Friday, October 3, 2014

Finding Focus

I find it ironic that when my body and mind are busy and I have "no time" to sit still and write, my body creates time. Usually, I either get sick or sidelined by an injury because I'm too scattered and not paying attention.

September for me has been a blur of deadlines, training an employee, learning a whole new job, kids at school, out of town company, karate gradings (not mine!), and other assorted activities. It was almost expected I would hurt myself during a 5km charity run. I hadn't slowed down in weeks. Thanks to a knee injury, I've been forced to slow down - a little anyway.


When life becomes a blur, we may have momentum, but lose our focus. Whether on writing, raising families, or just our day to day lives, we also lose the joy in doing the things we do. Things we once loved suddenly become a chore. "I have to" replaces "I like to." Hence the creature known as the dreaded Writer's Block.

I would highly recommend slowing down a little before injury or illness occur because sometimes that's exactly what it takes for us to step back and recall the things we "like" to do. To remember how much we like to write when we don't "have" to. To bring back the thrill of being creative, of being able to move without pain, and of taking life one day at a time.

In between all the "have tos" over the past few days, I settled down to write a short story. Something I've wanted to do, but "didn't have time" for. Suddenly, the short story is done and off to a publisher for an anthology. A little bit of fun to wrap up my hectic month. Suddenly, all seems right with the world again and my creativity is re-ignited.

Find your focus. Find your bliss.
Diane Bator
Author of Wild Blue Mystery Series

Thursday, October 2, 2014

ROMANTIC CLICHES AND STORYLINES - MARGARET TANNER


THESE ARE MY FAVOURITE ROMANTIC CLICHÉS AND STORYLINES – MARGARET TANNER

I write historical romance, so maybe my take on the cliché and storylines is different from that of contemporary romance authors.

I like to base my stories around:
Love lost and found
The rogue makes good
The poor girl and the rich man
The soft sweet heroine taming the ruthless hero. (This is a particular favourite of mine and one I use a lot).

Then there are the three “Rs” – Revenge, Retribution and Redemption.

There again, what about the clichés used in novels. You know what I mean, those overused phrases:

Crushed her against his hard maleness
Her heart fluttered like a caged bird
The night was as black as ink.
A million stars twinkled
She ran like the wind
He covered her face with hot kisses
His warm breath fanned her cheeks
Cold as ice
The blood flowed through her veins like molten lava.

I have to confess to having used them myself, but in all honesty, I doubt that there would be one romance author who could say she hadn’t used some of these lines at some time or another.

My real favourite is the one that Barbara Cartland, the queen of romance, used for her hero in nearly everyone one of her romance novels. “He was a rake who had lived a life of debauchery.”  

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see anything wrong with using these clichés, I think they set the scene very well. Many editors don’t like them, of course. The secret is – use them sparingly.
My take is this:  If you want to use clichés be selective. If all else fails you can invent a few of your own.

Margaret writes historical romance set mainly in Australia. Her latest release, The Loves We Left Behind, is a 3 book Combo (three separate novels, all stand-alone stories in the one book.)  This is a special release to mark the centenary of the 1st World War.

It tells the stories of three different women who triumph over loss, heartache and betrayal.

THE LOVES WE LEFT BEHIND:
A hundred years ago, from the far flung corners of the British Empire, young men rushed to fight for Mother England. They left their wives and sweethearts behind. Many of these brave women waited in vain for their men folk to return. How did they cope with the loss and heartache? Could they ever hope to find happiness with another man? Three full novels, each telling a brave young woman’s story of triumph over tragedy and adversity. Allison’s War, Daring Masquerade and Lauren’s Dilemma.

 
http://amzn.com/B00MASTCHM

Available in Print also from your favourite bookstore.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spirit Travel and Keriam's Dilemma by Shirley Martin

   Imagine a kingdom where magic is forbidden, where guilt of practicing sorcery is punishable by death. In my fantasy romance, "Night Secrets" Princess Keriam has preternatural powers, one of which is spirit travel. This phenomenon also goes by the names of astral travel and out-of-body experience. No matter what it's called, it's an ability that many people possess. Keriam agonizes, what if someone sees her spirit while she's having one of her out-of-body experiences? If found guilty, she will suffer a horrible death, and not even her father--the king--could save her. 
   One night, she has an astral trip that begins thusly:  "A slight tug released Keriam from her body. She floated toward the ceiling, amazed as always that she could look down at herself in bed. With a certainty borne of past experience, she knew this was no dream. Ever since her mother's death two years ago, preternatural powers had evolved within her, and why, she didn't know. Was it her mother's way of watching over her from the Otherworld?  These nightly journeys were even more recent, and something she must learn to control, if only she knew how...
    She drifted outside and traveled over the countryside, her soul finally setting down in the dark forest. While there, she overheard three men plotting her father's assassination. What could she do now? How can she reveal the plot to her father without betraying her supernatural power?
    One of the plotters, Roric Gamal, is about to disclose the details of the plot when Keriam's body calls her spirit back, and she must return...
   "A tug pulled her spirit back. No, not now! She must discover more of the plotters' plan." 
   And is Roric Gamal really one of the plotters, or only pretending to be? Throughout "Night Secrets" Keriam fights her growing attraction for Roric, confused about his loyalty to the kingdom and to her father.

   "Night Secrets" is the first romantic fantasy of the Avador series. I invite you to read this fantasy and the others in the series. 
   "Night Shadows" is the second. 
    "Enchanted Cottage" is the third, followed by "Allegra's Dream" and "Wolf Magic." 
     For lovers of fantasy romance, these romances are bound to please. 


                                                                   
   

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Research -- The Joys of "Being There" by Kathy Fischer-Brown



As a writer of historical novels set in the 18th century, I find doing the research is as interesting as writing the book itself…if not more so. In this modern age, it can be done easily, without having to leave the comfort of one’s chair. Digitization of more and more old, formerly hard-to-find source books, blogs and specialized websites have taken much of the drudgery out of what used to be a time-consuming chore. 
Old Sturbridge Village
But even with a wealth of available information, nothing is quite as stimulating as “being there.” The acrid smell of black powder smoke settling over a field in the hot glare of autumn sun, along with the crack of musket fire; the boom of cannons belching fire; the feel on your face of the dry heat of kitchen fires on a sultry summer day; flies swarming about the kitchen through open, distorting glass windows…all provide a unique entry into the world I try to recreate in my novels. When attempting to capture these sensory details, books and journals, letters and maps fall short, leaving too many of these tangible elements to the imagination.
Recruits drill at Saratoga National Park
When I was a child of ten, my family visited Williamsburg, Virginia, and I fell hopelessly in love with the place and the era it represents. The clothing, the smells and sounds affected me with a deep sense that, if just for the short time we were there, I had traveled back in time. Over the years, we made similar visits to other living history sites in the Northeast and Southern U.S. As an adult, I took my children to Mystic, CT, Old Sturbridge, MA and many a re-enactment rendezvous. The magic I’d experienced as a child had not released its hold on me.
During the weekend of September 19-21, a fellow historical writer friend and I attended the 237th anniversary of the “Turning Point of the American Revolution” at the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, NY. Being transported to an earlier period in time was magical, marvelous, and informative.
We spent all day Saturday and part of Sunday traveling by car around the park, stopping at the numbered points of interest along the route to marvel at the scenery from the heights overlooking the Hudson River Valley and beyond. At other tour stops, we met members of the various re-enacting groups representing both the American and British camps. While other tourists milled about, we sat around pungent campfires and chatted with women toiling with the laundry in wooden buckets using water carried up the heights in pails, with a rifleman who was more than happy to answer our questions and explain how he cleans his flintlock after a long day on the battlefield. We also watched a group of raw recruits go through the paces of loading and firing their weapons...with a little help from the drill master.
British Camp follower at Saratoga National Park
As interesting as it was to spend time with the “Americans,” the British encampment provided opportunities to delve into the sort of stuff not taught in history classes. Here we met a Royal Navy man, a Hessian soldier, Loyalists, and bevy of camp followers and their children. One of the women introduced us to an assortment of vegetables common at the time. We even sampled carrots and beans not found in our local supermarkets.
I don’t know about anyone else, but after watching numerous movies and made-for-TV-series set during this period, I wondered how those woolen breeches worn by the British army stayed so white during their mucky slogs through the wilderness. “Chalk,” explained the young man portraying a Loyalist Indian agent. Who’d have imagined that? He also showed us some his equipment, which included an actual sword (and explained how it differs from reproduction swords) and an ingenious device he called “the Bic lighter” of the 18th century.
In addition to the clothes and the sights, smells and sounds from the past, we experienced that otherworldly sensation of walking among ghosts on hallowed ground where so many bled and died, where a future traitor achieved his finest hour, on a tract of land that has been preserved for today and for those of tomorrow who can—if just for a short while—step back in time.

~Kathy Fischer-Brown
Cover art by Michelle Lee
cover art by Michelle Lee






Monday, September 29, 2014

THE WIZARD OF OZ and me


 
 
 
It’s seventy five years since the movie of the Wizard of Oz was made. It’s one hundred and fourteen years since the book was written, but everyone—probably everywhere—knows the story well. The movie images, especially, lurk in the back of the mind of every one who has ever seen it, whether in the movie theater or on the small screen at home.  From the tornado to the dramatic switch from drab reality to full color fantasy, everything about it was a visual treat, especially back in the days when such "special effects" were new, and we weren’t plied on a daily basis with mind-boggling CG.

I think everyone has their own recollection of the first time they saw The Wizard of Oz. I certainly do, and the memory is not entirely a happy one. I was born long enough ago to have seen the movie for the first time in a local theater. Nothing beats the screen for overwhelming effect, even when this screen was small by current standards.  The Little Art Theater, as it was called, was basically a long narrow room with a screen and little stage at one end. It occupied the middle of a 19th Century three story, block-long brick building, the kind that lined most typical downtowns. The local college crowd viewed avant garde foreign films there—auteurs like Bergman, Renoir, Pasolini—hence the name, but our theater also showed standard Hollywood fare, because, then as now, folks need to make a living.  
 
 

My blonde, blue-eyed Aunt Jean, (now, unimaginably, gone,) took my Cousin Michael and I to see The Wizard of Oz. I can't have been more than six, perhaps even younger. Aunt Jean was a lady of standing in our little town, so I have a memory of her in a blue and white checked shirtwaist dress, low heels, a hat and white gloves. My cousin was younger, but we were both near-sighted, so we sat near the front on the aisle, if memory serves.  In those days, we both peered around the shoulder of whoever was in front of us, perched on the edge of our seats. Nevertheless, then as now impressionable, I was immediately swept away, (just like poor Dorothy!) into the fantasy.

The first scary thing was when wicked Agnes Gooch took away Toto to be put down. I had recently owned a puppy, one that had been squashed in the road right before my eyes, so I was familiar with the pain and sorrow of loss that comes at the death of a fur friend. Next, came the tornado. My home town is in western Ohio, so I was on a first name basis with those, too. I’d seen the fear grow in my father’s eyes whenever he studied our stormy, threatening, lightning-filled skies, searching for any sign of oncoming catastrophe.

Nerves already on edge, for me the grand finale came when the green-faced witch and her awful minions, the flying monkeys, took over the screen.  I was so far submerged in the fantasy that what happened next might have been expected. When the monkeys came flying to tear the poor Scarecrow apart, leaving his strawy insides all over the road—well, in sixties parlance—I flipped, and began to scream at the top of my lungs.
 
 

My aunt was mortified, as was my younger cousin—who was, as he pointed later when the dire subject came up again - a boy, and therefore impervious to fear. I was whisked out of my seat and marched into the lobby. Here, away from the movie, fear of my Aunt’s displeasure quickly displaced the nightmare in which I'd been submerged. I remember standing, sobbing under the too bright lobby lights, with my Aunt shaking me and scolding. 

 “Now, Judy Lee! If you don’t stop that nonsense at once, I will never take you to the movies ever again!” 
Eventually, we returned to the dark theater. I remember drowning in embarrassment and holding back from my earlier willing immersion in the story so the shameful loss of control wouldn't attack again. 

Fashions in child-rearing have certainly changed, but even now I bear my Aunt no ill-will, because according to the rules of the world in which we lived, her reaction was the correct one.  It's an amusing memory, I guess, and also one that is "period correct."

Anyway, Happy 75th Birthday to the Wicked Witch and all her minions. I've thought of her far more often over the years than I have of Dorothy.
 

 ~~Juliet Waldron

 
 Now, only .99 - 2.99 at Amazon       http://amzn.com/B0089F5X3C
 
learn more about my historical novels at:
 

     

Never, Never, Ever Play Poker With Raccoons

Never, Never, Ever Play Poker With Raccoons This is my after Easter blog post. Hey, everyone posts on Easter, thought more people would...