Thursday, April 30, 2015

We Are Unique by Diane Burton

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. ~ Margaret Mead

I always thought I was weird. (Some people say I still am. LOL) I didn’t know other people had stories running around in their heads until I took a writing class at a community college by Maris Soule, an author and now someone I call a friend. She described that phenomenon and I thought, yay, I’m not the only one. In a way, I found that reassuring. But then I realized I’m not unique.

Except for one thing. The stories and characters running around in my brain are mine alone. No other writers’ stories are exactly like mine. Now that’s unique. Then again, I wrote a science fiction romance, The Pilot. I worked on that story for at least five years. After it was published, I took time to read more sci-fi romances and happened across Linnea Sinclair’s Finders Keepers. I freaked out. The story I thought was so unique had so many similarities that I wrote to her and explained I’d never read her book and hoped she wouldn’t think I’d copied her story. She wrote me the nicest post about how often similar stories or characters/things show up in real life or in fiction. I've seen plot devices in television shows or movies that were similar to those in my already published books. Like there’s something in the ether that we writers feed off. Just when we think we’re unique, bam, we find out we’re just like everyone else.

When my daughter was growing up, people would say she looks like me. They’d call her Little Diane. Now she has a daughter who looks like her and people call my granddaughter Little Liz. While there are some physical similarities, I see my daughter as a unique personality. Same with my granddaughter. Quite unique.

Now I have a new granddaughter. Of course, everyone is trying to figure who she looks like. Since she changes each day, that’s a little difficult. Sometimes I see my son in her, sometimes my daughter-in-law, and sometimes, another family member. She’ll keep on changing and it won’t matter who she looks like. She will be her own person.

Here’s to the uniqueness in all of us. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all alike?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring, the Time to Declutter by Betsy Ashton

It seems as though spring, that wonderful time of nature's renewal, has become synonymous with cleaning. Decluttering. Getting rid of stuff. Starting afresh.

My spring cleaning this year is necessitated by having a new kitchen installed. We're getting new cabinets and countertops. Sounds easy. Same footprint. Same sized kitchen (smallish). Mostly the same appliances. We hired a contractor and agreed on a schedule. That's when things began to change.

One Thursday afternoon at the beginning of the month, our contractor called. The custom cabinets were arriving earlier than expected, so they'd like to be "demolition" the next day. Okay with us? Um, sure. I rounded up my husband and began dumping stuff out of drawers and cabinets. Every tabletop
in the house, all but one bed, filled to capacity. Where did we get so much stuff? More important, why do we still have it?

We went from this to this in one day. I wasn't sure how I was going to maintain healthy meals. I mean, the microwave and toaster oven were useable, if not in the same places. The stove and fridge worked.

So, I could cook or nuke foods from the freezer, keep milk and veggies cold. My wine cooler held the half and half, and we moved the coffee maker to the basement office.  We did well until we had no sink. That meant washing dishes in a bathroom basin or in the laundry sink in the basement. Laundry sink won out. We thought we were living high off the hog when the sink was reinstalled four days after it wasn't there.

Now, we have cabinets, but we can't use them yet. Shelves still need to be installed; knobs fastened in place. Countertops are due in on Tuesday. Hope so. We are three weeks ahead of schedule, but there are still glitches down the road.

My husband and I have been roaming the house with what we call the "Alzheimer's" stare. The "do you know where the spoons are" stare. The "I know the skillets used to be next to the stove" stare. The "if this doesn't end soon, I'll kill someone" stare. Even with things moving smoothly now, I have to figure out what to dump and what to put where. The stares promise to continue until we get used to the new drawers.

And when we are finished with this, we can complete spring cleaning. From 2013!


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available in e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Leaving trails

In my last post I talked about uniqueness -- which ties in with this post. I wasn't a trailblazer by any means, but my books are unusual -- they're set in the Midwest, they feature older heroes and heroines, and they're an equal blend romance and mystery.

Not quite fish, not quite fowl, I guess you could say. It's been a challenge to market them because mystery fans tend to dislike romance, and romance fans tend to want more focus on the love story. Plus I don't always wrap things up at the end with a wedding. More often than not, I leave it somewhat hanging -- the h/h are together, but I'm not saying for how long. More like real life, I guess.

I've dipped my toes in other genres (paranormal, time travel, etc.) but I always come back to the mysteries. They are just so much fun to write. And you know, that's why I'm doing this. It isn't a job, it's fun. I already have a job (and a challenging one at that). I write to "get away" from everything else.

So I guess I'll continue down that trail I created. Let's see what's at the other end ...

J L Wilson

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Is Your Author Website Up to Snuff? - by Vijaya Schartz

Join me in welcoming our guest, Vijaya Schartz!

I recently redesigned my author website and learned a lot in the process. I’m sure other authors encounter the same challenges. Although we all know our author website is important, it’s often the last thing we tackle. Whether we fumble with our first site, redesign or freshen up an existing one, we usually procrastinate. The task seems daunting. Sometimes money is an issue if you are not a techie. Yet, an author should rethink his/her entire website on a regular basis, and check that the information is up to date, at least once a month.

Is an author website still relevant in today’s social media world?
Although you may spend more time on facebook or twitter, you have a blog, and you guest post on many other blogs, your website should remain the primary source for your readers to find your books. You should have total control of the information your readers get about you and your books. Only you have the correct information and can disseminate it through your official author website. Your website link should be in your signature line, in your bio, on your business cards, on every piece of promotional material concerning your books.

Why is it necessary to redesign and update an author site every other year?
Trends evolve, mobile devices change the way we browse. You write more books and they need to be featured. You want to provide your readers with new information all the time. Keep a current calendar of your appearances, etc. When I visit an author site that lists a book signing coming up two years ago, I wonder whether this author is still writing.

Can you host your website on a blog?
Absolutely. Wordpress and Blogspot can be your official website. It’s preferable to still get your own domain name ( or and you can use the blog with its easy templates. If you go that route, you still must have several pages, one about yourself, one about your book (or books), upcoming releases, new releases, one you use as an actual blog, etc. Using your own domain name and having more than one page may cost you a little, but it’s very affordable.

Make your design friendly to the new technology:
While large book covers and fancy backgrounds were the rave a few years ago, along with video clips and moving widgets, these features have gone the way of the dodo, because of the new ways readers access your information. No more small print, book excerpts, either. They become unreadable on the tiny screen. Keep those for the blogs.

Why I redesigned my website:
I’ve had my website since 1999 (my first book came out in 2000) and it went through many incarnations. The last redesign was two years ago, but I have so many books, it had become too cumbersome and a maze to navigate. I use a cheap hosting company (Hostingmatters), and I had used up all the space allocated and couldn’t add anymore book covers (unless I was willing to pay premium hosting prices). Then one of my publishers decided to redesign fresh new covers for my sci-fi romances, and I had more new titles coming this year. Some of my backlist titles are now out of print. To compound the problem, I also had a widget from Photobucket that streamed my book covers in a fancy little show, but Photobucket stopped this feature, and although the widget still worked, I could not change or add any new covers to it... It was time to rethink my entire website situation and take action.

How I did the redesign:
- I had a fancy wallpaper background, which I loved, but mobile devices hate those. Instead, I made a banner by cutting a strip of it and used it as a header, and I matched the dark background in solid color. It has the same feel as the full wallpaper graphic.

- I limited all my book covers to a uniform, and much smaller size (200x300 pixels). They are still big enough to look good on the large screen, and they easily adapt to the small screen of my cell phone. I didn’t go for the stripped down mobile version. I’m a flamboyant girl, and I do like color and graphics, even on my cell.

- I reduced the number of pages to simplify navigation. No more cats and fancy flashing banners. Not every book has a page, now. I have a page for each genre (since I write in several genres), and a page for each series. When you click on the covers, you get to a place on the page with the full book information. If you only have a few books, then you probably want to have an entire page for each book. But with over twenty-five titles, not counting the boxed sets, anthologies and special editions, I had to make a different choice.

- I gave the new pages carefully chosen names and descriptions, as well as fresh metatags and search words (in the file properties section of each page if you design your own site). You want to make sure your site shows up on top of the list when a reader is Googling your name.

- I made the buy links and social media buttons part of the header, so each page has a link to my media pages, and to my author page on Amazon, B&N, ARe, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. Experts are divided on this, but as a small press author, I still think a reader should be able to buy my books in three clicks. That is the golden rule in Internet retailing. If your books are only in brick and mortar bookstores, you do not need all these links front and center, but I do.

- After the new site went live, I received rave comments from marketers and friendly suggestions from author website experts, and I quickly implemented the suggested changes I deemed useful. And voila!

As a result:
My site is now five times lighter than it was before, and I don’t have to worry about increased hosting costs. The pictures load fast, even if you have a slow Internet connection. It’s easy to navigate, and user friendly. It contains all my books and has room for many more. It looks fabulous on a cell phone. I can now send my readers there with the utmost confidence.

5 important basic tips to keep in mind:

            1 - Get your or domain name. No one ever checks .net .biz or .tv
2 - Be weary of website designers who are not familiar with specific author business. Authors have different needs. Visit the websites of the most successful authors in your genre for inspiration. It’s all right to copy their ideas. They know the business and instructed their website designer accordingly. They have teams of experts keeping their site up to the new media and market demands.
3 - Always have at least one book cover (latest release) on your front page if you are published. The reader should know at first glance they’ve landed on the right author website.
4 - keep it simple, easy to navigate. Links, links, links.
            5 - Use precise tags and search words, so your site shows up on top of search list results.

I hope this helps. This said, good luck redesigning your author website.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

Author Bio:
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims to also travel through time, as she writes without boundaries about the future and the far away past. Her love of cats transpires in many of her books... and she has more than twenty-five novels published. Her stories collected numerous five star reviews and a few literary awards. Find her and her books at

Latest release from Vijaya Schartz:
BELOVED CRUSADER, Curse of the Lost Isle Book 6 (standalone)
1096 AD ‑ To redeem a Pagan curse, Palatina the Fae braves the Christian world to embark on an expedition to free the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem from the Turks. Pierre de Belfort, Christian Knight of Lorraine, swore never to let a woman rule his life, and doesn't believe in love. Thrown together into the turmoil of the First Crusade, on a sacred journey to a land of fables, they must learn to trust each other. For in this war, the true enemy is not human... and discovery could mean burning at the stake.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just For Fun, Here's A Story for You by Margo Hoornstra

Now that life events allow me to write what I want and full time at that, you could say that elusive butterfly noted above has finally alighted upon me.

Most of my vocational career, as a magazine editor then script and speech writer, the words I wrote--the messages I penned--were by and large for the benefit of others, rarely just for me. To keep my creative energies from growing stale during that time, I wrote short stories, some published-most not.

Just for fun, during my days here at The Roses of Prose today and in the future, I thought I'd share a few. Starting us off, a mini-mystery of sorts, titled…

Just Like That

Ted and Nina met at a local dance and hit it off just like that. Well dressed and pretty with a personality to match—Nina was a prize. Ted, on the other hand, was rather ordinary. He was okay handsome, had a nice, friendly expression, decent smile. That was about it. However, in Nina’s eyes, Ted had real potential. That potential took the form of a brand new shiny car—a luxury number with a high resale value.  Nina noticed things like that. Nina was a car thief who was determined to set Ted up as her next victim. Though she preferred the much nicer term selected mark.

“Nice night for a drive.” Ted glanced over as they pulled out of the dance hall parking lot. “I’m glad you suggested it.”

“My pleasure,” Nina purred. Especially since you were so easily convinced.

That was Nina’s scam. She’d invite the mark out for a ride. In their car, of course. Then, when the time was right she'd make her move. Getting them out of the car was simple enough. A quick little errand into a store usually did the trick. She always got them to leave the keys. As soon as her mark disappeared into the store, Nina disappeared too; with the car.  A good criminal, she was careful to cover her tracks, driving straight to a nearby garage where she’d get her money, in cash of course, then fade away into the sunset. Or more practically onto the nearest city bus. She always wore a different color wig and never, ever gave out her real name.  It confused things when the police were called and a description given.  Her routine had worked well the past few months and by all indications would continue to do so.

Case in point, friendly but rather ordinary Ted.

“I just got this baby.” He patted the dash with a show of affection men seem to have for their cars.

“It’s lovely!” Nina gushed appropriately as she placed perfectly manicured fingers on her side of the dash the same way. “Really lovely.”

Not to mention the money from the sale of this baby will look and feel lovely in my pocket as well.

“A friend of mine had a beauty like this.” Ted took his eyes off the road to glance her way. “Got stolen.”

“Really?” Nina brought one hand to her cheek as if thoroughly stunned at the very thought.

“Really.” Ted nodded, keeping his eyes on the road this time. “The car was never recovered.”

“I wonder why.” Feigning innocence, Nina already knew the answer. Because I’m smart, very smart, that’s why. “Whoever would do such a thing?”

Ted shook his head. “Some people make their money that way.”

“Horrible. Simply horrible. And they never get caught.” It was a statement, not a question. It had already been established she was smart.

She cast Ted a sidelong gaze, accepted his amicable smile. Enough small talk. Time to get to work. Reaching over, she pulled down the visor mirror. To check her make up of course. After a few calculated seconds, she jerked back her hand.

“Darn! I broke a nail!” She held the end of her finger as if it were about to fall off. “Darn! Darn! Darn!”

Ted looked over, eyes wide. “Can I help?”

“I just got this manicure!” She let out a carefully crafted wail. A little drama never hurt to further a con.

Ted tried again. “Any…anything I can do?”

“As a matter of fact.” She pretended to hold in a sob. “There’s a convenience store on South Street. Could we stop for a nail file? If I fix this break now, maybe it won’t get worse.” She made sure to finish the plea in her best damsel in distress voice.

“South Street.” Ted repeated. “Would that be Stan’s Smart Mart?”

“I think so.” Who cares? It’s two blocks from my drop off site. “Would you go in for me, please? I’d so appreciate it.”

“Of course.” In no time, Ted had pulled up in front of the store, killed the engine and pocketed the keys.

“I appreciate this so much.” Nina put her hand on Ted’s arm as he started to get out of the car. “If you’ll leave the keys, I’ll just keep the heat on. It’s chilly out.”

Ted hesitated, doubt clouding his eyes.  “I…uh…I really would rather not waste the gas. Prices what they are these days.”

Nina fought to keep the contempt in her gut from blooming onto her face. Some of these so called easy marks could be so irritating. “Shut it off then.” She was careful to employ a sweetness that practically choked her. “Just let me listen to the radio. That doesn’t use gas.”

“Well, okay,” Ted agreed.

When he was out of sight, Nina moved quickly to the driver’s side and turned the key. Glancing around, she backed the car out and onto the road then headed gleefully down the street.

Stealing from these unsuspecting car jockeys is almost too easy. She couldn’t help but gloat as she turned the corner, already feeling the cold, delicious cash in her hand.

Then she caught a glimpse of a police car, gaining on her. Careful to stay within the speed limit, she held her breath as the black and white caught up with her, pulled alongside then moved ahead. She’d just started to breathe again when the second one approached.

Coincidence. I’ve done nothing wrong. That they know about.

She kept her eyes properly forward, hands on the wheel at a perfect ten and two. Then the squad car in front slowed, the car behind her started to act up. At the short wail of the siren, quick flash of the overhead lights, she had no choice but to pull to the side of the road and stop. Just like that, a plan began to form. She’d tell the officer she’d borrowed a friend’s car and didn’t know where the paperwork was. Tapping her fingernails on the steering wheel, she smiled to herself. Even began to hum. It was a decent plan. Smart. Virtually foolproof.

It might have worked too.

Until she glanced up to see Ted standing by her window. A stern expression replacing the amicable one she knew so well. Mouth open, she could only stare up at him as he opened her door.

“Step out, please.”

Nina started to protest. Until, eyes falling to the silver shield he held, she numbly did as she was told. “How did you get here so quickly?”

“I got a ride with some friends. They happened to stop at Stan’s Smart Mart too.”

“But how?”

“Need help, Lieutenant?” The words seemed to crackle from inside his jacket.

He pulled back his collar to reveal a small, electronic device resting on his right shoulder. Glancing her way again, he spoke into it. “Thanks. I’ll soon have the suspect in custody.”

His shoulder crackled again. “Any idea what her real name is?”

“Not yet. But the fingerprints she left on the passenger side dash should help.”

“I guess you got me.” It was all Nina could think to say.

“I guess so.” That smile she so remembered sped her way at last. “Just like that.”
The days I share my thoughts and such here are the 11th and 23rd. To learn more about me and my stories, please stop by my website