Thursday, June 28, 2007

Do writers believe in cloning? Redux by DL Larson

The blogs this week have given folks several glimpses of the many hats we authors wear. It's a lot like playing dress-up, a past-time my granddaughters love to play. They even change their names when they're playing.

"Call me, Cammie," my little Alex said one day.

"Okay," I said. "Call me, DL."

She thought that was a very funny name. I suppose it is, but it's my writer's name and as others have mentioned earlier it's important to keep one's name in the public's mind. DL Larson missed the Authorfest everyone is talking about. She's very sad, down in the mouth at hearing how wondeful the day was. But Deb Larson had a commitment that she agreed to months ago and so DL Larson didn't sign up for the Authorfest.

As an author, we have to find that fine balance between our craft - writing, our livelihood - working, and our hearth - the family, friends, church and those dozens of volunteer organizations we agree to help with. It's never easy and sometimes - like DL Larson missing out on a big fat opportunity like Authorfest, the choices we make leave us feeling unfulfilled in all areas of our life.

That's when we have to let go and simply be. We can't always be where we want to be and we can't please everyone, even ourselves sometimes.

So once I accepted that it was okay to miss out I could move on, excited about the next opportunity to exploit, I mean promote my name, DL Larson, my books, awesome, fascinating and rivetting historical family sagas. I remembered there is always a next time. Like today. I've gotten to mention my name, DL Larson, several times. Okay, six times. I feel better already.

Promoting my books is hard work, but rewarding too. Just when I think I'm drowning in my own ineptness as a marketer, someone will come up to me and say, "I loved your first book. I can't wait to read your next one." And I'm glad I'm not a clone. The real DL Larson needed to hear that!

So now I can honestly say I'm thrilled so many found the Authorfest to be a rewarding day. I'm happy for them and no longer frustrated with my inability to be at two places at once. I've accepted my limitations. Still, it would have been nice if DL Larson could have attended. Nicer still if someone had asked her about one of her books. And it would have been a stellar day to make some sales. Maybe cloning would work ...

Nah! There's only room for one DL Larson in this world.

Till next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

THE NAME GAME By Morgan Mandel

I'm an author. A lot of stuff goes on in my head which I do my best to transfer to the page. What's in there doesn't always come out right, but I keep trying. It's an addiction I can't shake. I need to express my thoughts and feelings in words. Writing's not always easy, but I have to do it. When I finish a manuscript, I get a feeling of relief, followed by a letdown. I've done it. It's over. Now what am I going to do? I've lived in that particular world for a long time. How can I get out of it?

Getting out is a must. Not only that, I need to emerge into the light of day and let everyone in the whole world know about the brainchild I've created.

I've gotten a contract for my book. I can relax. Wrong. I thought writing the book was tough, but the NAME GAME is even tougher. It means getting reviews. It means designing and putting up a website. It means getting bookmarks and business cards printed, then handing them out at likely places like bookstores and libraries and unlikely spots like doctor's offices and restrooms. It means talking managers and owners of bookstores into carrying my book and/or let me have a booksigning. It means going to conferences, appearing on panels, and networking with other authors. It means trying to get speaking engagements at libraries and getting my book onto their shelves.

Wait there's more -
It means doing unusual things like riding in a car and waving in the Arlington Heights Festival parade which has the theme of Read A Good Book Lately. It means gathering friends on MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, anywhere else that's popular . It means joining e-groups. It means setting up a group at along with other individual blogs scattered over the internet. It means trying to be useful to others by setting up a book promo network, called Book Place at

It also means taking videos of events such as Love is Murder and Authorfest and putting them up at under my username of morganmandel

I think you get the idea. Being an author involves more than writing a book. It involves playing the NAME GAME really well. I'm doing my best. It remains to be seen if I succeed.

Morgan Mandel

Oh my gosh it's Wednesday!

Despite auto reminders, Todd and I spaced blogging last night. Could it be that we've taken on too much? Some would say this is the norm for writers. Taking on too much, driven by the need to get recognition for their talent.

After a very busy weekend that included the Schaumburg Authorfest where we ran into most of the other bloggers on this blog I guess we were just a bit braindead from all the uptime in promoting Todd's books and connecting with other authors/writers.

Todd often talks about Taking Care of the Troops in the writing process and I think we sometimes forget to do that for ourselves. We did however pack our gym bags and head to the gym in Schaumburg after the Authorfest and I was so glad Todd wanted to do this. Working out regularly makes a great difference in our we cope with the pressues of each day and all the demands that having full-time jobs and writing on the side brings.

Although just to show you how we humans can get into a routine, the Schaumburg facility of our gym chain is the mirror image of the one we normally use. We kept trying to turn in directions that weren't where we wanted to go. Even the locker rooms were reversed and we almost went in the wrong ones. Glad we were 'awake' enough after a long day to stop ourselves.

Now that would have been an interesting story!

Monday, June 25, 2007


Hi, ya'all,

I went to the Schaumburg book fair that Morgan and Margot discussed below, and had a great time. For a non-paying event, it was excellent, with a great lineup of authors. Actually, it was a stellar program even if you did poney over some dough.

I met for the first time the only fellow Acme bloggers whom I didn't already know. As for only ones who didn't make it, Larry and Rob, we've tipped a beer before, so we'll get through not burping into each other this time. Well, okay, so there's no beer in a public library, but we're creative and we'd have found some cola or something else that would sustain a credible burp.

These fairs are great fun, and meeting others who share your passion, love, angst and frustration over writing helps seat you and motivate you to get back to the drawing board on your own work. Right now, I'm stalled on a humor YA vampire book, trying to work out POV, but now I'm itching to get back to it.

First though, I had to sent my critter off. After an all day fair on Saturday, most of Sunday was spent at O'Hare's International Terminal, where my youngest critter Lauren departed with forty other critters to go explore Europe. I'm excited and scared to death for her, and I hope this will be a wonderful experience that she will treasure forever.

It was kind of weird knocking around the house this morning, tripping over stuff, slamming the microwave, and not having to worry about waking her. A little preview of the 'empty nest' feeling that I will have to suffer through in a few years.

But our little birds grow, and it's hard to keep them cooped up when they can fly.

Jeez, sounds sappy, huh? You might as well call me Norma.

Oh, well, I'm doing this from work because Comcast screwed up my Internet at home, so I gotta go.

See you,
Norma, er, Norm
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Way East -- by Larry D. Sweazy

Home again, home. I’m back from the WWA (Western Writers of America) convention in Springfield, Missouri. It was a long trip with a few stops along the way. We spent the evening with fellow western writer Lou Turner and her husband, Brian, otherwise known as Squeak, in St. Charles, and talked long into the night about writing. Squeak grills a mean steak and Lou cooks a mean breakfast—thanks to both of you for your hospitality. From there it was on to Lake of the Ozarks for a few days of R&R. I can’t tell you how much that was needed after finishing a proposal for a new novel and indexing nearly 30 books since the first of the year—two days of peace and quiet on the shores of the lake with some pampering thrown in for good measure does the body and soul some good.

And then it was convention time.

A few things about WWA. They don’t just schedule panels for 4 days. We took a tour of Wilson’s Creek Battlefield where the first general of the Civil War was killed—and the chiggers still believe the war is raging. We had a BBQ at a farm out in the country, and the highlight for me was a ride in a wagon led by a mule team. To help sustain the Homestead Foundation, an offshoot of the WWA to help promote the literature of the west, there is the annual auction of items donated by members. It’s a grand time with the venerable Dusty Richards serving as auctioneer. Figure in the period dress contest, the Spur award banquet, black-tie cowboy-style, and you get the picture. Of course there are panels—great panels that you won’t get anywhere else. Hearing Elmer Kelton talk about his fifty some years of experience in the publishing business is worth the price of admission alone And then there’s the bar. Wherever there’s a writer’s conference there’s the bar… Needless to say we had a lot of late nights and a lot of fun.

But the best part of the convention is seeing people we only get to see once a year. Robert J. Conley. Donnie Birchfield. Bill Markley. Marcus Galloway. Terry Del Bene. Loren Estleman and Deb Morgan. Johnny D. Boggs…the list goes on. And meeting new acquaintances like Russell Davis and Kim Lyonetti. I could fill this page with a list of names—WWA is a friendly organization, but more importantly, a vital one.

With all of the doom and gloom in the publishing industry these days, most people consider the western a dead genre. I don’t believe it. There is good work being done. No—great work. You just have seek it out. If you haven’t read The Day the Cowboys Quit by Elmer Kelton or any of the Page Murdock novels by Loren Estleman then you’re missing out on some fine writing. If you’d like a list of recommended westerns, shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to reply.

I don’t know who said it, but I heard this once and I think it applies: “Genres never die. They just go through cycles.” I believe that. The West is a deep part of consciousness of our country. The western writers of today honor the spirit of the pioneers and settlers by not giving up, by abiding by tradition, and reaching for new shores. Westerns and the literature of the west is more than shoot-em-ups and six-guns. They are tales of courage and redemption and passion. If you don’t believe me check them out for yourself—and you’ll see what I see, a rising tide, not a genre to be mocked or denigrated.

Now I’m home, east of the Mississippi, my cowboy boots in the closet, a trove of new books sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read. The dogs are glad to be back in their routine. I’m writing, indexing, once again faced with deadlines—and looking forward to next June to the convention in Scottsdale, Arizona.

One of the best things that ever happened to me was finding the western genre. I am a better writer, and a better person because of it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

AuthorFest by Margot Justes

You know that saying 'A funny thing happened to me on the way'...well, here is my story. I was scheduled to go to the AuthorFest in Schaumburg this Saturday as a spectator. I was going to observe other authors in action, on panels, promoting their craft, selling their books, the stuff that an author has to do to sell the books that they write. I was going there to learn.

The Schaumburg Library opens at 10:00, we get there a bit early to meet others already there, get acquainted and network a bit. All of this happened in the parking lot. Did I mention the Library opens at 10:00, and we couldn't get in. In fact it was a delightful interlude, the rain was drizzling, but hardly anyone noticed.

Precisely at nine thirty this morning I found out I was going to be on a panel, my first one ever. Panic set in, I had no idea what questions were going to be asked, I hadn't seen anything, I was just supposed to watch and learn, I wasn't prepared. What an exciting and terrifying prospect. Did I do it? You bet I did, and had a blast. It was an awesome experience.

I would highly recommend that readers attend this remarkable conference next year. I have never been to the Schaumburg Library, it is fantastic, it is huge yet absolutely charming and the program that was put together was incredible, many well know authors attended and it was absolutely free. What more could one ask...

Till next Saturday
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press, June 2008


Why do we write suspense, mystery, intrigue? What is the allure for both readers and writers of the mystery novel? I can’t speak for every thriller author, but I know why I write in this genre. It is for a number of reasons, not the least being MONEY. This is a hugely popular genre; in fact, seven or eight of the fiction titles on the current bestseller lists are mysteries or some sub-genre of the traditional mystery.

Certainly money is not the only reason we authors of intrigue choose to write mysteries. The mystery is always fascinating as it always pits our hero—someone not far from us in terms of character—against overwhelming odds. The payoff is always satisfactory, the loose ends always tied up, and if not in the prequel then in the sequel. We love this category also because it allows for a built in structure, the comfy one that calls for a beginning, a middle, and an end like a well organized composition or a well oiled machine. We love mysteries too because the main character, whether PI or departmental cop, whether an Inspector Mom or an Inspector out of 1893 Chicago (City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City), we relate even as our character “relates” to the real world. In no other category save perhaps the philosophical western is the human condition put on display. In the mystery we go from misery to joy, love to hate, and in fact murder mystery is the very definition of passions gone amok. Social issues of the day, common and not so common concerns of the flesh, all of it is fodder for the mystery. Why write the Who Dunnit, or the Why Dunnit, or the Way Off Base Dunnit? In the end it is just plain great fun and fulfilling to create a gumshoe, male of female or a team whose character drives the plot rather than being driven by plot. And in what other genre is there so many fist fights, chase scenes, in short ACTION. A fine mystery is a film playing in your head. Besides Life’s a Mystery.

Still in the end, the final result and wish for the author is MONEY…even more than FAME or notoriety. At the risk of being tooooo notorious, I’ll finish with a description of my ONLINE course – write me for more details like my FEE…money! There’s no poetry in money, and no money in poetry, they say, but there is or can be money in mystery. Why should only the crooks such as CEO’s make crime pay? Now you too can make it pay and do it at your convenience with a successful author teaching an even more successful class entitled:

WRITE TO SELL * an online course taught by Robert W. Walker, author of the acclaimed Instinct and Edge Series of forensic and suspense novels, and more recently paranormal mystery and Hystery-Mystery with City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, City of the Absent and PSI Blue. Rob Walker has authored over forty novels in all. (See: * * * ). Contact Rob Walker at or 773 .807.3351

EXECUTION – the basic elements that create consistent VOICE and the Elements of Style from Strunk & White to Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction. Useful and constructive infoemation creating compelling lines via an authorial voice. Before you can sell a word, you must master this technique and Robert Walker is the master of dramatic active moving and flowing sentences that drive the dynamo of the story ever forward in a visually powerful flood that has readers ripping through pages.

TEASERS AND LURES – walk into my parlor. Writing the shortest and most important story you will ever write – the treatment, logline, premise (whatever) of your novel. This sales tool is, among others, perhaps the most important single item that can sell or lose a sale in the marketplace. Robert Walker will have you mastering this kind of writing in the second hour of this class.

MARKETING GENIUS – in his last hour, Rob Walker will turn you into a marketing guru with the many methods open to you to do SMART MARKETING in a guerilla marketing strategy that will set your manuscript apart. This has proven useful in selling forty novels to major publishers in New York City.

Materials you will need other than your own notebook are provided by Mr. Walker: A copy of a Robert W. Walker title or an Evan Kingsbury horror novel can be purchased at, via Robert’s website All else is provided on site by Mr. Walker in the form of handouts covering each area above,

Robert W. Walker

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AARP ... not just another acronym

An AARP invitation came through the mail the other day. It's not the first one I've received. All right, it's about the fifth one these folks have sent me. I don't know why they keep bugging me to join their group. I don't feel old. I'm not ready for retirement. In fact, I'm working on my career as a writer. I certainly don't want people thinking I'm old! Oops, too late.

But what's different this year is I actually read the letter. And that scared me. I found what they had to say intriguing. It was the bit about buying shoes cheaper. I like shoes. I like shoes a lot. The little blurb caught my eye ... number tweny-one: AARP members get special prices from many companies. #21. Save on shoes, gifts, videos, other products.

So now the dilemma haunts me. Should I join just to get a discount on shoes from some remote shoe company I probably haven't heard of? Or, do I go about pretending I didn't see the blurb about the cheap purchase of shoes?

My fantasy is already running amok. I have more important things to fill my mind except I keep coming back to infinite possibilities of traveling to remote places at discount prices in my vampy shoes also purchased at a lowered rate for AARP members only.

I've never really been a big fan of exclusive clubs or memberships. I've always participated in the national clubs. I was charter president of our local women's organization that was a national recognized organization - way back in the day. And from there I went on to serve on the state level for five years. It was a blast and talk about fun shoes ... well, let's just day I don't have bunyons for no reason!

Yes, you might mention, AARP is a nationally recognized organization. Except it has the feel of an exclusive club, recognized by age and nothing much else. If I send in my $12.50 for a one year membership and membership kit does that mean I've accepted my old age? Yikes! That sounds ominous. Rather mature too, but still denial is much more fun.

So after scanning the other twenty some benefits they offer, I begin to understand they want to protect me and my aging money. Like I really believe that? And they are ready to confront my employers over age discrimination. They obviously don't realize where I work. I'm the youngest old person at my library. But AARP does offer free health guides, similar to the ones I just received from my doctor - who happens to think I'm not getting any younger either.

I still haven't forgotten the shoes. A woman put #21 in that brochure. Only a woman would understand the pull such a statement makes. Shame on her. Her tactics are under-handed and sneaky. And effective. I have my check book out ... I'm chicken to sign up on line ... there might be something about purses if I agree to a three year contract and I don't want to chance it.

Or do I?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I hope some of you can make it over there - I'd love to meet you --


Readers, beginning writers and authors are invited to the Gotta Write Network’s Third Annual Authorfest on Saturday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Schaumburg Township Distr. Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg, IL. No registration necessary.

Gotta Write Networks’ website owner, Denise Fleischer, and other local authors will moderate panels including How to Create An Unforgettable Romance, Murder 101, The Scoop on Promotion, Writing Children’s and Young Adult books that Readers Love, and Professionals Tell It Like It Is.

Some of the more than 50 authors attending are local mystery author, Morgan Mandel of Arlington Heights, J.A. Konrath of Schaumburg, Todd Stone of Naperville, Luisa Buehler of Lisle, and Chicagoan Mary Welk. Also present will be Echelon Press author and Golden Heart Finalist Kelle Z. Riley, romantic thriller author, Rosemarie Piemonte, Avon romance authors, Melody Thomas and Jenna Peterson, children’s author, Arlene Erlbach, and drama writer for the BBC, The SciFi Channel and New York City’s Radio Pacifica, Darren Callahan.
Books will be sold before and after panels and from 1-2 p.m. Purchases can be autographed throughout Authorfest.

See authors’ promotional website, Gotta Write Network, for more details about Authorfest, as well as book reviews and author interviews.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Still not on the road

But edging closer. Spent this evening in a meeting planning this year's Love is Murder mystery/dark fiction/romantic suspense conference. This one will be good--a full Novelist's Boot Camp, Tess Geritsen, Librarians gone wild, Lee Child, guns, knives, books, Robert W. Walker among the living, blood and sex...sounds like a party. It's all at -- or soon will be at --
Major event last weekend--Chicagoland Highland games. Damn hot day. Cooler in my kilt. Do you really want to know why? Heard Mother Grove play--they're just the best Kilt Rock band in the business.
Major event this weekend at Schaumburg Authorfest then again the next day at local author day at Anderson's bookstore.
Major event tomorrow night--I just might get some sleep.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Okay, I'm just 48 years old, so this is only the second time in my life that I was able to sample one of life's culinary delights - cicada soup.

Yum, yum.

Doesn't that just sound delicious?

Creamy soup, with just a hint of crunchiness caused by the cicada's exoskeleton.

Just makes the mouth water, doesn't it?

Kinda stinks that they only come out every seventeen years, huh?

Okay, okay. I'm just kidding. Really I like to char-boil them. It makes the legs all crunchy and ...

Yeah, you got me again.

I've never eaten a cicada.

But I gotta tell you. When my cat eats them, he just looks ... well... okay, he looks stoned. Maybe that's why I want to try them. Cicada season for him is almost like breaking into a catnip factory. He rolls around, picking his teeth with their wing blades, crunching away like a kid with a bowl of Kix cereal, a stupid content look on his face.

I gotta get me some of that!

And the seagulls... yeah, seagulls ... I live dern near fifty miles from the nearest water, and there are seagulls swooping around, eating cicadas. They've fattened themselves so much, they almost look like white and gray soccer balls. You see them trying to attain liftoff, and they can barely get into the air. Not that they need to achieve airborne status to pick off cicadas, which have to be the stupidest bugs on the planet.

You'd think the cicadas would figure, "Hey, I don't have a mouth, a stinger, poison glands or even body odor, so I'd better lay low." Instead, they're off bumping into predators and calling attention to themselves with a racket louder than a chainsaw, "Hey, eat me! Eat me!"

Sure, they mean to say, "I'm randy... just want to have sex and die." But believe me, the birds all have selective hearing and they just hear the dinner bell. And not just birds, but almost all of the animals at Brookfield Zoo are on the Atkins diet from all the protein winging around.

So I'm sitting at my desk thinking, "hmmm, I wonder what they taste like."

No, not really, I'm wondering if I should have the third cup of coffee. But all of a sudden I hear a Shrek, er, a shriek, from the office. I bolt out there, and one of the office girls is jumping up and down, a panicked look on her face.

"There," she screamed. I followed her shaking finger as well as I could, and there it was. A cicada. Somehow it got into our hermetically-sealed office through the double doors, past the security-Joyce at the front and the stink from the bathroom where our MIS guy won't flush after peeing, and now it lay on our carpet, in a patch of sun... panting... its little seventeen year old body exhausted by its recent ordeal.

And I picked it up, noticing how much smaller it is than its brethren, the 13 year cicada and the common, see-it-all-time big and gray one.

It's more, can we say, 'bite-sized.'

Why, I could eat this in one little swallow. No need to bite into it.


Why don't I ... CRUNCH.


Nah, I put it in a planter and went to get some more coffee.

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

The Long Road--Part 2--by Larry D. Sweazy

My apologies for posting a day late, I was on the road all day yesterday heading home from Springfield, Missouri. Talk about the long road, boy am I glad to be home.

That said, this will be a very short post. I'm sapped. Road trips and conferences do that to you... It'll take me a few days to process the WWA (Western Writers of America) experience, and I don't want to short change this post by rushing I'm off to take a nap.

See you next week ...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ode to Fathers by Margot Justes

Since I am a day late and it is Fathers Day, I thought I'd dedicate this blog to fathers.

I am late because I'm fighting a nasty summer cold, dance recitals, birthday celebrations and of course Fathers Day. The weeked just got away from me.

Fathers, you nurture, you encourage, you help with math and science, you patiently wait for your child in the high school parking, and wait while your child is calling home asking who is going to pick them up from the ice rink.

You can never keep the schedules straight, but somehow you are always available to do what is necessary. You cheer your child in any endeavor, you comfort in any crisis. You tell your child they can do anything they want to do, they can soar to any heights, you tell your child you are proud of them.

Happy Fathers Day!

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press, 2008

Friday, June 15, 2007

BAN THIS BOOK By Robert W. Walker

What do I have to do to get banned? Is there a course I need to take? Is there a club or organization I must join? How vile, wicked, and evil do my books have to be? Damn but I’d loved to see any one of my 44 “odd” books fall under the black banner of Banned in the Bible Belt or Banned in Australia or New Zealand or Peoria, Illinois. If you want to help in this endeavor, to get my books banned you must first know the titles. Title is Psi Blue for my woo-woo paranormal mystery with a half Asian, half Celtic detective who “dabbles in Budhism and Wiccan” practices and can read objects handled by dead people. Gosh but we gotta ban this stuff!

OR you can ban hell out of Shadows in the White City if you prefer where all kinds of dark stuff including cannibalism happens in the black recesses of Chicago.
Come on, get on board with me and do what you can to ban me. Why? I’ll tell you why, because if anyone deserves getting banned it’s me!

Recently, a good friend and fellow author showed up for a well publicized book event at a local library, and there to meet her were a band of religious fanatics waving banners and signs and calling my friend a witch, a bitch, and a sorceress for having written a paranormal mystery and for living as a psychic investigator and lifelong learner. Frankly, many or most who ban books have not a single interest in reading any books save their one precious book. “Beware the man of one book” said Pascal, and I take Pascal at his word.

Once I was signed to give a speech in Broward County at the library to the Indian River Book Club. About a hundred people were expected. They sent bookplates so I could sign in peace and in anticipation. That might have been my first tip off. Folks who were not interested in hanging around long enough to get my signature. At any rate, after an initial excitement and anticipation of my coming to their club, I learn that no…on second thought, “Would you please NOT come?” Instead of paying me the agreed upon price to speak, they were willing to meet a kill fee. The kill fee was a thousand dollars. They paid me a thousand bucks to say nothing and to not show up.

Obviously, some one or two of them had taken time to read my book. B A N it!

What is most frustrating for me, the author, and authors in general, is that such things happen more frequently than people realize and it’s just not fair! I’d’ve done much better to have spoken and had the book legitimately BANNED, but to be paid off…wellllll, I can tell you it left me feeling rather in need of bathing. I was bought off instead of banned outright. I was cheated and left without the validation of being banned, without the novelist’s top prize, to join the ranks of Poe, Twain, Rushdie and so many esteemed authors whose books have been burned and or banned or both, the likes of say Ray Bradbury. Bradbury once said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, you just have to get people to stop reading them.”

At any rate if you call yourself friend—my friend—you will take up a standard, wave that flag and do all in your power to ban my current books for whatever cause you wish—call the books trash, call them Satanic with a capital S, call them the work of an insane mind, call them inspired my Marilyn Manson or Reba McIntyre, but get out and VOTE….get out and BAN them books. I need the notoriety now else am soon on the unemployment line, another place graced by greatness so often—certainly by Jack London at one time or another, if not the soup line. And yet Twain and such as Poe, while without funds at times, they never killed off one of their characters using the spine of a murdered man as the weapon. You get that? Murder by spinal column. A Walker special, not to mention the various dysfunctional families in Walker’s books that make the Soppranos look like the Pollyanas.

A BAN on me is a Vote for godliness! Ban Walker. Ban him to hell and back! Pull-lease!!

Robert W. Walker

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Line Up ...

Last night I attended a book signing that I had been invited to from a popoular book store in one of the norhern suburbs. Another dozen authors accepted the same invitation. Thus the title ... The Line UP.

Mapquest gave an hour, thirty minute drive to my destination. But the Chicago expressways were not expressing speed, not while I was traversing the thoroughfares. And I became a part of another line-up. I must say I was probably one of those anxious drivers you hate to see on the road. It's been years, maybe decades since I visited the northern suburb arena. As an orderly person I feel compelled to go back today and post a few more signs ... don't worry you are still on the right road ... I-pass doesn't mean speedy access to the other side of the toll ...
and ... YES, I-355, I-290 AND 53N is just one long stretch of road! Geesh!

Even though mapquest told me to turn right on Rand, I realized a few miles later they really meant left, I improvised and turned around, only after talking to the clerks at the bookstore in that town. They all thought it funny that I had turned the wrong way. "It's several miles back the way you came." And once calling the store to tell them I'd been caught in a long snake like traffic jam, and was now tip-toeing through their many a splended traffic lights, the gal informed me the correct store sat on the northwest corner of the mall. Of course they had moved it in that half-hour span because I found it on the southwest side.

At the intersection across from the bookstore, I took my departure from the long line of cars I had been a part of. At last, away from the hub-bub of congestion I could concentrate on selling a few books. Of course I was late, but with traffic like that, surely there would be plenty of folks out and about ready to buy books. After all, the community service manager of the store informed me she had put ads in the local papers announcing her author night and she would have plenty of advertising in the store.

Why do I continue to believe in fairytales? I should probably end this blog right here. You know what happened. It always happens. Once entering the store, I saw no signs promoting the event. I heard no announcements from the PA system as to our location in the store. But I had commited the evening to my writing career. I was ready to sell books!

I became another link in the long line-up of authors smashed against the outside wall. Nary a space existed between the authors for an easy escape. After squeezing behind several folks, knocking over a poster perched on the shelf, I climbed over numerous briefcases and tripped on a particularly lovely scarf. But I had reached my seat at last.

I chatted, I smiled, I handed out my brochures to the few customers who stumbled into the long line of authors hoping for a sale. All the time, I wondered where had all the people gone? The store was nearly deserted, well, our side of it anyway. I sent my friend through the store to hand out my brochures. I like to do that ... but I really didn't want to ruin that scarf and my chair had already attacked it once.

Now I had intended to tell you about my novel, Promises To Keep. It's a great book, a family saga historical, set in 1840's Kentucky. Many call it a romance, I call it true to life because it has grit born of romance, but it is much more than a happy ever after story. It deals with gambling, infidelity and family secrets. My characters don't always do the right thing, just like many of us, but they don't give up either. I like my characters, flawed as they are, they seem more real than many people because I know their secrets. If you buy Promises To Keep, you'll learn their secrets too.

If only I could commit my pitch to paper when folks ask me about my latest book. But most people want words from my mouth before they look at my brochure. I need practicing my pitch, one of the reasons I agreed to this book signing. Too bad I didn't get the chance to work on it. By eight o'clock most of the book buyers had gone home or out to the bars. So my stack of books, only a few short of what I had started with became another long line-up of books left for the bookstore clerks to shift to the shelves another day.

I hope folks in the northern suburbs get the chance to find my books. They're all signed. I didn't get to talk to many readers or tell them my book got great reviews, or that it's been given a five star rating on I hope they stop by in the days to come and buy Promises To Keep, by DL Larson. It's a great summer read.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: My first book, Memories Trail is another great read and a five star on ... but more on that another day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

GIRL OF MY DREAMS By Morgan Mandel

Just wanted to share the good news!!!
GIRL OF MY DREAMS, my romantic comedy about an assistant who becomes a reality show contestant, will be released next Summer by Hard Shell Word Factory.

This novel is a far cry from my still available mystery, TWO WRONGS, which deals with revenge and its consequences.

Too many years ago, when I was a young girl, my Dad would take me and my brothers to the library and we'd each check out a pile of books on what was called a Summer Loan. My favorite book, which I took out each year without fail, was Cinderella. Because of such wonderful experiences, it was natural for me to concoct a Cinderella story of my own. I had a great time writing it.

Not only does my heroine become exceedingly beautiful after her makeover, but she also gets into all kinds of embarrassing scrapes as she travels with the reality show from Hollywood, California to such exciting locales as Waikiki Beach, Hawaii - Venice, Italy - Las Vegas, Nevada & Paris, France.

I've added two handsome hunks for Cinderella to choose from, plus a sliver of suspense to spike up the action. Nothing too scary, since GIRL OF MY DREAMS is a comedy.

If you have some spare moments, hop over to my website at
You'll have your choice of Morgan Dark or Morgan Lite. Don't be afraid to try both!

See you there --
Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On doing the rejecting

Last time I dropped by, I said I was going to write a bit about how being a biker was like being a writer and vice versa.
That ride will wait.
Instead, I want to talk about rejection. Rejection sucks. It sucks from the other side of the table as well. How do I know? This is how:
There's a position open at my day job. I'm the hiring manager, so I've looked over a slew of resumes. Each tells a story of a person's life as seen through the prism of employment. It doesn't take much to read between the lines. There's the shock of layoffs, the disappointments of not being promoted, the struggle to keep up with increasing demands, the late nights of small miracles pulled off at the last minute, the evenings and weekends of a degree earned while working, the hopes and dreams and aspirations, the desperation of long unemployment, the frustration of a dead-end position, the ego and self doubt.
I read resume after resume, story after story. I sorted them into piles. All were interesting, all told fascinating stories, but most of those stories either just weren't right or didn't excite me or were not what I was looking for.
In a computer program that manages these "candidates," (inhuman in itself), I had to click "not interested" on most, "schedule interview" on a few.
On Friday and Monday came the pitches--the interviews.
It's supposed to be just business. It's supposed to be about skills sets and experience. It's supposed to be about fit with company or team culture.
Bullshit. Face to face, person to person, it's an intensely personal moment.
Sometime later this week, we'll extend an offer to one of the people who sat in front of me. About the same time, others will receive not a form letter in a SASE, but a call from the HR person who does my rejecting dirty work for me.
I won't feel any better about it, but I won't feel as bad as long.
Whatever side of the table you're on, rejection still sucks.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Wake

If you've been reading my posts, by now you know I use this forum to rant, educate, entertain, or simply amuse myself... actually, you probably suspect far more the latter.

Today's blog is a story, maybe. I don't know how it's going to come out. But I just got back from a wake, and I need to type my emotions out of my system. So if you came for funny, come back next Monday.

The wake was for the father of one of my youngest critter's friends. My daughter and the friend spent a lot of time together through grade school, but starting in junior high, they started drifting towards other groups so they didn't see as much of each other.

But in the younger days, they were buds. Sleepovers, painting their nails together, spending hours on the trampoline doing the flips that I absolutely forbid them to do. And we got to know their parents a bit, mostly fifteen minute gabfests when dropping off or picking up one of the kids for a movie or sleepover.

As the kids drifted apart, we saw less of each other, but occasionally ran into each other. So it was with shock and sadness when we learned that the father contracted ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig disease, a quick killer with no known cure.

Over the succeeding months, the father quickly lost nerve and muscle control and was soon in a wheelchair. He faded quickly and neighbors rallied and pitched in to buy an elevator for their house and a cart that he could get around in. Through it all, he appeared upbeat, positive, and no outward sign that he had lost his very active lifestyle.

The doctors originally gave him less than two years to live, and the daughter bore this burden at school, but was more obviously upset as the days went by. Then one day, someone on their ALS support group asked him, "did your doctor ever test you for Lyme Disease?" Lyme disease is passed along by ticks, and if caught early is completely treatable. But its symptoms mirror ALS very closely.

Excited, they got him tested and to their mixed delight, he did in fact have Lyme Disease. Unfortunately, the damage already inflicted by the mis-diagnosis was too severe and non reversible.

Still though, it was a blow to the stomach when he died. So at his wake today, hugging his wife and daughter, shaking his son's hand, more than anything I felt anger. Anger that he was taken away from his family. Anger that the medical profession failed them so miserably. How did they miss this? I don't know. It just didn't seem right to ask the widow this. I'm sure that she is going through all of this and vastly more.

Are they suing the doctors? I sure hope so. I think there are way too many suits in the world, way too many attorneys, but this is what the law is for. No amount of money will give return to them a father or a husband.

I can't talk about it any more... and I'm not up to editing this. I hope it reads well.

See you next week.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sisters in Crime by Margot Justes

I am a day late with my blog, because of sheer exhaustion not lack of dilligence. I spent an incredible weekend at Printers Row with Echelon Press...but that is for another blog.

I am a member of Sisters in Crime and I have been volunteered to chair the program committe.

During our recent meeting we decided to host an open forum for authors, writers and readers. The meeting is to be held at Centuries & Sleuths, a boosktore well worth a visit in its own right. It is exciting and personable with Augie at the helm. But I digress, back to the meeting...

We asked Augie to speak and let us know what an author needs to do to get a book signing at his store, how he markets the author prior to the signing, his expectations from said author as well as his responsibilities to his readers.

We asked our authors to do a show and tell; bring their marketing ideas, samples of promotional material, what worked and what didn't.

Finally, we asked our readers and fans to come and tell us their expectation, other than a good, well written story. That is a given. What works and what doesn't from their perspective.

Centuries & Sleuths
7419 W. Madison
Forest Park, IL 60130
July 21, 11:00 A.M.

I'd thought I'd extend an invitation to come and join us, participate, bring us your ideas, maybe even join Sisters in Crime.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press, June 2008

The Road is Long - by Larry D. Sweazy

It’s the middle of June, and my annual trek to the Western Writers of America (WWA) convention has begun. At the moment, we are somewhere in the middle of Missouri. Our ultimate destination is Springfield, with the convention starting Tuesday and launching into full swing on Wednesday. This is my one long vacation of the year, and I generally block off my schedule for 9 or 10 days. No writing, no indexing. This year, it’s different. I have my laptop with me and I’m indexing a daunting 1150 page book on Econometrics that has to be delivered on the 26th. And, I’m working on my current novel, which I’m the heat of and I don’t want to lose the spark. So it will be interesting to see how I am able to juggle writing, indexing, and my favorite convention at the same time. But this isn’t about juggling time, that topic has been covered here before. This one is about western writers.

A little back story. When I was a kid in the 1960s, westerns were at the height of their popularity. In the days of only three major television networks there was not a night that went by when there wasn’t a western on television. Wagon Train, Bonanza, The Big Valley, Branded, to name a few. So the western and its black and white and Technicolor images is seared into the basement of my brain, into the foundation of my psyche.

I never played cowboys and Indians. I never had a cowboy hat or outfit. I grew up in Indiana where the landscape is as flat as the sole of a factory worker’s shoe and covered with a billion rows of corn. A hill here is something ants make, and a mountain is something you only see on a coffee can. Most importantly, I didn’t read westerns. At least, I didn’t think I did. It could be argued that Steinbeck is a western writer, or that Jack London is too. To clarify, I didn’t read Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey. I wasn’t being snobby about not reading L’Amour or Grey, but at my age and in my geographic location, they just never showed up on my reading radar.

My point is this: Considering my background, I never expected to grow up and consider myself to be a western writer. But I do. I consider myself a mystery writer, too. There is a long history of writers bouncing between both genres, Elmore Leonard. Donald Hamilton, Robert B. Parker, Loren Estleman, and Bob Randisi, to name a few. But that topic is for another blog post, too.

A few years ago I wrote a short story for a Gorman/Greenberg anthology. I thought I was writing a mystery. The guidelines were simple: the main character needed to be a modern day Texas Ranger, and it needed to be a mystery. How could I think otherwise? So I wrote the story, Ed liked it, and I figured that was that. Cool.

When the anthology arrived, I was surprised that it was a collection of western stories, the lead being one from Mr. L’Amour himself. Mine was the only modern day story in the collection. Packed in this anthology were stories by some of the top name western writers of our day, James Reasoner, Russell Davis, and Bob Randisi. Not bad company for my first professional short story sale. Cool. It didn’t matter to me that the anthology wasn’t a mystery. What mattered was that I was introduced to some really good writers that I would have otherwise missed out on. I have since discovered even more western writers worthy of note. You guessed it, that’s another topic for another day.

After the anthology was published, I figured that was that. I did a couple of signings. Sold a bunch of books. Over 200, and from I understand, that’s not bad for an anthology, and I went back to working on a novel that I was hoping to start querying agents about.

Then lightning struck. In February of 2005, the phone rang. It was a nice lady from WWA, Elaine Long, and she was calling to inform me that my short story, “The Promotion”, had won the Spur Award for Best Short Story. Wow. My wife needed a jack-hammer to pry me off the ceiling when she got home.

We went to Spokane, Washington later that summer to the WWA convention. I didn’t know a soul. It was kind of weird, because, well, I thought I’d written a mystery, and the only cowboy boots I own are salt and pepper shakers that were souvenirs. I met a lot of nice people. There was graciousness that is hard to explain, other than, after 5 days, I felt like I had arrived at distant relative’s reunion, and I left a full-fledge member of the clan. WWA knows how to throw a convention. Day trips to points of interest, good food, and a shindig at the end that rivals any black (bolo) tie affair around. Let me tell you, western hospitality is real. Some people say the western is dead, but they obviously haven’t been to a WWA convention lately.

So—we’re heading to Springfield. My third convention and I’m just as excited as I was when we were heading to the first. Spokane provided a springboard for my writing career that I could have never created on my own. Fate intervened. Took me on an adventure I never imagined. Cool. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Oh, “The Promotion” was also featured in “The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 19 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories”, in 2005, too. Go figure it was mystery after all. And a western too. Kind funny how things work out sometime.

More about the WWA and the Springfield convention next week…

Friday, June 8, 2007

How a Writer Develops an Idea from Plot to Print? Via the Fully Realized Character - By Robert W. Walker

When I set out to write City for Ransom, I knew it would be too large a canvass for a single book, that it was a series from the outset. How did I know this? 1) the number of books handed to me by a Chicago historian and bookstore owner, Kenan Heise--as the stack was almost too heavy. 2) Once I conceived of Inspector Alastair Ransom, I knew him so well that I felt certain his shoulders were large enough to carry the weight of several books if not more. 3) Alastair and men of his time, handicapped by a lack of relevant science applied to police work, had been kicking around in the back of my mind since the early 80s due to a book that Dean R. Koontz insisted I read.

I have since learned that when another author "truly insists" that your read a given book that it is incumbent upon you to do so, especially when you have shared with this author a notion for a book. For an entirely different novel, I followed the advice of J.A. Konrath to read yet another title and it proved invaluable to my writing project. The book Dean Koontz suggested was the invaluable Century of the Detective by Jurgen Thorvald (on my shelf now), and the tomb that Konrath suggested for a horror-thriller entitled Fleshwar ( serialized novel) was Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. You see where this is going? An author who does a busload of research often does the wise thing and telegraphs to others the project he is working on so as to gather really good information on said subject. This means much of my writing is predicated on much reading or factual materials.

Perhaps it is the teacher in me. Even in sixth grade I was unofficially "tutoring" other students from the kid who was held back to the cute girl next door. It spills over in my books. There are few chapters over the years that I've written that don't have a research based point to get across be it to remind folks that the mayor of Chicago was murdered on the grandest night of his life--the closing night of the hugely successful World's Fair to the fact that ants have it rough with parasites too--poor ants. Never felt sorry for an ant in my life until I read Carl Zimmer's book.

Getting now to Shadows in the White City--I naturally wrote it as a sequel but as with every sequel I write, I wanted it to stand on its own. Ever try to stand a single volume up on a table and keep it from falling over? Shadows sees the demise of the Phantom of the Fair in the first portion of the novel, just as in City for Ransom the big surprise of the book is revealed in the first 70 pages or so. Shadows moves on to Alastair's next difficult case, the murders brought about by a maniac the press is calling The Leather Apron Killer--who may or may not be an import from London. I wanted this to be an atmospheric, creepy case and it really is. How do I know? When an author can creep himself out...feel the fear his characters must be feeling, well said author just knows. It's like when you create a frozen death scene and your fingers become too cold to work the keys, or when you're doing a heat-wave scene and you begin to perspire at the keyboard and you're dripping sweat onto the keys. You just know you are hitting the right stride when you can cause physical and mental changes in yourself, your first reader. It's what they mean by the power of the pen.

I believe with such accolades as Ken Bruen's remark on Shadows, that it is a "true masterpiece and that's the holy all of it." And remarks such as those by Harriet Klausner below, I believe that I did my job well and made the sequel equally or more compelling than the original. I have just turned in City of the Absent, #3 in the series due out this December.

Here's the kind of review every author works toward and hopes for:

“Brutal…unrelenting…historical fiction at its berst.” –The Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune also said it was like “getting sucker-punched in the face with brass knuckles.”

Jay Boninsinga said “this book will beat the hell out of you.”

I sense a theme here. I do go for the readers emotions and jugular all at once. That’s the writer’s job as I see it.

Rob Walker

Thursday, June 7, 2007

R rated movies: Really R not for kids ... REALLY!

The other day a librarian friend of mine confided to me about her worry. A few of her adult patrons no longer took out children's videos for their children. Their excuse was their kids loved horror better than the typical G rated movie. As many of you know, I'm a children's librarian, and so is my friend. Most of my patrons are wonderful, conscientious people who know R rated movies are not suitable for small children. But ... the exceptions are out there.

The other day an advanced third grader came to the library with her daddy. She wanted to read an adult nonfiction book called "A Child Called It," by Dave Pelzer. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm all for educating children, and Mr. Pelzer's book is an important book on the subject of child abuse. But a third grader, no matter how advanced her reading, isn't ready for this descriptive book. Dad of course informed me his daughter could handle the adult words. I tried to explain it wasn't so much the words, but how the words were put together - the content of the book. After considerable discussion he finally got it - the book was not a suitable choice for his daughter, at least not at her current age. Of course the child's response was, "but Daddy, I really want to read that book." To his credit, he said no.

I wish more parents were like him. He wanted to do the right thing for his child. He wanted her to read, but he also put limitations in place once he realized the book she wanted could do more harm than good. I bet he's one of those parents who says no as well to horror movies rated R. And I that makes me shout for joy!

The library is not the only place where I see this inappropriateness taking place. A few months back the movie about the Spartans, 300 , was all the hype. I love history and looked forward to seeing the movie. My husband and I went to the nearest I-Max theatre to see it. For once we were early for the show and got to people watch. What I saw confused me at first. Adults poured in, but besided their popcorn and soda, they had their children. My husband and I looked at each other wondering if we had wandered into the wrong theater. I counted over fifty children under the age of seven - believe me I know kids! There were several babies!!

Please tell me I'm not the only one who finds this absurd! I still don't know if I was old enough for all that blood and gore. People tell me it's no big deal, that kids come to R rated movies with their parents all the time. And that it's not my business to mother the world.

But it is my business. Kids are my business. Books are my business. Movies are rated for a reason, basically to inform the public on the contents. I wish books had a rating sytem too. It would serve as a guideline for many parents. Books like "A Child Called It," could be rated D for disturbing, or perhaps PB - (not peanut butter) but Parents Beware!

The written word is a powerful tool, and so are movies. Everything we do or see leaves an impression. So, my advice - to whoever might be willing to listen from one who's been around the block numerous times ...

Don't be so willing to give into your children's whims. They are young and don't always see the consequences of their requests. Saying no is not a punishment. Saying no is a safety measure. Being responsible is tough, I know, I raised three children. But ... being responsible sometimes means saying no to yourself. No, I can't go to that movie tonight because my child doesn't need to see this at his/her young age.

Go ahead, call me old fashioned! I can take it! But if this got your dander up ... then you got my message. The question now, is what will you do next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

House For Sale? By Morgan Mandel

We bought our house over 20 years ago. At the time it was perfect. We were younger, we had less baggage, we loved the Cape Cod style. Our prior house had a one car garage, no fireplace, no separate dining room. This one had all the features we were looking for when we bought it.

Time has passed. We've accumulated way too many objects. We don't use the second floor except for going to bed at night. It's just too much trouble to tromp up and down the stairs. We still love the two car garage and the fireplace. We'd prefer a larger kitchen with a bigger eating area instead of the separate dining room since we have a more casual lifestyle now.

We have a few choices. We can add onto the house. By doing this, we can still keep the home we've grown to love. Though it doesn't fit our needs, we can try to make it what we want. We can add on a first floor utility room and master bedroom with bathroom, plus a larger kitchen. The problems with doing this are we'll be faced with workmen underfoot, dust, decisions about layout and materials, a mess we'd have to live with for at least three months but probably longer, not to mention higher taxes since we'll still have a second floor we're not using.

Or we can sell the house we've grown attached to and get one that's new to us and fits our needs. It will mean getting the house into shape by painting the walls, putting in new carpeting, cleaning, throwing out an accumulation of extra clothes and objects. Also, our present location is great. We'll need to find a house similarly situated, but with all the qualifications we now require. The market is tough. Even after we go through all this preparation, buyers may reject our home. We may need to relist it with other brokers. It still may not sell.

What does this have to do with writing and books? Look on your manuscript as a house. You write it and fix it. You rearrange chapters, you change what your characters think and do, you eliminate chunks of backstory and weave it into the plot instead, your check the grammar and spelling, you do your best to balance dialogue and narrative. That's not enough. You keep finding more and more things wrong that need to be improved. You like your manuscript but can't give it up into someone else's hands. Instead, you live with it.

Your other option is to put your manuscript up for sale. You do your best to get it ready, check the market and see where it should go, then take the plunge and submit it for publication. This approach is more daring. The market is tough. Publishers have an abundance of submissions. You might get rejected and not even know why. You might get criticized and need to figure out if you should change your manuscript. You might have to resubmit it.

If you succeed, your reward will be great. Instead of that manuscript lying around taking it up space, you'll have a beautiful book with a great cover for everyone to enjoy.

Which would you prefer?

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Time and Energy Vampires

These days vampires are hot, especially in romantic fiction. My daughter almost devours (pun intended) vampire-themed novels.

But those aren't the vampires I'm talking about. No, I'm talking about the time and energy vampires - the ones that just suck up everything that they can and then move on not caring about the damage they've done.

The big one in my book is the spam and phising emails. Oh sure, there are the spam filters but every now and then something legitimate gets rounded up with the criminal ones and you have to sort through to make sure you don't delete something you actually need. It's the same for junk email - and of course the criminals and marketers (not always the same thing) are getting better at masquerading as legitimate businesses to lure you in. I fantisize about writing a mystery where the main victim is a spammer - a very dead spammer! I was excited when a notorious spammer was arrested in the Seattle area this past week, but alas, he's just one of many and probably not the big Kahuna of spamming. So, the spam will continue and get worse.

Then there are the energy vampires in the form of people. The ones who should be able to help themselves but make it an art form not to. They're not bad people - not really. They just want to absorb as much as possible from you because in some ways they admire you, especially if you've written a book.

See, everyone pretty much has a silent desire to write a book and become pubilshed. It's quite a universal fantasy but few figure out how to turn the dream into reality, in part because most underestimate just how hard and challenging it is to write. Many stay in the dream phase because it's just more fun to fantasize about it than it is to actually execute the BIS rule - Butt In Seat - and type (some say AIS but we'll stick with BIS). They mistakenly think that they will get what they need through osmosis - at least the energy vampires do.

That's why when I find myself surrounded by writers who are willing to put in the time and effort to move forward in their writing process it's exciting.

Todd and I spent Memorial Day Weekend at a retreat for a writer's group that asked Todd to present his Novelist's Boot Camp. It was such a wonderful experience to be around so many motivated people at all levels of the writing experience who really wanted to move forward in the writing process. The energy was uplifting and there weren't any energy vampires there. Although I suspect there were a few of those romantic type vampires on the pages of some wips (works in progress).

Monday, June 4, 2007

Writer's Block ... er... blog


(stares at blank screen with blank eyes shooting off word blanks)

Let's see...

(toneless whistling)

... flex fingers...

Okay, here goes...

(starts typing)

"It was a Dark and Stormy..."

No, that's already been taken.


(more toneless whistling... worse because I'm actually trying to create something recognizable)

Actually, I do have something to talk about... not writing related, though.

You see, I'm sorta skinny. Not rail thin, mind you, but I'm not a robust kinda guy. Mebbe I sport a bit of the middle aged Dunlap's thing(as in it done laps over my belt, aka having too much table-muscle), but gravity doesn't pull downward with all that much force.

Anyway, the problem with being thin is, well, a more 'filled out' America is shopping for clothes, especially shorts and the retailers have responded. And ever since my wife hid my baby blue (with a cool racing stripe) terry cloth shorts, I've not had much success in finding shorts that look good on me.

(my wife takes exception to that entire sentence).

But take a look at what passes for shorts nowadays. You're stuck with either something that kids wear to show off their boxers ... way too low ... or with shorts that, frankly, aren't short, coming all the way down to mid calf or so.

Or worse, you get the shorts where the leg holes are as big around as a python choking down a good sized warthog.

So the other day my wife was guy-watching... (what? you were, hon)... and she checks out my neighbor ... we'll call him "Lance." And he's wearing... are you ready for this?

Normal shorts!

Shorts that fit!

Shorts that don't look like koulats (is this how you spell this? It flunked "spell-check")

She drinks a glass of wine for bravado and actually sorta moseys over and asks Lance, "So, big boy..."

No, she didn't say that.

(hopefully she didn't think it either).

But she finds out from him where he got his shorts.

Next thing I know, we're in the Scion, and we head out at warp speed ... no, Scion Speed... to the shorts-store ... um... Kohls.

A quick swipe of the Visa card later, and I have my own ... non-skater-boy, non-old geezer, non-tree trunk legged ... shorts!

That fit!!

Yeah, new shorts!

Okay, so they're not terry cloth, but they're mighty fine anyway.

And they don't make my legs look like a couple de-barked aspen branches.

I look great!!!

... yup...

(turn my attention back to the screen).

Hmmm... now where was I?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Blue Moon Ice Cream -- by Larry D. Sweazy

There used to be an ice cream shop in the town I grew up in, Bert T. Owens, that served Blue Moon ice cream. It was kind of a mix of blueberry and vanilla, and it was my favorite ice cream. Whenever I hear it is a month with a blue moon, I always think back to walking into Bert Owens and getting a double-dip of ice cream, and it brings a smile to my face. Ice cream was a treat when I was kid. To say we visited Bert Owens once in a blue moon would be true.

It was a long time before I realized there really was such a thing as a blue moon.

There are two definitions of what a blue moon is. The first, and most common, is that there are two full moons that rise and fall within the same month. The second, and more complicated, calls the blue moon the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. This definition is tied to the ecclesiastical calendar. In this calendar there are names for twelve moons—the Paschal Moon determines the date for Easter, for example. By naming the extra moon a blue moon, the calendar is not thrown off track. Either definition is fine with me, and I go with the flow, as most people and most of the world use the first definition.

So—what do ice cream and blue moons have to do with writing? Nothing really. But I had my own blue moon experience this week, and I thought I’d share it with you.

I received two rejections in the past week for my hardboiled police procedural novel that my agent is shopping. Both rejections came from publishers in New York. The first complimented my writing, calling me a “serious writer”, and said the story is “full of grittiness that comes across as realistic and deeply felt”. In the end the novel was too grim for this editor. But—there was a handwritten PS., “Please try me again”.

The second rejection was a little different. It too complimented my writing, calling me a “good writer”, and said that the story was really enjoyable. The novel would have been perfect for a previous imprint, but since that imprint was dissolved in a merger, there was not place for it at the current imprint. But—the editor took the novel to another editor within the house first to make sure it wasn’t a fit at her imprint before rejecting it. To fit that imprint the core of my novel would have had to have been changed dramatically, so much so, it would not be the same book and would have required more than a major rewrite. When my agent called and asked if I could make this change, I thought about it long and hard, but ultimately, I said no, I can’t do that.

Saying no in an absolute way was not an easy thing to do. But I had no choice. The editor respected that decision. My agent respected that decision. And in the end, it’s a decision I can live with. I am not opposed to making changes to the novels I’ve written. I am all for making a novel better. I am a writer, not an editor. But this change was so big that I could not see how to do it and maintain the integrity of the novel. Plain and simple, sometimes you have to say no.

The two rejections are my two full moons this month. While a sale would have been great, both rejections have had a positive impact on me. And I think that’s the secret to surviving rejection in this business—You have to look for the positive. It’s there. I suppose I could be bitter and disappointed, but what’s the point? That attitude is going to come through in my writing, in the way I carry myself, in my relationships with everyone I encounter. No thanks. I’m moving on. I heading back to the keyboard with “good and serious writer” and “realistic and deeply felt” tucked into my back pocket. I now know that an editor liked my novel enough to carry it to another editor. That’s what I want to show in my work. Not anger at the business.

And I know I’m on the right track—and I have to stay there by sitting down and writing more and more and more, until the planets align, and the right “yes” comes along. That’s the only way to deal with rejection as far as I’m concerned.

Now—I’m off to the ice cream store. Oddly enough, there’s an ice cream shop in the town that we now live in that serves blue moon ice cream. It doesn’t quite taste the same as it did when I was kid, but it’s close enough to be grateful that blue moon ice cream still exists in some form… Besides, I earned a double-dip this week, damn it.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

How important is your cover by Margot Justes

Very important, that is the first thing anyone sees before the book is even picked up. Does it grab the reader, is it unique, are the colors, the text, the subject matter related to your story, can you as an author live with it.

Fortunately for me, my publisher worked with me, she listened but she was right all along. Karen came up with a great cover, so of course I had to immediately ask for changes. I loved the colors she had chosen, the whole concept was good, but I thought there should be an easel instead of a postcard, because, simply put, my female protagonist is an artist so she should be represented.

What I didn't think about was the whole book, it is set in Paris, the postcard reflects the Eiffel Tower, and all along the edge in script other famous places are mentioned. The way the tower is drawn, it looks like a work of art. She had it right form the beginning. I absolutely love my cover. I even have a smoking gun, well not really smoking, but in a very soft focus the barrel and butt are peeking around the postcard. It is awesome, romantic and mysterious.

I just had to share the exciting news with everyone. It now seems more real, and I can go and order my business cards, and all the other accoutrement that will be needed to get the book into the readers' hands.

Thank you Karen.

Till next Saturday,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press, June 2008

Friday, June 1, 2007



One consistent VOICE-style or Voice is the point of Part 1 and 2 of this diatribe on the single most important element of dramatic writiing. A pointed voice, strong and firm, photogenic-inducing and active is called for in DRAMATIC fiction if you wish to keep your forward-moving-dynamo going forward and not stalling out.

Passive-sounding narrators—male or female—lack control and are hard to understand. If the authorial Voice suffers from undetermined and unclear points or images, the result is less than pointed or photogenic. Like it or not, we learn visually and we read visually, so that an entirely passive scene riddled with WASes and WEREs and ISes and AREs and HASes and HADs that often beget more Qualifying is in effect NO SCENE at all but a telling rather than a showing. The DEATH of drama in and of itself as every writer of fiction knows.

Mary was up at dawn. She was an avid runner, so she was instantly busy pulling on her sneakers and sweats. Soon she was out the door and was running to her heart’s content when she saw that she was to be confronted by a homeless man. He was wearing the usual garb of the homeless, and he was twice her size. In a word, he was intimidating. She was unsure of her next move. She stopped, bent over, pretended to tie her shoe, thinking herself safe from the man. But when she looked up, she found him staring straight into her eyes. “Mary, it’s me, your brother Ben.”

There are a total of nine WASes in the first six sentences of the TELLing example above. Sentences seven and eight are SHOWing sentences as they both rely on action verbs in Active Sentences, whereas the first seven are Passive Sentences. Notice how qualifying, how iffy the first seven sentences are, and how absolutely sure of himself the author becomes in the last two sentences.

A storyteller who peppers his tales with qualifiers and passives manages to cut his own throat and is easily the example to point to in an exercise for what NOT to do in fiction and dramatic writing. Always being an absolute, always practice an ABSOLUTE stance over a qualifying one in fiction as in the lines from works on sale everywhere or works in progress by this author:

From PSI Blue: Psyhic Sensory Investigation

FBI Headquarters Secret Psychic Detection Lab modern day…

Special Agent Aurelia Murphy Hiyakawa sat clothed in a virgin white terry robe, in the lotus position, electrodes attached and grounded to the open air copper pipe pyramid, a device she’d designed to enhance her psychic projections and astral journeys. A small sterile white mat lie before her, and on the mat lay six items she’d been asked to “read”. The objects held a strange communion with her. She fingered each item, tossing several out of the pyramid, holding onto other items as she went.

From Cuba Blue:

Off the coast of Havana, Cuba modern day…

The coast of Havana’s clear-blue tropical sea heard the mechanical cry of screeching rust-encrusted gears that suddenly slammed to a standstill. Several nautical miles north of Canal del Entrada, Cuba, the whining pulley ratcheted once, then twice with biting and chomping. Then it stopped dead again on the dimly-lit shrimp trawler Sanabella II. In fact, the unexpected stillness stopped all activity aboard ship, and save for the screeching hungry seagulls, the deafening quiet reigned. Wide-eyed, the men, frozen in position, stared first at the choaked-off windlass and then at one another afraid to breathe, afraid to hope. Fishing had been wretchedly poor.

From City for Ransom:

Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 1893...3AM

The newly formed and lettered sign tore at its chain moorings where it dangled over the modest brownstone house, the shingle reading Dr. James Phineas Tewes, Phrenological and Magnetic Examiner until a lightning strike hit it, turning it into an unrecognizable charred mess.
Across town to the sound of thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and the clock tolling 5AM, Alastair Ransom climbed from bed, unable to sleep, his skin afire with malarial fever. He dosed himself with a hefty tumbler of quinine and Kentucky whiskey. He imagined strangling Dr. Caine McKinnette for having run out of his supply of quinine and antimony. He breathed in deeply, imagining the pleasure of his hands around the good doctor’s throat. Then once more what really troubled him began invading his night: the awful, bloody murder case that’d fallen into his lap the day before.

THESE ARE ALL examples of opening with active verbs, the conscious choice of few to no qualifiers, no WASes please! Any elementary or high school grammar text is worth revisiting to rekindle these notions into fire in a writer’s gut. It’s the little things that make a female lead compelling. Revisit Passive vs. Active Voice, the handful of pages devoted to Qualifiers vs. Absolutes (voice), and while at it, look up sentence combining for the 4 types of sentences— Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound Complex. Imagine it, what Shakespeare utilized we all have to work with—shapes already formed, voice choice, to qualify or not to qualify, to BE or not to BE, and whether tis nobler in the mind to use a hammer blow of a two word sentence like Jesus wept, OR rather to compound it, complex it or compound complex it as in the following:

Jesus wept. (pow, zap, bang, zoom! Simple single/first base)
Jesus wept, and others watched. (rings different bell in compound set)

In his sixteenth year on the planet, Jesus wept. (complex adds fragmentary introduction)

Jesus, in his sixteenth year on the planet, wept.
introduction becomes interrupting fragmentary, and we ring another kind of bell)

Now the homer of a sentence, the big boy: Compound Complex….

In his sixteenth year, Jesus wept, while from afar, others curiously, cautiously watched.
(intro. Frag) S + V (intro. Frag) S + adv. + adv. + V

Each choice we make, every little choice, becomes a major decision, and it is for this reason many people do not write, as it is the magic of decision-making, and writing is really about making a thousand decisions per sentence, per paragraph, per scene, per chapter. Not all your stories need take on the same voice, but within that single story or novel, your ONE consistent is that you be consistent and true to the voice you choose—whether male, female, black, white, yellow or green. But your Authorial voice must need have its own logic and consistent mindset or ‘psychology’. In other words: VOICE is the most important element of your story…..especially if you hope to make it uniquely feminine, sir…or uniquely male, ma’am. In essence, you have to “become” your character before you can SOUND like her or him or it. Finally, write to your opposite” is my watchword as this forces you into a true writing challenge. So set your stories in exotic places you’ve never been with exotic characters you’ve never known. You’ll surprise yourself and by all means avoid the WASes and the Wazoos!

Robert W. Walker is the author of over forty novels with a record eight series heroes and heroines. His most enduring female leads are Dr. Jane Tewes from City for Ransom, Dr. Jessica Coran of the Instinct Series, and Meredyth Sanger of the Edge Series. My long-standing website is chock full with advice and examples. Visit for the fun of it or for the lessons to be had at and at

Robert W. Walker