Saturday, July 4, 2015

17th Century Whitehall, Part 2, by Katherine Pym

Whitehall Palace

Previously, I told you the history of Whitehall Palace, its beginnings and its end. Today, I want to talk of the structure, and how London’s activities affected Whitehall Palace.

Part II, Other stuff about Whitehall:

Castles have a tendency to be drafty, and it was no different with the Palace of Whitehall. Due to the compilation of various buildings crammed together, the palace was more drafty than normal. During storms, winds whistled down chimneys and spread ash across the chambers. Fires sparked, then smoldered.   

London and its suburbs used sea coal and brown coal to heat their homes. It was inferior and smoked. London also seemed to have existed under a pall of inversion. Smoke and pollution hung stagnant over the city and its suburbs for weeks on end.

Coal was used to brew ale or beer. Dyers used coal to heat water. Soap boilers manufactured their product with ash. Glass houses, founders and most industries used coal for their fires and their products. As a result, smoke settled heavy on everything with a gritty dust. Not a good place for asthmatics, the air was hard to breathe.

John Evelyn (1620-1706) loved London. He observed everything within and without the great city.

In 1661, he wrote Fumifugium: or, The Inconvenience of the AER, and SMOAKE of London Dissipate, a diatribe of the damages smoke can do to a person, city, and anything alive. In this pamphlet, he also proposed remedies for this damage. This, he gave to King Charles II in the year of his coronation (1661).

A visit to Whitehall provoked Evelyn to write this pamphlet. While he strolled through the palace, looking for a glimpse of His Royal Majesty, Evelyn said, “a presumptuous smoke issuing from one or two tunnels near Northumberland House, and not far from Scotland Yard, did so invade the Court that all the rooms, galleries, and places about it were filled and infested with it, and that to such a degree, as men could hardly discern one another for the cloud...”

Apparently, the smoke was so thick in the palace, people had to stretch their arms to make it from room to room. I can imagine with the uneven floors, bridges, and stairways that linked strange floor levels, this could be dangerous.
Alleged Whitehall Floor-plan
Evelyn continues, “...upon frequent observation, but it was this alone, and the trouble that it must needs procure to Your Sacred Majesty, as well as hazard to your health…” Yes, wandering a palace so filled with smoke, it would be difficult to breathe, to see without your eyes tearing.

In 1662 a strong storm hit London, and Whitehall was not spared. A few fires started but fortunately, they were doused without any real damage. After this, regulations were enforced to have at each hearth a leather bucket filled with water.

In 1691, Whitehall nearly burned down. By this time, it was a maze of complexity, and the largest palace in Europe. On April 10th of this year, a fire broke out that damaged a great deal of the structure(s), but not the State Apartments. By this time, William III and Mary II lived most of the time in Kensington Palace.

Then, in 1698 what remained of Whitehall burned, along with many treasures garnered over the ages. Among other treasures, scholars believe Michelangelo’s Cupid, the Portrait of Henry VIII, and Bernini’s marble bust of King Charles I were all lost.

John Evelyn wrote: “Whitehall burnt! Nothing but walls and ruins left.”

Can you imagine the stories those old walls could have told, so rich, historical, and so often tragic?

Many thanks to the following sources:
Adrian Tinniswood. By Permission of Heaven, The true Story of the Great Fire of London. Riverhead Books, NY, 2003

John Evelyn. Fumifugium: Or, The Inconvenience of the AER, and SMOAKE of London Dissipated. Together With some Remedies humbly proposed by J.E. Esq; To His Sacred MAJESTIE, and To the Parliament now Assemble. Published by His Majesties Command. London 1661


Friday, July 3, 2015

Taking the Art of Writing Outdoors

Summer is here and the weather is great - for the most part!
Do you use those lazy days to do things you love to do or are you busy running kids from activity to activity to keep them busy the entire summer? Whatever your plans, be sure to bring a book.

Personally, I love summer. I love the lazy mornings (my "real" job doesn't start until afternoons) and try to spend that time either writing or reading. BWL has so many great authors with so many books I'm still working my way through the list! Both my reading and writing habits have changed over the years, and sometimes they change from season to season. Summer screams for lighter, fluffier books. Books that my brain doesn't have to work hard to read. Brain candy.

Writing in the summer has its advantages as well. It's much easier to grab a pen and pad of paper and go to the park, or the beach. Sometimes a change in venue can give you a fresh perspective and some new ideas.

Writing less in isolation and more around other people, can give you new character ideas and situations. I had the pleasure of hanging around a teenage girl yesterday I would love to use as a base for a new character. Spunky and outspoken, she started off a little abrasive, but we quickly connected and discovered commonality despite the age difference. I've had the same experience at a writing retreat near a river in a little house that resembles a lighthouse.

Writing in new settings can give you more detail into your own stories. The grit of the beach beneath your body, the hot sun on your skin, the irritating buzz of a mosquito, the squawk of a seagull who really wants your bag of potato chips... At your writing desk, you need to delve into your imagination for those minute details. Out in the real world, they attack you from all sides and you have a veritable buffet of stimuli to choose from.

An author's work takes on a different tone when they are relaxed and "in the flow." Words flow from the pen (or keyboard) at an amazing rate and seem to magically create scenes we normally couldn't write if we were forced. The mind tends to wander more and bring back many more "what if's" for us to use.

Writer or reader, take the time to bring a book outside.
Read in nature.
Write in nature.
Enjoy all the opportunities summer brings and find the time to enjoy a good book!

By Diane Bator

Thursday, July 2, 2015



So you want to get published?

You have written a fabulous novel, your mother loved it and your girlfriend said it was the best story she had ever read.

Now, who is the lucky publisher? You know everyone will want it. The dollar sign lights up in your eyes. Six figure advance, well maybe you would take five for starters. You are already debating what you will wear to your first book launch. Who will play the lead role when your masterpiece is made into a movie? Be honest, haven’t we all thought like this? 

I have sent manuscripts to the large category romance publishers. The bigger the better I thought and received rejection letters, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. I could paper the side wall of my house with them.  Along the way I entered and won, or was commended in, unpublished manuscript awards so I was reassured that I had some talent.

In desperation, after a few rejections, I once sent a manuscript off and pretended to be my husband. I wrote a little introductory note saying I was a male nightshift worker at an international airport, (which he was.  Of course, he couldn’t write a romance novel to save his life).

A couple of months later the manuscript was returned from the junior editor saying she quite liked the storyline, I really did write like a woman, but they had read something similar only a few weeks previously. Devastating news.

A few weeks before Christmas, a friend of ours proposed a daring plan that would get me out of the ‘slush’ pile. He said. “Wrap the manuscript up in Christmas paper, put a fancy ribbon on it and send it off addressed to the senior editor. No junior editor would dare open the boss’ Christmas present.” What a master stroke I thought, the man was an absolute genius.

Well, a couple of months later, said present winged its way back to me, my pretty ribbons intact, sticky tape untouched by human hand. The note was brief and to the point. Thank you for the gift, but we don’t accept presents, wishing you Merry Christmas etc. etc. The rejection was killing. I felt like the world had ended.

Then I got smart, and started researching publishers who published the kind of novels I wrote and whose business structures were sound.

It has taken me years and a lot of perseverance to get this far, but I am now multi-published with Books We Love and I couldn't be happier.

Margaret Tanner

 My latest release from Books We Love is Dangerous Birthright.
Georgina O'Rourke has been living a lie because of a deadly secret from her past.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


The Fourth of July is the most dangerous holiday of the year.  Every 4th, there are car accidents, drownings, and fireworks accidents.  The majority of deaths are from car accidents.

A lot of drivers hit the road on this holiday, and this increases the likelihood of serious crashes.  Often people attend barbecues and other activities that involve drinking.  And of course, alcohol increases the chances of deadly accidents.  Also, alcohol leads to drowsiness.

Fireworks mishaps raise the chances of accidents and many injuries affecting the head, face, ears, and eyes.  Fireworks displays can go awry and injure spectators, often seriously. A fire at a Seattle marina caused a million dollars in damages and sent clouds of black smoke into the sky before the actual fireworks display.  Someone had set off an illegal fireworks that hit the storage facility. It took 65 firefighters to quell the flames. A fireworks accident in a town north of Los Angeles left 28 people injured after an 'unintentional' detonation of fireworks into a crowd on this holiday.

Besides car accidents and firework mishaps, there are also bicycle crashes and swimming accidents.  Sadly, even parades can lead to fatal accidents.

Gun-toting macho men love to shoot off their guns, apparently not realizing that what goes up must come down.

It might take a psychiatrist to explain why celebrations and merriment so often bring out the worst in people. Yet it's true; parties and celebrations often lead to shootings, including on the Fourth.

Boating accidents may occur, and here again, the culprit is often alcohol.

All those who celebrate the Fourth of July, enjoy the day but stay safe.

On a happier note, I'd love for you to read my romance novels.  You can find them here:  and here:
I'm published in historical, fantasy and paranormal
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I'm from Pittsburgh but I live in Birmingham, AL now. I enjoy writing and reading, both fiction and non-fiction. Do you like to read about time travel? Then you might like "Dream Weaver."  My Avador series, starting with "Night Secrets" is fantasy. If you like historical romance, try "Forbidden Love."
Happy reading to all!

Monday, June 29, 2015

What If There Was A Monkey In My Swimming Pool?


What If There Was A Monkey In My Swimming Pool?

Skeptic. So as you can see I've started my monthly Blog with a very serious word. Mega serious. Titanium (which is more precious, hence more valuable than platinum, which a few years ago was one leg up on gold), serious. Picture me, mouth pointed down, brows furrowed, teeth nattering, eyes pinpricks of squinty fire, that's how serious that word is.
            Okay, done, back to my usual mad as a thimble-full-of-olive-oil look. Man, that first paragraph is a killer. You're probably skeptical of me, but I'll stick to serious in my novels from now on.
            So one of the best books on writing I ever read was titled, 'There's A Monkey In My Swimming Pool'. The opening page simply read, 'What If?' In big letters.
            My mind was racing on ten different tangents. I wanted to grab a pencil and start jotting down what was ricocheting around in my subconscious.  Not to mention that I had just eaten my Frank's 'He puts that hot &$@*' stuff on everything meaner-than-junkyard-dog-fed-a-cordon-bleu-chicken-burger taco wrap. So needless to say, there were a few other things wanting to blast out of me as well. But that is a tale of gastric malodorous woes for another day.
            The next page simply read, 'Is your mind racing?'.
            It was. I was hooked and bought the book.
            Next page read, 'Congrats, you are a born writer'. Which when I got home I was beginning to think, I got ripped off for buying a book for $15.95 and getting three words a page, why didn't I think of it?
            Next page, 'Now write, damn it, write'.
            And I did, filling twelve pages with some silly story that didn't win me a Pulitzer Prize (and for those that know me, know I'm a very serious chap). See beginning paragraph if you don't believe me.
            Well I'm serious at least on the 9th and 14th of the month, between the hours of 3:14-4:48 AM. Which thankfully I'm usually asleep dreaming of being on the planet from the movie 'Amazon Lust Slaves From Hell' and my job is to service the kitchen dishwasher, while the other denizens of the planet (all female of course), run around naked.  Well I did say, 'From Hell'. If the movie was titled 'From Heaven', I'd be the only serviceable male and I'd be raking in the dough unplugging all of the toilets.
So some are probably thinking what is the point of this blog by now. Give me a moment to think of something....
Got it.
            When something unusual catches your eye, you hear a great story or are stuck with writers block, as a writer ask 'What If'. 
            I had writers block once. Think it was the letter F, could have been K, but sure it was the letter F.
            So if stuck in a dilemma on a plot outcome, just ask 'What If' or if not a writer than simply call in the SPCA, throw a dozen bananas in the swimming pool for the chimpanzee and watch the fun begin.
            As for the monkey see END NOTE below.
END NOTE: No monkeys or other animals were hurt, tested on, read to or compromised in any way during the usage of this blog. This blog has been approved by the WWF and Lovers of Furry Critters In New Zealand Society.

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I used to occasionally ask the clerk, when I handed them a ten, if they knew whose picture that was. Mostly, the answer was “some president.”  If there was no one waiting, I’d give a short history lesson by saying, “No, this is Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the Treasury. If he hadn’t done his job, by figuring out how to pay off the Revolutionary War debt and balance the budget, there wouldn’t be a United States today.” While this is a gloss of all his myriad accomplishments during the few short years he held the Secretary’s office, I’d hope it would make an impression. Now, because Hamilton is about to be removed from the $10 by a less illustrious successor at Treasury, the people who know their American History—and their Hamilton--are surprised and saddened

Timothy Geithner as well as other veterans and current occupants of high office have come to Hamilton’s defense. Ben Bernanke said of Hamilton "…without doubt, the best and most foresighted economic policymaker in U.S. history." Editorial writers for the New York Times, US Today, WSJ, and noted historians, like Ron Chernow, whose biography of Hamilton is now considered the definitive work on his high-powered subject, have also registered their thoughts upon the matter.

But I’m a mere fiction writer, and to me there’s always been more to Hamilton than sterling service to his adopted country. Wanting to connect fully with his personal life, I discovered a wealth of primary source in the form of letters.  Fortunately, Elizabeth, his devoted wife, pursued and collected these in her long years of life after her husband's death. In these private communications, I was allowed a glimpse of the man behind the myth, his masks, his follies, instances of teasing and tenderness. Letters allow us, all these years later, to form an idea of what he was like. 

 I’ll start my examples with a political slur—on Hamilton and the American army—which was published in Rivington’s Tory Gazette in 1779, when he was George Washington’s most effective aide de camp. It evokes a picture of a bold, cheeky young man:

“Mrs. Washington has a mottled orange tom cat (which she calls in a complimentary way, ‘Hamilton’) with thirteen stripes around the tail and its flaunting suggested to congress the thirteen stripes for the flag.”

In his youth, among his male friends, Hamilton plays the worldly rake. Here are excerpts from a letter sent to a fellow ADC and dear friend, John Laurens, during the Revolution, a joking discussion of his requirements for a wife:  

“She must be young, handsome (I lay most stress upon a good shape), sensible ( a little learning will do)…of some good nature…as to religion, a moderate stock will satisfy me. She must believe in God and hate a saint. But as to fortune, the larger stock of that the better…though I run no risk of going to purgatory for my avarice, yet as money is an essential ingredient to happiness in this world…it must needs be that my wife, if I get one, bring at least sufficency to administer to her own extravagancies…You will hear of many competitors for most of the qualifications required who will be glad to become candidates for such a prize as I am…(and) mind you do justice to the length of my nose…”

Daily life was far different before the advent of phones and rapid travel. Letters illuminate the hardships and stresses that might devolve upon an 18th Century family. Hamilton was often away from home, either riding the circuit as a lawyer, or while serving in some distant public body. Sometimes, his wife and children were in Albany with her Schuyler parents to escape the oppressive, fever-ridden city summers of Philadelphia and New York. Often, as a result of his indefatigable public life, (in the example below, during a term in the Continental Congress,) the family was separated. Here's a particularly anxious letter from a young husband to his wife:

“…I have borne your absence with patience ‘till about a week since, but the period we fixed for our reunion being come I can no longer reconcile myself. Every hour in the day I feel a severe pang on this account and half my nights are sleepless. Come my charmer and relieve me. Bring my darling boy to my bosom. Adieu Heaven bless you and speedily restore you to your fond husband…”

“I wrote to you my beloved Betsy by the last post…I count upon setting out to see you in four days; but I shall not be without apprehensions of being detained ‘till I have begun my journey…at this time, (attendance in) the House is thin…I give you joy my angel of the happy conclusion of the important work in which your country has been engaged. Now in a very short time I hope we shall be happily settled in New York.”

Many letters show concern about the ill health of their children. Originally, Hamilton had come to America to study medicine, and a continuing interest in the subject is evident throughout his life.

“The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the president. The state of health of his little son and the situation of Mrs. Hamilton in consequence of it oblige him to request the present to excuse him from attending the interview with the Indians today and also to ask the President’s permission to make an excursion into the country for a few days to try the effect of exercise and change of air upon the child…”  To George Washington, July 11, 1794

Here, Hamilton, recently returned to the Capitol, writes to Elizabeth, absent in Albany with her younger children, one seriously ill, on Aug. 17, 1794:

“My Beloved Eliza… I am happy to inform you that the precious little ones we left behind are well… My heart trembles whenever I open a letter from you.” (Their youngest, John Church, had several strange "cures” tried upon his little body that summer, some suggested by his anxious father and others by attending physicians.) “The experiment of the pink root alarms, but I continue to place my hope in heaven…Alas, my beloved Johnny--what shall I hear of you! This question makes my heart sink….” 

“…If his fever should appear likely to prove obstinate, urge the Physician to consider well the propriety of trying the cold bath…”

And this last, a recollection by this same "Johnny," written down many years later: 

"...In the morning, early, he awakened me. Taking my hands in his palms, all four hands extended , he told me to repeat the Lord's Prayer. Seventy years have passed over my head, and I have forgotten many things, but not that tender expression when he stood looking at me...nor the prayer we made together the morning just before the duel..."

Whatever his other failings, Hamilton was a man who loved his family. As a writer particularly interested in the "little domestic world," as experienced in the past, this made him particularly fascinating to me.

~Juliet Waldron

See my other historical novels at:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Horse in Your Western Novel – Horses are not Zebras or Misguided Unicorns By Connie Vines
Ten Pet Peeves, or Horse-Related Mistakes to Avoid in your Novel

1)   Misusing the specialized and precise vocabulary of horsemanship, especially the size, color, age and sex of the horse.

2)    Defying the laws of nature. AKA: Creating the ‘superhorse’.

3)   Horses trained or controlled by either ‘mastery’ or ‘magic,’ ignoring the real behavior of horses.

4)   Mixing up Western and English terms and styles.

5)   The stallion!  (Not the mount of choice).

6)   The self-conscious or uncomfortable expert rider.  An expert is an expert—no need to hang on for ‘dear life’.

7)   Good riders are relaxed in the saddle.  No kicking, kneeing, or flapping of elbows are needed.

8)   Forgetting that horses are animals and need to be fed and watered.  Even in modern times, your transportation requires gas, oil, and water.

9)   Talking horses—horses who neigh and, heaven forbid, scream on a regular basis.  Horses are generally rather silent beasts, though they will whinny if parted from their stable mates, or nicker softly in greeting at feeding times.

10) Tada! My personal favorite, and, unfortunately, too often seen in print and on television—the mare who takes all night to foal while the hero and heroine sort out conflict.  (Nature ensures that healthy mares foal fast.  A long labor requires someone calling for the vet—not working out ‘conflicts’.)

The Facts, please:
Since horses are flesh and blood creatures, the faster the horse goes the shorter the distance he can maintain that speed without harm. If the ride involves difficult terrain, jumping, or carrying extra weight, both speed and endurance will suffer.

Modern Endurance Rides: take 11-15 hours to cover 100 miles (part of this time the rider spends running beside his mount).

1860s: The Pony Express averaged nine mph over 25 mile stages.

For additional information, check the records from modern Thoroughbred Racing.

The Terms:

Mare: a female horse.

Stallion: a male horse that is not castrated.  Also called ‘entire’ in England and in the West, a ‘stud’ horse.

Gelding: a castrated male horse.

Foal: a young horse from birth to January 1 the next year. The female is a ‘filly foal,’ the male is a ‘colt’ foal  this may change per region).

Filly: a young female horse, up to 3 years old.

Colt: a young male horse, up to 3 years old.

Yearling: in the year after the birth year.  A yearling is too young to ride!  Most saddle horses aren’t worked hard until they are at least 4 years old.

Height: horses are measured from the ground to the top of the withers in ‘hands’. One hand is four inches. The average horse is 15 to 16 hands.  17 hands is very tall and only unusual specimens reach 18 hands.  Ponies are usually less than 14 hands.

Gaites (‘Paces’ in England): walk, trot, canter, gallop—also ‘pacing,’ ‘ambling,’ ‘running walk’ –describe precise and different ways in which a horse moves its legs. 

Rainbow Colors?  Certainly Not:

The English horsemen use fewer and simpler terms than Western horsemen, partly because English breeding has selected for fewer colors. Essentially two colors are taken into considering when describing horses. The main body color and the ‘points.’ The ‘points’ in this context are the ear tips, the mane and tail, and the lower part of the legs.

Black body, black points: A Black horse—may be smoky black, jet black, coal black, raven black.

Brown body, brown points: A Brown horse—may be seal brown, or standard brown.
Red-brown body, black points: A Bay horse—may be dark bay, mahogany bay, sandy bay.  Every Bay horse always has black points.

Reddish body, self-colored (non-black) points: A Chestnut/Sorrell horse—in the West, reds of All colors. Western horsemen use ‘sorrell’ to describe all red horses.  Light sorrel draft horses are known as ‘blonde.’

Yelllowish body, (generally) black points: Buckskin is the term used in the West.
Other colors and terms (you may wish to conduct additional research) include: A Grey, a Roan, a Palomino, a Isabella, a Paint or a Pinto, White horses and Albino, Piebald, and Skewbald.  There is also, the closest thing to a ‘horse of a different color’, the Appalossa.

Information online:

For fantasy (naming your unicorn):

Caring for your horse:

The dollars and cents factor of horse ownership:

A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence. ~ Pam Brown
Happy Riding,


Two of my loves: Tulsa and Midnight
(during my rural life in Ramona, CA)

Stillwaters Run Deep, Book One: Raven's Lament

Stillwater's Run Deep  Book One Raven's Lament Frank Talaber, The Writer: Mad muse inside keeps my pencil writing...