Saturday, July 31, 2010

Changing Face of Publishing by Margot Justes

We live in a world where publishing changes almost daily. Every time Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple sneeze, something new has evolved. From best sellers going on for a specific sale or Apple allowing the publishers to name their price; the publishing world as we know it, is changing rapidly.

More and more new and established authors are going the self pub e-route, for obvious reasons-there is more money to be made. Let's face it, the mid-list author hardly makes enough for...I was going to say a good cup of coffee...but that would be an exaggeration. Wouldn't it? Still, there are some pretty darn expensive cups of coffee. One cafe in New York charges $10.00 for a brew.
I don't think my palate is developed enough to taste that difference, but I digress. Back to the publishing world.

Morgan Mandel, in her blog last week discussed the self e-pub route and it how makes sense for an author. Amazon pays 75% to the author if price is $2.99 or higher; the money goes directly to the author's pocket. That is not a bad return for a mid-list author.

Consider, Dickens got paid by the word and he certainly used them well, but today that is most assuredly not the case, the mid list author does not make enough to live on. I would hazard a guess and say far from the minimum wage. I might be wrong...but I don't think so.

The stigma of self-publishing is rapidly disappearing for the same reason, more money to be made, it is easier and there is a vast amount of information available on the internet. The how-to-publish process has been taken out of the hands of the few and given to the multitudes, and writers realized that the potential for more money is much greater going the self-pub route.

Of course it goes without saying that it must be well written, and advertising is essential, otherwise no one will know there is anything to sell. Facebook, Twitter and all the other social networks will need to know the author exists and the product is available on Amazon, and everywhere else in the vastly changing publishing world.

I'm doing the same thing, I have two short stories available and will put them on Amazon. The covers have been selected, and I am fortunate enough to have a very creative web designer who will format them for me.

I'll post two travel articles I have written (previously published by Crime Spree Magazine) on travel sites for free just to get my name out. We'll see what happens, but for now, it is fascinating to watch the changes as they occur. It is a publishing revolution and we're here to see it happen..

Next week, I'll introduce fellow Echelon author Sean Hayden.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, July 30, 2010

what Editors Know

Recently, I read this line on a chat group I hang with:  An editor who does not charge is not a true editor.  That sort of logic if taken to writing would say that an artist or writer or composer is not a true WHATEVER unless he or she is making money at it; unless and editor is making money at editing, he or she is not a real editor.  This sort of snobbery has existed in NYC book business forever as they pay editors so well (HA!).  I have had many many editors, some who woud place a comma between many many and some who would not, and I have as yet to find one properly compensated by anyone.  I have also operated my own editorial services (Knife Services) from my website, and I charge half or a third of what some editors charge, and lately, the business is slow as molasses.

No one wants to pay for editing services.  To this I can attest.  To qualify that, few want to pay for editing services, but one way or another every author needs a great editor or two or three in order to truly get a MS to sing.

An editor for your work is worth his or her weight in gold, even if he or she edits your work for nothing but the opportunity and "privilege" and charge you nada...for no charge. Despite the line this blog began with, there are capable and surprisingly fine editors among those who do not charge a fee; I know because I have availed myself of some excellent editorial help at no charge over the years.  These people are my early readers.  People I have cultivated a strong friendship with as a result of our making great books together, people who wind up in my acknowledgment pages.

It may upset some pricey editors (some priced at ten dollars a page if you can imagine it) to hear such talk from a professional writer and published author, but I have relied all my life and career on people who have a sixth sense about what works and what does not work in a manuscript, items you want OUT before the MS goes to press or release to Kindle or Smashwords or wherever you are publishing nowadays.

My Children of Salem, my highest grossing Kindle title, was put through the grist mill by two editors in particular who suffered and struggled with me like Jonah and the Whale until we GOT it.  My work in progress, Titanic 2012 has had the tremendous help of two editors in particular who have wrestled that one to the mat where they MAKE me wring out rather than ring out the right words and save me countless embarrssing moments as well as point out plot weaknesses and sags. They are simultaneously copyeditors and developmental editors these folks.

I go back as far as 1965 or 6 working with my Wells High School managing editor on the school newspaper for editorial advice, and damn but she was good with langauge and writing; one lesson she taught me then stayed with me all my writing career - Acitve over Passive. I get cudos for making my work "compelling, fast-paced, a page-turning roller-coaster ride" etc. etc. due in great part to my editorial board -- and now that I am a writer turned publisher putting out Original to Kindle titles, I rely even more on my early readers, my editorial board. They have recently truly impressed me, digging damn deep to make the work the best it can be to the point it is no longer about me but the novel itself that comes first.  Of course, it helps that the publishing industry has long, long ago beat the living ego out of me.

My apologies to those who consider themselves legitimate editors because they charge a fee, whether fair or exorbitant, but sorry as I am, I must say that there are people who are not just willing to be early readers for an author but who become invaluable editors an author can and does TRUST, often just as much as he trusts an editor within a publishing house or with a logo.  I love editors, love them all, and feel they all deserve a raise but the practice of authors cultivating two, three, four early readers is not likely to stop but increase as we go to press as Indie author-publishers.  Certainly been the case with me, but then I had always cultivated early readers.  By the same token, over the years, I have learned a great deal from my contacts with all editors, those who were paid--even if poorly by the publsihing house--and those who have graced me with thier help out of the goodness of heart and understanding and unfettered desire to be a part of the process of creation.

Sneak peek of Children of Salem and/or Titanic 2012 is available at

Thanks so much for coming by and do leave a comment, good, bad, ugly, indifferent but leave some word....

Robert W. Walker (Rob to my friends)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Smashwords, Kindle and Ebooks by Morgan Mandel

It appears that Ebooks are here to stay. Some don't like the idea, but I'm open to all avenues of book reading and promotion.

Right now, I'm in the midst of converting Killer Career to Smashwords. I know I'm behind the times on this one, but I'm trying to catch up. I still have ebook copies and signed books available at, but I'm trying to cover all the bases.

Also, Amazon sent me a notice that if my kindle version is priced anywhere from $2.99 to $9.99 I can get a 70% payout on each sale, so I went over there today and changed the pricing to $2.99 and selected the percentage as they instructed. The special sale price of $1.99 may still be up for perhaps a day or two, until the $2.99 amount comes into play. I wish Amazon also offered such a great percentage for sales of my print books as well, but you can't have everything.

I'm still holding out to see if the rumors are true about a new kindle reader coming out in August, which is around the corner. I may be getting one then.

I still have to figure out how to make it an Ibook, but at least I feel like I'm getting somewhere.
What about you? Have you been working on any ebook projects lately? How do you like ebooks? Do you own a kindle?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Picture This!

My daughter and I commute on the train to our jobs in downtown Chicago (at least for another week) and it finally struck me that we've done some generational things in reverse. She often reads a traditional paperback and I often read on my Kindle, especially newspapers and newsletters.

It just struck me as interesting.

While I do believe that the younger generations coming up are embracing, and even demanding technology in ways my generation didn't, I think it would be unwise for writers to assume that older generations won't use digital devices to read books and to assume that younger generations won't read in paper.

One example of paper that younger generations still eagerly embrace is that of graphic novels. Comic-Con was just held in San Diego and we, The Board of Love is Murder ( are adding graphic novel classes.

So, keep an eye on not only the technology changes that are happening but who and who is not embracing those changes and when. What you see and truly observe might just surprise you.

See you at Love is Murder 2011!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Monday! by June

I hope everyone had a great weekend. I had a very nice one. I spent Friday bowling with a friend of mine and the kids. When I heard the temperature was going to be 105 with the heat index, yeah I was not going anywhere outside!

Sunday we spent the afternoon at The Grove in Glenview. They had the Civil War days and my hubby is a HUGE Civil War buff. So, we saw how the camps were set up, drank some old fashioned lemonade, (you know just water and lemon-- no powder! "Mom, they put a half a lemon in there!") and watched a skirmish. The south won in the battle this time. I understand the sides alternate so next year or next weekend wherever these Civil War enthusiasts go to they will switch and the north will win.

When my middle daughter read that the participants set up the tents and stay there the whole weekend and live like they did back in the early 1860’s she was quite intrigued. She asked a couple more questions and I thought “Wow, I have another writer in the family!” I was getting excited that she might be interested in the historical aspect and imagined the hours we could spend in the library pouring over books to feed her growing curiosity and imagination as we pondered life in the past.

She read the brochure out loud, “It says that if the tent flaps are closed they want privacy and don’t disturb them”

“Yes,” I said. “They set up and live there just like it was back then.”

“That’s just weird – I bet they are just sitting in there with their laptops or ipods. We should have just opened the tents and caught them!”

Oh, well, so much for my historical writing, but at least she has a vivid imagination.

Have a great week!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Blogging

Well in my grandiose plans for summer I figured I'd have lots of time to check my favorite blogs and post my own. Hmn? In the grand scheme of things, I was wrong.

I have a few blogs I check regularly; mainly those people who were kind enough to host my mini-tour for the release of Wild Wedding Weekend earlier this year. During the school year, some days it was tricky to find time to check them everyday, but most days I was able to do it.

I figured over the summer I'd have more time and would be more on top of things. I guess I was kidding myself. Between vacations, full-day obligations that keep me away from home, and computer problems, I've found I've actually had less time to check my regulars, let along keep up with new interviews posted on my loops. Who would have thunk it?

To continue the trend, I am heading off on vacation again today, so I'll be away from my computer for most of the week.

So on that note, we need to hit the road!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday Evening Coffee by Margot Justes

My Friday got off to a shaky start.

Hot and humid is the order of the month, and the air conditioner at work is tired and more often than not refuses to work without emergency treatment. The diagnosis is still pending, suffice to say Friday afternoon it stopped working and when I left it has not been resuscitated and I get really crabby when it's humid and hot.

After I left work, my Friday improved considerably. I booked my next cruise, going with friends, not leaving till 2011, but I it's done and will take me to Egypt and Israel. I will finally get to see the Pyramids.

Met friends at Barnes and Noble for coffee and we made plans for breakfast today and the Old Orchard art fair. I was really looking forward to the morning, after which I was going to post a blog about the fair and write.

Mother nature decided to have a bit of fun with a spectacular lightning and thunder show. In the middle of the night the sky lit up, thunder roared till the house shook and then rain came down. A downpour that flooded viaducts and closed some streets.

I made coffee and sat with my cat Tigger on my lap,(that is one spoiled kitty) sipped my brew and watched the birds huddle in the tree branches as the rain came pelting down. Quite pleasant actually...we did re-schedule for tomorrow.

Not exactly what I had planned, but it was actually a very pleasant morning.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Please Welcome Chris Verstraete, Mystery Writer, on Her Blog Book Tour

Writing Real vs. Fictional Friends

Thanks everyone for hosting me and kicking off my blog tour for Searching For A Starry Night on Kindle/, and the upcoming new print version.

I noticed that most of my characters have friends, which I consider a good thing. After all, who wants to read about someone always talking to themselves, unless you intended to picture them slightly unglued, of course.

Friendship is at the heart of the story in my children's book Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery just released on Kindle.

Friends can play an important role in solving a mystery, even if it's just for the company. Holmes had Watson; Stephanie Plum has Grandma Mazur; even Miss Marple needed someone to talk to, usually the long-suffering police chief who listened (grudgingly) to her ideas.

In Searching for a Starry Night, 13-year-old Sam and her BFF Lita have a pretty good relationship—most of the time.

They usually agree, but friendship, especially one of many years, can, and does, have its own source of conflict, as when Lita gets mad at Sam for taking her fear of ghosts lightly by teasing her. Lita feels even more threatened after she's the first to uncover an unusual document connected to a spooky event in the family's past.

After they argue and Lita withdraws, Sam is now the one feeling threatened and fears that her decades-old friendship could end. She also may have to continue her hunt alone for the missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting, something she'd rather share with her friend.

As in real life, fictional friends have testy moments. Friends can argue. They can disagree while having a central goal. Writing such moments into a story is what makes characters real and helps the reader feel a touch of empathy or even a little anger at the character's actions or attitude.

It's like reacting to what's going on in a movie. When the reader (or viewer) starts yelling at the character or feels something towards them, be it joy, anger, disgust, impatience, judgment, etc. – you know you've succeeded in making them real. You've made a connection.

That's the fun part. Giving your characters friends not only adds some conflict and a little tension to the story, it can add some light moments and it makes the story that much more real.

Thanks for letting me meet your blog visitors!

Anyone commenting on any of the blog stops on the tour can win:
*One person who comments on any of the blog tour stops will win a free Kindle copy of Searching for a Starry Night. (You can download Kindle for PC free here.)

* One person will also win a miniaturized dollhouse collector's edition of the first chapter from the first print edition, made by miniaturist LeeAnn Borgia. See my
blog for links and photo.

** To celebrate the revised Searching for a Starry Night, one person will win a copy of the new print version when it is available.

* Website
* Blog
* eBooks page
* Searching For A Starry Night on Kindle
Next Few Tour Stops:
Mon, 7/26: Morgan Mandel's Double M blog - Dogs and Such
Tues, 7/27: Killer Hobbies with Camille Minichino - Crafts and Writing, what comes first?
For the Full Blog Tour Lineup See
Don't forget to comment for a chance to win! An email address will help to track you down.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Linger With My Guest Today, Marilyn Meredith, As She Tells Us About Lingering Spirit, Her New Novel

Meet My Guest, Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press.
Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

About Marilyn's Current Release -

Nicole Ainsworth’s husband, Steve, has a premonition of his death and moves his family to a mountain community where he serves as a deputy sheriff. He is killed in the line of duty and his wife, Nicole, is left behind to struggle with the changes forced upon her life. While trying to cope with her grief, raise her two little girls, her husband’s spirit visits her on numerous occasions. She soon learns that someone else is watching over her too.
(Great concept and great cover, Marilyn -  Everyone, see below for order info.)

And Now, Here's Marilyn's Post:

A Change of Pace by Marilyn Meredith

Everyone knows me as a mystery writer, either as Marilyn Meredith writing the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series or F.M. Meredith writing the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. This time around I’m promoting my romance with a touch of the supernatural, Lingering Spirit.

Lingering Spirit was written a long while ago and first saw publication as an e-book. I parted company with that publisher and my romance languished.

When the Kindle came out, my Rocky Bluff P.D. publisher asked if I had any old books I’d like on Kindle and I suggested Lingering Spirit with the warning it wasn’t like any of my other books. She read it, said she loved it, and put it on Kindle. Every so often she’d tell me how much she liked that book.

While still actively promoting my latest book in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, my publisher e-mailed me and asked if I’d like Lingering Spirit to come out as a trade paperback. Of course I said, “yes.” She put it on a fast track and it is making its debut this month. Interestingly, the launch is planned for the Public Safety Writers Association’s Conference. Not sure how a romance is going to go over with all those law enforcement officers. (This was written before the conference.)

So, guess what? I’m faced with the dilemma of promoting a romance—something I’ve never really done.
Based on a family tragedy, I now believe I wrote Lingering Spirit as part of my grieving process. Though there are similarities to the actual happenings, it is a work of fiction. The main characters are nothing like the real people who experienced what was the genesis of the story.
What I will be doing is much the same as I’ve done for all my books—I’m on a virtual book tour and I thank Acme Authors for allowing me to visit and talk about my romance. I’ll be selling the book from my website, the publisher’s website, Amazon, Kindle, etc. I’m talking about the book on Facebook and Twitter and in my monthly newsletter.

When I go the book and craft fairs I’ve already signed up for this coming summer and fall, I’ll be selling Lingering Spirit right along with my mysteries.

I’m anxious to see how my fans will receive this change of pace.

Have you ever dreamed of being immortalized in print? Well, here’s your chance! Award-winning author Marilyn Meredith is running a contest during her Lingering Spirit Virtual Book Tour, which runs from July 6th through July 30th. Marilyn will name a character in her next Rocky Bluff P.D. book after readers who comment at any of the blog stops during her virtual book tour. This book is currently scheduled to be released in 2012.

Leave a comment and get your name in Marilyn’s next Rocky Bluff P.D. book!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Real Writer?

Friday night I watched the movie "Julie and Julia". For those who remember Julia Child from tv way back when, Meryl Streep gave a dead-on portrayal of the famous chef. Amy Adams was fabulous, too, and both actresses were backed by a wonderful supporting cast.

However, I had one issue with the movie. Several times throughout, Julie declared she wouldn't be a 'real' writer until she had a book published.

I completely disagree with this mindset. Even before I got published, I wrote a lot. All the time. I considered myself a writer. Afterall, I was putting words down on paper...creating stories, plots, characters, etc. Doesn't that constitute being a writer? Even as a published author, I still write many things that won't ever get into print at any time or in any place. But I'm still writing them.

Of course the happy ending in the story came when, despite Julia's apparent disapproval of the entire project, Julie had her dream come true and published a book...which of course we know was then later made into a movie.

I still argue getting the book published didn't make Julie more of a writer than she'd been in the first place. But that's just my humble opinion.

So, what do you think? Do you have to be published in order to be considered a 'real' writer? Or is it perhaps society's dictates on definitions such as this that shape the way we view things?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sayat Nova by Margot Justes

I don't go to Chicago as often as I'd like, it takes time away from writing and I still work full time.

Usually when my younger daughter comes home, we visit Chicago, and the trip always includes a visit to the Art Institute and a new restaurant. Sayat Nova is not exactly new, it has been in that same location for decades, about 40 years. I used to eat there frequently.

Lat winter I introduced my daughter to the restaurant, and beside I was curious whether it was still a good and reasonable place to eat. I'd hoped the old saying you can't go back again didn't apply. I was delighted to find that it didn't, the food was delicious.

I love Middle Eastern cuisine, and they serve the Falafel, Baba Ghannouj, Armenian Spinach, various Kebabs in style, nicely seasoned, fresh and simply mouth watering.The restaurant is small, cozy, with just the right touches of Eastern decor; the lighting subdued and romantic but you can still see what you're eating.

It is perfect for an intimate dinner and the location is right off Michigan Avenue and the shopping frenzy.

A great place for lunch or dinner.

Sayat Nova
157 E. Ohio St.
Chicago, IL 60611

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Frontier Days Marketplace Pics by Morgan Mandel

Things are kind of hectic lately with summer doings. Since I don't have time for a regular post, I thought I'd share some pics of four of us from the Arlington Heights Frontier Days Marketplace.

This is the time to take advantage of all the wonderful fun outdoor events not available in the winter.

What about you? Do you like going to outdoor events or participating in them?

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Damn Good Book. By June

I read my friend and fellow writer Erica O’Rourke’s blog last week. She was interviewed and mentions the writing books she keeps in the house and reads again and again. One of them was Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

Now I had heard of this book before and honestly, I thought I knew the premise. The author’s brother had to do a report on Birds and in typical kid fashion, put it off until the last minute. He was basically overwhelmed with what he needed to do. His father told him to just take it bird by bird to get the report done.

I figured the point of the book was that you should take your writing one step at a time. Don’t try to write the whole thing in one sitting, etc. etc. etc. So I was never inclined to pick up the book.

Well, I like Erica. She’s cute, super nice, witty, smart and extremely talented, so I thought what the heck. Let’s put Erica’s wisdom to the test and see if the book is all that.

You know what? It is.

I know, I was shocked. (No, not by Erica’s wisdom, you see I just told you I thought she was smart. Were you not reading? ) I was shocked that the book had such an impact on me.

I picked the book up on Friday and was done by Sunday. Yeah, I do read fast, my daughter says I read a book about every ten seconds, but that is so not true. It’s really more like twenty.

But I digress.

I started reading Bird By Bird and the very next day I woke up and wrote four pages. Now before you shout, “big whip, four pages,” you must know that I have been in a major slump lately. I’ve had no desire to write – at all. Even doing this blog has been like pulling teeth, and trust me I HATE the dentist. Yes, I know they are nice people, but hey, they hurt me. But I’m over it-- can’t you tell?

So I wrote four pages on Saturday, and then Sunday, I wrote two more. Oh, and this blog which usually I wait until I get to work on Monday and go “Oh no, I forgot to write my blog" and then I share the first thing that comes to me. (Okay, technically I don’t say “oh no” but I’m keeping it G rated and for anyone who is at my work and reads this I really DO NOT WRITE AT WORK!)

Bottom line, if you need inspiration take it from me, oh and my friend Erica, (Waving at you - Thanks for the tip!) read Bird By Bird. It’s a lot more than just the story about her brother’s assignment. And if you don’t get inspired from the book I know you will at least get a chuckle or two out of it, it’s that good.

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Endings and Beginings

I have a couple of goals this week....

I want to finish one manuscript and start another. Right now the goals are somewhat overlapping and my head is spinning with ideas as I try to wrap up one story and begin another.

My current WIP, Family Secrets ,is just about done. I have about 3,000 words to work with in order for it to fit into the guidelines of where I'd like to submit. So that gives me about 12 pages. I'm almost there...I really just need to wrap some things up and have them say the magic words. After all, it is a romance, so there needs to be that Happily Ever After! Hopefully I'll finish that today or tomorrow, and then I'll be able to set it aside for a couple of days before picking it up again to do revisions and edits.

In the meantime, I have ideas spinning in my head for a new book. This one will complete the trilogy I began with This Time for Always. The second installment, This Can't Be Love is due out in the fall. For the third, This Feels Like Home, I have the basic story in my head...mainly a country boy/city girl theme, but not a whole lot of details worked out.

Right now I'm struggling to find a really great name for my heroine. That means today will include a cyber trip to a baby name site at some point. My next dilemma is my opening hook. That all important opening line is crucial in getting the book off to a great start and grabbing the readers' (and my editor's) attention! I'd like to have five pages of this done by Mnday (tomorrow) night so I can bring it to a mini critique session at my local RWA meeting, but that might be a little too ambitious with everything else going on. But, we'll see...stranger things have happened.

In the midst of all this writing and researching, I'd like to get some reading time in, and have some time left over to hang with my hubby and some friends. It looks like a busy week ahead. So, on that note, I'll be signing off!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dining in Chicago by Margot Justes

I live about 30 minutes away from the center of Chicago, the city offers world class amenities, architecture, museums, orchestras, operas, hotels and restaurants. The city has everything, including a magnificent lake shore. It is a world class city, yet it gives the impression of intimacy.

It is not as the expression goes, 'a concrete jungle'. Trees and depending on the season, flowers, and all sorts of greenery line the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue.

The Fine Cuisine is also world class and sometimes the restaurants are housed in amazing places.

The two I list below are just such places.

The Everest restaurant, (run by the Lettuce Entertain You establishment) sits atop the 40th floor on 1 Financial place. It is a world class eating establishment. The French cuisine is excellent, the service incomparable, the view stunning and the price very steep.

It is dining at its best, not a place for casual every day eating, unless you're very wealthy and incredibly thin. But for a special occasion it is perfection. For me it is the top of the food chain for fine dining. It is elegant. It is worldly. I have dined there once, and I'm waiting for another truly exceptional reason to go back.

The Atwood Cafe is far less expensive, a prix fixe dinner menu can be had for $40.00, of course you could pay more, but the less expensive option is there. The setting is dazzling. The service meets the requirements, it fits the restaurant. It is less formal and of course far less costly. The food is excellent, and the recent egg white frittata with goat cheese was yummy.

The Atwood Cafe located in the Hotel Burnham-a boutique hotel that is a Chicago landmark, and it is exquisite, the lobby boast floor to ceiling wrought iron walls, stone inlaid floors, beautifully carved wood staircase, and even before you enter the Art Deco restaurant your eyes feast on the decor of the lobby.

The huge windows in the cafe and 18 foot walls welcome you to an intimate Art Deco setting. Located on Washington and the famed State Street, you're right in the center of the city.

Needless to say both restaurants serve excellent coffee.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Right Writing Age: Attitudes Struck & Myths Dispelled

Whenever I begin a new Creative Writing Class, I stand at the board and ask people in the class--people of every size, age, stripe, to give me a list of reasons why they find themselves unable to write...what negative reasons one's mind gives the would-be writer to give up before they begin and invariably, high on the list beside "I am too young to write, too inexperienced" is the opposite: "I am too old to begin writing now! Too old to start a writing career, too old to dabble, etc., etc..."

Trust me, I get a long list of negatives on the one side of the board, and this is followed up by asking the class to help me REWRITE all these negative statements into POSITIVE statements such as "I am at the perfect age to write. This is a wonderful time in my life to write."

As awful a negative as I have heard - "I can't write because my job, working with kids all day, sucks all my imagination out of me..."  and "I can't write because my mind is on worrying about my dying wife" these too can be rewritten and the attitude that these are damn good reasons to write can prompt wonderful results.

On a Five Star chat group among Five Star authors, a negative similar to those above came up and suddenly Jim Ingraham (author of Sahara Dust, and Evidence of Evil, work in progress: Duff Kerrigan)  leapt into the fray with the following comments that I believe every 'older' or just starting out author, young or old, ought to hear.  Here's Jim in his own words after all this came up via the catalyst of my urging authors to take up the standard of becoming an Indie Author publishing with Kindle/Amazon.  Here's Jim in his words:

"It's not how age affects me as a writer that's important. It's how it affects me as a man. Because I have shed many illusions about myself and my life and have accepted who I am and who I have been, my relationship to people and to my work is more sensible than it once was. I am no longer crippled by fears that I won't "make it." I know that "making it" is an illusion. The only important result of writing is the work itself.

I liken it to playing golf. Winning a tournament is fun, but trying to is not what keeps me playing. The real reward is striking the ball well, that feeling coming into my hands when I watch the ball sail down the fairway, when I watch it fall into the hole from 30 feet across the green.

If the reward of your work is something other than finding the right word, building a solid paragraph, turning out a well-crafted story, then you miss the true rewards of being a writer.

If I am true to myself, the results of my work will reflect the gains I have made over all the adversities that have plagued my life. I hope that readers grow from my work. It pleases me that others enjoy my stories. But I write, not to please others, but to please myself."

Jim Ingraham
following is a photo of Jim & his son at the piano!

Wow...Man, wish I had Jim in my class. Jim is 87 years old by the way. Read his book Sahara Dust from 5-Star, and Evidence of Evil on Kindle/Amazon.  And do find Jim at - great website. You won't regret it.

Now I am outta here, kiddies, kiddos, and kid-kids.  Happy Writing and do affect the right attitude. Attitude is the one and only thing we ultimately can control in this life...that and sometimes our characters.

Rob Walker
Chidren of Salem, Killer Instinct, and coming soon to a Kindle near you, Titanic 2012 - FREE first 14 Chapters for a click found at  That's seven chapters per each storyline, 1912 and 2012

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Are You Smarter Than A Second Grader? by DL Larson

This summer my library is offering weekly book trivia contests for kids. Last night we featured Cinderella. Our Disney Royalty trivia has been planned for a few months and in honor of the passing of the original "voice" of Cinderella, I want to challenge you with some of the trivia our second through fourth graders knew really well!!

I'll start out with a few easy ones:

1. What creatures befriended Cinderella the most?

2. What did the fairy godmother use for a coach?

3. What did she use for a coachman and a driver?

4. When did the magic wear off?

5. What was so special about Cinderella's shoes?

Okay, now that you are warmed up ...

6. What is the name of Cinderella's dog?

7. What are the names of Cinderella's two favorite mice?

8. What are the names of Cinderella's stepsisters?

9. What is the name of Cinderella's stepmother?

10. What happened to the glass slipper Prince Charming had?

Seems no matter how many times we read a story or watch a movie, we can learn something new with each pass through. The original voice of Cinderella has been around since I was a little girl - a few decades now, er maybe that would be generations. Just recently that "voice" passed away. So in honor of such a long-standing fame, here are a few more trivia to solve:

11. What year was Cinderella first released?

12. Who is the person behind the Cinderella "voice?"

13. When did she die?

14. How old was she when she passed?

15. Who hired her to be the voice of Cinderella?

I would imagine Cinderella's voice was heard around the world. Talk about giving a story life, Ilene Woods did that and more.

God bless her and her family in their time of sorrow.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: Looking for answers? Check the comments section! :)

Warning - Do not use these phrases! By Morgan Mandel

Now that I have your attention, I thought I'd do another reader participation blog.

I have a feeling many of you, like me, are still coming down from Holiday high, so here's something easy we can do.

Let's share some dreaded cliches' to remind each other what not to write.

It's so hot here you could fry eggs on the sidewalk.

Ok, your turn to leave a cliche' in the comment section.

Morgan Mandel

PS - Blogger has been playing tricks. If you get a little box asking for word verification, put anything in the word line underneath, fill the rest in, then the actual word verification will appear. You may have to repeat, but it will take then. Nothing is perfect in this world. I can't complain since Blogger is free.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America!


I wish you a day filled with family, friends, food, fun, fireworks and plenty of red, white, and blue!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chicago Restaurants by Margot Justes

The Taste of Chicago is still going strong, at this time in my life, that is not my cup of coffee.
Too many people, you eat on paper plates, no place to sit down, you wait in line for everything and it's Chicago in July, that means it's hot and humid.

But there are some amazing restaurants in the city that offer great food, comfort and air conditioning.

I'm not a fast food type of person, in fact the only 'fast food' restaurant I go to is Pita Inn, a Mediterranean delight that serves the best falafel sandwich around, not to mention freshly baked pita bread, Jerusalem salad, hummus, among many other things. The food is terrific and inexpensive.

R. J. Grunts is another inexpensive restaurant owned by Lettuce Entertain You, located in the Lincoln Park area, it's a fun, eclectic place, with a great salad bar that is a meal in itself.

The Art Institute has an outdoor cafe downstairs that is open in the summer and it is fantastic. Delicious sandwiches and salads, great coffee and the setting is gorgeous. You can't ask for more.

Next week, I'll cover a few more of my favorites.
Today, I'm in Arlington Heights, Frontier Days Festival with fellow authors Morgan Mandel, June Sproat and Debra St. John.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, July 2, 2010

What Sells an eBook? Secrets are Simple, Easy!

If you are interested in increasing your sales of an ebook title such as a Kindle or a Smashwords title or titles, or if you are just putting one up for sale, there are some important steps you must take. This is hard-won truths via experience as I am dealing with some 44 titles on Kindle and many on Fictionwise, and one on Smashwords.  First off....if you want to begin selling a kindle title or to catch attention of ebook readers for Smashwords or FictionWise, it has to be priced lower than you can imagine!

This may sound crazy but you can make more on a 2.99 book than on a 25 dollar one, so do not balk as pricing it LOW. Kindle owners believe they have a right to cheap, cheap, and cheaper ebooks; in fact, they so want free books. However, if their curiosity over a title can be piqued, they're willing to go .99 cents, 1.99 or 2.99. Getting much above this is flirting with turning your ebook into a stone as it will just sit there.

It is the way of Kindlers in particular. The entitlement has a history begun at the inception so roll with that. All my titles are 2.99 now. I had some cheaper at one time but bumped them all up by a buck as of July 1st. I am selling just over a thousand books a month from the Kindle Store.

Kindlers also go by cover art, title, and description. These may sound like simple steps, too simple (it can't be this simple, Prof. Walker), but this is me paying atteniton to those who have sold in the thousands on Kindle BEFORE ME.

The description must be flawless, not a letter out of place. Rewrite it as many times as needed, and it must excite the imagination. Fire it up; make it the most exciting story you ever wrote--the story of your story. The character name(s) need be there, the main thrust or "platform" along with the setting and some idea of the time period. The basic five W's of journalism.

Next if you intend to follow it up with a sequel, this sells more books ONLY IF the ebook readers KNOW this fact. My series titles do ten times the number of my stand-a-lones. Book length is important to kindle readers. I have a three-volume in one title, and I make that clear, and they love it. I play up the fact it is a FAT book at 160,000 words rather than the typical 80-90 thousand words. Kindlers love this as with the idea of a series.

I hang out at and they have embraced their kindle writers on board there and in fact highlight kindle titles each month from KK authors ala the moderator, Bob.

I put up notices about the books on facebook, twitter, elswhere but I try to relay "facts" from my research or on the platform of the book to chat groups to lead into the book title, pulling back on htting folks over the head with buy my books statements.

There are also Amazon discussion boards where I drop in and do what I do on Kindle but they are not as embracing of author BSP there.

I am seeking other venues all the time. Finding review sites for kindle books and not kindle devices is hard to find. There are some e-magazines out there, and I am sure I am overlooking some possibilites.

Finally anyone interested in ebook salesmanship should follow Joe Konrath's blog and in his footsteps. Every step I have taken, Joe put me onto (or up to)save kindlekorner which I discovered. You have no idea how important it is to set the price right and get the descript down perfectly. Great. Now you know all the steps I took but of all of these steps price, descript, professional cover art, and sending the message of series or multiple volumes are the most powerful steps to take.

Rob Walker
Titanic 2012 - sneak peek opening chapters FREE for asking
"Dead On takes the reader's capacity for the imagination of horror to stomach turning depths, and then gives it more twists than a Georgia backroad that paves an Indian trail." - Nash Black

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Are Libraries Necessary? by DL Larson

Chicago Fox News has my attention and it's not the friendly kind in agreement to what they have to say. Seems a crew went undercover at the Chicago Library and decided in a very short time that libraries aren't worth spending our tax money to keep them.

If you would like to view their findings, here is the link: On the search tab type in: Are libraries necessary or a waste of tax money. Or simply google Fox 32 Chicago.

Be sure to read the comments! Most do NOT agree with their findings. And to those folks I say THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! Nearly every town has at least one library. Where else can a family go and satisfy everyone's reading needs without spending a lot of money? Where can a child just learning to read take home a dozen books without having to pay for them? And when they are finished reading them instead of becoming a stockpile of used items nobody wants anymore, the child can return them and take home another set of books made especially for their reading levels?

I'm so disgusted with this report I want to ... well, I'll be a lady and not put in print the ugly thoughts swarming around in my head. They seem to think the family budget is not an issue and the American family has limitless funds to spend on books, videos and other items offered at local libraries.

Their findings suggested libraries have simply become media centers and that is true to an extent. Libraries have evolved in that direction. Again, this is so those without access to computers may indeed use computers without expense. It has become a very important need for most adults looking for work since most companies now prefer applications be done on-line. Where else could a prospective employee send their resume via the internet at no cost? Where else could they gain free advise on how to set up a resume? Not at Fox 32 News!

Fox News reported they thought the tax money could be better spent on schools: feeding children with free lunch programs - great idea! That has been a staple in all schools in Illinois for several generations! Have they not noticed that or sent in secret cameras to discover this?

So, deep breath here, I encourage you to visit the site and leave your thoughts. It's this type of reporting that has gotten this state into such a muddled mess. This is not news, this is destructive evidence that folks don't research like they should before sharing their views.

Perhaps if Fox 32 stopped at a library they could ask for help on how to research subjects properly.

Til next time ~

DL Larson