Monday, June 30, 2008

Pleasing the Pastor

Have you ever gone to church or to a seminar?


Do you watch Reality television?

You do? Well, forget that. How about school? Remember school?

Anyway, for those of who have gone to church, a seminar, or school, do you just sit in your seat in the anonymous protection of the audience, shut off your mind, and simply wait to be entertained or educated?

Do you stare vacuously at the speaker with your brain waves slowing to a vapid nothing while you wonder what you’re going to pick up at dinner on the way home, or chewing on your pencil with your orthodonically enhanced … I think I just made up this word … perfect teeth?

Well, don’t do it!!

Do you realize how frightening this is to the speaker?

All he sees are these blank stares. That’s scary! He needs to know that he is reaching you.

I regularly give speeches and take it from me - you audience members need to take lessons in how to be responsive audiences! You need to learn how to do the encouraging smile. Your eyes must have the entertained sparkle. You should murmur your appreciation at the most poignant parts of the speech or say, “Amen,” maybe faint in the aisle or something.

Sure, this might be awkward at a business seminar, but nobody will care until they are fully caffeinated and bagel-ated … another made up word.

I was in church one day and the pastor was talking about the fear of death. He said that the only thing that scares people more than the thought of dying is the thought of speaking in public.

I don’t think he’s right though. Because once in college, when I was sitting there being vacuously entertained … but I had a rough night the night before … so it’s okay... anyway, I learned that when you take a speech class, you are told to imagine the audience in their underwear.

Ever since I heard this, my biggest fear is being in an audience.


The Adventures of Guy … written by a guy (probably)

The Next Adventures of Guy … more wackiness

The Heat of the Moment

Fang Face (coming 2009)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Gettaway

What a lovely weekend. My husband and I found time to sneak away with some friends for a couple of days. It was the perfect summer weekend. We spent a little time at the beach/lake, went shopping, had lunch, and did a lot of lazing around, simply enjoying the company and the weather. I spent a good amount a time in the swing on the deck with my latest read..."The Velvet Chair" (The middle book of Jennifer Stevenson's new trio. If you like quirky, unique, and spicy, these are the books for you!).

Little gettaways like this are so important. The hustle and bustle of everyday life tends to wear us down, and it's so nice to be able to get away from it all. Whether it's getting in your car and heading to a specific destination or getting in the car, putting the top down, turning the radio up and driving where ever the road takes you. Whether it's sitting on the porch swing with your favorite someone or sitting in a rocking chair with a good book. Maybe it's simply a walk through your backyard garden to see what's blooming today or a walk around the block to touch base with the neighborhood and those in it.

Take a moment.

You'll be glad you did.

Until next time,


coming this summer from The Wild Rose Press
electronic release 7/30/08
print release 8/29/08

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Booked for Murder by Margot Justes

I spent the afternoon at Booked for Murder, a delightful book store in Madison, WI. The store has been there for 28 years, but is now under new ownership. I am a fan of independent bookstore, and actively support them.

Sara the new owner is simply amazing; obviously she loves books, supports new authors and encourages her readers to sample new fare. I could not have asked for a warmer reception and I was given Fiji water to drink. Now that is star treatment...

Not to harp on last week’s blog, but I was surrounded by people who read-it was refreshing and enriching.

If you find yourself anywhere near Madison, WI, please stop by and visit this wonderful bookstore.

Booked for Murder
2701 University Ave
Madison, WI 53705
Tel: 608/238-2701 or 800/200-5996

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on

Friday, June 27, 2008


Cover letters, synopsis, author bios – how much is enough when a new author is facing the daunting marketplace in fiction books? Writing fiction books, novels, short story collections is the fun part; the most difficult writing for most new authors and many older ones is writing about oneself and one’s “baby” – the fiction book itself.

I’m going to walk you through it using my wife’s first novel, a suspense thriller entitled The Wishing Well . . . think creepy wishing well.

LET’S begin with the cover letter. This is a business letter and should get to the point and have all the salient points, and today often, surprisingly or not so surprisingly, editors are accepting the query letter itself via e-mail. I’m going to speak of it as a hardcopy here:

First at the top left or right (be consistent), all your contact information below your name along with the type of fiction book – say Mystery and the number of words, be it 80,000 for a fiction book or 7500 for a short story. After this comes the date—centered

June 20, 2007

Please! Send your manuscript to a person with a name, not Sir, not Madam, not Editorial Director. Do a spot of homework and learn the name of the editor at XYZ Publishing who handles your type of novel.

First paragraph:

For seventeen years I have worked in medicine as an RN with a degree in psychology and a minor in sociology, and most recently I am employed by the West Virginia State Bureau of Medical Services. Medicine and medical procedures are like breathing for someone of my experience, and I have the imagination of a writer of intrigue and suspense. Now I have combined these skills to a thriller novel, The Wishing Well (approximately 85,000 words). This Megan McKenna mystery compliments my background, as the unfolding story involves medicine, state government medical services, foster care, police, and law enforcement. These realms are rendered in dramatic terms as FBI Agent McKenna is faced with difficult personal and professional choices even as she gives chase to the maniacal Wishing Well killer whose victims are found in remote, eerie wells in and around Baltimore.

Paragraph Two:

I have had the manuscript professionally edited and it has been rewritten and polished. Still, I remain flexible to input and ideas—such as more sex, sin, and violence (lol). Below this letter, please find a brief biography and a full description of the novel as it might appear on the back-jacket copy. I would be happy to forward the entire manuscript for The Wishing Well should you request to see it in its entirety.

Thanking you in advance for your valuable time,
Miranda Phillips Walker

Next is an example of ONE WAY to lay out your synopsis or “brief” overview of the novel as you may wish to set it up as your ideal of what should appear on the back of the book in the way of a description. A good practice—write your ideal copy for your fiction book.

See Below for Pitch\Jacket-Copy:

The Wishing Well
by Miranda Phillips Walker

The Wishing Well Killer is terrorizing Charm City – Baltimore, Maryland. His victims are cropping up all over the area with two things in common: They’re wrapped like garbage and thrown down a well shaft, and each is in some bizarre way connected to an unfolding investigation of a Maryland foster care agency. The killer himself is a deformed Quasimodo type, plagued by a voice in his head, and he cannot take the slightest insult from any quarter. Anything can set him off.

The heroine FBI agent Megan McKenna and retired decorated police dog, Max, who she uses as a sounding board and friend, are faced with the most important case of her career. She’s hunting down a killer whose victims (ranging in age from pre-teen to adult) are in some bizarre fashion connected to a foster childcare agency operated by a pair of disreputable lawyers out of a former school called Our Lady of Peace. A marksman’s eye and a wicked sense of humor help Megan during her most stressful moments. She is tenacious and eager to prove herself, as her last case has left her scarred and vulnerable. Helping Megan are former lover and Agent Reese DiTrapano, a psychological profiler, and Phil Jenkins, a veteran Baltimore Police Detective who has eyes for Megan. In fact, both men harbor strong feelings for Megan, and through a sweltering summer of 2007, this trio tracks a madman only to learn he is someone from Megan’s past, someone all too willing to taunt her and place her in mortal danger.

The scam: As McKenna and law enforcement throw out a net to catch the maniac, they uncover an insidious under-the-table scam in the Maryland State foster care system, and a link between it, a pair of lawyers, and the killer. The fraud places foster care recipients in danger. The pace of the story is fast and as furious and twisting as a rollercoaster gone haywire. Not even Megan or her dog Max can predict what happens on the next page, nor will readers until the last wickedly humorous and wicked clue is uncovered.

Author Biography:

Miranda Phillips Walker is uniquely qualified to pen The Wishing Well as both a suspenseful mystery and an expose of the corruption and graft in the underbelly of our Nation’s foster care system. Walker, an RN, has a psychology degree with a minor in sociology and has been a registered nurse for over seventeen years. Her life in medicine has been far more exciting and colorful than any program on TV such as ER or Grey’s Anatomy. Walker has a wealth of knowledge that she brings to bear on the writing of a novel of aberrant behavior and the ins-and-outs of the agencies that abuse the foster care system. She currently works for the State of West Virginia as an RN for the Bureau of Medical Services. She has four children and is married to a professor of English, who is also a prominent author. She currently resides in the Charleston, West Virginia. Miranda says of The Wishing Well, “I understand the demons that drive Crusher, the killer, and I have insights into the Child Protective Services that few possess. Going into the writing of this novel, I was armed with the right tools to make it work. I trust that the reader will agree.”

Everyone has to write his or her own bio, back-copy or synopsis, and cover letter, but hopefully this example from one in your shoes will be of help if you are facing this most difficult task. The hardest but most important story—and the shortest—that you will ever write is the story about your story. That which has the purpose not of entertaining but enticing someone to read your novel or short story collection.

Rob -- new site
Interview in the Charleston Gazette --

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dining with Royalty! by DL Larson

Last Thursday I had the distinct privilege to lunch in a castle, a famous castle known the world wide, and chat with many princesses! Exclusive pictures were taken, paparazzi shuffled for position as my granddaughters posed with none other than Cinderella in a formal room at court. It was all lot-tee-da! Servants escorted us to our table, other servants waited and bowed and called us, "My ladies." We were pampered and fed, and then entertained when other lovely princesses joined us. Snow White, Jasmine, Belle, Sleeping Beauty ... the list goes on and on. These old bones became six years old again at the magic taking place during our meal at The Castle.

It's been over twelve years since I last visited the Magic Kingdom. The crowd was just as I remembered with streets full and folks bumping into one another, but a smile usually accompanied the apologies. Life at the kingdom was hectic, but fun. I'm glad the atmosphere hasn't changed or grown tainted over time.

Our visit to the Bibbidi-bobbidi-bo boutique was an experience girls of all ages should take part in. Whether you sit in the chair to be glamored up, or rest on the cushioned couches watching ... the beehive feel of the place is a ride all in itself. My head spun at the many little girls wearing their favorite princess costumes, closing their eyes while their fairy godmothers sprinkled fairy dust down on top of them. The enchanted looks on their innocent faces still rests in my heart.

I had another date with royalty. After my granddaughter Alex was transformed into Jasmine and Kylie into Tinkerbell, we dined at the California Grill, a fancy place to eat at the Contemporary Hotel in Disney where we watched the late night fireworks. The rainbow colored splendor across the sky enthralled us. But the true treasure was watching my granddaughters sitting on their grandpas laps, sharing the moment with them. The two gramps didn't need magic wands or fairydust to be enchanted with their granddaughters.

Our time at Disney flew by and we rested a few days on the beaches outside Daytona Beach, a placed called New Symerna Beach. The sea turtles are laying eggs. Their way of life seems rather make-believe too. They swim ashore, waddle up the beach to hunt for the perfect place to lay their eggs, usually deep in the sand below the boulders. We never saw a turtle; officials said it's rare to actually see one, but we did see swaying, swirly tracks and then the roped off areas the caregivers set up where eggs had been laid. The true magic will come in a few months when those eggs hatch and baby turtles will have to make their way to the sea alone.

I wonder if Disney could make a movie about a sea turtle. It has all the right ingredients: no mama to raise and protect the younglings, danger from many avenues and the most precious commodity, the desire to thrive and live.

Geesh! Who needs Disney? I'm a writer! I'm a children's librarian!! I could write my own story about sea turtles. I know, I'll make her a princess! But she won't know her heritage ... it'll be a royal sea secret. Oh, what a good title, The Royal Sea Secret! She'll struggle, she'll find a friend she can trust, together they will conquer icky things lurking in the dark blue waters ...

I'm thinking in animation form! That's not normal for me. It must be residue leftover from Disney. It'll pass. Please tell me this will pass!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Animals in Books by Morgan Mandel

Our Little Rascal

My dog is cute. Okay, lots of people's dogs are cute. Still, how many dogowners when walking their dog are constantly stopped and told their dog looks like the one on the Little Rascals, or the RCA dog, or Patton's dog?

It's no surprise that her name is Rascal or that she lives up to her name. Anyway, I will be writing a book about her soon - the length is yet to be determined. I'm still trying to decide if it should be a children's or adult book, whether to add or not add photos.

I have a few books started already, so I'm not sure when it will happen. In the meantime, I'm gathering up cute photos and making note of special memories. Right now she's got her head on my foot, which the dog handler at obedience school says is a no-no. No leaning on your master, since that means the dog is staking ownership.

It makes me feel good when she does that, so I allow it. I spoil her in more ways than I can mention, more ways than my husband even realizes. Maybe that's why she considers him the boss and I'm just another littermate.

It's not unusual to include a dog or cat in a book, or even to make it a main character. If you have a special animal, think about adding it and some of its characteristics for a special touch. There's lots of us animal lovers out there.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, June 23, 2008

Timing, coincidence and providence

I was going to blog about one thing, but then something happened that changed my post all together.

But before I tell you about it, I'll give you some background.

Last weekend ... was it last weekend? ... time flies ... anyway, I was at Printers Row in Chicago, signing with Echelon's authors.

I'm just nominally an Echelon author, since I just have a story in the anthology The Heat of the Moment (and I'm not getting paid for it, since the proceeds are all going to charity - but that's another story)

Anyway, I was hanging out with Sam Morton, Kevin Helmold, Bob Goldsborough, Simone Elkeles ... did I spell that right? ... our own Margot Justes and Morgan Mandel ... and with publisher Karen Syed.

Well, two days of heat and rain and good food and good company came together into one sludgy ball of fun. We had a blast.

So as the festival wrapped up, Karen grabs me in a choke hold and says, "You need to send me a book."

Okay, it wasn't a choke hold but how often does a publisher ask a writer for a book? I mean, I'm sure it happens ... but not to me.

Anyway, I kinda sorta said, "Sure, let me work on it."

So I said I'd send her an old manuscript that was sitting around, but inside I was wondering if I could wrap up my new YA humor/vampire novel "Fang Face" instead.

Cuz I knew that Echelon is building its new YA imprint, Quake.

But I didn't tell her, because I was struggling a bit with my edits.

Here's the next part of the story.

Angela Wilson, who is a writer and a reviewer for Pop Syndicate (she did some awesome reviews of both of my books) - anyway, we were emailing back and forth about something, and I told her my troubles with "Fang Face."

So Angela goes ... "How about I look at it?"

Huh? A professional reviewer offering to drop her own projects and read my not yet published book?

How cool is that?

But I didn't want to waste her time, so I said, "Nah, thanks anyway."

Hah, right. I jumped on her offer like a hungry flea.

I shot her the story, and the next day she already had edited the first fifty pages, and had some very, very good tweaks. She loved the book!

Within the week, she was done, and sent the whole thing back to me.

I was stoked by her optimism and enthusiasm for the book, so grabbed my laptop, her notes, some wine and some Ranch Doritos and sequestered myself on the back porch, with orders for no one to disturb me ... unless they had pistachios and a refill of my wine.

With Angela's notes, it was an effortless wrap. An outsider looking at the story with a fresh perspective was just the shot in the groin, er, arm that I needed.

Karen was expecting an email from me, but thought it was just going to be an old manuscript I dusted off.

Instead, just this past Friday I sent her an email saying, "Surprise, here's my brand new fresh-off-the-presses, muy bodacious YA novel instead."

Boo Ya!

I've been having email problems, so I called her a couple hours later just to make sure she got it - Note to unpublished writers - you aren't supposed to do this.

Anyway, she knows me, so it was okay.

She did receive it and said she was going out of town and would bring it with her.
So I figured on waiting a few weeks, months, whatever, and started planning my next book (the third Adventures of Guy, in case you're wondering).

With no expectations outside of getting fully caffeinated, I got into work today (something you can't take for granted in Chicago), slugged my first couple cups of coffee, and finally got around to checking my voice mail. There was a single message (yeah, I'm not very popular).

It was Karen Syed.

Okay, I'm thinking... she probably just read a few pages and had a question. So I called her back and got her voice mail.


Fine...I'll just have some more coffee and maybe pee out the first two cups (TMI, huh? I don't care. This is my blog.)

To make a long story shorter, she called back, and ....

... get this ... she loved it.

She suggested a minor change that will improve the story ... this impressed me. And then she said she's sending me a contract.


I'm officially a YA author now!

(um... well, after I sign the contract).

Was this interesting? I hope so. It wasn't my norman, er, normal kind of post, but I thought I would share my good news.

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

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Night with Kenny

I love country music (one of the many things Morgan and I have in common). I love listening to music, watching the award shows, and attending concerts (although with ticket prices these days, that doesn't happen as often as it used to).

Last night Kenny Chesney played at Soldier Field in Chicago, and I was fortunate enough to attend. It was amazing! Not only was the weather perfect, but the concert was, granted, he is one of my favorites, so I am a little biased. To start, he had not one, not two, not three, but FOUR opening acts (Luke Bryan, Gary Allen, LeAnn Rimes, and Keith Urban)...making the show somewhat like a mini-festival in and of itself. (And, yes, for those of you Hollywood watchers, Nicole was there, and we all sang Happy Birthday to her during Keith's show.)

Energy, excitement, and lots of great music, this show had it all.

Kenny opened with "Live Those Songs Again", rising up from under the stage as the song began. From there he sang hit after hit...all the old favorites, plus his latest from "Pirates and Poets". (At one point, Keith Urban came back on and they sang an Eagle's song.) It was one big beach party, hanging out in Soldier Field, right there next to Lake Michigan. I didn't sit down once during the entire show.
It's easy to see that Kenny's run (how many years in a row is it now?!) as the current Entertainer of the Year is well deserved. He puts on a fantastic show...well worth the money...he played for over two hours!

He saved my two personal favorite songs for his oncore (thanks, Kenny!)'s always awesome to save the best for last. ("Anything But Mine" - a sweet,sexy, and romantic summer song - and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" - What more do I need to say? - nothing runs like a Deere.)

After he'd finished singing, he gave an autographed guitar to a little boy in the audience, and took some time to sign various things for those people lucky enough to be right next to the stage. I think that's what I like best about country music in's all so real, and the people who sing it are real and genuine, too. They are amazing in concert, but seem like they'd be fun to just hang out with. (If you'd ever get that lucky!)

To top off all the great concert action, Kenny had been in town already the day before (Friday), and did the Seventh Inning Stretch at the Cubs our Cubbies some luck and helping to cheer them on to an eventual come-from-behind victory. (They also won yesterday, so that gives them the series...sorry you Sox fans out there...but this one's ours!..although getting the brooms out for a sweep tonight would be the icing on the cake.)

What a fabulous weekend. What a fantastic way to kick off that it's officially here. Thanks again, Kenny!

Until next time,


coming this summer from The Wild Rose Press
electronic release 7/30/08
print release 8/29/08

Saturday, June 21, 2008

An Interesting Day by Margot Justes

I have missed a couple of weeks, first there was Printers Row, then Author Fest and today an unusual event at Lambs Farm-it was their Woofstock event, as you might have guessed canines were involved.

I have never seen so many different dogs in one place before, that may be, because I am a cat person and never attend pooch events.

That being said, it was strange, I have never heard so many people and I do mean many, in one day tell me they don’t read. I think I heard every excuse imaginable, from I don’t have time, to I have a dog, and my personal favorite, I don’t waste my time reading fiction.

I briefly shared a tent, it rained and the group at Camp Bow Wow offered shelter. We chatted and I found out Camp Bow Wow is a doggy day care and overnight camp. They are located in McHenry, Illinois. They seemed to really care for the guests, the four legged variety, that approached the Bow Wow tent, pulled by their respective owners.

If you are looking for a place for your dog, you might want to check them out…

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on
Echelon Press LLC

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Some have asked how I did it. Here is the process I followed. Luck is a lady --

Writing an informative, enticing email and targeting it well CAN land you a feature article in a major newspaper as I learned recently.Takes persistence and patience, but here is how I managed to get myself almost a full page in the Charleston WV Gazette -- largest circulation in the state.

I read the paper each week, mostly on Sundays, but I noticed that on Fridays they do a "local person of interest" -- and I am nothing if not colorful. That's what happens when you move from Chicago to Charleston, you get colorful. At any rate, I noted the contact information on the reporter who did the local symphony lady who also opened up her own small business. In depth, well-done article. I contacted the author of the piece, complimented said article then launched into a brief descript of myself and my "newsworthiness" -- keeping it light, even humorous, but also getting in some great details as to why his readers might find my story of interest.

The reporter responded quickly, surprising me, but with the caveat that he'd be busy until after May 20th and to make a reminder contact then. I did so, following up. The next email from him was asking when and where we could meet so he could schedule
a photographer.

The story appeared under the heading Paperback Writer with a huge photo displaying not only my mug but the stack of books I'd brought with me (and lucky I did as the
bookstore - coffeeshop we met at had NONE!) I autographed Bill's pick of the books for him after the interview.

To see the nice jog Bill Lynch did on me you can find it here:

Interview in the Charleston Gazette --

Rob -- new site - Top 10 Causes of Writer's

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The Two Sues - Sue Gibberman of the Schamburg Township District Library and Sue Petersen of Brain Snacks

Below are Chicago-North RWA members - front - Morgan Mandel,Jennifer, Stevenson, Sara Daniel; back- Margot Justes (Acme blogger also) and Jenna Peterson. To the right is Denise Fleischer, Gotta Write Network Founder and the Coordinator of Authorfest.
Yours Truly, Morgan Mandel

Sorry I can't blog too much today. Still working on migrating files from my old computer to the new one. I do have Authorfest photos to share with you. It was a great experience mingling with many authors and readers. Denise Fleischer did a terrific organizing job. Thanks also go to Sue Gibberman of the Schaumburg Township District Library and Sue Petersen of Brain Snacks, the official bookseller at Authorfest.

Hope to see some of you there next year!
Morgan Mandel

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just Chillin'

I'm in one of those places for a writer that I don't read much about, though I'm sure we're all been here. Well, I'm sipping some wine, but I'm not talking about that.

I just finished writing and editing a new book, and I sent it a couple days ago to a publisher who has expressed a desire to publish something of mine. So I'm pretty hopeful... though, of course, you never know.

Even more, it's my first stab at a new genre for me, humor/vampire young adult, though it should read okay for adults, or anyone else that likes my Adventures of Guy series.

So let's talk ... well, I'll write and you can read ... about this place I'm in. It's a crossroads of a sort. Over the last eleven months, my second book (The Next Adventures of Guy) came out, I wrote a story in the anthology The Heat of the Moment, I wrote and edited my new YA book and I wrote another short story that will appear in an anthology in August.

Not bad, considering that I have a day job, swim almost five hours a week, and do stuff around the house (you know, Dad-stuff, husband-stuff, ESPN-stuff).

But there's nothing going on right now ... I'm at a crossroads, a lull as it were. And now I have to figure out what to do next. Do I write the third Adventures of Guy ... or do I start on the sequel to an as of yet unsold YA novel. Ideas for both are spinning through my head ... or is it the wine? ... who cares ...

It's kind of a thrilling time, really, a time to sit back, set the brain on simmer, and wait for something to push me one way or another.

I'll get back to you on that.


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

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I love movies. Not so much going to the movies...which costs a small fortune these days...but watching movies at home. In the winter my husband and I curl up on the couch to watch a movie four to five times a week. This weekend a girlfriend and I threw our third annual outdoor movie party. (This year's selection was "Grease"...which was a total blast from the past!)

Movies provide more than entertainment, though. To a writer, a movie can help to create a visual for character growth, plot development, and even goal, motivation and conflict.

I recently attended a workshop given by Blythe Gifford, whose latest release, "Innocence Unveiled" is available in stores now. (I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list!) She used the movie "Pretty Woman" to illustrate the concepts of creating layers in your book to develop the plot, character arcs, and the romance arc in a story.

Another movie I've heard mentioned for a great example for romance plotting, is "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days". (And with this one you get to watch yummy Matthew McConaughey....which makes it worth the while right there!)

Obviously I'm not saying to plagerize these stories for your own work, , but they do provide great examples of how a romance plot works with external and internal conflicts (among other things crucial to great story development).

Movies are also great for simply looking at characters and how they interact and what they do. Watch the actions of the main characters. What do they do while they're speaking? How do they react in stressful situations? Joyful situations? What expressions are on their faces? Do they gesture? After watching a movie, try to find the words to describe these things. Make your writing as visual as a motion picture.

So, the next time you slide a DVD into the player and crank up the surround sound, remember that while you relax and enjoy, you can also be perfecting your craft.

Until next time,


coming this summer from The Wild Rose Press
electronic release 7/30/08
print release 8/29/08

Friday, June 13, 2008

WRITER BLOCKED! Top 10 Reasons For The Disastrous Fate of Writer's Block by ROBERT W. WALKER

TEN: Not enough sleep. A writer needs his sleep. Some of the best stuff comes of the sub-conscious. Weariness, when it comes knocking, will shut you down fast, resulting in a Writer’s Block.
So write while unconscious however you can. Keep pencil or pen and notebook at hand. When you wake with an idea at three in the morning. Jot down a single word or phrase and it should come back to you full-blown in the AM when you read this jog-to-your-memory. Works for me. Try it.

NINE: Too much sleep! Writing is a conscious effort and requires work after all, despite the juicy help from the unconscious mentioned above. Too much of anything turns to poison, even sleep. Often you are not writing because you’ve found other things to occupy yourself with like dusting or vacuuming, or playing ball and jacks, or taking too many naps. One brief nap during the day, good sleeping habits at night will keep Writer’s Block at bay.

EIGHT: Over-indulging in food. Yes, I am convinced of it. A major distraction to writing—already a sedentary exercise. Have a Snickers bar and a cup of coffee but keep writing. Okay, reward yourself but not until after you’ve finished a scene.
Make your office as far from the refrigerator as possible. If you do go for a bite, the walk will help those cramped legs. Food, like so much else, is a distraction that can lead to what else—Writer’s Block.

SEVEN: Allowing kids and other family to distract you from writing. A constant threat in a household with children. You must CONVINCE children that your writing is not just a fun time or playtime for you but SERIOUSLY IMPORTANT to you. If you
cannot convince children, or sister, or brother, or husband, or wife to grant you your writing time, you will be plagued with Writer’s BLOCK coming from all these directions. Other people will be the block! Stiff arm your loved ones. You have to tell them that unless there is blood, you don’t want to hear from them
during your scheduled meeting with yourself at the office.

SIX: Allowing Hallmark to determine your holidays and weekends off can induce Writer’s Block. Seems every time we turn around nowadays there’s another day declared THIS DAY or THAT DAY. For Father’s Day, I want to get a chapter written. That’d be the best gift for this writer. The worst gift is to be stymied by my
“special day.” Bahh-hum-bug if you will but I’ve written over forty novels be working weekends, holidays, and days off from the job.

FIVE: When the paint on the wall over your computer keyboard begins to peel and rain down over the keys, finding a home in the crevasses of your beloved hardware, well now this—after a while—this can stop one cold with the block. Stop is to exchange the keyboard for a scraper and a paint brush, and thus results
the dreaded Writer’s Block.

FOUR: When the grass on the lawn begins to resemble the famed Serengeti Plain—and if you have no lawn, then when the garbage bags begin to reach the ceiling—this can induce Writer’s Block.

THREE: When the electricity and water is shut off to the home, and you haven’t the money for Motel 6, this can induce Writer’s Block.

TWO: Life throws us lemons like the examples above, but the really, true major life crisis we face from turning fifty to a death in the family to an approaching tornado, earthquake, tsunami that create circumstances that are not only out of our
control but bearing down on us—well these certainly cause the most dreadful and long-lasting of Writer’s Block, but even from these we can bounce back and take up the pen again in time. I mean you can write before the storm and after the storm, but you can’t write amid the storm of such life experiences, and if you
can, you are SuperAuthor and Superman rolled into one. What I am driving at is that Writer’s Block exists for everyone, including those not writers—it stops readers from reading, sculptors from sculpting, CPAs from counting widgets. We seldom hear of CPA Block but that’s because CPAs are not a “glamorous” as we creative types, right?

ONE: Fear + Anxiety + Depression = Major, hard-to-come-back-from Writer’s Block. Negative feelings, negative vibes that well up from whatever source are going to impact and impinge on any creative endeavor and yes non-creative endeavor. Any feelings of inadequacy to the task will take a toll. Any bad karma can kill
an idea or a sentence in its tracks. Any self-abasement—even the words, spoken or thought—can deter progress on a work in progress or kill one just getting underway. Depression, the mother and father of black time misery, will shut any person down—including we authorial types, despite an alpha male personality.

How much more in the way of rich stories might we have seen from Hemmingway or Styron had they not suffered debilitating depression? Talented young people grow up believing that the one thing no one, no God, can take from them is their ability to
perform in their chosen art. Not so. Depression has you relinquishing all decisions, and writing stories and novels is all about making hundreds, even thousands of decisions in crafting a world.

To combat these various causes of THE BLOCK, try desperately to never have a single problem ever arise in your life. HA! Yeah, I know. Okay, so now you know that I equate Writer’s Block with LIFE BLOCK. Do all you can to remain upbeat about the small problems that interrupt your “flow” and actually work at being able to leap right back into that flow if you are pulled out of your story. Do this by realizing that there are computers in the world that do four jobs at once; you ought to have the capacity to do two jobs at once—parenting and writing—at LEAST. Do all you can to remain calm, postive, cool, and collected to avoid Life Block in daily life in general so as to avoid Writer’s Block in your writer’s life in particular.

That’s my top ten list and my best advice and ammunition to use against THE BLOCK. I hope it helps. Does it make sense? I suspect it does.
Happy Writing and Avoiding THE BLOCK. Today I learned that GEICO –despite the Gekko and for all their smiling and chatting me up are not going to pay for the damage one my car. Gotta smile and keep writing to pay for them damages myself.

Rob Walker
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Sighing, to Flying!! by DL Larson

I've been wanting to get back to Printer's Row for a few years now, but my publisher has had time conflicts and so I haven't attended the last two years. I also couldn't be a part of the Authorfest in Schaumburg this weekend because of other scheduling on my part - mainly our trip to Florida. So boo-hoo, or so I've been moping about, wondering how to promote my books if I don't attend author functions.

Then two things happened.
- The Joliet Public Library invited me to their Authorfest in October! Well, I emailed right back, YES! YES! YES! I'd love to come.
I was feeling much better. Schaumburg is wonderful - I know people there, but Joliet is a new place for me and ... closer to my home!

Then another wonderful thing happened.
- Donna Wright, author and member of the Smokey Mountain RWA Chapter, called me. Promises To Keep is a finalist in their Laurie Contest for published authors. Well, let me tell you, I was doing the happy dance, double time over that news! And if I was a few years younger and yes, a few pounds lighter, I'd be adding a flip or two to that happy dance. In the last two weeks two states have recognized my book as worthy of recognition! (Florida and now Tennessee)

So that makes three wonderful things that have happened. I never was good at math.

Lesson learned: quit moping and feeling sorry for myself! I can't attend every function, no one can.

2nd lesson learned: walk in my own parade. I can wave and shout and encourage others as they progress through this writing tangle called publication, but I need to stay on my own path.

On my desk sets this small book-type collection of sayings. The one I have showing is by John Barrymore. It reads, "Happiness sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open." That is so true. When I went to mark down on my "materials sent" list that I was a finalist in the SMRWA Laurie Contest, I discovered I had already written it off as a no-win. The contest was supposed to have been announced in April, and for weeks I checked their site, but didn't find anything about who won. I figured I'd missed the announcement. Contest holders don't always notify you to say you didn't win. Very kind of them actually. No one wants to get that call. So I marked my sheet and looked forward to next time. . .

I had written the contest off too soon. I was never so glad to be wrong! Winners will be announced in 4-6 weeks. Promises To Keep is now one out of three finalists to be judged by book sellers. I'm nervous, I'm scared, but more importantly I'm just so happy others acknowledged my book out of twenty other entries. That tells me I'm on the right track with my stories. Promises To Keep is not a story for everyone, I realize that too. But if you are intrigued by human conflict and family dynamics, then you might be interested in Promises To Keep.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 11, 2008




What I liked - Browsing the books, meeting the readers, connecting with author friends and making new ones, seeing my fellow bloggers, Margot Justes and Norm Cowie, getting a chance to sell my books, the whole ambience of the Printers Row surroundings, with the quaint little shops and restaurants and the classic clock tower at Dearborn Station.

What I didn't like, but couldn't be helped - The weather!! Very hot, with violent storms arriving at inconvenient times. Saturday I made it home before the storm set in. Sunday I just got through the revolving doors at Ogilvie Transportation Centre when I heard bam,bam,bam,bam. I thought for sure we had a tornado. The long bank of windows gave a spectacular view of torrents of rain sheeting in odd configurations. Not taking chances, I rushed to the other side of the room. I heard rain pouring and wind howling, but fortunately none of it came inside.

When all had calmed down, I ventured back to the revolving doors to find them broken, with glass scattered. No tornado, but evidently a wind of such force to break the doors. I was very thankful I'd made it in right before the glass flew. Also, no one else appeared to be injured.

What are the chances the same thing could happen next year? I'll find out, because I do plan on going back to Printers Row. I wouldn't miss it.

Now back to my new computer setup - the subject of another blog. (g)
Morgan Mandel

Monday, June 9, 2008

Signing in the Rain

I spent the weekend with Echelon Press Publishing's authors at Printers Row enduring several extreme examples of Chicago weather. First, there was the heat ... not so bad .. but mix it up with enough humidity to drown a muskrat and it gets sticky. So you try not to get too close to the author next to you or you might end up sticking together.

Fortunately for me, on the first day, I was signing next to some lovely authors (Camile Hyytinen, Jackie Sylvan, Margot Justes, publisher Karen Syed, Luisa Buehler, Shannon Greenland).

You don't mind getting stuck with these ladies.

For these same reasons, I kept my distance from my new hero Kevin Helmold (an especially focused salesman), and especially Tim Broderick, not to mention Sam Morton, Bob Goldsborough, George Kulles, and ... uh, I think I got them all. If I missed anyone, let me know.

The next day brought more muggy stuff and then the rains. Half of Lake Michigan detoured on top of us from the skies and we took refuge under trees, umbrellas and each other (yeah, there were some tall people there ... like Sam Morton).

And I'm not going to mention the tornado that missed my house by five miles while I was in Chicago.

Oh, wait. I just did ... heh.

Anyway, I also ran into a few of my fellow Mystery Writers of America authors including Michael Black, July Hyzy, Libby Hellmann, Joe Konrath and Mary ... er, Morgan Mandel. We had a great time together and sold a ton of books. I sold out of both my Adventures of Guy titles by the end of the second morning and spent the rest of the day hawking The Heat of the Moment anthology.

One of the cool things about the Heat of the Moment was whenever I sold one I would bring the buyer around to meet all of the authors who were on hand (seven, I think?). I think they all saw it as a special treat.

I had a blast and can't wait til next year's event!

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

Sunday, June 8, 2008

There is a Difference

Men and women are different. (A shocking new revelation, I know.)

I think about this today because my husband just bought a 1974 GTO. He is so excited! He's washed it, waxed it, detailed it, tinkered with the engine, and bought new mats and seat covers. He's like a little kid in a candy store, and over the past couple of days he's spent more time in the garage than in the house. He shows it off to everyone who walks, drives, bikes, or skates by. He constantly asks if I want to listen to the engine. I'm happy for him. Really. I'm excited that he's excited. But the car itself....doesn't do much for me. It's loud, old, and smells funny. (And my 2003 Sebring convertible is SO much prettier.)

As a romance writer, I use the differences between men and women to write my stories. Many romance books involve the basic premise of two people who are so very different that no one can figure out how they will ever work things out to be together, actually falling in love and living happily ever after. A really good writer can keep you wondering and eagerly turning pages until the very end. But in the end, you are guaranteed a happy ending. Love prevails no matter what the obstacles or differences.

Isn't it great that in life, as well as fiction, people who are different, who like different things or have different opinions about things, can come together and find much happiness and love in each other and in the world?

So celebrate those differences. They make the world go roumd. How boring life would be if we were all alike.

Until next time,


coming this summer from The Wild Rose Press
electronic release 7/30/08
print release 8/29/08

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Lure & The Teaser - Writing a Winning Synopsis to Catch an Editor's Eye by Robert W. Walker

Hard won lessons in the trade by Robert W. Walker

Synopsis. What the devil is it? Some call it your platform these days, others refer to it as the pitch or the logline. I submit that it is what you want to see on the back of your novel or on the flap in hardcover—the COPY.

Let’s take a hard look at what I had proposed as my Flap-Jacket Copy for my next novel, DEAD ON due out in 2009. Read it and note the dissection after each paragraph.

Atlanta PI Marcus Rydell is out to reclaim his hold on life. Dr. Kat Holley seeks a fiery revenge on a maniac who has destroyed both their lives. Together, hero and heroine, hunters, come to respect and understand one another, and to share a bond that colors this suspenseful thriller filled as it is with bright touches of romance, light banter, and laugh-out-loud humor alongside terror. And as in any good noir mystery-thriller, there figures a black dog; this one’s named Paco.

At once, in sentence one, I name the two principal characters and set the location, and in same sentence I touch on the major thrust of the book—that it is a revenge tale. Not to mention that both characters are flawed—their lives destroyed. Sentence two, I tell you they are hunters who come to respect, understand, and care about each other on this journey of vengeance. Finally, you learn that there is humor and romance interspersed with the serious mayhem, along with a dog named Paco. Now let’s have at paragraph two written to entice an editor to read the book and love it!

Just when disgraced Atlanta cop-turned-PI Marcus Rydell prepares to eat his gun, a kid in trouble, a call to duty, and a dirty blonde named Kat Holley stop him cold. Kat Holley pulls Marcus from a suicidal depression, and his soon-to-be demolished apartment building—only to make him face a past he cannot come to terms with on his own. But not before she leads him on a deadly hunt deep into the blackest forests of the Red Earth State. Near the Georgia-Tennessee border in the breathtaking Blue Ridge Lake countryside, the pair witness a safe paradise become their death trap, as their prey is no ordinary man. They seek to destroy a local legend, a cave-dwelling ex-marine who happens to be a multiple murderer. In fact, their prey is a monster whose instincts and military training have allowed him to survive in the wilderness for four years, eluding the Feds as well as the Atlanta PD.

You are wooing an editor, so a little judicious repeating of the facts and going into more detail here is a good thing. The setting is brought more into focus along with the fact that it does not remain static and nor do the characters. Here to the villain is introduced and given some shape. Let’s see what paragraph three of the synopsis as sales tool brings us:

However, the hunt for the evil torturer and executioner, Iden Cantu, pivots. And now Cantu comes for them, leaving the dead in his wake. In the end, they must duel with this psychotic deviant, who is equipped with night-vision, a high-powered Bushman, and a cruel intent to kill by means of mental and physical pain.

In this final paragraph the conflict is ratcheted up as our heroes have the tables turned on them in this high stakes game of cat and mouse, and while that may seem a cliché, you want to find a clever and fresh way to say it’s so. This paragraph also brings the killer even more in focus as he represents the threat that Marcus and Kat have to confront. Both the good guys and the bad have to measure up and be large enough and interesting enough to make the conflict of interest.

In all of the synopsis I’ve answered the five questions required of all journalistic writing and sales pitches –Who is it about, What is it about, Where is it about, When is it about, and Why is it of interest? And How is it accomplished? Easy and Simply: PI Marcus and Dr. Kat versus the evil, psychotic marine serial killer Iden in the North Georgia woods in a modern day tale of vengeance and courage strained to the limit—a dark duel that keeps Marcus from spiraling into depression. He learns that hunting humans is cathartic! Kat reminds him of this lost passion. And along the way, they discover one another. The Who, What, Where, Why, and How of it are your synopsis and platform all rolled into one as they are all present in your sales pitch.

Writing the synopsis is writing the most important short story you will ever write. It is best to read twenty or a hundred back flap or back copy descriptions of other books in any and all genres to acquire a knack for doing it yourself, but you, my friend, YOU know your book better than anyone. It is just a matter of taking off your crafty, creative writer’s hat and donning your even craftier salesman’s hat and rely on the old journalistic principles of telling a story within a paragraph or two. Just make sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed for you are first judged not on your novel but on your synopsis and cover letter.

Happy Marketing Guys and Ladies,

Robert W. Walker

Get in the Game!! by DL Larson

The Illinois Summer Reading Program is themed, "Get in the Game!" It should be an exciting season involving kids on the competition happening at the Summer Olympics in China, as well as in our small town library. We'll have bicycle safety day and obstacle courses, and we'll read about cyclists who won against the odds. We'll have relay races, scavenger hunts and use our hand-eye coordination while we explore the art world with balloon-dart painting. We will keep stats in our Play Book and hand out trophies to those deserving the recognition, even if it's simply for enthusiasm and attendance. The point is, only through involvement can we measure success. It's not so different in the writing world.

Just this week I won in a contest too. Guess one might call it the Silver Medal, coming in second. The important thing is I competed. I braved all my insecurities and got involved with a worthy endeavor. The Ancient City Romance Authors run a huge contest for published authors, called The Anne Bonney Fiction Contest. The category I won in was for Best Plot! Coming in second feels pretty darn good. The competition was fierce, and that makes the win all the sweeter. The yellow medalion posted above will soon be on my new webpage. First, I wanted to display it here, not to brag, but to instill encouragement to those struggling in this topsy-turvy writing world. Think of it as a beacon to "get in the game!" Competition motivates me to work harder, be more concise yet fluent at the same time. It scares me too.

Overcoming my fear of competition hasn't subsided, but my determination to forge ahead anyway has blossomed. I figure that's a good balance. It paid off this time. The Ancient City Romance Writers Chapter doesn't stop when all the tallies are in. They post the winners in many places. How? With posters in book stores around the country. I freaked when I heard that. How generous of them. How absolutely wonderful of them. I want to run around to all the stores and see if my book cover is posted somewhere I never dreamed it would be hanging. This brings me to the second picture - my book cover of Promises To Keep. If you see my book cover on a poster in some store - it could be a Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, or some independent store, please, please, let me know. Mostly so I can scream in delight and call every person I know to go see it. Maybe some kindly soul will even buy a book or two, or three. :)

So once again my everyday life has over-lapped my writing career. Competition, and "get in the game", go hand in hand. Life is a little quirky sometimes, but I am thankful for my kids at the library, and for the ACRWA for offering such a competent contest for authors. I'm doing the happy dance! Maybe I'll teach it to my kids. I'll call it dancing before the big game ... eh, I'll work on the title later. Learning to take the steps are what's important. Right?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Goodreads - Author Promotion

Catch Morgan Mandel at Printer's Row on Saturday, June 7 from 10am-12pm at the MWA tent at Polk and Dearborn, Chicago - Location KK-1

Hi Gang,

As many of you already know, I'm heavy on Internet promotion. I had joined Goodreads a while back, but got busy with other sites and forgot to update my page there. An e-mail from another Goodreads member reminded me, so I've spent a bit of time the last few days updating my member info, adding friends and getting approval to add my author info, add an excerpt from Girl of My Dreams, and all kinds of other information.

Anyway, after I started adding friends, before I knew it I was getting many other friend requests. Apparently, Goodreads is very popular right now.

Here's my author profile page if you'd care to check it out:

You can sign up yourself at and please add me as your friend.
See you there,
Morgan Mandel

Monday, June 2, 2008

Booksignings and stuff

Here's my take on author book signings:

I rarely sit at my assigned table ... unless I'm just resting from bouncing around. My way of getting someone to look at my stuff is to wander around putting a book in people's hands.

It's easier than you think.

You just stalk, er, follow someone who's browsing around for something, get into their personal space (it helps if you've showered recently), hold the book out (most people will take it) and say, "I wrote this. See the picture on the back? Yeah, that's me."

If they don't run away shrieking, I continue, "All I'm asking is that you read just one page of this. I'm going to leave you alone. No hard sell here (well, I do keep a hammer available). If you don't like it, put it down anywhere. If you do (and I point) I'll be over there signing them."

This works pretty well, and I sell most of my books at signings.

Now the thing is, your book has to be good ... every page ... for this to work.

And I hate to brag, but if you read any page of one of my books, it will most likely put a smile on your face.

And that's what it's all about. The books.

Anyway, I'll be at Printer's Row in Chicago this Saturday and Sunday (June, um... 7th and 8th? Yeah, that's it. 10am-6pm). Come on out and meet me. I'll be hanging with publisher Karen Syed and a slew of talented Echelon Press Publishing writers at the intersection of Polk and Dearborn ... next to Starbucks.

Starbucks ... woo-hoo!

(ahem, sorry)

So c'mon out and take the challenge of reading one page of one of my books ... and, if you're lucky, I'll let you buy me a White Chocolate Mocha.

See ya there, I hope.


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

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Happy June 1st

It's that time of year. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining. Here in the Mid-west we had a wonderful weekend.

I spent the majority of it outside working in my garden. It was the perfect time for it. I got my tomato plants and herbs in and planted all of my annuals. I even had time to rearrange some of the perennials which were overflowing their beds.

I was also able to sneak in some time on my laptop and work on a manuscript I'm getting ready to send to my editor.

I look forward to summer, with its relaxed schedule, which means more time to play and more time to write! (And more time to relax.)

Which, after a long, productive day, is what I'm off to do.

Until next time,


from The Wild Rose Press
e version 7/30/08
print version 8/29/08