Romance: rōˈmans; noun:
a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Of Power and Potties

The power was out today. According to the electric company, it was out for 30,000 people. My daughter, a high school sophomore, was delighted to get out of school early. I don’t know how the other 29,998 people felt about it, but I took the opportunity to ponder life before internet, electric lights and flush toilets.

The internet part would be sort of easy to deal with, at least in the short term, unless you’re trying to book reservations at the new restaurant downtown. Or if you’re waiting to hear from a potential agent about whether or not they liked your proposal. Or if that acquaintance you haven’t heard from in a gazillion years might happen to pick that moment to post an update to Facebook.

I like to camp, so we own a broad assortment of flashlights and propane lanterns. I think we even have at least one Harry Potter wand with a light-up tip, so I could probably go a fairly long time without electric lights.

Flush toilets, though, that’s a tough one. We live in the country and our water comes out of a well in the yard, just like in the old times. Except that in modern times you can’t get water out of it without an electric pump. Hence, no electric means no handy-dandy toity. Even us regular campers have our limits…having to do my business in the forest would be just on the other side of mine.

So when I began musing about medieval versions of potties, I remembered a photo I took on a visit to Dover Castle this past June. Those large structures bumping out on the sides of the donjon tower walls aren’t there for architectural flair – they’re the castle version of poop chutes. (Notice that little hole at the bottom in the photo below? More on that later.)

Inside these little “privies” (also known as garderobes or wardrobes) is a bench with a hole in the center. No need to explain how they work. But it seems that at one time these little alcoves might serve not only as a place to relieve one’s self, but also to store one’s valuables. After all, if someone wanted your jewels, where else would you keep them?

It was also common to store cloaks and tights in the garderobe. Apparently they thought the often-strong odors emanating from the hole in the seat would keep fleas and moths out of their clothing. It would keep me out of them, too.

Now back to that little hole at the bottom of the architectural flair. You might have noticed that it doesn’t lead into any plumbing. (They didn’t have plumbing.) Yep – it just went right into the moat, or perhaps a little cesspit right next to the moat. Either way, there was usually a well in the center of the castle grounds and….

Well, I’ll leave the rest of that thought for you to finish.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It has been just over a week since the conclusion of the first annual Taylor University Professional Writing Conference, hosted by the Taylor University Professional Writing Program. Kudos to Linda Taylor, Doc (Dennis) Hensley and their capable student staff for a first rate conference that didn’t break my bank.

The two-day event featured guest speakers Dennis E. Hensley (author, speaker and writing professor), author and speaker Jim Watkins, and Keren Baltzer, editor at Hachette Book Group.  Workshops were led by Rachel Phillips (my very funny friend and multi-published author), Ann Byle, Nichole Parks (not to be confused with Nicholas Sparks!), Amy Green, Estee Wells Zandee, Dan Balow and several others. There was truly something for everyone, no matter their level of experience or success, their writing genre, or their age.  

For more information on this year’s workshop experts, or to get info on next year’s conference, click here:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Maid to be a Bride

Out now!

When Lady Daphne Battencourt’s uncle arranges for her to marry a wealthy, but vulgar, tradesman, she is resigned to her fate as the token wife of a heartless man. But after she realizes she would rather spend her life in service than marry without love, she finds herself in the role of lady’s maid to the mother of a very handsome gentleman. Unfortunately,  Mr. Mattingly is already betrothed. Only Daphne's rekindled faith can help her find her way.

"Maid to be a Bride by Jan Wallace Reber is a captivating romance that contrasts the best and worst aspects of England’s Regency period. Modern readers will savor this story in which courageous Lady Daphne Battencourt and chivalrous Jules Mattingly battle cultural pressures, unfair inheritance laws, and evil manipulators to affirm their faith and ​their love."

  - Rachael Phillips, Author of Guilty Treasures, Recipe for Deception, and several biographies.

Read an excerpt of  MAID TO BE A BRIDE

      The heavy, ornately carved door of the study was closed. Ever since Uncle took her father’s place as the Earl of Claremont, many rooms of her home were now closed to her. Lady Daphne Battencourt tried to calm her nerves, but it was never good when Uncle summoned her. She reached toward the doorknob, then shrank from it. What if Uncle was cross for her question at dinner when saw him three days prior? What if he was drinking?
      She tried not to even think about the possibilities. There was nothing to be done for it, now. She wanted a London season. She’d been preparing her entire life for her presentation to society, for her chance to be admired and courted. For her turn to take the stage before the ton and make her mark.
      All of the dancing and music lessons and—goodness, yes, the etiquette training that had been drilled into her from the age of five—would all be for nothing if she wasn’t launched into society. So, she’d taken the risk of asking for his permission to go to Great Aunt Persephone.
      The old woman was as mean as a snake, but loved nothing more than to show off her connections to the beau monde. She’d gladly ensure that the daughter of her nephew, the Earl of Claremont, made a good showing in the London social scene. If he was angry about it, she would have to bear his retribution. There was no way to retract the request.
      She put her hand on the crystal knob but pulled it back yet again, and bit her lower lip. She could not simply walk into his sanctuary as she always had with Papa. She tried, in vain, to force herself to relax, and knocked twice.
      “Enter,” commanded the gruff voice on the other side of the door.
      She took a deep breath, then turned the knob and pushed the door open as silently as its massive hinges would allow. Uncle was standing in front of a blazing fire with a half empty glass in his hand.
      Daphne eyed the glass warily. "Hello, Uncle." She gave him the deep curtsy he expected of her. ”You asked to see me?”
      His eyes swept over her, lingering on her bodice, and she pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, hoping he didn’t feel the power he had to make her shiver under his gaze. Without answering, he went to the small sideboard and wrapped his stout fingers around the neck of a crystal decanter, then pulled off the glass stopper and refilled his glass of brandy.
      “How old are you?” He drained the glass in only two gulps.
      “I’ll be eighteen in just two months, in July,” she stammered.
      "Tell me, Daphne, what is the purpose of a London season for a young woman such as yourself?"
      "Excuse me, sir?” her voice faltered and she swallowed hard. “I do not understand the question, Uncle." She clenched her hands together until her fingertips began to go numb. He was provoking her. Again. Must she always be on guard in her own home?
      "Come, now. You’re supposed to be a bright young woman. What is it young women want from their first season?"
      She tried to ignore the growing slur in his speech. "Well, I suppose a young lady would like to make a good match." Or so mother had always instructed her.
      "To find a suitable husband, then, hmm?" He turned to look at her with brows raised.
      Should she should simply agree?—or add that the season was also about the balls and the gowns and being admired and dancing and being presented at court…and that if she did find a husband, she could leave Uncle for good—.
      He cut into her train of thought. "But what sort of match would a girl like you hope to make, hmm? A girl whose family is hiding a nasty little secret?” He squinted one eye at her.
      “I cannot know what you mean, sir. We have no secret.” Her mind raced to find some hint as to what he meant, but there was nothing. She had always been close to both of her parents. What sort of secret could possibly be unknown to her but known to Uncle?
      “Surely you know about your father, do you not?”
      Papa? Papa was perfect in every way. What could Uncle know that she did not? “Still, sir, I don’t understand what you mean. What about my father?”
      “Perhaps you should have asked your mother that question before she died and left you to wonder.”
      “Wonder about Papa? Do you imply that she—that my father—“ The idea was too absurd to voice it. Of all possible revelations, that one she could not, would not, accept.
      I am simply saying that your mother had many admirers and that, well, you know how it can be when a beautiful woman gets lonely. When her husband is gone for days or weeks at a time.”
      No words came to her. She just stood there with her mouth open in shock, drawing quick, shallow breaths. Uncle’s implication was inconceivable!
      “You remember your mother’s dear friend, Duncan, do you not? He visited quite frequently, as I recall. Did he ever stay with you and your mother while your father was away on business?”
      “Yes, but Uncle Duncan—“                   
      And what about your mother’s cousin? Her French cousin? What was his name?”
      “Roland Thierry, but he was the same age as mother. Of course they were close.” This entire conversation was preposterous. Uncle must surely be mistaken.
      “Her cousin? Really? Or did she just call him cousin, like you called Duncan ‘uncle’ when you know very well that I’m your only uncle? It’s almost as if the man wanted to hang around and see you grow up.” He used a fingernail to pick at his tooth, then sucked his tongue against the spot.
      Daphne put her fingers to her lips and gasped. “No! That cannot be true. Mother loved Papa very much. She would never—” Her throat went suddenly dry and she couldn’t choke out the rest of her thought. How could any of this be true? How could Papa not be her papa?           
      “We all want to believe the best about our family, Daphne. But sometimes the truth is our enemy. That being the case, you should be quite glad to know that I have taken care of the matter and have, in addition, saved what is left of your poor departed papa's fortune from all of the frivolous frippery that goes with a debut season."