Friday, May 22, 2015

Stories of Prairie People

I am fortunate to still have some of my family elders around with stories of past days on the prairie.  So when I heard a local publisher was putting together an anthology of stories from the depression on cream money and it's importance to local farmers - I had just the story to include.

It's hard to imagine what life would be like in a tiny town in the middle of the prairies circa nineteen-forty.  It's definitely another world and I'm so lucky to have someone whose been there entertain me with how it was.  Barefoot, windblown kids running free, racing trains and doing their part in supporting the family by wrestling those cans onto a train - a train that might still be moving.    Unbelievable now but reality then.

That was the story I was told and wrote for the anthology, Cream Money, which will be debuting this Saturday.

There are other fantastic stories by other authors, in fact a whole collection of true tales of another world on the prairies - long ago.  It's better than fiction because it's real and just as unimaginable.  Imagine digging a hole in the ground to live for a prairie winter.  Imagine temperatures that can go double digit below zero and be accompanied by harsh winds.  There are tales of survival, and if talking to our many pioneers is any indication, more tales of fun and adventure.  All of it is wrapped around the theme of cream money and how it helped those hardy pioneers survive the nineteen-thirties depression.  Check it out, there's lots of stories from other authors all compacted into one great book.

I'll be giving a copy or two of Cream Money away in the month of June - sign up for my newsletter to learn more.  E-mail and just put newsletter in the re line.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jim's Weight Training & Bodybuilding Workout Plan

It's been busy lately and I've slowed down on the books I occasionally review but some books you can't say no to.   Besides with a love of books and a passion for writing, I'm spending too much time in a chair.  Not only that but I discovered that the treadmill desk might not be for me - seems I get motion sick!

Moving on...

Jim Atkinson is a bodybuilder and fitness trainer who has written more than his share of workout and "get fit" books and each one that I've read has been fantastic and motivational.  Don't let the bodybuilding put you off - Jim's latest book will get you off the couch and keep you there.

Here's my review of his latest:

"If this book doesn't motivate and keep you on track to get in shape, bodybuilder or not, nothing will!  Written by a qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer, it is written in an upbeat, logical, and easy to read manner and gets right to the heart of bodybuilding addressing all aspects including health and nutrition.  The bodybuilding regime is explained and laid out with a full year's training plan, great reference guides for the various movements and an accountability chart to keep you on track.  I've read other great fitness books from this author and again I was not disappointed by either the easy to follow instructions, well-written prose or his knowledge on the topic of fitness.  While this book addresses bodybuilding and a more intense regime than some of his other books that I've read, it's every bit as motivational no matter what level you're at.  If you're looking for motivation combined with common sense advise on how to body build this book is for you.  If you're looking for motivation to get fit, this books for you too.  A great reference!

Check it out here.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hello World - Google Maps!

Yesterday we had one of those sweeping winds, the kind of prairie winds that rattle the bare trees and clear the dust off the sidewalks.  I'm not a fan of those winds but I suppose they have their purpose.   So it was into one of those hairstyle destroying winds that I found myself and where I soon wished that I'd at least worn a touque.  Why?  Because I discovered that a touque has more than one purpose:  A)  It keeps your head warm and B) It hides a bad hair day

The day began well enough, very early as it does when I'm wrapping up a story.  It means long hours and often many cups of coffee.  The day began just before five and, as I mostly do, I listened to a playlist again and again because -  I'm not really hearing it.  Instead I'm hearing the voices of my characters and the pulse of the story as it barrels to the end.

But finishing that last chapter is only the beginning of having a final story ready to head off anywhere.  The end takes me right back to the beginning and going through the story to pick out the obvious problems, clean it up and in a way, sew it up.  Then off it goes to my beta reader.  And then... well, that's anther post.

Yesterday, after I'd been in the world of fantasy for too long and I'd run out of people to annihilate...  Okay, it wasn't quite that bad but I needed a little fresh air.  Now at this point I've been in my basement office for most of the day but it was time to emerge and see what was going on.  So, without pulling a comb through my hair, and without a stitch of makeup, and still looking basement pale, and story sapped, I threw on a jacket, sunglasses - grabbed the dog and went.

Half way through my walk I see at a distance this little car with bright green sides and some sort of red contraption on its roof.  I think to myself that it's some pretty fine advertising and I continue on with my walk.

Routing around the neighbourhood and returning home, I come face to face with the little car and as it slowly drives by I turn to look at it and see what it's advertising.  It's one of those freeze frame moments as I realized that this isn't an advertisement, well maybe it is, there is Google on the side of the car.  But the thing on top is a camera and I'm looking straight at it.  It's the Google street view car.  It was a moment of horror when even the driver looked ominous.

At that point there was nothing to do but keep on walking and resign myself to the fact that I'd been  google mapped.

My only hope now is that they photoshop.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Harlequin Intrigue and The Call!

It's been a rather wild March not a surprising fact, for winter doesn't follow a calendar and these last few weeks it's still chucking a curveball or two.  But this March it's been more than that.  Some great things have been happening and I've been quiet here on the blog as truly, it didn't seem real until now.  So today I have news and I want to tell everyone.  And that's when I discovered that my website has a major issue so before I could do a blog post I had to spend the morning on a frantic run to get the website fixed.

Why frantic you ask?  Or maybe you didn't.  Yes, I know - get to to the news, and what this post is really about.  Today is my debut of sorts.  My romantic suspense sold to Harlequin Intrigue and today the story of my "call" is appearing on Harlequin's blog.  I discovered that this morning and I headed right over to my website to announce the event.  That's when I discovered the big blooper.  It's fixed now but its been a long morning that began, as usual, shortly after 5:00 a.m.  

So with everything again up and running -  check out the story of my call at the Harlequin Blog.  Hurry up, head on over because you know, I'm still so excited!

Click the link here to get to:

The story of my romantic suspense set in Malaysia and the CALL!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Morning After...

The weather report said snow showers. That was yesterday.  I admit, I had to google that.  What the heck is a snow shower?  I mean I knew what was going on out there, it looked like a small scale blizzard, biting winds that got stronger through the day and a steady pelt of snow that smeared the windows and made it look like there was a white haze between indoors and outdoors.  And on days like this, as all you winter babies know, nothing, not even modern heating systems, completely ward off the chill.

Even the snow kite race event was cancelled.  I figured that as the wind picked up, it would be a bonus for the racers.  Apparently not.   I think that's got to be amazing fun.  Just imagine, snow covered prairie and you attached to a kite that's skipping you across the drifts, launching you briefly into the air and back down.  Or not, I just imagined the potential face plant, or worse...

Anyway, here we are the morning after.  I'm going for my daily dog walk and the sidewalks are plugged with snow.  There are some that have been out early and others that match my schedule and are out blowing snow.  And then there's those that just want to sleep in on Sunday or worship or anything but get the snow off the sidewalk.  So I do the shuffle walk to clear a primitive path for the dog.  And when the drifts get too high, we stop.  I know what this means...with a sigh I pick up forty pounds of winter bundled dog and trudge through drifts deep enough to drown my much shorter companion.  A man drives by, slows, smiles, waves and carries on.  I imagine he thought he might need to be a good samaritan and then realized that we were doing just fine on our own.  Or maybe it's not often that you see a dog with boots and coat being carried through snow drifts.  But hey, when you've reached the grand old age of fourteen you deserve, occasionally, to get the royal treatment.

 A public path blown clear by someone - thanks!
So after our walk or snow slog - there's snow to be cleared, and after that, a path to be dug through the backyard, again for the dog.  Who said dog
ownership was easy?  Then clearing snow off the deck and away from the back door so it doesn't track in and... and...  Winter is definitely a project.  I remember a month ago, Arizona and yard maintenance seemed to mean nothing more than a man showing up with what looked like a leaf blower on his back and blowing the dust off patios.  Now it means, shovelling and shovelling and shovelling again...   And the humidifier is running just like it was down south because despite the snow, it's a dry kind of cold...take my word.

It was a day of cleaning out the yard of the white stuff and clearing out the story of the debris that has had me stuck for too long.  But that's the good thing about these cold winter walks, there aren't many distractions to ones thoughts, the traffic is light and the people outside are busy hurrying to get back in.

Today I'm shutting the door on the cold and the snow, and getting some work done... writing related that is.   And if someone, somewhere is enjoying a bit of sunshine and heat - maybe send just a tad, a pic even - my way.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Michelle Moran and Rebel Queen

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter comes REBEL QUEEN, the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi - India's Joan of Arc - who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.  

Enter to win a signed copy at the end of this post!

I'm excited to welcome Michelle Moran and her latest book Rebel Queen which is set in India.  As usual, Michelle has done extensive research in the country and has come back with some interesting stories.  I'll let her take it away from here.

With every book I write, I discover something about the culture I'm researching which completely blows me away, often because it's so unusual and something I've never encountered before.  In the case of my book, REBEL QUEEN, set in India during the British invasion, the concept of Janam Kundlis struck a chord with me, particularly since Janam Kundlis very nearly played a role in my own life and my marriage to my husband, who is Indian.

Also known as an astrological chart, a Janam Kundli is made by a priest for each child in India.  No one is sure when the concept of a Janam Kundlis came to be, but as Vedic astrology is several thousand years old, it's not surprising that my protagonist's Janam Kundli would have looked similar to my husband's, even though they were born more than a hundred years apart.  A person's Janam
Kundlis includes the details of their birth-time, date, planetary alignments.  It also includes other things which aren't so common in the West, such as that person's probable future career and who they were in their most recent past life (in my husband's case, a yogi!).

Reading a person's natal chart is serious business.  Once a person's Janam Kundli is created, they will keep that document with them for life, producing it when it's time for marriage.  Even today, Janam Kundlis are used to make prospective matches between brides and grooms throughout India, where the majority of marriages are arranged.   And woe betide anyone whose Janam Kundlis declares them to be a manglik, or a bad-luck person.  If that's the case, as it was for the famous Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, one of two options are available.  You can either marry another manglik, thus cancelling out your bad-luck status, or you can hire a priest to conduct a variety of ceremonies that will make it possible to marry someone who isn't a manglik like yourself.  This last option, however, is only available if the non-manglik person's family finds the risk acceptable.  In Aishwarya Rai's case, her in-laws obviously felt the "risk" was worth it, and in 2007 she married a tree before she married her husband, thereby cancelling out her bad-luck in this way.

Why a tree?  Well, this was something I very nearly discovered myself when my own Janam Kundli was made.  Apparently, like Aishwarya Rai, I too am probably a manglik, meaning marriage for me would most likely end in the divorce or death of my spouse.  I say probably, because my Janam Kundli was done online.  The effect, however, was very nearly the same.  Major discussions took place as to whether I would need to marry a tree before the wedding could proceed, or whether my Janam Kundli should be discounted since I am not, after all, Indian, and my Janam Kundli hadn't "officially" been made by a priest.

In the end, it was decided that my husband should take the risk and go for it.  I never had to marry a tree or even choose among a variety of clay urns for my groom.  Either option, apparently, is acceptable, as it's believed that a person's manglik dose can be cancelled out if the manglik person's bad luck is spent on the first marriage.  Thus, the bride first marries a clay urn or a tree, then either breaks the clay urn or chops down her tree-husband in order to become a "widow" (in some places, the tree is allowed to survive).  After this, the second marriage is ready to proceed without a hitch.

There are varying interpretations of this ceremony, and even though it didn't end up affecting me, a person's Janam Kundli can alter their destiny, just as I describe in the beginning of REBEL QUEEN.  It's cultural gems like these which make researching historical fiction such a pleasure, and it's these type of details which I try to include in each of my books.  As a writer, my hope is that they pique the reader's interest along the way, and as a reader, they are the sort of facts which help ground me in another place and time.

Michelle is giving out a pair of bangles she's brought back from India and a signed hard cover copy of Rebel Queen to one lucky entrant.  The bangles are all unique and won't look exactly like the ones in the picture.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Leave a comment and you're entered to win.  One entry per.   Good luck everyone!