Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Hardest Thing About Writing by Stuart R. West

Click to purchase!

Everyone loves lists, right? So who am I to stand in the way of love? Here we go...

As an author, the hardest thing for me is writing action scenes.

Wait. Scratch that...

To me, the toughest thing about writing is trying to pen something while imbibing. I know, I know, it's a bad idea, but the holiday season is upon us and pass the eggnog already! It's too bad I end up with writing such as the following: "He approached the basement stairs, felt a chill zip-line down his spine. With a flick of the switch, he hesitated, then set foot on the top zzzzzzkkkkkkkkkkkrrrrrrrrrr....." It goes on like that for a while, but you get the general idea. Usually I wake up with the keyboard imprinted upon my face and gobbledygook in my manuscript.

After that, the second hardest thing about writing are action scenes. Hold on... No, no, there's a new writing faux-pas to add to my list: Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, write while nursing a hang-over. This goes hand-in-hand with the first item on the list, so naturally should ring in at item number two. Writing with a hang-over can be perilous to your tale. There's a thundering headache suggesting that you just wrap things up quickly. With a hang-over, any build-up of suspense is thrown out the window.

Let's journey back to my previous sample of writing, shall we? "He approached the basement stairs, felt a chill zip-line down his spine. With a flick of the switch, he hesitated, then set foot on the top step. Down below, down in the darkness, the moan continued. Fred tripped, tumbled down, and broke his neck. THE END."

See what happened there? Not much of an ending, but it's all the muse, Hang-Over, could tolerate that day.

Finally, the third toughest thing about writing are action scenes. Which is kinda weird since I write scenarios that involve them a lot. For me, it's hard to bring something new to the game every time you write a fist fight or a car chase. But I keep trying. I keep plugging away looking for new variations that will hopefully interest the reader and myself. In my new book, Nightmare of Nannies, I composed a chapter-long chase sequence involving a man's desperate quest to retrieve his stolen tear-away pants (it's complicated). I tried my best to make it breathless, non-stop, and funny. And, boy, was it ever tough.

Dialogue's easy. Just put yourself into your character's mind-set and it practically writes itself. But action? Going forward, I constantly feel the need to one-up myself.

If erotica authors work by that standard, I pity them. I mean, come on... What do you write to top the LAST sex orgy you just composed on your laptop? Let's pause for a moment and consider...

Whew. That was grueling. My imagination just doesn't bend far enough that way. I think we can all be grateful I'm not an erotica writer. Merry Christmas!

So. What have we learned?
1) Don't write while drinking;
2) Don't write while hung-over;
3) Action is hard to write;
4) Don't EVER encourage me to write erotica.

This has been a Stuart R. West PSA.

Click here for an erotica-free zone!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Christmas Short Story - The Star the Wisemen Saw - Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #shortstory


Murder and Sweet Tea (Mrs Miller Mysteries Book 6)

 

 

The Star The Wisemen Saw

 

Hurry, hurry, thought Ruth Greer. She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. Traffic moved through town like the last drops of ketchup from the bottle.

Rush, rush. Why did I invite both families to Christmas dinner? I must have been out of my mind,

Bob’s parents are nice. It’s my family who’ll act like I’m the idiot child. Marcy’s house is spotless and she never gets in a flap. All my life I’ve heard, “Hurry, Ruth. If you would plan, you would get things done.”

It’s Christmas Eve and five o’clock, she thought. I’ve just finished my Christmas shopping. I promise and I promise. Never again. The promise doesn’t work. Every year, I have to shop on Christmas Eve.

“Hey, Mom,” shouted Timmy in his loudest voice. “Why can’t we see Santa? There’s so much I want to tell him.”

“Me, too. Me, too,” shouted the three-year-old twins.

Bother Santa, thought Ruth. I’d like to send him to the moon.

“I want a robot, a sled, a new bike, a racing car set and some of those trucks that run by them selves,” shouted five-year-old Timmy. “I’ve got to tell Santa.

“Me, too. Me, too," shouted the twins.

“Would you sit still and shut up,” said Ruth through clenched teeth. There is no Santa, she wanted to shout. He’s someone made up to drive parents crazy. I wish there wasn’t a Christmas. I wish I didn’t have a mother and a sister who keep perfect homes.

It was snowing lightly when Ruth pulled into the driveway. Nearly six o’clock. Two hours behind schedule. I might be finished by tomorrow morning. I’ll be glad when Christmas is over.

“In the house, kids,” she said and grabbed two bags from the seat beside her. She dropped them on the kitchen table and hurried out for the rest.

“Out,” she shouted at the boys. They were standing on chairs lifting packages from the bags. “Outside and play. Daddy will be here soon.”

“I want to help,” said Timmy.

“Me, too. Me, too," echoed the twins.

“Come on, kids. Outside,” shouted Ruth over their voices. “Please.”

The door slammed behind the three boys. Ruth slumped in a chair and rubbed her forehead. She was getting a headache and she didn’t have time to nurse it. She shouldn’t be sitting here.

“Mind over matter, “she mumbled. “Think positively.”

But she couldn’t. There were groceries to put away, pies to bake, cranberry sauce to prepare, the turkey to stuff and start baking. Last minute purchases to wrap and the tree to trim after the kids went to bed.

I’ll never get done, she thought. All those jobs suffocated her. She looked at the clock. Bob’s late. Dinner’s not ready. The guest room beds had to be made.

She threw some hamburgers in the oven and dashed upstairs. I’ll make the beds up. Then I can spend time with Mom and Dad Greer when they arrive. They’re darlings. They won’t mind if everything’s not perfect.

Only Mother and Marcy will be looking for what I haven’t done. When they come tomorrow, they’ll try to take over. This time I’m going to refuse.

The bottom sheets were on the bed when Ruth remembered the groceries hadn’t been put away. She dashed downstairs and stopped short. Muddy footprints and clumps of snow left a trail across the clean kitchen floor.

What have they done now, she thought. The trail led to the table. Oh, no, they’ve drunk the whipping cream. Bob’ll have to go to the store for more.

Ruth took a deep breath. I don’t have time to cry. She jammed things into the refrigerator and cupboards and set the table. As she called the children, she sighed. I haven’t played with them all week. Why is tomorrow so important to me? Why does it matter what Mother and Marcy think? It does. I’m tired of being Miss Scatterbrain.

When Bob came in, she had supper on the table. “Traffic’s fierce,” he said and kissed her. “You’re tense. Stop worrying about tomorrow. It’s just another day.”

Ruth began to cry. “It’s not just another day. It’s Christmas. We’re having company and the children drank the whipping cream.”

Bob laughed. “Is that all? I’ll go to the store after summer.

The house was silent when Bob and the boys left. Ruth wished she could relax but there was too much to do. She had mixed the filling for the pumpkin pies while Bob and the boys ate. She rolled the crusts and out the pies to bake. While she was cleaning the cranberries, the phone rang.

“Ruth, dear,” said her mother. “Would you like me to come over and help? I know how frantic you get.”

“Everything’s under control,” said Ruth. “Just a minute.” She turned off the water and scooped the cranberries back into the bowl. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mother.”

“Are you sure you don’t need me?”

“Perfectly sure.”

The back door opened and the boys dashed in. They waved candy canes. When they hugged her they left sticky imprints on her arms.

“Santa. Santa,” shouted the twins.

“It really was Santa,” Tommy said. “He gave us candy. He said we were good.”

“Good. Good,” echoed the twins.

“Quiet,” shouted Bob. “Upstairs and get undressed.” He shook his head as they ran off. “Had to get a can of cream. They were out of the other.”

“Those darn kind<’ said Ruth.

He pulled her close. “Don’t take it so seriously. You’re been frantic all week. Mom and Dad don’t care what we eat. They want to be with us.”

“It’s not your parents. It’s Mother and Marcy. They act like I’m a goof.” She sighed. “Most of the time they’re right.”

“If you’re a goof, that’s the way I like you.” He kissed her on the forehead.

“Don’t make jokes,” said Ruth. “I can see Mother and my sister when they come in. ‘Ruth, dear, is there anything we can do? Your pies are watery. Are you sure you baked the turkey long enough?’ Just for once, I would like to show them.”

He kissed her again. “You do just find. I’ll get the kids ready for bed.”

“Bed,” shouted Ruth. “The guest room beds aren’t made yet.” She started to the door. “I can’t leave this food. What am I going to do/”

“Relax,” Bob said.

“How can I when everything’s getting out of hand.” Ruth heard water running. “See what those kids are doing.” They would decide to take a bath tonight when I spent two hours cleaning the bathroom.

As she melted better for the stuffing, she felt like she was missing something. I don’t know what, she thought. I feel so empty.”

The phone and the front door bell rang at the same time. Why can’t everyone leave me alone, she thought as she grabbed the phone. “Just a minute,” she shouted. “Someone’s at the door.” Marcy’s mocking laughter followed her down the hall.

“Mom, you’re early,” she said.

Mrs. Greer enfolded Ruth in her ample arms. “We made good time. Dad’s bringing out things in. Where are the boys?”

“Bob’s getting them ready for bed.”

“I’ll run up and help him.”

Ruth remembered Marcy and hurried back to the kitchen. The awful smell of burning butter greeted her. She ran to the stove and turned the burner off. Tears stung her eyes when she picked up the phone. “I’m here.”

“Poor little sister,” said Marcy. “Everything in a mess?”

Ruth counted to tel. “No. Bob’s getting the children ready for bed. When the phone and doorbell went off together, I had to get both.”

“Mother called and suggested we come over and help.” drawled Marcy. “I’m sure you need us. You do what to impress your in-laws.”

“I don’t have to impress then,” said Ruth. It’s you and Mother, she thought.

“Maybe we’ll have a relaxed day at your house for a change. Going to chain the kids?”

“You don’t have to come.”

“I wouldn’t miss it, little sister,” said Marcy. “See you at church tonight.”

Ruth stood and stared into space. She’d forgotten about church. There was a sitter coming in three hours. I’ll have to be ready. Last year, Marcy had entertained on Christmas Eve, gone to church and had a perfect meat at two the next afternoon, but Marcy didn’t have children.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have children, thought Ruth. Then she gasped. What am I thinking? It wouldn’t be a home without the boss even if the do make messes.

“What’s the matter, Ruthie?”

Ruth forced herself to smile. “I was just wondering if I was going to get done.”

“Sure smells good,” said Mr. Greer.” Even the burned butter?”

“Didn’t notice that. I’ll run these things upstairs.”

Ruth returned to the stuffing. I’d better chop the onions and celery before I melt more butter. As she chopped the onions, tears streamed down her face. She could hear laughter from upstairs. I’m missing the best part of Christmas trying to impress Mother and Marcy when I know it can’t be done.

“Ruth, the boys are ready for their story,” called Bob.

Ruth took the stairs two at a time. The boys looked so sweet she wanted to gather them into her arms. She would rather have them and a messy house than an empty perfect home like Marcy’s.

“What story?” she asked.

“The Wise Men and the star,” said Timmy.

“Star. Star, echoed the twins.

Ruth sat on Timmy’s bed. The twins snuggled on either side of her. Mom and Dad Greer sat on the bed with Timmy between them. Bob leaned against the wall.

“Behold, three wisemen came to Herod…”

When Ruth finished the story, she sat quietly for a few minutes. She had missed so much of Christmas these past few days. What did a perfect house have to do with the season?

She got up and walked to the window. She pressed her face against the pane. A few snowflakes drifted lazily down. The sky was full of stars but one appeared brighter than the rest.

“What do you see?” asked Bob.

“Come here,” she said. When Bob and the boys had gathered close, she pointed to the brightest star. “Maybe that’s the star the wisemen saw.”

She and Bob tucked the boys in bed. When they started downstairs, she turned to Bob. “Mother and Marcy will have to be happy with our house as it is. I lost the meaning of Christmas trying to impress them. I’m going to be me.”

Bob squeezed her hand. “That’s my girl.”

“No,” said Ruth. “Your scatterbrain.”

The odor of pumpkin pie and stuffing filtered up to her. I’m glad I saw the star, she thought. Christmas is for family and love. I have both.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

M.R.I.s and Martinis, by J.C. Kavanagh

Voted Best Young Adult book 2016
I've written before about the clicks and clacks of aging joints. My joints. And how I regularly convince myself that age is only a number... only a number. But the clicking and recurring pain in my joints, especially my shoulder, reminds me of that age number (DANG) and so at the insistence of my doctor, I agreed to an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Have you been the subject of an MRI scan - the technique using magnetic devices and radio waves to generate images of internal components in your body? No? Then let me provide an insight.

Don't.

Unless you like:
a) lying in a closed coffin
b) pretending you're dead
c) the sound of seven trillion hammers simultaneously clanking around your head

So... I don't like any of the above. I wish someone had told me what to expect from this medical torture chamber. If I had known the discomforts involved, I would have had a martini. Or seven. That's my other insight to you readers: martini before MRI.


*Use caution when martini-ing before MRI-ing. No driving!

 

86 years young

It is with great delight that I share the news of me Mather's 86th birthday celebration - behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle! Well.... scooter! OK.... electric buggy! Just for fun, I convinced her to jump on an electric buggy at the local grocery store. She was only on it for a few minutes, back and forth a few metres, but oh, was she thrilled. It's a big accomplishment. Me Mather never obtained her driver's license. Can you believe it? Not even in Ireland, where she was born and raised. The last time me Mather drove a motorized vehicle was in 1949. She was 18 years old and attempting to learn the standard-transmission process. While grinding gears and jerking forward, her mother cowered in the back seat, Rosary in hand, muttering "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, save us!"

Shortly after, me Mather decided that driving was just not her cup of tea. Those were the days.


🗹 Check.
No longer on the bucket list - driving anything.
Happy 86th birthday, Mom!

Do something special today. And enjoy life!

Stay tuned for sneak previews of my upcoming book, The Twisted Climb: Darkness Descends.



J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
A novel for teens, young adults and adults young at heart.
VOTED Best Young Adult Book, P&E Award, 2016
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Golconda Diamonds



Up until the 1700’s, almost all the world’s diamonds came from the Golconda region of India. Located in the Deccan plateau of South India, some of the largest, clearest and valuable diamonds found their way from this area and into the hands of kings and noblemen in Persia, Arabia and Europe.

Marco Polo in particular mentions how Indians went about harvesting diamonds long ago.
“This kingdom (India) produces diamonds. Let me tell you how they are got. You must know that in the kingdom there are many mountains in which the diamonds are found, as you will hear. When it rains the water rushes down through these mountains, scouring its way through mighty gorges and caverns. When the rain has stopped and the water has drained away, the men go in search of diamonds through these gorges from which the water has come, and they find plenty. In summer, when there is not a drop of water to be found, then diamonds can be found in plenty among these mountains. But the heat is so great that it is almost intolerable. Moreover the mountains are so infested with serpents of immense size and girth that men cannot go there without grave danger. But all the same they go there as best they can and find big stones of fine quality. Let me tell you further that these serpents are exceedingly venomous and noxious, so that men dare not venture into the caves where the serpents live. So they get diamonds by other means. (Polo, 1958:246).”

Even today, when the mines of Golconda no longer produce diamonds, and the center of the mining industry has shifted to South Africa, Russia and Canada, Golconda Diamonds have maintained their mystique and desirability. In fact, these diamonds are so difficult to find, that the great majority of jewelers and gemologists will never hold a Golconda diamond in their hands during their careers, and thus, the world’s remaining Golcondas  keep attracting higher prices.

One of the reasons for this is the history and legends attached to these stones. Here are three legendary stones from the Golconda mines:


The Orlov Diamond: According to one account, the earliest known fact about the Orlov diamond is that it was set as one of the eyes of a Deity in a sacred temple in the south of India. A French soldier, who deserted and found employment in the neighborhood of Srirangam, learned that the temple contained the celebrated idol of a Hindu god, the eyes of which formed by two large diamonds of inestimable value.
According to the story, he made a plan to seize the diamonds, a feat which necessitated years rather than months of planning, since no Christian was ever admitted beyond the fourth of the seven enclosures. So in order to steal the diamonds, he embraced the Hindu faith and eventually obtained employment within the walls of the temple. By degrees he gained the confidence of the unsuspecting Brahmins and was allowed in as a frequent worshipper at the inner shrine (where the diamonds were located), because of his apparent veneration for this particular divinity. Ultimately, he secured the appointment of guardian to the innermost shrine within which lay the diamonds of his attention.
The Diamond passed through many hands and finally ended on the Sceptre of Queen Catherine the Great, and is now in the Kremlin.
The Hope Diamond
One of the most famous gems in human history, the Hope’s history is replete with wars, revolution, murder and greed. Purchased (or stolen) in 1666 by French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier as the Tavernier Blue. The Tavernier Blue was cut and yielded the French Blue (Le bleu de France), which Tavernier sold to King Louis XIV in 1668. On September 11, 1792, while Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned in the Temple in the early stages of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, a group of thieves broke into the Royal Storehouse, and stole most of the Crown Jewels during a five-day looting spree. While many jewels were later recovered, including other pieces of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the French Blue was not among them and it disappeared from history. On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined and Marie Antoinette was guillotined on 16 October of the same year. It was smuggled to Britain, and sold to American owners in 1911. It now is part of the collection of the Smithsonian.

The Kohinoor

Reputed to be the Shyamantaka jewel, mentioned in Sanskrit texts, it has a very ancient history. In the early 14th century, Alauddin Khalji, second ruler of the Turkic Khalji dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, and his army began looting the kingdoms of southern India. Malik Kafur, Khalji's general, made a successful raid on Warangal in 1310, when he possibly acquired the diamond.
It remained in the Khalji dynasty and later passed to the succeeding dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate, until it came into the possession of Babur, a Turco-Mongol warlord, who invaded India and established the Mughal Empire in 1526. Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, had the stone placed into his ornate Peacock Throne. In 1658, his son and successor, Aurangzeb, confined the ailing emperor at nearby Agra Fort.
Following the 1739 invasion of Delhi by Nader Shah, the Afsharid Shah of Persia, the treasury of the Mughal Empire was looted by his army in an organised and thorough acquisition of the Mughal nobility's wealth.
After the assassination of Nader Shah in 1747 and the collapse of his empire, the stone came into the hands of one of his generals, Ahmad Shah Durrani, who later became the Emir of Afghanistan. One of Ahmed's descendants, Shah Shujah Durrani, formed an alliance with the United Kingdom to help defend against a possible invasion of Afghanistan by Russia. He was quickly overthrown by his predecessor, Mahmud Shah, but managed to flee with the diamond.
He went to Lahore, where the founder of the Sikh EmpireMaharaja Ranjit Singh, in return for his hospitality, insisted upon the gem being given to him, and he took possession of it in 1813. Its new owner, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, willed the diamond to the Hindu temple of Jagannath in Puri, in modern-day Odisha, India. However, after his death in 1839, his will was not executed. On 29 March 1849, following the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the Kingdom of Punjab was formally annexed to East India Company rule, and the Last Treaty of Lahore was signed, officially ceding the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria and the Maharaja's other assets to the company. The manner of his aiding in the transfer of the diamond was criticized even by some of his contemporaries in Britain. It now adorns the Royal crown of England.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper" published by Books we Love.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Technicolor Dreams...by Sheila Claydon


I don't visit the cinema that often, although when I do I thoroughly enjoy it, but I do watch TV box sets back-to-back. I prefer it that way to the old terrestrial 'episode once a week' system. I like to immerse myself in the ongoing story, the main characters, the secondary characters, even the settings.  I also like to think about the storyline and try to work out what is going to happen next. Nothing unusual in that, especially for a writer. It's what happens afterwards that challenges me. You see I like to imagine how my stories would perform on the small screen.

I know exactly how each character would look and behave. I can even take my books apart in my head so that they fit the requirements of a series.  And should I be lucky enough to be asked to advise when my fictional TV producer decides to make an offer, what fun I will have.  To be able to re-visit places I've written about and actually populate them with my imaginary characters would be the journey of a lifetime. Would he/she want the book that's set in London and Florence, or maybe the one set in Moscow would be better, or Florida, or Los Angeles, or the Canary Islands, or the story that takes place on a cruise ship, or the one in London and Paris. And if those would break the budget well there are the less exotic ones set in  country villages, small towns, a country estate, even a riding stables.

I know which one I'd want to start with, and because it is part of a trilogy it would inevitably stretch out to sequels. A box set with series1, 2 and 3. How wonderful. And so many characters to develop. And of course it would be such a success that the producer would be compelled to buy up the options for all my other books and I'd have to advise on those as well.

If only, when even I know that famous writers with best sellers have had books optioned that never ever made it to a film. Having said that, many of the books published by Books We Love would make terrific films, it's just finding that producer...and if we ever do, it's bags me first!

Ah, technicolor dreams. Far fetched maybe, but better than black and white, far, far better.

You can see all Sheila's books at:

http://bookswelove.net/authors/claydon-sheila/

They are available at:


And if you have time, then stop in and visit her at:





Monday, November 13, 2017

A Holiday Recipe by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey


http://bookswelove.net/authors/donaldson-yarmey-joan/
 
 
The following is a recipe for a dessert that I made for many years for my husband’s birthday and Christmas and when requested for other gatherings. It is simple to make but takes a while because you have to let it cool between layers. It is very rich and each person only needs a small piece.
 
Cherry Delight
Bottom Layer
1 ½ cup graham crumbs
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup melted butter
Mix these together and pat down into a nine by nine inch pan. Put in refrigerator to harden.
Middle Layer
1 cup whipping cream
1 4oz package softened cream cheese
¾ cup icing sugar.
Whip the cream until almost stiff. Blend in cream cheese and icing sugar and beat until mixed well and stiff. Spread on bottom layer and return to fridge until set.
Top Layer
Open a can of cherry pie filling and spread on top.
 
Enjoy

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Linda or Olivia?


For more information about Susan Calder's books, or to purchase please visit her Books We Love Author Page.




I love names. When I was growing up my parents had a baby name book in the house. My sister and I had a favourite game, where we’d open the book at random pages and whatever name our fingers landed on would be the name of a character we’d act out. In our view, the weirder the name the better--and the book had plenty of them outside of the Lindas, Debbies and Susans who populated our classes at school.


Nowadays, when I'm writing a story and a character appears, my usual process is to assign him or her the first name that pops into my head. I keep writing and get a feel for how the name works, or not. Somewhere along the way, I'll move from feeling to logic. If the character isn’t someone my age or from a similar background, I go to the Internet and look up popular names for the year the person was born and for his or her heritage. In fact, for a person quite different from me I might do this before I start to write, since I simply have no idea for the name.


Of course, a person might have a name that doesn’t fit her era. I knew an Emily about my age, but her name was unusual for the times. This says something about her parents who chose it and parents' personalities and values influence the child's character. So do other children who respond to a classmate with a name they find old-fashioned. In contrast, a young Emily today might feel her name is too common. In my school classes, I was always Susan C to distinguish me from the inevitable other Susan or two.

In addition to the era and ethnicity, I consider the sound of my characters' names. During revision, I take a take a piece of paper, write the letters of the alphabet down one side and list my character names by starting letter. If too many begin with “B” I’ll change the name of the less important one. Sound also relates to how we hear a name and the number of syllables. Once, an author who reviewed a story I wrote noted that all my men had single syllable names, which prompted me to give one of the males a two-syllable moniker. Likewise, I once changed a character named Gareth to Garth when I realized Gareth sounded too much like the name a main character, Eric. But while my naming can fall into a rut, about half the time the original name that popped up is one I stay with in the end. Intuition can work.
Charlotte Bronte - Charlotte, an old-fashioned name now hugely popular due to William's and Kate's daughter Charlotte. 
In those childhood games with my sister, we used those random names as a springboard to developing our imaginary characters through dialogue and actions. This is pretty much my writing process today. The name itself generates personality traits. Lucinda feels like a different type of person than Jane. Harold, Harry and Hank are equally different, since these men have had the choice of which name to go by.
When my mother cleared out her house, one item I requested was her old baby name book. It is dog-eared, literally, since it looks like our family dog chewed a corner. For fun, today I opened the book randomly to pick names for a girl and boy. My finger landed on Ardelis and Rayburn/Reyburn.
The book also provides name origins and meanings, which I sometimes consider when naming story characters. Ardelis (Latin) means zealous or industrious; Reyburn (Old English) means from the roe, or deer, brook.

I like the names Ardelis and Reyburn and am already thinking of a story for these characters.  
My first grandchild - Vivienne - born July 31, 2017
        

  












Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sphagnum Moss to the Rescue in World War I by Karla Stover

Image result for sphagnum mossOn September 23, 1990, the first episode of Ken Burns' Civil War documentary aired. Thanks, in no small part, to the charismatic Shelby Foote, the documentary's popularity has never waned. However, I have always been fascinated by World War I, and especially the fall of the Romanov dynasty. I recently took a DNA test and it showed I have Russian blood, but more than that, innovations from WW I moved us into a more sophisticated lifestyle. Kimberly-Clarke began to mass produce items made from cellucotton, and sanitary napkins were one result. A German doctor came up with the idea of treating rickets with a sun lamp. Day light savings, which Benjamin Franklin has proposed in 1784 as a way to save on candles. Tea bags, wrist watches, paper hankies, zippers, stainless steel--and the list goes on. But--though cellucotton was also used in medical dressings, the supply was never enough. Enter sphagnum moss. Yes, moss, the stuff that grows on the top of a peat bog. Peat moss is the decaying matter below.

For hundreds of years, uses for sphagnum have been well-known. In Sweden, it was used to make coarse paper; in Germany it was mixed with wool and woven into a somewhat abrasive cloth. The Finns somehow made bread with it during famines. However, no one used it more than the Native Americans. Across Canada and in the Pacific Northwest, Indian women kept baskets of dried sphagnum to chink their wigwams or longhouses. They put it in gloves and footwear to act as insulation; They wove it into  baskets, twisted it into candle wicks, scrubbed the slime and toxins off fish, put it in papoose carriers to act as a diaper, used it as toilet paper, and during menstruation.

And then, the United States went war.

As far back as 1513, at the battle of Flodden Field, highlanders staunched their wounds with sphagnum. The practice continued in various wars right up until the American John "Blackjack" Pershing realized we were ill-equipped to fight. The call went our for practically everything--including medical dressings, and that's where sphagnum came in: it replaced cotton. Let me explain.

The branches of sphagnum spread away from the stem and hang in clusters. The walls of the branches have large, clear, dead cells. The cells have pores, and the wall of each pore is punctures toward the outside. Each pore acts independently from the others and stores the fluids with which it comes in contact. A spring-like coil in the cell presses out and keeps it from collapsing. As a result, the plant has the ability to absorb up to twenty times its dry weight. Armed with this knowledge, the United States government appoint a Moss Czar--a man named Harry Smith. After touring the country, he determined that Pacific Coast moss was the best.

Thus began moss drives.

When a local newspaper announced a "moss drive," whole towns practically shut down. People took picnics, requisitioned vehicles, and headed out to gather moss which they took to large drying barns. Once dry, it went to groups who picked it clean so it could to make Pershing Packs.

A Pershing Pack consisted of layers of paper, moss, and a little cotton. The resultant "piles" were folded into various-sized dressings, sterilized in autoclaves, and sent to field hospitals. Because of moss's ability to soak up fluids, a Pershing Pack worked wonders on bleeding or suppurating wounds.

I always look down when I'm walking, especially in the woods. There are approximately 10,000 species of moss--all lovely to look at.

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