Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Waiting Game by Stuart R. West

Click for comedy, mystery and murrrrrderrrrrrrr most dumb!
Recently, I encountered surely one of the world's worst waiters at a Mexican restaurant. Let's call him "Nelson (because that was his name)." Combative, non-communicative, just plain bad table etiquette. He mistakenly delivered baked beans instead of refried. My wife told me to let him know about it. No thanks. After the fight he put up over his bringing flour instead of corn tortillas, I didn't want things to escalate to violence. Still, he got the last laugh. When he swept my plate out from under me (without asking), he dropped my knife an inch from my hand. No apologies.
Now I'm no waiter, never have been one, yet I do have empathy for those plying the fine trade of waiting. And, as always, I'm here to help. Hence, Stuart's Easy School of Good Waiting for the low, low price of three $39.99 installments . Order now and you'll receive a free doily.

Waiters, kindly remember these rules:

1) Hairnets. If you have hair like the lunch-lady of my nightmares, hairnets are appreciated. Soup served with croutons and curly black hairs is simply not an option.

2) For God's sake, give me time to take a bite! Overzealous behavior doesn't suit the art of waiting well. Sometimes, before I've even jammed a fork in my mouth, a tip-starved waiter will ask how everything is. And keep coming back. Again and again. It's a weird time-space conundrum. Can't comment until the food's in me.

3) Waiters, please don't chortle at a customer's menu selection. It doesn't exactly instill culinary confidence.

4) And do we really need to know your grandmother just passed away? When the waiter starts crying, my appetite starts dying.

5) When I ask what's good, don't respond with a generic shrug and say, "everything." I don't believe you. On the other hand, when a waiter says, "I eat next door," the honesty is appreciated, but gives me pause.

6) Don't be the invisible waiter, the guy who takes an order and vanishes into the Bermuda Triangle. When a different waiter brings out a milk carton with my waiter's visage on it, I know I'm in for an even longer wait.

7) Know your customers. Do I REALLY look like a guy who wants to eat the Kale platter?

8) "Oh, I see someone's hungry."  Well. When a waiter says that, I fire back, "I see someone's hungry for a tip." Puh-leaze.

9) If you're gonna' serve up witty patter, make sure it's at least borderline amusing. And don't deliver your patter like a robot. Bring your material to life. When you bury your face in the order pad, reciting lines like "you say tomat-oh, I say ta-mah-to (and I know you've recited it a kazillion times before)," it makes me wanna' use the steak knife for other purposes. Bad jail-bound purposes.

10) Finally, don't overdo it. When a waiter sits down at my table, drops an arm over my shoulder, jabs a toothpick between his teeth, and says, "You know, I'm not really a waiter...," dessert is definitely off the table.

Gang, the next time you go out to eat, recite these rules upfront to your waiter. Trust me. I'm sure they'll appreciate the advice. Absolutely positive.

What does "waiting" have to do with writing, I hear you ask? Quite a bit, actually. A waiter has to guide his/her customer through an entire meal before any kind of feedback is given (and hopefully a tip). A writer is in the same sort of unknowing vacuum until reviews come out (and hopefully sales).

There will be a test later.

Speaking of waiters, my dunderheaded protagonist of the Zach and Zora comic mystery series isn't exactly a waiter (and maybe the world's a better place for it). No, no, Zach has chosen to study and practice the fine art of "male entertainment dancing." Just, whatever you do, don't call him a "stripper." So gauche.

Click for wacky murder mystery hijinx.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Looking At The New Year - Janet Lane Waltres #Romance #Fantasy #Fire #MFRWAuthor #BWLAuthor

Looking at the New Year
 Lines of Fire Challenged (The Guild House – Defender’s Hall)

This year began with a release on January first. And I also began the seventh book of the Moon Child series. The rough draft is going well. I don’t know how other writer’s work though sometimes on my blog, they are able to tell me a bit about it.

I am a draft writer and the rough draft is one only a writer can love. I belong to a critique group and reading five to ten pages of what one is working on aloud is done. When I read the pages of a rough draft, the critiques come fast and furious. “There’s no emotion.” “I don’t understand the setting.” Or “Just where are your characters.” These questions will be answered in subsequent drafts. I have one for plot, one for setting, one for characters and one language.

There are times when I wish I could be one of those writers who gets everything down at once. They revise each scene as they go and don’t continue until they are satisfied. I’ve tried this method and I found the story never was written. I need to know the end before I can make sure the beginning works.

I have other friends who just write scenes. They might write a scene from the middle of the book followed by one for the opening. This would never work for me. When they try to explain what they do I really can’t see the purpose. From beginning to end is my way.

On my rough draft I am finally nearing the end. Then I’ll go back and slowly add all I’ve left out. How about you? How do you craft your stories?

My Places

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bump, set, spike, by J.C. Kavanagh

Short-listed for Best Young Adult Book 2018,
The Word Guild Canada

I am very much a sports-loving person. Since Grade 3 and into high school, I participated in track and field (100m, 200m and 400m relay). I wasn't the fastest but I wasn't the slowest, either. Since becoming an adult sometime in the last century, my sport selection widened. I've played ball hockey, baseball, volleyball and martial arts kickboxing. Today, I'm still playing volleyball and working on purple belt in kickboxing.

I've been in the same volleyball league for 35 years and the competitiveness of the league has grown in leaps and bounds - to the the point that players on the eight teams are switched every two years.

In the sport of volleyball, there are six players on each team and the goal is to 'ground' the ball on the other team's court. A point is awarded to the team who 'grounds' the ball in the opponent's court and likewise, a point is awarded if a team is unable to volley / spike the ball over the net. The team can 'touch' the ball a maximum of three times before sending it over the net. Usually the first 'touch' is a player bumping a serve up to the centre-net player. That player then sets or volleys the ball to a side player for a spike, thus the term: Bump, set, spike. The rally continues on both sides until the ball is 'grounded' either in the court or out-of-play.

There are lots of rules, too. You can't touch the ball consecutively; you can't touch the net during play; you can't step over the midline during play; you can't play the ball more than three times in your court, and game / set ends after 25 points. We play five games / sets every Wednesday during Autumn, Winter and Spring.

I just discovered the origins of volleyball. An American YMCA physical education teacher by the name of William Morgan invented the game in 1895 in Massachusetts. He based it on the rules of badminton, tennis and handball and called it Mintonette. It wasn't until 1896 that the name was changed to volleyball, denoting the volleying aspect of the game. As an aside, another new indoor game was just becoming popular - basketball.

The inventor of volleyball, William Morgan

My team, 'The Royals,' ready to return the serve

Five of seven team mates celebrating the annual year-end banquet.
... and from volleyball info to creative writing.... make sure to check out my award-winning Twisted Climb series. You won't be disappointed!

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends (Book 2)
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2018, Critters Readers Poll and Best YA Book FINALIST at The Word Guild, Canada
The Twisted Climb,
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers Poll
Novels for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

“The Force has Left us, Young Skywalker.”

Over the weekend, my son and I checked out the latest Star Wars offering, “The Rise of Skywalker.” Patrons of all ages lined up at the ticket counter, the theater was crowded and many buckets of popcorn were sold. It promised to be an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The sheer success of the Star Wars movies is hard to comprehend. The original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” came out in 1977. Since then, the franchise, with twelve releases, has collected over an astounding ten billion dollars worldwide.

We enjoyed the movie but, truth be told, it was nothing special. The undeniable excitement that greeted the first several releases, decades ago, was missing. Perhaps the brand has run its course. Understandably, keeping the momentum going is a hard task, and for the scriptwriters, an unenviable task.

For me, “The Revenge of the Sith,” released in 2005, was the last and best of the series. In it, we learned of Anakin Skywalker’s shocking betrayal of the Jedi, his turn to the dark side, the death of his wife Padme and the dispersal of their twin babies. Every release after that has felt shallow, unable to capture the emotional heart of the saga again.

Thus, the reviews for “The Rise of Skywalker,” were decidedly mixed. Rotten Tomatoes, the well-known review site gave it a 53% rating, saying that it “suffers from a frustrating lack of imagination, but concludes this beloved saga with fan-focused devotion.”  Roger Stone, the movie critic, writes that, having to bear the weight of all the previous plots, it doesn’t have “an identity of its own.”
Joseph Campbell
In a way, it had to happen. The original trilogy was a cultural phenomenon. Set in the distant future but rooted firmly in ancient human mythology, it captured everyone’s imagination. Based on the writings of Joseph Campbell, erstwhile professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who worked in comparative mythology and religion, it captured the imaginations of people around the world. Some say that Star Wars is based on the ancient Hindu epic the Ramayana, which relates the tale of a search, by a hero and his monkey friend, for a princess captured by an evil king.

There are rumors that the latest is the last of the franchise. But given the financial returns, it seems difficult to believe. Another or, maybe, a few more episodes will be produced. If so, the saga will slowly die away, ending only when movie-goers lose interest. Yet, few will forget the magic of the early releases. I certainly won’t.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper," a fantasy and "Karma Nation," a literary romance ( He is published by Books We Love (

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It's a big, big world out Sheila Claydon

Click here for my books and author page

A new year, a new decade, what does the next 10 years hold for us? Only time will tell.

Looking back over the past 10 years, however, I realise how much in my own life has changed, and also how many wonderful experiences I've had. Since 2010 I've visited so many different parts of the world, including the big ones of China, Russia, America and India, that I don't have enough fingers to count them.  I've travelled across New Zealand, I've lived in Australia for 6 months. I've been to Canada and onward to Alaska. I've spent weeks in Hong Kong. I've also travelled to more than a dozen European countries as well as to many parts of the UK, some familiar, some not, and my goodness how my attitudes have changed in this past decade.

Most of my travels have come about because of commitments to family or friends. I'm not an inveterate traveller, even though it might seem like it. I am quite happy with a quiet life walking my dog and meeting local friends.  The travels happened, however, and with them a deeper understanding of different cultures - how different we all are, and yet how similar.

Seeing ragged beggars on the streets of Delhi before experiencing the reverence of thousands of Sikhs at the Golden Temple in Amritsar gave me such an emotional jolt that I began to look at India in another way entirely. The same in China, where everyone is so friendly and helpful, especially if, like me, you have white hair. The respect for older citizens in China is palpable wherever you go. Russian people are mostly serious while Canadians and Australians are laid back and relaxed. Alaskans are just different but then so would I be if I had to live at -30 to -40 degrees for a long, long winter. Then there is busy and overcrowded Hong Kong with its wonderful beaches and museums where life is very good for those who earn well. It has many citizens who are less lucky, however, and it is very noticeable that they don't smile as much as the mainland Chinese.

Then there is America.  Like any large country the people in Washington are very different from the people in San Diego or Orlando or Las Vegas or Key West. What they all have in common, however, is their overwhelming friendliness towards people from the UK, and an insatiable curiosity about our way of life.

Finally there's Europe and that is where there is an even bigger discrepancy. The French are nothing like the Italians who are nothing like the Spanish who are nothing like the Scandinavians who are nothing like the Albanians etc. etc. It is so fascinating eat different food,  listen to different music, travel through different scenery, hear different languages, all the while trying to understand and absorb just a little of the different cultures in such a limited time.

I have been extra lucky that so many of my trips have involved staying with or travelling with local people who always wanted to show the best of their country while also discussing some of its worst aspects.  So thanks to them, this decade has not only broadened my mind, it has broadened my understanding.

In the words of the eminent French novelist Gustave Flaubert : travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world or, as the American writer Henry Miller said: One's destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things. 

My views are only my views of course, and other people will see and experience different facets of each culture, but I do know that my decade long journey has changed me unalterably. I am no longer the English woman who first got on a plane aged 40, and who never expected to travel much further than France. Now that I've talked to the indigenous peoples of Australia, native Americans, Alaskan natives, rural Indians of all religious persuasions, communist Chinese and anglophile Russians, to say nothing of the many different peoples of Europe, I know I really am just a speck on the vast planet we call earth.

There must be many, many stories inside me if only I could write them, but somehow the best experiences never translate into the written word. They have to be lived,

I have occasionally used some of my experiences as a background to my books, however, and Cabin Fever is based on a cruise from Aukland in New Zealand's north island to Sydney in Australia. I haven't done it justice I'm sure...but re-reading it has taken me back to what was a truly wonderful experience, although unlike the protagonists in the book, I was lucky enough to visit friends and family en-route and so experienced so much more than the casual traveller.

Now, as a new decade starts, I'm off to Japan and South Korea, both of which promise to be a whole new and challenging cultural experience. I'm busy reading up on them at the moment but as English writer Aldhous Huxley said: to travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.

Happy travelling.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Stranger than Fiction

Tess...American Civil War Bride #1

Ursula...American Civil War Bride #2

The real life Edwin Booth is featured as a neighbor of my heroine Ursula Buckley in book 2 of my Brides of the American Civil War series, Mercies of the Fallen.  The first book of the series is the Laramie and Chatelaine Award nominated Seven Aprils.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Did you know that Edwin, an actor like his notorious brother assassin John Wilkes Booth, saved Abraham Lincoln's son Robert from serious injury or even death? 

Edwin Booth as Hamlet...his most famous role

The incident occurred on a train platform just before the end of the Civil War. While a group of passengers were purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor, Robert recounted,  “There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”

Edwin Booth and Robert Todd Lincoln

Edwin Booth did not know the identity of the man whose life he had saved until some months later. The fact that he had saved the life of Abraham Lincoln's son was said to have been of some comfort to Edwin Booth following his brother's assassination of the president.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Five Changes in My Writing Life since 2010

                                Please click this link for book and purchase information

I enjoy year end lists. Even better are lists at the end of a decade. Here's my list of five changes to my writing life that happened in the ten years from January 2010 to January 2020.

1. I became a published author. Prior to 2010, I'd published short stories, poems and articles. They all helped me feel like a real writer and led me to teaching writing courses and workshops, but the term 'published author' is generally reserved for those who have published a book. This was a milestone I longed to achieve. After years of work, my first novel, was published in spring 2011.

2. I stepped up my social media presence. I was on Facebook before Deadly Fall was published, but only had a small number of Facebook friends, all people I knew in my real life. After my book publication, I started accepting requests from virtual strangers and posted (too many) notices about my literary activities and accomplishments in the interests of promoting the novel. I also joined Twitter and had my son's friend create my author website, which automatically tweets my website posts. In addition, I've dabbled in Link-In, Goodreads, Pinterest and Instagram. It seems that just when I get onto one social media site something else becomes the hot new thing.
Social Media can make me feel pulled in all directions

3. My office moved to a different room in my house. Okay, I'm cheating here because my home office changed when my husband retired in fall 2007. But it took a few years for us to settle into our new routine. When he was working, as soon as he left for the office I'd go to my den upstairs to write. My retirement gift to him was our den, a sunny spot that looks out to a green space. I moved my work to our north-facing guest room with a street view. I figured that if he had an appealing room for his various computer activities, he wouldn't distract me from my writing, while I don't need the view while I'm forming stories in my head. The plan worked. After breakfast these days, he goes to his den and I huddle in the corner of our guest room. But lately, I've felt an urge for a brighter, more scenic and spacious room of my own for writing.
Jane Austen wrote pretty good novels at this small writing table with its view of the clock in the family sitting room. 
4. I became a regular at a writing festival. Calgary's When Words Collide Festival For Readers and Writers launched in August, 2011. I went the first year, since it's held in my home city, and haven't missed a year since then. This coming August will be the festival's 10th anniversary. I'm bound to find whatever I'm looking for as a writer there, whether it's information about the craft or getting published or promoting my books. Toss in a little fun for a winning combination.

Dressed for the festival's banquet, Roaring Twenties theme
5  At When Words Collide, I found my publisher. BWL published my second and third novels and there's a fourth one in progress. In November, BWL released a new edition of my first book, retitled A Deadly Fall. The re-publication brings the 2010s full circle and seems a fitting end to the decade.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Books & Best Sellers & Movies Oh, My! by Karla Stover

Author of: Wyners Way
                  Murder; When One isn't Enough
                  Murder on the Line
                  and a miscellaneous bunch of things available to download for 99 cts. off Amazon

A writer in my district of garden clubs had one of her books made into a Hallmark movie. I would love to have those bragging rights (though maybe not as a Hallmark movie)  but I'm not sure that many books turn into movies these days--Harry Potter and Marvel comic books excepted.

When I was young, one of the local TV stations ran movies about the time I got home from school and if I liked the film, I always checked the credits to see if it came from a book. The Uninvited was a good book and a good film though the star, Ray Milland, was much too old to romance the heroine, Gail Russell.

Meet Me in St. Louis was a lovely movie and more or less faithful to the book with two exceptions: it omitted the family vacation and fiddled with the ending a bit.

Greta Gerwig has a new version of Little Woman out. I wonder who owns the rights because they must be making a ton of money. Beginning with the silent film days, it's been made into movie a bunch of times. I liked Katherine Hepburn as Jo and June Allison was okay. I missed Winona Ryder's version. PBS has its own version, so do the Japanese. It's been turned into a Broadway play, a ballet, and an opera, not to mention various adaptions on television.

Anne of Green Gables is another book frequently adapted for film, television, and radio. Some of the books have been stand-alone movies, and there is even a book about Marilla in her pre-Anne years.

I liked both the written and film versions of Gone With the Wind, but a really good novel, Forever Amber was a lousy movie.

In my opinion, The Shining was much scarier in book form than the movie but Silence of the Lambs had a better movie ending than did the book. And A Year of Living Bibically is so enjoyable I'm rereading it but the television was canceled after showing only eight of its 13 episodes.

A Google search has lists of authors whose books were adapted to film; frequent favorites include Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier, and Dashiell Hammett. Google also has people who advise writers on selling their books to various producers. Maybe we should all send them copies of our books and see what happens.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Water, Water Everywhere

The sky darkened and with no more warning than a single roll of thunder, the rain began. It washed down the roof, overflowing the gutters and splattering through the screens to wet the bricks of the patio.

We quickly moved the seat cushions to the other side of the porch but I left one on a wicker chair. I love summer storms and wasn’t about to huddle inside. Rain continued hard enough to wash away the spilled charcoal dust from the grill where my birthday dinner had been cooked. The remnants of the party disappeared, but not the warm feelings of contentment I tucked away in my heart. 

The rain lessened then grew stronger again and yet the sun shone on a patch of green grass along the side of the house. Pitter-patter; drip-drip. You know what it sounds like running down the gutter pipes and dripping off the house. If it continues, I will sleep out on the porch tonight. I can’t hear the rain inside behind bricks and insulation. It reminds me of summers past, camping at the lake in a canvas tent. “Don’t touch the roof,” Dad admonished as it would make the canvas leak. Yet someone invariably would. If there wasn’t lightning, we’d play in the rain; even swim in the lake. After all, it was summer and we were at the lake to get wet.

Another round, coming hard enough to rush down the street like an overflowing river. A curtain, obscuring the trees across the way. The smell of rain. You can’t describe it but anyone else will understand exactly what you mean.

“Why are you out here?” my grandson asked.
“Writing about the rain.”
“Because I love a good storm.”
I recently read a book about how water can make you happier, healthier and of a better frame of mind. While most of the book was more scientific than I could understand, the gist was that we need water in our lives. Not only to drink, but to be near, in, on or even under water. While I don’t live near a body of water, I realized how often I write about water in its various forms in my novels.

“Hold on to the Past” takes place on a river. “Spinning through Time” has a dramatic and tragic scene on a frozen pond.
“Prelude and Promises” is set on a small island, thus surrounded by water. “A Game of Love”, set in Boston, has a close connection to the Boston Harbor. And the list goes on.

I also love writing thunderstorms into my novels; water cutting rivulets down a dirt street; ominous cracks of thunder awakening my characters in the middle of a dark night. You don't have to wait for the next time it rains to curl up with a copy of “Love in Disguise” and find out just how diverting the rain can be when it keeps Max and Abby from pursuing a killer.

Best wishes for a wildly wet new year!
Barbara Baldwin

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Reindeer & antlers by J. S. Marlo

I don't usually write my blog more than a week ahead of time, but I'm making an exception with this one. I was going to post about my New Year resolutions, which I haven't made yet since it's only December 14, when I saw this post on Facebook about Santa's reindeer.

What I was doing on Facebook when I have a million things to do at this time of year is a discussion for another time, but the post caught my attention. Aside from the fact that reindeer, just like deer, don't usually have an "s" in their plural form, it struck me as odd that female reindeer don't lose their antlers, so I did some research.

Female reindeer can grow antlers, just like their male counterparts, making them unique in the deer world. However, not all females have antlers since growing them costs a lot of energy. In habitats where food is scarce or of poor quality, antlerless females dominate. Now, why are female reindeer different from the other female deer?

The female reindeer use their antlers to defend food in small patches 
of cleared snow, and those with the largest antlers tend to be socially dominant and in the best overall physical condition. The females also shed their antlers every year, but unlike male reindeer who lose them late autumn after the rut, female reindeer retain their antlers until spring because access to food is critical during their winter pregnancy.

So, does that mean female reindeer are pulling Santa's sleigh?  Not necessarily. It happens that most of the reindeer used to pull sleds are castrated males because they are easier to handle than "full" reindeer. Castrated reindeer have antler cycles similar to those of the females, only losing them in the spring.

Conclusion: Santa's reindeer are either female or castrated male reindeer. 

Other interesting facts about reindeer:

- There are 14 subspecies of reindeer, two of which are extinct. 
- Reindeer are domesticated or semi-domesticated caribou.
- They live primarily in the Arctic, where winter is drastically colder and darker than the summer.
- Their hooves are soft during warmer months, but in the winter, they become hard and sharp for breaking through the ice to forage vegetation.
- To adapt to seasonal changes in light levels, the part of their eye behind the iris changes color from gold in the summer to blue in the winter.
- They travel up to 3,000 miles and swim long distances along the way.
- They have two layers of hair to keep warm: a dense woolly undercoat, and a top layer of hollow air-filled hairs which float.  Their hair have been used to fill life jackets.

This is a reindeer's hoof print... which I'll try to draw in the snow for my granddaughter.

Happy New Year 2020 !!!

BBC Wildlife: 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Catacombs Where You Least Expect Them by Eileen O'Finlan

I've long been intrigued by catacombs – those underground chambers and passageways most commonly associated with Rome or Paris. Their secret nature, association with burials, and use as hiding places long ago captured my attention. I've always wanted to find a way to incorporate them into my writing. Never did I think it would be in the book I'm setting in my own city.

Last October while perusing the gift shop of the Worcester Historical Museum during one of my research trips for Erin's Children, the forthcoming sequel to Kelegeen, a slim volume titled Worcester's Forgotten Catacombs caught my eye. Astounded, I snatched if from the shelf. Could there really be catacombs beneath the streets of Worcester? I grew up in the next town, worked for decades in the city itself, but never once had I heard so much as a rumor about catacombs. I simply had to find out.

According to author Charles W. Longeway, Sr., catacombs do indeed exist beneath the streets of downtown Worcester. Likely built in the 1700s, possibly used in the 1850s for nefarious business such as illegal gambling or being in the more noble employ of the Underground Railroad, they were seemingly forgotten by the late 19th century. The author claims to have been fascinated by the tales of the Worcester catacombs for over 50 years after unearthing several published accounts of their rediscovery in the 1930s.

The catacombs contain more than thirty rooms forty feet below the ground. Built of brick with massive pillars, elegant archways, and thick, almost sound proof walls, the underground chambers invite speculation as to their origins and subsequent use. The jury is still out on both, though several theories abound. Built in the 18th century, some say they were created as a foundation in the downtown section of Worcester which was supposedly a mass of quicksand. Others say they were actually the basements and lower floors of the first homes built in the area and later covered over by numerous changes to the grading of the streets.

More intriguing is their possible later use. A 1930 newspaper article claimed them as the site of an 1850 50-round “Fistic Battle” - a bare knuckles prize fight featuring the then famous English heavyweight, Jem Mace.

A 19th century hostelry sat above one section of the catacombs. It appears to be well attested that the hostelry employed a number of African Americans who may have used the chambers as living quarters. The discovery of a 19th century bathtub in one of the rooms suggests that some such use was made of them. Since Worcester was an anti-slavery hotbed, the possibility of being a part of the Underground Railroad is a valid theory, though whether they were an official stop on the famous route north or simply a hiding place for runaway slaves is unknown.

What is not in question is the fact that these catacombs exist and have been in existence since the 18th century. Since Erin's Children is set in Worcester in the 1850s I can't possibly resist making them part of the story. Since what use they were put to in the 1850s is, and maybe always will be, debatable, I have creative license to let my imagination run free. I'm getting near the section of the story where the catacombs will come into play. I have some ideas as to what will happen down there, but even I'm not sure until I actually write it. My characters tend to have minds of their own so I may be as surprised as anyone about what was going on in Worcester's catacombs. One thing's for sure, I will have tremendous fun finally setting part of a story in catacombs even if they are in the most unexpected place.

Pictures courtesy of Charles W. Longeway, Sr.
BuzzMediaLife - "This Week in Worcester"

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Twelfth Night by Rosemary Morris

To find out more about Rosemary's work click on the cover above.

Twelfth Night

In England, Christians observe Epiphany 12 days after Christmas on January 6th to celebrate the Three Wise Men aka the Three Kings who visited Jesus. On this night, in many countries it is traditional to add their figures to the nativity scene.
In fact, since childhood, one of my favourite Christmas carols has been We Three Kings of Orient are. I imagined the bright star, the lands they travelled through, the joy of visiting the holy infant and their gifts. I am still in awe when the first verse and refrain is sung.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse afarGift of the Magi
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star.

Oh, star of wonder, star of might
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading
Still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Apart from making a wish for the New Year there are many customs associated with Twelfth Night. In my classical Regency Romance, Wednesday’s Child
In my novel, Wednesday’s Child, Heroines Born on Different Days of the Week, Book Four, I described customs observed during the Regency era.

“In the morning, the clock on the mantelpiece chimed. A quarter to seven. Twelfth night. Amelia glanced at the hearth. When would a fire be lit? To avoid misfortune throughout the following year the countess had ordered servants to sweep the ashes from all the hearths and remove the greenery which decorated the house.
Before dinner, which all the children would attend, they would play games such as Hunt the Slipper. Earlier in the day, Cassie declared, her dimpled face all smiles, ‘I hope the bean will be in my slice of plum cake. If it is, I will be crowned Lord of Misrule and everyone will obey me.”
The child’s mention of the ancient custom amused Amelia; but heaven help the m if Cassie were crowned. God alone knew which orders the little imp would give. Yet when the countess mentioned bad luck a shiver ran down Amelia’s spine.
Tears gathered in her eyes. On this day, on Twelfth Night Grandmamma always called read from the Bible. Afterwards they exchanged gifts in memory of those wise men who travelled afar to worship the King of Kings and give Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Now, many people remove Christmas decorations, including the tree, on Twelfth Night, a custom which originated from the belief that failure to do so would result in bad luck during the following year, Then, at the stroke of midnight the chances are that the New Year will be ushered in by singing Auld Lang Syne. The song is considered to refer to reunion and reconciliation, which encourages us to think about the past and present and move forward together.

Classic Historical Fiction by Rosemary Morris

Early 18th Century novels: Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies, The Captain and The Countess

Regency Novels

False Pretences.

Heroines Born on Different Days of the Week Books One to Six, Sunday’s Child, Monday’s Child, Tuesday’s Child, Wednesday’s Child, Thursday’s Child, and Friday’s Child. (The novels in the series are not dependent on each other, although events in previous novels are referred to and characters reappear.) Saturday’s Child will be published in July. 2020.

Mediaeval Novel Yvonne Lady of Cassio. The Lovages of Cassio Book One


Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Executioner by Katherine Pym

Buy Here
A story of 17th c London, medicine & the theatre


Executioners are interesting although it is not easy to find a lot of data on these guys.  I know of two who were completely different. One was thoughtful, the other a menace to the public... 

The Guillotine during the Fr.Revolution, a humane way to die.
Charles-Henri Sanson was the executioner during the French Revolution. He executed Danton, Robespierre, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Before Camille Desmoulins was guillotined, he handed Sanson a locket of his wife’s hair. “Please return this to my wife’s mother.” 

Sanson did. While he was at the Duplessis’ household, Camille’s mother-in-law learned her daughter would be executed. Afraid Sanson would be recognized as the one who guillotined Camille, and would execute Lucile, Madame Duplessis’ daughter, he dashed away from their house, mournful of his vocation. 

Charles-Henri Sanson
Due to the caste system of the time, the offspring of executioners in France were never allowed any other vocation but that of an executioner, and he must marry an executioner’s daughter, thus keeping their grisly profession within a lower social stratum, and within the family. (Everyone must have been related. How many executioners could there have been in France in a given year?)  

They were not allowed to live in town but at its outskirts. One of Sanson’s descendants was a known herbalist. People came to him for cures. Another Sanson, who could not bear a life of executing people, committed suicide. 

Another well-known executioner was Jack Ketch. English executioners were taught several ways to execute an individual; i.e., with fire, the ax, and the rope. I’m not sure if Ketch was very proficient in his vocation or a complete fool. He botched most of his executions.  

Jack Ketch, an ugly dude inside & out

The hanging knot is supposed to be placed on the side of the neck so that when the poor wretch is thrust off the back of a cart, his neck should break, but Jack liked to put the knot at the back of the neck. This meant long strangulation. Family members were forced to run under the Tyburn hanging tree, grab the wretch’s legs and yank down, hoping somehow for a quick end.

When Jack used the ax, he knocked the blade against the person’s neck several times before the head came off.  One fellow he tortured was Lord Russell. It took four strokes of the ax before the man was finally dispatched. Because of his cruelty, a hue and cry reached the king. Jack Ketch was forced to write a note of apology to the Russell family, which was published in 1683. 

The Duke of Monmouth expressly requested Jack Ketch make good use of the ax: “Here,” said the duke, “are six guineas for you. Do not hack me as you did my Lord Russell. I have heard that you struck him three or four times. My servant will give you some gold if you do the work well.” 

The Tyburn Tree where Jack did his job so well
There is no evidence if Ketch took the money, but he disregarded the duke’s request. In a brutal attempt to torture the victim, it took several strokes to finally behead the lad.


Many thanks to Wikicommons, Public Domain &
Old and New London: A Narrative Its History, Its People, and Its Places, The Western and Northern Suburbs, Vol. V.,  1892, by Edward Walford