Saturday, August 31, 2019

To plot or not by Priscilla Brown

As I began Billie's contemporary romance story,
 I  knew only that she's a car mechanic with her own business in a small town. 
A stranger walks in...or have they met before?

I am not a story plotter, and not for me the structure of the work planned before I begin Chapter One. In my real every day life, I am an organised person, and I used to wonder why I couldn't transfer this inclination to my contemporary romance novels. I'm what is styled among some fiction authors as a 'seat-of-the-pants' writer, not knowing at the start of a story how it would progress; having said that, however, in romance it's accepted that the two protagonists finally get together, so my challenge is to guide them on their journey.
This not-knowing, making it up as I go, is for me part of the enjoyment or writing. I've attended workshops where the intended outcome was a complete plot outline, after which I've tried unsuccessfully to train myself into this. Attempts at constructing a plot before starting a novel ended in confusion and abandonment. While I would still like to be able to do this before I burrow into the story, I've settled into being a 'pantser'.

Writing a novel in this way means that new characters and situations will emerge. I enjoy meeting these personalities and ensuring they have a valid reason for being in the story. Such people and the baggage they bring introduce different elements into the way the story is shaping. My 'pantsing' usually reveals plot holes, places where something in the sequence of events and/or developing relationships between characters doesn't quite make sense. I need to fill these, foreshadowing by dialogue or narrative and/or more research, so the reader doesn't shake her head and mutter "Why did that happen? How did these characters get to this point?" I construct a timeline of the story events as I write; such gaps will often show up, and demand my immediate attention. To  keep matters under control, I make notes of actions and episodes with their consequences, and it's frequently necessary to read back over several scenes.

 Fixing the holes and dealing with other necessary amendments as I find them makes me a slow writer. And when the first draft of this 'seat-of-the-pants' work reaches THE END, it's time  to go back to the beginning with a thorough edit. Does it all hang together?

Enjoy your reading. Priscilla.

Friday, August 30, 2019

What a Difference a Day Makes by Margaret Hanna

Authors who write historical fiction know they have to ensure that things such as attitudes, clothing and language are appropriate to the time. Sometimes, even the day of the week matters.

For example:

My current venture into historical fiction, or, as I call it, semi-fictionalized family history, is the story of my maternal grandparents who (independently) came to Canada from different parts of England a hundred years ago. Rather than writing the chapters sequentially, I am hop-scotching around, picking a year or event at random. This year, being the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, I decided to work on 1969. What would my then 80-year-old grandfather and his buddies have thought of this event?

Grandpa Higham drank and smoked so I decided to situate him and his friends in the beer parlour watching the event unfold late that evening on the beer parlour’s little black-and-white TV.

Bear in mind: In Saskatchewan in 1969, there were no pubs or sports bars, only beer parlours. If you wanted to drink “up-scale,” you went to cocktail lounges and licenced dining rooms. All were strictly regulated. No one under 21 allowed. Ever!

Beer parlours were dark, dingy and smoke-filled, almost entirely populated with men; no self-respecting “lady” would be caught dead in a beer parlour! Beer choices were limited – no craft beer in those days. Draft beer cost 21 cents a glass. If you wanted to move to another table, you had to ask the waiter to move your beer for you. Beer parlours closed for “supper hour.”

But back to the Apollo 11 landing.

Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. I was curious as to what day of the week that was, so I called up a 1969 calendar on the internet. July 20 was a Sunday.


In 1969, in Saskatchewan, any place that sold any kind of alcohol in any form was closed up tighter than a drum on Sunday. All day Sunday. Every Sunday. No exceptions. There went the story I had just crafted. Time to hit the Delete button and start over.

Grandpa Higham and his buddies are now discussing the event over breakfast in the café Monday morning.

                                                                          * * *

My first venture into semi-fictionalized family history was “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead, the story of my paternal grandparents, Abe and Addie Hanna. I didn’t have to worry about what day of the week it was with their story – they were affirmed teetotalers and staunch believers in prohibition.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Intimate Mozart

Click here to view and purchase all Juliet Waldron's novels including The Intimate Mozart

Sadly, the book with the perfect title, Mozart's Wife, has had to be issued with a new name, owing to shenanigans on the part of a monstrously large retailer whose name I shall not speak. I wrote this book quite some years ago, now in the last century.  

What began for me as a Mozart obsession soon became entangled with the story of the women who lived with a genius for nine short years, and who took his Viennese rocket ride to fame and fortune and crashed into poverty beside him. This little woman, who was even more diminutive than her vertically challenged husband, saw our hero at his best and at his worst. Her name was Constanze, or, using the German spelling: Konstanze. In his letters, Mozart often called her "Stanzi" or "Stanzerl" when he wasn't teasing her about her "Needle Nose."

It began with a romance, as this least favored of the Weber daughters married her big sister's erstwhile boyfriend, a young fellow who'd been a wunderkind and who was now attempting to be taken seriously as an adult musician. It appears that Mozart suffered from all the familiar problems of a child star attempting to bridge the gap. Accustomed as he had been to fame and adulation from his earliest years, this was made supremely difficult, not only because of Mozart’s own high opinion of himself, but because of the understandable resentment of older musicians who believed they had achieved official appointments “the hard way.”

I found that many of Mozart’s biographers had no love for Constanze. They either belittled her as someone who abandoned her man when the going got rough—as things certainly did in the later years in Vienna—or they dismissed her as a silly young woman from an insignificant family who’d married a genius she was ill-prepared to handle. I immediately doubted the “insignificant” part, at least in terms of the Weber family’s musicianship. Constanze’s two older sisters became famous singers, performing the most demanding vocal music of the day—some of it written specifically for them by their brilliant brother-in-law.

Mozart’s largest problem in finding financial security was that upon voluntarily leaving the Archbishop of Salzburg’s service, he became the first freelance musician (of any stature) in Europe. With an almost impenetrable class system in 18th Century Europe, he paid a high price for his daring. No nobleman could allow such an insult to pass, because in those days, "inferior"  was what musicians, no matter how brilliant, were. (Every great musician who came after him, even the fiercely proud and independent Beethoven, would carry the image of Mozart’s rebellion like a banner.)

It is a modern axiom that “anonymous was a woman,” and so it proved to be as I searched for facts about Constanze among a host of biographies. In the second volume of The Mozart Family Letters,* I found many written by Mozart himself, most sent from Vienna to his father in Salzburg. They make good reading, for Wolfgang was a witty observer. These letters may be the horse’s mouth in one sense, however, we must also bear in mind that they were also carefully tailored to soothe the recipient, the stern and possessive Leopold.

Leopold Mozart had not spent his life schooling and grooming Wolfgang for the pure pleasure of the exercise. He always hoped that his son would receive a good appointment at an important Court and would then be able to support his parents in high style. An early marriage—to anyone, much less to a penniless girl with no useful social connections—was not his plan.

When Mozart began to lodge with the Weber’s, tongues began to wag. Despite the expense, slowness, and difficulty of communication in the late 18th Century, Leopold Mozart seems to have had a network of informants who were only too happy to supply him with information that the proud old man would find disagreeable.  And by simply looking the other way, it was easy enough for the recently widowed Mama, Cecelia Weber, to allow Mozart to compromise Constanze. What amounts to a shotgun wedding was eventually forced with connivance between the widow and a court-appointed guardian.  

 But who is the object of my love? Again, do not be horrified, I beg of you! Not one of the Webers? Yes, eine Weberische—Constanze, the middle dear good Constanze, she ….is the best of them all. She makes herself responsible for the whole household, and yet she can never do right! …One thing more I must tell you, which is that I was not in love at the time of my resignation. It was born of her tender care and service when I lodged in their house…” 

Stanzi wanted to escape her domineering and critical mother; Mozart hoped to take a wife and have a safe and comfortable home to return to after his battles with the world. He looked forward to having his supper fixed, his clothes cleaned, pressed and mended. He seems to have not thought much about the expenses of a family, nor about the inevitability of children nor any of the difficulties of marriage.

The Mozart’s union took a classic form—young people wanting to escape from restrictions and injustices at home. Wolfgang and his Constanze jumped out of the frying pan of parental domination into the fire.

 Another feature of Constanze’s life is rarely mentioned by Wolfgang’s biographers, one I came to believe that this was the key to her story. Frau Mozart was pregnant or convalescent from childbirth for six years out of the nine she was married to Wolfgang. The longest interval between pregnancies was seventeen months, the shortest (on two occasions) six months. In 1789 she was bedridden. Her legs swelled, she had intermittent fevers and a terrible pain in her legs and abdomen throughout the entire pregnancy. The daughter she bore that year died at birth and very nearly took her mother with her.

From the letters, and from what I’ve read to research the symptoms, it would appear that Constanze nearly died of puerperal fever on two separate occasions. Childbirth and the resulting illnesses brought doctors, midwives, wet-nurses, and prescriptions--and expense. It would be difficult, even today, to keep a woman with such an obstetrical record “in good general health.” 

All large European cities were dirty. There were backhouses behind crowded apartment buildings. What this meant for the summer water supply is not hard to guess. The brief life of four of Mozart’s children and the illnesses of the parents were not unusual. However, it can only be imagined how difficult the birth and death of four infants in such a short space of time was for a young mother.

My dear wife….will make a full recovery from her confinement. From the condition of her breasts I am rather afraid of milk-fever. And now the child has been given to a foster-nurse against my will, or rather, at my wish! For I was quite determined that whether she should be able to do so or not, my wife was never to feed her child. Yet I was equally determined that my child was never to take the milk of a stranger! I wanted the child to be brought up on water, like my sister and myself. However, the midwife, my mother-in-law ... have begged and implored me not to allow it, if only for the reason that most children here who are brought up on water do not survive as the people here don’t know how to give it properly. That induced me to give in, for I should not like to have anything to reproach myself with.”

It was a good thing that Mama Cecelia, tactful for once, managed to persuade Mozart that babies cannot live on sugar water, whatever wicked nonsense Leopold had retailed! The wet nurse system being what it was, women took on more babies than they could feed in return for the pittance they were paid. The more I learned, the less surprised I was that only two of the six Mozart babies Stanzi bore in the nine years of their marriage survived to adulthood. 

This letter changed my focus once and for all. All I could see was Stanzi, no doubt ill-prepared and injured by the rigors of childbirth, now ordered not to nurse her child--and being sickened with milk fever as a result--by a man who apparently lived in a dream world. Genius or not, my musical hero had feet of clay. Sisterhood is Powerful!

The emotional toll of so many births and deaths had to be great.  I cannot imagine that Constanze ever felt very well—or was able to function efficiently on any level—while her husband’s moods swung from despair to elation and back again. Their sixth child, Franz Wolfgang, was born at the very nadir of Mozart’s fortune. He survived—perhaps, as I wrote, because the family was now so destitute that his mother was forced to feed him herself. 

After Leopold Mozart, a demanding correspondent, died, the picture of the Mozart’s family life becomes less clear. The other reason we know less is because Constanze, like other wives of famous men,* destroyed many letters written by her to Mozart and most of the letters he wrote to her when she was at the spa or times when he was touring. Those that survive are filled with names that she carefully blacked out during the long years that remained to her after Mozart’s death.

Was she protecting her own reputation? Or was she protecting the reputations of people who were then still alive—and still powerful? Was she covering up something? A few bits of gossip remain.

 Mozart,” it was said, loved his wife tenderly, although he was sometimes unfaithful to her. His fancies had such a hold over him that he could not resist them.”*

While Mozart was probably no Don Giovanni, he was a profoundly talented man working in a profession full of beautiful, talented women. These artists shone the glory of his creation back upon him—a most seductive mirror. Or, perhaps, as has been suggested: “Mozart disguised his own hyper sensitivity by expressing himself through women.”*

The end of the story, culminating in the mystery of Mozart’s death, was created from hints in a multitude of diaries and letters. In the end, I was forced to trust the characters to tell me what had taken place. Whether it is fact or fiction, I allowed the last few chapters of The Intimate Mozart to unfold exactly as my characters explained. 

We women know how much we bring to the table and yet how little we are still regarded. I began by wanting to write a novel which would center on a great man. I ended by depicting an 18th Century wife's world, complete with all the challenges, the successes and failures, the light and joy as well as the sorrows and shadows.

~~Juliet Waldron

*Mozart, by Marcia Davenport, 
*The Mozart Family Letters, translated by Emily Anderson
*Jean-Baptiste-Antione Suard in his Anecdotes of Mozart, 1804
*Martha Washington and Elizabeth Hamilton are known to have destroyed letters "too personal"
* The Mozart Brothers, Swedish film, 1986

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

And They Lived Happily Ever After by Connie Vines

Classical Meaning:
Live happily ever after. Spend the rest of one's life in happiness, as in romantic novels the hero and heroine end up marrying and then live happily ever after. This hyperbolic phrase ends many fairy tales. [ Mid-1800s ] The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary.

What Life Teaches Us:

Adulthood, however, brings knowledge that life is messier than stories. It does not deliver happy endings, if only because it does not deliver endings. Or at least, it only has one ending. ... When a story is described as having a happy ending it is easy to think of the happily-ever-after of a fairy tale.

Why do I cling to ‘happy ends’ even when I am not writing a romantic novel?

Image result for breakfast at tiffany's
Fairy tales were a very important part of early modern popular culture. Not only did they provide people with much needed entertainment, they offered a means of exploring one’s most secret dreams and deepest anxieties. Beneath their enchanting exteriors, fairy tales contain certain recurrent emotional situations, which are actually quite primitive in nature. Shakespeare recognized this and drew on these popular tales in his plays not just for their entertaining story lines, but for their emotional models, too. This allowed him to connect with his audience on an intimate, perhaps subconscious level.

In the 2003 film adaptation of Peter Pan , Wendy describes the stories she’s been telling the Lost Boys as “adventures, in which good triumphs over evil,” to which Captain Hook sneers, “They all end in a kiss.” Like Wendy and the Lost Boys, millions of people escape into the world of fiction to find happily ever after endings. We cheer when the good guy defeats the villain. We applaud when true love conquers all. We find hope and encouragement in the fictional examples that peace and happiness await on the other side of seemingly insurmountable trials. Without doubt, happy endings are enjoyable, uplifting, and reaffirming.

…Are we squelching hope, beauty, and wonder? Or are we perhaps just exploring the opposite side of the same coin? Life is just as full of sadness as it is of happiness. To ignore that fact is to limit both our personal experience of the human existence and our ability to write truthfully about life. To cap every story with a happy ending is dishonesty to both ourselves and our readers. The moment fiction becomes dishonest is the moment it becomes useless. Novelist Aryn Kyle  comments in her article “In defense of sad stories” (The Writer, June 2011):

My novels (as do many other romance novels) deal with person growth and overcoming the odds, including life and death struggles, as well as, current social issues.  How those stories possibly end in a happily-ever-after?

Sad stories don’t have to be depressing stories.

 The stories that have broken my heart and changed my life are stories of great tragedy, but they’re also stories of great hope. That, right there, is where we find the true power of the sad story—because light always shines brightest in the darkness.

Image result for light in the darkness

This is why my stories always end with a happily-ever-after.

I have a core belief, no matter how dark the moment, someone—be it Faith, or words from a friend, or a stranger, will offer guidance or give you the strength to face another day.
Before I type The End, I make certain my readers feel there is a happy future for my ‘characters’ and for themselves.

What story changed your life?  Fanned the dying spark of hope into a flame rekindling the fire in your soul; or mended your broken heart so you could reach for tomorrow?

What story did you need to hear when you were a child?  A teen? Finding your way as a young adult?

What happily-ever-after story do you need to read now?

While you reach for your happy-every-after in your life.  Remember to reach for a novel to feed that hope!

Happy Reading,

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Find Vijaya's BWL books with links HERE

WHITE TIGER on amazon
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A book can take you wherever and whenever you like. We are bound to the present, and the reality of our existence, but when we read, we can escape and learn about a different time and place. Some of us like to revel in the past, others prefer their entertainment in the future. As a historical and science fiction author and fan, I love both… and to me, they are very similar.

Some readers dream about living in slower times, simpler times… when people worked with their hands, and took the time to plant trees, grow their own food, smell the flowers and bake their own bread. Sounds idyllic, right? As writers, however, we have the responsibility to research the period, discover the truth, and write the reality of those times. The people in those days died much younger. Swords didn’t kill as many as automatic guns, but there was also tyranny, social inequalities, enslavement, exploitation, revolutions, famines, pestilences, the din of battle, the smell of horse sweat and burning homes... vultures swooping over gory battlefields. You get the picture.


Other readers dream of future times, when we have resolved our petty differences, to explore the confines of space in shiny starships and establish colonies on faraway planets. It also sounds good... until we realize that space is a dangerous, inhospitable place, and we are not alone out there. Our prejudices now apply to other species we call aliens. Our world may have expanded, but the main conflicts remain the same. Competing for essential resources, survival vs. greed… sounds familiar? Except that the stakes are higher, since our weapons can destroy entire planets.


Whenever and wherever we are, there is good and evil, courage and cowardice, selflessness and greed… and whether it’s a human or an alien world, conflicts will arise. Which is good for us writers, because without conflict there is no story. I’m often told that my imagination knows no bounds, but to me, writing a story is only a matter of logic. I start from what I know from extensive research, then I put myself in my characters’ shoes, sandals, or combat boots. Who are these people? How do they live? What do they want? What do they fear? Who do they love? Then I live their lives in my head, like a 3D movie, and I write their struggles, hopes, defeats, victories, and rewards. 

I have been known to write action, adventure and romance, featuring fierce women, brave heroes, and cats. These are only a few of my latest releases. Find the full list on my website or on my author page at each retailer below:

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Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick

Monday, August 26, 2019

Thoughts on a movie-Tricia McGill

Find all my books here on my BWL Author page

The other day I watched a movie called ‘Green Book’. I previously had no idea what this movie was about or what to expect from it. Being brought up in London in the 40s and onwards I was ignorant about racial prejudice and its effect on people. I should rephrase that. I knew about religious prejudice of course, as my mother had strong opinions about certain religions and I could never really understand this, and still do not. I had no idea how her opinions were formed or why. It was just something I never questioned. Ideally, we all want to live in a world where all races and colours get on with each other and find a way to live peaceably together, but it seems inevitable that this wish may never come to pass.

The movie is set in the 60s and concentrates on a journey taken by Don Shirley, a musical genius I have to admit I had never heard about. An extremely talented Jamaican-American, he was set on touring the Deep South in the pre-Civil Rights era. The Green Book in the title of the movie contained information on the places a black traveller could safely stay or dine while touring that part of the country. Thank goodness, times have changed. The sound track contains many tunes that were popular in that era, and added a great atmospheric background to the film. Details on the soundtrack can be found here:

The driver/protector he hired was a nightclub bouncer called by all Tony Lip, and the differences between the two men is stark. They became unlikely friends by the end of the movie. Tony’s wife, Delores, was a delightful woman who loved her man despite his brash and often crude manner. For me one of the standout parts of the movie were the love letters Tony sent back to Delores, which Don coached him on how to write.

The main reason this story resonated with me is that in my latest release, Challenging Mountains, I dwell briefly on the struggle our Indigenous Australian people suffered in the early days when settlers took over the land they had nurtured and called their own for centuries. When Tim sets out to travel across the land from Sydney to the new settlement down south that would become Melbourne, Jo, a headstrong young woman intent on finding adventure, joins him. She brings along a companion who was taken from his family as a child and sees this journey as a chance to catch up with members of his lost tribe. But after years of living amongst white folk, he finds he has lost his true identity and belongs totally with neither the black or the white.

A short clip from the book:

The native lad sat alone, his back against a solid eucalyptus, so Tim went to his side. Along the way, the boy had barely spoken more than a few words. What words he did utter could not be criticised, for he sounded as if he too had shared in Jo’s lessons and was as well-spoken as some men Tim knew who had attended King’s School alongside him. “Tell me, Billy…” Tim said as he sat beside him. “Do you have a notion of where you might find members of your lost kinsfolk?”

Billy shook his dark head. His hair was as black as the night sky and as curly as a sheep fleece. “No sir, I was told my people came from down south.” He rubbed his chin as he shrugged. “A lot of my kind have been killed, so perhaps I may never find my close kin.”
“That’s sad.” Tim meant that sincerely. He could not comprehend a life without knowing his family, or where he came from.

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Life Without Cell Service

I am crazy about my smartphone. It helps me run my life. Perhaps it actually runs my life and I just didn’t realize it. I sit today in rural Alberta with service that is at best spotty.
So, has my situation brought to light the control my mobile has over me? Has it perhaps been created by my mobile so I will think about how much I appreciate the connectivity when I get back to the semi- real world.
Hang on. That would mean that it is so advanced that it is controlling its control over me.
Now I’m craving three or four bars so I can search the possibility that I am hoodwinked into all of this to keep my mind from thing just that. Now I’m wondering if it has subtly coaxed me to use a word like hoodwinked so I am distracted on more than one level to maintain a firm grip on my typing fingers.
What do I make of that last sentence? Where am I?

Now, that’s what I call a smart phone.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Last Week to Download your Free Copy of Ten Days In Summer at

August's free read is from Susan Calder
A Mystery set in Calgary, Alberta home of the world famous Calgary Stampede
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