Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reality Gets In The Way

One of the joys of writing is the ability to escape to other places and pretend to be whomever you want to be or create characters who do many of the things you might be afraid to do yourself. Writing is also a way to work through personal difficulties.

One of my ancestors, Wallace Bruce - or WB as I call him, was a world-renowned Robert Burns scholar and poet. In fact Wallace Bruce held the same Poet Laureate post in Scotland in the late 1800's that Robert Burns had held a century before and it is through WB that I am a descendent of Robert the Bruce according to genealogical records. While I'm not putting my self anywhere near WB's league in my writings I find myself drawn more and more to poetry to work through some difficult times.

Here's my offering of a poem-in-progress (the name I use is another story):

Learning to Fly by Vashtie

I learned to walk
I wanted to learn to fly
I learned to smile and talk
And I learned how to cry

Every step I take a treasure
In this journey called life
Bringing both pain and pleasure
With intense joy and strife

At times the pain is too great
At times the joy euphoric
I hang onto the ride each takes
The highs, the lows are chaotic

I dared to love but life stalled
While I tried learning to fly
My wings breaking in the fall –
I fell hard looking up at the sky

But I will take these broken wings
And learn to fly again and again
Because to not try, to not fly nor sing
Is like slowly dying before the end

As I put one foot in front of the other
I console myself that I can even feel
But these feelings threaten to smother
Both what is farce and what is real

Every step is part of life's journey
Every joy and pain part of a story
Every story is a journey
Every journey has a story

Monday, July 30, 2007

Who are you writing for?

Not my Mom, that's for sure.

When I wrote my first book, I think vaguely that I had some idea that my readers would be male, late teens to mid forties. Who else would like a book so full of sophomoric humor, with cussing, a lot of cleavage worship, and all of the dimwitted stuff that guys find so amusing?

Not women, for sure I thought. Not even my Mom. Well, my Mom's a woman, but I don't think of her that way ... well, I guess any guy's relationship to his mother doesn't much include thinking of her as a woman with, um, womanly thoughts and stuff.

She's just Mom, right?

Anyway, I remember my first query letters to agents and publishers, who all wanted to know who the target audience is, and how I would attack the market to attract their interest. All the time I'm thinking that it's for guys and figuring, "Okay, advertise in tool magazines, Playboy, gaming magazines..."

Hah, just kidding, my budget is more like put a flier in front of a tool store, strip club, electronic games store.

But I was pretty much convinced that I knew who would like the book, who would get the most from my dazzling prose. And that's when the surprises started.

First was my publisher - half female owned, ... then my first ever review (and an awesome one it was) - a woman, ... the editor of a magazine that my publisher advertised it in - a woman, ... my first blurb from an already published author, Barb D'Amato. The most recent review from Pop Syndicate ... a woman.

And they all raved about my so-called 'guy' book. Barb even wrote me later and asked permission to send the ARC to a friend of hers who needed cheering up... a female friend.

I thought to myself, "Huh?"

So I sent an email out to Barb saying, "Huh?"

She got back to me that women like my book because I point out what goobs we - guys - are. Because I wrapped my book around stereotypes and just knotted everything good and tight ... then I cut the bonds. Well, she didn't put it that way, but that's how I understood her.

With this new perspective on my target audience, I had to revamp my marketing efforts and made sure that woman knew that they would enjoy my book. It wasn't just for guys! You could read it somewhere other than the bathroom! Woo-hoo!

So I took my newfound knowledge that both men and women would like my book and now I knew whom to go after. Men and women age 19 and ... well, up. No upper limit.

And that's when I got my next surprise. My book somehow hit the local high school, and next thing I know, I'm learning that teenagers like it! Both sexes, and, well, those in-between ones who dress in black and all look alike regardless of their sex.

And a YA reviewer wrote how it's the funniest book she (yes, she) has ever read, and she puts it on both of her sites.

What to take from all of this?

You can't exclude people from your readership based on assumptions and misconceptions. Young people may have mature tastes and older people may be more interested in slapstick humor. You just never know.

Why I myself actually enjoyed a romance novel once. Yeah, so kick me out of the Guy Union. I had an excuse, it was wrapped in a sci-fi novel.

Anyway, open your horizons because every single person you see may be one of YOUR readers! Don't forget it!

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

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Round Robin by Margot Justes

The biggest advantage an author has is name recognition. If you are new on the circuit, it is hard if not impossible to sell your books without marketing and gaining that all important abstraction, called name recognition. As in any business, you need to advertise, to spread word that you are out there, this is where the Round Robin concept comes into play.

J. R. Turner, an Echelon author who wrote My Biker Bodyguard (I do have to give her a plug) formed a round robin set of interviews for anyone at Echelon interested in the project.

This is how it works; we interview each other once a week and post it on our blogs, websites, my space, absolutely anywhere we can.

It will allow us to get a much broader public reach, get the readers to become familiar with our names and writing styles.

So, for each of the next few weeks, I will hopefully be posting a different interview with an Echelon author on this blog.

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

A New Age for Short Fiction? –Part 4 -- by Larry D. Sweazy

Are there opportunities for the professional short story writer on the Internet?

First let’s decide what the definition of a professional writer is. Simply, it’s a writer who gets paid professional rates for their short stories. In today’s world, that translates to 4 to 6 cents a word. A 5000 word short story will bring $300.00. Whether or not that’s a fair wage is another discussion, but it is obvious that making a living by writing short stories is just about out of the question. There are few writers, like Ed Hoch, doing so—but they are rare.

I went to www.duotrope.com and searched for electronic markets that paid a professional rate. I searched the mystery genre, and the results were 5 hits--3 of those markets were marketed Temporarily Closed. So there were 2 professional markets listed. On the entire Internet there were 2 open markets that paid professional rates for mystery short stories. It also listed secondary markets. There were 6. 1 was closed. So for a total, there were 7 potential professional paying markets.

I expanded the search to “any genre” and came up with 28 markets with 7 closed—so the net result was 21 markets. Not a lot of markets to chose from, and assuredly, the competition is fierce.

I have no way of knowing whether or not these numbers reflect an improvement or a decline from the past, I haven’t been tracking markets since the Internet proliferated. I can only hope that paying markets are increasing. But with every else on the Internet, why should you pay for something when you can get it for free (minus the monthly cost for your Internet service)? The playing field is not level, but that is the double-edge sword of the Digital Age.

To see if these numbers from Duotrope held up, I went to www.storypilot.com. Story Pilot is primarily a market listing for sci/fi and horror, but I’m looking for professional paying online markets, not genre-specific markets. The results of that search yielded 11 results.

Now, what I didn’t include in this equation are programs like Amazon Shorts. They pay. But they don’t pay up front, and they don’t pay per word. It’s a different model. One I’ll talk about in an upcoming post since I have stories on Amazon Shorts.

To be fair, I did another search on Duotrope. This time my criteria was professional rates, any genre, any medium (print, electronic, etc.). That search resulted in 113 hits, with nearly 30 closed or temporarily closed. 70 paying markets. OK, that’s not bad. But the point of this discussion at this point is Internet-related. I am very interested in how the online media has affected print media. I think it is obvious, but short story writers the number suggest that there are more professional paying print markets than online markets.

Are there more markets than what I have found? Sure there are. But my guess there aren’t many more that pay professional rates.

Are there opportunities on the Internet? Yes--though few and far between. But these numbers point to what we all know to be true: If you publish your work on the Internet, you’re probably not going to get paid for it.

And that’s next week’s topic: Is writing for free beneficial to a long-term writing career?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

ICU - not your regular text message!

ICU - intensive care unit - that's where I've been hanging out for the last few weeks. I'm a couple hours from home, living out of a suitcase that right now holds only dirty clothes. It's time to go home. I'm tired of hospital food, weary of deciphering doctor speak, and really miss my own bed.

But my family continues to rally around the ICU waiting room, giving up vacation days, personal days and unexcused absences for a few. But still we stay. We chit chat, we walk the halls, we retell old stories and try to nap in lumpy chairs. And we wait.

I'm sure many of you have been in the same situation. I don't know what to pray for anymore and the good Lord knows my wishes anyway. I want my mother-in-law to get better. I want the horror of watching her deteriorate to vanish from my mind. But this isn't a story I can rearrange. I don't even know the outcome yet. I can't write the main character out of her tragedy. I wish I could. Oh, how I wish I could.

A month ago Skip was out golfing, beating my son and husband, laughing and teasing just as she loves to do. She's a fighter and I know that's why we all wait, hoping for the miracle that will make her whole once more.

I know I've written about death before in this column, but it seems to be the summer of reflection and so I have spent these last few weeks thinking back on what a wonderful influence Skip has had on my life. Whether she lives or dies, I will cherish the memories we have already made and will give thanks for each day we have with her from today on.

Skip has encouraged my writing from the onset. She's an avid reader and likes to compare my books with other authors, always favoring my style over someone else's. I'm sure she'd think she isn't worthy of mentioning in one of my blogs. But I know she is. She's the perfect character for a fun, light-hearted spoof. She's silly in a I Love Lucy kind of way, ornery when you least expect it and loves to gamble. I'd put her on a gambling boat and let the mystery unfold.

Since I am writing on the ICU waiting room computer, my time is up and I haven't really said all I wanted. Please forgive my abrupt end and for not writing last week. I hope you understand I was busy with family and I must return to them now.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Hi folks,

I spent a good portion of the day today traveling back from the North Woods of Wisconsin, but wanted to get a few words for my blog in.

While on vacation I not only got a chance to enjoy the greenery and scenery, but also put in an appearance at the Minocqua Public Library. The audience was quite friendly and offered some very insightful questions.

I want to thank Cindy Wentz from the Minocqua Public Library for offering me this opportunity. Here's a photo with the both of us. I'll be putting up more on my website by the weekend at http://www.morganmandel.com/

PS I also spent a bit too much time at Lac du Flambeau/Lake of the Torches Casino. I won once out of four tries, but had a great time playing the penny slots. I'll have to save up more money for my next vacation over Labor Day.

Time to sign off now and get some sleep so I can go back to my day job in the morning.

All the best,

Morgan Mandel






Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It takes more love--

to share a seat on a motorcycle than it does to share a bed. At least, that's an old biker's maxim. And if taking a road trip while perched on a motorcycle passenger pillion is something of a comfort challenge and requires a greater connection than sleeping together, then riding backseat on a writer's journey requires something even greater.

I'm thinking here of the "significant others" who ride back seat in our (the authors') careers. Like a biker's back-seat passenger, these loved ones go where we drive them--fascinating (hah!) places like conferences, bookstores, and libraries. It's a grand trip, to be sure, but it is not their trip--it's ours. We share the ride, but it's still in very many ways our trip-- our careers, our moments in the public limelight and our 15 minutes of fame. And although the authors are responsible for the success or failure of a given book or book event, like a couple riding two-up cross-country the rain falls on both, the wind chills driver and passenger alike, and both sweat it out in traffic.

Passengers on both journeys sometimes complain. Those who ride back seat on a motorcycle can frequently be heard bemoaning the soreness in their posteriors. The same is often true of those who go along with authors on their trips--in other words, we authors can also be real pains in the ass.

A good passenger can make or break a rider. If from the backseat the passenger moves with the rider as he or she leans into curves, if the passenger pays attention to the route and navigates, if he or she offers a friendly wave to those the pair meet along the way, and if that passenger actively stays "in tune" with the rider and performs a dozen other tasks--then the ride is likely to be pleasant and rewarding.

As writers or bikers, then, we need to be very mindful of those we take along for the ride.

I ride and I write, and I have been very fortunate to have had the very best of passengers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sequins, er, Sequels

Y'know. One of the nice thing about writing is getting to know ... appreciate ... like ... or even (in some cases) dislike your own creations. Your characters.

When I wrote The Adventures of Guy, I didn't plan originally to write a sequel, or, like Douglas Adams, a four book trilogy (Hitchhikers Guide to Kalamazoo, I mean, the Galaxy). But rather on a whim, after the ending of the book I tacked on an Epilogue, which started the beginning of their next adventure.

But, really, I had no other thought about a sequel than that.


After my publishers first read (and before they accepted it), I received an email asking, "So, are you planning a sequel?" And I sent back that I wouldn't be against one, but if they wanted to snip the epilogue, then fine with me... though it wasn't really.

Was I planning something subconsciously even then? I swear, there wasn't any brain activity, some would say, still isn't. And if there was, I wasn't planning on writing another Guy book right away.

With no more comment than that, they left the Epilogue in the book, which sent a faint shiver of electricity down my spine. Really, no more than a carpet shock.

Then I got wrapped up in all of the post-book stuff, and frankly, didn't do that much writing for a bit. I nervously waited for the reviews, wondering if just one book would be my destiny.

That's when my publisher sent me an email that the editor of one of the magazines that they advertised Guy in had just this to say, "When is the sequel?"

And the reviews were coming in with the same message. They wanted more of my characters, three wacky college roommates and a well endowed Amazon warrior all on a Quest to battle attorneys, telemarketers and people who fling cigarette butts out of the window.

And I realized, I really, truly enjoyed my characters. They were fun to write, engaging, and they sort of took over the story. I didn't create them as much as I just chronicled their adventures. I wanted to get more into their lives, because frankly, I knew they had more surprises up their sleeves.

Sequels do that to you.

That's why I'm staying away from the Internet and news reports. You see, another recently released sequel is making the news recently. Some kind of wizard boy book. Maybe you heard of it.

Well, okay. From me too. I can't wait to read the final Harry Potter installment. But I have to wait until my youngest critter is done reading it. She's had it for three days now, and it's hard to wait my turn. So meanwhile I have to find some way to keep from hearing leaks of how the story finally ends. Does Harry die? Does he lose all of his hair and become Baldy? Can Hermione pronounce her own name? What does J.K. stand for anyway?

So many questions.

But when you're done reading your own copy, check out this little more modest new book, The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness.

Grins and chuckles,


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

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A New Age for Short Fiction? –Part 3 - by Larry D. Sweazy

Since the jury is still out on whether or not the Internet is good for the “common” reader, let’s turn our attention to writers.

In the old days (before the Internet), it was a little more difficult and costly to find a market that was perfect for our short stories. There were, of course, and still are, The Writer’s Handbook, the Writer’s Market, and the LMP (Literary Market Place). Huge, expensive tomes, but necessary to survive. Coupled with the smaller Scavenger’s and Gila Queen and others, markets were there for the submitting, but they had to be found.

Once the story was ready to go, it meant a trip to the post office, and perhaps, to Kinkos for copies. Or, if you were like me, you had your own postage meter, and stuck the 9x12 envelope out for the mailman. There were costs involved. Paper, envelopes, postage to and from the publication of choice, gas to the post office, and those market guides weren’t cheap. There was a financial commitment to writing, as well as the normal time constraints trying to work and write while living.

I have a stack of rejection slips from that period, over 200, and I would hate to add up the money I spent for that collection. But it was worth it—it the only way to pay our dues at the time. For you new Internet kids, you can disregard this part of the discussion—it’s just an old fogey bitching about walking 27 miles to school in 3 feet of snow.

Anyway, you get my point. Things were different. It hasn’t been that long ago, but they were different. Way different.

Finding a market now takes about 2 seconds. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one. Web sites like www.duotrope.com, www.storypilot.com, and www.ralan.com have made life much easier for the short story writer in 2007. You can filter your search criteria on these sites for your specific genre and pay rates, Pro all the down to “for the love of it”. Is this an improvement? No question. Yes.

Not only that, you can go to the Web site that publishes short stories, and on most, read some stories they’ve already accepted and get a feel for the market. Instead of sending a request for submission guidelines with a SASE (that took forever to come back), submission guidelines are now posted on most Web sites. For the upper tier print magazines, I still recommend you go buy a copy or two, or subscribe, before submitting. But if you want to submit to Mysterical-E, the past issues are posted on the Web site. Is this better? Again, yes.

So the market search is better for us. What about submitting? You got it. For the most part the day of envelope is over. Publications want electronic submissions. No trudging through a blizzard to the post office, no paper cuts, and no need for that postage meter. Send them a Word document with a click or two, and Bam! you’re done.

All of this can be had for the reasonable price of your monthly Internet service. Which, of course, costs me as much or more on an annual basis than all my writing materials of the Golden Age did. So there is still a cost for those markets and the ability to send out your short stories. Nothing is free. It’s just changed.

So is the physical act of finding a market and submitting a short story easier now. Yes. Better for the writer? I think so. But we’re not done with this discussion yet.

Next week we’ll look at specific markets and what it takes to be a professional writer in the New Age for Short Fiction.

Until then, keep writing.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sisters in Crime and Centuries & Sleuths by Margot Justes

We had our Sisters in Crime meeting today at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park. Our guest speaker was August Paul Aleksy, Jr. also known as Augie to the rest of the world and proud owner of said bookstore. Believe me, he is well known, his bookstore was chosen as one of the ten best bookstores in the Chicagoland area, and rightfully so.

He is a great story teller, but today he spoke about his responsibility as a bookseller to his readers. He discussed customer service, an endeavor in which he excels, if you ask him a question, he doesn’t just point you in the direction, he actually goes and gets the book for you and along the way a few others he thinks you may like.

He not only sells books, he lives them, which brings me to my point; I actually had one, other than the one to praise Augie for his incredible support of Sisters in Crime and the general reading public.

I strayed from my point again, at any rate Saturday November 3rd at 8:00 p.m. there will be a Meeting of the Minds (ala Steve Allen) with Moderator John Rice and guests Bram Stoker, Ellen Tracy, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton. If you are too young or have never heard of the program, let me know and I’ll be happy to explain it you.

Tickets for this extravaganza are $10.00 each, if anyone is interested, please let me know. This exciting evening will be held at Centuries & Sleuths, and it is one of the many programs you can find in his establishment.

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

Friday, July 20, 2007


Imitation....emulation is not the same as stealing or plagarism; never confuse the two. There are many authors that I admire for their trademark qualities--their signature. I have learned that there are no authors I can't learn from, even if it is what NOT to do. There ae many I "steal" from routinely, including E.B. White, Dean R. Koontz, Martin Cruz Smith, Mark Twain, Alexander Dumas, Conan Doyle, even Shakespeare on occasion--when the story calls for "To be or not to be" for instance--an indecisive character asking if he should or should not "off himself" with the "bare bodkin" in hand -- or rather the Glock in my story.

The careful writer is first a careful, discerning reader, and if the chapter in Charlotte's Web on the Rope or the Barn opens with the melodic language of farm life and you need that kind of melody to describe a moment in time in the life of your character, as when he or she reflects on childhood--and you don't have to re-invent the wheel because E.B. has done it for you, then by all means use the ready plug or gift that White provides on those pages by emulating and imitating his "style" for the section of your story that calls for it.

I use this page on White's Rope and the Barn it is in in my writing classes, and I run a contest, and the winner is the one who most eulates White's style in his or her attempt to describe some special place in childhood. Then they are asked to do the same with some special object or thing and to imitate the page about the swing rope in the barn. I can't tell you how much confidence this gives my students after they have done the finger exercise of imitative writing. Erma Bombeck, Janet Evanovich, stretch then to use what the "mastrs" can teach you. The next contest is to write in th "voice" or style of one's favorite author and keep the name anonymous so the class and teacher can take a stab at who is being imitated.

Recently, I have begun a new novel. I have used White again when it was called for. Have used Koontz and even Hemmingway (an easy guy to imitate) when the story called for a hammer blow.

If my students were in an art class they'd be painting the masters, learning from the masters, imitating the great artists before they can paint in their own style. This technique is a wonderful tool for young writers. It begins with reading a passage from a master and asking, "How'd he make me believe the unbelievable? How'd he make me cry? How'd she make me laugh? How'd he make me think that?

Good writing and good luck,
Rob Walker

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Forgive the Stones

We've been rather busy lately and the days have flown by.

We spent this past weekend (actually starting the Wed before) in Dallas, TX with the RWA national conference. Here's the link to he PW blog where Todd is mentioned as Man in Kilt:


Okay - the moral of this story is when you are working a full-time job, writing and trying to promote your books and have a life - there just isn't enough time in the day.

Again, we apologize for being absent lately - just having overwhelming realities on all fronts.

MASS CONFUSION by Morgan Mandel

I've entered another period of mass confusion. These things happen sometimes. At the moment I'm wearing so many hats it's hard to keep them from falling off.

After taking videos at our 4th of July parade, I converted them into movies. Although the project files looked fine, after they were produced as movies, they turned out a bit blurry.

I hoped that maybe the MovieMaker software wasn't adequate, or perhaps corrupted and it was not my videocamera, so I purchased EasyMedia Creator 9 from Roxio. I have some knowledge but am not an expert about computers by any means. After spending some frustrating hours with the new software, I learned it did not support capturing my mini-dv format. Also, their editing software would not accept the MovieMaker movies. I wasted time, effort and money on that project and am kicking around the idea of just buying a better videocamera.

My new book, Girl of My Dreams, is coming out in January, so I decided to give it another look to be ready for the editing process. I was horrified to find mistakes I'd glided over before. I'm glad I took another look.

I purchased an electronic business card from Vistaprint to advertise the new book, but it only works from Outlook or Outlook Express. Now I'm trying to figure out how to configure one of them so I can send outgoing messages, but not receive. Already when I tried, Outlook Express grabbed some of my messages and threw it into its program. I like my A T & T setup with the spam filter and don't want to lose it, so this has to be corrected.

Anyway, I'm doing a speech on my vacation on Tuesday, July 24, 2007, from 6:30-8pm at the Minocqua Public Library about How to Get Published and What Happens Afterwards, so I've been getting that ready as I ride the train to and from my day job. It's taking longer than I thought since I keep thinking of more things to say and wanting to include them.

In the midst of all this, I've received disturbed messages from other authors on the various loops about the new RWA and MWA qualifications.

To make matters more interesting, I've also set up a blog at http://mysteryturtles.blogspot.com/
for all of us Hard Shell Word Factory mystery authors to share our thoughts and experiences.

By the way, did I mention I need to pack for vacation and print up more business cards?

Somehow it will all fall into place, but right now it's hard to tell how. Mass confusion in the life of an author.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, July 16, 2007


What do fleas have to do with writing? Nothing, right?


If you have fleas in your house, you want them OUT!


You'll do whatever you have to, be it washing all of your bedding, clothes, bathing a sullen rabbit and two frantically struggling and slippery cats, bombing your basement with flea bomb, vacuuming every inch of your house including the curtains and furniture, spraying lethal stuff all over everything ...

... all the time you feel like you can feel critters crawling on you, and your skin twitches like a horse disrupting a fly.

And then, after the dust settles, you sit in your now stinky house, exhausted and flea-ed, er, ticked off, and wonder...

... just wonder ...

... well, you don't wonder anything.

Because you're too tired, and you want to go to sleep, and you hope that the extermination was successful, because if not, you do it all again in few days.

So back to my question. What do fleas have to do with writing?

Well, not really anything with writing, but definitely something with not writing. Because if you gots fleas in your castle, you'll do whatever you have to to get rid of them, be it missing the baseball game, forgoing your walk, or blogging your blog.

Going to bed now.


The Adventures of Guy, written by a guy (probably)
and just out, The Next Adventures of Guy, more wackiness

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A New Age for Short Fiction? –Part 2 -- by Larry D. Sweazy

So, the short story has firmly landed on the Internet. It’s been there for a while. Long enough for things to shake out a bit. Is it a good thing for the readers, and is it a good thing for short story writers?

This week’s post concerns the reader. Next week and the following weeks we’ll talk about writers.

When I speak of readers, I’m not talking about writers who are readers, traveling from one web site to the next, reading to see if their style fits with that particular web site so they can submit to it. That’s a different animal. I’m talking about a real reader, you know, the kind of the person who goes into a bookstore and buys a book or an anthology and reads for pleasure. That mysterious thing we writers call Our Audience.

I’m talking Internet readers. And to be honest, I’m not convinced that there are a lot of them out there.

OK. Let’s say our imaginary reader wants to read a mystery short story. If I Google mystery short stories, I get 5,410,000 choices. That’s a lifetime of searching. Who’s going to do that?

Now, there are a few well-known web sites that provide free short stories. I really think these are equivalent to the small press days, labors of love, professional attempts, but the publishers aren’t making money and the writers aren’t being paid. Or if they are, not a lot. I’m not gigging anybody here. In my post last week I said I was paid $5.00 for a story in Hardboiled. I’m still glad to have that credit. But it means something to me—I’m not sure that it means anything to a reader. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Some times the story a reader reads on free web site is edited and formatted in a professional manner. There are passionate publishers out there, passionate editors, who want nothing more than to promote the genre of their choice, and help some authors gain name recognition. But in a lot cases, the stories are not edited, or they are self-published. These sites are pretty easy to spot, and mostly, readers shy away from them. Or, the readers don’t know about the really good sites. And that raises, a really, really important question:

How do readers find out about short story web sites?

I don’t know the answer to that. I just don’t think there are legions of Internet readers like we (writers) wish there were.

So for the Internet reader here are some of the pros and cons as I see them:


* There are more choices now than ever before.

* Specific genres can be found and read almost immediately.

* Specific authors can be found and read almost immediately.

* Constant availability.

* Readers can comment on a story, and see that their comments arrived at the intended place. They can interact with dizzying speed and provide feedback.

* Readers can read for free.


* There are more choices now than ever before.

* Inconsistent quality.

* Readers can read for free.

* Dedicated readers are not aware of the quality web sites.

The pros here outweigh the cons, and I’m sure I missed some of both. These were just off the top of my head but the conclusion I came to is that Internet is a good thing for the reader. Not a great thing. Yet. But a good thing.

A few of the pros and cons are the same, like there are more choices. If you have too many choices you decide not to decide, you’re overwhelmed. I think this is true here. And what about reading for free as a con? In most cases, I think you get what you pay for. Web sites that are free usually don’t have editors or writers that are paid, and it shows.

There are exceptions. Mysterical-E, Hardluck Stories, and MouthFullofBullets, come to mind as being the exception. I’m sure there are more free web sites that I don’t know about. On the above named web sites, the value the reader gets for their time is worth it. But a lot of free short story web sites are not.

OK. Agree. Disagree. Fine. This is how I see the Internet from a reader’s perspective.

Next week we’ll look at the Internet, and the value of it to a short story writer.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The life of an author, any author by Margot Justes

Think about what it takes to succeed as a published author. Most of us have day jobs, you know, the ones that actually pay us to work and the check arrives at regular intervals.

Then comes the other life, the life of an author, the marketing job, the self promotion job, the in your face, please buy my book job. As an example, I was at Marshall Field’s today (also known as Macy’s) made a purchase and asked the sales woman if she liked to read, and I the shy one, gave her some business cards, and asked her to check out my web site. Since there were a couple of other women in line, guess what, they got the cards too. They were very gracious, and told me they would check it out. So the promotion continues full speed…

Wait, there is more, we promote, we sell whenever we can, we blog, we set up contests, something I personally haven’t done yet, but it is expected, and there is still more, we have to continue writing our next book.

Let’s not forget the organizations we belong too, and volunteer our time to, the conferences we have to attend, the panels we have to schedule, etc…any one tired yet?

The amazing thing about all of this is that not one of us would give it up…ever. It’s in our blood, in the very air we breathe, it’s in the continuous dream of plots and character development, and its 'Colonel Mustard did with a candlestick in the library' puzzle some of us have to solve.

I for one relish this excitement.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Torrent of Words

First of all, I want to say "Congrats" to Norm for his sale!! It's exciting to hear such good news. I'm not at that point yet, but I did send off my third novel to my editor. I feel it's money well spent. I'd rather have my editor point out the blunders I didn't notice, or tell me I need an additional scene here and please pull that awful sentence there. It will take awhile, this editing, but while I wait, nearly finished with one project and eager to begin another, this in-between time exits.

Professionals in the farming community call this the neutral zone. I like having a neutral zone. Endless possibilities hang out here. Even though I know what my next project should be ~ I could change my mind and do something different. I did that once, I veered from my historical family saga and wrote a science fiction romance about a werewolf prince and his soldiers. The change did me good. And I enjoyed that genre so much, I'm working on my third book. Just thinking about Ralph and all his wolf people makes me want to delve into that story again and
find out what happens to his brother Renzo. Or I could pursue a publisher for my sci-fi romances.

But my characters Ruffie, Hattie and Jim from my family saga urge me to write about them. And the dilemma of what to do churns within me. The neutral zone is an exciting, but dangerous place to be. I feel pulled by so many interesting characters and if I doze off thinking about which direction to go ~ my dreams are riddled with the characters of one book invading the territory of anothers. The time for decision making has closed in. Which avenue of intrgue should I travel?

The first time this happened to me ~ this neutral zone ~ I panicked. I felt overwhelmed first by the sense of loss because my book was done. Then the rush of ideas assaulted me, and the poem below came from that confusion. My journal states I revised "The Torrent of Words" in June of 1997. I don't remember the exact date I wrote this poem, guess it doesn't really matter, but it was long before 1997. And please understand, I am not a poet, but I do put my thoughts on paper occasionally and I apologize in advance if my poetry doesn't abide all the rules. But as I re-read my poem about the neutral zone the other day, I felt the same sense of wonder and yes, a ring of alarm on how to proceed in my writing career.

So, to those of you out there in the neutral zone ~ you are not alone. The emptiness you feel is real and so is the avalanche of ideas that may come at you from every direction. It is merely another part of the writing process.

The Torrent of Words

They flow quick, like water rushing over a damn, pulling me deeper into their swirling current.
Bits of phrases shoot through me and I struggle to grasp their meaning.
Words rush forward, faster, stronger.
I fight to stay afloat, wondering how they fit together.

I must slow dowan - or I'll drown. Yet I swallow more, more.
Keeping pace, I grab thoughts and shove them together, hoping,
thinking to sort them out when - if - a calmness comes.

But the words keep surging, calling me. I can't stop them, they keep coming, one upon the other.
They mean no harm, not really.
They're like a child in want, crying, raging, waiting for me to help them.

I must stay afloat, but I feel weak, helpless. Their strength, the strongness of their thoughts overpower me.
They say too much too fast, and I can't remember what it is I should say.
I'm drowning in my futile attempts to understand.

My brain, saturated with too much, grows heavy, burdened with the overflow. I can't hold it.
I must let go or drown.
I let the words pour out, feeling faint, weak, but alive,
as the chance of understanding slips through me.

In my weary state, I'm too exhausted to care. I've lost the chance. The battle done.
The words splash past me in their victory,
but I'm too weak to care. Yet tomorrow - yes, the surge will rise again,
and I will stand ready

To understand why. Why the words keep pulling me. Filling me,
calling me to help.
What is it that I'm to understand?

Til next time !

DL Larson

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Summer's a busy time, with vacations and speaking engagements lined up, so when I got the jury summons I thought twice. Should I call and ask for the date to be rescheduled?

On the one hand, the site listed was only a few miles from my house. The next time I might be ordered to go somewhere maybe 50 miles away.

Cook County is on the one day, one trial system. If I were not called to serve the day of the summons, I'd be home free for a year. The catch was if I were called to actually serve on a trial, I'd need to stay with the trial until it ended. Could I take that chance?

I did. I appeared yesterday at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse already wishing I had my cell phone with me. That was a double no-no, being not only a cell phone but also a camera - two items forbidden. I took off my watch, put it in my purse as instructed and threw it all on the conveyor belt for the security check.

After an escalator ride upstairs, I found the jury room, but it was still locked. While waiting for it to open, I was joined by other jurors. I struck up a conversation with two of the other ladies. With nothing better to do, we spent the time leaning over the railing and watching the security check down below. Most people passed through without incident. There were exceptions. One man forgot to remove his belt. Another brought too many items which sent the alarm off and he had to leave and put them in his car. A woman came in with a baby carrier and the carrier was given a thorough search.

Finally the jury room door opened. I passed over my jury summons, then reached inside a jar for a panel number. With that done, I quickly glanced around the room, looking for a good spot. I'd had to appear for jury duty once before but not at the same location, so wasn't familiar with the layout.

Instead of choosing a chair like many of the others did, I headed for one of the small tables in the back, right next to an electrical outlet. I'd brought my computer with me and intended to spend some quality time editing my upcoming book, Girl of My Dreams, and didn't want the battery to run out - assuming I wouldn't be called to serve on a jury.

After half an hour we were herded over to the seating section facing the monitor and were treated to a basic instructional video about how the court system worked. It was the same video I'd seen the last time I'd served. I smiled as once again I recognized my friend, Ruth Kaufman, an actress, fellow Chicago-North RWA Chapter member and real life attorney posing as an attorney on the tape.

Afterwards we received general instructions on what to expect. In the meantime, we could watch television if we wished. I glanced at the news on the screen, noticed that 300 prosecutors had taken the day off to attend the county board meeting to protest the delay in overdue raises. This was a good sign. If most of them were over there, they wouldn't be at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse.

I could only hope that was the case. In the meantime, I went back to my little table and got to work on my manuscript. I noticed a few ladies nearby reading books. One of them was by Janet Evanovich. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I just happened to have bookmarks with me describing my current mystery, Two Wrongs.

I dug into my purse and approached them. Speaking quietly I asked, "Would you like a bookmark?" Surprised, they accepted and even looked over my blurbs on the back.

After another hour, I took a break from my manuscript to join the two friends I'd made before the doors had opened. After I explained what I'd been doing at the back table, it was only natural to also hand them bookmarks.

We were allowed to leave the premises for lunch, so all three of us headed across the street to the Track Side Restaurant, where I enjoyed not only a great meal, but also a wonderful conversation with two people I'd not known the day before. I even put $2.00 down on the First Race at Fairmont. The odds were huge, so if I won, it would be about $500.00. I didn't, but it was fun anyway.

We headed back. We waited one more long hour. If we were not called by 2:30 we'd be free.
2:30 finally came. It was over!

My gamble had paid off. Not only would I not be called back for another year, but I'd also accomplished much on my jury duty day. I could have sat by myself, tried to read a book and been bored, but instead I made some wonderful friends, did some needed manuscripted editing and passed out promo. Another day in the life of a citizen and author.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness


Howdy, I just popped in with some exciting news. I'm a published author now!


Wait ...


I forgot. I was already a published author.

So now I'm a published ... er, ... another published, um ...

Okay, enough of that. There's an easier way to say it. My second book is out!!!



My new book, The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness, is the sequel to its awesomely-reviewed prequel, The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably).

Fun stuff! Comes with the Dr. Pepper Warning (as in don't drink a carbonated beverage when reading).

You can read excerpts of both books on my website www.normcowie.com.

I'm feeling good.

Gotta go!


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

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A weekend in Lafayette, Indiana By Margot Justes

I spent the weekend in Lafayette, Indiana visiting my daughter who is currently doing a Post Doc in Chemistry at Purdue. She is one of these people to whom the universe makes sense, whereas her mother, that would be me, thinks it is all magic.

I have been told otherwise numerous times, and yet, I am convinced it is in fact magic. Really…I turn on a switch and I have light, I put water in my electric tea kettle and it boils, I can turn on a computer and again magic appears, I see a huge airplane take off the ground and fly, and how many of us really, truly understand gravity...

At any rate, I strayed off my point; I went to visit my daughter and while there to try and promte my book. I checked in at our hotel and of course while there, I tried to set up a book signing, since by story takes place in a hotel, I thought it was worth a try. I wasn’t turned away, I was asked to speak to the manager, who seemed surprised and elated at the request. I now have a name and a number to call to firm it up.

I also paid a visit to my favorite art shop. It is a co-op owned and operated by various artists who sell their wares. If you ever find yourself in Lafayette, stop in at Artists’ Own. I needed a gift and while there I said I have a book coming out and my heroine is an artist, would they be interested in hosting a book signing. I received the same response, it never had been done, but sounds delightful and it will be presented to the rest of the membership at month end.

Since I have a local connection, Barnes & Noble and Borders were both interested. My daughter now has one of my canvas bags with the cover on it, and hopefully she’ll use it frequently. All in all it was a delightful and productive weekend.

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

A New Age for Short Fiction? –Part 1 -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I am a short story writer. It is an addiction. A compulsion. A need. I love and respect the form more and more every day, especially when, as a reader, I encounter a short story that is well-written, where the author understands and respects the form. As a writer, no, strike that, as an artist, reading and writing short stories challenge me and make me a better writer, a better storyteller. I am also a novelist. And, yes, I have the same needs, the same compulsions when it comes to writing novels.

But…I don’t think one form, short stories or novels, is greater or less than the other. I think they are separate forms of writing that require different skills and talents.

The conclusion to that debate can last for days, and I’m certain it already has, and is archived somewhere in the blogosphere. Every writer has his or her opinion on short stories, and it’s not my goal with this post to change anyone’s mind. It is my goal, however, to explore what I consider the New Age of Short Fiction. Or better put, the Digital Age of Short Fiction.

The past life of the short story is well-documented. The creation, the rise and fall in the last (20th) century, and ultimately the death of it—or reports of the death of it in the 1990s. No history lesson required. Slick magazines stopped buying and publishing short fiction until there were, and are, a few print outlets left that pay a worthy fee to a scant few writers.

The Internet, of course, changed everything. But not as much as you think.

I started trying to publish my short fiction in the early 90’s. I have a great collection of rejection slips from magazines that once were, but are no more. In those days, the small press movement was in its infancy. Writers like me, who sent work to Ellery Queen or Hitchcock and failed, found markets for our work in small publications like Scavengers and Gila Queen’s Guide to Markets. These market publications were labors of love, and provided a great service to the writing community—much like the market lists that now pepper the Internet with news of paying and non-paying markets. And like the web sites that now publish but don’t pay, the markets found in these small market publications provided a great training ground for new writers. The credits also garnered little respect from the larger world of publishing. Not much has really changed with that, or has it? This is a discussion we’ll have later on.

I cut my teeth in magazines like Hardboiled (which still exists and paid $5.00 for my story, “Loretta’s Garden”), Terminal Fright (dead), Kracked Mirror Mysteries (dead), and Plot Magazine (dead), among others. My guess is you’ve never heard of most of these print magazines. They varied in quality, but most were professional attempts, and these magazines remain proudly stored away in my writing trunk.

I learned how to write cover letters, how format my stories, and most importantly, I learned how to survive rejection slips. A story comes in one day, it goes back out the next, until it finds a home. Period. That rule still applies.

I would like to think those of us who subscribed to Scav were on the cutting edge, early adapters of what was to come. What the Internet has done for short fiction is amazing—it put rocket boosters on Scav and Gila Queen. Beyond the forums, the market lists (I will provide a brief list next week—but you know, there is this thing called Google), and the web sites dedicated to short stories, there seems to be a growing appetite for quality short fiction.

And the growing appetite is what I want to explore here. In the coming weeks I am going to discuss my take on the New Age of Short Fiction. The free web sites. The paying web sites, like Amazon Shorts and others. How is the Internet is helping or hurting the short story writer and reader? Feel free to join in. It may be a long discussion, but we have time. I have a few things to say about this topic, and I hope you do, too.

So I will leave you with a simple question to get us started: Do you read short stories on the Internet?

Friday, July 6, 2007


The problem of creating suspense in first person is a difficult task indeed. So hard in fact, I have sworn off writing first person pov to create suspense. Huckleberry Finn was written in the Single POV, but it was not written in a first person approach that keeps us continually reminded that the "I" character is any different from being told a story in third person. This is the secret, I feel to truly good first person narratives in general, and that is we are made to care about the main character...and we are never bored at listening to his voice. Voice is the secret to successful fiction and is the main ingredient no matter the point of view. While I prefer multiple pov's to a single pov, most PI novels are written in the single pov, and I suspect most are first person, whereas many other categories of the suspense novel are mutliple viewpoint utilziing many voices, including that of the killer or villian.

What pitfalls there are in writing in first person exists in third as well, and the major pitfall is slipping into using pronouns ad nauseum until we forget who the character(s) name(s) is/are. In first person it is I, me, my , myself, mine...and more I's all over the map, often three and four in a single sentence. In thrid it can be he or she all over the place. A reliance too heavily on pronouns can kill the quality of the voice. This is a numbe one sin in using first person in most bad writing in my opinion.

At any rate, whatever you choose to use....look into Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern for the finest discussion on how many varied pov's we can choose from and a terrifict discussion on such issues as first vs. third pov and voice. Best honest talk and most succinct covering the entire range of choices we have as authors is in this little book--my Bible.

Robert W. Walker

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Happy Birthday America!

As we rally around the barbeque pits and picnic tables during this holiday week, I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends. More importantly I hope you relish in your freedom. (sorry for the pun)

Last night my family and I went to the fireworks in a neighboring town. We found a wedge of grass and spread our blankets down, and then promptly sent my daughter for lemon shake-ups. Lemon shake-ups make everything better. They are the festival drink of the midwest, water, sugar and you guessed it - fresh lemons with plenty of crushed ice. A culinary delight on a hot night.

The sky finally darkened enough for the fireworks to begin and as we sat there oohing at the sparkling display in the black sky, sipping on our lemon shake-ups, my heart caught for a moment. I glanced at the thousand or so people and wondered if anyone else was thinking what I was thinking. Fireworks are a replica of combat explosion. The bombardment of sound represents the cannon fire used to push back tyranny. Everyone watching the fireworks display was in fact witnessing a battle already won. And -- and caught in the tangle of oppression we are still battling against.

There are so many countries envious of our easy way of life, or our cavalier attitude toward freedom. They say we take such liberties for granted. But I believe differently. I believe the folks of this country are eager to stand up for freedom. I haven't met a person yet who isn't proud of our soldiers for protecting our nation and striving to bring peace and dignity back to those who need it.

We live in a country where we can agree to disagree! This country is riddled with problems, yes, but as Americans, these problems give us the opportunity to stand up and say what is wrong. We can join together to tackle a problem, we have that liberty. We the people have that right! We the people have set many wrongs right in the last two hundred plus years. I have the utmost confidence that we will continue to do so for the generations to come.

Happy Birthday America!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Today I Rode In A Parade

I had a fun time today riding in the Arlington Heights Frontier Days Festival Parade, whose theme this year was Read A Good Book Lately

Kathy Kiebala of Exotic Car Shares.Com provided the too-die-for Alfa Romeo in which I waved my hand and also my book, Two Wrongs, to the many, many throngs of people lining the parade route.

To do it up right, I gave two of my brothers and one nephew tons of bookmarks and business cards to pass out, about four hundred at least. They went like a flash. I could have brought twice as many, but then I'd be short for my upcoming library appearance in a few weeks. My husband was busy elsewhere being a parade marshall keeping children out of the path of cars, a job I usually share, but this year was different since I was actually in the parade.

At least now must of the folks in town who didn't know about my book before now do. This is the kind of exposure money can't buy and I'm grateful to Carmella Lowth from the Frontier Days Committee for making this possible.

I believe all of those people in Arlington Heights who became famous for putting their blankets out early this week to save their spots were not disappointed in the 98 units that came their way and not a drop of rain to go with them!

I'll be busy working for the Festival Committee the rest of the week in various capacities. The Frontier Days Festival in Arlington Heights is always a glorious time and I love every minute of it!

I've got some photos up about the parade at http://www.morganmandel.com/ for those who'd like to check them out.

Happy 4th and 5th and the rest of the week!

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Novelist's Boot Camp Does Dallas

Got your attention! No we're not getting into pornography but Todd and I are on our way next week to the national conference for the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Todd will be presenting a workshop called Unstick Yourself: A Dozen Dynamite Drills from Novelist's Boot Camp.

This will be our first time to this particular conference but we're looking forward to it because it is mostly aspiring authors (including me) with a strong cadre of published authors in attendance to include Todd. Since Todd's book, Novelist's Boot Camp is geared towards the audience of writers who are struggling to finsh their first book and those who need to generate book ideas in short order once they've been contracted, this promises to be a very successful conference for us.

Now back to my first thought. The two best selling romance genres are erotica and Christian/Inspirational Romance. Now that's social commentary if there ever was any!

Have a Happy 4th, stay safe and for all you aspiring authors out there have a productive writing week.

Monday, July 2, 2007



Wanna buy some air?

“Air?!” you say? “Why would I want to buy air?! Air is one of the most common substances on Earth. Heck, air is what makes Earth livable in the first place. We all use it, even animals and George Bush. It’s continually renewed by plants and available every time you inhale. Why should I have to pay any money for it?”

Well, you already do.

In fact, you buy air all the time.

I thought about this the other day when I was buying bubblewrap to protect some stuff that I was going to ship. Being a guy, the first thing I did with the bubblewrap was to pop a bunch of the little bubbles. Wheee! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Uh-hem, sorry.

Anyway, then it occurred to me. I had just purchased air.

Think about it. Bubblewrap is basically just two ingredients: air and plastic. If not for the air, the little sheet of plastic would be worthless, since it wouldn’t protect anything. So basically, the air is more important than the plastic.

Not so for potato chips. How many times have you bought a big, fat bag of chips, ripped it open, had a bunch of air whoosh past your face, and found yourself with a bag of crumbs?

Still, though, there are times when you buy the air, because you need air. Like you know it’s time to buy new tennis balls when they go flat. And when your tires are low, you’ll plug fifty cents into an air compressor with a faulty gauge and a leak in the hose, and the air hisses out everywhere but into your tire, while you mutter and cuss.

Or maybe if you’re planning a space or underwater trip. In fact, it’s a little known fact that NASA has been exploring the possibility of bringing bags of potato chips on future missions to furnish the astronauts with their air and food needs.

But it’s not just air, either. You also buy water, … and dirt … and poop!

Poop, you say?

Yeah, poop. Can you say ‘fertilizer’?

The most common substances on Earth. We buy them.

Not only that, but we’re willing to spend extra money to get them from other places. We’ll think nothing of spending two bucks for some Artesian water from France or the Fiji Islands. Heck, most people don’t even know that ‘artesian’ simply means well water from water drained from higher ground. So we’re spending extra money on well water?!


Everybody knows that the best water comes from drinking fountains in high schools. Not the porcelain ones. The metal ones. The best water in the world, if you don’t mind the slight Juicy Fruit flavor from a piece of gum some freshman wedged into the spout.

Anyway, I want in on this scam. I want to sell something that’s a common source. Something renewable and everyday. Something you wouldn’t normally think of buying. In fact, something I find every morning, in my drain.


Wanna buy some hair?

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

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A day in the life...by Margot Justes

It is Sunday and I am doing my Saturday blog...Not my fault, really it’s not. We are trying to join the 21st Century, but alas that is not to be done…easily that is.

Our e-mail access has been through a dial up process, and that was fine in the past, not too many e-mails, easily enough done. Don’t laugh, we have no cable, no Comcast, nothing, just a plain old fashioned antenna that allows us access to the basic channels. We like it like that.

But with the advent of A Hotel in Paris being published, things have changed drastically and rapidly. I have too many e-mails, too many things that need to be done via e-mail to waste my time, since I no longer have too much of that precious commodity at my disposal. So, we are trying to join the masses and go with DSL.

I bet you thought it was going to be simple, just listen to AT&T, wait for the box to arrive, plug it in, run the program and you should be good to go. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

We spent time on the phone with our new vendor, we have been told, it is your machine, not our problem, nothing is wrong with our system. So we lugged our computer next door plugged it into their Comcast machination, and lo and behold, it worked.

Now back to the proverbial drawing board, back to the AT&T tech support, trying to figure out what is going on. We do not yet have an answer, what I do have is a temporary fix, lines running across the floor in my office, a wonderful new toy for the cat, no access to my new e-mail but a lifeline to my old one, assuming I can handle all the meowing, since kitty now is locked out so the lines won’t get chewed up. And so it goes…

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

Enjoying My Ten Minutes -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I heard a story recently that I’d share here. It seems a very famous Buddhist monk was going to visit New York City for the first time. His guide was very excited, and drew up and intensive itinerary that included all of the famous landmarks. When the monk arrived, he followed the guide quietly taking in the sights. Running a little behind, the guide told the monk, “I think if we take the subway we can save ten minutes, and see more.” The monk nodded and followed along. Later that day, The monk and the guide were crossing through one of the city’s many parks and the monk sat down on the bench. The guide was perplexed, and asked the monk, “What are you doing?” The monk replied, “Enjoying my ten minutes.”

Writers talk about managing time a lot. How busy we are. How difficult it is to find writing time. Which is fine as long as we’re not whining about it. But how often do we talk about the value of resting, of taking a minute to breathe the air, listen to the robins sing the last chorus of the evening, stare out the window and daydream? As writers we create a story moment by moment, so isn’t it vital we live that way too?

It’s probably obvious to you by now that I am in a rest mode. No, that doesn’t mean I have forsaken my writing schedule or that I am on vacation. I just got back from vacation. I am still putting in my hours of work. But this story reminded me that we all bounce from one thing to the next, our eyes focused on the “next thing” while our feet are still in the present. And I wondered, if we live that way, do we write that way too? Do I write that way?

My answer. No. I don’t write that way—at least I don’t think I do—I don’t want to—I hope I don’t write that way.

When I’m writing the world around me melts away. I don’t have “summit fever”, a term mountain climbers use to describe the most dangerous time in the climb, when all a climber can think about is reaching the top of the mountain, attaining their goal.

I never write to finish fast. I write until the story is complete and is ready to send out. I write moment by moment—but trust me, that has not always been the case. In the past, I have sent stories out before they were ready to go. I learned, hopefully, I matured with a greater sense of duty to my work. I have learned to let my writing sit and cool after it is finished.

But things change when I step outside away from my desk. I get swept up in the demands of everyday life. I am not a monk—I rarely know when it is time sit on the park bench and enjoy the ten minutes that I have saved doing something else.

My goal for the summer is do just that. Stop. Listen. Breathe. Even if it is just for ten minutes before I move on to the next thing. I figure if I can let my work rest, then I should allow my body and mind rest, too.

Consider doing nothing for ten minutes as a writing exercise—it may turn out to be the best part of the story.