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?

Friday, February 6, 2015

What I'm learning from Harper Lee

In the last few days I have read more than a dozen stories on the stunning news that Harper Lee at age 88 is about to publish her second book, which is in fact the first one she wrote. According to news reports the story in Go Set a Watchman covers the life of Scout as a young woman and relates the events in To Kill a Mockingbird in flashbacks. The setting is the 1930s and 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement. Readers are eager to see what kind of person Scout grew up to be, and how contemporary life looked to Harper Lee. But there's a downside to this.

The flip side to the story is the history of the manuscript, which supposedly disappeared for fifty years. Lee set aside one novel and wrote another, her only book. Lee's sister managed her affairs until her recent death, and neither woman seemed interested in publishing Lee's first mss during all those years. But now something has changed. Lee's sister is dead and Lee is living in an assisted living center, after a stroke, and it's an open question of whether or not she understands what is happening.

While half the people I know are itching to get their fingers on the new book, I and other writers I know are wondering what this means for Harper Lee and her desire to determine her own literary reputation. If she wanted the book published, would she have done so earlier? Did she destroy all but one copy, a copy left with an editor and forgotten?

The question, put simply, is this: What do you do with your old, unsold mss when you realize someone else may one day take control of them?

Every writer has a number of mss stacked in a drawer or sitting in a box on a closet shelf. We may now have additional copies on disks, floating in a Cloud somewhere, or stored in a bank safe-deposit box. We may have tried to sell a particular mss and failed, or perhaps we decided we didn't like the story in the first place, or we knew it just wasn't good enough to go out into the world. Do we really want to see these mss published after we're gone? Or do we want to see them in print even while we're still around, only to see them land on a reviewer's desk with a thud?

Sometimes I start a story and find that it just doesn't go anywhere. I close out the file and turn to something else. Or I finish the story, fail to sell it, and forget about it until months, even years later, when I take another look. That's when I think, "Yes, it's a bad story and I'm glad no one bought it. I'm a better writer now." But I don't delete it from my computer.

This was the case with the first Anita Ray mystery, Under the Eye of Kali. I made several false starts in an effort to define the character and nature of the story. I rejected those stories, but I didn't delete them from my computer. I cannibalized another unfinished story for the second Anita Ray mystery, The Wrath of Shiva, but I didn't delete it from my computer.

Right now I'm working on an Anita Ray mystery novel whose title I stole from an earlier story. I'm not taking anything else from it for this novel, and I don't even want to reread the earlier work, just in case there's something there I can use. But I don't delete it from my computer.

I want to read the new Harper Lee novel, and I want to love, to admire it as much as Mockingbird. But I also don't want to be disappointed, or to think that someone has taken advantage of a declining writer and published something she felt didn't deserve the attention.

As writers we have a right to control our own reputations and output, to choose what we publish and ask others to read. Watching the story of Harper Lee's second novel, which was really her first, has convinced me that as difficult as it is, I'm going to delete old mss that I don't think are good enough to publish, or as good as what I'm writing now. Writers often hear the advice, Kill your darlings. The reference is usually to passages we are especially fond of. But I think now is the time to kill those other darlings, the old mss cluttering up our computers or gathering dust in the closet.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The importance of Networking.

Although we know the importance of networking in the author business we often have our heads down writing and miss opportunities to do it. I love the people part of writing (readers, book sellers, publishers, reviewers, bloggers, other authors...), but when I'm feeling the pressure of a deadline my vision of focus shifts to the page. In that part of the process we are alone.

And while the alone part can be daunting, critical and fun - networking is key to getting the word out about our work. With no traveling troubadours going from town to town sharing our wonderful stories, we have to do it ourselves. I have a decent voice, at least I used to, and could probably make up a song to sing about the stories I write - but that's not really what works these days. It's social media and the impressions (hopefully good ones) we make on the people we meet in our authoring travels.

Making a habit of hanging out at your favorite bookstore is so easy to do. Watermark Books & Cafe is one of my favorite places to be. They have tons of great books for sale, events for readers and authors, and a delightful cafe. A good cup of tea, a book, a cookie - OH BOY! Nothing better, in my humble opinion.

Writer workshops and conferences are a great way to meet and greet all the wonderful people associated with this profession. If funds are tight you can usually find one within driving distance of your home and probably someone to share a room with. (Check out Shawguides Writers Conferences to find one in your area.)

Some of my best writing buddies were a result of conference attendance over the years - sharing a spare room or hotel - and the fun and educational experience together. People who love writing are the coolest people, don't you agree? And no one understands the plight of a writer like another writer. It's also a great way to connect with publishers, agents, editors and book sellers.

But most of all, don't forget the readers. You'll find them anywhere and everywhere. For example: There's a boutique in the Old Town part of Wichita that I love. Shopping and buying gifts there is an adventure and doesn't hurt my growing earring collection any. It's called Lucinda's. I've made friends with the owner and she has a wonderful group of sales gals working for her. I love it so much that I put the store in my last novel (Patchwork Family). And guess what, my books are selling very well there!

Another favorite spot of mine is the library, where books and book lovers can always be found in abundance - so make it a point to donate copies of your work to your local library so they can share it with the world. Tell your friends and family to ask their local library to stock your books as well. My first novel Feisty Family Values can be found in Australia and thirty of the fifty states in the union.  Not a bad bit of networking.

Enjoy the journey, my friends.
Born and raised in Kansas, Bonnie Tharp spent much of her formative years in her grandmother’s kitchen as official taste tester. Although not much of a chef herself, she enjoys good food and believes all the best discussions happen at the kitchen table.
Bonnie is the author of Patchwork Family, published in March 2014 by Belle Bridge Books. It’s the sequel to 2010’s Feisty Family Values, a novel of women’s contemporary fiction.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Author Pamela Thibodeaux Discusses the R's of Writing

Today we have a special treat for our readers. Author Pamela Thibodeaux is our guest blogger at Author Expressions. She’s offering some helpful information and advice for fellow writers.

(W)rite the best piece you can! There are hundreds possibly thousands of markets out there. It goes without saying that writing your best is important whether it’s an article, essay or novel.

Research. Once you sell your piece and the limits of your contract have expired, start looking for similar markets to submit to, including those outside the United States. Say you’ve written an essay for Working Mother, try, a Canadian market that has several publications on the subject. If you’ve published in print, try online markets and vise-versa.

Rework. Can you add or take away from your original piece and sell it to another publication? Perhaps you’ve written an essay for a secular magazine, can you add the faith factor and sell it to a Christian market or vise-versa?

Revise. Can you revise your article or essay to fit a whole new market altogether? 
My essay Perfect Love was initially published in the Feb. 2001 issue of The Romantic Bower Ezine. One year later, a call for submissions came for a compilation called Crumbs in the Keyboard; Stories From Courageous Women who Juggle Life & Writing.  By simply adding a commentary to the article that acclimated it to fit the purpose of the Crumbs project, the story was published in this anthology.

Rewrite. Can you rewrite your piece with a different POV so that it’ll work elsewhere? I did. My short story Angel of the Day was published in Nov. 2000 issue of The Romantic Bower Ezine. I revised the entire story from the hero’s POV, changed the title, added a hint of sizzle and a splash of sensuality and created a whole new story. The new version, Cathy’s Angel was published by Pelican Book Group and is still available.

Revamp. Can you cut out the tips and advice of a long piece and submit that elsewhere?  I have. Several of my longer writing related articles have been shortened to bare bones and submitted to various publications for pay.

Record-keeping. If you have more than one article, short story or essay that you’re trying to market, it is imperative that you keep records of your submissions so that you don’t duplicate them. It looks unprofessional of you to send the same piece to the same place once it’s been rejected. Now, if you’ve implemented one or more of the above steps to better fit a particular publication, then by all means query. A simple paper, notebook or document listing the submissions and indicating what’s been accepted where, works well. Also, keep accurate records of your income and expenses for tax purposes.

Renegotiate. Most newsletters and websites have a reprint rate so it’s unprofessional and unnecessary to argue the point. For those that don’t list a reprint rate, offer to take less than their normal payment since it is a reprint or perhaps trade articles for advertising.

Remember, in this business money isn’t everything. Marketability is. Publishers want to know how marketable you are; therefore, clips mean experience, experience means exposure and exposure means one step closer to publication!

So learn the R’s of writing. Added together they equal Revenue.

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Website address:  
Twitter: @psthib

Title: Circles of Fate
URL for Cover:

Blurb: Set at the tail end of the Vietnam War era, Circles of Fate takes the reader from Fort Benning, Georgia to Thibodaux, Louisiana. A romantic saga, this gripping novel covers nearly twenty years in the lives of Shaunna Chatman and Todd Jameson. Constantly thrown together and torn apart by fate, the two are repeatedly forced to choose between love and duty, right and wrong, standing on faith or succumbing to the world’s viewpoint on life, love, marriage and fidelity. With intriguing twists and turns, fate brings together a cast of characters whose lives will forever be entwined. Through it all is the hand of God as He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Purchase Links:
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 Pam, thanks for being our guest today. Comments for Pam welcome here!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Name Game: How to Select the Right Title by Jacqueline Seewald

I believe that a well-chosen title helps sell a writer’s work. The first impression a book or story creates depends on several factors, one of them being the title. The title will set a certain tone or expectation. Whether you write literary work, genre fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, etc., the title should fit the work. If it’s not appropriate, the reader may rightfully feel cheated.

I have a few suggestions that I believe might prove useful:

First suggestion is to do some initial research. For instance, visit Amazon and Google. Check out titles for the kind of work you’re writing to get a sense of what is appropriate.

All right, let’s assume you have formed some ideas for titles. Second suggestion, go to World Cataloging and type in your title under the keyword heading. See what pops up. If your title is used by many authors many times, you might want to try for something different. Ecclesiastes states that there is nothing new under the sun; however, you can do some variations that are unique. Also, keep in mind that titles are not copyrighted unless there’s a trade mark involved. You can, in fact, have the same title as another author, although if possible, it’s best to distinguish it in some way. Here’s an example: one of my Five Star/Gale novels is a mystery entitled THE THIRD EYE. There are a number of other books with the same title. However, my full title is: THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY. This differentiates it. It also informs readers that this novel is primarily a mystery.

This brings us to my next suggestion: consider if the chosen title can properly characterizes a theme of your book, story, poem, article via your word choice. Maybe it represents a reoccurring symbol in your book. Example, in THE DROWNING POOL, my second Kim Reynolds mystery, the pool becomes an important symbol and, in fact, there are two separate pools related to two separate deaths. You’ll note that a much more famous mystery writer than myself used that title before I did. But I didn’t hesitate to adopt it because it happened to fit my novel as well. In THE BAD WIFE, latest Kim Reynolds novel in this mystery series, the first murder victim and the key character in the novel is (you guessed it!) the bad wife. And yes, she really is very bad.

Another suggestion: keep your title short if possible. Modern titles are generally brief unless you’re writing an academic dissertation. Otherwise, a few words will suffice. For example, the title of one of my novels is DEATH LEGACY. Just two words. Appropriately, it’s a suspense thriller. Enough said.

Last suggestion: Try for a clever use of words which will make your title in some way memorable, interesting, intriguing, and/or provoke curiosity. Example: for the third novel in the Kim Reynolds mystery series I used the title THE TRUTH SLEUTH. Kim is an amateur detective and also an academic librarian. So the title fits the main character. The whimsical bit of rhyming hopefully makes the title stand out.

 In my short story collection, BEYOND THE BO TREE, I used alliteration. I also hoped to provoke curiosity with the unfamiliar Bo tree in the title.


In my YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, I used familiar names in the title to provoke reader curiosity.


Are there any titles that stand out in your memory? If so, why? If you are a writer, how do you select your titles?