Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Visit to Tunisia by Joanie MacNeil

Towards the end of 2016, Facebook continued to tantalize me with memories of our 2013 holiday of a lifetime, visiting places we’d never imagined we’d see.

A two day stopover in Dubai following a long flight from Australia was a welcome break. The journey really began for us on arrival in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, in North Africa.

Tunis is both an ancient and modern city. On our first free day we caught a taxi to the markets (souk) and the old medina. The driver gave us some advice: say NO, NO! He continued in his not very clear English.

Along the busy streets, we better understood the taxi driver’s advice, meeting several new best friends. This was a new experience for me. The usual line, we saw you at your hotel, or there is a craft market on, just for today. I can take you there. One keen fellow we couldn’t discourage, no matter how insistent we were, didn’t lose interest when we made a quick impromptu dash into a store. He waited patiently for us to come out, then full of stories, and carrying an enormous key, guided us deep into the old medina with its narrow streets, shops, rubbish and nose-twitching smells. His mission: to take us to a craft market, which in fact turned out to be a carpet shop owned by a friend.

The two men raved on about the view from the roof. I climbed up the narrow stairs to it check out for myself, while the men tried to talk my husband into buying carpets. The rooftop was roughly tiled, a mix of colors and patterns, and no shade. I imagine the space would have been a pleasant enough place to relax in the evenings. Rooftops of different shapes and sizes, some dotted with satellite dishes. A dome, a spire, the hill near our hotel; some assorted buildings and the telecommunications building, filled my camera lens. Our new best friend then took us to a perfume shop, but when we didn’t buy anything, he lost interest and left us to find our own way out through the cobblestoned narrow covered alleys. Fortunately we kept our cool, retraced our steps through the many twisted walkways. Exhausted, and having experienced enough of the heat, we climbed into a beaten up old cab, without seatbelts, driven by a young lead-footed local, for the most hair-raising ride ever back to the hotel. Nothing like the pleasant experience of the earlier cab ride.

A special highlight for me was the camel ride from Douz, the largest desert outpost in Tunisia, into the southern Sahara. The peaceful beauty of the desert at the end of the day, with its pale blue and pink skies; light coloured sand; some vegetation, and tourists in bright headscarves and traditional dress, atop camels of all sizes. Beautiful black horses, ridden by men in colourful rich purple and gold tunics, and carriages for those who didn’t want to do the one hour camel trek.

There  were photo opportunities to pose holding a tiny desert fox, for a fee of course. With one hand gripping the reins, I reached out with the other and patted one of the soft, tiny foxes. The Fennec fox is a small nocturnal animal native to the Sahara and other semi-arid areas. Adults grow to a height of only 20 centimeters. Ears like those of bats span 15 centimeters, and radiate body heat to help keep the animals cool.

I thought the camel roped with mine might bite my foot as she often came close for a nuzzle. I’d heard stories about camels that bite! I did get my foot tangled in the rope, which was a bit worrying, but not as much as alighting from my huge male camel. Suffice to say that it’s easier for someone with longer legs than mine to slide over the side with ease. My lower back ached so much, I thought I might not be able to walk the next day!
Other highlights:

·       Dougga archaeological site: the best preserved and most extensive Roman ruins in Tunisia. Backdrop: the Atlas Mountains. 

·       Coastal Carthage where, in comparison to Dougga, there is little evidence of Roman settlement.

·       Sidi-Bou-Said, the pretty Andalusian-looking village, perched above the beautiful blue Mediterranean. White buildings and bright blue doors added to the summer experience.

·       Monastir: a visit to the Old Town and Kasbah where The Life of Brian was filmed.

·       El Djem: a 3rd century Roman colosseum originally seated 30,000, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
·       The troglodyte house at Matmata—the underground village, inhabited until the 1960s, served as the setting for the original Star Wars movie.

·       Crossing the salt lake of Chott el Jerid to Tozeur, an important oasis on the ancient caravan route between Algeria and Tunisia.

·       The added excitement of a sandstorm and flash flood during the jeep excursion from Tozeur to the mountain oasis of Chebika, not far from the Algerian border. The flooding was caused by a storm over the Algerian river catchment area. The awesome, spectacularly rugged mountains featured in The English Patient. We passed a pretty village in the mountains where the water swept by on its journey to the desert flood plain—the village was abandoned in the1990s because of flood damage and relocated on higher ground. On the way home, we drove past a bride, beneath a colorful circular canopy, perched on a camel in the midst of her procession.

·       A two hour journey on the Old Beys train, known as the Red Lizard, from Metlaoui Selja through the spectacular narrow, rugged Selja Gorges and return.

·       Visits to the Roman ruins at Sbeitla on our way to the sacred city of Kairouan, also of archeological/historical significance in Muslim history; the Grand Mosque, Tunis's oldest mosque; the museum, previously a Turkish palace, featuring mosaics from Roman times. The ancient floor mosaics were those from the original palace. Visitors had to wear paper shoes to avoid damaging the mosaics.

In the week we were in Tunisia, we travelled 1650 kilometers through agricultural areas with fruit and olive trees in the north; through drier southern regions, and desert with its cooling green oases and date palms; and industrial and mining areas.

Some of the villages we drove through were untidy, with haphazard buildings; others were much better cared for. Unfinished houses, still suitable to live in, with less fees to be paid by the owner in their unfinished state, were built from a special kind of red brick to suit the hot desert climate. Roadside food stalls, with local barbecued livestock for sale hanging amongst heat, dust and flies for anyone keen enough to buy and try. Smiling and not so happy faces. The men, sitting outside cafes in every village we passed through.  Apparently they walk in from their farms for breakfast, and stay until lunchtime, catching up with their neighbors from outlying areas. Further out in the countryside beneath makeshift shade against the heat, young men selling cheap fuel from Libya in plastic containers.
On the highway to the airport a small station wagon drove past us with mum, dad, a couple of children, and two goats in the back, probably going to the markets ahead. We saw local farmers herding their animals on foot, or riding a donkey over their barren lands.
Nothing about living in Tunisia is easy. It is very diverse; dry and sandy. A fascinating place to visit.

Joanie MacNeil

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras! Ooooh La La! By Connie Vines

Mardi Gras 2017 falls on Tuesday, February 28.  Today.😘 🎉

This is why today is the most perfect day for me to post on BWL Authors’ Blog.

My upcoming release “Gumbo Ya Ya” an anthology for women who like romance Cajun, takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana and features Mardi Gras and Cajun/Creole culture.

For those of you not familiar with Mardi Gras, I’ll give you a bit of a summary, via pictures and links, so that you can experience the excitement of The Big Easy (as New Orleans in called).

The most popular time to visit New Orleans is the extended weekend before Mardi Gras (February 24- 28). Come then and you'll be sure to catch the most popular parades, like Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, Rex and all of the festive celebrations throughout the whole city.

Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Most visitors will plan to arrive no later than Saturday, February 25, 2017 in order to enjoy an extended weekend of festivities.

Watch the Floats and Catch Mardi Gras throws.

Enjoy jumping up to catch beads, doubloons, cups, stuffed animals, etc.! Yell, "Throw me something, Mister!" at the float riders. Bring a large, sturdy plastic or cloth bag to hold all the treasure you'll be catching. If you try to put all of your beads around your neck, you'll have a hard time standing up straight. Be prepared: some people get so overcome with excitement they will occasionally jump in front of you to grab what a rider has thrown to you. Don't get into a tug-o-war; there are many more floats on the way. Some visitors from far away hold up a sign saying where they are from: our local riders love to see that people from out of town having a good time, and will throw to them to make sure they do.

If you can’t visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras, try ‘tasting’ a few of the famous ‘foods’ of The Big Easy!

For easy to prepare New Orleans Fare visit All Recipes http://allrecipes.com/recipes/192/holidays-and-events/mardi-gras/

Listen to Mardi Gras Music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJARs46wMZ8

A video look at New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/videos.html

Let the Good Times Roll!


My favorite New Orleans Cafe, Cafe DuMonde

Coming Soon

Available now: at Amazon.com

Romance authors at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire, by Vijaya Schartz

Angel of Lusignan by Vijaya Schartz
Click to find it HERE

The Glendale Chocolate Affaire started just over two decades ago under the sponsorship of Joe Ceretta, the owner of the Ceretta Candy Company, located in Glendale Arizona. 

Joe Ceretta, initiator of the Glendale Chocolate Affaire.

This event usually runs on the Superbowl weekend, the first weekend of February, shortly before Valentine's Day. It takes place in Murphy Park, around the Velma Teague Library and goes on Friday night, Saturday all day and night, and Sunday afternoon. The theme is Chocolate and Romance, and since the inception, the local Romance Writers have been part of this event.

Getting Ready Friday night - an impressive lineup of authors
View from above. The Glendale Glitters are still decorating the trees since the holidays.
This year (unlike some previous years when it was cold or rainy) the weather was balmy, the sun shone on the event, and the crowds came to attend the free event. This year it gathered a whooping 85,000 visitors. There were vendors of chocolate, of course, and all kinds of sweets and yummy crepes and sausages and fried bread, wine, beer, chocolate-covered fruit, and many mouth-watering delights, like pulled pork and delicious curly fries drowned in melting cheese. You will also find there popcorn, hats, jewelry, art, and a trove of other treasures for Valentine's Day gifts.

On Saturday, many of the participating authors also gave free writing workshops in the Civic Center Annex, for aspiring writers of all popular genres, on how to write, edit, polish a novel, and get it published, as well on how to market it.
Vijaya Schartz, holding the first print copy of ANGEL OF LUSIGNAN

The most exciting thing for writers about this event, is the opportunity to meet their readers, year after year, as they return to tell them how much they liked last year's books, and to check what new titles they have published since the last Affaire.
Wearing sunglasses and summer top on this hot February day in Glendale Arizona.
So, if you live in Arizona, or happen to visit at that time of year, and if you like romance or chocolates, mark your calendars for next year and come say hi to our local Romance authors, at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire.

Vijaya Schartz
  Romance with a Kick
  Amazon - Barnes & Noble Smashwords

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Have good manners gone forever? Tricia McGill

Visit my Books We Love Author page
This morning something happened that made me wonder. Where have good manners gone?

I was given the finger by a fellow motorist as I drove out of the local shopping center. For those of you who are non-Australians that means a finger was pointed at me in a rude gesture by a scowling male driver. And what did I do to deserve this insult? I allowed cars the right of way onto the main highway. But obviously this young person considered that I made him wait too long behind me while I applied my good manners on the road. To show me his displeasure he came around on my outside beeping his horn full blast (bear in mind that we drivers sit on the righthand side of our cars over here in OZ and one of the road rules is that we give way to the right). He then proceeded to come across at speed so that he was in front of me and then he did a sudden jerk to the left while giving me aforementioned hand signal as he turned left into a service station (mouthing apparent obscenities). Now, how urgent was his need for petrol that he had to perform this amazingly bad mannered and ignorant act, putting other drivers at risk, simply because I did what comes naturally to me, I allowed the traffic coming from my right side right of way.

Fellow drivers of my generation will know exactly where I am coming from when I say that in the “good ol’ days” we would not only give way to other drivers but they would then give us a friendly salute to say thanks. Back then we knew what good manners were. I sometimes wonder how some of these younger drivers get their licences. I know we all think that we are the best drivers in the world when we are young and perhaps impatient, but at times they test my patience to the limits with their rudeness, and I wonder if they are taught manners at home.

We were taught to respect our elders, something else that came naturally. We would not think of sitting on a bus or train while an elderly person stood. The men of our era always, without fail, opened doors for us ladies, and walked on the outside of the footpath. Men might use plenty of cussing and swear words while in the company of their mates but never let a swear word pass their lips while in the company of females. And if they did let one slip they would immediately apologize. These days I am becoming sick of seeing movies that are peppered with blasphemies and curses, and by just as many women as men. My mother would be disgusted if she heard some of the language that seems to be the norm nowadays.

That’s not to say I haven’t used the odd swear word in my books, but only when it is appropriate to the character. I make no apologies to those who think me a prude, I have been known to let my tongue get the better of me at times when no other word will suffice, but mostly my dogs are the only ones who will hear.

It seems that nobody can solve the problem of whether manners maketh the man.
According to this writer’s point of view the problem today is that men are frightened of being embarrassed if they perform an act of chivalry. So, perhaps it is the women who are to blame. What man will offer to hold your chair out for you or help you on with your coat ever again if he is ridiculed by his friends or even the woman he is performing this mannerly act for?

Here’s what Sting had to say about good manners. I’m sure he won’t object to me using this brilliant quote:

“If "Manners maketh man," as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself, no matter what they say."

So, there you go, men of today (and sometimes women) have to stop being so self-conscious of doing what is right. Instead of making rude gestures simply because a fellow driver has made you wait a minute or two to be on your way, or a salesperson has held you up at the supermarket, take time to pause and smile. Life is too short to be in such haste to show others how rude and ignorant you are. I’m certain that this young man who was so rude to me has many people in his life who love him dearly—or perhaps he doesn’t and that is the root of his problems.

Remember Brian’s famous quote from Monty Python’s Life of Brian “Always look on the bright side of life.”

And then there’s the scourge of the internet—the troll. Need I say more? Every writer has suffered slanderous words aimed at their work by these faceless people who must surely have very unhappy existences if they take pleasure in sniping at other’s achievements.  

Another of my mother’s memorable words of wisdom was: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then best say nothing at all.”

Find more on my Books We Love titles on my Web Page

Friday, February 24, 2017

Randall Sawka, the Continuing Journey

Our journey, which turned out literally to be around the world, enters the home stretch. The six months living (we basically lived with the locals and avoided tourist spots) in England was amazing. Mostly amazingly dry. We arrived in late September and depart in late February and have had five to six days of rain. This was not at all what we expected. We love Weymouth on the south coast. Plenty of hikes.

Check out Randall's Books We Love author page for more on  his books.


The city also boasts many great coffee shops. We grew close to Coffee 1 as my main writing spot, it is a chain that makes Nancy's favourite, pumpkin spice lattes and an interesting thing called Cornish lemonade for me. They lack WiFi, so I get far more writing done without distraction. Except the charm of my lovely wife, of course. Another excellent place was on the Oceanside about a two hour walk from our apartment. He I scribbled down some words and celebrated with cake, a favourite in the UK. The one that looks like it has cherries on top is actually cherry cake. Our first time for that flavour.

This coming weekend is our last one here, but will be spent in Salisbury, a short train ride away. During my local promotion of my novels a country western club invited us to a dance Saturday night. Yee Haa.

My latest novel is coming along nicely. It is the first time I've written a book out of sequence. It is an. Interesting experience. I'll soon be busy sorting out the section and blending the ideas. The nice thing about doing the book this way is that I can dive in to the ideas as they pop in to my head rather than search for the next bit as needed. The ideas have been slow materializing or appear in wave-after-wave.

We will be back in Canada March 29th, jet lagged I'm sure, but happy we took this year to travel.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What if...you meet an alien?

What if...you meet an alien? Thought provoking question, right?

Hi everyone. I’m DK Davis, author of Secret: In Wolf Lake, a YA sci-fi, fantasy adventure starring Samantha Parks. Her experience brings to light my own thoughts of ‘aliens walk among us’…and what if I met one? LOL Seriously, though, I did think about this, a lot when I was younger…and honestly, I’m not sure all of those thoughts have left the building. *grins*

I had an imaginative childhood. Yea, I had a few good friends, and three sisters that kept me fairly busy (me being the oldest and the responsible one), but I also had a wild imagination. Besides the inner search of my “soul belief,” (I was pretty young when I realized there was more to me than a mere physical body) I also believed that there has to be more than humans in all the galaxies of the universe.

Didn’t you back then?  How about now?

Science Fiction fed me for most of my life, so did the Sci-fi shows and movies…and then fantasy and the paranormal…and supernatural. I loved / love all of it. Like an addiction or craving, I can never get enough.

Imagination is at the core of creative story ideas…like the “what if”—I meet an alien?
How would it appear? Like a human, like a scary entity covered with wart-like oozing growths or tentacles that look like rat tails, or how about like a supernatural being…as in vampire, werewolf, any kind of shifter? Eyes glow, face blaze red, veins are dark blue when angered…and what would anger it?

My alien would appear human, at least for part of the time, because it would have the ability to “glamor” itself (change its appearance to look like anything or anyone). It would also have empathy for the human race and all the beings that share our planet. (It is my imagination at work here, after all) *grins*

It would want to right all the wrongs we as humans are doing to our planet. Most likely it would be some kind of advocate for all the right things to do for our planet to make it healthy. Naturally it would come from another galaxy and know exactly the steps required for Earth and all its beings.

We (the alien and I) would be drawn together by instinct – it would have the ability to read my mind…and perhaps I would share that same ability. Together, we’d right the wrongs. (I love being the hero – or at least one of the heroes; )

But, of course, we’d have to get past the naysayers – those afraid of the “unknown.” And, how will we do that?

And if we don’t get past those negative, close-minded beings, there’d be certain apocalyptic events, so a good dollop of building tension…will we succeed?

Well, just great, now we’re talking end of the world because of people fearing my alien friend. There definitely will NOT be a total annihilation of our Earth. Those darn naysayers will have to take a backseat and roll their windows up. I won’t hear any more of it. Geesh!

It is my story after all (another reminder)…about my alien and me.
Have you ever thought about aliens living among us? Come on…be honest, you’ve never thought about it?

Tell me something. Use that wild imagination of yours. It’s fun to play, you can call it brainstorming if that makes you feel better.

So, what would the alien you meet look like? And would he/she have any superpowers? Curious minds want to know; )

DK Davis writes YA sci-fi, supernatural, and fantasy with a good dollop of all the relationships woven in between. When she’s not writing, editing, or reading, she’s hiking, RV’ing, fishing, spending time with grandchildren or her favorite muse (her husband) in Southwest Michigan.
You can find her at these links:

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