Monday, November 30, 2020

Featured Author Roberta Grieve


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Locations – Real or imaginary?

I am a BWL Publishing Inc author and since joining BWL Publishing Inc. I have had a new book published every year.


You can find my books on my BWL author page




I have always loved telling stories and my earlier books were set in Sussex where I have lived for about 50 years.

I used fictional Sussex towns but with a little bit of reality thrown in. I often have people ask me where the real place is so parts are obviously recognisable but when I first started writing I was hesitant to use real settings in case I made mistakes. 

More recently I have turned nostalgically to the place where I grew up – the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. - and I wanted to write a story set there.

And here it was that I ran into a problem. Could I rely on my memories of the place to get it right? As my stories are set in the past I could probably get away with the odd mistake. But i wanted my stories to sound authentic. Should I fictionalise the location or stick to the facts – real street names, areas? 

Best selling author Kate Mosse says ‘every novel starts with a place. I create an imaginary character and put them in a real place.’ Her books are set in the south of France where she lives part time and in Sussex, her home county.

Crime writer Peter Lovesey’s detective novels are set in Bath and every location he uses is authentic. He even runs guided walks in the footsteps of his detective Peter Diamond.

For me, too, location is an important part of the story. I need a setting which I can see in my imagination and then I can people the landscape with my characters. 

So when I embarked on ‘Madeleine’s Enterprise’ which is set at the turn of the 19th century, I pictured the long winding High Street of Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey. Madeleine’s house near the church is a product of my imagination but the street leading down to the estuary is real.

How would it have changed in the hundred years since Madeleine lived there? Apart from the parked cars, it hasn’t changed much. The Guildhall with its clock and the old houses, many of them former public houses, are still there.

Here is a snippet from ‘Madeleine’s Enterprise’. She has just decided to pawn her grandmother’s locket to pay off some of her late father’s debts .- a difficult decision.


‘Madeleine dressed soberly and covered her gown with a shawl. Opening the heavy front door, she glanced cautiously up and down the road before venturing outside. At the front gate she looked back at the house. Creek View was a fine red brick mansion with white painted sash windows arranged either side of the oak front door. 

The stables, barn and other outbuildings showed signs of neglect and, with a sigh, she turned away and started down the long High Street towards the waterfront. Passing the ancient Guildhall and the church, she reached the hard where barges and schooners moored to load and unload their cargoes. Clustered around the hard, where the creek met the sea, were a couple of public houses, a few shops and the pawnbrokers. She had seldom ventured down here in recent years. When she was a child her maid, Tilly, had often taken her to see the ships come in and watch her father’s goods being unloaded.’

 The scene is little changed today, except that the boats are more likely to be pleasure craft plying the estuary.

 Knowing the  island so well I told myself I wouldn’t need to do much research. How wrong can you be? I soon discovered how memory can play you false. However, it was a labour of love. I found out so much about the history of my home town, filled notebooks with facts about the island’s naval history, the new light railway which ran across the marshes to the eastern end of the island and which only lasted for a few years. I discovered things I hadn’t known when I lived there.

When I finished ‘Madeleine’s Enterprise’ I had so much information about the island’s history  that I just had to write another book set in that location. Sheerness, with its naval dockyard town and army garrison was the perfect setting for a wartime story and so ‘Daisy’s War’, the first in the ‘Family at War’ series, was born.

Although I did not live on Sheppey during the war, telling Daisy’s story was like walking in my childhood footsteps. Her home is a mirror image of the one I lived in before I got married and her friend Lily’s house is a cottage in a warren of back streets where we lived when we first came to the island. The cottages are long gone, replaced by blocks of flats and a new road.

Although my story is set in wartime, here  is a scene familiar to me from my own childhood in the 1950s. Daisy is walking back to her work in the Garrison NAAFI accompanied by her father.

‘When they reached the high Street, they joined the human tide of Dockyard workers going back for the afternoon shift. Many were on bicycles, others walking, a sight familiar to Daisy from her childhood. 

When her father had worked in the Dockyard, Daisy and her brother Jimmy had often taken him a packet of sandwiches for his dinner. She had always enjoyed seeing the huge ships in the dry dock, hearing the clanging of hammers and inhaling the smell of paint as the men swarmed over the hulls repairing and painting.’

I worried constantly that I had gotten it wrong. I wanted to paint a picture of a close community where most men worked in the dockyard or went to sea. I could see the little streets, a pub on every corner, and the long seafront with its views over to Southend.  I could see it all in my mind’s eye and hoped my readers could too, especially those friends and family who still live there and who I hoped would read my books.

When it came to writing ’Sylvia’s Secret’, the sequel to ‘Daisy’s War’, I had to do much more research as well as use my imagination. Daisy’s sister Sylvia is in the WAAFs, doing secret work at a large country house in Buckinghamshire, somewhere I’ve never visited. I hoped to visit Medmenham House, now a hotel, to do on the spot research but it was impossible during the Covid lockdown. Reading and online research had to suffice with a little bit of imagination thrown in. I hope it rings true for my readers. 

Here is Sylvia arriving at her new posting with her friends  


‘The house was set back some distance from the road and they walked up a long drive which curved between immaculate lawns, dotted with sculpted yews. As they reached their destination, Sylvia gazed around in awe at the mansion, gleaming white in the sunshine, with its two towers, bay windows, and the ornate chimneys. It was completely outside her experience and she could hardly believe she would be living in such a posh place.

A guard at the front door inspected their papers and directed them to a side door. Apparently only senior officers and Ministry personnel used the main entrance. Inside, they were greeted by a WAAF officer who introduced herself as SO Forsyth. She led them outside again. ‘Your quarters are in the huts,’ she said, pointing across the grounds. ‘I’ll take you.’

Sylvia was a little disappointed that they would not be sleeping in the main house, but she followed the others along a path to the rear of the building.

‘Just like home,’ Julia joked as they came in sight of a row of Nissen huts like the ones where they’d been billeted in Norfolk.’

Now it’s back to the Isle of Sheppey for the third book in the series which I have just started. ‘Out of the Shadows’ continues the story of the Bishop sisters. The war is nearing its end and a new way of life beckons. I’ll be walking in my childhood footsteps for this one but I mustn’t let my memories take over. Memories can lay you false so there will be a lot of fact checking ahead.



Saturday, November 28, 2020

Krampus, Frau Berchta & Zauberkraft

Austrians and Bavarians have a divine pair of antidotes to our American diet of Christmas sugar. The best known is the Krampus, a German/Austrian devil who appears at winter celebrations, usually on December 5, which is also Saint Nicholas day. In Bavaria and in the territories of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, he’s long been the Dark Companion to their Good Spirit of the season, the Christian St. Nick. 

Saint Nicolas & "Friends"

Krampus is doubtless a good deal older than the red-coated, crozier-toting saint, with his horns, furry pelt, and long, disgusting tongue. Krampus arrives to punish bad children, right beside Saint Nicholas, in, as some commentators have noted, a kind of bad cop/good cop routine.   He carries chains which he shakes threateningly and a bunch of birch branches, which he threatens to use on the backsides of all evildoers.


Old Christmas cards from the region, especially from the 19th Century, show Krampus—sometimes portrayed as a female—delivering spankings in smirking 19th Century bondage scenes. However, I believe that Krampus has always been male, because of his enormous horns, that universal signifier of masculine prowess. In this case, the horns are trophies taken from the buck Steinbock, (Capra Ibex) which are an integral part of the traditional costume.  

Steinbock buck

Krampus has survived 
from pagan times in Austrian and Germanic lands despite more than a thousand years of disapproving Christianity. Soon, this magnificent horned god will dance in the streets as part of the celebration that lifts human spirits in a cold, dark time.  He does not dance alone, though. Long ago, he may have had a feminine companion.

Nature, in the form of the Teutonic Goddess, Frau Perchta or Berchta, is another seasonal deity. This Lady has two faces. In spring and summer she is Berchta, the shining one, dressed in white and crowned with flowers, who brings fertility to the fields and to the animals. Sometimes taking the form of a swan or of a lovely woman with one webbed foot, Berchta cares in a beautiful secret garden for the souls of suicides, the unbaptized and still born children, and those who have not been buried properly. This soul-shepherd could be a friend on a very personal level, too, for there are stories about her entering homes in the night and nursing babies in order to help their tired mothers get much-needed sleep. 

Berchta, the Good

In winter time, however, Perchta is no longer generous or kind to her human children. When The Wheel of the Year turns, she wears a new face, one that is old and cruel. Times past, as the Spinnstubenfrau, (Spinning room wife) this goddess would punish a woman severely if she had not finished all her spinning and/or housecleaning (*I'm doomed) by the Feast of the Epiphany--January 12.  Beneath the crone's dress, is a long knife she'll gut you with if you displease her. Every winter day she whips the land with ice, winds, and snow.  

In the howling of the gales you may hear the Wild Hunt blowing over your head--and Perchta, a winter witch, leads them, surrounded by lost souls. She is sometimes accompanied, it has been said, by the Capital "D" Devil himself. The birch tree is sacred to her in both aspects, and is represented by the rune Berkana.

Perhaps, once upon a time, the demonic Krampus creature was Perchta's mate. (He certainly looks like the Devil, doesn't he?)  The Old Woman haunts the time days before Epiphany. If you want to make friends, she enjoys a bowl of hot cereal left out for her, but, better yet, I've heard, is a glass of schnapps or brandy. 


For the second part of my “Magic Colours” series I decided to employ a shape-shifting creature who lived in the Austrian Alps. The Krampus legend was an obvious choice, although I've altered it to fit the needs of the story.  Shape-shifters are limited to a single form--the werewolf being the prime example--but I gave my creature carte blanche. My hero can assume the shape of any animal that lives on his mountain.  

In Zauberkraft Black, a disillusioned soldier, Goran, returns home from the Napoleonic wars to find his family estate semi-abandoned in the wake of that long and devastating European war. The Austrians changed sides--first fighting against Napoleon and then siding with him, an experience that felt like a betrayal to many. The Year without  Summer (1815-16), just passed, has also taken a terrible toll. Sudden climate change, brought on by a gigantic volcanic eruption on the other side of the world, causes crop failures and starvation all over. 

Not only unseasonable cold followed the now famous Tambora eruption, but endless rains.  In the high mountains, this caused devastating avalanches. One on the Heldenberg (Heroes' Mountain) kills Goran's mother at their alpine family estate. Now, this wild, beautiful place--once, for Goran, full of happy childhood memories-- is tainted with darkness.

 During his first hours on the land, while aimlessly wandering, Goran stumbles into a seasonal celebration among his tenants. It’s a traditional Summer Solstice party, with food, drink and a hint of sex, but instead of these simple pleasures, an ancient ceremony of soul-joining now awaits the newly returned young master. 

 ~~Juliet Waldron

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Knott's Berry Farm and Other Great Winter Adventures by Connie Vines

Today is National: French Toast Day. 

There are only 33 days remaining in 2020.  

Where I reside in southern California, we have spent a great deal of time (since mid-March) at home/working from home due to the Pandemic, Wild Fires,  Forest Fires, Air Quality, and Power Outages. 

While my eldest son is able to work from home, my youngest son is an essential worker and has little down time.

The day before Thanksgiving my youngest son, his family (which includes me) drove to Knott's Berry (Merry) Farm, in Buena Park, California for a day's outing.

Of course, we practiced social-distancing, wore a mask, and were able to travel/sit together (family bubble is the term) throughout the day.

I wanted to share a few 'happy and up-lifting' photos and little snippets of my Knott's Berry Farm Adventure to give you something to smile about.

The shops were open for purchases (thank goodness), and the park was decorated with holiday displays and lights.  We each were given a lanyard with a two-sided tasting selection list (I wore my around my neck because, after all, it was a field trip).

As everyone knows, I'm a die-hard lover of gingerbread!

And, yay, two restaurants listed gingerbread with frosting on the menu.

Turkey, of course, was in many creations: sandwiches, in soup, over tater-tots with gravy,  Fried and breaded meatballs to dip into gravy, cranberry sauce, biscuits and Knott's famous jam, etc. were also crowd-pleasers.

Eggnog, large sugar cookies peppered with Knott's candied-berries and vanilla ice-cream sandwiched between.  Well, the list goes on and on. Coffee, hot coco (with or without candy canes), and tea.

Five tastings per adult and 3 per child.  I only spent 4 (I sliced my gingerbread in 5 sections to share and my turkey sandwich in quarters).  The other 2 tastings? Knott's famous chicken noodle soup. It was so cold I had a cup when I arrived and a cup at the ice skating rink. 

No one left the park hungry :-).

All of my other grands are older, but Logan is still at the age where he enjoys "Peanuts/Snoopy", "Disneyland", and other gentle adventures. 

Logan wearing his new gloves 'cos it's cold and windy.


Logan and I (excuse my hoodie-hair) leaning over the fence to see the gingerbread house display.

Logan and the famous Knott's Berry Factory Truck  (Though I doubt it was berry-purple in the 1900s).

The outdoor ice-skating rink held live-entertainment and display past 'Snoopy on Ice' videos on a large screen. The Peanuts Theme blasting through the speakers while fog-machines filled the area with cold damp air!

At the end of the evening, the "lighting of the Christmas Tree" claimed everyone's attention.

It seemed strange not the hear the clickety-clack of the amusement rides tracks and the shouts of the people when they rounded a curve or entered a tunnel.

The Christmas music and the chatter of families filled the void and we had a clear view of the planet Jupiter in the dark night sky.

It was a wonderful way to spend the day; to remember past good-times- and to look forward to the future!

Speaking of the future...

I retired from education over the summer and I'm looking forward to writing full-time. 

My Snoopy-with-a-typewriter pencil cup sat on my desk and attracted more notice than I realized. Because every gift I received during my tenure in education was a "Snoopy" gift.

So, now my media/craft room displays about 50% of those collectables.

The jade green loveseat is covered by a fabric-protector and small quilt.

Note: Chanel is camera shy tonight and Gavin decided to crawl in bed early.

The room isn't that kindergarten yellow that the photo displays.  It is only a very light color.

I'll closed today's blog post with a long-awaited slice of gingerbread cake. 
Served with a cup of steaming hot coffee, of course!

I hope you and all of your loved ones are having a blessed holiday season.

A season filled with warm gingerbread and a wonderful and bright 2021! 


BWL Author (Connie Vines) Page

Connie's Blog Dishin' It Out



Connie's Web Site

Available in 2021:

February 2021

August 2021

Friday, November 27, 2020

I love it when science catches up with science fiction - by Vijaya Schartz

Check out my books at BWL Publishing HERE

Since the origins of humanity, Humans have always been attracted by the stars, but why? 

Is it a deep-rooted desire to find our origins? Is it for the pure joy of exploration? Is it to colonize new territory throughout our solar system? Do we need to find a new home? Nowadays, some will say it’s a race for riches, to mine rare metals and other resources. 

In truth, it’s all of the above… and much, much more. 

Crew-1 mission astronauts, now on the ISS

On November 15, 2020, SpaceX captivated the world. Their Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft launched NASA's Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station. Onboard were NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Earlier this year, on May 30, 2020, astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participated in a preliminary test run of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Dragon capsule cockpit

This historic success was achieved through the efforts of many scientists, engineers, and highly qualified personnel, too many to name here. It took the vision of Elon Musk and the creation of SpaceX to start an unprecedented mobilization of the private sector, and once again launch astronauts from US soil.
For the past twelve years, the only way to the ISS was via a Soyuz rocket, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Russian Kazakhstan desert. No longer will US astronauts have to rely on antiquated technology and foreign industries.  

Astronaut and cosmonauts before launch in Russia.

You might wonder about the practical repercussion of having a private company launching rockets into space. Amazing that the private sector can do what the government couldn’t. More cost-conscious than the military and other government funded projects, SpaceX developed a way to retrieve and reuse their rockets. They also get paid by private companies as well as NASA and foreign government agencies to launch their satellites and their astronauts. Among them, Argentina, Europe, Great Britain, Japan. Soon, space will become a tourist destination for the wealthy, contributing more funds to the program.

But, how does that impact our daily lives? Maybe it’s more relevant than you think. 

The ISS (International Space Station) soon to host visitors

The ISS scientific crew conduct various studies, like the behavior of germs and viruses in cold space, lack of oxygen, and no-gravity. Weather satellites are monitoring ocean levels, climate change, and many other indications of potential cataclysms (hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes), for early detection and warning. 

Where do you think your new 5G phone service originates? It requires thousands of powerful satellites circling our planet. And that superfast internet of the future? It’s also thanks to SpaceX. They have launched 900 satellites to date, including mapping and communication satellites, as well as the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, the latest in a series of satellites to provide critical data about sea level rise and climate change. 

As for the future of space exploration, the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to witness the next steps. 

First target is the closest, establishing a base on the moon… but the US is not ahead of the race. China already has a plan, some technology on the moon, and satellites circling it. Japan is developing a space program for the moon as well. 

NASA - Future base on Mars

Second target will be establishing a colony on Mars, then mining the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, then exploring the rest of our solar system. Later, when we develop faster than light technologies, we’ll venture farther into our galaxy to visit other star systems, and colonize other Earth-like planets. 

Mining the asteroid belt is coming sooner than you think

Will we run into aliens? Or other humanoids from elsewhere? I hope so. And if we do, will the public be told? With so many eyes in space, it will become more difficult for the governments to lie about extraterrestrial presence, or hide secret military projects. 

One day Humans will live on exoplanets

All this gives me ideas for more books. When large interplanetary companies own the rights to mine and exploit the many resources of other planets, each inhabited planet will become its own entity. As soon as they become self-sufficient, they’ll claim their independence, develop their own rules, laws, political systems, industries, customs. In all that chaotic progress, conflicts are bound to happen… even wars… especially in this solar system where humans are imperfect and planets are relatively close. Humans will no longer be from Earth, but from the system of planets orbiting our very own star, Sol. What shall we call ourselves, Solarians? 

I may not live long enough to see it all 😊. So, if or when I come back to this Earth in another body, I hope I’ll be able to live on other planets, like I lived in many countries of the world in this lifetime. I can’t wait to see Mars as a verdant paradise, enjoy the sights of Saturn rising over Titan’s dunes, or vacationing with an ice-fishing cruise on Ganymede.
The steps of terraforming Mars

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing books set on other earth-like planets and space stations. Here is my latest, MALAIKA’S SECRET, set on the Byzantium Space Station, at the fringe of conquered space.

Find this book at your favorite retailer HERE
Special Agent Tyler Conrad works security undercover on the Byzantium Space Station and adheres to a strict moral code. When strange beings with wings are murdered, and a dangerous lion wanders the station’s indoor streets, Tyler’s investigation leads him to a mysterious woman, who could make him break all his rules and get them both killed.

Forbidden to love, the beautiful Malaika, guardian of the glowing crystal in the temple of the Formless One, is an illegal mind-reader who hides perilous secrets. She has seen the great evil coming to Byzantium but must hide her extraordinary abilities or perish with her people.

When Admiral Mort Lowell, a hybrid Tenebran nicknamed the Vampire, makes a surprise visit to Byzantium, Tyler knows something wicked is afoot…

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
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Thursday, November 26, 2020

My All Time Favorites


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I think by the time I was born my mother was just a teensy bit fed up with children after already rearing five boys and four girls. That is not to say that she wasn’t the greatest mother any child could wish for. Loved and respected by all who knew her, Annie was a typical mother of her time. As far back as I can remember she was always there at home with a meal ready and waiting for me. Never the type to make a fuss of you, even when you were sick, she nonetheless never raised a hand in anger to any of her offspring, even though I am sure that there were many times when she could easily have taken out her frustration on any or all of us. I think we all inherited our sense of fun from her, as one thing she enjoyed was a good laugh. How she survived bringing up ten children, surviving two World Wars and endless deprivation is something to be admired above all else and this sense of humour no doubt helped her through. She allowed me the privilege of running wild and free as a child. Somehow, all ten of us turned out to be not so bad human beings and it surely was from lessons learned from our parents.

As wonderful as our mother was, the task of raising me was, more or less, left to my older sisters Joan and Doris, who would dress me up, pamper me, and take me out to see what went on in the world. They taught me to read and write well before I attended primary school. My big brothers also made a fuss of me but were prone to tease me, after all, (except for the youngest) they were adults when I came along and anyway this is about my favourite women. If you have read my ‘Crying is for Babies’ then you will know that my favourite woman of course was my dear Vi, who was a constant in my life until her death. Because of our mother’s legacy, all the females in her family have the strength of character required to get them through the toughest of times—after all none of our lives have been half as difficult as hers.

Among my screen favourites, I think Doris Day stands out. How I loved her movies. Not only was she beautiful but her love of animals is surely what drew me to her. She founded The Doris Day Foundation and vowed to protect animals in any way she could.  The characters she played in her movies in no way reflected her life—which didn’t appear to be a bed of roses. Another singer/actress who had a big impact on my teenage years was Rosemary Clooney (Is she really George’s Auntie?) but do you know the only song of hers that stands out for me is, ‘Hey There’. I cannot leave Audrey Hepburn from my list. She never did any movies that could be termed as stupendous, but how could I forget her in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Roman Holiday’. To me she was the epitome of beauty at its purest. And her outfits in the movies! She always looked the picture of elegance. But it is her humanitarian work that stands out for me. In 1992 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as
Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Sadly, she passed away too soon.

It was Joan our fashion conscious sister, who steered me towards a career in the fashion industry. Always ahead of her time, she loved dressing up, and was the least shy of all of us, never ashamed to flaunt her body, whereas we were mostly too coy. She instilled in us a sense of right and wrong in anything to do with our outfits and was never too bothered about setting us straight if she wasn’t happy with what we were wearing. It was she who forced me into nylons at the age of fifteen when I was still quite happy to wear ankle socks. And she made me wear higher heels because she said it was not ladylike to swagger like a boy so they would help me to walk like a model—unfortunately I think none of us (especially me) quite came up to her standards.

There are many more women that I have admired of course, such as teachers, authors, activists or ordinary women who cope daily with disability or worse, but none can compare to family. 

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