Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Old Year!

I'm so excited!

(hee, hee, hee)

It's the last day of the year... and more importantly, at least for me, the last blog of the year. It's mine, all mine, bwah, ha, ha, ha.

So you know what that means, don'cha?

Yep, I get something that I haven't gotten since I married my wonderful Indian Princess twenty two years ago ...

Married life is a wonderful thing.

I have two wonderful children, my wife is beautiful, talented and, well, smarter than me.

But she took something from me over these many years.

No, not ESPN. I still have ESPN.

It's the other thing that I haven't had in so, very, very, very, (did I say 'very'?) ... long.



Happy Old Year and bring on the New Year!

See ya around and stuff,

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
The Heat of the Moment (anthology)

(oh, yeah, did I mention ... last WORD? heh)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Not So Serene Week Later by Margot Justes

The week flew by fast and I missed my blog last Saturday. I wanted to wait till after my first book signing, but by the time I got home I was too wired to do anything constructive or destructive for that matter.

Sunday came and went, and preparations for the holidays were in full swing. In other words, I got very little done in my office and can’t really tell you where the time went.

The book signing at Centuries & Sleuths went very well, our own blogger Norm Cowie participated, and he was wonderful. Thanks Norm…

We sold 70 books. My gratitude goes to Augie at Centuries for his quick response and eager participation.

That bring me back to Heat of the Moment-if you have not yet picked up a copy, please do so, the book is available at and royalties go to a very worthwhile cause - The Fire Safe Council of San Diego County. If I seem to be pushing the book, I am…I am extremely proud of what Echelon Press and the Echelon authors accomplished and within such a short period of time.

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year…

Till next Saturday.


A Hotel in Paris
Heat of the Moment
Available at

Till next Saturday,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC 2008
Available for pre-order on amazon

Friday, December 28, 2007

Today's Guest - Prof. Holly Fretwell - Posted by Morgan Mandel

Prof. Holly Fretwell is a natural
policy expert on natural resources, an adjunct professor at Montana State University, and is a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center. You can visit her publisher's website at

Holly Fretwell, adjunct professor at Montana State University, mom of 2, natural resources allocation expert and author of The Sky's NOT Falling! Why It's OK To Chill About Global Warming (ISBN 0976726947, Kids Ahead, for ages 8-12, September 2007) knows that kids are getting an earful in school about global warming. Unfortunately, all too much of that information is misleading or just plain wrong.

The Sky's NOT Falling! is the product of her concern not just for the environment, but for the millions of kids being handed an environmental bill of goods in class. As an educator, a mom and an optimist, Ms. Fretwell envisions a world that is wealthier, and so healthier for all. To get there, however, our kids need to become critical thinkers. And too much of what is passing for "truth" when it comes to the issue of global warming is anything but.


School has started. Unfortunately, right along with it comes the usual indoctrination about the "threat" of global warming. Perhaps your kids are already saying…

"I'm scared that every time I ride in the car, I'm hurting polar bears and other animals."

"I'm afraid that people just like me are causing global warming."

A recent question posed to Prof. Holly Fretwell:

Holly, you say that kids are getting an earful in school about global warming and much of that information is misleading or just plain wrong. Can you give us an example?

Holly's answer:
"Many students are being asked to watch Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." This has been a real inconvenience because, as the High British Court has stated, they are many non-truths and misleading statements in the movie. One of the most brazen examples is demonstrated with the graph that shows atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature change. The two variables are correlated; they move together. Gore and one of his producers Laurie David who just wrote a children's book on global warming, both assert that increases in CO2 levels cause temperature to increase. They have missed something really important here, one correlation does not mean causation, and two the data show that on average temperature changes 800 years before CO2 levels. Yes, read that again, temperature changes lead the changes in CO2 over the last 650,000 years."

For more, check out Holly Fretwell's book, The Sky's Not Falling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Santa's Helper to the Rescue! by DL Larson

Sant's visit was a big deal at our house this year! My six year old granddaughters were excited not only about his arrival, but decorating this season went to a new height! Now, I must tell you, I am into Christmas; I have four full sized trees, numerous small ones, plus the knick-knacks and lighting on every surface throughout our home. Alex and Kylie understand my need to be festive. In fact, they became like little elves, arranging my collection of carolers, decorating three of my big trees! That's pretty impressive for a kindergartener! They added pigs and deer to my nativity; they arranged stuff animals under one of the trees, an addition I'll have to remember for next year! Plus each day they brought another paper decoration home from school and we hung those in strategic places around the house. One only has to glance about to see the crayon colored candy canes, candles, reindeer and happy faced Santas. These tender creations made my other decorations look dull and insignificant. And snow flakes, we have snow flakes dangling just about everywhere. It's a virtual blizzard on the staircase to the playroom.

It's been awhile since I've lived with a six year old. And I was a bit ashamed to admit I'd forgotten how open hearted and caring they can be this time of year. When they came home with presents they had purchased through the PTA workshop, they ran downstairs to wrap them up, one for Mommy, one for Daddy, one for Gramps and one for Grammie. Then I was told I couldn't open mine until Christmas. I had to wait!

Now my daughter, the mother of my granddaughters, has picked up the banner of over-the-top Christmas's! She had everything set for a grand Christmas morning. Then reality set in. Only one of Santa's presents arrived from UPS, not two. A phone call did little good. It had been shipped. She had one roll-top desk, one chair and two little girls expecting something from Santa. The second desk did not arrive on Christmas Eve Day. It still has not arrived.

My daughter was upset, and rightly so. Christmas was ruined, or so she feared. Late Christmas Eve, we gathered around, wondering what to do. The desk couldn't be from Santa ... but the presents I had purchased could be. So, I got to be Santa's helper once again. And Christmas morning, my little granddaughters were delighted with what they recieved from Santa and Mommy and Daddy. And when I stepped into the family room, hoping they wouldn't notice that we didn't have as much to give them, all they wanted to do was hand out the presents they had for us!

And I wondered how they got to be so smart. It is better to give than receive. Once again I was reminded of the real reason for Christmas. Amongst the glitter and presents, is the never ending gift of love. Hope you got a big dose of it this Christmas too.

As for me, my cup runneth over.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


As I scurried around getting ready for my family guests on Christmas Day, I did notice some similarities between that and getting a manuscript ready.

Get the House Ready - Pick up, Put away, Throw Away. My husband and I were quite busy during the holiday season, which meant clothes, papers, all sorts of items went where they shouldn’t be in the house. For our guests to move comfortably about in our home, the clutter had to be dealt with. I hung up clothes, put away my writing notes in a container for future reference, threw away old notes no longer needed, cleared the dining room table of excess objects, put away or threw away all sorts of stuff that we’d thought important at the time but no longer was.
(Also picked up dog toys and bones and put them in a container so no one would trip over them. Our darling dog is as sloppy as her masters.)

Get the Manuscript Ready – Make sure what you’ve written follows logical sequence. Don’t add excess descriptions that take away from what you’re trying to convey. Make sure the dialogue also advances the plot. You don’t want readers to skip over sections in your book because of too much clutter.

Cleaning – Once I’d cleared the tables and floors, I got out the mops, brooms, sponges, window cleaner, disinfectant, other cleaning paraphernalia and put them to use so the areas would be clean.

Clean your manuscript – Once you’ve removed the clutter, look deeper. Look for mistakes in grammar, syntax and spelling. Eliminate misplaced modifiers.

Decorate the house - With the house clean, I could advance to decorating. I added table runners, candles, little porcelain trees, wreaths, other homey touches.

Decorate the manuscript – You’ve eliminated unnecessary items in your manuscript. It flows correctly. Grammar, spelling and syntax is correct. Now it’s time to decorate. Go through your manuscript. If you have lots of paragraphs with similar sentence structure near each other, provide variation. Then look for past tense and see if it will make sense in the present. Examine the verbs. Can they be changed to move effective ones?

Consider Your Guests’ Preferences and fill their needs. – My husband and I are meat-eaters, but my brothers are vegetarian. To make everyone happy, I prepared dishes for both.

Consider Publisher Preferences – Research will prevent wasted time, paper and postage. Check guidelines before submitting to a publisher. Don’t send a sweet romance to an erotica publisher, or vice versa. Don’t send a science fiction odyssey to a mystery publisher. You get the drift.

Accept Help – I gladly accepted my sister-in-law’s help when she offered to make the salad and later on helped me do the dishes.

Accept help with your manuscript – Seriously consider any changes your editor will pose to get your manuscript in shape. An editor deals with a variety of manuscripts and can spot problems or bad selling points. Don’t do this blindly. If there’s a good reason for not changing something, explain your reasoning to the editor.

Have a Good Time – I was busy the whole time on Christmas Day, yet I didn’t allow that to interfere with enjoying my guests. I had fun, though I admit when they’d left I was tired.

Enjoy Your Manuscript – Enjoy the ride. Take pleasure when you’ve finished a book. Be happy when your book is accepted by a publisher. Have fun at book signings. Have a great time promoting.

What are you waiting for? Get ready!
Morgan Mandel


Monday, December 24, 2007

Just call me Rudy

I've decided to really get into the Christmas spirit this year. No, not snow flavored alcohol.

But something more along the line of a costume...

Nope, that that kind. You're wrong again. No one will ever confuse me with Santa, so a red suit gets me nothing but some strange looks. And sure, we're both usually in a good mood, but I don't have his chubbiness and he doesn' t have my bald spot.

To create my costume this year, I needed a few easy to get ingredients. Here they are:
  • a cup of lack of sleep, chopped finely
  • two ounces of immaturity, lightly browned and salted
  • a dash of stress
  • one pore, nicely clogged
Mix it all together, sleep on it over night, and the next morning, voila! ... a nice red pimple on the middle of my nose.


If you're coming out to my house for the holidays, just follow the red light.

Happy Holidays!!

Rudy, ... er, ...Norm
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
The Heat of the Moment

Sunday, December 23, 2007

happy holidays

Happy Holidays to my fellow Acme bloggers. And to all of our readers this past year, thank you for spending time with us. May your new year be warm, comfortable, and prosperous.

Keep writing,


Friday, December 21, 2007

Ninja Bomb Squad & Chi-town Christmas Memories By Robert W. Walker

Mangled childhood cause of school shooting? If you have this
problem of a mangled childhood you can go one way or the other.
There are many more people who lived a nightmare childhood who
become wonderful, productive people than there are mall or school

In my case, Mom held it all together while Dad routinely made
life hell. And when I was a kid, the way you got back at
someone, you didn't go out with a gun or explosive device but a
water balloon. Dropped a whole slew atop what was supposed to be
some black kids halfway down the block. The strategic bomb site
was from the top of their apartment building...but we did not
realize it was Sunday, so instead of the boys stepping out onto
the targeted porch some four stories down, when we (my brothers,
friends and I) let the bombs drop, and the water flew. All the
balloons hit a lady in her Sunday-go-to-meetiing dress instead of
the intended targets--the feuding sons. Of course, we ran like
hell when we realized our error as the lady screamed well.

All the buidings were attached from Jackson Blvd. to the alley on
Loomis. We rushed back from building to building, back to our
place, down the stairs and into the apartment, pretending innocence
when a knock came at the door. Now my unsuspecting mom was faced with
an angry black lady with a drenched hat.

We caught hell for it even though we denied anything to do with
it, and I thought we were quite convincing. Even so, my mom took
up for her cubs, as the boys down the block were always starting
fights. Eventually, we all wound up in family court and after
that we left one another alone. No one resorted to vengeance after
that, and no one brought a gun to school

Poor mom, some months later looked out our window and saw maybe
thirty black kids in what must have looked like a mob and one
white face at the center of a noisy, boisterous crowd of black
kids. The white face was mine. Mom, a small woman about the
size of Sally Field, shoved open the window and terrified all
those kids with her horrific scream for them to leave her middle
child alone. I had to quell her enthusiasm however and convinced
her I was not being gang-murdered. That it was all quite
innocent "play".

I had been talked --peer pressured--into a boxing match with
boxing gloves by one of the same boys we'd always had trouble
with, you see. In fact, the match was going in my favor; the
whole of it going well indeed. Still, from her vantage point at
that first floor window, looking down on the "mob" surrounding
me, it surely must have looked terrifying, that a mad, out of
control mob was attempting to kill me. I had to shout down mom
to the tune of "We're just funnin" while holding up the huge red
gloves which had been the other boy's Christnas gift. Actually,
the boxing match brought us all closer together in the long run,
and Mom had stopped cold the neighborhood of our new policy of
play over war. But this was the mid-fifties and Mom being from
Alabama...well she about jumped out of that window coming to my
rescue, and it took her some time to recapture her beating heart.

Today Mom is in her eighties, and she still reads all my books
and occasionally will peek over the top of the book, stare at me
with a quizzical look, stare back at whatever scene she has just
read, back to me,back to the book, shake her head, chastise me
for using a bad word or God forbid sex in a scene, and then she
reads on. Her cute quizzical look is that of Yoda when dumbfounded.

Rob -- Merry Holidays and peace to all fevered minds!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Researching on the go! by DL Larson

As I looked out my window this morning and took in the frost laden evergreens in the fog, I thought, 'what a perfect setting for a story ...' Mental notes began to form in my mind, the crispness of the air, yet damp and heavy, drifting in the wind; the dog tracks wavering a path in the dusting of snow around the crop of trees created a setting for me. I've tucked it away to use in the future.

We writers spend considerable time away from our computers, but like the image mentioned above, we are always working, gathering tidbits of life to use in our stories. We need to be ever perceptive of our senses in order to breathe essence into our plots.

Like the other day; every store I entered "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" played through the speakers. I'm dreaming of a white - and I checked out, humming the rest of the song. Twenty minutes later, I'm dreaming of a white ... resounded throughout another store and I frowned, wishing to hear something else. At the next store I heard, dreaming of a White Christmas -. and I smiled filing away the annoyance of how a character could become irritated at such an innocent, random phenomenon. Simple idea? Insignificant? Maybe, maybe not, but the memory will be a good parallel to remember. It's not always the grandeur that captures our readers attention, but the small, mundane occurances they can relate to that often brings a character to life on the pages.

When I can't sit at my computer and write, I don't fret too much. Life gets in the way, especially this time of year. And I accept that. So, I research while I'm shopping; that person over there certainly has an interesting, but pale face; and would one call that skarf fashion sheek or retro from the 50's archives? Hmmm, and the shoes inside galoshes. Haven't seen that in awhile. Another fashion statement, or character quirk? Only I will decide. But I have an image I can work with. Male? Female? Young or old? Poor? Or eccentric? And the hem dangling down in the back? A recent accident or has that been drooping for awhile? Does the character know? Or care? Such interesting decisions to decide. And each one will tell a bit more about the character I'm creating as I stand here in the long line to check out. Good research.

Sometimes I write impressions down, other times they are so clearly implanted in my thoughts I don't need to. But I'm guessing, many writers have files of character or setting ideas. Some may never look at what they've stored away, others may depend on their research each time they create a new story. The point is, the more I practice this exercise, the easier it becomes to remember the tiniest detail. It also pushes the guilt away if I don't get time at the computer. I'm still a writer, still creating and plotting.

Have a wonderful Christmas! Enjoy each moment with your family and friends. A plothera of great characters emerge in every gathering. Happy pickings!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Girl of My Dreams by Morgan Mandel Available for Order

Hi everyone,
After all the stress of the Holiday Season, you'll need a break. Consider ordering Girl of My Dreams, my new romantic comedy about an assistant turned reality show contestant, to be shipped after 1/1/08. (Guys, if you order early, you'll be set for a Valentine's Day gift!)

When food poisoning strikes the set of a new reality show, Jillian, the straitlaced assistant, steps in and becomes a contestant. The transformed Jillian is swept up into travel and adventure, as each round brings her closer to winning the millionaire. Too bad he's not the one she loves.

Order information for print books is at:

If you prefer ebooks, at present Girl of My Dreams is also available at All Romance Ebooks. You can't miss it at:

I'll let you know when it also comes up at Amazon.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 17, 2007

This week we're honored to have author Sydney Molare' as our guest.

Sydney is one of the new crop of Southern authors--and one to watch. Her novels' messages cross genres, ethnicities, and locales. Sydney tells us that her goal is to always have “a little message for everyone.”

Her books are winning awards from bookclubs and praise from reviewers across the country. Sydney was recently named “Mississippi Hometown Hero, Most Likely to Succeed” and the "2006 Mississippi’s BEST Author."

Her novels include Somewhere In America; Small Packages; Changing Faces, Changing Places; Grandmama’s Mojo Still Working; and Devil’s Orchestra. Her website is:

Go for it and have a great time getting it! This is my (latest) mantra. Yes, I realize it could be interpreted many ways and applied to many situations. Today, I’m honing in on writers. The other I’ll save for another blog. LOL.

As a writer, I been told plenty of times to “follow the established rules, don’t insert a new writing style, sit down on the boat and hush on the boat!” That would be great if it were my personality, but fortunately for the world, it’s not. I’m one of those writers that likes to push the envelope, slide in a gut-punch, use a Dremel(R) tool to slice parts out of the box and let in some fresh air. No halter for this mare.

I encourage other writers out there, take a style chance, carve a new genre path, buck the system…at least three times. What are you waiting for? Unlike material possessions, you can take those unwritten trail blazing books with you when you kick the bucket.

And the endorphins will reward you. Not only will it reenergize you, it will work wonders for your writing. What a rush it is when you get an email stating, “This is different from what I’ve been reading.” Or maybe that’s just me.

Do I drive my agent crazy? Sometimes. But what life is worth living without some craziness? Sheesh. Do you want to live forever…boring?

Put on some Prince (my favorite, hence my title), grab a pen and let your authentic voice flow. Who knows, you may be the next, best thing…

Thanks for having me.


Thanks, Syd


Dashing through the snow...

Yeah, right. Who dashes through the snow?

You slog, blog ... no not blog, ... but you moving through the snow isn't a dash, I don't care how many Clydesdales you have in front of you.

Sure, you can slide, glide, plummet, spin, tumble ... but don't give me no dashes. I ran enough track ... when I was young ... to know the difference between a dash and what I was doing on my way to my booksigning at Borders Books & Music yesterday.

When I woke up, there was a lovely white wintry wonderland outside, complete with eight inches of brand new snow, gusted up to over a foot here and there, twinkling merrily as the ice crystals laughed at me with tinkery little titters.

But I had a booksigning to do.

So I lashed up my bobsled, tethered up the huskies and ... no? .... no bobsled? ... no huskies?

Okay, fine, I grabbed my Budweiser horses and wrapped them up in leathers that would enrapture a masochist, cracked a whip over their heads and ... huh? ... no sleigh either?

So I got my cross country skies, put my signing pen in my pocket and .... what, you don't believe?

All right, all right.

The truth is, I went outside, huffed my way through the snow with my shovel, all the time muttering my yearly mantra - "next year I get a snowblower" - and cleared the way through to where the county had already plowed.

Then I leaped on my snowmobile ... hah, all right ... you got me again. No snowmobile.

I got in my car, strapped up really nice, and drove out to Matteson.

Last year the Matteson Borders had me out twice to sign my first book. First, in October, and back two months later. I sold a lot of books, including selling all of them the second time right before Christmas.

So I was hoping my visit this time would carry the same magic, but the snow had other ideas. Instead of lines snaking around the store, the store was quiet. Too many people hid in their houses rather than brave the ice and snow. But still, I had a great time and sold a lot of my books. Sold over twenty of my second book, and a dozen of my first.

But the store manager likes how I 'work' the crowds, so she asked me to do an encore performance this coming Friday. So I'm going right back.

The next day will be a signing at Centuries and Sleuths for our new anthology, Heat of the Moment. This will be a new experience for me, because it's a joint signing! I mean, I've gone to author fairs and signed 'with' people, but we are maybe a little bit competitors ... all vying for the readers' limited book allowances.

Not this time, though, this is purely a cooperative venture. We're all there for the same book, and the same great ideal, to help people!

I'm really looking forward to it and meeting my fellow authors. Come out and join us! Centuries and Sleuths, 7419 W. Madison in Forest Park, Il. We'll be out there from 2:00 until ?

And this time, I'm bringing my track shoes so I can do that dash thing.

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
Heat of the Moment (anthology)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Serene Sunday Afternoon by Margot Justes

A very short blog…

Our house is quiet…serene…peaceful…the quiet after the storm, or if you will- the departure of two beloved, boisterous and lively grandchildren. I am truly blessed with my grandchildren, but I am also exhausted. There is a reason having children is for the young, but being a grandparent is responsibility just lots of love.

We spent a few days together and our munchkins left this morning. So this afternoon we managed to spend some time at a Starbucks with our friends, a delightful and needed respite, and now it is back to business. E-mails I haven’t looked at for a couple of days, along with a list an arm long of things that need to get done or should have been other words back to work.

Till next Saturday,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC 2008
Available for pre-order on amazon

Maloof -- by Larry D. Sweazy

OK, I know, last week I was crunched with deadlines (Yes, I hit them, and yes, I’m a little fried, but hey, freelance work in December is always a good thing, so I’m not complaining). Anyway, I said I was going to write about milestones this week, but I’m not. Get over it. Not that I think there are too many blog readers out there in electronic hinterlands who are going to hold my feet to the fire—so, I can change my mind, and I just did. Who cares, right? Maloof is more important than milestones.

At the moment, my feet against the fire sounds good, we’re in the middle of a winter storm. Snow. Wind. Ice. Plunging temperatures and windchill that makes your bones hurt. Reminds me of my two year tour in North Dakota—but that’s a story for another day, and I’m not in the mood to talk about Hell freezing over at the moment.

So—the other night, Thursday I think, I finished work late and turned on the TV. Yes, that’s how I veg-out after staring the computer for 12 hours. I usually have no clue what’s on, and there are a few shows that I keep up with, but really, I try to limit myself since I had a TV addiction when I was a kid. I know, I’m digressing. It must be the storm. The other night. TV. PBS. A documentary about Sam Maloof caught my attention.

I had never heard of Sam Maloof. Have you? See. I didn’t think so.

It would take me a couple of hundred thousand words to tell his story—who he really is. I’m not doing that—it would be impossible. Go to the PBS web site or—like I’ve never said this before—Google Sam Maloof. Yeah, I know, I could put a link in the blog, but I’m lazy, and besides, if you’re really interested, you’ll do the work yourself.

Back to Sam Maloof. He’s a 90 year old woodworker. Makes some of the most beautiful rocking chairs I’ve ever seem. First thing—this guy looks 60 at the most. He works 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Why? He loves what he does. Plain and simple, his work is not work, or a purpose, or a way to make a living. At 90? Be real. I don’t imagine Sam Maloof cares much about money at this point. His PASSION is his CRAFT. And that passion shows on his face—a broad smile, minimal wrinkles, bright eyes behind thick black-plastic framed glasses. His voice crackles with energy and love when he’s talking about his process. He still loves the process.

Imagine being that productive at 90? Still enthusiastic about life, and what’s coming next. Maybe, silently, he fears death. I doubt he’d be human if he didn’t think about it from time to time. But he obviously doesn’t dwell there. Too much to do. Still something to learn—something to build, something to make a little better than the last one.

I was obviously inspired by Sam Maloof’s passion, the way he had lived his life, the way he lives his life. No formal training, humble beginnings, and a strong desire to be an artist. Luck gave him a wife who believed in him—who said, “Follow your dream, we’ll make do.” She also said, when Sam received a rejection slip from a juried art show, “Rejection is good for the ego, Sam.” Not the sugar-coated, oh poor thing routine. His life wasn’t easy. It didn’t just happen.

There are parallels to the writer’s life to Sam’s life. Pick them out for yourself. All artists share common traits, similar stories. Persistence. Luck. Passion for Craft. It’s all there, whether you’re a woodworker or a poet, or both.

Check out Sam’s story, but more importantly, pay attention to the sages of the world who may not tell you how to live as an artist, but show you. There are more of them than you think...

Oh, and that rocking chair? It sold for $180,000.00 at an auction.

Until next week (when I might, or might not, talk about milestones), keep writing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fictional Characters Face Inequality? By Robert W. Walker w/compliments to TK Kenyon

Fictional Characters Face Inequality? Suffer the Female Protagonist
With a sad set of statistics on inequality for female authors in publishing

by Robert W. Walker w/compliments to TK Kenyon

Come on, a book, any book ought to be as Ezra Pound once said “like holding a ball of light in one’s hands.” So no matter if your lead and secondary characters are male or female, they ought simply to be believable and memorable and a joy to spend time with in the case of the good guys and the ladies. Often it is a fine line a character walks between authentic and inauthentic, larger than life and comic book hero.

Often in my own work, it works out that there are two main characters, a strong male lead butting heads with an equally strong female lead. The bottom line in creating male or female characters ought to be the same—attention to detail, layering, providing each with a worldview, an interesting psychology, and often a psychosis or two – or an obsession. However, critics and readers often take us to task when we create a strong-willed, determined, or obsessive female character—obsessive say about getting at the truth like our lead lady in TV’s The Closer. When a male character is strong-willed, determined, or obsessive and dogged about clue-finding activities that pull him away from a personal life, he is applauded for being firm, courageous, bold, and all manner of positives. But when a female character exhibits these traits in fiction, whoa Nelly! So often she is hit up for being a bitch, for being strident in her speech, for being pushy, aggressive, overbearing, and a host of other negatives. Take a look at a single line of dialogue here:

Jack shouted, “Do what you g’damn hafta, Frank, and I’ll do my job!”

Jack’s stand is worthy of applause, no question. Compare it to the lady, Celine’s line.

Celine shouted, “Do what you g’damn hafta, Frank, and I’ll do my job!”

Same line, same words, same apostrophe and exclamation point, but just knowin’ she’s a lady…a lay-lay-lady, we get a whole ’nother take on the line, especially if we’re predisposed to believe a lady approaches things with more femininity and ahhh grace. She does not swear anymore than she snores.

The Closer, Saving Grace, CSI, Law & Order, and a number of other current TV dramas about women in law enforcement are making waves and changing some preconceived notions about women in dramatic roles, in film and on the book page. Still when a woman sleeps around as Grace does to “excess” on Amazing Grace, we don’t shrug it off as we have been doing for years for Bond, James Bond. Grace is seen as a slut, while Bond is viewed a lady-killer, a real stud. My own Dr. Jessica Coran had a new man in her life often with the opening of a new book in the Instinct series--as few men could keep up, and I got complaints that she was too promiscuous from some readers. Jessica had a total of four men over eleven books, and the last one she married, and she had long-lasting relationships compared to TV’s Grace. Trendy or a sign of the times? Another big no-no a mere few years ago was that you don’t have little children murdered or maimed in your story, but every cop show drama on TV has tossed that notion, often displaying the small body on a slab or in an alleyway. Amazing Grace is being ballyhooed as ground breaking, and perhaps it is in some respects, but the condemnation of women acting like a James Bond character does seem to still have its hold on viewers and readers.

In other words, we want our tough, firm, determined female cops to also be vulnerable and sensitive; we certainly don’t want them pulling out their hair or baying at the moon or up-chucking in the car, or losing their maternal instincts, or losing all respect for themselves, or becoming Lindsey Lohan or lushes. Let a jaded, disillusioned male cop drink himself to sleep at night but God forbid a female on the force with the same level of jaded disillusionment become a sickening lush and watch out—particularly in book form. Perhaps seeing someone on a screen literally fall apart before our eyes is a kind of voyeurism we can take, but careful of the same in a novel.

So here is the crux of the matter for a novelist working with a strong female character, as I have often done. Be certain, as with any character that you don’t allow her to become a poster-girl for some message; nor a caricature for feminism; nor an exaggeration of a bias; and for God’s sake try not to allow her to cross over or fall into a comic book version of who you want her to be. Rewrite those last two sentences and insert he/him for she/her. Male or female, you don’t want your strong, determined, willful, firm characters to become comic book heroes or heroines.

Now how is this all relevant to the real world of publishing and the number of books done by men as opposed to women writers? How do the statistics in the real world of the publishing industry inform us that women are still, after all these years and all that has been said and done about equality in this world (as opposed to fictional worlds) –how do the stats stack up? Thanks to a recent posting by TK Kenyon ( on DorothyL (where you can often find me), here are some sobering facts about the industry we all know and love with respect to such things as how many female authors get reviewed as opposed to male authors. Again while the number of books published by male and female authors is very close, the numbers below tell a sad story in a time of shrinking newspaper, magazine, and other review outlets. Perhaps the internet is the only place women might find, in time, equality.

Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for 2006 in major review publications: 56%:44%

Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for Jan-June 2007 in major review publications: 63%:37%

Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for at the New York Times Review of Books (very influential): 72%:28%

Ratio of male book reviewers to female reviewers at the New York Times Review of Books: 2:1

Percentage of articles written by men to those written by women in the five “thought leader” magazines: 3:1

Worse yet, as I read most of those magazines, I can tell you with a quick glace at my stock, that the few women writers write about women, home life, babies, diapers, poems, and very light culture. The heavy stuff like economics is reserved for the boys.

Percentage of male book buyers to female: 45%:55%

Women constitute only 17 percent of opinion writers at The New York Times ,10 percent at The Washington Post ,28 percent at U.S. News & World Report ,23 percent at Newsweek and 13 percent at Time . Overall, only 24 percent of nationally syndicated columnists are women.

The only place where a woman really kicked butt was in the Alien
movies. "Ripley" (Sigourney Weaver) was originally supposed to be
a male character. The studio wanted the main character to be
female for some business reason, and Ridley Scott went through
the script and changed the pronouns, and that's all. Didn't even
change the character's name. I thought it was brilliant, and
Ripley will live forever as one of the few women characters who
doesn't pander."

-- Author of Callous and Rabid, TK Kenyon

Breathe slow for just a moment! by DL Larson

I have a request of you ~

As you go about getting ready for Christmas, hustling here and rushing off there, stop, stop and take in the scenery around you, if for only a moment. Take in the little things, the couple across the aisle waiting in line with their heads bent close together, see their happiness; look into the eyes of your waiter or waitress and offer them a real smile of gratitude; look at the snow falling and imagine each and every flake and remember no two are the same. Just take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to appreciate the many blessings surrounding you. Your winter coat, the skarf, warm boots and cold nose. Take a deep breath and feel.

Feel the world around you, the cold air seeping into your lungs. Feel the energy in the air. It's part of you. You are part of it. So scan the parking lot, the elevator, the lobby or aisles of the department stores. Look at people, and see.

See that there is more to Christmas than buying things. More to Christmas than running from place to place. See the purpose behind our bustling about. See folks caring for other folks and wanting, searching for something special to give their loved ones. And know what you see is a glimpse of the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is love. All we really want is to see the smile light up our loved ones eyes, if for just a moment. Our clumsy, expensive presents merely say, "I love you." So we search frantically for the perfect gift to give. So give.

Give the contents of your wallet to the retailers if you must, but give your heart too, openly and freely. And then breathe. Take in that special moment of bliss, tuck it away to remember and savor. And don't let go.

Don't let go of the meaning of Christmas. Keep it close. Breathe it in over and over. There's plenty to go around, many times over. So share the moment.

Share the meaning of Christmas!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Star Power by Morgan Mandel

The first photo is the Toys for Tots collection at Noelgin, the live WLS radio event I attended last Friday.

Now, in the second photo, Who's the man I'm with?
If you can't figure it out, I'll tell you later.

The main thing is he's got star power. For an author to sell books on name recognition, star power is a must. The question is, how to get it? I'm still working on that riddle. Some of the things I do to increase my aura are:

Acquire reviews. Which reminds me, I just got a new one for Two Wrongs I'm really thrilled about: will get you to my five heart review by Linda L. at The Romance Studio

Keep an updated website
Do blogs once-a-week, often more
Post blogs on

Belong to yahoo groups
Add friends on Ning and My Space and Bebo and Facebook and lots of other places
Distribute bookmarks in the jury duty waiting room, on the train, at social occasions
Do Book Signings
Participate on panels
Put up displays at the library
Belong to writing organizations, such as RWA,MWA,EPIC, Sisters in Crime

Oh, Yes, Also, occasionally, I hang around someone who already has star power, in the hopes that some of the stardust may rub off on me. Last week, I attended a live WLS radio show in Elgin. One of the guests, who is active in the Toys for Tots program, possesses lots of star power and has appeared in many roles on the large and small screen. Here I am with R. Lee Ermey, best known for his role as gunny in the movie, Full Metal Jacket.

So remember: On the road to star power remember, you can turn almost any event or occasion into an opportunity to acquire stardust. If you get enough, you'll have Star Power!

Go to it,
Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 10, 2007

Batty and other manimals

"Mom! Make him stop!"

"She started it!"

"I did not! He did!"

"No way, Jose!"

"Both of you, stop it right now!"

Um... as much as I hate to admit it, this happens in my house once in awhile ... and the bad news is that I'm usually one of the voices above ... no, not the mature one. You're shocked, I know. So am I.

But it took me many years to learn to win these kind of battles growing up in a four kid family, and why should I relinquish my expertise in the name of 'maturity'? I mean, heck, maturity is way overrated. You feel fat and have to wear those dresses that look like tents ... what? ... oh, maternity? Oh, never mind.

Anyway, I bring all of this up today because of a phone call I had with one of my teenaged critters today because it's Fast Food Monday - hey, you can't eat healthy every day. Anyway, I'm in charge of the kitchen on Mondays, hence the invention of Fast Food Monday.

Anyway, the conversation kind of started like this ...

Me: So what do you guys want me to bring home today? Chicken? Subs? Pizza? Chinese?

Critter: Whatever.

Me: Okay, so I'll get Chinese.

Critter: Whatever.

Me: How about I just pick up some roadkill and we can munch on that?

Critter: (silence)

Me: (smacking lips) Mmmmm... flattened opossum, sounds yummy.

Critter: (sighs) Dad, I told you what I wanted last night.

Me: Chinese, right?

Critter: You're just a senile batty old man.

Me: I never got that batty thing.

Critter: Huh?

Me: Think about it. Usually when you say 'batty,' you're talking about a woman, right?

Critter: Um.

Me: So what would a woman have to do with a baseball bat?

Critter: I think they mean the mammal, Dad.

Me: Even more. Everyone knows that women are afraid of bats! They think they'll get them in their hair.

Critter: (eyeroll - I couldn't see it, but I could sense it). I believe they are referring to bats in the belfry.

Me: (waving my arms - she couldn't see it, but she could sense it). Even more confusing! What do bats in a bell tower have to do with crazy old women?

Critter: (silence)

Me: (trying to regain control of the car).

Critter: Dad. Just get Chinese, okay?

Well, I think I'm about out of room, but I have one last thing to say. Buy my books! Please! Christmas is coming up and you need to buy something funny to offset the stress of the holidays! And I need to pay for mine!

The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably) published 2006
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness published 2007
contributory author to the anthology The Heat of the Moment coming Dec. 15, 2007

Crunched -- by Larry D. Sweazy

OK, this week I'm crunched with deadlines. Sometimes there's just enough time to write, or post a blog. I try not to miss my day to post, but my work schedule is crazy until Christmas week. It's like that this time of year. So, I haven't forgotten. I'm just keeping my nose to the grindstone. When I do post, I'll talk about milestones and what they mean, or should mean, or may not mean.

Until then, keep writing.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Holiday Lunch by Margot Justes

Today was the Sisters in Crime Holiday Lunch. It is our annual extravaganza. Always held at the Greek Islands, this year as in years past, they did not disappoint.
The food was excellent, service attentive and the ambiance was perfect.

Our guest speaker was Robert Goldsborough. I call him Chicago’s treasure; because he truly is. I asked Bob to speak at our event and he graciously consented. He even signed some books.

Bob writes about Chicago in the thirties and forties, his research is amazing and along with the well written history we get a mystery. What more could a Sister in Crime want.

This is as good a way as any to segue to the life of an author. The public appearances, the book signings, the panel discussion and anything else that one is asked to do.

That part of a writer’s life I never anticipated, but now that it is here, I am quickly learning what needs to be done to sell the book. The publisher can only do so much.

Whether it is a small traditional press or a huge New York press, unless your name is Nora Roberts or James Patterson, you need to work on name recognition. The one way to achieve it is to go through the baby steps, and as in anything in life, the steps get bigger and you grow and gain experience. You learn.

Before I sign off, thank you Mary for posting the cover of The Heat of the Moment. That anthology is very close to my heart.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris June 2008
Heat of the Moment December 2007
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, December 7, 2007

Press Release By Robert W. Walker

The issue of Press Releases came up in discussion groups I am on,and many people do not know that a press release is something that must have all the pertinent information about the book or event and contact information readily at the top of the article. A good title helps excite interest, and try desperately to have no typos or grammatical errors. For those who have no clue and for those who do, I am placing my most recent Press Release from Harper Books, which I had input on, here as FYI. I hope this helps clarify what a release ought to carry and what it ought to look like.

Publicity Contact: Danielle Bartlett, 212.207.7011,

“…historical mystery at its best.” — Chicago Tribune

Master of suspense and electrifying terror,
Robert W. Walker returns with a dark, atmospheric mystery set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair
Celebrated for his haunting tales of suspense and terror, Robert W. Walker has carved out a new frontier in historical mystery with his Inspector Alastair Ransom series. The Ransom series, set in late 19th century Chicago, chronicles a time before CSI teams, DNA testing or fingerprinting had become mainstays in police procedure.

In CITY OF THE ABSENT (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, On Sale November 27, 2007, ISBN: 9780060740122, $7.99), Inspector Alastair Ransom and the oddly eccentric Dr. James Phineas Tewes, a phrenologist who reads victims’ last moments through the contours of their scalps, face their most harrowing and personal case yet.

During the final night of the glorious Chicago World’s Fair, Mayor Carter Harrison meets with an assassin’s bullet outside his Ashland Avenue home. Across the city in an alleyway, Pinkerton Detective Nell Hartigan loses her life in a brutal stabbing.

Harrison’s murder sparks riots, but it proves an open and shut case against his attacker. However, Nell’s murder is not so easily solved. Ransom uncovers ties to the highest strata of Chicago society, feeding prejudices about the rich and powerful. William Pinkerton, Nell’s employer, as well as Ransom’s own superiors, will stop at nothing to impede Ransom’s investigation. And when Ransom himself is arrested on charges for multiple murder, Ransom and Tewes must rely on their well-honed detective instincts to locate and prosecute Nell’s killer and clear Ransom’s name in the bargain.

About the Author
Robert W. Walker, an authority on the police procedural genre, is the author of 40 novels. Walker was born in Corinth, Mississippi, raised in Chicago, and currently resides in West Virginia. In between teaching, lecturing and book touring, he is busy tackling his next novel.

# # #

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Say Hello to Jim Melvin, Author of The Death Wizard Chronicles

Say Hello to Our First Virtual Tour Guest Blogger - Jim Melvin

Book One - The Pit

Jim Melvin is the author of the Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy. Book One is entitled The Pit and was available (, click here; and, click here) in September 2007. Book Two (Moon Goddess) was available in October 2007. Book Three (Eve of War) will be available at the end of November 2007. Book Four (World on Fire) will be available in December 2007. Book Five (Sun God), January 2008. Book Six (Death-Know), February 2008.

Jim’s blog:

Jim Melvin, 50, was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but spent more than forty years of his life in St. Petersburg, Fla. He now lives in Clemson, S.C. Jim graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) with a B.A. in Journalism in 1979. He was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and retired in 2004 to become a full-time novelist. At the Times, he specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and he wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. But he spent the majority of his career as a designer, editor, and supervisor. Jim is a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which he weaves extensively into his work. Meditation helps to clear his mind for long bouts of writing. Jim is married and has five daughters. The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy series, marks his debut as a novelist.


Though I wrote The Death Wizard Chronicles in three years, the six-book series was almost thirty years in the making. I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but I moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., when I was 5 years old and was raised on an island that jutted into Tampa Bay. I was lucky to grow up on a street on the waterfront that had about ten other boys my age, and we hung out morning, noon, and night. We played all the usual sports that young boys love: football, baseball, basketball, “kill the carrier,” etc. But we also, as a group, were obsessed with fantastical games that contained magic, monsters, and super heroes. We played games based off popular TV shows of that era (the late 1960s) such as Lost in Space and The Man from Uncle.

When I was a boy, I had white-blond hair, but I became a big fan of Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in The Man from Uncle. Vaughn, of course, has brown hair, and one summer I convinced my mom to dye my hair brown. Being a smart mom, she chose to use cheap hair dye, and within a couple of days my hair changed colors and I spent the rest of the summer with green hair. That wouldn’t seem so unusual today, but back then I was the talk of the island. Anyway, my love and fascination for magic and monsters stayed with me into adulthood.

When I was a junior in high school, I boldly decided that I wanted to become a best-selling novelist, and I went around telling everyone I knew that I was going to make $75-million. Keep in mind this was the mid-1970s, so that’s probably around $300-million, if you figure in thirty years of inflation.

I wrote my first novel when I was 20 years old. It was a Stephen King-like horror novel entitled Sarah’s Curse. An agent who was a family friend shopped it around, and though it received some nice responses, it never found a publisher. But I wasn’t overly concerned because I believed my second novel would be the one to hit it big. In the meantime, I started my career as a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. For me, the rat race officially began. Soon I was working 50-hour weeks and raising a family – and there never was a second book. Twenty-five years later, I was fortunate enough to be able to semi-retire. In September 2004, I wrote the first word of Book One of The Death Wizard Chronicles. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I’m in the final revision process of Book Six.

Life has an unusual sense of humor, and for a quarter-century my dreams were put on hold. That said, those 25 years ended up serving a valuable purpose. As a reporter and editor, I learned the craft of writing and met a lot of interesting people, significantly expanding my worldview and talents. When I finally began writing my epic fantasy series, I realized that work and family weren’t to blame for all those lost years. Instead, I wasn’t simply had not been ready as a writer. Finally, it all jelled. This is my time.

I describe my series as a cross between J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King – Tolkien because it contains many aspects of epic fantasy, King because it’s pretty darn scary and rough. The Death Wizard Chronicles is a classic tale of good versus evil, with lots of action, monsters, and magic. It also contains a very compelling love story. But what separates my series from most others is that I am an active student of Eastern philosophy, which fuels my world view. The concept of karma and the art of meditation play key roles in the symbolic aspects of my work. While deep in meditation, Buddhist monks have had recorded heart rates of less than 10 beats per minute. My main character takes this to the extreme. In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a “temporary suicide.” Through intense concentrative meditation, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

My first wife and I divorced about 15 years ago, and I then remarried. My second wife is a Western-convert Buddhist in the Theravada tradition, and she introduced me to Buddhism. The philosophical aspects of Eastern philosophy really rang true for me and helped to further shape the person I have become. My series contains an ancient language that is directly translated from Pali, a dialect closely related to Sanskrit but not extinct as a spoken language. When translated to English, it is beautiful and erotic.

A wise man once said:
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”

I live life this way. Or at least I try.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


This situation is too bizarre for words. You may recall I was waiting for my new desk set to be delivered last Wednesday and wondering if it would arrive in one piece.

First, on the strange list: I saw the desk set in an ad from Carson’s last July and saved the ad for future reference.

Next, I found another ad at the beginning of November, featuring the same desk, hutch and chair at a higher price.

Then, I called a salesperson named Sara at Randhurst in Mt Prospect, IL and asked if there would be a sale ever again at the July price.

ONE SURPRISE: That’s when I learned a Super Buy Sale was coming up in a few weeks on November 16 and I could get the whole shebang at even lower than the July price. The catch was my desk set would be on back order until November 29, since it was not in stock. Sara promised to hold my order until then. Everyone knows how back orders go. Who knows if I’d ever get the desk set.

ANOTHER SURPRISE: Sara called me before November 29 and said my order was in stock and could be delivered in a few days. How strange was that? I set up a delivery date for a week and a half later, since I had to work on the dates she mentioned.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: My desk set arrived on the scheduled date, at the scheduled time, looking just right!

This kind of thing doesn’t usually happen to me. I’m still stunned.

And, you might say, what does this have to do with writing, except for my ability to enjoy sitting at a brand new desk while I use my computer?

Here’s the scoop:
When you write a book, don’t let events go as smoothly as with my desk set. Heighten the tension. Make your characters wonder if things will turn out as they should. Then insert twists and turns to really make your characters suffer. Keep your characters guessing.

Take my desk set as an example:
I could have seen the ad, called, and been told a sale may or may not happen later, so I’d have to call back off-and-on to find out.
Or, I could have placed the order and waited all day for the delivery people to show up, but the truck got lost or blew a tire or I was last on the list and it was too late for the delivery.
Or, My desk set could have arrived and they couldn’t fit it through the door.
Or, My desk set made it into the house, but it was the wrong set.
Or, My desk set was the right one, but it had scratches or gouges.

You get the idea. I was very fortunate, but don’t make life as easy for your characters. Be cruel. Make them earn their rewards. Give the reader something to rejoice over when something actually turns out right!!

All the best as I enjoy my new desk set,
Morgan Mandel

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Heat of the Moment

Jeez, it's cold out here in Chicagoland. Freezing my booty off.

That's why it was great to warm my little fingers over a brand new book that has all kinds of warmth in it... compassion and heat ... real heat.

The Heat of the Moment is a brand new anthology put together by Karen Syed of Echelon Press Publishing after her angst at watching the Patriots win another game, I mean, the tragedy of the wildfires in California.

In a very short time she bailed a bunch of us out of jai... er, assembled a very talented group of twenty one authors; and put together a poignant book that not only tells the story of fire and loss, but also goes to benefit those who have suffered from the callous fingertips of flame.

That's right, all of the profits go to the victims of the California wildfires.

It also provided us with the chance to express our appreciation and reflect on the valiant firefighters who risk their own lives and welfare to help save lives and property. Why, they would even be willing to help the Patriots.

Selfless, that's what they are.

And each of the authors was able to tell his/her story using characters from our own books and our own genres! I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that it was a great artistic experience to weave our characters around a common theme. Mystery, romance, sci-fi, humor showing all facets of fire and loss.

Anyway, help us spread the word. Buy a book and help people who have been driven from their homes.

Thanks, and, go Whomever is Playing the Patriots next week.

Oh, er, sorry. Can you tell I typed this while watching a game?

buy The Heat of the Moment at Amazon or

(notice I'm not mentioning my website or my other books, The Adventures of Guy and The Next Adventures of Guy)

wait, I just did
no, you didn't
yes, I did
inconsiderate jerk
selfish rooster

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kindle -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I happened to turn on the TV in the afternoon recently, something I rarely do, and Charlie Rose was interviewing Jeff Bezos of fame about the new e-reader device, Kindle. I listened intently, and afterward I Googled Kindle and read reviews, the pros, the cons, the things Bezos didn’t mention—all of which you’re capable of doing yourself. Since I don’t own a Kindle, I can’t give you my personal take on it. But there are few things to consider.

One thing to keep in mind, is the power behind the device. There have been plenty of e-readers that have come and gone. Sony released one this summer. Both companies, Amazon and Sony, are powerhouses, well-versed in media. Amazon may have the upper hand in distribution, but Sony has more experience at acquiring and creating content. Each has their strengths. And both have huge talent pools of marketing wizards, bean counters, and decision makers who would not greenlight the release of a hardware device unless they were reasonably certain that there was a market for that product. Perhaps they hope to be the company that creates the iPod for books...but it’s obvious the game is on, and the stakes are serious.

Maybe the Kindle will succeed, maybe not, at least in its current form. Maybe it won’t catch on until 2.0 or the 5.0 version comes out in ten years. But here’s the important thing to take away from all of this—at least my prediction: Digital books are here to stay.

What does that mean for the professional writer? I don’t know. But like I said a few weeks ago, the world needs writers, always has, and always will. It’s our job to tell the story. Distribution, for the most part, has always been out of the writers hands. I don’t think Kindle changes that. How we get paid may change. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s hard to say what will happen. But money, again, for the most part, is a secondary concern to most writers. Yes, yes, we all to be paid, to have the opportunity to be the next James Patterson, but most writers are content to be paid wages that haven’t changed, or have shrunk, in the last 40 years. If you think .03 to .05 cents a word is acceptable, a professional rate for short stories, then you haven’t been paying attention…those were the rates in the 1960s—when you could buy a Hershey’s bar for a dime instead of a dollar. I’m not complaining, I’m thrilled to make .05 cents a word, but I’m also realistic about the wage. In any endeavor supply and demand dictates the rise and fall of wages—writing is no different. It’s just hard to predict how e-readers or digital books will affect the supply and demand in the future.

Regardless, the world will need storytellers. Some of us will be paid, and some of us, won’t.

So my advice about the fear that the Kindle is instilling? Keep an eye on it for opportunities that may arise, but don’t let it stop you from telling the story that only you can tell.

Fear is a four-letter word that is just as dangerous as can’t as far as I’m concerned, so don’t let the sparks that the Kindle is throwing into the wind burn out your dream.

Keep writing. It’s really the only option you have ever had, or ever will have, regardless of the devices that come and go.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Just a few words on our December bus stop schedule.
Our virtual tour bloggers will be stopping off on the dates below.

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 - Jim Melvin -
The Death Wizard Chronicles - Book 1 - The Pit

Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007 - Sydney Molare - Devil's Orchestra

Friday, Dec. 28, 2007 - Prof. Holly Fretwell - The Sky's Not Falling

Please let our guest bloggers know they're welcome by adding a comment or two.

Thanks, everyone,
Morgan Mandel

The Story of an Anthology by Margot Justes

My publisher Karen Syed wanted to do something to help after the devastating fires in California. She asked 20 of her authors to write a short story and donate the royalties to a California charity. We had approximately 2 weeks to write it, and we did.

The anthology aptly named The Heat of the Moment will be available for the holiday season. A wonderful gift idea and the royalties will be donated to The Fire Safe Council of San Diego County (FSCSDC). Maybe you can even catch an author doing a book signing somewhere. Who knows, it might even be me.

The national press release went out from Echelon Press this morning, and the local releases will be handled by the authors. To say I am excited about this project would be a gross understatement.

It is an awesome endeavor, and I will ask anyone reading this blog to buy the book and tell their friends, etc…you get the drift. We really can make a difference, one book at a time.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris June 2008
Heat of the Moment December 2007
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, November 30, 2007

ENDings….the most important element of your story… Robert W. Walker


I hear it all the time. Beginnings…the most important element of your story. Opening pages, first paragraphs, and so it goes, and every first word and first paragraph is absolutely important, sure. I also hear tell the middle, running chapters, are the most important element of your story. Those action-packed plot twisting, meaty, center pieces, yeah, all important. Then I hear at the same writers conference that Voice is the single most important element, and it is! But then you walk into the dialogue discussion and guess what? Dialogue is—you guessed it—the MOST important element of your story as is characterization, as is a strong female protagonist, as is plot not plod. But seldom do we hear tell that ENDings are the most important element of your story; in fact, the END is typically relegated to a lesser importance. However, it’s the last impression you will leave your reader with, and it often determines if a reader is going to pick up your next novel or not. So there! Engaging, clever, fun, and or exciting endings are THE most important element of your story.

In point of fact—all elements of your story are of equal importance, and a great tale utilizes all the elements in perfect unison. But today I’m interested in talking about endings for endings’ sake.

For the sake of your ending, do you need to tidy up every thread you pulled throughout the novel, for instance? Does the ending require you to spend at least as much time on editing and rewriting as you spent on those opening pages? Should the ending introduce a new twist, a new question that whets the appetite for a sequel, or should it make no nod whatsoever toward a sequel? These are the questions that try a writer’s soul. OK, that’s a bit dramatic, but there are no authors I know who don’t struggle with endings.

In fact, quite often, as with a reader who “hates” to see the story end, quite often the writer “hates” to see an ending to his story as well. The writer may just as well have fallen for her characters as the reader. Doesn’t wanna let go. Gonna miss the old gang of characters in the book. So there’s a natural inclination to allow the writing toward the end wag the writer. What can a writer do?

Let me try to answer the questions raised above if I can. First off, throughout the novel, I write and rewrite as I go, and this means I spend as much TIME doing so with the last chapters as the first. The caveat I always adhere to in creating interesting bad guys and bad girls in the story is to give them as much of your attention and time as your heroes and heroines, and I feel the same can be said of giving as much effort to your last chapter as your first. I typically pull several “threads” throughout a story, and I do my best to not allow any of them short-shrift throughout the story, and particularly at the end. Easy
to do. Easier to do than people might imagine to rush the ending and leave a thread un…un…un what? Unattended I suppose. Tend to each thread. Tend to each major character introduced in the story. Tend to their “needs” and emotions at the end as much as you would in introducing them. Tend to their psychology and their five senses, and how the ending affects each, especially your number one main character or two if you have two main characters working off one another as in a man and a woman—often the case in my novels.

By attending to the main characters feelings and “place” in the end chapter(s), many if not all of the bows are tied and things are tidied up, which the traditional mystery structure all but screams for. It is considered by many a mystery reader a “sacrilege” to fail to tidy up “everything” you made untidy to begin with. That is if you introduce a “thread” then by golly you’d better tie up all the loose ends at the end. Authors who are aware of this and break this rule in order to “push” this envelope do much better with readers because they know the rules and break them in clever, instinctive, often fascinating ways which also tells a reader that so-and-so crafted this ending well regardless of a few loose ends or perhaps because he or she consciously left a question of significance and perhaps philosophy hanging not like a frayed ending but a chime in the wind.

U know what? I rehashed the questions in my head about endings and the main one of ought it to be tidy or untidy, and U know what? I believe I have answered all of the questions that I raised here. Often I create my suspense by setting up a series of questions, and my plot unfolds along the lines of answering those questions. This form is like “lightening in a bottle” in once sense and can end with you writing yourself into a corner, but that’s part of the excitement of writing and the way I prefer to work. I am not an author who writes the last chapter first and then sits down and writes to that ending. Nothing wrong with that. Just not my method. Many rivers to the ocean. However, if I raise twenty questions and I keep rewriting and working the chapters, I keep reminding myself of all the questions raised. By the end of the novel, I am quite aware of all the threads, all the curious questions, and so my endings work toward answers, solutions, resolutions. What better form is that. Questions raised in the openers…middle chapters struggle with answers via action, dialogue, drama…final chapters toss off all red herrings for real solutions and resolutions. They may not always be tidy and tied like a bow, but I hope to create endings that are at least as interesting and captivating as my opening chapters. In Final Edge, I worked a situation to its max and I actually wrote an ending through the eyes of each main character who’s life would be lessoned by the death of Lt. Detective Lucas Stonecoat, the main character. The successive ending. A lesson I picked up along the way and have used again in City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, and City of the Absent. City ends with Inspector Alastair Ransom on an operating table, yet everything else is “resolved” to a satisfactory degree. Shadows in the White City ends with Ransom again clinging to life. City of the Absent ends with Alastair behind bars as the main suspect in the murder of a priest.

Endings….how important they are. The End. Finis. ###

Happy Writing and Holidays,
Rob Walker -- free download of new, as yet unpublished DEAD RECKONING
find me on MySpace, Google,

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clutter, Who Me?? by DL Larson

I can honestly say my basement was de-cluttered last year. My storage shelves now have plastic tubs with lids snapped tight, well mostly - the Christmas ones are distributed around the house and looking a little messy. But that' only temporary ... I will get all decorations placed and tubs put away soon, I promise. But back to the clutter thing and my basement being clutter-free last year - never mind this year. Last year we had an invasion of mice ... thus the plastic tubs now. It was relatively easy to de-clutter. If things were chewed, they went to the dumpster. And triumpantly we have been de-miced as well, once we realized the little critters entered through the air conditioning line; they smushed and chewed through the sealant. We grow tough field mice out here in the country!

And I can also say my kitchen cupboards have been de-cluttered. Did I mention my daughter and her family moved in a month ago? We merged two kitchens together, mushed maybe ... anyway,the cupboards were thoroughly rearranged to be orderly and if you shut the cupboards quietly and quickly, no one mentions the tidy look has faded a bit.

Most of my house looks okay, not good,those Christmas bins are still sitting around, but easy enough to fix by the time we host our first holiday party. Then there's the shoe problem at each door. We can hide those in a pinch. But the one area I've been avoiding, really looking the other way here ... is my office. It's one of the cutest rooms in my house. I have a big bay window, a wall of shelves filled with books and my stereo, and a wallpaper border of books. My computer desk has a large area to work with a shelf above the monitor, the five foot table next to me is a great asset and my oak roll-top is a thing of beauty. Sounds great, heh?

I could tell you to the left of me is a pile of papers that would fill a laundry basket - that is waiting for the shredder. It's at the library for a snowflake project we're doing - we need shredded paper. I could tell you that I had to pull and tug to get the shredder away from the pile of discarded debree, but I won't!

Under my table is another basketful of notebooks from one event or another, a couple stacked boxes full of manuscripts I'm working on, a hanging folder, two stacks of magazines: Writer's Digest and Romantic Times, with a few Country Home mixed in. Oh, and a few purses for a quick change when I need them. The surface of my table - I can't describe it just now, let me think about that.

In the meantime, beneath my computer desk is several more boxes of manuscripts, all in various degrees of completion. And the shelves are crammed with resource books, inspiration and other tidbits I can't work without. My printer is also used as a shelf which become inconvenient when I have to change ink - which I had to do last night and the pile is sitting or is that setting? on top another printer stand.

My beautiful oak desk? I really should do some purging in there. I've tried, I really have. My granddaughters can find the gum I have stashed - nothing much else. Oh, and scotch tape, they're pretty good at finding that too. Only in desperate times do I close the lid - which I will be doing on the 16th of December - the day of our first holiday party. It will take approximately five minutes to shove and stack the stuff so the lid will come down. Under that desk where your feet go ... I have boxes of pictures. I make no excuse for them. I love pictures, just don't have time to put them in albums. So they've found a home in that little nook and I let them stay there rent free.

In front of my wall of books rest more boxes, mostly mine for sale. They belong downstairs, but you know, the next project comes rushing up and things don't get put back where they belong.

That brings me back to the top of my five foot work table. There are times when I really can't take it anymore and move to the dining room. That's usually when my kids roll their eyes and mention that my fetish with paper is leaking into other parts of the house. Because let's face it, my dining room table is mine and it's usally piled with stacks of 20 count paper too.

So don't talk to me about clutter. I know it very well. Intimately. We're good pals. I've accepted I'm a clutter-holic. I need help but never seek it. I can't stop myself. I like piles of paper. I hate stacks of paper. I can never find anything, especially after cleaning up. So, yes, my five foot table is beyond clutter. There sits my cup from last night, the Febreeze from the burnt popcorn two nights ago, the candle in its glass globe too. Russell's Christmas Magic, by Rob Scotton is on top, the librarian in me, with Christmas cards splattered next to it, the mom trying to be friendly with holiday greetings, the decorating debree: wire clippers, wire, plastic ties, extra bulbs, blah, blah, that's all on one corner. It goes down hill from there, literally.

It would be so easy to just close the doors and walk away. But alas, when we built this house nearly ten years ago, I fell in love with these French doors, and yep, you guessed it, those are the doors to my office. Cute, heh?

I'm my own worst enemy! Is there a CLUTTER-ANONYMOUS? Perhaps I should seek help. Or is it too late? The holidays are coming. Is clutter bad? Is Santa going to be disappointed in me? Again?

Santa, really, I can explain ... I'm sick ... It's not my fault. I was paper deprived as a child ...

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: Tonight is the Booksigning at Barnes & Noble, Schaumburg: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Clutter By Morgan Mandel

I'm getting a desk delivered today. I hope. You never know about these things.

So I'm sitting in my living room which looks so nice and empty and huge, because that's the room the delivery guys have to go through with the desk.

I'm thinking I wish the room could be like this always. No clutter. Lots of room for the dog to run around in. I've moved the rocking chair, exercise machine, other odds and ends into various areas of the house, but they'll need to come back later.

Last Saturday I spent over 8 hours clearing out clutter and organizing my writing life, yet there's so much still left I don't know what to do with. I'm a saver. It's difficult for me to part with anything at all that has any kind of sentimental value, but I try.

That said, I have decided when I sit down at my new desk I will only be surrounded by items related to pending and future writing endeavors, not what's already happened.

Reminder notes even though I have the task feature on my phone and computer, printed copies of articles, receipts, bookmarks, business cards, copies of manuscripts, you name it - they all take up space. For the time being, I've tamed them, but for how long?

Strange, how in this age of computers I'm still so inundated by paper in my life.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Either I'm crazy or they are

I could be crazy.
After all, I don't believe that sitting around waiting for inspiriation to show up is the best way to get a novel written. I like to have fun when I write, and sitting and waiting isn't fun.
Struggling with writing isn't fun either.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it?
Some people think I'm crazy for writing a book like Novelist's Boot Camp that tells you to plan, prepare, and then execute your plan to write a novel by breaking writing tasks down in to do-able, actionable units and then following a process to build a complete book.
I might be crazy. Maybe I am.
I work for an international corporation. They plan and deliver multi-million dollar, complicated, global projects that take years to complete.
Sounds a bit like writing a novel--except for the money.
To keep the projects from going haywire, to keep multiple, interconnected ideas connected, one of the senior management folks constantly reinforces that we should "do things in the right order."
This man delivers $200 million dollar projects under budget and ahead of schedule.
When I tell him about an aspiring authors who asks about getting an agent before he knows what the plot of his novel is, the man shakes his head. So do I.
"The process works," he says, "trust the process."
Then there's a best-selling fiction book that revolves around the idea of writing down your "next action step" and then doing it as a way to make progress. "Clean up the yard" isn't an action step; "rake leaves from beneath bushes" is. You make a detailed list of action steps, then do them. The author argues that you can't hold everything you have to do in your head AND do it well.
So you write an action step--like "write the first half of the scene in which the hero confronts the heroine about her relationship with her past boyfriend." That's an action step. "Work on chapter two" is not.
Following this author's key ideas, people are accomplishing more, improving the quality of what they do, and having more fun doing it.
Writing more, writing better, becoming more creative and having more fun doing it.


Monday, November 26, 2007

The Boob Tube

Hah, if you were expecting pictures of something, or, uh, two somethings, sorry to disappoint you.

Instead, it's time for a rant blog!


We all love rant blogs, don't we?

Today's rant ... television.

(clap, clap, clap)

Over the last week, I've been really noticing them in weird places. In line at the grocery store, while pumping gas, in the back seat of a mini-van. Not to mention (okay fine,... I'm mentioning) airplanes, banks, malls and you can even bring them camping. You, not me, I hate ticks.

Televisions, wherever you are, they are. Where don't they have them? Wait, don't answer that, because you might give them ... Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, GE ... more ideas. HD, flat screen, plasma, LCD, digital, micro, macro, mini, mousy...

Heck, go to a live sporting event. If you miss the touchdown cuz you're scoping out the cheerleaders, never fear, there's a Jumbo Tron with all of the highlights. Gotta tinkle? No problem, you won't miss a minute. There are a bank of TV's all of the way down the hall, next to the bathroom and, dare I say, in the restroom itself. Believe me, unless you go in the stall you won't miss a thing.

And never fear... even if you missed the action, your TIVO will pick it all up and you can see everything after you get home.

Frankly, I think I'm overdosing on TV's. Okay, okay, maybe the five in my house add to the IV, er, TV infusion. Never mind the three Tivos, plethera of DVD-players, DVD- recorder, and let's not get into all of the computers with YouTurn, er, YouTube capabilities.

Is it any wonder that people would rather watch TV than read a book? Heck, you can read books on your computer... some books get made into movies. In fact, are you too busy to read? Then get a book on tape.

I was watching the forth, er, fourth Bruce Willis Die Hard DVD last night with my wife, and part of the plot involved a plot to wipe out the country's electricity.

And it occurred to me. If that happened, it would wipe out my TV's. Think about it, no more reality show, no ESPN, no reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond...sob... I mean, sure, I could run the generator for awhile, so I could still play my DVD collection, but sooner or later I'd run out of gas. And if there were ... was ... whatever... no electricity, they couldn't run the gasoline pumps.

So it wouldn't be long before there would no longer be television... nothing... no shows...


Why, whatever would we do without the boob-tube? No distractions, getting to spend more time with the family learning what they think rather than simply watching something next to them ... why we'd just ...

(um, wait a second... I'm watching the Santa Clause III... hang on...need to see what Jack Frost does next ...)

Okay, I'm back, sorry about that.

Anyway ...

Can you imagine a world without television?

Hmm ...

What's this I'm sitting on? The remote. And look, it actually has an 'off' button.

Hmm, again ... wonder what would happen if I pushed it?


And what's this? A book? With pages?


The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness