Sunday, November 19, 2017

The View from Here - On Character

The View from Here – On Character

Recently while speaking to a group of college students about writing historical fiction, a young man asked, “How can you, an old white woman, know what it feels like to be a four year old black slave kid?”

He referred to my sub-plot about Armbruster Slade, aka Ledger, who featured in the life of Elisabeth Ackert-Riis, the protagonist.

Ledger was bought as a four year old in 1849 when the two Slade brothers, merchants, came across the slave market. The brothers differed in their opinions about the morality of slavery. The younger Slade bought the boy, took him to England and tore up his ownership papers.

The story goes on and the boy, named Armbruster Slade, becomes an adult and set out on his own with an annual stipend for life.

To step into the little boy’s head, one needs go no further than one’s own memory of being separated from a parent. Imagine being put on a train with a tag pined to your coat and told, “Your aunt will meet you at the station. Don’t talk to strangers.” It didn’t matter the race, the sex, or the religion, the child was wide-eyed with fear, but also fascinated by the change of scenery as the train ran along the river.

When you’re “old,” if you’ve paid attention, you can probably imagine yourself as nearly any kind of person.

You’ve felt rage at an injustice? You might get into a police officer’s head.

You’ve had your heart take a sudden leap off a cliff when meeting someone new? You can write about blind love.

You, or your spouse, have borne a child and watched it grow. The emotions are boundless.

It’s nice being old. So many variations of people generate emotional memories, some good; some not so good, but they are all there for the asking.

What experiences in your life have you drawn from to create your own characters?

Veronica Helen Hart is the award winning author of The Reluctant Daughters, where Ledger is introduced. With eight other published novels under her belt, as well as several short stories, she is currently working on a story about a boy who returns home from North Korea, having been kidnapped at the age of nine and released twenty years later, Boy Comes Home, and a paranormal murder mystery, The Knife.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Alter-ego Review of Cold Sweat by J. S. Marlo

From our alter-egos:

From the desk of ~





Tattle slid open the curtains and looked out the window. "There are a lot of leaves in your yard."

Wrye stared at the computer, considering if ├ęclairs cured writer's block. "I will handle it."

"Mr. Leaf Blower handles the autumn leaves in my yard."

"Don't worry about it." Doesn't look her way. 

"You really should get to it before it is overwhelming."

"Fine. Ok. Whatever." He moved from the office to the kitchen and added two cookies to his ├ęclair plate and started to munch.

"You will get tired of looking at them."

"You're a noodge."

She steals a cookie off his plate. "Yeah, and I'm good at it.

He frowns at her, pockets the remaining cookie. "I have a plan."




"I'll show you." With a mouth full of pastry, he went into action and closed the curtain.

Before she could say another word, Wrye snapped his fingers and the two dashed into a Love of Literature Leap: a review of COLD SWEAT (HEAT & ENDURANCE 1) By  J. S. Marlo 

Tattle and Wrye appear in COLD SWEAT by J. S. Marlo, a romantic suspense.

"Wait!" Wrye held his chest, puffing.

Tattle looked startled. "You ok?"

"It's this book! It is so fast-paced  I have to catch my breath."

Tattle did the double-eyed-tumble skyward.  "Scared me, you did."

"Yes, be afraid, be very afraid, m'Yodaish sleuth," Wrye countered, his face tense with emotion. "Seventeen-year-old Hope Craig was kidnapped while training to make the biathlon Olympic team. Two creepazoids seized her right off a ski slope and stashed her in a remote, winter secure cabin as time trickled away toward her possible ta da da daaaaaaaaaa death.... For the ransom demand is unfeasible"


Gives Wrye the look, the ya-gotta-get-it-together-dude look. "You can get dramatic, you know, but this time you aren't far off the bull's eye. Hope Craig is resourceful and tenacious but she is also deaf. In some ways that is an advantage, cause the 'nappers have their imbecilic moments and don't expect her to be so clever."

Poised as a wise ole sage, foot on a snow dusted log while stroking his chin, Wyre contributes. "Hope's mother Colonel Amelia Matheson recruits Sheriff Rich Morgan to aid in the investigation. The two have... history."

"Look fire!"


"The book, silly. Colonel Matheson and the Sheriff are flint to tinder. She simply can't forget that he once hurt her. And he simply can't forgive himself either. Yet the sparks continue as they assemble information, process clues and uncover truths long hidden. Meanwhile, they try to come to terms with their embittered past while confronting one unexpected and sinister circumstance after another."

"As always, J. S. Marlo never fails to entertain and rob me of sleep." Wrye points into cyber space, thinking Marlo can see him. "Yeah, I mean you, keeping me up to all hours. I can even stop at a chapter break cause they are all cliffhangers. How can you do that to an old geezer! Huh!" Took a breath, shook his head and continued. "I digress. Seriously, folks, this is one of her best suspense thrillers to date. It's like listening to a drummer who starts out with a steady, enticing beat that grows and intensifies then gets louder and louder, and then becomes wild and frantic. You killed it, lady!"

"Didn't I tell you, dramaaaatic! But, I, too, digress. Another winner for J. S. Marlo, going to read this saga about Quest, Phoenix and Ducky again because I was so caught up, I read like fiend. Now, I want to take my time. Oh, y'all wondering who those characters are? Gotta read the book to find out. Let's just say, they are so well-rounded and dimensional, they must be real. I am looking them up online cause I wanna meet them. Truly and seriously, Marlo is an author of suspense surpassed by none, and this book is one you don't want to miss. Just buckle up for a wild and intoxicating ride!

Tattle and Wrye loop arms as they jump into a revisit review of, UNBALANCED by Courtney Shepard, a paranormal romance.

Tattle clears her throat and begins, “Long, long ago four young girls were abducted by the Master, and henceforth generations of four sisters are pulled back to the current Master of The Order.  The sisters’ powers grow with every generation; thereby The Order’s need for that power intensifies.  They cannot exist without it, and they have a decisive and heinous end plan.”

“This latest generation of sisters had been separated at birth yet they are all still hunted.” Narrowing his eyes, Wrye offers a sinister snarl.  “And they feel it, believe there is something more to their existence and soon those reasons unfold even as the threat of death dodges them.  This is a tale of four powerful women who have the ability to command the element of nature.  Asha, the main heroine of this story, is fire and is as independent and tough as they come as well as quite explosive when her temper is ignited.” Uses both hands to imitate the universal symbol of something exploding.

“Her love interest, Clay,” Tattle sighs the name, “… has his own mysterious depths and from the first you feel he might pose a threat. Still, he has been drawn to her, believes her to be the powerful woman who has haunted his dreams, La Guerrero Reina, the Warrior Queen. He pledges himself to her, but there is something more to this hot-to-the-bone hero, and their romance has the curve twisting velocity of a roller coaster ride as their passion increases and their love strengthens despite an unwavering sense, woven into the underside of the story that smacks of betrayal.”

“The backdrop of the story also shows the persistent struggle of women through the ages in life and in religion. The prevalent magic underpinning the story, along with the slow unveiling of the truth behind The Order, and the reason for the sisters’ power is fully compelling.  Good and evil has its place as well, but neither is pure which makes it all more human and realistic.”

Tattle adds, “The characters are all well-drawn with the sisters being very tough, no-nonsense and determined. The men they are drawn to, with a future promise of possibilities, also exhibit that fighting spirit, and they too share a mysterious aura that keeps the reader wondering at the truth. The sexuality of the book has steam and heat enough to pull you into the romance, yet is delightfully devoid of any crudeness or obscenity, making the various elements of mystery, romance, fantasy, magic and danger all balanced.”

“Courtney Shepard wove a tale that stays with you days past reading it.” Wrye gives his serious and penetrating look.  “The plot was swiftly paced, cleverly written while the dialogue was brisk, addictive and true to life. If there is any complaint it is that it ended too soon.  I want to read more of this universe, uncover the finer depths of The Order, the deeper mystery behind the sisters. These feelings, I believe the author, skillfully and deliberately provoked with the purpose of sequels, one for each of the sisters, Ivy, Mere and Avia, of which I am looking forward to reading. UNBALANCED is a book with a hook! If you enjoy the paranormal with strong female leads, this is certainly the story for you.”

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at (Write - Blog Dawn - in subject line) and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a free ebook (choose erotic or romantic thriller) and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi ~ Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane - -

Thursday, November 9, 2017

An Author's Brain on Overload

I’ve heard several comments about some authors who sit staring blankly at the keyboard wondering what to do next. I don’t think that problem applies to me.

I’m currently waiting to hear from my publisher about two pieces they may pick up. If so, long stretches of editing awaits. Meanwhile, I’m waiting on another publisher to launch the third book in a trilogy that was supposed to come out in July 2017. I should be busy promoting it.

While all this is going on, I have been burning up the keyboard. I’ve started two new projects although I’m trying to finish one before I go back to the other, a sequel to a novel sitting in submissions. I’m whipping through the draft of a tenth novella in the Housetrap Chronicles fantasy detective series. You have to strike while the idea is hot. This one can’t miss, the author optimistically thinks.

But while all this is going on, I’m being flooded with new ideas. I’m scribbling down notes on a final to a trilogy where the first volume hasn’t even been officially accepted yet. Worse, I’m doing outlines of two more tales in the Housetrap Chronicles series. I think I’ve got projects lined up until at least 2019.

I guess this is what happens when you sell the sailboat and are informed about how much work there is to be done in the garden. Good thing the snow is already here. Now, if I could only get the cat to adjust to standard time. I really don’t need to get up that early to keep my writing on some kind of schedule.


The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3

Friday, October 13, 2017


INTERVIEW: by our alter egos ~
Dona Penza Tattle, Esq.
Wrye Balderdash

The duet appears suddenly and startle Courtney Shepard author of UNBALANCED.

T: Tada! Ooooh, you have cookies. (Helps herself) Yum!

W: Hey, save me some. (Notices Courtney’s stunned expression) Oh, let me introduce ourselves. The cookie muncher is my partner-in-literary sleuthing, Dona Penza Tattle, and I am Wrye Balderdash, extraordinaire! (Offers an elaborate bow)

T and W: We are here to interview you. (Echoes are elaborated)

C: Well, thank you. It’s an honour. I’ve heard such wonderful things about you two. I’m very excited.

T: It is a pleasure to be here, and well, sorry we ate all the cookies. (Blushes) However, now down to the interview! (Tattle and Wrye do a tag-team high five and he takes the first question)

W: Of the four sisters, who would you like to be?  Who are you most like, errr, of course without the powers? Unless, of course, you are hiding something from us… (Wrye wiggles brows)

C: Ha ha. I wish. That’s a great question. Of all the sisters I would probably like to be Avia most. Her poise and control are definitely goal-worthy. But in reality, I think I’m closer to Asha.

T: (Looks serious) Since Asha’s power is fire, is she safe to be around? I mean, one wrong word and she can, well, like, smoke ya.  Or is she pretty even-tempered?

C: Oh no, she’s an active bomb, and she’s ticking. Asha has extraordinary control over her power, but she also has a bad temper and a penchant for violence.  If she gives you a suspicious look, I would run.  

W: What she is trying to say, is what type of personality does Asha have?

C: Asha is a warrior. At her core she is tormented, but she’s seeking redemption and justice. Raised quite differently than her sisters, Asha was trained in combat and fought as a young mercenary. She’s always fighting someone or for some cause. Her latest cause is her sisters and their survival. She will protect them as long as she lives.

T: If Ivy could only keep one of her powers, say healing over calling upon rock and foliage to help her in battle, which would she choose and why? (Does a two-step cause she is so proud of her ingenious question)

C: Great moves. (bows head in respect) As long as her sisters are in danger Ivy would choose the power to heal. Her protective instincts are ruthless, and with her earth fighting power she destroys without regret. But Ivy would choose what they need the most, what only she can do, and that’s healing.

W: Once Avia creates a tornado, can she control its path? (Does a twirling motion with his finger)

C: (laughs) Yes, Avia can control tornadoes.  She uses her finger or just directs it with her mind. But tornadoes are not all she has in her arsenal. Her childhood horse was named Zeus. 

Can you guess what else she can do?

Yes, she can also call and control lightning.

T: Mere can create ice shields and manipulate water, but can she also calm it down? More importantly, can she provide ice for my tea?

W: (Groans) You can ignore the question about tea.

T: No, she can’t. That’s important. While we are reviewing the book, my tea could get warm. Would be nice to just ask Mere to cool it off.

W: Ummm, you know, the characters aren’t real?

T: Are too! Aren’t they Courtney?

C: (smiles) Ha ha. You guys are awesome. Asha and Clay will be disappointed you don’t remember them from your previous interview with them. (chuckles).

And yes, of course Mere would cool your tea. Though she was constantly warned about wasting her power on things like filling bathtubs or chilling tea, Mere doesn’t really listen to warnings. She’d be down to help you in any way you need. She can calm water and stir it up, freeze it or heat it to steam. She can even manipulate and control water in the air or in a person’s body. 

T: Oh… um… I remember! He forgot. It’s a senior thing, y’know. I’m much, much, much younger. (Avoids looking at Wyre in the eye)

W: (Mouths) Younger? (Aloud) All the sisters are awesome! And the book is a blast to read.  Sooo looking forward to your next novel.

T&W: It was a great pleasure interviewing you. We appreciate your time.

C: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really enjoyed meeting you.

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at (Write - Blog Dawn - in subject line) and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a free ebook (choose erotic or romantic thriller) and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi ~ Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane - -

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How Do You Choose a Book?

Much has been made about the importance of the very first sentence in a novel. Some experts grumble if you don’t have that gripping, magic first sentence, no one will want to bother reading your manuscript or book.

I don’t know if I have ever purchased a book, or chosen one at a library, based on the first sentence. An interesting review might catch my initial attention and send me on a search. The cover might lure me in, but more often I pick up a book based on a favorite author, or a subject that interests me. Next, I look at the back cover to get an idea of the content. After that, maybe a peek at the inside flap of the front cover. That is about it for me.

I took a look at the first sentences I used is some of my published novels and novellas to see how they fared.

The Dark Lady: “They say she is the Devil’s spawn, born in a cloud of brimstone and sulphur on a night when the peaks echoed with thunder and the castle walls trembled.”
The Queen’s Pawn: “They are through the city gates!”
The Queen’s Game: “How can I ever trust you again?”
Knight’s Bridge: “I stare out through a crimson haze.”
Housetrap: “I don’t like Elves, never have.”
Dial M for Mudder: “I don’t like the dark October rains, never have, not since my Cousin Edward threw me in the mill pond out back of our old shed.”
House on Hollow Hill: “Bertha Wildwater has been frequently known to say, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, ask,’ and she often uses her authority to advise me where to go, asked for or not.”
Alex in Wanderland: “Alexis came through the door like an unguided missile at the end of its orbit.”

Okay, so I admit that I sometimes like to throw a bit of drama into the opening. I’m just not certain it’s the only critical key to landing a purchase.

The other no-no some experts have been known to throw out is, “Never open with the weather!” Why not, if it is relevant? I probably would if I thought it was suitable, or just to be difficult. I notice that I did at least once above.

While I tend to think the world does not always turn on the opening sentence, the sooner you introduce the main characters, and the plot, the better. When I used to run the judging in an annual literary contest where they often had to read and rank around forty books in a very few months, I instructed them they only had to read the first three chapters. That was enough to indicate whether or not it was a possible winner. My personal opinion is that the reader should be grabbed and well on their way after the first chapter.

How do you choose a book? Where do you look to see if it is worth picking up?


The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dreams and Fiction Writing

To sleep, perchance to dream, ay, there’s the rub.

Of course, that was Hamlet considering suicide. For me, “the rub” is waking up exhausted from a night of wandering through rambling homes, green hills, or rough mountainous paths, visiting with everyone from my past, both fictional and real.

During our waking hours we organize our time and thoughts around tasks we need or choose to do. But, let night come and the brain runs amuck. No more organization; no more control.

“Annie Karenina,” a novella, is an example of what one of my dreams might look like. Lady Elizabeth Killington inherits an estate in England and finds the manse occupied with fictional characters from classic literature. She is given the opportunity to help Anna Karenina redeem herself and live on.

The Reluctant Daughters is the direct result of a full length dream/story. I saw the costumes, the settings, met the women of the story and understood their relationships. I envisioned Ledger, but did wonder how this elderly black gentleman fit into the picture. No question the inciting incident for the story came about by the decision of the antagonist, the evil senator. Stereotype? Maybe, maybe not. Set in the years 1865 to 1900, I traveled through the night with these people by train and yacht, spent time in the rundown home of the wealthy Elisabeth (there’s that name again) Acket-Riis, who controlled her granddaughters with an iron fist. I even spent time in an opium den with her daughter, Mary Ellen. I awoke able to feel the texture of the fabrics of their gowns, the steam of the train engines, the fresh air on the water, and taste the steak at Delmonico’s.

Funny thing, dreams. When you let the mind go play by itself, it is amazing what it can conjure.

Happy dreams.

Veronica Helen Hart is the author of eight novels, and dozens of short stories and novellas. Her award winning work is published by Champagne Books, and her own Uppity Woman Press. She spends her waking hours compartmentalizing five or six books at a time as she writes and edits for two publishers and several private clients. And she wonders why she has such scrambled dreams!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Half a Loaf Short?

I must come right out and admit it. I’m four days late with this essay.

I could use the excuse that I just spent two weeks in Nova Scotia and paid no attention to doing any serious writing. I did answer a few emails.

I could use the excuse that the week before NS I was at When Words Collide in Calgary speaking on some panels and meeting my new publisher.

As soon as I returned home I had a request for a book review waiting. I volunteer for an on-line magazine.

Since I’ve been back I’ve met with a couple of writer friends to discuss our participation in Comic Con in October.

How about that I started working on a sequel to the Sci Fi epic I wrote that is now sitting at the publisher waiting for a yea or nay? Or the fact that I’ve started working on what might be the ninth or tenth novella in the Housetrap Chronicles? For a week I was alternating days between the two projects, one day Sci Fi epic, the next, Housetrap nonsense.

Then, just as I’m settling into a productive routine, I get the galleys back marked “rush” on the third book in a trilogy that was originally scheduled to come out last July. So I put everything else on the back burner.

This afternoon, getting ready to tackle galleys again, I finally glanced at my trust calendar perched a foot from the tip of my nose and noticed my Writers Vineyard schedule, clearly marked. Where did the time go?

So oops, here is my very rushed apology. I promise to do better next month! Honest!


The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas

Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Friday, September 15, 2017



Ah ha! Bet you are thinking this article is all about coffee or cream or even the juxtaposition of the usual into the unusual.

Z: Huh?
A: Go with it...
Z: Ooookay!

First... well... a first... for this blog, anyway, we are introducing us. Errr... the picture of us. We never put a pic up of the dynamic, zany duo and our alter personalities, but here we are, in all our quirkiness. We aren't just writing partners, but we're not spouse, however we are family. Up to you to figure that part out. We hafta keep a few secrets ya know.

Z: Huh?
A: Go with it...
Z: Ooookay!

So, now to the meat of the article. We're actually going to discuss a book's backstory. Think of your novel as coffee and your backstory as cream. You usually add just a bit of cream to your coffee not the other way around, except for Zi, but that's a pot of another kettle.

Z: Huh?
A: Go with it...
Z: Ooookay!

Anywho, many novice writers are so anxious to share their research and development, they bog down the opening with as much information as they can.

Z: By the way don't you drink tea?
A: That's not the point...
Z: But....
A: Do you want to write this?
Z: Thought you'd never ask. (With a hip bump moves Angelica's chair aside until he is settled before the keyboard.)

The backstory is a vital part of plotting. It stimulates the story, and gives the characters motivation. After all, each character has a past and present, and a certain amount of that has to be conveyed. And, even though you might know the characters inside, backwards and upside down, the reader doesn't need to hear about the protagonist's fifth grade science project that blew up spewing purple dye all over Mrs. Greenspan. Unless, of course, it is vital to the story's conflict.

A: Hey wait, that wasn't a backstory but an actual event. You were in sixth grade when that happened, weren't you?"
Z: lawyers have adviced me not to discuss the case. It's still under investigation.
A: (Gives him that look that suggests insanity)

So, here are a few key factors to K I S S (Keep It Simply Simple) your way to the perfect amount of backstory.


While creating your character, make their history rich. Make certain you write down everything from your characters' most embarrassing moments to who they took to the senior prom and if they prefer chocolate to mud pie crimple ice cream, and then, don't use anything but that which is pertinent to the story. Plus, only go back in time as far as is necessary. The opulence of your character will come through just because you know them so well. It will shine in their speech, their mannerisms, and the way they think.

IT -

There is always that IT factor in every story, the thing that is the crux of the story. For the present conflict to exist there must be something in the backstory that is relevant and must be told, and sometimes in great depth. Still, sprinkle it in, slowly, a bit at a time. It's like adding sugar to that ole coffee. Too sweet and people will make a face, or in a narrative just get bored and put the book down.


There are simply some great places you can add backstory that work better than others. The prologue is usually a good spot to drop a few spicy tidbits like cinnamon in your brew. Here you can tell rather than show more easily than anywhere else in the story. Using the character's memory is another great tool. Something current can trigger a recollection. Also, a flashback is a great method of allowing the reader to see what had happened to create the present circumstance. One of the most basic conduits for the backstory is dialogue. Characters can reflect, explain, and address basic aspects of the plotline all while sitting across from each other having, well, a cup of coffee or climbing Mt. Everest, all depends on your story.


Remember simple is better. Don't be so enamored with your backstory that you distract from the action. Too much of it hinders the flow of the story. What had happened to set the plot in motion needs to be streamlined. Pare down your paragraphs and pages of information to a single line. Sum it up and place it strategically in the prose.

The backstory is the stimuli and the foundation of the book, but it is not the totality of the story, nor is it the pure action that keeps the readers moving along. So, when you ask yourself if you want a little plot with your backstory, remember to tell yourself to hold the cream.

A: Huh?
Z: I'm just tying it in to the beginning.
A: But...
Z: Hey, how about a cuppa?
A: You buyin'?
Z: Don't I always.

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at (Write - Blog Dawn - in subject line) and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a free ebook (choose erotic or romantic thriller) and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi ~ Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane - -