Friday, November 30, 2007

ENDings….the most important element of your story… Robert W. Walker


I hear it all the time. Beginnings…the most important element of your story. Opening pages, first paragraphs, and so it goes, and every first word and first paragraph is absolutely important, sure. I also hear tell the middle, running chapters, are the most important element of your story. Those action-packed plot twisting, meaty, center pieces, yeah, all important. Then I hear at the same writers conference that Voice is the single most important element, and it is! But then you walk into the dialogue discussion and guess what? Dialogue is—you guessed it—the MOST important element of your story as is characterization, as is a strong female protagonist, as is plot not plod. But seldom do we hear tell that ENDings are the most important element of your story; in fact, the END is typically relegated to a lesser importance. However, it’s the last impression you will leave your reader with, and it often determines if a reader is going to pick up your next novel or not. So there! Engaging, clever, fun, and or exciting endings are THE most important element of your story.

In point of fact—all elements of your story are of equal importance, and a great tale utilizes all the elements in perfect unison. But today I’m interested in talking about endings for endings’ sake.

For the sake of your ending, do you need to tidy up every thread you pulled throughout the novel, for instance? Does the ending require you to spend at least as much time on editing and rewriting as you spent on those opening pages? Should the ending introduce a new twist, a new question that whets the appetite for a sequel, or should it make no nod whatsoever toward a sequel? These are the questions that try a writer’s soul. OK, that’s a bit dramatic, but there are no authors I know who don’t struggle with endings.

In fact, quite often, as with a reader who “hates” to see the story end, quite often the writer “hates” to see an ending to his story as well. The writer may just as well have fallen for her characters as the reader. Doesn’t wanna let go. Gonna miss the old gang of characters in the book. So there’s a natural inclination to allow the writing toward the end wag the writer. What can a writer do?

Let me try to answer the questions raised above if I can. First off, throughout the novel, I write and rewrite as I go, and this means I spend as much TIME doing so with the last chapters as the first. The caveat I always adhere to in creating interesting bad guys and bad girls in the story is to give them as much of your attention and time as your heroes and heroines, and I feel the same can be said of giving as much effort to your last chapter as your first. I typically pull several “threads” throughout a story, and I do my best to not allow any of them short-shrift throughout the story, and particularly at the end. Easy
to do. Easier to do than people might imagine to rush the ending and leave a thread un…un…un what? Unattended I suppose. Tend to each thread. Tend to each major character introduced in the story. Tend to their “needs” and emotions at the end as much as you would in introducing them. Tend to their psychology and their five senses, and how the ending affects each, especially your number one main character or two if you have two main characters working off one another as in a man and a woman—often the case in my novels.

By attending to the main characters feelings and “place” in the end chapter(s), many if not all of the bows are tied and things are tidied up, which the traditional mystery structure all but screams for. It is considered by many a mystery reader a “sacrilege” to fail to tidy up “everything” you made untidy to begin with. That is if you introduce a “thread” then by golly you’d better tie up all the loose ends at the end. Authors who are aware of this and break this rule in order to “push” this envelope do much better with readers because they know the rules and break them in clever, instinctive, often fascinating ways which also tells a reader that so-and-so crafted this ending well regardless of a few loose ends or perhaps because he or she consciously left a question of significance and perhaps philosophy hanging not like a frayed ending but a chime in the wind.

U know what? I rehashed the questions in my head about endings and the main one of ought it to be tidy or untidy, and U know what? I believe I have answered all of the questions that I raised here. Often I create my suspense by setting up a series of questions, and my plot unfolds along the lines of answering those questions. This form is like “lightening in a bottle” in once sense and can end with you writing yourself into a corner, but that’s part of the excitement of writing and the way I prefer to work. I am not an author who writes the last chapter first and then sits down and writes to that ending. Nothing wrong with that. Just not my method. Many rivers to the ocean. However, if I raise twenty questions and I keep rewriting and working the chapters, I keep reminding myself of all the questions raised. By the end of the novel, I am quite aware of all the threads, all the curious questions, and so my endings work toward answers, solutions, resolutions. What better form is that. Questions raised in the openers…middle chapters struggle with answers via action, dialogue, drama…final chapters toss off all red herrings for real solutions and resolutions. They may not always be tidy and tied like a bow, but I hope to create endings that are at least as interesting and captivating as my opening chapters. In Final Edge, I worked a situation to its max and I actually wrote an ending through the eyes of each main character who’s life would be lessoned by the death of Lt. Detective Lucas Stonecoat, the main character. The successive ending. A lesson I picked up along the way and have used again in City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, and City of the Absent. City ends with Inspector Alastair Ransom on an operating table, yet everything else is “resolved” to a satisfactory degree. Shadows in the White City ends with Ransom again clinging to life. City of the Absent ends with Alastair behind bars as the main suspect in the murder of a priest.

Endings….how important they are. The End. Finis. ###

Happy Writing and Holidays,
Rob Walker -- free download of new, as yet unpublished DEAD RECKONING
find me on MySpace, Google,

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clutter, Who Me?? by DL Larson

I can honestly say my basement was de-cluttered last year. My storage shelves now have plastic tubs with lids snapped tight, well mostly - the Christmas ones are distributed around the house and looking a little messy. But that' only temporary ... I will get all decorations placed and tubs put away soon, I promise. But back to the clutter thing and my basement being clutter-free last year - never mind this year. Last year we had an invasion of mice ... thus the plastic tubs now. It was relatively easy to de-clutter. If things were chewed, they went to the dumpster. And triumpantly we have been de-miced as well, once we realized the little critters entered through the air conditioning line; they smushed and chewed through the sealant. We grow tough field mice out here in the country!

And I can also say my kitchen cupboards have been de-cluttered. Did I mention my daughter and her family moved in a month ago? We merged two kitchens together, mushed maybe ... anyway,the cupboards were thoroughly rearranged to be orderly and if you shut the cupboards quietly and quickly, no one mentions the tidy look has faded a bit.

Most of my house looks okay, not good,those Christmas bins are still sitting around, but easy enough to fix by the time we host our first holiday party. Then there's the shoe problem at each door. We can hide those in a pinch. But the one area I've been avoiding, really looking the other way here ... is my office. It's one of the cutest rooms in my house. I have a big bay window, a wall of shelves filled with books and my stereo, and a wallpaper border of books. My computer desk has a large area to work with a shelf above the monitor, the five foot table next to me is a great asset and my oak roll-top is a thing of beauty. Sounds great, heh?

I could tell you to the left of me is a pile of papers that would fill a laundry basket - that is waiting for the shredder. It's at the library for a snowflake project we're doing - we need shredded paper. I could tell you that I had to pull and tug to get the shredder away from the pile of discarded debree, but I won't!

Under my table is another basketful of notebooks from one event or another, a couple stacked boxes full of manuscripts I'm working on, a hanging folder, two stacks of magazines: Writer's Digest and Romantic Times, with a few Country Home mixed in. Oh, and a few purses for a quick change when I need them. The surface of my table - I can't describe it just now, let me think about that.

In the meantime, beneath my computer desk is several more boxes of manuscripts, all in various degrees of completion. And the shelves are crammed with resource books, inspiration and other tidbits I can't work without. My printer is also used as a shelf which become inconvenient when I have to change ink - which I had to do last night and the pile is sitting or is that setting? on top another printer stand.

My beautiful oak desk? I really should do some purging in there. I've tried, I really have. My granddaughters can find the gum I have stashed - nothing much else. Oh, and scotch tape, they're pretty good at finding that too. Only in desperate times do I close the lid - which I will be doing on the 16th of December - the day of our first holiday party. It will take approximately five minutes to shove and stack the stuff so the lid will come down. Under that desk where your feet go ... I have boxes of pictures. I make no excuse for them. I love pictures, just don't have time to put them in albums. So they've found a home in that little nook and I let them stay there rent free.

In front of my wall of books rest more boxes, mostly mine for sale. They belong downstairs, but you know, the next project comes rushing up and things don't get put back where they belong.

That brings me back to the top of my five foot work table. There are times when I really can't take it anymore and move to the dining room. That's usually when my kids roll their eyes and mention that my fetish with paper is leaking into other parts of the house. Because let's face it, my dining room table is mine and it's usally piled with stacks of 20 count paper too.

So don't talk to me about clutter. I know it very well. Intimately. We're good pals. I've accepted I'm a clutter-holic. I need help but never seek it. I can't stop myself. I like piles of paper. I hate stacks of paper. I can never find anything, especially after cleaning up. So, yes, my five foot table is beyond clutter. There sits my cup from last night, the Febreeze from the burnt popcorn two nights ago, the candle in its glass globe too. Russell's Christmas Magic, by Rob Scotton is on top, the librarian in me, with Christmas cards splattered next to it, the mom trying to be friendly with holiday greetings, the decorating debree: wire clippers, wire, plastic ties, extra bulbs, blah, blah, that's all on one corner. It goes down hill from there, literally.

It would be so easy to just close the doors and walk away. But alas, when we built this house nearly ten years ago, I fell in love with these French doors, and yep, you guessed it, those are the doors to my office. Cute, heh?

I'm my own worst enemy! Is there a CLUTTER-ANONYMOUS? Perhaps I should seek help. Or is it too late? The holidays are coming. Is clutter bad? Is Santa going to be disappointed in me? Again?

Santa, really, I can explain ... I'm sick ... It's not my fault. I was paper deprived as a child ...

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: Tonight is the Booksigning at Barnes & Noble, Schaumburg: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Clutter By Morgan Mandel

I'm getting a desk delivered today. I hope. You never know about these things.

So I'm sitting in my living room which looks so nice and empty and huge, because that's the room the delivery guys have to go through with the desk.

I'm thinking I wish the room could be like this always. No clutter. Lots of room for the dog to run around in. I've moved the rocking chair, exercise machine, other odds and ends into various areas of the house, but they'll need to come back later.

Last Saturday I spent over 8 hours clearing out clutter and organizing my writing life, yet there's so much still left I don't know what to do with. I'm a saver. It's difficult for me to part with anything at all that has any kind of sentimental value, but I try.

That said, I have decided when I sit down at my new desk I will only be surrounded by items related to pending and future writing endeavors, not what's already happened.

Reminder notes even though I have the task feature on my phone and computer, printed copies of articles, receipts, bookmarks, business cards, copies of manuscripts, you name it - they all take up space. For the time being, I've tamed them, but for how long?

Strange, how in this age of computers I'm still so inundated by paper in my life.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Either I'm crazy or they are

I could be crazy.
After all, I don't believe that sitting around waiting for inspiriation to show up is the best way to get a novel written. I like to have fun when I write, and sitting and waiting isn't fun.
Struggling with writing isn't fun either.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it?
Some people think I'm crazy for writing a book like Novelist's Boot Camp that tells you to plan, prepare, and then execute your plan to write a novel by breaking writing tasks down in to do-able, actionable units and then following a process to build a complete book.
I might be crazy. Maybe I am.
I work for an international corporation. They plan and deliver multi-million dollar, complicated, global projects that take years to complete.
Sounds a bit like writing a novel--except for the money.
To keep the projects from going haywire, to keep multiple, interconnected ideas connected, one of the senior management folks constantly reinforces that we should "do things in the right order."
This man delivers $200 million dollar projects under budget and ahead of schedule.
When I tell him about an aspiring authors who asks about getting an agent before he knows what the plot of his novel is, the man shakes his head. So do I.
"The process works," he says, "trust the process."
Then there's a best-selling fiction book that revolves around the idea of writing down your "next action step" and then doing it as a way to make progress. "Clean up the yard" isn't an action step; "rake leaves from beneath bushes" is. You make a detailed list of action steps, then do them. The author argues that you can't hold everything you have to do in your head AND do it well.
So you write an action step--like "write the first half of the scene in which the hero confronts the heroine about her relationship with her past boyfriend." That's an action step. "Work on chapter two" is not.
Following this author's key ideas, people are accomplishing more, improving the quality of what they do, and having more fun doing it.
Writing more, writing better, becoming more creative and having more fun doing it.


Monday, November 26, 2007

The Boob Tube

Hah, if you were expecting pictures of something, or, uh, two somethings, sorry to disappoint you.

Instead, it's time for a rant blog!


We all love rant blogs, don't we?

Today's rant ... television.

(clap, clap, clap)

Over the last week, I've been really noticing them in weird places. In line at the grocery store, while pumping gas, in the back seat of a mini-van. Not to mention (okay fine,... I'm mentioning) airplanes, banks, malls and you can even bring them camping. You, not me, I hate ticks.

Televisions, wherever you are, they are. Where don't they have them? Wait, don't answer that, because you might give them ... Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, GE ... more ideas. HD, flat screen, plasma, LCD, digital, micro, macro, mini, mousy...

Heck, go to a live sporting event. If you miss the touchdown cuz you're scoping out the cheerleaders, never fear, there's a Jumbo Tron with all of the highlights. Gotta tinkle? No problem, you won't miss a minute. There are a bank of TV's all of the way down the hall, next to the bathroom and, dare I say, in the restroom itself. Believe me, unless you go in the stall you won't miss a thing.

And never fear... even if you missed the action, your TIVO will pick it all up and you can see everything after you get home.

Frankly, I think I'm overdosing on TV's. Okay, okay, maybe the five in my house add to the IV, er, TV infusion. Never mind the three Tivos, plethera of DVD-players, DVD- recorder, and let's not get into all of the computers with YouTurn, er, YouTube capabilities.

Is it any wonder that people would rather watch TV than read a book? Heck, you can read books on your computer... some books get made into movies. In fact, are you too busy to read? Then get a book on tape.

I was watching the forth, er, fourth Bruce Willis Die Hard DVD last night with my wife, and part of the plot involved a plot to wipe out the country's electricity.

And it occurred to me. If that happened, it would wipe out my TV's. Think about it, no more reality show, no ESPN, no reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond...sob... I mean, sure, I could run the generator for awhile, so I could still play my DVD collection, but sooner or later I'd run out of gas. And if there were ... was ... whatever... no electricity, they couldn't run the gasoline pumps.

So it wouldn't be long before there would no longer be television... nothing... no shows...


Why, whatever would we do without the boob-tube? No distractions, getting to spend more time with the family learning what they think rather than simply watching something next to them ... why we'd just ...

(um, wait a second... I'm watching the Santa Clause III... hang on...need to see what Jack Frost does next ...)

Okay, I'm back, sorry about that.

Anyway ...

Can you imagine a world without television?

Hmm ...

What's this I'm sitting on? The remote. And look, it actually has an 'off' button.

Hmm, again ... wonder what would happen if I pushed it?


And what's this? A book? With pages?


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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Full Moon -- by Larry D. Sweazy

Last night there was beautiful full moon against a cloudless sky. It was chilly. Quiet. When I let the dogs out in the backyard for the final time, I heard a great horned owl hooting in the distance. And I realized as I was about to go to sleep, other creatures were just starting their day. Owls don’t get a four-day weekend or a holiday from their troubles.

And neither do writers.

Or at least they shouldn’t.

Writing is not a Monday through Friday 9 to 5 life.

If that’s what you want, pick another profession.

I don’t know about you, but I worked every day this week on one thing or another. If you consider writing working. I don’t. I consider it breathing. The calendar does not dictate my schedule. Yes, I spent Thursday with family and ate a lot of food. But before we left to eat the noon meal, I put in a full day’s schedule.

Really, that’s all I have to say this week. Write every day.

Regardless what the calendar says.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving by Margot Justes

Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving. We enjoy the turkey, the stuffing; all the accoutrements that accompany the gargantuan meal.

We give thanks for everything we hold dear, family, health, friends; all the tangible things we hope we never take for granted throughout the balance of the year.

The day is spent with the aforementioned family and longstanding friends. I am very fortunate in that I have friends that go back decades. I won’t say how many, that would be too telling, suffice it to say decades (plural).

But something new has come to my life; I have met people in my writing career that in such a short time have become friends. Not an easy thing for me to say, since friends are truly special.

It takes time to develop and build a relationship with people, to develop a level of trust and intimacy. But lucky for me I have found that, while it is still a work in progress, these people have offered advice, taken time out to help a neophyte get on in this writing business and are always there if help is needed. I’d like to think the reverse is true as well, only time will tell.

So to my new found friends, I thank you.


Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Available on
Echelon Press LLC

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What a vision, Sarah Hale! by DL Larson

Long ago, before the Civil War, Thanksgiving was celebrated by only a few, mostly New Englanders. The rest of the country pretty much ignored giving thanks after the harvest season. And Sarah Hale, the first female magazine editor in America, thought a time for giving thanks should be a national holiday. Not many agreed with her.

But Sarah Hale was one of those types who didn't give up easily. She picked up her quill and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. She wrote articles in her magazine about all of America celebrating in unison, encouraging her readers to join her cause. She penned letters to those in command, using her gift of writing to express her vision of a national holiday at harvest's end.

Her request was answered by many ordinary women. They wrote letters too, asking their congressmen to see to making a holiday in November. One, by one, states proclaimed a time for thanksgiving. But Sarah wanted more. She had a vision, a national holiday, a time for all Americans to pause and give thanks.

So Sarah wrote to the president of the day, Zachary Taylor. He couldn't be bothered with such a trivial idea. But Sarah didn't give up; when the next election made Millard Fillmore President, she asked him to set a national holiday in November. He refused her as well.

Time slipped by, Sarah raised her kids, worked at her magazine, wrote poetry and published biographies. She had other causes too ~ playgrounds for children! school for girls, and monuments for historical figures. But all the while, she continued on with her crusade of a harvest celebration.

When Franklin Pierce took office, Sarah penned a letter to him, asking for a national holiday to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Pierce said no. Another election came ... James Buchanan. Wouldn't everyone be better for a time of rest on the fourth Thursday each November? Ol' Jim didn't think it was any big deal to fuss over, let alone agree.

Then the war came, the one between the North and the South. Sarah knew a time of thanksgiving wasn't the answer to the end of the conflict, but perhaps it could be a way to heal some of the wrongs done. So once again, with pen to paper she addressed her request to yet another president. And then waited for a reply.

She waited a long time, hoping, praying that the time might be right at last. In 1863, a very unpopular President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Many thought it was too soon to attempt unity, the war was still in a fury. But Sarah wasn't the only one with a great vision ...

On this 144th Thanksgiving in America, as a writer remember that one person's ideas can make a difference! Every word you write has the potential to be a great impact on folks! That's powerful stuff. (no pun intended)

Enjoy your day! And when you're all gathered around the table giving thanks, add Sarah and Abe to your list of blessings.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, November 20, 2007



We had such great feedback about our first Guest Blogger, Earl Merkel, that we've decided to stretch out more. Soon we'll be expanding the bloggers at Acme Authors Link to include authors on virtual book tours.

By our hosting these wonderful authors, you, the readers, will get a wonderful opportunity to taste their diverse talents and enjoy some variety. Not that our own bloggers aren't great, but a little shaking up and adding a little seasoning is good for the salad.

So, I hope everyone will enjoy what we have in store for you. I'll be making another more definite announcement when the tours start, but I expect them to arrive at our stop some time in early December.

Until then, get yourselves ready for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I hear Kohl's is opening up at 4:00 a.m. I'm not sure how many others are following their example. I'm thinking soon we won't be able to go to bed Thanksgiving night!

Have a good holiday and don't eat too much turkey!
Morgan Mandel

Just write the damn book

In NOVELIST'S BOOT CAMP, we offer strategies and techniques to help an author complete a quality, well-written book-length work of fiction.

In other words, to just write the damn book.

I have come to the conclusion that I am a "just write the damn book" kinda guy.

One hazard of reading too many listserv discussion threads is that one's blood pressure can go up. Some recent discussions on these lists have carried on--and on and on--about the legitimacy or lack thereof of different forms of publishing.

After reading these discussions, I can offer what I think is a solid piece of advice:

Just write the damn book.

The means by which your book length work of fiction is printed is no indicator of the quality of writing.

A big advance and national distribution are not guarantees of quality writing.

Just write the damn book.

Having the imprint of an independent, small publishing house is no guarantee of quality writing.

Just write the damn book.

A contract from a specialty (mystery, romance, Sci Fi, etc) publisher is not a guarantee of quality writing.

Just write the damn book.

A self-published, co-op published, vanity published, or any other kind of published book is no guarantee of good writing.

None of the above publishing venues are guarantees of bad writing, either.

Just write the damn book.

If you have a day job--and most of us do--and it makes you miserable, then you either change your attitude, change your environment (change jobs), or remain miserable. We can change jobs, change our attitudes, even change our lives, but changing the publishing industry may well take more than a lifetime. And life is entirely too short.

Just write the damn book.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Who's this Norman Cowie and what's he doing with my name?

So who's this Norman Cowie guy?

I mean, seriously, he's pissing me off. Whatever that means. Um. Whoever made up the statement 'pissing me off'? It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Sure, you can, well ... let's be a bit more delicate here ... anyway, you can 'tinkle' ON something, but you can't tinkle OFF something. That just makes no sense. Why do we use phrases that we don't understand? Jeez, ridiculous. It pisses me o...


Anyway, back to this Norman Cowie guy. The nerve of him. Whenever I Google myself ...

What? You never Google yourself?

SSuuurrre you don't. Surely you aren't as crass as me. Of course you don't Google yourself. You probably don't look in a mirror either, right?

Anyway, this is about me, not you. Or more precisely, it's about that guy going around using MY NAME. Sure... it's a great name. Goes all the way back to Scotland. But that doesn't mean I'm going to let someone use it.

Well, there's a ...let's say, rumor ... that I occasionally go up to the little magic 'G' in the corner of my brand new laptop, type in the words ...norm cowie... and wait to see what pops up.

Will it be a new review of one of my books, a mention from another writer, my book being passed from one reader to another on a book swap site, or maybe a shout out from someone on Myspace? The point is, there often is something new and exciting.

So imagine my surprise when I enter 'Norm Cowie' and up pops some a page that has to do with someone using my name ... some Norman Cowie. Apparently he's a professor who was rejected for tenure or something and he's soliciting ground swell support for his tenure.

Hah. I know exactly why he didn't get tenure. it's because he's using SOMEONE ELSE'S NAME! Mine, to be precise. Okay, this sounds insensitive. I'm sorry, I'm sure he deserves tenure.

I was kind of thinking of shooting good old Norm an olive-branch email asking him to maybe just confine his Google tags to 'Norman Cowie,' and I'd take 'Norm Cowie.' So I was plotting my approach... assembling my rationale and arguments ... surely he'd get the sageness of my request ... he'd understand ... after all, with such a wonderful name, I'm sure he's great guy ... right?

Anyway, I was composing my email, and out of habit did a quick Google ... and what did I discover? There's another Norman Cowie out there!! What the heck??!

It just ... tinkles ... me off!

Norm (NOT!)
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Culture of Can't -- by Larry D. Sweazy

In our house there is no rule against using the F-word. We are middle-aged, no kids at home, and the dogs don’t seem to mind—they’re more interested in words like dinner, walk, and ice cream. So our use of a socially unacceptable term happens—frequently. Editing ourselves is something we only have do when we’re outside the safe confines of our home. But…the word that is against the law, not allowed in any form in our home is…the C-word…CAN'T.

Can’t has to be the ugliest word in the English language. It stops you in your tracks.

Think about all of the times you’ve been told you can’t. You either believed it, or got pissed off and said, “Oh, yeah, watch this!”

In my life, I’ve done both. I think we all have. Of course, I would say, “Oh, yeah just F’ing watch this.”

As writers you’d think we’d understand the power of the C-word. But we don’t. Whenever I am around other writers I hear things like:

“You can’t get an agent unless you’ve been published.”

“You can’t get published unless you have an agent.”

“You can’t make a living as a writer.”

“You can’t write a bestseller.”

“You can’t get reviewed by the larger, more prestigious, reviewers unless…”

“You can’t be a mid-list writer these days…”

“You can’t be a genre writer and be taken seriously.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. You’ve heard them all and more.

But it’s not just writers. It’s our culture. Commercials on television tell us that whatever is going on in our life is not good enough. You can’t be happy unless you use Revlon. You can’t look good unless you wear Victoria’s Secret air bras. You can’t quit peeing so you need Flomax. You can’t be pretty enough unless you look like….you fill in the blank...somebody else.

Can’t sells products. We are bombarded by can’t every single day. On billboards. On the Internet. On television. In church. And maybe, even worse in your own home.

I could write a hundred pages on the evils of can’t, but the bottom line would be: If you believe you can’t, then you can’t. Period.

If you let somebody else tell you that you can’t, then you give up all of your power to that person if you believe them, allow them to control what you can and can’t do. It doesn’t matter if that person is a spouse, a parent, or an editor…giving away that power to anyone is downright dangerous. You lose a piece of yourself if you take their version of can’t to heart. You end up letting someone else define your dreams, your hopes, your life.

The use of can't should be outlawed. But that will never happen. Too much power rests in the word—and if you go out into the public…listen to how often you hear the word can’t compared to the F-word. Really, which one is more dangerous? One is deemed vulgar. The other kills dreams.

So—there you have it. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t. Period. Write what you want. Dream as big as you can. And if somebody tells you you can’t—run in the opposite direction as fast as you F’ing can.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

In the life of...Margot Justes

I have been glued to my key board practically all day.

Going through my final edit on the manuscript (I hope), answering all my e-mails, responding to the organizations I belong to and trying to do a marketing plan for the release of my book. Trying to keep my schedule and commitments straight.

I have this fear, that I will show up at the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong state. I now have a planner and jot everything down, and of course I forget to check it. So, I put post-it notes in my purse, they get stuck to something in that cavern and I am still trying to figure out where I should be...I do need to keep track of my plans and continue to arrange gigs for the release of my book.

It is after all, getting to be that time. I never thought it would get here, and now I am terrified that it actually is here. It is even available for pre-order on pretty cool right, frightening and exhilarating would be more to the point.

The process of writing is wonderful, you create a scene, you delve into your characters and figure out what makes them tick. They take you on a journey. You develop and tell a story.

Then you sell your story, and your life takes an exciting unexpected turn.

Till next Saturday,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC 2008
available for pre-order on amazon

Thursday, November 15, 2007

GUEST BLOGGER - EARL MERKEL - Courtesy of Robert W. Walker

EARL MERKEL is the bestselling author of two novels (FINAL EPIDEMIC and DIRTY FIRE, both PenguinPutnam/NAL), with a third (VIRGINS AND MARTYRS) scheduled for publication in April.
He is also the ghostwriter of at least four books of non-fiction ("part of being a ghostwriter is NOT talking about what books you've written," he says. "That's how you get hired to do more of 'em.")

During his various careers to date, Earl has dodged gunfire, teargas canisters, and verbal brickbats as a journalist; spent years "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable," as an investigative reporter, newspaper columnist and satirist; and has advised some of the largest corporations in the world on the merits of open and honest communications -- not always with success.

He is the author of the celebrated "Chicken Little" article, a satire that is rumored to have gotten him banned from the op-pages of a major newspaper publishing empire... but which is currently an underground Internet favorite of working journalists. (It's at:

As the "more" on Money & More, a nationally broadcast talk-radio program he hosted with financial guru David Latko, Earl admits that he's far more comfortable discussing books, current events and even politics than he is dealing with financial matters: "In my own finances, I'm anything but a good example -- but I'm a great bad example," he laughs.

He lives in Chicago, when he's not on an airplane to somewhere else.


I am LOVING these stories about the many-and-varied dead-end jobs that
DL'ers are relating-- and noting, in many instances, a faint whiff of
happy nostalgia when they talk about 'em. This seem particularly true
for the writers in the group, which I suspect may confirm two of my
long-held beliefs:

1) For those whose doomed genome had somehow mutated so as to tend toward the storyteller's life, a nagging voice was ever muttering "ANY 'real' job is a dead-end road."?? There's a certain Darwinian bent among people who end up as writers: they tend to fall off the career mainstream --often self-engineering the destruction of those "real" careers, whether consciously or unconsciously, and gravitate toward the one job for which they are suited by evolution.

2) Even at an early age, put certainly by those teen years when the writing bug has infected our systems, many of us already had convinced ourselves that much of our day-to-day lives was... just research.? 'Fess up now: particularly? if we're still working in a "real" job to support your literary addiction, doesn't that thought pop up unbidden a few times a day?

This may be simple rationalization on my part: how else can I justify such early "jobs" as:

--"Riding instructor" at a Southern Illinois summer camp, where a
staggering proportion of the job involved shoveling the neverending
by-product of 70 horses' digestive process...

-- "Assistant manager" at a small-town bowling alley, where late-shift
duties involved serving as a 14-year-old bartender directed to provide
off-the-books cocktails to the local police chief and assorted public
officials who oversaw code enforcement and liquor licenses...

-- High-school "stringer" for the STL Globe-Democrat, taking by phone sports scores and called-in obits when not violating OSHA regulations by shoveling tons of old Linotype into a fuming pot to be re-melted into lead pigs...

-- College-aged "leg man" (no, not what it sounds like) for one of the
most savvy political journalists I've ever met...

-- "Troubleshooter" for what turned out to be an Outfit-connected

... and those are only a sampling of the jobs I've held that, in retrospect, had little long-term viability (but for which, I'm advised, the statute of limitations has finally passed).

Would I trade such "dead-end" experiences for a "real" career? Not on
your life-- in total, all of 'em still serve as grist for the writing
mill, which remains the only "job" I've ever really had.? Even if you
don't get dental with it...

--Earl Merkel
Author of FINAL EPIDEMIC (PenguinPutnam/NAL Oct. 2002)
and DIRTY FIRE (PenguinPutnam/NAL Oct. 2003)

"Albuquerque Turkey!" by DL Larson

We've passed Halloween and the stores have emptied the orange from their shelves and replaced it with holiday selections. If only we could get Congress to move as swiftly and professionally as the retailers do ... but that discussion will likely never appear in this blog!

In my corner of the world, we are anticipating Thanksgiving and celebrating National Children's Book Week! (Nov. 12 - 18th) Our church preschool has four classes visiting this week, our Headstart will arrive next week, and our own preschool program we'll be making apple turkeys. In my chess class this week I encouraged kids to take out a book in honor of Children's Book Week, and you know what? It actually worked. Several kids pulled books off the shelves and checked them out!

But what does Albuquerque have to do with all of this? As a children's librarian I'm always looking for theme books, especially for the holidays and I stumbled upon one entitled "Albuquerque Turkey." If you write for children, I commend you! It is a difficult process, each word is important. Kids want images, action and emotion. They don't want to wait for it either. They won't wade through pretty prose, or explanations. If they are not immediately interested, the book (usually) ends up on the floor and they will search for something more exciting.

A Read-Aloud book is a librarian's dream come true. Reading a silly, or exciting book to kids and having them enthralled is just too grand for words. They are discovering through action words how wonderful the written story can be!!!!!!!!!!!! I think I need a few more explanation points!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love to get kids hooked on reading. So, back to searching for great books for kids ... "Albuquerque Turkey" is a read aloud - sing aloud adaption by B.G. Ford, through Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York. When you read this book, it should be sung to the tune of "Oh, My Darlin', Clementine."

So do your doe,ray, me-s to get your singing voice ready. 'Cause here is

"Albuquerque is a turkey
And he's feathered
And he's fine,

And he wobbles
And he gobbles
And he's absolutely mine.

He's the best pet
That you can get,
Better than a dog or cat.

He's my Albuquerque Turkey
And I'm awfully proud of that.

Oh, he wobbles,
And he gobbles
And he follows me all day ...

To the market ...
To the grocer ...

Then back home -
He knows the way.

Wednesday morning
I was baking -

Apple pie,
And pumpkin, too.

When I started
Peeling onions,
Albuequrque cried,

"You're not using those
for stuffing?!"

"No, my friend!
For something new!"

Oh, he wobbles
And he gobbles
And he follows me once more ...

To the store for eggs and spices -
Then back home
Just like before.

Now my Albuquerque Turkey
is all safely tucked in bed.
'Cause for our Thanksgiving dinner ...

We have Egg Foo Yong instead."

Now, go read to a kid and help celebrate National Children's Book Week!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: Mark Your Calendar: Nov. 29 - Schaumburg Barnes & Noble - visit DL Larson and Morgan Mandel, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


will sign at Barnes & Noble, 590 E. Golf Road, Schaumburg, Thursday,
Nov. 29, 2007, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Stop by and say hello!

If you're a romance reader or writer, Chicago Spring Fling is a must conference. I've posted information from the coordinators about how to get in on this great event. Note the early bird deadline for discounted pricing is fast approaching.

Not only does Spring Fling feature big name authors, like Debbie Macomber, Eloisa James and Christie Ridgway, but also featured are editors and agents from major houses taking pitches and offering tips. (Some of our Acme Authors Link members will also be present, myself included)

Two sites of interest on the conference are: and

** Permission to Forward **

April 25-26, 2008
Deerfield, IL

The Chicago-North Romance Writers of America is pleased to announce the
line-up of headlining speakers, editors and agents for the 2008 Spring Fling
Writers' Conference:


New York Times best-selling author: Debbie Macomber
USA Today best-selling authors: Eloisa James & Christie Ridgway

Tessa Woodward (Avon Publishing)
Victoria Curran (Harlequin)
Editor TBD (Grand Central Publishing)

Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management)
Kristen Nelson (The Nelson Agency)
Elaine Spencer (The Knight Agency)
Christina Hogrebe (Jane Rotrosen Agency)


Marcia Anderson, Sherrill Bodine, Laurie Brown, Sara Daniels, Blythe Gifford, Margot Justes, Maureen Lang, Lindsay Longford, Myrna MacKenzie, Morgan Mandel, Allie Pleiter, Martha Powers, Patricia Rosemoor, Jen Stevenson, Margaret Watson, Pat White


For more information about Spring Fling 2008 and to register, please visit:

For more information about Chicago-North Romance Writers of America, please

Questions? Contact us at: conference@chicagon

I hope to see some of you over there!
Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veteran's Day

In the past several days I've been asked many times how I would or did spend Veteran's Day by folks who know that I'm a veteran. I think my response stunned, or at least surprised them. I haven't celebrated Veteran's day for many years now and I have my reasons.

Now, before you start honking and coughing that I'm anti-Veteran, hold on. I'm not anti-Veteran. In fact, I'm very pro-Veteran. In fact, I think every day should be Veteran's Day and that's the basis for my decision these past many years not to personally celebrate Veteran's Day.

Veteran's have one of the highest rates of any groups in our society of homelessness. There is something fundamentally wrong with anyone who has served his/her country coming back home and ending up homeless. Setting aside one day a year to celebrate the service of our Veteran's hasn't solved this problem.

The number of military personnel who are coming home from the current war with psychological problems, some even committing suicide, is staggering. PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is popularly associated with the Viet Nam War but it is a disorder that knows no such division as one war or another. In fact, I was diagnosed with PTSD during my service but not fundamentally because of anything that I experienced in the military but because I grew up in an intensely violent and dysfunctional environment. More on that another time. However, I make this point to highlight to everyone that anyone with PTSD needs a support system, especially when trying to reintergrate with society after returning home from a war zone.

These challenges confronting Veterans are not because other Veteran's have let it happen. Veteran's of all the wars and conflicts are some of the most generous people on the planet. They're quick to help and support each other but this problem really needs our entire society to tackle it and not just once a year.

When we as a society, as a country participate in vaulting our military personnel into a war, we need to keep in mind that when they return from that war we need to be as strong and brave as they were in going. We need to be there for them for the long haul and not just once a year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Women's Underwear and Stuff

Hah, I'm early this time. Kinda makes up for last time when I was late.

Anyway, one reason for my promptness is that I'm sporting a brand new laptop here. Woo-hoo!

Yep, the old one was a dog ... a Gateway that I first bought for critter #1. When it kept breaking on her, I figured it was because all of the music downlogs, teenaged angst, and stuff like that.

But the derned thing was horrible. I had it into the shop four more times.

And believe me... this puts a CRAMP in your writing ... and blogging ... and, uh, surfing and stuff. The last thing a writer needs is a balky computer.

So here I am, trying NOT to find excuses to NOT to work on my new manuscript, and here a great excuse was dumped in my lap. So it was easy not to work ... sucked, man.

I was the vagabond blogger, looking for computers to post my stuff ... and then a publisher asked me to write something with a tight time line. I did it, but on an unfamiliar puter, and it just felt weird to be ... you know ... borrowing.

And using someone else's computer is like wearing someone else's underwear. Even if it's clean, it still doesn't feel right.

Worse, since I ended up borrowing my wife's laptop and then my daughter's laptop, it felt like women's underwear!!


Sure, that's fine if you're a girl, and yeah, maybe some guys get into that, but it's not for me.

Fortunately, the computer was under extended warranty ... the only thing I ever buy an extended warranty for ... so Best Buy finally admitted that the computer was a lemon.

Another thing I don't get. I like lemons. So why is something bad called something I like? They should have said that the computer is a brussels sprout or a liver or something. Not something juicy, tart and that tastes good in a Corona.

So the bottom line is I've got myself a new laptop, a Hewlett Packard, and the keys are feeling NNIIICCCCEEEEE! Me like-ee.

You know what that means?


No, it means I gotta get back to work on my manuscript.

See ya,
The Adventures of Guy
The Next Adventures of Guy

Read It As A Writer By Robert W. Walker

If you are reading the ACME blog, I suspect you are a reader, a
writer, someone in between or enjoy being around books and
writings, and you are a life-long learner. This is all to the
good and encouraging. Now if you aspire to write, you must learn
to READ as a Writer reads. This is my best advice to aspiring

As I said, I suspect you are a life-time reader and learner, and
the best way I know how to write is to READ like a Writer. That
is really, truly study passages that MOVE hell out of you, that
is create a chasm in your soul, make you laugh or cry, send you
leaping to your feet saying, damn, I know how he did that--how he
moved me to fear or terror, how he got under my skin. I know the
key now. Once you SEE the pattern that put ink spots together in
such a crafty manner, Then you begin to learn how another has
raised the hairs on your neck....well then you learn. We none of
us learn a damn thing if we miss the connecive tissue, the
patterns that tie things together, like the relatedness of a
string of paragraphs, and if you can see the connectedness among
a couplle of pages and a handful of paragraphs that make you gasp
for air...shout aloud, put the book out of the house, throw the
book across the room (all of which my readers have told me I've
moved them to do), well then you are READING like a WRITER.

A truly good thing for anyone who aspires to write. Check out
the last chapter of many How To Write books and it will be
covering How to Read like a Writer. Of course, you may already
know this, but it is one of those lessons we need always to
remind ourselves of and practice. Then you also gotta write,
write, write, then rewrte, rewrite, rewrite...and know that
Writing is Rewriting. Those moments in which me move hell outta
our readers do not come cheaply. It is extremely rare that so
much as a single page of a novel of mine can be left
untouched-up. Happens once in a blue moon after all these years
but rarely does a page not beg for rewrite, and in the rewriting
many of my best twists, turns, shocks, grinds, and ideas come
into play, so don't fear the rewrite and don't take the attitude
that rewriting is work. Rewriting is like detailing a car. It's
all part of the joy of writing, and honestly, I find more joy in
the rewrite than inthe original script.

Happy and successful wrting and sellin' it to yous all --

Rob Walker
preorder City of the Absent now on

strike -- by Larry D. Sweazy

If you’re a fervent watcher of late night television or pay close attention to Hollywood and Broadway, you know there’s a strike going on.

If you’re a fiction writer, hoping to break into print with a New York publishing house, you know there is a lot of hand-ringing going on about the future of distribution, POD (print-on-demand), and book sellers becoming publishers.

In other words, it’s storming pretty much everywhere.

Don’t think that the Hollywood strike doesn’t have an affect on fiction writers. If you’ve published a novel, then any movie option discussion is probably in jeopardy for the moment. Distribution in the New York Big Houses? Oh, yeah, that affects you directly, too.

But…this post is not about navigating the alleyways and highways of the current turmoil. There are blog posts about that all over the Web. Check out Barry Eisler’s 3-part post last week on Buzz, Balls, & Hype, or Jonathon Lyons posts on the Hollywood strike, or a myriad of others that you can Google. What this post is about is hope.

The strike will end. They always have, they always will. Writers need to eat, even though our survival strengths and ability to eat macaroni & cheese for long periods of time is legendary, terms of a contract will be met and Letterman’s writers will return to work. And, the media companies need content—they will compromise.

In other words…what you’re seeing at the moment is a clearly defined statement of hope:

The world needs writers. Always has. Always will. It’s that simple.

That doesn’t mean that I think the Hollywood strike is for folly. Just the opposite. I believe writers should get paid for their work, that they should get their share of DVD sales, and whatever format comes along in the future. Ditto with traditional fiction publishing. The world is flat. Distribution is changing. But what hasn’t changed is the need for quality content. The population will always have a percentage of people who are readers. It’s in the DNA. It’s only the delivery method that’s changing. How they read and what they read…so:

The world needs writers. Always has. Always will.

Writers deserve to be paid a quality wage for their work.

As a writer you can get all caught up in the struggles of the day, get a lump in your throat about the sky falling and the foundation of your dream (getting paid for your work, seeing your novel distributed nationwide with a professionally designed cover and edited by an editor that LOVES your writing) crumbling to floor, and throwing up your hands and shouting, “What’s the point?”

The point is (you guessed it):

The world needs writers. Always has. Always will.

If you let the current storm stop you from writing your novel, you’ll never see the morning after when the sun beams down on your face and the birds sing joyfully as they shake the rain out their feathers.

The writers who will survive are the writers who are keeping their heads down, writing every day, learning the craft, and yes, learning the business, too, but not being controlled by it.

You control how long you’re butt’s in the chair, whether your finger’s are on the keyboard or not—and you simply can’t give that control over to the predictors of doomsday.

Trust me. The world needs writers. Always has. Always will.

Now get back to work—somebody out there in the future is waiting for it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Misc by Margot Justes

I have an update of sorts; finally got through to a live person at the William Morrow Agency in Hollywood CA., remember Tom Jones (his agency)-the secretary gave me the name and e-mail address of Tom Jones' agent. She said 'send me an e-mail, I'll make sure he gets it.' So I immediately sent one out...have not heard a word, but I am hopeful.

There is of course the potential for a new fan base for Mr. Jones.

Another bit of news, my book is now available as a pre-order on and my website has a direct link to A Hotel in Paris on I am so excited, I have pre-sold a book already. Not much news you might say, but this is my first sale ever-I think that is very exciting.

If anyone has some great ideas on advertising that does not cost an arm or a leg- maybe just a finger or toe, I would love to hear from you.

One last thing, if there are any members out there who belong to Sisters in Crime, and are planning to attend the holiday lunch December 8th, please reserve your spot. Robert Goldsborough is our featured speaker.

Till Next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
pre-order now availabler on

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Walls Will Come Tumbling Down! by DL Larson

Today is the day my family has been waiting for. Today the old farm house is coming down. The wrecking crew will be here this afternoon. I have errands to run this morning, lunch with a good friend, but I'll be back to see the walls crumble.

The house is only forty years old; the one before it was nearly one hundred and my husband's family sold it for $1 to another family. They moved it about ten miles away where it still sits majestically in the woods. I wish I had been around when the original house had been sold. I would have given it the TLC it needed. I wouldn't have settled for a cheap substitute with no character. Selling a five bedroom home with a formal dining room, living room and parlor for a buck boggles my mind. But the Larson family back then was looking for quick fixes rather than timely remodeling.

And so, I urge caution when facing defeat regarding a story that needs work. Don't give in and take the easy way out. Don't throw it away. Dig in, even to the foundation if you have to - to figure out where the problem lay. When a book doesn't flow, you the writer, have been holding back seomething. Your characters? Your plot? Your emotions? Think back to why you wanted to write that particular story. Why was it important to get those words on paper? What was it you wanted to share? If you can answer those questions, then you can remedy what's wrong.

Fixing something broken is never easy, but it is worthwhile. My daughter is fixing a wrong made in our family forty years ago. She is going right down to the foundation of the problem. She and her husband are building a new foundation on an old site. It will be a new addition to a very old farm. The time it takes to build a new home will be long, but the end result will be like a new beginning. It will be a new era for the Larson farmstead. The value of the whole farm will increase.

The value of your work will grow too once you discover where you went astray. You'll prove to yourself that some things are worth saving, no matter the cost. The pockets of bad writing will crumble to be replaced with a clear, concise storyline you are proud of. Don't give up, you'll be a stronger writer for having repaired your own fumblings. If you need help, by all means ask someone for guidance. My daughter and son-in-law won't be pounding nails to wood ... they are building a dream, bringing it to life. It's the action that is important.

Always the action. Like walls tumbling down.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Mark your calendar: Visit DL Larson and Morgan Mandel at Schaumburg Barnes & Noble on Thursday, November 29: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Country Music's my favorite. I’m all psyched up for the Country Music Awards show tonight! Since it’s on my mind, I can’t help tying it in with writing.

Some good advice is to be careful when you choose names for your book characters. You want those names to reflect the type of people they are. Don’t pick dull names for people you want to seem sparkly, and vice versa. In my experience, real people tend to live up to their names. Maybe it’s a psychological thing. I know my dog lives up to her name, though she’s deaf and can’t hear it. Her name is Rascal.

I’ve made up a fun list of country singers’ names and alternates. You’ll see why their choices were better than the ones I thought up.

Carrie Underwood....Bring Plank
Garth Brooks........Garth SlowWater
Brad Paisley........Brad Swirlpattern
Keith Urban.........Keith City
Reba McEntire.......Reba LargeHamburgerWheel
Martina McBride.....Martina LargeHamburgerOtherHalf
Alison Krauss.......Alison Sauerkraut
Rascal Flatts.......Rascal Apartments
George Strait.......George Even
Kenny Chesney.......Kenny ChestKnee
Josh Turner.........Josh Spinner
Little Big Town.....Small Large Place
Kellie Pickler......Kellie Pickles
Taylor Swift........Taylor Fast
Big & Rich..........Large & Wealthy
Brooks & Dunn.......Water & Over

You get the idea. Can you think of any others?

Morgan Mandel

Mark your calendar: Visit Morgan Mandel and DL Larson at Schaumburg Barnes & Noble on Thursday, November 29: 7:00 - 8:30 pm.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Weaker sex, my butt

What's all this about the weaker sex?

I mean, seriously, women ... weaker?

I don't think so!!

Believe me, I could probably be considered to be somewhat an expert on the subject, with a too-classy-for-me wife and two bright, beautiful teenaged daughters.

So let's talk about this alleged 'frailty.'

How about it, guys. Do any of you want to take on the physical problems of being a woman? You want to feel bloated, irritable, and, dare I say it... dern near homicidal every single month? I'm sure this is where werewolf stories came from.

And squirting a baby out of an opening the size of a fifty cent piece. For comparisons, we'd have to pee out a, well, a pea. How do you think that would feel?

And I can tell you this for sure. If a guy peed out a pea just one time in his life, there ain't gonna be a second pea.

Ain't no guy gonna put on a pair of shoes that scrunch his feet into little points, much less any garment that fastens in the back. Do you hear me... no, of course you don't ... but do you read me? Our arms don't reach that far! So you won't see us buttoning our shirts in the back.

Then let's get into the mental aspect. Women have us there, too;, and I can prove it simply and easily.

They have to put up with GUYS!

'Nuff said.


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

The Journey--by Larry D. Sweazy

There is a new restaurant not far from us, and it’s called The Journey. It is a buffet, a smorgasbord, featuring prime rib, seafood, and made to order sushi. I’m not usually a fan of buffets, of the all-you-can-eat adventures, because the food is normally not fresh, and touching the spoons that have been touched by countless unknown people puts me into a mini Howard Hughes panic.

But my wife had heard that the food was good, better than average, and since she doesn’t have the phobias I do, we went. The things you do for love.

The building is brand new and sits on an outlot in front of Sam’s Club on a busy, busy, street that leads to and from the interstate a mile away. High-priced real estate. The interior reaches for upscale, lots of chrome and tan leather booths, arranged for privacy and atmosphere. OK, that’s an interesting take for a buffet—because the interior wasn’t arranged like a cow trough with Muzak playing overhead.

The food is mostly Asian—any kind of Chinese dish you can think of, alongside Japanese, miso soup, goyza, and a working sushi bar, octopus to order, California rolls, you name it. A friend of mine calls sushi…bait…and refuses to stick anything raw in his mouth. Me? I’ll try just about anything once, as long as it’s not moving. Anyway, there was an American section as well, prime rib, potatoes, pizza, mac and cheese. I never made it to the prime rib, but it looked pretty good.

The food quality was—better than expected. I had nothing that was cold, and everything was fresh. I had some really good kimchi, and the asparagus beef Chinese dish was mouth-watering, and I had no complaints about the sushi. For a dining experience, buffets always lack presentation and atmosphere. The Journey is no exception, but they have tried really hard to overcome that notion, and they nearly succeed. I think it was the 5 foot chocolate fountain that really won my wife over. Fresh bananas and strawberries dipped in really chocolate topped off our evening.

The check? It was around forty-five dollars. What you might pay for a steak, appetizer, and a beer or two at Applebee’s. Would I go back? If my wife insists. I like presentation, atmosphere, and I really, really, don’t want to touch the spoons…but honestly, it really wasn’t a bad experience, and as a restaurant concept, the idea is a solid one.

So…what does The Journey have to do with writing? The metaphor is obvious. But bear with me, I’m going to stick with food for a second longer.

When I was a kid, there was a Chinese restaurant in the town I grew up in. I never ate there. I actually never ate in a Chinese restaurant until I left home and was on my own. My step-father was in the Korean War, and he had a huge prejudice against anything Asian. The only Oriental food we had in our house came out of a can, La Choy, and that was rare. My curiosity will not allow me to buy into other people’s prejudice, and that’s pretty much all I saw about that. But you can see my journey with food--from a young boy eating canned Chinese to feasting on a really good piece of eel--has been an adventurous one.

One of the most famous lines from the Tao De Ching, “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step,” pretty much covers what I’m trying to say here.

No matter where you are in your journey as a writer, you have to be willing to try new things. If you write mysteries, you shouldn’t just read mysteries. If you’re hitting a brick wall trying to sell a mystery, write a sci/fi novel or short story, test all of the genres. Try something new—don’t be afraid to venture into unknown territory no matter what your baggage is. You may just find a new horizon, a new world, or a mixture of one you already love. But above all else, continue on the journey, keep reaching into the unknown. There could be a five foot tower of chocolate waiting just over the horizon. As far as sushi is concerned, if you want to consider it bait, I can understand that...but you don't know what you're missing.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

meeting of the Minds by Margot Justes

Yesterday evening I attended a "Meeting of the Minds" a performance of the lively art of conversation at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park.

It was a delighful, incitful evening. Where else would you hear Bram Stoker, Ellen Terry, Oscar Wilde, George B. Shaw and G.K Chesterton discuss their life, beliefs, reasons for writing, successes, failures, even their own deaths. The amount of research that went into this production was amazing.

I learned a great more about G.K Chesterton than just his stories about Father Brown. I did not know who Ellen Terry was. Now I do. She was a celebrated and a leading actress of her time.

There were four performance, and all were sold out, and I can understand why. The cast in character answered questions from the audience, not once did anyone miss a beat.

August Paul Aleksy III, the proud owner of Centuries and Sleuths, does this presentation of the lively art of conversation annually. Selecting different historical figures each year. I can't wait to see who is headlining next year.

Centuries and Sleuths is located at 7419 W. Madison St Forest park, IL. It is not only a wonderful, intimate book store, but so much more...

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

Saturday, November 3, 2007


AN interesting issue came up on this week among the
chatty chat group, the subject taboos that moderators make.
Mistakes at the mic. Errors in ethical thinking. Foolishness
behind the podium. Extravagances and ostentations of the
moderator, which happen often enough that even I, Rob Walker,
have been on hand to witness against. Yes, let's all witness
against the BAD moderator, and trust me, as a moderator myself,
I've made blunders such as getting a simple name wrong (I was not
well at the time, but that's no excuse), and I've pushed my own
work on an audience (but never mine own alone). In fact, I
believe I've done well overall in my own moderating duties over
the years.

The circulation of a manifesto for moderators written by
disgruntled but in control authors at a bar in Chicago has made
the rounds now since B-Con Chicsago, what two, three years ago.
Love is Murder considered adopting it in a digest form to send
out to propsective moderators, but I've not seen it since it
raised its angry head. Authors who are short-changed on a panel
have a right to be angry, especially when the moderator, one way
or another, sabotages the panel. Often it is not entirely the
author-moderator's fault. Often this unsuspecting person is
asked by a harried conference organizer at the 13th hour to run a
panel. Sadly, too often, the organizer has selected the worst
choice for a moderator of the existing panelists. And this
begins a downhill run. Once such a thing happened at Malice
Domestic--my one panel, my one shot. The person chosen to
moderate worked extremely hard behind the scenes, and this nice,
wonderful person collared all of us on the panel ahead of time.
We took pity on the new moderator, and all of us contributed a
list of questions, which all of us agreed were dynamite
questions, and we thought we were making lemonade with the lemon
of little time given us. Then when the panel got off to an
awful, terrible start due to technical difficulties "beyond"
anyone's control except the organizers -- a partician was not in
place -- the new moderator launched into a series of lame
questions that did not reflect any of the behind the scenes work
that we all did for this panel. The result was the dullest, most
awful panel I have ever served on.

Everything in moderation--even the idea that a single question
ought to go up and down the table until that horse is beaten to

Perhaps a dream panel for the authors is to have no moderator at
all. One that accepts the fact that the grownups on the panel
are smart enough and quick enough to raise questions of concern
to each of them. To not have to act as the dummy--the mouth--for
the moderator. This is an extreme example, and most moderators
act as wonderful facilitators. But then you get GodZilla
moderator or Princess for a day moderator, or mealy-mouthed,
unable to take the egomaniac author in hand moderator, while
other panelists take over the job or not. There are other
authors I refuse to be on a panel with to be sure, but there are
also moderators I refuse to work with as well.

There were lists and more lists on DorothyL that made for fine
itinerary for a moderator--the do's and the don'ts -- but chiefly
a moderator needs to take the advice of "God" -- that is the
Bible! All things in moderation, including your ego while on a
panel. You can assuage your writer's ego later at the bar where
you can say anything and be as outrageous as you like, and
someone might buy you a beer for your trouble. Finally, a
moderator ought to look up the word in Webster's before
moderately moderating as the root word definition might just help
in the gray matter of the moderator who becomes the terminator,
terminating any hope of a fine panel. There are films populated
with fine, wonderful actors that are total flops, even laughable.
Whose fault is that? The prop guy or the director? Directors
are like moderators and moderators diret the flow of discussion
without becoming the focus of the discussion. That is enough for
me to know. I don't need a page-long list to know the job of a

Rob Walker
Veteran moderator

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What A Difference One Year Makes! by DL Larson

A year ago, my second book was a crisp newborn. Promises To Keep was available for the first time at The Kentucky Book Expo in Frankfort, November 10, 2006. Thinking back, I remember I had a box shipped to a friend because the publishing house was closer to her than to me and time was running out for my new book to make the book expo date. So I met my newborn on the steps of Margie's front porch.

I still remember holding that book, relieved it had arrived safe, with no chapters missing ~ an equivalent to counting fingers and toes! The clones in the box were all just as pristine and ready for new homes.

The Kentucky Book Expo is a big, big fair and I had had to be accepted in order to participate. My books have a Kentucky setting and the panel of directors accepted both my books. But the powers that be said they could not get my first novel, Memories Trail, and that I should bring both sets of books with me. Twenty copies of each would be sufficient. I was a very happy author hearing that news.

So I lugged my boxes to the fair, along with my easel and large posters. I had promotional material to hand out, bookmarks, business cards. I was ready to sell, sell, sell!

And I did. I also hauled much of it back home. Oh, I sold several books and had a wonderful time talking with folks and other authors. But what I noticed was many of the authors had arrived with only a briefcase. They didn't have to bring their own books and I longed for the day when my books would be waiting for me.

This year I was invited to the Western Kentucky Book Fair. When I asked about bringing my books, the Barnes & Noble rep said, "Oh, I have twenty copies of each book. So you just come on down and join us. Everything will be all set up for you when you get here."

I love Kentucky hospitality! And I really enjoy the fact that my books are so readily available now. I'm not foolish enough to think this might happen everywhere I go. My books are ready to move out at a moment's notice.

... but a girl can dream.

Still, what a difference one year makes!

Til next time ~


Mark your calendar: Meet DL Larson & Morgan Mandel at the Schaumburg Barnes & Noble book signing ... on Thursday, November 29th, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.