Friday, December 31, 2021

This is Fiction! by Priscilla Brown




Gina is lover shopping, 

but is a New Year's Eve party the right store for her?


When our  readers start a book, we authors are asking them to 'suspend disbelief' (also to suspend doing the ironing, looking for a missing sock etc. etc.)  

An author of contemporary romance fiction, my imagination works to create stories involving narratives of a situation, event or circumstance which could happen, or could have happened, in real life. I like to introduce credible characters into environments plausible to their personalities, individual histories, lifestyles and physical backgrounds. 


 Although not my usual field, some years ago I entered  a contest for historical short stories to be published in an anthology. I was already familiar with the physical setting on a Scottish island, but not the time frame during World War II. My story concerned a young woman on the island ferry who feels sorry for a young man wearing an army uniform unsuitable for the freezing weather, clearly a soldier on leave exploring the islands. She invites him to her cottage for a warm drink...Of the three judges in this context, two who were writers gave it high marks, while the third, a non-writer, marked it fail, giving the reason as a query 'Would she really ask a stranger into her house?' Maybe this judge was applying present-day mores to a 1940s wartime situation, unable, or choosing not, to consider it as a complete fiction appropriate to the time and place. Although perhaps the story did fail as it could not convince this judge. However, it did win a place in the anthology.


May 2022 be kind to you, with lots of great stories to read and enjoy.

Best wishes, Priscilla 






Thursday, December 30, 2021

Missing Children by Eden Monroe




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Amber Alert, an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, was named for Amber Rene Hagerman (November 25, 1986 – January 15, 1996).

Thousands of children, just like Amber, go missing worldwide every year, although in many countries, statistics are either unavailable or unreliable for any number of reasons. In Canada, the first statistics on missing children were released in 1987 and in that year a staggering 57,233 were recorded. In 2019 that figure had dropped to 40,425 according to records compiled by the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), but is no less astonishing.

In the few global statistics that were available (globalmissingkids,org), the United States led the way with an estimated 460,000 children reported missing every year. In Canada there were 45,288 (estimated) reported missing; United Kingdom there are an estimated 112,853 missing children reported every year; Russia, an estimated 45,000 in 2015, India, 96,000 each year, Australia, an estimated 20,000 missing children reports every year, and in Germany there were an estimated 100,000 cases of missing children annually. While those numbers sound astoundingly high, in reality even one missing child is one too many.

In Back in the Valley, Book Two of the Emerald Valley Ranch series, parents Rowdy and Victoria Brooks are thrust into that nightmare when their six year-old son, Daniel, goes missing, his twin, Liam, left behind. It’s the first time the brothers have ever been apart:

“The scream of sirens filled the air as more cruisers arrived, one officer quickly beginning to put up yellow crime scene tape.

“’ ‘Yes, that’s what they’re saying. I’m down here now, in the parking lot.” Lindy sounded as though she was about to cry. “I came in to get gas and ran into all of this. They’re talking to everyone that’s here, but I came after the fact. Victoria’s car is still at the pumps, and the door’s open. I know it’s hers because it’s got Texas plates. The guy in the store said they’ll probably put out an Amber Alert. Rowdy and Victoria and Liam are in the back in the office with the police, but you could hear Liam crying at the top of his lungs, that poor child. Just screaming. Oh Martin, this is horrible! A child abducted right here! In Sussex!’ “

In addition to a massive police response to locate the missing child and reunite him with his family, in Back in the Valley, the community draws together in their tireless search for any clues as to Daniel’s whereabouts. And then they get a major break:

“ ‘9-1-1, what is your emergency?’

‘Yes, I was driving to work on the Noonan Road about twenty miles from Markhamville in Kings County and I saw something lying on the side of the road, right beside the grass. I was past it before I realized what I was looking at. I backed up and sure enough, it was a child’s sneaker. My headlights reflected off the decals on the side of it.’ “

Children can also become lost of their own volition, separated from their parents at crowded venues of any kind, or sometimes they can simply wander off into the woods. Whatever may be the case, they’re unable to find their way back. When I was fifteen, a short distance from where we lived a small child did just that, disappearing from his grandparents’ backyard in rural New Brunswick, and off into heavily forested backcountry. As I recall it happened in late spring and while daytime temperatures were fairly warm, the nights were still cold. Searchers of all ages came from far and wide to comb the area for this precious little boy. My father also participated in the search and my mother made sandwiches to help feed the volunteers. I remember delivering those sandwiches on my bicycle to the search command post at the top of the hill; saw the distraught mother weeping and being comforted as she waited for word about her son. And on the second day he was found, about a mile away in dense woods lying under a tree, his shoes and socks on the shores of the nearby lake. Sadly he had not been discovered in time. Immediately airlifted to hospital by military helicopter, he succumbed to the effects of his ordeal.

We were eating supper the evening he was found, when frantic knocking sounded at our back door. It was a reporter wanting to use the phone (those were the days before cellphones) to call it in that rescuers had located the child. It is impossible to forget the tension and sadness of that difficult time. There was a pall over the entire community, and beyond, and tears fill my eyes all these many years later as I’m writing this.

In Back in the Valley, a well-meaning child becomes lost in dense woods when he decides to conduct his own search for Daniel Brooks, and so authorities had two missing children on their hands within a twenty-four hour period:

“Will studied the mixed Acadian forest in the distance. ‘I say we give it an hour and if nothing, we’re going to have to have help. They can bring in a dog if they have to. There’s a lot of woods up there. Let’s get going, see if we see a print or something that let’s us know we’re on the right track.’

“All three started off, parking Martin’s truck alongside the edge of the woods and then setting off on foot into the thick underbrush, over and around fallen rotting trees and past sharp snags on tree trunks that made for slow going, and of course there were the ever-present mosquitos. By 9:45 p.m. they were back, grim-faced as they stood in the kitchen.

Martin ran a hand over his face tiredly. ‘There’s no sign of him and he doesn’t answer. We’re going to have to get some help right away. I’d say the rain isn’t far off.’”

When a missing child meets the criteria for an amber alert, we the public can help by:

-                  Watching for the child, suspect and/or the vehicle described in the alert.

-                  Giving information on the location of the abduction and a description of the victim, suspect and/or any vehicle involved.

-                  Immediately reporting any findings by calling 9-1-1 or the phone number included in the alert, but do not call 9-1-1 to request information about the abduction.

               In the event a child becomes lost or separated, offers sound precautionary suggestions for parents:

-                  children should be taught critical names and numbers;

-                  to freeze and stay in one place, right where they are, until found, and don’t go off with anyone;

-                  shout your name in a big strong voice, even yelling Mom or Dad will work;

-                  shout your child’s name as you search, don’t worry about being polite;

-                  equip your child with a whistle – a good loud one that will attract attention.

Whether lost or abducted, every year many missing children are indeed found and returned safely to their grateful loved ones. Whatever the circumstances may be, or the outcome, it is an unthinkable ordeal for the parents and loved ones, and in both cases immediate action is required.

Amber Alert was put in place in the US in 1996, and because of that child abduction alert system, as of July 5, 2021, 1,074 missing children were brought to safety. (

Amber Hagerman’s murder remains unsolved.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

12 Days of Medieval Christmas


In medieval times, Christmas was ardently Christian, but there were naturally Pagan traditions aplenty to be found hidden within the celebration. Some of these ancient traditions, like the German "Bad Santa" Krampus, still have plenty of fans.

The Twelve Days of Christmas themselves are both a memory of the Roman Saturnalia (Rome, which was The Empire of its time) as well as the even more ancient human observance of our planetary trip round the sun. The Sun's rebirth --that shortest day, when the sun is weakest, Winter Solstice--became, in Christian calendar, Jesus's natal day. We use the 25th now, but that had to do, I believe, with 18th Century adjustments to the western calendar. 

Those twelve days are no longer observed with the same pomp as in medieval times. Some years, after a bad harvest,  the poorest villagers might have been hard pressed to have enough to eat for the rest of the winter.  During famine years, it must have been a feat to manage any kind of "feast," but the custom of pre-Christmas fasting always helped to shore up supplies. 

Imagine twelve whole days of celebration! During that time, a peasant farmer or craftsman was not supposed to so much as lift a tool, although they were allowed to feed their livestock. This means that a great deal of planning necessarily went into preparation for this prolonged "vacation" at each year's end. Extra wood had to be cut and stacked close by houses. Stores of hay and grain laid into barns so that it would be a minimal task to feed the animals. Just like today, however, nothing changed for the "essential workers" of the time. Cooks, housewives and scullery boys, or the servants at the Castle. All these people remained on the job.

The 24 days preceding Christmas is called Advent and was the occasion of this fast. In the Late Middle Ages, this meant no meat, cheese, or eggs could be eaten--although this particular tradition is no longer part of our (consumption-driven) culture. In the past, there was a belief that a person must prepare themselves both physically and mentally for the upcoming ritual experience of the Divine Mystery that was to come. 

If you were a peasant, however, there was a practical reason to consume less before Christmas--simply to conserve enough of what food stores you had in order to provide for those festive 12 days.  The poorest villagers lived hand-to-mouth upon a diet of beans, barley or oat porridge, and near-beer, their menu filled out with whatever green stuff they could scrounge from the edges of their Lord's forest.   

Besides food for man and beast, other supplies had to be stocked as well. Wood for fuel was a necessity, of course, but specific types of wood was split and stacked together--hazel, beech, oak and ash all being used at different times during the cooking process to adequately heat those earthen or brick ovens for the baking of meat, bread and pies.  Hazel twigs burned hot and were fire-starters; beech and ash supplied a steady heat, while oak lasted longest of all and burned the slowest.

Rush lights were made by soaking rushes in left-over cooking fat and pan scrapings. These would burn for about an hour, hot, and bright, but smoking heavily and carrying the odor of whatever fat had been used, and this was the way a medieval peasant "kept the lights on" during the long, dark winter nights. This was making of rush lights would have been going on in late summer, July and August, while the reeds (species: Juncus Effusus) were still growing, and the pith which would absorb the fat, was well-developed.     

                                                             he farming year of 4 Seasons

Pork was the traditional food of Christmas in the British Isles, a custom with pagan roots.   The wild Boar was hunted to extinction in Britain by the 13th Century, so the Christmas pork then on would have to have been domestic. Those medieval pigs would have looked rough, though, feral and unfamiliar.

Pagan associations of the pig feast at midwinter are many. One of the most interesting discoveries at the famous Neolithic sites of Woodhenge and Stonehenge  were mountainous heaps of pig bones. Such feasts are a well-attested-to-tradition in many Germanic, Slavic and Norse cultures.

                                              Freya and her brother Freyr, Gods of the Vanir.*
                                                   Here, Frey is shape-shifted into a Boar.

Getting the boar's head -- the centerpiece of any prosperous farmer's feast -- ready for the table was laborious task which began with slaughtering, scraping, and butchering, followed by a bustle of preservation. Sausage was made from the blood and the hide readied to be tanned. Every bit of that pig would be consumed in one way or another. 

                                                                       Semi-feral hog

Pig's are "thrifty" animals, and in medieval times fed well in the woods upon acorns as well as the standard remains of human cooking. Then as now, the pig gave his all! Removing the skull from the meat and flesh was no easy feat. After this careful dressing out, the remaining flesh and ears had to be carefully preserved for eventual presentation at Christmas Eve Supper. 

The housewife would store the fleshy remains in a simple pickling liquid (vinegar, mustard seeds) until it was time to prepare it for the feast. Then she would remove it from the pickle and stitch it back together--a sort of taxidermy job-- and fill the pouch with a stuffing mixture of raisin paste and nuts, after which it would be roasted. Serving the boar's head on a platter surrounded by greenery traditionally began that first festive meal of the Christmas holiday.  

The medieval farmhouse had been decorated with Holly and Ivy. Sometimes, a Christmas Crown, an open wattle basket decorated with sprigs of Holly and Ivy was woven by the men and hoisted up high above the rising smoke of the central hearth where it would remain for the next twelve days. Holly and Ivy--representing of male and female--was a custom left over from more ancient religious observances. In medieval times, though, it was often said that if there was more ivy than holly among the decorations, the house would be ruled by the wife during the next year.  

Pastry for pies, both sweet and savory, had to be sturdy enough to stand up by themselves, as this was before people had a great many kinds of differentiated cookware, such as today's pie pans. Frumenty was a sort of yogurty smoothy made of cracked wheat and milk and flavored with dried fruit, nutmeg and cloves. These exotic spices arrived in a medieval kitchen after a 7000+ mile trader-to-trader journey. Other dishes served might be a sweetened milk gelatin or a gelatin cone of meat scraps, called a "Shred Pie." 

There would be church services every day. Masses were celebrated in honor of the birth of Jesus and in honor of the many saint's days which cluster throughout the twelve days. St. Stephen's Day is next (known in the UK and her still extant colonies) as "Boxing Day." December 27th celebrates the feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. On the 28th comes the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which commemorates the slaughter of new born boys ordered by King Herod. The memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and martyr, a "turbulent priest" murdered by order of King Henry II of England, comes on the 29th. Next comes the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, which often falls upon December 30th. The last day of the year is the feast of Saint Sylvester. The following day, January 1 of the new year, is celebrated as "the Solemnity of the Nativity of Mary, Mother of God" in Christ's mother Mary is honored.  In some denominations, this last is said to be in honor of the Circumcision of Jesus, falling as it would, eight days following any proper Hebrew boy-child's birth.  

Twelfth Night, the final celebration, had many traditions. One of them was Wassailing, which could be a parade around the village or just around the kitchen, accompanied by singing, piping, banter, and still more food and drink. Villagers would visit one another's homes and sing carols. Sometimes drink was offered by the homeowner as a thank-you. In some places, the tradition of Mummers, men and women in costume, was a time-honored part of the Twelfth Night celebration.

                                                  Mummers singing and dancing in costume

In apple orchards, offerings of toast soaked in punch might be placed in the branches of the trees, or glasses of cider were poured into the orchard earth, as a thank-you offering to the fruit trees for their cider. At the Twelfth Night feast, a Lord of Misrule was chosen by passing a large freshly baked loaf of bread around the table. As everyone tore off a piece and put it into their mouths, one of them would discover the single pea that had been baked inside. This person became Lord of Misrule, crowned with a garland. His office was to devise party games and tell jokes and tales. Often these feasts would dissolve into riot, with people pelting one another with bread and leftovers and rowdy, drunken dancing. This was the night when the Magi found Jesus and worshiped him as "King of Kings."
                                                                   The Four Seasons

Then, like a bucket of cold water emptied upon everyone's head, came "Plough Monday," the day when farmers returned to their fields and women cleaned house and began to card wool, and spin and weave again. Another Christmas had gone and the toil of the year had once more begun. 

~~Juliet Waldron

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Life in a Medieval Village by Francis Gies and Joseph Gies

*Vanir-the original Norse gods, overshadowed in surviving stories by the later arrivals--the Aesir gods with whom people now are more familiar--Thor, Odin, Frigg, Balder etc.

How to Celebrate Christmas Medieval Style:

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Remembering Larry Sellers (Cloud Dancing) #Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman By Connie Vines #LarrySellers, #Dr.Quinn Medicine Woman, #NativeAmerican

 I was first introduced to Larry Sellers in 1992, before the television show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” premiered on Saturday nights (running for six seasons).

My personal photo (with Larry's autograph)

Larry Sellers was a Native American actor and stuntman of Osage and Cherokee descent and an adopted member of the Lakota nation. He became known for his regular role as Cloud Dancing in the popular CBS hit series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993), and received an Emmy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He also worked as a technical advisor on the show, notably on linguistic aspects.

When Larry was filming in the Hollywood studio backlot, he would drop by during our weekly Native American Craft Nights taught by Tribal Elder Barbara Drake,  held in a school auditorium (Ontario Montclair School District,  San Bernardino, CA). He performed puppetry and played his hand-carved flutes for the elementary schoolers and the toddlers.

I also facilitated numerous workshops when I worked with the Title IX and Title X programs and Parent Advisory Committee. Larry was always flattered when asked to work with our teen and pre-teen students.

Soft-spoken, courteous, Larry shared his knowledge and experiences with others. Fame did not change him; he was, first and foremost, a spiritual man.  *on a personal note, I spoke with Larry about a YA historical novel I was completing, “Tanayia—Whisper upon the Water.”  Native American boarding schools in the late 1880s were not a topic many publishers were willing to publish at that time.  Larry reminded me it was my duty to give the story life. He also shared his personal experiences of being sent away to boarding school at the age of five. He told me, firmly, the novel would sell.

Larry was correct “Tanayia—Whisper upon the Water was purchased by a publisher. The novel was “Book of the Month and Teen Read” at numerous Public Libraries and a National Book Award nominee.

Larry Sellers’s Career:

Larry Sellers enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school.

Larry was a 17-year veteran in the entertainment industry as an actor, stuntman, translator, and technical advisor.

An educator, historian, and historical consultant about his heritage.

He was one of the eight scholars chosen nationally as a Fellow at the Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian, located in Chicago.

Larry worked with the Arizona State Department of Education / Division of Indian Education among the many accomplishments as a consultant. And he has also worked with Traditional Tribe Medicine, the Arizona State Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and the Phoenix Indian Medical Center Rehabilitation Program.

As he was an actor as well, his acting credits include the feature films “Son of the Morning Star,” “Quick and the Dead,” “Revolution,” “Like Father – Like Son,” and “Assassination,” “Wayne’s World II.” Moreover, his television credits are the film “Kenny Rogers as ‘The Gambler’ III — The Legend Continues” on the CBS Television Network and the series “Life Goes On.“

Little known facts: He participated in the Wiwang Wacipi [Sun Dance] Ceremony.  It is said (though I did not confirm with Larry) he turned down an offer to appear in Kevin Costner's epic Dances with Wolves (1990) because he was not given the four days required to complete the Sun Dance ceremony. 

2016 - 2021, he worked as an Osage language instructor in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Larry Sellers (Pinterest Photo)

To learn more about Larry Sellers, please visit: (Website for Dr. Quinn Forklore)  Cloud Dancing and Native American Folklore, too  Larry wrote (several years after our workshop discussion) the script, “Hearts and Minds,” for this episode Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, show which dealt with the Native American education/boarding school.

I am blessed to have known Larry Sellers. 

Thank you for allowing me to share my memories with you,

Connie Vines


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Monday, December 27, 2021

The nine lives of my sci-fi cats, from cuddly pets to giant predators - by Vijaya Schartz

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As you can tell from my book covers, I have cats in many of my Science fiction novels, even in those not featuring a cat on the cover. Most of these cats are telepathic, and it’s not by accident. We all know cats have a sixth sense… and nine lives to boot.

I love cats, and if I had to go on a long voyage through space to another planet, I couldn’t imagine not taking a cat as a companion. I would also want to seed that new earth-like planet with cats. It makes perfect sense as I couldn’t imagine life without these beautiful creatures.

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Marshmallow in BLACK DRAGON is a cuddly ball of fluff who helps the hero cheat at cards and charm the ladies. His favorite reward is synthetic tuna.

But some of these cats are enormous, and readers not familiar with my work sometimes ask: “How is it possible to have such big cats on a spaceship, or a space station?”

Alpha Space Station in the movie Valerian and the city of a thousand planets

Obviously, they have the wrong idea of the size of an interstellar ship. Since there is no limitation to size in space, ships can be the size of several football fields. As for the space stations of the distant future, we are not talking about our tiny ISS orbiting earth, but about space stations as large as entire cities or small moons, like artificial planets orbiting alien suns or gas giants, and supporting millions of people.

The Byzantium Space Station as I imagined it.

How do cats happen to be in space or on other planets?

Sometimes my fictional cats are wild and native to their alien planet, like Tibeta and her cubs in Angel Brave, the Smilodons of Azura, a planet teeming with large predators. I pity the hero, Keoke, who has to face this deadly family of cats.

Tibeta, the sabertooth Smilodon cat in Angel Brave

Sometimes, like in the Chronicles of Kassouk, the big cats are the result of a human experiment gone out of control, and are trained and used in battle, or kept as pets.

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There are also the big cats experimented upon, who are genetically modified and electronically enhanced to communicate telepathically with their owners. They usually become companions for bounty hunters, like Akira’s cheetah retriever in AKIRA’S CHOICE, or the telepathic cougar helping Fianna catch the bad guys in ANGEL MINE.

In MALAIKA’S SECRET, Raja, the lion guarding the temple, was rescued from illegal smugglers of exotic animals.

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In SNATCHED, my heroine has to face a native saber-tooth tiger in the jungle.

In ALIEN LOCKDOWN, set in the Andromeda galaxy, my protagonists face a native predator called a bearcat.

There are no significant cats in my medieval fantasy series CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE, based on Celtic legends, but I must mention for dog lovers, that I have a heroic dog named Kopek in DAMSEL OF THE HAWK, book 7, which is a standalone in the series.

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But there are more cats to come in my future books. In ANGEL SHIP, Book one of the Blue Phantom series, to be released in the fall of 2022, the heroine, a warrior princess, has a telepathic feline bodyguard with a keen sense of peoples’ true character.

In the meantime, you can find all my books at online retailers. amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
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