Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Head of Sir Walter Raleigh, by Katherine Pym

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Sir Walter Raleigh
Sir Walter Raleigh was an intrepid explorer. He introduced the potato to Ireland, tobacco to England, and was the favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. His place was happily set until his queen died, and James I came from Scotland to take the throne. Raleigh thought he’d remain high in the new Crown’s esteem, but he was wrong.

Raleigh’s arrogance annoyed England’s new king, and his popularity with the people irritated the powerful Cecil family. Within a few short weeks of James’ succession, Raleigh suggested James was not a good choice for England. That sent the king’s dander flying, and gave the Cecils the opportunity to get rid of Sir Walter. 

Raleigh was sentenced to death in November of 1603, but his popularity with the people wouldn’t allow the execution. Instead, Raleigh was thrown into the Tower where he languished for several years. He stayed in the ‘Bloody Tower’ and walked along the parapets that is now ‘Raleigh’s Walk’. His wife was allowed to be with him, and in 1605, they had another son, named Carew.

It must have been difficult never to be allowed anywhere but within a few feet of your chambers, and three servants. He had to pay for the room and board, plus any coal used to keep him warm. Finally, in 1617, Raleigh was allowed out of the Tower, and sent to South America, where it was believed the Spanish still dug treasure from the earth. The Cecil family took this and ran with it. They betrayed Raleigh to the Spanish.

The trip did not go well. Besides being attacked at the jungle gate by the Spanish, Raleigh lost a son (not Carew), and he became very ill. Upon Raleigh’s return to England, James had him thrown back into the Tower.

Raleigh was still high in regard with the populace. In order to avoid public outcry, Sir Walter was sentenced to be executed October 29, 1618, Lord Mayor’s Day. People would be involved in the Mayor’s pageantry, parties and such, and Sir Walter’s death would hopefully go relatively unnoticed. 

Raleigh being doused by a servant, thinking he'd caught fire
Here’s where it gets interesting. People are really quite unique.

Sir Walter Raleigh gave a long speech, denying any treasonous behavior, then he requested to see the axe. He said, ‘This is sharp medicine but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries.”

“Removing his gown and doublet, he knelt over the block; as the executioner hesitated, Raleigh exclaimed, ‘What dost thou fear? Strike, man, strike!’ The executioner responded, bringing the heavy implement down, but a second stroke was necessary to separate the head completely from the body.”

Normally, the head of a traitor would be put on a pike on the south end of London Bridge, but Raleigh’s was not. It is conjectured Raleigh was too popular, and his head on display would show the king had tricked his people by killing one of their favorites. As a result, Raleigh’s head was put in a red leather bag and given to his wife for safekeeping.

Raleigh’s body was buried in “the chancel near the altar of St Margaret’s, Westminster, but Lady Raleigh had his head preserved and kept it with her for the next twenty-nine years...” There was a belief that the brain held a person’s soul, and to hold the head meant that person was always with one.

When Lady Raleigh died, Sir Walter’s son (Carew) obtained his father’s head. They say Sir Walter’s head was buried with Carew, but no one really knows.

References & Bibliography
*Geoffrey Abbott, The Gruesome History of Old London Bridge, Eric Dobby Publishing Ltd, 2008
*Picture of Raleigh being doused: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Enough Thinking Already!!

My boss, a fourth degree black belt and my Sensei, is always coming up with new ideas and new projects to work on - for both of us. The other day he told me a story about someone shaking their head at him and asking him how all his ideas came to him. His reply was, "That's easy. I don't think about them. Whenever I stop thinking, that's when the ideas come." That struck a chord with me.

I've had so many friends carry on about being "stuck" and having "writer's block." Then there's me. I'm not one of those people who has to force books to appear. In fact, ideas seem to lurk around corners and attack me when I'm not looking for them. My first series, Wild Blue Mysteries, came from a dream one night about a cat. Literally! The entire series developed from there while I walked around town and sat in coffee shops.

As I type this, I have two series in various phases of publication and one more I'm plotting when I get free time (a rare commodity with three kids and a job!!) My second series, Gilda Wright Mysteries, came from my karate training and current job. Lots of ideas stem from learning how to protect yourself from the "what ifs." Isn't that how most writers get their great ideas? From an attack of the "what ifs"?

One of the best things I have learned from is the dreaded deadline. No time for writer's block when you have an agent or publisher waiting for your work. You have to sit and let the thoughts flow.

A writer friend of mine told me she has problems finishing a book. She has great ideas, but has problems finishing writing an entire book. My number one advice to her was to get a glass of wine (or tea or coffee...) and to stop thinking and let the story flow. The ideas WILL come. Stop trying to change things as you go along, there will be plenty of time for that during the editing phase when being stuck will be the farthest from your mind!

Speaking of which, I'm off to my editing cave! Have a wonderful Easter!

Diane Bator

You can find me at:

Thursday, April 2, 2015


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The movie, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, was made in 1982, and featured Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. It was based on a story by Larry King and inspired by the real life Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.

The Chicken Ranch was an illegal but tolerated Texan brothel operating from 1905 until 1973. It was located in Fayette County a couple of miles out of La Grange.

The original brothel that became the Chicken Ranch opened in 1844. It was forced to close during the civil war but later re-opened.

There have numerous books published with a brothel or bordello, as some people like to call them, as a central part of the story, particularly in Westerns. For example. Who can forget Kitty, Marshal Matt Dillon’s “lady friend” in the TV series Gunsmoke? She worked in a saloon. It was never actually mentioned on the program, and I didn’t think anything untoward either as I was young and innocent in those days, but looking back, it is fairly obvious, that being a saloon gal, she would have been, well let’s say, not as pure as the driven snow.

Two of my historical novels from Books We Love have brothel scenes in them.

In Fiery Possession, there is a high class brothel known as Glory’s. In my novel Savage Possession, there is also a high class brothel called the Black Stallion. Both of these establishments figure prominently in my stories. Like the old West, in frontier Australia, there was a huge single male population but very few women. 


They passed through the almost empty main street of town, and about half a mile further on pulled into the drive of a large house. It was a double storied place, with delicate cast iron lace work on the balcony. An impressive entrance door had a huge fan light with pictorial stained glass side panels. Surely this wasn't where Glory operated from? 

In the cobbled backyard, the man helped them down before depositing the bag on the ground.

“Thank you.”

He acknowledged this with a nod, touched his hat, and drove towards a red brick coach house.

Glory hurried over, her large breasts bulging from the low cut bodice of a bright green dress. “You’re here at last!  Come to Auntie Glory.” She scooped Mark out of Jo's arms, and left her to carry the bag inside. “I thought,” she spoke over one shoulder, “you might prefer to come in through the back entrance because it's private.”

Inside this section of the house, Jo was surprised to find it tastefully decorated. In the hallway stood a seventeenth century, long case clock with marquetry inlay and a glass 'bull’s eye' at the bottom of the trunk. Entering the sitting room, she noticed several miniatures on the walls.

“How lovely.” She tried to hide her surprise at finding such a tasteful décor.

“Surprised, are you?”  Glory might well have been a mind reader.

“It's different than what I expected.”

 “I've had a bath house built recently.” Glory sounded almost childlike in her endeavor to impress. On the back lawn, almost concealed behind tall shrubs, stood a brick building with arched windows and doorway. The central bath had water pumped through pipes from the river.

“It's the latest thing, Jo.”

Out in the daylight, the thick make up could not conceal the deep wrinkles creasing Glory's face.

“It's all very nice, but maybe a bit pretentious, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

The other woman patted her on the shoulder, laughing uproariously. “Don't quite know about pretentious, but I like it. So do the customers.”

They passed a large pond with pink water lilies floating on top. Jo averted her eyes from the centerpiece of a white marble statue of a naked woman mounted on a rearing horse.

“Whereabouts do, well, the girls, work from?” 

“Upstairs. I'll show you around inside now.”

The gaming room had mahogany tables and chairs. Another room, obviously a private bar by the numerous bottles displayed at the back of a circular counter, was upholstered in velvet. Glory did not offer to take her out to the public bar, to Jo’s relief.

In all the rooms, Jo noticed that the ceilings had white plasterwork and intricately crafted cornices. Basket-shaped chandeliers formed the lighting. No expense had been spared to cater for everyone's comfort.

The bar room consisted of a small highly polished dance floor and a large piano set on a raised platform. Frescoes of naked cherubs decorated the ceiling in this room, and one wall was crafted out of beaten copper. Classy, all right, where a local man with money might indulge himself for a few hours, or a wealthy traveler could stay for days.

Glory explained that the girls circulated round the tables, letting the men choose their drinks and a partner if they felt so inclined.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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If you could change into an animal, what animal would you like to be? I'd like to be a wolf, master of the forest, running wild and free.

The process of changing into an animal--fiction or not--is called shapeshifting. When I began writing my shapeshifter novel, "Wolf Magic" I wondered if there were any books on the subject. A trip to the local bookstore proved that, sure enough, someone had actually written a book on shapeshifting. This book was extremely helpful, giving me insight on the life of a shapeshifter.

According to paranormal readings, the physical world is only one of several worlds.
     1. Our physical world is at the bottom.
     2. On top of that is the etheric plane.
     3. The astral plane is directly above the etheric.
     4. The mental plane is on top of the astral.

Esoteric study teaches us that we exist simultaneously on four different planes of existence. And shapeshifting shows us that shapeshifting is a spiritual journey to connect to animal power.

Does everyone have an animal side somewhere in their subconscious? Some people believe so. This animal side is more or less present in the shapeshifter at all times. In a deep kind of mental shift, agility on two legs might be difficult. In this state, the shapeshifter can't appear normal to others. Indeed, shapeshifters may howl or growl at others.

Here's how the shift affects Annwn, the heroine of "Wolf Magic."  Annwn is a nurse-in-training at the druids' hospital.

     "She nearly tripped on her feet as she hurried along, struggling with an overwhelming desire to race on all fours. She didn't want to be in the hospital, longing to go outside and roll in the dirt. Passing other nurses who  greeted her along the way, she responded, shocked to find that her voice sounded like an old man's, low and gravelly.

On the way to the men's ward, she reached the closer where clean linens were kept. She clasped the doorknob but couldn't open the closet door!"

Have you heard of bilocation shifting? Oh, you don't know what that is? Bilocation shifting happens on the etheric plane. At this point, dear reader, it may be necessary to suspend disbelief. But on the other hand, it doesn't hurt to have an open mind.

In normal bilocation, the body that materializes is a carbon copy of the human's own body. (This is what you see when you see a ghost, if you see a ghost!)  Among those who believe in the paranormal, it's accepted that matter exists not only on the material plane, but astral and etheric matter also exist, as explained at the beginning.

One of the characteristics of bilocation shifting is that the body, in its animal and human aspects, exists in two different places at the same time. Any wounds received by the animal body are also, at the same time, at the exact same place on the human body.

How does bilocation occur? First, the person becomes unconscious, as if in a deep trance. The person "acquires" an animal body, such as a wolf, in the etheric form. The etheric body roams freely. Now suppose the etheric wolf body goes outside, running in a neighbor's yard. If someone sees the wolf, he may well throw a stone at it, hitting it in the eye. At the same moment, the human will awake, screaming with pain. (See, I told you that it might be necessary to suspend disbelief.)

Now, ladies and gentlemen, stretch your imagination as far as it will go and ask yourself: What about actual physical shifting? Some people really do believe in this. Accepting that it can happen, physical shifting is one of the rarest types of shifting, but also the most dramatic. The most common shifter types are wolf, fox, cat, and bear. The fifth most common is bird.

So what animal would you like--

Oops, gotta go now. A full moon is rising over the forest, and I smell a rabbit.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What is Death? by Eleanor Stem

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Egyptian Judgement in the Afterlife

I believe in reincarnation, that’s all there is to it. Souls clump together and help each other through lifetimes. We learn, collect good and bad karma, love or dislike each other, hurt or shore up the other. When we’ve known souls for several lifetimes, and one leaves this plane, it is difficult to bear. We miss them. Our hearts break for our losses, while they are glad to be back. Once we move on, we again remember what we thought we’d never forget, but did.

As 2015 shot out of the gate, and within weeks of each other, both my husband and I lost life-long friends, people we knew since we were children. We grew up with them, rode bikes together, suffered through puberty, know their children, their spouses. 

Husband’s friend lived down the street. He was always intense, and dedicated all of his energy to whatever he did. While young, he played in a band, traveled all over. One interesting place he lived was in Oklahoma among the Native Americans. He was a collector. He collected Native American artifacts, arrowheads. He loved music. It was part of his life. He breathed it, felt the thrumming of chords and notes in his flesh and sinew. He collected rare cd’s, band tee-shirts, memorabilia. Loved to have his picture taken with a musical group and post it on facebook.  One Saturday in mid-February, his chest hurt. By morning, he was gone. 

My friend and I started out as pen pals when I was twelve and she ten. At the time, I was embarrassed to have a friend so much younger than me, and I didn’t tell anyone about our age differences, fearing I’d be ridiculed. She lived in the West Midlands of England, near the Potteries where people in her neighborhood worked in factories and crafted Wedgewood and Prince Albert dishware. I visited her more than once, met her family, her aunt and uncle. I lived the same town for a year with my boys while I researched a novel. She saw my anger when I divorced; I saw her sorrow when her father died. Just before Christmas, she was diagnosed with cancer, and left this mortal coil a month and five days later.

We were shocked by these quick deaths, so unexpected. Medicine today is quite good. The doctors should have saved our friends, our loved ones. Why didn’t they? People with the worst, most insidious cancers can live quite a long time. Why didn’t my friend, or my husband’s friend stick around?

Because we are the ones who choose when we come or go, what our lessons will be, how we will learn these lessons, who we want to run with, love and dislike. Once our life's lessons are complete, we leave. We review. We either hang out in the clouds or begin another life. Our guides help us. God aids us. We are not alone.

I had vivid dreams of my friend laughing at my sorrows. She was glad to be on the other side. I asked where her life review took place, and she answered, on a hot, sandy beach. She was always cold in England, and this satisfied her a great deal. Almost a year ago, she told me she was bored. In my dreams, she admitted her life had been too constricted, controlled. Now, she wants to play, have a more exuberant life, be slightly naughty. She stuck around for her memorial service, then with a sweep of her skirts, she was gone. I hope this new place she goes to will be filled with more love, more light, and be better than the violence and hate of this earthen plane.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Easter Bunny Went AWOL by Gail Roughton

One work day afternoon, more years back than I care to admit, my desk phone rang. I grabbed it immediately, both because I was (and still am) very good at my “day job” and because it was a school holiday and my children, ranging in age from fifteen to twelve, were home alone. Now that in and of itself should tell you how long ago it was since nowadays, all kids call their parents at work on their cell phones, but cell phones at that time were large, square and black and generally lived as permanent fixtures on car dashboards.  (Told you it was a long time ago.)

“Mama?”  Uh-oh.  My eldest child and only daughter had that accusatory edge in her voice, as though miffed at something. Or someone. I braced myself for some tale of sibling strife.

“Hey, baby.  Everything okay?”

“No, everything is not okay! I’ve been through this house from top to bottom and I can’t find the Easter Bunny anywhere! Now, don’t you think you or Daddy need to get busy, hmmmmm?”

At this point, I should explain that Easter was a big deal in our family.  So was Halloween and so was Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we’re not unique in that, it’s just – how shall I phrase this?  My husband and I went a little crazy on holidays.  Any holiday.  Every holiday. Okay, we went completely over the top.  We kept right on going over the top for years after most families dispense with any pretense that baskets of candy are delivered in the dead of night by a magical rabbit or that the presents surrounding the tree on Christmas morning came down the chimney with a jolly, bearded old man in a red suit.

The unfilled Easter baskets themselves were part and parcel of the magic.  All three of my children had their own Easter basket, chosen for them on their first Easter. The basket itself never changed, not in all the years the Easter bunny came. They sat their empty basket out on the kitchen table every Easter Eve, after we’d dyed the Easter eggs and carefully arranged them in the big Easter basket saved from my own childhood. And sometime during the night, the Easter bunny filled those baskets with enough gaily wrapped chocolate candy and jelly beans to give an elephant a sugar rush.  Then he tiptoed down the hall and left each filled basket by each child’s respective bed, and sat a big boxed chocolate bunny beside the filled basket. It had to sit beside the basket because the basket was too dang full for the chocolate bunny to fit inside it. Of course, a new stuffed animal always sat on the other side of the baskets to finish things off.  The new stuffed animal didn’t have to be a bunny, though, sometimes it was  a duck or a lamb.

All this was easy enough to pull off when the kids were little. Things got a bit more complicated as they aged. Especially since neither they nor we were about to acknowledge the fact that either Mama or Daddy went down the candy aisle of the grocery store filling their cart with bags of candy and hid it to await Easter Eve, or that it was Mama who lined the baskets with grass and tore open the bags of candy on the kitchen table,  carefully dividing it between the three baskets by counting out “one, two, three, one, two, three…”. Certainly no one would ever admit it was Mama who snuck into the dark rooms and sat the baskets beside each respective bed. 

As they aged, by tacit agreement, without it ever being discussed, I moved “Operation Easter Basket” from the kitchen table into my bedroom closet, sitting on the floor in the late night and early morning hours to count out “one, two, three…”. The boy who would become our son-in-law entered our door at the age of seventeen, and the count shifted to “one, two, three, four…” because of course, Jason had to spend the night on Easter Eve so the Easter Bunny could bring his basket, too.  And by tacit agreement, without it ever being discussed, the kids turned their lights off at least by midnight and climbed into their respective beds.

Whether the kids were really asleep during those teen years when I snuck into dark rooms to deposit baskets, I don’t know.  I didn’t ask, and it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was the continuity, the tradition, the celebration of the magic interwoven into childhood and holidays. I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t sure that celebration mattered as much to my teenage children as it did to us as parents. At least, not until my fifteen year old daughter made it known that the Easter Bunny was an anticipated visitor who’d apparently gone AWOL and she expected the situation to be rectified immediately.  And no, the Easter Bunny wasn’t AWOL. His candy stash was sitting behind me in an office closet, safely away from exploring teenagers. He doesn’t come to my house anymore, but that’s as it should be. He certainly comes to her house, leaving baskets of goodies and surprises beside two little beds. Because magic is a legacy, a gift from one generation to the next.  Pass it on and never let the magic die. Happy Easter!
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alexander Hamilton Returns


It’s no mistake that people are discovering Hamilton again, that least known, most difficult to appreciate, and perhaps the most personally conflicted, of America’s Founding Fathers. Less a politician than a matchless administrator, Hamilton was a leader who actually seems to have believed the things he said, a man who did not use his time in government to feather his own nest.  He was self-made, without family or fortune, but with a unique, nuts and bolts understanding the new science of economics and the realities of international trade, of money and banking. The men Hamilton worked beside, men like Washington and Jefferson, were American aristocrats, slave owners, whose power base lay in land. Jefferson, particularly, took an almost feudal view of the future, imagining a new nation comprised of large landowners ruling over laboring classes of sharecroppers and slaves.

Hamilton’s political enemies, busy calling his patriotism into question, conveniently overlooked the fact that a large part of his character was almost Quixotic. Far from being a man obsessed with self-interest, he often behaved like a knight strayed in from some earlier age. At the start of the Revolution, he gave his hard-won college money to outfit a rebel artillery company. He crossed the Delaware with the remains of George Washington's army as a foot-sore captain, freezing and hungry beside his men. During the war, he was the kind of officer who led from the front, and also the kind who intervened when his soldiers, still hot from battle, wanted to summarily execute their prisoners.  As an aide-de-camp, he served his boss George Washington selflessly and tirelessly, becoming the perfect secretary/assistant to a beleaguered general with no other such brilliant props upon which to lean. After the war, in his new incarnation as attorney, he was not afraid to defend ex-loyalists whose property had been illegally seized by vengeful neighbors. Hamilton also advocated for ordinary men, one a humble ferry owner, whipped and bullied by a local landlord. Law, Hamilton said, should be dealt alike to all citizens, whether rich or poor.

For a brief time, he even may have dreamed, during the heady first years after America’s founding, that we could have a “pure” government, one without party, because servants of this new republic would be genuinely ‘public-spirited’. After all, if a person wished only the common good—as opposed to only ‘good’ for ones’ friends-- by use of the ancient tools of common law, common sense and ordered debate--pragmatic, mutually agreeable solutions must, naturally, emerge. ‘The People’ (as then defined) could govern themselves, not only without the aid of a king or dictator, but without special interest groups, too. 

But Hamilton was also an outsider, an immigrant, a “come here,” a fact his enemies never forgot or forgave. Worse, he was born illegitimate. An orphan, he arrived on these shores as a charity child. He was called, slightingly, a “Creole,” or, with franker hostility, by John Adams, “the bastard brat of a Scots peddler.”  Interestingly, this is the trope which has moved Hamilton back into public consciousness. Lin-Manuel Miranda, a multi-talented first generation American, is making a big splash with a hip-hop opera at The Public Theater in NYC.  I learned about this exciting theater piece around the time I’d begun re-editing a decade old “in-the-drawer” book—The Master Passion—but this unforeseen enthusiasm, and its success, truly delighted me. After all, someone young, gifted and vocal also wanted to make some art out of the life of this colorful, fascinating genius. 

Hamilton has been in my life since I was ten. I’d early learned that he’d worked against slavery, and that, like the wandering lost prince of all the fairy tales, he’d come to the ‘Kingdom’ with nothing but the brilliant head on his shoulders. As a teen, he'd fought for freedom. He’d won the respect of a legendary commanding general and won the hand of a local 'princess'. He’d spent the rest of his life devising ways to help his adopted country become well-governed, rich and happy. He'd fought like a tiger to get his brilliant—but far-less well-informed and/or insightful 'founding brothers'—to understand and assist his plans.

I won't go into Funding & Assumption or his many other financial plans here. The simplest way to explain Hamilton's importance to America is that if he hadn’t created a system to unite those thirteen bickering colonies by getting them to pay the debts incurred to fighting men—and to the businessmen who’d backed the war of independence—there would be no United States today.  Then as now, nation or family, paying the bills is essential to safety and security, the firm base from which all creative endeavor and industry flows.

Unavoidably, Hamilton was also a man of his time, one scarred by a childhood full of violence, poverty and humiliation. He was a true genius and as result could be vain, brash and impatient with slower minds. He injured and embarrassed his family and friends with a sordid love-affair. His insecurities and his anger toward the enemies who dragged him through the mud caused the political missteps which destroyed his own Federalist party. The duel in which Hamilton died might have been avoided by a more circumspect man, one more assured of his status as a 'gentleman'.

Beyond all, he remains--to me and to others--a true tragic hero, a great man destroyed by fatal flaws. If Alexander Hamilton hadn’t come here, hadn’t fought in the Revolution, or practiced law and set still important precedents, hadn't been one of those critical first creative, hard-working public servants,  there probably would be no United States today.

A few good books on a large subject:


Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow ISBN: 1594200092 Penguin, 2005

The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 21 volumes, Harold C. Syrett, Ed., Columbia University, 1987

Founding Brothers by Joseph L. Ellis, ISBN: 9780375405440, Knopf, 2000

Hamilton by Forrest McDonald, ISBN: 9780393300482, W.W. Norton, 1988

Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution, by Clinton L. Rossiter, Harcourt, Brace, ISBN: 9780151042159, 1964

~~Juliet Waldron

Short Story - Maude, There's A Body - Janet Lane Walters

I began my career writing short stories but I don't write them any more. This is the last one I wrote and it took me more than two...