Friday, March 31, 2017

How to Turn Average Fiction into Outstanding Writing by Jacqueline Seewald

Quality fiction requires a theme or idea that unites the work. Ideally, the theme will connect setting, plot and characters in a significant way. It’s easier to do than you might think.

Appeals to the five senses can make short stories and novels memorable. This isn’t a device that only poets should be using. With simile, the writer compares an abstract concept with something concrete using “like” or “as” in English. “My love is like a red, red rose”—according to Robert Burns. Of course, he might have been more direct and used a metaphor declaring something is something else—for example: “My love is a red, red rose.” Simile and metaphor create imagery.

A symbol is an image that is repeated. Consider it as an association cluster presented in many ways. For instance, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the first American symbolic novel, the author used the “A” as a symbol in many guises to emphasize the difficulties of overcoming the past, its institutions, and the values of family and society. The color red appears in numerous guises throughout the novel.

Religious writings are fraught with symbolism. Shakespeare used it effectively in his plays as did the early Greeks. In Moby Dick, Melville also uses symbolism in a varied manner. The great white whale, a finite thing, becomes symbolic of numerous sociological ideas. Melville examines the nature of good and evil through images of light and dark. Ahab’s unyielding aloneness is emphasized by images of the heart and head.

In the twentieth century, writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald were masters of symbolism. Color imagery was often used. For example, in the bullfight in The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway uses the colors red and green to create a vivid, violent scene. The images symbolically connect to his theme of the manly or macho code of behavior which was what Hemingway considered most important in life.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald developed a theme he had earlier used in a short story entitled “Winter Dreams,” the love story of an American upper class girl and lower middle class young man—insider vs. outsider. Dexter Green is a romantic and his loss of Judy Jones causes him permanent pain because of the loss of his illusion of her more than the physical loss. She is a symbol of romance, just as Daisy is for Gatsby. In the novel the color green appears repeatedly and becomes a symbol for Daisy and the worldly wealth and privilege she represents. Gatsby looks longingly at the green light on Daisy’s dock across the water.

In Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, the image of the Brooklyn Bridge becomes a tragic symbol of the lack of communication and connection between two brothers. Living as I do not far from the George Washington Bridge, I can particularly appreciate this. There have been many suicides of people jumping to their death from the bridge which I find terribly troubling. Yet although the bridge can be considered a symbol of death and failure to connect and misunderstanding, it can also be a symbol of life and hope. Not long ago, one Port Authority policeman was able to stop a jumper. On that very same day in September 2014, PA police helped to deliver a baby near the toll booths on the upper level of the bridge. Bridges can also serve as a symbol of connection.

Contemporary authors often use symbolism. Consider Harry Potter’s scar—a symbol of his being the “chosen one”, as well as his ability to overcome evil.  J.K. Rowling may have chosen to use symbolism in Dumbledore and Hagrid's names. Dan Brown wrote a thriller entitled The Lost Symbol.

In my novel Dark Moon Rising, the moon symbolizes romance. However, the moon is also a symbol of night and darkness, fear and hate. Since this is a paranormal novel fraught with mystery, moon imagery and symbolism work well with the underlying theme.

In my latest mystery suspense novel, The Inheritance, the house that the heroine has come back to her hometown to claim as part of her inheritance develops into a symbolic representation of her past and the peril in her present life.

Simile, metaphor and symbolism can effectively draw the reader into a story through vivid use of sense impressions: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste.

In meaningful writing, simile, metaphor, and symbolism add depth and perspective to fiction, uniting theme with plot, setting and characterization. Writers always need to consider the big picture. What imagery will work best to imply the underlying theme?

Your thoughts, input and comments appreciated.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Agent. A five letter word.

I remember growing up and hearing my mom say, "Don't use four letter words" (cursing) because they aren't "nice."

What about five letter words like? AGENT or QUERY
Never having had an agent I can't say if they are naughty or nice, but I would think they are nice to have due to their wide experience with publishing, publishers, promoting, etc. Some are probably better than others, but if you don't have one you must do the job (to some extent) yourselves and keep the 15%, but it may be difficult to ingratiate yourselves into the industry when you don't have the connections. Networking is a huge part of getting published, the agent has those contacts. They are part of the inner circle (hopefully).

The word "Query" above is another "five letter word." Frankly, queries are difficult to write for me and many of my writing compatriots. You have one page to tell either the agent or publisher about you, your story, your credits if you have any, give them a flavor of your writing voice and encourage them to want more of you and your work. Advertisers say "that's easy" just wow them. Okay, but loud music, dancing girls, gooey chocolate, or gimmick's don't really work. Or so I've been told. The words have to do the dancing and whet the appetite.

Telling the agent or publisher you are the next Nora Roberts or your book is the next Fifty Shades of Gray in a query letter, just isn't going to cut it. We may be as good as Nora Roberts, but we aren't Nora - we are who we are and write with our own voice, which may or may not resonate with the masses. Our book may be even better than Fifty Shades of Gray - but will it appeal to audiences all over? Good question. What we do have to do is make the agent or publisher realize our work is good. It's a business letter with heart and imagination.

How do we do that? Answer these questions in your query:
  • What is the story about, the theme, or the problem that is addressed? 
  • Is there a quirky main character that you can introduce in the query?
  • Is your story similar to other very popular stories you can use as a comparison?
  • Why are you the best one to write this kind of story, your experience, or education? 
  • What have you published before so that you have a following?
  • What demographic does your story appeal to? Young Adults? Mystery buffs? Horse lovers?
That's a lot, so keep it short - to the point - punch it! How do you know you've done well with your query? Read it out loud. Critique groups can help you review it. And when you can't imagine your query sounding any better - send it! What have you got to lose? Because you may have written just what that agent has been looking for.

Enjoy the writing journey, my friends. 
Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Interview with Mystery Author L.C. Hayden by Jacqueline Seewald

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing L. C. Hayden who has written mysteries for Five Star/Cengage in the past. She has a new novel out that I have read and very much enjoyed and can recommend to other readers.

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

Answer:  My new thriller, What Lies Beyond the Fence, is the fourth in the Harry Bronson series. Although I write other series, this one seems to have the most following. Also, I really like Harry Bronson. When I write about him, I feel like I’m with family.

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

Answer:  I had played with the idea of Bronson going to a place he wasn’t familiar with. In fact, he wouldn’t even know where he was. I needed a remote place so that Bronson couldn’t simply open the door and walk out. That began the premise for What Lies Beyond the Fence.

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

Answer:  Several people have emailed me and told me that Bronson is their literary crush. He’s mine too. One of the reviewers wrote: “He is steadfast, smart, and loyal with some interesting quirks that make him human.” But what I really want to do is talk about another character in the story. Bronson is hired to find 17 year old Roger Hallberg who is out in the woods where inhabited by wolves. In real life, Roger is a real life hero. He’s a MIA, lost during the Viet Nam conflict. It all began when the national headquarters for MIA’s/POW’s contacted me to donate a character in one of my books. I agreed and in the process, I learned how much our MIA’s families suffer. It’s an on-going pain that will never heal. I want to thank all of the men and women who serve and my deepest thanks goes to our MIA’s and their families for their great sacrifice.

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

Answer:  I write the Harry Bronson Mystery series which have been Agatha Finalist for Best Novel of the Year, Watson Award Finalist for Best Characters, have hit the Kindle Top 100 Best Seller List, made the Pennsylvania Top 40 List, the Barnes and Noble Top 10 Best Seller List and other.
      I also do the Aimee Brent Series. There’s two so far in that mystery series and I also have a stand alone, Secrets of the Tunnels.
      Another series I thoroughly enjoy writing is the miracle and angels one. These nonfiction books answers the question: are they coincidences or are they miracles/angels?
     I also have two children’s picture books and a host of other genre books.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  Promotion, unfortunately. I’m taking a break from writing to get my files done correctly and promote the books like they deserve to be promoted. Once that’s complete, I plan to do another miracle/angel book. If any of you have had an angel or miracle in your life, please contact me. I’d love to add it to my book.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:  I’m a story teller—always have been. As such, it’s only natural that I would graduate to being an author.

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

Answer: Never, ever let anyone discourage you. The road to writing is paved with rejection. Stay true to your dream. Also, write that book. Don’t worry about whether it sounds good or if you’re following all of the “rules” of writing. Just get it finished. When you put the end, then you have plenty of time to go back and revise. Now, go write!

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

Answer:  Like all things now-a-days, the best place is through Amazon for both the e-book version and the traditional version. Here’s the link:
I am also available to speak or Facetime.

Thank you L.C. for being our guest today.

Questions and comments welcome here for L. C.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Piracy, or Ordinary Theft, by Susan Oleksiw

If the Internet has made writers of untold thousands, it has also made an equal number into thieves and pirates, people who see opportunity in all those easily accessible publications. Every one of us who publishes a book, with a traditional publisher or on our own, will at some point encounter a website selling our work. Piracy is so common now as to go almost unremarked upon.

Almost every day I get a Google Alert about one of my books for sale, usually at a site ending in dot ru. The first time I found one of my books on an unknown site, I took all the recommended, correct steps. I notified Google, sent a letter to the site, and more. I got the standard boilerplate reply from Google and nothing from the site in question. Frustrated, I started to pay closer attention to the sites that hosted these pirated mss.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, piracy was originally defined as:
“the practice of using the internet to illegally copy software and pass it on to other people.” The example given is this:The record company has found things tough in recent years, hit by falling record sales and internet piracy.” The cost to the recording and movie industries has been well established. For more on this, go to

According to another site, the definition has been expanded to “the unlawful reproduction and/or distribution of any copyrighted digital file that can change hands over the Internet. This can be done with music files, videos and movies, e-books, software, and other materials.”

But in the end, at least one sight offers the advice to stop trying to halt piracy for the simple reason that telling people to stop doesn’t work. This is the sage advice from

Long before I found Engadget I’d reached the same conclusion, the first of several relevant to this topic. No matter how many letters or emails or times I hammer at their door or Google’s or any other site, the pirate isn’t going to stop. Some are bold enough to buy the ebook, copy, and then return it (and get their money back). But I also concluded after wasted time and energy that the people who download pirated ebooks or PDFs aren’t going to buy my book if it’s only available after payment. They don’t buy books. If they can’t get mine for free, they’ll steal someone else’s.

In addition, many of these sites that say they’re offering a free download are really just Trojan Horses for malware. If you’re trying to get something for free and you get malware instead or along with it, you deserve it. (This is perhaps the only way a writer gets back at the thieves.) You are, after all, taking our livelihood.

But the final conclusion is the most concerning. I think the way the Internet operates and how hard it is to police is an indication that sometime in the future copyright will be meaningless, and even the courts will see it as pointless. They might continue to acknowledge it in some enforcement issues, but overall the end of an effective copyright is on the horizon. To maintain a fair and enforceable copyright law is not something any part of government wants to undertake or even knows how without changes to the Internet practices. Is it possible to push the law and its enforcement in another direction, I don’t know.

Not long ago I spoke at a library and watched a member of the audience pick up and walk off with one of my books. She didn’t pay and didn’t seem to think she should even though several others were in line to do so. She isn’t alone in her behavior. At the time it surprised and angered me. I never thought I’d long for the good old days when I could run after a thief and say, “Would you like me to sign that while you pay for it?” Can’t do that on the Internet.

If you want the pleasure of paying for my books, go here