Monday, November 30, 2015

Building a Fantasy World

Available in all ebook formats and
by Kathy Fischer-Brown

While I never attempted to write one before, I am a big fan of the fantasy genre and I relied heavily on my experience as a “world re-creator” to build the alternate universe in my new fantasy adventure series. In my historical novels, I strive for believable settings, details, and mores to play a major role that adds believability and boundaries for the characters to act out their lives. For me this is one of the most challenging and enjoyable parts of the writing process, and I will add that for this book, it was more fun than I ever imagined.

Starting out, I wanted to avoid some of the common genre archetypes found in a lot of fantasy fiction these days (elves, orcs, dwarves, and “dark lords,” to name but a few). So I drew on my knowledge—and lots of research—of actual peoples and cultures and endowed them with other qualities.

In creating the characters that populate The Return of Tachlanad, I combined elements of our world and its historical past with those from my imagination. For example, one of the secondary characters, Ulunc, is a very young member of a species of known as Skaddock. These creatures somewhat resemble primitive hominids that roamed the earth in prehistory, but with a Stone Age skill set. Milith people, while having many traits common to elven types (without pointy ears), share certain “aboriginal” cultural attributes with many indigenous people from around the world, among them a matrilineal social structure and coming of age rituals. Nortlunders (mostly bad guys) are a mosaic of ancient Roman and Viking cultures, with their violence and lust for conquest. Lothrians are a mishmash of Celtic and ancient Britons, including some of their myths, legends, and druidic hierarchy. All with a bit of a twist.

Magic, is a strange power, and nearly always a component of fantasy fiction. While it exists in the universe in which my book is set, I tried to anchor it in a physical world, where Nirmanath, “the current of life,” is a tangible force, and things like the casting of auras, astral projection, potions that can cause amnesia (or death), and the ability to invoke one's own invisibility are possible. In this world the rumble of thunder is the roar of an angry god, and an old man with a living crystal can harness the power of the elements.

As with every author, the primary goal in writing any book is to create an entertaining story about likeable (and unlikeable) people dealing with adversity, love and hate, people the reader wants to cheer on—or boo and hiss at—people who undergo physical and emotional changes. A story about the human condition.

Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, and The Return of Tachlanad, her newly released epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of her books are available in a variety of e-book formats from Books We Love, and from Amazon and other online retailers retailers.

Sunday, November 29, 2015



After 51 years of marriage, I still wouldn't dare claim all-knowledge. I have stuck with my own for a long time, and it continues to present enough twists, turns and drama to satisfy the need of any writer.   

This holiday season, I look back on small events now half a century distant. They were not as exciting as the life the young Hamilton's lived, with a revolution still to be fought and won. However, like the Paul McCartney song, these days I often feel like a "relic of a distant age." So here's my little newlywed's story:

The first turkey I ever cooked was in 1964. I was a young married, an ex-student, as was my husband. We were living in a dismal basement apartment in NYC, whose front window looked out upon the back of the building’s garbage cans. Needless to say, we kept the blinds closed. We shared a bathroom with some elder ladies who we never saw, but who, no matter how loudly I scrubbed the place after using it, would arrive soon after I'd left and vigorously wash the entire bathroom all over again. I suppose I can’t blame them, for lots of old people in the city lived in fear of their neighbors.

We’d managed to buy the turkey, a small one, although it took some financial planning to get the cash together, as I didn’t have a job. Only my husband, Chris, did.  As a nineteen year old with zero skills, it didn’t pay much and rent took the lion's share. As for me, I’d left the hospital I’d been working in back in Philadelphia and come to NYC in order to be with him. At the time, I was violently morning sick—to the 9th degree. I mean, Rosemary, in Rosemary’s Baby, had nothing on me! The only things I could reliably keep down were weird cravings: green pea soup, grapefruit, and sardines. Anything else—upchuck! Maybe that’s why the invisible ladies next door were so diligent about scrubbing our shared bathroom.

On the big day we cleaned up our turkey as I’d seen my parents do, slapped it in a big bakeware pan that we’d found in the kitchen, turned on the oven to 350 and then walked over to Broadway to see a little of the Thanksgiving Day parade. We were so far uptown that there wasn’t much to see, but there were bands and high school kids from out of town feeling really proud of themselves, and people wrestling with a couple of balloons—my favorite, Dino the dinosaur—being dragged about in the gusty wind. The other big event for me was seeing Fess Parker of Davy Crocket fame, waving and smiling from the back of an open car. Like a zillion children from my generation, he’d been my hero back in the fourth grade.  I’d wept while watching the Walt Disney show the night “Davy” died at the Alamo.

Image result for davy crockett coon skin hat

Now that little girl's life seemed incredibly distant. Chris and I looked at each other. We were married, pregnant and close to broke. Whether one or either of us would ever get back to college—and how the heck we would manage it--was still up in the air. Nobody’s parents were happy. With all this drama swirling, the parade, so very pointedly an event for kids, got boring fast. 

We turned and walked back through the wind and grimy uptown streets to our little pad. When we got there, the place was redolent with roast turkey and baked potatoes. The bird made snapping noises as the juice splattered about inside the oven, casting a smoky pall around the kitchen. We decided that this must mean it was cooked. Chris fetched it out, and lo and behold, it was done, all crispy, juices running clear. 

I was surprised because I was, for the first time in months and all of a sudden—genuinely hungry. It was quite a fine meal, our first Thanksgiving—meat, potatoes, squishy store bread and a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce. For a change, it went down and stayed there. 

Who knew I’d be remembering it fifty-one years later?


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Perfect Time, Perfect Place, Perfect Setting by Connie Vines

Grauman's Chinese Theater, Hollywood,CA
Corner of Hollywood Blvd & Orange Dr.
When I am writing a novel, character and plot for the “who” and “what” of a story are, in my opinion, are two of the most important factors.  However, setting, the “where” and “when”, comes a very close third.

A powerful setting is almost like a character in its own right. 

The setting is a ‘presence’ in the story.  The setting can become an ‘influence’ on events. 

Without an intimate knowledge and feeling for place, I do not believe a writer can bring the story alive in the reader’s imagination.

Setting is more than just streets, buildings and landscape.  Setting is local history, customs, nature, weather, and legends.  Setting is food, accents, music, fashion, and people going about daily business.
Everyone has a place that inspires him or her. Or, creates a sense of belonging, excitement, or a desire to escape.

My settings are as diverse as my interests are.  In my Rodeo Romance Series, my settings are the western United States.  My heroes hail from a rugged untamed area: Texas, New Mexico, and Wyoming.   Since I have traveled through and vacationed at my chosen settings, I use my firsthand experience and reactions to enrich my stories for my readers.

Montana is cold, very cold (I do not like being even a little bit cold).  One minute it’s storming, the next it’s sunny, and then the sun goes down and it’s freezing.  Since my heroine (Rachel) has lived most of her life in Montana, the cold is not a big deal for her.  When I begin my story, I scrawled a note to self: do not harp on the temperature, or have said heroine run around in circles shouting, “It’s a snow storm—the T-rex of all snow storms!  We are all going to die!”  (However, this may appear in one of my YA novels—be forewarned.)

Montana is Big Sky Country—a nickname Montana has totally earned.  In Montana, the elk, deer and antelope populations outnumber the humans. Cowboy boots and hats re formal wear.  Montana Pro Rodeo Circuits are some of the best in the country. Most importantly, the whole state is just one big small town.

An excerpt from “Lynx”, Rodeo Romance, Book 1.

Rachel melted against the back or her chair, as Lynx’s fingertip brushed a strand of hair from her face. Her body shivered all the way to her toes. Fidgeting with a silver bracelet on her wrist, Rachel didn’t know how to deal with this type of covert seduction. “You’ll have a good time during Cheyenne Frontier Days,” she said addressing her comment to both men.

“Everyone has a good time,” Lynx clarified.

Dan chuckled. “Everyone who’s able, anyway.”

Rachel reached for her glass, glancing at Dan. “I don’t understand.”

Dan pushed his Stetson further back on his head, revealing a bright crop of red hair.  “I landed in front of the angry end of a bull last year and broke my arm. Lynx had a hell of a good time, though.”

Excerpts from “Brede”, Rodeo Romance, Book 2.

Brede waited for her to seat herself before sitting down.

For some reason he’d thought she was kidding when she said she didn’t know how to cook.  It appeared she was telling the truth after all.  The green beans had an almost-scorched smell that even he’d never mastered. . .

The saucepan slipped from her fingertips and clattered to the floor.
She’d tried to tell herself that it was only the storm and the lights would come back on in a matter of minutes. Still, terror that was icy cold and merciless grabbed her by the throat and crushed what little courage she possessed when the cloudy, moonless night turned the room to inky black.
It was happening all over again!

She was alone.

Alone in the darkness. .

Not all of my stories aren’t set in the great-outdoors, or set thousands of miles away from my backyard.  I also use ‘local’ settings for inspiration.  My Sassy and Fun Fantasy Series is set here in SoCal (southern California and up the coastline).  Meredith is patron of the arts and a local celeb.  She lives in LA and vacations in a cabin in Forest Falls. 

 “Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”.

El Mexicano was the best (and only) restaurant in town. . . Climbing the steps to the porch entrance, Meredith was glad to see little had changed from their last visit. Cozy and rustic, the outside was on the tacky side of eclectic, but the inside was familiar and welcoming.  The host seated them near the wood burning stove. . .Careful to keep her gaze locked on the contents of her mug, Meredith felt cluttered with a million bittersweet memories of happier times.

Look around in your own back yard (or within driving distance) for inspiration.  You may discover the model for your fictional town, a make-believe stellar world, or an unexpected setting for your historical romance.
Medieval Times, Buena Park, CA

Post pictures on your office wall.  Listen to music.  Explore with you senses.

Remember, only you—the writer, can bring the setting alive for your reader.

Universal Studio, Hollywood, Red Carpet,
"Fast & Furious, 5" Movie Premier

Laguna Beach, California
Where "Beaches" was filmed.

Me in 100 + degrees heat, Hard Rock Cafe,
Hollywood, CA

Friday, November 27, 2015

CAUGHT IN THE STORM - by Vijaya Schartz

I live in Arizona, near Phoenix, where storms have become more violent over the years. I never used to fear the storm, not in all my years... not even when a micro-burst half destroyed my house over a decade ago. Of course, I was at work at the time, not inside it. But last summer, I was driving on 59th Avenue on a sunny Saturday afternoon, when one of those sudden monsoon storms hit. Within minutes the sky darkened, like twilight in the middle of the day, strong winds, dust, zero visibility, then rain.

Thick walls of water like gray sails waved beyond the windshield, gusty side winds carried large objects across the road and knocked them against hard surfaces with loud bangs. Through the water curtain, I could see car lights in front and in back of me. The wind whooshed like a turbine. The electric poles along the street shook wildly. Lightning hit, close by. Light exploded all around, and thunder cracked and boomed, echoing inside the car, inside my body like a deep drum roll.

That’s when fear set in. My heart beat faster than after running a 10K. Still, I couldn’t panic. I had to think... and fast.

Although the cars had slowed, stopping on the main road with traffic would be suicide. Driving in this chaos would also be suicide as the electric poles swayed dangerously, waving their array of thick power lines overhead. The street was flooding fast. What to do?

Eyes riveted to the right curb that quickly disappeared under the rising tide, I spotted a faint driveway to the side, and remembered it must lead to the DMV parking lot. Following the curb, I managed to get my car off the road and into the wide open space... anywhere. I couldn’t see the white lines on the pavement anyway. Other cars followed my tail lights and parked in a line next to me, as if taking comfort in company. I felt their presence somewhat reassuring.

Were we safe? Not really. There was no safe place to hide from the storm. The flagpole overhead shook dangerously under the gusty winds flapping the flag, and the ropes snapped against it with loud metallic knocks. Garbage cans, branches, and large pieces of debris flew and swept across the open area with unprecedented force. I feared at any moment the wind might lift my little car and throw it against a concrete building.

Then, as fast as it had come, although it seemed to last for hours, the storm moved away, leaving me relieved and shaken at the sight of the destruction. In the last spattering of rain, I could see fallen poles across the flooded street, downed power lines sparking in flood water, traffic lights strewn in the middle of the intersection, and fallen trees.

A few hundred yards south of the DMV parking lot, on 59th Avenue, where I would have been had I not turned, several electric poles had fallen. One had crushed a car, trapping the driver inside, in the middle of a small lake. No way to get to the car to see if the person inside was dead or alive. It was a woman, I learned later on the news. Rescued by the fire department, she was not seriously hurt, but I felt guilty and glad at the same time. It could have been me.

In the aftermath of the storm, all the streets in the area were flooded or blocked by debris, trees, branches, pieces of roofs. People stood on their front porch, staring at their destroyed property, eyes wide, as if wondering how so much destruction could happen in so little time. Emergency vehicles blared their sirens. After many detours and turnarounds, in dangerously flooded streets and bumper to bumper traffic, it was dark, hours later, when I finally reached my small apartment ten blocks away. I was never so glad to hug my cat.

No matter how strong or fearless we are, there is always something or someone stronger than us, and Mother Nature is teaching us lessons at every turn. The memories of this storm will stay with me forever, and I bet they will end up in a book someday.

In the meantime, you can read my latest contemporary romance with a hint of suspense, set in Scottsdale, Arizona, and available in all eBook formats everywhere.

Buy it in all formats here

When Talia runs over billionaire Kyle Dormant with her bicycle in the dog park, she considers their meeting a happy accident. He believes it is destiny, but her physician's mind rebels at such notions. Their budding romance comes to a grinding halt when Kyle won’t wake up from deep sleep... with no medical explanation. Baffled and deeply concerned, Talia digs into his recent past for a plausible cause. Instead, she uncovers dark family secrets. Convinced Kyle's condition was induced, and someone wants him dead, she is anxious to save him, but the closer she gets to the sordid truth… and a possible cure, the greater the risk to both their lives.
Vijaya Schartz
Romance with a Kick

Thursday, November 26, 2015

When is the right time? Tricia McGill


It’s always best to know when it is time to leave, or when it is the right time to let go of the past. Some people can never make the right decision and there is nothing more pathetic than hanging on to a love that has obviously shriveled and gone, or a treasured possession that simply has been around too long.

Let me explain why I have been contemplating this subject. The other day I sold two gold rings. Not such a great decision you might think. To start at the beginning, I had to meet someone in another suburb where I knew they had one of these stores where you can either borrow money or sell objects—such as gold and anything else of value, so I thought it a good opportunity to take these rings and some other articles to see what I could get for them. Let me explain this store. It is basically what would, in the old days, have been a pawn shop. You know, where they had three balls hanging outside and an old miser inside behind the counter rubbing his hands together at the money he was about to make out of some poor soul who had hit hard times.

Times haven’t changed so much. Believe me, I was astounded and heartsick when I saw the people in there who were trying to get as much as they could (probably to pay debts). One young fellow had two electric guitars and was being told they weren’t worth much. Not sure how much he eventually received. A woman was selling (or pawning) a necklace and a brooch, and looked shocked at the amount she could get for them. But what was worse was the list on the wall explaining what the repayments would be on a paltry loan. One other young man had a pile of payment receipts in his hand and paid a balance so that he could collect his guitar. It was apparently the day for guitarists to retrieve, or sell their treasured instruments.

I digress, as usual. Back to my two rings. One was the signet ring I gave my husband on his 21st birthday many moons ago, and the other my wedding ring. Now, you might think it callous of me to even consider selling off these treasures. But it wasn’t by any means. My husband was an inveterate bargainer and liked nothing better than haggling over a price of something. Just ask anyone who knew him what it was like to buy a new car or even a washing machine! He would drag me all over the city to get the right price, and I know he would be pleased for me that I got a good price for a ring he barely wore. He wasn’t a jewellery type of person. And the other ring-mine, wasn’t the cheap little one he placed on my finger in that freezing cold church well over 50 years ago. No, this one was my second ring that he brought back from England as a gift after one of his numerous trips home. It was time to part with both.

I’ve been blessed, as I have never had the awful decision to make of letting a lover go when the love had fizzled out. But I made the decision to let my husband go when the time was right. He passed away in November and it wasn’t until the following March that I knew it was time. I woke up that morning and knew exactly where he was going, so rang my sister to tell her I was going to scatter my husband’s ashes. She and a friend came along with me and I took him to a beautiful spot near where he loved playing golf. I chose this place as it reminded us of Cornwall where we both loved to spend holidays. As I scattered his ashes from a clifftop I told him he could stay around or go home to his beloved England. Soon after that he came to me in a dream. The strange part was, he was wearing a bow tie and dinner suit. Now, he was more comfortable in a track suit and I was lucky to get him to wear a tie once a year, if that. He had obviously dressed up for the occasion to let me know he was going and this was goodbye. I am sure he took my advice and went home to London where he came from. He knew it was time to go and I knew it was time to let him go.

As writers we often like to cling on to our characters. It’s a good thing to know when the time is right to let them go their separate ways. Ask any writer and they will probably tell you they had one favorite they just hated saying goodbye to. For me, when I finished Mystic Mountains I just knew I had to continue on to let readers know how the future mapped out for Tiger and Bella. The intention was to continue on with their eldest son’s story, but Remy intervened and decided he had a better story to tell. Same for Travis, I simply couldn’t let his story end after The Laird, so Travis got his chance to tell how his life went. But then I had to let them go too.

I’ve always believed that life is made up of a series of pathways. We come to a crossroads or fork in the road where we have to make the decision which direction to head off in. I thank the Lord that I have been fortunate enough to choose which path to take (or Fate has helped me) and it has always been the right time for me.
Find all my Books We Love titles here

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Trip (literally) back in time-a Cornish Village in Wisconsin, by Diane Scott Lewis

Years ago someone, after I told him my novels were set in Cornwall, England, suggested I visit this village called Pendarvis in Wisconsin, so off we went in the spring of 2015.
Pendarvis was built by the hundreds of Cornish immigrants who poured into southern Wisconsin in the 1830’s to work in the lead mines. They were homesick, so designed small timber and limestone cottages that reminded them of what they’d left behind. There’s even a Kiddleywink (a common word used for the working class and poorer people’s drinking houses) Pub.
Author in front of Pendarvis

But the mining faded away as the mines were exhausted. People went west for the California Gold Rush.

A hundred years later, most of these cottages had vanished. Two men, Neal and Hellum, teamed up to preserve the ones that remained. In 1935 they started reconstructing the buildings, and, in the Cornish tradition, named each cottage: Pendarvis, Polperro, Trelawny.

My husband, George, and I had been to Cornwall, England and toured local cottages. We even stayed in one built as a barn in the 1600’s, then converted to a home in 1750.

We walked through the refurbished Wisconsin version of Cornwall, quite impressed. Furniture from that 19th century time period filled the majority of the dwellings. I fell in love with one cottage and had to be dragged out.

Then the visit turned into a Comedy of Errors. My husband, who is tall by 19th century standards, walked into a low door lintel, knocked himself backwards and scraped his arm on a table. Due to a heart irregularity, George is on blood thinners. By the time we got outside, on our way to the next cottage, blood was dripping down his arm.

He told me to wait and he’d rush to the car for a bandage. Being stubborn, I started up the stone steps toward the next dwelling. In the shade, unbeknownst to me, the step was covered in slippery moss. Not the most graceful of people, I of course, slipped and tumbled into the low shrubs next to the walkway. The shrubs broke my fall nicely. But George had hurried back to pull me out, blood still dripping down his arm. As he danced around, trying not to smear me with blood, and I struggled to rise, we made an amusing sight. Thank goodness we were the only ones there.

If you’d like to learn more about old Cornwall, visit my website, or check out my novel, The Apothecary’s Widow, set in Truro, England in the 18th century. The Historical Novel Society called it “entertaining.”

Click HERE to order.


Diane Scott Lewis writes historical fiction with romantic elements.
Visit her website:

Blog Archive