Last Sunday I heard about the passing of an amazing writer, a wonderful friend and an incomparable human being: Jacqueline Gum, author of “Confessions of a Corporate Slut”.
I’m still at a loss for words. I’m shocked. Jacquie has been there for me. She encouraged me, supported me, helped me through hard times and I have never met her personally once. Still, I “knew her” for years and considered her my friend.
I tried to spread the word about her loss. But it took me two days to finally understand that she is no more.
My thoughts are with her and her family! She will be sorely missed!!
Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.
To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.
While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.
He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.
As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.
He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.
“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”
Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.
“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”
“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.
“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.
“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”
“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”
Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.
“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”
“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.
“Call me Tobias.”
He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.
“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”
Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats.
Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.
Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.
They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.
So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.
Why Did You Set It in Victorian England?
Many of our Christmas customs started with the Victorians, including our beloved Christmas tree and the fun Christmas crackers.
Victorian England was a fascinating era.
They were very mindful of their past and had built up quite a romantic imagery of its chivalry – just look at the pre-Raphaelite works as examples of high Victorian romanticism and yet they were very technologically advanced and sophisticated.
Many of the things we take for granted today, inexpensive mass-produced consumer goods, electricity, telephony, stored music, motorised transport, photography and film, even the concept of television had their origins in the 19th century – no wonder Steampunk has become such a popular sub-genre of sci-fi!
There were high hopes for the upcoming 20th century as being the most accomplished century yet. The groundswell for true equality for men and women was beginning and within a relatively short space of time, women were fully enfranchised and were open to the same job opportunities.
Late Victorian England was time of man-made wonders and magic falls into that neatly.
Why write a mystery?
One of my favourite authors is Agatha Christie. I love the way she blended mystery and romance in many of her stories. If you look at Poirot and Miss Marple, there are often secondary characters who begin or advance a romance through the story and, with the solving of the mystery have their happily ever after.
I thought it would be fun to do something like that for The Thief of Hearts, so the mystery is very much front-and-centre but there is a definite romance between Caro Addison, an aspiring lawyer and Tobias Black, a magician and former solider whose paths are destined to cross.
There is more than one mystery in The Thief of Hearts. There is the obvious one in the mysterious diamond heists where the thief as apparently left no clue, but there is also one a little closer to home and that is what are Bertie’s real intentions towards Caro?
She is positive that he is planning to propose. While her mother would be delighted by the news, Caro herself is having second thoughts. She loves Bertie, but she’s not ‘in love’ with him – so to avoid an unpleasant scene with someone she likes, Caro invents reasons not to be alone with him.
The Thief of Hearts is full of misdirection.
What did you enjoy researching?
I had a lot of fun with the research for The Thief of Hearts.
Victorian England was full of innovation and invention – so discovering the polyphon which was a precursor to the record player, simply had to be included. So too the passenger lift, the glorious elevators found in the most luxurious hotels and as a necessity in the growing high rise buildings that is emblematic of New York.
The rise of literacy in the Victorian England which came as a result of pressure from the church welfare reformers, gave birth to a large number of newspapers to cater for interests and tastes of a wider group of readers. In fact it could be argued that modern journalism as we know it today, started in the Victorian era.
The Victorian period also gave rise to the mystery and detective story. The origin of this was also interesting. The 19th century saw the rise of the middle class who were at removed a lot of direct contact with crime – particularly street crime. In addition, criminal executions which were once public affairs, were now performed behind prison gates.
What didn’t change was the public’s appetite for the gruesome details and, indeed some broadsheets specialized in it thus beginning the still popular genre of True Crime and the origins of the crime and detective novel where real crime wasn’t enough.
What are you working on at the moment?
There’s so much! I’m working hard on another 19th century title called Captive of the Corsairs. Although it is set in the Regency era, it is not a typical Regency at all. It’s set in Sicily and Turkey and centres on the pirates of the Barbary Coast – North Africa who conducting slaving raids into Europe.
It’s intended to be a stand-alone, but some of the characters are calling for their own stories, so I think this may turn into a three book series.
I’m also keen to set started on another mystery romance series! This will be a six book series set in Medieval England. The hero and heroine are more mature, they will be in their mid-to-late 30s and there are some younger characters too who are terrific.
Hopefully my Roman era historical romantic suspense will have found a publisher.
I think this is an excellent advice for us “Newbies”. Seumas Gallacher’s way to take control over our self publishing! And yes, I love his advices. Not only because they’re coming from an experienced writer – but also because I love the way they’re written. Thank you Seumas!
…the most common question most self-publishing scribblers get is, ‘how easy/difficult is it to run yer own stuff as an indie author?’… well, this ol’ Jurassic’s been at it for more than eight years now, and I reckon I’ve learned a few things along the road (maybe that’s a few million things)… first off, it ain’t easy… but NUTHIN worth while usually is… the approach that’s WURKED for me is to treat the whole nine yards as a business… if yeez tackled any business with less than 100% commitment, yer chances of success get diminished in direct proportion to that commitment… so, Indie Authors, there’s only one way to take control of yer self-publishing—like a boss!…
…own it, LUV it, treat it like yer own flesh and blood, ‘coz, as many authors will tell yeez, that’s precisely how each wee literary baby feels to them… tell the WURLD
Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments, thus creating avenues for readers to connect with her characters.
Linda has an Associates Degree in Interior Design and a Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Arts with undergraduate work in Elementary Education and Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled, The Hunter for her Master’s Degree. Linda is a member of RWA, as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA.
Linda has two grown sons, lives with her husband, and rescue dog in Royal Oak, Michigan.
I squeezed my eyes tight as chills ran down my spine. A gentle hand rested on the nape of my neck. The touch grounded me and for a split second, I thought maybe it was my father. Tears welled and I pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes, trying to stop the longing I felt for my dad who’d left me years ago. I saw Chloe perched on John’s hip with her arms around his neck in my mind. It seemed like eons since I was that little girl in my own father’s arms.
Through the tears, I stared at my dusty boots. John ran his fingers up my neck and into my hair. I squeezed my eyes tighter, hoping this wasn’t a dream.
John knelt beside me, his hand on my knee, and his finger under my chin. “Saw you leave. Wondered if you were all right?”
I shrugged. Cocoa ran past, and then nestled in the straw at my feet and stretched out, letting her kittens suckle. “No, guess not,” I said.
“Anything I can do to help?”
I scooted over on the bench and John sat beside me. “I don’t think so.” I tucked my hair behind my ears.
“Well I think there is, but I’m going to let you solve your own dilemma.”
I wiped the corners of my eyes and watched the kittens nuzzle up to their momma’s belly, safe from the world around them until she went out to hunt. “Probably best.” Locking my elbows, I rested my hands on my knees. I liked the feel of worn blue jeans, inside, and out.
“Dinner is almost ready,” John said.
Our gazes met. My stomach wasn’t the only thing growling. “I don’t know if I want dinner. I kind of like it out here.” The barn truly was a sanctuary.
“Well, you’ve got to eat, darlin’.” John wrapped his arm around my shoulder and drew me close, his green eyes trying to hide his own disappointments.
I couldn’t help but think I was one of them.
“A girl your age can’t live on s’mores and beer, ’cause that’s what we’re having later.”
“I beg to differ.”
John’s breath brushed up against my neck. His lips followed. Tension oozed from my shoulders like dripping wax, my guard giving way to the heat. He whispered in my ear, “Let me love you.”
I swallowed the temptation, but it stuck in my throat and lingered at the back of my tongue like bitter sweetness. “I don’t know how.”
Afraid, I prayed again. From under my lashes, I saw a man earnest and true, his eyes fixed on me yet not demanding, something I wasn’t used to. Flecks of passion danced in his irises.
“How the hell do you know what you want?” I asked.
“Because I know,” he said. His strong hands held my face. His thumbs stroked my cheeks like he was settling a skittish filly. “Let me ask you this, neighbor lady . . .”
“Why do you keep calling that?”
“Does there have to be a reason?” he asked.
“Isn’t there a reason for everything?”
“No. Sometimes things just feel right.” John kissed me as I took in his words, his breath in sync with mine. My stomach rolled over and I let myself kiss him back as if it were the very first time.
Rebellion in Upper Canada: Real and Fictional Characters
My first introduction to Bishop Strachan was many years ago as I was taking teacher training in preparation for becoming a high school teacher. Each day our group sat in a large lecture hall and listened to the person at the front extol the virtues of yet another early educator in Ontario. As the days went on my interest in these paragons waned. Strachan was one of those who seemingly did no wrong.
Fast forward many years. During the research for The Loyalist Legacy, the third book in my trilogy, I found the Bishop Strachan of Ontario legend, the man with countless buildings and colleges named after him and who did so much to form Upper Canada College, but I also found many negative references, the kind of nuggets a writer loves to discover.
This allowed me to use the illustrious bishop as a villain in Legacy, a type of character every writer needs to add punch to a story. Of course I may have stretched the truth just a little as that’s where the fiction in Historical Fiction comes in, but the fact remains Strachan’s privileged group caused a lot of problems for the settlers, Loyalists or not. The “Family Compact” got its derogatory name because those in power simply appointed their relatives and friends to important positions charged with the running of the fledgling country. That meant the common people had no say, a circumstance that became more and more dangerous as factions arose to thwart the “Family Compact”.
In the excerpt below from The Loyalist Legacy, William’s brother Robert is in a hotel when anger at the government comes to a head:
“Quiet, men! Cease and desist!” Someone near the bar struggled to be heard, with no success. The lean man jumped up onto the long bar, much to the barman’s consternation, and shouted again. This time he stomped his boot on the bar and the barman hollered; the room went silent as all eyes turned to watch. “Gentlemen.” The man’s glance included everyone packed into the room. “You’ve come here today for one reason. One reason only.” He paused, nodding his close-cropped head and gathering his thoughts. “You’re tired of our government’s power over us all. You’ve had enough. And you want to do something to break their hold on us.”
“Whose hold?” A voice came from off to Robert’s right, back in a corner, but he couldn’t see who it was.
“Ah, you want a name?”
Many voices answered back. The young man raised his rough hands for silence. “Well you know it…the Family Compact.” Again he raised his arms and waited. “That group in York and parts east who control everything we do. They only want us for the sweat and toil we give to shape this land.” Shouts of agreement broke his stride but soon he continued. “What do they give us, those powerful rich bastards?”
“No say in our lives.”
“And how do they make our lives miserable?”
“No help on the roads!”
“Our own preacher can’t even marry us!”
“And does this group of rich and powerful men, this Family Compact, listen to us?” He raised his arms to silence the crowd. “No. Our elected members might as well stay home and tend their crops, do their road work and raise their children. Nothing they decide is final. Their votes mean nothing. The Family Compact just do what they want, regardless of the Legislative Assembly.” He paused in the ensuing clamor. When the noise threatened to take over the meeting again, he stamped and roared for attention once more and gradually the heated voices subsided.
Robert and Logan looked at each other and at the man with them. His face was beaming as he studied the groups all over the room, even rising from his chair the better to see everyone. Robert didn’t know whether to be shocked or delighted that so many gathered here agreed with his own sentiments. He could hear their stories around him as each person shouted out his own troubles with the powerful reach of the government.
“Down with the King!” A voice louder than all the rest temporarily stopped the racket as men looked to identify the speaker.
Into the sudden quiet another voice, high and thin, squeaked out over the heads of the red-faced men. “Rebellion!”
Excerpt from The Loyalist Legacy.
When the War of 1812 is finally over William and Catherine Garner flee the desolation of Niagara and find in the wild heart of Upper Canada their two hundred acres straddling the Thames River. On this valuable land, dense forests, wild beasts, disgruntled Natives, and pesky neighbors daily challenge them. The political atmosphere laced with greed and corruption threatens to undermine all of the new settlers’ hopes and plans. William cannot take his family back to Niagara, but he longs to check on his parents from whom he has heard nothing for two years. Leaving Catherine and the children, he hurries along the Governor’s Road toward the turn-off to Fort Erie, hoping to return in time for spring planting.
With realistic insights into the challenging lives of Ontario’s early settlers, Elaine Cougler once again draws readers into the Loyalists’ struggles to build homes, roads, and relationships, and their growing dissension as they move ever closer to another war. The Loyalist Legacy shows us the trials faced by ordinary people who conquer unbelievable hardships and become extraordinary in the process.
Praise Elaine Cougler’s writing:
“….absolutely fascinating….Cougler doesn’t hold back on the gritty realities of what a couple might have gone through at this time, and gives a unique view of the Revolutionary War that many might never have considered.”
Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.
“….an intriguing story” A Bookish Affair
“I highly recommend this book for any student of history or anyone just looking for a wonderful story.”
Book Lovers Paradise
“Elaine’s storytelling is brave and bold.” Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Lately, I’ve been asked by a fellow writer if I read his book and would be prepared to write a review. Even though I know how much work, effort, and heart blood a writer invests into books, I know as well, a writer is honored by a review. I was told this numerous times already. I read truckloads full of books since my childhood and of course, couldn’t review all of them. (Let’s not talk about the school book reports). And I found, even if I didn’t like a book too much, it wouldn’t be nice to ‘rip it to shreds.’ It might not be a bad book – just not the right book to read for me.
I liked what I read this time, and I agreed to write a review. If I only knew how to do so. This needed some research.
I started and found hundreds of articles, books, blog posts and lists. Are they all different? No, more the opposite! They all seem to be similar, some more simple, some more detailed, some complicated and long, with little variations. So I picked what I needed from some of them.
The purpose of a review
I find it very important to learn what exactly the purpose of what I’m writing is. What is a review for? One of the first articles, referring to “reviews” in general, more than book reviews, in particular, was written by Karol K, a freelance blogger, and writer. He writes:
to learn the pros and cons of a given product
to find out if the product is meant for them
to find out if the product is of high quality and easy to use
to find out about alternative solutions
to find out about other users’ experiences with the product
to ultimately learn if the product is worth buying.
With those needs in mind, let’s look at what you can do to craft a truly valuable review.
Neal Wooten, author, writer, blogger, and comedian published an article on the Huffington Post Website, using six tips to writing Amazon reviews and in my opinion did a great job. At least to me it seems valuable, especially considering the “start” use of the Amazon rating.
Additionally, he mentions something quite powerful: The responsibility that goes with writing a review. Let me give you a couple of examples I picked from his article:
What if a car manufacturer was to drop off a brand new car to a person’s home, completely at random, and explain they had 24 hours to drive the car? Afterward, they would take the car to another home at random and do the same thing, and repeat for three months. They only asked that the homeowners/drivers would write a review of the automobile. What do you think would happen?
I suspect most of the drivers would do exactly what they should. They would write intelligent and informative reviews about how it handled, how it drove, gas mileage, the comfort, the power, the sound system, etc.
But there would be some drivers who would abuse this privilege. It’s human nature. Some wouldn’t even drive the car. Some would complain about everything from the visors to the texture of the floor mats. Some would complain about the color of the free car they were provided. Some would get drunk, drive 100 mph, wreck the car, and then write a bad review.
And that sums up Amazon reader reviews. While most are very helpful, many are just people exercising their basic nature to be useless. So here are some tips.
You BET! I’m a writer myself, of course, I one day would like to get positive reviews for the book. I want to honor the author, his ideas, his talent, his magic, his story, his efforts, his work and his masterpiece. I want to make others read the book I loved so much. I don’t want to spoil it for the other readers.
So you’ve finally got your page numbers right. Check that you’ve Justified your text for your CreateSpace book. I know that some authors choose not to justify text in their eBooks (not me), but a paper book really must be justified or it’s going to look messy. Choose your font and font size. You have lots of fonts that you can use in your paperback, but it’s a good idea to stick with something plain, other than for dropcaps or chapter headings.
Decide what trim size your book is going to be and set your manuscript’s size accordingly. From the Page Layout tab, click on the little arrow to the right of Page Setup, then select Paper from the three tabs at the top of the page setup box. Change the Width and Height settings to 6” x 9” or 5” x 8” or whatever size your book will be…
Kristen Lamb provides us with excellent guidance concerning the endings of our books. I find this article extremely useful. After all I’d love to sweep my readers off their feet and would like them to come back to my next book, right?
Once again, I invited blogger and copywriter Alex Limberg to spread his nuggets of wisdom amongst us. Today, he is closing in on closings. He is showing us several “typical closing styles” you can use as templates for your own stories. Yes, just rip them off mercilessly. Alex brings in a few famous authors like Agatha Christie, George Orwell and Bret Easton Ellis, so you can see one brilliant practical example for each closing. Make sure to download Alex’s free checklist of “44 Key Questions” to make your own stories awesome. And here is the beginning of the end…:
The beginning, so they say, is the most important part of your story. And that might very well be true. Or how do you think your reader will get to experience your genius climax, if a sleep-inducing beginning has put her into a coma long ago…?