Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Reviewer's 1000th Review

While one of Amazon's top reviewers has taken on to review my
"Legends of the Winged Scarab" series,

After the Cataclysm
was chosen as his 

1000th Review

Thank You for Your Support of Writers

* * *

Please, click on my "Reader Reviews" Page for more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Armchair Sailor

I just completed a great Blog Hop initiated by the inimitable Helen Hollick. Through it, I came to know that many of their ladies were aboard ship at one time or another, loving a rogue pirate, or trying to regain a tropical inheritance.

(In case you missed those delightful glimpses into their fascinating books, check them out a couple of posts back under "Shining Light On Our Ladies").

Because of all those stories, I'd like to post this little tribute to the many courageous sailors out there.

Armchair Sailor

Don’t be like me!
Don’t waste your life in wishful fantasy!
Last night, I met the sailor
who dared to live my dream.

This Don Giovanni of the Sea,
having beguiled a hundred women
and who would love a dozen more,
has sailed the Seven Oceans, instead of me.

He’s listened to the tenor of his rigging,
and matched the joyous basso-buffo
of his anchor chain,
while harmonizing with his latest curvy mate
in the duets of love.

Quaintly sequestered coves on lushly verdant isles
replenished his bruised sailor’s soul.
Forgetting Neptune’s battering, it was
replaced by new-inspired quest for yet another goal.

He’s haggled with a multitude of tongues
and laughed with many-peopled hosts.
Traversing fatal shipping lanes and lame conventions,
he’s fended off the beckoning of unforgiving water ghosts.

He stole my dream!
I had to stay behind, on land.
How could I do otherwise?
He has a boat. He has no ties.
He also has the courage.

* * *
 (Excerpted from my "Moments of the Heart")

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"SHADOW LOVE" Needs Some Love

It is just a novella but, boy, is it giving me headaches – and I do so like my Monika Lenz as she struggles to find herself (and that hunky pilot she’s fantasizing about).
It's an interesting story (if I say so myself) but somehow, readers are not giving it the love it deserves.
I've tried several titles, several covers. So, once again, here is the latest:

     The idea for this novella has rattled around my head for so many years, that my now long-departed mother once cried aloud: "Oh, child. This is you!" It was an assumption I fervently denied. Granted, the protagonist is Austrian (like me), she is attractive and successful (no problem there). However, she does drink a little—and that's where I drew the line. But in order for the story to work, I had to burden the lady with a grip on the nip.
     There is also a connection to my other novels—the charming Edward, Con Extraordinaire-although in Shadow Love, he appears only in Monika Lenz's regretting memory.
     (As an aside, Edward turns out not quite so charming anymore in the modern-day adventure/thriller sequels to Khamsin, The Devil Wind of the Nile. We meet him first in Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea, where he turns slightly murderous. Then, in After the Cataclysm, things seem to go from bad to worse for our protagonists. And you'll just have to read what goes on in The Crystal Curse.)
* * *
     What did I learn while writing this novella? Well, for one thing, you can't drink and write. The only road to success (whenever that may come, if at all) is a little bit of talent, an excellent grasp of a language, good research, an even better imagination and, above all, tenacity. Keeping at it until your fingers bleed, your brain goes foggy, and your eyes cross, is a given. And then: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT.
     And if you must, don't be too lazy to republish; even one detected typo after the book has been foisted onto your readers is worth the effort.
     What else did I learn from all my books? That this writing-thing has turned into an all-consuming passion.
     The reward is when readers do that they do best: Reading my stories. Second best is, when they leave reviews letting us writers know how our stories affected them. Of course, if they liked them, that's pure gravy.
Buy on Amazon:


Men! She was glad that she had decided to be through with them. At least for a while. Monika stretched. It was going to be a long trip and already her back felt stiff.
Muori dannato! Tosca sobbed through the stereo speakers. After stabbing her powerful tormentor, she wills him to die. E morto. A wronged woman’s vendetta justly meted out. At least, according to Puccini.
Monika grimaced. “Damn,” she said through her teeth. “Fifty, and giving up on life. And sex. Bummer.” She glanced at the rock-jumbled hills, their wasted slopes echoing her impassive heart.
After doggedly pressing on for several more hours, Route 203 finally led her toward Mammoth Lakes.
“Almost there, Bandito.” She stuck her finger into the carrier again and scratched her cat’s velvety nose. He may be just a cat but Monika knew having him there with her could mean the difference between sanity and despair.
“Let’s just hope you don’t live up to your name,” she smiled.

* * *

Loving our Bad Boys

In the midst of a multi-author blog hop:
where I highlighted my leading lady
Nefret, from Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile,
I started thinking about some of the Bad Boys in my novels.

What fascinates us so about them? What makes us even root for them? More often than not, they aren’t the main protagonist but his nemesis.
It keeps happening to me. These sideliners weasel themselves into the action when I simply needed someone for a scene. Then, later on—holla!--there they are again, sprouting up like a weed.
Of course, Ebu al-Saqqara, the vile vizier in Khamsin is – well, vile without redemption. I didn’t like him one bit.

However, I did take to Saad, King Aha’s royal steward (see him, on the left, all humble and servile) until he turned on me and my sweet girl, the Princess Nefret.
I was so mad I wanted to kill him. Oh, yeah…

Five-thousand years later, there is the ubiquitous Edwardthe dapper conman—destined for a mere dalliance with Naunet in Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea.
Suddenly, he turns kidnapper and an accomplice to murder. Still, I couldn't quite bring myself to killing him off, so he remains my leading lady’s nemesis throughout the series.
He was one charming devil. While I don’t like him any longer, his ability to “go with the flow” still astounds me.
-- A small history of him in Edward, Con Extraordinaire, is free for the next five days; just saying …

And then, there is Vergil, Jonathan’s seemingly dimwitted guard on the M/S Bucanero in
After the Cataclysm. 

To my surprise (!), Vergil turns out to be a wily modern-day pirate who’s also rather handy with a handheld rocket launcher in
The Crystal Curse.
I wonder what mischief he’ll be up to in Book 5?
Take a guess...

The subject of Bad Boys begs the question (perhaps evoking long-buried memories?): Why are real women drawn to them?
Nope, not going there...

Instead, I’ll concentrate on Book 5 of the Legends of the Winged Scarab to be published later this fall. It's got a great cover and I am planning to reveal it soon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


 Enjoy this BLOG HOP
Dreamed up and Organized by the indefatigable


Helen Hollick is the prolific author of historical books about Medieval England
as well as rollicking sea stories.
(More about her below)
Thank you, Helen.

Ten of us historical fiction writers will be 


Week Four - 26th October:

Ladies of the Storm...And stormy these ladies are indeed.
In Helen Hollick's Sea Witch Voyages, her lovable rogue-pirate Jesamiah "finds it difficult to keep his breeches buttoned."
Read more about it here:

More stormy sea stories are on the blog of Anna Belfrage

and Linda Collison's Barbados Bound.
See here how she gets her lady out of a scrap:

Week Three - 20th October:


(King Arthur’s women -- 
and, are they different

from the usual romantic descriptions!)

Paired with
Alison Morton

Week Two - 13th October:  
(Women of 1066) with 

Week One:
 6th October:  Helen_Hollick (Queen Emma) with
                     Pat  Bracewell and me...(below)

My contribution is:
Princess Nefret
Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile
(Book 1 - Legends of the Winged Scarab)

     Princess Nefret, King Aha’s Royal Daughter and Heiress, was still so young, but her eternal soul was already old for it was a reawakened Ba.
This essence, having lived through paradise and cataclysms, was destined yet to live through many other storms for it was a sinner’s soul which had still not found atonement on this earth.
     She is just a girl, precocious and full of mischief. But for her first sixteen years, King Aha all but ignores his lively daughter leaving her upbringing mostly to Amma, her nurse-maid from the day she was born to her dying mother.
     Her education is guided by Ramose, the munificent High Priest of Ptah, a powerful force among the temples along the Nile. Still there are rumors from those who wish him toppled.
     ”Why, in a world of dark looks, do his eyes blaze like the daytime sky?” And Nefret’s own blue gaze adds fodder to the gristmills of suspicion.
     Storm clouds gather over Nefret’s head as the gentle dew of the girl's awakening into a woman brings dark shadows when her forbidden love for the young surgeon priest Tasar drives her to unspeakable deeds. Not even Ramose dares to save her from this trespass against the laws of Ma’at.
     Young Tasar must grapple with his conscience over the innocence he blemished so heedlessly. He has to choose between his priestly calling or whether he should flee from his ancient land with the young princess he has come to cherish.
     A fledgling khamsin grows into adolescence over the desolate sandy expanses of the great desert. When at last the Devil Wind’s hot fury is spent, all life among the dunes seems to have vanished - or has it?

Five thousand years later,
Nefret's golden death mask
is exhibited at the Cairo Museum.

Will this old soul, this sinner's Ba,
be reawakened to brave as yet another storm?
Find out in
Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea (2),
After the Cataclysm (3)and
The Crystal Curse (4).
Look for Book 5 later this Fall.

* * * * *
During this hopping about with our Shining Ladies some wear hooped skirts while others have donned a toga, a pleated linen sheath, or even swashbuckling pirates' boots.

On this, our first Tuesday, I am partnered with
Helen Hollick and Patricia Bracewell.
Both are shining their light on Emma of Normandy - from different viewpoints.

* * * * *

Helen Hollick

    Helen lives on a thirteen-acre farm in Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science-fiction and fantasy, and then discovered historical fiction.
    Published for over twenty years with her Arthurian Trilogy, and the 1066 era, she became a ‘USA Today’ bestseller with Forever Queen. She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, pirate-based fantasy adventures.
    As a supporter of Indie Authors she is Managing Editor for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and inaugurated the HNS Indie Award.

Helen’s view of Emma… 

A woman married at the age of thirteen to a man she despised; when he died the only way to survive and retain her status was to marry the man who had been her enemy.

Forever Queen (US Edition Title) 
A Hollow Crown (UK Edition Title) 

More fascinating insight on Helen's own Blog:
* * * * *

 On to

Patricia Bracewell,  and her EMMA.

Patricia taught high school English before pursuing a writing career. The Price of Blood, is the second book in her trilogy about the 11th century queen of England, Emma of Normandy. Her first book, Shadow on the Crown, has been published in the UK, Australia, Italy, Germany, Russia and Brazil as well as in the U.S and Canada. She continues to travel extensively for research, and in the fall of 2014 she served as Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library, Wales. She is currently at work on the final novel of her Emma of Normandy trilogy. She lives in Oakland, California.


Meet Patricia's Emma

The Price of Blood 

    Emma of Normandy lived in an age ruled by the sword – an age when even women’s hearts had to be forged from steel.
    Warrior’s daughter, bride of kings, mother and peace-weaver, she was England’s only twice-crowned queen whose strength of spirit would bind the wounds of a shattered kingdom.

Find out more on Pat's own Blog
PatriciaBracewell - ShiningLightOnOurLadies

* * * * *
For the next three October Tuesdays, more Shining Ladies!
For one, the man she most despises is the man who owns her heart.
For another, a district nurse must cope with the tragedies of World War II,
and another faces the horrors and tragedies of the American Civil War.

I can't wait to read about all of our Shining Ladies.
 Come back and join us!


The Full Shining Light Tour - Check it Out!

  6th October:  Helen_Hollick (Queen Emma) with Pat  Bracewell and 
Inge H. Borg

13th October:  Helen_Hollick (Women of 1066) with Elizabeth Revill
Diana Wilder and Regina Jeffers

20th October:  Helen_Hollick (King Arthur’s women) paired with
Alison Morton and Sophie Perinot

27th October:  Helen_Hollick - the Sea Witch women with
Anna Belfrage and Linda Collison

If you are liable to forget, just bookmark this blog
and come back to check for the Tuesday dates and our The Shining Ladies.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Minefield of Writing Ancient Egyptian Fiction

Maat or Ma'at was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, lawmorality, and justice

(Just to keep your attention)

What REALLY happened?

Nobody knows. After all, it was five-thousand years ago. So you think you can just fabricate the stuff. Not quite. There are plenty of people (I am excluding professional historians here) who do know. You have to do your research; and that’s when the trouble starts.

Time-lines especially become a blur of contradictions and "facts" are constantly superseded by new findings. Take Dynasties 00-03, for example. Every publication hungrily perused for indisputable dates lists a different year, even century, as the beginning and duration of those dynasties. Of course, we are dealing with things that supposedly happened five-thousand years ago; and those inconsiderate scribes never saved their scrolls in “The Cloud.”

Then take the names of kings, their wives/consorts, and places. Most widely recognized are cities described by the Egyptian priest Manetho (written in Greek). But he, too, was a few thousand years late to the party for my book and—so they say—had quite a good imagination. The Greek historian Herodotus gave us “Memphis,” and “Thebes,” and “Abydos,” among many others. The pyramid of Mycinerus? Really? Did Menkaure (also Menkaura and Mencaure) speak Greek? One therefore needs to choose between the various spellings for the same thing (and stick to it throughout the book).

It all started when I stumbled upon Hierakonpolis, Herakleopolis, Heliopolis. “Wait a minute. These are all Greek names,” I sputtered, and then had a heck of a time to find the ancient name Ineb-hedj (City of White Walls). Yes, it’s our well-known Memphis that definitely wasn’t Memphis during the First Dynasty. I stuck as best as I could to the ancient names resorting to appendices and a glossary for readers who wanted to know and compare.

Ideally, there would have been a map. I love maps at the beginning of a book—but the e-book doesn’t really lend itself to that. Besides, I am no good at drawing (volunteers gladly accepted).
So what is an innocent soul like me doing traipsing in and out of this ancient minefield? I have no classical training. Maybe I should be writing erotica instead (it certainly sells better). But, I suspect, that too requires research... (volunteers not requested).

In the end, a writer can only hope that the story itself prevails, with the exotic backdrop enhancing, not challenging, the reading experience.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

An Ancient Egyptian Bark (also referred to as "Barque")

There was some discussion about me using the word "bark" in
KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile.
So, I thought I had better give an explanation.

The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson calls it a bark.
So do other publications.
Thus, I settled on this spelling.

Hor-Aha Solar ships (Also called "Barks" or "Barques.")

In 1991 in the desert near the temple of Khentyamentiu near Abydos, archaeologists uncovered the remains of the 14 ships dating back to the early first dynasty, possibly associated with Hor-Aha.

These 75-foot-long (23 m) ships are buried side by side and have wooden hulls, rough stone boulders which were used as anchors, and "sewn" wooden planks. Also found within their desert graves were remains of the woven straps that joined the planks, as well as reed bundles that were used to seal seams between planks.

(Just as an aside, we mostly associate the more modern word "barque" with a three-masted schooner nowadays.)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

FBI Knows Who Stole SIROCCO’S Cover

An art theft that had frustrated the authorities for decades, the FBI today released news that it had identified those who stole $500 million worth of paintings in a daring heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990.

Among the stolen paintings was one of Rembrandt’s masterpieces, and I used a public domain image for the cover of Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea. I even wove its fictitious acquisition into my thriller (check out the foreword to the novel).

Imagine my shock—and delight—when I heard the news (twenty-three years to the day) that the FBI had a lead.

Alas, not to the painting itself (yet), but at least to those who committed this audacious theft. In the back of my mind, I always hoped for someone to pick up my book and recognize the painting as the very one hanging in his or her “Uncle Guido’s private study.” That really would have made my day (as well as the museum’s, I would imagine).

Even though these paintings are worth millions, one can never sell them on the open market. As they say in the art world: The crux of the matter is provenance, my dear. Always, prove the provenance.

Do you know where your paintings came from?

By the way, there is a $5 million reward for the recovery of those works...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Scams – Writers (and others) Beware

Most of us writers are a solitary lot.

This perhaps makes us a little more susceptible to grasping at a seemingly friendly contact. Out of the blue, ‘literary agents,’ ‘publishers eager to thrust us into stardom,’ and ‘winner of best book in the world’ contests seek our books by hawking fabulous prizes. Somehow, there’s never a winner, and of course, there is that “small” entry fee.
Even the very savvy historical fiction writer Helen Hollick
has a tale to tell on her blog.   (Artist Svetlana Petrova)

My last blog post here was an innocuous poem from my even more obscure “Moments of the Heart.” Well, I got an e-mail from a certain "[name] Special Services, manager” (title in lower case!) offering for this little volume to be exhibited at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition in Boston. While the ALA Exhibition is legitimate, they also have an interesting sidebar on their website entitled “Fair Guide Warning.”

We have been advised that [name] Publishers has been soliciting paid listings in their publication, FAIR Guide, from exhibiting companies of the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, and Annual Conference & Exhibition.
Please be advised that the American Library Association and Hall-Erickson, Inc. have no relationship or affiliation with this organization and does not recommend, approve or endorse any involvement or listing in the FAIR Guide on behalf of the American Library Association exhibitors.

I would not be surprised if my “solicitous” book advertiser is to be added soon. Whatever you do before opening the champagne for having been ‘discovered’ and plonking down any money: GOOGLE… My ‘new best friend’ turned out to be an outcropping of a widely scam-listed former vanity publisher.

Did I mention we are a solitary lot? Okay. Here's a little amusing aside (but related to scams):

     I Skype with a few relatives in Europe. It’s fun (as long as they don’t catch me in my jammies), and it doesn’t cost anything.
     The other day (yes, out of the proverbial blue), a young hunky 'Sargent' from Afghanistan asked to be in my contact list. (Or was it the ghost of a long-dead Boston portrait painter warning me not to keep writing about ancient curses?)  Oh, perhaps a Sergeant? Still, I didn't think so; way too young in any case. Press: Declined.
     The next day, a two-star general obliged...googled him, handsome man, much-decorated, taking over 3rd ID in SC. (Btw, with lovely wife.) Now, someone like that was more my speed. Sadly, Press: Declined.
     I could just 'hear' the airwaves rustling: "Ok, this lady has class…she wants a higher-up."
What do you know: Next, an honest-to-goodness four-star general requests to ‘meet' on Skype.
Googled him, and watched his very articulate testimony before the Senate on YouTube. Read his bio and saw photos (with lovely wife)!
     Against my lusting heart, I finally Googled "Skype+Scams."
     Well, well, well...How interesting (albeit not entirely unexpected).
     But I did learn that I can press “Profile.” Up comes the real URL of the 'requestor.' Then, there are two other lovely buttons: "Block" and "Report." Did that. Felt good.

     Except, now I don’t have anyone who wants me. Have I—with my suspicious heart—thwarted my late-in-life chance to have my own Nigerian Prince hanging around my neck (and my small - Scammers, read SMALL - bank account)?

So, once again, it's back to hugging my sweet Pasha -
who has his own blog and book, mind you.

Or, maybe I should publish a few more poems on here....