Monday, March 31, 2008

Measuring Stick

I stared at the computer screen in horror, my first swallow of coffee frozen midstream down my esophagus.

From somewhere deep inside my brain, a little voice rasped weakly, "Coffee. I need coffee."

Ignoring it, my heart pounding, I punched a key to see if the little message was still there.

Yep, and now it had company. Lots of company.

Guys worry about different things than women do. We worry about the stock market, the Colt's win-loss record, how many beers we can slug before our lips lose communication with our brains.

In other words, we worry about numbers.

And what better number to worry about other than, well, uh, you know ... how long our... um ...

C'mon, do I have to say it??!! Are you getting the point??!!

I never thought I had a problem. Sandy never complained, uh, back when we ... but no, that's a different story.

Then it happened. The email.

Not only that, but it was quickly followed by a dozen more!!

Does everybody know??!!

And they're sharing the information! Gathering the troops! What, are they in a chat room group or something?! All talking about me??!!

So now, having researched my problem and outing me in public, all these people are swooping down on me offering pumps, pills and patches to cure my problem. All these concerned people, acting in concert, reaching out to me with personal email, out of all of the millions of people out there.

Brings a tear to my eye.

But I still wonder, how'd they find out? Did they learn of me the same way Rogaine found me out? Heck, I'm still on Rogaine's Ten Most Wanted. Or is it more sinister? Orwell stuff? Shades of 1984?

Or maybe it was my doctor. My last physical was almost four years ago. Maybe doctors forecast shrinkage based on aging, and post the results on the internet for some kind of study or something. Or maybe he's still upset I don't come back to visit him anymore after he stuck a finger in my ... well, that's another story, too.

Nah, this is all wrong. I don’t have this problem.

I mean, sure, I always cover up in the locker room. Don’t want anyone getting jealous…ha, ha. I cover up with a washclo… no, a towe.., no, a beach towel. It takes a beach towel to cover everything.

Yeah, that’s it. I’m such a macho man-stud, ya’ know.

This is a mistake. I know it. They confused me with some other Norm Cowie. Yeah, there are plenty of Norm Cowie’s out there, right? I, myself, know at least five others. Yeah, that’s it.

Heh, heh. (whew)

Just a mistake.

Not my problem.

Now that that was settled, I got back to my email, and deleted the offers with relief.

And then I saw it.

Another email, telling me I need … (gasp)….Viagra!!!!

How’d they know????


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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Change of Plans

This past week my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Over the past year I've had a vision in my head of what this momentous occassion would look like: namely a vacation to someplace exotic - Hawaii, Rome, a caribbean cruise. I also had a vision of the great bargain I would uncover at the last minute to take us on this once-in-a-lifetime gettaway. I was convinced, being the bargain shopper that I am, that I would find a fabulous deal on our dream vacation.

Needless to say, bargain shopping for a tropical vacation during spring break isn't all that easy. In fact, it's down right impossible. For a while (a couple of days at least), I was devastated. I couldn't believe things weren't going to happen as I had planned and dreamed about for so long.

But in the end, things turned out great. We headed off to a local museum campus for the day and had a wonderful time. So wonderful in fact, that we can't wait to go back when the weather's better to look at the expansive gardens. What started out as a bitter disappointment turned into one of the best anniversaries we've had in years and helped us to find a place we'll return to and enjoy for years to come.

It got me to thinking. When I get an idea for a book, there's a certain path I set out to follow. A certain direction I want my stories and characters to take. It's all set and perfect. I have the vision. But most of the time, somewhere along the way, that vision changes. The story takes a turn I didn't expect. The characters do something I'd never imagined they'd do. My original vision is no longer crystal clear. And you know what? It all turns out great! That unexpected twist creates something that I (and hopefully my readers!) want to return to again and again. The end result is a satisfying story better than I'd ever imagined.

So take life's little (or big) twists and turns and go with them. You might discover something fantastic.

Until next time,


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Aspiring Writers by margot Justes

Invariably when on a public forum, be it a panel, a book festival or a book signing, an aspiring writer will stop by for a chat.

I paid attention to the response of authors when asked for help, and noticed, now that I’m on the other side of the table, that authors eagerly comply, and offer valued advice to join organizations, writing groups, critique groups and all the other accoutrements that come with writing and the ever elusive attempt at getting published. The one mentioned most frequently – do not bring copies of your manuscript with you.

First you have to lug it, and second, the publisher, agent or editor, isn’t going to take it off your hands, and carry reams of paper along with books, promotional material and anything else they had to bring to the event. The paper gets heavier as the day gets longer. Leave it home. Network, make contacts, and attend conferences; that will get you closer to publication. Looking like you haven’t done your homework won’t.

I personally have found that authors are accessible, helpful and willing to share their knowledge. I have found camaraderie that goes beyond writing and acceptance and am profoundly grateful to be a member of the writing family.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, March 28, 2008


Catch today's guest, Luisa Buehler, with Morgan Mandel, Julie Hyzy, Michael Black, Silvia Foti and Robert Goldsborough at Barnes & Noble, 13 West Rand Road, Arlington Hts, IL 60004 on Saturday, April 5, 2008 from 12-3pm,Phone:(847)259-5304.

Luisa Buehler, Author of The Lighthouse Keeper - 2008 Lovey Award Winner for Best Traditional Amateur Sleuth

Acme Authors Link is happy to welcome Luisa Buehler as our guest blogger today. Luisa is the author of the Grace Marsden Mystery Series. Reviewers have called this series “a cold case sizzle”. The series follows the cold trail of bygone crimes using a blending of traditional whodunit with a hint of romance and a touch of the supernatural. The fifth and most recent in the series is The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death. Luisa lives in Lisle, IL with her husband Gerry, their son Christopher, and the family cat Martin Marmalade.



We love patterns, practice routines and crave rituals. Consistent repetition of steps, designs and motor skills result in stunning dancers, exquisite art and excellent athletes. Practice makes perfect.

It’s when you can’t not take those steps or draw the patterns that the problems begin.

I write a character who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. If you look up those three words you understand it is a disorder (chaos) that is neurotic, fanatical, habitual, irrational, uncontrollable, gripping, and a few more descriptors that define someone who can become severely limited in life because of this condition.

People with OCD feel compelled to perform tasks or rituals in an attempt to neutralize the obsessions that are paralyzing them from normal functionality.
Nail biting, tapping, touching, hand washing, twirling hair, counting, ordering/reordering are a few symptoms of the affliction.

Long standing advise to writers is, “write what you know”, so I did.
I grew up in the fifties in an Italian American home with immigrant parents who didn’t recognize or understand the quirks their youngest child exhibited. At the age of eight I developed the compulsion of brushing my middle-of-my-back length hair 100 times every night. Good grooming habit, right? Not if every time you lost count you had to start again and couldn’t stop until you reached 100. My mother would wrestle the brush from my hand when she noticed how red my scalp had become. She would offer to brush my hair but that wasn’t the ‘deal’ I’d made with my mind. In an effort to stop me she had my hair cut into a pixie style (short, very short). Counting steps replaced brushing. I ate my food in a pattern: one bite of each item then two sips of water. I had to come out even so if I had too much food I took huge bites, too little food tiny, almost non-existent bites.

And all the time I tried to look normal, even to my family who didn’t understand and would become upset with my erratic rituals that caused delays and confusion. My extended family thought I was odd but they loved me and mostly didn’t stare when I counted the tableware over and over or portioned my food. I didn’t eat out in a restaurant until I was in high school.

My form of OCD was mild and I can remember the day I realized that I wasn’t counting steps to and from class. One day I just stopped counting steps to class. I was taking the back stairs from the Grill at Rosary College up to my Chaucer class on the third floor and realized I didn’t have a count in my head; I knew there were 31 steps and four landings (free zones) but I hadn’t counted. Thrilled with the realization I tried to vanquish another habit and tried to not tap and square up my papers, a routine that many students in the class waited for as a signal that class had begun. I had to tap and square my papers three times, put them down on the upper left part of my desk before I could look up at the teacher. I think even Sister Cyrille McGill waited for me to finish. I was certainly more interesting than a bell. It took longer for the tap and square routine to diminish. Little by little, the compulsions slowed and eventually became more acceptable habits, quirks, patterns, routines. The time-wasting, event-disrupting obsessive behavior had retreated.

I’d like to think we’re all a little quirky. We know people who have ‘lucky shirts,’ and have to wear them to bowl or golf, people who perform ‘rituals’ before a test, a game, etc. When I begin a new book I buy a tall candle from Party Light Candles. It has to be a color that I feel matches the tone of the book. You guessed it;, it has to burn while I’m writing. If I’m working on a short story I can use tea candles but not the book candle. The challenge occurs when I’m finishing the manuscript but I have too much candle left. Ask my publisher about the 410 page manuscript I turned in two years ago! Fortunately, about 100 pages are working their way into my current work in progress. My dilemma? I had to buy the same size candle as always but I’m fairly certain I’ll run out of words before I run out of wax. I’m working on a compromise.

Most people like neatness in their lives. I very much still like my papers neat and squared off but I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to perform my tap and square ritual--unless I’m thinking about it. I don’t mind a little disorder (no pun intended)—unless I’m thinking about it. I look up from typing this and spot an edge sticking out from some papers stacked on my desk. Now, I need to fix those.

After I write the OCD lines in my books I leave the work if only for a minute or two (coffee refill usually). I don’t dwell on compulsive behavior because I still fear the creature inside my head who loves repetition. I prefer not to be a creature of habits but rather just a skosh quirky!

Luisa Buehler's books,listed in release order, all available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other local booksellers:

The Rosary Bride: A Cloistered Death
The Lion Tamer: A Caged Death
The Station Master: A Scheduled Death
The Scout Master: A Prepared Death
The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Worrying is like a Rocking Chair! by DL Larson

Looking over the last several days of posts, I realize we writers have much to worry about ... our perception vs. our readers intreptation; E-books vs. traditional publishing; our sexuality; finding our voice; and the all time bummer ~ rejections of our work. Whew! No wonder were all nuts! Er, worried.

So, why oh, why are we still at the keyboard? Why are we plucking images and holding them ransom in some notebook to use in that perfect scene? Why do we continue to try?

The answer, as you well know, is not an easy one to answer, but it is simple. Putting words together is what we do. We don't always enjoy it, we seldom get it right the first time, and yet we know we wouldn't be good at doing anything else worthwhile. The trade sounds romantic ~ a writer. Images of past authors clog the corners of our minds, we think we are just as imaginative as the old timers, and trouble is, we are. But no one cares, or so we so often convince ourselves. There are too many of us and too few books being published by worthwhile houses. Or so we tell ourselves that too. And it's true. We have more writers than ever before, and probably not as many avid readers as even a decade ago. Yet we all want recognition, validation that what we do is worthy, redeeming even.

So we continue. And we should.

No one can write what we write. No one can see what we see. And no one can bring our particular story to life like we can. It's our legacy, our destiny to write the best story we are capable of. If we don't continue to write, then those medicore writers who somehow always get published will only publish more and the good stuff will never get noticed because it was never written. So despite our identiy crisis, or our indecisive venues, and the mound of rejections, we must also persevere.

The best way to do that is to forge ahead, write a little every day, revise on a timely basis and stretch our capabilities to the utmost. We don't sit back and wait, hoping, wringing our hands, wondering what if ... what if ... but boldly take a chance that someone, somewhere will notice what we write is pretty interesting. stuff.

My book, Promises To Keep, is a finalist in another contest. This one is called the Eric Hoffer Award, a contest to honor freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit. (their words not mine) They go on to say that the commercial environment for today's writers has all but crushed the circulation of ideas... and many top literary prizes will not consider independent books over the more widely acclaimed larger presses. (paraphrase is mine!)

Did you know that such greats as Emily Dickenson, James Joyce, Walt Whitman and Virgina Wolfe published much of their own work in order to keep not only control of their property, but so as not to conform to the days standard of what was acceptable in the writing genres? So the good old days weren't so grand either. Even Shakespeare was rarely paid what he was worth, and was often told what to write and when. And many of the greats wrestled with depression, etc. etc. and no wonder, life as a writer is hard.

The difficult part of writing is also what makes it so great! If it was easy, just think how many writers there would be! Total chaos would ensue. We wouldn't recognize great writing when we saw it. So instead, consider each setback as a challenge; the more difficult the better ~ striving for a mountain top experience only the hardy will ever achieve. Now that's something worth working for. As the old saying goes, if we strive for perfection every day and only reach excellence, we've still put in a good day's work.

Today is all we have. How we spend it is our own decision. I hope you don't waste it worrying! Because worrying is like a rocking chair ... it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PERCEPTIONS Belong to Point of View By Morgan Mandel


Perceptions play a huge role in point of view. How we perceive things depends on a lot of factors. Even people in the same family, brought up in the same neighborhood and country will perceive things differently, since so many variables can enter into their lives; such as, what order they are born. No matter how parents can try to be fair, a second or third child is not treated the same as the first. Also, the teachers are different, the friends are different, and so on.

Each author perceives things in his or her own way. Those perceptions sometimes end up in books. We need to remember to write according to how our characters perceive their world, not how we do. Also, we need to differentiate between characters and make sure each character's perceptions are reflected as unique.

So, when you write and you feel yourself inserting your own perceptions, think about whether or not you want them to be your characters' perceptions or you need to round out your characters more. Otherwise, your characters will be as dull as the dirty snow above.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Did you hear!

Originally posted on

Hoping to push sales, publishers are starting to allow free downloading of some of their books at the same time that they are published in print - even hardcover. What the heck is going on?

It wasn't that long ago that I was sitting at a luncheon during a writers conference and the keynote speaker was discussing the reluctance on the part of traditional publishers to embrace ebooks. The evidence? Ebook versions of mainstream novels usually cost the same as the hardcover so why would anybody spend $25 on an electronic download when they could get the real deal for the same amount of money? It was clear that publishers were pretending to embrace ebooks while undermining their acceptance. When ebooks didn't sell in numbers that rendered them commercially viable, the mainstream publishers seemed to be saying, "See we told you it wouldn't work!"

Then came the smaller, independent publishers who embraced ebooks with a passion at a time when many in the industry treated ebooks like a dirty word. Elora's Cave stands out as one of the pioneers as does Echelon Press and so many others. Writers everywhere owe these pioneers a tremendous amount of gratitude for hanging in there. Now the mainstream publishers are embracing ebooks with a passion as well - which signals that it's now a money maker.

But why now?

There are lots of reasons but a pivotal one is generational. The newer generations - X, Y, Millennials, Igen, or even Z are so much more comfortable with technology that they almost demand it as the media of choice. They're busy, they're mobile, they're wired and can out multi-task previous generations.

Publishers know that if they are to grow they need to recruit new readers and if they want new readers from these newer generations they have to play on their turf.

A recent interview of a young writer in Japan who has the number one "cell novel" which is not only being read on the cell but she wrote it on her cell. Yes, wrote it on her small little cell phone in bits in pieces - on her lunch breaks, on the train, anywhere she had an inspiration she flipped open her cell phone an started texting. The book was available for free on the internet but then something extraordinary happened. A publisher decided to make a print copy available and even though it was free on the web, it sold millions in a very short period of time.

There are so many ironies here but one is that the technology that main stream publishers have been so afraid of for so long may actually be the very thing that saves them and gives them a future.Take a look at the following article at USAToday and you'll understand what I mean.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Becoming a metrosexual

Hmm, that whale sure smells good, doesn’t it?

Betcha you don’t have any idea where I’m going with this, right?

It all started when I ran out of shaving cream. With the words of old commercial going through my head “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman,” I reached in the shower and grabbed the can of woman’s shaving cream. As I slathered the pink stuff on my fingers, I thought to myself, if it works under tender armpits and behind knees, then it’d do the job on my chin, right?

It worked perfectly. The razor glided over my skin, smoothly slicing through face hair, and there wasn’t a nick, a bob, or even a tony left afterwards. And my skin was woman soft.


Not only that, but it left a nice pleasant scent afterwards. Some kind of subtle berry or something, that like with wine, my nose wasn’t sophisticated enough to identify.

On the other hand, while I enjoyed the smell I had to admit to having some concerns about the fragrance. Would it be safe to leave the bathroom and venture out into the world with this womanly scent hovering about Mr. Manly Me? Would my two girls catch wind, and send me running for shelter with derisive laughter, “Hey, Dad, you smell like a girl!!! Very pretty!!”

Or worse, was there some kind of pheromone that I wouldn’t know about; so when I’d leave my house I’d be leaking an invisible trail of “Hey, Sailor!” molecules who would be winking seductively at every male in the vicinity?

Frantically I read through the shaving cream can looking for the ingredient ‘whale.’

Yep, you heard me, whale.

I remembered reading once that because animal musk is very similar to human testosterone, humans respond to animal musk like they would to pizza.

I mean, human pheromones.

And the best place to get this animal musk? Whales, of course. Specifically, from glandular secretions (ambergris) of the sperm whale.

Yeah, I hear you women snickering, “Oh yeah, you men get all aroused from the scent of sperm whales … tee-hee.”

Maybe. But you’re the ones slathering it all over yourselves. We men are busy dabbing on musk, a secretion from a pouch under the tail of a male musk deer.

Romantic, huh?

Anyway, it turned out that there weren’t any whales in my shaving cream. And I was so happy with it, I decided to use it from now on. This got me to thinking that maybe I’m on the path to becoming a metrosexual.

In fact, just the other day I actually (gasp) used a pre-conditioner, then (gasp again) shampooed with my wife’s expensive shampoo, before (gasp a third time!) conditioning! Then, using a little doodad my wife gave as a torture device, er, gift, I mowed my ear and ear hair and stepped out of the bathroom looking nice, neat and trim.

And smelling like a whale.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Finding a Voice by Margot Justes


I spent six hours at Artists’ Own in Lafayette, Indiana last Saturday. A book signing that suited me perfectly well-it was after all, in a gallery.

I had a great opportunity to observe the customers coming in to browse.

Some were delighted and walked over for a chat, others approached cautiously, while still others took a post card, smiled and walked away.

In the process, I found out I need to slow down when I read, and not be so nervous. Pack some punch and project action into my voice and simply relax, of course that is easier said than done.

Then I thought about my role model, Sara Paretsky.

I once heard Ms. Paretsky read to a packed audience. It was amazing-her voice firm, resounding, captivating. Sheer theatre…Ms. Paretsky reached her audience without apparent effort.

Something to strive for...

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, March 21, 2008


Imagine this . . . picture it if you can. An editor with a major NYC publishing house sends a rejection letter to the infamous John Brown, fanatic or hero of the attack on a US Arsenal in 1859. But the letter is dated 2007, and it is a rejection that should’ve been addressed as Dear Mr. Walker, but instead the editor confused me with my character in the manuscript for Annie’s War—Mr. Brown. The letter as you see it here is an exaggeration, of course, wrought by a friend who found it hard to believe that I’d received a rejection letter addressed to John Brown. But the exaggeration here sheds a light on the fact that many editors are in need of an education. So here it is in the year of our Lord 2007.

Dear Mr. Brown,

Sorry about that hanging thing. While that would be a unique start to your book tour, your overzealous abolitionist viewpoints might harm sales, even if Unitarians like Bronson Alcott thought you were cool. Also, since you are long dead, any potential series moola we can make off of you is in the shitcan. But thanks a heap for writing, and hey, way to go with that helping to free the slaves thing.

Sincerely yours,
Muffy Bradley, Trust Fund Baby and otherwise unemployable niece of
Mr. Simon Schuster his own self.

All kidding aside, a writer has to have both a thick skin and a large sense of humor in her survival kit. And all kidding aside, this business of trying to sell your work and instead racking up rejection letters is the hardest, most painful aspect of the art. While the writing is pleasure and fun, play and joy, wammo! Then comes this stonewall called marketplace. You love your characters, love the circumstances you have managed to get them into, love the stage on which they play, love the time period, and the details, and the props, and the whole concept of the story. For example my ANNIE’S WAR reads like an old-fashioned western shoot ‘em up, but it’s historically accurate up to a point fiction (historical fiction). Hell, the storyline simply follows the factual story! Then you have to face the realities of those in a position to buy or deny.

My Cuba-based novel, Cuba Blue, can’t sell it because those “in the know” believe that no one is interested in a female lead detective living and working in Havana, Cuba. My published by HarperCollins City Series books—award-winning books— got NOWHERE in the marketplace for a year, and the concept was turned down by EVERY publisher in NYC and the UK before HarperCollins picked it up. This after selling like forty novels previously. My last agent (currently without an agent) says that all the editorial chairs in New York are currently being occupied by what she calls Twinkies – young kids too young to have anything in common with her or me. Who cares for the concerns of a geezer like me? Certainly there is a generational thing at work when the editor allows a letter to be addressed and sent to John Brown.

I have always maintained that few of these editors know what they have in hand quite often. Few know what they want until they see it, and even then they don't see it; even after they buy a work, they often let it wither in their hands and lack of care by the time it sees publication. Most don't know what they truly have in hand—and so they treat it like all the other books in hand, no matter its uniqueness, no matter how it should be viewed. They have not the imagination of you and me—writers—to SEE the possibilities of the work. Then a rare editor comes along who DOES see the possibilities as we do—or as the author does.

I learned a long time ago that it's not the work—not my work—that is at fault in the marketplace but the people who are handling my work. They want celebrity books, movie tie-ins, already pre-sold numbers built in. My city series ought to’ve been brought out as hardcover works and then soft, but no. If not that then out in trade, then mass market, but no, they were labeled mass market paperback works, and so they went on the shelf as such, despite the fact the market for historical fiction has a large contingent of readers who look for the hardcover. The books went straight to mass market. But who’s to argue. As I said, this series was turned down by EVERY publisher in the US and the UK except the ONE that did take a chance on them. So who’s complaining? Point being, just as I don’t know what I think until I see what I write, many a publisher and editor does not know what he or she thinks until they see how it sells. At which time not even hindsight is helpful as the time has passed for the life of the book.

Before my first book was sold in 1979, I had collected a file drawer full of rejection slips. Since then they’ve doubled, quadrupled, and I still get them all the time. It is part of the “roulette wheel” we call publishing. You're probably just getting started. Let’s say that the houses that have passed on your book are the biggies--your agent appears to have great faith in your book to submit to these major houses. Keep the faith. As for an editor saying something that is not the “house” rejection, but an actual letter or note from an editor that departs from the form rejection, prize this and target this editor when you’re pitching your next book, because this is rare.

Rejections are rarely helpful and they’re not a venue for teaching you how to write; for that take my online course. Rejections are normally huge generalizations in the extreme so the editor doesn’t waste time with you anymore than he already has; form rejections have about as much substance as a speech given my a true politico.

Hold on! That’s not to say don’t use your local politicians. Send them free copies of your books. I slipped a signed copy of City of the Absent to Barack Obama today via his aide. Hoping to spread a rumor now, so help me out here: Obama seen reading Rob Walker's City of the Absent on the tour bus! Unable to put it aside, he's been seen at the podium with the book in hand by Matt Lauer. Domino effect and Lauer spent a sleepless night on account of the novel. Meanwhile, Obama flubbed his following day speech on account of the book as he, too, had lost sleep over it, despite all efforts of his wife to get him to come to bed.

So I researched for over a year, and I wrote a historical novel on John Brown's attack on Harpers Ferry from his 18 year old daughter's POV -- Annie's War. This remains unpublished and rejected, which I accept as part of the gamble of this lifestyle. But I got a little crazed with the last rejection on this book -- why? The rejection letter, I Shit You Not -- was addressed to Mr. John Brown with my address below it.

“I don’t recall what followed but it started out, Dear Mr. Brown, yaddy-yadda-yadda... while I felt your novel was very exciting, I could not get excited enough
about it to get behind it. In today’s glutted marketplace, an editor has to absolutely fall in love with your work. Annie’s War just didn’t do it for me. In fact, I thought it read like a history book or worse, a western, and we don’t publish westerns.”

Most rejections are, by the way, form or formalized letters that the editors can just grab up and send you. There are stock statements like Not Right For OUR list at this time. I’ve had enough rejections over the years to literally paper my walls. Finally, one day I bon-fired the whole damn lot of ‘em.

If and when you get a truly personal remark or two, those are to be savored, and you send those folks your NEXT book. And while you are awaiting Book One making the rounds, to keep your sanity, man, you work on the next book.

Happy Writing and You gotta learn to laugh in the face of rejection. And you can, if you accumulate enough of them.

Spread the word! Obama is reading Walker! Somebody tell Joe Konrath, yeah . . . that’ll get the ball rolling!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Writing Bloopers: search and destroy! by DL Larson

Once again my office desk is laden with partial manuscripts I have agreed to judge for a romance writers contest. Reading through each is rewarding and I am constantly astounded at the diversity yet similarity of ideas we writers have. Another thing brought to my attention is the common mistakes made. So ... I want to share a few of these problems and in so doing, help others learn how to search their work, and kick those no-good words out of their script in order to create stronger stories.

In no particular order:

It was/there was:
Now every writer needs those simple words, yes I have used them. But when they are splattered across the page - that's called lazy writing. Most times it's not necessary to say "it was." And certainly not several on any given page!
Example: It was an unusual sound to be heard this early in the morning.
Reworked: The sound was unusual this early in the morning.

Most times, with a little effort, the sentence becomes stronger and the reader is given a precise and succlulent image rather than the boring it was statement. When searching out "it was" bloopers, don't read the words on your page, simply scan down each paragraph, circling each one you find. Go through a chapter at a time. And then sit back and evaluate what you have discovered. If your pages are splattered with markings, then you've discovered one of your weak traits. And now you know one of many ways to fix the problem. Good luck!

The He/She sentence structure:
Again, many fall into a routine with sentence structure. The above exercise will help with discovering this problem too. Take the time to simply scan your pages, circling the He/She/They sentence beginnings. I was always told if you have more than three or four sentences starting with He/she, then you have too many.
Gotta mix it up, folks. The simplest fix is to rearrange your sentence structure, try putting a phrase before the statement. Perhaps linking a few phrases together would work, thereby eliminating another he/she sentence. Be imaginative! The goal is to make it interesting, intriguing. Similar is boring. Big yawn here.

That word!
I'm not going to say too much, only that that is over-used, abused and should be thrown out if at all possible. If you think you don't have that problem, do the circle test and find out. Good luck!

Same word usuage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now we're getting into one of my pet peeves. Thesaurus, people. Buy a good, wordy thesaurus and be creative in describing your characters, your setting, your everything!. Every entry I have judged, some dozen in this packet, this is a VERY big problem. I don't understand this concept. Finding new words should be the fun part of writing, finding another word to describe what needs explaining. This lack of imagination is lazy writing. Oops! Did I really write that? Too late now.

Since we're on pet peeves, here's another one: Beautiful
Okay, I'm judging historical romances, yes, she's beautiful! But the reader needs more than the writer's word. Descriptions move the story, show the reader what the character looks like, more importantly what she's like as a person. Details and more details are what is needed. I would love to read a book where beautiful is not mentioned once, but the sense of beauty is in every word about her/him, the inner beauty, the all important beauty, not the physical attributes only. I bet publishers would enjoy seeing such descriptions as well.

Underlining Thoughts
I must be old-school, because this is driving me batty!!!! The need to underline simple thoughts is not necessary. I don't know what English instructors are doing these days, but this interruption is really distracting. Since I have not attended an English class in some time, I won't say stop doing that, but I will tell you, I've lost interest at wondering if I'm supposed to enphasize those words in my mind, shout them out or something??? Underlined thoughts pull me out of the story. And folks, if it pulls me out, someone who loves to read, it will undoubtedly pull your reader out too. And that, ain't the idea at all!!!!

Paper Characters:
I'm talking about the minor characters not brought to life. Another big problem in the entries I've judged. Each character, no matter how minor, should be real to the reader. Introducing characters is never easy, but let the reader know the relationship between the main character and the new ones. By doing this, the reader grasps the connection, or lack of connection and develops a clearer picture of the plot unfolding. Physical description is crucial too, but it's the relationship between the characters that will bring them to life.

Withholding important information:
Don't confuse intrigue with insightful information. The reader needs to know why your character doesn't believe in love anymore, or why she can't go back home. A long explanation is not needed, but a hint of past problems, conflict enriches the story. It's not giving anything away, it's pulling the reader into the story. If some explanation is not given in a timely fashion, the reader becomes frustrated and may set the book aside. Not good. This confusion over delving out information when appropriate is another VERY big problem. My suggestion is to read, read, read, how others do it and then follow what you learned from them.

Too Many Questions:
When the main character continually poses questions to no one but themselves, it becomes distracting. Most times, turning questions into statements or thoughts serve the reader better, even if another sentence has to follow to make it clear. Let your reader pose the questions, not you, the writer.
Example: Could one so fair-haired and benign be John's brother?
Reworked: One so fair-haired and benign couldn't be John's brother.

I hope these common bloopers I've mentioned will help you tighten up your manuscript. Mentioning them is meant to help others from making the same mistakes. Finding a publisher is not easy, and they are a tough crowd to please. I know I only mentioned a smattering of solutions to you, but sometimes fixing the problem is the easy part, finding the mistake in the first place is the biggest hurdle.

Good hunting!

And have a hippity-hoppity Easter!
Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Joseph's Day Table by Morgan Mandel

To add flavor to a book and make your character seem authentic, it's a good idea to include family and cultural traditions. Who hasn't heard of the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? That movie is filled with many cultural references and customs.

You'd have to live in a cave not to be aware of March 17, St. Patrick's Day, a day for wearing of the green, when even people who aren't Irish pretend to be.

In passing, I just happened to mention to a few people about St. Joseph's Day, an Italian feast day, celebrated on March 19, a day for wearing of the red. They'd never heard of it before. Also, they'd never heard of a St. Joseph's Day Table.

If you belong to the category of people who have never heard of or participated in a St. Joseph's Day Table, you've missed out on a wonderful event.

The St. Joseph's Day Table is said to have originated in the Middle Ages when a drought struck Sicily and families prayed to God and also to St. Joseph. To stay alive, many of them resorted to eating fava beans. When their prayers were answered and the rains came, the Italians named March 19 as a special feast day dedicated to St. Joseph. They set up a grand table of food to share and celebrate. Since it was Lent, the food was meatless, but plentiful. Flowers and other decorations added to the festivities.

From such roots the present St. Joseph's Day Table was born, traditionally celebrated sometime near March 19, consisting of a massive buffet of meatless dishes, usually with more than one variety of pasta, along with salads, breads, plus almost any kind of pastry you can think of, with lots of flowers and other decorations. The St. Joseph's Day Table not only provides a grand feast, but also lucky fava beans, a talisman purported to prevent pantries from going bare.

I've posted a few photos of the St. Joseph's Day Table I attended last Saturday sponsored by Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Arlington Heights. I hope you enjoy them.

I'd be interested to know if anyone else has heard of St. Joseph's Day or a St. Joseph's Day Table. Also, have you been to one?

I'm going to stop now. All this talk of food is getting me hungry.
Morgan Mandel

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stump the Norm, Part Deuce

There was some awesome feedback to last week’s blog, so I’m going to unleash Part II of actual questions sent in by real employees in a real company and responded to in a real newsletter by the real me.


So without further ado, or further adon’t, here ya’ go…

· Question: How and why do people get ulcers?

· Answer: Having caused a few of these myself, I know that ulcers are caused by excess stomach digestive acids, which are triggered by physical or emotional stress, rather than by the arrival of food. Finding no food in the stomach to digest, these acids get bored and watch TV. Of course, this gives them the munchies, and since there’s nothing to eat, they start eating the stomach linings themselves, which taste really good with Tabasco sauce. That’s why your doctors tell you to stay away from Tabasco sauce and anything else that tastes good with stomach linings.

· Question: Did the married man marry Miss Right as in always, or did he marry Miss Wrong as in never?

· Answer: Um, I don’t not get this not at all.

· Question: Where did the phrase “Going to hell in a hand-basket come from?”

· Answer: To answer this question, I pulled out my handy, dandy copy of Dante’s Inferno, and while there was some good stuff in there, I couldn’t find any mention at all about a basket. So I decided to look to the Classics for our answer. And of course, by classic, I mean classic children’s stories. As you know, much truth and subliminal messages can be found in these stories cleverly hidden behind symbolism and chaos. Like, for instance, the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. What the heck was he smoking? But back to our question, there are two famous hand basket maidens in the classics, Little Red Riding Hood and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy can be dismissed out of hand, because she simply used the basket to carry Toto and the Lone Ranger. So we turn our attention to Red Riding Hood. We know she was bad, of course, because she was a hood. And she wore red, like the devil. And she never took off the hood, so you couldn’t see that she had horns! I’m glad this question was brought up, so we could expose this demoness for what she is. Warn your children, and never read this book again!

· Correction: It turns out the Question of the Month last month was phrased wrong. It should have said, “Did you marry Miss Right as in always right, or did you marry Miss Wrong as in never wrong? I apologize for my error. I’m guessing that the person who submitted this was either Miss Always Right, or Miss Never Wrong. And I’m never wrong, right?

· Question: What gives a flower its scent?

· Answer: Once again, we have to go to children’s classic books for the answer to this question. I remember reading a story once about little fairy sprites that fly from flower to flower, with little atomizer bottles of Elizabeth Taylor perfume, and squirt subtle, tasteful spray onto the flowers’ stamen, where the scent lingers, sending out aroma to attract male bumblebees. These bumblebees seek out the enticing odor and fly into the flower carpels, looking for cute chick bumblebees, inadvertently picking up globs of pollen as the bumble stumbles and trips over the flower’s stigma. Finally, frustrated, they pick up the pollen, and realizing that their Queen will like it the way it smells, they fly it back to their hive, where they turn it into a sweet, sticky mess that they named Honey, in honor of their Queen.

· Question: We want to know if anyone has a really great recipe for crabcakes.

· Answer: Boy, did you come to the right place. Anyone who knows your friendly-neighborhood writer knows he was born in Maryland, home of the Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Boy, this takes me back. Crabbing on the warm waters of the inland bay, dodging shallow sandbars, lemon sharks and horseshoe crabs. We’d throw the female crabs back in, because they were crabby. Sorry, just kidding. We’d do it to help keep the population up. Then we’d bring home three to five bushels of live crabs, steam them in huge pots, and invite a bunch of neighbors over for a crab-fest. We’d spread newspapers over the tables, and dump enormous piles of crabs on the table. You open them by the handy tab on their bottoms, pop the shells off, and spend hours picking through the white tender meat. Boy, those were the days! Oh, did I forget to answer the question? Oops, Sorry.

· Question: Do dogs have taste buds? I ask that because I have two dogs, and they eat everything that hits the floor.

· Answer: After exhaustive research, meaning I just dumped a bunch of stuff on the floor, I learned that my basset will eat tomatoes, zucchini, bread and crayons; but he wouldn’t touch black olives, pickles or red gummy bears. My conclusion? My scientific study proved conclusively that my dog won’t eat pickles. Hope this helps you. Another handy tip? Don’t ever trust your dog to watch your food for you.

· Question: Do drywall, oak trim and paint have any nutritional content?

· Answer: Huh? Um, I guess. Termites seem to think so. I’m sure if you’re building a gingerbread house or something. Never mind. I don’t know. Go ask your dog.

· Question: Are paint fumes actually harmful?

· Answer: Darn tooting they are. If you get paint fuming mad, it’s liable to roll itself up in balls, shove itself into a paint gun, then get itself shot at people.

· Question: What do you call the floppy thing under a turkey’s chin?

· Answer: It’s not a floppy, it’s a CD-Rom. Just kidding. As any fan of the old Ally McBeal show knows, the loose skin under the chin is called a wattle. The turkey’s wattle goes back to prehistoric days, back to when the turkey’s ancestor, a shared relative of the pelican (pelicatussaur), ruled the piers and seaports of the dinosaurs. Recent archeological studies have proven that dinosaurs, contrary to thought, were actually quite accomplished sea persons, or sea monsters, as it were. As the ancient pelican gradually migrated further from the sea, and modified its diet by no longer eating fish, its wattle gradually decreased until it shrunk to the vestigial skin flap we see on the modern turkey.


The Adventures of Guy … written by a guy (probably)

The Next Adventures of Guy … more wackiness

The Heat of the Moment

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunny Side Up

I hate to keep harping on the weather here in the Midwest, but things are looking up around here! The sun is actually shining today (although there is still a nip in the air). And almost all of the snow is gone (except for the very last dregs of the dirty snow piles on the corners, which I'm sure will disappear soon!). The sunshine has improved my mood greatly. I was starting to get REALLY crabby.

I'm ready for blooming, birds chirping, GREEN grass. I want it all. Some brave shoots of tulips are starting to poke their way through the soil. In time, they'll bloom into beautiful flowers.

In the same way, the seeds of a new story are beginning to take root in my mind. I'm in that starting-a-new-book-nervous-excited mode. And it's great! I can't wait to let IT bloom.

Until next time,


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Acme Authors Link is proud to Welcome Julie Hyzy, President of Midwest Mystery Writers of America, to our blog.

Julie Hyzy’s newest series debuted in January with State of the Onion featuring Olivia (Ollie) Paras, a White House chef who feeds the First Family and saves the world in her spare time. The second book in the series, Hail to the Chef is scheduled for release in January, 2009. Julie’s written two books in her other series featuring Chicago news researcher and amateur sleuth Alex St. James, Deadly Blessings and Deadly Interest (which won the 2007 Lovey award for best traditional mystery). “Strictly Business,” a short story in the Bleak House anthology, These Guns For Hire, won a 2007 Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. In addition, Julie collaborated with her writing partner, Michael A. Black on Dead Ringer (Five Star – coming November, 2008) where Alex St. James works with Mike’s private eye, Ron Shade, to uncover a shocking mystery.

Please visit:


My name is Julie Hyzy and I am a synesthete.
Huh? you ask. What’s that?

Do you see days of the week in particular colors? What about letters of the alphabet? Months of the year?

Maybe you’re a synesthete, too.

For me January is red. Has been since I was a kid. Monday is red, too. February is yellow, Tuesday is blue.

Have I confused you? Or are you nodding slowly, saying, “Yeah, I get that”?

Some months ago, I briefly wrote about my “condition” on my blog ( but the colorful concept is so fascinating that I decided to bring a taste of it to Acme Authors Link.

Simply put, synesthesia is a combining of the senses. For example, some people may see lavender when they taste chicken, others see bright blue when a song is played in a particular key, still others sense days of the week in particular shapes.

Is this a brain misfire? Or an opportunity for extra creativity? I like to think it’s the latter. Heck, I’m a writer. Anything that makes me feel more creative is a good thing!

Researchers believe about 1 in 2,000 people experiences this phenomenon, but I have to tell you, until recently I only knew one other synesthete—my youngest daughter (it runs in families). We both just thought we were weird (as did the rest of our family when we argued over the color of Friday) until last summer when her high school marching band performed a selection of Michael Torke’s compositions. Our band director, who chose Torke’s works: Green, Ash, and Bright Blue, explained that when Torke composed these, he *saw* these colors. The band director went on to describe Torke’s uniqueness, and my daughter and I were thrilled to realize there was a name for our weirdness. Since then, we’ve picked up Patricia Duffy’s excellent book, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens. Perfect title except, in my world, the word “kittens” is pink ;-)

What does any of this have to do with writing? Other than the fact that Vladimir Nabokov was a famous synesthete, I like to think that this combining of senses means that I have fewer obstacles between my brain synapses. And I’m convinced I’m a better speller because of synesthesia. To me, words are hard, soft, sharp, dull, or misshapen. Hard to explain, but when I come across a typo, it “clacks” in my mouth even before I realize—cognitively—that it’s misspelled.

Altogether, pretty strange, I know. But I love it.

All this is done by instinct. I don’t really think about it, and I probably wouldn’t have given my oddity much thought with regard to writing, had I not discovered that synesthesia exists in others. Now I’m curious.
Since I’ve only recently realized there is so much information available about this condition, I’m determined to learn more. Just this week, I came across a wonderful site: Synesthesia. If you’re interested, or if you understand me when I insist “December” must be black, I suggest you take a look.

Thanks for letting me blog!
Come visit my website

Best always,

Author of STATE OF THE ONION, (Berkley Prime Crime, January, 2008) - White House Chef Ollie Paras feeds the First Family ... and saves the world in her spare time.

Top of the mornin' to ya! by DL Larson

Yep, it's that time of year again when everyone wants to be Irish. The Chicago River runs green, along with draft beer. Kelly green is the proper shade and seems to look good on everyone and everything, even hair!

No one cares if you're not really Irish; it's nearly spring, so our eyeballs are naturally drawn to that rich, vibrant color and the cadence of bagpipes puts a high kick to our step. And who doesn't want to find a pot of gold? Or catch a leprechaun. It's a national lottery, someone is bound to get lucky.

The Irish are a friendly people, and if you ever get a chance to travel to the old country, go prepared to chat with the locals, guzzle a mug or two at the carveries while waiting for your lunch. The Irish are not in much of a rush to do anything and I've always admired that. When my husband and I visited there a few years back, we quickly got used to being lost for they don't believe in road signs either, but then we had ample opportunity to talk with folks while asking for directions. Their beer wasn't green, but the landscape was the richest, deepest emerald I've ever seen. The forests are so heavy with moisture they twinkle, and I'm pretty sure I spotted a fairy or two.

I've always been told my mother's family was Irish, and during our travels the question often came up whether we had a bit of Irish in us. I mentioned my mother was a McDowell. The response I received wasn't the one I expected. "Oh, you'd be from across the sea, the Scottish Irish. They're the ones that spell your name that way." News to me and my family!

The carveries I mentioned are the pubs with restaurants attached to them. The pubs are always open, not so the carveries. Lunch is served at noon, no sooner, so don't be in a rush to get on down the road. Might as well enjoy the scenery and have a Guiness while you wait. The Irish take their beer consumption seriously. They consume as much beer as they export to other countries! That's quite an accomplishment.

As for cornbeef and cabbage, we were served more lamb and Irish stew than beef. I didn't see a lot of cattle roaming the hills. But sheep with painted butts could be found in every nook and crag along the roads. Sometimes in the roads. They too were never in a hurry to move along.

Please be prepared to talk sports with them. It's on all the TV channels in all the pubs and carveries. We learned a lot, mostly that soccer is really football and football in America is not football in the rest of the world. But hashing over the game is the same world over, and must be done with much hand gestering, just like in American bars. Some things are frightfully the same.

Castles really are everywhere in Ireland! Ruins, too. We rarely missed an opportunity to explore a castle. Some had elaborte grounds and history, others were left open to browse at your own pace and wonder about the past. And the one thing that I found out of place were the palm trees. They were a pleasant surprise.

No wonder everyone pretends to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. It's a celebration to celebrate life, fun, and a good time. I'm all for that. I'll end with the simple but elegant Irish Blessing:

"May the road rise up to meeet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, and until we meet again,
May the God that loves us all hold you in the palm of his hand.

Til next time ~
DL Larson

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dreaded Income Tax - What's an Author To Do? By Morgan Mandel

I'm not a number person. I do much better with words. I used to be very diligent about keeping track of the checkbook, marking down deposits and withdrawals, and all that sort of thing, but somehow this year, just like last year, it all got away from me.

Part of the problem, but really not a good excuse, is the way I get my paychecks - direct deposit. This method is very convenient. I don't have to go to the bank to cash my check and deposit the money. By magic, somehow it gets there by itself. I only need to go once in a while to an ATM, punch some buttons and, like a slot machine that pays (there are a few), money comes spitting out.

When I actually had to go to the bank, I kept really good track of things. Now, because everything is so convenient, I tend to ignore the aspects I should be keeping track of. I forget to record the deposits, even though I get a slip at work saying what they are. I forget to mark when I take money from the ATM.

Thank goodness, I at least remember to record the checks or I'd really be in trouble.

So, anyway, that's one part of my income tax fiasco problem. Another is the fact I haven't balanced the checkbook since last income tax time. As long as the ATM receipt shows I have money, I put off keeping track of the hows and whats about it.

Another part of my income tax problem is I itemize. Not only that, I deduct writing expenses. Being the non-meticulous with figures person that I am, I've thrown all my receipts and copies of e-mails about orders and writing relating services and goods into one overflowing envelope, where I've also thrown in the real estate tax receipts and other goodies that need to be itemized.

Now is the time to go through the giant mess. Now's the time I have to sort through it all and get it ready. I've only got until March 22 to get it done. That's when my tax person will meet with me. If it's not organized, it will mean more money to pay her, so I've got to do it.

Here are some of the expenses I deduct: writing organization dues, conference fees, how-to books about writing, writing magazines, paper, printer cartridges, pens, memory cards, promo items, such as postcards, bookmarks, business cards, brochures, postage for mailing books for reviews, postage for mailing the postcards to all and sundry. These are the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure once I delve into my folder, I'll find tons more.

Anyway, if you're a writer and not itemizing your writing expenses you may want to consider doing so. The process is painful, but worthwhile. I'm always surprised how much money I spend every year on my writing career. The upside is keeping these receipts and making sense of them means getting money back I can use again the next year to buy goods and services so I can start the cycle again. It's already March and I've been stuffing it all in a special folder like I usually do. Some day, I'll learn to keep track as I go along - well, maybe not.

Time to go through that folder now.
Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clearing out the clutter

Been working real hard lately to clear out the clutter in my life. It's not easy going through and making decisions about what to keep and what not to keep, especially for someone with OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But unlike Monk, mine manifested itself in keeping stacks and stacks of stuff like magazines, books, newspapers, etc. Don't think I'll be getting my own show - not quite as quirky as Monk. Anyway, been recycling and giving away bunches and bunches of stuff.

It was amusing to take magazines to the train station where I live. The magazines disappeared almost as soon as I put them in the magazine rack. At least folks like my taste in reading materials. I don't think the recycle guy is as amused, however. He's really had to work hard these past few weeks at my stop and he'll have to continue to work in the weeks to come. Feels good to get rid of things that have been weighing me down.

OCD has also gotten in the way of my writing and I realize now it's kept me from making the kind of progress I've wanted to. But now than I'm actively getting rid of clutter and moving forward my writing has started to flow.

One of my projects is a episodic blog about a therapist who is struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with her rebellious teenage daughter while going through her own emotional upheaval triggered by some of the experiences of her patients. Check it out:

I'm working on episode 2 this week. So, we'll see how this goes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Stump the Norm

Okay, you folks are in for a real treat. I sporadically edit a company newsletter and once challenged the employees to try and stump me on some questions. I've decided to share some of it with you and as you will see, they rose to the challenge ... but so did I.

These are actual questions sent in by real employees in a real company and responded to in a real newsletter by the real me. I may have picked on salespeople a bit, but be assured that no salesperson was hurt in the making of this blog.

· Question: If nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan?

· Answer: C’mon, give me a hard one!! You don’t have to go far to get the answer to this seemingly impossible answer. The remarkable properties of Teflon are easily explained when you look at the scientific roots of this remarkable mineral. As you undoubtedly remember from high school physics class, Teflon is a natural element that is secreted from the adrenal glands of a salesperson. When applied to any hard surface, this mineral transfers to the surface the same qualities that salespeople use to give out work, even while work given to them is naturally repelled.

· Question: When snow melts, where does the white go?

· Answer: Only a monkey could answer this question, which has puzzled people for many years. Back n the old days, snow white simply went to sleep, to be stared at by dwarfs until kissed by a prince and awakened the following winter. Then one day, a Monkey, named Mike Nesmith, discovered a way to bottle it, and spread it on paper to cover mistakes.

· Question: Why do customers prefer to come in ten minutes before closing?

· Answer: Excellent question, and one that required considerable research. I conducted an in-depth scientific study (by sitting back in a chair and staring at the ceiling for forty-five seconds), and fathomed that all people want to be either the first at something, or the last at something. For instance, the baseball Mark McGuire hit for his 70th home run was auctioned for over one million dollars. However, if he hadn’t hit numbers 1 through 69, number 70, by itself, wouldn’t have been worth much at all. So each baseball he hit for a homerun during 1998 should be worth the same amount of money. But they aren’t! Only the last one is! So I reasoned that people figure they get more value if they are the last one coming in the store to buy something. Proof of this can be seen the next morning when you see debris cluttering your parking lot. This is from people waiting in the parking lot for the last instant that they can conceivably squeeze into the store. As far as McGuire, though, since Bonds came around and broke his record, McGuire’s home run balls aren’t worth anything anymore.

· Question: What direction should a ceiling fan rotate in summer and winter?

· Answer: In a circular direction, in both summer and in winter. Sheesh, c’mon, give me a hard one.

· Question: Why do kangaroos have their babies in their pouches … and how do they stay there when the mama is bouncing around?

· Answer: I’ll handle the second part of this question first, and with just one word … Velcro. As far as the first part, a kangaroo baby is called a joey, short for Joseph, who should have his own church. These marsupials are part of the macropod family (meaning big foot), which includes over 55 species, including certain NBA basketball players; and they keep their joeys in their pouches for two reasons: First, because a mother kangaroo is extremely organized. She is very creative at storing and packing items, like extra lipstick, napkins, and spare underwear. Because she is so economical, there is additional room for her joey. Also, it keeps them safe from their natural predators, the dingoes, since kangaroos really hate it when Elaine Benis (Seinfeld) says, “The dingo done got your baby.”

· Question: Why is lettuce crunchy?

· Answer: I went to expert, Captain Crunch, for the answer to this sound-related question. The answer has its roots in cellular biology, where we learn that the cellular structure of plants is rectangular, rather than oval, like the ones in animals, humans, water, and allegedly, salespeople. The physics of ripping these cells apart results in a wave-like physical reaction, that moves linearly through the air, and vibrates our eardrums. Our brains recognize these vibrations as noise. When lettuce begins to decay and wilt, the weakened cellular structure produces less vibration. However, some argue that if you rip lettuce in the woods, and no one is around to hear, it will make no noise.

· Question: What’s the difference between a reindeer and a deer?

· Answer: As most people already know, a reindeer is actually a member of the deer family, Cervidae, subspecies Rangifer Tarandus, which means, “a deer in which Santa Claus controls by using reins.” What fewer people know, though, is the female reindeer is the only female deer other than Caribou to have antlers, or horns. The purpose of these horns, of course, is so that reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh can honk at any airplanes that come too close.

· Question: What’s an armilary (we know what it is. Do you)?

Answer: Pa-shaw. Of course I do. I also know that the correct spelling is 'armillary'. This word dates back to the first King Larry (the Lion-Livered) of Armilia back in 1422. King Larry, as everyone knows, was the first to wear a prosthesis (fake) arm, after losing his right one in a tragic mishap involving a family of irate, but polite gophers. Being a king, he was able to put together a large collection of wonderful arms to sit every occasion. Originally he kept the arms in th armory, but this confused his soldiers when they were looking for weapons and armor. So they made up a new name for the room where larry's arms were stored called the Armillary (short for arm-of-Larry). I'd spend a little more time on this but I can tell by my sundial that it's getting close to lunch.

· Question: Do the engineers at the downtown hotels use the same boxes the Christmas lights come in to put them away?

· Answer: Yeah, right. And they believe in Santa, too.

Let me know if you want more of this next week.

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

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Winter Wonderland?

Okay, I'll admit it. I am sick of the snow. Here in the Midwest, winter is still raging, although the calendar tells us that Spring is almost here. I don't believe it. Because it's snowing...again. Aren't we done yet? Normally I enjoy living here. I like the change of seasons. But the seasons don't seem to be changing this year. I think it's been winter for about three years. Even the kids around here are complaining about the snow...that's got to tell you something.

The winter blahs are starting to get to me. I need to get motivated. I need to get moving. But all I want to do is sit on my couch with my feet up and a good book.

Which, I guess to put a positive spin on things, is the silver lining in all of this. A good book allows you to escape to anywhere. Far away lands, outerspace, back in time. You name it, you're there. No ticket or passport required.

So, no matter where you are, or what the weather is like by you, I encourage you to pick up a book today. It's a good day for it.

Until next time,

Debra (Who will be on page six on her way to a tropical destination in about five minutes!)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Waiting for Spring by Margot Justes

Tonight we spring forward as they say and lose an hour; that typically signifies spring is here.

You wouldn’t know it by the large snowflakes that kept falling this morning, the bitter cold that hit your face as you walked outside, or the dirty snow now turned to ice still peeking from beneath the fresh dusting of the white stuff.

I am looking forward to Spring, even tough I’ll be at my computer typing, trying to finish book two by year end, get ready for promo stuff for book one, finish a short story, so on and so forth…Yet, this life is exciting, and this is a perfect way for me to segue to my upcoming wonderful weekend.

I will be at Artists’ Own in Lafayette, Indiana, be reading, signing, and whatever comes my way. The best part is that I will be spending a whole day in an art gallery, where twenty-eight creative, talented artists display their work.

If you find yourself anywhere near Lafayette, IN, please stop by and say hello, look around and maybe even buy a treasure or two.

Below is the address-just in case.

March 15, 2008
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Artists' Own
518 Main Street, Suite B
Lafayette, Indiana 47901

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, March 7, 2008

DUAL BLOG - He Said/She Said Woes & Writing Your Own Sales Copy by Robert W. Walker

DUAL BLOG – He Said\She Said Woes & Writing Your Own Sales Copy, by book makeover artist Robert W. Walker, author DEAD ON

I work extremely hard to remove as many He Said, She Saids as possible in my manuscripts; one of the ways to reduce the number of unnecessary words is to not attribute a line to anyone but rather follow it or preced it with some character's action, which says it was her line or his line due to its being positioned in same paragraph as speaker. You don't see ANY he said, she said in a single comic strip frame or movie frame, do ya?

I like most suspense authors who are on the bestseller list like Robert Parker, Lee Child, and many more, but it's just lazy writing when a book is scattered with he saids, she saids; it is almost as endemic and sickening as hearing the phrase "I think...over and over in any and almost all TV interviews, esp. with politicians. Don't tell me what you think you think, just tell me what it is--the belief, not what you say you believe.

Example My Bad: Mary was angry when she pushed Bill to the floor. She shouted as she pushed him, "You get your filthy hands off me."
Bill worked to regain his feet, and he thought he should come up swinging, so he did. On hitting Mary, he cried out, "That's not the answer I was thinking I’d get, sweetheart.”

Example My Good: “You get your filthy hands off me!” Mary pushed Bill, and he fell to the floor.
Bill regained his feet and came up swinging, striking Mary. “That’s not the answer I want, sweetheart.”

Why on earth do you need to say who said what? Now if you get all your characters, say three, sitting around a table and yammering, OK, maybe some attribute as to who is speaking when helps keep a reader on course but it oughta be used like salt and pepper. Too much spoils the dish.

Now doing a full 180, I want to save you years of grief and explain that the most important story you will ever write is the short-short story about your story—what you would want to see on the back flap of your novel when it sees publication, the copy that will sell it to an editor, or get you a reading from an agent or editor. I always attach my “dream copy” to the manuscript I forward with the intention of selling it. This copy can also be used in verbal pitches. Here is the one I used to sell Five Star books on my 2009 publication DEAD ON. Don’t just read it, study it. See that it is couched in present tense. Read it as a writer – to determine its efficacy and pointed-ness, how it answers in dramatic form the five W’s –who, what, where, when, and why. And in the style of it HOW.

Title: DEAD ON, A Marcus Rydell, Kat Holley Mystery

Private Eye Marcus Rydell is fighting to keep his hold on life in modern day Atlanta Georgia. He is a detective struggling with suicidal tendencies due to his having been disgraced and having lost all he holds dear four years earlier. Marc’s suicidal gun to mouth is only stopped by his cop’s instinct and the promise brought to him by Dr. Kat Holley. She makes him an offer at the point of a gun, one he can’t refuse, for it actually provides him a reason to live in the form of vengeance. Rydell sets aside his plans of suicide to chase a killer who, four years previously, hurt both Kat and him in immeasurable ways. The hunt takes them to the darkest regions of the Atlanta night and the Georgia forests where the monster they are chasing turns on them amid the spectacular Blue Ridge Lake region.

Our flawed heroes hunt a psycho Rambo type who is hunting them. The killer bundles people into square blocks, breaking every major bone, packages them up, hangs them on a tree, builds a fire below them and they die a horrible, torturous death. This monster has eluded police and the feds for four years. Along with a sharp, black German shepherd named Paco, Marc and Kat—who fall in love along the way—must end the maniac’s life before he ends theirs.

Author Bio: Robert W. Walker lives in Charleston, West Virginia with his RN and author wife Miranda and two daughters, two sons, a dog, a lizard, and too many bills. Rob loves traveling and sharing his hard-won lessons on writing via his online Write to Sell class. Contact rob at or become a friend at and for E-books by Rob, see and always return to Acme Authors right here!

COMING ATTRACTIONS from award winning author, Rob Walker – DEAD ON from FIVE STAR PUBLISHING early 2009

Happy Penning,


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Finally a Finalist!! by DL Larson

The other morning I was delighted to see in my email a message from the 2007 Anne Bonney Fiction Contest Coordinator. My second book, Promises To Keep is a finalist in their annual contest. A list of the finalists will be posted on their website real soon. If you're interested, go to and check it out.

Being a finalist is a great honor. A finalist of anything means one has worked hard and finally someone has taken notice. When my first book came out, Memories Trail, I had high hopes of some recognition, and although many proclaimed to have enjoyed my book, I didn't win any acclaim. But then I never sent it out to be judged, I waited months for my first review which was supposed to have come out before my book did. I was afraid to move on without a review. So I waited. What I didn't know, was the manuscript had been lost in the mail. So several months went by and I worked on, thinking I'd get a review soon. I asked my publisher, she said be patient. So I waited some more, worked on my next book, but didn't really pursue my first like I had planned. Why, I don't know, other than I felt I needed validation that my work was worhty of pushing onto others. So after another few months, I grew brave enough to write personally to the reviewer. She'd never received my manuscript, and asked me to send her the book instead. So after nearly a year, I received my first professional review and an interview with Midwest Book Review! It was fun, well worth waiting for and I became much thicker skinned, determined not to ever be a mouse waiting in a corner again.

Most fictional contests have a time frame worked into them, (usually one year from copyright date of the book) and Memories Trail was never entered into any contests; for that I am sorry. I feel I did my book and the great characters within it, an injustice.

I was better prepared when Promises To Keep came out. I found many contests I intended to enter. Then family illness put away trivial thoughts of contests and acclamation. Deadlines came and went and my book sat on my desk, going nowhere. And I didn't have time to think about the loss of not entering a contest.

One day last fall, I was wandering through sites writers like to frequent and stumbled upon a contest that Promises To Keep qualified for. With determination, I sent my three copies, paid my entry fee, and popped everything into the mail. Since that time, I have become much more diligent in looking for contests and giving them a try. If I hadn't, my upcoming novel, Promises My Love would never have been declared a winner either!

So 2008 is looking up! I've had the honor of winning twice and it's only March! I'm nearly giddy with excitement. People like my books! Imagine that! Folks like what I write. I could sit and write that all day long. I'm giggling as I write it. And what I want to share with you is not only my good news, but to tell you not to give up either!!!!! Keep writing, keep entering contests, keep searching for the contest where your work will be noticed, no matter the copyright date. Recently I found one that accepted older books and sent Memories Trail out. I feel much better having at least given it a chance to be a winner. Because just like the old saying, if you don't enter, your chances of winning are dismal!

As for the the Anne-Bonney Fictional Contest - winners will be announced sometime in June. In the meantime, feel free to pick up a book by DL Larson and read it!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson