Sunday, November 27, 2011

All the News That’s Fit for Fiction

Once again, I'm happy to welcome the fabulous, prolific Regan Taylor to Book Blather. What's the story behind the book Her Eyes? Keep reading and you'll find out. 

When I was working as a police dispatcher we’d receive calls every evening asking “any news”?  A sergeant would provide whatever information could be released.  Sometimes we’d joke about why bother with a true story when a made up one would be better.
Enter the world of the fiction writer. Sometimes the stories you hear on the news are just too good to pass up and merit a tale of some sort. HER EYES is one of those stories. Sometimes what seems like a less then thrilling news story can be the basis of a wonderful story. At other times, it can be a dramatic story that takes you on the path of a new book.
I’ve always been interested in reincarnation, past lives and in the past dozen years or so, walk-ins. Organ transplants have also always fascinated me. Sadly, in most cases, someone dies so that several others can live. Transplant surgery has come a long way in recent years. I’ve also always believed soul mates and that true love will always, somehow, win out. Many of my books have themes around soul mates, a few delve into past lives and they all center around a once in a lifetime romance.
In 2006 a fellow author, Jennifer Cloud, and I heard about the French woman who underwent the first facial transplant. We talked about the implications of the news in terms of what we write. Jennifer is a fabulous horror writer while I write romance. Slowly but surely HER EYES came into being. The news item fascinated me. What would it be like for the person? Once the pain and recovery from surgery was done, what would life be like for her? Would her personality change because her looks changed? Would it be conscious because she saw the surgery as a new beginning? Or would those changes happen for other reasons? 
The title HER EYES evolved from the old saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul”. That adage has always resonated with me. If someone could look me in the eyes it would indicate honesty to me. They can convey so much if only you listen to what you see.
I began to ask myself if indeed the eyes are the windows to the soul, what more could you see by looking into their depths? Would you truly see the person or would you see something more? Especially if it was someone else’s eyes you were then looking into. Remember, I don’t write horror, but I do write about possibilities and soul mates. So I began to ask what if you missed your chance for true love because the other person died? Could they—would they—find a way back to you? Could love be so strong that it transcends even death? HER EYES was my opportunity to look at those questions and more through the safety of a fictional story. What I found was not only a happy ending for my characters but that other characters arose from Catherine and Frank’s struggles.
While writing HER EYES I did considerable research on organ donation and transplants. I initially thought that only the heart, lungs, kidneys and corneas were viable for donation. When I spoke with Ken Holmes, our retired county coroner about this he told me that in reality on average of 27 people could benefit from one person’s donation. 27 lives could be saved or given a fresh start by one donation. He spoke to me, in addition to other aspects, about skin grafts for burn victims. What an amazing gift to leave.
HER EYES is the intermingling of a news story I couldn’t forget and the blending together of several metaphysical theories near and dear to my heart.

To order Regan's books, visit her website, Regan also has a blog called Welcome to My World at:

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Family Chuckle

My long-time friend, Donna Scofield, has been writing a weekly column, The Family Chuckle, for our local newspaper for a number of years. I'm happy to say her collection of wit and wisdom is about to appear in book form, just in time for Christmas. FYI, the book's cover features the farm house where Donna and her family once lived. The Family Chuckle will be available soon from Amazon and your local bookstore and I say, "It's about darn time!"
Welcome to Book Blather, Donna.      

   I had pretty much decided to self-publish by the time I read postings on the subject on this blog. The information gained here gave me just the little nudge I needed to replace words with action.
         I’ve been writing for years, some it not the kind you’re proud of. My first word processor was purchased with money earned by writing “true confessions”…those lurid first-person accounts of passion and heartbreak. The author is required to sign a document stating that the story happened to her, or could have happened to her or someone she knew. It was quick and easy, but the plot farm suffered a drought when the people at work leaned that many of my stories came from little tidbits overheard in the break room. I was ready to quit, anyhow. My tee-totaler mother was very upset with my last story, “Mom Loved Us, but She Loved the Bottle More.
         Next I sold a romance novelette to Harlequin/Silhouette…a step up from true confessions, but a very shallow step. The amazing part of that feat is that I don’t even like romances, and never read them.
         I decided it wasn’t fun to write stuff you were ashamed of, so I tried a different genre.  I came close with a chapter book for middle-grade readers, about a couple of big-city boys experiencing the Oregon Trail by time travel. It got out of the slush pile at a reputable children’s fiction publisher, was read by a copy editor and passed up the line to the next one. He liked it, and wanted a bibliography. I’d done mountains of research about the subject, so I spent a day going through my material and produced a very satisfactory bibliography. That’s when they decided their firm didn’t do time travel.  
         Humor jump-started my writing life. I was going to say “career” instead of life, but decided that lying should only be allowed when it makes something funnier.  If writing was my career, I’d be eating cat food and sleeping in a refrigerator box.
          Soon I had a big file of short family humor pieces, and no market for them until a friend from writers’ group took charge. She and I picked out a few of the pieces we liked best, and she wangled an appointment with one of the editors at the Yakima Herald Republic newspaper. Evidently it’s easier to be pushy for someone else than for yourself. Or maybe she just had some agent genes in her make-up. Whatever the reason, she succeeded, and nine years ago the newspaper began publishing my column twice a month.
         Quite a few people asked if the columns were available in book form; said they’d really love to have a copy.  I formatted a collection of columns and began stalking agents and publishers on the internet. When that failed I investigated self-publishing. Absolute Write and Writer Beware web sites were helpful in learning which to avoid. Many of them sound promising until you get right down to the nitty-gritty…how much it would cost. I decided that paying three-thousand (or more) dollars to hold my book in my hand really defined the meaning of “vanity press.” Many of the companies  threw a monkey-wrench into the works by adding expensive requirements at extra cost, like having the manuscript read by a reputable copy editor (with their own company, of course). One that seemed like a perfect fit for my book advertised that it would cost me nothing; they made their money from the sale of the book. Unfortunately, you had to hire a four thousand dollar marketing specialist.
         So I’m going with Lulu. I’ve talked to people who were pleased with their service. I’m paying to have the book professionally formatted, and the cover designed by somebody who knows what they’re doing. If this works, I’ve got an historical fiction book ready to go. If I’m not satisfied with Lulu, I might try CreateSpace.
         I’m not going to wait for the publisher angel to perch on my shoulder. As Erma Bombeck said, I’m too old to buy green bananas and wait for them to ripen. I’ll do whatever I can to sell the book: have signings (if my pushy friend can get them for me), give out bookmarks, buy an ad in the Herald and hope they can put it right beside my column.
         I know I won’t be the next Nora Roberts. I don’t think she writes all those books herself, anyhow. I think she has a stable of ghost-writers. I’d just like to break even., so I’ll start small. At a writers’ conference I met a columnist from Idaho whose readers urged her to print a column of her books. “Now I’ve got boxes of the damned books stacked in my basement,” she snarled.
         But on the positive side, our family decided that this is the Christmas we’re only giving handmade gifts. Hah! My Christmas shopping’s almost done!  


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

E-Pubbing - One Man's Opinion

A hearty Book Blather welcome to a neighbor to the north. Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia, including Macworld, the Ottawa Citizen, the Financial Post, Marketing, Canadian Printer, Applied Arts, PEM, Workplace, Advanced Manufacturing and others.
He has two almost-grown children, an orange cat and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. You can read more of Scott’s writing at and, and on his website, Follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

“Electronic publishing” is a term that’s been used for decades now, but its meaning, or what we categorize under that heading, has changed.
In 1986, I started writing and editing at a new magazine called Electronic Publishing. To tell the truth, that name was a bit of a cheat: we were trying to sound a little more professional than “desktop publishing,” and both terms really did not mean “publishing” at all. They referred to the new desktop computer programs that laid out pages. Eventually, the results of the work done on PCs would be printed on paper. 

The most remarkable thing about the desktop publishing boom of the late 80s was the speed of its development. Tasks that were impossible in 1986 were routine just two or three years later. At the beginning of the curve, the biggest challenges were keeping track of your fonts and making sure that pages would print out in the right order. Within a few years, we had automated pagination and were struggling with getting the computer monitors to match the colour from an offset printing press. 

Today, electronic publishing is more about actually publishing—that is, getting the content out to as the public to read on an electronic reader. No paper need get involved. That industry is going through a similar learning curve now.
Independent authors and publishers are struggling to learn the tools that format text files for clear, readable display on a Kindle, Kobo or tablet computer. Just as in the 1980s, we are working with fairly blunt tools. Formatting is almost completely in the hands of the reader or the e-reader. We cannot choose the typeface, colour is impossible and incorporating images within the text requires special software. 

When it comes to information, I believe “more is more.” As an author, I would like to be able to choose the typeface, and to use colour. I prefer different headers and footers for left and right pages, and for the first pages of chapters—not just to be fancy, but to carry different information. I would prefer the author’s name to appear on one side, and the book title on the other; it would also be nice to have the current chapter title. While these aren’t necessary, they add to the information available to the reader. Unfortunately, the current EPUB and MOBI formats—the most common today—and the software that creates those files, do not deliver that level of control. 

Anyone who has used Smashwords’ “meat grinder” to produce the EPUB format book knows that you cannot use the Page Break code. This means that, often, your copyright information appears on the same “page” or screen as the opening of your book.
Would it be so hard for the meatgrinder to recognize page breaks? Or at least, to tell us authors how to code them? 

Everything about your book communicates: not just the content, but also the page layout, the header and footer information, the type font, and the colour. They all have impact on the reader’s experience with the text. We don’t have to use these tools; we can choose allow the book to appear in default settings—but I would prefer to have the choice.
I know that these are early days and the tools are being developed even as I write these words. Within two years, we independent e-publishers will have a lot more control over the format of our books. 

I can’t wait. 

Look for Scott's work atAmazon: and Smashwords:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Surf's Up!

Okay, Book Blatherers, are you ready for another adventure at sea and more? Allow me to introduce Marshall Lubin who, at age seventeen, embarked on a journey that led to his appropriately titled book, From Boys 2 Men – An Adventure in Paradise. Trust me, it has nothing to do with rapping and everything to do with growing up . . .fast! Welcome to Book Blather, Marshall.

Marshall: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with your readers.

Marilee: Although my three sons are now adults, I remember what they were like at age seventeen. Did it take some fast-talking to convince your parents to let you take off on this grand adventure?

 Marshall: Not really.  Myself and three other guys that I surfed with on weekends made a plan to go to Hawaii; our dream was to surf the summer months in the islands, after finishing high school.  It wasn’t difficult to talk the folks into allowing us to take off for the summer.  It may have helped that we worked after school, during our senior year, so that we could pay our own way.

Marilee: Your original destination was Hawaii. How did you end up in American Samoa?

Marshall: Our reason for going to Hawaii was to ride 30 foot waves.  We had attended surf    
      movies at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in our high school years.  We watched
      the great surfers of the day riding big waves in the islands and were stoked!  In our
      ignorance, we didn’t know that those waves only arrive during the winter months, the
      result of storms in the Gulf of Alaska.  Grousing about the lack of big waves to
      Samoans we had met on the Oahu, they suggested we go to Samoa, where we could
      ride bigger waves.  They gave us a letter of introduction to their family in Pango. 
      Chuck and I headed south on a reconnaissance mission and we were off on an

Marilee: You say, “An ultimatum from the governor of Samoa pushed you into employment.” If you don’t mind me asking, how did a couple of American teenage boys catch the eye of the governor?

Marshall: We caught the eye of the governor simply because we were two teenage boys in a place where, virtually, no one visited.   In the mid-sixties, Samoa was very primitive.  No hotels, no restaurants, theaters, television, or newspapers.  Tourists didn’t come to Samoa because there was nothing for them to do there (except enjoy the beauty of an unspoiled paradise).  As Caucasians we stuck out and as a 17 & 18 year old, we were certainly an anomaly walking along the shore surrounding the harbor.  The governor was curious what the two of us were doing on ‘his island.’

Marilee: Tell us about your work on board the seventy-eight foot inter-island carrier. Did you have previous experience working on a ship?

Marshall: The Isabel Rose was the answer to the governor’s ultimatum of: “Get a job or get outta town.”  Although she was a piece of junk and barely floating, she gave Chuck and I a job and took us off the governor’s radar screen. 
We had never worked on a boat before.  Our job was painting, chipping rust, helping to fix everything to make this boat seaworthy, and of course, manning the boat during passages throughout the islands.  Unfortunately, she was purchased and run by a con-man who planned to have her laden with cargo and sent to sea.  He over-insured and over-loaded her hoping we would take her to the Marshall Islands from Fiji, a two thousand mile voyage.  The boat would undoubtedly sink, the crew perish, but the owner would enjoy a small fortune from the insurance money.

Marilee: In Fiji, you hooked up with another American and his Tahitian wife who were sailing around the world in their yacht. What happened next?

Marshall: Knowing the Isabel Rose would have foundered had we sailed from Fiji, we abandoned ship in Suva harbor.  We moved ashore into a duplex and partied a lot during the evening hours.  The neighbors, John and Jeanne came over to ask us to, “Quiet down some.”  Surfing on many days with nothing else to do, Chuck and I offered to help John paint and varnish his 56’ yacht in preparation for his departure.  Both of us soon received a deportation notice from the Fijian authorities, as we had entered the country illegally, when we abandoned the Isabel Rose.  John then asked us if we would like to join him on his trip around-the-world?  He explained that he had a charter from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh to collect butterflies in New Guinea.  That bit of news astounded us.  Plus the fact that we hadn’t heard of New Guinea nor did we know where it was located.  We thought perhaps, Africa?

Marilee:  Please give us a short excerpt from your book and thank you for visiting Book Blather.

Marshall: Having researched the nautical charts, the skipper noted that the main island of New Caledonia was protected from the south by an extensive barrier reef located in relatively shallow water.  In order to make a safe passage through the guardian reef it was decided to stop for the night and pitch camp on one of the many sandy atolls to the south of Grande Terre.  As we approached a relatively large atoll that appeared to provide sufficient protection from wind and surf, the sails were dropped and Charles was sent up the mast to the first spreaders.  From there he could view the underlying reef from a superior vantage point while John motored the boat in close to shore. Given the word, I dropped Pasiano’s anchor fifty yards from the beach.  Once the boat’s anchor had been set, the clutter on deck was cleared and we were ready to go exploring. 
     Charles and I unloaded the dinghy and paddled ashore to scout the small isle.  It was a low-lying sand island that would shelter us from the light evening breeze while providing a peaceful and safe place to sleep.  You see, there were no inhabitants on this tiny, isolated piece of heaven.  It sat in the middle of the South Pacific exposing itself to passing sailors, daring them to come ashore and bask in its virgin glory.  Surrounded by crystal clear eighty two degree water filled with exotic fish, clams and lobster, a seafood feast awaited those who dared to peek beneath the surface of her watery skirt. But these intrepid sailors had other thoughts; dried driftwood was gathered from the beach for a fire and shipboard food was prepared for our evening meal.

     Laughs circulated throughout the group as we decided to call it a night.  Crawling into our sleeping bags, we stared up at the incredible obsidian sky; it had the appearance of a smooth, dark canvas pin-pricked with a million points of light.  Shooting stars ran across the vast void of space. We observed the endless mass of stars, constellations and planets as we lay on our backs searching the heavens; they added to the enjoyment while dispelling any thoughts of solitude or loneliness on our private beach-front camp.  
     We stargazed into the celestial cathedral of heavenly bodies suspended in the inexorable darkness overhead; all highlighted by the stars of the magnificent Southern Cross.  We gazed in awe at the constellations: Corvus, Virgo and the Crab Nebula. It was breathtakingly spectacular, more stars were visible than in any sky we had ever seen.  It was difficult to lie there, on that sandy beach and not be in complete wonderment of the planet we inhabited; its vastness, its complexity and its motherly attitude towards the children that play upon its surface.
     After enjoying the rare view that kept our eyes wide open in astonishment at its infinite beauty, we fell off to an undisturbed slumber on the soft white sand while serenaded by the small waves that broke, not quite silently, on the nearby shore of our host isle.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my work with your readers.  From Boys 2 Men can be purchased  on Amazon and, in bookstores in San Diego, and ordered through Barnes & Noble book stores.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sneak Peek at Shadow Moon

I know, I said the purpose of this blog was not to promote my own books but I'm so excited about the impending release of Shadow Moon, I hope you'll forgive me. I'll try not to make a habit of it.

Shadow Moon, book four in the Unbidden Magic series, will soon be available, first as a Kindle download, followed shortly by the print version. I confess I've found it difficult to provide an excerpt that doesn't include a spoiler. Since the front cover says, "Junior's back," I decided to use his homecoming scene. If you're a fan of Junior Martinez, this one's for you! Here's the link:

As an added bonus, here's a decadent recipe from Chef Jean Denham.

Caribbean Fudge Pie

I found this chocolaty decadent recipe on an old Kraft card the company used to send out periodically in the 90s – have been making it ever since. For an over-the-top dessert, add a scoop of ice cream – coffee ice cream is delicious – to each serving.

8 squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate -- (1 pkg.)
1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell (make or just buy Pillsbury pie crust)
1 teaspoon rum extract or vanilla
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter -- (1/2 stick) room temp.
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1/2 cup walnut halves

Heat oven to 375 F.
Microwave chocolate in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until almost melted, stirring halfway thru heating time. Remove and stir until completely melted Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add chocolate, coffee and rum extract; mix well. Stir in flour and chopped walnuts. Pour into pastry shell. Decorate top of pie with walnut halves.

Bake in lower third of oven 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

From Kraft Recipe card - early 90s.