Thursday, August 25, 2016

Finishing a beloved series - What to write next?

The Curse of the Lost Isle, a romantic medieval fantasy series, was twenty years in the making and is coming to a close. Of course, I wrote many other novels for various publishers in multiple genres during that time, since that series did not find a publisher right away, and required a great amount of historical research. As I am writing the last novel, Book eight, Angel of Lusignan, scheduled for release around the holidays, I realize with nostalgia that it has been a long labor of love. I’m going to miss living in that world.

As to what comes next, I’m still debating. I like writing in different genres and I have a habit of mixing them, which creates marketing nightmares for my publishers. But I like my stories to be original, different and unique. I write what I would want to read. In the Curse of the Lost Isle (from BWL), featuring a family of immortal ladies with Fae gifts, I mixed authentic legends with known history and romance. In the Chronicles of Kassouk and in the Borealis series (from Desert Breeze Publishing), I mixed science fiction with romance, and several of my characters have paranormal abilities… sometimes created through technology. 

I also wrote a few contemporary romances, but always with a twist, like reincarnation, a shape shifter, or a thriller element. Whether writing about the past, the present, or the future, my main constants are action, adventure, and romance. I also have a predilection for cats, as they pop up as secondary characters almost everywhere (except in medieval times, but I do have a major dog character in Damsel of the Hawk).

I would also like my next project to be a series. Like a reader, after I fall in love with a created world, I enjoy spending time in it. But I may choose to make these series shorter. Maybe three or four books, not six or eight like in my two latest series. It’s difficult to promote Book seven or eight to new readers who haven’t read any of the other books… even if it’s a standalone. 
Standalone is another requisite of mine. I like my series to be readable out of order, so each book should be a complete story as much as possible. As a reader, I hate cliffhanger endings and would never do that to my readers. I had to cut longer books into two parts before, not by choice, and although I still gave the first book a satisfying ending, I couldn’t tie up all the loose ends or resolve all the conflicts at the end, since that happened in the second book. It deeply bothered me. From the reviews, I know it bothered a few of my readers as well. 

Now, for the time and place: Medieval? Futuristic? Contemporary? Post apocalyptic? On a space station? On an alien planet? In an alternate universe? I have used all of these in the past. Is there any other option?

As for the characters, I have a predilection for strong, kick-butt heroines. I also really enjoyed writing immortals. I once flirted with the idea of writing a series featuring angels, and I am still considering it. They could be fallen angels seeking redemption, or guardians of the human kind. Or, they could be aliens, alien/human hybrids, or AI (artificial intelligence), but I already featured a synthetic being in Black Dragon (Borealis series).

So, my new writing project should definitely be a series with strong heroines, romance, action, adventure, and cats (you can never have too many of those). Each novel should be a complete story, and the series should lend itself to a different hero and heroine for each story. So, the constant would be the world in which the characters evolve.
In other words, writing a series revolves around creating a world in which strong, captivating characters can fight for what is just and good, and in the process, find their happily ever after. Writing this post helped me order my thoughts. Starting next year, look for the start of a new sci-fi romance series involving strong kick-butt heroines and gorgeous aliens with angel power. Now, back to finishing the Curse of the Lost Isle medieval series. 
Vijaya Schartz
  Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick
  Amazon - Barnes & Noble 
About the author:
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims to also travel through time, as she writes without boundaries about the future and the far away past. Her love of cats transpires in many of her books… and she has more than twenty-five novels published. Her stories collected numerous five star reviews and a few literary awards. Find her and her books at

Monday, August 15, 2016

The 3 “Silic’s” by George G. Pinneo

George G. Pinneo is an accomplished author of over twenty hard, non-fantasy, non-magic science fiction novels, including Planet Scout and The Bergmann Series.

Enjoy all George’s works at:

There are three simple words that are used somewhat interchangeably by uninformed, careless writers in newspapers, magazines, catalogs and books: Silicon, Silica and Silicone.

Silicon is an element: a bluish non-metal semiconductor used to make transistors and ICs. The chemical symbol is “Si”: atomic number 14, between aluminum, Al and phosphorus, P. Si sits directly above germanium, Ge, atomic number 32 in the Periodic Table of the Elements. Germanium elemental semiconductors were developed before Si because it melts at only 938° C. Silicon melts at 1,414° C. Single-crystalline silicon has some electronic properties that allow better tailoring of solid-state devices. Silicon is being superseded for some applications by the inorganic compound semiconductor: gallium arsenide, GaAs.

Silica is an inorganic compound SiO2: a hard, glass-like dielectric material, also called quartz. This material is often translucent or transparent. SiO2 is what white sand is largely composed of: one of the most abundant compounds on the Earth’s surface. Silica has several uses, one of which is the reduction of SiO2 to Si. Silica is often seen in little paper packets in pills or equipment to absorb moisture, keeping things dry. It is cheap enough to be used as a filler in paints and thermoplastics, but is so resistant to heat it can be used to make chemical process equipment that operates at 800° C. 

A silicone is an organic, often rubbery, elastomeric compound used as a sealant and thermal barrier. Silicone pastes are widely used as both temporary and permanent building caulking materials; they are fire resistant and easy to apply as gap-fillers. Some are cured with moisture. Some silicones are thermally resistant to temperatures well above the melting points of some low melting, metallic solders.
The three names are not interchangeable! Do your readers the courtesy of using them properly.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Historical Research - Building the Medieval Castle by Vijaya Schartz

Click here to get it in kindle
As I am writing the last book ind the Curse of the Lost Isle medieval series, ANGEL OF LUSIGNAN (Book 8) set in Aquitaine, I am thoroughly enjoying the research, as much as the story and the characters.

Start reading the series with the boxed set of the first four novels. Seven are already published, and the last one will be out for the holidays.

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, build mighty castles, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake. 5 stars on Amazon "Edgy Medieval. Yay!"

* * * * * 
In the Twelfth Century, castles sprouted all over Europe. In England the first castles were mainly built in a hurry, out of wood, by the Norman invader to secure conquered territory. They were motte and bailey castles, with a keep, earth works, wooden fences and sharp stakes. Later, the keep and walls were rebuilt in stone.

Meanwhile, on the continent, like in Aquitaine, castles were already made of stone. The Romans had built stone roads and forts centuries earlier, leaving solid foundations in prime locations. Just out of the dark ages after the barbarian invasions, the central power fractured into smaller estates, the local lords rebuilt and expanded these stone forts for protection. Not only they fortified their castles, but also their entire cities.

Medieval building technique. Notice the crane.

The new cities and castles were generally built on a promontory, a plateau or a hill, surrounded by water, at an estuary, a confluent, or on a cliff overlooking a river. A body of water protected the castle from attacks by land, but rivers could also be highways for enemies invading by boats. Occasional Viking and Norman raids were still common.

Fortified city and castle of Carcassonne - Southern Aquitaine

The lack of a strong central power also encouraged greedy land owners and bands of rogue knights to appropriate territory by force. Stone walls offered the best protection.

Building a castle was expensive and required a great amount of gold to pay the many skilled workers needed for the monumental task. A lord would hire a taskmaster, overseers, a master mason, architects, an army of masons and stone cutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, lead beaters, barrel makers, potters, candle makers, and other craftsmen. He also needed diggers and general workmen, as well as water carriers.

Castle of Lusignan - Aquitaine - Original design

First, the trees around the site would be felled and peeled, then sliced lengthwise to provide lumber for the scaffolding, and the giant beams to support the wooden ceiling of the upper floors. Meanwhile, the stone had to be extracted from the surrounding rock, then cut and chiseled to size. Often the stone was extracted from the excavation for the moat. Secret passages and underground storage rooms and cellars would often be dug from the rock before erecting the walls, with arched ceilings and thick columns to support the edifice above.

Arrow slit in a castle wall

And do not think castles were uncomfortable. Although the external defense walls only had arrow slits, the buildings inside the enclosure had windows to bring in the light. They also had amenities, like giant fireplaces to provide heat during the winter, large kitchens with bread ovens, to cook for hundreds of soldiers, and skilled chefs to prepare meals and special feasts for the nobles. There was wine and cheese aplenty in the cellars.

medieval toilet - or garderobe

The castle even had toilets called garderobe, simple sitting holes at the outer side of the wall, allowing automatic disposal of human waste straight down into the moat or the river below, which conveniently eliminated odors.

Castle of Tiffauge - Aquitaine - France

Also important to the castle was a permanent source of fresh water, so if there was no natural spring on the premises, digging a well would constitute a first priority. In case of a siege, the castle must be self-sufficient.

Mock up - castle of Lusignan - Aquitaine - France

A great castle would include several courtyards, including one for weapon practice. Also inside the walls would be stables for the horses, a barn for the hay, barracks for the guards and soldiers, sheds and work places for the artisans, blacksmiths, etc. The kitchens would have their own buildings and storage rooms.

Castle of Lusignan - Aquitaine - France

Very few of these early stone castles have survived a thousand years of warfare, and those that did survive were updated and modified over the centuries, but we have lithographs and drawings, as well as mock ups to show us what the original construction looked like.

Vijaya Schartz, author
Swords, blasters, romance with a kick
Amazon - Barnes & Noble

Sunday, July 31, 2016

New Book Releases

Looking for some great new book releases by successful Arizona writers?

Read the Arizona Authors' August/September Newsletter.

Email for your copy today!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Grand Ascent by Jane Ruby

On the trail before sunrise, I point my headlamp at the group member in front of me. Boots crunch and pole tips clunk on the firm pebble-laden creek trail. We hike at a moderate pace to the Silver Bridge that crosses the Colorado River. My muscles appreciate the two layers of clothes I’m wearing

Hiking over four thousand feet and nine miles sounds easy, especially with mule porter service. I carry only food, clothing, and water needed for the journey.

A Winter ascent, poses a few problems:

Phantom Ranch temperature is 28°F, and Rim temperature is forecast to reach only 10°F, so we need to pack extra layers of clothes.

The Rim has six to twelve inches of snow, so our boots need an extra layer of socks and crampons for the last few miles of ascent.

The only source of water is at Indian Gardens—halfway up the Bright Angel Trail. Other water stations are shut down, so we need to manage our water intake.

The night before we leave Phantom Ranch, we organize our packs. I can’t decide what to carry and what to pack for the mule. I lose sleep wondering if I had made the right choices. Finally falling asleep, the 5:30 alarm sounds! I dress, strap on my pack, switch on my headlamp, and carry my duffle bag to the mule-staging area. I stress when handing over my extra granola bars, electrolyte powder, and battery packs. What if an avalanche blocks the trail, and I run out of provisions? I pray my pack jammed with water, energy bars, and Antarctic gear can sustain me.

Crossing to the south bank, we kick through the deep sand of The River Trail. The resistance gets my heart pumping, but I’m used to it. We make good time reaching the River Resthouse. The sky lightens, and although the trail lies in shadows, I pack away my headlamp. The trail to Indian Gardens steepens, but I can maintain a good pace. So glad I had trained for this event!

We cross a few running creeks—pleased with my waterproof boots! At Indian Gardens, my thermometer reports a ten-degree drop, but I feel toasty enough to stop and munch on an energy bar. A hand-written sign on the water spigot urges users to keep it open to prevent freezing. Useful advice—keep moving to avoid freezing and, more importantly, be less of a target for avalanches!

Ascending the next three thousand feet, the canyon hues transform from earthen to glacial. At the Three-Mile Resthouse, my thermometer reads fifteen degrees, yet I don’t feel a need to add extra clothing. Our guide advises us to put on crampons. Greater inclines, deeper snow, and thinner air cause my stride to shorten and my lungs to heave. Got to keep moving!

I feel nature calling at the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse. Climbing the steep steps to the restroom, I haphazardly drop my poles, backpack and gloves behind me. Inside the stall, I sit on the commode, my bare bottom getting an exhilarating shot of air from underneath! Fear of avalanche and death fall with my bodily fluids into the dark void beneath me. Wish I could sit forever! But an avalanche could happen anytime—and I don’t want to be here when it does!

For the last mile, our group thins out as their paces vary. Being in the “fast” group, I plod through the shin-high snow. Two of my group members—from Flagstaff and having Sherpa lungs—sprint ahead to photograph my momentous first-ever ascent to the Rim. To me it feels more like summiting Mount Everest, my lungs burning and muscles cramping. I suck for water from my water tube, but it is frozen! Seeing my difficulty, the two Sherpas descend, throw off their gloves and massage my water tube. The ice melts, and I am able to re-hydrate. My muscle cramps dissipate!

Reaching the lower tunnel, my new best Sherpa friends ask me to pose for a photo. I decline, not wanting to stop my torrid shuffle. Besides, frozen frothy nostrils can’t be too photogenic. At the upper tunnel—less than half a mile from the Rim—I agree to stop and de-ice my face for a photo.

Fifty yards from the Rim, my Sherpa friends let me and another rookie finish first. I burst for the trailhead sign. A ten-degree breeze hits my face, but doesn’t stop me from smiling. I drop my poles and embrace my fellow rookie. Elated, we cheer each other. We turn to thank our Sherpas, but they’re already loping down the trail to the slower group members—like it’s another day at the office. I have deep respect for these pulmonary protagonists.

The trailhead area is empty except for two Italian tourists. Knowing little English they still sense our victory and offer to take photos with our cell phones and cameras. We linger for a short time, but our tour guide urges us to retrieve our duffle bags at the mule barn. Duffle bags—who needs ‘em?