Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Beat Up Your Blessings! by DL Larson

This time of year many of us take a moment to reflect on the past, grimacing at what we did not accomplish and skimming over the many wonderful things we have been blessed with! I want to remind all of us not to ignore our blessings!

As I sit at my computer, I glanced around at the dozens of boxes I waded through to reach my desk. The boxes are empty now and why all the discarded Christmas cast offs ended up in my office is still unclear, but I realized several things as I made my way across the room. It doesn't matter what was in the boxes, the pile represents the giving and joy behind the present. What a blessing to have a family who cares for one another.

Next I glanced at the correspondence I have to deal with. Instead of sighing with exasperation at once again being behind schedule, I take a moment to be thankful for opportunities available to me. I have choices, decisions to be made, and no one will interfere with my commitments, no one will step in and say, "hey, lady, you can't do that." I have two blessings all mingled together in a pile of mail, choice and opportunity. How wonderful is that?

My WIP is tucked away for the time being and I can hear my characters through the cupboard door snipping at me to make them a priority in my life. Okay, yes, that sounds a bit unbalanced that make-believe characters are talking to me, but if you are a writer, I hope you understand the pressing need consuming me to return to my work in progresss. They aren't going anywhere until I do something with them. They haven't tried to escape, no one else knows who they are or what they are capable of, except me! What a blessing to have my characters, my story-line hanging around waiting for me.

I've just been told our electricity is about to be turned off due to some repair work needed to be completed, so I will wrap this up quickly. Sometimes blessings are disguised as problems, conflicts, and frustating situations. Don't miss out on a blessing simply because it doesn't fit the perfect description of what a blessing is supposed to be. Hard work and conflict are some of the best opportunities we can ever hope to have.

Happy New Year!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's your GMC for 2011?

GMC is so necessary in manuscripts, as in everyday life. Here's my New Year's Resolutions (GMC):

Be Better Organized
Lose Weight
Finish Writing My Book.

It would be so nice to have everything where I want it when I need it.
It's healthy not to weigh a lot, plus easier to get into clothes.
I'm a writer, but I want something to show for my efforts, especially when people ask me when my next book's coming out.

I don't always have time to put things where they should be, or come up with plans on how to do what needs doing.
So much tempting food to ignore, not to mention food is usually part of socializing.
Day job, home life, marketing, online friends to keep up with, research, everyday life, inner editor, other distractions.

What's your GMC for 2011?

Morgan Mandel

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After

Merry Christmas!

As many times as I heard that phrase yesterday and the day before, another featured prominently as well. "I can't believe it's over already." All the weeks of hustle, bustle, and anticipation to prepare the perfect holiday for friends and family have come to an end and Christmas is over for another year.

But rather than ending, I like to think of it as beginning, with a new kind of anticipation. Wondering what was in all of the colorful presents beneath the tree had many on pins and needles. Now the anticipation of getting to play with, watch, read, wear, use...all of those wonderful gifts comes into play. Revisitng the open gifts under the tree is as much fun as wondering what was in them in the first place. And they can be enjoyed for the weeks, months, years to come.

Writing a book is much the same. Weeks, months, sometimes years of work are put into creating the perfect story for your characters. And then one day, you write those magic words: The end...and they lived happily ever after...or something to that effect. There is a little bit of let down...afterall, you've spent quite a while with these characters and their love affair, how can you just let them go?

But you're not letting them go. Now it's time to revisit them. Make things just so. Not just for yourself, but for the legion of readers that awaits! And hopefully one day, you, and all of those readers, will hold that book in eager hands and enjoy it in a completely different way.

So in the week(s) ahead I have a lot of reading, watching, and writing to do!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays by Margot Justes

A touch of Chicago Winter Wonderland.
This one will be short and sweet, I have 10 friends and family coming to dinner, need to spend a bit more time time in the kitchen.

Merry Christmas!
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all our readers and bloggers a Happy Healthy Holiday and New Year! May all your dreams come true!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours as you celebrate this holiday season!

If you're looking for a quick, cozy read to curl up in front of the fireplace with, check out my free read: Mistletoe and Folly from The Wild Rose Press.

Happy Reading!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Holiday Stuff by Margot Justes

This will be a short blog, I'm expecting 20 people to dinner, and for the first time, I'm going the tapas route; from Spanish potatoes, samosas, Italian beef, chestnut and prosciutto ravioli in olive oil sprinkled with Grana Padana Parmesan cheeses. I've included a spinach and artichoke dip, hummus, a good selection of cheeses and sausages, American style wings and meatballs cooked in wine sauce.

I wanted something different with many varied flavors, but just in case I have mulled wine and eggnog with rum on hand, hopefully everyone will have a good time.

I was at Costco yesterday and bought a Brie goat cheese, and it is scrumptious. Dinner consisted of a toasted English muffin and the goat cheese, melted right into all the crevices. Delicious.

If anyone wants to make an easy and yummy fudge, here it is.
1/2 cup of butter ( 1 stick)
1 large can of evaporated milk
4 cups of sugar
1/2 lb small marshmallows
2 oz bitter chocolate
12 oz chocolate chips (I use all dark Ghirardelli chocolate)
12 oz dark chocolate (each bar is 4 oz)
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

Combine butter, canned milk and sugar. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, cook to a boil. (about 5 min). Turn off heat and add the marshmallows. Stir until melted, add the chocolate, one at a time. Stir until all is dissolved, add the vanilla and nuts. Mix well. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, pour and let cool. Remove from cookie sheet, cut in pieces and serve.


Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Traditions and Unexpected Delights by DL Larson

At our house, we have many traditions during the Christmas season. One of our favorites is our annual Caroling party. It started when my youngest was in preschool. My husband and I wanted our kids to know Christmas was not about getting things, but giving of ourselves. We wanted to teach our kids that Santa was fun and to be loved, but the baby Jesus was the reason for the season and we needed to find a way to show our love to others. We chose a caroling outing!

This Sunday we will host our 25th Caroling party! The must haves for the party seem endless; meatballs top the list, Apricot brandy slush comes in a fast second and pictures of guests in our antique sleigh on the front porch is right up there with must do!

Our schedule of places to stop to sing is an ever changing and shifting list. We visit a few older folks each year, but it is the weary young families we love to surprise! Our group gathers in front of our church to pile unto our open trailer and off we go, bundled against the weather and flashlights to light up the night.
Our singing ranges from boistrous "Here comes Santa Claus" to more sedate "Silent Night." We traditionally excel with Rudolph and Jingle Bells and always end each stop with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!"

Last year my granddaughters surprised us by wanting to add to our Caroling party. They wanted to host a charity drive. All I could think of was, "Wow." Our guests eagerly contributed to the cause and we delivered a trunk full of donated supplies to a homeless shelter the following day. I was so moved by my granddaughters caring for others at the age of eight!

This year Alex and Kylie chose to continue their charity work. Our guests have been asked to bring new or slightly used coats, boots, hats, gloves, etc. for Hope Haven, a homeless shelter in a neighboring town. These gifts will take up a bit more room than the cleaning supplies and paper products they asked for last year. But we will gladly find the room to accommodate the contributions.

To say I'm proud of my granddaughters is an understatement! They understand "giving" better than I ever did at that age. I can only imagine what can become of this learning experience. I feel the future is in good hands because I know they are not the only caring children around. Many, many kids are aware of the needs of others and they don't ignore the need, they do something about it!

And isn't that one of the joys of the season ~ sharing our bounty with others so all may enjoy life to its fullest.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not So Perfect Holidays by Morgan Mandel

For conflict, which we all know is  essential in a good novel, it's always fun to torture our characters. One way is to keep the main characters apart for important occasions, such as Holidays.

Here are some ways I've thought of. Maybe you can think up more. If so, let us know.

Another love interest
Preoccupation with work or a special project.

Here's hoping none of these apply to you for the Holidays!

Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 13, 2010

Santa Down! by June

With all the snow and blowing winds out and about Chicago this weekend, we had a bit of trouble with the inflatable Santa at our house. Actually, this is not really so rare. Whenever we turn the outside lights on and Santa doesn’t inflate properly, someone yells “Santa down, Santa down,” and one of the kids throws on their coat and boots and runs out to aid the fallen Christmas icon. Here is one of my own little elves setting things straight.

Until next time - Ho Ho Ho!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Five Star Review

I finally received another review for This Can't Be Love, and it's a fabulous one! Silvermage at Night Owl Romance gave it FIVE stars and a Top Read! (Can you picture me happy dancing?!)

"This Can’t Be Love was a great book. It was amusing to see the main characters struggle to get along at the cabin. Jessica wanted to do everything. The gradual build of Zach and Jessica's relationship was done well and they really got to know each other. They talked about their feelings. Jessica was a strong yet not over the top. I liked the closeness with her grandfather and her family. The romantic scenes between Zach and Jessica were intense in a good way. I also enjoyed them fighting their feelings to the point that they fell deeper in love and into a more physical relationship. They were tender together and happy. This book never dulled for me."

Happy reading!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Season by Margot Justes

I've been absent for two weeks, Thanksgiving weekend was fantastic, had enough turkey on Thursday and again on Saturday to last me a year. Very convenient.

Last Saturday, Dina and I went downtown. The falling snow and relative warmth and little wind made it a perfect winter wonderland in which to soak up the holiday cheer.

We ate breakfast in a restaurant that faced the Chicago River, a young and very talented jazz guitarist, made our meal a sensation.

Breakfast was followed by a walk down to the Art Institute to welcome back the Chagall Windows, and I visited an old friend, the new wing now houses the Old Guitarist by Picasso.

From there we walked down Michigan Avenue to Nordstrom's, Dina needed new shoes. Pretty soon they will be knocking out walls in her bedroom to accommodate said shoe collection. She didn't buy any that day, but we had an invitation from Nordstrom's for a special event on Sunday, of course we went, and yes, she bought shoes, more than a pair. But I digress.

After Nordstrom we went to Navy Pier for dinner at Bubba Gump, my granddaughter's choice, and the Navy Pier Winter Wonderland. In the process we received a gracious tour of the Coast Guard Icebreaker, Mackinaw.

That tour was an incredible experience, the massive ship's utilitarian appearance had a few holiday trinkets strewn along, and actually felt homey. But you never forgot this was a working ship, the people on board faced extreme and severe conditions to save lives, they had limited comfort and most likely would not be home for the holidays. It was a sobering experience.

We finished the evening with Navy Pier festivities, and it was fantastic, the decorations were stunning, with many rides for the kiddies, it was truly a Winter Wonderland.

And I might add by the time I got home, I did not want to move, in fact i was so tired I couldn't.

Now, I'm going to visit my kitchen and make some rum balls, simple, delicious, and fun to make.

2 1/2 cups of ground Vanilla Wafers (About 1 box)
5 1/2 cups of gound walnuts
1 cup of honey
1 cup of dark rum (I use Myers's)
1 cup of powdered sugar
Mix all ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for a couple of hours. Form into small balls and roll in powdered sugar.

I recommend frequent tasting.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks for books? Book-e-Leaks is Here!

I recently put together a blog I considered necessary to fill a need. I am sharing information about the new blog here at Acme --Book-E-Leaks is here! Leak info. about YOUR books here! This is just the kind of blog all writers and readers need - a place where writers are encouraged to speak freely and openly about their favorite titles created by THEM without being attacked but rather appreciated for appreciating their own works and favorite lines and ideas and methods used as well as news of new book launches, signings, sales strategies that worked or failed --- anything leaking from your book from inception to completion and publication....whether an ebook or a paper book. Post your news and great feelings of completion and closure right here at Book-E-Leaks. Share great blurbs, quotes, snippets from reviews here as well. All without fear of being attacked or having your book called SPAM. Don't know about you, but my life's work is not SPAM.

To get started here I will go first since I have bragging rights here just as you do. I will post a great line from Titanic 2012....and you do your best to add a great line from YOUR book so that readers will have a BookEleak to go may also want to leak such lines on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere with a link to Book-E-leaks.

So come on over to

do too leave a comment!
Rob Walker (order direct)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Extreme Make-Over by DL Larson

For Christmas my family is giving my granddaughters an extreme make-over of their playroom. The girls have outgrown so much of what is in there ~ kitchen set, baby dolls and cradles. They love music and crafts and so we have banned them from their play area and are in the process of re-doing, re-painting and making things new. It has so far been an exciting challenge seeing the whole thing through our imaginations and the bits of drawings we've made. Our biggest hope is it will be over-the-top fun for my granddaughters.

My son is building a stage, my good friend is tearing apart a velvet duvet for stage curtains, our friend an electrician is changing a few outlets and inserting more lighting, and the rest of us are busy painting and searching the stores for inexpensive additions like posters, chalk board, dress-up clothes and hooks to display them. We have only a few more weeks to pull it all together, but already my granddaughters are giggly with excitement, wanting to know exactly when on Christmas Day can they see their new playroom.

All this work of rearranging and shuffling to find the perfect accessories has me thinking about my own make-overs of the past. I once wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't until I took a bold step of changing everything in my life could I begin. I stopped wishing and took action. I went back to school, quit a perfectly wonderful job with full benefits and took on a part-time one in order to have time to write. My family tells me they did not suffer from the lack of income and my husband supported me and still encourages me to follow my dream. I saw it all so clearly in my mind. I simply had to change in order to make it come true.

Change is scary. Change is difficult. Change changes so many things! I like to think I'm still evolving, changing for the better. I look back on how far I've come and marvel I had the courage to move away from the familiar. I also see the distance I have yet to cover in order to accomplish my dreams still unfulfilled. And like my granddaughters, I can't wait to see how it will all turn out!

How about you? Are you ready for a extreme make-over? Have you taken the steps to move toward your dreams? Share with us today!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are You Out of This World? by Morgan Mandel

Most of the time I'm not in this world. I'm either reading or writing a book, watching TV or a DVD or going to a movie. At least, when I'm reading blogs, and hopefully on Facebook and other networks, I'm in this world, unless people are making up stuff.

Sometimes, I wonder. Am I living my own life, or someone  or many someone elses'? Should I be paying more attention to the here and now, and not this imaginary world?

But, it's so much fun not being of this world.

What about you? Are you out of this world, like I am?

Morgan Mandel
Escape to a Romantic Suspense -
Killer Career on Kindle for 99 cents

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google Launches EBook Store

Now it's getting interesting.

More than a decade ago at writer's conferences and other venues I talked about the future of publishing progressing more towards electronic delivery and print-on-demand. I was treated like a person from Mars.

Well, guess what! Here we are.

With the launch of the Google Ebook Store there is now strong competition for all things EBook.

See the attached link for the PW article:

Truth be told, I also commented on how it would take younger generations who embrace all the new techonologies and the cost of doing business to swing publishing towards Ebooks and print-on-demand; and indeed, that's what has happened.

My questions now concern how this impacts on small presses who actually embraced the Ebook and print-on-demand format very early on and often were criticized by the larger publishers as being less-than-professional for doing so.

Self-publishing is going to be another interesting arena. I hope someone is collecting data on this because it will be quite revealing.

And if you're curious about all the different EReaders out there go to the following link:,0,3208287.photogallery

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Checking My List Twice

As Christmas draws nearer, my list of things to do grows longer. Isn't that always the case?! So each day I check my list to see what I can check off, and what still needs to be done. Here's where I'm at so far:

Christmas cookies - check (baked yesterday)
Christmas cards - three quarterss of a check (They're written, addressed, and sealed, but I'm waiting on stamps from the post office.)
Christmas decs - check (done the day after Thanksgiving: two trees, outside lights, etc.)
Christmas shopping - half a check? - (I'm getting there.)
Presents wrapped - no check (Haven't even started!)
Watching Christmas movies with my hubby - check (We get in at least two each week.)

So, I guess I'm getting there. Of course somehwere in the grand scheme of things, I'd love to have some time to write. Maybe that will be my present to myself over the holidays. I have two weeks off coming up at the end of the month. It's my goal to write SOMEthing each day. We'll see how that goes! I'd love to add some checks to that particular list.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (If you're looking for a quick holiday read, I have a FREE read available at The Wild Rose Press: Mistletoe and Folly.)


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Formatting A Novel by DL Larson

While searching for a publisher/agent, I've discovered several things. One, it's harder than it should be; and Two, it is as exciting as it is exhausting. As I've searched through possible matches I realize each publishing house has more advice on how to format the manuscript to their specifications rather than dwell on good story content.

This confuses me. I've spent months, no, years developing my characters as I progress through my series. I have two series, one historical and the other a sci-fi action romance. I love my characters and have spent endless hours making sure I have given them life on the pages. But in order to send my work out I have to re-format my work, knowing it may well never get read.

Perhaps it's my age and my education that is slowing me up. When I was in secretarial school, many many years ago, I typed all day long, creating one perfect page after another on an electric typewriter! Okay, I'm sure you're chuckling thinking, how old is this gal! But the consequences of an imperfect page meant a zero in the grade column for the day. So when a publisher requests only one space after a period instead of the old standard of two, I break out into a sweat. I would be considered completely incompetent if I ever handed such an abomination into my instructors. And this double spacing between paragraphs nearly sends me howling into the night. What is that? If the premise of one space after a period is to conserve space on the page then for heaven's sake why the double space between paragraphs? I'm at a complete loss why one would chose to do such a thing.

So instead of working on my REAL work, I'm fretting over things that shouldn't matter all that much. When searching for a publisher/agent, a standard for ALL houses should suffice. Double spaced, one inch margins, 12 font that is easy to read. Period. What is so difficult about that? Why all this fuss about other stuff?

Now this about sending my work via on-line brings up another confusing matter. Some won't open an attachment and my novel will be dismissed without pause if I'm foolish enough to send it in such a way. THEN, others want my manuscript only as an attachment, which I think is the easier method to control. At least this way, the work usually stays in the format I put it in. Some want my name on every page, others don't want my name, only the title. Again, why is this so important for considering my book? Every book I've read usually has both on every open page, the author on one side, the title on the other balanced between page numbers. How does this factor into the work they should be reading? I'm hoping they get beyond the header and read the content, but lately I'm worried I haven't passed the "follow these instructions correctly or else." I've probably slipped into the "or else" column and don't realize it because I'm more worried about the content of my story than persnickity formatting. I would think specific formatting would come after a contract has been signed, not before.

Formatting a novel is usually done at Chapter One, which means the last chapter will be formatted just like the first one. Please tell me that's what others do. I don't change formats mid-stream, and I can't imagine any writer who does. So again, why all this fuss over personalized formatting when searching for publication?

Lastly, then I'll shush, I find pretending to know the publisher rather silly. I'm looking to sell my book, yes, but that does not mean I have to spend endless hours figuring out who the publisher is. I look for matches, yes, I don't want to waste anyone's time. I send my work out to those who I believe would be interested in my work because of what I saw on their website or some other venue. If they are interested in historicals, then I'm ready to delve deeper and see if they are looking for the type of historical I write. If they are a professional and I'm a professional, isn't that enough to make contact? Do I really have to say I loved their last book published? Do I have to say I noticed they enjoy bike riding as much as I do? Or some other social connection when in fact this is a business query and the getting to know you can come later rather than before we've talked over what brought us together, namely my book! I really don't understand this tactic of familiarity when contacting another professional. It rings false to me and a little desperate, and really, do publishers need to be coddled in such a way? I keep hearing how busy they are, so I'd rather stick to business and chit-chat after business is taken care of.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Elevator Pitch Time by Morgan Mandel

I haven't done this for a while, so here goes.

It's elevator pitch time. In case you don't know what that is, it's a very short description of your book, including a great hook to grab our attention and a tease to pique our interest. Don't make it too long, or we'll get bored. Leave a buy link and website or blogspot, if you wish. Only one pitch, please.

Here's mine:

Julie's decision to give up her partnership and become a full-time writer angers and hurts her bestfriend and law partner, Dade. Her attraction to bestselling author, Tyler, who harbors a dangerous secret, leads to further alienation from Dade, along with surprising and disturbing discoveries. Does Tyler merely write about murders? Is Dade only a bestfriend, or something more?
Now 99 cents on kindle .

Your turn. Leave your elevator pitch in the comment section.