Monday, August 30, 2010

Guest blog with Linda Weaver Clarke

Today, we welcome Linda Weaver Clarke for a guest blog. Her latest book, Mayan Intrigue, was released today, so please check it out.

Romance VS Mystery!
 by Linda Weaver Clarke

I have written five historical romance novels but have changed to mystery. The writing process between romance and mystery is quite a change with a completely different mind set. It’s so different from telling a love story. With romance, you plan out the plot around the meeting of a couple. As you write, you develop some sort of charisma between the characters, making the reader feel excited that one day they're going to hit it off and fall in love. You, as the reader, know what the outcome will be. But with a mystery, the reader is in the dark. The author has to come up with a plot that no one knows about until towards the end of the story and hope they haven’t figured it out. In a mystery, you may or may not allow your reader to know who the bad guys are, according to whether it’s just a mystery or mystery suspense. Do you know the difference between a mystery and a mystery suspense novel? In a mystery, when a knock is heard at the door, the reader doesn't know who's behind it. With mystery suspense, the reader knows who's behind the door and yells to the heroine, "Don't open the door!"

Anasazi Intrigue is the first book in a mystery adventure series called “The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.” It’s about a devastating flood that takes out several homes in a small town, the importance of preserving ancient artifacts, and a few puzzling and mysterious events. Julia is a reporter, and when she finds out about a possible poison spill that kills some fish and neighbor's pets, she has a feeling that something isn’t quite right. Before she realizes what is happening, Julia finds out that this incident is much bigger and more dangerous than she thought. With dead fish, a devastating flood, and miscreants chasing John and Julia, they have their hands full.

Artifact theft is a very intriguing subject. That’s why I call it the Intrigue series. In my research, I found that archaeological thievery is becoming more and more of a problem every year. Did you know that looting is only second to selling illegal drugs? While researching the second book in this series, Mayan Intrigue, my eyes were opened to the problems they have in southern Mexico. When an ancient ruin is discovered, it doesn’t take long for thieves to take it apart. The reason why is because the Mayas used astrological alignments when planning their city. Looters have learned the layout of the Mayan cities so they know where to dig. With this knowledge, they can loot a sacred temple in a few days. I also found that artifact theft in Mexico has been taken over by drug dealers from Columbia. In other words, since organized crime has taken over, there is also an increase of violence.

Mayan Intrigue was released today, on August 30th, and I’m having a celebration with a book give-away at my Blog at Mayan Intrigue is about the discovery of a priceless artifact that puts Julia’s life in great danger. While on assignment for the newspaper, John and Julia try to enjoy a romantic vacation among the Mayan ruins, but when Julia accidentally comes upon a couple suspicious men exchanging an item, she quickly turns and leaves but it’s too late. Before John and Julia realize what's going on, they find themselves running for their lives through the jungles of the Yucatan. To read an excerpt from each of my books, you can visit

Monday, August 23, 2010

Author Interview: Linda Weaver Clarke

Author Linda Weaver Clarke is releasing the second book in her Intrigue series, Mayan Intrigue, on August 30th. Learn a little about her and her decision to move from writing historical romance to mystery. Next week, come back to celebrate the launch of her new book by reading her guest blog on the subject of romance vs. mystery!

Jennifer Walker: You have spent a lot of time teaching people how to write their family histories and writing historical novels. What draws you to history, and did you develop research skills in this other work that helped you with your new Intrigue series?

Linda Weaver Clarke
: I always enjoy putting a little history in each of my novels to educate my readers. In historical romance, it’s a must and I continued with my research for my new series. The mysteries of the Anasazi Indians, the Mayas, Montezuma’s Treasure, and the Lost Dutchman Mine have intrigued archaeologists and scientists for many years. In the Adventures of John and Julia Evans series, I delve into such mysteries. I love research, so when I turned to mystery, I just knew I would put a little history into my books. It makes it fun to write. I learned so much about artifact theft and what the Mayan culture was like while writing my Intrigue series.

Jennifer Walker: What made you decide to make the switch from romance to mystery? Do you think you'll ever go back?

Linda Weaver Clarke
: I wanted to do something different. I loved writing historical romance, sweet romance that is, because I’m a romantic at heart but I wanted to try mystery. It was such a challenge at first because the mind set is so different from writing love stories. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. I’m always wanting to learn and try something different but I haven’t abandoned the romance completely. I can’t help but add a bit of romance in each of these books.

When I was young, one of my favorite television shows was Hart to Hart, which featured a married couple investigating and solving crimes. The couple was madly in love–you laughed at the humor and sighed at the romance. I wanted to create something similar, with a little suspense and adventure. Julia is a reporter for a daily newspaper, and John is a professional knife maker. Because of her curiosity and wanting to get a good story, Julia gets herself into a bunch of trouble. Before long, she finds herself and her husband up to their necks in danger and running for their lives.

Jennifer Walker: Are there any similarities between writing romance and mystery, or are they completely different?

Linda Weaver Clarke
: The only similarity I can think of is the development of the characters. Other than that, they are completely different. With romance you know the couple is going to fall in love, but with a mystery the reader is in the dark until towards the ending of the book. With each novel, I was worried that my readers might figure out what was going on and then it wouldn’t be a mystery. I had to read my first mystery to my husband to see if he could figure it out. He’s a real sleuth. When he didn’t see it coming and was surprised, then I realized that I had been successful in hiding the truth until the ending. For my first two mysteries, I chose to use the mystery/suspense feel. That is when your reader knows who the bad guys are. That brings on a more tense situation. With my last book in this series, I chose to use the mystery feel, where my readers don’t know who the bad guys are.

Jennifer Walker: Why did you choose to write about Mayans and looters for your next book?

Linda Weaver Clarke
: I have always been intrigued by the American past. I have researched it so much that I felt ready to begin my new mystery series. I love learning about the culture of other people, so the Mayans were no exception. I learned to respect their ancestors. They were so intelligent that it was almost mind-boggling. I learned that the Mayan calendar is more accurate than ours because they don’t even have a leap year. I learned that the Mayan roads still exist today because of their expert knowledge in making cement. And this is only a couple things out of many that I learned. In fact, the bibliography of Mayan Intrigue is two pages at the back of the book.

Why did I choose looters and artifact theft for this series? When I learned about how much was happening today, I was shocked. The damage to archaeological sites is estimated at almost $42,000 in two year’s time. An ancient funeral pit can be sold for as high as $60,000 on the black market, not to mention pottery, baskets, and pendants found by looters. An article in the Las Vegas Newspaper was published about a couple men who were loading some artifacts in the trunk of their car. A ranger saw what they were doing and questioned them, not realizing he had accidentally stumbled upon the largest operation around. The article said they recovered more than 11,100 relics. Did you know that people are actually selling shards and arrowheads on websites? Well, anyway, the subject to me was very intriguing, so I called it the Intrigue series.

Jennifer Walker: Do you think you'll stick with mysteries for a while, or is there another genre you find intriguing?

Linda Weaver Clarke
: Right now I’m so busy traveling throughout the U.S., teaching people how to write their own family history that I can’t think that far ahead. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. History is part of our lives. If we don’t research and learn about our ancestors, then how can we appreciate what they did in life? We are the people we are because of our ancestors. We need to teach our children their heritage. If they can understand that, then they might make better decisions in their lives. Sometimes it helps us to know our past before we can understand our present or future. I also love meeting people. To find out what I do or read sample chapters of my books, visit

Monday, August 16, 2010

This week's book giveaway

From our friend, Linda Weaver Clarke:

Interview with Best Selling Author Rachel Ann Nunes! Book Give-Away August
16 - 23: for those interested in Imprints, leave a comment about this
interview with your e-mail at U.S.
and Canada.

Contemporary romance: A young woman is missing. In desperation, her
parents turn to Autumn Rain for help. Autumn reads imprints - emotions
mysteriously left behind on certain treasured objects. But will this
ability enrich her life or destroy it? Autumn isn't sure - her life has
become far from normal - but for people whose loved ones are missing, her
talent might mean the difference between life and death.

Best Wishes,
Linda Weaver Clarke

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This week's book giveaway

Here is this week's book giveaway from our friend, Linda Weaver Clarke:

Interview with Best Selling Mystery Romance Author Betsy Brannon Green! Book Give-Away August 2 - 9: for those interested in Murder by the Book, leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail at U.S. and Canada.
"Betsy Brannon Green skillfully weaves a rich tale of intrigue and romance in a small Southern town."
Small-town librarian Kennedy Killingsworth thought that Midway, Georgia, was the dullest place on earth until a fateful day that begins with a speeding ticket and ends with a suicide. The ticket comes from Kennedy's ex-husband, Deputy Cade Burrell, who seems desperate to find any reason to talk to her. And the victim is Foster Scoggins, the leathery-faced resident who applied for a library card, just hours before his gruesome death. Rumors fly that Foster took his life after being jilted by a mysterious love interest. But why would he apply for a library card if he were going to end his life? Betsy Brannon Green skillfully weaves a rich tale of intrigue and romance in a Southern town that, for the time being is anything but dull.

Best Wishes,Linda Weaver Clarke

Have a book giveaway you'd like me to post? Drop me a line!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Author Interview: Helena P. Schrader

Yesterday, I reviewed Helena P. Schrader's The Olympic Charioteer. Today, learn a little more about her and what went into the writing of this fascinating book! Don't forget to read the review.

Jennifer Walker: You obviously have a great affinity for Ancient Greece and its peoples. What piqued your interest in this subject?

Helena P. Schrader
: What drove me to start writing about archaic Sparta was learning about how Athenian women were treated much like women under the Taliban in Afghanistan today, while Spartan women enjoyed respect, education, economic power, and physical freedom. Because I had been raised on the usual fare of "enlightened" Athens and "militaristic" - not to say brutal and backward - Sparta, this discovery made me want to learn more about Sparta.  The more I read, the more I realized that there is a great deal of false information - or at least misconceptions about Sparta - in circulation today. I'm a bit of a crusader, who loves to take up "lost causes," and I have always used my fiction to draw attention to issues and perspectives that have either been neglected - as with the German Resistance - or misrepresented as in the case of Sparta. It was the great contrast between the scholarly evidence about Sparta and popular images that made me feel writing one - or more - good novels about Sparta would do more to correct misconceptions than yet another scholarly work.  I also developed a website aimed at laymen looking into the subject for the first time. This is "Sparta Reconsidered" at:

Jennifer Walker: You seem to have a lot of knowledge of chariot racing and horses. Do you have any real-life experience with this, or is it all based on research?

Helena P. Schrader
: I have loved horses since I was a child, ridden on four continents (North and South America, Europe and Africa), and I have owned three horses to date. I earned my Assistant Instructors certificate from the British Horse Society right after high school, and most recently I rode polo ponies in Lagos, Nigeria. While in graduate school at the University of Kentucky, I used to hot-walk race horses at Keenland racetrack to earn extra money. All this contributed to my understanding of horses, horse-breeding, training and horse handling. But I must confess I  never learned to drive horses. I'd love to learn. Maybe that's something I can do in my old age, when I'm too crippled to mount a horse..

Jennifer Walker: Are there other areas of history you are interested in?

Helena P. Schrader
: Absolutely! I earned a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg, Germany with a dissertation on a leader of the German military resistance to Hitler. I conducted hundreds of interviews with survivors of Nazi Germany for that work, but so much of the information gleaned from those interviews was not directly pertinent or suitable for use in the dissertation.  So I developed a novel instead, An Obsolete Honor. Yet even before I wrote that, I lived in England and became fascinated with the Battle of Britain. I read every single first-hand account I could lay my hands on and I don't know how many histories. The result was my novel Chasing the Wind, which RAF Battle of Britain ace Wing Commander Bob Doe called "the best book" he had ever read on the Battle. He wrote me to say I had "got it smack on the way it was for us fighter pilots." As a historical fiction writer, there is no higher compliment than to have someone who actually lived through the period of your novel say you got it "smack on." Being a best seller would not mean as much to me.  So, you can see, World War Two is another period I'm interested in.  Last but not least, I'm fascinated by late medieval England/France/Palestine.  I've written a trilogy of novels about the Knights Templar, but they are out of print. I've also written a trilogy about Cyprus under the Frankish kings, which I consider one of my best, but I've never really tried to publish it because the subject is too obscure to have much of a market.  Instead, I plan a biographical novel of Edward of Woodstock, more commonly known as the Black Prince, and his wife "the Fair Maid of Kent." That will be a really fun project!

Jennifer Walker: Do you do a lot of traveling? Where have you been, and was there a specific reason for it?

Helena P. Schrader
: My father was a professor, who was sent on an academic exchange program to Japan when I was two years old. We returned from Japan two years later by way Asia and Europe. In short, I had circumnavigated the globe by the age of five. Two years later my father went to Brazil. Again we traveled home the round about way, up the west coast of South America, sometimes traveling by train or boat.  At 15 my family moved to the UK for two years, and after finishing my MA at the University of Kentucky, I went to Germany to work on my PhD. There I  married and worked for 20 years before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. I am now a career diplomat and have served in Oslo, Norway as a Vice Consul and in Lagos, Nigeria as a Political Officer.  I will be heading for my next overseas assignment in August.

Jennifer Walker: What was the inspiration for this book? Can you talk about the historical significance of the characters and events?

Helena P. Schrader
: I read in Herodotus about the incident that forms the core of this book - the defeat of Sparta by Tegea and how the captives were put in chains. Then while reading Pausanias' description of Laceadeamon, he reported seeing these chains in a temple in Tegea hundreds of years later. I had seen the chains of the freed Christians in the cathedral in Toledo and something "clicked." I knew this was a story I wanted to write. But I also was fascinated by the fact that Sparta, despite its alleged military might and militaristic cult, ended up not going to war again but making a treaty with Tegea. This treaty then because the first of a series of non-aggressive pacts that ultimately led to the founding of the Peloponnesian League. Again, it struck me that while most people see Sparta as nothing more than an armed camp with a unidimensional focus on all things military, it was actually its diplomatic success that made it a power to be reckoned with. As a diplomat that naturally appealed to me. After I'd selected this incident in history, the story just fell together. I have very strong characters in all my books and I give them a great deal of freedom to see what they want to do within the parameters I set.  The whole section on Teleklos and his grieving for his son, for example, just wrote itself. I didn't have to think about it; just sit down at the computer, put myself in Teleklos' skin and the story flowed out. That was the section, incidently, that needed the least editing and polishing as well.

Jennifer Walker: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? How did you get your first book published, and has it gotten easier since then?

Helena P. Schrader
: I cannot remember a time when I did not want to be a writer and I wrote my first book when I was in second grade. The first book I published was my dissertation, and then during a period of unemployment I wrote a comparative study of American and British women pilots during WWII. I sent letters of inquiry with sample chapters to 18 agents and all of them rejected it because there was "no market for it." So, since it was finished anyway, I did my research and wrote to six specialty publishers with an interest in aviation, military or women's books. Three of the six were interested. In the end, I published that book, Sisters in Arms, with one publisher (Pen and Sword), and got a contract - with a substantial advance - for another book, The Blockade Breakers, from a different publisher. Ultimately, I sold three books to good publishers and earned very respectable advances on all three. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I also lost all respect for agents and never bothered with them again. This is the reason I decided to self-publish my novels. Very few publishers will accept unsolicited novels and this makes working through an agent a virtual necessity. I preferred the satisfaction and control of self-publishing.  The drawback is that I do not have the time or resources to market my books the way a mainstream, commercial publisher can. So sales are clearly far less than what they would be if I had gone the conventional route.  All of my non-fiction books, although only targeting niche markets, have sold better than my novels just by virtue of having a good publisher with a marketing machine behind them.  Every author must therefore decide what is most important to them. If they want to go for the "big bucks" and fame, they would be well advised to keep pitching to agents in order to get contracts with the majors. If , however, they are more interested in having greater control of design, covers, price etc. - and in getting more rapidly published  - then they might want to consider self-publishing. But they need to be aware that they will then have to invest their own time and money in marketing their books.

Jennifer Walker: What is your next writing project?

Helena P. Schrader
: I am completing a trilogy of biographical novels about King Leonidas, the commander of the 300 Spartans who died at Thermopylae fighting a Persian invasion in 480 BC.  The first book in the trilogy, focusing on Leonidas' youth and education in the infamous Sparta agoge (A Boy of the Agoge), is due for release this fall. In fact, I just signed off on the final proofs. The first draft of the second book, looking at his life as an ordinary Spartan citizen before he became King (A Peerless Peer), is finished, and I've received initial feedback from my editor. I hope to have that to my publisher next year.  I am working on the first draft of the third and final book (A Dispensable King), which will describe how Leonidas became king, his reign and death at Thermopylae.  Then I move on to the biographical novel in four parts of Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any hobbies outside of writing and writing-related activities?

Helena P. Schrader
: Aside from writing and horses, I am also a sailor.  When I was younger I crewed on the British Sail Training Association schooners Sir Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller as a petty officer or Watch Leader. That was truly exciting, standing watches at night on the North Sea, or working aloft on the yards - these were topmast schooners with two square sails as well as standard fore-and-aft rig. Now, my husband and I just do a little day sailing in an old 26' boat inherited from my parents. We don't race or cruise the boat, but we have a lot of fun in some of the best sailing waters in the world: Blue Hill Bay, just the other side of Mount Desert from Bar Harbor.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any influences on your writing career?

Helena P. Schrader
:  I'm not sure I know what you mean.  All of my writing reflects my experiences in life and my understanding of human nature. Every day, every person I meet, every spiritual encounter I have, every book I read etc. etc. influences me and so my writing in some way. As for my "career," I don't think I have one. I am driven to write because these stories are in me clamoring to get out. I have to write to remain sane. I think, however, that other people can benefit from reading them just as I have benefited so immeasurably from the good books of others from Herodotus on down, so I don't only write I also seek to get the books published and sold. However, I could never make a living from my writing, and I'm happy that way.  This way, I have a stable income and my work gives me unending new experiences and lessons about human nature that feed into my writing, making it better.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any advice to share with other authors about writing or book promotion?

Helena P. Schrader
: First, write only what you are passionate about writing - what is in you, not what you think will sell. Second, learn to enjoy rewriting, polishing, editing, and rewriting again and again as much as you enjoy the initial rush of adrenalin when writing a scene for the first time. Third, don't write for the money or expect to get rich.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your family and pets.

Helena P. Schrader
: I am married with no children, and currently have no pets because my life-style of moving to different foreign countries every few years would be an unnecessary hardship on the animals.  I had to sell my dearly beloved chestnut gelding Wapiti when I joined the Foreign Service. However, I hope to own a horse again when I retire and to have cats and a dog as well. (My husband is not so sure about all this, but I'm sure we'll find a compromise.)

Jennifer Walker: If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?

Helena P. Schrader
: I think I'd start with goat's cheese and rosemary on toasted baguette slices drenched in olive oil, followed by steak and finish with Tiramasu. But tomorrow or a couple hours from now it might be something else - like fresh Maine lobster bits mixed with onions and mushrooms in a cream sauce on fettuccine with Parmesan cheese over it, and fresh raspberry pie with ice-cream for dessert. I love food!

Thanks to Helena for stopping by. It's been fascinating getting to know you!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Review: The Olympic Charioteer, by Helena P. Schrader

The Olympic Charioteer, by Helena P. Schrader

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (August 22, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0595367828
Rating (1 to 5 *): *****

Book Review: The Olympic Charioteer

Phillip is not just any slave. Not only does he possess a level of pride not typical of someone of his station, as well as a death wish, but when horse breeder and important politician Antyllus purchases him to save him from a horrible fate, he learns just how unusual Phillip is. For one thing, despite his insolence and sarcasm, Phillip has obviously had training in deportment and rhetoric. For another, he has a way with horses that rivals that of all Antyllus’s stable slaves.

Antyllus is training his team of chariot horses in hopes of an Olympic victory, but he needs a skilled driver. He recognizes potential in Phillip and teaches him to drive to assist in training sessions, and when Phillip learns so quickly as to surpass Antyllus in skill, the politician finds that he has found his Olympic charioteer—and that is when he finds out exactly where his mysterious slave came from.

The Olympic Charioteer takes the reader to ancient Greece and into a world of politics and intrigue, painting a picture of social and political life in Tegea and Sparta of the day. Although the story is fictional, Helena P. Schrader’s intense level knowledge of the era brings the story alive in a very authentic way. The story explores the conflicts between the two city-states that eventually led to the series of non-aggression pacts that later formed the Peloponnesian League.

Helena P. Schrader’s The Olympic Charioteer is a brilliant tapestry of Ancient Greece, with brilliant characters and scenery. It is a story for everyone: those interested in history should find this to be a realistic portrayal of what might have happened during this time, while those who enjoy romance will get that fix as well. There are also liberal sprinklings of mystery, drama and action. A fascinating read!

Come back tomorrow for an author interview with Helena P. Schrader. Find out more about this fascinating lady and the inspiration for The Olympic Charioteer!

Thank you to Helena for providing a free copy of this book for review.