Saturday, June 6, 2015

Trapped!

         

 When you live in the country, you get used to certain things. Fact:  trees are going to fall across roads and driveways and power lines.  Now I know that’s going to happen occasionally no matter where you live, but I guarantee you it’s going to happen more often in the country.  Like just this last Wednesday afternoon.  There I was, coming down my country driveway, happy to be home in the big city after a day at work.  I’d even stopped at the grocery store in town for a few things and picked up Chinese for supper.  For the uninitiated, I should explain that my country driveway is a long sucker.  It curves and twists for about three-quarters of a mile.  Tree-lined curves. We’d had some storms that afternoon, though I hadn’t thought they’d been especially strong. Apparently, they’d been stronger than I’d thought in our little town.  Small branches and twiggs were everywhere, so I was on semi-alert, even though I knew we’d had no tree come down on a power line because I knew my husband would have told me during one of the three times he’d called me on my way home to see where I was. Well, not where I was.  Where his Chinese was.  He was hungry.


            I had to laugh when I saw the tree, just out of sight of the house, past the third curve going down the driveway or the first one going up the driveway, depending on which direction you were going in.  “There’ll be a short delay,” I advised by phone. “There’s a tree down. Looks like it’s pretty rotten and I think I can shift it myself. But I’m not gonna be able to drive over it, so stand by.”

            I got out and did some country cussin’ as my dress work sandals slid on the mud while I made my way over to the very visible crack in the tree trunk.  Hmmmm.  I bent and tried to lift. Not as rotten as I’d thought.  I was about to pull out my phone again when I heard the front door open and my husband and dogs barreling out.  He shouted up, I shouted back.  “Need you after all.  It’s heavier than I thought!”

            It was a bit heavier than I thought but nothing like some we’ve had. He came up and made short work of shifting it over to the side.  I drove on down, unloaded groceries and we ate Chinese.  This tree’d been just a minor glitch in my afternoon.  But oh, the memories it brought back! Memories of the night--I'm sorry, but I can't resist--the night the lights went out in Georgia…
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            The grandchildren were with us.  That wasn’t unusual, my husband being already retired was and still is Granddaddy Day Care, and my daughter and son-in-law work unconventional hours and aren’t usually home till around 9:00 p.m.  That particular night my grandson Austin was two months shy of seven and my granddaughter Kinsley’d just hit six months old. A Friday night two summers ago, when one last downpour of winds and thunder and lightning from a Tropical Storm moving from the Gulf up the east coast hit.  It was around 7:00 p.m.   Austin and I lounged on my bed in front of my bedroom tv/DVD watching “The Bee Movie” while he ate his supper, seein’ as how  Kinsley was asleep on her blanket on the floor in the living room. According to Granddaddy, she’d been a bit of a prima donna that day and a little hard to please.  In other words, “Do. Not. Wake. Her. Up.” 

Suddenly the lights went out and the television screen went blank. Well, like I said, that happens when it rains sometimes and it happens quite often in the country. “Grandmama! What’s happened?!” It’s disastrous for the modern American adult when power goes out.  For a six-going-on-seven year old, it was catastrophic. No DVD player, no lights, no computer?! “It won’t be out long, baby. We’re fine.”

So he and I grabbed my “Book” (Austinese for Nook) and retired to the back porch for more light. And more cool.  It’s amazing how quickly a house gets hot when the power goes out.  Even with all windows open.  Especially on a humid Georgia twilight. At six-month-old, Kinsley didn’t really care about power per se one way or the other.  She only cared that it was hot.  This was unacceptable and she made that very clear.

After about thirty, forty-five minutes, hubby decided to take his truck up and check out the rest of our fair little crossroads town to see if power was out all over, or whether we were the only poor souls so affected, which was very possible, depending on where the line was down.

It turned out to be just us. There was a tree down at the top of the driveway.  A tree rude enough to take the power line with it and then lay on top of it. Well, except for the parts of the power line draped across the metal farm gate fence at the top of the drive. The metal one. Live power wires and metal are not a good combination. 

Austin, already disrupted by the power outrage, went into full panic mode.

“Grandmama, my heart’s scared! I’m never goin’ home!!”   

“Baby, you’re fine. Granddaddy’s calling the power company and they have to come shut off the power before we can get the tree out of the way. They’ll be here as soon as they can.”

            “When?

“Soon.”

“Tonight?”

“I hope so, but you’re fine. What’s the matter, you’ve never spent the night with Grandmama and Granddaddy before?”

Kinsley, now both hungry and hot, protested loudly from the background. Coward that I was, I left it to Granddaddy to handle the hot and hungry fury and made myself useful by reporting the situation to the parents.

“I wanta talk to Mimi!” (Austinese for Mama.  To him, my daughter  was, still is, and probably always will be Mimi.  Not Mama or Mommy,  Mimi.  We don’t know why, it’s just a fact.)

“Okay.”

“Mimi, my love?”(My daughter’s called Austin “my love” or “my heart” since birth.  Consequently, it was sometimes a bit unnerving to hear their phone conversations.  The phrase “my love” isn’t part of most six year old’s vocabularies.) “The power’s out and my heart’s scared!! And it’s getting’ scareder by the minute!!”

Reassuring hug from Grandmama. Soothing murmers from Mimi over the other end of the phone.

“So can you tell Daddy to get his friends and come move the tree and come and get me?!”(The little traitor. This was the child who went  anywhere with us for any length of time without protest. With enthusiasm, in fact.  The kid who’d gone through Chicago rush hour traffic  with us on a Thursday afternoon just a few months earlier shouting, “This is awesome! I love this city!”) 

Granddaddy and Kinsley retired to the bedroom to try for a nap. Not terribly successfully from the sound of it. Austin and I played the apps on my “Book” until he tired of them and then sat at the kitchen table with the flashlight building Lincoln Log houses.  Well, he did, anyway.  He’d gotten me hooked on one of those damned apps. And finally, blessed quiet from the bedroom.  There were still non-stop questions at the table , though.

“Are you sure we’re gonna be all right?”

 “Yes, baby.”

 “I’m never going home again!”

 “Yes, you are, baby, it’s fine.”

At this point, I didn’t even care if the power even came back on till morning. I just wanted the tree out of the way so the kids could get home and I’d be happy as a clam.    But Austin’s heart was “gettin’ scareder by the minute!” And what was I gonna do when the “Book” lost its battery charge, for heaven’s sake? Desperate, I texted Mimi (no point in feeding a six year old’s fears any more than I had to) and asked if the Sheriff’s Office could exert some influence with Georgia Power and move us up on the list of priorities.  (My son-in-law’s a K-9 Deputy Sheriff.) She sent back, “Okay, but what can the Sheriff do?  Georgia Power’s gotta handle the live wire!”  I sent back, “I know but maybe they can give us emergency status—deputy’s children stranded with evil grandparents and so scared their hearts hurt!” 

I don’t know if she actually complied with that request or not, but at 9:30 p.m., she called.

“We’re at the top of the drive with Georgia Power.  They’ve been here about half an hour. The wire’s draped all over the gate. They’re hooking it up and pulling it back up in the air now. Shouldn’t be but another few minutes.”

“Mimi?  I wanta talk to Mimi!!”

I handed the phone over and sank back in relief.  “Mimi, they’re never coming!!  My heart’s really gettin’ scared! And it’s gettin’ scareder by the minute!”

“Baby, they’re here! It’ll just be a few minutes and we’ll be down to get you!  Got you a surprise!”

“Surprise?” Perked ears.  “What, what, what?”

“It’s at home. You’ll be home in just a little bit. They’re working.”

“Okaaaaayyyyyy…..”

Loud noise sounded from the driveway.  Headlights!!  A giant Georgia Power truck came down the hill, maneuvered and backed up—and started back up the hill!  Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!  

Don’t leave meeeee…………

“Grandmama, they left, they left!! And the lights aren’t back on!!”

Then I realized, “They’re checking the rest of the lines on the driveway, stupid.” (NO, that was not directed at Austin, I was talking to myself.)

Five minutes later—surge of light. “Let there be light.”  Truly glorious words.  Whirr of overhead ceiling fans.  Yes, yes, yes.  Sound of incoming vehicle as  parents came to collect children.  Oh, glorious reunion! Or not. It seemed to have lost urgency with Austin.

“Grandmama! Now we can watch t.v.!”

Yes.  Priorities here, please.  It only took the sight of incoming headlights to send him flying out the door, though.  And so ended the night when I was Trapped!!  A prisoner of electricity in my own home.  Our children and grandchildren headed up the driveway.  Hubby flipped on the t.v.  Only three innings into the Braves game seein’ as how they were playing on the West Coast.


We settled onto the couch, twisted the top off two bottles of beer and pulled open a bag of pork rinds. That’s how country folks celebrate. And we're nothing if not country.


                              


Find all Gail Roughton titles at
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You can also visit at her Blog
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Friday, June 5, 2015

Stereotypical Beauty...by Jamie Hill

Buy at Amazon
The main characters in my novels are physically fit because let's face it, they're made up so if I'm going make them my fantasy, I might as well do it right. My cops and US Marshals need to stay trim for their jobs, so with this in mind I start them out as perfect then mention that they like to run for exercise and eat salads and lean protein for dinner. Perfect, right?

Readers have told me they appreciate how down to earth my characters are. They smoke (people HATE that), they might drink a little too much, they like to swear and have sex (opinions are mixed on THAT but the reviews are generally positive.) For most of them, weight isn't an issue because I don't mention it. They might joke about a couple of extra pounds, but it's nothing major. The beautiful cover models that BWL Art Director Michelle Lee comes up with give us a glimpse of what our people look like before we ever crack the book. They're attractive, enviable people. As a reader, that's what I look for in a romance book and it's what I suspect the majority of readers look for, too. 

The overweight heroine (or hero) has her/his place in certain titles, God Bless 'em and thank goodness for that. But for the most part, the attribute of size is usually skipped over or assumed by the cover image. This sounds horribly prejudiced but the cold fact is, if I'm going to live vicariously through a woman in a book, I want her to be pretty and damn sexy. 

That's my author perspective. My real woman perspective is that all people can be pretty and sexy, regardless of their size or shape. True beauty comes from within as much as it comes from the outside package. A woman can be a size zero supermodel but if she's got an ugly personality, neither my husband nor myself will ever think she's attractive. Conversely, if all of us had makeup artists, hair stylists, and Photoshop at our disposal, more of us might look like supermodels!

Thankfully, beauty is subjective and I truly believe there is someone for everyone. Speaking as a plus-sized woman who's trying to make her way down into being a normal-sized woman, it's not easy. I don't expect or want to look like a model, I just want to feel good and be healthy. So I plug along, walking after my dinner of salad and lean protein. 

But in my mind...well, let's just say, it's more fun to be perfect, right?

Find all of my beautiful people at Books We Love: http://bookswelove.net/authors/hill-jamie/

or visit me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jamie-Hill/135137799867321

and for goodness sake, somebody pass me some chocolate!

Jamie Hill
www.jamiehill.biz



Thursday, June 4, 2015

17th Century Whitehall Part 1, by Katherine Pym


Whitehall Palace


Whitehall Palace was a sprawling conglomerate of buildings that made no sense or order. Today, only the Banqueting House remains. 

Part I, A quick history:
In the 13th century, Whitehall was called York Place. It was not a palace, but a mansion built by an archbishop between the cities of Westminster and London. It wasn’t too large then, but over the centuries, its owners added to it which accommodated kings, queens, and their entourages when they visited York Place.

By the 16th century, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, lived in it. He had expanded it to such a degree that it rivaled most of the king’s palaces. Besides the fact Wolsey was Catholic, and Henry now rebuked Catholics, to have a minion with a larger house than his did not sit well. King Henry stripped Wolsey of all power, then moved into York Place and renamed it Whitehall.
Whitehall & the Privy Garden
King Henry made his own changes. He updated it until it encompassed 23 acres and was the largest palace in Europe. He erected merriment buildings that included a cockpit (turned into a theatre during the reign of King Charles II), tennis court, and a tiltyard. There was the King Street Gate and Holbein Gate that allowed the Court to traverse from Whitehall to St James’ Park without ever crossing a public road.

Each king or queen thereafter Henry VIII added to Whitehall until in 1660 when King Charles II took residence there, it had become a rambling jumble of chambers, passageways, and staircases connected by uneven floors that amounted to more than 1,500 rooms. It was also a montage of architectural designs.

During Queen Elizabeth I’s time, the first of the Banqueting Houses came into being. Elizabeth I had a large chamber built of timber and canvas to house entertainments. It occupied the site of the current Banqueting House, until James I commissioned Inigo Jones to build a solid structure, which replaced the aging, and dilapidated building. This new one was completed by the end of James’ reign. It was large with windows on all four sides, an interior balcony that hugged the walls, and an undercroft that took up the entire base of the building. 


Inside the Banqueting House

King Charles I commissioned Rubens to paint the Banqueting House ceiling. He was given £3,000 and a gold chain for the effort. Rubens painted the canvases and sent them to England for installation on the ceiling, which finished in 1635.

Rubens’ work effectively put the Banqueting House out of business. It was feared smoke from torches and candles would damage the splendor, so a new reception room was built. This was placed beside the Banqueting House where most of the ceremonial functions took place.

Charles I was executed on a platform outside the Banqueting House. After this, Whitehall Palace emptied out during the Civil Wars, but once Cromwell became the new sovereign, Whitehall filled up, again. After Cromwell’s death, what remained of the Rump Parliament tried to sell the palace.

Then, with the Restoration of King Charles II, Whitehall became alive again. As with his father and grandfather, Charles II wanted to make changes to the already sprawling palace. He hired Sir Christopher Wren to make it more like Versailles, but all that planning never came to fruition. He did, however, make new and sumptuous chambers for his favorite mistress, Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland.

After Charles II died, King James II made changes in the forms of bettering his wife’s apartments, and adding a new chapel. By the time William III & Mary II took up residence in Whitehall, its importance was on the decline. King William suffered from asthma. The palace sat on the banks of the Thames, drafty and damp. He preferred Kensington Palace. By Queen Mary’s death in 1694, Whitehall was rarely used.

In 1698, the great rambling palace of Whitehall burned to the ground. The only structures that remained were the Banqueting House, the Holbein and Whitehall gates. Today, only the Banqueting House still stands. 

The Banqueting House Today

Next time, Other Stuff about Whitehall. 

Many thanks to the following sources:
Adrian Tinniswood. By Permission of Heaven, The true Story of the Great Fire of London. Riverhead Books, NY, 2003



http://amzn.com/B00I6KOKL6

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Setting The Scene with Diane Bator

In writing the Wild Blue Mystery novels, I've had to make sure to keep the settings close in mind. I've even gone so far as to make a map of the stores and homes in my fictional town of Packham for my own sanity as I go from novel to novel. So far, I've written three novels and have two more in the works so I have a lot of locations to keep track of. Places like Daisy's Bakery, the tattoo shop, Java Jo's, all have to be consistent with each book in the series.

Currently, I'm juggling three book series with different publishers, so keeping each new town distinct and organized is no small feat!

The Wild Blue series features two main towns:  Packham and Newville. Both locations are in the Northeastern US. One is a small town, one a larger city. Both are central to a few of my main characters.

One of my favorite books to research for the series was The Bakery Lady. Not only did I have to learn more about the bakery itself, but just happened to see a show one night about Andy Warhol who became my inspiration for artist D.J. Gage and his studio loft, painted silver and decorated with Warhol in mind...including the famous red couch.

The small Ontario town I currently live in was my inspiration for the town of Packham, right down to Father Sam's front yard with the Virgin Mary statue and the Presbyterian church with the amazing stained glass windows that Katie walks past. The bookstore Katie eventually owns was also based on a local indie bookstore that I love to haunt, right down to the staircase to the upper level. I've even held book events there and look forward to planning a new one now that all my Wild Blue books are in print, but that's a whole other blog!

 


So, if I live in Canada and have used my town as a backdrop for my novels, why did I chose to set the series across the border? Easy answer:  on the advice of a fellow writer who did the same thing on some advice he received. It's working for me so far, but I would like to set a series in Canada once all my current obligations are met...two books for the Wild Blue Mysteries series and an undetermined amount for my other two series. 

I do hope you check out my Author Page on the Books We Love website as well as on Amazon and my personal website Pens, Paints and Paper.





Tuesday, June 2, 2015

YOU CAN'T ESCAPE THEM - DEATH, SEX AND TAXES - MARGARET TANNER


SEX, DEATH AND TAXES – MARGARET TANNER

Everyone has to pay taxes; no government on earth is going to let their citizens get away without paying taxes. Taxes on your salary, business tax, death taxes, you name it, they will tax it. Even the humble hamburger doesn't escape the clutches of the tax man.

In romance novels, we don’t talk about taxes. I don’t recall ever having read anything about tax collection.

Sex – yes in all its forms, sweet and tender, just a kiss or two. Hot and spicy, no shutting the bedroom door here, and the really hot stuff that Margaret Tanner doesn’t write. I do commend the talented authors who do, and pull it off so successfully in their erotic romances.

Death – In novels, I consider death to be a great tool in creating emotion and upping the drama. I don’t mean having the hero and heroine die, but the villains and secondary characters. Of course, near death experiences for heroes or heroines is always good.

I have been thinking about this in regards to my stories. I write historical fiction with romantic elements, so death is probably easier to include in these stories. Harder to justify in contemporary romance, unless it is some villain who is hell bent on harming the heroine and to save her life, he has to go.

In bygone days, death in childbirth was quite common. People died of snakebite/disease/illness because they were miles from medical assistance or could not afford to pay for it. Bank robbers, stage coach robbers, cattle rustlers etc. the sheriff could quite legitimately shoot these criminals down without fear of reprisal from their peers, or condemnation from the public.

In war, on the field of battle, soldiers die or are wounded, so we happily accept this in historical romance. We probably shed a tear or two for the gallant warrior and the staunch heroine who waits in vain for him to return. We wouldn’t throw the book against the wall because of this. We just sigh with contentment when another dashing soldier rides into the life of our heroine and she finally gets her happily ever after ending.

I have to confess that in all my novels there is some sex of the medium to hot variety and someone must die. Never a main character, of course, but someone invariably has to go, usually a baddie, but not always so.

As for taxes, I never mention the word in my novels unless it is to say – the heat became very taxing.

My Links:



My novel, Falsely Accused, published by Books We Love, has recently won the Historical Section of the Easy Chair Writing Competition. Yes, there is a death or two in this story, but hey, the 1820’s were wild and violent days in a young colony.

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