Friday, October 26, 2012

"Oh For A Muse"



In modern times a muse is sometimes a metaphorical source of an artist or writer’s inspiration. A definition of a muse’s job which I like is: To penetrate the artist and bring forth a work from the womb of his mind. Pretty profound, you might say, but often that is what my muse does.

In Greek mythology the daughters of Zeus were all muses. They were spirits of the Goddesses who inspired the arts and literature.

William Shakespeare mentions a muse in Act 1, the Prologue of Henry V, The Chorus:

Oh for a muse of fire that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A Kingdom for a stage, princess to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

I have an extraordinary muse; she speaks to me in emails and sometimes over the phone.
At times she prods, encourages, suggests, and sometimes says ‘ No, this doesn’t work for me.’

My muse is my niece, Carylee. Once a teacher like myself, if I send her a scene which focuses on a minor character’s action, she might return it and ask: ‘What would her mother think about that? I’d like to hear her mother’s reaction in the character’s internal thoughts.”

Or she might write ‘Good Girl! I liked the tweaking in this chapter. It needed to be longer.’

In my current work in progress she has suggested I use a letter to convey the character’s intent when it would have been too difficult for the character to speak about a difficult topic. She knows I like to write letters. Epistolary novels was one of my earlier blogs.

Carylee is often like an editor because she checks the mechanics of scenes I send her, and that’s fine with me. I need all the help I can get!  To use an overworked cliché, Two heads are better than one.

Presently I’m finishing a final book of my series and I need all the time available to do that. Consequently, this blog must be a short one.

 Think about muses, dear friends. My wishes for fellow writers are that you may all find a magical, marvelous muse who will help your writing succeed! I certainly did.










Friday, October 19, 2012

Interview with Mystery Writer Dorothy Francis by Jacqueline Seewald

Note: the winner of a copy of my novel DEATH LEGACY was selected and the book was mailed. Thank all of you for leaving such thoughtful comments on the blog. For those who did not win, the novel can be requested at hundreds of local libraries. I also plan to do more book giveaways.

And now let me introduce our guest author, veteran writer Dorothy Francis, whose novels are already well-known to many readers. Dorothy’s latest novel and my own Death Legacy were published by Five Star/Gale at the same time, and so I feel a special kinship.

Question: Dorothy, what is the title and genre of your latest novel? 

Answer:    DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER is the title of my latest cozy mystery novel.  I like cozy novels because they have few four-letter words.  The word daiquiri came from research that told me the drink, daiquiri, was invented in Cuba and that a beach there is named after the drink.  For some reason that fascinated me.

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

Answer: When my husband and I started spending winters in the Florida Keys, I felt as if I might have been born there in another life.  Much of my research came from looking out my window.  I started with a heroine who wanted to write a novel and life overtook her while she was making other plans.  The strong Cuban influence drew me to write about Cuban characters.  I'd never known people like these before.  They picked our coconuts (with our permission) and they searched the sea bottom for sponges.  And they ran for prestigious offices in city government.

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

Answer:     Herione Rafa Blue grew up in a family that owned a luxury hotel in paradise (the local name for Key West.)  As a young girl she ran away from home to Miami and fell in with 'evil companions.'  She lived in the islands with a grandmother until the scandal died down.  She went abroad to college, returned to Key West to work as a columnist for the local newspaper where she met and fell in love with a shrimper living on his shrimp boat.  She wouldn't tell him she loved him until she revealed her runaway scandal, fearing he would leave her.  You'll have to read DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER to learn what happened to her and who murdered her Cuban friend and also threatened her life.

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

Answer:  DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER is the 6th book in my Key West Mystery series.  The first 5 have Key West settings with various characters.  In Key West there are a lot of characters to choose from.  The first 4 of these novels (CONCH SHELL MURDER,  PIER PRESSURE, COLD CASE KILLER, and EDEN PALMS MURDER)  can be found on Amazon/Kindle books. 
 Before writing this series, I wrote children's novels because I loved to read as a child and wanted to please other children.  I have a total of around 75 published books--both adult and juvenile, most fiction with a few nonfiction

(Seventy-five published books! Dorothy, that’s quite an accomplishment!)

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I'm thinking about a new mystery novel, perhaps with a Midwest setting.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I graduated from University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in music and a major in trumpet.  I worked for a while playing in a women's traveling dance band.  Then I got a job teaching middle grade music in Orange County, California.  After that I was married, and began raising a family. Being a stay-at-home mom, I began learning to write, to submit my work to publishers, and to sign contracts for short stories and books.

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

Answer:  Write.  Write.  Write.  Read.  Read.  Read.  And don't give up your day job.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to find DAIQUIRI DOCK MURDER?

Answer:  It can be found in bookstores wherever fine books are sold, in public libraries, or on Amazon and B&N. For more information about my writing, see my website at 

Thank you for letting me appear on your blog.

My pleasure, Dorothy!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Have you noticed how many really cool bookmarks are out there? I really love bookmarks and I've got a very unique collection of them. I have the usual cardboard ones we all produce with our book covers - they are nice. But I've also got some metal ones with positive expressions about life, reading, or even dreams. And we all know that writing and reading is all about dreams. 
(The bookmarks on the left are samples from

I really enjoy the magnetic bookmarks and the elastic ones, too. I have book thongs with cool beads on the ends that are like book jewelry. I've accumulated this collection over time, but I remember turning down corners, using receipts, boarding passes, ribbons, or a piece of yarn, whatever was available in my purse. I have crocheted bookmarks that friends have made me, which I dearly love. 
 (I love this bookmark, complements of

Bookmarks have evolved, too. All our favorite "places" on the internet can be bookmarked on our computer for ease of finding them later. So, when you Google "bookmark" now you get all kinds of interesting links.

Here's some interesting quotes about bookmarks (
  • 'Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?' Steven Spielberg  
(Sorry Steven, but most bookmarks cost more than a buck these days.)
  • 'Deep in a story, suddenly you turn a page and find the marker nagging at your curiosity, like a message in a bottle from a forgotten traveler.' Nancy Campbell
  • "The choice of a bookmark is a matter of personal taste and civilisation. Show me your bookmark and I will tell you who you are!" - Georg Hartong       

(These crocheted bookmarks are from Ami's craftwork
There are even web sites that show you have to make your own bookmarks.

There is a whole history of bookmarks out there. Some say the need for a bookmark led to the creation of the Post-it-note.  

When I started this blog I didn't realize how much fun it was going to be. Enjoy your bookmarks everybody! What is your favorite bookmark?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crossing Genres: Does It Work? By Jacqueline Seewald

There seems to be some confusion as to whether romantic mystery and romantic suspense are the same genre of fiction.  In fact, they are not. My mystery novel THE TRUTH SLEUTH published in hardcover and large print, for example, is a romantic mystery not romantic suspense. It’s the third Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth mystery novel in a series, the first two being THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL (now both available in e-book formats as well as paperback and hardcover).
In romantic suspense, the mystery is secondary to the romance. Plot focus is always on the romance while the mystery mostly offers a plot device, usually ways to bring the hero and heroine closer together. In a romantic mystery, the love interest is secondary. The mystery and finding its solution is the key plot factor. The romantic aspect usually serves to provide added depth to the main character(s) and make them more real to the reader.

In romantic suspense there is always a happy ending with the couple united at the end in the love of their lives. In romantic mystery novels, which are often part of a series like mine, that is not necessarily the case--although it can be. Also in a romantic mystery series the main protagonists are more like real people with their lives changing and their character developing and evolving. Ideally, these novels are not static. That is one reason a romantic mystery series can grow in popularity and recognition.
 But what of a novel that crosses genres? Can it succeed? Reviewers as well as readers are often confused when authors move away from pigeon-holed tried and true formulas for genre novels and experiment. In my current novel, DEATH LEGACY, I’ve written a romantic suspense mystery thriller, a fast-paced novel full of exciting action, based loosely on an actual spy case. Can such a novel work? Reviews from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST among others indicate that it can. The reviews have been excellent.

As a reader, I enjoy many types of genres, crossed and otherwise. As a writer, I like to experiment. I’m grateful that my work has been published and critically well-received. Now all I need is lots of readers like you!

To celebrate the new large print edition of DEATH LEGACY which can be requested at libraries everywhere, I’m offering an a.r.c., a  print trade size copy of the novel, to someone chosen at random. So please leave an e-mail address where you can be reached along with your comment.

Now back to the original question: does crossed genre fiction work for you? Why or why not?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Permission to Read

A few nights ago over chicken cacciatore, salad, and home-made bread, a woman asked the rest of us when we found time to read. Only two of the eight women still worked, but all of us had numerous interests that took time and energy throughout the week. The question captured the attention of every one of us. We all love to read, and we all bemoan the lack of time for this activity. The solutions were many, and the best one was to give yourself time to read in the middle of the day, when you think you should be doing something else.

Long after the evening was over, I found myself still thinking about the idea of not having enough time. I love to read. I have loved to read since I was a small child, and this passion for books survived my parents' attempts to get me to read so-called worthwhile books, serious books, or anything else but what caught my fancy at the time. I was equally in love with fiction and nonfiction, and I was equally curious about what other people read. You would think that with such a long history of loving books and ideas and reading that I would always find time to read. Everything that I have said about myself could be said about the other women at the dinner table that evening. How is it that we choose to deprive ourselves of something that gives us enormous pleasure and is probably good for us too?

The trouble with reading in the middle of the day is it challenges the basic principle of a good Protestant upbringing--you should be doing something useful during the day, and into the evening too. Oh, those Puritans! They have a lot to answer for. Fortunately, reading has progressed from being a questionable activity that could corrupt undeveloped minds to being the experience by which minds are developed. And now entertained.

My husband and I lived in Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s. One of our favorite pastimes was dropping in at Whodunit Bookstore, which was as well known for its window displays of corpses and ghouls as it was for its wide selection of crime fiction. During our first visit the owner struck up a conversation on the kinds of books we liked, and the conversation continued with another customer. The customer and I shared likes and dislikes, interests and questions, and did what any self-respecting mystery readers do--shared recommendations for writers and their best titles. I have never found conversation more natural, more spontaneous, and more interesting than when I start talking to another reader in a mystery bookstore.

The eight of us at dinner on Monday evening moved quickly from finding time to read to what we were reading, sharing titles and likes and dislikes. Reading may be a solitary experience, one that is tucked into the hour before bed, the early morning while the bath is running, on the subway on the way to work, or during the lunch hour. Or it may be the luxury of a mid afternoon break from what we "should" be doing. But despite the solitary experience, reading is the key to community, to connecting to other people and other ways of thinking, to a way of growing beyond one's own personal experience.

We didn't answer the question of why we feel we shouldn't read in the middle of the day, but we did agree that we should give ourselves permission to do so. And that's what I'm going to do right now. On this rainy Thursday afternoon, I'm going to curl up with A Good American, by Alex George, and then start the next Kate Atkinson mystery. And through it all I will ignore the little voice inherited from my ancestors that hints that maybe, just maybe, I should be cleaning out the refrigerator or vacuuming or painting the hallway. I can read in the middle of the day.

Do you have a favorite time to read? Do you ever read in the middle of the day?