Saturday, December 5, 2015

Books We Love Spotlight - Author Jamie Hill

One of Books We Love's 2014 best selling authors, Jamie Hill is also one of our most prolific and talented authors.

If you haven't read any of Jamie's books, you're in for a rare treat.  They're available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, and any of your online retailers.  Several of her books, including her new Witness Security series is also available in print from your local bookstores.




  Coming Soon
                                       

Pieces of the Past, Book 1 in the Witness Security SeriesTime To Kill, Book 2 in the Witness Security Series
Family Secrets, Book 1 in the A Cop in the Family seriesFamily Ties, Book 2 in the A Cop in the Family seriesFamily Honor, Book 3 in the A Cop in the Family seriesThe complete A Cop in the Family series in one book
Playing For KeepsSecrets and LiesA Special Edition containing Playing For Keeps and Secrets and Lies
Blame it on the Stars, The Blame Game series Book 1Blame it on the Moon, The Blame Game series Book 2Blame it on the Sun, The Blame Game series Book 3Blame it on the Rain, The Blame Game series Book 4
A collection of four romantic short storiesOn the Edge, a romantic suspense novella

Friday, December 4, 2015

Secret Service, Spies and Underhanded Dealings by Katherine Pym





17th century England was volatile. The Stuarts ruled most of this century. There was civil unrest. One king was beheaded outside the Banquet House in London. Cromwell died on a cold and dreary night. His body was embalmed and dressed as an emperor’s; then whisked away to be buried (due to a noisome stink). His son was considered weak, so King Charles II was returned from exile. After he died (a pretty horrible way to go, by the way, which I should probably tell you about one day) his brother took the crown but as a Roman Catholic, he lost it almost immediately and was pretty much kicked out of England. After almost two centuries of kings and queens in religious battles, by the end of the 17th century, true-blue Protestantism held sway. The rest is history (as I swipe at my sweaty brow)

During all these different reigns, there was a lot of Espionage.

King Charles II

King Charles II professed to be Protestant and returned to England with great pomp and ceremony. His new populace greeted him with exuberance along the roads and into London. Everyone who hated him last week, loved him today. 

Our new king was not a stupid man.  He understood people are fickle. He fully expected to be assassinated or beheaded as his father was. While in exile, his life was often imperiled. Men had conspired against him. One example: During the Cromwell years, his spymaster orchestrated a plot where Charles and his brother, James, were to be lured out of exile and back to England. The plot was to kill both brothers the minute they disembarked onto home soil. Thankfully this plot failed but espionage in England had turned really devious. 

Men in power used good spymasters. Cromwell’s was John Thurloe, a brilliant man. He created a network of spies (men & women) who infiltrated the most royal of houses. His net was vast. His spies could be located in every English county, overseas, i.e., in Charles II’s exiled court, in the Americas, and the far Indies. 

John Thurloe

Thurloe compiled lists, sent spies into enemy camps, had men tortured and killed. One such fellow, Samuel Morland, confessed to witnessing a man ‘trepanned to death’ at Thurloe’s word.  (Dictionary.com states the following definition to trepan:  a tool for cutting shallow holes [in this case the skull] by removing a core.”)  Really really painful and a horrid way to go.   

Commonwealth spies infiltrated homes, churches, and businesses to destroy the royalist enemy, and under Charles II’s, his government did the same.  Their goal was to destroy nonconformists, or “fanaticks”. Plots were a part of political life. 

After the Restoration, Thurloe was dismissed, but not executed for crimes against the monarchy (Charles I and II). He was released in exchange of valuable Commonwealth government documents. 

King Charles II placed Sir Henry Bennet as the Secretary of State and overlord of England’s espionage, who in turn brought in Joseph Williamson, another man born to this work. He took the bull by the horns and enhanced the processes Thurloe had begun. 

Joseph Williamson

Williamson built a brilliant spy network.  He allowed informers who, for money, turned on associates.  He burrowed spies into households, businesses and churches.  He used grocers, doctors and surgeons, anyone who would send him notes against persons who were against the king. He had men overseas watch for any plots. Informants were literally everywhere. 

His tools were numerous.  Williamson loved ciphers and cipher keys.  Known as Mr. Lee in the underworld, he used the Grand Letter Office for ciphered messages to pass back and forth between the undersecretary’s office and spies. He expected his people to keep him informed by ciphered letters at the end of each day, and passed through the post office. 

Williamson obtained ambassador letters, had them opened and searched for underhanded deceit. He developed a system of local informers, letters and money crossing palms.  Under Thurloe, the secret service received £800 per year. Under Bennet, the money doubled. Most of the annual budget was spent on spies to keep them alive. 

As a result, most plots failed. Besides Williamson’s expertise and doggedness, most plotters employed too many people. Everyone around the countryside knew of one plot or another, a family member probably involved. Because of Williamson, these plots dissolved before they were brought to fruition. 

Spies seem to be a part of every decade, every century. Today is no different but electronics have replaced ciphered notes sent to spymasters through the post offices.





Thursday, December 3, 2015

Following Your Passion by Diane Bator





When I was a kid, I'd write using my left hand. Each time I'd drop my crayon, my mom would put it back in my right hand. I'd switch to my left after a couple of swipes of color. Using my right hand just felt wrong and I "knew" what was right for me. Holding a pencil in my hand and telling stories became something that made me happy.

Fast forward several years. Writing with my right or left no longer mattered, just that I was writing. Being a writer seemed as natural as breathing. Stories flowed from my brain and through my pencils. Never once did I question whether they were good or bad, all that mattered was that I wrote. Writing made me feel free, happy, and like I had an amazing life full of friends and great adventures. Since I lived outside of a small town, the escape was a welcome distraction from everyday life.

Even when I moved to a larger city and went to college, I still wrote. In fact, I wrote right up until I got married. My husband had issues with me writing. He insisted it took time away from "us", even when he watched sporting events I wasn't interested in or when he'd be away from home. Writing had become an outlet, however, and I refused to give up my passion.

Over the years we had children and I wrote as they grew up, while they napped, while they were in school, and even while I cooked dinner. Eventually I ended up publishing my first book, then wrote many more after that. Then my husband gave me the ultimatum:  I needed to get a better job and quit writing. I was crushed.

Since that day, I've kept writing. In all, I've written six novels and one novella. I have three more to write in the next year to finish one series and start a new one. I'm actually seeing small royalties and have fans from all over, including acquaintances I've met over the years and family from all over the country. I've never given up on my dream of being a published author.

I'm fortunate to have held jobs where I talk to people and have been a part of a writing group for several years now. Wherever I go, I wholeheartedly encourage people to follow their passions and do the things that light them up and make them happy. In short, to live an authentic life rather than pursuing things that make them miserable.

I've had to take a brief break from writing lately to deal with some major life changes. I also have some physical challenges to cope with. Through it all, I remain positive and will keep on writing the way I love to do. In fact, I have decided to dedicate a little more time to my creative side and focus on making my writing even stronger and learn to market my work even better.

To every writer, every where, and all the readers who give us something to strive for thank you and...

Merry Christmas!
Diane Bator

Please feel free to drop by my website Pens, Paints, and Paper  to find out more.
You can also find me on the Books We Love website.
Click on my book covers to find out more!


    


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

GRATITUDE - MARGARET TANNER


BEING GRATEFUL FOR SMALL THINGS - MARGARET TANNER

 

I am grateful for many things. Good health, happy family and fond childhood memories. The thing that really sicks in my mind when it comes to gratitude is the garden of my childhood home, and the produce grown there. To say it was life-saving would be an understatement.

My parents didn’t have much money when I was young. I didn’t really think that much about it at the time, but as I grew older I suddenly realized that my mother was a genius when it came to running the household on meagre amounts of money. She was also a great cook.

My father returned from the 2nd World War carrying injuries, the physical ones we knew of but not the psychological ones. He had a heart attack in the early 1950’s when I was very young, and he could no longer work. Things were tough as we had to survive on a small military pension. He should have received a much larger pension but somehow never did.

No matter how bad things got, we were never hungry or dressed in ragged clothes, and we had a roof over our heads. Luckily my parents had paid off our house before Dad got sick.

Dad had a wonderful garden and we were very thankful for the produce he grew there. Tomatoes were his speciality. He loved them and grew heaps of them. I can still remember the tomatoes, we ate them raw, in salads, cooked, fried, steamed. Green tomato pickle, tomato sauce, chutney, tomato relish. You name it, mum cooked it. She used to preserve tomatoes so we could have them all year long. 

Looking back on things now I realize I should be grateful for the humble tomato, it certainly kept our bellies full.  I can’t even recall how many different dishes mum used to make with tomatoes as a base.

Apples were another thing Dad grew well. We had about six different varieties of apple trees growing in the garden. Once again Mum, baked them, stewed them and preserved them. We used to pick them green sometimes and store them in the roof cavity of the house and they would ripen up there. They lasted for months. Potatoes were another one of his specialties. I firmly believe to this day that it was the garden that kept Dad sane. He used to spend hours there.

So, I am grateful for my mother’s cooking expertise and other housekeeping skills and my father’s gardening skills, otherwise life would have been grim.

My early upbringing has stayed with me and I think that is why I mainly write about heroines who are poor and doing it hard. I can’t remember ever having written a rich heroine in any of my stories. As for my heroes, well they are always rich, arrogant and tough men who are redeemed by a gentle heroine who is strong because she has survived the tough times.

In my novel, Falsely Accused, the heroine is exiled to the penal colony of Australia for a crime she did not commit. She has to survive the degradation and desperation of the convict ship, and once she disembarks, her problems increase a hundredfold.

Available in print and e-book format.


 Also available in e-book format at Books We Love Store

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

COLD WINTER, HOT WAR (BATTLE OF THE BULGE) by SHIRLEY MARTIN



PURCHASE FROM THE BWL STORE


By December of 1944, Hitler’s Nazi Germany appeared defeated, its once great cities reduced to rubble.  The British, Canadians, and Americans had freed France; Paris was liberated.  The Russian army menaced from the east.  Why, the GIs might be home by Christmas.

But Hitler had a few tricks up his sleeve, a plan to turn the tide in Germany’s favor.  Code named Wacht am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine), the plan would defeat the Allies by capturing the port of Antwerp, Belgium.  Aware he’d need increased manpower, Hitler extended the draft for males sixteen to sixty.

Here we should state the opposing chains of command.  As head of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces), Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was in command of all Allied forces in the West.  Under him, Gen. Omar Bradley commanded all of the American armies.  Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery commanded the British and Canadian armies.

In Germany, Hitler had absolute control of the German armies both in the East (Russia) and in the West.  Under him, he gave command of the German army in the West to Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, an aristocratic officer who held Hitler in utter contempt.

Bruised and battered from a recent battle against the Germans, several American divisions recuperated in the Ardennes, a forested area of gently rolling hills that borders France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.  This, during one of the coldest winters Europe had experienced.

Early on the morning of December 16, ‘44 (a Saturday) three German armies smashed through the American lines in the Ardennes.  The front of the attack hit four American divisions: the 4th, the 28th, the 106th, and the 9th Armored division.

That the attack caught the Americans by surprise was not due to faulty intelligence.  The British had broken the German code (ULTRA), and friendly Belgians had warned the Americans of increased troop and tank movements behind German lines.  As we would say today, the Americans didn’t connect the dots.

Numerous small villages, many of them inside Germany, dot the Ardennes.Villages such as Malmedy, Honsfeld, St. Vith and La Gleize will forever remain part of the historical record.

According to Hitler’s plan, once the Volksgrenadier (people’s army) achieved its breakthrough, Col. Jochen Peiper was to drive through the northern reaches of the Losheim Gap. Peiper was a handsome, well-bred SS officer who spoke fluent English. He was one of Hitler’s favorites. (After the war, Peiper was charged with war crimes, although he probably was not present when men of his command in Kampfgruppe (Battlegroup) Peiper massacred American soldiers who had surrendered with their hands up. He was tried and sentenced to die by hanging. Later, the sentence was rescinded, but he served several years in prison. In his later years, he died when left-wing terrorists burned his house down.)

Another of Hitler’s favorites was SS Officer  Otto Skorzeny.  Hitler gave him a specific task: sow confusion among the Americans.  Find as many soldiers as possible who spoke English, grab uniforms from dead American soldiers.  Confuse the Americans.  Soon, the confusion took a ridiculous turn, when even Eisenhower had to present his ID to Military Police.  Successful at first, changing signs and giving false directions, too soon German ignorance of American habits gave them away. For instance, a Jeep will hold four people. So didn’t it make sense to seat two in front and two in back?  But Americans didn’t operate that way.  One of Skorzeny’s men was flummoxed by opening a pack of American cigarettes. Those Germans who were captured faced the firing squad.

The American divisions fought bravely, but caught by surprise and outmaneuvered, they were forced back (west), eventually fifty miles.  Hence the title Battle of the Bulge; it actually made a bulge in the American line.  The 106th Division had to surrender, all 8,000 men.

The battle had its lighter moments. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein commanded one of the Panzer (armored) divisions. In the course of the battle, his division came into contact with an American field hospital.  There, he became so entranced with a “blonde, beautiful” American nurse that he dallied when he should have been moving.

At first, the Americans didn’t realize the magnitude of the German offensive.  Before long, it became obvious that this was a major battle.  Eisenhower called a meeting of his generals, those affected by the offensive.  Noting their glum faces, he told the men he wanted them to look on this battle as an opportunity.  He instructed Gen. Bradley to order Patton–fighting a separate battle farther south– to swing his army north to aid the Americans in the Ardennes.  When Patton protested to Bradley, and Bradley relayed the protest to Eisenhower, the latter said, “Tell him Ike is running this damn war.”  After that, Patton's Third Army fought bravely, making a huge difference in the fighting.

Within days, the Americans stopped the Germans at the Elsenborn Ridge, forcing them to take a less favorable route through the Ardennes.

Soon, the battle became a race for Bastogne, a major road center.  The 101st Airborne Division under Gen. Terry McAuliffe reached Bastogne first, but were soon surrounded by Germans. Under a white flag, the German commander sent a message to McAuliffe. Surely he could see he was surrounded; why not surrender to save further bloodshed?  To this, McAuliffe had a one word answer, “Nuts.”

By the latter part of December, the skies cleared, enabling the Army Air Force planes to find their targets. But the Germans didn’t give up easily.  It wasn’t until the end of January that the battle was over. Hitler’s gamble had failed.  Henceforth, it was referred to as Hitler’s last offensive.

Months of horrific fighting and many deaths loomed ahead. (One of the author's neighbors was killed while driving a truckload of ammunition that hit a mine.)

By May of ‘45, Hitler had committed suicide. (cyanide pill) The British, French and Americans held western Germany. The Russians held Berlin and the eastern portion of Germany, a division that would have tragic consequences in the coming years.  Germany faced utter defeat.  When one of Hitler’s generals asked von Rundstedt what they should do, the general  snapped, “Surrender, you fool!  What else?”

The Battle of the Bulge marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.  Although caught by surprise and outmaneuvered at first, initially driven back, the Americans soon recovered and fought bravely.  As Capt. Charles B. MacDonald relates in his excellent history of the battle, it was “A Time for Trumpets.”



I've written historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, so there should be novels and novellas to please just about everyone. My books are sold at Books We Love, Amazon, Snashwords, All Romance ebooks, Barnes and Noble, KOBO, the Apple IStore, and at other sites where ebooks are available online. Several of my novels are in print, and you can find them at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Please visit my website at www.shirleymartinauthor.com
I'm also on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Building a Fantasy World

Available in all ebook formats and
on amazon.com
by Kathy Fischer-Brown

While I never attempted to write one before, I am a big fan of the fantasy genre and I relied heavily on my experience as a “world re-creator” to build the alternate universe in my new fantasy adventure series. In my historical novels, I strive for believable settings, details, and mores to play a major role that adds believability and boundaries for the characters to act out their lives. For me this is one of the most challenging and enjoyable parts of the writing process, and I will add that for this book, it was more fun than I ever imagined.

Starting out, I wanted to avoid some of the common genre archetypes found in a lot of fantasy fiction these days (elves, orcs, dwarves, and “dark lords,” to name but a few). So I drew on my knowledge—and lots of research—of actual peoples and cultures and endowed them with other qualities.

In creating the characters that populate The Return of Tachlanad, I combined elements of our world and its historical past with those from my imagination. For example, one of the secondary characters, Ulunc, is a very young member of a species of known as Skaddock. These creatures somewhat resemble primitive hominids that roamed the earth in prehistory, but with a Stone Age skill set. Milith people, while having many traits common to elven types (without pointy ears), share certain “aboriginal” cultural attributes with many indigenous people from around the world, among them a matrilineal social structure and coming of age rituals. Nortlunders (mostly bad guys) are a mosaic of ancient Roman and Viking cultures, with their violence and lust for conquest. Lothrians are a mishmash of Celtic and ancient Britons, including some of their myths, legends, and druidic hierarchy. All with a bit of a twist.

Magic, is a strange power, and nearly always a component of fantasy fiction. While it exists in the universe in which my book is set, I tried to anchor it in a physical world, where Nirmanath, “the current of life,” is a tangible force, and things like the casting of auras, astral projection, potions that can cause amnesia (or death), and the ability to invoke one's own invisibility are possible. In this world the rumble of thunder is the roar of an angry god, and an old man with a living crystal can harness the power of the elements.

As with every author, the primary goal in writing any book is to create an entertaining story about likeable (and unlikeable) people dealing with adversity, love and hate, people the reader wants to cheer on—or boo and hiss at—people who undergo physical and emotional changes. A story about the human condition.



Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, and The Return of Tachlanad, her newly released epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of her books are available in a variety of e-book formats from Books We Love, and from Amazon and other online retailers retailers.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

TURKEY TALK, 1964





                                                   http://store.payloadz.com/go/?id=2357295



After 51 years of marriage, I still wouldn't dare claim all-knowledge. I have stuck with my own for a long time, and it continues to present enough twists, turns and drama to satisfy the need of any writer.   

This holiday season, I look back on small events now half a century distant. They were not as exciting as the life the young Hamilton's lived, with a revolution still to be fought and won. However, like the Paul McCartney song, these days I often feel like a "relic of a distant age." So here's my little newlywed's story:



The first turkey I ever cooked was in 1964. I was a young married, an ex-student, as was my husband. We were living in a dismal basement apartment in NYC, whose front window looked out upon the back of the building’s garbage cans. Needless to say, we kept the blinds closed. We shared a bathroom with some elder ladies who we never saw, but who, no matter how loudly I scrubbed the place after using it, would arrive soon after I'd left and vigorously wash the entire bathroom all over again. I suppose I can’t blame them, for lots of old people in the city lived in fear of their neighbors.

We’d managed to buy the turkey, a small one, although it took some financial planning to get the cash together, as I didn’t have a job. Only my husband, Chris, did.  As a nineteen year old with zero skills, it didn’t pay much and rent took the lion's share. As for me, I’d left the hospital I’d been working in back in Philadelphia and come to NYC in order to be with him. At the time, I was violently morning sick—to the 9th degree. I mean, Rosemary, in Rosemary’s Baby, had nothing on me! The only things I could reliably keep down were weird cravings: green pea soup, grapefruit, and sardines. Anything else—upchuck! Maybe that’s why the invisible ladies next door were so diligent about scrubbing our shared bathroom.

On the big day we cleaned up our turkey as I’d seen my parents do, slapped it in a big bakeware pan that we’d found in the kitchen, turned on the oven to 350 and then walked over to Broadway to see a little of the Thanksgiving Day parade. We were so far uptown that there wasn’t much to see, but there were bands and high school kids from out of town feeling really proud of themselves, and people wrestling with a couple of balloons—my favorite, Dino the dinosaur—being dragged about in the gusty wind. The other big event for me was seeing Fess Parker of Davy Crocket fame, waving and smiling from the back of an open car. Like a zillion children from my generation, he’d been my hero back in the fourth grade.  I’d wept while watching the Walt Disney show the night “Davy” died at the Alamo.

Image result for davy crockett coon skin hat
 

Now that little girl's life seemed incredibly distant. Chris and I looked at each other. We were married, pregnant and close to broke. Whether one or either of us would ever get back to college—and how the heck we would manage it--was still up in the air. Nobody’s parents were happy. With all this drama swirling, the parade, so very pointedly an event for kids, got boring fast. 

We turned and walked back through the wind and grimy uptown streets to our little pad. When we got there, the place was redolent with roast turkey and baked potatoes. The bird made snapping noises as the juice splattered about inside the oven, casting a smoky pall around the kitchen. We decided that this must mean it was cooked. Chris fetched it out, and lo and behold, it was done, all crispy, juices running clear. 

I was surprised because I was, for the first time in months and all of a sudden—genuinely hungry. It was quite a fine meal, our first Thanksgiving—meat, potatoes, squishy store bread and a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce. For a change, it went down and stayed there. 

Who knew I’d be remembering it fifty-one years later?


 

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...