Saturday, April 21, 2018

Spring in Seattle by Katherine Pym

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Driving in the Rain

Living in the Seattle area has its challenges. There is a lot of water, with lakes, the Puget Sound, and mountains clogging the landscape. Then there's gray skies and the rain. 

My son once said summer doesn't come around in the Northwest until July 4th. There's a lot of truth in that.

Rain comes in various forms a person gives little heed to or stops him/her in their tracks. “How’s the weather?” one will ask. “It’s spitting outside,” someone will answer. Or it’s a heavy mist where you pop your hoodie onto your head, or a fine mist where you don’t think of your hoodie. It doesn’t thunderstorm much, here. 

Goin' outside in the rain
Last winter/spring was rough and cold with almost 50 inches of rain from October to April. Furry moss covered everything. Mold streaked our car doors. This year hasn't been much better. The temps hardly move out of the 40's (4-10 Celsius). It makes for beautiful flowers, but you really can't enjoy them with the rain constantly pelting.

In the 50’s (12'ish Celsius) and the sun is out, people emerge pale and wilted from their houses. We take deep breaths and turn our faces toward the sun. We yank out shorts from the bottom of the drawers. We wear socks and sandals. We dig out our short sleeved shirts and despite the cool breezes, plunge into the bright but decidedly chilly air. 

The sun is out. Shorts are on, despite the cold temps.

In the 60's (18'ish Celsius) it’s time for me to fling open the doors and windows, sit outside in the sun and enjoy the Northwest beauty. I sit on a chair on the patio with a cup of tea and breathe in the fresh pine. I admire the blooming rhoddies, the peonies, watch the hydrangea burst into bloom. I listen to gentle robin song or wonder what the raucous crows are arguing about. 

Yes, after a hard winter as we’re still experiencing, this is what I enjoy the most about spring in the Northwest.
Flowering hydrangea

Many thanks to Wikicomons, public domain.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

California Springs

As a child in California, spring came early to the East Bay, thirty miles east of San Francisco. The fogs and rains of winter, where the temperature dipped down to nearly below fifty degrees (burr), had passed and the warmth of spring brought out the sun, birds, and insects.
Author, 1956?, Easter in California

School was soon over, and we ran through the fresh grass. The ice cream/snow cone truck would play its jingle and we'd ask for a dime to buy and fill our mouths with that sweet sugar. The neighborhood kids would gather to play Freeze Tag, or Hide and Seek.

Before we had a dryer, my mother hung out the laundry as soon as spring came, putting away the drying rack that sat before our heater in our home's narrow hallway. My most vivid memory is the dragonflies that landed on the clothes line, their orange and green wings sparkling like jewels when the sunlight hit them.

My mom would soon plant her garden and we've have fresh, tangy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. Her gardenia plant would bloom and we'd smell the flowers' heady, perfumed scent.

My towering father, who commuted into a city for his job at a radio station, would change his long-sleeved shirts for short sleeves, and barbeque on the patio he'd built.

After marriage, when I lived on tropical islands, Puerto Rico and Guam, every day was the same as far as weather (sweltering); unless the occasional hurricane or typhoon blew through.

Now I live in Western PA to be closer to my granddaughters. I took this picture on April 3rd, and there is snow on the ground. It's snowed twice more, and snow is predicted for next week.
When I think of spring, it's those California days of warmth, no humidity, the laughter of my friends and the jingle of the ice-cream truck. Playing cowboys with my brother (now deceased) and other kids on my street, climbing trees, catching crawdads in the creek, my parents young and healthy, the innocent times of children.
In New Brunswick, Canada, where my Brides book is set, spring comes even later. I read that when the ice in the rivers break up it's like an earthquake. For a California girl, I understand that experience.

Night Owl Reviews gave my historical novel a Reviewer Top Pick:
'Historical romance readers will fall in love with both Amelia and Gilbert. "On A Stormy Primeval Shore" was a fabulous tale of life and hardship in historical Canada.'

Blurb: In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to New Brunswick to marry a man chosen by her father. Amelia is repulsed and refuses the marriage. She is attracted to a handsome Acadian, Gilbert, a man beneath her. Gilbert fights the incursion of Loyalists from the American war to hold onto his heritage. Will they find love when events seek to destroy them?
E-book and paperback are available at Amazon and All Markets

For more information on me and my books, please visit my website:
Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Keeping Your Reader in Your Historical Novel by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

Keeping Your Reader in Your Historical Story

As a historical writer it is important to make sure that you use the words of the period you have set your book in. For example if your story is set in the 1500s you could use the word hugger-mugger when talking about a sneaky person who is acting in a secretive way and elflocks to describe messy hair. Jargoyles meant that a person was puzzled about something in the 1600s while in the 1700s a person who was out of sorts was grumpish. In the 1800s people would have felt curglaff when they jumped into cold water and a man going for a post dinner walk while smoking his pipe was lunting. In the early 1900s a person who was drunk was referred to as being fuzzled.

Of course, it is important when using those words that the writer somehow explains what they mean such as, if a man said he was going for an after lunch lunt, the person he was talking to could reply. “I don’t have my pipe and tobacco with me today.” I feel that writers who use terminology from a different era or words or phrases from a different language without clarification are trying to impress the reader with their vocabulary and intellect. Speaking as a reader, for me what they are really doing is making me angry and interrupting the flow of the story. I am jolted out of the lives of the characters and into my life as I try to process the meaning of what was written.

As a writer you want the reader to be so caught up in the story that they don’t want to put the book down, you don’t want them to throw the book across the room because they don’t understand what has been said or done.

Another important aspect of writing historical novels or even novels set in past decades is to make sure that you do have the characters using devices that hadn’t been invented yet.

The ball point pen came into use in the 1940’s so you can’t have someone signing papers with it in the 1920s. The Charleston dance was introduced in a movie in 1923 and caught on after that, so a story set before that time could not have party-goers dancing it. While the computer was invented during World War II, it didn’t come into commercial use until the 1950/60s and personal use until the 1970/80s. Don’t have a person make a phone call before March 7, 1876, which is when Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone and don’t have someone send a text on a mobile phone in the 1970s.

It is important to do your research when writing a novel set in the past, no matter what the year.

More historical words:

In the 1590s beef-witted described something as being brainless or stupid.

In the 1640s callipygian described a beautifully shaped butt.

In the 1650s sluberdegullion meant an unkempt, drooling person.

In the 1950s two people making out in the back seat of a car were doing the back seat bingo.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Did Someone Say Spring?

I love spring. 
photo © Janice Lang 

I hate spring. 

My feelings are about as ambivalent as the weather here in Central Connecticut. Winter is my least favorite season, so it goes without saying that come the Vernal Equinox, I should be jumping for joy. The days are longer (Daylight Savings Time notwithstanding). There’s even a change in the quality of the light, warmer, brighter. Snow drops and crocuses, which often make their first anxious appearance in late February (only to disappear again and again under mountains of wet, heavy snow) are now blooming. Finally. Daffodils and irises are forming buds. Peonies are pushing up through the soil. At this time of year, the snow doesn’t linger very long. Still nights can get pretty cold, making for treacherous walkies when the doggie needs to go out for her “last whizz” before bedtime.

As T.S. Eliot said in The Waste Land, April is the cruelest month. Being a Taurus and April-born, I used to take exception to that bit. But, no longer. In recent years, it’s as if Mother Nature can’t make up her mind. I remember Aprils with summer-like heat—90+ degrees—and Aprils when it seemed as if Old Man Winter was having too much fun to step aside. This year is the latter.

Of Mark Twain’s famous adage, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait five minutes” he knew what he was talking about. He lived for a time in Hartford, not far from our home. Speaking of Twain, he also said the following:

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, “Don’t you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day.” I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity—well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor.

Come May, the weather should begin to settle down. We are gardeners here, grow veggies and herbs, some of the tender variety. So we wait until the last threat of frost is gone, usually by Memorial Day, at which time my husband optimistically opens the pool for the season. Some years we take a chance, if the temps are what we used to refer to as “seasonable” to plant our zucs and cukes, peas, tomatoes, and peppers a bit earlier. Alas, these early plantings are becoming a thing of the past.

Frankly, there is no such thing as spring in Connecticut of the kind I remember from childhood. We go from winter straight to summer. This always catches us off guard. One day we’re bundled in thermals and thick socks, boots and parkas, the next day we’re scrambling to find shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

My memories of spring from an earlier era are fond ones. My mother loved lilacs and planted them in a row along a rail fence in our yard. When ours bloom around Mother’s Day, the heavenly scent speaks to me in my mother’s voice. The colors of spring, that new green and the red and yellow casts around the maples and willows against an otherwise stark landscape make me nostalgic for my younger days when the seasons knew their place.


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 latest release, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Authorpage or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon. Look for Where the River Narrows(Quebec), book 12 of the Canadian Historical Brides collection, with Ron Crouch, coming in July.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What Springtime Means to Me by Victoria Chatham

I have two favorite seasons, spring and fall. I appreciate winter on very few days through that season, and summer instills a laziness in me but spring and fall always have the feeling that something is about to happen. Springtime in the Rockies, at least here in Alberta, is late this year. We’ve had some sunny days that have offered a promise, then another storm has blown in. It’s like taking one step forward and two back.

Springtimes of my childhood in England are still fondly remembered. It was a hive of activity with
my mother flinging open all the windows and washing everything in sight whether it be sheets and blankets or curtains and walls. At five years old mine was the task of sitting on the top of our garden wall and watching for the train as we lived quite close to a track. This was after I was fitted with my first pair of glasses and could actually see that plume of white smoke in the distance. Along with the smoke came dust, dirt, and cinders, so it was crucial to get all the washing off the line before the train passed by, so it wouldn’t require washing again.

Pussy Willow
Then there was the way the buds fattened on the trees before bursting into life, lambs in the fields and a freshness to everything. As American robins are the harbinger of spring in this part of the world, I remember cuckoos filling that role in England. Now, sadly, cuckoos are rare and less likely to be heard or seen. All the springtime flowers peep out from beneath hedgerows, the pale primrose and golden aconite with sprinkles of snowdrops here and there. 

My all-time favorite springtime wildflower, though, is the bluebell which fills woodlands with a carpet of blue and the most wonderful, heady scent.

Bluebell Wood
In England, I was a gardener. Here, in Canada, I potter at best. When I first had a garden here, I quickly became aware of zoning and a short, frustrating, growing season. My life changed and no longer included a garden of any kind. But I still enjoy the spring when it does arrive, joining the cats on the deck to enjoy the warming a sun and hopefully, the future of long, lazy days.