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Friday, October 23, 2015

Celebrations - October 23, 2015

This is the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, run by Lexa Cain and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits.

It has been a long and hard several months.  Make that years.  Disappointments, the realization that certain things are not likely ever to happen, learning yesterday that a job for which I had a phone interview, for which my interviewer was very excited, already had an offer out on it, but she had spoken to them and was pushing my candidacy.  (With an offer already out there.)

It is a good thing to go along and count your blessings, but sometimes you can't help feeling like someone standing at a gate and looking through the bars at a beautiful landscape that you can't enter, no matter how hard you try.

Sometimes you have to accept that and move on without wincing at the cliche'.

It's been a long haul and I am very tired.


I signed up for NaNoWriMo and will be finishing my first draft of book #3 in my Memphis Cycle  series.  The chunk out of the middle.  I will keep it completely separate from the rest of the book.  50,000 words will be a goodly number to allow me to weave the threads together and bring all the characters and their conflicts and joys together at the battle itself, then, skipping one day (already written) continue until they circle around and head for home.  That story has been chiding me for years, and I will, by golly, finish it.  It has some of my best writing in it as it stands.  That will be enjoyable

And - my top celebration - my 88 year old mother, one of two very great joys and blessings in my life, came through her hip surgery on Monday, is experiencing reduced pain, and will be moving into a rehab center that she likes, attached to a community she knows and has friends in.  The grinding pain is gone.

Mom's lack of pain and increased mobility trumps any sadness I'm feeling and, by golly, it's worth celebrating.  Here's to my mother.  And NaNoWriMo.

What are you celebrating?  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shining a Light on Our Ladies

We have been speaking of ladies for the past two weeks, and will continue throughout October.
A popular dictionary defines a 'lady' as: 
a :  a woman having proprietary rights or authority especially as a feudal superior
b :  a woman receiving the homage or devotion of a knight or lover
2a :  a woman of superior social position
b :  a woman of refinement and gentle manners

As we will see, the first definition was the original one.  Anyone who reads history will encounter the Ladies of the past, women of courage, power and determination.  The heroines of legend, their realities were even more powerful.

This week we meet:

Lavinia Wheeler (Georgia, 1864)

It is May 7, 1864 in Central Georgia.   In the town of Wheelerville lying a week's journey north and west of Atlanta in the shadow of the mountains, the magnolias are in full bloom, the cold winter has given way to spring, which is now shading into what promises to be a hot summer.   And War has come screaming into the center of the town and blown all memories of peace and heartsease away on cannon-smoke.  

The bodies of the slain lie in windrows along the grassy-banked roadway leading from the heart of town toward the gracefully sprawling white house.  The battle has moved south and east, but the sounds of pain and death echo in the air.  A Union surgeon pauses to take a needed break from the squalor and stench... 

          He stepped from dim cacophony into bright chaos, the pepper-sharp sting of drifting gunpowder catching at the back of his throat. He coughed, drew a deep breath, held it, and expelled it, feeling the sun-warmed air fill his lungs. It seemed, somehow, to lessen the noise behind him, screams, bitten-off curses and prayers. The dull rasp of a bone saw brought more shrieks, spiraling up higher than his ears could hear. 
          He grimaced and stepped farther into the sunlight.
          The fighting had been hot and furious along this roadway, the artillery hurling shells into masses of gray-clad bodies that had turned to make a stand and then fallen back under the assault. Now the dead lay in rows as they had fallen, beneath the shattered branches of an alley of willows that led up to a house that seemed to stand empty and somehow silent in the hectic sunlight.
He drew another breath and looked down at his reddened hands. He would have to wash them before he returned. It didn't matter what the others said, clean hands led to better results, and he needed everything he could find to tip the scales in favor of the lives he was trying to save. He would need to find water, to have a bucket brigade set up to bring it to the hospital tent…
          He turned to peer back over his shoulder at the hospital tent, caught a glimpse of the dim interior, more horrible than anything Dante could have conceived. He wouldn't return just yet. He needed the breather to give him some strength before he resumed command of the field hospital.
          He raised his head and gazed down the alley of willows, his tired eyes fixing on the gracious lines of the house set between them. A house would most likely have a water source. A house this size would have a considerable water source; he only needed to send some men to find it.
          Movement in the distance, somehow foreign to the carnage before him, made him pause to push his spectacles up on his nose and look more closely. Movement again, a flicker of color that resolved itself into a woman.
          He stared, saying the word to himself. A woman, here in the middle of hell.
          He could see her clearly now, the silhouette of a wide crinoline skirt, a small waist; a small woman, in fact, with a shawl draped over her shoulders. She was pale, disheveled, and clutching a bucket.
          He watched her stoop to give water to a wounded man, touch him lightly on the forehead with a movement that spoke clearly of grace and compassion. She rose again to give more water, looking around her with a sort of dazed pity.
          A lady, he thought.
          He could see the men on the ground motioning to her, calling to her, and she turned to offer more water before straightening again. She motioned to one of the orderlies, who had paused before her. He could see her lips move. The orderly, inclining toward her in an attitude of respect, turned, looked toward the tent, and caught sight of him.
          The orderly's expression eased. He turned back to the lady and spoke to her.
          As the surgeon watched, she set the bucket down, gathered her skirts and, after one last glance over her shoulder at the big house, turned back toward him, squared her shoulders, fixed her eyes on his, and moved resolutely toward him.
          He faced her, inclined his head to her, and waited as she approached him..

The surgeon has just had his first sight of Lavinia Wheeler, the owner of the town of Wheelerville. And Lavinia Wheeler, the descendant of Yankee merchants who settled in the growing city of Savannah, Georgia, has just finished her first experience of war, which had started with the large oak tree in front of her house exploding into splinters, followed her as she and the rest of her household who had not fled huddled in the root cellar and listened to the crashing and screams above them as it built to a crescendo and then faded to silence.

Lavinia is descended from merchants who sailed to the coastal city of Savannah and settled there amassing a fortune in trade.  As the only surviving child of her father, she manages the family's trading ventures, administers their holdings, and holds a position of respect in Savannah society.  She has watched the progress of the war, calculated the likelihood of Southern success, and sold the family's Confederate bonds at thirty percent below their face value, buying gold with the proceeds.  It has been a good investment.  But even gold fades before the realities of war.

          Lavinia gathered her skirts and set a foot on the stairs. "I've told Bathsheba to warm the sheets for you," Callie said behind her. "Heaven alone knows what we'd have done if she'd run off like the rest!" 
       Lavinia smiled wearily at her. "We'd have managed," she said. 
        "Just barely," Callie said. "The good Lord said we wouldn't be overcome, but He didn't say we wouldn't be beaten half to death before we triumphed. Well." Her expression softened. "Good night, Lamb," she said.
          Lavinia smiled back at her. "Sleep tight, Callie," she said, and went up the stairs to her bedroom.  She had moved into the large bedroom that her parents had once shared, leaving her narrow, whitewashed bed without a moment's regret. A large armoire stood against the far wall. She went to it and opened it and looked within as though it held in its shadows the key to her strength. 
        The shelves that had once held lavender-scented linens and petticoats were now crowded with pottery of all shapes and heights, all the colors of the earth. A forest of faces gazed back at her, and ranked before and behind them were ramekins, plates, cups, tankards, all formed of the earth, and all very, very old.
          She took the largest one and touched the rough glaze. One of the settlers had dipped this in the James River and drunk from it. He and his family had probably sat of an evening and gazed into the fire, and maybe set this jug on the hearth to warm the wine that was in it. It must have been a hard life, as she had said to General Stanley. Hard, exhausting, frightening at times. But surely, surely nothing like this time of trial that had overtaken her world and split it apart!
          She sighed and held the jug closer. Everything had changed so terribly that she felt lost. All the set phrases, all the carefully choreographed motions of life had broken down and fled before the maelstrom. Now it was important to bring some ceremony, some sanity back to everyday living. One clung to what was decent, one did what was right. But it was proving to be a strain.
Sometimes fairy godparents exist.  A Union general, touched by Lavinia's generosity, has given some orders, as Lavinia learns when she pauses to feed the estate's chickens the next morning.
        A lone horseman was approaching her across the lawn. The rider sat still and square in the saddle with only a slight motion of his hips cushioning the movement of his mount. The sun, hovering behind his left shoulder, turned him to a black silhouette against the bright sky. He paused, then touched the horse lightly with his heels. His mount tucked its chin in and ambled toward her.
         He drew rein before her. The tall chestnut mare, stretching down out of the sun to nuzzle her shoulder and then snuffle at her skirt, was firmly called to order and nudged sideways with a touch of the man's heel so that Lavinia did not have to peer up into the sun. He was no longer a shadow in the morning, but now the light picked out alarming details of brass, yellow braid, leather and steel. 
        A steel-sheathed saber was strapped to his saddle beneath his left thigh, and a carbine hung from a heavy leather strap at his right. His cap was adorned with a brass badge shaped like a pair of crossed swords, and the amount of yellow braid on his dark blue, high-necked jacket seemed to indicate some sort of rank: three rows of braid made a V just above his elbow, with three arcs of braid set above them. A diagonal stripe of red-edged yellow slanted across his right sleeve from the inner corner of his cuff to halfway up his forearm. A sling hid his left arm. 
        "Good morning, Ma'am," the man said, touching the leather visor of his cap with a gauntleted finger. His voice was deep and gentle, with the touch of a twang. "Is this the Wheeler house?"         She had been too busy staring to answer him; he repeated the question.She blinked, pushed her hair out of her eyes once more, and looked up past the row of gilt buttons and the slanted leather strap into a lively pair of hazel eyes that were subjecting her to exactly the sort of appraisal she had been giving him. The man's straight mouth quirked as his eyes warmed in a way that Lavinia instinctively understood.
         He was pleasant looking; Lavinia had no trouble applying the term 'handsome' to him. Her color rose. "Why-yes," she said. "Yes, it is." She added, "I am Lavinia Wheeler." 
        He nodded, slid his boot toes from the leather-hooded stirrups, swung his right leg across the cantle of the saddle, and dismounted. "Then Sergeant Major Asa Sheppard reports himself as arriving for duty, Miss," he said.  
       "What?" she gasped.

The Safeguard follows the story of the Southern Lady, Lavinia, through the final years of the Civil War as her people and the Safeguard assigned to assist her deal with skirmishes, slaughter, murdering renegades and suspicious irregulars under Lavinia's able leadership.

I am also giving away two signed paperback copies of The Safeguard.  Leave a note on the comments section along with your email address (which I will delete) and I will have a third party who does not write and is good at reaching into bowls to retrieve pieces of paper select the winners.

If you would like to read more about The Safeguard and my other books, visit my website at THIS LINK which will take you to The Safeguard.

Ladies to inspire and to enjoy:

This hop highlights other ladies of different times and different circumstances, all ladies indeed, all fascinating to follow:

Elizabeth Revill follows the life of Carolyn Llewellyn in her splendid Family saga that follows Carrie from her tragic childhood through to her time as a District nurse during World War II:


(Click below for the International links to the books)

My very special lady is Caroline Llewellyn known by her relatives and friends as Carrie and by her nursing pals as Lew (no first names for the nurses!)

For more enjoyable reading, click here: http://www.elizabethrevill.com/blog 

...And we have a Lady from Jane Austen's world:

Regina Jeffers
Regina Jeffers and her Regency characters...

Who has not enjoyed the stories of Elizabeth Bennett, daughter of a humorous gentleman and a scatterbrained lady, sister of four, witty opponent and resourceful, though proper protagonist?  Regina Jeffers takes us into the universe of Pride and Prejudice, opening sidelights, telling the tales of other characters who played a fleeting part, but have left the reader liking them and wondering where their paths will take them,

Regina Jeffers has spun wonderful stories to show us the ways those beloved characters have gone and the adventures that have followed them.  And she has just published the latest of her stories:

Elizabeth Bennett has said that Mr. Darcy is the last man she would want to marry.  ...But is he? Can Elizabeth Bennet come to terms with the fact the one man she most despises is the one man who owns her heart? Find out and win a giveaway book! 


Our Hostess speaks of Ladies who bore the same name - Edith - and shaped history:

Edith number one: the love of King Harold’s life – a woman who walked the battlefield at Hastings in 1066 to identify his mutilated body, and Edith number two, Harold’s own sister who despised him…

Click to buy I am The Chosen King 

Helen Hollick lives on a thirteen-acre farm in Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science-fiction and fantasy, and then discovered historical fiction. Published for over twenty years with her Arthurian Trilogy, and the 1066 era, she became a ‘USA Today’ bestseller with Forever Queen. She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, pirate-based fantasy adventures.
As a supporter of Indie Authors she is Managing Editor for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and inaugurated the HNS Indie Award.


* * *
Next Tuesday - Shining Light on some more Ladies! We meet a woman who walked a knife edge between the demands of her dangerous family, and those of her own conscience, King Arthur’s women and a former Praetorian Guard sent to Berlin to investigate silver smuggling,..

Come back and join us!

...and if you were not able to read last week's posts, here are the links

Hellen Hollick – Queen Emma of Normandy   ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.co.uk/ 
Patricia Bracewell   patriciabracewell.com/blog/
Inge H. Borg   devilwinds.blogspot.com/

 * * *


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lost In a Sea of Excellence IWSG, October 7 2015

Today is the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers' Support Group (click the words to visit)

The name of this group is the ‘INSECURE’ Writers Support Group.  I think joining the words ‘insecure’ and ‘writers’ is sort of an oxymoron.  I don’t know any writers who aren’t, in some way, insecure. 

They worry about (pick one or two or three): 

  1. Whether they really have any talent
  2. Whether people are going to buy their books
  3. Whether people are going to read  their books, even if they buy them
  4. Whether the beta-readers, editors, friends, fans, facebook friends, whoever, are saying good things about them just because they feel sorry for them
  5. Whether what little talent they have is fleeting and being corrupted by time, senility, work concerns, and general burnout 
  6. They see other writers and, if the others are halfway good, fear that they (the insecure, angst-ridden writer, I mean) will look like complete, talentless doofuses (‘doofi’?) and be required to repair to their private places of solace and fade out of public knowledge.

Well…  I’m overstating things, I admit.  But sometimes you have to, to make a point. 

I write Historical Fiction, sometimes with an alternative slant, sometimes with a touch of fantasy, often with a tinge of romance.  I actually read my own books (after a year or so has passed) for enjoyment.  I published fairly late after being shelved for fifteen years due to the actions of an agent who features rather prominently in Preditors and Editors.   

I look around and see fabulous people, traditionally or independently published.  I see a torrent of talent, wondrous works of imagination, humorously, delicately, rowdily written.  Literally works of art.  They are wonderful.  And I look at my own and see…  What?  Am I too close to be able to see? 

I was recently approached by a wonderful writer and a fabulous lady who writes splendid historical fiction, has done a lot of good and has energy that I truly envy.  She had been directed to a post on my blog by a dear friend who also blogs, liked it (it was about 9-11) and, after speaking with my friend, invited me to participate in an unusual blog hop highlighting historical fiction with women as the main characters.   

There were medieval queens, women who sailed, women who faced hardships, who lived through wars (modern and ancient), who lived in alternate historical timelines and had gritty, beautifully written adventures.  I had heard of a good many of these people.  And, it seemed, I had a book, set in the American Civil War with a Southern Lady as the protagonist, that fit the features they were highlighting.  Would I like to participate? 

Who, Ma'am?  Me, Ma'am?
Me?  Would I?   

Of course I would, after my initial astonished delight.  It is a joy to ‘meet’ these people and share common ground and – dare I admit it? – celebrate my own Lady (you’ll meet her next week).   

We are all writers.  One writer whom I interviewed, Hart Johnson, put it so beautifully, I can do no better than to cut and paste her comment:

If we just keep working at it long enough, we will eventually be good enough to share... And not only that, it is one of the few undertakings that somebody ELSE creating something fabulous doesn't threaten us. In fact it helps us. Because the more great stories there are out there, the more readers there will be looking for still more stories. So we can love and support each other in earnest. 

...About that Blog Hop... 

Here is the first post in the blog hop, with links to the other featured writers this week:

It is an honor to be part of it!  And maybe - maybe - I do belong.

What has you feeling insecure?

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Bloghead Bone Hop... Err... That is...

Welcome to the third Bonehead Blog Hop!  This is the (very) original idea of Cherdo, who makes you laugh and then think, and once you click away, think  She sure is NOT a bonehead!
(Official disclaimer: we're laughing at ourselves: why don't you join us?)
Your hosts are Cherdo, of Cherdo on the Flipside.
And me (Diana Wilder)

Our motto: 
"Confession is good for the soul...it may not 
be your soul, but trust me - it's good for someone's soul."

So...  What boneheaded thing should I confess to this time?

(The easier question is 'what boneheaded thing should I not confess to?' )

I BEG your pardon!
Telling the grandmother of a friend, who was proudly showing me the granny square afghan that she had made for my friend, in cathedral window colors, which, she said, 'I want her to have something to remember me for!' and responding with a gracious smile, "Oh, you won't be hard to forget!"  and wondering why the smile had faded from the sweet lady's face.
There was a time, a while back, when I did some part time work for Bloomingdale's department store.  It was Christmas season, and I needed the money for gifts.  I was young(er), healthy, and a little oblivious.  To get into and leave Bloomies, we had to go in through a steel door on the side of the building (it involved climbing up a flight of outside metal steps) and flashing our badge as we went in.  We left the same way.

We were told, by the way, that we had to park at the very edge of the supermall parking lot.  I told them that I would do nothing of the kind, since I didn't want to get mugged leaving at 11:30 PM on a holiday season night.

Eating what?
At any rate, I happened to notice bags of rolls and pastries when I was leaving each night, and I thought, "Oh, how generous!"  and helped myself to one every time as I left.  The security staff gave me 'the hairy eyeball', but no one said nothing until one day, a week and a half in, a coworker (in her case 'cow orker') said, "Why are you eating that?"

"They're left-overs for the staff," I said.  At her expression I said, "...aren't they?"

"No, they're not!  They're to be taken to homeless shelters!  You could be arrested!"

Mouth-palm.  Worse than face-palm.

Well, we live and learn.  Dad might have laughed.  Or not.  He might, actually, have asked where his sweet roll was.


Go visit the hop!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Celebrating Laughter and a Hero

This is the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, run by Lexa Cain and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits.

I remember as a little girl I always loved to watch a cartoon called 'Yogi Bear', featuring a rascally bear who lived in Jellystone park.  One day my father called to my brother and me, saying that we needed to some in and watch Yogi Bear.

We came pelting inside only to stand and stare at some fellow in a baseball uniform.  Yogi Bear?

"That's his name," Dad said.  "Well... Yogi Berra." 
We grimaced in disgust (I preferred football, myself) and went back out to play.

Over the years I began to smile at the things Yogi said and, ultimately, admire him.  His turns of phrase were guaranteed to make me laugh, and while people talked about it being an inherent goofiness in the fellow, I thought it was the comedic gift coming out.  What is more enjoyable than watching someone pulling another's leg?

And when the AFLAC (disability insurance) ad came along featuring Yogi Berra I sat back with a grin.  It's one of my all-time favorite commercials:

He was a great catcher, a great athlete, a good man...and I learned that he was one of those at the Normandy landing on D-Day  The last Yogi-ism of his that I heard, just recently, was this: 
I sit and I thank the good lord I was in the Navy. We ate good, clean clothes, clean bed. You see some of these Army men, what they went through, that's the one I felt for.
I hadn't known.  Like a lot of his generation, he did not brag.  So I celebrate a good guy who made me laugh, made that AFLAC duck squawk, and quietly did his duty during the war.

Celebrations are everywhere, if you know where to look.

What are you celebrating?