Monday, April 26, 2021

Southern Arizona Book Heroes Golf Tournament by Rico Austin, PhD

Arizona Authors Association member Rico Austin PhD was one of the Arizona authors of children’s books who earned recognition for his educational children’s book, ARIZONA Is Where I Live. This book was showcased by the charitable “Book Heroes,” at the Inaugural Birdies 4 Books Golf Tournament in Tucson, AZ. The golf tourney took place on Sunday, March 21st at the semi-private Rolling Hills Golf Course and Country Club. Rico played in a foursome with three friends who live in Tucson and who also support the 401C Charity of Southern Arizona Book Heroes. 

In 2013, Rico wrote his first children’s book, ARIZONA Is Where I Live, and it is wonderfully, colorfully illustrated in pastel crayons by the talented Ms. Cindy Work. It is an educational and fun book for children ages four through twelve, teaching and giving descriptions of the various wildlife and plants that make Arizona unique and a great place to not only live, but also visit. 

A young woman named Jennifer Dillon founded a program in 2016 in Tucson, Arizona, under the name “Books to Rescue-Pima County.” In 2019, it officially became a non-profit and changed its name to “Southern Arizona Book Heroes.” This organization is very dear to Rico and other Arizona authors because it helps take young children’s minds off of tragedies with books and their illustrations. From violent acts to car crashes to a growing opioid epidemic, “Southern Arizona Book Heroes” (SABH) has joined the front lines with first responders giving comfort to the youngest and most vulnerable citizens. SABH provides resources that help treat children’s unseen injuries—their emotional wounds. Jennifer and her volunteers equip first responders, victim advocates, social workers, and child-centric agencies with new books and new plush toys to distract, comfort, and soothe traumatized children.

Reading a book is just the first step in building a strong relationship with children in our community. We support our first responders and believe this program helps to build partnerships with our most important community members—our kids. Upon inception of this program in 2016, a good friend of Rico’s, Mr. Manuel “Abby” Cady, purchased thirty of Rico’s children’s books to donate, inspiring both Rico and his wife Connie to donate another thirty books. Since that time, both Abby and his wife Kim Cady have donated another fifty of Rico’s children’s books, as have Connie and Rico. 

Jennifer Dillon - Southern Arizona Book Heroes founder

In April 2019, Jennifer was on the local Tucson television show, “Tucson Morning Blend,” where she and Southern Arizona Book Heroes showcased ARIZONA Is Where I Live. You may watch that clip HERE

Rico is so very proud to be a part of this program. If there are any other children’s book authors who belong to the Arizona Authors Association who would be interested in donating their books, here is the web address: 

Rico Austin, PhD is the author of many award-winning essays and books including My Bad Tequila. His first children’s book, ARIZONA Is Where I Live , was featured in this newsletter and on television. Find out more about Rico and his books HERE. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Warrior Women - Part 1 - the Ancient World - by Vijaya Schartz


Ahhotep : Military Leader and Egyptian Pharaoh


Ahhotep’s burial equipment included a dagger and an inscribed ceremonial axe blade made of copper, gold, electrum and wood. The decorations were characteristically Minoan. Also found were three golden flies, badges of bravery awarded to people who served in the army.

Fu Hao: China’s First Female General:

One of the earliest records of female warriors in China comes from oracle bones found in a tomb. The bones told the forgotten story of a ruthless military general of the Shang Dynasty in 1200 BC. The warrior was Fu Hao, queen consort of King Wu Ding, high priestess, and military leader. She defended the Shang dynasty in several battles. 

At the time of her death, she was the first female Chinese soldier to be buried with the highest military honors.

Artemisia I Of Caria: Commander of Ancient Halicarnassus

According to Herodotus, Artemisia of Halicarnassus was a Greek queen in the 5th century BC, long before Alexander the Great. Artemisia wielded power during a time when Greek women couldn’t vote in Athens, the home of original democracy. She is described as a femme fatale, pirate queen, and played a role in the events of the 300 Spartans described in the movies. During the Greco-Persian wars, she fought for the Persians at Salamis and contributed her warships to the Persian Navy.

Zenobia, warrior queen of the Roman colony of Palmyra, in present-day Syria, from 267 or 268 to 272.

She was described as a conqueror. In 269-270, Zenobia and her general, Zabdeas, conquered Egypt, ruled by the Romans. When the Roman prefect of Egypt objected to Zenobia's takeover, Zenobia had him beheaded. Then she sent a declaration to the citizens of Alexandria, calling it "my ancestral city," claiming her Egyptian ancestry. Zenobia personally led her army as a "warrior queen." She conquered more territory, including Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, creating an empire independent of Rome. After winning and ruling these Roman provinces, she was subjugated by Emperor Aurelian. She died in captivity sometime after 274.

The Amazons:

The Amazons were not the stuff of legends.

Long believed to be purely imaginary, the Amazons were the warrior women described as the archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Recently, the remains of 300 warrior women were found in more than 1,000 excavations of Scythian kurgans (burial mounds), from Ukraine to Central Asia. This spectacular discovery gives credit to the myth of the amazon warriors.

They were reported in the Greek writings of Herodotus as women the Greeks encountered on their expeditions around the Black Sea. They rode horses, hunted, fought, used bows and arrows, just like men. They were fierce, nomadic, and refused to remain sedentary. They lived without men, whom they only frequented for procreation. They kept the baby girls but when the boys reached the age of five, they returned them to their fathers.

Other writings relate similar stories of Amazons by travelers from ancient Persia, Egypt, and as far as China.

Warrior women of Ancient Japan:

For thousands of years, certain upper-class Japanese women have learned martial skills and participated in battles right alongside the male warriors. They were skilled with sword, spear, and bow.

These include the legendary Empress Jingu, (169-269 A.D.) She ruled as a regent following her husband’s death in 200 AD. After seeking revenge on the people who murdered her husband, she invaded the Korean peninsula, the ancestral land of her mother, who was a descendant of a legendary Korean prince.

Empress Jingū became the first woman to be featured on a Japanese banknote however, since no actual images of this legendary figure are known to exist, the representation of Jingū was artistically contrived from the photograph of a 19th Century Japanese woman.

I write about all kinds of warrior women in my novels. But if you like ancient warrior women, you may want to check out these, available in eBook and paperback on my links below.


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

Wednesday, April 7, 2021


Know what pounds my cake? Not adapting to a pandemic. But I’m not going to cite all the national/local cases—we’ve all heard them a million times before. Instead, I’m going to cite how I almost blew a golden chance by passing up a virtual Read Across America at Mountain View Elementary School.

Recall that many Arizona schools have gone to virtual or hybrid learning. That means full- or part-time online instruction. My daughter Zooms most of her college classes at Northern Arizona University. As a musical education major, she’s also had to Zoom her student teaching. So, she’s on both ends of online education.

But adapting to this type of education was not problematic for her. She, like most members of “Gen Z” were born in this evolving technology. As a four-year old, she helped me hook up a VCR, DVD, and PlayStation to the family entertainment system. As a nine-year old, she guided me through building my author website. And I’m sure if asked right now, she could reconfigure a more efficient APS power grid—overnight. There just ain’t nothing these Gen Zers can’t do! 

Not the case for me. As a Baby Boomer born in the era of vacuum tube technology, I marveled at the development of solid state circuitry and went dizzy with the dawn of nano-chip technology. But my adaptations were clunky. My once steep learning curve flattened. It may have something to do with aging brain cells. Or maybe I’m too complacent with the present technology and don’t want to fix what ain’t broke. 

As an in-person elementary school presenter, I was happy with my modus operandi for six years. But this year when asked to present on-line, I balked at the offer. 

First of all, I can count on three fingers how many Zoom meetings I’ve attended (the first being a baby shower). Secondly, I’ve never presented in Zoom. Thirdly, I’ve never presented on Google Meet—the local school’s online meeting platform. With three strikes against me I wanted to turn the offer down. 

Before the pandemic, I was comfy-cushy as an in-person presenter for the past six years; proud of only needing a few years to comfortably work a smart board with Power Point. Now in the heat of virtual learning I’m once again in unfamiliar territory. I got on YouTube and spent a few hours viewing tutorials, but because of the upcoming class presentation I felt pressured and didn’t understand a thing. I spilled my inadequacies to the school’s event coordinator, feeling naked in the rain! 

She assured me that I was not alone; that many presenters were like me (OK, maybe not so naked), and that she’d schedule a few practice sessions. I felt a little better and joined one. I did so poorly I had to schedule another one. Then another one. So shameful! 

With one day to go, I scheduled a practice meeting with my daughter, the Gen Z Queen. She’d never participated in Google Meet before but figured it had to be similar to Zoom. Well, she got it, and I still didn’t. She recommended that I get help from the teacher since I didn’t have enough time to jack up my confidence. 

I emailed the seventh grade teacher my slides in case my internet dropped or I succumbed to hypothermia from being naked in the rain for two days. That made me feel a little better, knowing at least I had a Plan B. She emailed back, saying she’d be happy to facilitate the meeting in case I got washed away in shame. 

The night before my presentation, I lay restless in bed. Once asleep, I had nightmares of all the YouTube tutors laughing, jeering, and scolding me for being a Google Meet moron. How could they be so cruel?! I closed one tutorial window, and it popped up in another window continuing to mock me! 

That morning, at 5:30 AM, I got up, took a shower, and washed my hair. If I’m going to be a moron, I may as well look like a well-groomed one. After getting a vente-sized Starbucks latte, I prepped my backlight, headphones and computer in my dining room—my back wall full of family photos and shelf of classic novels. 

I entered the Google Meet meeting about 15 minutes early, about 7:30 AM. Thankfully the teacher was already there. She had viewed my slides ahead of time and really liked my presentation. That eased my mind a little. She also mentioned that her first class contained some gifted students who could assist both me and her should we encounter any technical glitches. After hearing that and sipping some latte, I really felt better.

Show time! At 7:45AM, the teacher thanked all the students for joining and offered incentives for participation. She introduced me, and I gave a brief bio. My presentation was an original, ~3000-word short story that I read entirely. I also included pictures on every slide. After every third slide, I inserted thought-provoking questions for the students to answer.

Sometime during my first few slides I got a chat message from one of the students: “Your voice is reverberating; push in your headphones jack more firmly.” I must have bumped it when reaching for my latte cup. “Thanks,” I chatted back and pushed in the jack. At least three more students acknowledged my sound correction. I am liking these seventh grade students; they’re so much nicer than those YouTube tutors in my dream! 

Many students engaged in the question/answer period—sometimes presenting arguments with supportive reasons. They must have been following my story closely! After the presentation, a lot of them chatted their gratitude for hearing my story. The teacher also seemed excited about her students’ participation. After dismissing the students, she wanted to know if I could present more short stories if I had them—and I did! 

After that first experience with Google Meet, I didn’t feel so naked in the rain. Take that, YouTube tutors! 

Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s judged many association literary contests and is now in her third year as the Literary Contest Coordinator as well as Secretary of the Association. Learn more about Jane HERE

Monday, March 29, 2021

Accuracy in Historical Fiction: Does It Matter? by Ashley E. Sweeney

 In children’s literature, if a frog and a monkey wear striped pajamas and go on vacation to the moon, we think nothing of it. But give Wyatt Earp a cellphone or Calamity Jane a sports car and poof! Our credibility as an author is shot. 

Back when I was a reporter at a rural weekly newspaper in Washington State in the 1980s and 1990s, the Five W’s ruled first paragraphs. The thinking behind this formulaic style of journalistic writing is that if stories must be shortened due to space limitations, all the facts still appear in the story: Who/What/When/Where/Why. 

And our editor drilled into our heads: Check your facts. Get them right. Period. 

 You might ask: What’s the big deal? No ones cares. Or: Why attempt to “get it right”? I don’t have the time for that. 

I subscribe to the camp that authors have both a burden and a responsibility for being as historically accurate as possible, unless it gets in the way of the story (and, in that case, mention any discrepancies in the afterword). As authors, we want readers to trust us (and come back for more), which is why we can’t risk making reckless mistakes. 

 It’s important here to delineate the difference between material facts and immaterial facts. With material facts, i.e. what date was Abraham Lincoln sworn into office, there is no margin of error. What he ate for breakfast, what color socks he wore, or what time he retired that night are immaterial facts, and we, as authors, can color our manuscripts with our imaginations when writing in this type of detail. 

 How to do this? For each of my manuscripts, I begin collecting resources as soon as an idea surfaces. In the early stages of any manuscript, I amass 50-100 books on various subjects pertinent to the era and turn to librarians, historians, museum curators, authors, storytellers—and the Internet—to fill in holes. 

 Here are some other tips for sourcing data: *Visit locale/setting of novel, if possible, to flesh out all sensory elements *Read/research anything and everything about the era you are writing about: Literature Newspapers and Magazines Advertisements Maps Art Encyclopedias Photos/Film Diaries/Journals Music Census Data School, Church, and Land Records Calendars/Phases of the Moon/Tide Charts Almanacs and Catalogues Birth, Marriage, and Death Announcements Recipes *Visit museums/historical societies (actual or virtual) *Use print, digital, audio, and crowd-sourced material

In writing Answer Creek and Eliza Waite (and in my current work in progress), I fact-check myself constantly. Did matchsticks exist in the late 19th century? Who was president of the U.S. in the 1840s and 1890s? What were accepted practices for births and deaths in remote settlements? Where did pioneers access herbal remedies commonly used for constipation and ulcer? When did women get the vote in each of the states? Why were oxen and mules preferable to horses? How did men and women cook and bathe without any modern conveniences, especially on overland trails or in rural areas? 

When writing, I place a triple XXX as a placeholder to remind me to return to fact check that piece of information as I don’t want to disrupt the flow of writing to check every detail when creative juices flow. It’s easy to find this marker (or TK, i.e. “to come”) in document searches. On days when I don’t feel particularly inclined to churn out a thousand words or two, I use that time for historical research. It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process, but it can become very time consuming. 

Some authors fear they’ll get it all wrong and that fear stops them cold—this line of thinking is writer’s prison. If you’re scared before you put anything down on paper or computer, you’re compromised every time you sit at your desk. Days and weeks turn into months of procrastination. Your story dies on the vine because you’re worried that some aficionado/reviewer is going to tank your manuscript once it’s published. You’re not any closer to getting published if fear is crippling you. 

Instead, try turning that fear around and calling it confidence—confidence in your skills as a researcher and a writer, confidence that you’re aligning yourself with history and paying attention to detail, confidence that you will endeavor to get everything right (not just facts, but characters and settings and plot), but not at the expense of never getting anything down on paper or computer at all. Through this lens of confidence, you’ll turn prison into permission. You’ve got lots of time to check and re-check facts. 

 That’s why in my new manuscript, set in 1905 rural Arizona Territory, you won’t find my protagonist driving a Jeep, reading a book or magazine that wasn’t published yet, or saying something that wasn’t in vogue at the time. Every day, I find myself going down proverbial rabbit holes doing historical research—but that’s a topic for another newsletter! 

Remember what Thomas Edison said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” 

 So get to work! In the meantime, I’m back at it, too. Perched on my shoulder, my old editor keeps whispering in my ear. Check your facts. Get them right. Period. 

Find Ashley and her books HERE

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, and winner of the 2020 Arizona Authors Association Literary Award. She is at work on a third novel set in 1905 rural Arizona. Find Ashley’s books by clicking these links: Answer Creek and Eliza Waite Visit Ashley’s website HERE. Winner: 2020 Arizona Authors Association Literary Award Winner: 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist: 2016 Sarton Women’s Book Award Finalist: 2017 WILLA Literary Award

Monday, March 15, 2021

History and myths, the Paladins of Charlemagne - by Vijaya Schartz


The Curse of the Lost Isle series starts in the time of Charlemagne and the Viking Invasions and ends during the Crusades.Find these books on my page at BWL Publishing HERE

When Charlemagne ascended to the Frankish throne in 968AD, he designated twelve Paladins to help him rule the Frankish Kingdom. They were highly trained noblemen, expert swordsmen and fierce warriors. They, took a solemn oath of fealty and swore to abide by Christian rules. Some say they were the first chivalric Christian Knights. Others argue they were Charlemagne’s henchmen, extortioners and executioners… which, in these violent and troubled times might be closer to the truth.

Ending the Dark Ages, Charlemagne united Europe in the name of Christianity, against invaders from the north (Vikings) and the Saracens in Spain. He beat medieval Europe into submission and imposed strict Christian rule. He established schools, promoted education, the copy of illuminated religious manuscripts, art, architecture, and he also maintained a formidable army.

On the battlefield, after a victory, Charlemagne gathered the surviving enemy soldiers, made them kneel, and gave them a choice. Convert to Christianity and join his army, or be beheaded on the spot. Of course, many converted, giving the new faith lip service only. Better be a live Christian than a dead Pagan, right?

Still, a number of vanquished soldiers chose death over conversion. Pagan roots ran much deeper than Christianity in many places.

The Celts, in particular, gave Charlemagne a difficult time. Especially the small kingdom of Brittany (French Bretagne) a bed of Celtic culture and legends, the birth place of Merlin, the place where legends of Vivian the Fae, Morgan the Fae, Pressine the Fae, Palatina the Fae, Meliora the Fae, and Melusine the Fae, still flourish, among other myths.

To deal with these pesky Celts, Charlemagne nominated his trusted nephew, the Paladin Roland, to administrate the Marshes of Brittany on the western frontier.

Roland is still famous in France and throughout Europe. This is his statue in Metz, France, not on a church or historical building, but at the train station.

The story of Roland:

Roland sworn in by Charlemagne as a Paladin knight

Roland, and Olivier, his childhood friend, swore fealty together as Paladins of Charlemagne. Roland is poetically associated with his sword Durandal, his horse Veillantif, and his oliphant horn.

The Song of Roland written much later, lists the twelve paladins as Roland, Olivier, Gérin, and Gérier (killed by the Saracen, Grandonie), Bérengier, Otton, Samson, Engelier, Ivon, Ivoire, Anséis, and Archbishop Turpin ...

There is also mention of Fierabras (meaning proud with strong arms), a converted Saracen knight who seems to have served as the basis for the legend of Percival, of King Arthur’s legends. Yes, medieval romantic tales often tend to ignore chronology as well as historical facts and dates… unless you consider reincarnation or immortality.

While returning from fighting the Saracens in Spain, Roland, closing the long column through the pass of Roncevaux in the Pyrenees, was ambushed by the Basques. He sounded his oliphant horn, calling for help. But his conniving uncle at the head of the march pretended not to hear the oliphant and refused to turn back to help. Grossly outnumbered, Roland and his company fought bravely. Roland, at the end, broke his faithful sword, Durandal, on a boulder, so it wouldn’t fall into heathen hands. Roland and his company were killed to the last, in Roncevaux in 778AD.

Roland breaking his sword on a stone

On Christmas day in 800AD, in Rome, Charlemagne was crowned Roman Emperor of Occident by Pope Leo III. The great emperor died in 814AD. 

But his Paladin knights still fascinate modern youth and keep gathering fame in children’s books and videogames.

If you enjoy reading the heroic myths and legends of the time, I recommend The Curse of the Lost Isle series, based on the Celtic legends of Brittany. The first two books are set in Scotland during the Viking invasions. Then the story of this family of immortal ladies spreads to Luxembourg, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the middle East during the Crusades.

Princess of Bretagne, Curse of the Lost Isle, book 1
Currently $1.49 in kindle. Also available in paperback
Find it at your favorite online store HERE 

"Well-written and researched, Vijaya Schartz's "Princess of Bretagne' is a joy to read. Although it is a fantasy, Ms. Schartz deftly weaves in historical aspects and customs of those times. One overriding theme is the clash between paganism and early Christianity during the Dark Ages.... a worthwhile and entertaining read." 5 stars review.

Happy Reading.

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

Friday, March 5, 2021

New Book by Jan Cleere, Military Wives in Arizona Territory, Arriving March 1, 2021!


When the US Army ordered troops into Arizona Territory in the nineteenth century to protect and defend newly established settlements, military men often brought their wives and families, particularly officers who might be stationed in the west for years.

Most of the women were from refined, eastern-bred families with little knowledge of the territory. Their letters, diaries, and journals from their years on army posts reveal untold hardships and challenges. They learned to cope with the sparseness, the heat, sickness, and danger, including wildlife they never imagined.

These women were bold, brave, and compassionate. They became an integral part of military posts that peppered the West and played an important role in civilizing the untamed frontier. Combining their words with original research and tracing their movements from post to post, this collection of historical narratives explores the tragedies and triumphs that early military wives experienced.

Author, historian and expert speaker Jan Cleere writes extensively about the desert southwest, particularly the people who first settled the territory. Her freelance work appears in national and regional publications including Arizona Highways Magazine, Persimmon Hill Magazine, Phoenix Woman, Tucson Guide Quarterly, The Desert Leaf, Chronicle of the Old West, and Arizona Garden. In 2001, Jan received recognition from Arizona Highways Magazine for her article, "Hostess to the West," the life of Elizabeth Hudson Smith, a Black entrepreneur in Wickenburg, Arizona, during the early 1900s.

Visit her website at:

Monday, February 22, 2021

MAKE FUN OF YOURSELF - by Kathleen Cook

 I have discovered the joy of being vulnerable, of making fun of myself in writing. The “confessions” genre is very popular, because everyone wants to know that someone else does the same dumb, silly, ridiculous things that they do (but won’t admit). They respect others who can talk about the things that show their foolish side. 

For example, I’ve had strangers phone to tell me how much they loved my article in the newspaper. How they got my number, I’ll never know, but in a small town with only 600 residents, I’m not surprised. They love it when I admit to being a newbie to the rigors of Maine. They guffaw at my descriptions, such as when I wrote: 

During my first October in Maine, I purchased a nice, shiny red snow shovel. Old man winter wasn’t going to catch me napping! My neighbor Bruce came over one day and spotted it sitting in a corner, the $19.95 sticker still attached. He confused me when he said, “Oh, I didn’t realize you had small children. That should be fun for them.” 

It sounded like a joke that lost its punch line. Was the snow so easy to shovel that small children could do it? I’d heard about Maine winters, and that didn’t sound quite logical to me. I explained, “I want to get a jump on the snow. I haven’t seen it in five decades while living in Phoenix, but I’m looking forward to shoveling it for exercise. I suppose we might have some by Thanksgiving, you think?” 

He smirked and said, “We’re late, actually. The first snowfall usually arrives in October.” 

I clapped my hands in amazement! I would get to use my shiny new shovel sooner than I thought. He looked at me and smiled, just like my uncle smiled when, at five years old, I insisted on opening the pickle jar all by myself. Come to think of it, that didn’t turn out too well. Why did I recall that broken pickle jar now? 

Just as Bruce was leaving I asked, “Have you got your shovel out yet, too?” 

He answered, “Yeah, I just put it on today.” 

“Put it on?” 

“Yep, it’s sitting right outside.” 

I looked out and saw a four-foot wide snow shovel (which I later learned was called a snow plow) attached to the front of his pickup truck. He turned back and said, “When you need help with that shoveling, let me know.” He didn’t say “if.” He said “when.” Hmmm. 

Our first snowstorm hit the next week, and it suddenly dawned on me why he had asked if I had small children. I hung that mangled shovel on my wall and called it art, and then nearly broke my neck trudging through the drifts to yell, “Bruce . . . HELP!” 

End Quote. 

When you open up, confess (and even exaggerate, just a little, as I did in the previous passage), you lift your readers’ spirits, make them feel good about themselves (after all, they now think they’re smarter than you are!) and you forge a relationship that allows you, later, to display your acumen without making them feel inferior. Everyone loves to know that while you are smart, they have at least one area of expertise in which you lack knowledge. Eventually, you wind up on an equal footing. 

On the other hand, when you try to dazzle them with your wit right off the bat, you set up a distance between yourself and your reader . . . a distance that may or may not be erased in the future. No one likes a smarty pants. 

Erma Bombeck knew this so well. She once said, “He who laughs, lasts.” It is my belief, (I am sure she shared, it) that the one who makes them laugh, also lasts. Be the one they remember forever, the one that made them laugh by laughing first at yourself. Publicly. With abandon. Without shame. You’ll find yourself laughing, too. 

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, February 18, 2021

New release by Donis Casey: Valentino Will Die A Bianca Dangereuse Hollywood Mystery


Donis Casey is pleased to announce that her second Bianca Dangereuse Hollywood Mystery, Valentino Will Die, is just released. Publisher’s Weekly says “Lovers of old movies and Hollywood gossip will have fun.” 


Though Bianca LaBelle, star of the wildly popular silent movie serial "The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse", and Rudolph Valentino, the greatest screen idol of all time, have been friends for years, in the summer of 1926 they are making their first picture together, a steamy romance called Grand Obsession. One evening after dinner at Bianca's fabulous Beverly Hills estate, a troubled Rudy confesses that he has received anonymous death threats. In a matter of days, filming comes to an abrupt halt when Rudy falls deathly ill. Could it be poison? 

As Rudy lay dying, Bianca promises him that she will find out who is responsible. Was it one of his many lovers? A delusional fan? Or perhaps Rudy had run afoul of a mobster whose name Bianca knows all too well? She calls on P.I. Ted Oliver to help her investigate the end of what had seemed to be the charmed life of Valentino. Find the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc.

DONIS CASEY was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A third generation Oklahoman, she and her siblings grew up among their aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents on farms and in small towns, where they learned the love of family and independent spirit that characterizes the population of that pioneering state. Donis graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in English, and earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Oklahoma University. After teaching school for a short time, she enjoyed a career as an academic librarian, working for many years at the University of Oklahoma and at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. Donis left academia in 1988 to start a Scottish import gift shop in downtown Tempe. After more than a decade as an entrepreneur, she decided to devote herself full-time to writing. The Old Buzzard Had It Coming is her first book. For the past twenty years, Donis has lived in Tempe, AZ, with her husband. Find out more about Donis at: or FanFiction

Monday, February 15, 2021

How French words found their way into the English language - by Vijaya Schartz


According to Merriam Webster, there are over 7,000 French words today in the English language. The pronunciation and spelling might differ slightly, but they are plainly recognizable. 

So many familiar words in the English language are French, like: attache, avant-garde, aviation, bachelor, ballet, bon voyage, brunette, bureau, cabaret, chauffeur, chic, cliché, cul-de-sac, debris, deja-vu, delegate, detour, dossier, elite, expatriate, façade, fiancé, film noir, gallery, gazette, heritage, homage, hotel, identity, illusion, insult, irony, liaison, literature, machine, magnificent, massage, metabolism, neutral, novel, occasion, parasol, recipient, reservoir, ricochet, rich, ridicule, risqué, sabotage, sentiment, silhouette, solicitor, souvenir, technique, uniform, variety, etc. to name a few. 

Since the French and the British were enemies for centuries, why did so many French words make it into English? We all learned in school that the Normans, Vikings who had settled in Normandy, led by William the Conqueror, conquered England in 1066, by winning the battle of Hastings. 

After their victory, these French speaking Normans established a new nobility in England, and used French as the official language of the English court. And for two centuries, all legal and official English court documents were written in French. The Norman nobles took control of the lands by marrying into former English nobility. In time, the two languages and the two cultures melded. 

During the Crusades, Richard Lionheart battled in France, to reclaim French territories previously owned by the Normans. This conflict about territory between the English and the French led to the 100-year war (1337-1453) during which English soldiers lived and battled in France, some of them for most of their lives. 

For these reasons, many medieval English words were derived from the French, and French words and expressions survived a thousand years into the English language. Words like chivalry, majesty, archer, assault, court, dungeon, enemy, felony, honor, injury, judge, justice, liberty, noble, prison, parliament, quarter, royal, robe, sir, survive, tournament, treason, uncle, among many others, are French words brought by the Normans.

As for the modern French words in the English language, many come from cooking terms. Rather than making up an English word, it’s easier to use the original French word and Anglicize it. So, in a “restaurant” on the “Menu” you can have your potatoes “sauteed,” with a “soup” and a “roux,” eat an “omelet” a “salad” or “escargots” which are the most common variety of snails. But snails sound slimy, while “escargots” sound like a culinary delight. 

A “cuisine,” in French, refers to a kitchen. By extension it also means what you cook in it. “Four,” for a French person has nothing to do with numbers. It’s just a baking oven. 

When I first came to America, my husband asked me if I wanted my pie “a la mode.” When I asked him what it meant, he looked flabbergasted that I didn’t understand his French. You see, “a la mode” only means “in fashion,” which is nonspecific and doesn’t relate to pie, or, as I quickly discovered, vanilla ice cream. See, the French do not mix pie with ice cream and would consider this a “faux pas.” I quickly corrected my preconceptions in the matter. Since then, I always eat my pie “a la mode.” 
I also wasn’t familiar with French fries, as there is nothing French about them. Fries were invented in Belgium, where half of the population also speaks French. Maybe that’s what created the confusion. But the French simply call fries “frites” or “pommes frites” as potatoes are “pommes de terre,” which translates as apples of the earth. 

Somehow, because the medieval English nobles spoke French, the French word tends to sound more luxurious. A “mansion” a “manor” or a “chateau” sound like places where upper nobility “resides.” That’s probably why Cadillac calls some of their models “deluxe.” French makes it sound more expensive. 

Another French import is the modest “beret.” It was a traditional civilian cap for centuries, favored by the Basques, long before it was adopted by French Special forces in the 20th century. Shortly after, many other countries adopted the beret as military attire. 

Cadet” in French means “second son.” In the old days, to avoid dividing the lands, only the oldest son inherited the charge and the fortune of his father. So, the second son had to find a job, and for noble families, short of buying a bishopric, only a military position would do. It’s interesting to note that the American word has evolved to mean a student in a military or law enforcement academy… that they are no longer second sons, and some cadets are now women. Yay! 

Once in a while, the French word has come to mean something else in the English language, just enough to confuse a native French speaker. “Madame,” for example, is a mark of respect in France. But when you speak of a Madame in the US, it’s usually the woman in charge of a house of ill repute. Same word, very different meaning. 

When I first saw a jar of “Marmite” on the shelf at AJ’s I wondered what it could be. Given that a marmite is simply a cooking pot in French. It didn’t tell me what was in it. After tasting it, I could only assume that it was made of the burned residue in old cooking pots, to give some taste to bland English food. In truth, it’s a condiment made from yeast residue in beer vats. 

Coin” in French means corner. In English it’s loose change. This may come from the fact that coins used to be cut into halves and quarters to make change, which created corners. 

Queue” in French is an animal’s tail. Then it also refers to a waiting line (where impatient dogs would wag their tail). 

Library” is also a French word, but it means bookstore. For a French person, the familiar place that collects thousands of books you can borrow is called a bibliotheque. 

Talking about books, you can find mine everywhere online. Here are two 5-star sci-fi fantasy romance.

Arizona Literary Award 2019

Something’s rotten on the angel planet. When Avenging Angels turn up dead, Urielle, their Legion Commander, suspects the handsome intruder brought unspeakable evil to Azura.

Maksou never met a woman he couldn’t seduce. He came to the forbidden planet to rescue his friends and get rich in the process, but the jungle crawls with lethal life forms… including a gorgeous warrior angel, who saves his life but keeps him prisoner and challenges his irresistible charm.

Urielle, sworn to protect Azura at all costs, has no use for a maverick who ignores the rules and endangers the planet… no matter how attractive. Especially when the Galactic Trade Alliance (GTA) wages a secret war to get their greedy hands on the priceless crystal at Azura’s core.

Byantium Space Station novel

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…

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats