Saturday, September 17, 2016

World Building Part 2 - Putting Your Reader Into The World

How do you start to build your dream world? If you’ve lucky and have chosen a world you know or one where you can find volumes of research. Then you rub those mental hands together and think this is a cinch. It ain’t necessarily so.

You’ve chosen today’s world in a town you can find your way around blindfolded. Your reader doesn’t know the world so you much provide them with information to draw them into the time and place you’ve chosen.

I often use a hospital setting in my contemporary stories. I’m a nurse so I’m familiar with the venue. Follow me back in time to the day I finished my first complete novel. The book was sent off. With the rejection letter came a helpful hint. “Your characters are existing in a vacuum/” I rewrote the book piling on the physical set up of the hospital, the unit and the patient rooms. Sent the book off again. Rejected again with this hint. "You definitely have shown me the hospital but your descriptions haven’t put me there. Try using the senses.”

I was fortunate. In those days editors wanted the full manuscript for fiction. Seldom happens today. So it’s up to you and me to create a setting the reader can step into.

One way to define a setting is to go from the large to the small.

Here’s an example from Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon.

The hall was massive. Sixteen glorious cut crystal candelabras showed warm yellow light over the numerous arrivals. Musicians in a corner tuned their instruments. She caught a view of the handsome smartly dressed young men who had come to the ball.

As you’re establishing the setting, research is needed to help you focus on your world. Maps, descriptions and pictures of settings, houses, and furniture can be found in books or the internet. Since some of my stories are fantasies, I have copies of Archaeology and National Geographic to look for places and ruins I can use. Television programs can provide needed information.

I’ve published 2 books set in an alternate Egypt. They’re a cross between alternate world and pseudo-time travel. A documentary about camels taught me something I needed to know since I had first just wanted to use the ancient Egypt at the time of the Hyksos invaders. Wrong. Though there were horses present at this time there were no camels. I wanted camels so I created an alternate ancient Egypt.

When weaving word tapestries a light touch is good. Vivid words well chosen are a plus. Bogging the story down with volumes of data and description send a reader to find another adventure.

I judge a number of contests for unpublished and published writers. One was for the first chapter of a book. The first paragraph introduced me to a pair of intriguing characters. Then page after page the writer took me on a tour of a costal road detailing everything seen in glowing detail. Though the descriptions were vivid, nothing happened and earned the writer a low score.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A summer to remember

Helllooooooo all!
It's the 16th day of the 2016th year - is that supposed to mean something special? Personally, I think every day is special, each for its own reason, or, for no reason at all. Just being.

This summer has been one of the most memorable in all my 50+ years. Weather was hot and dry and for sailing, winds were strong enough to warrant plenty of 'wind warnings' in Georgian Bay. However, the fish were too shy for my liking. When I bought the Styrofoam container of worms at the Marina, the girl at the counter assured me they were well trained. She was wrong. But, fish or no fish, just being on the water was its own reward.

Promote promote promote!

Between sailing escapades, I've been promoting my book, The Twisted Climb. It's a book for young adults and, as I like to add, for adults who are young at heart. I have two events taking place next month: one is a signing event at a Chapters store near me, and the other is a 'Meet the Author' night, part of Ontario Public Library Week celebrating authors and books. I'm sooooo pumped! For the latter, I'm one of five invited authors who will read an excerpt from their book and then participate in a Question & Answer period.


I took to heart Jude Pittman's advice about configuring Amazon / Author Central for countries around the world. It's exhilarating to know that your book is available in another continent. And at £2.10 there is no excuse for my Irish family not to buy. Right?

Ball hockey girls are the best!

More summer excitement came from my ball hockey team. They've been great supporters in my writing / publishing journey and proved it with a congratulatory cupcake-cake. So it is true. Ball hockey girls are the best!


My son informed me that being an author means being a tweeter. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? But, apparently not. So, I've dipped my toe into the twitter-verse or whatever it's called, and I'm experimenting with this form of social media. I have a Facebook account ( which gives me free marketing exposure, so the next step, he tells me, is twitting. Or tweeting. Whatever.
Before I become a 'professional' with my twat or twit or tweet, I'm practicing under the following name: @JoanieJCK. Send me a tweet! I'll practice with my fellow BWL authors. Thanks for sharing my journey.

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
A book for young adults and adults young at heart.

Twitter: @JoanieJCK

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When did you last puddle jump? by Sheila Claydon

I've been time travelling again, back into my past.  My companion is my two year old granddaughter who is on a nine week visit from Australia.

When did you last puddle jump? Or balance across a log? Or count pine cones? Or draw pictures in the sand? And why does the wind blow the leaves on the trees and make some of them flutter down to the ground? And why do we walk on the wide paths when the hidden ones made by rabbits and foxes are so much better? And what about shadows, and crows, and the aeroplanes that leave a trail across the sky? And bubbles. There is nothing better than blowing bubbles and then chasing them until they pop.

All this and much, much more and we are only three and a half weeks into the visit.

We don't really forget you know, we just need an excuse to revisit our own childhood, an excuse to arrive home wet, or sandy, or both.  And discussing the magic of the wind, or blowing bubbles, are very satisfying occupations once we remember how to let go of our own reality and fly backwards in time to the days when we were two and a little bit.

I remember reading somewhere that we are our memories. Nothing that ever happens to us, no experience, good or bad, is ever lost. Some of our memories become less accessible over the years of course, but they are still there, just waiting for the trigger that will awaken them. And this month my trigger has been a two year old who has taken me back to a world I once inhabited.

I have two more books to write for my time travel trilogy Mapleby Memories. It's not going to be an easy process because juxtaposing different centuries in one story is difficult. What I've discovered this month, however, is that it will be easier than I anticipated. I just need to find the magic trigger that will transport me to an earlier memory. It might well be my little granddaughter because I already know there will be children in the next book so inhabiting their world as I write is important.

There are small children in the first book, Remembering Rose, as well. Children from three different centuries, and although it doesn't say so in the book, I guarantee they all loved to puddle jump.

Sheila Claydon's books can be found at Books We Love and Amazon

She also has a website and can be found on facebook  and twitter

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA Part Nine
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 Nine
After leaving New Orleans we passed through La Flourish Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Assumption Parish, Iberia Parish and entered Vermilion Parish. In Abbeville we stopped at the tourist information where I learned that Parish is the name for ‘county’ in Louisiana. It dates back to the Napoleonic Code when France controlled this area. Louisiana is the only state that uses the word.
     Acadians are descendants of French colonists who settled Acadia, now known as Nova Scotia, Canada. During the Great Expulsion, 1755 to 1764, the British deported the Acadians to the thirteen colonies. In Louisiana, they became known as Cajuns taken from les Cadiens. Vermilion Parish has the most Cajun people in the state who trace their origins back to Nova Scotia. The woman I talked to in the tourist info told me she had gone to Nova Scotia during the summer to trace her family name there.
     She also told me that when Hurricane Katrina went through, it hit New Orleans and much of the eastern part of the state and missed this area. About a month later Hurricane Rita came and that is when Abbeville was damaged. They were still working to recover.
     The morning was windy and cool. The clouds made it seem darker than it was so I didn’t realize the time. I woke at 8:30. On our drive we passed through a lot of marshland and saw small fields that looked like they were deliberately flooded. In one place we saw a man in a small aluminium boat out in the middle of one of those fields.
     The day remained dull and overcast. At 12:00 noon it was 40F (9C). We only stopped to have lunch. There were signs telling us that we were on a Hurricane Evacuation Route. Because of the time change and the time of year, it was getting dark early. We were stopping at around 4:00-4:30pm. So our days were getting shorter.
     We entered Lake Charles from the south and pulled into a Walmart. Mike wanted some authentic Cajun music so he went shopping. While in the store he asked one woman if there were any good restaurants where we could try Cajun food. She told him any restaurant in town would do. He asked another woman and she gave him a list of a few places she liked or had heard were good. Mike came back out with a CD, a bag of groceries, and papers describing some tourist attractions in the area. He showed me his list of restaurants but I didn’t feel like driving to any of them for supper.
     I went through the pamphlets and found some places to visit within a short distance of the city: an alligator refuge, a rum distillery, which Mike was interested in, and a scenic bridge. I said let's go see them before we left in the morning. I also found an advertisement for a restaurant called Cajun Kitchen. We had seen signs along the road so we thought after we looked at those attractions, which were east of Lake Charles we would return to the city and have lunch there.
Mike’s Story
     I listened to the CD I had bought but it wasn't what I was looking for so I went back in the store. I talked with a young man about music. The young woman, Angelle, who I had talked with earlier came over and the two apparently were a couple. As we chatted I told them about what we were doing and how we were travelling.
     Justin, the young man, told his girlfriend that when he got old he wanted to be just like me.
     “Why?” I asked, surprised.
     “I don't want to be afraid to talk with people when I get older. I want to meet people, I want to do things.”
     Justin advised me on a couple of CDs to buy. The young woman asked me if my wife and I had tried one of the restaurants. I said no. Justin said that he and Angelle would cook us a real Cajun meal if we wanted to go to his apartment the next evening. He didn't get off work until 9:00pm so it would be late.
     “Oh, you don’t have to do that,” I protested.
     “I understand that we are strangers and you might be fearful of us,” Justin said.
     “No,” I said. “We have a saying that ‘Strangers are just friends we haven't met yet’.”
     I went to the motorhome and asked Joan. She thought it was so nice of them to offer that she hated to turn them down when they were willing to go through all that effort.
     “It’s going to be pretty late,” I told her.
     “We’ve met so many nice people on our trip,” she said. “Let's change our plans for tomorrow and do it. We could talk with them and get to know them.”
     I went back in and gave them some money to pay for the ingredients for the meal. They agreed to meet us the next evening at 9:00pm in the parking lot.
     The next day It was cool and overcast day. We went to the Bayou Rum Distillery in Lacassine. This is the largest privately owned rum distillery in the United States. They use 100% Louisiana unrefined cane sugar and molasses. The tour had already started so we watched a video about sugar cane harvesting and the making of rum. Cane has to be processed within two days of picking it. At the distillery it is processed in 18 hours.
     We bellied up to the tasting bar and sampled the three different types of rum they produced: gold, silver and Satsuma orange infused rum which was first bottled in 2014. I bought two bottles of the new Satsuma rum and Mike picked up a bag of sugar cane sticks. When he looked at them in the camper he saw that they were a product of, and packaged in, Hawaii.
     Mike and I drove to the Gator Chateau on Rue de L’Acadie. This is home to orphaned baby and rescued mature alligators. They are looked after until they are able to be released back into the wild. When I walked in the woman asked me if I wanted to hold an alligator and I said yes. She picked one up from the heated glass container and gave it to me. It was warm and soft and squirmy. I had to hold it tight. She took a picture of me and then returned the alligator to the box. I asked about alligator feeding and she said that they are hibernating.
     We saw a sign for boudin, a Cajun dish, and decided to try it. We turned off the highway and went into a small restaurant beside a service station. As we entered the restaurant I saw a sign that rice field crawfish were out of season. Those were the fields under water that we had seen and the man in the aluminium had been checking on his crawfish.
     We each ordered boudin, which we found out was made from rice and pork rolled into a ball and deep fried. We enjoyed ours so much that Mike ordered more. I asked about the alligator balls advertised but I was told that they were out of season.
     Mike and I drove to the historic Lorrain Bridge on Lorrain Road near Hayes. The original Lorrain Bridge was built in the early 1900s as a draw bridge over the Bayou Lacassine. It was closed in 1998 for safety reasons. It was rebuilt (not as a drawbridge) and opened again in 2004. It is 209ft (63.7m) in length.
     We drove along the Bayou for a ways just enjoying being in the peaceful scenery and quiet area. A Bayou is the name for a creek or river that flows so slowly that it doesn’t appear to be moving at all. They are usually found in flat or low-lying areas. It can also refer to a marshy lake or wetland.
     We met Justin and Angelle and followed them to their apartment. They had purchased the ingredients and began preparing the meal. Angelle cut the vegetables up while Justin did the cooking. Mike had told him that I can’t tolerate spicy food so he modified the ingredients for me. We’d sample one dish while he made the next and we talked.
     Justin told us he wanted to start a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, and we told him to let us know when that happened and we would come to it. Angelle was raised back in the Bayou and had moved to town to get a job at Walmart. That was where they met. We told them that I was a writer and Mike was retired but had worked in the oil patch in Alberta for many years. We had five children and seven grandchildren.
     It was a relaxed, enjoyable evening that lasted until about 1:30 in the morning. As we were leaving they gave us a container of Creole spices and a jar of jam from Texas. I gave them copies of my books.
     It was as if we were destined to meet that young couple. When we’d driven into Lake Charles the first evening we asked Lola for a Walmart. She gave us a few to pick from. We selected one but as we were driving to it we passed a different one. I told Mike, let’s just stop here. It was the one Justine and Angelle worked at.
     In Texas, we passed through Burnet and turn onto a narrow road to the Longhorn State Park. At the Long Horn Caverns I booked to take the next tour. While waiting I went to the former administration building that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), which was a public relief program operated by a government agency to find work for unemployed, unmarried men. The administration building is used for exhibits but was empty when I went through it. I climbed the steps to look out over the area. Behind the visitor’s center is a trailhead and I strolled the Backbone Ridge Trail, turned onto the 3 Minute Loop and then returned on the Loop D trail through the bush of the area.
     I visited the observation tower that had two sets of circular metal stairs to the top. From there I had a panoramic view of the Texas landscape.
     The tour of the caverns is a 1½ mile (2.4km) round trip. When these caves were discovered, the CCC hired a number of men to clear all the debris--rocks, mud, dirt--from them so they could be opened to the public. They used that debris to make the road to the caverns. The grand staircase at the entrance was built by the CCC.
     The guide told us some of the cavern’s history. This was a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War. They manufactured gunpowder here using the bat guano. Sam Bass was an outlaw who hid out here and the entrance is named after him. During the 1920s, the cave was used as a speakeasy and dancehall by the nearby residents. It was used as a bomb shelter during the Cold War and supplies that could last for months were stocked here.
     A young woman was captured and taken into the cave. Three Texas Rangers repelled down to rescue her. She married one of the rangers and they lived in Burnet.
     There is the Crystal City, which is a room full of calcite crystals, and a waterfall that isn't really a waterfall. It is called that because of its formation from dripping water. There are small bats, some only about the size of a thumb, in the cave. They are independent and like to sleep alone. We could see some of them hanging onto the wall.
     The cave started as limestone then turned to dolomite the further we went. When we reached the far end we were 135ft (41m) underground.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Welcome New BWL Author Roberta Grieve

BWL: Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself and your history.

RG: I grew up in Kent, known as the Garden of England and some of my books are set there. I have lived in Sussex for more than forty years. I have done many different jobs but mainly in local newspapers and the public library service.

BWL: How long have you been writing and in what genres? 

RG: I have been writing for most of my life but it was only when I took early retirement that I started to aim for publication. I write mainly write historical romances but I have written short stories, magazine articles and a couple of film scripts for the local film makers club. 

BWL: Where you do get your inspiration?
RG: My inspiration comes mainly from my interest in history, particularly the Victorian period and the two world wars.  I love visiting stately homes, especially touring the kitchens and servants’ quarters. I also frequently visit the Weald and Downland Open Air museum near my home. It is a collection of buildings from various periods that have been rescued from demolition and re-erected on the site and provides a wonderful insight into life in days gone by. 

BWL: Tell us about your book(s).
RG: My first published novel was ‘Abigail’s Secret’ and is set during the Second World War in my home town of Chichester, Sussex. It is the first and only time I have used a real place in my books and I really enjoyed the research. Since then I have used real settings but fictionalised them so that I can use my imagination more. 

My other novels have covered the First World War, World War Two, and the period between. These were periods of real change for women and allowed me to create strong heroines who were not afraid to go against the conventions of their time. 

My favourite so far is ‘On Wings of Song’ about a society girl who moonlights as a music hall singer. The research was fascinating and I grew to love Arabella, my heroine.

BWL: What about your next book?  Will it be part of a series or a standalone?  Can you give us a taste to whet our appetites?

RG:  All my books are stand alone although I am toying with the idea of writing a sequel to ‘On Wings of Song’. However, my next book is to be called ‘Song of Memories’ about an orphaned English girl who has gone to live with her family in 1930s Russia. Her family are arrested in the Stalin purges but she escapes to England not knowing if her lover is dead or alive.

BWL: What are your hobbies and interests?
RG:  As you may have guessed my main interest in history and I try to indulge it as much as possible with visits to historical places and talks on local history. My son is involved in a medieval re-enactment group and that has sparked my interest in the period so who knows – a medieval romance might be in the pipeline.

I am secretary of the Chichester Writers’ Circle whose aim is to encourage and nurture beginner writers and I also belong to Chichester Literary Society. We enjoy talks on famous and not so famous writers, as well as literary walks and outings to places such as Kipling’s and Jane Austen’s houses.

BWL: What does the future hold for you?
RG: More books of course. 

Look for Roberta's books coming soon from Books We Love.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It Didn't End There: The Nun's Story and Sister Luke's Post-convent Years by Karla Stover

     When Gabrielle Van Der Mal, the former Sister Luke, walks out of a Belgium convent after the death of her father in World War II, she enters the last half of her life: a young Belgium woman for the first 21 years, a nun for the next 18, a nurse for two, and the partner of author Katherine Hulme for the last 40.

     Miss Van Der Mal was really Marie-Louise Habets, born in 1905 in West Flanders, Belgium. At age 21, she joined the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary becoming Sister Xaverine. As in the movie, she did serve in the Congo and did return to Belgium after getting tuberculosis. The Holy See’s dispensation of her vows was highly unusual for the time.  Habets’s convent was Uccle in Brussels. From there she made her way to Antwerp, which the Allied forces liberated a few weeks later, after which German forces bombarded the city “killing and maiming some ten thousand civilians, and soldiers wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.”  There, she joined a British First Aid unit and nursed the soldiers. When the war in Europe ended, Habets was sent to Wildflecken, a displaced persons camp in Germany. That is where she met Kathryn Hulme, the camp’s director.

      In 1951, Hulme sponsored Habets and the two sailed to America. First the couple settled in Arizona where Habets worked in a hospital nursing the Navahos. From there, they moved to California. Her income freed up Hulme giving her time to write. Habets also acted as consultant to actress Audrey Hepburn who was preparing to make The Nun’s Story. The two became good friends and Habets nursed Hepburn after she (Hepburn) was badly injured while filming The Unforgiven in Durango, Mexico.

      In 1960, Habets and Hulme moved to Kauai and lived the ex-pat’s life—raising fruit, breeding dogs, riding horses, socializing, and traveling. Hulme also continued to write. She died in 1986 and Habets died five years later.

     The following is a google quote:  Having inherited Hulme’s literary estate, Habets, in her own will, shared it out among members of her own family, members of Hulme’s family, and six Sisters, who cannot be traced. The resultant confusion makes it unclear who owns the rights, and who can give permissions. This is probably why The Nun’s Story, along with Hulme’s other books, remains out of print.”
     The movie undoubtedly ended at the perfect place.

A Poodle, a Wedding Anniversary, and a Opossum By Connie Vines

I had an article about the craft of writing written and ready to post.  I decided, instead, to share that post next month. Why? For thos...