Wednesday, 7 September 2022

#IWSG September 2022 - Best and worst genres to tackle - IWSG Anthology, First Love, with pictures.

 Hello all! I might be a bit early for the IWSG post, but here I am, ready or not! I have some GREAT NEWS! (We're already halfway through Wed, 7th Sept Down Under!)

The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue! Please visit them if time permits!

Welcome to September's IWSG. A pretty exciting month for some of us with the publication of First Love, the latest IWSG Anthology. The writers have been participating in blog posts on the IWSG Anthology Website which has helped keep us focused while we waited for what seemed a long time to see the Anthology come into fruition. 

So it's related to the September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

Ever since the IWSG Anthology was first announced by Alex J Cavanaugh back in the day, I've been waiting for a romance genre collection. There seemed to be a focus on sci-fi and fantasy which I have no interest in writing. I guess my Paranormal series is a fantasy, but it's not how I think of fantasy. That's just me. Sci-fi or fantasy would be 'the worst one for [me] to tackle'. Why? No offense, but I don't enjoy reading them as a rule, so no point writing them. I'm sure there are many who have an aversion to some genres - I'm not interested in military stories, cars (Fast and Furious) stories, erotica and so on and so forth. Which is good. Leave those to the experts in the field and concentrate on what each of us enjoys reading and writing.

I always knew a romance IWSG collection would be popular. I was told it had the most entries of any of the contests. Not surprised, seeing over half the books that sell are in the romance genre or sub genres of the same. Let's hope the IWSG's First Love Anthology sells well and many romance readers find hours of enjoyment in the pages.

My story, Marmalade Sunset, was set on Santorini in the Greek Islands. I just received an email from someone who just read it, and here is an extract: 

"It has been MANY, MANY, MANY years since I visited the Greek Islands and while reading your story, I was instantly transported back there again; walking up and down those graveled hills, viewing the whitewashed and blue buildings, and appreciating the bright pink bougainvillea against the azure blue skies. Sigh. I wish I was there now."

With love from Santorini, that blessed gem of a 
Greek isle. How could I not be inspired?

So grab yourself a copy. It's finally published!

I bought copies for family and friends. Here are two of my daughters proudly reading/holding their copies.


And of course there is a blog tour. To learn more scintillating titbits about the anthology, here is the list:


 9/1 – IWSG Anthologies Blog,

Book blurbs

 9/5 - Kelly F Barr,


 9/6 - Kelly F Barr,


 9/7 – Diane Burton,


 9/7 - Cathrina Constantine,

Book feature

 9/9 - Sandra Cox,

Book feature

 9/12 - Elizabeth s. Craig,

Article - Working on an Anthology

 9/14 – C. Lee McKenzie,


 9/16 - Louise M. Barbour,


 9/19 - Susan Gourley,


Barnes & Noble
Scribed -



It's a far cry from sweet First Love stories, but the WEP is approaching its horror fest for Halloween, in the form of the challenge, Thriller, based on the Michael Jackson song. Everyone's welcome to join our writing contest; horror is an option only.


Wednesday, 17 August 2022

#WEP August challenge - #Moonlight Sonata - #photoessay - Tonga underwater volcano.

 Hello friends!

Here is my entry in the WEP writing contest for the prompt, Moonlight Sonata. Many ideas ran through my mind when I saw the prompt, but the image inspired the following, a photo essay. 


Sonata form is a (musical) structure generally consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century.

Sounds like the structure of a story to me – an exposition (beginning), a development (middle) and a recapitulation (denouement).


“The 15 January blast sent shock waves around the globe and defied scientific expectations.” (


The spectacle we’re seeing in our Australian skies begins and ends each day on a grace note. Every morning and evening during our unaccustomed-bitter-cold-flood-prone winter, there’s a gift to be had if we look upward, an astonishing beauty that offers a time to reflect in those few moments between dark and light in the morning and light and dark at night.

Australia and the Pacific Islands

Where did these spectacular daily shows of outstanding beauty originate? In Tonga. Tonga? Yes. The undersea volcanic eruption that devastated the little Pacific Island and surrounding islands on 15 January 2022 lasted 11 hours and cost precious lives. It was the most powerful explosion in more than 30 years, with an equivalent force of 100 Hiroshima bombs. Scientists have not yet worked out exactly what happened during the cataclysmic explosion — and what it means for future volcanic risks. The eruption is forcing scientists to rethink their ideas on the hazards posed by the many submarine volcanoes that lurk beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

The volcano, full name Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha‘apai, erupted before dawn, 492 feet (150 meters) below the ocean's surface, when the island was bathed in moonlight. It sent a plume of ash soaring into the upper atmosphere and triggered a tsunami that destroyed homes on Tonga’s nearby islands. The plume of ash and dust reached higher into the atmosphere than any other eruption on record and triggered more than 590,000 lightning strikes in three days. Reverberations from the eruption circled the globe multiple times, but probably most of us knew nothing about it.

The extraordinary power of the blast, captured by a range of sophisticated Earth-observing satellites, has challenged ideas about the physics of eruptions. Researchers are finding it hard to explain why the volcano sent a cloud to such heights, yet emitted less ash than would be expected for an eruption of such magnitude. And the shock waves that rippled through the atmosphere and oceans are unlike anything seen in the modern scientific era.

The eruption threw up vast amounts of ash, sulphates and water vapor into the stratosphere, three times as many aerosols as usual contributing to …

The development

…what we’re seeing in our evening skies. Particles in the atmosphere provide a surface on which to scatter light which results in breath-taking sunrises and sunsets. It provides a vast show-off moment in the battle of the realms, earthly versus heavenly. There are moments like this in nature – consider the mythical swansong of that silent bird who sings so sweetly just before death.

Each night, I stand at my bedroom window and watch nature’s magnificent dance, the colors pale, then bright, then intense, before fading into the night. Those wondrous blazes of fiery warmth cause me to gaze at the sky, remember loved ones who have passed, loved ones who live nearby, loved ones living on the other side of the world. Definitely a spiritual moment.

I’m not up early enough to watch every sunrise, but when I am, I’m glad I’m present for the show. Not as spectacular as sunset, but spectacular all the same. That bright ray that promises another day is born, a day to do what you will, to make good choices or bad, to love or hate. (I always am thankful that the brightness I’m seeing isn’t from missiles, bombs or nuclear explosions. It’s just nature sharing its giggly joy at coming back for another show).

 The recapitulation

As the morning begins with the orange orb pushing upwards on our horizon or the night curtain is drawn on another day, don’t we all hope that it will last a little longer? By the time we rush for our cameras, it’s gone. Then we remind ourselves that nothing lasts forever.

Summer is coming; the bitter cold that has clenched Australia for months while our brothers and sisters in the Northern Hemisphere have sweltered through heatwaves and fires, this too will pass. But on a bright note, the Tongan-inspired sunrises and sunsets will linger for another year.

The sunset sky is to me like an artist's canvas, filled with skilful brushstrokes of reds, purples, oranges and yellows. As the sunset fades, the sun gradually melts into the sky like paint into canvas, like a person waving goodbye and walking into the distance, far, far away; and darkness settles in and night closes around us, softly, like a fading musical note at the close of a symphony.

TAGLINE: There are more things that nature has wrought than humans can ever imagine.

808 words

I hope you enjoyed my take on the entry. Click in my sidebar to read more entries in our writing competition.

I'm On The Road Again as of this morning, the 17th, hauling my caravan northwards to hotter climes in the tropics. We are in the grips of, to us, a freezing winter. 

I'll answer comments as soon as I'm able.

And if you want to join the fun and are ready to be creeped out for Halloween, consider writing something for us in October - Thriller!!!! 

After a hiatus, Renee is back with a vengeance. She has treats galore in store for you! She really loves her horror-fests. And as a prize for the best entry, Renee offers a beta read/critique of your WIP. Go for it!!!

If horror's not your thing, go HERE for other ideas.

Thanks for reading ...


Wednesday, 3 August 2022

#IWSG August #How #travel influences #writing - A new #cozymystery from Elizabeth Varadan

 Hi all!

Welcome to the August IWSG. Today I'm not answering the optional question. Instead, I'm talking about connecting with blogger friends and how travel influences our writing.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

Many bloggers have abandoned blogging for Facebook or Twitter or some such, but there are a few die-hard bloggers still around to keep me company.

The blogosphere is a wonderful place. I know I'm not the only one who has made friends for life and who has gone on to meet some in person, turning a digital friendship into a personal one. If we're feeling insecure, chatting with a blogger friend is often the antidote.

Even when blogger friends are only digital, I've found them awesome writing partners because we're in a truly global community and help each other in several ways:

- I often flick off a quick email about words/phrases/spellings that might be used in, for example, the US, as my books are marketed to a primarily US audience. 

- I can ask a blogger in a certain city something only a local might know and they can do the same. I had a recent query about words/phrases that would have been used in early Australia, for example, and I was happy to oblige.

- I can flick off the first chapter of a tricky manuscript when I just can't nail it. Bloggers as beta readers are worth their weight in reciprocal opportunities.

- I've made good virtual friends due to travel. When I was traveling in Portugal a few years back, Elizabeth Varadan asked me to check something in the Portuguese city of Braga. She since moved to the city in question herself. Like me, Elizabeth likes to write the settings she knows, and her travels influence her books.

I asked Elizabeth one question:

What influence on your writing did living in Portugal have?

I first went to Braga specifically to get first-hand information for my first book in the series. At that time my husband and I had been traveling to Galicia to a village vacation home we had bought, but I wanted to set a mystery in Portugal, so I checked to see what Portuguese city of interest was close enough to Galicia to visit — and it was Braga. I had done research online and made contacts online as well whom I met on our first visit in spring of that year, when the series opens. This was in 2014 (the year of the series).

 We fell in love with Braga. It’s an historic city with art, beautiful gardens, and interesting architecture, and, like Galicia, both a Roman and a Celtic history. We ate at restaurants I had chosen from online, and we made lovely friends who told us about events and new places. Walking the streets, visiting the shops, having the tactile and logistic sense of the place made all the difference in the details I could use in my books, as did the feel of the weather and the light at differing times of day. Now, of course, after many visits, followed by living there for over a year, it’s so familiar. I can close my eyes and picture a particular building or the angle of a street, feel the cobblestones. Not to mention being able to recall foods I savor.

Does Elizabeth have your attention?

Released on August 4, is her new cozy mystery, set in Braga, Portugal, titled Deadly Verse. It's about a stolen manuscript by Portugal's most famous Renaissance poet, Luis Vaz de Camoes. 

Sounds intriguing to me. This is what people are saying:

"Deadly Verse is a colorful and fascinating journey to Braga, Portugal. The murders, plot twists and turns, plus memorable characters will keep you reading until the surprise ending."      Cindy Sample, National bestselling and award-winning author of the Laurel McKay Mysteries

 Two Americans in Braga, Portugal, are given an ancient poem by the country's famous poet to safeguard. When their friend is killed, the couple are drawn into the ruthless world of antiquarian booksellers and collectors. What sets this mystery apart are descriptions of the Portuguese setting, festivals, food and traditions. Varadan's writing becomes poetic when describing country and city she clearly loves.      Sunny Frazier, author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries

 If you like cozy mysteries of the Sherlock Holmes ilk, support Elizabeth as she releases her new novel to the world (whilst winging her way back to the States). 

Elizabeth Varadan is a former teacher and Sherlock Holmes fan who writes poetry, children’s fiction, and adult mysteries. She and her husband live in Sacramento, California. They love to travel and divide their time abroad between Braga, Portugal, and Galicia, Spain.

 Varadan’s stories, flash fictions and poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies. Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a middle grade mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes, was published in 2015 by MX Publishing. Her story “Kidnapped” was included in a 2016 Holmes-related story collection, Beyond Watson, by Belanger Books, and “What the Raven Knew,” was included 2019 in Sherlock Holmes, Adventures in the Realms of Edgar A Poe. In 2017 Belanger Books published her picture book, Dragonella, in English and in Spanish, followed in 2018 by a children’s story collection, Carnival of the Animals. In 2019 her chapbook, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was published by Finishing Line Press.

Author Links




Amazon author page:

 Link to Trailer

 Release date

August 4, 2022

 Purchase Information

Amazon (allow a few days following August 4th)

Belanger Books (allow a few days following August 4th) 


A post from me wouldn't be complete without a shout out from WEP. If you'd like to join a group of enthusiastic writers, check out the August 1 post where the new challenge is explained. 

How could you resist writing something in response to this? You have two weeks to come up with your masterpiece!

A couple questions for you -

- Have you made excellent blogger friends?

- Do you swap intelligence regarding your WIPs?

- Do you read cozy mysteries?

Please support Elizabeth with an encouraging word as she embarks on a new adventure, settling back into the US.

Thanks, blogger friends,

I couldn't find a picture of a Portuguese Custard Tart (Pasteis de nata) - I was too busy eating them to take a lot of snaps, so you'll have to make do with Crème brûlée and coffee from Paris.


Wednesday, 6 July 2022

#IWSG July - Living in book worlds. #Paris is a visual feast.

 Hello all!

Time for another #IWSG post. What goes around, comes around, right? This month we're going to have a sneak peek into our writers' personalities wherein they choose a book world.

July 6 question - If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

No surprise. I don't write sci-fi or fantasy (other than vampire fantasies and I wouldn't want to inhabit that world, LOL) so of course I'd like to live in the Paris bookworld where my Paris Dreams characters live. 

Paris is a stunning city and I've practically walked every cobblestone, clambered up every hill, poked my nose into fantastic gardens, museums and art galleries, and there would be worse fates than living in Saskia's world of fashion or Raphael's world of art. 

Pretty groovy. 

So after numerous trips spotting locations, my next Parisian bookworld is in the world of French food. Yummy. Food, friends, passion and mystery. Delicious. Be ready for its release in October, all going well.

Let's have a visual feast. Here is my inspiration using my own pics:

Many meals and some scary stuff goes down at one of my favorites, Cafe de Flore.

Sacre Coeur and Montmartre feature.

One of the characters is a huge Hemingway fan (what a surprise!). Here's the door to one of his apartments at place de la Contrescarpehe, closest to where my story is set in St Germain des Pres.

One of the characters puts a love lock amongst the thousands which have now been moved to Pont Neuf.

Catching the metro is always fun, especially if they're art nouveau like this one at Place Collette.

One of the main characters sketches this statue of an angel I snapped at Pere Lachaise cemetery.

This lovely homeless guy and one of his dogs features. But he's not so lovely in the story.

When asked to describe my WIP, this is the entry I wrote for the #IWSG Anthology webpage. I shared my taglines-in-progress:

“Drama, romance, and passion are layered, flavoured, tasted, left to simmer, not unlike the traditional French recipes scattered throughout the book.”

“Food, love, passion for Paris, combined with characters layered with shades of darkness combined with a good measure of charisma.”

“More than cooking goes on in this kitchen.”

“Absolutely delicious … like a warm hug.”

“If you love reading about food, Paris, love, feisty characters, this is a book you will relish.”

 Which tagline do you like the best?? I need one for the cover and maybe I could incorporate some in the blurb.

Like the sound of my bookworld?

The awesome co-hosts for the July 6 posting of the IWSG are J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton!

  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!! There's so much to help a writer along!

So while you're here, this is WEP's next challenge in August. This is a writing contest open to all writers. Please consider the prompt and pen something 1,000 words and under and join the fun. We love newbies! You never know, you could be one of three winners!

Thanks for coming by!
I'd really appreciate knowing which tagline you like best. Let me know in the comments.Thanks!

Hope you enjoyed the pics.

Many have complained that they can't comment on mine, and several other blogger blogs. Until Google fixes the problem, the solution is to return to the boring old pop-up comment system where I can't reply individually. Pass the word! Better than nothing! 

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

#JuneWEP - my #flashfiction, ESCAPE FROM MARIUPOL

Hi there!

Time for the June WEP contest. This prompt Please Read the Letter required no thought from me. I immediately imagined someone escaping conflict with a letter in their pocket.

Being a political animal, at the moment I struggle to write about anything but Ukraine, trying to imagine myself in the dire situations those poor people find themselves in. Here is my second story set in the Ukrainian war.
Sure, this is a work of fiction, but is based on first-person accounts from news agencies, so it is creative non-fiction, really. 

I won't ask you to enjoy my story; I ask you to be thankful for whatever life throws at you. We're diving into a global catastrophe - higher prices, higher inflation, famine, world unrest. The war in Ukraine has certainly added to our woes with lack of food and scarcity of energy directly attributed to the conflict.

Here is my #flashfiction. I apologize in advance that it's nearly 100 words over, but every time I edited, I thought of something else to add. 



Steel plant after evacuation

Not trusting the cease fire, the Red Cross hurriedly provides a hot meal before herding us onto a bus out of the Azovstal Steel Plant. My heart aches with grief. I rub stiff fingers over the envelope in my pocket.  Is this letter my final link to my husband?

I love my city even in its hopeless state. The shells of gutted buildings, ruin, rubble, jagged timbers, sagging roofs, broken cement walls. I am proud of this outpost, this symbol of resistance. It is where I fell in love with my husband, Bohdan, in better, more hopeful times. I worked at the steel plant in peace time, doing quality control. When the shelling started, I stayed, like many others. Where else could I go? There was scarcely any water or food left in my bombed-out city.

A screech. A judder. My bus joins the convoy. Through the foggy window, I blink in the unaccustomed light, take a final look at the plant’s twisted steel, smouldering from the latest missile barrage, a never-ending pall of smoke rises from metal towers.

The big white bus lumbers along wrecked roads, past unspeakable detritus. My heart constricts wondering at the fate of hundreds still hiding underground.

Who would have thought these Soviet-era tunnels would become home for hundreds of civilians and soldiers, where every day, tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery tried to flush us out. Bohdan still lives in that hell of sprawling warrens of rail lines, warehouses, coal furnaces, factories, chimneys, subterranean tunnels. An enormous maze, a big city, really, dark and tangled. Will it become his tomb?

One of our saviours in her neat, clean uniform kneels on the floor and addresses me. “Valentyna Kovalenko? I hear you speak English. Do you mind answering a few questions?”

I nod, even though it is the last thing I want.

I expected you all to be jubilant leaving the destruction, but everyone is so quiet.”

I shake my head, struggle for words. “The terror of incarceration is not easily relinquished.”

She takes out a notebook, smiles kindly. “Please tell me about it.”

I don't hold back. “You had to have lived underground to understand our quietude. Living like moles in the dark. Five storeys below ground, sharing a bunker with seventy others. You cannot see in front of you, so you stay in familiar places. Eerie dimness. Dogs barking. Children screaming. Walls shaking. People dying. Missiles shook the plant; we shook with terror. Our bunker could have become our mass grave.”

“Terrifying.” She looks shaken herself. “Go on.”  

“Every day the same. The failing elderly, denied their medicines, gave their rations to children, to mothers, to pregnant women.”

“That’s extraordinary.” She scribbles in her notebook.

“Not really. We became accustomed to selflessness. ‘I have lived seventy years,’ an old man said, handing a packet to a mother cradling her whimpering child. ‘Take this.’

“That kind old man Oleksiy didn’t live to board a bus. A last glimpse of daylight denied him.” I knuckle my eyes with the heel of my hand. “It makes me so sad.”

She nods as if she understands. “Where did you get food? Water? Medicines?”

“Getting supplies inside the plant was risky. The men moved between destroyed buildings hunting for water and food. Buildings burned as they army-crawled through darkness with shells whistling overhead. The Ukrainian troops risked their lives locating formula for infants. When that ran out, they came up with semolina cooked over candles.”

“Extraordinary. I believe you have a husband, a medic, down there still.”

My heart pauses a beat. “Correct. My husband Bohdan has a make-shift clinic. He has run out of medicines. Now there is little he can do except offer succour to the wounded, the dying. ‘They are in hell, Valentyna,’ he told me when we held each other in a corner of my bunker during a particularly horrendous attack where the bombs fell every second. ‘More wounded every day. Some without legs or arms; all exhausted, hopeless.’"

“My God.” 

“Yes. God help us, we got used to the constant shaking as the steel works were slowly dismantled around us. Can you imagine how it was to sit in a wet, damp basement wrapped in layers of clothing to ward off the cold, wondering if your next breath was your last?”

The bus lurches from side to side, navigating the broken road. The Red Cross lady moves to the front, leaving me to wonder who those soldiers are ahead. My stomach clenches. What if our bus is shelled? What will happen to my husband’s letter? Our baby?

‘Oh, God, save us.’ The pious had cried and wept from daylight to dark in the bunker. ‘Let the missiles fly over our shelter. Deliver us from this evil.’ Whether from prayers or luck, no missile hit us because if it did, all of us would be done for, and I wouldn’t be telling this tale. Please God, let me make it out of here safely for my husband’s sake, for my child’s sake.

The bus stops. No. No. No. I breathe out when I see soldiers in UN uniforms. They guide our buses around burned-out Russian tanks.

The lady is back. “Did you think you’d make it out alive, Valentyna?”

I shrug. “We heard rumours that a plan was underway to bring out women, children, the wounded. Some grew more fearful; some grew more hopeful. We knew the Russians shelled civilians in the north when they fled during a cease fire. Underground we had some protection from missile strikes at least. But we dreamed of being saved before we died of starvation. As you know, three times we tried to evacuate. Truces were broken. The most terrifying was that time we went outside and shooting started, so we scuttled back inside like rats.”

I turn my shoulder to the lady, lost in my thoughts. Finally. My turn came today...

...A final embrace. Bohdan handed me the letter then faded into blackness. He would stay to the end.

I clutch the letter in shaky fingers. On the grubby reused envelope, he has written: My beloved child. Please read this letter and know how your father loves you.

“Ukraine needs its Ukrainian heroes alive,” President Zelensky said in his address to the nation this morning.

Tears run down my cheeks. Will the heroes come out alive? Will Bohdan return to meet the child he sang to in my womb?

Nothing wrong with hope. It is all we have.

“Glory to Ukraine,” I whisper as the bus narrowly avoids toppling down a bomb-sized crater. “Glory to Ukraine.”



Some letters are written with the greatest of intentions, but may never be read.

WORDS: 1098


Please click on names in my sidebar, or visit WEP, to read more entries to the 'Letter' prompt.

If you love it, please tweet it;

WEP June's #WritingCommunity challenge #writingcontest Please Read the Letter #flashfiction #WEPFF #amwriting #nonfiction #UkraineWar #Mariupol #AzovstalSteelPlant #war

Please join WEP in August for a challenge based on Moonlight Sonata.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I know blogger is messing up comments, so if you're unsuccessful and want to tell me about my story, please email me: