Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Some Reflections on Holiday Shopping

The where and how of holiday shopping plagues most of us. Nothing can quite compare with the yearly ritual of holiday shopping, which theoretically begins on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. However, in actuality it begins much earlier, of late right after Halloween. In fact, the way things are going, pretty soon the stores will start putting up tinsel on the 4th of July.
The frenetic pace of shopping madness increases unabated throughout December. The shopping itself takes on such dimensions that with many people the material supersedes the spiritual aspect of the holidays.
But before the shopping can even begin, there is the business of finding parking at The Mall. Holiday shoppers know when they are nearing this location because traffic becomes as thick as an ant colony, and jockeying for position starts in earnest. Inevitably, a type "A" personality loses patience and aggressively pulls out on the shoulder of the road, speeds ahead, then forces his/her way into the regular stream of traffic. This individual manages to gain perhaps four or five car lengths to ultimately beat the traffic light, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes and come to an abrupt halt. A cacophony of horns proceeds to announce the general agitation.
Arriving at the mall, one is treated to a breathtaking sight—an unending sea of automobiles. There is quite literally not a parking spot to spare. And so begins the art of cruising for a space. This can be compared to the choreography of a ballet. Automobiles pirouette and arabesque around the lot.
Inevitably, there is a car waiting in each aisle for someone to pull out. Often there are two vehicles set to swoop down like vultures. The poor driver who must pull out of the spot has a serious dilemma: which way to go? One or the other of the waiting drivers must be disappointed, only to drive off angrily, perhaps offering the middle finger salute. Definitely not showing proper holiday spirit! (More like the gunfight at Okay Corral)
Drivers keep cruising, ready to dive like kamikaze pilots when they find a likely target--barely avoiding fender benders--a holiday miracle in itself. No matter how many spaces exist, there are never enough.
Another technique involves following those who are leaving. Sometimes these shoppers are merely putting away their packages and return to the Mall for further exploration. Then there is the individual, fully aware someone is waiting for his/her parking spot, who decides this is a good time to sit and light up a cigarette, fiddle with the car radio, or begin a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life with someone they've conjured on a cell phone.
Most amazing of all are those who decide to grab the closest parking spot. I'm talking here about nabbing the spaces set aside for the handicapped. These artists fall into several categories. First are those who have no physical impediment whatsoever but park illegally because they don't want to continue cruising. We have no trouble spotting them as they run out when the police start ticketing. The second category: those who somehow obtained handicapped stickers yet can move like gazelles, either had some impediment but are over it and kept their stickers, or obtained them illegally in the first place. There seem to be a growing number of these talented artists who we may refer to as prima donnas. With so many people claiming the right to place handicapped stickers in their automobiles, I am waiting for the time when non-handicapped signs will be issued instead.
After managing to obtain a parking spot and reaching the Promised Land of the Mall, we are greeted by a chorus of Hallelujah from the sound system. Unfortunately, by this time, we are almost too weary to shop.
When Christmas and Chanukah come and all the gifts are finally handed out, matters are not in the least resolved, as a good portion of those gifts will end up being returned soon after. (The heaviest shopping day of the entire year is December 26th) So just when we think our holiday shopping is finally done, it's only just begun!
Then there's the matter of re-gifting. That's the most bizarre ritual of all. This refers to presents that don't come with any clue as to where they were purchased. Even Sherlock Holmes would scratch his head in perplexity.
These are gifts that no one in their right mind would want to keep: purple plaid socks, perfume that would make a skunk turn up its tail in disgust. Well, you get the picture! So what does one do with such odious presents? Naturally, we save them and give them to those who have given us their re-gifts. You know you've gone full cycle when one of your re-gifts is gifted back to you.
So how do we avoid mall madness? More people than ever are turning to online shopping. I would like to suggest that e-books are excellent gifts to give. You don’t have to run around. You can make your selections in comfort. And you don’t have to spend your life savings. There’s a perfect book for everyone, whether nonfiction: perhaps a cookbook, a book on home repairs, or fiction such as romance, mystery, or thriller.
Naturally I’m going to recommend some of my own books that are currently available:
My prize-winning Highlands historical romance THE CHEVALIER available in all e-book formats:
TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS my paranormal Regency romance endorsed by bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick is available in all e-book formats including Kindle:
My e-book of short stories BEYOND THE BO TREE offers stories for every taste:
My co-authored family mystery novel THE THIRD EYE is A Five Star/Cengage novel:
My latest novels available as e-books are:
THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, published by Astraea Press, a clean read that’s not just for teens!
Readers of GONE GIRL may enjoy THE BAD WIFE, an adult suspense thriller, full of surprising twists.  From Perfect Crime Books:
Published in a new, updated edition, DEATH LEGACY is now available as an e-book from Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or Google. This romantic mystery suspense thriller received excellent reviews in hardcover edition from Publishers Weekly and Booklist among others. You can check it at:

There is a book for every taste available for ordering online. What are your feelings regarding holiday shopping? Do you give books as gifts? Do you consider books good gifts? Thoughts and comments most welcome!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What We Can Learn from Taylor Swift by Jacqueline Seewald

Taylor Swift was labeled by Barbara Walters as one of “The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2014.” There is no doubt that she has an amazing following of teens and pre-teen fans who adore her and her music. She is also ubiquitous—one sees and hears her everywhere.  I recently watched my ten-year-old granddaughter performing one of Swift’s songs, in perfect imitation down to the hair toss, for her seven-year-old sister and six-year-old cousin.

Swift’s life story and incredible success at only twenty-five years of age is well-known. She recently had the cover story for TIME Magazine. The journalist praised her highly. Swift knew from an early age what she wanted to do with her life. She convinced her parents to move to Nashville where she signed with a country label. She had and had the courage of her convictions and the determination to work hard at her career. I think Taylor Swift is an excellent role model for young girls.

As a writer, I also see Swift’s energy and effort as an example for those of us who write and pursue careers in publishing. As in music, there is stiff competition. If you want your writing well-published it is necessary to have focus, drive and expect to work hard, just as Taylor Swift has done. A “can do” attitude is required.

In my writing I create such heroines, women of strong character. For instance, in my YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER published by Astraea Press, Danna is a girl who is searching for her own identity and must build the self-confidence needed to choose the right path for her life. The novel is romance, allegory, and coming-of-age, a good choice for the holidays and for mothers to share with their daughters.

If there’s anything we can learn from Taylor Swift’s phenomenal success it is that we need to express what is unique to ourselves in our own way. By writing an exceptional work that stands out from the herd, I believe writers can also gain recognition and acclaim.

Your views welcome here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Police in Fact and Fiction

In the December 9, 2014 online edition of THE NEW YORK TIMES, David Brooks’ op-ed column entitled “The Cop Mind” was published. It is well worth reading. Brooks was a police reporter early in his career. He is not an apologist for police brutality. But he offers valuable insights into the mindset of policemen and what they face in the real world. Interesting facts and statistics are offered as well.

In my novel, THE BAD WIFE, 4th in the Kim Reynolds mystery series, Lt. Mike Gardner, a police detective, is an important character, as he is in the previous novels: THE INFERNO COLLECTION, THE DROWNING POOL and THE TRUTH SLEUTH.

In THE BAD WIFE, Mike makes a serious error in judgment early in the novel and it costs him dearly. The blunder threatens both his life and career. There are, in fact, a number of policemen presented as characters in this series. Some are inspired partly by real life people, others are completely fictional. Some are better at doing their jobs than others.

In DEATH LEGACY, the police are positively represented and help rather than hinder
Michelle Hallam’s investigation into the possible murder of a CIA agent. Is the character of officer Douglas Maclaren something of an idealization of how we want to think of police detectives? Possibly--or maybe not.

The fact of the matter is that real life policemen are people capable of making serious errors in judgment. Human beings are imperfect. This is true of the best of us as well as the worst. For police to be presented realistically in fiction, they too demonstrate flaws in character.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Empowering Women in Fiction

I did not shop on Black Friday. Instead my husband and I accompanied our younger son, his wife, and three young children into Manhattan to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our daughter-in-law actually did the driving. Having worked in the city for a number of years, she’s comfortable driving there and knows Manhattan very well.

We offered to pay for parking but she insisted on first looking for a spot. This turned up rather quickly. But the car that left the spot was smaller than the large SUV. Our son questioned his wife’s ability to park in that small spot. However, she was confident.

“I can do it,” she said. And she did! On the very first try at that. She parallel parked into a space that left barely an inch in front and back without touching the other cars. I confess it amazed me.

This kind of female empowerment is impressive. Recently, I discovered that the reason the editors of The Novel Fox chose DEATH LEGACY to be featured by their new publishing house was because Michelle Hallam, heroine and protagonist, is an empowered woman. Instead of a female who needs protecting, she runs her own unique “consulting” firm, is a master of martial arts and weaponry. She won’t rest until the bad guys get what they deserve. http://www.thenovelfox.com/death-legacy

In THE BAD WIFE, 4th novel in the Kim Reynolds mystery series, Kim, a quiet, introverted librarian of strong moral character and unwanted psychic abilities, solves murders. She teams up with tough Bert St. Croix, police detective and woman of color, to save Lt. Mike Gardner’s life. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6PCKVW    

There are many empowered women in mystery fiction, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple for one. The P.I. novel was male-dominated until the late 1970’s and early 80’s when writers such as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Miller and Sue Grafton began creating women investigators who were as tough as men. These novels offered more in-depth characterization and, in the case of Paretsky, a social agenda.  

In romance fiction, no longer is the-too-dumb-to-live female in distress who needs rescuing particularly popular. Women want to read about females with strength of character who are the equal and can go toe to toe with an alpha male.

Today, more women than ever have an “I can do” philosophy like my daughter-in-law who runs her own business, nurtures her three children, is a supportive wife and maintains a positive attitude. That sense of female empowerment is increasingly reflected in literature.

Your comments welcome here. What empowered female characters can you think of? As a reader and/or writer what books reflecting female empowerment would you recommend, your own or those of others?