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When I was young, probably nine
or ten, I had a wild dream that spooks me to this day. It was winter, and dark
outside. We lived in this small house I want to call a dacha (a country house
or cottage in Russia). It had two rooms: a larger common area with a hearth,
table and chairs, and a sleeping chamber, much smaller. The sleeping area was a
series of platforms tacked to the wall, one above the other almost to the
ceiling. We kids slept on the higher platforms, the adults on the lower.
No adults were at home. I must have been the eldest, and was in charge of some other
A fierce storm raged outside. It
had come up quickly, and did not give me time to close the shutters. I would
have to go outside, but I was afraid I’d get lost in the driving snow that
pricked your skin like needles.
The winter had dragged on for
weeks, one storm after the other. Food was scarce. Wolves that normally howled
at night, started doing it in the daytime. As the winter progressed they became
more aggressive. Horses, dogs, and sheep were vulnerable. Wolves attacked people
in their sleighs. They'd run up from behind, pull people off, and devour them on the
Tonight, with the adults gone,
the shutters that slammed in the winds, the wolves became reckless, crazed in
their hunger. They smashed in the windows of the front room. I pulled the
children into the sleeping chamber and shut the door. Wolves surrounded the
little house, ten or twenty, piled against the outside windows, growling,
snapping their teeth.
Man attacked by wolves
Those inside slammed against the bedchamber
door. In a panic, everyone screaming, we climbed from one sleeping shelf to the
next, higher, toward the ceiling.
The windows burst with
wolves. The door latch broke. Wolves jumped up against our climb to the higher
sleeping levels. They were relentless, would not go away. Their fur brushed against
my legs. They spewed vile odors from their snapping jaws, wild with
bloodlust. We huddled together on the top shelf nearest the ceiling while the
wolves snarled and fought each other. They climbed over themselves in an
attempt to reach us, their eyes flashing with hunger.
I awoke, filled with terror,
shaking, and glad I was where I was, not in a small Russian cottage during a
terrible winter. Needless to say, I’ve never liked really big dogs, like German
Shepherds. I’d walk a mile out of the way to avoid one.
Do dreams have meaning? Where did
this vivid scene come from? I was young, innocent. After years of thinking
about this, I believe it was a memory from a past life, a memory that bled into
this life. A not-so-good past life.
I want to thank Wikicommons Public Domain for these pictures.
I’ve always had an interest in reading biographies of
famous people, but it didn’t take me too many years to realize that these books, by nature, are only the opinion of a single writer. That’s when
I started to read the notes and the bibliographies and these soon became as interesting as
the book itself. This naïve reader had just “discovered” an author’s finest source
As I, back in the day of
inter-library loan, began to pursue these leads, I discovered the most exciting
material of all, letters and diaries. The language isn't always easy for a modern reader. Eighteenth Century
language has a circuitous, verbose style which tends to disguise the emotional thrust
of the message. From these letters and journals, however, a voice still speaks;
the past enters our present in a breath-taking way.
Here’s one which paints a picture of the realities of 18th
Century travel, of an Albany still forested, as the Marquis de
Chastellux describes a Revolutionary War winter visit to General Schuyler’s mansion.
“It was a difficult question to know where I should cross
the Hudson…for it was neither sufficiently frozen to pass over the ice, nor
free enough from flakes to venture it in a boat. …I was only twenty miles from
Albany; so that after a continued journey through a forest of fir trees, I
arrived at one o’clock on the banks of the Hudson…A handsome house half way up
the bank opposite the ferry seemed to attract my attention and to invite
strangers to stop at General Schuyler’s, who is proprietor as well as architect…The
sole difficulty therefore consisted of passing the river. While the boat was
making its way with difficulty through the flakes of ice, which we were obliged
to break as we advanced…”
Envision this world—so green, so cold! All you have
between you and Old Man Winter is wool, felt and hide, and your feet and hands
are continually numb. The Hudson flows like slate under an only single shade-up
grayscale sky. A twinkle of snow sinks into the surface. The pines hiss, and the wind picks up as we are ferried across the water, the drifting ice striking the boat and icy droplets of water strike our face.
I get inspiration from this stuff! Here’s
another, a charming (and alarming) view into the life of Mozart, a musician on the
English leg of his “world” tour, aged eight years and five months:
“Witness as I myself of most of these extraordinary
facts, I must own that I could not help suspecting his father imposed with
regard to the real of the boy, thou he had not only a most childish appearance,
but likewise had all the actions of the stage of life.
For example, whilst he was playing to me, a favorite cat
came in, upon which he immediately left his harpsichord, nor could we bring him
back for a considerable time.
He would also run about the room with a stick between his
legs by way of a horse. ..”
~Daines Barrington, 28 September 1769, report to the
Secretary of the Royal Society in London. I was happy to read that the little boy was allowed to
have time with a favorite cat, that Leopold Mozart (“Papa”) didn’t play the
martinet and order Wolfgang straight back to the piano. Like little boys today
playing with cars, little Mozart would, in his imagination, ride horses. I’m thinking, really
excellent ones, matched, of course, maybe white or dappled gray…”
Sometimes these surviving letters say a great deal about
kinks in personality, some not so pleasant, things you’d rather wish your
subject hadn’t said, something a writer has to ponder and work to understand. Sometimes, when this happens, you may have to rewrite an entire
It’s understandable—not to snoopy writers and historians, of
course— that wives of men judged ‘famous” by their contemporaries often burned
and bowdlerized their husband’s surviving letters—all and any they could lay
their hands on. In deference to those wives, whose
spirits have been so forthcoming to their humble servant, here is a brief sample of something I'd rather not have read:
“Received December 22 of Alexander Hamilton six hundred
dollars on account of a sum of one thousand dollars due me.” ~James Reynolds
This is a receipt for the first part of the blackmail
Hamilton would pay for his adultery with Reynolds’ wife Maria. She must have
been a hot number, because talk about shooting yourself in the foot—this particular bad move just about takes the cake, both politically and personally! As I’ve studied his wife, Betsy Schuyler,
I’ve grown to have the profoundest respect for her. She was a woman of convictions, the
kind which helped her survive fifty years beyond the death of her husband. For me, she's become the embodiment of the word "lady."
Here's a happier excerpt (a flirtatious double entendre) from Nov 19, 1798, some years after his infidelity, sent by Hamilton to his wife: "I am always happy My Dear Eliza when I can steal a few
moments to sit down and write to you.You are my good genius; of that kind which the ancient Philsophers
called a familiar; and you know very well that I am glad to be in every way as
familiar as possible with you."
And last, a charming diary entry, one from James McHenry,
of later Fort McHenry fame, about Revolutionary War evenings while quartered with
the rest of Washington’s ADC’s upon a substantial Pennsylvania household.
“Eight miles from Moors & 25 from Philadelphia. Head-quarters
at Jonathan Fells (Doylestown). A raining evening. The company within doors
includes a pretty, fullfaced, youthfull, playfull lass and a Family of Quakers
meek and unsuspicious. Hamilton thou shalt not tread on this ground. I mark it
for my own.”
This tells me that the recreational behavior of army officers/staff
hasn’t changed a whole lot over the course of the last 250 years. It brings
us, readers and writers, closer to a world that is, in many ways, technically and socially,
alien. We no longer have to trust ourselves to a small ferry in sketchy winter conditions in order to cross the
Hudson and arrive at the warmth, food and good company of the big house, but down at the core, we humans remain the same.
In the past, my marketing was often 'guest appearances' as a speaker or workshop facilitator, a participant in a interview panel which included book signings. Not having reached the stellar stardom of Steven King or others topping the NYT Best Sellers Lists, my 'guest appearances' were memorable (though, not always for the the right reasons). Book signings in chain and small book stores, and booths--in my case the boots were at Powwows and Rodeos were the norm. This brand of market included lots of toting and driving! Fortunately, I was able to dress in trade cloth dresses and high-top beaded moccasins or western wear and riding boots. Often my Regency writing friends fussed with flounce, bustles, and complicated footwear to help promo their genre fiction. However, this type of marketing was hit-and-miss and cut deeply into my writing and family time. Since I also freelanced, writing for magazines, ghosting literary fiction, and working, part-time, as an acquisitions editor for an independent Christian publisher, I wasn't even toying with the idea of financing my personal city-by-city book tour. Even though I still act as a contest judge in numerous national and international writing contests, belong to professional writing associations, and am acting President of a Special Interest (GothRom) Chapter of Romance Writers of America, I believe social media and the Internet are wonderful ways to promote both print and eBooks. I tweet, I keep a personal and author Facebook page, Google+ and an author website (which I revamp yearly). I also actively blog and guest blog--now.
Blogging keeps me motivated and aware of what is going on in the writing world. view it as Professional Development. It is where I put into practice all information I mentally uploaded from online classes I've attended, or articles I've read.
Accountability for my writing time. Like most writers today, I have a day job. Blogging helps me keep my writing time sacred. There are days I don't have time to write, but knowing I am breaking one of my personal 'rules' keeps me a accountable.
M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G. I still think book signings are great fun. I always, always enjoy speaking to children and YA readers at library and book store functions. I just don't wish to spend every single weekend out on the road promoting my novels.
And, as all writers know, the only way to sharpen prose is to write. Often. Being forced to write articles and/or blog on a regular basis has helped me to improve my prose in often small, yet meaningful ways.
Networking and Connections. Blogging on my personal site, "Word Slinger" and guest blogging on other sites, including here at BWL author site, helps me make new friends, interact with my readers, and to learn and grow--as a writer and person.
Readers, what do you think? Do you think writers should be blogging? What other forms of promotion are appealing to you?
The wonderful thing about
writing science fiction heroines, is that they can truly be whatever I want
them to be. They don’t even need to be human. They take charge and operate
beyond petty gender discrimination, wielding the power of true freedom...
unless, of course, I blast an alien grenade into their sophisticated advanced
society. That’s always fun to do. After all, without conflict, there would be
But not all futuristic
societies are advanced. Sometimes civilization goes backward, my heroine is
whisked into a parallel universe (SNATCHED), alien intervention or human
warfare destroys dreams of freedom. Then my heroines must restore balance to
Sometimes they are hard core
military by choice, like Tia in Anaz-voohri or Zania in Snatched. Sometimes I
like to throw them into the fray against their will and watch them flounder and
cope, as I imagine the worst possible situations to defeat them. Of course,
among all these great qualities of strength and courage, they also have flaws
and weaknesses. They usually perform well under pressure... until I find their
breaking point. Even then, I still want to be them.
I love my kick-butt heroines.
Whether they wield a sword, a blaster, or a bazooka, like in the ANCIENT ENEMY
series, they confront their fears with courage, and after much suffering, they
usually save the day... or the man they love, like in ALIEN LOCKDOWN.
Fiction reveals the writer’s
soul. We usually write about what we know. Like my futuristic heroines, I’m a
meditator, a fighter, a former gymnast, a skydiver, and a Martial Arts black
belt (Aikido). I love Japanese swords and learned how to use them. I believe
that even in future warfare, there will be a place for sharp blades. If an EMP
(electromagnetic pulse) or a solar flare renders all electronics useless, say
goodbye to your fancy weaponry. My heroines can still rely on a length of good
No sniggering, erotica
readers. The blade is meant to slay whatever soldier, tiger, or alien demon
wants to ruin the day. Of course, there are sizzling love scenes in my books as
well. My heroines do deserve their rewards. But I prefer to avoid dubious
You can find all my titles in
eBooks mostly everywhere in most formats. I also have a few available in print.
Some are out of print and only available used. More print books are coming out
soon. Find my titles on: AMAZON - Barnes& Noble – Smashwords – All Romance eBooks
Melissa Campbell, head researcher at the San Francisco Center for Disease
Control, asks an eminent colleague for help to protect her precious vaccine,
one that could end the deadly alien plague. She didn't expect to get a crazy
renegade like Bennett Sevastian for a bodyguard. She hates military types, and this
genetically enhanced super-soldier is pure testosterone, hot-headed,
quick-tempered, impulsive, impatient, and downright impossible. But these are
dangerous times with riots in the streets, and rumors of alien invasion. In a
breathless race against time, experience the decisive battle for humankind, one
that will decide whether Earth belongs to humanity, or to a powerful alien
always, Ms. Schartz's dialogue is believable and authentic and her characters
hero-worthy. I loved Melissa's smarts, compassion, and daring... a veritable
thrill-ride, with some twists and turns... exciting, suspense… an unpredictable
path that so engrossed me, I found it hard to put the book down. Great ending
to a great series!" Two Lips Reviews.
Winter is drawing in in my part of the world and as I snuggle
down beneath my nice warm sheets and blankets I appreciate, once again, how
lucky I am. There have only been a few nights in my life when I have not slept
in the comfort of my own bed. On a cold winter’s night when I am snug and warm
under my blankets I think of all the people out there in the world who do not
have a bed to climb into, but are forced to spend their nights huddled up on
cold footpaths or park benches. To my mind it is a roaring disgrace that in
countries like mine where we are supposed to be civilized and care for the less
fortunate in our society, that there are far too many homeless living on the
streets of the cities.
I’ve just been out to my letter box which contained a flyer
from The Salvation Army. It states that 44,000 young Australians are homeless
this year, and 53% have diagnosed mental health conditions. Thank God there are
charitable organisations doing their best to provide hot meals and a warm place
to sleep to these unfortunate folk.
What I find disgraceful is to hear that some of these
homeless people are Veterans of one war or another. Destitute and suffering
from post-traumatic stress disorder most are unable to settle into normal lives
after the horrors they lived through while fighting for their country.
Beds have played a large part in most of our lives. I can
recall how I pulled the sheet over my head as a child knowing this rendered me
safe from ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. I can
remember my first night of marriage as if it was yesterday. Full of the joys
and happiness of a young new bride, unaware of what life held. Then there was
the horror of waking up in the middle of the night in a hospital recovery ward
with a mask over my face as I came out of the anaesthetic induced sleep.
All things considered I have not really had many bad
experiences in my bed—well to be honest—practically none. My bed has always
been a place of warmth in winter, and comfort in times of sickness.
As a writer of historicals and time-travels, different types
of sleeping arrangements have played a large part in my stories.
In my Wild Heather series where they travel back to Scotland
in the 1050s I have them sleeping on a bed of straw covered by animal hides. Quite
primitive, but cosy enough beneath the sheepskins. In those times only the
Laird or his close family would have separate sleeping quarters. The rest of
his clan slept in the main hall, which didn’t leave a lot of room for privacy.
In my Settlers series set in Australia of the early 1800s
they weren’t so bad off and by then probably had proper beds to sleep on,
although these would still have been furnished roughly with animal hides and
rudimentary bedding. But imagine the plight of the convicts transported from
England. The conditions on those early sailing ships would have been
horrendous. It’s no wonder a lot of those transported didn’t make it, especially
Viking beds were probably lined with straw. An
interpretation of an open bed at Eiríksstaðir is shown to the left. It's lined
with straw and covered with an animal skin.
On either side of the central corridor (between the roof
support columns and the walls) in the Viking longhouse, raised wooden benches
topped with wooden planks ran the length of the longhouse. They provided a
surface for sitting, eating, working, and sleeping.
In the 14th century the poorest people slept on a straw mattress on the
floor with whatever warm covering they could get. The richest houses had large
elaborate beds, with ornamented canopies, richly-embroidered hangings, and soft
featherbeds under the fine linen sheets. They were among the most splendid
pieces of furniture in a large house, and noblemen often had their emblems
embroidered on the hangings. They were a comfortable place to meet for a chat,
or receive guests, while displaying an abundance of fine textiles. They could
be social gathering places at night too, as visitors of high status would be
invited to sleep in a bed even if they had to share. (Imagine inviting your guests to share your bed)
The picture from 14th or 15th century France shows a canopied, curtained bed
with a head sheet laid over the pillow resting on a sheet-draped bolster. Head
sheets were gradually replaced by pillowcases and are not usually mentioned
after 1500. A pillowcase was always called a pillow bere (bearer) until about
the 16th century, but this could mean various kinds of pillow cover, not
necessarily a linen pillowcase matching the sheets.
So all in all, beds have played a large part in everyone’s life since the
cavemen I guess. But I am so glad I have my nice cosy bed to climb into
You can find information on all my books on my Books We Love page here: