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Friday, December 28, 2012

A New Year ~ A New Start

A New Year, a new beginning. January, the first month, is named after the Roman God Janus, God of gates, doors and beginnings. It is the fresh start of a new year. Coming close to a world celebration, people cheer and wish each other a Happy New Year. For some it is no more than a change of the calendar. For me it was the start of a second career, inspired when husband and I retired to Florida.
This photo taken seven years ago at a successful book signing at  the start of 2006.  Four Summers Waiting was my first novel published by Five Star/Gale.
 
Since then the years have held highs and lows in writing. The lows were when few people appeared at book signings, and I waited and waited for royalties  to come.  The highs were when friends, businesses, and libraries hosted cocktail party signings, Book Club luncheon signings, and library Book Talk signings. This past year when my local Venice library  hosted a celebration of the three books in my Maine Shore Chronicles series, with over fifty people in attendance, I was overwhelmed.
 
Long hours of writing, rewriting and living with characters in my head and in my heart has finally paid off. I have been fortunate to have all of my Five Star first editions given a second edition in Large Print by Thorndike Press.  With the submission of Book 4 in my series, I look forward to the New Year hopefully. It is a book my readers have asked for: It is Tante Margaret's story, the continuing character in my Chronicles series who has won the hearts of my readers. I have called it Tante Margaret~From the Heart.
 
When the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve may it open a book of opportunity to new young writers and continued success to my fellow published  writers. I end with a quote of Emily Miller: Then sing young hearts that are full of cheer.With never a thought of sorrow;The old goes out but the glad young year, Comes merrily in tomorrow.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Perfect Presents by Jacqueline Seewald



 What are perfect presents—those that will be appreciated and remembered? How and where do we go about locating them?
Emerson wrote: “Gifts of one who loved me--Twas high time they came; When he ceased to love me, Time they stopped for shame.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson had some outspoken thoughts and opinions regarding gift-giving. Emerson, nineteenth century transcendental philosopher and theologian, observed in his essay entitled “Gifts” that flowers and fruits are always appropriate gifts “because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.” Emerson went on to observe that things of necessity are also appropriate gifts as well.
Emerson stated that the only true gift is a portion of ourselves. Something we create is of more significance than anything we could possibly buy in a store: “It is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.”
However, let’s face it, modern man is a materialistic creature, unlike Emerson. Maybe it’s too bad that more of us don’t read Emerson’s essays and aren’t influenced by his advice. But if we did, commerce as we know it would be seriously impacted.
To avoid mall madness, the crush of crowds, also possible violence, and still manage to give gifts that friends, family and fellow workers appreciate definitely takes time and thoughtful planning. Internet shopping is one approach never dreamed of in Emerson’s philosophy. More people than ever are turning to it.
     Books are in my opinion perfect gifts. There are books to suit every taste. Many men appreciate useful nonfiction how-to books. Many women like cookbooks. Young children enjoy picture books. Romance, mystery and thriller novels are always in demand. Ebooks are more popular than ever before and so convenient. There’s a huge selection and something for every taste. They also can cost much less than print versions.
     L&L Dreamspell has now published three of my Five Star/Gale hardcover novels in all ebook formats, the most recent being my Regency romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS. I’m delighted that this novel is now offered in a reasonably priced, affordable edition.
     L&L published THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL, books one and two in the Kim Reynolds mystery series in all ebook formats as well.
    




Ebooks are also great gifts for teenagers. Teens actually do read for pleasure, not just for school assignments. My young adult novel STACY’S SONG also published by L&L Dreamspell is an uplifting coming of age/romance that ends at Christmas and would be a good gift for teenage girls ages 12 to 17, again available in all e-book formats.

     What would you recommend as perfect holiday presents? If books, which would you suggest?


Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays!

There are many ways to celebrate the holiday season. I'm fascinated with how the different parts of the US celebrations, family traditions, and cultural traditions vary.

I work for a predominantly French company and I discovered that the Christmas tree and the Advent calendar are central to their traditional celebrations. From December 1-25 the children will find a treat in the box or pocket of the advent calendar to enjoy. We never had one of those in our family, but it sounds like a lot of fun for the kids. And the families all get together to celebrate over a luscious meal.

Many, if not most, family celebrations seem to include a meal. Our family is no different. We take turns going to one house or the other, depending on if mom feels up to all of us hanging out at her place. She no longer puts up a tree in her tiny house, instead she puts bows on a Christmas cactus and sets it on a stand, surrounding the bottom with gifts. The little ones get toys and clothing, while us big kids usually get Chex Mix (YUM) or Peanut Brittle (AWESOME) and a little cash, which always fits.
 Off and on we have made gifts over the years, quilts, afghans, scarves, or lately we purchase gift cards to our family member's favorite place to shop. My youngest grandson loves them, he feels like he has a credit card and can buy anything he wants. Very cool. My niece and sis love to make treats like tarts, truffles, decorated sugar cookies and the like. We usually make Sand Hill Plum jelly to share with the family. (It's on my list of things to do!) I love the gifts that are hand made, they are the most special ones because the person gave of their time - and that is something in short supply around here.

Over the years our traditional dinner of turkey or ham has changed depending on the mood of the host. The food is always good, whether it's BBQ, a big pot of veggie soup, or lasagne, and we all bring things to contribute. It's not the menu that really matters, it's the sharing of the bounty and thanking the maker for our family, good health, and abundance. (We are truly blessed!)
We also exchange Christmas cards. I put in the "White Christmas" DVD and usually finish up when it's over. Some of my cousins are really good about the "Christmas Letter" and one of my friends always writes a "Christmas Poem." Both are great ways to catch up on what is going on with the kids and grandkids. 

I'm really curious to learn about other family traditions. What does your family celebration usually consist of? Is there something you especially like about the way your family celebrates? Please share!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last Call for Justice--The Next Joe Silva


Several years ago I started writing a new series about a young Indian American woman living in India, a country I have loved since I was a child. It was easy to get caught up in writing about Anita Ray in short stories; the short story format gave me a chance to explore facets of her personality and different locations in India. I had a great time, and soon had a full-length novel featuring Anita and her Auntie Meena and other characters I had come to know through the stories. There was only one problem. I set aside the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva and I missed Joe.

When I began the Anita Ray series I had already written six Joe Silva novels, but only five had been published, three by Scribner and two by Five Star/Thorndike. I set aside the mss of the sixth book when I chose to work on the India series. I thought it would sit in my closet with the pages turning dry and brittle.

The sixth Joe Silva grew out of a question a reader asked me some years back. After a book signing, a woman said, "Why doesn't Joe ever talk about his family? What's the story there?" It seemed to bother her that Joe was so distant from his large birth family, which he clearly loved. He called his mother regularly and she had become friendly with his upstairs neighbor, Mrs. Alesandro. They were both elderly ladies who had much to share, and Joe was only part of that. Beyond being surprised at how much some readers cared about a series character's personal life, I didn't think much about the question. But it never went away. The reader and her question nagged at me, and I can still see her standing at the end of a row of chairs as the event was breaking up cradling a stack of books in her arms. "What about Joe's family?"

It took me several years to decide to answer the question, and I had to think long and hard about it. When I began writing about Joe back in the early 1990s, I had a pretty good idea who he was and what his family was like, but other than a few odd references here and there I left the family background out of everything. Now I had to go back and recall and reconstruct. It took a while, but the result was a story of our times, of a family bound by love and loyalty and yet beset with all the troubles of the modern world--a marriage gone bad through no fault of the wife, the oldest son dead and eternally young, the aging brothers and sisters who built lives and loved their families and would never think of not loving each and every one of their relatives, and the siblings who had moved away to live lives that would have worried Joe if they'd stayed in his area.

The aging patriarch is determined to bring his entire family together again for one last reunion. But his motivation is more than family togetherness--he wants to settle an old doubt, erase an old suspicion. Unfortunately, he sets in motion the circumstances for another crime.

I came to love Joe's family and now I think I want to visit them again in another Mellingham mystery. Until then, I hope fans of the earlier Mellingham books will enjoy the latest installment. Last Call for Justice answers all those questions about Joe's family--and tells readers a lot they didn't know about Joe. Gwen, Joe's longtime partner, discovers a few things too, and we get to know her better. I love this book partly for the door it opens into Joe's life, and partly because I came to love Joe's family, his Mae and Pae especially, and their staunch determination to make life work, to love their children and support them throughout their sometimes difficult lives. Even a murder won't tear this family apart.

Look for the new Joe Silva on Amazon.com and, soon, available for Nook. Just click on the link: Last Call for Justice: A Mellingham Mystery

Friday, November 23, 2012

Quotations

Using quotations in our writing can sometimes cause logistic problems. I saw a line from  Maya Angelou on a funerial remembrance website and thought it was a good fit for one of my novels. It took hours of searching through most of her poetry books when I discovered it wasn't part of a poem. It was from a collection of her quotations. Then of course the next step was to take the route of permissions from her publishers. You can tell, I'm sure that what I'm saying is, quotations should really  be valuable to you and pertinent to your writing for you to spend the time. That quote was a key to the plot of the first book in my series, The Maine Shore Chronicles. A continuing character in that series is always spouting cryptic observations, sometimes critical, sometimes motivational such as scriptural quotes, and sometimes just a plain common sense adage. One of hers I particularly like is "Mama says If you can't sing along, just hum and smile while you do it."
Since my creation of Tante Margaret's character, I am always on the alert for good quotations.

To my delight this year GOODREADS website began a "Quote of The Day" program. As a member of that site I have enjoyed that column from the start, especially when the quotes have to do with writing! Some are ancient, some are contemporary. Below are two my fellow writers should enjoy.

August 24, 2012
"I am not sure that I exist,actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited."
Jorge Luis Borges
The author of Fictiones was born on this day in 1899.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded,no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight,to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all."
Richard Wright
The author of Native Son was born on this day in 1908.

One of my favorites by Voltaire, early author of Candide is :
 "Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats"
And one for which I've never found the author, but seems to suit for a closing of this blog:
"Life isn't about how to survive in the storm. It is about learning how to dance in the rain."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Conquering Fears

Everyone has fears. Lots of people, including myself, are afraid of spiders and snakes. (Has anyone seen the Huntsman Spider from Australia - it's HUGE!). And snakes are just slithery creatures that I would prefer to leave alone. I have a friend who is afraid of clowns, and another who loves demented clowns - I hope they never meet. For some reason my six-year-old great nephew has decided that flowers are scary - maybe a bee stung him, no one really knows.

The fact of the matter is that everyone has something that creeps them out. Remember the scene in Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom when Kate walks into the cave filled with big black crunchy crawling bugs? In a gauzy outfit and slippers, ICK! Give me a pare of army boots and full body armor, please. But it was a great way to up the tension in an already exciting story.

We authors harvest our fears and the fears of others to make our stories deep and promote an emotional reaction. Alarm. Agitation. Danger. Dread. Apprehension. All these promote feelings in the reader - and guess what, the author also.

I started writing a thriller once, thinking it would be fun and exciting. It turned out that it made me so tense I couldn't write. There are just some places I can't go in my imagination - it's much too vivid. Authors who can write about things that go bump in the night without staying up wide-eyed as a result are admirable. I guess I'm not very brave.

Why did I write about fear right before Thanksgiving? I have no clue, since we'll be traveling to be with family and having a great time. It's just amazing where the thoughts of an author go when you let them.

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday! (And don't be afraid to eat too much, especially if you can sleep in on Friday.)
P.S. Since I'll be cooking I may not respond to your comments as quickly as normal. For that I apologize and hope that you will comment anyway. I'll check as soon as I can.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview with Author Sheila York by Jacqueline Seewald


After a long career in TV and radio, Sheila York began writing mysteries combining her love of history, mysteries and the movies. Set in post-war Hollywood, her series features screenwriter/reluctant heiress/amateur sleuth Lauren Atwill (and lover, P.I. Peter Winslow) chasing killers in the Great Golden Age of Film. Lauren’s third adventure, Death in Her Face, was published in October. www.SheilaYork.com.

 Sheila, congrats on the great reviews this novel garnered from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly! I also love the cover art and believe it will draw readers.

Question: How would you describe your series, if you had to pick a genre?

Answer: If I had to pick a genre, I’d have to pick two. Or maybe three. I’d call my series a historical mystery with some noir sensibilities—as one might expect since it’s set in the 1940s.  But it’s not hard-boiled. I couldn’t do hard-boiled. I’m too optimistic. My series also has a strong romantic element in the relationship between my protagonist, Lauren Atwill, and the private detective she’s fallen in love with after the wreck of her disastrous marriage to a movie star. Peter Winslow, the PI, is the Mr. Right who looks about as wrong for her as a guy can be. She comes from money; he went to work for a gangster when he was just a kid. He’s tough; he’s used to giving orders. She’s used to doing things her own way. Hey, she’s a script doctor after all. An artist has to follow her instincts. It’s her job to fix other people’s messes. Even if it turns out that fixing them means finding the person who left a dead body lying around.

Question: Why the 1940s?

Answer: I love movies, from all eras, but I have a strong attachment to many of the movies of the great golden age of film, which runs roughly from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s (you can get arguments started about the exact range). I’m also a great fan of Raymond Chandler, and most women who adore Chandler’s books fall a little in love with Philip Marlowe. But I wasn’t going to write a story about a private detective in 1940s LA. At least not with him as the chief protagonist. I wanted a woman. I wanted an amateur sleuth. So I wrote a variation on the theme of the woman coming to a private detective because she’s in real trouble. I told it from the woman’s point of view. That’s how Lauren Atwill was born.

Question: Death in Her Face is your latest. How did you pick that title? 


Answer: A beautiful starlet has vanished and her gangster boyfriend lies dead in the burned out hulk of their secret love nest. The title seemed a natural fit, especially when Lauren finds another body, someone connected to the starlet’s movie. The starlet might be a killer in more than looks.

I vaguely recalled a line from a romantic poem about a doomed lady, wasting from unrequited love, and a balladeer who sees “death in her face.” Alas, I can’t find the poem. It might have been a French poem I read in college, and I’m recalling what would have been the English translation. Ah well, the title works.

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

Answer: The inspiration was the killing of a small-time hoodlum named Johnny Stompanato in the home of the movie icon Lana Turner back in the 1950s. I read about that case when I was a child, and until that moment, I believed movie stars lived the lives of their publicity. I thought their world was perfect. How could a woman get herself entangled with a volatile, dangerous man? Why would she stay with him? Why would she refuse the studio’s demand to cut off the affair? Was it fear? Was it love? Or was it something else? The Stompanato case made a profound impression on me. And when I started to write my series, it was the fictional possibility of that ‘something else’ that intrigued me, and unfettered by reality, I found a much more complicated reason for my starlet’s affair with the gangster. My book’s plot bears no resemblance to the Stompanato case at all. But its revelation of what lies beneath the beautiful mask of Hollywood certainly inspired me. 

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and hero?

Answer:  My heroine, Lauren Atwill, is a Hollywood screenwriter. She compromised a promising career trying to save a marriage, and by the time it finally crashed, it had very nearly taken her career with it. She’s mostly relegated to being a script doctor these days. She has a strong instinct to fix things. She’s brave, smart, witty, fiercely loyal, and when she gets her teeth into something, she doesn’t let go. She’s stubborn (just ask Peter about that). If she has an idea, she runs with it. A blessing in her writing career, a bit dangerous in her personal life. Peter Winslow, with whom she investigates in frequently stormy tandem, is a private detective who’s been around the block a few times. He started out working for a gangster in the Depression as a teenager, to feed his family. And he did what he had to do to keep the job. He’s done a lot of things he’s not proud of. He knows he and Lauren are a long shot. But he can’t resist her. She’s not like any other woman he ever met. 

Question:  Tell us about the other books in your series.

Answer:  Death in Her Face is the third in the Lauren Atwill, screenwriter, series. The first novel, Star Struck Dead, won a Daphne du Maurier award and was nominated as Best First Mystery by the Romantic Times. It’s the story of a tangled web of blackmail and murder, and it’s the story of how Lauren met Peter. Lauren’s second adventure, A Good Knife’s Work, takes her to New York City and into the world of a 1940s radio mystery program, where reality is created by sound alone. It’s all about deception, even after the microphones are turned off, and Lauren must peel away layer after layer of lies to solve the killing of a friend. 

Question:  What are you working on now?

Answer:  My fourth Lauren mystery. I haven’t settled on a title yet. It’s due to the publisher at the end of the year, so I’ve had my head down and am writing like a maniac. Lauren is loaned out by Marathon Studios, where she’s spent most of her career, and she’s loaned out to what she considers a second-rate studio! She’s not one bit happy. She’s thinks the head of Marathon has done it because he’s superstitious, to test whether it’s true that, when Lauren signs on to a movie, somebody gets killed. Then somebody gets killed. Then…the body disappears.

Question:  What made you start writing?

Answer: I can hardly recall a time when I didn’t want to write, so it’s impossible to say what made me start. I think writers just can’t help themselves. But at some point when I was young, I decided that, although I dreamed of writing professionally, I wasn’t good enough to even think about a career at it. Partly this was because I was terribly, terribly shy and insecure. But I also think a contributing factor was the reaction my writing got in school. When we were given creative writing assignments, I’d write a romantic mystery, but the teachers were looking for “literary” writing. I mean, mysteries? They weren’t “serious” fiction. And I’m afraid the system didn’t give encouragement to writing that wasn’t “serious.” When I think of the overwrought prose I had to listen to in class being read aloud as examples of what we should all aspire to…  I wish I’d known then it ain’t necessarily so.

So perhaps the question is why did I start writing again?

Two things happened, several years ago: 1) My husband, David F. Nighbert, began working on his first novel, and I saw how it was done, and I began to think maybe I should give it a try; 2) I had dinner with a friend from college days, and we had a bit too much wine and started talking about the romance novel we ought to write. It was just in fun. But later, I thought, why not? I decided I would not end up at 80 full of regret that I never gave writing a chance. So I wrote the book. It took six years. And it’s sitting in a file cabinet in my attic. It’s too long and has some other challenges—all the mistakes of a first book. But I started toying with another idea, about a screenwriter in Hollywood in the golden age of film, who gets herself into some very big trouble and can’t go to the police. That book was Star Struck Dead.

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

Answer: Finish the book. I meet an amazing number of new writers who are worried about marketing their books and they only have 100 pages finished. Finish it, leave it in a drawer for three months (no peeking) and then take it out, re-read it and rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it.

Carve out time to write. Set yourself a schedule of some sort. Don’t wait for inspiration. I think sometimes we do a disservice to new writers by talking about how our “characters just took over” while we were writing. Without that comment being explained in much more detail, it sounds as if there’s some magic out there and one morning you’ll wake up with an idea, and the book will just write itself. It won’t.

Question:  Where can readers buy your new book?

Answer: Death in Her Face was released in October, and you can buy it now, online or in stores. A terrific holiday present (it takes place around Christmas in 1946!). If you order a copy of the book to be shipped to you from Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, I’ll sign it for you! My office is not that far from the store.

Sheila, thanks for being our guest author today. Anyone who would like to comment is
welcome in this forum. Sheila will be coming by to read and respond.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Political Pollsters and the Blank Page


Every election year I seem to learn something unexpected about myself, and this year I learned that I am an important demographic for people who are desperate to predict the future. I have come to this conclusion because in the last three days I have received as many polling calls. "If the election were held today, whom would you vote for?" How many times can anyone ask me that question? Other questions follow, usually a list of races and choices. Some of the polls include additional questions on elected officials not running, my views on the economy, my political affiliations (if any), or my willingness to speak to a reporter.

 In the late 1970s I was visiting my parents when the phone rang. It was a pollster. I answered a number of questions. No one seemed to care that I wasn't a registered voter in the state, so I answered about a dozen questions. When I hung up my father asked me who that was? I told him. "I've waited thirty years for a call like that." He was more than a little chagrined to have missed the call. He had missed his big opportunity to tell the government exactly nothing.

My husband has also had a number of these calls, but he's had many more over the last few weeks. He is special enough to get a call from a real person and he gives the poor soul useless answers. My husband insists he only votes on Mars, so the questions for him are irrelevant. But then he thinks the polls are irrelevant.

Right now I tend to side with my husband.

We cannot predict the future, and we shouldn't really try. Uncertainty is part of life. Learning to live with it is one measure of maturity. Writers do this every day when we sit down and face the blank page. Every day, I wonder what on earth am I going to write?

I could see the result of my uncertainty as I reread a story I'd written recently. I liked the way it turned out, but the ending wasn't what I had planned or expected when I started out. The unexpected ending was much better--it was more nuanced, more complex, more satisfying. But I wouldn't have gotten there if I had insisted on the original plan. I had to let go and write with a sense of uncertainty but also with a sense of confidence that the story would go where it had to go, and where it had to go would be worthwhile.

Over the next few days before the presidential election I expect I will get a few more pollsters, and I will give them the same answers. If I get a live person, I might give the unlucky fellow a few answers he won't like and won't know what to do with. But I will think of this as a chance to broaden someone's consciousness about certainty and doubt, openness and discovery. Who knows what might transpire?            

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Oh For A Muse"



 

 

In modern times a muse is sometimes a metaphorical source of an artist or writer’s inspiration. A definition of a muse’s job which I like is: To penetrate the artist and bring forth a work from the womb of his mind. Pretty profound, you might say, but often that is what my muse does.

In Greek mythology the daughters of Zeus were all muses. They were spirits of the Goddesses who inspired the arts and literature.

William Shakespeare mentions a muse in Act 1, the Prologue of Henry V, The Chorus:

Oh for a muse of fire that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A Kingdom for a stage, princess to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
 

I have an extraordinary muse; she speaks to me in emails and sometimes over the phone.
At times she prods, encourages, suggests, and sometimes says ‘ No, this doesn’t work for me.’

My muse is my niece, Carylee. Once a teacher like myself, if I send her a scene which focuses on a minor character’s action, she might return it and ask: ‘What would her mother think about that? I’d like to hear her mother’s reaction in the character’s internal thoughts.”

Or she might write ‘Good Girl! I liked the tweaking in this chapter. It needed to be longer.’

In my current work in progress she has suggested I use a letter to convey the character’s intent when it would have been too difficult for the character to speak about a difficult topic. She knows I like to write letters. Epistolary novels was one of my earlier blogs.

Carylee is often like an editor because she checks the mechanics of scenes I send her, and that’s fine with me. I need all the help I can get!  To use an overworked cliché, Two heads are better than one.

Presently I’m finishing a final book of my series and I need all the time available to do that. Consequently, this blog must be a short one.

 Think about muses, dear friends. My wishes for fellow writers are that you may all find a magical, marvelous muse who will help your writing succeed! I certainly did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Interview with Mystery Writer Dorothy Francis by Jacqueline Seewald


Note: the winner of a copy of my novel DEATH LEGACY was selected and the book was mailed. Thank all of you for leaving such thoughtful comments on the blog. For those who did not win, the novel can be requested at hundreds of local libraries. I also plan to do more book giveaways.

And now let me introduce our guest author, veteran writer Dorothy Francis, whose novels are already well-known to many readers. Dorothy’s latest novel and my own Death Legacy were published by Five Star/Gale at the same time, and so I feel a special kinship.

Question: Dorothy, what is the title and genre of your latest novel? 

Answer:    DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER is the title of my latest cozy mystery novel.  I like cozy novels because they have few four-letter words.  The word daiquiri came from research that told me the drink, daiquiri, was invented in Cuba and that a beach there is named after the drink.  For some reason that fascinated me.

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

Answer: When my husband and I started spending winters in the Florida Keys, I felt as if I might have been born there in another life.  Much of my research came from looking out my window.  I started with a heroine who wanted to write a novel and life overtook her while she was making other plans.  The strong Cuban influence drew me to write about Cuban characters.  I'd never known people like these before.  They picked our coconuts (with our permission) and they searched the sea bottom for sponges.  And they ran for prestigious offices in city government.

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

Answer:     Herione Rafa Blue grew up in a family that owned a luxury hotel in paradise (the local name for Key West.)  As a young girl she ran away from home to Miami and fell in with 'evil companions.'  She lived in the islands with a grandmother until the scandal died down.  She went abroad to college, returned to Key West to work as a columnist for the local newspaper where she met and fell in love with a shrimper living on his shrimp boat.  She wouldn't tell him she loved him until she revealed her runaway scandal, fearing he would leave her.  You'll have to read DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER to learn what happened to her and who murdered her Cuban friend and also threatened her life.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels?

Answer:  DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER is the 6th book in my Key West Mystery series.  The first 5 have Key West settings with various characters.  In Key West there are a lot of characters to choose from.  The first 4 of these novels (CONCH SHELL MURDER,  PIER PRESSURE, COLD CASE KILLER, and EDEN PALMS MURDER)  can be found on Amazon/Kindle books. 
 Before writing this series, I wrote children's novels because I loved to read as a child and wanted to please other children.  I have a total of around 75 published books--both adult and juvenile, most fiction with a few nonfiction

(Seventy-five published books! Dorothy, that’s quite an accomplishment!)

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I'm thinking about a new mystery novel, perhaps with a Midwest setting.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I graduated from University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in music and a major in trumpet.  I worked for a while playing in a women's traveling dance band.  Then I got a job teaching middle grade music in Orange County, California.  After that I was married, and began raising a family. Being a stay-at-home mom, I began learning to write, to submit my work to publishers, and to sign contracts for short stories and books.

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

Answer:  Write.  Write.  Write.  Read.  Read.  Read.  And don't give up your day job.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to find DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER?

Answer:  It can be found in bookstores wherever fine books are sold, in public libraries, or on Amazon and B&N. For more information about my writing, see my website at www.dorothyfrancis.com 

Thank you for letting me appear on your blog.

My pleasure, Dorothy!




Monday, October 15, 2012

Bookmarks

Have you noticed how many really cool bookmarks are out there? I really love bookmarks and I've got a very unique collection of them. I have the usual cardboard ones we all produce with our book covers - they are nice. But I've also got some metal ones with positive expressions about life, reading, or even dreams. And we all know that writing and reading is all about dreams. 
(The bookmarks on the left are samples from http://bookmark-buzz.com/2011/06/17/physical-types-of-paper-and-card-stock-bookmarks/)

I really enjoy the magnetic bookmarks and the elastic ones, too. I have book thongs with cool beads on the ends that are like book jewelry. I've accumulated this collection over time, but I remember turning down corners, using receipts, boarding passes, ribbons, or a piece of yarn, whatever was available in my purse. I have crocheted bookmarks that friends have made me, which I dearly love. 
 (I love this bookmark, complements of Barnesandnoble.com)

Bookmarks have evolved, too. All our favorite "places" on the internet can be bookmarked on our computer for ease of finding them later. So, when you Google "bookmark" now you get all kinds of interesting links.

Here's some interesting quotes about bookmarks (http://www.miragebookmark.ch/wb_bookmark_quotes.htm)
  • 'Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?' Steven Spielberg  
(Sorry Steven, but most bookmarks cost more than a buck these days.)
  • 'Deep in a story, suddenly you turn a page and find the marker nagging at your curiosity, like a message in a bottle from a forgotten traveler.' Nancy Campbell
  • "The choice of a bookmark is a matter of personal taste and civilisation. Show me your bookmark and I will tell you who you are!" - Georg Hartong       

(These crocheted bookmarks are from Ami's craftwork http://amicrafts.wordpress.com/2008/04/04/crocheted-bookmarks/)
 
There are even web sites that show you have to make your own bookmarks. http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Bookmark

There is a whole history of bookmarks out there. Some say the need for a bookmark led to the creation of the Post-it-note.  

When I started this blog I didn't realize how much fun it was going to be. Enjoy your bookmarks everybody! What is your favorite bookmark?


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crossing Genres: Does It Work? By Jacqueline Seewald


There seems to be some confusion as to whether romantic mystery and romantic suspense are the same genre of fiction.  In fact, they are not. My mystery novel THE TRUTH SLEUTH published in hardcover and large print, for example, is a romantic mystery not romantic suspense. It’s the third Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth mystery novel in a series, the first two being THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL (now both available in e-book formats as well as paperback and hardcover).
 
In romantic suspense, the mystery is secondary to the romance. Plot focus is always on the romance while the mystery mostly offers a plot device, usually ways to bring the hero and heroine closer together. In a romantic mystery, the love interest is secondary. The mystery and finding its solution is the key plot factor. The romantic aspect usually serves to provide added depth to the main character(s) and make them more real to the reader.

In romantic suspense there is always a happy ending with the couple united at the end in the love of their lives. In romantic mystery novels, which are often part of a series like mine, that is not necessarily the case--although it can be. Also in a romantic mystery series the main protagonists are more like real people with their lives changing and their character developing and evolving. Ideally, these novels are not static. That is one reason a romantic mystery series can grow in popularity and recognition.
 But what of a novel that crosses genres? Can it succeed? Reviewers as well as readers are often confused when authors move away from pigeon-holed tried and true formulas for genre novels and experiment. In my current novel, DEATH LEGACY, I’ve written a romantic suspense mystery thriller, a fast-paced novel full of exciting action, based loosely on an actual spy case. Can such a novel work? Reviews from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST among others indicate that it can. The reviews have been excellent.

As a reader, I enjoy many types of genres, crossed and otherwise. As a writer, I like to experiment. I’m grateful that my work has been published and critically well-received. Now all I need is lots of readers like you!

To celebrate the new large print edition of DEATH LEGACY which can be requested at libraries everywhere, I’m offering an a.r.c., a  print trade size copy of the novel, to someone chosen at random. So please leave an e-mail address where you can be reached along with your comment.

Now back to the original question: does crossed genre fiction work for you? Why or why not?


Friday, October 5, 2012

Permission to Read


A few nights ago over chicken cacciatore, salad, and home-made bread, a woman asked the rest of us when we found time to read. Only two of the eight women still worked, but all of us had numerous interests that took time and energy throughout the week. The question captured the attention of every one of us. We all love to read, and we all bemoan the lack of time for this activity. The solutions were many, and the best one was to give yourself time to read in the middle of the day, when you think you should be doing something else.

Long after the evening was over, I found myself still thinking about the idea of not having enough time. I love to read. I have loved to read since I was a small child, and this passion for books survived my parents' attempts to get me to read so-called worthwhile books, serious books, or anything else but what caught my fancy at the time. I was equally in love with fiction and nonfiction, and I was equally curious about what other people read. You would think that with such a long history of loving books and ideas and reading that I would always find time to read. Everything that I have said about myself could be said about the other women at the dinner table that evening. How is it that we choose to deprive ourselves of something that gives us enormous pleasure and is probably good for us too?

The trouble with reading in the middle of the day is it challenges the basic principle of a good Protestant upbringing--you should be doing something useful during the day, and into the evening too. Oh, those Puritans! They have a lot to answer for. Fortunately, reading has progressed from being a questionable activity that could corrupt undeveloped minds to being the experience by which minds are developed. And now entertained.

My husband and I lived in Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s. One of our favorite pastimes was dropping in at Whodunit Bookstore, which was as well known for its window displays of corpses and ghouls as it was for its wide selection of crime fiction. During our first visit the owner struck up a conversation on the kinds of books we liked, and the conversation continued with another customer. The customer and I shared likes and dislikes, interests and questions, and did what any self-respecting mystery readers do--shared recommendations for writers and their best titles. I have never found conversation more natural, more spontaneous, and more interesting than when I start talking to another reader in a mystery bookstore.

The eight of us at dinner on Monday evening moved quickly from finding time to read to what we were reading, sharing titles and likes and dislikes. Reading may be a solitary experience, one that is tucked into the hour before bed, the early morning while the bath is running, on the subway on the way to work, or during the lunch hour. Or it may be the luxury of a mid afternoon break from what we "should" be doing. But despite the solitary experience, reading is the key to community, to connecting to other people and other ways of thinking, to a way of growing beyond one's own personal experience.

We didn't answer the question of why we feel we shouldn't read in the middle of the day, but we did agree that we should give ourselves permission to do so. And that's what I'm going to do right now. On this rainy Thursday afternoon, I'm going to curl up with A Good American, by Alex George, and then start the next Kate Atkinson mystery. And through it all I will ignore the little voice inherited from my ancestors that hints that maybe, just maybe, I should be cleaning out the refrigerator or vacuuming or painting the hallway. I can read in the middle of the day.

Do you have a favorite time to read? Do you ever read in the middle of the day?


Friday, September 28, 2012

The Way Back To The Facts


Someone said "Never Let Facts get in the way of a good story" and that's an important rule for the historical novelist. --
 
William Martin tells us we must remember that Character and Plot are master and mistress of the novel, but THE WAY BACK TO THE FACTS can be a most interesting journey. Several years ago I conducted a workshop on research after having taken that journey to research my own historical novel.
My dream was to write a multigenerational story of family members connected through three eras - a trilogy with settings in the American Revolution – The Civil War - and early Twentieth Century.   BIG DREAM !
Here are my findings which subsequently became components of a research workshop:
 
HISTORY GIVES YOU CHARACTER
Books, primary & secondary sources filled with details give the power of personality, & personality breathes life into your fiction.
 HISTORY GIVES YOU STRUCTURE and structure means story or plot
It offers beginnings, middles and ends.
 HISTORY GIVES YOU SETTING to help you blend the historical with the fictional
 
“So, you've decided on an era, a location and the characters you wish to write about.  Some of your characters may be true characters in history.  When you can't be there physically in the setting of your story you must depend on sources of information.” That's how I began my research. My hope for a trilogy ended up as a  single Civil War story which was successfully published in hard cover and Large Print, but the research took five years!
 
I used Primary Resources, Secondary Resources and Internet Resources.
I Started with my community LIBRARY where I spent countless hours and received much, much help. Be that your Community library, County and State Libraries, or University Libraries,I feel libraries are my best friends and I used that statement in an acknowledgement for one of my books.
My novel was to be about American history; consequently the books below are sources I found that helped with structure and character.
 
Almanac of American History by Schlesinger
Chronicle of America - Clifton Daniel, Editor
Dictionary of American History (vol. 1 & Index)
American Decades (1st vol. of ten)
Millennium Year by Year A Chronicle of World History
2000 edition A Darling Kindersley Book  
 
Those were the biggies in my community library, but I also read countless books, fiction and non-fiction, many from the Children's Book Section.  I found children’s books clear and focused, and they contained the most important information on a given topic:
Ex.   Florida In the Civil War,& Florida Historic Homes ( points out details to be found in local settings and gives structure)  Old books like the Seminoles of Florida giving language of Native Americans. 1787 by Joan Anderson a post-revolutionary story sprinkled with true characters such as Washington, Ben Franklin, & Hamilton.
And children’s novels: The Ransom of Mercy Carter, Mildred Taylor's The Land (prequel to  Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry & Chipper,

One scene in my book took characters as passengers in  a mail boat on a trip around the Florida peninsula during the Civil War. For that setting I went to The Historical Resources Library in Sarasota, and visited their archives to find out about lighthouses in the Gulf, who lived in the Keys & how they lived.
When I needed information I couldn't find locally in Library system databases, I went to Primary sources and websites listed below and/or I used books, tapes, periodicals and publications:

Reference Collections in State Libraries

Manuscripts in University Collections and Historical Societies

Newspaper, maps and photo collections

Family History Centers of the Mormon Church

County Courts and Census Records,

The National Archives

Church and Cemetery Records

Library of Congress http://www.catalog.local.gov
 
           The History Channel http://www.historychannel.com
 
The above internet databases may not be valid in today’s cyber space, because I used them to research my first book twelve years ago!
Whether or not you are researching for historical fiction, today much time is saved by writers (me included) searching the internet for information. Having said that, I still feel that Libraries are a touchstone for writers.   "Libraries are my best friends."

 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Meet Author Carole Price by Jacqueline Seewald


Carole Price didn’t start writing until she retired. Twisted Vines is her first published novel, and the first in her Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. Her protagonist is a cop/crime analyst from Ohio who inherits a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters in Livermore, California.

Carole is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Carole is also a Buckeye. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she moved to Livermore, California in 1980 with her husband and two daughters.

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

Answer: I write suspense with just a touch of romance. I love international intrigue crime novels, but alas, am not qualified to write them.

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

Answer: I took a college course on Shakespeare, but when my daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the great Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my husband and I attended several performances. I fell in love again with the Bard and the theater, and after a couple behind-the-scene tours, I was hooked. Why not write a mystery about a Shakespeare festival set in the Livermore wine country?

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

Answer:  Crime Analyst Caitlyn Tilson Pepper inherits a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters in a northern California town from a mysterious aunt and becomes a target for murder. Cait has a huge decision to make. If she accepts her inheritance, she has to move to California and give up the job she loves in Ohio. If she refuses the inheritance, the estate will go to a foundation for the arts already set up by her aunt Tasha.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels?

Answer:  Twisted Vines is my first published book. Island Paradise is the tentative title of the first book I’ve written, but has never been published. After numerous rejections by agents, I tucked it away in a file drawer. Recently, I’ve taken it out for another look and have plans to edit it and try again. It takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. I did extensive research on this book and visited the UK where my protagonist is from. My hope is that a publisher will love the plot and characters as much as I do.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  Sour Grapes is the second book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. The first draft is nearly completed. While Cait Pepper is learning how to run a Shakespeare festival and cultivate a vineyard, someone from her past as a cop is trying to kill her. 

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: My love of a good mystery—the intrigue, the puzzle solving. I love the hunt to solve the crime, and to watch the characters grow in their quest to solve them.

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

Answer: Never give up. Enjoy the whole writing process, the ups and downs. Care about your characters. Take a creative writing class and join a critique group. I went through Livermore’s Citizens Police Academy and became a volunteer. I work events, like the wine festival and the Livermore rodeo, and I role-play with the SWAT team. Volunteering has provided me a better understanding of police procedures and the passion the men and women have for their job, and the pride they have for their city.

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

Answer: Twisted Vines was released by Five Star/Gale on August 15, 2012. It’s now available on Amazon and also Barnes and Noble.

Comments and/or questions valued here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Writer Ramblings

I've been thinking about this blog all week and just couldn't put my finger on a really good topic. So, if you don't mind I'll just do some free writing, or rambling and see what pops up. (This is a good devise when you're blocked, and right now I'm blocked!)

What do you do when life interferes with your art? Get frustrated. Yes. Go with the flow. Sometimes. Write anyway. Sometimes. (Life is the fuel that feeds our writing, so getting frustrated is probably not going to be a productive response. But I do get frustrated. When I'm neck deep in laundry and bills to pay all I can think about is sitting on the deck with my notebook and writing. So, maybe I should just get 'er done.)

Do you have to be unemployed or retired to truly dedicate yourself to your craft? No. (But I have to admit to wishing I could write all the time. If I were unemployed I'd probably worry about paying the bills. If I were retired, I can only imagine I wouldn't be able to sit still ALL day and write. So, maybe my writing 30 minutes most weekdays, and a couple of hours on the weekend days is more realistic. Does social network writing count? Never mind. That's a dumb question.)
What do you do when the words just won't come? Keep writing? Read a good book? Go for a walk? Listen to music? Talk to a writing buddy? Sleep? (I've tried all of the above and right now nothing is really working. This is the driest spell I've ever experienced as a writer. I can usually work through with one of these methods, but...maybe I just need to keep trying and hope the dam will break!)

There are three books jamming my brain right now. The one I'm working on and two others I've started but haven't finished. I have a acquisitions editor who likes my writing. So What In the Sam Hill Am I Blocked About? (I don't know, and it really shouldn't matter. I'm a writer and I'm estranged from my passion. It feels awful. Some people treat tough times with retail therapy, psycho therapy, reading therapy, exercise therapy, even drug therapy - I'm not interested in anything that is going to cost me money so that leaves: reading and exercise therapy. Guess I'll keep doing those things and hope that the great white page will stop intimidating me soon. Wish me luck, writer buddies.)

How do you cope with writer's block? 





Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting to Know and Love the IRS


Over the last couple of weeks the topic of the business of writing has come up on various chat lists. Since I have been operating my free-lance writing and editing business as a professional since the 1980s, with a bow to the IRS every year, I thought this might be the time to start talking about how I do it.

Even though the end of the year is four months away, and the filing date for tax returns is a full three and a half months after that, the best time to get organized is now. If any writer is going to file taxes as a professional, you have to be organized and ready before the deadline.

There are several programs that will allow you to keep your information on the computer, and from there you can easily load it into Turbo Tax. You can also keep it in a simple ledger or account book. At my day job, our accountant/auditor uses the computer, of course, but their records include a huge ledger into which they glue (yes, glue) copies of the important statements and documents. As a great fan of Charles Dickens, I find this charming and oddly comforting.

My files record everything related to my business of writing and editing each year--all income (publishing, teaching, talks, consulting, editing) and expenses (and this is where you have to be careful, to satisfy the IRS).

I record my income and expenses by month. I categorize almost everything under one of the following headings: Income, Office Expenses, Dues and Publications, Telephone, Travel and Entertainment, and Books. These headings should make clear what the basic deductible items are--any money received as a writer/editor/teacher (except salaries), any shipping of books, postage, gas and tolls while traveling to give a talk or serve on a panel, dues in MWA or Sisters in Crime, or any of the other writers' organizations. I record conference fees separately, since I don't attend conferences every month. You can record under these categories things like printer toner, paper, envelopes, food at conferences, and mailing samples of your work or stories to magazines. The library you build as a reference resource is also deductible, though the IRS has special guidelines for books. Even Turbo Tax is tax-deductible.

Don't overlook where you do all your writing and editing work. If you work at home as a writer, you can deduct a portion of your house or apartment that is dedicated to your work. If you have a dedicated space where you work as a writer and do nothing else in that space, either a room or a portion of a room, that space is deductible. If you have a home with five rooms and one is your office, then one-fifth of your mortgage or rent is deductible (but you can't use this space also as a guest room or sewing room, for example; it must be dedicated to writing). If you live in three rooms and use half of the dining room as an office, you can deduct one-sixth of your rent or mortgage if the space is dedicated to your work. The same percentage can be deducted for utilities, home owner's or renter's insurance, water, and real estate taxes (though you can sometimes take those off entirely in other ways).

The key to making all this work is receipts. You have to keep track of everything you earn and everything you spend. I have a ledger and a file box for each calendar year. I save and file all receipts, if they have anything to do with my business. At the end of the year, I fill out the ledger. When it comes time to do the taxes, I have totals for the year and just plug them into Turbo Tax.

I think it is important for anyone who is serious about writing to keep track of income and expenses, to track their work as a business and not a hobby. The IRS will consider your writing a hobby if you are not conscientious about this aspect of your life. You don't have to make a lot of money, but you do have to be professional in how you manage your financial affairs.

Tags: writing, editing, IRS, business of writing