Friday, August 31, 2018

Priscilla Brown lacks discipline

For mechanic Billie, repairing cars is easier than perking up her love life,
until a chance encounter with an old friend
races her under-nourished hormones into overdrive.

Find details of this recently-released contemporary romance and my other novels at
and visit Priscilla Brown at your favourite e-book store

I like to participate in writing workshops and meeting other writers there; last month I attended a three-hour class designed for fiction writers at any stage of their careers. The presenter asked us to consider whether we spend time on reading and on researching which could be allocated to writing, and to evaluate whether our reading and researching habits are normal or addictive, whatever is normal may be normal in this context. The learning outcome was to develop a strategy to overcome reading addiction and/or over-researching a writing project.

We were given questions to decide how much time we spend reading material not connected with current writing, and how much time we take on research for this. My responses indicated that I spend too much time on both these, plus that I don't feel guilty as apparently I should.

Yes, I am addicted to reading for pleasure. Yes, I'm aware it does sometimes hinder my writing processes. Do I plan to reduce this amount of reading time? I'm not convinced I should do this; although I've always been a slow writer, this is the way I work. Do I over-research? Yes, I do. I love browsing in lending libraries for books to borrow, and in the State Library for reference books. I don't particularly enjoy researching on the internet, but this has become a necessary source of information (hopefully accurate). I've collected reams of hard copy notes, some of which had no bearing on the subject I was researching but are interesting anyway, several were marginally useful, and others definitely required. I still have these notebooks and associated printouts, photocopies, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine clippings long after the novel they were used for has been published. Perhaps if I didn't spend so much time reading, I'd find the inclination and hours to clear out this pile!

For Finding Billie, I needed to check several aspects. She's a mechanic; I'm ignorant about anything to do with cars except how to drive and how to re-fuel, but I didn't need to know anything specific about their innards. I did need to be sure that her workshop and shop area appeared authentic, and checked out repairers and service stations large and small. Zac is a professional photographer; being in the aim and click category myself, I investigated camera stores for details. Neither of these occupations involved research either in print or on the internet, being simply tasks that must be done physically on site. Other essential elements entailed various research sources, but the piece of research I truly enjoyed was generated by a handsome century-old two-storey building in perfect condition (currently used for a library and offices) which I discovered during a road trip in country New South Wales.

I had rough ideas for Billie's story, and suddenly I wanted a similar building to become a crucial plot point. It was constructed from limestone, something about which I knew nothing and so set about researching. This became the material most used for buildings in her fictitious historic country town; mainly on the internet, I learnt about its properties, quarrying, building construction and restoration. There's no limestone where I live: I revisited my original building, and located several other limestone areas and a quarry. All this took a long time, and was it over-research? Probably, and I had such good time doing it.

Back to the reading/researching addiction. I failed to develop a strategy to overcome this, and can't summon the discipline to attempt to do so. And in the end, does this matter? Writers are individuals with differing time availabilities, priorities and interests; as long as we get the job done to our and our publisher's  satisfaction, let us read and research as much as we want, not necessarily only as much as we need.

Enjoy your reading! Priscilla

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Total Immersion Research

Why write historical fiction? This is a question that, for me, goes back a way. The 1980’s, when I first started writing, was a low point for the genre. I remember querying ever so many agents and getting replies which said “only a small market for historical fiction.” That was discouraging enough, but not so much that I stopped working on those novels, driven by the writing demons as I was.   

Like everyone else who will reply to this question, I started young reading historical fiction, following the books my mother took out of the library. She was a voracious reader of both history and science fiction, and I became one as well. I began early, and remember writing a short story about the Princes in the Tower back in 8th grade that got an “A.” (My story successfully creeped-out  the class, too, which was even better.)

I could say that my love of history happened because I’ve often lived in old houses—several with disturbances of the kind that are often labelled “ghost.” I could talk about the love of my important elders for history, their familiarity with the past, and the way the past was always present in discussions about politics, or about how trips were taken to view gravestones, battlefields, Indian mounds, and museums. 

I could dwell on the lit professor grandpa that I adored. His study fairly breathed old books, tweed, leather, pipe smoke and things past. A large oil painting of the Canterbury Pilgrims overlooked his desk, a beautiful obsidian spear point that had emerged during the spring plowing at the family farm in upstate NY sat beside his typewriter. All of these objects had stories, and he shared them with his children and grandchildren. At home, that wonderful quote of William Faulkner’s “The Past is never gone. It’s not even past,” was a reality. 

The truth is that I’ve never felt truly comfortable with the noisy, gasoline era into which I was born. Cars were something to get around in, but not by me, as a class of objects, beloved. Every time a tree falls in the creation of a road or a new development, I feel a terrible sense of loss.

I’ve often spoken of what I write as a kind of time travel, because for me that’s what it is—a way to be present in another place and time, to smell and taste that world, to deal with the hardships and the inevitable dirt and sweat, the blood and the loss, that is the genuine past.  The “romance” died quite early for me because I read and read and read, ever deeper into my chosen subjects. 

Living inside another time and place, and/or inside another culture, is truly an immersive experience; I love the scuba sense of diving in and swimming around inside the deep waters of history. Originally, I wrote from my own European-American perspective, and my books were set in 18th Century Europe or England or the colonial US.  The time shift alone caused me to change my perspective. I sometimes get nasty reviews because the 18th Century characters about whom I write do not behave up to the highest standards of the 21st Century. I always want to reply to these folks that I don't write these stories to make them comfortable. I write to show them as much as I can of what I've learned about what was--the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth--to the best of my ability.

Maybe I'd be richer if I sugar-coated, but taking the trip into the past and taking my readers along with me is always far more important than whatever is currently P.C. If you want to read about the 18th Century people, expect to meet  men who have "patriarchy" firmly entrenched in their heads and women who have no other recourse than to accept or attempt to circumvent whatever their menfolk, their churches and their society dish
out. Englishwomen, as every reader of Jane Austen ought to know, could not inherit property until quite recently.

In Genesee, and, later, to a far greater extent, in Fly Away Snow Goose, I had another experience. To write Snow Goose, I had to shed the Euro-based colonizer culture into which I was born so that I could inhabit (as far as I was able) a life-way with a totally different outlook. The Tlicho tribe in Fly Away Snow Goose were historically a nomadic, communal people, living in small groups that, for survival reasons, became even smaller in winter--who shared food with one another. They disapproved the kind of willful ignorance of their environment, the braggadocio and "me-first-ism" that is  rampant in the capital-driven European cultures which almost overwhelmed them. 

Instead of "conquerors of nature," the Tlicho strove to always to be in "right relationship" with the earth and her creatures, to eat and/or to make use of every piece of any animal they killed. They saw the spirits in the sky and in the earth and water all across the enormous terrain they traversed every year, as they followed the caribou migration. The land under their feet was holy. Everyone had to pull together, or the group would not survive the extreme winters where starvation was a very real threat. 

Telling this story, and the experience of immersion in the words and stories of my "subjects", has changed my outlook on the day-to-day world around me in a fundamental way.  This time, the research worked a sea-change. After studying the Tlicho, I've got on an entirely new pair of spectacles.

~~Juliet Waldron

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Exercising You Literary Muscles Through Free Writing by Connie Vines

Free writing—Improvisation, or raw writing – is a good way to loosen up, to renew or maintain a writing practice.  One writes without a particular plan.  Free writing encourages a pouring out of ideas or ways of expressing them that one may not have produced before.

If one theme keeps surfacing, in free writing that theme can be developed further.  Of course, to improve the craft, writers need to read and study the craft of writing by enrolling in workshops, writers’ groups, and receive input from other writers.

This can also be practiced in your plotting group, or critique group.  When I was a new writer I attending monthly workshops and met weekly with a critique group at a local coffee shop.  Often, we practice free writing and would look over each other’s work and give feedback.  I can’t say that these sessions resulted in finished pieces.  I did begin a short story that was later published and I began a number of projects that I was able to incorporate in later novels.

I still have several folders with my free writing papers.  When I pull out my folders and begin reading, more than a few surprised me with word play, sharp descriptions, or a twist and edge to some ideas. 

These are my rules for free writing:

Write whatever comes to mind without censoring, and keep the pen moving (pens let you write more quickly than pencils). One may use a keyboard; however, studies show that the pen to paper stimulates creatively in a different manner—which is true for me.

If prompts help, many books offer them, although I’ve found that when given too many choices I cannot settle on any. 

Often my free writing seems bland.  Then I remind myself that I had to get those works down in order to think and write my way to something more promising.

How to Improv Your Short Story

Start with a black paper/ screen and start writing the first story idea you get, and then keep going. Don’t edit in your head; don’t block your creativity. Where will your story go if you let it develop naturally? Will you have a badminton racket in your story? A flying cat?  Or are you clinging to a run-away horse?

“The key to great story, as with great improv, is to take the ideas that are there and build upon them rather than thinking the ideas won’t work.

If you prefer to plot your story before you write, use the same approach to your plot outline. Allow your creativity to flourish and see where your story leads you. (Notice I said where your story leads you, not where you lead your story.)

Have fun!  Enjoy the ride.  This is how I work out my Fantasy novellas. 

“Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow” Sassy & Fun Fantasy

Chapter One

“You and Elvis have done a great job on this home,” Meredith said as her older sister led the way down stairs toward the kitchen where the tour began. “Sorry I couldn’t get over until now, but…well, I’ve been sort of. . .well, busy.” Slipping her Juicy Couture tortoise-shell framed sunglasses into a bright pink case, Meredith crammed them into her black Coach handbag.  She hoped her sister didn’t ask her to define busy.  Becoming a zombie, and dealing with the entire raised-from-the-dead issue over the past six months, was not a topic easily plunked into a casual conversation.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post and the snippet from my novella :-).

Happy Reading & Writing,

Connie Author page


Monday, August 27, 2018

A new series, set on a space station, yay! by Vijaya Schartz

Read the latest sci-fi romance release from Vijaya, ANGEL MINE

Announcing a new sci-fi romance series set on the Byzantium space station. Byzantium books 1 and 2 will be out next year, and Book 3 in 2020. Each book will be a complete story with high octane action and a hint of romance.

The Byzantium series is a spin-off from the Azura universe and will cross paths with it many times. The space station figures prominently in the Azura Chronicles series, the first book of which, ANGEL MINE, was released in May of this year. Book Two, ANGEL FIERCE, is set for Februrary 2019, and Book Three will come out in 2020.

But this imposing structure in space called Byzantium, is a character in itself. It deserves to serve as the setting for many more stories. It’s a tourist destination, has many casinos and gambling dens, and the slums harbor the most dangerous gangs and illegal drugs and weapons traffic rings. It’s also a large trading port and contains a high security prison holding the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy.

So, starting next year, you will meet more strong female characters, some in uniform and others in full body armor. There will also be more genetically engineered cats. You can never have too many cats on a space station. How else would you get rid of all the vermin? New brave heroes will visit Byzantium, some human and some not. Some will rebel against the crushing authority of the GTA (Galactic Trade Alliance), others will exploit the turmoil for a higher purpose. Others yet might embrace the broken system and try to change it from the inside.

As usual in my stories there will be a bitter fight between good and evil… although sometimes, it’s difficult to tell which is which. Things are never quite what they seem…

In the meantime, hurry to read the first book in the Azura Chronicles series, ANGEL MINE, where you get a glimpse of what Byzantium is all about. Oh, and there will be angels on Byzantium as well. Here is the blurb for the latest release:

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.

"I don’t know how Vijaya continues to write books that both aggravate you to no end and keep you on the edge of your seat. You can’t put it down until you know what happens next. Before you know what happened, you are at the end of the book and wondering how you got there so fast. It is hard not to get caught up in and lost in the imagery created on the pages of the locations. You can even smell what is in the air. Yet another page turner I couldn’t put down! Thank you Vijaya for keeping me entertained." 5-stars - Beverley J. Malloy on amazon

Happy reading!

Vijaya SchartzHigh Octane Romance with a Kick  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A few of my scribbles--Tricia McGill

Find purchase links to this and all my other books here on my Books We Love Author page

It’s cold wet and dreary in my part of the world as I write, so here are just a few snippets of Aussie whimsy from my collection of scribblings to cheer things up.

Glorious Day

I set out for a walk on a fine spring day
The flowers I saw in merry profusion
Into a lake ran a stream so fey.
I thought it was a grand illusion
Beneath my feet the grass was green.
From new mown fields I smelt the hay
It really was a peaceful scene.
Oh glorious world. Oh glorious day.

Children ran by—so full of joy,
picking flowers and singing beneath the sun
I bent to smile down at a tiny boy,
but he took off away at a sprightly run
How carefree they were, these girls and boys
Like splendid shafts from a sunny ray
Not worried unduly, but sharing their joys.
Oh glorious world. Oh glorious day.

A horse in a paddock called out to me.
A dog barked from a farmhouse just over the hill
Some magpies flew up to the branch of a tree.
Kangaroos were feeding near a windmill
Some joeys amongst them prepared for flight.
A kookaburra laughed loudly, and then flew away
To soar on the wind to a magnificent height.
Oh glorious world. O glorious day.

The woes of the world are all left behind.
On days such as this my cares slip away
Problems disperse like dust in the wind.
Oh glorious world. Oh glorious day.

The Stockman

The bush and plains are the stockman’s home.
The pine clad mountains and valleys to roam
His hat rests low on his proud set head
and covers his hair of the brightest red.

His dog lopes close by his horses’ side,
and the pair never tire through a long day’s ride.
Old Irish has dreamed since he was a lad
of riding all day across this wide land.

His mother and father had both been rovers.
His dad was a man well known by the drovers
They’d died up along the Murrays’ side
and were buried near that great river so wide.

Irish knows well how to laugh and to cry;
to share life’s sorrows ‘neath God’s clear blue sky
He knows all there is about herding cows,
about riding all day when the wind just howls.

Once on a trek though the great desert land,
he almost got lost as for gold he panned
Old Irish has been where black parrots fly,
where the mulga and scrub reach well past the thigh.

Past rivers so dry that the cracks split the earth
and no one can say what the red land is worth
He’s been where the ‘roos jump high in the air,
where wallabies roam over land green and fair.

He thought once of settling, of taking a wife,
but decided with forethought that wasn’t the life
No drover would fit in a life in the city;
to leave all this space would be more than a pity.

In a place like Sydney or Melbourne or Darwin
where the people all flock and there’s plenty of sin
No woman in town would put up with his roving,
this need to be moving, and constantly going

To the back blocks and endless wide open plains,
far away from the city and shops and the trains
There’s no female around who’d put up with the hide
of a man who yearns just to be free to ride.

The man who knows joy in a good horse beneath you,
a dog for a pal and restrictions so few
The hard times and good times; the dust and the heat,
where no man gives in to a thing like defeat.

The bush folk have ways the townsfolk don’t know.
They’ll greet you with pleasure, and then let you go
To wander the wide open plains that you love,
where at night all the stars fairly blaze up above.

On a night when the air is crystal clear,
you’ll sit ‘neath a sky where the stars seem so near
You can reach out and touch them in the frosty sky
and be closer to God than you’ll be when you die.

A stockman knows all about drought dust and heat,
but in his way of life won’t put up with defeat.
His life’s filled with pleasures no town man would know.
Old Irish is off where the wanderers go.

This last one is set in the doc’s waiting room, where I seem to be spending far too much time of late.

The Doctor’s Surgery

Are you shorter than you used to be?
A strange but smart enough query
It’s listed there with many more
on the inside of my doctor’s door

With other questions about your health,
asked bluntly and without much stealth
Do you require a cholesterol check?
Or some acupuncture for a pain in the neck?

Perhaps the others that sit with me
In this my doctor’s nice surgery
Have bunions or wind, are feeling weak,
or maybe like me have come to seek

A reason for what is making them crook,
why they often feel dizzy while reading a book
Did that one over there wake up with a pain?
Perhaps she is simply feeling the strain

With a boy who plays up, shouts and screams
She’s probably coming apart at the seams
Ah, here’s the doctor, I think it’s my turn,
to unload my problems so I can learn

What’s wrong, what’s the trouble with me?
It will all be unfolded in his surgery
He’ll tell me I’m well, I’m fit and fine, 
and I’ll leave with a smile until the next time

When I want the assurance of someone so wise,
who’ll look in my ears, down my throat, in my eyes.
Some reassurance will see me right,
Some kind words of comfort; some doctorly insight

I’ll leave his office on jaunty feet,
glad to get out on the sunny street
It’s good to know that I’m fit and whole.
I know I feel fine for my doc told me so.
My Web Page

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Walk On The Urban Side
Walking. One of our joys. Many days three to four hours. Some days six or seven hours.  In Victoria it was a breeze, an ocean breeze and cooler temperatures that made the strolls grand.  The skies are blue-mostly-in Toronto during the month of August. Temperatures are in the high  twenties or low thirties. With the humidex it feels like +40 many days. This is not weather made for a   walker.A hot day and miles and miles of concrete absorbing the heat equals, well, yikes.  What would one do to get our strolling fix? Walk at five AM. Nah. I’m asleep at that hour.  One has to adapt. Toronto may not have an ocean breeze. However, it does have something close,   real close. Outside our window is Lake Ontario with miles and miles of parkland and walking trails.  With careful research. OK, it wasn’t that difficult. After all there were only two direction to head  once you were at the lake shore. I find strolling west is best. Although I do like Leslieville once   you get there heading east. West takes us to High Park an amazing place with blossoms in the   spring and trails to keep you moving.One must never forget the coffee stop. A street near the park  is loaded with local coffee houses and delicious beverages.  Ah, the lake shore. A place of five degrees cooler temperatures. Only the most vicious heat   would stop my hikes. Frankly, there haven’t been any yet. The walks are not lightening quick,   but they are paced. Now, where would one settle down to rest for a bit? I know. How about in one   of Toronto’s hundreds of Adirondack chairs. Fine, they call them Muskoka chairs.   Don’t tell them but they are Adirondack chairs. 

When I said that there are only two directions to walk I fibbed a bit. We simply have to hop
on a ferry and walk around amazing Toronto Island.

Whew. Looks like we landed in a great part of Toronto.

Um, winter is an issue. It is quite a bit cooler beside the lake. Oh boy.

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