Wednesday, October 27, 2010

History of Halloween - Trick or Treat?

Halloween decorations in front of my house this year.

The origins of Halloween are more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. (pronounced Sow-an) Samhain was a festival held to denote the end of the summer. For them, the "lighter half" of the year was ending and "darker half" was beginning. They believed that during Samhain the plane between this world and otherworld grew week, allowing spirits, both good and bad, to pas through. To ward off the bad spirits people would disguise themselves as bad spirits themselves so no harm would come to them. Over the years this tradition continued.

The name of Halloween comes from "All Hallow's Eve" which is the night before "All Hallowmas." Hallow in Old English means to sanctify. Nowadays we call the day after Halloween, "All Soul's Day" and it's a day to honor the souls in Heaven in many churches.

The practice of going door-to-door to trick or treat has it's roots in the practice of 'souling.' (which origins are in Britain and Ireland) Children would go door-to-door singing and saying prayers for the dead and they would receive a small cake for their efforts.

My son Joe, and last year's pumpkins

Before there were pumpkins, there were turnips. In more traditional Celtic festivals, large turnips were hallowed out and scary faces were carved into them. They were then placed into windows to ward off evil spirits. When the Irish came to America and discovered pumpkins, they began to use them since pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve.

Author Ruth Edna Kelley wrote a history of Halloween in 1919 and the custom of trick or treating wasn't even mentioned. The term trick or treat didn't appear until 1934 in a Halloween greeting card. Surprisingly, trick or treating in America didn't gain national recognition until the late 1940's after World War II.

Anyone like to share what they do for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Writing Tips - How to Hook the Reader for NaNoWriMo

Hi all, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is less than a week away and I'll be back. This year's project is "The Wolf's Torment." Here's a blurb:

Crown Prince Mihai Sigmaringen has a lot to look forward to. Recently returned from England, he's engaged to Lady Theresa von Kracken. He hopes to unite the Romanian principalities into a nation, but when his best friend, Viktor Bacau, is bitten by a werewolf, his dreams and his relationship with Theresa threaten to shatter into a thousand tiny pieces.

I'm very excited at the project and I'm doing my research and preliminary work now. What's the goal of NaNoWriMo? From the website: It is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. That averages to approx 1650 words a day. Do-able write? *wink*

Last year I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was a challenge and with all my other "obstacles" work, home, mommy, wife, I slid in with 52K at the end of the month and had a great start to my novel "The Count's Lair" (which is coming out FEB 2011 with Desert Breeze Publishing)

If you want to check out my NaNoWriMo space, here's a link:

I'm going to tie this into my next topic which is my Tuesday writing tip: how to hook the reader. It's not as easy as you think.

The beginning of the story must hook the reader or it doesn't do what it's supposed to do. The first sentence, paragraph, chapter has to grab a reader's attention. Some obvious turn offs include: spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Not so obvious: starting with description, back story, or a flashback.

The opening should have the lead character into the problem. Start with action, show the lead in motion, doing something.

Here's an example: Alice skulked after Edmund. What's the reader's next thought? Why. That encourages the reader to read more to find out.

Keep in mind: The opening should have an inciting incident and a story-worthy problem which should hold attention.

Reference: Hooked, by Les Edgerton, Writer's Digest books, 2007. If you want to follow my NaNoWriMo project, I'll be putting up my rough chapters on Here's the link:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Review Friday - Black Jaguar

Reviewer's note: I love Schartz's Chronicles of Kassouk series. Book 3 releases on 1 NOV, but I got a sneek peek of it. For those who love sci-fi/futuristic, romance and adventure, this series as it all!


Book Review for: Black Jaguar
Chronicles of Kassouk, Book 3
Written by: Vijaya Schartz
Desert Breeze Publishing
ISBN: 1-936000-55-5
Ebook Format
4.5 Stars

Reviewed by: S. Burkhart

Schartz pens an exhilarating story of adventure and the power of love with "Black Jaguar," book three in her futuristic series, "The Chronicles of Kassouk." Prince Kahuel of Yalta travels with Princess Esperenza of Kassouk to an unexplored continent on New Earth. What they find there will test their strength of will, resolve, and courage.

The novel is set in the future. Princes Kahuel and Basilk of Yalta are traveling with Princess Esperenza from Kassouk to an unexplored continent on New Earth. A typhoon destroys their vessel and takes Basilk's life. Most of the travelers are marooned on an unknown land. Kahuel is saddened over his brother's death, but steps up as the group's leader.

Kahuel sets up camp on the beach and send parties to explore the interior. Kahuel, with his loyal jaguar, Diablo, finds a native by the waterfall. Her name is Talina and she is a Princess of the Chosen, the native humans who have the power to read minds. Kahuel is attracted to Talina.

The Chosen are in contact with the Estrell, a race of people from outer space who want to use the Chosen to repopulate their dying race. Kahuel and Esperenza's presence upset the Estrell who order the Chosen to attack Kahuel's people. Talina goes against the order and is banned from the Chosen, by her brother, Vanaru. Talina seeks out Kahuel and the couple makes love. Soon, Talina is captured by the Chosen. Kahuel goes after her, but can the couple overcome the obstacles the Estrell and Chosen place in their way?

Schartz pens an exciting story, about discovery. The plot is tight and filled with surprises.

Schartz uses a good economy of words to paint vivid pictures of the setting. It's easy to see the setting in the reader's mind.

"Black Jaguar" has a great cast of characters that will quickly endear themselves to the reader. Kahuel is noble and honorable, doing all the right things to lead his people, yet his internal struggle is something that the reader can identify with. Talina is a little naïve, but she isn't afraid to take chances and to learn about others. Her love for Kahuel is honest and pure, yet tested when her brother reveals some awful truths about Kahuel to her.

"Black Jaguar" shines as it gives the reader a peek of happy after ever for the previous couples in the series from "White Tiger" and "Red Leopard." Schartz's love scenes are tasteful and sensual.

"Black Jaguar" does not disappoint!

Here's a link to the publisher's page:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Excerpt Monday - Shadows & Light

"Shadows & Light" is my science fiction short story in the Borealis II Anthology which will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing on 1 NOV. Here's a bit of an excerpt to tease you... Enjoy!

Elijah Kess hated the stench of sulfur -- and the space dock stunk of it. Other than that, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Two supply ships had just landed; one from Pith, and one marked with TPP symbols. Shadows refracted off his dark grey uniform. Beams of brilliant white light shined off his gold lieutenant rank square.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled. Something didn't feel right. The air smelled off -- the sulfur stench was thicker. The Borealis space station thrummed to the steady beat of business.

He glanced at the chronometer on his wrist. Thank The Greater Power it was time to go patrol the merchant area. He went to the personal access door and pressed his hand against the rectangular access panel.

"Lieutenant Elijah Kantor. Cleared," came a metallic male voice. The door slid open with mechanical grace. He stepped through. Working deep under cover for the Rebellion, Elijah Kess had become Elijah Kantor. Fellow TPP Enforcer, Dax Hydron, waited for him.

"Hey, Kantor, ready to switch?"
"Yeah. The bay is clear."
"The merchants are--"
"Get it off me!"

Elijah and Dax turned in the direction of the cry. A civilian dressed in a dark green overcoat ran past Korn, the latest bar to open on the main commerce level. He pushed several patrons to the ground as they exited. The civilian's hair was stringy and greasy, his eyes bloodshot, and white foam spewed from the corner of his mouth.

"Bloody Hera! Uudon overdose?" asked Dax.

"Let's hope he's not contagious," said Elijah. "Let's go."

Elijah took off at a sprint, Dax on his heels. The OD locked eyes with Elijah for a split second, then turned and ran. In that second, Elijah saw fear -- primal fear. What could cause that?

His pulse rifle was attached to a suicide strap, but Elijah couldn't fire it -- not a good idea in a crowd of civilians. He slung it over his shoulder so the gun rested on his back.

Civilians rushed to get out of the way. Elijah sidestepped the ones who had been shoved to the ground by the OD.

The OD slowed. Elijah pushed his legs to go faster, pumping his arms, keeping his eyes locked on his prey.

As the OD turned a corner, he shoved a woman right at Elijah. He took the extra second to push her away from him. "I'm sorry," he muttered.

She nodded her head. Elijah sprinted off. That bastard was giving him a good chase.

Dax was three paces behind Elijah. The OD had collapsed. His breathing was labored, his eyes were blood red and white foam dribbled over his chin. A person in a dark cloak ripped off the OD's sleeve. An obsidian patch, two inches in diameter, covered the OD's bicep.

"Stop!" cried Elijah.

Startled, the figure bolted up. Elijah drew in a breath and took off in a sprint. The figure began to run away from the OD, but Elijah was faster. He tackled the figure -- a woman, from the curves of her body. The patch went flying out of her hand.
Elijah reached for her wrists, pinning her against the floor. He could feel her body underneath his -- warm, perfectly shaped. The cloak fell to the side, partially revealing her face.

She had the warmest chocolate brown eyes he'd ever seen. Round and wide -- yet full of apprehension. She had thick raven-black hair, long, down to her mid-back. Her olive-toned complexion was flawless. For a second, he hungered to run his hands through the luscious mane of her hair.

"Who are you?" he asked.

She thrust her body toward his, taking his mouth with a kiss.

Stunned, Elijah allowed her lips to caress his. They were warm, sensual, tasting of honey.


Her voice in his head startled him.
"Let me go."


The Anthology will be avail on Kindle, Sony Ebook Reader, The Nook, All Romance Ebooks, and at the Desert Breeze site. Here's a link:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Welcome Guest Author - Cindy K. Green

STEPH: Author Cindy K. Green is a fellow Book Spa Author. I've read some of her work including "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to your Wedding" and "The Heart Never Lies." Cindy, Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi Steph! Thanks for having me today. Here’s a little bit about me. I'm Cindy K. Green, author, teacher, maid, mother, wife and accountant. I have degrees in history and education and taught middle school up until about six years ago. Now I stay home and homeschool my two boys. I was born in California and now live in North Carolina out in the country about a ½ hour from Raleigh . I've been married for 15 years. I'm published in several genres: Inspirational, historical, western, contemporary, young adult and suspense. Those are also the genres I like to read. I spend my (non-existent free time) reading, watching period dramas and doing my best to keep this house one step away from becoming a disaster area.

STEPH: Cindy, you've written a variety of genres from inspirational, young adult, and western. Do you have a preference? Do you have thoughts on writing multiple genres?

CINDY: I love writing in several genres because I love reading in all those genres. My favorites are suspense and historical, but I can easily get inspired to write in so many others. What’s great about writing in so many genres is that the writing stays fresh. You follow the inspiration. If something isn’t working, you can switch to something else. On the other hand, it can take a little while to get into that frame of mind and word for different genres. For instance, if you’re writing a romantic suspense and then switch to a historical. It takes practice to get it right, but it’s a lot of fun too.

STEPH: Which book do you want to talk about today? Or do you want to share a blurb on a couple of books?

CINDY: I’d love to share something about my Young Adult story, Struck by Conscience, and a little bit about my Christmas book, All I Want for Christmas.

Struck by Conscience:
I, Charisma Mansfield, do solemnly swear that… I never asked to be popular. I never asked to be voted Prom Queen. I definitely never asked to have an invisible pixie perched on my shoulder whispering her opinions into my ear 24/7. But of all the things I never asked for, this is the worst one yet—when brooding but gorgeous Heath Ruvelas (my next door neighbor and the guy I used to be best friends with before jr. high) rescued me from drowning in the school pool. My already bizarre life would never be the same.

All I Want for Christmas:
Best Friends or True Love? Only Santa Knows.

Kathryn Graham hates Christmas. She hates the snow, the decorations, the whole nine yards. Nick Pringle on the other hand can’t get enough of the season. He may be her best friend and fellow writer at Redburn Weekly Magazine, but sometimes his exuberance gets on her very last nerve. Now they’ve been assigned to cover the orphan toy drive story. It’s just a puff piece not the serious journalism Kathryn hopes for, but maybe—as Nick says—there are no old stories just new angles.

Nick Pringle has been in love with Kathryn practically since the day they met. When he realizes that she’s lost her Christmas spirit, he figures he’s just the guy to help her find it again. He enacts a plan to send her anonymous gifts from Secret Santa, but will any of this really make a difference in her? Will she ever see him as anything more than her smart-aleck partner even after their passionate kisses? Then again maybe he’ll get what he wants for Christmas after all.

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the book?

CINDY: For Struck by Conscience, I wanted to write a teen story about the popular girl. In so much of teen fiction, the popular girls are made out to be the villains. I decided to write a story about a popular girl who wishes she wasn’t so popular. She sees how pointless it all is as her senior year is coming to an end. On top of that she has a secret that has everything to do with the invisible fairy she carries around 24/7.

In All I Want for Christmas, the book has a Lois Lane/Clark Kent type of relationship. They’re great together. Lots of fun and everyone knows they should be together. Throw in a Secret Santa and a little bit of jealousy and you have my book in a nutshell. I had a great time writing this one. The first draft wrote in a record six days.

STEPH: What's next on the horizon for you? Any upcoming releases?

CINDY: In January, the sequel to my best-selling historical western, The Heart Never Lies, will release with Champagne Books. It’s titled, Listen to Your Heart and it is a continuation of the first story.

Blurb: Kit McCauley can hardly believe her eyes. Of all men, she believed Beau to be true blue and not one to step out with another woman behind her back. Sparks fly and secrets are revealed which just might be the undoing of her upcoming wedded happiness.

Beau Tucker thought he’d left his past East of the Mississippi . When a stranger from Chicago comes looking for him, his world spins out of control. He has to listen to his heart and decide where he belongs.

My YA story is the first of a three part series. Book two is entitled: Sold My Soul to a Frog.

STEPH: Do you have a certain process to develop your characters? Do you cast your characters? Do you use mini biographies?

CINDY: I do try to understand my characters a bit before I start writing them. I’ll do a basic physical/emotional description and give them some background and motivation in the book. I don’t go into too much detail. I let them reveal themselves in the writing. I don’t usually cast my characters with famous stars or anything.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

CINDY: I figure I’m somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. I write up a little plot and character descriptions before I start writing but it’s not overly detailed. I find that if I plot too much it kills my creativity.

STEPH: How long, generally, does it take you to write a story? Do you self edit or use a beta reader?

CINDY: It depends. I’ve written entire novels in four weeks and it’s taken me several months just to write a short story. If I’m inspired and have the freedom to write I can finish very quickly. On average, it takes me three months to write a novel and a couple weeks for something shorter. I am the quintessential editor. It must come from years as a teacher—that and being a history major in college. That was all writing, research and editing, editing, editing. I do use a beta reader too in my critique partner who is another author at White Rose Publishing.
STEPH: Do you have any hobbies you'd like to share with us?

CINDY: When I have free time I love to read, take photographs, do some scrapbooking and even make fan videos for my favorite period dramas.

STEPH: You know I'm a Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" fan, right? Team Edward or Team Jacob?

CINDY: My sister is a huge Twilight fan, and she and I usually see eye to eye on just about everything especially in pop culture. I, however, haven’t really been impressed by Twilight. I find the writing in the books a little lackluster and Bella a bit boring. I’m harsh I know. As for Edward or Jacob. I think Rob Pattinson has done a terrific job playing Edward in the films and I am Team Edward all the way. In the books, there is something intriguing about Edward and that’s what keeps me reading. Hope I didn’t step on anyone’s toes.

STEPH: Share any buy links or book trailer links you want. It's gush about Cindy day. hehe

CINDY: You can learn more about me and my books at my website and my blog, Facebook and Twitter. I also have a Teen Fiction blog and I just started a Homeschooling blog. Join my newsletter by sending an email to Buy my books at White Rose Publishing, Whimsical Publications and Champagne Books. Many of them are available on Amazon too. Visit my YouTube page for my book trailers. I hope to have a new one up for Struck by Conscience soon.

Christmas Contest! This starts today and goes through the festive season. There will be three winners. One October 30th. One November 30th and the last one December 21st. To enter: view the book trailer for All I Want for Christmas and email me at In the email, list at least one gift that Kathryn received from her Secret Santa. Enter each month for a chance to win. What will you win? A pdf copy of my best selling historical western from Champagne Books, The Heart Never Lies, as well as some Bath & Body Works goodies and a special chocolate treat—specifically the kind of chocolate my heroine in All I Want for Christmas craves each and every day. If you already own The Heart Never Lies, I’ll send you a copy of the sequel, Listen to Your Heart, when it releases in January.

Thanks for having me today, Steph!

STEPH: Thanks for Popping in!