Saturday, May 2, 2015


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I am a clutter collector from way back. I figure why throw anything out; you never know when you might need it. I inherited the hoarder gene.

“Waste not, want not” was my mother’s motto and she lived by it the whole of her life. Maybe it was because she lived through the great depression of the 1930’s and World War 2, that she would use and re-use, save and squirrel away stuff. Our house was never untidy, because most of the hoarded items were well out of sight. 

I should have learned my lesson after my dear mother died about 20 years ago and my sister and I had to clear out her house. To say it was a nightmare was an understatement. It took weeks. My mother had kept receipts from the 1940’s, even her World War 2 ration book. And speaking of books, she had hundreds of them. Then there were the ornaments, pretty little knick-knacks that reposed on every shelf or level surface in the house. Boxes of china. Well, you get the idea.

Now you would think that after all this trauma and angst, I would have dashed home and gone through my own cupboards.  I didn’t, but I did take a lot of my mother’s stuff with me.  Well, how could I let it go?  All those little treasures.

My mother-in-law passed away, same story, I kept a lot of her things too. I was a hoarder.  It came as naturally as breathing or eating.

Well friends, retribution did come. The youngest of our sons finally left home, so hubby and I decided it was time to downsize. We bought a smaller house, and put our larger house on the market. “We’ve got a lot of stuff here, we’ll have to get rid of it,” hubby says.

Over my dead body. “No, we won’t do anything rash,” I said. “There’s plenty of time to work out what we want to keep.”

A week before the auction of our house, my husband had to have heart by-pass surgery, so I had to go on with the sale alone. After the auction and hubby’s successful operation, I had to start packing, because when he came home he couldn’t do anything for eight weeks. I really hit the panic button because we had a short settlement. Forty days to clear out all our stuff, that of my mother and mother-in-law (things I had kept, and shouldn’t have). Well, it was a nightmare. I did most of it on my own.  I don’t know how many trips I made to donate all these “treasures” to the second hand thrift shop   And I did help the less fortunate - big time.  The thrift shop manager must have thought I was Mother Teresa re-incarnated.

It was terrible. I cried because I had to give away my ‘treasures, mum’s treasures and my mother in-law’s treasures’. Worse still, was the time it took to pack them and deliver them to the thrift shop. 

With the clock ticking, I had to be ruthless – and I was.

If you are even contemplating moving house, start to get rid of your surplus stuff early.  In fact, don’t collect it in the first place.  A lady once told me that if she didn’t wear a dress for a year, she was probably never going to wear it again, and she got rid of it. Smart lady. Wish I had such courage.  I still cling to my favourite dresses, hey I might lose weight and they will fit me again???

The moral of this story is -  don’t hoard. De-clutter as much as possible, because one day you will have to sort it out, or your children will have to sort it out.  

The same goes for your writing.  Be ruthless. If the manuscript you have expended blood, sweat and tears over isn’t working, discard it.  Temporarily cast it into your bottom drawer is what I mean. Don’t destroy it, because you might be able to resurrect it at a later date.  Start on something fresh and new. Once you get your writing tastebuds tingling again with a new premise, a feisty heroine and a spunky hero, the words will start flowing until they become a torrent.

Never give up. It is a steep climb to the top of the publishing mountain, but oh what a view once you get there.

Margaret Tanner writes spicy historical romance set in Australia.

1820’s England. Robbed of his birthright and falsely accused of murder, American Jake Smith, is exiled to the penal colony of Australia.

Friday, May 1, 2015


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Americans are living longer and healthier lives. Sixty is the new forty, and eighty is the new sixty.  Still, by the time you reach your golden years, you should start planning for the time you will no longer exist on this earthly plane.

Many churches, and I suppose synagogues, too, conduct classes in funeral planning.  My own church provides a form in which you can name the Biblical passages you want read  and the hymns you want sung for your funeral service.  After all, you wouldn't want to attend your funeral and hear the congregation sing hymns that are not among your favorites. On the church form, I've requested two of my favorites: "Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore" and "Here I Am, Lord."

The Bible contains many beautiful and memorable passages.  Besides the Twenty-third Psalm, The Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter Three, is among my favorites:  "To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose unto the heaven...."  From the New Testament, I especially like the Book of Revlation, Chapter Twenty-one:  "...and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying...."

On a more practial level, you should consult a reputable lawyer and hire him/her to draw up a will.  Be specific, so that there is no disagreement over who gets what.  Name an executor and make sure he/she knows where all of your important papers are, such as your insurance papers and aforesaid will.

I even wrote my own obituary. All my sons have to do is fill in the blanks.

Funeral customs have differed among cultures and throughout the centuries. Think of the ancient Egyptian pharoah.  His whole life centered around his death.  Workers slaved for years for the construction of the pyramid that would house his prized possessions. It's obvious that the ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, one in which they could enjoy all of the objects that meant so much to them in their mortal lives.

The ancient Celts, too, believed in an afterlife.  They were frequently buried with their personal effects, such as clothes, jewelry, and even food.  Belief in an afterlife was an important aspect of the Celtic religion, although they apparently had no conception of reward or punishment after death. They also believed that butterflies housed the souls of their loved ones who had passed on.

For most Americans, a death in the family is a time of solemnity and grief.  Not so with the Celts. For them, death was a time of joy, for the soul was returning to its home.

In parts of Indonesia, funerals are lively affairs that involve the whole village. These festivals can last anywhere from days to weeks. Families save up to provide lavish funerals where a sacrificial buffalo will carry the deceased to the afterlife. Until that time, which can take place years after physical death, the dead relative is laid in a special room in the family home and referred to as "one who is sick" or "one who is asleep."

Many Buddhists of Mongolia and Tibet belive that the soul moves on after death,while the body becomes an empty vessel.  To return it to the earth, the body is chopped into pieces and placed on a mountaintop, which exposes it to the elements.  This practice has been done for thousands of years and is still done today.

Especially in the West, more and more  people are opting for cremation instead of burial for the simple reason that we are running out of space for caskets.

If Michael Crichton, author of "The Great Train Robbery" is to be believed, the Victorians placed a bell in the casket of the deceased, in case the "deceased" was still alive. That way, he/she could let the family know that the time for burial had not yet arrived.  This isn't as far-fetched as it may seem.  No doubt we have all read about a person being pronounced dead, a sheet thrown over him and taken to the morgue, only to throw off the sheet and sit up, scaring the bejeebies out of anyone who happens to be there.

Shirley Martin enjoys writing in different genres.  If you like historical, paranormal, or fantasy novels, you have many of my romance novels to choose from.  I have three books in print:  The time travel romance, "Dream Weaver", and two fantasy romances, "Night Secrets" and "Night Shadows."  Look for my books at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Where the blue blazes did THAT come from? by Stuart R. West

Visit Stuart R. West at Books We Love

Coming soon from Books We Love: Ghosts of Gannaway

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BATTLE OF THE BUNDT by Juliet Waldron

A “big” birthday just come and gone. (Clearly not the one above!) Our favorite local pastry bakery has gone out of business. I’m a scratch baker, but not a professional, nor a yuppie with a ton of equipment and endless dollars. Still, I bake bread weekly, and always baked all the family b-day cakes for my kids. I figured “what the hell, Archie!” This year, I will make one for myself.
I dragged a Bundt pan from the back of the cabinet and dug out the recipe book with which it came. I looked up recipes which would fit in the “mini” pan, found one that appealed, shopped ingredients and then began. I chopped cherries and prepped chocolate, sifted dry ingredients and creamed the butter, sugar and eggs. Then, I revved the mixer and was soon ready to pour batter into the pan. To my surprise, it filled almost to the brim.

I went back to the recipe book and checked again. Yes—this was specifically for the “mini” pan...

Full steam ahead.  I wasn’t listening to the shrill little voice of baker’s experience which was telling me that this cake would, shortly, be all over the bottom of the oven. Still, I didn’t put a cookie sheet underneath it. Why, I can find no reason for, except, maybe, sheer stubbornness, or a sad tendency to shoot myself in the foot.  

After all, this recipe book has never let me down before…

Well, as the voice of experience had warned, Vesuvius erupted. I turned the oven off, got gloves and the cookie sheet I should have put under no matter what “the book said.” Anyone with a bad back who has stooped to reach into a hot oven after a molten tub of something knows how scary this is, but it had to be done. Somehow I got the cake pan onto the sheet without more spilling or burning myself. I turned the oven back on, and, an instant later, the floor of the oven burst into flames. After staring for a moment, and realizing that with so much fuel, it wasn’t about to give up any time soon, I retrieved a box of baking soda. I put out the fire, after turning the oven off once again.

Okay! I’d got the fire out, and the cake pan situated so that the still lively volcanic action would no longer end up on the oven floor. Mad at myself, but not yet ready to despair, I went back to cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, putting away the mixer, etc. and then started on the frosting. Half an hour later, I realized I hadn’t turned the oven back on again.

Well, this was a duel now, between me and my own folly.  I turned the oven on at a lower temperature and began to bake -- again. By using a thermometer, I would eventually make a decision about when the cake was done. 

At last, I removed it—best estimate—and after it had cooled a bit, and after a long session of chipping the lava flow off the sides of the pan and cookie sheet, I managed to pick it up and turn the cake over onto a plate.  Believe it or not, a few minutes later, the darn thing slipped out of the pan, and in proper Bundt form! About an hour later, I frosted it and my husband and I ate it--and ate it--for the best part of a week. It was—somehow—a totally yummy, moist chocolate cherry cake, despite all the misadventures it and I had been through together.
~~Juliet Waldron

Not only is Juliet Waldron a warm and funny storyteller when relating personal experiences, she is an extremely talented and masterful author of historical novels like Mozart's Wife, Roan Rose, Genessee, and many more, including her latest, a novelist's history of Alexander Hamilton, America's first Secretary of the Treasury, which has debuted to rave reviewsClick the cover to get a copy from Amazon.

More about my historical novels:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Just Me and My Besties--Slugging a Path Through Those 'Sagging Middles' By Connie Vines


Yes, I have friends, associates, family, and other writers to converse with though out my day.

Yes, I network, attend workshops, and belong to online writing chapters.  I even have other writer friend only a text message away.

But at 3 AM, when I'm slugging my way through a 'not-quite-working' middle of a novel, and I've started talking to myself.  It's nice to have a BFs at your disposal.

While the focus of the movies and television seems to be on helpfulness of minions and the like--I prefer the company of a good listener--or cheering section.

Well, it's not conventional--but then I'm a bit quirky, most writer's are.  After all we do spend quite a bit of time in our own company.

For a person who did not indulge in, or particularly like, dolls as a child  (I held my baby doll by a foot allowing her head bounced around in the dirt).  I did like monster movies (The old Universal Monster Movies).  I collected the model kits and read all the magazines about horror make-up and read bios about the great actors.  So I guess this type of cheering section makes perfect sense.
(See qualifying statement in earlier paragraph).

So did I come up with any sure fire way to get through those 'sagging story middles', with or without the help of Besties?

I've changed to Pandora Radio for evening listen, and Slacker Radio during the day. When I'm working though a snag, B.J. Thomas is usually singing in the background.

Let's face it. the middle of a story can be depressing.  Our hero becomes overwhelmed.  Things look savage and harsh.  Paths disappear (for both the hero and, unfortunately, the writer).

To quote, Nancy Kress, The function of the middle is to develop the implicit promise made by a story's beginning.

After all, a promise is a promise.

This is when we must ask ourselves, whose story is this?
Who are the point of view characters?
What is the main plot line (throughline is the film term)?

Not certain?  Boy, do you have a problem!

Getting a clear focus on your plot line can make the middle of your book easier to write.  Where should the emphasize be--which scenes, which characters.  I used to rely on 3 x 5 index cards, now I use several writing programs and apps.

Since I write in series of threes: chapter 1-3, 4-7, etc. my middle seems longer because it over laps sections.  I also like to have 3 scenes in each chapter, with a scene often breaking at a chapter's end and ending in the following chapter opening.

Still experiencing a bit of trouble?  Choose three novels you know well.  For each summarize the plot line in a sentence or two.

Jane Eyre: Penniless in a region of England she does not know, Jan experiences three bitter days of begging, sleeping outside, and nearly starving.

 Dracula: One of Dr. Seward's mental patients, Renfield, lets Dracula into the asylum where the others are staying, allowing the count to prey on Mina.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!:  When Linus sees a shadowy figure rising from the moonlit patch, he assumes the Great Pumpkin has arrived, and faints.

Now, pull out your WIP or a few of your unfinished stores.  Summarize its plot line.  List the scenes.  How does each scene advance the plot, develop character, contribute to the middle plot line?

Do you need to add an additional scene?  Should a scene have more emotional intensity?  I find this to be true in my stories.  My stories are character driven and  the emotional reactions are a force which drives my plot lines.

Keep your characters from having a mid-life crisis by shoring up those 'sagging middles', and relying on your "Besties".

Happy Reading,


Word Slinger
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Monday, April 27, 2015

The medieval sound of the horn - by Vijaya Schartz

purchase Beloved Crusader here
Nothing says medieval like the sound of a horn in the distance, filling a valley, bouncing off mountains, and reminding everyone around that something important, or dreadful, was about to happen. These horns were made of animal horns or ivory, hence the name. Often they were sculpted or engraved with intricate carvings.

My first recollection of reading about such horns was in school, while learning about Charlemagne and his loyal nephew Roland, who was isolated and attacked at the end of the column, by the enemy, in the Pyrenees. The mournful sound of Roland's horn, named Oliphant, called for help but remained unheard by Charlemagne at the front of the legion. As a result, Roland was killed, despite his unbreakable sword, Durandal. At the time it was a tragedy. Roland was Charlemagne's favorite nephew, and history says that he was betrayed by the knight Ganelon.

 Nothing can set the mood in a medieval novel, like the sound of a horn. Every time I read or write about it, it gives me goosebumps. Whether it's a village fire, an invasion, a natural danger, the horn is often a precursor of calamity.

Even now, we use sirens to warn the population of tsumani, tornadoes, and other dangers. Their sound imitates the mournful lament of the ancient horn.

In BELOVED CRUSADER, my latest book in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, the Crusaders, like the armies of Charlemagne, set out and stop to the sound of the horn. Actually, they also take the Charlemagne road, that crossed Europe from its northern point to the famed city of Constantinople. Hope you enjoy the read.

Vijaya Schartz, author
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Thank heaven for the Kodak Brownie--Tricia McGill

Buy Travis from Amazon

And thank heaven I belonged in a family who loved taking pictures. I have friends who don’t have a single photograph of their parents, their siblings or themselves when young. This is so sad. Being the youngest in a large family I was treated as a pet, especially by my two eldest sisters who would doll me up and cart me off regularly to the local photographic studio to have my picture taken for posterity. I don’t think I was particularly happy with this arrangement as most of the photos taken in the studio show a pouting brat—but I did look smart with my big white bow atop my head. The pictures that were taken with the old Kodak Brownie were a different matter. 
Here it is for those who have never seen one
I don’t know who bought it or how this camera came into the family’s possession but I now have probably a thousand pictures here on my computer that show my extended family over the generations.

For those who have no idea what I am talking about this box camera was one of the first made by Kodak in 1915. But I can remember it being used by one of my sisters or brothers years later. Perhaps they had a later version, I can’t recall. Of course rolls of film had to be inserted and when that was full it would be taken off to the chemist (pharmacy) who would send the film off to be developed. I never bothered much with the details of how these wonderful photos ended up back with us, I’m just glad they did. When our beloved mother died my sister and I had a drawer full to sort through.
Our Dad taken around 1916, not sure but think it is in France. He cared for the warhorses.
Because of my family’s love of picture collecting I not only have the snaps taken by them I also have other pictures of my parents and siblings that have been passed down to me.

me aged 4

That's me at the front on the left scowling at my eldest brother's wedding. My parents are at the back and the other bridesmaid is my eldest sister.

The computer is a boon as it has enabled me to scan and edit them, a time-consuming but worthwhile task. I’ve made photo books for my sister and for my eldest sister’s daughters showing our family story from about 1909 onwards and I feel so sorry for others who do not possess their past shown in pictures. I gave my sister a digital photo frame for Christmas and it is a joy to her to flick through the pictures and get a visual journey through the family’s past right up to the present. 

That's our sister Joan on the left, the glamor girl of the family. Note the fabulous bathing costume. It was passed down to me. Can you imagine the picture I made wearing that. By the time I inherited it the thing was so loose and baggy it fell off me. Anyone remember the elasticated costumes?

Unfortunately only four of us remain out of the original ten so I am glad that our eldest sister’s daughters share our love of collecting photos and looking back into their past through old snaps.
You can find excerpts from all my books here on my webpage where you will find Remnants of Dreams, my book that, although fictional, is based on my mother's life.
Or visit my Books We Love author page.

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...