Friday, February 17, 2017

What flavor or genre do you prefer?

We're going to try on different flavors today. Do you always get chocolate or do you get strawberry or vanilla sometimes? Sometimes you're in the mood for one and not the other. The point is to branch out and try new things, in what you eat, in movies, music, and the books you read - or write, as the case may be.

What genre do you read? Women's fiction, mystery, romance, historical, thrillers, suspense, science fiction and the occasional non-fiction (biographies or self-help). There's a lot more genre's out there, like crime, horror, fantasy, western, graphic novel, Christian fiction, paranormal - etc. and I've read a few of those, too.

What genre do you write? Women's fiction, mystery, romance, historical, thriller's and suspense. I dabble with children's stories but haven't published any.

Why does it matter? I've always been told to write in the genre I read because that is where my interest obviously lies. I haven't tried writing in all of the genre's I read, but have tried my hand at most of them. My two published novels are in women's fiction. My latest manuscript is a young adult/new adult romantic suspense.  When I look for a new book to read the genre helps narrow the list, so I ask, "What do I want to read right now?"

Why not write in more than one genre? Why not, indeed. Since my reading interests are varied so are the stories I write. But there is nothing that says we can't pick one genre and stick with it. As we grow in our craft it might behoove us to concentrate on one genre for some time before branching out. 

Why not read in more than one genre? I think most people gravitate to some genres more than others and read multiple types or combinations; like paranormal romance, sci-fi fantasy, historical romantic mystery, etc. I'm not a huge fan of horror (my imagination is too vivid) but I have read a few of Stephen King's novels and enjoyed them.

If I write in multiple genres should I use pseudonyms? Some authors do, like Nora Roberts/JD Robb; Stephen King/Richard Bachman. Other authors capitalize on their names in whatever genre they write; James Patterson for example, his name is all over the place. I have a writer buddy that writes children's, romance and erotica and in each one she uses a different nome de plume. Writers, you decide what is best for you. Personally, I don't have any experience here - YET! Readers, don't be afraid to try an author whose name you don't recognize.

Are you willing to read books in genre's you don't usually read? I hope so. For me, the answer is a resounding YES. In our book club, the younger members tend to lean towards dark fiction, but not all. Another one is a steadfast romance reader and another usually picks non-fiction. It's difficult to find a book that everyone will enjoy, so we pick two and have the option to choose. Most of the members who are branching out from their normal genre are enjoying the adventure. The ones that don't will probably find another group that reads the genre they prefer. Our local independent bookstore has a book club for just about every type of book. The point is to try new things because you never know when you might find a new favorite!

Friday, February 10, 2017

February Thoughts by Jacqueline Seewald

Valentine’s Day remains a favorite holiday for me. In fact, the entire month of February makes me smile. One reason is because it’s the shortest winter month; another reason is because we are getting more daylight again. A third reason is that my older son Andrew was born in February and married in February.

Andrew and his wife Anna 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.

Andy and Anna are still happily married and now have a lovely little daughter to help them celebrate their anniversary. This love story is one of many worldwide celebrated on the most romantic day of the year.

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 legendary 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. My tribute to that tradition, although one with a happier end is DARK MOON RISING.

Thomas Hardy wrote a number of tragic love stories. For something lighter, I prefer Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are memorable characters. I’ve read and reread that novel numerous times.

Love quite literally makes the world go round. My favorite Valentine’s Day gift is 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 romance to celebrate Valentine’s Day and enjoy romantic short stories, consider my collection BEYOND THE BO TREE, a book that combines romance, mystery, fantasy and the paranormal. The first story in the collection is a free read:

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

STACY’S SONG, another YA romance/coming-of-age novel, is also available from Clean Reads Press on Amazon:

For readers who enjoy adult romance and paranormal thrillers, check out my novel DARK MOON RISING available in print and all ebook formats:

Also available through the publisher Luminosity:

My most recent published novel is a romantic mystery
THE INHERITANCE from Intrigue Publishing:

Also available from:

For a free short story perfect for Valentine’s Day, check out 
“A St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” originally published in GUMSHOE REVIEW:

Can you think of any romances you would recommend to fellow readers and writers?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Point of View by Susan Oleksiw

One of the first things a writer has to settle when beginning a story is the point of view, but figuring this out is not always easy. The choices may seem limitless but each story calls for one specific point of view, and finding that can be difficult. I think of this process as figuring out who tells the story. Whose story is this? I test different POVs among those available—close or distant third person, multiple POVs, including both first and third, and first person. Charles Dickens is the most obvious example for using the omniscient POV. At present most mysteries follow one main character, the protagonist/sleuth, with occasional scenes from other characters.

In the Mellingham series I follow Chief of Police Joe Silva with some scenes given from the perspective of other characters, limited to about five. In the first three books I enjoyed writing from several different points of view, exploring different characters and the way they saw the murder and its consequences.

In the seventh book, Come About for Murder, I follow only Joe and one other character. Part of the impetus behind this book was to explore Joe’s deepening role as a stepparent. I wanted the reader to know more about him as a man as well as his manner of solving crimes. In this story Joe teaches his stepson, Philip, how to sail, which turns out to be extremely important to the boy’s survival.

In the Anita Ray series I began with a close first person. In Under the Eye of Kali, I rejected the idea of writing Anita in first person largely because I wanted the freedom to explore views that Anita might not have reason to consider. In the first two books, we follow only Anita Ray’s exploits. By the third and fourth books I knew I wanted to explore related aspects of the mystery, so I introduced a secondary protagonist and gave her a limited number of scenes, about five. In When Krishna Calls, the second protagonist serves to heighten the tension while Anita tries to rescue her.

 Even though I make a specific choice for each book, I enjoy reading a variety of POVs in other novels, and I especially enjoy watching how other writers handle the issue. Anyone who has taken a writing class will recall at least one discussion on the importance of sticking to the chosen point of view. The writer is expected to pick a POV and stick to it, with no deviation or lapses allowed. But not everyone agrees with his, nor has it always been the rule.

One of the writers who challenge this rule is Flannery O’Connor. In several of her stories she drifts into the story in search, it always seems to me, for the character whose story it is. In “Good Country People,” the narrative begins in a kitchen with one character, moves to the perspective of a mother and then drifts into the mind of the woman who turns out to be the main character. Hulga, who has a PhD and a wooden leg, has recently returned home, somewhat bitter and alienated from the world she must now live in. We stay in her perspective for the rest of the story.

In A Fine Summer’s Day, Charles Todd opens with four scenes each from the perspective of a different character, before switching to the POV of the protagonist, Inspector Ian Rutledge. In G. M. Malliet’s The Haunted Season, the author has six shifts in POV in a single scene, in a fourteen-page chapter. Another writer might separate several of these into separate scenes, but the reader has no trouble following the narrative; the change in POV is clear.

None of these writers comes close to Tolstoy’s achievement in Anna Karenina, in which he changes the POV five times in one short scene, ending up with the POV of the dog.

To find the books in the Mellingham series and the Anita Ray series, go here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

To Tweet or not to Tweet by Sarah Wisseman

Our new president posts regularly on Twitter. Whatever you think of Trump's politics, he certainly has a large following. I tweet occasionally, but never in the middle of the night or early in the morning.

How many of you post on Twitter?  Do you regularly follow people you admire on Twitter?

Elaine Orr believes in Twitter, and has written a book  about it.

500+ Hashtags for Writers by [Orr, Elaine]

Facebook is my social media drug of choice. Although I created a separate author page, I tend to use my regular page to post a mix of announcements, thoughts, and pictures. I want my FB friends to know me as a person, not just an author.

Some groups of authors cross-promote each other, especially when new books come out. It’s hard to measure how effective this is (you can check your Amazon statistics for a few days before and after a post). My own observation is that when you post matters less than how often you encourage people to return to your post by adding a comment or replying to someone else. Most of us don’t make it to the bottom of our own feeds, let alone other people’s.

Blog tours are fun, but they can be time consuming. As with all promotional activities, you have to split your precious time between writing fiction and writing promotional pieces. This works best if you are a guest blogger on a site that already has a lot of traffic. I also blog about other topics besides writing (archaeology and painting, for example) and include a link to my writing. My latest blog was created for the Archaeology, Science, and the Bible class I am teaching.

Email is still my favorite method of communicating. I write and answer emails several times a day, and once in a blue moon I send out a newsletter. Perhaps the easiest thing I do is include a link to my website in my email signature, often with a quote about writing or a brief announcement.

What is your favorite online promotion?

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