Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February Events

I was attempting to thin out my file cabinet when some research caught my eye. It was a three page dated List of Events For February. February is a short month, but full of activities. So full,  that the fourth Friday and time for my blog had passed by unnoticed. List in hand I decided this list could become the subject of a short blog for a short month.
Writers need to be aware of what is happening in the world during the time, setting and within the social milieu of their stories. With that premise I used this list when I was writing my first historical novel, Four Summers Waiting. Several items were starred  that I had put into dialog, description or action  in the story. Below I've excerpted  ones that were pertinent:

                       Monthly History of February Events
      1732  The first President of the US and the first president of anything in the world was born,
      George Washington
      1783 Great Britain declared a cessation of hostilities with its former colonies, The USA
      1801 the District of Columbia was placed under the jurisdiction of Congress.
      1807 Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland Maine
1809  Abraham Lincoln born in present day Larue County, Kentucky
      1839  Congress prohibited dueling
      1857 A French court acquitted author Flaubert of obscenity for his novel. Madam Bovary
      1861 President elect Abraham Lincoln, departed Springfield Illinois for Washington
      1861 Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederate States of America
      1885 The Washington Monument was dedicated
The list was an excellent help from the internet several years ago and it leads up to an event  for the present month of February, 2013 on the internet. Book Two of my back list,  Maine Shore Chronicles, Moonglade became available on Kindle! If you haven't read Moonglade,it is a cozy mystery heralded by Publisher's Weekly Reviews and it is now at a  bargain price compared to the hard cover Five Star edition. You can read about it on my author page: If you liked Finding Fiona you will love Moonglade.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quote Worthy or Worthy Quotes

There are post-it notes on my desktop, tack board, calendar, monitor, and in my day minder. Many of them are lists of things to do and not forget, which I throw away with relish when completed. But the ones with the curled edges, that stay and stay, are the quotes that touched me.

"No one else has your unique voice. Cultivate it." (good advice for a writer, eh?)
"Write the story for yourself. Your story. Not for others."
"The imagination is the highest kite you can fly." ~Lauren Bacall 
"Surrender to the work. No agenda. Discover the story. Be receptive. Be willing to fail. Cool & detached." (see a theme, here? I have to remind myself to let the muse run with it...)

I was talking to my son the other day, who is an adult and a savvy business man. He said, "Mom, there's a difference between goal and dream." That's probably not verbatim but it's close. He's becoming more pragmatic as he ages, and frankly I think I may be more of a dreamer. What came to mind when he said that was Mark Twain's quote, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't doesn't matter."

Nietche said "Be who you are."

I used to have a huge file of quotes and funny quips, but I don't know what I've done with it. (Must be time to clean my office. <sigh>) Whenever the muse was MIA I'd pop open that folder and pick out something and USUALLY it resonated with me and got me thinking and words began for form. Quotes and poetry are a good way to explore free writing, which is  a great tool when you're blocked or just getting started with a project.

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (one of my favorites that inspire some of the feisty women characters in my books)

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise to the writer, no surprise to the reader."~Robert Frost (definitely a good thing for writers to remember)

What quotes inspire or motivate you?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why Do Series Novels Draw Readers? by Jacqueline Seewald

Why Do Series Novels Draw Readers?

 There are a number of reasons why series novels draw readers. Many readers enjoy a consistency of setting in a series. It becomes familiar and comfortable to them. My opinion is that the setting should be one the author knows well whether it be a city he/she has lived in, a rural community, an exotic place visited, or an historic location that has been researched in detail. This lends authenticity to the novel. For instance, in the first mystery in my Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth series, THE INFERNO COLLECTION, I chose a university setting because it was one I was very familiar with. I had not only received several graduate degrees, I both taught English and was an academic librarian (at different times) at Rutgers. However, intending to keep the series fresh, each of the three novels has a different locale in Central N.J. where I lived for nearly forty years. THE DROWNING POOL is set in a luxury apartment complex. At one time, we were members of a pool club much like the one in the novel. The main locale for THE TRUTH SLEUTH is a suburban NJ high school. Fifteen years of high school teaching gave me the background to create authenticity in the setting of this murder mystery.

In a series the author needs to create characters readers will want to return to again and again. We enjoy reading Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series because we know the characters and they make us laugh. We enjoy reading the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series because of the wonderfully charming and unique characters Alexander McCall Smith has created. In THE DROWNING POOL, the second mystery novel in my series, Kim Reynolds and homicide detective Mike Gardner return to solve another set of murders. They are joined by a new character, a woman of color, police detective Bert St. Croix. The three main characters are very different in personality and background but each lends something unique to the novel. While Kim Reynolds remains the main character in THE TRUTH SLEUTH, Mike and Bert are very important as well. As with Evanovich and Smith, these novels have humor as well as drama and crime.

I believe that plot is also a key factor in the mystery novel or any series. In the Kim Reynolds series, there are connected murders that need to be solved. The main characters may even become personally involved as in THE TRUTH SLEUTH when Kim initially finds the body of a murdered boy and later discovers another on the high school grounds.

I am pleased that THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL are now available at low cost in all e-book formats. You can check them out at:

Do series novels have an advantage over stand alone novels? As a reader or as a writer, which do you prefer?  Drop a comment here, and if you want to be entered for a print copy of the new edition of THE TRUTH SLEUTH recently published by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, include an e-mail address. Giveaway winner will be chosen at random. An excerpt from the novel is available at the Harlequin website:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Literature: A Guide to Life

Few would today identify with the nineteenth century parlor maid who devoured novels to get a glimpse of the secret behaviors of the men and women who lived upstairs. But no one would deny the way novels let us look into other lives, experience other choices and other challenges. Fiction is as good as eavesdropping, as being privy to others' secrets.

I was thinking about this at the end of my vacation, three weeks in India in January, when the hotel manager mentioned that another writer who had often visited had had a reversal of fortune, as it were. The man in question was a travel writer who had given up his very lucrative business, handing it over to a relative, and eloped with his dream. He had always wanted to be a writer and now that he had money in the bank, he was going to live his dream. He moved to Asia, traveled around, and wrote about what he saw and experienced. 

As far as I can tell from limited Internet research, he published a dozen travel books, all with the same publisher, and lived the life he wanted. He traveled in Asia and wrote about many parts of it, often staying in the same hotel in India as I stayed in. And then his world fell apart. The meltdown of 2008 took his considerable savings. His books failed to sell, he lost his publisher, and he moved to--Paris? The story is he is now poor in Paris. (There are worse places to be poor, I'm sure.)

This story reminds me of one Somerset Maugham wrote (I have searched fruitlessly for the title, so if you know it, please let me know) that remains vividly with me. It concerns a young British insurance agent who vacations on the Riviera annually. He loves the area and promises himself he'll retire there when the time comes. But something changes him, and he decides not to wait. Before he is old enough, he cashes in his various savings and pensions and moves to France. There he lives the life he wanted, a life of ease on the Riviera, enjoying the people, the weather, the social life. 

But this wouldn't be a Maugham story if it ended there. Eventually, the money runs out when he is entering old age. The caretaker of the house he rented takes pity on him and gives him the use of a shed on his own small property. There the man lives out his years in abject poverty, at the mercy of the locals who provide a beggarly meal now and then. It is a pathetic story with a mean ending, something Maugham did quite well. I read it years ago and the story stayed with me almost as a cautionary tale. I remembered it when I heard about the American who gave up his business to live and write in Asia.

There's no moral to any of this, no special insight, no lesson to be learned unless you'd like to find one, which is up to you. For me, it's just one more example of the intimacy between fiction and real life. I love these stories of lives that match up with fiction, of men or women who seem to be stepping out of a novel or story. Perhaps I just like the idea of finding evidence that fiction is as real as nonfiction, and sometimes more so.

Labels: Somerset Maugham, India, Paris, short story, fiction, writing