Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Featured Author Victoria Chatham

Hello! I am BWL Publishing Inc. author Victoria Chatham. You can view and purchase any of my titles by visiting my BWL Author Page here http://bookswelove.net/chatham-victoria/.

From as far back as I can remember, the writing was as much part of my life as reading. I don’t remember learning to read, only that I could and did. Reading books made a significant impact on my life. Having a soldier dad meant we were always on the move, never overseas but to several postings in England and Wales. I learnt early on the disappointment of leaving friends behind, but books came with me or could be borrowed from libraries wherever we lived.

The power of the stories I read stayed with me, right from Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, to Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Black Beauty and many more of what were then considered children’s classics. At age thirteen, I read my first Georgette Heyer Regency romance, Sprig Muslin, and fell utterly in love with the genre. My favourite Heyer novel is Frederica, which I still find as fresh and funny as the first time I read it.

It was also at age thirteen that I started writing real stories, prompted by my English teachers who praised my award-winning essays. And then life happened. Leaving school and getting a job is a heady experience, especially in the early sixties, with happy hippies and flower power added into the mix. My other life-long love is horses, and it was finally a job in a hunting stable that took me away from home. I still read plenty of books, but the writing faded into the background only to re-emerge when my children arrived on the scene.

Just as I had enjoyed books as a kid, I made sure mine had books too. Quite apart from the books they owned, we made weekly visits to our local library. Those were the days of Fattypuffs and Thinifers, Flat Stanley, The Starlight Barking, and, of course, every Ladybird book published. We also – shock, horror! – drew stories on the dining room wall. I’m no psychologist, but it always appeared to me that telling a child not to do something meant they automatically did it. So we crossed that bridge by designating a wall on which they could draw. When it was full, we painted over it and started writing stories again.

It wasn’t until I immigrated to Canada that I became serious about writing. This time nothing short of publication would do. My husband, now deceased, was my most significant support. He signed me up for writing classes, silently supplied cups of tea and mugs of coffee during the times I sat down to type out the next bestseller, and in general, believed in me while I did not. But writing had become a given, a little bit of heaven every day when I could retreat into a world of lords, ladies, and happy-ever-afters.

I have one contemporary western romance amidst my publishing line-up, but it’s the historicals that I enjoy writing the most. I have also written short stories, three of which appeared in an anthology from which all proceeds go to supporting breast cancer research. One author suffered a loss, one survived, and at the time my stories were included, I was finishing a five-year course of post-cancer treatment. A year after finishing that, I faced a second go-round with breast cancer and all that entailed. Books, through all those treatments and surgeries, were, along with my dogs, my constant companions.

Here is an excerpt from my first Regency romance, His Dark Enchantress. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter Six

“Good morning, Miss Devereux.”

“Good morning, my Lord.”

Lucius chuckled, and at the sound, Emmaline set her jaw and lifted her chin.

“Does it kill you to be polite to me?” Lucius asked, his voice as soft as the silk lavender gown she had worn to Almack’s.

“Cuts me to the core,” Emmaline responded promptly.

He laughed at that and escorted her to the waiting riding party.

“I hope you find Psyche to your liking,” he said, indicating the perfectly groomed dark brown mare that Noble held.

“She’s beautiful.” Emmaline patted the mare’s neck before allowing Noble to assist her into the saddle.

Lucius mounted his horse, and with a clatter of hooves, they made their way towards the park. Beamish rode ahead with Lucius while Noble brought up the rear.

“Is all well?” Juliana reached across from her horse, caught Emmaline’s hand, and gave it a little squeeze.

Emmaline returned the pressure. “I’m so sorry, Juliana, but I’m afraid your brother appears to bring out the worst in me.”

“Don’t feel bad. That is a reaction many people experience.” Juliana smiled a little as she thought of how best to explain her brother’s behaviour. “Lucius can often be overbearing. I think it stems from him having inherited the title at such a young age. He was but fifteen when our Papa died, and losing him affected Lucius greatly.”

“I’m sorry. I did not know that.”

“Well, it was a long time ago. Caroline tells me they were on excellent terms, and she would remember, being the eldest of us three. Lucius tried his best to be responsible but became quite wayward after he went to Oxford.”

“I remember you telling me he was considered quite the rake. But, rake or not, you are so lucky to have a family.” A wistful tone echoed in Emmaline’s voice.

“Not all the time.” Juliana checked her mount, which showed signs of wanting to forge ahead. “Both Lucius and Caroline, who I know mean well, are doing their best to marry me off to gentlemen who do not inspire me in the slightest.”

Emmaline took note of the words, not missing the softness with which they were spoken.

“Mr. Beamish has still not spoken to your brother?” she whispered.

Juliana shook her head. “The opportunity has not yet presented itself.”

“How did you come to know Mr. Beamish?”

“His father’s estate borders Avondale Park, and he and Lucius practically grew up together. They are close in age, you know, and went up to Oxford within a term of each other.”

“Oh, I see.”

Juliana shot her an amused glance. “They are opposites, are they not?”

Emmaline smiled at her friend’s perception.

“Maybe that’s what makes them friends,” she said.

Once in the park and trotting smartly along Rotten Row, Emmaline silently agreed with Mrs. Babbidge that it was, indeed, a fine morning. Sunlight glinted off the waters of the Serpentine, a light breeze tweaked the leaves on the trees, and the green turf beside the tan-covered ride stretched invitingly before her. A little demon of daring whispered in Emmaline’s ear but was drowned out by a question from Juliana.

“Did you enjoy last evening?”

Emmaline bit her lip. There was no way she could tell Juliana the truth, that her feelings for Lucius had grown more quickly, more deeply than she could have ever believed and that, once having stepped into his arms, she had not wanted to step out of them.

“It is a long time since I have been in the company of so many people,” she said. “I was simply overcome by it all. I am so sorry I spoiled your evening.”

“You did not spoil my evening, silly.”

“No?” Emmaline gave Juliana a sideways glance.

“Well, maybe a tad,” Juliana admitted with a smile. “I enjoyed Mr. Beamish’s company very much.”

“Aha – now comes the truth of it!”

“As does my brother.”

Emmaline looked up to see Lucius trotting towards them. He sat his horse in perfect balance. Beneath lowered lids, she glanced at the long, firm muscles of his thighs, imagined his slim fingers that were even now encased in black leather riding gloves, closing around hers. She swallowed hard.

“Juliana, I have to ask you quickly – have you divulged any information from my letters to your brother?”

“None. You know I would not.”

Emmaline cast Juliana a grateful smile, but Lucius was too close for her to say more.

“I trust the air has revived you this morning?” he asked of her as he drew alongside.

“Indeed, my Lord, I am now feeling quite well,” Emmaline acknowledged. The little demon was back, its voice stronger now. She turned her head and looked Lucius directly in the eye. “The only thing that could make me feel any better would be to race you to the end of the ride, for I know I would win.”

As soon as she uttered the words, Emmaline could have bitten her tongue. Why had she let that demon spur her to issue such a challenge? She gulped. Too late now to retract it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Housewives, Traditional Sex Roles & Mopping the Floor

Amazing how much time housewives spend pondering their floors. You may think that such a preoccupation is a sign of not much going on in that life, but from a "housemaid" view, the state of the floor is a re-occuring issue. Worn board floors, where cat fur accumulates in powdery drifts after a mere 3 days, or the kitchen linoleum which desperately needs waxing, they all cry out to me. I might fancy myself in an observatory, pondering the gravitational fields of Trans-Neptunian objects, but math always evaded me. --Or maybe I was just a typist at heart.

Gravitational studies do have a small place in the field of housecleaning.  A bit of cat fluff falls at the same speed as the toast crumbs my husband sweeps absently from the table onto the floor. This practice of his used to make me see red. Sometimes he'd do it even while I, rag in hand, was on my way to tidy that exact surface. These days, however, I pick my battles. He doesn't seem to realize that things on the floor immediately become my problem. Or--more darkly--maybe he does.

Most likely, he doesn't think and then multiplies this by doesn't care, because really scratch the surface and most men don't think much about women's work, especially if they have a "proper" housewife in residence. 

This blog is from an elder's POV, one from the "baby bust" cohort. As a female of that era, I was trained to domesticity in the traditional mode by a mother who wasn't much for housework herself and maybe figured such a virtue would eventually help me out in the marriage market. Back then, the deal between the sexes was: The Man performs the work he does in field or office, factory or machine shop and in return, Woman cooked, cleaned and helped to tend the green square surrounding the house, as well as being MOM to the kids. If you were a farmer's wife, you had an extra task in the form of poultry. 

Prehistorical Digression:

Imagine a Cro-Magnon a.k.a. EEMH "European Early Modern Human" woman (perhaps an Aurignacian, the ones with the great wall "posters") cleaning out the clan cave. Gotta take out the garbage you know, or you'll attract all kinds of unwanted guests, like the cave bear who used to live here, the local wild dog pack or the saber toothed tiger, the old one who can't chase faster prey anymore.

This old tiger may be a bit lame, but he's fast enough the dine on you, monkey.

Better to get the tell-tale odors away from your front door. You could simply heave the gnawed bones over the edge of the cliff. If you weren't lucky enough to have such a handy disposal area, you had to laboriously dig a hole with an antler pick and bury the stuff. And just about the time you'd get the place cleaned out, I'd bet dollars to donuts that the men would be back with a new carcass and all jazzed on fermenting grapes or something vegetative and disorienting they'd eaten in the woods. They'll just want to barbecue and party. If that's the case, tomorrow will just be same another day of taking out the trash.

Thank heaven EEMH men did "bring home the bacon," because women were incredibly busy. Either pregnant or nursing, chewing great swathes of hide to soften it sufficiently to sew, or gathering firewood and water and scrounging about for roots, nuts and berries, while trying to keep the older children from falling over the edge of that room with a spectacular view.

Years ago, post climbing the ladders to the dwellings at Mesa Verde, my first question was  how did they raise any kids up there? Or did they tie up toddlers  like backyard dogs until they'd acquired complete balance skills and some judgment?

So now, considering what housecleaning used to be like, I don't consider my modern housework all that hard. When I wrote Mozart's Wife I imagined Constanze's trials when the money ran out--which it often did--and how often she'd find herself doing the chores. Hand-scrubbing those lace cuffs and cravats and undies in a world in which there was no decent hand-cream for winter cracked skin! Soothing ointments? Another item for which you'd have to track down the ingredients and then concoct a cure yourself. Worse would be dishes in a world with no indoor plumbing. The Mozart's, like many today, ate a lot of take-out when they could no longer afford an apartment with a kitchen and/or the requisite cook and scullery maid to staff it.

Personally, mopping floors has become a creative driver. Versions of this housewife's trance work often appear in my stories. The Cinderella-like tale of Genesee, where a Metis girl is demoted from beloved daughter to servant, or Elizabeth Hamilton's strategy in A Master Passion to "encourage" her husband to accept the gift of a housemaid from his in-laws, or  Angelica in Angel's Flightattempting to settle her nerves by scrubbing the steps at her Uncle's Hudson Valley house on the eve of a British terror campaign .

~Juliet Waldron

Barnes & Noble

"Thou dost appear beautiful on the horizon of heaven... "

(From the Hymn to Aton by Akhenaton "the Heretic")


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Guess Who Brought Home a New Puppy? by Connie Vines

Yes, it was I! 

As most of my readers know (via my Blog posts, Twitter, and Instagram feeds), I have a 4-year-old Poodle-Caviler King Charles Spaniel mix, named Chanel.

Her 4th B-Day Pic
We are best buddies.   I run my plot-lines and dialogue past her.  She smiles and gives me that, "I love it!" look. 

She has her beds, toys, and routine. She carries her favorite toys in my office to play with while I write.  Life is good.

But something is missing. 

I'm on dead-line (always) and working on multiple novels and stories (no change here), however, there was one major change in my routine.  This summer I retired from the field of education. 

Wow!  I am no longer forced write from 9 PM to 1:00 AM.  I can actually write during the daylight hours every week day.

Sidebar:  So, for the past several months I've been keeping an eye-out for a suitable dog-friend for both of us.  With the stay-home order, the task has required a little-jumping-through-hoops.  (Probably a little like an online dating app.)  Search the Humane Society/Shelter postings, daily.  Make phone calls (because there is a phone interview and then a scheduled meet-and-greet).  Send follow-up emails.  After several not-a-good-fit meets, I spied a l year old, 14 lb Westie Terrier Mix who was brought in as a stray and listed on Adopt-a-Pet.

I completed the paperwork/ had a phone interview' and went down to meet him at the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Shelter. I loved him, he loved me (I loved him more because he was completely potty-trained).  So, Chanel had her own appointment with him at 2:00 PM.  He followed her around.  She eyed-him (he was scruffy looking and not up to her grooming standards) but he met with everyone's approval. I christened him with a nice Scottish name:  Gavin.

Gavin before grooming
Gavin groomed

Gavin and Chanel are adjusting to each other. Gavin is still wearing his Elizabethan collar and bumps into everything and everyone. He has kennel recovery/rest time; Chanel has supervised 'Gavin' time.

Are you wondering, "What was she thinking?  She disrupted a perfect routine!"

Well, maybe. 

But it seems to be working out fine.  I like activity.  I appreciate 'controlled' chaos. And, more importantly, I loved dogs (and horses and goats).

I'm trying-out several dictation apps on my iPhone. This way I can enjoy the Southern California sun shine and a cup of coffee while dictating a chapter or working out my plot-structure.

So mixing up your routine is a good thing!

It gives you a new outlook.  You explore new pathways.  And you get to spend money on puppy toys (only three).

I'm still cooking.  Ya'all.  This week it was Shrimp and Cheese Grits.  I've gotta keep that New Orleans' vibe going!


 Connie's Website and Links

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Brief history of the written word - Part two - by Vijaya Schartz

ANGEL FIERCE award-winning SFR.Get it HERE

Last month, I spoke about the origins of writing in China, Japan, India, cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia, and hieroglyphic writing in Egypt, as well as the gradual switch from graphic representation of objects to the use of sound symbols.
Phoenician tablet

In the early 8th century BC, the Phoenicians, who traded throughout the Mediterranean basin, developed the first known alphabet. Instead of using imagery, the letters, some consonants and some vowels, were linked together to form phonetic words.

Soon, the Greek borrowed and adapted the Phoenician alphabet, and their culture flourished. 

Aramaic writing

Many other alphabets developed after that, like the Arabic alphabet in the 6th century BC. The first Proto-Hebrew alphabet developed from the early Phoenician, then they adopted the Aramaic alphabet during the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods (500 BC – 50 AD). 

Ancient Hebrew alphabet

In the first century AD, the Viking and Celtic tribes of northern Europe also devised the Runes. 

Runic stellae

Then much later, in the 9th century AD, St. Cyril devised the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Greek, and used until recently in Slavic countries like Russia.

Add caption

In the 8th century AD, in China, where writing was done by hand with a brush (calligraphy) the emperor ordered some religious Buddhist texts to be carved on wood blocks, to be inked and pressed on parchment or paper, as an early form of printing. The blocks took a long time to carve, and could only be used a certain number of times before losing their sharp quality.

Some ancient cultures, like the Druids or the Polynesian and Native American tribes, had a strong oral tradition but never developed a writing system. That is why so little is known about their history today. Still, very old pictograms, drawings, and symbols carved in ancient stones, cliffs, caves, or etched over miles of Andean desert, baffle the anthropologists. This only tells us that some kind of writing communication may have existed well before what we understand today.

When the ancient Romans conquered the Greeks of antiquity, they borrowed and copied their culture, their religion, their arts, and adapted their alphabet to fit Rome’s needs, and for centuries, they thrived. Through conquest, the Romans imposed their culture and their Latin alphabet upon the defeated Frankish, Germanic, Saxon, and Breton tribes, overriding whatever local system they used at the time, and replacing it by the alphabet we are still using today in the west. 

 Of note is the fact that many countries added their own modifications to the alphabet. The French have the “oe” letter and many different types of accents. The Germans also have special characters on their keyboard that are not used by any other countries… so do the Danish and the Norwegians.

Roman writing tablet and stylus
Everywhere writing developed, it prompted a cultural revolution, the exchange of ideas and information, the first development of advanced culture, art, engineering, science, mathematics, and philosophy.

But there is much more to be told. Next month, in Part 3, we’ll talk about how writing evolved over the centuries, and how it translates in today’s society.

I write about the past and the future, as they are closely linked. My latest book is set on the Byzantium Space Station. Enjoy the read!

Akira's Choice
Byzantium Book 2 (standalone)
Find it from your favorite online store HERE

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.

"Science fiction romance at its best. Great story, interesting characters and a great cat make this story one to read and perhaps re-read. The world creating is top notch." 5 stars on amazon

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
amazon - B&N - Smashwords - Kobo - FB

Friday, June 26, 2020

Musings from a lover of words--Tricia McGill

Find this and all my other books on my Books We Love Author page

I wrote these short pieces years ago, so thought I would give them another whirl, as my thoughts haven’t altered a lot where ideas are concerned.

Thoughts Grow Like Mushrooms
A small germ becomes a giant idea. We all have ideas but most people let them slide away, never to be recalled. I am forever seeking new ideas, new paths to walk; new avenues to explore. My mind is never idle. I wonder what others think about when they just sit and stare. Are they, like me, investigating another avenue to take? When I began to write I thought—will I ever be fortunate enough to see a novel I have created in print? Will it be such a tragedy if I don’t?

I am never sure what prompted me to write, but once I began, I couldn’t stop. If I was unable to read or write I feel my life would have no purpose. I’m not sure what drives me. When I was a teenager, I felt an urge to write down my emotions—such as that shy glance from a boy I thought was nice, and how it made me feel at the time. This urge was dormant for years while my career path went off in another direction—but then I reached a stage in my life when I had time to do as I pleased. That is when I began to write in earnest, as if guided by what I like to call my Muse. Of course, there were those pesky rejections to deal with along the way.

People who don’t quite understand writers think we’re strange. How do you have the patience they ask, when told how much work goes into a book. How can I answer them when I don’t know myself? All I know is that I often wonder what my mind would be doing if it wasn’t toying with new story ideas. Perhaps I would have continued with my first love, painting. But the urge to paint was never as strong as the urge to write.

When I read a book or a passage of writing by another author that stirs me to tears, laughter or strong emotion I long to have the same effect on a reader. Perhaps this is why we all keep at it. To have someone say, “I read your book, and loved it. I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t put it down.” That is completely satisfying. I feel I have accomplished a feat that once seemed impossible.

I know people who try something and when they fail say, “I couldn’t be bothered to carry on.” I’ve tried a few things in my time that I haven’t been all that successful at, but I’ve always kept on until I felt I was as good at it as I could ever be. I hope I have become a tolerant person as I’ve grown.

Words. As writers, we love them. Idolise them, in fact. Words are to us writers as the paintbrush is to an artist, the baton to a conductor, movements to a dancer. A paragraph, sentence, or at times one word will catch our attention, hold us in thrall, and make us wish we’d thought of that phrase or word first.

As I work my way through the dictionary, this occupation brings home to me as never before how glad I am that I was taught English from the moment I could speak. How often in the past, I have scoffed at newcomers to my country. How many of us are guilty of suggesting they should learn our language before they arrive. Yeah, like it will only take them a short course of a couple of weeks to learn the million and one connotations and idiosyncrasies of the English language. So many English words change their meaning by the alteration or addition of one letter.

Never will I ridicule someone who endeavours to find their way around the English language.

Visit my web page for excerpts

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Barkerville Beginnings, Book Four of BWL Publishing's Canadian Historical Brides Collection

A single mother running from her past and a viscount running from scandal meet in the rough and tumble gold rush town of Barkerville. (Available at your favourite online store HERE.)


Four years ago, my wonderful publisher BWL Publishing invited me to participate in a project in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. The Canadian Historical Brides Collection is comprised of twelve books, one for every province and territory and each book is the story of a bride who contributed to the building of Canada. Our only stipulation was that the book had to be a blend of fact and fiction.

(You can find the entire collection on the BWL Publishing website HERE)

Each participating author could choose which province they wanted to write about and I was lucky enough to snag British Columbia. I say lucky, as British Columbia is one of our favourite vacation destinations and it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a location in which to place my story. Eventually I decided on the ghost town of Barkerville that sprang into existence during the Cariboo gold rush. My husband and I have visited there a couple of times over the years and I thought it would be a wonderful setting for the story of Rose and her little girl Hannah, and Harrison.

After gold was discovered in 1861 in Williams Creek in the Cariboo, thousands of men and women made the trek up the Fraser River, through the Fraser Canyon, north to what is now Quesnel and from there east into Barkerville. At one time, this town was thought to be the largest settlement west of Chicago, with an estimated population of 10,000! With such a large influx of people, in 1861 the Royal Engineers were given the task of building the Cariboo Road. By 1865, the road made it possible for mule trains, freight wagons and stage coaches to serve central British Columbia. When completed, it was considered one of the wonders of the world. Today you can still see remnants of the road just outside of Lytton.

As an author of one of the Canadian Historical Brides books, I had to incorporate real people so I did. ie Wa Lee, who gives Rose a job in his laundry, Judge Begbie, (known as “The Hanging Judge” and doesn’t that tweak your interest!), Madame Fannie Bendixon, the hotelier and saloon keeper (who may or may not have run a brothel!) who also offers Rose a job, Dr. Wilkinson who treats the injured leg of Rose’s daughter Hannah, and Wellington Delaney Moses, the barber, because Harrison needed a shave after being out in the gold fields.

I’ve been to Barkerville so I wanted to mention the lonely grave you drive past on your way in from Quesnel. Here is Rose’s impression as she passes by:

The wagon slowed as the road neared a fenced grave, enough that Rose could read the headboard: Charles Morgan Blessing.
“Lonely spot to be buried,” Harrison commented and he doffed his hat as they drove past.
Rose nodded. “It is.” A chill tiptoed down her back at the forlorn sight, a reminder of the fragility of life in this wilderness. She craned her neck for one last glimpse before the road twisted away.

I was also quite taken with the wooden sidewalks so of course I had to mention those as well:

 “Looks like we’ve arrived,” said Harrison as a cluster of buildings came into view. Once again the mules, sensing the end of a long day, picked up their pace and the wagon bounced and rattled down the last little bit of the Cariboo Trail.
Rose hadn’t known what to expect but her first view left her numb. This was Barkerville? The town that gold built? This jumble of wooden, mostly single story buildings tottering on stilts alongside a wide, muddied creek? Surrounded by steep hills stripped bare of trees? How unattractive, brutally so.
The road through town was in poor shape, rutted and puddled with patches of drying mud. In consideration for pedestrians, raised wooden walkways fronted every building like planked skirts. Rose could only conclude the creek must flood frequently. Her poor boots, already soaked through once since embarking on the trip, would certainly be put to the test here.
The closer they came, the more her heart sank. What had she got themselves into?

Here are a couple of pictures of Barkerville today. The second picture gives you a good idea of the wooden sidewalks. 

As an author of historical romance, it’s my job to place my readers in the proper time frame and I hope I’ve accomplished that in Barkerville Beginnings!

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