Friday, May 27, 2016


Vouvant walls - Postern gate
As I start writing the last book (#8) in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, I realize this project has been twenty years in the making. Twenty years? Where did the time go?

That summer of 1996, I was vacationing in my mother's village, in western France, a tiny place named Vouvant, voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. As I walked through the local museum, a silver and blue tapestry in a special exhibit piqued my curiosity. The scene of a noble wedding between Melusine the Fae and Sigefroi of Ardennes, first Count of Luxembourg. I did a double take. The date on the label: 963 AD.

You see, in Vouvant, Melusine the Fae is the local celebrity. Cursed since childhood to become a mermaid on certain days, she nevertheless married knight Raymond of Forez, with whom she started the famous and infamous family of Lusignan. Among her descendants are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Guy de Lusignan, Robert of Lusignan (Kings of Jerusalem and Cyprus) even King Richard the Lionheart. She built fortresses to protect the entire region and is said to have built the castle of Vouvant with the tower that bears her name in one night... to protect the village against invaders... but that was in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. So how could she be in Luxembourg in 963, even less marrying its founder, Count Sigefroi?

I could never resist a mystery, so I started digging. I went from local castles to museums, asking questions, visiting libraries, finding old accounts of ancient legends, translations and studies of medieval myths, gathering historical details. To my great surprise, Melusine the Fae appeared at different times in history in different places in Europe, with a similar curse and a different story. First in Luxembourg, then in Forez, and later in Lusignan near Vouvant.

I learned that her mother was Pressine the Fae, who married King Elinas of Alba (ancient Scotland) during the Viking invasions in the early 800s. Melusine also had two sisters, Palatina and Meliora. All of them cursed for abusing their powers in childhood. The only problem was, their story spanned too many centuries. From their birth in the 800s in Scotland during the first Viking invasions, all the way to the Crusades in the 1200s.

Melusine, Castle of Lusignan
The early accounts of the legends, written in the 1300s and the 1400s varied greatly. I found genealogies, scholarly studies of the myths, and a host of historical facts. The writer in me saw an opportunity. A series... a family of Fae... persecuted for their powers, roaming the medieval world in search of redemption from a curse... and they had to be immortal!

I wasn't published yet, but I had three manuscripts with an agent. When I returned home to Arizona, I told my agent about my idea and she gave me her blessing with great enthusiasm. So I started writing.

My agent shopped the idea for the series. No one wanted to hear about it. It was a mix of several genres, historical, fantasy, and romance. I didn't have a following to guarantee booming sales. No one wanted to take a chance on such a series... especially from an unknown author.

Melusine's tower in vouvant still stands today

In 2000, my first contemporary novel came out, then two science fiction novels. Many other sci-fi and romance novels followed with various publishers, but still no interest in my immortal ladies. My agent retired. I kept pitching the series to other agents and publishers. No dice. I put them on the back burner but kept writing and researching in my spare time. Over the next ten years, each trip back to Europe became an opportunity to research a different location where the legends occurred.

In 2010, I signed up with Books We Love Ltd, a Canadian publisher who was reissuing my back list of out of print books. They liked my writing and asked me if I had any original works for them to publish. I sent them the first book of my immortal ladies and they loved it. The rest is history. Seven books are now published in the Curse of the Lost Isle series. The latest, DAMSEL OF THE HAWK (the story of Meliora) came out last month, and I'm just starting the very last novel in the series, ANGEL OF LUSIGNAN, which should come out in December or January.

It boggles the mind that this series has been my obsession for the past twenty years. I hope the readers enjoy the experience I created for them. I'm going to miss these wonderful characters when I write "the end" on this last novel.

Curse of the Lost Isle Book 7
in kindle and paperback:

1204 AD - Meliora, the legendary damsel of Hawk Castle, grants gold and wishes on Mount Ararat, but must forever remain chaste. When Spartak, a Kipchak warrior gravely wounded in Constantinople, requests sanctuary, she breaks the rule to save his life. The fierce, warrior prince stirs in her forbidden passions. Captivated, Spartak will not bow to superstition. Despite tribal opposition, he wants her as his queen. Should Meliora renounce true love, or  embrace it and trigger the sinister curse... and the wrath of the Goddess? Meanwhile, a thwarted knight and his greedy band of Crusaders have vowed to steal her Pagan gold and burn her at the stake...

The complete Curse of the Lost Isle series includes:
Book 1 - PRINCESS OF BRETAGNE (early story of Pressine)
Book 2 - PAGAN QUEEN (later story of Pressine)
Book 3 - SEDUCING SIGEGROI (early story of Melusine in Luxembourg)
Book 4 - LADY OF LUXEMBOURG (later story of Melusine in Luxembourg)
Book 5 - CHATELAINE OF FOREZ (story of Melusine in Forez)
Book 6 - BELOVED CRUSADER (story of Palatina First Crusade)
Book 7 - DAMSEL OF THE HAWK (story of Meliora exiled in Turkey)
Book 8 - ANGEL OF LUSIGNAN (last story of Melusine late 2016 or early 2017)

There is also a boxed set of the first 4 novels in kindle for a friendly price. CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE boxed set


Vijaya Schartz

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I’m not a good blogger—Tricia McGill

Does anyone else out there have the same problem? I’m always in awe of the folk who find something interesting to say on their blog every day. I know, I’m a writer so therefore should be able to write about anything. But finding things to write about on my blog comes hard to me. Ask me to write a piece of fiction, a full length novel or short story, and I have no trouble whatsoever. 

I don’t lead a vastly exciting life, so perhaps that has something to do with it. But others probably lead just as uninteresting lives, yet can make the most mundane happening sound unusual. I have no children so unfortunately have no grandchildren to tell you about. I have my two dogs but people would soon tire of hearing me waffling on about their antics, as most folk who possess dogs have just as many funny stories or disasters of their own that to hear about what my two get up to would probably sound dull in comparison. The many funny animal videos on the net prove that. I have thousands of pictures of my pets, past and present and have a few of these on my Pinterest page.

I dislike cooking so have no delicious recipes to write about. My evening meal is usually decided on at about 5pm when I am ready to switch my computer off for the day and start to think about what I fancy for my dinner. Living alone has some advantages as well as disadvantages. I have to admit that one of the things that took me quite some time to get used to when I first married was finding something interesting to cook for my husband each day. I ended up not a bad cook but when your efforts are compared, as a young bride, to your mother in law’s cooking it can be disheartening. But don’t feel sorry for me, my husband was not a cruel man just one who had been spoilt. My steak and kidney pie was deemed, “Tasty, but the pastry could have been crumblier,” or similar. I didn’t bake a meat pie for quite a few years after my first humble tries. My hubby loved my Yorkshire pudding though which always turned out a success and sometimes rose so high that it was hard to get it out of the oven. I excelled at toad in the hole, which for those who are not English and have no idea what I am talking about, is sausages within the same batter as Yorkshire pudding.

One of my early short stories is called, ‘The Meat Ball’ and was inspired by a true event in our lives. My mother-in law made really tasty meat balls and showed me how it was done. She was one of these really slow and precise cooks who stood there every moment and watched over whatever she was preparing. Well, she gave me the recipe and directions which I followed to the letter. But, impatient as always, I must have tried to hasten the process, for when the finished product was put in front of my husband, as he tried to cut into one it was so hard that it bounced off his plate and onto the floor. We kept one of those meatballs as a souvenir and it even came to Australia with us and moved from place to place until we were able to buy our own home. It sat in a small bowl on a shelf for a few years and one day as I was dusting I noticed it was gone. I calculated it was probably about fifteen years old by then. We surmised that one of our dogs must have found it and as it was as hard as rock decided it was a bone that had to be buried. We never saw it again. As a footnote to this story, I did learn to make decent meat balls (rissoles? burgers?) in later years.

My problem was that our mother didn’t really want us messing about in the kitchen while she was preparing our meals. That probably had something to do with the fact that I was the youngest of ten and she was likely better off in the kitchen alone, as she served up meals to so many plates. One thing I did love, was to be allowed to have the first slice off the roast meat as she cut it (I was the spoiled baby). There were five of us daughters and three of the others turned out to be excellent cooks. I still don’t know how as they were not allowed in the kitchen often either. Our mother’s recipes were all in her head. She never used scales, but knew exactly how much of the ingredients to put into the bowl. She liked to make cupcakes, and if they turned out perhaps not as soft as they should then they became her special ‘rock cakes’. I am practically a vegetarian now. I say, practically, as I sometimes eat meat when I am dining out, but never buy red meat for myself.

I like to potter about in my small garden and love my plants, but I am no expert so chances of me writing about that are out of the question. I do volunteer work which takes up what spare time I do have, but could not possibly write about some of the disabled clients I help with their computers. I don’t seem to have a lot of time left in my day to read as I used to. I read before dropping off to sleep at night and often only get to about four pages before I nod off. I envy people who can speed read as I have never been able to read quickly. If I am enjoying a book and find the author’s style great then I stop to savor the words and often read a paragraph that has appealed to me over again which slows me down considerably. 

In the days before my passion became writing I painted for a while, but it was my sister who became a skilled artist, while I went on to write. That same sister also became very musical and could play her keyboard with expertise. I unfortunately can play no instrument at all and thought I could sing a little—but that was before I made a family video some years ago, and when I heard the playback of me singing along with my sister’s playing, vowed never to sing in company again. And sadly was also asked never to sing on tape again.

So, there you have it, my blog posts are few and far between for a very good reason. The only subject I have to write about is my books. And on that subject here is my latest release from Books We Love:
Buy here

Or you can go to my webpage which is a lot more interesting than my blog: 
Visit my Webpage
Or my BWL Author page

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On the Road with Randall Sawka - first stop Korea


As my dear wife Nancy and I spend the next twelve months moving around the globe adjustments were the order of the week(s) when it came to writing.

Our first stop was and is Korea (Southern division).  Week one was a write off due to jet lag, acclimatizing to the Korean way of life, and a cold I picked up on the flight (don't worry, I was kind enough to share it with Nancy). When traveling we visit the odd "tourist attraction." However, we much prefer to live with the locals and eat with the locals.

As for writing, I like writing away from "home." Home is a hotel room until we take over our friends apartment in Taichung, Taiwan for a few months. I also like a slight din in the background. Either chatting or instrumental music. I will also add that I prefer a table. My first thought was to plop down in the lobby or the chairs outside the lobby. Not going to work. Aside from being small lobbies, all of the hotel's we have stayed at feature large TV's inside and outside the lobby endlessly playing K-pop dancing groups. This does not fit with someone like me who prefers classical music. Plan B was getting away from the hotel. I strolled to a park (Seoul) or the beach (Busan). 

Here I found the perfect background noise: men playing the ancient board game called Go. They played mostly in silence, the board in the middle of a flat bench and they straddle the bench at each end.

Here is example of Go game. It may have other names.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why Zombie through Life when you can Dance, by Sandy Semerad

         When I was a child, I used to listen to music and dance around the house. I pretended to be the happy hero, rather than the little girl who’d lost her daddy. Daddy died of a heart attack when I was seven, and I worried Mama might die, and I’d have to live with my crazy aunt.

When I danced, I could be Ginger Roger or Fred Astaire. Today I love to dance while watching Dancing with the Stars, and see myself as a winner.
         For many years, I thought I was the only person who fantasized through dance. But then I met a hitchhiker named Mary. (I have a character like Mary in my second novel, Hurricane House.)

I came to know Mary after I’d moved from Atlanta to Florida. When I first met her I couldn't believe she was a hitchhiker. She looked like a fifty-year-old mother or grandmother.

Mary carried everything she owned in a duffle bag. Each item had been neatly packed, not what you’d expect from a hitchhiker.

“Aren’t you afraid to ride with strangers?” I asked her.

“I usually ride with truckers I trust,” she said, and went on to explain how she showered and washed her clothes in truck stops. To earn money, she cleaned the trucks she rode in, and when she felt lonely or sad, she danced.

Mary used to be an opera singer in New York City, she said. To prove it, she sang for me. She had a beautiful voice. When I asked her why she would give that up, she said she had a tear on her vocal cords.

Back then, she had planned to get surgery to repair the damage, but she lost her job as a switchboard operator. Technology had phased her out.

Without a paying job, she eventually lost her apartment and moved in with her boyfriend. Unfortunately, her boyfriend drank and abused her, as her parents had when she was growing up.

To escape the abusive boyfriend, she took a train to Seattle, thinking she could find a job there. She stayed in a homeless shelter while she searched for work. The shelter smelled like “stinky socks,” she said, and being a clean freak, she had to leave. That’s when she decided to hitch her first ride with a trucker, and she’d been hitchhiking ever since, she said.

Not easy and often scary, she admitted. The hardest part was learning to sleep sitting up and eating paper when she had no food.

She used to be an atheist, she said, but that all changed the day her hunger forced her to pray, “God if you’re there, help me.”

After the prayer, she looked down, and saw twenty dollars on the ground. From that day forward, she believed in God, she said.

A few weeks after I met and talked with Mary, she called me. It was almost Thanksgiving. I asked Mary if she’d like to come visit me for a few days. I didn’t expect her to clean and organize my house, but that’s what she did. She even rearranged and color coordinated my closet. I have never been that organized since.

I told everyone about Mary. I thought she could do the same for them, and eventually she might make enough money to get off the road.

One of my friends said she’d pay Mary to clean and organize her place. I thought Mary would be happy about this.

But when I told her, she frowned angrily. “I don’t want to clean her place. She smokes. I helped you, because I wanted to, and now my job is done.”

She asked me to drop her off at the MacDonald’s. “It’s time for me to hit the road and dance away,” she said. 

At first I felt sad leaving her there, but as soon as she jumped out of the car, she smiled and waved and appeared happy.

A month or so later I received a card from Mary. On the card, she’d painted a beach scene with a seagull flying in a blue sky—Mary would probably say the seagull was dancing.

Since then, I’ve lost track of her. I wish we could have kept in touch through the years. I’d like to know how she’s doing. She might be happy to know Larry and I have gotten married. She thought he was a stellar guy when she met him, and she was right.

She used to say she dreamed of opening up a truck stop to serve the truckers, who had been kind enough to let her ride with them. Serving others would allow her to dance, rather than zombie through life, she said, and she preferred to dance.

Whenever I hear the song I Hope You Dance, I’m reminded of Mary. Written by Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers, this song seems to express the inspiration she gave to me and offers guidance to us all. Here’s some of the lyric:
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens,

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

Dance…I hope you dance.”

Here's my second novel Hurricane House, where I patterned one of my characters after Mary: A hurricane hits a Florida fishing village with a murderer at large: 

                                    Buy from AMAZON

My latest novel, A Message in the Roses, is based on a murder trial I covered in Atlanta. It's also a love story.  

                           Buy from AMAZON


My first Mystery, Sex, Love & Murder: A young journalist, visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras, is drawn into a series of murders involving the President. 

                            Buy from AMAZON

Please visit my website for more information: 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Sydell Voeller

During my teen years, I kept an almost-daily journal, detailing the trials and joys of my young life.  While I’d always been interested in writing—I worked as associate editor of the high school paper and editor of the creative writing magazine—it didn’t occur to me until some 20 years later that I had lots of fodder at my fingertips to write young adult romances.  (Not that I had had oodles of boyfriends in high school, mind you—actually, just a few—but  the journal nonetheless sparked many ideas.)

So I took a deep breath and plunged in, while at the same time working part-time as a registered nurse.  One of the most important things I learned in my quest for publication was that I had to pay my dues.  I like to joke that the walls of my office were papered in rejection slips, but that’s not far from the truth.  So, during this learning process, I checked out writer’s magazines from the library, purchased books on “how to write,” joined a critique group, and started attending writer’s conferences.  A couple of years later, I received a phone call from a New York publisher offering me a book contract—and I’m sure you can imagine my exhilaration.  I had indeed paid my dues!  I was on my way to becoming a professional author!

For the next few years, I continued to write and publish teen romance novels, plus young adult short stories for teen magazines, many of them church-affiliated.  I loved rolling back the years and once again inhabiting the mind of a teenager!  How satisfying to get a second chance, to live all the scenarios that in my “real” teen life I had somehow missed, but most importantly, to relive all those wonderful experiences that had indeed been a part of my growing up years.  (This was back during the era when series teen romances were squeaky clean and just plain fun. Such books hadn’t quite yet entered the period that followed a decade or more later when squeaky clean had morphed into edgier, more serious stories.) 

Eventually I decided to graduate to adult romances, although I adhered to the “family reading” guidelines required by my then-publisher.  Hence, my heroines became a bit older and the conflict a little more sophisticated—and are now commonly categorized as sweet traditional romances.   

List of my books:

The Fisherman's Daughter–adult romantic suspense
Sandcastles of Love—YA romance
Summer Magic—adult sweet contemporary romance
Her Sister's Keeper—adult sweet contemporary romance
Free to Love—adult sweet contemporary romance
Daisies Are Forever—adult sweet contemporary romance
A House Divided—adult inspirational romance
Dummy & Me! –YA romance
The Heart Leads Home—adult sweet contemporary romance
Skateboard BluesYA romance
Love on a High WireYA romance
Star Light Star Brightadult sweet contemporary romance

Love on a High Wire
Marcie's attraction to Ivan sparked the very moment they met. But they lived in totally different worlds. She was a local high school student leading an everyday life and working after school for the local veterinarian. He was a dashing trapeze artist traveling with his circus family, and he would soon be back on tour. 

Was it only a fleeting romance? A romance that would vanish the moment Ivan left town? Had he fallen for her, or would he always remain an elusive dream? 
(previously Merry Christmas Marcie) 

Star Light, Star Bright:

When Chyenna Dupres and her young daughter move from Portland, Oregon, to the small town of Prairie Valley, Chyenna leases a historic inn there. She plans to turn the inn into an upscale eatery, despite strong resistance from some of the locals. Her most vocal objector is cattle rancher Blair Westerman, who has relocated from L.A. to protect his own daughter from the "evils" of city life. Moreoever, he is determined to guard Prairie Valley from outside influences, especially tourists who might decide to stay.

From the moment they first meet, Chyenna and Blair can't seem to leave each other alone. They get under each other's skin, and race through each other's thoughts. Their opposing goals for Prairie Valley and their push-pull feelings for each other keep tensions high--especially when their match-making daughters become close friends and decide to run away together.
Chyenna and Blair may have acted like children, but now it's time to come together for the good of their own children, and realize just how far apart they've let their differences push them.

Books We Love Website Link:


A Passion for History by Victoria Chatham

When I was in school, history was never my favorite subject. The only dates clearly engraved in my brain
are still 1066 (the Norman Conquest of England) and 1492 (Columbus sailed the ocean blue) but don’t ask me about the succession of kings or when the Industrial or French Revolutions began..
Somewhere in my late twenties I read Jean Plaidy’s The Sun in Splendour and what a difference that made. I could see the characters in history, the people behind the names. I scrambled to read all I could on the Plantagenets, the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses. My history teacher would have been proud of me.
When I immigrated to Canada in 1990, I frequently had people tell me ‘you won’t like it here, we’re not old enough’, or ‘Canada has no history’. I will admit my ignorance at that time. After all, what did I know of Canada other than it’s a very big country, the Mounties always get their man (or woman) and it’s cold. After twenty-five years I am happy to beg to differ with those early and misleading statements. Well, maybe not quite so happy about the cold.
While Canada may not have 8th century churches and medieval castles it has its own history and I’ve been lucky to see some of it first hand; black and ochre pictographs on cliff and canyon walls, dinosaur remains, glacial erratics and First Nations teepee rings, hunting grounds and totem poles. I’ve visited restored forts and trading posts and learnt that the Hudson’s Bay Company, incorporated by Royal Charter in 1670, extended every bit as far and wide as did the East India Company, established earlier in 1600 also by Royal Charter.
I’ve had a trail guide point to a stretch of prairie and tell me to close my eyes and picture it not green but brown, a veritable tsunami of thousands of snorting, bawling buffalo. He also told me about the African-American cowboy, John Ware, commemorated here on a postage stamp. Renowned for his ability to ride and train horses, Ware was also known for his strength and work ethic. He drove cattle from Texas to Montana and then, in 1882, further north into what is now Alberta where he and his wife settled.
Who knew that in 1789 Britain and Spain nearly came to blows after disputing their settlements in Nootka Sound? Or that one thousand years ago the Vikings settled L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and Labrador? Or that in 1857 Queen Victoria chose Ottowa (formerly known as Bytown) as the capital of the Province of Canada?
More recently I have dug a little deeper into Alberta's history, that of Banff to be exact. I've discovered so much that I'm spoiled for choice as to what to include in my next book and what to leave out. I've met some interesting characters and heard some great tales, and I still have some loose ends I need to tie up. How tough is it to do research in such a beautiful place as Banff?  Famous for its hot springs and hotel, it has much more to offer, not least its peaceful walks along the Bow River.
What happened yesterday, an hour or a minute ago becomes history and we all have our own. 

Find out more about me and my books at:

Stillwaters Run Deep, Book One: Raven's Lament

Stillwater's Run Deep  Book One Raven's Lament Frank Talaber, The Writer: Mad muse inside keeps my pencil writing...