Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Priscilla Brown muses on writing environments

   She's lover shopping, but her new boss could never be the goods on her wish list. Besides, which of them is really the boss?

For more information and to purchase this recently released contemporary romance, visit http://www.bookswelove.net/authors/brown-priscilla-romance

A few weeks ago I attended a short lecture on the writing lives of four famous authors: Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, C S Lewis and Ernest Hemingway. The lecturer addressed where they lived, where they actually wrote, their daily routine, and how much their environment shaped their work.

I found myself particularly interested in the influence of the physical environment, and wondered if the stories for which these writers are well known could have been written in different surroundings; not necessarily the location of the plot, or of most of it, but the setting in which the writer is working.I haven't been to du Maurier's beloved Cornwall where she wrote and which clearly had a huge influence, and her writing brought the area to vivid life for me. In contrast, Ernest Hemingway lived in many different places and, interestingly, wrote about Paris and others after he'd left them. My curiosity lay in the outside environment rather than the room and desk where the creative work occurred.

Thinking back to my own writing life, when I started more or less seriously (that is, aiming for publication), I was living in an isolated New South Wales coastal village and attempting short stories. I used to take my notebook to the beach, sit on the sand and scribble ideas, fragments of stories. This physical environment--the sea, usually calm as our village was situated on a large bay, and frequented by dolphins; the white sand beach, its access track fringed with bushes; the tall forest behind the village--all inspired, indeed encouraged, my literary efforts. Most, but not all, of these early stories were set around this locale; a few were published, and others relegated to a hard copy file in case parts could be used in some future work. (Still waiting!)

The physical environment is of course not only about place and the sense of sight. It's also about the other senses. With this littoral environment, the ocean-fresh sense of smell was marked, of salt and of the scent of eucalypts in the forest; salt contributed to taste also--it stuck to lips and found its way into sandwiches. Sounds included the gentle slap of waves, the hum of the sea at night, calls of seabirds, dolphins breaching, bushes rustling in the breeze; the sense of touch was stimulated by brushing against spiky leaves, swimming in the the often cool water, sand tickling bare feet.

Perhaps I should add that this area has a temperate climate, warm summers, chilly winters, and there is bad weather, high winds, rain, storms. In fact, one of my favourite short stories involved a small boat wrecked during a storm.

Moving inland to a small regional town  means that while this particular ambience no longer actively influences my writing, twenty years of living by the sea will always remain in the background, and I 
 recall the experience when required for a story. Now, instead of writing by the beach, I'm finding our
lovely small garden, such as was difficult to establish in coastal sandy soil, fulfils a need for an outdoors creative space. I appreciate its peaceful mood, and enjoy watching honeyeaters and parrots feeding on the Australian native flowers and shrubs. The only drawback is at the moment in winter it's too cold to work outside.

The idea for Class Act developed from several years teaching English to adult speakers of other languages, work sometimes challenging and always rewarding. The setting of Gina and Lee's language school is in a different city and different kind of building, and the plot and characters are complete fiction. (My then Director was nowhere near as interesting as Lee in the story!)

Enjoy your reading!  Priscilla.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Another Journey down I-70.

Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH
Old Main, built in the 1870's

I don’t do much long distance driving these days, except to western Ohio to visit my 90 year old Aunt J. She was the youngest of the 3 girls born to my grandparents. Paradoxically, she was the one always in ill health. She had trichinosis in her 1930’s childhood and barely survived. She had spinal fusion during the 60’s—not an optimum decade for surgical tinkering with the skeleton. Though she’s weak as a kitten—between busted spine and unused muscles—here she still is in 2018—breathing and talking, as full of opinions and stories as she ever was. A  perfect descripton for her would be Shakespeare’s: “though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Aunt Juliet and me, Summer 1945

ALL my female relatives were spacey in one sense or another, so I come by it naturally, but with my aunt, I am just beginning to note a faint slippage between her past and future selves. Aging is such a bitch, as it takes place on many levels, body and brain. Read a Thurber story, one like “The Night the Ghost Got in” and you’ll have a better understanding of what the women in my family are like. 

I’ve done a lot of traveling on I-70 over the last thirty years, always making the “home place” pilgrimage. My arrival brings mixed messages. Yellow Springs is nothing less than an fable I tell myself. Aged nine, I chronicled the tears when I departed, written in a journal while on my way home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. 

In those days, I was little, cute, and good. The college was prospering; the town was eccentric, but still sleepy.

Camping with my grandparents

Physics—or, a driving story 

A long side by side train of vehicles emerging in a long snake as we go west out of Columbus. Construction, construction, on I-70 and on I-71, as well as I-270, causes a pinch point of driver’s stress.  The semis are rolling; FDX with pups, Crete, Hunt, England, and they are not the only ones, the heavy equipment long bed, except for some big chains, want to run back for the next load at 75, and a whole bunch of what I am told are called by the professionals “Roller Skates” are out there, driving like fools, a few potential dotards beside me. I--like 70% of us, I think I recently read--imagine ourselves to be "above-average"drivers. I know I'm a pretty good one, especially at defensive driving--after all, I learned to drive in Massachusetts...

 Other than the truckers, the rest are “kids” which is now, in my book, anyone under 50. Of course, the real kids, the backwards hat twenty-somethings—both male and female—can be a real problem. A couple of them in a beat up black Japanese something or other—maybe a ten year old Civic—decided that the tiny crack between a semi and the aforesaid heavy equipment long bed would be a good spot to wedge themseleves into . 

Maybe they were playing automobile roulette, or maybe they thought they were still in the video game they’d been playing earlier, the one which automatically resets the players at “start” after you die. I, at 73, have much less faith in this kind of magical thinking, so, instinctively—I was two cars back but traveling the inside lane so I had a sight line—well, I tapped my breaks, just to tune up the guys behind me. People always follow too close. A second later, the following truck hit his. 

I don’t know if the trucker screamed at the dopes who’d just asked him to perform a stock car racing kind of miracle in order to keep them alive—this, while he was just out there at 9:30 a.m. on a Monday, trying to have a decent day in the office. I prayed we all would have a decent day, and cast an eye to the road's shoulder.

 Fortunately, around Columbus is flat as a pancake, even beside the sculpted vandalism of an interstate. Flat, no big trees, no immediate barbed wire—good! To my great relief—and I don’t think I was the only one—though, nothing happened. The truck slowed, the Civic squeezed into the spot, no one touched anyone--and a good thing, too, at 75 mph.  We and the backwards hats were spared one of those hard, mean life-changing lessons about PHYSICS. 

Yellow Springs Bumper Sticker: 1.9 square miles surrounded by Reality.

Mr. Eko

The Sixties landed and never took off from this town (my hometown) in a sometimes less than pleasant way. Some things delight me, the glittery, slight sinister pipe, t-shirt & poster shops, the book store—the fabulous Dark Star--the import and antique/junk/clothing shops, the deli, little restaurants, and Tom’s small, yet incredible grocery store, full of local, organic free-range everything.

It’s the attitude of the visitors, and of many of downtown folks that grates. Some towns have drunks, and YS has always had a few. Over the years, the town also acquired the tattooed/pierced owners of lunging Akitas, the gray-disreputable chronic cafe table hogs, all of them scattering cigarette butts and dog poop indiscriminately.  I mean, you can be tattooed and pierced and have green or orange hair—no problem —just be polite and keep your butts in your pocket if you can't find an ashtray. Smile and say hello! After all, isn’t engagement the whole point of the sidewalk cafĂ© sitter? And don’t let your Akita or Pitty bite me in the leg –or more to the point—the leg of my aged aunt -- as we pass by.

There’s the 21st Century too, to contend with. The cell phone users who blindly crowd others off the sidewalk, or insist that everyone needs to listen to their very important conversation, those texting behind the wheel who can barely operate the vehicle because they are busy talking, the jay walking scofflaws--there are a plethora-- who don’t use the many well-marked crosswalks.

The big semis  who are forced to drive through on State Route 68, must really, really hate this once unremarkable small midwest town.  

~~Juliet Waldron

Fly Away Snow Goose, in the Canadian Historical Brides series

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Casting your Characters by Connie Vines

Casting your characters.

In Hollywood the studios hold casting calls. 

The ‘closed' sessions (actors who are being seen have been invited to audition) is the pool your block-buster movies directors/producers/writers use as a casting tool.

Perhaps your novel doesn’t’ feature a superhero.  Your story does, however, have an amazing cast of characters.

Perhaps not at the moment. . .but soon.

Let’s go back to the superhero/blockbuster movie as an example. 

No role in Hollywood is more scrutinized, and few can offer the type of onscreen immortality (or notoriety, depending on how the movie turns out). Michael Keaton's casting in 1989's Batman inspired nerd outrage before the Internet was a thing. Angry message board comments plastered the web when Heath Ledger was announced as the new Joker, and Ryan Reynolds' first outing as Deadpool in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine appeared to have doomed the character's big screen prospects forever. But they all prevailed.

Hollywood miscasts:

Forget the stilted dialogue, the insipid love story that dominates the second movie or Jar Jar Binks and let's talk about the real problem with the 'Star Wars' prequels -- Hayden Christensen. His turn as Anakin Skywalker comes off as bratty, petulant and completely lacking in menace.

Of all the actors who've played Batman over the years, George Clooney is one of the most perplexing.  His performance in 1997's 'Batman & Robin' effectively killed the franchise until Christopher Nolan came along in 2005 with 'Batman Begins.'

When casting your characters, you need to examine everyone who auditions for a part in your upcoming novel.

Does he/she fit the part? Or is he/she a miscast?

Part to be cast: a genie.   I have decided to hold and ‘open casting’ call.

My first actor: This genie is female and appears to be middle-aged. She is a little short and is a bit pudgy.  She has dark brown eyes, dark red skin, and wavy white hair in a short ponytail.  She wears a short-sleeved tunic, a mid-length skirt, and a pair of earrings.  She lives in a biscuit tin and is fond of sweets.

Actor number two: This genie is male and appears to be rather young. He is short and is quite thin.  He has pastel orange eyes, yellow skin, and straight light brown hair worn mid-length.  He wears no shirt, a pair of mid-length trousers, and too much jewelry.  He lives in a brass lamp and grants your wishes... but not the way you wanted them.

Actor number three: This genie is male and appears to be rather young. He is tall and is quite muscular.  He has black eyes, light brown skin, and wavy dark blue hair wrapped underneath a turban.  He wears a long-sleeved tunic, a pair of long trousers, and a pair of wristbands.  He lives in a Chinese lamp and likes a cup of hot tea.

Of course, the perfect genie would depend on the premise of your story, the plot twists you have in place, and your interaction between characters.

If my story had a suburban setting with children who needed to be minded/guided, my choice is
actor #1.

Am I looking for an ‘evil/trouble-maker?  Actor #2 would be perfect.

Perhaps I’m looking for an unlikely romantic lead for a comedy. . .actor #3 wins the casting call.


Cue the music. 

Every blockbuster has a dedicated theme song!

Happy Reading,
Connie Vines


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Friday, July 27, 2018

Living on a Futuristic Space Station - by Vijaya Schartz

Find Vijaya's eBooks HERE
and her paperbacks links at the bottom of this post
Imagine debarking from a spaceship into a vast array of wide corridors like an airport terminal. Except that the entryway seals are hermetic, and the side windows show black space, with spaceships anchored to the giant circular wheel encircling the space station, like the rings of a planet. The station floats in space, orbiting a small planet. Or it could be in the wide orbit of a faraway sun. The station, built and expanded over centuries, would be made of many different parts, some older, others brand new. Size is irrelevant in space. It can be as big as needed.

This is how I imagine Byzantium-5, the space station featured in the Azura Chronicles

First, you would notice the lighter gravity. You might even get sick. If you spent much time in space, it would be familiar, but if you came from a heavy world like Earth, the change would be noticeable. You would probably grow taller over time, as gravity doesn't pull you down as much, but your bones might grow lighter and weaker.

Hundreds of miles of corridors in a wide circle around the core. Fortunately, there are also levitating cars and carts to carry the luggage.

Hundreds of thousands could live there. Even millions. They would have room for growing food without dirt in hydroponic tubs, they would manufacture artificial meat in labs, without raising animals, and they would make their own water and their own oxygen. The complex would function like a large city, not bound by the planetary cycles of day and night... although they may want to create a semblance of circadian rhythm for the comfort of their visitors and inhabitants.

Parks and gardens would provide oxygen and relaxation

The station could be a port for trading goods, with commercial docks and cranes to load and unload large containers from ships to dock and vice-versa. It could also be a pleasure destination. I imagine a Vegas type of atmosphere, with entertainment, gambling dens, spas, shopping, restaurants, and all the luxuries we imagine in the future, like cyber-pleasures... the legal and the illegal kinds. I personally like the idea of sex robots.

Here the scale is misleading. The craft would be tiny as it approaches the behemoth of a station

By the time we get to that level of sophistication, we may have made contact with other space-faring races, and that might bring diversity (and possibly discrimination) into our advanced society.

Such a place would need tight security. Space is not the safest place. There would be corruption, gangs, drugs, terrorism, and individuals striving for control. Delinquents would be detained in jail-like areas. There might even be a prison, but who needs metal bars when a clear titanium pane can do the trick?

Glass is not resistant enough and too breakable for these windows. I imagine they are made of transparent metal
At the core of the structure, would be a reactor to generate the energy needed to keep that city in space running smoothly. As we know, reactors can become unstable. More fodder for future stories.

But what would happen to those forgotten by the system? Orphans growing on the fringe of the affluent society, escapees, and stowaways might be reduced to hide in disaffected parts of the station and form their own society. They might steal in order to survive. So far from central power (and from the overseeing authority), such a community might recourse to shortcuts, unethical practices, and oppression of the underprivileged.

Although this is a futuristic design for a train station, I imagine the style would fit a space station as well

As you see, the world of tomorrow may not be so different from ours, because no matter how many advances we make in science, health, and space exploration, human nature doesn't change that much.

It's all about survival, and the balance of good and evil. And that controversy will not soon be resolved, so there is plenty of fodder for upcoming science fiction novels.

In the meantime, you can learn more about life on a space station by reading the Azura Chronicles. Book 1, ANGEL MINE is already out and Fianna, my heroine, is a bounty hunter. But she was born on the Byzantium-5 space station, orphaned as a teenager, then survived with the protection of a violent gang, the Dragon Squad.

What in the frozen hells of Laxxar prompted Fianna to pursue her quarry to this forbidden blue planet? Well, she needs the credits... badly. But as if crashing in the jungle wasn't bad enough, none of her high-tech weapons work. She'll have to go native, after the most wanted felon in five galaxies. It's not just her job. It's personal.

Acielon has never seen an outworlder like this fascinating female, strangely beautiful, and fierce, like the feline predator loping at her side. He always dreamed of exploring the universe, despite the legends... and the interdiction. Is it truly a hellish place of violence, lies and suffering? If it spawned this intriguing creature, it must also be a place of wonders, adventure and excitement.

Fianna's instincts tell her someone is watching. Sheba, her telepathic feline partner, doesn't seem worried... yet, something on Azura isn't quite right.


Vijaya Schartz, author
Click to Vijaya's page on AMAZON - B&N - smashWords - KOBO 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Laughter is the best tonic---Tricia McGill

Find all my books here on my Books We Love Author page

When I look back at old family photographs, one thing stands out. We were always smiling. I grew up in a happy household with brothers who, although sensible, were also prone to silliness. They enjoyed a good laugh. This rings true to me today. I much prefer to watch a comedy on the TV. Sorry if I upset anyone but no one can produce comedy quite like the British. Even before TV came along in our household all the comedy shows on the radio were listened to and laughed along with by members of my family. My youngest brother was the prankster and his all-time favourites were The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half Hour. There were many others but these stand out when I recall him roaring with laughter at the complete madness of the Goons. He could impersonate every character and memorise every punchline. 

Shows like these were forerunners of other excellent shows we watched avidly once TV entered our lives. Shows like Porridge with masters of British comedy like Ronnie Barker playing Fletcher. Another favourite was Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, the springboard for Michael Crawford into an amazing career in Movies and Theatre. And how can I leave out Faulty Towers?

I love paid TV as it has enabled me to catch up with old favourites such as One Foot in The Grave with grumpy old Victor Meldew and his long suffering wife. Or ‘Allo ‘Allo, and less ridiculous shows like To The Manor Born which when you boil it down had the makings of a good old love story. Poor Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton is forced to sell her stately home and we have a feeling all along that she is going to end up with the charming and handsome new owner of the manor.

Anyone remember The Good Life, where Tom Good and his lovely wife decide to leave the hectic world of the rat race in the city and settle in suburbia where they can grow their own vegies and even keep a pig or two.

I envy the children of today who have such a large variety of shows to watch aimed specifically at them. I have a few personal favourites that I wouldn’t miss for the world and often wish I was 40 years or more younger so that I could be a part of the world of animation. I admire the creators immensely. They breathe life into plasticine characters such as Wallace and Gromit. When one of my family members acquired a TV in the 50s with a screen not much bigger than a small laptop or tablet, we would all crowd around to watch shows like Muffin The Mule, The Flower Pot Men and of course there was Lassie where we could also sometimes shed a tear. All in black and white of course.

Things have moved on at a rapid rate and our TV tastes have obviously changed. I doubt my tastes have altered a lot though as I still watch shows like The IT Crowd and Miranda. You’ve probably guessed by now that I prefer comedy shows produced in the UK. Must be my inbuilt British sense of humour. 

Comedy helps us through the worst times in our lives and believe me I have lived through some dark days of loss and sorrow, as we all have to. But laughter is without doubt the best medicine of all, and it helps if we can laugh at ourselves.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Small Town Travel


Driving. I’m not a fan. With one exception. I very much enjoy driving on secondary highways through picturesque small cities and towns and stumbling upon small parks.
When we lived in western Canada the number of these slow-moving adventures were almost endless. One time, we took the Crowsnest Pass from Calgary to Vancouver, and then home to Victoria. I’ll grant you, I have never seen so many curves on a highway. With a highlighter we kept track or out progress on a map. Yes, this was before smartphones. Of course making five or six stops along the way limited progress. However, at this end of each day we seemed to only move five percent of the way from Pincher Creek to Vancouver. Of course, we were there in fruit season. The roadside stops were irresistible.
On the prairies we would “wing it.” There were dozens of smaller highways to zig-zag. Heck, we sometimes wouldn’t even check a map. One favourite spot was Kindersley Saskatchewan. I adore “cool” arenas and baseball fields. This small city had an amazing ballpark called Flanagan Field. Spectacular place in perfect conditions. Over two thousand seats. I think they love their baseball.
On that same trip we stumbled upon the neat little town of Indian Head Saskatchewan. This cute town has a century-old experimental farm. Little Mosque on the Prairie was shot there.

Now we are comfortably settled in at the heart of Toronto. While we have a Car, It is difficult to enjoy the unique rural roads and parks. Not from lack of temptation. It is simply the major headache of leaving and returning. It takes a very long time in very heavy traffic to do that trek. However, once there we find tempting mom-and-pop coffee shops, terrific towns with historic main streets, and great parks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cheers! A Little Taste of Wine's History


Cheers! A Little Taste of Wine's History by S. L. Carlson
(Disclaimer: Too much of any good thing is always bad. Drink responsibly.)

Customs with wine-making and wine-drinking varies with cultures and times.
Here are a few interesting historical wine facts:

* Greek grape stompers were usually slaves, who crushed the fruit to live music
* Ancient wine was used as both beverage and medicine
* Alcohol is mentioned 165 times in the Bible, usually favorably
* Wine was often mixed with water, 1:3
* Additives were common, like cinnamon, violets, larkspur, parched bread, etc.
* Parched bread = toast (Cheers!)
* Cheers came from the Latin for face, but later came to mean gladness
* Before cork was so available, pitch, oil, or clay was used to seal the wine
* The host poured off the first of the wine to taste to make sure no clay or oil lingered
* By drinking first, the host also assured his friends it was safe for them to drink
* Romans sometimes sweetened old wine with sugar of lead (lead acetate), and after simmering in a lead pot, it was served in lead goblets
* During medieval times, people were afraid the devil would enter them through drink, so they clinked their wooden or clay goblets together to scare off evil. Other earlier cultures, also made noises before drinking to scare off ghosts or demons

Working IX to V by Vicki Leon
How Did it Begin by Dr. R. & L. Brasch

Although wine does not come into my stories much, please enjoy a glass of your favorite beverage as you read one of my books from:

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Cover Story by Victoria Chatham

My new cover!

We all know the adage that you don’t judge a book by its cover. I have, especially in my early days of purchasing e-books, done exactly that and then been hugely disappointed when the quality of the content failed to match the quality of the cover. These days I look at the cover and then click on the ‘Look Inside’ button and read the excerpt before I decide whether to purchase or not.

I must admit that the last thing I thought about when I started writing my first Regency romance was the cover. It was a tough enough job to get the words flowing without having the angst of considering how those words would all be wrapped up in a neat package. I was totally ignorant of fonts, colors, and layout and had no idea how to create an attractive, appealing cover. Thank goodness for cover designers and, in particular, Books We Love’s own cover designer, Michelle Lee.

First e-book cover
I was so pleased with the first cover because it contained all the elements I thought I needed. My heroine, Emmaline Devereux, had long black hair, so the image of the girl was bang on. I needed a horse because she loved horses, and the old house in the background depicting her family home was so reminiscent of a house I had loved and lived in for more than ten years. But then my daughter made the comment that the image of Emmaline looked more like a schoolgirl than a clever spy capable of surviving the Peninsula War 1807 - 1814 when Napolean clashed with the Spanish Empire. Oh, oh. One burst bubble as I reconsidered what the image was actually portraying. 

Thanks to Books We Love, I had the opportunity for a new cover design when the book went into print. Again, Michelle Lee pulled in all the elements I requested on my Cover Art Form.

First print cover
The result, as you can see, is a more adult female image. I still had to have a horse to convey her love of horses, plus my hero. A similar female image graced the cover of His Ocean Vixen, Book 2 in the series but with the third book, His Unexpected Muse, coming in February 2019, I thought a new look all round might better pull the series together.

By now a little more savvy about cover design, I looked at the covers of the Regency romance best sellers on Amazon and noticed that invariably there was just a female image against an attractive background. Publisher Jude Pittman was again in agreement with the update and I spent most of one Sunday scrolling through images until I found a few that I thought worked. I am now totally happy with the image and feel that, finally, His Dark Enchantress has grown up.

After I revealed it on my Facebook author page, I had quite a few people contact me to tell me how much they liked it, most much more so than the previous two. I'm now looking forward to the update for His Ocean Vixen and next year for His Unexpected Muse. 

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