Friday, January 20, 2017

What are your writing plans for 2017?

If you don't take stock of what all you accomplished when the new year turns over, you should. By making a short list of the highlights you will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Preventing us from getting too caught up in the tough stuff every year seems to bring.

Let's see if I can do a quick assessment:
1. Finished my New Adult/Young Adult Novel
2. Edited #1 multiple times after input from trusted critique partners
3. Shopped #1 to several NA/YA agencies for representation
4. Submitted NA/YA MSS to a couple of contests
5. Worked on new women's fiction novel
6. Worked on new MSS in the feisty family series

A couple of things on my list for the year that I did not accomplish:

1. Attend a writer's conference
2. Do more marketing
3. Submit to more contests

Okay, that's enough of looking back. Let's look forward to 2017. 

What are your plans?

My number one item is to find a publisher for my NA/YA novel. Since my search for agents only resulted in nibbles and no bites, I will return to the small independent publishers that have good reputations and don't require an agent. In other words, I'll do my homework and search on-line for small pub houses, talk to other authors, and see if there's a writer's conference this year that will work with my schedule.

Take a tip from me. It takes a lot of time to do what we do and we can't get discouraged if we want to succeed. Nobody that has ever written seriously has said it was "easy." It's a lot of hard work and dedication with a little luck thrown in.

The publishing industry is constantly changing and we have to keep up. Publishers Marketplace. Writer's Digest. Goodreads. These are just a few of the sources of publishing information on-line and in print. Check them out. See what advice resonates with you and your writing process. Try things you haven't thought of trying before. I'll be right there with you and will share any insight I garner along the way.

Enjoy the writing journey, my friends, it can be an exciting roller coaster ride!

Bonnie (BD) Tharp is an award-winning author of women's fiction, with novels FEISTY FAMILY VALUES and PATCHWORK FAMILY.  Also, the author of Kindle ebook short stories: THE CROSSROADS & EARL DIVINE.

Friday, January 13, 2017

What Authors Can Learn from Donald Trump by Jacqueline Seewald

About a year and a half ago, I initially wrote on this topic. I decided to update it because I believe the opinions expressed are proving to be truer than ever. Draw your own conclusions.

How do writers become bestselling authors? Publicity seems to be one crucial element or factor. To get fans, writers have to become known in the first place. Donald Trump has a talent for drawing attention to himself. Trump has observed in the past that there is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity--which attracts attention to an individual and his or her work.

In the case of writers, publicity traditionally would be accomplished through the efforts of a publisher who has a PR staff that solicits significant reviews and promotes an author through numerous channels. But nowadays, this is often not the case. Many publishers now want to know that writers have the ability to promote and publicize their work themselves via social media before the publisher will issue a contract. Also, many writers are currently self-publishing their work. This too changes how publicity can be obtained.

Trump is an example of someone who breaks the rules. He promotes himself as a maverick in politics.  Perhaps what Trump offers to writers is the idea that we need to free ourselves. We have to look for creative ways to promote and publicize our own work--just as writers shouldn’t feel it necessary to write to any pre-conceived formula. We need to express what is unique to ourselves in our own way.

My belief is that we must write exceptional work that stands out from the herd. This is one important way we can get recognition and acclaim. Not every reviewer will give a fair or just review, but if we continue to provide quality work, eventually we will get noticed for it.

As for me, I have a new novel, THE INHERITANCE, a romantic mystery from Intrigue Publishing, which I hope will excite reader interest. There have, in fact, already been some very good reviews from readers which I greatly appreciate:

In regard to Mr. Trump, it will be his actual ability to serve the country with good sense and integrity by which he will ultimately be judged. The key to success is having something of quality to offer.

Authors need to be unique and original, not imitative in their writing. Hopefully word-of-mouth will follow and help build a readership. Promotion and publicity help but they have to be backed by more than mere promises and rhetoric.

Fellow writers, what are your thoughts and opinions on getting recognized? Are you of the opinion that bad reviews are better than no reviews at all? Is there anything you recommend in particular in regard to promoting your own work that has worked well for you?

Readers, what would like to see more of from writers? 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pinterest for the Writer, by Susan Oleksiw

I recently began work on a new mystery that I hope will lead to a series. This story draws on experiences I never expected to write about. My family comes from a long line of farmers, and like many in the younger generation I never expected to be back living on one. And I’m not, but I'm trying to reconnect with those early experiences, plus all the stories I’ve heard from my relatives over the years.

A couple of those stories and experiences have found their way into fiction. I wrote a longish short story, “When Love Takes a Detour,” and posted it myself as an ebook. You can find it here. I also wrote a short story set in the same rural area, which will appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in February. These two stories have helped me establish in my own mind at least the world that is West Woodbury, the very small rural community in the Pioneer Valley.

But I wanted to do more. I set up a board on Pinterest partly to establish the sense of place for readers and partly to entertain myself with images of the quintessential New England village and the farm where my character lives. Tall Tree Farm is a combination of the several farms my family has lived on as well as the one I need for my story line. The board is a place for me to try out images, or capture an essence that I want in the story.

Some of the images I have already posted on the Tall Tree Farm board are the calico cat, sheep, farm tools, and a few other items. I haven’t posted any of my own photos here, but will probably do so in the future. I keep some on my desk top, also as a reminder of family history and stories. The board is mostly to give me perspectives to think about, and to remind me of details for the story.

I’ve been posting erratically on Pinterest for a few years, but I decided to pay more attention to it last year and have been building up my images. The most popular board is, not surprisingly, Pottery, and after that comes Books and then Libraries, Book as Art, and Writers.

Even though I'm still very much an amateur on Pinterest, this form of social media can be a valuable sales tool for writers on all levels because it gives us a different way to look at our work but also because it gives readers a different perspective on us. I have boards on my other two series, the Mellingham series and the Anita Ray books, where I can post the most recent titles. But I also have one on Indian food, and we all know you don’t have to live in India to love Indian food. One of my favorite boards is Book Covers, and I’m thinking of splitting this into two boards, old and current books.

Right now I don’t have a business account, because I'm still learning. Mostly I want to enjoy the site along with others. I'm glad to see readers following one or the other of the series boards, and I'm always glad to find others are reposting my pins. Social media has become a burden for some of us, but this one aspect of it is still fun.

For those who want to know more about how to use Pinterest as a business site, tracking clicks and more, go here.

For those who want to see my boards, including Tall Tree Farm, go here.

To find all my books in both series, go here

Friday, December 30, 2016

Interview with Author Phyllis Gobbell by Jacqueline Seewald

I’m interviewing Phyllis Gobbell who, like me, writes a little bit of everything, books, short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She has received awards in both fiction and nonfiction, including Tennessee's Individual Artist Literary Award. She is an associate professor of English at Nashville State Community College, where she teaches writing and literature. On any Tuesday night, you will find her meeting with her writers group that began thirty years ago. She plays the piano and tennis. She is co-author of two true-crime books based on high-profile murders in Nashville: A Season of Darkness, with Doug Jones, and An Unfinished Canvas with Mike Glasgow. Her narrative, “Lost Innocence,” appeared in the anthology Masters of True Crime. Turning to traditional mysteries, she released the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series in Spring 2015. Pursuit in Provence was first in the series. Secrets and Shamrocks has just been released. It has received excellent reviews like the previous novel:

“Gobbell’s enjoyable sequel to 2015’s Pursuit in Provence takes Savannah, Ga., architect Jordan Mayfair and her travel writer uncle, Alex Carlyle, to Ireland. Jordan’s keen knowledge of architecture and history comes in handy in her efforts to uncover the truth. Fans of travel cozies will find plenty to like.” --Publisher’s Weekly
“A visit to the verdant Irish countryside is marred by murder. The second in Gobbell’s travel series is filled with delightful descriptions of Ireland and offbeat characters…”--Kirkus Reviews

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel? Why did you select them?
Secrets and Shamrocks is a cozy or traditional mystery or amateur sleuth mystery, whichever you prefer. Jordan Mayfair is on another adventure with her travel-writer uncle in a small town in Ireland. In some of the promo, I say that “secrets are as plentiful as shamrocks,” and that about sums it up. Shamrocks come into play, also, as one of the Irish legends resonates in the present day mystery.

Question: What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
It is the second in the Jordan Mayfair mystery series. First Jordan and her uncle, Alex, traveled to Provence, where I’d been on a couple of occasions, and I chose Ireland for the setting of this one because I spent three weeks teaching in Thurles, the same little town featured in the book.

Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine of your novel?
Jordan Mayfair is an architect from Savannah, Georgia, who had just turned fifty in Pursuit in Provence. She had raised five children as a single mother, and the last of her children had just left for college. Her travel-writer uncle had his first book deal and needed Jordan to go along with him on the trip to Provence, so she did, stretching herself, and in some ways re-inventing herself. Now she and Alex are visiting friends from long ago in Georgia, Colin and Grace O’Toole, who own a B&B where a cast of eccentric characters are staying. And everyone seems to have a secret, plus there is a murder, of course. Jordan can’t keep from getting involved! And Paul Broussard, the charming patron of the arts from Pursuit in Provence, makes another appearance.

Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
Besides Pursuit in Provence, I wrote two true-crime books about high-profile cold cases that were solved in Nashville, one after ten years, one after thirty years. Mike Glasgow and I collaborated on An Unfinished Canvas and I wrote A Season of Darkness with Doug Jones. After those true-crimes, with all the meticulous research that they involved, I was ready for something much lighter, and I’m having fun with the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series.

Question: What are you working on now?
I’m almost finished with Treachery in Tuscany, the third in the series, and – you guessed it – it’s set in Italy, mostly in Florence.

(How exciting! My younger son and his family vacationed there this summer and loved the area)

Question: What made you start writing?
It seems I’ve been writing my whole life. I remember cutting out the words in the “speech bubbles” of comic strips and filling in my own words. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had something I wanted to say! I tried to write a novel when I was in the 6th grade and got about 30 handwritten pages before I realized how awful it was. My first published works were articles for family/parenting magazines when my children were young. I also wrote a children’s book at that time, The Magic Click, about seatbelt safety. I had short stories published later. My passion is fiction – though I’ve found it harder to get published than non-fiction.

Question: What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?
Write what you love to write. I don’t have good advice about publishing, but hard work and perseverance do seem to pay off. If you have something you want to say, the act of writing, the process and the result will give you a good feeling (maybe not money in the bank, but satisfaction). I tell my creative writing students that I read everything I write out loud, and if I don’t love it, it’s not ready for anyone else to love.

Question: Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?
Secrets and Shamrocks is available on Amazon in hardback and e-book. 

Readers, you can request this lovely novel at your local libraries as well.

Comments and/or questions for Phyllis are appreciated.

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to "Connect" with Readers?

How do authors "connect" with readers? That's a great question, isn't it? 


Here are some ideas for you to try. Not every method works for every author or genre, so see what works best for you.

The obvious: Use Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.).
  • Be social, not just a salesperson
  • Share your expertise (i.e. hobbies often have popular forums to participate in)
  • Blog or Video-log or Podcast (the key here is participation - be seen and heard)
Don't forget the old-fashioned way of networking, too.
  • Press Releases to local news and magazines (don't forget regional and national, too)
  • Approach book groups (book clubs often pick a genre to read so find one that reads what you write) 
  • Find the niche that will gain the most from the theme of your story (i.e. knitters or quilters often like to read stories about their craft) and offer to speak to their group about their subject
  • Local and Regional bookstores (independent, chain or university)
  • Speak at Libraries or participate in local author events, workshops or conferences
Okay, this is by no means an exhaustive list, this is just to give you food for thought.

Once you do have an opportunity to speak here are some tips on how to "connect."

                                                               LISTEN WELL

  • Have a conversation with the audience (what is your favorite book? what is your favorite character in literature?) Don't just be a talking head!
  • When and if you get around to talking about your own book ask them questions
    • How did the story make you feel?
    • What has been your experience with the story's main theme?
    • What part touched you the most? 
    • Did the story create a question in your mind that was NOT answered? 
Now, I hear there's something out there called Social Currency. Basically, we need it. I'm told the way to get it is to remember the following when you write or speak to readers.
  • People talk about things that make them feel good. 
  • People want to feel sharp and in-the-know.
  • People like stories that are smart and funny and don't make them feel behind the times. 

Don't forget to Smile. Make Eye Contact. Laugh at yourself. Be yourself. Share.

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday everyone!

Bonnie (BD) Tharp is an award-winning author of women's fiction, with novels FEISTY FAMILY VALUES and PATCHWORK FAMILY.  Also, the author of Kindle ebook short stories: THE CROSSROADS & EARL DIVINE.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mystery Fiction: The Long and the Short of It by Jacqueline Seewald

I enjoy writing fiction. I’ve written a number of mystery stories which have been published by a variety of magazines and anthologies. I’ve also written mystery novels which are also published traditionally. The question often arises: which length will best suit a particular story?

Generally speaking, if you are planning something long and expansive with numerous characters and several intertwining plots that could ingeniously connect at the denouement, a mystery novel would be a preferable choice.

However, if you are planning a focused tour de force, think in terms of a short story. You should make the effort to decide on your intent in advance. Poe has told us that every scene in a short story needs to move the action forward. In a mystery story this is particularly true.

In a mystery novel, it’s typical to build well-rounded main characters who have a backstory. Even murder suspects usually get the full treatment. The short story writer of mystery doesn’t have the same luxury. The details must be swift and telling strokes. Each sentence and word needs to be purposeful. In a real sense, the mystery story is more of a challenge for writers and readers. It demands greater discipline. In the mystery short story endings are often clever twists that surprise the reader. The mystery novel is more of a puzzle with clues sprinkled along the way. The readers will pit their intellect against that of the author.

Descriptions of setting are of necessity more detailed in novels. In THE INHERITANCE, my new novel from Intrigue Publishing, the Midwest town of Bloomingvale serves as the setting or backdrop with a unique character all its own. This is typical of the cozy mystery where setting is well-established and details important in the story’s plotline. THE INHERITANCE is a stand alone traditional mystery with romantic element.

In my short stories, even in my longer novella “Letter of the Law” published by SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE, details of setting are somewhat limited. The plot is straightforward and the murder suspects also by necessity limited in number. This novella was initially much longer, but since it was to be published in a magazine, I needed to shorten it considerably and cut some of the detail and secondary character development.

SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE recently followed up with another story “Spirit of the Law” that continues to follow the young attorney sleuth and his graduate student assistant in solving yet another murder case:

If you’re a pantser rather than a plotter, my advice is still to write a short plot summary. This works well for both short stories and novels. A short plot summary allows you to be flexible and make changes as you write. It also helps in lending focus to your plot line. Sometimes short stories can develop into novellas or novels. Other times you believe you have the makings of a novel but discover that there isn’t enough material for one. Doing some advance planning helps with such decisions and saves frustrations when writing scenes.

Also it helps to make a list of characters by name and provide a brief description for each, known as a character bible. For THE INHERITANCE, in addition to the main characters, there are a number of local residents who are possible suspects, and each character needed some backstory. This also helps avoid contradictions.

In my crime story “Our Neighbors Ourselves” for the new anthology BREWED AWAKENINGS, there are four main characters, each has a backstory, most of which remained in the character bible but nevertheless influenced how the characters behaved in the story’s development. It’s important that the writer know the characters well so that each detail of description, dialogue and action is meaningful.

Whichever type of mystery writing you choose, I wish you much success!

Comments and/or questions welcome.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Little Free Libraries, by Susan Oleksiw

On my daily walk through the neighborhood I take note of the changes and additions, sometimes stopping to take a photo. Over the last few years I’ve noticed one addition that I especially enjoy. Several residents of my town have joined the Little Free Library program, and we now have four libraries in my zip code, plus one that's an independent. That’s not a lot for a small city of 40,000 people, but it makes us part of a worldwide movement.

According to the official website, “in 2009 Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse” as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read. He added books and an invitation for passers-by to take one. The general invitation is to take one, and leave one. Todd wanted to build as many little libraries as Andrew Carnegie built large ones, over 2,500. It didn’t take Todd long. He reached his goal in August 2012, and by November 2016, he reached the amazing number of 50,000 Little Free Libraries throughout the world.

Why am I telling you this since you probably already know all about these little gems? I use my daily walk to think through the story I’m working on. This is when I try to set aside my frustrations and let my unconscious go to work on its own. Often my thoughts begin with a common lament, which goes something like this. Even if I figure out what’s wrong with this plot, what difference does it make? Is anyone going to read this thing? The reports on books sales and publishing waver between dismal and awful, so why expend so much energy? But sometimes I read that book sales are surprisingly but suspiciously resilient. I have no idea which one to believe? Will anyone care if I give the world another book?

And then I come across a new Little Free Library. I don’t know about you, but these things cheer me up enormously. They are inspirational in their demonstration of the belief that people care about books and are fundamentally honest. I always stop to see what’s inside. Right now most of them in my area are offering children’s or young adults books, a few novels, and some nonfiction, including travel. One includes a lot of self-help books, including how to choose wine. I have borrowed and donated books, and expect I will do so again.

I usually keep on walking, making a mental note to return later to leave a book and borrow one. But no matter how I feel when I first see the Little Free Library, I always feel noticeably better as I walk on. I forget about my lament and my story problems, and take in the world around me. Once again, books have changed how I feel.

For more information on this movement, and to check out the number of little free libraries in your area, go to

And if you're so inclined, check out the newest Joe Silva, and leave your copy for others to enjoy.
You can find a copy of this and other books by me here.