Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Guest Author

Today Pamela Thibodeaux presents her latest novel which has special meaning for her. Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” You can sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story!


Title: My Heart Weeps
Blurb: After thirty years married to the man of her dreams, Melena Rhyker is devastated by her husband's death. Relief comes in the form of an artist's retreat at the Crossed Penn ranch in Utopia, TX. She rediscovers a forgotten dream as her artistic talent flourishes into that of a gallery-worthy artist. Will she have the courage to follow the path she was destined to travel?

Garrett Saunders has been on the run most of his life. Abused and abandoned as a child, he escapes the clutches of a past filled with pain and shame, and hides from his calling as a Native American healer. His years as a CIA agent aid in overcoming his childhood and honing his talent and skill as a fine art photographer. 

Follow their journey as two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but share gifts of gigantic proportions, find meaning and purpose in the Texas Hill Country.

Excerpt: With the energy of a wet noodle, she eased out of the sauna, rinsed the sweat off her skin, and tied the sarong around her waist. She tossed the damp towel over her shoulders, put on her sandals and headed to her room to shower and change. Fresh fruit and pastries left over from breakfast lay spread out at the buffet like a feast for the famished. Melena filled a plate and had taken two steps toward the stairs when Anne Penn entered the room flanked by a handsome hunk of man Melena hadn’t seen before.
“Hi, Melena. I’d like you to meet Garrett, our new part-time wrangler, part-time maintenance man.”
Eyes the color of Texas bluebonnets swept over her in a gaze as potent as a caress, then locked with hers. A dimple danced in the cowboy’s cheek when he tipped his hat and grinned.
“Ma’am,” he drawled.
Melena tugged the ends of her towel together and down over her skimpily clad bosom, muttered a quick hello, and escaped. Racing up the stairs as fast as possible on legs that wobbled, she entered her room, all but dropped the plate on her nightstand, and sat down onto the bed.
Never had she felt the pure sexual punch of such raw masculinity in a single look.
MY REVIEW of this novel:
Melena Rhyker has just lost her husband Jonathan to a blood infection and is overcome with grief. Even her children, grandchildren and religion cannot console her. She falls into a deep depression, even quitting her job.
Five months later, she receives a grant for a residency at an artist’s retreat in Texas. She puts her faith in God and accepts. Melena has never been away from home before. However, the experience proves to be a positive one. When offered a job at the ranch, she accepts and continues to pursue her art.
Two cowboys show a romantic interest in her, but Melena feels guilty, as if she would be disloyal to the memory of her husband. Garrett emerges as a well-developed character. A fellow artist, cowboy, former DEA and CIA agent, Garrett has a troubled past of family tragedy that he needs to work through with the advice and help of his Native American grandfather. Garrett helps Melena overcome sleepwalking and supports her through his friendship.
Partly based on the author’s own personal experience of losing her husband, My Heart Weeps is a touching story of overcoming grief. It appeals to all human beings who must come to terms with the death of a loved one. This novel offers a positive, uplifting experience.
Jacqueline Seewald
My Heart Weeps is on sale for a limited time @ 99cents and FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
Links:


Twitter: http://twitter.com/psthib @psthib
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1jUVcdU

Pam is giving away 1 Ebook, 1 Autographed Print Book, 1 Audio Book, a $15 Amazon Gift Card, a 1-month Audible membership and a SURPRISE Giftpack to 6 lucky people! (1 prize per winner) Names will be collected throughout the tour which ends Sept. 30th. Winners will be notified, and prizes awarded by October 10th so be sure to leave your EMAIL Address!

Blog Tour Dates/Stops:
8/11 Gail Pallotta’s Peering Through Life’s Window
8/13 Liz Flaherty’ Word Wranglers Blog
8/15 Clare Revell’s The Word Can Wait Blog
8/18 Southern Writers Suite T Blog
8/18 Alina K Field’s Simply Romance Blog
8/20 Penelope Marzec’s Bookish Thoughts Blog
8/25 Jana Richards’ Romance Story Board Blog
8/27 Beverly Bateman’s BLOG
9/1 Valarie Goree’s Facebook Page
9/5 D. V. Stone’s Campfire Blog
9/9 Jacqueline Seewald’s BLOG
9/11 Linda Rondeau’s Snark & Sensibility Blog
9/14 Patricia Kioyno’s Four Foxes, One Hound Blog
9/18 Diane Burton’s BLOG
9/22 Alicia Dean’s BLOG
9/25 Jeny Hickman’s BLOG
9/30 Linda Nightingale’s Author…Musings Blog


Friday, August 28, 2020

Point of View: Who’s Telling the Story?

More to the point: Who should be telling the story? I often see the comment from agents that they are looking for writers who have a “unique voice”. Therefore, simply develop an original voice. Right? But what exactly does that entail? First, decide who is telling the story. The point of view of the main character or characters has everything to do with voice. It’s not your personal voice but that of the character in your story.

For instance, this is one of the most important things in writing a successful young adult novel. It does not mean that you must write only from a first person point of view. However, teenage readers often respond well to a first person narrative. But voice has to do with choice of vocabulary and style as well. My YA novels, STACY’S SONG, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, and WITCH WISH are written in the first person from the main character’s point of view. Stacy has a sharp sense of humor as does Val while Danna is sensitive and artistic. These things influence how they tell their stories. Tip: It often helps to read your writing out loud.

With traditional romance, there are generally two viewpoints that move from female to male, usually written in the third person. They need to be distinctive from each other even in third person POV. I think it’s important for the hero or male protagonist to be represented in viewpoint. In HIGHLAND HEART, now in pre-release from Luminosity, the POV is weighted toward the heroine who is the key character, but the hero’s viewpoint is presented about forty percent of the time. In SINFUL SEDUCTION the viewpoints are equally weighted.

 Mystery varies more. Often these days, the first person viewpoint is the unreliable narrator who may not be telling the truth for a variety of reasons. It sets the reader up for the surprise or twist ending. Most common is the third person narration. This has the advantage of varying point of view with ease. But multiple viewpoints have one important disadvantage: they may cause the story to lose focus if mishandled. I prefer to write my mystery stories and novels from the third person viewpoint. In BLOOD FAMILY, my latest Kim Reynolds mystery, most of the novel is seen from Kim’s viewpoint since she is the central character/sleuth.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645990435

With short stories, it’s best to set the point of view with just the main character. Have a clear focus as Poe recommended. Decide in advance who that key character will be and then present from that viewpoint.

Sometimes authors have multiple first person POV while others will use multiple third person. But changing viewpoints too often can confuse readers causing them to reject the work. Readers need to respond with a sense of connection to at least one character. So that character must seem real and matter to the reader on some level. When the POV of a key character resonates with the reader what happens to that character is something the reader wants and needs to know.

In the 19th century, omniscient narration was popular. The all-knowing third person narrator informed the reader. Occasionally, writers will still use second person narration as well, addressing the reader directly using “you” and “your”. We don’t see much of either one of these in modern fiction writing. However, an article in THE THE WRITER newsletter observes a “reason writers might strive for second-person point of view: They’re looking for immediacy. One example that springs readily to mind is, of course, the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of YA/middle-grade books.”

Cross genre novels can be tricky. My novel DEATH PROMISE is a romantic suspense mystery thriller. The novel is mainly presented from the POV of the two main characters who balance each other. Did I manage it effectively? If you read the novel, let me know what you think. I’d love input and feedback.


As observed, in regard to short story fiction, editors tend to prefer one POV. Multiple viewpoints don’t work well because of limited length. The short story works best with a single focus.

With multiple POV the readers see and hear things from the unique perspective of the various characters in a story or novel. That is why you always have to consider the different style and vocabulary each narrator presents if you want to create the semblance of reality, verisimilitude, in your work.

Your thoughts and comments, as always, welcome here.



Friday, August 14, 2020

Fun with Secondary Characters

My guest blogger this week is award-winning author Leslie Wheeler who writes the Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries which began with Murder at Plimoth Plantation, recently re-released for the first time as a trade paperback, and the Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries, which began with Rattlesnake Hill and continues with Shuntoll Road. Like me, Leslie is currently published for mystery fiction by Encircle. 
Secondary characters can be fun to write and fun to read about, because they don’t bear the burdens of the main characters who not only have to solve crimes, but are often struggling with personal issues. Two secondary characters that I enjoyed creating and that early readers of my new mystery, Shuntoll Road, appear to have enjoyed also are Maxine Kepler and Grandma Waite, aka “Crazy Scarlett.”

Maxine Kepler is loud in voice and dress. She’s described as rarely speaking below a shout and favoring bright colored clothing—attributes that, as a short person among taller people, she uses to call attention to herself. Also, as a single woman in her forties, she is engaged in a perpetual search for “Mr. Right,” whether he happens to be a someone else’s boyfriend or not. And she never misses an opportunity to flirt with a man she considers attractive, even in the midst of an emergency phone call.
Grandma Waite, aka “Crazy Scarlett,” is far from being your typical warm, fuzzy granny, as her nickname suggests, though she is fiercely protective of her great-granddaughter and namesake, Scarlett. A beauty in her youth, she dresses all in black and her Shirley-Temple-style curls are dyed jet black. Regarded as a witch by many in town, she spies on her grandson and his family who live across the street, interrogates their visitors, and makes frequent, ominous pronouncements about trouble to come. She is definitely not a person you want to mess with, as another character discovers when she descends on him “like an angry crow,” shrieking at him to leave immediately. When he refuses, she pounds on the cab of his truck with her umbrella until he finally does and ends up driving smack into a huge pothole.
Both Grandma Waite and Maxine Kepler provide some of the more amusing moments in the book. Still, as characters in a mystery novel, where everything needs to advance the story, each also serves a serious purpose.
Maxine is a long-time friend of Gwen Waite, who next to Kathryn is the most important character in the novel. A fellow New Yorker, Maxine is a link between Gwen and her past life, a past that included another friend, Niall Corrigan, who, as a successful real estate developer, has come to the Berkshires ostensibly to build an upscale development but with a hidden agenda. Both Maxine and Niall are privy to the secret event that caused Gwen to leave the city. And when drama queen Maxine persists in putting air quotes around Gwen’s “accident” that left her in a coma years ago, Kathryn begins to suspect it wasn’t a bad car accident, as Gwen claims.
Maxine also serves as an intermediary between Niall and Gwen in his efforts to have a romantic relationship with Gwen, who isn’t as happily married as she’d like people to believe. Determined to find a partner for herself, Maxine has set her cap for Earl Barker, Kathryn’s boyfriend, and pressures Kathryn, who has returned to the Berkshires with the goal of seeing if she and Earl can rebuild their all-but-shattered relationship, to make up her mind, “because if you don’t grab him, someone else (Maxine herself) will.”
As for Grandma Waite, she gave me the opportunity to weave in a colorful bit of my fictional town New Nottingham’s history (stolen from the history of the real-life Berkshire town where I have a house) in that she’s rumored to be a descendant of a notorious madam who ran a brothel in the tiny hamlet of Gomorrah that was once part of New Nottingham. More importantly, Grandma Waite’s uncanny ability to recognize evil in other people is crucial to the climax. But to say more would be to risk giving away the ending.
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Readers: Do you use secondary characters to provide humor even if they serve a serious purpose? If so, please share.


Friday, August 7, 2020

Reader Reviews: Do They Matter?

As a reader you might think that your opinion of a book or short story you’ve read doesn’t matter, but you’d be wrong. Not only does your opinion matter to the author but it matters to other potential readers as well. Writers who can’t build a readership because they remain unknown are likely to become discouraged and stop writing. So if you do respect and/or enjoy a book or short story, voice your opinion. Give that writer some encouragement and publicity. Amazon is one place to do it and so are Goodreads and Library Thing. But there are many other sites as well. 

 For those authors who are published in print, major editorial reviews only matter as much as they do because the reviews offered in such publications as: The New York Times Book Review, Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus etc. are what acquisitions librarians consider when they place their orders. Librarians are often referred to as gatekeepers, but this is not quite true. For the most part, just a few publications control what books will be purchased worldwide. But these review pubs merely voice the opinion of single reviewers, and these reviewers don’t know more than the average person in regard to what should be available to readers. If a book gets a rave or starred review from these all important publications, then in essence that is what readers will find available in libraries and bookstores. 

 Unfortunately, a great many fine, quality books will be ignored and get no reviews or publicity because they aren’t offered by the big publishers who heavily advertise. It appears that the major review publications give special preference to the publishers who advertise with them—not at all surprising. Readers should check out some of the internet review sites for buying recommendations. Also, why not request that your library order books from smaller, independent publishers that you think might be a good read. 

 The internet is now offering readers real alternatives. This is wonderfully democratic. A great many small independent publishers are making a variety of books available to readers. If you read a book you like, speak up and be a reader reviewer. Tell other readers why you would recommend a particular book. Write and be counted! Your opinion matters! But one caution: take this is a serious responsibility. Of late, it has been noted that some individuals bash books, sometimes books they haven’t even bothered to read. This is highly destructive, much in the way that hackers attack the internet. So be a responsible reader reviewer and help others make good choices.

I personally review many of the books I read on Goodreads. Here is a sample.This is an excerpt from my review for Pamela S. Thibodeaux’s soon to be released novel MY HEART WEEPS:

 “Partly based on the author’s own personal experience of losing her husband, My Heart Weeps is a touching story of overcoming grief. It appeals to all human beings who must come to terms with the death of a loved one. This novel offers a positive, uplifting experience.” 

Your thoughts and comments most welcome.

Friday, July 31, 2020

What Themes Attract Readers?

Whether authors of fiction write short stories, plays or novels, theme is an essential component, just like characterization, plot and setting. A theme, which is a universal idea or message that stretches throughout a work, often is sociological or cultural in nature.

Some themes reoccur because they have strong appeal for readers. For instance, I recently finished reading a thriller in which the theme was conspiracy theory, popular in the suspense genre. Fiction writers often pull their themes from nonfiction and then write faction. Readers are attracted to such themes because they can easily identify and connect to them. Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer are two popular suspense writers who have successfully done this. Shakespeare often used politics as an underlying theme in his plays whether contemporary or historical.

Good fiction writing needs a cohesive theme to hold the work together. The lesson is generally about life or humanity and is preferably implied rather than stated outright. The show-not-tell rule works well with theme.

However, there may be more than one theme, especially in a novel. One way to convey theme is through recurring use of symbolism. Hawthorne and Hemingway were both particularly talented in that regard.

Romances concentrate on the theme of finding love everlasting. But even with romance fiction there are often secondary themes. Two of my historical romance novels for Luminosity, SINFUL SEDUCTION and soon to be released HIGHLAND HEART, are connected with themes of war and politics.


In HIGHLAND HEART, jealousy is an important theme motivating the protagonists. The reference to OTHELLO is deliberate.


 Mysteries, in turn, are about finding solutions and discovering the truth about puzzling situations such as solving murders and imposing order where there was chaos. These are themes that attract mystery readers and what they expect.  My latest Kim Reynolds mystery BLOOD FAMILY is concerned with such matters.


There are often socially significant secondary themes in crime fiction. Kim, for instance, begins a quest to discover the paternity of her father. This involves her in a complex mystery. The desire to uncover true identities is another reoccurring theme in mystery fiction.

What themes interest you as a reader or a writer? What themes appear to be especially significant?


Friday, July 17, 2020

Interview with Author Cathi Stoler

I have the pleasure of interviewing a fellow mystery writer this week. Cathi is a three-time finalist and winner of the Derringer for Best Short Story “The Kaluki Kings of Queens.” She is a board member of Sisters in Crime New York/Tri-State, and a member of MWA and International Thriller Writers. You can reach her at www.cathistoler.com.


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

Answer:
BAR NONE A Murder On The Rocks Mystery is the title of my newest mystery/suspense novel. I’ve written several previous mystery novels and I wanted this to have a different theme and decided set the story, and the series, in a bar owned by a woman, Jude Dillane. I thought the title, BAR NONE, would telegraph the theme to my readers. It’s going to be followed by two other novels, LAST CALL, and, STRAIGHT UP, also terms that relate to the bar business.


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

Answer:  
My husband was in the bar and restaurant business for many years. I spent time at the various places he worked and became friends with many of his co-workers. I also observed how people related to each, from the cooks, to the waitstaff, to the bartenders and patrons. It often felt very much like a family. I wanted The Corner Lounge, the bar and restaurant in the book, to be the place where ‘everybody knows your name’ and I created the story around that.

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

Answer: 
Jude Dillane, the protagonist at the center of the story, is a young woman who is determined to succeed. She’s had some setbacks in her life and still mourns the loss of her immediate family years ago. Jude’s worked very hard to make a go of her place, The Corner Lounge on Tenth Street and Avenue B on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She’s has the good fortune to have a wonderful friend in her landlord, Thomas “Sully” Sullivan, a former Marine Colonel, who owns the building the restaurant is located in.

For Jude, Sully has become a surrogate father and because of their close relationship, she agrees to go undercover at the Big City Food Coop where he volunteers to help find a murderer.

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

Answer:  
I’ve written two other series. The first is the Laurel and Helen New York Mysteries, a three book series in which magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole, and P.I. Helen McCorkendale, team up to solve crimes involving art looted by the Nazis, hidden identity, and the theft of a priceless red diamond.

My other series features professional blackjack player, Nick Donahue, in NICK OF TIME, a novella, and OUT OF TIME, a full-length thriller. In both, Nick travels the world playing blackjack, getting into difficulties, and solving crimes with the help of his partner, Marina DiPietro, a former MI6 agent.

I’ve also written a book of short stories, BAD THINGS HAPPEN, and various other stories including the Derringer winner, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens.”

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer: 

I’m working on the third book in the Murder On The Rocks Series, STRAIGHT UP, in which Jude is still dealing with the after effects of a serial killer who’d been stalking people on the Lower East Side where her business is located.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:
I attribute it to my love of reading since I was a very young child. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. In my first career, I was an advertising copywriter and creative director and wrote commercials and print ads. Of course, that’s very different from writing a novel, which I believe somewhere inside I always wanted to do. I decided I would try and I took a class entitled “Overcoming Your Fear Of Writing Your Novel.” It allowed me to realize I could do this and I’ve been writing novels ever since.

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

Answer:
Don’t give up. It may not be easy and you may have doubts about your work, but keep writing. Eventually, you will finish.

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

Answer:
BAR NONE will be available on Amazon and at bookstores everywhere:



*Cathi welcomes your comments and questions!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Dual Personalities in Literature

My guest author today is writing about the theme of dual personalities and identities in fiction. Patricia McAlexander is from upstate New York, the setting of her new novel Stranger in the Storm, but she’s also lived in Colorado, Texas, and Wisconsin. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New York at Albany, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English. Patricia now lives in Athens, Georgia, with her Southerner husband, whom she met when they were graduate students in Wisconsin.  After retiring from teaching at the University of Georgia, she’s had had more time to garden and travel while renewing her interests in photography, history, and, most of all, writing fiction.



DUAL IDENTITIES

I was fascinated when an early reviewer of Stranger in the Storm commented on its theme of dual or confused identities. She noted that Janet, the protagonist, wonders, when first meeting Wes, the stranger of the title, whether he is friend or foe, and goes on, “The answer is in doubt—when Janet first sees his face, it’s ‘blurred by streams of water.’” I’d thought of that blurring as just a factual detail when I wrote it, but after reading that review, I saw how the detail indeed connects to the novel’s theme of dual identities.
I’ve long been fascinated by the case Thigpen and Cleckley describe in The Three Faces of Eve, where one facet of the patient’s personality was the quiet, serious, even dull “Eve White”; the other was the wild, uninhibited “Eve Black.” (The third, a combination of the two, emerges during treatment.) Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also portrays a dual personality. The good, beloved Dr. Jekyll battles the evil within himself, but in trying to expel it, he is transformed into the evil, violent Mr. Hyde. The Incredible Hulk stories of Marvel Comics, the TV series, and movies portray a similar character: Dr. Bruce Banner, when threatened, transforms into a huge green and often destructive creature that he tries valiantly to control. In the opening chapter of Stranger in the Storm, Dr. Jack Dexter, the charming, charismatic professor who swept Janet off her feet, becomes domineering, possessive, abusive.  Janet decides he must have a “dual personality.”

Equally fascinating to me are identical twins, individuals developed from the same fertilized egg with exactly the same genes—a literal splitting of one person into two. Studies of such twins suggest they share a genetic component not only in appearance but in everything from intelligence to psychological traits. In fiction, however, we sometimes find twins who, like Eve White and Eve Black, are psychic opposites; one may be good, the other evil, like Jekyll and Hyde. In Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat, two men who meet by chance look exactly alike, as if they were twins (though the phenomenon is not explained). One is suspect morally and has made a mess of his life; the other—we could designate him as the good twin—takes on his counterpart’s identity and with great effort makes things right for him.

In Stranger, the second man to come into Janet’s life, after she has left Jack and gone to her parents’ cottage in upstate New York, is the handsome, chivalrous stranger who rescues her during a storm. But when he shows up the next day, he seems to have morphed into a totally different person—a criminal who would not hesitate to rape her. Do we again have a dual personality?
Another early reviewer called Stranger a “Hitchcockian thriller.” I was happy that someone thought its drama and suspense worthy of such a designation.
BLURB
          After she discovers the abusive side of his personality, Janet Mitchell leaves the professor who swept her off her feet. Will she discover the same darkness in Wes, the handsome young man who rescues her during a hurricane?
           
Years before, Wes Corbett vowed not to get romantically involved again, fearing anyone close to him might be harmed by his brother William, a born criminal. Now as he weathers the storm with Janet, their mutual attraction becomes clear. Can he keep that vow--even though he knows William is on the loose and may be headed directly for them?

EXCERPT

A wave of horror passed over her. It was true. Wes was the escaped convict. He had reunited with Richard Sturgess, the other convict. How he had fooled her! He was as good a performer as Jack, acting so convincingly to get what he wanted—in this case, shelter and food— then her father’s tools to free his truck.
Richard said to Wes, “Did you get the key?”
“Yes.” Wes held it up, then unlocked the door and motioned them inside. He looked at the pile of clothes and the wet mattress on the floor. “What a mess.”
       “I need to get dressed,” she said.
 “Sure, you can get dressed. But you aren’t getting out of my sight.” Wes noted her jeans, shirt, and underwear on the couch. “Here you go.” He tossed the items one by one to her, dangling her bra for longer than was necessary.
Anger boiled up in her. Snatching each item, Janet saw the blanket he had used on the couch the night before. She grabbed it and wrapped it about her like a burka. Then she pulled off her bathing suit and, rather awkwardly, dressed inside the blanket.
Wes watched her with mocking amusement. Finished, she threw the blanket aside. “Clever girl, aren’t you?” said Wes. “Now, how about getting me some dry clothes and fixing us something to eat?”

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Comments for Patricia are welcome here!