Friday, March 27, 2015

short and sweet

I have joined a multitude of writing friends who have decided to self publish this last book I have written. It is not part of my back list from Five Star/Cengage, but it is being published by CreateSpace as a paperback.  I may publish it electronically later, but for now I  like the paperback approach for SAFE HARBOR.

 I am in the process of editing the proof of Safe Harbor. Self editing page by page is time consuming, therefore this post must be "short and sweet".

Safe Harbor is a tale of guilt, redemption and romance. Most importantly it is TANTE MARGARET'S story, one which  was asked for by my readers of the  Maine Shore Chronicles series.

Tante Margaret was quoted by a reviewer as "A thoroughly lovable clairvoyant, a literary gem". I will hopefully announce her debut in April. In the meantime , check out the price change on B& N and Amazon for my books. You will see The Red Cockade there.

Friday, March 20, 2015

De J'ai the Bozone...

The Google translation for the well used French phrase "de j'ai vu" is literally "from I've seen." Grammar doesn't translate well in French, or many other languages for that matter. My day job is communications for a global company and seeing French, German, Portuguese or Spanish translated into English can do a real number on grammar.

We used to use that phrase a lot in the '70's, back when I was trying to impress my hippie friends. It's probably not as cool to use it now, but many people still do and they aren't all aging hippies.

Actually, it would probably be more correct to use:

de ce que je ai vu (from what I've seen) 
Je ai vu ├ža avant (I've seen this before)

My French isn't all that good yet, but I think it's interesting how people will take a common phrase and change it to suit them. 

"Cool", meant "good", and no longer just referred to the temperature. After a while the term "Bad" came to mean "good", as well. What's wrong with just saying something is "good"? It's not zippy enough - we need to use "awesome" or "fly" or "chill" or some other strange morphing of language. 

Do you remember "Sniglets"? I loved sniglets, words that weren't in the dictionary but should've been. Morphing of two words to describe something. Nonsense words for totally comic value, and the '80s public loved them. Here's a couple of examples:
  • profanitype, the special symbols and stars used by cartoonists to replace swear words (*^&#...)
  • pupkus, the moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it (my personal fave)
  • askhole (someone who asks very annoying questions)
  • bozone (the layer of air surrounding a stupid person)
You get the idea. It was fun. It was funny. It made an even bigger mess of the English language. 

As writers we enjoy the use of words and generally get irritated at the miss use of them. You've heard the term "Grammar Nazi"? I'm not one of those, because I face translations or writing from non English (as their first language) speakers every day and sometimes have to puzzle out what they really want to say. It can be challenging to make their messages completely understood. We writers want our words to tell a story, convey a feeling, entertain, frighten, but most of all - we want to express ourselves.

One of my favorite quotes is from James Michener, who says: "Writing, I love the swing and swirl of words as they tangle with human emotions." 

Nice, isn't it? Enjoy the journey my writing friends, and don't be afraid to have some fun doing it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

LUCK AND LITERATURE by Jacqueline Seewald

We’ve had a Friday the Thirteenth two months in a row. Traditional superstitious belief holds that this day bodes bad luck. Then there’s the Ides of March soon to come on the 15th and 16th of this month. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the emperor is warned to “Beware the Ides of March” by the Soothsayer. Julius, not being a superstitious sort of guy and believing the guff about his immortality, sneers and refers to the Soothsayer as “a dreamer.” Not Caesar’s wisest decision.

 It will also soon be St. Patrick’s Day which supposedly brings good luck and fortune. People do at times have lucky things happen to them and at other times suffer misfortunes like ill health, accidents or assaults. However, we authors tend to believe that for the most part we make our own luck.

According to Napoleon: “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.” I apply that statement to authors. We get lucky with our work when we have done adequate preparation—that translates to being well-read, rewriting, and editing until we’ve created something of value and quality. If we’re too lazy or too full of ourselves to make this kind of effort and commitment then alas we’ll never “get lucky.”

Luck is often a theme in literature. For example, Thomas Hardy created characters that were unlucky like Tess or Jude. Yet it could be argued that their bad luck came as a direct result of fatal flaws in their own characters. This is where tragedy derives from. Things don’t just happen. There is a cause and effect relationship.

In my own mystery novel THE BAD WIFE, for instance, police lieutenant Mike Gardener uses poor judgment in declaring publicly to Kim Reynolds, the reluctant sleuth of the series, that he might have to kill his wife.


In THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, the protagonist has to make a difficult decision. Danna initially appears to be a loser, an unpopular girl, who becomes very lucky—or does she? Should she sell her soul to the devil for earthly benefits or choose the straight path? Choice, exercising free will, is very much part of the Western tradition in literature.


I admire protagonists with positive values who make their own good luck and overcome obstacles through personal effort, not bemoaning their fate or bad luck. To quote Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar again, as Cassius observes: “Our fate, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

Your comments welcome!

Friday, March 6, 2015

What the Well-Dressed Character Will Wear, by Susan Oleksiw

A standard technique to introduce a new character is to provide a physical description--height, weight, hair color--with one unique feature, perhaps a broken nose or uneven shoulders. This is the easy part, but it is hardly enough if we want the reader to get a sense of how this person sees himself or herself in the world. We need to know more, and writers may progress to how the person shakes hands or drives a car. I include clothing in the details that have the potential for making a character vivid.

During a recent visit to a local mall, I found a spot where I could watch the shoppers and other people watchers. I spotted the senior citizens taking their daily walk, the young mothers with kids in tow, eager to get out of the house even if it meant carting half the neighborhood with them to the play room, and shoppers looking for--and finding--bargains. None of these individuals is real to you now reading this because I haven't given any remarkable detail. You don't know what they look like or how they behave.

Most of the characters who populate my fiction appear fully formed--I know what they look like and how they behave and what they believe. But I also want to know what they are wearing. Whatever the reason, I have to think harder about my characters' outfits. The only exception is Anita Ray, most recently in For the Love of Parvati. I understand her wardrobe well. She wears a full sari, a two-piece Kerala sari, or a salwar khameez set. Sometimes she wears western clothes--slacks and a khurta. In her case I only have to think about colors and patterns.

Western characters are more of a challenge. I am so used to seeing people wearing jeans and jerseys that I have to remind myself that there are other options. I find some of these at the mall or in restaurants or movie theaters. An especially good site for searching out wardrobe possibilities is the train station. I don't mind waiting for the less-regular train service leaving North Station in Boston because I take the time to study the outfits of professional women. They are varied and sometimes surprising.

Women have a far wider range in clothing now than in years past, and I have a few favorites. Many women still wear business suits, particularly those raised in traditional families determined to maintain hard-won family status. Deanie Silva, in Last Call for Justice, would only wear the most expensive but slightly conservative clothes. But her nieces would wear anything but. 

For the younger age group, which includes Jenny, Chief of Police Joe Silva's stepdaughter, I especially like the silk blouses with jeans, the black leather boots with flowery cotton dresses, the leggings on stick-thin legs with layers of tops, the leggings and long flowing skirts with cowboy shirts. Thought it's not for Sarah Souza, one of Joe's nieces, I have admired the white silk slip, with lace, worn underneath a red sweater embroidered with flowers. I can't say I have admired the combat boots worn with a khaki dress slung with empty gun holsters beneath lips pierced at least five times with silver studs but I remember the woman who wore the outfit. She may appear in another book, but not as a relative.

Whatever I may think of these outfits on a personal level (hint: they will never appear in my closet), I know I have a character who will love at least one of them. And however I describe her, with long brown hair or green eyes that recall Elizabeth Taylor's, the reader will remember the outfit that says, this young lady knows who she is. And that's how vivid I want my characters to be.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Author musing about Hope

Two years ago I posted a blog entitled Flower Sparks Hope. There was a picture of an orchid which had bloomed repeatedly for the several years I cared for it. This year that same orchid  is blooming from more than one branch and it has many more blooms than ever before, so I borrow from an old cliche, "Hope Springs Eternal" and so does my orchid.
Someone  who viewed it said the way the branches developed makes it look very artistic and I agree, but I can't take credit for that. I am happy just to look at it.
Two years ago, I was hoping that a book I had just finished would be snapped up by the  publisher of my four previous books in print, but that didn't happen. The publisher went to publishing only one genre, mystery, and my romantic suspense novel didn't work for them. I was very disappointed to say the least, but I wasn't about to give up. It sat for a while before  I attempted to submit it elsewhere. I won't name the publisher, but the next one  sat on it for six months before telling me the line I designated was not right for it , but I could try another of their imprints.  No thankyou, I said, and submitted it to a different publisher right away.  You know the game, wait and see, but I made a decision that if it was rejected I would epub it myself.  I am now trying to convince myself to go ahead with that plan.

I dug in my heels, edited and polished and knew that my book was the best it could be. In fact the publisher who rejected it said "this doesn't work for us, but you are a fine writer and I invite you to submit to us again." It gave me hope once more.

 I quote Barbara Tuchman, pulitzer prize winning author of The Guns of August  : "Books are carriers of a civilization. They are companions, teachers, magical bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print." considering that magnanimous quote  also gives  hope, so perhaps you will see SAFE HARBOR in some form soon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Scientist Jen J. Danna Authors New Forensic Mystery

Jen J. Danna is our guest blogger. As a scientist specializing in infectious diseases, Jen works as part of a dynamic research group at a cutting-edge Canadian university. Her true passion, however, is indulging her love of the mysterious through her writing. Together with her partner Ann Vanderlaan, she crafts suspenseful crime fiction with a realistic scientific edge for Five Star/Cengage. Jen lives near Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two daughters, and is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada.

The Killer Days of Prohibition

My writing partner Ann and I love to find an interesting theme around which to base each of our Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. Be it fire, witchcraft or photography, we use the theme as an overarching concept in our storytelling. From our point of view, it makes writing the novel more interesting. But, clearly, readers enjoy it also since that is one of the most noted aspects of our writing in reviews. In TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the overarching theme is the history of Prohibition that backs the entire case that Matt, Leigh and the team are investigating.
Prohibition was an interesting time in American history, and to this day the Eighteenth Amendment remains the only amendment to the Constitution of the United States to be repealed. Amendment XVIII, ratified in January 1920, was an attempt to shape social change: because alcohol was seen as the ‘devil’s brew’ and people were considered too weak to escape its clutches, temperance was federally legislated. An interesting aspect of that legislation was that it was only illegal to produce, transport, store, or sell alcohol. Once in a person’s possession, it was completely legal for individuals to possess and drink it. Amendment XXI repealed Amendment XVIII more than a decade later.
Prohibition was doomed from the start for several reasons. First and foremost, it proved to be impossible to enforce. Not only were the country’s legislators and enforcers—politicians and law enforcement at multiple levels—breaking the law themselves by continuing to imbibe, but the overwhelming majority of people themselves were unhappy with the law, and went to extreme lengths to circumvent it, sometimes at risk to their own lives.
But one of the biggest reasons Prohibition failed was the rise of both the Mob and the black market to fill the hole left by the removal of legal alcohol sales. When demand for the product went underground, so did the supply. Alcohol was brought by boat into ports like Boston and New York, or was carried overland from border countries Canada and Mexico. Speakeasies—illegal establishments for the express purpose of selling alcohol—flourished, most run by the Mob. Some speakeasies were world-class entertainments in major cities like New York or Chicago, boasting expensive drinks and elaborate floor shows. Jazz was the music of the day and many musicians got their start playing in speakeasies. But behind the glitz and glamour, a war waged between rival mobs and between those same mobs and law enforcement. Violence skyrocketed as individual mobs fought to corner local markets, often at the expense of mob and civilian bystanders; gang shootings in the streets and massacres were not uncommon during the time. Mob bosses rose to superstardom when they used their amassed riches to open soup kitchens for the poor during the Depression, further complicating law enforcement’s attempts to shut them down because they were so well loved by the common man.
This is the fascinating backdrop of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER—the world of clandestine speakeasies, the mob and dirty politicians:

Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess—short skirts, drinking, dancing . . . and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.
It’s a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives—their deaths separated by over eighty years—the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades. When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realizes that an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.
TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER is out this week and can be found at your favorite booksellers:,,, and Barnes and Noble.

Note: Your thoughts and comments are most welcome here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Great Love Stories

I mentioned Monday on my personal blog that my older son and his wife were married on Valentine’s Day. It was a joyful wedding, loving and romantic. No big fancy affair, just the bride and groom, my husband and myself, the bride’s best friend, and a judge happy to officiate, followed by a wedding breakfast at a local hotel. Afterwards the bride and groom had to take a long drive so that my son could represent in court a couple accused of white collar crime. This love story is one of many worldwide.

Love stories have always been an important part of history and literature. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. Cleopatra and Julius Caesar (Cleopatra did get around). As Shakespeare said, “she was a woman of infinite variety.” Then there is the story of Napoleon and Josephine, another passionate love affair. In the Bible, we also find some of the world’s greatest and unforgettable love stories. What can be more romantic than the story of Ruth or Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? And there is the story of Esther which is celebrated on Purim.

A lot of the world’s most famous, classical love stories, of course, did not end happily: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Helen of Troy and Paris, Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere (a triangle). These are tragedies.

Some of the literary characters I consider unforgettable are those of the Bronte sisters: Healthcliff and Catherine, the tormented lovers in Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester of Charlotte’s famous novel. Both romances are in the gothic tradition.

Thomas Hardy wrote a number of tragic love stories as well. For something lighter, I prefer Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are memorable. I’ve read and reread that novel numerous times. My own romances have happy endings as well since I prefer them.

Love quite literally makes the world go round. My favorite Valentine’s Day gift  would be a new romance novel. Candy makes me fat. Flowers wilt and die too soon. But a great romance can be read and reread and enjoyed.

 If you’re of a mind to read some sensual historical fiction, I suggest a look at my contest-winning Georgian romance THE CHEVALIER, set in the Scottish Highlands and available in all e-book formats.

Then there’s TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, a Regency romance recommended by Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, also now published in all e-book formats:

If you enjoy romantic short stories, consider my collection BEYOND THE BO TREE, a book that combines romance, mystery, fantasy and the paranormal:

For teenage girls and their mothers to share, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER is a clean read romance also available in all e-book formats.


If you’re a fan of romantic suspense, take a look at DEATH LEGACY available in all e-book formats. To read a free partial of that novel, go to:

Can you think of any romances you would recommend to readers? What sort of romance fiction do you particularly enjoy reading?