Saturday, October 3, 2015

The End of the Gentleman Spy Era? by Diane Bator

     A writer friend and I were discussing the spy genre the other day and came to one sad conclusion: 
it seems like modern technology has moved along to the point spies just need to log in to computers or satellites in order to spy on and catch the bad guys. Where's the fun in that?

Sir Ian Fleming's James Bond is the ultimate in spies. Courageous, smart, witty, romantic (even if he is a wee bit of a womanizer!) and he always gets his man - and woman - in the end. Yes, the movies started off more fun than the latest offerings, but between the Bond Girls and handsome parade of leading men portraying our hero, did anyone really mind? There has always been, and likely will always be, discussions and even arguments over who the "best" James Bond actor is. Some go for looks, some go for acting ability, some like Sean Connery's accent or Roger Moore's eyes... but all like the romance of the genre. The adventure. The thrill of the chase scenes. The exotic locations.

Will future spies - movie and the like - be online geeks sipping Big Gulps in their parents' basements while they hunt the Web for terrorists and thieves? Not only would that not play out well for books or movies, where's the romance? The adventure?

Therein lies the modern dilemma for the genre.

Truly, this is why I love being a writer. Literary characters don't just sit around at home and search the Internet. They interact, they travel, they get involved with scenarios the average person may never encounter in their own lives. Like James Bond, they can be outrageous and daring. All while the author sits at a keyboard sipping coffee and creating obstacle after obstacle while on the edge of his or her seat and hoping the reader will have the same reaction.

Even though technology advances at a dizzying rate, I'm glad to say the writer's imagination will always find a way to keep the gentleman spy alive and well! And in the hands of their readers. There will always be a knight in shining armor and a woman who not only stands at his side, but fights for justice along with him.

Hmm...kind of makes me want to branch out from mystery writing to try a whole new genre....


Did you know Sir Ian Fleming, a prolific writer who died at age 56,  also wrote the children's story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang?
1953 - Casino Royale
1954 - Live and Let Die
1955 - Moonraker
1956 - Diamonds Are Forever
1957 - From Russia, with Love
1957 - The Diamond Smugglers
1958 - Dr. No
1959 - Goldfinger
1960 - For Your Eyes Only
1961 - Thunderball
1962 - The Spy Who Loved Me
1963 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service
1963 - Thrilling Cities
1964 - You Only Live Twice
1964 - Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang
1965 - The Man with the Golden Gun
1966 - Octopussy
1966 - The Living Daylights

Friday, October 2, 2015


FAREWELL NO. 29  by Margaret Tanner

A few months after the death of your parents, having to sell the family home is a truly sad and painful task.  More than a decade has passed since my brother, sister and I had to do this, but I still remember how traumatic it was.

The Real Estate Agent’s board said it all - FOR SALE – DECEASED ESTATE. There was a large green SOLD sticker plastered across the poster.

I came to visit you one last time because after tomorrow you will be no longer ours. As I stood at the front of No. 29, your tile roof seemed just a little drab, but your weatherboards – how well the new white paint suited them, and the mission brown trim gave you almost an air of elegance.

You will never be a grand old lady like the Victorian and Edwardian houses that fetch such high prices. No fancy iron lacework or intricately designed facade. You were a working man’s house, an old “L” shaped weatherboard.

A battler returning from the war built you, using his deferred army pay as a deposit, and times were tough. That’s why your verandah roof is covered in tin and your walls are lined with plaster board. There are no fancy fittings on the doors or windows either.

You sheltered the man, his wife and three children from gusty winds, as you stood all alone for a time in a great empty paddock. You were only half built when the family moved in, but they were thankful for the two rooms that were habitable.

There were no roads, and in winter the children squelched in mud, then tracked it all across you floors. It snowed one day, and the family cooked toast on a fork over the open fire because the electricity had gone off.

At first, only generaniums could grow in your heavy clay soil, but years and loads of sandy loam later, camellias, daphne, azaleas and numerous annuals grew triumphantly around you.

You have no front fence now as it was taken down years ago. I trudged up the concrete path leading out to the backyard. The rotary clothes hoist looked almost obscene when I remembered the old fashion line, with the wooden prop, that my father had put up when we first moved in.

Right down the back, under the big plum tree we built such cubby houses. A mere lean-to, a double storey, fruit box mansion and there was even one masterpiece with a secret room hidden behind an old tablecloth.

Ah, a wheel from my brother’s old pram wedged in a forked branch of the Granny Smith apple tree. How many times had the little fellow toddled off with his pram down to the main street on his ‘way to work.’ Desperate searches were instigated by my frantic mother when she realised her son had gone but somehow we always managed to find him again without the aid of the police, even if it did take an hour or to. Of course, those were the days when you could wander around at any hour, leave your windows and doors open and not be violated by some thug.

The old wash house. I pushed the door open and ran my finger across the concrete troughs. Was there just the slightest tinge of blue? A legacy from the Reckitt’s mum always used to whiten her sheets? I stared at the space where the old copper once stood. It not only washed our clothes, but provided bathwater also for a time until we could afford a hot water service.

The floor was concrete because we never did put lino or any covering on it. Unlined walls too. Chalky scribble on the woodwork remains, a testament to our lack of artistic talent. One of the windows was boarded up, but you couldn’t see it from outside, because the branches of a lemon tree covered it. My brother had kicked his football through the glass in a closely contested afternoon game with some of the neighbourhood kids. I remember there was hell to pay later that night though.

I fingered the back door key. How smooth and suddenly cold it felt. I had promised the new owners I would leave it inside and go out the front when I had finished.

I stood in the vestibule, it would be called a family room now, and it was sad to see the place so empty. The green room, not much more than a sleep-out really, had belonged to my brother. The pink room, we girls shared that, while our parents had the blue room. The floorboards creaked ever so slightly – was that a damp patch on the ceiling?

Mum often regaled us about the time in the early days, when I wandered up the hall with a little mouse following a few steps behind me. My sister and I received dolls for Christmas one year, but we didn’t get prams, so we put our dollies in a shoe box and dragged them along by a piece of string.

The 21st birthday and engagement parties, you remember them don’t you No. 29? We were able to jam a hundred people in here.

Loungeroom. You were painted in apricot kalsomine once. I think I like it better than the green flat plastic you wear now. The fireplace hasn’t changed much though. It hasn’t been used in years, an electric heat bank provided warmth in later times. It was easier and cleaner, but not to be compared with scented pine logs and dancing orange flames.

Mantelpiece, you look so bare now, denuded of your photographs and little ornaments. On one end had been a picture of my mother’s brother in his Air Force uniform, down the other end was a portrait of my father in his army uniform. Yes, the family had fought for King and country.

We kids hadn’t been allowed in the loungeroom much. We spent most evenings around the kitchen table listening to the daring exploits of Biggles and Tarzan.

Oh, the excitement when television first came in, the whole neighbourhood went mad. We were one of the last families to get a set, but it didn’t matter because we made it in the end.

Well, this is goodbye No. 29, I won’t be coming back to see you again, and no, I’m not crying, I’ve just got a speck of dust in my eye – that’s all. No-one sheds tears over a house.

It’s a lie, of course I’m crying, and you’re not just a house. You’re my childhood home. You sheltered me and kept my secrets. What would have happened if anyone had found out that it wasn’t a log rolling out of the fire that burned a hole in the carpet, but a little girl playing with matches?

I walked away, and then turned around for one final look. You were the best No. 29.

Margaret Tanner writes well researched Australian historical fiction with romantic elements.

Thursday, October 1, 2015



 Magic Mountain, Shirley Martin's latest release - with a heroine as sweet as Chocolate!!!

Chocolate!  Who doesn't like this sweet dessert?  Maybe there are a few who don't care for it, but I think most of us enjoy this sweet. Many of us prefer milk chocolate to the dark kind, but it's the dark kind that has all the nutrition because it has a greater percentage of cocoa.

First, a bit of historical background. Cocoa has been cultivated by many cultures for at least three thousand years in Mesoamerica. Evidence of a chocolate beverage goes back to 1900 B.C. The majority of Mesoamericans drank a chocolate beverage, including the Mayan and Aztecs. The word "chocolate" most likely comes from a Nahuatl word, xocolatl. Nauatl was the language of the Aztecs. Xocolatl means "bitter water."

In Europe, chocolate became a favorite drink of the nobility after the discovery of the Americas.

Although cocoa originated in the Americas, today west Africa, especially the Ivory Coast, supplies almost two-thirds of cocoa.

Now, what about the healing powers of chocolate? Mecical researchers around the world continually find new health promoting ingredients in dark chocolate. As health benefits are concerned, it's generally meant chocolate of at least 60% cocoa. Cocoa contains polyphenols, naturally occuring compounds that act as a powerful disease-fighting enzyme that protects your body.

Nutritionists say that it's the antioxidants in dark chocolate that are the key ingredients to its healthful reputation. Dark chocolate on a per weight basis has the hightest combination of flavonoids of any food. Flavonoids may lead to a lower risk of heart disease.

Chocolate contains seratonin, a substance that can lift your spirits. It alsos helps release endorphins, a natural pain killer in your body. Dark chocolate contains vitamins and minerals, too. It's plentiful in magnesium.  It may also help prevent high blood pressure.

In my research book, "The Healing Powers of Chocolate" the author, Cal Orey, stresses the importanace of chocolate as part of a Mediterranean diet. This means fish or poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts. It goes without saying that moderation is important, too.

According to the Americna Institute of Cancer Research, chocolate may help lower the risk of developing some cancers. With all of these health benefits, who can resist dark chocolate?

Here are more health benefits from dark chocolate, but of course, none of them sustitute for a visit to a doctor if symptoms persist.

Chocolate may help relieve aches and pains, not to mention allergies, anxiety, and arthritis. Too, it may help relieve back pain and helps your brain stay in focus.

Wine and chocolate go well together, so if you have a piece of dark chocolate wht a glass of red wine,, you're getting a double dose of health benefits.

Chocolate is considered to be an aphrodiasic. No wonder chocolate candy sells so well on Valentines Day.

I can't leave this subject without a chocolate recipe. The above mentioned book also has plenty of recipes.

'Le Chocolat' French toast

3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons Hershey's cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
8 to 10 pieces of thickly-sliced bread
powdered sugar (optional)
pancake syrup (optional)

1. Beat eggs, milk, sugar,cocoa, vanilla, and cinnamon in medium bowl until smooth.
2. Heat griddle over medium low heat. Grease gruddle with margarine, if necessary
3.Dip bread in egg mixture and place on griddle. Cook about four minutes on each side. Serve immediately with powdered sugar or pancake syrup.

Please check out my website.

My books are sold at:

All Romance eBooks
Barnes and Noble
the Apple iStore
Other sites where ebooks are available online
Three of my books are in print and available at Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


 Schuyler Mansion Historic Site

Alexander Hamilton has been my hero since I was a ten year old, which means I’ve been imagining him for a long time. When I decided to finally write “his” book, I’d just finished a novel about Wolfgang A. Mozart, as told by his wife. It would be a familiar approach, I thought, to tell the Hamilton story from the same womanly angle.  Or, so I thought—until I realized I didn’t know much about Alexander’s wife, Betsy.

Was she just another Colonial Dame? Well, Not exactly. The big house in Albany where Elizabeth Schuyler had been brought up was “American with a difference.” 

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton by Ralph Earle

Historical fiction readers are familiar with the customs of the Scots, Irish and English immigrants. But New York school children—me among them—also learned about the Dutch, who had given place names all along the Hudson and founded NYC,  as well as inspiring Washington Irving to write his winking ghost story: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Although Betsy’s father, Major General Philip Schuyler, successfully “English-ified” himself, she probably learned Dutch at her Daddy’s knee. (During the Revolution, she and Baron von Steuben would find it their common language.) Hamilton’s wife, my novel’s heroine, had been born and raised folkways which retained some notable differences from those of her downstate predominantly English neighbors. 

Miss Schuyler’s female Dutch ancestors enjoyed rights greater than those of any other European women. They were full legal persons, a position American women would not enjoy again until the early 20th century. They could own property and conduct business, enter into contracts and buy and sell for their own profit. Some of the richest families in old New York could trace their fortune back to the business savvy of one of these “She Merchants.” In Holland, and, briefly, in later New Amsterdam (now NYC) a woman could chose a unique form of marriage which kept her financial dealings and property separate from her husband’s.  Although these exceptional rights withered after the English took over the colony in 1664, there remained a certain independence and self-reliance in these Dutch women.

Even the wealthiest ladies were inclined to hands-on. They were taught how to cook and garden, how to spin, to keep fowl, to weave and sew—as well as keep household accounts.  An old family friend, James McHenry, wrote tellingly to Hamilton: “Your wife…has as much merit as your Treasurer as you have as Treasurer of the wealth of the United States.” It was no secret who kept afloat the daily affairs of this often-preoccupied Founding Father.

Dutch women were also not so quick to hand their babies—messy, inconvenient creatures—off to servants or slaves for nursing and day care. Despite the then commonly fatal water-borne and childhood diseases, Mrs. Hamilton bore eight children and raised every one of them to adulthood, something of a feat in those times.

The more I learned about her, the more she impressed me, this quiet, domestic woman behind the man. Betsy lived to be 97. Almost to her last breath, she performed her duties as co-founder of the first New York City orphanage, a cause dear to her heart.

She  also remained determined that ‘Justice shall be done to the memory of my Hamilton.’” In this aim, she never wavered, preserving his papers and facing down important men who had been Hamilton’s political enemies with calm dignity.  


~Learn more about Elizabeth’s life and the “odd destiny” of her beloved Alexander--orphan, immigrant, genius, and nation builder, in A Master Passion~~

In print and “e” @


Jean Zimmerman’s The Women of the House, Mariner Books, 2007

David Fischer Hackett’s Albion’s Seed, Oxford University Press, 1989

Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York, GP Putnam & Sons, 1894

Mary Elizabeth Springer, Elizabeth Schuyler, A Story of Old New York, 1903

Monday, September 28, 2015

Structuring a Story by Connie Vines


As many of the readers know, I write in multiple genres of fiction as well as nonfiction.  Therefore, it only goes to reason I have attended workshops, conferences, enrolled in extensions classes, and networked with other authors to discuss the topic of story structure.

So many ideas, so many strong opinions, but no fail-proof map to success.  What I have discovered is that many authors (Note: my personal findings only), agree that there are thirteen basic plots.

The following are common plot motivations that have appeared in written literature for centuries.  Of course, more than one of these plot motivators may exist side-by-side, affecting the story.  Take your story idea, add one or more of these motivators to it, and, so I’ve been assured, you’ll have a plot and a storyline.

  •  Catastrophe  
  • Vengeance
  • Love and Hate 
  • Persecution
  • The Chase  
  • The Quest
  • Grief and Loss  
  • Rivalry
  • Rebellion         
  • Betrayal
  • Survival  
  • Ambition
  • Self-Sacrifice

So, is this true in my own novels and fiction stories?  I have three books published at Books We Love, Ltd., as well as an anthology featuring five stories to be released this fall.  Let’s see if this is programed into a writer’s psyche, or if it is a learned skill. 

With my Rodeo Romance, Book 1, “Lynx”.  I have added Grief and Loss into my basic storyline for my heroine.  While my hero deals with Ambition, and one other (I don’t wish to give away too much of the story).

In Rodeo Romance, Book 2, “Brede”, Survival, Vengeance, are added to my romantic suspense novel.

“Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”, obviously, deals with Catastrophe and Survival (with a light-touch).

Not the result I was expecting. Why?  Because, if you’ve been following my blog posts, you are aware that I follow Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey” when plotting my stories.   Joseph Campbell based his teachings/writing on the power of the ancient myth. 

Of course, there is more to a story than just a great plot!  So, using the accepted rule of thirteen, let us progress to adding another layer or two to our story line.

 These added layers to the story do not appear to be genre specific, though some are more commonly used in romance than, say, mainstream fiction.

  •      Authority        
  •     Conspiracy
  • Criminal Action/Murder 
  • Deception
  • Honor/Dishonor        
  •      Making Amends
  • Poverty/Wealth  
  •      Rescue
  • Mistaken Identity         
  •      Searching
  • Suspicion                 
  •      Suicide
  •      Misplaced Affection (or unnatural if it is a human and supernatural being)

I believe, for a story to be an excellent story, which of course, is every author’s goal. These plot motivators with the added layers to drive the characters in the story, result in the depth (landscape) and richness (emotion) we all crave in a good story.  

Readers, do you agree that all the stories you’ve read and loved these plot lines and motivators?
I admit was able to spot many of these plot lines and layers in the works of Homer, Shakespeare, and may of the Classic Greek Myths.

What do you think?  Are there certain plot lines that appeal to you more than others?
Thank you for stopping by today.

I hope to see you here next month.

Connie Vines 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scottsdale, AZ, where the billionaires live - by Vijaya Schartz

Chaparral dog park in Scottsdale, where Talia and Kyle first meet
The city of Scottsdale, in Arizona near Phoenix, is to Phoenix what Beverly Hills is to L.A. That's where the rich and famous live and shop, play golf, attend horse shows, buy expensive foreign cars.

This is also the setting for my new release, a contemporary short novel titled ASLEEP in SCOTTSDALE.
North Scottsdale Desert Vistas

Xeriscape gardens, a marvel of water conservation
I live near Phoenix, and I had fun imagining my billionaire hero in familiar places, from the famous horse fountain, to the old town district, to the Fashion Square mall, and the Mayo Clinic, as well as fancy French restaurants.

The famous horse fountain of their first date
The old town district with art galleries and Native American artifacts
Nieman Marcus at the Fashion Square mall

Most fun was to imagine his mansion, an oasis in the desert, with tropical palms and a huge swimming pool. But I kept that for the cover. 

Asleep in Scottsdale
Contemporary novella
by Vijaya Schartz

Find it at the links below:
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - All Romance eBooks - Smashwords - iBooks - Kobo

When Talia runs over billionaire Kyle Dormant with her bicycle in the dog park, she considers their meeting a happy accident. He believes it is destiny, but her physician's mind rebels at such notions. Their budding romance comes to a grinding halt when Kyle won’t wake up from deep sleep... with no medical explanation. Baffled and deeply concerned, Talia digs into his recent past for a plausible cause. Instead, she uncovers dark family secrets. Convinced Kyle's condition was induced, and someone wants him dead, she is anxious to save him, but the closer she gets to the sordid truth… and a possible cure, the greater the risk to both their lives.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

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...