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Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I am thankful for

With Thanksgiving celebrations lingering on our minds, I am writing today about what I am thankful for. At Thanksgiving dinners, many of us articulate our gratitude for family, friends, home and other evident blessings; my litany of thanks of course includes those blessings. What would we be without family and friends (many of whom might be closer than family)? I am grateful, too, to live in America; I would not want to live anywhere else.


But beyond that, I am thankful for the creative gift that empowers me to write, for the thousands of good books I have read and that still await me, for the community of writers who support and sustain each other as we work at our craft, and for the readers who choose to read what we write. I am thankful for my sense of humor, which has made life bearable on so many occasions and which has engendered so many rich memories, for the sense of wonder that leaves me breathless when I see the outline of the foothills against the night sky in the northern Colorado town where I live, for the ability to feel joy and sorrow and compassion, for the freedom to be myself.


Most of all, perhaps, I am thankful for the life I have been able to live, full of failures from which to learn and accomplishments in which to rejoice, blessed with family and enduring friendships, and still ripe with possiblity.

Barbara Fleminjg

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful for. . .


Books.
A book that I re-read and never tire of, like Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher
A classic, like Persuasion by Jane Austen
A book on writing, like The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long
A book of wondrous poems, like those by Nobel Prize winner Wistawa Szymborska
A great book of short stories, like Runaway by Alice Munro
A book that makes me feel like I'm living abroad, like Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks
A book that is written by a real pro, like The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke
A book to entertain me like Worth Dying For by Lee Child
A book that give me perspective, like When a Family Member has Dementia: Steps to Becoming a Resilient Caregiver by Susan M. McCurry.
A book that feels like home, like Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Have a blessed holiday, everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Interview with Jackie Griffey


Interview with Author Jackie Griffey

by Jacqueline Seewald


Hi, Jackie, thanks so much for joining us today at the Author Expressions blog.


First, let me congratulate you on the excellent reviews your new historical romance Merrywinds has received.


Jackie: Thanks, I was particularly thrilled since this will be my 'swan song' and there won't be any more of the Expressions line.


Jacqueline: I feel badly about it too. You and I share the distinction of writing romance as well as mystery.I was hoping to continue in both lines too. But publishing in general has suffered considerable losses during this bad economy. On a more positive note, the hardcover edition of Merrywinds is scheduled for November publication from Five Star/Gale.


And now to learn more about you and Merrywinds:


Question: Jackie, could you tell us a little about the main characters in your new novel and something about the plot line?


Answer: The main thing is the problems facing the two girls and telling something about the times in which they lived with some romance and adventure which really reveals their characters and the problems facing them.


Question: Is this a new series? If so, could you tell us about your plans for future novels.


Answer: No, this is a stand-alone. However, as I wrote, researched and really got into the girls' lives I considered writing a sequel. It would take place a few years later and end with the Battle of New Orleans. Right now I have no plans to do that but I really did enjoy the research and writing the book.


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


Answer: A couple of my friends write romance novels and I had done one historical novel. So being a firm believer that a good book should have romance and adventure too, I took the challenge to point out the problems girls and women faced (and overcame so gloriously) and made it a challenge for these two girls who were typical of their time.


Question: Can you share with us some information about your background? What made you want to become a writer?


Answer: That was pure accident I guess, LOL. I saw an ad by a famous china company advertising a figure of Father Christmas and calling it Kris Kringle. Horrified, I could see the beautiful old Christmas legends being lost to our children. Then, I'm afraid, typical of ME, not knowing a whit about what's impossible - I joined a writing group, learned a lot, researched a lot, made a lot of friends (I'm still a member of that same group and that was in 1993). The first thing I wrote was a reading script. Who but someone ignorant as I was would do that? LOLFOF. Anyway, I loved it, research and all. I kept writing and my first book was published in 2002.


Question: What other novels have you written? Can you tell us something about them? Answer: I'm writing mostly cozy mysteries and romance/suspense novels. I have the Merrivale cozy mystery series now being published by Zumaya Publications. The first Zumaya imprint of the first Merrivale novel, The Devil in Merrivale, came out in January, 2010. The second, The Nelson Scandal, will be out hopefully a year from that date, I don't know exactly when yet. I've started another series also. This Maggie and Joe series first novel, Dead on Arrival, came out in Jan. 2010, the same date as the Merrivale first novel.


Question: Sounds like you’re a prolific author! As a well-published writer, what advice would you offer to those who have novels they would like to submit for consideration?


Answer: One of my favorite writers once said: "write a book you would like to read" and I think that's pretty good advice. Develop your characters and settings and give them lives of their own with romance and (of course, very definitely) a lot of humor - just like real lives. And as for getting published-you will. Keep writing and proofing and sending things out and you will get there. Enjoy your writing, researching too, as you go along.


Question: I know that many of our readers are going to want to read your books. Could you tell us where they can find your novels?


Answer: Simple as pie: Of course they're available from the publishers, all the libraries (bless them) here in Arkansas and other places too; they're available on B&N and other bookstore lists whether they're on the shelves or not; and easiest of all, to decide what you want to find: go to Amazon.com, click on books and type in “Jackie Griffey”. You'll pull up all my things from ninety-nine cent e-books, audios, and hardcovers too.


Jackie, thanks so much for being our guest today. Just from this interview, I can tell you have a unique style and original sense of humor. It’s a pleasure to learn more about you and your writing. And it’s great to find out that you’re an Arkansas gal. I hope former President Clinton is reading your novels!


Readers and writers who have comments or questions, please know that they are very welcome here. So feel free to join the conversation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing in Different Genres

BY NANCY J. COHEN

It can be refreshing to write in two or more genres. You don’t have a chance to get tired of one type of story this way and can switch gears to suit the genre conventions. However, you have to be able to keep the pace and that can be difficult depending on deadlines.

I started my career writing futuristic romance, a blend of romance and science fiction. After four books in this genre, I switched to mysteries. Why? My romances already had a mystery in the story and I enjoyed plotting them so much that I decided to try a straight mystery series. Marla Shore, my protagonist, is a salon owner and talented stylist who cares about her customers. A hairdresser has to be a good listener, so she’s a natural for a sleuth. She knows many people around town, and clients confide in her. With people coming and going all day and gossip flying, the beauty salon is a great background setting for my Bad Hair Day series. Plus it’s been fun to research.

Types of research is one of the ways the genres differ. For my mysteries, the research is grounded in reality. I include issues of concern to Floridians and other topics that are new and interesting so I can learn something from each story as well as my readers. I’ve done a lot of on-site research and personal interviews with experts.

On the other hand, sci-fi romance and paranormal romance require a totally different mindset. For weapons and spaceships, I use sourcebooks from Star Wars and Star Trek for inspiration. My WIP paranormal series is based on Norse mythology, and for these books I’ve also checked out esoteric topics like vile vortices, electromagnetism, and more. Thus these types of stories also require research, albeit of a different nature.

Focus is another way stories differ between the genres. Romance novels celebrate the emotional commitment between a man and a woman, and how they attain that commitment is the substance of the story. This reflects on gender roles in our society and basic intrinsic values of family and relationships. Mysteries, on the other hand, reflect the morals of our society with justice as the ultimate goal. Science fiction stories involve galactic-wide catastrophes or futuristic scenarios wherein our heroes must save the universe or world from disaster.

Setting, no matter the genre, involves world building, and that’s going to depend on your time frame as well as your category. Historical accuracy is important if you’re in a historical setting. Contemporary society requires meticulous research as well. For a futuristic, you can make up your own world or base it on one of our own Earth cultures. My latest sci fi romance, SILVER SERENADE, starts out on a desert planet and from there the action moves to a space station, Earth in the future, and three alien worlds where strange and exciting things happen to my heroes. I love writing these adventures because there aren’t any limits to my imagination, whereas the modern mysteries have constraints.

Genre Conventions are important to follow if you don’t want to disappoint fans. Romances conclude with an HEA (Happy Ever After) ending. Mysteries solve a crime and bring a criminal to justice. Readers of whodunits expect a murder to take place, wherein the puzzle is the thing, as opposed to the non-stop action of a thriller or the terror of suspense. By reading a variety of books in your chosen genres, you’ll understand these conventions.

Language also varies according to the genre. Romance readers expect a certain amount of sensuous description regarding the main characters’ physical traits. Put this in a mystery, and your reader will toss the book aside. Sci Fi/Fantasy has a language all its own, too. You can make up a word for your otherworldly novels but not for your modern day stories.

Generally, writers gravitate toward the genres they love to read. If you have enough time and aren’t crushed for deadlines, it can be fun to experiment. Writing in two genres keeps you fresh. Marketing to two different audiences, however, is a whole other topic. That requires a targeted approach to find the bloggers and readers for a particular genre, and this can be incredibly time consuming. How do you design your website if you write two entirely different types of series? How do you order print promo materials? Do you share space for your various genres or keep them separate?
That’s a subject for another day.


To learn more about Nancy, please go to:
   Website: http://nancyjcohen.com


   Facebook: http://bit.ly/c3YchC


   To Purchase Silver Serenade: http://bit.ly/cKrjWj

Friday, November 12, 2010

TAKING THE E-PLUNGE


I’ve finally decided it’s time to take the E-plunge.

I made the transition with my own titles, making them available as Kindle e-books. But not so on the books I purchase.

I’ve resisted because I so love the feel of a book in my hands. I enjoy the weight of it, the smell of the paper, the contrast of the printed words and the clean paper. I like being able to page back to refer to information—a name or some detail about a character. It’s reassuring to highlight reference books or use adhesive tags as a research for plotting information. And there’s nothing like having four or five research volumes open at the same time. Plus…I really love to go into book stores and browse through books.

Still, my friends have assured me that digital books offer many of the same benefits. They’ve convinced me that covers on the gadgets enhance the feel of them. While the smell is not the same, the contrast on the screens can be adjusted. And they rave about search abilities and tagging. Plus, you can open several books at once. I can browse on-line or browse hard-copies and order less expensive e-versions. And…and…and they’re so much easier to take when you travel (since I usually end up with three books stuffed in my suitcase).

But I think what finally convinced me was that I can adjust type size for my middle-aged eyesight. I’m so tired of those reading glasses!

So, these last few weeks, I’ve started investigating e-book readers and am astounded. I had anticipated comparing brands (Sony E-reader, Kindle, I-pad, etc.). Now, I’ve discovered that each brand offers multiple models. Not only am I trying to compare price, size, weight, back-lit vs. non-back-lit, book purchasing options, and functionality beyond basic e-book reading but I now have to decide if I want to stick with wi-fi or go 4-G (and whether or not I want to pay for 4-G service).

I feel like I’m going a little crazy. And I doubt I’m the only one. Plus, Santa Claus has to be a little confused, too.

If you’ve made the switch, we could use your help! If you like the reader you’ve chosen, tell us. And if there’s something you dislike about the reader you picked, let us know. What matters most about back-lighting? Is 4-G access really better than wi-fi access? What else to we need to know? Are the extras offered by I-pad worth the bucks?

HELP!!!!!!

--Pam

Launch Party for The Tapestry Shop


My daughter's gourmet creations

I had a very successful Book Launch/Wine Tasting event a few days ago, to celebrate the release of my new historical novel, The Tapestry Shop. Since it’s set in France, I thought a winery was the perfect place to have it. Invited guests ranged from librarians to author friends, and included family as well as my golfer friends. A local bookstore sold my books so I didn’t have to do anything but sign, which was wonderful because it gave me time to talk to everyone. Besides snacks and good wine, we munched on these fantastic creations which are my daughter’s specialty, her tasses de chocolat avec fruits et g√Ęteau , shown here. Because the book is based on the life of a French poet/musician, I thought we needed music too. While it wasn’t authentic period music, a husband-and-wife team brought dulcimers and a guitar, which was perfect background music for a medieval atmosphere.

This was a first for me, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’ll post more images of the event on my Facebook Author Page, http://tinyurl.com/2dyqemv .
Donna and Jeff, local musicians

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is it Real? Does it Matter?

Regardless of what I'm writing, I'm a stickler for accuracy whenever possible. With the Internet at our fingertips, we can research from the comfort of our homes, and to me, there's no excuse for sloppy writing. Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than coming across inaccuracies. (For the record, I'm not discussing fantasy or science fiction here, although in those genres, the author still needs to build a world and stick to the rules.)

And, believe me, I'm an 'easy' reader. I don't stop while I'm reading to look stuff up. I put my faith in the author to be within the realm of reality even in fiction. If you write historical fiction, I'm your reader, because what I know about history would fit in a thimble (does anyone even use those anymore?). So if you tell me the Duke of Wherever was carrying a reticule, I wouldn't flinch.

But if you're writing mystery, I trust that you won't have your character thumb the safety off his Glock, because THAT I do know. (That happens to be the most common mistake concerning firearms that writers make—and I've seen some Big Names make it.)

When I was researching Finding Sarah, I wanted to make sure I had the right stars in the night sky when they strolled on the porch after dinner. I spent time with the on line Farmer's Almanac to make sure Randy could point out Cassiopeia to Sarah. As it turned out, I didn't need that scene, but I knew I had it right.