Sunday, September 30, 2007

Letter from Baltimore

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Baltimore, exhausted from two days of hawking my wares in my publisher's booth at the Baltimore Book Fair. This was a huge fair, with all kinds of awesome food (melted cheese crab pita was a must eat). There was music, Baltimore Orioles and Ravens fans, and unfortunately, thousands and thousands of ... New York Yankee fans.

With their baseball superiority securely in hand, Yankee fans flock to Camden Yards when the Yankees hit town, and strut around with their Dirt, er, Derrick Jeter shirts, looking down their New York noses at the Oriole fans. Baltimore gladly takes their money though.

Enough about them. Though we don't agree on baseball, they were approachable and enjoyed the book fair just like normal humans... heh.

Anyway, I'm not exactly bashful, so it was fun to accost, er, approach passersby and introduce them to my kind of humor. And it works. We sold out every copy of The Adventures of Guy and a goodly number of its sequel The Next Adventures of Guy. Most of the people who bought the first book promised that they would buy the sequel if they love the first book, so I'm feeling pretty good that I'll hear from them again soon.

I had never met my editors, Draumr Publishing, in person before, and Robert and Rida were awesome, gracious, and appreciative that I would fly out from Chicago. I also got to meet several other of Draumr's authors and we had a blast. Good food, great company and just a fun visit overall.

I also ran into a familiar face. No, not Cal Ripken. Austin Camacho, whom I'd met at Love is Murder in Chicago, was manning a spot in the Author Tent.

And, ...

(knock, knock)

Oh, I gotta go... my pizza has arrived.

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

An interview with author Kerul Kassel by Margot Justes

Below is an interview with Kerul Kassel, Echelon author of soon-to-be released Productive Procrastination.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your writing style, what you write.
Since I'm a non-fiction author, I generally write in a conversational voice and leaven it with a light tone. About me: I'm a recognized expert in procrastination (chuckle), and I work with executives, professionals, and business owners on productivity and effectiveness. I'm an internationally recognized professional coach, author, speaker and teleclass leader, and am certified through a few coaching organizations. My clients have included Sony, Hilton, Volvo, and NASA, and I was recently quoted in TIME Magazine isa procrastination "nichpert." My husband and I recently realized a long-time dream of building an environmentally sensible house, and are on a journey of courage and leadership training our 1750 pound Belgian horse,Goldilocks, to be our partner and collaborator.

Who is your favorite author and why?
I have too many favorite authors to narrow it down to a single writer. I have my favorites in every genre. I particularly like historical fiction,reference, and self-help, but also like contemporary fiction, classicfiction, how-to, and business non-fiction. Some favorite authors include Jane Austin, Margaret Atwood, Lenedra Carroll, Katherine Neville, HenryJames, Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Hiaasen, Martha Beck, and Don Miguel Ruiz.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block?
I have in the past, but have found a few ways around it. I write more to help others than because I have stories in me, and I don't write as a means of financial support, so I don't write books all the time. Writer'sblock is usually generated through self-doubt, so if you can find a waythrough or around (or over) that, the block usually disappears.

What do you do unwind and relax?
I play with my horses and my dogs, watch films (I like indie and foreign), read (of course!), and socialize with friends.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Write for yourself first and foremost - and write to enjoy writing. If you enjoy it, then chances are others will, too, but if for some reason they don't, the time will still have been well spend. Keep going and don't give up. For writers as well as anyone else pursuing any calling or goal, persistence is crucial. Many people give up beforejust before they hit critical mass and become successful (whatever that means to them).
Kerul Kassel

Thank you, Kerul.

09-30-55 by Larry D. Sweazy

52 years ago today the actor James Dean was killed in automobile accident—and an icon was born. The American Teenager. The rebel. The badass (can I say badass here?) who can mumble and break your heart with a soulful look.

Elvis was affected by Dean, picking up the baton of pissing off parents and passing it on the Beatles, and possibly forward today, all the way to Kanye West. That’s a leap—but so is this: Billy the Kid was ten times the rebel, the American Teenager than James Dean was.

The point? Rebels have been with us since the birth of our country—the very core of our being is born of rebellion. How could we not celebrate rebels?

James Dean is more famous dead than he was alive. His life is the fabric of lore, part of a larger story…but the mystery of his talent, of his life, endures because we obviously still need rebels. For all of the details you can Google James Dean…

Tens of thousands of people flock to Graceland, the mother church of Elvis, every year in August to celebrate his death. Interestingly enough—thousands of people flock to Fairmount, Indiana, the birthplace of James Dean the last weekend of every September to do the same thing. In a way, it is a much smaller version of the Graceland thing—with one exception: The “festival” takes over the whole town.

Fairmount is a sleepy little farm town, surrounded by cornfields, a few miles south of Marion, another GM company town that has seen its better days. There are tons of cool cars, Mercurys cut and modified, James Dean lookalikes, food stands that sell elephant ears and deep-fried Twinkies, and sock-hops with music from the 50s blaring at every turn.

For the most part, I don’t think the festival has much to do with James Dean anymore—but a longing for a simpler time—which strikes me as ironic since the celebration is about a rebel.

From a distance, these celebrations can seem morbid, a little garish.

I’ve been to Graceland (in the winter, not in the August), and I’ve been to the James Dean Festival in Fairmount—but it has been several years ago. I have witnessed the fervor of fandom first-hand, and I’m still not sure what to make of it, other than this: People still come together to celebrate rebellion—and I think that can’t be all bad. Fairmount is July 4th in September.

What would James Dean think of the hub-bub? Who knows—he’d probably be appalled—or pissed off that his tombstone keeps getting stolen.

But I have to wonder—who are the rebels of today? Who are the actors, the singers, the writers, that are blazing new paths, all the while touching the heart of our core being--the vein of rebellion that we all share? What do you think? Is there anybody out there that qualifies?

You tell me, because, sadly, I think the rebellion has been quieted, replaced with Britney, Paris, and the media scoudrels who want to force-feed our entertainment diet with fast food instead of Rebel Without a Cause.

To borrow on a popular song I wonder: Where have all the rebels gone?

Oh, speaking of rebels, one other thing before I go, check out Stephen King’s take on the state of the short story in this morning’s New York Times ( It’s an enlightening article that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who writes and/or loves the short story form.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Working a full-time job at my age and maintaing a writing schedule that ensures two books a year is taxing, especially when one is teaching in a challenging area where he has never taught before -- no, I don't mean Harlem. I am referring to the subject matter. I have always taught to support my "habit" -- the habit or addiciton of writing. To feed that bug, the teacher's paycheck has kept me going all these years. Yes, even after a long, checkered career with over forty novels sold, I have to keep my day job. There is no such thing as a steady paycheck in writing anymore than in music, poetry, art, or being a marrionette operator.

So I am teaching drama -- theatre to high schoolers. So I am doing Yearbook with high schoolers. What is the saying? That which doesn't kill you can only make you stronger.
Yeah, sure. Uggg!

So if I sound a bit tired and challenged, I am. I am also determined to write the next novel, to see it through as much as I am determined to be the best drama teacher and yearbook teacher that Riverside High has ever encountered bar none. It's a juggling act for sure, and it is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it, and they were desperate to find someone, and I was desperate for work, so there was a meeting of the desperate. It will either be a huge blunder on everyone's part, or I shall rise to the occasion.

Meanwhile, gotta get some sleep. Happy Writing to All --

Rob Walker

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Means Winter, So Get Cyber-Prepared - By Morgan Mandel

This is coming to you from the North Woods of Wisconsin. It's my last vacation of the season, which means closing down the cottage before I leave. This vacation brings mixed feelings as I take in the beautiful fall colors and breathe in the crisp, cool air. Right now I can walk around comfortably wearing a light jacket or sweater. The problem is, I know it won't be long before I'll need to bundle up. The days will be shorter and darker. It won't always be as easy to negotiate sidewalks and roads.

While I'm indoors, besides watching more television, I'll be on my computer writing and e-mailing and connecting with people through cyber space. While you're doing the same thing, you may wish to check out a few places of interest. (Or you may even wish to go to them now so you can get into the habit of checking them.)

One spot is my other group blog, where I've started a series called Back to Basics. I've posted a few excerpts here on this link. To view the entire collection, past and future (I post there on Wednesdays also) you're invited to visit where I blog with other mystery writers from Hard Shell Word Factory.

Besides my Back to Basics series about writing fundamentals, you'll also find another series called Forensic Fridays, by Michele Bardsley, plus individual blogs by other of our mystery authors, covering a variety of topics.

The book network which I began less than a year ago, called Book Place, can be found at It's alive and growing, with 829 members at last count. If you haven't joined, please do so. It's a wonderful palce for promotion and bonding with writers, readers and book industry professionals. It's great for gaining insight and input from people around the globe. I'm constantly amazed by how far the network reaches, even to such places like Australia and Germany.

MySpace is still a popular hangout. If you haven't already done so, please friend me.

As always, I'm constantly updating my website. You never know what you'll find on my dark side or my light side at You're more than welcome to drop in and find out.

Now, back to taking in the colors and enjoying the last of my vacations for the year.

All the best,

Morgan Mandel

Thursday, September 27, 2007

13th Harvest Pow Wow ~ at the Naper Settlement by DL Larson

Are you looking for an outdoor event to attend? Then this weekend, Sept 29 - 30th, come on out to the Harvest Pow Wow at the Naper Settlement in Naperville: 523 Webster Street. The Midwest Soarring Foundation has scheduled an action-packed cultural event for the public.

Admission is $8 for adults, and $5 for kids who are 12 and under. The gates are open Saturday 11:00 - 10:00 p.m. On Sunday from noon - 5:00 p.m. The Grand Entry begins at 1:00 p.m. on both days. And a second one at 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening.

Hoop dancers, singers, and drummers will be featured throughout the day. Children's crafts and games are offered; flintknapping demonstrations, raptors on display, and native artifacts will be there for your viewing. Plus plenty of food vendors and craft booths. The artwork is breathtaking, the jewelry is where most of my $$ ends up, and native American crafts are as diversified as each person's personality. The Naper settlement will also be open for exploring the many buildings and checking out the regalia of the era.

As you've probably figured out ... I'll have a booth. I'll be promoting my book, Memories Trail, a historical set in the 1800's, involving the War of 1812 and Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior who dreamed of a United Indian Nation. My book is a love story and a war story. Midwest Book Review had this to say about Memories Trail ~ "... a story of war, passionate friendship, honor, and betrayl ... a story so full of compassion and purpose it will grab your heart and not let go ..."

I'll also promote my newest release, Promises To Keep, a continuing family saga started in my first book. It is set in 1840's Kentucky. Front Street Reviews said, "...Promises To Keep is a quick read, with a simple story line, yet has miles and miles of meaning and depth to it. I laughed, I cried, I hated, I loved... DL Larson explains in her very real-life novel that love is worth salvaging, no matter what..."

Midwest Book Review quote: "... in this outstanding novel, DL Larson has skillfully woven the tale of family and their struggles ... she lays bare deep hidden secrets, desires and fears; in doing so she weaves within your heart the emotions and commitment that true love brings forth, despite the hideous obstacles that would make the pale run and never look back ... an excellent read ..."

My books are cash and carry. Sorry I don't do credit or debit. Make checks payable to me: DL Larson!

If you'd like to learn more about the 13th Annual Harvest Pow Wow, visit or call 773-585-1744 for more information.

To see more of my reviews, visit ~ Promises To Keep or Memories Trail, by DL Larson.

This will be my second Naper Settlement Pow Wow. Last year it rained on Friday night, during set up time, so on Saturday most of the ground I stood on was soggy and cold. But I had such a good time, a little bad weather didn't deter me. My booth was next to the chapel and I got to watch three weddings take place that Saturday.

The paved walkways in the park make it easy for strollers or small children. And parking is plentiful - or so I've been told. So come on out for a day of culture and entertainment. Oh, and yes, pick up a good book ~ preferrably one by DL Larson!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

REMOVE THE TAGS By Morgan Mandel

Since I'm working on manuscript revisions today, I'm enclosing a copy of my blog from MysteryTurtles.Blogspot.Com

BACK TO BASICS - Part Three- GET RID OF THE TAGS By Morgan Mandel

After you’ve been married a while, buying patterns emerge. When clothes that I like are on sale, I don’t wait for a special occasion. I just buy them. (Sometimes, even when they’re not on sale)

It’s come to the point so many new items travel into the house my husband can’t keep track of them any more.

However, there is one tip-off. If I leave the tags on, he almost always notices. Then I’m bound to hear a comment like, “Not another new whatever.” So I’ve learned it’s best to remove the tags to avoid notice. I need to do this very carefully, so as not to wreck the garment. Usually a scissors is the best instrument for this purpose. If I can’t find one, I’ve been known to use a set of nail clippers instead.

Good writers use the same approach. Whenever possible, they remove the tags.

To remove one, you need to know what it is.
Tags are those little phrases that come after a quote, which read something like, he said, she said, he replied, she replied.

If a reader can tell who is saying something without your using a tag, you can safely remove it by using the delete button or back spacing.

Better yet, don’t put a tag on in the first place. (This doesn’t work with clothes purchases, of course.)

One way to avoid the use of tags is to assign some action to the person who is speaking, either before or after the dialog, so it will make sense to the reader,

Such as: Gary frowned at Missy. “Didn’t you just buy a dress last week?”


If you absolutely must keep your tag, another thing I wouldn’t recommend doing with clothes items, make sure it does not draw attention to itself. The best way to do this is by using common tag lines, such as he said, she said, not he shouted, she begged.
Some authors can get by without using the common tag lines, but for the unsure, it’s best to follow the tried and true rules.

Okay, after writing this, I’m in the mood for buying more clothes. Time to shop.
Until next time,
Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Writing toll roads

Some of us spend too much time reading discussion lists instead of writing.

Mea Culpa.

So a couple of recent discussion threads on one list or another--they all run into one another after a while--bemoaned novelists' lack of market power in relationship to publishers and the sorry state of trying to make a living while writing fiction for a living. Connected to these discussions are threads concerning how certain organizations that profess to represent writers seem have deemed certain publishers acceptable (on an "approved" list) versus unacceptable (not on the organization's list).

From these threads and a recent review comes this week's blog. And yes, riding a motorcycle is in here too.

With the phrase "starving author" being redundant, we should realize that these two complaints are not the sole property of novelists: starting salaries for journalists are among the lowest in any profession, business technical writing now comes cheaply since corporations have turned to offshore writers, and (Thanks to this month's Esquire magazine for this) you can tell the dumbest actress on a movie set because she's the one sleeping with the writer. It's a well-worn bar joke, in fact, that when asked why one writes fiction, the answer is "I'm in it for the money." Every author in the house smiles wryly, then has another drink--ensuring they order what's on special. A few mutter "don't quit your day job."

Of course you're in it for the money. If you're not, you don't get to take certain deductions on your Federal Income Tax. Consult your tax adviser for details.

A few authors make good money and even fewer make big money. Most make a pittance. My last royalty check was so small, I wouldn't let it go out of the house unsupervised.

I have spent some time with accountants. Good people, but when they calculate the return on investment I receive on my writing, they shake their heads. I don't blame them--I often question my own behavior just as a recent Novelist's Boot Camp reviewer did. Now, I like this reviewer, since I like anyone who buys my book and who then gives it 4-1/2 stars. That said, the reviewer wrote (probably for free) that "[Novelist's Boot Camp] stops short of actually putting together a proposal that will sell said novel to an agent/editor who can in turn give your book true bestseller potential."

Absolutely true. And intentional. And never mind that you don't sell fiction on proposal unless you've sold a dozen manuscripts already.

It's not about the destination, it's about the ride; it's not about the sale, it's about writing the damn book.

I believe writers and authors and "creatives" in general are monetarily under-rewarded for their work. To attempt to earn one's daily bread by writing for a living is a career choice. The sad and unfair fact but fact nonetheless is that if you make the choice to do so, you are choosing a career field in which monetary rewards--the occasional headline mega-advance notwithstanding--are most often meager.

So that brings us back to why ride motorcycles and why write?

Because we can, because we must, and because we will.

Monday, September 24, 2007

No Sense in 50 Cent

I'm mad at 50 Cent.

Yeah, I'm torqued at the rapper dude. Uh. he's a rapper, right?


Enneyway, ya, see, he got all up in my grill. He best be steppin' off, yo'.
IMA bust a cap on, ...

"What the heck is he talking about?" you're probably wondering. Don't worry, I'll get there.

It goes like this. Amanda Richards, one of the Top 100 Amazon Reviewers, wrote awesome reviews of both of my books, all in rhyme. I plugged the first one in my blog here a couple weeks ago.

Anyway, out of the blue, I received an email from her apologizing because now there was some negative stuff written about her review on Amazon's book site. Mind you, not about my book.

The review.

"Huh?" I thought.

"Huh?" I typed at her.

She went on to explain that she also reviews music, and apparently when she put in her two cents worth about the latest 50 Cent album, he, or some of his people, or some of his fans, didn't care for her negative review of his, so they started attacking her reviews.

Unfortunately for one Norm Cowie, his was the one just before it. So now if you check out my book (The Next Adventures of Guy), you'll see her review (and another by another Top 100 reviewer). And you'll also note that less than half of the people found the review 'helpful.'

So basically, they attacked her bad review of his album by giving her negative reviews ... of her reviews.

She went on to tell me that the Amazon filters would probably cut out questionable stuff, and then she said that she would put the review up again at a later date so that this skirmish wouldn't reflect on my book, which she loved.

I guess I can't really get mad at 50 Cent, since in the long run I'll benefit by receiving more publicity. So maybe I won't have to throw away my 50 Cent CD's after all.

So now all I have to do now is go buy one, so that I won't have to throw it away.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nine Months before R Day by Margot Justes

That would be Nine Months before the Release of my book. I thought I’d share with you my efforts to market A Hotel in Paris prior to the release date.

My Web Gal is adding an events page to my website, since I have already firmly lined up four events for 2008. She also created a spot for reviews, it cannot be seen yet, but it will appear alongside the text.

My Web Guy came up with a unique idea for a book trailer, which will be under construction soon. This is the perfect spot to segway to Mr. Tom Jones.

If anyone out there has a connection to Tom Jones, please let me know. I sent
a request to his agent for permission to use his “You’re My World” in the book trailer.
It has only been three weeks, but so far no response.

I have also spoken to all the local Borders and Barnes and Noble, both here and in Lafayette and West Lafayette, Indiana and as well as independent bookstores, and have received a yes from everyone I’ve approached. To firm things up, I need to talk to them again three months prior to the release.

I found a niche market with Art Galleries, and art shows, which I will actively pursue in the beginning of the year.

I have people distributing bookmarks coast to coast, and some bookmarks even found their way to Montenegro. I am working on a connection for Paris, however tenuous I am going to actively pursue it.

I am considering advertising in Romance Sells, a quarterly publication for Booksellers and Librarians, as well as CrimeSpree and elsewhere...

If anyone has other ideas, please share.


Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC

Cheers and Jeers -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I cheered this week when I read Norm’s announcement that he was writing a YA novel. Good for you, Norm. And better yet, good for you for doing the research. In an environment where we writers are easily pigeon-holed into being mystery writers, western writers, or short story writers, it’s great to see other writers spreading their wings and stretching their muscles. Isn’t that what being a writer is all about? Good luck on your journey, Norm.

I cheered this week when Robert Duvall won the Emmy for Best Actor in Broken Trail, and announced to the world that “The western is here to stay!”

Like the premature announcement of Mark Twain’s death, the western has been buried and resurrected more than once. Top box-office draws this week include Jesse James and 3:10 to Yuma. The cycle continues. But the western will never be what it was in the 1950s and 60s. And that’s not a bad thing. The western is slowly becoming recognized as the Literature of the West, and it will endure with top-notch writers in the field like Richard S. Wheeler, Loren Estleman, and Johnny D. Boggs (check out Boggs’s latest novel Northfield, if you haven’t gotten enough of Jesse James). The recent spate of big-time movie projects is proof of that.

Jeers for the week are more frightening. The mention of Tasers and free speech, the Jena 6, politics, all bring jeers. I’m not going on a rant—but I could, I really could—but I don’t this blog is the place for that.

Finally, I’ve been trying to digest the recent loss of a couple of writers who I’ve read and impacted my life.

First off, Madeleine d'Engle. A children’s writer…boy do I hate that tag—jeers for anyone who uses that tag in a denigrating way. A Wrinkle in Time introduced a whole generation to tesseracts, time travel, and great storytelling. She’s been eulogized in a lot of places, including on this blog last week, and I doubt I can add anything other than this:

Her work took me away, showed me the possibilities of love, of courage, and dreaming.

Man, and she was just a children’s writer… Good luck on your journey, Madeleine, and thank you—thank you for keeping the child in all of us in your heart and showing us the way to our own.

And Robert Jordan passed away recently—author of the Wheel in Time series who died at 58 from an incurable blood disease. Jordan started his career writing the Conan books and the Michael Fallon historical romance trilogy. I’m a Robert E. Howard fan, but I’ve never read the Fallon books. I plan to hunt them down. The sad thing is Jordan wasn’t able to finish the Wheel in Time series. That’s one of a writer’s worst fear, I think.

Ed Gorman wrote a great piece on his blog about Jordan, and I don’t think I could do better. Check it out at Ed's blog.

And finally, I’ll end this on a cheer—Happy 60th birthday to Stephen King. You scared the hell out of me from the start with Carrie, and you’re still doing it. May we all be so lucky at 60.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

TO BE OR NOT TO BE By Robert W. Walker

To BE or not to BE....

Come on, Shakespeare was asking the age old question, should I live or should I die....but he was also intending to send a message about simple grammatical matters -- should I use the Verb to Be or should I use an ACTIVE Verb? Should I live (use active verbs) or should I die (use inactive verbs -- the verb to BE).

I don't know anything if I don't know that DRAMATIC writing is built on visual imagery, and there is no Visual Component in the mind when we use the verbs WAS or WERE or most any form of the BE verb, and helping verbs and linking verbs.

I ask you, do you SEE and BELIEVE it, do you smell it -- this BE word? He BE a tall man. He was a tall man. They were tall men--those rough riders who rode into town. Their clothes were clinging to them, and they were painted on it seemed.

All the action is KILLED by the overuse of the Was\Were and to be verbs. Do you so easily BELIEVE and accept that these men were tall? How does the verb WAS prove tallness? How tall is tall anyway?

Do you smell these dirty, dusty riders when they come into town if the author writes: They were riding into town, dust trailing them. I don't feel it or smell it or see it, not so long as they were riding....

Take a lesson from 3:10 to Yuma -- both the Glenn Ford/Van Heflin original oldie and the new Crow\Bale remake -- as fine a remake as ever was made, by the way. At any rate, in this film ACTION and DRAMA are the driving force of a great, great story of a dirt farmer who finds himself confronting the most evil killer in the territory and must get him on the 3:10 to Yuma for money and for pride.

Here is how we paper and black ink mark writers who do not have the Silver Screen to do the sound effects and the odors and the visual componets must write this scene:

Tall, thin, angualr men, they rode into town on dusky, perspiring horses, dirt and sand chasing them, painting their clothes. Clothes that clung to them as if for life.

Now there's no pesky "helping" verbs here; no verbs To Be either. All the verbs are Working Dogs -- like RODE, CHASING, PAINTING, and in the second sentence CLUNG. Each of thse ACTIVE, ACTION verbs has a visual componet that the mind's eye can see, smell, feel, hear even. The sound of the horses was like thunder is not as good as The horses thundered through the town.

That's my take on Active vs. Passive verbs, and you can ride that all the way to the rodeo. If you look closely at bestselling authors and authors people keep coming back to read, you will find a good 90-80 percent of their sentences combine the subject and action verb time after time.

Good Luck with your writing, wranglers!

Rob Walker
City of the Absent is up for pre-order (Dec. release)

The Tomatoes in my Garden

When I pull into my drive I can see the dark red shining through the thinning foilage in my garden. When I plop down in my comfy chair on my back porch I can practically count the red fruit hanging from the dying stems. And yes, when I stand at my kitchen sink, if I cast a glance through the back door that too gives me a view of the many tomatoes still clinging to the vines.

I've waited all summer for home-grown tomatoes. Their texture, the fresh earthy aroma, the firm yet juicy ripeness is a what a gardener dreams of. Store bought tomatoes have never appealed to me. I buy them only when desperation demands I do, ususally for some salad in the dead of winter. Those pathetic replicas only add color not flavor to a meal. But my home-grown tomatoes ... now were talking tasty, sumptuous delight.

But I'm tired, and it's been buggy out. I know from experience the mosquitoes buzz around my garden and I don't want to be bit only to spend the evening scratching and digging. And let's face it, I've picked all the ones at the edge of the garden. The ones I need to get to are on the inside of the tangled vines. I'd have to plow my way through, pulling and separating the scratchy, prickly stems. So that means I need to find my garden gloves.

I know I own some; they were on my fingers all spring and partly through the summer when I on occasion actually weeded my garden. BLTs would taste devine about now. Yes, I need to find my gloves. I can do this. Wading through the vines means real shoes not sandals, socks and jeans. But it's unseasonably warm this September. The weatherman said something about high 80's today.

Okay, so I need gloves, shoes, socks, pants and I should probably find a basket to hold all the fruit I'm going to pick. I've done this before - I'm no dummy. If one wants to tackle the tomato garden, one needs to be prepared. It's no fun tip-toing into that scraggly mess without a bowl or basket. I've learned it's harder to go back in once retrieving the needed holding device. And if one has a bug phobia, I'm not mentioning names here, one needs to move quickly and not venture in when dusk is setting. Believe me, the banana spiders don't look friendly after their homes have been destroyed.

Whew, I'd forgotten how difficult it is picking tomatoes. But they're right there ... ripe and shining in the sun, looking for all purposes ready to accommodate me and my wishes for a BLT. I take a deep breath. I pace the confines around the tomato patch. The sun shining caught three spider webs, there could be more. The basket swings from my fingers, still empty. Am I chewing my lip? For heaven's sake!

A familar red pick-up pulls in the drive. A tall, rugged-looking man saunters across the yard towards me. I hand him the bowl and he smiles. He's no dummy either.

"How many do you need?" he asks.

"Oh, fill the bowl up," I say. I saunter back to the house. Yep, BLT's will taste mighty fine. I love gardening.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Morgan Mandel Is September Spotlight Member in Writer's Digest Book Club Newsletter - Here's the Link, And More Goings On

Hi everyone,
I'm excited to be chosen the September Spotlight Member for Writer's Digest Books newsletter.
If you have a copy of the newsletter, please turn to Page 16. If not, Linda Walker at Writer's Digest Book Club has set up a new link to view at

Lately, I've been busy setting up not only individual booksignings, but also group signings for members of Chicago-North Romance Writers of America. My next booksigning is scheduled for Saturday, October 6, 2007, from 11-1 pm at Book Work in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

For a complete list of my booksignings, please go to

I've also been contacted concerning a library appearance or two of our group for the Inside Writing & Publishing Series at Illinois libraries. I'll let you know when more information becomes available.

Soon, maybe even today, I'll be sending out my first library bulletin for Midwest Mystery Writers of America as their library liaison. When it's ready, I'll post a copy for all to see.

Until then,
All the best,
Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ah - the Internet - a Wonderful Thing!

One of the things I do for Todd is search the Internet periodically to see what's being said about his books - both fiction and non-fiction. I stumbled on a link to an entry back in 2003 by Piers Anthony about a workshop of Todd's that Piers attended. We were all attending the 2003 EPIC and Piers was the guest author/speaker and he was incredible. The fact that he included favorable comments about Todd in his blog still makes me smile. Piers Anthony was a best seller in the 70's and beyond, and I remember while studying at UCLA during that time how wildly popular he was as an author with all the students. It seemed like everyone was reading his books.

Well, here's what he said about Todd's workshop back in 2003:

"Next I attended Todd Stone's "Talk Like a Man" program, because I do a fair amount of female viewpoint narrative and want to be sharp on the distinctions between male and female expression. Todd used slides with printed paragraphs. He said that dialogue is a challenge, and said it is not recorded speech but forged speech; counterfeit rather than real. Had he lost his marbles? No, he was right on. Translation: he agreed with my observation over the decades. Real speech is fraught with "uh" and similar interjections, it backtracks, it sidetracks, it fouls up with wrong words and awkwardnesses. It would be boring as hell in narrative writing. So we clean it up for fiction, make it sharp, on-target in a way natural speech seldom is. And what do you know, that makes it seem realistic. Art imitates life, becomes more real than life. So if you want your character to talk like a man, you fake it. And before you females expire of the giggles, remember that female dialogue is similarly faked.

It was a good presentation, and I have more notes on it, but I'll skim on. I think I summarized the essence of the difference between male and female writing, which is akin to the distinctions in their dialogue, years ago: a woman takes the reader by the hand and leads him to view her wonders. A man picks the reader up by collar and crotch and hurls him into the action. Both techniques have their points. At the end Todd gave the audience a spot assignment: write a piece about two lovers who quarrel and make up, showing their different approaches. Then exchange it with your neighbor for comparison. I was sitting next to Katharine, a long-time correspondent and novelist in her own right, so we exchanged. And you know, we both found it hellish to write that on short notice. When we did, we discovered it was essentially the same thing, except that I was still foundering for a suitable lead-in to my text, while she had figured one out that would do for either of our pieces. "Andrea said, pirouetting: 'Do I look all right?' Andy, not looking up: 'You look fine.'" That of course precipitated mischief, which was the point of the exercise; she wanted to be noticed and appreciated; he wasn't doing it. Just like a man."

Here's the link for the complete entry about the conference:

And here's the link for more info on the EPIC

Monday, September 17, 2007

How YA doing?

I admit it.

I'm thinking of taking a walk on the wild side... or the YA side.

Young adult.

Actually, I'm doing more than thinking about it... I'm going forward with it.

I'm about 15% into my next venture, a YA humor/vampire book, and before I get too deep, I thought I should make sure that since my book is about teens, for teens and, um... other teen-stuff, I figured that I should make sure the characters are believable, the plot engaging enough to suck in a mind numbed by Playstation, the POV true and addicting.

So I was driving along the other day, and spied two neighborhood girls who had learned that a writer lived in the neighborhood, and ventured one day to come find me.

This time I went to them and asked them if they would mind reading the first pages and let me know what they thought.

Well, one thing led to another, and now I'm going to spend an entire day in their junior high as a guest of the school. I'm going to talk to classes, eat lunch with them, catch myself a couple detentions, and plan on having a rip-roaring time. The teacher who is coordinating everything even said she'd bring in some subs for lunch or something, and I said, "no way. I'm going to sit with the critters."

I'm hoping that sharing this time with them will help them get excited about writing, while helping my own meager attempts to humor, educate and entertain.

Then I'm going to take a page out of Joe Konrath's book, and will name every kid by first name and last initial in the acknowledgements ... can you say 'automatic sales'?

I'll let you know how it goes.

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

(look for me at the Baltimore Book Festival Sept 28 and the Midwest Literary Festival (Aurora Il.) the first weekend of Oct.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Magnificent Voice by Margot Justes

Luciano Pavarotti is gone, his remarkable voice silenced.

His recordings have been selling out, but I for one, had not been able to listen to his voice since his death.

This weekend my younger daughter came home and brought a recording of Turandot with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti and at her insistence I listened. His rendition of Nessun Dorma always brought goose bumps, today it brought tears. My daughter graciously pointed out I was a blubbery cry-baby. She was right.

His voice always moved me, I still have a tape, yes a tape, of a recording I have had for over thirty years, excerpts from arias that gained him the title of King of the High C's. Today I listened to that as well. I listened with profound gratitude and paid hommage to a magnificent voice.

Luciano Pavarotti is gone, but his voice will live forever. Someone in an article wrote something along the lines, that Angels in heaven are now listening to that glorious voice. All I can say, is that here on earth, he shall be greatly missed, his voice may be silenced, but he will live in our memories and hearts forever.

Through the many recordings, we will have the pleasure of listening to that pure, electrifying, magnificent voice.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC

Cold Air -- By Larry D. Sweazy

With fall right around the corner, change is in the air. This morning it’s a bit chilly, in the low 40s. The sky is cloudless, pale blue, and the chipmunks in my backyard are frantic, gathering acorns and hickory nuts at warp speed. Unlike the fox squirrels and red squirrels that also live in the backyard, chipmunks are hibernators. They go into short torpid states (their heartbeats slow to almost nothing, burning very little energy), for 8 to 10 days, then they wake up, eat, then go back to “sleep”, and repeat the cycle until spring, or until their food is gone. If there is a warm stretch in the winter, you might see a chipmunk scampering about, trying to restock its cache, but for the most part, once the first snowflake flutters to the ground, the chipmunks disappear.

Interestingly enough, the hummingbird feeders have been active as well. We only have ruby-throated hummingbirds that nest in Indiana, and they are fattening up, readying for their long journey south. Hummingbirds go into a torpid state every night, closing their fragile wings, barely breathing, too. I have never seen a hummingbird sleeping, but I’d like to.

Since I live in the Midwest, chipmunks are typically the only animal to offer me the opportunity to witness hibernation. There are no bears in Indiana. The fact that hummingbirds and chipmunks share a common state baffles me, comforts me in an odd way, and crystallizes the reality that we all, animal and human, have our commonalties.

So, hibernation has always fascinated me. A primal survival technique that some how bypassed human DNA. Winters in Indiana can be tough, depending on the year, and the idea of sleeping through them is appealing, especially the older I get. But I’m kind of glad I don’t hibernate.

I like the change of seasons. I like sitting by the fire reading a book, a pot of chili simmering on the stove. I like the silence of winter. I like watching the winter birds on the feeder, scads of cardinals sitting on limbs covered in hoarfrost, content on a supper of sunflower seeds, or juncos scampering on the ground happy for the millet I put out. Winter slows us all down, forces us to consider the silence. We don’t go into a “torpid” state, but I would argue that the heartbeat of time is different for humans in the winter than it is in spring or summer.

As a writer I always look forward to winter, it's my most productive time of the year.

Now that the first cold front has swept down from the Arctic, I am looking toward the coming days, planning my projects, setting my writing goals, checking my cache to make sure I have enough ideas to keep me busy until spring. I think do. But I’m always adding more, making sure I have enough ideas to sustain my creative self through the short days and long nights of winter. It is my part in the natural cycle of things.

I feel the urge to store ideas like chipmunks feel the urge to gather acorns, or hummingbirds feel need to double their weight in a short period time. It is almost an unconscious act, preparing for winter. Maybe it’s habit—or maybe it is something else, something hidden deep in the DNA that is as common and mysterious as the air we breath. Maybe it is nothing more than the primal drive to survive, our bond with the chipmunk and the hummingbird.

Sometimes, I think we forget how much we have in common with the creatures who surround our homes.

Friday, September 14, 2007


How do you know you're a writer; when does it hit you? How can you be sure it's what you should take up? And once you have taken up the pen, what keeps you going? The writing life is filled with pitfalls and potholes, especially in the wallet. So why do people do this thing? Why live iwth the torture and the pain and the years of fasting?

In my creative writing classes I could always spot them. The few, the brave, the mad, and the ones with the disease--those who did not choose writing so much as writing chose them. These people breath it, live it, are constantly living inside their heads, and this makes for difficulty in relationships, I can assure you. Then there were the students who thought it be cool to be a writer. Those whlo didn't breath it in and out with their life's blood but rather wore it like a cloatk, a kind of ownership. These ones often wore what they thought appropriate attire for a writer. But they did not live it and breath it and swallow it with their food. They did not take it with them when they left; did not wake up with it in the morning. They did not take it with them on every family trip, vacation, job interview; they simply were not Walter Mitty enough to daydream and sketch out scenes in their heads at every opportunity and the interval between waiting for the bus and the bus's arrival.

Some writers, to be sure, are more intense than ohters, but every successful author I know is just that, intense. Stuck in traffic, he's writing. Awaiting her nails to dry, she's writing. On a honeymoon iwth the new bride, he's writing. On a 25th Weddiing Anniversary in Hawaii, she's still gotta work--she's still gotta write at least a scene a day.

Writers are passionate about writing. It is not a horrific chore but rather a joy looked forward to, and it sure beats reality many or most of the time. The writer is by definition passionate, and he deals with all the huge, great, over the top emotions in his work--love, hate, revenge, courage, horror, cowardice, power, lust, and murder. The author's passion for the passions is his stock and trade. To play all the parts is the joy and the challenge at heart of writing fiction and long work in particular. And every author faces a Triathalon just to get a novel written but he and she are engaged in the "sport" they love. Being benched, being unable to write for whatever reason, now that is the horror of horrors for a real writer.

G'day and G'luck iwth all your writing, and be passionate about it!

Rob Walker
City of the Absent on sale for pre-order now! Available in stores for Christmas!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Synopsis, A Vital Part of Writing!

Last night our WindyCity RWA Chapter held a workshop on creating a good synopsis. The relaxed atmosphere and friendly faces made the night enjoyable even though the topic tends to send many writers in the opposite direction when the word synopsis crops up.

What did I learn? I learned that nobody does a synopsis quite the same way! The presenter, Melody Thomas, had many insightful ideas. I found it intriguing that she writes her synopsis before she finishes her book, usually only a few chapters into her work. I'd never considered that before. But as I pondered the posssibility on my way home, I liked the idea more and more. If I wrote the synopsis first, I wouldn't be bogged down with all the small details that moves the story. I could concentrate on the main topic - whatever it may be. In a romance novel, the romance is the main plot. My historicals wouldn't necessarily fall into that category, but I could still streamline the true plot of my manuscript.

That got me to thinking of you folks who like to make outlines or draft your story before you begin writing. You are actually making your synopsis! So dig those old tattered pages out of the trash or in my case out of some dusty box and look at them again. Hmmmm ... here's something so basic, so simple it's embarrassing ... but it may also be just what you and I need to develop a concise summary of our manuscripts.

The other thing I garnered from the workshop - not every event needs to be in a synopsis! I've struggled with this numerous times. The method to decide if a particular moment is needed in a synopsis is to ask: is it a pivotal point that changes the characters in some way? Think bare bones, no muscle. Be the detective of your own novel to sift out the action/reaction times that create change. It reminds me of the mazes I copy from activity books for my young friends at the library. There may be several paths to follow, but only one leads directly to the end.

I've always been told to keep a synopsis short and to TELL the story, not show it. If you have more than seven or eight pages that's okay. Just let it sit for awhile and then see if there is more you can skim off. Try to whittle it down until nothing but the plot exits. If you mention something twice, chances are you can delete one unless it relates to the character's pivotal change.

When I do a synopsis I have always included a character sketch, a brief but detailed outline of each major person in my novel. I do a brief bio, including such things as what they look like, their age, and what drives them, what scares them, and what morals they possess. I feel this gives the editor or agent a better feel for each character. Then I move into the backstory that better describes the conflicts each character is facing or has endured. So when I begin the plot, I don't have to stop and insert - oh yeah - he hated the sheriff because ....

The time you spend on a synopsis is important, but it is only a portion of your overall work. Your opening story is what an editor or agent will look at first. If those few pages don't catch their attention, your synopsis may not get read. So give all of your novel the attention it needs to look and sound professional.

Good Luck!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

POINT OF VIEW By Morgan Mandel

BACK TO BASICS is my new weekly Wednesday blog for, designed to explain the fundamental writing rules and concepts.

Here's a sample of this week's blog:

Beginners, as well as seasoned writers, will do well to follow the basic precepts of writing, although in some instances, as in the case of exceptional writers, the tenets can be broken.

First of all, What is Point of View?It's the perspective from which a story is told. When writing a novel, an author must decide who is telling the story. Based on that decision, the author will write in either first, second or third person.

FIRST PERSON - Using "I" throughout the manuscript.
SECOND PERSON - Where "You" is the descriptive.
THIRD PERSON - When HE or SHE is used to describe the main character.

Once you've decided which person you'd prefer to use, you'll need to clearly define what the person sees, feels and experiences. When that character takes the stage, everything should be from that character's point of view. He or she cannot see or hear or know about anything outside his or her realm.Example: A character can't see what's happening in another room with some other character without actually being in that room.The author should make it obvious to the reader whose point of view is being used in each instance or confusion and/or irritation will result. Switching back and forth is called Head Hopping and a sign of a novice writer.Skillful writers can travel from one to another character's viewpoint in the same paragraph, but the general rule is to keep in one point of view for each scene or even an entire chapter. When a switch is made, it should blend in with transitions and not be abrupt.

The exception for employing various points of view is the choice of using omniscent point of view, where the author is almost like another character looking down at the main characters and describing everything that happens to each person. Very skilled writers can pull this off, but it's not the general path to follow.

Following the tried and true rules will show publishers and readers that you understand the basic concepts of writing, so remember to follow them when considering point of view in your manuscript.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Outlaw Musings--You can't ride or re-write without a..

A bike on the road is worth two in the shop

We just returned from a great weekend at the St. Louis Sisters in Crime Writersfest, where we presented a full Novelist's Boot Camp alongside Nancy Pickard offering her CASTS system for improving on a draft. It was a fun if tiring full day and evening on Saturday, and the crowd of 50 walked away with copies of Nancy's book on writing and a copy of Novelist's Boot Camp as well. Joanna Slan of the St. Louis SinC had things organized in fine and almost military precision, and the workshop ran smoothly despite unusual hotel conference room environmental challenges.
Most attendees were somewhere along in their first drafts.
Boot Camp went especially well--as it usually does. It was very rewarding to see folks walk away energized, ready to write, and with newfound confidence, a set of strategies, and armed with a new arsenal of techniques they'd learned from our Drills. Nancy's CASTS system put many of the Drills in a different format and context and offered another way to revise scenes in a first draft into a final product.
A few days after we got back we picked up the bike, which had spent a week in the shop. The most expensive part broke, naturally, and so changed any ride plans that were in the works.
So with no bike, there was no ride. And as we pointed out in our Boot Camp Drills and as Nancy pointed out in her CASTS presentation, in order to revise a draft, you must have a draft. You can't ride a bike that's not there (or has a bad alternator--sigh) and you can't revise the rough draft that you pulled from your imagination if there is no first draft to revise. While that's obvious, many miss the implication--revision of the draft is what gets you the publishable novel. Finishing a first draft, "polishing" it, running spellcheck, and then sending it off doesn't get you published, it gets you rejected. You can't revise as you create--that's a contradiction in terms, physically impossible, and a good way to never finish your novel. You can only take the journey of revision when you have your draft done and out of the shop, and only the journey of revision--using the Novelist's Boot Camp Drills of Revision Triage and Passes or Nancy Pickard's CASTS system or both--gets you to your destination of publishable manuscript.
Enjoy the ride!

Monday, September 10, 2007

So What the Heck Am I?

A humor writer?

A mystery writer?

A YA writer?

Judging by results only, I'm a humor writer. Both of my published works are humor. But, then again, they both are also fantasy and sci-fi and mystery.

(as in it's a mystery I got them published?)


(make me!)



(Ow, dammit, that hurt)

Maybe one clue is that I'm a member of the Mystery Writers of America, but not the Humor Writers of America.

Wanna know why?

Cuz there ain't no Humor Writers of America. That's why no one takes humor writers seriously.

This all came up because I'm planning out some of my wanderings this year ... going to the Baltimore Book Festival later this month, Love is Murder in February and Erma Bombek Writer's Shop in April. Sprinkle a few local fairs (Orland, Kankakee, et. al) in there, and I'll get around, atriangle and asquare over the next few months.

But I venture into other areas. I'm currently working on a YA vampire novel, I'm shopping a kidnapping novel, one of my first ventures was a horror/sci-fi.

So what the heck am I?

A writer...


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

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Holding Water -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I’ve been thinking about creativity a lot this week. How to define it. How to tame it. How to channel it. How to push the On-Star button and get immediate directions when I’m sitting at the desk, staring at a blank page.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that trying to capture creativity is pretty much like trying to hold a cup of water in your hands. It’s impossible to hold the water for any length of time. It seeps through your fingers, evaporates, spills onto the floor—leaving only droplets on your palms. Water can’t be controlled. Neither can creativity.

I used to be so focused on my writing that it was the only creative endeavor I would allow myself to commit fully to. I thought I was committing an act of infidelity if I spent time with my camera instead of sitting at my desk. Or cooking. I like to cook, a total act of creativity, especially if you like to cook for a lot of people. I do. A good meal can take all day to prepare…or sometimes, 2 or 3 days. That’s a lot of time away from the desk.

I never took music lessons as a kid, so I decided to take guitar lessons. I took lessons diligently for 2 years—made a lot of progress, learned a lot about music. But I always felt that practicing scales on the guitar was time I should spend writing. Guitar became the mistress to my mistress. So I quit playing guitar for a while. Now I pick at it for fun, for the vibration, for the joy of stringing notes together that make sense.

Back to the camera. I’m a visual person. Several years ago I lived in a cottage along a river. I grew up spending summers at a lake, and life around water calms me. But I didn’t know a lot of what I was seeing, didn’t know the birds and wildlife of the river…so I began documenting everything I saw and identifying it so I would remember the difference between male and female kingfisher, or know a mink when I saw one, or a the joy of seeing a migrating osprey, or the warm fuzzy feeling you always get when you watch a clutch of mallard ducklings swim nervously or happily after their mother. I was on the right track then, because I knew photography only fed the writing. A kingfisher splashing into the river head-first, spearing a bass minnow tells you a lot more than a bird diving into the water and catching a fish.

Somewhere along the line, I got all bound up with desire and ambition. I wanted to be a writer, damn it. Writers write. They don’t cook or spend all day out in the woods taking pictures—or sitting on the porch playing guitar, right?


Droplets of water create rivers and oceans. Simple as that. Every creative act feeds another. There are no mistresses to mistresses. Once I began to allow myself the pleasures in every aspect of my life, my writing got better, began to sell more often. But I had to learn a lesson the hard way…always the hard way.

Writers live. And then they write. That’s a hard lesson to learn. At least it was for me.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Interview with KC Oliver by Margot Justes

KC, tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is KC Oliver and I am the author of the young adult thriller, Pretty Pretty, about two best friends who land summer jobs in a haunted hotel in Hawaii! I live in central Canada, in the province of Manitoba where there is a little of everything; from prairies, to small mountains, to a desert, to northern tundra with polar bears! I share my life with my hubby, my two kids, our wacky kitty, Xena, and an amazing betta named Timbit (yup, I love Tim Hortons!).

What got you interested in writing?
I have always written in one form or another; dabbling in many different genres and all kinds of writing, though young adult fiction has always been my favorite.

How do you develop your plot and characters? Do you use a set formula?
I wish I was more organized when it came to writing, but I am a ‘fly by the seat of the pants’ writer. I do some plotting and character development to get the gist of things, but the bulk of my work is done on the fly. I am a visual writer; I picture my scenes in my mind. I see what my characters see, smell what they smell, hear what they hear, and I observe their conversations, emotions and body language in my mind. It’s kind of like watching a movie in your head and taking notes.

What do you do to relax and unwind?
I work out. I love to work out with weights at the gym and I power walk daily. Another thing I like to do is kick back and watch a movie. I am a real movie buff.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Writing a book and getting it published is an amazing and thrilling experience, but that isn’t where it ends for an author. The marketing and promotion of the published novel are as much a part of the process as the writing. My advice is to learn as much as you can before getting published. (I wish I had known then what I know now. ). Talk to other authors about marketing strategies and promotional ideas. It can be pretty tough to get your name out there, but with a game plan and strong perseverance, both the writer and the publisher will find success.

Thank you KC.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC
Comin in June 2008

Friday, September 7, 2007

Spam's Wonderous Role In The Writing Process By Rob Walker

SPAM Can Be Made to Work for Us!
Finally, a use for spam...or rather a couple of uses for spam. Spam has been given a bad rap. People the world over hate spam, and few understand the "art" of the spammer, and fewer still give one holy hell about the spammer and his problems. Spam is meant to grab your attention, and some of it does just that--while most of it just disgusts us. However, the spammer works extremely hard at coming up with something new and in this I mean a hook. Any coincidental spam message that comes up say with a name you think you know--say that of a relative, now that's targeted spamming. But I digress. How can we writers take hold of the spammer's art and learn from it? Hey, I'm semi-serious here.

OK....for a goodly while, while I was working on my City series -- City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, and City of the Absent (coming Dec), I began to notice (or I had my antennae up for it) all these really cool 18th Century-sounding names like Abekinebar Jayhawker. Now obviously, some thinking spammer thought this name would draw me in like a moth to the flame, and hell if it didn't. That's a character name to die for. Rather than scan my mind, give up on that, then scan the local telephonoe book for character names, it dawned on me that I could just go to my spam...and lo and behold, I had so many cool old world-seeming or sounding names (culling the obvious Muslim and East Indain names) like Saaid Flemming and Momar Lewinski) that I had all the names and more than I could handle for an entire slew of mystery novels with some left over for the occasional horror novel.

My FleshWar on\shorts takes place in India. How I had to rely on my spam for that one! My psychic suspense novel PSI Blue is littered with spam as well. You just have to know it when you see it.

Yes, SPAM has won a place in my heart and in my works. What can I say. I could have filled the pages of Absolute Instinct and other instinct titles with names such as David Wilson, Mark Thompson, Robert Long, Bill Coleman, Tom, Dick, Harry; Tina, Dana, Mary, but I was SAVED by SPAM names...those people who purport to enlarge what I need enlarged and reduce what I need reduced, and fill what I need filling. I needed not their questionable services such as breast enlargements, but I truly did need their cool names-- like Akbar Noggin.

Rob Walker
City for Ransom,
Shadows in the White City,
Psi Blue, FleshWar, and in Dec., City of the Absent

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Going to the Fair!

My husband is in his truck waiting as I post this blog. It's fair time, you know the harvest type fairs so popular in the midwest. The Sandwich Fair started yesterday and tradition has had us attending each Thursday for oh -- some thirty years now. I can smell the cinna-buns already.

We always go in the early morning. The huge trees create a canopy from the sun and it's a wonderful feeling when its rays sneak through to warm everything up. As the day progresses the avenues grow crowded, yet we stop and visit our neighbors and friends as we stroll about. Thursday is pretty much hometown day; the city folk haven't yet discovered that mid-week is better than weekend. Please keep our little secret ~ the streets are crowded enough.

I can't decide what is my favorite part of the fair. The child in me loves to see how much the pumpkins weigh. Our neighbor Kent has won several years for having huge pumpkins, some as heavy as 700 pounds. The librarian in me visualizes a book ... The Pumpkin At The Fair! And I see colorful pictures of a farmer and his crop, one giant pumpkin in the bed of his truck as folks look on with awe. And the grandma in me loves the animals ... the rabbits are my favorite, but the sheep dogs working and showing their talents comes in a quick second. But then there's the petting zoo and the baby chicks are so fuzzy and cuddling and the piglets so pink they need their own crayon named after them. I'd call it piglet pink!

Of course we will look over the new tractors, trailers and trucks. My husband will dream his own dreams as I wonder off toward the barn housing homemade and home grown. The quilts hang as beautifully from the rafters and walls as flowers fluttering in a well kept garden.

And the people ... I love to people watch. If you need a character for your story, just sit on a bench and let your eyes devour the banquet of diversity. I'm usually eating something while I people watch. It's a good disguise; nobody likes being scrutinized. But I can't help myself. I look for those small oddities that make folks unique and my characters intriguing. Once I've filed away several ideas, and my funnel cake is gone, I move on, usually to the restroom to wash sticky fingers.

The antique tractor displays are one of our favorite spots and the pony rides where our granddaughters like to go. We walk through the camper and boats displays, dream of the day when we might own such a luxury. As we pass vendors, my eyes land on harvest and farming decorations. I buy what I can't live without and let the others go.

The day will melt away, but we'll return Friday night for the country western concert
in the grandstands. We may take in the harness racing or tractor and truck pulls. We may even wind our way through the two midways of thrill-a-minute rides.

The days at the fair will go quickly, they always do. But I will sort through my little bag of charater traits I discovered until they are in a safe place for retreaving when I need them. Paper and pen are usually needed for this. I don't trust myself enough to remember minute details anymore.

And the smells ... don't forget to catalog the scents you'll need to create a vivid picture for your readers. The animals offer a wide variety, and mix that in with corn dogs and cotton candy, one wonders how the words don't jump right off the page.
So if you're looking, needing descriptive thoughts, visit a fair this fall. It's a writers delight.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What Do You Expect? By Morgan Mandel

After surviving the monsoon season in Illinois, with its storms and heat and mayhem, I and my husband escaped for a short vaction to Wisconsin.

As many of you are aware, Wisconsers often refer to the mosquito as their official insect, since it is usually so prevalent there.Before we left, we'd been almost eaten alive by the ferocious little critters who dared to even attack in sunlight, not a common practice of their kind in Illinois.

We expected the same or worse treatment in Wisconsin. Much to our surprise, that was not the case. Instead, the mosquitos were nowhere to be found and we were able to freely walk without feeling the danger of small guided missile attacks. That left us with a good feeling.

When you write a book, don't settle for the obvious. Don't pick the first or second choice to resolve a conflict. Stretch the boundaries. Go for the unexpected. Lead the readers down a path to a dead end and let them wonder what will happen next.

Long after they put your book down, they'll remember the good feeling you gave them and they'll want more of the same from you.
Get ready to do another!
PS I'm back home. The mosquitos are just as bad as when I left. Maybe Illinois can adopt the the mosquito as its official insect also!
Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Yes that's what I wrote - bibliotherapy!


Reading Your Way
To Mental Health
July 31, 2007; Page D1

A growing number of therapists are recommending something surprising for depressed and anxious patients: Read a book.

The treatment is called bibliotherapy, and it is gaining force from a spate of research showing that some self-help books can measurably improve mental health. In May alone, the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy published two studies demonstrating the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in patients with depression or other mood disorders. The national health system in Britain this year is prescribing self-help books for tens of thousands of people seeking medical attention for mood disorders.

Here's the link:

I posted this on my RWA Chapter loop with the following comment:

We just need them to endorse romance! Imagine the dosage/slogan: A romance novel a day keeps the blues away!

Monday, September 3, 2007

In Labor Day

Okay, okay, I'm just as impressed as any guy about it. Jeez. Don't hold it over our heads.

I mean, sure, I appreciate the day off and everything, but I just don't get why we should grill steaks and celebrate it. Just weird, if you ask me, and probably most other guys feel the same way, too.

Still though, it was a beautiful day, and it was nice to be home on a Monday... but now it's time to blog, so I figured I'd ask the questions.

I mean, September makes sense, after all... it's the ninth month, right?

It still strikes me as a bit strange to celebrate pain.

And believe me, if the shoe was in the other foot, or the uterus in the.. well,... you get the point. Anyway, no guy that I know would ever go through the pain of childbirth. I mean, if it were up to us guys, we'd die out as a species.

So maybe I'm being a bit hasty.

Maybe we should allow for this. Make it a holiday, if it were. Celebrate what has to happen in the creation of life.

So with this in mind...

Happy Labor Day.

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

Sunday, September 2, 2007

An interview with Silvia Foti by Margot Justes

An interview with Silvia Foti, author of The Diva's Fool. It is a delighful mixture of suspense, opera, Tarot cards and it is set in our own Chicago Lyric Opera House.

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I've been a journalist for twenty years, writing for trade magazines, Chicago newspapers, consumer magazines, websites. I've recently reincarnated to be a high school English teacher, a lifelong dream.

Your current book deals with Opera and Tarot cards, that is an unusual combination. How did that come about?

I love opera; my mother was an opera singer who played with Tarot cards. What I love about the cards is they offer a way to organize life intwenty-two steps. I crave knowing there is an intelligent design to life, that it's possible to reduce the chaos and complexity to twenty-two steps, and that by studying their archetypes and finding ways to apply their messages, one can become wiser and closer to spiritual enlightenment. As Iwrite this, I am laughing, for I'm not sure I truly take this seriously, but as I said, I love the idea of it.

What prompted you to write, and did you always want to be a writer?

My eighth grade teacher took me aside one afternoon and suggested I be awriter when I grow up. I took her words to heart. A teacher's words can be profound and affect you for the rest of your life. I've kept a diary since Iwas eight years old and had my first play performed live in fifth grade, and I've been hooked ever since.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Read, watch movies, take walks, giggle with my kids.

What advice would you give to other writers just starting out?

Take as many classes as you can in creative writing, and try to write something everyday.

Thank you Silvia,


Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Echelon Press LLC

Union Hot Dogs -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I live 45 minutes from the town I grew up in, Chesterfield, Indiana, a small town on the outskirts of a larger industrial Midwestern city, Anderson, a once mighty player in the automobile industry. In accordance with Thomas Wolfe’s famous line, “You can never go home again,” I abide, and rarely go back.

When I was a kid, Anderson was a thriving metropolis with two General Motors plants as its economic center, Delco Remy and Guide Lamp. Delco made alternators and Guide made headlights, among other parts—and was solely owned and operated by GM. There were other smaller factories in Anderson, but between the two GM operations, they employed more than 20,000 people in their heyday. Anderson was a company town. You did not dare drive a Ford or a Japanese car. Most everybody that lived in Chesterfield, a one-stop-light town on the way to nowhere, worked for GM. It wasn’t really a suburb, not in today’s terms, or a bedroom community, it was an extension, a small outpost, vanilla icing on a large sheet cake. The pace was slower, and Chesterfield was firmly planted with 7 churches and 6 taverns. Even then there was a balance between good and evil.

My grandparents migrated to Anderson from Illinois in the late 1930s, and my grandfather was employed at Delco until the early 1960s, when he retired. He was an elevator operator in Plant 1, the administration offices. Most all of my aunts, uncles, some cousins, and even my mother, step-father, and half-brother, worked for GM at one point or another in their lives. My life as kid depended on GM.

I remember strikes. Sick leaves. Shut-downs. The smell of a new Buick. My grandfather’s Oldsmobile—always white, always a 4-door (we didn’t call them sedans, that was too pretentious for us). And I remember the Union. UAW (United Auto Workers), a once powerful force that celebrated holidays with cookouts for its members at the Union Hall on the Bypass.

What does a kid know about unions, other than it was an entity that existed in my household, an underlying current that had as much or more influence on our well-being as GM did. We were factory kids—very few of members of my family worked in management. They were Remy rats; floor workers, binders, press operators—non-skilled tradesmen.

My first pair of glasses came from the optometrist at the Union Hall, heavy plastic black frames and thick lenses. My 5th grade picture makes me look like a nerd from the Wonder Years. There was a pharmacy there, too. And doctors offices. All to care for union members. Health care was something we took for granted.

And on Labor Day weekend, there was that cookout. Rows upon rows of 55 gallon barrel drums cut in half and made into grills. The grills would be all ablaze with dancing fire, billowing with the blue smoke of hamburger fat dripping on charcoal. There was music, pony rides, balloons, clowns. It was a carnival. All for free as long you had your union card. The cookout was a thank you to the working man (and woman)…a brief reprieve from the monotony and thud, thud, thud of 2 ton presses and the smell of melting glass. A breath of fresh air.

Hot dogs never tasted so good.

You know how this is going to end. You know the world we live in today.

There is no longer a General Motors plant in Anderson. 20,000 jobs gone. Delco Remy's Plant 11 is now a field of grass, the parking lot a buckling sea of cement, heaving upward, crumbling day by day. Plant 3 is gone—the limestone fa├žade crafted in the thirties in Art Deco style is nothing but dust, hauled away in a parade of dump trucks. The past rests in the landfill, the elevator cage my grandfather operated melted, recycled, used up, used again, and just used. The foundation and land have to be toxic, of little use. The Union Hall is gone, too, moved to a small office to service the retirees who still remain in town, all them tired, shell-shocked…wondering who’s going to speak for them now that they are too old and too weak to speak for themselves. There was always somebody there to do it for them—the Union. What are they are going to now?

I could go on, and tell you about the dangers of a town betting its existence on one company. But you know that story. It’s our American story. Here today. Gone tomorrow. You clean up the mess. We fed you. Clothed you. What more do you expect, we need to lower our expenses and make a profit?

I rarely go home. Because home is no longer there. The Anderson of my youth is the dust we breath, the memories of summer coming to an end, and the chill of fall, a promise of cold weather and loneliness, right around the corner. The free hot dogs, eternal youth, and the certainty of staying warm and clothed in the winter are just a fantasy—a Wonder Years dream better left to the movies and literature.

Anderson is a bedroom community now, a 30 minute commute to the suburbs of Indianapolis, an hour from downtown, Monument Circle and Conseco Fieldhouse…a world away.

There is a reason why we have a 3 day weekend at the beginning of September, why we have Labor Day. But I think we have mostly forgotten, mostly given up the reasons to celebrate since we have sent the workingman’s clothes away from our own shores, and the boarded up the windows to our own shops…our own dreams.

I exist in the global economy, benefit from it. I am not complaining about the way of the world today, or fighting against the tide—globalization is here to stay, and as an adult, I can live with that. The past is gone. But I still celebrate Labor Day like I did when I was a kid...

Today I will remember the days when union meant coming together. That’s as close to going home as it gets for me.