Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Holiday Traditions - by Kathleen Cook

The holidays always give me a glow inside. I smile a little broader; I walk a little faster than these 70-year-old legs usually go. Even my stories are a little more positive, with hope and love and looking forward to the future as my big themes. Looking back isn't bad either, though. Holidays of the past always wax nostalgic in people's hearts. Some of my biggest successes on the old Yahoo Voices of the Community platform were centered around holiday traditions.

People still love to read about the holidays … somehow, it never grows old. Sure, people can write boring Christmas or Hanukah stories, but it isn't the theme that's boring. It's the delivery. As long as you can hold a person's interest, you can write a successful holiday story.

I wish Yahoo Voices were still around. They used to pay for the stories people submitted (as long as they were deemed worthy), both an upfront payment and then a percentage payment for each 1000 views. These amounts were small, it's true … perhaps five dollars up front and fifty cents per thousand views. But for popular articles, you could always earn fifty to a hundred dollars or more, and for bread-and-butter writers, that's not bad. 

One article I wrote on that platform, titled Irish Christmas Traditions, racked up over 100,000 views before the site shut down. People really want tradition in their lives. They want to build memories, a routine that they can pass down to their children. By writing about old traditions of your culture, your ethnicity, your faith, your home town, etc., you provide the framework that allows them to build that routine and those memories.

Although Yahoo Voices is no more, there are many platforms such as Medium, Vocal, and more, where you can attract new viewers hungry for traditions to work into their lives, to provide a set of values, an opportunity to celebrate, and a sense of pride in one's uniqueness.

Think about it: do you have traditions and routines that you perform every year for the holidays? Do you play the same songs, watch the same movie as a family, or cook the same foods? Are they in some way unique to your family, locale, or ethnic group? Write about them! There are people out there who share your similarities and would like to start those routines themselves, but they aren't sure how. 

Since I am of both Irish and Lithuanian descent, I observe many different traditions. I still have a traditional Kūčios, the Lithuanian Christmas Eve meal, which includes no meat. (The fact that I'm a vegetarian anyway makes that part pretty easy!) I also put straw under the table cloth. On my father's Irish side, I learned to make biscuits and put a candle in the window. What do you do? Write about it. 

Yes, there are other articles out there, but none do exactly what you do. I make my foods just a tiny bit differently, muddle the words of songs in a way that suits me, and create my ornaments in a different way. So don't feel as if the subject is saturated . . . there will never be a saturation of things that warm your heart and make your mouth sing!

You don't need to do this for Christmas. Hanukah, Kwanza, Chinese New Year, Krishna Janmashtami, Mabon, Sukkot, Ostara, Setsubun-sai and so many more holidays have their own unique traditions. If you celebrate them, then write down how you do it and why. Someone will want to know, and you'll be spreading joy throughout the world, so that others learn and adapt your traditions to make them unique to their own situations.

I hope all of us experience peace in the coming year, and I hope all of us have something to celebrate when we come together during the next holiday season. Until then, keep writing, my friends.

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 late 90s. She is currently the Arizona Authors Association Editor as well as the new Secretary and Webmistress. Find out more about Kathleen HERE.  

Monday, December 20, 2021

New release: Rescuing Hope, by Heidi M. Thomas


Samantha Moser’s quest to buy the ranch her great-grandparents once owned—the ranch she’s struggled to manage for a heartless owner—seems impossible. With the help of the troubled teen she’s mentoring, and her rescue horses, life is rich under the Montana sky. But when a group of veterans with PTSD need her help, and the man she could find happiness with has a serious accident while helping her rescue another horse, life takes an overwhelming, stressful turn. Can Sam find the strength and courage to overcome, or will all her dreams shrivel and die on the prairie?

Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a working ranch in eastern Montana, riding and gathering cattle for branding and shipping. Her parents taught her a love of books, and her grandmother rode bucking stock in rodeos. She followed her dream of writing, with a journalism degree from the University of Montana. Heidi is the author of the award-winning Cowgirl Dreams novel series and Cowgirl Up: A History of Rodeo Women. Seeking the American Dream and Finding True Home are based on her mother who emigrated from Germany after WWII. Rescuing Samantha, and Rescuing Hope, the first two in the new Rescue series, continuing the fictional Moser family story.

Find her and her books at

Monday, December 13, 2021

Reimagining swear words for science fiction


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This trend has been going on for a very long time. Many authors and screenwriters have used this tool to avoid vulgarity and spare the sensibilities of readers and viewers. We all remember Starbuck saying Frak. To me, it’s an opportunity for creativity. Adapting the words to the world you created is also a fun challenge.

Holy Motherboard from Angel Fierce. This expression is unique and fitting, in a futuristic world where no one would know what a motherboard is… except maybe a nerd who studied ancient technology, like Maksou, the skilled hacker and god’s gift to women.

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By the frozen hells of Laxxar – Many mentions of Laxxar in my sci-fi novels indicate it’s a mining colony in a frozen world, where they send lifers, criminals, and political prisoners, to die in forced labor. I will definitely explore this world in a future novel.
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Fark – This one is close enough and far enough to the contemporary word, so that readers can understand it without explanation.

Holy Mackerel from Akira’s choice (a contemporary expression which becomes weird and funny in a child’s mouth, on a space station where no one has ever seen a mackerel, or even knows what it is).

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Also in Akira’s Choice, since she is Samurai, I used a few Japanese expletives, which just sounds funny to the ear of an English speaker.

Fire-breathing volcano goddess! – Suggests a Polynesian inspired culture in the third book of the Azura Chronicles, ANGEL BRAVE

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But I’m still writing, and thinking up new worlds and new expressions for my characters to express their frustration.

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By the bountiful tits of Helsara – By the land of many waters - Coming in the new Blue Phantom series Book 1, ANGEL SHIP (October 2022 release)

In the meantime, happy reading!

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Coloration for Authors: Part Two by Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

 Technical Aspects of Color 

An artist’s sense of color is normally reflected in their creations, so today’s discussion may be most appropriate to authors, especially those launching their first book or moving into a new series, genre, or nom de plume which may produce new design dilemmas… 

Even if you are an author under contract to a publisher who controls the art for your books, you may be able to offer input regarding the ambience you wish to see projected. Therefore, I suggest you contemplate artistic issues like color in advance of signing with a publisher. In fact, you may find that analyzing their artistic taste will help you select an appropriate publisher. I’m fortunate to have had the liberty of working regularly with an artist of my choice to develop the rich covers of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries.


As a writer and design consultant, I often focus on color. One of my favorite questions for clients seeking branding advice is, “Have you had your color today?” On the surface, this seems like a simple question, perhaps referencing a bright scarf or sales banner. However, my question is directed at the person’s preferences in coloration.

If you are an author, the question addresses your approach to color in both the art and science of your writing…and how you envision the images to accompany your text. If your writing reflects your personal voice and style, choosing artistic elements may be straightforward. If not, research can ensure colors appropriate to your genre and writer’s voice.  

SELECTING COLOR Scientifically, colors [hues] are specific wavelengths of visible light. When considering coloration in your writing and for book jackets, one of the first questions you might ask yourself is, “What is my design aesthetic?” Also, “Does the style of my writing reflect my taste in art?” Do you like the detail of classism or the sharp clean lines of modern art? Do you prefer bright primary colors or muted tones? Like an artist, the author draws on a rich palette of images within their mind’s eye. But to effectively communicate through the images that accompany your words, this must be tempered by the expectations of the readers of the genre in which one works.

~ Lighting. The intensity and type of lighting affects one’s perception of tone [intensity of color] and shade [a mixture of black with color which determines how bright the color is]. 

~ Layering. The layering of color also affects our view of it. For instance, putting a red color on an ivory background will produce a color that has hints of orange. 

~ Tint. The tint of a color is determined by the amount of white it may have, which lightens the color.

FANTASIAS OF COLOR Before we look at definitions and samples of colors, let’s consider the historical and classical interpretations of color. Some colors, like the royal purple from Tyre, Lebanon, were originally drawn from rare and precious sources. To produce even small amounts of the Tyrian colorant, thousands of Mediterranean Sea mollusks [scientific name, murex brandaris] were needed for the dyes with which luxurious garments for ancient royals were fashioned. Another historically rare color was the crimson worn by Roman legionnaires and wealthy matrons. Traditionally associated with power and wealth, this color was obtained from the kermes vermilio planchon, an insect that grows on the kermes oak tree [quercus coccifera] of southern Europe. Although the means for obtaining and utilizing dyes and paints have changed dramatically through history, their inner meanings have remained linked to aspects of nature. 


To help you consider more than your personal preferences in color, let’s explore classical and traditional interpretations of colors and shades.

Red – This color is traditionally linked to sunsets, fire, blood, Mars the planet and Mars the Roman god of war. Red is now often associated with signature holidays like New Year’s, Christmas, and St. Valentine’s Day, as well as certain nations like China. This vibrant color is at the bottom of the color spectrum. It calls attention to anything depicted in it. Philosophically, it has been associated with licentiousness and the concept of Satan.

Yellow and Orange – Associated with the sun and gold, these happy and bright colors are used for many attention-getting purposes. Depending on their tone, they may announce deeply discounted items, or conversely, the richest and most valued products.  

Green – Representative of nature, green is often used for health and environmental topics, products, and services. Green hues are also used for military uniforms and equipment.

Blue – In daily conversation, blue ideally speaks of clear and serene waters and skies. In many philosophical traditions, it has been associated with purity and loyalty. Today, the color is often utilized by financial and insurance institutions wanting to declare their honesty, and by myriad healthcare industries wishing to project their dedication to the wellbeing of their patients and clients.

Violet and Purple– Although these colors are not adjacent on the color wheel, humans perceive them as related to one another. Located at the end of the visible spectrum of light [literally next to ultraviolet], violet is a spectral color that is less saturated [intense] and displays more blue. Purple is more saturated [intense, pure] and balances two spectral colors, red and blue. With both colors perceived as blends of blue and red, these rich colors remain linked to ancient concepts of royalty, power, and wealth.

White – White is an achromatic color [without hue]. It reflects light and embodies all wavelengths of visible light. While many substances in nature are white, animals having pure white fur are rare, and therefore their pelts were historically associated with the power and wealth of royalty. Once difficult to achieve in consistent form, white colored clothing was often deemed valuable regardless of the type of fabric. It is historically linked to purity, cleanliness, goodness, and perfection. Like black, it is a good background for highlighting all colors. 

Black – Absorbing all colors of light, this achromatic color is the absence of all visible light and therefore color. Obtained by the mixing of all primary colors, black is linked to darkness, night, and evil in historical and religious writings. It is an excellent background for both vibrant and subtle colors.

Note: White and black are often paired for the expression of opposites, as in good and evil, the white hats of the good cowboys vs. the black hats of rustlers, the white dress of the bride and the black of a widow in mourning.

Gray – Also an achromatic color [without hue], gray is created by the mixing of white and black. Being neutral, this color is most often associated with somberness, dullness, boredom, uncertainty, and advanced age. 

Once you’ve completed your research and contemplation of coloration for your project, I suggest you write a paragraph outlining the design elements you desire in your current project or the overall style required by your series. Then play with a couple of sample color palettes. With colors identified by number in your art or text software program, this will facilitate communication with publishers and artists [or yourself, should you decide to self-publish].

Finally, I should caution you again that identifying the colors you wish to see on a book jacket is no guarantee of how the printed work will arrive at your doorstep. Even two editions of the same book, printed by the same company following the same instructions, can yield variations in color because of differences in batches of ink or toner, the moisture content of the paper used, and production executed on innumerable types and conditions of equipment. 

Wishing you the best in your writing, Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, design consultant, motivational speaker Additional in-depth tips for authors is provided at: Note: The menu is located on the left panel beginning after the Facebook logo You are also welcome to send me an email 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. To learn more about Jeanne, visit her website at: