About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances. Please, stop by our websites and check out what we've been up to: Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and Victory Tales Press.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Books at the Beach Giveaway! #IARTG @KMNbooks

A Romance Reader’s Dream Summer Giveaway

How many books do you read over the average summer? Could you read 80? Because that’s how many ebooks one lucky winner will walk away with in the Books at the Beach Giveaway, including the latest titles from Nora Roberts, Catherine Bybee, Debbie Macomber, and Gena Showalter, plus dozens more. You could also win one of two runner-up $25 Amazon gift cards.

**Retweets Welcomed!** http://twitter.com/KMNbooks/status/876817079231332353

Books at the Beach Giveaway & Book Fair June 19-30

(Sponsored by the 54 authors listed below) Alina K. Field • Allyson Lindt • Amy L Gale • Anna Durand • Astrid Arditi • Barbara Lohe • Beverley Oakley • Bianca D'Arc • C. A. King • C.E. Wilson • Carmen Fox • Casi McLean • Catherine Kean • Chloe Flowers • Christa Paige • Constance Phillips • Cynthia Clement • Danica Favorite • Debbie White • Denise Jaden • Dianne Venetta • Elizabeth Rose • Gayle Parness • Helen Scott • Jacqueline Diamond • Jina Bacarr • Josie Riviera • Judith Keim • Karen • Michelle Nutt • Katherine Lowry Logan • Kris Michaels • Kristina Knight • Kristy Tate • Margaret Locke • Mari Carr • Naomi Bellina • PG Forte • Quinn • Raine English • Regan Walker • Sheila Seabrook • Shelique Lize • Soraya Naomi Stacy Gold • Stella Marie Alden • Stephanie Julian • Stephanie Queen • Sydney Aaliyah Michelle • Sylvia Hubbard • Tamara Ferguson • Tena Stetler • Traci Douglass • Vicki Crum

Enter the Giveaway Here a Rafflecopter giveaway

And while you’re at it, shop our awesome summer book fair with over 50 fantastic romance titles for you to choose from. http://booksatthebeachfair.blogspot.com/p/find-your-favorite-summer-read-at-our.html


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Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Last Blog For ONCE UPON A WORD by Sarah J. McNeal

Rebecca Vickery is closing her publishing business. In the sad wake of Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press closing its doors, my books there will be moving to another publisher, Prairie Rose and its imprints. Happily, most of the authors with both publishers already know one another, some through mutual acquaintances.

Because the blog site, Once Upon A Word was established for the purpose of keeping in touch with readers and for book promotion within the company. But with my books in transition, I think it’s time for me to go and see what the future has in store for me. This will be my last blog here. I continue to have monthly blogs with Prairie Rose Blog and Sweethearts of the West . I also have my own bog along with my website that I have neglected for far too long. http://www.SarahMcNeal.com/

It has been such a pleasure working with Rebecca Vickery, Karen Michelle Nutt, and Laura Shinn over the years. I loved that they always provided a kind and well run publishing business. Authors don’t get that very often from their publishers. I have nothing but gratitude for my experience here with all of the delightful and talented people associated with this outfit.

I liked that the company kept all its publications wholesome and that everyone on staff as well as the owner kept in touch and communicated with me whenever I had questions or ran into some problem or other. People who are not familiar with the publishing business may not understand how extraordinary and wonderful that is.

Just for fun. I found this chart on Pinterest: How to say goodbye in different languages.

So, I bid you all farewell and wish each of you great success and happiness for whatever comes next. I have had a delightful and wonderful journey with you. God bless you and keep you. I wish all good things to your corner of the universe until we meet again on down the road… 

A parting song from Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli - Time to Say Goodbye 

(graphics from Pinterest)

Sarah J. McNeal
Author of paranormal, time travel and western romance

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Beach Read Bundle is here! #giftcards #books @RebeccaJVickery @KMNBooks


Summer is here! To kick off the season, these authors have teamed up to giveaway 54 different books as well as $150 worth of Amazon gift cards.

For more details and to enter click HERE

Giveaway ends midnight on June 24th


Denise Stout is giving away 1 autographed print book of Those Summer Nights!

Beach read bundle #9 – print copies of THEN COMES LOVE by Lindsay Detwiler, THE OLD CAPE HOLLYWOOD SECRET by Barbara Eppich, BACK TO THE BEACH by Denise Stout, and SEE YOU SOON BROADWAY by Melissa Baldwin (US only)

THEN COMES LOVE– Lindsay Detwiler – 1 autographed print

Three generations of women,
Three second loves,
All with a dose of chaos mixed in.
Sometimes in life, changes can be good…
After losing her husband, her five cats, and her home, Charlotte Noel hates feeling dependent. As Charlotte tries to find her identity in this
new stage of life, she comes to realize that drama never ends, dance aerobics can be a war zone, and love is always a possibility.
You never know when a midlife crisis is going to strike…
Charlotte’s daughter, Annie, is going through struggles of her own. Recently divorced, she is feeling frumpy and worn-out. Run ragged, Annie mourns her youth and wonders where her life is headed, all while hoping she can help her daughter Amelia get it together.
Settling down can be overrated, especially when you’re falling for a rock star look-alike…

THE OLD CAPE HOLLYWOOD SECRET– Barbara Eppich – 1 autographed print
In 1947, Maggie Foster and her cousin, Gertie, leave Cape Cod for Hollywoodland in search of glamour and fame. One girl returns home and the other disappears. Present-day Nancy Caldwell travels to Hollywood, where she discovers the paths of Maggie and Gertie.
In “The Old Cape Hollywood Secret,” a novel of historical suspense, Nancy’s curiosity gets her into trouble again. Along the way, a missing ring and a pearl-studded pouch are mixed in with the search. Using alternating chapters, across seventy years, the tragic stories of two young girls unfold and a murderous secret is uncovered.

BACK TO THE BEACH (From Anthology THOSE SUMMER NIGHTS)– Denise Stout – 1 autographed print
Darby McKinnon, preschool teacher, escapes to a beach rental to refresh her life. Running into a former boyfriend creates the distraction she needs. Alex Markham, workaholic owner of a cyber security firm, takes his job too seriously until an unexpected stay at the beach makes him pause. Their chance encounter begins with nostalgia, but kisses ignite into possibilities of the heart.
Summer fling or a second chance at forever? Almost losing each other when the past and present collide, both realize love requires determination to stay together when obstacles seemingly get in the way.

SEE YOU SOON BROADWAY– Melissa Baldwin – 1 autographed print
Maris Forrester has a wonderful life with an amazing boyfriend and a fulfilling job. She’s happy and content . . . or so she thinks. Maris has always had huge dreams of being on Broadway. Ever since her very first performance as a child, she has envisioned herself on the stage under the shining lights. Now she has to decide whether she should to give up her wonderful life to chase those dreams.
When her parents announce they are moving, she comes across a long-lost family treasure. She doesn’t realize that this treasure may hold the key to her future and to all her dreams coming true.
And if that wasn’t sign enough, a mysterious stranger throws another wrench in the mix at a dazzling rooftop party benefiting the Arts. These could be signs of things to come.
But will she remain content in her perfect world, or will she step into the unknown world she has always dreamed of?
Amelia is the wild child of the family. Working three jobs, because she just hasn’t figured out what she wants in life, she realizes happiness isn’t always settling down with a steady, dependable man; sometimes it’s about following your true passion and living on the edge.
No matter what age you are, life and love can be crazy…

Saturday, May 27, 2017



This month I am deviating from my usual chat with a reader who isn't a writer.  I thought it might be interesting to hear from a writer who is a reader. And to make the reversal complete, I invited a male to share his views. I "met" today's guest some time ago through the blog Fifty Authors from Fifty States.
Welcome to Once Upon A Word, Kenneth (Ken) Weene. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Well, the first thing is I’m what I like to call a Broody New Englander, which is also the title of one of my books—not a memoir, but based on my experiences growing up in New England, especially Maine.
Later, I lived in New York where I practiced as a psychologist. That professional experience underlies a couple of my novels, Memoirs From the Asylum in particular. After a long career, I burned out and fled to the comparative sanity of Phoenix, Arizona, where my wife and I now live. That’s where I started writing. Before that, in New York, I did write some poetry and short non-fiction, but something about the Arizona sunshine has caused my writing to flourish. It may also have to do with joining a writing group.

That group inspired another of my books, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne. The connection isn’t that the group meets in a bar—we go with coffee houses like true artists— but those groups, however we form them, become like families—filled with quirks, jokes, and pathos.
Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk books. And, if your readers want to find my books and more, I hope they’ll stop  by. http://www.kennethweene.com

I think the entire Southwest  could have the effect on creativity you describe. And yes, let's talk books. What kind do you read?

You could say I’m an omnilectorem, that would be the reading equivalent of an omnivore, which I also am. I’ll try any book, or story, poem, essay, or whatever. Right now, I’m reading By More than Providence, a history of American diplomacy in the Pacific. Before that I read The House at the Edge of Night. Let’s see, before that, Paris Is Always a Good Idea. And just to show what I mean about reading everything, there was a book for teens finishing their studies at Montessori schools and entering high school.

Now, that doesn’t count the books that people send me to review either for comment on Amazon and Goodreads or for possible interviews on the internet radio show I co-host, It Matters Radio. Recently, for example, I read a new book, Goodbye My Love, by paranormal romance author Maggie Tideswell from South Africa. However, since those are solicited reads, I guess that’s a different category.

You have convinced me that you are indeed an omnilectorem.  Do you have a preference for  long or short books?

I don’t care about length only quality. It’s like the old joke: How long do your legs have to be? Long enough to reach the ground.

I will say that as a writer I have always tried to keep books short enough so that a good reader could read one on a plane trip from New York City to Los Angeles. Not that the folks who get on planes in Los Angeles can’t read, but I’m hoping that that hypothetical reader has connections in Hollywood. Actually, one of my books, Times To Try The Soul of Man, has been picked up and we’re working on the script. (Yeah, I know, shameless plug)
But, I do have to admit that the book on which I’m currently working will require a longer flight. I think it will probably work for New York to London.

What are the main reasons you buy a certain book and which of these is the most important to you?

Whim and whimsy mostly. I don’t buy a lot of books at bookstores. Most of the time, I get recommendations (and as I said before, requests). If the suggested book sounds good, I give it a go. Sometimes on Kindle, but usually in print. Typically, if it hasn’t been sent to me, I sample it at Amazon—sometimes on an author’s website.

Much as I love bookstores, I don’t get to them often, especially given the paucity here in Phoenix. When I do go shopping for books for fun, usually when we’re out of town, I roam through the store stopping to sample different sections. Strangely, bookstores bring out the primitive hunter and gatherer in me. I feel like I’m sneaking up on that elusive great read, or perhaps I’m more porcine and trying to find as many truffles as I can.

Do you prefer ebooks or print books?                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Print. I love the sensory quality of holding a book in my hands. I have to admit that I don’t treat books too kindly. I write marginalia and bend pages; that is unless it is an old book worth a lot that has somehow found its way to me or a personally dedicated copy from a fellow author. People sometimes wonder about that. “Why so disrespectful?” they ask. It isn’t disrespectful. I in no way want to have that book go on to a used-book store. Quite simply, I want people to buy new books so that authors get royalties. I know many readers love to pass that great story on, but please reconsider. We writers need money; we can’t live on love of words alone. 

Let me add a brief note on used-book stores. Personally, I find them fascinating except for the sneezing—mine not the stores. They are great places to hunt for books that are no longer in the regular stores. Typically, if I find something used that sounds good, my first response is to try to buy it new. If not, then I will resort to buying the used copy. Even if it is available on Kindle and not in print, I will go with the Kindle so the author gets their due.

By the way, why haven’t you asked about audio books? I love them for long car trips. A few of my books are available in that format. For some reason, Memoirs From the Asylum does particularly well as an audiobook.

An oversight on my part not to have included  audiobooks, especially since I have two recently released.  Are there things that please you or turn you off when reading or listening to books?

I love good writing, writing that carries me along in its flow. When I was younger, I did a lot of whitewater rafting. I loved going with the rush of the water. Sometimes, there would be a rock or a place where we’d lose control, which added to the sense of challenge, but in the end, we’d get ourselves right and on the flow would go. I look for that same sense of movement and pace with occasional moment to make me stop and think.

Do you ever read books a second time just because you like them?

Absolutely. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien; I’ve read that a few times. Steinbeck—to whom I’ve been compared—Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath in particular. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. And, of course, plays, particularly those of Shakespeare and Mamet.

I wonder if you often read blogs such as this?  And if so, do you leave comments?
I can’t say that I follow many blogs, but I do read them. For a long time, I co-edited one that was quite successful in getting hits, but we decided that it had become flatulent if not moribund. As for comments, I try to leave helpful and positive comments when I can.

Have you ever written an Amazon review of a book you have read?  

Yes. I write many, not only of books but other purchases as well. Sometimes, because I’m friends with an author or because Amazon’s algorithm has identified me with It Matters Radio, my reviews don’t get posted. However, I do write them. By the way, when I do reviews, I try to be honest. If I am really negative about a book, I probably won’t review it at all—in part because I probably haven’t finished reading itMy goal in life is to not harm others.

An admirable goal. A scathing review can do serious damage to a writer who often doesn't realize this is just one person's opinion.

However, if the author contacts me to ask why I never published a review, then I will tell him. If he had asked me to read it before he put it on Kindle, I also would have said something. Which brings me to one of my pet peeves, badly edited books. I don’t mean that occasional grammatical error or formatting flub. I don’t even mean that unusual word choice or slight problem of logic. I mean overall lack of editing and particularly lack of a clear idea of what the book is. I find bad editing to be like getting in my raft at the top of the river only to find that somebody has set a boom across the water, sometimes a boom with sharp spikes to make sure that the raft is not only stopped but that it sinks.

I have heard this from many other readers as well. It seems in our haste to get our book "out there" we often don't take the time to edit properly. And I believe the final responsibility lies with the author who knows the material better than anyone.

So, an unasked for but freely given bit of advice for those of your followers who write: Find yourself a good editor, not just a page editor to check grammar, but a real editor who can help you create a book that truly works for the reader.

Thank you for this suggestion even though it means additional effort for authors. And thank you for chatting with me today, Ken. As always, your wit and candid views are interesting to hear. I hope readers will join in by leaving their own views on our conversation today. If you leave a comment, be sure to click on the blue window that says "Publish" or your comment won't be shown and we do want to hear what you have to say!

Find Linda Swift at these links below:




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Creating Villains: The Difference Between Sociopath and Psychopath

I love a good villain. The more malicious and conniving the villain, the more the hero or heroine has to rise to meet the dire challenge. The creation of a good villain is no easy thing and, if they are going to seem real, they need to be based on some truth. Truth requires research. One of the best research subjects for villains is the psychological makeup of the character you want to incorporate.

While on my quest for discovering the characteristics of a truly vile villain, I wondered about the psychiatric terms sociopath and psychopath. Early on I believed the difference between these two antisocial disorders was the degree of misconduct they presented. A sort of bad villain must be a sociopath and a very bad villain must be a psychopath. But I was completely wrong.

I read a study done by *John M. Grohol, Psy.D. titled “Differences Between a Psychopath vs Sociopath” which helped me come to a better understanding of these two terms.

Here is what he wrote:

These two terms are not really well-defined in the psychology research literature, and so there is some confusion about them.
Nonetheless, there are some general similarities as well as differences between these two personality types. Both types of personality have a pervasive pattern of disregard for the safety and rights of others. Deceit and manipulation are central features to both types of personality. Contrary to popular belief, a psychopath or sociopath is not necessarily violent.

 The common features of a psychopath and sociopath lie in their shared diagnosis — antisocial personality disorder. The DSM-51 defines antisocial personality as someone have 3 or more of the following traits:
Regularly breaks or flouts the law
Constantly lies and deceives others
Is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead
Can be prone to fighting and aggressiveness
Has little regard for the safety of others
Irresponsible, can’t meet financial obligations
Doesn’t feel remorse or guilt
In both cases, some signs or symptoms are nearly always present before age 15. By the time a person is an adult, they are well on their way to becoming a psychopath or sociopath.

Traits of a Psychopath:
Psychology researchers generally believe that psychopaths tends to be born — it’s likely a genetic predisposition — while sociopaths tend to be made by their environment. (Which is not to say that psychopaths may not also suffer from some sort of childhood trauma.) Psychopathy might be related to physiological brain differences. Research has shown psychopaths have underdeveloped components of the brain commonly thought to be responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control.

As you can see, according to Dr. Grohol, a psychopath is born with antisocial behavior whereas a sociopath becomes antisocial most likely from environmental influences. The following is a bit more about what I discovered:
Researchers tend to believe that sociopathy is the result of environmental factors, such as a child or teen’s upbringing in a very negative household that resulted in physical abuse, emotional abuse, or childhood trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sociopath: There are a respected range of signs that can identify those who could be labelled sociopaths. These include an outward charm, potentially showing a chameleon like ability to be everything the person they are engaging with wants. As a former wife of a sociopath quoted “he morphed into a perfect being”. This is an indication of another of the traits, sociopaths will be often be deceptive and dishonest, and some would describe them as pathological liars. Sociopaths are by nature manipulative saying and do what is required to deceive those they wish to control. They often believe they are superior to those around them; they will also get bored if not constantly stimulated. Sociopaths appear to have a limited range of feelings, expressing little happiness or sadness, and with no sense of the suffering that they inflict on victims of their actions. At the extreme they can be seen as cold, callous and contemptuous.
Sociopaths, in general, tend to be more impulsive and erratic in their behavior than their psychopath counterparts. While also having difficulties in forming attachments to others, some sociopaths may be able to form an attachment to a like-minded group or person. Unlike psychopaths, most sociopaths don’t hold down long-term jobs or present much of a normal family life to the outside world.

When a sociopath engages in criminal behavior, they may do so in an impulsive and largely unplanned manner, with little regard for the risks or consequences of their actions. They may become agitated and angered easily, sometimes resulting in violent outbursts. These kinds of behaviors increase a sociopath’s chances of being apprehended.

Sociopath Pop Culture Examples: 

The Joker in  The Dark Knight 

Sherlock and Moriarty in the grip of battle

Of course there is the popular example of a “highly functioning sociopath” in the fictional BBC series “Sherlock” in which the main character, Sherlock, admits he is a sociopath. His villainous counterpart, Moriarty, on the other hand, seemed to be more of a psychopath. He would plan some devious and gruesome deed in great detail, taking his time to get it just right and seem to enjoy the discomfort and agony of his victims.

Real life sociopaths: (this list may astound you)

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister

Many people show sociopathic traits in their decisions and actions. For example, in recent history the UK Prime Minister during the Second World War, Winston Churchill, did nothing to stop the city of Coventry to be bombed by the German air force despite having warning from decrypted radio transmissions. He knew that if he had done something, the Germans would have realized that their codes had been broken and the allies would have lost the advantage they had gained. He was prepared to make a decision which cost thousands their lives. If a sociopath is as defined someone who can ignore the feelings of others and believe that their opinion is right such as the UK’s Winston Churchill, this could also apply to many leaders.

In the UK Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, in the US President George W. Bush could be counted amongst the ranks of high functioning sociopaths.

Famous psychopaths:

Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed

Countess Elizabeth B├íthory de Ecsed was a Hungarian socialite who, seeking eternal beauty, bathed in the blood of her victims. Remembered as “The Bloody Countess”, she murdered over 600 girls and young women during her twenty year killing spree.

Jeffery Dahmer

You may recall that Jeffery Dahmer was raised in a normal home by a loving family, and yet, he became one of the most gruesome of serial killers who devoured his victims rather like the fictional character of Hannibal Lecter.

Ed Gein

Ed Gein was the inspiration for the "Texas Chain Saw Murderer". He murdered at least two women, as well as dug up female corpses and wore their body parts. 
Speaking about prison in an interview:

I like this place, everybody treats me nice, some of them are a little crazy though.

When asked if he wore the skin face masks for prolonged periods, he had this to say:
Not too long, I had other things to do.

Even the interviewer purportedly felt ill at ease in Ed's presence. It doesn't take much to get that he was definitely not altogether. Psychopath? Most definitely.

Childhood Clues to Sociopathy and Psychopathy:
Clues to psychopathy and sociopathy are usually available in childhood. Most people who can later be diagnosed with sociopathy or psychopathy have had a pattern of behavior where they violate the basic rights or safety of others. They often break the rules (or even laws) and societal norms as a child, too.
Psychologists call these kinds of childhood behaviors a conduct disorder. Conduct disorders involve four categories of problem behavior:
     Aggression to people and animals
     Destruction of property
     Deceitfulness or theft
     Serious violations of rules or laws
These symptoms in a child or young teen predict they’re at greater risk for antisocial personality disorder.

Who is More Dangerous?

Both psychopaths and sociopaths present risks to society, because they will often try and live a normal life while coping with their disorder. But psychopathy is likely the more dangerous disorder, because they experience a much less guilt connected to their actions.
A psychopath also has a greater ability to dissociate from their actions. Without emotional involvement, any pain that others suffer is meaningless to a psychopath. Many famous serial killers have been psychopaths.
Not all people we’d call a psychopath or sociopath are violent. Violence is not a necessary ingredient (nor is it for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder) — but it is often present.

Do not confuse the terms psychopath with psychotic. They are two different things. A person who is psychotic is one who has lost all touch with reality, and a psychopath is a person who does know reality, but doesn’t have feelings of remorse or follow societal moral codes or ethics.

In my story, FLY AWAY HEART, I wrote about Sid Efford, a young man who became a criminal after years of constant abuse from his father. Sid was more of a victim than a true sociopath, but his father, who showed no remorse whatsoever, was a psychopath.

Also sold in a boxed set of 5 western novels: LOVE’S FIRST TOUCH

So, when you’re writing your next villain, you may want to keep in mind some of these differences between sociopathy and psychopathy to construct the villain you want in your story.

*Foot Note:
About John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine.
References for Further Research:
The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath - Smithsonian magazine
Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Wikipedia
Letter from a psychopath sent to Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test
Sociopathy vs. Psychopathy - Kelly McAleer, Psy. D.
Psychopathy versus sociopathy: Why the distinction has become crucial - Jack Pemment, Psychology Today
Psychopathy – Wikipedia

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Prairie Rose Publications Blog

Friday, April 28, 2017


Last month I chatted with Pauline Millward from Kingston-upon-Hull  in England. This month my guest is Shauna Holden, an American. 

Hello, Shauna. Welcome to Once Upon A Word.  I'd like to begin our chat by asking you to tell us about yourself, 

Thank you, Linda, I'll be happy to. I now reside in Northwest Arkansas (Home of the Razorbacks). I am sixty-three, the oldest of three children. My brother, sister, and I were children of  a Bivocational Minister and grew up in a small farming community in Southeast Missouri, where most of my ancestors resided for generations.  I have been married forty-one years to my college sweetheart and have a daughter, son, and a four-year-old grandson.

 I was the first in my family to graduate from college (with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Physical Education). I married that same year and we lived in Tennessee, then Texas, where I became a military wife. I worked as an employment counselor, psychotherapist, and in Texas Tech University Health Science Centers as  administrator for the Psychiatry department and attached clinics. I never dreamed my education would lead me down this path but I loved it! When we moved to Arkansas in 1989, I became a stay at home mom involved in school and church activities and helped my husband. start a private practice in Psychiatry. Our lives changed in many ways in 1990 when he was mobilized and sent to the Persian Gulf. Since then he has been to the Middle East combat areas for 7 different campaigns.  Needless to say, during those times (since our children left the nest) I have had lots of time to read!

You have certainly led an interesting life so far while adapting to your family's needs. And the jobs you have held are impressive and show your ability to be flexible! I'm glad that with all these activities you have still found time to read.  Can you tell me what you read and which are your favorites?

Everything! I first discovered my love for books from my mother, Gwanda Hency. One summer my brother and I caught her at private reading time for herself and she shared the story with us. Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson was heavy reading for  us youngsters since we were in the age bracket of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys! But she read with such passion and explained what each section meant.  The story appealed to me as a young girl for the romance involved and to my brother because it was about ships, schooners, and going to sea

 I was taught "reading is knowledge and knowledge is power." My dear maternal grandfather had almost no formal education, but he always encouraged us to educate ourselves. He made us aware that there were two things that could never be taken from us; our salvation (spiritual relationship) and our education.

Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories, Shauna. I can see that you were brought up with the Classics and have read many lengthy books.
Does word count matter to you in books you read now?

I really don't mind how long or short a book is as long as the chapters are short. It's okay to leave me hanging at the end of a chapter, because I get to decide if I want to put it down or read for hours to see what happens.

What are the main reasons that cause you to buy a certain book?

I usually buy books by author, title, then genre (in that order). I read many types of books, some for knowledge and some for pleasure. So I try to find reviews about those I might want to purchase. Covers are not really a selling point for me.

Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Both. If I am travelling and depending on how long the trip in distance and time I will carry  ebooks. Otherwise, I like the printed versions. Our church encourages the E Bibles but I just don't feel right if I don't have my printed version in my hands. We have also collected over the years quite a few books in our library. We have begun donating due to space. The rule is if a book is given to us, or signed/autographed we keep.

We've talked about what you like in books but I wonder if there are also things that turn you off?

I like to read books that flow well or at least begin to make sense before the end. It does irk me at times when a publisher has not had enough pride in their people to proof well and edit misspellings and follow simple English rules.

Do you ever read books a second time just because you like them?

I do read books more than once, but not often. It is to me like a re do of an old classic movie--never as good as the first. When I do read  a good book again, I let some time go by so it seems fresh.  I can always find something I missed the first time around.

Most authors have websites and/or FB pages. Do you visit either, and  if so, tell us what you like to find there.

I follow you! I know anything I pick up that has your endorsement or you have written is going to be great. Otherwise, Barnes and Noble is my friend for finding out if print books or new ones are coming out. That is how I started your collection in my library.

Thank you for those heartwarming words and I'm flattered that you have my books in your library. I have one final question to ask you, Shauna. Do you often read blogs such as this?  If so, do you leave comments?

I do read some blogs and leave comments when I can get them to post. I usually read a few comments at first to see the direction it is taking. I will respectfully disagree with others but if it is turning negative, I'm done. Life is too short to waste.

I totally agree. It is so much better to seek positives rather than negatives in life.

I've considered it such an honor that you chose to interview me. I cannot tell you! Thank you so much from myself and those in my circle of friends and family that continue the legacy of reading good books such as yours.

Thank you for saying that, Shauna, and for being my guest today. I hope a lot of other readers and authors will visit the page and share their own comments. We look forward to hearing from you. Anyone commenting should remember to click on the blue square that says "Publish" to have their comments appear on the page.

Thanks to all who stop by. Other authors will be posting soon so be sure and visit this page again.You can find me at the links below:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Writing Characters Who Speak Another Language by Sarah J. McNeal

Pennytook as I pictured him on my story board.

Pennytook is one of my favorite characters. He appears in all three of the novels in the Legends of Winatuke trilogy, and he also has a story of his own in the 2016 fall anthology, Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses. I have a fondness for Pennytook because he is funny, generous, and knows the secrets that will help his friends defeat the evil that persists in the world of Winatuke (a place forever caught in a medieval time.)

But Pennytook was a complicated character to write. He is a Gypsy who speaks Romanian. Those two characteristics required a great deal of research. I had to look up the culture and beliefs of the Gypsies, their history and their language. Because they are restless travelers, they incorporate their language into the language of the place in which they live. The language becomes their own hybrid over time. They refer to themselves as Romany. It is believed Gypsies originated in India or Egypt and spread out to other countries.

While many countries see the Gypsy as thieves and con artists, the Gypsies are loyal to those they call friend and to other Gypsies. They have their own sense of right and wrong. As far as religion, they are a mix of Christian and their own esoteric magical beliefs.

 We had a Gypsy man die in the ER some years ago. When the relatives came, a whole lot of them, we found there were certain customs involved with preparing the body for burial. They were very secretive about it. Because the body was going to the morgue to be picked up by the funeral home, the relatives had to give us certain instructions. The hands and feet of the deceased were tied with ribbons. We were told, under no circumstances, were those ribbons to be removed. They placed something inside the man’s mouth which I later learned from research was a ball of rice. The mouth is held shut by tying a cloth around the head and over the mouth. In my research I found the reasons for these two customs: the hands and feet are tied to keep the deceased from following or touching the living, and the mouth is filled and tied to keep the deceased from calling out to the living. When a Gypsy dies, his or her name is never mentioned again. It is believed by saying the deceased’s name, a person will call the dead to them. Kinda scary, don’t you think?
Most often, when I wrote Pennytook using Romany, I tried to explain what he was saying in a way that would seem natural. Here are some snippets of Pennytook using Romany language:

(From Dark Isle, Book 1)
1. "I am the vaida known as Pennytook, chief of the Gypsy." He laughed again. "I see you are gadgi, not Gypsy. You look for me. You look for Pennytook?"

(From Lake of Sorrows, Book 2)
1. "No one knows. Her heart is sour like green persimmon." Pennytook looked at his two friends smiling. "You know chi, is always about love." 
(chi means woman)
2. Peregrine laid his violin down and hurried to Izabelle. He pulled her into his arms and spoke to her in Romany. "Your papa walks the lungo drom now to amaro baro them." He kissed her cheek ever so gently and added, "O ushalin zhala sar o kam mangela."
Pennytook supplied the translation for Emma in a quiet voice, "Mulopani say, your papa walks the long road now to the ancestral home. The shadow must move as the sun commands."
(From The Light of Valmora, Book 3)

1. Pennytook settled beside him and gave him a solemn glance.  He touched Falcon’s arm and pointed to the untouched food.  “Bi kashtesko merel I yag.”
“I don’t understand Romany,” Falcon replied.
“It’s an old Gypsy saying.  It means, ‘without wood the fire would die,’” said a familiar female voice.                                    
2. “You understand this, yes?”  He laid his cheek on top of her head.  “The fate of the nations of Valmora lies with us.  We must not fail.”  He braced her face between the palms of his work rough hands so that she would look up into his dark eyes.  “Courage now, coramora mea.  Remember your purpose.”
(Coramora mea means my heart)

Legends of Winatuke

All 3 novels for 99 cents!

From the short story, “Pennytook”, in Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses anthology.

1. "Nais tuke. I appreciate it." The two men rode away from the camp toward the hills to hunt rabbits with their eagles.  (Nais Tuke means thank you)
2. Squeezing her hand hoping to reassure her, he continued. "I, on the other hand, am filled with regrets. Sako peskero charo dikhel. Everybody sees only his own dish, or so the saying goes. Aye?”

I used broken English for the most part to establish that Pennytook was a Gypsy rather than relentlessly using Romany.

Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses

Buy link: Amazon

A writer can distinguish a character by using language in other ways such as using words associated with southerners like “y’all” or mispronouncing words like “I kin handle that thar scoundrel on my own.”

There is the colorful way in which cowboys speak that sets them apart as well.
From the book, Cowboy Lingo by Ramon F. Adams:
Something to be avoided was “go ‘round it like it was a swamp.”
Something fragile was expressed with “wouldn’t hold no more than a cobweb would a cow.”
Confusion or becoming mixed up, “he got his spurs tangled.”
Stubborn, “chuckle-headed as a prairie dog.”

And so many more delightful expressions come from our western cowboys.
Using special language for some of the characters makes them authentic, vibrant, unique, and memorable in our stories.

Have you written or read about such a unique character? Did the memory of that character stick with you long after you read the story. Was it difficult for you to write a story with a character who spoke in a different way from the others? Could you share what that was like for you?

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: