Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Fine Artistry of Citizen's Arrest by Stuart R. West

Click for Zach and Zora Book #2
"Halt! You're under citizen's arrest!"

Well. That's not the best catch-phrase, but by the time I pull a citizen's arrest, I'll come up with one. I will, oh, yes, I will. Something catchy. See what I did there? "Catchy?"

I'm a bit excited about this. The act of performing a citizen's arrest tops my bucket list, especially after researching the ins and outs of it for my next Zach and Zora comic mystery novel.

There are many worthy recipients of a citizen's arrest. I'd love to enforce my brand of martial law onto horrible and dangerous drivers. I mean, the other day I saw an idiot swerving lane to lane with his phone held in front of him. And there's the prob. How do I chase the offending moron down without Starsky and Hutching everyone else on the highway?

A bigger problem might be what to do with the guy once I catch him.

"Excuse me, sir, but I'm placing you under citizen's arrest. Um, could you come get in my car while I drive you to the police station?"

I don't see this working out in my favor. 

I need a better plan. Of course I certainly don't want to start lugging around guns, even though practically everyone in Kansas has one (and dang proud of it! Ram tough!). Not in this day of commonplace, nightmarish shootings. I could see myself adding to the problem. I've got that addictive sort of personality.

Frankly, I might not know where to draw the line in my impending career as a citizen's arrester. What do I do with those buffoons who wear shorts and t-shirts in thirty degree weather? Do I slip handcuffs on everyone who wears two different types of plaid? I'd be maxing the jail cells out with major fashion faux-pas offenders, a wardrobe-angry Charles Bronson. 

According to Ms. Google, my research assistant, I'm allowed to use "reasonable force" should I find it warranted. I'd say the above offenses definitely warrant a good kick to the hind-end. 

The law doesn't make it easy on we citizen arresters, either. The onus is on the arresting citizen to provide probable cause. Not a problem. One look at my captive's mesh see-through shirt and mullet, the police force will hand me the key to the city.

Now all I've got to do is detain the offender until the cops show up. Easy-peezy. I'll sit on him. I can sit like a champ!
There you have it. My solid plan is in effect. Don't cross me citizens! Stuart's on the job!

I'd probably arrest Zach, the "hero" of my Zach and Zora comic mystery series for being such a dolt. Find out if that arrest is warranted by clicking here!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Working with an Editor by Nancy M Bell

Click on the cover to find out more about Nansy's books.

This is part of a workshop I have presented to a number of groups. I hope you find it helpful.


Do you need an editor?
In a word ~ yes. Everyone needs an editor.

Why you need an editor.
As authors we know our story inside out, what may be blatantly obvious to us may not be so obvious to your reader.
We read what we ‘think’ we wrote not always what is actually on the page. It’s easy to skip over words like ‘the’, ‘a’ etc which may be missing from the text.

The difference between content edits and line/copy edits.
A content editor looks at the over- all structure of the story. Does it make sense; is it following the plot in the correct timeline; are facts correct; over use of words i.e. that, then, given names; passive voice vs active voice; does the plot move at a good pace or does it drag; does it make sense or are you confusing your reader; are the names of characters, places etc. consistent. The list goes on.
A copy/line editor looks at things on a more granular level. This is a check missing or reversed quotation marks, missing punctuation over all, formatting issues, grammar errors etc.

Choosing an editor.
If you are traditionally published the publishing house will assign you an editor, often two, one for contents and one for lines, this depends solely on the house and your experience. In this case you have little say in the choice of editor.
If you are self-publishing you will have to search out an editor for yourself. You can look at trade publications [like Quill and Quire in Canada or Writers Digest (US)] where you will find free-lance editors advertising for clients. If you are a member of your provincial guild there will be listings on their website- Writers Guild of Alberta. You can also look at The Writers Union of Canada site and there are numerous other places. You want to ask for references and titles of books they have edited, do your due diligence before committing yourself.

What if you hate your editor?
This is a two sided question as well. If you are with a traditional publisher your only recourse would be to contact the publisher and explain the problem. Depending on the house and the nature of your complaints, they may or may not be willing to mediate for you or assign a different editor.
If you are self-published and have entered into an agreement with a free-lance editor it may well depend on the agreement you signed or verbally agreed to. If there is no opt out clause, you can of course fire your editor but that may mean you have no way to get any monies already paid back. To protect myself when I free-lance I ask for half of the agreed fee up front with the remainder payable upon completion of the project to the author’s satisfaction.

Open Dialogue and Open Mind are key.
Your editor has your best interests at heart. They want to help you polish your work and show it in the best possible light. If you are a new unpublished author (and this has nothing to do with chronological age) be prepared to approach the experience with an open mind. You are not always going to like what the editor says. Remember, if you confuse your editor with aspects of your plot then you will also confuse your reader and the last thing you want is for them to put the book down and never buy anything else you’ve written.
Conversely, don’t be afraid to defend elements of the plot that may be essential to something that happens further on in the story, or in subsequent books if you’re writing a sequel. It is important to feel comfortable discussing things with your editor. At the end of the day it is your name on the cover.

Resolving Conflicts
This is hand and glove with what we just talked about. Keep a cool head and your temper under check. Flaming your editor is not conducive to a good working relationship. On the other hand, if you’ve not been careful with your choice you may find yourself with an editor who refuses to compromise.
In most cases the editor should explain why they think something should be different than what you’ve written. The editor should be familiar with the genre you’re working in and they will know the market much better than you, in most cases it will be in your best interest to listen to their advice. Very often compromises can be reached. If I encounter an empasse, I state my case and then let the author make the final call. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course.
The difference between a beta reader and an editor.
A beta reader is NOT an editor and should not be used as such. A beta reader is usually a friend or acquaintance who is willing to read your rough draft and offer comments or ask for clarifications in places where your plot may be weak or suffering from plot holes.

We’ve already discussed earlier what an editor is.

If you’re self-published ~ how much is too much dollar wise

This will depend on your budget of course, but be wary of paying thousands of dollars. The length of your work will help dictate the cost as well as the topic. Non-fiction will be more expensive as your editor will want to check your data and sources.

Be sure you know what you’re paying for.
Know what you are agreeing to and set a mutually agreed upon timeframe for the completion of your project.

You can visit me at Follow me on Twitter @emilypikkasso On Facebook at

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Contemporary or Fantasy Janet Lane Walters #MFRWAuthor #BWLAuthor #Fantasy #Contmporary

Fantasy vs Contemporary

 Lines of Fire (The Guild House - Defenders Hall)
I recently finished a contemporary romance and am now working on a fantasy. Bothof these books are either part of a series or part of a trilogy. Been thinking about what happens in my head when I enter these worlds. What changes?

When writing contemporary stories, I’m familiar with the world. Much depends on finding a location for the stories but… I generally use a fictitious town I’ve created. One for each group of stories. I seldom use places that exist. Once I did and that was Santa Fe but I only used enough to give a sense of being there.

When writing fantasies, the worlds are completely made up. Here is where creativity and research comes into play. There are features in ancient civilizations that can be turned into fantasy worlds.

So the difference between the two is working with the familiar and with the imagined world.

The characters’ names and language are things that can be different when going between contemporary and fantasy. I try to make the names sound not of this world but I don’t do what some fantasy writers do and mane the names of the characters unable to pronounce. With the language, I try to make things common to the contemporary world easy to identify. Like choca for cholate and kafa for coffee. My entomology and my foreign dictionary often come into play here. In some of my fantasies, things exist that don’t occur here such as bihorns rather like huge horses or dragons.

So slipping from the modern world to the fantasy world means creating things that are unusual and also familiar to people.

Romancing The Nurse

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Beetle Battle, by J.C. Kavanagh

Award-winning sequel, The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends

I often use personal experience when writing - if it's something I've heard or empathized with, or witnessed with my own eyes, my own heart, then I can write about it from my perspective. Personal experience often lends a more credible telling of the tale and hopefully lead to a closer connection with the reader. I use my home and sailing experiences in both The Twisted Climb and Darkness Descends. For example, shortly after we bought our property, we discovered 20-year-old vines twisted around many of our pine trees. They had slowly died a 'strangled' death. I used that twisted vine experience in the 'Drunk on a Slinky' chapter of Darkness Descends. Another example is from my sailing vacations. We sail to a gorgeous place called The Bad River, home to the Devil's Door Rapids, and I used these places as dream world locations in Darkness Descends.
My home is in a rural area surrounded by thousands of trees and nature in all its forms - birds, deer, racoons, porcupines, skunks and our neighbour's Guinea Hens, chickens and geese. So when I came home from our August sailing vacation, I was saddened to see a good number of our pine trees in distress. The needles were reddish-brown and the bark was splitting. My partner and I were walking around the property, wine glass in hand, when we stopped to listen to an unusual sound. It was a crunching sound and the source was one of the pine trees beside the man-cave/shop.
My heart wrenched.
I'd heard about this sound.

Adult pine bark beetle

This munching sound. The sound of hungry mouths chewing and chewing and destroying.
It was the sound of ten thousand hungry pine bark beetles.
These are voracious little fother-muckers that destroy swaths of trees. From Mexico all the way to British Columbia and now, Ontario, these pests are destroying pine trees wherever they fly and lay eggs.
We live near a provincial forest and are also surrounded by Christmas tree farms. Many of the tree farm properties have been decimated by these pests and, until now, I felt badly for them but never once thought that the trees on my property would be subject to the horrible critters. The provincial forest had a controlled burn this past spring in an attempt to halt the pests from spreading.
Yeah, well, that didn't help me or my trees.
I'm researching ways to halt the spread of these destructive insects and save the healthy trees. This is what I've learned from the 'Net:

Bark beetles kill the host tree when the adults bore holes through the tree’s outer bark and
into the inner bark layer of the tree. The adult beetles then
excavate tunnels where the female beetle lays eggs.
When the eggs hatch, the grub stage (larvae) further damages
 the inner bark layer as they construct feeding galleries.
Eventually, the combined excavation by adults and larvae will
girdle  or encircle the tree’s inner bark and cause death.
Further to the above, it seems that the best way to eliminate the beetle is to cut the tree down in the winter. And then 'chop and burn.'
My partner and I are on a new mission: Beat the Beetle. And take care of our forest.
This is a battle we don't want to lose. Our trees are counting on us :(

Several of the pines along our driveway are plagued with the beetle.
Note the reddish-brown needles.

My favourite twisted pine is also infested.

Looking upward, this pine tree is 'home' to thousands of the beetles.
It's where we first heard the 'munching' sound.

Note the tiny entry/exit holes in the bark. The crystalized insect (centre) appears to be a June bug.
When the tree is first attacked by the beetle, it exudes sap in a defensive effort. This June bug is a casualty.
 Mother nature...

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends (Book 2)
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2018, Critters Readers Poll and Best YA Book FINALIST at The Word Guild, Canada
The Twisted Climb,
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers Poll
Novels for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When Goals Come Between You and Your Passion

Lao Tzu

The idea for this blog came when one of my fellow authors asked me, “What are your goals for the next five years?”

This should have been an easy question to answer. In my previous profession as a business owner, I lived on a steady diet of goals: annual targets, monthly objectives and even daily goals. There was no way around it. Businesses need goals and without them, become directionless. I felt a constant need to compare myself  to my past achievements and to others in the industry. Indeed, a business without goals is one destined to die.

Several years ago, I sold the business and became a writer. Just as with a new business venture, I planned what books and how many I would write over a given time period. I tied everything together with timelines and spreadsheets. In other words, I brought exactly the wrong mentality to the writing world.

Not long into my first book, I realized that my plans were holding me back. Constantly checking back to where I was “supposed” to be became demoralizing. Worrying about plans interfered with the creative process. Ideas don’t magically appear on schedule nor does the imagination heel to spreadsheets. They take their sweet time and, in my experience, usually blossom outside the time spent at the keyboard---during evening walks or drives in the car.

I concluded that writing success should be measured by how satisfied I am by what I put on paper, rather than by writing a certain number of pages per day. The passion and engagement that I pour into my work give my story more impetus than any number of tick marks on a to-do list.

Is this an argument for anarchy? Of course not. I use planning devices to help me maintain the arc of the story or to chart the progress of my characters. But in the actual process of writing, it is better to remain in the moment and let feelings and emotions flow freely from the imagination to the page. And, if well written, the reader shares in this engagement and passion.

Lao Tzu wrote 'A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.' I find this to be the correct approach to writing: to take joy in the process. It made me a better writer.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper," a fantasy, and "Karma Nation," a literary romance. Please check him out at Published by Books We love:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Secrets from the Sheila Claydon

Click this link for books and purchase information

I've just read fellow BWL writer Susan Calder's blog post about near history and it took me right back to the time when I decided to research my family's past. The advent of the Internet has made this so much easier . No more trekking to city libraries or writing letters to the National Archives. Instead, information available at the click of a button, and so much of it.

I decided to start with my Father because the stories he told me as a child had always fascinated me. His own father, he said, was illegitimate, but because his very young parents were from rich families, possibly even nobility, his birth had been hushed up and he had been fostered by a Mr and Mrs Leigh, and educated until he was 14. This was at a time when most boys left school at 12 or even earlier. He was then apprenticed to a haberdasher, where he had to sleep under the shop counter at night. Of course my main aim was to find out who his parents were, and then I was going to try to track down the Leigh family. Well, what a surprise that turned out to be!

For a start I discovered that instead of being the Yorkshireman I had always thought he was, he was from Norfolk in East Anglia. So instead of my Father's northern vowels he would have spoken with what, to untuned ears, would have sounded like a rural accent.  The dialect of rural Norfolk is closely related to the accent of Eastern New England in the US, as many of the first settlers there were from Norfolk, whereas the Yorkshire accent is the closest we have to the Old Saxon language of the UK, with a good bit of Viking thrown in thanks to the Scandinavians who invaded England a very long time ago. To give you a flavour:

Standard English:  'How are you?'
Norfolk Dialect:      'Ar ya reet bor? How you gewin?' 
Yorkshire Dialect:   'How do?'

English dialects are not only fascinating but they change every twenty miles or so. Where I live on the north west coast I am assailed by up to half a dozen dialects on a daily basis, and if I travel just a few miles more I can up the count to about twenty. That, however, is a whole other story. Back to my grandfather. 

Having recovered from the shock of discovering that he was Norfolk born in the wonderfully named Little Snoring, a tiny hamlet of just a few houses, I then found out that he was brought up in Fakenham, a small town just a few miles his grandparents!  Not by foster parents. And although his mother (my great-grandmother) didn't live with him because she was in service as a domestic servant, she saw him regularly. He had a brother too, older by 4 years, and also illegitimate. There is a whole other story there. Did she have a longstanding affair with a member of the local nobility? is that where part of the story came from? Was money made available for her children? I'll never know. 

What I do know, however, is that not only did my great-great grandparents bring him up but they educated him too because they could afford to on their own merits. I discovered that my great-great-grandfather owned a brick yard, and if you ever visit Norfolk and see how many old houses are built with red brick, you'll understand that he was quite well off. I've since seen the house and adjoining yard with its huge double gates, wide enough for a horse and cart laded with bricks to drive through.

Neither my grandfather's nor his brother's birth certificates named their father and despite a visit to Fakenham and to the Records Office in Norwich I failed to find any clues that might have led me to him. Nor did the Parish Chest (a repository for all sorts of documents relating to apprenticeships and other financial transactions) have anything of interest. I discovered, however, that a Drapers Apprenticeship was for 7 years and was only available to boys who could afford it, so I like to think that my great-great-grandfather stumped up the money for that too. 

I then discovered that, aged 21, my grandfather left Norfolk and travelled to London where, as a full member of the Draper's Guild, he worked in the city, and shared lodgings with a young man who worked with him. So far, so good, but the best bit was still to come.  I don't know when he met my grandmother but I do know they were married in Saint Margaret's Church, Westminster. This is in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, London, and was, until the 1970s, the Anglican parish church of the British House of Commons. 

I have no idea whether you had to have important connections to be married in such an auspicious church, but I have since discovered that my Grandmother's father was a Professor of Music who had originally been in the Royal Hussars as a Band Master, so maybe it was a fancy wedding. What was more important though was the marriage certificate. By this time my great-great-grandparents were dead, as was my great-grandmother and two of her brothers, one of whom had never married. Whether he lived with his parents all his life I don't know, but I do know that he helped run the brick yard, so my grandfather would have probably seen this uncle almost daily. So what was he to do when asked to fill in his wedding certificate with the relevant details...certainly not own up to being illegitimate in front of his future father-in-law. Instead he put his uncle's name against father and next to it deceased. And under occupation owner brick yard. After all some of it was true, and everyone who knew the full truth was either dead or lived miles away, so no-one was ever going to discover his little lie. 

And then the Internet came along, and an inquisitive granddaughter! He died 15 years before I was born, but how I would love to know what made him tick. Why this stern and authoritarian Edwardian gentleman disowned his grandparents and mother, at least on paper. And how I would love to be able to tell my Father the true story too. Instead, one day I might use it as the basis of a book. In the meantime my book Remembering Rose has a different sort of hidden history...or as my writing colleague Susan Calder might say...near history. 

Friday, September 13, 2019


I'm happy to report that I'm deep in the world of my second American Civil War Brides novel.  Seven Aprils' bride was Tess,  Book 2: Mercies of the Fallen's bride is Ursula. 

The title is inspired by Dar Williams' hauntingly beautiful song Mercy of the Fallen which begins...

Oh my fair North Star, I have held to you dearly,
I had asked you to steer me, 
Till one cloud-scattered night, 
I got lost...

Here are some of the images that inspire me as I write.  My hero Rowan is a sergeant in a New York Zouave regiment.  I love the Zouave uniforms... finding them dashing and colorful and comfortable, being of light weight cloth and easy to move in.  Regiments of both the South and the North wore them.

Zouave soldier 
I even found a photograph of a soldier who looked like my Rowan...

...although my husband spied this Civil War era photo and proclaimed I was actually inspired by our friend Paul in his youth, what do you think?

...hmmm, separated at birth?

My hero and heroine are both lost and damaged souls.  So I am looking to a couple of people I know to inspire the creation of supporting characters to bright some lightness to the novel.  

One is my dear cousin Monique, a delightful force of nature, full of what the French call joie de vivre. She is inspiring the character of Marie Madeline, a French Canadian wonder who, along with her two sisters helped raise Rowan into the loving, generous man that he is, despite his rough start as a survivor of An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger in Ireland.  Here's my wonderful cousin and me...
be warned: if I'm looking at you like this, you're going to end up in one of my novels!
Another relative is helping me form my heroine's brother Jonathan, who is determined to see her free and n the road to finding her happiness.  He is a goofy, impatient matchmaker and I drew from my delightful, goofy son-in-law Teddy who loves winter and takes down Christmas trees with relish!

I hope you are finding inspirations daily!