Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Are you a Saver? by Morgan Mandel

At one of my Chicago-North RWA meetings a few years ago, Simone Elkeles, a member who had just received a great contract for her YA novels, shocked me and others present by throwing away all of her rejections and submissions. She'd achieved her goal and didn't need them cluttering her landscape.

That was a horrifying moment for someone like me. I save all sorts of things, many of which I should throw away, but I don't have a chance to really go through them. Often the kitchen table gets loaded down with mail before I finally sort it out.

When there's a blogpost or an email about a particular subject I'd like to learn more about, I print it out and save it. Besides grocery lists, I also make little notes to myself about blogs I want to put up, authors I'll be hosting on my blog and all sorts of other things I want to remember, but I'm afraid I won't. I have a post-it stuck on my monitor right now to remind me I have a tax form for the State of Illinois that needs to be completed very soon.

I've got more than a few drawers in my filing cabinet devoted to attempts and successes at publication, including every query letter, proposal, partial, or full manuscript I've ever sent out to a publisher or agent. I keep newspaper articles about my book signings, posters about them, along with promotional weapons of various types, such as postcards, bookmarks, brochures, business cards, holders for them, book signing gimmicks, and more. I also keep folders containing all the newspaper articles published when I freelanced for the Daily Herald newspaper.

What about you? What do you save, either writing related or other? Pleaese share.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 29, 2008

Money and drugs

They’re putting up a drugstore near me.

Big deal, huh?

Well, it is. And you know why?

Because they’re putting it right across the street from another drugstore.

Not only that, but within a four mile radius of my house, there are no less than five of just one kind of drug store, that I won't name (Walgreens). Now, an unnamed competitor (CVS) is setting up competing stores, sometimes right next to or across from their rivals.

What’s going on here?

Our town is lacking in certain type retailers, like the ones I want, and have way too many of others, like the ones I don’t. For instance, banks have sprouted up like pimples on a teenager. Gas stations litter every corner. But it’s the drugstores that are really doing most of the land grabbing.

Where we need a clothing store, we get a drugstore. Where we could use a hardware store, we get a drugstore. Where we could use a nice, new family dining establishment, we get a drugstore. Where we could use a drugstore, we get two drugstores.

So if you want money, no problem, you’ll find a bank within hocking distance. You’ll also have no problem finding a place to gas up. And, when you’re ready to spend, no problem, there’ll be a Walgreens nearby, ready to sell you toothpaste and cosmetics. Between banks, gas stations and pharmacies, we’re running out of places to put McDonald’s restaurants!

And worse, they’re crossbreeding! I saw a gas station that had a twenty-four hour bank teller, and it also carries makeup and other stuff you get from pharmacies. And the pharmacies are carrying toys, groceries and wild game meat. And banks with, er, um. Anyway, I digress.

It’s not that I have anything against Walgreens or other drugstores. We need them so that my daughters can spend my money on cosmetics. I’m just wondering if we need that many of them.
(Rumor has it that in some inner city neighborhoods, there’s actually the possibility that soon drugstores will outnumber drug dealers!)

Norm (autographed books available!)

The Adventures of Guy
The Next Adventures of Guy
The Heat of the Moment
Fang Face (coming Aug 09)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lazy Days

Forget the lazy days of summer. I am caught smack dab in the middle of the lazy days of winter. I am fortunate to have time off from work around the holidays, and I've been making the most of my vacation. Visits with family and friends, reading, movie watching, and napping. In fact, if I get any lazier, I might actually become part of my couch.

I wouldn't say it's the doldrums. I am rather enjoying this hiatus from real life.

Of course, I'm not accomplishing much of anything. Except perhaps replenishing my spirit from the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and everything that goes along with it. But there's a lot that goes on and it's nice to have this time to sit back and relax and enjoy the wonder of the winter majesty around me.

I hope you all are taking some time to do the same.

Thanks to everyone who visited last week for my portion of the Christmas Ride. I had a blast being part of the Ride this year. Good luck to those of you keeping your list of carols for the big contest. Remember, to spread more Christmas cheer, we're giving one lucky person a $75 Wild Rose Press gift certificate! All you need to do to enter is attend each day's blog post, identify the carol, and make a complete carol list to submit after the final blog post of Christmas Eve. Don't forget to check the list twice! Send it to by midnight, CST Dec. 31st 2008! There's still time!

As for my contest to win a PDF copy of "This Time for Always", for those of you who left a comment about your favorite part of Christmas, I put all of your names in a coffee mug and had my favorite elf (aka my fabulous husband) pick a name.

And the winner is....


Kim, e-mail me at and I'll get you your copy of "Always".

And, now, I need to be on my way. The couch is calling my name.

Until next time,

Happy Reading and Happy New Year. May all of your wishes and dreams come true in 2009!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spending Time by Margot Justes

I have not turned my computer on in several days-I spent time with family and friends. Our annual party was a success, but plans for my time at home veered off course-snow, a lot of snow and I’m a coward when it comes to driving or for that matter, riding in a car when there is ice overlaid by snow. It was a perfect winter wonderland scene, huge snow flakes gently falling on an already white canvas. Best appreciated in a warm, comfortable home, while sipping eggnog with a touch of rum.

We had plans to go downtown to the Art Institute-we had plans on Tuesday and Wednesday-but nature intervened, so we stayed in the area. But all was not lost, we went to breakfast Wednesday, shopped a bit, stood in line for 30 minutes at Dick’s Sporting Goods-it was worth it-we were entertained by a man standing behind us, who kept giving us odds on whether it was faster to get out of line and go to another store in an entirely different mall…

We finally made it to the Art Institute on Friday-there is an incredible Tapestry exhibit that runs through January 4, 2009. Four Centuries of European Tapestries-all in glorious color and incredible detail. Simply exquisite! Brilliant. Dazzling! Even if your tastes do not run toward tapestries, this exhibit is well worth seeing, the work is magnificent, and the attention to detail is absolute perfection.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fear Not, for Behold ... by DL Larson

Merry Christmas!

Sorry things are a little out of order this week. I was busy with family yesterday, but before more come charging through the door for "jammie day" a Larson tradition, I wanted to spend a little time with you.

Christmas Eve we hustled to make 5:00 o'clock church. I sing in the choir, so that meant I had to be there by 4:30 p.m., hoping my dinner was safe and ready for our return. Once the service began, the usual happened; kids squirmed, papers rustled and our voices became one as we sang familiar carols. By the time the gospel was read, I was once more back in 5th grade, about to perform the Christmas pageant. I was the angel who came to the shepherds. I can still feel where the costume scratched my neck, or how the sway of the wings tried to unbalance me as the spotlight beamed down on me. My lines, rehearsed a thousand times were ready to be proclaimed. It didn't matter that this was a public school, everyone enjoyed watching the Christmas story unfold on the stage. No one was upset we were practicing our faith in the crowded gym. The community had come out as they did each year to see the kids Christmas program. Santa might arrive later, but only after the nativity story was acted out.

My hands were cold from nerves, my voice had all but disappeared. I whispered my lines, knowing each word was to be spoken in kindness and jubilation. I remember looking up the unusual word in the dictionary weeks before. I thought it meant happy, but felt maybe it meant more. I discovered other words, rejoicing, celebrating, words that sounded very joyous.

Stage fright was a new experience although I didn't know it had a name. My throat had constricted so tight I could barely swallow, but I had no spit to worry about anyway my nerves taking over every thought. But then, I moved to stand on the small box, my hand stretched out over the boys spread across the stage floor, looking on with dread at me. And I smiled, they did look a little silly sprawled out like that. "Fear not ... for behold I bring you good news of great joy." I hadn't planned on looking at anyone, especially not the audience. But the gym had grown so quiet it surprised me. Had the people gone home? Had the little kids fallen asleep? Had my wings dropped to the floor?

It seemed a thousand eyes rested on me, waiting for me to deliver the good news. And with a strong voice I proclaimed, " For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." I no more than finished telling them about the baby in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger when a great rustling swept across the stage as twenty some other angels fluttered and tip-toed around me.
The realness of our actions took hold. It was the first time I truly understood the good news mankind had been given. I felt goosebumpy. And as the pastor of our church finished reading the passage, the now familiar story settled lightly on my heart; I didn't care if supper burned or if things weren't perfect for Christmas. The real gift had come long ago in a stinky run-down barn. The gift was called love, is still called love and it's for everyone. All I have to do is accept it. That's all you have to do too. It's the best present to have and to share any time of the year!

Merry Christmas!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Blackout Christmas? A Christmas Whine & A Christmas Wish by Robert Scrooge Walker

It’s Black Friday the II — second Black Friday of 2008…and one of the largest shopping days of the year, ranking right up there with the day after Thanksgiving for shopping, and of course the merchants are wringing all six hands for our dollars; this even though we are all broke from Christmas shopping. Is there no end to it? Death and Taxes and Christmas Shopping they say are the only sure things in life. And Christmas shopping is enough to “kill a man!” But we’re not here to talk about my sore feet, aching back, and depression over the dwindled bank account, not entirely anyway.

What always amazes this writer about the US merchant class is that they are eternally hungry for more profits that will take them beyond the fantastical profits of the last go round, and there is no such thing as ENOUGH in their vocabulary. I always felt like they are a lot like our children. In that we buy bigger and bigger and more and more, and as they grow older the “toys” get larger and more complicated and involved—from cars of a few inches in length to the sports car, and don’t even get me started on the electronic GOTS to HAVE gizmos and never it is truly ENOUGH. In short, merchants and merchandisers seem as big a money pit as our children and visa-versa. Both groups are hungry, hungry cusses who are in fact INSATIABLE.

It does not seem to compute with either group, EITHER, that we consumers find ourselves struggling thrice as hard to pay the heating bills, electric bills, the you-name-it bills, not to mention all the necessary stuff—from petroleum to Linoleum and gifts for the pets as well as all else.

An electronic set of drums here, a slew of plastic toys there, a bag of goodies to this side, and it piles high beneath the tree, and then there’s the second household to buy for, and the third removed. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and even those once a year folks you see. So it goes, and so dwindles to checking account, followed by the savings account, followed by the credit cards. But it’s not over yet, even though you are at the finish line—Christmas Day! Because there is a DAY after Christmas created for us consumers—a day that is ALL OURS, all for us…created by whom? Was it an idea thought up by Santa? Saint Nick himself or Hallmark? Is there a Hallmark card yet for giving on Black Friday? Even though we have a Black Friday after Thanksgiving, we must needs have another after Christmas. I suspect the hoopla created of these NON-Holliday Holidaze Days was created by Marketing Executives for Macy’s and Target and Wal-Mart and all of Merchantland.

Not that there’s anything wrong with spending until your eyeballs twirl and your wallet is flat and every card is maxed. Heck! It’s the American Way of Life, right? I just think it would be FANTASTIC if for one Christmas in our near future—say our NEXT Christmas if every American decided to MAKE something from their special gift or talent as a gift for everyone on their list. Say you are a carpenter, then you make wooden reindeers for the tree, say you are a cook, you make apple butter for everyone on your list, say you are a writer, so you write a Christmas story for everyone on your list—same story duplicated! Say you are a WHATEVER so you make with your hands, mind, and imagination gifts that cost you only the material required—pine wood, paper, applesauce. What would such a Christmas look and feel like without a single electronic “toy” or gizmo given to a single child, and not a single car gifted to a single adult, and so on? I think it would look a lot like my mother’s and my father’s Christmas.
Call me a BAH HUMBUG if you like but frankly I am soooooo sick of what has happened to Christmas and why our entire economy appears to hinge upon it.

Today no one seems to appreciate the amount of time, for instance a mom and a dad puts into the preparation of Christmas meals. Today no one seems to appreciate that thing called a Christmas card with a written sentiment. Today no one seems to want to spend any Christmas time off with their parents…for instance. I’m just sayin’ –and enough said. OK it’s not true of everyone, so saying no one repeatedly here is being too absolute, but you know what I mean…

Regardless Wishing You and Yours a Joyous Holiday Season and hoist a few for me!

Rob Walker
Get your free ebook ARC of Dead On at - new look, new blogs!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Christmas

I'm a little late with my post today because my husband and I were fighting the elements. I can't keep track any more how many snowfalls we've had and how much subzero weather we've endured. Yesterday was another snowstorm. We tried to erase the evidence today, but of course that was impossible. Anyway we did the best we could.

Our main weapon was the snowblower above. It was the best investment my husband made before the inundation.

While the driveway was being cleared by the DH, I set to work clearing a path for Rascal so she wouldn't think the patio is her permanent place to do her duty. I made sure to get at her favorite spots. Judging from the way she ran through where I'd cleared, she was thrilled with the results of my efforts. After that, the stoops and the side of the house demanded my attention. A rain storm is expected Sunday, which is making me paranoid already. I hope that doesn't mean water dripping from the ceilings or into the basement.

Anyway, everyone in this neck of the woods is for sure having a white Christmas, whether they want one or not. We're through with our labors. Now we can celebrate with family and friends.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Counting our Blessings

I know that sounds like something ironic to say right now given all the bleak news in the media about the economy and the state of the world in general but I'd like to say it anyway. I'm sure that many of us know someone who has been hurt by the economic downturn and may even be in that category ourselves, but there's always something for which to be grateful.

I'm grateful that I still have a roof over my head and that despite some turbulent times of my own I have emerged with my sense of self intact despite some efforts to keep that from happening. We'll put this in the category of life doesn't always turn out the way you expected or hoped it would but sometimes that unexpected twist in your life may actually open some doors to opportunities you didn't even know existed for you. That's kinda, sorta where I'm at. As I'm nearing the end of grieving for an earlier loss I'm realizing just how richer my life has become. Some very interesting people have come into my life of late and I just don't think that would have happened had my life remained the way it was prior to that significant loss. I've also rediscovered some other people who were already in my life but who I couldn't see as well because of some filters that no longer have a place in my life.

If this sounds rather existentialist then you're right. I've been rereading some of Jean Paul Satre's work. I first read his work in college back in the 1970's at UCLA and I read it in french. Now I'm reading it in english and I'm tickled by how much I actually understood in french. In some ways I understand it better now because there are certain nuances that translations can miss. I'm having a great time with this rediscovery and I'm finding that I'm going back to a foundation in my life that I had put aside but that is now serving me well. So, don't be surprised if I write more about my existential journey in coming blogs.

One of the cornerstones of this journey is differentiating between what I'm responsible for and what I'm not responsible for, especially in relationships. I'm discovering that I've taken on way too much responsibility for some of the people in my life, especially in the past, and this was not only unfair to myself but unfair to those individuals as well. We are actually being untruthful with ourselves and others when we accept responsibility for something that really isn't ours to take. Again, this is part of my resdiscovered existential journey and given that I'm putting myself out there to be rejected by publishers I'm glad I once again have this philosophical anchor in my life. I will also continue to count my blessings, especially this time of year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Frozen Normsicle

I like doing book signings. I don't know why ... probably cuz I like messing with people, having fun and talking about my books and stuff.

It took this kind of love to go to Borders in Alaska, er, Orland yesterday ... I mean, get this ... negative three degrees plus thirty mile per hour gusts equaled one frozen dude. My beard went cryogenic in the fifty yards between my car and the front door.

This was my first signing at this Borders, this after having to reschedule once since they had a bit of trouble getting the books in.

But now they had them, so I went in search of readers who aren't afraid to use their funny bones.

My table was set up within view of the front doors, next to, get this, a display for the AARP. How DID they know that I just received my AARP card a week ago? What? I get discounts now. I'm stoked.

Anyway, they had fifty books all ready for me, twenty five of each of my first two books. Time to sell 'em.

There were two factors to consider, the cold outside and the cold economic environment. Americans are being more cautious with their money now, and you can see them think hard before parting with any of their hard earned bucks.

But at the end of five hours, I had just seven left. I sold out "The Adventures of Guy" and eighteen of its sequel, "The Next Adventures of Guy."

Do the math. This comes out to about one book sold every seven minutes. Factor in three people who thrilled me with LONG stories about how they were going to write a book someday, or had written three chapters of the next bestseller ... and I'm, like a polite smile pasted on my face - watching people who might actually buy my books walk past us... and, of course, none of the wannabe authors bought a book.


I'm not Grisham or Stephenie Meyer or any of those other best selling authors. I can't just sit at my desk and just happily sign as people line up to buy my books. I have to go up, song-and-dance my books, and get them to read a bit of the story. I have to razzle-dazzle, get them interested, and then close the sale.

So a book every seven minutes is pretty darn good.

Speaking of Stephenie Meyer, something happened during the signing that gives me reason to hope that I will someday improve on the seven minutes. I had a copy of the cover for my upcoming YA vampire/humor book "Fang Face" on the table. When people heard the magic word, 'vampire', their eyes lit up, and they'd invariable say, "let me know when that book is out!"

I'd hand them a business card with Fang Face's website (, and ask them to check it out and read the excerpt. Hopefully, they'll remember me in August.

Well, I had a great time, and I think Borders will have me back soon.

Hopefully, my beard will be thawed out by then.

Norm - autographed books available on my site (eye wiggle)

The Adventures of Guy
The Next Adventures of Guy
The Heat of the Moment
Fang Face (coming Aug. 2009)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Ride

I'm so excited, it's finally my day for the Christmas Ride post! It's been so fun keeping up with everyone else, and today I get to add my two cents!

I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas.

The decorations. (Our house was all decked out the weekend after Thanksgiving.)
The baking. (My husband and I make "kiss" cookies each year to share with family and friends...and spend extra minutes on the treadmill working off ourselves!)
The shopping. (Okay, I still have some of that left to do. But I'm not worried. There are still plenty of shopping days left until Christmas.)
The wrapping. (One of my favorite parts of getting ready. I do it up big! Paper. Trimmings. Ribbons. Bows.)
The parties. (It's so wonderful to hang out with family and friends and share some holiday cheer...sometimes spiked...sometimes not.)
The music. (Ah, the music. I have it on constantly, but I'm a purist and won't start listening until the day after Thanksgiving!)
The movies. (So far we've done "Christmas Vacation", "A Christmas Carol", "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and we have the best one of all saved for Christmas Eve, "It's a Wonderful Life".
I even like the snow! (The kids had a snow day yesterday, and I think we'll have that White Christmas we always hope for but never seem to get around here!)

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The very best part of Christmas is that we get to share all of this with family and friends. It's a time to come together and think about the good things in our lives. The people and things we've been blessed with. God's gift to our world.

So I encourage you, no I invite you, to curl up with a copy of my free read Mistletoe and Holly, stir up a batch of holiday punch, bake up some cookies (fellow Christmas Ride bloggers have shared some extra-yummy recipes) and enjoy the peace and comfort this season brings.

Leave a comment sometime today and tell me what your favorite part of the season is, and you could win a PDF copy of "This Time for Always", my debut novel from The Wild Rose Press.

And here's the clue for my Christmas song.
Down in a lowly manger
The humble Christ was born
And God sent out salvation
That blessed Christmas morn

(My favorite version of this is on Toby Keith's Classic Cristmas CDs.)

Don't forget to continue on the Ride tomorrow by visiting Tarah Scott.

To spread more Christmas cheer, we're giving one lucky person a $75 Wild Rose Press gift certificate! All you need to do to enter is attend each day's blog post, identify the carol, and make a complete carol list to submit after the final blog post of Christmas Eve. Don't forget to check the list twice! Send it to by midnight, CST Dec. 31st 2008!

If you haven't been keeping up, feel free to head back to the beginning at PL Parker's blog. There's still plenty of time left!

Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra St. John

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Openings in Fiction - Fire Your Best Shot By Robert W. Walker

With fiction and your best nonfiction, opening salvos are extremely important as many readers buy a book by its opening lines and paragraphs. What an author has occur on those first immediate pages are also what often gets an editor at a publishing house or an agent to sit up and take notice. On the following pages from the opening of a novel I am currently working on – not for the first but let us say the 27th time…I lose count…you can be the judge. Embedded in these pages, however is a jarring CLUE for anyone who has come here to ACME seeking an autographed copy of Shadows in the White City. Said winner must scavenge for the name of one of my favorite authors of all time. For those who are just as interested in “romance in the time of cholera…ahhh, I mean in the time of the Salem Witch Trials…enjoy this romance trying to flourish in a bad time. Enjoy the opening salvos of Bloodroot, which I am in the throes of trying to sell to a publisher as we speak after over ten years’ research and writing.




Boston, March 5, 1692

“Look here, Jeremiah, my friend, you’ll have no problem ingratiating yourself with this Reverend Samuel Parris.”
“How so, sir?”
“Parris has asked for another pair of hands at his troubled meetinghouse, so the man’s expecting us to send someone,” Reverend Cotton Mather assured Jeremiah Wakely as he walked him deeper into the bowels of the First Church of Boston. “And you with your gift of appearing anything but who you are…and with your knowledge of law and theology—who better to pull off this subterfuge?”
“My going into Salem Village Parish disguised as a man of the cloth doesn’t offend you or your father?” Jeremiah asked.
“Not so long as it provides us with what we need, Brother Wakely.”
“I’m just not anxious to go back to the place of my birth as…as an agent for the Boston Church.”
“Please, Jeremy. Who better? You know the terrain and the people—you were once one of them.”
“I was never one of them, sir.”
“You know what I mean. You’re our best hope in this affair.” Mather’s whisper bounced off the wall and echoed down the corridor. He may as well be shouting.
Jeremiah wondered how effective he could be on this—hopefully—his last assignment on behalf of Increase Mather—Cotton Mather’s father and head of the church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
This wasn’t the first time he’d been summoned to the back rooms of the largest church in all of Boston to do a job for the Mather family. The pay was generous, and the favors and promises real gifts. To have Increase Mather’s respect and gratitude, not to mention the top minister and legal mind in the country indebted to him? These rewards were too good a prize for a young and ambitious man to turn from. Jeremiah had searched for years to find his place in the world, here in the Bay Colony, and to see his way to his fortune and his comfort. He’d long before stopped dreaming of all that he wanted in life, but here was a chance at a gold ring or two.
“Get inside that disturbed parish, Mr. Wakley,” Cotton Mather instructed.
“To be honest, sir—” Jeremiah felt odd calling a man no older than himself sir, but Cotton Mather was the heir apparent here—“I’d rather tangle with pagan Indians than face Salem villagers.”
Mather laughed at this remark and showed his guest through an inner door, a magnificent library, something to challenge the library at Harvard College. Jeremiah scanned the room, wishing he could read every book here when his eye fell on an infamous title: General Rules for Excommunication and Witch Craft Proceedings. One tomb he cared not to read.
“You’ve done well keeping us appraised of Indian movements, Jeremy.” Mather indicated a leather chair, but Jeremiah continued scanning book titles instead, mesmerized. “But this matter of that troubled village parish has become a disease, and we must know the facts.”
“So many differing sides from what I’ve seen so far,” Jeremy muttered.
“Exactly! It’s become a hydra of tongues in our courts.”
Mather’s unusual metaphor for the troubles among the parishioners at Salem Village and some in Salem Seaport threw Jeremiah into a reverie. From all the papers that he had read of the cases that had continually plagued the courts, it appeared that since the day Reverend Samuel Parris signed his contract at Salem, discord ruled. The minister himself had become an angry, bitter, and displeased fellow; displeased with a large contingent of his congregation.
“Perhaps the man is angry by nature,” Mather continued, shrugging, “but now he’s angry over this infernal contract.”
“Questions every word and point, it seems,” Jeremy agreed, turning from the books to face Mather. “And he wishes to sue individuals and whole families.”
“Repeatedly!” Mather’s hefty mid-section bounced with his laughter. “And the man’s repeatedly choking the court system, obsessed! Imagine a man using the courts to combat those who’ve employed him.”
The opposition had tired of Parris’ three-year reign over the village parish, and according to these parishioners, it’d been a tyrannical rule at best. A Puritan meetinghouse held certain democratic principles, at least among the elder male and female adults, but even these freedoms of the ‘freemen’ and ‘freewomen’ in Salem Village, some felt, were under threat of complete loss so long as Parris presided there.
Mather broke into Jeremiah’s thoughts with, “My father and the minister at Salem Town Church—”
“Reverend Nehemiah Higginson, is it? Is he still at the pulpit?”
“Yes, aha! You do know people in Salem.”
“Only in passing as a boy.”
“At any rate, at Reverend Higginson’s behest, we want evidence gathered against Parris.”
“How much evidence?” Jeremiah pressed Cotton Mather.
“Enough to topple him from the parish altogether.”
“I see. Then it is decided?” Jeremy sat now.
“My father and Mr. Higginson are old friends and colleagues.” He offered Jeremiah a dram of ale poured from a pewter pitcher. Jeremiah took the offering.
“I understand they go back to Seminary School together at Harvard College.”
Cotton nodded appreciatively. “You’ve done your homework.”
“Harvard, where eventually and for many years after, your father presided as president before taking over as spiritual leader of the First Church here. Little wonder your father is suspicious of this Samuel Parris.”
“Father finds it curious that Mr. Parris claims to’ve been ordained at Harvard when there is no record of his finishing there.”
“It’s not unusual for a minister to complete his ordination elsewhere.”
“Old Nehemmiah Higginson has tried to pin Parris down to exactly that—to no avail. Said and I quote—”
“Never mind, quoting me, Cotton!” came a booming voice and a man with a noisy cane entered through a door where he’d been listening at the keyhole, or so Jeremiah surmised. “Mr. Wakely, I am Higginson.”
They shook hands, and Higginson added, “Young Mr. Mather here is not emphasizing our need hardly enough—and that time is our enemy.”
“But, sir,” countered Mather, “I thought we agreed—”
“Never mind what we agreed. Look here, Wakely, I recall you…recall your father, your birth mother, and your stepmother, all dead now. And I recall you as a boy in Salem.”
“I am flattered, sir, that you recall me. I have memory of you, too.”
“It was not my church who destroyed your father, son. It wasn’t we in Salem Town but those dark souls residing in Salem Village at the time; those who refused your stepmother and later your father a burial plot.”
“Yes, sir. I know that well.” Jeremy’s eyes bore into Higginson. No one in authority had intervened on behalf of a poor dish-turner, he thought but held his tongue.
“You have scars from that place, a good thing. You must do all you can for this cause, young man. Else…else I’m off to my grave afore seeing the village parish and lands returned to our control. Wrested free of this misguided Barbados businessman’s control. He must relinquish any fanciful belief in his ownership in perpetuity of our property!”
“But then why did the Select Committee make such a deal in the first place?” Jeremiah lamented the question even as it escaped him. He set aside his empty cup.
“The pact was with half his congregation.”
“So I am hearing.”
“The half that signed away the parish property and parsonage,” the aged, white-haired minister fired back. “In essence, he and the others’ve stolen property of the First Church—me, man, me! And the entire congregation!”
“Sounds outrageous.”
“The parsonage, meetinghouse, and everything on the grounds Parris is claiming as deeded over to him by his congregation.”
“And being enforced by his elders,” added Mather. “Down to the parish orchard!”
Higginson seconded this with a pounding cane to the floor. “Yet those lands and buildings rightfully belong to Salem Town, created as an offshoot of the main parish.”
Jeremiah nodded vigorously. “And any such dealings rightfully go through the council and the church there in the seaport, I agree.”
“Jeremiah, before you were born, that parish village home and meetinghouse was built to create a convenient place of worship for those living in the village.”
It never gave me or mine any comfort, he thought.
“Especially during particularly rough winters,” added Higginson.
Cotton Mather erupted with, “And now they’ve given it—lock, stock, and barrel—to this man Parris!”
What few teeth Higginson still had, Jeremiah feared he’d crack, so hard was he gnashing them now. “And then there’s this claim that he is a Harvard educated minister, ordained—ha!”
“Then you think him a fraud?”
“Parris has no more right to the property than any of the eight or nine ministers who came before him.”
Mather brandished paperwork over his head. “The original grants—same as those offered the minister before Parris, all broken! Every commandment, every contract! Thanks to the party that recruited Parris.”
“Led by Porter and Putnam—relatives of Parris!” Higginson found a seat, looking faint.
“Outrage . . . untenable,” Jeremiah knew the words to this game. If Increase Mather and such dignitaries as Higginson wanted this man Paris out, they’d find a way to uproot him with or without any dirt that Jeremiah might dig up.
“Porter is his cousin,” sneered Higginson, a bit of uncontrolled spittle escaping his mouth. “He and that fool Thomas Putnam, brother-in-law, went clear to Barbados to entice the devil to come to Salem!”
“These men you name,” began Jeremiah, “they led the delegation to Barbados?”
“Trust me . . . they’re all abed together in all these nefarious affairs.”
Jeremiah asked at this point. “Will you, sirs, and your father, Reverend Mather, will all three of you back me if I am exposed?”
Higginson didn’t hesitate. “If you can prove this hiring of Samuel Parris three years ago was an ill-conceived contract, that there are holes, young man, you have my undying gratitude—which means that of Increase Mather as well.”
“Demonstrate your ability with the law,” added Cotton Mather, “demonstrate that it is an illegal contract. And yes, absolutely, we’ll back you, Wakely. And the more evidence we can bring to bear . . .well…. ”
“We need your experienced eye and ear in that parish, man,” added Higginson. “Meet me at midnight tomorrow night before going into the village.”
“Midnight? Where?”
“At Watch Hill—” he coughed roughly—“before you enter the village for the parish house. When we meet in public, no one can know that we’ve had any contact.”
“Understood but Watch Hill at the witching hour?”
“This fiend, Parris, believes himself the owner of the entire parish and its buildings.” More coughing interrupted the old man. “I will have additional papers, affidavits you should see and read before you go much further.”
“I hope your confidence in me is not misplaced, Reverend Higginson.”
Mather laughed and poured more ale for them all. “Come, come. This is a challenge for a man of your talents, and if you rise to it, Wakely, your star will rise as well. You will’ve finalized your indenture to our family and take up your final education in the law. My father will see to it that you are well rewarded.”
Jeremiah kept his eyes pinned on the elder statesman of the church. Higginson did not flinch or blink. “Increase spoke of a magistrate’s seat opening up…an appointment in a district along the Connecticut, I believe. Once this is over.”
Jeremiah turned to Mather. “I’d like that in writing, sir.”
Again Mather laughed. “That’s why my father likes you, Jeremy! Preparation and reparation. You’re wise enough to cover your backside.”
The powerful Mathers had obviously discussed this matter at length with the patriarch Higginson some time before Reverend Increase Mather had sailed for England in a bid to negotiate a new Charter for the colonies with the new King of England. The Mathers and Higginson believed that an insider was needed, one the powerful ministers, in the end, could control.
Mather now lifted his ale cup and toasted: “Get word back to us, Jeremy, the Prodigal Son of Salem, apprentice in the clergy yet to be ordained.”
Jeremiah’s ale cup was the last to go up, but the one in Higginson’s hand shook like a sheaf of paper in the wind. The old man’s other hand, planted firmly on his cane, shook as well, so hard that it sent the cane from side to side.
Jeremiah thought but dared not say, this old man has one foot in the grave, and Cotton Mather is a purely instinctive politician. Have I struck a bargain with the devil?
All three men emptied their drinks, but this caused even more ghastly coughing from Higginson.
The three men shook hands on the plan, and Jeremiah Wakely put aside his cup and said, “I’d best be off…prepare for my trip back to Salem.”

Chapter One

Swampscott, Essex County, Massachusetts, March 6, 1692. The midnight hour.

At age two-score-ten and four, the woman in tattered clothes chewed tobacco, lit a candle, stood shakily alone in the abandoned ( John) Steinbeck cabin, and then she waddled straight for her hidden magic text, needles, and the doll.
The doll she’d paid dearly for, fashioned by Sam Wardwell, both blacksmith and cunning man, some openly called the Wizard of Andover. Sarah had made several trips to make payments, and each time Wardwell would display the doll in it’s progress from wood to realism. Sarah Goode believed the man a cunning magician. Furthermore, Wardwell asked no questions beyond her specifications. He kept mum, too, and never knew that his creation was in the image of Betty Parris; that it was a doll that’d do harm to Reverend Samuel Parris’ eleven-year-old girl, little Elizabeth Junior, named for her mother.

Thanks for reading and playing, and My Best Wishes for your holidays,
Rob Walker

Holiday Greetings, Stamps and Letters! by DL Larson

Yep, it's that time of year all right! Writer's cramp is nothing new to me, but getting all my Christmas cards signed and sent has my fingers twisted into a crimp. And it's not pretty! Address labels seem so cold and impersonal as does the printed versions of our family name on greeting cards. So I do things the old fashion way, I write out our greetings.

Sending cards is important to me. I actually enjoy sending them and receiving cards from family and friends is a great joy. Addressing them, not so much. My husband and I take turns writing our Christmas letter each year. Then we edit it, tweak it and mass produce it for stuffing into the cards. We are careful about not mentioning procedures and gloomy thoughts. Everyone has problems, that's a given, our message is more to inform and entertain our recipients, not scare them. And we always include the reason for the season type of message.

Sending greeting cards go way back to the ancient days. The Chinese are credited for the invention, mostly hand delivering gifts of good wishes for the coming year. The Egyptians wrote greetings on papyrus scrolls, another way to send wishes of good cheer. Around the 1400's, the Germans designed and sent woodcuts to bring in the New Year. Pretty fancy stuff and I imagine mostly for the elite and wealthy.

The tiny postage stamp in 1840 changed everything. Even the not so wealthy could exchange notes of good will across the miles. Many cards were still hand-made, but mass production made it simpler for the eager but not creative souls wanting to extend their good wishes to others. Sending holiday greetings became quite popular, so popular that at one time the U.S. postal service wanted to ban the sending of Christmas cards, the burden of delivery becoming monumental. They of course rethought that idea and came up with another, one they have continued til this day. They raised the price of stamps!

The invention of the greeting card industry opened up many jobs for writers, artists and publishers. Hallmark alone sells more than 12 million cards a year. They must hire many writers; maybe one of them could be you. If you've a knack for writing sweet prose or something zany and funny, maybe writing for greeting cards would work for you. I tried it at one time and accepted the fact that I am too long winded and funny is harder than it seems!

My wish is that you receive more cards than you expected, and with each opening you will cherish the well wishes sent to you. Whether the card says, "Let it snow, let it snow," or "May holiday magic fill your heart and home," or a simple "Happy Holidays," I hope you will take the time to "share the joy of the season."

Holiday Blessings to you and yours!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to Avoid the Slush Pile

Wow, Tuesday was an absolute nightmare in the Chicago area. Freezing rain and snow left the streets and sidewalks in a deplorable condition, making it hazardous to walk or drive.

I mentioned some of my difficulties in my Double M blog on Tuesday at, but today I'd like to examine my experience not from a civilian, but from a writer's point of view.

When I arrived in Downtown Chicago yesterday, much of the ice and snow I had encountered in my own suburb had already turned to slush. I still remember an incident over 40 years ago (yes, I'm that old) when one of the staff members at the law firm where I worked went out to lunch, slipped in the slush and ended up with a broken wrist. That put her out of condition for quite a while. Fortunately, she did recover and was able to resume her normal duties.

A manuscript slush pile is just as perilous for a writer. If a manuscript lands in such a pile, it may emerge after a tediously long wait, or it may never come out of it.

How do we make sure our manuscripts avoid such a fate? Is there any way to avoid a slush pile? I don't know all the answers, but here are some:

  • Submit your manuscript to a specific editor or agent, the one who handles the type of material you write. Do your homework first by questioning published authors in that genre, checking the Internet for updated information on websites, or by consulting such writing resources as Writer's Market.

  • Know the current market. This goes hand-in-hand with the first suggestion, but is more specific. If you have a manuscript in a currently popular genre, submit it everywhere you can think of that handles that genre. You may be surprised by a quick sale.

  • Pitch your manuscript to an editor or publisher at a conference. If you receive a go-ahead to submit a manuscript, make sure to write "Requested Material" on the envelope. In many cases, but not all, that will get your manuscript into a higher position at the editor or agent's office. On a side note, about the pitching process, concentrate on your main manuscript first. If the editor or agent asks if you have something else to offer, be ready to pitch that one also. Sometimes two book deals result, or perhaps the publication of the second manuscript instead of the first.

  • Enter a writing contest where the last round is judged by an editor or agent. If your partial happens to be one of the finalists or the winner of the contest, the editor or agent may request to see its entirety. When it arrives at the office, the editor or agent will be more receptive to reading something they liked before. That puts you a step ahead of other hopefuls.

Yes, navigating around the slush piles is a tricky business, but if you handle it with finesse, you just might arrive at your desired destination -- publication.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Literature in Times of Uncertainty

It will be interesting to see who emerges as literary giants in the next several years. The reason I say that is because if we look at the periods right after several of our nations most uncertain times we've actually be given some of our most notable literary figures.

For example from the following link:

In the post-Civil War period (1865–1900) The disillusionment of this period found expression in the realistic or psychological novel. Ambrose Bierce and Stephen Crane wrote realistic war stories; Mark Twain and Bret Harte dealt with Western life; the growth of industrialism led to novels of social realism, notably the works of William Howells and Frank Norris; and Henry James and his disciple Edith Wharton developed the novel of psychological analysis among the well-to-do. The dominant poets were Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. The short story flourished, its leading practitioners being Hawthorne, Poe, James, Harte, and O Henry.

and for the novel:

The main trends have been realism, as exemplified in the work of Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Theodore Dreiser, and modernist experimentation. After World War I, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, F Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright established the main literary directions. Among the internationally known novelists since World War II have been John O'Hara, James Michener, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, J D Salinger, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, and James Baldwin.

I guess what I'm saying is there is nothing better for producing some of our most valuable literature than the study of human suffering and angst. Go figure!


The opinions presented by our members do not reflect the official opinion of our blog, only that of each individual member.

Monday, December 15, 2008

George W. Bush is not Daffy Duck!

I'm going to miss George W. Bush.


Hey, who threw the shoe at me?!

You have to admit, the President showed he wasn't a lame duck. He was an agile duck. Guess it comes from all that practice ducking responsibility for all of the things he did to hurt our country.

Seriously, though, we haven't had a President this fun to hate since ole' Tricky Dicky Nixon, right?

Now I know that this forum doesn't lend itself to political rantings, and that's not what I'm doing at all. This is all book-related.


For you see, my books are humor ... and they are fantasy ... and they are ridiculous ... and pretty far out there ... but there is a political bent to them. In my second book, The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness, the bad guys are Big Oil. In The Adventures of Guy, the bad guys were attorneys and telemarketers.

Mixed throughout the books are social and political commentary that a few reviewers picked up on, even though I tried to hide my agendas. Hah, I lie, I just tried to be funny.

But politicians are funny ... when they aren't taking money out of our pockets ...


Okay, they aren't funny, because they are taking money out of our pockets.

I digress.

George Bush has a place in my WIP third book in the Adventures of Guy series. My characters, a bunch of college kids, are on a quest to take on Big Oil again, this time by going to its Evil Lair.

Of course, they run into all kinds of evil characters like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the Devil. (The real Devil, not Dick Cheney. I mean, Dick Cheney's in the book, but he's not the Devil. Well, he's a devil, but not the...well, you get it.)

Anyway, when I decided to write a book about Big Oil being the bad guys, I couldn't leave out the two people who did so much to make Oil what it is today, the most insidious, incestuous, evil in the world.

The trick is to do this and put it in a funny story.

Hah, you just watch ... or, um... read.


The Adventures of Guy
The Next Adventures of Guy
The Heat of the Moment
Fang Face (YA humor/vampire, coming Aug 09)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Random Thoughts

As I seem to be suffering from A.D.D. these days (a trait common this time of year - especially among writers it seems), I thought I'd share some random, completely unrelated thoughts!

First and foremost, my good news! I signed another contract with The Wild Rose Press! "Wild Wedding Weekend", a full-length contemporary, should be available sometime next year! I am simply thrilled, but have a lot of work ahead of me, as I need to lengthen the story by about 15,000 words. So, you know what I'll be doing with most of my time over the next few weeks!

Yesterday I spent the day at the Des Plaines Library with fellow authors Morgan Mandel, June Sproat, Margot Justes, and Carrie Lofty. We were doing a book signing during their used book sale. Our sales were not brisk (I sold ONE book!), but it was a nice day nonetheless and gave me the chance to catch up with everyone. (I also wrote out and addressed all of my Christmas cards, so that was great....multi-tasking is the way to go!)

And finally, part of my A.D.D. troubles these days is that I'm stuck in the "Twilight" zone. I am completely hooked on Stephenie Meyer's books and the movie that came out last month. I've seen the movie three times (so far), and am contemplating going again this afternoon, even though I really need to finish my Christmas shopping. And I'm on my second time through of reading the books (I'm almost done with the fourth one.) I'm gong to need to forcibly restrain myself from starting all over again when I am done. This obsession (and there's really no other word for it), takes up a ridiculous amount of my time these days. I'm constantly either reading, watching, or surfing the net for "Twilight" buzz. I need to develop some will-power here. (The kind Edward uses to stop himself from biting Bella's neck!)

On that note, I need to run. Next week I'll be blogging on Saturday (instead of Sunday) as part of the Christmas Ride Blog event. Be sure to pop in for the chance to win some cool prizes!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't Give Up the Day Job by Margot Justes

The holiday season is fast approaching and I noticed in my own every day life that the pressure to finish everything is on. There is the shopping, baking, cooking and cleaning to get the house ready for our annual get together with friends and family, and of course my day job; the one that actually provides a regular pay check.

But there is also the life of the writer and the functions that have be attended to get my name out there-where ever out there is.

Today was just such a day. The early morning saw me at my local Jewel, but before the Jewel, I made coffee, had a few cups while I got ready and of course the coffee made the rest of the day seem possible. At any rate, by eight o’clock I was at the Jewel picking up things I’d need for later this afternoon.

Got back from the Jewel and headed to the author part of my life and the Des Plaines Library for a six hour function with fellow authors June Sproat, Morgan Mandel and Carrie Lofty, then back home, where I made fudge and tasted it several times to make sure it was perfect. It was.

Also rum balls were on the schedule today, now those I had to taste frequently, adding rum is tricky. You have to mix and add more and taste, and mix-well you get the drift. I just had to make sure enough rum was in said balls. Very tricky. And very tasty. There will be another tasting after I post this blob, oops blog…time to post.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Robert W. Walker reviews Tom Schreck's On the Ropes


Rob says: I did this review for Tom Schreck cause he's a great guy and "one of us"

-- I met Tom at LIM last year and hoisted a few with him. I still wonder if readers of a well turned phrase in a review, knowing you are an author, will also want to look into your pages as well as the ones you are touting.

Here's a question -- does doing well crafted reviews of books from other authors get folks reading your work? I should hope that wellturned phrase in a review you put heart and soul into might translate into someone's thinking, hey, I kinda wanna see something from this guy, too.

REVIEW by Rob Walker for Midnight Ink's Tom Schreck's On the Ropes:

On The Ropes By Tom Schreck
Midnight Ink Books
326 pgs/13.95/15. 95 Can
ISBN#978-0-7387- 1114-0

Social worker and sometime boxer Duffy Dumbrowski gets it from all sides—from Polish jokes hitting him at every turn to a boss that he wishes death upon to coworkers slamming him onto a desk to make love to the sad reality of those he appears planted on Earth to help—his client list.

The novel has an excellent opportunity to become a series, given that Schreck's character list is ready-made in that Duffy D's client list is a gift that keeps on giving—in short, a list of eccentrics and street people and single mom's in dire trouble, any one of which can and does become Duffy's cross to bear.

When one particularly sad case that Duffy's big heart goes out to is arrested and then killed while behind bars, Duffy seems the only advocate for her, and he goes to dangerous lengths to determine the truth—what happened to Walanda andwho was behind her murder and the all-important why.

Duffy hates an unanswered question. Furthermore, Duffy is a "sucker" in the best tradition of the term, as with Bogey, as he gets saddled with a "dame and a dog" – in this case due to his promise to Walanda to take care of King, her basset hound, and to look in on her grown daughter to keep her out of trouble. All of this while trying desperately to fit into the suit and tie and cubicle world of organized social work, to please an unholy boss, to keep tabs on four drunken friends whose strange brew of advice actually helps.

While I am not a huge fan of many first person narratives, as it is hard to listen to a single POV voice for the length of a novel,sometimes an author's creation of that voice works extremely well, and if you grew up in Chicago, where there is a huge Polish community so that many of your friends were Polish, Duffy is a fresh voice indeed and not a knockoff of the TV voice of Magnum PI. Duffy is not a PI but he must play one.

If Duffy gets to you, as he did this reviewer and author in the first paragraph, you'll find On The Ropes not enough, and you'll be salivating like Pavlov's dog awaiting for the sequel, TKO: Round 2. Even if it is to find out what more trouble Duffy can place at the foot of his onerous and all-too-familiar boss!

Meanwhile, author Schreck manages to slip in—barely noticed—a number of social issues without being as dire or heavy-handed about it as one might expect from a novel with a social worker as hero. A fine novel,well-crafted, and it will leave you laughing and crying in all the right places.

On The Ropes, and I have no doubt TKO: Round 2 are a brilliant mix of the underworld of big city life and boxing perfectly commingled with our modern day social ills, questions, and if not answers, a character whose heart is in the right place.

What's really neat about On The Ropes is that you don't have to be interested in boxing or know anything about what social workers do on a daily basis to thoroughly enjoy Dumbrowski's disorganized Bogey approach to life.

On the Ropes has my highest recommendation for a book with a dog on the cover. No, honestly, I have no reservations about Tom's ability to make you laugh and give you pause. His characterizations of city folk down on their luck is spot on—and I grew up in inner city Chicago, Jackson and Racine—so of this I know from the slumlord to the wino, the merchant to the addict.

On The Ropes is a great ride into the array of events and characters populating a singularly colorful world.Still, I thought Schreck was supposed to be spelled Shrek…

Above Review by Rob Walker, author City of the Absent, PSI Blue, Dead On

Other Tom Schreck books:

Tom's website is where there is now a free audio short story to go along with his other free stories.

FOR MORE ABOUT TOM SCHRECK TODAY, Be sure to check out the blog post at

Please leave a comment for Tom or Rob, even if it's about their cute dogs - note Rob with Pogo in the right column.

Right From Wrong! by DL Larson

Illinois has made headlines across the nation. And not in a good way. The governor of Illinois stands accused of seeking bribes for the appointment he was to make to the U.S. Senate seat, open due to the election of Obama for President. This state has a long history of political corruption, but this smacks of blatant dishonesting on many levels. It stabs the core of decency.

Blagojevich is a father of two young children. Has he never taught them the basics of right from wrong? Did it ever occur to him his deceitful actions would carry over into their lives? As a parent myself, I wonder how he could look at his children and not be ashamed of himself.

Yet he is accused of much more. Extortion, an ugly word in any dictionary, is part of Blagojevich's bio. He wanted the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers for writing unkind words about him. Truthful facts he did not want to hear and certainly must not have wanted the public to be informed about. Extortion grows uglier when light is shed on it. Surely he's learned that lesson by now.

During his first campaign as governor he was called, "Mr. Clean." He promised to clean up state government. Remember his predecessor, George Ryan, is behind bars for his crimes. Blagojevich was going to turn Illinois around, make this state something to be proud of. Instead, he withheld monetary funds to Children's Memorial Hospital because they chose integrity over compliance to him. That action had no political agenda, it was a personal one.

Satisfying his personal agenda and greed are what this man stands for. I refuse to buy into this insanity issue. I'm not willing to let him off so easily. But I would gladly agree to his resignation; I think most of Illinois would agree with me.

Blagojevich has been in politics a long time. Unfortunately that is not a good enough reason to extort or seek bribes. It's time he learned right from wrong!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: What are folks from other states saying about this debacle? Voice your opinion here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On The Treadmill by Morgan Mandel

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a treadmill. I almost finish one thing when another gets handed to me to get done.

Time is racing by. Deadlines loom. I've got to prioritize. How can I do this?

I've decided to compartmentalize.

For Christmas, I'm removing my everyday decorations in stages and replacing them with holiday items.

I've simplified my Christmas card giving this year. Instead of signing, stuffing cards in envelopes and sealing them with labels, which takes up chunks of time since I have such a huge Christmas card list, this year I'm trying something different.

I'm sending out Christmas postcards with a Christmas scene I captured at our local park, plus a photo of our beloved Rascal, who at the moment is peacefully napping, instead of being her usual mischievous self. This will save time and money, and still show the special people in my and my husband's lives that we care for them.

As far as my writing life is concerned, I work hard at marketing. I've been getting my blogspots into shape, trying to build up readership and figure out what should or shouldn't be included in layouts. I blog daily at my personal blog, Double M, at

I also keep up with my weekly blog here at, my semi-monthly blog at
plus a semi-monthly blog at

This involves not only writing my own posts, but also hosting guests. Hosting takes up time. I not only gather the needed information, which sometimes comes to me at the last minute, then display it in a pleasing fashion for the readers. The blogs also involve advertising on my many listservs and interacting with other bloggers, authors and readers.

As you can see, I'm very busy with blogs, plus occasional booksignings and other marketing activities, including greeting my new members and keeping the main page and Authors Column current at

This leaves little time for the heart of what drives me, which is writing my novels. I've decided the only way to do this is to compartmentalize my novel writing also. I buckled down and finished my children's story about Rascal, who happens to be deaf, but still lives a normal dog's life. I'll do more edits on her story after a few people have looked it over, but for the most part it's ready to go.

Now that my Rascal book is ready, today I can concentrate on my halfway done thriller, which is aimed at the Boomer generation to which I belong. I hope to have it ready by the beginning of February, so I can pitch it at the Love is Murder Conference. Since Wednesdays are my day off from work, I'll be working on it today.

That means I'm putting the two romance novels I've already started on the backburner for now.

Left to go are housecleaning and exercise. I'm way behind on both. I've got Christmas at our house this year. I'm not the best housekeeper, to put it kindly. To get ready, I'm clearing up small piles of papers and other junk a bit at a time each day.

I can't walk Rascal on the icy sidewalks lately, so that cuts down on my exercise. Also, getting rides to the station each day because of the bad sidewalks and roads doesn't help any, but I have no choice.

Today, instead of going to aerobics, I'm stuck at home. I'm not a great driver in the best of circumstances, so I dare not drive on the icy roads.

The elliptical machine sits in the living room. A few days ago, I got on it for half an hour and worked out. I plan to do that three times a week, while listening to the radio or watching TV at the same time to keep my interest from flagging.

It's not a treadmill, but close enough. It kind of represents the way things are going lately. The difference is I can get off the elliptical machine easier than the treadmill of my chosen writer's life.

It's wild and crazy, but I love it!

Morgan Mandel
Today I'm blogging about Blago at
Today I'm also hosting mystery writer, Deb Baker, at

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Windy City

Well, it's been an interesting news week for those of us who work and live in the Chicago area. I work in what's called the loop in Chicago - so called because of how public transportation "loops" around an area - mostly the financial district. Here's the wiki definition:

It just so also happens that the building I work in is only one block away from where President-Elect Obama has his Chicago transition office. So, lots of law enforcement in the area.

But add to this the recent arrest of the governor and the protest against the Bank of America for calling the loan on a local company and the workers staging a sit-in, and you have a news week dominated by Chicago politics and the local economy.

Now I'm originally from the west coast where seeing movie stars at restaurants and on the street isn't that unusual - at least not when I was living there - but this amount of media attention with the cameras and news crews is somewhat flabbergasting. It really is like living in a circus.

Now interestingly enough, most people think that the name - Windy City - is mostly attributed to the prairie winds, but if we look at cartoons that existed in the late 1800's and into the 1900's, it has has a strong link to the blustery or windy politicians from Chicago. Food for thought in the context of recent events. Once again, here's wiki's take on it:,_Origin_of_Name_(Chicago)

It's going to be very interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks let alone the next few days. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Something else you can do...

If you're a writer, you write, right? Or if you can get past your shyness, maybe arrange some booksignings, too.

Lately, I've been finding myself doing something totally different ... something that some writers might actually enjoy.

And yeah, I'm one of them... I enjoy it.

No, not that.

Anyway, it's speaking.

I like speaking.

Put a microphone in my hand and it's like, well... no, not that ... but not too far off.

I gave a presentation in September for a credit group, and a few of them enjoyed it so much they asked me to do an encore for another group they were in. Then in January, I will do a half day presentation to another large organization.

Then the best one ... in April I will be the keynote speaker for a nine-high school writing contest, plus I get to hold two humor workshops.

Yeah, about the only thing better than speaking is speaking to a bunch of high school kids.

And with my first YA humor/vampire book coming out next year, I'm going to try to arrange as many school events as possible.

Can't wait!

On another front, I finally succeeded in setting up PayPal so that I can sell AUTOGRAPHED books on my website! Just in time for Christmas!!


So if you're looking for fun sci-fi fantasy that reviewers have been comparing to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, come check 'em out at

See ya,


The Adventures of Guy
The Next Adventures of Guy
The Heat of the Moment
Fang Face (coming August 2009)
Missing (coming February 2009)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Tis the Season

The Christmas season is definitely upon us! The day after Thanksgiving we Decked the Halls (and the rest of the house, too!) with decorations, lights, trees, and candles. It's so cozy and festive to walk into the house after work. It puts a smile on my face even after a long day.

Friday night I participated in our local "Housewalk". A couple girlfriends and I got to tour five houses completely decked out for the holidays. We even heard Silver Bells as we were walking along.

Yesterday was a shoveling and baking day. Let's hope the snow lasts so we can have that White Christmas. My hubby and I baked up dozens of "kiss" cookies, a favorite tradition.

Last night we headed out into a Winter Wonderland and watched the local holiday parade. It was cold! Our noses were as red as Rudolph's.

With all of this going on, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.

This month I'll be participating in the Christmas Ride blog. Each day will feature a different blog, with contests, holiday recipes, and other great goodies. Check in with Beth Caudill today. I'll be blogging for the ride on December 20, so be sure to check back.

And if you haven't already, be sure to grab a copy of my FREE read, "Mistletoe and Folly" now available at The Wild Rose Press.

Until next time, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, and Happy Reading!


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Real and Reel Science on CSI MIami by Margot Justes

I missed last week’s blog, another one of those weekends where real life took over, and I wound up with a miserable cold-which leads me to this blog.

I actually spent some time watching TV-one show-CSI Miami-I was asked to watch because my daughter (the scientist) actually participated in the research for one of the instruments they used; brand new, very exciting research with incredible potential, desorption electrospray ionization or DESI for short.

The instrument can identify and find fingerprints buried beneath a multitude of others, it can identify the chemical signature and can also identify what an individual recently handled. I’d say that’s pretty cool.

I normally don’t watch the show because the Technicolor is just so, how shall I put it
-colorful…I’ve been there, reality is far more timid. But I appreciate the fact that they gave real science a boost in a reel world.

One other show I watched this week is Numbers, I like it. The math is complicated, but math makes the world go round, so I listen and try to understand and while it’s being explained I grasp it. Really I do. But my comprehension is very short-lived as soon as he’s done explaining, I’m done understanding-but again the science is real. Numbers also mentioned DESI, this one I wasn’t expecting, and was delighted and proud that my daughter had a hand in the research.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on

Thursday, December 4, 2008

ACME Welcomes Betty Webb, Woman of Mystery


After 20 years of journalism, where she interviewed everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel prize-winners, serial killers, and polygamy runaways, Betty Webb left the life to write mysteries full time. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the National Federation of Press Women, and the National Association of Zoo Keepers. Her mysteries are published by Poisoned Pen Press.

From the hard-edged desert of Arizona to the sunny shores of California, Betty Webb’s two mystery series reveal the dark and light sides of life.

And Now, Here's What Betty Has to Say for Us:

The Sunny Side of the Dark Side

After reporting on real life crimes for two decades, I grew tired of the daily “been there, done that, got the bloodstains to prove it” mindset at the newspaper. Besides, I wanted to make things up for a change; facts can be so pesky. So I decided to write a book. It would be a sweet book, too, nothing like my reporting on real humans carving each other up for fun and profit. But two false starts later (a literary coming-of-age novel and a historical romance), I realized that crime was in my blood and gave way to my baser instincts.

Thus began my hard-boiled Lena Jones mystery series, which Publishers Weekly described as “mysteries with a social conscience.” Each Lena Jones novel was based on real crimes I’d covered as a reporter. Desert Noir, the first in the series, took to task Arizona land developers and politicians for their misuse of eminent domain. The second book, Desert Wives -- Polygamy Can Be Murder, revealed the rampant welfare fraud that had turned Arizona’s polygamy “prophets” into multi-millionaires. Desert Shadows showcased the darker side of book publishing (serial killers’ memoirs, anyone?). Desert Run, Lena Jones’s first cold case file, discussed America’s last mass execution (we hanged seven German POWs in Kansas in 1945); and Desert Cut put the spotlight on a grim, quasi-medical procedure performed on millions of little girls throughout the world in order to keep them “pure.”

Although the Lena Jones mysteries received high-profile rave reviews (the New York Times called Desert Wives “eye-popping,” and muttered something about a Pulitzer) eight years of writing novels about the dark side of human nature started giving me the willies. To save what was left of my sanity, I decided to write the kind of mystery usually described as a cozy. No blood, no bad language, no sex -- just a non-neurotic protagonist and several cuddly animals. I could even use some of my experiences volunteering at the Phoenix Zoo!

Halfway through the first chapter of The Anteater of Death I discovered that when you’re dark, you’re dark. My sweet little cozy devolved into a blood-drenched tale of murder and mayhem at a California zoo. Although protagonist Teddy Bentley, a dedicated zookeeper-turned-amateur- sleuth, remained upbeat and non-neurotic, her parents became adult delinquents only one step removed from the laughing academy. Or prison. But at least everyone in the book was funny, right down to Lucy, the giant anteater suspected of murder. And in the best cozy tradition, I even gave Lucy a couple of chapters of her own, taking the reader on a merry trip through the mind of a shaggy beast whose idea of a midnight snack is a snuffle though a blood-drenched ant colony.

One day, perhaps, I’ll seek professional help to find out why I can’t stay away from the dark side, but for now, the dark side seems to be working for me. The haunted Lena Jones peacefully co-exists with cheerful Teddy. In every other book, Lena’s arid Arizona desert gives way to the foggy California harbor where Teddy moors her houseboat. So I guess you could say that I have the best of all possible worlds -- bloody though both worlds may be.

To learn more about the Lena Jones books, visit
For the Teddy Bentley zoo books, visit
Visit my blog at

It's About Time! by DL Larson

I know all about time management; I've led classes on rearranging time for this, and allowing time for that. Making time takes effort, a commitment! We all have the same 24 hours in a day, blah, blah, blah. Yet time slips out of my grasp as fast as my hard earned money! I want to throw my hands out wide and shout, "STOP!" For just a moment, can't we all just take a deep breath and do nothing for sixty seconds?

One, two, three .... feel the calm, it's coming ... five, six, seven ... don't rush it for heaven's sake, it's only sixty seconds! Breathe in, deep, think lamaze here, and exhale. Doesn't that feel great? Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen ... I'm nearly ready to cope. I think so much better when I'm calm. The hazy fog is lifted, I feel in control again ... twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven ...

I remember what I used to tell others, set a goal, a short-term goal. I struggle to accept my own advice, yet every time I set a goal and then reach it, the feeling of accomplishment is monumental! Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine ... It doesn't matter the size of my goal, it's the journey I've traveled to reach the end. Or the mini-end if I have a small goal set for myself.

Two weeks ago I set a few minor goals. I promised myself I would tend to the task of working on proposals for my completed work and I would then go fishing twice a week. By fishing I actually mean I would send queries, proposals out to publishing houses and/or agents. I always think of it as fishing, I'm never sure if I'm really in the right spot or dangling the proper bait, but research and a dash of determination has landed me at that particular publishing door and so I pitch a hook, cast a line. Fishing!

So far I've met my short-term goals. I've sent the desired number of proposals out each week; I continue to search for possible matches, a tedious task, not unlike fishing, but essential if I want to succeed. I'm back in control with a set purpose in mind! The papers may be falling off my desk and the floor around me may be littered with debris, but my goals keep me focused. I'll make clean-up a priority another day! Right now I'm basking in the good feelings of accomplishment ... fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty ...

Oh, that was a short minute! But I've also rememebered I'm more in control than I recalled at first. So what was the real exercise, stopping for sixty seconds or simply taking a moment to assess what has already been accomplished in my hectic life?

Sometimes the simplist action makes a powerful difference.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Acme Welcomes Pamela Samuels Young, Mystery Woman of the Week

Find Pamela Samuels Young At:

About the book:
L.A. attorney Vernetta Henderson takes center stage in another fast-paced legal thriller. A contentious wrongful deal lawsuit and the mysterious murders of prominent African-American men collide in a scandalous tale of lust, lies and the law.

Amazon link:

About Pamela:
Pamela earned her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California and her master's degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. After spending several years as a television news writer and associate producer, including stints at WXYZ-TV in Detroit and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, Pamela took a break from the news business to serve as a Coro Foundation Fellow in St. Louis, Missouri. Pamela later returned to school and earned her law degree at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. She practiced law at the Los Angeles office of O'Melveny & Meyers for several years and served as Employment Law Counsel for Raytheon Company.

The Compton native served as legal consultant to the Showtime television series, Soul Food and is a frequent speaker on the topics of self-empowerment, diversity and pursuing your passion. Visit Pamela's website at

And Now Let's Find Out What Pamela Has to Say.

What Makes a Good Mystery?

Before I became a writer of mysteries, I was a long-time reader of mysteries—in particular, legal thrillers. I like being pulled into a story and having the author introduce me to a character I love (or hate!), then place that character in a predicament that has me biting my nails to find out if they'll escape.

In writing my third legal thriller, Murder on the Down Low, I wanted to write the same kind of suspenseful tale I enjoy when reading books by Walter Mosley, John Grisham, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, Valerie Wilson Wesley and Greg Iles, just a few of my favorite mystery writers. In Murder on the Down Low, police in Los Angeles are baffled by the murders of several attractive, successful family men. As it turns out, the victims all share a shocking secret.

I hope readers not only like, but identify with the four female protagonists in Murder on the Down Low. They are sister-friends who share a common goal: avenging the death of a dear friend. When one member of the foursome finds herself in trouble with the law, the women join forces to save her. The book is a suspenseful mystery, full of surprising twists and turns.

After you've read Murder on the Down Low, I would love it if you would drop by my website at and email me your comments about the book, pro or con!

You're welcome to leave a comment for Pamela here as well.

A Busy Day

Most writers work day jobs because it's difficult to make a living as an independent writer, especially with ficiton. It's not impossible - just difficult. The irony is that the day job that pays the bills tends to infringe on the time available to write.

I love my day job but today was one of those days that just left me exhausted. Still, I managed to crank out a few sentences on the train and update my scene list as I work on my second romantic suspense novel. Now a few sentences doesn't sound like much but I learned awhile ago that writing even just one sentence a day is fundamental to making progress on completing any written work.

It takes discipline to turn on my laptop after a long day at work, but I'm enjoying my writing process so much that even penning one sentence is ample reward for me, although most days I write much more than that. A sentence or paragraph a day eventually leads to a chapter which leads to another chapter which leads to a novel length work of fiction. It's almost intoxicating.

So, what if I never get an offer for a book conract? What if my work is only read by a few people? Well, that might happen, but I'm not giving up. Writing is part of who I am now and expressing myself through my writing is as essential to my life as making a living. I'm fortunate that I enjoy both and find them both rewarding. I'm really fortunate that I can always depend on one of them to pay my bills. Anything else is icing on the cake - but then, I like icing on my cake.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Finally, I'm home. I worked all day, swam for an hour afterwards, navigated my way through the first storm of the winter, and now it's 9:26 and I just now cracked open my laptop.

Time to write, huh?

Well, maybe, but not my novel-in-progress. I'll write here for a bit, and then it will be bedtime. Which sorta sucks because after some fits and starts, I'm back into my book.

But there are so many other demands on my time. I spent six hours signing books at Borders on Saturday (I don't like to leave until I sell everything ... and there were a lot of browsers ... unusual for Christmas season). After Borders, I did my own shopping until 9:30.

Then Sunday was, well, family and football. I felt I deserved a mind-numbing day of Peyton Manning and my family actually missed me from being gone all day ... weird, huh?

Tomorrow I'm giving a business seminar. I'll bring my books and see if anyone brought any money with them that they'd like to part with.

So when do I write?

Probably not tomorrow night. I'm still trying to get my site set up to accept PayPal, so I can offer autographed books on-line. I finally got an 800 number for them, so maybe tomorrow I'll have the patience to sit on hold for an hour or two before an exasperating, er, exhilarating conversation with some tech.

Then do I get to write?

Well, I really have to make my hotel reservations for LIM in February, and, um we rented a DVD that's due in a couple days. So tomorrow's shot.

How about Wednesday?

Well, you get the point. There's always something. Sometimes carving out writing time is like fighting the rising cost of living.

Anyway, I am excited about my book. I worked my way through some tough parts, and it's fun right now.

... and I can't wait to get back to it.


The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
The Heat of the Moment (coming Feb. 09)
Fang Face (YA humor/vampire, coming Aug. 09)