Sunday, March 31, 2019

Priscilla Brown considers picture postcards


Will ambitious lawyer Olivia listen to her heart or her head before it's too late?
(She does send picture postcards.)

Find more about Hot Ticket and my other contemporary romances at

Recently I visited the exhibition Carte-o-Mania at the Australian National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. It shows 'cartes-de-visit', pocket-size portrait photographs which were taken and collected in Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century. This concept began in 1860 when Queen Victoria and her family sat for a photographer, and then made the photos available for sale to the public. After this, people also in Australia began to acquire their own photos to hand or send to friends, a kind of 'remember me', and collecting these became popular. Incidentally, around the time Queen Victoria initiated this fashion, picture postcards started to appear in Europe and USA, and collecting them began as a hobby.

This exhibition stirred my interest in today's picture postcards. I love them! When on holiday, I enjoy choosing cards to send, and receiving cards give me pleasure.  I pin these cards onto a corkboard where they stay until the board is so full that they start to fall off, when I remove the oldest one or two that I can part with. Some have been there years, and I still enjoy looking at them. But are picture postcards a dying tradition?  

Sending these postcards does take effort. First, to find them. In a tourist spot, this may not be difficult, though I've found that sometimes it's necessary to unearth them from the back of some shop selling assorted tourist merchandise as if the shop doesn't consider them worthy of better display. If there is adequate amount of choice, I want to match the card to the intended recipient, a picture which may appeal to an interest, for example historical, specifically scenic, mode of transport or related to a hobby.Then time spent at a cafe with a drink of choice is perfect for the writing. I believe a hand-written card brings a human touch to communication, makes the recipient feel important knowing you're thinking of them.

Finding a post office can be a challenge; sometimes it's easier to take the cards home and post there. It Italy, using my elementary Italian, I bought and wrote the cards, got lost on my way to the post office, bought the stamps and posted the cards. Back home, I discovered no one had received them. Did they ever leave Italy? Perhaps in my hurry to catch a ferry, had I dropped them into the litter bin which I recalled was next to the post box on the wharf? Ouch!

I have three friends each living in a different country, who are all travellers and wonderful at sending postcards. Each always tries to find a card which they know I will enjoy; recently I received a card from Brazil depicting a bird called a Pantanal, one from Sarawak (Malaysia) of a baby orang utan, and from France of a dignified chateau. These senders hand-write personalised messages which I appreciate. I do the same for them.

But are we in the minority?

My home is in a part of regional New South Wales which attracts tourists for its history and varied natural environment. The Visitor Centre holds a good selection of postcards depicting local scenes; I asked staff about the sales of these. "Noticeably declining" was the comment. "People aren't much interested anymore."

I took a straw poll of colleagues who travel frequently. "Always send cards to my grandparents who can't travel now and they love getting them"..."Postcards? Do people still send them? Why don't they use their phones?"..."Never sent one, I take videos"..."I like to send to close family and friends and most send to me"..."Couldn't be bothered, would take too long."

I know it's quicker and easier to take phone photos and share straightaway, or use a digital postcard  app. It may be tempting to send several photos of your travel companion or a selfie at for example the Eiffel Tower; if this is the main method of communication, for me it feels uninspired. Rather than any number of phone photos, I would prefer to receive one hand-written postcard with a little local information, indicating that the sender has spent time and thought on it. However, I do understand that not everyone is as comfortable as I am putting experiences into words (nor is addicted to spending time in cafes!) And I admit I am a technophobe. 

Enjoy your reading, Priscilla

Paragraph 1, reference:  National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia

Saturday, March 30, 2019


One of the joys of RVing is that, no matter where you are, you are home. Same bed, same dishes, same stuff. Only the scenery and the neighbours (and neighbourhood) change.

BUT . . .

The TV and magazine commercials that extol the joy and euphoria of RVing don’t tell you about what can go wrong. To wit: our two misadventures this winter.

(Mis)Adventure #1: We decided to go to San Carlos on the upper end of the Sea of Cortez (a.k.a. the Gulf of California) in Sonora, Mexico, this winter. Driving south from Nogales to San Carlos requires transiting the city of Hermosillo, a metropolis of some 700,000+ inhabitants. The highway through town is narrow and congested. Traffic goes hell-bent-for-leather fast; like there is no tomorrow; like accidents don’t happen and if they do, well, so be it. Did I mention that the semi-trailers think they own the road? The route is not well-signed, either. We had successfully, but not without some panic and rapid last-minute changes of lanes, negotiated the oh-my-gosh-is-this-where-we-turn-it-must-be-because-all-the-semi-trailers-are-turning-too section of Hermosillo, when WHAM!

First, some information:

A Mexican speed bump is called a tope (pronounced toe-pee). They come in all shapes and sizes. They’re everywhere – the entrances to towns or school zones, at important intersections, or “just because.”

You quickly learn to fear topes. You have to crawl over them. Carefully. S-l-o-w-l-y.

Most are marked. Some are not. It’s the unmarked ones that get you.

Back to the story.

We were out of the worst part of Hermosillo. Our heart rate was beginning to slow down. We were going maybe 40 km/hr (25 mph), tops, when WHAM! We hit an unmarked tope. The truck went KA-WHUMP! The trailer went KA-WHUMP!

We said, “Oh, @#$%^%$#@! That’s not good!”

We couldn’t stop. There was nowhere to stop. An hour later, we pulled into a Pemex station.

We opened the trailer. We took a deep breath. We went in.

We saw devastation.

A cupboard door had flown open, spewing glasses, glass bowls, plates everywhere. Do I need to point out that the glassware had shattered? Into a million pieces? Everywhere?

The wooden knife block had leapt three feet from its spot and had landed on top of our beautiful, hand-made ceramic garlic keeper that was now in pieces. Spices had flown out of the rack and broken, and spices were strewn everywhere, mixed in with the glass splinters. Milk – Milk? – was running all over the floor. We opened the fridge door – the plastic milk jug had cracked.

No point in trying to clean up the mess now; there was still an hour to go before getting to San Carlos and we had to get there before dark. We closed up the trailer and carried on.

It took us many hours to clean up the mess once we had set up the trailer. Fortunately, we had cold beer in the fridge.

Two-and-a-half months later, we still find the odd piece of glass.

(Mis)Adventure #2: We were en route from Las Cruces, NM, to Ajo, AZ. We stopped at the Texas Canyon rest stop, just east of Benson AZ, to stretch our legs and take advantage of the facilities. When I came back, I did the usual walk-around the trailer just to make sure everything was fine. I walked down the passenger (door) side of the trailer. Yep, everything’s still locked, shut, etc. I walked around the back and up the driver (street) side.

Hmmm, what’s that on the window? No, wait! That’s, that’s . . .

My brain could not process what my eyes were seeing. There was no window. It was gone! All that was left were the hinge at the top, with glass fragments adhering, and the opening mechanism at the bottom, also with glass fragments adhering. I stuck my finger through where the window was supposed to be and touched . . . the window screen!


I saw DH (short for “Dear Hubby”) exiting the men’s room. I walked towards him. “Our window’s broken,” I said. “What?” he said.

Well, to make a long story short, we called an RV repair shop in Tucson. The man there was very sympathetic but said he couldn’t guarantee when, if ever, he’d get a replacement window. We went to Ace Hardware, bought a piece of plexiglass and taped it over the gaping hole (using the really tough tape made by a manufacturer I will not name but that goes by the name of one of the great apes).

We did such a good job of taping on the plexiglass that we’re not sure if we will ever order a new (and probably really expensive) window. Oh, maybe we should.

The moral of the story is this: Boring trips yield no stories worthy of retelling. So go RV-ing. Who knows what adventures you will encounter.

P.S. My grandparents, Abe and Addie Hanna, had a few (mis)adventures of their own when they traveled to the homestead in 1910. Here’s a teaser:

We had a dreadful fright that first afternoon. We were travelling through a very hilly region and going down a hill when there was a snapping sound from under the wagon and suddenly the wagon pitched forward and pushed the horses ahead faster than they wanted to go. I can’t remember if I screamed. I almost fell off but managed to hang onto the wagon for dear life. Abe was shouting “Whoa! “and pulling at the wagon brake which seemed to do no good at all. Fortunately, it wasn’t a big hill, and Abe managed to guide the horses down the slope and stop safely. My heart was pounding. I got off the wagon, but my legs were shaking so much I could barely walk.

“What happened?” I asked.

Read what did happen in Chapter Four: “Along the Pole Trail,” in Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Antics of Anthony

Here comes Anthony again--because like a new baby in days of yore--this kitty takes up much of our time and attention here at the Waldron domicile. I think the first thing out of my mouth every morning is either "No! Stop That!" or "Get out there!" or just plain "OUCH," when he ducks under the covers and bites my toes, which in his hallucinatory kitten's world, must appear as tasty little sausages. Tony's not "bad," not any more than a toddler or a puppy, just filled with what the 18th Century called "Animal Spirits" or maybe what the stock market types call "irrational exuberance."

How calm and sweet he looks!

Whatever you call it, our Anthony's got it in spades--boundless energy, curiosity and Cat-itude. We've had a lot of cats over the last 50+ years, but this one, I have to say, is unique. Of course, you can counter that with Colette's "There are no ordinary cats," but this boy definitely has star quality.
Too bad I've got no one here to video his Surya-Bonaly-type back flips, his in-air-twists and seven foot leaps onto shelves no kitty should be able to reach, or we'd have a new internet sensation.
(If you don't remember this incredible athlete, check her out here.)

We get a daily work-out because he keeps Kitty Mom & Dad on their toes--and/or leaping out of their seats to grab what has just been bowled out of the way when Rocket Cat dashes across a window ledge or a table or the kitchen counter. Glasses of coke, water, house plants, framed pictures, Mom's stacks of paper or books--go over in the twinkling of an eye--dash, splash, crash--when "Ant-Knee" from Long Island is on a rip.
Tony says, "I sits where I wants, when I wants."

One morning, when particularly wound up, he ran upstairs after me, rushed into the bathroom and leapt straight onto the window sill which held a pair of forty year old cactuses. I think he was back out the door again in a single rebounding leap, even before the pots hit the floor, dumping the old fellows and their gravelly soil all over the floor in a giant prickly mess. Sometimes, when those "animal spirits" are high, he'll fling himself from the floor onto the walls and scrabble along as if he's a motorcyclist doing a circus "wall of death" stunt.

He wants to taste everything we are eating, and, as you can see, from his place on the counter where we are assembling our lunch, this is pretty easy. He loves cheese and has even assayed my curried kidney beans on brown rice with broccoli. (In end, it wasn't a favorite.) Tony much prefers swiping meat off the counter when Chris is attempting to get it into the sauté pan. Smacking cats doesn't work particularly well, although with him it seems to have a temporary effect in getting him to go away, it doesn't take him long to forgive us and return to whatever naughty thing he was doing.
The only cure is imprisonment in an upstairs "suite" where he has a bed, a box and plenty of munchies and water.

All bowls, pots, and pans are subject to footy inspection
A few days back, he launched himself from the top of the fridge onto the counter, scattering plates and dishes filled with food. This did not please his hoo-mans at all, and I carried him upstairs to the "slammer" while he gnawed on my arm and (alternately) my pigtail to let me know how cross with me he was. After all, his magnificent six foot leap should have garnered applause; moreover, he hadn't even begun his tasting tour of our lunch!
Willy-Yum and Tony (sort of) share a spot on the cat rack;
Still, Tony can purr, kiss, and cuddle with the best of 'em. We've never had so much creative mischief and charm bundled up into a single hyper active fur friend. Tony's a feline trip we're glad we've taken.

~~Juliet Waldron
See all my historical novels @

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dog Show Addiction and the Suburban Writer by Connie Vines

When did I realize that I had a ‘dog show’ addiction?

My first inkling, was when I kept searching through the cable channels and ‘available shows to watch’ section of my service provider for the Westminster Dog Show or the Beverly Hills Dog Show. 

Mind you this was after I’d watched both shows and knew the results.

I like dogs.

I own a dog.

I belong to the Poodle group on FB and the Poodle Rescue group too.

That is fairly normal, right?

However, when your husband walks through the living room (this is the man who wouldn’t notice if I was wearing mismatched shoes and sporting a tiara) and says, “You and Chanel are watching the dog show again?” It gives one pause. So, I’m back to viewing the History Channel and PBS--cold turkey, so to speak.

This morning I had my hairdressing appointment. (Hi, Dani).

Image result for pumi dog
Dani, my hair stylist, has two dogs. We share general information, family stuff, and you guessed it—we start talking about our dogs while my hair is being foil-wrapped so the highlights set. I brought up the topic of dog shows, and the new AKC breeds accepted this year and last. Excited, Dani pounces on this new topic.

Oh dear, I’ve really done it now—I’m converting (or corrupting) my friend into becoming a dog show addict, too. 

We couldn’t stop!

Dani Googled “Pumi” (my favorite new breed).  The Pumi is a medium-small breed of sheep dog from Hungary. They have a whimsical expression, with a tail that forms a circle over the back. We scrolled though the pictures (me squinting because I've removed my glasses) until we located the six-toed “Norwegian Lundehund," a small, rectangular Spitz type dog.  This progressed to a quest to find breeder information.

During the drive home, I wondered  if dogs could become addicted to television shows. Chanel seemed to enjoy watching the dog show with me.

I did a bit of research on the subject. 

It seems many dog owners (I am not among them) turn on the TV before he/she leaves for work. The station of choice for the dog seems to be Animal Planet.

Lassie has their full attention!

Former London Zoo veterinarian Malcolm Welshman addressed canine TV addiction in his research,
“A dog's eyes perceive movement and color differently than humans. In the times before HD television, watching the TV through a dog's eyes was akin to flipping through a scrapbook. Dogs require 70 images a second in order to view something as continuously in motion. Humans, on the other hand, only need up to 20. TVs were made for human eyes, not canine.”

Until high-def entertainment. 

(You can skip the next 2 scientific paragraphs, if you like 😊).

Now, dogs perceive continuous motion in film. However, dogs only have two cones in their eyes--blue and yellow--limiting their color field. In contrast, humans have three cones. Combined, much like an artist's color palette, we can see a prism of the rainbow. Dog vision is similar to what humans refer to as being color blind.

"Animal Cognition Journal" published a study to see if dogs could recognize real characters from cartoon characters as well as their own breed. They concluded that dogs really do know the difference. Scientists believe canines can detect that animated movements are not as life-like as living creatures.

Many owners notice their dog barking at animals on the TV or even scooting closer. They are actively engaging their other senses in an effort to define more about the animal, much like they would at a doggy meet-and-greet. When the on-screen animal doesn't respond to the barking, the dog can infer that it's likely not the real deal--though sometimes it takes a few more attempts to learn.

What do you think? Does your dog or cat enjoy watching TV?

Do you watch TV with your pet?

Happy Reading,


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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The joy of polishing the novel - by Vijaya Schartz

Find this and many other BWL titles from Vijaya Schartz HERE

I just finished the sixth or seventh rewrite of Black Dragon, to be released in June, the first book of a new series. It is set on a space station named Byzantium, featured in the Azura Chronicles series, and set in the same universe. Like all my novels, it has a lot of action, adventure, and romance… a courageous heroine, and a brave hero… as well as a spoiled telepathic cat, a white Angora named Marshmallow.

When I went searching for illustrations of my setting, here is what I found: 

 Polishing is my favorite part of writing a book. It has been read by my critique partners and beta readers, and now that I have the finished product, comes the task of making it shine. 

Polishing is the most important part of a writer’s job. It’s an art. It can turn a mediocre first draft into a decent read, and a great story into a fantastic book. But the lack of polish can also destroy a potentially great novel by washing it out, diluting it in too many words, and leaving it vague, ordinary, or forgettable. 

This is the time to deepen the characters, make sure their motivations are on the page, find the secret links and motivations you may have overlooked or understated, show, rather than tell, and deepen the point of view. Ramp up the emotion, or wax poetic on some descriptions or feelings, make the setting part of the story, etc. 

The process will take me a month, then the book will go to the editor. If you want a taste, here is what it’s all about: 

Czerno Drake, AKA Black Dragon
A gambler is cheating in a den of the Byzantium space station, and Lieutenant Zara Frankel intends to catch him in the act. She always gets her man, but this one could prove more than she can handle. 

Captain Czerno Drake, code name Black Dragon, has come under cover to break his innocent uncle from the most secure penitentiary in the galaxy, the Fortress, on the Byzantium space station. He will stop at nothing to succeed, even enrolling the help of the lovely straight arrow GTA enforcer. When Zara realizes that she’s been duped by a shrewd but seductive Resistance fighter, her reaction surprises everyone, most of all herself.

Zara Frankel, undercover security forces

A previous and much shorter edition several years ago, received this review: 

"I love this one by Vijaya Schartz. As always, her action-packed, well-plotted out prose kept me glued to the pages of Black Dragon from start to finish." TwoLips Reviews 5-kisses review and a RECOMMENDED READ

Vijaya Schartz, author
High Octane Romance with a Kick
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A True Story--Tricia McGill

Find links to all my books here on my BWL page.

My latest release, Crying is for Babies, relates the life of one of my sisters. This was the most difficult book to write, as instead of creating my characters as usual all I had to do was use my memory. While going through my past blog posts I found the following that I wrote in November 2016. This was not a good time for my sister or for those who loved her (She passed away the following January). I had forgotten I wrote this post so it was a surprise to me to find it. 
Anyway, this is how it went:

“A few years ago, I encouraged one of my sisters to write her life story. If I live long enough I will edit and finish it for her, as although she tells of her many trials and tribulations in the pages she penned, she in no way told the complete story. Currently this beloved sister is very sick, hence the blockage in my brain. She is not afraid of leaving us, in fact in the last weeks has prayed to go more than a few times rather than spend more days unable to continue in the way she wants to. But, I am afraid of losing my lifelong friend who has been the best sister I could ever wish for. 

I have faced grief many times in my life and perhaps time does heal. I think perhaps this is only half-true as a tiny part of it remains with us forever, but should never be dwelt on, just touched now and then when memories invade the day to day activities. But then again what is life but a serious of memories.

Anyway, to get back to my sister’s story. She has suffered more than any one person should but has always overcome her many health issues stoically. In fact, she has concealed the true extent of her childhood health problems so well that most who know her have no idea of the suffering endured throughout her life.

I re-read her story last week and this is how she ended it (she wrote this in 2009).
There are a few regrets. I wish my Mother had lived to see me able to drive a car, I think she would have loved to have sat beside me. I also wished she had been able to see what my sister Pat has achieved with her writing. I wish she had heard me play my music, and to have seen my paintings, I think she would have been very proud of us. This has been my life up to now. There have been a lot of tears, but mostly laughter. I have always tried to be nice to people. I have always tried to be kind. Most of all, I always try to smile. I have a beautiful family, and some lovely friends. You can’t ask for more than that.

And that says it all—if only everyone could live by those words. Just be nice to people, that’s really what it is all about.”

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Monday, March 25, 2019

The Art of Art

Painting an image with words is fun. It’s two of my three favourite things. Mmmm, Thai food. I took some time to look at some painting a couple months ago. Sure, it was acrylic latex in and living room and hallway. But it carried my mind to the the idea of creating a work of my own. I mulled over the material I wished to use.
In my early teens I learned to draw with chalk pastels. I really enjoyed it. So, off I went to the art store where I picked up a set of pastels and quality paper.
My first test would be drawing a simple bird in a green area. I could get the shapes, but the difficulty came when I worked on the delicate areas. It was too heavy and  rough for my liking.
Yes, I had a look in mind. I wanted a “watery colour” look without the, well, watery mess. Back to the store I went.
The notion of working with coloured pencils appealed to me. I could easily get the details done and blend the colours a bit to fill the large areas. The finished work had shape and fine-finish. However, it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. The overall look lacked the desired intensity. An artist friend suggested mixing the two medias.
This test was cumbersome and didn’t have the uniformity of depth I was trying to achieve. I simply didn’t want the extreme messiness of acrylic or oil paint.
OK, I wanted the look of a water colour. So, I, uh em, dove right in. Again I put my credit card to work and bought a set of watercolour paints and good brushes. I took some time to get used to working with them. In the end, It was fun, a lot of fun.Two small tests of and achieved the look I wanted.
Tweet tweet.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Don't Waste Your Words by Victoria Chatham

I suspect all authors have had those wonderful moments of pure inspiration. That brilliant phrase that jolts you awake at 3 am, or a line of dialogue sparkling with wit or characters so real you can feel them. You write as fast as you can to transcribe the images into words on the page. But what words do you use?

My word usage depends very much not only on the characters themselves but in what period I have set them. Contemporary settings require the use of very different words to those I would use in a historical setting. When I build a character, I consider what their family was like and what education they received, whether formal or not. Is my character a 19th century Lord or Lady? Or is he a cowboy? Two sets of characters but requiring totally different words to describe them. The skill here is to pick the right words and only constant practice can serve, both from reading and extending your own vocabulary as you read.

We all know the devil is in the details, especially if you do not want a one-dimensional character. Picking a detail and embellishing it to paint a word picture takes time and balance. In my first ever attempt at a romance novel, a contemporary set in England, I wrote that ‘rain fell on London like a dirty sheet’. However, my critique partner pointed out that a dirty sheet was hardly romantic. The same applied to ‘sunshine slid down the wall like melting butter’. My critiquer’s comment? Ugh, messy imagery. And just so you know, both phrases were deleted.

So, what you as the writer might think descriptive, may actually convey something entirely different to your reader.  Choosing the right words to convey what you see is the art and skill of writing. However, there is the danger of going too far and boring or confusing your reader if you have tried to be too clever.  

Tools I use for choosing words are Marc McCutcheon’s excellent book ‘Building Believable Characters’ which includes forty-eight words for describing noses. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have penned several books together beginning with ‘The Emotion Thesaurus’. Both books offer lists of words if you find yourself coming up short on a character’s details. If I feel I am coming close to repeating myself, I look for synonyms. Is there another word I can use without being a lazy writer? By that, I mean the buzzwords and phrases that crop up time and again particularly in romance novels.

In one book I read by a very well known NYT best-selling author, the heroine ‘shattered’ so many times I thought the poor girl, like Humpty Dumpty, could never be put together again. ‘Going over the edge’ and ‘her toes curled in her slippers’ are also done to death clichés. There are times when a cliché is the exact right combination of words to use, at others less so.

As writers we have vivid imaginations, it’s where a story comes from. But then comes the task of putting those stories into words and making the most of what tools we have to string them together in a way that best entertains our readers.

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