Monday, April 24, 2017

How to Create a Memoir

We can and should all be writers. Leaving behind the story of our lives is something that many friends and relatives will value and cherish. So how do you go about writing a memoir?


One way is to keep a diary of daily occurrences, thoughts and reflections. For some, this may prove too demanding. There is a viable alternative.

Journal Writing:

When I taught creative writing, one of the course requirements for students was to keep a journal. I feel it’s an excellent source of inspiration as well as a resource for writers of all kinds.

What exactly is a journal?  It’s a record, an entry-book, kept regularly, though maybe not everyday. These entries are dated and honest. We can use journals to describe things, increasing our powers of observation. For example, we can describe places: houses, sidewalks, backyards and streets, cities. Consider your journal as a travelogue. Describe people, interesting or unusual, the ordinary too. Use your five senses for these descriptions.

Jot down snatches of conversation. Think of your journal as a treasure trove or jewel box in which to place gems (quotes, pithy ideas, epigrams, insights, puns, nutshell wisdom). Write a little; think a lot.

Consider your journal as a laboratory for experiment. View your journal as a new wardrobe.  Try on different styles. See what suits you, what fits and what doesn't. Think of your journal as a psychoanalyst's couch or a confessional. Explore your depths, dreams, fantasies, truths, sins. Regard your journal as a tape recorder attached to your brain. Record your thought associations, stream-of-consciousness.  Consider your journal as a confidante.  Much of your journal can provide fine raw material for future writing.

When I was teaching English at the high school level, I wrote in my journal regularly. A lot of those thoughts, comments, and description came into play when I wrote THE TRUTH SLEUTH which is set primarily in a high school. Many readers have commented that this mystery novel has the ring of veracity about it--not surprising since the book is in many ways the real deal.

Memoirs are different from autobiographies in that they don’t cover an entire lifetime. A memoir is about a particular part of a life, and therefore limited. Like a fiction story, it has a beginning, middle, and end. The difference is that it’s a true story. Publications like Chicken Soup favor memoir articles that have dialogue and read like short stories. Also, they are always written in the first person. I’ve had a number of pieces published in Chicken Soup anthologies and been pleased with the results.

You don't have to be famous to write an autobiography, biographical fiction, play or a memoir. However, many well-known writers have used their memories effectively in their writing. Some examples are:




Writing Brief Nonfiction Articles:

Ask yourself questions that you believe descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.) would ask and would be interested in knowing about you. Answer these questions as completely as possible in written form and you have information for writing a memoir.
Sample Questions:
What was your childhood like? Your first memory? Your worst memory? Your best memory?
Tell About Your Schooling.
How did you and your spouse meet?
What did you do for entertainment?
How did you celebrate the holidays?
What did you do for work?
Tell about some humorous situations that happened to you.
Collect these brief articles together in a chronology. You now have the start of a memoir and possibly an autobiography.

Here are just a few of the many publications interested in personal memoir articles:


One of the things to decide in advance is how explicit you want to be in your writing. Will what you are going to write be hurtful to other people? Try to avoid negativity.

In addition, just because you’re writing nonfiction doesn’t give you a pass to write something dull and boring. Keep your writing style lively and interesting if you don’t want to loose your readers. Even family members appreciate a bit of humor or wit.

Also, is there a message you want readers to take away from your personal memoir? Is there some idea or thought you want to share with them?

Most recently, I had an article published in THE BOOK OF HOPE: THIRTY-ONE TRUE STORIES FROM REAL PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T GIVE UP edited by Krysta Gibson. The piece I wrote was one I would like my family to read. I can recommend this book to readers. It’s a series of inspiring memoirs connected thematically.

Give memoir writing a shot. You don’t need to be rich or famous to have something worth saying and sharing.

Your comments most welcome!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Interview with Author Patricia Gligor by Jacqueline Seewald

I have the pleasure of interviewing author Patricia Gligor who is a Cincinnati native. She enjoys reading mystery/suspense novels, touring and photographing old houses and traveling. She has worked as an administrative assistant, the sole proprietor of a resume writing service and the manager of a sporting goods department but her passion has always been writing fiction.

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

Answer: Marnie Malone is my fifth Malone mystery. The genre is mystery/suspense. I selected the title because Marnie plays an important role in two of the first four books in the series and I decided she deserved a book (and a title) of her own.

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

Answer: This book will be the last Malone mystery (at least for now) and there were unresolved issues in the series that needed to be addressed. Although each book may be read as a standalone and closes with what I hope is a satisfactory ending, I wanted to tie up all loose ends.

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

Answer:  Marnie Malone is the older sister of Ann Malone Kern, the main character in the first four Malone mysteries. Like Ann, Marnie was born and raised in Cincinnati but, ever since she was a little girl, she dreamed of living near the ocean. After completing law school, she moved to South Carolina where she could be close to the water. She’s a very independent woman who relies almost solely on her own ability to take care of herself. But, as she discovers in this book, that can be a blessing and a curse.

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

Answer:  The first three Malone mysteries take place in Cincinnati. In Mixed Messages and Unfinished Business, there’s a serial killer on the loose in Ann’s neighborhood and, in Desperate Deeds, Ann’s young son goes missing.
The last two novels are set in South Carolina. In Mistaken Identity, Ann discovers the body of a young woman on the beach and, determined to find the killer, she enlists the help of Marnie and their friend, Clara. That brings us to Marnie Malone.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m in the process of writing a standalone suspense novel told in the first person. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and, as with my Malone mystery series, I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: Actually, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I think for many of us it’s something we’re born with – the need to express ourselves through the written word.

I wrote short stories and short shorts for years. I always wanted to write a novel but the thought of writing 70,000 to 80,000 words intimidated me. Thanks to the encouragement from family and friends, I finally “bit the bullet” and I’m so glad I did.

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

Answer: I would advise them to create a blog and actively participate in social media before they send their manuscript out. It’s crucial that they get their name out there because the first thing publishers and agents will do is Google their name. If they come up blank, even The Great American Novel will most probably go unnoticed – and unpublished.

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

Answer: My books may be ordered through local book stores and they’re available online at:

Barnes & Noble:


Note to readers: I would like to mention that I just finished reading and reviewing Patricia’s new novel. I found it gripping and recommend it to mystery/suspense readers.

Questions or comments for Patricia are welcome here!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Reading Keeps Us Healthy by Jacqueline Seewald

It turns out that reading a book may not just be an activity that we readers do for E and E (escape and/or enjoyment). Reading is actually good for our health, our mental and physical well-being.

In the November 7, 2016 issue of Time Magazine, Sarah Begley wrote an article entitled “Read a novel: it’s just what the doctor ordered.” She observes that it’s long been known  reading boosts vocabulary, sharpens our reason and expands “intellectual horizons.” However, scientists are looking to explain how fiction improves mental health.

Bibliotherapists believe that fiction can be used to change lives on a profound level. This is more art than science. The scientific evidence behind reading for mental health is limited, but researchers are continuing to explore the benefits and possibilities. Reading an uplifting romance novel, for instance, might not be a cure for depression, but can make you feel happier--which contributes to mental health and inner peace.

Kirsten Salyer wrote an interesting article entitled “It’s a mean, sometimes sad world—but reading can help.” This appeared in Time’s December 12, 2016 issue. The author notes that children’s books can help youngsters deal with anxiety, fear, and life’s problems of personal trauma and grief. She provides examples of books which offer young readers relatable characters who deal with hardships and sorrows in positive ways and guide children in facing their own struggles with resilience and hope.

So if you’re feeling depressed or just plain bored with the everyday hum-drum of life, try reading a book (preferably one of mine since I believe in happy endings). You’ll feel better.

Recommend a book to a friend as well. Nothing beats a shared experience. I prefer to read romance, mystery, or  novels that combines both attributes. However, there are many varied good choices.

Thoughts and comments most welcome!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Interview with Author Christine Verstraete by Jacqueline Seewald

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete is the author I am interviewing today. Find out about her and the unique novels she writes here.

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

Answer:  Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is a mash-up of alternate history, mystery, horror and real life crime, based on the actual Borden murders and trial. It actually started out as Zombie Killer, but the publisher suggested the change as it seemed to work better. I got hooked on zombies and the stories by watching The Walking Dead.

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

Answer: I always found historical crimes like Jack the Ripper and the Borden murders interesting because of the mystery behind them. Looking at the actual autopsy records and reports for the Borden murders, I realized another plausible reason could be made as to why Lizzie Borden could have committed such an awful crime. Since the victims had been hit in the head, it made perfect sense that she’d committed the murders because they’d turned into zombies.

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

Answer:  To me, Lizzie Borden’s character reflects the things she faces – strength in facing and doing the unthinkable, fear that her life may end if she’s found guilty of her father and stepmother’s murders, a bit of recklessness and flaunting of conventions (after all she’s facing the gallows), and a vow to protect her sister and fight for her town, even as she’s mostly rejected by society. Takes a strong person to do that, I’d say.

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

Answer:  I also wrote a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, which tells the story of what happens when 16-year-old Becca is accidentally scratched and turns into a part-zombie. I’ve also written a kid’s mystery and books on dollhouse miniatures since I’m a collector.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer: I’ve been working on a ghost-haunted story novella also set in Lizzie’s hometown and centered on her doctor and neighbor, Dr. Seabury Bowen.  I also started Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2, which continues the story. It’s been fun writing about Lizzie again!

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:  I wanted to write since I can remember, and it seems I was destined judging from one of my baby pictures showing me with a newspaper and a pencil behind my ear. I still write for newspapers as well.

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

Answer:  It can be a long haul from writing to seeing a book in print, but it’s worth the effort to see your vision come to life. It is an exhilarating, frustrating, fun, horrible journey at times. But that’s the writing cycle. It has its ups and downs.

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


Amazon (Print, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited):
Barnes & Noble (Print):

About Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter:

Every family has its secrets...
   One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies?
   Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.

Questions and comments for Christine are welcome here!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Interview with Author Judy Penz Sheluk

I'm celebrating Valentine's Day and Mystery Thriller Week with a special interview. Fellow author Judy Penz Sheluk is my guest today in the writer’s spotlight.

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

Answer: Skeletons in the Attic is an amateur sleuth mystery, but it is suspenseful rather than cozy. It is the first book in my Marketville Mystery series, and was published by Imajin Books in August 2016. As a reader, my go-to genre is mystery and suspense. I remember reading Learning to Swim and A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry and thinking, “I’d like to write a book like that.”

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

Answer: The idea for Skeletons in the Attic came to me while I waited with my husband, Mike, in our lawyer's office. We were there to update our wills, and his goldendoodle kept us company while our lawyer was detained at court. The opening scenes of this book are culled directly from that experience. Let that be your takeaway from this: everything that happens in a writer's life may end up in one of their stories.

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

Answer:  Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is a thirty-six-year-old single woman with “loser radar” when it comes to men. Her job as a call center worker at a bank’s fraud unit sounds a lot more exciting than it is (all the interesting stuff gets bumped up to her supervisor). When her father dies in an “unfortunate occupational accident,” she inherits a house that she had no idea existed—with the condition that she find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. A mother Callie assumed had left them for “the milkman or some other male equivalent.”

Here’s a Valentine’s Day Treat—sorry not candy or flowers—instead an excerpt from the novel:

For Callie Barnstable, the protagonist in Skeletons, Valentine’s Day 
has a special meaning. And not in a good way:
I was right. The pictures had been taken the year before my mother
 left. February 14, 1986, the date forever etched in my mind. Years 
later, when a boyfriend dumped me on Valentine’s Day, my father 
lamented that I’d fallen victim to the Barnstable curse. What I’d 
fallen victim to, I’d told him, was another classic example of my 
loser radar, a combination of poor judgment and lack of insight. 
I didn’t tell him that I’d actually been expecting a ring, or that I’d 
spent hours picking out just the right Valentine’s Day card, an 
adorable image of two porcupines kissing, with the message, 
“I love you so much it hurts.” It had hurt all right, just not the way 
I’d expected. 
Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  I’d love to. The Hanged Man’s Noose was my debut novel, published by Barking Rain Press in July 2015. It’s the first book in the Glass Dolphin mystery series. The premise for Noose is this: A greedy real estate developer comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening the livelihoods of the independent merchants on the town’s Main Street. This is something we see all the time, in growing communities. I merely took that premise and said, “What if someone was willing to murder over it?”

I’ve also written some short crime fiction, which can be found in various anthologies, all available on Amazon. I love writing short fiction, but I find it incredibly challenging. It’s almost easier to write a novel!

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  The sequel to Noose, the sequel to Skeletons, and a couple of short stories.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I’ve always wanted to write. As a kid, I wrote stories in my head, on the way to school and back again. I thought all kids did that@ In 2003, I left the corporate world to try life as a freelance writer. I’ve never looked back. In late 2011, after taking some courses in Creative Writing, I decided to start The Hanged Man’s Noose. It was an instant addiction.

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

Answer: I always answer this question the same way, with a quote from the late, great Agatha Christie. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”

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

Answer: Noose is available in print and e-book at all the usual suspects, including B&N, Kobo, Amazon and Kindle. Skeletons, which is print and Kindle only, is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

Judy welcomes comments and questions.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What Writers Can Learn from Tom Brady

On Sunday evening I watched the Superbowl along with my husband. Not being a football fan, I still watched the game with interest. My husband who was very athletic in his youth, played sports, and refereed as well, did a wonderful play by play analysis for my benefit.

By half-time, I was convinced that the New England Patriots would lose the Superbowl. Atlanta had his number. But low and behold Brady would not give up. He persevered. I think this is the mark of a true champion.

What can writers learn from Tom Brady and his performance at the Superbowl? Perhaps to never give up, even when the odds appear to be against you. Making it as an author is a lot like making it as a professional athlete. Only the best survive and succeed. Pit bull determination, hard work and effort are necessary. Never give up!

Comments welcome here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway for THE INHERITANCE

The publisher of my new romantic mystery
THE INHERITANCE is offering two print copies of the novel on a Goodreads giveaway. The offer is good from now
through January 31st. Here is the website info:

Here’s info about the novel so you can decide if it interests you:

This novel is a stand alone mystery that combines elements of the cozy with romance and suspense thriller. It’s available  as an e-book for all formats as well as in a print edition:
Also available from:

Brief Synopsis:
Jennifer Stoddard, a thirty-five-year-old widow with an eight-year-old son, receives a surprising letter which will change her life. Jennifer’s grandmother has passed away and named Jen as sole heir to her estate. To claim her inheritance she must return to Bloomingvale, the town in the Midwest where she grew up. Jen is informed by her grandmother’s attorney that to inherit she must meet the condition of living in her grandmother’s house for two years. Since the estate is substantial, she agrees. However, there are those who will stop at nothing to make certain that Jennifer does not inherit. Jennifer is forced to call on old flame Police Chief Grant Coleman for help and protection.


Late that afternoon as Jen left the house and started to drive away, a strange sound whizzed across the open front car windows from the driver’s side through the passenger side. She was startled by the sound. Her heart began to pound. Jen glanced over at the thicket of overgrown shrubs and trees to the side of the grounds that led back into woodlands. Had the sound been a bullet? If so, it had nearly hit her. Her hands shook on the driver’s wheel as she took off at high speed.
One block away she heard the police siren and saw the flashing lights. She groaned. Not again! He signaled with his hand, pointing his index finger for her to pull over. It was all she could do not to burst into tears.
Grant Coleman approached the car like a gunfighter in a spaghetti western. “I thought you learned something the first time,” he said. “Guess I was wrong. License and registration.” He held out his hand with a bored, impatient gesture.
“I have a very good reason for speeding.”
The smile was more of a smirk. The man was infuriating! “I’ve heard them all, but you can try.”
“As I left my grandmother’s house, a bullet passed through my car. I had the windows rolled down. So they weren’t broken, but it just missed hitting me.”
He stared at her. “Maybe it was a kid with a Beebe gun. Are you certain it was a bullet breezing by you? How familiar are you with weapons?”
“Not familiar at all, but I know what I heard.” Jen swallowed hard. “I think someone might have intended to shoot me.”
He let out a loud laugh. “In Bloomingvale? I doubt that very much.”
“So you’re not taking this seriously?” She folded her arms over her chest.
“Admit it. You’re just looking for an excuse to keep me from writing you another ticket.” His intense gray eyes bore into her like the steel blade of a dagger.
Jen raised her chin and stiffened her spine. “You are so wrong. Why don’t you check the area near the house, just to see if you can find anything.”
“Waste of time.” He leaned toward her and she felt his breath on her cheek which caused her to shiver. “Tell you what I will do though. I won’t write you a ticket this time because that’s the most creative excuse I’ve ever heard.”
“So glad I managed to amuse you,” she said.
Jen watched him drive off. He was probably still laughing, the sexy jerk. Several people had come out of their houses and were staring at her. Jen managed to restart her car and drove off before others gathered. She certainly didn’t want to make a spectacle of herself. Letting out a shaky breath, Jen wasn’t certain now if she’d really heard what she thought she had. A professional law enforcement officer didn’t think anything of it. She supposed it might have been nothing at all. Maybe it was a child with a Beebe gun as he suggested. But try as hard as she might, Jen couldn’t convince herself.

Comments welcome!