Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Art of Riding Side-Saddle by Victoria Chatham

What do Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Mary of Downton Abbey fame, and Sybil Ludington have in common? Any ideas? Would you like to hazard a guess? After all, the title of this blog really gives it away. That’s right, they all ride side-saddle.

As a reader and author of historical fiction there is no way that horses, in one way or another, don’t creep into my stories. They were virtually the only means of transport for centuries, whether driven (an art I know next to nothing about) or ridden. Gentlemen rode astride, but ladies were expected to ride side-saddle. There was a certain practicality to this, namely it would be rather difficult to ride astride in a long-skirted gown.

To many, both riders and non-riders, the side-saddle may look decidedly uncomfortable and precarious. If properly fitted to both horse and rider, it can be as comfortable and secure as a regular saddle for riding astride and the rider has as much control. Not only that, there is certain elegance in a well-turned out lady riding side-saddle. Hunting, showing classes, and jumping can all be enjoyed. The world record for side-saddle show jumping was set at 6 feet, 6 inches at a show in 1915 in Sydney, Australia.

The earliest depictions of women riding horses, astride, were on Greek vases and Celtic stones. The Celtic
goddess, Epona (from the Gaulish language meaning Great Mare), was worshiped by the Celts and Romans. In the Dark Ages and early Medieval period women were not expected to ride horses on their own. They sat sideways on a small padded seat behind a male rider, with their feat placed on a planchette, a small footrest attached to the pillion seat. Later, when ladies did begin to ride on their own, the saddles were so awkward that the rider had very little control, so the horse had to be led. This required a steady, sturdy horse and is where the term palfrey originate.

Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) was a consummate horsewoman who rode both astride and side-saddle, and is credited with developing the saddle horn around which the rider hooks their right leg. The second horn, often referred to as the leaping head, did not develop until the 1830's. There are records of side-saddles for the lady to ride with her legs to the right, not left, side of the saddle but I have not yet found an illustration of this. It was considered that if the lady always rode with her legs to the left, it might mean uneven development of the muscles of her derriere, which would make her look lop-sided. Heaven forbid! Grooms during the Regency era often contended with teasing from their fellows when they exercised their mistresses’ horses side-saddle.

Once a lady is in the saddle with her right leg in position, the stirrup leather is then adjusted for length. When
the rider’s foot is securely in the stirrup, the left leg then tucks firmly under the leaping head.  Having ridden side-saddle, I can attest to the comfort and security of it. Riding habits have evolved from when ladies used to ride in their everyday clothes. French ladies in the 17th Century wore an outfit called a devantiere which, split up the back, allowed a lady to ride astride if she wished. Riding habits were meticulously tailored, often designed along military lines. They consisted of a jacket, a long skirt, and a tailored shirt with a necktie or stock. Boots were low healed and gloves and a hat were required to complete what was, in effect, a uniform of sorts. A riding habit might be trimmed with fancy buttons but was typically a darker color than everyday clothes. Much more practical for today is the open-sided apron developed in the 1930’s which fits over breeches. The veil which helped to hold a lady's hat in place was not introduced until the Victorian era.

While you may be familiar with Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Mary, you may be asking who is Sybil Ludington? Sybil was a heroine of the American Revolutionary War. Daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, Sybil rode through the night of April 26th, 1777 to alert rebel forces that the British were coming. Paul Revere’s ride may be better known, but 16-year old Sybil and her horse Star rode twice as far. That makes her a true heroine in my eyes.

Side-saddle riding has gained in popularity in the last few years. Groups of side-saddle riders may enjoy an afternoon hack together. Showing classes are seeing growing numbers. Some of it may be that Downton Abbey really did have an effect, or maybe it is just the sheer elegance of it that appeals to ladies of all ages, everywhere. 

See more of Victoria Chatham's books here: and find her on

The date on Victoria Chatham’s driver’s licence says one thing but this young-at-heart grandma says another. Now retired, she writes historical romance and reads anything that catches her interest, especially historical and western romances. She loves all four-legged critters, particularly dogs, but is being converted into a cat lover by Onyx, an all black mostly Manx cat who helps her write. However, it’s her passion for horses that gets her away from her computer to trail ride and volunteer at Spruce Meadows, a world class equestrian center near Calgary, Alberta, where she currently lives.

She loves to travel and spends as much time as she can with her family in England.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Where's The Dipstick?

“Where’s the Dipstick?”

You're automotive lesson for the day. You’ll be shocked to open the hood on many vehicles these days and discover that you can’t find the dipstick tube. Because there isn’t one. Or sometimes there’s a tube but only a cap on the end. Reminds me of the old lady from the Wendy’s ads in the eighties, staring at the large bun with a miniscule black lump in the centre hollering, “Where’s The Beef?”
            So far many RV companies haven’t gone that route but don’t be surprised if you buy your next car and remark “Where’s the dipstick?”
            In fact we owe the birth of the automatic transmission in 1940 to a fellow named Ransom Eli Olds from Lansing, Michigan. Ransom was a well-known inventor who created the world’s first assembly line. It was good old Henry Ford who went one further by making his assembly line movable, when his foreman, Two Cheese Burger McGinty, discovered his workers were too lazy after their lunch break to move to the next car in line. “Bugger that, I’ll have the car come to them.”
            This did increase production by 1.2 cars per month, setting a sales record for cars, particularly black cars. Oh yeah, he also got a deal on black paint, hence the sales pitch, “looks great in jet black, coal black or midnight black.”  
            Unfortunately, Ransom’s foreman, Two Thumbs Olds McTavish, liked to smoke and one day butted his cigarette into a tub of gasoline and burned down the entire plant. Otherwise he’d given his boss the distinction of the world’s first assembly line. Olds later got bought out by GM and the rivalry between the two continued.
            Back to good old Ransom. His chauffeur, old Gimpy Left Leg McIntosh, who used to stall his Limo driving around town. “Heck of a time with this clutch pedal. Sorry sir.” Ransom had false teeth and in those days they didn’t sell PolyGrip yet. He got tired of looking for his teeth under the car seats every time his chauffeur jerked the car too hard, although he was known for finding more money under the back seats than any other executive in the company’s history. 
            Ransom had enough one day after finding his false teeth chipped yet again and decided to make the world’s first automatic transmission car as a novelty for himself. That is until the King of England came over for a visit, and from his back seat remarked, “By Jove, strange country America. No decent tea to be had anywhere, but I haven’t lost my false teeth once. I do believe, old chap, you will have to make one of these automagic-geared cars for my own chauffeur, Too Bleeding Stiff Upper Lip McIlroy.” Of course once others saw what the King rode in, and the fact his teeth were in such excellent condition, they all wanted an automagic-geared vehicle as well.
            For many years you could only buy Type A (oddly enough A meant Automatic) Fluid. Then somewhere along the way the McTavish’s relatives at General Motors got wind of the Olds assembly line debacle and they never forgave the McGintys for crowing ‘we built it first at Henry’s plant’. They came up with Dexron, which after three beers they knew the McGintys could never pronounce. Ford, ignoring the dig and knowing they had to outdo the McTavishs, brought out Type F (weirdly enough this stands for Ford-O-Matic).
            The basic difference between the two is the friction modifiers. If you had a GM vehicle that was beginning to develop a tranny slip in the old days throw in a can of Type F and get nice crisp shifts again. Well, until the tranny blew into a thousand pieces. 
            An aside note here. Honda used engine oil in many of their earlier automatic transmissions and never had a removable filter or pan. (Sorry, I won’t even think of making any funny jokes about anyone that eats raw fish and knows karate and judo).
            Up until the seventies ATF contained whale oil as friction modifier until GreenPeace came along and put a stop to that. As vehicles got environmentally conscious things, the world of automatic transmissions went crazy. At Ford, Henry’s cousins the McGintys decided the feud was on and brought out Mercon (very similar to Dexron), M2C138-CJ, Mercon LV, Mercon V and Mercon SP. To name a few.
            Not to be out done at GM the McTavishs grandkids brought out Dexron II, IIC, IID, and lately Dexron VI. Everyone thought the gentlemen at Chrysler were nonplussed about what was going on until one of the cousins to the McGintys began working there after he got his science badge and they brought out ATF+3, and ATF+4.    
            I’ve lost count now as to how many different types of tranny oils there are out there and like fashion statements it seems every manufacturer has a few new kinds every year or so. So it is not only critical to now to make sure you get your tranny fluid flushed or changed as per schedule, but to make sure the right type of fluid is put in. Many are not only incompatible, but don’t mix backwards with older fluid types. Which is like remembering what the eighties were like, until you look at some old photos and go, “I really wore those clothes?” Not to mention the big hair!
            According to the ATRA (Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association), 90% of all transmission breakdowns are due to overheating. 
            Almost all tranny fluids are a nice red in color in order to distinguish them from other fluids. Once your fluid has begun to change to a darker color or, heaven forbid, brown, then it’s time to have the fluid flushed. If it’s turned gold, you’ve parked your RV at the end of the rainbow or leprecauns have been relieving themselves under your hood.
            Also, if you’re into smelling things, like flowers or this week’s laundry for that fresh as a daisy scent, take a whiff of the dipstick. If the fluid has darkened and begun to stink of overdone burnt pizza crust (I could murder a ham and pineapple pizza smothered in mozza right about now) that’s a sign your tranny is getting overheated.
            Remember the hotter the temp of your transmission the more often you need to change the fluid.  An average transmission should run around 175 degrees F at which range normal service intervals will suffice; usually every 120,000 kilometres. Raise that by twenty degrees and you can count on halving the life of the transmission fluid and another half for every twenty or so after that. Many transmissions are constantly run around 200-230 degrees. Reach anything approaching 250 and real trouble begins. Seals go hard, clutches begin to burn up and next thing you know you’ve got a box of neutrals, and you’re staring at a huge tow bill to the nearest garage.
            Most car transmissions run at 200 plus degrees, and RVs more than that, hence the need for regular service intervals - 60,000k’s for cars but only 40,000 k’s on most RVs. Having, and watching, your trans oil temp gauge is very important in prolonging the life of your automatic transmission, especially when you’ve decided to push your twenty ton RV up the sheer mountain passes where the mountain goats will squint at you with you-gotta-to-be-kidding looks, or through the Mojave desert where snakes sip on agave coolers and use SPF80.
            Regular transmission oil coolers in vehicles usually involve running hot tranny fluid into a section of the radiator where it is cooled by about twenty to thirty degrees and then ran back to the transmission.  Adding an aftermarket cooler is very wise and can drop fluid temps from seventy to 120 degrees. 
            Synthetic trans fluids offer greater protection, but make sure the brand you’re using is compatible with the original fluid.  
So now that I've enriched your knowledge of vehicles and before you run out, open the hood to your automobile and holler, where's the engine, let alone the dipstick. But that's a whole other story. What happened to the old days, when the only thing missing was the beef burger?

Frank Talaber

Writer by soul. Words born within. 
Karma the seed. Paper the medium.  
Pen the muse. Novels the fire.

Twitter: @FrankTalaber

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pirate Owl Card by Cheryl Wright


Last month I shared an owl card I had made for my fourteen year old granddaughter's birthday. 

I also made one for her twin brother, but naturally this one needed to be more masculine. 

Here's what I came up with:

This was a more complicated card than his sister's. I sponged the bottom half of the card with blue ink to represent the ocean. Then using a stencil, I made 'waves'. 

Using the Stampin' Up! Owl Punch, I made an owl and decorated him up to be a pirate. The hat was made by punching out another owl body, this one black, and cutting it in half. (Not my idea!!) 

I'd picked up the pirate ribbon at a department store at a bargain price a while back, but had never used it. It was perfect for this card.

 I wanted my pirate owl to stand on a boat, but didn't have anything suitable in my vast stamp collection. So I took a piece of black cardstock, and cut it to a boat shape. But it needed more. 

I cut a piece of twine, and tied a small knot each end, then glued it across the front of the boat. 

The stamps (including the flag) are all from Inspired by Stamping, and worked perfectly for this card. 

When I was about to put it all together, I realised pirates need peg legs! So I chopped of his leg and replaced it with a peg leg I made from some cardstock scrap.

I hope you've enjoyed this post. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!


My website: 
BWL website: 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why Does a Writer HAVE to Write: The Answer Found in the Petrified Forest National Park

Deadly UndertakingA handsome detective,
a shadow man,
and a murder victim
kill Lauren’s plan for a simple life.
Available at Amazon
Hello and welcome to the Books We Love Insiders Blog, an author written blog sharing personal stories, research updates, writing tips and interesting gossip and details of the writing life. I'm J. Q. Rose. Today it's my privilege to take a turn.
* * *
A writer’s compulsion to write is a puzzlement to most people.  Ask an author why she writes and you will most likely get the answer, “because I have to.” Ideas for stories swirl around in the writer’s brain and will not go away until the idea is fixed on paper or screen.

This drive is not a new behavior for human beings. Cave men expressed their ideas on the walls of caves. This summer my husband and I visited the Southwest region of the USA. Signs of ancestral native people who lived in this harsh environment left their drawings on rocks in the desert. I don’t mean rocks the size of a stone you can skip across the lake. These are enormous ROCKS with identifiable pictures of water birds and faces of what scientists believe symbolize the spirits the people worshiped. The drawings are called petroglyphs.

Petroglyph --Faces of spirits of the Ancestral Pueblo culture

Petroglyph--Water bird drawing in the Petrified Forest National Park

Evidence of the desire by ancient people to leave a record of their lives are scattered throughout the Petrified Forest National Park in Eastern Arizona. 

Rocks, “varnished” by Mother Nature by the clay minerals and sand collected on the surface of the rock, make the perfect canvas/background for the prehistoric man to scratch out recognizable shapes and figures about their existence. The latest Ancient Puebloan drawings are believed to be from around 900 A.D. to 1100 A.D. 
The Painted Desert located in the Petrified Forest National Park

I felt strangely connected with these primitive efforts at sharing the artist/writer's ideas with others, as if the artist was reaching out across the centuries to assure me it's okay to have that drive to express my ideas through my writing. 

I wonder if any of our e-books and print books will exist 1000 years from now for future scientists to discover!
Photos by J.Q. Rose
* * *
Connect online with J.Q. Rose, author of the romantic suspense, Deadly Undertaking.
Author J.Q. Rose

Click here on the J.Q.Rose blog to learn more about the Petrified Forest National Park.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Phobias by Stuart R. West

Phobias are a funny thing. Everyone suffers one.
If you look up the word "phobia," it's categorized as an anxiety disorder; a fear of a situation or object blown way out of proportion to the actual threat. Try telling that to the phobia sufferer.

I have a friend who's deathly afraid of clowns. Why? Dunno. But I suppose it makes sense to him, his mind working overtime to try and persuade logic to over-take the irrational fear. Granted, serial killer/clown John Wayne Gacy didn't do too much to promote clown good-will, but I hardly think clowns generally pose a threat. Even so, there's even a name for it: Coulrophobia. The fact the fear is predominant enough to earn its own name implies its more widespread than I thought.

My phobia? Heights, aka Acrophobia. Which is strange. It didn't happen until later in life. As a youth, I'd recklessly climb aboard the most rickety-looking, splintery old roller-coasters with wild abandon. Absolutely fearless. But sometime, somehow things changed. I didn't even realize it until my daughter and I visited a (supposedly haunted) lighthouse in Florida. It wasn't the thought of ghosts that inspired my fear. At the top of the tower, I hugged the walls, too terrified to look down while other tourists found me very amusing. How do phobias build later in life? Is it like hair-loss?

The most outrageous case of phobia I've ever seen is my wife's (thank God she doesn't read this blog). A medical professional, she doesn't flinch at anything, even discussing gory details with a blase attitude over dinner. But...spiders. Yep, arachnophobia. The eight legged varmints turn my strong soldier of a wife into a quivering pile of jello. When she was in college, she took parachuting lessons. On the day of her big jump, she spotted a spider in the airplane. The instructor had to physically restrain her from jumping out early. Once, on a busy street, she jumped out of her car, leaving the passenger inside to deal with it. Anything to get away from the dreaded critters. At home, her screams are legendary. I'm used to the tiny, startled "eeks." Those are categorized as "Be there in a second, honey!" But the full-on, blood-curdling shrieks when she spots an arachnid? That hits the "Code Red! Jump over any obstacles to get there ASAP!" category.

There's a phobia for nearly everything and a correlating name to go along with it. Fear of hair (Chaetophobia), fear of cooking (Mageirocophobia), fear of smells (Olfactophobia), fear of long words (Sesquipedalophobia--which I think is kinda ironic, really), the list goes on and on. It's quite fascinating, really. If you're truly interested, look up The Phobia List.

I suppose everyone's allowed a phobia. And only the sufferer truly understands their own fears, even if they're at a loss for words how to describe it. And I have to say, a lot of times I write about some of my own fears in my books, I suppose as a form of therapy. Yep, even danger at heights!

What say you, folks? Let's hear about some interesting phobias.
Click Here For Many Phobias: Ghosts, Greed, Evil, Buried Alive, Moving Shadows & More!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Betty Ann Harris

When I was a young teenager I became an avid reader. My favorite books were Nancy Drew mysteries and I adored Agatha Christie books. I developed a passion for words and the thoughts and emotions they could convey. I started my own writing career as a poet.

For years, I had this story in my mind and I would add to it sometimes. One day I realized the story finally had a conclusion. Now what? I told a few close friends about this story. They all agreed it sounded like it was a good idea for a book. That became my first written romantic suspense thriller, Eureka Point. From romantic suspense I became interested in paranormal romance and wrote Possessing Prudence.

As my writing career continues, I plan on adding to my Protected Heart Series, of which Eureka Point was the first book. Moonlight Cove will be the second book in that series.

List of books with BWL:   
Eureka Point, romantic suspense
Danger in Paradise, romantic suspense
A Very Special Agent, romantic suspense
Possessing Prudence, romantic paranormal

A Very Special Agent

Best-selling romance author, Maggie Tyler, is being stalked and threatened by a psychotic fan. Alone and afraid, she must turn to the FBI for protection. 

Stephen O’Leary is the tall, dark, and ruggedly handsome FBI Special Agent who is assigned to protect her. Upon meeting Maggie, Stephen is totally smitten by this widowed beauty, a woman who possesses a kind heart and deep passions that match his own burning desires.

Amidst danger, mystery, and the villain’s overwhelming compulsion to have Maggie all to himself, she and Stephen fall madly in love. But by doing so are they unknowingly sparking jealousy and a dangerous obsession the stalker has to have Maggie all to himself?     

Possessing Prudence 

The scenic seaport town of Mystic Port is steeped in history. Prudence Trivit, the town’s historian, is on a mission to find out the truth about her Great Aunt Alexandra Beaudicort, who was accused and found guilty of murdering her husband, who was the mayor of Mystic Port back in 1897. Prudence, known as Prudy, is certain of her great aunt’s innocence.

A handsome young journalist, Dylan Monroe, is sent to Mystic Port to interview Prudy in advance of the town’s 250th anniversary celebration. Dylan immediately notices Prudy’s uncanny resemblance to her great aunt in the huge portrait of Alexandra that hangs in the museum. Stunned by her beauty and so intrigued by the story of Alexandra, Dylan falls for Prudy, and together they investigate to find out the truth about the murder. But uncovering the truth comes with mishaps and mayhem. As the spirit of Alexandra points them in the right direction, the opposing spirits try to dissuade them.    

Crazy July by Nancy M Bell

This has been a year of opposites so far. The late winter and spring was very dry here in southern Alberta. So dry that by the end of June the pasture still crackled under my feet when I walked the fence line. Then July hit and down came the rain. In torrential downpours. We had 5 tornadoes touch down in 4 days! Like holy cow, what's with that. Even with all the rain if you dig down four inches in the garden you can find dry earth. Crazy!

Once again this July I was fortunate enough to be invited to read my poetry at Stephansson House just west of Red Deer, Alberta. This is the homestead of Stephan G Stephansson, an Icelandic poet who came to live in Alberta in the late 1800's. The site is an Alberta Historical Site and is very well preserved. The house is wonderful to wander through and the surrounding area is kept much as it was during Stephan's life. It should be on everyone's list if they visit this part of the country. Eight poets read their work, the theme this year was Nature and it was exciting to hear what everyone offered.

Getting back to the rain. Last week was Calgary Stampede when the whole city shuts down and parties. It all began on Friday July 8 with the Stampede Parade where thousands of people lined the streets of downtown Calgary to watch marching bands, horses, tons of floats and the always spectacular showing of the Treaty 7 tribes of the First Nations. This year they have representatives of the seven tribes doing an exhibition during the opening ceremonies of the rodeo each day. Each tribe has different ways of painting their faces and bodies as well as their mounts, the stories and meanings behind each colour and symbol are amazing.

The crops are progressing well with the prairies turning bright gold under the blooming canola while fields of wheat and barley wave in the wind like a sea of grass. There has been some attempts to grow drought resistant corn without much success. Here in Alberta corn is happy only in the south country down by Taber where sugar beets also thrive. A true sign that summer has reached the tipping point and is slipping toward autumn is the appearance of pick up trucks selling Taber corn out of the bed, ears of corn piled on the tail gate.

I have been busy working on the third book in the Longview Romance series tentatively titled Wedding Interrupted. If you want to catch up on what Cale and Michelle have been up to since the end of Storm's Refuge be sure to pick up Come Hell or High Water. It fits right into the theme of my blog this month as it features action at the Calgary Stampede and the Half a Mile of Hell which is the chuck wagon races as well as touching on the floods that inundated Calgary and surrounding area in 2013. Click on the cover to get your copy.

Until next month, stay happy, stay well.

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...