachman was a prized employee.

Many Regency romances have reference to ‘high steppers’ or ‘sweet goers’ and pairs or teams of four-in-hand are always ‘matched to a shade’. The horse that most fits this description is the Hackney horse, although the breeding of Hackneys in England wasn’t formalized until the founding of the Hackney Stud Book Society in 1883.


The name is derived from the French word ‘haquenee’ which describes a comfortable riding style of trot or amble. These types of riding horses were not suitable for warfare, however, and during his reign Henry VIII required that his wealthy subjects keep trotting stallions for breeding purposes.

Over the centuries the English counties of Norfolk and Yorkshire were well known for producing hardy, trotting horses well known for their speed. The infusion of Arabian and Thoroughbred blood added elegance and stamina and formed the foundation stock of the modern Hackney, a handsome, upstanding muscular horse with showy high, leg action. It can be any solid color, bay, black, brown or chestnut and frequently has white socks on its legs. Records show that a Hackney horse is capable of covering 20 miles in an hour or 50 miles in day. In the 1820’s the horse known as "Nonpareil," was driven 100 miles in 9 hours 56 minutes 57 seconds.

For a young, or not so young, Regency buck this would have been the Rolls Royce of his day. The young men of the era prided themselves on their riding and driving skills and knowledge of horseflesh and bets were often placed on how fast each could cover a particular route. It wasn’t difficult for me to incorporate many of these details into my novel, including having my heroine drive a four-in-hand. One reader doubted that a woman could do this, but I based my heroine’s skill on that of Mrs. Cynthia Haydon (1918-2012).


I had the privilege of seeing Mrs. Haydon drive a Hackney pony tandem, one being driven in front of the other rather than side-by-side as a pair, many years ago and very much admired her   expertise. Mr. Charles Leck and his wife Anne, of Independence, MN, knew her very well and he says of her, “Indeed, Cynthia was handling fours-in-hand at a very young age. Even as a girl, she was brutally strong. Yet, she was delicate on the mouths of these Hackneys and somehow in synch with their emotions and fears. Never have I known anyone who understands the Hackney Horse the way she did or communicate with them as she did”.

Having seen Hackney horses in action on many occasions I have been awed by their beauty. But, then I could say that about almost any horse I have ever met, from that first pony to the last trail horse I rode. Horses in and of themselves grace our lives in ways we do not always appreciate. Their gentleness belies their strength. Their understanding of us is often greater than ours is of them.

As long as there is a place for a horse in any of my novels, it will become as much a part of the fabric of that book as will the heroes and heroines.  

Find Victoria and her books at www.bookswelove.com/chatham.php

Exclusive Story-Star Interview with Kendra Spark of Unorthodox

Hello everyone and welcome to Books We Love Blog: ) I’m S. Peters-Davis, author of Unorthodox , a paranormal suspense-thriller. Pleas...