Monday, November 9, 2020

WHITE FRAGILITY - a book review by Mark D. Walker

Find this book on amazon HERE

So, this New York Times bestselling book, White Fragility, attracted me because the author is a recognized trainer and educator on racial and social justice issues. She deals head-on with white people who ignore race and are dealing with emotions like anger, fear and guilt, which often lead to argumentation and silence. More importantly, the author not only explains the phenomenon, but also explains how it protects racial inequality and what we, as a society, can do to engage more constructively.

DiAngelo starts with, “White people in North America live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race, and white people are the beneficiaries of that separation and inequality.” What she calls “white fragility” is born of a feeling of superiority and entitlement. “Discrimination is action based on prejudice. These actions include ignoring, exclusion, threats, ridicule, slander and violence…” “When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism…” 

The author points out that, “Life in the United States is deeply shaped by racial segregation. Of all racial groups, whites are the most likely to choose segregation and are the group most likely to be in the social and economic position to do so. Growing up in segregation (our schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, shopping districts, places of worship, entertainment, social gatherings, and elsewhere) reinforces the message that our experiences and perspectives are the only ones that matter.” 

The author provides some “color blind statements,” which indicate that people do not see race: 

I was taught to treat everyone the same way
I don’t see color
Everyone struggles, but if they work hard…
I’m not racist; I’m from Canada 

Most importantly, the author provides some clear instructions on how to personally become an antiracist. “We can follow the leadership on antiracism from people of color, and work to build authentic cross-racial relationships. We can get involved in organizations working for racial justice. And most importantly, we must break the silence about race and racism with other white people.” Well, I have my marching orders! 

The book has been a New York Times best seller, and here is a thoughtful critique from The New Yorker: “The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance.”

You can find the entire book reviews on my website under the “Library” tab. Please let me know what you think— about this newsletter, my reviews and most importantly, what you’re reading so I can ponder all of it and share some of your comments in my next column. You can email me at: or through my websites: Million Mile Guatemala Facebook

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Praise for Women Wronged edited by Toby Heathcotte

 Finalist in Guides, 2020 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards

Runner-up in Compilations, 2020 New York Book Festival

“This is a strong collection of essays. Each story weaves a tale of a woman overcoming some sort of oppression, such as sexism or discrimination, in their lives. The editor does a fantastic job of curating these essays. They certainly all have similar themes, but they each tell a unique story that adds to the overall collection.”

Judge, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

“Despite their trials, however, the authors provide hope and understanding to women today who are going through their own ordeals. Their messages spoke volumes - being a woman is not just about being beautiful, conforming to how others think you should be, or being less than others. I think these messages can reach more than just women and I am sure it can inspire many individuals.”

 Shannon Winings for Readers' Favorite

Monday, November 2, 2020

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents - a review by Mark D. Walker

The lockdown caused by COVID-19 has laid bare the growing inequalities and injustices in our social and economic systems today. Yet it offers a good opportunity to understand our foundations, as well as why so many white Americans seem willing to disregard the needs of their fellow citizens in order to maintain a system that benefits them so mightily, while ignoring and explaining away the suffering of others.

The public, excruciating murder of George Floyd sparked an awakening among many white people of our nation’s systemic racism, to acknowledge its power and longevity for over 400 years on this continent. Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author, Isabel Wilkerson, examines the often unspoken caste system that has shaped America. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, shows how our lives are still impacted by a hierarchy of human divisions, which damages not only the Blacks at the bottom, but also the white population at the top of society today. In understanding this insidious system, I fully agree with Albert Einstein, who said, “If the majority knew of the root of this evil, then the road to its cure would not be long.” 

Wilkerson states, “American slavery, which lasted from 1619 to 1865, was not the slavery of ancient Greece or the illicit sex slavery of today. American slavery, by contrast, was legal and sanctioned by the state and a web of enforcers...” “For the first time in history, one category of humanity was ruled out of the ‘human race,’ and into a separate sub-group that was to remain enslaved for generations in perpetuity.” 

The author goes on to describe caste systems in India as well as in Nazi Germany, in order to broaden our understanding of how the system has developed in the U.S. And according to a spokesman for the German press agency, when the Nazis were solidifying their grip on the country, they used the United States as a model for their own racism. “For us Germans, it is especially important to know and see how one of the biggest states in the world with Nordic stock already has race legislation, which is quite comparable to that of the German Reich.” 

Another passage reveals, “In Germany, displaying the swastika is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. In the United States, the rebel flag is incorporated into the official state flag of Mississippi. It can be seen on the backs of pickup trucks north and south, fluttering along highways in Georgia and the other former Confederate states…” The author goes on to point out that, “In Germany, restitution has rightly been paid, and continues to be paid, to survivors of the Holocaust. In America, it was the slaveholders who got restitution, not the people whose lives and wages were stolen from them for twelve generations.” 

The Epilogue of the book offers some sobering final thoughts, such as, “Caste is a disease, and none of us is immune. It is as if alcoholism is encoded into the country’s DNA and can never be declared fully cured. It is like a cancer that goes into remission, only to return when the immune system of the body politic is weakened…” 

“Wilkerson’s book is a powerful, illuminating and heartfelt account of how hierarchy reproduces itself, as well as a call to action for the difficult work of undoing it.”—The Washington Post

So, the question becomes, how does the white community deal with systemic racism in this country? Given the numbers and diversity of people participating in the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, this seemed a good time to reflect on my own upbringing and what we can do to take advantage of a pivotal point in our history, especially with elections on the horizon. 

I was brought up in Plainfield, New Jersey, and although many of the students were Black in middle school, I saw only a small number who were part of the “advanced” classes, and these kids seemed very scholastically motivated. My family moved to Littleton, Colorado, when I was 16 and from there to Evergreen in 1963. I went to school on the Western Slope of Colorado in a basically white community and ended up in the equally white community of Scottsdale, Arizona. Shortly after we arrived in Colorado, all hell broke loose in New Jersey with violent race riots, burning property, shooting and looting. I remember thinking, “What was that about? Boy, did we get out of there just in time!” By 1967, Newark, New Jersey, was one of 159 cities where riots took place, including one four-day tirade in which 26 people died. 


Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world. He came to Phoenix as a Senior Director for Food for the Hungry, worked with other groups like Make a Wish International and was the CEO of Hagar USA, a Christian-based organization that supports survivors of human trafficking. 

His book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Authors Association for nonfiction and according to the Midwest Review, “. . . is more than just another travel memoir. It is an engaged and engaging story of one man’s physical and spiritual journey of self-discovery . . .” 

Several of his articles have been published in Ragazine and WorldView Magazines while another appeared in Crossing Class: The Invisible Wall, an anthology published by Wising Up Press. His reviews have been published by Revue Magazine as well as Peace Corps Worldwide, including one on Paul Theroux’s latest book, On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey. 

His honors include the "Service Above Self" award from Rotary International. His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. You can learn more at and follow him on his Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Don't miss the Full Moon (Blue Moon) this Halloween

Nowadays, few pay attention to the cycles of the Moon, especially if they live in a city. But for others, including farmers and scientists, the Moon has always been a subject of wonder, and for good reason. The Moon affects our everyday lives in ways we do not always suspect.

This year, Halloween falls on a full Moon, the Hunters Moon, which is also a blue Moon. It doesn’t mean the Moon will be blue, only that it's the second full Moon this month, a rare occurrence in itself. And according to the Farmer’s Almanac, we will next see a spectacular Halloween full Moon in the years 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096. Mark your calendars. 

The first full Moon of October was the Harvest Moon on October 1st, the perfect time for a Harvest Festival. In the old days, for many centuries, and still in traditional farms following the Farmer’s Almanac, the Moon dictates the time of planting and Harvest. Using the natural cycles of dormancy, regeneration, blooming, ripening, etc. to their advantage. 

For many animals, particularly birds, the phases of the Moon are essential to navigate during migrations. Other species will time their reproduction to coincide with the lunar cycles. The corals time their spawning between October and December, right after a full Moon. The visual effect of this coordinated lunar timing is so dramatic that it can be seen from space. In Africa, Dung beetles navigate at night by the light of the Moon in a perfect straight line to their burrow. 

The Moon also regulates the ocean tides and influences women’s reproductive cycles. Women are more fecund (assuming a natural cycle) during the full Moon, and both men and women experience increased libido, which leads to fertility. Ancient Pagan festivals celebrated this fact during the full Moon. 

If you take the time, you’ll notice that important movable events (like some religious holidays) are scheduled on or as close to the full Moon as possible, when people have more energy. It’s not a coincidence. It’s also true of certain conventions and conferences who want to attract more people, and these auspicious dates are often booked far in advance.

My mother, who was a hairdresser, told me always to cut my hair a few days after the full Moon, because hair grows faster when the Moon is full, and if you wait, your haircut will look fresh longer. To this day, I still respect that rule. 

The Moon affects our circadian cycles as well. During the full Moon, people complain of not sleeping well and experience Increased energy. This wide-awake state is also responsible for full Moon madness in emergency rooms, and increased number of births in maternity wards – Even the babies want to come out and play. Ask any emergency doctor, maternity nurse, police officer, or EMT, and they will confirm this fact. 

So, this year, we are expecting an energy-filled Halloween night. As for the repercussions in our backyards, coyotes will howl, dogs will bark, and cats will roam longer than any other night. If you plan to take part in the fun, be safe and enjoy. 


But if you are looking forward to a good read with a cup of cocoa by the fire, here are a few suggestions:

Find it HERE
 Chronicles of Kassouk
 by Vijaya Schartz
 Sci-fi romance
 $1.49 in kindle now HERE

On the frozen plains of Kassouk, where a few aliens rule a medieval Human world, Tora, Human warrior trained by tigers, seeks her father’s murderer. But what she finds at the point of her sword confuses her. How dare Dragomir, the handsome Mutant, question her bloodline and her loyalties? And could a new enemy control the savage hordes of the fringe?

Dragomir offers to help, but Humans and Mutants are forbidden to fraternize under penalty of death... Should Tora trust her mind, her instincts, or her heart?

In the vortex of war, treason and intrigue, among blizzards, avalanches and ambushes, Tora sets out to solve the mystery of her father’s death. When she unveils the secret of her birth, she realizes Dragomir is the key, and together, they must save their planet from the invaders and fulfill their destiny... if they can survive dire persecutions from those they mean to protect.

" exceptional tale that belongs in a place of honor on keeper shelves everywhere." Coffee Time Romance - 5-cups

"...this is one futuristic that you do not want to miss!" Fallen Angels Reviews - 5 angels - Recommended Read

"...kept me enthralled from the first page...a thrilling science fiction romance" Paranormal Romance Reviews

"I'm adding this to my 'keeper' shelf and on the 'to be re-read' list." The Road to Romance

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB

Monday, October 26, 2020

What Are You Reading? Review by Kathleen Cook

Last winter, our library had an overflow sale in which all books, including hardcovers, were sold for ten cents a piece. Needless to say, my boys hated me that day, because they had to lug home 30 boxes of books for which I paid a whopping $42 dollars. The books filled 15 large book shelves. Since then, I’ve been reacquainting myself with books I’d read as a child, such as Mark Twain’s classics and a few from Jules Verne, as well as some historical fiction. It is one of the latter genre that I’d like to review today. 

Find it on amazon HERE

The Haj, by Leon Uris, had been sitting on my shelf begging to be read throughout spring and summer. For some reason, I always chose others, until The Haj was one of the few left that I hadn’t devoured. If I had known it would be that powerful, sad, uplifting and stirring, I would have read it sooner. The Haj takes us through the life of a Palestinian family and their Jewish friend, Gideon, over the course of several decades. It starts off in the early 1900s and carries us through WW2. 

Leon Uris is unapologetically pro-Israel; he freely admitted it during his lifetime. He is the same author who gave us Exodus, of which the Prime Minister of Israel at the time, David Ben-Gurion, said, "as a piece of propaganda, it’s the greatest thing ever written about Israel.” The Haj continues from an Israeli viewpoint and must therefore be understood in that context. Despite this caveat, I found the characters human, believable, and likeable on both sides. While the Haj is sometimes a brute, his youngest son is sensitive, caring and unlike his father. And even the Haj, the leader of his village, loves his Jewish neighbor in his own, strange way. While reserving judgment on Leon’s unabashedly one-sided account, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Haj as worthwhile and absorbing reading. 

Due to covid, my library canceled the coming overflow sale. I’m going to have to be content with borrowed books in the coming months, and pray for all our sakes that this covid nightmare ends before another year passes. Good luck and stay safe, everyone!

Kathleen Cook is a free-lance editor and the author of twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project). She is currently the Arizona Authors Association newsletter editor. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Women Wronged Wins a New Mexico Arizona Book Award

 Women Wronged was a finalist in the guide category of 2020 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, I'm proud to say. Buy it on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Online opportunities to improve your writing - by Kathleen Cook

Yes, we’re all definitely tired of this pandemic by now! If you are going stir crazy and looking for more online opportunities to improve your writing, here are a few courses you might enjoy. Remember, all of them are FREE, although they may offer optional extras. I have tested all of them and I’ve found the courses to be worthwhile and interesting. 

Fallacies, ABC 

This course is offered by Iversity, a Berlin-based online education center. In it, you’ll learn how to spot bad arguments and avoid them in your own writing. While not geared specifically to writers, it’s an excellent way to improve your own work. From the website: “In this course we will learn how to recognize and resist the most common 15 fallacies, from Loaded Question and Slippery Slope to Red Herring and Straw Man. Each fallacy is illustrated with examples, funny dialogues, a case study discourse, and there's even a quiz show at the end to test your knowledge. We describe the mechanism for each of these rational traps, and we learn proper ways to refute it. Fallacies are like crime novels: if you know who the killer is, the whole plot seems transparent. In the same manner, this course acts like a vaccine: once we learn to recognize and counteract a fallacy, we cannot be deceived again. Enjoy!” 

How to Make Digital Content 

Another course by Iversity, this one will teach you what you need to know to produce quality content for digital media. The course description says it’s “intended for anyone who needs to use digital communication in some way. In the end, this course is really for everyone.” If you’ve ever wanted to write online and build a following, this is for you. The course is laid out as follows, according to the website: 

1. First, you will receive a short introduction to the topic of content. 
2. Afterwards, we’ll look at analyzing our target audience, using this to create a meaningful audience persona. 
3. In the next section, I’ll explain various strategies and techniques for developing content and thematic contexts that fit both us and our target audience. 
4. In the next lesson, we’ll develop a customer journey for the target audience persona. 
5. In the fifth lesson, you’ll learn how content is planned and organized. 
6. In the penultimate lesson, I’ll present the production process, which will help you to create relevant, valuable digital content with a high conversion rate. 

To sum up, you’ll get another overview of the necessary steps for quickly and successfully creating content. 

How to Read a Novel 

This course is from FutureLearn, a British online educational center affiliated with many of the top universities in Britain. The website’s course description (note the British spelling) says: 

“What makes a great novel? How is a novel woven together? How can we best appreciate works of fiction? Answer these questions and more with this course from The University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. On the course you’ll discover four of the main building blocks of modern fiction: plot, characterisation, dialogue, and setting, using examples from a range of texts including the four novels shortlisted for the 2020 James Tait Black fiction prize. You’ll also explore the formal strategies authors use, how they came to be, and how they affect us as readers.”

If you have to be cooped up due to covid, this is a great time to improve your skills and come out the other side of the pandemic ready to shine! If you’re an author or simply a still-unpublished but inevitable author, these courses will take your talents to the next level, so that you’ll look back at this pandemic and say, “Well, at least I put the time to good use.” 

Kathleen Cook is a free-lance editor and the author of twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project). She is currently the Arizona Authors Association newsletter editor. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Facts Will Free Up Your Fiction - by Marlene Baird

Find it on amazon HERE

Every author has been asked, “How did you come up with that story?” The favorite of my novels, The Filigree Cross: The Salvation of Larry Broadfellow, came to me while channel surfing. On the TV screen, a televangelist was exhorting listeners to open their wallets so that Heaven would be open to them. Though he said all the right words, he was clearly bored with the message, and distracted by the fit of his coat jacket. Several times he flexed his shoulders and pulled at the collar. It made me wonder at the dressing-down he might get from his PR people when they saw this performance. So I had my next protagonist, Larry Broadfellow, failed televangelist.

Unfortunately, Larry came to me as an orphan. This stumped me. I said to my husband, “I don’t know anything about orphans; I don’t think I’ve ever known one, but my character is an orphan.” My husband, eager to end the dilemma, said, “Well, you’re the writer. Give him parents.” I wandered off knowing that would not work. Larry was completely and utterly alone. I went ahead with the story, still worried about the orphan situation.

At that time I was not a U.S. citizen. I was a green-card-carrying Canadian living in the U.S. These cards were being counterfeited so much that we were all required to get new ones. It only took me four years to accomplish this. At some point in this four-year period, I was sitting in a massive room in downtown Phoenix with several hundred others, waiting for my number to come up, so that, once again, I could have a futile conversation with an immigration agent. I was sitting on an aisle seat, and a gentleman in a wheelchair rolled up and stopped beside me. The gentleman and I began talking. When I said I was a writer he had the usual questions, and the conversation shifted to me. I told him about my orphan problem. He told me he had grown up in an orphanage in Minnesota, a facility that was also a farm. He told me everything I could ever want to know about his younger life.

I used very little of the information in my story since it was a small part of the book, but from that day forward my story almost wrote itself. Larry Broadfellow was now full-blown in my head. I now knew how he became an orphan, all about his childhood, how he was almost adopted, what happened to him when he aged out of the orphanage. None of this was the gentleman’s story; it was all made up. It was knowing I was working with a solid foundation that gave me confidence and freed up my fiction. Larry has stayed with me and become more real to me than any other of my characters. The novel, The Filigree Cross: The Salvation of Larry Broadfellow was a finalist in the Southwest Writers novel competition.

About the author: Marlene Baird is a long-time member of Arizona Authors Association, and a judge for our annual writing contest. She has won the contest for both a novel and an essay. Marlene also enjoys writing short stories, having taken 3rd place in the Lorian Hemingway writing contest in 2008. She lives in Prescott with husband, Bob. Find out more about Marlene at Marlene’s Books: Murder Times Two -The Filigree Cross - Minnie and the Manatees - Claire Walker.

Monday, October 12, 2020

New Release: Courses of the Cursed A Curtis Jefferson Novel by Vince Bailey

Courses of the Cursed
A Curtis Jefferson Novel
by Vince Bailey

Get it from amazon HERE

African American youth Curtis Jefferson is still serving his one-year term at Fort Grant, a penal outpost for boys-a place where a horrific massacre still haunts the inhabitants. In the second book of the Curtis Jefferson series, our hero continues to be challenged by a murderous fellow inmate, Harvey Huish, a torment that leads to a brutal confrontation. Meanwhile, in nearby Oracle Mesa, café owner Isabel Cienfuegos struggles with a premonition that her nephew, Ray, will be the victim of a treacherous plot. The parallel stories, related by the same storyteller, share a common theme: the curse of Fort Grant.

Vince Bailey's award-winning Path of the Half Moon-the first book in the series-is a paranormal historical fiction tale set in a remote detention facility for wayward boys in the early sixties. Winner of the Arizona Authors' Association Literary Award and the Chanticleer International Book Awards for Paranormal and Supernatural Fiction, the Curtis Jefferson series presents an edgy and thrilling escape from the ordinary.

About the author: Vince Bailey is a writer and construction manager who grew up in Central Arizona in the late 1950s. His youthful escapades in the copper state climes contribute significantly to the nostalgic flavor of his fiction creations. The author's adolescent haunts of yesteryear, tracing around the east side of Mesa, crop up frequently as facets of his fictitious hometown of Jacobs Well, the anchor location of several of his stories. Path of the Half Moon is his inaugural novel, the first of a paranormal/historical fiction series that make up his Fort Grant Trilogy. Mr. Bailey currently resides in Peoria, Arizona, with his wife, Rita. Find out more about Vince on his Amazon page, his Arizona Authors Association Biography Page, or on his website,

Friday, October 9, 2020

New Book Release: Confessions of a Unificationist by Jo Ann Crooks

By Jo Ann Crooks

 Most of the past publicity about the Unification Church (Unification Movement), and Reverend Moon has been negative. Jo Ann attempts to give an understanding of what this movement is all about, based on her experiences, and as seen through her eyes, and explain what made her and thousands of American young people join this movement.

She also tries to give a basic understanding of the Divine Principle (the teachings of Reverend Moon). She says, "I believe if the world knew even the basics of the Principle, we could see the way to peace on earth, as we could overcome the things that divide us now."

The chapter on "What We Believe" deals with questions humans have been asking from the beginning of time, including who or what God is, the purpose of life, our spiritual and physical bodies, spiritual growth, life after death, the origin of evil, the truth about the life of Jesus, the purpose behind human history, and the mission Reverend Moon said he was given by Jesus on a North Korean mountainside in 1936 when he was sixteen years old. The purpose of giving this basic understanding is to help make happy individuals and families at a time when so many people feel there is no purpose in life or ability to save this world from destroying itself.

Jo Ann also explains the meaning of the "Blessing," which refers to the well-known group wedding ceremonies, a hallmark of the Unification Movement. She was matched by Reverend Moon to a Japanese groom, and they participated in the Blessing ceremony of 2,075 couples in Madison Square Garden, New York, in 1982.

About the author: Jo Ann is a native Arizonan, born in Phoenix. She started writing poetry and winning awards while in grade school. In high school, she helped publish a poetry anthology, contributing several pieces. She was also a past columnist for the Arizona Authors Association and her feature, Member’s Spotlight, was well received. A graduate of Phoenix College, Confessions of a Unificationist is Jo Ann’s first published book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Should you write long or short series - by Vijaya Schartz

I wrote many series, some as short as two books (the Archangel twin books), others as long as eight novels (like the CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE, based on Celtic legends). New authors, and sometimes readers, ask me how long a series should be. There is no universal answer to that question. A series, like a book, should be as long as needed to tell the whole story. 

Curse of the Lost Isle - Celtic legends

The number of books also depends upon the characters. 

If they are the same characters throughout the series, is each novel a continuation of the previous book? The author cannot hold the reader without resolution indefinitely. That is how some TV series that started strong lost their momentum when the writers dragged the story too long before offering some kind of explanation or resolution. 

On the other hand, if each novel is a complete story, the series can go on much longer. A few authors have successfully published dozens of novels in the same series that way, some were later adapted for TV series, like Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles. Harry Potter also comes to mind, but as it features children, and children do grow up, that series was limited from the start. As for characters like James Bond, they can probably go forever with many different incarnations as each generation gives it a different twist. 

Sometimes, each book come with its own set of fresh characters, in the same setting, with a link to the previous and future books. That’s the case for my CHRONICLES OF KASSOUK series, where each book is an independent story with a different hero and heroine. The six novels are set on the same planet, a few centuries apart. For those reading them in the right order, they get to see the evolution of a group of marooned human settlers into a fully grown society, with its particular culture, facing ups and downs, struggling for their independence and for their rights, amid defeats and victories, until the series comes full circle in its unexpected but logical ending. 

My longest series (eight novels) is The CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE, based on Celtic legends. Since my ladies are immortal (related to Morgan the Fay), they reappear in different times in history. The first two books tell the story of Pressine the Fay. In book two, she has three daughters, subsequently featured in the following books. Melusine the Fay has four books, as she appears in different places at different times in history (books 3-4-5-8). Her sisters, Palatina (book 6) and Meliora (Book 7) each have one story to tell, so they only have one novel.
Ancient Enemy sci-fi series

Another technique is to write shorter series, related to each other. Three books is considered a happy number for a series. Easier to commit to for the reader. Some readers also like to only read series that are complete, as they do not want to wait until next year for the next book. The reader who enjoys a three-book series, will likely pick up the next series set in the same world they enjoyed the first time, like the Star Wars universe. 

This is the case for my BYZANTIUM series and AZURA CHRONICLES, set in the same universe with a few crossover characters. Byzantium is a space station, and Azura is a planet, existing in the same universe at the same time. 

Most of my series novels are standalones, and the reader can pick up any book and thoroughly enjoy it without missing anything. Then he/she can go back and enjoy the other books as well, even if not read in the chronological order. But if you are like me, you’ll want to read them in the right order to fully appreciate the arc of the bigger story behind the novels. 

On that note the first book in each of my series is currently discounted to $1.49 in kindle on amazon.

Enjoy the discounted reads!

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

New Book Release: HANNAH'S VISIONS by Sam Sterk, Ph.D

by Sam Sterk, Ph.D

Get it on Amazon Here

Austin Macauley Publishing Publication
Release Date: September 30, 2020 

Hannah is a seventeen-year-old high school senior with everything going for her. She is charming, pretty, popular with peers, a loving daughter, an acclaimed artist, and has a crush on the boy of her dreams, Yigal. She is also a psychic. Lately, her visions disturb her greatly, especially when she sees grizzly crimes committed, including the rape and murder of a young lady, a near-fatal stabbing of another female, a police headquarters bombing, and she is being stalked by Leonid, whose goal is to extinguish her life. Hannah predicts her father, Yoni, a lead detective, will be assigned to investigate this case and apprehend Leonid. A murder is committed, a young lady is nearly fatally stabbed to death, and the attacker is after Hannah. So Hannah takes matters into her own hands. Find Hannah’s Visions on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlet

Sam Sterk, Ph.D., is a sport psychologist, psychoanalyst, and a certified master clinical hypnotherapist. Dr. Sterk's practice, Peak Performance Plus LLC, is located in Scottsdale, Arizona. Additionally, Dr. Sterk also teaches medical hypnosis at a local medical university and is the immediate past president of ASPH (Arizona Society of Professional Hypnosis). Sam Sterk's published works include Sammy's Journey, a memoir about the author's early life struggles and triumphs in overcoming life-threatening asthma. Win! Get the Mental Edge Skills in Martial Arts is a sport psychology manual for martial artists. Peak Performance Plus, LLC Email:

Monday, September 28, 2020

20 things you didn't know had names

Just a little tidbit stolen from Facebook. Even seasoned writers may not know some of these.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Announcing the finalists of the 2020 Arizona Literary Contest


Listed alphabetically by author name



Andrew D. Hirss of Missoula, MT      

Deborah Doolittle of Jacksonville, NC

Leon O’Chruadhlaoich of Dallas, TX

Nancy Brehm of Flagstaff, AZ



Jamie Nielson Flagstaff, AZ

Jan Nichols of Glendale, AZ

Rico Austin of Scottsdale, AZ

Susan G. Smith of Oracle, AZ



Brandy Isadora of Paradise Valley, AZ

Constance Osterlitz of Phoenix, AZ.

Janet Crum of Flagstaff, AZ

William Lyman of Prescott, AZ



Cherrie Smith of Flagstaff, AZ

Ellen Martig of Phoenix, AZ

Richard McMaster of Surprise, AZ

Ron V. Bartlow of Flagstaff, AZ




Janelle Molony of Phoenix, AZ

John Lewis Floyd of Tucson, AZ

Matthew Schwartz of Tucson, AZ

Thomas P. Collins of Prescott, AZ



Ashley E. Sweeney of Tucson, AZ

D. R. Ransdell of Tucson, AZ

Jan Tenery of Oracle, AZ

Marcia Fine of Scottsdale, AZ



Barbara Renner of Phoenix, AZ

Caren Cantrell of Cave Creek, AZ

Debi Novotny of Fountain Hills, AZ

Rodo Sofranac of Phoenix, AZ 

The winners will be officially announced and prizes awarded on November 7, 2020
The Arizona Literary Magazine (2021 edition) featuring the winners will also be available on November 7, 2020.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Writing scary villains - by Vijaya Schartz

 I love colorful characters and I confess that the villains in my stories are just as interesting and fascinating as the hero and heroine. It’s not by accident. First, a hero or heroine can only be as heroic as the villain is dangerous. A weak villain presents no threat to the protagonist. Then, there is the liberating factor. 

When I started writing, I couldn’t imagine telling the story from the mind of a bad person. It seemed sinful, naughty at best. But while writing my first book, I accidently jumped into my villain’s head. As I descended into the dark abyss of my evil character’s psyche, viewing the world from his twisted mind, I had a life-changing revelation... I enjoyed it! 

Some memorable villains in the two Archangel books.

Was I a bad person? I pride myself in being spiritual and this new discovery was disturbing. According to what I learned as a writer, however, no one is totally good or totally bad. We are all nuances of light and dark, some darker than others. After dealing with the guilt, questioning my righteousness and my sanity, I realized that being able to understand sinful intents and the mechanisms and motivations of evil people was a good thing for a writer. 

Ancient Enemy series:
"Captain Kavak certainly ranks as one of the worst villains ever encountered!"

Ever since, I make it a point to develop my villains, and some of them are so evil, they will give you thrills and shivers. That’s the case for the villains of my September release, Malaika’s Secret. Admiral Mort Lowell was born on a dark moon of Tenebra II. Half Human and half Tenebran, he was rejected by both races as a child for his hybrid looks. Drawing support from a mysterious secret society, he quickly rose in the ranks of the Galactic Trade Alliance. 

Because of his white skin, black hair, and the black visor protecting his sensitive retinas, some call him a Vampire. Others call him a shark because of his sharp, pointed teeth. But those who fear him for his scary looks have no idea how dangerous and wicked the man is inside, or from where he draws his power. 

The paperback is available now, and the eBook is in pre-order, to be delivered on September 3rd. Order it today from your favorite online store HERE.

Special Agent Tyler Conrad works security undercover on the Byzantium Space Station and adheres to a strict moral code. When strange beings with wings are murdered, and a dangerous lion wanders the station’s indoor streets, Tyler’s investigation leads him to a mysterious woman, who could make him break all his rules and get them both killed.

Forbidden to love, the beautiful Malaika, guardian of the glowing crystal in the temple of the Formless One, is an illegal mind-reader who hides perilous secrets. She has seen the great evil coming to Byzantium but must hide her extraordinary abilities or perish with her people.

When Admiral Mort Lowell, a hybrid Tenebran nicknamed the Vampire, makes a surprise visit to Byzantium, Tyler knows something wicked is afoot…

The previous books in the Byzantium Space Station series are: BLACK DRAGON (Book 1) and AKIRA'S CHOICE (Book 2). Although each novel stands alone, this is the right order for the series. Find the links below my signature line.

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 

Monday, September 14, 2020

History of the Arizona Authors Association 2016-2020 - by Kathleen Cook

Misplaced Trust 2016-2018

The Arizona Authors board at the 2015 Literary Banquet. The theme was Western

Through the years, some members passed away, moved away, or left the organization. During the last year of Toby's tenure, the composition of the board had changed. It consisted of Lisa Aquilina as vice president and contest coordinator, Russell Azbill as treasurer, Deborah Hilcove as secretary (followed by Ron Tobin), Cherie Lee as newsletter editor, Vijaya Schartz as webmistress, and myself as proofreader. Our High-Country liaison was Nancy Scheneman-Brehm and our Southern liaison was Jan Cleere. 
Toby Heathcotte, Cherie Lee and Vijaya Schartz, having high tea in Glendale in 2015

When Lisa Aquilina was voted into the position of president at the end of 2015, very few people knew her. She was relatively new, in comparison to long-time members. She was congenial on the surface and people believed that she might make a good president. In other words, the membership acted on trust and elected her. She began her “reign” in January of 2016. 

Cherie Lee and her 2015 Literary Award
Cherie Lee, the newsletter editor, and I first realized that all was not smooth sailing when we were asked to revamp the newsletter, change its schedule (forcing us to work on holidays), use a new program with which neither of us were familiar, and finally, make arbitrary and frivolous changes at the last minute. At one point, Cherie and I received orders at 8:30 pm telling us to move several pages for no reason (thereby breaking all links and forcing a layout change) which prompted me to stay up until 2 am to have the newsletter proofread by the following morning. We both grew to resent Lisa's boot camp, "my way or the highway" mentality. Unknown to me at the time, Toby and Vijaya were going through even greater difficulties with Lisa.

Vijaya Schartz, Scottsdale Library book signing
Vijaya described this time by saying: 

"In the fall of 2016, Toby and I blew the whistle when we realized the money was disappearing, and the new president threw us out of the association. Then I was threatened with legal consequences if I didn't close the blog (opened by me for the association). 

"It took some time for the membership and the other board members to realize what was happening. By that time, Toby and I had moved on and started a small group with no political or financial concerns, just helping other writers. 

"When all the malfeasance of the last president came to light and we were called back, we were happy to return to the association." 

When these difficulties compelled us to act, the four of us, Toby, Vijaya, Cherie and myself, sent a letter to the general membership in September of 2016, to address such concerns. For this, Toby and Vijaya were especially vilified and accusations were made. The four of us were expelled from the association and I was sent an email which stated, "If you attempt to come within 500 feet of an Arizona Authors Association meeting or event, you will be prosecuted, sued, and/or arrested." I'm sure all four of us received such emails, and for Vijaya and Toby it was worse. My time with the Arizona Authors Association officially ended in September of 2016. 

During the years 2016-2018, Lisa installed her husband as both the vice president and the newsletter editor. She appointed a friend to another board position. She amended the Articles of Incorporation with the Arizona Corporation Commission, the first time in our history, according to available records, that it was ever done. She officially removed Vijaya as a board member, according to documents submitted to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Those years saw the loss of our members' website, which had been built up over many years. The newsletter ceased publication for an entire year. The contest was a mess; at one point a member was asked to throw her packet of submissions “over the fence and into the backyard” without any idea of where it landed, or even if it was the right backyard, given the difficulty of navigating behind Lisa’s Paradise Valley home. Most disheartening of all, we lost many of our members during this period. 
Exiled from the association, Connie Osterlitz, Cherie Lee, and Vijaya Schartz, at Toby Heathcotte's house for critique group meeting.
When Toby and Vijaya attempted to create a new organization, they were threatened with legal action for the use of a name that had belonged to the Arizona Authors Association, but never used. They changed names and forged on. I joined them in their Facebook group, along with Jane Ruby, Connie Osterlitz, and others. 

Rebuilding Stronger Than Ever 

Vijaya Schartz & Russel Azbill - 2019 Awards Banquet
Eventually, night passes and the dawn comes. Russell Azbill took over as president in September of 2018. When I was asked by Toby in early 2019 to return to the Arizona Authors Association, I discovered that the four of us were all reinstated with full rights restored, so I gratefully accepted. By then, Toby had returned to serve as vice president. It was like a belated Christmas present, since I had dearly loved this organization for more than a decade. Toby asked me to take over as newsletter editor, which I was glad to do. 

Since then, the organization has once again risen from the ashes. Considering this, perhaps it's appropriate that it's based in the Phoenix metro area. We are working on rebuilding the website as a professional tool for all of our members. We have created a newsletter of which I am proud. We are continuing to reconstruct all of the things that made the Arizona Authors Association such an important part of the Arizona writers' landscape for the past 42 years. As we continue forward, we know that no matter what, we will endure as long as there are people who love this association and realize its immense value. 

The current Board of Directors includes Russell Azbill as president, Toby Heathcotte as vice president, Jane Ruby as secretary and contest coordinator, Debbie Weiland as treasurer, myself as newsletter editor, and rounded out by board member Nicolas Lagrande. Many others, including Dick Waters, Connie Osterlitz and more, volunteer in various capacities. Vijaya Schartz is in charge of the AAA blog. Together with other member volunteers, we strive to be just as vital and thriving as we were in the days of Boye De Mente's presidency. 

Kathleen Cook
In 2008 when I joined Arizona Authors Association, I hadn't written or edited in nearly a year. Now, twelve years later, I can't remember a single week when I haven't done both. That is the benefit that I have received from this wonderful association. By remembering this history, we can look forward to even greater heights in the future. We're on track. With increasing membership and the website and newsletter available to all members, we will soon see what Vijaya and Toby saw in January of 1998, despite few members and a savings balance of a hundred dollars in the association's account. They envisioned a dream of what the Arizona Authors Association could be, with their tireless efforts, love and uncanny knack for leadership. I share that dream. 

Kathleen Cook
Editor of the Arizona Authors Association Newsletter

Monday, September 7, 2020

Arizona Authors Association history 2006-2016 - by Kathleen Cook

Going Forward 2006-2016 

Toby Heathcotte, President 2006-2015
By the end of her presidency, Vijaya Schartz had instituted changes designed to keep the association healthy far into the future. Vice President Toby Heathcotte took over the presidency in 2006 and shared those goals. She worked diligently to maintain and increase the success that she and Vijaya had initiated. The board at the time included Vice President Scott Jones, Secretary Mali Berger, Contest Coordinator Greta Manville, as well as officers Kiki Swanson, Karen Kundin, Vijaya Schartz and Sandra Bowen. Although Vijaya stepped down from the presidency when her writing career took off, she still maintained the website and the membership rolls until 2016. 

Kathleen Cook
When I first met Toby in 2008, I attended an Arizona Authors Association workshop designed to help authors hone their craft. I happened to see a flier at a local grocer and thought, "Well, you're a writer and editor who hasn't written or edited in nearly a year. What are you waiting for?" Toby had spent years before an audience, first as a high school teacher in speech and drama and later as a speaker at various events and workshops, and it showed. She radiated warmth and expertise, and shortly thereafter, I became a member. 

In February of 2009 I attended a workshop given at the Glendale home of Vijaya Schartz. She exuded professionalism and a sincere desire to help her workshop attendees. When I discovered that she was a former president of the Arizona Authors Association, I knew I had found the right people and the right home to revitalize my career. The association helped me to regain confidence and just a few months later, I joined Demand Studios as a copy writer/editor. 

Toby has felt an affinity with her ancestors since childhood, which was only strengthened by psychic experiences. These experiences prompted her to study reincarnation and psychic phenomena. In every endeavor, Toby brings a sensitivity and unique insight. So she did during her tenure as president of the Arizona Authors Association, which lasted from 2006 to 2016, which is the longest tenure of any president. Over the course of those years she organized numerous workshops, some of which she also conducted. She manned the booths at book fairs, signings, and many of the events which attracted authors throughout the state. 

Toby and Vijaya at the 2007 Arizona Literary Banquet

For the first time in 2015, Toby arranged to secure a table at the Arizona State Library Association Conference. Another event she attended during her tenure was the annual Tucson Festival of Books. Members were able to advertise their work in the association's booth at very little cost. Such perks, expanded by Vijaya and expanded again by Toby, helped to retain members and make the Arizona Authors Association such a valuable resource. Under Toby's leadership, she reported that the AAA secured "a grant from the City of Glendale to do a series of workshops with about a dozen writers, culminating in one by Diana Gabaldon." 

It was during Toby's presidency that the newsletter saw its greatest changes. It switched from a paper newsletter snail mailed to all members to an online publication, thereby saving the association thousands of dollars. Regular columns included President's Corner, Member Spotlight and my own column, The Inevitable Author. Ken Weene's column and his Open Mic events attracted more members. Book releases each spanned a whole page in full color. Cherie Lee served as the newsletter editor. She learned to master Microsoft Publisher and put out a professional online product bimonthly, at a time when few others had the expertise to accomplish it. 

The Arizona Authors Association website thrived under Toby's leadership and Vijaya's proficiency as webmistress. The easy-to-use website boasted a welcoming and professional front page, a fully usable forum, and expertly designed members' pages, which were easy to load and fully interactive. At the time of Toby's departure, the website, newsletter, and workshops were a few of the biggest accomplishments of the association. Toby left the presidency and the organization in good shape for the succeeding administration in January of 2016.

Next time, we'll explore the dark years of 2016 to 2018 and the resurgence that followed.