Friday, December 30, 2011

New Amazon/Kindle FREE Bks. PROGRAM

"Does it make sense to give away the store?"
"Are you nuts?"
"What's your new address? Bellvue Hospital?"

These are typical responses to the ebook Indie author who 'buys' into this newly put together brainstorm-result program that is a sly deal between authors and Amazon.com/kindle store  where I have an end-cap, a table in the coffee shop, and where I do a lot of time promoting, so when I saw this program come along, I was all-in from the get-go, placing up a number of my titles for the FREE 5-Day promotions push on Amazon (the largest display case for your book in the world!). HOWEVER, as I have said all over the internet, BEWARE and know what you are getting yourself into, for this program is NOT ripe or right for every Indie author.  READ the following to follow me on this:

This program is not for everyone but it suits my purposes perfectly as it does Joe Konrath's and many another author who has created a long list of titles on their dashboards. When one or two titles can be put up, others rotated in, it works wonders in garnering huge numbers of new and old readers. Amazon sold 4 million kindle/fire readers in December alone, so consider the numbers if you could get even a small slice of kindle-folks buzzing about your titles. I say it is not for everyone as meaning those who have titles on Smashwords and other ebook stores as part of the agreement is that you have to be exclusive to Kindle for 90 days (3 months), so you have to take down your titles elswhere to participate in this and the loan program attached to it. NO you make no cash on the freebies, but again if you have a lot of books to work with and they are on the kindle shelf (I have close on to 50 odd titles up there) then it can be a great way to garner new
eyes on your titles, covers, descripts and while most will place the book in a to be read stack, you just never know in as big a crowd as these freebies are generating who your book is going to find - reviewers, buzz-byters, screen writers, producers, agents, maybe even an open minded publisher, and certainly a few editors. Maybe. It is all a gamble but then so is any promotion.

For me it is the perfect solution to getting things moving to a new level of sales, I hope....but it was little skin off my nose to jump in with both feet -- all in. Why? Because for 3 years now I have promoted myself as a Kindle Original -- an author who is Exclusive to Kindle. I have not branched out from that in all this time. So I did not have to take down titles from B&N or Smashwords or elsewhere (which is another gamble and not very nice!). My last six finished novels have not even sought out the months of rejection slips or the waiting for a year and a half to see the contracted for title in print!

I saw that Joe Konrath leapt in with both feet as well; I had made my decision independent of Joe, a good friend, but I have followed Joe's advice about ebook publishing from the outset. In fact, Joe dragged me into ebook publishing kicking and screaming and I thank him all the time for doing so. Joe has put up 27 titles on five day promos, maybe more by now. I have put up 30 titles since Dec. 15th which has translated into an amazing 53,794 books given away -- no money changing hands, not a cent.

One title alone went to 20,000 bks. gone after it was placed up on Dec. 18th. UK numbers are added in here. So between US and UK, I have gained a lot more eyes on my pages...or will as time goes by. Never in 30 years of working on and off with traditional publishers have I ever known any author to have that many books go out for 'reviews' and reads -- in fact, I believe most author advance copies go out to approximately 50-150 reviewers. Not that all those takers of my books will review it but every reader is in a sense a 'buzz' reviewer. Gotta give me that, and I have to believe that months from now, I will still be reaping benefits from having placed my titles into this program. Two books I have as yet to enroll in the program but that was only due to some technical problems. I am all in. But as I said at top of this post, it all depends on YOUR circumstances. You may want to do as others have and place one of your titles, a leader for a series for
instance up. If you get five free promotion days for said title, that is money you could not have afforded for the book, so in a real sense, some cash is flowing to you in this to some sweetheart deal.

We've been discussing this up and down on my "What Moves Kindle Bks. off the Shelf" at KDP Community Threads a lot. There are many who see this as authors committing mass suicide, and maybe we are all lemmings going over the edge, but my gut tells me otherwise. Besides, there has got to be a way for a guy like me to make HAY with these numbers just on the face of it. Doing some of that already here and there. Still the numbers of ACTUAL book sales, as predicted by naysayers of the program, have indeed SHRUNK, so I expect any paycheck I get for the month of December will reflect that. As a result, I am taking in laundry and book editing again, pressing the pants and pleats for anyone you might know who needs a book or story autopsy or resuscitation. Send 'em my way. Still working the DAY JOB.

Rob Walker
www.robertwalkerbooks.com
WWW.RobertWalkerbooks.com

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This or Next? Which is it? by DL Larson

Have you ever been in a conversation that left you more confused than usual? Consider the following ...
"I'll see you next Saturday, then," said John.
"I thought we were meeting this Saturday the 31st," Rachel replied.
"That is the next Saturday on the calendar."
"Next Saturday would be January 7th."
"Don't be silly, we'd miss the new year party. I'll see you next Saturday."
"We're talking about this week? Right?"
"Of course."
"Good. I'll see you Saturday."
"That's right, next Saturday!"

You may think this is silly or irrelevant, but I can tell you my husband and I have had this on-going confusion for nearly forty years. I've tried to set him straight many times, but some things one just can't fix.

Webster doesn't help us much either. The definition of NEXT: coming just before or just after; nearest or closest/ the next person in line, the next room; next Monday.
adv. 1. in the nearest place, time, etc. She sits next to me in school. 2. at the first chance after this/ Please wait on me next. What should I do next?
And then Webster describes THIS:the person or thing mentioned or understood/This is Juan. This tastes good./ 2. being the person or thing that is present or nearer. This house is newer than that one.

Not much help from the dictionary. The Elements of Style doesn't discuss the problem, nor does my trusty handbook on Errors in English. But my old English professor talked about it in her list of things to remember. She called them her nuggets of gold.

When talking about time ~ the current week a person is in is called "This week," therefore next is not needed. One could say "I'll see you this Friday," or "I'll see you Friday." The understanding of the immediate upcoming Friday is understood. Next is not needed. Next is best left to standing in line, waiting ones turn, or when discussing the future past the present week one is in. Next week would mean the week beyond the one one is in presently. "I'll see you next week," means the week following the one a person is in. Not this week, but next week.

I feel so much better now that we cleared the confusion over this and next. This weekend we will celebrate the end of this year and welcome in the next one! Right?

Anyway, Happy New Year!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going on a Tour

I'm going on a tour soon. The great thing about this tour is I'll be out of the country, yet in it at the same time. That's right, thanks to the Internet, such miracles are possible!

In case you haven't figured it out, I'll be taking a blog book tour, also known as a virtual tour. I'll be visiting various blogs, and doing posts about these hot topics and more:

Are You Comfortable With Your Age?
What's So Great About Being Young?
When Did I Get Old?
What Are the Advantages of Growing Old?

Okay, maybe such topics don't seem too important to you right now. If that's the case, they will someday. (g)

Be that as it may, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse is not only for those who wish they were young again, but also for those who still are. More to follow, but if you can't wait, follow this link at Amazon and you'll find out more about my thriller.

http://tinyurl.com/6tsntn6

Thanks,

Morgan Mandel - http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse on Kindle & Smashwords
Killer Career 99 cents on Kindle & Smashwords
Two Wrongs 99 cents on Kindle & Smashwords
Girl of My Dreams 99 cents- Kindle & Smashwords

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Naughty or Nice? by DL Larson

If you grew up in America, then you know Santa is checking his list this week, twice, no less! No crying, no spying, in other words, you better watch out ~ Santa is coming to town!

That all sounds great and inspirational, except for us writers, nice is boring! We need a little naughty, we crave exciting spices to mix and spread around, and we need inspiration in the way of mischief to keep the pages turning.

So in addition to wishing everyone a BLESSED CHRISTMAS, I also wish for you enough spice and trouble to keep your characters moving in the direction they need to go!

Enjoy this time with family and friends ~ enjoy this special time given to us ~ it is the best gift of all. Take a moment to remember ... whether you are naugty or nice, Christmas is for everyone. Christmas is Love!

Merry Christmas!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas


The last few weeks have been hectic as I got my backlist books and then my new thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, ready for Kindle and Smashwords, and also tried to get ready for Christmas. I did get them all up and am still working on the getting ready for Christmas. I have made some progress on clearing my house clutter, and soon will be wrapping presents, so it appears the Christmas goal may also be reached.

Next, I'll be lining up reviews and going on a Blog Book Tour for Forever Young: Blessing or Curse. Full details will be available when they are available. In other words, I don't have everything lined up yet.

Going to relax and watch TV now, unless I fall asleep first!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shameless Holiday Promotion

If you have someone in your life who loves a good romance or someone who loves to eat, have I got the last minute gift ideas for you!

My latest release A Christmas to Remember is available in e-format from The Wild Rose Press.


Newly single, Heather Morgan gathers her courage and decides to take a Christmas ski vacation on her own. However, the festive holiday atmosphere reminds her how dispirited and alone she feels. When she meets a mysterious stranger, her lonely vacation takes an unexpected turn.

Sam is at the resort at the urging of his brother, who thinks he needs to get out and have a little fun. Having no desire to get involved with anyone, Sam needs a way to get his brother off his back. The intriguing Heather seems like the perfect solution to his dilemma, so he makes her an offer she can't refuse.

Sam restores the joy of the season to Heather. Their time together is magical, something she'll never forget. Soon her feelings for him deepen beyond their romantic holiday fling. But Sam has a secret, one that could prevent the fantasy from ever becoming real.


Still available is my FREE read from TWRP Mistletoe and Folly.


A chance meeting. A friend of a friend. Mia Preston hasn’t been able to get Ethan Chase out of her mind. A cozy coffee house leads to a night of romance. But will their kiss under the mistletoe lead to heartbreak or the love of a lifetime?







And for those in your life who like to eat, the 2011 Garden Gourmet FREE cookbook is just the ticket!



Until next time,

Happy Reading (and Shopping!)

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two Wrongs Now on Kindle and Smashwords -- 99 Cents

I'm happy to report my first published mystery, Two Wrongs, has now been re-released on Kindle and Smashwords at the very reasonable 99 cent price.

For those looking for Christmas references, the climactic scene takes place in the Christmas Season at Marshall Field's in Chicago, in the days when it was still called Marshall Field's and not Macy's. Mentioned are the Walnut Room, ice cream snowmen, and the ever popular Frango mints.

Many Chicago area landmarks are included, such as Chase Park, Senn High School, DePaul University, St. Vincent DePaul Church and Our Lady of Lourdes Church.


HERE'S A SHORT DESCRIPTION:
An innocent girl is slain. Her brother knows who did it—or does he?


LONGER DESCRIPTION:
Kevin loses his cool when Mary Alice turns him down for the senior prom. Her brother, Danny, hears them arguing. Later that night Mary Alice lies dead in the alley. Danny is furious and determined to make Kevin pay for his crime, but did he do it?

Prison can transform the most innocent human being into a killer, and Kevin is no exception.

EXCERPT FROM BEGINNING OF BOOK:

February 12, 1996 – Back when Marshall Field’s wasn’t Macy’s and texting wasn’t popular.


“WHAT’S GOING ON down there?”

Danny Callaway heard the question, but couldn’t answer. His brain froze in the cold February air as he stared at the broken rag doll that had once been his sister, Mary Alice.

In his sixteen years he’d never witnessed death first-hand. Until now.

Mary Alice’s still form lay sprawled against the alley’s cement. Her head stuck out at a crazy angle like the girl in the Exorcist movie.

Hoping against hope, he checked for a pulse at her neck. Nothing. He tried her wrist, but got the same result.

His mind was all jumbled. All he could think of were stupid things, like how he’d heard guys call Mary Alice a prude because she closed the top buttons on her blouse and never wore mini-skirts.

She’d sure be embarrassed not to have anything on at all. Someone had to cover her up and make her look presentable. Maybe Mom could help.

But how could he tell her? A sob tore through his throat. He clamped his mouth shut to keep the bile from rushing out.

Through the shock and pain, one thing remained clear. Kevin would pay for this.


For more, see Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/7whvzkj
or Smashwords http://smashwords.com/books/view/113202


Morgan Mandel
Killer Career - 99 cents on
Kindle & Smashwords, $13.95 print

Girl of My Dreams - 99 cents on
Kindle & Smashwords

Two Wrongs - 99 cents on
Kindle & Smashwords

Forever Young:Blessing or Curse
Soon on Kindle & Smashwords

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Reading and Writing - or not?

We know most everyone is hustling and bustling, getting ready for the holidays, but work, alas, continues. Or does it? Who is still writing during the holidays, or not?

I admit my creativity slows down towards the end of the year with the projects I was working on now completed. But the nonfiction, bread-and-butter work continues.

What about you? What do you like to read or write as the year's end approaches?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holidays by Margot Justes


It seems strange that with the struggling economy our Costco was packed by nine thirty this morning, but maybe not so strange, maybe we've realized what is important-family and friends- and that you don't have to spend a bloody fortune to make someone's day.

A bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way. Let's say you have a friend who loves Ghirardelli chocolate and glass, two stops will give you the perfect gift and you haven't spent a fortune.

Costco sells a big bag of assorted Ghirardelli chocolates, of course it's oversized, it is Costco after all.

Home Goods sells beautiful Italian glass, there is plenty of stuff made in China, but if you take a bit of time to look around the store you will find lovely Italian pieces.

A perfect delicious gift that will be appreciated immediately and remembered long after the holidays are over. Just a bit of thought goes a long way.

I have friends who love my poppy seed cake, this year they will get the cake and a rectangular glass tray that will fit the cake. I'm very partial to glass too.

Simplification is good, making life easier and less stressful is good, but it shouldn't mean sacrificing a bit of the holiday spirit, a bit of the kindness, a bit of that extra effort that we seem to extend to others.

Wouldn't it be nice if that holiday spirit continued throughout the year.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
www.mjustes.com

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Idea for the Season! by DL Larson

Last week I was looking for a short skit for my Sunday School class about the Mary and Joseph story (prequel to the Baby Jesus' arrival.) I found several, but didn't see anything that talked to me. Nothing was quite right for my age of children. Then I did the big DUH! and wrote the skit myself!

Sometimes I feel like the Little Red Hen and simply end up doing the work, use it once and file it away. I've done this for years in various areas of my life. I realize now, I should share these tidbits I've put together. As I remake my website, I plan to add a place for skits and other writings for folks to use. It may take me awhile, as does everything, but sharing these skits may help others and offering them could become a valuable connection to readers.

There are times when I forget my gift of writing is a talent to share. I see the knitting group at our library, occasionally visit the knitting or sewing group at our church and know I will never be that good with my hands. I look at their progress, value their talent of making prayer shawls, and sigh at the gift of 125 blankets hand-made by our sewing ladies that will go to far off places around the world. I have no expertise in such undertakings. It's easy to feel inadequate when others gifts are so visable. A friend of mine makes jewelry, her husband tumbles and polishes the stones. They've made a business out of their hobby.

Yes, it's easy to get discouraged, but remember writers make something from nothing. Wordsmiths have no yarn, no bits of material or thread. Writers have a dictionary and thesaurus. And most importantly, ideas! My suggestion for this season is to collect ideas like bits of thread. Build a tapestry of ideas to make a holiday story. Then when the ornaments and decorations are back in their boxes and things have quieted down a bit, write, write, write. Create a story from nothing but ideas, memories and experience.

Writers are the opposite of magicians. Magicians make things disappear. Writers turn ideas into reality. The work is hard, but stories appear from thin air, and characters come to life!

That's a pretty special talent!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Please Welcome Romance Author, Mona Risk, Who Offers Her Views on a Trendy Topic

About Our Guest, Romance Author, Mona Risk -

Mona Risk never thought that hazardous waste analysis would lead her to writing novels! When her Ph.D. and work in chemistry landed her international contracts to refurbish laboratories, she traveled to more than sixty countries on business or vacation. To relax from her hectic schedule, she avidly read romance novels and mentally plotted her own books. Eventually she left a successful scientific career to share with her readers the many stories brewing in her head. M. Risk likes to set her stories in the fascinating places she visited from exotic Belarus, and historical France, to the beaches of Greece, the monuments of Egypt and the mysterious Islands of Seychelles.

Mona speaks to us now on a trendy topic -
A new trend: Self-Publishing ebooks
by Mona Risk

Five years ago, the Romance Writers of America, RWA, refused to consider ebook- published authors on an equal foot with NY published authors. Two years ago, when Harlequin created its electronic-published book line, Carina Press, and then other NY publishers followed suit, RWA faced a monumental dilemma. They changed the wording of their regulations, declaring that they recognized ebooks providing they produced enough royalties to be taken seriously.

In the December 2011 issue of the Romance Writers Report, RWR, there is a whole survey dedicated to self-publishing ebooks. Now, RWA calls the new ebook revolution an exciting change in the industry.

Not only are ebooks invading the publishing market, but self-publishing is now very fashionable, with big names having a taste of it and publishing their backlist for prices as low as 99 cents.

I’ve uploaded two books on Smashwords and Amazon. Yes, it took time to thoroughly edit and format the manuscripts, and prepare book-covers that look attractive and professional, and finally upload text and pictures according to direction. But it’s all doable and I’m thrilled with the experience of self-publishing two romantic comedy novels, both offered at 99 cents.







The first one, NO MORE LIES, http://tinyurl.com/3lenmfd  sold many more copies in two months than in two years at my publisher.

Tag line: A lie that brings a smile... or a truth drawing a tear?










The second one, RIGHT NAME, WRONG MAN, http://tinyurl.com/85o4wg7 was not published before and is doing well.

Tag line: What’s a girl to do when she whispers another man’s name in her fiancĂ©’s arms?



To find a fantastic list of ebooks at 99cents, please visit the
99cent eBOOKS blog

Mona Risk
http://www.monarisk.com/
http://www.monarisk.blogspot.com/

Please welcome Mona and offer your own thoughts on this trendy topic.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How do you share your hobby?

Have any special things you do for the holidays?

For fun and something different, thought I'd share a couple online miniatures Advent Calendars. As you know I write about my hobby, via my nonfiction book IN MINIATURE STYLE II. (eBook or print).

* Mini Treasures Advent Calendar

* Artisans in Miniature Advent Calendar

** If you're a writer, how do you share your interest or hobbies in your books or stories - or don't you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Reviews Are In!


I've always bemoaned the fact that reviews are difficult to come by. I totally understand the reason, with time in such short demand for many, many people (including reviewers), even the couple of hours it would take to sit down and read a novel might not be feasible.

Perhaps the secret then lies in writing a shorter book, which thus can be read in a shorter amount of time. A Christmas to Remember, my latest release and first novella, has already garnered four reviews since its release last month. This is more than I've gotten for any of my previous books. And I'm thrilled. Not only in the quantity of the reviews, but in the quality as well.

This morning I woke up to a Five Lip/Recommended Read review from "Two Lips Reviews". Talk about a great way to start the day! "A Christmas to Remember is a delightful story which expertly draws the reader into the joy and excitement of the Christmas season."

Manic Readers gave it four stars and said, "A very nice fireside read, at Christmas or any time."

Mystic Reviews said, "A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER is the perfect story to get you in the holiday spirit!"

And it grabbed three-and-a-half stars from Night Owl Reviews. "A Christmas to Remember by Debra St. John is a very nice romantic read. It is a short novel that is perfect to read in one evening while sitting on the couch covered up in a comforter, sipping hot tea."

Needless to say...my Christmas season is off to a great start! Merry, merry to one and all!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com
A Christmas to Remember from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Season by Margot Justes


During the holiday season there doesn't seem to be enough time to do everything, and every year the pressure mounts to do more, shop more, plan more activities until there isn't enough time to take a breath. By the time the holidays arrive, we're too exhausted to enjoy.

This year I decided to simplify my life and really enjoy the season. I'll still have my holiday party but only for family and really close friends. Most of it will be catered by Giacomo's, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Des Plaines. The food is delicious and tastes as if home made, and prices are very reasonable.

The decorations will still go up, but fewer little ornaments all over the place, lights will make up the difference. I'll still bake most of the standard family favorites, but will shop at Costco for a few of their seasonal delights. Love Costco!

Made reservations for tea at the Drake Hotel and a short hop to visit old friends at the Art Institute. My favorite holiday tradition and one I plan to keep.

I'm all set with presents for the munchkins, my daughter bless her heart, did all the shopping on-line and I just wrote a check. This way I know they will love what they get and it made it very easy for me. I'm all in favor of that ...

So far, it's been less hectic and I actually have written a few words here and there.
I even appreciate a bit of rain-like today, it's lovely, a perfect fall day

I wonder how others are handling the holiday season.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
www.mjustes.com

Friday, December 2, 2011

Garnering ebook eReviews fr0m Joe/Jane Q. Public


Originally posted on April 15, 2011, but this may be of help to some of you!

Using Twitter and Facebook effectively can gain reviews for your ebook. While such prestigious outlets as Publisher's Weekly and even the New York Times have announced (finally) that ebooks will be reviewed by them, the number of slots for such reviews are miniscule at best, and I suspect most such reviews will go to the authors who least need the extra toot to their horns. I mean does Dean R. Koontz need another place to be reviewed? Evanovich? Now, you and I and many another upstart Indie author or midlist author with an ebook -- we are the ones who need a review outlet.  There is Mysterical-e and a handful of others reviewing online but for ebooks and kindle books, the place where you will most likely be seen if you do garner a review is on Amazon.com.

But then how do you get people to review your book on Amazon?  I recently put up new books for sale from the Kindle shelf, and to entice eReaders to review my books, I announced on Facebook and Twitter that I would gift a copy of a book to anyone interested in then reviewing -- FREE copy of Children of Salem or Titanic 2012  and the eReader need only review it in some venue, preferably Amazon.com.

I recently received on April 14, 2011 -- the 99th year of Titanic's launch and demise -- another review of my T2012. The reviewer, a Chris Gibson, eReader, Joe Q. Public, remarked on how chills went through him when he realized he had placed up the review on April 14th--the exact night 99 years ago when Titanic sank.  Next year at this time it will be the 100th year of Titanic. One of the reasons I tackled the manuscript which posed huge challenges.

The reviews I have recieved from this process have been terrific and detailed for the most part. in which I said I would prefer an ugly, nasty, bad or tepid review to NO review but that I would take my chances as I believed strongly in the novel. They also inform me that I was on the right track with these two titles and offer some strong vindication as both books were repeatedly shunned by brick and mortar publishers, but in the case of querying myself as Independent Publisher for Instinct InK, I sorta knew I was not going to get a rejection slip or a pleasant 'no thank you'--HA!


It is rather nice to know your book is accepted by the publisher even before you have completed the thing. Independent authorship/publising with Amazon.com/Kindle. Nice to know you will be all-in on the cover art, the script/lettering, and no one to fight you on your title. All copy writing in my hands, so the description is precisely as I want it to be. Marketing director, PR person, responsible for it all, and oddly enough it frees me up from a myriad of problems faced when dealing with brick and mortar publishers, includinng no confusion on earnings and no delays on earnings. No more waiting six months or a year to learn of the progress or lack thereof of the book. Instead of royalty statements, I have unit sales reports. Instead of an agent and a publisher, I have a partner in crime who allows me to take 70% off the top to his 30%.

It is all so remarkable that even after placing up 46 booklength works on the Kindle shelf, I am still flabergasted that I am realizing a childhood dream--to be able to afford to publish myself so I don't have to cow-tow to anyone or wait on others I consider far, far too slow as I write too fast for brick and mortar stores but never too fast for the Kindle Store.

People looking for advice on practical methods for selling ebooks/kindle titles, find me on Kindle Community Forums. Hope to see you there.

Robert W. Walker
Killer Instinct, Cutting Edge, and Thrice Told Tales

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's That Time of Year ... by DL Larson

It's that time of year when so many are thinking about buying or making gifts for another, attending holiday parties, school and church pageants, and spending time with family and friends. Writing schedules become harder to keep and that's okay! Everyone needs a break now and then. So instead of feeling guilty or upset, take a deep breath, and enjoy this Christmas season.

We've been talking about Christmas books this week at Acme Authors, so why not use this time to explore and dream about what your Holiday book could be. Take a few notes, visit a place you haven't in awhile. Take in a new play or an old favorite. Think about characters, ordinary people with a life to live, problems to solve and how it all might make for an intriguing plot.

The other day some friends and I walked to Daley Plaza on Washington Street in Chicago. We visited the German American Holiday Market. It's been there every year for fifteen years, yet I had never been. What a delight, what wonderful smells, and I enjoyed talking with many of the friendly merchants, many with heavy accents and ready smiles. I imagined several holiday plots as I sauntered along. We met up with a friend who mentioned she was returning to one of the stores to purchase the ornament that looked like a diamond ring set in a heart-shaped box. Her son had just gotten engaged and it would make a wonderful gift for him and his fiancee. Romantic ideas surged through my head. What if ...

Each year our local library pulls holiday books out for display. Favorites are read and reread, new ones are always sought after as well. There will always be a market for a good Christmas story. Folks may be busy, but they also find time to read. I've had moms tell me they may be exhausted, but they will stay up late to read, even during the Christmas season; especially during the Christmas season. I think the stories recharge them somehow and it helps keep the holiday in perspective. Not many want to rush through the hoilidays without feeling and caring and wanting to give of ourselves. Good stories fill that need.

Perhaps next year at this time some of us will have written our own Christmas story or have one started. Now is the perfect time to jot down ideas as we pass through the days, taking in the scenes of Christmas, the anxiety, the excitement, the overwhelming feelings we have. Now is always the perfect time for research.

Enjoy this Advent Season!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Books

Since Thanksgiving is over and we can now officially get into the Christmas Spirit, I thought we could get some choices here on books featuring the Christmas Holiday Season in a big way, or mentioning Christmas somewhere inside.


I'll soon be re-releasing for 99 cents in Kindle and Smashwords my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, which has some vital action taking place around the holiday tradition of visiting the Big Tree in the Walnut Room of what used to be Marshall Field's and is now called Macy's. I'll let you know when the book is out again, but here's the cover, which doesn't look too Christmasy.

Now, what does everyone else have?




Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday! Deals or....? A Christmas story perhaps?

So who hasn't had enough of the holiday madness already?

Anyone hunting for deals online today? What are you looking for?

** How about a short holiday read?

In Christmas at the North Pole Compound, it's not all Fa-la-la and Ho-Ho-Ho at the North Pole Compound when Santa's elves find someone's stolen the gifts! Can Chief Elf Investigator Finius Flaherty crack the case by Dec. 24th and save Christmas??

A Holiday Crime Story for all ages! - Only .99 cents! (Kindle and other formats at Smashwords, click title.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tis the Season

Well things sure have changed since my last post. A week ago I was all about hanging on to Thanksgiving for as long as possible. Absolutely no Christmas music or decs until the Friday after.

Guess what? The Friday after (and now the Saturday and Sunday as well) has arrived! My house has been transformed into a Christmas wonderland: on Friday and Saturday we put up and decorated two trees, strung outdoor lights on three bushes and one tree, put garland around the front door, and hauled out and placed six room's worth of decs. Christmas music plays constantly in the background, and last night after attending our local tree lighting ceremony down the block, we kicked off the Christmas movie viewing season with "Christmas with the Kranks". My before bed reading was my latest release, A Christmas to Remember. I've been holding off on reading it until now.

This really is a joyous time of year...I can't wait to bake cookies, wrap presents, and attend the various rounds of parties and celebrations. Not to mention looking forward to some time off at the end of the year to relax and enjoy and company of family and friends.

Yep. Tis the season alright, and I couldn't be happier!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remember to Include the Holidays

Originally posted by Morgan Mandel at The Blood-Red Pencil blog, but still applies.

Holidays are a great opportunity to enrich your manuscript. The trick is not to just mention a holiday in passing, but to add vivid descriptions of how one is celebrated in your character's life.

You can draw on this by your own experience. Think of a holiday, such as Thanksgiving. What's the weather like outside? That will depend on where you live and/or the climate vagaries of the fictional year you create.

Which people get invited? Who prepares the meal? The mother, the wife, the son, the daughter, one, some, or all? Who helps? How is the table set? That may depend on the station in life of your characters, whether they're well-off or perhaps just-married college students.

What's on the menu? Does it reflect the main character's ethnicity, or perhaps some quirk? Many people eat turkey for Thanksgiving, but maybe your character is alone and eating spam.

What about guilt? There are lots of possibilities for that, such as a dinner guest who forgot to bring a hostess gift. Then there's the working wife who feels bad because she uses canned gravy and ready-made dressing instead of making them from scratch.

Or, what about the eternal ying and yang of invitations to the husband's and wife's houses on the same day, at the same time? Where to go? Whom to please?

Can you think of any holiday descriptions from your own novel or someone else's that stand out in your mind? Please share.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Morgan Mandel
Website: http://www.morganmandel.com/
Blogspot: http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords -
Killer Career - Romantic Suspense and
Girl of My Dreams - Romantic Comedy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As a writer -should you or should you not prepare your own income tax return?

Whether or not you should prepare your own income tax return is a question everyone, not only writers, should ask themselves each year - and now is a good time to start.

Why now? After all, the deadline for filing your tax return isn’t until April next year! Well, now is a good time because everyone needs to assess if their tax situation has changed, which it usually does, and by how much. We are in the final quarter of the calendar year so more than two thirds of the year has passed and the remaining months are an opportunity to adjust withholdings, retirement contributions and similar deductions if necessary. We’re also coming up on the time to renew or change our medical coverage, contributions to flexible spending accounts and more. All of this plays into our individual financial and tax profiles.

If you do prepare your income tax return yourself I strongly suggest using a software program to do so. The leaders are typically Turbo Tax and HR Block at Home. In the interest of disclosure, I use the latter and have for many years, so I’m comfortable with it and have confidence in the results but then I was also a Senior Tax Specialist for many years so my choice is based on many factors that may or may not be applicable to you. Regardless, you want to choose a reputable software program and one that has provisions to provide audit support or money-back guarantees should those options be necessary. There are plenty of sites that review and compare software programs each year and a Google search will yield a plethora of choices.

So, back to our assessment. Most people do not realize that their tax profile changes from year to year. The changes may be so minor that they go unnoticed - except to a trained professional - or they are so significant that your tax return mushrooms to 15 pages long from 3 or 4 pages the previous tax year.

For writers this can be especially true when we go from not declaring income and/or expenses on our tax return to doing just that, especially if writing is our first and only hobby or business. The impact extends from pushing us into another tax break or providing us with enough loses to do the reverse. From having to calculate depreciation on capital assets to paying additional Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Accurate recording keeping is a must, especially as your income tax return becomes more complicated, which is typically the result of becoming a published writer with income and/or expenses. If you’ve been keeping proper records all year long then this will lend itself to a straight forward and timely assessment of your personal and writing tax profile, which in turn will allow you to make adjustments as needed. Most people who earn money as an employee don’t realize that the income tax system is actually a quarterly system but once you start a business or hobby, such as writing, this will become quite evident.

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it can become quite complicated. So, in addition to your annual health checkup you need annual, if not quarterly, tax and financial checkups.

And you thought all you had to do was write!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's your favorite e-reader? Kindle, Nook, Playbook or ?

With Christmas coming and a convenient Dec. 7 birthday, the holiday sales are giving me a severe case of e-reader envy. I have an Adobe-based reader, which is not bad, but the battery doesn't seem to last long enough and takes for-ev-er to charge....

Having looked at a Blackberry Playbook (16gb) on sale for half it's original price (now $199) I admit I was hooked. How cool... then I started looking around, and the one drawback - that it only will download Kobo ebooks - and then you can't read others from other sources - has kind of soured me on that for e-reading. Cool that it has a camera, but I have a good camera for my writing purposes...

Nook Color looks pretty cool, especially since, as I've read, the SD card will expand it into a tablet-like device.

And then there's Kindle, too...

Decisions, decisions.... so figured I'd see what everyone else is using....

What's your favorite e-reader model, and why? How do you use it? Any drawbacks?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Holiday Season

I can't believe it's this time of year already. As slow as time seems to drag by while I'm at work during the week, looking at the big picture it's hard to believe that not only has November arrived, but is more than halfway over. Where has the year gone?

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, the holiday season really is upon us. The stores are filled with frozen turkeys, sweet potatoes, corn, the makings for green been casserole, and pumpkin pies. Cornucopias, mums, and corn stalks grace houses, stores, and even lampposts...

Oh, no, wait. Most of the stores and lampposts are already graced with all the trimmings of Christmas (And have been since Halloween). Not to mention the white lights adorning the trees downtown in my town. Which kind of cheeses me off. I adore Christmas and all that goes along with it (the birth of the Christ-child, decs, music, cookies, presents), but it really needs to wait its turn.

I want to fully appreciate the calm and peacefulness of Thanksgiving first. I want to enjoy time with my family and friends: sharing laughs, memories, blessings. I want to smell the turkey in the oven and taste the spices of pumpkin and apple pies. I want to crunch through the leaves on the way back to the car, so stuffed I'll swear I'll never eat again: until those yummy leftovers come out the next day, and I can savor the bliss of a turkey club sandwich.

So, to you and yours, I wish you a blessed, thankful, and relaxing Thanksgiving this week.

Until next time,

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Visit to the Vatican by Margot Justes


I booked a tour to the Vatican, for my next visit I will buy tickets ahead of time and go on my own. Spend time at my leisure and not worry about tour.

We had 10 minutes in the Sistine Chapel, that was just about enough time to walk across the rectangular Chapel, try not to bump anyone in the process and barely see the ceiling, much less the walls.

That being said, the Chapel is stunning. As I looked up at the magnificent ceiling I wondered how Michelangelo could survive such an ordeal, to create those stunning images laying on his back for hours on end. The nine frames on the ceiling tell the story of creation , Adam and Eve and Noah. The altar wall depicts the Last Judgment, filled with fire and brimstone. The Chapel simply takes your breath away.

St. Peter's Basilica is enormous, everything is made from marble, it is magnificent and filled with unbelievable treasures, chief among them is Michelangelo's deeply moving Pieta. Now hidden behind glass and high enough to keep people from getting too close.

My first view of the Pieta was many, many years ago and back then you could get close, within touching range, but an idiot took a hammer to the Pieta and caused quite a bit of damage. Now it is protected from harm and humanity.

Vatican is a living, breathing museum and very little can be seen in five hours, when you take into account the enormous size of the place and the multitude of visitors, and let's not forget the tour group you're with.

What I should have done was stay on my own after the tour ended, but I didn't think of it until after I got back. By the time I got back to the hotel it was almost three in the afternoon, I was tired and hungry- heaven forbid I should miss a meal-so I went up to the terrace restaurant and had a delicious late lunch.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
www.mjustes.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Watercolor Experience by DL Larson

A week ago I ventured into a new world, the world of watercolor painting. My art skills include drawing a heart, a happy face and maybe an occasional star, but that's about it. I have no talent in this area, but I still wanted to learn something new.

The instructor said we would be drawing butterflies and shapes. Already I was panic stricken - a butterfly meant two sides pretty much the same. Identical! I'd never get it right. Then Marcee, our instructor, said we could trace if we wanted to and the entire class gave up a big sigh. I wasn't the only one ready to bolt for the door. Marcee laughed and told us to relax, this would be fun.

As I stewed over which butterfly to trace, I realized she wanted us not to get hung up on the perfection of the piece, but to become excited in the process of learning a new technique. I drew a circle on my paper using the lip of a saucer; I traced my butterfly into the cirle I had made; I used only the outside shape of the butterfly and went rogue with the shapes of the wings. It was a challenge in balance, but one I enjoyed. The rest of the paper was for me to do as I pleased.

For a writer, I was pretty dissapointed I couldn't think of any interesting shapes to draw. I settled for wavy lines that ended up looking like ribbons floating in the background of my butterfly. I have no idea how I came up with that idea and that small part of the creative process reminded me of writing and how sometimes, if I am really lucky the best idea just floats into my brain and it's on the paper before it can escape. My background appeared and it was good. Simple, but it had character.

Then Marcee had us paint our picture with water. I felt about three years old painting with no paint, but Marcee wasn't finished, far from it and she distributed dabs of colorful pigment on saucers and instructed us to wash the background with whatever colors we wanted. Except I didn't know what I wanted; I felt unsure and hesitant and only after mulling things over with the rest of the class and each of us deciding what color our butterflies would be could we decide on the background. And just like in writing, the layering process began, one light stoke at a time.

I used washed out colors, then more solid pigment and salt. I never knew one used salt in watercolor painting. The salt reacted to the wet paint and little explosions of color expanded and grew, the colors blending and bleeding into one another in exciting ways. The process gave the picture depth and a richness it lacked before. I really felt like an artist creating something original.

Once the watery paint and salt dried, I moved onto another layer of detailing, much like writers do in filling in the story or plot to make the images more prominent. I grew bolder with the paint, making my lines of ribbon stand out then fade only to stand out again. The butterfly ended up with more than three layers of detail with straight pigment, the bold blending with the washed out colors in ways I never imagined it could.

I used too much pigment and ended up with a blob of navy blue where it didn't belong. Marcee showed me how to wash it away and fix it the way I wanted it to look. I learned there was no wrong way to paint with watercolors. I could always fix what I didn't like. Even after it had dried comepletely. Another similarity with writing.

In the end, I let Marcee detail in the tiny features of my butterfly, her hand is much steadier than mine. I watched her deftly dab paint and a face appeared. She recommended I add bits of green and yellow flowers and vines to the background within the circle where my butterfly was. Again I applied muted colors, barely recognizable, but the contrast added depth to the plain background. The butterfly grew more distinguished and life-like with something for it to rest upon.

I realize one night of painting does not make me a painter, anymore than one day of writing makes me an author. But by being adventurous in trying something different, I have expanded my knowledge and that will enhance my writing skills.

And that is good!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

She's Back!

You probably know I received my rights back for my romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, during the summer. It took me a while to get to it, but I finally did a new edit and set up a reverted rights edition this past weekend. It's now available on Kindle and at Smashwords, each for 99 cents.



What Girl of My Dreams by Morgan Mandel is about:

A temp's good deed goes horribly awry when she subs for a cast member in a reality show to win the prize of a billionaire.


All Jillian wants to do is save the producer from an embarrassing situation. All he wants to do is strangle her for her deceit.

The show must go on, despite the tension between the two. Though Jillian wants to get in and get out, instead she advances in the rounds.

Will she win the billionaire? Does she want him, or is it the producer she's really after?



If you have a kindle or have ordered one & it's on the way, here's the buy link: http://tinyurl.com/84rhje7

Smashwords offers several formats. Here's their link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/104525

Thanks to everyone who will order the current edition and anyone who ordered Girl of My Dreams when it was first released in 2008.

Coming later is a print version, but I have other books to release electronically first.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Name is Chris and I'm A....

Yup, I confess.

I'm a bookaholic.

I realize this as I'm trying to clear out bookcases and make room for my other obsession - miniatures, also known as "too much stuff."

Every garage sale, every yard sale, every church sale, every thrift store, every mention I read online of a book, I check it out.

Sometimes, no, make that a lot of times, I buy. Hence, I now have eight plastic bags (and counting) to take to the thrift store to recycle. I do want to check first if the local homeless shelter would like some. I would so much rather take them where someone would appreciate them.

As I sort, I realize there are a lot of books that maybe looked good before, but I know won't get read. Books are like clothes, tastes change. What once looked good, no longer does. :>)

So the sporadic sort, which often feels more like moving stuff from one room to another. But at least this time some of it is moving out. Progress. On another thought as I sort - yes, maybe eBooks do have advantages after all. (My books and eBooks are on my website.)

And hey, while you roll your eyes, I dare you: make your own confession. What do you have too much of? I'm not the only semi-hoarder, er, collector, around. (Weight, wrinkles or gray hairs don't count.) Fess up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Writer's Muse

A writer's muse is a strange thing. Sometimes it's so elusive no amount of hunting and searching is ever going to find it. Sometimes it's like a waterfall, coming so quickly it's difficult to keep up with the deluge.

Since summer, my muse has been in hiding. I haven't been able to find it with a fine tooth comb. Then, last week, for whatever reason, the damn broke. I think I mentioned last week that I had outlined (roughly) ideas for two stories. (I never, ever outline...I am completely a pantster, so that in and of itself was a minor miracle.)

A week later, I have 5,000 words written for one of the stories. Now, I know what you're thinking, especially those of you doing NaNoWriMo this month...5,000 words in a week is nothing. Y'all probably write that in a day. But for me, this is really something. It feels so great to be putting words down on paper again.

If that weren't enough, midweek I got an e-mail from an editor at Wild Rose who was considering a submission. She said that while she enjoyed the story and my writing in general, she didn't think it was ready to be published, but would love to look at it again if I did some rewrites. At first I was devastated. I mean after all, I had put my heart and soul into it the first time. Now I had to change it? Fix it? How in the world was I going to do that?

But the more I let the idea sit, the more I realized what a wonderful opportunity this was. I was being given the chance to take a good story and make it better. Maybe even make it great. Now that's nothing to sneeze at. But where to start? She mentioned a lot of things she thought needed tightening and changing...one of them one of the driving forces (or so I thought) of the plot. Then last night, lightning struck. Out of the blue, it came to me. I knew how I was going to approach the story from a slightly different angle...keeping all of the parts I loved (my characters, the setting, the conflict...), but making it stronger. I sat down and scribbled five handwritten pages of notes.

So now I have a short story to finish, a full-length novel to revise and rewrite, and I still have another idea poking at me.

I'm telling you, when it rains it pours.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com
Available now: A Christmas to Remember

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Travel by Margot Justes

The second day in Rome started with a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel. Just the selection of coffee was impressive, from an espresso, to cappuccino, a French Press or settle for the American brew. I started with the French Press, got my own pot and steaming hot milk...day was off to great start.

Next came the bread selection, from flaky croissants, to baguettes and everything in between, to puff pastry sweet rolls. I was in heaven. Let's not forget the cheeses, from a triple cream Brie to goat and pecorino selections. Let's just say I was going to have to walk a lot. They even had dates and figs, along with eggs, omelets, sausages, fruit, and the usual gamut of buffet selections. I ended my meal with a cappuccino and a sweet roll with ricotta cheese. I did finish the pot of coffee first...it did not go to waste.

Next on the agenda, was a tour to the Vatican. To save time, I booked the tour with American Express while still at home. The bus arrived promptly and off we were to the Vatican, or so I thought.

Instead we were deposited at the offices of the tour company and waited while they figured out how many buses they would need. Buses and tourists were everywhere, sort of like the United Nations-many languages were heard and it was fun trying to identify them. I even followed a couple who spoke French. I tend to do that whenever I hear the language, besides not much was going on.

About twenty minutes later we were assigned a bus number that was supposed to be for English speaking tourists. We headed toward the bus, the number matched but the language did not-Spanish-read the big sign. We stopped in front of the bus and waited.

A little debate ensued between the tour guides, signs were switched and we boarded the bus, a bit apprehensive we hoped it was the right one. When the guide spoke in English we heaved a sigh of relief; we were on the right bus and finally on the way to the Vatican.

Even with a tour group, there was a delay in getting in. We first had to stop and get our headsets, make sure they all worked; when you have a bus full of people it takes a bit of time. Not to mention there were many tour groups.

Once we were all set, we followed the guide and headed toward the entrance, always making sure her red umbrella held high could be seen. You do not want to be separated from your guide, and believe me, it is easy to do.

The winding double line moved slowly, but no one seemed to mind. The tour guide stated that 25,000 tourists visit the Vatican daily. I can understand why, it is an amazing place and impossible to see in one day, much less 5 hours.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
www.mjuste

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Authors, Pay Attention To Your Animals


Morgan Mandel with Rascal
 Since I own a dog named Rascal, or should I say she owns me, I bond with animal lovers in fiction and in real life. I don't purposely seek books with animals included, but consider it an added perk if I find one. Somehow the characters with animals, even if they're villains, seem more human, as long as they treat their animals right. In Killer Career, a dog is mistreated by a villain, but the hero and heroine save it in the nick of time.

One thing I don't like is a storyline where an animal is introduced, yet the author doesn't pay attention to it. Sometimes it seems a dog is completely forgotten in the plot, and never seems to go out or get a walk. Or, a cat is never mentioned when the person comes home and the poor cat has no litterbox.

Later, conveniently the pet may be trotted out when the author remembers, oh yes, maybe I better say something about that animal I stuck in here to lure animal lovers to my book.

All I have to say about that is Authors, Pay Attention To Your Animals!

Are there any books with animals in them which you like, or have you noticed instances where authors don't pay attention to their animals?



Killer Career is 99 cents on
Kindle and Smashwords.
Forever Young-Blessing or Curse
is Coming Soon to Kindle and
Smashwords, as are the re-releases
of Girl of My Dreams and Two Wrongs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

When Inspiration Strikes

A couple of months ago my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, put out a call for submissions for a millionaire series it's doing for the Champagne (contemporary) line. Being a Champagne author, I thought this really should be something I should try to participate in. I thought of an idea, made some notes, wrote about a dozen pages...and that's as far as I've gotten. The story is sort of there in my head, but I just have no motivation to get it down on paper (or on screen as the case is nowadays). Writing time has been short these days as well, so that's not helping either. Another part of the problem is I don't write books like that. I like rustic, good ol' boy stories. My millionaire actor just wasn't fitting the bill.

Then today, out of the blue inspiration struck for a Thanksgiving story. I know it's too late to get anything done with it this year, but I've started sowing the seeds for next year's harvest, so to speak. I've never given much thought to writing a Thanksgiving story, but all of a sudden, I had the perfect idea for one.

And then while I was on the treadmill listening to a Toby Keith CD, another idea started to form. I've always been inspired by music, and had often thought how one song in particular would make a great story. Today I went so far as to do a page and a half of type-written notes as a rough outline. Usually I'm a pantster, so this was a big surprise.

So now I have two ideas spinning in my head, neither of which have anything to do with a millionaire.

But lately I've come across several blog posts about writing the story of your heart. And it makes a lot of sense.

Will anything come of these story ideas? Maybe. Maybe not. But since inspiration has finally struck, I'm not going to ignore it.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com
Now available in e-format: A Christmas to Remember

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Travel by Margot Justes


I haven't posted a blog for a while, thought I'd be able to do it while on vacation...I was wrong.

The flight to Rome left on time, the plane was half full, or empty depending on how you see it, and we landed on time, eight in the morning. Italian customs process not a breeze, long lines that moved at a snail's pace, but it was expected and the process seemed exciting, because Roma was waiting for me.

I arranged for a driver before leaving home and was happy to see him. I recognized him immediately, he was holding a plaque with my name plastered on it...even for me it was hard to miss. Things were good.

The hotel room was not ready, but they promised a lovely room and stored the baggage. I was free to spend my first day in Rome, and since the hotel was within walking distance of practically everything, especially the Spanish Steps, I headed there first, but not before stopping for an espresso.

Did you know that Italians stand at a counter and gulp their espresso. I found out that if you stand the price is cheaper than if you sit down at a table. It was the quick inhale of the brew that had me amazed, like a shot. I savored mine.

I made it down the Spanish steps, many, many steps, walked around all the lovely little cobble stone streets. Amazingly enough the locals wore heels and the cobblestones had big gaps between them. I watched how well they maneuvered to miss what looked like pot holes. Most tourists knew better and wore comfortable shoes.

Stopped at a lovely outdoor cafe and had lunch, was serenaded by a couple of tenors, after they passed a hat and demanded a tip, they moved on to the next cafe.

The Sofitel delivered as promised-we has a suite, absolutely gorgeous with a balcony and a fantastic view of Rome, and there was a Nespresso machine in the room, so I could enjoy delicious coffee at will. The stay at the Sofitel was simply amazing, I would recommend the hotel without any reservations on my part-you need to make reservations to actually stay there.

What a terrific start to the vacation...more next week

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
www.mjustes.com

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Would You Teach Another Writer? by DL Larson

Some writers are teachers, others help aspiring authors when asked, some feel they don't want to muddle the process of learning by injecting their own opinions on how to accomplish the task of writing.

Then comes the times when we wish we could be the teachers so our own pet peeves could be relieved. Once and for all, we could explain to all writers "this is a better way to do that, not the way you are doing it!"

So, if you could teach other writers a better way to do something, what would it be? What would you like other writers to know? What would YOU teach?

To answer my own question, I would teach a course on Character Building. I would relate character making to learning a dance. Each step leads into the next and the next, seemingly flawless as it progresses. The best characters are not flawless, they are not stunningly beautiful or brawny, they have troubles, and the closer a writer becomes to his/her character, the deeper the emotions, the more meaningful each flaw becomes. The more depth a character has, the more involved the reader will be. Complexity takes on new meaning when dealing with a character's personality. A leading character has many layers, and I would have my students fill out a profile for each character they are planning to create:

Character Questionaire:
* Name, age, race
* Physical Description: sex, eye color, hair color, physique, scars or other distinguishable markings; other physical traits - bad knee, poor eye sight, etc. How does he talk - drawl, street slick, up-tight? How does your character dress:
* Pets: past or present
* Family: build a history of family - good and bad, names, location of home, etc.
* Favorite music: be specific - this may help develop your character quirks, endearments, etc.
* Eating habits: likes/dislikes; does he eat by himself, go home to family? eat on the run? Everybody eats - make this as specific as possible
* Sleeping habits: is he restless, sound sleeper, nap?
* Mode of preferred transportation: horses? bikes? trains? How does your character move from point A to point B?
* Any hobbies: sailing, boxing, knitting?
* Any habits: smoking, chewing gum, nail biting?
* Favorite sayings: swearing or cursing? slang or other current sayings?
* Favorite hero: who would your character look up to? why?

Emotional Questionaire:
* Name your character's insecurities: what is your character worried about? List at least three.
* What does your character yearn for: understanding? money? love? justice? Explain in detail.
* What does your character fear: a spouse? police? demons? children? failure? success?
* What does your character dream about: this may already be answered in the above questions, if so, find a deeper level of understanding to relate to your readers.
*What will it take to make your character grow or feel he succeeded in his conflicts: catch the bad guys, find justice served, overcome a fear he's harbored too long, find his truelove, etc.

Once this generic profile is complete, then I would explain this is the starting point in describing a character for a book. This is the tip of the pencil, not the completed character. Now, as a writer, you have something to work with and develop. Give this character conflict worthy of his existence. Give him something to do, accomplish or learn. In other words, make him real. Give him life and allow him to move about and think for himself.

What would you teach other writers? Share with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do You Make Your Characters Sick?

I may have mentioned this somewhere before, but if so, I don't remember where.
I can be mean. I like to make my characters sick.



In Two Wrongs, my debut mystery, which will soon be re-published on Kindle,  I gave the villain dyslexia. 








In Killer Career, I let my main character get hypoglycemia, which I suffered from for a while myself. I've since learned how to control it.

(Still 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords, more in print)









In my soon to be published, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse, I let one of the villains get bitten by a dog, resulting in hopeless disfigurement to his face. I was also bitten by a dog, but fortunately, I receipt prompt attention from a plastic surgeon and am none the worse for wear from the experience.




Morgan Mandel



What about you? Do you make your characters sick? Or, do you know someone who does?



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Time vs. Real Time

Sometimes I wish I could live in a book. Wouldn't it be fun to explore new worlds, be another person for a while, or simple escape to another place for a period of time?

What I'd really like to do is be able to live on book time. Especially during the work week. In the real world, there's real time. I spend eight hours a day at my job. (Which is really stressful lately.) These days, those hours seem to drag. Not only that, but it leaves me with no time to do other things: like spend time with family and friends, write, promote, relax. And soon basketball season will be starting, which will take up even more time.

Book time is different, though. We don't want to bore our readers with the mundane details of everyday life. But rather since we want to keep the story moving along, and most importantly keep our hero and heroine together as much as possible, authors use phrases like, "The work day seemed to drag." or "Five hours of shelving books at the library passed quickly." or "Her mind wandered, and before she knew it, it was time to go home." or even "The days flew by so quickly, before he knew it, it was Christmas."

Ah, yes, making use of book time in the real world would be lovely. We can make hours, days, and even months fly by with just a few well placed words.

But alas, we live in the real world, and on that note, I need to get going, because I have a million things to do that I can't accomplish with one sentence.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trying Something New by DL Larson

The old adage, "if you want to stay healthy, expand your mind and try something new," is not only good advice, but can be fun as well. I ventured out of my comfort zone and took a two hour class on video game making. What a hoot! No wonder the young people of today are so addicted to their electronic toys.

The instructor is a high school teacher who teaches marketing and business classes. She pretty much ditched her books and turned her classes into real life situations in order for kids to apply what she teaches. Our video class was a watered down version of her class, but I came away with a better understanding of what makes a video game.

Guess what I discovered? Video making is not much different than book writing. Layer after layer is applied to the concept - whatever concept one has in mind. Miss Jenny kept saying, "in the event ..." and she would further explain we first had to build a room for the action to take place. Easy concept indeed. "In the event ..." something might happen, action and reaction concepts were explained. Individually we built a room, we clothed our sprites, which are little objects running around the screen or room created. My sprites were pieces of fruit and I decided how fast they would move, what would happen if they bumped into the wall or another bit of fruit. I had control, I made what was happening on the screen happen!

We added sounds, color, background, all tools we use in writing. Unfortunately, there was no scents to add, probably a good thing. But someday, somewhere, a gamer will realize one of our strongest senses, the sense of smell, is not being utilized in video games and a new revolution in gaming will begin.

I compared my video game building right up there with my basket weaving experience. It takes time to create something someone else might be interested in. Writing books is not easy and deserves our time and effort to get it just right as well.

I feel rather proud I succeeded in finishing my video game. I'm sure professionals would laugh at my attempt, but I also learned to appreciate a new venue. Right now, I'm wondering how to build another room. If I was writing a story, I would simply create the condept of another room, but in video making, "In the event..." my objects want to leave and enter another realm has me stumped.

But I'm learning ...

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can the Circle be Broken?

My husband and I decided to expand on the broadband experience by installing a router so we could be hooked up via wireless to his much faster cable, rather than the DSL I'd been using.

Everything started out fine. The installer came at the right time, hooked up the cable to the router, plus the phone service so we could get their discount, and the laptop computers easily connected to the new router, with a much faster speed than through the DSL.

Then I asked him to connect my other desktop through the router. It had a wireless card, so I figured it was worth a try. He tried, but since the new network didn't come up, he suggested perhaps my card was not strong enough, and he left.

Not wanting to give up I called Dell yesterday. I did the remote access thing with a very nice technician, but bottom line, he couldn't tell why it didn't work, and he ordered a new card, since my computer was under extended warranty. Someone came out this morning, installed the card, but the network still wouldn't come up, and he was afraid to go further, since he was only supposed to put in the card.

Still not wanting to give up, I called the cable provider. After spending too much time with them with no solution, I was informed I'd have to pay extra for router issues, since they'd supplied the router free and it wasn't really part of their services.

So, am I stuck with the slow DSL service on the desktop, unless I want to pay extra to them to hike up the speed, or can I somehow get the router to work for it? Can the Circle be Broken?

If you know how, let me know. If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Morgan Mandel


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Amazon vs. Tradition by DL Larson

I have been trying to get the attention of an agent for more than two years now, or even a publisher. I'm old school in most things, so I've stuck with the tradtional way of publishing my work. Frankly, I'm tired of the run-around by tradtional houses. I'm tired of being polite and waiting my turn - for months - only to receive a letter at how interesting my work is, but it's just not what they are looking for at this time. Six weeks ago I received an email from an agent, that yes, they had received my material and everything looked good and they would get back to me as soon as possible; the waiting time might be five months from this message.

Five months! I checked my records and realized it had taken them one month to respond to my query. So basically I have another three months to wonder if they have forgotten about my work, lost it or changed their policy and chose not to respond at all and simply deleted it. In three months, I'll have to decide what to do. I have the choice of looking, searching for another possible match for my book and begin the tedious process again, or I can go another route altogether.

So my question is, why oh why is the publishing world in such an uproar over Amazon taking over their business? They are not doing a very good job. Frankly they have been stuck in the same, slow, nonproductive methods for a long time and panicked when another business developed a better way of doing things. The publishing houses still refuse to turn from their slow-poke ways.

Amazon reminds me of Wal-mart in so many ways. I live in a small town, surrounded by other small towns. There are two huge Wal-marts within thirty minutes of my home. Between me and the Big W, most of the mom and pop stores have dried up. The grocery stores in most small towns have gone under, as well as the pharmacies, hardware stores and clothing stores. They simply can't compete with the big store. Amazon has done the same thing in the publishing world.

I always tell my kids there are two kinds of people in this world: learners and nonlearners. I'm betting the publishing world is on one side of that equation and Amazon is on the other. It is also the first time there is no "middle man" between authors and readers. Direct connect is a new concept for writers; perhaps that is why it has taken me this long to step out of line that feels like a slush pile and realize I too can do this on my own.

I'm terrified in a giddy kind of way to take this step, but it's time. I've waited around for a train that is not coming. I need to move on.

Any advice?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Romance Writers, Want a Reasonably Priced Conference? Spring Fling Early Registration Closes Oct 31

If you can't afford going to RWA National's Conference or just like going to writing conferences, you may wish to consider going to this one, very reasonably priced, with Editors, Agents, Bestselling Authors, and tons of workshops. I'm not just saying that because I'm doing a workshop there on Blog Book Tours.(G)

** Permission to Forward Granted and Encouraged **


2012 SPRING FLING WRITERS' CONFERENCE - EARLY REGISTRATION CLOSES OCT. 31ST
April 27-28, 2012
Hoffman Estates, IL

Chicago-North Romance Writers of America is pleased to announce the
line-up of headlining speakers, editors and agents for the 2012 Spring
Fling Writers' Conference:

FEATURED SPEAKERS
New York Times best-selling authors:
Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mary Balogh and Simone Elkeles

EDITORS
Tessa Woodward (Avon Publishing)
Shauna Summers (Ballantine Bantam Dell)
Megan Long (Harlequin)
Martin Biro (Kensington Publishing)
Tera Kleinfelter (Samhain Publishing)


AGENTS
Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown LTD)
Cori Deyoe (3 Seas Literary Agency)
Scott Eagan (Greyhaus Literary Agency)
Sara Megibow (Nelson Literary Agency)
Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management, LLC.)

WORKSHOPS ON CRAFT AND BUSINESS PRESENTED BY PUBLISHED AUTHORS, AGENTS AND MORE
Amy Alessio, Sarah M. Anderson, Mary Balogh, Barbara Binns, Sherrill
Bodine, Laurie Brown, Wendy Byrne, Ginger Clark, Gretchen Craig,
Dyanne Davis, Scott Eagan, Simone Elkeles, Barbara Caridad Ferrer,
Susan Gibberman, Blythe Gifford, Ruth Kaufman, Megan Kelly, Keena
Kincaid, Maureen Lang, Carrie Lofty, Lindsay Longford, Morgan Mandel,
Sara Megibow, Susan Meier, Courtney Milan, Allie Pleiter, Terese daly
Ramin, Tiffany Reisz, Patricia Rosemoor, Denise Swanson, Julie
Wachowski, Margaret Watson, Sheri Lewis Wohl

PITCH PERFECT WORKSHOP
Perfect your pitch the day before your agent/editor appointment.

HOT NIGHT CRITIQUES
Bring a love scene--no matter how sweet or steamy--for small group critique.

PUBLISHING SPOTLIGHTS
Avon (Tessa Woodward)
Ballantine Bantam Dell (Shauna Summers)
Kensington (Martin Biro)
Samhain (Tera Kleinfelter)
Sourcebooks (Danielle Jackson)

EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION RATES END OCTOBER 31ST
Chicago-North RWA Member: $144
RWA Member: $164
Non-RWA Member: $174
RATE INCREASES TO $184 NOVEMBER 1ST

For more information about Spring Fling 2012 and to register, please
visit: http://www.chicagospringfling.com/

For more information about Chicago-North Romance Writers of America,
please visit: http://www.chicagonorthrwa.org/

Questions? Contact us at: conference@chicagonorthrwa.org

If you do show up and you see me around, please say hello!

Morgan Mandel

Killer Career is 99 cents on
Kindle and Smashwords, also
in print for $13.95.

Forever Young-Blessing or
Curse is almost ready.

Two Wrongs will soon be
re-released on Kindle and
Smashwords.