Thursday, December 31, 2015

What’s the World Coming To? by Eleanor Stem


Our World in Crisis

It seems our world is undergoing a crisis. The human race is angry and our climate is changing. Are these connected? Do we feel the earth’s anguish and are, in like, responding? 

I spoke with a friend the other day who asked: “I think you are spiritual. How do you stay calm in all this angry mess?”

I had to think awhile on that one. My first answer was, “Yes, I am spiritual.” What I didn’t say is we travel in several dimensions but on this plane we forget about the other dimensions. This life is hard. We don’t want to think of the other dimensions that may be as hard as this one. 

Subconscious thoughts overlap and zing across our brow on a constant basis. It’s like brain synapses are flashing. Our senses can see, feel and touch these but we forget to look at them. Shadows of wisdom (which we gain through lifetimes) flit across our souls but by the time we consciously acknowledge them, they are gone. How many times do we think: “I had a thought but I can’t remember, now.” 

All the time. 

My friend then launched into a large list of physical ailments she’s been experiencing, and she knew they were all due to stress. My mom said stress can kill you, and I believe it. 

Our world is stressed. We are connected to each other and this plane we live on. We know we are a part of this world stress. We can feel the agony of abuse beneath our feet rise through our bodies and into our souls. We remember past experiences. We want to change what is happening but do not know how. This makes us frustrated, angry. 

There seems to be a lot of violence where the earth is most stressed. We feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. This also causes a cycle of frustration then anger. 
The Storm Passing

Until we figure out how to stop this violence and anger, all we can do is try to rise above it. To do this, we can meditate. 

People have asked, “How do you do this? How do I know I’m meditating?” 

I say, “You don’t feel your body when you are lost in a good movie or book. That is where you want your physical being to be at when meditating.” 

Once you are there, visualize our forms rising out of the dark chaos into bright light. Once in the light, our ills will lessen. The trick is to remain there. It’s so easy to drift back into the chaos which I visualize as writhing centipedes on a dark floor. I don't want to see what those roiling creatures look like, only know they are dark and I don’t want any part of them to touch me. 

If everyone does this, perhaps, our world won’t be so stressed. Perhaps, there won’t be so much violence and anger. 

A Bright World

Many thanks to Wiki-Commons (public domain).  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An approach to writing: Lord Esterleigh's Daughter

by Kathy Fischer-Brown

Available on Amazon
One of the most common questions readers ask writers is, “Where do you get your story ideas?” 

For me, most of the time, they come from dreams. In the case of Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter, the first book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, published by Books We Love, this couldn’t be truer.

Many years ago, a dream left an image on my waking mind that haunted me for months, of a coach-and-four racing through an English coastal town in the misty dark of a moonlit night, while a three-masted ship sat, moored in the harbor. For the longest time, I had no idea what it meant, or even what to do with it.

I was in my late 20s, recently earned MFA in Acting in my pocket, when husband and I relocated from Connecticut for a teaching gig at a small, private women's college in Indiana. I hadn't written fiction since I was in my teens; my mind was focused on teaching acting and theater history, performing on the stage for the local community theater, and adjusting to the change in culture and environment. Yet, above all else, this dream haunted me. I needed to know who the young woman in the coach was, and why the secretive nature of her nocturnal journey. Was she running away? To be with her lover? Or was she escaping something more sinister? Had she been abducted? Who were the others in the coach with her—people fearing for her wellfare, or those wishing her ill? And what significance did the ship play? What was its destination?

By starting at the beginning of the story, long before the racing coach scene, I became acquainted with Anne Fairfield, who was to become the protagonist of a three book series. Her life and eventual fate became clear. She led me down a path she wanted me to investigate and thereby reveal her story and… What about that coach?

It’s always amazed me—and I know I’m not the first author to make this assertion—that writing a novel is an exercise in exploration. As one who professes to be a “pantser,” I rarely know where my stories are headed until the characters speak and I follow their lead. Some things never change, even as time and experience have helped me grow as a writer.

Ultimately this exploration lasted off and on for over 25 years, as I practically channeled the voices that spoke to me at the oddest times: in the shower, walking the dogs, changing the babies’ diapers, teaching classes, or waiting for my cue in the green room.

As the time period and setting emerged, I found myself immersed in enormous amounts of research into the Georgian Era England and then the American colonies at the onset of the American Revolution. And then there were the rewrites, innumerable rewrites.

With limited resources available (no internet, at the time), I scoured bibliographies and sought out-of-print titles from the local library and through inter-library loans. I wrote letters to authors of the research books that had been most informative, and contacted experts in this particular area of history. I visited historical societies and living history sites, searched old maps and documents, scribbling notes and making photocopies of my prized findings.

For example, even though as a child Anne had been led to believe that her birth was illegitimate, I discovered that her parents had been married, in secret. Up until the early to mid-1750s, a “Fleet Street Marriage” was the choice of those who, for any number of reasons, wished to bypass the posting of banns and acquiring a license. Administered in the Fleet Street Prison or in inns and taverns in its environs, such a union was naturally steeped in speculation and scandal. In March 1754, the Marriage of Act of 1753 went into law in England, effectively putting an end to these clandestine marriages. 

Years later, after a number of moves before finally settling down back in Connecticut—and two small kids who had miraculously grown into adultswhen I picked up the trilogy again prior to its publication with Books We Love, I availed myself of the resources that had become available on the internet. This in turn compelled me to rewrite large portions of the books to incorporate nuggets from the gold mine I’d found online, which helped add detail and immediacy to the books.

In the end, the image of that coach—still amazingly vivid in my mind after all this time—played no part in the tale. Instead, it provided a key to the second and third books in the series, Courting the Devil and The Partisan’s Wife.

But that’s a whole other story:-)


Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, and The Return of Tachlanad, her newly released epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of her books are available in a variety of e-book formats from Books We Love, and from Amazon and other online retailers retailers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


An antidote to our relentless diet of Christmas sugar is the Krampus, a German/Austrian devil who comes to winter celebrations, usually on December 5, which is also Saint Nicholas' day. For a very long time in Bavaria and in the territories of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, he’s been the dark companion to their Good Spirit of the season. He’s doubtless a good deal older than the red-coated, croizier-toting saint, with his horns, furry pelt, and long tongue. Krampus arrives to punish bad children, right beside Saint Nicholas, in, some commentators have noted, a kind of bad cop/good cop routine. He carries chains which he shakes and a bunch of birch twigs, with which he threatens punishment.

Old Christmas cards from the region, especially from the 19th Century, show Krampus—sometimes portrayed as a female—delivering spankings in classic bondage attire. However, I believe that Krampus is in essence, male, particularly because of the enormous horns, trophies taken from the iconic mountain Steinbock, which are usually part of the headgear. Surviving from ancient times, despite more than a thousand years of intervening Christianity, there’s still a magnificent horned god who dances in German streets during this cold, sunless time. 

 Nature, in the form of the Teutonic Goddess, Mother Perchta, is no longer fertile, no longer generous to her children. The Wheel of the Year has turned. Now she whips the land with winds, ice, and snow. The birch is sacred to her, and is represented by the rune Berkana.  Are these demonic creatures wielding birch rods her minions?
Are they  avengers--or the agents--of Evil? After all, they are said to carry bad children away in sacks for late-night snacks! 
Are they chasing Winter away or are they the pain and cruelty of Winter itself?

The answers to these questions were lost a very long time ago. 

For the second part of my “Magic Colours” series I wanted to create a shape-shifting creature who lived in the Austrian Alps. Krampus came at once to mind, so I decided to use his legend, changing it here and there to fit my ideas about the character. 

In Black Magic, a disillusioned young soldier, Goran, returns home from the Napoleonic wars to find his family estate semi-abandoned in the wake of more than a decade of European war. During the "year without summer" (1816) thousands of  people in the northern hemisphere sickened and starved, for beside the cold and dark, there were torrential rains. (We now know this was caused by the cataclysmic eruption of the Tambora volcano.) In the alps, all the extra precipitation caused devastating avalanches.
Home at last, depressed, and aimlessly wandering, Goran stumbles into the seasonal celebrations of his tenants. It appears to be a traditional Summer Solstice party, celebrating the start of a warm and sunny year. There is food, beer and the possibility of sex, but after the talk, the drinking and dancing, he finds, too late, that he's walked into a trap. His tenant farmers have their own ideas about what their newly returned young lord can do for them.
When he awakens the next day, he finds himself changed into a sort of local god, not only the horny talisman of fertility, but an avenger of wrongs, a caretaker of man and beast. Now another link in an ageless chain, Goran will “wear the horns” and share, whether he likes it or not, the life of all who dwell on his  mountain.

~Juliet Waldron
BLACK MAGIC is available at these sites:


Monday, December 28, 2015

Fear of Snowmen: Winter Confessions by Connie Vines

It is the holiday season.  Jingle Bells, Santa Claus, Reindeer, Mugs of Hot Chocolate, and Snowmen.

Now just wait a second, no one mentioned there were going to be any Snowmen!

Yes, I must confess I have a phobia.  My phobia has a name, too. Hominochionophobia.

It is an odd fear and since I reside in southern California, a fear I can avoid/ ignore—except during the winter holidays.  The reason I cannot ignore my odd little phobia during the winter is because Hominochionophobia is a fear of snowmen.

Here in the United States, snowmen are everywhere during the holidays.  On the daily news, imprinted on paper plates, fashioned into huge inflatables on people’s front lawns.  You get the idea.
What most people see.

In my world, snowmen Christmas cards are turned so that only the back of the card faces outward, no snowmen decorations or ornaments are allowed in the house. Under no circumstances can I be expected to watch any television shows or movies revolving around snowmen.

Over the several years, I have been working on overcoming this fear. Why?  Because the school counselor thought I needed an intervention.  Yep, you guessed it.  The entire administrative staff gathered around my desk, singing “Frosty the Snowman”.  Oh, it gets even better.  They were all wearing top hats, and a pointy snowman nose was fastened to each one of their excited faces. They leaned over me and  I nearly had a panic attack when I jumped from my chair.

What I see.
I began with tiny steps.

I made progress.

I drew glasses on the faces of the snowmen on Christmas cards.

I was able to look at gift-wrap covered with pictures of snowmen.

I didn't glance way when we drove past lighten displays.

I thought I had everything under control.

Then it happened!

Play the “screeching violin in Alfred Hitchcock’s bloody Psycho shower scene” here.

My reaction when we meet!
Four days ago, I attended my brother’s Christmas Eve party.

I was okay upon spying the welcome mat with the prominent face of a snowman. I stepped on the mat, instead of leaping over the top, or darting around the edges.  I even commented on the snowman’s very large top hat as a tree topper being a showstopper when I stepped inside the entryway.  Sugar cookies decorated as snowmen, on the appetizer table, no problem.

After the wonderfully prepared buffet dinner and before the children opened their gifts, I went to the powder room.

Play the “screeching violin” again, only much, much louder!

I stepped inside the large room, locked the door and turned around.

I did not scream. I did jump and turn around and bump into a snowman on the counter.  There were snowman towels, snowman rugs—snowmen everything!  My vision became a bit fuzzy but I did not hyperventilate.

I regained my composure, washed my hands and sedately exited the powder room.

However, I must have looked a little wild-eyed when we gathered together for pictures because my sister-in-law exclaimed, “Didn’t anyone warn Aunt Connie?”

This snowman is life size!  

Happy New Year,

Connie Vines

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See you next month.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

IN 2016, I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN MAGIC - by Vijaya Schartz

Most of us do believe in magic, and most of us will never admit it. We use other words for it, and prefer to call it Christmas miracles, sheer luck, pure coincidence, fate, serendipity, or the result of positive thinking. These things happen out of the blue, against all odds, a terrible catastrophe averted, a miraculous recovery, a ray of hope in the most desperate situations, a life-saving intervention, an unexpected act of bravery... it's usually for the better.

Sometimes we give credit to someone else, a good Samaritan, a guardian angel, or God, and we are grateful and give thanks. Truth be told, we as simple human beings are more powerful than we give ourselves credit for, and if we only believed in our own power, we could wield our own magic.

Our brains are the most complex and powerful machines. They can make us feel joy, love, pain, sadness, and sometimes even make us see what is not there. Our brains can transport us through time with vivid memories, and into strange, unknown worlds when we read a story or watch a movie. Our attitude can also influence the people and the world around us. Successful people often attribute their windfalls to a positive attitude.

I prefer to call it magic. The magic of a smile, of a random act of kindness, the power to believe that we deserve to be happy, loved, respected, recognized for our achievements, and so does everyone else.

So this coming year, I want to focus on the positive, believe that good things are coming my way, and that we shall all be happy, loved, healthy, and prosperous.

Wishing you all a magic year in 2016.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

In the meantime, you can experience true magic by reading BELOVED CRUSADER, Book 6 (standalone) in the Curse of the Lost Isle medieval fantasy romance series, available everywhere in eBook and in paperback.

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