Saturday, November 14, 2015

How to time-travel without a star ship... by Sheila Claydon

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What do you see? Is this just a derelict building gradually falling apart in a piece of forgotten woodland, or is it history?

Visiting Anglesey in north Wales recently, I came upon this tiny stone building while I was walking my dog.  It was at the bottom of a steep hillside, its roof long gone and its doors and windows shored up by wooden struts. My companion walked on without really noticing it but the dog and I stayed behind and did some exploring. Eventually we found a small notice hidden by an overhanging branch. It said The Old Mill 1325.

1325! That really is history.

I immediately went into a typical writer's research mode and discovered that the mill is situated in what, in the fourteenth century, was the village of Llanmaes. Located on the shore of the eastern entrance to the Menai Strait, it was an important medieval port that was briefly the capital of the kingdom of Gwynedd. 

By the end of the 13th century the village had become such an important trading center that it was renowned for its ale, wine, wool and hides. It also held two annual fairs and maintained a busy herring fishery. I could go on and tell you how it was eventually conquered by the English King Edward I, who moved the villagers to the opposite coast of the island, built a castle and a new town, and took over the port, but this post is not about the history written in books, it's about imagining what life was like in the days when the mill was busy grinding the corn into flour for the local population.

Nowadays the derelict mill is the only relic of the original village and the river is long gone, although I suspect the shallow, leaf-clogged ditch beside it will still have a trickle of water in a long, wet winter. There is absolutely nothing else left to show how it might have looked, however. The surrounding land has been turned into a golf course and the local buildings are mainly holiday apartments. Even the carefully managed woodland is more recent.

It has atmosphere though, and because of this the writer in me can see a young girl of about thirteen years old carefully carrying her father's lunch to the mill. She's barefoot and her long, brown hair is blowing around her face. The miller is hot and sweaty and covered in white dust and she can hear him shouting to her brother to hurry up and finish loading the flour. He grins at his sister as he hoists a heavy sack onto the cart while a stout welsh pony waits patiently between the shafts?

That's the beauty of being a writer. I can travel back nearly seven hundred years and populate the village of Llanmaes with villagers, reshape the countryside to fit my imaginings, and create a history that might have a vestige of truth...and if it doesn't, well who will know. 

One day I will write that story. Until then, those long ago villagers will live as characters in my imagination, long forgotten and yet somehow still alive.

A writer can time-travel whenever they want to; backwards or forwards. I did this in my book Reluctant Date. It is set in a place where I once had such a magical holiday that I never forgot it, and when I eventually wrote about it I populated it with my own cast of characters, reliving a wonderful memory.  To do this I had to time-travel forwards a few years in order to imagine what it might be like now and yet also time-travel backwards so I could remember. That's the magic of writing.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday the Thirteenth by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

Friday the Thirteenth 

The Number Thirteen
     The fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia taken from the Greek words tris, for the number '3', kai meaning 'and', deka for the number '10' and phobos which means 'fear'.
     The number 13 has been much maligned over the centuries and maybe with good reason. In the Christian religion there were 13 guests at the Last Supper. Some believe that Judas was the thirteenth one to sit down, although it is not mentioned in the Bible. He betrayed Jesus and later took his own life. This led to the belief that if there are thirteen people at a table, one of them will die within a year.
     There used to be 13 steps up to the gallows.
     At one time a coven had 13 witches.
     In Tarot, the number 13 card is the death card.
Some superstitions around the number 13:
     In Ireland the first two digits on vehicle licence plates represents the year of registration such as 10 for 2010. In 2012, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry thought that for many people the prospect of having '13' on their licence plates might discourage them from buying new cars. The government introduced a system where vehicles bought in 2013 would have '131' on their plates instead of '13'.
     Very few buildings have 13th floor, the elevator going from twelve to fourteen. Strange, because we all know thirteen comes after twelve no matter what name you give it. Is there a thirteenth floor that the elevator passes?
     Most hotels don't have a room 13.
     If you book a table for thirteen people at the Savoy Hotel in London, England, it will be set for fourteen and a sculpture of a black cat called Kasper will occupy the fourteenth chair.
     Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a professional 14th guest.
     In Formula 1 car racing, there is no car with the number 13.
     It is believed that if you have 13 letters in your name you would have Devil's luck. Charles Manson and Theodore (Ted) Bundy are just a few.

Here are some examples in history where the number 13 has led to misadventures.
     Phillip II was king of Macedonia from 359BC to 336BC. He led many wars and eventually ruled over much of Greece. During a procession through a Greek town, Philip II placed his statue beside those of twelve Greek gods making his the thirteenth statue. In 336 he was the leader of the invading army against the Persian Empire. In October of that year his daughter was getting married in the Macedonian capital of Aegae. He was entering the town's theater when he was assassinated by his body guard.
     In Canada, the Seven Years War took place between Britain and France from 1756 and 1763. On September 12, 1759, British troops climbed a steep footpath from the St Lawrence River up to the unfortified Plains of Abraham, named after its original owner, Abraham Martin, who was a ship’s pilot in 1645. The plains were west of Quebec City and the path was guarded by three French militiamen.
     “Who goes there?” one asked.
     “We are a group of French relief soldiers,” an Englishmen answered in French.
     “Pass on by,” the militiaman said.
     And they stood back to let the British troops walk in pairs past them. By morning of September 13th four thousand British troops and their field artillery were assembled on the plains waiting for the French. The French mustered a combination of four thousand regular French militiamen and civilians and faced the British troops. The British had the advantage because their troops were all trained.
     The battle lasted about thirty minutes with the British winning.
     Apollo 13, which was launched from NASA on April 11, 1970 at 13:13 Central time, was halfway to the moon when an explosion disrupted some of its instruments on April 13. It did manage to make it back to earth.
     The Space Shuttle Columbia exploded on the 113th flight of the Space shuttle.
     Princess Diana's accident occurred at the 13th pillar of the Pont de l'Alma tunnel.

     In pagan Rome Fridays were execution days. This was later called Hangman's Day in Britain because that was the day that public hangings took place.
     In some marine circles many sailors did not want to set sail on a Friday.
     In Biblical times the Great Flood, the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, and God tongue-tying the builders of the Tower of Babel supposedly happened on a Friday.

 Friday the Thirteenth
     The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia from the Greek word for Friday, or friggatriskaidkaphobia named after the Norse goddess, Frigg, from whom the English got the name Friday.
     Friday the 13th is the most widespread superstition in western countries. About eight percent of the people believe that Friday 13th is unlucky. Again this could goes back to the Bible where Eve ate the apple from the serpent on Friday 13th and Jesus died on the cross on Friday 13th.
     On Friday Oct 13th, 1307, Philip IV of France ordered the arrests and assassinations of the Knights Templar.
     In modern times Friday the 13th is called 'Black Friday'. One of the earliest examples of the name was used to refer to the collapse of the United States gold market on Friday, Sept 24, 1869.

 Some Friday the 13th superstitions are:
     Seeing a black cat on Friday 13th is a bad omen.
     If you leave your house by one door you should make sure you enter by that same door to avoid misfortune.
     Some people won't go to work on that day and others will not dine out.
     Many refuse to purchase a house, fly, or even act on a hot stock tip.
     A study in Britain showed that while many people stayed home on Friday 13th, of those who did go out, more people were hospitalized from accidents on that day than on the previous Friday.

      In the 1800s, in order to dispel the fears of superstitious sailors who would not sail on a Friday 13th, the British Navy commissioned a ship which was baptized the H.M.S. Friday. The crew members were picked on a Friday and it was launched on Friday 13th. Unfortunately, it was never seen or heard from again. Some call this a myth while others say that the navy wiped out all record of the voyage.

 The Flip Side:
     In some cultures Friday is considered a lucky day for sowing seeds and planting potatoes.
     The Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday.
     In the United States the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. It has been given the term Black Friday because that is when retailers begin to see a profit.
     Most workers like Friday because it is the last work day of the week and signals the beginning of the weekend.
     Thirteen is a prime number, which means it cannot be divided by any number other than itself. Hence, it symbolizes qualities of incorruptible nature and purity.
     In ancient Greece, Zeus was considered  the thirteenth and most powerful god. He was associated with totality, completion, and attainment.
     In Hindu mythology, Maha Shivratri was celebrated on the thirteenth night of the Magha month, which is a very sacred and holy night for all Shiva followers.
     The Thai New Year (Songkran Day)  begins on April 13th. It is a time to wash away all the bad omens by splashing water on friends and relatives.
     This one can be taken either way: our children become teenagers on their 13th birthday.
     My name, Joan Donaldson, has 13 letters in it but, unlike Theodore Bundy, I haven't killed anyone except in my mystery novels.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Where is Shangri La and what is its connection to yoga?

In 1933 James Hilton, in his novel Lost Horizon, wrote about the legend of Shangri-La (a variant of the original Shambala.) He placed Shambala in the south-eastern part of China in the Himalayas.  The book was instrumental in introducing the mysticism of the East to Western readers; yet Hilton had knowledge of only a small part of the entire narrative.
In his novel, Hilton recounted the parts of the legend he had heard: about a hidden valley where men and women live for enormous lengths of time. Little did he know the entire legend of Shambala, which describes a much larger story: that of the preservation of the teachings of the Vedas and Yoga and their re-introduction to the world when the cycle of time starts again.

In his book On the Way to Shambala, Dr. Edwin Bernbaum writes about visiting a Buddhist temple in Nepal and coming across a scripture which describes a passage to that mythical valley. He placed it as being somewhere in northern Nepal. Over the years, other esoteric locations described for Shambala are the Arctic, the Western Himalayas and even the middle of the earth.

Yoga has its own mythic stories – a recounting of its origins, its progression, its diminution over time, its disappearance and finally, its rebirth.

Both Hindusim and Buddhism describe time as being circular, and each cycle of time as being composed of four distinct ages or epochs: Satya yuga, the beginning age, then Treta yuga, Dwapara yuga, and finally Kali yuga. Moral characteristics such as honesty, non-violence and mercy decline steadily over the passage of time, until finally, at the end of Kali yuga, they are practically non-existent.

What would the world look like at the end of time? The Srimad Bhagavatam describes it as a cannibalistic society with a wicked world ruler, terrible environmental degradation and oppressive taxation.

In a Hindu text, the Bhagavat Purana (also known as the Srimad Bhagavatam), it is mentioned that yogis and rishis meditate in an invisible state in Shambala. Their goal: to preserve within themselves the teachings of the Vedas and the Yogas and to reintroduce them to the world at the beginning of the coming Satya Yuga.

A great world-consuming struggle between good and evil will ensue at the end of time, featuring mystical weapons and ancient flying craft known as vimanas, as Lord Kalki (a future avatar of Lord Vishnu) battles an evil world ruler who attacks Shamabala. The dictator who orchestrates the destruction is killed and the earth, abused for so long, blooms anew, the wheel of time turns again, yogis are saved, and the eternal teachings of the Vedas and yoga are reintroduced to world.

We are now somewhere at the beginning of Kali yuga, and we can only expect things to get worse before they get better! The lesson: become more adept at our sadhana (yoga practise) and maybe become like little Shambalas ourselves, ready to pass on the teachings to others!

-         Mohan Ashtakala is the author of “The Yoga Zapper – A Novel,” which is based on the legend of Shamabala. His goal is to expose the authentic narratives of the yoga traditions by way of modern, page-turning novels. Available on Amazon:



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Twitter Under Siege by Karla Stover

Twitter’s Demise?

     To the delight of logophiles, people who love proper grammar, and correct spelling and punctuation, a Rise Up Against Social Media has begun.  Quoting Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter, “Grammar snobbery is one of the last permissible prejudices.” I bring this up because I struggle with commas, once referred to a “corpse” of trees instead of “copse,” and see our BWL bunch using, “that” instead of “who.” I stumbled on this when participating in a mock trial at a local hotel. The hotel had Wall St. Journals for its guests and I nabbed one.

     According to a Journal  article, employers, and people scouting dating websites are using an app called the Grade, (which I haven’t been able to find) a program that checks messages for typos and grammar, and gives the user a grade just as they were given in school—from A+ to F.

     In pursuing this topic, I asked a friend of mine who once belonged to a dating website. She said she skipped man after man because he sounded so ignorant. I also found an article on Linkedin which claimed to quote a 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” Nearly four thousand people responded to the article, which, I guess is pretty amazing for such as esoteric publication, calling the author elitist, and picking at his grammar mistakes. However, the author stood by his claim that the use of poor grammar is “an indication of general attitude, learning ability, and work performance. Is the writer lazy, ignorant or careless?”

     Misuse of “that” for “who” is common, so is the use of “like” instead of “such as,” and my pet peeve, “so-and-so and myself.” I just finished a book by a retired British school inspector who used that one; I had a boss who was a regular misuser, too.

     I admit I am a logophile. If I’m alone somewhere where people are talking, I listen to how they express themselves. Okay, I eavesdrop but I love something beautifully expressed.

     Feel free to find my errors in this mini-rant, but remember—the only way the public at large gets to know us is by our writing. 

     I write mysteries set in the Pacific Northwest.  Find my mysteries at the Books We Love Store.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Holidays Are Coming and Books We Love is Ready with a Tablet full of new releases - and they're all BOGO

Books We Love titles are available in multiple formats direct using Paypal or a credit card by clicking the covers below. Also at Amazon, Smashwords, All Romance eBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Apple iStore, Overdrive and at other sites where eBooks are available online. Some titles are also in print, and available at your local bookstores.

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Character Interview, Helena Woulfe by Anita Seymour

Today I have with me the heroine of, Anita’s Seymour’s The Rebel’s Daughter and The Goldsmith’s Wife, two novels in The Woulfe’s of Loxsbeare series, the saga of a family in 17th Century England.
Welcome Helena, do tell us about your home and your family
I was born in the year 1667, the seventh year of the reign of King Charles the second, in the manor of Loxsbeare built on the Wear Cliffs just outside the city walls of Exeter, in Devon. I live there with my Father, Sir Jonathan and my mother, Lady Elizabeth. My father’s brother, Edmund Woulfe also resides with us, as do my elder brother Aaron and younger brother Henry.

Exeter is an ancient walled city made from distinctive red local stone, where the cannon damage from the Civil Wars twenty years before is still visible. It has many old churches, some dating back a thousand years, though there were more than double that number more before the wars. My family’s estate has flourished for over half a century on the manufacture of West Country cloth. When I turned eighteen in 1685, I had no reason to believe it would not always be this way.

Was everyone’s life good under King Charles?
So my father says, if you ignore the war with Holland, the Great Plague and the Fire of London. There was also the King’s spendthrift ways where he would rather buy jewels for his mistresses than equip the navy. Although he was more loved than his brother, James Duke of York.
In What Way Did Everything Change and When?

It all began with the death of King Charles. My Father was once a member of the Green Ribbon Club, which was in truth little more than a drinking club for the Duke of Monmouth’s Protestant followers who aimed to have the Duke of York removed from the line of succession and Monmouth put in his place.

Who is The Duke of Monmouth?
Have you not heard of him? I find that hard to believe. I met him you know, when he came to Loxsbeare in eighty three and stayed an entire week. He is the handsomest man I have ever seen. Tall, with the sultry dark Stuart eyes, perfect features and long, curly black hair. He dresses entirely in black too and when he looks at you. . . but I digress. The situation is complicated, but I shall attempt to explain. Bayle, our manservant, said he was involved in a plot to kill his father and the reason he came to stay was because he was banished from England and was in hiding. James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, is King Charles’ eldest son. Illegitimate, unfortunately, for the Portuguese Queen Catherine cannot have children.  Monmouth’s mother was some Welsh woman who died years ago. But now the king is dead and King James is king now, though he is a Papist.

Is it so terrible he is a Roman Catholic?
Father says so, though I know little about it; other than Queen Mary Tudor burned those who would not convert. King Louis does much the same in France, so Father says we don’t want it brought back to England again.  Uncle Edmund always rants about papist ways and how King James hears mass in his own chapel at White Hall – he says it’s scandalous.

What Happened?
Oh yes, I forgot what I was saying. Anyway, when that evil Lord Grey of Warke suggested Monmouth should be king because he was a Protestant, he involved Father in his wicked scheme. Monmouth landed at Lyme from Holland one May morning, and without a backward look, Father, my Uncle Edmund and Aaron went riding off one morning to join him.

Why Was Monmouth in Holland?
Have I not said? He was banished for being part of a plot. The King did not want it, but the Duke of York insisted.

You sound as if you disapprove of this plot against King James?
Well of course I did! Though I kept my counsel in front of Father. He would seek Henry’s over mine, and he is but fifteen. No, it is the fate of daughters, I am afraid; to smile and be acquiescent, no matter what our hearts tell us. Mother hates the thought of fighting too, I can tell, and yet she never utters a word in criticism.

I gather things didn’t work out at they hoped?
Indeed not. Father said there would be no bloodshed, that the people would welcome the Duke’s attempt to protect the Protestant religion. However that Lord Grey, a sly, ambitious man with dubious morals, convinced Monmouth to declare himself king in Taunton Market Place. That was the worst thing he could have done. King James immediately attainted him as a traitor and sent his own army the west.

Then What Happened?
They chased each other round the countryside for a while, then clashed at Sedgemoor near Bridgwater, where the royal army slaughtered over a thousand men. The same number were hanged or deported to the South Seas.  King James is an unforgiving man and would not even grant his nephew a trial. Monmouth begged his uncle for mercy, on his knees they said, but King James merely toyed with him and had Monmouth’s head cut off on Tower Hill. The fool of an executioner made a poor job of it too.

The King must have hated his nephew
He did. King James suffered that most corrosive of emotions - Jealousy. James Scott was raised as a prince by his father, who loved him dearly. He had everything; looks, wealth, position, a rich wife and two healthy sons. Everything James Duke of York envied, for no one loved or trusted Catholic James. The moment he became king he started promoting his Papist friends into high positions in the army, which is illegal under the Test Act.

When you heard the battle was lost, what did you do, Helena?
You mean, when Bayle and I took a horse and cart to go and look for my family? [Shrugs] I couldn’t simply sit and wait for news could I? When I heard of the Rebel defeat, I knew I had to go to Somerset, and there was no one to gainsay me with only Henry and Mother left behind. I didn’t abandon them, not really. Master Ffoyle, Father’s friend, looked after them and removed them from Loxsbeare when the soldiers came.

I prefer not to talk about Somerset. What happened there was horrific, tragic for so many and best forgotten. I promised Bayle, I . . . Anyway, it is over now. I must not look back.

You went to London afterwards to live with the Devereux family. What was that like?
A great adventure, if somewhat frightening. It was so kind of Robert and Adella Devereux to take Henry and me in. Robert Devereux is a wealthy goldsmith and owns the best chophouse in Holborn. I love London and was honoured to have him as my patron. Not many would have given shelter to a traitor’s son and daughter.

They have two daughters, of whom I have grown fond, Celia, who is a little older than me and Phebe, who is younger. Charming, loving girls both, if somewhat spoilt. And so different. Celia is dutiful and sweet and she would never do anything to discompose her parents, whereas Phebe has a willful streak as it quite determined to live life her own way.

They have just the two daughters?
Ah, no. There is a son. William. [Blushes]  A brash, self-opinionated young man, but then he has the looks and his father’s wealth to go with it. He carouses around town but shows no enthusiasm to find his own way. He is charming I daresay, but I have no interest in him.

No interest at all?
Certainly not. I like him well enough. He was kind to me when we found out that . . .  well that is another matter. I cannot afford to allow him to engage my affections.  For me, marriage is the only path I have left to regain some of my former life. I need a solid, dependable young man with ambition and the ability to forge his own way in the world which would obliterate my past.

But suppose you do not find love with this dependable young man?

It does not matter. I have other, loftier aims. Lasting ones.  Love is a fleeting, ethereal thing one cannot depend on. Money and status are different.

Do you have someone in mind?
Actually, yes. Although I am unwilling to discuss him at this stage. He does not yet see me as a future wife and I have to convince him to turn his thoughts that way. Subtly of course.

Will I have to read The Rebel’s Daughter to find out more?

Indeed you shall, and my story continues in The Goldsmith’s Wife. I hope you won’t be disappointed.

Great Time Had by All at When Words Collide by Nancy M Bell

His Brother's Bride is Book 2 in the Canadian Historical Brides series. You can find out more by clicking here . I had the pleasure o...