Monday, October 5, 2020

The art of writing the series - How many books should there be? - by Vijaya Schartz

First of all, the first book in each of my series is currently discounted to $1.49 in kindle on amazon. Click on covers in right column for the direct link. Enjoy the discounted reads!

I wrote many series, some as short as two books (the Archangel twin books), others as long as eight novels (like the CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE, based on Celtic legends). New authors, and sometimes readers, ask me how long a series should be. There is no universal answer to that question. A series, like a book, should be as long as needed to tell the whole story.

Ancient Enemy sci-fi series with romantic elements - complete


The number of books in a series also depends upon the characters. 

If they are the same characters throughout the series, is each novel a continuation of the previous book? The author cannot hold the reader without resolution indefinitely. That is how some TV series that started strong lost their momentum when the writers dragged the story too long before offering some kind of explanation or resolution.

On the other hand, if each novel is a complete story, the series can go on much longer. A few authors have successfully published dozens of novels in the same series that way, some were later adapted for TV series, like Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles. Harry Potter also comes to mind, but as it features children, and children do grow up, that series was limited from the start. As for characters like James Bond, they can probably go forever with many different incarnations as each generation gives it a different twist.

Chronicles of Kassouk series - 6 books, complete

Sometimes, each book come with its own set of fresh characters, in the same setting, with a link to the previous and future books. That’s the case for my CHRONICLES OF KASSOUK series, where each book is an independent story with a different hero and heroine. The six novels are set on the same planet, a few centuries apart. For those reading them in the right order, they get to see the evolution of a group of marooned human settlers into a fully grown society, with its particular culture, facing ups and downs, struggling for their independence and for their rights, amid defeats and victories, until the series comes full circle in its unexpected but logical ending.

Curse of the Lost Isle - Celtic legends - 8 books, complete

My longest series (eight novels) is The CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE, based on Celtic legends. Since my ladies are immortal (related to Morgan the Fay), they reappear in different times in history. The first two books tell the story of Pressine the Fay. In book two, she has three daughters, subsequently featured in the following books. Melusine the Fay has four books, as she appears in different places at different times in history (books 3-4-5-8). Her sisters, Palatina (book 6) and Meliora (Book 7) each have one story to tell, so they only have one novel.

Another technique is to write shorter series, related to each other. Three books is considered a happy number for a series. Easier to commit to for the reader. Some readers also like to only read series that are complete, as they do not want to wait until next year for the next book. The reader who enjoys a three-book series, will likely pick up the next series set in the same world they enjoyed the first time, like the Star Wars universe.


Byzantium Space Station Series (complete)

This is the case for my BYZANTIUM series and AZURA CHRONICLES, set in the same universe with a few crossover characters. Byzantium is a space station, and Azura is a planet, existing in the same universe at the same time.

 
Azura Chronicles series (book 3 and last coming next year)

Most of my series novels are standalones, and the reader can pick up any book and thoroughly enjoy it without missing anything. Then he/she can go back and enjoy the other books as well, even if not read in the chronological order. But if you are like me, you’ll want to read them in the right order to fully appreciate the arc of the bigger story behind the novels. 

Enjoy!


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon - B&N - Smashwords - Kobo - FB


Thursday, September 3, 2020

What's a story without a villain you can truly hate?

I love colorful characters and I confess that the villains in my stories are just as interesting and fascinating as the hero and heroine. It’s not by accident. First, a hero or heroine can only be as heroic as the villain is dangerous. A weak villain presents no threat to the protagonist. Then, there is the liberating factor. 

When I started writing, I couldn’t imagine telling the story from the mind of a bad person. It seemed sinful, naughty at best. But while writing my first book, I accidently jumped into my villain’s head. As I descended into the dark abyss of my evil character’s psyche, viewing the world from his twisted mind, I had a life-changing revelation... I enjoyed it! 

Some memorable villains in the two Archangel books.

Was I a bad person? I pride myself in being spiritual and this new discovery was disturbing. According to what I learned as a writer, however, no one is totally good or totally bad. We are all nuances of light and dark, some darker than others. After dealing with the guilt, questioning my righteousness and my sanity, I realized that being able to understand sinful intents and the mechanisms and motivations of evil people was a good thing for a writer. 

Ancient Enemy series:
"Captain Kavak certainly ranks as one of the worst villains ever encountered!"
 
ck2skwips&Kritiques

Ever since, I make it a point to develop my villains, and some of them are so evil, they will give you thrills and shivers. That’s the case for the villains of my September release, Malaika’s Secret. Admiral Mort Lowell was born on a dark moon of Tenebra II. Half Human and half Tenebran, he was rejected by both races as a child for his hybrid looks. Drawing support from a mysterious secret society, he quickly rose in the ranks of the Galactic Trade Alliance. 

Because of his white skin, black hair, and the black visor protecting his sensitive retinas, some call him a Vampire. Others call him a shark because of his sharp, pointed teeth. But those who fear him for his scary looks have no idea how dangerous and wicked the man is inside, or from where he draws his power. 

The paperback is available now, and the eBook is in pre-order, to be delivered on September 3rd. Order it today from your favorite online store HERE.


Special Agent Tyler Conrad works security undercover on the Byzantium Space Station and adheres to a strict moral code. When strange beings with wings are murdered, and a dangerous lion wanders the station’s indoor streets, Tyler’s investigation leads him to a mysterious woman, who could make him break all his rules and get them both killed.

Forbidden to love, the beautiful Malaika, guardian of the glowing crystal in the temple of the Formless One, is an illegal mind-reader who hides perilous secrets. She has seen the great evil coming to Byzantium but must hide her extraordinary abilities or perish with her people.

When Admiral Mort Lowell, a hybrid Tenebran nicknamed the Vampire, makes a surprise visit to Byzantium, Tyler knows something wicked is afoot…

Although each novel stands alone, this is the right order for the series, the previous books in the Byzantium Space Station series are: 
 


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 


 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

MALAIKA'S SECRET COVER REVEAL!

Woohoo! My September release, MALAIKA'S SECRET, has a cover, with a lion on it. Yes, the lion is a character in the book.


Special Agent Tyler Conrad works security undercover on the Byzantium Space Station and adheres to a strict moral code. When strange beings with wings are murdered, and a dangerous lion wanders the station's indoor streets, Tyler's investigation leads him to a mysterious woman, who could make him break all his rules, and get them both killed.

Forbidden to love, the beautiful Malaika, guardian of the glowing crystal in the temple of the Formless One, is an illegal mind-reader who hides perilous secrets. She has seen the great evil coming to Byzantium but must hide her extraordinary abilities or perish with her people.

When Admiral Mort Lowell, a hybrid Tenebran nicknamed the Vampire, makes a surprise visit to Byzantium, Tyler knows something wicked is afoot…

The story is the last in the series and stands alone, but Tyler, the hero, appeared as a secondary character in the previous book. Here are the two previous novels in the series:

 
For amazon links, click on covers in the right column.
Happy Reading.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Brief history of the written word - Part three of three

In the two previous parts of this article, we talked about the origins of writing in Asia, India, cuneiform writing in the Middle East, and hieroglyphic writing in Egypt, and the gradual switch from graphic representation of objects to the use of sound symbols, then letters. The first alphabet, created by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, was borrowed by the Greek then adapted by the Romans, and imposed through their conquest all over Europe. We now had the power of writing almost anything, any language, with an infinity of possibilities.

 
During the dark ages and the early Middle Ages in Europe, only the clergy, nobles, and government officials could read and write. Educating the masses was considered dangerous and sometimes evil. Only the clergy was allowed to read the Bible, for fear of misinterpretation. Most religious and political documents were penned in Latin, which, after the downfall of Rome, was still understood, if not fluently spoken, by the nobility and the literate elite throughout the Christian world. Books were handwritten in calligraphy on parchment and heavily decorated, usually by monks. These books were labor intensive, very costly, and not available to the population at large. 


The layman’s knowledge, however, was still imparted through oral tradition from elders to younger members of society. The intricacies of seasonal planting, weaving, sewing, tanning, preserving food, and other everyday activities were often condensed into how-to songs, learned in childhood and later taught to children and grandchildren. The rhyming and the melody made the task description easy to remember.
 

Storytellers memorized and retold in songs epic battles and important moments in history, like the song of Roland. Many African and Polynesian tribes still use song and dance to impart knowledge of historic events and storytelling. 


But the Latin alphabet also allowed writing in one’s native tongue. With the advent of commerce, trading and shipping companies required written records in everyday language. So did transmission of orders to armies far from home, and communication with conquered territories in the East during the Crusades. Hand writing on parchment spread among the higher middle class. 


In 1440, thanks to Gutenberg in Germany, and his invention of the printing press with removable characters, books could be mass-produced, and the written word became affordable. 



Soon, the Italian Renaissance saw the creation of many new schools and rich patrons financed the arts. Then Europe saw an explosion of knowledge, culture, arts, and considerable advancement of science, engineering, mathematics, and philosophy. 

Writing and designs of Leonardo da Vinci
Nowadays, most everyone can read and write and has access to books on every topic, but we are left with a different problem. We have come a long way from writing only the most important truths of our time. Writing has gone from sacred, to important, to artistic, to sometimes frivolous and trivial. 


With basic education, anyone can express thoughts and opinions about everything in writing. We are dealing with an overload of information from an infinity of individual sources. Fortunately, our sophisticated computers can handle that immense load, and when someone cusses on social media in Canada, someone in Japan can let them know it’s not okay. 😊 


Since the advent of Social Media, we also have derived other forms of written communication in abbreviations for texting, and emojis to express feelings. Universal binary language uses zeros and ones. Computers invent their own languages to communicate with each other. Someone even wrote an entire story in emoji symbols. 



I also heard that some law-makers are thinking about getting rid of cursive and lowercase in schools to keep only block letters. Can’t wait to hear my characters screaming at me in ALL CAPS. What’s next? Getting rid of punctuation? Shakespeare must be turning in his grave. 😊 



As a writer of sci-fi and fantastic legends, I predict that one day, if we do not destroy ourselves first, Earth will have only one language made up of mixed words and abbreviations and writing styles from various old countries, with one unified alphabet of simple characters everyone will understand.

alien writing on an I-beam fragment found at the Roswell crash site.
I only hope that despite this unification, we manage to keep the wonderful variety of cultures, and the colorful traditions of all the people of Earth, along with their best recipes, dances, costumes, and favorite games.


In the meantime, you are welcome to check out my books. Here is my Celtic Legend series, CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE. Find it everywhere in eBook or paperback. 

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.

5 stars on Amazon "Edgy Medieval. Yay!"

CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE - MEDIEVAL CELTIC LEGENDS - SERIES by Vijaya Schartz

Happy reading.


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Brief history of the written word - Part two


Last month, I spoke about the origins of writing in China, Japan, India, cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia, and hieroglyphic writing in Egypt, as well as the gradual switch from graphic representation of objects to the use of sound symbols.
Phoenician tablet


In the early 8th century BC, the Phoenicians, who traded throughout the Mediterranean basin, developed the first known alphabet. Instead of using imagery, the letters, some consonants and some vowels, were linked together to form phonetic words.

Soon, the Greek borrowed and adapted the Phoenician alphabet, and their culture flourished. 

Aramaic writing

Many other alphabets developed after that, like the Arabic alphabet in the 6th century BC. The first Proto-Hebrew alphabet developed from the early Phoenician, then they adopted the Aramaic alphabet during the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods (500 BC – 50 AD). 

Ancient Hebrew alphabet

In the first century AD, the Viking and Celtic tribes of northern Europe also devised the Runes. 

Runic stellae


Then much later, in the 9th century AD, St. Cyril devised the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Greek, and used until recently in Slavic countries like Russia.

Add caption


In the 8th century AD, in China, where writing was done by hand with a brush (calligraphy) the emperor ordered some religious Buddhist texts to be carved on wood blocks, to be inked and pressed on parchment or paper, as an early form of printing. The blocks took a long time to carve, and could only be used a certain number of times before losing their sharp quality.


Some ancient cultures, like the Druids or the Polynesian and Native American tribes, had a strong oral tradition but never developed a writing system. That is why so little is known about their history today. Still, very old pictograms, drawings, and symbols carved in ancient stones, cliffs, caves, or etched over miles of Andean desert, baffle the anthropologists. This only tells us that some kind of writing communication may have existed well before what we understand today.

 
When the ancient Romans conquered the Greeks of antiquity, they borrowed and copied their culture, their religion, their arts, and adapted their alphabet to fit Rome’s needs, and for centuries, they thrived. Through conquest, the Romans imposed their culture and their Latin alphabet upon the defeated Frankish, Germanic, Saxon, and Breton tribes, overriding whatever local system they used at the time, and replacing it by the alphabet we are still using today in the west. 



 Of note is the fact that many countries added their own modifications to the alphabet. The French have the “oe” letter and many different types of accents. The Germans also have special characters on their keyboard that are not used by any other countries… so do the Danish and the Norwegians.

Roman writing tablet and stylus
 
Everywhere writing developed, it prompted a cultural revolution, the exchange of ideas and information, the first development of advanced culture, art, engineering, science, mathematics, and philosophy.

But there is much more to be told. Next month, in Part 3, we’ll talk about how writing evolved over the centuries, and how it translates in today’s society.

I write about the past and the future, as they are closely linked. My latest book is set on the Byzantium Space Station. Enjoy the read!

Akira's Choice
Byzantium Book 2 (standalone)
Find it from your favorite online store HERE

When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the Galactic Trade Alliance want a young kidnapped orphan dead or alive?

She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no-good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the Byzantium space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.

Kazmo, a decorated Resistance fighter, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Byzantium, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the space station?

Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.

"Science fiction romance at its best. Great story, interesting characters and a great cat make this story one to read and perhaps re-read. The world creating is top notch." 5 stars on amazon


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes



Monday, June 8, 2020


I was always fascinated by the multiplicity of languages, cultures, and different kinds of writing. My research about the origins of the written word only proved that not all the experts agree, but this is what I gathered. 


In every Asian country, there is a legend saying that writing was a science of the gods, and they taught it to man as a means to impart their knowledge. This explains why the most ancient writings are religious in nature and tell of the life and exploits of the ancient gods, as well as ancient teachings, like the knowledge of medicinal plants, acupuncture, etc.
 

In China, Cangjie, who, according to legend, brought writing to the court of the Yellow Emperor, was a very unique individual. He was described as having four eyes. Not your typical human being. 

A Chinese character is an entire word in itself, often a graphic representation, an image that evolved over time. The pictogram for rain, for example, represents a stylized window and the falling rain seen through that window, with a flat cloud above. The writing is read from top to bottom and from right to left, allowing continuous writing on long scrolls. 


Since Chinese is an agglutinant language, it doesn’t use prepositions or other small connecting words. The placement of the word inside the sentence clarifies the meaning (who is doing what to whom, how, why, where, whether it’s a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc.)
 

In the late 6th Century AD, a mass political exile saw large numbers of Chinese emigrating to Japan. They took with them the teachings of Confucius and their system of writing. Since the native islanders of the time (the ancient Ainu tribes) didn’t have writing, they used the Chinese ideograms to write their own language. Then different emigrants came to the islands and mixed with the Ainu and the Chinese to form the Japanese people. They wrote with Chinese characters, same meaning, different pronunciation, using the same brush strokes. 


However, the Japanese used a number of one-syllable connecting words to form sentences, and there were no phonetic syllables in Chinese. So, they added a number of small, simple connecting characters, called Hiragana, representing phonetic syllables, which are also used today to teach children to read and write, before they can memorize the thousands of complicated pictograms or ideograms (Kanji) necessary to read and write the main language.
 

Legends of India say that the Mahabharata, an ancient epic depicting the exploits of the gods during their time on Earth, was recited by the sage Vyasa from the oral tradition, while Lord Ganesha himself (the Elephant God) penned it down… implying that only the gods could write.
 

Other legends of India also portray the gods teaching writing to their people. Sanskrit is one of the oldest forms of sophisticated written language, used to write the Vedas. But it doesn’t use images, only letters linked together to form sounds and words. Sound is very important in India. Some sacred sounds are so powerful (like the mantras) that they are believed to manifest divinity.
 

In 3400 BC a cuneiform type of writing developed in Mesopotamia. Legend says it was given to the Sumerians by their Anunnaki gods, those who from the heavens came. The oldest tablets tell of the interactions of the Anunnaki with their human workers, stories of the flood, etc. The characters represented stylized Sumerian or Akkadian objects. Soon, these symbols were also used to represent specific sounds.
 

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs seem to have derived from Sumerian cuneiform writing. Sometimes they represent an object, an animal, a river, a sacred symbol. However, a bird doesn’t necessarily mean a bird, but the phonetic sound of the bird’s name, which is used as a syllable in a longer word or name. To indicate that, the full name of a Pharaoh, for example, is enclosed into a cartouche. 


Since I want to keep this post brief, I will continue this history of the written word in parts 2 and 3, in the next two months.

In the meantime, you can read my CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE series, where history and Celtic legends collide. Years of research went into it, and the result is an edgy medieval fantasy saga. Find it at - Amazon - B&N - Smashwords and more.  
From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.


HAPPY READING!


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes

http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB