Friday, March 27, 2015

short and sweet

I have joined a multitude of writing friends who have decided to self publish this last book I have written. It is not part of my back list from Five Star/Cengage, but it is being published by CreateSpace as a paperback.  I may publish it electronically later, but for now I  like the paperback approach for SAFE HARBOR.

 I am in the process of editing the proof of Safe Harbor. Self editing page by page is time consuming, therefore this post must be "short and sweet".

Safe Harbor is a tale of guilt, redemption and romance. Most importantly it is TANTE MARGARET'S story, one which  was asked for by my readers of the  Maine Shore Chronicles series.

Tante Margaret was quoted by a reviewer as "A thoroughly lovable clairvoyant, a literary gem". I will hopefully announce her debut in April. In the meantime , check out the price change on B& N and Amazon for my books. You will see The Red Cockade there.

Friday, March 20, 2015

De J'ai the Bozone...

The Google translation for the well used French phrase "de j'ai vu" is literally "from I've seen." Grammar doesn't translate well in French, or many other languages for that matter. My day job is communications for a global company and seeing French, German, Portuguese or Spanish translated into English can do a real number on grammar.

We used to use that phrase a lot in the '70's, back when I was trying to impress my hippie friends. It's probably not as cool to use it now, but many people still do and they aren't all aging hippies.

Actually, it would probably be more correct to use:

de ce que je ai vu (from what I've seen) 
Je ai vu ├ža avant (I've seen this before)

My French isn't all that good yet, but I think it's interesting how people will take a common phrase and change it to suit them. 

"Cool", meant "good", and no longer just referred to the temperature. After a while the term "Bad" came to mean "good", as well. What's wrong with just saying something is "good"? It's not zippy enough - we need to use "awesome" or "fly" or "chill" or some other strange morphing of language. 

Do you remember "Sniglets"? I loved sniglets, words that weren't in the dictionary but should've been. Morphing of two words to describe something. Nonsense words for totally comic value, and the '80s public loved them. Here's a couple of examples:
  • profanitype, the special symbols and stars used by cartoonists to replace swear words (*^&#...)
  • pupkus, the moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it (my personal fave)
  • askhole (someone who asks very annoying questions)
  • bozone (the layer of air surrounding a stupid person)
You get the idea. It was fun. It was funny. It made an even bigger mess of the English language. 

As writers we enjoy the use of words and generally get irritated at the miss use of them. You've heard the term "Grammar Nazi"? I'm not one of those, because I face translations or writing from non English (as their first language) speakers every day and sometimes have to puzzle out what they really want to say. It can be challenging to make their messages completely understood. We writers want our words to tell a story, convey a feeling, entertain, frighten, but most of all - we want to express ourselves.

One of my favorite quotes is from James Michener, who says: "Writing, I love the swing and swirl of words as they tangle with human emotions." 

Nice, isn't it? Enjoy the journey my writing friends, and don't be afraid to have some fun doing it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

LUCK AND LITERATURE by Jacqueline Seewald

We’ve had a Friday the Thirteenth two months in a row. Traditional superstitious belief holds that this day bodes bad luck. Then there’s the Ides of March soon to come on the 15th and 16th of this month. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the emperor is warned to “Beware the Ides of March” by the Soothsayer. Julius, not being a superstitious sort of guy and believing the guff about his immortality, sneers and refers to the Soothsayer as “a dreamer.” Not Caesar’s wisest decision.

 It will also soon be St. Patrick’s Day which supposedly brings good luck and fortune. People do at times have lucky things happen to them and at other times suffer misfortunes like ill health, accidents or assaults. However, we authors tend to believe that for the most part we make our own luck.

According to Napoleon: “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.” I apply that statement to authors. We get lucky with our work when we have done adequate preparation—that translates to being well-read, rewriting, and editing until we’ve created something of value and quality. If we’re too lazy or too full of ourselves to make this kind of effort and commitment then alas we’ll never “get lucky.”

Luck is often a theme in literature. For example, Thomas Hardy created characters that were unlucky like Tess or Jude. Yet it could be argued that their bad luck came as a direct result of fatal flaws in their own characters. This is where tragedy derives from. Things don’t just happen. There is a cause and effect relationship.

In my own mystery novel THE BAD WIFE, for instance, police lieutenant Mike Gardener uses poor judgment in declaring publicly to Kim Reynolds, the reluctant sleuth of the series, that he might have to kill his wife.


In THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, the protagonist has to make a difficult decision. Danna initially appears to be a loser, an unpopular girl, who becomes very lucky—or does she? Should she sell her soul to the devil for earthly benefits or choose the straight path? Choice, exercising free will, is very much part of the Western tradition in literature.


I admire protagonists with positive values who make their own good luck and overcome obstacles through personal effort, not bemoaning their fate or bad luck. To quote Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar again, as Cassius observes: “Our fate, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

Your comments welcome!

Friday, March 6, 2015

What the Well-Dressed Character Will Wear, by Susan Oleksiw

A standard technique to introduce a new character is to provide a physical description--height, weight, hair color--with one unique feature, perhaps a broken nose or uneven shoulders. This is the easy part, but it is hardly enough if we want the reader to get a sense of how this person sees himself or herself in the world. We need to know more, and writers may progress to how the person shakes hands or drives a car. I include clothing in the details that have the potential for making a character vivid.

During a recent visit to a local mall, I found a spot where I could watch the shoppers and other people watchers. I spotted the senior citizens taking their daily walk, the young mothers with kids in tow, eager to get out of the house even if it meant carting half the neighborhood with them to the play room, and shoppers looking for--and finding--bargains. None of these individuals is real to you now reading this because I haven't given any remarkable detail. You don't know what they look like or how they behave.

Most of the characters who populate my fiction appear fully formed--I know what they look like and how they behave and what they believe. But I also want to know what they are wearing. Whatever the reason, I have to think harder about my characters' outfits. The only exception is Anita Ray, most recently in For the Love of Parvati. I understand her wardrobe well. She wears a full sari, a two-piece Kerala sari, or a salwar khameez set. Sometimes she wears western clothes--slacks and a khurta. In her case I only have to think about colors and patterns.

Western characters are more of a challenge. I am so used to seeing people wearing jeans and jerseys that I have to remind myself that there are other options. I find some of these at the mall or in restaurants or movie theaters. An especially good site for searching out wardrobe possibilities is the train station. I don't mind waiting for the less-regular train service leaving North Station in Boston because I take the time to study the outfits of professional women. They are varied and sometimes surprising.

Women have a far wider range in clothing now than in years past, and I have a few favorites. Many women still wear business suits, particularly those raised in traditional families determined to maintain hard-won family status. Deanie Silva, in Last Call for Justice, would only wear the most expensive but slightly conservative clothes. But her nieces would wear anything but. 

For the younger age group, which includes Jenny, Chief of Police Joe Silva's stepdaughter, I especially like the silk blouses with jeans, the black leather boots with flowery cotton dresses, the leggings on stick-thin legs with layers of tops, the leggings and long flowing skirts with cowboy shirts. Thought it's not for Sarah Souza, one of Joe's nieces, I have admired the white silk slip, with lace, worn underneath a red sweater embroidered with flowers. I can't say I have admired the combat boots worn with a khaki dress slung with empty gun holsters beneath lips pierced at least five times with silver studs but I remember the woman who wore the outfit. She may appear in another book, but not as a relative.

Whatever I may think of these outfits on a personal level (hint: they will never appear in my closet), I know I have a character who will love at least one of them. And however I describe her, with long brown hair or green eyes that recall Elizabeth Taylor's, the reader will remember the outfit that says, this young lady knows who she is. And that's how vivid I want my characters to be.