Saturday, April 23, 2016

A WRITER'S RETREAT by Victoria Chatham

All writers have their own processes, their own tried and true foibles which work for them. It may be having that particular cup for coffee or tea when they sit down to write, or having their favorite music playing in the background or their pets at their feet. My process is to have peace and quiet and I had that in abundance during my stay at Keystone, a two-hundred year old stone built cottage which nestles comfortably into the hillside at Blakeney in the Forest of Dean, west Gloucestershire.
The Forest covers a roughly triangular area between the Rivers Wye to the west and Severn and was famous for its timber and mineral resources. The Romans were the first to exploit the iron ore found in these ancient woodlands. Later the Forest became royal hunting grounds and was used exclusively for that purpose by the Tudors. Iron making and coal mining continued through the ages, those industries being at their peak in the 19th Century.
But it wasn’t for any of that history that I chose the Forest for my retreat. I wanted time to research and draft Shell Shocked, the third book in The Buxton Chronicles trilogy. I found Annie McKie’s retreat on line at and it made the perfect Easter break for me. My room had a view overlooking the valley and it was a pleasure to sit outside on the balcony to enjoy it. I had my own front door with beautiful stained glass window panels and could come and go as I pleased without disturbing anyone.  
A comfortable bed ensured I slept like the proverbial log. Had the weather turned cool I could have made the room more cozy than it was with the aid of a wood-burning stove. A writing desk by the window gave me light and fresh air while I worked. Annie kept my room well stocked with tea, coffee, fruit and snacks. In the evenings I joined her and her husband Ian for the most marvelous vegetarian meals cooked in her solid fuel stove. Annie introduced me to the free-range chickens which produced our eggs and explained how she and her neighbors ran a self-sustaining gardening cooperative.
The more I talked with Annie the more I realized we had a connection. At least, I felt connected because hers was a familiar voice and face as she was a former newsreader and announcer for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC TV regional station Points West. Annie had also trained as an actor, speech and drama teacher and taught all aspects of voice and communication skills. She writes fiction and mentors writers and I had several brainstorming sessions with her.
I so appreciated that aspect of my time at Keystone. My first draft of Shell Shocked raised more questions in my mind as to which battle or battles to include in my story. It was Annie’s suggestion to not concentrate on that, but on the people who remained at home. Among the books available in my room was Winifred Foley’s A Child in the Forest, a book I had once owned and thoroughly enjoyed. Reading it again gave me ideas for my book and I quickly revised my first draft and made many more notes.
With access to the Forest only 30 seconds away from Keystone, I walked every day. It didn’t matter in which direction I went I got plenty of exercise as, if I walked downhill I had to come back up and vice versa, but wherever I went I enjoyed the views. This view is from Blakeney Hill looking across the River Severn to the Cotswold Hills. I don’t know any writer who does not use walking time as thinking time. The only thing I had to be concerned about while on these daily walks were the free-roaming sheep and pigs, especially the pigs which forage for acorns. Fortunately I only heard them squealing and grunting as they rooted up the forest floor but the freshly turned grass beside the pathways on which I walked were clear evidence of their existence. Free grazing rights, established in Norman times, applies to basically anyone who lives within the Forest purview.
During my time at Keystone the weather was gorgeous. The trees were greening and the pussy willows beside the streams along the valley bottom bursting into life. Primroses and celandines peeped beneath the hedgerows bordering the lanes and  steep paths that connected one level of the hillside with another. The sweet smelling carpets of bluebells, for which the Forest is famous, were just beginning to bloom and I was sorry to miss this spring extravaganza.       A writers retreat is at the very least a gift you can give yourself, whether you go alone or join a group. At most it is a magical period of time in which you may surprise yourself with heightened insights and productivity and, in my case, a completed book.

Victoria lives and writes near Calgary, Alberta and visits her family in England as often as she can. She has always loved historical romances but never thought she'd write them. Now in full-time retirement but busier than ever, she writes full time. That is - when she is not enjoying the company of friends, walking, attending yoga class, volunteering at a world class equestrian center or taking weekend breaks in beautiful Banff.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Is A Horse Without A Cause Any Different Than One Without A Name?

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Is A Horse Without A Cause Any Different Than One Without A Name?

People sometimes ask me in my travels as a human being why I write? Which is different than squirrels asking me why I like nuts, macadamias mostly, but pistachios as well. 

I often respond with saying what good is having a horse if it’s locked up in a barn all the time. Some stare at me not understanding with that wide eyed, “I think he’s nuts, which in the case of the squirrels is correct, and that answer doesn’t help to clarify the question. 

So I often relate the story of a horse I met once that looked at me in a most unusual way. You know, if you’ve been around horses, they occasionally get that wide-eyed gaze of excitement teetering on the brink of insanity. As if the intelligence trapped within that equine body wanted to whisper something profound, something mad. But dared not, scared to break some unholy law of nature. 

I’d gone on a three-day backpacking trip behind Harrison Lake in BC. The first two days was great just me, greenery and several hundred year old cedar trees. 

But the horse, well, he was different and he had no qualms about telling me. 

“You’d make better time on four legs than two,” he snorted as we met on a high plain in the Stein Valley, on what a native elder told me later, was sacred native land. 

Like Black Beauty, he had a sleek jet-black coat adorned with dozens of scratches. Other than his glib tongue his other outstanding feature, was his rakish mane; with one tousle of hair between his ears that gave him that James Dean look, trouble. It suited him.

I sat around my campfire that night, the horse preferred standing. “You ain’t catching me sleeping with cockroaches and worms crawling all around. Damn two-leggers, strange uncivilized bunch.” 

I wolfed down beans and wild Jack Pine mushrooms. He munched on some fresh grass, different nutrients, same results. After a while I couldn’t tell which one of us smelled worse. I think it was the horse. 

He told me his name, but I couldn’t bray it back in English. I hadn’t, at least up to this point in my life, bumped into too many talking horses, I just called him Horse. 

Giving a smug toss of his mane, he told me how his ancestors, of pure breed stock, came over with the conquistadors.

Of course, you’re probably wondering right about now the same thing, why other horses don’t talk. 

“You two-leggers think you’re the horse’s hooves, using your two front legs for things like wiping your rear ends and holding that thing between your legs you call a stallion’s pride. Bah, I’d say there’s a few nervous female mosquitoes around every time you whip it out.” He snorted almost falling over. “Most of us can talk except the penners.” 

Penners was his expression for horses in captivity.

“Could never figure out your breed. Walk around miserably slow on two hooves and then make slaves out of us to get you around faster. You’re a bewildering lot. Most penners can’t even think for themselves, ain’t got the brains. Slavery, I call it and I’ll have none of it. 

On the other hand the female penners are soft and smell great. There’s something very sexy about a mare with a clean, brushed coat, that brings out the stallion in me.” He brayed kicking his front legs in the air. “Yup, a night or two with old Horse here and they forget which end of the straw is up.”

He’d snorted loudly about some of his adventures. Maybe that’s why he chose to talk to me, that old rebel-at-heart thing. I imagined his parents raising their hoofs and saying don’t go off talking to the humans; it’ll get you into trouble. He didn’t care. 

Being a writer I always carry a tape recorder, but only got a lot of snorting from him on the tape. Perhaps those mushrooms I ate were really magic ones. In the end I bade him farewell. He had good sense, for a horse, but be careful the next time a horse looks you that wide-eyed flicker. He might be sizing you up for a few words. 

As for why I write? Like a wild horse that smells that open hillside in front of him, and tears off across it to feel the wind on its mane. I get the same sense of freedom and naturalness as I touch pencil to paper. It’s what’s bred into my soul and must be released to gallop.

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By Frank Talaber
Writer by soul. Karma the seed. Words born within.
Paper the medium. Pen the muse. Novels the fire.
Twitter: @FrankTalaber

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Big Book of Cliches by Stuart R. West

These days when I read a book and come across a cringe-inducing cliché, my first inclination is to hurl the book across the room. Of course I don’t do that since I do most of my reading now on an electronic device.
Even more troubling is when I realize, “Hey! As a writer, I’ve used that cliché on several occasions!” Oh, the shame of it all. Here’s the funny thing about clichés, though. Writers hate them; but sometimes, particularly in genre-based fiction, readers sometimes seek them out. Like a comfortable throw. There’ve been times when I’ve strayed from clichés intentionally, particularly in regard to protagonists. Gone are the rough and tumble, yet beyond handsome, confident he-men. Hello to insecure, troubled, baggage-carrying neurotics. No secret which type of hero is more popular.

Clichés offend me. No, that’s not quite true. They bore me. I want more originality. To help myself stay on the straight and narrow path and not stray down cliché alley, I composed a list of some of the worst offenders. (Keep in mind these adhere more to the noir/thriller/suspense genres than others).

*Heroes with macho names. Every writer’s featured one. Every reader has read many. Usually the names connote some sort of solid building material. Don’t ask me why. “Rick Broadbrick.” “Rocky Hardroad.” “Stoney Brawling.” “Captain Tug McLumber.” Personally, I’d like to see more Marvins and Miltons. But…those names don’t exactly encapsulate tough guys.

*The damaged goods male lead. Women readers love these guys. Throughout my life, I’ve met women who adore these guys in real life. They’ve admitted it to me; they want to change them. So many fictional detectives and cops are alcoholic, love-dented, chain-smoking, sloppy, death-wishing brooders. Every woman’s dream, right? Good luck fixing ‘em, ladies!

*The dreaded dream sequence. How I’ve come to loathe fictional dreams. I’m the first to admit I’d used them in some of my earlier books. But never again. I see them as the ultimate cheat. Nothing that happens in a dream ultimately matters. Sorta a waste of time. If I make it through the book, only to find out the entire tale was a dream? I call foul! No more! Use your clichés wisely and sparingly.

*The big revelation! Usually, the big reveal happens with our hero standing out in the rain. Not just a light sprinkling either. We’re talking monsoon weather. He drops to his knees, raises his fists to the sky, screams, “Noooooooo!” Or the variant: “Whyyyyyyy?” First? Get out of the rain. You’re gonna catch pneumonia. You can scream just as well in dry environments. Or at least prepare yourself and bring an umbrella. Second? Scream something original. How about, “Huh. I didn’t see that coming.” Or “What a day, what a day.” Okay, I know, right? Not as impactful. But…enough’s enough.

*Characters who have big emotional insights, but say them out loud when they’re alone. “Think of the kitties…oh, my Lord, what about the poor, poor kitties?” Who does that? Who are they talking to? Talk about damaged goods. Call up a friend, then chat about the kitties. Or see a psychiatrist. The only time I’ve ever talked to myself? When an accident happens. And it’s language no one should be privy to.

*The chatty, James Bond-style super-villain. Usually when the bad guy is unveiled, he holds the hero at gun-point (or some other perilous situation) and decides to make a lengthy speech. “You see, Mr. Broadbrick (they’re generally very polite, too), the reason I decided to poison the clown-car full of would be thespians is because I, too, once fancied myself a clown. Oh, I went to clown school, learned to juggle at the feet of the masters, excelled in the art of applying make-up and honking red noses. I wore baggy pants day in and day out. Every day for twenty years! Then they laughed at me…not a good kind of appreciative audience laugh either. For you see…”  Zzzz. Snurk. Wha? Sorry, I dozed off just writing that. The hero probably would’ve in real life, too. Or taken the time to unravel the ropes binding his hands, sweep the feet beneath the villain, claim the gun, the woman, the stolen money. Truth time? I’ve done this. Sometimes it’s a must, no way around it in murder mysteries.

There’re a lot more where these came from. I’ve just skimmed the top of the ol’ cliché barrel. But, as I said, some readers come to expect a few of these in books. It’s what they like, what they search out. And depending on the genre? Some are absolutely unavoidable. Depends on what you do with them, I suppose. But I’m striving to keep away. 

Um, starting right about now.

How about you? Any annoying cliché’s you’d like to add?


Monday, April 18, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Shirley Martin

If you go to Amazon and click on Books, you’ll find mine
listed under Shirley Martin and find also the genres I write in: historical romance, paranormal romance, and fantasy romance.  “Destined to Love” is my first published novel, a historical romance that takes place in western Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War.  Another historical romance is “Forbidden Love,” that’s centered around a Pittsburgh steel strike in 1892.  “Forbidden Love” has garnered great reviews.  “Nothing short of a masterpiece” says Fallen Angels Reviews in their 5-star review.  My affection for western Pennsylvania, its history and ambiance, surely comes through in my writing.

Now, just a bit about me.  I was born and raised near Pittsburgh but moved to Miami when I obtained a position as a flight attendant with Eastern Air Lines.  Based in Miami, I met my husband there, and we had three sons.  Now a widow, I live in Birmingham, Alabama near my middle son. 

Here is my website link with Books We Love, my publisher.
Please check out my own website.

I began my writing career with historical romances.  Then I discovered the charms of paranormal romance.  But fantasy romance is my favorite, both for reading and writing.  Here is a list of my books and their genres:

Historical romance:
            “Destined to Love”
            “Forbidden Love”

Paranormal Romance:
“Dream Weaver” a time travel romance and a CAPA  (Cupid and Psyche Award) nominee.
            “One More Tomorrow” a vampire romance
            “Temptation” also a vampire romance

Fantasy romance:
            Avador series:
            “Night Secrets”
            “Night Shadows”
            “Enchanted Cottage”
            “Allegra’s Dream”
            “Wolf Magic”            
There is also a boxed set of the Avador series.

Other fantasy romances:
            “The Sacrifice”
            “Midnight For Morgana”
            “The Princess and the Curse”
            “Magic Mountain” 

Boxed set of Fairy Tales includes:
            “The Sacrifice”
            “One More Tomorrow”
            “Midnight for Morgana”
            “The Princess and the Curse”

My Special Edition includes:
            “Dream Weaver”
            “Forbidden Love”
            “Destined to Love”    

Here are a couple blurbs that I hope might entice you to read my romance novels.  First, my recent fantasy romance, “Magic Mountain” :

Gold! Legend tells of a fortune in gold, hidden in a cave at Misty Mountain, in a land far away. Princess Olwen must find the treasure.  The neighboring country of Volanar has held her brother hostage for years and demands a fortune to free him. Olwen’s country of Airenn Tir is too poor to pay the ransom.  Her father doesn’t believe the legend of hidden gold and refuses to send anyone to search for the treasure.  So she’ll find the gold herself, Olwen determines. Disguised as a man and traveling alone, she leaves in the dead of night and travels to a distant land to find the treasure.  Painful surprises await her, for she has no idea she’ll encounter a land of magic . . . and danger. 

Now, a blurb from my vampire romance, “Temptation”:

Escaping an abusive boyfriend, Jennifer moves to Miami.  She vows that from now on, she’ll guard her heart and not fall for any sweet talker that comes her way. But when she meets Varik, a man like no other, she finds it easy to forget her vow.

On a dare to woo a mortal woman, Varik courts Jennifer. He finds himself falling in love with her and wonders if she’s the soul mate he’s waited for throughout the centuries.  But no.  How can there be any lasting happiness between a vampire and a mortal woman?
From the glittering nightclubs of Miami Beach to the dreaded dungeons of medieval France, get ready for a wild ride.

I’d be happy if you’d check out my books at Amazon and also my own website.  And thank you for taking the time to read about my books and me.

April is Poetry Month! by Nancy M Bell

Hi Everyone,

This is Guapo. He's pretty amazing and poetry in motion so I thought I'd start with him.

Glad to see you back. April is Poetry Month, so I thought I'd share some of my poetry with you.

This one is about my very first horse, Brandy.


We are linked by love
You and I
You have been my steadfast friend
My anchor in the stormy seas
My safe rock on which to stand
And survey my uncertainties

The sharer of my secrets
The keeper of the wings of my spirit
You have given so much
And asked so little
Touchstone of my soul
Transcending even the distance of death.

This one is about summer when I was seventeen. Old friends I've lost touch with, horses that are no longer here, and my own lost innocence.


Bittersweet; nibbling at the toes of my subconscious
Memories of long past summer days
Evoked by the essence of green cut hay
A myriad of days
Wrapped up in the rustle of ripening wheat

Shimmering moonlight
Freeing the ghosts locked away in memory
Sending them shouting and galloping once again
Through the now silent dark
Plunging me back into half-forgotten dreams
And half-remembered loves

Sweet moon shadowed innocence of youth.

This one was written when I was fifteen. I liked really a boy who I didn't think I was good enough for. Luckily, I've out grown those insecurities.


I ain’t got no pretty face
And all my charms are in the bracelet on my wrist
I can’t even offer you money or power
And important friends

All I can give you is all that I am
A shoulder to lean on
And peace without lies

Even though you’re hear today
And tomorrow gone

All I have worth giving is me.

This is about that person you meet and suddenly feel like you've known them forever, but you don't even know their name. Connections from earlier lives.

Who Are You?

Who are you that you can touch me so?
Touch my heart with your eyes?
Hold me with your smile

Who are you that you draw me into your soul?
Making me oblivious to everything
Except that we are together in the same universe
We are the universe

Who are you?
But I know
Somehow from the first I’ve known
Somewhere, in sometime
We have known one another
We have been one

Even now, separated by other lives
I can’t deny the voice in my heart
Or the light through your eyes

Okay, enough poetry. LOL On another note, I've recently teamed up with the late Pat Dale's literary executor and Books We Love to keep his work fresh and in circulation. To that end, I've revamped some of his previously published work with new covers and new material. I'm currently working on expanding his brilliant short story "Must Love Large Dogs". It will be released in Summer 2016 under the title "The Teddy Dialogues." Told from the large dog's point of view, it's hilarious. Originally a short story, I am expanding some of the incidents so that it will be at least 60,000 words or more. Watch for it coming this summer. If you love dogs or just great humour, you'll love "The Teddy Dialogues."

Titles currently available include:

The Last Cowboy, She's Driving Me Crazy, and Henrietta's Heart.

Available on Amazon and wherever good books are sold. Till next month, be happy, be healthy.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Promotion - Fun and Fury - Janet Lane Walters #promotion #MFRWauthor


Promotion not the most fun in the world but something we all have to do. Keeping your name out there is important and while not the greatest of fun. It's nice to have a publisher who gives you a boost in this department, Not all publishers do. Here, we are fortunate to have some help.

Another writer once told me one should promote every day. Now that can eat up time when one wants to write. I've devised a system that works for me. Not sure how much the system helps sales but I feel it does. I let Saturday and Sunday to be my days away from the WIP.  On Saturday, I sit down and do my blogs for the week. What does this do? Gets my name out there and sometimes recieves comments from people who might be looking at my books and even buyint them. There is an aid here. I use Triberr and my blogs are shared by a number of authors giving me a great width of exposure.

Sunday is my day for other promotional sort of thing. I write blogs for other authors. Some I know and some I don't. What this does is feature one of my books and letting others know a bit about me. I also look at promotional sites and see if there are ads that are within my budget. I also add any new books to several sites.

Doing these peomotional days allows me to spend most of my week writing and doing bits of promotion that don't eat up my writing time. I do Twitter and Facebook daily. Actually several times a day. I've found that not staying on line for a long time keeps one from running here and there. Sundays I feature one of my books and then I can send out a blast on Facebook and on Twitter. This gives a single book a few days of exposure.

Another way to promote yourself is to release or re-release stories frequently. I've been lucky lately in that I've completely re-written a number of stories and have been able to have BWL publish them. That makes for added exposure.

I'm not sure this will work for everyone but it's working for me. Doing 7 blogs on one day keeps me from scrambling. Finding places to expose my books keeps me from feeling too stressed.

Promotion is a necessary evil. Promotion isn't fun unless you can find a way to make a game of it. For me blogging seven days a week isn'thave. Rarely takes me more than ten minutes for each post. Short and sweet promotion.

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...