Sunday, March 29, 2009

Judging a book by its Cover

This is from a recent review I received for Ordinary Me.

“Media coverage makes things get strange in her world-- the boy is interested in her, popular girls pay her some attention, and eventually she gets pulled into a mystery involving the convict. Because of the bright cover, I didn't expect that part!”

Since many authors don’t have any say in cover art, it can come as a surprise to them to. I have been very fortunate with my covers with The Wild Rose Press. I made the suggestion for the cover for Ordinary Me and was asked for input for the cover of the anthology Summer Lovin’. I think they both turned out great. Honestly, I never even thought about somehow including the mystery part of the book in the cover.

So, does anyone have any cover stories to share? Let’s hear them!



(You can read the whole review here:


Okay, the calendar says March 29, but when I peek out my looks more like December or January. It snowed last night. A lot.

It's rather annoying really. See, I'm done with winter and snow and cold and wind and ice. It's spring for Pete's sake. I want to see flowers blooming and trees budding and hear birds chirping.

I need an escape. And not one that requires getting on a plane.

I've always found that the best escape is a good book...whether it's one I'm reading or one I'm writing. A book allows me to ignore the blanket of snowy white outside and instead imagine a long stretch of white sandy beach with a bronzed, bare chested guitar player by my side. A book allows me to ignore the rivers of icy water flowing down the street and instead imagine a sea in the darkest of night, a ship tossing on the waves, a rougish pirate captain at my side. A book allows me to trade the snow covered trees for the moss covered trunks of a cool forest, mist swirling through the air, with an enticingly dangerous vampire by my side.

Well, I think you get the picture...

As a writer, I am privileged to create these worlds so other people can escape from the dreariness of a winter-like day here at the beginning of spring. As a reader, I am blessed to find these worlds that others have created so I can ignore the sludge, sleet, and chill and ensconse myself in a completely different place.

And that's where I'm off to right now.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


And if you haven't voted yet, click on entry #9, "This Time for Always", at The New Covey Cover Awards. Thanks!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shopping by Margot Justes

I promised a blog on my favorite piece at the Louvre-but life interfered with writing.

I spent the day shopping with my daughter and bought a pair of shoes made by Jeep-yes, Jeep.

I guess if the car business doesn’t work out, they can fall back on recycled shoes. I love Nordstrom. Shoes. Shoes. And more shoes.

At any rate, my favorite piece is the Winged Victory, and I promise I’ll write about it next week.

Till next Time,
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
Heat of the Moment ISBN 978-1-59080-596-1
available on

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Jersey Devil Unmasked -- Jeffrey Cohen Interview with Rob Walker

An Interview at the Point of a Dog –

I virtually traveled to a place of which I had skewed images of from the Sopranos TV episodes. A somewhat stark insular place just across the river from New York—another of those “new” places up in “Newland” called New Jersey where I was told I could find Jeffrey Cohen, the mystery comic novelist who had been likened to a male Janet Evanovich and a Donald Westlake and sometimes as sick as Joe Konrath and myself. I had to sit down with this guy, but it was not easy in this crowded corner of the globe to find the Edison Generator until I spotted the upside down car and the huge sign overhead reading: Does Your Car Turn Over in the Morning?

Next to the generator shop was a place that looked like a roadside diner, which meant the food inside must be great. Maybe I’d call for a beer and a Philly steak or a Jersey steak or whatever they served. I was starving. Two days on the road to get here and a bit nervous (okay giddy as a schoolgirl) over the impending moment I’d meet Jeff Cohen, author of the Double Feature Series and creator of Aaron Tucker and so many other lively and funny characters.

I pushed through the door and I immediately recognized Cohen in a corner so dark that it cut his features in half like a curtain had fallen, but his keen eyes in light and in dark were unmistakably focused on the door as if he were expecting trouble to walk in at any moment (and I did). I knew it was Cohen because he wore the only shirt I ever saw him in—and orange pullover, and he had a dog with him. It was like looking at his website all over again—his smiling picture. I immediately shook hands and asked, “They let dogs in here?”

Cohen looked as if he were slapped, then he said, “I’ll thank you not to talk about me in those terms, Walker. Oh, you mean Copper, here! They let him in, because I tell them he’s not a dog, he’s a bagel.”

“Beagle/basset,” he said.

“Great place and I love the sign outside—and the overturned car! Do all New Jersey folk have a sense of humor?”

“We have to. We’re stuck between New York City and Philadelphia. We have sports teams that play in our state and call themselves ‘The New York Giants’ and ‘The New York Jets’ We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of states.”

Jeff was having a Rolling Rock, so I joined him and ordered the house steak and salad, asking Jeff if it’d be okay that we do the interview while I stuffed my face.

“You know, Rob,” he slyly began, “there was once this guy who went into a talent agent’s office with a dog just like Copper, here. Said the dog could talk. Agent says okay, let’s hear him. The guy says to the dog, ‘who was the greatest baseball player of all time?’ Dog goes, ‘Roof!’ Guy asks, ‘what do you call the top of a house?’ Dog goes, ‘Roof!’ The talent agent throws them out of the office, and they sit dejectedly on the steps outside. A long moment goes by. Finally, the dog looks at the guy and says, ‘What’d you want me to say—DiMaggio?’”

Even the dog did a little barky laugh, and this broke the ice. So I got down to Cohen’s level and asked, “Do you know why dogs never choke on their food?”

“Heard that somewhere,” he replied, “but no, dunno. Why don’t they?”

“Because they never speak while eating.”

Neither Cohen nor his dog laughed, and the silence as thick as the rare steak plunked before me. I thank God when someone plays the jukebox and the Boss comes on! His music inspires me to push on even though Jeff Cohen looks me in the eye with cold certainty and says, “Walker, you should stay away from jokes and do characters; that’s what you do best.”

So I decided between cuts and bites of my steak to get to the questions I had hoarded away for the moment. Questions I’d held in check since my first introduction to Jeffrey Cohen’s Some Like It Hot-Buttered, the first book in the Double Feature series. It was followed by It Happened One Knife, and the third, A Night at the Operation, is just about to hit the shelves.

“Jeff, do you believe as I do that Frank Sinatra was totally miscast in Some Like it Hot? And in fact that he was totally miscast in any role he ever played in? That he was a lousy actor and should’ve stayed with the singing and lounge act?”

“The only reason I think Sinatra was miscast in Some Like It Hot is that he wasn’t in it at all. It was Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. But he was miscast in Guys and Dolls. You hire Frank Sinatra, and give all the big songs to Marlon Brando. Hollywood.”

“Hmmm…thoughtful reply. Tell you what, let’s get down to brass tacks. You have a fascinating background in film and TV work. Did your background suggest or help you to decide to write the Double Feature series?

“My background in film and TV consisted mostly of getting turned down, so yes, it was terrific practice for being a novelist. Luckily, Hot-Buttered wasn’t my first novel; it was my fourth. So I knew quite a bit about what I could do—but I wrote it anyway.”

After choking on my steak, I asked, “How did your nominations and accolades for first and second books in the series affect you both personally and professionally?

“Well personally, my wife was impressed for at least four minutes. But that’s collectively for the two nominations. Professionally, the cliché is true—it really is an honor to be nominated. Shows that people really do like what you do. I don’t discount that; it amazes me that anyone outside my immediate family reads what I write.”

“Do your characters come full-blown on the page, what I call fully realized as you write, or do you “live” with them for a time and do a lot of rewrites?
And contingent to that, are your characters based on real people or are they composites? And I promise the questions are only going to get tougher as we go.”

He actually blushed a little. “I don’t rewrite that much,” he said. “And when I do, it’s because my editor has found plot holes that I would have missed after the thirty-fourth reading. The characters just sort of emerge as I’m writing. I like to play against the expectation of the reader, so I wrote a Jewish grandfather mobster and a huge British upper-class hit man in one book. But no, outside of the circumstances of the characters in the Aaron Tucker series (Aaron had a job, a house, and a family like mine), the characters aren’t based on anybody in particular. They’re meant to fit the story and above all, not to be boring. Screenwriting taught me that. Thank you, screenwriting.”

How much of your own personality and experiences and circumstances inform your sense of humor and how do you balance humor and murder so deftly?

“Living in New Jersey creates a sense of humor, a shorthand of sarcasm that I don’t think you get anywhere else. We like to send out little test signals to people to see if they’ll pick up. One time I was making a reservation for dinner on the phone, and the young woman at the restaurant asked, ‘Can I have your name?’ Without thinking, I said, ‘I think it’s awfully unlikely,” and without a beat, she answered, ‘If I do, can I join the group for dinner?’ Jerseyans listen when people talk, and I don’t think that’s the case everywhere. Mostly, we’re trying to hear over the car engines.”

I called for another Rolling Rock to wash down the last of the steak, then asked Jeff, “You’re a frequent contributor on DorothyL readers and writer’s forum, and you maintain a website and a blog. How much time do you spend online? And how important is computer networking?”

“I do a lot of online time. For one thing, it’s a great way to avoid writing. For another, it’s the absolutely best way to publicize your work without having to pay for it. I’m lucky that I started writing novels when so much Internet mystery interest was already in place. But I only blog the one day a week; there are six (actually eight, in case someone takes a day off) other people who blog at HEY THERE’S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM, so we can offer perspectives from editors, publicists, agents, reviewers, booksellers, and publishers as well as from me. It’s not my blog; I’m just one day’s worth of it. The website ( is another story—that has more information about me than anyone, including myself, could possibly want. I love the Internet.”

“Who’re some strong influences on you and your writing, and whose books do you never miss reading currently?”

He grinned. “The strongest influences on my writing are actually screenwriters. Ernest Lehman. Larry Gelbart. Mel Brooks. Everybody who wrote for the Marx Brothers. In mystery, I read Robert B. Parker, Chris Grabenstein, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Lisa Lutz and many others I’ll be getting emails from asking why I didn’t mention them (the answer is I should have, but have a terrible memory on the spot). I just read Harlan Coben’s latest Myron Bolitar novel, which I enjoyed a lot. But when I’m writing, I read mostly non-fiction, because I’m afraid of writing in someone else’s voice unintentionally.”

Jeff’s dog has to be restrained as he has taken a morbid liking to my leg. “Whataya think of the current publishing downturn and how, in your opinion, can the publishing industry survive? Told you the questions were going up the tough scale. I stole this one from Jean Henry.”

“If I understood business, would I be a mystery author? I think the publishing industry has to survive. It may not survive in its present form, but it’ll survive as something. People will still want to read. The thing I’m most afraid of is that newspapers will die before I do. I love newspapers. And no, reading a website is NOT the same thing.”

“What has been the absolute best writing or marketing experience you’ve had in this publishing game?”

“The best writing experience never involves writing. It’s getting feedback from readers, even the ones who hate your book. It’s so gratifying to know that someone is actually responding to what you did, even if it’s in a negative way. Of course, the ones who love your books are more gratifying, but you take what you can get. Marketing? You mean besides doing this interview? I love meeting booksellers. I wish I could afford to travel more and meet the people on the front lines of the publishing biz. But I have a kid in college, and another one less than two years away. Thank dog for the Internet.”

“What has been the absolute worst writing or marketing experience you’ve had in this business (aside from being interviewed by me)?

“Being interviewed by you is a highlight. My favorite marketing story involves a “Literacy Day” celebration at a Large Box Store that will remain unnamed (Wal-Mart). I was assigned a store to go visit and read a children’s book (not mine, of course) to show off that I was literate, or something. And I called the store a few days before to make sure they knew I was on the way. Was assured beyond all question that they couldn’t wait for me to show up, and ‘a girl here is working on your publicity.’ Cool. So I show up on the appointed day. Apparently, ‘the girl’ has the day off, and nobody knows about Literacy Day until I find a representative of the distributor for the kids book I’m supposed to read. He asks if I’ve seen all the publicity. I tell him no, all I know is the girl has the day off. He says, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta see the sign.’ And he marches me over to a spot near the entrance of the store, which I must have passed on the way in, and sure enough, there’s a sign announcing that ‘New Jersey Author Jeff Cohen’ (because apparently now I’ve written a whole state) will be appearing today. And there’s a photograph. The rep asks me, “How do you like it?” I say it’s great, I love it, but there’s one slight problem—that’s a picture of someone who is not me. And here’s the scary part—he looks at the picture, looks at me, looks back at the picture, and asks, ‘Are you sure?’ That was a real lesson in humility.”

“Trust me, such stories are more the norm than the abnormal, my friend. I got a million of ‘em. But we must push on. So tell us briefly about your next hilarious novel. What’s on tap? No, no more Rolling Rock for me, but what’s on your horizon?”

“My next hilarious novel? That’s something of a leap for a Jersey self-deprecator like me. Let’s just say that A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION is, in my mind, a raising of the stakes in the Double Feature series. Elliot Freed, who owns Comedy Tonight, New Jersey’s only all-comedy movie theatre, has never gotten over his ex-wife, Dr. Sharon Simon-Freed. So when she vanishes into thin air, at the same time she’s wanted for questioning in the murder of a patient, Elliot’s world goes just a little bit crazy, and he has to rely on a support group he never knew he had.”

The dog is getting antsy, tugging at his leash and crossing his legs. Jeff rights it as I ask the final question: “Got any useful advice to novice writers other than run like hell?”

“I think that’s the best advice: If you can do something other than write for a living, you should do that. Because if you can be talked out of it, if you won’t do it whether you’re making a living or not, then you probably don’t have the tolerance for rejection you’re going to need. Other than that, read a lot, and don’t ever try to write someone else’s book unless your name is going to be under the words, ‘as told to.’”

“Jeff, you’ve been a real Jersey gentleman and terribly patient, unlike your dog who has wet my shoes. “Anything you’d like to add before we must go our separate ways?”

“Just one thing—that’s not my dog.”

“Can you quick list your web and blog sites—where we can all visit you whenever?

“I’m easily findable at and the blog is at . I blog on Mondays. You should read it all the other days of the week, too.”

“Thanks, Jeff, for forsaking good reading and writing time to take the time to talk to ACME Authors Link, man, from all of us at Acme.”
“It’s been a sincere and definite pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity, and no, I’m not buying you a new pair of shoes.”

Happy Reading and Writing folks

Rob Walker

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Only a Few Minutes by Morgan Mandel

I tell myself I'll spend only a few minutes catching up on friends' blogs, leaving comments, checking my e-mail. Before I know it, the day and/or evening has disappeared. Each time the process takes longer than expected, because once I get started I'm into the experience and don't want to stop.

So, I've decided on certain days, if I'm to get anything done, I'll have to ignore the tempting social media/networking distractions I so love and instead concentrate on getting my novels finished.

Today, I'm going to concentrate on whipping my mystery, Killer Career, into shape. After I've spent a decent amount of time on that project, then I won't feel guilty if I make the rounds again and visit all my friends.

What about you? Do you sometimes get trapped in socializing? How do you curb your appetite?
Please share.

Morgan Mandel - Also at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just had to share this

Here's the first sentence from a website with the link below:

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a reference tool unlike any other.

How profound the sentence above is.

Whether you are a writer, a reader, or just a lover of words, if you haven't heard of this before I hope you are as tickled as I am that it exists. I consider finds like these a treasure and just wanted to alert all to it's existence and give koodos to the folks who worked tirelessly on this project. I'm so glad they did.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Monday, not!

When I woke up this morning I was not happy because:
A)It’s Monday
B)It’s gloomy/rainy
C)I have to work

But while I was driving in I realized what really put me in a crabby mood, other than the Monday thing, was that there are some people out there that just don’t get the concept of fiction. So, since it’s my day to blog, I’m going to jump on my little soap box and explain it.

Here is the definition from


1.the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form. of this class, as novels or short stories: detective fiction.
3.something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story: We've all heard the fiction of her being in delicate health.
4.the act of feigning, inventing, or imagining. imaginary thing or event, postulated for the purposes of argument or explanation.
6.Law. an allegation that a fact exists that is known not to exist, made by authority of law to bring a case within the operation of a rule of law.

Okay, got that, IT’S NOT REAL. IT’S MADE UP. Got that people.

But what really gets me is when people read a piece of fiction, let’s just say the first few pages, and say “This is not realistic. They should check their facts.” I just want to scream, there are no facts to check, this is fiction!

Why do they do this? Is it because they hope and dream that their life can somehow be just like the person in the book they are reading? Well, they can. Hope and Dream that is, because that’s all they can do. The people in the books aren’t real. The situations are made up.

Sure, I’ve heard the tagline, “Ripped from current headlines,” but that is the idea for the story. The writing in the books isn’t truly what happened. It’s similar, it is what MIGHT have happened, but it’s not what really happened because what’s in the book is from what’s in the writers head. If it's not, then it's called NON-fiction, and that's not what I'm talking about.

I’m beginning to think the sci-fi folks have it right. Create your own world where everything is completely fantastic and people, if they are even human, do whatever you want them to, realistic or not, and no one can question you because it’s your world. But, then again, I’m sure there is still someone out there that won’t believe it and you know, that’s ok because, it’s fiction.

Now, I’m sure all of you will not agree with me about the whole concept of fiction, but I write teen/young adult fiction. I try to take ideas, thought, feelings that today’s teens might be experiencing and expand on it. Sometimes I take situations and put an adult spin on it, you know, like boy if I knew then what I know now. As a teen I would never have done things I have my heroines do, but I have her do them because they are things a teen might wish they could do. So maybe they can live out their fantasy of sticking up for that friend who is getting picked on, or cause a food fight and not get caught, or even aid in catching an escaped convict. In real life this might not happen, but you know, that’s why it’s fiction.

Okay, I’m stepping down now.
Have a pleasant Monday.


Sunday, March 22, 2009


Okay, I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm one of those "Twilight" people.

Yesterday was a great day. The DVD came out! My girlfriend and I have been counting down to this day for months...well, more acurately I've been e-mailing her "Twilight" tidbits everyday since January...she doesn't seem to mind though.

I don't know what it is about this series of books and now movies. But I am hooked. Completely hooked. As Edward says, they're like my own personal brand of heroine. And just as addictive.

Maybe it's the vampire aspect. I've always listed vampire stories among my favorites. Maybe it's that reading/watching/obsessing makes me feel like a teenager again. Nothing wrong with that.

Whatever it is, I'm totally devoted. (Although I did skip all of the 'midnight release madness' Friday night. I learned my lesson on that with a couple of the Harry Potter books several years ago.)

I've read the books, and the unfinished mss on the author's website ( three times. And I started on the fourth round last night. When the movie was in the theatres last fall, my girlfriend and I saw it four times. Last night we watched it twice. Plus all of the special features. We made a night of it, complete with "Twilight" candy hearts, ravioli for dinner, and her life-sized cut out of Edward standing in my living room. And I plan to watch it several more times this week.

Do you remember the movie "Dirty Dancing?" When that came out about twenty years ago, my mom watched it every night for like a month. She loved the dancing. And she loved Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle. She was just a bit older than I am now.

I have the feeling "Twilight" is going to be my "Dirty Dancing". There's no dancing -well, a little bit at prom at the end, but that doesn't really count. But I do think Rob Pattinson plays a VERY fine (and hot and sexy) vampire. (*sigh*, I love Edward.)

My wonderful husband is fabulous about all of this. Whenever I talk about Edward or "Twilight" he simply gives a very tolerant and amused eye roll. He always says there are worse things I could be obsessed with.

How long will my obession last? I don't know. But "New Moon" has started filming, so I have that to look foward to this fall. (I think I sense another countdown coming...)

So, what do you obsess about? What books and/or movies pull you in and won't let you go? And what is it about them?

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (You know what I'll be reading!!)


P.S. On an unrelated note, don't forget to hop over to the New Covey Cover Awards and vote for THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS. (Entry #9)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Louvre by Margot Justes

The Louvre. The one and only. One of the most-if not-the most renowned museum in the world. A ‘must see’ for every tourist visiting Paris.

Yes, it is magnificent, colossal and overwhelming. It is one of those museums where you stand in the center and breathlessly say where do I go first? What must I see this visit? For you cannot possibly see everything. The rush is on. And what a rush it is.

Set in the glorious Tuilerie gardens, the massive Romanesque structure beckons you in. But wait, before you even go inside-look around you-you’re standing in front of I.M. Pei’s fantastic glass pyramid that serves as the entrance to the museum. Stunning. A work of art in itself.

Pose for a few minutes, savor and admire-the juxtaposition of the old and the new. It shouldn’t work-but it does, the striking contrast gives an impression of openness and seems to magnify the size of the structure. An illusion to be sure, that adds to the already gigantic size of the museum.

Most tourists visit a well known friend - the Mona Lisa. Her visitors have increased (if that is possible-it is) since the Dan Brown book came out. She has been overwhelmed by admirers. Step back and listen to the ooh’s and aah’s as the tourists stand in front and marvel at the masterpiece. Maybe like many others you have a copy of the Da Vinci Code with you and are trying to find the clues. Imagine the possibilities.

And here I go…I have seen the painting quite a few times and have read, heard lectures about her hands, the enigmatic smile, the eyes, the mystery, the total encapsulating image.

The painting is a masterpiece to be sure, an elegant portrait. I’m probably the only one who doesn’t see the mystery. The only one who sees a forced smile. The only one who sees hands that have not seen hard work. I do not see a mystery. I see a classic portrait of a well to do woman. Passive. Removed. And maybe that is part of the mystery. Visit and you decide.

For me that is what art is all about. I’m not expert-just an admirer of the talent involved in putting an idea on canvas and making it work. Startle the viewer. Discuss. Become creative in what and how the viewer sees. Make me think. Wonder. So many endless possibilities…

Of course there is more, you’ll meet Venus De Milo, standing poised, ready to be admired. And there is much to admire. You’ll see Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, a magnificent painting. Stirring. Hair raising bravery. A Must see.

Next week, I’ll let write about my favorite piece. You knew there would be a favorite, didn’t you?

Till next Time,
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
Heat of the Moment ISBN 978-1-59080-596-1
available on

Friday, March 20, 2009

Damn Good Advice to Newbie Writers In the Write-to-Sell Workship by Professor Robert "PEDANTRY" Walker

It's like this for just about everyone. Very hard for a writer so close to his own work (including a professional like myself) to see items and bothersome analytical needs and stuff like missing commas—or worse too many commas or semi-colons jammed in where commas need go—when the creative side sees and often fills in whole words even where they may be missing. (Whew! Take a breath . . . Jot notes on the blackboard).

As far as the grammar rules go, if you have problems with these— as so many people do these days thanks to our screen-on-generation now, wherein if it isn't on a screen but coming out of a classroom or on a blackboard, it isn't worthy of anyone’s attention, well then join the crowd.

Could you follow that compound complex on top of complex last sentence? In a novel, if your reader gets lost, you have committed the number one writing sin of all—being unclear. Bringing your reader to a confusion at the cellular level of the sentence that cannot be followed. If you can’t make it sing, at least make it clear –great bumper sticker advice that. Call for Claritin. If it’s fuzzy and hard to follow, you’re in violation and ought be arrested for the biggest of the ten deadly sins of writing.

Yes, a question from the foor? I am asked by a young writer in all seriousness why some people—and he was naming no names—were such PEDANTS when it came to sentence structure and such thingies or thingys as the rules of grammar. My response (being an English and writing teacher) came fast and furiously as the question irritated me to no end. The question reminded me of the student who has no sense of history and does not want any either when we all know that what we do today determines our outcome for tomorrow—history! Okay back to the constraints and restraints of rules of the road in writing: There are some ways to work around comma issues and semi-colon gaffs as in pay a professional, someone like myself who does freelance editing at cut rate prices to "fix" whatever issues a person has with grammatical "stuff" –and or find an instructor who really knows how to put it across (not all teachers can do it as well as they should, and most think they have but haven’t). Or . . . or find a friend or acquaintance who LOVES to edit stuff and will happily do it for you.

My young protégé’s response is immediate, and he says that's been done—50 times over—so that's not working (by the way if it is under 100 spell it out—fifty!)

So I take the young man aside and I say, “You know, son, there really are only like TEN deadly sins in writing, and most of us are committing only two or three of these offenses, and if someone can point out the pattern errors—serial killer errors—of the type that keep coming back at you, then once you SEE the connectedness of the error(s) and that it is the same error repeating itself like a recurrent nightmare, then and only then do you begin to feel a darn sight better about your single (or two or three issues).

At such an aha moment, when the writer himself realizes that he is not making every error in the fat English Grammar text, but rather less than a handful—then he Learns with a capital L. People learn when they see the patterns and connections between and among things, and there are many such patterns and connects in the rules of the road in English and writing.

That does something for you, learning that your errors are not so enormous and not so terribly many that you can’t defeat them. For instance, you learn that commas travel with "fragmentary" lines like pilot fish shadow sharks. Remember fragments? Early each day—comma!—followed by a whole thought as in: I climb out of bed.) The three-legged dog of a sentence is the fragment ending in a period as in Early each day. Or it’s a two-legged stool of a sentence, which we fictionalists use handily and heavily in story writing since characters often TALK and THINK in fragments. You learn the converse is true that periods travel with complete, whole sentences or thoughts. You learn that a semi-colon is a comma that calls in its cousin the period because a comma alone can’t go with a whole sentence/thought.

This is what is meant when they say, "You must know the rules before you go around breaking them." And I would add to that that if you know you are breaking them, and it is obvious that the reader knows that you know that he knows, and everyone knows then you have tacitly agreed that you are breaking them with the reader’s understanding. Then it legitimizes breaking them. Perfect example: the great fantastic Richard Matheson's short-short story Born of Man and Woman. Breaks every grammar rule and spelling rule but it all works! Why? Because it is a story narrated from the point of view of a totally illiterate, abused yet intelligent and compassionate child (written in 1960). Matheson like the fabulous Robert Bloch—pure genius. Matheson wrote I am Legend by the way and Stir of Echoes. Bloch wrote Psycho and American Gothic and many wonderful short stories.

One final word to my students is to read, read, and read in the field or genre you wish to write in, and also read widely in all areas, and to read as a writer reads—noting how a Matheson or a Bloch moves you. The more you read fiction, the more you pick up the cadence and the music of this unusual art form, the more your grammar will simply fall into grace . . . ah place.

I did not free myself of the "fear" of grammar and what is right and wrong until I sat myself down and shouted, "If it sounds good to my ear, and it makes sense to my mind, then I will use it." This does not preclude revisions and self-editing and having friends edit your work, and then more revisions, but it is a great place to call your springboard—Sound and Sense. I got that idea from a poetry book I came across—stumbled on rather serendipitously—when a freshman in college, a book entitled: Sound and Sense.

Next question comes from a poet in the class who insists that anything can be poetry, and that poetry did not need any rules or to take any form or shape . . . Ohmygod! (Now there’s a poem in a single word—OhMyGod!) This young man states that a single word such as IT can be a poem. But who’d want to read IT? How much enjoyment can one get from IT, and hasn’t IT been done to death by Stephen Kingit?

I grit my teeth and smile with lips pursed so no one can see my grinding molars.

For those of you who want to groove on grammar, check out a book entitled The Transitive Vampire. For anyone who wants a thorough going over with a kick in the teeth take my corrections in the spirit in which they are given—for the betterment of the story, not your ego. If that does not work, check out my “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” at The Knife Editing Services at my website below.

For those who want to read a FREE suspense-filled moonlighting-styled modern thriller set in Atlanta, GA and learn the lesson of reading like a writer, check out the book I wrote for and dedicated to one of my heroes, Ed Gorman. This is my DEAD ON found at my website – See if I practice what I preach. . . and when and where and how I move you, take some notes, reread that scene, and ask how’d Walker pull that off? How’d he make me laugh, how’d he get me to choke up with emotion, and how’d he so completely surprise me with that twist? It’s how I learned from Matheson, Bloch, and many another “master”.

Happy Writing –

Rob Walker

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Upcoming HNS Writer's Conference in Chicago area! by DL Larson

With all the talk about conferences and conventions, speaking with editors and agents, I want to remind everyone of the upcoming Historical Novel Society (North American) Conference in the Chicago area, June 12-14. Hyatt Regency Woodfield in Schaumburg IL is the convention site. There is still time to register.

Keynote speakers are Edward Rutherfurd, author of London, Russka, Ireland Awakening, along with Margaret George, author of Autobiography of Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, Memoirs of Cleopatra and most recently, Helen of Troy. Diana Gabaldon, author of her bestselling Outlander novels and Kate Forsyth, author of The Gypsy Crown, The Witches of Eileanan and many others, will also be presenting. Check out the website by typing in: Historical Novel Society. A whole list of presenters will be making an appearance and be helping out with the many and varied workshops.

The workshops are for all stages of writers, from working on POV to character settings, to selling historical fiction. The schedule includes such topics as research methods, writing about biographical figures, to does size matter?

Now that I have your attention, I want to mention this conference is also offering appointments to talk to editors and agents. As many of the other bloggers mentioned this week, making contact with others is essential in advancing your career as a writer.

I attended this conference a few years ago in Salt Lake City and thoroughly enjoyed being with other historical writers. All conferences are rewarding, but when topics are fine-tuned to your era, it's positively thrilling. I know the Albany New York Conference was a great hit and I'm sad I missed it, which makes me all the more determined to attend this one.

If you are a published author there is also a book selling time on Saturday. It's a great opportunity to promote your work and visit with other authors. The HNS Bookstore can obtain your books through whatever venue you tell them, or you can work on consignment by bringing your own to the conference.

Sarah Johnson is the coordinator of this event and can be reached at She's a great gal, dedicated to the Historical Novel Society and will help you with any questions you might have.

This is the conference I look forward to like nothing else. If historical writing is your genre, give serious thought to joining other writers at this conference, June 12-14th, in Schaumburg IL.

Has anyone else attended this conference? Let us know about your experiences.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Please Welcome My Guest, Mystery Author Marilyn Meredith

Under the name of F.M. Meredith, Marilyn Meredith writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. The latest is No Sanctuary from Oak Tree Press. She is also the author of award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series as well as over twenty published novels. The latest is, Kindred Spirits, from Mundania Press.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, EPIC and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. She makes her home in Springville, much like Bear Creek where Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. Visit her at

Blog Address:

First on the scene of a traffic accident that turns out to be murder, Officer Stacey Wilbur calls Detective Doug Milligan. Despite her former vow to never date anyone on the Rocky Bluff P.D., she and Milligan are romantically involved. Finding time to be alone together isn’t easy.

The murder victim is the wife of a popular Rocky Bluff minister, and several suspects immediately come to the forefront, the minister himself, his nosy secretary, the choir director, and a nerdy stalker. Stacey helps Doug with the murder investigation, but the Chief asks her to go undercover as a prostitute to expose a pedophile which leads to a surprising job offer.

Stacey must make two major decisions that will change her life forever, and a third that nearly causes her to lose her life.

Here's What Marilyn has to say today:

Probably everyone who reads this will know the difference, but just in case, here’s my explanation. Conferences are more of the “how to” variety, how to write a mystery, how to create convincing characters, how to make sure you get your forensics right, how to kill someone off in a new and innovative manner, and so on. A mystery convention is geared to fans, those wonderful readers who love to read (and buy) mysteries and actually enjoy listening to authors talk about how they came to write their mystery, or how they did the research for it, or how they created their characters, and so on.

Most mystery writers attend both. At a mystery conference they may be one of the presenters telling how they do all of the above mentioned how-tos and of course, they will figure out how to talk about their own book in a subtle manner so those listening will be curious and want to buy their books.

At the convention, the mystery writer hopes to sparkle and entertain in the hopes that those listening will be eager to buy his or her book.

I’ve gone to lots of both types of mystery confabs. The biggest of course is Bouchercon. This one is held all over the country and has the biggest attendance of both fans and mystery writers. This is the place to see some of the biggest and most popular mystery writers in the business. It can be pretty overwhelming at times too, you might make a new friend and never be able to find them again among the throngs of people.

Left Coast Crime is the second largest mystery con and always held on the left coast (though once that left coast was in Britain and another time in El Paso TX—this year it’s being held as left coast as possible—in Hawaii. It’s a bit smaller than Bouchercon, though many big name authors are always in attendance and lots of wonderful fans.

Then there are other smaller cons and conferences like Love is Murder which is always in Chicago. Some big names attend this one too—just not quite as many because there just aren’t as many people who go. It is also a writers conference as there are lots of opportunities to learn about writing mysteries and there are usually a few publishers and agents in attendance.

Mayhem in the Midlands is one of my favorites—this one is a mystery con put on by librarians, and it’s always in Omaha. This is not a how-to—but a how it was done convention, with a few big name authors and more not as well-known and lots of wonderful fans. What I love about this con is how friendly the fans are. At all the cons I’ve made a lot of author friends, but at this con I’ve made many life-long reader fans. Fans who I look forward to seeing every year.

A new writing conference that is rather unique is the Public Safety Writers Association. The organization was started by a law enforcement officer for law enforcement officers who write or want to write. Over the years it has embraced other public safety fields and people who write fiction and non-fiction about any of the public safety fields and have included mystery writers.

This is the smallest of all the cons that I’ve mentioned, but it has top-notch experts in forensics and all aspects of law enforcement as well as publishers and editors on hand. Because it’s small, there is ample opportunity to network. Anyone who wants to be on a panel is welcomed. To learn more about the PSWA conference go to:

My advice to anyone wanting to go to any convention or conference, if you’re a writer register early. Plan to get to the conference a day ahead of time if possible, so you don’t miss anything. While at the conference, be friendly, talk to everyone. This is the best way to meet people. If you don’t have anyone to go to dinner with, ask someone to go with you. If they already have plans, ask the next person. Hand out your business card to everyone. If you’re fortunate enough to be on a panel, smile a lot, be funny, tell about your book but don’t go on and on about it, and don’t hog the panel.

Go to the panels that interest you the most. Hang out in the bar in the evenings—you don’t have to drink—just get acquainted with folks. And again, talk to people. Find out why they’re at the con—are they a writer, find out what they write, are they a reader? Tell them about your book.

Because I have a new book out, No Sanctuary, I’m heading out to several cons this year: Epicon, which is for electronically published authors—all my books are e-books as well as trade paperback; Mayhem in the Midlands, California Crime Writers (brand new writers’ con), and of course, PSWA. Hope to see some of you at one or more of these conferences. Be sure to say “hello.”

F.M. Meredith a.k.a. Marilyn Meredith
No Sanctuary is number 5 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series
To learn more about the series visit

No Sanctuary by F.M. Meredith is available at, Amazon, or an autographed copy from the author’s website:
Please welcome Marilyn by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When to call in an expert

Last week I posted that my basement flooded because my sump pump failed and of course it happened on a day of record-breaking rain levels. Just call me Noah.

I knew the pump was failing but I thought I had a little more time and was working on getting a professional in the following weekend but the rain and the sump pump had other ideas. (I know in a rational world that inanimate objects allegedly can’t think but at times like these - when your basement is flooding, the world is anything but rational.)

I diligently researched the makings and installation of a sump pump and not because I wanted to do it myself but because I wanted to understand the process. The previous install was not done by a professional and that’s part of the reason there were problems, plus as the technicians who helped me this past week commented, it was a bit of a mess. So, I now have two brand new sump pumps and I rest much easier at night - two because I decided to replace the other aging one so I didn’t have to go through the water cleanup again; and hey, the guys were there already. They drove a white truck and I told them they were my knights in shining armor - okay fading jeans. One was older and the other younger and the younger one was being expertly trained and guided by the older more experienced one.

So, what can writers learn from this? Well, sometimes you have to get help from professionals, or at least folks in your field who have more experience than you do. BUT, how do you know who to contact? After all, it’s not like there are certified, state approved writing coaches like there are certified and registered plumbers? Or are there? Then, what about cost? How much do you spend and how do you know if you’re getting ripped off? I received several types of warranties on my new sump pumps and the labor and I’ll definitely know if they stop working because my basement will flood again - or hopefully, I will notice that the sump holes are filling up first and call before you have to call me Noah again.

Well, as writers we do have some choices, not all expensive but not all of that affordable either. The choices range from a writing partner, critique group, writing contests, writer’s group - preferably in your chosen genre, writer’s conferences, online courses, all the way to high-priced professional editors sometimes called book doctors. So, how do you know which one is right for you, or even which one to start with?

My first choice would be to join a writer’s group if you can, particularly one in the genre in which you write such as mystery, romance, etc. The reason for this is that a group gives you a chance to network and find out what other, more experienced writers are doing. Depending on how much writing you have already accomplished and what your skill level is, a critique group would also be one of my first choices of things to do, coupled with entering writing contests sponsored by organizations and/or publishers in your particular genre. All of these choices tend to be more affordable, especially in these slow economic times.

Writer’s conferences, especially ones that represent your type of writing, in my opinion are invaluable. Yes, they cost a little more, but depending on how organized and realistic about your writing goals you are, you can obtain a significant return on investment by attending a writer’s conference. Often you have a chance to network with agents, editors and publishers and often have a chance to pitch to all of the above. So, the money you spend may actually open the door to your first book contract. Again, you have to be organized and realistic and above all else, have a completed manuscript! You’d be surprised how many people go to conferences where they pitch and the agent, editor or publisher asks for them to submit and then they never follow through. A recent and informal query of agents, editors and publishers who asked for submissions indicates that only about 30% of writers followup with the actual submission.

Professional editors have a mixed reputation and rightfully so. It’s not a regulated field and there are no guarantees. He/she can’t promise you that your book will be accepted by a mainstream publisher or sale in the six figures - in fact if they do, that’s the first indication you should run. Depending on their experience and credentials, they will give you their insights to your written product and hopefully help you improve it on whatever level you’ve contracted them to do such as grammar, sentence structure, flow of ideas, etc. The right professional editor can provide you with an invaluable service and feedback but my advice is to first check their references and credentials carefully. Then send a sample chapter and see what kind of response you receive before committing to a large sum of money.

Writing is notoriously lonely and isolated, but every now and then we need to pull ourselves away from our writing to actually experience life and get perspective. After all, isn’t that what writers are trying to pass onto their readers?

For more information on writer’s groups in your area or online go to:

goolge or yahoo and type in writer’s groups + “your area” and sign up for this free service that let’s you know all types of events in your area to include writer’s groups.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Monday Puzzle Fun!

Happy Monday!

Here's a little puzzle fun to start your week! Click on the puzzle below and give it a try!


Click to Mix and Solve

Spring Break

Spring Break is a week away. Now depending on who you're talking to, saying that might elicit either a groan or a cheer. From a parent's point of view, that might not be good news. The kids at home. For an entire week. What to do? From a student's (or even a teacher's) point a view, the news might be met with a resounding round of applause.

Our world is viewed through many lenses. People have different opinions about things. They are drawn to certain things. Have very specific likes and dislikes.

As a writer, we try to appeal to as many people as possible. After all, we want them to buy our books! But that's often difficult to do.

Even within the romance genre, there are dozens of sub-genres lurking. Contemporary, historical, paranormal, and within that even more...sweet, spicy, erotica, inspirational...the list goes on and on. How do we figure out what people like?

Many writers write within a specific genre and/or sub-genre. I, for example, write spicy contemporary romance. That's what I'm comfortable with, that's what I like. Others are able to branch out and write with more diversity.

What works for you? Are you devoted to a specific kind of writing or reading...or do you branch out? (And how do you feel about Spring Break...shivers of excitement, or shudders of dread?)

Don't worry, there's no right or wrong answer. Everyone has their own opinion...which makes the world an interesting place to be. Just imagine if we all thought alike...

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Unique Museum by Margot Justes

I had a radio interview last Wednesday and was asked a really good question-Jena O’Connor of KORN 1490 AM Let’s Talk actually read my book and liked it, hence the question-what makes the Rodin Museum unique-what makes it standout and different from the rest?

And for once I was quick on my feet…it’s still a work in progress-the thinking on my feet part.

For me it is matchless in its intimacy-his incredible work aside-the gardens are magnificent, the sculptures appear to you from unexpected places, it is relaxing, not chaotic, your eye wonders but there is none of the panic of what shall I see first or next.

As a visitor you tend to relax, take your time. Savor. Enjoy. You’re among friends. You’re not overwhelmed. Look at the Thinker-thought and muscle? Or is it? What would you see?

Once you’ve wondered through the gardens, you’re now ready to enter his home. Some pieces have been left as a work in progress, ready for the master to return and finish. That is entirely my impression, probably because his presence can still be felt, at least by me.
The Kiss, hard cold marble generating a tremendous amount of heat. Passionate. The lovers wrapped in an ardent embrace, totally oblivious of others. If you’re lucky enough to be there, stand in front and decide if you agree with the critics and pundits-was it just a woman submitting to the man? Or is there more, much more.

The Hand of God, flowing, smooth, compelling. Can you feel the magic of the hand rising out of the un-worked marble? The hard, cold stone holds such magnificent power.

Walk through the house and listen to the creaking floor boards and imagine the beginning of life in the creative process.

Till next Time,
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
Heat of the Moment ISBN 978-1-59080-596-1
available on

Friday, March 13, 2009

JA Konrath & Jack Kilborn Cornered By Rob Walker (an interview and a reunion)

Today Acme Authors Link welcomes the indomitable JA Konrath to our humble niche of the internet. Konrath is the author of six thrillers in the Jack Daniels series, all named after drinks. He’s also got a new book coming out, a horror novel, under the pen name Jack Kilborn, called Afraid. You can visit him at

I stalked suspense-thriller writer JA Konrath amid the Chicago shadows on a moonless night in search of the vacant warehouse that fronted the winding Chicago River where it turned sharply as a knife’s edge. Using the light from my cell phone, I hastily checked the address scribbled on my palm. If things got ugly in my search for the creator of the Jackie Daniels series here, author of Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail and more, I might need the phone to call for help. Konrath, it was rumored, liked to do hands-on research, and my father didn’t raise an idiot, and having read Konrath’s ticklishly horribly scary yet hilarious novels, I truly did not wish to wind up in a Konrath novel myself. Especially not as a victim. Somber boat rigging beat out an anthem in the night. The shadows here befit a Bogart film, I was thinking when a George Raft voice came lilting out from behind a creaking door just cracked open. “Walker, inside now.”

I had come to this seedy section of Chicago to interview Konrath who some believed had an evil twin, one who actually wrote the books while the ‘other’ put forth the gargantuan, amazing marketing efforts on JA’s behalf. Of course, no one knew for certain how Konrath kept his cottage industry going at such a breakneck pace, but it had become legend among mystery, suspense, and thriller authors, not to mention the entire horror community. This since his arrival on the publishing scene a handful of years before. I was determined to learn the truth, but I hoped to come away unscathed as I’d promised my wife and children that I’d return safe and whole despite going to see a man termed by many as a true maniac. To ensure my safety I had a sealed affidavit of my last known whereabouts placed in a bank vault, and I was packing a snub-nosed .38.

Konrath remained in shadow, one eye on my wake as I entered the shabby place he’d selected for our meeting. No drinks, no music, no crowd—an empty warehouse, or so it appeared in the darkness. Then he threw a light switch, and I marveled at the sight before me. What appeared to be a million or more books! At first I assumed the poor fellow had had to purchase back every book he personally guaranteed to his readers as worthy of their purse. Then it dawned on me, and I realized why we were here—the place housed every book that the man had ever read in every genre. With head downtrodden he confessed: “The wife said I had to get them out of the house. Besides, the dogs were chewing up my first editions.”

Joe led me to a small table and chairs in one corner of his warehouse of titles where he lit a small kerosene lamp and shut down the costly overhead lights. Here too he had a cooler and from it, he snatched out two Sam Adams for us, and I began to relax. We sat and I tugged out my phone and pressed the key for tape record, and damn if my gun didn’t fall out at Konrath’s toe. Joe grabbed it up, twirled it around like a kid with a toy, and was about to fire it off when I said, “Hold on, it’s real and it’s loaded.”

“Why the gun, Walker?” he asked, a look of absolute puzzlement coming over him, the gun still in his hand.

“The neighborhood.” I shrugged. “Hey, I grew up in Chicago, too, you know. I followed the Blues Brothers.”

He accepted this and placed the gun between us. “So, you’ve got questions for me?”

I rolled out a scroll filled with questions. “Hope we have time for a few of these.”

He sipped his beer. “Best get to it. Twenty minutes I have to be on my way to O’Hare to hop a plane for Florida—speaking at the Writers Who Can’t Type Convention.”

I raised an eyebrow, surprised. “You can’t type?”

“No. Neither of my personalities can. JA Konrath, he’s the hunter. Jack Kilborn, he’s a real pecker.”

“I see. Well, we’d best begin.” I raised the volume on the recorder. “How has Chicago, this great city with its colorful history, informed your novels?”

“Informed my novels of what?” Konrath again looked puzzled but then he cracked up and slapped the table.

“Come on, you know what I mean? You’re a product of Chicago, right? How has it affected your stories, your style, man?”

“Born and raised in the Windy City, my friend. Perfect setting for thrillers. You got locations galore, plenty of room for action, intrigue, suspense, romance, laughs… and horror.”

I checked to make sure my phone was recording. “Tell me about horror.”

Konrath grinned at me, eyes glinting. “You know all about horror, Walker. Hell, I was reading you when I was a teenager. In fact, I read you under three different pen names before I knew they were all you. Maybe that’s why I decided on a pen name for Afraid.”

I glanced nervously at the gun, then checked my crib sheet. “That’s your first Jack Kilborn book, coming out at the end of March, right? Does it take place in Chicago?”

“Wisconsin. A tiny little town of nine hundred people. Something evil comes to town, and the population gets reduced. Drastically.”

“Any funny stuff in this one?”

Konrath/Kilborn shook his head. “This one is all scares, no laughs.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice. “I’m predicting that a lot of people who start it won’t be able to finish it. Too frightening.”

“Why the switch to horror?”

“I’ve always written horror. The Jack Daniels series has a lot of scary scenes. But Afraid gave me a chance to sustain the terror-level for a whole book, rather than just a few chapters.”

I checked my notes again. “Would you classify any of your books as your favorite? And if so, can you explain why?”

“I like Rusty Nail. It introduces Alex, who becomes Jack’s nemesis for two more books, Fuzzy Navel, and Cherry Bomb, coming out this July. It’s a pretty wicked book, in between the jokes.”

“As wicked as Afraid?”

“I’ve never read a book as wicked as Afraid.” He smiled. “Except for some of your stuff, Walker. Remember the first time we met, I called you a sick son of a bitch?”

“First words out of your mouth. Endeared me to you forever.” I switched gears. “ No author on the planet has done more guerilla-styled and classy promotion and marketing than has JA Konrath both on the web and in the real world, and if a prize were given for most endurance in an author on a tour and self-promotion effort, it must go to you, Joe. In fact, if I had a canned ham, I’d award it to you now.

“Thanks. I might even share it with you, if you threw in some bread and cheese.”

“You’re a generous man. My question is: Can you offer a quick word of advice to authors, new and old, who struggle with marketing or have flat out given up on it?”

Konrath took in a breath, blew it out slow. “Okay, in a nutshell. The one who gets their name on the most pieces of paper, wins. That paper could be a book, a short story in a magazine or anthology, or virtual paper, like a blog or web page. The more places people can find you, the better you’ll do as an author. So you need to help people find you.”


“Having an Internet presence that’s all about offering information and entertainment. Making sure people can easily find you, while also making sure other people find you when they’re searching for something else. That means you have to give good content.”

“What else?”

“Meeting as many people as possible, in person and on the web. Some people have more power than others. Media folks. Reviewers. Booksellers. Librarians. Bloggers. Give them extra special attention.”

“You make it sound easy.”

“Writing is a service industry, my friend. Give good service, and people will come back for more.”

We hear footsteps just outside and Konrath blows out the single kerosene lamp we have been laboring under. “Who is it, Joe? Who’s after you? For God’s sake man, perhaps I can help. If you are in some kind of trouble . . . you must tell me who is stalking you?”

“Same people who are after you!”



After a moment, the sounds from outside become muffled and soon are gone altogether. Joe relights the lamp. My gun is back in my possession, but the phone is still recording. “Final question for the ACME blog, Joe is not a question. This space is completely and utterly yours to sound off. Your time to add anything you wish. Anything I’ve failed to cover.”

“You’ve been in this biz long enough to know the secret, Walker. It’s about survival. But you can’t survive on your own. We’re writers. There’s no competition between us. My fans are your fans, and vice versa. So we need to treat each other better. Support one another. Recommend each other’s books. Hell, we should buy and review each other’s books as well. Never ceases to amaze me that something so simple, so obvious, is done by so few.”

Konrath stands up, offers his hand. “Thanks for the interview, Walker, and for watching my back. You know I’m your biggest fan.”

I nod, and he walks off into the shadows before I can return the sentiment. But if you’re reading this, Joe, know I feel the same way…

If you’ve enjoyed our brief interlude with Joe Konrath, you can learn a great deal more about him at his website -

MySpace -

For more tedious information about moi, it’s

Thanks for coming by –
Rob Walker

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Is That Stench? by DL Larson

Reading Tony Burton's blog the other day reminded me of an incident that happened just a few weeks ago at my house. Now, I don't want to one-up the new guy, and if my daughter ever discovers I shared this incident on a public blog, she will have my hide. But at my age, I dare to be brave and a bizarre story is well, meant to be shared, so here goes ...

We had the family over one Sunday and my twin granddaugthers were packing all their animals in order to play vet. They were excited and anxious to hike everything upstairs to their play room. They're seven with big brown eyes that melt my heart and an imagination to rival my own. They played for hours, running around roaring and having an over-all great afternoon. Sounds pretty normal for first graders.

The next morning I was racing down the stairs and sniffed something sour and wondered what that could be. But I didn't have time to investigate and went on my way. That night the same sourness wafted about when I went to change my clothes for a meeting. I wondered if the Sears guy had left a sandwich behind when he installed my new washer and dryer, but I didn't have time to go looking already being late for my appointment.

The second morning my husband hollers up the stairs, "Honey, what's that funny smell?" The phone rang and we never got to discuss it. I left for work, not very happy that my house had smelled green, and not in a good way.

That night I walked in the door and gasped! What is that stench??!! I was supposed to be in Lisle by 6:30, which meant I was already late. But hey, enough is enough and my nose led me upstairs. In the cartoons the air has a green haze and I think there might have been one in my house that night.

I went into the upstairs bathroom, smiled at my new washer and dryer. My husband came in about then and hollered from the back door, "What in hell is that stench?"
That's when I looked into the waste basket and gagged. I found the culprit. I just didn't know what it was. I pulled layer after layer of fluffy tissue away, frowning at the cover-up. Hey, I'm a mom, I recognize a cover-up when it knocks me upside the head. Beneath lay a mass of green blob with red stains all around other tissue. I thought I'd seen everything, but I'll have to say I've never laid eyes on rotten hamburger in the bottom of a waste basket in my bathroom. Hamburger! Patties to be exact, most of it still tucked in between the small square freezer sheets.

Needless to say the halos on my granddaughters slipped a notch. Confrontation was inevitable. Playing vet had become a little too real for them. And yes, Gram and Gramps received a sincere apology and the promise to never play with meat again. But what still flabbergasts me, is their honesty when they said, "We poured the beer out!"

I will never under-estimate the imagination of a seven year old again. I have re-instated the eyes in the back of my head. And I'm back to counting the beers in my frig. And if you see my daughter, please don't tell her I told you this story! I don't want to hear, "Mom! I can't believe you told everyone!"

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Signs of the Times by Morgan Mandel

This morning I went to Mass for Lent, where the grammar school children were leading the invocations, some of which were:

Let us pray for peace in the world.
Let us pray for the unemployed.
Let us pray for our parents who are sacrificing to send us to a parochial school.

All of those invocations were about actual issues facing many Americans. We are still at war in Iraq and have no guarantee that even if we pull out, we won't be struck by terrorists when we least expect it.

Last night on TV I saw a video of people braving it out in line in the rain. The announcer said 1000 applicants came to apply for 100 jobs.

As I looked at the children in their uniforms this morning, I wondered how many of them might have to leave and go to another school because their parents can't afford to keep paying tuition.

Books can be a wonderful escape from reality. When I write, I try to pull my reader away from the real world and into the make believe realm. When I read, I read to escape.

I wonder how many other authors still write about a make believe world, or are more of them adding a dose of reality to reflect our times.

What about you? When you read, do you prefer escapism or reality? If you're an author, which do you write? Please share.

If you liked this post, please consider stopping by my daily post as well at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Flooded Basement

Obviously, I'm late in posting to the blog although I'm back dating it so it appears on Tuesday. I spent this past Tuesday with a flooded basement and ended up replacing two sump pumps. The previous ones had been so badly jerry-rigged that it was amazing they lasted as long as they did. We've had a very snowy and rainy winter her in the Chicago area and the water seems to gravitate towards my house.

Believe me - I'd rather be writing.

In the meantime please visit one of my other blogs - Sleeping with the Author at:

Have a great - and dry - day!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Web Tour

Last week was the YA Web Tour and it was very successful. Basically, seven authors from the young adult line from my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, got together and had a tour. We each gave away a book or books and it was really a fun.

Honestly, I had no clue how it would work, and even though we each did our contest a little bit differently, things went smoothly. In actuality, it was pretty darn easy!

Kimberlee Mendoza, who is also a graphic designer and does many of our covers, designed the graphic and organized the days. Then all we had to do was post the tour on our website, donate a book and tell people where to go on the next stop. This drove a lot of traffic to each of our sites. I’m sure some people went there and just entered the contest, but I know that some of them looked around; saw what kind of books we write, what was coming up, etc. I am really pleased with the tour and would highly recommend it for promotion, it’s easy and inexpensive!!

So, if you missed any of the stops on our web tour, here are the other authors:
Kimberlee Mendoza, Deb Logan, Kitty Keswick, Terry Lee Wilde, Linda Kage and Laurie Larsen.

Please have a look at theses authors sites and just hang around a little bit.



Sunday, March 8, 2009

Changing it Up

I'm not a big fan of change. Basically, when things are good, I like them to stay that way. Change has a way of shuffling things around and making them different. I don't like different. I like my comfortable, 'the way it always is' way of life.

But I've noticed recently that there are some areas where change is a good thing.

I've been working out a lot lately. I get on my treadmill about five times a week and do some running. While I run I always listen to music. I tend to latch on to a favorite CD and listen to it constantly. The other day, for a change of pace, I put in a different CD. And I had a REALLY great workout. The change of music changed my workout...for the better. I had more energy. I ran longer. I was really in a groove.

It got me to thinking about my writing. Last summer I finally (yes, yes I know I'm WAY behind the times) invested in a lap top. I wanted to be able to get some writing done and not have the "it's too nice to sit inside at my computer today" attitude. That lap top has been great! I write all over the place now. Living room, kitchen, front porch, back porch, in bed, and even out in the garage on occassion (if my hubby's out there messing around with his car.) I've found that 'mixing it up' a little helps to lessen writers' block. A change of scenery keeps the words flowing (most of the time!).

As I've been fiddling with my WIP, lately I find myself skipping to different parts of the story. When an idea strikes, I simply go to that part and write. I don't worry about writing from page 1 to page 300. I write what I feel like writing. And the page count is rising. The story is being told.

And as for the weather here in the midwest, I am DEFINITELY ready for a change. I am done with cold and snow and ice and rain and wind. I am ready for spring.

Hmnn? Maybe those folks who say "variety is the spice of life" have something there. Maybe I should change my outlook and embrace change, instead of fearing it.

It seems to be working so far!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring in Paris by Margot Justes

Any time is a good time to go to Paris. Rain, shine, hot or cold, Paris never loses its charm. But spring is a glorious time to visit; in fact Charles Aznavour sang a song about Paris in May and because it’s almost spring and we’re going on a journey. Let your imagination soar, cross the Atlantic and voila-we’re there.

Picture yourself standing at the Place de la Concorde; looking straight ahead to the Arc de Triomphe standing guard, the Champs-Elysees beckon, walk up that grand tree lined shopping Mecca…but wait, rather than throw yourself into the jostling tourist crowds, there is gentler, quieter introduction to Paris. One, I promise won’t disappoint; more introspective, passionate and exquisite. Romance pure and simple, after all we’re in Paris.

Go to the Rodin Museum, walk, take a cab, the Metro, anyway you see fit, but get there.
Even before you enter the intimate museum, you can get a glimpse of the treasures within through the glass wall. Yes, a glass wall allows you to see the backs of the Burghers of Calais. Can you think of a better enticement?

Enter through the old doors and you’re in Rodin’s gardens, visiting his home. The Gates of Hell, the massive portals greet you coming in and going out; it is a portal as no other.
Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, they are magnificent. An endeavor that took almost four decades, bears an unforgettable semblance of chaos-Rodin was thought to believe that hell is not only a place for the dead but the living as well. The agony, will to survive, beauty, horror-it’s all there for you to see.

Wonder through the gardens, sit on the bench in front of the Thinker and strike a pose. He’s there in the elements right in the midst of the gardens. Stroll further and meet Balzac. Sit down in the outdoor café and sip a delicious cup of coffee, listen to the birds chirp and look around you-treasures abound. The Burghers of Calais await your visit, an incredible sculpture depicting men willing to sacrifice their lives to save their village. The heartbreaking sorrow reflected in their faces is simply astounding.

For me the urge to touch and savor a piece of sculpture is always there, whether it’s smooth and flowing or harsh and gnarly, doesn’t matter, I just feel the need to touch. But it wasn’t till I was introduced to Rodin’s work that I saw passion portrayed with such force-agony with such poignancy-hope and survival with such strength.

His work moves me beyond the norm…each sinew, rope, muscle is so well defined-his mastery of reaching the depth of emotion pulls me in and tugs.

We’re by no means done with Rodin, next week we’ll go inside his home.

Till next Time,
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
Heat of the Moment ISBN 978-1-59080-596-1
available on

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dead Bodies Under the House by Tony Burton

Hey, I’m a crime fiction writer, but I don’t expect to have dead bodies under my house. However, it does sometimes happen. No, I not some ghoul, but I live out in the country, where field mice and gophers and woodchucks and possums and all sorts of critters wander around, so it's bound to happen more often with me. This time, it’s a rodent of some sort.

Well, in case you haven't had the olfactory experience, let me tell you—a decomposing rodent has a unique scent. I don't know why, I don't know how, but it does. Maybe it's just me. My wife is a health nut, and she read an article once about people who are called "supertasters". These are people who, by the grace of God, have more than their share of taste and olfactory sensitivity.

My wife says my sense of smell is uncanny. For example, one day she walked into the bedroom. She's standing 10 feet away from me. I looked up and sniffed. "Decided to have a banana before bed, honey?" I inquired. Her jaw dropped, and she stood there quizzing me for at least ten minutes on how I could smell bananas on her breath at ten paces.

Anyway, back to the dead rodent issue. Well, for about three or four days, a strange odor has been wafting into the house from somewhere. It's definitely dead rodent. The scent is strongest in our “library.” (That’s what we call the room where we keep most of our 3,500-plus books.) So, since we have a delightful, generous little dog named Buddy who loves to share his "finds" with us, I thought that perhaps he had stashed a dead rodent somewhere in there. Thus far this winter he has found two discarded deer legs from a hunter’s field-dressed kill, and a couple of rabbits. (No, he didn’t bring them into the house. Just the front yard. Chew toys.)

So, I move things around. Moved and replaced stacks of books. Shifted bookcases. Un-piled boxes. Nada. I've checked elsewhere, too. Behind the television, under the refrigerator and the armoire. Behind the sofa. No traces of rodent genetic material to be found. A CSI investigator, I'm not.

But, when I leave the house for a while and then return, I can still sense that presence—haunting me, laughing at me, thumbing its pointed, whiskered nose at me from the Great Rodent Beyond. So, I've made up my mind. I know what I must do.

Tomorrow I plan to don my "nasty work" coveralls and slither under the house, into the crawl space. There, I hope I can find and easily dispose of the little beggar. Unless, of course, he has snitched on Big Jimmy the Rat, and is wearing small, mouse-sized cement overshoes. Then, I might have to just look the other way.

Tony Burton

Saying NO, Because You've Already Said Yes To Something Better! by DL Larson

Each of us decide at one time or another what we want to do in life, and we take the steps to hack out our existence with our primary goal before us. If you've chosen to be a writer, then you've started down a path riddled with commitment.

Time and energy are needed to fulfill such a goal. Often that means saying no to something else important. It's time to break the myth that we can be everything to everyone. It's time to take the busy out of our day. It's time to refocus on the goal set to become a writer. If we don't make writing a priority, no one else will either.

During this Lenten season, my church is viewing a set of films made by Rob Bell, a minister and all-around energetic man with a passion, a purpose to spread thought provoking ideas to wake folks up, mostly to put God back in ones life. His concepts reach every age level and leave the viewers with the idea, "why didn't I think of that before?" He offered the best example, let me share it with you.

The human man, Jesus Christ, had a goal and he didn't stray from that goal. He had to reach Jerusalem. He had a date with the Almighty, to meet death head-on, and then to open the road to salvation for mankind. Whether you are Christian or not, one has to admire his determination. He stopped at many towns on his journey, he performed miracles, healed the sick, and fed thousands. Folks wanted him to stay, but he said no. Even Christ knew he could not be everything to everyone! He kept his eye on his main purpose. He took the needed steps to reach his goal.

Once we realize we don't have to be all things, life gets a little easier, we don't have to say yes to every idea, every project that crosses our path. We can be selective, we need to be selective. Our time is precious and our energy limited. Saying no to the PTA, or to the next fundraiser will not destroy your life. Quite the opposite will happen. Being involved is wonderful, I know, but taking on a project you are not committed to becomes a burden, and by saying no, that burden might become someone else's goal.

Staying focused is simple with a little practice. Put your priority first. That's it. That's where your energy lives and thrives. If you go there first, it's amazing how much you can accomplish. Sharing your commitment and priority with your family frees you up. My kids learned to appreciate my writing time. And now all these years later, each of my grown children have shared with me how proud they are that I took the time to do what I wanted to do. They learned from my example. There was no guilt for staying on task to meet my goal. They understood the commitment I had made.

It's okay to say no, because you have said yes to something better. It's your time, your energy, your choice! Dare to be selective. You might discover life is much more enjoyable, and so is your writing time!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ear Worms by Morgan Mandel

Ear Worms - Sounds kind of icky, doesn't it?

I heard about them while listening to the Dr. Dean Edell Show on WLS 890AM Talk Radio on Sunday morning. They're not as bad as they sound.

Ear worms are those songs that keep running through your head, sometimes at night while you're trying to sleep or even during the day. Usually the first song I hear in the morning when I'm half asleep is the one that stays in my mind. I end up humming it the rest of the day. Someone said the way to stop an ear worm is to deliberately change the words or pattern of the song. I don't know if it works, since I haven't tried it yet.

So now you know about ear worms. What about books you've read that stay in your mind long afterwards? Book worms are the people reading the books, so we can't call them that. Maybe we could call them eye or mind worms.

Is there one that you can't you forget? It doesn't have to be a classic. It could be non-fiction, a thriller, mystery, romance, you name it. Please share.

Monday, March 2, 2009

YA Web Tour

Today starts the YA Web Tour!

It's simple!

It's fun!

You can enter to win books!

Start the tour at Kim will give you instructions on how to enter at her site. She'll tell you where to go tomorrow to continue the tour. My day on the web tour is Wednesday, March 4th, so jump on the tour for a chance to win free books!!

I'll be giving away a signed copy of Ordinary Me and a t-shirt!

Join in the fun and see what YA has to offer!

See you there--


Sunday, March 1, 2009

WHAT’S THE HOOK? by Austin S. Camacho

Not all holidays were invented by Hallmark. You should seek them out to promote your work.

Hi. I’m Austin Camacho, an infrequent guest here (my own fault) but when I do appear I’m invited to discuss one of my areas of concentration: mystery writing and marketing. Today I have an excuse to talk both.

When you have a new book about to hit the shelves writing the news release is easy. The news is that you have a new book. But after your book’s been out a while it’s a bit harder to scrape up interest. You need news to attach your book to, to make it feel fresh and relevant to the happenings of the day.

If no REAL news is happening that’s related to your book, you can always hook onto a holiday. There are tons of the out there, and several will fit your book. I like the listing at because it’s light and fun. There I learned that March is, among other things, Irish American Heritage Month, Ethics Awareness Month, Women’s History Month and Poison Prevention Awareness Month.

If your detective is female, it should be relatively easy to set up a reading and the news release almost writes itself. If the victim in your book is poisoned, you may have to work a little harder. “March is National Poison Prevention Awareness Month and Jane Doe knows all about poison, having used it to kill off the victim in her latest novel...” But you should still be able to set up a presentation in which you share some of that research you just couldn’t work into the book.

I walked into an opportunity when the manager of a store I signed at mentioned that March is Mystery Month at Borders. I quickly proposed a presentation on the popularity of crime fiction, even as I was wondering “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

So if your book’s been out a while, find a holiday news hook for a fresh news release and a timely reading or signing event. And if you happen to be a mystery author, wander into your nearest Borders, let them know you know their secret, and offer your services.
Until next time -
Austin S. Camacho