Saturday, September 26, 2015

There’s no place like home—Tricia McGill

Buy Maddie and The Norseman from PayLoadz

Home means different things to different people. Because our news headlines have lately featured countless people fleeing their homeland and searching (currently mostly unsuccessfully) for a peaceful place to live, far away from war and destruction, it got me to imagining what it must be like to be totally homeless and without support of any kind. In fact the thought makes me shudder. I could not imagine life without a permanent home to come back to, without the sense of security that comes from being surrounded by familiar people and possessions.

Love for our homeland is another matter. I’ve had two in my life. My allegiance was to England during my early years, and I wouldn’t have considered back then calling myself anything but British. But ask me now and my immediate response would be “I am Australian”. One of my proudest moments was becoming a citizen of this country and receiving the proof of that citizenship. There are degrees of love for one’s homeland. We are free to criticize and say what we like, but let an outsider caste any sort of criticism on the land that we love, and we are quick to spring to its defense. It saddens me when I hear of people abusing the privileges bestowed on them or their parents who have been allowed to live here as free citizens and then decide, for reasons only logical to them, to go off and fight in far off places for causes against the country that offered them this freedom of choice.

My husband and I migrated to Australia many years ago as what was called back then ‘ten pound Poms’. In case you are too young to know the meaning of this term I will explain. Australia was calling for tradespeople to come here for a better life and to enjoy the prosperity of this land as long as we were willing to work hard and do our best. I already had three sisters living here so the decision was easy for me. Not so easy for my husband who left all his family behind. Our fare out was paid on the understanding that should we decide to return we would take care of the expense. I am pleased to say that once settled here returning to England was out of the question—for me. Not so my husband. He would have gone back at any time (if I agreed) because England was and always remained his homeland. That is not to say he wasn’t happy here and we had a good life. We arrived on a Wednesday, and with a letter of referral from his company in England, he started work the following Monday. I too had a job within a week. As a matter of interest, we arrived in the year Australia changed over to decimal currency and by the time we exchanged our pounds shillings and pence for dollars we had precisely $AU100 to start our lives here. Within five years we owned our own home.

I worked in a clothing manufacturing company and it was what was called back then ‘A league of Nations’. There were people from Italy, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, South Africa, and countless other countries. All came here with little and most ended up if not wealthy, comfortable, by sheer hard work. One man I worked alongside arrived on a ship with one spare pair of shoes tucked under his arm, and little else but the clothes he wore.

Recently I watched the life story of Peter Allen (one of our better known exports) on my TV. I have to admit to shedding a tear whenever I hear his song ‘I still call Australia Home’. His words bring out every patriotic part of me, and never cease to fill me with renewed pride in this country I call home. It’s hard to put into words the passion we feel for our homeland. Let’s face it, Australia, like many other countries, has been built on immigration. We owe it’s prosperity to our forebears.

Our home while traveling
So, what does home mean to me? In our traveling days, for short periods of time our caravan was home, because that is where we returned to sleep at night, and it was our security. But I have to say that while on the road I was never totally content and always glad to return to my permanent home and my own bed. This is where my personal possessions are all in one place. This is where my memories are stored. I’ve had quite a few moves in my life and each new house has become my home and the center of my world.
The dogs always came along on the trips
I recall the first trip we set out on, towing our temporary home behind us. We’d spent about three days on the road heading to Far North Queensland. I awoke in a state of panic. It hit me that I was a long way from ‘home’ here in Victoria, and that should something go wrong then I could not just hop back home in a few hours. Of course there was always the option of flying, but that didn’t occur to me back then. This panic subsided as I got used to traveling, but nonetheless I always did, and still do, experience a feeling of contentment when I near my home.

There was one instance that I was too young to remember, but apparently my eldest sister took me away from war ravaged London to somewhere in the countryside. I did nothing but cry for our mother and home, so much so that she took me back after only a couple of days. I was told years later that our mum took me in her arms and cried, for she was just as happy to have me home as I was to be there. So, my desire to be in a familiar place goes back a long time. I never strayed far from home from then on, and had our mother still been alive I would not have left England when I did.

So, here I sit in my lovely present home, surrounded by my mementos and personal treasures, and thank whatever chance, be it God, or Fate, has allowed me the privilege of always having a place that I can call home. Home is where the heart is, yes?
Visit my website for information on all my BWL books

Friday, September 25, 2015






FOSTER MOM? or not

After an abnormally hot, dry spring and summer, we on Puget Sound had a freaky, one day  wind and rain storm. It reminded me of another storm when I tried to be a foster mom.

Orphans of the Storm
Wind out of the south, whitecaps washing over the floating bridges, the ferry system shut down—a Pacific Northwest storm. And one post-storm spring morning while driving to work and listening to NPR, I heard that the previous night’s gully washer caused another problem:  squirrel’s nests knocked out of trees leaving a surfeit of orphaned babies.  An animal welfare organization who shall remain nameless put out a call for foster parents.
Wow!  That sounded like fun, I thought.  I could do that.  I loved squirrels. I wrote the organization’s phone number down.
At work, I found a place where a box of the family Sciuridae could sleep while I worked, and where I could retreat to give them little bottles of food and some TLC.  Then I called the rescue group.
“I heard about your need for squirrel baby foster parents,” I said, “and I’m really interested.”
“Well now, isn’t that nice, but before adoption can be considered, I have a few questions.”
“You understand that you have to be pre-approved.”
Uh oh. I hoped she wasn’t going to run a background check on me. The first time I went back east to meet my in-laws, one of my husband’s aunts was living in a pre-Civil War house near Holmes Hollow and cooking squirrel pot pie on a wood burning stove that came with the home I’d try and keep that on the down-low. After all, what happens in Holmes Hollow stays in Holmes Hollow.
 “Uh, okay.”
“What’s your name?”
“Karla Stover.”
“Where do you live?”
“In Parkland which is just south of Tacoma, Washington.”
“Oh, now, that’s a bit of a problem.”
“How so?”
“Well, the babies were orphaned in Seattle.”
“I can drive there to pick some up.”
“And there are their physicals.”
Say what?
“Well, who administers the physicals?”
“A vet.”
“We have lots of vets in Tacoma, and running water and everything.  My husband and I have gone to the same vet for years.”
Levity wasn’t her strong suit.
“Yes, but it has to be a wild animal vet.”
I sensed roadblocks—the result of animosity and distain Seattle feels for Tacoma.
“Well, I’ll ask our vet if he can give them their physicals,” I said.
“No can do, I’m afraid.  We already have an approved wildlife vet ready to take them on.”
“Maybe I can drive to your vet, then.  Where is he?”
Lynwood!  That’s a hundred miles away.
Still, I persevered.  “I could do that.”
“Every week?”
“Every week.  The orphaned babies have to be checked and weighed weekly.  We want to make sure they’re getting the best possible care.”
“Are they vaccinated for hanta virus and Lyme’s disease?” I asked.  “Do they need Frontline?”
Perhaps she sensed my sarcasm.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but we have strict rules and regulations about who qualifies to adopt our orphans and how they are to be raised.”
“They’re rodents, for gosh sakes.”
“You see, that statement shows a flippant attitude.  I’m sorry but you don’t qualify.”
Jeez!  Take it down a notch, lady.
About a week later, someone knocked on my front door.  It was two little boys with three squirrel babies in a box.  “Here,” one boy said, “Mom said we should give them to you.”
I didn’t know who the kids were, who their mom was, or why she thought I should have the care and responsibility of three hostile-looking rodents.  Their unattractiveness knocked the romance of foster moming squirrels right out of the ring.  Nevertheless, I took the box and carried it to the garage. Then I tried to put dishes of water and sunflower seeds—shelled, I might add—in the box.  Nasty little buggers.  Their only interest was in trying to bite the hand that was attempting to feed them. 
After a few days, when it didn’t look as if they were eating, I decided to turn them loose among the apple, cherry, pear and filbert nut trees in our backyard.  They scampered for safety.
  And ever since, we’ve had squirrel families eating the filberts, biting holes into the fruit and, digging up my bulbs.
All without physicals or mailed reminders for booster shots.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Deadly or a Curative-poisons in medications, by Diane Scott Lewis

Poisons and poisonous plants have been utilized for centuries in medications. A Persian physician in the tenth century first discovered that poisons such as mercury could be employed as curatives, and not just on the tip of an arrow to kill your enemy. But poisons had to be managed carefully.
Plants, long the healing forte of the wise-woman in England, were a common ingredient in medicinal “potions,” though so many had deadly qualities. The foxglove, with its beautiful hooded, purple bloom is fatal if eaten.

But eighteenth century British physician, William Withering, used infusions of this plant to treat dropsy (now known as edema). Later, the plant was used to create digitalis for heart failure.

Rosy periwinkle is also toxic to eat. However, in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, it’s used to treat diabetes and constipation.

More well known is the Opium poppy, used to make morphine (and unfortunately heroin-the killer of many an addict). Morphine is invaluable as a pain reliever for the sickest of patients. Small doses of other deadly toxins such as henbane, hemlock and mandrake have been employed to ease the pain of surgeries. But a dose slightly too high would kill the patient.

In Shakespeare’s time, poisonous extracts were added to cough medicines. Opiates were common in cough remedies, mainly for sedation. Mrs. Cotton in the seventeenth century suggested a mixture of vinegar, salad oil, liquorice, treacle, and tincture of opium when “the cough is troublesome.”

No one yet understood the addictive nature of these drugs—if the patient lived to find out.
The chemical element mercury, another toxin, was used starting in the 1500’s to treat syphilis.
Well into the twentieth century, mercury was an ingredient in purgatives and infant’s teething powder.

Arsenic is another poison that was commonly added to medications. A chemical element, arsenic is found in many minerals. In the 18th to 20th centuries, arsenic compounds, such as arsphenamine (by Paul Ehrlich, 1854-1915) and arsenic trioxide (by Thomas Fowler, 18th c.) were popular. Arsphenamine was also used to treat syphilis. Arsenic trioxide was recommended for the treatment of cancer and psoriasis.

Numerous people suffered adverse effects or died after the ingestion of these lethal ingredients.
In my recent release, The Apothecary’s Widow, arsenic is found in the tinctures used to treat the ague of Lady Pentreath. Unfortunately, arsenic is not one of the ingredients listed in that cure, and never in such a large dose. Who murdered Lady Pentreath, her miserable husband, Branek, or the apothecary Jenna who prepared the medicines, a widow about to be evicted from her shop, which is owned by the Pentreaths? A corrupt constable threatens to send them both to the gallows.

Click here to purchase The Apothecary’s Widow.

To find out more about my novels, please visit my website:

The Power of Poison: Poison as Medicine, the American Museum of Natural History
William Buchan, Domestic Medicine: or, a treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by regimen and simple medicines [second edition] (London: 1772)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From Pantser to Plotter by Victoria Chatham

Every writer falls into one of these categories, some writers may be comprised of a little of both. When I started writing I was definitely a pantser, the type of writer who sits in front of a computer and goes with the flow. As long as I had my characters, the rest would take care of itself, right? Well, not exactly.
My first book held marked similarities to raising my first child. Regardless of what I thought, I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing. To say I struggled with that first book is putting it mildly. At one point I had followed every lead my heroine gave me and finished up writing about her grandmother in pre-war Montreal
and how, pregnant and alone, she ended up in war-torn France fighting with the resistance forces. Great stuff, even though I’m blowing my own trumpet here.
However, that was not the story I was writing. I was writing a contemporary western romance.and badly at that. Had I taken the time to consider more than just my characters I would have saved myself a great deal of time. I’m not a fast writer, and when I realized how much time I’d wasted, I went back to the drawing board as it were.
Yes, I had my characters. They usually present themselves to me fully formed. I know their names and what they look like. Next is to fill in their character questionnaire, even complete a character interview. I know my characters well by this stage but throwing them on the page and expecting things to happen just didn’t work. I found writing historical romance or fiction easier in that I simply looked up the year (god bless Google), to see what major events were taking place world-wide and went from there for my background but it still wasn’t exactly a plot, more of an idea.
When I started writing my soon-to-be-released contemporary western romance, Loving That Cowboy, I soon ran into a brick wall. I’m sure many of you will know what that feels like. The words were just not there. It wasn’t writer’s block per se, more like this writer’s ineptitude. After one very frustrating day when I wanted to File 13 all ten pages I’d managed to produce, I was ready to give up. That was when I became a plotter.
I sat down and started from scratch, looking at my two leading characters and figuring out how to get them together and listed dozens of ‘what ifs?’. All that took time, but as I reached each plot point I noted it on a pink post-it and stuck it on my white board. Very pretty it looked too. Not only that, there was great satisfaction in removing the post-its as I reached each plot point. Now I really felt that I was getting somewhere. Sure there was a fair amount of rewriting on the way, but that is inevitable.
I also went back to several of my craft books, especially Deborah Dixon's Goal, Motivation & Conflict. She recommends watching six specific movies to illustrate her lessons. Great. I love movies. I spent a week watching some of those she recommended and some I chose to work with to determine how much I'd learned. I wrote notes, I went back to the book Save the Cat for more on plotting within the three act structure and finished up that week revisiting Techniques of the Selling Writer. Thank goodness I held on to those books when I packed for my last move.
Having tried both methods, I think from now on I’ll be doing much more plotting instead of relying on my characters to take me somewhere. How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or maybe a bit of each?

For more information about Victoria go to:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Am I allowed to laugh while at the festival of the dead?

Click here to buy from Amazon

Am I allowed to laugh while at the festival of the dead?

They say Madness merely depends on which end of the knife blade you’re staring at, and who’s holding the gun to your head. Or so said my mother, before we lost her on that first night of our holidays. She’d taken up jogging the day before she disappeared and to this day we still don’t know where she is.  I was ten at the time and had poked my head around the corner, everyone else was asleep. I asked her where she was going. Thinking it odd that she would be up by herself, getting dressed. She was crying and tried to hide her tears as I asked. She assured me everything was okay and as she patted my rear to the direction of my room, I remember seeing Dad staring through the partly open window of that Mexican beach house. He had a strange look on his face as Mom ran off and it wasn’t from Montezuma’s revenge either.  I’ll never get adults; life as a kid seems so easy. Only mom never came back. I cried for days. Dad said she was just running. It took me many years to know from what. I always thought for years after that it was me.
My parents brought us here to see the festival of the dead. I'd already guessed it wasn't going to be a happy holiday. Solemn affair, everyone just hanging around waiting to see whose limb falls off first. Some even tried placing bets, but all their credit cards had been cancelled and the relatives had absconded with the money. But I thought that's what wills were for. I'd already been to a couple of school sock hops that should have been named the same.
 Yes, Mexico. I did tell mom to make sure she earns brownie points by telling everyone at the festival that she should buy them a drink. Wouldn't cost much and even the zombies can't drink. Well, they try but by the time the drink reaches their mouths they've either crushed the glass or spilled it all over themselves. Oh and note to self, don't waste your best jokes on zombies, they don't get it. Humor I've discovered is way beyond them. But yo-yos are another matter. Keeps them entertained for days. Just watching the ball going up and down, up and down, up and down and believe it or not, up and down. Don't think they get past the string and realize there's someone at the end controlling it.
Yup, survival tip #101 when walking through parts of town that are quite dodgy, "If attacked by zombies, whip out your yo-yo, give it to someone with spasmodic seizures and run like hell".
PS. To all of those who are currently crying into their hankies, Kleenexes or shirt sleeves, please don’t. Do remember this is a blog written by a fiction writer. Hope that is a big enough hint. But if I did get you crying, well I’ve done a good job as a writer at pulling emotion out of the reader. Now if only I could predict lottery scores.

Available in Fall 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Writing tips I've learned from my long ride by Sandy Semerad

     It's been a lengthy journey, going from news reporter to author. I'd like to think I've learned a few things along the way, although I have often pondered this question: 

   Has working as a reporter helped me write better novels?

I hope so, but it’s been quite a ride. It didn’t start off as I intended.

As a child, I made up stories in my head, but as a reporter, I had to stick to the facts—“just the facts mam.”

In my early years, as a wet behind the ears journalist, I struggled to write a proper lead sentence with who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how. Or at least I was told that was the proper way.

I’d lose sleep, agonizing over the five w’s, not to mention the how’s. With perseverance, I learned to please my editors and meet my deadlines.

I still think it’s important to know the rules, particularly the rules of grammar, but it’s equally vital to find your own voice. Breaking the rules might be part of that process.

As for my journey as a writer, I have evolved. I’ve learned to construct simpler lead sentences, without including the five w’s all at once. I felt it was my obligation as a news woman to inform readers without boring them to death.

Readers crave excitement and conflict. That I know.

Who wants every question answered in the beginning? Not I.

It wasn’t until I moved to Florida that I started writing down the stories in my head. I saw a man fall from the back of a truck into a car, and I wondered: What if this happened to me on my way to New Orleans during Mardi Gras?

I entertained myself with this story until the characters began to multiply. I couldn’t keep them straight in my head. So I started writing about them. In a few months, I had a novel, or at least the first draft of a novel.

In reading through my first draft, I realized I needed more conflict. It wasn’t easy placing my lovely characters in danger, but I bit the bullet, and ruthlessly overwhelmed them with problems. I made them struggle and fail and encounter death until the very end. Call me merciless.

I also learned how to start off my tale with an inciting incident. I call this hooking the reader. Hook the reader with every turn, I say. Add hooks in the beginning, cliff hangers at the end of each chapter and at transitional breaks.

For me, the beginning of my story is the most challenging. How will I create a life-changing event? Will this event be the death of a loved one, a divorce, a murder, a job loss, a terrible accident, or a violent argument? Whatever, it must be riveting.

My first mystery novel Sex, Love, & Murder (previously Mardi Gravestone), begins with two inciting incidents. In the prologue, the president and my main character Lilah--a journalist and young widow-- are shot. After the prologue, I have the first chapter starting the week before the shootings. Lilah is in an automobile accident. A man is in a coma as a result of that accident. As the ambulance takes him away, Lilah discovers his tossed suitcase, containing cash and the details of a murder.

In Hurricane House, my protagonist is mourning the death of her fiancé when she discovers a body in the gulf.

In A Message in the Roses, Carrie Sue unlocks a diary revealing secrets she has yet to resolve.

But I must confess, when I first began writing novels, I suffered from backstory-itis, commonly known as information dump. (I define back story as anything that has happened to a character before the inciting incident).

As an avid reader myself, I enjoy a story with unanswered question. I like to ponder and wonder. Adding too much of the back story takes that pleasure away from me.

Now I find it helpful to write a back story for each of my main characters before I begin my tale. I want to know my characters as well as I know myself. Armed with this knowledge, I can add back story as needed.

In A Message in the Roses, Carrie Sue’s parents died in a plane crash. I mentioned this in the first chapter, because I thought readers needed to understand why she grabbed a letter opener and tried to stab her cheating husband. If I failed to create sympathy for Carrie Sue, readers might not like her and understand her impulsiveness.  

Including back story can be tricky, no question. It can be almost as complex as utilizing the five senses in scenes.
I have a tendency to overwrite, and for that reason, I hide my first drafts. No one sees them unless I badly need the opinion of someone like my husband, whom I trust.

I wish my every word and every sentence were impeccable but, I no longer bow to perfection while writing the first draft.  

Perfection, I’ve found is an elusive goal, entirely subjective, and in my life, it seems I’ve attained more from my imperfections and failures. I’ve certainly learned never to give up, no matter what, and I sincerely hope you’ve learned a few things from my writing struggles.

Whatever you take away, I want you to know: I write with passion, and when you think about it, writing with passion, might be the best tip of all.

To read more about my work please visit my website and the links below:

Buy link, A Message in the Roses

Buy Link, Huricane House

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How The Ghost Dance Originated by Ginger Simpson

Writing historical westerns with a smidge of romance and sex is my passion.  Although I've drifted away from the genre from time to time, I keep getting called back by my characters.  Yes, you know I hear voices  and amost of them have a twang. 

 I just submitted two re-releases to Books We love, and as you probably guessed, they are historical westerns.  My nose is always in a research book because when you write about historical facts, you'd better get them right.  Here's a little info on the kind of stuff you find when you're looking.  You may not always use the information in a book, but learning is always a good thing.

While researching history, I've turned again to my wonderful "America's Fascinating Indian Heritage" published by Reader's Digest.  I cannot tell you how many times I have counted on this historical guide to help me get my facts straight...and to learn.

In 1881, Sitting Bull and his Sioux tribe surrendered to the U.S., closing the history of the plains Indians as we know it.  All plains Indians were confined to reservations in the Dakotas,  to lands so dry and unyielding, that even experienced farmer's would encounter problems working the soil.  The people were expected to survive on supplies rationed by the government to supplement what they grew, but sadly, the food they received was as scarce as the yield they garnered from the tilled soil.

Land-hungry white men took advantage of the starving Indians and tried to buy their plots for as little as 50 cents per acre, and certain government agencies pressured the red man to consent to sell off the excess real estate. Caught in the middle of greed and hunger, the tribe sustained themselves with memories of the old days.

Far away, a Paiute prophet, Wavoka had a vision that spread and gave a new hope to the desparity.  The Ghost Dance would bring a new dawn and a time when the white man would disappear.  The dead would be resurrected and all Indian existence would change, living forever and hunting the new herds of buffalo that would reappear.

In preparation, The Ghost Dance had to be performed, a simple ceremony consisting of dancing and chanting, often resulting in a frenzy where participants often fell into a semi-conscious state and saw visions of the coming of the new world.  A Ghost Dance shirt, thought to make the wearer safe from the white man's bullets, was adopted, and because so many wore such shirts, the garments may have been the reason the ritual was considered a war dance.

Despite mistreatment at the hands of the whites and the undertones of the Dance, no antiwhite feelings were expressed and the message of the cult was one of peace, but fear mongering among the white officials on the reservation and spreading of gossip pointed a finger at Sitting Bull, who was thought to be the focus of the ceremony.

  Forty-three Indian police were ordered to arrest him, and descended upon his cabin.  He fought against the injustice due to what has been said to be taunts from old women to resist the whites once again. Shots were fired and at the end, fourteen people, including Sitting Bull lay dead.  More next month of the aftermath known as the Slaughter at Wounded Knee.

Note from Ginger:  All information pertaining to the Ghost Dance is attributed to Reader's Digest.  I have paraphrased to share this event with you.

Here are my two latest releases from Books We Love.  Find them on my page and click the covers for more information and purchasing options.

Click to purchase - All Formats Publisher Direct

Click to Purchase - All Formats Publisher Direct

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...