Saturday, March 4, 2017

Palace of Whitehall, Part II by Katherine Pym

Previously, I told you the history of Whitehall Palace, its beginnings and its end. Today, I want to talk of the structure, and how London’s activities affected Whitehall Palace. 

Whitehall Palace

Part II, Other stuff about Whitehall:

Castles have a tendency to be drafty, and it was no different with the Palace of Whitehall. Due to the compilation of various buildings crammed together, the palace was more drafty than normal. During storms, winds whistled down chimneys and spread ash across the chambers. Fires sparked, then smoldered.   

London and its suburbs used sea coal and brown coal to heat their homes. It was inferior and smoked. London also seemed to have existed under a pall of inversion. Smoke and pollution hung stagnant over the city and its suburbs for weeks on end.

Coal was used to brew ale or beer. Dyers used coal to heat water. Soap boilers manufactured their product with ash. Glass houses, founders and most industries used coal for their fires and their products. As a result, smoke settled heavy on everything with a gritty dust. Not a good place for asthmatics, the air was hard to breathe.

John Evelyn (1620-1706) loved London. He observed everything within and without the great city. 

In 1661, he wrote Fumifugium: or, The Inconvenience of the AER, and SMOAKE of London Dissipate, a diatribe of the damages smoke can do to a person, city, and anything alive. In this pamphlet, he also proposed remedies for this damage. This, he gave to King Charles II in the year of his coronation (1661).

A visit to Whitehall provoked Evelyn to write this pamphlet. While he strolled through the palace, looking for a glimpse of His Royal Majesty, Evelyn said, “a presumptuous smoke issuing from one or two tunnels near Northumberland House, and not far from Scotland Yard, did so invade the Court that all the rooms, galleries, and places about it were filled and infested with it, and that to such a degree, as men could hardly discern one another for the cloud...”

Apparently, the smoke was so thick in the palace, people had to stretch their arms to make it from room to room. I can imagine with the uneven floors, bridges, and stairways that linked strange floor levels, this could be dangerous.

Evelyn continues, “...upon frequent observation, but it was this alone, and the trouble that it must needs procure to Your Sacred Majesty, as well as hazard to your health…” Yes, wandering a palace so filled with smoke, it would be difficult to breathe, to see without your eyes tearing.

In 1662 a strong storm hit London, and Whitehall was not spared. A few fires started but fortunately, they were doused without any real damage. After this, regulations were enforced to have at each hearth a leather bucket filled with water.

In 1691, Whitehall nearly burned down. By this time, it was a maze of complexity, and the largest palace in Europe. On April 10th of this year, a fire broke out that damaged a great deal of the structure(s), but not the State Apartments. By this time, William III and Mary II lived most of the time in Kensington Palace.

Then, in 1698 what remained of Whitehall burned, along with many treasures garnered over the ages. Among other treasures, scholars believe Michelangelo’s Cupid, the Portrait of Henry VIII, and Bernini’s marble bust of King Charles I were all lost.

John Evelyn wrote: “Whitehall burnt! Nothing but walls and ruins left.”

Can you imagine the stories those old walls could have told, so rich, historical, and often tragic.

Adrian Tinniswood. By Permission of Heaven, The true Story of the Great Fire of London. Riverhead Books, NY, 2003

John Evelyn. Fumifugium: Or, The Inconvenience of the AER, and SMOAKE of London Dissipated. Together With some Remedies humbly proposed by J.E. Esq; To His Sacred MAJESTIE, and To the Parliament now Assemble. Published by His Majesties Command. London 1661

Friday, March 3, 2017

Happy Halloween in February...

Yes, you read that right.

My dad called me February 13 to wish me and early Happy Halloween.
We both had a good laugh. Nearly twenty-five years ago, my dad underwent brain surgery to help control his epileptic seizures. While he hasn't had seizures since, he has had to relearn a lot of things he'd forgotten after doctors removed a quarter-sized piece of his brain. He's had a long journey.

I've always taken for granted the ability to read, to write, to think in the way I always have. I knew the things my dad had to re-learn. How to talk, how to write, how to name the every day objects we all "just know" because we've learned from the time we were little. In the blink of a ten hour surgery, my dad forgot a lot of those things. The names of his wife, his kids, his pets, even the names of holidays all these years later. His brain just didn't make the connection any more.

As writers, we all learn new things with every book we write. We forge new pathways in our brains and test our own memories as well as our sanity. I've learned some new things and had new experiences mostly out of my own interest which I've then transformed into new story ideas.

When I moved to a small town, I began to explore and use the scenery around me to create a mystery series about Katie Mullins who moved to a small town to hide out and ended up creating a whole new life. While I didn't get to work in a bookstore, I sure do haunt a lot of them!

As a karate student, I began to write a martial arts mystery series and my latest work in progress, is about a woman who ends up running a tea shop. All the things I write about in that book, I've partly learned in my brief stint working in a local Tim Hortons coffee shop. Now that I'm working at a haunted theatre... The sky is the limit. The things I learn go into books and the things I write become things I want to learn. It's all give and take.

As for my dad, even after the surgery and a lengthy recovery, he's now a singer/songwriter.
He used to be a lumberjack.

At a local coffee house with my dad and one of our CDs.
To be honest, we didn't always get along. We went for a long time gone without speaking to each other. Once we reconnected, I've been fortunate to work with him writing lyrics and have heard my words come to life on his numerous CDs.

As for Halloween in February, I figure next year I'll send him a package of pumpkin seeds for Valentine's Day next year.

Diane Bator

Check out my books here.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Women's Work Memories--Doing the Laundry

                A Master Passion   ISBN: 1771456744

A few things have changed for women, if not all that much on the rights side--we seem to be going backwards at the moment--however, in the material world, the traditional hard work of housekeeping has grown much easier. Laundry is one of those revolutionized tasks. Still, like cleaning the toilet, another traditionally designated woman’s work, I'd thought I'd share some memories about some of the things I've seen during my own 70+ years of life. 

I wonder how many of you can also look back on these same changes, or if you have some unique stories of your own. I’m going to move through time—my little slice of it--regarding laundry day.

The first laundry days I remember was at Grandpa’s house where we took our clothes for a familial Saturday wash, because they had a machine, a rockin’ and rollin’ wringer washer in the basement. Running the wet clothes through the wringer was men’s work in my family, although the women did the rest: pre-sort, load, hang, fold, dry, and iron. (Remember ironing? The day devoted to the task, taking the clothes out of the hamper and dampening them with a spritz or a sprinkle—the ones from a little top you bought at the Five and Dime to attach to the top of a coke bottle? The back ache/neck crick from standing for hours with a moving extended arm, the pre-air conditioning summer heat?)

And, of course, for small children, there were dire, but necessary, warnings.

Beware the dreaded wringer in which careless children get their arms caught and broken and maybe even dragged in and squished to death!  And don’t forget; the release bar to open the jaws is along the top, so…!

In the early Sixties, life took my mother and me to Barbados in the West Indies. It was not the shiny tourist trap it is now. At one time, we lived in the countryside which meant in a big temporarily for rent house—the “Bajan” owners were in the UK, attending to some business there. The big white house with louvered windows stood in a grove of large trees surrounded by what seemed to be almost endless cane fields. A maid from a cluster of houses further down the road, came along with the rent—that is, mother paid her the going rate to stay on with us and do laundry and some weekly housework, so that she would be support in the regular owner’s prolonged absence.

It was a long bus ride from Bridgetown where my school was, and in the evening, when I got home, I’d enter a small lane that had a bridge over a steep-sided, fast moving creek. Down below, among the rocks, local women always seemed to be doing laundry. Many small children, wearing undershirts and nothing else, crouched and played in the water, like little kids everywhere. Here, sometimes, I’d see Elsie, who worked for us, banging a piece of clothing I’d recognize as mine, on a rock as if it had done some terrible crime and needed punishment. First she’d scrub up lather from a big cake of Fels Naphtha soap which she kept beside her balanced on a rock. Next, she’d pound, and last she’d rinse it out in the stream. When I saw that laundry method for the first time, I came to fully appreciate the high tech of the chugging basement wringer washer at Grandpa’s.

Later, after coming back to the US, entering college and getting married—all in quick time order—my husband, new baby and I lived in an apartment building which rented to married students. It was a spacious old side by side duplex, now split into four apartments. I worked part time--part time school--in order to afford my first washing machine, a long-lived trendy bronze color Sears Kenmore top loader. Wet wash was hung from the back porch on a super long reel line. 

The kindly owner of our building had set lines up for both upstairs and downstairs apartments, although the tenants overhead had to hang their laundry while leaning out a window. As this was Massachusetts, sometimes it was too wet or too snowy or cold, so we all had drying racks for such occasions. As everyone knows, with babies, there is always a lot of laundry. And with diapers, it’s best to hang them out, even if they freeze for a day or so. 

As the old saying goes, “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” even if it’s 10 below...or in the 21st Century.   

~~Juliet Waldron    Historical Novels by JW at Amazon  A Master Passion   ISBN: 1771456744

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Visit to Tunisia by Joanie MacNeil

Towards the end of 2016, Facebook continued to tantalize me with memories of our 2013 holiday of a lifetime, visiting places we’d never imagined we’d see.

A two day stopover in Dubai following a long flight from Australia was a welcome break. The journey really began for us on arrival in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, in North Africa.

Tunis is both an ancient and modern city. On our first free day we caught a taxi to the markets (souk) and the old medina. The driver gave us some advice: say NO, NO! He continued in his not very clear English.

Along the busy streets, we better understood the taxi driver’s advice, meeting several new best friends. This was a new experience for me. The usual line, we saw you at your hotel, or there is a craft market on, just for today. I can take you there. One keen fellow we couldn’t discourage, no matter how insistent we were, didn’t lose interest when we made a quick impromptu dash into a store. He waited patiently for us to come out, then full of stories, and carrying an enormous key, guided us deep into the old medina with its narrow streets, shops, rubbish and nose-twitching smells. His mission: to take us to a craft market, which in fact turned out to be a carpet shop owned by a friend.

The two men raved on about the view from the roof. I climbed up the narrow stairs to it check out for myself, while the men tried to talk my husband into buying carpets. The rooftop was roughly tiled, a mix of colors and patterns, and no shade. I imagine the space would have been a pleasant enough place to relax in the evenings. Rooftops of different shapes and sizes, some dotted with satellite dishes. A dome, a spire, the hill near our hotel; some assorted buildings and the telecommunications building, filled my camera lens. Our new best friend then took us to a perfume shop, but when we didn’t buy anything, he lost interest and left us to find our own way out through the cobblestoned narrow covered alleys. Fortunately we kept our cool, retraced our steps through the many twisted walkways. Exhausted, and having experienced enough of the heat, we climbed into a beaten up old cab, without seatbelts, driven by a young lead-footed local, for the most hair-raising ride ever back to the hotel. Nothing like the pleasant experience of the earlier cab ride.

A special highlight for me was the camel ride from Douz, the largest desert outpost in Tunisia, into the southern Sahara. The peaceful beauty of the desert at the end of the day, with its pale blue and pink skies; light coloured sand; some vegetation, and tourists in bright headscarves and traditional dress, atop camels of all sizes. Beautiful black horses, ridden by men in colourful rich purple and gold tunics, and carriages for those who didn’t want to do the one hour camel trek.

There  were photo opportunities to pose holding a tiny desert fox, for a fee of course. With one hand gripping the reins, I reached out with the other and patted one of the soft, tiny foxes. The Fennec fox is a small nocturnal animal native to the Sahara and other semi-arid areas. Adults grow to a height of only 20 centimeters. Ears like those of bats span 15 centimeters, and radiate body heat to help keep the animals cool.

I thought the camel roped with mine might bite my foot as she often came close for a nuzzle. I’d heard stories about camels that bite! I did get my foot tangled in the rope, which was a bit worrying, but not as much as alighting from my huge male camel. Suffice to say that it’s easier for someone with longer legs than mine to slide over the side with ease. My lower back ached so much, I thought I might not be able to walk the next day!
Other highlights:

·       Dougga archaeological site: the best preserved and most extensive Roman ruins in Tunisia. Backdrop: the Atlas Mountains. 

·       Coastal Carthage where, in comparison to Dougga, there is little evidence of Roman settlement.

·       Sidi-Bou-Said, the pretty Andalusian-looking village, perched above the beautiful blue Mediterranean. White buildings and bright blue doors added to the summer experience.

·       Monastir: a visit to the Old Town and Kasbah where The Life of Brian was filmed.

·       El Djem: a 3rd century Roman colosseum originally seated 30,000, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
·       The troglodyte house at Matmata—the underground village, inhabited until the 1960s, served as the setting for the original Star Wars movie.

·       Crossing the salt lake of Chott el Jerid to Tozeur, an important oasis on the ancient caravan route between Algeria and Tunisia.

·       The added excitement of a sandstorm and flash flood during the jeep excursion from Tozeur to the mountain oasis of Chebika, not far from the Algerian border. The flooding was caused by a storm over the Algerian river catchment area. The awesome, spectacularly rugged mountains featured in The English Patient. We passed a pretty village in the mountains where the water swept by on its journey to the desert flood plain—the village was abandoned in the1990s because of flood damage and relocated on higher ground. On the way home, we drove past a bride, beneath a colorful circular canopy, perched on a camel in the midst of her procession.

·       A two hour journey on the Old Beys train, known as the Red Lizard, from Metlaoui Selja through the spectacular narrow, rugged Selja Gorges and return.

·       Visits to the Roman ruins at Sbeitla on our way to the sacred city of Kairouan, also of archeological/historical significance in Muslim history; the Grand Mosque, Tunis's oldest mosque; the museum, previously a Turkish palace, featuring mosaics from Roman times. The ancient floor mosaics were those from the original palace. Visitors had to wear paper shoes to avoid damaging the mosaics.

In the week we were in Tunisia, we travelled 1650 kilometers through agricultural areas with fruit and olive trees in the north; through drier southern regions, and desert with its cooling green oases and date palms; and industrial and mining areas.

Some of the villages we drove through were untidy, with haphazard buildings; others were much better cared for. Unfinished houses, still suitable to live in, with less fees to be paid by the owner in their unfinished state, were built from a special kind of red brick to suit the hot desert climate. Roadside food stalls, with local barbecued livestock for sale hanging amongst heat, dust and flies for anyone keen enough to buy and try. Smiling and not so happy faces. The men, sitting outside cafes in every village we passed through.  Apparently they walk in from their farms for breakfast, and stay until lunchtime, catching up with their neighbors from outlying areas. Further out in the countryside beneath makeshift shade against the heat, young men selling cheap fuel from Libya in plastic containers.
On the highway to the airport a small station wagon drove past us with mum, dad, a couple of children, and two goats in the back, probably going to the markets ahead. We saw local farmers herding their animals on foot, or riding a donkey over their barren lands.
Nothing about living in Tunisia is easy. It is very diverse; dry and sandy. A fascinating place to visit.

Joanie MacNeil

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras! Ooooh La La! By Connie Vines

Mardi Gras 2017 falls on Tuesday, February 28.  Today.😘 🎉

This is why today is the most perfect day for me to post on BWL Authors’ Blog.

My upcoming release “Gumbo Ya Ya” an anthology for women who like romance Cajun, takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana and features Mardi Gras and Cajun/Creole culture.

For those of you not familiar with Mardi Gras, I’ll give you a bit of a summary, via pictures and links, so that you can experience the excitement of The Big Easy (as New Orleans in called).

The most popular time to visit New Orleans is the extended weekend before Mardi Gras (February 24- 28). Come then and you'll be sure to catch the most popular parades, like Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, Rex and all of the festive celebrations throughout the whole city.

Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Most visitors will plan to arrive no later than Saturday, February 25, 2017 in order to enjoy an extended weekend of festivities.

Watch the Floats and Catch Mardi Gras throws.

Enjoy jumping up to catch beads, doubloons, cups, stuffed animals, etc.! Yell, "Throw me something, Mister!" at the float riders. Bring a large, sturdy plastic or cloth bag to hold all the treasure you'll be catching. If you try to put all of your beads around your neck, you'll have a hard time standing up straight. Be prepared: some people get so overcome with excitement they will occasionally jump in front of you to grab what a rider has thrown to you. Don't get into a tug-o-war; there are many more floats on the way. Some visitors from far away hold up a sign saying where they are from: our local riders love to see that people from out of town having a good time, and will throw to them to make sure they do.

If you can’t visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras, try ‘tasting’ a few of the famous ‘foods’ of The Big Easy!

For easy to prepare New Orleans Fare visit All Recipes

Listen to Mardi Gras Music.

A video look at New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Let the Good Times Roll!


My favorite New Orleans Cafe, Cafe DuMonde

Coming Soon

Available now: at

Monday, February 27, 2017

Romance authors at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire, by Vijaya Schartz

Angel of Lusignan by Vijaya Schartz
Click to find it HERE

The Glendale Chocolate Affaire started just over two decades ago under the sponsorship of Joe Ceretta, the owner of the Ceretta Candy Company, located in Glendale Arizona. 

Joe Ceretta, initiator of the Glendale Chocolate Affaire.

This event usually runs on the Superbowl weekend, the first weekend of February, shortly before Valentine's Day. It takes place in Murphy Park, around the Velma Teague Library and goes on Friday night, Saturday all day and night, and Sunday afternoon. The theme is Chocolate and Romance, and since the inception, the local Romance Writers have been part of this event.

Getting Ready Friday night - an impressive lineup of authors
View from above. The Glendale Glitters are still decorating the trees since the holidays.
This year (unlike some previous years when it was cold or rainy) the weather was balmy, the sun shone on the event, and the crowds came to attend the free event. This year it gathered a whooping 85,000 visitors. There were vendors of chocolate, of course, and all kinds of sweets and yummy crepes and sausages and fried bread, wine, beer, chocolate-covered fruit, and many mouth-watering delights, like pulled pork and delicious curly fries drowned in melting cheese. You will also find there popcorn, hats, jewelry, art, and a trove of other treasures for Valentine's Day gifts.

On Saturday, many of the participating authors also gave free writing workshops in the Civic Center Annex, for aspiring writers of all popular genres, on how to write, edit, polish a novel, and get it published, as well on how to market it.
Vijaya Schartz, holding the first print copy of ANGEL OF LUSIGNAN

The most exciting thing for writers about this event, is the opportunity to meet their readers, year after year, as they return to tell them how much they liked last year's books, and to check what new titles they have published since the last Affaire.
Wearing sunglasses and summer top on this hot February day in Glendale Arizona.
So, if you live in Arizona, or happen to visit at that time of year, and if you like romance or chocolates, mark your calendars for next year and come say hi to our local Romance authors, at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire.

Vijaya Schartz
  Romance with a Kick
  Amazon - Barnes & Noble Smashwords

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Have good manners gone forever? Tricia McGill

Visit my Books We Love Author page
This morning something happened that made me wonder. Where have good manners gone?

I was given the finger by a fellow motorist as I drove out of the local shopping center. For those of you who are non-Australians that means a finger was pointed at me in a rude gesture by a scowling male driver. And what did I do to deserve this insult? I allowed cars the right of way onto the main highway. But obviously this young person considered that I made him wait too long behind me while I applied my good manners on the road. To show me his displeasure he came around on my outside beeping his horn full blast (bear in mind that we drivers sit on the righthand side of our cars over here in OZ and one of the road rules is that we give way to the right). He then proceeded to come across at speed so that he was in front of me and then he did a sudden jerk to the left while giving me aforementioned hand signal as he turned left into a service station (mouthing apparent obscenities). Now, how urgent was his need for petrol that he had to perform this amazingly bad mannered and ignorant act, putting other drivers at risk, simply because I did what comes naturally to me, I allowed the traffic coming from my right side right of way.

Fellow drivers of my generation will know exactly where I am coming from when I say that in the “good ol’ days” we would not only give way to other drivers but they would then give us a friendly salute to say thanks. Back then we knew what good manners were. I sometimes wonder how some of these younger drivers get their licences. I know we all think that we are the best drivers in the world when we are young and perhaps impatient, but at times they test my patience to the limits with their rudeness, and I wonder if they are taught manners at home.

We were taught to respect our elders, something else that came naturally. We would not think of sitting on a bus or train while an elderly person stood. The men of our era always, without fail, opened doors for us ladies, and walked on the outside of the footpath. Men might use plenty of cussing and swear words while in the company of their mates but never let a swear word pass their lips while in the company of females. And if they did let one slip they would immediately apologize. These days I am becoming sick of seeing movies that are peppered with blasphemies and curses, and by just as many women as men. My mother would be disgusted if she heard some of the language that seems to be the norm nowadays.

That’s not to say I haven’t used the odd swear word in my books, but only when it is appropriate to the character. I make no apologies to those who think me a prude, I have been known to let my tongue get the better of me at times when no other word will suffice, but mostly my dogs are the only ones who will hear.

It seems that nobody can solve the problem of whether manners maketh the man.
According to this writer’s point of view the problem today is that men are frightened of being embarrassed if they perform an act of chivalry. So, perhaps it is the women who are to blame. What man will offer to hold your chair out for you or help you on with your coat ever again if he is ridiculed by his friends or even the woman he is performing this mannerly act for?

Here’s what Sting had to say about good manners. I’m sure he won’t object to me using this brilliant quote:

“If "Manners maketh man," as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself, no matter what they say."

So, there you go, men of today (and sometimes women) have to stop being so self-conscious of doing what is right. Instead of making rude gestures simply because a fellow driver has made you wait a minute or two to be on your way, or a salesperson has held you up at the supermarket, take time to pause and smile. Life is too short to be in such haste to show others how rude and ignorant you are. I’m certain that this young man who was so rude to me has many people in his life who love him dearly—or perhaps he doesn’t and that is the root of his problems.

Remember Brian’s famous quote from Monty Python’s Life of Brian “Always look on the bright side of life.”

And then there’s the scourge of the internet—the troll. Need I say more? Every writer has suffered slanderous words aimed at their work by these faceless people who must surely have very unhappy existences if they take pleasure in sniping at other’s achievements.  

Another of my mother’s memorable words of wisdom was: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then best say nothing at all.”

Find more on my Books We Love titles on my Web Page

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...