Tuesday, April 30, 2019



London 1661, the new king is on the thrown, but old religious beliefs and Medieval superstition still prevail.  

Catholics are not tolerated in this new era.  Edgar and Emmatha Torbet are papists and fraternal twins, which means their mother was an adulteress.   

One of them is a legitimate heir, the other is a bastard.  Which one of them is it?

  ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ

Detective John Robichaud knelt over the dead body of a man lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood. Wasn't there enough blood being spilled in this damn war, he thought as he studied the puncture wound in the man's neck. He looked up and spotted the union button pinned to his hat a few feet away: he was a stevedore.

* * * 
Robichaud and his partner, Pete Duncan, would soon be on the trail of a villain with ties to a major European criminal organization in Marseilles looking for a foothold on this side of the ocean. But had not counted on him and Duncan.


ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ ᔓᔓᔓᔓᔓ

Who murdered Lady Pentreath? The year is 1781, and the war with the American colonies rages across the sea. In Truro, England Branek Pentreath, a local squire, has suffered for years in a miserable marriage. Now his wife has been poisoned with arsenic. Is this unhappy husband responsible? Or was it out of revenge?

Branek owns the apothecary shop where Jenna Rosedew, two years a widow, delights in serving her clients. Branek might sell her building to absolve his debts caused by the war—and put her out on the street.  Jenna prepared the tinctures for Lady Pentreath, which were later found to contain arsenic. The town’s corrupt constable has a grudge against Branek and Jenna. He threatens to send them both to the gallows.

Can this feisty widow and brooding squire come together, believe in each other’s innocence— fight the attraction that grows between them—as they struggle to solve the crime before it’s too late?


Monday, April 29, 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.

Sunday, April 28, 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:

Saturday, April 27, 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,


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