Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What we can learn from scholarly E-books

Recently I attended a University of Illinois seminar on digital advances in the humanities. The seminar, courtesy of a collaborative publication series, “Women in Print: Value-added E-books and New Digital Collaborations.”  It was co-sponsored by our University of Illinois Press, the University Library, The Rare Book Room, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and several other departments. The seminar featured several specialists from these units, plus History and Graphic Design, talking about how to enhance materials in the humanities. 

For scholarly publications, some of the issues were how to put transcriptions side-by-side with original manuscript facsimiles and make the web interface user-friendly. Speakers discussed typefaces, amount of white space on a page, and free distribution of scholarly materials using multiple online channels.

All this stuff is relevant to the production of mysteries.
As authors, we usually count on our publishers to make decisions about the appearance of our books online. The publisher chooses font, alignment, background, scrolling options, etc. As consumers, these decisions have consequences: how tired your eyes get from scrolling or flipping pages or how frustrated you are when a digital platform doesn’t work the way you expect.

A note on cover design (especially if you design your own): make sure it is legible in thumbnail size! That is how potential readers see it first, until they make the decision to click on the cover for a larger version.

Last but not least, make sure you know what your book looks like on a smartphone vs. a laptop vs. a tablet.

The other takeaway for me from this seminar was a better understanding of how graphic design and electronic formatting can make or break a book, non-fiction or fiction, and why digital books won’t necessarily be much cheaper than print if you employ professionals.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Being Thankful for our Readers

It's that time of year when we gather together and give thanks for the blessed abundance we have in our lives. We often cook tremendous meals and spend hours "catching up" with extended family and friends.

Personally, I think all the best conversations happen over meals. Family and food just seem to go together in our society. 

As authors we need to remember to Thank our Readers. Without them we would have  no success at all. So, when you're blessing the food, family, friends and good health, add readers to the list.

We Authors want to Thank You, Dear Readers: 

  • For your interest in our stories.
  • For telling your friends about our books. 
  • For posting reviews on-line.
  • For buying copies of our books as gifts. 
  • For asking your library to stock our books. 
  • For arranging for us to visit with your church group, book club, bookstore, sorority, library, school, etc. 
  • For friend-ing us on social media and "liking" our posts.
Thank you for your enthusiasm, questions, comments, and support.***********************************
To find out more about Bonnie Tharp go to 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five Tips for a Successful Library Event

Mystery author Catherine Dilts is our guest blogger today. To Catherine, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead: A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” Catherine works as an environmental tech, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short fiction is published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at and on Goodreads.

                                                    Five Tips for a Successful Library Event

                                                                     By Catherine Dilts

I grew up in a family of intense library users. My siblings competed to discover the most delightful next book by browsing the shelves. As an adult, I still use my local library. One of my “made it” moments, when I felt I was an honest-to-goodness author, was seeing my book on a library shelf.

Naturally, I was thrilled to be invited to participate in a library author event. I’m still a relative newbie. I only have three events under my belt, with a fourth coming November 14. Still, I have accumulated five tips for authors to enjoy a successful library event.

1)      Use a wheeled cart. College students use them for textbooks, grannies for groceries. I dug one out of our garage. There was plenty of room to strap down a box of books, my promo materials, purse, sweater, and snack. No multiple trips to the parking lot. No sore arms and back. This low technology tool is a lifesaver.

2)      Do your homework. What type of event are you attending? Will you be speaking, or sitting at a table waiting for readers to pass by? May you set up a poster or decorate a table? Are you the focus of attention, or will dozens of authors share the spotlight? Every event I attend, someone has a clever table covering or eye-catching display. I’ll be ready next time! Read the emails and instructions for your event. Be prepared.

3)      Sales. Will you be allowed to sell your books? Who will handle sales – the library, a bookseller, or you? Do you need to bring books for consignment? How many books should you bring?
a.       Quantity. I suggest bringing plenty of books, but leave the majority in your vehicle. Oh happy day if you need to run to your vehicle for more. My experience, as a new author in small town libraries, is that a dozen books is optimistic. I hope your experience is wildly different!
b.      Transactions. If sales are your responsibility, be aware that few people write checks or carry cash. I intend to look into the Square, a device to charge credit and debit cards using your smart phone or tablet.

4)      Network.
a.       Talk to librarians and volunteers. Let them know you appreciate being invited to participate in their event. Verify that the library carries your book.
b.      Talk to the patrons. For some, this might be their first experience speaking with a real live author. If they are hesitant to purchase your book, encourage them to check it out from the library.
c.       Talk to other authors. You might pick up helpful promotional ideas, learn about another library event, or make a new friend.

5)      Be realistic.
a.       About sales. You are in a library, where patrons are accustomed to reading for free. You may not sell a lot of books, but you might gain fans.
b.      About attendance. Library events, I am told, typically do not generate crowds. The ones I have participated in have been well attended. I think the difference is in how well the event is promoted. You can help. Invite friends and family. Use social media to get the word out. Give your co-workers fliers. Libraries are more open to future events when attendance justifies their expense and use of resources.

I have participated in two meet and greet events with dozens of authors. Another event was a mini-writers conference. The next event on my calendar is a three author workshop. Every venue and every event is different. Participation in some is by invitation only. Others seek applications from authors. Each exposes me to potential new fans, but perhaps more importantly, they offer me a chance to give back to libraries and librarians.

Now that I’ve made the case for library events, how do you get in on one?
1)      Check your local library’s website, call, or talk to someone in person. Depending on the size of the library, they may have a staff member dedicated to special events. At the very least, there will be a staff member in charge of the event.
2)      Talk to other writers. Writing groups often have Yahoo loops where people share information about events. That’s how I learned about the first library event I participated in.

Have you attended a library author event? Participated in one? Are you a librarian who has hosted an event? I would love to hear your experiences and suggestions.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Level Best Books and New Beginnings by Susan Oleksiw

This weekend marks a major shift in the life of New England writers of short fiction. The new Level Best Books anthology, Red Dawn, will be launched at Crime Bake, November 6-8, a mystery conference in Dedham, MA. The four editors have worked diligently to keep the anthology alive and successful, but after seven years, it's time for them to put down their pens (or unplug their computers), and move on to other interests. But this is not the end of Level Best. The current editors are turning over the anthology to a new group, several of whom are known to the current and previous editors.

Kate Flora, Skye Alexander, and I co-founded Level Best Books in 2003, and settled the details over lunch at a restaurant in Gloucester. We were full of enthusiasm and ideas, and our optimism was infectious. After a wobbly first effort, the annual anthology took off. (Our first cover, remembered by no one else but me, was replaced but the design you see at left, thanks to Skye).

The Level Best Books anthologies quickly became one of the rare opportunities for writers to publish short crime fiction in a paper, and accessible, format. Skye moved to Texas and Ruth McCarty joined us. Together, we published seven anthologies, and shared the work on an eighth. We arranged panels and talks around the region, traveled to other states to reach writers from as wide an area as possible, in order to feel LBB was truly a New England publication. We were proud of including writers from all six New England states most of the time. Working on LBB anthologies was some of the best fun I've ever had as a writer, and we were always proud of the result. But this was work and we came to the end of the line. It was time to let go.

Less willing to walk away, Kate Flora talked about the anthology to other writers, and a group who had worked together for years stepped forward. The new editors, Mark Ammons, Kat Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler, went on to publish six more volumes, each one better than the previous. But they too reached the end of the line, and decided to move on. This year's issue will be their last. Red Dawn will be available for purchase at Crime Bake and beyond.

But, in what is now a tradition, they found a group interested in continuing the LBB anthologies, and soon there will be a third cast of editors.

The transition from the first to the second group of editors was remarkably seamless and layered with good will and optimism. The new editors modified the design, maintained the same commitment to a mix of new and established writers, and launched new efforts to conduct panels and use other promotions to get the word out about the writers and the anthologies. When they came to the point of knowing it was time to end, they graciously let us, the previous editors, know and set about finding a new team.

This weekend, at Crime Bake, I look forward to meeting some of the new editors, since I seem to be the only one of the eight previous editors who hasn't met any of the incoming ones. I'm looking forward to it, and also to seeing the Level Best Books anthologies continue to thrive as a place for New England writers to showcase their work.

The Crime Bake editors are also announcing the change in ownership today. You can read their news and who the new editors will be at the link below. If you're attending Crime Bake, you can even meet some of them.

A final word. When Kate and Skye and I talked over lunch that day in Gloucester, I had no idea how far LBB would travel. I only wanted to do an anthology of short fiction. Thanks to everyone who wrote and sent stories, and those who bought the books and passed them around, LBB now has a life of its own. So forgive my sentimentality and pride as I watch LBB enter another stage in its life.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Author Mike Befeler on Rewriting History

Mike Befeler is our special guest blogger today here on Author Expressions. Mike turned his attention to writing after a 39-year career in the computer industry. He now resides in Lakewood, CA, with his wife Wendy. His published novels in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series include: RETIREMENT HOMES ARE MURDER; LIVING WITH YOUR KIDS IS MURDER (finalist for The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery of 2009); SENIOR MOMENTS ARE MURDER; CRUISING IN YOUR EIGHTIES IS MURDER (finalist for The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery of 2012); CARE HOMES ARE MURDER; and NURSING HOMES ARE MURDER. Mike has two paranormal mysteries, THE V V AGENCY and THE BACK WING, and a theater mystery, MYSTERY OF THE DINNER PLAYHOUSE. Mike is past president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He also is the author of a biography, FOR LIBERTY: A WORLD WAR II SOLDIER’S INSPIRING LIFE STORY OF COURAGE, SACRIFICE, SURVIVAL AND RESILIENCE, and his first historical mystery, MURDER ON THE SWITZERLAND TRAIL. And now, here’s Mike!

Rewriting History

I’ve had the opportunity to have nine previous mystery novels published, and all of these have been in current times. My first foray into historical mysteries will be available within a week from Five Star and is titled, Murder on the Switzerland Trail.

Why the title of this blog, “Rewriting History?” The answer is this: a historical mystery novel blends historical accuracy with the imagination of the author to add fictional events. Murder on the Switzerland Trail is set in 1919 in Boulder, Colorado, and the mountains outside Boulder. I had a wonderful time hiking the publicly available sections of what had been the railroad bed, researching that era, reviewing old newspapers on microfiche and reading books about the Switzerland Trail railroad.

Here is the quick summary of the novel: A Sunday excursion in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado, in 1919 leads to murder as intertwined lives play out a mystery on the Switzerland Trail railroad. Policeman Harry McBride must figure out who the murderer is before the train reaches the Boulder station on the return trip.

I have attempted to portray as accurately as possible the description of the towns along the route of the Switzerland Trail railroad in 1919, historical events surrounding the story and some actual people of that era. I use the background of the post World War I period, the signing of the peace treaty, the recent influenza epidemic and the struggle to keep the Switzerland Trail railroad in business. The fictional license taken includes the actual murder, the victim, the suspects and the investigator.

The Switzerland Trail railroad carried supplies for miners and passengers into the mountains and brought ore down to the towns below during the end of the nineteen and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The railroad went out of business shortly after the story takes place due to the struggle to keep it financially solvent, compounded by the rise of the motorcar as a means of transportation and a devastating flood, which wiped out many of the railroad trestles along the route. The story of the demise of the railroad runs parallel to the stories of the passengers who venture into the mountains one fateful day.

or contact your local bookseller. Enjoy.

Hi, this is Jacqueline Seewald again. If you leave comments for Mike, he will respond.
 Thanks for dropping by Author Expressions! We welcome all readers and fellow writers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Several other bloggers have raised the issue of revising already published books and asked other authors, would you do it? My answer is definitely yes, especially after a recent discovery that a book I thought was safely in the can had been altered without my knowledge.

The Dead Sea Codex, my second novel, was published in 2006. It’s the story of a two young archaeologists who find part of a first century AD codex, part of a Gnostic gospel written by a female disciple of Jesus, in the Dead Sea caves of Israel. Scholars compete with Christian fanatics to find the rest of the codex, either to publish it and or to destroy it. I had fun researching and writing the book because of the subject matter and the setting, the places I lived in and visited as a student in the 1970s.

 Both the print and e-book editions were edited and published, and I was happy with the “finished” book. Then the first publisher went out of business and a second one took over. At some point, the electronic files were converted to new formats, and all the quotation marks around my dialogue were removed. No one at the new company gave me a chance to review the new files, so the book was reposted for sale in two formats with the old cover. I had no reason to think my book might have changed during the switch from one publisher to another.
How did I find out? A comment from a friend and then two bad reviews on Amazon.

Yes, I did use the “Look Inside” feature of Amazon, when the book was published the first time in 2006. It never occurred to me to check again, months and years later.

The good news is, I now have my rights back and am reissuing The Dead Sea Codex with Wings e-Press in December. This decision forced me to re-edit the original manuscript, finding several bits that could be improved, and updating the story slightly because it takes place in politically volatile Israel. My new editor is very savvy, finding still more things that need fixing. The result will be a better book.

I also posted a comment on Amazon, thanking the reviewer who found the errors and informing him a new edition is in the works.

The more things change, the more they don’t stay the same…

Friday, October 23, 2015

Throwback and Move Forward

For some who use social media, today is Throwback Thursday, a day when they  post photos from the past on their Facebook page to enlighten viewers of today. In a way, today's post has a similar objective. Although I retired from SUNY college several years ago, relevant teaching skills still abide in my mind.  Presently, I am creating a curriculum strategy, one I encouraged my college students to use during their practicum as student teachers.

This one has a personal goal. My book, THE  RED COCKADE, is a historical novel, intended for ages 12  and up, or young adults. The story takes place in the year 1776 as struggles begin for the farmers of Cow Neck, Long Island, when British soldiers occupy Long Island and New York. Fourteen -year- old Joseph Onderdonk yearns to join the Continental army with his friend, Martin Freer, but his father refuses to allow it. Vignettes of Martin's soldiering life are interspersed with Joseph's struggle to help the Patriot cause. His loyalty is tested when his father in imprisoned  for tyranny against the crown.

I have a plan to correlate Language Arts with History as Middle school students read The Red Cockade. I have chosen topics to use that are woven into the action and narrative of  the book. The topics students could research and write stories about are: The Great Fire in New York in 1776, Spies in the Colonies, and Prison Ships during the Revolution.

Conflicts of loyalty and trust that Joseph experiences are still identifiable by today's readers, and it is my hope that the true characters and exciting events in my book will inspire a real identity with the past. This prompts me to donate the number of Red Cockade Ebooks needed in the classroom to make my goal a reality. Hopefully, it will be an experience to help students move forward with  the knowledge of our nation's beginning. I have witnessed too many of today's youth, and adults who have little knowledge of The American Revolution or the  founding fathers of our nation. Perhaps this experience will help.