Friday, December 30, 2016

Interview with Author Phyllis Gobbell by Jacqueline Seewald

I’m interviewing Phyllis Gobbell who, like me, writes a little bit 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. She is an associate professor of English at Nashville State Community College, where she teaches writing and literature. On any Tuesday night, you will find her meeting with her writers group that began thirty years ago. She plays the piano and tennis. She is co-author of two true-crime books based on high-profile murders in Nashville: A Season of Darkness, with Doug Jones, and An Unfinished Canvas with Mike Glasgow. Her narrative, “Lost Innocence,” appeared in the anthology Masters of True Crime. Turning to traditional mysteries, she released the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series in Spring 2015. Pursuit in Provence was first in the series. Secrets and Shamrocks has just been released. It has received excellent reviews like the previous novel:

“Gobbell’s enjoyable sequel to 2015’s Pursuit in Provence takes Savannah, Ga., architect Jordan Mayfair and her travel writer uncle, Alex Carlyle, to Ireland. Jordan’s keen knowledge of architecture and history comes in handy in her efforts to uncover the truth. Fans of travel cozies will find plenty to like.” --Publisher’s Weekly
“A visit to the verdant Irish countryside is marred by murder. The second in Gobbell’s travel series is filled with delightful descriptions of Ireland and offbeat characters…”--Kirkus Reviews

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel? Why did you select them?
Secrets and Shamrocks is a cozy or traditional mystery or amateur sleuth mystery, whichever you prefer. Jordan Mayfair is on another adventure with her travel-writer uncle in a small town in Ireland. In some of the promo, I say that “secrets are as plentiful as shamrocks,” and that about sums it up. Shamrocks come into play, also, as one of the Irish legends resonates in the present day mystery.

Question: What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
It is the second in the Jordan Mayfair mystery series. First Jordan and her uncle, Alex, traveled to Provence, where I’d been on a couple of occasions, and I chose Ireland for the setting of this one because I spent three weeks teaching in Thurles, the same little town featured in the book.

Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine of your novel?
Jordan Mayfair is an architect from Savannah, Georgia, who had just turned fifty in Pursuit in Provence. She had raised five children as a single mother, and the last of her children had just left for college. Her travel-writer uncle had his first book deal and needed Jordan to go along with him on the trip to Provence, so she did, stretching herself, and in some ways re-inventing herself. Now she and Alex are visiting friends from long ago in Georgia, Colin and Grace O’Toole, who own a B&B where a cast of eccentric characters are staying. And everyone seems to have a secret, plus there is a murder, of course. Jordan can’t keep from getting involved! And Paul Broussard, the charming patron of the arts from Pursuit in Provence, makes another appearance.

Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
Besides Pursuit in Provence, I wrote two true-crime books about high-profile cold cases that were solved in Nashville, one after ten years, one after thirty years. Mike Glasgow and I collaborated on An Unfinished Canvas and I wrote A Season of Darkness with Doug Jones. After those true-crimes, with all the meticulous research that they involved, I was ready for something much lighter, and I’m having fun with the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series.

Question: What are you working on now?
I’m almost finished with Treachery in Tuscany, the third in the series, and – you guessed it – it’s set in Italy, mostly in Florence.

(How exciting! My younger son and his family vacationed there this summer and loved the area)

Question: What made you start writing?
It seems I’ve been writing my whole life. I remember cutting out the words in the “speech bubbles” of comic strips and filling in my own words. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had something I wanted to say! I tried to write a novel when I was in the 6th grade and got about 30 handwritten pages before I realized how awful it was. My first published works were articles for family/parenting magazines when my children were young. I also wrote a children’s book at that time, The Magic Click, about seatbelt safety. I had short stories published later. My passion is fiction – though I’ve found it harder to get published than non-fiction.

Question: What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?
Write what you love to write. I don’t have good advice about publishing, but hard work and perseverance do seem to pay off. If you have something you want to say, the act of writing, the process and the result will give you a good feeling (maybe not money in the bank, but satisfaction). I tell my creative writing students that I read everything I write out loud, and if I don’t love it, it’s not ready for anyone else to love.

Question: Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?
Secrets and Shamrocks is available on Amazon in hardback and e-book. 

Readers, you can request this lovely novel at your local libraries as well.

Comments and/or questions for Phyllis are appreciated.

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to "Connect" with Readers?

How do authors "connect" with readers? That's a great question, isn't it? 


Here are some ideas for you to try. Not every method works for every author or genre, so see what works best for you.

The obvious: Use Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.).
  • Be social, not just a salesperson
  • Share your expertise (i.e. hobbies often have popular forums to participate in)
  • Blog or Video-log or Podcast (the key here is participation - be seen and heard)
Don't forget the old-fashioned way of networking, too.
  • Press Releases to local news and magazines (don't forget regional and national, too)
  • Approach book groups (book clubs often pick a genre to read so find one that reads what you write) 
  • Find the niche that will gain the most from the theme of your story (i.e. knitters or quilters often like to read stories about their craft) and offer to speak to their group about their subject
  • Local and Regional bookstores (independent, chain or university)
  • Speak at Libraries or participate in local author events, workshops or conferences
Okay, this is by no means an exhaustive list, this is just to give you food for thought.

Once you do have an opportunity to speak here are some tips on how to "connect."

                                                               LISTEN WELL

  • Have a conversation with the audience (what is your favorite book? what is your favorite character in literature?) Don't just be a talking head!
  • When and if you get around to talking about your own book ask them questions
    • How did the story make you feel?
    • What has been your experience with the story's main theme?
    • What part touched you the most? 
    • Did the story create a question in your mind that was NOT answered? 
Now, I hear there's something out there called Social Currency. Basically, we need it. I'm told the way to get it is to remember the following when you write or speak to readers.
  • People talk about things that make them feel good. 
  • People want to feel sharp and in-the-know.
  • People like stories that are smart and funny and don't make them feel behind the times. 

Don't forget to Smile. Make Eye Contact. Laugh at yourself. Be yourself. Share.

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday everyone!

Bonnie (BD) Tharp is an award-winning author of women's fiction, with novels FEISTY FAMILY VALUES and PATCHWORK FAMILY.  Also, the author of Kindle ebook short stories: THE CROSSROADS & EARL DIVINE.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mystery Fiction: The Long and the Short of It by Jacqueline Seewald

I enjoy writing fiction. I’ve written a number of mystery stories which have been published by a variety of magazines and anthologies. I’ve also written mystery novels which are also published traditionally. The question often arises: which length will best suit a particular story?

Generally speaking, if you are planning something long and expansive with numerous characters and several intertwining plots that could ingeniously connect at the denouement, a mystery novel would be a preferable choice.

However, if you are planning a focused tour de force, think in terms of a short story. You should make the effort to decide on your intent in advance. Poe has told us that every scene in a short story needs to move the action forward. In a mystery story this is particularly true.

In a mystery novel, it’s typical to build well-rounded main characters who have a backstory. Even murder suspects usually get the full treatment. The short story writer of mystery doesn’t have the same luxury. The details must be swift and telling strokes. Each sentence and word needs to be purposeful. In a real sense, the mystery story is more of a challenge for writers and readers. It demands greater discipline. In the mystery short story endings are often clever twists that surprise the reader. The mystery novel is more of a puzzle with clues sprinkled along the way. The readers will pit their intellect against that of the author.

Descriptions of setting are of necessity more detailed in novels. In THE INHERITANCE, my new novel from Intrigue Publishing, the Midwest town of Bloomingvale serves as the setting or backdrop with a unique character all its own. This is typical of the cozy mystery where setting is well-established and details important in the story’s plotline. THE INHERITANCE is a stand alone traditional mystery with romantic element.

In my short stories, even in my longer novella “Letter of the Law” published by SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE, details of setting are somewhat limited. The plot is straightforward and the murder suspects also by necessity limited in number. This novella was initially much longer, but since it was to be published in a magazine, I needed to shorten it considerably and cut some of the detail and secondary character development.

SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE recently followed up with another story “Spirit of the Law” that continues to follow the young attorney sleuth and his graduate student assistant in solving yet another murder case:

If you’re a pantser rather than a plotter, my advice is still to write a short plot summary. This works well for both short stories and novels. A short plot summary allows you to be flexible and make changes as you write. It also helps in lending focus to your plot line. Sometimes short stories can develop into novellas or novels. Other times you believe you have the makings of a novel but discover that there isn’t enough material for one. Doing some advance planning helps with such decisions and saves frustrations when writing scenes.

Also it helps to make a list of characters by name and provide a brief description for each, known as a character bible. For THE INHERITANCE, in addition to the main characters, there are a number of local residents who are possible suspects, and each character needed some backstory. This also helps avoid contradictions.

In my crime story “Our Neighbors Ourselves” for the new anthology BREWED AWAKENINGS, there are four main characters, each has a backstory, most of which remained in the character bible but nevertheless influenced how the characters behaved in the story’s development. It’s important that the writer know the characters well so that each detail of description, dialogue and action is meaningful.

Whichever type of mystery writing you choose, I wish you much success!

Comments and/or questions welcome.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Little Free Libraries, by Susan Oleksiw

On my daily walk through the neighborhood I take note of the changes and additions, sometimes stopping to take a photo. Over the last few years I’ve noticed one addition that I especially enjoy. Several residents of my town have joined the Little Free Library program, and we now have four libraries in my zip code, plus one that's an independent. That’s not a lot for a small city of 40,000 people, but it makes us part of a worldwide movement.

According to the official website, “in 2009 Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse” as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read. He added books and an invitation for passers-by to take one. The general invitation is to take one, and leave one. Todd wanted to build as many little libraries as Andrew Carnegie built large ones, over 2,500. It didn’t take Todd long. He reached his goal in August 2012, and by November 2016, he reached the amazing number of 50,000 Little Free Libraries throughout the world.

Why am I telling you this since you probably already know all about these little gems? I use my daily walk to think through the story I’m working on. This is when I try to set aside my frustrations and let my unconscious go to work on its own. Often my thoughts begin with a common lament, which goes something like this. Even if I figure out what’s wrong with this plot, what difference does it make? Is anyone going to read this thing? The reports on books sales and publishing waver between dismal and awful, so why expend so much energy? But sometimes I read that book sales are surprisingly but suspiciously resilient. I have no idea which one to believe? Will anyone care if I give the world another book?

And then I come across a new Little Free Library. I don’t know about you, but these things cheer me up enormously. They are inspirational in their demonstration of the belief that people care about books and are fundamentally honest. I always stop to see what’s inside. Right now most of them in my area are offering children’s or young adults books, a few novels, and some nonfiction, including travel. One includes a lot of self-help books, including how to choose wine. I have borrowed and donated books, and expect I will do so again.

I usually keep on walking, making a mental note to return later to leave a book and borrow one. But no matter how I feel when I first see the Little Free Library, I always feel noticeably better as I walk on. I forget about my lament and my story problems, and take in the world around me. Once again, books have changed how I feel.

For more information on this movement, and to check out the number of little free libraries in your area, go to

And if you're so inclined, check out the newest Joe Silva, and leave your copy for others to enjoy.
You can find a copy of this and other books by me here.