AAW: Favorite Furnishings!

by Mary Jo

Image003This Ask A Wench blog was inspired when we started talking about furniture in our private Word Wenches email loop, and we found out that we all had stories about favorite things!

Here is the question I asked: "Do you have a particular piece of furniture that you cherish? Tell us its story!"

And here are the replies:

From Pat Rice:

I HAD wonderful pieces that I cherished—the Victorian sofa my stepfather reupholstered in lovely wine and cream to match my Tudor-style dark oak living room; the dark oak dining table that was our very first piece of “bought” furniture, the one with scars in it from little hands pressing too hard with writing instruments while doing homework; the beautiful Bentwood rocker from my mother that I rocked my babies in… and the magnificent handmade mahogany Queen Anne bedroom suite I bought with my first big royalty check. ( the pic shows the table and the antique sideboard I picked up at a yard sale!)

They’re all gone now, left behind when we moved across the country to a modern cottage on the Pacific coast. These days, we live with NICOLA.Seaborn's chair thrift store bargains—because new, they probably cost more than all the above furniture did when we bought them. I no longer feel guilt at dumping a designer leather couch when we move to a house where it doesn’t fit. I can buy an even better one in a design that matches. Throw away furniture—it’s a Thing.

Nicola contributes a "Slightly macabre piece!"

 When I was a child my grandparents, who lived with us, bought an 18th century grandfather clock that stood in the hall, its loud tick filling the air and somehow giving a sense of reassurance and permanence. I loved that clock! I loved its painted face and the fact that it was much taller than I was, and that it had been made in the North of England and was so old.

Fast forward fifty years, and when we were clearing my parents’ house I really wanted to take that clock home to live with me. But there was a problem. It was too tall. Or our ceilings were too low. Whichever way you looked at it, it didn’t fit. We thought about taking several inches off the bottom of it, which wasn’t really feasible. We even thought about lowering a small part of the floor but that was even less practical. In the end I had to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen. My step-brother has it now and as he loves it too, that’s good enough for me.


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Ask A Wench – Wenches on Writing

The Wenches were asked to answer some questions about writing and the publishing industry, and today we’re replying to the first one – How do you decide on a title? Is it the editor or you or what?

OnceASoldier FinalMary Jo:  Titles wars, all authors know them well! Ideally, authors and editors work together to come up with titles that in just a few words will convey the genre, the essence of the story, and also have a marketing punch. Not surprisingly, this is difficult! 

In my first book, my heroine was a gifted musician so my working title was the rather uninspired THE MUSICAL LADY. Later, my brother-in-law, an amateur musician, suggested LADY OF NOTE, which was better since it conveyed both music and being notable.

The book sold quickly on a partial manuscript, but coming up with a good title was another matter. My first editor always insisted that her writers come up with good titles. We would produce pages of possibilities, which she would dismiss with a few heartless chuckles. When I'd say in exasperation that she should come up with a title, she had a whole prepared speech about HOW MANY BOOKS she'd edited over the years, how could she possible do any more???  Cowed, I'd slink off and produce more lists, which were all shot down posthaste.

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AAW: Word for 2023

Choose a Word for 2023:

by Mary Jo

Since 2022 is drawing to a close (already?!), it's time to think ahead about what we'd like in 2023. I've done this before here and in another group, but I think it's an interesting and mindful exercise to choose a word that can be a keyword or inspiration or talisman for the year ahead.

Do you want to EXPERIMENT and try something new? Learn to RELAX and let go of as much stress as you can? How about learning to FOCUS better? (That's a word I've claimed in the past!) Do you want to CLARIFY relationships or other elements in your life? Worth 512px-Fritz_Syberg _Ved_frokosten _1906 _privat_ejethinking about!

And the Wenches have been thinking about this!  Pat Rice is first:

I fear I very much live in the moment. Thinking or planning for a year doesn’t happen. Worse yet, I’m not inclined to meditation, inspiration, or reflecting on the past or future, possibly because I don’t believe I have much control over the events that most shape our lives. So I am hopeless at questions like these.

At best, I can plan for the events I want, and hope that eventually, the Fates will offer me opportunity. Does that constitute a keyword—opportunity? Once upon a time, I practiced writing, taught myself craft, wrote thousands of pages, and eventually, after years of sending out books, a new publisher decided to start a historical romance line and bought my book. I am not entirely certain opportunity encompasses all that.

 So I’ll simply choose the word ENJOY. While I’m wishing and hoping and plotting, I mean to enjoy the moment I’m in. If an opportunity to go out to lunch with friends interferes with my deadline, I’ll forget the deadline and enjoy the lunch because the chance might not come again.

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June What We’re Reading!

Blood of a GladiatorMary Jo here…

…with the Wenches' ever popular "What we're reading" blog.  Dig out your credit cards, we're going for a joy ride!

I've always known that Jennifer Ashley is a very talented, prolific author who writes historical romances, paranormals, and historical mysteries, but I hadn't found her Leonidas the Gladiator series, written under her Ashley Gardner pseudonym.  So far there are only two novels and a novella, but more are coming.  The first book is Blood of a Gladiator.

Leonidas is the premier gladiator in Rome, a rock star fighter who is recognized in the streets, but he has reached the point where he can't face any more killing.  That is the moment when he receives his freedom from slavery and can finally quit being a gladiator and make his own life–if he can figure out how.

He has no financial resources, but an unknown benefactor gives him a modest apartment and a slave of his own: Cassia, who is a scribe.  Illiterate Leonidas doesn't know what to do with  a slave who does doesn't cook or do housework, but she can help him find jobs and is very good at negotiating contracts and making sure they get paid. 

Initially Cassia is afraid of him, but he's a good guy and doesn't ravish her and gradually they develop a bond of trust.  And have to deal with unexpected murders.  Ashley Gardner creates a wonderful sense of place and what it would be like to live in Rome during the reign of Nero.  But the best part is the characters and their slowing developing relationship. 


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Comfort Food!

by Mary Jo

Baklava 2In complicated times, we need our comfort foods!  What foods and drinks do you reach for when you need soothing?

Nicola is first:

I’ve been a comfort eater ever since I was a teen and over the last couple of years my eating did rather spiral out of control as a result of all the stresses in the world, macro-sized ones and personal challenges. One bag of crisps became an entire family sized bag I had to myself and the same went for chocolate. When I realised that I needed an entirely new set of clothes to accommodate me and my eating habit, I realised I had to stop.

So I signed up for a programme to help me change my mindset towards food. It wasn’t a diet because it didn’t need willpower, which was good because I don’t have any when it comes to eating. Instead it sort of reset my attitude towards food. So the brilliant thing about it is that I can still eat all the lovely comfort foods I enjoy – cheese and onion crisps, chocolate mini-eggs, hot buttered toast – but as treats rather than in huge quantities. And I’ve discovered the comfort of eating stuff that’s actually good for me: luxury jacket potatoes, lovely rich casseroles in winter.

But when it comes to the ultimate in comfort food then I seek out baklava. For those who haven’t yet discovered it, baklava is a layered filo pastry dessert filled with chopped nuts (my favourite being pistachios), sweetened with honey and spiced with cinnamon and cardamom. When it’s warm the filo pastry is all soft and gooey with the honey mixture, and the spices are subtle and delicious. You can cut it into square pieces to eat as sweet treats – as large or small as you like. It’s scrumptious and there’s a wonderful recipe for it here:


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