Friday, March 31, 2017

CROSSWORDS=CROSS WORDS for Priscilla Brown

For more information and to purchase this contemporary romance,

In Hot Ticket, Olivia deciphers four cryptic crossword clues in the four minutes Callum takes to make her latte;she is the only character in my novels whose crossword interest is even peripheral to the plot. In a couple of my other stories, newspapers open at the crossword page appear in characters' living rooms, but merely as detail adding to their lifestyle background.

Personally, however, I am seriously challenged by cryptics. As a writer, words are my tools. Why, therefore, can't I come anywhere near to solving these brainteasers? I'm confident I have a good vocabulary and general knowledge, and straight or quick crosswords don't usually cause me to metaphorically tear my hair. But my cryptic failure annoys and frustrates me. In an effort to overcome this, I attended a four-hour course for beginners on tackling the beasties. Seventeen hopefuls braved the outside 40 degree (Celsius) heat to welcome the inside airconditioned classroom, where only our brains began to fry.

I always thought 'wordplay' was what I did with my writing, playing with words, moving them around, adding, amending, deleting. This attempt to construct or reconstruct a sentence, paragraph, chapter, and the whole novel manuscript into sequences of words is intended to best convey the story line in my head, and to offer significant emotional experiences for readers. I learned that in the cryptic crossword world, 'wordplay' is in itself a kind of puzzle which presents assorted techniques useful as guides to the solutions. So that is a bit like how I work as a novelist.

Our excellent tutor in this class took us through these techniques, with comprehensive handouts including mini crosswords each exemplifying a different technique. Of course, in these, we knew which was required; in real crosswords, solvers may be able to make an educated (or more likely in my case, uneducated) guess as to which the compiler is utilising, but nothing can be said to be certain. Not terribly helpful!


During the ten-minute tea break, we discussed conundrums we had come across in cryptics,and all were relieved to know we are not stupid and not alone in our ineptitude at unscrambling clues which appear utterly meaningless.

After the class, I finished the small crosswords remaining in the handouts (with answers); instead of trepidation and bafflement at the sight of a cryptic, I am beginning to apply what I learned. I have a long way to go before I can make sense of clues like rotten egg - take it back which initially indicates to me that I should reverse the order of the letters, resulting in nonsense. In fairness, there was more to this clue concerning hens, who surely do not want any egg back.

I need to work on a different way of thinking, to suspend the habit of thinking like a 'quick' puzzle solver and to re-orient my brain into a lateral direction. But right now I'm going to return to my novel in progress, where the wordplay is in control!

Successful puzzling from solver-in-training Priscilla

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eighteenth Century Laundry Day



by Kathy Fischer-Brown

In my last post I discussed some of the more fascinating aspects of researching and writing historical fiction. You might even remember my mention of how incorporating details from the research into the writing helps bring the period and setting alive for me as well as for the reader. These details also go a long way toward keeping the characters in their place and time—and the author from creating annoying anachronisms. These aspects of dress, furniture, food and its preparation, travel, and accomplishing the day-to-day tasks, which we today might take for granted, are among those little motes that add to the “feel” of the time.

This has never been more true when you consider how laundry was done back in the mid- to late 1700s. Here in the early 21st century, tossing a load of wash into a machine (top loading or the newer, more efficient front loaders), adding your choice of liquid or powdered detergent, softener and whitener is pretty much a no brainer. The cleansing agent even comes with its own handy measuring cup; temperature settings involve nothing more than the turn of a dial (or press of a button), as does the size of the load and water level. In many cases, you can even choose an extra rinse or spin. When the load is finished, the machine beeps, lest you’ve gone on to something else in the 20-or so minutes it takes for the cycle to complete and let it slip your mind. Then you toss the whole mass of t-shirts, socks, towels, and what-not, into the other machine; add a dryer sheet; set the temperature (for wash and wear, permanent press, or delicate); flip the switch; and for another 30-40 minutes you can play ball with the dogs in the yard, run to the supermarket for those much-needed ingredients for your mid-week supper, or catch up on the latest episode of the TV show you’d DVR’d the night before. (Or on my case, you research some more and/or write.)

Even with these modern conveniences as a part of my life, I hate doing laundry. But while writing the opening scene of Where the River Narrows, my contribution (along with Ron Crouch) to BWL’s “Canadian Historical Brides” series (Quebec), I realized just how lucky I am.

First, consider how difficult a task it was to schlep and heat enough water to wash bed linens, under garments, shirts, tablecloths, and a host of incidentals for a considerably sized family and their servants. Consider also that “wash day” (with these and other complications) was more likely a monthly affair rather than the two- or three-times a week event here in the present. And then consider that, even as it was an all-day, coordinated event, it had to be done, and was done in all seasons and all weather.

From an interesting site (http://www.woodvilleplantation.org/Schedule/laundry_day_18th_century1.pdf) I found when looking into this aspect of the life of Elisabeth Van Alen (the book’s heroine), I found the following:

Water would have been carried to the boiling cauldron in buckets carried on the shoulders with a yoke. Assuming that each of these buckets holds 2 ½ gallons, the laundress would be able to transport 5 gallons per trip. … The boiler used to hold the heated water generally held 20-40 gallons of water per individual load, thus requiring a minimum 4 trips per load of laundry. (Not including 10 more gallons for the scrub and rinse water!)

Fortunately for Elisabeth, her family home is situated on the Mohawk River, with a creek flowing down from the hills on the east side of their house. But this little treatise from the Woodville Plantation in Bridgeville, PA, also points out that fire was vital to heating this water, along with the trials and tribulations of amassing enough wood:

Generally on wash day, the laundress and her crew would awaken at 4:30 AM in order to gather wood and prepare the fires used to heat the water. On an average day, cooking fires would require approximately 30 large pieces of wood to prepare all three meals for the day. The amount used on laundry day would most likely be double that amount, or 50-60 large pieces of wood. Laundry fires were generally larger, and the heavier, knotty wood chunks that were unsuitable for the controlled cooking fires would have been used during the laundering process. Assuming that a large piece of split wood weighs approximately 3 pounds, an 18th century laundress would be required to move 150-200 pounds of wood, prior to even beginning the task at hand.

Then there was the matter of soap. Or the lack of it. And getting out stains (no miracle spray leave-on-and-throw-in-the-machine wonders). 

Commercially-made soap could be bought, but it was very expensive and not always available, especially out on the New York frontier in 1774. So, this was something that was made at home (along with candles) from animal fats and the accumulated ashes from the fireplace(s). Lye was caustic and not easy on the hands, to put it mildly (no pun intended). But it did its job well. This concoction was added to the “copper,” usually a large pot that would also double as cooking vessel, which was placed over the fire built from those unwieldy logs lugged in for the purpose and those 30-40 gallons of water hauled from the creek. It was a hot and sticky job, agitating the contents with paddles, then extricating the steaming articles, rinsing and wringing them before setting them to dry. 

The favored method of drying was to spread the wash on low-lying bushes in the sun, or laying them out on the grasssomething about the effects of chlorophyll. (Remember, this description is about what it was like during clement weather; imagine doing laundry in the depths of winter!) There were clothes lines back then, but the clothespin hadn’t yet been invented. And when everything was dry, there was the task of smoothing out the wrinkles.

The iron was an item that not every household could afford. And even if they could afford an iron, they would have to own at least two. These were flat-irons or “sad irons” (from the word “solid,” which is exactly what they were). Heavy, cumbersome beasts, they demanded to be kept close to the fire to stay hot. Which, in turn, led to the unfortunate eventuality of their picking up soot and grime, and…you guessed it…smearing smudgeif not burning holes—over the stuff you just spent the better part of the day sweating and and toiling over to get clean. One innovation of the time was the box-iron, which happily did away with scorching. These irons had a hinged door on the back and were fitted with an iron insert that could be kept hot and swapped out with another to prevent burning your linens. More common though—and a lot less hazardous—was the linen press: a table with a parallel board attached, which, when the screws were tightened over folded linens, did the job just right without hot slugs and scorching irons.

Starching was also done, a task that I am most thankful has lost its popularily. But they did it on a common basis. Without Niagara Spray Starch. Instead, they used water collected after cooking potatoes. (Fascinating how they made ample and varied use of pretty much everything they raised, produced, or created with their hands.)

Most well-to-do families of this period employed servants to do laundry and other menial chores, but Elisabeth’s family lives under extenuating circumstances. These compel her not only to supervise but to take charge and participate in many a mundane task, such as laundry, and organizing the family's meager staff. Qualities that will serve her well later on in the story when the American Revolution turns her world upside-down. When her home and lands are confiscated by Rebels, she and what remains of her family, is forced to flee to Canada. And as Shakespeare once said, “Thereby hangs a tale.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey into the past. Please check out the first installments of Book We Loves “Canadian Historical Brides series of novels. Comments are always welcome :-)

~*~
Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan’s Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad, her 2016 release, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon, Kobo, and other online retailers.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Master Passion--From the Cutting Room Floor

I wrote and rewrote A Master Passion for a period of fifteen years, ending with a novel well over a 1000 pages long. Some scenes, especially those in the beginning which dealt with the far less well-known Elizabeth Schuyler, were cut. This scene, telling us more about the future Mrs. Hamilton, was among the ones that fell by the wayside.



Buy the Book


"Of all the dead old white dudes on the money, Hamilton is the one I can tell you the least about...Waldron's book changes all that..."   5* Amazon Review 

Tench Tilghman had come north, an emissary from the Continental Congress, to attend a parley with the Indians.  General Schuyler and the Americans wished to obtain assurances of neutrality before a war with Britain broke out. 
            Today, though, as if there was no great war threatening, Tilghman and a group of young Albany gentry were on a picnic to the falls at Cohoes, which he had been told was "one of the notable sights of the region."  The Colonel accompanied Betsy in a climb to get a close look at the falls.
             The path Miss Schuyler elected was surprisingly bad. There were rocks to scramble over and around and briar patches to negotiate, but she seemed to enjoy this sort of rough ramble. At first he had wondered if this was one of these female ploys which would end with her leaning on his arm.
            Pray God I will not have to reveal my wretched state to another coquette in search of a husband.
          However, he soon learned that this dainty young lady could more than kept pace with him. Their way was almost vertical, frequently necessitating an undignified down-on-all-fours attack.  The way she'd brought him up, agile and uncomplaining as a boy, demonstrated that she'd made the climb many times.  
          Her stockings flashed, revealing the outline of pretty calves as she scaled the last rock.  Tilghman, following her, had the insouciant thought that the "best view" might possibly be from exactly where he was. 

          At the breathless top, they paused, panting,  and admired the view. Tilghman experienced an unexpected rush of pleasure. The young woman's easy manner almost made him feel he was in male company--almost.
           
          "Come, Colonel Tilghman!" Betsy shouted over the noise of falling water.  "Here's the place I spoke of."

            When he reached the height, he found himself a bare arm's length from enormous quantities of green water hurtling over a narrow lip of stone.  Falling, it became a spectacular white veil.  The ground beneath his feet shook alarmingly.
            Beside him on that rocky shelf, Betsy dropped to her knees, then stretched out on her stomach to get as close as possible to the roaring water. 
           "Do come!"
            Thunder vibrated beneath them.  The quick climb, vertigo from the height, the sight of a lady young stretched at full length on the ground--and suddenly, he felt giddy.
           The wind shifted and spray blew into their faces.   Betsy turned and smiled, a dazzling flash against her nut-brown skin.
            

            Later, they withdrew to a less precarious and quieter spot, a rock farther away, but one with a good view.  Tilghman shaded his eyes and gazed west.  Forest stretched away on the other side, an endless pine blanket.
            Below, on the other side, their horses were in clear view.  Secrets, concealed from those below, appeared plainly.  A kissing couple, concealed from the others, attracted their gaze.
            "Oh, wonderful!" Betsy laughed and then covered her smile with one hand.  Tilghman had hitherto imagined such behavior to be the prerogative of the male.  “They were made for one another, but," she added, suddenly serious, "we ought not to spy."
            Tilghman nodded, something at a loss for words. In the south, young ladies would pretend to see nothing of the indiscretion taking place below.  
            "They're both Greens." 
             Tilghman didn't understand what this meant exactly, but he realized that what they witnessed, far from being a charming indiscretion, was the outcome of some long-laid Albanian dynastic plan.  Nevertheless, it was yet another jarring moment, as stimulating as anything he'd felt during his recent visit to the Oneida camp. 

            These Northerners--both red and white—were so--frank! 
           "The sky west is marvelous." Betsy led his gaze away by pointing at the towering clouds of summer, now parading slowly overhead.             
           And it is always a lady's prerogative to change the subject...
            "Yes, indeed, although I fear from the look of those we’ll soon have rain."
            "Later today, certainly.” Betsy smiled up at him. "We shall have to start back soon." Then this charming daughter of the north solemnly posed one of the most amazing questions Mr. Tilghman had ever been asked by a proper young lady.
             "Why is it, Colonel, that you don't try to kiss me?"
               Tilghman felt the sting in the question, yet he could see that it was asked  dispassionately.
            Would any Maryland girl, or any sophisticated Philadelphia flirt, say that?  In Baltimore, in Philadelphia, such a line would be delivered behind a fan, the girl’s eyes snapping with mischief and daring him to come on.
            In her tone he detected only curiosity and a certain melancholy. There was not a hint of flirtatiousness.
            "Well, certainly, I want to—ah kiss you.” He struggled after a chivalrous answer.  "As much as any man wants to kiss a lovely lady."
            Betsy sighed as he bent over her hand.  Apparently the sight of her two Green cousins kissing had put her in a confidential mood.
            "Don't tell tales, Mr. Tilghman.  My sisters are lovely. I'm just 'good-tempered Betsy'.  That's what all my cousins say.  They skate with me, they dance with me and play hide and seek, but they don't pull me behind the curtains at parties.  Or, if they do, it's just to ask whether Angelica fancies them."
            Tilghman did have blood in his veins, so, at the sight of her pensive face, he caught her close and kissed her.  What he received in return was very sweet, so sweet, in fact, that it was far  harder to break off than he had anticipated.
            "You, Sir Marylander, you kiss exactly like my cousins."  Miss Schuyler stunned him again. She bobbed to pick a tiny red and gold spray of Indian paint brush which she then carefully tucked into a buttonhole of his blue jacket.
            Before the astonished Tilghman--he'd never before endured a critique--could find a reply, the astonishing young lady added, "I heard you were pretty warm with those Oneida girls after the pow‑wow."
            Then, before he could collect his wits, Tilghman watched a flash of green and white calico whirling away. 
            "Miss Schuyler! Wait!"
            He soon caught up with her.  The girl's big black eyes--curiously like those of the Oneida girls--were bright with tears.
            Tilghman knew his face was scarlet.  As discreet as he'd thought he’d been, somehow this little northern lady knew what he'd done.  Worse--and again, absolutely unlike her southern sisters--she'd actually dared to remark upon it!
            "Never mind, sir." Betsy lifted her chin proudly. "Most of the men around here had an Indian wife in their trading days.  Even my Papa."
            Tilghman's sensibilities reeled.  Such plain speaking! His throat closed, and suddenly he had to cough and fumble for his handkerchief.
            "Please excuse me, Colonel." Betsy now too seemed embarrassed, "You must think I am--"
            "Not at all.” With a great effort, he managed to reply with only the slightest smile.  "You are simply candid, Miss.  I must say, however, that hypocrisy is more the fashion in my country."


            



~~Juliet Waldron


See All my Romantic Historical Fiction at:


https://www.facebook.com/jwhistfic/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Monday, March 27, 2017

Emotional Involvement in a Story by Connie Vines

Check out Connie Vines Books We Love author page for her books http://bookswelove.net/authors/vines-connie/

Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?

For romance novelist the emotional involvement is the 💖 of the story.  Whereas fear would be the emotional of a horror story, etc.

So, like so many other romance novelists of my era, I have one key movie and one key television series which spelled out emotion in capital letters.


  • The opening of the movie Romancing the Stone, where author Joan Wilder (played by Kathleen Turner) is bawling because she has finished her book with a very emotional scene in her book. 
  • The television series,  Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Pearlman (as Vincent, the beast).  The opening music was enough to make my throat thick and my eyes teary.

 I've read meany books that brought me to tears (Jane Eyre, to name my favorite), and I must admit, I still cry when I re-read scenes in my own novels, too.  Talk that dark moment in Lynx, Rodeo Romance, Book 1, when Rachel turns down Lynx's proposal.  Or in Brede, Rodeo Romance, Book 2 when my heroine is willing to sacrifice her life to save Brede and his daughter.  Well, you get the picture , ,

I plot my novels and short stories, however, I emotionally live my scenes.  Since my settings are places I have lived or visited, I have memories and sensory reactions. In real life, since  I can feel other people's emotions, which is difficult at times, and it helps for me to write it out through my characters.

Emotional draining? Yes.
Rewarding?  Of course.

Please stop by and see what these wonderful authors have to say by clicking on the links below.

Happy Reading!

Connie







At the MATSURI Japanese Festival - by Vijaya Schartz


Damsel of the Hawk, standalone in
the Curse of the Lost Isle series
find it HERE
Since 1984, The Arizona Matsuri festival celebrates each winter Japanese culture and heritage, traditional and modern. The two-day event held at Heritage and Science Park in downtown Phoenix features the sights and sounds of Japan, art, crafts, music, dance and much more...

This year, I left my car to avoid parking jams and took the light rail to downtown Phoenix. Since trains are so prominent in Japan, it got me and my friends in the right mood. As if riding the famous Shinkansen minus the speed. Despite its futuristic looks, however, the light rail is no bullet train.

Having lived in Japanese communities in Hawaii and traveled all over Japan, I'm always glad to refresh my memories of the people, the culture, and everything Japanese, including the language.

The crowd came, and we had to make our way through lines of people, especially in front of the food tents.

So many things come from Japan, we tend to forget. From sushi, sake and beer, to anime, cosplay, bonsai trees, kimonos, and martial arts, we have adopted many cultural aspects of Japan. This is what we saw.

Kimonos are always popular. Some of these were real works of art, hand made, in rare silk, and intricately embroidered. Also popular the delicious foods, the tea ceremony, and the big drums. Did you know the ladies used to stick all kinds of implements inside the obi belt of their kimonos. At the festival, I saw many drumsticks sticking out of them.

 
This is a lovely picture of my friend Sue (on the left) with the group of Japanese folk dancers, getting ready for their appearance on stage. Notice the fans sticking out of the obi belts.

And here is yours truly, flanked by two formidable samurai in full armor. The sun and shadows of the overhead lattice and vines make it difficult to see them in all their splendor.

Of course, there was much more to see and do. I attended a storyteller show about the Shinkansen, introducing all the principal cities of Japan with their tourist attractions and culinary specialties. I also attended several martial arts demonstrations of Kendo, Aikido, Karate, and many others.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this special day.
Who knows, maybe someday I'll write a novel set in Japan, or in a Japanese-like futuristic society.

HAPPY READING!

 Vijaya Schartz
 Romance with a Kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
 Amazon - Barnes & Noble Smashwords


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Stonehenge—Legends and Fact, Tricia McGill

Find out about all my books here on my Books We Love Author page

The authors among us who like to write about past ages, whether it be fact or pure fiction, are universally research nerds. We must love the research entailed in writing time-travels and historicals, or we would never be able to proceed with our work. I’m in the process of re-working one of my older books and this brought to mind the subject of this post, as my characters pass Stonehenge on their journey to the west of England (Circa 450 AD).

Years ago, too many to think about, but let’s say a long time ago, on the way to the west of England with family, we passed Stonehenge where it stood in all its stark glory on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. I am ashamed to admit that I took scant notice of it back then as my interest in history was merely budding and it’s likely I had other things to occupy my young mind. From memory, the stones were not surrounded by any restrictions and I vaguely recall we left the car at the side of the nearby road, walked around, and near them easily. Many of the original stones have fallen or been removed by what can only be called vandals. Thank goodness contact by tourists and visitors to the stones has been prohibited since 1978.
http://britannia.com/history/h7.html

Sadly, no one in my family thought to take a photograph so I have no solid proof that I stood beneath these monumental stones and wondered how on earth they got there. This is one question that has puzzled historians for many years. There are numerous theories and a few myths surrounding Stonehenge. Despite its dilapidation and mistreatment by generations of thoughtless people it is still a sight no one visiting Britain should miss.

Stonehenge is situated in this vast plain, surrounded by hundreds of round barrows, or burial mounds. Will the mystery of who actually built it, and for what reason, ever be solved completely? Some say it is a sacred place, some say it is steeped in magic, some say it was honoured by the ancient folk who went to so much trouble to build it.

Its construction has been attributed to many different groups, but the most enduring conjecture seems to be the Druids were responsible. But then Druids did their worshipping in forests so why would they go to the trouble to trundle such large stones from miles away when they had no real use for them? Julius Caesar and other Roman storytellers wrote of a Celtic priesthood who might have been connected, but by that time the stones were already about 2000 years old. Then there is the guess that the site was started in the late Neolithic period around 3000BC and carried over to the so-called Beaker Folk who, according to archaeological finds, began to use metal implements.

The mystery of how the giant sarsen stone that weighed as much as 50 tons each got from the Marlborough Downs about 20 miles north of the Plain to their final destination, not to mention the moving of the bluestones, remains today. Modern studies have calculated that at least 600 men would have been required to just get each stone across obstacles on the route.

Around 2100BC as the Bronze Age made its presence felt in North/West Europe Stonehenge was dismantled and rebuilt on a more impressive scale, with two rings. It is thought the purpose was to record the cycles of the sun and moon (with accuracy) at summer and winter solstices. The sheer scale of Stonehenge suggests it was meant for some ceremonial practice.

On site, the sarsen stone had to be prepared to take the lintels along the top surface. The mind boggles at the enormity of this task taking place with none of the modern machinery at hand today. Levers were likely used to raise each stone until gravity ensured it slid into a prepared hole. Then, manpower was used to pull the stone upright. It is estimated Stonehenge was finally completed around 1500 BC.

We must not forget the legends surrounding Stonehenge. Being a romantic, I half believe this one as it involves King Arthur’s Merlin. The 12th century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth in his “History of the Kings of Britain” claimed that Merlin brought the stones from Ireland.

Okay the story gets a bit far-fetched when he claims the stones of the original Giant’s Ring were brought to Ireland from Africa (How? you ask) well by giants of course. The stones were located on Mount Killaraus where they had been used as a site for rituals and healing. King Uther and Merlin arrived in Ireland, arranged for the dismantling of the stones to be transported to Britain (by giants and magic) where they were erected in a great circle. This circle was in memory of 300 British noblemen who were massacred by the Saxon leader, Hengest, around the 5th century.


Speculation and experimentation will go on forever and no doubt there will be new evidence springing up in the future. We should not forget the aliens from another planet theory. As space exploration goes forward in search of a new planet for the human race to occupy, new answers may arise. I’m sad that I will not be here to learn the actual truth. But, who knows, I might be reincarnated by then. I only hope I come back as a scientist or space explorer.

Visit my web page for excerpts from all my books


Some of my books are now available in Print. Find purchase information
on my web page or my Books We love Author Page

THE TRIBULATIONS OF PRINCESS JASMINE by Vijaya Schartz

There is a cat in this story. Find all my BWL stories HERE My kitty cat Jasmine, a princess in my mind, has a dramatic story wort...