Friday, January 24, 2014

A Well Crafted Story

I would like to showcase a book by one of our own AE bloggers. THE  CHEVALIER. Jacqueline Seewald has written an award winning romanceIt is a Romantic Historical saga of the 18th century, but her engaging style weaves the Jacobite Rebellion and societal constraints into the story beautifully.

The Chevalier by Jacqueline Seewald
A bird's eye Review by Mary F. Schoenecker

The author's descriptive style makes it easy to picture Madeline DeMornay, the teen-aged heroine, born of Scottish and French aristocracy. A surprising mix of innocence and sensuality, Madeline falls in love with English Colonel, Gareth Erickson, the illegitimate son of an English nobleman. Gareth, a favorite with the ladies, wants none for a wife, but is attracted to Madeline from the beginning and the attraction is mutual.
The suspense and excitement accelerates when the reader learns that Madeline is betrothed by her mother to her Scottish cousin Andrew. Andrew is a lovable,stalwart Scottish soldier who is eventually captured during the defeat at Culloden.The two soldiers, Andrew and Gareth provide the twists of tension and conflict, keeping the reader immersed in the drama that unfolds.
 The author deftly captures the Scottish burr in dialog, making the words sing, and her literary descriptions of Scotland's Highlands and Northern England are masterfully drawn. Although the sensual scenes between Gareth and Madeline are not for me, The Chevalier is a well crafted story  with a satisfying, love inspired ending. I gave it a well-deserved five stars.

If you missed it on Amazon or Goodreads, do look for it. 
I'm hoping that I can tell you about the publication of my book, SAFE HARBOR, next time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Writer's Life, Part 2

I know I've talked about the "writer's life" before, but hey - it's not easy and I want other writers (new ones especially) to keep on trying. It's worth fighting the empty page. It's worth the hours of editing. It's worth the endless waiting and rejection, because eventually several things will happen.

1. Your writing will improve.
2. You'll make some wonderful new friends in the form of peers, mentors, and industry experts.
3. The rejections will lessen and you will find an editor that will want you to write for them. It might be a magazine article, an advice column, a short story, a poem, a book review, a novel, or a non-fiction book.
4. By believing in yourself, so will others.
5. You will get help. It might be signs from the universe, an answered prayer, a shoulder to cry on...someone will be there when you need them.

I know you didn't ask for it, but I'm going to offer some advice (free of charge).  Pay it forward. I've met and worked with so many wonderful teachers and authors on this creative path.

We all have something unique to offer readers out there.
We share a common dream.

And we usually receive a little help along the way. So, whenever I can I help new writers. It might be a cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear, it might be publishing industry information I've learned, it might be resources or reviews or ideas. It might just be a smile or email that says: "I understand, don't be afraid to keep trying."

People that know me have heard me say, "There are angels among us." This I truly believe. And we writers aren't alone. There are other brothers and sisters on the same path, stumbling over the same ruts and rocks. And to think, we get to create new worlds filled with interesting characters and resolve that world's problems with the stroke of a computer key. That rocks!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Interview with Author Catherine Dilts by Jaqueline Seewald

To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. She has published short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at

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

Answer: Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery is an amateur sleuth murder mystery. I hope using “stone” in the title reinforces the setting of the novel, a rock shop filled with minerals and fossils. I wrote an amateur sleuth novel because one bit of advice given to beginning writers is to write what you love to read. I have an eclectic reading taste, but by far my favorite books are cozies and amateur sleuth mysteries. 

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

Answer: On a trip to Moab, Utah, the idea for a novel germinated at the same time that we visited a shop owned by a rockhound of international renown. I hadn’t run across any mysteries set in a rock shop. I wondered whether anyone would be interested in a mystery set in that rugged, dusty environment, and learned that I’m not the only reader who loves rock shops. 

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

Answer:  Another bit of writing advice is to write what you know. I don’t know much about geology, and neither does my protagonist, Morgan Iverson. I do know about empty nest syndrome and dramatic mid-life changes. As a widow in her forties with grown children, Morgan finds herself alone and far from home at a point in life when she thought her future was secure. It can be difficult to switch gears from the wife and mother role. Morgan has lost her sense of purpose, and needs to blaze a new trail in life.

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

Answer:  Stone Cold Dead is my debut novel. My short fiction appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. “The Jolly Fat Man” was in the April 2013 issue, and “Tweens” will appear in the May issue, on sale February 15, 2014.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I am writing book two in my rock shop mystery series.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: Boredom. My childhood summers were spent with relatives in rural South Dakota. This was the era before cable TV and personal computers. We played in the lake or explored the cornfields on nice days. When it rained, we had to come up with our own entertainment. My siblings and I created illustrated stories on sheets of typing paper, taped them together to form rolls, then cut up cereal boxes to scroll the paper through, making our own movies.

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

Number One - finish. I have seen too many writers fuss over the first three chapters and never reach “the end.” If you have trouble shutting off your internal editor in order to get that first rough draft completed, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo - ) is a great exercise.

Number Two – let it rest. Once you think you are finished, set your writing project aside for as long as you possibly can. If you do this for even a week or two, and then go back to reread and edit, you’ll discover all kinds of things to improve. Every time I have done this, the story has benefited.

Number Three – let your baby go. I have also seen writers labor over the same manuscript for years, never actually reaching the “done” moment. I believe many writers who have worked for newspapers or as technical writers understand there’s a point where you have to be done enough. 

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

Answer: Stone Cold Dead is available now in hardcover at independent bookstore The Tattered Cover, as well as through Barnes & Noble. It is on Kindle and in hardcover through Amazon.

Tattered Cover Book Store: 
Barnes and Noble:

Comments and/or questions for Catherine are welcome here!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Writing Contests: Enter or Avoid? By Jacqueline Seewald

I've entered a number of writing contests over the years. Some were worth the effort, some were not. 
Some I won, some I didn’t. On a positive note, winning writing contests can provide recognition for writers. However, I discovered that I could be cheated if I wasn't careful. There are some smooth operators out there. Their scams are likely not illegal, but they are still to the detriment of writers.
Most writing contests these days cost money to enter. Some of them ask quite a lot of money. So naturally it’s wise to be wary. But even some of the “free contests” aren’t really what they seem to be. You must read the contest rules and fine print with care.
Some “free” contests promise to put your work in an anthology. All you have to do is buy the anthology. Some poetry and short story contests on the web offer a prize for the best work. The catch? They reserve the right to archive your work in perpetuity regardless of whether or not you have won the contest. So you will never be able to sell that story or poem for first rights. And chances are no one will accept it even as a reprint since it's now out there for free on the Internet. This kind of contest is just a scam for a site to obtain free content—your content! So read those rules carefully before you decide to submit your work.
Be aware that you need a statement as to how long a site intends to archive your work. Again, if it's in perpetuity, you are out the reprints. And reprints can be lucrative. Even print publications may insist on internet rights and display your work for all to see. Make certain archiving rights are limited and that you have it in writing.
With so many contests out there, try to submit your work to publications that have been established for at least several years. Many publications come and go, often folding before you even receive payment for your winning work.
You’ve won a book writing contest? Great! But book contracts can be tricky. The publisher may demand all sorts of rights. Try to limit what you give away. For example, if the publisher only does e-books, you shouldn’t be signing away audio and print rights. If you can afford it, have a lawyer familiar with intellectual property rights look the contract over for you.
The best thing at this point is to contact a literary agent. Have another book ready for consideration. Then it may be possible to have a literary agent represent you, but be aware that the reputable ones are often harder to obtain than publishers. The key here is to make certain that money is coming to you, not the other way around. Never, ever pay an agent or publisher a cent up front. Legitimate agents take a percentage, usually 10 to 15 percent of what you will earn. Always remember that money must come to you as the author and not the other way!
     Another thing to check for, make certain that there is a time limit as to how long the publisher can hold your book without publishing it. After two years without publication, you want the rights to revert back to you.
I will share with you some good news regarding a recent writing contest. I was one of the winners of an Australian publisher’s romance writing contest receiving generous prize money paid upfront. It was not an advance against royalties. THE CHEVALIER is an historical romance set in Georgian England. I’m also happy to say that the novel is now available on Kindle at a reasonable price:
and also available in all ebook formats from the publisher:

Obviously, there are still some good free contests out there for writers to enter!
For legitimate writing contests that don’t
charge fees, I have found some helpful 
listings. Here are a few to examine: (offers a 
free monthly newsletter with all sorts of valuable info including contest listings) (another valuable monthly newsletter with a free subscription) (regularly lists free contests and rates them)

(lists freelance jobs and lots of free international writing contests)

THE WRITER offers a mixture of fee and non-fee contests:

The following websites provide warnings or discussions of ways in which writers may be scammed:
SFWA's Writer Beware:
Preditors & Editors:
What’s your opinion on this subject? What experiences have you had with writing contests? Do you intend to enter writing contests or avoid them?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Revising and . . . Revising

Every writer learns early on that writing is also rewriting and revising—revising, revising, revising. No mss goes out to a publisher without lots of revision, and then the editor sends the mss through another series of edits. Once the mss is published, it becomes a book, a physical thing to be held and passed around, or used as a coaster for that huge cup of morning coffee, marked up and dog-eared and forgotten in the glove compartment of a car. It is what it is and whatever was wrong with it will be wrong forever. If you misspelled a street name in chapter 7, it will be misspelled for eternity, or at least until every copy of your book falls apart. If you wince every time you recall that Aunt Matilda swore a blue streak in chapter 11 because you forgot to change the dialogue tag, you just have to learn to live with it. But that may be changing.

It is very easy to put a book up on Kindle or Smashwords or any of a number of sites that help writers publish their own books. And it’s very easy to review the text and make sure that all the tabs have been removed, the paragraphing and spacing are correct, and the chapter headings are in place. Even after an eBook is live, if the author notices the paragraphing is off, she can take down the eBook and make a correction. So, what does this mean for revising?

I have never seen a contemporary novel revised from format to format, such as hardcover to paperback, or paperback to large print, with the exception of the occasional typo being corrected. But that may be changing. If a book is published only as an eBook, almost anything is possible. I can imagine the time when a writer decides a character should change his explanation of an alibi, and the writer takes down the eBook and rewrites the passage. The new version is uploaded, and this is now the eBook. There is no record of the earlier version unless the writer keeps multiples records of the mss. Let’s take this another step. Suppose the writer changes the ending, and the villain in the first version becomes a bystander or innocent victim in the second version. Is this the same book? How many changes can the writer make before the book is a different book deserving of a different title?

I am new to the world of self-publishing, or indie publishing as some now call it. I have had eight books published commercially, both fiction and nonfiction, with another one due in May 2014. I have put all my out-of-print books up on Kindle and other eBook sites, and self-published one book in the Mellingham series. Last Call for Justice is available in both eBook and paper format. Does that mean that I can never make a change if I decide the murderer should have a different motive? Suppose I want to change the opening scene? How much can I change before the buyers of this book should be told that this version is different from an earlier one, and therefore not the book that another reader has recommended?

In November 2013 I achieved another first—I self-published a mss that had never been published before in any format and was not part of a series. Love Takes a Detour is a novella about a woman who lives and farms in the back woods of New England, living an isolated existence until a new family unexpectedly links her with a lost love and a forgotten past. After I posted the story I thought about other incidents in Zellie’s life that I could add, but I have held them back because I considered the story finished, since it’s now published. But is it?

Could I take down the eBook and add scenes and subplots and characters, and then repost it? How many, and what sort of, changes can a writer make before the story must be considered a different one? When does the book belong to the reader and not the writer? And what about reviews? When does the review of the first version become irrelevant for the second or third?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but they intrigue me. If you have dealt with any of these questions, let me know. I’d like to know how others are approaching these issues.

To learn more about Last Call for Justice: A Mellingham Mystery, go here:

To learn more about Love Takes a Detour, go here: