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Monday, April 21, 2014

"What if?"

I went to a home make-over meeting with my best friend, Maxine a few weeks back. I was able to try all sorts of interesting things, colors, shimmers, and the like. I felt very pretty when we were done. Of course, they handed out all sorts of forms and flyers then gave us the old "join the fun" sales schpeel, and that was when I nearly checked out. One of the flyers they gave us was entitled : What if? Those two words grabbed my attention and my imagination went into overdrive. 


This is a phrase every author asks themselves when creating a character, plot or scene. What if? That question leads to much more exciting possibilities than the normal, and this happened next routine.

Instead of going for a drive, what if the driver loses control and the car goes off the road and into a tree?

What if...

...the heroine falls deeply in love with the bad guy?
...there's a storm brewing outside at the same time there's a fight brewing inside the house?
...the poor old lady next door has a sale to raise money and someone returns a platinum piece of jewelry from her $5 box to the owner, rather than take advantage of the old woman?
...the noisy drunken neighbor turns out to be more than just loud and obnoxious, he's a serial killer, too?
...your boyfriend in high school turns out to be your father's child from an affair?
...you hid $1,000,000.00 in your house rather than trust the banks and it catches fire and burns to the ground?
...you get lost in the dark forest near your home and go back to a time centuries before you were born?
...you're in your twenties and you find out you have a heart defect they can't fix?
...your adult child curses and hits you when they are drinking?
...your husband of five years dies in his sleep?
...your toddler hides in the clothing racks at a side-walk sale and you can't find her, because someone snatched her out from under it and walked away?
...you won the lottery and were hit by a truck on the way to collect?
...your hip length hair gets caught in a boat motor and rips it out of your head?
...your funny uncle touches you in a private place?
...your weird aunt seduces your teenager?

See what I mean, your imagination goes all over the place with the possibilities. That's what authors do every time we write. What if it is winter instead of summer when the heroine gets lost in the mountains? It goes on and on and on...at least, it can if you will let it.

The next time you're stuck or feel like the story is moving to slow, think about What if...and let the imagination soar. Brainstorm ideas, no matter how weird, one of them will work, you just have to find it.


Enjoy the ride, my author friends. 
Bonnie

Patchwork Family, the second book in the feisty family series came out in March. You can get it wherever books and ebooks are sold. Visit http://bdtharp.com for more information about the author, novels, reviews and events.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holiday Thoughts by Jacqueline Seewald

First, I want to mention that the winner of the last print advance review copy of my Regency romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS has been contacted and the book mailed. In a few weeks, I’ll make the same offer for my newly published mystery novel THE BAD WIFE.

This being both Passover and Good Friday, my thoughts dwell on the holidays, not on writing per se. These are special days that we share with family and friends. 

It occurs to me that the internet community provides us with the opportunity to extend our number of friendships. Whether fellow writers or fellow readers, I feel I have made some wonderful new friends from all over the USA and all over the world because of social networking. I am in contact with people in Australia. I am in contact with people in Canada, the U.K. and even China. This is both wonderful and amazing!


So on this special day, dear friends, I have the pleasure of reaching out to wish you the happiest and healthiest of holidays, wherever you happen to be in the world.

Friday, April 11, 2014

How Book Promotions Benefit Readers by Jacqueline Seewald

If you enjoy reading, start checking out book promotions. These days publishers are doing less to promote their authors. So it’s up to writers to go to the time, trouble and expense to promote their own books. With the number of physical bookstores diminishing, authors must get creative in finding a readership. This is all to the benefit of readers.

Check out Goodreads where authors post free giveaways of their soon to be released books. Put in for one of these giveaways and you may score an advance review copy or even a hardcover edition. Also, check out author and reviewer blogs and websites where free books are often offered to introduce an author to a larger readership.

If you have an e-book reader, check out free book offers on Amazon for instance. A great many writers and publishers provide free book days to readers. If you have favorite authors, sign up for their newsletters. There are sometimes offers made in author newsletters directly to readers.

This week, I am offering my last original print ARC for TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, a sensual historical romance. This novel was first published in a hardcover print edition by Five Star/Gale/Cengage. It was later published in a hardcover large print edition by Thorndike. The current newly re-edited e-book edition is from Australian publisher SteameReads which brought out my award-winning historical romance THE CHEVALIER a few months ago. The publisher sells these novels in all e-book formats:


http://steamereads.com.au/

Here’s what Jayne Ann Krentz had to say about TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS: "Jacqueline Seewald's Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards delivers an unusual and intriguing heroine together with fast-paced historical romantic-suspense. Seewald is very much at home in her early 19th century setting."
- Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)                                          

Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JFHMXWW

Here are some blurbs from other reviews:

 “TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is rich in secondary characters across the spectrum of society...TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS has a lot to offer with its original characters and imaginative plot.” Romance Reviews Today

“It is clear that Seewald's goal is to offer a deeply felt, emotional romance.” Library Journal

“This is a delightful lighthearted regency frolic.” Genre Go Round Reviews

Can you think of other ways in which author promotions could benefit readers? Hope you’ll drop a comment. If you’d like to be included in my book drawing, leave an e-mail address.


Friday, April 4, 2014

ARCs, ARCs, and More ARCs

At a recent workshop a member of the audience asked the three writers on the panel on marketing what they did with their ARCs. One writer answered, “Dust them.” The audience laughed. For many it was a laugh of recognition. As I drove home I thought about the question again. Like many others, I assume everyone else already knows the answer, has accomplished this or that particular goal, and I’m the only one racing to catch up. Perhaps. Perhaps not. On the off chance that other writers are wondering what to do with a box of ARCs, I’ll tell you what I did with mine.

After eight books, I still get excited when a box of ARCs arrives. When the copies of my most recent Anita Ray mystery showed up, I grabbed a knife and slit the tape along the sides, and opened the top. The cover was gorgeous. The box held five ARCs, but I didn’t think about that because I was so taken with the cover. I love the cover.  And then I thought, only five? Okay. I can work with five. The next day another box arrived—a much larger box.

Granted, I’m not very good with numbers but I think I counted 50 ARCs. Fifty? Egads! What do you do with 50 proof copies? I don’t even know fifty people. Well, for a couple of weeks I did nothing. I stared at the box sitting on the floor, and then I got busy.

First, I went over the list of reviewers my publisher included, to make sure I didn’t duplicate her efforts. My editor sent out 22 review copies to the major review and crime magazines and review sites. Some of the individuals I contacted about reviewing replied that they would request a copy from one of the places they wrote for. I didn’t include these individuals in my list of reviewers approached.

I have no foolproof way to find people willing to read and review a book, but I bless the day Goodreads and other sites were born. Most online reviewers are deluged with books to review, and most are titles they haven’t requested. Sending them one more to consider is simply a waste of paper and postage. I try to focus on people who want the ARC and are most likely to post a review. I can’t require a review, but I can certainly indicate that this is a goal, and then I hope for the best.

Second, I planned a number of giveaways. I gave away 10 books on Goodreads. I gave away 10 books on LibraryThing. I gave away 7 books on DorothyL (plus a PDF of the novel). I took 6 books to India and gave them away to friends, who may or may not post a review, and including one friend who has a lending library. I gave away 4 books to friends who are also reviewers who asked for them. I sent out 2 to professional reviewers I do not know personally. I sent 2 to my alma maters. I asked 5 friends to review the ARC. I have 3 left to give away, and I’m keeping 1 for myself.

I mailed almost all these copies, and the woman at the post office thinks I’m something special. I handed her the last batch of mailers, and promised her the packages did not contain . . . . for the last time. Their zip codes straggled from the East Coast to Hawaii. “You have quite a long reach,” she said. I smiled. Really, I was quite chuffed by that. We writers have to get our strokes where they can.

And that’s what I do with my ARCs. What do you do? I have three left. They can go anywhere.

I'll send one ARC to one person who comments, picked at random, tomorrow morning.




Friday, March 28, 2014

"Ten Best Tips I Stole From Other Authors"

A dozen years ago author, Merline Lovelace, gave a presentation to my RWA chapter entitled "Ten Best Tips I Stole From Other Authors". She thanked each contributing author for the tips given in her presentation and written on  handouts she gave to our members. Merline was a gem. I referrred to those tips many times, finding them  to be helpful to me as a beginning writer. Especially did I value the section of her presentation which was about the craft of writing. I replicate here the five tips mentioned on craft for anyone who may be starting out, or perhaps for those authors who may be self-editing their work with an eye on improvement.

#1. Organize Your Research (thanks Margaret Malloy)
       Build a chronology of significant events during time period of your book
        Insert key dates of characters (eg birth, 1st meeting, marraige etc.)
       List key reference material and build your own reference book

#2. Pictures of Hero/Heroine (thanks Maggie Price)
      clip pictures of characters from catalogs or magazines
       Post over your computer for visualizing &  consistency as you work
       send in with your art cover plans/suggestions

#3. Start Where the Action Is (thanks Annie Steinmetz)
      Open your book in the middle of the action
       Write chapters 1,2, & 3. Then throw out chapter 1

#4. Balance the Romance and Action line (thanks Leslie Wainger)
      Writing two stories - the drama and relationship
       Think big, fat braid
       Consider using a plotting chart

#5. Blow something up in chapter 8 (thanks Jayne Ann Krentz)
      Avoid sagging middles. Keep the action moving.
       This is where plotting helps (ie plot bullets for action per chapter}

This blog post is brief by necessity. Declining health this past month leaves me no choice to do otherwise. Perhaps it will spark the memory of their "beginnings" for  some of my AE coleagues or  even give a little aid to others. I hope so.
      
     

Friday, March 21, 2014

Interview with Author/Editor Alice Duncan by Jacqueline Seewald

Alice Duncan is a much published, award-winning author who also happens to edit  mystery novels for Five Star/Gale/Cengage. I’ve personally had the pleasure of working with Alice who edited five of my Five Star/Gale novels.

Alice has a new mystery published by Five Star/Gale this month entitled SPIRITS REVIVED. You can check it out in the book catalog on the Five Star site.
For my review of this novel, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Spirits-Revived-Alice-Duncan/dp/1432827987/ or https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18351876-spirits-revived?ac=1

Alice, thanks so much for joining us today at the Author Expressions blog.   Congratulations on the excellent reviews of SPIRITS REVIVED.

Thanks, Jacquie! I appreciate you inviting me.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine of SPIRITS REVIVED?

Daisy Gumm Majesty, heroine of SPIRITS REVIVED, is my very favorite character of those who’ve shown up in my brain during the past twenty or so years I’ve been writing. She began her career as a phony spiritualist when her Aunt Vi was given an old Ouija board in Daisy’s tenth year. She had such success with her family that she branched out, and by the time the first book in the series, STRONG SPIRITS, was published she was the primary support of her family.

Her husband, Billy Majesty, died a little more than a year before SPIRITS REVIVED starts, and Daisy, who’s been through an ordeal of grief and guilt, is finally coming to terms with his loss. Daisy (I think) is actually me, only without the crippling neuroses and with a supportive family. In SPIRITS REVIVED, for the first time ever, Daisy actually conjures a real, live (or dead) ghost in one of her séances. This both shocks and scares her. Then she has to figure out who killed the poor boy without letting on to anyone how she discovered he’d been murdered and hadn’t committed suicide.


Question:   I know that this novel is part of a mystery series because I’ve read and very much enjoyed the previous novels. Could you tell readers about the series? How did it originate?  What inspired the series?

Let me see . . . For one thing, I was born and grew up in the Pasadena/Altadena area, and have always loved it. Even now, when it’s overcrowded and smoggy, Pasadena and Altadena are lovely. I’ve used a lot of my own life in the Daisy books. In fact, I’ve used many, many names and locations. For instance, Daisy and her family live in a house I used to own (only my house was on Michigan Avenue and not Marengo). And I grew up in Mrs. Bissel’s house! It’s still there, on the corner of Altadena Drive (used to be Foothill Boulevard) and Maiden Lane. I also took my kids to Dr. Benjamin when they were little, and took my very first dachshund to the Pasanita Obedience Club in Brookside Park, where he did very well. Miyaki’s Restaurant, where Daisy and her family dine in SPIRITS REVIVED, was a real Japanese Restaurant, only it was called Miyako’s. Mijare’s Mexican Restaurant, which opened in 1920, is still going strong and still serving fabulous Mexican food. I used my late son-in-law’s name in the book, too. Keiji and my daughter Anni were married for years before his untimely demise.

As for the series itself, from the start I wanted it to be an historical cozy mystery series. My publisher at the time (Kensington) decided they wanted me to take out the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance (because Daisy’s already married) and then marketed them as romances, which they weren’t. Of course, by that time they weren’t mysteries, either. They tanked. The late, great Kate Duffy actually called me to apologize for mis-marketing them, but by that time it was too late, and I had to write more historical romances. I didn’t want to, but there you go. In fact, I was downright depressed when I wrote my first post-Daisy book, A PERFECT STRANGER. I hated writing that book and have only recently overcome my loathing of the book itself.

I was overjoyed when Five Star picked up the series under their women’s fiction line. Then that line closed. I managed to squeeze the sixth book, ANCIENT SPIRITS, in as a romantic suspense novel, but from now on they’re mysteries. Whew! Daisy’s had as rough a life as I’ve had.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels? I know there are quite a few and that many are now available as both audio and e-books.

Oh, my goodness. There are, literally, dozens of them. I’ve written historical romances under my name (Alice Duncan), Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson and Anne Robins. I also wrote a couple of westerns in the “Trailsman” series under the pseudonym Jon Sharpe, but the less said about them, the better. My very first book, ONE BRIGHT MORNING, came about because I used to get migraine headaches. They were terrible. I got to wondering what a young widow woman with a baby and a ghastly migraine would do if she lived in the 1880s in New Mexico Territory, and a gunshot stranger showed up at her door. My second book, TEXAS LONESOME, contains dachshunds. I attract dachshunds kind of like a magnet attracts steel shavings. I think it’s a curse. Daisy Majesty gave her husband a dachshund named Spike, and Mercy Allcutt (in another series) has an apricot toy poodle named Buttercup. I love dogs J Anyhow, I’ve had something over fifty books published under a whole bunch of names, and nobody’s ever heard of any of them. Well, that might be a bit of an understatement, but not by much.

Anyhow, all my out-of-print backlist, and some of my in-print books, and a short story, which is part of my Pecos Valley series (another cozy mystery series set in the twenties, only this one in New Mexico in 1923) are available on Kindle and Smashwords. You can read all about them here: http://aliceduncan.net/page5.html . My Daisy books have recently undergone a facelift and are being published as e-books and trade paperbacks by ePW. You can read all about them here: http://ebookdiscovery.com.p8.hostingprod.com/AliceDuncan.html


Question:   Did you always want to be a writer? What made you start writing?

Yes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. From the time I could listen to stories, I knew I wanted to write them. Life got in the way (as it has a habit of doing), and I didn’t begin writing books until the nineteen-nineties. I tell you, life was *hard*. Sometimes I hear people say (generally disparagingly about people who say they want to write but don’t have time) that “writers write.” That may well be true, but writers also have to live, rear children, and earn livings.


Question:  As an editor for Five Star, how do you suggest writers contact your company?

Here’s the web site for Five Star, which will show you what kinds of books they like: http://www.gale.cengage.com/fivestar/

Question: What advice would you offer to those who have novels they would like to submit for consideration?

The publishing world today is fantastically different from what it was when I first published. Nowadays, authors have an abundance of ways to get their books published and don’t have to depend on five or six big name in New York City. Having said that, however, an aspiring author has to be careful his or her work is worth publishing. You need to LEARN YOUR CRAFT before you publish anything (or you’ll look like an idiot). I’ve seen a whole bunch of self-published garbage lately. I’ve also seen a lot of well-written, well-edited books being put out. But you really, really, REALLY need to get a handle on the language, which is the tool of your trade, before you tackle writing and publishing a book. Please.

Alice, thanks so much for being our guest today. I love your unique, original style of writing and clever sense of humor.

Thanks, Jacquie! I appreciate the opportunity.


Those of you who have comments, please know that they are very welcome. So feel free to join the conversation. Don’t be shy. Go ask Alice!

Monday, March 17, 2014

How do we contain the excitement of a new book?

Personally, I can't contain my excitement. It's like Christmas and giving birth all rolled together. Yes, it's painful and takes a long time, but when the book comes out it's a wonderful gift.

Last week I was given a copy of the new cover. I think it's beautiful. For those of you that read Feisty Family Values you know just how important the kitchen table is to the Morgan's story. All the best conversations happen there. It's that way in a lot of families, especially with my generation, my parents, grandparents and way back.

Sadly now days, meals are often eaten on the run, in the car on the way to a sports event or school, in front of the television or with everyone poking buttons on their tablets. (But I digress...)

Patchwork Family is the second book in the feisty family series and the story picks up a year after Feisty Family Values ends.
  • A year after Annabelle became guardian of two teens and a tween, she is feeling more than her age. (Grandkids can wear you out and she can’t send them home.)
    • Regina is comfortably housed with Sam, but has yet to say “yes” when he asks her to marry him. (Silly woman.)
    • Peggy, the oldest granddaughter is growing up way too fast and madly in love with a boy at school. (She has the whisker burns to prove it.)
    • Tilly is happily married to Joe and enjoying being on hand whenever someone in the family needs her, whether it’s to cook a gourmet meal or referee a case of sibling rivalry.
    • Tad’s on the basketball team and the assistant coach seems to like his ladies full bodied like our dear Annabelle.
    • And after a decade Tom returns and wants to see the kids. This sets off a chain reaction that might just destroy them all. 

    Now comes another fun part. In a couple of weeks the book will be out and I'll be able to hold it in my hands, smell it, and feel the breeze as I flip the pages. My eReader friends (I have a Kindle Fire) will be able to get it and read all about what happens next. Readings and signings will begin at bookstores, book clubs, women's clubs,  libraries, anywhere where people enjoy reading--I plan to be there. (To set something up just send me an email at bd@bdtharp.com.)

    Another big plus of the huge migration to eBooks, we authors will be able to have our books in print practically forever.  The digital world has simplified the publishing process (no more typesetting required) and no need for a huge warehouse of inventory.

    The first book in the series came out in 2010 in a beautiful hardback. It went out of print two years after it was published, however. I bought up all available stock and there are still books available for you to buy if you want one. The second book, Patchwork Family will be in eBook and paperback (print on demand), so it'll be just as lovely and a wee bit cheaper.

    All the sweat, lack of sleep, eye twitches and achy wrists from hammering the keyboard have come to fruition. Patchwork Family is coming the end of March. Stay tuned. (See, dreams really do come true.)

    • How do you feel when your book is complete? 
    • How do you feel when you see your book available for purchase? 
    • Which is more satisfying seeing your eBook for sale or holding a traditional book (paper or hardback) in your hand?