Monday, January 31, 2022

This Pruning Business by Priscilla Brown

A contemporary romance set mostly on a Caribbean island.

The subtropical plants in Cameron's small Caribbean garden are threatening to take over the house. While he has neither the time nor the interest to bother pruning, Cristina's hands are itching to sort it out. Back home in temperate country Victoria, Australia, she loves to spend time tending her large garden with its flowers, bushes and trees. He might have to learn how to help with the pruning...

Yesterday I spent the day pruning. In the morning,  I cut off dead twigs and overlong branches from the two bottlebrush trees to keep them from hijacking the garden path, and trimmed the geraniums who believe it's their right to take over the border. While I was working in the garden and filling the council's green organics recyclable waste bin, I kept in mind the pruning I planned to do at my desk in the afternoon.

Editing my work-in-progress, I am looking for 'dead wood' -- twigs and whole branches. If I 'prune' a scene out, I need to be sure its removal will make a significant difference to the story. The scene where the two main characters, by now well-known to each other and to the reader, are having a nice time at a lakeside picnic reveals itself as a branch. I admit I rather liked this scene, but neither their dialogue nor actions moved the story on, so into the recycle bin. Twigs such as starting paragraphs or adjacent sentences with the same words unless included for emphasis need trimming.

This pruning business, in the garden and on a developing story, is for me satisfying and enjoyable. 

Best wishes, Priscilla 


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Gold Diggers by Eden Monroe


 Eden Monroe's BWL Author Website

The JW Tanner Ranch in Gold Digger Among Us was built on Klondike gold.

It was the fictitious Tanner brothers, Jacob and William, who joined that famous stampede to the north and beat overwhelming odds to return as wealthy men. Financially set, they expanded their modest family acreage and realized their dream of being the area’s biggest outfit, stocking their spread with prime Charolais beef cattle and fine horses.

The thousands in real life who sought gold in that almighty rush to the Klondike, unwittingly helped write one of the most compelling chapters in our history. There were certainly fortunes earned there, but to accomplish it often took extraordinary effort. Many prospectors toiled in vain, and the deprivations suffered in that unforgiving land were legendary; unprecedented hardships experienced in the search for that most precious of all metals.

As author Pierre Berton describes in Klondike, the Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899, one such grueling episode took place after countless boats seeking the gold fields were caught on the river at freeze up, a particularly harsh event for those forced to backtrack in an exhausting sixty-five mile trek.

“In mid-October one thousand men, women and children were shivering in tents on the banks of the Klondike (actual name of river is Thron-diuck, but famously mispronounced), but by December first some nine hundred had retraced their steps. Scores attempted to return up the frozen river to the passes, rending their clothes, shredding their moccasins and shattering their sleighs on the sharp blocks of ice that were sometimes heaped as high as twenty feet….

“All of this time the temperature hung at fifty below zero, so cold that any man moving faster than a tortoise pace felt the chill air sear his lungs. On November 29th the temperature dipped again to sixty-seven below; so that trees cracked like pistol shots with the freezing and expanding sap, cooked beans turned hard as pebbles, and the touch of metal tore the skin from naked fingers….”

Tales of those formidable Klondike days inspired my Tanner story, and although Gold Digger Among Us takes place in present day, descendent Dade Tanner is that same breed of rugged men, at times ruthless, but every inch a Tanner and fiercely proud of it. Men who stay the course and are not easily tamed. Men who are at one with the land.  

“Dade thought about how good it would feel to take his shirt off as he glanced at the sun that rose unsparingly above the horizon, fiery orange and punishing over what was quickly becoming the parched landscape of the twenty-thousand acre JW Tanner Ranch.

“The overseer of the entire ranch and its various divisions, he still liked getting out on the land, and did indeed strip to his waist when working in the hayfields or swinging a hammer fixing fences, his broad shoulders, well-muscled chest and powerful forearms tanned to a deep bronze under the summer sun.”

But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and now the very existence of JW Tanner Ranch is threatened from within by the greed of Virgil Tanner, Dade’s spoiled, self-indulgent older brother who is fired by that early lust for gold.  However there is a striking difference between him and his industrious forebears because Virgil expects to get rich without the necessary hard work, and the father, Buck Tanner, is unfailingly blind to his oldest son’s unscrupulous get-rich-quick scheme.

“Buck shook his head grimly, obviously disgusted, then getting tiredly to his feet, explained that he wanted to be alone for a while to think.

“Virgil was mentally doing the happy dance. Too bad, little brother, you lose. The signing of the ranch over to him was now just a formality, he could feel it in his bones. And once everything was in place, he, Virgil Tanner, was going to be one filthy rich hombre. He had just what he needed in his suitcase to accomplish it.”

In Gold Digger Among Us it was gold that built a dream, and like those first Tanner brothers prospecting in the Klondike, the primal urge for it still captures our imagination. Only the circumstances of its acquisition has changed, although there still seems to be plenty of it to supply modern-day needs.

               According to the scientific agency, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), most of the gold fabricated today is for the manufacture of jewellery, but it’s also an industrial metal used in any number of items, from computers and communication equipment, to spacecraft and jet aircraft engines in which this essential element performs critical functions.

Gold fever will likely always exist, whether it’s the romantic notion of finding gold nuggets (the largest single mass of gold ever discovered was the Holtermann Nugget at 10,229 ounces found in 1872 in Australia –, or winning what is arguably the most treasured of all gold, a wedding ring, there does not seem to be any danger of it losing its appeal.

Raw gold is present on every continent in various concentrations, most of what has been found to date has come from just three countries: China, Australia and South Africa (the US ranked fourth in 2016), says the USGS. So far “about 244,000 metric tons of gold has been discovered” in the world, and the unrelenting quest continues….

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Joys in January





Barnes & Noble

Cold, tired, eyes full of blue, black and glitter--that for me was January after our family moved to upstate New York in the early 1950's. I arose in the dark,  ate oatmeal and the obligatory spoonful of cod liver oil chased with a shot glass of orange juice, and then got ready for the school bus--boots, leggings, coat, scarf and gloves plus whatever homework I had before trudging out into the sunrise over the snow banks. In those days, the snow had been piling up since October, and by now it was also well glazed with ice. I remember shivering, standing on our porch sheltering from the ever-present North wind and peering, eyes watering, into the gold and red of sun just cresting the stand of trees on the next ridge, anxious to see the bus in time to get down the long driveway in time to meet it. (Needless to say,  there was BIG TROUBLE if I didn't.) 




I remember playing outside in that cold with friends on most Saturdays. There were sliding hills, of course, but there were also enormous drifts in every yard to exploit. We'd tunnel into them and then sit inside, pretending we were in caves or that we were Indians or Inuit, sheltering during a winter hunting expedition. I remember me and my friends bringing candles, throw rugs, dolls and matches along to better enjoy our pretend.

After we'd furnished our "igloo," we'd light the candles and apply the flame to the wall and ceiling of until it dripped. The melt would speedily refreeze, but after a great deal of this careful work, we achieved a shiny frozen shell that might endure, during a truly bad winter, well into March.  Mittens beaded with frozen pellets of snow, toes aching from the cold penetrating our boots, we'd enter child's fantasy land. I have no idea how we endured outside as long as we did, before the inevitable surrender and numb escape indoors for warmth and hot chocolate. Those physical experiences, even so long ago, helped me to imagine some pivotal scenes in "Fly Away Snow Goose."

There are many birthdays for me to celebrate in January--of the living and the dead. Two cousins were born in this month, but also two of grand-girls, the youngest of whom just turned twenty-one! They are all Capricorns, like my mother, whose birthday was also in this month.  (How many families, I wonder, have this aggregation of birthdays in a single month?) 

In the days when my Muse was visiting, I also celebrated the birthdays of two Dead White Men during the month. Alexander Hamilton's birthday is January 11, either in 1755 or 1757, as historians argue over the date. Paper records kept in tropical Nevis have not always survived.

Perhaps Hamilton himself muddied the waters on the date, wanting, rather like Mozart, to keep his hard-won status as a  prodigy for as long as possible.  Born in the West Indies into a family in constant financial distress, with the appellation "bastard" attached to his name, it was of monumental importance to Alexander that every possible strategy to assist his climb the social ladder be employed.   

   Young Hamilton as ADC to General Washington by Charles Wilson Peale                   

I never had birthday parties for Hammie, although I'd loved him the longest of all my dead white man crushes. Here I am in Nevis back when it barely had an airport, and the electricity only ran between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. My mother took us there--intrepid travelers that we were--back in the mid-1950's. Here's a happy January picture of me on the lava sand beach near where the Hamilton home was once supposed to have been. 

And of course in the days of Mozart madness, I'd prepare for weeks before. I remember the first birthday party we had, it snowed heavily and I spent the morning digging parking places for my friends. Some cancelled, because the weather was truly nasty and the roads treacherous, but here are the intrepid few who came to that first party, all of them writers.

Mozart's birthday party was a thing for many years here. At one gathering, an entire poetry/writing group of perhaps twenty souls arrived, and our small house was warmed by all of those folks, by Mozart's music and much spirited conversation. I always made syllabub, which has to be started a few days before you intend to serve it. The centerpiece was always a glorious German bakery treat such as the one seen below, and we all laughed like children, riding on the sugar/wine high. Winter was outside the door and life was tough, but right now we could forget it all and just be happy.

The baker I talked to about the cake turned out to be not only a recent immigrant from Austria, but a huge Mozart fan as well! He beamed and told me how pleased he was to do this. You can see that he fulfilled my expectations and then some.


Friday, January 28, 2022

Why You Can (Almost) Never Read Too Many Books By Connie Vines #BWLAuthor, #WesternRomance, #BookTech,

Some would say, “You have too many books.”

You have books on the shelves. You have books on the nightstand. You have books in the closet, the guest room, and on the floor. Oh, and don’t forget about the books waiting for you in the mailbox.  

But as any book lover knows, there's really no such thing as “too many” books. If this sounds familiar, check out these hilarious things you can relate to if your house — or your e-reader — is overflowing with books.

1. First of all, there’s no such thing as “too many books.”

2. After all, if it weren’t for your books, how would you survive a blizzard? (Yes, I live in Southern California...but one never knows.

3. One of the reasons you can never have too many books is that reading is an adventure. It will take you to the past, the future, and countries you've yet to visit.

4. In my case, my parents were readers. It was a treat to read/ go to the library or books store.  

In my case, I have loved reading since before they even knew how. There is a photo of me sitting in my crib turning the pages of a picture book.

5. Like me, I'm certain others could relate to many of the memories:  of having my first library card. The frustration of being continually told by my parents to “take a break” from reading and “go outside.”

FAST FORWARD to today...

As you see the title of my blog post (Almost) Never.

If you follow my blog, website, or Facebook page, you are aware for the past year I've been setting up a new home office.  I had books, boxes, and boxes of books like very large knick-knacks throughout my home.

Once I had all of my bookshelves (I converted my office closet), a four-shelf bookcase in the living room, a three-shelf bookcase in my dining room, and my Nook eReader, and Kindle--I only had one problem.

A very BIG problem.  

How was I ever going to keep track of all my books?

Of course, being a writer, a large number of my print books are The Classics, out-of-print editions or nonfiction, diaries, etc. While my eBooks and Audiobooks are in digital format, that doesn't keep me from making a second purchase. 

Notebooks are cumbersome. Setting up an Excel doc seems excessive.  BookBub, GoodReads is fine for reviews but not helpful in this case.

I located an app. 😃 for my iPhone called Book Buddy (it's FREE) 

Are you rolling your eyes? 

I have a total of 180 books on only two bookshelves. So this is a REALLY BIG DEAL for me. 📚📙📘📗

And hopefully, a very useful tool for you also. (While you can give a book a star rating) There is also an area to make notes to yourself.  The heroine's sooo adorable, or LHM (Lord Have Mercy) this Hero!  

Here's the mini info video (just skip the ad). Canadian views may have a different link to youtube. 

BookBuddy App (youtube video) Also available for Android

There is a scan button/ or multi-scan choice.  I had those 184 books scanned, dusted, and back on the shelves in only a couple of hours. 

What about eBooks you ask?  I will set up an additional Category for ebooks and a second for Audiobooks.


It's the little things in life....and of course, an unlimited supply of coffee and books..which bring joy!

Happy Reading,


AMAZON  (Social Media links and more!)

Thursday, January 27, 2022

How long before we must venture into space? by Vijaya Schartz

Recently I saw a French documentary on the state of the agriculture in Europe that got me thinking. In it, a chemical expert for the study of soil and crops (in this case wheat) was explaining that all the chemicals we use to grow crops are killing the ground, interrupting the cycle of renewal through natural decay of vegetal and animal origin.

The elimination of weeds and insects has made the soil sterile. The ground is too compact due to lack of animal and vegetal decay, and doesn’t absorb water. If tomorrow the various chemicals used to grow crops were no longer available, the soil is incapable of sustaining any kind of growth, and could be sterile for decades.

Furthermore, the crops themselves, in this case wheat, have been genetically modified (GMO) to adapt to the new farming style. For example, the stems are much shorter and the harvested grain larger. Which is dandy, except that if we stop using chemicals and pesticides, the new species of grain will not be able to survive a natural environment. After all, mother nature made the stems high to protect the growing grain from natural predators, worms, crickets, floods, etc.

As a sci-fi writer, I can see how this could bring instant famine in a post-apocalyptic scenario, with radical weather changes, or even in a pandemic scenario, where the flow of chemicals is interrupted due to crippled manufacturing or interrupted shipping.

But traditional farming failed to produce enough reliable and bountiful harvests, and there are 8 billion mouths to feed in this world. When I was a child, the world population was only 1.5 billion. Think about it… and the numbers keep climbing exponentially.

The problem mankind refuses to face is that there are too many people on this planet and we are killing it to fulfill our needs, whether for food or with plastic waste in the name of practicality. As the population grows, the Earth will eventually die. But killing mother Earth will not help our survival. So, what’s the solution?

If you are familiar with the Avenger movies, Thanos had a simple solution. Instantly kill half the population of every planet. But he was a supervillain, at least in our minds. So, let’s not do that.

China tried restricting the number of children per couple to two, but it only led to selective breeding. They ended up with an overwhelmingly male population and a steep decline. Now, they allow three children per couple.

Of course, as a sci-fi writer, I also have a solution. Let’s colonize Mars and terraform it. Have you seen the movie THE MARTIAN? It is possible. Let’s build and develop autonomous human habitats on the moon and on Mars. Oh, wait, we are already working on that project.

Let’s build space stations the size of a small country and grow artificial crops in orbit, while preserving natural life on this planet.

Let’s explore the universe in search of Earth-like planets to settle. Let’s look toward the stars for our salvation.

Too farfetched? Not at all. Several countries are already developing such programs. China has a very active space program and is already on the moon. Other countries have their own space program as well. 

And with the privatization of space technology, many companies see profit in space mining and are considering space tourism as a profitable venture. Soon, our news will be broadcasting from space, the new frontier, where pioneers will inspire young people to explore new worlds.

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

All this has already happened in my science fiction novels. But despite scientific advancements, the fundamental needs of mankind remain the same. Food, shelter, friendship, love, recreation, happiness.

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Happy Reading!

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Man’s endless search for wealth—Tricia McGill

Find all my books on my Author page at Books We Love

My current work in progress is set in the town of Ballarat, north of Melbourne, around 1860. My main

characters are not miners, but store owners, lodging house owners and traders—just as essential in a miner’s day to day life, for he spent endless hours in the search for riches. The gold rush to Ballarat began around 1851, and the greatest yield for one year was in 1856, when almost 95,000 kilograms of gold was extracted from the diggings. Until researching I had no idea how many methods were used in the search for gold. Most gold in the Ballarat district came from deep lead mining.

Some of the methods used: 

Deep Lead Mining—Sometimes, gold deposited in creek beds was covered by lava from nearby volcanoes. This lava hardened into basalt and deep lead mining involved digging through these layers of basalt to reach the gold buried in old creek beds. 

Surface Alluvial Mining—Over time, weathering breaks quartz rocks down into sand and gravel, freeing any trapped gold. This gold, which is called alluvial gold, remains close to the surface where it may be washed down and deposited in nearby streams. As gold is six times heavier than most gravel and stones, it rapidly sinks to the bottom of any stream. 

Reef (Quartz) Mining—This involved digging to find the gold bearing quartz reefs, which had been formed long ago in the cracks and crevices caused by earth movements. The methods of alluvial and deep lead mining created the gold rushes. Any man in good health could take his chance at finding a fortune. All he needed was a pick, a shovel, a gold panning dish, a tent, some bedding and a few cooking utensils. This method relied upon the fact that gold was heavier than the sand, gravel and clay and so sank to the bottom of the creeks. A miner would separate the gold from the wash dirt using a pan, cradle or sluice box. In the early days, before creeks were “panned out”, the miners would simply proceed up a creek, washing shovelfuls of clay and gravel taken directly from the banks or bed of the creek. Although this gravel contained some gold, the really rich washdirt was to be found in the old creek beds that had been covered by basalt from volcanoes. To reach these, the miners often had to sink shafts through the overburden using a windlass, or in the case of deeper mines, a whim or a horse-drawn whip. Cradling panning was slow, back-breaking work, so the next development was the cradle. The cradle consisted of a box, fitted on rockers, so that the operator rocked it to and fro. Inside the cradle were two sloping shelves with thin strips of wood fastened across them. These were called riffles. On the top of the box part of the cradle was a sieve made of metal plate with holes punched in it. The gold-bearing gravel passing through the sieve was washed down through the shelves and any gold present was caught in the riffles, while the gravel was carried through a chute back into the creek.

The windlass—these were used in shallow shafts to lift dirt to the surface. They required very little skill

to build, were made from simple materials and could be easily moved. In the beginning, the windlass frame would be flat on the ground. Waste material brought up to the surface in the bucket, would be tipped in a pile around the shaft. As the pile grew higher around the shaft the windlass moved upwards. Thus, the windlass was soon on a hill created by mining. The windlass was only effective to a depth of approximately 40 metres. Successful miners who had sunk shafts on good, paying washdirt were able to spend some time making their working conditions a little more comfortable by building a shelter over their shaft. This meant that the man operating the windlass, and the miner down in the shaft, filling the buckets for the other to wind up, were not as exposed to the weather.

The Whip—Only a miner, or group of miners who were wealthier than most, could afford to use a whip because of the cost of the horse. Horses were both expensive to buy and feed. A whip meant that a mine could be 80 metres or more in depth. The horse was walked out along a straight walkway. When the bucket reached the surface, the rope was unhooked from the harness, the horse turned around, rope hooked onto the front harness, and the horse walked back down the whip path. For still deeper shafts, the Whim was used. These were expensive. A whim consisted of a large drum with a few turns of cable wound on it. Both ends of the cable were left free to run over pulleys down the shaft. A bucket (kibble) was attached to each end of the cable. As the horse walked around, the drum revolved and one bucket would be lowered down the shaft as the other was raised.

 The Chinese men who came to the district played a large part in the mining industry. Around 1860 their population was well over 7,000. These young Chinese who came to Ballarat were sponsored by a businessman from their village back home. When successful, the gold was sent back to this sponsor. The Victorian Government soon realised that so many Chinese were having success at mining, it was decided to set a levy of ten pounds for every Chinese miner. These incomers had purchased their travel ticket for ten pounds. They came ashore in South Australia and then had to walk to Ballarat. By the 1860s there were three Chinese villages in Ballarat, each with a main street named Canton Street, where their shops, businesses, and gambling houses could be found.

Coming in February 2022

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