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Interview with Greta van der Rol

Author Spotlight – Greta van der Rol

Greta van der Rol

Thanks so much for having me here, Susan. It was great to chat with you recently about the stars and astrophotography. And just that one sentence says a lot about me. Although I have a degree in history and I can’t add up to save my life, I love reading about astronomy, exoplanets, Pluto, Rosetta and all the fascinating things happening in the universe. And I love my camera.

I suppose one of the reasons I write space opera is because of my interest in space. Who wouldn’t want to hop around the star systems having adventures? I adore Star Wars, can’t wait until December when Star Wars VII will hit the screens. Way back in the seventies I enjoyed the original Star Wars (A New Hope) and ABSOLUTELY ADORED The Empire Strikes Back. Saw it four times in the first week, I did – and many, many times since. Mind you, in my books I try to make my science a bit more realistic than George Lucas did. You can’t just hop over to the next planet if the hyperdrive dies.

I’ve always read science fiction – Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, McDevitt, Moon and the like. But I always felt that they glossed over, or ignored, the romance component of life as we know it, so my space opera includes a dollop of romance. My Iron Admiral books are set against the prospect of inter-species war (that’s the space opera bit) but they’re about two extraordinary people having to cope with each other, as well as the forces intent on causing a galactic catastrophe. They’re the first two of my Ptorix Empire series. My Morgan Selwood books are set in a universe where Humanity has faced the possibility of extinction at the hands of the machines, and rebuilt itself over thousands of years. That’s why Morgan is a very human cyborg. Nobody wants artificial intelligences to take over again. I introduced Morgan and her world in my novelette, Supertech. She goes on from there to star in a full length adventure, Morgan’s Choice, where she meets my favourite admiral, Ashkar Ravindra. I’m told I do hot admirals well. 🙂

The Demon's Eye
My most recent publication, The Demon’s Eye, has joined A Matter of Trust in The Dryden Universe. I’m one of a number of writers who have set our stories in a shared universe under a collective commons copyright. That means while I retain copyright for my story, other writers can use my settings and my characters in their own stories, rather like fan fiction. It’s an experiment. It worked for Star Wars, Star Trek etc. Dryden has more alien species than my other two universes. But you’ll find another hot admiral in AMoT. I can’t help myself.

Back to that camera. Photography is what I do when I’m not writing or cooking. My subjects are almost always landscapes or animals. I have a particular passion for photographing movement, capturing that moment in time that’s often too fast for us humans to actually see. Flying birds and breaching whales are special favourites. And because I love animals, I’ve also written a couple of paranormal books about weretigers. I donate any profits from those to two charities – the David Shepherd conservation group that helps wild tigers, and Carolina Tiger, a shelter in the USA that aids some of the many thousands of tigers in the USA which are bought as domestic pets by deluded people who soon find they can’t cope with a five hundred pound wild beast in their backyard.

I’m always happy to connect with readers. You’ll find me at There are links to my books, my photos (I sell some on Dreamstime, Canstock and RedBubble) and my social media profiles.

Please – come and say hi.

**** I can’t help but note that I absolutely LOVE Greta’s books!!!

Where Do the Characters Come From?

Where Do the Characters Come From?

I am often asked where my characters come from. The answer is simple – everywhere! Now, this doesn’t really answer the question, but I’ll give you some examples to help you understand that the characters really can come from anywhere. So, open your mind, put on your thinking cap, and see how many places you can discover the next character for your story!

Characters from Real Life: Sometimes characters are modeled after real people. In my children’s book, The Troll King of Wildland: The Adventures of Juliana, the lead character is Juliana. This is the story of an amazing little girl who is given a necklace by one of her grandmothers. Unbeknownst to Juliana, her two dogs, Kula and Cocoa, and her new ferret, Reba, are actually enchanted guards from the world of Wildland.

In real life, there really are a Juliana, Kula, Cocoa, and Reba. I was talking with Juliana’s father, Nathan, another real figure in the story, who asked me where I got my ideas from. I told him I could hear a name and pretty much create a story around it. I could tell he didn’t believe me, LOL, which is okay, most people don’t. His response was “So, if I give you the names of my two dogs, Kula and Cocoa, you could write a story about them?” He asked me in a somewhat skeptical tone.

When I started creating a story on the phone, he stopped me and told me that they also had a ferret and asked if I could include Reba. Before I knew it, he gave me Juliana’s name. I asked him some questions about her to get a feel for her character and told him I would write a story about her and her pets, but I needed to finish the story I was working on first. Shortly after our conversation, I sent him a copy of The Troll King of Wildland: The Adventures of Juliana. It is the magical story of a young girl who travels to Wildland to save the King of Wildland who has been kidnapped by the Troll King. Action, adventure, and many surprise twists, including an unlikely ending take the reader on a surprising journey.

Fictitious Characters Need to Be Real: In many of my other stories, the characters may be fictitious, but they all contain elements of people I have met during my life. In Voyage of the Defiance: Breaking Free series, Makayla reminds me a lot of myself at that age. I remember the turmoil of being a teenager, trying to find my place in the world. Her friendships, her relationship with her grandfather, and her desire to have her mom a part of her life makes her real to readers because we have all been there. Most of us have lived through the high school drama, the confrontations, the young love, and the need to find some sense of calm in a world that always seems a bit overwhelming.

Other times, my ideas come from a song, or in the case of Dust, from a workshop I was in. I was sitting in a large, crowded room listening to a speaker talking about the China market. He mentioned superheroes and the image of Dust rose in my mind with such intensity that I began writing his story right there. It was such a powerful tale with a main character that enthralled me! How would I react if I was in his situation? What would I do if I found I was changing? Dust became that superhero who didn’t know he was a hero and one that was still evolving.

The Essence of a Story: Characters are the heart of the story, they should be as 3-D in the story as they are in real life. So, the next time you are looking for the perfect characters, take a look around you and you might just find that they were there all the time! Who knows, if you look in the mirror, that character just might be you!

About S. E. Smith

S.E. Smith is a New York Times, USA TODAY, International, and Award-Winning Bestselling author of science fiction, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary works for adults, young adults, and children. She enjoys writing a wide variety of genres that pull her readers into worlds that take them away.

Should Stories Deal With and/or Contain Social Situations

Should Stories Deal With and/or Contain Social Situations

Social situations are always a touchy topic. We see them in the press all the time, but should we see them in our stories? The answer is simple, yes. Whether an author is writing non-fiction or fiction, social situations have always played an important part in a story. In this article, I’m going to address why it is important.

The Issues: 

In the story Voyage of the Defiance: Breaking Free series, Makayla is faced with many issues that can be found in society today: a dysfunctional family life, prescription drug addiction, gangs, first love, and bullying at school. That is a lot rolled into one action-packed story, but life never just deals you one problem card. Plus, each situation helps guide how Makayla and the other characters react in the story.

The Reaction of the Characters: 

The reaction is important. It has to be real for it to be believable. One way of capturing that realism is to remember what it was like to be back in high school for Voyage of the Defiance. It also helped that I worked in one and saw a lot of what was going on. Many of the issues are things that the students faced. I remember a group of about fifty high school kids getting into a fight during lunch after a gang shooting. Emotions were running high and so was the tension. While I didn’t have this event in the story, I did capture the emotions and tension during several scenes including one where Makayla is jumped between classes.

Awareness and Education: 

Awareness and education are important in dealing with issues that come up. Makayla’s life wasn’t perfect, most kids and adults would say theirs weren’t either. It is important to understand that these types of issues are real and can happen to anyone. Well known books, including fables and fairytales, deal with social issues: Snow White and Cinderella? Yep, the step-mothers were green with jealousy and dealing with a dysfunctional family. The Ugly Duckling, Pinocchio? Yeah, it had some major issues with bullying. The list goes on and on. An important aspect is to recognize it and provide positive ways of dealing with the issues that the characters face.

Drawing the Line: 

In the long run, it is up to the author to draw the line on which social issues they are incorporating into their story and how the characters deal with it. Non-fiction will definitely be different than fiction, but both need to portray and accept that the reaction whether from a real person or a fictitious one has to be in line with real life emotions and reactions and handled with respect. Social issues and problems have been around for thousands of years, it is how we deal with each one that continues to remain the focus.

About S. E. Smith 

S.E. Smith is a New York Times, USA TODAY, International, and Award-Winning Bestselling author of science fiction, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary works for adults, young adults, and children. She enjoys writing a wide variety of genres that pull her readers into worlds that take them away.

What Readers Are Saying About The Old Dragon of the Mountain’s Christmas

The Old Dragon of the Mountain’s Christmas

(Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 9)


Aikaterina had remained behind after the dragonlings, Roam, and Alice’s parents had rescued them. She had been curious when the old dragon had turned away from the entrance. She had planned to give his symbiot a touch of her blood to regain its strength so that it could help Christoff escape, but hesitated as a new thought came to her.

While her species normally tried not to interfere with the circle of life, she found it increasingly difficult to stay away from them. She had followed the dragonlings and their friends on their journey. They had each captured a special place inside her with their innocent love. It wasn’t until she saw their gift of friendship and love that she knew she needed to help Christoff.

She had once again been torn when the entrance had caved in. It has been his symbiot’s quiet plea for mercy for it’s friend and companion that had sealed her decision. The flashes of the old dragon’s life had pierced her resolve. She remembered two other dragons, twin brothers who had felt the pull of the loneliness. It was in part her fault that they had never found their true mate. As her consciousness grew for this species, so did the understanding that she needed to help them if she could.

The Old Dragon of the Mountain's Christmas 600x900


Born prematurely, Christoff wasn’t as big or as strong as his older brother or the other younglings in the village. Unable to fit in, he does the best he can, helping his father and mother on their farm. His life changes when the mountain near their farm awakens. Believing he is the only one who can quiet it, he retreats to the mountain to watch over the village that shunned him.

A hermit for centuries, he dreams of the day he can move on to his next life; a life that he hopes will give him a chance of finding his true mate. He knows his time has come when the mountain begins to tremble again. What he doesn’t expect is a group of younglings who suddenly appear in the hopes of saving a thing called Christmas. When the mountain erupts, he never expects to awaken on a strange planet light years away, or to meet an unusual woman who sees beneath his deformity to the warrior hidden within.

Can the love of a special woman and her family heal Christoff’s tortured soul? Find out what happens when the Goddess Aikaterina gives The Old Dragon his very own special Christmas.


  • TSRBR gave a 5 star rating.

“You know that you have found a one in a million book, when you find yourself laughing out loud one minute and then crying the next.”

“In S. E. Smith’s newest book in the Dragon Lords of Valdier series, The Old Dragon’s Christmas your feelings will run a gamut of emotional responses with each turn of the page. Ms. Smith has created a story that touches the heart and soul of the reader while keeping them entertained with her unique insights into life and love mixed in with alien spice.”

  • Nancy gave a 5 star rating.

“A Touching and Uplifting Story”

“I really enjoyed reading this short story. The author gives enough back story so you really get to know Chistoff and what he went through growing up and how he came to be living isolated on his mountain for centuries. I think this is the first time I have read a story involving alpha males where the main character is born handicapped and how he is treated by the other males in this alpha dominated society.”

  • Diana gave a 5 star rating.

“Love conquers all, even accross the universe”

“I loved Edna and Christoff’s story. It is really a story of seeing the true heart of a person and not just their exterior or their age. I was very pleased to read Christoff’s story since the dragonlings mentioned he was sent to Edna at the end of the Dragonling’s Christmas story. This fits into the Dragon Lord’s of Valdier series without requiring you to have read them all. Since I have read all the other stories, however, I enjoyed getting updates on both Abby and Edna and seeing pieces come together with help from Wyoming. Lovely. I am ready for the next story.”

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Interview with Evelyn Lederman

Author Spotlight – Evelyn Lederman

Evelyn Lederman

People often ask how long I have wanted to be a writer. The answer is easy, never. Romance novels were my way to reduce work related stress. Escaping to Regency England or a world populated with vampires kept me sane.

When I retired my plan was to spend more time reading. I had planned to reread the first novel in series I had been reading for years. Novels such as Nalini Singh’s ‘Slave to Sensation’ or Shannon K. Butcher’s ‘Burning Alive’. It is said the best laid plans…

A little over two years ago I was driving to play tennis when a conversation that occurred a decade ago between my sister and a friend of mine popped into my brain. It dealt with String Theory and the existence of infinite parallel worlds. At the time I paid little attention to what they were discussing. I was the one driving through the mountains that flanked Sedona, Arizona when this was occurring. What was unique about this remembrance was five young women started to talk to me.

When I attended my first romance novel convention (Romcon 2010), I was amazed to hear author’s characters conversed with them. Actually, I thought they were nuts, until it started happening to me. Naturally, the girls did not tell their stories in chronological order. They shared bits and pieces. It was my job to place structure around the incredible tales they shared. The ‘Worlds Apart’ series contains the five books that tell their stories.

Worlds Apart Series

Could you imagine growing up on Earth, only to find out you were daughters of refugees from a parallel universe? That is what my first three characters discovered. Not only that, but in the parallel dimension their parents were from they would find the soul mates they were destined to love.

My soul mates are telepathic beings who when they finally make love evolve to their next telepathic state. Each of my young women obtain powers that help them navigate what turns out to be a dangerous world controlled by mind control telepaths.

One by one, my female characters make their way through the portal to the Troyk universe. Each finds secrets about their past and the promise of a bright future if they are willing to fight for it.

Now in my retirement I am playing tennis, hitting the beach, and writing about incredible women and their soul mates. So many ideas of worlds that exist on the other side of the portal in Sedona, Arizona are floating in my heard, I barely have time to get them all written. I hope you enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy writing them.

Please drop in and say hello at a few of my favorite places and let me know Susan sent you: