Saturday, January 16, 2016

Books We Love Spotlight - Author, Roseanne Dowell

Roseanne Dowell wears many hats - wife (married 50+ years) mother of six, grandmother of fourteen, great grandmother of three, Avon Representative,  author, and former school secretary,  she writes a variety of genres  from romance to mystery to paranormal and suspense, all with romantic elements and a bit of humor. Her heroes/heroines range from their mid twenties to their seventies. Yes, old people need love, too.

In her spare time, Roseanne enjoys quilting and embroidery, especially combining the two and making jewelry as well as other crafts, Her favorite past-time is spending time with her family, her second favorite thing to do is write. She's currently working on Book 3 in her Family Affair Series.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Musical Extinctions

The wordextinction” evokes images of dinosaurs and dodos, animals once plenty, but now existing only in the historical record.

Civilizations go extinct as well. Ancient Egyptian, Roman, Aztec and other societies have died off, either by violent conquest or cultural exhaustion. Along with them, artistic expressions—whether literary, dramatic, musical or otherwise—die off.

Another form of artistic extinction occurs when one culture becomes so pervasive and powerful that other cultural forms of expression become overwhelmed. This is the current situation.

Manipuri lady playing the Pena

I had the experience of this many years ago, when visiting the Indian state of Manipur, which is nestled in the north-eastern corner of the country, bordering Myanmar, near the Chinese border. As I was returning to my host’s home one evening, I had the surreal experience of being blasted with the strains of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” coming from a small roadside dwelling. Manipur is a rural society, whose traditional instruments are soft-sounding bamboo flutes, the pena (a lute played with a bow) and the pung, a two-headed drum. Indeed, the contrast was jarring.

Drum market in Zimbabwe
Traditional societies have an astonishing variety of instruments. For example, Zimabawe, a relatively small country in Africa, boasts the Ngome and Ingunga, just two varieties of several dozen types of drums of various sizes. Other percussion instruments include a peculiar drum played by rubbing and scratching that produces an unusual scratching sound, and the kanyeda, an instrument made of bamboo strips strapped together and filled with small seeds for percussion. Some traditional instruments facing extinction are the chinzambi, chipendai, tsuri, mukwati and wenyere.

And it is not just instruments that are fading away, but also musical forms and idioms. Traditional musical forms are very much tied into the spiritual narratives and mythologies of these societies. In many cultures, music is not regarded as a performance designed to make money for the artist but as a means of connecting with the sacred, which has reward in itself and is focused not on the artist, but on the object of the art.

The introduction of Western education, mostly by missionaries, effectively cut traditional cultures from their roots and thus provided the means for Western musical attitudes and idioms to enter. Indeed, youth in many traditional societies are trading in their instruments for guitars and drums and the musical idioms of their ancestors for rap and rock-and-roll.

Yo Yo Honey Singh
Examples abound: Yo Yo Honey Singh, a Punjabi rapper, whose explicit lyrics shock local sensibilities; K-pop music featuring Korean boy bands with hair dyed blonde blasting rock-n-roll in the Korean language; and Bollywood, the Indian film industry, which at one time featured exclusively Indian instruments, now giving way to Western music.

Music is distinguished by creativity and variety. Its diminution strikes at the very heart this artistic enterprise, leaving all of us poorer in its wake.

Mohan Ashtakala is a the author of "The Yoga Zapper - A Novel," 
Published by Books We Love.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

WHO am I really? by Sheila Claydon

My publisher has suggested that I and my fellow authors start the year off by introducing ourselves properly on the Books We Love blog. It's a much taller order than it seems. It depends is the only answer I can give about who I am and what I do.

Although I'm always a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a colleague, and a neighbour, I'm also a writer, a reader, a gardener, a cook, a dog owner, a traveller, a walker, a carer, a Yoga practitioner, and a whole lot of other things besides, and that's before I get on to control freak, micro-organizer and (you might already have guessed this) list-maker! Then there's my working life  - the jobs I had, the things I learned - but I'm not even going there.

I'm no different from anyone else of course. We are all made up of the little bits of  everything that are our day-to-day lives. It's how we form the memories, some bad, some good, that we reminisce about as the years go by. Oh hang on a minute...I'm a writer (it said so in the list) so I am a little bit different after all. Its why I store all those experiences in my sub-conscious until I'm ready to retrieve them and download them onto the pages of my latest manuscript.

I'm not proud of it, but it's how it is. When I travel most of the details of the journey remain lodged in my brain. A new environment is uploaded to my sub-conscious lock, stock and barrel and sits there until I need it.  Time spent with my grandchildren, visits to family, walking the dog, talking with friends, shopping for a neighbour, even visiting someone in all goes into the swirling cauldron of memories that I call upon when I'm writing.

Sometimes an experience will trigger an idea for a story and when that happens, it will, if left to its own devices, weave itself around the memories I have stored in my head, rejecting some of them and trying others for size until the outline of a new story emerges with very little conscious effort on my part. It's not until I fire up my lap top that the real effort of joining it all together begins.

In Reluctant Date the trigger was a place I stayed on a holiday. This somehow wove itself into another landscape 3,000 miles away, picking up a hero and heroine on its journey. In Mending Jodie's Heart the idea for the story was prompted by an actual event involving horses and disabled children, which, before I knew it, had turned into the When Paths Meet trilogy. Then, in my latest book, Miss Locatelli, half-forgotten memories of Italy forced themselves back into my consciousness as soon as I realized my heroine had to visit Florence. A magazine article about a jeweller triggered that one.

When I look back at the dozen or so books I've written so far there is a real bonus, however, because every one of them has special memories woven into the story. None of them are about me or my family although, inevitably, some of the characters will display traits I've observed in the people I know, but the story still resonates with me on a personal level. The children in my books often behave in the same way my own children and grandchildren did when they were small, and then there are the animals. Dogs, horses, birds...even the wild ones...all trigger a memory. The grown up characters too. I rarely spend long describing any of them. They are just part of a continuing story of memories that I like to think helps to make my stories real.

So that's who I am. Someone who is made up of little bits of a lot and who never knows which bit she is going to wake up to.  Today it was the micro-managing/list-making persona. Tomorrow it's grandchildren day, so cooking, cuddling and playing games will dominate along with supervising homework and listening closely to whatever they want to tell me.  With any luck I'll wake up to my writing persona the following day and by then I'll have more memories to call upon, so when the book I'm writing at the moment, Remembering Rose, is published at the end of June, I will be able to read it and remember.

All of Sheila's books can be found on the links below:

She also has a website and can be found on facebook

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

Author’s Note

I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.

     We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.

     Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.

 Road Tripping USA Part One

After weeks of planning and preparing, we left our home on September 23, 2014, and over the next few days we drove through southern British Columbia into Alberta, where we crossed the border into Montana. The countryside was flat as we headed east to North Dakota and then south into South Dakota on Highway 85.

     South of Redig we came to the junction with old Highway 85 that went west 7.8 miles (12.5km) to the Geographical Center of the Nation. This spot was picked by U.S. National Geodetic Survey when Alaska and Hawaii were added in 1959. Before that the centre of the nation was near the town of Lebanon, Kansas. The road is gravelled and the centre is on private property and not accessible.

     As we headed to Deadwood we entered the Black Hills National Forest which got their name because the trees are so thick that from a distance they look black. They are a small mountain range with the highest summit being 7244 ft. (2208 m). The area has been called the last great El Dorado on the American continent.

     The Black Hills were originally granted to the Lakota Indians in 1868. In 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer discovered gold near the present day town of Custer and that triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush. Deadwood, named for the dead trees that were found in the town’s gulch, was quickly established and soon boasted a population of 5000. Lawlessness prevailed and some claim the town was founded on gold, gambling, and guns.

     We drove through the beautiful ponderosa pine trees and the red rock hillsides into the historic town. We stopped at the tourist information center in the Days of ’76 Museum, then went downstairs to see the rows of carriages, stagecoaches, and wagons. I sat in a stagecoach and we saw black and white hearses and a Brewery’s wagon. From there we found a casino and spent an hour at the machines, leaving with less money than when we entered.

     One of the most famous people to live in Deadwood was gambler, and sometimes lawman, Wild Bill Hickok. He was playing poker in Nuttal & Mann's saloon in town on August 2, 1876 when another gambler, Jack McCall, shot him in the back of the head. The hand that he held, aces and eights, is now known as the Dead Man's Hand.

     At Mount Rushmore National Monument our first sight of the monument was from the entrance and many people stopped just inside the doors to stare at the faces in the distance. We followed a very wide marble walkway to the Borglum Court. We went under an arch and were on the Avenue of Flags, where a flag from each state and territory flies. At the end of the walkway is the Grand View Terrace, a very wide lookout where we had a great view of the monument.

     Mike went back to the motorhome while I took the Presidential Walk. The walk is slightly more than half a mile and the first part is a flat path. I went past an Indian Village which was closed then reached a cave made by two huge boulders leaning against each other. I entered the cave and looked up through a crack between the boulders to see Washington’s face. George Washington was the first president of the United States and served from 1789 to 1797.

     I strolled on the wooden walkway to the viewpoints where I took pictures of each face and saw them from different angles. Thomas Jefferson, beside Washington, was the third president of the United States. His term was from 1801 to 1809.

     Roosevelt, next to Jefferson, was wearing his glasses. He served as the twenty-sixth president from 1901 to 1909. He was vice-president to President William McKinley and when McKinley was assassinated Roosevelt became president.

     Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, is the fourth face on the sculpture. He was president during the civil war and was assassinated in 1865, nine days after Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commanding officer, surrendered.

     The presidential faces on Mount Rushmore were carved by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, with the help of over 400 workers, between 1927 and 1941. The monument is 60ft (18m) high and represents the first 130 years of the country's history. Three million people visit each year.

      As we left the parking lot we looked out over a lovely valley where we could see, as Mike put it, ‘into next week’. We drove through Hill City and eventually came to a set of traffic lights on the highway. We turned onto Avenue of the Chiefs to get to the Crazy Horse Monument.

     Crazy Horse, literally meaning ‘His Horse Is Crazy’, was a war leader for the Oglala Lakota. He fought against the white man’s encroachments into native land and led a war party at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. He eventually surrendered to U.S. troops but four months later he was killed by a military guard.

     I watched a 20 minute Dynamite and Dreams film about the monument and Korczak Ziolkowski, the self-taught sculptor who was approached by Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear to sculpt Crazy Horse, ‘one of the red man’s great heroes’, in the Black Hills. The film showed some of the early work he had done alone and had an interview with him before he passed away in 1982. There was also an interview of his wife who died in 2014. They had 10 children and some of them are still working on the project, which is being funded solely by money raised from the tourists who visit.

     The first blast took place on the Crazy Horse monument on June 3, 1948. Since then the head and face have been completed and work is now being done on the hand and arm. When finished, the rider and horse will be 641ft (195m) long and 563ft (172m) high, and the largest mountain carving in the world. It is so much bigger than Mount Rushmore that the presidential faces would actually fit in the head of Crazy Horse. I wandered through the large log building that holds a gift shop, the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Cultural Center, an information center, and displays. There is a 1/34th scale model that shows what the monument will look like when completed.

     “We need to get the front brakes done as soon as possible,” Mike said as we crossed the border into Colorado. We’d bought the used motorhome for the trip and had been assured the brakes were fine.

     We stopped at a KOA campsite in Limon. Mike asked the woman behind the counter where we could get our brakes done. She gave us a map of the town and showed us where NAPA was. It opened at 8:00am in the morning and she circled their phone number. Mike was surprised because in Canada NAPA only sells auto parts. In the United States they also do vehicle repairs.

     In the morning Mike phoned the NAPA dealer to see if we could make an appointment to have our brakes installed. He was told that it was first come, first served. We looked at the map and saw it wasn’t very far from the KOA to the NAPA so I decided to stay and shower. I would walk over once finished.

     I got into the shower and turned handle. Nothing happened. The first thought that entered my mind was that I needed to pay for it so rather than check further I quickly dressed hoping to catch Mike. He was gone. I went to the office.

     “Morning,” the woman said.

     “Hi,” I said. “I have a tale of woe to tell you.”

     “Go right ahead.”

     “My husband has left to get the brakes on our motorhome changed at NAPA and I hadn’t got any…”

     “Don’t worry,” she cut in. “I’ll give you a ride over.”

     On the way we chatted. She told me she had been in Limon about ten years. She liked the town and enjoyed owning the KOA. Many of the people who camped there were regular customers who stopped in on their way south for the winter and on their way home in the spring.

     Mike was sitting in the motorhome in the NAPA dealer’s yard. He dug out his change purse and gave me all his quarters. I jumped back in the car and held up my handful of change.

     “I don’t know how much it costs for the shower but I’ve got all the quarters my husband had. I hope they are enough.”

     “It doesn’t cost extra to shower,” she said.

     “But I turned the handle and no water came out.”

     “Just pull on the handle to start the water.”

     Talk about feeling dumb.

     Back at the KOA the woman offered me another ride when I was finished. After my shower and ride back I asked her to wait a bit. I am a writer and had brought some of my mystery novels with me. I gave her a set as a thank you for her kindness.

     The man who changed our brakes was very friendly. He and Mike chatted the whole time. Apparently he had spent time in the Navy and had been to Nanaimo, B.C. so he knew where we were from. We left Limon about noon, happy to have our brakes done.

     We passed through Canon City and soon entered the Royal Gorge National Park. It was a narrow, winding climb to the parking area for the Gorge Bridge. We walked out on the wooden decking of the highest bridge in the United States. I have a fear of heights but I looked over the side at the Arkansas River, and the railway tracks running beside it, 1053ft (321m) below. Mike went to the motorhome while I walked to the far end and back.

     American explorers first saw the Arkansas River canyon in 1806. The railway was built in the late 1800s and the suspension bridge was constructed in 1929. The bridge is 18ft (5.50m) wide and 1260ft (384m) length and has 1292 planks.

     After seeing the Arkansas River Mike, and I headed to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument. We stopped on the south rim where the interpretive center is located. I went in and looked through the center then we began our drive along the rim. There are eleven viewpoints, some of them close to the road, some a bit of a walk like the Devil’s Overlook where I walked 600 yards from the parking area. There is one that is wheelchair accessible. We stopped at other viewpoints to look down at the river at the bottom of the canyon and to take pictures.

     It took over two million years of water and climate erosion for the canyon to become what we saw. Although the Indians, two Spanish expeditions, and fur trappers all knew about it, the first record of it was made in 1853 by Captain John Gunnison, leader of a survey expedition. It was named the Black Canyon because little sunlight penetrates the high, sheer walls. Some places only get 33 minutes of direct sunlight a day. In 1999, 14 miles (22km) of the 48 mile (77km) canyon were made into a national park. During its run through the park, the Gunnison River drops an average of 95ft (29m) per mile and in one two mile stretch it drops 249ft (76m). The canyon is only 40ft (12m) wide at its narrowest.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Following In a Famous Author's Footsteps

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist in history, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. She is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime.

At least that is what her official website says, which proves self-promotion is the best kind. However as she died in the late seventies, when author websites were unheard of, someone else must be promoting her these days. I mention this author for two reasons, the first being that she died today, January 12th 1978, and the second is that I have recently changed writing genres to the one which makes Ms Christie so popular. 

Not that I have abandoned the 17th Century. I love the era, and many Historical Fiction readers love it too, but it's a niche market, so while my next novel, a prequel in the Woulfe's of Loxsbeare series. is boiling away on the hard drive, I have turned to historical cosy mystery writing.

Ms Christie says in her autobiography that: Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop...suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.

A sentiment I, and I’m sure every author I have ever met shares. That’s how we work. Inspiration rarely comes from sitting at a desk in front of a laptop with a mug of coffee beside us. Well, the coffee helps, lots of it, as it’s essential to thought processes - but the best ideas tend to jump out at us in the course of our everyday lives.

I get my ideas from people watching, the way people dress which illustrates whether they are extrovert in bold colours and outrageous trends, or the shy and quiet personalities who try and melt into the background. Their facial expressions when they are nervous, annoyed etc. ‘Stop staring, Mum’ is a complaint I often hear from my offspring.

Like Agatha Christie, I had no ambition to become a writer either, it just happened.My first book was an exercise I began to see if I was capable of writing a novel, I had no actual plan to get it published. I didn’t know how at the time how – or if I could.

My book evolved with the advice and practical help of my critique group and a mentor who encouraged me to submit the manuscript. I always believed that was it, I was a one trick pony and I couldn’t possibly go through all that research, angst, editing and searching to find the right phrase or expression again. It was too exhausting. However when the book came out, my first instinct was to start another, and now it’s part of my life and I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.Sometimes I wonder if it's worth so much of my time and attention, then I see a mis-matched couple in a restaurant and I'm off creating scenarios again.

Ms Christie’s second book The Secret Adversary began with a woman with an unusual name being discussed by a couple of ladies in a tea shop. I haven't use that particular plot device in my current wip, but a tea shop scene is right in there with the flower patterned china, tiny delicate pastries and the smell of brewed English breakfast tea - all I need now is a story to go with it. But if I keep my eyes open and wait, I’m sure it will leap out at me before long.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Tails--I Mean, Tales of a Bad Test Taker by Karla Stover

     Do you know the origins of "tail" and "tale?" I do. A tale is Old English for the act of telling something while tail is Germanic for the hindquarters for an animal. And knowing this is why I am a bad test taker. My brain is a repository for useless information--information not even usable for playing Trivial Pursuit. My brain needs a better storage unit. The left side will, as it always had, hold anything I might need for writing historical fiction and the right side will hold my grocery list. The left side will remember the movie, Cat Ballou was initially issued with a laugh track while the right side should have reminded me this morning, when I left for breakfast with friends, that I'd forgotten my watch. The left side will never forget that the amaryllis I bought my dad isn't really an amaryllis; it's a hippeastrum; the right side will always remember the potatoes on the stove. But back to the plant, since people had been labeling and selling hippeastrum as amaryllis for years, an agreement was made in 1987 to just let the issue go. 
     I am friends with the right side of my brain, but the left side is my BFF. I simply cannot write historical fiction without trying to be accurate about how people lived and how things were done. I'm a slow writer, but I know why people hung long johns in the outhouse--do you? Accuracy is important to me and so is believability. I just finished a book set in New York city circa 1870 where the heroine couldn't wait to leave her dying friend's house so she could hop into bed with the hero. I mean---really? My BFF reminds me that saltpeter was believed to lower the libido but old Right Side says that has been disproved. However, in 1870 the heroine ( a doctor) wouldn't have known about the disprovement. (Is that a word?)
     I am finishing three books right now: one non -fiction and two historical fictions. Two take place in the old west and the other in England. Keeping up with accuracy has me hoping AND--Alzheimer's runs in the family, which Right Side doesn't let me forget.
     And all this is why I am and have always been a bad test taker. How can I care that the Hypotenuse of a Right Triangle is shorter Than the sum of the Two Sides when I need to research a calico ball?

P.S. Want to know a piece of doggerel written to bowel movements? If so, email me--OR come to hear me speak.

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...