Monday, October 16, 2017

Novellas: Dead or Alive? By Jacqueline Seewald

Recently THE WRITER MAGAZINE ran an excellent article entitled “Novellas:  Stepping stone to success or waste of time?” Since my novella THE BURNING is now available in pre-order and will be published November 8th, I kind of like to think this is not a dead art form. Or as Mark Twain so cleverly quipped: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Just so you know, a novella is written fictional prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, and usually somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 words, although it can be a bit longer or shorter.

For those who would like to try writing in this length, be aware that novellas are more complex than short stories yet leaner and more focused than novels. 

In a NEW YORKER article in 2012, Ian McEwan stated:
“I believe the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction.” Yet even famous writers like Stephen King have lamented that the novella gets no respect (forgive me for borrowing, okay stealing, Rodney Dangerfield’s best line). 

THE ATLANTIC also ran an interesting article in April 2012 about the return of the novella in which Joe Fassler described it as “an unfairly neglected literary art form practiced for centuries by celebrated writers.”

It is true that the novella hasn’t been a particularly commercially successful format. Too long for most magazines and journals, yet too short to satisfy novel publishers, the genre can languish. Still, my first novella, LETTER OF THE LAW, was published with some enthusiasm last year in SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

 I was also fortunate to find a publisher who found my novella THE BURNING worthy of publication. Now I have to hope it will also find a readership. Simple enough? Don’t I wish!

As mentioned, on November 8th, THE BURNING will be published by Annurlunda Enterprises. The Burning is based on a play I wrote that won the Playhouse 22 Playwrights Award (in the late 1980’s) and was performed on stage.

THE BURNING is faction, part fact, but also fiction, about what happens to a family in Pennsylvania as the result of a coal fire burning under the town. Members of the Ferris family face his or her personal hell, barely coming through it alive, forced to acknowledge painful truths. It’s based on real events that occurred in Centralia. Unfortunately, such problems continue to plague coal-mining communities in different places. And there are no easy answers.

The publisher has provided this novella with the following blurb:
 George Ferris has worked hard to make a good life for himself and his family without going into the coal mines that shortened his father’s life. Now, a slow-moving catastrophe is threatening to take it all away. How far will he go to protect everything he has worked for? And will he realize what really matters before it is too late? Inspired by true events.

Here is a brief excerpt from the novella:

George drove home on autopilot, detached, barely aware of his surroundings. The talk with Baines kept turning over in his head. He’d worked so hard for so many years to provide a good life for his family. Was that going to end now? The whole thing seemed crazy. Could some underground fire wreck his life and that of his family? He shook his head, refusing to accept this as inevitable.
The living room of George Ferris’s house usually offered a refuge, but he didn’t want to walk inside yet. Instead he stood in the front hallway praying for composure while silently lurking. He could see Amy was sitting on the sofa attentively reading a book, feet tucked under her.
Every so often, she coughed. Liz came into the room. She was dressed in brown slacks and a casual cream-colored blouse. He admired how beautiful his wife was. With her natural good looks, she wore very little make-up and didn’t need it. George was reminded of how much he loved her. Liz was the real deal. What would this news do to her? She deserved so much better in life. For a few minutes, he watched Liz straightening up the room, but then she stopped to listen to Amy’s recurring cough.

THE BURNING is now available for pre-order both in print and as an e-book. Check out the details from the publisher at: 



Your thoughts and comments most welcome!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Spotlight on Bestselling Author Jennifer Lowery

My guest writer today is New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, Jennifer Lowery. She grew up reading romance novels in the back of her math book and on the bus to school, and never wanted to be anything but a writer.  Her summers were spent sitting at the kitchen table with her sisters spinning tales of romance and intrigue and always with a tall glass of ice tea at their side.
Today, Jennifer is living that dream and she couldn’t be happier to share her passion with her readers.  She loves everything there is about romance.  Her stories feature alpha heroes who meet their match with strong, independent heroines.  She believes that happily ever after is only the beginning of her stories. And the road to that happy ending is paved with action, adventure, and romance. As her characters find out when they face danger, overcome fears, and are forced to look deep within themselves to discover love.

Jennifer lives in Michigan with her husband and charming rescued tomcat named Shamrock. Their son lives near them and is in the Army National Guard as well as a student at a local university. Their daughter is married and lives with her amazing husband who is stationed at Fort Bragg.  When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Hello fans and readers! How is everyone today? I’m great. Fall is my favorite season and in honor of that I am offering the second book in my Wolff Securities Series, Not Without Risk, for .99 cents on Amazon, September 30-October 4! Yay! Of course, Kindle Unlimited subscribers always read for free. Keep reading for buy links!

If you haven’t read the first book, Maximum Risk, no worries. These are standalone books as well as part of a series. You don’t have to read them in order, but I recommend it. Simply because you will get a fuller character experience by reading them in order.

As a bonus for your continued support and generosity I have including one of my favorite fall recipes. I make these muffins every year and they never last long, lol. Please enjoy the recipe and the .99 cent book!

Not Without Risk Blurb:
He always keeps his promises…

Private security specialist, Nate Wolff promised to rescue humanitarian aid worker, Macy Gibbs, not harbor a fugitive. Determined to keep his promise and not make the same mistakes his brother made, he risks his life to protect her from the terrorist group hunting her.

Keeping this one will be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do…

With a bounty on her head for the murder of a man who bought her in an illegal human trafficking ring, Macy Gibbs puts both her life, and the life of the tall, handsome stranger who’s vowed to rescue her, in danger. Emotionally scarred from her ordeal, she trusts no one. But, can the biggest danger she’s about to face be the impact this former SEAL has on her heart?

Not Without Risk Excerpt:

Nate put a hand on Macy’s shoulder. She didn’t stir. Unable to resist, he caressed her cheek. Warm. Not as hot. A good sign. Beneath his hand her skin felt soft as silk. He gently ran his thumb across the fading bruise on her jawline. Anger and the urge to protect and defend surged through him. Except, it felt more personal. Not just a bodyguard protecting his charge. More…
Nope. Not going there. The reasons stuck like a knife in his heart.
He dropped his hand to his side, sobered, and put his thoughts in proper order. First things first. Get Macy dressed, then grab her and go. They may not have confiscated his weapons, but that could be a ruse to keep him off guard.
His supply of clothing for Macy was running low. Only two shirts and one pair of pants left. Foregoing the undergarments, he grasped the edge of the blanket, prepared to dress her and make a run for it.
The murmured question came from Macy. He froze, his gaze flying to her face to find her eyes open. Glazed, confused.
Letting go of the blanket, he leaned over her. “Hey. I’m here.”
Her beautiful blue eyes that reminded him so much of Bleu Lake back home, met his, radiating with pain. “Don’t leave me. Please.”
The impact of those words went straight through his chest. At that moment, he knew they couldn’t go. Not until she was healthy enough to go. They’d pushed hard already and look where it got them.
Bending, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’m not going anywhere. Go back to sleep. You’re safe.”
That seemed to work because the tension went out of her muscles and her eyes drifted closed. Seconds later her breathing evened out, indicating she slept peacefully.
Nate straightened and scrubbed a hand down his face. He returned the clothes to his pack, dragged the crude chair in front of the bed and dropped down on it. His Glock now rested across his thigh, finger near the trigger as he settled in.
Whomever, or whatever, came through that door they would have to go through him first in order to get to Macy. And he’d die before he let another person hurt her.

Buy the Book:

And now for the recipe!! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

15 ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
5 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.     Mix pumpkin, vegetable oil and sugar on low speed with electric mixer (I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer).
3.     Add in eggs, one at a time, combining thoroughly after each addition.
4.     Add vanilla
5.     In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Slowly add to liquids, scraping sides of bowl to combine.
6.     Make Filling: Mix filling ingredients until combined.
7.     Fill 12 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
8.     Fill each with pumpkin mixture.
9.     Spoon cream cheese mixture on top and swirl with a skewer or toothpick.
10.           Bake until done.

Connect with Jennifer:
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Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with me today! I appreciate it more than you can know!

Happy Fall,

Your comments for Jennifer are welcome here!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Are Bestsellers Getting Dumber?

According to the September 2017 issue of READER’S DIGEST, bestsellers are indeed dumber. The article demonstrates that the language of the most popular novels today is much simpler than just a few decades ago.

Author Ben Blatt discusses this in his book NABOKOV’S FAVORITE WORD IS MAUVE from which the article is taken. Blatt collected every digitized number one NEW YORK TIMES bestseller from 1960 to 2014 and ran the Flesch-Kincaid test on all 563 of them. His research maintains that most books meant for a general audience fall within the 4th to 11th grade range as do all of the bestsellers. In the 1960’s, the median book had a grade level of 8. Blatt’s research places today’s median grade level at 6. Interestingly, bestsellers at the lowest score range (grade 4.4) were written by three high volume writers who generally top the bestseller list: James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and Nora Roberts.

Blatt also breaks down books by genre. Thrillers and romances are singled out in particular for what he calls the “dumbification” of popular fiction. Stephen King, Danielle Steel and Harlan Coben all rank at or below 6th grade reading level.

However, Blatt doesn’t castigate these writers for using simple language. Popular writers want to embrace the masses, to reach as many readers as possible. He sees this as a good thing.

As a writer, the advice I’ve run across most frequently is to use language that is clear, concise and simple. George Orwell said it best: “Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.”

 Yet as a former teacher as well, I have observed that the interest and ability to read has diminished to some extent in our society, at least in my lifetime. Perhaps you disagree or agree?

Your thoughts welcome here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ten Tips on Writing Short Fiction that Sells

First of all, do I have the proper credentials for writing this article? I’ll let you decide. I’ve written well over a hundred short stories, most of which have sold to paying markets and some of which have also sold as reprints.

My latest short story is featured in the current summer issue of HYPNOS MAGAZINE, (Volume 6, Issue 2), a print anthology. I’ve had short stories published in HYPNOS for the past three years.

 Stories published in HYPNOS are described as “weird.” I prefer the terms imaginative, dark fantasy or perhaps speculative. Anyway, if this type of genre interests you, HYPNOS is a great publication to which to submit your work. You don’t have to be famous. Just submit a good story.


I’ve learned some things that I believe help sell fiction and which I’ll share with you.

Tip One:

There are two ways to go about this. You can write for a specific market following their guidelines and requirements or you can write the story you want to write and then look for a market that is appropriate. I suggest the latter choice--unless you are specifically invited to submit your work by an editor for a themed anthology or magazine issue. My reasoning is that you should write what you really enjoy. Your passion will show in your work. That will give you an edge.

Tip Two:

You are unlikely to sell short stories unless you’ve read a great many of them. This will give you an instinctive grasp of the genre. If you don’t enjoy reading short fiction, you shouldn’t bother writing them. It will show.

Tip Three:

 Don’t assume that because short stories are brief in length that they are easy to write. In reality, it takes discipline to write a good short story and sheer brilliance to write a great one. Short stories are focused works of fiction, just as Poe explained.

Tip Four:

You need to decide the type of short fiction you intend to write. Do you love literary short stories? Try then to write one of your own. Are you into speculative fiction? Do you enjoy science fiction, horror, or fantasy? Are you a mystery writer? Read some of the best both past and present before you attempt your own.  However, be aware that each genre has its own type of content and style. Mashups are acceptable, but first know the rules of each genre before you attempt to mix them. Do the research before you start to write.

Tip Five:

Whether writing short fiction or a novel, you need to consider the basics: plot, setting, characters, and theme. Analyze how they fit together in your story. One hint: limit the number of characters in a short story to just a few so you can develop each properly.

Tip Six:

Also consider point of view. For instance, who is telling the story? Will this story work best in first or third person? Why? Is the narrator sophisticated, jaded, innocent, naïve? The style and choice of language need to reflect these considerations.

Tip Seven:

When you finish writing your story, put it away for a while and go on to another project. Wait at least one month, then reread and revise as needed. You are now the editor. You will see the need for changes and improvements.

Tip Eight:

When you are ready to submit your story for publication, carefully read all the submission guidelines. You really have to follow them exactly. Each market has its own unique requirements.

Tip Nine:

Avoid writing only for “exposure” if possible. There actually are paying markets that encourage beginners who are without publishing credits.

Tip Ten:

Don’t be afraid to try writing in more than one genre or style. The great thing about short story writing is that you can be experimental.

Tip Eleven: (I’m throwing an extra one in) Don’t get discouraged by rejections. All of us receive our share.The competition is fierce. If an editor is generous enough to provide some suggestions, consider using them to improve your work. Then resubmit to another publication. Never, ever give up on your writing if it’s something you really want and need to do!

Your thoughts and comments welcome here!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spotlight on Author C.A. (Christine) Verstraete

C.A. (Christine) Verstraete is my special guest writer today. The author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter adds a new dimension to the real-life Lizzie Borden murder mystery with a new short mystery also set in Fall River, MA.
The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden's Fall River, lets the Borden's doctor and neighbor share his side of the story following the gruesome murders. Saturday, August 4 marked the 125th anniversary of the 1892 Borden murders.
The supernatural-flavored mystery (141 pages) is on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in print.
Author website:
About The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden's Fall River:
Gruesome deaths haunt the industrial city of Fall River, Massachusetts.
Dr. Seabury Bowen—physician to the infamous Lizzie Borden—swears he’s being stalked by spirits, though his beloved wife thinks it’s merely his imagination. But the retired doctor insists that neither greed nor anger provoked the recent sensational axe murders in Fall River. Rather, he believes the city is poisoned by bad blood and a thirst for revenge dating back to the Indian and Colonial wars.
Now, two years after the Borden murders, Dr. Bowen is determined to uncover the mysteries stirring up the city’s ancient, bloodthirsty specters. Can he discover who, or what, is shattering the peace before Fall River runs red? Or will he be the next victim?
Part mystery, part love story, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen reveals the eerie side of Fall River as witnessed by the first doctor on the scene of the legendary Borden murders.

What made you want to write about Dr. Bowen – and who is he?

I really enjoyed learning more about the Borden murders in writing my first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. I am working on a sequel, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun writing something a bit different about the Borden murders. The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden's Fall River, offers a more supernatural-flavored aspect to the story and Lizzie’s hometown by focusing on the Borden family’s doctor and neighbor.
          The doctor was the first official who arrived at the Borden’s home located kitty-corner from him at 92 Second Street. As you read the trial testimonies, it almost seems like he was protecting Lizzie. Some of the newspaper reports even mention his favorable reactions to her.
This was the OJ crime of the 19th century. It caught the public’s imagination and continues to fascinate people today. That’s what makes it so interesting to write about – the real life facts are horrific and unreal enough, of course, that no embellishment is needed. But it definitely gives a writer ideas to expand on.

You wrote about zombies in the first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. What made you take a different approach this time? And why zombies?

I still love writing about zombies and will have a new Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter short story coming out soon. With the Dr. Bowen book, I wanted to write a story that adds a different dimension and focuses more on the supernatural and paranormal. The Borden murders were so gruesome that I started wondering, what if the doctor was haunted by that day? It also ties into some real-life past events, some that I twisted a bit to fit the story. Did you know that there was also another axe murder around the time of the Borden murders, too? Any zombie stories will be tied into the Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter theme, I am also working on Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter2.

Here’s an excerpt: from The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden's Fall River:
    “Never did I say to anyone that she had died of fright. My first thought, when I was standing in the door, was that she had fainted.”
—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

 Why won’t anyone believe me? Why, Phoebe, why?”
Dr.  Seabury Bowen shoved back the shock of white hair hanging over his forehead and wiped a wrinkled hand across his stubbled chin.
    His appearance, like his surroundings, could stand a bit of major housekeeping, not that he cared a whit.
“Here, it’s here somewhere,” he mumbled.
  The old man rummaged among the giant pile of documents, books, and what-not littering the large walnut desk in his study. Several minutes later, and after the search through dozens of loose papers, he saw the faded red book lying beneath a tottering pile. He pulled at it, sending the rest of the stack falling like so much unwanted garbage.
    The good doctor, but a shadow of his once- robust self, flipped the pages. He stared at the offending journal entry before setting the book aside with a heartrending sob.

Chapter One
    “I saw the form of Mr. Borden lying on the lounge at the left of the sitting-room door. His face was very badly cut, apparently with a sharp instrument; his face was covered with blood.”
—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

   The man reached toward him with long, lean fingers. Dr. Seabury Bowen blinked and tried to make out the features of the unknown figure standing in the corner. The unexpected visitor had a broad, dark face and what looked like a band across his forehead. Bowen stretched out his arm in turn and jumped when their fingers touched, the jolt surging through him like the electricity he knew would soon replace all the gas lights.
    “Seabury, dear, are you all right?” His wife, Phoebe, sounded concerned. “What’s wrong?”
    Bowen breathed hard. He bolted upright and held a hand on his chest, trying to catch his breath. Still stunned, he gazed about the room, disturbed at the odd shapes until he recognized familiar things… the bureau, the armoire, the paintings on his bedroom walls. He swallowed and nodded.
     “Ye-yes. I-I’m fine. A bad dream, that’s all it was. Just a dream.”
    “A bad dream? Dear, you’re breathing so hard, your heart must be pounding like a drum in Mr. Sousa’s band! Are you sure you’re fine?”
    The doctor took his wife’s hand and kissed it, relieved to feel his heartbeat return to normal. He had to admit his reaction worried him for a minute, too. “I’m fine now, Phoebe. Really, it’s all right. Go back to sleep. I’m too wrought up to rest. I think I’ll go downstairs and read awhile.”
    He gave her a loving smile before he rose and slipped on his robe, his thoughts in a whirl. To tell the truth, these dreams or hallucinations or whatever they were appeared to be getting stronger and more frequent. Not that he’d tell her, of course. It made Bowen wonder if he was losing touch with his faculties, something he’d never dare mention. Nor did he want to even entertain the thought, but he did. Am I going mad? Am I?

Thanks for letting me spend some time with your readers!

Questions and comments for Christine are welcome.

Monday, July 24, 2017

When Is the Best Time for Book Publication? By Jacqueline Seewald

Some people might say that the best time for book publication is any time at all. I agree to a certain extent. We want our books to go forth and flourish. But are there better times for this to happen, times when readers are more likely to buy and read our work?

Here’s a surprise: According to BookBaby, the Christmas holidays are not the best time for new or self-published authors to set forth their books. BookBaby observes that because established authors target this time, new authors tend to be at a disadvantage. Buyers looking for gifts mostly buy well-known authors and not new writers.

So when would be a preferable time to publish? BookBaby believes January and February show a definite increase in book sales over the holidays for newbes. However, the largest volume of book sales according to their statistics comes in the summer months.

This is another surprise for me since the two books of mine that were published in July and August respectively both received low sales and limited reviews. Therefore, I am not personally big on summer publication, although BookBaby does offer stats to support their view: There are over $3.4 billion in sales during summer, according to their industry sources, compared to about $2.9 billion spent for holiday gift giving.

Fellow writers and readers, what has your own experience been? When do you buy books if you are a reader? When do your books sell the best if you are a writer? Let’s share info!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Reading: Women of Mystery

Summer is the perfect time to spend some time vacationing or just relaxing. Sit in the sun, lie on a chaise poolside, rest by the ocean or a lake, or under the shade of a tree, sip a cool drink, and read a book—hard cover, soft cover or digital.

Mysteries remain one of the most popular genres for summer reading. Why? Because they entertain us. They also engage our intellect in a satisfying manner. Of the most popular women mystery writers, few are young. Each has a popular mystery series. Who are some of these women writers of mystery fiction?

Janet Evanovich
Tess, Gerritsen
Louise Penny
Sue Grafton
Sara Paretsky (I just finished FALLOUT and it’s a winner!)
and the Queen of Suspense herself—Mary Higgins Clark

Lots of good summer reading on the bestseller list as well.
For instance, Paula Hawkins has a new thriller INTO THE WATER.I recently read Joanne Fluke’s BANANA CREAM PIE MURDER, #21 in her Hannah Swensen series and still going strong. I’m looking forward to the next one. The book on my nightstand I just finished reading is Molly MacRae’s PLAID AND PLAGIARISM. Molly used to be a fellow Five Star/Cengage author. So I was particularly delighted to read another of her fine novels.

But what about some of the excellent women authors that write for small independent presses and provide us with quality mystery series but don’t get as much publicity because they are not with the big publishers?

I recommend Patricia Gligor’s Malone series; her latest novel
MARNIE MALONE is a perfect summer read for those who enjoy mystery thrillers. Check it out on Amazon. I also recommend my latest novel THE INHERITANCE, a romantic mystery thriller, as well as the 4th in my Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth series THE BAD WIFE.

If you’re in the mood for Southern gothic romantic mystery thrillers, I recommend two--Susan Coryell’s BENEATH THE STONES and my own novel DARK MOON RISING. Both can also be checked out for reviews on Amazon.

Some other women mystery writers I recommend because I’ve read and enjoyed their mystery series novels are: Nancy J. Cohen (Bad Hair Day Series), Alice Duncan (Spirits cozy mysteries), Susan Oleksiw (mysteries set in exotic India) and Maggie Toussaint who has several series and displays a fine sense of humor.

There are many other fine women mystery writers who can be added to this list. As a reader and/or writer are there any authors and/or books you would like to recommend for summer reading? Please share!