Friday, August 25, 2017

Our Hotel in the Mediterranean

The SS Westerdam of Holland America Lines. 8/25-9/9. A vicious cat and about 10 neighbors will be watching our house, so don't bother to rob us. We spend all our money on travel anyway.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

KWL Advice

No, that's not a new, hip way of indicating goodness, but the initials of the Kobo Writing Life blog. Since a lot of writers self-pub on Kindle, they may not be aware that Kobo also has a self-publishing platform. Introducing their blog, here's a bit of one of their latest tip posts and the link to the site.

The 6 Most Common Writing Mistakes That Are Missed When Editing
(Shared by implicit permission from the KWL blog site)
By Freddie Tubbs
Grammar and punctuation can be tricky subjects to master, even for the most experienced writers and editors. But they can make a huge difference in the impact your writing has and the authority you demand. If you’re highly knowledgeable about a topic, but the grammar is not spot-on, your credibility on the subject can suffer overall. Ensure you aren’t making these common writing mistakes by keeping a close eye out for them while editing.

Incorrect prepositions

Prepositions are those words used to describe the relationship between two words in a sentence, and they often confuse writers and editors. To the untrained eye, these errors may go unnoticed. But for someone with knowledge of their use, they will be picked up on immediately. If you’re unsure about which preposition to use, State of Writing can be an excellent resource to tap for some help.
Incorrect: Mary was unable to download her photos, because her phone wouldn’t connect with her computer.
Correct: Mary was unable to download her photos, because her phone wouldn’t connect to her computer.
Freddie Tubbs is an eLearning project manager from Fort Myers, Florida. He works as a language researcher at UK Top Writers and is a contributing author at The Atlantic.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Writing Tips: Starting Off with a Bang

A few posts back, I talked about prologues. One thing I didn't mention about prologues and should have is that they're often big piles of telling the reader background stuff. Snooze city.

Even if you have a prologue, you will need to make your opening page exciting enough to make the reader turn the page or punch the Page Forward button on their e-reader. In the case of presentation on e-readers, you don't even have a traditional length first page. A half page, maybe. With my larger font use, you've barely got a middle-sized paragraph to grab me.

As the world moves faster, so must your magnum opus. Less on the magnum and more on the opus.

Here's my favorite first sentence of all time. Three little words:

"Call me Ishmael."

Melville grabbed the reader in three short words, one of them a name. Maybe not as pop musical as "Call Me Maybe," but I'm not quite sure who Maybe is. Of course, I don't know Ishmael yet either, but his name alone gives me a lot of information. To the original audience in 1851, the name was immediately recognizable. With few books around, and stern parents, kids had read the Bible from cover to cover (something evangelicals don't do or they might realize how stupid they are). If for nothing else than the Song of Solomon (how about those two breasts like two young roes?). Yup, the Bible was the book hidden under the bed like a stack of Playboys with certain pages worn and smudged with ... well, very well worn.

So, who was the Bibical Ishmael and why did Melville decide to use the name for his main character? I'll make this brief, since we're talking about opening pages, not literary or Biblical history.

Ishmael was a bastard born to Abraham and his wife's maid servant Hagar. An angel informed Hagar that Ishmael would be a wild man, and he'd hate everybody and they'd hate him right back. Abraham sent Hagar and her son away when Sarah, his wife (at 90 years old!), got pregnant. You can read all the soap opera details in Genesis around about chapter 16-20. It's also got all that smutty stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah too.

Ishmael, then, was an outcast from the favored tribe of Abraham which is the lineage of all the holy folks in all three major religions based on a unitary god.

The readers in the 1850s immediately recognized Melville's main character as an outcast and a wanderer. Indeed, Ishmael continues, "Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."

No explosions, car crashes, sword battles, or any other action. Just a disaffected young man at odds with his life who decides to try working on a ship. However, I'm hooked, lined, and sinkered. I was when I was twelve, and I am now re-reading that opening and want to read it again. Yay, for Amazon's free Kindle books!

Okay, I've completely lost my thread now because I want to go snuggle on the couch and see what happens to Ishmael next.

I would like you to write a comment with the best opening sentence you can recall. It can even be one of your own books. That's a dare. Make me want to read your book with one smashing opening sentence.

* * *

Okay. Should sell books with each post, so here's the link to my author page on Amazon and my book list page on Smashwords. Plenty from which to choose.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Prologues: Pro or Con

I've seen plenty of discussions on prologues. Whether they're a good idea or not. Arguments may be made in either direction, but I'll come down firmly on the side of ... maybe.

For what it's worth, I think prologues can be useful, but I have some definite rules:
  • A prologue shouldn't run more than a couple of pages.
  • If the prologue concerns events immediately before or simultaneous to the first chapter, then it's the first chapter. Realize that a prologue reeks of literary pretentiousness, especially in a genre novel. 
  • Prologues are good for background set way before the events of the book and, if possible, with completely different characters.
  • Background information in the prologue should be difficult to deliver by a character without it sounding like a lecture.
You can see I followed my own rules in this example excerpt, and this prologue works (if I do say so myself). It's set 400 years in the past. It has no cross-over characters. It quickly explains why the witches are living on a remote arctic island. In chapter one, I can move ahead with the specific problems facing my main character, and nobody is wondering why the heck she's living on an ice-bound island. 

Go ahead. Tell me why I'm not right. Or, give me an example of how a prologue can work when it breaks my (arbitrary) rules. Don't argue against my rules. They're mine, and I'm keeping them. What are your rules? If you don't have any rules, then you'd better do a bit of soul-searching. That's the premise of jazz. Know the rules, then you can break them.

Now to the prologue of Bad Spelling, Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim series.

Prologue from Bad Spelling, Witches of Galdorheim Book 1

November, 1490—Somewhere in Germany

“They took Helena,” Edyth whispered, grabbing John’s arm the moment he walked through the doorway.

Wide-eyed, John looked at Edyth. “But she has never–”

She shushed him. “I know, I know. They’ve cast a wide net. It shan’t be long before they suspect us.”
John gazed around the one-room, thatched hut they called home. “I’m afraid ‘tis nothing else we can do. We must flee.”

Tears welled in Edyth’s eyes. “What they are doing to us, ‘tis hateful. Why cannot they just leave us be?”

He took Edyth’s shoulders, pulling her to his chest. “‘Tis not just us. The inquisitors condemn many not of the craft. They find black magic where it does not exist.”

His eyes darkened. “‘Tis the fault of that wretched Heinrich Institoris and his cursed Malleus Maleficarum. Even the Church has banned it, yet the so-called citizen courts use it to condemn any who disagree with them.”

Edyth shook her head, her face grim. “You speak the truth. ‘Tis shameful they accuse whoever dissents, be they witch or not!”

John nodded. “We shall have one last coven gathering. All true witches must leave this place soonest.”

“But where will we go, John?”

“North. So far north that no mundanes could live there. If we move away from their grasp, we can make our own way in the world.”

John dropped his hands from Edyth’s shoulders. “Come. We’ve messages to send. I do not think it wise to wait any longer.”

The witch and the warlock gathered foolscap and invisible ink. As they penned each word, it faded and disappeared from the paper. They wrote in the Old Runic language as an additional safeguard from prying eyes. Only a true witch could read it.

That very night, the ashes of the messages flew up the chimney, carried by incantation to the far corners of Europe, to all known witches and warlocks. Within the month, the trek northward began. The Wiccans reached the ends of the earth then went further. Finding a tiny island, completely removed from any other piece of land, they stopped and laid their claim. They named their island Galdorheim: Witches’ Home.

* * *

BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.  

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo.  A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Village Magician - Faizah's Destiny

The Village Magician

The four teen adventurers in "Tales of Abu Nuwas 2 - Faizah’s Destiny are all students of the village magician, who also serves as teacher for the children who have some time to expend on schooling. Master Wafai is an all-round teacher, covering the academic topics such as mathematics and writing. As a magician with minor skills, he also loves to impart his knowledge of magical beasts that roam the earth.
* * * 99 cents on Amazon and Smashwords ***
Master Wafai wants more than anything to meet the elusive, all-knowing Simurgh. He feels it’s very important for his students to learn about magic, even though there is very little to be found around their tiny village. Of the Simurgh, he says:

“The Simurgh is a tutelary creature. It is so old, according to legend, it has seen the world destroyed three times over. Many believe it has learned so much that it possesses the knowledge of all the ages―a great teacher and a guardian. The Simurgh simply are. In the past for all of eternity and in the future for all of eternity.”

One day, Master Wafai isn’t at his little school. His four pupils are puzzled and concerned. Why is their teacher gone without leaving word? A possible answer is found on a page of the Magicalis Bestialis. The book was left open to the text describing the Simurgh.

Faizah, a farmer’s daughter and Wafai’s favorite pupil, knows how much the Master loves the Simurgh, she immediately believes the open page is a sign that she and the boys who are also students must seach for the home of the Simurgh.

The boys scoff at the silly idea, but agree to searching the nearby mountains for signs of Wafai’s whereabouts. They only decide to go on the search when they find the adults in the village are content to send word to the Sultan and have troops sent to search for the missing teacher.


Master Wafai sat at the small table that served him for both dining and desk. One of his prized books, the Magicalis Bestialis lay on the table before him, open to the section on the Simurgh. If only they were real. Wafai sighed. His advancing years never dimmed the hope that someday he would know for certain such magical beasts truly existed.

The stories he had heard of the flying, fire-breathing horse stabled in the Sultan’s palace, helped to keep that hope alive. Still, he longed to meet such a creature, to see it with his own eyes.

He sighed again and stood. He moved into the bare kitchen and carried a bowl of fruit back to the table. In this tiny village, there was not much chance of seeing anything magical. Wafai had long ago accepted the fact he would never be a great or powerful mage. A competent magician in an average sort of way, he could cure most common ailments, cast a spell to clear the air after a sandstorm, find lost livestock, and sometimes water. He could even generate a few small curses, though he seldom chose to do so.

Peeling an orange, he stared, unseeing, at his whitewashed walls, smudged with ochre chalk. His students provided the greatest joy in his life. A mediocre magician though he might be, Wafai was a born teacher. His pupils made jokes about him ‘putting on his teaching voice,’ but when he did, they listened. Although Wafai had always longed to meet a magical creature or two, what he really wanted was for one or more of his students to have the opportunities he had missed.

He thought about his three students and wondered about the new boy. Would any of them become adept? Would any of them ever meet a flying horse, a demon, or a Djinn? Most of the village children came to his school only until they were eight or nine, and then family duties called them away.

Harib, the son of a rich merchant, was the only one free to do as he pleased. He attended school to be with his friends. Left mostly to his own devices when his mother died, Harib had come to the school out of curiosity and boredom. He met Faizah and Bahaar there, and the three of them soon formed a close friendship. School was easy for Faizah and Harib, however Bahaar struggled a bit. They had all mastered the basics of reading and arithmetic and were now engrossed in learning what they could of the magical arts.

Wafai looked down at the Magicalis Bestialis and picked up an orange pip he had dropped. He closed the book and put it aside.

Bahaar, too, lived mostly on his own. Although an indifferent student, he preferred staying in Wafai’s classroom with his friends to begging in the streets. Still, he had his strengths―the fastest runner in the village, he could easily outdistance the bullies, but his bravado made him face them instead.

Faizah neared the age when Wafai would reluctantly release her to help take care of her father’s household, although he knew the girl really wanted to continue her education. He thought it most unfair that just because she was a girl, her parents expected her to stay home and help raise her younger siblings. Soon, it would be time for her to marry and have children of her own.

With her almond eyes and long dark hair, she was pretty enough to attract a prince, but with her parents’ low standing, the best she could do would be to marry a merchant. Particularly sad, Wafai thought, because of his three students, Faizah was the only one with a real talent for magic.

This talent provided the reason she was still in school. The herbs and simple cures she had already learned from Wafai earned a few extra coins for her family, so her parents considered Wafai’s classroom a better use of her time than doing laundry...for now. All too soon, they would take her out of his school and marry her off to some merchant or farmer.

Such a waste.

* * *

The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Where Do You Get My Audiobooks?

Note: If you buy the ebook on Amazon, you can get the audio book for $1.99. With Whispersync, you can switch back and forth between reading and listening. Or, you can listen while you read.

See all my audio books on

Tales of a Texas Boy $6.95
Amazon  $1.99

Missing, Assumed Dead $14.95
Amazon  $1.99

Bad Spelling - Book 1 of Witches of Galdorheim $14.95

Midnight Oil - Book 2 of Witches of Galdorheim $19.95
Amazon  $1.99

Scotch Broom - Book 3 of Witches of Galdorheim $19.95
Amazon  $1.99
Spellslinger on audio $6.08