Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Last Friday, against my better judgment I ventured once again to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library for the Friends of the Library Night book sale. This is the special night reserved for Friends of the Library members the night before the general public book sale starts. To be a friend, it's only $5.00, so it's worth the investment.

Between autographed books from friends I absolutely will not part with and books I would like to read but never seem to get a chance to, I own an overabundance of books. I had no business adding more to my collection but couldn't resist.

Although the library organizes the event by passing out numbers so everybody doesn't rush in at once, the sales room is a scene of semi-controlled bedlam. No one tramples on anyone, but sometimes they do come close. People sit or stoop to look at books under the tables, while others try to get around them. It's difficult to spend any amount of time trying to check what a book is about because there are so many people dying to get into the same area.

Then there are the notorious booksellers making their rounds with mini-computers which scan books into programs to gauge what the books are worth. These people are fast and know what they're doing. Before an average person can even pick up a book, it's swiped up into a huge canvas bag and deposited in the stage area, where boxes are kept. Entire dollies are wheeled out with what I assume are priceless books that will be for sale on e-bay or in bookstores.

Despite the bustle, I, being adventurous about stuff I really want, do try to get to the Friends of the Library Book Sale whenever I can. So, I did brave the mob and managed to pick up a few goodies for my collection - a few cds and some promising-looking books which I hope to finish before the next book sale, but probably won't be able to.

While I did my browsing, I happened to run into my hair stylist, Dan, from Village Family Hair Care, 108 North Evergreen, in downtown Arlington Heights. I'm including his photo, along with another from the event.

By the way, if you live in the area and need a good haircut, Dan can be reached at 847-259-4464. Tell him Morgan sent you. If you come to his shop, you'll notice my bookmarks, business cards and postcards on the counter by the register. I never miss a chance at promotion if I can help it.

Until next time,

All the best,
Morgan Mandel

Mark your calendar: Meet Morgan Mandel and DL Larson at the Schaumburg Barnes & Noble book signing ... on Thursday, November 29th, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Roads not taken

Recently, the Chicago Tribune carried an article by Emilie Le Beau titled "When to surrender." In that feature, Le Beau quotes literary agent Michael Larsen as saying "The reality is, agents and editors reject nearly 100 percent of what they see."

At least they're consistent.

What follows is not the usual "keep writing and keep at it and one day you'll make it" pep talk, because that pep talk is just so much verbal balm.

As novelists we go on submitting to traditional publishers because that's where the most money is, at least for fiction. But we know the odds are against us, especially first-timers. We keep doing so because we wrote the damn book, and we think it's good, we want it published, and we want to get paid at least something for our work. So we drive straight ahead down the lane of getting an agent and getting an editor's attention, convinced that our combination of brute force and determination will get us through and get us published.

There are several interesting things about riding a motorcycle, but one comes to mind as most relevant here.

Motorcycling makes you much more aware of your surroundings. When you're on a bike, you're not as insulated from the world as you are in the glass and steel confines of a car. And while there's been many a cold morning when I've been on the bike and wished for more insulation, even as I focus on the road, I can't help but "see" more of what's happening around me. Indeed, key to a biker's longevity is to "see" farther ahead , "see" threats coming from behind, and "see" potential dangers and escape routes ahead and to the left and right. A biker sees the environment differently too. Bikers do see the world differently in terms of threats, possibilities and opportunities.

Writers would be well advised to look around and see the writing and publishing world differently as well. If you see only the lane of traditional publishing, you'll likely find that lane full of traffic. Which is not to say you have to either drive off-road and self-publish, as driving off-road and self-publishing fiction both have low probabilities of success. The number of alternatives to traditional (often known as "New York") publishing are very substantial and in fact greater than any time in US history, if only novelists would see them.

And who says you have to stay in the US?

As a biker, I've learned to stay away from Interstate highways. Supposedly the fastest, most direct, and cheapest methods of driving from point A to B, I've found them crowded, boring, dangerous, slow, and mind-numbing. I can travel 500 miles and see the same fast food restaurants as I saw in the place I started.

I now see the world not in terms of Interstates, but in terms of good back roads. The back roads are often slower, twistier, more challenging, and sometimes harder to find. However, that trip is much more rewarding. And, I end up at my destination feeling like I've seen much more. I have to watch out for speed traps, but on the Interstate I have to keep an eye out for overzealous state troopers anyway.

If you are a novelist, consider seeing the publishing world differently. You may find your journey much more rewarding if you get off the toll road.

Enjoy the ride.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Playing with fire ... bwah ,ha, ha

I gotta tell you a deep dark secret about myself.

I'm a lazy researcher.

In fact, I'm pretty much a non-researcher. I rarely, if ever do anything that might be misconstrued as research.

I mean, sure, during my first book I Googled Dan Quayle quotes to make sure that I was using actual quotes rather than just the quotes that people suggested DQ would have spoken had he thought of it.

We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.
Dan Quayle, 9/22/90

I stand by all the misstatements that I've made.
Dan Quayle, to Sam Donaldson, 8/17/89

Still though, as research, it wasn't much different than just Googling Knock Knock jokes. Fun, but not particularly informative.

(Oh, sorry Larry, Quayle is from your state, right?)

Anyway, as far as putting effort into researching a book, Dan Brown I'm not. And, uh, as far as book sales, Dan Brown I'm not. ... and, well, okay, enough of that.

But today I did some research! Really!


There's a story that I'm working on a story where a pothead starts a big fire by catching his munchies on fire.

My research? I needed to know if potato (or as Quayle would say, 'potatoe') chips are flammable.

So I collected my resident pyro, my daughter Lauren, and we convened a high council of pyromaniacs on the front porch. I held the chip, glistening with grease, and she had a fireplace match.

I held my breath as the match got near the chip....

You wanna know if potato chips burn? Do your own experiment. Either that, or read my book to find out.

(hmmm... wonder if Cheetos burn?)

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

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloween -- by Larry D. Sweazy

So this week brings us Halloween. It is my wife’s favorite holiday of the year. Last year we had almost a hundred trick-or-treaters. She keeps count with a joyous fervor. There’s 10 pounds of candy hidden in the pantry. Our street looks like the Halloween scene out of the movie, ET. It’s pretty cool actually.

Thankfully the days of soaping windows and toilet papering trees are past us—not that I ever engaged in such devious behavior…

Now, we just have a band of cute kids dressed up in all sorts of costumes knocking on the door, and robbing me of my Snickers bars…OK, OK, I don’t mind sharing so much…as long as there’s some Tootsie Rolls left for me.

The cool thing about Halloween is, even in its watered down form from when I was a kid, we still encourage kids to dress up and be something else for a day. A pirate. A witch. A pumpkin. And that’s the best part. Imagination is still a part of our lives…for a day, anyway. We still encourage kids to PLAY dress up.

I loved Halloween as a kid. In the town we grew up in you could trick-or-treat for 3 nights. Throwing corn and soaping windows started a week before. I haven’t seen a soaped window in years. You’d probably get shot or sued today if you did some of the stuff we did as kids (other kids--like I said, I never did any of that stuff, I swear).

It was innocent fun, but now that I’m older, it really wasn’t as harmless as I thought was at the time. There are few tricks in my neighborhood, and in a way, the edge has been taken off Halloween for me because of that…

Anyway, back to imagination, which is what this post is all about. The great thing about being a writer is that is Halloween every day for us. We get to play any character we want, dress them up, put in them in exotic locations, and if we're lucky, our work finds an audience and a reader will tell us that we touched their heart, made them laugh, took them away from their problems for a day. That’s better than a sack full of Snicker’s Bars if you ask me.

But we have to grow our imagination, allow it to bloom. Halloween is a seed. Those little goblins who are coming to your door begging for chocolate Wednesday could be the future writers of their generation—learning what it feels like to be a pirate for a day, so maybe they can be a writer for life. Think about that when you open the door to the chorus of trick-or-treat, and how Halloween fed your imagination as a writer. I bet it makes you smile just a little more.

Now I’m off to find that bag of Tootsie Rolls my wife hid from me…I know it's around here somewhere...

Happy Halloween!

A Short Blog by Margot Justes

Just an FYI, still nothing from Mr. Tom Jones or his agent. I am going to try the phone, see if I have any luck going that route. I will keep you posted on any suceess or lack thereof.

It is Sunday afternoon already and I still have to do the blog, minutes for RWA, answer my
e-mails and did I mention, a short story to write with a November 9th deadline.

A short note on Rob Walker's blog-book burning is a horrific concept. If you don't like the subject matter, content, whatever-don't buy the book, but please allow the individual adult reader the courtesy and the right to make up their own mind.

I am off my soap box, and am back at work, finishing all my other tasks. Before I know it it will be Monday morning and I'll be back at work, at an actual job with a salary, benefits etc...

Till next time,

Margot Justes
AHotel In Paris
Echelon Press LLC June 2006

Friday, October 26, 2007


Whenever the "banner" of Banned Books raises its ugly head again,waving out ignorance and illiteracy, Underdog Rob will be near. In an area high school, the fools in charge are now trying to ban Pat Conroy's books. Here is my letter to the editor in response to a letter published in the Charleston Gazette two days ago. I was much pleased that our largest newspaper made it front
page news. Conroy said among other things: "Here is my favorite thing: because you banned my books, every kid in your county will want to read them."

Subject: Pat Conroy Letter/local author's take

Hello Mr. White --

I read the front page story on Pat Conroy's response to the bruhaha at Nitro High School over Prince of Tides and other of Conroy's work. First, I commend the Gazette leadership for
placing the story on page one. Many another newspaper would have buried this importantt story and issue--book banning.

let me thank you for making the story a prominent one. More and more freedoms gained by blood in battlefields throughout US history are being eroded away, and with each book banned by the closed-minded who cannot see beyond a four letter word or a scene of violence to the depth of meaning in Pat Conroy and other fine authors who make of a pantheon of American and British and actually world-wide genius in letters are a testament to the poverty in Education today. The schools in Chicago in the 50s and 60s I thought were like prisons that placed chains on the minds of young people, but those schools seem today like country clubs. The level of intelligence of those running our schools is staggering. Most no clue as to what the grace of fiction is all about, and I daresay most seldom to never understood their English teachers nor understand why the word English is always capitalized.

I have myself written, edited, and published over forty novels of suspense, mystery, and much mayhem, and am in fact working on my forty-six such work. I can't understand how people in a position to hire professionals in the field of English instruction can't themselves see that every classic from Moby Dick to Heart of Darkness is about violence and the attachment of violence to the human condition--that we are not angels, that the world is populated with as much evil as it can bear, and that young people need, as Ernest Hemmingway cautioned, "a built-in bullshit detector."

Finally, I wish to commend not only young McKenzie Hatfield at Nitro High but all of her classmates as well who've stood up in an attempt to be heard, as they've done so admirably and for the right reasons. Imagine it, even Mark Twain is on the banned list. Imagine a young person denited the joys of reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is the reason such organizations as the American Library Association is against banning any book. It is a slippery slope. Ban one book, ban them all, and pretty soon you have what Ray Bradbury says will happen. He said, if I may paraphrase: "You don't have to burn books to get people to stop reading them. You just have to get people to stop caring to read."

In other words, create a nation of illiterates and you can easily understand the rise of a Hitler or a stolen election.

Robert W. Walker
Writer, speaker, teacher
Google and Amazon

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by DL Larson

Have you ever had a "theme" week? I mean when several things happen regarding a similar topic? Well, last week I had one.

It started with my preschool story hour. I read Karen Beaumont's giggler, called, "I ain't gonna paint no more," where this little boy ends up painting and painting all over himself! The kids got a kick out of it and happily dove into the paints I had set out and we had our own painting session. Clean up wasn't too bad if I imagined a herd of elephants had stampeded the library and not a dozen four year olds. Oh, and the four three year olds!

Then came Thursday. I was inspired from all the energy the youngsters had shown and
since it was my day off, I decided it was time to finish my summer project. Yes, I know it's October, past mid-October, but I still wanted to finish in the year 2007. Last spring we enclosed our back porch - did the window and tile floor thing, added heaters so it could be a three-season room. I'm very happy with my new back porch except for the painting I have yet to finish.

Above the windows is this area where old wood meets new wood. The old wood is aged, the new wood is not ... and in between the two stretches a strip of white stuff - I think it's called liquid silicone, maybe caulking - anyway, it's ugly and needs to be covered up! One can't expect to relax on my new three-season porch with an unsightly white line running around like that. My plan was to paint a red bar where old meets new. It would be a great accent to the room and camouflage the white glue line.

The paint I already had. As I dug the can from the paper sack the receipt came out too. The date was June 23rd. So the paint would need stirring. No problem, I had that under control. But since I'm a wallpaper hanger from way back, I knew my walls needed to be prepared first. I had forgotten to buy the blue tape, but figured I could find something suitable to use. After tearing through every junk drawer all I came up with was black electricians tape. Better than the duct tape, or so I thought.

Then came the tape measure, the yardstick and the level. My goodness there was so much to this painting and I had yet to unwrap my brush. I went back for the step ladder.

After scooting the furniture to the center of the room I began the task of marking where the red bar should be. Did I mention my windows are long and narrow and rather tall on the wall? So I was up on the ladder, down, back up on the ladder, then down again. This went on and on, as I measured, marked and measured, scooting the ladder across the room as I made my way onward.

All right then! With the measuring complete, I started taping. Hey, this electricians tape worked good. It stretched; that helped a lot. The walls are rough and I had worried what would stick, but the tape stuck. Again I did the ladder thing, up and down, scooting across the room. By the time I had finished, I was hungry. And still my paintbrush had yet to leave its wrapper.

The wind flitted in through the open windows as I fixed lunch. The actual painting would go quickly now that I had all the prep work done. I was really going to like the red bar above the windows. It would be the finishing touch to my new room. I cleaned the crumbs from the counter, tossed the dishes in the dishwasher and went back to the porch.

Manufacturers really should have a caution statement on their electricians tape. In the fifteen minutes I'd been gone, the wind played a trick on me. Or maybe it was the stretchy part of the tape that became bored and no longer wanted to stay stretched. Black strips dangled down in about two foot strips all around my porch. Several had completely given up and lay on the floor in lazy loops.

As I stood there contemplating the situation, two ideas popped into my head. I could give up and pretend the stupid white line was just part of the room ... Or, I could declare war and make my presence known. Giving up was not an option, so grabbing the ladder once more, I looked for the marks I'd made with the pencil. The hard part of measuring was behind me. This tape was going back up in a matter of minutes! The porch was getting painted TODAY!

Why the hell didn't I use a black marker? Pencil lines shouldn't disappear, but of course they did. Grabbing the level once more I began again. The ladder knew the routine by now and we plodded along, shutting windows as we crept across the room.

The sun was in the west before I opened the paint can. My arms ached from being over my head so much of the day, but stirring eased the kinks in my shoulder. The first coat of paint took fifteen minutes. I timed myself. And the paint manufacturer knew what he was talking about. The first coat had dried by the time I made my way around to the end. So I started in again. Not bad. Of course the tape started to peel away, drooping all around again. I tore it off. This project was way beyond needing straight lines. My brush and I were a team. We were painting, covering up that horrible white scar on my walls.

Has anyone considered that maybe - just maybe folks don't want white caulk in unsightly places in their homes! My painting turned to dabbing, that quickly became stabbing, blobbing paint to cover the shiny I can still see it line. The fourth coat did the trick. White disappeared and I sighed. I had won the battle.

It was supper time; I was hungry again. My husband came in and nodded at my work. "Looks, good. What's for supper?" He eyed me sitting in my comfy chair on the porch.

I sipped my beer. "Whatever you fix." This was a battle I knew how to win.

"Take-out sounds good to me," he said. Yep! All I had to do was take out the ladder, the paint can and brush, and the level. My work here was done.

But I conceded one thing. I ain't gonna paint no more!
I'll use the yellow pages.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

This weekend, DL will be attending the Western Kentucky Book Fair, 9:00 - 4:00 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27th, at the John A. Arnold Convention Center a the Union County Fairgrounds, Sturgis, KY

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I’m busy writing or editing a manuscript, doing Internet promotion, or God forbid, doing housework or cooking. I’m intent on getting what I want done. My dog, Rascal, is at least three, but acts like the puppy she was in the photo I'm sharing with you. She doesn’t understand the importance of my tasks.

Rascal wants my attention. She does this by grabbing something I don’t want her to have. I can hide stuff away from her, but when she wants something, she goes after it. If it’s not in sight, that does not deter her. She knows how to dig into my coat pocket and pull out my gloves.

A challenge doesn’t stop her either. She’s been known to grab a cap off my head.

Suddenly she’s got what she shouldn’t have in her mouth. It’s something I don’t want wrecked. That’s when the chase begins. I run after her. She looks back to make sure I’m following, then hides under the piano bench or table. I get closer. She looks up at me again to make sure I’m there. She scoots further away, but I manage to nab her. I reach into her mouth and remove the object in question. She’s lost. No, wait a minute – she’s won. She achieved her objective. She got her audience.

Some writers can get along fine by themselves. They read what they write and find enjoyment by doing that. Others need an audience. It’s not enough to merely like what they write, but they need others to know about it and like it.

I belong to the latter group. Here’s what I’ve learned.

The first step to gain an audience is to get published. Once that happens, some writers stop, believing they’ve achieved their goal of getting an audience.

Don’t make that mistake. If you want an audience, you need to reach out and get one. You do this by promotion. Find that hat or glove which will make your audience notice you. It could be a blog, a booksigning, a panel, or a gimmick connected with an item in your book. Better yet, don’t stop at one. Find more and use them all.

Be persistent. Be creative, like Rascal.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

YA Author, and didn’t know it

Like Larry, I'm running late but thought I would share something weird that happened over the weekend ... shaddup! I mean something weirder than normal. I was at the Joliet Author Fair with almost fifty authors, and we had a blast.

No, that's not the weird part either.

The weird part is when one of the librarians came up to me ... I'd never met her before .. and said, "your books are really popular with the teens. We can't keep them on the shelves."

That's been one of the pleasant things I've discovered about my books. When I wrote them, I imagined that my target audience was just guys. Then I found out that they were popular with women ... cuz I pick on guys, I've heard.

So I figured, 'great, my target audience just doubled.'

Then my books started hitting high schools and jr. high schools, and next thing I know, I'm learning that they like them, too.

This bodes well for my next project, a YA vampire humor novel! I'm almost a quarter way done, and am actually being assisted by the students (yes, almost two hundred of them) at a local junior high school. If you want to check out the beginning, go to my website

Gotta go...


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

Monday, October 22, 2007

disconnected -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I normally post on Sundays, but this weekend I disconnected—took a computer-free weekend.

Last week was a grueling week, more deadlines than I can count and every night a late night. I had to have a break, give my eyes a rest, let my brain settle down into low gear. The day job ruled this week. Very little time for writing. But I hit all of my indexing deadlines, and that’s what pays the bills...

So. What did I do? Well for starters I slept in. Then on Saturday afternoon I took my wife out to a nice lunch. She deserved it putting up with my grumbling all week. From there we went to the music to buy some sheet music for her piano lessons and met a friend who stopped to see us on her way home to Michigan. It was a lazy day with no structure, no demand. We finished off the day by eating pizza and watching the baseball game.

Sunday we stayed around the house, finishing projects before the snow flies. My wife planted a hundred daffodils along the garden path. I cleaned the dead bugs off the front of the house and around the security lights, painted the porch, scrubbed the desk, cleaned the bird feeders. Alligator brain work. Little tasks I’d been putting off because I didn’t have time. I needed to sweat a little after sitting in front of the computer for 60 hours.

All the while, my novel in progress (NIP), banged around inside my head. A good sign.

This coming week looks to be calmer. But it is October, and publishers are still in a rush to get their books through production before the end of the year. I could be busier than I think I will be, though at the moment, I only have 2 indexing projects on my board.

We’ll see. Maybe I’ll be able to balance the day job an the NIP a little better this week now that I got some rest.

Some times, I think we forget how powerful and important disconnecting can be.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tom Jones Where Are You? by Margot Justes

I don't mean Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. I am referring to Tom Jones, the singer. A while back, I wrote a blog asking if anyone had a connection to Tom Jones. I sent a letter to the William Morris Agency (they represent Mr. Jones) and to date have received no reply.

I mentioned the lack of response to my publisher, and she recommended I write about Tom Jones. So here I go.

Tom Jones and I go back a few, quite a few, years. Lest anyone misunderstand, I am speaking figuratively not literally. I have listended to and enjoyed his music for years. The songs 'Help Yourself' and 'Delilah' are indeed significant to me personally, and I mention them in my book. His 'You're My World' I have recently discovered and also mention in my book.

You're My World' truly is a romantic treasure. That is the song I am after. I would like permission to use it in my book trailer.

In this huge wide web world, is there anyone with a connection to Mr. Jones? At least within the blog reading area. Who knows, Mr. Jones just might gain a few more fans. His music is romantic, touching, has depth and he has a great voice with which to deliver the message.

Anyone within the reading area-please forward a link to this blog to anyone you think might have a connection to someone who has a connection and so on, to Tom Jones...

My appeal goes directly to Mr. Jones. May I please have your permission to use 'You're My World' in my book trailer. I would be happy to send you an autographed copy of my book, and you would have my deepest gratitude.

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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Men Who Write Women by Robert W. Walker

The question comes up again and again--are there any male authors capable of writing from the female point of view, and the other way around, too....any women who can write from the male

Of course there are. Excellent writers who work for years at honing their craft are in the business of peopling their books with what? Eunuchs? No, characters, and half the planet is
either or with but a few in between by comparison--not that there's anything wrong with the percentage in between. So it behooves any author to THINK like her or his opposite and paint
believable characters, no matter their gender. Every character, large, small, even bit players ought to have their own voice and each must be distinctive; each must walk and act distinctively.

What a character does, how she does it, and what a character says, and how she says it--and with what inflections--defines this character. What a character says and does is who he or she
is, and how we come to discover said character. It's kinda like that in life too. We make assumptons about character out here in the real world based upon the acts and the speech of others. If we see a dog kicked...if we overhear a man berating his wife for some small infraction....we make judgments. We judge who he is by his remarks, his tone, his acts.

Now as to somone decidedly male, such as I, writing from a feminine POV, there is much, much work to do, of course, but it can and has been done. Admittedly, I don't pretend to understand
the female mind, but I can "pretend" to and I can "pretend" to be inside it. In fact, it is easier to get inside that miind than to understand it, and visa-versa. Or is it vice or verse?

Here is the upshot of the whole argument. If you aspire to be the best writer you can be, then you must write from inside ALL the heads of ALL the characters you create in a novel or short
story. We all know that some authors are awkward with this crossing over business, while others are masters at it.

Some argue that a man cannot possibly catch the full, rich inner monologue a woman has with herself on various issues and things affecting her. I totally disagree. If a male author wants to be all that he can be in this man's pen-ary, then he must write to his opposite. Nothing stretches the reach for perfection in characerization than you, whether male or female, writing to your opposite. If white, write a black character or two once in awhile for heaven's sake; if black, go the other way. If straight, do gay; if gay, write a straight character or two. If human, write up a monster and do it from inside the suit--and the brain--of the beast. If alive, write about the dead. If dead, write about the living. If male write female, and if female, write male. Your main character can be your opposite gender. I did it for half the 44 or so novels I have written and published and most of my editors have been female, some of whom I have brought to laughter, tears, dred, and horror while at it.

Do not fear writing about someone or someplace you consider exotic. Jump in and do it. If it feels too deep, climb out, dry off, do some RESEARCH and then jump back in and do it better.
Clive Cussler once complimented me on my handling of female characters and regretted he could not manage them. Critics and editors have given me kudos on my female characters and their arguments and concerns with one another. Plus I've gotten my female characters a big thumbs up from my there! Men can write women, and if I can do it....then you women can challenge yourselves to do the same with male characters. Just climb into the male psyche. I know it is terrifying but how rewarding when your character "gets" it on the page.

Happy Writing --
Rob Walker

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I'm at it again with the cross promotion. While on vacation, I took a video of the Blessing of the Animals in Woodruff, WI. Some of the stars of the video were my own dog, Rascal, along with Muffin and Stewart. A big hit was Dawson, the horse, who hammed it up while getting blessed.

Here's the link:
If it doesn't work, go to and do a search for morganmandel (one word) It will be the top video.

The animals are cute, some noisy, but what do they have to do with my present novel, Two Wrongs, a mystery, or Girl of my Dreams, my upcoming romantic comedy?

Not much, but I did add the video to my collection on youtube. Anyone interested in seeing the video might just be interested enough to look at my other works there, including book trailers for both books, plus videos of other authors at Authorfest and Love is Murder.

Cross promotion is a fun thing. It's a good way to get your message across without slamming it into your audience's face. Try it, you'll like it.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More on Marketing

What a great blog Norm. I echo everything you wrote and hope you will indulge me in adding some of my own comments.

Marketing, or promoting a book, is sometimes a larger part of an author's experience than actually writing the book that he/she is promoting. Ironic, isn't it! Especially since an author, particularly of fiction, must write more and more books to reamain viable in today's publishing world. Sometimes, they have to write more than one a year. The big-name publishing houses are now often owned by big business and books have become a product - a commodity - and the big business wants to make money on their products. Who can blame them. Authors are also judged on how well their last book sold and if those numbers aren't 'good' then they are not likely to be asked for more of their product since the last one didn't fare so well. So you see the catch-22 the author is in. The last book written must sell well enough for the next one to be even considered. Imagine all the time and effort and author spends writing and promoting, often at the same time.

These days authors are often asked for their platform, even by agents, before the full manuscript is even read. Marketing departments will want to know how to promote or sell the book to their clients which are typically the larger conglomorate bookstores. Often the sales person for the publisher gets a minute or less per book to grab the attention of the buyer at the bookstore. So that saying, don't judge a book by it's cover - well, that happens more than any writer cares to admit. Yet writers rarely get input on the cover of any of their books let alone the titles.

Promotion isn't excactly a foreign concept to those in the arts. There's an old saying that all publicity is good publicity or "-that there ain't no such thing as bad publicity," although I think politicians, especially today, would disagree with this sentiment. But consider Britney Spears and all the bad publicity she's received; it seems to have worked in terms of selling her recent song. I grew up in Los Angeles, Venice to be exact, and I like to tell people that I went to the high school where the movie Grease was filmed, although years after I graduated. Those of us who grew up near 'Hollywood' are all too familiar with the many young people that came to the area looking to be discovered like the fabled story of Lana Turner sitting in her tight sweater at the counter. Us locals knew that was more of a myth perpetrated by some movie studio or marketing department but it worked.

So, how far should an author go in promoting his/her book--specially today when audiences' attention spans are shorter than ever and more and different types of media are competing for those shortened attention spans? In fact, surveys over the last few years reveal that the average person is reading less and less - despite the success of such books as the Harry Potter series. In fact, more people today want to write a book than read one.

Perhaps the most famous and drastic act of promotion occurred on October 30, 1938 when Orson Welles developed a scheme to promote H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds by adapting to the format of a real news broadcast, resulting in mass panic. As a result of the promotion sounding and 'feeling' like a real news broadcast millions of listeners really thought that the Martians were invading. It was a marketing success but a public safety disaster. (For more information, on this go to

Promotion, like the poor, death, and taxes, will always be with us. How authors can most effectively promote their works seems to be a debate that will last just as long.

Think blogging will help?

Monday, October 15, 2007

For a few drops of water

Who ever thunk that writing would end up causing me to worry so much about marketing? It's not like I'm thinking, "Are my books any good? Will people like them?" It's more, "How can I get the word out? How can I help market my books?"

It's one thing to write a good book. It's another to write one that sells well. And sometimes, unfortunately, far too often, a better book is outsold by one of lesser quality but better marketing.

I was a marketing major in college, and one of the things you learn is the importance of placement. Have you ever noticed one brand of commodity on the supermarket's shelf with two entirely different packagings? You probably figure that one is getting phased in while the other is being phased out. Usually not. What's more likely happening is that they are evaluating the different packing to see which sells better. And your supermarket is being used as a 'test' store.

Another marketing ploy in supermarkets is what is on sale on the ends of the aisles. One generally thinks that there are bargains at the end of the aisle, and these usually sell better than product in mid-aisle, which can be lost among competitor brands and other goods.

Book sales are similar. What books sell better? The ones at the front of the store, obviously. Those that get 'face' placement, rather than just the spine. Etc. etc. etc.

I have a little game that I like to play at my local library. If one of my books is buried on one of the shelves, I'll take it out and put it one of the little displays that they have all over the library that shows the cover of the book. Then I'll check the library's catalog later, and most often the book gets checked out within a day or two. Placement.

So I do a lot of thinking nowadays about marketing. How can I help market my books? I sent my books out to a bunch of reviewers. They all loved them and wrote wonderful things about them. Has this helped sales? I don't know. I go to book fairs and do a pretty good job of selling them one on one as people browse by my stall. Will this help in the long run? Sure, there are some immediate sales, but does it end there?

I know that my readers are satisfied... I've heard from them. But will they talk about my books? Help spread the word? Will someone who reads my books at the library decide to buy one for a relative for Christmas? Or do they read the books, laugh at all of the funny stuff, and put it on their bookshelves to gather dust?

You never know. Does blogging bring in readers? There are differing views on this.

Frankly, I look at whatever I do as sowing seeds. You never know where they will take root and what might happen. So I sow them everywhere I can, local media and national media (Oprah, USA Today, Publishers Weekly) and hope that a seed might find fertile soil ... and get enough water ... and sunlight ... a maybe a worm or two to help irrigate the soil.

All seeds ... just waiting for a few drops of water.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An interview with T.C. LoTempio by Margot Justes

Toni, tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born in New York City, and began writing very young when I'd change the endings of stories if I didn't like them. After a loooong absence, I took it up again in 1995, as a staff reporter for a pulp series magazine, SUSABELLA PASSENGERS AND FRIENDS. I had two novels published in 2004 and 2006 by PublishAmerica, A Spy in the Hand and Murder is Relative. Followed that up in 2007 with two from WhiskeyCreek Press, Bound by Blood and Ebony. Currently I'm shopping two others and preparing to write another romantic suspense

What inspired you to write your first book?
I wanted to prove that I could do it; I never had the opportunity to go to college and I wanted to prove that I could write just as well as some others.

What kind of obstacles have you encounted in writing and publishing yourbook(s)?
The occasional writer's block - and getting an agent - that's the biggie.

What advice do you have for people who want to write?
Keep at it - writing is a lot of hard work, and after that, the rejection can get to you. Develop a thick skin, and just keep at it.Over and over again.

Tell me about your latest release & upcoming books/works in progress?
My latest releast, EBONY, has been in the top 100 at Fictionwise since it's debut July 1st and was #2 for two weeks in July, outselling Stephen King (that made me faint). Currently I'm working on a paranormalromantic suspense to shop around to agents.

Visit my website at can buy Ebony and my other books at,borders, and they can be ordered from Barnes and Noble.

Thanks Toni, Margot

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

quotes -- by Larry D. Sweazy

“I would rather write than talk about writing.”
S.E. Hinton

I’ve been thinking about this quote all week. Most writers have friends who are writers. We talk about writing when we meet up; the publishing world, what projects we’re working on. It’s our common bond. If we’re lucky, the conversation veers from publishing to more important stuff, like, I don’t know, how’s the wife? The dogs? The big landscaping project that nearly broke your back in the spring now that it’s fall? But it never fails to return to publishing, and rarely is it good news. The mid-list is dead, editors don't edit, advances are getting smaller, etc.

I think I agree with the S. E. Hinton quote. Lately, the talk in my circles, on the blogs I read about writing and publishing, have been amazingly negative.

One out of four people don’t read a book. People were just appalled at this news a few weeks ago—writers mostly. And I was left scratching my head. With all of the distractions out in the world, DVDs, iPods, movies on demand, TV shows on the computer, video games, REAL-LIFE, I think it’s pretty amazing that 3 out of 4, 75%, are still reading a book a year.

But it was the 25% that garnered the attention. Like the whole world is supposed to comprised of readers? It’s never been that way. And it would be my suggestion (since we are in the middle of the Information Revolution) that more people are reading more now than ever before in history. It’s just my hunch. I have nothing to back it up. But there sure seems to be more road signs, no smoking signs, and pharmaceutical advertisements now than ever before. I know, I know, that’s not reading for pleasure, that’s reading because you have to.

I didn’t know there was a difference.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I think it’s hard enough to sit my butt in the chair and write in the first place—listening to the doom and gloom and digesting it, geez, you wonder what’s the point? If writing wasn’t so much fun, and hanging out with other writers wasn’t so interesting, I don’t know, maybe it would just be easier not to.

But writers write because they have to—just like readers read because they have to. I guess my point is: I wish people would lighten up a little.

Being a writer is fun, like Rob said. Isn’t it?

OK, enough said, I think. I’m getting back to writing my latest novel—it’s time for a cosmic, meteoric, sweaty showdown between all the good and evil that’s bouncing around inside my head , but I’ll leave you with another quote first:

“Something is always dying in publishing.”
Loren D. Estleman

If I could be so bold as to add to that quote, I would say: “Something is always being born in publishing, too.”

Friday, October 12, 2007


A guy who cracked up at his own jokes was Red Skelton; he could not get through a routine without breaking up. Carol Burnett comes to mind as well, as she had terrific laughing jags on camera--recall the Gone with The Wind sketch? The dress made from the drapes? Coming down the stairs. Then there was Steve Allen, a cackling Tonight Show host of the first order--bright, intelligent, a man of many talents. He wrote a number of mysteries, played the piano, wrote some lyrics, and of course married well. In any event, a recent thread on a chat group I am a member of got into the question of Writing as Hard Work, Serious Business, or FUN. I can't stress enough the importance of "having fun with it."

Have fun with it. No matter what your passion, your profession, your aims, goals, dreams. Fun gets a bad rap. People confuse having fun with it as having some sort of less than serious aim. How hard is it to write humor? Harder than drama for most of us. Still, in the act of writing, if it is painful...if it is tearing you up and giving you ulcers, try kicking back and examining YOUR attitude toward the "work" and the pages you are "hammering" out.

Attitude is the one string we can play on, dance on, do acrobatics on. Our personal attitude toward our work often needs adjusting when our first impulse is to say all those around us are the ones needing an attitude adjustment. Certainly so when I start a new class. I have to adjust my attitude to them, and not the other way around if say I want to be "relevant" to be "real" to them. If my attitude is to hide away my entire personal life from my students, that's one approach and attitude that will get one kind of response. If I do the opposite and open myself up too much, that's another. If I find a middle ground, that's another still.

My attitude toward writing was soooooooo damn serious when I started out. I could not have fun with it. Then I decided to write a spoof. Writing a spoof of a mystery, suspense, men's adventure, romance, or a combination of these (toss in horror for good measure), FREES one from the constraints of serious writing. It brings you to a new awareness of what you can accomplish as well. No one knew it at the time of its publication, but the first book I ever done sold was a spoof entitled Sub-Zero (about how much money I made on it is in the title). It was not published as a spoof, as the editor didn't "get it" but it taught me so much about what "they" mean by commercial. I had a blast, a ball, a great load of fun writing Sub-Zero and thereafter, by loosening up, I went on to begin writing two books a year. Now am always including the tongue-in-cheek humor and never holding back on the FUN element in the story, and always seeking the comic relief elements.

Have a FUN-filled writing weekend,

Rob Walker

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dealing with Rejection!! by DL Larson


As a writer, rejection is a process we use to get our best thougts on paper. We reject our own sentences over better formed ones, we toss out paragraphs when they send the story in the wrong direction, and we dismiss ideas before we type them into the plot. Then, why, do we still cringe when we hear the word rejection? We've been rejecting ideas throughout the whole experience, trying to get our story just right.

No one wants to be rejected, or told what they are offering is not needed, not wanted and simply put, not acceptable. And I admit there is nothing quite so devastating as a personal rejection. On paper, a distance exists, but up close when the other person is only a few feet away ... it's a powerful punch to the self-esteem.

It's also a great learning tool. It's a time to learn about yourself. A rejection letter may send you into a slump, but if you're any kind of writer, you dig in, and get busy searching for another avenue to promote your work. And if you've been around the block a few times, you realize sending out more than one at a time is smart business. But if someone sits across a table and says your work is not marketable, you have a few choices to make.

First, I hope you remain polite and professional. Listening is also wise, but caving in to the beliefs of others is NOT acceptable. Your work is unique, only you could have written what is in your manuscript. Please don't let someone's dismissal leave you feeling inadequate as a writer. This is where you don't read any more into the conversation than what has been said. Your work is not acceptable to THEM. It doesn't mean your work is worthless. Every writer has struggled with this concept on some level and each of us has to come to terms that it only takes one YES to prove the others all wrong.

As you've probably garnered, my ten minute pitch last week went in a direction I didn't expect. We chatted, we connected well with each other, and I knew I had done my homework as best I could in researching this agency. I knew the agents liked historicals. But I hadn't figured on a lack of enthusiasm for a pre-civil war novel. I didn't expect an instant approval, but a mailed query would have at least been read, the flavor of my work would have been noted. But that didn't happen.

No amount of research on my part had prepared me for this glip in their pursuit of historical manuscripts. So with an exchange of business cards, and despite the rejection, I left with valuable knowledge ... pre-civil war novels are not hot right now. Is that distrubing? Oh, yes. Will that stop my searching for representation?

Nope! As a matter of fact, when I got home last week, I sat down at my computer and read the tiny little plaque that sits on my shelf. I read it every day. I believe the author is Robert Frost. Here it is:
"Do not follow where the path may lead ~ Go instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."

So, pre-civil war novels aren't popular right now. Maybe I can change that. Yes, I learned something very important at that meeting across the table. I learned I'm made of pretty tough stuff and ... giving up is not an option.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

DL will be in Springfield on Friday, Oct. 12 ~ at the Illinois Library Association Author Appreciation Luncheon, in Salon CD of the President Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center. A book signing will follow, where her two books, Memories Trail, and Promises To Keep, will be available for purchase.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Vacation Memories By Morgan Mandel

Since things are still hectic as I catch up from my last vacation, I thought I'd share some photo memories with you from Wisconsin. To the left is the mantel at Clearview Supper Club in St. Germain, Wisconsin. To the right is at Lake of the Torches Bingo Hall, in Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin. I came close, but never won! Also, the cake was very good.

I didn't get a chance to write much on vacation, but got lots of ideas and enjoyed the scenery.
I also did a booksigning at Book World in Eagle River. The photos from that will be up tonight my website at

Sometimes coffee and pie--

--are as important as gasoline, or so the old biker says.

At first thought, you might consider this statement to be simply a parallel between motor fuel (gasoline) and people fuel (pie and coffee) and give this maxim a dismissive "yeah, yeah, I get it" nod of the head.

You'd be as wrong as the writer who says he is too busy to read.

While pie and coffee will certainly provide a biker with an energy boost, they won't sustain you for hours on the road. Unless you eat a whole pie and wash it down with a full pot of coffee. However, then you're not going to stay in the saddle for hours anyway, as your kidneys will demand a pit stop or two long before your bike's gas tank goes empty. The real gasoline that fuels a biker is a good meal, preferably one substantial enough to see you through a couple of hundred miles, but not so heavy as to cause you to doze off during the ride, thus originating the term "last meal."

Instead, pie and coffee provide flavor, inspiration, an opportunity for mild indulgence, and a chance to enjoy someone else's flavorful good work. The variety of available pies--from old standbys such as apple and berry to exotic raspberry chocolate cream--means a biker can be as conservative or wild as the mood strikes. And if that biker makes a wrong choice or finds an ill-cooked piece, little is lost--it's only pie.

Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul. Nutritious food fuels the biker's physical needs, pie an coffee freshen the heart.

We authors each take a journey down our own writing roads, and books such as Novelist's Boot Camp can be the "fuel" for our writing machines. In Novelist's Boot Camp it's all about making progress, getting the book done, enjoying the ride that is inventing, developing, drafting, revising, and editing a manuscript that one can be proud of. If you want to go forward in achieving your writing mission and take command of your novel, Novelist's Boot Camp will help drive you there.

But what about pie and coffee? If these are necessary to bikers--and they are--where does a author find his equivalent dessert and cup o' joe?

In the works of others, that's where. Not in those works we look to for guidance, or market trends, or education in the craft or business of writing, but in those where we find adventure, passion, new ideas, smiles, sorrow, insight, and intelligence.

The biker who does not have time for pie and coffee misses the opportunity to savor not only a hot beverage and dessert, but the ride as well. Writers who spend all their time immersed in their own works miss the unconscious inspiration that comes from reading the work of others.
If you don't have time for pie and coffee, then you probably don't have time to ride. And if you as a writer don't have time to read two pages for every one you write, you are doing a disservice to your soul.

Seconds, anyone?


Monday, October 8, 2007

Ya, Ya!

Hey, if you've always wanted to write some YA, here's your chance.

I was eagling, er, hawking my books at the Midwest Literary Festival over the weekend and ran into Karen Syed from Echelon Publishing. Don't worry, she's okay. Anyway, after she picked herself up, she told me that Echelon has opened a YA division called Quake. And they are looking, not just for books, but also for short stories for the younger critters of the world.

So get yourself immature, grab your crayons, and get crazy!

Gotta go, I'm watching Rocky IV on Spike TV right now.

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

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Indian Summer -- by Larry D. Sweazy

So, autumn is officially here—and today it is supposed to be 91 degrees. The leaves have barely begun to turn, they are brittle, faded—an explosion of gold and red leaves is not in the forecast because of the summer drought. Is it Indian Summer or another nutty season caused by Global Warming? Without being an ostrich with my head in the sand, I’ll pick Indian Summer for now. I’m not sure I’m ready for winter just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I like winter. A break from yard work is nice. A pot of vegetable soup or chili simmering on the stove gives me a warm fuzzy feeling you can’t buy in a bottle. I don’t mind the extension of darkness so much, at least not until mid-January when I am ready to flee to Florida for a dose of sand and sun. And snow? I’ve always liked snow. I don’t have to drive in it, so there’s no stress there. I can sit at my desk and watch it fall without concern, and get up every once in a while to put a log on the fire. Sounds nice doesn’t it? It is. For a day or two. Then the reality of isolation sets in. After 10 years, you would think I would have found the cure for cabin fever before now. I haven’t.

Indian Summer can stick around for a little while longer so I can figure out my tactic for this year. Most of the time I just write more and read more. That’s probably what I’ll do this year, too.

Of course, there is the possibility that this heat wave in October really is Global Warming. In that case, I may not have to worry about winter so much. Okay, GW is not a humorous subject, and I’m trying to make light of it—unlike the oil companies who seem to be spending A LOT of advertising money to convince us all that it’s Easy Being Green—but what if Indiana becomes the new Florida? You know, like 50 is the new 40?

Then I won’t have to go anywhere in January—I can stare out my window at the new grove of palm trees in my front yard.


I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing no matter what the weather is—and enjoy the day. Today. Winter will be here soon enough.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Here is what I do regarding research. I locate as many books on the area, time period, whatever it is I am researching--medicine in 1893; women in medicine between 1850-1900 for instance. I like hard books I can hold in hand and mark up. Let us say, I have found ten books on my topic -- Chicago in the 1890's. I read the first chapter or two of each book, and I cull the dull and difficult to follow ones. No sense in reading any other author who cannot make it clear to me. Let's say I am left now with four books on my topic, and six have been pitched aside. Now I go in depth reading those four. As I read, I mark up anythig that leaps out at me as fascinating....of possibly use in my fiction....say how the Mayor of Chicago was assasinated on the last day of the Chicago World's Fair when at the height of his popularity due to the fair. That's of interest, and it warrants conversations among my characters in my novel. As I am reading, I HEAR my characters kicking over issues and problems (I call it sitting about the cracker barrel and jawing about it -- whatever it is). If I hear my characters in dialouge over material I am researching, I quickly jot down lines and hold these for the moment in the book where they may be used or come into play. I can keep a file on these on the computer. I yellow highlight every area of the book that "speaks" to me--that says, "use me, take me! Here, here! You highlight far more than you will ever use, but you go back to the highlighted areas as you are writing the novel to remind yourself of this "gold" you have already taken time to mine, and you try to use as much of it as possible without "forcing" it in. None of it should feel forced or awkward but a natural extension of the concerns of hte charactres.

It's really about weaving fact into fiction; knit one, pearl two....and the dramatic story must always take precendence over the facts and the research. Gone With the Wind and John Jakes novels are examples of wonderfully wrought dramatic (Romantic) stories set against a BACKdrop of history. The Civil War is always there, just over Scarlet's shoulder, along with her newly acquired tast of poverty and hunger, but her romance with Rhett is always in the FOREground. The scene in which Rhett saves her from a burning Atlanta, their wagon with the "lovers" silhouetted against the fiery buildings at night is a visual example of what I am talking about.

I'm also quick to get into writing the book AS I am doing the research, to keep it all intersting. What I maen to say is that I start the first few chapters as I am researching, and this keeps my head in on the "fictional" world even as I am reading and filling my head with the "factualy" world of the non-fiction author who has so kindly provided me with fodder, matter, and truths too dear not to pass along to my readers who love grim, dark humor. Some critic once called me a grim, dark Carl Hiasen. I take that as a compliment.

Gee...and now I hope for heaven's sake you have learned that you don't have to go off for years or months at a time, bury yourself in resources and research, and use that as an exucse for putting off the dramatic story you want to tell about Scotland or Prague or Iowa during the Civil War or some futuristic world wherein Robots are having babies and are bothered to their fibernets by knats and fleas.

Happy Writing -- keep the faith and the passion --
Rob Walker -- for City of the Absent (preorder now!) -- for Psych 101 for Writers & Their Characters

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Midwest Literary Festival - This Weekend! by DL Larson

Downtown Aurora, IL is the place to be this weekend, Oct 6-7th; 44 East Downer Place.

The streets will be closed to traffic, and book vendors will huddle under their awnings to hawk their latest best seller. The big stores like Barnes and Noble will sell books for less than $5 bucks, they always do that ... and the rest of us will offer enticing incentives to stop at independent booths, look over the exciting books ready for a good home.

But the festival doesn't end there. If you step into the Copley Theater, you have a banquet of forums to attend. As a writer, you might want to check out Midwest Literary Festival online to see the schedule of events. On Saturday, Oct. 6th, things get underway at 10:00 a.m. with the following choices:
- Inside the Writer's Studio with Allison DuBois
(Secrets of the Monarch)
- Relationships Between the Sheets
authors: Jacquelyn Mitchard (Still Summer)
Sean Chercover (Big City, Bad Blood)
- From Bestselling Books to Blockbuster Movie
David Morrell (Rambo)
Andrew Klavan (True Crime, Don't Say a Word)
Daniel Wallace (Big Fish)
- America's Fascination with the Past
Robert Olmstead (Coal Black Horse)
Karen Abbott (Sin in the Second City)
Orville Vernon Burton (The Age of Lincoln)
- Writing the Psychological Thriller
Thomas H. Cook (The Cloud of Unknowing)
Jonathon Santlofer (Anatomy of Fear)

And the rest of the day is just as exciting. Then more on Sunday. I'll be in writer's overload by then. These wonderful authors are here for us to learn from, to talk to, and I bet we'll find out they're just as human as the rest of us. They've probably struggled with plots and deadlines, juggling real life with their writing careers. They have much to tell us and I for one, want to hear what they have to say.

Except ... I want to sell my own books this weekend too. I practically begged my publisher to come to this event. And she did gladly and will be offering her own forums on Friday. Oh, I didn't mention the Writer's Workshop on Friday!!!
I hope you've signed up for that as well. It's jammed packed with sessions on pitching, finding your market, the elements of suspense, the top ten mistakes writers make and how to avoid them!! And much, much more.

I'll be pitching my new book Friday morning to a Chicago agency that will be attending. Nervous explains the rolling of my insides and jelly-like knees. But I'm going to do my best to be positive, relaxed, and professional would be good, too ... but I may be hoping for too much at one time. And I've told myself ... no more than five ummmms. That should be more than enough for any ten minute conversation! I mean really, I've practiced my pitch so many times my cat can recite it back to me - with yawns inserted instead of ummmmms.

So here goes ...
I'm walking from my kitchen, through the living room, onto the foyer and hallway, back to the family room ... kitchen. Wait, I've been practicing my pitch standing up, walking in circles no less. This will never do. This is not professional and doesn't seem very relaxed. And I've been rehearsing like this all week. Maybe I could coax the agent to take a walk. We could chat as we aimed for the water fountain, I wouldn't have to worry about good eye contact if we were strolling down the hallway. I wonder if I've blundered into one of the top ten mistakes writer's make. Or is this number eleven? And only the really derranged struggle with giving pitches in a chair, a stationary, doesn't swivel or rock, kind of chair.

I can't breathe. This may be the big one ... I'm not as young as I used to be and I've worked myself into a tizzy over this pitch to Chicago agents.

But wait ... I've already met them. They were really nice, friendly. I can do this. It's not a speech, it's a talk about my book. All I have to remember is to say, "It's a historical family saga, set in 1840's Kentucky, and about 87,000 pages. It's about a family man who is shattered by an abusive childhood. He tries to harm himself. But this isn't a story about his horrid past. It's the road to his recovery. Promises My Love is a journey of the heart. His wife offers him a life he has always wanted but was afraid to have. Trust wins over betrayal. And my character, Francis, discovers it's never too late to remake oneself. And yes, love can overcome any obstacle."

Okay, I said that outloud, sitting here at my computer. It's a start. I have until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow to fine tune it. Giving up is not an option. Getting sick isn't either.

My cat is yawning.
Too bad, I gotta practice!

Look for me at the Book Fair ~ I'll be at the Helm Publishing Booth.
I'll tell you how the pitch went!

Til next time ~

DL Larson
Promises My Love: Top 10 Finalist in the Brighid's Fire Books Literary Contest, for unpublished novels. Visit their site at:

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I arrived in the North Woods of Wisconsin on Saturday. 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 place 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 places as far as Australia and Germany.

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

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A post Great Lakes Booksellers dispatch

I had the good fortune last week to attend the Great Lakes Booksellers Association Trade Show and work the Sisters in Crime (SinC) booth. Yes, I am a member of that organization--a "Mister Sister" as the group designates its male members. The GLBA is not the largest of bookseller organizations and the GLBA show in Schaumburg, Illinois was not the largest bookseller trade show I've been to. BookExpo America can claim the title of biggest book industry show in the US without even thinking about competition.

GLBA was, however, just right. But not for the reason I had believed going in.

It was a good show: SinC had a professional booth run by Sandy Tooley, the show was of manageable size, and I was able to re-connect with several other authors who I had not seen in many months.

There are a host of reasons why authors attend conferences and trade shows, but I've come to believe that one of the main reasons is to establish and maintain the connections with those who understand the pain and pleasure of writing, have the same kinds of challenges, share common experiences, and have good gossip about people who aren't there. It's the water cooler conversations that we would have if we all shared an office.

But the GLBA show was rewarding to me in another way, in that in the show's commercialism I was reminded that writing and reading are truly personal experiences.

A trade show is by definition a commercial event and so foregrounds that portion of being an author that many of us would like to forget--one has to market the work. And market we did. Passers-by became important or irrelevant by the color of their name tags; someone with a blue stripe was a bookstore owner or librarian and immediately your best friend. Among the authors at the SinC table and with friends at the table sponsored by Echelon Press, there was talk of writing and books and authors, but for everyone else the conversations I "accidentally" overheard revolved around sales figures and shipping costs and discounts.

For someone like me who focuses more on the creative aspect of writing, it would seem that it would have been a painful day.

In fact, the opposite happened. In a trade show hall filled with so many highly merchandised commodities (the books), it was those owners of small bookstores and those librarians from small town libraries who put the business of writing into perspective. Yes, we were all there to do business. The authors and the store owners and librarians did not discuss shipping or discounts or show specials--we left that to the sales men and women who manned almost every other booth. Instead we were able to hold conversations about books, characters, writing styles, reader interests, and those other non-business elements of the book business.

These conversations were a reminder of an essential ,very personal, very human element of writing; just as my fellow authors and I talked about our work one-on-one to each interested bookstore rep or librarian who happened by, so too are our books read by one reader at a time. There may be thousands or tens of thousands of readers of Novelist's Boot Camp, but I know for each of them their reading of the book has been an experience as unique as each individual, just as our trade show booth conversations were each unique.

I imagine some of the salesmen in other booths took good-sized orders that day. I, on the other hand, got to meet and connect with some fascinating human beings.

So who walked away richer?