Saturday, June 27, 2015


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Reviewers always notice my villains, and this is no accident. I do like my villains as much as my heroes and heroines. I enjoy developing and refining my bad guys. I make them believable, strongly motivated, and intelligent. I believe the stronger the villain, the more heroic the hero or heroine will have to be, in order to defeat him (or her).

Debbie at ck2skwips&Kritiques said about the Ancient Enemy series:
"...the evil Captain Kavak certainly ranks as one of the worst villains ever encountered!"

Captain Kavak is a woman and a general. Her ancestors were once human, Anasazi taken to the stars by the Star People eight hundred years ago (according to Native American legends). The Anasazi were feared warriors, their name means "ancient enemy," according to my Native American sources, and after many modifications in the Pleiades system, they still are a bloodthirsty lot. But now they are part flesh part machine, and they call themselves Anaz-voohri. After slaughtering their captors and stealing their technology, they are coming to reclaim the planet of their ancestors... Earth.

In science fiction, the possibilities are endless. In this series, Captain Kavak is ruthless, part human and part alien cyborg. To enforce her authority, she sacrifices her opponents from the top of a pyramid. She hates the inferior humans. She wants to make Earth the Anaz-voohri home base, from which to build a fleet and launch her conquest of the entire galaxy. Unfortunately for her, her people and her fleet have been decimated in too many bloody battles, and she needs human breeders to birth her new army. She is more threatening due to the fact that she is desperate. Her motivations are all too understandable since her people face extinction.

Find it on Amazon HERE
In PRINCESS OF BRETAGNE and PAGAN QUEEN my villain also shines.

"Schartz is an accomplished writer, whose pacing, conflicts, and goals are always complex and whose good characters are always likeable, and whose villains are evil incarnate. You have to like her villains as much as the good guys! Mattacks is a magnificent example of this!" - 5 stars - Manic Readers

In BELOVED CRUSADER, I have two immortal villains. One is the Great Goddess herself, who turns against the heroine for disobeying and questioning her faith. The other villain is a Naga shape shifter, half serpent half man, an instrument of the Goddess, and possibly the Prince of Darkness himself. This is the first of my villains to be irredeemably dark.

But my villains also have their vulnerabilities. In the Archangel series, I have the reptilian devil himself being harassed and belittled by his nagging wife. It was fun to write. I also have a villain in book 1 who is so seductive and handsome, women hate themselves for liking him.

My secret to writing a great villain is  to make him, or her as three-dimensional, threatening, and interesting as possible, without out-staging the hero or the heroine. No matter what we are, we all have deep motivations, and I make sure theirs are clear and easy to understand for the reader. We can all relate to the thirst for power, the lure of riches, pride, revenge... In his mind, my villain is the hero of his own story.

Vijaya Schartz
Swords, Blasters, Romance with a Kick

Friday, June 26, 2015

I'm not a hoarder--or am I? Tricia McGill

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A friend of mine lost her mother last year and it took this friend and her family months to work their way through the years of junk collected by this person over her lifetime. Some of the disposable objects like scraps of paper with useless messages on them dated back to the year dot. Instances like this make me more determined than ever not to collect things. There’s my thirty or more elephants of all shapes and sizes, I know, but that’s another matter. Someone somewhere will cherish them after I’m gone, as I have.

As we get older we spend a moment or two now and then to ponder on the fragility of life. Another friend has just lost a family member who was an active member of society, yet was alive one day and gone the next. So now here I am once again lying in bed at night worrying who is going to sort through my junk once I am gone. 

I decided a while back that anything I hadn’t worn for over a year would go to the charity shop, yet on searching for something the other day I found a sweater my husband gave me not long after our wedding day and that was a long, long time ago. It must go to the charity shop soon, but how do we part with such mementos? There’s that mantra, voiced by the man of the house who has a million different sizes of screws etc. in his work shed—you never know when you might need them. My brother in law went mad when my sister threw out his various strips of timber that she considered to be rubbish but to him were treasures that might possibly come in handy one day. Oh, and there was that trailer that was going rusty lying out in all weathers that I decided to sell cheaply to someone as I was sick of telling my hubby I didn’t want to see the rusty heap in my garden a moment longer. It took a while for him to forgive me for that one. To be truthful I don’t think he ever did get over it.

On this latest clearing out tack I decided to work my way through my study. I’ve been doing something similar probably once a year for some time now, and considered I had thrown out most unwanted stuff. But yesterday I spent about 4 hours going through my piled up research notes. After all, who needs print outs these days when with a click of the mouse we have all the information we need at our fingertips. I forced myself to refrain from reading notes before they ended up in the recyclable bin, but there are a few that have to be kept back. After this 4 hours or so I would say I have made the tiniest inroad into the reams of paperwork. I just hope I don’t die before I get through it all.

This brought on another thought. Periodically I check online for updates etc. on Amazon or elsewhere, and came across a new review that had been added.

This one earned 1 and a half stars and when I went over to the reviewers’ site it seems this person has nothing better to do than go through the internet and insult or admire other people’s work.

“I would not recommend this book. I tried to finish this novel ,hoping it would improve. After reading over half i skipped to the end. The H& H were lifeless and the dialogue was redundant. The ending was predictable. If you love time travel novel pass over this one. Thank you for reading my review. Happpy Reading but not this book.”

I’ve left in their great spelling and other mistakes and was left to wonder just why this person took the time out to insult my work and then had the idiocy to thank the reader for reading the review.

Now this next one is for one of my best sellers on Amazon that has garnered a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews.

“So woman gets raped, finds a lover that takes advantage of her at every opportunity. What an awful love story.”

You may ask what this has to do with hoarding. Well, nothing really. It’s just that I was then forced to consider if these nasty people, who seem to enjoy insulting other folk’s endeavors, ever stop and think how many hours of painstaking research and work went into creating their stories. When I began to write in the late 90s I used the local library to take notes, hence the piles of printouts. I didn’t possess a computer back then. Ah, life is so easier these days (or is it?) We still have to take the time to verify facts, especially when writing historicals.

It doesn’t bother me that they don’t like my books, but what does bother me is just why people have to take time to insult the work of others without putting a moment’s thought into how hurtful it might be. I honestly don’t care if they hated my books—I’m grateful that many people have taken the time to tell me how they love them. It’s all a matter of opinion. I’ve read many books (or started them and not finished them) over the years that didn’t appeal to me, yet would not dream of going online and telling the world I hated them. I’ve said it before, if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.

So, to those people who spend five minutes of their time writing scathing reviews I say, please take into account the hours of research, writing, editing etc. that goes into creating a book, and next time try to refrain from telling them you hated it and just say, “ This one was not for me.”

Anyway, back to the de-hoarding, while sorting through cupboards and shelves I came across this newspaper dated May 8th 1945. I have no idea where I acquired it or why I kept it, but have a feeling it will not be thrown out anytime soon. Someone, someday, might find it of interest. I guess it comes from the days when I was researching for my novel, Remnants of Dreams. I see the paper cost 2 pence.
This article caught my eye. I found it interesting as my eldest sister left England to settle in Australia with her husband in 1949, soon after this was printed.

Let’s face it, hoarding is really only a matter of saving remnants of the past, be it our own or our country’s. We all love museums, don’t we? As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

You can find details of all my books here at Books We Love.
Or here on my website

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Foxes, Horses, and a Runaway Girl by Mikki Sadil

(Young Adult author Mikki Sadil brings her Civil War historical to Books We Love, and joins us on the Insider Blog)

Hello, I’m Mikki Sadil, a relatively new author with Books We Love. Jude told me to write something about myself, to allow all of you to get to know me. So here goes.I was born on a ranch in Texas, raised with Quarter Horses and Long Horn cattle, dogs, cats, and many unspecified animals, mostly wild. I was on the back of a horse…in front of my mom or dad or a ranch hand…from the time I was 6 months old, and was given my own Quarter Pony on my second birthday. On my fifth birthday, I was give a small .22 rifle and taught to shoot. As you may have guessed by now, horses and animals of all kinds have been a mainstay of my life…uh, .22’s, not so much.
My dad was in the service, and when I was 8 years old, he was deployed overseas and my mother and I went with him. That lasted about 2 years, then he was sent back to the US and we traveled all over this country.
When I was 10 years old, he was stationed in Washington, D.C, and we lived in a boarding house in Rock Creek, Maryland. One of his officers had a Civil War-type home ( read that as mansion) in another part of Maryland, with acres and acres of land. He also had horses…the Thoroughbreds that were used in Fox Hunts. Oh yes, Fox Hunts were real! This officer invited my father and me to take part in a Fox Hunt on a Sunday, and I was thrilled. I was not an English rider, but had had a few lessons in an English saddle so I could sit it pretty well.
That morning, there were about 40 people at this man’s home, all with their Thoroughbreds, and all of the adults dressed to the hilt in “fox hunting” clothing. Me? Well, I had on Western riding boots, jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt…not exactly dressed to the teeth for this event. My dad was far more presentable, as he had been in the Cavalry all his life ( before they turned the horses into tanks and military jeeps), so he had the proper boots and jodhpurs. I wouldn’t be caught dead riding a horse in such “sissified” attire, especially in a saddle that barely sat on the back of the horse.
Needless to say, the other adults were not exactly pleased to have a “child” riding with them, but as time went on, and I jumped the fences and went over the downed tree logs and splashed through the brooks as well as any of them, I was temporarily accepted. Temporarily being the key word.
The Fox Hunt was exactly as you’ve seen in movies or read about in books. We had a Hunt Master with a horn; we had a pack of beautiful hunt dogs, barking and straining at their leashes, eager to be let loose. There were broken fences and upright fences to jump over. There were the tree logs we had to guide our horse over or around, and there were the many brooks and streams to be splashed through. We started out, and rode for a while. It was a beautiful day, sun streaming down, gentle breeze blowing. The horses were gorgeous, coats shining in the sun, ears pricked forward, and the dogs were just being dogs.
Then…the Hunt Master let out a blast on his horn, the dogs were turned loose, and pandemonium began. Horses, horses everywhere. No longer was there any rhyme or reason for where one was riding, who you were riding beside. From a gentle canter it was now a full-out gallop, following the dogs. The dogs: yapping, barking, chasing each other, running as fast as they could. The scent of FOX was in the air. It was all I could do to stay in the saddle and handle this huge monster of a horse who was at least twice as big as my Quarter Horse, and twice as hard-headed. He was after the dogs, after the fox, and totally unresponsive to my pull on the reins.
Then, another different blast from the Hunt Master. Horses were reined in, slowed down. I looked ahead, and saw twenty dogs barking and trying unsuccessfully to climb up a tree. On a lower branch, a bit of orangy-red hung down: the FOX had been treed.
The woman next to me leaned closer, and asked if I’d ever seen how they killed the FOX? WHAT? KILL the FOX? My dad didn’t tell me that part of what a Fox Hunt was all about. I just looked at her, speechless. Suddenly, I realized all the horses were quiet. They were pacing forward at a walk. Only the dogs were still making a racket.
Oh NO! Kill the FOX? Not today! I gathered myself in the saddle, swung my crop against my horse’s side, and dug my spurs in. He jumped forward like he’d been stung by a swarm of bees. Yelling at the top of my voice, I headed straight for the dogs, the tree, and the FOX! The dogs quieted down for just a moment. They saw this huge horse and screaming “something” headed straight for them , and they scattered to the wind. The fox jumped down, and disappeared in an instant.
This Fox Hunt was so over.
My father and I were never invited to a Fox Hunt again.

You can find my books at Books We Love.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rewrite a Novel or let it Die? by Diane Scott Lewis


Years ago I read a novel called Desiree and became interested in Napoleon, especially in his exile on the strange island of St. Helena. I started to research this exile and found numerous resources at the Library of Congress (in those Dark Ages days before the internet). One resource would lead me to another, one book published at the very time, 1817, Napoleon was on the island (1815-1821). The description of the odd landscape, flora and fauna of St. Helena, a remote volcanic atoll in the South Atlantic fascinated me.
Approach to St. Helena
I’d lived on Guam for a few years, so understood the isolation of an island in the middle of nowhere.

A story formed in my head, and my alternate-history novel began to take shape. What if Napoleon met a woman on St. Helena, and rallied to escape his exile?  I worked for years on this book, even corresponding with a Napoleonic scholar who had visited the island four times. I read dairies of Napoleon’s servants who’d accompanied him there, plus information from his English captors who held him prisoner under the strictest of circumstances.

I wanted to humanize this much-written about man, without bending the facts too far—other than the escape of course!

I finally sold the book to a small on-line press and was thrilled. Until I saw the price they put on my ebook. As an unknown author, few would pay that inflated price, so the book languished.

I was so enamored of my own research, that to salvage some of it, I wrote a short novel that took place on St. Helena, A Savage Exile, in which I added vampires to the mix.

Next year my contract with the other publisher will be up, and I’m dying to rewrite the original book and present it to my current publisher. But now my ideas have changed. I want to replace my heroine with another, older, smarter woman, change the dynamics, and shorten this very long book. I have misgivings about the rewrites. Should I forget about it? It seems I’m constantly rehashing this story, but then again all those years of research going to waste!
St. Helena map, 1815

We’ll see how the summer goes, as I’m working on a time-travel at the moment. I might electronically drag out that dusty tome and hack away and see what happens. (in fact, I’ve already started).

For more information about my books, please visit my website:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Part Two . . . To Quire by Victoria Chatham

In my last post I looked at the development of the fountain pen. In this post I’m addressing another part of the writing experience equation – paper. Where would we be without either?

We have the Chinese to thank for the art of paper making, possibly even 200 years earlier than the recorded 105 BC. Ts’ai Lun, an official at the Imperial Court so history tells us, became fascinated with the nests of wasps and bees. Inspired by their industry, he pounded mulberry bark into a sheet, let it dry and then wrote on it. This first experiment was improved with the addition of rags, hemp and old fishing nets a ll soaked together in water, the fibers then beaten into a pulp and strained through a cloth sieve onto a drying frame. Court officials were now able to discard the heavy and unwieldy bamboo strips or expensive silk previously used for writing. With the invention of woodblock printing circa 600 AD it was no wonder that by 740 AD China had its first printed newspaper.

Paper was used not only for writing, but also wrapping and padding, toilet paper and tea bags. Have you ever wondered how long paper money has been around?  The government of the Song Dynasty was the first to issue it. The earliest piece of paper, inscribed with a map and found at Fangmatan in Gansu province, dates from 179-41 BC while the earliest recorded woodblock printed book was the Diamond Sutra (Perfection of Wisdom) of 868 CE found at Dunhuang. The British Library states ‘it is the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book’.

The art of papermaking was a closely kept secret but it was inevitable that along with spices, jade, lapis lazuli and the lucrative silk that gave the route its name, knowledge of paper   made its way along the Silk Road. In 8th century Samarkand a water-mill was first used in the paper making process, a process that was repeated across the Arabic world and then medieval Europe. Modern papermaking began in earnest in the 19th century with the invention of the Fourdrinier machine, capable of producing rolls rather than sheets of paper. In 1844 inventors Charles Fenerty, a Canadian and F.G. Keller, a German, developed a machine that used wood pulp and forever changed the face of papermaking.

Paper is produced in many weights and sizes. We are all familiar with letter, legal, ledger and tabloid sizes. Some of these sizes have names such as Post, Crown and Double Demy. Imperial UK sizes include Antiquarian and Grand Eagle. The old adage ‘against the grain’ comes from the paper making industry for, if paper is folded against its grain, it can crack along the fold. The heavier the paper the more cracking will occur. A ream is 500 sheets of paper and a quire 1/20th of that, or 25 sheets of paper.

The word paper is commonly considered to derive from the papyrus plant, used by the Ancient Egyptians. The pith of the plant is processed quite differently and produces a heavier type of paper. Animal skins have been used throughout the centuries as a writing medium. Vellum is produced from calfskin, the very best being produced from unborn or stillborn animals. Today quality vellum is hard to find and expensive but is still produced in the UK by the family business of William Cowley of Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. Established in 1870 they still use traditional methods passed down by word of mouth and use skills that are virtually unchanged for 2000 years. Parchment is a term for skins prepared from other animals such as horses, cows, deer and pigs. Today there is a form of vellum made from plasticized cotton.

One of the reasons I love old books is the paper they are printed on. As Helene Hanff writes in 84 Charing Cross Road, ‘I’m almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream colored pages. Being used to the dead-white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to the touch’. The most expensive book I ever purchased for myself was an illustrated edition of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. The grain in the paper is definitely a joy to touch.

I still like to have quality writing paper to hand, for those occasions when I actually take pen to paper for a letter at Christmas or a thank-you note. At one time I had my own design embossed letterhead notepaper but that was before the advent of the computer when letter writing was still fashionable and mail arrived twice daily Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings.

In spite of technology, paper is still a big part of our lives. From official documents to brown grocery bags and parking or speeding tickets, it is not likely to go away any time soon. How does paper feature in your life? Do you like your magazines from the store, or online? Or both? The next time you handle a piece of paper, give some thought as to how it reached you. You may be surprised.

For more about Victoria and her books go to:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm remembering Daddy On Father's Day By Sandy Semerad

 A Message in the Roses
What do Dads want on Father’s Day?
The number one answer, according to a recent survey, is spending time with family and loved ones. Number two is clothing. Beer is number three.
This survey may not be scientific, but I agree with the number one answer. I wish I could have spent more time with my Dad.
As a child, I was afraid of monsters and would often sneak into my parents’ bed at night. After I fell asleep, Daddy would carry me back to my bed. One time he didn’t.
That was the night he died. I was seven.
The next morning, I found Mama crying in the living room. Our house was full of people. Many of them were crying also.
“Where’s Daddy,” I asked Mother.
“He’s gone away,” she said.
Daddy looked handsome in the shiny casket, but asleep. I didn’t understand he wouldn’t wake up. He died of a heart attack, I was told.
Before Daddy died, he’d complained of a backache, and I remember he came home early one afternoon to rest his back. Mama told me not to bother him.
But I couldn’t resist. I sat on his bed and chattered away, as he puffed on a cigarette. I can still see his pack of Camels on the bed stand.
Daddy rarely came home early. He worked most of the time. He wanted to give us the so-called finer things in life: a large brick home, a fishing pond, a swimming pool, tennis courts and our own merry-go-round.
Friends from Geneva, Alabama who knew Daddy, called him--Ira Hodges--an entrepreneur. He owned Hodges hardware in the heart of town, but before he married Mama and moved to Geneva, he was a Texas wildcatter--an oilman.
One of my Geneva friends, John Savage, who as a teen worked with Daddy, said he thought Daddy seemed too big for a small town.
But Daddy loved Geneva, Mama said. He’d often give credit on a handshake, and he helped many people in need.
Daddy once repaired the broken windows in a family’s house for free. “It was freezing and we couldn’t afford to pay,” the father of the family told me.
Many years after Daddy passed, I spotted a strange figure, wandering around our house. I froze in fear. Mama wasn’t home at the time.
I called police before I realized the man wasn’t a stranger at all. He used to work for Daddy, but had since moved away from the area. He didn’t know Daddy had died, he said.
“Whenever I needed work, Mr. Ira would always give me some,” the man said.
I’ve told my daughters and granddaughter this story and other stories about Daddy. I want them to know he was compassionate. He helped people and gave generously of his time and money. I only wish he could have shared more of his time with us.
I’ve missed not having him in our lives, and on this Father’s Day, I wanted to pay tribute to him. #Father’sDay.
To find out more, go here:

 Hurricane House

 Sex, Love & Murder

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...