Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Childhood Writings by Priscilla Brown


 He almost runs her over, she breaks a shoe in a drain.

What else can he do but play Prince Charming?


I'm an author of contemporary romantic fiction; I've recently discovered my first interest in 'published' writing was in a small way not far from the genre in which I now write. My brother while clearing out his attic went through numerous boxes containing items which belonged to our mother that he stored when widowed several years ago she moved from the family home to be nearer to him (I live in a different country). He had never looked into any of these, until this day when he took from a larger carton a shoebox marked PRISCILLA, the box with an illustration of child's sandals. Interested, he found not sandals but several yellowing sheets of paper cut, not torn, from an exercise book and covered in handwriting, and sent them to me. The handwriting is that of a child who has learnt a simple cursive, so I guess I was about nine or ten, since on starting high school I deliberately changed this style that I considered childish, and developed a personal one.

These pages are from a weekend 'newspaper' written for our family, proud editor Priscilla Brown. This is the only extant copy, and perhaps the only issue ever. Reading it now, I smiled at my book review of the Children's Encyclopedia, which I patronisingly referred to as 'also suitable for adults'. I wrote a Woman's Page (at this young age!) where I described how to paint designs on salt and pepper shakers - cheeky from someone who has never had any artistic ability. I'm intrigued by what appears to be the first few pages of  'a new serial by the editor'; to my surprise it's what today we might describe as a historical romantic crime. Set in the 16th century, it portrays a heroine falling in love with 'a very wicked man'. I would have liked to read Next Week's Chapter. This brief excerpt makes me wonder what kind of children's story I had been reading. I still have several books dating from my childhood (amazingly, I did date them), but they are all what could be termed classics. Perhaps others I may have acquired or borrowed from the library were not judged by our parents as suitable for a supposedly well-educated young girl. Actually, I do recall hiding in a corner of an infrequently used room to read...I wish I could remember what it was, but I bet it wasn't Dickens or Charlotte Bronte.

My venture into creative writing did not survive high school; sadly, this was not on the curriculum, and there was no time outside study. Once, however, an English literature teacher wrote 'Very creative' on my work, accompanied by a zero mark. This sarcasm was a consequence of my response to the essay topic 'What does the poet mean by...' Never enamoured of poetry anyway, I wrote 'I have no idea and as he's dead I can't ask him.' Stupid question.

And then, from this somewhat unfocused background, as an adult I found my place in authoring contemporary romance.

Here's to many happy reading hours, love Priscilla 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Emerald Valley Series - Eden Monroe


I like the smell of manure. Now you may think this an unlikely way to begin an adventure, but read on and I promise it will all come together relatively quickly. Okay, about the manure. Actually I don’t mind the smell of it, or barns or livestock in general for that matter. Part of this earthy equation, by reasonable assumption, are cowboys, and writing about them is a natural fit for a country girl. Full circle.


I happen to have my very own cowboy, an ideal resource on the equine side of things, and most certainly an inspiration, so hot on the heels of Gold Digger Among Us, with sexy rancher Dade Tanner, off I went again and had the time of my life creating the Emerald Valley Ranch series.


We authors live our stories, knee-deep in the glorious occupation of word crafting, and the Emerald Valley Ranch series was no different. It was the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep, and the first thing on my mind when I came conscious in the morning, and just about every hour in between.


The first one up was When Fate Comes Calling, with Savero Gold, a seven-million dollar stud on the line and the mayhem that ensues in pursuit of this celebrated stallion. Kane Davidson’s family started the Emerald Valley Ranch so he gets to be centre stage throughout the series. He’s tall, blonde and an impossibly sexy alpha male with a big heart, and what’s better than one hunk? Well three of course; meet his buddies, Martin Parker and Rowdy Brooks. If you’re going to imagine a cowboy, make him a good one. From his smouldering smile to his OMG walkaway, spare nothing.


When Fate Comes Calling, Book One of the Emerald Valley series, was supposed to be a single title, stand alone book, and believe me, there are mega fireworks and suspense aplenty along with the love part. Enter Jessica, Lindy and Victoria, in their proper order. There isn’t a shrinking violet among them, strong women, all; sassy and well able to stand their ground.


I finished When Fate Comes Calling just as the summer season was full upon us, when in addition to my newspaper work, et cetera, there is gardening. That includes watering, which basically means transferring the lake to the garden through a one-inch hose in half-hour increments, and chasing the free-range chickens out of the garden with said hose. It also means endless hours of picking and canning. But as crazy busy as I was, do you suppose those Emerald Valley boys would leave me alone? No!


Book Two began to crowd out all other thoughts. I had to write a sequel, and this time Martin Parker was the star as I rushed to get Storms in the Valley down on paper. It would be insanity not to, right? It would be like knowing the answers to the final exam and saying nah, I don’t think I’ll bother. No! You grab it with both hands for the gift that it is, and so I did. Thank you, Martin.


And then it happened again, Book Three of the Emerald Valley series, Back in the Valley, began to come in loud and clear, this time with Rowdy Brooks, and again I paid heed and got that book down, and oh what a time Rowdy had.


Okay, so it’s a trilogy. Great! Done! But no, along came series Book Four, Incomplete Truths, and Book Five, Unforeseen Shadows, and so I got those on paper too. Five books in thirteen months and I write first draft copy in speed-of-a-donkey longhand, so can we say writer’s cramp?


But oh those cowboys…. When they spoke I listened and it was a rollercoaster ride; my pen had a hard time keeping up with the stories these characters wanted to tell, of love, strong family values, unbreakable friendships and often seemingly insurmountable challenges. They saw me through it all on their terms. Of course I would draw up an outline each time, then end up writing something else; something better. Sometimes I had no idea what was going to happen until the final few lines of a chapter, and then it would come, providing me with any number of WOW moments, as I was springboarded into the next chapter.


It was a wild ride to corral these cowboys and their spirited kin between the covers of a book … or five as it turns out, for what became the Emerald Valley Ranch series. I won’t soon forget my time with them because there was never a dull moment. Giddy up!


Monday, March 29, 2021

Revolutionary War Rambles

Fellow BWL author Kathy Fischer-Brown and I took several trips into the rich historical area of upstate New York and one into New Jersey. I had seen re-enactments before, but Kathy loved these events, and being with her and therefore in good company, it made these experiences even more fun than before. As Kathy is gone now, and taken all her knowledge and wit with her, I'm dedicating this blog to the fun we had -- not to mention all the discomforts of travel on a shoestring -- we shared together. 

If you are into the Revolutionary War, all these photos are of places and things that set a writer's historical spider-senses a-tingle. Re-enactors are an amazing source of period information. These are the kinds of touches that can truly flesh out a story, if only you take the time to ask questions and then listen while you trudge through roasting summer days, wondering at how our linen and wool-covered informants aren't fainting.

This is Kathy at the front door of the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY, where the Schuyler sisters grew up. I found those fascinating ladies back in the 90's when I wrote my Hamilton & Eliza story, a Master Passion.

Put brackets "" around mansion, though, as any number of modern monster McMansions are larger. Back in the 1770's though, this home was an outpost of Europe, with linoleum "rugs" over the wide board floors, as well as woolen carpets and ornate wallpaper imported from France. This house sat on the edge of a still truly primeval forest, filled with wolves, bears, beaver and many tribes of First Nation's people.    

We thought he was amazing! Anyone who writes novels in this time period, even with the slightest brush of the romantic, has imagined this fella and his well-behaved palomino. I will admit that we waved and called to him hoping he'd wait for us so that we could take his picture. He was most gracious, even though women had probably been harassing him all day.  :)

Here's an operation I wish I'd known about earlier, simply for the colorful language. These artillery people are engaged in a hither-to unknown (to me) operation called "puking the cannon." Cold water is poured down the hot barrel after a fight, to be sure it's clear inside and not accumulating gun powder residue. Sure enough, the cannon hisses and then "pukes" out a long jet of scalding water. Now the cannon is cleaned and we also know that it has not cracked. Cannons blowing up was part of the hazard of the artillery companies. As Hamilton spent the first years of the Revolutionary War as a humble artillery captain, this would have been a familiar duty. 

The inadvertent humor of re-enactment, present all the time, is in this juxtaposition of 2015 and 1776. The macadam, too, is often a reminder of where you really are, no matter how hard you are exercising your fantasy bone. 

Kathy and the surgeons, British camp. These gentlemen showed us their instruments and we talked about wound care and the damage a pistol's .54 caliber ball could do to a leg bone or a chest. 

Inside Fort Ticonderoga with an officer with whom we "held discourse." Another memorable horse, very patient and obviously used to this kind of all-day nonsense.  The green jacket on the officer makes me believe he was playing a Tory officer, a British loyalist, but Kathy can no longer tell me of  what regiment. She had all that kind of information on the tip of her tongue.  Her "The Serpent's Tooth" trilogy draws a great picture of the divided loyalties of American colonists of the time.

That's me, tactlessly wearing an Alexander Hamilton t-shirt into the grounds of Fort Ticonderoga's  "King's Garden." I got called on this a lot, especially when we were visiting the Royalist encampments.  

Magnificently terrifying Iroquois warriors, speaking with a soldier at the British market.  

Ticonderoga cannons, overlooking Lake Champlain. Both of us lugged our cameras and water bottles.

Here is Kathy with a friend. Jenna, a marvelous teacher, and is also an 18th Century seamstress, making period clothing for both men and women. She also made stays, which is, as it was then, an expensive clothing item, very difficult and time-consuming to make. Jenna's friends were also talented seamstresses and dedicated to the re-enactment life. I adored seeing their little ones, all dressed up and quite ready to join in the camp out game their adults were playing. 

Here, we got a talk on the progress of the battle--back at Saratoga again--which was a three day affair with weeks of skirmishes both before and after in the countryside near Albany. Some of the young men were,, in their modern lives, historians, teachers or in forestry. Others were employees of the the Park Service.

Here's Jenna again, playing another role, as sutler, vending produce to the army. Many of these veggies ended in a big pot at the fire for re-enactors' suppers.  Camping is a big part of the experience.  

Mom and a pair of siblings. Big sister is an invaluable help corraling the little one! Here the women are portraying "women of the army," soldier's wives and children, who always slogged along in the baggage train of 18th Century armies. Women had no other option than to follow their husbands. Any army of that period had children in the baggage train too. The women worked as laundresses and cooks for the troops. Wives got a soldier's half ration and the children were allotted quarter rations. You can imagine how hungry--and ready to join up--the teen boys were! 

Saratoga cannon appreciation.

Bullet making

Officer and wife have a confab. 

Below, we're at Monmouth, where young men were cooking in an earthen oven. They are also baking salt rising bread in this interesting construction, which was dug into the soft sandy soil of the site. The fire was in the largest hole with separate tunnels dug to direct heat onto other pots set above ground. Monmouth Battlefield that day was a period correct 90+ degrees.  Kathy and I were sweating in our t-shirts and shorts and constantly wondered about how the re-enactors were faring inside all that wool. More soldiers, I've read, died of heat stroke at The Battle of Monmouth than died from wounds. 

Here's Kathy, speaking with a charming doctor and surgeon at Fort Ticonderoga. Here's how I will remember her, asking questions, talking history and, if questioned, citing sources, holding her own with these equally history-drunk gentlemen.   

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Indoor Dining and Other Joyous Occasions by Connie Vines

We have all been social distancing, staying home, and donning masks for the past year to prevent infection. Depending on the size of your "social bubble" (usually, immediate family members), you are able to interact with others. The vaccine availability seems to have lessened stress levels of many, and for that, I am grateful. 

However, here in southern California, we have been "closed" for almost and entire year. 

Historic Downtown Upland

Even outdoor dining was only a very recent and not very frequent option.

Being an Introvert by nature, and a writer with two dogs for company, life hasn't been intolerable for me. However, the days and weeks seem to blend into one another. 

And, while my dogs were able to visit the groomer--I was not.

I am not very good at do-it-your-self hair cuts. Still, I am ambidexterous, so my nails are presentable. (Not a good trade-off, but it is what it is.)

When we were given the okay for indoor dining, I realized I have not sat inside a restaurant since Jan. 2020. 


My favorite restaurant (Souplantation) is shuttered for good.

This gave me a chance to re-define 2021 with a tentative baby-step.  Nothing profound, mind you, but a step back into normalcy.

I do love coffee but I also enjoy a cup of Earl Grey tea every afternoon, I realized, pondering a place to dine.

I visited my hairstylist.

I was able to make a reservation at a 'newly relocated'  English Tea Room.

The Magnolia Tea Room is only 6 miles from my home. It's also located in the Downtown Historical District in Upland, California. 

I thought I'd share my joyous occasion and '1st 2021 Adventure' with you :-).

The Outdoor Garden

The Afternoon Tea setting

The scone was delicious (I didn't snap a picture)

The Ladies' Room

Terry, "Me" and Michael (notice my lovely hairdo)
 All vegetables and fruit are harvested from one of their two local farms.
Farm to Table is their motto.
I brought home a jar of  'honey with a touch of lavender', too!

After I click the 'publish' button for this post, I'm back at my keyboard with a pup in my lap and a cup of hot tea within reach. 

Happy Reading! (remember to mention a favorite tea in any comment you leave for me.)

Next Release

Saturday, March 27, 2021

WARRIOR WOMEN Part 1 - THE ANCIENT WORLD - by Vijaya Schartz

Find most of my BWL titles HERE

Ahhotep : Military Leader and Egyptian Pharaoh


Ahhotep’s burial equipment included a dagger and an inscribed ceremonial axe blade made of copper, gold, electrum and wood. The decorations were characteristically Minoan. Also found were three golden flies, badges of bravery awarded to people who served in the army.

Fu Hao: China’s First Female General:

One of the earliest records of female warriors in China comes from oracle bones found in a tomb. The bones told the forgotten story of a ruthless military general of the Shang Dynasty in 1200 BC. The warrior was Fu Hao, queen consort of King Wu Ding, high priestess, and military leader. She defended the Shang dynasty in several battles. 

At the time of her death, she was the first female Chinese soldier to be buried with the highest military honors.

Artemisia I Of Caria: Commander of Ancient Halicarnassus

According to Herodotus, Artemisia of Halicarnassus was a Greek queen in the 5th century BC, long before Alexander the Great. Artemisia wielded power during a time when Greek women couldn’t vote in Athens, the home of original democracy. She is described as a femme fatale, pirate queen, and played a role in the events of the 300 Spartans described in the movies. During the Greco-Persian wars, she fought for the Persians at Salamis and contributed her warships to the Persian Navy.

Zenobia, warrior queen of the Roman colony of Palmyra, in present-day Syria, from 267 or 268 to 272.

She was described as a conqueror. In 269-270, Zenobia and her general, Zabdeas, conquered Egypt, ruled by the Romans. When the Roman prefect of Egypt objected to Zenobia's takeover, Zenobia had him beheaded. Then she sent a declaration to the citizens of Alexandria, calling it "my ancestral city," claiming her Egyptian ancestry. Zenobia personally led her army as a "warrior queen." She conquered more territory, including Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, creating an empire independent of Rome. After winning and ruling these Roman provinces, she was subjugated by Emperor Aurelian. She died in captivity sometime after 274.

The Amazons:

The Amazons were not the stuff of legends.

Long believed to be purely imaginary, the Amazons were the warrior women described as the archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Recently, the remains of 300 warrior women were found in more than 1,000 excavations of Scythian kurgans (burial mounds), from Ukraine to Central Asia. This spectacular discovery gives credit to the myth of the amazon warriors.

They were reported in the Greek writings of Herodotus as women the Greeks encountered on their expeditions around the Black Sea. They rode horses, hunted, fought, used bows and arrows, just like men. They were fierce, nomadic, and refused to remain sedentary. They lived without men, whom they only frequented for procreation. They kept the baby girls but when the boys reached the age of five, they returned them to their fathers.

Other writings relate similar stories of Amazons by travelers from ancient Persia, Egypt, and as far as China.

Warrior women of Ancient Japan:

For thousands of years, certain upper-class Japanese women have learned martial skills and participated in battles right alongside the male warriors. They were skilled with sword, spear, and bow.

These include the legendary Empress Jingu, (169-269 A.D.) She ruled as a regent following her husband’s death in 200 AD. After seeking revenge on the people who murdered her husband, she invaded the Korean peninsula, the ancestral land of her mother, who was a descendant of a legendary Korean prince.

Empress Jingū became the first woman to be featured on a Japanese banknote however, since no actual images of this legendary figure are known to exist, the representation of Jingū was artistically contrived from the photograph of a 19th Century Japanese woman.

I write about all kinds of warrior women in my novels. But if you like ancient warrior women, you may want to check out these, available in eBook and paperback on my links below.


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

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