Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Vivid Dream by Eleanor Stem



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Princess in the Woods
When I was young, probably nine or ten, I had a wild dream that spooks me to this day. It was winter, and dark outside. We lived in this small house I want to call a dacha (a country house or cottage in Russia). It had two rooms: a larger common area with a hearth, table and chairs, and a sleeping chamber, much smaller. The sleeping area was a series of platforms tacked to the wall, one above the other almost to the ceiling. We kids slept on the higher platforms, the adults on the lower.

No adults were at home. I must have been the eldest, and was in charge of some other children. 

A fierce storm raged outside. It had come up quickly, and did not give me time to close the shutters. I would have to go outside, but I was afraid I’d get lost in the driving snow that pricked your skin like needles.

The winter had dragged on for weeks, one storm after the other. Food was scarce. Wolves that normally howled at night, started doing it in the daytime. As the winter progressed they became more aggressive. Horses, dogs, and sheep were vulnerable. Wolves attacked people in their sleighs. They'd run up from behind, pull people off, and devour them on the icy road.

Tonight, with the adults gone, the shutters that slammed in the winds, the wolves became reckless, crazed in their hunger. They smashed in the windows of the front room. I pulled the children into the sleeping chamber and shut the door. Wolves surrounded the little house, ten or twenty, piled against the outside windows, growling, snapping their teeth.

Man attacked by wolves
Those inside slammed against the bedchamber door. In a panic, everyone screaming, we climbed from one sleeping shelf to the next, higher, toward the ceiling.

The windows burst with wolves. The door latch broke. Wolves jumped up against our climb to the higher sleeping levels. They were relentless, would not go away. Their fur brushed against my legs. They spewed vile odors from their snapping jaws, wild with bloodlust. We huddled together on the top shelf nearest the ceiling while the wolves snarled and fought each other. They climbed over themselves in an attempt to reach us, their eyes flashing with hunger. 

I awoke, filled with terror, shaking, and glad I was where I was, not in a small Russian cottage during a terrible winter. Needless to say, I’ve never liked really big dogs, like German Shepherds. I’d walk a mile out of the way to avoid one.

Do dreams have meaning? Where did this vivid scene come from? I was young, innocent. After years of thinking about this, I believe it was a memory from a past life, a memory that bled into this life. A not-so-good past life.

Scary Moment
I want to thank Wikicommons Public Domain for these pictures. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

LODESTONE LETTERS


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I’ve always had an interest in reading biographies of famous people, but it didn’t take me too many years to realize that these books, by nature, are only the opinion of a single writer. That’s when I started to read the notes and the bibliographies and these soon became as interesting as the book itself. This naïve reader had just “discovered” an author’s finest source material. 
As I, back in the day of inter-library loan, began to pursue these leads, I discovered the most exciting material of all, letters and diaries. The language isn't always easy for a modern reader. Eighteenth Century language has a circuitous, verbose style which tends to disguise the emotional thrust of the message. From these letters and journals, however, a voice still speaks; the past enters our present in a breath-taking way.

Here’s one which paints a picture of the realities of 18th Century travel, of an Albany still forested, as the Marquis de Chastellux describes a Revolutionary War winter visit to General Schuyler’s mansion.

 
It was a difficult question to know where I should cross the Hudson…for it was neither sufficiently frozen to pass over the ice, nor free enough from flakes to venture it in a boat. …I was only twenty miles from Albany; so that after a continued journey through a forest of fir trees, I arrived at one o’clock on the banks of the Hudson…A handsome house half way up the bank opposite the ferry seemed to attract my attention and to invite strangers to stop at General Schuyler’s, who is proprietor as well as architect…The sole difficulty therefore consisted of passing the river. While the boat was making its way with difficulty through the flakes of ice, which we were obliged to break as we advanced…”

Envision this world—so green, so cold! All you have between you and Old Man Winter is wool, felt and hide, and your feet and hands are continually numb. The Hudson flows like slate under an only single shade-up grayscale sky. A twinkle of snow sinks into the surface. The pines hiss, and the wind picks up as we are ferried across the water, the drifting ice striking the boat and icy droplets of water strike our face.  
I get inspiration from this stuff! Here’s another, a charming (and alarming) view into the life of Mozart, a musician on the English leg of his “world” tour, aged eight years and five months:
“Witness as I myself of most of these extraordinary facts, I must own that I could not help suspecting his father imposed with regard to the real of the boy, thou he had not only a most childish appearance, but likewise had all the actions of the stage of life.
For example, whilst he was playing to me, a favorite cat came in, upon which he immediately left his harpsichord, nor could we bring him back for a considerable time.

He would also run about the room with a stick between his legs by way of a horse. ..” 

~Daines Barrington, 28 September 1769, report to the Secretary of the Royal Society in London 

I was happy to read that the little boy was allowed to have time with a favorite cat, that Leopold Mozart (“Papa”) didn’t play the martinet and order Wolfgang straight back to the piano. Like little boys today playing with cars, little Mozart would, in his imagination, ride horses.

I’m thinking, really excellent ones, matched, of course, maybe white or dappled gray…

Sometimes these surviving letters say a great deal about kinks in personality, some not so pleasant, things you’d rather wish your subject hadn’t said, something a writer has to ponder and work to understand. Sometimes, when this happens, you may have to rewrite an entire character.  

It’s understandable—not to snoopy writers and historians, of course— that wives of men judged ‘famous” by their contemporaries often burned and bowdlerized their husband’s surviving letters—all and any they could lay their hands on.  In deference to those wives, whose spirits have been so forthcoming to their humble servant, here is a brief sample of something I'd rather not have read:

“Received December 22 of Alexander Hamilton six hundred dollars on account of a sum of one thousand dollars due me.”  ~James Reynolds

This is a receipt for the first part of the blackmail Hamilton would pay for his adultery with Reynolds’ wife Maria. She must have been a hot number, because talk about shooting yourself in the foot—this particular bad move just about takes the cake, both politically and personally! As I’ve studied his wife, Betsy Schuyler, I’ve grown to have the profoundest respect for her. She was a woman of convictions, the kind which helped her survive fifty years beyond the death of her husband. For me, she's become the  embodiment of the word "lady."  

Here's a happier excerpt (a flirtatious double entendre) from Nov 19, 1798, some years after his infidelity, sent by Hamilton to his wife:  "I am always happy My Dear Eliza when I can steal a few moments to sit down and write to you.  You are my good genius; of that kind which the ancient Philsophers called a familiar; and you know very well that I am glad to be in every way as familiar as possible with you."
  
And last, a charming diary entry, one from James McHenry, of later Fort McHenry fame, about Revolutionary War evenings while quartered with the rest of Washington’s ADC’s upon a substantial Pennsylvania household.
“Eight miles from Moors & 25 from Philadelphia. Head-quarters at Jonathan Fells (Doylestown). A raining evening. The company within doors includes a pretty, fullfaced, youthfull, playfull lass and a Family of Quakers meek and unsuspicious. Hamilton thou shalt not tread on this ground. I mark it for my own.”
This tells me that the recreational behavior of army officers/staff hasn’t changed a whole lot over the course of the last 250 years. It brings us, readers and writers,  closer to a world that is, in many ways, technically and socially, alien.  We no longer have to trust ourselves to a small ferry in sketchy winter conditions in order to cross the Hudson and arrive at the warmth, food and good company of the big house, but down at the core, we humans remain the same.


 
~~Juliet Waldron
 
See all my historical novels at:
 






Thursday, May 28, 2015

5 Reasons Writers Should Blog By Connie Vines

In the past, my marketing was often 'guest appearances' as a speaker or workshop facilitator, a participant in a interview panel which included book signings.

Not having reached the stellar stardom of Steven King or others topping the NYT Best Sellers Lists, my 'guest appearances' were memorable (though, not always for the the right reasons).  Book signings in chain and small book stores, and booths--in my case the boots were at Powwows and Rodeos were the norm.

This brand of  market included lots of toting and driving!  Fortunately, I was able to dress in trade cloth dresses and high-top beaded moccasins or western wear and riding boots. Often my Regency writing friends fussed with flounce, bustles, and complicated footwear to help promo their genre fiction.  

However, this type of marketing was hit-and-miss and cut deeply into my writing and family time.  Since I also freelanced, writing for magazines,  ghosting literary fiction, and working, part-time, as an acquisitions editor for an independent Christian publisher, I wasn't even toying with the idea of  financing my personal city-by-city book tour.

Even though I still act as a contest judge in numerous national and international writing contests, belong to professional writing associations, and am acting President of a Special Interest (GothRom) Chapter of Romance Writers of America, I believe social media and the Internet are wonderful ways to promote both print and eBooks.

I tweet, I keep a personal and author Facebook page, Google+ and an author website (which I revamp yearly).  I also actively blog and guest blog--now.


  • Blogging keeps me motivated and aware of what is going on in the writing world.  view it as Professional Development.  It is where I put into practice all information I mentally uploaded from online classes I've attended, or articles I've read.
  • Accountability for my writing time.  Like most writers today, I have a day job.  Blogging helps me keep my writing time sacred.  There are days I don't have time to write, but knowing I am breaking one of my personal 'rules' keeps me a accountable.
  • M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G.  I still think book signings are great fun.  I always, always enjoy speaking to children and YA readers at library and book store functions.  I just don't wish to spend every single weekend out on the road promoting my novels.
  • And, as all writers know, the only way to sharpen prose is to write.  Often.  Being forced to write articles and/or blog on a regular basis has helped me to improve my prose in often small, yet meaningful ways.
  • Networking and Connections.  Blogging on my personal site, "Word Slinger" and guest blogging on other sites, including here at BWL author site, helps me make new friends, interact with my readers, and to learn and grow--as a writer and person.
Readers, what do you think?  Do you think writers should be blogging?  What other forms of promotion are appealing to you?

Thank you for stopping by today.

Happy Reading!

Connie
















Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shirley Martin, Author

Kick-butt heroines of Romantic Sci-Fi - by Vijaya Schartz




The wonderful thing about writing science fiction heroines, is that they can truly be whatever I want them to be. They don’t even need to be human. They take charge and operate beyond petty gender discrimination, wielding the power of true freedom... unless, of course, I blast an alien grenade into their sophisticated advanced society. That’s always fun to do. After all, without conflict, there would be no story.


But not all futuristic societies are advanced. Sometimes civilization goes backward, my heroine is whisked into a parallel universe (SNATCHED), alien intervention or human warfare destroys dreams of freedom. Then my heroines must restore balance to their world.


Sometimes they are hard core military by choice, like Tia in Anaz-voohri or Zania in Snatched. Sometimes I like to throw them into the fray against their will and watch them flounder and cope, as I imagine the worst possible situations to defeat them. Of course, among all these great qualities of strength and courage, they also have flaws and weaknesses. They usually perform well under pressure... until I find their breaking point. Even then, I still want to be them.


I love my kick-butt heroines. Whether they wield a sword, a blaster, or a bazooka, like in the ANCIENT ENEMY series, they confront their fears with courage, and after much suffering, they usually save the day... or the man they love, like in ALIEN LOCKDOWN.


Fiction reveals the writer’s soul. We usually write about what we know. Like my futuristic heroines, I’m a meditator, a fighter, a former gymnast, a skydiver, and a Martial Arts black belt (Aikido). I love Japanese swords and learned how to use them. I believe that even in future warfare, there will be a place for sharp blades. If an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or a solar flare renders all electronics useless, say goodbye to your fancy weaponry. My heroines can still rely on a length of good steel.


No sniggering, erotica readers. The blade is meant to slay whatever soldier, tiger, or alien demon wants to ruin the day. Of course, there are sizzling love scenes in my books as well. My heroines do deserve their rewards. But I prefer to avoid dubious metaphors.


You can find all my titles in eBooks mostly everywhere in most formats. I also have a few available in print. Some are out of print and only available used. More print books are coming out soon. Find my titles on: AMAZON  -  Barnes& NobleSmashwordsAll Romance eBooks

 

KICKING BOTS - Ancient Enemy Book Three




Dr. Melissa Campbell, head researcher at the San Francisco Center for Disease Control, asks an eminent colleague for help to protect her precious vaccine, one that could end the deadly alien plague. She didn't expect to get a crazy renegade like Bennett Sevastian for a bodyguard. She hates military types, and this genetically enhanced super-soldier is pure testosterone, hot-headed, quick-tempered, impulsive, impatient, and downright impossible. But these are dangerous times with riots in the streets, and rumors of alien invasion. In a breathless race against time, experience the decisive battle for humankind, one that will decide whether Earth belongs to humanity, or to a powerful alien race...


“As always, Ms. Schartz's dialogue is believable and authentic and her characters hero-worthy. I loved Melissa's smarts, compassion, and daring... a veritable thrill-ride, with some twists and turns... exciting, suspense… an unpredictable path that so engrossed me, I found it hard to put the book down. Great ending to a great series!" Two Lips Reviews.


Vijaya Schartz

Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I love my bed- Tricia McGill.

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Winter is drawing in in my part of the world and as I snuggle down beneath my nice warm sheets and blankets I appreciate, once again, how lucky I am. There have only been a few nights in my life when I have not slept in the comfort of my own bed. On a cold winter’s night when I am snug and warm under my blankets I think of all the people out there in the world who do not have a bed to climb into, but are forced to spend their nights huddled up on cold footpaths or park benches. To my mind it is a roaring disgrace that in countries like mine where we are supposed to be civilized and care for the less fortunate in our society, that there are far too many homeless living on the streets of the cities.

I’ve just been out to my letter box which contained a flyer from The Salvation Army. It states that 44,000 young Australians are homeless this year, and 53% have diagnosed mental health conditions. Thank God there are charitable organisations doing their best to provide hot meals and a warm place to sleep to these unfortunate folk.
What I find disgraceful is to hear that some of these homeless people are Veterans of one war or another. Destitute and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder most are unable to settle into normal lives after the horrors they lived through while fighting for their country.

Beds have played a large part in most of our lives. I can recall how I pulled the sheet over my head as a child knowing this rendered me safe from ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. I can remember my first night of marriage as if it was yesterday. Full of the joys and happiness of a young new bride, unaware of what life held. Then there was the horror of waking up in the middle of the night in a hospital recovery ward with a mask over my face as I came out of the anaesthetic induced sleep.
All things considered I have not really had many bad experiences in my bed—well to be honest—practically none. My bed has always been a place of warmth in winter, and comfort in times of sickness.

As a writer of historicals and time-travels, different types of sleeping arrangements have played a large part in my stories.

In my Wild Heather series where they travel back to Scotland in the 1050s I have them sleeping on a bed of straw covered by animal hides. Quite primitive, but cosy enough beneath the sheepskins. In those times only the Laird or his close family would have separate sleeping quarters. The rest of his clan slept in the main hall, which didn’t leave a lot of room for privacy.
  
In my Settlers series set in Australia of the early 1800s they weren’t so bad off and by then probably had proper beds to sleep on, although these would still have been furnished roughly with animal hides and rudimentary bedding. But imagine the plight of the convicts transported from England. The conditions on those early sailing ships would have been horrendous. It’s no wonder a lot of those transported didn’t make it, especially the children
 
Viking beds were probably lined with straw. An interpretation of an open bed at Eiríksstaðir is shown to the left. It's lined with straw and covered with an animal skin. 

On either side of the central corridor (between the roof support columns and the walls) in the Viking longhouse, raised wooden benches topped with wooden planks ran the length of the longhouse. They provided a surface for sitting, eating, working, and sleeping.

Taken from this site: 
 

The following information on medieval sleeping arrangements is taken from this site:

In the 14th century the poorest people slept on a straw mattress on the floor with whatever warm covering they could get. The richest houses had large elaborate beds, with ornamented canopies, richly-embroidered hangings, and soft featherbeds under the fine linen sheets. They were among the most splendid pieces of furniture in a large house, and noblemen often had their emblems embroidered on the hangings. They were a comfortable place to meet for a chat, or receive guests, while displaying an abundance of fine textiles. They could be social gathering places at night too, as visitors of high status would be invited to sleep in a bed even if they had to share.
(Imagine inviting your guests to share your bed)

The picture from 14th or 15th century France shows a canopied, curtained bed with a head sheet laid over the pillow resting on a sheet-draped bolster. Head sheets were gradually replaced by pillowcases and are not usually mentioned after 1500. A pillowcase was always called a pillow bere (bearer) until about the 16th century, but this could mean various kinds of pillow cover, not necessarily a linen pillowcase matching the sheets.




So all in all, beds have played a large part in everyone’s life since the cavemen I guess. But I am so glad I have my nice cosy bed to climb into every night.

You can find information on all my books on my Books We Love page here:
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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...