Thursday, October 31, 2019

Priscilla Brown reflects on imagination

The two main characters in this contemporary romance are artisans.
Each has a huge capacity for imagination,
not only with their crafts but with each other and their lifestyles.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein.

At a recent textile workshop, the tutor introduced us to this quotation; knowledge of how to do something is of course necessary and formal instructions may be available. (Though when attempting to assemble furniture that comes in a flat pack with diagrammed instructions largely unclear to me, some imagination helps to picture which bit could go where.)

So what to do with knowledge can entail imagination. In this felt-making workshop, where we all knew the basics of making the felt from pre-dyed sheep fleece, we were encouraged to give our imagination free rein to broaden our craft.Thick or thin? Put this colour with that? One or two dimensional? Change shape? A functional item or an art piece? We played with options, and supported each other with ideas and inspiration.

During the lunch break, we discussed imagination. We concluded that we all had lots of it as if we didn't, a) we wouldn't be attending this workshop, and b) we wouldn't be discussing it. We thought perhaps everyone has it innately to some degree, but not all develop or nurture it. A five-year-old boy of my acquaintance loves building Lego, and was busy following instructions from the manual. Then his grandfather hid the book, and to encourage the child to use his imagination asked him to build something by himself. At first he was a little puzzled, but an hour later he'd constructed a fairly complicated tower. "I didn't know I could to that," he smiled. "But I found out I could." Imagination nurtured.

 I asked a group of five friends if they considered they had imagination, and at the same time, if they pictured the story in their heads as they read. One firmly declared no to imagination and no to pictures. After a moment's thought, she added that may be why she has no sense of direction - in a new area she has trouble visualising from a map which way to go; she prefers to read historical non-fiction rather than historical or any fiction, because in non-fiction she can believe the words. (Rather a sweeping statement?) Agreeing with this, another said he reads only non-fiction because it did not require imagination. These non-fiction readers (I have work to do on them!) shocked the others and led to a discussion on how, when reading fiction, we can suspend disbelief - if the plot, the characters are convincing, we follow their journey as if they were real people.

One friend was intrigued by my question. "Of course I see the story happening in my head. How else am I going to believe in the characters and their lifestyles?" In other words, she was suspending disbelief. A friend who on his two-hour train commute to work reads crime novels said he enjoys these because the plots and settings are so far removed from his experience that he exercises imagination to picture the story, sometimes mentally placing a scene in one of the suburbs he passes every day. One friend who can no longer travel likes to read fiction set in foreign countries which she has either visited, or can visualise the location and imagine with pleasure being there. So the three who read fiction use imagination and see the story in their heads. A very small sample, but still interesting.

May you follow fictional characters with enjoyment. Priscilla.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Poop Detail

"Women's work is never done" goes the old saying. Women's work also, seems to me, to be heavily oriented toward cleaning up stuff that comes out of other people (or pets) in one form or another. Tina Faye told Jerry Seinfeld on a recent "coffee date" that at her house "I am in charge of feces." 

I burst out laughing when I heard that, as it's all too familiar to me, and, I'm sure, to women everywhere. At least, familiar to the kind of ordinary women who don't have servants.
Back in baby days, I was the caregiver--as the task is now called. Husband at work, Mom at home, that's the way it was for some years. I cooked, cleaned, washed dishes and clothes and wiped away spit-up and freshened adorable baby butts--which become far less adorable when they are covered in you know what and need a good wash and dry before you can begin to contemplate putting a diaper back on. In the meantime, the boys might also send a high pressure jet across the room, a hazard I (an infant care novice) learned about the hard way.

These days it's just the usual housework--babies and their cute butts are long gone from my life--but that doesn't mean my woman's work poop detail has ended. There are still bathrooms and more particularly toilets that require not-that-pleasant close up work. As I scrub, I often remember working as a waitress long ago in a little restaurant where we had to clean the bathrooms after closing. The ladies who didn't sit could make quite a mess. The gentlemen's room, though, could be extra special sometimes, despite a sign over the hopper which admonished: "We aim to please. YOU AIM TOO PLEASE." 
Long ago

Besides human clean up, there's cat clean up too, at our house. We have three cats, all indoor these days, for their safety and for the safety of the local chipmunks, squirrels, moles and birds. There are other outside cats around here devouring everything in sight, but at least my three are no longer part of the general extermination. Our newest, Tony, is a small healthy young cat, but, I swear, this guy counts as at least two cats when it comes to his box filling abilities. I may miss days at the gym, but as long as I have to lug kitty litter into the house and then back out again on a daily basis, I think I'm nevertheless keeping up with my weight lifting.

Whenever I'm inclined to feel sorry for myself, I tell myself to imagine what the "good old days" must have been like for women. Today, most of us have hot and cold running water in good supply; we have washers and dryers and laundry products galore. But in the 18th Century this was not the case. A diaper change is the kind of day-in-a-life task a middle class woman might have to regularly undertake.

So here's a little slice of A Master Passion, where Elizabeth Schuyler tends the newest Hamilton baby, James. It's already a busy day when her sister Peggy visits unexpectedly.

The whining from the next room suddenly grew to a wail. James, when his first grumbling summons hadn’t been answered, was angry now. With a sweep of skirts, Betsy marched into the room, scooped her howling son from his cradle and plumped herself down in a comfortable wing chair. Her mother would never have undertaken such a task in the good parlor. After all, with a new baby, the risks of spills from one end and leaks from the other were high, but Betsy couldn’t bring herself to walk another step. As a piece of insurance, however, she snatched up his flannel wrap.
Unbuttoning her dress, she got bellowing Jamie in place, experienced the sharp tug and the answering flesh gone-to-sleep prickle of the let-down. Then, one end of the cloth pressed to stem the flow from the neglected breast and the rest tucked strategically around James, she watched her newest son’s jaw work as he mastered the initial tide. He was round and fair, even balder than Angelica had been, but a similar halo of red fluff had begun to rise upon his pink skull. As different in some ways as the children were, there was a certain sameness in the general outline: gray eyes, long heads, a kiss of red in their hair.
Betsy leaned back, relaxing into the comforts of nursing, when she heard a knock at the door.
“Davie!” When she called out, James startled. “Una! Gussie! The door!”
In stretching for the bell on the end table, she dislodged James. He promptly set up a renewed cry at this sudden, rude interruption of his dinner.
“Temper, temper!” Betsy rubbed his open mouth—and the yell—against the nipple. She noticed, with amusement, that his bald head instantly went scarlet with rage.
She decided to ignore whoever it was. If they wanted in badly enough, they’d go around to the kitchen. Then she heard rapid footsteps in the hallway, the sound of Davie running, followed by voices. Soon, the parlor door opened and Peggy poked her head in.
“May I?”
“Of course, Peg. Heavens! I didn’t know you were in town.”
“It was spur-of-the-moment. Stephen is having trouble with Mr. Beekman and decided to come down and straighten it out face to face. I thought I’d come too and see what’s in the shops. The first of the London fashions are arriving.”
During this speech, her younger sister settled on the facing sofa. She was very much the lady of leisure, in a gown of peach satin layered over an ivory petticoat upon which hundreds of tiny birds in flight had been painted. As she removed the long pins which held her broad-brimmed straw hat, she revealed a wealth of chestnut hair.
“Davie says I just missed Colonel Hamilton.”
“Yes. Not half an hour since he rode off with John Jay and Cousin Bob Livingston. I confess I’m worried about what will happen in the legislature. There are only nineteen men who are for the new Constitution.”
“I am concerned, too, though I’ve never really understood politics. Still, we’ve all had an education in the science of government. Papa, for one, is absolutely relentless on the subject.”
“Yes, that’s all Alexander ever talks about, too, either to me or anyone else.”
“Well, thank heaven there are women to keep the day to day world going ’round.”
Peggy moved closer to get a good look at the new baby. He was now happily gulping again.
“What a big strong fellow! I swear, Sis, you’re as good at this as Mama ever was.”
Although their eighth anniversary wouldn’t come until Christmas, James made the fourth little Hamilton. Peggy, on the other hand, had carried only one, Stephen, the precious son and heir to the ancient line of van Rensselaer. There had been nothing afterward but a sad string of miscarriages.

The very elegant Angelica Schuyler Church, maid and baby

Mindful of her sister’s feelings, Betsy simply said, “Thank you, Sis.” She sat Jamie up and patted his back. As he slumped into her hand, his big eyes goggled.
“That one is going to take after Mr. Hamilton for sure. Look at those blue eyes.”
“Well, perhaps. But our babies seem to come fair and then darken up, all except for our Angelica.”
“Are she and Phil upstairs?”
“Well, in a minute send one of your girls to bring the darlings down to their adoring aunt.”
Tea came in, with Una’s thoughtful addition of some fine English sweet biscuits that had recently arrived from London, sent by Angelica Church.
“Shall I take James, Missus?”
“No, he’s quiet and you’ve got enough going on. Where is Alex?”
“He be watchin’ Gussie scrub.”
“I’ll take care of Jamie,” Betsy instructed, “but if you hear Fanny squawk, let me know.”
Peggy poured tea while Betsy laid the flannel upon the upholstered sofa and then proceeded to quickly change James atop it.
“You are a lucky girl, you know.”
Betsy looked up from wiping a pasty yellow smear from Jamie’s cherub’s bottom.
Peggy giggled. “Why, I mean Alexander the Great, of course. He’s a kind of knight of the round table in our benighted modern age. Papa is quite tiresome on the subject.”
“True, but being the wife of Alexander the Great isn’t easy. I mean, look.” Betsy gestured at the little parlor with its few furnishings.
“Money isn’t everything.”
“Only to those who have enough.” Betsy wrapped the diaper up carefully before setting it on the floor. “And I don’t think I shall ever get used to living in this city. There are times when I do so envy you. Your husband is with you almost all the time instead of riding off on crusades. Even when Hamilton is at home, half the time he’s tied up in knots and might as well not be here at all. Day and night are the same to him when he’s working. This whole winter and spring it’s been nothing but those Federalist Papers..."

~~Juliet Waldron

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Autumn, Pumpkin Scones, Tea, and Me By Connie Vines

Autumn in Southern California. While the swaying Palm Trees do not change color with the seasons, we do have oak, maple, and sycamore tree which are painting the horizon in vibrant colors.

It is also pumpkin and apples season.  Though I am a devoted coffee drinker, I do enjoy and savor an excellent cup of tea pared with a perfect scone.

California Classic Pumpkin Scones

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes 
Total Time: 45 minutes 
Yield: 8 scones


Deliciously spiced classic pumpkin scones are flaky and soft with perfectly crumbly edges. Top with coarse sugar for extra crunch and maple icing for extra decadence!

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, frozen
1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons (105ml) heavy cream, divided
1 large egg
1/2 cup (115g) canned pumpkin puree, blotted*
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
optional: coarse sugar for sprinkling on top before baking

Maple Glaze
2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (80ml) pure maple syrup
1 cup (112g) sifted confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt, to taste


Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Adjust baking rack to the middle-low position. Line 1 or 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mat(s). If making mini scones, I use 2 baking sheets. Set aside.

Make the scones: Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter (I use a box grater). Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and combine it with a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers until the mixture comes together in pea-sized crumbs. Set aside.

Whisk 1/3 cup (75ml) heavy cream, the egg, blotted pumpkin (see note), brown sugar, and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. Drizzle it over the flour mixture and then mix it all together until everything appears moistened.

With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can and transfer onto a floured work surface. Press into a neat 8-inch disc and, with a very sharp knife, cut into 8 equal wedges. To make smaller scones, press dough into two 5-inch discs and cut each into 8 equal wedges.
Place scones at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet(s). Using a pastry brush, brush scones with remaining heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. (Gives a nice crunch!)
Bake the larger scones for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. If you made 16 smaller scones, bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes as you prepare the icing.

Make the glaze:

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and maple syrup together, whisking occasionally. Once the butter has melted, remove from heat, and whisk in the sifted confectioners’ sugar. Taste and add a pinch of salt if desired. Drizzle over warm scones.
Scones are best enjoyed right away, though leftover scones keep well at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 2 extra days.


Pumpkin Pie Spice: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground allspice and ground ginger AND 1/4 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg and ground cloves.
Blotting Pumpkin: Using a paper towel or clean kitchen towel, lightly blot the pumpkin puree to remove some of the moisture before using in the recipe. The more moisture removed, the less moist and muffin-like the scones will taste. We want the scones to be flaky and crumbly, not super moist or muffin-like. I prefer to squeeze lots of moisture out so the scones taste textured and delicious. Do what you prefer!

My Tea Parings:

Assam Black Tea - Mokalbari Estate
English Breakfast Black Tea – Organic

Do you have a favorite Autumn recipe?

Or a favorite tea you sip while reading a novel from one of the BooksWeLove authors?
I enjoy sitting in my favorite reading chair is in my bedroom.  The chair is a soft gray color. I snuggle under my violet afghan with my slippered feet on the ottoman.  The Autumn light shimmers though my patio doors while I sip my tea from my Royal Albert china cup.

Happy October Everyone,


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Sunday, October 27, 2019

The nature of angels and cats - by Vijaya Schartz

Akira's Choice, Book 2 of the Byzantium series, is available now for pre-order
HERE and more of my books can be found on BWL Publishing HERE

We all know the myths and the mentions of angels in religious books, but literature and movies have often presented angels under a different light, and that always fascinated me. Do you remember "MICHAEL" with John Travolta? "I'm not that kind of angel!"

My Azura Chronicles, and the Byzantium space station series, feature angels of a different nature. They have the same supernatural abilities as the angels from mythology, and are agents of good, but their origin is very different. Some are warriors and protectors, like in the religious books, but others have different functions. They intervene with mortals when necessary, but their main purpose is to keep the balance of good and evil in the universe... some by military means, others through meditation.

Not all of them are good, however, and it only takes a few bad apples to sour an entire society.

I believe anyone can be an angel if they choose to do good. Many movies portray regular people, dead or alive, as angels, and some of these lines have become famous. "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings."

As for the cats, they are mystical and mysterious, and they understand more than we know. It makes perfect sense that they would see the invisible and communicate with angels.

If I were to read the Azura and Byzantium series, I would read them in that order:

     Azura Chronicles Book 1 - Angel Mine
     Azura Chronicles Book 2 - Angel Fierce
     Byzantium Book 1 - Black Dragon
     Byantium Book 2 - Akira's Choice

The next book will be Byzantium Book 3 - Malaika's Secret, then Azura Chronicles Book 3 - Angel Brave, which will finish both series.

Here is what reviewers said about my Azura and Byzantium books:

"This romance is full of fascinating elements and a unique spin on Angels... fast pace and strong, vivid characters that draw readers in and keep them glued to the pages... an entertaining and intriguing read." 4.5 stars - Ind'tale Magazine May 2019

"This is a TERRIFIC story with angels, people doing questionable things for the right or good reasons and women who are more than strong. They are leaders and can kick butt as well as the men."

Here is the blurb for AKIRA's CHOICE:

When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the Galactic Trade Alliance want a young kidnapped orphan dead or alive?

She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no-good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the Byzantium space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.

Kazmo, a decorated Resistance fighter, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Byzantium, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the space station?

Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019

My offering for Halloween—Tricia McGill

Find all my books here on my Books We Love author page
As it’s about that time of year again when folk start to think about ghoulies and ghosties etc. so I thought my creepy short story might be appropriate. It is called A Bad Mistake.

“I don’t want to go, Clive.” Mary sat on the side of the bed and pouted.
“Oh come, don’t be a kill-joy, sweetheart.” Clive tugged at her arm.
“But I didn’t like the look of him.” Mary shuddered as she recalled the stranger who spoke to them earlier. “His eyes seemed to be going right through me.”
“Nonsense, darling, he’s just a bit different to what we’re used to. Typical English country type.” Clive laughed. “You have to expect them to be a bit unusual round here. This town’s very isolated so I don’t suppose they see many outsiders. Except for the tourists who stay in this hotel, and from what I could see there’s not that many.”
“I do wish you hadn’t told him we were on our honeymoon. He had a distinct leer on his face at that piece of information. You shouldn’t have told him where we come from.”
“You’re a funny little thing.” Clive fondly chucked her beneath the chin. “I merely told him we’d come to visit distant relatives of ours and that we’d arrived from Australia on Tuesday.”
“You also told him we were named after our English grandparents.”
“What’s so wrong with that?” Clive shrugged. “Anyway he seemed eager to take us to see the badgers in the woods. It will be nice to see some unusual wildlife while we’re here.”
“All right,” she conceded. “I agree it’ll be a treat. A bit different to kangaroos and wombats.” She pulled on her coat. “That’s if we ever actually get to see them. Why did we have to wait until after ten to go? It’s pitch black out there. You know I hate the dark. I’d prefer to stay here where it’s snug—and safe.”
Clive grinned as he shrugged into his windcheater. “We can’t spend all our time tucked away up here. Much as I’ve enjoyed it so far. We don’t want the locals talking about the Aussie honeymooners who never left their room, do we?”
“We could stay down in the bar,” Mary said eagerly. “I love that quaint room with the peat fire and the locals playing darts and dominoes.”
“Bit late for them now. I expect they’ve all gone home to their own fires. Come on, let’s go down and wait outside for him.”
They made their way down the narrow winding staircase, and then out through the side door of the inn.
Mary shivered as she dug her hands into her pockets and snuggled closer to Clive. “Doesn’t look like he’s coming. It’s cold out here, Clive, and very misty.” The trees surrounding the tiny car park at the side of the inn were mysterious silhouettes. The moon had hidden itself from view. “This village is a dream in the daytime, but this time of night it looks positively creepy. Did you fetch the torch?”
“Oh Mary, you’re vivid imagination is too much at times. Damn, forgot it, but suppose he’ll have one—ah, you’ve arrived.” Clive turned to greet the local man they met earlier. “I thought you’d changed your mind.”
The stranger’s cap concealed most of his face, and his great coat reached his ankles. He wasn’t carrying a torch. “No, I wouldn’t do that young fellow. Ready?”
“Sure thing.” Clive rubbed his palms together. “Give me your hand, darling.”
Mary stepped back. “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to go.”
“Okay.” Clive gave her a gentle push. “You go back inside and I’ll go by myself.”
“No, if you go, then so will I.” Mary glanced about, before linking hands with Clive. They followed the stranger, who was now well ahead. “It’s awfully dark beneath these trees, Clive. He’s marching along as if he has a train to catch.” An owl hooted overhead, startling Mary. “I swear he has cat’s eyes.” It was now only just possible to discern the stranger through the murkiness.
“Don’t hang onto my sleeve so hard, darling.” Clive removed her clinging hand and enfolded it in his again. “You were dragging my coat off my back.”
Mary squeaked when an animal the size of a cat ran out in front of them then disappeared into the darkness. “Yikes, that scared the hell out of me, Clive.” They came out of the trees onto a large open space. “This is that old disused airfield we passed this morning. The village looked like something out of a picture postcard then, but it’s eerie and strange now. And what’s that funny droning sound?”    
The stranger had stopped, and when they drew level with him, said, “This way, my dears. Some say that noise is the ghostly echoes of all the aircraft that took off from here during the war and never returned to the home base.”
“I hate it here,” Mary whispered. Clive gave her arm a shake.
The stranger chuckled. It was not a cheerful sound. “But it’s merely the insects and wild-life. My grandfather was a pilot. He used to bring me here when I was young. He would tell me wonderful stories about this place and the men who perished in the planes that left here.”
“It’s so dark,” Mary grumbled.
“I’d know my way around blindfold.” The stranger moved off.
“Seems an odd place for badgers to be,” Mary whispered.
The man suddenly stopped, saying, “What’s that light there? Strange. I’d better investigate.”
“We’ll wait here for you,” Clive said.
He walked off, leaving them alone. “I hate it here, Clive.” Mary shuddered. “I never saw any light did you?”
The man silently reappeared and Mary jumped out of her skin. “It’s the entrance to a bunker,” he said. “It’s probably only the local kids mucking about. They get down there for a lark. It’s quite interesting really. Come and have a look. All the old staff quarters are down there.”
As Clive made to follow, Mary caught his sleeve. “No, don’t go.”
“Don’t be a wet blanket, darling.” Clive gave her arm a squeeze. “You’re carrying on as if the place is haunted. It’s only a tunnel. What about the caves back home? You weren’t scared of them.”
“Well, I’m not staying here alone.” Mary grimaced. “I’ll have to come with you.”
The stranger beckoned to them, and they joined him at a small square hatch. He’d lifted the lid and a hazy shaft of light showed up a ladder leading into a passageway below. Lifting a leg he cocked it over the knee-high wall around the entrance, then disappeared.
“I’ll go first, love, to catch you if you fall.” Clive began to descend. Halfway down, he called up. “Mind how you climb down, Mary, It’s a bit rusty.”
When they were standing on rough ground at the bottom, Mary asked in a shaky voice, “Where’s he gone? That light’s almost gone now. And what’s that peculiar smell. It stinks like that dead cow we saw once at the side of the road.”
Clive took her hand again. “There he is.” The stranger was at the end of a corridor that was barely wide enough for them to walk side by side. “Come on, he’s beckoning to us.”
Mary pulled him back. “I don’t want to go any further. It’s creepy.”
“Don’t be silly, love. All right, you stay here, and I’ll just see what he’s up to.”
Mary shuddered as Clive walked off. At the end of the corridor, he turned to give her a wave before he went around the corner.
Mary pressed herself against the wall, goose bumps covering her scalp. When an eerie sound echoed off the walls, she let out a small scream. “Clive, who’s that laughing?” she called. “I’m coming down there, wait for me.” She tripped as she raced to the corner, grazing her hands on the rough walls as she steadied herself.
The stranger stood outside an opening where the light came from. “Come on in, my dear, he said. “Join the game.”
Mary tentatively neared the doorway, gasping when she looked into the room.  Clive sat at a table with six other men. “Clive, why are you playing cards with these men?” she croaked.
Vaguely she was aware of their clothing, as they seemed to dither and recede before her eyes. They all wore what she recognised as flying jackets—the type you saw in films about the war.
“What are they doing down here?” As she said this, all their faces went blank, like a painting where the artist hadn’t got around to putting their features in yet. She screamed. The stranger’s laugh was sinister. “Clive…I can’t…see their faces,” she stammered. Clive was smiling, but then his face grew faint. “What’s wrong with you?” Mary reached out to touch him, but as he smiled at her, his face went fuzzy. “Clive!” Her shout reverberated off the walls.
Mary whirled and ran. When she reached the end of the corridor, she couldn’t see the ladder. She sobbed as she frantically scrabbled about. In terror, she turned about and retraced her steps—only to meet a dead end.

Author’s note: When newly married, my husband and I stayed with friends near a disused airport outside Aylesbury, Bucks. The group of us would walk there after dark and the men—as young men do—took great delight in scaring the wits out of us females with ghost stories. This is the only horror story I ever wrote and it still gives me the creeps.
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Friday, October 25, 2019

Things I've Learned About Cornwall, England by A.M.Westerling

My Regency Romance Her Proper Scoundrel is available from your favourite online store HERE

If you’ve read my first scene of Sophie, Book 1 of the Ladies of Harrington House series, you’ll know it takes place on a secluded beach somewhere on the English coast. (see my post of Aug. 8 here on the BWL Authors blog spot.) I had to come up with a reason why Lord Bryce Langdon appeared on the beach the same time as Sophie. So I thought why not have Langdon involved with local smugglers?

Therefore when I chose the setting for the book, I needed a location conducive to smugglers and Cornwall came to mind. Its rocky cliffs, secluded beaches and large stretches of uninhabited land, coupled with few revenue men to patrol it made it the ideal location for illicit deliveries. 

Smuggling became rampant during the 17th and 18th centuries when excise taxes and customs duties made every day goods prohibitively expensive for the ordinary citizen. These taxes were levied by a succession of governments trying to pay for wars on the continent. Items smuggled included brandy, tea, gin, rum and tobacco. At one point, the tax on tea was nearly 70% of its initial cost! Some experts believe duty had not been paid on 80% of all the tea consumed in the country. Other sources estimate that 500,00 gallons of brandy per year smuggled into Cornwall. 

Initially smuggling was done in the open but after 1800, the numbers of revenue men increased so tunnels and passages were hacked out of the rock to facilitate stealthy movement of the goods. (The following picture of smugglers on a beach is from the website as listed later on in this blog)

Wrecking was another pastime of the citizens of Cornwall. Wreckers would light lanterns and place them on the rocks, luring ships to their doom. Then all they had to do was salvage the cargo once it floated to shore. 

Mining was the other mainstay of the local economy and tin and copper mines flourished across the region. With the advent of the steam engine, water could be pumped from the mine shafts allowing for greater recovery of the ore. Cornish pasties (rhymes with nasty, not paste-y) became popular as a tidy meal for miners. The pastry shell served as a container for the filling, usually a mixture of beef, potatoes, turnips and onions – easy to carry and no clean up required. 

It’s only recently that I’ve learned Cornwall has benefited from a surge in popularity due to the series Poldark. Interested in learning more? Here are a couple of good websites to check out:

Today’s excerpt from Sophie is the 3rd scene. (The 2nd scene is included with my blog post of Sept. 25 and as I’ve already mentioned the 1st scene is from Aug. 8):

Bryce’s curiosity had gotten the better of him after he’d left the beach and he’d guided his gelding Quincy to a vantage point to watch unobserved. He waited for Sophie to appear and it wasn’t long before she clambered over the lip of the escarpment. Without any hesitation, she led her mare to a nearby fallen log and, hitching her skirts, climbed quite handily into the saddle. With the flash of trim ankles and shapely calves, he realized she rode a regular saddle, not a side saddle. Although not unheard of, it certainly confirmed his impression that Sophie was no silly miss. She sat her mare very well indeed and after tucking her skirts around her legs, set a brisk pace if the hair streaming behind her was any indication. Someone who sat her mount that well would be magnificent to watch during the hunt. His gaze remained fastened on her until she disappeared behind a distant copse. He turned his horse for home.

 Home. Briar Manor. He’d only been there a week and the house didn’t actually feel like a home yet, more like a series of vacant rooms. Furnishing a house wasn’t exactly his forte and he wasn’t sure how to tackle it so for now, the house sat mostly empty.

When he reached the manor, he tied up Quincy at the hitching post.

“Robert?” He shouted for his groom. It seemed like an extravagant expense to hire a man for only one animal but when it came to horseflesh, Bryce knew very little. He could ride and that was about it. He justified the expense by considering it a contribution to the local economy. Besides the man came highly recommended by the former owner of the property and soon Bryce hoped to add a matched pair and a curricle to his stable.

“Aye?” The man poked his head out the stable door. “Just mucking out Quincy’s stall.”

“See to it he gets an extra ration of oats.”

Robert nodded. “Rode ‘im hard, did ye?”

Bryce didn’t answer but lifted his hand and strode off.

Once he reached his library, he tore off his jacket and tossed it on the only chair he owned, a brocade wing back chair he’d found in the attic of his father’s house and claimed as his own. Along with two matching cushions came memories of his late mother. It had been her favourite chair and if he closed his eyes, he could imagine her fragrance and the warmth of her arms around him. He swallowed hard and shook his head. Hard to believe ten years had passed since her death.

He ambled to one of the empty shelves which he’d set up as a temporary sideboard and poured himself a cognac – courtesy of smugglers, no doubt – before returning to the chair and collapsing into it. He swirled the amber liquid in his glass, inhaling the aroma before taking a swallow. He really must find someone to help him set up his library. Crates of his books, both for work and pleasure, lined the wall behind him.

Plus he needed some sort of butler. Next time he rode into Truro he would make inquiries. With any luck he could find a local and not have to hare off to London to find a suitable man. He’d kept the housekeeper/cook who came with the house – again recommended by the previous owner – and so far, he hadn’t been disappointed. If nothing else, Mrs. Moore’s roast beef and Yorkshire puddings were enough to keep her.

But enough of the banalities of setting up a new home in a new town. He raised the glass to his lips and sucked in a long draught. Finding an attractive young woman on the beach below Briar Manor had been a pleasant surprise.

But also an unwelcome one.

He’d chosen his new home for its proximity to the sea. Cornwall was famous for its hidden coves, ideal for hiding from unwanted attention. The beach below Briar Manor must remain deserted if he had any hope of landing boats there undetected. Prying eyes would ruin everything although perhaps he could overlook a certain pair of clear green eyes.

What was he thinking? He shook his head. He knew very well what he was thinking - when Sophie had taken out her hair pins, he ached to run his fingers through her glorious chestnut curls. The breath caught in his throat when he glimpsed her trim ankles and perfect toes and he had to stop himself from racing across the beach to scoop her in his arms. As if that wasn’t enough, when they’d conversed, he realized she had a head on her shoulders to match her pretty face. He admired her wit and lack of artifice. So much so, he looked forward to seeing her again.

Very much.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Website Woes by Renee Duke

I’m sure everyone here knows how important author websites are for getting an author’s name ‘out-there’ and so, like many a modern-day writer, I have a website to encourage readers to learn more about me and my books.

Unlike many such writers, I am non-tekky, and therefore didn’t even try to set one up myself. I got my son to do it for me but, being some three hundred and eighty-nine miles away, he did the tweaking of it with me over speaker phone when he was ready to activate it.

The conversation went something like this:

SON: Are you on the site now?
MUM: Yes.
SON: Then log in.
MUM: There isn’t anything that says ‘Log-in’.
SON: There has to be. You did use the link I sent you, right?
MUM: It presented me with several options. The one I picked doesn’t say anything about logging in.
SON (after audible sigh): Try another.
MUM: Oh, yes, this one has a log-in button…It says the password isn’t valid.
SON: It is valid. You didn’t put it in right.
MUM: Spell it out for me as I type.
MUM (after he did so): That isn’t how that word is spelled. That word only has one ‘n’. How many times have I told you SPELLING IS IMPORTANT?
(I’ve personally lost count, having been doing so since he was in kindergarten.)
SON: Well, that’s how I’ve got it set up, so that’s what we have to go with.
MUM: But it’s not right.
SON: Just log in, Mother.
MUM: Oh, very well. There. A bunch of little coloured things just started jumping around.
SON: Good. That means it’s loading.
(Once it had loaded, I viewed the Home page and whined because it did not showcase all of my books.)
SON: That’s because I wanted call attention to the latest one (shown). There’s a ‘Books’ page for showcasing all of them. You want to entice people to explore your site, don’t you?
MUM: Yes. I’ll take a look at the Bio page now, then…Hmm. I hit ‘Bio’. Nothing happened.
SON: Hit it from where?
MUM: The tool bar.
SON: That isn’t active yet. You have to do it from the Menu button. When you hit that, it should say ‘Pages’, and after you hit ‘Pages’, a drop down list will appear with ‘Bio’.
MUM: Oh, yes! That worked.
SON: Now you go to…DAMN IT, CAT!
MUM: Jumped on your lap did she?
SON: No, the laptop.
MUM: Oh. Well, anyway, I’m there now.
(Some wrangling back & forth regarding bio photos. I wanted more, he wanted less. He won.                                                                                                                                                     We then moved on to tweaking the text. He told me how to change it, but…well…)
MUM: Okay, I’m back in the text box. Oh, wait, no, I’m not.
(Interval during which I managed to find the section I wanted and typed in the additional text.)
MUM: Okay, now I just…DAMN, IT CAT!
(From whom did you think he learned the expression?)
SON: What did she do?
MUM: Stepped on the keyboard…Uh, there’s something popped up here about having made changes in two windows, and which one do I want to save.
SON: (Pause) Well, that’s never happened before.
MUM: You weren’t on here with me before.
SON: True. Don’t bother about it. E-mail me what changes you want. I’ll take care of it.
MUM:  No, no, I can handle this.
(We then proceeded to undo whatever it was I did, with him ‘guiding’ me.)
SON & MUM (simultaneously): DAMN IT, CAT!
(It was like the two wretched felines sensed each other and were co-ordinating their sabotage.)  
MUM: I’m afraid that startled me so much I hit something that made the screen go away.
SON: Go away?
MUM: Yes. How should we go about getting it back?
SON: We shouldn’t. I think it would be better if you just let me do this, Mum.
MUM: It’s all yours, dear.

The end result is at:

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