Friday, April 12, 2024

How Character and Conflict Interact in Fiction


To write the kind of fiction readers can’t or won’t put down it’s necessary to create compelling conflict. Perfection is boring. So is a dull life. The writer should consider creating a character whose life seems to be going along beautifully until things twist around. Example: a successful executive is suddenly fired. A talented surgeon is involved in an accident losing the use of a hand.

In my historical mystery novel HEART OF WISDOM, Sora in the second part of the novel struggles to clear her husband of murder charges, placing her own life in jeopardy.

A writer needs to set up values and goals unique to the character/protagonist. The plot must fit the character. Which should come first? Plot or character? Either one. They just have to work well together. Plots have a chain of cause and effect relationships, not just what happens, which is the story, but why things happen the way they do. Clearly, this brings character into play. It is important to initially define the main characters--what they want, what motivates and drives their needs.

I try to start a book or story in medias res, beginning in the middle of a scene of some significance. Something important should be happening. Dialogue and action are crucial. I don’t want a static beginning. 

I suggest the writer intrigues the reader by starting with some form of mystery. Make readers curious from the first and then keep them guessing. 

Think of the middle of the novel as rising action (Aristotle’s words). What happens grows organically from what occurs in the beginning. The protagonist runs into difficulties, obstacles that can’t easily be solved. Don’t slow the pace. Keep the tension building. Increase the danger and/or the obstacles. This goes for any genre of fiction whether it is romance, sci-fi, mystery, literary etc.

Comments welcome.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Luck in Literature


The Ides of March, the 15th and 16th of this month, traditionally bode bad luck. For instance, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the emperor is warned to “Beware the Ides of March” by the Soothsayer. Julius, not being a superstitious sort of fellow and believing in his personal immortality, sneers, ignores the warning, and refers to the Soothsayer as “a dreamer.” (Not Caesar’s wisest decision).

 This Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day which supposedly brings good luck and fortune. Luck is a reoccurring theme in Irish literature. People do at times have lucky things happen to them and at other times suffer misfortunes like ill health, accidents or assaults. But authors prefer to believe that for the most part we make our own luck. 

According to Napoleon: “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.” I apply that statement to authors. We get lucky with our work when we’ve done adequate preparation—that is being well-read, writing, rewriting, and editing until we’ve created something of value and quality. If we’re too lazy or too full of ourselves to make this kind of effort and commitment, then alas we’ll never “get lucky.”

Luck is a common theme in literature. For example, Thomas Hardy created characters that were unlucky like Tess or Jude. Yet it could be argued that their bad luck came as a direct result of fatal flaws in their own characters. This is where Greek tragedy derives from. Things don’t just happen. There is a cause-and-effect relationship. Victorian writers used coincidence commonly in their plot lines, something modern writers try to avoid. 

I write about and admire main characters with positive values who make their own good luck and overcome obstacles through personal effort, not bemoaning their fate or bad luck. To quote Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar again, as Cassius observes: “Our fate, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

In tribute to Irish literature which as observed often deals with themes related to luck, I want to mention a few of the outstanding Irish writers I’ve appreciated over the years. 

As an undergraduate English major, I read and enjoyed John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. Synge celebrated the lyrical speech of the Irish in a boisterous play.

In graduate school, I took a semester seminar on the works of William Butler Yeats, a great Irish poet. I learned a great deal about Irish mythology from his work.

George Bernard Shaw was also of Irish origins and a great playwright, another favorite of mine. His plays still hold up because of thought-provoking themes and clever dialogue.

I’ve read James Joyce’s stories and novels but most appreciated his earlier work. I thought Portrait of the Artist was brilliant as was Dubliners, his short story collection. His style was original and unique.

Satirist Jonathan Swift is often thought of as a children’s writer, but this is, of course, false.

Notable Works: Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of a Tub, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift.

Oscar Wilde was a talented Irish writer and playwright. Sentenced to two years in prison for gross indecency (homosexuality), he eventually lost his creative spark. Notable Works: The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Importance of Being Earnest (play), Poems, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (children’s book), A Woman of No Importance (play).

Abraham Stoker (Bram Stoker) gave us Dracula (enough said!) Lawrence Sterne, Oliver Goldsmith, C.S. Lewis all had Irish origins as well, although they left Ireland for England. The list of outstanding Irish men and women who have provided great literature is very long and therefore beyond the scope of this mere blog.

Do you believe in luck? Is it a factor in what you’ve read or written? Do you have any favorite Irish authors you want to mention? 

Your thoughts and comments welcome!


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Why Regency Novels Continue to Fascinate Readers


In honor of February, the month of Valentine’s Day, I decided to dedicate my current blog to romance fiction.


I find Regency novels particularly fascinating.  I’ve read hundreds of novels in the genre. In this regard, I am like many other devoted readers. Regency romance has endured for a long time, and I believe will continue to be popular.  For example, the Bridgerton romance series on Netflix has drawn a vast audience. Bridgerton, based on a series of eight novel written by Julia Quinn and adapted for Netflix, has proven to have strong appeal.

  For those who are not familiar with Regency, let’s define it.  When we talk about the Regency era, we mean the brief period lasting between 1811-1820 in England. However, for the sake of the novels, the era begins at the tail end of the Georgian period in about 1800. It includes the scope of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, a period of turmoil, social unrest and political revolution.

 The novels of Jane Austen set in that era have caught the imagination of both readers and writers for centuries.  Her Regency romances like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE entertain because they rely heavily on character and the humor of human foibles. A much later author, Georgette Heyer, was one of the writers who created her own novels set in the Regency era. These romances have also influenced many readers and writers. Her novels even introduced their own unique vocabulary.

Some of the outstanding modern writers of this genre are Mary Jo Putney, Jane Ashford and Mary Balogh, each known for depth of characterization. Modern day Regency romance is longer and more sensual than the earlier novels. 

Today’s Regency romance fans are often very particular about historical references. They want complete accuracy in such matters as clothing, dialog, mores of the social scene and conventions of the era. To this effect, I did extensive research, reading and collecting numerous histories of this era as well as biographies of people who lived in those times before I wrote my own sensual Regency romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS. For example, Mr. Brockton who is my heroine’s benefactor runs a posh gaming establishment where many thousands of pounds exchange hands each night. It is frequented by the cream of the ton. His character is based on an actual person who went from fish monger to millionaire and then lost it all again. At the time I initially wrote TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, I was working as a librarian with access to a multitude of reference sources. My research proved both enjoyable and relatively easy.  Now the internet offers so much valuable information on the Regency era which makes research more convenient.

The latest edition of TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is available in all e-book formats and paperback as well. You’ll find this romance novel and others I’ve written on the Luminosity website:

Here are some snippets from the book reviews:

"Jacqueline Seewald's Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards delivers an unusual and intriguing heroine together with fast-paced historical romantic-suspense. Seewald is very much at home in her early 19th century setting."  - Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

“TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is rich in secondary characters across the spectrum of society...TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS has a lot to offer with its original characters and imaginative plot.” - Romance Reviews Today

“It is clear that Seewald's goal is to offer a deeply felt, emotional romance.” - Library Journal

“This is a delightful lighthearted regency frolic.” - Genre Go Round Reviews

Currently, I am hard at work on the sequel to this novel entitled THE LOST LADY. 

Do you read romance? Why or why not? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?



Friday, February 2, 2024

How and Where to Get Your Novel Published


First, write your novel. Let the words and ideas flow through to completion.

Second, forget your novel for at least a month. Work on other things.

Third, put on your editor’s eyes and reread your work. Consider: is your book too short? Usually, 60,000 words is novel length. Is your novel the length of WAR AND PEACE? Publishers aren’t looking for one volume epics either. 

When I finish writing a piece, I always think it’s great. When I read it with fresh eyes, I’m amazed to find mistakes. I don’t mean grammar or spelling since I was an English teacher for many years. I mean things like telling instead of showing or using too many adjectives or adverbs or exclamation points. These are mistakes that will mark you as an amateur. 

All right, let’s assume you’ve finished your novel and you believe it’s to die for, with fully developed characters and a unique plot. You’ve written a solid synopsis and query letter.

Where to from here?

Time to check out one of two things:  literary agents and/or publishers who accept novels like yours with no agent. Do your research. 

You can do a lot of this online. Also, use publications such as WRITER’S MARKET or THE WRITER’S HANDBOOK. You can read them at your local library or buy your own.

You can also join writers’ organizations. You’ll get help and you won’t be alone. You can attend conferences which will provide further entrĂ©e.

Is it easy to get a novel published?  Not particularly. But you can very likely get a start with e-books if you’re a beginner. Personally, I believe you should aim higher. I am not a fan of self-publishing unless you are willing to invest a lot of money, time and effort into internet publicity. I also believe you should avoid vanity presses. You should never pay to have your work published. Money must flow to the author not from him/her.

Many agents are looking for new writers who offer a fresh perspective. Why can’t that be you? Also, some publishers are still open to submission from new writers who don’t have agents. Check them out as well. Investigate that they are legitimate and not scammers. Then send out your query letters.

To get you started, check out:

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity (

This site is excellent for providing current information from agents and publishers. You need to see which of them will be a good fit for your work. For example, if you write adult romance, you shouldn’t query a children’s books publisher since that would be a waste of time and effort.

My latest novel, my 21st from a reputable publisher, is a combination of mystery and history. HEART OF WISDOM was published by Level Best Books—which does not require agent submission: 

Give it your best shot, and don’t get discouraged by rejections. We all get them! As for me, I’m working on a new novel

Best of luck with your writing!



Friday, January 26, 2024

Interview with Publisher/Editor/Author Jason J. Marchi



Jason J. Marchi made his first professional sale, a poem, to Amazing Stories magazine in 1988. Since then, Mr. Marchi has sold over 900 articles, stories, poems, and essays to magazines and newspapers, and won over a dozen awards presented by the Association of American Publishers (a REVERE Award), National Federation of Press Women, Connecticut Press Club, and the Society of Professional Journalists.

In November 2010, Mr. Marchi’s first collection of poems, Ode on a Martian Urn, was published as a chapbook, and a year later his first picture book, The Legend of Hobbomock: The Sleeping Giant, was published in hardcover. Hobbomock is a perennial seller to elementary schools and summer reading lists. Hobbomock was also noted as a Barnes & Noble regional bestseller in the first few years after its publication.

During the 16 years that Mr. Marchi worked for McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, a higher education publisher, he founded and managed the not-for-profit New Century Writer Awards (NCWA) contest that operated for six years in close association with Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story magazine. NCWA awarded over $65,000 in cash prizes to several dozen writers. Mr. Marchi is also credited with discovering the early literary talents of Joseph Hill (Heart-Shaped Box, Horns) when the NCWA presented Mr. Hill with its first Ray Bradbury Short Story Fellowship in 2002.

Mr. Marchi was closely mentored by Ray Bradbury between 2000 and 2009 after the two became pen pals during the 1980s and 1990s. Mr. Marchi and Mr. Bradbury maintained their extraordinary friendship until Mr. Bradbury’s death in 2012 at the age of 91.

As an editor, Mr. Marchi launched Automobilia, the first book in the SpeKulative Stories Anthology Series, published in January 2024. He is also a 30-year Active Member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association, Inc.

Mr. Marchi works from his boyhood home in Guilford, Connecticut.

Question: What kind of books does OmicronWorld publish? 

Answer:  Under our Fahrenheit books imprint, which, upon the suggestion of a writer friend I named in honor of my mentor and friend, Ray Bradbury, I’ve published writers whose work I like but who have been unable to break into traditional publishing and don’t want to assume all the work of self-publishing.

I’ve published both fiction and non-fiction by individual authors, but I’m currently moving away from single-author titles to focus on my love of short fiction and poetry in the form the theme anthologies. 

I started as a micro press—more of a boutique publisher, really—meaning I published just one or two titles by select authors each year. But I hope to grow into a small press publisher focused on thematic short fiction anthologies (which include poetry) for the foreseeable future.

Novels are more popular among readers and tend to sell more copies than short story collections (stories by a single author) and short story anthologies (stories by multiple authors). But I loved the short story more than any other fictional form. And my first professional sales as a writer were poems to science fiction magazines back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. So, I’m focusing on those two literary forms for the next several years—short stories and poems.

Question:   Can you tell readers about what’s involved in your work as editor/publisher? 

Answer: Excitement and the mundane—those are the two operative words in answer to this question. 

It's exciting to think of a new anthology theme idea—something I consider striking, like the Automobilia anthology idea, where automobiles are featured in each story. And it's fun to get word out that you're looking for submissions from writers. Then it's a real joy to see how many people respond and start sending you their work, hoping to sell their words and see their story printed in a book. It's also a joy to read through all those stories and see what really stands out and needs to be published that hasn’t been published anywhere yet. That’s a wonderful discovery process. And I like to reprint stories I like, because so many times a writer has written a good or great story, but it only gets printed in a magazine or anthology once and is never read again. A good story should be reprinted and find new readers through the years.

This is all part of the exciting process. And it's especially fun to accept a work and pay the writer on acceptance. I never liked the idea of publishers that pay on publication. Writers should be paid immediately. That’s a pet peeve of mine. It's a real joy to cut a check and pay a writer up front. I find that immensely satisfying even when that money comes out of my own pocket, and I might never earn that money back.

Then the mundane work begins. Assembling the book takes some time and becomes rote, although working with a professional cover designer is always fun. And then comes the arduous process of going through the book looking for errors once it's typeset. Sometimes no matter how many times you and others look at a manuscript, there's always some errors that sneak through, but you try to minimize those as much as possible.

So far I've only been using the Amazon KDP print and digital publishing platform which I think might limit sales to bookstores and the like, but with online marketing and with online book buying—and getting to the proper book influencers through TikTok and other social platforms—a book can still sell pretty well without having to be in physical (known as brick and motor) bookstores. 

I've been thinking of also issuing the books through the IngramSparks system, but I’ve found that technically more difficult to do than through the Amazon KDP system. But brick and mortar bookstores don’t like to buy and offer books from Amazon. Amazon is a bookstore’s competitor. Bookstores like to work with a wholesaler, like Ingram and their huge supply-chain system.

Selling books is difficult, no matter what, unless you have a big staff which means big overhead and a bigger level of stress. My ultimate goal is simply to break even on the expense of every book I publish, to cover all the upfront costs of the permission fees for the stories for the anthologies, and then there's also the cost of the cover designer, and sometimes the cost of additional book cover artwork, and then there is a cost to print advance reader copies for proofing, and the contributor’s free copies to have for their own permanent bookshelf at home.

With all of that said, it's always a joy to put a book together, and like anything else, the middle of the process can get bogged down with a lot of boring housekeeping. But then you get your energy back again when the interior and cover files for the book are finally ready and you get them up to the publishing platform website and you get the marketing for the title going and before you know it you have another book out in the marketplace.

I find the single biggest challenge is getting enough word out about each title to try and drive sales as far as a book can sell. I learned a long time ago that only the big publishers with deep pockets can pay for ads for huge named authors, but for most writers you have to try and market your books by word-of-mouth. You try and market the book and let people know about the book as much as possible without spending any money (only time) because it's gonna be very hard to get that money back in book sales down the road.

Acting as an editor and publisher is mostly a labor of love at this point. If a book takes off and sells well, that’s the icing on the cake. That financial success paves the way to take a financial risk on future books. 

So far, I’ve had only one book sell well beyond its $12,000 production cost and earn a profit to compensate for the losses on other books. That book was my own, the children’s book The Legend of Hobbomock. Twelve years later it still sells a few hundred copies a year. Not a wealth-maker, but a steady survivor in the book marketplace.

Question:   What are you working on now?

 Answer:  I’m presently launching a call-for-submissions for the next two books in the SpeKulativeTM Stories Anthology Series. Those two books are Train Tales and Aliens Among Us. The submission guidelines appear on the OmicronWorld/Fahrenheit Books website:

I'm also trying to work on my own writing and getting some of my own books out there, I'm mainly a short story writer, as I mentioned before, and I’m almost done writing the stories for three different theme-linked story collections.

I’ve tried to write novels, and I still might finish one or two yet, but I really love the short story.  As I mentioned before, Ray Bradbury was my mentor. I first wrote to him when I was 19 and he made the mistake of writing back. So, over the next 20 years we became pen pals, And then we became close personal friends during the last 13 years of his life. Bradbury was mainly a short story writer. He wrote very few novels in his career. So that's why I fell in love with the short story, and then I fell in love with the short stories of Ernest Hemingway and Shirley Jackson, and many others whose stories appear in those college fiction anthologies.

Thus, I've decided to spend most of my own time writing short stories, while also finding short stories by others to include in each forthcoming thematic anthology.

Like the Automobilia anthology, I've already got a number of famous writers whose stories I have for the train tales anthology. I love placing new writers side-by-side with classic/known writers. I think that’s a cool thing to do for writers alive today who are trying to get their work and their name out there.

Question:   What made you start working as an editor/publisher?

Answer: Several different or disparate things coalesce into my interest in becoming an editor and publisher.

I started out selling poems to Amazing Stories and Weird Tales magazines. And then I sold a few more works and then short stories to some small magazines. 

About that same time, I started working for a division of a small higher educational publishing company that became part of Times Mirror and then McGraw-Hill towards the end of my 16-year career there. The company was small in the early years, and I was able to see books developed from the very start—from acquisition of articles and manuscripts all the way through the typesetting and printing/binding of the books, and then the marketing and fulfillment. I paid close attention to what was going on—and I had directed access to the president of the company at any time—so I fell in love with the idea of producing books and developing books as much as I loved holding books in my hands and reading books.

Later, when I learned how difficult it is for many really good writers to break into mainstream publishing because the competition is so fierce, I decided that maybe I could help some of those writers end up with a book in their hands because their work was good, and they deserved to have a published book.

You see, I was rejected more times that I can count. My first two children’s books were rejected by every publishing house. The manuscripts would win in contests, the judges loved the stories, but editors and publishing houses said, sorry, not for us. I was also told by some editors and publishers that a book like The Legend of Hobbomock (a Native American myth legend story) would never sell.

I got so tired of hearing NO I took the advice of other accomplished writers who loved my Hobbomock story, and that was to “publish the book yourself,” they said, which I did, under my own start-up press, Fahrenheit Books. I took all I had learned from the educational publisher over 16 years and applied it to starting my own press. That book, by the way, ended up becoming a regional best seller in Connecticut in the first three years after its publication. It was an immediate hit. So much for the editor who said it would not sell, huh? Sometimes you just HAVE to believe in yourself and work against the naysayers. 

Having experienced so many blockades—which I still hit to this day with traditional book publishers and all of these newer, on-line literary magazines—I was driven to try and help other writers as much as I can.

I can only help a few, but it’s very satisfying to give new writers a chance. It’s far too easy—and I think lazy—to say NO to every creative idea that does not fit the current cultural narrative. Visionaries ignore current culture and pop-culture, and invent the future. Not that I’m a visionary, but those are the types of people I most admire and would like to emulate, In my case, I hope to follow the beat of a different drummer through micro-press publishing.

Lastly, by publishing Automobilia I have had the great pleasure of meeting new, wondrous writers, such as yourself, and a few of these new people have become close friends. This is an added benefit of editing and publishing books. It’s not all about me trying to get my own writing out into the world. I loved to help others just as much if not more.  

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing and want to be published?

Answer:   The unique thing about writing is that you can do it in just about any place that you can get your words down on paper, or onto a computer, or even recorded onto a voice recording app on a smartphone. 

I often “write” to my phone recording app when hiking trails on preserve lands near me. I transcribe the stories when I get home, also through an app that turns my spoken words into text, thus saving a lot of time not having to type. I mentioned this only because no matter where you are and when you are you can write something down that hits you and not lose it forever to the ether.

As for general publishing advice, study every print and on-line magazine market you can find, and send out your work.

Robert Heinlein, the great science fiction writer of the mid-20th century had five rules of writing. The are: 1. Write regularly. 2. Finish what you start. 3. Market your work promptly. 4. Rewrite to editorial demand. 5. Push your work until it is sold. 

I live by this, even today. The last three are key.

I also suggest that fiction writers try to expand their world view and write non-fiction in the form of articles. For a long time, I found it very difficult to sell my fiction, even though that’s what I loved to write the most. But when I started writing non-fiction for newspapers and magazines, I started getting published each week, saw my name in the byline for each article,  and got paid for it! My writing also got better due to all the regular wiring I was doing for the newspaper, which later turned into assignments by editors at bigger, glossy regional magazines.

For 16 years I wrote for a weekly newspaper group and made an okay living from it. I was able to pay modest bills. Things have changed in the newspaper business as they have lost advertising sales revenue over the past several years and slashed freelance and staff writing budgets. But if a writer really needs to see their work in print, and be paid money for that writing, news reporting and magazine article writing is very satisfying, while you continue to work on your fiction.

And keep sending your work out to editors an agents, like Heinlein said.

Thank you, Jacqueline, for inviting me to answers these questions for your readers. Happy 2024 to you and all your readers and writers!

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your latest published anthology AUTOMOBILIA? 


And, if your readers are interested in some of the other books I have published through Fahrenhiet Books, please visit the OmicronWorld website at:

Comments and questions for Jason are welcome here.


Friday, January 5, 2024

Starting the New Year Right 2024


January symbolically marks a new beginning and a fresh start. With that in mind, I have resolved to continue writing.

I will continue to send my work out, short stories in particular to various publishers and publications regardless of acceptances. Most writers meet with a lot more rejection than acceptance. In that respect, I am typical. But if writing is something you feel compelled to do—like me—than you work at it regardless.

HEART OF WISDOM, published by Level Best Books in 2023, is, I believe, one of my best novels. I have resolved to begin working on a new one.

Another of my continuing resolutions is striving to improve the quality of my work. With that in mind, I pay attention to editorial and reader comments.

Building a readership is not easy. I hope to increase mine. I also intend to continue reading diverse books and writing reviews of those I truly enjoy. 

What are some of your plans or resolutions for the year ahead? Are they the same as last year or have they changed?

Friday, December 15, 2023

Sharing Reading Suggestions for the Holidays 2023


The holidays are a great time to gift friends, family and yourself with books to read. And there certainly are a lot of them being published! You can find books to suit every age and taste whether fiction or nonfiction. Let’s share recommendations, whether it be your own work or that of others. 

I’ll start things going. I recently finished reading PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN by Daniel Silva. This mystery thriller is part of a series. It’s a fast read with some surprising twists.

I was gifted with the 4th Witch Way Librarian Mystery entitled WITCH UPON A STAR print edition and have just started reading it. I’ve enjoyed the first three books in this series by Angela M. Sanders.

I both read and write historical romance as well as mysteries. My most recent novel combining historical family saga and mystery is entitled HEART OF WISDOM and was released by Level Best Books in September.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Please share the books and publications you think will make for good holiday reading.

Feel free to talk about work you’ve recently had published if you’re an author. Readers, please mention books you have on your wish list and/or recently read, enjoyed, and can recommend.