Sunday, December 26, 2010

Interview with Peggy Ehrhart

Please welcome Five Star author Peggy Ehrhart, author of Sweet Man is Gone, and her newest book, Got No Friend Anyhow.

Could you tell us about your book (title) the characters and the plot line:

Got No Friend Anyhow is my second Five Star mystery. It’s an amateur-sleuth mystery featuring blues-singer sleuth Elizabeth “Maxx” Maxwell. Like Sweet Man Is Gone, the first book in the series, it’s set against a background of Manhattan rehearsal studios and blues clubs, and it delves into the sometimes gritty, but also amusing, lives of characters who devote all their energies to making music. In Got No Friend Anyhow, Maxx’s band has been working on a CD. But when it’s nearly finished, the producer disappears and later turns up dead. To complicate matters, Maxx had been romantically involved with him. The cops believe that he was involved in pirating CDs and was killed in a mob territory battle. Maxx knew him too well to believe that he would deprive musicians of their livelihood by stealing music, and she sets about trying to clear his name. Her sleuthing leads her to the sad secret he’d been hiding.

What are your plans for a series?

I hope there will be many more Maxx Maxwell mysteries. I already have a draft of the next one.

What inspired the novel? What was the seed for the story?

The series in general was inspired by my own guitar-playing hobby. Twenty years ago my son was taking guitar lessons and it looked like so much fun that I bought an electric guitar and started taking lessons too. One thing led to another and I formed a band that played gigs in New Jersey, where I live, and in New York City. The tensions in the band eventually caused it to break up, but I got a great glimpse into the lives of struggling musicians and the kinds of pressures that can build up when people are working together to create music. I tend to look on the funny side of life though, so in my books I mostly have fun with the eccentricities of my musician characters. And I really enjoy sketching out the atmosphere of blues clubs and rehearsal studios. That world is a hidden subculture in Manhattan.

How did you write it? Over a long period, or did you have the story in your mind?

I finished Got No Friend Anyhow before Sweet Man Is Gone was published. Each of those books took about a year to write. I make detailed outlines before I start to write. The style of mystery that I’ve always liked is the tightly plotted traditional mystery, with multiple suspects, lots of red herrings, and many twists and turns. I’m not sure I could write that kind of book unless I worked out very carefully at the beginning who all the suspects will be and what kinds of clues will point to them. Once I’ve got the book outlined I can sit down and write a scene every day. But the outlining can take a few months or even more.

Tell us about your writing background. How did you start writing novels? What was your journey to publication?

I was probably destined to be a writer. I read constantly as a child, and in school whenever there was a writing project or a contest it was assumed that whatever I came up with would be the most interesting and would probably win. My secret dream was always to write fiction but I made a detour through graduate school—I have a Ph.D. in medieval literature. All through graduate school and for a few decades after that, my writing efforts were focused on scholarly projects. I enjoyed this work very much, and doing scholarly writing gave me a lot of self-discipline. I learned that it’s possible to sit down and work even if one isn’t in the mood. I read mysteries for relaxation while I was in grad school and I got to really love the form, especially classic mysteries like those of Dorothy Sayers. Right around the same time that I started playing the guitar, I wrote my first mystery. I think inside I was longing for some type of creative expression. It took awhile to write a publishable mystery and I was delighted when I sold Sweet Man Is Gone to Five Star, and also delighted that they wanted to publish Got No Friend Anyhow.

Where can readers find your books?

Got No Friend Anyhow is due out at the end of January. It will be available on Amazon and Barnes&, as well as in many libraries—since Five Star markets primarily to libraries. Sweet Man Is Gone came out in 2008 and is now out of print, but copies are still available from Amazon and Barnes& It’s also available on Kindle and Nook, from the Apple iBookstore, and in other ebook formats from The Digital Bookshop and a variety of ebook retailers.

Please visit Peggy's website for more information. Thanks, Peggy, and good luck with your release!

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Tis the Season

by Barbara Fleming
'Tis the season...of hope. Writers live on hope. It is hope that keeps us sitting at the keyboard, that nudges us to try one more agent, one more publisher, that lets us keep on writing. We dream of the best seller lists, but we settle for hoping that someone will like our work enough to publish it. "Hope is the thing with feathers," said Emily Dickinson, "that perches on the soul." Perhaps we replenish that hope each year at holiday time.

'Tis the season...of love. Writers bask in the love of friends and family as do others and yet thrive on a different kind of love, love of the language. We love words. We love to intertwine them in phrases and sentences, to search for exactly the right word, to discover new words. We love working with a language so rich with choices. Perhaps we renew that love each year in the season of love.

'Tis the season...of giving. We writers give of ourselves every time we compose a paragraph, a chapter, a book, or whatever we are writing. We invest our whole souls in our chosen work, and we offer it the reader with a full heart. Perhaps we reinforce our ways of giving each year in the season of giving.

And 'tis the season...of traditions. Like everyone else, writers have cherished rituals and traditions connected to the holidays, some of which may find their way into written work. Most of us also have traditions connected to how and what we write, and why, as well--traditions that outlast the holidays. Perhaps we rely on them to ground us at this time of the year.

Whatever your faith, whatever your traditions, this is a meaningful time of year in which to take stock, to enjoy being with those we love, and to call up the memories that the holidays evoke. Let this be a year in which more warm memories are made.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Just sent in my 'update' for Marquis Who's Who and am wondering if anyone will jog down to their local library and read it. I kept it short but did tell the world my fiction novels in several genres are now published in every format (currently) known to man! Also, I've dropped my e-book prices and all my listed items are now $2.99 or less. This includes some reading scripts too if anyone is curious to read one. Of course I'm hoping some producer will hear about them and take a look - or maybe an actor looking for a vehicle for himself... Well, I can dream, can't I? And the role of Aaron in RECYCLING HUMANITY is just right for Morgan Freeman. If anyone knows how to contact him or his agent, please 'comment' and let me know.

There are so many changes and formats in progress now, it's easier all the time to find a good read. I've just downloaded Mobipocket but don't know how to use it yet. 2011 looks like a great year for finding good books to read.

Please check here often as there may be good news soon. In addition to the cozy mystery I've just added to my Kindle list, an audio publisher is reading four (uh-huh FOur) of my manuscripts for a new audio publisher who is promising good prices on audio books too. So there will be a lot of good reading as well as a lot of good prices for us readers in 2011.

This Week magazine also had a recipe from DEAN KOONTZ Sunday! I clipped it out - it's for baked corn which his wife, Gerda makes for him. My daughter and I are waiting for his new book to come out - and when is Evanovich going to write SEVENTEEN?

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.
Break's over!

me out

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Great Expectations

More affordable reading. In addition to my list of works:the cozy mysteries; romance/suspense; reading scripts; anthology; and humor column excerpts; all of them priced at $2.99 or less or Kindle, you can also get Spanish Eyes in audio from Books in Motion. More good news may be forthcoming soon. AudioLark is reading four of my manuscripts to publish at competitive prices. So look for more announcements soon.

Marquis Who's Who has just asked for (and got) an update on my work for their new 2011 library edition.

For more information go to my web page ( or leave comments and questions here.

Our local weather man is predicting a 'wet and cold winter' so it's going to be a good time for staying in with some good reading (or listening if you've just GOT to commute.)

Wherever you are, stay warm and stay safe, and have a great holiday and new year too.

Break's over!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Perfect Gifts by Jacqueline Seewald

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 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 and still manage to give gifts that friends, family and fellow workers appreciate definitely takes time and planning. Internet shopping is one approach never dreamed of in Emerson’s philosophy.

Books are in my opinion perfect gifts. Even those people who are basically nonreaders enjoy a beautiful coffee table book. There are books to suit every taste. Many men appreciate useful nonfiction how-to books. Many women like cookbooks. Children enjoy picture books.
Romance and mystery novels are always in demand. (Check out the Five Star/Gale’s line. Each month, brand new mysteries and romance novels are offered.)

Of course, some readers prefer large print books since they’re so much easier on the eyes. I’m pleased to say that my historical romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS was just published in a large print edition by Thorndike Press.

Books are also great gifts for teenagers as well as adults and children. Teens actually do read for pleasure, not just for school assignments. My new young adult novel STACY’S SONG 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 . It's published both in paperback and Kindle/e-book editions.

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Camels and Customs

I just finished a manuscript, another biographical historical novel set in Cyprus. The heroine goes to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) to pay tribute to the sultan. She is met at the city gates by one of the sultan’s men, who has brought a line of camels to transport the queen and her ladies to the palace. To write this scene, I had to research camels—their saddles and accoutrements as well as their personalities. I learned that camel milk is a staple in the diets of nomads. The milk is richer in fat and protein content than cow milk is. The hump, which one of my grade school teachers said was filled with water, is actually a fatty deposit, but the makeup of their internal system is such that they can go without food and water beyond the time another animal would have died. Their heavy coats reflect the heat and help to keep them cool. Camels have been used for centuries, for carrying men and supplies, for racing, and in warfare, as late as WWII.

Camels are prized possessions in some countries, and Arabian camel saddles are often adorned with brilliant colors. Saddle bags fringed with tassels are hung down each side of the camel and can be used for transporting goods and personal possessions. On some occasions the camel may be decorated with necklaces, chest bands, knee covers, a fanny pack over the hind quarters and drapes hung from their shoulders. I’ve never ridden a camel, but I was told they have a gentle sway, totally unlike a ride on a horse.

Friday, December 10, 2010


The holidays are so full, don’t you think?

Hmmm. I can just see your minds scattering a thousand different directions as they interpret that statement. Most of us instantly picture a calendar filled with notations about parties, recitals, school programs, church events, neighborhood gatherings, and all the other events that tend to fill up our Decembers. A few of us are thinking about baking and how we’re going to find time to get everything done before the family gets together or maybe even how we’re going to fit everyone around the table. Late shoppers are listing gift recipients, trying to figure out how to maximize those trips into the retail jungle.

But I was thinking more along the simple lines of emotional fullness.
Within this season are the feelings of joy and happiness and completeness as friends and families gather. And, there is the hopeful expectation in the hearts of children. But, there are layers of other emotions as we prepare for the holidays, some of them not so joyful. We find frustration, doubt, and melancholy just as often as anticipation, fulfillment, and love. Some hearts ache while others sing.

As writers, this time of year can provide so much inspiration. By just stopping and seeing what is happening, we can see all those emotions reflected in the faces and gestures and voices of those around us. One harried shopper or a couple in love or a lonely homeless person can show us emotional depth that we can later use as we develop characters and their reactions to the world around them.

But, the season can also inspire us in other ways, all of us—not just writers. It can inspire us to be more aware of the world. As we look about and actually notice the broad range of emotions that are out there during this season, it might help some of us offer a smile to an unhappy shopper or a hug to someone who is alone or volunteer to make the holidays better for those in need.

Look around you this season. Take note. Respond. Who knows, someone may smile back or offer us a hug when we need it most.

I hope all of you find joy in the season, in whatever way it presents itself.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Gifts and Greetings

This time of year is busy for most. Right now, we're about halfway through our Hanukkah celebration, and then I'll be "relaxing" while almost everyone else is still frantically taking care of decorating, shopping, cooking, standing in line at the Post Office, and trying to keep spending within limits. Holiday cheer to everyone.

I got an early 'gift' – the cover for my May, 2011 release of Where Danger Hides. Next step will be receiving the ARCs—Advance Reader Copies—which is the last chance to catch any typos before the final version goes to print. I'll be putting the Hubster to work, since he's used to scientific and technical writing, and isn't familiar with the story, so he's less likely to see what's 'supposed' to be there instead of what actually is there. Despite the many passes through the manuscript prior to the ARCs, mistakes happen. For When Danger Calls, the first time Horace Blackthorne appeared on the page he was Horace Blackstone!

And speaking of gifts – I got my new NOOKcolor. Last month, Pam Nowak blogged about digital books and researching e-readers. I promised to provide my impressions of my NOOKcolor, and I've been doing that on my own blog, so you can pop over and search that for what I'm learning. I will say, so far, it's been quite satisfactory. No single reader will work for everyone, so I'm trying to show the features of this one so you can make your own decisions. (Type NOOKcolor in the search box; that should bring the posts up)

And a gift for you – a recipe for sugar cookies that's appropriate for any holiday you celebrate. It's all in the decoration.

Sugar Cookies:
2 ½ c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. sugar
½ c. shortening
¼ c. butter or margarine (softened)
2 eggs
1 t. lemon extract

Mix together flour, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl, mix sugar, shortening, butter, eggs and lemon until creamy. Stir in flour mixture until well blended. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until dough can be handled easily. Hint: roll out dough in small batches, keeping the rest in the fridge.

Roll ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes. (You don't want them to brown). Cool on racks. Decorate as desired.

And if you're looking to give books as gifts, as a holiday special, I've got copies of When Danger Calls at the Amazon store for only $6.50 (scroll to find seller T.L. Odell--other sellers play 'price wars' and undercut my prices by a penny or two, but I will autograph and personalize mine to your specs). If you have an e-reader, you can find it at The Kindle Store or Smashwords (where it's formatted for most readers)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I am thankful for

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

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

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

Barbara Fleminjg

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful for. . .

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Interview with Jackie Griffey

Interview with Author Jackie Griffey

by Jacqueline Seewald

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

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

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

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

And now to learn more about you and Merrywinds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing in Different Genres


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about Nancy, please go to:


   To Purchase Silver Serenade:

Friday, November 12, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Launch Party for The Tapestry Shop

My daughter's gourmet creations

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

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

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is it Real? Does it Matter?

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take No Regrets

You know the old saying: Take no prisoners? This post is about taking no regrets--to the grave, that is. I've found with my writing that as much as I want to be published again, I want something else even more: to get it right.
To get my writing the best it can be, both in the story itself and in the craft.
And that means taking chances; shutting down that internal censor who when I get a nudge of an idea, whispers in my ear, "That's stupid. No one would want to read that."
One of my favorite writing manuals is The Modern Writer's Workshop by Stephen Koch, and in the first chapter, the chapter about ideas and how a writer's imagination leads to those "crazy places", Koch counsels not to let your "spark" flare and die at the voice of your internal editor. It's hard-- not to listen to that little voice. Because that's the same voice who saves us from ridicule. It's the same voice that keeps us homogenized with the rest of our "group", whoever that group may be. And it's the voice I try to block out most days, especially in the beginning of projects.
The painting above is by Ivan Albright and it's in the Chicago Art Institute. I had the opportunity to stare at it a long time last week on a drizzly Chicago day. It took the artist a decade to create it. It's incredible, isn't it? The marred Victorian door, the tombstone doorsill and the tattered funeral wreath. And look at the aging hand on the doorframe. The title of the painting is That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do. It's interpreted as a concrete image commenting on the brevity of life.
It worked for me.
Silence the Censor. Take no regrets.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Willing suspension of disbelief by Barbara Fleming

Willing suspension of disbelief is a contract between the writer and the reader, in a way. The writer takes you somewhere else, into other lives and other places, and the reader agrees to go along for the ride, to accept the reality that I and other writers create for you on the pages of a book.
Both of us know the characters we offer you are not real-life individuals. For me, as for most writers, I expect, they are an amalgam of people I have known, have observed, probably have admired or disliked. Part of these characters is of course the author herself, stemming from the subconscious and from life experiences, but part of them is imaginary, born of the creative impulse. Writer and reader both understand that.
Yet the reader who becomes absorbed in the book finds the characters and the events real enough to set aside the little voice in the head that says, "This is just a story," and accept what the book has to give, be it romance, adventure, drama or mystery, or maybe a combination thereof. Good books create a world that the reader enters eagerly and leaves reluctantly. Over my lifetime I've read thousands of books, and from among them emerge characters whose words or deeds have stayed with me and who become part of my frame of reference. To me they are real because they resonate so profoundly with life as I have known and observed it. Surely that happens with most devoted readers of fiction.
What is it that allows this suspension of disbelief, this agreement between writer and reader that makes a story work? It must be, to some extent, an earnest desire on the reader's part to be taken into those lives, that other place. It must be, also, the writer's craft, her ability to fashion a believable world. It must be, too, something mysterious and indefinable that has been at work in fiction for centuries. Perhaps we cannot fully understand or define it.
But we know that it has to happen if fiction is to work. Books that I abandon, having begun them hopefully, are ones that fail to pull me in so that I do not suspend disbelief. Books that I stay with are ones that allow me to put my real world aside and enter this fictional one, eager to find out what happens next, meeting people I come to care about.
Whatever this phenomenon is, however we characterize it, it is the magic of which fiction is made. Profound thanks to all those readers who enter the world of books time and time again and willingly suspend their disbelief.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Been a while since I've updated my blog - I'm sorting through the good, the bad, and all the stuff hard to pin down-that's what I'm doing right now so please excuse the haste.

New Books: 2010 books: Dead on Arrival and Merrywinds: HC from Five Star/Cengage.
Kindle e-books: Dead on Arrival; L.I.F.E; The Snafued Snatch; and Varmint.
Audio Books (BIM); Spanish Eyes

There's an anthology and Christmas Trek on Kindle just in time for Christmas and the prices on everything are less than five bucks - treat yourself as well as your friends, LOL.

If you want to know more about any of the above, please let me know. The best thing about writing is the people you meet and I love meeting readers and fellow writers.

Good luck and good reading to all of us, break's over! :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Building a Brand by Jacqueline Seewald

There’s been a lot of discussion among writers as to whether it benefits authors to be branded--by that I mean that writers want to market themselves by promoting their name, associating their name with a particular type, genre or style of writing. The premise? That this is the best way to build a readership. For example, when we see the name Nora Roberts we immediately think of romantic suspense.

Many writers choose to use pen names. They write in a variety of genres and assume a different nom de plume for each. The theory is that it will confuse readers if writers use the same name for different types of work. There is also a tendency for publishers to try to place writers in neat categories. It’s more convenient to connect a name to a particular format.

But what if you resist branding? Are you destroying your chance to be taken seriously as a writer or build a readership? I don’t limit myself to one particular format in my writing. My books are never “in the box.” They’re always unique and different. I confess I like to experiment.

I write historical romance like TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS which isn’t category or “formula” Regency. I write romantic mystery novels like THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL and, coming in May, THE TRUTH SLEUTH. However, I also write books for children like A DEVIL IN THE PINES, books for young adults like the soon be released STACY’S SONG, poems, short stories, nonfiction articles and plays, all under my own name. Will I confuse readers and reviewers? I admit I am something of a maverick who doesn’t take well to branding. Is that a mistake? Does "branding" work well for marketing writers?

Your thoughts, opinions and comments are most welcome!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Treasures of London

When I visited London this summer, it was like going back in history, because I spent every minute I could in places like Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, and the Tower of London. Westminster Abbey was so glorious, I wanted to go back to hear a service there. I stood in the area where the choir sits, and imagined the music that Elizabeth I would have heard at her coronation.

Speaking of Elizabeth, I visited Lambeth Library, an awesome place with ancient texts. On this particular day the library hosted a traveling exhibition, and what a display it was. One of the five extant Gutenberg Bibles was on display, a huge volume with a bright red cover. We were told it may very well have been the first one from the Gutenberg press.

Terra Cotta figure

What I remember most vividly, though, was a document sealed in a glass case. It was one page, signed by Elizabeth I, for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

I was privileged to take an archaeological tour in Hampton Court, which included a trip through royal apartments and up to the storage room. The tour guide, knowledgeable and friendly, was in charge of protecting and storing artifacts connected with the palace. He unveiled treasures from the past and allowed us to photograph the items.

He unwrapped a lovely (and rare) terracotta likeness of a queen (see accompanying image), and we all snapped pictures. It is believed to be of an eastern monarch, possibly Cleopatra. The roundel probably comes from the Holbein gate which was demolished in 1754.

Henry's bed

Another rare treasure was the lower part of Henry VIII’s bed, gilded and heavily ornamented (see image). As I snapped the image you see here, I could not help but think of the lovely young girls who may have lain beside him in this bed, later to find themselves in the Tower, awaiting their execution.                                                                        

If you could visit one place in London, where would it be?

Joyce's 3rd book, The Tapestry Shop, is due to be released Oct. 13th
    Of the book, Romance Reviews Today says:
. . . meticulously researched . . . Beautifully written, this is an excellent novel for the fan of historical fiction.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Characters Who Just Won't Cooperate

I’m currently in the midst of the dreaded first three chapters of my new novel. If you’re a fellow writer, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, just imagine having someone you think you know well change their personality on almost a daily basis.

These chapters are especially frustrating for me because I like knowing what I’m doing, where my story is going. I research my characters extensively and plot out my story completely before I begin writing. I am as far away from a “pantser” (one who writes by the seat of her pants) as you can get. My characters are well defined and their personal goals and conflicts will drive my plot.

At the end of my first chapter, my heroine revealed something about her past that I hadn’t planned. It just came out of her mouth, when she was describing her skills in an effort to secure a job. But, hey, it was okay. It rounded out her character, added to her likeability and her motivation for behaving in certain ways. It fit. So I didn’t worry over much. It’s cool when your characters come to life.

Last week, though, my new hero started reacting to my heroine in a way that showed me he has trust issues. What the heck? I didn’t plan for him to have trust issues. Trust isn’t supposed to have anything to do with his relationship barrier. But, it fits so well as a reaction to the actions of my heroine that I know it’s right.

It’s just that now I have to reexamine everything else about him.

If trust is his major issue, then he may have different goals than I envisioned. He might have a whole new inner story. And if he does, it may mean the conflict between hero and heroine is not as I’d imagined. It might mean I have to rework the whole darn plot!

I’ve spent a week fretting about this.

You see, I always forget this happens as I begin. It happens throughout the book. Characters come to life, whether you are a plotter or a pantser and they take you by surprise.

And, for the life of me, I’m not sure why I always fret when it happens. In the end, so far, it has always been the uncooperative character who has deepened my stories. In CHOICES, it was one of my villains who refused to behave as I had envisioned. Harriet was supposed to be a social climber but I didn’t plan for her to be a laudanum addict. She just started drinking the stuff to treat her migraine headache and suddenly, all her horrid behavior made sense. She was a motivated villain.

So, I guess I should quit worrying about my new hero. It makes sense for him to distrust my heroine and already, it gives him more reason for not wanting to work with her and for his worry about her influence over their employer. His reactions are making so much more sense, now that he’s revealed the distrust.

Now, I just have to go back, figure out what made him that way, and wait for one of them to do something else unexpected!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Late and Hectic

For some reason, I had October 8th on my calendar, and then had one of those harrowing moments when a thought nigggled -- had I signed up for the first Friday. Which is TODAY!!

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Bellevue, Washington at the Emerald City Writers' Conference. Last weekend I was in Greensboro, NC for the Writers' Police Academy. Somewhere, time got all tangled up, or disappeared altogether.

As writers, we're constantly juggling writing, promotion, edits, blogs, websites, and maybe the occasional Tweet as well. And some of us have day jobs. If you're an organized person, you might be able to schedule everything. Then again, my 'to do' board clearly says blog for Author Expressions on October 8th.

I'm doing a presentation here called "Plotting for Non-Plotters." I guess the fact that I can't plot more than a scene or two in advance attests to my lack of organizational skills.

But you don't really have to know everything about your story before you start writing. With a few basic ideas, you can get some words on the page, and once they're there, you can fix them.

This is basically how I do it, and what I'm going to talk about in my workshop: This is my basic starting point for writing a romantic suspense, but it's not much different for any commercial fiction genre.

H/H trying to get on with their lives

They meet/interface/at cross purposes

Bad stuff happens

They fix it and have a HEA.

And then there's the character sketch GMC. (Goal, Motivation, Conflict)

Randy wants to be a good cop.

Sarah wants to have a successful business.

Randy and Sarah want each other.

My next step will elaborate (very slightly) on some of the conflict potential in the book. Since this book is a sequel, most of the character back story was established, which cuts back on how much time I had to spend figuring out their basic personality traits.

Sarah wants to be independent. She wants to prove she doesn't need to rely on anyone.

Randy wants to take care of people. That's why he became a cop.

There's plenty of room for those underlying character goals to be at cross purposes. Remember, only trouble is interesting, so it's a good idea if the character's goals can create friction between them.

With that established, it's time to think of possible scenes that will put the characters into situations that show who they are. Some will be relationship scenes, some will be scenes showing the characters getting or not getting what they want.

Scenes in the book can be broken down into several basic categories:

Randy on the job

Sarah on the job

Randy & Sarah in a relationship

As the writer, my goal was to keep Randy and Sarah apart (I'm nasty that way). But I'm not totally heartless, so the book opens with a relationship scene, where Randy and Sarah are having dinner together at a restaurant after he's been away for six weeks. Of course, I couldn't make it too easy, so just when it looks like they're going to have a very hot reunion, he gets a call and has to report to a crime scene.

I decided to make it a murder scene, and a complex one. Something out of the ordinary, something that would challenge Randy's cop abilities. I gave him a dead body to deal with. At this point in the book, all I knew was Randy had to be doing cop stuff (to irritate Sarah), and it had to be something that would keep him away for at least the entire night, preferably more. So I gave him a body that had absolutely no identification. I stuck it in a remote field, naked, with his face blown off. Did I know who he was? Nope. Who did it? Why they did it? Nope. Not yet. Didn't need to, not the way I write. I have chapter one on the page at this point, and I can work forward from there.

Next month, I promise to be 'on time' with my post. Again, apologies for being late!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Historical Romance the Wright Way

Writing Historical Romance the Wright Way

by Jacqueline Seewald

Historical romance is part history and part romance. It’s important to do thorough research so that the history comes alive. Your setting must be authentic. Read about how people actually lived in that era, absorbing a variety of vivid details. Also, read many historic romances set in the particular time period. Before I wrote TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, I’d read hundreds of Regency romances.

That brings me to another important point: don’t set your novel in an era unless you find it fascinating. In addition, if you can find them, it’s a good idea to read diaries of real people who lived in those times.

Good reference sources are books that describe everyday life as people actually lived it during the time period. When you write, try to avoid anachronisms, things that are out of place time-wise. Shakespeare got away with it, but none of us have his reputation!

Historical accuracy and authenticity are important. However, watch out for including too much history in your novel. You don’t want to bore your readers. Remember, this is a romance novel first and foremost. Keep your story focused on your hero and heroine. The plot line has to follow the development of their relationship.

Regarding dialog, you don’t want to use modern phrasing. Yet you don’t want to use dialog that’s stiff or stilted either. Regency romance, for instance, has its own vocabulary. You really have to become familiar with it if you plan to write one. When you name characters, try to give them names that are appropriate to the era as well. Avoid anything too modern.

I hope these suggestions prove helpful to your writing. Comments and questions are always welcome!

For an example of a sensual romance set in the Regency era, you can check out

Friday, September 24, 2010


Two weeks ago, I chaired my second writers’ conference, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2010 Colorado Gold and this week, I began working on the 2011 conference. And, I began to ask myself if I was insane.

But, I don’t think I am. I’m simply a fierce advocate for writers’ conferences (RMFW in particular) and I love to be part of the planning and implementation. For me, there is no better place to learn the craft of writing, except for critique groups.

Writers’ conferences provide the perfect environment for attending classes on craft, learning new marketing tips, and networking with other writers. Each presenter offers new insights. Each person I connect with offers the possibility of a new relationship. Mentors and role models renew my spirit. If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, I urge you to pick one and go.

If you’re a new writer or consider yourself a significant introvert, investigate conferences before you choose. Look for a small group rather than signing up immediately for a large national conference. If you have friends who attend, look at their favorite conferences so you will know someone.

If you select a group where you have no acquaintances, take the plunge and get involved. Go to any ice-breaker events or orientations and learn the details on how the conference functions and how to best meet people. Then do so. At my first conference, I was a complete wall-flower, skirting around the edges of gathering rooms, afraid to talk to anyone for fear that they might not like me or that I would say the wrong thing. Then I discovered that a simple question focused around writing (such as “what do you write?”) was an instant conversation starter. I also discovered that a lot of other writers felt just like me.

If you’ve been attending a conference for a few years and still feel isolated, offer to volunteer for a conference task. This instantly connects you with others who are working on the same project and you’ll be surprised at how fast you get to know people and form new friends. And with each new friend formed, you also gain confidence.

I’ve been attending RMFW’s Colorado Gold since 1994. I credit the organization with teaching me craft, nurturing my development, and giving me strength. As conference chair (a direct result of volunteering for some small task many years ago), I now have the responsibility for making newcomers feel welcome and for making sure there are opportunities for all attendees to learn and to build relationships.

And that makes me curious. What factors, for you, make a conference outstanding rather than just so-so? What do you look for when you’re deciding on a conference to attend? What tips the decision (cost, location, educational offerings, social events, guest speakers)? Are there conference nightmares or gotta-brag-on experiences you want to share?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS: Book Giveaway Announcement

TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS: Book Giveaway Announcement
By Jacqueline Seewald

I drew one name at random for this giveaway. It is Toni Zuma. I’ve left a note on her website, a message for her to contact me.

I want to thank everyone who provided a comment. I appreciate every single one.

Another way to read this novel for free is simply to put in a request at your local library. If they don’t have funding for new orders, they can still do an interlibrary loan. Libraries are the best bargain around!

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Author Introduction!

Hello Fellow Expression Authors and Reader Friends,

Since I am new to Five Star and Author Expressions, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you.

My name is Pamela S Thibodeaux. I am first and foremost a Christian, mother, grandmother and up until August 2009 - wife. As I embark on a new chapter in my life, I am grateful and excited to be a part of the Five Star Expression family of authors.

My debut Women's Fiction novel, The Visionary is scheduled for release through Five Star Expressions in Nov. 2011. If I had to describe The Visionary in twenty-five words or less I would say: This 75,000 word women’s fiction novel is a cross between Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love and Danielle Steele’s Malice.

Like Malice, The Visionary is a contemporary novel which deals with the issues adult survivors of child abuse encounter on their road to recovery. However, like Francine Rivers, The Visionary shows the awesome power of God to heal these most wounded of souls.

Here's the blurb.... A Visionary is someone who sees into the future,Taylor Forrestier (pronounced Foresjay) sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by Architectural Digest and Architectural Review as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disgustingly prevalent in today’s society. Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives?

Although The Visionary is my debut women's fiction novel, it is not my first publication. My 4-part Tempered Series is available in ebook & print from Com Star Media. My single title, The Inheritance as well as 6 short stories are available now through White Rose Publishing. I also write nonfiction articles, essays and devotions. I am the Co-Founder of Bayou Writers' Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana and a former member of ACFW, Golden Triangle Writers Guild, RWA, & Coeur de Louisanne.

That's my life in a nutshell, LOL! I look forward to getting to know you all much better and welcome your input.

Until later, take care, be blessed and remember...when the going gets tough, the tough go to God.

Pamela S Thibodeaux
"Inspirational with an Edge!" TM

Friday, September 17, 2010

Paper Dreams

Today, I'm sharing my blog post with mystery writer Dorien Grey. By way of introduction, if it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, writer Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

After having published thirteen books in the popular Dick Hardesty Mystery series, the western/romance/adventure novel, Calico, and the imminent publication of the third book in his new Elliott Smith Mystery series, he is busily at work on yet another Dick Hardesty mystery.

Welcome, Roger and Dorien

Books are the writer’s dreams set to paper. They are formed, as are all dreams, in the imagination. But unlike sleep dreams, the writer has some degree of control over them. If unable to direct the dream’s every aspect, at least the writer can consciously influence them by nudging them in certain directions. I know that some writers plot out every single step and detail of a story before actually sitting down to write. It works for J.K. Rowling, who has made more money from transcribing her dreams of Harry Potter into more money than I will ever see in ten lifetimes. But it would never work for me. The element of spontaneity, both in sleep dreams and writing, is far too crucial for me.

If writing can be compared to flowing water, the detailed-plotting method seems to me like one of Los Angeles’ drainage canals—straight as an arrow and contained within concrete walls. I prefer mine to be like a meandering river: I know where it’s going, but while I can see the bends coming up, I have no idea what lies beyond them. And I am always aware that I am not on the journey alone: the reader and I are Huck and Jim on the raft, flowing through the story together. I can’t imagine it being any other way.

People frequently ask where I get the ideas for my books…and even my blogs…and my answer is always the same: I quite honestly have no idea. They just appear. (If I can be allowed another metaphor here, I’ve often likened my “creative process” to be like the gas bubbles rising to the surface of a tar pit. I’ll be minding my own business, thinking of almost anything except where my next story/blog idea is going to come from, when I’ll be aware of something rising to the surface. I’ll watch while it emerges and forms a bubble of thought and finally bursts, leaving me with a topic or plot idea.) I love it!

For me to try to explain how these bubbles form and exactly how I handle them when they do appear is as impossible as explaining how we dream what we dream when we’re asleep.

All dreams are born and are nourished in the nursery of the subconscious, and there they remain until they are ready to emerge, either as a sleep dream or as a book or a painting or a sculpture or a symphony. Dreams are our humanity, and I cherish them, whatever form they take.

For a greater insight into the "real person" behind Dorien Grey, the curious are invited to check out his website ( and his various blogs: Dorien Grey and Me and A Life in Photos among them.

There is nothing Dorien loves more than hearing from a reader. If you'd like to contact him, just drop him a note at