Thursday, January 14, 2021

Albert Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life


In 1913, after having founded a hospital in Gabon, the religious philosopher and polymath Albert Schweitzer took a boat ride on the Ogooue River, to contemplate ethics and civilization. He spent two days in deep thought and, on the third, had a moment of enlightenment, which he called “Reverence for Life.”

In short, “Reverence for Life” is the idea that all life must be respected and loved and that humans should enter into a personal, spiritual relationship with the universe and all its creations. For humans such an outlook would naturally lead to a life of service to others.

Schweitzer was born into a well-educated family in Alsace, which was part of Germany in 1875, the year of his birth. His father was a Lutheran pastor and Schweitzer followed his footsteps and studied theology and philosophy. He also became an accomplished organist, but found his lasting passion in medicine.

With a degree in Medicine, Schweitzer and his wife Helene Bresslau, a nurse, he moved to Gabon, Africa, where he lived for most of his days, to start a hospital.

He had always had a kind heart towards animals. He wrote “One thing that especially saddened me was that the unfortunate animals had to suffer so much pain and misery…when my mother had prayed with me and kissed me good-night, I used to silently add a prayer that I composed myself for all living beings: ‘Oh heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath, guard them from evil, and let them sleep in peace.’”

He carried this understanding throughout his life. In Africa, when planting a seed on a farm he had started, he was noticed gently scooping out a spider that had fallen in the hole. His reverence for life, while self-manifested, was developed and refined by Schweitzer’s reading of Indian philosophy. In his book, Indian Thought and Its Development, he wrote the following: “The laying down of the commandment to not kill and not to damage is one of the greatest events in spiritual history. Starting from this principle..ancient Indian thought..reached the tremendous discovery that ethics know no bounds.”

Ahimsa, the principle he referred to, appears in both yoga philosophy and in the religion of Jainism. In yoga, it is the first of the Yamas, one of the eight limbs of yoga. The five Yamas (standards of behavior) are Ahimsa (non-violence); Satya (truthfulness); Asteya, non-stealing; Brahmacharya (continence) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness.) The Jain religion brought Ahimsa into daily practice.

Schweitzer’s writings had a tremendous impact in a world that had suffered violence during the twentieth century. He was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1952, and he used the money to start a leprosarium in Gabon, Africa. Until his death in 1965, he worked tirelessly for peace, speaking out against nuclear weapons and for the humane treatment of animals.

Mohan Ashtakala ( is the author of "The Yoga Zapper," a fantasy and "Karma Nation," a literary romance. He is published by Books We Love (

The story behind the Sheila Claydon

Remembering Rose is very special to me because it is my take on a family history. Not my family (although I might get to that eventually) but that of another family. 

It all started when I found a sepia photo in a box of jumbled mementos. The young woman at the centre  was mesmerising, not because of her looks, although they were striking, but because of her vivacity. And it was obvious from the faces of those around her, that they were equally entranced. Of course I will never know what she was saying any more than I will ever know why she was standing while the people around her were sitting on the ground watching her. Were they playing a game like charades? Had she just jumped up and suggested they all stop lolling around and go for a walk? Was she reacting to something the blonde curly-haired child next to her had done? The only thing I do know is that it was taken in the summer because some of the men were wearing striped blazers and straw boater hats, and the women's dresses seemed to be styled from light, summery materials. 

Like all photos taken in the days before the ubiquitous cell phone camera, there had to be a story behind it. In the late 1800s it wouldn't have been taken on a whim, so maybe the group had been posing and the photographer had grabbed a final photo just as the woman jumped up ready to do something else. I was intrigued enough to store the image in my head but not quite intrigued enough to write about it until, many years later, I was shown a photo of the same woman as an old lady. The contrast was both shocking and heartbreaking. What was it that had changed that vibrant young woman into somebody so thin and melancholy.  What had life done to her? And her husband too. In the sepia photo he had been handsome and dashing with luxuriant whiskers and his straw hat tilted at a jocular angle. Now he looked old and tired and his hands were swollen with arthritis.

The writer in me kicked in and I began to ask questions. The result is Remembering Rose. A fiction of course, but with enough of their real story woven into it to ensure they are never forgotten. Because their's is a story of love...real love, not the fleeting kind that runs as soon as it encounters problems...and consequently the love experienced by all the other people in the book is the same. The blurb on the back sums it up:

Rachel has a husband who adores her, a beautiful baby daughter, and an extended family she can rely on, so why isn't she happy? She doesn't know and nor do the people who love her. Only Rose understands but she is trapped in another century. To help Rachel she has to breach the boundaries of time itself as well as risk exposing the truth of her own past. When echoes from that past begin to affect other people in the village of Mapleby, things suddenly become a lot more complicated. Can Rachel put things right without giving away Rose's secret?

Because I needed a background for Rose's story I invented the village of Mapleby and the cottage where she lived as a child, and when I did that, Mapleby itself pulled back the curtain that separates us from the past and the future and told me Rose's story. And because it told me the story of so many of the others who live there too I soon found myself embarking upon a Mapleby Memories series. Remembering Rose is Book 1 and Book 2: Loving Ellen will be published in February. Although it's part of a series, it is still a stand alone book, but to really understand the village and the people who live there, you need to listen to Rose.

And if you do read Remembering Rose you might be able to guess who the heroine of the next story is going to be. A clue. It's not Ellen because there isn't an Ellen in Book 1. Have I intrigued you enough?

Even better is the fact that BWL has just updated the cover for Remembering Rose, ready for a relaunch alongside Loving Ellen, and the new image really does look like Rachel, who is the other heroine of the story. The cover for Loving Ellen is even better and I'll be showcasing that next month.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Angels in the Architecture


Happy New Year, dear readers.

I love New York City. Since I was a child, it has always been a place of mystery and wonder. On our way to visit my grandparents’ apartment, I would stare in wonder at the tall buildings, vast avenues, steam coming out of worksites. My parents would point out the West Side tenements where each had been born. My father would give us a nickel so we could ride the Staten Island Ferry and get a close look at the waters around and Miss Liberty shining her light from the harbor. Free Shakespeare performances in Central Park and my first Broadway show made me a lifelong lover of theater.

Angel in the architecture, New York City

The last time I was there was Valentine’s Day, 2020.  My husband and I traveled down by train from our home in Vermont to see our son performing in an off-Broadway play. The play was about love in all its forms and complexity and was the perfect date. Afterward, we walked to Greenwich Village and had a lovely late night meal together. We should do this more often, I thought.

Back in out tiny hotel, I looked across the street from our 8th floor window and noticed a building had been converted from its previous incarnation as a church. Some of the details remained intact, including a beautiful concrete angel, recently sand blasted clean. There are wonderful surprises like that, even in this city that is forever re-inventing itself.

I’ve thought about that angel often over this year that’s followed, here in our quarantined Vermont. That angel has looked over a city crippled by a deadly virus (which our son suffered with and survived) a shut down, and political mayhem. 

I hope she will guide us all to follow the better angels of our nature.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Where do you get your ideas?

                                                                                                                                                                          Please click this link for author, book and purchase information

"Where do you get your ideas?" This might be the number one question readers ask authors.

My quick answer is that ideas pop into my head all the time and they come from everywhere. My personal experience, conversations with other people, places I've lived in and visited, the news, books I've read, TV, movies, perhaps a painting or line of music. 

This winter, I'm editing a novel-in-progress, book # 3 of my Paula Savard mystery series, while mulling ideas for book # 4. With a series, many of the basic ideas are already there. I start with my sleuth, Paula, a fifty-five year old insurance adjuster, and her cast of supporting characters, who impact her personal life and, in some cases, her sleuthing. Paula and most of her family, colleagues and friends live in my home city, Calgary Alberta. I could send Paula to another location for all or part of the next book, but I see her as grounded in Calgary. Unlike me, Paula isn't drawn to travel, although book # 3 presents her with a future travel opportunity. For now, I think her adventures in book # 4 will continue in Calgary. 


    An often deserted pathway behind Calgary's Saddledome arena inspired my idea for the murder in the first Paula Savard novel, A Deadly Fall. 

My current novel-in-progress, Winter's Rage, ends in January 2020, with Paula at a crossroads in her life. Book # 4 will begin with her dealing with that situation. I've decided it will take place in spring, since Paula's first three mysteries happened in fall, summer and winter. But which spring will this be? January 2020 was right before COVID-19 changed the world. Will we next meet Paula in spring 2020, as she grapples with the start of the pandemic both personally and at work? Or will it be spring 2021, when the the pandemic is (we hope) nearing its end? I could jump over the virus and set the novel in spring 2022. This would make the time frame more contemporary to my publication date, although I find it hard to envision the post COVID-19 world. What things will return to the old normal and what will be the long term changes? The year I choose for this fourth novel will affect my ideas for it. Thoughts to mull during the winter.

Calgary's annual Stampede parade prompted ideas for a major character and an inciting incident in my second novel, Ten Days in Summer
While Paula got into solving mysteries as an amateur sleuth, I decided her subsequent ventures would come from her insurance adjusting work. Ten Days in Summer starts with a suspicious death resulting from a building fire. Paula naturally becomes involved in the course of investigating the property fire insurance claim. In Winter's Rage, she adjusts a hit and run collision and gradually suspects the fatality was no accident. 

This quiet, suburban Calgary street plays a large role in Winter's Rage.

For book # 4, I'm thinking that burglary could make a good cover up for murder. Last spring, my husband and I bought e-bikes at a local bicycle shop. I was intrigued by the store's booming business. With most of their usual activities shut down for the pandemic, Calgarians sought outdoor activities and many of us updated our old bicycles. That store and the two guys operating it are giving me ideas for the crime that will launch Paula's next mystery.            

I also want to include a ghost in book # 4, because ghosts both interest and frighten me. At the end of Ten Days in Summer, Paula's office moved to Inglewood, Calgary's oldest neighbourhood. Many ghosts lurk in Inglewood, a location for Calgary's haunted walking tours. The ghost rumoured to haunt her historic office building will challenge rational Paula, who doesn't believe in other worldly happenings. 

A ghost walking tour of Inglewood inspired my choice of  this "haunted" building for Paula's office.

All of these bits and pieces, swirling in my mind, will converge into the start of a story, when I eventually sit down and write the novel. As the story moves along, it will pluck more ideas from my usual sources. That's the plan, anyway, and it's how I get my ideas.    

E-biking last spring triggered ideas for my next novel 


Little Boxes by Karla Stover

Every morning my husband and I drive out to the woods and walk our dog. There is always so much interesting stuff to see. Like right now, mushrooms are everywhere. And all summer long wild flowers bloom, my favorites being a shrub called ocean spray and madrone, a tree native to the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Northern California. Right now it has clusters of red berries which many birds love. However, all waxing nostalgic aside, to get to the forest, we have to drive past new housing developments. (Hear me heave a heavy sigh).

It’s not that I don’t want people to have homes; it’s just that they all look alike; right down to the colors they are painted.  They make me harken back to a song called “Little Boxes” that my mother used to sing. A woman named Malvina Reynolds wrote it in 1962 for her friend Pete Seeger and when in 1963 he released his cover version, “Little Boxes” became a hit.

The song was written as a “political satire about the development of suburbia and associated conformist middle-class attitudes. It mocks suburban tract housing as ‘little boxes’ of different colors ‘all made out of ticky-tacky’, and which ‘all look just the same.’” “Ticky-tacky" was “a reference to the shoddy material supposedly used in the construction of the houses.” I’m not saying the ones we pass were built of shoddy material, it’s just that they’re boring to look at and don’t have yards where children can play.

An interesting bit of trivia. In addition to being an adjective for 'poor quality,' shoddy is also a noun for "an inferior quality yarn or fabric made from the shredded fiber of waste woolen cloth or clippings.  Mattresses used to be filled with shoddy. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Write a cozy? Me?


Sometimes the universe converges and the stars align.

I’d been writing hard-boiled mysteries and I thought any lesser character than say, Mike Hammer, just wasn’t going to cut it in the mystery marketplace. That’s when my wife caught me off guard.

“Honey, you’re through with your latest blood-spattered thriller. Why don’t you write one of those British-style mysteries, the ones where someone dies, maybe by poison, but the author doesn’t dwell on the murder. The book is devoted to solving the mystery through shrewd policework, rather than following bloody footprints until the shootout in the end.”

I seized up. A British-style mystery? A cozy? Me?

Still pondering the prospect of writing a cozy, I ate lunch the next day with a group of friends. Brian, a jovial fellow, enjoyed joking with me about becoming the next Arthur Conan Doyle. He cornered me after lunch and asked a simple question, “Have you ever considered setting a mystery in my hometown, Two Harbors, Minnesota? There are lots of colorful people and I’d be happy to help you with settings and background.” I laughed, thanked him, and moved on. I’d never been to Two Harbors and knew little about the town except it was nearly tied with Frostbite Falls as the coldest spot in Minnesota.

My wife and I were dealing with another non-urgent emergency related to the custodial care of her mother, her aunt, my father, and my uncle. We’d run the gamut of issues and had gone from groans and eye rolls, to chuckles as the situations became inane. The latest was a call from my father. “You’ve got to move me. Someone ate my dinner brownie while I was in the bathroom and I can’t stay in a place where people don’t respect your right to have your brownie left alone until you return from the toilet.”

That night was my convergence. I sat down and wrote a chapter of a cozy, set in a Two Harbors senior residence. I brought it to lunch the next day and handed it to Brian. He munched on his sandwich as he read, his eyes twinkling. He pushed it back to me and said, “Nice start. I’ll bring you more fodder tomorrow.” The next day he arrived at the lunch table with a one-inch stack of recipe cards. He split them into two piles: characters and locations.

Months later I had a draft of a cozy. I’d incorporated what I thought was tasteful humor, but I had no idea if “it worked.” A dear retired friend, Nancy, has read all my books and is an avid reader of anything hinting of mystery. I emailed the computer file to her and asked for her opinion. There was an email in my inbox the next evening with the subject line, “WHEN’S THE SEQUEL?” I called and asked if any of the humor had resonated with her. Her response, “I spent the whole night mopping my tears of laughter. Yes! I love the humor!”

The protagonist is Peter Rogers, the recreation director of the Whistling Pines Senior Residence. The supporting characters include an understated police chief, an elderly neighbor who shoots at “vermin” in her urban yard with antique guns, and a host of senior citizens who, through their everyday lives, cause Peter no end of grief.

My most recent cozy, published this past October by BWL Publishing, is Whistling up a Ghost. (Spoiler alert) Peter is now married to his long-time girlfriend Jenny, and they’re moving into an old mansion given to them as a wedding gift. Eerie footfalls in the attic drive Jenny’s eight-year-old son to their bed the first night in the new house. The ghostly encounters continue to vex the newlyweds, who are convinced there is a worldly answer to the seemingly otherworldly events.

Meanwhile, the town finds a time capsule during the demolition of the bandshell. When it’s opened on live television, a gun, a poem, and a newspaper clipping spill out, providing hints about a 1950’s murder, an event that every Whistling Pines resident recalls. Not surprisingly, each resident also has an opinion about the murder and murderer. Peter is asked to sort the swirling Whistling Pines rumors from the facts, sucking him into the middle of a mystery as he and Jenny try to prepare their haunted house for their first Christmas as a married couple. Between the ghost, the antics of the city band, the Whistling Pines residents, and Jenny’s usually reserved parents, Peter and Jenny work through the ghost and time capsule mysteries. Just when they think all the mysteries have been solved, the ghost makes one more appearance on Christmas Eve.

Although I readily admit to skepticism about writing a cozy, I now know they’re fun for both the reader and the writer. In some ways, writing a cozy more challenging than a darker mystery, having to dance around the issue of death while still writing a murder mystery. Creating the senior citizen characters is a riot and my friend, Brian, has a never-ending stack of note cards with more characters, plot ideas, and locations. When I finished Whistling up a Ghost, I thought it would be the last of the series. It isn’t. BWL is publishing Whistling up a Pirate later this year.

Please offer you thoughts and comments about Whistling up a Ghost, the Whistling Pines series, or cozies in general. I’d love to see your responses.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

A Legacy

 As defined in the dictionary, a legacy is a gift, by will, especially of money or other personal property; something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

I’m not sure that today’s generation feels the same way about legacies as those of generations past. Our lives today seem more filled with disposable things and things not meant to last. As I look around my house, it’s certainly not filled with antique furniture from my grandparents or pictures that once hung in the parlor. I do have a small packet of letters that my dad wrote my mom back in 1946 when he left for Germany a month after they were married. When my parents died, they left the grandkids money, which according to definition is a legacy, but it’s not the same as something lasting such as jewelry, a pocket knife or a small memento from a life well lived.

Our history is also being lost because of technology. We don’t write letters; we send emails which are read then deleted to make room for more. We don’t have to write diaries or journals for those who come later to know our history. Everything you ever wanted to know is posted on multiple sites on the internet. While information is readily available, it has lost the personal element of the writer who took the journey. If you are one of the few who journal, you have a legacy for your children and grandchildren. You don’t have to have done something incredible like bicycle across the country or climb the highest mountain and then write about it to leave a legacy.

While the definition I found tends to make one think of tangible things, a legacy can certainly be intangible. I was brought up in a strict household where you said “yes, sir” and were expected to do your best – in school or at a job. I tried to instill those same attributes in my children. I can remember once when my high school daughter not so jokingly said “damn your work ethic” because her friends were playing hokey from work and she couldn’t make herself call in sick to her work place.

My love of writing a good story is another legacy I hope to pass down, although it has apparently skipped my children and gone directly to my grandchildren. At age “almost 13”, my granddaughter has been writing stories for several years, some with quite involved characters and plot lines. My 10 year old grandson prefers his stories full of monsters and explosive action, accompanied with original drawings of said exploding universes. That same grandson has my father’s surname as his middle name…another legacy from the past.

Do you have legacies – things passed down to you? Are they from more than one generation in the past? More important, do you know the stories behind them?

Writing “Her Scottish Legacy” led to quite a bit of mystery in the process of Heather and Hunter discovering her legacy, left undetected for over twenty-five years. Available as an ebook at any of your favorite online retailers and in print through Amazon. Her Scottish Legacy: Baldwin, Barbara: 9780228616153: AmazonSmile: Books  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did while writing-- especially all the Scottish history and learning about the textile industry of the time.

Wishing you a creative and healthy New Year,

Barb Baldwin





Margaret Hanna Guest Author - Finding Mary’s Voice

Visit Margaret's BWL Author Page for book and purchase information

In case you hadn’t notice, I write. At least, I try to write. It isn’t easy, not for me, anyway. Questions abound – What do I write about? Will it make sense? Is what I’ve written what I really want to say? Will anyone read it? Will anyone care?

The pundits say, Write for yourself and the readers will come. Perhaps they’re right.

As of now, I am writing (trying to write) an historical novel, except it isn’t really a novel. Like many movies, it is “inspired by . . .” because it is more or less the life of my maternal grandmother after she immigrated to Canada from England in 1912.

The facts are no problem. Creating the scenes around the facts is not too much of a problem. Finding Mary’s voice is the problem.

Unlike my maternal grandmother, who died when I was eight, I knew my paternal grandmother, Addie Hanna, very well. I had no problem finding her voice when I wrote "Our Bull's Loose in Town!" Tales from the Homestead. Check it out, but be prepared to meet an opinionated woman who doesn't hesitate to tell it like she sees it.

The story is presented through Mary’s diary so finding her voice is essential. I have several letters that my grandmother wrote so you would think that finding her voice would be a snap – just copy her style.

It isn’t that easy. I struggled but what appeared on my computer screen just didn’t sound like her or at least how I imagined she would write. Then someone suggested I uncap my good old fountain pen from my high school days (no ball point pens back in 1912) and write something by hand. With ink. On paper. As Mary would have done.

I couldn’t believe it – Mary’s voice appeared like magic. It’s almost, but not quite, a stream-of-consciousness voice and why not? This is a diary, after all, and a diary is where you pour out your heart and soul.

I wrote the first several diary entries by hand with fountain pen and then transcribed them to computer. Her voice is now ensconced in my head so I can write most diary entries directly on the computer but whenever I run into trouble, when her voice eludes me, I go back to fountain pen and paper and, lo and behold, she is back with me.

This isn’t the first time I discovered the mind-hand connection can be messed up by technology. Back in university days, I wrote my term paper drafts by hand and then typed them (anyone remember typewriters?) before handing them in. One day, I had a Eureka moment – why don’t I “write” the drafts directly on the typewriter before doing cut-and-paste the old-fashioned scissors-and-tape way. I inserted the first sheet of paper into the typewriter, rolled it through the platen and poised my fingers over the keyboard.

Nothing! That piece of paper stared back at me and dared me to put a single letter, never mind a word or sentence or paragraph, on it. It was as if the neural circuit connecting the words in my mind to my fingers above the keyboard had suddenly been disconnected. That first draft was a struggle to put on paper but eventually the new mind-hand circuit grew and it was no longer so difficult.

Then came the computer era. I acquired my first computer in 1982 – two floppy disk drives, 64K memory, 84-character green screen and a word processing program that required embedded dot-commands to format the text. Transitioning from typewriter to computer would be a piece of cake, or so I thought.

Ha! The first time I tried to write, that dratted green cursor blinked back at me, daring me to put a (virtual) word on that (virtual) paper. I could hear it laughing at me. Once again, it seemed as if the mind-hand circuit had been disconnected and, once again, I had to build a new one.

Now, it is normal for me to sit at my computer and type away. The words flow with little effort (okay, not always, but mostly) from what’s in my mind to what appears on the (virtual) paper.

Which brings me back to my recent discovery, that the technology I use has helped me find Mary’s voice. Why is that?

 If there’s a neuroscientist out there reading this, perhaps she can explain.

 I certainly can’t.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

How do you say Snow? by J. S. Marlo


I have often heard that Inuit people have more than 50 words for snow. It's not quite true, but they do have many words for snow.

Back in November, I was checking the weather, and one day I saw a term I'd never heard before: light snow grains. The grains threw me for a loop. I was taking a long walk that morning, and the white stuff resembled prickly snow, so once I got back, I googled snow grains. From there, since I like for my stories to take place in the winter, I looked at how many different kind of snow term I could find in English.

Snow: Frozen precipitation in the form of white or translucent ice crystals in complex branched hexagonal form. It most often falls from stratiform clouds, but can fall as snow showers from cumuliform ones. At temperatures > than -5 °C, the crystals generally cluster to form snowflakes.

Wet snow: Snow with a high moisture content.

Dry snow: Snow with a low moisture content.

Snow grains: Frozen precipitation in the form of very small, white opaque grains of ice. The solid equivalent of drizzle. Their diameter is generally < 1 mm. When grains hit hard ground, they do not bounce or shatter. They usually fall in very small quantities, mostly from Status clouds or fog and never in the form of a shower.

Snow pellets: Frozen precipitation of particles of either spherical or conical ice; their diameter is about 2 to 5 mm. They are brittle, easily crushed, and unlike hail, when they fall on hard ground, they bounce and often break up. Snow pellets always occur in showers and are often accompanied by snowflakes or raindrops when the surface temperature is around 0 °C.

Blowing snow: Snow particles violently stirred up by wind to sufficient heights above the ground to reduce visibility to 10 km or less.

Snow squall: A heavy snow shower accompanied by sudden strong winds.

Frost: Frost is the condition that exists when the temperature of the air near the earth or earth-bound objects falls to freezing or lower (0 °C). Alternately, frost or hoar frost describes a deposition of ice crystals on objects by direct sublimation of water vapour from the air.

Hail: Precipitation of small balls or pieces of ice with a diameter ranging from 5 to 50 mm or more. Hail is generally observed during heavy thunderstorms.

Ice: The solid form of water. It can be found in the atmosphere in the form of ice crystals, snow, ice pellets, and hail for example.

Ice crystals:
Precipitation in the form of slowly falling, singular or unbranched ice needles, columns, or plates. They make up cirriform clouds, frost, and ice fog. Also, they produce optical phenomena such as halos, coronas, and sun pillars. May be called "diamond dust." Precipitation of ice crystals in the form of needles, columns or plates sometimes so tiny, they seem suspended in air. They are mainly visible when they glitter in sunshine and occur only at very low temperatures and stable air masses.

Ice pellets: Precipitation of transparent or translucent pellets of ice, which are spherical or irregular shaped, having a diameter of 5 mm or less. They are classified into two types: hard grains of ice consisting of frozen rain drops or largely melted and refrozen snowflakes; pellets of snow encased in a thin layer of ice which have formed from the freezing of droplets intercepted by pellets or water resulting from the partial melting of pellets. Ice pellets usually bounce when hitting hard ground and make a sound on impact. They can fall as continuous precipitation or in showers.

Freezing rain: Rain, the drops of which freeze on impact with the ground or with objects at or near the ground.

Freezing drizzle: Drizzle, the drops of which freeze on impact with the ground or with objects at or near the ground.

Can I tell the difference between  all of them when I'm outside? Most of the time, but I oblivious didn't know about snow grains LOLOL

One thing I can say, it's how cold it gets in my northern corner of the world.  

It's so cold...we had to chop up the piano for firewood.  Ya, we only got two chords.

It's so cold...grandpa's teeth were chattering.  In the glass!

It's so cold...eating ice cream was knocked down to #4 in the "Top Five Ways to get a Brain Freeze".

It is so cold...we can toss a cup of hot water in the air and hear it shatter into ice crystals.

Happy reading! Stay Warm & Safe!
Many hugs!


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sleigh Ride! by Eileen O'Finlan


I can't believe I've lived in New England all my life and I've never been on a sleigh ride. Well, it will have to go on my bucket list. Especially after the fun my characters, Meg, Kathleen, and Nuala had when they indulged in a sleigh ride. Meg, Kathleen, and Nuala are domestic servants in Worcester, Massachusetts in the 1850s. Irish immigrants, they all came from the horrible starvation of An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger. They were lucky to survive. But now they have new lives in America. It's not all fun. They work hard sun-up to sun-down and then some. But unlike their lives in Ireland, they are able to earn good enough livings to send money back to their families, save for their futures, and partake of an occasional indulgence. Usually it involves clothing that mimics that of their employers. But on a day in February they decide to find out why the children of their employers are so fond of sleigh rides and pool their money to hire a sleigh and driver for themselves. Here's a peek at what happens:

Blankets and foot warmers in hand, the three bounded out the door. Two large chestnut horses trotted up the street, stopping in front of the house. The sleigh driver was the same Irishman who had taken the Claprood girls and their cousins for a ride.

“Where to?” he asked, jumping down to assist them into the sleigh.

“Anywhere you like,” Nuala told him. “We're out for enjoyment. It doesn't matter where we go.”

A flicker of recognition showed on his face as Nuala spoke, her brogue giving her away. “You lasses are the helps?”

“Aye,” said Nuala, “but today we're your passengers.”

Looking at Meg, he furrowed his brow. “Didn't I see you at the Claproods'?”

“You did. I work for them.”

A broad grin spread across his face. “This is a grand thing indeed!”

“What do you mean?” Kathleen asked.

“'Tis the first time I've driven Irish lasses. It's always Yanks that hire me. We're every bit as good as they are even if they don't know it, aye? One day we'll be as successful as them. Then you'll ride in sleighs and carriages anytime you want.”

They all giggled at the thought. Meg wondered if it could really be possible.

“What's your name?” Nuala asked.

“Seamus O'Herilhy, at your service, m'ladies,” he said, with a sweeping bow that from most people would have seemed mocking, but from their countryman held an air of genuine respect.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Seamus O'Herilhy,” Nuala responded. “I'm Nuala O'Flaherty, and these are my friends, Meg and Kathleen O'Connor.”

“A pleasure it is,” he said with a smile before climbing onto the driver's box. With a snap of the whip, the horses were in motion.

For the next two hours they traversed the hills and valleys of Worcester. It was obvious that Seamus knew the city well. They headed northwest to the Tatnuck section. Filled with meadows, pastures, and farmland, Tatnuck appeared like a fairyland. Last night's snowfall covered the landscape like a pristine white cape with a million glistening diamonds. Only where farmers had gone about their chores was the seamless white garment rent by plodding footprints.

Wind whipped their faces as the sleigh sped along, the horses picking up speed in the open fields. Meg gazed wide-eyed at the world of white domed by a clear blue sky. The easy glide of the runners with their accompanying whoosh made her grin so hard it hurt. She'd never before felt such exhilaration.
Nuala nudged her. “Aye, but this is exciting!” she exclaimed.

Meg nodded, the bracing air stealing her breath. She glanced at Kathleen. She, too, was grinning as she peered first one direction then another. The big draft horses kicked up sprays of snow as they ad-vanced, their bells resounding in the brisk air. The sleigh slowed as they crested a hill, then sped up again as it raced down the other side. The friends screamed with delight, falling into a fit of laughter upon reaching the bottom.

Public Domain picture

Monday, January 4, 2021

Knights in the Age of Chivalry by Rosemary Morris


For more information on Rosemary's books please click on the cover. 

Knights in the Age of Chivalry


My novel, Grace, Lady of Cassio, The Lovages of Cassio, Book Two, sequel to Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, begins in the reign of Edward III. It will be published in October 2021.

At heart I am a historian. My novels are rich in historical detail which requires intensive research, some of which I am sharing in this blog.


The Path to Knighthood

At the age of seven a knight’s son served in another knight’s household, often his maternal uncle’s, where he trained to fight, first with a wooden sword. At sixteen, he knew knights should be courteous to each other and had been taught the four cardinal rules of chivalry - piety, prowess, loyalty, and moderation. Before being knighted, he had learned the skills necessary for an expert jouster. As a knight his raison d’etre was to fight.

Prior to being dubbed a knight, a squire bathed him before he dressed in white clothes and a red robe. At night, he stood or knelt in front of the altar in the chapel or Church for ten hours in solitude and silent prayer. At dawn, he attended Mass before presentation to his lord by two sponsors. The lord presented him with the sword and shield which were on the altar during the vigil. After an older knight struck him on his neck or cheek with his hand or the flat of his sword, the young knight swore a holy oath to dedicate his sword to justice, piety, the orphaned, the oppressed, the church and the widow.


In tournaments aristocratic knights fought for fame and glory.

Jousting was dangerous. A late 14th century knight wore armour weighing 80-100 lbs. He sat on a high saddle, charging at a closing speed of 40 miles per hour on a destrier weighing 200 lbs. He bore a lance with which all the potentially lethal force was concentrated on a steel tip. Jousts of peace with capped lances were less dangerous although a knight might fall from his horse, die, or be seriously injured.

A Perfect Knight

Although a knight was a fighting machine, when he removed his armour, he was expected to be courteous, gentle, devout, and cultured. John of Salisbury, a cleric, listed some of a knight’s duty. To defend the Church, to assail infidelity, to venerate the priesthood, to protect the poor from injuries…to pour out his blood for his brothers (as the formula of his oath directs him).

Tenants in Chief

Lords who had been knighted held their principal estates from the king and were called tenants-in-chief. They received a summons to attend each parliament and constituted the House of Lords. They were bound to serve the king with their retinues at their own expense for forty days each year at home or abroad.

Household knights.

Household knights promised to serve an overlord loyally for life in peace and war, wherever he was needed. He would serve at his overlord’s expense, be clothed by him, and provided with a suitable horse.

Clergy. Military Orders


The Order of the Temple abolished in 1308) and The Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers) Orders of knights were originally established to protect the routes to the Holy Land.