Sunday, May 30, 2010

Release Date!

I'm excited to announce I have a release date for This Can't Be Love! Mark your calendars for November 5, 2010...just in time for Christmas presents! I am so thrilled. So, today I thought I'd share a brief excerpt and the blurb.

After the disastrous end of another dead-end relationship, all Jessica Hart wants is solitude and time to heal at her grandfather's mountain retreat. Instead she finds Zach Rawlings.

Zach has made himself at home at the cabin. He's house-sitting while the owner is away, and the temporary nature of the job suits him perfectly. For Jessica, Zach is everything she wants to escape.

As she gets to know him better, she realizes there's more to him than meets the eye. His patience and tender concern begin to heal something deep inside of her. But can she trust her heart to a man like Zach?

They laughed together, then fell silent. Crickets chirped in the darkness. The scent of Zach’s aftershave drifted to her on the light breeze.

After a while, he turned toward her. “Do you?”

“Do I what? Like apple pie and ice cream?”

“No,” he said softly. His gaze dropped to her lips. “Do you kiss and tell?”

Jessica’s heart kicked into a fast rhythm and she caught her breath. “I…”

“Shhhh.” He leaned closer. “I won’t tell if you won’t,” he whispered before his mouth claimed hers.

His lips stroked over hers, not aggressively, but softly, tenderly. He didn’t touch her anywhere else, but brushed her mouth with gentle intent.

Her first instinct was to pull back, but something stirred deep inside her. A feeling she’d nearly forgotten. Whispery shivers danced along her nerve endings and fluttered in her stomach. Without meaning to, the action was purely a reflex, she opened to him.

The kiss deepened. Their breath mingled. Her palm slid up his chest, feeling the play of muscle beneath his shirt. She fisted the flannel of his open collar in her hand.

His knuckles grazed the sides of her face.

Her body tingled with awareness. Scattered thoughts flitted through her mind, but she couldn’t hold onto any of them. Not while Zach kissed her. Not when his mouth fitted so perfectly against hers. Not when the pulse racing at the base of his throat matched the cadence of her heartbeat.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt like this. Had felt anything.

Should she be feeling this way about Zach?

Almost as if sensing her conflicting emotions, he softened the kiss, tenderly brushing his mouth over hers one last time.

She waged a silent war within, trying to calm her racing heart.

She still clutched his shirt. She relaxed her fingers one at a time, releasing the twisted fabric from her grasp. Finally she drew in a deep breath, then slowly let it out.

Her eyes found his.

Zach’s gaze searched hers. He smiled. A smile as soft and tender as his kiss. He touched his finger to her lips, then rose. “Good night, Jess.”

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stuff by Margot Justes

This will be a short blog, had a family emergency and have been out of touch for a couple of days, and too tired tonight to do more.

I have the prints from Matt Connor, the up-and-coming photographer and I will post them next week.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, May 28, 2010

Personality's Importance in Fiction Writing

Time for Psych 101 - Personality is important in Writing? You BET!

Q 4: How does 'personality' assist in the writing of fiction?

Answer: Personality...and this means A, B, C and all types, figure heavily in fiction and typically the author's own personality comes into play as does the readers for that matter!

A writer has to be somewhat driven and obsessive to stick with it for the duration of what is often called a "checkered" career in such a fickle business, such a roulette wheel business as publishing.

The Reader also must have the 'right stuff' to bring a book to completion--that is a personaltiy that sees a novel through. In other words: Writer endures to the end, flip-side that, reader hopefully endures to the end. I had a teacher who once asked me when I balked at War and Peace in its abridged form, "Are you going to beat that book, or are you going to let it beat you?"

In the depiction of character, personality is the culmination of conditioning, struggle against conditioning, or failure to make that struggle and accepting one's conditioning (we're all brain washed to something as it is the nature of nurture, right?). What motivates a person equals personality.

Comes of having personal goals, and every character, good, bad, ugly and in between must have goals and perhaps a super goal. Characters have run ins with themselves--memories, sensations, images. Flash backs or hallucinations, etc. These form layers in a character's personae.

A character is molded by circumstances or resists them. Either way tensions and conflict can come of a stubborn obsessive compulsive, and the most memorable characters have these traits when they set their eyes on the prize.

Ahab in Moby Dick had a wooden leg for a reason. If he was sound of leg and mind, if he still had both his legs, or if he had no legs and was confined to a wheel chair and could not act on his mad obsession over the whale, or didn't really care to be bothered, it wouldn't be quite the memorable saga it is. It'd be flatline story for sure, for sure....

Ahab would never walk the deck of a ship. Would not be motivated to do so. Would retire.

Nightmare, memory, learned experience, what's in the character's bedrock DNA is at the heart of personality and story. The best authors know how to create full-blown characters fully realized. Characters are multi-layered and complex as in life. Readers today demand far more complexity of character than complexity of storyline.

In other words a character-driven story is at least as important as a plot-driven story, and the best stories are characte fits plotline like a glove stories wherein both are equally important. If you exchanged Ahab's personality for instance for that of Sherlock Holmes, it would change the dynamic of the story as surely as chaning the plot line. Can you imagine Sherlock in Ahab's shoes...errr ahhh pegleg?

Do leave a comment; would love to hear your remarks on this area of Psych for Writers.

Rob Walker FREE stuff

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rediscovering Character Personalities by DL Larson

Last week I dusted off my WIP and began writing. I was excited to be back with my sci-fi family. Then I discovered I had forgotten some of their personal ticks and characteristic quirks. Remembering names and eye color, etc. was the easy part, but I soon realized I needed a refresher course in how they moved, what their favorite sayings were, and how they reacted to tense situations. I have a big cast in this book and it had all been so easy a year ago when I had just finished one book and had eagerly started this one. I dug out my character list and yep, there was the character descriptions: eye and hair color, full name, a smidge of background and family history I had developed. But no personal quirks. And I know my characters have them. I was disappointed I hadn't left myself better notes.

So now I am rereading Book Two, Mary Angel The Wolf Princess. The cast of characters have grown from Book One, and I am in the process of creating a better character analysis of each person in my book. I generally use three columns on one sheet of paper so I can quickly discern if one character has more quirks than another or if two have too similar traits that might be confusing to a reader.
I've only just started this extensive character list, but I'm glad I am taking the time to do this right. This process has clarified each character in my mind and writing the book will be easier because I have done my homework, even if it was examining my own previous work.

Writing a series has been very enjoyable and challenging. My historicals are series as well, and I remember doing a similar character list to keep things straight. But creating a new world in my sci-fi brings out a different set of challenges and once establishing the surroundings of an imaginary world, as the writer, I must maintain the rules I created. No matter what world I might make, each character must ring true throughout it.

So I'm on homework assignment this week, fine-tuning my characters as best as I can. How about you? Do you have any techniques when working on a series? Share with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Sharing with you on our small town loss:
Two months ago I wrote about a teenager, Sami, who was in a serious car accident. Sami was the Senior Class President of her High School, Valdictorian, a state scholar, and had many other wonderful achievements in her short life. Sami passed away May 24. Our town is still in shock. Her benefit was set for June 12. Graduation is tomorrow, May 28. Her funeral will be at the High School on June 1. Please pray for her family and all of these young people who are facing such a difficult task of graduating without their friend and saying good-bye.
Peace be with you and yours ~

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Routine or Rut? by Morgan Mandel

Do you find yourself doing the same things at the same time, day after day? A lot of people follow a certain routine, especially those like me who hold down day jobs. Many of us need to be at work at a certain time, and leave work at a certain time. That means going to bed by a certain time also to be able to repeat the cycle again the next day. On weekends, I tend to follow the same pattern of waking up, since my body is used to that schedule.

I walk the dog right away in the morning, as soon as I get home from work, then let her out a few times each night into our fenced yard.

I like to eat the same food for breakfast, go to the same place for lunch since it's convenient, and rotate the same dinner kind of foods. Friday night is often pizza or gyros night.

Routines can be good or bad. A routine that is so solidly ingrained that it's very difficult to change, I call a rut. It's hard to get out of a rut, but it's worth the effort. I'm in one, but am starting to break free. I've been spending loads of time on promotion and social networking, because frankly, it's a lot of fun. Still, that's not getting my novel finished. It's hard to promote a new book if that book isn't done.

So, I'm not going to spend as much time on promotion as before. I'm spending more time on serious writing. I promise.

What about you? Are you in a rut? Or are you following a disciplined routine?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Landscape Lighting

Yesterday we spent the entire glorious day outside working in the yard. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and not only did we accomplish a lot, but it also gave me the opportunity to continue my gardening/writing metaphors here today.

One of the things we did was to add some landscape lighting to our pond area. This was a lot of fun as it is one of those "finishing touches" kind of thing. We ran the wire and then decided where we wanted each light to be. In the process we needed to remove some ground cover that had crept into places it shouldn't have. We hooked up the lights, set the timer, and then had to wait until night fell to see if we'd aimed the lights in just the right spot. Once it got dark, we tweaked a few angles, and wa la...beautiful! Lights illuminated the pond, a tree off to one side, and the focal point of the landcaping in the middle. We decided another light we'd placed at the foot of the bridge was too much, so we removed that.

Of course, this got me to thinking about writing. Placing those lights was a lot like deciding what to reveal and when in a story. We want just the right story lines, plots, and character arcs to be illuminated (and at the right time). Other things can be a little further from the light, but still visible. They'll play a role in the story, but aren't the main focus. And then of course there are those things that we want to keep in the dark. Maybe these will be revealed in the light of day, or maybe not. Maybe they are simply background information for the author, but don't ever need to be 'seen' by the reader. And there are times we may reveal too much too soon, and things need to be removed and saved for later or not at all.

So today we're mulching. Anybody have any good metaphors to relate mulching to writing?!

Until next time,


Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Taste of Italy by Margot Justes

The first Taste of Italy is this coming Monday, May 24th 7:00pm at the
Elk Grove Library
1001 Wellington
Elk Grove 60007

Now that I got that out of the way, (a little promo) in case you're in the area and would like to stop by.

The preparation for the event has been fun because Susan Miura did the hard part;the power point slide presentation, and it is fantastic. While I got to do the fun part, scour the food stores looking for edible delights from Italy.

I found a few at Joe Caputo and Sons. I have cookies, hard candy in espresso and cappuccino flavors. No surprise there, the Italians love their coffee as do I, so it was a match made in -dare I say it-coffeeland haven.

Cheeses of course are not a problem, neither is prosciutto, the crackers will have to be local. Pellegrino is on the menu as well, and because May is gelato month, we're serving gelato. Maybe one flavor will be coffee. There is a theme here. How many things 'coffee' can I find. Let's not forget chocolate covered coffee beans. Of course Italian roast will have to be the coffee of choice.

There will be a raffle as well. I have a few prints from Italy. I happen to know a young up and coming photographer who loves to travel. He graciously gave me some photographs from Rome, Venice and Capri. He has an amazing eye and I love his work. I didn't check with him on whether I can use his name, if the answer is yes, I'll post the photographs in my next blog.

In fact I framed the shot form Venice and it is hanging in my family room. I'm thinking of bringing it to my office for added inspiration to finish A Hotel in Venice.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Die in Active Dialogue

Can We Talk?

Dialogue is far more than words inside quotation marks…

by Rob Walker

What’s just as important as what your character says? What do you need concern yourself with as you craft dialogue other than just the dialogue? Let’s start with the face.

Whose face? Why the face of the speaker and the features of the other speaker as dialogue means two logues, not one. Facial expressions and features are a starting point. Squints, ticks, licking of lips – it all becomes part and parcel of how it all comes off the page like life itself or remains on the page like a dead, dehydrated piece of road kill.

In other words, now that we know so much about non-verbal communication, it is incumbent upon us writers to think of using three non-verbal “triangulations” just as we would triangulate at least three of the five senses in a scene.

In a dialogue scene eye contact is huge, facial expressions, big, sounds, sighs, rolling eyes, as well as gestures and even how a character sits, legs crossed or not, and how he stands, firm or shaky. Posture and proximity. These are all key to making dialogue action rather than feeling like inaction.
So what does science tell us about body language? Here is a pretty good list of items that I use as I write:

Non-verbal signs of Cooperation:

Standing with feet apart, head tilted high.

Direct eye-contact

Uncrossed legs and arms

Open arms and palms out

Finger to face (as opposed to hand covering face)


Hand covering mouth or shading eyes

Head down

Throat clearing

Need for reassurance:

Sucking on pen, pencil, glasses or other item

Clenched hands

Cuticle picking, biting nails

Hand to throat


Hands in pockets

Hands locked at back

Hand rubbing back of neck

Body twisted away

Stalling for time by cleaning glasses, pipe, rearranging, etc.


Hand to cheek

Chin stroking

Leaning forward

Scratching head



Hand over nose

Brow furrowed


Nail biting

Strained voice

Rapid eye movements

Open Gestures:


Eye contact

Affirmative head nods

Rubbing hands together

Interim phrases of agreement or acknowledgement (Eh? Uh-huh? Hmmm, oh, etc.)

Closed Gestures:


Leaning back (as opposed to forward)

Hand covering mouth

Peering over top of glasses

Crossed legs, arms

Head down

In other words, it is as important to see/hear what a character says but just as important to see and hear what is going on between the spoken lines, alternating with interesting actions the character is involved in and engaged in. This keeps the dialogue interwoven with the action, and the action engaged while speakers speak. Action should not end when a character opens her mouth. Same as with thinking; we are in real life normally involved in multi-tasking as we are thinking, no? Same as when speaking. Your dialogue needs to walk; your dialogue requires legs. When the man says, “Lights, action, camera” include in that list “dialogue” but dial it UP!

My latest madness is found via google at Dirty Deeds – Advice where you can keep tabs on the work in progress – Curse of the Titanic, or google Write Aide, or check out his blogs at

Do leave your comments!


Take the Challenge! by DL Larson

When I attended the recent RWA Chicago area writers conference, the Spring Fling, I was given a challenge. Every person in attendance was given this challenge. Author Cherry Adair dared us to finish our current work in progress within a year's time. She offered great incentives, but mostly she planted the seed in everyone's mind to simply get to work.

I've been thinking about this challenge and dragged out my WIP. I was shocked to see I have not written a line in over a year. This is not what I usually do. I'm pretty firm about staying on task. I don't know how this happened. I'm rather ashamed for allowing this piece of art to sit idly in a corner while I worked on other stuff.

I have about 75 pages written. In my mind I thought it was closer to 200. So I've deceived myself again. That stops as of today. I'm taking the challenge. My WIP is now my priority. I like what I've written, it's a sci-fi romance, the third book in this series. It's been easy to slip right back into the action. My mind is quickly catching up to what I had planned and I'm anxious to see it on paper.

If you've been procrastinating on a WIP, now's the time to start up again. Take the challenge to see your work through to completion.

I have posted above my computer monitor:
MY CHALLENGE: TO COMPLETE MY CURRENT WORK IN PROGRESS, RENZO THE RELIANT, BY: MAY 20, 2011. I signed and dated it. It's official, I've taken the challenge to stay on track and finish my book.

I also offered myself an incentive. It has to do with chocolate at my favorite restaurant and a boat ride I've been wanting to take.

How about you? Are you up to the challenge? Do you need to set a date to finish your novel? Go ahead, I dare you. What do you have to lose?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What a Character's Job Stop You From Reading a Book? by Morgan Mandel

When I first started writing about 15 years ago I heard the market did not take kindly to novels in which the characters were either singers or sports personalities. That's because for some reason apparently people didn't like reading about them.

I broke that rule in 2006 with my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, about a pro basketball player, though he wasn't one at the beginning of the book. I know I'd read a book about a singer if the plot sounded interesting. I enjoy books about people in almost any kind of occupation, but especially ones of power where I can experience that feeling vicariously.

 What about you? What are your favorite or unfavorite jobs for book characters? Would the main character's job stop you from reading a book?

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Writing to the market

A common subject among writers at conferences, meetings, blogs and any other places where writers gather is whether or not they should write to the market. I have several thoughts on this, the primary one being that the market is a moving target, so being able to write to it and target it just when your type of novel or other product is wanted is about as easy as timing the stock market. Of course, there are people that do both of these arduous feats and do them well, however, the reality for most of us is that this is a difficult thing to do, especially if you are a first-time novelist.

Several things to consider if you want to write to the market are as follows:

- it usually takes a year to write and rewrite a novel. During this time lots of trends come and go. There was a time when Chick Lit seemed to rule, and while it's still a popular genre, the ranks of Chick Lit writers have been thinned to a much smaller number in recent years.

- if you are a first-time novelist and shopping your product and have yet to find an agent and/or publisher then it could take months or years to place your work. As you can imagine, a lot can change in that amount of time. Of course, in some cases fads that fade return years later - what's old is new again - so the time that lapses just might be an advantage in this situation.

- Once a hot trend in writing peaks, say wizards, vampires, angels, etc., and everyone is trying to write to the market, the market becomes saturated and the last thing an agent, publisher or even the readers want to see is the same old thing wrapped up in new packaging. Now, if it's refreshing that's a different story - pun intended.

After all these years, I return to the same conclusions about writing and these are:

Write what you love to read,
Write from your heart,
write something you can be proud of,

because in the end you will have spent at least a year of your life on your novel in the writing, rewriting and shopping of your novel. Why would you want to spend that much of your life on something that you weren't proud of?

Very few people ever complete a novel so at a minimum that is something of which to be proud. Extend that pride to writing from your own voice and patiently pursue it's path to becoming published.

I've also concluded that the only writers who do not become published are those who give up and those who die - except that even after death your children might just find those manuscripts and have them published anyway. Unless, it's about them. Now there's an idea!

Monday, May 17, 2010

How well do you know your characters? by June

I might have mentioned before that I think of myself as a “pantser.” I write by the seat of my pants, or so I thought. Lately, as I have been tacking this historical romance I find I can’t really pants it. There is so much research, if you want to be accurate, that goes into a historical.

First I needed to set the time that the book is to take place. I love Regency England, so that was a no brainer. Ah, but the Regency goes from 1811-1820. This was the time period that the Prince of Wales, later to become George IV, was the regent while his father, George III, was found to be mad and not fit to rule. Sometimes the rules can stretch a bit and you can get away with 1800 being still considered during Regency time, but I think you get where I’m going here.


No writing by the seat of my pants with this one.

Now, I can still write and fill in the specifics later, but you have to know your characters before you start. Where are they from? How did they get where they are? What secret is in their past that is preventing them from getting what they want? Whew, and that’s just the start!
Lets not forget the setting, should it be London, or at a country estate? Since I’ve been to London, again, no brainer.

So I started to write. I had my time, I had my setting, but then there were subjects that kept coming up.

Then, as it happens, there is a conflict in the story. The hero reacts a certain way. I know why he acts this way, because it’s his character, but what made him that way? And the heroine. She is so independent. What made her that way? So, I find myself actually sitting down and making notes about stuff that I know will NEVER get in the book but I have to know this stuff so the reader will understand why the characters act the way they do.

My YA stories were nothing like this, so does that mean I knew them less because I could just write them by the seat of my pants? Nope. They are just different, which means a different approach to the writing, and a different approach to knowing my characters.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hometown Idol

My hubby and I have never been regular "American Idol" watchers. On a fluke we happened to watch Season Four: the one Carrie Underwood won, but other than that, we tend to pass it by.

Until this year. This year it's special. Someone from our town, someone my husband knows and used to see on an almost daily basis, made the cut. Not only did he make the cut, he's now in the final three. Needless to say, this season, we are glued to the tv on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Biting our nails. Hearts pounding. Palms sweating. Dialing like mad over and over again after the show on Tuesdays.

All because of Lee DeWyze...former paint store clerk turned Idol.

Friday was Lee DeWyze Day here in Mount Prospect. He was everywhere all day long. First we caught him on Fox news, then he threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game. These were all cool things to catch on tv, but the best part was when he actually returned to Mount Prospect for his parade.

As we headed over to the parade route, we happened to catch a glimpse of a huge SUV type limo on one of the side streets. Of course we made our way over, just in case. And of course, it turned out to not have Lee in it, nor would it any time soon. However, being in that particular spot put us in great position to see his actual limo (complete with police motorcycle escort) pull into the firestation. He popped out of the limo, gave that ever-engaging smile, and headed into the bay to get settled into his parade car.

When everything was set, they pulled the car out, but didn't move onto the main street right away, but let us approach the car to say hello and take pictures. Pretty cool.

I have to admit, I'm a little star struck right now. I have a little bit of a teenager-like crush on this new Idol. My husband just rolls his eyes at me. Afterall, to him, Lee's been the guy mixing his paint for the past three years.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

And don't forget to vote for Lee!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spending Time with Family by Margot Justes

I'm going downtown tomorrow to meet my daughter Dina, have breakfast in a lovely restaurant and go to the Art Institute. I haven't been to the Museum of Contemporary Art in years, that is also on the agenda. On the way we'll pass Nordstrom's and I hear they sell shoes there. Hmmm. My kind of day. Food. Art. Shoes. Not necessarily in that order. Did I forget to mention there will be a few stops at Starbucks too.

Sunday, my daughter Solonge is hosting a birthday party for my granddaughter and grandson, so we'll celebrate with the munchkins.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get organized and I actually made a list of 10 items I have to get done this weekend. So far so good, this blog was # 2 on the list.

This is the perfect moment to mention a new project I started, but while at RT, I pitched to Lori Perkins from the Perkins agency and she gave me a terrific idea; Vampires and the world of art. That is #3 on the list, research the current world of vampires as heroes.

At first the thought terrified me, I'm leaving my comfort zone, I writer romantic suspense/mystery stories. I don't 'do' paranormal.

But, the idea stuck in my head and my vampire wouldn't let go. Needless to say, I'm working on A Hotel in Venice and The Vampire's Legacy (a working title).

Till next time,

Margot Justes
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger's death changes her life.
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More Psych 101 for Writers, Readers, Characters

Once again Professor Walker guides you through what Pavlov's Dog never did learn....

Q#3 -- How does 'health and stress' play a role in fiction writing?

Answer: Health and stress are like chicken and egg, hand and glove as one is so closely linked with the other. The health of the author and the reader are crucial to the process. Lose your health and the first interest to go is sex followed by reading. Laugh track here. Seriously, a loss of the ability to concentrate, focus, draw on memory is devastating to the creative process and reading is a creative process as well as writing. Too much stress bad things result all round. Too little stress...well isn't it like blood pressure and so many things?

Everything in moderation. So health and stress are crucial to reading and writing, and inside the story, characters also battle health issues and stress at every turn. In fact, the stress level for the typical fictional person would likely kill any real human being. Imagine being at the stress level of an Indiana Jones for a day.

The stress level and problems an author creates to plague his creation are crucial to a story, because in essence every working story is a war. One side wants X, side two wants Y, and they stand in one another's way (goal). It is stressful to chase a killer, to race toward a goal, to attempt to achieve but the brass ring is just out of reach.

The old admonition is to get your character up a tree, then soak him with rain, pelt him with rocks, hit the limb he's on with lightning, have the limb careen to the earth where you've placed a family of bears or cannibals who're awaiting the poor sap. Any stress in the cartoon version of Tarzan? Disney films even for children have to carry conflict, else no story. Conflict and overcoming conflict is the essence of story.

Stress, conflict, tension...the high wire upon which the story character walks and fails or prevails. It's the job of the author to establish bedrock characteristics (DNA) in a Tom, Dick, or Harry, and then to challenge these rock-hard, supposedly unshakable traits. You can't let a character rest in a state of bliss (not for long anyway). Stress and health play a major role in the creative process indeed.

I have STRESSED out a lot of my readers and writers with the twists and turns in some fifty ODD novels over the years, and frankly that is my job, and I enjoy doing it but it is still stressful, so I gotta get away from the writiing when I can and get off my duff and get some exercise other than traveling to the refrigerator!

Find me dealing with The Curse of the Titanic, a journal on the writing of my latest novel at Dirty Deeds - Advice (google it).  For more writing help visit Miranda and I at Write Aide

Take Time to Read! by DL Larson

There comes a time when I've finished one book buy have yet to begin working on another. I call it my free time. My writing has quieted for the moment and I take that opportunity to read, read, read! Right now I'm in my free time. I just finished two of P.C. Cast's vampire books - 'Betrayed,' and then 'Chosen.' I'm anxious to finish the rest in the series. Her characters are real to life and face huge problems. Unfortunately I don't have time to read only one author and move on to Simone Eckles, 'Perfect Chemistry,' another Young Adult book I've been wanting to read. Her characters are many layered, intriguing with serious issues they must solve in order to move on in life. The character development in Eckles' story is better than attending a class on character building.

The other book I'm reading, I brought home from the Spring Fling Conference. I'm not familiar with this author, she's British, but I'm enjoying an adult book, called 'Perfect Timing,' by Jill Mansell. Her style is completely different than most American writers and once getting used to the POV hopping about, I'm enjoying the read tremendously.

I'm used to one point of view at a time, whether it be several paragraphs or pages. The British novel I'm currently reading has three or four POVs all mixed together. I'm not sure why and at first I was quite appalled since I take great pains in separating my characters' POV. Once I got over my shock, I easily jump right along with the characters, each revealing in their own quirky way what they think I need to know in order to stay involved with the story. It's an odd read, interesting, but not so grand in showing other writers how to write. I think only a very few can write like this and get away with it.

The important thing is I'm taking time to read for enjoyment. I rarely allow myself the indulgence to read so many books in such a short time. Don't get me wrong, I'm always reading something, but to simply read like others do, well, it's a real treat to read just for the pleasure of experiencing a good story. Working at a library, I see folks devour a set of books by one author and I envy them the luxury of having time, taking the time to read like that and emerse themselves in one particular writer. I'm still at that point if I read too much of any one author, I can pick up a pen and sound just like them. The last thing I want as a writer is folks saying I write just like so and so.

Before I get back to serious writing, I also plan to revisit one of my favorite authors. I want to reread one of Diane Gabaldon's novels from her Outlander Series. When I read her stories, I come away feeling as if I've just been through the most wonderful writing exercise. I'm anxious to start on something new and just get at it!

Reading for enjoyment fills all my empty spots as a writer, much like a mini vacation without the suitcase of dirty and rumpled clothes. I don't know how long this free time of mine will last, probabaly only a few more days before I begin writing again. But until then, it may be cold and rainy outside, I, on the other hand, am on my cozy porch, snuggled up with a good book.

How about you, what have you been reading lately?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Perfect Time to Write By Morgan Mandel

If you're near Schaumburg, IL and have an interest in social networking, please join me Thursday night 7:30pm - 9pm for my program at the Schaumburg Township District Library when I'll speak about Social Networking for Fun and/or Promotion.

We got back from Wisconsin on Sunday, but I'm still recovering from vacationitis - you know, the feeling you get when you've come back to a pile of bills on the table and have to go back to work, clean all the dirty clothes, and all kinds of other crummy things.

I was sure that being on vacation would be the perfect time to write. I wish it were so, but unfortunately, our cottage was small, so any time the TV or radio was on, it could be heard in all the rooms. The noise was not conducive to concentration. Fortunately or unfortunately, we were busy most of the time, either going out to eat, taking the dog for long walks, the DH fishing, I going to the casino or Bingo.

Anyway, I did carve out some quality time and strengthened some weak points in Forever Young that had been bothering me. I'm glad I figured them out.

I've come to the conclusion there's no perfect time to write. Because of that, I'll make do with almost perfect and work out some small aspect of my manuscript and try to come up with a solution, like I did this instance. That way, I'm still working on my book, even if I'm not flying through the pages.

What about you? Do you have a perfect time to write? Or at least a favorite? If you can't write because of other circumstances, have you thought of breaking it down and concentrating on one small aspect to make it better?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stepping Outside the Box

Okay, to be more accurate, this post is more like drinking outside the box...or should that be cup?!

I've never been a coffee drinker. I love the smell, but the taste never really did anything for me. Now don't get me wrong, the occassional cup of coffee with a shot of Bailey's thrown in there always tickled my tastebuds, but that's where it ended.

I don't drink coffee in the morning to get me going for the day. In fact, other than chocolate, I try to avoid caffeine as much as possible. I don't drink coffee with dessert after dinner like most of my extended family.

However lately, I've discovered the joy of coffee houses. I feel so 'grown up' walking into Starbucks or Caribou and ordering a fancy drink. (Yes, yes, don't laugh...I'm about, what?...four, five (more than that) years behind the times?)

Mondays at Caribou they have their dollar coffee. I doctor it up with some Irish Creme powdered creamer from home and I am good to go.

Another favorite is the white mocha latte at Starbucks. (Decaf of course.)

And now that the weather's been a tad warmer, I've discovered the 99 cent iced mocha (with just a touch of creme) from Dunkin Donuts.

Even at a recent writers' conference (Whoo hoo for Spring Fling 2010!), I found myself having a decaf after dinner...with plenty of cream.

All in all I've been quite happy to step outside the box and explore these new tantalizers for my tastebuds.

In my latest release from TWRP, Wild Wedding Weekend, Abby and Noah step outside the box and do something neither ever dreamed they'd do...they get married!

Hmnnn? Maybe one of these days I'll step out of the contemporary box and write that Civil War historical that's always niggled in the back of my mind. You never know, stranger things have happened.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Romantic Times and They Were by Margot Justes

RT, as it is affectionately known is a hoot, the days long, the nights longer.

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you that for the most part it was work.

The panels and various programs started early and lasted till six, that gave you an hour to get ready for the balls, or stop by the bar for a drink. I noticed many people did both.

I found the panels informative and in many case entertaining. There were two New York Public Relations firms that gave an inkling of what it takes to represent writers; both best sellers and newbies. I fall into the latter category. One agency did a Power Point presentation and listed best selling authors they represented over a five year period.

My personal favorite was The Nancy Berland Public Relations Agency, they had representatives from the agency discussing various approaches and Sabrina Jeffries as a panelist, along with a newbie author. The audience had an insight into how they represented an established best selling author and someone relatively new on the scene. For my money, The Berland Agency won hands down.

Exposed to the various romantic sub genres gave an inking of what's going on in the industry as well as a feeling of "I need to get out more."

The balls were a blast, from Ellora's Cave and her Cavemen, to the Fairy Ball and my personal favorite the Vampire Ball. I attended all three and let me tell you they were memorable and incredibly fun.

I didn't get to see much of Columbus, but did get to walk on First Street and found quite a few lovely art galleries. Fortunately for me, I walked very early Friday morning and the stores were closed.

I found the people friendly, helpful and even though the conference was huge, I didn't get that lost feeling, but actually felt welcomed.

One interesting side note, there was a Bishop's as well as a Mortician's conference, and plenty of swag, (big posters, covers, etc.) from the various romance and erotica authors.

Since I had to leave Saturday morning, I signed books Friday afternoon, sandwiched between two authors who wrote for Ellora's Cave. Sandwiched between two hunks on the cover and me with the gun and postcard. Need I say more?

But the best part for me was a fan who brought her previously purchased book for me to sign. She took the trouble to find me and even ask when A Hotel in Bath was scheduled for release. Thank you, Ruth, you left me sppeechless and incredibly grateful.

Will I go back? Absolutely.

Till next time,
Margot Justes

Friday, May 7, 2010

E-Books and On Becoming an Indie Author/Publisher

Why Go All Independent Author on Us, Rob?
  (Part I)

E-books and the electronic readers like the kindle are suddenly legion at schools, at writers conferences, even at ironically enough bookstores. I will never forget at a book signing when a lady pushing a baby carriage by stopped long enough to reach into the carriage to pull out her kindle to proudly flash before me to ask my wife, Miranda and I, “Are your books on Kindle?” We were ready for her, both of us replying, “Yes indeed.”

THREE Million plus kindle e-readers have been sold since December of this year, and Mother’s Day is likely to see a huge number sold as well—perhaps more; at least this is the number I keep seeing in articles in The New Yorker and Newsweek. In other words, the future is upon us and traditional publishing has reason to be concerned even if they don’t know it. More and more authors are taking control of their content and making decisions that impact the content—what they create.

Traditionally, the working arrangement between publisher and writer has always been one of you turn over your creation and the publisher “takes all the risks” as if you are taking no risks in spending months if not years on a manuscript. However, since you are taking “no risks” like those faced by the publisher—business risks—the notion is you are now passive cargo and worth about 8 to 10 percent of each “unit” sold after costs incurred such as an advance.

Now all decision-making is out of your hands, and you are supposed to go write another book in the event the first one sells well. Meanwhile, the publisher’s team—all of whom have pensions and paychecks—make the important decisions of pricing, placing, marketing, packaging, title, down to the font and colors on the cover.

In other words, all decisions made by committee, all of whom are making more money on books being pushed than the author. Think totem pole and the author is at the bottom, and wasn’t a camel a horse designed by committee? My point is when the book fails, the guy at the bottom of the totem pole is the one blamed as his/her numbers of unit sales is too low.

So the business model for the author is pretty bleak, and has been since Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press; ninety nine percent of all novelists in the world cannot live on what they earn as writers. Could you live on eight percent of what you sell without health benefits or pension?

That said, let’s turn now to the business model for the author who is now an Independent Author/Publisher—and for starters, the Kindle contract is not an 8-10% cut but a 70/30 split with the 70 going to the author! Aside from this, the author makes all the decisions to package and price the book, no title fights, no arguments over hardcover vs. trade vs. mass market as none of these designations apply in e-books. The added attraction to doing e-books is control and a sense of freedom.

NYC BIG Publishing appears as interested in change as glaciers, and for good reason—status quo is always attractive.  Also there is the constant mantra about how they “take all the risks” and they also take the lion’s share of the profits. This glacial attitude is no more evident than now with the sudden growth of e-readers and e-readership as the big houses like Random House and Penguin and others are warring with over price-setting.

They have always controlled the prices, and now suddenly millions of avid readers, rabid readers if you will (as kindle readers can go through forty books in a week) want their books at less than ten dollars—as Bezos, the head of Amazon "suggested" and I paraphrase: “You buy a kindle, no kindle book on Amazon for more than 9.99--unless otherwise priced.” Frankly, I believe Bezos truly wanted to revive an interest in reading, reading more, and more reading among all peoples of the world, that he was concerned as many of us are about literacy.

Fact is, Bezos wants the world to have access to any book you or I want “at the moment” or as close to NOW as Whispernet can make it happen. This is why Bezos named his device “Kindle” to “kindle the passion in readers and non-readers alike.” An altruisitc-based business model; imagine that!

By using the A-B-C directions at, I now have some 43 novels for sale online via Kindle Book Store on The e-books for out of print titles may require getting a company like http.//
to convert an actual book to a scan to doc, and once you have a doc file it must be converted to HTML—which can be the most difficult part of the steps involved. If you already have a doc file of the book in question, you won’t have to send off a book to be scanned. I used Blue Leaf because their prices are three times cheaper than anyone else doing book scanning.

By the way...recently learned that if you send a book doc file to a friend with a gmail address it "automatically" converts to html.  I can hardly believe this but have it on good authority!  After all, the most trouble involved in the process is converting the file to html and then in reviewing it, correcting the errors that will inevitably come up in the process of conversion—sometimes quite time consuming.
Meanwhile, once the html conversion is complete, once done and placed up on your kindle dashboard, the rest is smooth sailing. The results in terms of sales are astonishing. In the old business model with traditional publishing wisdom has it that your price the book at the top end—as high as the market will bear.

However, in the e-book model, the readers expect and demand low end pricing, very low end pricing. They are savvy readers who know that putting a book onto Kindle is a snap compared to printing on paper, paying for paper, warehousing paper, overhead for paper, paying PR people, paying marketing director and his staff, etc. Since all of this “goes away” in e-book world, the readers expect far cheaper books in the manner Bezos envisioned – and why not?

It is for this reason that I listed most of my forty plus books on Kindle at 1.99 and 2.99. These books at this low end rate are selling like a river flowing, while my three titles placed up by Harper Collins—priced at exactly the same price as the paper books at 6.99—are sitting there like three stones (no sale) while my novels like Children of Salem at 2.99 are my bestselling titles.

I earned 400 dollars last month on books priced at the lowest end of the scale, while my hardcover novel in the same month earned zip. In one year, I earned (after repaying advance, after packager’s 20 percent, after all overhead costs) a mere 141 dollars on my traditionally published hardcover DEAD ON, while in one month, I earned 400 dollars on my lowly 1.99 and 2.99 specials. What does this kind of economic comparison say about the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things?

Part II – Your Guide to Independent Authorship Found Here will continue here next Friday. Hope to see you back in your seat, ears alert, right here next time for the particulars of getting started in this brave new world of becoming an Indie Author.

Robert W. Walker hoping to hear your comments

Find me at Facebook, Twitter, Write Aide, Dirty Deeds – Advice, and Make Mine Mystery

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Final Check-Up for Your Book! by DL Larson

Lately I've been working on final edits for my sci-fi romance. It's past time to finish it to a polished state so it has a chance to become a published novel. In reviewing each chapter, scene and character POV, I realized I've been taking on the role of a doctor.

I've listened to the beat of each chapter, searching for good pacing, proper POV, clear descriptions, suspense building and comic relief.

I've checked for proper flow of words, character dilemma and growth, and checked the pressure building within each chapter.

I've looked for improper use of words, missing punctuation and typos! In other words I've given my manuscript a final check-up before I do one last thing.

The most important step I can do is not rely on my own judgment. I need help in this last stage, so I called in a professional to examine my baby. If you've never used a professional editor, I heartily suggest not missing this vital step in order to have a polished manuscript to offer agents and publishers.

Helen Ginger, editor extraordinaire, found a couple real bloopers in my manuscript. I told you how I've gone over every word with a critical eye. Yet she found simple mistakes in its, it's, they're, their, etc. I know better, but my eyes didn't connect to the mistakes. Basic third grade grammar and I missed it! Then there was the paragraph describing flowers in a field. The pedals floated about in a lazy swirl ... I've read that sentence a hundred times. Of course, I meant PETALS not pedals! Thank you, Helen for having a surgeon's eye for detail!

I'm a firm believer if a book is to survive, a professional editor needs to examine it, adjust and tweak it to its polished state.

Have you or your editor found a blooper in your manuscript? Share with us ~

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What could date your book?

A while back, women who wore curlers to the super market were smiled upon. Now, though I know some still do, it's not the norm for women to use curlers at all,  much less out in public.

It used to be women always wore nylons and slips with dresses or skirts. That doesn't happen much any more.

Also, men never wore earrings before, but now they do.

Nowadays, there are some men whose pants are almost falling off them them, they're situated so low.

What I'm getting at is if you wish to portray a certain period of time in your manuscript, pay attention to the norms of that time. Don't include something that's passe'. Also, be sure to include what's typical for your chosen period.

Can you name other examples of before or now?

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Etiquette - it’s not just a French word

I traveled to Washington, D.C. on business yesterday. I flew in just for the day so I had quite a bit of airport time in a less-than-twenty-four-hour period. We all knw how tiring it is to traverse the airport these days - the undressing, the redressing, the lines, paying for things that once were included or the inability to bring a drink from one side of security to the other and the probability of paying huge fees for one while you wait anxiously for your flight.

But none of this troubled me so much yesterday, despite challenging weather, as an event that happened in a most unlikely place - at least in my experience. Perhaps I'm getting use to the "fun" of traveling these days or perhaps I'm in denial, but other than being tired, the thing that bothered me the most occurred in the restroom. Ah - got your attention!

No sooner did I sit down on the porcelain pedestal to do what one does in this setting when I hear the loud voice of what sounded like a young woman enter the restroom. It wasn't difficult to surmise that she was on her cell phone. People just talk differently on their cell phones - loud and uncensored.

Okay, that seems to be something more and more difficult to avoid these days, but what happened next really shouldn't have happened, especially in a public/semi-public location. The young woman entered the stall next to mine and continued to talk on the phone while she did her business. In a sudden moment, the sense of privacy and respect for boundaries was gone. Call me old-fashioned, but the idea of talking with someone while urinating - or while they're urinating - rates high up on the yuck scale.

Yet, I've even heard stories where people talk on their cell phones while having sex. I hope this is one of those urban myths, but given the blurring of social etiquette boundaries, maybe not.

Perhaps this would be an interesting character point in a story but I strongly suggest that nobody call their editor, agent or other representative in the publishing industry while taking care of such private matters. Some events just shouldn't be done simultaneously despite the drive in society today to multi-task. Besides, often the porcelain pedastal is the only place I get a chance to rest - why would I want to mess with that!

Monday, May 3, 2010

When Life Gets In The Way….

Here is my current status:

Work Conference – done
Spring Fling – done
One daughter’s confirmation – done
Another daughter’s communion – done
(All in the month of April!)

And now, softball season starts.

For those of you who don’t know, I have three daughters.
They all play softball.
They are in three separate leagues.
My husband coaches them all.
So, life gets in the way.

But we keep on going and hope that we get that few minutes of peace to write a quick blog, read a few pages of a book, write a few lines of the unfinished manuscript you wish you could just get done, but life gets in the way.

It’s crazy, time consuming and ever changing…and I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. If you don’t hear from me every now and then just know, life got in the way, but I will be back!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Garden Metaphors

Yesterday we spent a good amount of the day working outside and cleaning things up outdoors: weeding the garden, opening the pond, "summer-fying" the front porch, etc. While my hands were busy with these chores, my mind was busy as well. Each of these tasks brought to mind a counter part, if you will, in a manuscript.

Weeding: Well, that one is probably obvious. Spring shoots are popping up all over the place, getting taller and fuller by the minute. However, those pesky weeds tend to pop up as well, ruining the asthetic quality of the "good" plants. They detract from the planned beauty. In a manuscipt it's important to weed out as well. For me weeds include things such as cliches, 'ly' words, passive voice, and the word 'then' to name a few. Once these are weeded out, the story can shine through.

The pond: This year my hubby found a dead rat in there. Definitely gross. (How glad was I that I was tackling the weeding?!) Manuscripts sometimes can have dead rats in them as well. In a mystery, perhaps it's an actual dead body. The writer and the hero/heroine need to decide what to do about that particular situation. Or perhaps it's simply a sub-plot that's not going anywhere anymore and needs to be fished out and discarded. Once this lifeless intruder is dealt with, the story flows much better.

The front porch: With the warmer weather it was finally time to move some plants outdoors. (These had wintered inside safe from the cold.) I also purchased some hanging pots and flats of impatiens as a finishing touch. A manuscript needs finishing touches as well. Even when it's all said and done, there's always the opportunity to go back and make it even better. Check those descriptions. Add those sensory details. Make it real. Make your manuscript come alive and make it a place people want to hang out.

So, what do you think? Do you find a connection to writing in everything you do?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Romantic Times by Margot Justes

Last Saturday I had a marvelous time time at the Chicago North RWA Spring Fling conference, and didn't post anything, I didn't even bring my computer with me.

This weekend I'm in Columbus, Ohio at Romantic Times, after which things should settle down enough for me to start shopping for A Taste of Italy at the Elk Grove Village Library, coming up May 24th. We're bringing Italian goodies to sample.

But in the meantime, I hope everyone is having a good weekend and I will let you know all about RT. This is my first RT conference.

Till next time,
Margot Justes