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Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Potpouri

CS Lewis, was the  most important Christian intellectual of the 20th century. He was a British poet, christian apologist and novelist, literary critic, essayist and medievalist, and a break-through children's book writer of his time.
Fifty years ago he published an essay called "Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus". He writes about the strange winter customs of a barbarian nation and what he wrote about is increasingly true in our country today. The Christmas rush begins too early and Christians lose sight of what the Advent season is  all about. After Christmas sales starting today, IMO continue to mock the true meaning of what happened on Christmas day.

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" teaches the terrific challenge of Christmas with the heart-rendering self-discovery of Scrooge,and does so with laughter, outrage and incredible feeling.
But enough said about the wrongs and  the challenges of this beautiful holy season. It is a time to rejoice and open our hearts to others; a time to be thankful for our blessings.

I am particularly thankful for a second career of writing. The success of my five published books has given me much joy and accomplishment. I still have hopes for my work in progress, although time is slowing down for me, I intend to give it my all, just as I did for  the first.  When Monday rings in the new year 2015, I will take time to savor the best of the many pages that came alive in print for me and the many who helped to make that happen. The first and last novels were historicals: Four Summers Waiting and The Red Cockade. The contemporary series, Maine Shore Chronicles included Finding Fiona, Moonglade, and Promise Keeper. I wish all my colleagues and readers a productive Happy New Year filled with good books and good times.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Perfect Presents for the Holidays by Jacqueline Seewald

The holidays are a great time to gift friends, family or yourself with books to read. With people going on vacation, sitting at beaches, pools and on cruise ships, or ski resorts, many individuals enjoy relaxing with a good book. And there certainly are a lot of them being published!  You can find books to suit every age and taste whether fiction or nonfiction.

Just published and appropriate for holiday reading is a nonfiction book entitled: Miracles of Kindness; True Tales of Kindness in a Modern World. The website is: www.themiraclespage.com--so far available at the iTunes Store. 
 
My most recent reads are fiction books I haven’t yet reviewed for Amazon or Goodreads.  Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child (my husband’s choice), Before We Kiss by Susan Mallery (which I chose to read for myself) and for both of us as we drive currently listening to the audio of Any Other Name by Craig Johnson. On my to read list: John Grisham’s Gray Mountain as well as JoAnne’s Myer’s Flagitious: A Four Story Anthology (recently mailed to me by the author). I’ll also be reading Joseph Rigo’s new novella Going Dutch.
 

I’m going to recommend my own most recent books to readers and hope you’ll forgive the commercial message. I do think these books make “perfect presents” for a variety of readers.

The fourth Kim Reynolds mystery THE BAD WIFE (and yes, she is very, very bad!) was published by Perfect Crime Books. It is available both in print and e-book editions. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6PCKVW
(Endorsed by Sara Paretsky, the previous novels in this series received excellent reviews. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery paperbacks which followed the hardcover and large print editions are now sold out.) The ebook edition of THE BAD WIFE is reasonably priced.

My Regency romance novel TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS received a lovely blurb endorsement from Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick which appears on the cover of that novel, published both as a hardcover from Five Star/Gale and in large print from Thorndike Press. Mary Balogh also read this novel and offered helpful editorial suggestions prior to publication. SteameReads has published this novel in a newly edited edition in all e-book formats. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JFHMXWW





I won SteameReads “Some Like It Hot” romance novel writing contest with my sensual Georgian Highlands historical THE CHEVALIER. That novel was  published and is also available in all e-book formats. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GY95RTU/


My “clean read” YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER was also recently published as an e-book in all formats by Astraea Press. This YA novel is a good reading experience for mothers and daughters to share. It’s not just for teens. Although a romance as well as a coming-of-age novel, the main theme is about family values. A good choice for the holidays.




DEATH LEGACY is now available in a new e-book edition at Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or Google from The Novel Fox. This romantic mystery suspense thriller received excellent reviews in hardcover and large print editions from Publishers Weekly and Booklist among others. The Harlequin Worldwide Mystery paperback edition sold out in just a few months.


Finally, I will mention my book of short stories, BEYOND THE BO TREE, published as an e-book by Authentic Press: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DTV0750
which offers some of my best diverse stories for reader enjoyment inexpensively.
http://jacquelineseewald.blogspot.com

Okay, now here’s your opportunity to share the books you think will make for good holiday reading this winter. Feel free to mention books you’ve recently published if you’re an author, books you have on your wish list or recently read and enjoyed as a reader. Don’t be shy! Comments/suggestions are welcome here. Let’s share.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Interview With Author Patricia Stoltey by Jacqueline Seewald

Patricia Stoltey loves books and authors and regularly features guest writers from a variety of genres on her blog (http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com). Ruled by the fearsome Katie Cat, Patricia and her husband reside in Northern Colorado where Bill escapes to play bridge and enjoy ham radio while Patricia avoids her writing and blogging tasks (and Katie Cat’s demands) by meeting writer friends for coffee, mostly to talk about procrastination. In other times, Patricia has lived in Illinois, Oklahoma, Indiana, Florida, and the South of France. You can learn more about her and her novels at her website (http://patriciastoltey.com/). She can also be found on Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/patricia.stoltey), Twitter (https://twitter.com/PStoltey), Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/115494264819086899639/posts), and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1105939.Patricia_Stoltey).  


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

Answer: First, let me thank you all at Author Expressions for letting me jump on board with news about my Five Star release. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Dead Wrong is a novel of suspense about a woman on the run but she’s dead wrong about who’s chasing her. You can see why I chose the title, but now that I know how many other novels have used that title, I wish I’d done a little more research first. If readers search for Dead Wrong, they’ll find a long list of books before they get to mine. Hopefully they’ll search on my name instead.

I chose to write a standalone suspense novel after my two Sylvia and Willie mysteries were published. I’m not sure writing a series is my primary interest, although I do have one more mystery Sylvia Thorn could solve. To me, standalones allow a greater mix of plots and characters…and I don’t have to keep track of all those important stats for the next book.

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


Answer: I started with the “woman on the run” idea because I enjoy reading suspense, psychological suspense, and thrillers. At the beginning, my plot was big and included a threat to the whole country. Gradually I tightened the focus and used a real-life crime that actually happened to a company I worked for. The rest of the story came from my overactive imagination and the desire to write some of the novel from the bad guys’ points of view.

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

Answer:  My main character is Lynnette Foster, a young woman who recently lost her father and had moved from Indianapolis to Florida, thinking she had a new job with a major Miami newspaper. That didn’t work out, so there she was, alone and lonely, working as a cocktail waitress. To ward off the constant advances of drunks and college boys on spring break, she took a self defense class taught by a sexy cop. She impulsively married the guy, and a week later was on the run with a black eye and bruised nose. Lynnette runs into big trouble when she crosses paths with a really bad dude, Fat Ass Sammy Grick (more evidence of my overactive imagination).

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

Answer:  Five Star and Harlequin Worldwide Mystery published my Sylvia and Willie novels, The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders. The ebooks are now available for Kindle and Nook.

Sylvia is a 60-something former attorney and judge, and Willie is her older brother who suffers from a form of PTSD. In the first novel, Willie gets in trouble when he visits the old homestead in Illinois and finds a body. Sylvia travels from Florida to bail him out. In the second, Sylvia accompanies her mother’s travel club to Laughlin, Nevada, where they find a body in the hotel. Willie and their father fly to the rescue, but complicate matters more than they help.

My first published short story, “Three Sisters of Ring Island,” just came out in the anthology, Tales in Firelight and Shadow. It’s a creepy retelling of the Norwegian folk tale, “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” only now the three characters are humans instead of goats, and they don’t deal with their situation in quite the same gentle way.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer: I’m finishing up the second draft of another suspense novel tentatively called Out of Control.   It’s not a true sequel to Dead Wrong, but I have reused a couple of characters. The female police officer who plays a relatively small part in Dead Wrong had now been newly promoted to detective and she’s the main cop who’s dealing with the murder of a young woman in Glades, Florida.

I also have two sort of finished novels ready for revision and editing. One is an untitled mystery, and the other is historical fiction. I plan to submit that one to Five Star for the Frontier Fiction line.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I grew up with books, loved reading, and always wanted to try writing a novel. My brother had a story to tell about his years in the transportation industry, so we tried co-authoring an action/adventure tale involving unions and management. Once I had that first draft printed out, the sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. I churned out another novel, this time romantic suspense. Finally I knew what I wanted to do as soon as I could find the time. Not counting the writing classes and bad short stories and occasional mystery fan conventions along the way, the time didn’t come until I retired from my real job in the real world.

And just so you know, the action/adventure novel, The Troubleshooter, made it into audiobook about 14 years ago, but has never been in print (and probably never will be unless I find a spare year to do a couple of rewrites). That romantic suspense manuscript, Against Her Better Judgment, is still on my shelf with its wimpy heroine begging for a rewrite. It’s a better story, but needs a lot of character development.

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

Answer: We learn best by writing, so write as much as you can even though most of it may not get published.
 And don’t throw away anything you write. It’s fun (and a little sobering) to go back and read it twenty years later.

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

Answer:Dead Wrong is available now in hardcover through most online booksellers. I’d also love to have you request the book at your local library. They will need the ISBN which is:  ISBN-13: 978-1432829865.

By the time you read this interview, it’s possible the ebook will be available as well.  



Pat, thanks so much for being our guest author today! Readers, your comments and/or questions are welcome here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Revising the Reading List by Susan Oleksiw

Over the years my reading has expanded along what might seem predictable lines--lots of scholarly nonfiction, novels set in India, mysteries, and current nonfiction. I rarely read historical fiction though I enjoy history. Recently I read Ursula LeGuin's National Book Award speech, and was reminded that I had never read anything by her other than a few short stories.

As a child I read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and was put off by the governess's clearly unhinged state. In my view there was no ghost, just an unreliable woman losing her mind in an isolated country house. I told my older brother this and he remarked, you won't like science fiction or ghost stories. I took him at his word and happily entered the world of mysteries.

LeGuin's speech convinced me I'd been too quick to judge, and I picked up her first novel, Rocannon's World (1964). In a preface to a new edition the author remarked on how much her writing has changed, and as I read the story I could tick off the stages in the hero's journey without any effort. Still, I liked the author's robust attitude and her imagination.

Since I had no idea how LeGuin compared to other writers of science fiction, I decided to try C.S. Lewis. I had read Till We Have Faces (1956) in college, and knew about the Chronicles of Narnia, though they hadn't appealed to me as a child. I selected Out of the Silent Planet and fell in love with Dr. Ransom. When he sees the strange creature emerge from a body of water and begin talking, he loses all fear, and "his imagination leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar." Of course! You laugh but I didn't. I knew exactly how Ransom felt. What Lewis shows us in the next several chapters is laid bare in language at the end, when Ransom discusses the nature of life on earth with Oyarsa after all three humans are brought before him and the people of the planet.

For several years I was a member of a book group, where I read authors whose works had never appealed to me, and for the most part still don't, but I found it very broadening to read and think about their words and articulate just what I didn't care for.


Last night I joined several other writers for the annual Mystery Night at the New England Mobile Book Fair. Not many readers in my area read about India, but I was pleasantly surprised when a few patrons listened to me talk about my Anita Ray books and decided to try them. India and Indian mysteries are as alien to many readers in this country as science fiction has long been to me. It's nice to pull down some walls, and get a closer look at the other side, from wherever you are standing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mixing It Up On Black Friday

A Black Friday post? Holy Smoke! is what I used to say. What to do, what to do?

To all my writer colleagues, new and old:  Whether you shopped for Black Friday bargains or not, I believe I have a shopper solution. Through seven days from November 28 through December 4, you can get a head start on Christmas shopping without bucking the crowds.

I am offering all of my backlist which are now Ebooks for 99 cents each.



  • Four Summers Waiting - A Civil War epic that emerges as a love story. Authentic diary excerpts and letters included chronicle the struggles and hopes of a young woman determined to help causes she believes in.
  • Finding Fiona - A contemporary romance with a turn of the century twist, Finding Fiona is Book One of The Maine Shore Chronicles series. Advance praise from award winning author, Linda Lee Castle: "A tantalizing tale flavored with a bit of Irish, a bit of French and a whole lot of heart, Finding Fiona will find a place on your keeper shelf."
  • Moonglade - A gripping blend of mystery and romance, the Maine setting exists again in Moonglade with the addition of a Chautaugua community, Ocean Park. Book Two's praise from multi-published author Sharon Ervin: "The characters compel, the suspense sizzles, and the relationships resonate. Moonglade is a thoroughly wonderful read."
  • Promise Keeper - Danger and intrigue foil Paul Fontaine's search for a stolen painting and the woman who loaned it to Cornerstone Gallery.  The characters continue from the first two installments of the Maine Shore Chronicles, but the story shifts from Maine to Florida when the painting is found in Sarasota.Conflict builds as this engrossing tale unfolds to a startling climax.
  • Boxed Set Trilogy Maine Shore Chronicles - All three novels in one boxed set can be a favorite for your friends and family - a marvelous stocking-stuffer!
  • The Red Cockade - Released a month ago as an Ebook on all popular venues, this is the story of my heart. Young adults and adults alike will find this to be an exciting story of a teen - aged Patriot of the American Revolution. To boot, he is a true ancestor of my children.
Here's hoping you all have enjoyed a bountiful Thanksgiving, blessed with good cheer, good food, and NOW, Good BOOKS.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Guest Blog by Author Sharon Ervin

I have the pleasure of introducing a guest blogger today who has written a number of Five Star/Gale/Cengage mysteries. A former newspaper reporter, Sharon Thetford Ervin has a B.A. 
degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She lives in McAlester, Oklahoma, is
 married, has four grown children, and works half-days in her husband and older son’s law 
office as probate clerk and gofer. JINGO STREET is Sharon’s eleventh published novel. 
And now, here’s Sharon:
 
WASTE NOT....

 Lethal injections in Oklahoma are considered the most
 humane way to dispose of evil-doers. In both centuries
 before we hanged bad guys (and dolls) in Oklahoma, or
 used firing squads. Later we invented and used an electric chair, affectionately dubbed by the press, “Old Sparky.”
 Eventually, however, as media coverage expanded and taxpayers began to feel personally responsible for executions, we decided capital punishment would be more humane if we restrained a miscreant and injected     chemicals to snuff him or her.
            The Bible says we are to put habitual evil-doers “away from us.” Death, of course, is the ultimate putting away. As a newspaper reporter, I covered several trials of people who were accused of and proven to have committed atrocities against fellow human beings.
            Once in private, after a devout Christian judge pronounced the death sentence, I asked if speaking those words––"I hereby sentence you to die by lethal injection"––troubled him? He said, “Not at all.”
            The convicted man had murdered––mostly women––on three different occasions. Twice the man’s attorney convinced juries that the accused was insane at the time he committed those acts. Twice jurors ordered him committed to the state department of mental health. When he had completed treatment and his sanity pronounced restored, he returned to society where he murdered another female. The trial I covered was for his third. Again he went with the tried and true insanity plea. The third time, however, was not a charm.
            Several of the people on Oklahoma’s death row are strong physical specimens. It occurred to me that ailing folks might benefit from those healthy retinas, tissue, hearts, lungs, livers, etc. Poisoning a whole person by lethal injection seemed wasteful.
            I didn’t mention those thoughts to anyone at first, afraid the theory might sound Frankenstein-ian. However, the more I thought about it, the better the idea seemed. Killing a healthy, physically viable sociopath was like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
            I theorized some with law enforcement personnel, all of whom scowled. After thinking it over, some said a lethal injection destroys organs and probably renders other parts unusable. One thoughtful fellow mused that harvesting organs from a living donor probably would not be legal.
            When an Oklahoma inmate did not die on the table after receiving the lethal injection in April (2014), some suggested we return to one of our prior methods of capital punishment. Hanging would leave most organs and living tissue usable. A firing squad or "Sparky," probably not so much.
            My writer’s imagination began plotting a story in which a personable, handsome, prime physical specimen murderer became enchanted with a lovely, naive young lawyer, and she with him.

           That mental maneuvering created JINGO STREET, my eleventh published novel, this one released by Oak Tree Press in October. This novel introduces Max Marco, 36, who murdered his first man when he was eight years old. Growing up in foster care and institutions, Max was a product of society’s answer to unwanted children.
            Attorney Anne Krease, 22, grew up like a hothouse orchid, protected, sheltered, and naive. Under normal circumstances, these two should never have met. When they do, however, the chemistry between them is volatile. Tempestuous. Turbulent.
            Writers read the same news stories everyone else does. We process them differently. JINGO STREET is a product of reality mingled with my imaginings.


Note: Sharon welcomes your thoughts and comments.   

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Sense of Place

I remember reading about other countries and thinking I'd love to go visit them someday. Greece. France. Australia. Italy. Scotland. And so many more. The novels I read gave me a sense of these places I might never have had. While I love to travel I don't get to do it as often as I like. We've been in almost all the states, but a handful, so it is my hope that someday I will have seen them all. But the magic of those places first reached me in books.

As a novelist we try to make the "place" in the story as much a character as the people. The best novels are the ones that put us "in" the story. We hear our footsteps echo on the stone floors of the castle. We smell the earthy smell of cool stone. We can dream ourselves into the story if we can visualize where the story is taking place.

Many authors write about places they have never been. Through the internet and research, as well as interviews we can get a sense of where we want the story to take place. It's not always obvious where the best place will be. There have been times I did not see where my characters were located. But I did hear their dialog, feel their conflict, and eventually the fog cleared and I could see in my mind where they were.

My novels take place in my home town. But my mother was from Arkansas and her stories brought it to life for me. My first published story was about a small southern town much like where she grew up. She told me I captured it very well and brought back memories for her. That's what all authors hope for - a story that resonates with readers. It might be the "place," "the time," "feelings," "shared experiences," ANYTHING. With luck - Everything.

Grandmother used to always tell me to walk in someone else's shoes so I could understand what they feel. It's not always easy to do, especially with other cultures. But some things cross cultures - family for one. While our traditions and language may differ from the French for example, we both cherish our families. We love our countries, our food, our music. So, a story with all these elements will appeal anywhere. The key is to put the reader there. Wherever "there" may be.  

 Write on, my friends.
~~~~
Born and raised in Kansas, Bonnie Tharp spent much of her formative years in her grandmother’s kitchen as official taste tester. Although not much of a chef herself, she enjoys good food and believes all the best discussions happen at the kitchen table.
Bonnie is the author of Patchwork Family, published in March 2014 by Belle Bridge Books. It’s the sequel to 2010’s Feisty Family Values, a novel of women’s contemporary fiction.



Friday, November 14, 2014

Interview With Author Carole Price by Jacqueline Seewald

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Five Star/Cengage author Carole Price who is a Buckeye, born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She attended The Ohio State University. She moved to Livermore, California in 1980 with her husband and two daughters. Carole is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I originally interviewed Carole when her debut novel TWISTED VINES was published. Her new novel is entitled SOUR GRAPES.


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

Answer: I write suspense with a touch of romance. I think it’s fair to say this genre picked me since that’s mostly what I read. I love mysteries, particularly international intrigue.

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

Answer: I took a college course on Shakespeare. When my daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I fell in love again with the Bard and the theater. When I signed on for a behind-the-scene tour, my creative juices started to flow. Why not create my own festival and bring Shakespeare to the Livermore wine country?


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

Answer:  When Caitlyn Pepper inherited a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters in Livermore, California, she gave up her job as a crime analyst in Ohio. She never expected her law enforcement training would be so useful in this idyllic wine country setting. In Sour Grapes, Cait is once again faced with murder and mayhem at the Bening Estate. Someone seeking revenge for a shooting that occurred during a bank robbery when Cait was on duty as a cop, tracks her down in California. As always, the actors’ safety is her priority, and she will do whatever it takes to protect them while they are performing.

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

Answer:  Twisted Vines was the first book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. Sour Grapes, the second in the series, was released October 22, 2014.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m currently working on Prey in the Vineyard, the third in the series. I introduce Cait’s friends, Sadie and Luke Sloane, who recently purchased a winery in Livermore, CA. Sadie is Amish and left her community in Sugar Creek, Ohio to further her education. The story revolves around the Sloane’s and the trouble they inherited when they bought their winery. Cait is busy with her Shakespeare Festival, but manages to help her friends with the mystery surrounding their winery.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: My love of a good mystery—the intrigue, the puzzle solving, the hunt to crack the crime, and to watch the characters grow in their quest to solve them. My only regret is that I didn’t start writing until after I retired. This has been of interest to many people at my book events. It’s never too late to pursue a new career.

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

Answer: Never give up. Enjoy the whole writing process, including the frustrations that are bound to occur when you put your whole heart into a project. 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: Five Star/Cengage released Sour Grapes on October 22. Both books in the series are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and local bookstores.


Questions and/or comments for Carole are most welcome!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crime Bake 2014

I had a very different idea for this months post on Author Expressions, but life got away from and Crime Bake arrived.

For those unfamiliar with some of the somewhat smaller crime and mystery conferences, Crime Bake is held in Dedham, MA, every year during the Veterans Day weekend. This is the thirteenth year, and the registration usually closes in the summer. The special guest this year is Craig Johnson, so I've seen several guests sporting cowboy boots, western shorts, and sheriff's badges. This is not what we usually see in New England.

Most posts about conferences provide information for writers gleaned from various panels and talks. This post is about what I get out of the conference aside from professional development and networking.

The advantages of a small conference are many but I'll point out a few of those that I especially appreciate. I attend partly because Dedham is only an hour or so drive from my home. I also attend because this is sometimes the only chance during the year to spend time with some of my writer friends. During the rest of the year we're busy writing and promoting, meeting readers and learning what they like. During this conference, I can catch up with what my friends are writing and doing.

In addition, every year I have a chance to congratulate someone who just got her or his first book or first story published. We all have a first book, and we all have people who have helped us or guided us along the way. Yesterday evening I ran into Cathy Strasser, whom I met in past years. Her first book is out. An Uncertain Grave is set in the White Mountains, a beautiful spot in New Hampshire I used to visit as a child. Congratulations to Cathy, and I wish her many more successes.

The cover for the new edition of the Level Best Books anthology of the best crime fiction of New England for 2015 is gorgeous. Rogue Wave continues the tradition of excellence in short fiction set in New England or written by New England writers. When Kate Flora, Ruth McCarthy and I came to the conclusion that we had to let this go, we were fortunate to find a group of writers who were interested in taking it on. (Actually Kate Flora did the leg work for this.) It's wonderful to see the new anthology every year, getting better and better. It's become an institution and I hope it lasts.

The offerings of the conference change every year in small but interesting ways. I enjoy discovering these, and learning more about how to run a conference. My great respect to everyone who works on Crime Bake and makes it the pleasure that it is. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

. Settings and Wars - Patriots and Patriotism

FOUR SUMMERS WAITING  was my first published print book. Its setting was Long Island,New York, 1861 Washington City, and the battlegrounds of Virginia. . It is a Civil War saga that emerges as a love story between my true Simms family ancestors, Maria Onderdonk and Henry Simms. Maria and Henry exhibit spirit and courage as they struggle through epic events of a nation at war.
The book has had three editions, 1st, Large Print, and presently is an eBook available on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Apple and Kobo.

Almost a century before the Civil War,  teen-aged Patriot, Joseph Onderdonk, (Maria's ancestor) lived on the farm land of Long Island, NY during The American Revolution. The Cow Neck  Long Island Patriots were one of the first groups to organize and declare their desire for independence from England. Joseph exhibits exceptional courage during the terrible time of British occupation  of New York. in my story THE RED COCKADE. I revised and published  this story with the hope that it would inspire Young Adult and Adult readers to learn about early patriots who helped establish our nation. I also wished it would inspire patriotism at a time when it is sorely needed by many adults in our country.

The thought that both books had similar settings, and  that both contained true ancestors and real people and events from two different wars fought in our country didn't occur to me until I began to think about a theme for this blog.  The creator of both beautiful covers for my eBooks  is a gem. She is Patty Henderson at: http://www.boulevardphotografiica.yolasite.com .



At a time when most young people have Iphones, Ipads, tablets and laptops, either of these books will be a good choice to impart a little history to our country's future citizens.

Four Summers Waiting was chosen for Thorndike Press's "Clean Reads " series. Need I say more when you are thinking of gifting today's teens with a love story?
The Red Cockade was chosen for an NEH grant, but it was put on a shelf when the grant was not received. I hope the revision will be enjoyed by all ages.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Tips On Creativity

The "Ten Tips on Creativity" was created by author and writing teacher, Emily Hanlon in 1996. I have it posted on the tack board above my desk and refer to it often. (Not to be reprinted without permission of the author.)

  1. Don't think. Our best ideas emerge as a spark or image. Like dreams, they make little sense. 
  2. Creativity is cyclical. You will not be creative all the time. Creativity has its own internal rhythms. Listen to yours. 
  3. Nothing kills creativity faster than criticism. Good critiquing leaves you inspired, not deflated.
  4. Spend time listening to your Inner Critic. By becoming aware of its foul jabber, you can challenge its roadblocks. 
  5. Being a creator is risky business. Learn to push ahead even when you are afraid. Learn to love the risk. 
  6. Don't be afraid to fail. Every successful creator fails. Failure means you've uncovered a path that does not work.
  7. Don't be afraid to write garbage. "Garbage" writing is the rich, fertile ground that allows your work to grow!
  8. Nurture your creativity. It is as fragile as a budding flower. 
  9. Be passionate. Creativity is passionate. Passion is creative. 
  10. Learn your craft and write! The more you write, the better you get. Successful writers are disciplined writers.  
 I met Emily Hanlon in 1999 at a writers retreat. She guided me onto the fiction writer's journey and I haven't stopped the ride. She is a terrific writer, teacher and all around super human being. 

About this week's blogger:

Bonnie Tharp’s novel, Feisty Family Values was published by Five Star Publishing in hardback and released in February 2010. Patchwork Family was released in paperback by Belle Books Publishing in March of 2014, and continues the story of a very feisty family. You can find out more about Bonnie & her books at http://bdtharp.com.



Friday, October 17, 2014

School for Scandal

I’d like to introduce Sheila York who is our Guest Blogger today on Author Expressions. After a long career in radio and TV, Sheila York began writing novels combining her love of history, mysteries and the movies. Set in glamorous, dangerous post-war Hollywood, her series features screenwriter/reluctant heiress/amateur sleuth Lauren Atwill (and her lover, private detective Peter Winslow) chasing killers in the Great Golden Age of Film. You can read or listen to more about Lauren and No Broken Hearts, the fourth book in the Lauren Atwill mystery series, at www.sheilayork.com.
Okay, here’s Sheila!

School for Scandal

I love scandals. When I hear or read about one, I have three thoughts: “Could I use this in a book?” “Would it work in the 1940s?” and “How could I make what happened even worse?”
Bear in mind, I mean a good scandal. I don’t mean modern-day celebrity gossip: Doping, divorcing, gaining 10 pounds. There are rarely dramatic possibilities in the predictable.
‘Novel’, after all, didn’t come from the Latin for ‘heard that one before.’
Three of my four Lauren Atwill mysteries were inspired by scandals, even if by the time I finished, you wouldn’t recognize the source.
For NO BROKEN HEARTS, I had a (really) vague idea that the story would involve Lauren’s being loaned out to a second-rate studio by Marathon, the major studio with which she’d just signed a contract. During the period of the ‘studio system’, studios produced films on their own lots using talent under often long-term contracts. Those contracts permitted the studios to loan out the talent, who’d have no say in the matter. They could refuse, but then they’d be suspended without pay. Or sued. Or both. Studios could keep their stars in line – even to the extent of making them get married or break up with lovers the studios deemed inappropriate – by threatening to loan them to second- and even third-tier studios.
My amateur sleuth’s screenwriting talents have for years been relegated to script-doctoring because she compromised a promising career trying to save her marriage to a philandering star. Promised her first screen credit in years, Lauren would be rightly furious about being loaned out. And then immediately scared that somebody’d noticed that recently when she signs on to ‘doctor’ a film, somebody dies. Those kinds of whispers could kill a career in a hurry, especially a struggling one. There is no place more superstitious than Lauren’s Hollywood.
It was a start, but I’d need a murder.
Hollywood took care of its own with a singular intensity in the Golden Age, the studios having so much invested in their stars. Studio publicity teams crafted stories to fit movie fans’ fantasies and handed them to reporters and magazine writers, who mostly played along. There wasn’t as much profit in humiliation back then. Not that reporters were higher minded. And not that there weren’t magazines that wallowed in tawdry sex stories (we meet one of these photographers in NO BROKEN HEARTS). But for mainstream publications, writers (and their editors) knew which side they wanted their bread buttered on, and it wasn’t the side that hit the carpet. For those who cooperated, the perks were substantial – cash; invitations to premieres, parties and yachts; exclusive stories; being welcomed as a friend by he-man stars and beautiful women.  (Note the blurb for the story inside about Gene Tierney’s ‘Switch to Sex’. It’s not likely to deliver the implied steam. By the way, the actress on the cover is Dorothy Lamour.)
The scandal that inspired me to NO BROKEN HEARTS is a Hollywood rumor from the Golden Age of Film that a legendary star (whose name I won’t repeat because I doubt this story) once killed someone in a hit and run. Because there was a crushed fender and witnesses with a license number, one version of the story goes, the star’s studio forced an underling to confess to being behind the wheel and to serve manslaughter time by giving him money, promising him future employment, and making clear they’d make sure he never got another job in Hollywood if he didn’t. And the star let them do it.
How could I make all that even worse?
Well, first off, it wouldn’t be a hit and run. It would be murder. Premeditated, brutal murder. And the studio would cover it up. Lauren would of course find the body. And be threatened to keep her mouth shut. But being Lauren, she wouldn’t cover up for a killer. Soooooo, there’d have to be a reason she couldn’t go to the police. What if the star were not only someone she adores, but also someone she believes is innocent? What if he claims he didn’t do it, and she saw things at the crime scene that make her think he’s telling the truth? If she talks, at best, she’d ruin him and end her own career as well. At worst, she could end up sending an innocent man to the gas chamber.
What if she couldn’t trust the police? Could they be involved in the cover-up? Police corruption was endemic in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Film. Payoffs, cover-ups, frame-ups. And Hollywood was awash in bribe money. (While the scandal pictured in this headline isn’t Hollywood-related, it’s one of my favorites. It turned out cops planted the bomb because the guy was investigating police corruption for a private citizen. Fortunately, they failed to kill him.)
What could be worse than knowing a killer is out there, but you’d never work again if you opened your month and you might ruin an innocent man, and you couldn’t trust the cops to find the killer? The killer could decide the best way to save himself is to kill the witness. That had possibilities.

*Sheila is giving away 20 copies of No Broken Hearts on Goodreads  http://bit.ly/1C1vs2O  
 (register to win until October 31)!


 Comments or questions for Sheila are welcome.


Friday, October 10, 2014

How to Provide Focus for Fiction by Jacqueline Seewald

Whether authors of fiction write short stories, plays, poetry or novels, theme is an essential component, just like characterization, plot and setting. The theme of a work is an idea or message that stretches throughout providing it with focus, cohesion and connection.

Themes are universal and therefore reoccur. Often they are sociological or cultural in nature. For instance, I recently read a thriller novel in which the theme was conspiracy theory, common in suspense genre. Fiction writers often pull their themes from nonfiction and then write faction. Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer are two very popular suspense authors who do this. Shakespeare used the underlying theme in his plays that appearances are deceiving. People and events are not what they seem to be. This works particularly well in theatre but just as effectively in mystery and suspense fiction.

Good fiction writing needs a cohesive theme to hold the work together. The lesson is generally about life or humanity and is preferably implied rather than stated outright. The show-not-tell rule works well with theme. One way to convey theme is through recurring use of symbolism. Hawthorne and Hemingway were both particularly talented in that regard.  So was F. Scott Fitzgerald. All three used color imagery/symbolism to denote and develop a theme.

In YA lit, the theme is often coming-of-age. However, there may be more than one theme, especially in a novel. My YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER published by Astraea Press is a coming-of-age novel, a book about family values,
a romance and an allegory:

.Romances concentrate on the theme of finding true love. For example, my short story collection BEYOND THE BO TREE is a series of stories themed on romantic relationships.
 


However, even with romance fiction there are often secondary themes. THE CHEVALIER, my prize-winning historical romance set mostly in the Scottish Highlands at the time of the second Jacobite revolt, is bound up with themes of war and political conflict:                           http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GY95RTU/


Mysteries are about finding solutions and discovering the truth about puzzling situations such as solving murders and imposing order where there was chaos. There are often socially significant secondary themes in crime fiction. For example, in my co-authored novel THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY
 the theme of bullying is significant. Jim who is short for his age is bullied by an older boy. His search for a murderer also interconnects with the theme of bullying.
 









GONE GIRL coincidentally has a similar theme to my mystery suspense thriller THE BAD WIFE, underscoring the fact that you don’t always know or understand the person you marry. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6PCKVW


All types of writing benefit from a theme which serves as a fundamental connective component. Fiction without a theme lacks focus, like sailing in a rudderless ship. It will eventually flounder and sink.

What themes do you as a reader or writer consider significant?


*Note: More of my blogs are available for reading at: