Thursday, July 28, 2022

Why Don't You Ever Talk About Yourself? (Don't Ask Me About Me) By Connie Vines #BWLPublishingInc., #Author Interview, #Live From Southern California

During the Spring, I attended a local event for readers/writers.

Many attendees remembered me, to my surprise or dismay (depending on the questions ๐Ÿ˜‰ tossed my way).

(I've been active in Young Authors, a guest speaker at local schools, and participated as a reader in middle school classes to promote the joy of reading to reluctant readers, and Frybread cook at Title IX and X school events). 

I was prepared. I had my speech. I had props, handouts, and links to websites to assist them. 

I've never been comfortable speaking before a group, but I can 'appear' at ease.

(video is licensed by Canva to the author. @connievines-author/ do not copy/reproduce)


It was not what I expected ๐Ÿ˜ฎ.

What were the most asked questions? #1 "Why don't you ever talk about yourself?"

I know I had that look. (most likely the same expression I had in my Algebra class when called upon). Why? Because I talk about myself all the time. I have an ongoing saga about my dogs' adventures (gummy girl ๐Ÿฉ and bee-sting ๐Ÿ˜ขboy). I blog, do social media, explain my research... 

Personal Photograph @connievines-author

Nope, they weren't buying it.

They wanted to get personal. ๐Ÿ“ท ๐ŸŽค


How personal?

Enthusiastic voices:

"What's your favorite TV show?" 

"Whatever happened to Justine?"

"What's your favorite movie/ who is your favorite movie star?"

"Do you listen to...(someone I'd never heard of)?"

"Do you still make Frybread?"

I rebounded. 

Sort of.

At the moment, I'm streaming "Dark Winds." (I don't recall what I was watching then).

Justine was my greyhound (but everyone thought she was my daughter), the fashionista, and the mischief maker/couch potato/self-proclaimed tether ball champion.  ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Eventually, I was able to steer the interview back to the craft of writing and the pros and cons of joining a critique versus a plotting group. As well as goal setting and deciding upon a daily word count.


Author Licensed by Canva. Do not copy/reproduce.

What did I learn?

To be me. I have a great time with written interviews! I am semi-comfortable with podcasts, too.

While I am at ease with children and young adults, I must be more relaxed with my peers.

Tips for Authors:

Make your answers fun!

Let your personality shine through, tell stories, and show us your geeky/nerdy/weird side. It will turn us from passive observers into raving fans.

Being caught off guard is now the norm. 

Embrace the chaos!!

(To learn about my books, pets, and quirky life, follow me on Social Media)

Happy Reading,


Where's Connie?


Buy Links:

All my books are on sale through July!!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The magic of book covers – by Vijaya Schartz


Find my books at amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo 

I write in various genres, and as I am a very visual person, book covers are important to me.

Except for one or two fails with now defunct publishers, I’ve always been blessed with great book covers. Other authors think I’m lucky, but I cultivate an open line of communication with the publisher and designer. I know they did not read the book, so I work very hard to give them the elements I envision for my book covers, to communicate the spirit of the story.

I was often told I have a good eye for color. And if you look at my sci-fi covers, you’ll notice a lot of blue.

For many of my current covers, I went online to the stock photo companies used by my publisher, to look for the perfect cover model to represent my hero and my heroine’s personality and state of mind, as well as the best background. Then I sent these pictures and suggestions to the publisher for the cover designer. I was always thrilled with the resulting cover.

This time, however, as I am polishing my next novel, a new publisher rule emerged that except for Historical Novels in period costumes, the covers would no longer portray people with faces, but instead we should use backgrounds, silhouettes, or other elements to create a mood.

At first, I cringed. I had already picked my heroine for the cover, and I so loved my characters, I had found the perfect cover models with the right faces and personalities among the stock images. But I was up for the challenge. My October release, ANGEL SHIP, Book 1 of a new science fiction series Blue Phantom, is about a ghost ship, an Angel captain, a noble heroine, and of course, a big cat with an attitude. It contains lots of action, evil sorcerers, space battles, and romantic elements.

Here are some of my older BWL covers with people on them. Find them on my author page at: amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo 


As I scrolled through thousands of background images, I selected a few representing the best approximation of the inside of my glowing angel ship. Then I found a big cat like my heroine’s bodyguard, and a pair of cool angel wings.

When asked to send my cover suggestions, I almost panicked. How would the artist make a kick-butt cover with the meager elements I had selected? It seemed impossible, so I prepared myself for the worst.

What I didn’t count on, was the immense talent of the artists who create these book covers, their knowledge of the genres (science fiction in this case), their years of experience and their awareness of industry trends. But most of all, I underestimated their ability to visualize what I couldn’t.

The artist made it all come together by using the background in ways I didn’t think of, finding the perfect font, in the perfect spooky glow, to give the impression of a phantom ship. And the result is extraordinary. I absolutely love this cover. And the next books in the series will have the same background and same fonts, but with a different cat. Yay!

My hat’s off to the BWL Publishing team. I love you guys. You are my heroes.

The book comes out in October, but in the meantime, you can catch up with the Azura Universe with these two sister-series, Byzantium, and Azura Chronicles. Hint: Captain Blake Volkov, the hero of ANGEL SHIP, was a secondary character in ANGEL BRAVE. 

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Happy Reading! 

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Memories—Tricia McGill

Find this and all my books on my BWL Author page

This is a reboot of a blog post I did years ago, but is probably more relevant today so I thought I would give it another outing.

What is it about getting older? I can remember my first day at school clearly yet can’t recall what I did two days ago unless I look at my diary to check. As we get older, we seem to dwell a lot in the past. I’ve never been one to live with regrets. We can’t do anything to change what has gone before so what’s the point.

My childhood was exceptionally happy, and I always say I am blessed for I have been surrounded by loving people as far back as I can remember. I was the youngest of ten and most of my five brothers and four sisters were adults or coming up to adulthood by the time I reached an age when I took notice of what was going on around me. My sisters taught me the alphabet and how to read well before I attended school. It pains me to hear that many children these days never read a book and in fact are not able to read or spell.

I was one of those children who happened to love school. I had one regret in my first term—we had a class band and all the children (there were probably about 40 five-year-olds in the class) got to play an instrument, but whether by design or something other I always seemed to get stuck with the triangle—and how I longed for just one go on the tambourine. Perhaps that is why to this day I cannot play any instrument.

My two eldest sisters treated me like a doll and as they and our mother were all handy with a needle and sewing machine I was donned regularly in pretty dresses and with a white bow in my hair was taken off to have my photograph taken (which was done in a photo studio in those days).

One of my early books, Remnants of Dreams is based on our mother’s life in that it follows the timeline of her life. She was born in 1895 and married our dad in 1914. Our dad went away to the war and our eldest brother was born not long after. Dad didn’t return until four years later, consequentially it was a while until the next child came along. But then there was mostly a one or just over a year gap in between. These children were reared during the hard times between wars. So therefore, I was the luckiest as by the time I came along things were a lot brighter all round. I grew up on stories of the difficult years told to me by my eldest sister who will soon reach her 100th birthday. Sadly, she is no longer able to remember the past, but in her day read more books in a week than I ever could.

I get angry with young people who complain if their latest gadget is not performing well or feel hard done by if Mum and Dad won’t buy them just what everyone else at school is getting. We never had a telephone until our eldest brother had one installed. We lived in a six-storey house in North London. Our mother’s sister, her husband and two girls, had two rooms and a kitchen in

the middle, and one brother, his wife, son and daughter lived in the top two rooms with two attic bedrooms. We had the bottom two floors, so, when we received a telephone call (of course we gave out the number to our friends) someone would yell from the top of the house for us and we would then climb five flights of stairs to answer the call in their living room. No one thought this odd in the least, as our lives were so closely entwined. Our very extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins was spread far and wide, yet we kept in constant touch even before the telephone came along. There was such a thing as writing letters and waiting on the postman to call in those days, so we never missed a wedding or celebration.

For all our lack of amenities my childhood was full of happiness. It’s so true that what you never have you never miss. But I believe we were luckier by far. From an early age I was allowed to wander far and wide with my friends. We would be away from home for hours, only coming home when our stomachs told us it was time to eat. We played out all day every day, rain, sunshine or snow. We walked to and from school—a thirty minute walk each way in all weathers. Our world was small.

We had no idea what was going on in other countries or even in other parts of England, and ignorance is bliss. Most of our information and entertainment was gained via the radio, and then there was the cinema. We
never saw television until I was in my teens; and that was also my eldest brothers’. At times there would be about 15 of us crowded around his lounge room to watch this tiny black and white 9-inch screen—wonder of wonders! I remember vividly us all watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of England in awe on that far
off day in June 1953.

Now here I sit in 2022 at my all-in-one computer that I could not live without, and keep in touch with friends and relatives whose messages jump into my inbox regularly. Each evening I make myself comfortable in front of my flat screen immense TV watching my choice out of a million old and new of my favourite streamed shows, where I simply touch a button on my remote control to change channels of which there are many. I might receive a beep from my mobile phone to alert me to the fact that someone has sent me a text, or a call will come from a friend who lives miles away. Such is life! 

Find excerpts etc. on my web page

Monday, July 25, 2022

Born to Write?


Born to Write?

Were you ‘born to write’ or did you make a conscious decision to become a writer?

A few years ago I read P.D. James’ top tips for writers. She died in 2014 aged 94 and is probably most famous for writing the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series.

Her first point was: You must be born to write.

She said: You can't teach someone to know how to use words effectively and beautifully. You can help people who can write to write more effectively and you can probably teach people a lot of little tips for writing a novel, but I don't think somebody who cannot write and does not care for words can ever be made into a writer. It just is not possible.

Nobody could make me into a musician. Somebody might be able to teach me how to play the piano reasonably well after a lot of effort, but they can't make a musician out of me and you cannot make a writer, I do feel that very profoundly.

This really intrigued me. Was I born to write? All I know is that I’ve written stories ever since I was about 8 or 9. Throughout my teens, I wrote cheesy romance stories one after the other. I also kept long diaries – I remember one (when I was 16 or 17) which ended up as a folder about 3 inches thick by the end of the year (oh, how I wish I had kept that diary!). I wrote lengthy letters to penfriends and, later, when I moved away from home, to several friends back home.

In that sense, I have always been a writer. I’ve always had a feel for words and phrasing, and the flow of sentences. It really is something I ‘feel’, rather than something I know.

That doesn’t mean my writing is as good as P.D. James’ writing, although during the past few years, I think I have learnt to write more effectively. Not necessarily following all the ‘rules’, but certainly making my writing ‘sharper’, using simple techniques like getting rid of speech tags and overused words, etc

One thing in P.D.James’ words struck a chord with me. Unintentional pun there, but as child I learnt to play the piano. I wasn’t good, I knew I wasn’t good, but I persevered and by my late teens I played adequately enough to accompany the hymn singing at my local church. However, I wasn’t a musician. I played from technique, and not the ‘feel’ of it. There is a world of difference between technique and that ‘feeling’.

I’ve read blogs and articles where some people have said they ‘decided’ to become a writer. That’s something I’ve never understood. Can you ‘decide’ to become an artist or a musician – or a writer? In my case, there was never a conscious decision. Writing is as integral a part of me as breathing!

What do you think? Can you ‘make a decision’ to become a writer, or are you born with something within you to create stories and write them?

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Staking a Gold Claim by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey



       In the late 1930s my father, Oliver Donaldson, and his brothers, Gilbert and Albert, made their living by panning for gold on two gold claims on the Salmon River, now called the Salmo River, in southern British Columbia. In 1980, Dad, my Mom, my husband Mike, our five children, and I went on a holiday to the Salmo River and the site of the former claims. We found the bottom two rows of logs, all that was left of one of the cabins they had lived in and the second cabin, which was still standing, on the other side of the river.

       Under Dad’s direction we all panned the river. The children were quite excited at finding gold to take home. We toured the area seeing where Dad and his brothers had walked into town to sell their gold and buy some staples and where they had hunted for deer and picked apples to live on. After the trip, Mike and I vowed that someday we would return.

       In the spring of 1992, Mike, and I found ourselves preparing for a death and a wedding in our family. At the beginning of that year, Mike’s oldest sister Sallian had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and one of our sons and his fiancรฉ had set a wedding date. For almost five months we visited Sallian, first at home and then in the hospital. I cannot describe the anger, sorrow, and frustration I felt as I watched what the disease was doing to her. She lost weight and the ability to look after herself. During her final month she was hardly more than a skeleton.

       For those same five months I experienced a mother’s delight and happiness as I helped with the marriage plans. I made the cake, watched my son pick out his tuxedo, found my dress, arranged for my hairdo, and planned a mixed shower of friends and family.

       Balancing my life while dealing with the opposing emotions was truly hard.

       Sallian died on May 25 at age 54. On June 27 over 300 people attended my son's wedding and partied well into the night.

       Like most people it took the death of someone close to me to make me realize how important really living is. I knew Mike and I had to do something adventurous with our lives, something out of the ordinary.

       That summer of 1992 we decided to leave life as we knew it and get a gold claim. Mike found books on gold panning and spent many hours talking from my Dad. He bought new rectangle-shaped, plastic gold pans, vials, and snuffer bottles. I phoned the Minerals Branch of the B.C. government and they sent us a map showing the separate gold claim regions of southern B.C. We set our sights on the Salmo River area.

      For our home we found a used twenty-four foot holiday trailer that had a floor plan we liked. Coincidentally, the people we bought it from had two gold claims in the Yukon. We sold our house, quit our jobs and on September 1, we began our journey west. Mike was pulling the holiday trailer with our half-ton truck, which had our all-terrain vehicle in the back. I was in our smaller four-wheel drive pulling a utility trailer with our prospecting equipment and other paraphernalia we thought we might need.

       It took two days of slow travel to reach the Selkirk Motel and Campsite on the side of the highway at Erie, about three kilometres west of the town of Salmo. We set up camp, hooking up to the water and power. We had until freeze-up to find a claim.

       Next morning we were up early and off to the Gold Commissioner’s Office in Nelson. There were no changes in the maps we had been sent. Since there was no need for both of us to get a Gold Miner’s Certificate, Mike bought one, two red metal tags, and a topographical map, and was given his recording form. We were hopeful as we headed to the Salmo River.

       Although the open spots we were looking for were on a different section of the river from my fathers, we didn’t mind. Getting a claim on the Salmo was what mattered. As we neared one location we slowed down and began watching the bush for a post with a tag on it that would show the boundary of the neighbouring claim. When we found it we checked the number on the tag with the number on the map and it matched. We went down the steep bank, holding onto small trees and bushes to keep from sliding. Mike ran a few pans from the downstream side of a large rock, one of the places Dad had told us that gold collects. Others were on the inside of curve on rivers and in the roots of trees beside the water. However, at this part of the river there wasn’t any gold to be found.

       We drove to another site further downstream. The bank was a sheer drop to the river. Discouraged, we returned to the campsite.

       The next day we went to find Dad’s former claim. We drove down to the border crossing at Nelway and turned right just before the Custom’s office. We travelled beside ranches and alongside the Pend D’Oreille River. After we crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Salmo River we turned right onto a narrow, gravel road. It was steep in places and there were many sharp curves just as we remembered. We drove over Wallach Creek but after that we couldn’t find anything else that looked familiar. It had only been twelve years since we had been there. When we went in 1980, it had been forty years since Dad had lived there, but he found it. Our memories were not quite as good as his.

       With a growing sense of urgency we spent days checking Rest Creek, Erie River, Limpid Creek and many others with little success.

       The Salmo River kept calling us and we returned to the bridge and mouth of the river. Mike tried for gold. No luck. We drove along the south side of the river where we found the second cabin Dad had shown us. There was a truck and camper in the yard. We stopped to talk to the man there and learned that four people, three men and a woman, now had my Dad’s and my uncle’s claims. He told us they were the two best claims on the river.

       I explained where the cabin had been on the north side and he told us how to reach it. This time we found the trail to the river and came upon the remains of the log cabin. Just past it we stood on the bluff looking down on the river as we had done twelve years earlier with my parents and our children. The memories came flooding back: the walk to the river with each child carrying a pie plate to use as a gold pan, finding gold only to discover that we had nothing to put it in, one daughter coming up with the idea of sticking it to bandages, camping near the river.

       But we didn’t have time to linger. We were working against the weather. Mike went over our maps of the Salmo River again and this time noticed that there is a small portion on the curve of the river that was open near the old cabin. Because the claims on either side formed rectangles it was missed by both of them. We found the posts of those claims then hurried to Nelson to confirm that the piece was available. It was.

       There wasn’t time to stake it that night so we had to wait until morning. We rose early, went out to the river and put one of Mike’s red tags on the post of the claim to the east of ours. Mike took a compass and orange flagging and we began to mark off the distance, tying the flagging to trees as we went. At the end of five hundred yards Mike cut a tree, leaving a stump about three feet high. He squared off the top and I nailed up our final tag with the information scratched by knife point onto it. The claim was five hundred yards by five hundred yards and was called the Donaldson.

       We hurried back to Nelson and handed in the recording form. We were ecstatic. Not only had we located an area on the same river as my father, but we actually had part of his old claim. We went to the river and found a clearing for us to set up camp when we came back the next spring. Mike took his gold pan and headed down to the water’s edge.

       I followed and sat on a large rock. As I watched the water flow sedately by, a deep sense of relaxation settled over me, the first I had felt since the beginning of the year. It helped me begin to deal with the fact that I had witnessed Death at work.

       Sallian was the first one in either of our immediate families to die. I had seen the tragedy of death strike my friends but didn’t understand how devastating it could be until it happened to me.

       We spent the winter in our holiday trailer in a campground in Vancouver and returned to the claim in the spring. Our campsite was in the middle of tall pine, birch, spruce, and cedar and I could just barely see the mountain tops to the south. The mountains to the north were higher and made a lovely backdrop to the trees. Each morning I walked through the bush to the river. I sat on a large triangle-shaped rock and watched the water drift by. A partridge sometimes drummed in the distance. Birds sang in the trees. I would take a deep breath of the cool, fresh air. It was a good place to be.

       We panned for gold, explored the area, and generally enjoyed our freedom but soon our adventure was over and in the fall we returned to the real world. We never did find much gold but then, for me, it really wasn’t about the gold.

       My mystery/romance novel, Gold Fever, is loosely based on my gold claim experience.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Magic of a Horse by Victoria Chatham



Most people have an interest or hobby about which they are passionate. It could be gardening, golf, quilting or fishing. For me, it is horses. My parents, as non-horsey people, never understood where my passion for all things equine stemmed, but I lay this lifelong love of horses squarely on my father’s shoulders.

After surgery that had nothing to do with war wounds at the end of WWII, my father faced a lengthy recovery period. His occupational therapy of choice was making soft toys for his then unseen baby daughter. He arrived home when I was two years old. I promptly howled at him but was quickly pacified by the beautifully made animals he brought with him—a pink rabbit, an elephant, two dogs, one white and the other black, and a blue felt horse with an arched neck and flowing mane and tail. ‘Horsey’ became my instant love and constant companion.

In the post-war era, we still had door-to-door deliveries, and I quickly learned the sound and names of the vendors’ horses and ponies. At six and seven years old, spending long summer holidays in Cornwall, I knew and rode every one of the beach ponies. At eight years old, I had my first formal riding lesson. At nine and ten, I spent the summer holidays with my grandmother and two cousins who were as horse-mad as me. It wasn’t long before we found riding stables where we worked all summer for our rides. We handled the most bloody-minded ponies imaginable, unaware at the time of the valuable lessons they taught us. When I was thirteen, we moved to an urban area with not a horse in sight, but I read about horses, drew horses, and hand-crafted horses from pipe-cleaners and wool.

 When I was sixteen and contemplating a career, my parents refused to let me leave home and take up the prized working-pupil position I so coveted, which would have earned me a horse riding instructor’s certificate. At eighteen, I left home anyway and worked in hunting stable until marriage and family ended that career. When my daughter, now a teenager, became interested in riding, we haunted our local riding stables. Most evenings after riding, we would go to the local pub, The Ragged Cot. It was here one evening that, after some quick calculations on a napkin, she announced, “You know, Mum, with what we spend at the stables, we could have a horse of our own.”

 My old dream of having a horse resurfaced. If we did this together, then having a horse became financially viable. Between us, we agreed on our criteria. Our horse would have to be of medium height and hardy as, having no stable, it would have to live out. It had to be good in traffic as we had the prospect of a lot of road riding before we got to bridle paths and other off-road tracks. Sex, age, and colour were optional. Versatility for combining our equestrian ambitions was essential. We started scouring the classifieds and travelled all over our county and two neighbouring ones, only to become quickly disillusioned with the vagaries of advertising.

 A horse described as ‘onward bound’ had no brakes. A mare described as a ‘good jumper’ proved it by jumping out of the paddock where we put her several times. After four days of a two-week trial and seeing the probability of numerous looming liabilities, we returned her to her owner. As summer came to a close and we had not found our dream horse, we decided to end our search for that year. Then, in the last week of September, I opened the local paper and was immediately drawn to an advert that read: ‘15hh chestnut gelding for sale. Six-hundred pounds including tack.’

 Right size, great price and, I thought, too good to be true. I put the paper aside but picked up the phone two days later. The young woman who answered sounded breathless, as if she’d been running, and said, “Oh, I’m so glad you called!” Did we know each other? But no, Diana was simply anxious to sell her horse as her wedding to a non-horse person was only weeks away.

“Could you tell me a bit about your horse?” I asked.

“Well,” she began, “his name is Paunt House Royal Lancer, and he’s a full-bred Arab and—”

I stopped her there. I didn’t want a full-bred anything, especially something as exotic as an Arab horse.

“But you must at least come and meet him,” she exclaimed. “He’s a lovely person.”

Now, the concept of a horse being a ‘lovely person’ was a bit beyond me, but I got swept up in her enthusiasm and arranged to meet her and her horse the following Sunday. She said to look for a white-walled house with a red-tiled roof beside a bus stop. We had no trouble following her directions. Paddocks and neatly kept flowerbeds surrounded the house. As my daughter and I walked up the garden path, the front door opened, and Diana greeted us like old friends.

“You’re perfect,” she said as she looked us over. “Lancer is going to love you. This way.”

We followed her around the back of the house, slightly bemused by her certainty that we would be Lancer’s new owners. We stopped at the paddock gate, immediately entranced with the sight before us. Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder, but here beauty stood almost knee-deep in lush green grass. 

Here was a horse whose coat glowed as brightly as the crust of a loaf of bread fresh from the oven. The graceful curve of his neck and head, the crescent-shaped tips of his ears and the flaring, questing nostrils declared him a true Arab horse, the fabled drinker of the wind. Behind the fringe of his thick forelock, we could see one full, round eye, gleaming with interest, intelligence, and unmistakable kindness.

We stood silent and stunned as he came toward us. His legs parted the grass soundlessly, making him appear to glide rather than walk. His warm and moist, sweet-smelling breath washed over us as he gently nuzzled us in turn. We drank in his greeting and called him ours.

We had so much fun with him for the following four years.We jumped him, sometimes successfully, I rode him in dressage classes and showed him in-hand. He became a much-loved part of the family and was as happy on our back-lawn as he was in his paddock. But then our lives changed and we had to find him a new home, as had Diana. For a while we kept in touch with his new mom, but even though that connection finally faded, the magic of a horse called Lancer never did.

Victoria Chatham



NB: Images from the author's collection.

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