Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reflections on Holiday Shopping 2016

Christmas and Chanukah will soon be here which brings a flurry of holiday shopping.

The where and how of holiday shopping plagues many 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 mall madness increases unabated throughout December. The shopping itself takes on such dimensions that with many people the material supercedes 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 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 a bestseller or something from an unknown author. There are a multitude of useful nonfiction titles: perhaps a cookbook, a book on home repairs, or history. Fiction provides many choices such as romance, mystery, or thriller.

Naturally I’m going to recommend several books that are current:

Smoking Pen Press has just published an anthology of mystery stories entitled: A BIT OF A TWIST as an e-book. It’s an inexpensive treat. I do happen to be included in this one with a story entitled “The Marriage Counselor.” You can check it out here:


Incidentally, this publisher has open calls for future anthologies. So fellow writers, check them out:

I will also mention that my new novel THE INHERITANCE from Intrigue Publishing  which is a stand alone romantic mystery is available in ALL e-book formats and print. Check it out:

Also available from:

What are your feelings regarding holiday shopping? Do you shop online or prefer to shop in person?  Do you give books as gifts? Do you consider books good gifts? What books would you like to recommend, either your own or those of others? Thoughts and comments most welcome!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Perfect Presents for the Holidays: Sharing Reading Suggestions

The holidays are a great time to gift friends, family or you yourself with books to read. With people going on vacation, many individuals enjoy relaxing with a good book. 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 have just finished reading a wonderful new collection of short stories entitled TO THE CITY, WITH LOVE by Steve Slavin. Usually short story collections are limited in size and scope. However, this compendium is well worth its price. It’s a very large collection divided into six parts and literary in nature. Many of the stories are character studies of the people who live and work in New York City. There is also much humor here as well as sensibility. The book is available both in print and as an ebook from all book sellers.

In addition, I’m going to recommend my own most recent book THE INHERITANCE, a romantic mystery with cozy elements from Intrigue Publishing.

There are also several recent publications that provide great holiday reads.

SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE #21 published another of my stories, “Spirit of the Law,” which follows a young attorney and his graduate student assistant in solving a murder case:

These characters originally appear in my novella “Letter of the Law” for issue #19.

I have a short story in the new anthology BREWED AWAKENINGS 2 from Caffeinated Press.  My literary crime story is entitled “Our Neighbors Ourselves” and is one of twelve stories.

The holiday issue of NEW ZENITH MAGAZINE, available in both print and digital editions, is chock full of interesting articles for writers as well as holiday fiction which includes one of my new short stories.

Here’s how they describe themselves: “New Zenith Magazine is a quarterly short fiction, poetry, and visual art magazine. Within its pages you will find short stories of all genres, flash fiction, memorizing poetry, hilarious cartoons/comics, photography, illustrations, inspiring author interviews, articles on the topic of writing, provocative writing prompts and more.” 

Finally, my holiday reading gift to you is my latest mystery short story in OVER MY DEAD BODY! Entitled “Genesis,” the story is a free read online at:

Here is another gift for readers:

The editor of Mystery Weekly has provided a free version of one of my short stories:

Okay, now here’s your opportunity to share the books and publications you think will make for good holiday reading. Feel free to mention 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 and enjoyed.

Comments/suggestions are welcome here to share.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Release! THE INHERITANCE by Jacqueline Seewald

My latest novel, THE INHERITANCE, is published today by 
Intrigue Publishing, December 1. 2016! It’s been a long time coming and I’m delighted. Getting a book published is a lot like giving birth to a child. 

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

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.
This novel is a “clean read” suitable for young and old readers alike. An exciting cozy mystery with romantic elements, this book is perfect for personal reading enjoyment and/or holiday gift giving.

Your comments most welcome!