Bookish ~ by Author Bree M. Lewandowski

“Hey, thanks for letting me borrow that book.”

“Oh, you’re welcome. What did you think of that scene in the living room? You know. The one I told you about.”

“Oh, that one! Gosh, that was so intense! And the way the author described the blue carpet really made me feel like Jen and her mom were drowning from their different points of view.”

“Blue carpet?”

“Yeah. The blue carpet underneath the two sofas they’re sitting on, separating them like an ocean.”

“The carpet was blue?”

“Yeah! Didn’t you—”

“Didn’t you think the open window was an amazing allegory for what their relationship becomes?”

“The window was open?”


Okay, pause. Because I could write this conversation all day long. And no one here wants to read that go-back-and-forth. I was trying to make a point. I was trying to be clever in illustrating a point. But I didn’t do anything more than confuse you and cause you to wonder why you’re reading this blog post. 

Sorry, babe.

Let me start over. We’ve all read some of the same books. Whether it was books we read in school or books recommended to us by friends or the online book community. At some point, you picked up a book because So-and-So on GoodBookFaceReads told you it was an “uh-maz-ing” read.

So, you read it.

But it wasn’t amazing.

Or, and come with me here, you picked up a book because the cover was pretty, read the back synopsis, and decided it might be worth your time. Except you went on GoodBookFaceReads and sampled the comments section. And people hated it. Couldn’t stop complaining about it. But the cover was so lovely, and the plot seemed so nifty, you held your breath and dove in.

And you loved it. Loved that character everyone and their mother couldn’t stand. You adored the way the author wove her tale. This book is going down on your imaginary (or real) list of Tippy-Top Books.

I haven’t exactly made my point yet. You still with me?

Cool, cool.

The point I’m wandering my way into is that we all don’t read the same book. Your perspective on a piece of fiction is influenced by a myriad of things. Your upbringing, your current quality of life, your outlook on a bazillion things. And the person who reads the same book you did is affected by all those same things. Except those same things are different from yours because none of us are living the same life.

And that’s beautiful.

What you read and what the author wrote are probably far apart. Yet, therein lies the wonder of books. It’s like a new day for everyone who turns to page one. There aren’t many things like that in this world.

Should there be? I rather think not. It ruins the awe.

And, sure, we could delve into a different conversation here about whether the color red I see is the same color red you see, or how maybe what I’m suggesting teeters on the verge of nihilism.

Back the truck up.

I’m saying it’s lovely. It’s a gift. It allows the same set of words to take on new variations every time those words are read. And who is it more of a gift for? The author or the reader? I don’t know. But that makes it even more special.

I’ll go so far as to say that this “newness” can happen when you read a book for a second, third, fourth, or fifth time. You’ll find something new. A line of description will strike you differently. Why? Because you aren’t reading it with the same eyes as you were the first time. You’re not there now.

You’re here.

Is this a conversation tipping around philosophy? That a book can be the same and new at the simultaneously? I’ll say it’s not. But I will say that it’s indescribable and I only know of one place the indescribable comes.

Look up, dear reader. Look Up.


Author and Dance Instructor
Bree Lewandowski


Bree Lewandowski is married and has 4 fur babies. She teaches dance when she isn't writing. Coffee is her passion. "Coffee spurns my writing. Coffee is wonderful." She eats noodles like they're vegetables, she can't swim, and thinks writing bios is weird. To connect with Bree, please visit her HERE .

Keeping Busy ~ by Jennifer Daniels

This winter seems to be dragging on and on. Being in self isolation with a compromised immune system stinks. So, what to do for fun now that I’m stuck in the house? 

I started a one thousand-piece Harry Potter puzzle that was gifted to me. I pick away at it here and there, and slowly it’s coming together nicely. I have always been a puzzle person and I find it very enjoyable.

Another thing we have been doing as a family is playing Clue. We all figure out who killed who with the whatever in the room. But my husband always is set up where he can solve it first and wins, its still so much fun.

I’ve also been busy crocheting baby blankets for one of my son’s
teachers. She is expecting twins...so two blankets, two hats, and two sets of booties need to be made. I have one blanket down and a half of a blanket to go.

With the rest of my time, I have been reading and writing. There are so many books out there to read and I have so many on my Kindle I will never read them all, but I will try my best to.

That’s all for this month. I hope you are all keeping busy, being safe, and staying healthy. Tell me what do you do to past the time?

Creativity, Creates Creativity ~ by Nicholas C. Johnson

Several years ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table, racking my brain about what I should be artistically working on. At the time, I really wanted to write short stories, novellas, or better yet, a novel. I just didn’t even know where to start. Not exactly knowing how to start, I just began creating art. Slowly, but surely, I began to chip away at creating things I was really proud of. Stories. Paintings. Comics. I think everyone has the innate ability to create something. Most people just don’t take advantage of that side of their brain.

When I first started out writing, I found people to write with. Having a writing partner or two helped me at the start of my journey. Another person can often help you fill in the blanks in your stories that you may not be able to see. I was writing all the time during those years. In notebooks. On my laptop. In the notes section of my phone. Some of these stories weren’t as good as I would have hoped and like many, I wondered when, and if I would get better at writing. Would I ever be able to come up with something I was proud of? Would I ever create something that would be published?

At first, coming up with things to write about was difficult. I desperately wanted my own Tolkien universe with a fully developed map and world. I never for a second realized how difficult creating something that intricate would be. I kept working on art nearly every day. Even when I couldn’t get anyone to read my work. The few people who did read what I had written often told me I needed to go back to the drawing board.

Eventually, something started happening. Every time I created a

new story or a new painting, I typically found I had another idea. Or I would think there was another story in the same universe. Or another painting that was similar to the last maybe with a few changes in colors. 

Ideas and creativity always seem to snowball. Now, years later, I have so many ideas I want to put into motion. There’s always something else I want to try, and another story to write. Another page to draw. Another canvas to splatter.

Not many artists become successful overnight (Not to say I’m a wild success.) Only after years of practicing, and hitting the pavement, have artists become successful enough to give up their day jobs (which I assume is what most artists secretly wish for.)


When I read the biographies of artists I admire, they very rarely achieved overnight success. No, most of these people worked for years. Created numerous projects of their own, or worked doing small pieces for another person’s project. Until finally those artists get noticed for their talent.

I think everyone can create something great. They just need to start working on what they are passionate about. Work at what you want to create every day. Sometimes you won’t get what you want out of the process. Sometimes you will get what you want out of the process. Other times you’ll create something really special because your plans will work out better than you hoped they would. Either way, during this time you will have created something unique and original to you.

In my oh so humble opinion, the more art you create the more art you will want to create. This all came to a head a few years ago for me. I was talking to one of my old high-school teachers and mentor (he is now a colleague) about what I had been up to artistically. I told him I enjoyed painting and writing and he asked me why I never worked on comic books. I had worked on comics in the past, but I never made this a priority. I took the advice seriously and began working on what I originally thought would be a graphic novel.

A graphic novel is categorized as a comic book that is one-hundred and twenty pages. When I had hit that magic number I knew that I had more blank spots to fill in. I knew I would need more time to finish what I started. I decided to make my graphic novel a continuing series called Callow Corvus. 


Callow Corvus is far from perfect, but I love it! I’m particularly
proud of the writing and the art that I’ve created in that series. The main character of the series, Carl The Crow (yes his middle name is The, no he does not like to talk about it.) Carl is always talking to me, and typically, whenever I put pen on paper, I can’t help but draw this character on the page.

I’ve currently been working on the Callow Corvus series for two years. In that time, Carl has taken on a life of his own. I have a group of people who are interested in the mildly-entertaining continuing adventures of my cynical crow. I’ve had both a doll and puppet created to bring Carl into more mediums. He’s been in advertisements and marketing campaigns for me. Recently I’ve been creating short comics in virtual reality, thanks to the help of Tilt Brush by Google. None of this would have been possible if I never tried to be creative, and bring my imagination to life many years ago at my kitchen table.

I want to say one last thing, there will be people who don’t believe in you. Plenty of them. They will not see your vision. They will not believe in your abilities. They will have the attitude of why don’t you just go home and watch TV like the rest of us. Forget these people. I believe in you.

My Best,
Nicholas C. Johnson

Nicholas C. Johnson, who creates art under the alias Bob Van Starr,

is an author of several comic books and an artist with paintings all over the world. Over the past two years he has published over ten comic books, and a Generation-Z Vocabulary work book. 

Before he began working as an artist and author, he was busy earning a law degree from Charlotte School of Law. Now, Mr. Van Starr lives in Beautiful Down east Maine where he enjoys spending time with his family and friends and working on his various art projects. 

For more information or to view this author's work please visit: 

Too Cute ~ by Grace Augustine

What does one do when sports have been cancelled in March, when you don't feel well, and when you lay down hoping to rest, but can't? Watch programs about puppies and kittens, of course!

One of my favorite programs, found on Animal Planet, is a wonderful documentary of different puppy and kitty breeds titled TOO CUTE. Of course, I'm more partial to the kitteh ones, but yesterday's episode touched my heart when I saw the Newfoundland puppies.
Deposit photos/Grace Augustine

These balls of fur are lumbering, happy-go-lucky sweet pups that are filled with energy. Great with children, they are happy to run and play until the owner runs out of steam. Standing at a little over 2 feet tall from paw to spine and weighing 100-150 lbs, they are known as the gentle giants in the dog world.

In the same episode was a black retriever mix who had a litter of  8 assorted babies--some resembled the mom, others were a question
Deposit photos/Grace Augustine

mark. Especially the mottled one who resembled an Australian shepherd with one icy blue eye and one brown one. Again, another loyal as can be fur baby companion. In the program, he was the last to be adopted because he was different than the others. But sometimes different is the best.






In my most recent book, THE  MAGIC OF SAPPHIRE CREEK, I introduce you to Lucie, a Bernese Mountain dog who is very pregnant and gives birth to a huge litter of littles.  Lucie's owner is a bit overwhelmed with all of the puppies and chooses some very unique names for the little ones.



Ragamuffin
Deposit photos/Grace Augustine
My heartstrings, though, were strummed with the kittens. There is nothing as sweet as little kittehs who just open their eyes and begin discovering the world around them. There are so many varieties to choose from if you are a cat snob...Siamese, Russian Blues, Maine Coon, Sphinx, Ragdoll, Scottish Fold, Ragamuffin, Berman, Himalayan, Abyssinian, Toyger, Bengal...you name it, there is one. 

Suffice it to say, our fur babies forever will own us and our hearts, whether we see them on television, interact with them at a shelter, or be privileged to have them choose us for their forever homes.




And of course, my story would not be complete without mentioning my very own Princess, Miss Bou...a rescue torbie (tortoise shell/tabby.) 

The Big Honk by Ruth Ross Saucier


It was May and we were on our way to the University District Street Fair.  Booths full of food, arts and crafts, and music.  Great fun.

We were walking through the tree line that separated the University of Washington from the “U” district, when out from the shrubbery came bounding two tiny white kittens. Snow white.  Friendly as can be and cute: one had two blue eyes and the other had one gold and one blue eye.  We trotted up and down the fair together and even though I had said aloud that we’d look for someone to take them home, in my heart I knew that someone was us.

Natasha

The two tiny stinkers made themselves to home in no time.  Clearly litter mates and abandoned, we tentatively named the odd-eyed white Natasha. Her brother, Giuseppe, was all blue eyes with a pushy, alpha temperament. Our apartment had tall ceilings and the former occupant was an art student who had papered the bedroom walls in burlap. For us, the result was “meh”—but for Tasha, it was a vertical Daytona 500. She’d race across those walls in tall bell curves, strafing the entire room, usually with her brother right after her.    These two kittens made for a mad house, and these two were clearly in charge.

But the name Giuseppe didn’t stick.  When the nieces and nephews came to visit, they marveled at the size of our blue-eyed boy, remarking on how he was a “big honker.” Soon the name “Honk” emerged, and it stuck. Honk grew to be fifteen pounds and soon it was clear he was different from his sister.  It always took an effort to get him to wake up from naps, but we didn’t figure it out until we compared their reactions to the vacuum cleaner.  Tasha wanted nothing to do with it, freaking out, running, and hiding.  Honk loved the vacuum cleaner, even volunteered to be vacuumed.  We eventually learned Honk was deaf as the proverbial post.*

Honk

We also needed to learn how to get Honk’s attention. Yelling didn’t work.  You could walk right up to him and scream, and he’d sleep right through it. The only thing that worked was vibration. If you stomped on the floor, even from a couple of rooms away, his head would pop up and he’d look for the source immediately.

It soon became standard practice to stomp on the floor to get his attention for all reasons: dinner, a demand for him to stop pestering Tasha, a reaction to his latest unearthing of a houseplant, you name it: floor stomping became an automatic response. We also would yell “HONK!” at the same time—even knowing he couldn’t hear us; it was just an ingrained reaction.


We never got any complaints, but to this day, I often wonder if our downstairs neighbors thought we’d joined an obscure cult that mandated random stomping and bellowing “HONK”. 
  
*White blue-eyed animals of various species are often completely deaf, a genetic condition linked to eye color. We were also told that our white cat with one gold and one blue eye was probably deaf in one ear—the one correlating with the blue eye.  

Let's Get Growing! ~ by Lexa Fisher




All the green in March isn't just for St. Patrick's Day. As spring approaches in the Pacific Northwest, plants begin to bud. Eager to see how my established and new plants are faring, I look for growth even as the rain steadily falls. 

My new cherry bush was hastily planted due to having a bad cold when it arrived. Now, about six weeks later, it is thriving despite the meager hole I was able to dig for it. 






The apple trees are coming along great. And you can see we had a break in the rain when this photo was taken.









My favorite tree is the dwarf peach. This is its second year in the garden, and it has one pink bud already. Last year started out great, but I've learned that peaches take a lot of care to avoid leaf curl. Fortunately, I found an organic spray that brought new life to the tree.



Not only fruit trees and bushes are sprouting, but the rhubarb is happy the days are longer, too. If the strawberries and rhubarb would just ripen together, we'd have strawberry-rhubarb pie. But rhubarb wins the race to the table.


Another plant that has kept me patiently waiting for its fruits to appear is my kiwi berry plant. Usually when its leaves pop out the leaf cutter bees are at work, but with frost every night for the past week, there have been no bees. Perhaps the week of sun in our forecast will bring them out. 





A couple of the herbs are making an emerald appearance, such as the parsley and lemon balm below.




Other plants I'm keeping an eye on are wintergreen, goji berries, plums, figs, raspberries (shoots and leaves popping out now), huckleberry, elderberry, blueberries, and the first fruits to come out in May--strawberries.

I love being able to harvest my own fruit and herbs (I rarely have success with vegetables). Dried herbs, frozen fruits, and jams are wonderful treats during the cold winter months, and why I eagerly look forward to seeing those first spring buds.

Meet Our Members

Co-Administrator and Author Grace Augustine

Grace Augustine was born and raised in the beautiful state of Montana. She spent some time in Oregon before landing in the Midwest. She currently resides in Iowa. She is mother to two adult sons and a feline familiar who often captures her keyboard. In her spare time, she enjoys old movies, acrylic painting, bead weaving, music, and creating new recipes in the kitchen.

Please click on Grace's MEMBER PAGE where you can view her prior blog posts, listen to podcasts, and browse her library.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants ~ Jacquolyn McMurray


Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash


Issac Newton once said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."  

Is there any creative out there who can honestly say they have never utilized the wisdom of those who came before us?

I know I can't.




Personally, I'm clear that any successes I've had on my writing journey can be attributed to my writing community.


When I started my writing journey in my early twenties, I had no appreciation for the advantages of being part of a writing community. Maybe that's because I was too self-conscious to admit that one of my dreams was to become a published author.  I imagined that writing was a solitary pursuit, and although many parts of the process ARE solitary, it's the time interacting with other writers and writing teachers that has sustained me for decades. Left on my own, the critic in my head would have eventually won out and I would have abandoned my dream.

It wasn't until 2001 that writing became a routine part of my life all because we teachers went on strike. Prompted by the unity a strike affords, a group of teachers decided that when we were not on the picket line, we would do some writing exercises together to pass the time.  

Voila! My first writing group was established.

We made a commitment to meet once a month to explore writing. In the beginning, we did a lot of Natalie Goldberg writing exercises, shared our writing, gave one another feedback, and dutifully studied the hefty Writers' Market for places to send our work. During spring and summer breaks from school, we'd rent a place for a weekend retreat away from our families. We took writing classes, entered contests, collected rejections, and forged forward. 
Nineteen years later, the two of us who remain in the group are multi-published authors who continue to take classes and embrace the knowledge of our favorite writing gurus.

A big part of my writing community are author friends I've met at conferences and writers' retreats. We are bonded through our love of creating and willingness to learn from those who came before us.

I am forever grateful to all those who supported and encouraged me in my dream of becoming a published author.  

  














Three words authors dread ~ by Joanne Jaytanie


There are three words that nearly all authors dread—advertising, marketing, and promotion. By nature, most authors are introverts. They want to write their stories and put them out into the world and have readers gobble them up. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

Even with my background in marketing, I’m no different. Promoting my books is a challenge. I have discovered that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Think of it this way, you have produced a product—I  know it’s not a product to us, it’s hours, weeks, months of pouring our thoughts, feelings, and emotions on to a page and creating a world that is unique and exciting.


Every story you write will feel this way—that’s what makes you an author. However, when you remove the emotional attachment and look at it from an outsider’s perspective, it is a product.  

Indie, hybrid, or traditionally published, you will have to promote to succeed. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter are all places you can spread the word. Have you done any interviews? Magazines, blog tours, and podcasts are all great venues to use.


I interviewed with InD’tale Magazine. My interview was published in the February issue. Interviews are a great opportunity for readers to get to know you as a person and author.



In truth, the number of authors who release books each year is staggering and is on the rise.



If your goal is to have more than your family and close friends know about your books you must promote. No matter your budget, with research and perseverance, you can find ways to let people know about your book.



Until next time~
Joanne

♫ Raindrops Keep Falling ♫...everywhere! ~ by Kristine Raymond

Copyright ©Deposit photos

It's been a rainy winter here in Kentucky.  Not that I mind.  I'll take rain over the white stuff any day...well, except at Christmas.  A white Christmas is a must!  But, back to the warmer form of precipitation.


Have you ever noticed how many different kinds of rain there are?  

A sudden burst when the sky opens up like the heavens turned on a faucet; lasting mere minutes before the clouds dissipate and the sun shines again.  

The all-day (and night) downpour that leaves you wondering if you should gather your Ark-building materials.
Copyright ©Deposit photos


The storm that rolls in across the mountains, dark clouds gathering as thunder echoes off the peaks.




A gentle spring shower, the kind that's perfect for long walks and splashing through puddles.

Copyright ©Deposit photos

I adore the rain.  I love everything about it.  From that earthy scent that rises up after a dry spell (there's a word for that, believe it or not.  Petrichor.  You're welcome) to the sound it makes hitting the roof as I'm drifting off to sleep.  The earth-shaking booms and flashes of lightning that accompany a summer thunderstorm and the cold drizzle that muffles the crunch of fallen leaves as autumn gives way to winter.

But what I love best is its superpower.  You didn't know it has one?  It does.  I mean, what else has the ability to wash away the dust and grime and make the world appear fresh and clean again?  

Copyright ©Deposit photos


 

Musings from a New Author ~by Philip Yorke

I have often heard it said that everyone has at least one book in them. And this may be true – but I know very few people who have actually tested out the theory.

A lack of confidence, a lack of time, or simply a lack of willpower, often results in so many of us not taking up the writing challenge. 
But if you do have that inner burning desire, one that keeps prodding and poking you at the most inconvenient of times, then there is some good news to share: writing a novel is far easier than it might seem!

Believe me, I know: I have recently published my debut novel. Privately, it is something I had wanted to do for years. Yet I always found a reason to get off the subject when somebody mentioned writing, publishing and my name all in the same sentence.

The truth is, I had it all wrong. I thought you needed to have the perfect plot, chapter structure, and process all ready to go. How little I knew. The reality is I needed none of these things. A germ of an idea is all that was required, a bit of a plan (understanding where you are going to go with the opening three or four chapters), and a handful of believable characters. That’s all it took to get going. Honest.

Of course, because I write historical fiction, there was also the small matter of identifying the period I wanted to write about. But that was an easy choice: I love the seventeenth century, particularly the 20-year spell between 1640 and 1660 – when Britain was gripped by a brutal civil war and the monarchy come to an abrupt and dramatic end for eleven years.

In real terms, my choice was a very easy one.

Difficulties did arise when trying to identify some of the characters I would write about. But, once I got going, that was also a relative walk in the park.


Charles the First
I had devised a main character profile one day when there was no sport on television, my wife and the children were out shopping and the cat had also abandoned me! Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the setting of my book, I opted for a stoic male whose allegiance was to Parliament. He was a man of faith (as were the vast majority of people at the time), a mid-ranked army officer, and an individual who was in conflict with at least one of his brothers – members of his own bloodline who had chosen to support the cause of King Charles the First.

When I had finished making my notes, I looked at what I had written. At first it seemed implausible and unrealistic, a million miles away from what I perceived the period to be like. How wrong I would turn out to be!

Several weeks after I had drawn up the details of my main character, I visited the National Civil War Museum. It is not sited in London, but in Newark in the East Midlands. I live in Leicestershire, just a 40-minute car journey from the historic town. 
I remember walking into the museum and sitting down to watch a video about the civil war. It told the story of a family who lived in the Midlands. They had been torn apart by the conflict. Two of the sons had sided with the King; a third had become an officer in the Parliamentary army. They were a devoutly religious family, yet they couldn’t agree on some of the most fundamental things. So the brothers went their separate ways and by 1643 were firing leaden musket shot and cannon balls at each other across the River Trent. Literally.

As you can imagine, the video left me speechless: somehow, completely by chance, I had found my dynamic main character!
His name is Francis Hacker. 

In 1643, Francis was in his mid-20s; he was married to an incredible woman (Isabel) six years his elder; he and his two brothers lived within ten miles of each other, and in May of that year, one of these brothers was killed in a skirmish close to Francis’s home, most probably shot by a member of the Militia my main character commanded.


Oliver Cromwell
From this moment, everything seemed to happen in a bit of a blur.
I started to use the Internet to research my man. What I discovered confirmed I had made the right choice, for Francis was a man who was right at the heart of the English Civil Wars. He became a close friend and confidante of Oliver Cromwell; he was twice offered the opportunity to swap sides and take command of his own regiment in the King’s army, only to scornfully decline the chance to swap sides; and he was also one of the 59 men to sign the death warrant of Charles the First in 1649.

The more I dug into the man and his exploits, the more I discovered.

But my biggest ‘find’ – the one that convinced me I had a potentially great story to tell – was the discovery that Francis’s story had largely been forgotten. Although he was a great military leader, he was a poor orator, something of an introvert. That meant the other regicides made far more noise than he did. And because their voices were louder, historians have had a far easier job piecing their lives together and telling their respective stories.

With Francis Hacker in the bag, and supporting characters like Rowland and Isabel in the bag, I began the exercise of finding the rest of the supporting cast.

In the early 1640's, Cromwell was a relatively unknown figure. He was a Colonel in Parliament’s Eastern Association Army. Some basic checks on my part revealed the early years of the Cromwell story is not well known. And as Francis and Oliver became good friends (a fact), this was an area I needed to focus on. And I did.
But what I really needed to find was a good anti-hero.

Some might say I have already done this in Francis, as stories about this particular period tend to paint the Parliamentary side as the bad guys, and the cavaliers as the defeated goodies! But, as Rebellion demonstrates, I have a different perspective!

What I needed to find was a prominent Royalist, or two, who could convincingly be portrayed as individuals with purely selfish intent, perhaps even evildoers.


Prince Maurice
In this regard, I found Prince Maurice – brother to Rupert and, like his older sibling, a nephew to King Charles.

Maurice had cut his teeth on the battlefields of Europe, fighting in a conflict that is known as the Thirty Years War. He came to England in 1642, taking a commission in the King’s army and being a prominent figure in the west of the country.

The Maurice I portray is a man who displays Jekyll and Hyde tendencies in his character. On the surface, he is perfectly affable. Dig under the surface, however, and the Prince as ruthless and self-centred as they come. And it’s this Maurice that comes into conflict with Francis.

Supporting the Prince is a Bohemian mercenary called Gustav Holck, a man who is the personification of evil. If he were alive today, he would be diagnosed as a murderous psychopath. In seventeenth century England, at a time of the greatest bloodshed the country has ever known, Holck was a useful man to have on your side, his thirst for killing a desirable attribute!

Although the character of Holck is a figment of my fertile imagination, his development came about by researching some of the mercenaries who fought in the wars for both sides. They were not in England for noble reasons. They were here for personal gain and social advancement. And many of them were willing to do whatever it took to get noticed!

Last but not least, I needed to find a woman, or two, to provide some strong female input.

This was perhaps the easiest of all the character development tasks I had to undertake. For starters, I had Isabel Hacker as a starting point. She was a beautiful, loving, and intelligent wife and mother, a woman who Francis was besotted with. Her story is entwined with her husband’s. And it is equally riveting.


Lucy Hay
In addition, my extensive research also enabled me to stumble across Lucy Hay, who was widely regarded as the most beautiful woman of the age. She was a friend to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles, and a leading member of the Court. She was also a Parliamentary spy and the woman Alexander Dumas drew on when he developed his character, Madame de Winter, in his 1844 book, The Three Musketeers. The more I found out about Lucy, the more I realised she had to play a prominent part in Rebellion.

As did the character of Else, the long-time cook to the Hacker family. But that’s where I am going to draw the line with character development. I am not going to tell you anything about her, as that’s something reserved exclusively for readers of the book. If you want to find out about Else’s story (and it is worth reading, I promise), then you will have to get access to a hard copy or the eBook!

It’s fair to say that by the time I had finished all this work I was hooked. And at times, I am sure it must have appeared to my wife and family that I was starting to think I was Francis Hacker (I hear it’s quite common)!

So what does this mean for you?

Well, if I can do it, so can you. And I promise you, I am not just saying that. I really mean it. Like me, if you take the plunge, you will find your own path, and that may include a couple of false starts. And that’s okay.

All you have to do is start the process. The rest – including the passion you will need to sustain your endeavours – will quickly follow.

Good luck with the adventure.


For many years, Philip Yorke (known as “Tony”) worked as a
Philip Yorke
reporter on some of the biggest titles in British newspapers, where he specialised in news, business, and sports investigations.
His work won awards and regularly set the news agenda.
After leaving Fleet Street, Philip became a senior media adviser in the corporate world. More recently, he abandoned his suit and tie in favour of working for a UK-based charity committed to eradicating food poverty and food waste.
Philip has been happily married for 30 years and he and his wife have five children. In his spare time, he enjoys reading historical fiction novels, playing sport, listening to classical music, and visiting the theatre.
A man with a strong faith, Philip's beliefs are important influencers in the way he lives, works, and writes.

Today, he resides in Leicestershire, England. You can connect with Philip at the links below.

What Goes on in This Writer's Head ~ by Fiona J. Roberts

The Idea
     At the beginning, everything is extremely vague for me. It starts with a word, a concept, or perhaps just a feeling. Inspiration comes from a newspaper story, something I’ve seen on television, or from the ether. I’m particularly creative whilst on my morning walk. There is something about strolling and letting my mind wander, that allows the creative juices to flow.
     I usually tell my husband my idea. He sits patiently as I describe some bizarre scenario that ends with… and then there’s a murder. He will then smile and say “That’s my girl. A murder.”
     My first book, EBB AND FLOW, came from a story that I had
honed over several years. I thought that I would write one book, but the floodgates had been opened. Since then, the concepts have come thick and fast. After reading a book about a serial killer, I wondered why they were always men in their twenties. From that thought, the lovely ladies Eve, Penny and Dorothea, who became my middle-aged vigilante killers, were born.
     My latest project, which is still in progress, and entitled EDEN'S TALE, began with a crazy thought about vestigial tales. Yes, so far, so random.

The Characters
     Who will populate my story? When you meet someone in real life, you gradually get to know them. A similar thing happens when I write. Choosing a name is important, but difficult, because it begins to develop their persona. Getting the name right allows me to picture what they look like. Once that step is done, I begin to wonder what they are like. What is their major flaw? What are their foibles? It is only when I am writing that they truly become fully formed. I’ve not necessarily planned for them to be, say, stubborn or sly, but these traits become apparent as I write their dialogue.
     In JUST DES(S)ERTS, Eve became a firebrand, Penny was soft,
and often a little confused, and Dorothea was, as far as being a serial killer goes, the voice of reason. Their back stories helped shape them and propel the story in the right direction.
     My latest character, Eden, is a girl with a dark side. I’m really enjoying swinging between sweet Eden and dangerous Eden.
The Story
     When I open a Word Doc., my preferred medium, and type the title, I usually have no idea what will come next. Eden is born with a vestigial tail, I know that much, but where can I go from there? What effect does that have on her? How does that fact launch us into a story?
     Okay, what if the tail, which was removed when she was a baby, begins to grow back when she is a teenager? Now that is interesting! I’ll run with that for a while and see what happens. Next, I’ll need some more people brought into the action. A best friend and a boyfriend, for a start, and they will need names.
     So, now I’m typing furiously. A sort of stream of consciousness thing. New characters are required and a better idea of what will happen is developing with each sentence. When I get to about 20,000 words, I pause. At this stage, some serious thought is required.
     A novel is typically around 70,000 words. Some are shorter, many are longer. What can happen in my story which will keep the reader interested throughout? I like a tale with a bit of a supernatural edge, but it still has to make sense. Sub plots are fine as long as they sit within the main story and aren’t merely distractions. I would rather write a shorter book that is all relevant, than one padded out with superfluous detail.
     The main story is now sketched out in my head. How it will all end is clear and a rough idea of the path to the denouement is there. Excellent, I can pick up where I left off and carry on with the narrative. Except there are many places along the route where the plot can change. An essential new character can demand to be included. One of the protagonists might suddenly do something unexpected. 
     In one of my other novels, a man decided to acquire a dog. Not sure where the thought came from, but it turned out to be a great addition. I type a sentence, the brain picks it up and runs with it, and I’m off in another direction.
     Then there is the great idea conundrum. Just when I think it is all going so smoothly, I come up with a plot twist or a better ending (or a man buys a dog.) The result is that I have to go back and change a lot of the action to accommodate the new story.
     The writing is at an end, but the work isn’t. I approach the task of editing with resignation. Picking up spelling mistakes and obvious punctuation errors as I go along, doesn’t mean that I have caught everything. This is the time to read through and do a multitude of amendments.
     The main things I look for are: what needs to be added, what needs to be clarified, and what can be discarded. I admit, there have been times when I have read back a sentence and can’t imagine what I was trying to say.
     It's never too late to change what doesn’t work or insert a better idea. It’s a lot of work, but if you want the best story, it is a sacrifice well made. The work is done and you sit back with a sense of accomplishment. But…
     I know other writers work in a myriad of ways. I am, what is known in the trade, as a pantser. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. Others are plotters. The story and the chapters are all planned out in advance. The characters are all named and have a bio. Only when these things have been done, will they start to write.
     I am more certain that my brain works in the same way as my fellow writers after the project has finished. The sense of accomplishment, that I mentioned before, is only a fleeting visitor. Next comes the doubt. Then I am on a roller coaster ride of, if it’s a good story, I’m a terrible writer. I love it, I hate it, why do I even bother? At some point there is what I can only describe as acceptance. I have done all that I can and it is time to release it on the world. I don’t know if this is an act of bravura, arrogance, or hope.
     When EBB AND FLOW was published, my first thought was,
why am I opening myself up to the public and letting them see my work? What if people hate it? Will I become an object of ridicule? My sister in law was one of the first to read EBB AND FLOW and my question was, is it like a real book? Not exactly neutral, I still needed an opinion. She, I’m relieved to say, loved it and helped calm my nerves.
     Back to EDEN'S TALE. Nothing too surprising has happened thus far. I do, indeed, have an ending which I’m happy with and I have about another 40,000 words to go. Hopefully, you will get to read about Eden and her tail before too long. I can confirm that no one in this book has yet bought a dog, although I can’t be sure that it won’t happen.

Fiona J Roberts lives in Dorset on the south coast of England. After
Fiona J. Roberts
a career in banking, she decided to fill her spare time by writing. The hobby became an obsession and has led to her having two books traditionally published and another which was self-published. Her latest book, Just Des(s)erts, tells the tale of three middle aged ladies who become vigilante serial killers. You can contact Fiona at the links below.

And Now For Something Completely Different ~ by Andi Lawrencovna

There once was a vase that wanted to be filled with flowers of every size and shape and color. Daisies. And dandelions. And roses and lilies. Sprigs of baby’s breath. Maybe an orchid or two. Great big bouquets that overflowed in floral fantastique, suffusing every room with the scent of the forest, or the garden, creating dreams of dancing with fairies, curling up in the petals and falling asleep surrounded by velvet softness.

The vase, you see, thought itself a very grand vase, with very grand ideas.

Put it in the drawing room. On the kitchen table. Somewhere that everyone would be drawn to its rainbow brilliance. A place where the sun would halo it in glory, for the vase held the decadent flowers it was filled with, and so was the centerpiece of everything as such.

It was a good vase.

But not in a house where vases were particularly important.

There were no grand ballrooms, or dinner tables that seated seven hundred. One did not simply sit in a room filled with flowers because it was a thing to do, largess and the like, in the house that the vase resided in.

In truth, the very grand vase was in a very mundane house. Three children ran around the circle table set in the center of the kitchen chasing a ball they tossed from one to the other, keeping the middle boy from touching it. The mother wiped sweat from her brow near the stove where she was boiling chicken to make soup. Father was at his desk, equally frazzled over the bills piled high on the counter top.

The vase held a relatively small bouquet that did not even fill its great mouth. The flowers in it drooped over the sides. Water putrefied in its base, turning green with scum from the dying stems in its mix.

How terribly, terribly undervalued was the vase.

It did not know, precisely, where its grand dreams came from. No glass blower had taken the time to shape and form the flute and flourish of its mouth, nor smooth the base it rested upon. An assembly line in a plant that used prongs and plyers on metal hinges turned by machines had created the vase. It was not one of a kind, but sold in bulk to stores around the world, though never in Florence or Venice or…what was that country that made all the glass?

Still, the vase had developed a sense of grandness, and hated that its life was limited to a table in the suburbs.

The oldest girl hip-checked its wooden perch. Tommy slipped around the leg at the base of the table and rose too soon on the other side, prized ball in hand at last.

Ma turned in time to gasp as the vase wobbled. Dad slunk over his papers, not wanting to deal with whatever mayhem was about to ensue.

The vase…tipped.

In trying to catch it, the youngest, sweat-hands-Eugene, fumbled the glass container, and the flowers tipped out across the floor, followed by the mildewed water, and, finally, by the glass which shattered on the tiles down below.

The vase screamed its cracking against the stone. It crunched beneath a foot too slow to stop moving forward, eliciting an all too human shriek in response to stepping on glass.

The room - stilled.

Vases – on sale at Target, Walmart, and Home Goods stores throughout the US and probably Canada. Get yours today for all your floral needs!

* * * * * * * 

Oh, fine! Here’s what actually ended up happening.

See, the mom’s a closet artist who enjoys working on mosaics. The shattered vase, which actually had some pretty good detailing on it, she used to overlay a river scene she’d been working on in her basement after she put her kids to sleep each night. On the banks of her river picture, grew flowers of every shape and size and color, and the glass of the vase made the water sparkle and move against the stems, giving the picture life.

She sold the picture in a gallery showing where she barely made back the cost of the vase. But her painting was then sold again, and again, and became a famous work of mosaic art the likes of Monet or Manet – though not exactly, and eventually the shattered-vase-river ended up at Buckingham Palace in some such drawing room or other, just as it always knew it would, a very grand place for a very grand vase to sit among the flowers.

Pat Hagen--Birches by the River
http://pathagen.com/projects/birches-by-the-river/

NOTE:  Story not based on real life. All account fictionalized. Any resemblance to real people is completely accidental!

 

Being Independent ~ by Bruno Skibbild

Forgive me for my spelling and grammar. English is not my first language reading is fine, talking better - and singing in English is almost ...