Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thankful for Orange Kool-aid by Diane Scott Lewis


With an intense, type A personality, I sometimes find I haven’t stopped to “smell the roses” (or gardenias in my case) much. I stormed through my teens, twenties, thirties…and so on, careening toward something I hadn’t yet figured out. Finally, I decided to embark on the passion of my youth, writing novels. That will be so easy, won’t it? I’m vastly talented and creative, aren't I?

The other day, after tied to my computer screen, I had to let the dog out for his duty, and I sat on my front steps. The weather was gorgeous, no humidity, and I glanced down on my gardenia bush, which has never bloomed (too cold in Virginia, I guess) Update: I now live in Pennsylvania—even colder. I recalled the luscious blooms my mother grew in California. That fabulous gardenia smell I remembered from my childhood.
With Halloween only days away, more of my childhood filtered in to my cyber-fried brain. Our small town came alive—or dead—every Halloween. We children roamed the streets, entered haunted houses, and visited houses where fake hanged men were tossed from ropes off roofs so we could scream. My mother hand-made our costumes, and prepared popcorn balls and caramel apples that no one was afraid to eat, because we all knew each other and felt safe. We gathered tons of candy we weren’t leery about munching on.

One street over, two women who were teachers, wore excellent witch costumes and stirred a huge cauldron that they placed in their lighted garage every year.
Inside the black pot swirled orange Kool-aid, with orange slices floating on top. On Halloween night we children, after stuffing our mouths with sticky candy, knew we could come here and partake of a refreshing drink. I hope I thanked those women, because I always appreciated their efforts. Who these days would bother, because of all the warnings about tainted treats? Plus, some parent would sue if their little darling got cavities or fat thighs—all that sugar!
So I’m thankful for my wonderful, fairly safe childhood, all the kind people I met, my mother’s gardenias and that delicious orange Kool-aid.

To get in the Halloween mood, be sure to check out my vampire novel, A Savage Exile. Were vampires roaming the island of St. Helena during Napoleon’s exile? Is a top official one of them? Or someone close to the emperor? A young French maid is caught up in the dangerous mystery.

Click HERE to purchase A Savage Exile.

If you want to know more about my books, usually historical novels, please visit my website:
http://www.dianescottlewis.org



Friday, October 23, 2015

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Iconic Character





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An Iconic Character

Hello ladies, gentlemen, tree spirits, annoying ravens, goblins, hebegebes, spectral entities, witches and any other assorted bizarre beings that want to hear about me. By the way a couple of these I just threw in since it is getting near All Hallows Eve and thought it might make good exposure. Most of these beings are what I’ve spent my life fighting, playing poker with (by the way ever play spectral poker, you are allowed to read the others minds in order to see their cards, brilliant. Well until you play a drunk chipmunk and all he could focus on is the ace. Boy did I lose a lot of hazelnuts that night. PS. A good hint, if you play a bear, make sure all the salmon are expired, otherwise you throw them on the table to call someone’s bluff and they just flop off the table, making a mess, spilling all the fermented apple juice and usually getting the bear quite upset. Not a good thing.) I try to stick to Tiddly Winks with bears. Much safer. They Tiddly and I wink.
                I’m Charlie Stillwaters, Haida shaman or Ska-ga as we call ourselves, officially Union member three, local one. Yes, not a big union, but then how many shamans do you know personally. One of the biggest questions people ask of me is, why do I wear a Toronto Blue Jays ball cap? I had been given a Montreal Expos as a kid, many decades ago by some mad Frenchman. I don’t get the French, they make up all these words, its like they have a different one for everyone we’ve got. Okay except for toques and poutine. Hate toques, with two long flowing grey braids like I got it’s a bit of a pain to tuck all of that underneath. Not to mention heavy, I really don’t think Heidi would have ever worn a toque.
But poutine, now there’s a shaman’s fav meal. By the way I still got the old Expos hat on my dresser, festooned with collected pins. I just got tired of people asking “why are you wearing the ball cap of a team that isn’t around anymore?” In the end I did cure old Frenchy of some sort of possession he had, wished I could have cured him to speak proper English. Like I said it’s like they’ve got a different word for everything we say.
                So, another plug here, I love watching baseball on the TV in the only room of the cabin where I live that has electricity. If you’re wondering why? It’s because all of that electrickery messes up the flow of the earth and keeps some beings, aka earth spirits, from being in contact with me. If Dr. Suzuki were listening he’d probably call it the Earth Network. I also watch a lot of documentaries, that’s where I learn a lot. People ask why I’m so smart and sometimes throw out big words like iconic. Aw shucks, it’s just nice to impress, before I whack them in the head with my Orca headed cane. Hey, there aren’t many people that can claim to have watched the history of coffee eighteen times. I should like hockey really. But that little black thing is so hard to concentrate on with my little fourteen inch screen. Hockey pucks are great though for things like weighing down papers, nailing loose nails in and bouncing off the heads of bothersome ravens. PS, a note to tourists, Canadians are a docile lot, until they get a hockey stick in their hands and then it’s like something hairy just bit you and the full moon just came up.
                What made me become a shaman I’ve often been asked. It was Lucy Klintu, my childhood sweetheart. The one. A kiss, a touch sometimes is all it takes to know. She died in my arms when I was sixteen, I couldn’t help her then, and swore I’d help others by becoming a shaman. I know, should have become a doctor, but I get squeamish at the sight of blood. Some way or somehow I’ll be with her again and we’ll be singing to all of my Roy Orbison songs. Which I know off by heart, word for word, only don’t ask me to sing karaoke, bad idea. Like listening to a badger, a robin and a grizzly bear trying to sing the Beatles, “She loves you”, in all those yeah, yeah, yeahs, all at the same time. NO, no, no.  
So you might say I’m kind of a living off the land type, except I can also live in the land and through it. That’s what being a shaman is all about living on that edge of sanity. Which many people that have met me think is questionable.

Oh, and did I mention poutine? Great stuff, except it attracts wolves and Sasquatches in heat. And I know you’re going to ask why in heat? You go and ask, that’s a Bigfoot thing and I never been brave enough to inquire. Just Tiddly and wink I say and leave a few fries for me. Anyways, there’s always more poutine to be had. People have sometimes called me an iconic character, but I keep telling them I’ve never done stand up.

                                         
                                                                    HOT OFF THE PRESSES 

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Has meditating made me a better writer? By Sandy Semerad


I've been practicing meditation for a while now. The operative word is “practicing.” I’m still trying to get the hang of it.

I've practiced with Depak Chopra and Oprah on some of their 21-day meditations. I've listened and followed dutifully as they've guided me, hopefully to a higher plane.

As you probably know, the meditation process includes deep breathing and repeating mantras and trying to block out brain static.

Some of the Hindu mantras are doozies to pronounce. Many of them are mouthfuls, like Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah. But if this mantra can remove obstacles as it’s supposed to do, I’m all for it. I just need to learn to say it properly.

I like the mantra Om better. It’s simple and easy to repeat and is supposed to bring me in harmony with the universe. I love harmony, although I write about murder and mayhem, and if repeating Om can synchronize me with my higher power, I’m in.

Whether I’m participating in a guided meditation or practicing on my own, I begin by getting comfortable. I like to lie down, not sit up. There’s the danger of falling asleep this way but so be it.

I start by inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply while focusing on my breathing. I also observe my body, which can be a deterrent, if it’s aching and tense. I zoom in on my body parts. Tell my body to let go and imagine I’m melting wax. Sometimes my body listens, sometimes not so much.

Next, I observe my mind. This is tricky. My mind loves to wander. I try to be positive, but my mind has been known to dwell on negative stuff, and I have to replace the negative crap with positive affirmations. I do this by making a mental list of the things I’m grateful for and say, “thank you” for each one.

After I’ve completed my grateful list, I repeat a mantra. As I mentioned earlier, I like Om, but here’s a list of others that are supposed to seep into your soul and turn negative habits into positive ones:

Om Namah Shivaya—this mantra is supposed to increase self-confidence and divine energy.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu—This mantra means, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and to the freedom of all.”

Shanti Mantra Om Saha Naavavatu Saha Nau Bhunaktu Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai Tejasvi Aavadheetamastu Maa Vidvishaavahai Om—(Best of luck on repeating this one). It’s easier to say the English translation: “May the Lord protect and bless us and nourish us. Give us strength to work together for the good of humanity. May our learning be brilliant and purposeful. May we never turn against one another.”

I've been told it’s best to meditate daily and with time I hope to become more proficient. I usually try to practice for 10 minutes and longer if possible.

Although I’m still learning the process, I’d like to think meditation has made me a better author. My writing muse seems to be in favor of it. She’s the one who spurs my creativity, gives me ideas for my story lines and characters, and helps me connect with the great creator. What more could I ask?

 Below are three of my books. A couple of my characters have been known to meditate: 

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To find out more, please visit my website:  www.sandysemerad.com

Also, please visit BOOKS WE LOVE, my publisher's site, where you'll find special deals and contests: http://bookswelove.net/authors/semerad-sandy/


















Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Using the Senses When We Write - Blogjacked from Julie Spence



courtesy of www.frisco-tx-homes.com

See. Smell. Hear. Taste. Touch. We all know the five senses, experience them in our everyday lives. But do you have them layered throughout your story? If so, do you have too many? Not enough? And did you know that one sense can trigger another?

Imagine walking into the grocery store and the first thing you notice is the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies lingering in the air. What happens next? Your mouth begins to water in anticipation of warm, gooey chocolate melting on your tongue. Your fingers can feel the texture of the cookie, the stickiness of the chocolate chips.

What about when you look at a painting? I have one depicting three American Indians riding their ponies through the snow-packed woods. When I look at them, I can hear the quiet plodding of their horses hooves, feel the dampness of a bleak day and taste the cold on my lips.

When writing, the five senses are all necessary to the story. Readers want to relate to characters. Through description, they want to see what the characters see, hear what the characters hear. More importantly, they want to be smack-dab in the middle of the action. They want their hearts to melt at a tender moment and their stomach to clench when danger rears. Most importantly, they want the feel-good emotion of a happy ending to linger long after they’ve read the last words.

courtesy of www.polyvore.com
Sight is perhaps the easiest to put into words; bright blue eyes, hair the color of straw, over-sized furniture crowded into a dark room. Smell is also easy; chicken roasting in the oven, digging holes in fresh dirt, riding through a cow pasture. Each of these allows your reader to see what your character sees and get a whiff of his/her surroundings. And when you add sounds
the shrill whistle of a train, the whiny of a horse, the murmur of voices inside a dimly lit saloonthe reader is even more immersed in the scene.
courtesy of pixhip.com


Taste and touch are even better ways for a reader to relate to characters. I wrote a scene where the hero uncovers a plate of ham and grimaces. With those few words, it's clear he can't stomach the taste of ham. How about something he does like? His mouth watered at the aroma of apple pie wafting through the eatery. And what about things he touches? Soft hair, the coarse fibers of a rope, the prickly husk of a pineapple; the right adjective is sure to conjure a response in the reader's mind, maybe even in her fingertips.

There is another aspect to touchwhat a character feels inwardly. Whether it’s matters of the heart or a shock to the system, it’s always best to show what the character feels rather than to tell it. Putting a word or a group of words in italics emphasizes emotion and internal thought, to include disbelief, sarcasm, surprise and fear. Using body language allows the reader to experience firsthand what the character is experiencinga flutter in her heart, coldness pricking her spine, knees wobblingand allows for a better connection to the character and the story.
courtesy of www.wizardofdraws.com


As you hone your skills, you'll find you can use one or two sentences to invoke a variety of senses. Ex: Jack walked into the crowded restaurant. His stomach grumbled at the delicious aroma of pumpkin pie wafting from the kitchen… and his heart skidded to a stop when his gaze settled on a familiar face seated at the back table. Or, Beneath a hot sun, Jack crested the hill and reined in his mustang, dragged a gloved hand across his brow and stared long and hard at the neat farm house below. A woman stepped onto the porch and his pulse began to pound. Tall, with long, ebony hair curling around her waist, the last time their paths had crossed, she’d run him off her land from behind the barrel of a shotgun.
   

Be creative when layering the senses, but don't use the same descriptions throughout the story. And don't over-burden the reader with description. Good narrative and a few well-placed words and she’ll feel as though she’s right in the middle of the action.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ghosts and Hauntings by Stuart R. West


Well, it's Halloween again, the spookiest time of the year. So put the cat to bed, stick the kids outside and grab a nice cup of hot chocolate. Let's chat about ghosts.

Do I believe in ghosts? Not really. But it blows my mind how many grounded sensible people do. Not too long ago, friends of my wife's parents (the names have been changed as per their request) relayed a tale with such conviction it's hard to dismiss out of hand...

Some years back, "Bob" and "Iris" bought a three-story house in Denver, Colorado, so old it had a water closet on the third floor. At first, things were fine. But it wouldn't be much of a ghost tale if things remained that way, of course.

One day, Bob had been tasked with watching their toddler son. With the son safely asleep in his crib on the second floor, Bob tended to business on the first level. Footsteps trampled over his head. He barreled up the stairs. The baby was fine, still asleep. No one else in the house. But the footsteps continued on the third floor. After a thorough check-through, Bob was satisfied there was no one on the third floor. (He sorta accidentally blew a hole in the attic roof with a shotgun, but this part of the story wasn't quite clear. Make of that what you will!)

When Bob's brother and family visited, they also heard footsteps in the night. And they hadn't been told anything about the prior occurrence.
As in all poltergeist-related hauntings, things started small (missing items, a bottle of spice vanishing while Bob's back was turned, the water closet flushing in the middle of the night) before escalating. Hanging pictures were relocated to walls in different rooms. Once Iris searched her closet for a pair of shoes and only found one. When she turned away, she heard a solid clunk. The missing shoe now sat next to its partner.

Most troubling was the day they heard a loud scrape on the second floor. The young boys' bunk-beds had been moved to the center of the room. And the sheets had been carefully cut, an "L" shape meticulously trimmed through both of them. This occurrence kept happening, no doubt pleasing the Denver sheet manufacturing industry.

Fed up, Iris read somewhere to rid a house of a poltergeist, you had to confront it. Up she went to the second floor landing. Shaking her fists, she screamed, "Stop it! Stop it right now!" Silence. Suddenly a bucket worth's of water dumped down on her. No sign of water marks, stains, drips on the walls, the ceiling. Nothing.

First thing she did when she came downstairs is tell her husband, "We're leaving."
Brr. Now, I don't know about you, but that's a pretty spooky tale. At first I admit to being skeptical. But the narrator told it with such sincerity, I had to give it consideration. And his wife backed him up, filling in missing details.

Another friend of mine told me he once had a childhood ghostly encounter in a graveyard. But he won't talk about it. Says I'm not ready.

Honestly, I'm torn if I'd like to experience a spectral visitation. On the one hand, it excites me, gets my writer instincts pumping. But I also know I'd end up shrieking. Watching a 240 pound man shriek is probably not high on everyone's to-do list. Very unbecoming.

The irony is I'm drawn to writing about things spooky and spectral. I suppose I'm living vicariously.

In my book, Ghosts of Gannaway, there're many hauntings, curses, ghosts. Perfect for Halloween reading. But, honestly, with all of the supernatural shenanigans going on in the tale, there's nothing truly scarier than  mankind's capacity for evil and malice. Come for the ghosts, stay for the human characters.

I'm interested, folks...have you had any ghostly encounters you'd like to share?

Ghosts of Gannaway available now in paperback.

And the ebook is available at a limited sale price of .99! Perfect Halloween reading!

Home is Where the Heart is. by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.CA For many of us writers, creating homes for our characters is par for the course. Think Downton Abbey , Tara i...