Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Waiting Game by Stuart R. West

Click for comedy, mystery and murrrrrderrrrrrrr most dumb!
Recently, I encountered surely one of the world's worst waiters at a Mexican restaurant. Let's call him "Nelson (because that was his name)." Combative, non-communicative, just plain bad table etiquette. He mistakenly delivered baked beans instead of refried. My wife told me to let him know about it. No thanks. After the fight he put up over his bringing flour instead of corn tortillas, I didn't want things to escalate to violence. Still, he got the last laugh. When he swept my plate out from under me (without asking), he dropped my knife an inch from my hand. No apologies.
Now I'm no waiter, never have been one, yet I do have empathy for those plying the fine trade of waiting. And, as always, I'm here to help. Hence, Stuart's Easy School of Good Waiting for the low, low price of three $39.99 installments . Order now and you'll receive a free doily.

Waiters, kindly remember these rules:

1) Hairnets. If you have hair like the lunch-lady of my nightmares, hairnets are appreciated. Soup served with croutons and curly black hairs is simply not an option.

2) For God's sake, give me time to take a bite! Overzealous behavior doesn't suit the art of waiting well. Sometimes, before I've even jammed a fork in my mouth, a tip-starved waiter will ask how everything is. And keep coming back. Again and again. It's a weird time-space conundrum. Can't comment until the food's in me.

3) Waiters, please don't chortle at a customer's menu selection. It doesn't exactly instill culinary confidence.

4) And do we really need to know your grandmother just passed away? When the waiter starts crying, my appetite starts dying.

5) When I ask what's good, don't respond with a generic shrug and say, "everything." I don't believe you. On the other hand, when a waiter says, "I eat next door," the honesty is appreciated, but gives me pause.

6) Don't be the invisible waiter, the guy who takes an order and vanishes into the Bermuda Triangle. When a different waiter brings out a milk carton with my waiter's visage on it, I know I'm in for an even longer wait.

7) Know your customers. Do I REALLY look like a guy who wants to eat the Kale platter?

8) "Oh, I see someone's hungry."  Well. When a waiter says that, I fire back, "I see someone's hungry for a tip." Puh-leaze.

9) If you're gonna' serve up witty patter, make sure it's at least borderline amusing. And don't deliver your patter like a robot. Bring your material to life. When you bury your face in the order pad, reciting lines like "you say tomat-oh, I say ta-mah-to (and I know you've recited it a kazillion times before)," it makes me wanna' use the steak knife for other purposes. Bad jail-bound purposes.

10) Finally, don't overdo it. When a waiter sits down at my table, drops an arm over my shoulder, jabs a toothpick between his teeth, and says, "You know, I'm not really a waiter...," dessert is definitely off the table.

Gang, the next time you go out to eat, recite these rules upfront to your waiter. Trust me. I'm sure they'll appreciate the advice. Absolutely positive.

What does "waiting" have to do with writing, I hear you ask? Quite a bit, actually. A waiter has to guide his/her customer through an entire meal before any kind of feedback is given (and hopefully a tip). A writer is in the same sort of unknowing vacuum until reviews come out (and hopefully sales).

There will be a test later.

Speaking of waiters, my dunderheaded protagonist of the Zach and Zora comic mystery series isn't exactly a waiter (and maybe the world's a better place for it). No, no, Zach has chosen to study and practice the fine art of "male entertainment dancing." Just, whatever you do, don't call him a "stripper." So gauche.

Click for wacky murder mystery hijinx.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Looking At The New Year - Janet Lane Waltres #Romance #Fantasy #Fire #MFRWAuthor #BWLAuthor

Looking at the New Year
 Lines of Fire Challenged (The Guild House – Defender’s Hall)

This year began with a release on January first. And I also began the seventh book of the Moon Child series. The rough draft is going well. I don’t know how other writer’s work though sometimes on my blog, they are able to tell me a bit about it.

I am a draft writer and the rough draft is one only a writer can love. I belong to a critique group and reading five to ten pages of what one is working on aloud is done. When I read the pages of a rough draft, the critiques come fast and furious. “There’s no emotion.” “I don’t understand the setting.” Or “Just where are your characters.” These questions will be answered in subsequent drafts. I have one for plot, one for setting, one for characters and one language.

There are times when I wish I could be one of those writers who gets everything down at once. They revise each scene as they go and don’t continue until they are satisfied. I’ve tried this method and I found the story never was written. I need to know the end before I can make sure the beginning works.

I have other friends who just write scenes. They might write a scene from the middle of the book followed by one for the opening. This would never work for me. When they try to explain what they do I really can’t see the purpose. From beginning to end is my way.

On my rough draft I am finally nearing the end. Then I’ll go back and slowly add all I’ve left out. How about you? How do you craft your stories?

My Places

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bump, set, spike, by J.C. Kavanagh

Short-listed for Best Young Adult Book 2018,
The Word Guild Canada

I am very much a sports-loving person. Since Grade 3 and into high school, I participated in track and field (100m, 200m and 400m relay). I wasn't the fastest but I wasn't the slowest, either. Since becoming an adult sometime in the last century, my sport selection widened. I've played ball hockey, baseball, volleyball and martial arts kickboxing. Today, I'm still playing volleyball and working on purple belt in kickboxing.

I've been in the same volleyball league for 35 years and the competitiveness of the league has grown in leaps and bounds - to the the point that players on the eight teams are switched every two years.

In the sport of volleyball, there are six players on each team and the goal is to 'ground' the ball on the other team's court. A point is awarded to the team who 'grounds' the ball in the opponent's court and likewise, a point is awarded if a team is unable to volley / spike the ball over the net. The team can 'touch' the ball a maximum of three times before sending it over the net. Usually the first 'touch' is a player bumping a serve up to the centre-net player. That player then sets or volleys the ball to a side player for a spike, thus the term: Bump, set, spike. The rally continues on both sides until the ball is 'grounded' either in the court or out-of-play.

There are lots of rules, too. You can't touch the ball consecutively; you can't touch the net during play; you can't step over the midline during play; you can't play the ball more than three times in your court, and game / set ends after 25 points. We play five games / sets every Wednesday during Autumn, Winter and Spring.

I just discovered the origins of volleyball. An American YMCA physical education teacher by the name of William Morgan invented the game in 1895 in Massachusetts. He based it on the rules of badminton, tennis and handball and called it Mintonette. It wasn't until 1896 that the name was changed to volleyball, denoting the volleying aspect of the game. As an aside, another new indoor game was just becoming popular - basketball.

The inventor of volleyball, William Morgan

My team, 'The Royals,' ready to return the serve

Five of seven team mates celebrating the annual year-end banquet.
... and from volleyball info to creative writing.... make sure to check out my award-winning Twisted Climb series. You won't be disappointed!

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)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

“The Force has Left us, Young Skywalker.”

Over the weekend, my son and I checked out the latest Star Wars offering, “The Rise of Skywalker.” Patrons of all ages lined up at the ticket counter, the theater was crowded and many buckets of popcorn were sold. It promised to be an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The sheer success of the Star Wars movies is hard to comprehend. The original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” came out in 1977. Since then, the franchise, with twelve releases, has collected over an astounding ten billion dollars worldwide.

We enjoyed the movie but, truth be told, it was nothing special. The undeniable excitement that greeted the first several releases, decades ago, was missing. Perhaps the brand has run its course. Understandably, keeping the momentum going is a hard task, and for the scriptwriters, an unenviable task.

For me, “The Revenge of the Sith,” released in 2005, was the last and best of the series. In it, we learned of Anakin Skywalker’s shocking betrayal of the Jedi, his turn to the dark side, the death of his wife Padme and the dispersal of their twin babies. Every release after that has felt shallow, unable to capture the emotional heart of the saga again.

Thus, the reviews for “The Rise of Skywalker,” were decidedly mixed. Rotten Tomatoes, the well-known review site gave it a 53% rating, saying that it “suffers from a frustrating lack of imagination, but concludes this beloved saga with fan-focused devotion.”  Roger Stone, the movie critic, writes that, having to bear the weight of all the previous plots, it doesn’t have “an identity of its own.”
Joseph Campbell
In a way, it had to happen. The original trilogy was a cultural phenomenon. Set in the distant future but rooted firmly in ancient human mythology, it captured everyone’s imagination. Based on the writings of Joseph Campbell, erstwhile professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who worked in comparative mythology and religion, it captured the imaginations of people around the world. Some say that Star Wars is based on the ancient Hindu epic the Ramayana, which relates the tale of a search, by a hero and his monkey friend, for a princess captured by an evil king.

There are rumors that the latest is the last of the franchise. But given the financial returns, it seems difficult to believe. Another or, maybe, a few more episodes will be produced. If so, the saga will slowly die away, ending only when movie-goers lose interest. Yet, few will forget the magic of the early releases. I certainly won’t.

Mohan Ashtakala is the author of "The Yoga Zapper," a fantasy and "Karma Nation," a literary romance ( He is published by Books We Love (

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It's a big, big world out Sheila Claydon

Click here for my books and author page

A new year, a new decade, what does the next 10 years hold for us? Only time will tell.

Looking back over the past 10 years, however, I realise how much in my own life has changed, and also how many wonderful experiences I've had. Since 2010 I've visited so many different parts of the world, including the big ones of China, Russia, America and India, that I don't have enough fingers to count them.  I've travelled across New Zealand, I've lived in Australia for 6 months. I've been to Canada and onward to Alaska. I've spent weeks in Hong Kong. I've also travelled to more than a dozen European countries as well as to many parts of the UK, some familiar, some not, and my goodness how my attitudes have changed in this past decade.

Most of my travels have come about because of commitments to family or friends. I'm not an inveterate traveller, even though it might seem like it. I am quite happy with a quiet life walking my dog and meeting local friends.  The travels happened, however, and with them a deeper understanding of different cultures - how different we all are, and yet how similar.

Seeing ragged beggars on the streets of Delhi before experiencing the reverence of thousands of Sikhs at the Golden Temple in Amritsar gave me such an emotional jolt that I began to look at India in another way entirely. The same in China, where everyone is so friendly and helpful, especially if, like me, you have white hair. The respect for older citizens in China is palpable wherever you go. Russian people are mostly serious while Canadians and Australians are laid back and relaxed. Alaskans are just different but then so would I be if I had to live at -30 to -40 degrees for a long, long winter. Then there is busy and overcrowded Hong Kong with its wonderful beaches and museums where life is very good for those who earn well. It has many citizens who are less lucky, however, and it is very noticeable that they don't smile as much as the mainland Chinese.

Then there is America.  Like any large country the people in Washington are very different from the people in San Diego or Orlando or Las Vegas or Key West. What they all have in common, however, is their overwhelming friendliness towards people from the UK, and an insatiable curiosity about our way of life.

Finally there's Europe and that is where there is an even bigger discrepancy. The French are nothing like the Italians who are nothing like the Spanish who are nothing like the Scandinavians who are nothing like the Albanians etc. etc. It is so fascinating eat different food,  listen to different music, travel through different scenery, hear different languages, all the while trying to understand and absorb just a little of the different cultures in such a limited time.

I have been extra lucky that so many of my trips have involved staying with or travelling with local people who always wanted to show the best of their country while also discussing some of its worst aspects.  So thanks to them, this decade has not only broadened my mind, it has broadened my understanding.

In the words of the eminent French novelist Gustave Flaubert : travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world or, as the American writer Henry Miller said: One's destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things. 

My views are only my views of course, and other people will see and experience different facets of each culture, but I do know that my decade long journey has changed me unalterably. I am no longer the English woman who first got on a plane aged 40, and who never expected to travel much further than France. Now that I've talked to the indigenous peoples of Australia, native Americans, Alaskan natives, rural Indians of all religious persuasions, communist Chinese and anglophile Russians, to say nothing of the many different peoples of Europe, I know I really am just a speck on the vast planet we call earth.

There must be many, many stories inside me if only I could write them, but somehow the best experiences never translate into the written word. They have to be lived,

I have occasionally used some of my experiences as a background to my books, however, and Cabin Fever is based on a cruise from Aukland in New Zealand's north island to Sydney in Australia. I haven't done it justice I'm sure...but re-reading it has taken me back to what was a truly wonderful experience, although unlike the protagonists in the book, I was lucky enough to visit friends and family en-route and so experienced so much more than the casual traveller.

Now, as a new decade starts, I'm off to Japan and South Korea, both of which promise to be a whole new and challenging cultural experience. I'm busy reading up on them at the moment but as English writer Aldhous Huxley said: to travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.

Happy travelling.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Stranger than Fiction

Tess...American Civil War Bride #1

Ursula...American Civil War Bride #2

The real life Edwin Booth is featured as a neighbor of my heroine Ursula Buckley in book 2 of my Brides of the American Civil War series, Mercies of the Fallen.  The first book of the series is the Laramie and Chatelaine Award nominated Seven Aprils.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Did you know that Edwin, an actor like his notorious brother assassin John Wilkes Booth, saved Abraham Lincoln's son Robert from serious injury or even death? 

Edwin Booth as Hamlet...his most famous role

The incident occurred on a train platform just before the end of the Civil War. While a group of passengers were purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor, Robert recounted,  “There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”

Edwin Booth and Robert Todd Lincoln

Edwin Booth did not know the identity of the man whose life he had saved until some months later. The fact that he had saved the life of Abraham Lincoln's son was said to have been of some comfort to Edwin Booth following his brother's assassination of the president.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Five Changes in My Writing Life since 2010

                                Please click this link for book and purchase information

I enjoy year end lists. Even better are lists at the end of a decade. Here's my list of five changes to my writing life that happened in the ten years from January 2010 to January 2020.

1. I became a published author. Prior to 2010, I'd published short stories, poems and articles. They all helped me feel like a real writer and led me to teaching writing courses and workshops, but the term 'published author' is generally reserved for those who have published a book. This was a milestone I longed to achieve. After years of work, my first novel, was published in spring 2011.

2. I stepped up my social media presence. I was on Facebook before Deadly Fall was published, but only had a small number of Facebook friends, all people I knew in my real life. After my book publication, I started accepting requests from virtual strangers and posted (too many) notices about my literary activities and accomplishments in the interests of promoting the novel. I also joined Twitter and had my son's friend create my author website, which automatically tweets my website posts. In addition, I've dabbled in Link-In, Goodreads, Pinterest and Instagram. It seems that just when I get onto one social media site something else becomes the hot new thing.
Social Media can make me feel pulled in all directions

3. My office moved to a different room in my house. Okay, I'm cheating here because my home office changed when my husband retired in fall 2007. But it took a few years for us to settle into our new routine. When he was working, as soon as he left for the office I'd go to my den upstairs to write. My retirement gift to him was our den, a sunny spot that looks out to a green space. I moved my work to our north-facing guest room with a street view. I figured that if he had an appealing room for his various computer activities, he wouldn't distract me from my writing, while I don't need the view while I'm forming stories in my head. The plan worked. After breakfast these days, he goes to his den and I huddle in the corner of our guest room. But lately, I've felt an urge for a brighter, more scenic and spacious room of my own for writing.
Jane Austen wrote pretty good novels at this small writing table with its view of the clock in the family sitting room. 
4. I became a regular at a writing festival. Calgary's When Words Collide Festival For Readers and Writers launched in August, 2011. I went the first year, since it's held in my home city, and haven't missed a year since then. This coming August will be the festival's 10th anniversary. I'm bound to find whatever I'm looking for as a writer there, whether it's information about the craft or getting published or promoting my books. Toss in a little fun for a winning combination.

Dressed for the festival's banquet, Roaring Twenties theme
5  At When Words Collide, I found my publisher. BWL published my second and third novels and there's a fourth one in progress. In November, BWL released a new edition of my first book, retitled A Deadly Fall. The re-publication brings the 2010s full circle and seems a fitting end to the decade.