Friday, April 24, 2015

Dreams are The touchstones of our Characters

"Dreams are the Touchstones of our Characters" was a recent quote on GoodReads.

A character from my trilogy  Maine Shore Chronicles has been in and out of my dreams for over a year. Her name is Tante Margaret Chamberlaine and I'm  excited to announce a new  Author Edition giving Tante a story of her own. Its title is Safe Harbor. 

My readers have been asking  for a story about Tante Margaret, who was dubbed by  Literary Reviewer  B.J. Scott: "A thoroughly lovable, reluctant clairvoyant, a literary gem. " 

Safe Harbor offers a new twist on the familiar setting of Coastal Maine. It is still the shoreline of the largest tidal lagoon in Maine, Biddeford Pool, and you will once again spend time with old friends you met at Jacques Fontaine's seaside home, Francois's Fancy. 
If you haven't read the The Chronicles series, not to worry, this novel stands alone just fine and you will make new friends of the extended family of characters who love Tante Margaret as if she were their own tante (aunt.)Safe Harbor would make a very special Mother's Day gift.

The direct link to purchase the Trade Paperback edition of Safe Harbor  at:
 the CreateSpace estore  is

The Amazon link is

Expanded distribution to other online retailers such as Barnes&Noble and offline retailers such as Bookstores, Libraries(through nascarp,  and academic institutions through Baker & Taylor could take up to six weeks.            It will be Great summer reading . . .

Friday, April 17, 2015

Stories and FOOD

Have you ever thought about the role of food and stories? I often do.

Many of the best conversations occur around the dinner table. Many cultures traditionally celebrate with meals and specialty foods. In the U.S. turkey with all the trimmings comes to mind for not only Thanksgiving but also Christmas for some families. It's a great way to share Grandmother's favorite recipes and new ones.

Summer time vacations and outside play often include grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon and cookies.  I have fond memories of this menu when we visited local lakes on hot summer days. Playing on the shore line, skiing in the wake of the boat, all stimulated our appetite. Some foods are only commercially available at festivals and fairs, so we always love to partake of this special fare (funnel cakes come to mind).
These memories make great fodder for story telling. Place several characters sharing a meal and see where the conversation leads. Make it real by sharing a bit of the menu, the aromas and how the characters use the food to punctuate their words. Does Aunt Mae unsuccessfully hide her rude replies or disapproval behind her napkin?  Does Uncle Joe scold by shaking his fork flipping tiny bits of potato? Is Little Bobby secretly slipping his green beans to the dog under the table? Does Dad always drip something on his shirt? If so, what is there today? These situations make me think of a Norman Rockwell portrait - the reason they were so popular was because everyone could relate to those slices of life.

Food not only is an important part of family stories, but it can stimulate the writing process. My personal favorite snack while writing is hot cinnamon tea and a piece of deep, dark chocolate. These little pleasures pull my focus from the outside world inside, where I find a direct line to the imagination. If I'm eager to write words on the page, I'll use a chocolate as a reward once the scene or chapter is written. It's a very satisfying way to celebrate the words on the page.

Breakfast and dinner with family and friends are often a theme in the stories I write (FEISTY FAMILY VALUES, PATCHWORK FAMILY, EARL DIVINE). It's a wonderful place for interaction, conflict and an opportunity to get to know characters.

As a reader I have to admit that I love to have a latte or tea while I'm reading. It's relaxing and adds to the treat of time alone with a book. Don't ignore the impact food and drink have in a story. Have fun with it. Create new recipes and new traditions or rituals. Enjoy the journey and bon ape'tit!

Comments and recipes are always welcome!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Interview With Author Phyllis Gobbell by Jacqueline Seewald

Like me, Phyllis Gobbell writes a little of everything – books, short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She has received awards in both fiction and nonfiction, including Tennessee's Individual Artist Literary Award. An associate professor of English at Nashville State Community College, she teaches writing and literature. After co-authoring two true-crime books based on high-profile murders in Nashville, she has turned to fiction. Her first in the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series has just been published by Five Star/Cengage. Booklist gave it a Starred Review, and it was also well-reviewed by Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Phyllis, let me congratulate you on the spectacular reviews your first novel has received. We’re excited to welcome you to Author Expressions.

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

Answer:   Pursuit in ProvenceTraditional mystery/amateur sleuth

Pursuit in Provence is the kind of book I have been reading for my own pleasure since I discovered Agatha Christie many decades ago! I thought the title sounded like a traditional mystery, and I’m hoping the idea of Provence attracts readers.

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

Answer:  I traveled in Provence on two occasions, some years ago, and the setting – all of those historic sites – inspired me. I actually had a draft of the mystery before I co-authored my first true crime book. The two true crimes took about six years, all in all, and they were not only time- and work-intensive, but also emotionally draining. I went back to Pursuit in Provence to do something fun.

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

Answer:  Jordan Mayfair is an American architect who has just turned fifty. She raised five children as a single mother, and the youngest ones, twins, have just gone to college, leaving her an empty nest. When her uncle, travel writer Alexander Carlyle, asks her to accompany him to Provence so he can work on his first full-length travel guide, she is under the impression that his doctor won’t let him travel alone and his book deal hinges on the trip. Besides, she thinks, she’s due an adventure. She has visions of the exquisite landscape, the magical light, incredible food and wine, and perhaps an alluring Frenchman. Ah, yes, she experiences all of those things, but she did not count on being pursued through the French countryside for something she doesn’t have in her possession, and she doesn’t count on murder. A former sorority sister, her prospective son-in-law, and a charming patron of the arts are all part of the cast of characters, and Jordan is trying to figure out if she can trust any of them.

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

Answer:   For many years now, I’ve published short works – stories, creative nonfiction, and a few poems. But two high-profile cold-case murders in Nashville were solved in 2006 and 2009, and these were stories that I wanted to tell.

I worked with co-writer Michael Glasgow to write An Unfinished Canvas, the story of Janet March, who disappeared in 1996. She was a young mother and artist from a prominent Nashville family; she and her attorney-husband, Perry, had built a beautiful dream house and had two young children. Suddenly, Janet vanished. Perry March was under suspicion from the beginning. He took the children, moved to Mexico, and started a new life. But Janet’s parents were tenacious in their quest to gain custody of their daughter’s children and prove that Perry murdered her. An Unfinished Canvas is the story of the ten-year investigation into Janet’s murder and the final arrest and conviction of Perry March, even though her body has never been found.

A nine-year-old girl’s murder was the subject of A Season of Darkness, which I wrote with Doug Jones. Marcia Trimble went across the street to deliver Girl Scout cookies in 1975 and never returned. Her body was found in the neighborhood a month later, and a teenage boy from the neighborhood was the prime suspect. For more than three decades police tried to gather evidence to convict him, but in 2006, new evidence came to light, and a man who had “slipped through the cracks” in 1975 was arrested and convicted of the murder. A Season of Darkness is about the thirty-three-year investigation, with a focus on how Marcia Trimble’s murder changed Nashville.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’ve finished the second book in the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series. In Secrets and Shamrocks, she travels to Ireland. I am expecting to have the edits on this one soon, and I’ll start a third book, probably set in Italy because I’m traveling to Florence in June.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I can’t remember when I didn’t write. There’s just something about “story.” When I first began to print words in first grade, I took the Sunday comics, cut out what the characters were saying in the “speech bubbles,” and substituted my own story. I tried to write a novel in the sixth grade. My friends thought it was great, but when I read it again, I was so embarrassed that I threw it away.

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

Answer: Writing teachers say, “Write what you know,” and that’s fine, but I say also, “Write what you like to write.” Chances are, someone else will like it, too. Don’t underestimate the importance of improving your craft. Go to workshops and conferences, not just to meet agents and editors, but to learn everything you can that will improve your skills. Writing groups with other writers you respect are great for getting good feedback on your work. When a publishing opportunity comes, be ready with a manuscript that is as perfect as possible in every way.   

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

Answer: The pub date was March 18. The book is available in hardback and e-book on Amazon and in bookstores. ISBN 13: 9781432830267 - Author Page on Amazon

Note: Phyllis is available for comments and questions. Don’t be shy!

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Writer's Code Words: Discipline and Perseverance, by Susan Oleksiw

The warmer weather in New England means one thing in particular for me. I get to take my walk
without putting on boots, gloves, a hat, and a heavy coat, which by now so obviously needs a trip to the dry cleaner's that I'm embarrassed to wear it. In March and April I have the pleasure of walking unimpeded by heavy clothing. I can pretend that those sad looking crocuses really do promise the end of winter.

After months of miserable winter weather I can also enjoy nodding to other walkers, people who are strangers to me because I haven't seen them since last September. My husband and I both marvel at the number of people who get out for a walk on the first few warm days in March and April. But he's too preoccupied with the current problems of his printer to take it any further. Not me. I follow the thought right into the world of writing.

Today, in this mild day that feels like spring, but isn't, I kept thinking about two words, discipline and perseverance, which define the commitment to writing as well as to walking through the wintry days as well as the warm, sunny ones. These are the code words that keep writers going when we are sick of the story we're working on, no longer think it's worth finishing, or can't figure out how to finish it. The characters sound stupid and insipid, the plot has holes in it, and the sentences sink faster than the Lusitania. But we stick to it. We finish that story, that novel, that essay, and let it sit and age just long enough before we review and revise. And, to our utter amazement, the story isn't all that bad.

In every story I write there is a moment when I question if the story or novel is good enough. This is different from beginning a project and knowing that it isn't going to work; that's a professional judgment that comes after long hours of trying to get it right. Finishing a story requires the same steady determination that pushes the runner to add a mile this week and another one next week, or urges the walker to climb the snowbank to get to the road, or to avoid oncoming cars on an ice-slick street.
Right now I'm finishing up another Anita Ray mystery, and I can see the end. I don't want it to come too soon because I still have a lot of loose threads to tie together, and I want the bow to be neat and orderly. This takes another kind of discipline--the ability to restrain myself from bolting for the finish line. There is nothing worse than enjoying a story all the way through to the last few chapters and then have the writer rush the ending.

Anita Ray has grown into a thoughtful woman who assesses the world around her, gathers details into a larger picture, and readies herself for the confrontation. She isn't impulsive, though her Auntie Meena thinks otherwise, and she isn't reckless, though her fascination with violent death worries her relatives. She takes her time, sticks to her investigation, and holds on to the end. 

Discipline and perseverance.

These two words carry the runner, the walker, and the writer to the finish line.