Wednesday, February 22, 2012

And the Giveaway Winner Is...


As promised, I'm announcing the winner of a Harlequin Worldwide Mystery paperback copy of The Drowning Pool, a Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth romantic mystery novel. I really wish that
I could send each of you a copy!

However, hardcover copies of the novel are available in libraries worldwide, as well as in all ebook formats from L&L Dreamspell, and in a new paperback edition at Harlequin's online bookstore.

Without further ado, the randomly chosen winner today is: Ellis Vidler.

I'd like to thank everyone who dropped by, read my blog and took the time to comment.

As you see, I read each comment and responded. I appreciate your support!
Jacqueline Seewald

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beautiful Beginnings

by B.D. Tharp

Don’t you just love when the first page of a novel is so intriguing it grabs you and won’t let go? It doesn’t matter what genre either. I love to read books that I can’t put down. You know the ones I’m talking about…the ones you lose sleep over, the ones that replace your cooking time and force the hubby to eat cold sandwiches or cook himself.

Here’s some examples:

“Though she was careful not to show it, Madeline Singer did not fall apart when her youngest child left for college. In the Atlanta suburb where she lived, women wilted all around her. Tears fell. Antidepressants were prescribed.” ~Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax.

(Makes me glad I don’t live in her neighborhood. And I wonder why Madeline didn’t fall apart. Is she stronger than the rest of us mothers?)

“Until the drowned girl came to Laurel’s bedroom, ghosts had never walked in Victorianna. The houses were only twenty years old, with no accumulated history to put creaks in the hardwood floors or rattle in the pipes.” ~The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

(So why is there a ghost visiting Laurel? Who was the girl who drowned? Had she been “visited” by ghosts before? Why?)

“He was the only child in a house full of doubt. In bed each night, though it wasn’t dark – the floor lights his father had installed – and it wasn’t entirely private – the nursery monitor both parents refused to give up – he rehearsed the things he was certain of, using his fingers to number them. He was just a little boy, but he wouldn’t allow himself to sleep until he’d gone through both hands twice.” ~The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

(Who is this lonely child? Why are his parents so protective? Did he have nightmares? Was he ill? What had happened to make the house full of doubt?)

See what I mean? Each one introduces the first character very quickly and some sort of tension or question that touches them. All of them have the reader wondering “why” and “what will happen next”. Most people enjoy finding the answers a little piece of the puzzle at a time. No data dumps, please. Let them discover crumbs that will lead them down the path to the truth in the story, or the lie, of course.

Make your beginning important, something that can’t be skimmed or skipped. “Hook” the reader and reel them into the story and they’ll be happy to follow your line to the end.

Write on, my friends.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Originate Ideas for Writing

How to Originate Ideas for Writing
By Jacqueline Seewald

I am often asked this question by readers: where do you get the ideas for your novels? I answer this question by saying I don’t just sit at my computer all day and pull ideas out of thin air. The ideas originate from living life as fully as possible. I am interested in the people and places around me. I pay attention. I observe with all of my senses. Reality gets mixed with imagination in my writing.
Writers are people, many of whom live interesting and unusual lives. Some of us tend to find the unusual in the ordinary. It all plays a part in what writers ultimately designate as “fiction.”
I am also a voracious reader as are many other authors. I read a great variety of books, magazines and newspapers. I read both fiction and nonfiction. Reading stirs imagination.
So what typically inspires a novel? What sparks a book series? With the Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth series (THE INFERNO COLLECTION, THE DROWNING POOL, THE TRUTH SLEUTH) the idea started with a lecture given at a symposium for grad students in the library science program at Rutgers University. A Princeton professor/librarian was lecturing on the subject of inferno collections. I was totally fascinated and decided to do some research on the subject on my own. I thought this would be an interesting frame for a mystery novel. THE INFERNO COLLECTION, initially published in hardcover and then large print, was the result. The novel is available in libraries all over the world, also available in all e-book formats: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Overdrive, etc.

When a reader/reviewer of my novel asked if inferno collections actually exist, I responded that not only did they exist in the past but still exist in more sophisticated and subtle forms today.
I am not saying that we should anticipate a burning of the vanities as with Savonarola's followers in the past, nor do I believe as in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, that the firemen of the future will feel compelled to burn and destroy books.
It is a fact, however, that librarians have viewed themselves as gatekeepers. For example, libraries such as Boston Public at one time found it necessary to maintain separate inferno collections of banned books considered inappropriate for general public display and reading. Often these were books deemed salacious such as James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Did narrow attitudes end with the Victorian era’s sensibilities and prejudices? Apparently not. In the 1950’s, Senator Joseph McCarthy instigated one of the most notorious waves of censorship the nation has ever experienced. Because of McCarthy’s ‘Red Scare’, classics like Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which encouraged men to peacefully protest unjust laws, was pulled from the shelves of the State Department’s overseas libraries. It was one of more than 300 titles McCarthy had banned or burned.
J.D. Salinger's 1951 classic coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has been the object of challenges nationwide for decades because of its language, references to violence and sexual content. According to the American Library Association, the book was the 13th most frequently challenged book in the country's school systems from 1990 to 2000.
In 2005, the Metropolitan Library Commission of Oklahoma City overruled recommendations made by library staff and established a special collection of children’s books with gay themes. The collection would be accessible only to adults. The Oklahoma debate began when a state representative worried that children would have access to books about gay marriage and sponsored a resolution to segregate all library books with gay and/or adult themes.
The list of “condemned” banned or censored books boggles the mind. It is not only governments and libraries that have chosen to ban books found objectionable for various reasons. Materials are often deemed unacceptable for political or religious reasons or are considered profane, pornographic or sexually too explicit for youth. Publishers and booksellers make these decisions and determinations as well. The advent of e-book self-publishing has tipped the balance in that regard.
It is well to keep in mind that good books often stir controversy. They are designed to question and make people think. That is not something to fear or repress but rather to admire and respect. As Voltaire, author of the banned satire Candide, once stated: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Today the internet is a largely unrestricted location to find information, including the subject of banned book collections. As to inferno collections, are they a thing of the past? Knowing human nature, it’s doubtful.
As a reader and/or writer, what trends do you find interesting in publishing? Do you see banned books as a thing of the past? What ideas or information inspire you to write?
What inspires you to write or want to write? What do you enjoy reading? Your thoughts and opinions valued here in this forum for open discussion!

Note: To celebrate the February 2012 large print edition of THE TRUTH SLEUTH from Kennebec, division of Thorndike Press, as well as the February 2012 paperback edition of THE DROWNING POOL from Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, I am offering a paperback copy of The Drowning Pool to a commenter. Leave an e-mail or web address if interested. Winner will be drawn at random and announced next week in Author Expressions.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Closing the Circle

Three weeks in India is barely enough time for me to get settled, unpack and get in touch with friends, but that was all I had. It was easy for me to do nothing but read, write, visit with friends, and think about where to have lunch or dinner. But I had one other task to attend to.

For over thirty-years I had the friendship of a woman who worked for me and my husband when we first lived there, and in her later years we became her main support, since she was by now a widow as well as childless. Being old and poor in India is not a good prospect, and although Lakshmee worked into her eighties in various capacities (selling wood which she stored in her house), she clearly was in decline. She died in September after an operation for a badly broken leg.

I knew this through emails, and sent money when asked and followed her medical care as well as one can from the other side of the world. When I arrived in India, I went to see one of her former employers who had been helping in her care and passing along information to me. To my surprise, Lakshmee had left something for me with one of her doctors.

The Triveni Nursing Home is an ayurvedic hospital where Lakshmee often went when she felt unwell, or, in my view, lonely and sad, and they always took her in, even if she showed no signs of having any money. I had told them I would cover her costs and they never seemed to worry about it. When I went to visit them in January, Lakshmee’s doctor informed me that she had left her puja items for me. I promised to return to pick them up the following week because the doctor’s maidservant was cleaning them (those wails of pain you hear are antiques dealers groaning across the country).

When I first met Lakshmee she was a complete surprise—someone who opened up doors to another world, a world that a colleague once told me was often unavailable to others. And at the end she was a surprise too. The puja items weren’t the usual ones I had seen her use—the steel water pots, the little lamps, the wooden incense holders. These were heavy bronze pieces that must have belonged to her parents—a heavy oil lamp and a water pot, and a small incense holder and oil votive lamp. A friend looked them over and told me which ones were the oldest and how I could tell.

I brought them back and they now sit in my library. I don’t recall ever seeing Lakshmee use them, and it may be that at one point she realized they were too valuable to have around for anyone to see; she had only a padlock on her front door, and had been robbed at least once. She was cautious with things that mattered to her, and she put away her puja items. And now I have them, an unexpected gift from someone who gave me so many over the years.

Lakshmee was, in the slang of the moment, the real deal, a traditional Nayar lady for whom the traditional culture was still more real that the modern world, and certainly made more sense. She had a clear and strong personality, and not surprisingly she shows up in some of my favorite and most vivid characters in the Anita Ray series. You’ll meet her in the next Anita Ray, coming in June 2012. If you want to know what Lakshmee was like, look for Gauri in The Wrath of Shiva. She turns the plot upside down, and then rescues it.