Friday, October 30, 2009


WHY WE WRITE, a digression by Jim Woods

The three basic reasons that writers write creatively and voluntarily are therapy, money and immortality. I use the disclaimer “voluntarily” because some authors, advertising copywriters for instance, or research and scientific report writers, write because they are required to as a condition of their work. This obviously may be classed as writing for money, but it can’t be considered under the voluntary reasons for creative writing.

Grief is a strong motivator for writing. Pain is eased, suffering is shared, death is made easier for the living, as all these become the subjects or objects of writing. Words that might never be spoken aloud are often given full voice when their effects are committed to paper. Therapy writers seldom are widely recognized for their literary efforts, and in truth, most of such writing is not intended to be seen by anyone but the writer and very close family and confidantes, and perhaps others who have experienced similar circumstances as the writer.

Writing for therapy crosses into writing for immortality, especially in relation to the genre of family history. Recalling, in print, the accomplishments, disappointments, failures, foibles, and personalities of distant and current family members makes for good literature– for a limited audience. That readership, limited though it might be, usually is greater in number than for the more private grief therapy writing. The writing also revives the past, and that gives its subjects, as well as the writer, a measure of immortality.

Of course, if that writing was widely read while the writer lived– a best seller– then the author might have claimed long-lived notoriety as well as money. Writing for wealth, as opposed to writing for wages, is a goal for many but an accomplishment for few. As long as literary success is measured in money, it follows that the writer whose books sell more copies makes more money. Almost everyone who writes for commercial reasons, and that would be every writer other than those writing for therapy or immortality, expects to author a best seller. Book sales numbers will prove that to be a goal rarely attained. A case could be made that immortality is more likely for a commercially successful writer than one not so successful. It stands to reason that the more copies of a book in existence, the more likely that more of them survive time.

Author immortality, rather than subject immortality, may just be the most important motivator in writing. A commercially published work that is a financial failure is printed on the same stock as a best seller. Vanity published works also can be recorded on durable paper. The fact that books, however well they sold or how well they were written, frequently are not so fragile as the flesh of the writer, and that allows the books to be more lasting that the authors themselves. We write, therefore, perhaps to leave something of us behind for future generations, but more likely for those future generations simply to take note that we passed this way before them. A paper-printed work may not be thought to be as durable as granite engraving, but it tells so much more about the person than the stone alone.

And all this is simply one man’s opinion.

~ * ~

Contributed by Jim Woods, author of Champagne Books Assassination Safari, Parting Shot and Gunshot Echoes.

Website: Email:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five Things You Might As Well Say Goodbye To Now by Ed Williams

Five Things You Might As Well Say Goodbye To Now

(in no particular order)

1. Newspapers –

Don’t get me wrong, I think there will always be the reporting of news and newspapers, but I think their current mode of delivery – the “paper” newspaper – is dead. It’s not time efficient, as you get your news from cable or the internet right when it happens versus getting it from your newspaper sometimes the next day. Hopefully the Amazon Kindle will help revive newspapers, but just do a Google search on them and you’ll see the dismal state of the business. Senator John Kerry summed it up best recently when he said, “Today, newspapers look like an endangered species.” I think it’s beyond that, in fact, I think the fork is already in ‘em.

2. Cash/Currency –

The only thing I use cash for now is to plunk quarters into the machines at my local car wash. Other than that, I use my debit and/or credit cards to pay for stuff. It’s safer, easier, and if you think I’m kidding here just take note of the fact that lots of the fast food joints are having card readers installed right into their drive-throughs. And, as our fast food joints go, so will go the rest of the nation. Just watch.

3. Paper or Clothbound Books –

Thank God there will always be books, but they’re going to follow the same road the newspapers are currently traveling. The book publishing business model has always been inefficient – a publisher buys the rights to a manuscript, assigns editors and cover artists, and then stacks the books up in a warehouse and hopes to God that lightening will strike and the books will sell. Mostly they don’t, but the few “hits” that occur provide them the revenues to keep going. The conversion to digital, in my opinion, will help more writers get their works out and will be easier on the trees as well. I fully support it.

4. John Edwards –

Let’s see, you have an affair, birth a kid with your mistress, and then your current wife writes a book about it which she’s shilling on all the major networks and cable outlets. Classy. He’s more done than a Krystal cheeseburger.

5. U.S. Car Companies –

They were already dinosaurs, and all the king’s money and all the king’s men won’t be able to put them back together again. Take a drive out on any major highway system and watch what passes by you, that should tell you all you need to know.

(Not that it matters, but here’s a bonus one for y’all) - Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard -

Actually, we said goodbye to them both after their respective American Idol seasons ended, talk about two guys who didn’t do squat afterwards! How did Chris Daughtry and Kelli Pickler lose, yet these guys win?

So, whatcha think? Am I right? Are there any I should’ve mentioned?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hitting the High Note by Nan D. Arnold

A novel of women’s fiction
Nan D. Arnold
By Champagne Books
Details at

We all know Maggie Duncan. She’s the woman in the grocery isle who could be our next door neighbor. The one who made bad choices. Staring the big five oh in the face, she takes stock. Having married unwisely and eschewed children, she now finds herself widowed and unattached. She is gaining weight everywhere but where she could use some fat-in the heels of her feet.

Looking for a spark, she finds one in the form of a blue knit dress promising to remain wrinkle free no matter what. Maggie thinks that would make a good article for a travel magazine and gives the premise a real workout once she meets an AWOL opera star by chance in a convenience store.

Lorenzo Pazzazzi, an aging baritone nursing a bruised ego following bad reviews, poses as a tourist called “Stavros”. He sees instantly that Maggie is pedaling along life’s highway without amorĂ©; so, he commences to romance her as only The Great Pazzazzi can. He invites her to his place for a glass of wine but his brother, in drag to foil paparazzi, shows up unexpectedly at the front door. Fearful Maggie may learn who he really is, Lorenzo shoos her out his back door. Trouble is, wine-befuddled Maggie forgets her purse-the one holding a favorite photo of her deceased mother. She rounds the building to collect her purse, and what’s left of her pride, but Stavros is no where to be found. Instead, Maggie is greeted by an inhospitable Amazon who gives her the bum’s rush. Miffed, Maggie decides to involve cops. Detective Bruce Herring enters the picture and there’s an immediate attraction between he and Maggie.

Soon, Lorenzo’s shenanigans not only involve Bruce Herring but also The Green Socks Gang, wacko pie-chucking environmentalists, when the singer pretends to be a member of the group.

The Green Socks Gang is harmless unless you’re befouling the oceans, ripping out trees, or reneging on political promises germane to the environment. The worst punishment they administer is lemon meringue pie in the kisser. However, when the gang learns Lorenzo sometimes poses as a member, they’re displeased. They decide to kidnap this poseur to their cause and teach him a lesson about honesty.

Lorenzo, unaware he’s actually being stalked by the gang, pretends to Maggie he’s not really a member of the Green Socks Gang, but their potential kidnap victim targeted for ransom and he needs her help because he can’t involve the cops. He hopes this ploy will engender sympathy, thus speeding their way along to l’amour.

Maggie remembers Bruce Herring wore green socks when first they met, with black pants. The fashion faux pas was, he said, due to an affliction: color blindness. Perhaps, or is he, too, a Green Sockser? No, he’s really a cop, and one of a disparate cast trying to lure bad boy baritone Lorenzo back to Italy before he garners any negative press.

Along the way, the attraction between Maggie and Bruce grows. Then she’s dragged into the fray between Lorenzo and The Green Socks Gang while trying to reclaim her purse and that precious photo. Who teaches her to hit the high notes of life’s song, the sexy singer or the rock solid cop?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Conversation Overdrive

“Conversation Overdrive”

Have you ever stood around gabbing with a group of people at some function, and have the conversation go off in a weird direction?

That happened to me just last night. I was invited to a little after hours business mixer type deal, and found myself standing around with a group of four other people, two men and two women. As we stood there gabbing, one of the men made the comment that it was summer, and because of the heat that he slept with just his white briefs on. Or, as my son Will calls them, “whitey tidies.”

Instead of all of us glaring at him like he was insane, the other guy mentioned that he mostly slept in the buff. He was touched with a little more than a casual degree of haintness, and I can remember the first thought out of my mind being, “God, those poor sheets.” (I was definitely glad he had mentioned this after I’d eaten dinner). Funny thing was, instead of letting the whole topic drop, one of the ladies chimed in and said that she mostly slept in gym shorts and a t-shirt. My interest picked up a little at that, as she was curvier than Dames Ferry Road, but my interest skidded sharply downwards when the other woman said that she slept with “just some sheets and a smile.” I took that to mean that she slept naked as a jaybird as well, which, in her particular case, was something I could have gone without knowing. She was a PhD level haint, if the truth be told, and really should wear lots of clothes at all times.

After these assorted revelations, they all looked over at me, and finally the naked sleeping lady haint asked,

“Well Ed, what about you?”

“What about me, what?”

“What do you sleep in? The rest of us have volunteered our nightly wardrobes.”

“But I didn’t really want to know what ya’ll all sleep in to begin with.”

“Oh c’mon, this is fun. Tell us.”

I thought about it for a second, and then figured what I slept in was none of their business. I decided instead to use some diversionary tactics. Going with this strategy, I said, “Look, I’ll tell ya’ll, but there’s something I‘ve never understood about sleeping apparel.”

One of them took the bait, and asked what I meant.

“Well, some of it just doesn’t make sense. First off, let’s consider what men sleep in. Typically, we men either sleep naked, in our drawers, or, worst yet, we wear pajamas. Think about those choices a second. Sleeping naked might sound sexy and all, but the reality is that the sexiness goes away the first time you get up during the night to use the bathroom and the air conditioner happens to be blowing - the word “chilled” takes on a whole new meaning. If you sleep in your drawers, that’s not good, cause most times you wake up with elastic band marks cut into your waist. And, if you decide to go with pajamas, they can cost a lot, and most of the time you look like a dork.”

“Contrast that with women. With women, they pay more to wear less. Women love to wear lingerie, which basically is a garment full of holes held together with lace and see-through material. The less cloth and the more holes it has in it, the more it costs. Really, when you get down to it, why bother? The woman may as well be naked, which she basically already is if she’s wearing lingerie, and save herself some serious money.”

My strategy actually worked. The ladies got into an intense discussion regarding lingerie, and why my perception of it was all wrong. I feigned interest in the topic, throwing in some more comments to get the pot really stirred, and then one of the guys got me totally off the hook when he posed this tender question to the group,

“Do ya’ll think Chelsea Clinton has passed Amy Carter as the worst looking Presidential daughter of the modern era?”

Like I said, sometimes you can be talking with a small group and have the conversation go off into some really, really, really weird directions....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009



When writing IT MAY BE LOVE it was a struggle to remain one with the twisted lust of a madman, who was so, because of his obsession with love and anonymity. He has been corresponding to a lady via e-mail. Hidden behind its cloak, freed to say much he might have never revealed. Wired through each piece is the growth of the complexity of the man. Some sad. Some profound. Some intense. And some scary.

The following is an excerpt:

Much of my poetry has a tilt, a twist, a difference that dances with the weird. Why? The challenge to the resolve of it all. I see captured in all of us a dance with endless dichotomy. To place that in balance, to accept it, to understand it is to bond one with the other... me to you.

Regarding my offer to meet the lady who might spend many nighttimes fighting tears, you wrote, “Are you sure you want to know that woman?” I will say without one moment of hesitation… YES!!! If there is pain I will feel it willingly. Trust I will not be brutal or judgmental. Believe me when I say, my heart is open if you wish to share. Watercolor me an empath, add tears if we need to cry together, or smiles if laughter is our fate.

Strength is an amazing thing

Power is an absolute aphrodisiac

Humanity is a sign of strength

Huggin’ is not weakness

Asserting one’s strength; good

But asserting one's strength

As well as their heart

Awesome… simply awesome.

Baggage is the gift that life’s experience shares with each of us. How we handle it is our gift to others. I experience life’s pain at its moment, respecting its value, and then when the morn is done, I move on, not forgetting but not letting it debilitate me. Life has an abundance of opportunities to share. I believe we have to share them. Yes, there is a presumption that you have baggage. We all do. This is neither an indictment nor a presumption as to how you handle it, just that I understand that we each have pasts that effect our futures.

Speaking of futures… does ours hold naked moments

The man smiles a boyish smile… a glow is captured in his eyes.

Moments where you are the object of my desires.

Desires that grow from touches with your soul.

I ask… with a gentle puff of air… will I know your skin?

I felt a vulnerable man struggling to be open putting so much on the line that he could have frightened the woman. Was this too much, too quick? Seems he was willing to risk it. Would you have? Was he honest? You'd believe it. Was he scary? She could have believed it. Was he honest? Maybe not. Was he scary? Maybe she believed him a romantic and she so deserved that, needed that, and mostly wanted that. Would she have risked a madman? Possibly.

The question that is out there is how do we embrace the pathos of such a character as we write it. There are plenty of tricks. For me it is my engineering training. I would always read the codes and regulations associated with the issue before I'd sit to resolve it. As a writer, I keep a sidebar of the characters' personalities and reread before writing, preparing and re-preparing. Yes, a character morphs during the development but it is our duty to control those growths, keeping them true to the expectations of the story.

Now, Angelica has a different tact. She writes and asks me to polish any character flaws. I do. Her point is why should both of us be so disciplined. I get that. It is that freedom that she has which allows for some astonishing things.

The following excerpt from IT MAY BE LOVE further sketches the man's complexity yet also his agenda:

My eyes smile from the talk of sin, not true sin, but that of the playful dance of lovers-to-be. I am a man of faith, raised in the church. I respect Christian ideals, have lived a modest and humble life honoring them, but I do lust and see it in harmony with my faith.

So as love becomes ours

The seek for pleasure will draw upon me

So as time bonds us

I will want to have all of you about me

I wobbled when he presumed. I felt her trepidation when he assumed. I saw a man who wanted to manipulate but called it honesty. Ouch! We've known them.

To burn that line between values so one might construct a character can be privately entertaining but it also can be a process of ripping at our souls. I hurt for that man. I struggle to understand his pathos. I shed tears. Felt fears. Was angered. Needed to befriend him... but could not. His soul and spirit are real to me. Do I want to rewrite him successful, if he was not? Damn straight I do but I resist out of respect to the storytelling.

Taut Johnson in KILLER DOLLS, for reasons of National Security, had to lie, and sadly for him he had to do so to a woman he had grown to love. I hated writing that. Angelica cussed often calling him a #@%&sucker of the order of he must burn in hell. Could we have soft-soaped him? Yes. But without that conflict we would have been vending white bread or pabulum to readers who want that strong pull-you-push-me. Was Taut a bad man? Yes! No! Maybe so! Read. Let us know.

This is Zi saying... I want you... to read!

We love to hear from anyone interesting in what we do. Anyone who writes us and leaves a s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi

Killer Dolls ~ September 2009

Snake Dance ~ February 2010

Champagne Books

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Interview with Allison Knight

Tami: What a pleasure to have you in my lair Allison.....I mean, welcome to our blog, it's lovely to have you here.

Allison: Don't be too hard on me. After all - I am recovering. Not sure from what, but I am recovering

Tami: Really, it's not that bad being here is it? And we are thrilled that you are recovering from whatever it was you had. We hate it when you are down. *hands Allison some nice warm tea and gives her a hug* I was peeking at your webpage (, and I got stuck on the first page staring at the eyes on the cover of Heart Song....which has a wonderful award attached to it. Tell me about the book, and the award will you? **sneaks back to stare into those eyes while Allison talks**

Allison: That has to be the most perfect cover I've ever had. Champagne's cover artists are better than some of NY's best. I'm so proud of that book. When I go to book signings, that's the book people pick up. Covers make a book. Now, about the book, I've explained how it came to me, and the story centers around a Welsh Princess and an English Baron at the time of Edward the first. Of course, they don't get along. (grinning) But it is a romance and for it to win an award like the best novel of the year was the very best award I could have gotten. For me, as an author, it means I've finally arrived!

Tami: What? Sorry, I was still staring. You caught me. I know, best novel of the year! How awesome is that? I'm very proud of you and your accomplishments. It has to be a major high for you. Oh, that was great, thanks for telling us what that was all about, it sounds great. What else have you got going on in your house hold? Is that a furry little kitty cat I see? Awww.....*leans over to pet*

Allison: You just met Wally. He's been rescued from one of those big chain stores for which our second son works. We got him when he was seven weeks old. First cat I've ever seen that sleeps on his back with his front paws crossed and his rear paws curled up in the air. Opps! here comes our old man. He's twelve years old now and believes the house (especially my desk) is his personal property. Be careful. He likes to bite. Now that I'm feeling better, I'm getting organized to start on another book. I'm a plotter and I'm an organizer. I have to have everything ready before I start to write. Of course, I really should finish the London fire story. HMMMM. Maybe I should wait on a new novel. (Scratching head and looking at binder with London fire details in it)

Tami: London fire? Is this going to be a current day story or a historical? I love a historical! Do you see what you have done? Now you have gotten me caught up in a book that's not even written. Shame on you Allison, shame on you....

Allison: This is another historical and this one features a white cat. I'm afriad, at times, the cat steals the show. It involves the plague followed by the fire. Of course, my hero is part of the solution to the fire. Nothing like adding a little twist to history.

Tami: I love how heroes make the world go round. :) Well now that I have heard some of your story lines, I need to know; what got you started in writing? I love hearing the stories and finding out where the spark really started. :)

Allison: I read a book where the mother of a character disappeared in the middle of the book, and that mother played an important part, the heroine's eyes changed color twice and the plot - eventually - made no sense. I knew I could write a better romance. So I wrote a book. I still like my first book, all 150 thousand words. Back when I started bigger books were the 'in' thing.

Tami: That's like going to an art museum and saying, "Even my 5 year old can paint better than that!" And from what I've heard, (you know awards and reviews and all) you've done a good job doing better. Now, you knew this question was coming, what's in the works? I know you have good news, I've heard it already, but your fans haven't.....tell them already!

Allison: Champagne Books has contracted the sequel to Heartsong, this one called Battlesong. I'll give a hint. This one is about Rhianna's youngest brother and his fiesty wife. I hope the title gives a clue about how these two react - to each other. Oh, I do love to match characters who throw sparks off each other, then make their lives miserable.

Tami: Yeah! I am so excited excited for you. I bet you were jumping up and down and virtually bouncing all over the place.

Allison: I was screaming, if truth be told. I love the characters of Heartsong so much I just couldn't let them go. I had to write Arthur's story. Of course, there is still Alvin's story. He's brother number tthree. Rhianna has five in all. Who knows what might occur to me. I have a vague outline for the one about Alvin. And more of my Heartsong characters. But that will follow the Fire story, I think, and then there is the story titled A Love Betrayed. It's also in progress. It takes place in Virginia after the Civil War. Another surprise ending, I hope. This is what happens when you have a hundred characters running around in your head shouting, "Tell my story. Tell mine!" My friends thinks I'm nuts. HMMMM Could they have something there????

Tami: Well I think we all are nuts in our own little way! Girl, I could curl your hair with some of the stories I have. LOL. I want to thank you for stopping by the lair and talking with us. Do you have any last minute thoughts before you leave me? :(

Allison: This wasn't bad. Thank you Tami, for asking me to visit. Come on over and have some coffee and cake. That, by the way, is how I started this business of writing.
I figured I'd write a cookbook. I entitled it - Ready? - "Everything your mother-in-law didn't tell you." My husband says it's a good thing it never got finished. Some of my recipes were real duds! My family endured some of my failures. But I do make excellent desserts. So come on over for some cake and coffee - any time. Thanks again.

Monday, October 19, 2009


by Jim Woods

When I was a young boy in Kentucky around the end of World War Two, a man in our neighborhood had a pastry delivery truck. In time, I was to learn that he was an independent operator, a franchise holder, although the truck carried the signage of the commercial bakery that supplied the products he dealt in. I know now that he serviced an exclusive area that he had acquired through lease or purchase. The retail stores within his territory, if they wanted to carry his baker’s brands of cakes, pies and snack cakes, had to deal with him. Although I did not grasp the franchise theory at the time, I did eventually learn about franchises and profit commerce in general.

The unfathomable mystery to me at the time was why, when the route man retrieved the outdated pastries from the store shelves, and replaced them with fresh ones, that he did not give away the day-old or two-day-old pastries. I coveted them, and I was not alone. Practically everyone in the neighborhood was poor, although most had jobs. My brother and I added to the family income by mowing lawns behind a push mower, sometimes for the princely sum of twenty cents. Mostly we got a dime to share. But those dimes could never be spent on a snack cake, but we were tempted.

The pastry route man was one of our lawn-mowing clients, so we had access twice a month to his back yard in order to perform our work. Several were the occasions when we saw him sprinkle kerosene on a pile of mouth-watering but shelf-dated cellophane wrapped pastries, and touch off a match to them. They smelled so good when they burned, and we were confused and angry at what we saw as awful waste. Other times when our lawn mowing didn’t happen to coincide with the ritual cake fires, the circular mound of ashes in the middle of the lawn that we mowed was a reminder of cakes gone up in smoke without sating any sweet tooth. The man did not even tip us with a small snack cake, but paid us our dime apiece. His was a big back yard, thus the double dimes.

At some time in my understanding of ways of the world, I came to realize that if he had given away his outdated pastries, the recipients soon would come to expect the largess on schedule, and the stores would not sell his fresh cakes; the store patrons in the neighborhood knowing that if they were patient, those day or two-day-old cakes would come to them free. The store would lose out on retail sales and the route man would suffer loss of his wholesale business.

Moving on, in my later adult life, I was privileged to hunt in Africa on several occasions. The reasons and conditions don’t matter; I was there. In South Africa, safari operations frequently are conducted on farms and ranches where crops and domestic animals share the land. Those farms and ranches largely are not as mechanized as similar operations in the United States, and for sound reasons in the country’s economic structure. They have large numbers of personnel to serve as farm workers, and the government at the time encouraged the farmers to employ more hired help than they needed, with attendant lower wages spread over more recipients. As might be concluded from such an arrangement, those workers were near the bottom of the economic scale, although part of their wages was basic food rations. Those rations did not include fancy cuts of meat, but may have included the lesser and non-marketable pieces, and even entrails that the workers found acceptable as food.

On one occasion, on a cattle ranch that also was home to a safari outfit, a cow was discovered in the bush, down and disabled with a broken leg, presumably from stepping into a hole or possibly from stumbling during panicked retreat from a predator. Buzzards were chased from the scene but not before having just started to pick on the still-live cow. The animal had to be destroyed. The farmer used the same method of destruction as the cake man. After shooting the cow, he doused the carcass with diesel fuel and ignited it, and we hung around until he was satisfied that the carcass was completely consumed.

Up to that point, I had suggested that since the animal was still alive and meat was still fresh, it could have been salvaged, for workers’ rations if nothing else. But his reasoning was that if he gave the meat to his workers, he would find other cows meeting similar accidents every time they wanted meat. I understood his implication. He was in the beef business. Like the cake man, he couldn’t give away the product without adversely impacting the market value of the rest of his product.

I was witness to almost the same scenario another time and locale in Africa. This time it was a game animal, a wildebeest that was down, and duly reported to the farm owner by one of his black staff that had discovered it. We drove out to investigate and the animal was indeed freshly dead, but without apparent cause. The farmer/safari outfitter performed an autopsy in the field, and pronounced the animal expired of “heart water”--fluid around the heart. According to the farmer, it was fairly common for this particular species in this region, and usually caused by the animal being pursued until it dropped, by man or other predator. So while he had lost an animal for which guest hunters would have paid a substantial trophy fee, he also refused to permit the meat to be salvaged for his crew. To give away his product would have been to invite further animals pursued till their hearts stopped too. Like the other South African farmer, and the cake man, the no longer saleable merchandise was destroyed.

In addition to being a writer and author, I’m also an editor, by a lifetime of education, training and experience. I’ve been around the business long enough to know that independent editors’ livelihood comes from paid commissions for their editing services rendered to private individuals or corporation clients. All too often, the private author requesting editing of his book manuscript or short story is hurt or angered when the editor lays out a fee structure for his editing expertise and work. Those editors seemingly are expected to work for nothing, or for goodwill. But like the cake man in Kentucky and the game farmers in South Africa, most professional editors do not devalue their product by giving it away. So unless the requestor is a very close friend of the editor, or unless that editor volunteers his editing skills, don’t expect them to work for nothing. Their time and experience have value from which they are entitled to benefit, and that’s the frosting on their cake.

~ * ~

Contributed by Jim Woods, author of Champagne Books Assassination Safari, Parting Shot and Gunshot Echoes.

Website: Email:

Thursday, October 15, 2009



by Jim Woods

The world is so full of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson, “Happy Thought,” 1913

It’s a given that our world is shrinking, through education, ease of travel, the Internet, and most notably in commerce. Products made in countries other than our own—this assuming this essay is presented in the United States, but with deference to the just referenced Internet, it obviously may be read anywhere around the world.

But to make my point, we in the United States have become increasingly dependent on automobiles and electronics made in Germany, Japan and Korea—even my brand new American brand name laser printer is made in Viet Nam—and a myriad of commercial items ranging from furniture to toys from China and Mexico; clothing from Honduras, Thailand, and India; and foods from all over the world.

And the latter brings to mind my millennium cruise around South America and our layover in Argentina. I discovered the piquant meat sauce, chimmi churri, and tried to buy up the local supply so as to not go without it, once back home. It wasn’t all that easy to find but I did find a few bottles in a hole-in-the-wall grocery on a back street in Punta Alta. I bought the entire stock, only to find that at home, a popular specialty grocery routinely stocked all the chimmi churri I ever could use. So much for my pioneering discovery.

I shouldn’t be surprised at any “made in” label these days, but I was. My wife purchased a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt Capris, those three-quarter length pants that the ladies like. The tag displayed the exotic information: Made in Jordan, Hecho in Jordania, and Fait au Jordanie. The tag also recorded the fabric data: 98 percent cotton, 2 percent Spandex; 98 percent algdon (which has to be “cotton” but in what language, I haven’t a clue), 2 percent Spandex; and 98 percent coton, 2 percent Spandex. I thought it interesting that Spandex is universal while cotton can be spelled in numerous ways.

I’ve been to Jordan in my travels, but never considered the historic country to be a source of clothing for commercial availability outside its own boundaries. Had I associated textiles with the country’s products at all, I probably would have limited my uneducated assumption to rugs and carpets. But we were intrigued that the Capri pants came from Jordan. I think that was a determining reason for buying them. Jordan is among the more exotic places we have traveled.

Well, that and the Gloria Vanderbilt label, plus the fact that my wife earlier had purchased another set of Capris of the same label that became one her favorite casual garments. Strangely, we came to realize, that even though the label and size of both sets of Capris were identical, and even the style and cut too, the Jordanian product did not fit. The same set of Capris in a different fabric and color, but made in Sri Lanka, did fit. That was a huge disappointment for my wife—an article of clothing that she knew she liked, and this particular sample from Jordan, a country that she truly appreciates—then the letdown of not being able to wear the clothing. Did we blame the retail store for the disappointment? Did we blame the Gloria Vanderbilt fashion house for not holding to the same size standards wherever the garment was produced? No. We misdirected our blame to Jordan, the country.

Several years back when the car was introduced, I purchased my BMW Z3 roadster that was built in South Carolina, not Germany from where all BMWs should come. A subsequent year model of the car was equipped with integral roll hoops behind the two seats, and a factory kit using the same hardware became available for retrofitting some past models, mine included. I signed on for the kit and for the dealer installation. Although I never had the kit in my personal possession—it was shipped to the dealer who installed it—I did receive the installation manual that was part of the kit once the job was done.

Although the car itself is manufactured, or assembled at least, in the United States, many of the components come from other countries. The engine is from Canada, the remote alarm/entry fob is made in Japan; and many of the lesser hardware parts do originate in Germany. That installation instruction book also originated in Germany, and in fact was printed in German. The contents page included text in several languages though, simply because there was an entry titled “Secondary Languages.” Flipping through the illustrated instructions finally revealed instructions in those secondary languages, among which was English. That’s a bit of culture shock for anyone whose language is English to have that language listed among the secondary languages of the world.

Subsequently, while in South Africa, our cruise ship laying over in Port Elizabeth, I somehow discovered that the city was home to an auto license registry facility. Not too unique, I suppose, the city being the hub of a major commercial region of the country. Anyhow, I got the brilliant idea to acquire a South African license plate for my BMW Z3. My home state requires only a rear license plate, and front license place spaces are ripe grounds for expressing personal interests—religion, politics and devotion to alma mater—just about any message. (I “heart” my cocker spaniel.)

The South African license plates at the time were long and narrow, completely dissimilar to the standard rectangle design of U.S. plates. It was but little trouble getting a custom plate expressing my affection of BMWs. South Africa requires both front and rear plates, with equipment violations cited for not having both or for having a damaged one. I found the license registry and convinced the clerk that my front plate had been crumpled in a crash and I needed a replacement. I presented a sheet of paper with my personally composed license legend spelled out, paid the fees, and the attendant disappeared behind closed doors for a few minutes, and returned with a freshly stamped, black lettering on yellow background, license plate to my specifications. The receipt for my payment actually was a record of registration of my vehicle in South Africa, but of course the car has never been driven there. I convinced myself that I could gently bend the elongated plate to the curvature of the front bumper of my Z3 roadster.

We sailed on, stopping next at the cruise terminus, Cape Town, where we were accommodated in a day room at a public structure till our homeward flights were scheduled for departure. The building just happened to be the BMW Pavilion.

With the BMW name and logo adorning the structure, it was quite normal that a portion of the ground floor was devoted to display of BMW automobiles, motorcycles, and accessories. The Z3 Roadster was the current hot item; my own Z3 that I reluctantly had left at home for my cruise was barely a month old. The Z3 on polished display at the pavilion was my main interest, but not for the steering wheel curiously being on the wrong side, but for the front license plate area. The display roadster was fitted with an interface structure that adapted the unique South Africa license plate to the lines of the roadster front bumper. I had to have one of those molded fixtures to go with the license plate that was packed in my luggage.

The pavilion was strictly an informational display—vehicles or accessories could not be purchased. A formally suited host did aid me in locating the local BMW dealership, including making the phone call to make sure the license plate fixture was in stock before I spent a lot of rands for the cross-city cab ride. I anticipated the enjoyment of not only returning to my Z3 but also adorning it with the license plate and the obviously unique accessory for my car that would tie my treasures together. The part was wrapped in clear plastic sheeting with a small black-on-white adhesive label that declared the part number, etcetera, but the manufacturing point of origin was deflating—it was not made in South Africa but in South Carolina from where all Z3s are assembled!

The combining of affections for my roadster and the country of South Africa still is in place, and my front license plate draws the requisite inquiries from passersby and observers. The real rear license plate later became a point of interest too when I found a frame that declares the driver to have been a “Destroyer Sailor,” and announces the name of that honorable ship, U.S.S Harry E. Hubbard, DD748. That molded plastic frame—it’s made in China. That’s okay too, While aboard Hubbard half a century past, on another less-luxury cruise, we ported in Hong Kong for several days. It all comes home that indeed ours is a small planet, full of wondrous things.

~ * ~

Contributed by Jim Woods, author of Champagne Books Assassination Safari, Parting Shot and Gunshot Echoes.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with Jane Toombs

Tami: Welcome to the nuthouse Jane....I mean, welcome to the blog! How are you doing?

Jane: Other than a tooth root abscess, I'm still truckin' along.

Tami: Tooth root abscess, that doesn't sound good. I hope you feel better soon. I was reading a little more about you on your bio and got extremely tired reading about your kids, grandchildren, cat, and computers. When you have some time when you are not reading and spending time with all of them, what do you do?

Jane: Alas, most of my time with my kids and grandchildren is online or by phone as none of them live nearby. And, since winter on the south shore of Lake Superior is fearsome, they visit only in the summer. So, since it gets colder every day now and snow is predicted for the weekend, we're gearing up for having to use the exercise machine instead of taking a walk every day. I do get a lot of writing done in the winter. Plus we're set to dig out the cat toys to amuse Kinko so she gets exercise, too. After snow falls, she's an inside cat. I'll be volunteering as a cataloger at our Historical Museum and will try to get the Viking to help me since they have a lot of stuff stacked up to be put into order and labeled.

Tami: Wow, you made me even more tired! And the mention of snow made my bones shiver. **burr, burr** We have four indoor cats and they decided to take all the 5 year old's stuffed animals and use them as their cat toys! :) Got to love kitties!

Jane: Hey, you do so much online for all of us that I don't know how you find the time.

Tami: Nah, it's easy....just clickity, click, click, click! You guys do all the work. I mean seriously, I noticed on your website that it said you have written 80 books. That's a typo right? There's no way that one person could write that many books. When did you start writing? What got you started?

Jane: My first book was published in 1973, so you can see I've had a lot of time to get to 80 plus. And it was my first novel-length. Before that I wrote short stories and never sold a one. How did I sell it? I took an off-campus writing class from the University of California, San Diego. Our instructor was a published mystery writer who announced at the first class session that if any of us weren't planning to try to sell what we wrote in class, then we'd better leave now before we paid the fee. He likened writing without trying to sell as akin to masturbation. Half the class left. The rest of us learned a lot. He liked the gothic I was writing and told me if I finished it and rewrote using his suggested edits, he'd send it to his agent. Being a newbie I merely thought that was nice of him. Little did I know it was close to a miracle. So I did and he did and his agent sold TULE WITCH to Avon. So I aquired an agent as well. Lucky me!

Tami: That's AWESOME! I like that instructor and I wasn't even in the class. It's a good thing that you took it when you did. Now, I would love if you would give me some information on your latest book from Champagne. You know we're all interested in hearing more about Once an Outcast.

Jane: Once an Outcast is the caboose of the Orphan Train Series, the sixth and last book. So in my book, at the end, ten years later, the six girls that met on their orphan train, get together with their husbands at a Boston hotel to meet again for a wonderful reunion. All have suffered, but now are happy. My heroine, half-gypsy Jehenna, went through some of the same horrendous difficulties as the others, but while their destinations were mostly farther west, she spent most of her ten years in the primitive logging towns of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. These were all wonderful books to research and write. And read! It's a great series. I also have Nightingale Man, a WWI spy-thriller, with a touch of romance, coming out from Champagne in January 2010. What happens when Lucky Luke Ray from Colorado, is inveigled into becoming a British spy?

Tami: Well, tell me a little more! You can't possibly be that mean and leave me hanging like that. I have to know more about Luke Ray. I have a thing for the leads in books. I have to know...tell me more! Please..... **gives you puppy dog eyes**

Jane: Luke meets his match in an English nurse named Kezia, who gets involved with him in a group attempt to infiltrate German-occupied Belgium to rescue Nurse Clara Barton from a Boche firing squad. Is it just a coincidence they're stymied at every turn--or are they being double-crossed?

Tami: That sounds wonderful - I can't wait to read. Yet another book to go on my TBR pile. I don't know what it is with all the Champagne authors, but I think you guys are trying to kill me slowly by blinding me by reading. What a way to go. Thanks so much for joining us today and we hope to see you back next week when we interview Allison Knight!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tattle and Wrye - October 2009





Wrye enters and views the hanging paper Chinese lanterns and Tattle’s unusual garment, a Chinese cheongsam dress. “A party?”

“A celebration, my bewildered darling, of the Autumn Equinox." Pressing her hands together as if in prayer, she executes a perfect Chinese bow of respect.

"Lady of the Order of Befuddlement and Delay... shouldn't we have celebrated on September 22... The actual day of this year's Equinox?" He adjusts his knee highs and reconfigures the slit in his kilt for social propriety knowing no one wanted Johnny jump up to jump out.

Tattle tosses her head, bats her lashes and flips both hands up in the air. "What is a few days in the vastness of equinox-dom," she dismisses. "I have chosen to follow the Chinese tradition of celebration with tea and mooncakes.” She pointed to the table set with a ceremonial Oriental tea set and a plate of round, scallop- edged cakes. “And this is for you.” She shakes out a mandarin silk shirt with painted fish.

“Koi?” Wrye considering mooncakes wonders where the cake's butt was, butt (pun intended) didn't ask.

A clock chimes. “Oh my, we must jump into our Love of Literature Leap, treats will have to wait.”

“Koi... carp... crap?” Wrye repeats as they jump. "She could have gone dragon."

Tattle's ornamental hair chimes tinkle as she lands on traditional straw sandals. “We’re in DAVID BOULTBEE’S THE GENDER DIVIDE, a science fiction/futuristic novel, and where women live four times as long as men.” Four fingers prance in front of Wrye's eyes for emphasis.

“And where this can-you-believe-this gender divide has created political, economic, and military separations that threaten to destroy the world.” Wrye pats the hilt of a Chinese warrior’s sword, his gaze darting from side to side as if expecting Godzilla to appear. "Ancient saying, man who kisses woman's arse is bound to get shat-faced." Pulls sword and takes a warrior's stance.

Ignoring him, she adds, “All except for the hunkalicious Ryan Peters, he has a similar lifespan and will do anything, sacrifice all, even his life, to close this divide and mend his world.” She lifts her dress, shows specially ordered pink soccer cleats, and adjusts her soccer socks worn over shin pads, having come prepared for anything. “Ah, yes, he is a steal-your-breath-make-your-nips-pucker anomaly. It has already cost him the love of his life. Poor Ry Ry.” Tattle points to Olivia Morgan, CEO of Delphi, Inc.

Bouncing his well-embrowment, Wrye says, “What a Goo Wee Chic from the Sum Yung family," thinking himself being Chinese appropriate. "Even a second chance with her will not keep him from what must be done.”

“It appears they have a history together.” Tattle flips open a delicate Asian fan. “Here's the wrist slapping moment, he is deceiving her, making her think that the man she had been with years before was his father, not him. Smack! Smack! Smack! Plus, he’s going to work for Delphi, but for his own objective. Such trrrroubbble, certainly a tangled web.”

“Confucius say, ‘Lady who give kiss like spider, lead to the undoing of the fly.'”


"Confucius also say, 'Man who make love with woman on top is always screwing up.'”


“Leap time, m'geisha sprite.” He re-sheaths his sword trusting Godzilla isn't near.

Tattle lands into another story, wobbles, women of zaftig-hipation do that, and looks for her literary comrade. “Wrye?”

Several minutes pass before he appears, wearing a Chinese brigandine, consisting of the vest, pauldrons, skirting, underarm, and groin codpiece, worn proudly, though far too large to be believable. “What?”

Noticing his genital adornment, she sniggers, and decides not to mention the change. “Where is a more apt question.”

“A hill…” Wrye grins. “Confucius say, ‘Man who make love to girl on hill, well, he not on level.’”

The bring-it-on-home eye roll appears. “Tattle say, we have leapt into LOVE COMES BLINDLY by PHYLLIS CAMPBELL, an historical romance taking place in an abbey, where the dashing Lord Gregory Fielding has been taken after being blinded in an accident. Gregory can't get a break, and we believe can't find a seeing eye dog. What a wonderful book.”

Wrye quips, "Confucius say, 'Man who read woman like book enjoy the climax best.'"

Tattle replies, "Confucius' extremely intuitive wife say, 'Kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition.'"

“There is hope for Lord G. F.'s eyesight, but he soon finds himself falling for the novice nun nursing him back to health. Still blind and fumbling, yeah right, naughty boy, I suspect he inadvertently Braille-reads her chestual region as the number 13, perceiving she is tri-nipped unaware one's a button. Additionally, he doesn’t realize she is from his past. Connnnnfffflict!”

“Well, for Madeline it is an unsavory past that she has left behind, and she knows that once Gregg’s sight returns, he’ll recognize her as the woman who made a fool of him. Retribution bites!”

“So she fights her growing feelings for him because he’ll despise her on sight? And he fights his feelings for her because he thinks she's a nun? A potential tug of war to the square of infinity.” He waggles a shame-shame-on-them finger.

Dui... true.” She bows, respecting his deductions. “But their passion sizzles hot, hot, hot as much as Gregg’s anger will once he discovers the truth. Yes, yes, yes... can't wait!”


“And, time to jump.”

“Confucius say, ‘Man with athletic finger make broad jump.”


"Jump, Tattle, jump!"

Again, Wrye seems delayed, he appears, eating out of a carton of sweet and sour chicken with two No. 2 pencils as chopsticks. “This looks familiar,” Wrye mumbles, moving between freakishly awesome nouns and astonishingly profound verbs, spotting a dead man and backing away. “Ah, ANGELICA HART AND ZI’S KILLER DOLLS, a romantic suspense. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS DUO. I knew I recognized the majestically talented flow and play of words. They are good, almost as if family, very closely related family.” ;0 ;-) ;>)

“Such dear, dear, wonderfully dear friends,” Tattle acknowledges, and then blurts, “Oh, my, it’s the terrorist!”

Wrye draws his sword, taking an alpha position in front of Tattle while adjusting his codpiece, "Terrorize this!"

Tattle smacks Wrye in the back of the head. "Put that away."

Looking at her, not knowing what she is referencing, Wrye peers and speaks around a mouthful, “Vench and Vilgal, this is where they plot to use Letti Noel’s handmade dolls to attack the innocent with the deadly toxin, Ricin. I hate those &(*&^^%*)(*%$#*&!”

“Poor Letti, poor sweet adorable well-figured Letti, nor does she realize that the hunky Taut built-for-pleasure Johnson she is enamored with is actually an undercover FBI agent. Oh, goodness, not good at all!” Offers a sly qualifier, "Maybe, since I know him intimately, a little good, noooo, in his case a lot of good."

“Meanwhile, as he falls metaphorically into her, he realizes she is in danger, which brings back his past, damn, and a fear that he cannot protect those he loves. You gotta love the hero in him, and Letti certainly will."

“Then there’s the tainted dolls being presented, one by one, with love to young ones. Ouch, all riddled by pending fear. Another death? Yes. Whose? Ah-ha, mystery. And then there's a threat to their own lives. Hope Taut 'Big Gun' Johnson brought his big gun.”

“All way too much to endure.” Wrye grabs his cell phone and begins dialing 911, "Yes, this is Wrye Balderdash in the pages of KILLER DOLLS, I wish to report a crime... I'll hold!"

With a sigh and head shake, Tattle soccer-slide-tackles Wrye, knocking the phone from his hand, collects it and says, “Like Star Trek, our mission during our Love of Literature Leaps is to follow the non-interference Prime Directive. 'kaaaaayyyyy! Which leaves the question, will they survive?”

“Confucius say, read and find out.”

“Actually,” Tattle begins as she snares one of Wrye’s pencil-chopsticks, “Confucius say, ‘He who eats with one chopstick go hungry.’

Wrye looks at her and quips, "A woman who boils cabbage and peas in same pot is unsanitary."

"On that irreverent thought, let's go home!"

As they leap, Wrye's words echo, "I want you... to read KILLER DOLLS!"

Fabulous journey. Next month, in the wake of Halloween, we will visit chilling delights. JENNA LEIGH’S THE LAST LEGACY, MIS-STAKED by J. Morgan and GHOULISH LOVE by Michelle Libby. Join us!

Created and written by

Angelica Hart and Zi

KILLER DOLLS ~ September 2009

Cover KillerDolls

SNAKE DANCE ~ February 2010


Champagne Books