Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What's in DK Davis' Writer's Tool Shed?

Hello everyone. Welcome to Books We Love Blog. Please settle in, grab that cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea and join me as I share what’s in my writer’s tool shed with you. Please feel comfortable asking questions or leaving comments as I’ll respond to every one of them.   

I’m DK Davis, a new author to the Books We Love family. I pen young adult supernatural, sci-fi adventures with varying degrees of romance.  My first book, Secret: In Wolf Lake is the first in the Secret Series, published January 1st, 2017. An excellent way to kick off the New Year; )

I live in Southwest Michigan with two nine-year-old cats who own me (Izzy and Crocks), and a sassy ten-year-old Sheltie (Dusty) who does his best to herd them, along with me and my husband too…or anyone who enters our home. He’s definitely a bark-aholic and not afraid to tell you so. LOL

It’s so nice to meet you...and now on to what brought you to this post… 

A Writer’s Tool Shed

What does that even mean? Laptop? Pens? Notebooks? Websites? Links? Books on the Craft?

NOPE, none of the above. Well, I do have all of those things…just like every author does, but what I’m referring to as my “tools” is something more specific to me.

Every author has their own system/process of writing. What works best to stay in the flow, that forward trajectory, driving them around the final lap called “the end” of a story.

Don’t we as writers want that for ourselves – anything that speeds things along for us?

Now, I own a shed with writing tools that keep me on track, help me to eliminate “most” struggles or obstacles before they paralyze my progress.

My Tools of the Trade

  • Character Sketches: a complete biography of the main story-stars including the villain. The biggy here is to list any trauma or shattering moment that changes/shifts the story-star’s perception. Use a lesser degree for secondary story-stars. (check out Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field, amazing book for fiction novels also)
  •   Plotting: Index cards (14 beginning, 28 middle, 14 ending = 56 cards) also given in great detail in Syd’s book. It’s a line-up of events, plan of action that keeps me moving forward, although sometimes the characters change those events, my momentum and drive remains until the end. Plus this story lay-out doesn’t take very long to do once you get started with the brain storms.
  •             Timeline: Writing this as I finish each chapter. Listing the day and also time (if relevant) of the characters story, word count, page numbers, and highlights/events of each chapter. It is a godsend when referencing back to a scene or dialogue or event as I’m writing.
  • Research Notations: Rather than doing all the research before I start my book (I can spend a ton of time doing unnecessary research for the sake of having “everything” before I start that first chapter – talk about a procrastinator) I use the “Review” comment tool to make notes throughout my story as I’m writing. That way I know specifically what to research and where it needs to go after the story is completed.

I’m still honing my story-writing skills, and my tools may change or I might add more of them…but for now, I’m totally impressed in all of them listed here – they sharpen my process, speed things up, and I love all of them for that; )

Thank you all for stopping in, hope you found this post helpful. If you have a tool in your writer’s toolbox that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment; I can always add another tool to my arsenal.

Secret Series:
A series of secrets, invisible yet glaring, and most include a Supernatural spin, like an unwelcomed sensation sparking every nerve ending. 

Secret: In Wolf Lake:
Samantha’s dealing with a lot of emotional blow-back from her mother’s new marriage. Then she discovers a gifted creature living in Wolf Lake, and life suddenly becomes all about keeping his existence a secret, earning his trust. That is until his life depends on her saving him. But she won’t be able to do it alone…

You can find DK Davis here:
Books We Love Ltd. Author Page – http://www.bookswelove.com/authors/davis-dk/

Monday, January 23, 2017

Voices by Victoria Chatham

We have a new member of our family. A kitten acquired as a companion for our resident cat who was sad and lonely after his next-door cat buddies moved away. Uh-oh, you’re thinking, crazy cat lady here. Well, crazy possibly; cat lady, slowly getting there after being a life-long dog-lover.

I'd always known my dogs' voices. Like with my kids, they had their distinctive sounds which I could determine three fields away but I somehow never expected a cat to be so vocal. I’d had cats in the past, briefly as it turned out because moving cars can’t stop in time for them if the driver even cared to. I simply don’t remember their voices, but our Number One cat objected vociferously to the newcomer, going from the deepest, base growl deep in his chest to a continual and very disapproving ‘yuuuuaaaakkkk'. Imagine having something tacky on your tongue and try vocalizing it. Yep, just like that.

The kitten, on the other hand, has a squeaky little meow that sounds like a rusty hinge. She sometimes chirrups and mutters to herself with a soft ‘ft-ft-ft’ sound. At other times, mostly when secured in her cat carrier, it makes you wonder how a one-and-a-bit-pound kitten can make such a racket.

Voice is such an individual expression, whether it is cats, dogs, or kids. The guy on the corner is going to sound different to a movie actor, and look at the number of those who are now lending their voices to animated characters. Movie buffs know those voices. They are instantly recognizable. Maybe the actor’s name doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but the voice resonates with you. Most recently Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) and Matthew McConaughey have voice-starred in Moana and Sing. Last summer Ellen Degeneres was Dory, and who can forget Eddie Murphy as Donkey in the Shrek series?

So it is with authors. Each has a different voice. Unlike cats, dogs, kids and movie stars, authors’ voices develop over time. We may start out writing like our favorite author. Mine was Georgette Heyer, which brought me to writing Regency romance. However, I so enjoyed contemporary author Maeve Binchy that I couldn’t bring myself to write in that genre. How could I write like Maeve if I was not her? Go figure.

It is only in the constant practice of writing that an author develops their voice, their personal way of stringing words together. They may listen to the nuances of emotion in their minds when they write dialogue and transfer it to the page, or picture their favorite colors when describing a view or setting. They may have a particular take on life because of their origins, but none of this will be immediate when they first start writing.

There may be several false starts before a writer becomes aware of the choices they are making in their word usage. The wider a writer’s vocabulary, the more choice they have and will sound more authentic. When I read a word I don’t know, I make sure to look it up in my dictionary. I may never use it, but at least I’m expanding my vocabulary. Hiding behind common-or-garden phraseology may tell a story, but it will not have any impact. One author described voice to me as ‘having the confidence to bleed on the page’.

The world around us, our family and friends, our experience of life influences us in ways that we don’t always appreciate. I might think of our resident cat’s growl when my Alpha Male hero faces the villain or our kitten’s ‘ft-ft-ft’ when I describe my heroine having something of a hissy fit with her nose in the air.

It has taken me many years of constant writing practice to achieve the confidence I now have to ‘bleed on the page’, to have confidence in my writing and my essential voice.

Find me at:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Pink Smartie For My Sister

I was born in Beaverlodge, Alberta. I’ve never been there, but they tell me it’s nice. Well, I mean I left when I was two and moved Edmonton, Alberta. Okay, let’s make this clear, my parents left and I was taken with them. I wanted to stay behind, but the powers that be wouldn’t hear of it. The only thing I know about the town is that my older sister, Judy, is buried there. She had pneumonia when she was two and died. My mom told me that when I was two I also got pneumonia and was deathly ill. She got on her knees one night and prayed, “Dear God, let him live and I’ll take as many kids as you can give me.”

She did say after six more she should have put a limit on that promise.

My favorite playground as I grew up was the Beverly waste oil pit and dump, before it was covered over and turned into the golf course. I dread to think of all of those thousands of tons of oil when they come seeping into the river someday. Man, the stuff we used to find in that dump. A storehouse of wonder for young boys. I bet there’s a lot great great great grandparent seagulls that still to this day tell the youngsters of all the grand feasts they used to have there and now all they get to snack on are inedible white balls.

I’ve been asked what makes me so determined to never give up. One of the most profound things that ever happened to me was when I was about fourteen or so, my second father died of cancer. He was the heart throb of my mom’s life. She never remarried and as far as I remember only ever went on one or two dates after. She tried to commit suicide, shortly after his death, she couldn’t continue living life without him. At that age I would have been the dad of six younger siblings.

I made it my resolve to never give up. After 398 rejections I finally got my first novel published and this spring I’ve got the fourth being released.

The motto of this story is I never, never eat pink Smarties. I’ve got all the pink Smarties, I’ve never ate on my desk. Well, it’s only one, but I was more of a M-and-M fan most of my life. And it’s actually a brown Smartie spray painted pink. But there’s no website devoted to brown ones so I painted it pink one day. Don’t believe me go to this website.
You think if people wanted to get married over pink ones and worship them, then you just can’t go eating them willy-nilly.  So, I’ve got another book to write, but before I go my intentions are to lay that pink Smartie on my sister’s gravesite in Beaverlodge one day and say “hi, saved something special for you.” I think she’d like that.

Frank Talaber

Frank Talaber’s Writing Style? He usually responds with: Mix Dan Millman (Way of The Peaceful Warrior) with Charles De Lint (Moonheart) and throw in a mad scattering of Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get The Blues).
PS: He’s better looking than Stephen King (Carrie, The Stand, It, The Shining) and his romantic stuff will have you gasping quicker than Robert James Waller (Bridges Of Madison County).
Or as is often said: You don’t have to be mad to be a writer, but it sure helps.

Writer by soul. Words born within. 
Karma the seed. Paper the medium.  
Pen the muse. Novels the fire.

Twitter: @FrankTalaber

Coming in February 2017, Thunderbird's Wake

 A penitentiary is a dangerous place and into the world of the criminal enters a saint. Well, bearing rattles and guardian beasts, the native born find him a saint. To the rest he's more nuts than a squirrels winter stash. There's a god asleep, awakening. Humans that seek justice and a sprite that needs justice from humanity.
So what makes you want to break into one? You can ask Charlie, but he ain't telling. And if he did you wouldn't believe it in a dozen lifetimes. Come enter, the madness this spring

Endorsements for the upcoming Book

There are many aspects true to First Nation’s beliefs. For example the transformation of animals and anomalies within our realm. Frank Talaber’s writing is clear and concise, leaving no grey areas. But his true talent as a writer is not only a sense of time, history and capturing First Nation’s humor, but going from the real to the surreal and the supernatural. A gift he plies very well.
Tom Patterson
Nuu-Cha-Nulth Artist and Master Carver

Just when I was beginning to wonder where the next great Canadian story teller would emerge from, Frank Talaber has written a modern crime mystery with a twist. In “Thunderbird’s Wake” Talaber weaves the richness of Canada’s west coast aboriginal spirituality into the science of modern forensics. CSI comes to Haida Gwaii as the shaman and the detective conduct an investigation that will take them and the reader on a journey to a place where murder, redemption and ancient mysticism intersect.

Michael G de Jong, QC
Minister of Finance, Government House Leader,

Province of British Columbia

Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Releases at Books We Love

Vijaya Schartz's final book in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, Angel of Lusignan (Book 8) has just been released.  This is an amazing book that caps off a truly wonderful series.  If you're a medieval romance and fantasy lover, you are going to love these books.

For more about all of the books in the Curse of the Lost Isle series (including a set of the first 4 books in the series) and links to purchase, check them out at Vijaya's Books We Love author page.

Young knight Raymond of Forez, blaming himself for his uncle's death in a hunting accident, falls off his horse at the very sight of the lovely Melusine. He has no knowledge of their turbulent past. Even less that she is an immortal Fae with angel blood... afflicted by a curse. He doesn’t believe in the local legends... yet how can he resist such beauty and loving wisdom?

Melusine, who waited for him in Aquitaine, is full of remembered love. But can she trust this young knight with her mission, or her deadly secrets? In this explosive religious climate, the Church is suspicious of everyone, and the slightest rumor of witchery or Pagan magic could send them both burning at the stake. Can their love overcome the curse this time?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Nosy Neighbors


Hello and welcome to the Books We Love Insider Blog!

Because I'm a writer, I have a good excuse to use my imagination to make up stories with quirky characters and interesting settings. In keeping with the humor in my latest cozy mystery, Dangerous Sanctuary, I thought we'd have some fun imagining a conversation with the main character, Pastor Christine Hobbs, and her Nosy Neighbor. 

You know how nearly everyone has a nosy neighbor in the neighborhood. Well, the pastor’s neighbor called her to find out about the murder at Pastor Christine’s church. Realizing the neighbor’s right to be concerned since she lives so near the church and parsonage, Christine took time to answer her questions. Perhaps they’re some of the same questions you may have about this romantic suspense, Dangerous Sanctuary.

Phone Conversation between Pastor Christine and her Nosy Neighbor
Nosy Neighbor: Oh, Pastor, what in the world happened over at Dayspring Church? Ambulance, fire engines, police were over there on Thursday morning.
Pastor Christine: Oh dear. I bet you were scared when you saw all the emergency units here at the church. I’m sorry I didn’t call you. It’s been pretty crazy around here.
Unfortunately our talented Director of Music, William White, was found dead in our church basement.  We’re trying to deal with his loss as best we can. We’re having a difficult time imagining anyone would murder this kind young man.
Detective Cole Stephens considers our custodian, Dutch, and myself to be “persons of interest.”  Perhaps you saw something from your window that morning that could help the police with the investigation?
NN: Oh, no Pastor. I didn’t see anything till the emergency vehicles arrived.  I must admit I did see the story on the news and in the newspapers. It’s so ridiculous how the stations play the story over and over 24 hours a day. But what is crazier is to accuse you and that gentle custodian of murder. I’m so sorry this has happened at your church.
PC: Thank you.
NN: Can you tell me how you came to minister to the people at Dayspring Church? I mean they’ve NEVER had a female pastor in all the years I’ve lived next door.
PC:  I love being the spiritual leader of the folks at Dayspring. I’ve been there about a year now, but I’ve been in the pulpit for five years at another church. I was happy to move away from that area, not because I had problems at the other church, but because I could put distance between my ex-husband, Brad, and me.
I’m having a terrific experience getting to know so many wonderful people at Dayspring. We’re becoming a family. Of course, there are always conflicts that arise when dealing with so many personalities. The president of the women’s group, Mrs. Jewell is not exactly happy that I’m caring for a pig and kangaroo in the back yard of the church parsonage and that I’ve taken in Mrs. Whitcomb’s cat after that sweet lady passed. I’m looking for a family who wants the darling tabby cat. Bitsy is litter trained and I have re-assured the parsonage committee that Bitsy has not had any accidents on the church-owned parsonage floors. Say, you wouldn’t consider taking in this adorable cat, would you?
NN:  Oh no, Pastor. I’m very allergic to cats. I was wondering about the animals in your back yard though.
PC: Well, yes. Now the backyard is another story…you know pigs like to root up the ground and eat everything in sight. I keep telling President Jewell that their stay just temporary, and I’ll replace all the bushes, trees, flowers, and grass when their owner re-claims the animals.

NN: How much longer will they be there for heaven’s sake? Of course, they aren’t bothering me, but Wilda just a few doors down from the parsonage is worried that pig is going to get loose and root up her yard! And, uh, I’m sure she’s also concerned the pig might get in the road and get run over.
PC: Of course, she’s concerned about the pig getting hurt…Please assure her the animals will be gone as soon as their owner is healthy again. She’s in the hospital. And, well it’s a long story how I ended up with Abraham the pig and Katy the kangaroo in the back yard.
NN: I often see the flower shop’s delivery truck at the church and in your driveway. You know, I just notice when I’m outside walking. I’m not watching out the window at your comings and goings, of course.
PC: That would be my friend Lacey, the gal who owns the flower shop.  She’s the petite strawberry blonde. We tease each other about our difference in height because I’m six feet tall.  With the weddings and funerals, she’s always delivering flowers to the church, so we have time to talk and get to know each other.
 NN: You know, I have a very tall nephew who’s divorced. He’s a sweet guy and after awhile, you don’t notice his big ears or his lisp. Can you date being a minister?
PC: Well, yes I can. I’m not a monk. I’m a real person who likes to enjoy a movie, and a beer and pizza with my friends. Thank you so much for wanting to introduce me to your nephew, but I’m just not ready to date anyone yet.
NN: Not even thinking about that cute Detective Stephens? I’ve seen him going into the church and parsonage—a lot!
PC: Strictly for the murder investigation. Why would I be interested in a man who wants to put me in jail for murder?
NN: Why, of course not. I’m sorry I asked, but he IS around a lot and I just thought…
PC: Hey, look at the time. I’m almost late for a meeting at the church. Good talking to you. I’ve got to run. Good-bye.
NN: Okay. Well, I’ll bring my nephew over when he stops in again. Uh, hello….hello. Are you there???

# # # #
Author J.Q. Rose

Connect with J.Q. Rose online at

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Spatchcocked! by Stuart R. West

My wife told me she wants to "spatchcock" a turkey. After my initial giggle-fit ended, she explained that spatchcocking's a method of cooking poultry by cutting out the backbone and flattening the carcass. It's supposed to cook more evenly. Or something equally gross.
Spatchcock Monthly July Cover Model
That doesn't matter. What does matter is I've found a fabulous new word. I'd like to "trend" the word. I wanna' make it rain with spatchcockery.

Spatchcock. Everyone take a minute and say it out loud. I'll wait. Done? It's fun to say, isn't it? Rolls right off the tongue. Kinda' cathartic, too. Violent sounding without the physical fall-out. And wonderfully, subtly vulgar; it makes the twelve-year-old boy in me laugh.

But the word can be used in many more creative ways. The next time someone gets on your nerves? Try this: "Are you looking to get spatchcocked?" Or how about this? "Looks like I've stepped in a deep pile of spatchcock." Or "I'm gonna' spatchcock this yard with my rake." See what I mean? A multifaceted word, guaranteed hours of fun.
A painful looking display of human spatchcockery.
Where in the world did this awesome word come from? Mr. Wikipedia wasn't much help, nor Ms. Google. I wonder if some guy went postal on his turkey, ripped out the backbone in a fit of cooking rage, and screamed, "I'll dispatch you yet!"

Or maybe some chef was embarrassingly named "Spatchcock," an unfortunate footnote in cooking history.

But, as I said, none of that matters. Please use this term, incorporate it into your daily vocabulary. Then sit back and enjoy the fun.

I'll update once (if?) my wife and I ever end up spatchcocking a turkey.
Intentional spatchcockery--akin to "Hitchcockery"--abounds in my cozy, (I hope) amusing mystery books: the Zach and Zora comic mystery series. Don't take my word for it. I wouldn't. Click on the covers for free samples:



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Peek at my Office by Nancy M Bell

A Longview Wedding is the third book in my A Longview Romance series. Cale and Michelle finally get things to go their way. Available at all good book sellers. Click on the image to see my BWL author page and all my books.

I thought it would be fun to let you all see where I work and create. It's a bit crowded, okay, more than a bit. But it has a big window and three antique book cases. The book cases are stuffed with research books, antique books, series of books I collect by my favourite authors. Charles de Lint, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, Patrick Taylor, Jack Whyte and Diana Gabaldon. To name a few...LOL

The middle of the bookcase that takes up the whole west wall of my office. You can see some of my Beswick horse collection.

A rest of the bookcase that takes up the whole wall, jam packed with books. This is where I keep the copies of my own books. The picture at the end of the case is of Nanjizal in Cornwall. The split in the rock is called the Song of the Sea. The bay is also known as Mill Bay. This location is featured in my Cornwall Adventures book Go Gently.

The wall by office door. The white horse is White Spirit an Alberta Wildie stallion living on Crown Land up near Sundre, Alberta. Below him, the picture is 'moose hair tufting'. First Nations artists create these by pulling moose hair through in a pattern and then cutting and shaping the hair to create original and lovely pieces of art. Some are coloured with natural dyes while some like this one are left the natural colour.

The bookcase and desk combo, lots of my crystals, hawk feathers from the pair that nest over the road from me, and some treasured books.

The bookcase on the south wall in front of the big window with my pretty peacock Tiffany lamp on top. This is the case with most of research books hide.

The wall above the long bookcase with the tapestry of the Battle of Bruges. A gift from a friend of mine. The small framed piece beside the tapestry is an example of 'birch biting'. It is a dying First Nations art created by folding white birch bark and marking the bark with a pattern by biting with the incisor teeth. I first saw this in Flin Flon, Manitoba and bought a small piece. It is lovely and all are one of a kind.

Prints on the wall to the left of the door.

As you can tell the place is pretty crowded but I have all my research books and information at my fingertips. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Usually, I'm sifting through my books and moving stuff so I can get the cabinet doors all the way open. It's a great environment for creating my stories. The dogs sleep on the floor in the doorway, and my big white cat likes to sleep on my comfy chair.

I hope you've enjoyed this small tour of my work area.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Ladies With The Blue Hair - Janet Lane Walters

About 70 years ago, I was 10 years old and I noticed the lady across the street had blue hair. This puzzled me and I wondered why. She was a lady who had a gardener to care for her yard. When she went places, a man drove a shiny car to take her places. She didn't ride the streetcar or the train that stopped not far from where we lived. How did her hair become blue? This fascinated me and I believed that to become a lady one had to have hair this color.

Janet Lane-Walters Special Edition

Then one morning I noticed my mother added this blue stuff to the white clothes she was washing. Was this the answer? I imagined this was the source of the hair.

Then I began to see other women with blue hair. These were also women who wore nice clothes, had nice jewelry and arrived at church wearing hats and gloves. Perhaps this was the answer. Maybe blue hair ran in their families. My grandmother had gray hair but hers wasn't blue.

This puzzled me for years. Then I met my husband and mentioned the ladies with the blue hair. He nodded. He had noticed blue hair on some women where he lived. He also had no idea how their hair became blue. He did say they were ladies and wore nice clothes and were women of importance in his town.

Aha, I thought. He finished medical school and we moved to a large town in Western Pennsylvania, not that far from where we had grown up. I joined the Women's Medical Wives group and I noticed there were women with blue hair. They always wore hats and gloves to the meetings. Maybe, just maybe I had found the answer. They were ladies and maybe I could become one.

Now, I was a jeans kind of person but I did have a pair of gloves, or thought I had. I went to the meeting in my jeans and a velvet tunic top. I wore my fancy boots bought when we lived in Texas but I could only find one glove. An elbow one left from some party I'd had to attend. I went to the meeting and walked in. To add to the looks I always received since I had no intention of wearing a little black dress, pearls, a hat and gloves, I pulled off the glove.

"I couldn't find the other," I announced.

I did not ever discover how all those years ago those ladies had learned how to blue their gray hair. But that led to other outrageous actions - like how I celebrated my 35th birthday. Perhaps I'll tell you that tale some day.

Oh, by the way, I now have a streak of blue in my hair. Not a lot but then I'm not a lady.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cleaning house

The Twisted Climb by J.C. Kavanagh

Is your house getting cleaner as you get older?
If no, scroll to the next sub-heading.
If yes, keep reading.
I've noticed that every year, maybe even every month, my house stays cleaner for longer periods of time. Truly. The older I get, the cleaner my house.
Until recently.
I used to tell myself, "There's no dust here because I live in the country."
I used to tell myself, "The bathroom sinks stay shiny for ages."
I used to tell my friends that my house stays clean all by itself. "There's an anti-dirt / anti-dust fairy in my home." Weren't they great friends for just nodding their heads. No eye-rolling or cuckoo motions.
Until, as I said before, recently.
I was having dinner with my partner, Ian, and extolling the unending virtues of our house-cleaning fairy.
He quietly asked, "Are you talking about the fairy that's collecting dust bunnies in your bathroom?"
He was very calm about his question. Or was it a proclamation? I hurried to my bathroom, pulling Ian behind me. The dark green marble tile looked like it always does. I turned around inquiringly and Ian pointed to a corner, beside the Jacuzzi tub. I squinted and peered. "Nice marble, though the colour is a bit dated."
He sighed and handed me my reading glasses. "Now have a look."
"Alright," I said and perched them on my nose. I cast my eyes toward the offending corner.
Good Lord in heaven above. There were dust bunnies the size of cats and they had given birth to baby bunnies all over the floor!
What happened?
I looked at my sink. Were those eyebrow hairs behind the faucet, collecting on the white porcelain? Good Lord in heaven above. Yes.
Wasn't the sink shiny and clean? Well, kind of. More like shine-spot-here and shine-spot-there.
Now I was angry. That no-good house-cleaning fairy done gone and run off with a no-good lazy-butt dirt fairy.
Or not.
"What happened?" I asked my other half. "And why didn't you tell me?"
Ian just grinned. "I like it when you can't see the dust. I'm not going to tell you it's there.... you'll make me clean, too."
That was cheeky but quite true. Never has there been a more vacuum-loving, bathroom-cleaning and dust-free fanatic, than me.
Until recently.
Oh those eyes, they ain't what they used to be.

Next sub-heading

If you skipped to here, you missed a funny story and really, you should go back to the beginning.

My other half, Ian.
He's a good bloke - won't see dust - will feed birds.

Book signings in Ontario!

Come see me at the Chapters store in Square One, Mississauga on Saturday, January 28. Or, drop by for a visit at the Chapters store in Newmarket on Saturday, February 11.
I'm also part of two 'Meet the Author' events for the Angus and Caledon libraries in February and during the children's school break in March. I'm looking forward to sharing with the kids just how I 'dream' up most of my stories.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you had a wee chuckle or two at the expense of me ol' eyeballs. Cheers!

aka J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
A novel for teens, young adults and adults young at heart.
Email: author.j.c.kavanagh@gmail.com
Twitter @JCKavanagh1

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Origins of Tree Hugging

Painting of the massacre of Bishnois in 1730

 The term tree-hugger in North America is generally used in a pejorative sense, to refer to a wolly-headed, idealistic hippie who is not connected to “reality.”

But tree-hugging has a long history, as a way of protecting the environment, as a protest against political exploitation and as an expression of cultural and spiritual values.

In 1730, the King of Jodhpur, a desert-like region in the North-West of India in the state of Rajasthan, required wood for the construction of a new palace. He ordered his soldiers to collect wood from a region where Bishnois, a rural people, lived.

One of the Bishnois, a woman named Amrita devi, could not bear to witness the destruction of both her faith and the village's sacred trees. In an expression of non-violent resistance, she hugged a tree, and encouraged others to do so too, proclaiming: “A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree.”
As each villager hugged a tree, refusing to let go, they were beheaded by the soldiers. It is said that 363 Bishnoi villagers were killed in the name of their sacred forest.
When the King was informed about this atrocity he rushed to the village and apologized, ordering the soldiers to cease logging operations.
In 1973, the mountainous Himalayan region of India was the scene of another widespread episode of tree-hugging. Called the Chipko (stick) movement, it went on to become a rallying point for many environmental movements all around the world. In many parts of the developing world, parcels of forests were, and still are, being sold off to companies for clear-cutting. As with the Bishnois, the Chipko movement had many female leaders.  At first, several small confrontations between villagers and loggers from companies happened.
But the flash point occurred in January 1974, when the government announced anther auction. This incited the villagers, who decided to protest against the actions of the government by hugging the trees. On March 25, 1974, the day the lumbermen were to cut the trees, the men were diverted by state government and contractors to a fictional compensation payment site, while back home labourers arrived by the truckload to start logging operations.
Chipko women defending trees
A local girl, on seeing them, rushed to inform Gaura Devi, the head of the village’s women’s association Gaura Devi led 27 of the village women to the site and confronted the loggers. When all talking failed, and the loggers started to shout and abuse the women, threatening them with guns, the women resorted to hugging the trees to stop them from being felled. This went on into late hours. The women kept an all-night vigil guarding their trees from the cutters until a few of them relented and left the village. The next day, when the men and leaders returned, the news of the movement spread to neighboring districts and more people joined in. Eventually, only after a four-day stand-off, the contractors left.
The news soon reached the state capital, where the state Chief Minister eventually ruled in favour of the villagers. This became a turning point in the history of eco-development struggles in the region and around the world, and from here, tree-hugging spread to other areas around the world, including North America.

While tree-hugging is seen as an ecological movement in the west, the roots are actually spiritual. The Bishnois are followers of the Guru Jambeshwar Bhagavan, born in 1451, who taught twenty-nine principles which emphasized cleanliness, truthfulness, devotion to God and compassion for all living things, including trees and animals. Their beliefs have led to a remarkable community. Bishnoi carpenters never cut trees--they wait for trees to die on their own or fall down during storms. They dig small ponds in their fields and fill them with water  for wildlife during the arid summer months. Even if their standing crop is eaten by deer herds, no Bishnoi ever chases a deer away. They are great protectors of wildlife and consider it a great pride to be able to die saving trees or animals. Unsurprisingly, Bishnoi areas are oases of trees, wildlife and water in an otherwise forbidding landscape.
A Bishnoi girl

"We would willingly go hungry to feed the animals," says Bana Ram, in an interview with Anupama Bhattacharya[i]. "We believe in the co-existence of life. Our guru said that those who die saving innocent animals or trees will go to heaven. For us, animals are the avatars of divinity."

"Our guru forbade us to get addicted, be it smoking, tobacco chewing, drugs or alcohol. Even tea is considered a vice," says Teja Ram. 

"What makes me proud," says Bana Ram, "is that the next generation is even more committed to nature than we are." As if on cue, a little boy who can hardly keep pace as we walk around the village, tugs at my sleeve and says: "I'll never let anybody kill these animals."

Living amidst the barren wastelands interspersed with khejri and babool trees, the Bishnois are a proud race. "We don't get any help from the government and don't want any," says Johra Ram. "Any change in the world has to begin within the society. All this talk about nature and wildlife protection would be more effective if each individual was to believe in the earth as a living, breathing entity and fight for its survival the way we do."

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper - A Novel" published by Books We Love, Ltd.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I cried when I reached the end... but in a good way....by Sheila Claydon

Katy was used to losing things. First she’d lost her childhood home, then her career and reputation, and finally, and most dreadfully, her identity, so she knew she should be used to it. She wasn’t though and she couldn’t bear the thought of having to leave her job and start over, not now she was beginning to make a new life for herself. On the other hand she wasn’t prepared to play second fiddle to her boss’s girlfriend. Thank goodness she’d found out what he was really like before it was too late…or had she?

We have all read books which made us cry. Stories that have so gripped our emotions that we have totally identified with the characters even though we know they are fictional. It happened to me earlier this week...except it wasn't quite like that. You see I wrote the book!

It was Saving Katy Gray. I developed the storyline and created the characters. I knew the outcome too, obviously, so why on earth did I cry? There are two possible explanations. The first is that I need to get a grip! The second is that I might...just might... be a halfway good writer. I hope it's the second one but the only way a writer can ever really know is if a reader posts a good review, or makes contact by email or letter, and when that happens it's thrilling.

Saving Katy Gray is the final book of my When Paths Meet trilogy and it was published in 2014. As is the way with most writers after the excitement of publication day, I moved on and started writing another one. Now, several years later, Books We Love is adding a print format to all those eBooks, something that thrills me greatly even though it entails a considerable amount of work. As well as having to reformat the books, there is an opportunity to re-edit before they go into a second edition, so that's what I was doing. Re-reading and editing. What I wasn't expecting was that one of my own books would make me cry..

It also made me realise how much emotion a writer invests in each book and, in my case, even more when it is a series. By the time I finished writing the third book the characters were like family. Even now I think of the local but anonymised house and garden that I 'borrowed' for Book One, as 'Marcus' and Jodie's house' whenever I walk past it. The same goes for the local riding stables. Although I moved their location in my book, they still  belong to 'Jodie' in my mind.

Re-reading a book published several years ago was interesting too. I was surprised by how much I wanted to tweak things...not the story, but some of the dialogue. Some of the prose as well. While it was fine (and edited) the first time around, reading it again in a couple of sittings made me want to tighten it up. It was a good exercise and well worth it because now I'll be able to have print copies of each of my books too.

I know fellow writers will understand  about the crying and the relationship with my characters. I'm less sure about the reading public, but if they like the books then that's enough. I just hope they don't think I need to get a grip!

My books can be found at Books We Love and on Amazon
I also have a website and can be found on facebook  and twitter

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Short History of the Yukon Territory by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday Books We Love Ltd is publishing twelve historical novels, one for each of the ten provinces, one for the Yukon Territory, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We Canadian authors were asked to pick one of the provinces or territories to write about or to do the research on for a non-Canadian author. I chose the Yukon because I have been there twice and love the beauty and history of the territory. The following is a quick summary of the Yukon’s beginning.

The Yukon
The name Yukon is derived from the Loucheux first nations word Yukunah which means `big river'. The land was mainly occupied by the Tagish and Tlingit native people for centuries before the non-native explorers arrived in the 1820s. In the 1840s fur traders set up a few Hudson's Bay Company posts along the Yukon River. When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, there wasn’t a clear border between Alaska and the Northwest Territories, as the land was known then. In 1887-88 William Ogilvie, a Canadian surveyor, surveyed the area making the 141st meridian the western boundary with Alaska and the 60th parallel the southern border with British Columbia. Hence the phrase North of 60.
     Prospectors went north looking for gold in the 1880s and there was a gold strike along the Fortymile River, which drains into the Yukon River, in 1886. There were other smaller strikes until 1896 when gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek later renamed Bonanza Creek. A town named Dawson sprang up on the Yukon River at the mouth of the Klondike River. When word of the gold discovery reached the outside world in the summer of 1897, thousands of men, women and children hurried to Dawson during the winter of 1897-1898 hoping to find their fortune.
     Because of the rush Dawson grew quickly to be the largest city north of San Francisco and it became known as the `Paris of the North'. It had hotels, dance halls, daily newspapers and saloons for its 30,000 inhabitants. Fresh eggs were brought by raft on the Yukon River; whiskey came in by the boatload before freeze-up; gambling made rich men out of some and paupers out of others; dance hall girls charged $5 dollars in gold for each minute they danced with a miner; the janitors made up to $50 dollars a night when they panned out the sawdust from the barroom floors. Due to the influx of people, the region officially entered into the confederation of Canada and was designated as the Yukon Territory on June 13, 1898. Dawson became the capital. Eventually the word `territory' was dropped and it was called The Yukon.
     A Territorial Administration Building was constructed in 1901 for the territorial seat of government and Dawson was the centre for the government administration until 1953 when the capital was moved to Whitehorse.
     The Klondike gold rush ended in 1899 when word of a gold discovery in Nome, Alaska, reached the prospectors and they headed further north. However, over the next few decades gold companies were formed and continued to mine the creeks, this time using dredges to dig up the creek bottom. They left behind huge piles of gravel called tailings. The dredging lasted until 1960 when gold prices declined making the operation uneconomical. Today, mining is done with big trucks, huge sluices, and back hoes.
     The north is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun after the words in Robert W. Service’s poem The Cremation of Sam McGee:
                    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
                      By the men who moil for gold.

     The Arctic Circle is the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude of the Earth. It is an imaginary line that marks the southern edge of the Arctic at 66 degrees 30' north latitude in the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, and in Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia. The land north of the Arctic Circle gets 24 hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year, June 21st. The further north of the circle you go the more days of total sunlight in the summer you will get. This is because the North Pole is tilted towards the sun and gets direct sunlight from March 20 to September 22 as the earth rotates. Conversely, on the shortest day, December 21st, the land north of the Arctic Circle gets 24 hours of darkness because the North Pole is tilted away from the sun.
     The Yukon is a great place to view the aurora borealis or northern lights. These are bright dancing lights that are really collisions between the gaseous particles of the Earth’s atmosphere and the electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The most common colours are pink and pale green produced by oxygen molecules about sixty miles above the earth.  Silver, blue, green, yellow and violet also appear in the display. Red auroras are rare and produced at high altitudes of about 200 miles. The lights are best seen in the winter and the further north you are the better they appear.
     The Yukon has the smallest desert in the world, the Carcross Desert, near the town of Carcross. It is an area that was once covered by a glacial lake. As the glaciers melted the level of the lake lowered until just the sandy bottom was left. Winds off Lake Bennett keep the sand moving and prevent most plants and trees from taking root on this.
     During the late Wisconsin ice age (10,000 to 70,000 years ago) an arid section of the northern hemisphere was not glaciated because of the lack of moisture to support the expansion of the glaciers. The area, called Beringia after the Bering Strait which is near the centre of the region, encompassed parts of present-day eastern Siberia, Alaska, The Yukon, and ended at the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories. The growth of continental glaciers sucked up moisture which led to the sea level dropping by up to 106 metres (350 feet). As a result, a land bridge was formed between northwest North America and northeast Asia.
     It is believed that parts of western Beringia (eastern Siberia today) were occupied by man 35,000 years ago. The forming of the Bering Land Bridge allowed the first humans to travel from Asia to North America. There is evidence that the history of man in North America goes back 25,000 years ago.
     Some of the animals that survived for thousands of years in this arid land surrounded by glaciers were the North American horse and camel, the steppe bison, the giant beaver that weighed up to 181 kilograms (400 pounds), the Mastodon, the woolly mammoth, the giant short-faced bear, the scimitar cat, the American lion, and the giant ground sloth. All of these are extinct.
     The territory of The Yukon was founded on gold mining, but there has been coal and silver mining in the territory also. It is now a favourite destination for tourists.