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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Madness, Mexico and Motherhood

My Newest Novel, The Joining
To Purchase From Amazon

Madness, Mexico and Motherhood

My mother was quite the character. The last thing she said to us, before we lost her on our holidays in Mexico was: Madness, they say, merely depends on which end of the knife blade you’re staring at and who’s holding the gun to your head. 
          Why Mexico? Usually on holidays we'd go camping.
Our family loved camping. We were getting ready for bed when mom sat up in the tent and said, "What is that God-awful smell? Has some wild animal crawled into our tent and died? No! It's these." She picked up my runners, pinching her nose shut, and tossed them outside. "You need to take a shower and these need to be put into the campfire before you attract wild animals from miles around, like bears. They can smell a dead animal carcass from across the valley." The last thing she said before I fell asleep.
          A rustling noise awoke me and I peeked bravely out of the tent, armed with my water pistol, only to watch a weasel devouring my shoe with the same relish he'd give to wolfing down chocolate dessert. Although their idea of chocolate dessert is probably slugs rolled in slimy mud and sprinkled with maggots.
Yes, back to Mexico.  My parents went there for something called the Festival of the Dead.  Everyone would dress up as Zombies and pretend to be one. But I discovered three things about how to tell a real Zombie from a pretend zombie.
For one thing, real zombies can't drink. They shake so bad that by the time they raise the glass to their lips, they'd either crushed the glass or spill it all over themselves.  
Two. Don't waste your best jokes on zombies, the real ones don't get it. They just stand there and look at you stupidly. Humor, I've discovered, is way beyond them.
          Three. But yo-yos are another matter. Keeps them entertained for hours on end. They just stand there watching the yo-yo going up and down, up and down, up and down and believe it or not, up and down. Don't think they get past the string and realize there's someone at the end controlling it.
          So survival tip #101 when walking through parts of town that are quite dodgy; if attacked by a gang of thug zombies, or anyone resembling characters from Shaun Of The Dead, whip out your yo-yo, give it to the one with spasmodic seizures and run like hell.
          My sister mentioned the time mom helped her out on her wedding night.
          You see my sister was very nervous, a virgin. They were having their wedding night in our parent's basement suite.
          My mom assured her that if she needed help of any kind to just knock on her door and she'd assist her. "Thanks mom, you're a great pal."
          So later that night her new husband begins to take off his shirt. Shocked she sees that he's got a hairy chest.
          "Oh, ah, just give me a moment. A little nervous you might understand."
          She ran upstairs and pounded on mom's door. "Mom! Mom! He's got a hairy chest."
          "It's okay dear. Most men have hairy chests. Just run your fingers through it, he'll like that."
          "Thanks mom, you're a great pal."
          She went back to the room and by this time he was taking off his pants. She gasped at the sight of his hairy legs. "Oh, ah, just give me a moment, be right back. Never seen a man naked."
          She ran upstairs.  "Mom! Mom! He's got hairy legs."
          "It's okay dear, most men have hairy legs. They never shave them."
          "Oh, thanks mom, you're a great pal."
          Back in the room he'd begun to take off his socks. She was startled at the sight of part of his foot cut off from a work related injury. "Oh wow! Just hang on, I'll be right back."
          She ran upstairs again. "Mom! Mom! He's got a foot and a half."
          "Okay dear! You better stay here, this is a job for your mother."
          Yeah, that was mom, always willing to lend us a hand.
          I'll always remember mom either cooking or ironing. She'd have music blaring away, some loud, raucous music, like Def Leppard or Bon Jovi, singing at the top of her voice, 'Someday I'll be Saturday Night.' She was usually wearing her tee shirt, tied in a bow around her mid-section, emblazoned with crazy slogans, like 'The One Playboy Missed'. And she'd never wear a bra. Even after she'd gone from 38DD to 42 long.
         As for dad, he was heart-broken; never remarried. Did my mom ever make Saturday night? I know now that raising kids constricted her and she always felt hemmed in.
          All we knew for sure is that she'd taken up jogging the day before she disappeared and we haven't seen her since.

The Ainsworth Chronicles Book One: The Joining 
The Joining Back Cover BLURB: Undercover at Victoria’s Empress Hotel, police detective Carol Ainsworth has to deal with two American Mafia cartels coming in for a wedding. Easy-peasy, everyone has a lovely cup of tea, says their ‘I Do's’ and goes away happy. Or so it seems until young boys start disappearing, a crazy old psychic woman shows up bearing a crystal skull and one of the mobsters is found hanged in his room by what appears to be a ghost. Carol quickly discovers that Victoria has several satanic cults, more resident ghosts than all of Canada and something is rattling their chains.

Toss in a hunky FBI agent, a hunkier Italian mobster, both of which want to investigate more of Carol than she is willing to reveal and you’ve one threesome that is going to raise some hell. Literally.
Speaking of unwanted hellions being invited to town, and I’m not talking the red-headed whip-wielding dominatrix that shows up, there is one guest that generates more heat than a habanero-infused curry.
Come visit Victoria. No longer the staid, stiff-upper-lip, more-English-than-the-English town of fish and chips. Stick around while the tea is hot, the ghosts are walking and - did I mention? - the scones are pretty darn good as well.

Review Snippets

The ghosts of Victoria, BC are restless. The Joining is a riveting read for crime fiction lovers and those fascinated by tales of hauntings. Talaber expertly draws you into a multi-leveled world of local history, crime, and the supernatural , where a blue fairy , comprised of two sorrowful creatures, is more powerful than it knows.  A perfect read for those foggy west coast nights.
Melanie Cossey,
A Peculiar Curiosity

I've read and reread his previous series, Stillwaters Run Deep, several times. Frank's writing is original and compelling. You run into characters and situations totally unexpected. Keeps you on the edge of your seat and your heart.
Greta Olsson

Your book kept my attention riveted from beginning to end.  I liked the way you presented the female character being in control of the outcome and the fact the story was based on local settings.  i.e. Victoria, B.C. Canada   Riveting Work ..... 
Linda Low


Frank Talaber
My webpage

Frank Talaber’s Writing Style? He usually responds with: Mix Dan Millman (Way of The Peaceful Warrior) with Charles De Lint (Moonheart) and throw in a mad scattering of Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get The Blues).
PS: He’s better looking than Stephen King (Carrie, The Stand, It, The Shining) and his romantic stuff will have you gasping quicker than Robert James Waller (Bridges Of Madison County).
Or as is often said: You don’t have to be mad to be a writer, but it sure helps. (My facebook short story page)

Twitter: @FrankTalaber

Stillwaters Run Deep Book One: Raven's Lament 
To Purchase From Amazon

So here we are, at the end of another year and looking forward to Christmas and New Year celebrations for 2018. My Christmas season is now spent with friends who have become family, rather than my actual family who are all in England, but I remember those old, long ago family gatherings only too well.

During the war years, the family always met at my grandmother's house. If we were lucky a dad or uncle or two might be home on leave, but mostly it was just aunts and girl cousins. Our biggest treat was to decorate the sitting room. A blackout curtain had to be draped across the windows in front of which stood our live tree. We took turns to clip the holders for real candles onto the branches. If there was no man at home, then my grandmother lit the candles. Health and Safety today would have a bird about those candles! Decorations around the house were always branches of fir, mistletoe, and holly. I don't remember who started it, but it became something of a tradition to outline the edges and veins of the holly leaves with silver paint and this kept us kids occupied while my gran, my mum, and aunts prepared the food. 
Ivy Cottage

For a number of years, I lived in a 300-year old Cotswold house. When I first saw the house I thought the living room, with its exposed oak beams and open fireplace, would be the ideal place for a family Christmas, and it was. One year my boys took charge of acquiring the tree. I never asked where it came from, I don't think I really wanted to know, but it was so tall they had to take about 3-feet off the top so we had a tree and a bit. Another Christmas my daughter bought her eldest brother a beanbag and packed it in a big appliance box. Give cats and kids a box and they will have endless fun with it. I laughed myself silly as my son converted the box into a bus and his sister and one of the dogs squished in behind him. As they were young adults at this point there may have been some alcohol involved. 

A few years ago I was pet and house-sitting at a lovely country home in England. That year was wild and wet and with so much flooding washing out roads and leaving debris everywhere, I decided to not risk the trip to visit my family but stayed put. I've never minded being alone but appreciated the phone calls with my children even more on that particular Christmas Day. To keep the flavor of the season I had my table decoration and a
Christmas dinner from Sainsbury's grocery store and finished the day curled up on the sofa with the two dogs watching TV.

For me, Christmas is not so much about giving gifts as spending time with family and friends and none more so than when I can spend that time with my nearest and dearest. My DDH (dearly departed husband) and I did not buy each other big gifts but instead donated what we would have spent to charities of our choice and simply spent the day alone together. One year we binge-watched all the Star Wars movies. Another year we had a turkey and trimmings picnic on the living room floor, never to be repeated as it proved too much of a temptation for our two dogs. 

Christmases come and Christmases go, and now I'm happy to enjoy a gentler side of the season. I don't worry anymore about the commercialism of it all as that's something I have no control over. It's up to each individual how they choose to celebrate, or not, after all. What I like is having come to a place in my life where I am happy to celebrate the joy and peace of the season and so I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

January Releases and new contest

New Year, New Contest, Enter to win

First prize: your choice of one print book and two ebooks from any of our BWL Authors

Second prize: your choice of one print book and one ebook from any of our BWL Authors

Third prize: your choice of three ebooks from any of our BWL Authors.  Visit and scroll down the page for the entry form.  

Have you read the Canadian Historical Brides series.  These books tell Canadian history in every province from the perspective of the women who joined their husbands to form the foundation of Canada, a free and democratic society open and welcoming to people of all races and beliefs.  A multi-cultural society that now flourishes because of the strength and determination of the women whose stories are told in these books; one for every province and territory in Canada.



To purchase any of these books from your favorite bookstore, visit the BWL website and click the book covers.

January 2017 – Brides of Banff Springs (Alberta)  Author Victoria Chatham
In the Dirty Thirties jobs were hard to come by.  Having lost her father and her home in southern Alberta, Tilly McCormack is thrilled when her application for a position as a chambermaid at the prestigious Banff Springs Hotel, one of Canada’s great railway hotels, is accepted. Tilly loves her new life in the Rocky Mountain town and the people she meets there. Local trail guide Ryan Blake it quite taken with Tilly’s sparkling blue eyes and mischievous sense of humor.  His work with a guiding and outfitting company keeps him busy but he makes time for Tilly at every opportunity and he intends to make her his bride.  On the night he plans to propose to Tilly another bride-to-be, whose wedding is being held at the Hotel, disappears.
Tilly has an idea where she might have gone and together with Ryan sets out to search for her. Will they find the missing bride and will Tilly accept Ryan’s proposal?

March 2017 – His Brothers Bride (Ontario)  Author Nancy M. Bell
The youngest child of the local doctor and evangelical preacher, Annie Baldwin was expected to work hard and not protest. Life on a pioneer farm was tough so neighbors helped each other.  
George Richardson the underage Doctor Bernardo Boy, orphaned and shipped to Canada a few years earlier, is loaned to the Baldwins to help bring in the hay. Younger brother Peter Richardson was placed with another neighbor, so the brothers stayed in touch with each other. The Great War brought a lot of changes to life even in the back woods of Ontario. In spite of the differences in their social standing, George and Annie fell in love.  
When George departed for France they had an understanding and he promised to return to her when the war was over. Alas, fate had other ideas. After a long silence, Annie received the much anticipated letter. But it wasn’t from George, but from his brother, Peter. Also in the trenches of France. George was killed during the final push on August 8, 1918 at Marcelcave near Amiens. The two who loved him form a long distance bond via censored letters. When Peter is sent back to Canada, rather than return him to the east where he enlisted, he is discharged in Vancouver.  
Sick from mustard gas poisoning and penniless, Peter finds work at Fraser Mills. Once he could save enough money he planned to return to the small farm in the northern Ontario bush, but before he does, he sends Annie a box of chocolates in the mail. Inside the box he hid an engagement ring. Bound together by their love for George, they find solace in each other. Will it be enough to last?
May 2017 ~ Romancing the Klondike (Yukon) Author Joan Donaldson-Yarmey  
It is 1896 and nineteen-year-old Pearl Owens wants adventure just like her idols Anna Leonowens and Annie “Londonderry” Choen Kopchovsky. In the 1860s, Anna Leonowens taught the wives, concubines, and children of the King of Siam, while during the years 1894-1895, Annie “Londonderry” Choen Kopchovsky became the first woman to travel around the world on a bicycle. She was testing a woman’s ability to look after herself.
To fulfill her dream Pearl is on her to the Yukon River area with her cousin, Emma, to write articles and do illustrations about the woman and men who are looking for gold in the far north.
Sam Owens, Pearl’s cousin and Emma’s brother, has been searching for gold with two friends, Gordon and Donald, for five years without success. Gordon and Donald have decided their quest is futile and it is time to return home. But Sam wants to stay a while longer. Then they hear word of a new gold find on Rabbit Creek.
Over the next ten months, the lives of all five are changed due to love, gold, and tragedy.

June 2017 ~ Barkerville Beginnings (British Columbia) Author A.M. Westerling  
Faced with financial ruin and the loss of her good name, Rose Chadwick decides to make a new start for herself and her young daughter Hannah in the rough and tumble gold rush town of Barkerville, British Columbia. However, making a new life is not so easy when it’s built on lies. And, long suppressed emotions within her are stirred when she meets a handsome young Englishman.

Viscount Harrison St. John knows he’s expected to marry well to bolster his family fortunes. Instead, he leaves England to pursue riches in the gold fields of a frontier town in the far off wilds of Canada. Soured on love because of a betrayal by his former fiancé, Harrison resists the attraction he has for Rose. Particularly considering she appears to be a happily married woman with a daughter of her own.  Will dark secrets from Rose’s past keep them apart? Or will they find love, happiness and a new life together in the bustling town of Barkerville?   

July 2017 – Pillars of Avalon (Newfoundland) Authors Katherine Pym and Jude Pittman

David and Sara Kirke live in a time of upheaval under the reign of King Charles I who gives, then takes. He gives David the nod of approval to range up and down the French Canadian shores, burning colonies and pillaging ships that are loaded with goods meant for the French. When King Louis of France shouts his outrage, King Charles reneges. He takes David’s prizes and returns them to the French, putting David and his family in dire straits.  
Undeterred, David and Sara will not be denied. After years, the king relents. He knights David and grants him the Province of Avalon (Ferryland), a large tract of land on the southeast coast of Newfoundland. There David and Sara build a prosperous plantation. They trade fish and fish oil with English, Europeans, and New England colonists. They thrive while England is torn in two by the civil wars.  
Soon, these troubles engulf his family. David is carried in chains back to England to stand trial. He leaves Sara to manage the plantation, a daunting task but with a strength that defies a stalwart man, she digs in and prospers, becoming the first female entrepreneur of North America.

September 2017 ~ Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies (Saskatchewan) Author Suzanne deMontigny

adian soldier, Napoleon, proposes to Lea during WWI, promising golden fields of wheat as far as the eye can see. After the armistice, he sends money for her passage, and she journeys far from her family and the conveniences of a modern country to join him on a homestead in Saskatchewan. There, she works hard to build their dream of a prospering farm, clearing fields alongside her husband through several pregnancies and even after suffering a terrible loss.

When the stock market crashes in ’29, the prairies are stricken by a long and abysmal drought. Thrown into poverty, she struggles to survive in a world where work is scarce, death is abundant, and hope dwindles. Will she and her family survive the Great Depression?

 October 20, 2017
Elsie Nuefeld loves to sit on her porch and watch the children grow in the Mennonite community near Landmark, MB. Returning to the area after moving to Paraguay for a time, Elsie is happy to be living on the wild rose dotted prairie of south-eastern Manitoba. Her granddaughters are growing up and getting married, it's an exciting time. Secure in her long standing marriage to Ike, Elsie is content to observe the community from the sidelines and rejoice in the joys of the young ones. She often walks with her daughters and granddaughters through the graveyard abloom with wild roses and shares the stories of the ancestors sleeping there. It’s important, she feels, for the younger generation to feel connected to those who went before.

Elsie hopes when she joins those resting beneath the Landmark roses the tradition of honouring the memory of the forebearers continues.


 December 1, 2017
 Yaotl and Sascho splashed along the shores of the behchà, spears hefted, watching for the flash of fin to rise to the surface and sparkle in the sunlight. Tender feelings, barely discovered, flushed their faces. Waving their spears they laughed and teased one another with sprays of newly melted ice water.

In the distance, the warning about the kw'ahtıı sounds, but on this fatal day it goes unheard; Yaotl and Sascho fall into the hands of the Indian Agents. Transport to Fort Providence residential school is only the beginning of their ordeal, for the teachers believe it is their sworn duty to “kill the Indian inside.”

All attempts at escape are severely punished, but Yaotl and Sascho, along with two others, will try, beginning a journey of 900 Kilometers along the Mackenzie River. Like wild geese, brave hearts together, they are homeward bound.

In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to the new colony of New Brunswick in faraway Canada. She’s to marry a man chosen by her soldier father. Amelia is repulsed by her betrothed, refuses to marry, then meets the handsome Acadian trader, Gilbert, a man beneath her in status. Gilbert must protect his mother who was attacked by an English soldier. He fights to hold on to their property, to keep it from the Loyalists who have flooded the colony, desperate men chased from the south after the American Revolution. In a land fraught with hardship, Amelia and Gilbert struggle to overcome prejudice, political upheaval, while forging a life in a remote country where events seek to destroy their love and lives.
Review: Score: 4.50 / 5 - Reviewer Top Pick

The year is 1784. Amelia sets sail to a new  colony in Canada. Amelia's father is choose a husband for her, but Amelia detests the man. But she has luck on her side. She meets Gilbert who is a trader and a handsome too. Gilbert is struggling to help his mother and save his property. Amanda and Gilbert are working together to end the prejudice and the wrongs of politics at the time. While doing this they are working hard in this rough country to make a good life and fall in love. They seek the strong to keep them going.
Historical romance readers will fall in love with both Amelia and Gilbert. "On A Stormy Primeval Shore" was a fabulous tale of life and hardship in historical Canada.


Maggie Conrad’s husband of ten days is sent overseas in WW1 and never comes home. A second suitor is lost at sea in Nova Scotia’s August Gale. Turning thirty, and on her own, she resolves to make a life for her herself and her younger brother, Ivan.

Against her wishes, Ivan goes to work for the rum runners and operates a surf boat bringing shipments ashore. When war-veteran and Prohibition Preventative agent, John Murdock, arrives undercover in the area he is referred to Maggie for room and board.

With a rum runner and a man she suspects is a policeman living under her roof, Maggie must juggle law and justice, family loyalties and her growing attraction to John as she decides whether marriage might be in the cards for her after all.

When she was twelve, Grace Aitken’s parents were killed in a carriage accident in a London street and she became a ward of her father’s business partner, Herbert MacKinnon and his wife and led a comfortable, privileged, if restrictive life at their gothic mansion in Hampstead village.
When Grace was seventeen, her pious father-in-law convinced her that she owed him a debt of gratitude which could be expunged by marrying his son, Frederick; a kind, sensitive youth two years her senior. However, after five years of childless marriage – a fault placed squarely at Grace’s door, Frederick died after a bout of pneumonia.
Now 23 and Frederick’s widow, her in-laws assume she will take on the role of dependent housekeeper in a home where her semi-invalid mother-in-law and two aunts adhere to the view that Grace‘s “wicked ways” need to be corrected, despite the fact these “sins” are no more outrageous than going for walks without a maid, or reading a Women’s Suffrage pamphlet. 
Grace resigns herself to being an upper servant in her father in law’s house, when she discovers an inheritance from her parents has been kept in trust for her until her 21st Birthday. She concludes the MacKinnons have been lying to her and immediately formulates her escape and books passage to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the SS Parisian from Liverpool On board she encounters Aoife [Eva] Doyle, an outspoken Irish housemaid travelling steerage, who is being sponsored as a mail-order bride for a farmer in Alberta. 
The ship reaches Halifax harbour, and while they await the arrival of a pilot boat, another ship enters the port and rams the SS Parisian and holes it, causing panic.  Grace's adventure takes another mysterious turn when after becoming acquainted with Lucy Maud Montgomery Grace finds herself destined for Prince Edward Island, the home of that charming and outspoken young woman.
Will Grace’s plans for a new life in a foreign land finish before it has begun, or will she survive and forge her own way?

Where the River Narrows,
by Kathy Fischer Brown and Genevieve Montcombroux
Where the River Narrows,
by Kathy Fischer Brown and Genevieve Montcombroux
For many Loyalists during the American War for Independence, the perilous journey to Canada is just the beginning of a long and arduous struggle to find a new home and a new life amid the upheavals of war and separation, death and privation. For Elisabeth Van Alen, it also means finding new strength and the will to survive in a new country.
 Married to an educated Mohawk warrior, she is distraught when he has to go away shortly before the American rebels force her and her family out of their ancestral home. He will find her while she flees through the forest and, with their Mohawk friends, helps her reach Kanien’kehá:ka, the Mohawk territory in Quebec.
 Coming to a log cabin tucked away on a wooded island in Montreal is a great shock for Elisabeth after the life she had known in the comfortable house where she had been born. Undaunted, she takes on the tasks of pioneer women and keeps her family together while waiting anxiously to hear from her husband, Gerrit. Against his will, he has been recruited by the British Army for a special mission. She suffers losses and joys, upheavals and peacefulness. She begins to love her new country where being married to a Mohawk is regarded as normal.


Brain Surgery - G.L. Rockey

The title of Gary's book seems particularly apt considering the subject of his blog this month, as his publisher I'm just glad to know that he'll be around to thrill, scare and tantalize us with lots more of his writing in the future.

Funny thing happened on the way to Halloween 2018. I noticed my left hand was not functioning normally. Couldn’t button shirts, pants, tie shoe laces. I told wife Concetta about it and she relayed the mater to my brother in law, Dr. Tim Sidor. He ordered a brain scan which we had done at University Hospital a few days later. After the scan, wife driving, she dropped me off at home. She had a few errands to do and I   settled on the living room sofa and watched TV. About an hour later, my wife came in the front door and said, “Let’s go.” I said where. She said, “Come on, now.”  I said, “What’s up, where we going?”, She said Emergency Room, Parma Hospital. I said “Why?” She said, “Now, Dr. Birdie, (one of Dr. Sidor’s partners) had directed the doctor’s office manger, Jennifer Miller to call my wife and tell her to get me to emergency room immediately. Feeling ok, not knowing what was going, wife driving, we arrived fifteen minutes later at the Parma Hospital emergency room around 4:30 PM. The emergency room pretty much empty, wife checked in and eventually I ended up in a hall on a bed. After a few minutes, I looked up and Dr. Sidor stood next to a nurse. Looking like Dr. Kildare in white coat. I asked him what he was doing here and he said calmly, “Working.” A few minutes later another emergency room doctor had me stand and walk, didn’t do so good. Back on the bed, the doctor said not to move. I asked Dr. Sidor what was going on and he said calmly, “Your brain is bleeding.” 

Evidently the scan had shown a large blood clot that was pressing my brain to one side. After the ER doctor and Dr. Sidor talked they decided I should be transported to St. John hospital. 

Waiting to be transported Dr. Sidor explained–a neurosurgeon would perform emergency surgery, cut a hole in my skull. 

The whole thing other-worldly (except for a tonsillectomy when I was around ten, I had never been a hospital patient for anything) the ride in an ambulance a new experience, twenty minutes later we arrived at S. John’s, where I was wheeled into a Critical Care room and hosted into a bed.  A short time later a Dr. Gabriel Smith, a neurosurgeon, came in and whet over the procedure he would perform the next day. He had me sign a paper Oking it since there was some risk involved with brain surgery. Asked if I wanted to be placed on ventilator in case of complications, to be keep breathing. I told him, “Let’s play that by ear.”

Surgery scheduled for next day at 12:30 PM., I was wheeled to the operating room where I remember a nurse asking me if I had any dentures, partials, hearing aide. I said, “No,” and it is the last thing I remember. I woke up around four hours later, opened my eyes and, back in Critical Care, the first thing I saw was my son Ray and my two sisters in laws, Toni, Jo Ann, and my wife, Concetta, who showed me a photo she had taken of my operated-on skull–an eight-inch incision. I stayed in Critical Care for a day where a drain that had been placed in my brain, was removed. Next day I was transferred to a regular hospital room. Stayed there for two days. After being cleared by a couple rehab professionals, I was check out and went home with Concetta. 

As of December 27, 2018, two months later and still among you all brings to mind fate, what if, and guardian angel thoughts. Selah.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Visit with a Peruvian Indigenous Tribe by Stuart R. West

Laughs, Murder & Mayhem! One simple click away!
Continuing our adventures down the Amazon River (and not to be as boring as everyone's least favorite uncle at holidays), the next day of our trip started with a red-eyed, bird-watching boat trip at six in the morning. Bleary-eyed, half-asleep, agitated like a disturbed hibernating bear, I blundered into the boat and managed not to capsize it. Barely. We saw lotsa birds, rare and exotic ones, but I probably would've rather seen the inside of a coffee cup.
A local fisherman kindly showed us his daily catch. Later we found out the locals weren't too keen on tourists invading their waters and jungles. Given their past treatment by colonial invaders, I can't say that I blame them.
After lunch, we visited an indigenous people's village. Decked out in long pants, long sleeves (groan), and enough bug spray to kill Mothra, we set out again by boat. Oh, we also had to don boots.

Ahhh, the boots. Those horrific boots. Heavy, hot, ill-fitting, we wore them every time we trekked through the jungle (snake protection). My feet were terribly loose so I had to wear two pair of thick, hot, sweltering socks. Conversely, one of my calves is oddly larger than the other and I couldn't even get the boot on so I had to roll the top down on that leg. Not only did I look even more ludicrous than usual, my feet felt like I was walking on burning coals.

But once we hit the village, my petty pedi-problems seemed minuscule in comparison.

Our first stop was a fantastic, ancient, ginormous tree next to the village. Legend has it that it contained mystical qualities and I certainly wasn't going to scoff in the face of such overwhelming nature. 
These boots aren't made for walking!
A small local girl had been craftily lying in wait for us. As soon as we disembarked our boat, she met us, carrying her pet sloth with her. Yep, a pet sloth! No fool, the child had been schooled in the nature of mercantilism, voguing for change. She got me. Seemed like bad karma not to tip.
The Salesmen of the Year Award goes to this little girl and her sloth.
As we entered the village, children ran merrily about--some in school uniforms, others not and I never could figure out why--dropping "buenas dias" and spreading the word of the visitors' arrival. 

This particular village had been aided by charity (Jungle Momma's art program being notable in providing lessons in how to improve the indigenous' wares). A new water tower provided clean water, yet abodes were still meager by our standards. Unlike Iquitos, though, they kept their village scrupulously clean (if you overlooked the visibly sick dogs living paw to foot among the villagers), decorated trash bins strategically located throughout the small village.
When I entered the grade school, the children adorably feigned working hard at math. I thought I'd flex my Espanol muscles and talk to the kids: "Ahh, bueno, bueno, ninos! Muy caliente matematicos!" They just kinda stared at me. (Later I found out I'd only singled out the boys--having left out the "ninas"--and told them their math was very hot.)
We piddled about the village for a while, killing time. Turns out it was a strategic ploy as it gave the people time to set up their small marketplace.

Soon we were hustled into a traditional communal hall, a large hut thatched with palm leaves. Decked out in original Yagua full garb, grass skirt and face-paint for the benefit of we marauding tourists, the chief proceeded to tell us a little about his tribe's traditional ways (and to shill for money). Soon, other villagers were painting our faces (wait a minute! Why did the other men get "hashtag" marks on their cheeks and I got the feminine stripes? Curious and curiouser...). Next they dragged us out for a hoedown of a dance (basically an endless, dizzying circle around the uneven dirt floor in my heavy duty boots and suffocating clothing).
Next was blow-dart shooting where my wife nailed the target first try.!

Eight to ten stalls were set up, each representing a different family. The offered goods were similar (bracelets, masks, fans, touristy stuff), but the quality varied by booth. To be authentic, some of the women wore traditional palm fiber breast covers...which didn't quite do the job at times.  We were told that uneven distribution of funds might cause strife, so we tried to share the wealth.

Now, I was warned early on that the Peruvian merchants expect you to barter. Just part of the deal. But to me it felt wrong to barter with these poor villagers so we gave them asking price, even though one woman automatically brought her price down when she saw us waffling.

Last to leave, the Chief accosted us. He stuck his hand out. I thought it was a token of friendship, so I grabbed his hand. Clearly pissed, he jabbed out his other hand. Dumb American that I am, I seized that hand in a sorta embarrassing cross-armed double hand-hold. He yanked away, held out his hand again and bellowed, "Change!" Hard-core salesmanship, the taint of civilization. I obliged. Otherwise, we weren't getting outta there. He looked at what I gave him, finally said, "okay," and stepped aside. Guy needs to be selling cars in Kansas.
As we left, I was struck by the happy nature of the village. Honestly, though, my privileged, liberal-guilty self fabricated a touch of sadness. I felt like donating my boots to them.

In fact, I would've happily paid them to take my boots.

To show you just how generous I'm feeling, I'm going to donate this book to you, dear reader (for the low, low price of $2.99), a perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays. Bad Day in a Banana's for a good cause (hot dog money). 

Friday, January 18, 2019

What do you do when the words won't come? by Nancy M Bell

Click on the cover to learn more about Wild Horse Rescue and Nancy's other books.

Writer's block is without a doubt one of the most frustrating things a writer of any type of material can encounter. Whether you're wracking your brain to produce commercial text, a poet with no words spinning into rhymes, or a fiction author chasing their absent Muse, writer's block is not a welcome visitor. If you're in the midst of just such a crisis, take some comfort from the knowledge you are not alone. Being at a loss for words is an issue every writer deals with at some point in their career. So rather than beating your head on the keyboard or re-booting the blank screen with your shoe, let's explore some solutions.

Keep in mind every person is different and what works like a charm for some will fail miserably for others. For myself, staring at the screen or out the window rarely works. I have found that taking a break works well for me. I take the dogs for a walk (I once came home with a poem singing in my head that come to me while walking the mutts), doing something mindless like watching a soap opera will take my mind off my recalcitrant characters and Muse. Reading a new book or a new author is another method I use. Often re-reading a book I have enjoyed in the past frees up the jammed cogs in my brain.

When I return to the computer and look at the either blank screen or the flood of unfinished thoughts often the characters will shake themselves awake and obligingly continue to tell me their stories so I can share them with others. Alas, sometimes they stubbornly refuse to even look at me from their suddenly two dimensional flatland and nothing will coerce them to join me in the story I'm trying to tell. This usually calls for drastic measures, especially if there is a deadline involved. Eeek! The dreaded deadline combined with writer's block will raise any author's blood pressure and produce a doozy of a headache. Deadlines actually tend to help spur me on to conquer writer's block, for others it is the final nail in the coffin.

One method to break the block is to sit down at an appointed time every day, which ever time of day seems best for you. Write anything that comes to mind, don't judge, turn off your internal editor and internal critic. Just write anything no matter how trivial. Set yourself an attainable goal of how many words you will produce. For some that will be 200 words for others 3,000, it doesn't matter how many or how few, or how many your writing partners or other friends are producing. It's not a contest.

I often find sitting quietly by the garden (in the warmer weather) and just letting my mind drift will often find my characters tugging at the fringes of my thoughts and offering up snippets of their previously withheld stories. Doing something you love that you find relaxing often allows your mind to unwind and the words to break free. I often go and spend time with my horses, brushing them and just being with them helps to loosen the log jam in my head.

Music will help, not head banging stuff (at least not for me, but maybe for some), songs from when I was young, songs with memories attached (both happy and sad depending on what I'm working on), classical music. As an aside, I used to play classical music in my hen house and the hens always laid better than if I played other types of music.

Exercise will help empty and reset your brain. If you're a gym person, go and have a hard workout. A run or a walk will work just as well for those less physically inclined. I like to walk where I'm close to nature, walking barefoot under trees, or just leaning against a tree, will often do the trick. For more urban folks, walking through your neighbourhood or familiar places works. Even a walk through the local mall can be cathartic.

Make a list of keywords which you can use as prompts to jump start your creative juices.

Look at art that inspires you, or even random images brought up in an internet search can be helpful.

There are tons of self-help books and articles on the internet, but honestly, there is no miracle cure for writer's block and we each have to fight our own way through to the other side where our Muse awaits us tapping his or her foot and asking what took us so long.

I hope this helps a bit. Good luck with your writing and above all else --keep writing!

You're invited to join my author page on Facebook I'd love to see you there. Click here

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Eyeballs without auto-correct, by J.C. Kavanagh

My partner Ian and I decided that 2019 was a great year to embrace the idea of a joint new years resolution. We're not as young as we'd like to be. Or think we are. I mean, how many times can you be '39' again? So, we decided to pay more attention to what we eat and to review more thoroughly the ingredient labels on all store-bought items.

At the grocery store, we trudge to the 'healthy' aisle. That's where the old eyeballs come in - oh if only we could read what's written on the packages. We check every label, comparing products that look tasty and healthy. Many of them look like cardboard that's been flavored with salt and more cardboard. The selection becomes harder and harder. Why? It's tough reading the ingredients without the use of an electron microscope. Could the print be any smaller?

I discover a new type of cracker made solely from vegetables, mostly beets.

"This looks interesting," I suggest to Ian, holding up the box. "And they're garlic-flavoured."

Ian squints and turns the box over. He holds the box away from his body until his arm won't extend any more and begins to read the ingredients out loud.

"Potato flour," he says hesitantly.

"Spinach starch with germs removed," he adds. I cock an eyebrow. That doesn't sound right.

"Beetroot something-or-other. And ball sac vinegar."

I look at Ian with alarm. "What kind of vinegar?"

He squints some more and tries to focus, holding the box as far from his eyes as possible. His arm is going through the shelf and into the next aisle.

As he tries to focus, I suddenly get it. What he's trying to read. Balsamic vinegar.

Oh - my sides! I begin to laugh and laugh and I just can't stop.

Ah. Fun times with Ian even when the eyeballs dim.

Update on the Kavanagh clan that made my 1889 church pew
Sorry - research still not complete... will keep you posted!


Book 2 of my Twisted Climb series, The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends, was just voted Best Young Adult Book 2018 by the Critters Readers Poll. I am beyond thrilled! If you like action, adventure, drama and a dash of paranormal, you will love my books. Check them out and please leave a review on Amazon or Chapters or your favourite book site.

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends (Book 2)
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2018, Critters Readers Poll
The Twisted Climb,
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers Poll
Novels for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Visit to Stone Mountain Park

My son and I had the privilege of visiting Stone Mountain Park last year, as part of my research for my book, Karma Nation. Upon arrival at the park’s headquarters, we were warmly greeted by the head of the park’s publicity department, a very helpful young lady, who offered us free tickets for the day.
Stone Mountain Park is located in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Its’ attractions draw visitors from around the world: a collection of antebellum homes, imported from various places in Georgia and beautifully restored, trails through the woods, a barnyard containing a petting zoo, boat-rides on the lake and a concert hall. The place was charming—the landscape was picturesque and a feeling of serenity pervaded the place.
Despite these, it has always been famous for one thing: the enormous bas-relief carving of three Confederate leaders of the sheer rock face of Stone Mountain. The sculpture that defines the park. Covering an area of 6,400 square meters, the portrait of Jefferson Davis. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, riding their horses, towers over the landscape.
Karma Nation
I was interested in the park’s history; especially its connection to the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan’s first iteration, meant to roll back the newly-gained benefits to Black Americans, came into existence right after the Civil War. It unleashed a campaign of terror against freedmen and white Republicans. Within a few years, the Union government introduced laws to prosecute and suppress Klan activity. However, the main reasons for its failure were its unorganized nature and lack of political support, even among Democrat politicians.
In 1915, a group of fifteen men, led by William Simmons, met at the base of Stone Mountain and reconstituted the KKK. They then climbed to the top of the mountain where they burned a cross. This time, the Klan was much more successful in spreading its’ message. Simmons provided an organizational structure and, with large enrolments, came political support. At its peak in the mid-1920’s the Klan’s membership numbered about 4-5 million men, roughly 15% of the American population. This second iteration finally passed away in the 1940’s, weakened by internal division, criminal activities by its’ leaders and external political opposition.
Thus, it is understandable that in the minds of many, including African Americans, Stone Mountain Park would remain identified by this divisive history. In fact, my purpose in visiting was to gauge people’s sentiments. Certainly, the park lovingly preserved the bones of a lost society. Opposition to the grand sculpture of Confederate leaders was noticeable: what was the need to continue glorification of the men who waged war against the Union and whose society supported the institution of slavery?
But the day of our visit held no such discord. Families, many of them African-American, gathered at the park for no other reason but to enjoy the day. Children played in the water park, picnicked on the spacious lawns or rode the cable cars to the mountain top. Music sounded in the air and boats plied the lake. The great sculpture, though controversial, had become part of the landscape, a relic of the past, to be gawked at and sometimes discussed, but not to be fought over.  Visitors—whites, blacks and even foreigners, crowed the place. Time had moved on, and we followed the others’ example: we enjoyed our day.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of Karma Nation. Please visit his website
He is published by Books We Love, LLC. Boos We Love, LLC

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