Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Adventures with a 1958 Ford by Margaret Hanna


Caption: “Picnic with the ‘58 Ford: Margaret, Richard and Grandma Hanna watch while Mom cooks lunch”

In the spring of 1958, my Dad traded in the ‘53 Ford and bought a brand new Ford car. It was cream and green. It had the newest mod-cons: an automatic transmission (for the first few days, Dad kept stomping on the non-existent clutch) and signal lights – no more sticking his arm out the window to signal.

The day he brought it home, he loaded my brother and me into the car and we drove through Meyronne, giving rides to everyone.  “Look, it shifts automatically!” or “Look, I can signal a turn!” he exclaimed to everyone.

There was only one problem – the car was a lemon. We soon invented a game – “Name That Noise!” – we played every time we drove somewhere. That car spent as much time in the repair shop as it did in our garage.

And it was after one of those repair episodes that we had our most memorable (mis)adventure.

Dad had taken the car in to get some work done on the transmission. When he brought it home, the car had a noticeable growl originating from the “rear end.” He took it back to the garage. “Don’t worry,” they told him, “the gear just has to settle in,” or words to that effect.

The noise continued. In fact, it seemed to get louder as days went by.

Then came the trip to Estevan in southeastern Saskatchewan to celebrate Thanksgiving (Note: Canadian Thanksgiving  – first Monday in October) with Uncle George and Aunt Jean. By now the noise was getting very loud. People turned their heads to watch as we drove by. Inside, we could barely hear each other talk over the growling.

After a wonderful weekend of eating and visiting and touring the coal fields, it was time to return home.

We left Estevan after supper for the four-hour drive home. The very noisy four-hour drive home. Richard and I fell asleep in the back seat. Mom was asleep in the front seat.

Just west of Assiniboia, it happened.


Then silence, except for the sound of the engine.

The car drifted to a stop, the engine revving.
“What the . . . ?” I won’t repeat what else Dad said.

Dad got out of the car to discover bits and pieces of the transmission and the drive shaft scattered across the highway and in the ditch. Whatever had been growling had finally yielded to metal fatigue.

We were stranded. It was almost midnight. Fortunately, our disaster had happened not too far from a farm owned by people we knew.

To make a long story short (and my husband says I know how to make a short story long), they gave us a ride home. The next morning, Dad drove back with the old ‘51 International truck, picked up the pieces, and towed the car – and pieces – back to the garage. 

To say Dad was “not amused” is a gross understatement. To this day, we maintain that we could see the blue smoke as Dad cussed out the mechanic. And this was in the neighbouring town, seven miles away!

The car was fixed. It never growled again.

But then there was the time the fuel pump died . . .


                            Caption: “Abe’s Chevrolet on Hwy 13, just west of Meyronne”

My grandparents, Abe and Addie Hanna, also had automobile adventures. Here’s an except from Chapter 26: Horseless Carriages, from “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead

            On the way back to Airdrie, the car devils struck again. First, the fan belt broke in Willis’ car and then the lights burned out in ours. It was still light, and Willis said he knew a handy garage in Calgary where they could repair everything, but wouldn’t you know it, we got lost and wandered around the streets of Calgary for over an hour before Willis found the place. I was tired and so were the children; Garnet was really fussing, he was barely three years old, and I could tell Abe was tired too ‘cause he was getting quite cranky. We finally got home at midnight and the lights of that farm never looked so good. We all fell into bed and slept like babies.
            It took us three days to get home. First day, we got as far as Suffield and stayed overnight in the hotel there. The next day, we encountered “heavy” roads, muddy and rutted due to several thunderstorms the day before. We saw a few motor cars still in the ditch and some in the process of being pulled out with teams of horses. “Ha! Look at that!” I said. “And they say cars are better than horses. If that’s so, then why does it take a team to pull out a car?” And we all got a chuckle out of that.

Monday, April 29, 2019

To P.C. or not P.C.?

I'm using the term "political correctness" here, although I'm not a big fan of the concept. "P.C." as commonly used calls up an image of a kind of mincing hyper-sensibility. I find that if that's the meaning you prefer, you are probably a fan of simple solutions -- the kind which tweet great, but which are bring on even more troubles.

Human variety is infinite, as are our human cultures, so what is ideally called the "real world" is a deep and complex ball of what one Dr. Who was pleased to call "wibbly wobbly." And this goes for sexuality, too, as our desires and needs and expressions thereof are as unique as a series of dots placed on the slope of a bell curve.

Everyone knows that things in the public arena have changed since #Metoo, but that doesn't alter the history of men and woman and relationship an iota. Much as we disapprove, we can't remake the past, not if we're interested in making an attempt to write good historical fiction.  Books of mine have, however, fallen afoul of some readers. I'm sorry, of course, because the complainants are often young women who are fighting real life battles with sexism in the office, on the streets, and in their own nests, too, as women struggle to be treated justly.

Some parts of our world are rapidly re-framing toward equal rights; others want to put the "ladies" (as they like to say) back in their "breeder/janitorial" place. Remember, we live in a world infused with Old Testament stories, the place where some modern men continue to find justification for their coercive, dismissive male behavior toward "weaker sex."

Fan Girl 

Of my books, My Mozart has the largest P.C. problem, because the affair between a young singer and the composer is the story. Back in the '80's when I wrote about a young artist who gifts her virginity to an admired older man in a mentor position, it didn't occur to me that I was in for serious flack from my Sisters. All I can say in my defense is that at the time I wrote, I was not living an artist's life in a big city or reading gender studies at uni, but was a wife of twenty years with two mostly grown kids and a full time job. I imagined I was hip about gender/sex, but the world where my basic opinions on such matters were formed was the 1950's, a time when, post-war, women were being pushed out of work places and back into the house. Years later, I'm still working toward a better understanding of "woman."

The older man/younger woman love affair is not an unfamiliar one in the world of the arts, or even in corporations, from law firms to universities to oil companies. The fact that such sexual relationships are unequal in power or that such things do happen is not what the readers are worried about,  however.  It's whether these stories should have been told in ecstatic terms when they are, in fact, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, especially so for the less experienced and therefore more vulnerable person in the equation. Abuse of power is rampant in unequal relationships; it's plain old monkey domination with sex thrown in.

What am I actually talking about in My Mozart? What's the book about? Perhaps it is simply Eros, a Being who can be relied upon not to give a damn about P.C. Erotic love is the most mysterious of all emotions--not the least because it is hedged about with so many cultural taboos. It is certainly the least susceptible to the blandishments of reason. Were the Greeks right about Mighty Aphrodite, that She swept all before Her? That desire is wired into us, and so we not only write poems, plays and books about this "crazy little thing called love;" we enact it in our lives. Sometimes it ruins us, sometimes it redeems us, sometimes it takes turns doing first one and then the other or both at the same time. It probably won't last, that obsession, that fire.

But you'll never know until you serve some time in that primal temple.

~~Juliet Waldron

*I've actually had more readers chastise me for writing Red Magic whose hero and villain both acted like proper 18th Century males toward the teen heroine. Set in 18th Century Germany, RED MAGIC tells the story of a young woman’s transition from rebellious girl to adored--and adoring--wife. A forced marriage brings her to her husband’s mysterious mountain home, where she uncovers a legacy of magic. Prejudices hinder the coming of love between the newlyweds, as well as the weird attraction the young wife feels toward her husband’s magnetic, foreign servant.

Red Magic is available at:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Pets and Assorted Animals in Stories. Love ‘um or Not? By Connie Vines

When I am a guest speaker at an elementary or middle school, public library, or even during a workshop.  Someone always asks about the pets or other animals in my stories. What function do they perform in the story? Do they need to have a function? Can they be a character?  

Since I am an animal lover and owner of a multitude of pets (exotic, barnyard, and typical suburban) at various times during my life, it only goes to reason that I will have them peppering my short stories, novellas, and novels.  My Rodeo Romance Series (understandably) incorporates a cast of horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, etc.  Some of these animals only have Cameo roles, while others are characters in their own right.  My Fun & Sassy Fantasy Series also features a pet as a main character in each story line.  Gertie, a pet Teddy-Bear Hamster, is Zombie Meredith’s BF in Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”.  “Brede” Rodeo Romance, Book 2 features a horse and cattle dog.  “Lynx” Rodeo Romance, Book 1, features the hero’s horse named Texas. The next book in my series, “Rand” Rodeo Romance, Book 3 features a poodle who belongs to the heroine.  Rand’s interaction with this very unrodeo-like dog is priceless!

For realistic purposes I select animals/breeds that I either have owned, or have working personal knowledge (chickens, turkeys, quail, pheasant, pigs, sheep— bred for. . .well, dinner during my rural days).  My dogs: Greyhound (my favorite & a rescue) Poodle (AKC champion pedigree), and– my husband’s dog, a Chi-wienie (Chihuahua Dachshund mix). I also like to add my horses (Quarter horse, Arabian, and a Paint –a retired rodeo barrel racer) into the mix.  Due to my allergies to cats, my info in developing feline character comes mostly via friends and the Animal Channel.  Now the unconventional pet experiences, were discovered firsthand (I did raise two sons and I have three younger brothers).  Pet mice, geckos, iguanas, horned toads & lizards, hamsters, parakeets, an Amazon parrot, a runaway (flyaway?) cockatiel, and canary have a way of finding a place in my life and my stories. 

Future adventure with pets?  Probably. 

I simply adore baby pygmy goats.  Mind you, I reside in the suburbs of Southern California.  Frequently, my husband reminds me, “You cannot raise a goat in our backyard, there are zoning laws.” 

Of course, I know there are zoning laws.  I also know goats are herd animals.  “We will need to have two goats.” 

“We?” He grunts and goes back to his ‘man-cave’.

If you look at a YouTube video and read the mentioned online article titled: Pigmy Goats. The opening hook states: You should reconsider your choice in pets if you want an animal to stay indoors with you.

 I did find one particular fact of interest—and an unexpected sidebar of living in an all-male household: ‘Goats are messy eaters too, pulling feed out of buckets and leaving it on the floor.  Once it’s trampled, they really don’t want to touch it.’  Reminded me of the bygone days with teenage sons and friends.

While my characters do not always have pet, my characters have often had a pet during childhood, interact with an animal, or (YA stories) would like a pet. 

Why, do I believe animals are important to a story line?

It is a way to show character, good and bad.

How people treat animals will give a reader insight into my main character, or my villain.  I believe treatment of an animal hints at how he/she will treat a vulnerable person (child/spouse).  If the hero seems uncaring and selfish to outsiders, give the heroine a view into an unguarded moment he shares with an injured puppy, or his care of his horse.  His truck may be battered and dirty, but his horse is well groomed, fed, and sheltered each night.

However, my animals need to have a purpose.  Sometimes it may only be comic relief, or a confidant in a YA novel, but unless it is a Cameo role (or red herring), my animals have a personality and a place in the storyline.

Who doesn’t remember, “Call of the Wild”, “Old Yeller”, “Misty of Chincoteague”?

I believe pets, can enrich a story—my novels, as are (in my opinion) most genre novels, a story about life and the human need for love and companionship.

Not every novel calls for an animal to part of the story. 
Not every person wishes to be responsible for a pet.

I did a bit of research and discovered these stats (the info about fish surprised me).

*Stats: 2014, 83.2 million dogs live in U.S. households, 95.5 million freshwater fish live in U.S. household, and 85.8 million cats live in U.S. households.
* Statista.com

So, what do you think?  How do you feel?

Do you have fond memories of a pet? Unfortunate events? (I have a scar on my knee from a rabbit bite.)

Happy Reading,


BWL Link



Tayayia--Whisper upon the Water

Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Are we becoming a race of trans-humans and cyborgs? by Vijaya Schartz

Find Vijaya's books on her BWL page HERE

The future is here. Many of us already have surgical implants, heart valves, pace-makers, artificial knees, bionic legs, hands and arms controlled by the mind. Some have artificial lenses in their eyes, cochlear implants to allow the deaf to hear. 

Science can now regrow in a lab new body parts or make them from biological material with 3D printers.

Babies can be born with the DNA of three parents. Animals have been cloned. Human cloning is illegal, but how long will it take for some governments to secretly grow their own human clones?

In China, tests have proven successful in creating improved babies by replacing DNA strands with stronger ones, or different ones. Soon, parents will be able to have designer babies, choosing the hair and eye color, the physical strength, the intelligence, the immunity to known diseases. 

Nanotechnology (tiny microscopic machines introduced in the blood stream) will allow us to repair or rectify any malfunction in the human body, cure any disease. Some day humans will be quasi-immortals... and part robots. Linking the brain to computers will increase the capacity of the human brain.

The next step will be to produce super-intelligent human beings, super-soldiers, special individuals adapted to live in  specific environments, like space, or on different planets.

These changes are happening quickly and soon, we'll have to deal with the problems of the future. We'll need new laws, new guidelines, to accommodate the progress of science. That's what makes science fiction fascinating.

And if you like reading futuristic fiction, you may want to try my latest series, Azura Chronicles, set on a tropical planet inhabited by angelic beings. amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo


There is a planet out in the universe, emitting a strange turquoise glow. A long time ago Azura refused to join the Trade Alliance. The Alliance sent their military fleet to destroy the Azurans, but their powerful supernatural abilities spread fear even among the fiercest Devil Dogs. Since then, records have been erased. Rumors and legends all but died. Azura is strictly forbidden, and the daring few who ventured beyond the warning space beacons were never seen again...

Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  -  FB  -  

Friday, April 26, 2019

How much detail is enough? Tricia McGill.

Check out my Books We Love Author page for details on all my books

When I am writing a historical or time-travel it always causes a bit of a holdup while I work out just how much of the day to day details to put it. Of course, it’s imperative to show just what life was really like in the early days of say, settlement in Australia, and I always feel that the biggest load was put on the females. Imagine life in the bush without all the personal aids us females need. Then there is cleanliness to worry about. It’s all very well letting our characters take a dip in the nearest river or creek, but just supposing it is freezing cold, or you have nothing to dry yourself on but a piece of rag, or worse yet, there are crocodiles, snakes or worse to worry about. Even when they reach a town there will not be any of the amenities we take for granted. No nice warm baths, showers or inside toilets. Melbourne did not have a sewage system installed until around the late 1890s.

By 1838, Melbourne was composed of 3 churches, 13 hotels, 28 places of business, 64 homes, making a total of 108 structures. On August 12th 1842 Melbourne became a ‘Town’ by order of the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales. Is it any wonder that in 1850 the river became so polluted a typhoid fever outbreak killed many people.

After gold was discovered in the Melbourne surrounds, it became one of the richest cities in the world. The population in the 1880s was around half a million, yet they gained the reputation of being called Smellbourne, due to the fact that all waste was still being emptied into open drains along the streets. These drain channels then flowed into the Yarra River, and therefore ended up in the sea. That included all kitchen and laundry wastewater, the contents of chamber pots, not to mention the run off from farms and subsequent industries. 

I have to imagine myself in the period I am writing about. Currently my characters are in the early 1840s of Australia. They have travelled the 600 miles overland from Sydney to Melbourne (Port Phillip as it was first called) on what could only roughly be termed a road. At that time it took around a month, so I guess wasn’t much different to the travellers of America who headed west on the wagon trains. I loved those old Western movies in my youth but never once considered the inconveniences they had to endure.

In our travelling days, we would be away from home for at least four months a year and after trying camping out in a tent once I insisted I would never go anywhere again unless it was with a camper trailer or motor home. All that we needed was stashed away in the van and I would always insist on staying at a camp park where we could connect up to water and power. Sleeping rough was not for me, thank you.

So that brings me back to how much detail to insert in my stories, never forgetting that I am basically a romance writer and not a historian who must stick rigidly to fact. I am not the outdoorsy type but did a lot of horse riding in my younger days, yet could not imagine being in the saddle for 600 miles over a month. The road in 1840 was not so bad for a while, once they left Sydney, and there were even a few bridges across some rivers.  There were a few inns to be found in the sparse newly settled towns along the way, but after the first 178 miles the hostelries became scarcer and then the travellers had to sleep rough. There was always the danger of attack by bushrangers, whose gangs often consisted of escaped or ex-convicts.

When researching for my stories it never ceases to amaze me how far we have come in a short space of time. I often feel that some things have not changed for the better—all the traffic clogging our highways and roads for one thing could be improved on. In the suburb where I live there is so much building going on—which is great—but the roads are not keeping pace with the traffic, causing congestion—one thing the early travellers did not need to worry about. Some folk have to spend a few hours each day in their cars, probably an hour or more waiting for the traffic to move. There is a supermarket on almost every corner, making it hard to envision going weeks on the road without a handy store to stock up. And that brings me back to the niceties of life—and the lack of them in the old days. Is it any wonder the settlers were made of tough stuff—especially those women who followed their menfolk over treacherous tracks to build a life for themselves and their children. I salute them.
My Web Site

Challenging Mountains (Book 3 in my 'Settlers' series)
is coming soon.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Survival kits. Turns out that’s a thing. So, if civilized society is gone and you are on your own, what do you do?
I live in Toronto. A city of 6-7 million people. Does one require a survival guide? Would one find it has expired before you got out of town in the horrendous traffic? Does one need something from a survival guide if they continue to write in third person?
The first thing required is water. OK. It water supply is tainted. I simply walk across the street and there sits Lake Ontario. There must be dozens of gallons of water in it. Problem solved. Or is it. Turns out the sun is glistening off the film of diesel fuel on the surface of the water. No sweat. Take a jug of it home and pour it through a coffee filter. Remember to save some of the filters for coffee. Because, well, coffee is the centre of the universal.
Wait! We actually do need food, after all. The food court is closed so fast food is out of the question. Thus we will no longer have access to those nutritious morsels. Darn. I suggest you grab that fishing equipment and head down to the lake again. Sure, you could fish. What a chore that is. First you would have to invent bait. Remember, the sporting good stores are closed. Here’s the answer. Grab that net, go to the lake and turn around. There will be dozens of pigeons pleading for food. I expect the irony will be lost on them when you invite them for supper.
Of course, there is the risk of injury. Thus medical supplies are required. Should you cut yourself, don’t panic. Just recall the last movie you saw with a gunfight. Follow the steps they took very carefully. First wince and groan at the site and pain of the injury. Secondly, rip a piece of cloth from your filthy shirt. I expect it rips as easy as it does on the silver screen. Pour some liquor on the wound. Take a good long drink. Be sure to spill some on yourself. Tie the piece of clothing securely in place. Don’t worry about all the blood seeping through. It’s cleansing the wound and is also an awesome special effect. Finally, relax. I have it on good authority that every one of those actors survived to make more movies.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

If You Enjoy a Good Laugh by Victoria Chatham

Like all writers, I have to make time to read books, too. I have fairly eclectic tastes from fiction to fact and back again. My own preferred genre is Regency romance, but I enjoy thrillers, cozy mysteries, and now Stuart R. West’s Zach and Zora mysteries. I’ve read several of his books, but Zach and Zora had me laughing out loud. I get that humour is subjective and what amuses me may leave you cold, but I found Bad Day in a Banana Hammock a clever read.

On the face of it, Zach is a self-absorbed dim-wit. Not the most likely character to arouse my interest, but when he wakes up practically naked in bed beside a dead guy, I want to know more. Zach’s almost sure he didn’t commit the murder, but he has no recollection of the previous night. The fact that he’s is a male dancer (please do not refer to him as a male stripper) and is still wearing his ‘uniform’ adds to the mystery.

The one person Zach knows will help him is his long-suffering sister, Zora. With three kids and another on the way, the last thing she wants is to be involved with Zach’s problems. But he’s her baby brother, and she’s a Private Investigator, so what can she do but help him? This excerpt pulls it all together for me as it shows the relationship between the siblings and her way of handling her kids. If you enjoy this book, check out Murder by Massage and Nightmare of Nannies. You won’t be disappointed.


With a diaper bag strapped over her shoulder, Zora hustled Nikki and Justin out the front door. “Come on, kids. We’re going on an adventure.”
“Adventure,” parroted Justin.
Nikki, already the sullen teen before her time, whined, “Mom, what’re we doing? I’m busy!” “Girl, I don’t wanna hear about busy. Just get in the back seat. Enjoy the sunshine. Remember what that is?”
“So stupid!”
“Zach,” she yelled up the stairs, “Samantha’s already in her seat by the door. Grab her on the way out.” A task surely even he couldn’t mess up. Then again, when it came to her brother, all bets were off.
Justin struggled with his seat, always a battle. No wonder her swear jar had evolved into a bucket. “Just stay still…almost….there.” Clack.
“Mom, really, what’re we doing? Why was Uncle Zach naked?”
“He wasn’t naked, Nikki. Just under-dressed.”
“Is he in trouble again?”
“No.” Yes. “We’re just gonna try and help him with some stuff.” Zora pressed down on the pedal, revving the engine. Hoping to speed her brother along, never the quickest guy to get things done. She checked her phone, fully charged and 10:30 a.m. Plenty of time to clear her brother of murder, get back and have dinner on the table for Phillip by six.
Despite the situation, Zora laughed when her brother stumbled out of the house. He had Samantha’s carrier seat in one hand and kept his pants cinched up with the other. A belt lapped off the end-loop, a wagging brown tail. The suit looked like a relic from the ‘80’s, entirely too large and probably never in style.
As Zach rolled open the back door of the mini-van, he sighed. “I know, right? I look ridiculous. Doesn’t Phillip own any regular clothes? Jeans, a polo, anything?”
“Hey, stylin’ guy, shut up and get in. It’s better than you waving your…golden sack around town.”
“Golden sack, golden sack, Uncle Zach has a golden sack!” Justin joined his sister in song. “Golden sack, gold—”
“Kids, enough! I don’t wanna hear that again about your uncle!”
“But, Mom, you said it first!”
“Again. Not a democracy.” She turned in her seat, double-checking Zach’s strapping in of Samantha. Unbelievably, a grin threatened to eat his face off. Clearly proud of the song his niece and nephew had concocted in his golden sack’s honor. No shame. “Get in, Zach.”

West, Stuart R.. Bad Day in a Banana Hammock (A Zack and Zora Mystery Book 1) Books We Love Ltd. Kindle Edition.

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