Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Look Back! by DL Larson

As I think back over 2009, I wonder where the measuring stick of success should be placed. I didn't acquire an agent, I didn't publish a new book, two of my goals for 2009. No wedding or engagement ring for my daughter, no baby announcements from my son and daughter-in-law. No new land to rent for my husband to expand his farming career. The Illinois weather was an experience I don't care to go through again. The two trees we lost in a storm never got replaced. The children's library where I work had to have the floor replaced and we are still in limbo, waiting for concrete to cure and the carpet to arrive. Finding books for patrons has become more like an "I SPY" episode than a visit to the library. To top it off, our pastor of thirteen years has moved to another parish. If I chose, I could wallow over the past year.

If I turn my perspective just a little, a different picture appears. My office is full of boxes that hold manuscripts. I have worked on five books this year, all which are written, they simply need rewording, editing and a tender touch to bring them up to the level I want them to be. I'm proud my brain still functions well enough to keep the plots straight and that I can leave one story for a few weeks while I work on another. Multi-tasking has never been so much fun. During this time, I found a professional editor and feel confident my next book is ready for market. So 2009 was a working year, a transition time to fine tune what needed tweaking.

My daughter is happy, I need to remember that. Whether she gets married in the near future or five years from now is not up to me! Nor is the number of grandbabies I will have. My job is to enjoy being a part of their lives and hand out advice when it is asked for, make an occasional dinner and love them with all my heart.

My husband's career has shifted, not in more land, but in more sales in his seed business. In fact, it has mushroomed and he will undoubtedly need help this spring and summer. It's exciting to be a part of this growing business. Just as it will be to be a part of the team who finds a new pastor for our church. Deciding what we are, where we are going as a congregation will take some thought and planning, but isn't that what all of us should do on occasion? Take stock of what we have accomplished, readjust our goals and then boldly press on?

When I look out my windows to where the two trees stood, I've realized if I plant our new trees further out it will change the looks of the yard. But I like the change. Plus, the new look to the children's library will be awesome! The mold and musty smell is already gone. The fresh carpet is bright and of professional grade and will be a wonderful addition to our library. My high school helper and I made plans to re-arrange the rooms, change things up a bit. This untimely renovation has become an adventure, one we didn't plan on taking, but we will benefit greatly because of it. The kids will be thrilled to see the renovations we've made.

No, I won't be sad to see 2009 leave, it has been an arduous year of trials and tribulations, but I have grown in good ways because of it. I learned I have more endurance for rain than I ever imagined; I know I still want to write and be published; I know family is still the most important thing to me; and I know my actions will make all the difference in what happens in my life.

Happy New Year!

Be safe out there ~

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Starting Over by Morgan Mandel

There's something about the start of  a New Year that makes people want to start over. I'm sure you've seen countless ads featuring organizing containers and other items designed to relieve household clutter. I wish it were that simple.

Then, there are the machines and weights and cute outfits to wear so people can work out and lose all those extra inches. If only buying those products would do the trick, without the added ingredient of will power.

As a writer, I'm examining my goals for 2010.  Though I don't want to ignore my present release, Killer Career, it'll soon be time to get cracking on my new book. I do have one in mind about Rascal, which I should get done, instead of talking about it all the time. That will be my goal in the coming months.

I've also got my Boomer thriller waiting in the wings, but first things first.

What about you? What's your goal for 2010? To lose weight? To declutter your house? To get a new book finished? I'd like to accomplish all three. If only it were that simple.

Okay, it won't be simple, but let's see how far I get by this time next year.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 28, 2009

This contest is a must!

12th Annual Fire and Ice
Sponsor: Chicago-North RWA
Fee: $25 - $30
E-Entry Deadline: Midnight of February 1, 2010
Entries Accepted: December 15, 2009
Eligibility: not published in book-length fiction in last 5 years
Enter: prologue/first chapter (25 pages max)
Historical: Amanda Bergeron, Avon
Women's Fiction: Alex Logan, Grand Central Publishing
Paranormal: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary Agency
Series Contemporary: Scott Eagan, Greyhaus Literary Agency
YA: Katherine Pelz, Berkley
ST Contemporary: Emily Ohanjanians, Harlequin
Winners announced: Spring Fling Conference, April 23-24.


Chicago-North is a critique chapter, and your work will be read by experienced
writers, published and unpublished. In addition, agents and editors make up the
final judges. Last year our final judges requested a full and a synopsis from
two of our contestants!


"Participating in Fire & Ice was the motivation I needed to take my manuscript
and writing to the next level. I received excellent critiques from your judges
and a lot of encouragement.

That manuscript evolved into Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life.
It spent 7 weeks on the NYT Bestseller List and my publisher, Simon & Schuster,
just purchased Books 3 and 4."

– Rachel Renee Russell

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry, Merry

I can't believe we are a couple days past Christmas already! All the hustle and bustle before-hand sure makes time fly by.

Our Christmas was lovely this year. We are always fortunate to be able to spend time with both sides of the family. We spent a quiet, cozy Christmas Eve with my side of the family. Naps, dinner, games, a sleepover, and then opening presents Christmas morning made it all perfect. Then we headed over to my hubby's side of the family, which was a bit more chaotic...more kids, more presents, more food! We topped off the night with a viewing of "Home Alone", a Christmas classic!

And when I checked e-mail after being away for a couple of days, I had a message from my editor saying the release date for "Wild Wedding Weekend" has been moved up again. It will now release April 9, 2010. I am a happy camper...another great Christmas present.

This weekend (as we try to remember what day it is) we've been relaxing and enjoying the fruits of Christmas. We've been cuddled up under Snuggies, wearing new cozy clothes, watching movies, and eating cookies. And yesterday we had a ton of snow. It's truly a winter wonderland outside our window. Absolutely gorgeous.

Now I'm heading off to church to sing Christmas carols and continue the Christmas celebration.

Life is good.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Friday, December 25, 2009

GREATEST SECRETS of Commercial Fiction Writers Revealed for Your Use By Robert W. Walker

GREATEST SECRETS of Commercial Fiction Writers Revealed for Your Use by Robert W. Walker

Using a brief excerpt from chapter 3 of Children of Salem, I intend to point out key decisions a writer makes as he works. This blog is intended to instruct new writers and remind veterans how we do what we do when we do it.

First use time and setting like teletype to get right to the setting as in below…

At the parsonage door in Salem Village, 1:20AM, March 7, 1692

Second use establishing shots to nail the character down fast…

A stocky, short man, nonetheless Reverend Samuel Parris felt the walls of the small parish home—his property by way of contractual agreement with his flock—closing in on him.

Notice the helpful use of dashes to set off and emphasize material in a complex sentence.

The stairwell proved so tight that Parris could hardly make it up the narrow passage to his daughter’s room, where he looked in on little Betty, who’d been battling a fever—symptoms of an ague so often seen in little ones. Betty slept fitfully, as if assailed by nightmares, but at least she slept. Her cousin, the Reverend’s niece, slept too but in a separate bed in the corner.

Notice that every sentence is an active one…even the ‘stairwell proved’ something…

He returned to the hearth and pulled a book from the bookcase. He owned several books, an Old Testament, a New Testament, and a treatise written by Increase Mather on how the godly life must be led. Parris was, in effect, a man of one book, the Holy Bible. All else paled in his eyes. He strove to live by a strict interpretation of Jehovah’s Ten Commandments and the Pentateuch now as never before.

Note the use of props – books in this case and how they help establish Parris.

Parris now took a deep breath and opened his bible to Leviticus, about to read himself into weariness, when he heard a sudden rapping at the parsonage door.

What damned oaf comes at such an hour? Parris mentally shouted. He approached the door, shouted aloud, “Who needs what of me now?” They come to me for all their ills and every petty problem, but do they make my salary?

Note the use of thought and speech above and the interplay. Never create huge blocks of either speech or thought as to do so creates a ‘blowhard’ of your character – a no, no.

Each villager’s tithe to Parris had come slower and slower, until some had stopped altogether, while others paid in pumpkins, squash, oysters, and the occasional lobster. Worse than ordinary thieves, he thought, one hand on the doorknob, his ear against the wood.

Note in that last sentence how even as he is thinking he is still in action.

Who could it be at such an ungodly hour? Another death in the parish? A sick child who’d wandered from the faith? These Salem people want courtesy and hard work from me, yet they fail me in miserable fashion.

Again three quick, strong raps on the door. From the sound of it, a strong man stood on the other side of the stout door.

Note how monologue works to establish Parris above and below how dialogue does the job. Dialogue is for establishing character and moving the story along or both at once.

“Who is it?” Parris shouted.

“Wakely, sir! My name is Jeremiah…”

“What?” The door still separating them.

“My name is Jermiah Wakely—”

“I know no Wakely!” came the muffled response.

Jeremiah wondered if the minister meant to come through the door with a blazing firearm or hot poker.

“I’ve come from Maine, sir.”


“By way of Boston, sir!”


“Have a letter of introduction, Mr. Parris, sir!”

“Letter? A post this time of night? Bah!”

“Can you hear me, sir? Through the door?”

“What letter?”

“From Mather, sir, Reverend Increase Mather.”

This brought on a chill silence. Finally, Parris replied, “Mather? Did you say Increase Mather?”

Never above a little symbolism, note the door as symbol of impossible communication between these two, and note below the lantern light that divides Jeremiah’s face, half light, half dark and not lost on Parris. Note also how all such information is conveyed through the character’s senses and thoughts:

“I did, sir!” Jeremiah cursed the impenetrable door. He wondered if Parris meant for him to sleep on the porch tonight. “I’d like to settle my horse, sir, in your barn.”

But Parris’ breath had caught in his lungs. Can it be true, he wondered, that the greatest theological mind in the colonies has sent me a letter by midnight courier? Has Mather finally answered my repeated requests for intervention on my behalf? Ha, the delinquent parish members will be well fined now.

“Will you open the door, Reverend?” shouted Jeremiah. “Or shall Mr. Mather’s protégé sleep in your barn?”

What if it’s the Devil at my doorstep? Parris asked himself. This man calling himself Wakely could as well be some evil scratching to get in. The Devil would know that a letter from Mather would tempt him to make an invitation to cross his threshold. “Or has God sent this—what’d he call himself? Protégé?” he muttered aloud.

The pounding continued. So loud in the silent night that it sounded demonic.

Parris braced himself, lit a lantern, and pulled the door open just a crack, staring out at Jeremiah Wakely, who managed a smile. Jeremy then extended a letter with a heavy red wax seal reading IM—for Increase Mather.

The lantern glow divided Wakely’s face down the middle; one side lit bright, the other side in total darkness. The image had a strange, hypnotic hold on his reluctant host. “You look like a highwayman, Mr. Wakely.”

Below now see the use of elipses and dashes to give the impression confusion on the one hand and the impression of men talking over one another on the other. I learned this from a CAREFUL reading of how it is done in the comic strips!

“If you are truly from Mather . . . why do you come in at such an hour? Under darkness? It’ve been best to come in daylight.”

“A bridge was out,” lied Jeremy.

“I would’ve liked my parishioners to see your coming, to know you are here from Mather, and that Mather backs me against my enaaa . . . those who stand against me here.”

“I don’t know anything about that, sir. I’m just an apprentice . . . to be apprenticed to you, Mr. Parris, until which time—”

“Apprentice? I thought you simply a courier?” He waved the sealed note in his hand.

“You haven’t read it, sir?”

“I assumed…I mean, seeing the seal and Mather’s signature…well…” Parris gritted his teeth and read by the lantern now held by Jeremy, his riding boots squeaking and wet on the porch boards.

There came another daunting silence between them. Finally, Jeremiah cleared his parched throat and said, “Mr. Parris, I am aware of your worldliness, sir.”

“You are?”

“That you were a merchant in the West Indies—”

“Yes, Barbados, but what has that to do with—”

“—and a seaman before that. All before becoming an ordained minister at Harvard College.”

“What is your point, man?

“Why that I am…will be honored to work under your tutelage, sir.” Jeremy worked hard to affect the attitude of a novice scholar.

“Indeed…lucky for both of us,” Parris countered.

“Reverend Mather provided me with a modest outline, sir, of your history.”

“He did?”

“Filled me in, yes. It’s one reason that Mr. Mather has linked us, you and I as minister and mentor.”


“Protégé, apprentice, sir.”

Parris’ features took on a menacing look. He had assumed the letter from Mather a confirmation of his land holdings in Salem Village. He now placed a pair of rickety old magnifying glasses on his nose so as to truly look at the note—as if searching for what he’d lost in translation.

Jeremy watched his lips move as he read:

After the letter is read look at how a new third character is introduced into the mix.

Parris heaved the heaviest sigh Jeremy had ever seen before muttering, “Where the deuce’ll you sleep? We have extremely tight quarters here.”

“I can take the stable tonight . . . for now, that is until settled elsewhere.”

Parris hesitated then said, “Don’t be silly.”

“I mean ’till arrangements can be made, I—”

Parris considered this for only a moment before exploding into action, rushing inside, leaving his door swinging open. “Tituba!” he shouted, rushing into the house, leaving the door wide, waking his servant. “Wake up! I want you to prepare a bed in the stable for—”

“For whooo, Massa Reverend?” The dark woman stared hard at the man in black who stood now warming himself at the fire. She looked wide-eyed, frightened of Jeremiah.

“For whom?” replied Parris, correcting her English. “Why for you, for yourself, Tituba.”

It was the first time Jeremiah had heard the woman’s name pronounced, and it was, he thought, rather Shakespearean and melodic: Ti’shuba. The strange, dark woman in shadow repeatedly asked, “What? What I do now? What?”

“You’re to remove yourself tonight to the barn, to sleep out there.” Parris pointed to the door. “Now, out!”

“Out the house? Now?”

“Hold on, sir,” started Jeremy. “I don’t wish to displace anyone.”

“She’s a Barbados black, Mr. Ahhh . . . Wakely, or are you blind and deaf?”

“Even so—”

“My servant. I’ve had her for years.”

“Still, I’m the newcomer here and—”

“Are you questioning my judgment already, young man?”

Aside from dialogue moving the story alone and making it immediate, we rely on the five senses, constantly trying to embed at least three appeals to the senses on every page as apparent below:

Samuel Parris had eyes as black as grapes, but no seeds showed in them, not even so much as a twinkle in the lantern light; light which otherwise filled the small rooms here, creating giants of their shadows along with the pinching odor of whale oil.

Tituba did not question her master. After a furtive glance at Jeremiah, and a look of anger flaring up behind the minister’s back, she trundled out, clutching a single woolen blanket and a straw-tick pillow. Parris watched her go down the steps into the drifting snow and icy rain.

Take note that what a character says and does is who she is; but characters are also illuminated by what others say and do about them. Note below how Parris sums her up but can we and Jeremiah believe the minister? All a plan of the author who wishes you to like and dislike and to make judgments of your own about these people made of words.

“There, Mr. Wakefield, now you have a place below the stairwell.”

Jeremy thought to correct him but decided not now. Instead, he stared at the space below the stairs vacated for him. It looked large enough for a big dog. “Still, I need to stable my horse before retiring, sir.”

“Yes, yes, of course, but steer clear of the servant. She has a dislike for strangers, us ahhh . . . white men who wear the cloth in particular.”

“Is she not civilized? Christian?”

“Trust me, I’ve done my level best to make her so, however, you can never be sure of the pagan mind. Most inscrutable.”

“I know nothing is harder than to convert a heathen, sir.”

“Clings to her Barbados superstitions.”

“I see. I’ll do then as you suggest.”

“I’ll have the door unlatched for your return. Again, avoid the woman.”

“As you wish.”

“She is a . . . mischief-maker, Mr. Wakely. You are forewarned. Make no small talk with Tituba.”

Note how clearly each character his his/her own voice, and how the exotic name of Tituba is brought out as mysterious just in how Jeremiah wonders at how it is pronounced.

Hearing Parris behind him at the door, Jeremiah repeated the name as it sounded to him, “Ti’shu-ba, yes, to be sure, I’ll not speak with the black woman.”

Note how the end of a scene or chapter should be a drum roll or at least a beat, ending on a note that keeps the reader curious and in anticipation of what is to come next.

So these are the simple and easy to master Secrets of Commercial Fiction Writing, and hopefully, you see there is nothing to it. But it presupposes rewrites atop rewrites, and getting to know one’s characters inside and out from having lived with them for a long, long time.

Happy Holidays and Happy Writing and ReWriting. All the examples are from Children of Salem and the entire book at an easy price to you can be found at and Or you can read FREE the first 8 chapters at or just chapter one free at my Myspace blog. Children of Salem is my best selling work at the moment except for Dead On Writing from and

Rob – hoping you will leave a comment on the blog!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Spreading Christmas Blessings! by DL Larson


Several weeks before our yearly Caroling party, my granddaughters asked me to do a fundraiser for the homeless. I told them I had a better idea ... THEY could do a fundraiser instead! So our caroling party transformed into something extra special this year. The girls and their mom did some research and decided they wanted to help the Pads Homeless Shelter in Ottawa, a town close to our home. The girls made special invitations explaining their project and these were inserted into our caroling invitations and from there things mushroomed!

My granddaughters had listed the items the shelter needed: laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and paper products! The night of the party, as our friends stomped through the snow to reach our front door they not only hauled in tasty treats to share, they lugged in their offerings for the homeless shelter. Alex and Kylie were in shock at such an outpouring of gifts.

The girls collected 970 dryer sheets, 380 loads of detergent, 3,318 napkins, 1,270 paper plates, 698 plastic forks, 494 plastic knives and 494 plastic spoons. We know, 'cause we counted them!! A great 2nd grade math project.

On December 21st, we delivered our presents to the Ottawa Pads Homeless Shelter. We weren't sure what we would find and it delighted us to walk into a clean and bright place for folks to stay. The second picture is Alex and Kylie with the resident official who was just coming off her night shift at the shelter.

Our project isn't finished yet, we will send pictures and thank yous to all those who helped make it such a success. We talked about what we would say in our thank you letter as we munched pizza. Kylie said, "I really feel the Christmas spirit now!"

We laughed, agreeing! The Christmas Spirit was all around us!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Decorations by Morgan Mandel

Though I don't really like snow that much because it has a tendency to get in my way, I'm still very partial to snowman decorations. You can tell from these photos. Except for the set with the dog, the rest are from my own house. I use the snowmen because they look cute and cheerful and that's reason enough for me. They were probably made at factories. I do know there's a place not far from my house where pottery classes are taught, but I buy them instead.
Descriptions can be important in manuscripts. Make sure to add enough to give the reader a feel of what the characters are like. From what I've described about my decorations you can tell I'm a busy person who isn't patient or talented enough to attempt making pottery decorations.

Another example is I'm using a small fiber optic tree this year because of our dog, aptly named Rascal, and also because I can't find room in the house anywhere to put a large one. Many choose real trees and go to great lengths to decorate them, matching the ornament colors, using certain types. Some use garlands that look like old-fashioned tinsel. Others actually string popcorn or use real or fake cranberries as garlands. There are tons of variations of how to decorate trees and other Christmas season items.

How a person decorates a tree can hint at if they're nostalgic, modern, a perfectionist, or happy go lucky, busy, or just impatient.  I'm sure there are other decorations that also demonstrate character traits.

So, when you mention a season or holiday, remember to mention details of the decorations and see if you can tie them in somehow with the characters' personalities. 

What about you? What type of decorations do you use and what do they say about you? Or what do your characters use?

For a completely different topic, check out Spoiled Milk also on Wednesday at - what about that book you eagerly awaited reading?


Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843 and it has become a Christmas tradition for many families. The story tells the tale of a man who basically doesn’t like Christmas or anyone around him for that matter. He changes his tune when he is visited by ghosts who let him see what he has become and how he will end up if he doesn’t change his ways. And change his ways he does.

I always feel that London is actually a character in Dickens books. He breathes life into the city that creates and shapes his characters. So without further ado, here are some London pictures I took that are somewhat Dickens related. I hope you enjoy the journey and I wish all of you a Happy Healthy Holiday season!

London Street all decked out for the Holiday's and advertising the new movie!!

Here we have the Royal Exchange which, according to David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page, Ebenezer Scrooge would have come here.

I'm sure he would have also found his way to this place...The Bank of England.

And although Piccadilly Circus is not mentioned in A Christmas Carol, it is in London and so was I. (Notice the Starbucks!)

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

With a little less than a week to go, things are really starting to be Christmasy around here. School's out for the holidays, which is a good thing, since I'm the teacher, and two weeks of R & R mixed in with visits with family and friends is a heavenly thought!

Yesterday we had a beautiful snow fall. Not only was it gorgeous to look at, but we didn't have to travel anywhere in it, which made it all the more appealing. The old song is true, "Since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" This is the view from our front porch and the wreath on the side of our garage. Picture postcard perfect.

Some of the present wrapping is done, with just a handful more to go.

The cookies are finished. My hubby and I spent the day yesterday puttering in the kitchen, listening to Christmas music, and baking three different batches of "kiss" cookies: chocolate with mint, peanut butter with chocolate, and oatmeal with chocolate chips. (We just couldn't find the caramel kisses we usually put in those anywhere this year.)

So, all in all, the Christmas spirit is upon us. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. May your hearts be filled with all of the joys of this season.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! Check out Mistletoe and Folly, a free read from The Wild Rose Press.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Costco and the Holiday Season by Margot Justes

I love Costco anytime of the year, but there is something magical about the giant during the holiday season.

It may have something to do with the fact I buy my desserts there, to be sure I still make my rum balls, fudge and poppy seed cake, but everything else comes from Costco, along with appetizers, chips, and anything else that makes the holiday table a delight to behold. Yes, plates and knives and forks too.

Tonight is our annual holiday party, I'm expecting 16 to 20 people for dinner. Abt at this very moment is installing a dishwasher, mine went out after only five years and would have cost too much to repair. Gotta love the planned obsolescence working full speed ahead.

At any rate, I saved my trip to Costco for today, pick up the stuff I need to complete my menu and along the way maybe buy a pair of jeans.

It is snowing and the white fluffy stuff sticking to the branches is beautiful, peaceful and calming; a perfect day so far. Assuming I can wash dishes tonight.

I would like to extend holiday wishes and 'Peace on earth' is such an overused slogan, but it sure would be nice.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Holiday in Paris

Friday, December 18, 2009

The New Rival to the Davinci Code is SILVER says Robert W. Walker

The New Rival to the DaVinci Code -SILVER

(a review of Steve Savile’s International Thriller Novel)

I recently read a book that was so absolutely riveting, that I loved so much, that I have decided to place my review of this international thrille right here at Acme Authors to help young author Steven Savile launch SILVER –due out Jan 19th of 2010 and up for preorder at Amazon, B&N, Borders, and elsewhere now. Here is the information on the book and the review; I was careful not to give anything in the way of plot.

SILVER – an International Thriller by Steven Savile/ISBN – 13-978-1-935142-05-8;415 pgs. 25.95 Hardcover, pub date 01/19/2010 fromVariance Publishing

Let me begin by sayng that Savile’s Silver is the best thing since Forsythe’s Day of the Jackal. Better than Dan Brown in every respect, Steven Savile’s SILVER is not a DaVinci Code imitator in any sense of the word; rather it is a fantastic plot twisting about a brilliant premise and a story wonderfully woven with no missteps, no gaffs, no holes or crazy leaps. The astonishing historical theme is interspersed perfectly as a foil for the modern day story of a dangerous cult as horrifying as any terrorist cell one can imagine—a secret society among us that makes the Knights Templars pale by comparison. After capturing the reader up with a powerful opening scene that plays out so vividly and visually as to read like a film script, Savile’s deft writing carries the reader along a plotline that has the feel of fate at every step. Part of that feeling of fate is the fact of an author completely and wholly in control of his craft.

Vivid characterizations of an international team of heroes with a plethora of flaws and Savile’s smart dialogue and well-wrought inner monologue held together by action at every turn provides the reader with every pleasure a reading experience requires (but so often lacks). Savile’s premise is uniquely tied to the history not of Jesus and Mary so much as Judas and Mary, and it is cleverly and efficiently woven that it brings up comparisons to one of the most well-crafted international thrillers ever -- Forsythe’s The Day of the Jackal.

I hope it is OK for this veteran professor of English, this lifelong reader, this author of some fifty novels to say I loved Silver…loved, loved, loved it and could not put it aside. Without giving away the plot or the surprises, let me add that no book has left me as surprised at its ending as has Silver. In closing, I will add one more caveat: If you love international thrillers replete with theological puzzles and a team pitted against true evil that mirrors our world today, you can't beat SILVER. Steven Savile is not afraid of a complex plot. This plot beats Dan Brown for intrigue that feels authentically scary.

Silver is masterfully accomplished work and should win awards if there is a God in charge of awards. And finally, if you like authenticity in settings that traverse the globe, you’d love the travelogue here as characters roam from the US to Israel to Germany to Paris and to Rome.

Again and again, Savile puts us in danger and impossible traps only to see our heroes emerge alive and fighting. Savile creates characters we care about, characters with their own personal code to live by, and each as deadly and quick as vipers. You might throw the book across the room at some point, but I guarantee that you will crawl over, pick it up again, and begin reading onward.

And now dear Acme Reader, Have a wonderful Christmas Season and Happy HoliDAZE, and do keep on reading and keep on writing

--Robert Walker, author of Dead On & Children of Salem, the INSTINCT and RANSOM series and find me on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Google me!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm Making a List and Checking It Twice!! by DL Larson

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I counted four lists on my kitchen counter this morning and that doesn't count the grocery list I had in my pocket last night. If I lose my lists I will be peeking into my wrapped packages wondering exactly what it holds and cleaning something I already cleaned but was too preoccupied to notice. Please tell me I'm not the only one who can't remember what I've done and what I've yet to accomplish. Did I make the magic bars already or was that for the library program last week? I can't remember. And I promise I will never again buy groceries for the church's live nativity and my caroling party at the same time. I'm talking about my grocery list from last night! It took two carts to get everything to the car. The young gal who toted the second cart asked me if I was having Christmas. I laughed knowing I would be back for more next week.

As I was making my grocery list I referred to my favorite cook books. I learned a long time ago to write our favorites on the inside of the cover along with the page number. It saves unbelievable amounts of time, plus I only have to glance into the front of the book to see if it holds the recipe I'm looking for. When I'm in a hurry, which is most of the time, I'm so proud of myself for coming up with this easy time-saver. I have accumulated lots of cook books over the years and you guessed it, I can't remember which book holds which recipe or its exact name. I also draw in a star if the recipe is a big hit, that way I know to make it again sometime.

My church's cook book is a favorite of mine and the splats and smudges prove it's been used alot. One particualr recipe has two blue stars and one red one marked in the spaces around it. I've handed out this recipe more than all the others put together. It's wonderful any time of year, but especially great for parties. It can be an appetizer or a dessert. How's that for a hard working recipe! Plus it's quick and easy!!!!! As a small present this Christmas season, I'd like to share it with you. It's called:

1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese
3 T. orange juice concentrate
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip

Soften cream cheese; mix thoroughly with next 3 ingredients. Fold in Cool Whip. Serve with fresh fruits such as apples, pears, strawberries, pineapple, etc.
Serve with unfrosted sugar cookies and a bowl of thawed (frozen) mixed fruit (the berry medley is my favorite) Have guests build their own cookie; spread dip over cookie and top with fruit.

This has been a big hit served either way! Actually I could eat the dip right from the bowl and forget the fruit and cookie. I confess I've done exactly that when it comes to clean up time. But don't tell anyone!

My wish for each of you this holiday is that your lists be met in a timely fashion so all can enjoy the season in its fullest!

Blessings ~

Til next time

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What About Facebook Fan Pages? by Morgan Mandel

Suddenly everyone I know  is very much involved with Facebook. I've had an account there for a while, but hadn't paid too much attention to it, since I also belong to zillions of egroups, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn, and who knows what else. It started out as promotion for my books, but has become a great way of meeting lots of good friends.

Now that I'm getting more hooked on Facebook, I'm wondering is it better to have a Fan Page or just keep a regular Facebook account? In a way a Fan Page seems a good idea, but then it seems I'd be splitting my attention, or isn't that true?

What's your take?

Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Gift Idea

Here's a holiday gift idea, even if it's for yourself!

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Have a great week,


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shopping and Cards

Well, I'm at that point. The I'm-almost-done-with-Christmas-shopping-but-can't-find-the-last-few-gifts-I-need point. Let me tell you, this is not a fun point to be at. With commercials, the internet, and various other places counting down these final shopping days to Christmas, I am frustrated. Everything went so smoothly at first. I started early. Found what I wanted. At reasonable prices. And now I'm stuck. I have the feeling that finding these last few items is going to be the death of me. Because it doesn't help that many shoppers are in the same predicament as me. The stores are crowded and people are crabby and rushed.

I think I need to slow down, take a deep breath, and focus on the joy of Christmas.

So today I'm writing my Christmas cards. I love going down the list of addressees and reflecting back on the past year. Some people on the list are those I see everyday. We've shared life's ups and downs on a regular basis for the past 365 days. Then there are those on the list who I see every-once-in-a-while. It's fun to remember times gone by and catch up on recent activities. Then there are those who I don't ever get to see, but we faithfully exhange cards and news every year.

Sending cards is almost as much fun as receiving them. Each card and picture that comes in the mail is displayed on the kitchen door, allowing me to revisit them from time to time and experience the pleasure of communicating with friends and family during the season. They remind me of the joy of life, especially as the pictures show how various children have grown over the years and families have expanded.

What a wonderful time of year.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Mistletoe and Folly - A FREE Holiday read from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tea at the Chicago Peninsula Hotel by Margot Justes

During the holiday season we do something special, this year it was tea at the Peninsula hotel.

We arrived at the hotel on time, but because the staff was still setting up our table and the kiddies were tired and hungry, I asked the hostess if we could have a couple of pieces of bread to feed said munchkins, she graciously said yes.

We never saw the bread, now she could have said we can’t, it’s not possible, but she said yes and promptly ignored us. We were seated about ten minutes later and I reminded the waiter that we ordered the Peninsula teddy bear for the kids. I asked that it be brought with their order. I was assured it would be. It wasn’t.

I expected the bear to be wrapped up nicely, maybe even just a bow, something to make it a bit more special. Nope. Nothing. It was just handed to them when they were half way done with their meal.

The food was excellent, plentiful and the scones the best I’ve had since England, the presentation was superb. My grandson let out a big ‘Wow’ when he saw his plate. I’m sure everyone in the lobby heard him. He was delighted as was my granddaughter.

But the service was slow, uneven and disappointing, we waited quite a while for a refill on the hot water, and when you’re munching on those delicious finger sandwiches you do want that hot tea to be right there to sip as you munch.

The Peninsula is a 5 star hotel the prices match the rating however the service falls short. If I order a meatloaf at a diner, my expectation is not perfection, not even close however when I’m at a place like the Peninsula, my level of expectation rises a notch or two or three, it is commensurate with the numbers of stars.

I love high tea and have had it all the Chicago downtown hotels that offer it, and by far I have enjoyed the Drake Hotel the best.

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 11, 2009

Hitch's TV rant - What's yours? It may be valuable - By Robert W. Walker

Discussion on a chat group that purports to have 4,000 subscribers turned to the question what mystery series would you like to see become a TV program? This got me to wondering what my friend Hitch—an avid reader—might answer if given a place to fully vent, so here is Hitch’s take on the question, a rather wonderful rant if you ask me…and it gave me an idea for a contest here. Here is the deal. You can win a place in my next book – your name gets to be one of my characters if you can provide the neatest, coolest pet peeve rant about TVs shortcomings. Use Hitch’s rant below to get your spleen spleening and your eyes popping Be aware that you are not asked to beat Hitch’s rant as that is highly unlikely, but the best other comment will win the contest. Hitch, pictured on the left, is not a contestant, only a standard. Here is Hitch on the subject of what’s wrong with TV programming and her suggestions for a better series.

Hi, Rob:

Vis-à-vis Bones: I know that – cute as David Boreanaz may be – every time I see an episode of Bones I think of what could have been, had they actually used Kathy Reich’s BOOKS and created the series there-from. I know I would have liked it a lot better than what they’ve put on the air. (Or am I the only person who finds the whole “poor-pitiful-genius-me-abandoned-by-my-folks-raised-by-wolves-so-I-have-no-social-skills-but-am-in-charge-of-the-“Jeffersonian”-laboratory-when-I’m-barely-out-of-puberty-and-isn’t-it-inexpicably-great-that-everyone-on-this-show-just-seems-to-think-I’m-amazingly-hot” thing just nauseating?) In fact, there are very few shows that I can stand to watch at all (I admit I’m a Fringe fan – love the cow), simply because they are just sooooooooooooo bad. I was channel surfing just a night or so ago, and – I kid thee not – I saw a scene in one of those CBS CSI shows in which a character says to a bunch of cops “everyone turn their cellphones off. This place has been used for a meth lab, so we can’t risk the slightest chance of a SPARK,” while they were entering a building with their guns drawn. I laughed so hard I actually had to run to the bathroom – which I suspect wasn’t quite the emotion the producers and writers intended to evoke.

Perhaps it is a function of age; maybe after you’ve seen the same plotline 100 times, it’s just intolerable due to redundancy, but I genuinely believe that shows are increasingly insipid, tailored toward a commensurately illiterate audience. (Sigh)…I’d still love to see Davenport , though. And Flowers.

Don’t get me started about freaking CASTLE. As I posted to the list some time back, I was not able to make it through the first episode, I thought it was utter dreck. White Collar? As someone else stated, it’s just It Takes A Thief without the wonderful Robert Wagner or Malachi Throne, and frankly not as interesting. The CSI’s, particularly the two “spin-offs” ( Miami is literally unwatchable) are horrible. The Forgotten? Fuhgeddaboudit. “Lie to Me?” At least it has whats-is-name, who is a wonderful actor, and makes the series, even though the premise is totally absurd. Criminal Minds? On a bobsled to obscurity without Patinkin, and now too soapy for words. House has turned into Soap Opera, which I absolutely despise. Hell, I am now waiting practically BREATHLESSLY for Jack Bauer and 24, which tells you how desperate I am, along with Burn Notice, which I really do love (can’t turn down anything with Bruce Campbell in it). Tried “V,” gave that up quickly. Gave up on Lost several seasons back. Hell, I can’t find ANYTHING I like on TV since they couldn’t get whats-is-name (David Milsch?) to continue writing Deadwood. I *am* watching “DaVinci’s Inquest” reruns on Sleuth, though; THAT was a decent series, wish it was still on.

(Sigh)…enough of a TV rant. What do you expect in a society in which everyone is willing to watch “reality TV” which is nothing more than 8th grade all over again? Popularity contests in which so-called “contestants” get “voted off the island” or “off the show” or whatever? I have never watched a single reality show and never will; I think it’s an abuse of the FREE airwaves. See, now I’m ranting again, I’ll shaddup NOW.

Bye, Hitch

AND so I got an earful, which I decided must be shared with all my acme friends; it was too good not to put to use. SO now what pet peeve about TV programming or a single program, especially mystery-drama drives you up the wall? Please leave word on what book series you’d like to see as a TV series? At present Hollywood is looking at my Instinct Series. Whether anything comes of it or not, like Kathy Reichs, I will probably lose all control of my characters and plots if anything comes of this admittedly shaky deal. Reichs is even a producer on Bones but I can’t imagine that she’s happy with the direction the show has gone in…wrong turn TV.

To win a place in my next book, leave a maliciously funny or spirited rant about what bothers you most about TV today? I will check back all week long to see what my net catches.

Rob Walker

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Traditions! by DL Larson

Each year my husband and I make a "memory book" for our granddaughters Alex and Kylie. We started this the year they were born and have enjoyed documenting each year as it unfolds. This will be our eighth memory book. Sometimes we put pictures and stories in a photo album, other years we have taken our selections to be laminated and bound. Each year we write a little something in the new memory book. Sometimes it's silly, other times more meaningful depending on the year and what has happened. The book is our special gift at Christmas. I don't know if it's a gift just for them, their parents or for us! It is relatively inexpensive, yet priceless. A year's worth of memories are stored and preserved, and just like many mothers and grandmothers too, if there was a fire in the house, I'd be running to save our memory books. Silly, I know, but that's how precious they have become to me.

In an economy where our budgets are smaller, many are turning to alternative ideas for gift giving. One gift giving project my family did for over a dozen years was drawing names with each other. There were five of us. We couldn't buy the present, we had to hand make it. My kids groaned at first, but it grew to be a special time for secrets and an imagination stretching experience. We still use the first present I ever received. My husband drew my name and on Christmas Eve we all presented our gifts to each other. I had to go outside to recieve mine. It was cold and snowy, but out we went, clomping down the slippery steps and I noticed right away the barnyard was lit up. I remember all five of us standing there in the cold dark looking up. On top the silo (a 60 foot storage bin) was a Christmas Star about four feet wide. It shone down on the whole countryside neighborhood. We've used our Christmas star for over twenty years now and it's my favorite Christmas ornament.

Spending money is not what Christmas is all about. It's about spending all right, spending time with family and friends, spending time reflecting on what's important in our lives. I spend time giving thanks and praise to the Almighty. I spend my energy prioritizing ~ what is really important to me? What do I want to do that's meaningful this Christmas? My answers vary, just as they do every Christmas.

What about you? What is meaningful for you this Christmas season?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: The top picture is my granddaughter Kylie, the second is our Alex. They are singing at the church Christmas program! Another of my favorite things!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Children's books

I keep saying this, but I do mean it. When I get some time, and I believe that time will be coming soon, I'm getting my children's book about my dog, Rascal, finished. Whether or not I self-publish it is still up in the air.  I've never written a children's book before and have lots to learn first.

I'm mentioning this sidenote for a purpose. On Tuesday, Mary Cunningham was my guest at my personal blog, She left an excellent post about her new children's mystery book, The Magician's Castle, part of her Cynthia's Attic series. She's also got one of the most entertaining book trailers I've seen in a long time. I've left her post up for more people to enjoy.

If you haven't seen it yet, we'd both be happy if you dropped by to check it out.
Rascal says for now she'll wait to take center stage. That's unusual for her, because she loves being made a fuss over.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now it's getting interesting

The author loops and chat rooms are buzzing with the recent annoucement from the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) about removing Harlequin and all of its imprints from a list of approved publishers effective immediately.

What's the big deal?

Well, here's what Publishers Weekly noted in a recent article:

"By de-listing Harlequin, MWA is barring all Harlequin authors from using their Harlequin books as a basis for active status membership. No Harlequin book will be eligible for Edgar Award consideration, although books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for membership and will still be eligible for Edgar consideration."

The catalyst for all this change was Harlequin dipping its publishing toe in the waters of self-publishing and while changing the name of its self-publishing venture from Harlequin Horizons to DellArte Press appeased most of the concerns of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the MWA hasn't been as flexible.

Again, what's the big deal? Well, I'd like to say you the reader be the judge but that's not how the publishing world operates, especially with regards to distribution. Now, DellArte (and other so called vanity presses) asserts at their website ( that they have access to these distribution channels for those who publish with them but only time will tell how affective this proves to be. There are issues of promotion, built-in readers through their traditional publishing channels based on the Harlequin brand, book signings, return policies and so much more. I hope someone out there who publishes with DellArte Press contacts me and lets me know as I'd love to do a follow-up blog on their experience.

Another issue - and the one I hear the most - is the lack (real or perceived) of editorial oversight in the world of self-publishing, especially with regard to fiction. Most people in the publishing world from those who work in it to the writers themselves believe that having an editorial process provides a layer of quality control that produces a better final product - the book itself.

Again, I'd like to say you the reader be the judge and perhaps that is more attainable than ever before but, again, only time will tell. I do think that the sands are shifting, however, because there are more and more self-published writing contests and even many self-published authors that have gone on to be published by traditional publishers and even have their works made into movies.

So, let me say that you the reader and you the writer be the judge and that this is a topic that I will be watching very carefully. I'd love to hear from everyone out there about their thoughts on this topic. But, above all else, readers keep reading and writers keep writing.

Take care.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Thousand Memories

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I thought I'd share of couple of my favorite parts and traditions of the holidays with you over the next several weeks.

I'll begin today with our Christmas tree. We have two trees in our house. A real one downstairs that gets decorated in a somewhat fancy manner: white lights, gold ornaments, bows, and ribbons. But it's the one upstairs that's very special to us. I like to call it the tree of a thousand memories, as it holds recollections of two lifetimes on its branches.

This tree is decorated with colored lights and ornaments that we've gathered throughout the years, both from our childhoods and our life together. Whenever we travel to someplace new, instead of buying a T-shirt or a mug or some other souvenier, we buy a Christmas ornament. I label each with the date we visited that particular place, and then stow it safely away until it comes time to put up the tree.

Decorating this tree is truly a trip down memory lane each year as we pull all of the ornaments out of their boxes and remember the events they represent. By the time we're done, the tree is really more ornaments than branches. It's a chronicle of our lives, and I'll spend hours just sitting and gazing at it, looking at the ornaments over and over again, remembering and reliving. Even the tree itself is special, as it came from my family home while I was growing up.

So during this holiday season, I wish you the joy of remembering those special times, whatever they may be. And while you're cozied up to your own Christmas tree, curl up with my free read, Mistletoe and Folly, from the Wild Rose Press.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (and Happy Remembering!)


Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Hotel in Paris by Margot Justes

I missed the excerpt blog last week, but thought I'd include the piece below today.
Peter Riley on his way to Paris to investigate the murder of a British Peer and artist Minola Grey.

Yves Lanier, of the Police Nationale, was a man with a mission. His dingy grey office with matching furniture was so littered with papers and books that he couldn't find the phone on his desk. It was here somewhere, he knew. Damn it, I used it yesterday. He momentarily stared at the mess…then, with quiet efficiency, slid everything off his desk to the floor and heard the ping of the phone hitting the ground. He bent down, picked it up, and dialed a London number he knew well. A quiet voice answered: "Peter Riley."
"Bonjour, Peter. How are you, my friend?"
"I know that tone, Yves. Interpol at your service. What's going on?"
"Peter, Yardleigh was murdered sometime late last night or early this morning. I think your investigation into money laundering just veered off track."
The silence at the other end was palpable. "What the hell happened? He was cooperating. What do you have?"
"We have nothing, mon ami. He was shot once in the chest with a small-caliber gun. No exit wound–the lab's still working on that. Purely as an observation, it looks like he knew his killer. No surprise or fear…there's nothing reflected on his face. Nothing stolen. Everything, as you English say, was neat and tidy, save for the corpse on the floor. We secured the crime scene and did all the other things we are supposed to do. The bastard was not nice enough to leave any clues." Lanier spoke with the confidence of a seasoned cop.
"Let me talk to Clivers, my superior. Murder is out of our jurisdiction. I suppose that leaves Scotland Yard in the game."
"Peter, this started in England."
"Don't I know it. I will call you back." Lanier heard the phone click in his ear.
* * *
Peter Riley ran a hand through his hair and swore. As he reached for his phone, it rang. "Riley," he recognized the brooding voice, "what the hell is going on?"
"Sir, I just spoke with Lanier. I assume you know as much as I do."
"Scotland Yard just filled me in. As of right now you are on loan to Scotland Yard. Riley, get over there…yesterday."
"Sir, just what am I supposed to do? We can continue the internal investigation here…" Peter was cut off again.
"He was killed in Paris. You will go to Paris, do I make myself clear?" The voice at the other end softened perceptibly. "I can't think of a better man to handle this mess. Keep me posted."
"Yes, sir, I am on my way," Peter responded, and hung up the phone. "Bloody hell," he murmured to himself. He made a couple of phone calls and prepared to leave for Paris.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Robert & Miranda Walker Share More on the Writing Life at Acme

Author Robert Walker does an incredible job of making Iden Cantu one of the scariest characters I’ve ever encountered in a mystery novel. Every time he appears he gives me goose-bumps. Walker is known for writing dark stories and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint. The quick and terse dialog keep the story moving at a surprisingly rapid pace and the characters all have faces. Another winner for Walker.

Robert W. Walker and wife Miranda Phillips Walker are here today to answer some burning questions, such as how they’ve managed to kill off only fictional characters with two crime novelists under one roof. Rob’s latest is DEAD ON, Five Star Books and his self-published ebook Children of Salem, an historical thriller, and Miranda/s latest and first is The Well Meaning Killer from Krill Press, sequel in the works. Both Dead On and The Well Meaning Killer were recently reviewed at .

Reviewer Dennis Collins, author of The Unreal McCoy said of each book: Author Miranda Walker’s debut novel is quite compelling. It is decidedly character driven. Every person in the cast is vivid and interesting. If Walker is planning to turn this into a series, she’s off to a wonderful start because people will want to hear more from Megan McKenna, Agent DiTrapano, and McKenna’s Labrador Retriever sidekick Max.

Collins says of Dead ON: Author Robert Walker does an incredible job of making Iden Cantu one of the scariest characters I’ve ever encountered in a mystery novel. Every time he appears he gives me goose-bumps. Walker is known for writing dark stories and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint. The quick and terse dialog keep the story moving at a surprisingly rapid pace and the characters all have faces. Another winner for Walker.

Now for the Interview:

1. In various interviews on the web, both of you have recommended that writers do not quit the day job. Is there a story behind this recommendation?

M: As an ER nurse, I get a lot of my most exciting and frightful scenes on the job!

Still, if I had my druthers, I’d happily be writing full-time and retire from that arena as it is extremely taxing, despite the reewards as in saving lives and not just on paper! But to be frank only a handful of authors in the US and the world make a living soley via their writings.

R: As a professor of English one barely gets by in this economy but at least it is a known, a given to see the paycheck at the end of the month, whereas writing has enormous ups and downs monetarily as well as emotionally. One year I saw four titles come out in a single calendar year, but some years none! The extreme few who can live on author earnings have had major backing from Oprah and Eastwood calling to having a celebrity hold up their books to the camera. Such luck is rare. Now if President Obama were to tell folks he is reading my Shadows in the White City then yeah, I’ve won the lottery.

2. You are very active in promoting your books. What are some of the toughest lessons you’ve learned about the “art” of self-promotion.

M: You have to throw all caution and shyness out the window; perhaps ladylike-ness, too. You want to be yourself but you also have to find a comfortable sales person lurking within. Sitting behind a desk and failing to make eye contact won’t cut it at a signing, and figuratively doing the same online won’t either, but I am trying at the same time not to sound arrogant or self-important as I am anything but.

R: Oh I have to stop “tossing” books into people’s baskets, especially those in wheelchairs, but darn I just know they will love the book and not regret “discovering” it for themselves. I kid with people online and in person, and the lesson I have learned in this business is that you don’t sell the book, you sell yourself. If folks like you, they will open your book and read it, hopefully after purchasing it. Marketing one’s work also takes time. Smart ideas can be found in Jeffrey Marks’ Intent to Sell.
3. What is your favorite writing-related subject to give advice on?

M: That if I can do it, anyone can. It’s a struggle, not easy, and made harder often by circumstances--I have four children, and I also have to contend with Rob! But I did it--I got my novel written, educated myself on the markets, shopped it around and found a publisher and now I hold my book in my hand with the hope others will be entertained by it. Other health professionals love it from the informal reviews they’re giving me as feedback. But it all requires a great deal of research and education about the business.

R: Craft matters, working on elements of style and finding one’s voice that perfectly fit’s the story at hand. I also push the fact every young writer ought to write a mystery as it is the fastest, surest way to learn plotting for any type of novel. Finally, how to write one’s own pitch and or back-flap copy or the shortest most important story you will ever write, the story about your story. It must be effectively done. This becomes a useful tool in all marketing endeavor for the book from query letter to News Release.

4. List three of your favorite writing self-help books.

M: Rob‘s recently published DEAD ON WRITING, a wordclay paper book and a kindle book I read in rough draft. David Morrell‘s excellent book on the subject. Tom Sawyer‘s great book on writing.

R: — Chris Roerden’s book,Don’t Murder Your Mystery and her Don’t Sabotage Your Submission/ J.A. Konrath’s free ebook, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Robin Carr’s Tips for Writing Popular Fiction, Dean R. Koontz’ Writing Popular Fiction, and Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction. Oops! I went over three.

5. Both of you have written about the importance of learning how to write romance and incorporate it in your stories. Why do you feel it is important to include romance? How did you learn how to write romance? And is there a book or course you would recommend to other authors to help them learn how to incorporate quality romance writing into their stories?

M: Romance is at the heart of every good story in my estimation. Characters like people want to find romance in their lives, don’t they? Not sure of any books on the subject or courses on how to write romance except to say Rob writes great love scenes, and I aspire to do the same or at least create an intriguing triangle.

R: I learned what NOT to do by reading a book called The Romance Writers Handbook. Actually it was a complete listing of descriptive phrases for every body part from the nose to the toes--what’s been said and done and done, so I tried to avoid these “clichés” in romance writing or put a new spin on them, use the old wine but put it into a new bottle. I love to pair a hero and heroine and let them go at it as in the TV program Moonlighting….I think that ought to be an author’s verb--Moonlight your characters as you would Gaslight another character. The darkness of a dark mystery or even a horror novel can be balanced by an intriguing romantic development between two characters as in Dead On, and in Miranda’s Well Meaning Killer. I do the same in near about all my books.

6. You have recently been reformatting some of your stories  for use with Amazon’s Kindle. Is there anything you have learned  the hard way in this process that you can share to help the rest of us as we move into this new format?

M: In my case, my publisher took The Well Meaning Killer, a returnable POD to a Kindle version, and as it is my only book thus far, I am taking a wait and see attitude. I have learned from Rob, who has had far more experience with it that the cost of a kindle book needs be far less than a hardcopy book or else no sale!

R: The kindle titles I have up are three that HapreCollins put up, and 13 ebooks at have been formatted for kindle sales, or kindalized, but more recently, I have placed ten titles on kindle all on my own, and I have found it to be an easy process with some glitches in step three, converting your file to html format. Directions I followed are found at What is great about it is that you are your own publisher, art director, PR person, and you sink or swim based on your choices and not those of some person in a conglomerate who thinks your title needs be changed to sound more like a Stephen King title or decides it ought to be 90,000 words when it is in fact a 140.000 word book, and so it is in the end liberating freedom from constraints I have faced for thirty odd years.

7. You are very giving of your time, rarely asking for anythingin return. Why do you enjoy teaching and helping other authors?

M’s A: Pay it forward is just how I operate, and I’ve seen such generosity in other mystery authors, and have been the recipient of it. How can I be otherwise?

R’s A: Ahhh…the teachable moment, and I am a born teacher. What can I say? My and Miranda’s blogs and sites are all about sharing the knowledge and know how, skills and tools to become successful. The only time I charge for it is when a client seriously wishes for me to copy edit and make developmental changes or suggestions, or to ghost write and this is done at way under market costs.

Brief bios:
Robert W. Walker grew up Chicago, IL but was born in Corinth, MS, and as a graduate of Northwestern University, and the NU's Graduate Masters in English Education program, he has been a lifelong learner and writer, penning over forty novels. Three years ago he met Miranda and he has resided here in Charleston, WV ever since. He teaches at WVSU in Institute and continues to write, speak, edit, and ghost write. In the mid-eighties Rob began writing his eleven -book Instinct Series with Dr. Jessica Coran, ME as his lead, and his four-book Edge Series with Det. Lucas Stonecoat, Texas Cherokee investigator. Rob most recent original work appears at the Kindle Store on, Children of Salem, and now on traditional publishing shelves, Dead On is available. Rob can be found online at and in all the usual places where one finds writers online.

Miranda Phillips Walker a WV born author who lived in Baltimore for some 30 years is uniquely qualified to pen The Well Meaning Killer, a suspenseful mystery and an expose of the corruption and graft in the underbelly of our Nation’s foster care programs and systems. Walker, a Registered Nurse, also holds 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. Miranda says of The Well Meaning Killer, “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 and weapons to make it work. I trust that the reader will agree. Miranda has enjoyed writing from an early age, using writing and the love of music to comfort her from her turbulent upbringing. When asked about her childhood, Miranda laughs and says “I’d;ve been better raised bya pack of wolves.” But being a positive person, she has used her life experiences to help her patients, and now to hopefully bring entertainment to her readers. She can be found everywhere on the web and at her site website at:

Happy HoliDAZE and hope you enjoyed the insights here. Acme makes leaving a message easy as pie - so don’t hesitate to leave comments --

Rob and Miranda Walker

PROMISES MY LOVE excerpt, by DL Larson

The following excerpt is the beginning of my book, Promises My Love,
my unpublished work. I'm looking for a good home for this historical that faces real life issues.


June, 1846
Shadow Creek, Kentucky

Francis heard the laughter. His grimace was ill placed, he knew. His family was entitled to their fun, even if he wasn’t a part of it. With careful precision, he combed his hair, not bothering to meet his own reflection in the mirror. He never took part in their discussions, never participated in their rowdiness.
He’d finished shaving in the alcove off the kitchen and knew his family couldn’t see him with the curtain drawn. His wife Christine told Jimmy and Crystal about the expected trip to the Douglas farm, Christine’s family home. He slipped on his shirt, carefully buttoned it. Jimmy wanted to take his horse.
“Of course, silly,” Christine’s voice filtered past the drape. “We couldn’t leave Sassy behind. This is a special trip. My whole family will be there for several days. We’ll stay, too.”
“We’re gonna stay at the farm for days?” Jimmy’s voice was full of wonder and excitement.
“Yes! Won’t that be grand?”
Francis grimaced again, not liking her easy answer, knowing it was inevitable they’d stay. He adjusted his tie, taking slow deep breaths, smelling toast. His stomach growled. If only he could slip past the curtain and join his family. Laugh and joke.
He didn’t dare. He might lose control. Damnation would reign down on them again. Best to maintain his distance and enjoy these moments of hearing the happiness of his family. It would have to suffice.
He shrugged into his jacket and stepped past the curtain. His family all turned, each with their own warm smile for him. He swallowed, cleared his throat.
“Daddy all clean,” Crystal sang out, laughing.
He smiled, sort of, grabbed his ledgers and stepped toward the back door. The heat from the stove had warmed the dampness in the room, the rain from last night bringing a bright day beyond the door. Jimmy’s gaze grew hesitant and Francis forced himself to speak. “Are you ready for your piano lessons?”
“Yes, sir!” Jimmy grinned and turned back to the table.
Crystal hollered a bit when she said, “Bye-bye, Daddy.”
His features tightened again knowing he had no way of escaping their morning ritual of telling him farewell. He waved, forcing a smile to his face, knowing if he didn’t acknowledge Crystal’s sweet good-bye she’d wilt in her high-chair with a dejected scrunch to her face. She waved back with vigor.
He didn’t look at his wife, he couldn’t. Her endearing smile would linger in his mind if he did. As usual, she was disheveled, still in her bedclothes and her tumbled down blonde tresses were half in and half out of a braid. She looked about sixteen and so damn beautiful he couldn’t breathe.
She waited on the porch while he saddled his horse. She waited every morning. It was the worst and best part of his day. When he emerged from the barn she smiled, stepping toward the end of the porch where he’d have to pass by in order to leave.
“Your breakfast.” She held out a wrapped package. He had no idea what was in it, but knew it would taste wonderful.
He mounted his horse and stepped up to the railing she leaned against. He took the waxy paper without touching her, his eyes downcast.
His gaze lifted slowly to hers. He wanted to tell her to get back inside and for heaven’s sake find a pair of slippers at least. She shouldn’t be standing there in her flimsy open robe for all the neighbor’s to see. She shouldn’t be so caring. Nor so damn appealing.
Her smile lit up her dark green eyes. “Have a wonderful day, my love.”
He nodded, too tersely, he knew. It was the best he could do. He nudged the horse onward, his breakfast warm in his hand. He wanted to look back at her, but that would only encourage her outrageous behavior of affection. As much as he admired her determination, he feared it more.
Control. He took a deep breath; he simply needed to maintain a level head. Unwrapping the paper, he bit into the sandwich. Ham, fried egg and a slice of cheese, partially melted on the toast. My god, he was in heaven and he wallowed there for a moment in her devotion to him. Restraint kicked in by the time he finished the last bite. His wife would merely smile if she knew the unsettling effect she had on him. He loved that Chistine snuck past his defenses, and he idly wondered what scheme she was contemplating. His muscles relaxed thinking about her.
His thoughts fumbled to a stop. Control. Yes, he had to keep his emotions in check. He didn’t dare drop his guard with his family. It had proven too dangerous in the past.
The mask of decorum settled over his face by the time he entered the bank. He crossed the small lobby to his office, not bothering to close the door. No one approached him. Another day had begun.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: your comments are welcome, plus any ideas of who might be interested in such a story.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Excerpt from Killer Career by Morgan Mandel

This excerpt continues right after my excerpt at Make Mine Mystery, so if you wish you can hop over there and read that one first, but don't forget to come back here.

Here it is -
“That son of a bitch.” Dade heaved Jensen’s book onto the chair in his office. It bounced off the black leather edge and landed open on the floor.

He glared at the offending present. His partner wouldn’t admit it, but the mystery writer was after her. Danger rang loud and clear in Jensen’s autograph.

When it came to book smarts, Julie ranked high in her class. Unfortunately, she was a kindergartener around guys and would be easy pickings. She didn’t realize how sexy she looked with her wispy blonde hair, long legs and kissable mouth.

“He won’t get away with it,” Dade muttered.

Since grammar school, he’d acted as Julie’s protector, steering the scum away from her, as well as his sister, Avery, another looker. Only the few and the brave had dared approach them.

Avery had recently found her soul-mate, a fellow reporter. Dade wanted that for Julie, but his gut told him Jensen wasn’t the one.

“Radison’s on line five,” Nora Hampton, his efficient secretary, cut in on the intercom. He glanced at the digital clock on the phone. Half past eight, the start of the office day.

“Get rid of him. Hold my calls.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Donovan.”

He gritted his teeth and jammed the files into his briefcase. Three trials ahead and every one of them a mountain to climb on bare feet. Well, that suited him just fine. He was itching for a good fight. Watch out world.

Julie turned as she was heading out the door. “Come on, birthday boy. Get moving.”

He took in her appearance with approval. Her flyaway blonde hair made her look fragile, but that was a facade. The true indicator proved to be her navy blue suit, with the crisp white blouse turned back at the neck.

A Madonna-like smile lit up her face, but this Madonna balanced a briefcase, not a baby. A twinge of guilt hit him. Maybe he had protected her too well. Julie was thirty. By her age, many women were married with kids instead of facing a daily work grind, carrying heavy case loads and wearing power suits.

As they stepped into the elevator, she flashed him a nervous smile. He squeezed Julie’s free hand to reassure her. He wished he could rid her of her claustrophobia, but that battle she must face alone.

They darted into the modern octagonal shaped glass building known as the Thompson Center. As usual, Julie bit her lip as the elevator sped upward to the eighth floor. Once at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, attorneys milled about the open area, networking and exchanging rumors and sports scores. As they headed toward their respective hearing rooms, the slim-mustached Barabat, in a tailored gray suit, brushed past Dade and Julie with a perfunctory remark. “Well if it isn’t Dade the Devil and his Avenging Angel.”

“Your ass is grass, dude,” Dade hissed back. “You don’t have a leg to stand on.”

Julie flashed a stern look. “I can fight my own battles, thank you. The counselor will learn his lesson soon enough.”

Dade smiled widely. “You’re so right.”

They stopped at the door to one of the small courtrooms. Dade wished he could join Julie inside, but only in special instances were those other than the attorneys of record, the Arbitrator, court reporter and witnesses allowed.

Rumor had it Julie at trial was a sight to behold, blonde hair flying, eyes flashing, as she annihilated her opponent. He was proud of her but couldn’t take credit. She did it all with hard work and a sparse social life. She deserved her victories, but he still enjoyed sharing them with her.

As he continued down the hall to his designated courtroom, Dade fought back a vague uneasiness. He sensed a change in the air, with Jensen as the catalyst.

Hope you liked my excerpt.
Morgan Mandel
Signed copies for Killer Career are available for EZ Order at The Digital-Bookshop, in print & ebook, also in print at Amazon (unsigned) and on kindle.