Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Imagination, Science fact, Science fiction, ancient history, and fantasy – part 1 - by Vijaya Schartz


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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

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All science fiction authors struggle to make their stories believable, because most of us only believe what we can explain and understand. Anything else is considered fantasy. And while we witness unexplained feats of magic and fantasy each day, like UAP (Unexplained Aerial Phenomena), ghosts, premonitory dreams, out of body or transcendental experiences, fiction writers are held to more stringent rules. Unlike reality, our stories have to make sense in the physical world.

Readers often tell me I have a fertile imagination, but to imagine the future, you only have to study the so-called mythology of many Earth cultures.

Lord Shiva claimed to be from another planet
and traveled through the air on a vessel surrounded by flames

Ancient civilizations worshipped gods who came come from the sky (heavens) in chariots of fire that rumbled like thunder. They were said to possess magical powers, like the power of flight, infinite knowledge, and incredible powers of destruction… powers we now understand as advanced technology.

They lived in magical cities in the sky, cities we would now call motherships, and they flew down in smaller crafts they called Vimanas. They also waged violent wars in the sky, with terrible repercussions for our planet.

Shiva (the destroyer of worlds) wielded weapons that could destroy entire planets and fiery arrows that never missed the target. 

The Shiva Lingam found in a multitude of temples, and long discarded as a fertility symbol, was recently recognized as an accurate representation of a nuclear cooling tower. Lingering radioactivity in ancient ruins and bones, along with vitrification of the stone (that only happens with the kind of heat produced by a nuclear explosion), and ancient manuscripts describing epic battles of the gods with such weapons in the same area, support the fact that a nuclear event must have happened around that time… several millennia ago.


In the subcontinent of India, these powerful beings, who visited Earth and lived among men in the faraway past, were not human. They had blue skin, several pairs of arms, sometimes a third eye, monkey heads, elephant head, or snake bodies, and claimed to have come from other planets. To the people of India, they were not mythical or gods, but flesh and blood beings from another place. The epic adventures depicted in the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Mahabharata are not considered mythology but true ancient history and taught in schools as such.

But this phenomenon of alien visitors perceived as gods is not particular to India.

In the Buddhist world, the stone stupa inside which the statue of buddha resides represents some kind of transport craft to take him to the “cities in the sky.” Spaceships?

In China, the first emperor descended from the sky on a flaming dragon and claimed to come from space. To this day, the dragon is the symbol of China.

In Japan, Amaterasu, the goddess of light, came down to Earth to start the ruling dynasty to this day.

In my science fiction stories, my characters travel the galaxy, discovering new planets and cultures, or they are planet bound, visited by more advanced aliens. 

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Vijaya Schartz, author

Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

I should have paid more attention at school—Tricia McGill

Find where to buy all my books here on my BWL Author page

I have just been watching The White Queen on Netflix and this amazing series adapted from Phillipa Gregory’s best-selling books, The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter, brought home to me explicitly that I did not fully take in all that my history teacher was trying to drum into me way back then. I knew basically of the Wars of The Roses, and the brutal battles, feuds and intrigues that went on through those years as the House of Lancaster and the House of York battled for supremacy, but I had no idea, or perhaps forgot, that both Houses were off shoots from the greater House of Plantagenets. 

I even had to look up The House of York’s King Edward 1V who took the throne from Henry V1. To be honest I knew little of his love for the Lancastrian Elizabeth Woodville, the beauty who swept him off his feet. She was one of the three women who played such vital roles in the power struggles that ensued. The Royals of today with their sometimes sordid scandals and their arranged marriages have nothing on what went on back then. I guess everyone has at least one member of their family who is considered the black sheep, but I wonder what the Queen really thinks of her bunch of feuding ancestors.

Another woman who played an absolutely fundamental part in this phase of history was Margaret Beaufort, the Lancastrian (Red Queen). Her determination to see her son Henry Tudor taking his rightful place in history borders on religious obsession. Certain that his fate was destined by God himself, she never falters in her belief.

The third female in the triangle, Anne Neville, daughter of The Earl of Warwick (The Kingmaker), was far from happy, apart from a short period of bliss, as disaster seemed to follow her. Never has there been a more cunning and determined advisor to the king than Warwick. Not only cunning but cruel he was the most conniving of all at the King’s court, willing to see his daughter wed when barely out of childhood to a nasty Frenchman who thankfully soon made her a widow. Anne went on to play her part in Britain’s history as the wife of the handsome young Duke of Gloucester—King Richard 111. 

I am in awe of Ms. Gregory’s painstaking skill, and wonder how proud she must be of the producers of this amazing historical series for gathering such an experienced group of actors together.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Can anyone write a novel?


Can anyone write a novel?

One of my last talks before Covid struck was to a local book club. It was a similar talk to several I have done in the past, as I talked about my writing ‘career’, including the differences between writing in the 1960s and writing today, and then giving some examples of where my ideas come from.

At the end of previous talks, I’ve had various questions, ranging from ‘How much research do you have to do?’ to ‘How much do you earn? (to which I usually reply, ‘Probably not even as much as J.K. Rowling would earn for one page of her Harry Potter novels!’)

This time I had a different question. Someone said, “They say there is a novel in everyone. Do you think anyone can write one?’

I had to think on my feet! In the end I said something like, “First I think you have to want to write and then you have to make the time to do it, rather than just write when you happen to have some spare time or feel like writing. It can take a lot of time and hard work – not just the actual writing, but also the research you need to do, even for a contemporary novel. You might also have to learn about plotting, using dialogue, and developing your characters, and you need to have a good grasp of grammar, punctuation and spelling.”

That’s a summary of my ‘off the cuff’ answer, which I’m aware (a) might have over-emphasised the time and hard work elements but (b) at the same time, only covered part of what is involved in writing a novel.

While we were having a cup of tea and cake afterwards, someone else said to me, “I couldn’t write a novel. I don’t have the imagination to create a story.”

On my way home, I thought about this and realised this person was right. The need/desire to write (which means you make the time to do it) needs to be combined with the imagination to create characters and their story. You can learn all the other things (and indeed, we all learn as we go along).

What do you think? Can anyone write a novel? And how would you have answered that question?

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

How I Became a Published Author by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey


I took a few writing courses and began my published, writing career (as opposed to my unpublished writing career) with a short story titled  A Hawk's Reluctant Flight, in a small magazine called Western People. With that on my short resume, I had travel and historical articles accepted by other magazines, one of which didn't pay anything to the author. Then I took another writing course and one of the speakers was Grant Kennedy owner of Lone Pine Publishing in Edmonton, Alberta.

       At the time Alberta was divided into tourist zones and I had been thinking about doing a book on what there was to see and do in each zone. I sent a query letter to Lone Pine Publishing and the senior editor responded with a phone call. We set up a time for me to go to the city and meet with her and Grant Kennedy.      

      I outlined my idea and Grant said yes it was a good one but he thought that the books should be more on the people and culture of each zone. He liked his idea and I liked mine so we decided we couldn't work together. As I stood to leave I said. "Well, at least as I research the zones I will see all the backroads of Alberta." He replied. "I've always want to do a book on the backroads of Alberta." I sat back down and that was how I began my backroads series. Over the next ten years I travelled through and wrote two books on Alberta, four books on British Columbia and one on the Yukon and Alaska.
       My favourite books to read have always been mystery novels and after much thought I decided to write one. Since one of the mantras of writing is to write what you know I made my main character a travel writer. She was headed to southern Alberta to do research for a magazine and was drawn into the mystery of a skeleton found in a septic tank. When I was finished I sent it out to a few publishers. One wrote back that they liked it but my travel background was coming out and I had too much travel information in it. I was asked to remove some. So I did and resent my manuscript. Again, I was asked to cut back on the travel info. Again I did. The third time I was told that this was a mystery and I should stick with the mystery and leave out the travel stuff. I wrote back and said that the main character is a travel writer and is working on an article. She is not going to drop that and concentrate on the mystery. So needless to say we parted ways.
      I sent out the manuscript again and another publisher said they were interested in publishing it. They had one stipulation and that was that I should add in more travel information.
      I sent the second novel of what I was calling my Travelling Detective Series to the same publisher. After about a five month wait I received a letter that told me the publishing house had been bought out by another one and that my manuscript and all my information had been sent to them. I waited a few months the emailed the new publisher to find out what was happening. A couple of days later I received an email stating that they had no record of my manuscript. My heart sunk. But a few days after that I received an email from another editor at the publishing house that they had found my manuscript and they wanted to publish it.
       However, in the time between that email and the publishing date for my novel, the publishing house was sold again. The new owner was going to honour my contracts, but in the future wasn't going to publish mysteries. I knew there was no use sending my third manuscript to that publisher and after checking around I sent it to Books We Love. They immediately accepted it and e-published it. After two years of talking with my former publisher I was able to get the rights to my first two novels of the series and now all three are published with Books We Love Ltd. as a boxed set.

     Since then I have published one more mystery novel, two young adult historical, and one adult historical romance, Romancing the Klondike through Books We Love. The sequel to that historical romance, Rushing the Klondike, will be out in September 2022.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Seasons and Stories by Victoria Chatham



It is now officially Spring 2022. In my part of the world, it still doesn’t feel like it. I envy friends in England who have posted pictures of gardens full of colour, from gorgeous golden daffodils to blue grape hyacinths and multi-coloured primulas. I wonder how many authors use not just the weather the seasons in creating their settings.

April has a hopeful sense of the summer to come, but Charles Dickens writes: Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade, which speaks to the duality in this more than any other season of the year.

Writers look for ways to enhance the drama in their plots and the nuances of their characters, either physically or metaphorically. Just as we sometimes use the weather to create a mood or direct the way a scene goes, we can use the seasons in both our settings and in our characters’ perspectives.

I have certainly used the seasons in my books. My character, Emmaline, is abducted on a perfect September afternoon in my first Regency romance. By the time she is rescued and returns home, it is a whole month later, and the trees in the estate park have already turned colour.

In the second Regency, a lot of the book takes place at sea and in Jamaica, but Juliana calculates that she left England in January, and it’s now September. The seasons are not plot lines in either book, but more indicate the timeline.

In One for the Money, Janet Evanovich uses the season to describe Stephanie Plum’s New Jersey ‘hood: During summer months, the air sat still and gauzy, leaden with humidity, saturated with hydrocarbons. It shimmered over hot cement and melted road tar.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling writes of fall: Autumn seemed to arrive early that year. The morning of the first of September was crisp and golden as an apple.

In the movie The Winter Guest, set in northern Scotland, the husband of Emma Thompson’s character Frances dies suddenly, leaving Frances distraught. Her mother (in real life and in the movie), played by Phyllida Law, comes to stay with her. The film opens with a shot of the mother walking across frozen fields and with the camera later panning across a frozen sea. Set in any other season but winter, I’m not sure that Frances’ grief would have seemed so soul-deep. The bleakness of the setting seemed to represent the bleakness in her soul and vice versa.

Just as light and shade, time of day, rain or sunshine influence the moods we try to create for our characters, so can the season lead our readers through the seasons of our stories.

Victoria Chatham





Friday, April 22, 2022

Humorous cozies and book awards


 Dean L. Hovey's BWL Author Page - Details and Purchase Links

 With Whistling Bake Off being released on May 1, I felt it was a good time to talk about writing cozies and the experiences I've had with them.

My first cozy, Whistling Pines, was unintended. I'd published several hard-boiled mysteries. My friend Brian suggested that I include his hometown in a future book. Pointing out that his hometown wasn't within the geography of my Pine County mystery series didn't deter him. So, while awaiting the return of editorial input on an upcoming book, I tapped into our experiences with aging parents in a variety of care centers. I wrote two humorous chapters, set in Brian's hometown of Two Harbors. I thought I was done.

He took the chapters and returned the next day with stacks of notecards outlining plots, characters, and locations. "You've got a good start. Use these to guide you onward." Thus began the journey into cozies. 

It hasn't been a totally positive experience. The fans of my hard-boiled Pine County mysteries weren't universally excited about the nearly bloodless cozies. But I discovered an entirely new audience. Brian's wife initially couldn't believe that the Whistling Pines books were being written by the same person who was writing the bloody, intense Pine County books and suggested that I was using a ghost writer. I assured him that a car accident resulting in a concussion has allowed me to slip between genre.

One reader likened cozies to watching a Hallmark movie. As she put it, "I can read these in the evening and the plots don't keep me awake." Unlike my first Pine County mystery which my mother reported, "has kept me awake two nights checking the windows and doors."

A now defunct publisher submitted Whistling Pines to an awards competition. It didn't win, but two of the judges took me aside to tell me that they'd laughed all the way through the book and loved the characters. The winning book was a "tear-jerker", not a humorous cozy. The judges apparently preferred crying to laughter.

Inspired by the request for submissions to the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award, which requests nominations for books representing the lifestyle and culture of a northeastern Minnesota location, Whistling Pirates has been submitted for the 2022 NEMBA award, winners to be announced in October. 

Whistling Pirates investigates the death of a recreational sailor of the eve of Two Harbors' First Annual Buccaneer Days Festival. It brings in the deep Scandinavian roots of the area, including the two Lutheran churches across the street from each other; One established by Swedish immigrants. The other by Norwegians, Each celebrating services in their native tongue into the 1950s. The Sons of Norway move their annual lutefisk feed to the festival weekend and host a lutefisk throwing contest. And there's lots of discussion about the seasonal weather, regional tourism, and local tourist attractions.

There's a sailing regatta, a discussion of Lake Superior fishing, and a brief discussion of Great Lakes piracy. Yes, there were pirates on the Great Lakes. Not Captain Kidd, but small opportunists who took advantage of disabled vessels, or who built fires on the shore to lure sailors onto the rocky shoreline.

There's also a "naturist" cruise. The senior citizen residents of Whistling Pines sign up: Half anticipating a bird watching cruise. The other half expecting nudity. Discussion ensues about the idiocy of a nudist cruise on Lake Superior where the deep water rarely exceeds two degrees above the freezing point.

Come October we'll see if the NEMBA judges like the Whistling Pirates take on the lifestyle and culture of Two Harbors. In the meanwhile, check out Whistling up a Ghost and Whistling Pirates at the BWL Publishing website in preparation for the release of Whistling Bake Off:

Thursday, April 21, 2022

How Far to Stretch the Truth in Your Writing, by Diane Scott Lewis


“A rich plot with building suspense, the writing is perfect and flows well. I loved this story.”   ~History and Women~

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In the beginning of my writing career I was certain you couldn't move events around to suit your story. But then I read a note in a Sharon Kay Penman novel where she said she moved a battle up six months for dramatic purposes. Then I knew if you listed your 'changes' you should get away with it.

Years ago I wrote a novel that takes place on Saint Helena during Napoleon's final exile. But I wanted a twist at the end where he slips away to America. This was the farthest I've stretched the truth, or changed events, though others have hinted at the possibility, or (later on) written fictional accounts of an escape. Now I've come across a few other novels in which the French Emperor escapes his island prison. I tried to write it to where it made perfect sense and it could have actually happened. Agents at the time were horrified that I would even attempt it. No imagination!

Years later, I reviewed a novel not listed as a fantasy set in the fourteenth century where the heroine is eating tomatoes in England. Tomatoes weren't discovered by Europeans until the New World of the Americas were explored a century later. I asked the author about it. She laughed it off and said she knew.

But no author note? I mentioned in my review that she purposely had anachronisms in her novel.

Could a man survive a ship explosion in the eighteenth century and be lost for years? And the Admiralty determined there were no survivors? Well, you need to make it plausible for the reader. And you're not changing history, only stretching the likelihood that this is possible. Check out my novel, Hostage to the Revolution to find out if you agree. But to get the full story, start with Escape the Revolution.

In my recent novel Ghost Point, I do change history by combining three years of the Oyster Wars over the Potomac River into one season. I needed the drama, the murder, that happened later to enrich my plot. I made certain to mention that events were compressed for dramatic purposes.

In Rose's Precarious Quest, a novel about a woman who strives to be a doctor in the 18th c., but discovers disturbing secrets in her new villageI throw in a touch of magic near the end, though most of the novel is grounded in reality. What powers does that stone ring contain? Did the ring glow that fateful night when the villain chased after Rose's sister, or was it the protagonist's overwrought imagination?

If you want to stretch the truth, or move events around, annotate it in your author notes for readers to see. Make it as plausible as possible.

Diane lives in Western Pennsylvania with her husband and one naughty dachshund.

To find out more about her and her books:  DianeScottLewis

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