Thursday, April 30, 2015

Where the blue blazes did THAT come from? by Stuart R. West

  
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Coming soon from Books We Love: Ghosts of Gannaway

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BATTLE OF THE BUNDT by Juliet Waldron





A “big” birthday just come and gone. (Clearly not the one above!) Our favorite local pastry bakery has gone out of business. I’m a scratch baker, but not a professional, nor a yuppie with a ton of equipment and endless dollars. Still, I bake bread weekly, and always baked all the family b-day cakes for my kids. I figured “what the hell, Archie!” This year, I will make one for myself.
I dragged a Bundt pan from the back of the cabinet and dug out the recipe book with which it came. I looked up recipes which would fit in the “mini” pan, found one that appealed, shopped ingredients and then began. I chopped cherries and prepped chocolate, sifted dry ingredients and creamed the butter, sugar and eggs. Then, I revved the mixer and was soon ready to pour batter into the pan. To my surprise, it filled almost to the brim.

I went back to the recipe book and checked again. Yes—this was specifically for the “mini” pan...

Full steam ahead.  I wasn’t listening to the shrill little voice of baker’s experience which was telling me that this cake would, shortly, be all over the bottom of the oven. Still, I didn’t put a cookie sheet underneath it. Why, I can find no reason for, except, maybe, sheer stubbornness, or a sad tendency to shoot myself in the foot.  

After all, this recipe book has never let me down before…


Well, as the voice of experience had warned, Vesuvius erupted. I turned the oven off, got gloves and the cookie sheet I should have put under no matter what “the book said.” Anyone with a bad back who has stooped to reach into a hot oven after a molten tub of something knows how scary this is, but it had to be done. Somehow I got the cake pan onto the sheet without more spilling or burning myself. I turned the oven back on, and, an instant later, the floor of the oven burst into flames. After staring for a moment, and realizing that with so much fuel, it wasn’t about to give up any time soon, I retrieved a box of baking soda. I put out the fire, after turning the oven off once again.


Okay! I’d got the fire out, and the cake pan situated so that the still lively volcanic action would no longer end up on the oven floor. Mad at myself, but not yet ready to despair, I went back to cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, putting away the mixer, etc. and then started on the frosting. Half an hour later, I realized I hadn’t turned the oven back on again.

Well, this was a duel now, between me and my own folly.  I turned the oven on at a lower temperature and began to bake -- again. By using a thermometer, I would eventually make a decision about when the cake was done. 

At last, I removed it—best estimate—and after it had cooled a bit, and after a long session of chipping the lava flow off the sides of the pan and cookie sheet, I managed to pick it up and turn the cake over onto a plate.  Believe it or not, a few minutes later, the darn thing slipped out of the pan, and in proper Bundt form! About an hour later, I frosted it and my husband and I ate it--and ate it--for the best part of a week. It was—somehow—a totally yummy, moist chocolate cherry cake, despite all the misadventures it and I had been through together.
~~Juliet Waldron

Not only is Juliet Waldron a warm and funny storyteller when relating personal experiences, she is an extremely talented and masterful author of historical novels like Mozart's Wife, Roan Rose, Genessee, and many more, including her latest, a novelist's history of Alexander Hamilton, America's first Secretary of the Treasury, which has debuted to rave reviewsClick the cover to get a copy from Amazon.

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More about my historical novels:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Just Me and My Besties--Slugging a Path Through Those 'Sagging Middles' By Connie Vines


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Yes, I have friends, associates, family, and other writers to converse with though out my day.

Yes, I network, attend workshops, and belong to online writing chapters.  I even have other writer friend only a text message away.

But at 3 AM, when I'm slugging my way through a 'not-quite-working' middle of a novel, and I've started talking to myself.  It's nice to have a BFs at your disposal.

While the focus of the movies and television seems to be on helpfulness of minions and the like--I prefer the company of a good listener--or cheering section.

Well, it's not conventional--but then I'm a bit quirky, most writer's are.  After all we do spend quite a bit of time in our own company.

For a person who did not indulge in, or particularly like, dolls as a child  (I held my baby doll by a foot allowing her head bounced around in the dirt).  I did like monster movies (The old Universal Monster Movies).  I collected the model kits and read all the magazines about horror make-up and read bios about the great actors.  So I guess this type of cheering section makes perfect sense.
(See qualifying statement in earlier paragraph).

So did I come up with any sure fire way to get through those 'sagging story middles', with or without the help of Besties?

I've changed to Pandora Radio for evening listen, and Slacker Radio during the day. When I'm working though a snag, B.J. Thomas is usually singing in the background.

Let's face it. the middle of a story can be depressing.  Our hero becomes overwhelmed.  Things look savage and harsh.  Paths disappear (for both the hero and, unfortunately, the writer).

To quote, Nancy Kress, The function of the middle is to develop the implicit promise made by a story's beginning.

After all, a promise is a promise.

This is when we must ask ourselves, whose story is this?
Who are the point of view characters?
What is the main plot line (throughline is the film term)?

Not certain?  Boy, do you have a problem!

Getting a clear focus on your plot line can make the middle of your book easier to write.  Where should the emphasize be--which scenes, which characters.  I used to rely on 3 x 5 index cards, now I use several writing programs and apps.

Since I write in series of threes: chapter 1-3, 4-7, etc. my middle seems longer because it over laps sections.  I also like to have 3 scenes in each chapter, with a scene often breaking at a chapter's end and ending in the following chapter opening.

Still experiencing a bit of trouble?  Choose three novels you know well.  For each summarize the plot line in a sentence or two.

Jane Eyre: Penniless in a region of England she does not know, Jan experiences three bitter days of begging, sleeping outside, and nearly starving.

 Dracula: One of Dr. Seward's mental patients, Renfield, lets Dracula into the asylum where the others are staying, allowing the count to prey on Mina.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!:  When Linus sees a shadowy figure rising from the moonlit patch, he assumes the Great Pumpkin has arrived, and faints.

Now, pull out your WIP or a few of your unfinished stores.  Summarize its plot line.  List the scenes.  How does each scene advance the plot, develop character, contribute to the middle plot line?

Do you need to add an additional scene?  Should a scene have more emotional intensity?  I find this to be true in my stories.  My stories are character driven and  the emotional reactions are a force which drives my plot lines.

Keep your characters from having a mid-life crisis by shoring up those 'sagging middles', and relying on your "Besties".

Happy Reading,

Connie

novelsbyconnievines
Word Slinger
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Monday, April 27, 2015

The medieval sound of the horn - by Vijaya Schartz


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Nothing says medieval like the sound of a horn in the distance, filling a valley, bouncing off mountains, and reminding everyone around that something important, or dreadful, was about to happen. These horns were made of animal horns or ivory, hence the name. Often they were sculpted or engraved with intricate carvings.

My first recollection of reading about such horns was in school, while learning about Charlemagne and his loyal nephew Roland, who was isolated and attacked at the end of the column, by the enemy, in the Pyrenees. The mournful sound of Roland's horn, named Oliphant, called for help but remained unheard by Charlemagne at the front of the legion. As a result, Roland was killed, despite his unbreakable sword, Durandal. At the time it was a tragedy. Roland was Charlemagne's favorite nephew, and history says that he was betrayed by the knight Ganelon.

 Nothing can set the mood in a medieval novel, like the sound of a horn. Every time I read or write about it, it gives me goosebumps. Whether it's a village fire, an invasion, a natural danger, the horn is often a precursor of calamity.

Even now, we use sirens to warn the population of tsumani, tornadoes, and other dangers. Their sound imitates the mournful lament of the ancient horn.

In BELOVED CRUSADER, my latest book in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, the Crusaders, like the armies of Charlemagne, set out and stop to the sound of the horn. Actually, they also take the Charlemagne road, that crossed Europe from its northern point to the famed city of Constantinople. Hope you enjoy the read.

Vijaya Schartz, author
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Thank heaven for the Kodak Brownie--Tricia McGill



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And thank heaven I belonged in a family who loved taking pictures. I have friends who don’t have a single photograph of their parents, their siblings or themselves when young. This is so sad. Being the youngest in a large family I was treated as a pet, especially by my two eldest sisters who would doll me up and cart me off regularly to the local photographic studio to have my picture taken for posterity. I don’t think I was particularly happy with this arrangement as most of the photos taken in the studio show a pouting brat—but I did look smart with my big white bow atop my head. The pictures that were taken with the old Kodak Brownie were a different matter. 
Here it is for those who have never seen one
I don’t know who bought it or how this camera came into the family’s possession but I now have probably a thousand pictures here on my computer that show my extended family over the generations.


For those who have no idea what I am talking about this box camera was one of the first made by Kodak in 1915. But I can remember it being used by one of my sisters or brothers years later. Perhaps they had a later version, I can’t recall. Of course rolls of film had to be inserted and when that was full it would be taken off to the chemist (pharmacy) who would send the film off to be developed. I never bothered much with the details of how these wonderful photos ended up back with us, I’m just glad they did. When our beloved mother died my sister and I had a drawer full to sort through.
Our Dad taken around 1916, not sure but think it is in France. He cared for the warhorses.
Because of my family’s love of picture collecting I not only have the snaps taken by them I also have other pictures of my parents and siblings that have been passed down to me.


me aged 4

That's me at the front on the left scowling at my eldest brother's wedding. My parents are at the back and the other bridesmaid is my eldest sister.

The computer is a boon as it has enabled me to scan and edit them, a time-consuming but worthwhile task. I’ve made photo books for my sister and for my eldest sister’s daughters showing our family story from about 1909 onwards and I feel so sorry for others who do not possess their past shown in pictures. I gave my sister a digital photo frame for Christmas and it is a joy to her to flick through the pictures and get a visual journey through the family’s past right up to the present. 


That's our sister Joan on the left, the glamor girl of the family. Note the fabulous bathing costume. It was passed down to me. Can you imagine the picture I made wearing that. By the time I inherited it the thing was so loose and baggy it fell off me. Anyone remember the elasticated costumes?

Unfortunately only four of us remain out of the original ten so I am glad that our eldest sister’s daughters share our love of collecting photos and looking back into their past through old snaps.
You can find excerpts from all my books here on my webpage where you will find Remnants of Dreams, my book that, although fictional, is based on my mother's life.
Or visit my Books We Love author page.
BWL

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Still Time to Win a Kindle Fire in BWL's Swing into Spring Contest


 To celebrate the Spring Season, BWL is giving away a Kindle Fire HD 7, 7" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB




All you have to do to win is visit the Books We Love home page  browse our "Coming Soon" and new releases books and tell us which book you would like to read.

Send an email to bookswelovecontest@shaw.ca with your selection(s) and your email address and home state/province. One entry per subscriber. Multiple entries do not increase your chances of winning. Sorry, this contest is only available in the US and Canada - not valid in Quebec or where prohibited by law.  Winner's name will be posted on the website on June 15, 2015.

Good Luck!
Swing into Spring Contest from Books We Love
http://bookswelove.net/about-bwl/books-we-love-contests/



 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Snails Instead of Match.com? Husband Hunting in the 18t c. by Diane Scott Lewis


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In these modern times with the internet (and women freely allowed to enter bars) females have choices in their search for a mate. But in eighteenth century England, my era of research, girls were superstitious, and quite limited, especially in the small country villages.

An English lass's search for a husband was vitally important. In bygone periods marriage was what most young women had to look forward to, or they’d be ridiculed and regulated to spinsters, farmed out as governesses, or forced to live on the charity of their already poor families.

To this end, many relied on ancient customs and folklore. Most of these search-for-true-love customs revolved around the seasons.

Cerne Abbas
At the ruined Abbey of Cerne Abbas in Dorsetshire, girls flocked around the wishing-well in all seasons. To obtain their heart’s desire, they’d pluck a leaf from a nearby laurel bush, make a cup of it, dip this in the well, then turn and face the church. The girl would then "wish" for presumably a man she already has in mind, but must keep this wish a secret or it wouldn’t come true.

Other customs included, in Somersetshire on May Day Eve or St. John’s Eve, a lass putting a snail on a pewter plate. As the snail slithered across the plate it would mark out the future husband’s initials.

On another ritual to this end, writer Daniel Defoe remarked by saying: "I hope that the next twenty-ninth of June, which is St. John the Baptist’s Day, I shall not see the pastures adjacent to the metropolis thronged as they were the last year with well-dressed young ladies crawling up and down upon their knees as if they were a parcel of weeders,
Defoe
when all the business is to hunt superstitiously after a coal under the root of a plantain to put under their heads that night that they may dream who should be their husbands."

Throwing an apple peel over the left shoulder was also employed in the hopes the paring would fall into the shape of the future husband’s initials. When done on St. Simon and St. Jude’s Day, the girls would recite the following rhyme as they tossed the peel: St. Simon and St. Jude, on you I intrude, By this paring I hold to discover, without any delay please tell me this day, the first letter of him, my true lover.

On St. John’s Eve, his flower, the St. John’s Wort, would be hung over doors and windows to keep off evil spirits, and the girls who weren’t off searching for coal or snails in the pastures, would be preparing the dumb cake. Two girls made the cake, two baked it, and two broke it. A third person would put the cake pieces under the pillows of the other six. This entire ritual must be performed in dead silence-or it would fail. The girls would then go to bed to dream of their future husbands.

On the eve of St. Mary Magdalene’s Day, a spring of rosemary would be dipped into a mixture of wine, rum, gin, vinegar, and water. The girls, who must be under twenty-one, fastened the sprigs to their gowns, drink three sips of the concoction, then would go to sleep in silence and dream of future husbands.

On Halloween, a girl going out alone might meet her true lover. One tale has it that a young servant-maid who went out for this purpose encountered her master coming home from market instead of a single boy. She ran home to tell her mistress, who was already ill. The mistress implored the maid to be kind to her children, then this wife died. Later on, the master did marry his serving-maid.

Myths and customs were long a part of village life when it came to match-making. Now they sound much more fun than the click of a mouse on a computer. But then as now, you never know what you'll end up with.

In my novel, Ring of Stone,which takes place in eighteenth-century Cornwall, my heroine Rose will experience magic on All Hallows Eve and glimpse her future husband over her sHoulder.  Click the cover at the top of this Blog to buy a copy of Ring of Stone. Thanks for reading my blog post, and I hope you will purchase and enjoy my novel(s) as well.

For more on Diane Scott Lewis’s novels, visit her website: http://www.dianescottlewis.org

Source: English Country Life in the Eighteenth Century, by Rosamond Bayne-Powell, 1935.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Letting My Baby Go by Victoria Chatham




A long time ago I wrote a book for my teenage daughter, two years’ worth of long hand as I didn’t even have a typewriter back then. My family viewed my ambition as ‘Vicki’s little hobby’. I guess my parents thought it kept me out of trouble and accepted that in spite of all their best efforts to the contrary writing, like horses, would always be a part of my life. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were great but I came from one of those very traditional British families where reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic were all that mattered and artists of any ilk were an altogether different breed and therefore viewed with suspicion.
I didn’t really start writing seriously until I reached my mid-fifties and suffered the same anxiety as do many newbie authors of any age. Was I good enough? Would people want to read my books? How could I compare with Maeve Binchy – hello-o, how silly a thought was that! Maeve is incomparable.
I worked endlessly not on just a first chapter or even a first paragraph but on that first line, the all important hook before I really understood what that actually meant. I took writing classes and at my very first workshop received two pieces of priceless advice. One, ‘write the damn book’, and two, ‘learn to love re-writing’. My tutor explained that while writing is often fun, it is also a craft to be learned and very few, if any, authors come to it fully fledged as it were.
I joined one writers group that got me started on my writing path then another that got me focused. CaRWA is the Calgary chapter of Romance Writers of America and it was after our AGM in 2011 that our then president talked about collaborative writing and stated she could write a book with any of us. That was a real ‘Aha’ moment, and by the end of the day, with maybe a glass or two of wine to sustain us, Bandit Creek Books was born and thirty-three authors set to work.
Our one criterion was that as a professional writing organization, we needed our books to reflect that. This was at a time when e-books were increasingly popular and not all were as well written as they might have been. We all agreed that we would work with critique partners to avoid the mistakes we were so frequently seeing and hearing about and hopefully avoid the flak surrounding self-published books.
And that was when I learnt to give up my baby. Oh, the agonies of having someone else actually read my book. Even though I so badly wanted to be published it was still hard to let my pages go. But what I learned from that experience is that you do need another pair of eyes. My critique partners pick me up on incorrect or missing punctuation, catch me on word usage, query character arcs and plot points. When I have revised accordingly I send out to willing beta readers who inevitably pick up on something all of us have missed.
I learnt about formatting and how important spacing is – to the extent that I now usually write with the pilcrow symbol turned on so I can get rid of those darned extra spaces that always creep in when I’m not looking. I quickly learned to not trust Spell-check which does not differentiate between those tricky little homonyms, words with the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings like dog (animal) and dog (to follow) or punch (to hit) and punch (a drink) because they are proper words.
Nor does Spell-check help you with homophones, words with the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning. Think about ‘bridal’ and ‘bridle’ as examples, or ‘air’ and ‘heir’ and my all time favorite, ‘cereal’ and ‘serial’. I recently bought a new Regency romance and was really disappointed to read the phrase, ‘he threw his reigns at the groom’. That kind of mistake will pull me out of a story every time and makes me question the skill of the proof reader or wonder if there even was one.
I know I still make mistakes despite my Strunk & White’s Style Guide, or the Chicago Manual of Style and The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Dictionary. My favorite go-to grammar book for enlightenment on misplaced modifiers, mixed metaphors or correct use of apostrophes is the saucy little Comma Sutra by Laurie Rozakis.
Yes, that tutor was right. I did write the damn book, and a couple more besides, but I can’t say I learnt to love re-writing. I did, however, come to accept it as part of a writer’s life along with the polishing and honing I feel is necessary in order to offer my reader the quality product they deserve.

Visit me at:

www.victoriachatham.com
www.amazon.com/author/victoriachatham
www.facebook.com/AuthorVictoriaChatham




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Dumpster Diving Sliced Bread Theory of Writing


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The Dumpster Diving Sliced Bread Theory of Writing 



Often a writer is asked what word or words of advice to give a new writer? I think I'd give "Scramble" or my personal fave "Dogtrot" both good useful words. Of course there's the cult classic, "Swank". Those are the words I'd give a new writer.

            Please don't send me any thanks, well, just a like on facebook would be okay.
            Nor any chocolate, my wife breaks out in hives, then we get bees everywhere and the cats get stuck to the patio from all the honey.
            Okay serious now, the best thing for beginning writers to get into is flow and a set writing pattern. Some get up at 2AM, chuck lots of garlic about, to ward off the vampires and write until the sun comes up. Whatever works, I myself make tea and feed the cats. Number one rule in our house; don't forget to feed the cats or you'll need more than garlic to keep you safe. PS. Silver bullets don't work on hungry cats, I tried and they just whacked me upside the head with the pistol and traded the silver for lots of canned tuna.
            Oh, I forgot, the serious part. Remember this, five percent of writing a story or novel is the actual writing. So you ask naively, what's the rest?
            Editing, more editing and more darn editing. Then set the manuscript down for a month or two reread it and (no secret here) more editing.
            The best thing to do with all of your writing is to read it out loud. Preferably in a room on your own, with no one around otherwise someone will think you're absolutely bananas.  You can catch a lot of awkward sentences, poor flow and grammatically incorrect phrases this way.
            The biggest gift a writer can have is humility. As much as your mom said, "Your book is the greatest thing since sliced bread," IT AIN'T. There are very few writers who word for word, paragraph by paragraph are word perfect. If you check the garbage cans of even great writers, you'll find a lot of worn to the stub erasers.
            Also join a writers group, or two. Could join a knitting class. I'm told knitters are a humble lot.
            A group where you edit (see earlier paragraph), and read each other's works. Out loud, of course. If several people point out a paragraph or page that doesn't work, analyze it, break it down and rewrite it or, this is the major humbling part, chuck it out. Guess what, even Gandhi made mistakes.
            If several writers (they have a more critical eye than Joe public or your mom) say a sentence or paragraph is brilliant, that's the Muses calling your number, so get up, do a dance and pat yourself on the back. Unless you have some kind of degenerative disc back disease, then just mentally shake your hand and say "Thank you, thank you very much," and back at it. Okay, even the humblest are allowed to crow sometimes.
            Know this, there's a lot of schlock out there that should reside in a large sealed dumpster. War and Peace went through one hundred and one publishers before being accepted. What if Tolstoy threw it into a dumpster after one hundred?
            Stephen King did. He dumped his novel "Carrie" into the trash and said, "I give up. I'm going to stick to being a teacher."
            Thank God his wife had the guts to say, "You tell me you're a writer. Dust off that blown, crumpled and withered ego and put it out there. AGAIN."
            The next publisher accepted the book and the rest is well, "Salem's Lot."
            I went through 398 rejections before my first novel got accepted. I know, I've logged every one in a book. A word here to the smarmy git who brags about being accepted on the first submission. I politely smile and say to myself "Lucky Bastaddose." I shake your hand in humble subjection. Sometimes it can be as simple as the right article at the right time to the right editor. Or, and I'm going to choke a lot here, you could just be damn good.
            There's a picture that's hangs over my writing desk given to me by someone so long ago I don't remember. I dust it off every time I get another rejection and go at it again. The picture is of a man sitting alone at a piano in a huge empty room. There's stacks of papers strewn about, empty coffee cups and worn pencils all around him. The caption above him reads, PERSEVERANCE. The quote below is from Samuel Johnson: "Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance."
            That's one thing that makes a true writer humble. Want to know another? Ask yourself this question. How many literary American Classics worthy of a Noble Award lie in dumpsters?
            This goes back to my theory. Only dumpster divers will ever know, and after six bottles of aftershave I doubt they'd sit up and spout, "Wow, best thing since sliced bread." Before they'd probably use the papers to keep themselves warm at night around a fire or worse humiliation, wipe themselves after a number two.
            Remember that when you give up. That's humbling.
           

Christmases Past...by Sheila Claydon

My latest book, Empty Hearts, is a vintage romance. It isn't about Christmas, but the cover, designed by the wonderful Michelle Lee a...