Friday, March 17, 2023

Happy St. Patrick's Day

  I always was fascinated by traditions, legends, and their origins. St Patrick is known for having brought Christianity to Ireland and cast the snakes out of the island.

Legend has it that Patrick stood on an Irish hillside and delivered a sermon that drove the island’s serpents into the sea. While it’s true that the Emerald Isle is mercifully snake-free, chances are that’s been the case throughout human history. Water has surrounded Ireland since the end of the last glacial period, preventing snakes from slithering over; before that, it was blanketed in ice and too chilly for the cold-blooded creatures. Scholars believe the snake story is an allegory for St. Patrick’s eradication of pagan ideology.

Although the knights of St. Patrick wore blue, green is the color of the Emerald Isle. It's also the color of the shamrock.

As for the traditional food, I suspect it was different in the days of the saint. And the green beer is definitely a modern tradition.

But today, everyone is celebrating, and everyone is Irish. Enjoy the celebrations!


Monday, March 13, 2023

Life goes on - Another furry thing to love - by Vijaya Schartz

After the loss of my little Jasmine just after the holidays, I thought I shouldn't wait too long before adopting a new furry companion. 

Here he is, I renamed him Pasha (which is a spoiled mid-eastern king, usually fat and spoiled). Pasha is seven-years-old. He was rescued in November by Cat's World Rescue from a family where he'd been abused by children and used as target practice by mean men. The vet had to dig several BBs out of his body.

Needless to say, this little thing was spooked. He hates children and men. He couldn't be touched, even less petted. So, his case was special, and adoption would be difficult, since he couldn't be adopted by a family.

As it often happens, the right connection at the right time (I was browsing at Petsmart) put both of us on a collision course. I believe in the energy of the universe solving problems. I always keep an open mind. And as it happened, I was there, ready to adopt when he was in need of a home.

In a very short time, Pasha understood he was safe in my home. He really is the king of his domain and now lets me pet him and even pick him up. He jumps in my lap and purrs and even let me brush his tummy. 

I think this is the perfect pairing. An author needs a quiet furry companion to sleep and purr on the desk while the inspiration strikes. I believe cats help inspiration, especially for my books, where you will often find cat characters... sometimes small, sometimes very big, but always brave.

Here are some of my titles that include cats:

Happy reading!

Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Preparing for Publication - by Penny Orloff


The Blurb. Condensing a 100,000-word manuscript, or a 90-minute performance piece or film, or a 14-song CD into 300 words is a daunting task. But it is probably the single most important step to getting your finished work out there. 

 The descriptive copy on hardback books is known as “jacket” or “flap” copy. Paperback copy is called “back cover copy.” It can be used in any number of ways – cover letters, press releases, etc. - to promote your work. This writing is meant to give a brief description, grab readers' attention, highlight any reviews, and identify the author. This is where you have about twenty seconds to hook your audience. 

Here are a few guidelines for distilling the essence of your work into promotional copy for your book, CD, film, or performance piece.

A-B-C. Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity. Keep in mind the goal of the blurb: to offer a brief summary of your work, engage your prospective audience, and offer them a reason to buy. Do not try to explain every character, plot twist, and feature of your novel. Do not go into all the personal reasons you wrote these songs. Stick with Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity. 

Research. Visit a library or bookstore and read jacket copy. Look at copy on different types of books, films, CD’s, focusing on work similar to yours. Whenever you find copy that really grabs your attention, jot down what you like about it. 

 Have someone else write a synopsis or distillation. Enlist the help of a friend or colleague who is willing to read through your manuscript, watch the video of your performance piece, or listen to your recorded tracks. Have them write a brief summary of your work, noting the specific points or plot elements they liked most. This is a great way to gain a fresh perspective on your work and can be a helpful starting point. 

Excerpts. If you're having trouble condensing your project into a few brief paragraphs, comb through your manuscript, play, songs looking for passages or lines to excerpt. Place the passage in quotes and, introducing or underneath the quote, identify the passage as having come from your piece. For example, I summed up my novel and subsequent solo show, Jewish Thighs on Broadway: Misadventures of a Little Trouper, in one phrase— “Breaking into Show Business is like breaking into Fort Knox; breaking out, we’re talking Alcatraz.” 

Review quotes. If you've been fortunate enough to have your oeuvre reviewed, include the best quotes from those reviews. Take the most complimentary phrases from the review(s) and put them in quotes on the back cover. Name the source. Note: you can do this even with “bad” reviews…

Author bio. In one short paragraph list your accomplishments, other books you've published, schooling (if it’s MIT or Juilliard), awards, grants, etc. Mention where your work has appeared - newspapers, magazines, online journals, theaters, radio, etc. Establish your authority on the subject. Do NOT include non-relevant accomplishments. Your breakthrough discoveries in vulcanology are not enhanced through mention of your college poetry prizes… 

Try it on. Print out or visualize how the copy will look on the jacket and back cover of your book. Keep it BRIEF and MUSCULAR. Invite them in and give them a reason to stay. 

Reviews. A good review is the best form of free advertising any artist could hope for, but even a “bad review” is publicity. 

 Publicity departments of large publishing houses have the resources and staff to send out press releases, bound galleys, and multiple copies of completed books to reviewers. Smaller houses and self-publishers don't have the wherewithal for that. Instead, authors doing their own publicity should send a press release to all appropriate reviewing outlets. The press release should describe your book and highlight what sets it apart that might be worth a review. It should let reviewers know who you are, where you can be reached, and how soon you can get them a manuscript if they request it. 

Contact your local newspaper, ask if they review books, and get the name of the appropriate editor. Many alternative weekly newspapers, special interest publications, literary magazines, newsletters, and websites also feature book reviews. The Literary Market Place contains listings and information on many periodicals.

Once the press release is written and mailed, your book may or may not get reviewed. If luck and timing are with you and your book is reviewed, excerpt the most complimentary parts of the review (a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph), and use this quote in a blurb to get the attention of your local bookstore, other reviewers, and publishers. 

If you don't promote your work, it won't get promoted. It's worth taking the time to write an accurate, informative press release and send it to reviewers you believe would be most interested. Your ultimate goal is to let as many people as possible know your work is Out There, and having it reviewed is an important element of that process.

Constantly be ready to represent your work or arrange a signing or reading. Easiest is probably the Open Mic. Look for these in local papers, attend the event, and read your work!! Word of mouth is the most powerful advertiser. PS – bring copies to sell. You never know… 

Bookstore Readings. Contact the store and get the name and correct spelling of the Community Relations Coordinator. Send this person a professional press kit. Include a copy of your book and any praise your work has received. 

Follow up a few days later to ask when might be convenient for you to come in and discuss a possible in-store reading. Don’t just show up and ask to see the CRC without an appointment. Calling or emailing and requesting time is professional courtesy.

If you have done other readings or lectures, be sure to bring flyers, newspaper clippings, or other evidence with you. This can help to sway a planner's decision to give time to an unknown local writer. If you do book the event, help promote it on your own. An article in a local paper or strategically placed posters or flyers around town can only help. 

As you're talking with the CRCs, remember that while you know how great your book is, they know the clientele of their stores and what sells. Sometimes they say "no." In some areas, fiction books sell best; in others, political nonfiction packs the room. 

Generally, CRCs are gregarious professionals who may have some great suggestions for improving your press kit or recommending other stores where your book may work better. Even if the meeting results in "No, thanks," be sure to send a quick note afterward to thank them for seeing you and to ask them to keep you in mind for other upcoming events. Better to be remembered for that friendly thank you note than as the temperamental Artiste who stormed out in a huff. 

Most CRC’s know other event planners within their company and competing companies. A bad impression on one could affect your chances at another store.

Press Release. Probably the most important promotional tool at your disposal is the press release. 

Keep it to one page. Your release should be double-spaced, have a killer headline, and start with the standard Who, What, Where, When, Why intro. Your contact info belongs at the top, with additional contact info (website address, phone number, email) at the bottom. Proofread your release! 

It’s a good idea to write your press release like a news article with the main point first, followed by further details. Give enough information to get their attention and provoke questions. Write press releases and send them out, if possible, in conjunction with a relevant holiday or event: If your book is about finding True Love, send something out a few weeks before Valentine's Day. Include supporting quotes—these can be from you—or solicit quotes from another writer, a celebrity, or a recognized expert in your field. Stay clear of anything that smacks of hype. 

Get accurate contact info and deadlines for releases sent to newspapers and magazines. Many monthly publications have as much as four-months lead time. Get the facts! Spell the editor’s name correctly! 

Here’s a tip: fold the letter with copy side out and position it in the envelope so the headline and opening lines of the first paragraph can’t be missed. 

If you get “free ink” or any type of feedback as a result of your press release, be sure to write thank-you notes. That’s just good manners. And good manners count! 

Penny Orloff was a working actor/dancer in Los Angeles when a Juilliard scholarship took her to New York. She had featured roles on Broadway, working for directors Harold Prince and Joseph Papp, and sang more than 20 Principal Soprano roles for New York City Opera under Julius Rudel and Beverly Sills. In a career spanning more than 50 years, she starred in over 100 productions off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. Her first solo show, “Jewish Thighs on Broadway” (based on her best-selling novel of the same name, available on Amazon), toured the U.S. for a decade, including a successful off-Broadway run in 2005. Having outlived most of her early competition for film roles, since 2012 she has enjoyed acting in a range of interesting shorts, Indie, and feature films (silver-white hair and a Botox-free face being, apparently, in short supply in LA.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Operational Organization for Authors and Artists Part 3 - by Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

When I began this series of articles, my goal was to help authors, artists, and other creative professionals organize their physical environment to effectively plan and complete work projects, including aspects of their:

~ Office contents and arrangement
~ Updating hardware, software, and electronic gadgets
~ Using the Cloud for backup
~ Organization of books, files, and folders
~ Reviewing document and design elements for future usage 

With the tools of your trade at hand and a New Year unfolding, it is time to consider the possibilities as well as the probabilities of the contents of your calendar for 2023. With our work spaces stocked and organized, we may appear ready to move forward into the year. But despite having reference materials, basic tools, and necessary folders and files readily available, past years may very well demonstrate that our plans can easily go astray. Even when one is fortunate to have assistance in our home or office, we may not be able to avoid some pitfalls while striving to meet our goals. As we examine the preparations we have made recently, there may be a few additional tweaks that can assure we are prepared to launch many months of a heavy work schedule. This could involve another round of polishing and cleaning, and the sharpening or replacement of key implements.

As successful authors and artists, the relationships we establish and maintain with colleagues and our local and even our international community can be vital to our productivity. So, moving forward in 2023, let us expand and refine our relationships. Such strengthening of connections near and far can greatly enhance the quality of our personal lives and our awareness of the life that flows around us. 

Starting points for exploring such relationships can begin with reviewing our past year’s calendar, as well as incoming and outgoing email and other communication, which should disclose potential elements for our forthcoming year. Checking the scheduled events of organizations to which we belong and the plans of fellow members will also reveal probable aspects of our own upcoming year. And that brings us to consideration of our own work and that of our editors, publishers, and other key figures in our personal and professional commitments.

By this point, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of data being entered into your calendar template. But without details fleshing out the days, let alone the months yawning forward, it will prove difficult to see how the details of your completed projects, presentation materials, travel plans, and new events may result from these activities.

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors, 

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, narrator, consultant, and motivational speaker
For more ideas to aid your career as an author or artist, visit:

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


“Hold your horses,” my Scottish granny used to say (she was a lover of all things Western, although she never traveled further west than Texas or Minnesota). As all my novels take place in the American West, there’s bound to be some slang thrown in. From “itchin’ to go North” in Eliza Waite to “cinch up” in Answer Creek to “hotter than a burnt boot” in Hardland, there’s an undercurrent of Western slang in all my work.

How to use slang in fiction? How much is enough? How much is too much? And what about vernacular and idiom? Enough? Too much?

One need not turn any further than Mark Twain for this argument. I’d bet five beans in the wheel that half of us would have Twain’s back as the best example of slang/vernacular/idiom and the other half would take issue with his use of language. Without a doubt, Twain is the first American author to use Southern vernacular throughout his narrative with plenty of slang and idiom thrown in for good measure. To some, it’s genius; to others, it might be labeled a distraction. 

According to the University of Virginia’s “Mark Twain and His Times,” a collaborative effort of the Department of English at UVA, Huckleberry Finn has “been in trouble” since its publication in 1885. Hemingway said it was the “one book” from which “all American literature” owes a debt to, although many of Twain’s contemporaries viewed it as “coarse” and “racist.” It was banned almost as soon as it was published and has continued to be banned off and on for 138 years. Still, Huckleberry Finn remains near the top of novels read in U.S. high schools (various sources). 

Let’s look at Twain’s language (it goes without saying that slang and vernacular have no place in academic or formal writing unless the topic expressly addresses the subject). Using slang in fiction, and in dialogue in particular, has the ability to bring the reader right into the narrative. 

This, from Huck himself: “What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?” Here, we hear a young boy confronting his own better/worst angels as he wrestles earnestly with doing right vs. wrong.

This is from Jim, Huck’s African American companion: “Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick, but every time you’s gywne to git well agin.” Here, we picture Jim, without description, as he imparts a universal truth

And this from Huck’s Pap: “Thinks I, what is this country a-coming to? It was ‘lection day, and I was about to go and vote, myself, if I warn’t too drunk to get there, but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that n***** vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote again.” Here, again from language only, we hear the words of a drunk bigot, prejudice dripping from his lips. Arguably, the language is brilliant. And arguably, it’s distracting (and disturbing). 

I canvassed several peers—critique partners, authors, editors, and proofreaders—to ask the following: 

How much slang/vernacular/idiom is enough to bring time/place/mood/character alive? 

Conversely, how much is too much? 

“It depends on the reader and how complicated the vernacular and how unfamiliar the slang,” one author responded. “It’s a matter of balance—not too much, just enough to give it flavor.”  

A proofreader weighed in to say it’s not distracting if you pepper your manuscript with slang/vernacular, ie. dropping the final “g” in words (givin’ you a hard time, workin’ your tail off) or using an occasional expletive for oomph, as long it’s intentional and not used indiscriminately.

An editor who’s partial to foreign fiction contends the essence of a place—especially through language—is what makes different worlds jump off the page and challenge perspectives.

With the rise of sensitivity readers, manuscripts that once might have passed muster with editors without a second thought are getting a thorough going over. The danger lies, however, in the manuscript being watered down for the sake of not wanting to offend.

Imagine if Huck had used proper grammar (“What is the use of learning to do right . . . ?”) or Jim had said, “Sometimes you might get hurt and sometimes you might get sick, but every time you’ll get well again” or Pap had said, “What is this country coming to?” It just rings flat.

I’m in the camp that appropriate slang/vernacular/idiom must be present in manuscripts for historical accuracy, especially in historical fiction and Western literature. My advice: used intentionally and creatively, especially in dialogue, use of period slang and vernacular and idiom help manuscripts find legs. (Note: If you use racial or ethnic slurs, consider including a footnote in your end pages, i.e. “While I do not condone the use of slurs used in the manuscript, I am unwilling to whitewash history.”) 

Some of my favorite Western sayings, A-Z: 

Adam’s Ale: water
Bones: dice
Cat’s sleep: pretending to be asleep to catch prey unawares
Death hunter: undertaker
Elbow grease: hard labor
Flash man: bully
Grease: to bribe
Hear the owl hoot: get utterly plastered
Irons in the fire: refers to branding, and the many irons used
Jabber: talk loud and fast
Keno!: “I’ve won!”
Light-fingered: thief
Murphies: potatoes
Night Horse: one who can find his/her way in the dark (literally and figuratively)
On tick: buy on credit
Peppered: inflicted with venereal disease
Quicken: when one finds herself pregnant
Rim Rocker: sturdy and tireless horse
Saddle Bums: drifters
Tonsil Paint: whiskey 
Under the gun: do or die
Vixen: comely woman
While the gate’s still open: do something while you still have the chance
E(x)pended: Killed
Yack: refers to someone stupid
Zounds!: “What the heck?!”

*Gleaned from The Cowboys, by William Dale Jennings, Cowboy Slang, by Edgar R. “Frosty” Potter, and other references

Use of language—verbal and written—is an argument as old as time itself and I’m sure as shootin’ we won’t settle it here. Did I let the cat of the bag? The bullet out of the chamber? Maybe so. But I argue that, like anything of importance, use of language begs to be talked about and debated. Especially by authors. 

Write me at with ideas you’d like to see covered in upcoming blogs. 

Until next time, Happy Writing! 


Ashley E. Sweeney is the winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for her debut novel, Eliza Waite. A native New Yorker, she is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and resides in Tucson. Answer Creek, released in May 2020, is her second novel. Her third novel, Hardland, is set in the Arizona territory at the beginning of the 20th century. It was released on September 13, 2022.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Walking with the Spiritual but not Religious - by Gil W. Stafford


Click cover for amazon link

Walking with the Spiritual but not Religious takes a fresh look at being a spiritual companion for those who identify as something other than religious—SBNR, Nones, not religious, agnostics, atheists, people who have experienced something unexplainable, and those who have encountered the paranormal (religious or otherwise). 

The book is for anyone who has left a religious tradition but still longs for a spiritual path. It is also for anyone— religious or not—called to be a spiritual companion for the not religious. 

In this book, you’ll discover: 

 -just how “normal” the paranormal actually is -meditation, contemplation, and other “spiritual” practices
 -how to craft meaningful life-cycle rituals
 -creating spiritual community that heals rather than hurts

Catherine Stafford, EdD, professional educator for thirty-eight years as an elementary teacher, college professor, and finally a public-school superintendent. In 2012, she stepped off the public-school trail onto a new path, which lead her into the forests, fields, waterways, and sometimes deserts of interfaith spiritual exploration and companioning. All along these trails and paths wisdom listening has been her practice. 

 Gil Stafford, PhD, DMin, Episcopal priest and former Canon Theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. Stafford was the President of Grand Canyon University, previously the university’s baseball coach. He is the author of 3 other books; Wisdom Walking: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life and When Leadership and Spiritual Direction Meet: Reflections and Stories for Congregational Life, and Meditations on Blue Jesus: Listening to the Disabled God. Life is a pilgrimage and Stafford has taken many, including walking Ireland coast-to-coast.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Seasonal Writing Patterns - by Kathleen Cook

Do you orient toward the various seasonal shifts in your writing patterns? I do! Now that the leaves have all fallen and thoughts turn to Christmas, I take a notepad and pen and curl up near the fire on the comfy couch. While most of my writing is done on a PC or laptop, pen and paper seem to dominate my winter prose. I can lie on the couch with a throw blanket and a cup of cocoa, and look out the window at the chipmunks to find inspiration. The south facing window with its soothingly warm sun is perfect in winter, and chipmunks, with antics that remind me of children playing in snow, trigger my imagination as well as anything on television.

Where do you write best? Do you have a favorite spot? Does it change with the seasons? Try varying your writing spots. Revisit those spots in different months and at different times, to discover when they can serve as your productive hot spots. You may find that a chair with a north-facing window is far more comfortable in summer than in winter. You may also find that the light of a west window is perfect in the morning but too harsh in the afternoon. Mixing up your writing places can add zest to your writing. Being in the same spot day in and day out is like eating the same meal every day. It gets boring, and that boredom shows in your writing.

Come spring, I'll switch to my computer upstairs, where I can witness the new buds just starting to burst forth on the peach trees in the backyard. From that location, I can see groundhogs scurry in the distance. In summer, I'll shift to the other side of the house with the northern exposure and a shade tree, where a cool iced tea and a chair with breathable fabric bring comfort on a hot day.

In early autumn, just as the leaves start to change, I'll move again to the south side with my laptop, but this time, I'll choose the room with a view of the flaming redbud tree. It takes my breath away, and for some reason, all of my favorite books have started their first chapters in that room. (And yes, my books DO write themselves! All I need is the inspiration of my surroundings!) 

If you really can't switch rooms with the seasons, switch up your décor. I know a friend who writes on her computer in her bedroom, but with every season she changes her bedspread and the flowers on her window. It changes her mood and uplifts her spirits. While it's possible to write while in the depths of the doldrums, you usually do a better job when your spirits rise. Try switching out the items on your computer desk, too. If you usually keep a pen handy, try a different color for every month. If you have a desk lamp, switch out the shade every few months. Or put a new stuffed animal out to make you smile. 

I guess what it all boils down to is that monotony can dampen your creativity. When you change the scene in which you write your novels, either by changing rooms or by changing the room you're writing in, you drive a stake into that monotony and shakeup your routine. You gain a different perspective. You may see things in a new light, and that's the best kind of light to write by no matter where you are! Happy Seasons! 

Kathleen Cook is a retired editor and the author of more than twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project) in the internet’s early days. She is currently the Arizona Authors Association Editor as well as the website administrator.  

Monday, January 16, 2023

Join a Write-In to Meet Other Writers and Boost Your Productivity - by Janet Alcorn

 Writing is solitary work. We labor over our stories alone in our offices or, since this is Arizona, on our patios. Maybe we make time to meet up with other authors once a month for a workshop, but mostly we toil away on our own. That’s fine, but what if we could meet up with other writers, virtually or in person, and just… write together? Well, we can! Getting together to write is called a write-in, and since it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), write-ins are happening all over the world. In fact, I host one every week on Saturdays, and you can join! Details are at the end of this article, but first, let’s talk about why you might want to join a write-in.

4 Reasons to Join a Write-In

Boost your productivity.
People who write books about building healthy habits usually offer at least two pieces of advice: schedule time for your new activity and find someone to do it with. You want to exercise? Put gym time on your calendar and find a buddy to go with you. We’ll bail on ourselves, but we’ll think twice before we bail on someone else. That’s how write-ins work. The meeting is on my calendar, and people are expecting me to show up, so I do. And when I’m there, I write. No excuses, and no scrolling social media. Everyone else is writing, so I do too.

Meet other writers.
Other writers “get” us in ways normal people don’t. When you tell another writer your character told you she was gay while you were in the shower (yes, this actually happened to me), they smile along and share their stories of characters who wouldn’t stay in their author-assigned boxes. When you tell a normal person such a thing, they back away slowly and lose your number.

Find support and encouragement.
Other writers can be a huge source of support, especially when you’re struggling. Other writers can talk you down after you get a bad review or your 247th rejection. They can celebrate your successes with you and remind you that you and your work have value. They can understand your frustrations and laugh with you about the absurdities and frustrations of this business.

Make friends.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, American adults are more isolated than ever; in a recent survey, 49% reported they had three or fewer friends, and 12% said they had no close friends (see Friendship Study). Joining a write-in could help you make friends AND get writing done. What’s not to love?

Where Can I Find a Write-In?

Thanks to videoconferencing, anyone can join a write-in from anywhere in the world as long as they have a decent internet connection. In-person write-ins are also resuming in many communities. Here are a few places to find a write-in:

1. Your city’s NaNoWriMo group. Visit, create an account, and under Community, select Find a Region. Arizona NaNo regions include Flagstaff, Tucson, East Valley, Patagonia, Phoenix, Prescott, Yuma, and Elsewhere. Some NaNo groups are resuming in-person write-ins this year, and many do virtual write-ins as well.

2. Other local writing groups. To find them, search Facebook or or check with your local public library. 

3. Professional associations. Sisters in Crime ( offers several write-ins per day throughout NaNoWriMo and occasionally during the rest of the year. Check with your favorite association to see what’s available. 

4. Online writing communities. Some writing instructors have created online communities for their students, and some of those communities include write-ins. For example, I take classes from Margie Lawson ( and some of her students and instructors host write-ins—including (drum roll please)—me!

How to Join My Write-In

I host a write-in through every Saturday morning from 7-8 AM with an optional social time from 6:30-7:00 (No, “AM” is not a misprint, and yes, a copious amount of caffeine is involved). There are three other write-ins available if you don’t want to drag yourself out of bed early on a Saturday. To join any of them:

1. Go to and sign up for an account. It’s free, and all you need is an email and a password.
 3. Click Add to Cart (don’t worry—it’s still free)
 4. Click either View Cart or Go to Checkout
 5. Click Place Order

You’ll get the Zoom links for all LWA write-ins, including mine, on the next screen and in your email. You can also access the classroom forums to chat with other writers. I don’t get any kind of compensation for either referring you to LWA or hosting the write-ins. 

I’m also willing to host a separate write-in for Arizona Authors Association members. If you’re interested, shoot me an email (, and we’ll get something scheduled.

Happy writing! 

Janet is a librarian, published short story author, and aspiring novelist. She writes mostly suspense and horror with the occasional foray into other genres. Learn more about Janet and her writing at:

Monday, January 2, 2023

Energizing Your Marketing &Technical Strategies by Jeanne Burrows-Johnson


In my last article, I discussed operational organization for authors and artists with focus on our physical environment, including office contents and their arrangement, assessment of hardware and electronic gadgets, evaluation and updating of relevant software, and the backing up of files and folders. Today I’ll offer an overview of organizing books and other reference materials, as well as files and folders and the documents within them.


I have found that the key to optimizing organization of the many aspects of our daily operations lies in consistent review. Depending on your methods, simple cleaning can provide opportunities for determining whether all that greets your eyes is worthy of retention. One category of review that requires my regular attention is examination of the shelves of books that reside in four rooms of my home. While that may sound as if I possess a massive number of bookcases, that is not the case; I simply like to position the varied works where they will be most accessible.

Living in Hawaiʻi for twenty-five years, I had the sad experience of having to discard countless books due to the infestation of mold and mildew. In addition, when preparing to move back to the mainland in mid-life, I realized that many of my reading materials were no longer relevant to either my recreational taste or required professional reading. At the end of the life of each collection of books, I have given items to friends and colleagues who would enjoy and benefit from them. At one point, my husband and I realized we had far too many cookbooks. Professionally, for both fiction and nonfiction projects, I’ve found it easier to research food and recipes on-line than to go through my library. In this case, I again checked with friends and found new homes for books I no longer needed. Interestingly, these people have sometimes returned the gift of recipes by providing ones for visitors to my author website!

At the onset of each project I author, I gather new and used reference materials, often relevant foreign language and multicultural resources. With a degree in American history and experience as a teaching assistant in world civilizations, I have accumulated many historical encyclopedias and dictionaries. In addition, I have a number of books on World War II, which are proving useful as I am now writing a mystery on ramifications of prostitution in Honolulu at that time. As I look these items over, I realize I should soon donate many of them to other authors and Friends of the Library, as they do not seem pertinent to work I may undertake during the last years of my life. You might find it useful to consider the topics and themes of your books and reference files when contemplating which will be appropriate for your current and future purposes...personally and professionally.

Please know that I’m not suggesting you unduly burden yourself in accomplishing such tasks. For instance, I’ve found that watching television, streaming shows, and movies provide ideal opportunities for determining the continuing usefulness of reading and reference materials. By placing boxes nearby to hold items to be discarded (plus paper or electronic means for taking notes) you can browse at a leisurely pace while keeping track of your evaluations. Another method I suggest for evaluating the continuing usefulness of reading material is joining with one or more authors or artists. Such a joint venture can simplify both the removal of items no longer deemed suitable to your library and the gathering of new ones that may prove vital to a new project.


In the life of a wordsmith or artist today, one’s work accumulates in both electronic and hardcopy forms. To maintain an organized reference system, I find it useful to review storage methodology as well as the actual contents of files and folders. Sometimes making appropriate upgrades is as easy as selecting new file/folder colors and tabs. For example, I use burgundy colored files and folders for my work, turquoise for clients, and yellow for general reference materials— along with utilizing corresponding tabs that feature appropriate titles and dates.

Unfortunately, determining the value of the contents of one’s files and folders can prove more trying. Sometimes you’ll find that the original method for organizing those contents is no longer useful. In the decades of executing marketing assignments for clients, I generally kept folders of my work for them filed under their individual or organizational names. Once I shifted the focus of my writing to fiction and nonfiction pieces under my own name, I began reorganizing assignments for clients under categorical titles such as insurance, non-profit organizations, and newsletters. It’s been interesting to note that with the passage of time, I sometimes forget a client’s name ...


When a project has been completed (usually meaning that it has been published), maintaining fail-safe backups of the original text or images may still be necessary. This is especially true if I continue my connection with a partner, editor, or publisher. You may also find it useful to create parallel files and folders under additional names/titles for future work. For example, I have electronic files of possible titles and plot descriptions for potential mysteries. I also have files with text I have removed from projects but have kept due to its detail or flow. Again, you might find a joint venture with a salon of authors familiar with your writing an ideal way to determine the fate of some of your unpublished work.

I hope these simple suggestions will prove suitable to refining your operational organization. In our next conversation, I’ll address the issue of editing documents for the completion of current work and planning for future usage.

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors, Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, narrator, consultant, and motivational speaker.

For more ideas to aid your career as an author or artist, visit:
Author Website:
Author Blog:
Marketing Website:
You can email me at 

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson is an author, narrator, consultant, and motivational speaker who writes works of fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, featuring pan-Pacific multiculturalism and history in a classic literary form that is educational as well as entertaining. She was art director, indexer, and a co-author of the anthology Under Sonoran Skies: Prose and Poetry from the High Desert. Drawing on her interdisciplinary experience in the performing arts, education, and marketing, her authored and co-authored articles have appeared in literary, professional, and general readership publications such as Newport This Week, Broker World, the Hawai`i Medical Journal, and The Rotarian.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year from all over the world - by Vijaya Schartz


Find Vijayas latest book
At the very end of December, after all the holiday parties, the family gatherings, the excessive eating, the drinking, and the sugar comas, we tend to reflect on why we gained five pounds… And new-year’s-eve is still ahead. But with the New Year comes new hope.

Also called St Sylvester’s night in Europe, New Year’s Eve, and New Year's day, include many traditions to ease the transition and generate good luck and prosperity.

In the US, whether you are, from the East to the West coast, you will probably have or attend a party, count the seconds to midnight, and watch the ball drop in Time Square. You will have a drink and sing Auld Lang Syne, and some will stand under the mistletoe, for a chance of a kiss at midnight.

In Canada the fireworks are magnificent. And some of the most popular New Year’s Day traditions are the Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, and to go ice-fishing. Brrrr!

In Japan, December 31st is a national cleaning day. The houses are scrubbed from floor to ceiling and decluttered, to start the new year in a favorable setting. On New Year’s Eve, it is also the tradition to eat buckwheat noodles called Toshikoshi soba. Just before midnight, Buddhist temple bells ring out 108 times, representing the 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana and get rid of last year’s bad luck.

The enormous bell is rung with a strong pole, pulled by several people with ropes.

In Brazil, everyone wears white on New Year’s eve for good luck and peace. They also run to the beach and throw white flowers into the ocean. Of course, it’s summer and beach weather in Brazil that time of year.

In Mexico, at midnight, people drop a gold ring into their glass to bring good fortune in love and money. Then on January 1st, they go door to door, offering home-made tamales to friends and neighbors. I’ve also seen it done in Arizona as traditions migrate.

In Greece, onions are a symbol of good luck and fertility, so, on New Year's Eve, they hang bundles of onions above their doors to invite prosperity into the home. Then, on New Year's Day, parents wake up their children by gently knocking them on the head with the onions that were outside.

In Singapore, revelers let wishing spheres containing their hopes and dreams float down the river. Thousands of them on the Singapore River make for a magical sight.

In Puerto Rico, they dump a bucket of water from a window to ward off evil spirits. I hope it’s not on the pedestrians below. They also sprinkle sugar outside their houses for good luck.

In Russia, New Year's Eve revelers write a wish down on a piece of paper, burn it and add the ashes to their champagne or vodka glass. Then they drink the entire glass quickly at midnight, in less than a minute, to make their wish realize.

In France, Champagne is the drink de rigueur to ring the New Year, along with raw oysters on the shell, turkey, goose, and seafood, in an elaborate and abundant meal they call a reveillon. And in Paris, the Eiffel Tower lights up in a splendid show of lights for the occasion.

In Spain, to get good luck in the New Year, you must eat 12 grapes on the 12 rings of midnight, and keep the pace… no sweat, just don’t choke!

In Switzerland, they summon wealth, and abundance by dropping ice cream on the floor at midnight. Personally, I think it’s a waste of delicious ice-cream.

In Denmark, to celebrate the New Year, they smash old plates on the doors of family, friends, and neighbors, to ward off evil spirits. The more broken plates at your door in the morning, the more good luck in the New Year.

In India, they build an effigy of an old man and burn it at midnight, to symbolize the death of the old year with its struggles, to make room for the new and hopefully better year.

In China, they celebrate the New Year on a lunar cycle, in January or February, and the festivities last two weeks. Lots of dragons parading on the streets, food, fireworks, and the color red, for good luck.

I wish you all a fantastic New Year, with success and happiness all year long.

Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Monday, December 26, 2022

Frank Sinatra and the Mafia Murders - by Mike Rothmiller


Click on cover for Amazon link

Mike Rothmiller and Douglas Thompson draw on LAPD intelligence files, a cache of FBI documents, and extensive interviews with prime sources who worked with Frank Sinatra. Many of them tracked his long and fatal association with American Mafia leaders, including Sam 'Momo' Giancana, who shared a lover with President John F. Kennedy. 

Shortly after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, 19-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped at gunpoint in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. A $240,000 ransom was demanded from his father. While law-enforcement agencies sprang into action, Frank secretly contacted his Mafia friends for help. The Mafia believed they could free young Frank much more quickly through their underworld connections. In the end, nine people died. 

Revealed here as never before is the extent to which Sinatra was adopted by the Mafia. They promoted his career and ‘watched his back.’ In return, Sinatra danced to their tune. The book reveals Mafia and CIA interests as well as explosive, previously secret documents. 

 Available for pre-release sales on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.

Mike Rothmiller is a New York Times Bestselling Author, nominee for the Pulitzer Prize, historian, former cop and Army medic. He's also served as a TV reporter, an award winning documentary producer and television host for ESPN, PBS and other international television markets. He's written and produced over 25 television documentaries, numerous TV and radio ads and has authored movie scripts. His nonfiction book, My Hero. Military Kids Write About Their Moms and Dads (St. Martin's Press) received international acclaim and holds the honor of being the only book in history to have forwards written by three living Presidents and General Norman Schwarzkopf. He's authored many books and his Secrets, Lies and Deception and Other Amazing Pieces of History was featured on Fox News and over 40 Television News Stations across America. Readers of his books include three Presidents, former First Lady Laura Bush, the late Charlton Heston and Queen Elizabeth II. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Books as holiday gifts, by Vijaya Schartz

Vijaya's latest release.
 Find it HERE

Whether it’s a stocking stuffer novel, a kindle gift sent to a friend faraway, or the wrapped gift of a complete paperback series, if you know the favorite genre of the avid readers among your family and friends, books make wonderful gifts.

Maybe it’s the story they talked about but never got to buy for themselves. Maybe it’s the new release in a series they started and loved. Or you can surprise them with a book you enjoyed and want to share with them. In any case, it’s becoming simpler and easier than ever to gift books.

You can do it from your laptop or phone, order online from your favorite retailer, and have it shipped or emailed. It takes little time and effort. It will be appreciated on cold, snowy, or rainy days.

Going with a reliable publisher, like BWL Publishing, will ensure it’s a quality book. Other ways to select a good book is considering the author’s track record. Award-winning authors usually deliver consistent quality reads. You can also read the ratings and reviews shared by other readers on the retail sites.

The most difficult part of this process is selecting the right genre and the right titles. Find out if you friend likes cozy mysteries, romance, action/adventure, Historical novels, fantasy, science fiction, or a mix of genres.

I write in many genres and also like to mix them. From contemporary romance to realistic Celtic legends, to space opera and science fiction, including even felines in some of my stories. But each author brings his or her personal touch to the writing, and if you like an author in one genre, chances are you will like that author’s other writings as well.

Here are some suggestions from my popular writings:

Curse of the Lost Isle series (Celtic legends – Edgy medieval)
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Chronicles of Kassouk series (Sci-fi romance)
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Azura Chronicles series (Set on another planet – includes cats - androids - romantic elements)
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Byzantium series (Set on a space station - cats – action - sweet romance for all ages)
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Archangel twin books (Aliens and angels in a contemporary setting)
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo

Romance (rated R)
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo


Happy Holidays with books!

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