Saturday, April 16, 2016

Learning to Lie by Roseanne Dowell

From a previous blog a while back, we learned ideas are all around us - From our workplace to our neighbors. From getting stuck in traffic to grocery shopping and thumbing through magazines to reading the classified, so let’s put it all together.
 You overhear a conversation in a restaurant. The woman is crying. You can’t hear the whole conversation. But, your writer mind begins
to ask questions - Is she breaking up
with her date? Is he breaking up with her?
Or maybe those are happy tears?  It’s not necessary to know the truth. Your writer’s mind starts working and you imagination takes over. You begin to formulate a story.  You begin to build a character in your mind. You can see her clearly. Can even hear his/her voice.
You don’t even need to describe the characters in your story as the same description of the people you see. In fact, if it’s someone you know, its better not to.  We don’t want to write about our cranky aunt and have her recognize herself through description.  Change her into the complete opposite of what she looks like. Age her, make her younger, but what ever you do don’t use her description. You should create your own characters. Certainly, I use people I know.  In fact, I have a list of friends and relatives with character traits - make a list of your own.  I add special character traits, like my husband and son have a habit of touching everything on the table and moving it from place to place while you’re having a conversation. (Truthfully, it drives me up a wall and I often grab their hands to stop them – they don’t even realize they're doing it)  But that’s a trait to add, it makes your characters believable. We all have habits. Some people twirl their hair, some chew on nails. Write them down; use them in your stories.
So, back to our original character, maybe this lady has jet black hair.  Your character may have gray hair or blonde. Short, long, straight, curly it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you create her. Maybe she’s young, old, middle-aged. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is to visualize your character in your mind. And make notes!!!  As I said previously I use index cards.  I list the name of my character, age, color of their hair, height, character traits, who in their family they look like (especially if it’s important).
List everything possible to know your character better, even if you aren’t going to use it in the story.  The more you know  the better and more believable they will be. Nothing is worse than reading about a blonde who suddenly has dark hair half way through the story.   And be careful with names too.  I wrote a story using the character’s name, Daniel Stephens.  Half way through I unknowingly changed it to Stephen Daniels.  Fortunately, I always ask people to read my stories before I submit them and someone caught it.   I also use character work sheets; they include everything from my character’s descriptions to their favorite foods and colors. A lot of the information I never use, but it helps me know my character better. By time I’m done, I feel like she/he’s my best friend (or enemy).
And, of course, the senses, not just what we see, but what we taste, smell, touch, and hear.  These senses help your story come alive.  Take notes on them too. Become observant.  Touch that wood, feel the smooth finish, or the rough texture of a statue.  Listen to the sounds around you. Not the everyday sounds of traffic, although those are important too and sometimes we become so used to them that we don’t notice them.  But out of the ordinary sounds.  Listen to the birds early in the morning or the children playing in a park.
 These sounds and senses help make your story come alive. Use them.
All of these things combined contribute to good story ideas.  Sometimes we come up with an idea from something we touch or smell.  Something soft and smooth or maybe a bakery provokes a memory from the past. Use it.
Maybe it’s a restaurant,  a deli, or even a car dealership.  Take notes on all the places you visit.  Settings are often as important as our characters. Write down these settings, keep a notebook.  If a particular restaurant strikes your fancy, take notes. Who knows you may use it someday.  I wrote a scene in a restaurant we visited on vacation.  It was a quaint little place and I really liked
it, so I jotted down some notes and it didn’t take long for me to use it.  I visited another restaurant with friends and loved the place. It was a typical tearoom type restaurant, definitely for women.  It was also an antique store and quilt shop.  I just used it in a novel.   Even hospitals or doctor’s office, you never know when you’ll have call to use such a setting. Beauty shops and health spas, too.  Take notes every place you visit.
Which brings me to the last point, find a writing buddy!  Someone you can exchange stories with or someone whose judgment you know and trust. Someone you can brainstorm with and toss ideas around. Sometimes we get stuck and just
need to discuss the story. They may give us ideas but just talking about it with someone, sometimes gives you the idea on your own.
I strongly suggest finding someone who writes.  Only a writer can understand your frustration of a blocked mind or enjoy the feeling of an acceptance. And only another writer is honest enough to tell you what's wrong and right with your story. Often times, family and friends are afraid to criticize your work, afraid they’ll hurt your feelings. You want someone honest enough to tell you the strong points in the story as well as the weak points. Trust me, sometimes these critiques  hurt, after all you worked for hours to put these words to paper and you love this story, it’s a part of you.
 I often ask three people to read my stories.  If two of the three comment on the same thing, I know it needs to be changed. If only one comments on it and the others think its fine, then I leave it.  But the end decision is mine to make.  It is my story, after all.
But you want it to be the best you can do.  So DO keep an open mind. If you ask for someone’s opinion, respect it.  You don’t have to take all of their advice.  I once had an editor tell me to cut a whole scene. A scene I felt was critical to the story.  I had several writer friends read the story. After they were done, I asked if they thought I should cut the scene. They all said no, it was too important to the story.  Alas, I didn’t get the story published at that time, but it remained intact, and I’ve submitted it elsewhere and it was accepted.
You can find all my work at: Books We Love or Amazon

Friday, April 15, 2016

Vampires in India


Anne Rice would love this: Vampires have a long history in India. In fact, some historians believe that the vampire myth started in India and entered Europe through the spice trade routes.

Many cultures around the world have stories of blood-sucking creatures. India is no exception. In fact several types of vampires are described in the folk literature of that sub-continent. Here are a few:

Vetalas: Said to be evil spirits that inhabit the bodies of the dead, they are often depicted as hanging upside down from trees. Sometimes described them as half-bat, half-man, this may describe how bats became entwined with vampire mythology. Other legends have them entering living bodies, which they manipulate at will, usually for some evil purpose. However, in a recent television story in India, “Vicky and Vetaal” the Vetaal (Vetala) is shown as a fairly innocuous and friendly spirit.

Pisachas: Usually female, Pisachas are types of witches. Some take the appearance of beautiful women who suckle babies with the intent of poisoning them with their deadly milk. Sometimes, they are depicted as ghastly, flesh-eating creatures. However, they may be driven away by chanting mantras, or by propitiating them with offerings.

Bhutas: Ghosts, who appears for several reasons, mainly due to having an injustice committed to them while in human forms. Because of this, the souls of the dead, instead of continuing their journeys, remain in disembodied states until justice is served and the guilty punished. As ghosts, they are supposedly common at cremation grounds and have reputations for driving humans insane.

Rakshashas: Demonic bloodthirsty beings, they are usually depicted as having long fang-like teeth and horrible appearances. They are almost always cannibals and have a reputation of disrupting prayers and sacred rituals. Some texts describe their origins to pre-date humans. Rakshashas can also shape-shift, taking normal human form to form friendships, only to betray and kill the unsuspecting. Interestingly, in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, a rakshasa is a type of evil outsider.

Interestingly, human souls, based on their moral history (karma,) may incarnate into these types of vampire bodies. However, even these creatures have the chance to reincarnate again, potentially into human bodies, and thus receive the chance to ascend into higher levels of consciousness.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper - A Novel" ( published by Books We Love (

Thursday, April 14, 2016

No phone, no wifi...will travel. By Sheila Claydon

In my last post I told you I was going to cruise through the Mediterranean in March. What I didn't know at the time was that I would also experience an almost total communication blackout. Unlike the US, few of the countries I visited had a tariff agreement with my telecommunications supplier so mobile roaming fees were exorbitant. On board ship the wifi was even more expensive as well as being so slow it was a waste of time. All of this meant that I was without email, phone or any social media for almost 3 weeks. Consequently I left my phone behind whenever I went ashore, which meant a complete photo blackout as well. There are no pictures of the trip, just memories, and how colorful they are.

I listened avidly to the guides instead of looking for things to photograph when we were ashore; I watched the people who walked by while I ate at pavement cafes; I noticed the birds pecking at crumbs under the table; I smelled the flowers. I learned more about Greek and Roman architecture than I ever would have if I'd had my camera with me because, instead of taking shots of the ancient sites I visited, I sat and listened to the guide without any interruption. It was the same when I had a gondola ride in Venice, and when I saw the monkeys on the rock in Gibraltar. No photos. Instead a memory of narrow waterways snaking between lofty, crumbling buildings, and then a traffic jam of black gondolas. I have a mind's eye view of a monkey stealing a tourist's hat in Gibraltar too, and the tricks the guardian of the rock used to get it back, something I might not have noticed if I'd been busy with my phone/camera.

On a coach journey I noticed the strange tipped over buildings in Albania, made uninhabitable by the government because they had been built without permission, and I heard the unnecessary but embarrassed apologies of the guide as she explained the poverty of her country. Then there was the bullet embedded in a wall right next to my head when I visited Dubrovnik. I'd have missed it if I'd been taking a picture of the scenic street instead and I might have missed what the guide was saying too. He was a young soldier during the 1990s who fought in the Serb/Croat war, so naturally he wanted to talk about it and show us exactly where the Serbian soldiers had taken up position and destroyed eighty per cent of his city in bombardments that sometimes lasted for 24 hours. It really brought home to me the horrors of what we had only seen on TV. That bullet said it all.

Listening and watching without being distracted by the ping of a phone or the need to take a photograph, I learned a whole lot more, and now that I'm home again the memories remain vivid.

The same happened on board ship. With no email or wifi to distract me, I watched the other passengers instead, making friends and listening to a lot of personal stories. There were a quite a few elderly British people on the cruise, mainly because the ship set sail from a home port so no flights were involved, and by the end of the trip I had gained a great deal of respect for so many of them.  Despite suffering significant disabilities or, in several cases, life threatening illnesses, their stoicism and enjoyment of life was amazing. I am lucky enough to still be reasonably fit but I hope when this is no longer the case that I will be as brave.

I was especially affected by the woman who, less than a year ago, jogged every day and regularly looked after and played with her young grandchildren. That was before she was suddenly struck down with such a devastating illness that she is now confined to a wheelchair, her body bent and disfigured in a horrible way, and in constant pain...yet she smiled and talked and was interested in other people, and when the ship berthed in foreign ports she insisted her husband take her wheelchair onto local trains and other transport so she could pretend she was still 'normal.'

People and places are truly amazing when we take the time to really look at and listen to them. My phone will be taking a back seat on future holidays too.

Cabin Fever, which is about life on a cruise ship, and which I wrote after cruising through New Zealand to Australia, is available from Books We Love and on Amazon, as are all my other books. They can be found at or on Amazon at

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA Part Four by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey


My website:
Author’s Note

I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.
     We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
     Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.

Road Tripping USA Part Four

We crossed a long cable suspension bridge over the very wide Mississippi River and were in Mississippi, Birthplace of America’s Music. We passed through Greenville and reached Leland which was established in 1886. It is the heart of Blues Country and has the US 61 Blues Museum. Jim Henson, who created Kermit the Frog, was born in Greenville but raised in Leland.
     We drove past fields of cotton and huge cotton bales and reached Greenwood, which bills itself as the cotton capital of the world.
     We needed some money so we stopped at a bank in Louisville. I walked in and was told the ATM was a drive through on the outside. I went out and around to the side. I decided to ask for more than I normally took out. As usual, I followed all the instructions and when I was asked if I wanted a receipt and I pressed yes. The next question was if I wanted to pay the extra charge for getting the money. Again I pressed yes. The words, ‘Thank you, your transaction is compete’ showed up on the screen. I waited but no money came out. I pushed buttons, nothing. I checked the flap for the money, none. I looked for the receipt. There wasn’t one.
     I went back into the bank and told a woman in an office what had happened.
     “That’s weird,” she said. “There must be something wrong. Maybe you should call your bank and find out if the transaction went through.”
     I grimaced. “I’m from Canada and I didn’t bring my cell phone.”
     She pushed the phone on her desk towards me. I dialed the number on the back of my bank card and was immediately put through to a person. I explained everything. He checked my account and said that the transaction hadn't gone through.
     “The cash you wanted plus the exchange rate put the amount you asked for over the withdrawal limit you had set,” he added.
     Problem solved.
     When I was leaving I thanked the woman for her help and gave her a hug. She told me to wait a minute and left. She came back holding two mugs with the name of the bank on them. A souvenir of our meeting. I went to the ATM and this time got our money.
     We passed many fields of cotton and entered Alabama, which got its name from an Indian tribe that once lived in the area. We were enjoying our drive down the back highways through the smaller towns and the tall trees. We saw some big old houses and entered historic Eutaw which was established in the 1830s. There are over 25 antebellum (before war) structures in town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    We saw a sign for Kirkwood Manor. The hours were 9am-4pm. We parked but when I knocked on the door no one answered and the door was locked. We tried to look in the windows but curtains blocked the view. We took pictures of the house and yard and went to the tourist information center which was in the old law courts.
     I walked inside and was in a large room with tall shelves holding rows of dusty old law books. I walked over to them and looked at the dates: 1883 and 1884.
     A woman entered the room. “May I help you?”
     “Yes. I wanted to tour the Kirkland Manor but no one was there.”
     “The person who looks after the manor is at a fair and will be there all day.”
     “Are there any other mansions that are open to visitors?” I asked.
     “I’ll see if I have a booklet on them.”
     She left the room and I went over to the books again. At one time I had thought I would like to be a lawyer and I was itching to look through these old books. I was just reaching for one when the woman returned.
     “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t find any booklets on the historic houses in town.”
     “That’s okay,” I said. I pointed to the book shelf. “Those books are sure dusty.”
     “That’s because no one is allowed to touch them.”
     The woman gave me directions to some of the old mansions and we drove around the town just to see the outside of some of them. When we left town we were on the Martin Luther King Memorial Highway.
     At 10:00am it was already 87F (30.5C) and humid. Just as we arrived in Greensboro we saw a sign for the Magnolia Grove. I like magnolia trees and we have one in our front yard. I wanted to see the grove. We found a place to park and I walked through the huge magnolia trees to the mansion.
     “This house was built around 1840 as a town house,” the guide told me. “The original owner wasn't a fancy type of guy so this wasn’t a very fancy home compared to others. He had a bigger house on his 4000 acre plantation twelve miles outside of town.”
     The town home had antique furniture such as a red velvet couch, a piano, and a commode in one of the bedrooms. The front verandah had six columns holding the roof.
     I asked her about the magnolia trees.
     “The southern magnolias is a large evergreen tree that keeps its leaves all year round,” she said. “Their blooms are all white and fragrant.”
     “I have a magnolia tree at home and it loses its leaves every fall. Its blossoms are a pinkish/white.”
     “The tree you have is a Japanese magnolia. It is the offspring of two Chinese parents and one of the most widely planted magnolias because of its hardiness.”
     As I was leaving she said we were lucky to be passing through the area today because the weather had just changed. It was a lot cooler than it had been.
     We had been looking for a place to sample a restaurant meal and in Eufaula we saw a sign for Cajun food. We pulled onto a side street and parked in a lot. As we walk along the sidewalk we saw the sign for Barb's Country Kitchen. We decided we should wait for Cajun food until we reached Louisiana so we entered the restaurant.
     It was a long, narrow room with a counter, kitchen, and buffet to the left and tables on the right. We figured it was a popular place because most of the tables were full. We paid for our meal and found a place to sit. I took my plate and went up to the first section of food. There weren't any signs to tell me what each dish was, so I asked the cook who was replenishing one of the pans. He pointed and said. “Catfish, jambalaya, three different types of chicken, baked beans, meatloaf, and corn bread.”
     I tried a little of each and went back to the table. The cat fish and chicken were delicious. I can’t eat spicy food because it burns my mouth and I’d heard that jambalaya was spicy. I took a small forkful. It was spicy but I found out if I didn't eat the sausage pieces I could handle it.
     When I’d finished my plate, I went to the next section that looked like it was mainly vegetables. This time I took some of each then went to the counter and ask the woman behind it what each dish was. Collard greens, lima beans with ham, corn, and rutabaga.
     When I sat down the waitress came over.
     “Where are you from?” she asked me
     “Canada,” I answered.
     She turned to the people behind the counter and announced in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “They’re from Canada.”
     I recognized peach cobbler as the dessert and didn’t have to ask.
     As we drove through the town we saw large pink ribbons, the sign for breast cancer, stuck in the grass of the medians and beside the sidewalks. I wasn't able to find out why the ribbons were on the lawns. I did learn, however, that a Eufaula high school student restored an antique tractor for her American Degree. In order to make it stand out she painted it pink. Along the way she learned how much breast cancer impacted families around the country. She now hopes her pink tractor's new life will inspire those battling the disease to look forward to their renewed life post cancer.
     We stopped at the Shorter Mansion Museum, a huge two-storey masonry home built in 1884. The mansion was passed down in the Shorter Family until 1965, when it was bought by the newly founded Eufaula Heritage Association. Inside, we followed a winding staircase that led to the centre of the upstairs. Around the staircase were the bedrooms. Each room had a door leading to the next one. There was period clothing and furniture to give the visitor an idea of how the people lived back in the era.
     Compared to the Magnolia Grove town home’s front verandah with its six columns, the Shorter mansion has a wrap-around verandah with 18 columns holding up its roof.
     I talked with a man at the mansion and asked him how to pronounce the name of the town. He told me that at one time the town had a large mattress factory and he gave me this saying: You falla sleep on our mattresses. Eu-faul-a.
     We crossed the Chattahoochee River into Georgia and at the town of Cuthbert we drove around a large traffic circle. There was a fall fair going on in the center. We parked and walked by an antique car display on our way to the fair. There were tables of jewellery, hats, knives, clothing, and food. I ordered a chocolate sundae while Mike had a root beer float. We came to one table where a 17–year-old young man and his mother were selling hand crafted knives. He explained that when he was fourteen he began working for a farrier looking after horses. A couple of years later the farrier gave the young man his old propane operated forge.
     He started fashioning railroad spikes into knives. On his table there was a tomahawk head that he had forged from a piece of one inch axle. We wanted to buy our neighbours something as a thank you for looking after our place. They belong to a Black Powder club and everything they wear or use has to be handmade. We thought the tomahawk head might be appropriate. The price was $60.00.
     “I don’t know why he puts a price on anything,” his mother said. “He’s willing to barter.”
     “What’s your lowest price?” Mike asked, as he looked at the piece.
     The young man thought it over. “I guess I could go down to $40.00.”
     “How long did it take you to make it? I asked.
     “It took me a day to forge it and then a week to polish it.”
     “I’m an artist,” I said. “And I know that we never get back the price of our time on anything we make for sale. It’s worth more than $40.00. We’ll give you $50.00.”
     The mother, the young man, and Mike all stared at me in surprise.
     “You don’t understand bartering, do you?” Mike said to me.
     We bought the tomahawk head for fifty dollars.
     Ever since we started this trip everyone we met was very friendly and helpful. They answered all our questions, however stupid they may be. A lot of them hadn't heard about dragon boating or its relationship to breast cancer. But it didn't matter who we talked to there was someone they knew, whether a family member or a friend, who had had some form of cancer. The grandmother of the young man had lymphoma. The doctors had managed it for a long time with medication then suddenly it doubled in size and she was on massive therapy.
     At another booth, the mother of the young woman there was an eleven year breast cancer survivor. When the people we talked with found out that we are going to Florida for an international breast cancer survivor dragon boat festival they always told us to have a safe trip.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Roseanne Dowell

While working as a school secretary, Roseanne Dowell took a correspondence course, writing for children. It didn’t take long to realize that even though she had six children, it took someone special to write books for them. That’s when she moved on to romance novels. But they sat in the attic with her poems and journals. 

In 2002 at a Book Club meeting, she confessed regret about not pursuing a career in writing. That’s all it took.  Her friends convinced her it wasn’t too late. She decided they were right and took another writing course. Within a few months, her first article was published in Good Old Days Magazine. Since then, she’s had articles published in several magazines. 

In 2006, Roseanne’s first book, Satin Sheets, was published and sold over 35,000 copies. Since then, she decided to go the way of the future – E-books.  She writes various types of romance – paranormal, contemporary, mystery and women’s fiction. Her heroines range from their early twenties to late seventies. Yes, seniors need love, too.  

Roseanne has 16 books available from Books We Love

All’s Well That Ends Well

All in the Family

Love on the Rocks

Entangled Minds

Trouble Comes in Twos

Deadbeat Dads

Another Day

Geriatric Rebels

Ring Around the Rosy

Elusive Mission

Time to Love Again

Secrets, Lies, & Love

Shadows in the Attic

It’s Only Make Believe

Love on the Rocks

Special Edition

All in the Family - Book 1 of Family Affair Series 

Taking over the police chief’s job in her hometown should have been easy for Callie Johnson. At least that's what she thought. After working in a big city, small town crime would be a breeze. What a surprise when she arrives to find her grandmother, the judge, accused of murder. As if that wasn't enough she’s attacked while walking to her car. Between criminal investigations, her nutty family’s antics and her Aunt Beatrice Lulu's matchmaking, Callie has her work cut out for her. Will her grandmother be exonerated? Can Callie ward off her aunt’s unsuitable suitors? What other surprises were in store for her? More importantly, can she find the person who attacked her?

All’s Well that Ends Well – Book 2 of Family Affair Series 

Aunt Beatrice Lulu is back and creating more havoc than ever. When a body falls out of a chimney in their newly purchased cabin, she takes it upon herself to investigate. Just because her niece is Chief of Police doesn’t mean she should mind her own business. Even her husband can’t control his busy body wife. It doesn’t end there, too many things happening for Beatrice Lulu to overlook. She’s bound and determined to figure things out on her own. 

Bill Bryson


     On page 38 of his new book, The Road to Little Dribbling, Bryson, “a best-selling Anglo-American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and science,” says and I quote, “The world is full of shitty things that should never have happened. Look at Sean Hannity.” I know Hannity is a political news commentator so why is he slammed in a travel book?
     A similar thing happened in John Baxter’s book, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: a Pedestrian in Paris, the difference being, Baxter was born an Australian, moved to France, and dissed the whole United States—again, in a travel book. The dissing also popped up in a book by a popular Scots writer though, when I happened to have a chance to ask his why the little cracks about America, he denied them and turned his back on me. I contend they were there, but—whatever. My point is, two of the books are travelogues and one is low-key fiction, so why the politics?

     Because I am currently focusing on historical fiction writing and generally read non-fiction for research, have I missed a new trend in writing or are people—and that includes authors—just pushier about their beliefs than they used to be? Now, here's the thing: a good writer can convey beliefs by the actions of his (don't bite me, it used to be more generic) characters and making those actions sympathetic. Seems to me, that is a lot more persuasive than calling someone "shitty" because apparently you're so important your opinions must be shared in an inappropriate way and in an inappropriate book. Mr. Bryson doesn't like America, he has acquired British citizenship, but I'll bet his dislike doesn't extend to refusing our royalties,
     It's hard to get a grip on the book-buying public. Amazon created a map tracking best selling political books and conservative titles outsell liberal titles virtually everywhere. That was the only info I could find. Book sales depend on the genre and according to from most sold to least sold, the list is as follows: children's fiction, fantasy, mysteries, classic literary fiction, modern literary fiction, magic realism, historical fiction, and  young adult fiction. And I see I have rambled a long way from political criticisms expressed in inappropriate books.
Suffice it to say, Mr. Bryson is very successful and I am a fledgling writer; but at least I'm not arrogantly rude.


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...