Thursday, June 30, 2016

Time Traveling

by Kathy Fischer-Brown
For the past four years, fellow BWL historical author, Juliet Waldron, and I have taken a few days together to step back in time to an era we both love and love to write about. As many of you read in her post yesterday, this year we ventured into the past to relive the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. I won’t recap the events, as Juliet (as always) did a great job. Instead I will meander a bit…

Lean-to for three
 As a writer of historical-set novels, I strive to make each book an immersive experience, and, if I haven’t lived in the time—at least on some basic level—my readers will be deprived of the sights, smells, sounds, flavors, and tactile sensations that make the past come alive. Living in the 21st century we tend to take many of our comforts for granted. Such things as plumbing and electricity, not to mention the internet, satellite weather forecasts, and streaming video. Even for the re-enactors themselves, going “home” to a hot shower and a real bed is always on the other side of a long weekend camping out without benefit of modern gear. It takes a bit of imagination to put oneself in the position of an actual denizen of the 18th century, stuck there for life…and all that that entailed. (And except for Jamie Fraser, I can’t imagine what kept Claire of “Outlander” so long in 1740s Scotland.)

Hanging the Laundry
I don’t for a moment wax nostalgic over a past in which our ancestors lived and died (most likely too young and from conditions and afflictions that in this modern world might be considered no more than nuisances or inconveniences, or in worst cases could be treated so much more effectively today). In this sense, I strive to create a realistic picture of the mid-to-late1700s, warts and all, taking into consideration some of the ugly facts of these days of yore, some of which today seem barbaric, even stupid, especially when the 18th century is known as “The Age of Enlightenment.” Women’s rights were barely the glimmer of a glimmer of a dream; sanitation and personal hygiene were practically nonexistent; and Draconian laws were often imposed for the slightest offenses. In cities, the poorest people often lived in squalid conditions without benefit of social services. Not to mention the existence of and dependence on slavery. 

Consideration of these facts often make me wonder why I love the period the way I do and choose to set stories in this time. That’s probably why a day or two at a re-enactment event can be so inspiring.

Doing the Wash
While the battles are fun to experience with all the senses and are well-orchestrated, I find the most interesting aspects of these events to be the daily lives and struggles of the people behind the scenes: the common soldiers hanging their wash to dry from makeshift lines and poles; women weaving baskets, cooking meals, mending clothes, and doing laundry; children being children (albeit without ipads and video games). The smells and the sounds, and the details of the clothing. The reminders that, despite the strangeness of the details, human nature remains unchanged.

Over the last few years I’ve developed a deep respect for the re-enactors of these events. They are passionate about what they do and are highly knowledgeable of the minutiae that governed the lives of the simple people they portray and are more than happy to share. 

And when the weekend ends, I look forward to returning to 2016, to my home in the suburbs of Central Connecticut, to my computer and cable TV, even if there’s an hour-and-a-half delay over the George Washington Bridge.


Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, Lord Esterleigh's Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan's Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad, her latest release, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books WeLove Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon and other online retailers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Katherine Pym

Katherine Pym for some reason really enjoys 17th century London, mostly the Restoration period of the 1660’s. Those years show the abrupt turnaround between the strict Puritan beliefs and the wild Monarchy romps, and how it profoundly affected the common man. On another note, Katherine and her husband divide their time between Seattle and Austin. 

The Barbers is historical fiction based in London 1663, a story that explores current events. This year is filled with science and medicine, the Royal Society and experiments that take place there. Bigamy prevails. Celia lives in a household filled with children from her father’s wives.  Sharing a shop with her father, Celia is a licensed barber who works as a healer. During her journeys, she crosses paths with the aristocracy who live in Whitehall, the home of the king. 

Jasper’s Lament is historical fiction, London 1664 when the London merchants clamor for war. They fear for their investments. The Dutch prowl the seas in their superior ships and are very rude to the English. Skirmishes take place, ports-of-call plundered. After his father’s mysterious death, Jasper discovers coded messages, letters penned in invisible ink which indicate plots against the king. Then, as war nears, Jasper falls in love with the daughter of a Dutchman.  


All my historical novels at:

A Master Passion:

I just went to the Battle of Monmouth last weekend in nearby NJ—although I was in no danger of being shot or impaled by a British dragoon. For a novelist, historical reenactments like this one are a unique kind of research. It’s one which, especially for the dedicated participants who volunteer their time to living history, functions as a full-on primitive camping trip, a personal exercise in experiencing the hard realities of “time travel.”

Kathy Fischer-Brown, who also writes the Revolution (The Serpent's Tooth Trilogy) did a lot of the work of getting us there, so she's the "we" and "us" in the following recitation.

At such events, you’ll find a group of dedicated history buffs portraying life as it was, in this case, during our now mythologized Revolution. These folks wear the clothes, made  of wool, muslin, and linen. They negotiate the territory wearing the one-shape-fits-both-left-and-right-foot shoes. After the “battle,” the men – and the women filling the ranks as foot soldiers--clean and oil their black powder flint locks, clean (puke!) the cannon. The “camp followers,” in reality, mostly poor women and their kids who would starve if they didn’t follow their soldier husbands, pluck chickens and scrape vegetables and use the cooking utensils—on the road, like this, mostly big black pots, knives, and iron cranes, to prepare their meals. Often, just as in the past, those big pots do double duty for food preparation.

At night they’ll sleep on the ground, with the marked exception of a few officers with camp cots. Washington, Lafayette and Joh Laurens are said to have slept under a tree together on the eve of this battle. On the British side, there will be tents and even the occasional officer’s lady/mistress, prettily parading at the encampment. On the American side, they’ll sack out in a group on hay strewn beneath a lean-to roofed with green branches. As much as possible, they walk the walk and talk the talk—and, this being summer in New Jersey—they sweat the sweat too.

Unlike the reenactment, the original Battle of Monmouth was not much fun. More soldiers are said to have died of heat prostration than bullets. And New Jersey was thoroughly beaten up in the American Revolution, marched and back and forth upon by both armies. (Only Massachusetts and Virginia may have suffered more.) The British Army, with a contingent of brutalized professional soldiers, plundered and raped indiscriminately. “…a day of rest and plunder,” is casually noted in the Visitor’s Center display, as the British Army who’d settled in the little town (then called Monmouth Courthouse) the day before the engagement. Don’t forget, though, that there was bad behavior by the Americans, too, under the cover of “Freedom’s Cause.” Violent militia groups with an ax to grind took advantage of local breakdowns of law and order in exactly the same way.  
This year at the Battlefield State Park, a young "soldier" reminded us that if you’d had a vote on The War of Independence—1/3 of the population would have been for it, 1/3 of the population against leaving the British Empire, and 1/3 just trying to stay the hell out of the way and get on with trying to farm their fields and raise their families. It must have been a long, dangerous, frightening eight years for all colonists.
However, June 18-19,  2016, was a great day to be at the place where all this history happened. Sunny skies brought out lots of people to take in the spectacle—the black powder display which seems to attract most of them.  They came in like a wave, and then, after the shooting was over and the acrid black powder smoke drifted away, departed.

After the crowd dispersed taking their small children, the hard core remains--folks like us who love history and the reenactors, who, I think, can lay claim to loving it even more. This is the time in which you may visit the encampments to observe and perhaps chat a bit while those in costume make their supper.  The reenactors Kathy and I have met are spectacularly devoted to their chosen task. (Calling it a "hobby" wouldn't be correct.) We saw entire families, from infants on up, at this “camping trip + time-travel”, everyone dressed appropriately.  Even little fifer boys of eight or nine are willing to play a part and give a history lesson.

Loyalist Rangers

One enjoyable facet of this reenactment at Monmouth was the number of young people enthusiastically and knowledgeably present.  Kathy and I enjoyed meeting the “smallpox survivors” who’d gone to the trouble of makeup to demonstrate active pocks, scaring, and boils.  Other young reenactors had constructed an ingenious in-ground cooktop, which conserved fuel and was less obvious from a distance than an open fire. (The reason, we were told, that you won't see this at a lot of other reenactments is that the Park personnel are usually not keen about folks digging holes.) Several pots of bubbling stew—a random assortment of vegetables and some chicken, with a bit of flour added, were being served, along with chunks of hearty bread.  

Laundry too "cooked" in a large "copper"—the heat and a bit of lye soap part of the sanitization process necessary for undergarments, this explained by the barefoot woman of the army busy stirring the pot. She and her sisters-in-arms were busy everywhere, all at work at some period appropriate task.   

In Sutler's Row, Lady Ellen showcases her talent as a seamstress; note what we'd call "mismatch."

BTW not a selfie in the background, but the heavy crook of her cane.
A pot full of chicken is seared.

         The in-ground cooktop/oven

Col. Hamilton was at Monmouth, an aide de camp who rode all day carrying messages around the battlefield for his commander-in-chief. (His doings, of course, brought about my original interest in the site.) Miscommunications and a lack of concerted movement by Gen. Charles Lee and Gen. George Washington turned the battle, begun so promisingly, into a kind of draw. This action, the longest single day's action in the war, was, nevertheless, an important moral victory for the Americans. Although the British continued on to their embarkation point at Sandy Hook, for the first time, the American army really stood up for itself against the military know-how of a far more mission-ready foe.

To close, if you write historical novels, there's a great deal to be learned at reenactments. Simply observing people wearing the clothing kick starts my writing process. Therefore, if you've never attended one, this summer would be a perfect time to start.

~~Juliet Waldron

All My Novels

*With heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in this marvelous day of living history, especially to the 2nd PA "The Regiment" The 43rd of Foot, who were so generous sharing their knowledge.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hootsuite and Social Media for Authors by Connie Vines

And the debate rages on in the Social Media world!

Hootsuite vs. Buffer—What is the Best Social Media Management App for 2016?
As we (or at least I) have discovered that managing a (my) “mini-social media empire” can be a bit of a mess.

So what makes up Connie’s mini-social media empire? you ask.

Website (
A Weblog (
Twitter (
Author Facebook Page (
Good Reads Page (
Cold Coffee Press (
Google + (
Instagram (
Pinterest (

Is there more?  Of course.  I guest blog at additional sites for book promo and name recognition (for myself and BWL).  I also have my book trailers, podcasts (under construction), promos via CTR, RST, Manic Readers, etc.

Obviously, I was happy to discover that specialized tools have been developed to aid in management.

Of course, Twitter, is still one of the most powerful media tools. Hootsuite and Buffer are two applications that are designed to present a neat interface with social media.

While Hootsuite and Buffer both have similar primary functions; they allow you to manage posts to social media websites by cross-posting at a specific time, thus allowing you to hit the key ‘read time’ of followers/trenders.  Both offer tools to interpret data such as views, click-through links (other customizable tasks are available at additional cost).

Buffer’s main focus is on Twitter.  While Twitter is a great social media there is a 160-character limit. Buffer’s claim is for smaller business with less of a focus on profits.

I use the FREE Hootsuite account which allows me to manage up to 3 Social networks.  Since I am able to advance schedule both my social media announcements via Hootsuite and blog posts via Blogger, it’s frees up my 8:00 PM – 11:30 PM time for my writing. 

Positive reviews for Hootsuite 2016 can be found at:

Hootsuite Alternatives:

SendSocial Media

I have zero personal knowledge of these programs.  However, Tweetdeck looks promising and is FREE.  However, since I already use Twitter, I don’t really see the point of this program.

Writers, are there other social media programs that work for you?

Readers, what is your personal favorite way of connecting with authors?  Is there a social network you really, really like?  Snapchat?  Vine?  Wanelo? Slack? Blab?

Please post comments. I’ll try out the new social media app that readers like and use on a daily (or nearly daily) basis.

Happy Reading,

Connie Vines

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fantasy fans at the Phoenix Comicon - by Vijaya Schartz

A hit at the Phoenix Comicon
Curse of the Lost Isle Book 7
by Vijaya Schartz

If you like Sci-fi and fantasy, you are probably a geek, and you are not alone. On June 2-5, over 90,000 people braved the 115-degree heat to attend the 2016 Phoenix Comicon, and discover their inner geek. And it was worth it. The city had to close some roads for the block parties, and the heavy construction on 7th Street made traffic a nightmare, but that did not stop the fans.

I attended as an exhibitor, signing my novels at a small table with my author friend in geekdom, Linda Andrews. This was our third Phoenix Comicon together, and it has been the best so far. We were ensconced between two booths with tall displays of graphic art, with the artist selling on one side, and another drawing caricatures as your favorite character. For four days, we watched the crowd, many in full costumes, cruise by our modest display. Many of the vendors sold costumes, wigs, light sabers, and all the geeky paraphernalia you can only find in specialized shops and at Comicon. And among all these convention goers, there were readers. Some only stopped to admire the covers, but others actually liked to read good sci-fi or fantasy books.

You meet some interesting characters, some funny, and some scary. I particularly liked these two:

Fans could take selfies with their favorite DC character in authentic costume, there were contests for the largest group of the same character Cosplay. Fans attended panels with their favorite sci-fi movie stars. Everyone had a blast. This is heaven for gamers, artists, writers, readers, and fans.

I was honored to be singled out by a famous Cosplay character, the best in his trade, a local celebrity in full costume, impersonating "Ex Excessive." I love the concept as well as the costume. Who wouldn't fall for these gorgeous black wings. He is local, his name is Trevor Gahona, and he gave me one of his roses. You can see it as a red dot of color on my table. Here is one of his official pictures in costume taken at the convention. What did I tell you?

In other words, I had a fantastic Phoenix Comicon, and I'll be back next year for sure. This event is a highlight of the year. I loved it. Hope to see you there next year.

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

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