“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

P is for Poetry. Write...Edit...Publish -- April challenge -- Peace and Love -- my flash fiction. Peace and Love and Pomegranates, set in Afghanistan.

Hello! It's time for the Write...Edit...Challenge. Today, you'll find some bloggers who participate in the A-Z, using their 'P' day to write to the WEP prompt, PEACE & LOVE. April is poetry month, but we're not asking people to write poetry if that's not their forte. It's certainly not mine; I'll leave it to the experts.

Today, my flash fiction is inspired by the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the poem which is the inspiration for the WEP challenge. With a light hand, I've sprinkled some of the sentiments throughout my story.

I'm a day early, but WEP likes early entries so the reading is spread over the week. So, here we go...

There are two angels, messengers of light,
    Both born of God, who yet are bitterest foes.
    No human breast their dual presence knows.
As violently opposed as wrong and right,
When one draws near, the other takes swift flight,
    And when one enters, thence the other goes.
    Till mortal life in the immortal flows,
So must these two avoid each other's sight.
Despair and hope may meet within one heart,
The vulture may be comrade to the dove!
Pleasure and Pain swear friendship leal and true:
But till the grave unites them, still apart
Must dwell these angels known as Peace and Love,
For only Death can reconcile the two.
Poetical works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox 
Edinburgh : W. P. Nimmo, Hay, & Mitchell, 1917.

Peace and Love and Pomegranates

I dedicate this story to all those caught up in war, terrorism and other atrocities, to whom peace is a distant dream.

Daily Mail UK

Outside was a sun-baked, bright-skied Afghan day, the kind where Hallie itched to be outdoors. She dreamed of driving her beat-up Toyota to the green-folded mountains that surrounded the city of Kabul. From her vantage point overlooking the valley, she wouldn’t see the scars, the emptiness, the bombed-out places.

She smoothed her purple satin bedspread, then dusted the candlesticks in their hand-blown glass containers and placed them beside her bed. Then she knelt, head in hands and prayed. Would her prayers be answered today? It’d been weeks since he left on his clandestine mission of peace in a country that had never really known peace.

She hurried downstairs where the lunch crowd was multi-tasking—gulping espresso from colourful demitasse cups, sipping mint green tea from long glasses, wolfing down Shari’s food, while scanning newspapers for the latest news on those opposing forces, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban.

She despaired of this Islamic republic achieving peace in her lifetime. This was a land of warriors. Warriors needed wars.

She stood at the bottom of the stairs and chewed her thumb, admiring the brown door Bosco had built for her before he went away to investigate the latest bomb blast in Kandahar.

“It has to be at least a foot thick,” he’d said, “or the NGOs will no longer authorise you as a safe restaurant.” He’d hammered in the last nail, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. She knew he wanted her safe, but they both knew the only protection between her café and the treacherous streets of the city was a flimsy wall. Just last week her front windows had been shattered by a random blast at the nearby food markets. The gaping holes mocked her—You’re next, they whispered.

The room hushed. Westerners in suits and jeans and locals in shalwaar kameezes and turbans turned towards the brown door which her security man, Asmaan, pushed open. They studied the new arrival as he ambled towards the counter like he was taking a casual stroll through Central Park. He looked exotic in this setting—tall, blond hair, dressed in black, eyes hidden behind wraparound Ray Bans. A machine gun hung over his shoulder, a sidearm swung from each hip and who knows what was hidden in his boots.
Maybe he’d come for a plate of Shari’s Qabli Pulao, or perhaps some qorma, a platter of melon from Mazar-e-Sharif? No, more likely pomegranates from Kandahar. 

Hallie clutched the counter until her legs stilled. “Hey there cowboy!” She held out her arms. “Can we trade? Guns for lunch?”

He was so close he could touch her.

He crushed her in his arms, kissing her breathless…hmm, imagination was a wonderful thing.

He scoped the room, then handed his armoury to Asmaan, who stashed it under the counter. Behind his shades, Hallie felt his eyes daring her to search him for the knife and pistol she knew he had strapped to his thigh.

“Now, what’ll it be, cowboy?” Hallie gestured to the table near the door, where he liked to sit and watch the comings and goings. As they walked, she pressed closer to him until his leg brushed hers. His black shirt strained at buttons her fingers itched to rip; those broad shoulders…she longed to massage away the knots; that bronco belt buckle, oh Lord... She dropped into a chair, breathing in short gasps, pushing her heart back into her chest.

He sat opposite, grinning. He knew her so well. He pushed his shades on top of his head. His black eyes lingered on her freshly-washed hair which fell to her shoulders in a mass of red curls she hadn't tried to straighten, then moved to her breasts, which pushed impertinently against the bodice of the floaty dress she’d bought at the market.

“I’m not hungry for food, Hallie,” he growled, shuffling his chair closer to hers.

“No? Look at everyone stuffing their faces. Ta da!” She snapped her fingers. “The best food in Kabul. A fresh shipment of pomegranates arrived this morning.”

"I brought you some." He seemed enthralled by her twitchy hands. He couldn’t touch her here with the local men watching their every move through slitted eyes, but even so, she could feel his fingers closing over hers, the strength of his grip, the warmth of his breath mingled with hers.

“My darling,” he whispered in that sexy tone she loved. “’The heavens set your appetites in motion’, Dante says. My appetites can’t be slaked by Shari’s food.”

“Is that right, cowboy?” Hallie wanted out of here, wanted his hands on her. She pushed away her chair and walked towards the stairs...fast, feeling every male eye boring into her back.

Asmaan stood, gun across his chest, guarding the stairs. “May Allah hear your prayers,” he said. Hallie blinked at him. He winked at her.

As soon as they reached the landing, Bosco scooped her into his arms and ran with her into the bedroom. The sound of his boot kicking the door charged the air with their need.

This was why she stayed. Hallie had followed him to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, terrifying her parents, her friends. But she’d never leave while Bosco was here...


The muezzin’s call to prayer woke her. She could still feel Bosco all over her—the desperation in his kisses, the pressure of his arms wrapped around her, the delicious scent of him.

She clutched the silken sheet around her shivering body. Night was falling, shaking the last light from the dusty air. The cooing of laughing turtledoves in the rooftops clashed with the wop-wop-wop of helicopters overhead.

He was gone. Like the pomegranates they’d fed each other in her bed. She was as empty as the champagne flutes that had overflowed with sparkling stars as they’d toasted those angels of peace and love, while knowing that only death could reconcile the two.

Salaamat! Hallie joined her prayers with thousands across the troubled city. “Be safe, my darling.”

Then, the bomb.

Close. Too close.

Her windows shattered.

The acrid smoke burned her lungs.

She clutched her heart.

You're next!

Oh, the pleasure and pain.

                            Image result for blog dividers graphicsImage result for blog dividers graphics

I hope you enjoyed my story for Poetry Month. Click on the links with a DL (Direct Link) after the name in my sidebar for more entries in the April WEP challenge or go to the WEP website.  

Product DetailsAnd thrilling news! Yolanda Renee's new story, The Snowman, is out on Amazon in e-book and print. If you love detective thrillers, you'll love Yolanda's book. Go HERE to read a free sample, then make Yolanda's day -- BUY! 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

#IWSG post - Do you use a pen name?

Time for the April IWSG. Thank you to Alex J Cavanaugh and his side kicks for the month--Christopher D. Votey,Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey! 

Man, did I ever get a nasty surprise this morning when I checked whether my IWSG post had gone live--it'd disappeared. You can imagine my frustration. I'd prepared it a few weeks ago so I could clear my slate for an April write fest.

I really don't have the heart to redo the whole thing with pictures etc, so I'll just get to the question of the day--no, not the suggested question about whether I've ever used the A-Z to market a book--my question today is 'what do you think of pen names/pseudonyms?' I've been thinking of republishing under a pen name after attending a Joanna Penn workshop--she publishes under Joanna Penn for her non-fiction and as J.F. Penn for her fiction. She says it helps Amazon to target readers for the different genres.

So then I started researching, as you do, and was quite surprised at the authors who use more than one name. Who would have thunk?
Image result for images for pen names
  • Stephen King (his real name) writes Horror. He also writes as Richard Bachman, Eleanor Druse, Steve King, and John Swithen. Check them out!
  • Jack Higgins (his pseudonym) writes Mystery. He also writes as Martin Fallon, James Graham, and Hugh Marlowe.
  • Issac Asimov (his real name) wrote Science Fiction. He also wrote as Paul French and George E. Dale.
  • J.K Rowling (her real name) writes her Cormorant Strike detective series under the pen name Robert Galbraith -- that secret was soon revealed!
  • Barbara Michaels (her pseudonym) writes gothic and supernatural Thrillers. She also writes as Elizabeth Peters.
  • Nora Roberts ( born Eleanor Marie Robertson) writes as J. D. Robb for her Death series and under the pseudonym Jill March. She calls herself Sarah Hardesty in the UK. Fascinating!
  • Alistair MacLean (his real name) writes Mystery. He also writes as Ian Stuart.
  • Eboni Snoe (her pseudonym) writes African-American Romance.
And of course, there's many, many more...

  • So, the question is -- why do these successful authors use pen names? I'm sure they're not insecure about too much. Why then? Is it just about different genres, or are there other reasons? 
  • Do you think the extra work involved (new blog, new social media etc) is worth it to write under a pen name? I've had people tell me yes, people tell me no.
We at WEP would love it if you sign up for our challenge on April 19th - "P" day for the A-Z. You can so do both...sign up in my sidebar or over at Write...Edit...Publish.


Thanks for taking time in your busy schedule to visit me!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

It's time for cyclones in Queensland, the A - Z Challenge...and...Write...Edit...Publish challenge!

It's April!

Not the time I should be sitting out the tail end of a cyclone (hurricane, typhoon, whatever name you call it). They used to hit in Queensland at Christmas, but now with the changing climate and our summers dragging on for six hot months instead of three, they can hit for a much longer time. So I'm listening to rain and wind and watching things flap around. The schools are closed, the shops closed at midday and some towns have been evacuated. The worst is supposed to be over by midnight tonight, so only 9 hours to go, LOL. Much of the Queensland coast has been damaged badly, but as always, we're resilient--have to be. The clean up has already begun north of me in the hardest-hit areas and the good news is that as far as is known, nobody has been seriously hurt. (UPDATE: one woman has drowned...)

Time for a different kind of fast and furious if you're doing the A-Z...planning themes, planning posts, posting posts and the furious round of commenting.

All a bit much for me, I'm afraid. But I applaud you for your diligence and I know you just love it! I participated in the early days, but now I spend April working on my writing projects. I've put up a whiteboard in my writing room to keep track.

Many of you who participate in Write...Edit...Publish (WEP) flash fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography challenges are also doing the A - Z and this year have asked specifically to do a "P" post on April 19, "P" day for the A - Z. So we've listened.

In my sidebar you'll see today is the day to sign up for the WEP challenge, whether or not you're in the A - Z. April is also Poetry Month, so we've chosen a poem called PEACE and LOVE for our inspiration, paying particular attention to the lines: "Despair and hope may meet within one heart."

And we offer a $10 Amazon gift card to the entry that catches our eye:

I know most of you will have your A - Z posts pre-scheduled, but if you can find a way to link it to the WEP, go right ahead. If you'd like me to visit you during the month, in the comments tell me your theme and I'll do my best to pop over.

WEP APRIL CHALLENGE - "Despair and Hope May Meet Within One Heart."

Thank you for coming by.

I wish you a fruitful April--meet and follow new bloggers, learn stuff, but don't exhaust yourself too much.

Another exciting happening is the We are the World blogfest where bloggers are taking over social media with positive posts. I found a sign up list HERE at Writer in Transit, Michelle's blog. Her first post is HERE.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Release day -- Time and Circumstance by Theresa Milstein -- guest post.

Hi all!

This year I've made a commitment to read and review more blogger books and do the occasional host post on bloggers whose books I've read.

Today I'm hosting a blogger I've known for years, fellow teacher Theresa Milstein. She was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, Time & Circumstance for review, which I devoured very quickly, being a huge fan of flash fiction and poetry. And, great news, it's released TODAY!

Here's my very short review, already posted on Goodreads:

Time and Circumstance is especially interesting, as we don't often see a compilation of both flash fiction and poetry. PART ONE - TEMPO ADAGIO is prose, cutting edge slices of life, beautifully written, at times humorous, at times poignant, at times sad. Theresa captured my attention right from the first story - RESOLUTION - told from the POV of an 18 year old college student. The protagonist is torn between the nostalgic TV shows she finds addictive such as Bewitched and her college attendance. I love the lines: 'Who wouldn't perform magic to make their lives better?' Who indeed?

PART TWO - TEMPO ALLEGRO, is the poetry selection. Theresa's love of poetry shines through. I was taken by her (I'm not sure what they're called in the US,) shape poems, especially the PERFECT STATE OF BEING where she writes about Spirit Mind Body. I love the poem and how it appears on the page.

I hope I've given you the tiniest taste of Theresa's excellent book. I hope you'll support her on her blog tour (go HERE for the times/dates/hosts) and be convinced to buy her book.

So, over to you, Theresa!

The ways these stories came about are as varied as the stories themselves. After writing full-length manuscripts for children and teens seriously for five or six years, I finally started writing short stories. I’d heard I would learn to make every word count. Also, I wanted to start being published, and Stephen King started by getting short stories published.

Around the same time I began writing short stories, I wrote some flash fiction based on some blog challenges and I took a poetry workshop series. Then Jessica Bell began Vine Leaves Literary Journal to promote the vignette. Realizing there could be pieces where the main goal wasn’t beginning-middle-end was freeing for me. I enjoyed taking a small space and expanding on mood, setting, character.

The first part of my book, Time and Circumstance, is dedicated to prose. I included “Daisy,” which is the first story I ever submitted and which got published. It was originally in an anthology 100 Stories for Queensland to raise money for flood victims. It was the first piece I’d ever written for adults, and it’s deliciously dark. The original inspiration is from a TV show called L.A. Law. I can’t say which episode, or it will give the ending away! The pieces included in that section were also inspired by picture prompts, blog challenges, and events in my own life.

The second part of the book is dedicated to poetry. There too is the first poem I ever got published, “Dark Days,” which appeared in Vine Leaves Literary Journal. That poem explores a broken family from the perspective of a teen. I often paired the poetry in this section with picture prompts from a now inactive blog called “Magpie Tales.” Sometimes I wrote the poem first, and when a photo or painting posted that seemed to fit, I connected them. Other times the paintings and photos inspired me to write a poem. But many poems are inspired by my own life.

When I began pulling pieces for the collection, written over five years, this theme of the unrelenting passage of time surfaced.  In these last couple of years as my children are growing, it’s been weighing on me what a short gift I had to have this family of four. People we love come into our lives just as easily as they leave it. No matter how much we want to hold onto time, every moment is just a phase. And we are a product of our time, our circumstance. So my favorite quote by James Baldwin became the title to bring these small pieces together.

Theresa Milstein writes middle grade and YA, but poetry is her secret passion. Her vignette collection, TIME and CIRCUMSTANCE, will be published by Vine Leaves Press on March 21, 2017. She lives near Boston Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog. For her day job, she works as a special education teacher in a public school, which gives her ample opportunity to observe teens and tweens in their natural habitat. 


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Leave a comment  and you’re eligible to win a prize during my blog tour!

1 $25 Amazon gift card
1 signed paperback copy
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Answer the question:
“If you could relive any moment in time, what would it be?”

Extra entries if you share on Facebook or Twitter and link it to me.
@TheresaMilstein on Twitter.
@Theresa Milstein on Facebook
#ReliveMoment or #TimeandCircumstance

Winners will be announced on April 5, 2017

Thanks so much for dropping by and telling us more about yourself, your writing, and your book, Theresa. I wish you happy trails and happy sales! 

I'm especially interested in how many of your stories/poems were the product of participating in blog challenges etc. I can say the same thing happens with me.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Travelling the Australian Outback and ... The Fourth Industrial Revolution -- what does that mean to us? ... Selling your book on social media.

Hello, social media tragics. 

This is one of those hated long posts which I actually enjoy reading if there's something interesting going on. You choose. You don't have to read it. I start off with some travel bits, (I promised I'd be talking more about Oz), then I move on to the state of the digital world, then have a chat about selling books on social media. If none of that interests you...phew, I've saved you some time. Lots of other blogs a'waiting a visit.

I'm back from my road trip through the Australian Outback. I drove through western Queensland, western New South Wales, outback South Australia to Adelaide. Then on the way back to South-East Queensland where I live, I drove through Victoria, then the western plains of New South Wales, then back through western Queensland. 2,200 kilometres in all. I survived. And I have lots of stories to write for travel mags!

Love old churches. Saw lots of old churches in the bush. This one still had money in the collection plate and showed signs of use!

Architecture from an earlier era. So much better than most modern buildings.

Only in the middle of what we call Woop Woop would you find a coffee shop like this. 

Finally...after 1,200 kilometres I get to the beach -- Glenelg, an historic beach a tram ride from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.

The times they are a'changing. Never more obvious than when you drive through the bush and see life how it used to be. Of course, the old ways are dying...sadly. What do you do when your country no longer manufactures goods in your little town?  Hello! Some of these little towns had printing presses! Go figure! But you move on. Leave the towns to die...sadly. Some towns are just hanging on...some are all but abandoned. 85% of Aussies live 50 kilometres from the coast. Not many hang out in the Dead Centre.

Sheep are still driven through towns once a year to be shorn at the shearing sheds. Caught this flock which held up the road for half and hour. Made for great video and photos. Thousands of the cute little woolly blighters.
But, we're living in pretty exciting times, depending on your point of view. Some think this world is moving along too fast and would like to go back to a gentler time, a time when people talked face-to-face more than phone-to-phone. When people wrote letters, not emails. When people had time to waste, (er, create), to ponder, to imagine. Sorry, but those days are gone unless you work for Google, where you bounce around on fitballs, throw outrageous ideas at each other until one sticks. Now we're all frantically tapping our phones, our laptops, instead of tapping each other on the shoulder, saying 'hi!' On my travels, half the time I didn't even have a mobile signal! Satellite phones are de rigeuer in the outback!

Don't you shake your head at the craziness of our modern world, a world where Boris Johnson, ex London mayor and now the UK Foreign Minister, gets turned away from the political love fest that was the Munich Security Conference because he forgot his ID? (Well, I guess it was a security conference.) My point is, that is a modern story. Once upon a time, a handshake was good enough.

I digress...how about this Fourth Industrial Revolution I keep reading about?
"We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold...
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres."              Extract from the World Economic Forum, 2016.

So now, Luddites and others who have bleeding fingernails from clinging on to the 'old ways.' We're moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution whether we like it or not, this one is all about technology. Already in this world where nothing is private, what we say online has a forever impact. And I'm not just talking the CIA, the NSA, WikiLeaks et al. Once you post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, your blog and so forth, it's un-erasable. You might think if you click 'delete' your words are gone, but no, you just think they are. And, hello, it's been said that Facebook is the biggest spy agency in the world -- move over NSA. 

If you're using social media because you want to sell books, I've read that what you say on social media can have an impact on your success. There are right and wrong ways to go about it...apparently.


Social media changes all the time. It morphs. I love to blog, but my favourite social media is Instagram. It's so undemanding. I love to travel, I love to take photos and I love to see others' photos. That's how Instagram started out. But now, many author/bloggers are discovering Instagram, and it's fast going the way of Facebook, Twitter and the blogs. It's becoming all about 'buy-my-book'.


I know you've got to go where the fish are, but people on Instagram are there to drool over pictures of food, Paris or Istanbul or some monastery on top of some unattainable mountain. Not to buy your book. Okay, if you have a book to sell (and who doesn't?), you have to learn to navigate the waters and throw your line in at the right place if you want to catch a fish.

I saw this on Kristen Lamb's blog:
"Whenever we decide we might one day sell our book, we are making a decision to be a professional. Being a professional comes with certain rules that don't generally apply to regular people."
And about that...we don't really know what the rules are. At least I don't. I suspect many authors with a book to sell are trying this, trying that, hoping something will stick. Who has the answers to book promotion? Most of us have found out what doesn't work. Who can tell us what does?

A simple fact. People buy books from people they know and I guess everyone is trying to get known on the blogs and other social media. Sure, we can easily surf Amazon, but I still love going to bricks and mortar book stores (we still have plenty in Australia--we are backward Down Under, after all) -- and 'surfing the shelves' and supporting hard-working booksellers gives me a buzz I don't get on Amazon. Does my favourite author have a new book out? How did I miss this one? It's in the bag.

However, if you're thinking, darn it, she'll never buy my book, it's only digital on Amazon, my eye is occasionally captured by a book on social media such as Twitter and I'll find out more about it and usually buy it. 

But this is the thing. People probably won't buy a book from someone who's been ranting and raving on Twitter or Facebook, unless they like that particular rant and rave. I read comments on posts on FB. Do you? People are not going to buy books from nasty people who berate anyone with a different opinion, or call them names. No. No. No. Social media is supposed to be social and is governed by the same social rules as any non-digital get-together. Be polite. Be friendly. It's not all about me-me-me or you-you-you.


Don't you hate those posts on FB where people threaten to unfollow you (silly word) if you don't obey what they're telling you to do? (((sniff))) (((sniff))) Go ahead. Unfollow me. I care about the Syrians and Iraqis getting blown to bits and the famines in Somalia and the Sudan, oh, and global warming, but I don't care who unfollows me on FB. If someone annoys me too much, I just unfriend/unfollow/block...whatever...quietly, no fuss, no fanfare. I don't have to tell anyone about it. Not in my space. Each of us has a right to set our own boundaries.

I don't mind political rants especially when I can laugh at them, being a political animal myself, and there's just so much political  nonsense to laugh about at the moment, but I hate when the comments turn nasty. I know. Life is tough. We're so easily offended or outraged these days. Let's reclaim the calm.

Try one of the old, pre-Fourth Industrial Revolution quirky things...

Read the Bible or another spiritual tome.


Do yoga.

Do Tai-Chi

Sit at the beach.

Climb to the top of a mountain.

Travel, immerse yourself in another culture then you'll probably appreciate yours more.

Listen to a beautiful audio book if that's your bag.

Oh, that sounds like I'm a Luddite. Funny that so many people are pushing back, trying to reclaim the calm in this screaming world. 

Being calm is a big ask in our world's very strange, dangerous, unpredictable political climate, especially when plenty of people are using social media to stir up their followers, to incite them to activism, but let's be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Want people to buy your books? Play nice. Buy other author's books. Read them right through. Write reviews. Tell everyone when you finish an excellent book.

Okay, I'm currently reading Forbidden by Judy Feather Stone blogger. A great cross-cultural romance. Bit of the Amazon blurb:

Year 2047, City of Samarra, capital of the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories

Fifteen American travelers have vanished.

And what do you know...the CIA is involved!

Catch you next time!

What are you reading? Or just finished? Tell us about it...