Saturday, February 27, 2016

Evolution and morphing of a manuscript - by Vijaya Schartz

Getting to the end of writing DAMSEL OF THE HAWK (scheduled for release April 20, 2016), I cannot help but look back upon my first brainstorming sessions for the plot of this book. How it evolved since then amazes me. Then again, it happens with all the books we write. The semi-finished product as I near "the end" goes far beyond my expectations. It's a good thing.

I know many writers write from a rough draft. I never could. When I tried, I had to throw it away and start the novel again from the beginning without looking at the draft. Although I'm a plotter, my plot is never set and constantly evolves with the characters' reactions as the story unfolds. New villains appear out of the shadows, creating different conflicts and changing the backdrop and the course of the story. As I research minor details, better ideas come along and change everything again. Characters are forced to deal with unforeseen situations. The black moment is not what I predicted at all. Until the denouement, I do not know what the theme of the story is. That's what keeps me writing, what keeps me intrigued, what keeps me excited about my characters, what keeps the story alive in my mind, brimming with possibilities.

As I discover the heart of my story, that's usually when the final title comes to me. This book had several working titles in the six months it took to write it, none of them worthy of mention. Damsel of the Hawk appealed to me because of its medieval feel, and the tight connection to the heroine and her circumstances. This is also when I start looking for images to inspire the cover designer for the cover. I've been blessed for this Curse of the Lost Isle series:


The inability to write from a complete draft is what prevents me to participate in events like NANOWRIMO. That draft written in a month would be of no use to me. So I write my novels from a rough outline, ten pages or less, one paragraph per expected chapter, with the beginning, the main scenes, the major plot twists, and the expected ending. I leave plenty of room for change, to implement new ideas as they come, adding more chapters to the outline. Often, it means I have to go back to the beginning and add or rewrite several scenes to accommodate a new plot line, introduce a new character, give the reader clues, or foreshadow a future plot twist. It works for me. I don't mind rewriting as I write.

Then, when I have a complete story with all its intricacies and its nuances, comes the real work, the polishing, the fleshing out, the recasting of every scene to make it part of the whole. Emphasizing the theme, adding emotion, polishing the action scenes, the love scenes, making the reader part of the story by adding more setting and sensory details... That's usually the last month in my novel writing process.

Can you tell I love writing? Well, I do.

Curse of the Lost Isle Book 7 (standalone)
Available for pre-order in early March:

1204 AD - Meliora, immortal Fae and legendary damsel of Hawk Castle, grants gold and wishes on Mount Ararat, but must forever remain chaste. When Spartak, a Kipchak warrior gravely wounded in Constantinople, requests sanctuary, she breaks the rule to save his life. The fierce, warrior prince stirs in her forbidden passions. Captivated, Spartak will not bow to superstition. Despite tribal opposition, he wants her as his queen. Should Meliora renounce true love, or  embrace it and trigger a sinister curse... and the wrath of the Goddess? Meanwhile, a thwarted knight and his greedy band of Crusaders have vowed to steal her Pagan gold and burn her at the stake...

In the meantime, catch up with the Curse of the Lost Isle series at:

 Vijaya Schartz
 Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

Friday, February 26, 2016

Where does the love for our country spring from? Tricia McGill

My latest release can be bought here.
I sit and watch the evening news and my heart bleeds when I see so many displaced people seeking refuge in Europe and elsewhere; fleeing a war that they had no part in, only to be shunned by some people simply because they seek a better life for their children. They have little hope of returning to the land of their birth, and this leads me to wonder exactly how they feel inside. I can’t imagine what I would do if I had to choose a few of my treasured belongings—enough to cram into one or two bags—and leave all that I love behind.

My husband and I and two of my sisters with their husbands came to Australia seeking a better life in a free land. Admittedly I came mainly to join my three sisters who already lived here, but it was also because we were offered a better life in a prosperous country. And it has been a better life, and for me in particular a fulfilling one. No wonder I say I have been blessed. That’s not to say I didn’t love my early days in England. But the weird part is that I have an affinity with Australia that is probably much stronger than the one I had for the land of my birth.

Australia has been kind to me in so many ways. At times I can be brought to tears at the sheer beauty to be found in some parts, and wonder at this odd love I have for my adoptive country. Recently I watched a show on my TV that disappointed me in so many ways. Which was stupid, when you come to think about it, as the comments that annoyed me were made about Australia and not about me personally. So why should I get so upset when an outsider criticizes things that I have no control over?

This program featured a well-liked Australian. I happen to like his shows so that is why I watched this one. But, it turned out that he had brought his two English sidekicks from his show produced in England, and the idea was to show them the “real” Australia. Sorry, but bringing two Poms out and taking them on a road trip from Darwin to Sydney down the red center of our country was not showing them the true beauty of the landscape (just my opinion). They constantly complained about the flies. Well, if you travel the outback in the hottest part of the year in a small camper-van, you are going to encounter flies, and there is such a thing as insect repellent that works really well. The side trips they had to endure was not my idea of a great road trip. Wild pig hunting? Not a pastime I would chose if I was showing off my beautiful country and its strange habits. Enough said.

For years my husband and I left chilly Victoria around July/August, hitched our caravan to our car, and set off on a 3 month jaunt around the country. We have circled Australia, taken the inland road right up the middle, driven across the Nullarbor Plain, let me see—four times, traveled up the east coast innumerable times, been to Uluru (Ayers Rock) driven across the Sydney Harbour Bridge countless times, and to be honest, there are only a few places in Australia that I haven’t seen. And, a lot of my writing got done during the stop-overs. My husband was a keen fisherman so I have traversed many miles of the country in search of good fishing spots, tramped many beaches that were so isolated I doubt I trod in any other person’s footprints.

A while back there was a discussion in our author’s group about the movie Red Dog, well I sat in front of his statue in Dampier a long time before he became world famous. I’ve touched a dolphin at Monkey Mia in northern WA, seen platypus swimming peacefully in Tasmania, hand fed wallabies, been close to an echidna, and all in their natural habitat, not in a zoo. I’ve slept in a haunted house in Strahan Tasmania, stood inside an enormous tree in Walpole right up the top of the country. When I see a motor home or caravan on the road I still get a lump in my throat and wonder where these lucky people are off to, and wish I was tagging along. I fear my traveling days are well and truly over, although my friend and I are planning another trip across to my second favorite state, Tasmania, in the near future.

This post was brought about as last evening I watched a show about an Aboriginal man who has made good in this country. He revisited the town where he grew up, and was explaining the affinity his people have for the land. And I can truly understand this, as although I wasn’t born here, I have such a love for this land it is difficult to explain. And I thank Fate, or whatever had a hand in my destiny, that I found such a haven.
All of my contemporary romances are set here, don’t ask me why, but it never occurred to me to set them anywhere else.
Visit my Books We Love author page

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Great Book canTransform us, by Sandy Semerad

I once heard a teacher say, To Kill a Mockingbird teaches us about equality and has the ability to change us. I believe that's true. 

          This great book has certainly changed me, and after I heard the news of Harper Lee’s death at 89, I thought about the power of her masterpiece.

“Did you hear Harper Lee has passed,” I asked Hubby Larry.

“Yes,” he said, and our conversation segued into Lee’s wonderful novel.

Why did she name it To Kill a Mockingbird?” Larry asked.

I've heard she originally called it, Atticus,” I said, “But she changed the name before it was published. There’s a mockingbird reference in the book.”

“What does it say?”

I had to unearth my copy of Mockingbird to answer his question. Here’s part of the quote, inspiring the title:

“Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. 'Your father’s right,' she said. 'Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.' "

Flipping through the pages, I found myself identifying with the gutsy Scout as I had as a child, and I wished I’d been able to know the author who wrote such a trans-formative novel.

I've worked on many projects for the chamber of commerce in Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee’s hometown, for more than 20 years, but somehow we never crossed paths.

A few months ago, I visited the assisted-living facility where Lee resided. I was going to a business meeting there and hoped I’d get a glimpse of the reclusive Lee. As I walked into the facility, a security guard stopped me.

“Who are you here to see?” he asked in a stern voice.

After I told him, he ushered me into the administrator’s office.

As I was leaving, I spotted the guard again. “Do you stop everyone who comes in here?” I asked.

“It’s my job to guard Miss Lee, to make sure she isn’t bothered. You wouldn't believe the schemes people use. They’ll say or do anything to try to get their books signed or get an interview with Miss Lee.” She rarely ventures outside, he said.

I told him I’d recently read the long-awaited second book, Go Set a Watchman, which features a grown up Scout and a somewhat racially prejudiced Atticus.
I much preferred the inspirational Atticus in Mockingbird, I said. I always cry at the courtroom scene in TKAM. You probably know the one. Atticus Finch is walking out of the courtroom after hearing his client, Tom Robinson, has been found guilty. Scout and her brother Jem are sitting in the balcony, among members of the black community. The Reverend Sykes, a local black leader, tells Scout, "Miss Jean Louise. Stand up. Your father's passin'."
Amazing when you think about it, so much talent in such a small Alabama town, population is now around 7,000. I love going there and during my recent trip, my sister Alice Kay, who lives in Idaho, wanted to accompany me.
“I haven’t been to Monroeville in 30 years,” she said. She wanted to tour the town, the courthouse and museum, and we did.
Unfortunately, one of Monroeville’s finest restaurants, the Prop and Gavel, owned by Tanja Carter, Lee’s attorney and friend, was closed, due to the tragic death of Tanja’s husband. He was killed when his single-engine aircraft crashed, taking off from Missoula International Airport in Montana.
“Tanja found the draft of Go Set a Watchman, the parent book of Mockingbird,” I told AK.  Alice Kay wanted to read Watchman, so I bought her a copy.
“I want it autographed,” she said.
“That’s impossible,” I told her. “Only Harper Lee’s closest friends are allowed to see her, and she is no longer autographing books.”
At the bookstore, AK and I spotted a signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. The steep price was much more than either of us planned to spend, but I’m sure someone will eventually pay that amount for an autographed copy of this masterpiece that earned a Pulitzer Prize and continues to be a bestseller, second only to the Bible, it has been reported.
The movie adaptation won Academy Awards in 1962. Gregory Peck won for best actor. Lee gave Peck her father's pocket watch, a friend in Monroeville said.

          Lee dedicated Mockingbird to her sister Alice Finch Lee, who lived to be 103, and their father Amasa Lee. He once defended two black men hanged in 1919 for murdering a white shopkeeper in Monroeville.
In 1934, when Nelle Harper Lee was only eight, a black man (Walter Lett) was tried in Monroeville for allegedly raping a white woman. Lett was sentenced to death until a group of progressive white citizens had his ruling reduced to life. The character Tom Robinson in Mockingbird is thought to be patterned after Lett.

Through the years, I've heard a few people say they think Truman Capote wrote Mockingbird. These accusations are false, which I discovered after reading Capote’s letters at the Monroe County Courthouse. In one of those letters, Capote writes about Lee authoring the book and compliments her skill as a writer.

It is widely known Lee helped Capote interview and type notes for In Cold Blood. She and Capote were childhood friends in the 1930s. Capote spent his summers with his cousins in a house next to where Lee grew up. (The character Dill in Mockingbird is Capote).

Both houses have since been torn down, but there’s a plaque, marking where Capote stayed. Lee would not allow a plaque on the property where she once lived.

The homes were located about two blocks from the old courthouse, which is now a museum. (The courthouse is in the center of town square).

In memory of Nelle Harper Lee, I’d like to share a few facts about her. She was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926, the youngest of five children. Her father’s name was Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee. Her mother was Frances Cunningham Finch. Amasa, unlike Atticus, was not a widower. Lee's mother was termed mentally ill. So Harper Lee and her siblings were raised by their father.
Her longtime friend, Truman Capote’s real name was Truman Persons. He was two years older than Lee. Truman spent his summers in Monroeville, and during that time, he and Lee became close friends. Lee’s father recognized Lee’s creativity and gave her an Underwood typewriter.
She earned a degree in English from Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama and was an exchange student at Oxford for a short while. She attended law school for two years at the University of Alabama, but dropped out to pursue a writing career.

She moved to New York, where Truman Persons, then Capote, had become a well-known writer. While in New York, two of Capote’s friends made it possible for Lee to quit her job as an airline reservations clerk and write full time.

These generous friends--famous Broadway lyricist Michael Brown and his wife, Joy Williams, a ballet dancer--gave Lee a Christmas present, paying all of her expenses for a year to write whatever she wanted, but it took  Lee two years to write Mockingbird, I was told. The publisher said it might not sell more than a few thousand copies, but upon publication in July 1960, the book became a best-seller and continues to sell millions each year.

It is estimated she earned and continues to earn royalties of more than $9,000 a day. However, her fortune never influenced her life. 

She lived like a spartan. Before she moved into the assisted living facility, she had no air conditioning or television set, until a caretaker demanded them, I was told.

She never married and had no children, but she birthed a great book that I believe changed lives and has certainly inspired me to write, not simply to entertain, but to transform with words. For that I’m thankful. 

Below are three of my novels. I'd love for you to check them out.

                                                                        Buy Link

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To read more about me and my work, please visit my web site:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LIVING IN A SMALL TOWN by Victoria Chatham

I’ve been fortunate, or unfortunate, depending on your point of view, to have lived in many places from an Welsh villages, to English towns. As an army family we were constantly on the move when I was a child, mostly finding that the moment we caught up with my father he was posted on – again. My most settled period was when my children were small I spent twelve whole years in one place.

For the last nearly two years I’ve been living in a small Alberta town and have to say I’m loving it. Oh, there’s times when I miss the amenities of Calgary city life, especially the ease of meeting friends for coffee or supper or go off to the movies on a whim. 

What I don’t miss is the rush and noise and especially the traffic. No, my current home suits me very well.
The train track runs through the middle of town, the trains themselves announce their approach with a long, wailing horn as evocative a sound as loons on a lake at twilight. However, there are times, depending on the weather conditions when that train sounds as if it is coming right through the house. The rumble of the wheels on the tracks echoes through the evening only to be blown away by the constant wind. And that wind takes some getting used to.

Trees line both the main and side streets with their well-maintained older homes. Traffic is at a minimum. The most I have seen at one time is eight cars at the four-way stop. Voila! Rush hour. Even my go-faster foot seems to have slowed down by its own volition and keeping within the speed limit is now no longer a problem. I am no longer in a rush to get anywhere. I like that I can walk where I want to without the crush of pedestrians around me. I like the space and time I have to think while I walk, which inevitably leads to more rounds of writing when I get home.

I like that I have been here long enough to get to know some of the residents. It's a pleasure to stop and take the time for a real conversation whether it's with the lady who operates the candy store or the staff in the local Co-op or the florists.

I like supporting local businesses who don't charge an arm and a leg for the services they provide. I like be and I love the humor to be found, especially the sign in one shop window: DOORBELL BROKEN. YELL DINGDONG REALLY LOUD.

I’m thankful for a clear sky and far-seeing view. I’m thankful for my peaceful surroundings and the opportunity to become, for a while, a human being rather than a human doing.

Check out Victoria's books on

Monday, February 22, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Ann Herrick

People often ask why I started writing. The answer is that I had parents who read to me. That's where I got my love of reading, and my love of reading led to a desire to write.
            My first attempt at writing came when I was eleven years old. I was very much into horses then and decided to write a book about a girl who rides in the Kentucky Derby. This was ages before women jockeys, but that didn’t stop me. What did stop me was, in the pre-computer, pre-eBook age, thinking that I had to actually physically make the book as well as write it. I couldn't figure out how to hold the pages together (I tried gluing—didn't work), so I gave up.
            Fast forward to the age of fourteen. I had an idea for a book set in Wyoming in the 1800s, because Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote (detecting a theme here?). But when I was doing some research at the library, a boy I knew asked what I was doing. I didn't really answer, but he guessed that I was writing a book and he smirked. Unfortunately, I let that deter me from finishing that book.
            In high school I got the impression that one had to be a cross between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens in order to be an author. So I put the whole idea of writing on the back burner.
            Years later I met my friend Pat. One day she mentioned that she was going to a writers meeting. I said that I had always thought about writing, so she insisted I go to the meeting with her. I went, and learned a lot. When Pat invited me to a second meeting, I decided at the last minute that I should have some writing of my own to share and sat down and banged out a couple of paragraphs of what I hoped would be a picture book on our old typewriter. I started writing then, and haven't stopped since.
            My first success was with greeting-card copy, and then short stories. I felt I was really getting somewhere when I sold a short story to 'Teen Magazine.
            What got me started writing Young Adult (mostly) Romance novels was my daughter's interest in the First Love Silhouette and Sweet Dreams books. I picked one up and read it. I really liked it and thought, "I could write a book like this." I based my first book on a short story that I had started. That book never sold, but I got good comments from editors about it. I knew editors were super-busy people who did not write a comment on a manuscript casually, so that kept me going until the day I got "the call" that an editor wanted to buy my book!

My Books:
The Next Great Rock Star!
Also Known as Lard Butt
The Farewell Season
My Fake Summer Boyfriend
Life, Love, and Surviving High School
It's All in Your Mind
The Perfect Guy
All's Fair in Love and Words
Hey, Nobody's Perfect
How to Survive a Summer Romance (Or Two)
Snowed In Together
The Real Me
Trading Faces

Boxed Sets (each set has 3 novels):
First Loves
Seasons of Love
Perfect Love

Genres: Young Adult Romance and/or Contemporary
              Middle Grade Contemporary (with a touch of romance)


The Farewell Season: 
Eric used to think he'd live forever, but not anymore. As football season starts, he hopes he can live normally again after the death of his father. But his refusal to face his grief results in anger at his coach, fights with his sister, resenting added responsibilities, and disillusionment with football. It takes a special relationship with Glynnie, who is struggling with the divorce of her parents, to open his heart to love again.

Also Known as Lard Butt:
Laura discovers that Ricky, the boy who created her horrible nickname "Lard Butt," has moved back into town--and immediately schemes to keep him quiet. After all, she can't let her new swim teammates, especially drool-worthy Noah, hear the horrible name! No way!

She's determined to put a million years between grade school and junior high--even in the face of a father who drives an ├ęclair, a would-be-movie-star mother who suddenly moves back home, and a past that comes back to haunt her with the dreaded nickname.

Although Laura's embarrassed about how she looks in a swimsuit, she tries to stay true to her vow to take risks. She even lets Maria talk her into going to the school dance, where she braves negotiating a truce for a quarreling couple. New friendships form, Laura's mother starts getting too domesticated for Laura's comfort, and hints of romance start to develop--or do they?

The Next Great Rock Star!
Will Jason ditch his best friends--including Layla--in his quest for fame and fortune?

When Jason and his friends form a garage band, they call it "No Frills" because they want to keep it real--even when they enter a band contest and pressures to alter their image mount. Then one day, due to a close encounter with lightning, Jason's life changes in a big way--but is he magically cooler or is it just his perception?

As he goes from blah to cool, his head swells as he takes his fifteen minutes of fame too seriously. His too-busy mother and fortune-telling grandmother don't get through to him. Even maybe-more-than-a-friend Layla is ready to give up on Jason, especially when he starts flirting with much-older Mindy. Only a rescued kitten keeps him even remotely grounded. It isn't until he loses the friendships with the band mates he once counted on that he realizes he has a major problem, and he worries it might be too late to fix it.

Coming Soon:


A Poodle, a Wedding Anniversary, and a Opossum By Connie Vines

I had an article about the craft of writing written and ready to post.  I decided, instead, to share that post next month. Why? For thos...