Feb 242015
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Some Girls Some Hats and Hitler vintage look cover~Some Girls, Some Hats And Hitler: Book Review with a Vintage Slant~

By Tam Francis

The Synopsis

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler by Trudi Kanter (originally self published in 1984, republished by Virago Press 2012), is part love story, part Holocaust, and very much vintage fashion and lifestyle memoir. We follow Trudi, a half-Jewish milliner, at the dawn of WWII as her country’s borders are closed when Austria is annexed to Germany and she and her family (mother, father, fiancé) are trapped.

Like a proud ostrich with his head in the sand, Trudi’s Walter can’t see the impending danger, refusing to leave his city, and love struck Trudi is too devoted to leave without him. Trudi takes charge and overcomes the obstacles that will not only bring her and Walter to safety, but her parents and many friends in their elite circle of chic businessmen, artists, actors, and socialites.

Through many “miracles” (badgering, letters, filing, pleading and who knows what else), Trudi is able to secure papers for herself, but has a more difficult time finding a sponsor and travel approval for Walter. With her sheer determination, intelligence, and feminine wile she finally gets them out of Austria, but must leave her parents behind.

Once in England Walter and Trudi strive to maintain their love and a semblance of a normal life while working towards bring her parents to England. Trudi finds work in hat fashions right away, but Walter struggles, adding to his lowering self-esteem and guilt about living off Trudi’s meager income.vintage chic cafe

Not long after successfully bringing her parents to England, her father and Walter are taken to an internment camp. Trudi polishes up her guns again and fights to get them back, eventually helping to secure their release.

With Walter keen mind and creative genius, he finally finds work and invents a key component for aircrafts that secures his place to become a nationalized citizen.

Some Girl, Some Hats and Hitler is the story of one women’s determination to live, love, and enjoy everything life has to offer.

What I like about it

  • The poetic style of writing was much like reading a long prose poem and I love poetry.
  • The use of present tense upped the tension and a bold choice for a memoir which are usually written in past tense. Anyone used to reading Young Adult fiction will have no problem following her as she jumps from past to present tense in her narrative.
  • Her dialogue passages were right on the money with the character, tension and occasional humor revealed in pitch perfect pacing, one of her strongest writing attributes.
  • Descriptions of fashion, scenery, décor, and architecture had this vintage gal drooling. Her travels and scene description of the Paris fashion scene is a must read for any vintage fashionista.
  • Her delectable offerings of Viennese cafes and restaurants made me want to run to the kitchen and start cooking. I love to eat and love fancy food. The imagery was a great juxtaposition to the horrors arising around her.
  • Her strong-willed, determined characterization of herself. Through her expertise of running her own business, balancing her creative life, and taking charge to secure their freedom showed her to be ahead of her time for women of that era. Not to mention self-publishing her memoir way ahead of the indie/self-publishing revolution.
  • Little zingers that peppered her narrative. After the fact accounts of who died, how and when, or thoughtful insight that left my heart aching.

What I didn’t Like

  • 1935 vintage paris hat adI wanted more depth to the some girls. We were privy to small glimpses of these gals, but I wanted more. I wanted to see the relationships between the girls, not just character description.
  • More sex. Sure she hinted at it and the jacket cover teased us with her sensuality, but the love scenes could have been more fleshed out (pun intended).
  • I felt like she glossed over some of the atrocities. It would have upped the ante even more if she could have juxtaposed more of the terrible treatment of human beings to give more depth and strife to her story.
  • The jumps in time often left me confused, having to go back and remember who people were and how they fit into her life. These areas could have been expanded on for a better flow.
  • It would have been nice to know what Tyrolean meant. BTW, it means the designating or typifying the peasant dress of the Tyrol, especially a man’s soft-brimmed, usually green felt hat with a peaked crown and a feather or brush ornament on the hatband. Tyrol is an Austrian State.
  • I didn’t like the ending. Of course, he died and she is now dead, but for a story billed as a love story it was a very anticlimactic end to a roller coaster ride.
  • I felt that she painted everyone around her in too good a light. I wanted more character flaws and more dimension to each person, especially the main players in her tale.
  • Although I like the poetic aspect of her writing, more often than not, it was choppy and tedious to read in long sessions. And when I read, I like to devour.

tyrolean sweater vintageFavorite Quotes

Insight into her character

“I close my eyes. I remember my parents and I walking alongside a cornfield…I ran backward and forward, picking cornflowers for my mother…She smiled when I gave them to her. I loved her. A love that lasted all my life. Suddenly I realized how beautiful she was. Soft face, warm hair, shaded, gold; large eyes, the color and sparkle of well-cut sapphires. I saw that people smiled at her; I was envious and tried to copy her. I tried, like her, to walk with a slight sway of my hips. I didn’t succeed and was upset. No one looked at me.”

Great Dialogue

“Tell me about yourself. Are you happy?” he asks.

“I’m all right. You?”

“I’m Lonely”

“You?” I laugh. “Lots of girls are after you. You’re never alone.”

“I didn’t say that I was alone. I said I was lonely.”

Our food arrives. Cold lobster, a huge green salad, champagne.

“You are too young to have a broken marriage,” Walter says. “I saw you the other day with Pepi.”

“Do you  know him?”

“Yes, and I like him a lot. Why do you want to divorce him?”

“Ask me why I married him.”

“Why did you marry him?”

“I thought I was in love.”

Wonderful Fashion Description

“In those days it was considered chic to wear Tyrolean outfits for sport and travel. Emerald green braid ran down each side of my slim, gray flannel skirt. My gray flannel jacket had a tiny emerald green stand-up color, wide revers and cuffs. The buttons down the front were made of horn. My blouse was white lawn. My small-brimmed, black silky velour hat was trimmed with a wide emerald green ribbon. Black flat-heeled crocodile shoes and black crocodile clutch bag completed the outfit.”


If you champion the struggles of WWII Jews and abhor the atrocities of the Nazi’s this is a good choice to read without being entrenched in gut-wrenching descriptions of the horrors. And if you like a little romance and a lot of lush descriptions of fashion, food and décor this book is for you! I found it best consumed slowly, like a five-course meal, so you can savor all the layered flavors.

Vintage Enthusiast Rating:

• Fashion: ♥♥♥♥♥
• Music: ♥
• Dance: ♥


Do you have a favorite hat, vintage item or any clothing that lifts your spirits. Trudi used fashion as her connection to life. How does fashion affect you? Do you think fashion is superficial, an art form or a means of self-expression?

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Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Vintage Reviewer

 Posted by on January 11, 2015 at 9:04 AM
Jan 112015
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Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Vintage Reviewer

by Tam Francis

Hotel-on-the-Corner-of-Bitter-and-Sweet-As I was writing The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress (a story told in a parallel narrative with two points of view), my mother insisted I read this book. She thought it similar to my novel and thought I’d love it. It turns out she was right.

The Synopsis

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ( 2009, Random House), is set in 1940’s and 1980’s Seattle, specifically in Japantown and Chinatown. When the boarded up Panama Hotel is renovated, belongings of Japanese families, which were left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II, are found in the basement. Our hero, Henry Lee, is flooded with buried memories as he spies a familiar vintage parasol.

We follow Henry down his personal rabbit hole as the narrative jumps between his present and past, and his experience growing up as a Chinese American at the height of WWII. He is awarded a “scholarship” to a prestigious “white” school where, amidst bullies and indifferent classmates, he meets the love of his life, Keiko. Only problem is: she’s Japanese. And this is a big problem. Henry’s father is Chinese obsessed to the point of making Henry wear a I AM CHINESE button to school everyday. He tells Henry, The Japanese are the enemy.

The only person Henry can talk to is a black street musician, Sheldon. They develop a unique friendship and when Keiko and her family are evacuated to an internment camp, it is Sheldon, Henry turns to.

In Henry’s present, he struggles with his wife’s death and his estranged relationship with his own son. He cannot seem to find the words to bridge the gap with his modern, progressive, Chinese American son.1940s vintage parsols

What I liked about it

  • The romantic, Nicholas Sparks, sentimentality. I’m a sucker for a good romance and this fit the bill, as a bittersweet, achingly beautiful romance with a touch of Romeo and Juliet.
  • The duel narrative and jumping from past to present. Ford did this effortlessly.
  • Multi-dimensional characters with wonderful flaws and depth that grow and change throughout the novel.
  • The insight into the Chinese (and in small part Japanese) perspective of the war without being heavy-handed.
  • The history lesson. Ford did a great job of imparting interesting information and facts in a readable story. I was fascinated with the division of Chinatown and Japantown and appreciated the glimpse into the Japanese internment camp.
  • The inclusion of Seattle’s jazz scene. I could hear Sheldon play his music in my head, and I felt like Ford took me to the smoky jazz club with his characters.
  • Somewhat happy ending. Yeah, sometimes I want the unreality of the happy ending and Ford does this without making it too sappy.

What I didn’t like about it

  • It started off a little slow for me and the narrative continued on a meandering pace. If you like the flow of Merchant Ivory films, you might like this, it has the same tempo.
  • I like to cry, laugh and anger when I read, but sometimes Ford was too obvious in his manipulation of the reader’s feelings, hitting me over the head with the emotion he wanted to evoke.
  • There were a few anachronisms that brought me out of the story, like an online support group, some inaccurate dates, and other odd era incongruities. Historical fiction writers or their editors need to be fact checkers, unless stated that something was changed or fudged for a reason.
  • I wanted more Sheldon and more Jazz.
  • The school bullies where a little cliche.

Chinatown seattle 1940sOverall

My mom had me pegged. I really enjoyed Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I became invested in the characters. There was enough romance and I loved learning the new bits of history without getting mired in it. Plus, the book, although the pacing seemed slow, was a quick, easy read.

Vintage Enthusiast Rating:

• Fashion: ♥♥
• Music: ♥♥♥♥
• Dance: ♥


Have you read anything about WWII Interment camps? Did you like it better than this? Why or why not. How much romance do you like in your historical fiction? I want to hear from you.

Do you have a novel set in the 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s, or seems to fit a vintage genre, I would like to review it. Contact me today!

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Book Signings are for YOU!

 Posted by on October 27, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Oct 272014
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Why Book Signings are for you whether you’re a reader or a writer

By Tam Francis

40s woman writingFirst let me invite you to my reading and signing of my debut book, Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright. If you’re in the Austin area, the darling little town of Lockhart is just a hop down one of the fastest freeways in the country. You can take in some of the world famous barbecue, admire the most photographed courthouse in Texas, and visit with Tam Francis in the historic Eugene Clark library. Make a day of it and enjoy the Dia de los Muertos Celebration with crafts, music, art, and food. Book sales to benefit library.

  • Tam Francis book signing Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright
  • 217 S Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644
  • (512) 398-3223
  • 4:00 pm-6:00 pm
  • November 1st, 2014

What’s in it for Readers?children reading 1940s

  • The author will usually read snippets from the book giving you a free preview before you buy (I will be reading one of the short stories–perfect for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos)
  • You can get the authors signature and have a personal dedication (although a signature alone is more valuable than a dedication for collectors–unless you’re famous).
  • There are often light refreshments (we will have lemonade and pastries)
  • Most times you can ask the author questions and find out more about them and their writing process. Great for aspiring writers.
  • Freebies (I will have FREE bookmarks for the first 50 readers and additional FREE gifts with the purchase of each novel purchased through the library).
  • You purchased a book on the internet or bookstore you can bring it to the reading. I invite everyone to bring their books no matter where were purchased.

What’s in it for Writers?vintage typing class 1930s 1940s

  • A chance to connect with readers and build fans. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and engage with fans, but it’s nicer to meet them in person. You might learn something about them and about yourself.
  • The connection to the past and long history of other writers, having sat and signed their books
  • Opportunity to sell more books. Patrons are not obliged to buy your books, but you’ve got a better shot at it if they’re right in front of them.
  • Instant feedback. You’ll be able to see in their faces if they’re responding to your words.
  • Possibility for more online reviews. When a reader has met you in person, the likelihood of them writing a review (which helps sales), increases. Plus, you can simply ask them in person.

1950s dance circleIt’s my hope to see you at the Eugene Clark Library Nov. 1st, 2014. I encourage readers and writers to get together and complete the circle of words. Hope to see you there!


Do you have more suggestions for book readings and signings? Have you been to any memorable ones? What made them memorable?





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NEW for Halloween Interview with Ghost Story Author

 Posted by on October 20, 2014 at 1:09 PM
Oct 202014
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My name is Lizzy and I’m a character in Dressing the Part from Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright. Tam has asked me to interview her to get everyone excited about her collection of ghost stories. I’m surprised she didn’t pick a ghost to interview her. Hmmm, that’s a great question to start with. So, Tam, why did you pick my character to interview you?

40s vintage starlet girls halloweenTam Francis: Well, Dressing the Part is one of my favorite stories because it has everything I love, vintage clothing, swing dancing, a little romance and a ghost, and you’re such a sweetie and the epitome of a newbie swing dancer. Plus, I’m offering Dressing the Part as a sample excerpt on Goodreads as well as having sent it out in my media kit.

Lizzy: Tam, What made you want to write ghost stories? It’s an old fashioned sub-genre of horror that doesn’t attract a lot of aspiring writers, especially since you’re not writing about vampires, werewolves or zombies.

Tam: I always liked to read ghost stories, some of my favorites written by Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Edgar Allan Poe. I grew up telling ghost stories around the campfire and watching Night Gallery, Outer Limits, and Twilight Zone. Eerie unexplained phenomena really get me going, and when I moved to Texas, I was inspired by a ghost story contest that raised funds for the historic Eugene Clark Library. I entered three years in a row, garnering honors the last two, and thought I should just keep going until I had enough stories for a collection.

I love the challenge of telling an entire story and creating compelling three-dimensional characters in the confines of the short story format. Plus, some ideas that don’t work for novels, are perfect for short stories, not to mention the shorter time commitment and lesser risks in the short story format.

Also, I’d been trying to create a niche genre of vintage swing dance romance, to go with the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress series, and the stories kept dancing in my head until I put them on paper.

Lizzy: Pun intended?

Tam: Hell ya.

Lizzy: Okay, Explain this niche genre concept.40s vintage  girl girl interview

Tam: With the rise of self-publishing, discoverability by self-published and traditionally published authors is getting more difficult. There is a new book published on Amazon every five minutes. Since I have a relationship to the sub-cultures of vintage fashion and swing dance, I realized it would be a great target market to pursue. Once I captured that market and positive word-of-mouth began circulating, I knew my writing would appeal to anyone who likes historical fiction, romance, Americana, (and in the case of Ghostoria, ghost stories). It’s my launchpad to a wider audience.

Lizzy: So besides querying The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress and celebrating Ghostoria, what else are you working on?

Tam: I’m currently gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2014 by brain-storming ideas for a full length vintage romantic ghost story. In the meantime, I’m finishing edits on The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress Hops the Atlantic which won 2013’s NaNoWriMo.

Lizzy: As you know, I’m an avid Lindy hopper and haven’t given up on vintage despite my recent experience. Oops, I hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler for Dressing the Part. Tell me more about the sequel to The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress.

Jean Veloz 1940s JitterbugTam: In book two of the Jitterbug Dress series, the parallel story line continues as we return to Violet’s world of big band jazz, dance halls, and this time, seedy nightclubs. Violet reveals more of her past as a budding songbird in 1940’s Los Angeles and early Vegas.

June’s life takes an unexpected turn when she must choose between the security of her family and friends, vintage shops, and swing clubs, or run off with an international swing boy and hop the Atlantic. Is the sparkling Lindy Hop star who twirled her around Catalina’s historic ballroom worth the risk?

Lizzy: With the dancing, the vintage clothing, and action-packed plot, it sounds like something I’d love. Any plans on when The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress will be available to readers?

Tam: I’m currently querying the first novel, but using Ghostoria as a gauge to see if I like the self-publishing experience.

Lizzy: Well, do you?

Tam: The jury is still out. Its much more technical than I imagined and the learning curve has been steep. Just getting the Createspace template to flow the way I wanted was difficult not to mention cover design, ebook conversion and self-promotion presented its own challenges. I’m exhausted.

Lizzy: Getting back to Ghostoria, have you ever had a “paranormal” experience? If so, did any of those experiences show up in your stories?

Tam: Ah, yes, actually. When my husband first joined the Navy and we were stationed in San Diego, CA, we rented an old apartment built in 1926. My husband worked the night shift which left me home alone at night in a strange city. One night as I fell asleep, I felt him sit on the bed and lay down next to me. I reached out to touch him, but he wasn’t there. Of course, it would have been much too early for him to be home. I brushed it off as the weirdness that happens when you’re half asleep and half in dreamland.

I laid down to go to sleep again. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I felt the same sensation of someone sitting, then stretching out on the bed, then the pillow beside my head shifted with what felt like the weight of another person.

I jumped up and turned on all the lights in the apartment. I called my husband at work and told him the story. I sat up in the living room all night reading until he came home.

There were other similar strange incidents, but the part of the unexplained sensation of someone who wasn’t there in my bed next to me is in the eleventh story, Zelda, in Ghostoria.vintage ghost picture halloween

Lizzy: Where did you get the ideas for other stories in the collection?

Tam: Many of the Ghostoria stories came from off-hand remarks. For example Haint Blue,  came from a friend asking if we were going to paint our porch ceiling blue, a popular tradition in the south. Being a Yankee, I had no idea, and once I started researching the idea, I learned about haints and the story grew from there.

Another story came from a substitute gig (I sub for Jr. High and High School, mostly in the Language Arts class). The students were doing creation myths, so as I sat at lunch, I crafted my own creation myth for my new-to-me Texas life. The story evolved from there, and the creation myth and story mirrored each other in a cool mystical way. My twelve-year-old son, helped with that one by pointing out I had missed the armadillo.

Lizzy: How do you get into the minds of so many different characters?

Tam: Most characters are amalgamation of people I know. I try to give them their own set of goals and morals so their actions and reactions are different than mine and hopefully not predictable and different with each story.

Lizzy: Have you written any more ghost stories since Ghostoria came out?

Tam: No, but a friend of mine liked Ghostoria so much she suggested I do a sequel. I do have in mind a collection of swing dance essays culled from blog posts and other swing dance experiences. I’m still debating on whether to do them as non-fiction, or fiddle them into fictional short stories.

Lizzy: Do you believe in ghosts?

Tam: Let’s just say I don’t NOT believe in ghosts. I’ve had some experiences I cannot explain, as to whether they are ghosts, manifestations of untapped parts of our mind, inter-dimensional leaks in the cosmos, or residual energy, I just don’t know, but they sure are fun to write about.
What do you think? Do you believe in ghosts? Do you like to read ghost stories? What makes a great ghost story? Would you like to win a copy of Ghostoria? Two ways to win: Sign up on our mailing list and comments on any blog, or pop over to Goodreads and enter there. Available in Paperback, ebook and Nook. Get your Ghostoria TODAY!

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The Story Behind the Story

 Posted by on October 8, 2014 at 1:47 PM
Oct 082014
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The Story Behind the Story

by Tam Francis

Have you ever wondered how writers come up with their ideas? Why they choose a certain genre. Or WHY write such a specific sub-genre like ghost stories? I was recently asked to guest post on Gretchen Rix’s blog site. To entice you to check out her site, here’s an excerpt with the answers your seek: 

Literature for Halloween? 

You Bet! Vintage Halloween Postcards asian

An Invitation

Gretchen has graciously invited me to hawk my new book on her blog. But, besides telling you what a fun and spooky read it is for Halloween and what it’s about, I wanted to share something special with you. I’d like to reveal the mystery of how one person can make a difference, or in this case two. If it wasn’t for Gretchen, and her sister Roxanne these stories never would have been written.

I had just moved from San Diego, California to the small town of Lockhart, Texas. I had no friends yet, and although Texans are friendly, fun and talkative, it sometimes takes a while to be invited in. I was desperate for something to distract me from my lonelies.

I had just finished writing my novel, The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress, when we moved, and I was looking for something else to sink my teeth into while I queried the novel.

The Impetus

That wish came true in the form of a flyer posted on our local library door. Our local library is not your run-of-the-mill indifferent kind of municipal library. It’s the oldest continuously operating library in all of Texas, built in 1899 with pressed tin ceiling, heavy dark wood trim, and a mezzanine with curling staircases.

The building is one of those spaces that oozes mystery, possibilities and a cosmic connection to the past….

For more visit Rix Cafe!


Did you check out her blog? Cool isn’t it? Let me know what you think over here or over there and don’t forget to take a gander at the books she’s got for sale!

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Politically Correct or Censorship?

 Posted by on October 1, 2014 at 1:17 PM
Oct 012014
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~ Politically Correct or Censorship? ~

by Tam Francis


After posting a link to reddit (scary over there), it was brought to my attention that a song I had chosen for one of my chapter titles and listed on my Soundtrack page contained very offensive, racist lyrics. I had no idea. I had been listening to the song for years. My kids loved it, I loved it. and it had a nice simple swing rhythm that was easy to dance to. The song is Ella Fitzgerald’s Sing Song Swing.


Choppity chop chop, chop chopsticks
Choppity chop chop, chop till six
Choppity chop chop, chops the thing
When Charlie Chingee make his sing song swing

Charlie Ching
Make his sing song swing
With a tingaling
On the ding dong ding

With a tingaling on the ding dong ding
Makee plenty sing song swing

Choppity chop chop, chop chopsticks
Choppity chop chop, chop till six
Choppity chop chop, chops the thing
When Charlie Chingee make his sing song swing

Foo Yung Foo
Makee doodle-doo
With a toot or two
On the flute bamboo

And the doodle-doo and the tingaling
Makee plenty sing song swing

Choppity chop chop, chop chopsticks
Choppity chop chop, chop till six
Choppity chop chop, chops the thing
When Charlie Chingee make his sing song swing

And a tingaling on the ding dong ding
Makee plenty sing song swing

Chop chop choppity, chop chopsticks
Chop chop choppity, chop till six
Choppity chop chop, chops the thing
When Charlie Chingee make his sing song swing

Choppa choppa choppity, chop chopsticks
Choppity choppity, chop till six
Choppity chop chop, chops the thing
When Charlie Chingee make his swing

censor ad 1916 THE OUTCRY

I was graciously informed, “Sing Song Swing is an extremely offensive song making fun of Asians. The song “Sing song swing” is making fun of “ching chong” languages. It is extremely offensive.”

I was completely freaked out.

So, of course, being the lover of history and not wanting to give up on the fun song. I did some research. I read all the comments under Ella’s you tube video and found support for the idea of this song being racist.

nauort23 Jul 17, 2012
I must not be alone: 12 thumbs up and counting. I studied Mandarin for 2 semesters in college, and I learned some Cantonese when I was in California. I have friends who speak Tai Nua and Taiwanese, but I’d call them all Chinese–not Chinamen (which was a politically incorrect catch-all phrase for anyone of East Asian ancestry at the time this song was popular. Don’t for a MINUTE try to assert that this song isn’t just a little racist. Cartoons have been removed from television for less.
I’m Chinese. This song is a tiny bit racist, but I’d rather a racist song where Chinese people are “cool” and playing jazz than a politically correct vision of Chinese people as quiet, obedient, and good at math. I personally love this song.
I continued on.


In an NPR article that I found on The Cutting Edge of Music (.com) an article How Ching Chong Became the Go-to Slur for Mocking Asians. I found this alarming, to say the least.
On Brand Channel I found this excerpt from an article by Abe Sauer which sites two other swing bands I enjoy:

“GM’s ad, which ran only in Canada and online in Europe, follows a swinging dude as he dances to a hip new tune with the lyrics “Now, in the land of Fu Manchu / The girls all now do the Suzie-Q / Clap their hands in the center of the floor / Saying ching-ching chop suey swing some more.” The song’s offensive lyrics have been credited to Austrian “electroswing” musician Parov Stelar’s song “
Booty Swing.” But, not surprisingly when it comes to deeply entrenched Asian stereotypes, the lyrics are actually sampled from the 1938 song “ Oriental Swing ” by Louis Armstrong’s wife Lil Hardon Armstrong.”

I also found the term in an online Etymology Dictionary site which says Charlie (used when referring to an Asian person) may have gained popularity from Charlie Chan movies. I was sad to read this and wondered if this meant I should not watch the Charlie Chan movies or share them with my children. I used to love those when I was a kid. 

Interestingly, I also came across a positive reference to the slang name Charlie on Urban Dictionary:

“He is sweet, sensitive, caring, outgoing, courageous, funny, sexy, gorgeous, everything that a girl would want him to be. He is an extremely sexy man, with a hot ass body. He knows the right things to say to a girl whenever she is feeling sad, and he will stick with her no matter what. He fights for the people he cares about, and he doesn’t back down. He is the sweetest guy you will EVER meet in your life.”
Girl: Who’s that man?
Girl#2 : My Charlie
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Sep 262014
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Hot New Release in time for Halloween & the Writer’s Journey

by Tam Francis

Ghostoria ghost story coverTime to Buy

The collection of short stories, perfect for Halloween, is finally here and available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. But who besides yourself could you buy one for?

  • Dance Teachers/Instructors
  • Librarians
  • October Birthdays
  • Language Arts Teachers
  • Friends
  • Halloween Tea Party Guest
  • Prizes for Halloween Party Games
  • Add to Halloween Gift Basket

If you like Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Romance wrapped in a Twilight Zone paranormal package, you are going to love these stories. Some are scary and spine-tingling while others are bittersweet and thought-provoking. Written by a swing dancer and vintage enthusiast, this collection is ideal for anyone who loves getting caught up in the past and doesn’t mind a few turns on the dance floor. Here is a brief synopsis of a few of the stories:

  • What happens when a WWII secretary is trapped in the office with a ghost and the only way out is to make an unwelcome choice?
  • Drive-in movies, hot rods, and jitterbugs populate Long Way Home; can one young man survive a bloody night in a historic cemetery with his girlfriend?
  • Young residents of a cursed Texas town grapple with what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to save their crops, animals and loved ones?
  • Find out what happens when a college coed gets more than she bargained for with her vintage swing dress.
  • Can a kindergarten teacher silence the talking doll that has frightened her students by solving a fifty year old mystery?
  • A lone lady hitchhiker hops a ride in a 1959 El Dorado Cadillac by a roadside grave. Who will be alive at the end of the drive?
  • A turn of the century jail that housed murderers, liars, and thieves for over a hundred years is taken over by six teenagers on Halloween. What happens when a childhood chant turns deadly?

1940s Woman on bicycle

The Road

What a long and winding road it is to self-publishing a book. If you’ve been following my blog you know that the learning curve has been steep with learning about social media, platform, POV and tense, promotion and even NaNoWriMo. All of the stories were work-shopped through the Lockhart Writer’s group and I struggled with writing a back cover blurb for the collection. Not to mention my journey with cover art, editing and formatting. Every step of the way provided a unique challenge and trying to navigate the road for the first time left me anxious and frankly, exhausted. Below is a short list of the road to self-publishing:


  • Write
  • Workshop/critique groups
  • edit, edit some more, and more, and more…
  • Beta-readers (readers that will read the book as a whole and critique)
  • Pay for a good cover art
  • Pay for professional editing
  • Formatting print
  • Formatting for ebook
  • Uploading

40s woman with microscopeThe Moment of Truth

The moment of truth turned out to be a bit of a letdown. After years of writing, months of editing, weeks of designing and formatting I would have thought the actually publishing would have been more momentous. Everyone in my writer’s group had encouraged me to self-publish, The Austin Romance Writer’s of America had just had a wonderful guest speaker, Katie Graykowski, touting the merits of self-publishing. They all made it sound somewhat easy and gratifying.

What I needed at that moment of truth was for Amazon to have a pop-up screen that said CONGRATS! YOU DID IT! YOU ROCK! Now here are some links to help you promote. My mailchimp account was more exciting when I sent the press release. Note to publishing outlets: give us a little huzzah, please. And for goodness sakes, please give us easy to find links and share options?

The Why

So, why did I do it? And would I do it again? Short story collections are not a hot commodity for agents, unless you’re already an established brand. I wasn’t ready to self-publish my beloved The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress, so I thought Ghostoria would be a great test run. AND, I love to experiment.

I can read all the blogs in the world and listen to testimony from my peers, but everyone’s journey is unique. Plus, as much as I grumble at the difficulties, I LOVE learning new things. I love challenges and puzzles and setting goals. I love the feeling of accomplishment, of seeing something to the end.

My jury is still out on if I would do it again, or if I think it’s a good idea to self- publish my Jitterbug Dress series, but, yeah, I would do another collection.

fancy dance 1940sIt’s Not Over

I thought getting to this point was hard, the journey long, but I realize it’s just the beginning. We need to find each other in the big world of books and self-promotion is just as mind-boggling and the wisdom changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. The self-publishing thing is gigantic and only getting bigger. I read one blogger compare it to a tsunami or avalanche, but those have an end. From where I sit, the glut of new books is more like a virus or rapid cell mitosis. That may sound negative, but I like the idea of us all being interconnected and can infect each other with the love of words.

:: Have you self-published anything? What do you think of short story collections. Would you rather buy a short story collection by a known author or take a chance? What are some of your favorite short story collections?

From Sept 26th through Oct. 24th everyone that joins the mailing list and comments on ANY blog post will be entered in a drawing for a FREE autographed copy of Ghostoria mailed to you by Halloween! (time and post office willing–not guaranteed by Halloween if out of US).


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Remembering the First Camp Hollywood

 Posted by on August 29, 2014 at 5:21 PM
Aug 292014
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Remembering the First Camp Hollywood

By Tam Francis

Swivel Readers reading about Camp Hollywod






In  honor of this year’s Camp Hollywood, I go back in time, into the archives of Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine and tell you what is was like to be there that first year…

The First Night

Blinking lights beat the rhythm of the Hollywood street as the Seven Star Motel beckoned us into the underbelly of it’s structure. We scrambled to our dingy room, careful not to walk on the coagulated carpet in bare feet. We donned vintage dress and did our hair in 40s glam for our first night at the first Camp Hollywood.

We slipped into the Women’s Club of Hollywood greeted by friendly faces, white plastic wrist bands, and information packets. The club, a simple war era building with multi-paned windows, tiered molding, and high ceiling, made me feel like a hostess at a USO dance– Serviceman Welcome.

Peter Loggins dimmed the lights and humorously narrated a montage of rare (rare then) dance footage from the golden age of Hollywood. We watched Dean Collins whip Jewel McGowan into perfect swivels. Jean Veloz smiled and bounced across the screen with Arthur Walsh,  Lenny Smith, Irene Thomas and more. WWII hoppers flickered on black and white celluloid.

Groovie Movie Cast 1940's HollywoodMeeting our Heroes

When the lights came on we sat face to face with our living idols, Lindy Hop legends. That first year played host to Jean Veloz, Freda Angela, Lola Cole, Hal and Marge Takier and John Mills. Vitaly emceed as the awe-struck students asked questions and listened to stories about how the floors were just as crowded back then as they were for us today.  They talked about how the throng of dancer were there to have fun, and were fairly average dancers, but there was a small group of dedicated, hard-working hoppers who pushed Lindy to its limits, (just like now).

I felt the past rushing to meet the present, and the future sneaking into the drafty dance hall. I pictured myself re-telling this story to wide-eyed grandchildren about how I listened to stories from the innovators of an American dance called The Lindy Hop.

Day Two

Dave and Tam Francis Camp HollywoodAfter a sleepless night of bumping and thumping from the room above, (overzealous dancers practicing at 4:00am), I clad my feet in my fave forties wedgies and headed out for a day of dance instruction, sleepy Dave at my side. Of course being the die-hard vintage collectors, we had to make a morning detour to some of our favorite shops like Remix and Yellowstone.

We returned in time for Balboa lessons with Jimmy and Joanne. Finally after months of pestering Dave, my husband, he decided he loved Balboa. The class moved fast without too much emphasis on the basic. We found the style different from the Bal we had been taught several years earlier, (originally taught with a rock-step, but not so today). Once we got used to Bal-ing without the rock-step, it was clear sailing, our heads bobbed around the room like ocean buoys.

Eddie Reed Camp hollywoodThe Evening Dance with Eddie Reed

Arriving fashionably late, we walked into a room of vintage clad dancers hopping to the sounds of The Eddie Reed Big Band and a Welcome to Hollywood 1940 banner. Eddie was in rare form, feeding off the energy of the hopping bodies, his favorite kind of audience. Reed watched the crowd and played with the dancers as jam after jam exploded across the wooden floor.

Erik Robison and Sylvia Skylar swung in their original Hollywood style with all their personal movie star flair. Peter Loggins and Lisa Ferguson epitomized Dean and Jewel with added goofiness and crowd appeal. Vitaly threw Hilary Alexander around in a violent whirl. Other known and unknown hoppers strutted, Sugar-pushed, boogied, and slid to the delight of the less experienced.

The First Hollywood Jitterbug Contest

The Jitterbug contest turned out some very competitive dancing. My favorite was Adam Velez and Trina Sissen who knocked out the house with fun shag, Bal and slip-outs mixed into their Lindy. They rightly took first place as they exuded the spirit of Jitterbug. Russ Olsen and Marissa Slotterbeck, came in second and gave them a run for their money with spontaneous lead and follow footwork, (I don’t think these kids planned anything or were regular dance partners). Coming in at a smashing third were Richie Roca and Debbie Smith with high-speed Swing-outs and dizzying turns.

Day Three

Lisa Ferguson Peter Loggins Teach Camp HollywoodThe next day we had a tough choice between Erik and Sylvia’s styling class or Peter and Lisa’s Dean and Jewel Class. Since we’d had private lessons with Peter and Lisa, we opted for Erik and Sylvia’s. It turned out to be an amazing class with the leads learning Flying Lindy, Free Spins and styling tricks. While the gals learned Sugar-push variations, Swing-out stylings and an over-rotated Swing-out. (Still one of my favorites).

The next class we took was a Boogie Routine taught, again, by Sylvia Skylar. The routine conveniently combined breakaway Boogie steps into an easy to retain form. My cohorts Glenn and Rosie Mouritzen had taken the Speed Swing class and came away with secrets for fast, smooth Lindy.

My dog were barking, but we continued cramming our brain and bodies with more classes. We joined Peter and Lisa for Footwork Variations in which they broke down some of the moves in the old film clips. I especially liked the Irene Thomas variation out of the Sugar-push.

The First  Collegiate Shag Contest in 50 Years

To wrap up the weekend, Dean Mora’s Modern Rhythmists graced the stage in tuxedos like lovely penguin, a stunning songbird by their side. Dean Mora’s fellas were so authentic I thought I’d stepped into a 1930s hall with dime-a-dance girls and bathtub gin.

It had been fifty or more years since Collegiate Shag was featured in the United States. The competitors danced to live killer diller rhythms of the band. Each couple got thirty seconds to strut their stuff and switched out like a swing jam, each round Mora upped the tempo until they were all on the floor in a mad, crazy all-skate to super sonic beats.

Not pure Shag, the dancers mixed in a little Boogie, a little Bal and threw in the kitchen sink for good measure. They had the audience in equal fits of laughter and awe. I’d hated to be a judge that night, but judge they did.

  • First place: Shawn Carter and Cassandra Bugg
  • Second place: Buddy Gallienne & Joanna Contreras
  • Third place: Adam Velez and Adrienne Weidert

hilary Alexander Camp hollywood Wrapping it Up

Last, but not least Hilary Alexander, adorned in vintage fashion both noon and moon, was the ultimate hostess. Her organizational skills and enthusiasm made up for any small glitches that might have occurred over the weekend (great first time event).

Overall the first Camp Hollywood was a tremendous, fun event…

So, here we are sixteen years later, and still going strong. I dream about, and watch from afar as Hilary keeps the Hollywood flame blazing. I can’t wait to see what she has up her lovely sleeve for the next decade.


Do you have memories of the first Camp Hollywood? What was your favorite part? What classes did you take? Did you try the contests? Have you been years since? I’d love to hear about. Share stories and pictures!





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Making History Come Alive Through Vintage Sewing

 Posted by on August 20, 2014 at 7:03 AM
Aug 202014
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~ Making History Come Alive Through Vintage Sewing ~

by Tam Francis

I recently had the honor of playing opposite my daughter in a charming period play called Chicago Gypsies, set in the early 1930s. Sometimes I wonder if they cast me because I know how to sew, but I was cast and given instructions on my costumes. Now, being a swing dancer, I hoped to make dresses that I could wear out dancing. I especially like to wear 1930s style to Balboa-Swing!

Sometimes our attempts are successful, sometimes they’re failures. I’ve shared what I feel were my triumphs and failures in this venture, and what I’ve learned from both.

The Success

The first task I was set was to recreate an outfit my character would have worn on stage for her vaudeville act in a little number called Turn on the Heat.

I had bought a pair of fur-trimmed boots which had a distinct 1930s 1940s footwear feel and we went with those as a basis for color and fur trim. I spent hours going through stacks of ultra-suede and velour, driving across city to find the right color and texture, at the right price.

I forgot to mention I had to change out of a kimono and into the Turn on the Heat Costume, on stage, behind a screen in a matter of about six lines of dialogue. So my costume wouldn’t be exactly like the one in the video, but I think I captured the feel of it. I  used a late 1940s early 1950s vintage sewing robe pattern which had the flared skirt and tie-belt that I thought would be easy on.

vintage sewing pattern for Turn on the heat During the process of making this costume, I learned some valuable tips:

Vintage Sewing Tips

  • Iron the pattern (use low heat)
  • Do not use steam or squirt bottle
  • Measure your bicep before cutting sleeve
  • Place your finger on pin in pattern when removing pins from vintage sewing pattern piece to keep from tearing the delicate paper
  • Use chalk line for trim position to eliminate pinning
  • Boa feathers are impossible to sweep–cut outside
  • Use zigzag stitch to sew boa onto chalked line

It was also mid-July and do you know how hard it is to find fur in the middle of July?In Texas? Almost impossible as it turns out. I did manage to find some furry feather boas that matched the fluff and color tones of the fur trimmed boots. I had originally wanted a big fur border like the gal in the movie, but alas it wasn’t to be.

I do think the solution turned out clever enough though, and had the art deco feel. I did two rows of the fur boa trim at the skirt bottom and sleeve ends.

1930s turn on the heat vintage costumeI also knew I wouldn’t have time to mess with a hood and redo my hair before the next scene, so I opted for making a fur headband. I hoped it added a touch of humor and silliness to the already outrageous outfit.

As you can see I did away with the lapels and added a tie at the top which gathered the fabric in a nice 30s style!

You can’t see the V detail on the front, but that’s okay. I knew it was there and added a little flare to the skirt, which is also hard to see in the photo.

I had planned on leaving it with the theater. What would I do with a furry 30s outfit? I’m now thinking it might make a darling Halloween costume, or many swing dance events have costumes nights. After all the hard work, with needles breaking and the tension on my machine going batty with the feathers, it might need to stay with me. I’m very proud of  how the Turn on the Heat costume turned out.

The Failure

Next up was the blue dress. The director had this idea for a sapphire blue dress that would look amazing when I came back out for my last scene after suffering a trauma, (I won’t tell you what befell the character in case you see the play some day). I loved the color and thought it would be amazing to wear out swing dancing. I had so few 1930s pieces, I thrilled at the chance to make something that would not only shine in the play, but could transfer to the dance floor.

I showed the director the beautiful 1930s pattern I wanted to make. She liked it, but wanted three-quarter sleeves and a v-neck. Now tell me, in the dead of winter in Fort Dodge, Iowa, is anyone going to be wearing a light rayon gown with short sleeves and a v-neck? I didn’t think so either, but she’s the director and you NEVER argue with the director. I attempted to combine these to patterns in hopes of appeasing both of us:

1930s vintage sewing pattern gathered neckline

1940s vintage sewing pattern v-neck












It sounded good in theory. And the vintage sewing patterns were so similar, I thought I could pull it off and I almost did, almost. Here are some things I learned from what I consider an epic fail.

More Vintage Sewing Tips

  • Use patterns of same size when combining patterns
  • Changing necklines doesn’t always work
  • Don’t let someone else buy your fabric
  • Don’t buy fabric from a website unless you get a sample first
  • Buy heavier rayon
  • Use stitch witchery for gluing in zipper before sewing
  • Use lots of pins for top-stitched V and when fabric is thin
  • Have dedicated FABRIC scissors (especially if you have crafty kids and hubby)

vintage sewing top stitchvintage sewing zippersMy director was so fixated on a particular color she decided to order from an online store that dyes fabric and claims to have rayons. It sounded great, it’s hard to find real rayons that aren’t polyester or microfiber in the real world.

When we got the fabric, the color was beautiful, but the weight and weave of the fabric was terrible.  The dye was also slightly uneven and had odd pinprick spots throughout. Not bad for the stage, but terrible for real life.

It felt a bit like rayon, but must have been a blend because the fabric we got looked and felt like cotton voile. It was so thin, I had to buy a special needle for my sewing machine and again the tension gave me trouble. You can see my ironing board cover through the fabric. I even had to buy a new pair of scissors to cut the thin fabric. Not to mention, if you breathed on the fabric it would wrinkle. Mom and daughter in vintage sewing outfits 1930s

Because the patterns were different sizes, I cut both bigger. This turned out to be a mixed blessing. The skirt fit my hips, but the back and bodice were wide. The bust turned out super saggy. If I had stuck with the original pattern line this sagginess would have been taken up in the gathered neckline.

As you can see by the picture the bust is extremely baggy and matronly. I took it up several times to relieve some of the droop, but with the weight of the fabric, the mixing of patterns, and the style, it wasn’t an outfit I would EVER wear on the dance floor.

The best fix was to to gather and clip the neckline creating a sweetheart line, but of course anyone who knows their vintage knows that’s a very 1940s look, not a bit 1930s. The director loved it. So hurray for that.

Overall this vintage sewing project felt like an epic fail in the finished creation. I’m thrilled at how much I learned and the opportunity to learn it. I hope to try the pattern again with real rayon and the gathered neckline. Who knows, maybe you’ll see me on the dance floor with feet flying in Lindy or dancing Balboa steps sporting a new 1930s frock, perfectly sewn.


Have you had any sewing disasters? What did you learn from your mistakes? What’s your favorite part of vintage sewing?

Want more blogs about vintage sewing:


Costumes and Historical Sewing

Vintage Sewing Pattern Thoughts

Free Patterns and Crafts




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In Search of Sam Butera

 Posted by on August 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM
Aug 172014
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~ In Search of Sam Butera ~

by Steve Conrad edited by Tam Francis

sam butera 1950s jazz saxAs I finish work on my ghost story collection I thought I would share an interview Steve Conrad did for my magazine Swivel: Vintage Living. Steve is a dance instructor, producer and deejay. He runs the successful Arizona Lindy Hop Society. Take it away Steve…

Awestruck. The only way to describe the legend I was fortunate enough to see live in January 1999 at the Steel Door Arts Center in Phoenix, AZ. Sam Butera, known as the saxophonist who played alongside Louis Prima for more than twenty-three years and band leader of Sam Butera and the Witnesses. I soon found that Sam a colorful history before he joined Louis and his wife Keely Smith.

Sam was born in New Orleans and started playing the tenor sax at an early age. “When I was fourteen I was playing in cabarets while the girls would strip.” Sam gradually made his way into more respectable venues. At eighteen he was voted the Outstanding Teenage Musician in America by Look Magazine.

This was just the beginning. He went on to tour with big bands like Tommy Dorsey, Ray McKinley, Joe Richman, and Al Hirt. It was in the fifties that Sam met Prima and Smith. They took Vegas and the rest of the country by storm, breaking attendance records in every showroom they played.

Butera Prima Smith 1950s 1960sIt is Sam’s arrangement of Jump, Jive an’ Wail that had been made famous by the Gap commercial. He wasn’t very responsive to Brian Setzer’s arrangement, “It doesn’t swing, man.”

At first he comes across as slightly bitter about those in show business who have taken advatage of him. When asked about David Lee Roth’s rendition of Sam’s original, “Jut a Gigolo, Sam replies, “It totally sucks, man,” I never saw one penny of the money he made off my song. “I met him (David Lee Roth), in Vegas once. I walked up to him without introducing myself and said: Where’s my money.”

One thing about Sam, he’s seen and done it all. After his twenty-three year stint with Prima and Smith, Sam went on tour with Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas, Jerry Vale, Sergio Franchi, Jimmy Roselli, and Sammy Davis Jr.

After just meeting Sam I’d already learned more about the history of swing music and how it must have sounded in the early days. As he played the songs made famous by himself and Louis Prima, I watched a true entertainer on stage.

sam butera louis prima vintage suitsSam continued to tour around the country as one of the last true lounge acts from the era. As he finished his final set for the evening he left the audience with this advice to everyone. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.” I hope Sam knew know how important he was to music and I count myself fortunate to catch one of his live shows before he left the stage for good. Sam died on June 3, 2009 in Las Vegas at age of 81.


Note from Tam: My husband and I were lucky enough to see Sam Butera play in the summer of 1999 at a Viejas Casino, in Alpine, just outside San Diego California. He was an amazing performer, singing and blowing his sax, we felt like we were transported to 1950s Vegas and those dances we shared in his presence are forever etched in my mind.


Did YOU get a chance to see Sam Butera when he was alive? Tell us about your time? What’s your fave Sam song or Louis Prima song?


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Aug 072014
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~ Don’t Be Cheap: Why You Should Spend Money on Your Novel’s Cover Art ~

by Tam Francis

I’m on the verge of self-publishing my ghost story collection. This seemed like a no-brainer. Literary agents are not usually interested in story collections and although I found some small presses willing to publish collections, I have to admit I was intrigued and excited about the self-publishing process. Time and time again I’ve read blogs about the importance of good cover art. I would like to share my process and experience of this journey.

First Attempt

I’m artistic, I can do a collage, take a photo and voila, cover art with all the elements I need, right? WRONG!

First rule: Don’t try this at home.

Here is my first attempt at what I thought would be an awesome cover. And I would have the bonus of using the original art as a give-away on the site. As you can see, there is NOTHING about this that would make you pick it and even flip it over and read the back cover copy. The one on the left I designed with mixed media and then tried to scan it. As you can see, the images blurred. I then added test in illustrator, but again, it looked awful.

first attempt cover vintage mixed media clara cover attempt for ghost story cover

My daughter’s attempt, (on the right) was a little bit better and more graphic, but it did NOT capture the professionalism, feeling of mystery, romance, fright and nostalgia that I was going for.

I finally decided to go the professional route. I know what you might be saying. “I can’t afford it.” And I will say: “I am not rich. I am not retired. I have not inherited any money to feed my muse. I do not have a husband who makes six figures, in fact he makes less than the teachers I substitite for. And if I can afford it on a measly minimum wage substitute teacher salary, you can afford it to!”

I even tried to enlist some of my fine art friends to do something, but that never quite got off the ground and fine art doesn’t necessarily sell books.

I was lucky enough to find the right designer for the job. A writer from my writer’s group had used the designer for her speculative fiction novel: Born Rich . She had also attempted to design her own cover, but wisely chose the path of the professional. Here are some reasons why a pro is better (even if you are good at design and desktop publishing).

Reasons to hire a COVER artist

  • Book Designers KNOW the Market
  • Book Designers have an unattached view of your novel
  • Book Designers are faster than you (usually)

Karen Phillips was amazing. Besides seeing what she did with my friend Janet’s cover, I looked over her samples and found a few that were similar to what I had in mind. We arranged a phone call to talk about my theme and vibe of the project. She was warm, funny and friendly and I felt I could trust her right away. Since it was my first time hiring an artist to design a cover she explained the way she worked:

  1. She would design a few different covers using grabbed art to see what direction to take
  2. She would go to work on the more specific design
  3. Narrow it down to one
  4. Work on the one until I was happy
  5. Add the back cover and spine

Second Attempt

I waited anxiously for those first designs. Then she sent them (there were a few more, but variations on the same):

Ghostoria cover with car

Ghostoria cover with retro girl

I hated them ALL! I cried. Oh yes, I’m a big baby and I was sure I was wasting my hard-earned minimum wage money. To be fair, I didn’t really HATE them all, but vision is tough to convey. I didn’t know what to do.

I waited a couple days and gently (or maybe not so gently, I am a Yankee) explained that none of them really captured the feeling I was going for. As you can see they’re very nice designs, but didn’t capture the nostalgia and melancholy I was going for.

She was gracious, amazing and kind. She asked me to send her the stories, she would read them and come up with something else. My hope was renewed!

She read the stories and sent me a very complimentary assessment of them, even offering a few edits on typos. The next batch of designs were all so beautiful. It was hard to choose. She captured the vintage, romantic, eerie, melancholy timelessness that I was going for with a touch of dance.

Third Attempt:

I loved elements of all of them. In the end I chose the couple dancing on the grave, stole the golden color from the other and crackle finish.

Ghostoria vintage couple dancing   Ghostoria vintage flapper girl   Ghostoria vintage dancing couple graveyard

Working with Karen was an AMAZING process. We made small changes like adding the subtitle, bumping up the font size, adding the contest winner info and even experimenting with different frames.

I was beyond happy. I felt I had a cover that conveyed all the complexity of my short stories and still tied into my Girl in the Jitterbug Dress brand. But a note on the side of the designer: Don’t take advantage of their time and their resources. Make sure YOU aren’t overstepping the bounds and being a nightmare client!

Fourth and Final!

Ghostoria_eBook cover What you should look for in a Novel Cover Artist:

  • Strong portfolio
  • Writer recommendations
  • Willing to work with edits
  • Timeline
  • Agreed upon price and number of edits
  • Wrap-around, back cover and spine included in price
  • ebook cover included in price
  • Someone you have a rapport with
  • Willing to make you happy

Now I’m off to find ebook guru and finish the last edits. Look for Ghostoria on Amazon in the next few weeks!


Have you had an experience with a cover artist? Have you designed your own? Were you happy or unhappy with the results?


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Jul 022014
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~ Short  Story Compilation? Learn How to Write Back Cover Copy ~

by Tam Francis

40s 50s college class writingAs I approach the publication of Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright, I struggle with writing back cover copy, also known as, the blurb. Many blogs and sites have wonderful advice on writing blurbs, but very few talk about how to sell your story compilation/collection. The back cover copy is your second best tool (cover artwork being the first), to sell you book. On my journey I’ve researched and experimented with advice culled from other sites discovering what would work for my collection. I hope what I’ve learned will help you.

One of the most important exercises that assist with writing Back Cover Copy is writing poetry. I hear you groaning, but poets, when they’re good, are brilliant at distilling the essence of things, getting into the psychological and emotional heart of people and situations. Poets convey moods, and emotions are your biggest tool for your blurb.  Start thinking like a poet.

Why should I write short stories and what can I do with them?

For most writers, writing short stories can help you on you path to being a better writing. Many writers have written a short story or two. Most have written enough for a collection. Some of my favorite novelist like Neal Gaiman, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King all have lovely short story collections. Besides writing short stories because its fun, here is a short list of other reasons why you should write short stories:

  • Writing and publishing short stories in literary magazines can attract agents
  • Writing a short story can lead to a bigger idea
  • Writing short stories can be a self-teaching tool
    • You learn how to finish a story
    • You can experiment with your voice
    • Ability to explore different genres
    • Quicker beta read returns
    • Teaches brevity of words (especially if you give yourself word count limits)
  • There are more contest for short stories than for novels (although there are short story collection contests make sure you collection has a minimum of 40,ooo words)
  • Paying journals and magazine accept short stories
  • You can now self-publish single stories and gauge your market

How Back Cover Blurbs for Novels are SIMILAR to Back Cover Copy for Compilations

Use language that reflects the tone/emotion of your novel/compilation. If your work is funny then the back cover should be humorous. If your book is scary than you must include elements of horror, if your book is romantic…

ghost stories 40s 50s book cover

  • Make the reader care about your characters.
  • Include a hint about the setting, but do not overshadow character or plot.
  • Give plot teasers, highlight the goal or conflict main conflict. Let the reader know the stakes.
  • Do not outline the entire plot, leave them wanting more.
  • Short, short, shorter. Condense and use brevity.
  • Find the beat. Back cover copy should have a rhythm, like an ad jingle.
  • Add a quirky characteristic or detail (so many plots and characters sound the same, give the reader a new combination).
  • Aim for 150-200 words.

How Back Cover Blurbs for Compilations are DIFFERENT from Back Cover Copy for Novels

Traditional advice says to use character names, but with a compilation/collection, it would be too confusing for the reader.

  • Because you have so many plot lines (one for each story), it is impossible to give a setting, character and plot overview for each. Mix up these elements in the individual story descriptions.
  • Or, forego individual story descriptions and go for an overall description of genre and types of characters and mood.
  • Your story collection must have a cohesive target audience and fit into a genre. It would be a disaster to mix erotic fantasy with young adult fiction.

What I did

I started out my immersing myself in other back-cover blurbs. I grabbed everything I could get my hands on, but found if I focused on genre for me (horror), I got a little closer to my goal.

judy garland ghost story bookI went back and forth between paragraph and bullets, finally settling on bullet style. I tried to incorporate an element of either character, setting or plot, but not all in one.

Paragraph Style

Do you like scary stories with a little romance and a vintage twist?  Welcome to Ghostoria where haunts and haints populate this world of spine tingling tales.

A WWII secretary is trapped in the office with a ghost. A teacher must delve fifty years into the past to stop the haunting of her classroom. Six cocky teenagers try to survive the night locked in a turn of the century jail. A 1959 El Dorado Cadillac plays host to spirits and buried secrets. Young residents of a cursed Texas town grapple with what they’re willing to sacrifice to save themselves. A misguided hoodlum risks his hot rod, jitterbug life to spend a bloody night in the cemetery with his girlfriend.

With stories of unrequited love, woe and mystery, Ghostoria will gnaw the corners of your mind and challenge your ideas about life, love and death.

My next attempt was bullet style with rhetorical questions.

Bullet Style

Do you like scary stories with a little romance and a vintage twist?  Welcome to Ghostoria.

  • What happens when a WWII secretary is trapped in the office with a ghost and the only way out is to make an unwelcome choice?
  • Drive-in movies, hot rods, and jitterbugs populate Long Way Home; can one young man survive a bloody night in a historic cemetery with his girlfriend?
  • Young residents of a cursed Texas town grapple with what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to save their crops, animals and loved ones?
  • Can a kindergarten teacher silence the talking doll that has frightened her students by solving a fifty year old mystery?
  • A lone lady hitchhiker hops a ride in a 1959 El Dorado Cadillac by a roadside grave. Who will be alive at the end of the drive?
  • A turn of the century jail that housed murderers, liars, and thieves for over a hundred years is taken over by six teenagers on Halloween. What happens when a childhood chant turns deadly?

Those are just a few haunts and haints that populate this world of  unrequited love, woe and mystery. Ghostoria will gnaw the corners of your mind and challenge your ideas about life, love and death long after you leave.

Which version do you like? Do you have short stories you don’t know what to do with? Have you discovered a key to writing back cover copy?


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Confessions of a Neo Swing Dancer: Truth be Told

 Posted by on June 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM
Jun 202014
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Confessions of a Neo-Swing Dancer: Truth be Told

by Tam Francis

1930s 1940s vintage writer at deskWriting Isn’t Enough

I’ve written a fictional jitterbug novel, the first draft of a sequel and a ghost story collection of vintage, romantic tales of fright. I love old movies. I still wear vintage and sew from vintage patterns, but the truth is: since we moved to Lockhart, Dave (my husband) and I haven’t been to Austin to jitterbug for about two years.

Sure we’ve danced at some local events like the wonderful Hot Rods and Hatters, and parties, and anywhere we came across a band. And we had a pretty good group going for Lindy lessons here in Lockhart, but Dave was slated to go to Afghanistan, so we stopped the lessons and prepared for his deployment. He didn’t end up going due to kidney stones. Praise the Lord for kidney stones – of course, I don’t have to pass them. But we never got the lessons going again and life has a funny way of getting in the way.

Until last night, I didn’t realize how much I missed swing dancing. In San Diego, CA, I used to go out three times a week. Sometimes with my hubby, sometimes with my friends, and sometimes by myself. But as anyone who’s been dancing a while knows, you’re NEVER by yourself. If you can dance, you can make friends.

Magic Moments

It’s never the same though. There are magical times in your life, mini eras, snapshots where time, place and people come together and make us more than we are alone. I had that time in San Diego. We had the Balboa Rendezvous in our own beautiful Balboa Park, dancing every night of the week, live music at Henry’s, Tio Leos and the Casbah, canned music and crowds of friendly folk and enough vintage preservationists, that my vintage aesthetic was sated.

I haven’t had that in four years which is probably why I’ve managed to finish The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress, Ghostoria (soon to be self-published on Amazon), and knocked out a first draft of the sequel The Girl in the Jitterbug Hops the Atlantic. Fiction is great and I love to read, but no matter how real I make the characters or how well I live out my dance dreams, it’s not real life.

1940s-fashionBack in the Saddle

Last night I ventured out, almost alone. I took my daughter and one of her best friends, both freshman in high school. I have to confess. I was nervous. It’s not that I forgot the moves, but I’m older, middle aged and carrying twenty extra pounds (thank you BBQ Capital of Texas – and beer). Would anyone dance with me? Would I be marginalized? How should I do my hair? And what would I wear?

If you dress too vintage, you can be thought a dance snob or try-too-hard. But I’m not one to wear jeans or shorts to lindy in. I love the swish of a skirt around my thighs and how the lines flair out and accentuate the dance. I opted for a gored skirt with pretty flowers, a ringer-tee and my green chucks. But would I be able to keep up?

Lindy Resurgence?

We arrived a little late (traffic and parking) for the free lesson at the Women’s Federation building. A beautiful 1930s mansion tucked in the middle of downtown Austin with large southern style pillars gracing the wide front porch, surrounded by sprawling oak trees. It was dreamy, except for the long line of dancer snaking out the door. I hadn’t seen so many people, outside a dance festival, since the late 1990s.

We took our place in line. My daughter and her friend weren’t the youngest – that was good – but, oh my, from what I could see, I was the oldest. Did I look my age? I hoped not. I grew more and more insecure as teenagers and college kids cued up behind us, the line moved slowly.

We finally made our way inside. The building shimmered with spectacular beatyand big band music drifted down the hall beckoning us to the ballroom at the far end. We took a quick look at the anterior rooms, two sitting rooms flanked the foyer, one with a fireplace, antique furniture, the other more open with West Coast Swing being taught. We hurried toward the main room hoping the girls could get in on the lesson.

The room stretched into a long rectangle with a handsome raised stage at one end. The newbies jittered in a haphazard oval, two and three couples deep, while a peppy couple taught a combination of six-count moves. The instructors were half-way through the lesson and the girls didn’t feel keen on jumping into the fray. Plus, I was uncertain how much they would learn besides footwork in the crowded class.

Jean Veloz 1940s JitterbugLittle Known Secret

I’ll let you in on a little known secret, well unknown to newbies and non- veteran swing dancers: There will always be a corner, a section, an area where the advanced dancers hang out. Not because they’re snobs, but because they’ve known each other a long time and enjoy dancing with each other. I circled the room looking for the sweet spot. I’ve been dancing jitterbug for twenty years, and it’s not that I won’t dance with a newbie or intermediate, but I wanted to get my lindy on.

Usually the sweet spot is by the DJ booth, for the same reason, most DJs have been around the scene and want to hang with their buddies. I circled the room like a shark, looking for someone to sink my teeth into. Finally, once the lesson broke up, I found it, toward the far end by the stage. Now, I saw it. The local hotshots casually sat on the stage or leaned against, waiting for the newbies to get tired and clear some room.

I didn’t have the nerve to ask any of them to dance. Instead, I lead my daughter and her friend in a variety of six-count and eight-count moves. My not-so-subtle plan worked. Not only did the girls get asked to dance, I did too.

Keeping up

I kept up with the guys half my age, feeling pretty good and loving the lindy jive flowing through my veins. The DJ played a couple of my favorite, Anita O’ Day at the top of my list, solid jack. I spied a man I knew I’d seen before and took a chance on embarrassing myself.

“I know this is going to sound strange, but have you ever danced in San Diego?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “Wait, I know you, you’re Danielle’s Aunt, right? Let me think.” He put his hand to his head, closed his eyes for a second. “Tammy?”
“Yes. That’s amazing. I’m sorry I don’t remember your name,” I said.
“Michael. I’ve been to Bal Rendezvous and your niece used to come here a lot.”
“Small world.”
“Would you like to dance?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, but thought, HELL YES!

He danced me around the room in the way I liked to be handled. Not bouncy, not gigantic wide swing-outs, but tight, well-led moves, even leading me into moves I’d not done, but had no problem following. He gave me enough room to style and explore the musicality of the song, before pulling me back in, delightful.

the-texas-federation duncan phyfe couchNOT Keeping Up

I danced with other fun leads, some more skilled then other, but all joyous, sweet, and friendly. I thought I was keeping up until my daughter walked by and said,” Mom, um, your face looks the same color as your shirt. Are you okay?”

I had to admit, I was a little hot and slightly dizzy. The hallway pressed in on me as I made my way to the ladies lounge, yes lounge, with a sitting area and vanity mirror, so vintage. My face looked like a giant peach and my attempt to cool my cherry cheeks and neck became futile. I remained pink and now realized, I’d grown dizzier and my stomach hurt.

My daughter found me sitting on the Duncan Phyfe sofa in the fireplace room. I sipped water and practiced deep breathing, but I was done in. I regretted not saying good-bye to some of the new acquaintances I’d made, but we’d be back. And I planned on upping my weekly cardio workout, bringing ice, and a snack for next time. There would be a next time for sure.

Maybe I didn’t have to be the girl in the jitterbug dress in fiction. Maybe, I could be her in real life, again.


Have you been to the Women’s Federation Building? What did you think? Have you ever been intimidated to go out dancing alone? Have you ever felt too young, too old, too tubby to go dancing? How did you deal with your fears? For more personal stories like this one, check out: Summertime, Casbah, Swinging Blind, Party

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What’s Your Swing Dance I.Q.?

 Posted by on June 11, 2014 at 2:48 PM
Jun 112014
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1940s taking a jitterbug quiz

What’s your Swing Dance I.Q.

Test your history and Lindy Hop Knowledge here. Are you advanced, Intermediate, Beginner or Total Newbie?

    1. Which Dance Group was Frankie Manning NOT in?

Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers
Rhythm Hot Shots
Hot Chocolates

    1. The Ballroom Most Associated with Lindy Hop is?

The Hollywood Palladium
The Savoy Ballroom
Arthur Murray Studio
Roseland Ballroom

    1. The first official air-steps were created by?

Norma Miller
Dean Collins
Frankie Manning
Vernon Castle

    1. The Shadow Charleston is sometimes called?

Back Charleston
Neighbor Charleston
Tandem Charleston
Hopper Charleston

    1. Which move is considered the Signature and often times Basic Lindy?

Flying Lindy

    1. Which movie doesn NOT have Dean Collins in it?

The Power’s Girl
Buck Privates
Swing Time

    1. Which one of these songbirds did NOT sing with Glenn Miller?

Marion Hutton
Anita ‘O Day
Doris Day
Andrew Sisters

    1. Lindy Hop is MOST closely related to:

DC Hand-Dancing

    1. Neo-Swing refers to?

Classical music updated in the 1940s to Lindy Hop to
A Fusion music of the 1950s Be Bop and Jazz to Lindy hop to
A 1980s resurgent music which combined Big Band, Jump Blues and Rock n Roll
Electronic Hot Jazz produced in early 2000 that you can swing dance to

    1. Who is considered the Queen of Swing?

Ella Fitzgerald
Norma Miller
Jewel McGowan
Judy Garland

10-30 Points: You’re a NEWBIE. You might have just taken your first swing dance class or saw you first jitterbugs at a bar and now you want to learn! GREAT! Take some lessons and learn the history!

31-55: You’re a BEGINNER. Way to Go! You’ve taken the plunge, taken a few lessons and heard some Lindy lore. Now, take some more lessons and practice, practice, practice!

56-80 Whew! You didn’t give up and made it to be an INTERMEDIATE dancer. You might have even entered some contests and won a few! You also know something about the culture, but don’t get too big an ego, keep learning and be kind to the newbies!

81-100 You’re and ADVANCED Dancer. Cream of the crop, you’ve been doing it for years, you probably teach or have stepped in to assist teaching. You’ve got the skills and the knowledge. Go out there and share your LINDY LOVE!

::Did you have fun with the lindy hop quiz? I had fun making it and testing your knowledge of history, dance legends and teachers. Do you disagree with any of the answers or your “Dance level?” Was it too hard? Too easy? What would you have asked?

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The Biggest Jitterbug Contest in History

 Posted by on June 3, 2014 at 4:35 PM
Jun 032014
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~ The Biggest Jitterbug Contest in History ~

By Peter Loggins edited by Tam Francis

I’m thrilled to share another article by dance historian Peter Loggins. I was fortunate to have Peter on staff when I published Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine. I’m happy to take it from the printed page to the digital world! Take it away Peter.

Palomar-ballroom 1930sIn the summer of 1939, Los Angeles was hot bed for big bands and swing dancers alike. With Artie Shaw’s Orchestra on the bill, the Palomar Ballroom on Vermont and 3rd St. was possibly THE center of attention in the beginning of June that year. Upon entering the Palomar to see the big band, dancers were greeted by a promotional poster advertising the International Jitterbug Championships to Artie Shaw and Ken Baker Orchestras. To be held June 18th 1939 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with cash prizes over $2,500 (41,000 in today’s dollars) to be awarded. Dancers looked upon this contest as a chance to finally prove themselves.

Dean Collins Jewel McGowan 1940s JitterbugslExcited dancers chatted among themselves to see who would be the favorite and who had the most confidence. Early favorites were Jimmy Renkin and his partner, and Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan.

In the weeks to come, dancers started practicing their routines honing the tricks and footwork that would help them catch the judge’s eye. The big debate was over who’s style of dancing would suit Artie Shaw’s Orchestra, Swing or Lindy. Roy Dameron and Snooky Bishop were favorite show stoppers, coming from Alhambra and representing their troupe, The Alhambara Alligators. Hal Takier and Betty Roeser, from Redondo Beach, represented the famous Ray Rand Swingers, which the great Maxie Dorf was a part of. On many occasions, Hal and Dean argued over who would win the upcoming contest and marveled over so many sponsors coming together under the main Palomar leadership.

By Sunday, June 18th, over a thousand dancers had entered the contest. People from all over the United States had made the trip; representing over twenty states and six countries. Tension was high the night before, and many dancers passed a sleepless night. All they had to do was do what they did best–swing. But, lying awake at night, dancing in their heads, going over and over the routine, only made them toss and turn in their beds. They restlessly awaited sunrise which would bring a summer heat above eighty degrees.

Los Angeles Memorial Colisium 1930sThe trip to the Coliseum was as emotional as the five years prior when the Coliseum hosted the 1932 Olympic Summer Games. Upon entering the great structure the dancers were met by over 26,000 fans. The middle of the would-be football field held a grand 12,000 sq. ft. dance floor, with one side hosting the bandstand for the orchestras, and the other side hosting the judges platform. The judges were dance directors sent in by different movie studios, and as they took the platform the crowd recognized the likes of Bill O’Donnell from Warner Brothers, Hermes Pan from RKO, Carlos Romero from Paramount, Nick Castle and Geneva Sawyer from 20th Century Fox along with other dance directors from other major studios. With over one thousand dancers entered in the categories of Professional and Semi-professional, smaller divisions were put together in order to run small groups of dancers at the same time, making them work their way up the ladder to the finals.

artieshaw-1930s 1940s swingAt 9:00 am Ken Baker’s band swung into hear, kicking off the first rounds. The temperature was in the 70s and rising. Early on, dancers Freddie Christopherson and his sister Betty won their division. Jake Akron and Marion Goldy took their division as well, upsetting one of the favorites, Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan. Another team to win their division was Hal Chavoor (Takier) and Betty Roeser, upsetting another favorite, Roy Dameron and Snooky Bishop.

After all the professional division first round finally ended it was time for lunch and intermission while Artie Shaw’s Orchestra took to the bandstand. As soon as Artie busted into one of his more popular songs, thousands of fans broke through police lines and onto the field, causing a mild riot. Dancers from the stands were swinging all over the dance floor, and not until they returned to their seats did the contest continue.

The Finals came late in the afternoon under the 80 plus degree Southern California sun. Artie Shaw’s Orchestra played as the division finalist danced against each other at the same time. At 6:00 pm the event came to a close as the dancers final steps brought the Coliseum spectators to a roar of applause.

sailors swing dancers jitterbugsThe awards ceremony was held at the Palomar Ballroom beginning with the Navy division winners, Danny Stephenson and Annabelle Hoffman. The National Champions came next: Herman Harrison and Ernestine Davidson, a black couple from Los Angeles who had the crowds roaring with laughter when Ernestine, who weighted nearly two hundred pounds went through their airsteps and routine with her partner Herman, who barely tipped that scales at a hundred pounds.

Hal Chavoor Takier Betty Roeser jitterbug champs 1930sAt last it was time to announce the winner of the granddaddy of them all: The International Champions. First runner up was Hal Chavoor Takier and Betty Roeser, “The Spanish American” Camps known for their fast footwork and ability to put on a good show at mach speed. First place went to Jack Akron and Marion Goldy from Los Angeles. Jack and Marion lived in the Miracle Mile area of Wilshire Blvd. and had localized many of the favorite spots in L.A. since the mid 1930s. Winning the International Jitterbug Contest led them to perform in Ken Murray’s Black Out and at the El Capitan theatre to name a few, not to mention appearing with Artie Shaw’s Orchestra in the weeks following the contest.

This day in history is now nothing more than a few rare, fragile, and yellowed newspapers gently tucked away, an old memory that few alive can share. The coliseum is vacant of fans, and Mr. Shaw had gone to the great orchestra in the sky, but we can remember and dream about the biggest Jitterbug contest in history and imagine for one minute, that we were there.


Have you ever been in a Jitterbug Contest? Been to see one live? What was your favorite part? Do you think contests are silly or do you like them? I’d love to hear about it. I’ve got a lot of scenes in the novel and have used these stories as inspiration for my fictional characters.

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