Tuesday, January 31, 2012

PW Daily

As a writer, published or not, if you're not receiving PW Daily you're probably missing out on relevant information for writers today.

Of note is the article about the HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) deal with Amazon for adult titles.   Here's the link:


As you can imagine there are mixed reactions to the news but one thing that is becoming more apparent - almost every week - is that Amazon is changing the publishing landscape, even if it's one book at a time.

Your thoughts?

Reminder that the Love Is Murder Mystery Conference is this weekend.  This year a Pre-Conference book signing event on Thursday evening is scheduled with our featured authors - Donald Bain, Julie James, David Morrell, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and local guest author Julie Hyzy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Being a Reader and a Writer

I used to love to read romance. I could spend hours lost in the story of someone else's happily ever after. Once I'd start one, I'd pretty much be lost to anything else as I hungrily devoured each and every sentence and page, not putting the book down until I'd read the very last word.

I still love romance. But it's harder to read these days. Especially when I'm in the middle of my own story. If I'm working on a mss, reading another romance is too distracting. I can't get caught up in another story when I need to be caught up in mine. And then there are those rules. As a writer, we're taught to follow certain 'rules' in romance: POV, show, don't tell, stay away from -ly words, etc. etc. So it drives me crazy when I'm reading a romance when the author doesn't follow these rules.

Sometimes I get dejected, too. As I read I think I won't ever be able to write a story as good as this one. Of course I swing the other way, too, and get haughty with the How in the world did this ever get published? I am a million times better than this.

And then I've been judging contest entries. I don't mind helping my RWA chapter out, but I tend to be a very critical judge. Maybe moreso than is warranted. It's those rules again. Since I'm in the middle of a mss trying very hard to follow those rules myself, all I can spot in the entries I'm reading are the times the author hasn't followed them. (And isn't it funny how it's so much easier to find these 'errors' in another's writing than in your own?) It makes it difficult to get into the story.

It kind of bums me out that reading romance isn't quite as much fun as it used to be. I got a Kindle for Christmas and it's already loaded with lots of books: mostlys romance, but not all. I also bought a whole bunch of paperback series romance when Borders went out of business. But I'm having a hard time getting motivated to read any of this. Maybe when I'm done with the mss I'm working on I'll be more in the mood.

For now, since I can't be without something to read, I've picked up the Harry Potter series again. I've read it a couple of times already, but, not only is it a good story, it's a safe story for now. Completely different in style and genre than what I'm working on. So there's no confusion. No noticing when rules are broken. I tend to read a lot of YA these days. Mostly first person, which again is different from anything I'm working on, so it doesn't mess with my head or creative flow.

*sigh* It's tough to be a romance writer who's also a reader.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Amy Alessio and Hearts & Daggers by Margot Justes

I'd like to introduce my partner in crime or in Hearts & Daggers, Amy Alessio.

Amy is an outstanding YA librarian, an author, a collector of vintage cookbooks, and Amy offers very successful cooking & cookbook programs to Libraries-successful as in room filled to capacity-successful. Did I forget to mention that Amy is a wife and mother? I have no idea how she does it, maybe some of her energy will rub off on me. Amy was the driving force behind Hearts & Daggers, and I'm absolutely delighted to introduce Amy to Acme Authors.

Thanks so much to Margot and Acme Authors for letting me discuss my vintage cookbook and crafts fixation and how that resulted in the novella I wrote as part of the Hearts and Daggers Valentine’s mystery trilogy. Like Margot Justes and Mary Welk, the authors who round out the trilogy, my story is part of a series. I’ve now published four stories about Alana O’Neill, a bookkeeper at an antiques mall. In this adventure, Alana and her eighteen year old son Elliott try to figure out what happened when a booth owner is murdered. They are in the midst of a Valentine’s weekend festival at the mall. One speaker at the festival is Rebecca Standish from Margot’s story, talking about the art of valentines. Mary’s Caroline Rhodes character also makes an appearance in the story and Alana has a cameo in each of the other novellas.

Alana, much like her author, collects vintage cookbooks. Also like her author, she’s not a great cook. A new cafĂ© is opened in the antiques mall and one of the bakers makes fun of the foods in old cookbooks, something not easily forgiven by Alana. Alana tries to make a fancy chili chocolate candy herself to show she can be modern –with terrible results. Did I mention Blast From the Past, my novella, contains over twenty recipes and variations? One is for eight variations of classic Butter Cake. All the Alana stories have recipes, and no chili chocolates appear, don’t worry. I’ve enclosed one of the recipes below for you to enjoy. If you like seeing recipes from old cookbooks stop by the Vintage Cookbooks and Crafts blog at my site. I love it when people write in with their own food memories.

Alana has a lot on her mind besides recipes after a booth owner is murdered. She researches how the crime is tied to a diary and a necklace that owner had recently found in boxes of stuff brought in to the mall. Elliott is a big help to her as always but is also busy denying a crush on a lovely teen vintage clothing collector.

It was a Blast for me to do this project with Margot and Mary and we are looking forward to a Halloween trilogy from our series this year as well. I suspect there will be haunted objects in the antiques mall among other odd occurrences.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Punch Bowl Cookies
½ lb. butter
5 Tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
Form small balls – press with fork or glass. Bake for 10 minutes at 375F. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Makes 3 dozen.

-Amy Alessio

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Elements of Style

Ahhh...class is in session. OK....about that wind whipping about ghostlike in your story and why it works... Look up metaphor and simile....in any grammar text. This is the nifty writers' tool for saying such as My father was like a tree, tall and straight and beautiful....LIKE is the KEY...you get to this kind of metaphor via LIKE and the word AS used in the "double AS" sense... Example: When I was a kid, my dad was as tall as a tree, and just as straight and beautiful.

 Like and AS - your keys to how disparate things are alike....creating a connection between truly unconnected things. A man is not a tree...but we can imagine he is LIKE a tall Oak. Or Mother was as hard and callous as stone (logically impossible but metaphorically possible).

 Take it a step farther and often it is cool if you can turn the metaphor or simile - how things are kinda sorta alike to say they are equals, THE SAME. This is an absolute statement. Absolutes take you to a higher level of IMAGERY (which this is all about...pictures in your readers' minds). Look up Absolutes - words that are absolute...EXAMPLE... The fog is a veil. It is not LIKE a veil or as thick as a veil....it g'damn sure IS a veil...IS acts as an EQUAL (=) SIGN.

'Nother example. The man is a walking cipher, or timepiece, or enigma. The man is a walking encyclopedia. More flowery might be: The thick jungle became a carpet of blackness by nightfall. A camel is a horse created by committee.  Lots of jokes rely on metaphor, simile, and absolutes.
It is also an absolute to say simply this: The fog lifted from the carpeted cemetery.

THINK about that sentence. The fog did not SEEM to be lifting...did not perhaps or maybe begin to make a move toward lifting (Qualifiers - BAD for sentences, weakens them). No, the fog "ABSOLUTELY" lifted, NO doubt about it. AND the cemetery is absolutely carpeted....ever been to Arlington National Cemetery?

This is the magic secret surrounding that kind of thinking. My wife wrote a novel, The Well Meaning Killer. She had me edit it, of course, and there was a scene where her heroine goes out for a jog in the city of Baltimore and all along her route are trash bags for delivery pick up in her neighborhood, and being a cop, her first thought is how it looks...It looked as if the street was littered with body bags.

She put the bags out there; I merely suggested the body bag image come from her character's sense of things. The author liked it, and she added it.

 Of course, if you like the ghost image I added in this article in first paragraph, and it is likely that you do, by all means it is YOURS for the taking. No one owns imagery, symbolism, representational language. Hey even Shakespeare learned from authors that came before him...like Plutarch from who he stole much.

 Well just be certain to look up Qualifiers in a grammar book to know what to avoid; sometimes, as in the use of sometimes in this sentence, a qualifier like some, very, maybe, perhaps, etc. is 'absolutely' needed but most are way overused, for instance a word like VERY, maybe, perhaps, and the phrases 'I think' and 'in my opinion' and 'to me'....when it is totally NOT needed and only undercuts your strong sentence, weakening it.

 By all means, look up Absolutes, words that are opposite in nature to Qualifiers. No wishy-washy with these words and using them MOST of the time, working toward all the time (all is absolute, most is qualifier) makes your fiction STRONG in voice so the reader BELIEVES you and is so willing to follow you because you are not 'hedging' like a politician (in my opinion).

This coupled with metaphor and simile gives readers a strong visual image deposited in their minds. One reviewer once said of my book of the time, "Mr. Walker quite literally snatches the reader's mind for the duration of the book!" -- Midwest Book Review, it was. Love that as that is my goal...my watchword stamped in my mind's eye is MAKE it COMPELLING - and do not forget to bring in your POV character in each scene via his five senses, his eyes, brain, hands, nose, smeller, taster, ears.

These are the elements of style. For more find my Dead on Writing on Kindle books or read my Titanic 2012 or Bismarck 2013 to determine if I practice what I preach.

I hope you will find time to comment here!
Rob Walker

Children's Workshop, by DL Larson

A local school has planned "Career Week" for their fourth graders. The premise is to help students learn more about opportunities and career choices beside the favorite ones like firemen, nurses and doctors. I've been asked to talk about being a writer and librarian, and give the kids a chance to explore what a career in books might hold for them. I'll also be doing a writers workshop with them.

The workshop should be fun. We'll break down a fairytale and talk about characters, plot and the action that moves a story from beginning to finish. We'll also talk about illustrators since so many children enjoy drawing. What I'd be interested in hearing from you, is what made you realize storytelling was the career choice for you. Kids love to hear how "real" people decided on a career.

The other question, other than becoming writers, editors, publishers, and librarians, etc. what are some careers that utilize wordsmiths? If you know of a career that involves writing, please share with us today. I'm sure the kids would be interested in hearing about those too.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts! Thanks ~

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Time Flies When You're Busy

I haven't posted in awhile, something that was unintentional. There are many reasons I've been too busy to post but one of them is that I just finished the final rewrite of my first novel. YEAH! I don't have all the information yet to post about publication dates, etc., BUT I just wanted to share this milestone.

Of course, I'm also getting ready for the Love Is Murder Mystery Conference happening the weekend of Februray 3-5. For those who haven't attended please check out www.loveismurder.net for more information. Take special note of our pre-conference book signing with our headliners:

Donald Bain
Julie James
David Morrell
Hank Phillippi Ryan

and local guest of honor - Julie Hyzy.

Then April 27-28 I'm attending the 2012 Spring Fling Writer's Conference (http://www.chicagospringfling.com)

Hope to see some familiar and new faces at both events.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Heart Zombies, kind of ...Fave Topics...

Sometimes you write something, never realizing that you might have started a new writing trend for yourself.

I've always read horror. Love it. And the recent craze with zombies, got me thinking, so I wrote a short story, THE KILLER VALENTINE BALL, never realizing I'd embarked on a topic that would hold my interest for a while.

That story, where a girl goes on a "killer" date and experiences a night she'll never forget was a fun foray into light horror with a touch of humor.

Then, last year lightning struck again when I came up with a new story about a teen girl turning zombie with some different situations and again, some humor. I mean, zombies are kind of funny. (Watch Zombieland and see if you don't laugh.) That story wouldn't let go and turned into a full novel, which I've been sending around.

The main thing I learned in all this:
* you never know where stories are going to come from.
* Write your reading interests. I like mysteries but horror was easier and more fun to write.
* Have fun writing. If you don't enjoy it, why bother?
* What's your tip?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Approaching Deadlines

I was taking stock this weekend and realized I have a lot of irons in the fire these days. Some with fast approaching deadlines.

My WIP "An Unexpected Blessing" is a Thanksgiving story. If I want to have a chance of having it published this year, the mss needs to be submitted to my editor at Wild Rose by February 23. So I have about a month to go on that. In order to give myself some time to do some decent editing and polishing, I set a goal at my local RWA chapter to have the first draft done by January 30. I have a week to go on that.

At first I envisioned a story of 20,000 words, but there is still much of the romance unfolding, so I upped it to 25,000. At the 20K I was about 90% done. With the 25K I'm about 75% done. Doable in a week, sure. But I'm not sure if 25K is going to be enough to tell the story.

Then I'm pitching to an editor from Harlequin in April. I need to do a thorough looksie through that mss to make sure it's in tip top shape. I'm about three months out on that one.

On the burner as well I have rewrites and revisions on another project for a different editor at Wild Rose. There's no deadline, per se, on this, but it would be nice to get it back to her sooner rather than later.

To top it all off, we're in the heart of basketball season at school and my time isn't always my own.

So, on that note, I'm going to sign off of this blog, and use the keyboard for other matters!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hearts & Daggers by Margot Justes

Shameless self promotion, Hearts and Daggers is out earlier than expected and is available on amazon.com. In a way, it's sort of like giving birth-plenty of anxiety and wonder. Is anyone going to like it? What should or could have been done differently? Was it ready to go out? Will it ever be ready to go out?

A Fire Within was edited professionally, and edited by my critique partner, and I won't tell you how many time I went over it. Let's simply say, many, many times, it's all part of the writing process. The other part is the one that doesn't want to let go.

However, the voices in my head are persistent, maybe just one more time-but when you're coming up against a deadline-at some point-as a writer you have to say enough, it's time to give birth.

Once you give birth, the trepidation begins, and it really is sort of like giving birth. The wonder of the little person you brought into the world sinks in and then overwhelming terror grips you. The tremendous responsibility for that precious life you have assumed as a parent will last for the rest of your life. Now that is commitment.

At the onset, releasing a new book is giving birth to a new project, but it is only a story and once the butterflies settle down in my stomach, I will think rationally and hope readers will enjoy the story, and feel happy after they read it. It is after all a story and not a lifetime commitment to parenthood.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
Hearts & Daggers
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's Your Preference? by DL Larson

Since the weather has decided to act like winter in the midwest, I've had a quick wake-up on how cold it can become in such a short time. Writing about the weather can be challenging. When the storms come to Illinois the wind has usually changed and/or collided with another wind and it stirs up all kinds of craziness. Consider The Wizard of OZ; it all started with an unexpected twister. In order for the reader to understand the effects the weather has placed on the characters, the writer must explain in vivid detail the situation. When a basic element changes, our characters are forced to act or react, bringing out the true nature of their beliefs.

When I was researching my Civil War story (still unpubbed at this time) my character is with his unit in Tennessee in mid-February. Tennessee weather is fickle and the warmth of the sun had many soldiers tossing off their winter coats, dropping them along the road. That night, a documented truth, a bitter snow storm swept across the country, leaving the Yankee boys unprotected. Writing that scene was exciting and humbling, realizing many suffered because of their earlier actions. They had moved too far down the road to retrieve their coats. Their naivete caused them misery.

Similarly in my second book, Promises To Keep, one of my characters is sweltering in the Kentucky summer sun, sitting by the river in nothing but a petticoat. She and her children are trying to cool off in the miserable heat by spending time at the water's edge. Her decision to disrobe quickly become a mistake when another disrupts their picnic.

I'm not sure which scene I enjoyed writing the most. Neither were easy; both had their quirks to be ironed out to get the words just right. I'm not sure which I enjoy reading the most either. I still cringe when I read about the soldiers struggling to stay alive. And my character, Annie, caught unexpectedly in such disarray because of the heat, catches my breath at her vulnerability.

My dilemma may never be answered, I realize I enjoy using the weather to create suspense, drama and challenge for my characters. How about you? Do you enjoy cold or heat the most for your scenes? Share with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Share Your Latest Review

New Review for Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, my Fountain of Youth paranormal romantic novel  -

Terry says, "I truly enjoyed this story, reading a few chapters each night just before falling asleep, and looking forward to my "story time" each night! Mandel's main characters are more than three dimensional,sharing their inner thoughts as the story develops. Her settings are very easily seen through the characters' eyes, and the story line itself is just far enough fetched to hold the reader's interest through the various twists and turns of the plot."

Link to entire review -


That's my latest review. What's yours?
Show some of your review and the link in the comment section here. Don't post the whole thing, because reviewers don't like that.

Morgan Mandel

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Has Arrived

Well, we finally have snow here in the MidWest. With Christmas being just under a month ago, it's actually pretty anti-climactic for me. The snow looks pretty, and I haven't had to drive too far in it, so I'm not really annoyed with the snow, but I'm not over-joyed about the snow either. To be honest, since it wasn't here for Christmas, I could have gone all season without it. But, considering I live in a Chicago suburb, that wasn't going to be too likely.

Snow days are nice...an unexpected day off is always nice...but there wasn't enough for that. Maybe another storm will grant us one of those. But again, if this were it for the year...I'd be okay with that, too.

Being set at a ski lodge, snow did figure prominantly in my Christmas release A Christmas to Remember, but I tend to set my stories in the summer or the fall: My favorite seasons. Fall is so sensory, and summer, is well, summer. The hot, sultry temperatures can reflect the steamy tension between the hero and heroine.

What's your favorite season to write about?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Projects by Margot Justes

I'm happy to say my novella will see the light of day February 1st, in time for Valentine's Day. A Fire Within along with Amy Alessio's Blast from the Past and Mary Welk's Framed complete the Hearts and Daggers anthology. We're celebrating Valentine's Day in style, by releasing three stories that celebrate the holiday. Hallmark move over.

We talked about the novellas while I was still with Echelon Press, the project fell through, we got busy with life. It seems we never let go of the idea, because we finished the stories, but life continued to move on.

One day I received an e-mail from Amy to see if we were still interested in the project. My immediate response was yes. Yes, I am. Mary said yes, and the anthology was re-born. The next thing we need to do is let everyone know it's out there, or soon will be.

This year I made a resolution I want to stick to-no, not the diet-that is a one day at a time project, and today we won't talk about that. I want to learn how to market on line, follow in the footsteps of Joe Konrath and Rob Walker, fellow Acme blogger.

Yes, I know they are both well known authors and masters in the craft of promoting, and I'm not, but if I'm going to learn, I'm going to learn from the best.

I have an ambitious plan this year to re-release a short story in May, a newly edited version of A Hotel in Paris in June. Paris is lovely in June, well, Paris is lovely any time of year, but I picked June.

I digress here, back to my planned releases, Blood Art, my vampire tale should be all set for Halloween and there is talk we'll do another anthology for Halloween.

The time not spent at my day job, hopefully will be spent in my office, doing what I love to do. Write.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Contests and Conferences by DL Larson

Now that most have gotten settled into the new year and have a 2012 calendar, it's time to make some writing commitments. Below are a few contests and conferences that might be worth your while. If you're like me, if it's not on the calendar it doesn't happen. Take a moment to plan the next few months.

Top on my list is ...
1. April 27-28: Chicago North RWA, SpringFling Conference, Hoffman Estates, IL
2. March 2-3: North LA Storytellers & Authors of Romance, Written in the Stars Conference, Shreveport, LA
3. March 16-18: Gulf Coast RWA, Silken Sands Conference, Pensacola Beach, FL
4. April 27-28: New England RWA, Let Your Imangination Take Flight Conference, Salem, MA
5. April 27-29: Mid-Michigan RWA, Retreat from Harsh Reality Conference, Augusta, MI

If you're looking for a get-away this winter ~ there may still be room to attend:
San Francisco Writers Conference: Feb. 16-20, contact www.SFWriters.org
Or in Colorado:
Writing for the Soul, Feb. 16-19, sponsored by Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, Denver. www.ChristianWritersGuild.com
also in Florida:
Space Coast Writers Guild Annual Writer's Conference, January 27-28, Cocoa Beach. www.scwg.org.

February Contests:
2012 Laurie Contest, sponsored by Smoky Mt. RWA, deadline Feb. 1st. This contest is open to published and unpubbed authors. First 25 pages or 40,000 words of unpubbed work.

2012 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest, deadline Feb. 14th. Also opened to published and unpubbed authors. First chapter or 7,000 words.

Merritt Contest, sponsored by San Antonio Romance Authors, deadline Feb. 14th. Also open to pubbed/unpubbed authors. 25 pages total, including the synopsis.

Fire and Ice Contest, sponsored by ChicagoNorth RWA, deadline Feb. 1st. Open to all types of writers/authors. First chapter or 25 pages.

I hope these contests and conferences prompt you to polish your manuscript and send it out. Finding more about a contest or conference is simple as googling the title or sponsor. Most contests have a modest fee from $18-25 per manuscript entered. Attending a conference or two is costly, but networking and simply being with others who enjoy writing is an experience most writers find not only worthwhile, but inspiring!

I've only listed a small number of opportunities; perhaps a summer conference fits your schedule better. The point is to plan now, make a commitment and then work like the dickens to meet a contest deadline. Feedback regarding your work is invaluable and worth the cost of an entry fee. Winning, now winning a contest, is darn right enjoyable ~ whatever the prize may be!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's the Most You Would Pay For an eBook?

My new paranormal romantic thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse is going for $2.99 on Kindle and Smashwords. My older books, Killer Career, Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams are priced at 99 cents each.  Are my prices too low? Are they too high?

I'd appreciate your opinion. How much are you willing to pay for an ebook? Does it matter who the author or publisher is?

Please take the survey to the right and I'll announce the results.

You're welcome to come along on my Blog Book Tour.
Thursday I'll be at L. Diane Wolfe's blog, Spunk on a Stick,
where the topic of discussion will be: Do Looks Matter.
The full schedule is at http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/

Morgan Mandel

Monday, January 9, 2012

Savvy Promoting and Impressions - what do you do?

Funny how important impressions can be.

The latest news is a high school girl recently wanted to put a provocative photo in her yearbook and was turned down. So she gets to go on the Today show.

Oh, and the girl wants to be a model.

Maybe the photo is not so high school yearbook appropriate but - given our media-grabbing world, is this more about getting free publicity than the real issue?

One newsletter I've read talks about tying your book into recent news events. As an author what kinds of situations can we use to get our books out there? Or are there any you have used? (Given the recent types of topics I've been writing on - zombies - that may be hard. ha!)

Your thoughts?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Natural Sounding Dialogue

As authors we're always told the dialogue between our characters needs to flow naturally and sound like a real conversation. The way things are headed these days, this may no longer be an issue in the near future.


People don't talk anymore. Technology has replaced much of our face to face communication. E-mails and texts have become the main way people get in touch with each other. Smart phones have brought this trend even closer to the forefront.

Last night we were invited over to some friends' house for dinner and to watch some football. Before the meal was served, we did chat: about our weeks, how a Lasik procedure had gone, what was coming up in our lives. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday evening.

But then after dinner and clean up was over, the guys made themselves comfortable in the living room to watch some football, and the gals gathered around the dining room table. (The way this particular house is set up we were all basically in the same room.) At that point, most conversation ceased. Not because people became engrossed in the game. Nope. Five out of the eight people present took out smart phones or ipads and proceded to play games or check the internet. Suddenly what had been a very social party became a whole bunch of individuals caught up in the technology in the palms of their hands.

Snippets of conversation ensued, but usually only to ask a question about what particular word should be played next, or to ask someone to join in a game with another. As one of the three without my eyeballs literally glued to a tiny screen in front of me, let me tell you, I got bored pretty quickly.

Whatever happened to good old fashioned board games where everyone plays together and talks and laughs and chats while they do? What ever happened to having a verbal conversation with the people sitting in the same room?

(sigh) Call me old fashioned, but I miss the good old days.

So what will our characters do in the future? Text each other? Instant message each other? Play a game of "Words with Friends" instead of having a dinner date? Will their conflicts all be based around technological issues?

I guess we'll be figuring that out pretty soon the way things are going. At least we won't have to worry about that pesky dialogue anymore.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Censorship by Margot Justes

With age comes wisdom and tolerance, at least that is what they say, whoever they are. Well, I find my intolerance for censorship is growing, not diminishing with age.

We accept the most brutal, disgusting and gory displays of our bodies in books, games and television, the more horrific the better, yet a look at a nude picture or painting puts us in a tizzy. Why?

We all come in different shapes and sizes, and we are all beautiful in our own way. The human body is magnificent it its complexity and function.

When I first saw Goya's the Naked Maja, in the Prado Museum in Madrid, I thought about the beautiful shape of the woman, the skin tone colors the artist used, the comfort of the model lavishly displayed on ruffled pillows, the sensual depiction of the female body. All masterfully portrayed by a magnificent talent. That is what I saw. I did not see depravity or pornography. I saw a beautiful painting.

I understand making a choice, if it offends me I don't buy the book, watch the show, or go to that movie. I make the decision to vote with my pocketbook. I make the choice for me alone. I let others choose. I do not tell them what to read, see or look at.

Censorship is wrong. I'm amazed that as an adult someone will have the right to tell me what to read, or what to look at. It should be my choice.

Recently a fb friend showed a nude picture and some were offended, a naked body...my goodness. My response to the offended individuals don't look, but allow me to make my own decision on whether I find it offensive or not.

So much for my 2012 resolution to be more tolerant, in this case, it's not going to happen.
However, hopefully I'll stick to a semblance of a diet. So far that's not looking too good either...ah well, God willing there is always another year.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, January 5, 2012

There's Psychopathy then there's Marketing Apathy!

Norm Cowie w/Rob Walker @www.loveismurder.com conference

Thanks, Rob, Morgan, and everyone at ACME Authors Link for having me back here at youZ guyZes great blog where almost everything goes. I had once been one of youZ, a regular contributor with Acme until I was sucked into the black hole of author marketing apathy - as serious a disorder as writers block!                      

On that note, it’s time for me to come clean on something that I’ve been hiding from my friends, neighbors and publishers. Something so horrible and ... well... (sigh)... let me just come out and say it.

I was an advertising/marketing major back in college.

                             Joe Konrath w/Norm Cowie in Galena, IL 2009

There, I said it. And I was pretty good at it, too. I was even selected as one of the University’s five representatives for a national advertising competition. So wouldn’t you think I’d be pretty good at marketing my books?

Nope, I suck at it. And not just a normal suck, but more like the big magic, steroid-inflated Hoover vacuum cleaner of suckage. Even worse, my instincts for knowing which way the wind is blowing pales even compared to that of a naked mole rat.

In August 2009, I went to Galena, Illinois with several other authors including Joe Konrath, Henry Perez, Luisa Buehler and Margot Justes to market our new anthology Missing. We were hosted by fellow author Barbara Anino and her husband in their Bed and Breakfast.

One late evening after we wore everyone else out, it came down to just Konrath, Perez and me lounging in the living room, wearing courtesy b&b robes and bending elbows with liquid we’d liberated from one of Galena’s many wine outlets, and Joe started talking about something he called ebooks.


Joe (we know him now as the Pied Piper of this ebook revolution) said ebooks were going to be the wave of the future, and he was converting all of his previously unpublished work and releasing every title onto Amazon’s Kindle himself. I laughed (easy when you’ve been drinking) and told him he was crazy. Who’d want to read on a tablet?

The truth was I was a bit intimidated by the thought of wrestling with formatting a book to meet this new technology.

Joe wouldn't let it go; he insisted ebooks were about to explode in popularity, so I said, “Tell you what, Joe. How about I give you one of my unpublished books and you convert it to ebook, publish it, and we’ll split the profit?” He firmly and politely said, no, that he wouldn’t feel right, and insisted I consider doing so myself.

Well, we all know what happened with Joe and other of his friends who follwed the Pied Piper into ebooks, and I sure wish he’d have taken me up on my offer -- and/or that I'd gotten off my duff and looked into the possibilities.

Two years later, I belatedly began taking Joe's advice--as had many another 'smart' writer. My first try was with a non-fiction collection of humor essays called, The Guy’d Book, why we leave the seat up ... and other stuff. The Guy’d Book is a collection of humor essays I’d written over the years dealing with being a guy, father and ESPN addict, some parts of which had been published in the Chicago Tribune and Cynic Magazine.

I wrestled with the formatting for both ebook and printed book (using Create Space where I stumbled onto something they called their Cover Creator). With this nifty little tool, I was able to cobble together a usable cover, seeing as without a publisher, I was on my own for covers. Soon after, The Guy’d Book was available as an ebook.

Right around the same time, my contract was expiring with my publisher for my first book, The Adventures of Guy. They offered to renew, but flushed with enthusiasm I took back the rights. In hindsight, I think they were ticked off because citing a clause in our contract, they demanded I remove all images of the book cover from my sites. The clause wasn’t well written, and while I disagreed about the intent of the clause, I decided not to fight (mostly because I never liked the cover all that much in the first place). But it did teach me one important lesson: whenever possible, control your own covers.

Then I turned down my second publisher’s offer to publish WereWoof, the sequel to my first YA vampire book Fang Face, and released it myself on Kindle, followed shortly by my newest adult humor title, Bonk & Hedz, a caveman ... and woman... story. I took my own advice to design and do the artwork for both books.

I now had six books, four of which were self-published, and I sat back and waited for everyone to discover me.

I wasn’t active in forums, did no advertising, no blog tour and otherwise totally neglected my blog, and basically my marketing efforts consisted entirely of watching reruns of Big Bang Theory, doing angry political tweets and checking the ESPN website for news of Peyton Manning’s recovery from neck surgery.

You can probably guess what happened with my book sales. Though the Guy’d Book once nipped into the Top 100, my others were flotsam in the Amazon jet stream. Readers aren’t Christopher Columbus. You have to bring the New World to them, not vice versa.

So I’m finally stepping into the marketing pool encouraged by the seemingly idefatiguable Rob Walker and his results with Kindle Select and other authors who are carving a path to show how to get books out to readers. I'm following his methods along with Joe's these days. Another suggestion Konrath had made was to do short stories, so I’ve released a few onto Smashwords as companion pieces to my other books. Rob's been great at advising me on many otherlooked steps I should be taking as well.

In other words, I’m finally getting off my butt, climbing out of the black hole of marketing apathy and putting fur on my naked mole rat.

So, hi, it’s good to meet you all ...again, and I hope you will please leave a comment. Finally, thanks to all the Acme family here for having me back!

The Guy’d Book is available for free with Kindle Select lending. Here’s my Amazon page: http://amzn.to/l9d9Ya , http://www.normcowie.com


New Year, New Laws! by DL Larson

It takes quite a bit to surprise me, news-wise, at least. I thought I knew most of the new laws passed, buckle up front or backseat, truck drivers must have hands free phones, etc. I never expected to get pulled aside at the grocery store. I wasn't speeding, I wasn't stealing from another's cart, I bought toliet bowl cleaner!

Yep. Stores must now catalog those who purchase toliet bowl cleansers. The manager was called over, and he had his trusty booklet in hand and marked down the brand, expiration number, and other identification regarding the cleaning product I purchased. But it didn't stop there. He needed my full name, my address and county. They, the clerks at Hy-Vee agreed it was a ridiculous rule to enforce and we discussed how the bigger chain stores would handle this new burden. It took only a few moments to comply, but I was thankful I only bought one bottle; sometimes I purchase these type of items in bundles of three or four. Would I have been put on an alert list? Watch this women, nobody needs that much toliet bowl cleaner! Do they know or care I live in the country where rust abounds and I have three bathrooms? How would I explain I like to keep a tidy bowl?

If you haven't purchased toliet cleaner yet this year, beware. One of the chemicals used in the cleaner is toxic and could be dangerous. Duh! It's main compound is some type of bleach! Bleach is dangerous, this is not new news! Toliet cleaners have been known to have ingredients harmful to humans if used inappropriately. Again, this is not new on any level.

Once again it comes down to responsibility. Anything used incorrectly can be harmful. Hot coffee is HOT. Didn't McDonald's try to explain that in the courts? I'm sure some demented soul used toliet bowl cleaner for some creepy purpose and now the rest of us, in part, pay the penalty. Their business is now forced upon us and our freedom to buy in peace wihtout hinderance is once again in jeapardy.

Tracking who purchases what will not stop folks from doing something stupid. How many times must we learn this? We can not police our communities this way. It is a false security. Toliet cleanser terrorists will still surface to harm someone. We can not stop those bent on doing wrong. If not toliet bowl cleaner, it will be something else and the chase to catch up will continue.

Call me irresponsible, but I only want to buy my groceries in peace and not be monitored to such a degree. BIG BROTHER is lurking a little too close as far as I'm concerned.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chicago-North 14th Annual Fire and Ice Contest

***Permission to forward both granted and encouraged***

Get those pages ready! Winners will be announced at Spring Fling 2012.

14th Annual Fire and Ice Contest
Sponsor: Chicago-North RWA
Fee: $25 - $30 (RWA members, non-RWA members)
E-Entry Deadline: Midnight of February 1, 2012
Entries Accepted: December 15, 2011
Eligibility: not published in book-length fiction in last 5 years

Enter: prologue/first chapter (25 pages max)

Final round judges:
Single Title- Celina Summers, Musa Publishing
Series Romance - Megan Long, Harlequin
Historical Romance - Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks
Women's Fiction w/Romantic Elements - Cori Deyoe, 3 Seas Literary Agency
Paranormal Romance - Cindy Davis, The Wild Rose Press
Young Adult - Emily Easton, Walker Books

For More Information: http://www.chicagonorthrwa.org/
or email the contest coordinator at

Chicago-North is my RWA chapter. It's well known as a great critique chapter. Even if you don't win this contest, you stand a good chance of gaining valuable feedback!

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel's books are all
available on Kindle & Smashwords.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Goals for 2012 - yours?

Starting a new year can be cathartic. You clean out the old files, set up a new calendar, and outline new projects.

It's a time to try something new and look ahead.

Most of us have projects that we've started and set aside. Maybe this is the year to try them again?

Of course, sometimes the best projects come unbidden. I'd thought of working on a follow-up to my YA zombie girl story that is now circulating. I had a few, vague ideas.

Funny thing, I glanced at a site for a publisher of short romances and an idea came to mind. There is a love story in the first story, but I had no intention of concentrating on it. But stories sometimes have a way of forming themselves.

So, I've started a new story which involves the old love, and a possible new love. This won't be a normal love story in the typical sense, of course, given that the main character and her boyfriend are both part-zombies. And a first I never thought I'd try - the new interest will be a werewolf. Not sure how it'll work out yet, but it's fun to try something new.

Isn't that what writing should be about?

So, what are your new projects? What are you trying this year that is new to you?

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

I had the greatest plans these past two weeks. In addition to spending time with family and friends over the holidays, I planned on being a 'good' girl.

I was going to work out every day over vacation.

I was going to get a lot of writing done.

And then sickness intruded.

First me. Over the course of the past two weeks I've been sick twice. Nothing major. Just colds and sinus issues. But enough that the idea of the pounding of running or the upside down actions of Yoga and Pilaties was unappealing.

Then my computers (yes, that's plural with an 's') got sick. Virusus. Both of them. The PC and the lap top. At the same time. The lap top is still in the shop.

So, not much working out occured and not much writing occured.

All in all, it told me to not bother to make any New Year's Resolutions. Too much can happen in every day life to make the best of plans go awry. Don't get me wrong, I still would like to accomplish certain things in 2012. I'm just not going to put anything definite in stone. Because things change. Often. And a lot. Which I guess is what makes life exciting and unpredictable. So I'm going to go with the flow and see where it takes me...

Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!