Wednesday 31 August 2011

The Sort of Woman a Man Likes.

The ideal woman? A blend of Angelina Jolie, Charlieze Theron and Carmen Electra!
As an author of historical romance, there’s no escaping the different role women had in the past. In the 18th and 19th century, for a woman to amount to anything she had to marry…and to increase the chances of marrying it helped not only to be wealthy…but appealing to men.

The sort of woman a man considered an ideal mate, was openly discussed…and enough to make modern toes curl. In 1913, (note: less than a 100 years ago!) The Strand  magazine asked some noteable men of the day their views on ‘The Sort of Woman a Man Likes.’
The perfect Edwardian wife - interested in what interests her husband.

F. Frankfort Moore wrote:
“She should confine herself to the language of angels if she wishes to be liked by men…Men do not want a polyglot; they want one who will put the kettle on.”
(NB. Is your blood boiling yet?)

E Temple Thurston added:
“…a woman who can minister to his selfishness, without obliterating herself, who can listen to his egotism without making him feel he is monopolizing the conversation.”

The novelist Joseph Hocking stated:
“He doesn’t like a political woman [ie someone with opinions!] …Man’s ideal…is a sympathetic companion, who desires to share the joys and sorrows of her husband…a  lover of home and children, and finds her greatest joys by the fireside.”

A Victorian couple - wife looking adoringly at her husband.

However, not all men were convinced marriage was a good thing. In 1838, the 29 year old Charles Darwin, was torn between his calling as a scientist and the distraction of taking a wife. In a truly ordered manner, he drew up a list.
Emma Darwin - the wife, Charles, came to adore.
He listed under “To Marry”:
-          Constant companion who will feel interested in one – better than a dog anyhow.
-          Someone to take care of the house.
-          Charms of music and chit-chat – but a terrible loss of time

And under “Not to Marry:”
-          Freedom to go where I liked – not forced to visit relatives.
-          Conversation and clever men at clubs
-          Responsibility and anxiety over children – and less money for books et.c
-          Perhaps quarrelling – cannot read in the evenings – loss of time – fatness and idleness.
So did Darwin marry?
Yes, he did…and happily. And at the end of his life he wrote:

“I marvel at my good fortune, that she [Emma, his wife], so ultimately my superior in every single moral quality, consented to be my wife. She has been my adviser and cheerful comforter through life.”

My weekend blog post considers “The Sort of Man a Woman Likes.”

The Sort of Man a Woman Likes..?
All you have to do is follow the link and 'Like' my author Facebook page - then leave your email address on the comment section of this blog.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Welcome! Author Bob Stewart, (aka Thomas A Katt.)

Today, I honoured to have author Bob Stewart, visiting my blog. Bob and I got chatting over a topic of great mutual interest - cats! As it happens, Bob's latest book, "Alias Thomas A Katt" is right up my alley (so to speak) so read on to learn how a story is born!
Grace x


We had snakes in the house. Somehow, they found their way into our South Texas home, and we had to get rid of them.
 What’s a natural born snake killer, you ask? 
Everyone knows it’s a cat. 
That’s how I found myself at the animal shelter, walking along rows and rows of furry convicts, until I came to one particular character. Black and white, long silky hair, and a hangdog look.
 “Okay, Buster,” Schyler meowed. “I’ll give you one chance.”    I held my arms out to receive him, opened the cage door, and Schyler pranced out into my wife’s arms, and into our hearts. We didn’t have a chance.
Schyler -

            About a hundred dollars later, plus the price of wiggle toy on a string, we brought him home. He took one look around, shrugged as if this new place was better than nothing, and made himself right at home.
 He didn’t have to be taught how to play favorites. My wife’s lap became his evening nest where he was stroked and loved.  
 Me, I became the body servant. It’s my job to make sure the water bowl stays full as well as the food dish and the litter box cleaned. 
 Occasionally he’d walk by my computer, stop, and meow. If I didn’t respond immediately by reaching down to pet him, that was it for the day. Sometimes he’d favor me with a long stay by walking a couple feet away flooping onto the carpet, then expecting me to stand on my head to reach him.
The cat who inspired a book! Schyler.

            I came to understand why Schyler was standoffish: Royalty doesn’t hob-knob with the common folk – especially the male body servant. I had my place and my function.
   To everyone else he’s a loving kind kitty who beats us to the front door when the doorbell rings, then sits and invites the visitor into the house with happy meows. The whole time they visit, he lies on their feet, a happy, contented, and sweet animal.   So it was one night while watching a film noir classic, The Maltese Falcon, with Schyler and Martha that I wondered what would happen if Schyler switched bodies with Humphrey Bogart.  Would Schyler develop the “film noir” tough guy persona of a Sam Spade or a Mike Hammer as he masqueraded in human form?                          
Is it true? Can Schyler type?

            Better yet, what if his name was Thomas and he was owned by a lovely librarian named Mallory. Then, one miraculous day at the blessing of the pets he switched bodies with her current boyfriend, a jerk named Tom A. Katt, only to discover that Current Jerk is a killer. Now, he must figure how to be a human, use opposable thumbs – the devil’s own invention as far as he’s concerned – and protect Mallory in a scenario right out of  “feline noir.”

            In Alias Thomas A, Katt, he’s destined to find out just how tough he is as he takes the reader on a first person journey.
        Oh, and one last thing. We’ve had no snakes since he came to live with us. Come to think of it, he’s pretty good with elephants, too.

Author, Bob Stewart, and Schyler

Advance review:

Bob Stewart has created his own niche – feline noir –in this kitty caper aptly named Alias Thomas A. Katt. When Tom Katt, a police officer and romantic interest of the lovely Mallory, switches bodies with Mallory’s real cat, Thomas, the tables are turned on the bad guys. Even though he’s forced to work within the boundaries of an inferior human body, Thomas still has his feline smarts. Bad kitty! takes on new meaning in this fun romp that all cat lovers will find purr-fect.

- Carolyn Haines is the author of Bones of a Feather, the 11th in the Sarah Booth Delaney Delta Mystery series.

Bob has been kind enough to share an excerpt from "Alias Thomas A Katt."

Chapter One

I hate water, holy or not.

So much that sleep last night was a series of fitful catnaps interrupted by nightmares of a barbaric yearly ritual performed in the name of all that’s holy.

Mustering all the pathos I could, I looked up into Mallory’s deep-set emerald eyes as we shuffled along the queue for the Blessing of the Pets. The line stretched outside The Mortuary Chapel and across the street into the cemetery.

 She stroked my fur, and then gave me a big grin.

“What are you thinking?” She bent over to hug me closer, whispering in my ear. The scent of magnolia blossoms drifted from her hair as I raised my face to be nuzzled. “Sometimes I think you understand more than people realize.”

I do understand. I just wished she understood that I did.

“You pay more attention to that damn cat than you do me.”

The jerk she calls her current boyfriend has a way of ruining the finest moments. His voice was proof that even in near tropical New Orleans a chill can penetrate the normally temperate October air.

“Don’t be silly, Tom. I’m just loving my cat.”

“Next thing I know you’ll put one of those medals around my neck. Maybe you should, then I’ll get to sleep with you, too.”

Mallory’s hand secretly sought out the Saint Expedite medal on my collar. She bought it for me the first time we came here, put it around my neck, and it never came off. She wears a matching one that drops below the neckline. She used to wear it over her blouse, until she met Current Jerk.

Saint Expedite could teach Current Jerk some manners. I visualized ol’ Expedite, standing tall in his niche just inside the front entrance of the church, a young Roman soldier dressed in an historic battle tunic, brown hair tossed in the wind. Instead of the short sword used by grizzled legions to conquer the ancient world for the likes of Julius Caesar, he grasps a cross raised high above his head, ready to cold-cock modern-day heathens right and left.

Like all great historic warriors, Saint Expedite is swift to take action when petitioned. He is even more of a patron saint of lost causes than that wimpy Saint Jude, or that sissy Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, who is about to cause water to be dumped all over my head. These guys run around in dresses, for heaven’s sake.

As we neared the entrance, every sinew in my body went taut; I’ve heard it said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I know a third to add to that list.

Only Mallory’s sweet touch and Saint Expedite’s courage could get me through this, barely, because Expedite’s one tough cookie. I’ll tell you how tough he is. He’s a saint without portfolio because his arrival in New Orleans was sparked by a quirk of tragedy, according to a tour guide I heard on the Travel Channel.

A special chapel was built to speed the funerals through St. Anthony of Padua during the 1826 Yellow Fever epidemic. That piece of grim history earned it the nickname of The Mortuary Chapel. Grieving relatives would scribble the name of a saint on a casket before leaving it at the door of the chapel. The priests would swiftly perform a funeral mass in the name written on it, and shove the contaminated container out the door to a final resting place in the cemetery across the street.

            One smelly casket had the word “expedite” scrawled across it. The priests glanced at the word, and chanted a funeral mass to Saint Expedite. When they discovered the error, it was decided to create a Saint Expedite medal in a good-humored effort to acknowledge the mistake. No one took ol’ Expedite seriously. After all, he’s just the figment of a priest’s fertile imagination.

            But I always took him seriously. Besides being a good yarn, it just seems to prove the old saying that “people are only human” or “to err is human” or whatever cliché fits best. Of all the saints, he’s my favorite, even if he isn’t real.

            But, Mallory is real. So is her love. I snuggled into her arms in smug satisfaction. In spite of the pending water torture, there’s no way life could get any better.

 Boy, was I in for a surprise.

About Bob Stewart.

Bob Stewart is the author of four published books, and has reported news events for popular magazines (People, Time, Life, and Latina). He has authored two plays presented by the Aggie Players at Texas A&M University, and two scripts for series television while pursuing a career in journalism. He served as associate producer for Switched at Birth, a television mini-series based on the Kimberly Mays baby switch in Florida. It was nominated for an Emmy.

He has been managing editor of The Bryan Daily Eagle, The Laredo Times, and the Marshall News-Messenger. For ten years, he wrote a daily television column for the San Antonio Light. Next, he pursued a career as a freelance reporter/writer/author. In 1998, he joined the staff of People Magazine as a correspondent, working out of his San Antonio home.

Mexico on spring break.

Man to Man: When the Woman You Love Has Breast Cancer (St. Martin’s Press and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection) with co-author Andy Murcia, the husband of entertainer Ann Jillian.

Bob Stewart has worked on a number of national stories for People, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, the murder of Tejano singer Selena, the TWA jet crash in New York, the murder of students at schools in Pearl, Miss., Jonesboro, Ark., and Columbine in Denver, Colo., the racially-motivated murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Tx., the ex
His books include:

No Remorse (Pinnacle True Crime and a True Crime Book of the Month club selection) is the true story of Texasserial killer Kenneth McDuff who was convicted of murder, then paroled, when the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, only to go on a killing spree. McDuff was executed in October, 1998.

Revenge Redeemed (Revell ) is the true story of a Kentuckycouple whose only child was killed by a drunk driver in 1972. They rehabilitated the man who killed their son and today he lives next door to them.

Sacrifice: The Drug Cult Murder of Mark Kilroy (Word Inc.) with co-author Jim Kilroy is the bizarre true story about Mexican drug smugglers who murdered Jim’s son, a University of Texaspre-med student as a human sacrifice while the youth was in execution of Karla Faye Tucker, and the kidnap/murder of Mark Kilroy in Matamoras, Mexico.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Welcome! Author Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz.

Today, I'm delighted to welcome prolific author, Penny Lockwood Ehrenkrantz, to the blog.
In addition to telling us about herself, Penny is also offering a generous giveaway -to EVERYONE that leaves a comment.
Just leave a comment and contact details and Penny will email you a unique short story "Midsummer Knight" ! 

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz has published hundreds of articles and short stories in print magazines and on-line. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications and non‑fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications.  She edits for three small independent publishers.  Visit her web site at  Her writing blog is located at

GRACE:  Penny, lovely to have you here today; please tell the readers a little about what makes you tick.
PENNY: I retired in 2008 from my "day" job as office manager and chief legal secretary of our county district attorney's office.  Since then, I have become more of a full-time writer, although I have also taken on some free-lance editing positions.  Part of my time is now spent editing other author's work, rather than my own.
I actually enjoy writing in several different genres, including children and young adult. I also write non-fiction and have numerous articles published in writing magazines, parenting magazines and teen magazines. 
When I'm not writing or editing, I'm reading, crocheting, or gardening.  I enjoy water aerobics and walking.  My family comes first in my life and I recently became a grandparent for the second time.  My son and his wife have a delightful little girl, who is now three, and my daughter and her husband just celebrated the birth of their son in June.

GRACE; I understand you have exciting news that Love Delivery has just been published. Please tell me a little about it.
Love Delivery is a novella released by MuseItUp Publishing.  Here's a short synopsis:
By: Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz
            Ann and Tom have both been disappointed in love, yet they yearn for happiness.  Ann works as a waitress in a donut shop.  Tom has been delivering supplies there for a while.  Each is attracted to the other.  Tom makes the first move by inviting Ann to dinner and a cat show.
            Both Tom and Ann have cats, and this brings them together, but there are forces at work tearing them apart even as they seek each other out.  Tom’s ex-wife, Maria, is hired at the donut shop.  Before Ann knows the relationship between Tom and Maria, she confides in Maria about her feelings toward Tom.
            When Maria learns Ann’s beau is her ex-husband, she becomes like a wildcat.  She tries everything she can to separate Ann and Tom, including showing up where they’re having dinner, going to Ann’s apartment, and arriving unannounced at Tom’s home when Ann is visiting.
            To complicate matters, Maria and Tom have a child. Although the Tom is not the biological father, he adores Catherine. 
            As Ann becomes more involved with Tom, she sees both sides of him and wonders if there can be a future.  When she gives Tom the ultimatum of getting his life back in order, he disappears.  Weeks later, he returns with Catherine, a plan for the future, and a ring for Ann.
GRACE: There is a lot of competition for readers’ attention these days. What is different about your book that makes people want to read it?
PENNY: The story is about two very normal people who don’t earn a lot of money and haven’t completed their higher educations.  They don’t work in fancy jobs or live in exciting cities.  One is a waitress/day manager of a donut shop and the other a delivery man.  But they enjoy life, cats, eating out, movies, children, and bike rides in the country.  They are real people with real problems, and I believe readers will be able to relate to the obstacles they have to overcome in their quest for true love.

GRACE: It seems eBooks are taking off in a big way. What is your opinion on eBooks vs. traditional paperbacks?

My next three novelettes from MuseItUp Publishing are eBooks, so I have a very positive opinion of eBooks.  My print release from Sam’s Dot Publishing (A Past and A Future) is now available through Smashwords, which is a good thing since I’ve had a number of people ask me how they could get a copy for their eReader.

I think the stigma previously attached to eBooks is no longer valid.  I believe this is the wave of the future and eventually very few books will be printed on paper. 

I used to enjoy holding a “real” book, but since I acquired a Kindle, I’ve gotten used to the lightweight of it, the built in reading light, and the fact I can carry a whole library of books with me when I travel.  I think eReaders are great.
GRACE:What is the kindest act anyone has ever done for you?

When we first moved to Oregon, a very dear friend who recently passed away, took our family under her wing.  She wanted my kids to call her “auntie,” and she more than deserved the title.  Our very first home, she came with paintbrush in hand and helped paint both inside and out.  No matter what was needed, she was there.  Teri, you’ll always be with us.

GRACE: What would your nearest and dearest say is your most annoying habit?

PENNY:That’s a tough question to answer since we get along really well.  The only thing I can think of might be when we’re in the car, and I see something he doesn’t see, and I just yell “Dave, Dave, Dave,” instead of saying, “There’s a kid in the crosswalk,” or “There’s a car pulling out of that driveway.”

GRACE: When was the last time you cried?
PENNY: On June 21st when my grandson was born.  After telling me for months I couldn’t, my daughter relented and allowed me to be in the room and participate in the birth.  It was an incredible experience, matched only by being allowed to participate in the birth of my granddaughter three years ago.
GRACE:Have you heard of ‘Room 101’ – the room where an object once placed disappears forever…I wish all alarm clocks went there! What 5 things would you put in Room 101 and why?

PENNY: No, I’ve never heard of it, but here goes:

1.      Alarm clocks (I agree with you on that one)--I hate being forced to wake up.
2.      Bigotry—I would love to live in a world where diversity was embraced.
3.      War—It appalls me what people do to each other during a war and I can’t seem to fathom the reasons behind war.  Live and let live.
4.      Crime—People should be allowed to live without fear of being beaten, robbed, murdered or abused. 
5.      Slugs—I hate when they eat my plants after I’ve worked all summer long trying to grow veggies and flowers.
As you can see, I’m a dreamer and would love if conflict were simply eliminated from our society.
GRACE: It’s been lovely chatting with you today, Penny, and before you go, where can I find out more about your books?
My website and blog:
Links for my YA/Adult short story collection:
A Past and A Future
My three releases from MuseItUp Publishing:
Love Delivery, coming August, 2011
Lady in Waiting, coming November, 2011
Mirror, Mirror, coming December, 2011
My children’s books which will be released through 4RV Publishing:
Funny Dog, coming May, 2012
Ghost for Lunch, coming September, 2013
Many Colored Coats, coming October, 2014
Boo's Bad Day, coming June, 2015
GRACE: - Thank you, Penny!
If you have enjoyed this interview and would like to sample some of Penny's work, dont forget to leave a comment and contact details, to recieve the short story "Midsummer Knight."

Sunday 21 August 2011

Walking the Plank - Fact or Fiction?

Walking the plank is described in J.M Barrie’s children’s classic “Peter Pan” and also featured in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, but did it happen in reality? Did pirates force their hostages to ‘walk the plank’; after all, wouldn’t it have been easier just to toss unwanted visitors overboard?
But what evidence is there to back up the myth?

As David Cordingly, curator of the National Maritime Museum and author of “Under the Black Flag” points out:

“There are no written accounts in the 17th and 18th century of walking the plank, and so historians largely dismissed the practise as the fanciful product of fiction writers.”

However, Plutarch, the first century Greek historian, writing in his work “Life of Julius Caesar” tells a fascinating story of a young Julius Caesar being captured by Cicilian pirates. In his account the 18 year old Caesar was:

“…was taken near the island Pharmacus by…pirates, who, at that time, with large fleets of ships and innumerable smaller vessels infected the seas everywhere.”

Plutarch goes on to recount how the captive Caesar was held to ransom and threatened with being made to walk the plank. What is also interesting is what an irritating hostage Caesar made; apparently he disagreed with his captors who wanted a ransom of twenty talents, he argued he was worth at least fifty!
Caesar’s ransom was paid and he was released…only to return in force to capture those who had previously held him and order them crucified. Apparently, after this episode pirates would always;

“Bow low and tender their most humble services”

To all Roman captives, then politely ask their victim:

“To mount upon the ship’s ladder and step to liberty…into the sea.”

Of course, part of the terror of walking the plank was that few sailors could swim, as outlined in a 19th century article in ‘Macmillan’s Magazine.’

“Many of our English sailors cannot swim. Many gentlemen in various professions, to whom that accomplishment would be not only useful, but perhaps absolutely necessary, as equally ignorant of it.”

In the 19th century several accounts of ‘walking the plank’ exist such at in 1822 pirates capturing the Jamaican sloop, ‘Blessing’. The unfortunate Captain, William Smith, could only offer flour and cornmeal, instead of coinage and so:

“A plank was run out in the starboard side of the schooner, upon which the pirate chief made Captain Smith walk…they then tilted the plank, then he dropped into the sea.”

It seems Captain Smith was one of the few sailors who could swim…not that it did him any good since seeing their captive strike out to sea; the pirates shot him in the head!

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Word Play.

I’ve been working hard on the final version of ‘Eulogy’s Secret’ and it’s big decision time (drum roll!) Do I spell-check in my native UK English, or go for US English? The differences aren't huge and mainly come down to ‘parlour’ vs ‘parlor’ and some disappearing L’s (dishevelled vs disheveled) but it did set me thinking about dictionaires and (another tenuous link to excuse a blog post) the compiler of the first dictionary to include common usages of words for a clearer definition, Dr Samuel Johnson.
....because the word 'CAT' must appear in any good dictionary......

Surpisingly Dr Johnson seems a bit of a wit on the side. Despite the gravitas of his work he came up with such chose sayings as:

“A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience,”
“A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out as good for nothing.”
“A woman’s preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well: but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
Dc Samuel Johnson.

Dr Johnson’s “Dictionary of the English Language” was published in 1755 and weighed in at nearly 9 kilos (20 lbs). Despite costing the equivalent today of nearly 500 GBP, it was an instant bestseller. With 42,773 entries, it took the good Doctor eight years to complete, although he was originally supposed to complete the book in three years. This original target seems particularly unrealistic, bearing in mind that it took forty French scholars, forty years to do the same task. As Johnson remarked:

“Forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman.”

One of Johnson’s fears was that the English language was becoming unduly influenced by the French and would,
“…reduce us to babble a dialect of France.”
And he refused to add words such as, champagne, blonde and bourgeois to his dictionary, in protest.

As already mentioned, Johnson’s dictionary was the first to explain words with common expressions or usage. Let me end with some examples of his humour slipping into some of the definitions.

First editions of Dc Johnson's famous dictionary.

Lexicographer – ‘a writer of dictionaires; a harmless drudge.’

Patron – ‘commonly a wretch who supports with insolence and is paid with flattery’  (Johnson was on poor terms with his patron!)

Oats – ‘a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.’

Stockjobber 'a low wretch who gets money by buying and selling shares.'
Debating between pic of stockjobbers and kittens....the kittens won!

Sunday 14 August 2011

The Canary Isles ....going to the dogs.

The beautiful sandy beaches of the Canary Isles.

 I’m on vacation and so when choosing a topic for my weekend blog post, my thoughts turned to that popular holiday destination of the Canary Isles (OK, I know it’s a tenous link.) But, if like me, you assumed these Spanish islands, located off the north-west coast of mainland Africa, were named after small, brightly coloured birds – just like me, you’d be wrong.
'Canary Dogs.'

In the first century BC, the Romans sent an expedition, their findings reported back by Pliny the Elder:

“The island of Canaria [is] so-called from the multitude of dogs [canes] of great size.”

‘Canary’ dervies from the Latin for dog, ‘canis’, from which our word ‘canine’ is derived. There is also an association with a North African tribe called ‘the Canarii’, so called by Pliny because:

“They partake of their food in common with the canine race, and share with it the entrails of wild beasts."

The coat of arms of the Canary Islands, reflects it's origins.

Subsequent explorers sent by King Juba II of Mauritius, returned to present their paymaster with two of these giant dogs. Some accounts now speculate that these so-called-dogs were actually a species of Monk Seals (or ‘Sea-dog’ in Latin.) – now sadly critically endangered and no longer resident on the Canary Isles.
Monk Seals.

Canary birds do come from the Canary Islands, but it was a case of cart before horse, as explained Virginia Sliverstein in her book, ‘Beautiful Birds’ –

“Canaries were named after the Canary Islands, and not the other way round.”

So there we have it, some not-too-taxing holiday trivia. Enjoy!