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Friday, January 31, 2014

Celebrations, January 31, 2014

It is Friday again, and a time to stop and take stock of the small things we celebrate, often unknowingly.  Thanks to VikLit, who had the idea for this wonderful bl0g hop, we can remind ourselves of the beautiful things in life that make our days just that much more lovely.  You're welcome to join - head on over to her blog!

Details are at the end of this post.

I have a brief, small blessing to celebrate today.  My car broke down on an interstate highway.  The blessings, as they occur to me were: 

1.        I was in the right lane right by a nice, wide shoulder.  If you knew the area, you would agree that this is indeed a blessing.

2.       I had my cell phone and could call the emergency number

3.       I was not hit by any of the people whizzing past at 75 mph.  The situation is extremely dangerous.

4.       The Connecticut State Police arrived quickly (I now know how the Damsel in Distress feels when the Knight in Shining Armor steps between her and the dragon)

5.       The State Trooper was one handsome man!  I’d call that icing on the cake, myself.

6.       I had enough money to pay for the tow truck

I don’t know what the damages will be.  I hope not too high.  I’ll worry about that when I find out.


Now that I look at what I have written, I don’t think the blessing(s) were small at all.

(And I am remembering that today is a Friday!  I hope you all have wonderful weekends.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Online Marketing Symposium

What are the secrets of successful books?  There are so many talented writers out there and so many good books out there, why do some sell better than others, assuming equal talent?

These are the questions that are being addressed in this blog hop started by:

I can't say.  My writing is my joy, my solace, my delight, and I have little time to do anything with it.  There are lots of reasons why promotions do not succeed.  In my case, I think it comes down to two factors:

1.  The exhaustion factor. 
Basically, you have to accept that you have to do something to promote your work.  But who has time to haunt Facebook and the blogosphere?  Who wants to be like the person I know of who wrote a book that I read and did not like (and did not review for that reason), who peppers the e-waves with Buy!  Buy!  Buy! messages and crows about five star reviews on Amazon?

There is hope here.  I have been looking into some writings about ways to budget time, allowing you to have a presence and at the same time have a productive run (of writing). 

2.  Shyness.  
Basically, I have a hesitation about asking for help.  I have a backlist of books that I am not afraid to put out there to be read.  But I have problems asking friends and acquaintances and followers to possibly feature them, run their covers, interview me…  Why?  Well, it comes down to the 'what ifs'.  Some of them are historical fiction set in a rather exotic venue: ancient Egypt.  Is it so terrible that someone might cringe at the names?  Do I have the fear that someone will think I'm not a 'real' writer?  Maybe so – but the answer is to ASK and be ready for an answer. Did I say two reasons?  Let's make it three – with the third being the positive one.

#3: decide to learn and try.
Self-published books have a long shelf life.  I don't have to be a success by tomorrow.  My books are selling (admittedly,  they only pay for my car loan with a little left over, but still: people are buying them).  And I can take a deep breath and start learning.

There are a great many people out there, an amazing number of which are happy to share their knowledge and expertise.  Only a fool hesitates to ask.  (Yes, I have been a fool.)
What has helped you?  What has helped others?  Check out the other posters and find out!  (And let me know.  I want to learn...)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Celebrations - January 17, 2014

It is Friday again, and a time to stop and take stock of the small things we celebrate, often unknowingly.  Thanks to VikLit, who had the idea for this wonderful bl0g hop, we can remind ourselves of the beautiful things in life that make our days just that much more lovely.  You're welcome to join - head on over to her blog!

Details are at the end of this post.

I have been what the French call hors de combat (out of action) for a while with a bad case of bronchitis and pneumonia. It's clearing up, the solstice has passed (if you can survive to December 22, you can start seeing the days lengthening).

This morning I awoke to a view of a full moon hoving over the hilltop through a smoky lace veil of bare branches. I actually stepped outside (barefoot - don't tell my mother!) to look at it.

I could feel that I was on the mend, and I'd had an idea for a twist in Book II of The Orphan's Tale, which I am working on at the moment. A touching idea, introducing (incognito) a man who would be a major contributor to mid 1800's Europe. To have the prison-raised hero encounter this fellow as a young man (the fellow, not the hero, who is in his mid-forties) and recognize in him a sort of wistful admirer, has me smiling.

There's another character who appears in the trilogy (it's shaping up to be that) and he's always such a joy to write about:

Larouche The Great
He's a street-child with a sad background, a lot of commonsense and some very good luck.  He is the hero's more-than-match.  In fact, the conflict in the last volume might have been ably handled if Larouche had been given free rein.

I love writing about him.

The flow of creative juices is always a cause for celebration.

(And I am remembering that today is a Friday!  I hope you all have wonderful weekends.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Insecure Writers Support Group, January 8, 2014 (Death? Or a Synopsis?)

Today is the first second Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers' Support Group (click the words to visit)

We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy or practical suggestions. 
The Dying Writer (Cats hiding behind Robert Taylor)

I have been hors de combat due to Christmas, New Years and, at this moment, the most comprehensive bout of bronchitis that I have had in the past ten years.  That in and of itself has me insecure about the necessity of continuing in this vale of toil and tears, and the prospect of taking all the various copies of my books and tossing them in the fireplace and expiring on the couch in a suitably dramatic fashion is beginning to appeal to me.  Of course, I'd only be burning the paperback copies, and when I went to expire on the couch (a la Greta Garbo as Camille)two cats would jump on me and sniff my nose, making me sneeze.

I would start laughing and all would be for naught.  I would get up, read and respond to all the comments made by kind people who have not given up on me.

I do have a genuine bit of insecurity to share, however, and it is one that most people can at least sympathize with: 

I am putting the final touches on a synopsis, which I want to submit to a publisher, and which a very kind friend has agreed to pass on.  I am having a horrid time taking the elements and boiling them down into a 2 page (max) synopsis.  I have some grasp of it.  I think (bronchitis and a headache is impeding my thought process) but it is truly wretched, the book is truly wretched, I am truly wretched, and that divan, complete with Robert Taylor of that age and build, is sounding better and better.  How on earth does anyone do it?

I'm off to slog, cough, go to the doctor, and drink tea.

Visit the other blogs on this wonderful hop.  I guarantee, the other bloggers have a lot more to say, and a lot more on point.  (Cough!)

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Lady with the Pen - An interview with Inge H Borg

I am delighted to present an interview with Inge H. Borg, a multi-talented lady who writes fascinating novels covering several different genres.  I think an interesting life makes for interesting writing (and considerable charm) and Inge fits this notion.  She graciously agreed to let me interview her:

You are  a lady who knows what she likes and has the Austrian flair for expression and charm.

Diana, thank you for your kind words. Now that my head is bigger, i.e. swelled, I am happy to answer some questions. I really do appreciate my visit with you and your blog-fans here.

In the time that I have known Inge H. Borg (her author’s name) I have learned that she is humorous, wise, understanding, with a spark of mischief.  I also learned, to my surprise, that she was not born speaking English, but learned this terribly difficult language, which she speaks better than I do. 

In the course of our conversations she has let slip facts about her life that hint of travel, of cosmopolitan experiences, with a dash of intrigue.  So let me ask: can you tell us about your life, where you grew up, what you learned and where (schools?  Training?) and what brought you here? 

I am an old Austrian mountain goat (think Heidi), but left home on a long train ride when I was 18 to do the “au pair-thing,” first in London and then in Paris. An opportunity opened up and I worked a year in Moscow at the French Embassy (Talk about intrigues. Perhaps better not.) 

I actually vacationed in Sochi (recently of Olympic fame). This is interesting because I left Russia for a great job at the 1964 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck from where I was transferred to Vienna to help prepare for the Tokyo Games; alas, I had to wait for another 8 years before I got there on a tour. 

In Vienna, a new company recognized me as a ‘gypsy’ and sent me to Chicago. After three years, my heels itched and I moved to Boston. Loved that town! However, a former NYC multi-national corporation beckoned and I moved to New Hampshire to join the ranks of “them,” meaning that if you were recognized as one of “them,” the price went up as soon as you entered an antique store 

During another frigid winter, somebody said that I would love San Diego with its good opera and palm trees. That was enough for me...except that my boos cautioned that in California, they were all crazy and young. Heck, I wasn’t even dead yet. Sold my little house, gave the cat away (he rejoined me via American Airlines six months later), and drove my little Opel cross-country. And what a grandiose country it is! 

After I managed to buy a townhouse in La Jolla, that Jewel of the Pacific Coast, I thought I had died and gone to heaven – I also thought I would never leave it. You know what they say! Okay, it was time to come down from my lofty existence, and I searched the Internet for a little house I might like with high ceilings and a garage. Anywhere on a lake. “Anywhere” turned out to be in the Foothills of the Ozarks. I mean, Arkansas. 

Okay. Off I went. This time in an older Volvo and with my old cat. House turned out to be perfect. While I am not right on the lake, I look out over a golfcourse. Alas, once again, it is colder than I had imagined and I dream of warm ocean breezes and tropical islands. Who knows what the future holds. 

Aren’t you sorry now you asked?
Not at all, Inge.  As one who moved a great deal, I admire your adventurous outlook. 

I encountered you for the first time on Goodreads, where you are a Goodreads author.  You had quite a few books to your credit – poetry, humor, intrigue.  Can you tell me about them?

Inge H. Borg's books, from Mystery to Intrigue to Poetry to heartwarming memories...
 I am glad you touched on some of my books’ ‘traits.’ Probably like most of us, I started out being ‘earnest’ with my outpourings, mainly my poems. 

Then, I discovered that there was this mischievous splint in my soul and I dared to mix some lighter stuff into my writing (and if anyone asks, I will steadfastly deny that any of that stemmed from my own experiences. I will also deny that I sometimes tell a fib). 

How long have you been writing?

I began to concoct fairly good essays rather early mostly to make up for my mathematical ineptitude. (My mother even told the school principal to ‘let it go.’ It was hereditary.) Luckily, the stunned man obliged and let me matriculate with good grades all around.

Tell me about passages in your books of which you are most proud of. 

I feel that the three Prologues for Khamsin, Sirocco and Cataclysm are my most ‘cherished’ passages. They set the mood, introduce foreboding, and even clarify the choice for the titles. But for the sake of not making this interview interminable (people hate that), why don’t I post them separately on my blog. By the way, there is a funny annotation from a native English-speaker after he was told (by me) to leave them alone!

What was it that made you start writing?

You mean, books? Actually, it was a chance suggestion from a colleague at work. I started my painstaking research (no Internet then) in 1991. When I had Khamsin done (all 250,000 words of it), my eager ‘mentor’ offered himself up to be my ‘editor.’ 

The outcome was quite funny (in retrospect). Not to bore you here, I will write another post for my blog as to how that little venture worked out:


I have linked to my review of Khamsin.  The happenings of that novel appear in your later ones, most intriguingly.  Tell us about that.

After years of querying agents (surely you remember that painful process), just about two years ago, I happened on an article about Amazon’s self-publishing opportunities. I slashed and burned 100,000 words until I was happy with this Historical Fiction novel about Ancient Egypt. 

The learning curve of figuring out how to format for e-book and print was as steep as my first cover was banal. Luckily, we befriended each other on Goodreads – with the result that you designed a wonderful cover for Khamsin; windswept and foreboding; I can taste the gritty sand between my teeth. You also inserted a winged scarab which I then gave more importance in the novel itself—hence, the Legends of the Winged Scarab series was born; thanks to your inspiration. 

Book 2 - SIROCCO, Storm over Land and Sea- is a modern-day archaeological thriller that deals with the Golden Tablets from Khamsin. From Cairo to the Kharga Oasis, through the Red Sea. A storm-tossed sailboat in the Med, with action on Cyprus and a devastating sirocco that sweeps over Crete. (Travel, anyone?)

One of the main characters is a powerful fierce Egyptian archaeologist who has vowed to save his country’s heritage from the new Morsi government; and is fired for it. Oh, he always wears a Fedora hat. (Anyone?)
What projects are you working on at the moment in the writing field?

I am working on Book 3 – After the Cataclysm. We now follow those Golden Tablets to an island off Venezuela. I have also given a real ghost ship a new life (they are still looking for it in the Atlantic; I will have a link to its dedicated website in my book). This dystopian novel plays out around 2016 after the eruption of a super-volcano.

You have written about, and worked with, rescued shelter animals and have adopted two beautiful Maine Coon cats. Pasha and Lilliput. Since Pasha  is the more gregarious one, his handsome self is on the cover of his own book.  This obviously plays a large part in your life: tell us about it.

After I retired and moved to Arkansas, I was roped in for an hour or two a week to do volunteer work at a small local animal shelter. You know how that goes.

Within a short time, I had chucked my high heels and silk suits and was scooping you-know-what on a regular basis. My book not only tells of the wonderful cats and dogs we cared for, but of some of my initial hilarious ineptitudes and how I was taught to overcome my lifelong cynophobia; by the dogs, of course. 

Let us pretend that you somehow came into a situation where you could go wherever you wished and do whatever you wished.  Where would you go, and what would you do?

Have a delightful, simply little bungalow in Hana on Maui. There, on my terrace facing the ocean, I would – what else – write the day away. 

If you could go back to any time in history, whether ancient or recent, where would you go?

I often felt that I was born one hundred years too late, and that I would have loved Vienna during the last of its imperial hurrah. Of course, my dream fully assumes that I would have belonged to the privileged few. If, in reality, I would have been a chambermaid or worse, things obviously would not have been so much to my liking. Ah yes, we all have our little illusions about ourselves...I only pray that I do not have them about spewing forth pertinent and interesting words by the thousands.

I am going to be coming by for dinner at your house, Inge.  What would you serve?

How delightful, Diana. I know that you are a good cook. I, however, am an utter disaster in the kitchen. So, if you want meat, I hope you like shoe-leather.

Hm...  Shoe leather...  I think that is called Jerky here.  I like jerky, but perhaps I'll roll up my sleeves and cook something while you entertain me with sparkling conversation and some Merlot (see below).

I have two menus for dinner guests; after that, understanding friends are either served the same thing, or guests don’t come again. Since one of my menus includes fresh seafood (easy when I lived in San Diego), things are a bit more dicey in Arkansas. Here, the stuff is either frozen or it’s fried catfish. So, I think I’ll serve my failsafe cheese/broccoli soufflĂ© with a nice Merlot (same difficulty goes for wine; this is a dry county and my neighbors and I often lug contraband for the whole street over from the next county); astounding—or  should I say archaic—laws in this day and age. 

But I am sure your blog-fans are not interested my lack of culinary prowess. Hopefully, they’ll want to check out my writing as well as that of other talented Indie authors whom I have featured on my two blogs. 

For my historical fiction, my blog is:

Pasha, that sweet beast, has his own blog where I also feature other authors and their animals.

To toot my own horn, I hope that your readers will check out my various author pages:

Diana, thank you again for having me on your great blog.

It is always a pleasure 'talking' with you, Inge, and I think everyone will enjoy the links and the books and getting to know you.  ...now, about that Merlot? 

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Khamsin The Devil Wind of the NileKhamsin The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ancient Egypt is thought of, by many, as the dawn of history. This book takes you to a time that is before history, bringing to life names that we only know from fragments, harking to a rhythm and image that is smoothed and darkened by time. And yet the author makes them human.

This is the very earliest period of dynastic Egypt, a time when the border between history and legend is blurred, when the kings and queens of that land seem to be gods that stepped down from the bowl of the sky and trod the land...

The author states:
At the dawn of the great Egyptian dynasties, before any Pyramids were built and the camel was introduced to the Nile regions, certainly long before the royal title of Pharaoh came into use, Aha rules as the second King of the First Dynasty... H i8s triumph and tragedy plays out centuries before the Greek colonization of the Two Lands... To this day our vague answers are drawn only from relics and mummies of much later dynasties, their cities wrenched from the hot red dust driven into the verdant river valley for fifty days by the Khamsin, the dreaded Devil Wind of the Nile. In Khamsin, the reader is immersed in the life of the fertile Valley of the Nile, as flesh and muscle have been molded back onto those brittle bones...

She molds them well. We meet characters that catch the exotic cadences of the faraway times as we follow the fate of a life conceived in the beginning pages. We watch first one character and then another - the general of the Fourth Army of Amun, who is tender to his faraway wife, lusty with a woman of the desert, and crafty. (And I must remember never to go back to that time and agree to carry an important message...)

And we meet Ramose...

This is a story to savor, written lusciously, with care and enjoyment. I grew to love Ramose, to enjoy his dry wit and his wide-eyed mysticism. The writing is lyrical at times, so rare in a time of utilitarianism, and the Khamsin is in the background, lending its tone to the story.

I enjoyed this - and I rejoice to tell you that Ms. Borg has written another, arising from this but far, far in the future from this story. I think you will enjoy it, too.
View all my reviews