Friday, June 26, 2015

"Fill Your Pages With The Breathings of Your Heart"

My blog title is a quote from William Wordsworth. I believe I have followed his suggestion with my new novel, SAFE HARBOR. Literary Reviewer, Brenda Scott believes so too, and has posted the following review at, and Goodreads:

"Mary Schoenecker's latest novel, Safe Harbor, is sensational. It is a breakaway from her MaineShore Chronicles trilogy and, some will say her best work to-date.Though Safe Harbor draws its characters from her cozy mystery series, this novel stands on its own merit. In fact, this reviewer would love to see Safe Harbor as the first in a new series by Schoenecker. The story is one of personal conflict and self-discovery, and features the lovable clairvoyant, Tante Margaret from the Chronicles trilogy.

The setting takes place in Biddeford Pool Maine where Tante Margaret is staying at her dear friend, Jacques's, seaside home while he is away for the weekend. Jacques has asked Margaret to keep an eye on his wife, Kathleen, who is an alcoholic and, as of late, seems to spend most of her waking hours in an inebriated state. During the short time Margaret is there, Kathleen goes missing. Tante Margaret grapples with her guilt for Kathleen's disappearance while attempting to sort out her heightened feelings for Jacques.

Schoenecker further draws the reader in with her well-rounded cast of secondary characters.The close bond between the four families is nothing short of magical as they come together in time of crisis, but, as strong as Schoenecker's character development is, it is her masterful descriptive prose that is her signature strength. Take, for example the following passage,"The red-haired willowy figure slowly fell to her knees, arms outstretched, her sobs and moans echoing. A ghostly specter loomed over the figure like a giant cat ready to pounce. The specter choked out the last rays of sunlight. Her image became smaller and smaller until nothing existed but sobs and moans." There are brilliantly descriptive scenes like this one throughout the entire novel, drawing the reader in to each scene.

Safe Harbor is Schoenecker's first self-published novel and was released in June 2015. It is available in paperback and ebook formats. You can purchaseSafe Harbor at  Create Space, and Barnes and Schoenecker's other novels include The Maine Shore Chronicles trilogy; Finding Fiona, Moonglade and Promise Keeper, as well as her Civil War epic, Four Summers Waiting. Visit Dr. Mary Fremont Schoenecker's author page at Amazon Author Central  and on Goodreads at "

Someone said "Your Backlist is the gift that keeps on giving."The Four books mentioned above published by Five Star, do indeed, keep  on giving,and my hope is that this self published book, Safe Harbor will also achieve continued success. It is a good summer read.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Many of us authors can truthfully answer, "We always dreamed of being a novelist." But is that strictly true? 

When I was seven, I wanted to be Doris Day and sing my way to the silver screen. I knew I didn't have much of a chance though because I didn't have blonde hair or freckles, but I could belt out a pretty good rendition of Que Sera Sera. If I had kept trying and improving, I might have been successful, but I went on to other artistic means of expression.

Drawing on every scrap of paper or margins of newspapers and notebooks drove me to dream about being a famous artist. My idols at an early age were book illustrators. Those guys could draw anything and everything. When I got married my grandmother gifted me with several notebooks of drawings she had saved from those early days. I've continued to draw and paint portraits of interesting people for many years, but famous - I think not.

As a teen, in between art class and choir, I tried my hand at writing poetry and song lyrics. I believe I filled one notebook and realized I wasn't destined to be a poet or song writer (too verbose).

My best friend Maxine told me I've always been a writer, expressing the most interesting situations via notes in class. Another friend, Karen, said my chatty letters made her feel like I was narrating instead of just telling the latest news. In college, I began to dream of writing a novel (as if I didn't already have plenty of papers to write). One of my professors encouraged me to pursue my fiction writing dream and so it began. Notebooks filled with scenes and characters, which led me to my first novel, Feisty Family Values. It took ten years from conception to print, but it's a beautiful book. (Five Star does great covers!)

Now, instead of creating portraits with paint, I create them with words. It's still a fairly long process, often starting with a picture in my mind of a character, a place, a scene, and a feeling. All authors strive to invoke feeling in our readers and to create a world they want to visit.

Did I dream of being a novelist? Yes, and I kept at it until I learned the craft, understood the publishing industry (which we all know is constantly changing), and ultimately told a story that others wanted to read.

Personally, I think I've learned that we need our dreams. They may change over time, but they are important and worth following. The key: Enjoying the journey.

So, tell me the truth, what did you want to be when you grew up? Are you on your way? If not, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Giveaway Winner Selected

The June giveaway winner of Allan Emerson's mystery novel has been chosen and notified.

She is Patricia Gligor.

 I have read and reviewed Allan's book and recommend it to fellow mystery readers.

Allan appreciates all of your thoughtful comments. Thank you for stopping by our website.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Interview with Mystery Author Allan Emerson by Jacqueline Seewald

Allan Emerson is a Canadian writer who was born in Saskatchewan and brought up in small towns there and in British Columbia. He lived in Australia and New Zealand before settling on the west coast of Canada in Vancouver. As his mother could tell you, he's been making up stories since he was a little kid.

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: Death of a Bride and Groom is a small-town mystery with humor and characters with tangled personal relationships bent on keeping their secrets. I like mysteries with intriguing characters who are full of contradictions.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: A few years ago, I joined the tourists swarming Niagara Falls and got to wondering what life was like for the locals. That provided the germ for the Honeymoon Falls series, which is set in a small resort town that bills itself as “The Romance Capital of the World.” I started with a single scene: the bodies of a man and woman are discovered dressed in full wedding regalia atop a giant wedding cake parade float. From there, the story grew until I had a town full of characters who had good reasons to want one or both of the victims dead.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer: Will Halsey was in line for a promotion on a big-city police force. Then his wife left him for an affair with a famous actor. Disillusioned, he abandons the city and returns to his small hometown to become the chief of its three-person police force. The quiet life he sought is disrupted by internal feuding between his subordinates, and shattered when the murders occur. He’s a strong man who’s been avoiding personal relationships until he meets Lucy Mitchum, who becomes a charming distraction while he struggles to find the murderer.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
Answer:  This is my first published novel. I’ve written numerous short stories, one of which, Judgment Day, was recently published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. 

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m currently writing the next in the Honeymoon Falls series. It’s called Death of an Action Hero, and without giving too much away, I can tell you that both Halsey’s wife and her lover re-appear in Halsey’s life.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I’ve been addicted to reading since I was a little kid. I read everything from comics to books I had to sneak out of the library because the librarian thought they were too mature for me. The world I found in those stories inspired me to make up my own.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Understand that being a writer is like any other profession—there’s an apprenticeship to be served. Getting published isn’t a realistic goal when you begin. First you have to develop the skills a writer needs to tell a story that people will want to read. And the only way you can do that is by writing. Finish your book. Then write the next one, and the next. Don’t give up! I know you’ve heard this before, but that’s because it’s true.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: Death of a Bride and Groom  was released May 20 in the U.S. (mid-June in Canada) in hardcopy and digital editions. You can order it through your favorite bookstore, library, or online. Death of a Bride and Groom is the first book in the Honeymoon Falls series. A large print edition will be released November, 2015.

Note: Allan is offering a print book giveaway/drawing, which includes the U.S. and Canada. If you are interested in receiving a copy of his novel, please leave a comment for Allan with an
e-mail address where you can be reached. Winner will be chosen in a random drawing.

You can visit Allan and check out his blog at:

Friday, June 5, 2015

After the Sale . . . by Susan Oleksiw

Last week I sent back the final edits for the fourth book in the Anita Ray series. When Krishna Calls will be out in April 2016, less than ten months from today. I'm excited about this book and looking forward to the cover. My editor generously sends me previews, and sometimes I get to make suggestions. I had a chance to do that on the first book, Under the Eye of Kali, but it wasn't necessary for the second and third in the series. Thanks to Deirdre Wait, graphic designer, I've had three beautiful covers perfectly matched to the stories. Does that mean all I have to do now is wait for the royalty checks to roll in? Alas, no.

Over the next ten months I have numerous tasks that are all part of launching a new book. This is where the joy of finishing a book bumps into the reality of selling it to the reading public. A number of websites and blogs give advice on how to promote a new book (see the links below), but I do only a few of the many suggestions.

If I weren't already on social media--FB, Pinterest, Twitter, among others--now would be the time to join. I don't do a lot with these sites, but I have learned to do something at least occasionally, and now is the time to step things up.

I will announce my upcoming book on FB and other websites, but not so often that I will be a pest. No one wants to keep reading the same news flash every day.

I'll update my list of reviewers for the ARCs that I expect by the end of the year. These sites include giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing, as well as teasers on Wattpad. In addition, I look for specialty magazines/newspapers, such as newspapers directed to the Indian community.

My website always needs updating, and I'll add the new novel plus any short stories that haven't yet been listed. I won't have a list of blogs or events to post until the spring, but I'll add those also.

Bookmarks have always been popular, and now with Internet services they are easier than ever to produce cheaply. I've used bookmarks for both the Anita Ray series and the Mellingham/Joe Silva series. These are easy to hand out, but not nearly as popular as the recipe cards I produce for the Anita Ray series.

Readers of cozies and traditional mysteries love recipes, and I love writing them. When I have one I think works well and is accessible for those not comfortable with cooking Indian food, I send the recipe to a friend who has a food/cooking blog and he tests it for me. With his final approval, I make up a recipe card with the covers of the Anita Ray books on the other side. I hand the cards out at events and often get asked for additional copies. I'll do the next recipe card when I have a copy of the fourth cover. My current recipe cards have only three covers on the reverse.

During the late fall I begin setting up events. Because I've had the benefit of working with Sisters in Crime New England Speakers' Bureau, I know that a panel of several writers is more attractive to libraries and bookstores than a lone writer who may or may not have a following in the area. We have several terrific writers in my area, and we enjoy working with each other on panels. If I'm doing any traveling I make a point of writing ahead to area bookstores and offer to come in and sign stock or give a talk. I make myself accessible, but I don't push the opportunity.

One of the key things I try to keep in mind when setting up panels or talks is that I'm one of hundreds of writers doing the same thing. Libraries and bookstores can feel overwhelmed with offers, and many like to stick with their own programming. Make the offer, outline how much you can do for them, and be honest about the audience you can bring in. Then step back.

Blog tours are very popular and I try to do as many posts as possible. This also means, of course, keeping up with my weekly post on my own blog. I tend to be erratic on this one, so a new book is a challenge for me here as well as in other areas. Some writers hire a company to set up a blog tour, and other writers do it on our own.

In addition to the usual venues, I have done a number of radio and TV interviews over the years. These are fun, and I try to tailor my conversation to the interests of the area or interviewer.

I have never purchased ad space because my publisher, Five Star/Gale, Cengage, does a gorgeous catalog and markets well to libraries and bookstores. But some writers purchase ad space in conference catalogs or trade magazines relevant to the book.

There are lots of ways to promote a book, but no one wants to be deluged with sales pitches. I am, after all, only one of a few hundred writers doing the same thing. So, I will add to my list of things to do the simple reminder to have confidence in my book as a good story that readers will enjoy. And in between marketing efforts I will start thinking about the next Anita Ray and set aside time to write.

The sites below have straightforward advice on marketing your book. My advice on these is to pick and choose. Try out the tips that seem reasonable to you, and ignore the rest.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fiction Readers Care About by Jacqueline Seewald

Readers need both an emotional and intellectual connection to fiction or they won’t continue reading. If this connection isn’t created, readers will simply say: So what? Then they’ll toss what they’re reading aside and look for something else. Since writers put their blood, sweat and emotional existence into giving birth to their babies, it’s natural to want their work read. How do writers create fiction that readers will care about? It’s not a secret. The answer lies with the characters.

Writers must first know their characters.

It is not enough to have a general idea of a character in your head when you start writing. You have to live and breathe the character, know him/her the way you know yourself. In essence, realistic characters are extensions or facets of yourself. My suggestion: Create a detailed written character study of each main character before you begin to write your story or novel.
Here are a few items to consider:
Shakespeare asks: What’s in a name? Clearly, a whole lot. A sweet young thing might have a soft-sounding name while a villain might have a hard-sounding one. What about ethnic names? Are they appropriate or inappropriate for your work?
Another thing you need to keep in mind is not to give characters names that might confuse readers. Names that are too similar in nature--for instance, Jane and Jana--should belong in different stories.
The name of your character will likely cause an assumption of gender, unless you are trying to keep it ambiguous. When I introduced African-American detective “Bert St. Croix” early in the novel THE DROWNING POOL, it comes as something as a surprise that she is a woman. She is tall, strong and fierce. A more masculine name fits her character. Readers don’t learn her back story right away, only the contrast that she has great sympathy and compassion for those who are in need of help but is tough with criminals.
Nicknames are also something to consider. Does your character have a nickname like “Bert" short for “Roberta”? What might that suggest about the character?
Age, Voice, Viewpoint
Age at the time of the story is significant. Is your story about an adult, a teenager, a child?  Point of view and voice differ with each. Also consider how the time period the character lives in effects personality and beliefs. This is especially important in historical fiction.

 In THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY, the novel is told from two distinct viewpoints--that of a teenage boy and his troubled mother. Point of view is very important. The chapters alternate between Jim and his mother. Jim tells his story in the first person present tense while his mother’s chapters are in third person past tense. Vocabulary and use of language are unique to each character.

Also, the reader understands things the characters do not comprehend particularly when the main character is telling the story from a first person viewpoint. The unreliable first person narrator is very common to mystery fiction. Sometimes the reader knows just what the narrator knows while other times the reader knows more. Dramatic irony can build tension and suspense.
Back Story/Personal History
Although you know your character’s back story or personal history, the reader should learn it slowly, piece-meal, bit by bit. This makes your character interesting and adds an aura of mystery. It makes readers want to turn the pages to find out more details about the character.
Making Your Character Sympathetic
Characters need to be relatable as  well as real. This means they need to have good qualities that readers like but also character flaws just like an ordinary person. They also need to have goals and ambitions that they’re striving toward. I prefer to make my main characters sympathetic but complex.
Danna the main character in THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER wants to leave her life of poverty behind. Her ambition is to be an artist. But Danna is confused in her values and family perceptions.

It’s important to know how your characters look. Not only should you have a picture in your mind but you need to describe in words how the characters appear: short, tall, handsome, beautiful, ugly, fat, thin, eye color, hair color.
Mannerisms are important as well. Does your heroine bite her nails, twist locks of her long hair? Does your hero flex his muscles? Does your villain speak in a soft, menacing voice? In THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, teenage Danna is a pretty girl but doesn’t think she is.
Start first with the family members, especially if they are an important part of the story. Who are the parents, siblings and extended family of your character? It’s not enough to just come up with names for them when developing your main subject. What are they like? Provide descriptions, personalities, etc. Are there any problems your character has with them? Kim Reynolds, the academic librarian sleuth first introduced in THE INFERNO COLLECTION, has a complex family dynamic that includes dark secrets.
What about friends? If they play a part in the story, we need to know your main character’s interactions with and feelings about them. In the Kim Reynolds mystery series, Kim comes to love police detective Mike Gardner. Their relationship is complicated in THE TRUTH SLEUTH by the return of Mike’s wife, Evelyn, who becomes THE BAD WIFE in the 4th novel in this series. Kim and Bert St. Croix also become close friends, and in THE BAD WIFE, they work together and quite literally save Mike’s life.
 Get to know your character’s strengths and weaknesses, attitudes, fears, obsessions, special talents and hobbies. How does your character think, speak, act? What do other characters say about him/her?
Weave body language in with dialogue. This often creates subtle emotional signals. What is said may be in contrast to what the character actually thinks and feels.
When you write a scene where there is interaction between characters, try to visualize it as you would see it in a film. There’s nothing wrong with having the image in your mind of real people. It’s also okay to eavesdrop on conversations and be an objective observer which will provide you with material for your writing.
In DEATH LEGACY, Michelle Hallam is a mysterious English woman who has been trained in intelligence work. She is wary and guarded while Daniel Reiner appears to be open and more balanced in his approach to life. They are very different people who come together as lovers and detectives to solve a murder espionage mystery as their lives are placed in jeopardy putting them increasingly in danger.

To sum up:
1. Be selective in choosing the names that convey what you want readers to visualize about your character.
2. Appearance is important. What does your character look like? Description can convey much about character. But don’t overdo it. As the old saying goes: show don’t tell.
3. What is special about your character’s speech? Are there unique phrases used? Dickens was a master of this. Also, dialogue should seem natural, they way real people talk.
4. Get into the mind set of your character. How does your character think?  James Joyce is a good writer to read for internal monologue technique.
5. How does your character act, react and interact with others?
6. What do other characters say about him/her?
7. Does the entire presentation have verisimilitude? Do your characters seem real and believable?
8. What values and goals are unique to your character? Why?

Your comments, observations and input are very welcome here!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chasing History

Mystery Scene Magazine published my essay with that title. It described the inspiration for the third book in my trilogy The Maine Shore Chronicles. The essay started with questions."Would you believe a picture on the wall of a defunct cotton mill could inspire a series? Could a New England mill town be a vibrant sense of place for the setting?" The answer was Yes. The seed for the stories was a lithograph circa 1845 of a woman tending a spinning frame in a local cotton mill. In my mind's eye that picture metamorphosed into my grandmother, who actually came to that town with her family  in 1890 to work in the mills."

During the four decades preceding the Civil War, the New England textile industry evolved and employment  to over one hundred thousand workers. One of the astonishing features of the early days of the industry was its dependence on "The Mill Girls". In some cities residency in factory boarding houses was mandatory. In a book called Run of the Mill this  was written."No persons could be employed whose habits are or shall be dissolute,indolent,dishonest or intemperate, or who absent themselves from public worship and violate the Sabbath. A board charge of $1.25 was deducted from the $2 to $4 a girl could earn in a 70 hour week.The hours were long, yet they were not overworked. They were to tend no more looms and frames than they could easily take care of. They had plenty of time to sit and rest and they were treated with respect by their employers."

Workers for the mills were recruited from Great Britain and Quebec, Canada. The Irish were pretty well established when French Canadians came to work in New England mills. Many of the mill towns from Connecticut through Maine had whole villages or sections of French Canadians.  That was true of the towns of Saco and Biddeford Maine, the setting for my book.  I added Biddeford Pool for its uniqueness and beauty. The towns were steeped in ethnicity and tradition and that became a theme of my stories.

I don't know whether my grandmother actually worked there because the family migrated to New York state before the turn of the century. The research, which started with that lithograph was a long and frustrating process which could be a story in itself, but it led to a semi- sequel featuring Tante Margaret   a much loved character from the Chronicles series in a book of her own SAFE HARBOR. It debuted a few weeks ago as a paperback book  available from Create Space and Amazon. Watch for a special reduced price as a Memorial Day bargain, and for all you readers of electronic books, an eBook of Safe Harbor is coming soon.