Friday, October 25, 2013

Cover Artist/Author Interview

When Book Three of The Maine Shore Chronicles, my Five Star hard cover trilogy, needed a new cover for eBook publication, I decided to ask cover artist, Patty Henderson to design it as a Boxed Set for the series. You can see the tiny covers she had already designed for the first two books on spines of the boxed set.
I was so comfortable in the working process of these covers I decided to let other authors know about this talented woman via: 
An Interview with Cover Designer / Author Patty Henderson
  by  Mary F. Schoenecker 

Question: Did your career start as an author or a book cover artist? 

I have often been asked how I got to be an author and a book cover artist as well.  I began to write in the 1960’s. I loved comic books and decided I would do a “treatment” for DCComics for a new comic book hero. I wrote the entire back story and a new comic book featuring my new superhero. I even did an amateurish drawing to go with it. I remember it being a supernatural type hero that used a pendant for his power focus. Needless to say, I did not become a successful comic book artist or writer. 

Question: Other than comic books, what inspired your writing?

I discovered Edgar Allen Poe. The love for Poe’s work led me to write short stories in the supernatural mystery vein. My short stories were published in fanzines of the 70’s. Life intervened and I stopped writing until I could no longer contain my inspiration to write a novel. 

Question: When did you write your first novel and was it a similar genre theme?

In 1995 I wrote my first vampire novel, but my bigger success came with the Brenda Strange Supernatural Mystery series. The first book, THE BURNING OF HER SIN was published in 2002 by Barclay Books. That was quickly followed by the second, third and fourth books in the series, TANGLED AND DARK, THE MISSING PAGE and XIMORA. 

Question: How can readers get your books?

All my books are available as Kindle eBooks and trade paperbacks at and ePub eBooks at Barnes and Noble.

Question: Can you tell us how you got started with Cover Designing ?

I learned how to draw from my father. That eventually led to working fourteen years in a photographic studio where I honed my skills as a digital artist with Photoshop, learning to  create art using the computer. Once the studio closed shop and I found myself without a job, I made the decision to freelance on my own and began creating custom book covers for small publishers and independent authors. 

Question: Will you share a little about the creative  process of Cover Art and Design?

Creating book covers  isn’t just choosing a photograph or artwork from a royalty-free site and getting creative with it. As an artist I use the painting and blending and other tools in Photoshop, combined with artistic elements such as backgrounds and textures to create a cover that is like a digital painting. Sometimes I incorporate up to five or six images and/or textures to create one book cover. 

Question: Is their much interaction between the author and you the designer?

Yes. I feel blessed that I can work with authors  to help them create the vision they want for their books. As an author myself, I bring the added recognition of how important a book cover can be and how to help the author bring out the right imagery to create impact for their book via the right book cover. It is a win win for both author and artist, and much reward and satisfaction for me.
I’m always excited to meet new authors who need book covers and I invite you to check out my graphic art web site, Boulevard Photographica, the name of my graphic freelance work. I will work with any author and/or publisher in creating the book cover you have dreamed of. 

Author web site:





Monday, October 21, 2013

Keeping an open mind...

Gee, E.T. did it, why can't I?
One of the things I enjoy about writing and reading is the ability to suspend disbelief. If a story can do that for the reader successfully then the author has done a good job. The pictures that have been painted with their words must be vivid and "realistic." Ah, so you ask, what about fantasy or paranormal? Vampires? Werewolves? Aliens?

Good questions. Some readers don't like those genre's, but I challenge authors out there to write a really great story so that even the "non-fantasy" type reader will enjoy it. How? You build a world that seems absolutely realistic or so intriguing that the reader wants to visit it. You create characters that are 3-dimensional and interesting. You sprinkle in some tension that everyone or anyone can relate to - good vs evil; family dynamics; growing up; discovering self; survival - whatever it may be and make the reader see that even vampires want loving. Even evil characters had parents and maybe their home life was really bad, so they took the easy way to deal with life. The dark side, for those Star Wars folks out there. Doing what is right or good, isn't always the easy path, right?

I'm a very visual person with an active imagination, that's why I love stories, movies, plays - all forms of story telling. I want to "feel" what the characters feel, whether it's joy, sadness, confusion - I want to be a part of the story. That makes a good writer - as well as a good story - if the reader sees it and feels it with every page.

I read all types of genres and the ones I've truly love had the most vivid worlds and characters. Look at The Lord of the Rings. I mean, Hobbits - come on?! And Star Wars Jabba the Hut, what ugly slug is going to be head of the galactic mob? Did I love these characters that pushed the envelope of what is "real" and what is "fantasy"? Absolutely. It's what makes the stories so interesting - the melding of what is and what could be - here or in a galaxy far, far away.

Cowboys & Aliens
Have you ever read a Louis L'Amour western? Oh Man. He transports me back to the days of six guns and wild Indians. I love them. And there's always a reluctant hero, a fair damsel, and something bad that happens. Throw in some historical references and I'm hooked! Coupled with the fact that Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck will always be two of my favorite Sacketts, what's not to like?

Some of my favorite authors write about the south and make me smell Jasmine and Honeysuckle, and feel the humidity in the air. They make me want to visit Tybee or Sullivan's Island and take a tour of the low-country. Do you know who I'm talking about? Dorothea Benton Frank, C. Hope Clark, Fern Michaels, Pat Conroy - there's a bunch of them. Give them a try.

My point is that I recommend stepping out of your "comfort genre" and explore the possibilities. There are a plethora of authors out there who present their stories with flare and touch our hearts. Keep an open mind. Try new things. And if you find something you like, write a review for the next reader to find your new discovery. 

Oh, and writers - this applies to you as well. If you've always written mysteries but you have a burning desire to write a children's novel - go for it. And, enjoy the journey!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Interview with Author Maggie Toussaint by Jacqueline Seewald

Formerly a contract scientist for the U.S. Army and currently a freelance reporter, Southern author Maggie Toussaint has ten published books. Maggie lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows. Yoga, beachcombing, and music are a few of her favorite things. You can visit her at

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

Answer:  My latest release is Dime If I Know, and it’s a cozy mystery from Five Star/Cengage. My amateur sleuth, Cleopatra Jones, is an accountant, so each book has money in the title. Book 1 was In for a Penny. Book 2 was On the Nickel. Since Book 3 in the series is about doubts, I liked the play on words of Dime If I Know.

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

Answer:  To ramp up the stakes in my series, I make sure that the person charged with committing a crime is someone close to Cleo. In the first book, the spotlight was on her best friend. Book 2 put her mother in the cop’s crosshairs.

Throughout the series, Cleo struggles with not being part of a couple and with living in the moment. Now that she’s been dating Rafe for several months, she longs for a more lasting commitment. Shining the limelight on her boyfriend in Dime forces her to look at what she wants and makes her realize how little she knows about the man she’s in love with.

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

Answer:  Cleo is a divorced mother of active teenage daughters. She also rides herd on her free-spirited mother who lives under her roof. Her loyalty runs bone deep. Most nights she shares her bed with a Saint Bernard she inherited from the victim in the first book, but she’d rather share it with Rafe. Cleo’s the kind of person that likes problems solved and neatly filed away. Trouble is, her life is messy and a little broken. Her ex has seen the light and wants her back, but she’s having none of that. Her affection lies in the direction of the sexy golf pro, Rafe Golden.

Rafe is an enigma to Cleo. He doesn’t want to be tied down, though he is keenly interested in his hot affair with Cleo. In Dime, the reasons for his behaviors come out, and they aren’t pretty. His estrangement from his family drives Cleo crazy. She can’t imagine not being surrounded by family. As an aside, Rafe looks like a young Ernie Els, who is a professional golfer. Be still my heart.

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

Answer:  In addition to writing mysteries, I also publish romantic suspense novels. Hot Water is my latest romantic suspense, and it’s the story of Laurie Ann the cop and Wyatt North the arson investigator. Together they chase a serial arsonist around South Georgia, hoping to stop him before he kills again. On Amazon, Hot Water is highly rated at 4.7 stars out of 5, with a total of 37 reviews.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m editing the sequel to Hot Water right now: Rough Waters. It’s another romantic suspense set in the small coastal town of Mossy Bog, featuring a florist and a shipwreck hunter searching for stolen gold sovereigns.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:  I’ve had a lifelong affair with stories and the written word. My earliest memories are of sitting around and listening to family members share stories, and, oh, the places I could go in books! After college, career, marriage, and children, I decided to try my hand at writing a book. It was much harder than I thought it would be! Many years later, I was lucky enough to land two book contracts within a three-month span.

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

Answer:  Don’t hold back. Write at “wide open” all the time. Write about people and places and issues you care about. Do your best every time you sit down to write. Learn the craft of writing and the business of writing. Develop thick skin. Rejection is an occupational hazard for writers at all levels of this business.

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

Answer: Dime If I Know is available in hardcover right now from most online bookstores. Sometime in early 2014, it should release in digital format. Hardcover at Amazon: and at Barnes and Noble

Thanks, Maggie, for a great interview! Readers, leave comments for Maggie and she will respond.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Horror Fiction: Not Just for Halloween! by Jacqueline Seewald

The horror genre of fiction continues to fascinate readers. Why do readers love what terrifies them? It appears that vampires  never die. Zombies can be found in movie theatres, TV shows, commercials, books, and short stories. In the month of October, three of my own speculative short stories, combining horror and mystery, are being published in new anthologies.  They are:

Between There, Vol 2

Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories

Dying to Live: Stories of the Undead

When people talk about horror fiction, they might let out an involuntary shudder. However, horror fiction isn’t just about the gruesome. It’s not only about such supernatural creations as: ghosts, goblins, ghouls, gremlins, etc. No, it’s really about what we fear, what we dread most, what strikes terror into our hearts and souls. These things may be ordinary, like a pit bull off the leash running toward us, or extraordinary, like meeting a vampire in a neighborhood bar at midnight. Our fears are both usual and unusual.

Horror fiction will not be going away any time soon because it is human nature to feel fear as an emotion. Horror fiction helps us handle these feelings, helps us cope with and confront our terrors, those within us and those in the environment around us. Writers like Stephen King and Dean Koontz have recognized this. They reach into their worst fears and nightmares to help us come to terms with our own.

In my co-authored novel, THE THIRD: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY, a boy and his mother, writing alternating viewpoint chapters, come to terms with their own greatest fears while solving several murders. The novel’s setting is real but eerie. Legends of the Jersey Devil prevail. Fans of both mystery and horror will relate to this novel. You can check out some of the reviews on Amazon:

or Goodreads:

What frightens you? What sort of horror story would you read? Drop by and leave a comment. Include an e-mail address if you wish to be entered to win a copy of THE THIRD EYE—or simply place a request for the novel at your local library.

Happy hauntings!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Goodreads and the New Policies

The change in the publishing world has pushed writers and readers onto the Internet faster than the offer of a free trip to the Bahamas, but we have adopted the new way of life without thinking much about it except how to manage the technology. Goodreads has recently stepped in to tighten up its policies, deleting reviews it deems unsuitable and shelves in a reviewer’s page, and Amazon is deleting certain books in a certain category (hint: think porn).

All this change has some readers and reviewers reacting loudly and angrily because they have come to regard these sites as public spaces where individual rights applh. The reactions are to (1) Goodreads making the changes without announcing them directly to all members of GR and (2) deletion of reviews and shelves without an explanation first.

I understand the emotional reactions from reviewers who have lost reviews without warning. Some have put time and effort into their reviews, stating clearly what they dislike and why. They take reviewing very seriously, and strive to present a thorough understanding of the book under review. But I also understand the decision of GR to delete the negative reviews. Writers who have received mean-spirited reviews that seem to attack the writer for writing rather than discussing the book have had no recourse to this kind of cyber bullying and will be relieved at the new policies.

The truth is, most reviews now are written by people who have little or no experience in the world of journalism; they are not professionals, trained and vetted by any independent organization. As reviewers, many do no more than react. They do not think first and write second. They do not give time or thought to why they dislike a particular book. And they blur the line between disliking the book and disliking the author. Personal feelings about the writer have no place in a review, and shouldn’t motivate a negative review either. A review is supposed to be about the book, to guide readers who are interested in finding books that will be entertaining, interesting, and rewarding in insight and experience as well as within the type they most prefer.

We have become a nation of individuals with short attention spans. The book that requires the reader to “dawdle” through the first chapter to get to know characters and ways of seeing the world is sure to get a negative review. A book with a terse style that is meant to mimic a particular group of people will certainly turn off some readers. But many readers are not going to understand that the fault, to paraphrase Shakespeare inventing a quote by Caesar, “is not in the stars but in ourselves,” that we are untrained readers telling the world what we dislike.

Reviews of self-published books are useful as feedback from unsolicited beta readers, and negative reviews of commercially published books can also be useful. But reviews that are snide and mean are of no use to anyone. They are often a brief one or two lines, which suggests that the reviewer didn’t read the whole book, didn’t begin reading with a willingness to give the book a fair hearing, and didn’t try to understand how the book fit in the genre or contributed to the topic. If you only enjoy modern spy thrillers, why are you reading for review a romance novel set in nineteenth century France?

The controversy will continue, and the new gatekeepers, Goodreads and Amazon among others, will have to continue making decisions about what will be allowable on their sites. Some people will agree with their decisions and others will not. But all of us will learn more about the kinds of people who are out in the world looking for an opportunity to tell the world what they think.

If you are interested in the discussion on GR, go

And if you are interested in the policy statements, go

and for the update on the policy statements go