Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Charlotte is a proud 1993 graduate of Florida State University. She is a former teacher who began writing when she was between day jobs. She loves college football, and a good nap when she can get one!

THE MANSFIELD LIGHTHOUSE CATS is a collection of poetry written to appeal to even those readers who don’t pick up a book of poetry very often. Containing poems for all ages, it contains poetry about such diverse topics as love, loneliness, football, and genetic testing. The title of the book comes from the name of the the book’s first poem. The book was recently recognized as the Book of the Year 2007 in the Poetry category by


When I'm writing, I like complete silence. I like to be able to hear my thoughts. I like to write in the morning, when it's quiet, and I'm not tired. I will write during lunch also, but rarely at night--too tired. I'm usually at my desk in my bedroom, the lamp is on, and I'm scribbling away with my favorite Papermate pens in medium blue. I use yellow legal pads mostly, but I like to use pink or blue if I can find them. Colors appeal to me and make me feel happy.

I write everything out longhand first, then I do my edit, and then I type. I'm not a big scribbler, so you won't find any drawings in the margins. When I'm writing, I'm serious! By the time I complete these steps, it's my hope that only minimal editing will be required.

This method is the same regardless of what genre I'm working in at the time. I write poetry, nonfiction, or children's books. I've also written humor articles about the daily drudgery of the office experience, or about relationships.

If I'm good, I might just give myself a break to stretch my stiff muscles and drink some sweet (but not too sweet) tea.

I try to write different things each time. I have many interests and my work is a reflection of that. I enjoy football, humor, helping others, history, true crime stories, and best of all, napping!

Catch Charlotte Barnes at:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fat Cat

I like animals and have owned both cats and dogs. My last dog was a stupid basset (this is itself an oxymoron) that my children named Buster. This is one of the better names they have come up with when we give them the privilege. My older daughter, Samantha, when she was young, once got a toy giraffe from the gift shop at Brookfield Zoo and named it ‘Haack’ (like a big wad of spit). She was around four at the time, and also christened her doll ‘Baby Ka Ka’ (like poop).

Anyway, having owned both kinds of animals I feel I’m entitled to make a few generalizations. First, contrary to public opinion, cats are more polite than dogs. Just look how they eat. When a dog eats, spit, slobber and food fly in every direction. Then when they’re done gobbling, they nose around, Hoovering up bits of food, spittle, and pushing the bowl around hoping, I guess, to be in position when more food falls from the sky.

Before he got Junkfooditis, which earned us a stern look from the vet, we used to mix a dash of people-food in Buster’s dinner. But if we forgot, he’d go on food strike for up to twenty seconds. A cat will go on food strike too, but is much more refined about it. It simply goes off and stalks away to go kill its own dinner.

Not Buster though, he used to give the same look an Italian gives you when you serve spaghetti without meatballs, “Whatsa matta, no meatballs?” and then nose around to see where you put his real dinner.

And I gotta say something here, something so gross you may have to turn your head.

He ate poop! Did you hear me? Poop!!!!


And not just any poop.

Cat poop!

That stuff that comes from the wrong end of a feline! Not that you’d want anything from the other end.

The kids talked me into getting our cat with one of the main cornerstones of their bargaining being that Dad Would Not Have To Do Anything To Take Care Of The Cat! No scooping litter, no cleaning hocked up hairballs, no feeding. Nothing. No care, whatsoever. I’m scot-free.

Seriously, my grandfather came from Scotland. Otherwise I’d be Irish-free, or maybe Polish-free or something like that.

Anyway, the agreement was understood. Dad does nothing!

This agreement held for about a week until everybody discovered that used litter smells bad. Like that was a revelation.

Then our cat got fat, so he’s on a restricted diet, which makes him the round, mound of cranky cat.

So in the morning, after an actual night without eating, he’s like a teenager on pizza-deprivation.

And whoever steps in the kitchen first runs into one angry, hungry cat.
Guess who that is every morning?

With every single step, a fuzzy, plump torpedo zigzags in front of me, frantically trying to remind me that the cat must be fed.

This lasts until the moment food appears in his bowl. And I stagger off into the bathroom amid the frantic crunching sound of Purina salmon and eggs-flavored cat food.

Where was I leading with all this?

Oh, yeah.

When I changed the litter, Buster would watch with an intent look on his face. Surely he’s just keeping me company, right? Yeah sure. This dog is a raging mass of impulse and instinct. The impulse to eat, and the instinct to eat. The only things he does between eating, is wishing he was eating, dreaming of eating, pooping out what he ate and wondering what he could be eating that he doesn’t know he could eat.

So one day I come across a basset butt sticking out of the closet with the litter box, and I hear crunching on the business end of the dog.

“Get out of there, you stupid dog,” I screamed at him.

And the butt backs out hastily. And I’m looking him in the face.

Floppy ears, droopy eyes, folds of skin, embarrassed look.

And something brown hanging out of his mouth, with little pieces of cat litter stuck on it like happy little sprinkles.


That dog is never going to lick me again!!!

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

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Rob Walker continues to interview his four pen names – Stephen Robertson, Glenn Hale, Geoffrey Caine, and Evan Kingsbury.

Rob: Let’s throw this on the table for discussion. Do you gents prefer to outline or to work like some free range chicken clucking away irrationally for food? Okay, maybe that’s not the best metaphor. But I seriously want to know if any of you do outline more than the rest of us? Is it necessary to have the ending firmly in mind before you begin? Is it necessary to plot out the entire story before you put pen to paper? Is this an essential ingredient in controlling the plot dynamic?

Geoff: Whoa, how many questions is that? But I do like your term plot dynamic. I had to do outlines for my editor on the Stroud novels as he demanded them. However, he knew early on that it was just a blueprint, and he encouraged me to not be a slave to the outline—which I wasn’t . . . ever.

Glenn: I never met an outline I stuck to slavishly. In fact, writing outlines is a painful process in my opinion. Like Geoff, I had to submit one for my editor so she had something to work from. Editors like the brief, tidy tidiness of an outline. They can duplicate it and use it during an editorial meeting to determine if they will buy the book in question.

Evan: It’s the old three chapters and an outline; it’s standard in the industry with large publishers.

Stephen: Standard for smaller publishers seems to be the entire novel finished.

Rob: You’re all evading the damn question. Which do you do in practice, say when you are not courting an editor or trying to sell the work but during the crafting of the work, do you build it piece by piece on the basis of knowing where you’re going or exploring where no one has gone before? Do you prefer outlines to free form writing? Do you begin at the end or the opening chapter or scene?

Geoff: I write the first three chapters before I think of doing any sort of outline.

Glenn: Oddly enough, that’s my working habit as well.

Rob: So neither of you have ever begun a book by writing the last chapter first and working backward to create a tightly crafted outline of a novel that would lead you directly to the ending you had in mind in the first place?

Geoff/Glenn (simultaneously): NO, never!

Rob: What about you guys, Stephen? Wanna jump in here?”
Stephen: I did four novels, none of which I knew the end to until I got there or quite closet to there. I have never written to a preconceived ending. I have to admire those who can and do, but it’s never worked that way for me. I write chapter one and see where it leads. I do my best to open with something startling, something hair-raising, a scene or first chapter with a cliffhanger, plenty of conflict, tension and see where it leads on to.

Evan: What the others are saying, Rob, is that we may have alias but we’re a lot like you in the way that we work, and add me to the list of those who can’t abide telling the story from beginning to end in an outline as once it’s told a story can’t help but get old. I like the story to unfold in a fresh and even organic flow, from a stance that if I do not know what is coming on the next page, then I’m pretty sure it will come as a surprise and a twist to the reader as well.

Rob: Come on, not one of your books you’ve plotted to a preconceived ending? Not one?

Geoff: Following the dictates of editors, I’ve been forced to “plot” outlines, yes, so I have a beginning, middle, and end in said outline, but no, even in having to do a “forced on me” outline, I write it in the same manner. Opening chapter one dictates what comes next, and next, and so on. I have never written the Last Chapter of an outline or a novel first, no.

Rob: And that works for you?

Geoff: For three novels, yes. The thing of it is the novel structure is episodic, so I write in an episodic frame of mind.

Evan: The lad’s got it right. Imagine if you will a chapter one or scene one opening with four, five pages, maybe ten, during which 20 questions are raised by the circumstances, the setting, the characters, the props, the dialogue. This is how I do it. I create a moment of crisis—start in the middle of a highly charged emotional and physical moment in time for the characters on the page, and what they say and do raises eyebrows and questions.

Stephen: And the rest of the novel is spent answering and resolving those questions raised in the mind of the reader from the get-go. The most elemental being, “Do I want to spend time with this guy/gal/detective/shrink/maniac/lady-in-drag-doctor?

Rob: Careful now. So what I am hearing is that you all have pretty much stolen my working methods for yourselves?

Glenn: Stolen is such a harsh word. We took our lessons, did we not, at your feet, and your Modus Operandi in crafting the novel is shared by hundreds if not thousands of authors who’ve come before you. Thousands others plot first and ask questions later, so to speak. Or rather write to a puzzle ending or a surprise ending or a twist ending, or one that ties up every conceivable loose end before it can get loose.
Rob: But don’t you wind up sort of writing yourself into a corner when you have no notion of where you are going until you get there?

Geoff: What a hypocrite you are, Walker. You have written yourself into more corners than all of us combined.

Evan: Yes, but he always manages to write himself out of said corners, right, Rob?

Rob: I’ll ask the questions here.

Glenn: It’s rather simple for anyone who can picture a fat ball of twine and beside it a ring. A short story is a ring. Beginning of the story is as close to the end as the beginning and end of the ring. One geography, one tightly written character usually with ancillary characters of less consequence, one problem or question to resolve; whereas the novel is a winding ball of twine and at its core, deep are the revelations, the aha moments, the discoveries, but to get to the answers you have to pull the thread of chapter one, two, three, etc. And as others have said here, those curious questions are raised on the first pull and our hero doggedly seeks answers and resolution and often redemption by the end of the longer work with many settings, many important characters, and many questions to be resolved.

Rob: Nicely put, Glenn. You’ve been so coherent since you gave up the bottle.

Geoff: I look at it like the X-Files. We have to compete with visual effects, mood music, all of those green monsters, so our questions raised have to be extremely good, and they must fascinate us as authors. So this notion of devoting prologues and opening scenes to raising the hair on the back of the necks of readers is extremely helpful.

Evan: All the same, anyone who can create a novel by virtue of outlining and outlining heavily, and those blessed souls who see the LAST chapter full-blown in their heads FIRST, more power to them. This is their working method and it’s to be respected.

Rob: I think we can all agree to that. Many rivers to the ocean. Gotta respect anyone who can put together a moving, emotional, action-packed, fun to read novel anyway he or she can do it. What’s chiefly important is that a writer find his or her way, how her mind works, what makes him comfortable. If writing and pecking about like a loose goose over a patch of grass is not your style, if writing more like a calculating, determined

Stephen: Maybe we oughta to’ve discussed writing effective dialogue.

Glenn: Yeah, you can break any rule of writing within the confines of quotation marks.

Rob: Maybe we’ll save that for next time. Meanwhile, just want to add that whatever moves the action and story along, whatever reveals character, this runs the forward moving dynamic of the novel. Whether you write tight or loose, outline or write free form, the important thing is that the reader is swept up in a compelling tale. Whatever method, approach, how-to that works for you and makes the work compelling, that’s the ticket. The secret is to find the right voice for each story and one thing I urge younger or newer authors to do is to read as a writer reads. Most every how-to book on writing has a chapter on reading as a writer to learn from others who’ve come before you.

Evan: Sorry we collectively have so little to say on how to outline or how to organize a novel, but that’s just us now isn’t it? I know that if I plot too heavily—that is with heavy hand—then the story comes to a grinding halt for me. I draw up an outline for those who need it—agent or editor—then I go write the novel.

Rob: Perhaps an organized writer will guest blog here one day and tell us how it’s done. As to writing oneself into a corner, it the challenge of writing oneself out of dead ends that often result in the most original work.

Geoff: There’re no outlines in life, so why rely on one in fiction? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Rob: Sounds like you all like to work without a net; that you work passionately and dangerously and sloppily.

Evan: Correct.

Rob: Think we’ve exhausted this topic—at least among us. In the meantime, thank you all for again coming and for your time and input. Until next time.

At the next round table, Rob and his AKAs will discuss dialogue.

Meantime Happy Writing,

Rob Walker et al . . .


Just to let you folks know - At times, such as when I'm on vacation off and on this summer and fall, or when other bloggers are on vacation or doing special projects, we are fortunate enough to have June Sproat, a new YA author, fill in as our special blogger. June has a delightful new book called Ordinary Me which recently made its debut. Her publisher is The Wild Rose Press.

To learn more about June, visit her website at

We are very happy to have June on board.

Morgan Mandel

Pitching to an Editor! by DL Larson

As Morgan Mandell mentioned, this weekend many will be attending the RWA Spring Fling Writers Conference in Deerfield, IL. (Chicago area) This is a wonderful opportunity to bond with fellow writers, attend workshops and pitch to editors and agents. As the days creep closer, anticipation escalates. Everything rides on the infamous two minute pitch.

I'm nervous, excited and mostly scared I'll flub up. Pitching has never been a strong point of mine. I practice and practice, yet I continue to deliver mumbled, disjointed bits of what my book is about. My outline is concise, succulent, but I fumble with the delivery.

Somewhere in the last several months, with all the folks talking on the various loops about pitching, I realize my biggest mistake. I ramble. Yep, me who loves to put words on paper in a tight, well organized manner, ramble. I certainly don't mean to. I strive to stay with the outline, but strange words rush out. And then I'm in trouble because I have veered away from my outline and I don't know how to get back to where I want to be.

So, how do I stop this unattractive habit? I've studied many books on pitching, listened to other writers tell of their secrets, and finally after much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion LESS IS MORE.

I've been practicing shutting my mouth. Short sentences. Pause. Breathing is good. And a smile - if I'm feeling really brave. Professional. I'm in conversation with another human being, not delivering a speech. Sure. Let's try that again, with feeling and enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is the most important ingredient of my pitch technique. My smile may be tenuous, but my eagerness to share my work will grab the attention of the editor or agent. I know that. I've always known that. I simply must relay it when I'm the one in the hot seat, dealing with sweaty palms and dry mouth.

Others have relied on word association to describe their book. I have mixed emotions on this. But I'm willing to try it. So here goes ...

Dr. Jekyll married to Suzie Homemaker; and Maverick married to the Scarlet Letter, with their boys, The Boxcar Children.

Then I close my mouth and wait for the editor to respond. "Yes! How brilliant! You're just what I've been waiting for!! I must have your manuscript today."

Oh, I like this dream, er scenario. But truth is, I've wondered many times if I'm the one who sends the editor's eyeballs rolling, or perhaps it was the one before me, and I am simply the one who has to suffer because the previous writer couldn't spit out what they so badly wanted to say, and the editor is still trying to refocus on the task at hand, namely me.

These are the things spinning around in my mind when I should be concentrating on my delivery, er conversation with an editor. And how do I shake hands when mine are cold and sweaty!! Heck, I don't want to shake hands with me. And are the editor's hands sweaty too from shaking so many damp hands? I worry about that as well.

Basically I worry alot. I've scolded myself many times about this needless and nonproductive activity. I wonder too, when is a good time to give the editor my brochure about my book, my wonderful, precise brochure that I should have simply slipped under the door while I stand in the hall while she reads it.

For heavens sake, I've just come upon the best idea. I'm calling it the slide in pitch. I'll take my perfectly worded outline and slip it under the door and wait. It'll only take a minute for the editor to read it, love it and demand to publish my work. The two minute pitch will become a thing of the past, archaic. Yes, I can see the benefits of this for everyone who has trouble with rambling and mind wandering in directions it shouldn't go. It's brilliant. Simple, and the editor will get a good work out bending down to retreave brochures from the floor. No TB for them. Another plus! The editor will open the door, smiling wide and give me a hug, no worry over handshaking any more.

It's perfect! Too bad it's just a dream. Maybe someday ...

For those signed up for a pitch with an agent/editor, my only good advice is two fold:

1. Be yourself
2. Show your enthusiasm for your work

Good Luck!

And for heaven's sake, please stop and say hello at the book signing on Saturday. Better yet, buy one of my books. Promises To Keep is a finalist in 2 contests! It's a great read, even the reviews say so!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


THIS SATURDAY, APRIL 26, FROM 4:30-6PM AT The Hyatt, Deerfield, IL

Debbie Macomber, Eloisa James, Christie Ridgway

I'll be there autographing TWO WRONGS and GIRL OF MY DREAMS. Many other authors will also be present.

The Spring Fling Conference, sponsored by Chicago-North RWA, is booked, but NOT the book signing. It's worth the trip just to get autographed books from your favorite authors and to try out some new ones.

I'm busy getting ready, so this blog is very short today.
Hope some of you can make it!

Morgan Mandel

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mass hysteria, dieting

So let’s go back to the subject of women and gravity.

Yeah, I spend a lot of time on this topic.

No, I’m lying. I don’t. I value my life…. and, uh, other things.


Oh, yeah, this is one of my infamous nonsense blogs.

Yay! Nonsense blogs!

Anyway, back to the women and gravity. If you really think about it, women don’t try to lose weight.

Really … they don’t.

They are actually trying to lesson the force of gravity between them and the bathroom scales. If our gravity were to suddenly lessen to, say, point nine Gee’s, every woman in the world would lose 10% of her weight.

However, she would still look the same. Would she be happy with her newfound weight loss?

I don’t think so.

So the proper thing to do now is for everyone to realize that women don’t really want to lose weight.

You heard me.

They don’t want to lose weight.

They want to lose MASS!

So starting today, women, you want to go on a mass-reducing diet.

And you want to hear stuff like this, “So Kathy, you look great, how much mass have you lost?”

I know the above statement seems chauvinistic … at least it does to me. It’s well known that many men are also overweight, and are very interested in dropping a few pounds. Maybe healing that plumber’s butt thing. So dropping pounds is in no way limited to women.

But men can drop weight much more rapidly than women. All we have to do is shake our heads, and let some of the rocks dribble out.

Also, do you know that a fish is mostly just a big muscle?

Nice segue, huh?

Okay, maybe not, but this is a nonsense blog after all.

Anyway, just think, a fish can move in water faster than we can move unassisted in air, which is far less dense. That’s because they are propelling themselves, with sideways motion no less, by one huge muscle making up more than 60% of their bodies.

Density is a very interesting property. You can go from solids to liquid solids, like mercury, to liquids and gases. And if you really think about it, solids are not solids. There are spaces between every molecule of solid, so basically solids are not, in fact, solid.

Where was I leading with this?

I had a point. I know I did.

(fingers drumming on laptop)

Oh yeah, if you could change our atmosphere to something lighter, like helium, women might just obtain that weight loss they were looking for.

No wait, that would result in weight gain.

You would need to weigh someone in a denser medium, like water, to make him weigh less. So maybe the answer is to melt the polar icecaps.

See, global warming just might have a good side to it after all.

No, wait, that wouldn’t work either, because if we were surrounded by water, we’d go under when the tide shifts.

But don’t worry, we have George Bush’s best scientists on the case.

No, uh…

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

Sunday, April 20, 2008


This weekend marked a milestone for me. I sent my FINAL edits, and meant it this time, to my editor! I've sent "final" edits in the past, in fact I started sending them several months ago. But, this time, it was for real. My manuscript is now headed to production, and the next time I see it it will be in galleys. Very exciting!

With that done, it's time to turn my attention to making sure this book sells when it hits the stands. I've got to work out a publicity plan and really decide what I'm doing here. Luckily for me, I belong to a great writers' group whose members are so willing to offer support and share advice.

Writing has always been a hobby for me, but now that it's officially a second career, it's time to get down to business! The business end seems overwhelming at times, but I'm learning a lot every day and am looking forward to all there is still to learn.

I just hope with all the time I'll be spending on developing my career, I'll still have time left to write!

Until next time,


by Debra St. John
coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I am giving up my Saturday blog this time to guest blogger and award winning author, Earl Staggs,-and I couldn't be more delighted.
Check out his awesome cover...

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris


Earl paid his dues in the writing community by serving as Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies and one of his stories brought home a Derringer Award as Best Short Mystery in 2002. His latest short story, “Battered,” is currently online at

The second edition of Earl’s novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER has just been released and is available for ordering online at For a signed copy – or if you want to read Chapter One first – write him at

Don’t Read Like a Reader

Being a good writer is not enough. There are too many good writers out there, and let’s face it, the competition to make the best seller list is tough. To make it to one of those few slots at the top, you have to be better than good. To do that, you have to continuously strive to become better at the art and craft of writing.

One way to become a better writer is to change the way you read.

Most writers are also avid readers, and there are many people who read but don’t write. Some read for escape. They want a break from everyday life by immersing themselves in a life created by someone else. Nothing wrong with that. Others read because they love language and how gifted writers use it. Nothing wrong with that either.

There are other reasons why people read, but reading for any of the reasons most people read will not make you a better writer. To improve your writing, you have to stop reading like a reader and learn to read like a student of writing. If you're a student of writing, you read for awhile, then stop and think about how the author manipulated you.

Yes, manipulated you.

Think about it. Why did your pulse rise during that action scene? Why did you feel sorry for one character and hate the other one? Why did you want that character to triumph? How did the author make you feel like crying? You may discover you felt the tension and excitement of an action scene because the writer used short sentences with strong action verbs. You might realize you empathized with one character more than another because the drama in the character’s life were similar to the problems we all experience. There are many ways a skilled author can manipulate you, and if you can identify them, you can improve your own skills.

The fact that you loved, hated, cried or cheered at different points in the story wasn't accidental. Whatever emotion you felt was a result of the author’s choice of words and phrases and use of pacing, action and dialogue. It was careful wordcrafting, masterful management of your emotions and thoughts by someone who knew how to put the right words in the right order at the right time to manipulate you into thinking and feeling exactly as he or she wanted you to think and feel. If you think about and can figure out how another writer was able to accomplish this kind of manipulation, to bring about the emotions and thoughts you experienced, you may learn something that will help you in your own writing and make you a better writer. Of course, you don’t want to adopt another author’s style. Most certainly, you don’t want to copy their wording. There’s a law against that. Your goal is to learn the techniques of manipulation used by expert writers, then marry the principles of those techniques with your own writing style.The up side of reading like a student is that you will become a better writer. The down side? It can take some of the fun out of reading purely for enjoyment, relaxation, or escapism.But, hey, we have to make sacrifices if we want that best seller, don't we?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


4 in 1 Guest Bloggers: Talking to My Selves RE: TIME ON THE INSIDE – Caution: Pen Names Can Lead to Schizophrenia (A Round Table Discussion Among the Pseudonymous)
Robert W. Walker, Geoffrey Caine, Stephen Robertson, Glen Hale, & Evan Kingsbury

Robert W. Walker has penned over forty novels but many he credits to his pseudonymous creations. Rob’s archeological horror series was done as Geoffrey Caine, his Decoy Series and The Handyman was done as Stephen Robertson, a single title cult favorite, Dr. O came about from the pen of Glenn Hale, while his Fire & Flesh and FleshWars began with the pen of Evan Kingsbury.

Robert recently sat down with all of his “selves” for a round table discussion with himself and himself, himself, and himself again. The results are curiously interesting, some of him thinks. Perhaps a cautionary tale to those contemplating use of pen names?

Rob: Over the space of the next several blogs, I want to put questions of interest to Goeff Caine, Steve Robertson, Glenn Hale, and Evan Kingsbury to get their views on various subjects relevant to writing and writers. Question number one is a simple but deeper than you think, all important one: How important is it to your writing process, gents, to schedule TIME, and does this lead to other opportunities in weaving the novel?

Evan: You either control time, or time will control you; simple as that.

Geoff: There are times, indeed, when the world and problems impinge on any artist or writer, as when the roast is in the oven—reality and everyday business all of us must deal with, which at times can become so overwhelming as to cause the hardest working writer to experience a block. However, to get any writing done, yes, you have to have a plan of action, and time is an extremely important thing to plan out and use wisely.

Stephen: Learned long ago that in order to create something worthwhile that time has to be on my side. Doesn’t matter whether it’s AM or PM or both that you work (like we do), but it is highly important that you make that date with yourself and stick to it as much as humanly possible. If you work or have other responsibilities, you still must get to that chair and work an allotted amount of pages or ages—minutes and hours, I mean. Whether that’s one hour a day or three or three hours a week.

Glenn: Robertson’s right. It’s not how long or short a time period you have to work with but that you work with a time frame. In fact, I gotta agree with everyone here. All good advice. Sometimes this commitment means you hafta “stiff-arm” the ones you love. That is the people around you have to understand that this time you have carved out for writing—for yourself—that you are damn serious about it.

Evan: Exactly, and if you are truly a writer, the work is more important than the roast in the oven.

Rob: Sounds like a consensus that time is either going to work against you or for you depending on the level of your determination and commitment. I’ve burned a few roasts, and once I failed to burn the thing! Simply forgot to turn it on. However, I got a fantastic chapter done in Salem’s Child that day.

Stephen: Been there, done that. You were so involved in the world within that you lost track of time in the world outside you. Which is a necessary evil to creation; creating a fictional world that is—just as I did in The Decoy Series, which has a new life on thanks to you, Rob.

Rob: You’re welcome, pal. Brought back a few of my own early titles online at Fictionwise too.

Geoff: Happens to the best of us, this loss of time; can sure make the wife pissed. In Curse of the Vampire, Wake of the Werewolf, and Legion of the Dead, now entitled the Bloodstream Series on, I completely lost myself and any sense of time while creating the character and events surrounding Dr. Abraham Stroud—ancestor to Van Helsing.

Glenn: Same for me on Dr. O. The one series killed before its time!

Evan: What’s the famous Robert Frost saying on the subject? Something to the effect that ‘If the writer doesn’t cry, then the reader doesn’t cry’. So that losing of time Rob talks about is part and parcel of becoming your characters. And if you are totally in the moment, and you can make yourself laugh, jump, tear up, then you’re on the right path.

Caine: Become the monster to do villains.

Robertson: Become the mouse if you’re doing a child’s story about a mouse!

Hale: Talk about schizophrenia.

Rob: I know what you mean, both of you. On Daniel & The Wrongway Railway, my first novel, a YA, and on my first commercial contract, Sub-Zero (1979) things like that happened throughout. Daniel was a real tearjerker and still is, but working on an ice age mystery in Sub-Zero, my fingers became so cold that I couldn’t work the keys. Had to cut out the fingers in a pair of cotton gloves to keep going.

Evan: Same happened to me during the writing of both Fire & Flesh and FleshWar, except for one important difference; it wasn’t cold but HEAT. It became so hot for me, I literally had to strip to my waist, and before it was over, I had to take a cooling shower. It was after all about Spontaneous Human Combustion and a creature that “smokes” folks like we smoke Camels.

Hale: Hot time in the ol’ book tonight, eh?

Stephen: If I’m hearing everyone right, then scheduling time gets you there—eventually. So you are prepared. In learning, when you are prepared, you see the patterns and connections because you have been in training.

Rob: Eventually puts you in a frame of mind to be “there” yes—to take advantage of the opportunities offered up by the subject matter, the storyline, the setting, the characters, and imagination and research. All combining thanks to the TIME you put in. As in any artistic endeavor, athletic endeavor, or truth be told—


Rob: Which takes us back to time, commitment, determine-Nation! If a newbie or wanna-be writer were given a full four years just to work on his or her craft without any guarantees of ever seeing a word in print, would the student writer take up the challenge and make something of it?

Evan: Which returns us to attitude. The proper frame of mind to be a writer has a great deal to do with our control of time, of persistence, of patience, and our trust that in doing and working with our hands and minds, we eventually find ourselves capable authors. But we must also remember to have fun with it. Van Gogh worked with his hands and mind over many years, struggled mightily, yet he loved the work. Not that my plague novel FleshWars is a Van Gogh.

Geoff: I had a blast with the vampires, werewolves, zombies and freedom of the horror novels featuring Abe Stroud, I can tell you. Spending time with characters you have a real connection with is why we forget the roast in the oven or that it’s tax day zero. Not that I am anything like my monsers. Did that come out all right?

Rob: Final word on time and time control. If you don’t spend the time, you’re not likely to be transported body and soul to your own fictional world. And if not, then you are only half writing. When I created the horrendous, villainous Lauralie in Final Edge, I wanted to go out to purchase a gun, hunt her down, and put this despicable female serial killer down. However, in the real world, I know there’d be dire consequences for shooting B.B.’s at the damned squirrels out back of my yard. So which world do I want to schedule time in, eh? Call me crazy but . . .

NEXT TIME ON – As Rob’s Head Turns . . .
Robertson says: The ultimate goal is to not just crawl around in the psyche of the characters but to become the players.

We’ll take up other issues with My Selves that hopefully will bear fruit and keep me from the Asylum.

Hoppy, Hoppy Writing y’all . . .and thanks to my guests, Geoff, Glenn, Evan, and Stephen.

Rob Walker

Book Clubs Rock! by DL Larson

Visiting book clubs tends to be a daring adventure for me. I've attended ones where all the folks stare at me as if I might perform some daring act before their eyes. Others appear disappointed that I look so ordinary. Some seem doubtful that I could have my facts straight, or that I researched diligently in order to write my books. I've traveled many miles to present my story, only to discover the local library only had one copy and not everyone has had the chance to read the novel. So, no, they don't want to discuss the plot, don't want to ruin it for those yet to read it. I shake my head, wondering why someone couldn't have purchased another copy, why the library didn't use their inter-library loan system and in less than a week a dozen copies would have been in the hands of their patrons. But alas, not many do this. So, you see my experience with book clubs has been dubious on occassion.

Then there are the clubs who actually intend to read one of my novels, and in a timely fashion. Oh, how I love these groups. To invite an author to discuss the written words within the pages should be a wonderful experience for all. And when it actually happens, when the book club members have read every word cover to cover and are eager to share they're insight thrills me. It's exhilarating and I get a little light-headed when the discussion is in full swing about my characters and their actions. I want to jump up and do the happy dance.

Last January I was asked to mark my calendar for a visit with the Geneva Book Club. They wanted ten copies of Memories Trail, my first novel, a love story and war story set in and around the War of 1812. The exchange of books and money was made and I marked my calendar for a Tuesday night in April.

We actually met on a Monday, but the important thing, the really thrilling, goose-bump experience was listening to these gals pick scenes from by book and discuss it with a passion, wanting to know more about the way of things in the early 1800's. They wanted to know what movie star would play which character. I laughed. I couldn't help it. I was honored these gals thought my book was worthy of turning into a movie. And so we discussed who might play Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior (a real person in our history) and then my characters Will and Elizabeth, a frontier couple. And the old man, Devon, a lovable rascal.

We talked for over three hours and still hadn't discussed the entire book. Our topics ranged from the research involved, the way of the times, the plot and characters, to the bitersweet ending. Their sincerity moved me. Once again I was glad I ventured out to share my story with a book club. So my advice if you belong to a book club and are contemplating asking an author to visit, or do a talk on the phone, here are some tips to make your experience a great one.

- Set a date well in advance with the writer.
- Scheduling will help book members have ample time to read the book.
- Buy or borrow enough books for every member to have for their own.
- Did I mention every book member should have their own book????
- Ask the author if they have a set of interview questions they would like to use.
- Let the author know what you intend for the evening:
discussing the current book
how they spend their day writing
The plot and characters
Are there writers looking for advice?
(This happens all the time and too many times they take up
precious time with these type of questions, usually to the
distraction of others.)
- Allow time for the author to promote her/his next book
- Inform your group if the author has another book for sale so they can come prepared to purchase a book.
- If the author is traveling a great distance to join your group, offer to pay for gas. It's a nice gesture and lets the writer know her time spent is appreciated.
- Enjoy the evening.
- Be sure each club member has had the chance to voice their opinion or ask a question. (Again, too many times one person takes over and although what they say may be of everyone's interest, could be others wanting to speak up too but are too timid.)

The Geneva Book Club did a wonderful job allowing each of their members to bring up topics in whatever fashion they wanted. We didn't discuss the book chronologically,
rather one aspect led us from one scene to another. It worked beautifully.

With this last visit to a book club, my enthusiasm is restored. I'm ready to attend more. So if you have a book club and would like to discuss one of my books, write me a note at this blog or visit my website at I'd love to visit or chat on the phone with you.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

DL will be at the SpringFling Writers Conference, Hyatt Deerfield, April 25-26. Stop by and visit, buy a book!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WELCOME TO LIZ ZELVIN From Morgan Mandel & the Acme Bloggers


For most of my life, I’ve reinvented myself every few years. I’ve been a poet, a singer/songwriter, an editor (accounting textbooks were the worst), a teacher, a shrink, a life insurance agent (a nightmare), and a bunch of life cycles roles all the way to grandma (the best). Through it all, from the age of seven on, I’ve always identified myself as a writer. And through most of my life, I have indeed been writing one thing or another. Writing my first three mysteries, in the 1970s (never sold and unpublishable today), was my respite from full-time parenting of a toddler. Several mornings a week for three years, I walked a few blocks to the apartment of a friend from my women’s group. First, I’d procrastinate: an essential part of the writer’s task that I could perform much better in her home than in mine. I’d mist all her plants, sharpen many pencils, make myself a cup of coffee. Then I’d have a couple of hours to write. I eventually produced three completed manuscripts—or, as I would now call them, three first drafts.

Since I’m a woman of my times, the next phase of my life cycle was a divorce, and shortly after that, a full time job. In the mid-1980s, I went back to school for a master’s degree in social work. I then spent fifteen years in the field of alcoholism and addictions treatment, with a psychotherapy practice on the side. I also wrote poetry, sent it out assiduously, got into a fair number of journals, and was lucky enough to have a good small press do my two books—18 years apart. It takes either forever or no time at all to write a poem. I know a few fine poets who write every day and everywhere, but for many of us, including me, it didn’t demand the sustained effort of writing a novel.

So for years, I ran around telling everybody I knew that some day I’d write my mystery, Death Will Get You Sober. That should have jinxed it for sure, right? Tell everyone, never write it. And I never would have, except for a tragic stroke of fate with, um, a silver lining. I was running an alcohol outpatient program down on the Bowery and flourishing under the benevolent guidance of the best boss I ever had. He was a bit of a workaholic with a lot of health problems, and he knew precisely when to help and when to leave us alone. Year after year, to my amazement, I loved my job. I meant to stay forever—or at least until retirement age. And then he died.

A year later, I was sitting at home with time on my hands. Did I write my mystery then? Nope, not yet. First, I found out about a brand new kind of mental health treatment: online counseling and therapy. Those who were doing it—social workers, psychologists, a few psychiatrists—had the kind of energy and enthusiasm that had drawn me to the addictions field years before. I booted up my computer and plunged right in. Before long, I was seeing clients via chat and email at Building a practice is like developing any small business. It costs money to set up and maintain, it needs to be marketed, and success is cumulative, not immediate. As social workers say (about everything), it’s a process. “Don’t give up your day job,” my colleagues in online mental health would advise therapists who thought an online practice might mean easy money.

Working from my computer meant I could work anywhere. I got to spend my summers in the country: in the garden, on the beach, and at my laptop. And that’s where I finally wrote the first draft of Death Will Get You Sober. In the five or six years since then, I’ve learned a lot about the realities of publishing in the twenty-first century. Seasoned writers constantly tell newbies, “Don’t give up your day job.” I’ve heard bestselling authors, plural, admit they didn’t start to make a living till the tenth book. But not too long ago, I heard Lee Child, speaking at an MWA meeting, say, “I love the life.” Yeah. Me too.

ELIZABETH ZELVIN’s mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, is her first published novel. Her story, “Death Will Clean Your Closet,” has been nominated for an Agatha award for Best Short Story. Liz has been writing since the age of seven. She earned honors in English at Brandeis University in the Sixties and spent two years in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In the Seventies, Liz’s poetry appeared in numerous journals and eventually was published in two books, I Am the Daughter and Gifts and Secrets: Poems of the Therapeutic Relationship. In 1983 she received a CAPS award in poetry from the New York State Council on the Arts.

In the Eighties, Liz returned to school for a master’s degree in social work and began working in alcoholism treatment programs, including one on the Bowery, where Death Will Get You Sober begins. She also started a private practice in psychotherapy. For the next twenty years, besides those two professional roles, she wrote and lectured widely on addictions, codependency, adult children of alcoholics, and women’s issues. Her publications include a coedited book on gender and addictions.

In 2000, Liz launched an online therapy website, and began to write Death Will Get You Sober. When Bruce wakes up in detox on the Bowery on Christmas Day, his biggest fear is dying of boredom if he stays sober. Instead, he’s catapulted not only into a murder investigation but into the all-absorbing world of recovery. Helping Bruce in his quest to stay sober and find a killer are two friends he thought he’d lost: a computer geek and the world’s most codependent addictions counselor. All three will return as the series continues. Liz’s author website is

Learn more about Liz on her author website at She blogs on Poe’s Deadly Daughters at .

Monday, April 14, 2008


I’m going to tell you something that you might not know about our

little copper friend, the penny.

And that’s just it… they aren’t copper.

Whoa! Calm down, calm down.

The world isn’t upside down. Unless maybe you’re in China, where we’d be talking about juan, jiao and fens. And we Americans would be the ones upside down. So, I guess, depending on your perspective, the world is upside down.

Anyway, the penny used to be made out of copper, but, since 1983, Lincoln head cents have been made with 97% zinc. The other three percent? Copper!!!


So there. Feel better? There actually is some copper in the penny.

So I’m sure now you’re wanting confirmation that a nickel is made out of nickel. Don’t worry, it is.


In fact, 25% of a nickel is made out of nickel. And…

…wait! A quarter of the nickel is nickel? There’s a quarter in a nickel? So what’s in the other three quarters? Well, copper, of course. Huh? A nickel has more copper than a penny??!! This doesn’t make cents, er, sense.

Hey. I’m just the messenger.

Can you take more? There’s even more copper in the quarter than in the penny! The quarter used to be almost all silver, but since 1965, over 90% is copper, the rest nickel.

I know you’re stunned. A quarter is made out of nickel and has more copper than a penny? Boy, this would mess up the exchange rate if it ever got out.

So how about the dime?

Well, it’s partially made out of nickel (8%), and the rest is copper. Now you’d think that since there are two nickels in every dime, then a dime would be 50% nickel, and 50%, uh, another nickel; but it just doesn’t work that way.

Okay, so let’s review.

There are twenty-five pennies, which are no longer made out of copper, in every quarter, which is 90% copper. Two nickels go into every dime, but a dime is mostly made up of copper, which is what pennies used to be made of. A quarter is mostly copper, but doesn’t go into a dime, which is also copper, but also partly nickel.

If you took all twenty-five pennies that go into a quarter, and melted them, you might have enough copper to make a quarter, but you couldn’t make a quarter because you wouldn’t have enough nickel.

A dime, two nickels and five pennies equals a quarter, and if you melt them down, you might get enough copper and nickel to make a quarter, unless it was an old quarter, which used to be made out of silver, in which case you’d have nothing.

Not only does a nickel go into a quarter, but there is a quarter nickel in every nickel. And though a nickel is 20% of a quarter, a quarter is only 8% nickel. There’s some nickel in every nickel, and in every dime and quarter, but not in the penny. The penny was copper, but isn’t anymore, and nowadays is made out of ….

... uh, oh, that's right ...zinc.

There is no such thing as a zinckel.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Ah, Spring is definitely beginning to creep upon us. Everywhere I look, things are in bloom. I love this time of year, as winter shakes off its chill, and the ground is literally bursting with new growth. I don't even mind the rain we've been having the past few days, as I know it's doing its part to encourage those little buds to become flowers, the grass to get a little greener, and our spirits to lift as we look toward warmer temperatures and time spent outdoors.

It's been a long winter around here, and I can't wait to get out in my garden and muck around. Sure, it's work, but it's something new. That's what I love about living in the Midwest. The change of the seasons brings us new beginnings in our lives on a regular basis.

What I love about being a writer is that I can create those new beginnings at any given moment. Beginning a new story is like watching those fragile seedlings begin to pop out of the ground in Spring. At first, things are delicate and fragile, and need constant care. But eventually, they take on a life of their own and grow into a beautiful creation.

Where ever you are in the world today, I hope you are enjoying your special corner of creation.

Until next time,


coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Visit with Jenny (JR) Turner by Margot Justes

Jenny Turner is a very talented Echelon author, not only is she talented, she is gracious as well. Please take a few seconds more and watch her book trailers…they are riveting and absolutely thrilling.

So here without further introduction is the award winning author - Jenny Turner.

Thanks so much for having me here, Margot!

I think the one thing most non-writers or aspiring authors don’t realize is that writing is actually a very small (though highly enjoyable) part of a writing career. When I set aside time to free write, I’m in heaven. This normally happens at least once a day, every day, when I‘m in the heart of a new book. My next favorite moment comes when the book is fully completed and I get to do the first round of edits. This is where I get to use my thesaurus liberally, play with sentence structure, amp up the emotion and dig into how best I can showcase my character’s journey. I should, however, back up some…

Before I can even begin writing in earnest, I draft a synopsis. This can be loads of fun as well. It’s where my imagination has the most freedom. The what if’s part is thrilling for me, though not quite as great as the writers high. Without this synopsis, free writing can paint me into corners I don’t like at all. It is essential to how I create. Of course research plays a big part in what I choose to write and depending on the type of book, I may take as long as a year, or just a few weeks to make sure my plans are feasible and believable.

Even before writing the outline or synopsis came years of honing my skills and learning the craft. I liken it to a four-year college course. I studied at least forty hours a week for four years before I wrote the book that eventually became my first release. (Though Stark Knight was the third book I had written.)

Once the book is edited, hopefully it has a home. Right now I’m working on a new six-book series called Extreme Hauntings for young adults. Echelon Press expects the first one in September of 2008. Otherwise, the book goes into submission um…I mean it goes through the process of getting out of the slush pile and into print.

The work doesn’t end there. Once the book is accepted, it goes through a series of edits, works It’s way through an art department for a cover, comes back to me for final approval, and then it gets a release date based on the timetable of the publishing house.

And then there’s more work ahead. Advertising, promoting, book signings, tours, conferences, and book selling venues such as Printers Row every summer in Chicago. We shouldn’t forget about internet options either. A website, blogs, membership in forums, trailers, and much more become handy tools of the marketing trades and all take time to create or maintain.

I get more questions about the book trailers I create than any other advertising or marketing strategy I’ve used and I’ve used a bunch! I use Windows Movie Maker, a free program that came with my computer. It’s a simple program to use, once you’ve figured out the basics. Most of what I do is drop and drag for the pictures I’ve downloaded from (using a one month subscription, I’ve saved $15,000.00 so far!) Add in the music supplied by local talent found at MySpace, special effects, lots of adjustments, and a trailer is born.

Here are the two I just completed for my Knight Inc. series featuring the band Less of 12 ( ):
Silent Knight

Good Knight

In the end, the break down of time spent on this career I love looks like this:
10% researching and preparing
10% editing
20% writing
60% on promotion, marketing, networking, scheduling and making appearances, attending conferences and book selling events.

It’s difficult to explain this to those not already imbedded in the industry. The romantic notion of a hermit living on bread and wine in a garret, pounding out deeply emotional and brilliant novels is a beautiful fairytale, but a more accurate picture is a half mad-unicyclist trying to avoid pits and potholes while juggling with one hand precious treasures like home, family, friendships and everything we are outside of being authors. The other hand, of course, is writing the next deeply emotional and brilliant novel.

It’s a great life!

Jenny (J.R.) TurnerJ

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
available on

Friday, April 11, 2008

MARK MY WORD By Robert W. Walker

Ever since a long forgotten bunch of 13th Century monks got together at the local Ramada Inn and held a conference to decide on grammatical issues and marks, signs and symbols, we’ve all been plagued with confusion. Grammar strikes fear in us all due to its confusing nature. It’s as bad as trying to read a publisher’s contract, a royalty statement, or a tax form. It is a frightful prospect and a brave thing I do here to even begin to tackle the enormity of the problem caused by these monks and perpetuated over generations of English teachers and linguists. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to challenge it here and now.

First the good news – such a thing as TRANSFORMATIONAL grammar holds promise; in fact, until I took a college course that taught transformational grammar, I truly felt like a grammaticalcripple likely never to be able to pursue a career as a writer due to this defect in me. No English teacher I ever came into contact with did anymore than add to my confusion until I read up on transforms – basically the opposite of destroying perfectly healthy sentences via the diagramming process so familiar to us all in the fifties, sixties in schools everywhere. Diagramming basically took a sentence DOWN. Whereas transformational grammar demonstrated how a sentence was created in the mind from its kernel root two words to a 3-part, 4-part, or 5-part sentence of complex thought. Example:

A two word sentence that says it all: Jesus wept.

A transformation to that sentence dictates answering questions that immediately come to mind as in: Who is Jesus? What’s his problem or goal? Where is he? When is this happening? Why is he weeping? The mind leaps ahead of the pen to answer these questions and so Murphy’s Law is born – the epitome of Murphy’s Law is a misplaced modifier. Stay with me here. A modifier is the answer to any one of the above questions relevant to Jesus Rodrigues or Jesus of Nazareth.

Let’s provide an answer and put it in the wrong place – Jesus wept at the age of thirteen.

We know how old Jesus is but it seems he is weeping at becoming thirteen because the “modifier\answer” is badly placed.

Let’s place the age in front: At the age of thirteen, Jesus wept.

We have just made a successful “transformation” of the sentence. Still, if we want to “construct” more answers to more questions relative to Who is Jesus and Why is he crying, we will need more “modifiers”, which are in essence “fragments” clipped from whole other sentences, such as: Jesus was aged thirteen at the time.
Or: Jesus’ last name was Rodrigues.
Or: Jesus cried for all mankind.

Our brains put together “transforms” as fast as any computer, until we have all the transforms we “mean” as in:

At the tender age of thirteen, Jesus of Nazareth, in dispirited agony, wept for all mankind.

Mrs. Calabash, my 4th Grade English teacher would have had us “de-construct” this perfectly executed “construct” of a complex sentence. Transforms celebrate the “creation” and “imagination” put into this sentence and would not think to de-construct it by diagramming it. Suppose we wanted to make this multi-complex sentence ALSO a compound complex sentence? We once again “transform” it at the higher-level thinking inside our minds where language is born by putting it this way:

At the tender age of thirteen, Jesus of Nazareth wept for all mankind, and as a result, Jesus’dispirited agony for us all has become a focal point in history and literature.

Go ahead, make my day…diagram the hell outta that sentence. Diagramming was for this young author a painful experience, and one I did not fully understand on many levels, not the least being that it made me feel uncomfortable to “destroy” a good sentence by ripping it apart for only one reason, to find the kernel or “roots” of subject and verb and object:

Finally, a grammar that worked for me, and honestly, until I made a conscious decision to drop all fear of grammatical pedantic nonsense created by the monks and perpetuated by the “cabala” of English teachers who have somehow created a swamp of rules for us all and six names for every rule (predicate = verb; 24 uses of the comma or is that coma?) – until I dropped all FEAR and consciously told myself on re-reads and edits of my words that “If it sounds good and it makes sense, move on.”

Since shaking off the “shackles of GrammarScare”, I have taught the subject many times over. The best way to beat something is to have to teach it to others. And since ending my fear of grammar, I have written over 45 novels and am working on my 8th series.

Finally, get hold of any of John Langdon’s books on grammar and writing as they are in effect the Least YOU need to know in the easiest form, and he does not ask you to destroy sentences. For real fun with grammar, you might wanna go searching for The Transitive Vampire, a helluva tomb on the subject. But if nothing else, give some thought to the fact that Shakespeare had only four kinds of sentences in the English Language to work with and so do we:

Simple: Jesus wept for us.
Compound: Jesus wept for us, and then he picked himself up and dusted himself off.
Complex: At age thirteen, Jesus wept for us all.
Compound Complex: At age thirteen, Jesus wept for us, and then he picked himself up and
dusted himself off and started all over again.

The trick is to shuffle the deck, use all forms of sentences, and “transform” your thoughts into really, really cool sentences. Language is Thought; Thought is Language. Now what about those pesky grammatical marks? The Marks of Caine….we will have to cover another time, but suffice to say the marks like apostrophes, commas, exclamations, semi and full colons wanna be kept simple – there are not 24 rules for commas but only 4 or 5 for instance. Finally, there are only ten SINS of writing, and you are likely committing only a few at most.

In my online editing service, I provide authors with these tools, and within the first 20-30 pages of a work, every writing ‘SIN’ an author is making is clearly delineated. One such sin is passive voice, another is too heavy a reliance on pronouns, for instance. Ninety-nine percent of authors who believe they have overcome passive voice problems haven’t. So if you wanna know what your most repeated writing sins are, contact me at inkwalk at sbcglobal dot net

Robert W. Walker

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Do You Need Juggling Lessons? by DL Larson

I've watched jugglers many times, impressed at their expertise. They entertain us with antics and jokes, all the while juggling bowling pins, balls, swords, never missing, always catching the next item as they add on another twirling it up over their heads, then down behind their legs. The best I can do it catch one thing at a time. Then I realized I've been a juggler my whole life. I juggle time.

It's difficult to juggle something you can't see. Really, it's a paradox. How can I miss something I don't see, but I sense the pressure closing in, squeezing me til I can't breathe. Heaven forbid if I lose it somewhere. Talk about challenging to find lost time. That's usually when panic sets in and I juggle my time even faster, hoping to catch up in order to have time to look for it. Am I making any sense? Are you with me with the lost time concept?

Then to make matters more confusing, I divide my time. I know, call me crazy, but I do. I slice it up in such tiny pieces, I revert back to looking for lost time more times than not. I try to divide time fairly between family, church, writing, work, social commitments, plus the drudgery stuff like chores. It rarely works. When I need extra time for writing, my work demands longer hours. When I'm relaxing with my family, I steal away to do laundry, type out a chapter of my book or work on a presentaion coming up. But a phone call pulls me away and I'm back to letting time pass without authorization.

But I do have good times. Plenty of them, usually when least expected. And spare time is simply an illusion created by someone who has punctuality issues. I've heard of these people with spare time, but again, I think it's just a rumor, or someone with a good imagination. Maybe a writer?

Another concept hard for me to comprehend is down time. I don't work in a factory or on an assembly line, where I suppose down time might occur. My job is not seasonal, so no down time there. My career isn't really a nine to five kind of thing either, so no down time there. Actually, maybe I used to have down time but converted it to work time, writer's work time. Oh, yes, I remember now, I did have down time; my youngest child was out of diapers and in preschool and I thought, "Yes, Yes, Yes, I have some free time." Oh ... I guess I discovered another type of time and my writing life sucked that up too. So, no, I don't remember any down time. And I just mentioned my brief eclipse of free time.

Time is costly too. I pay dearly for time. My eyes rebel when asked for over-time, my back complains and my chair becomes uncomfortable to sit in. Even my computer acts up if asked to perform over-time. I usually have to refresh or restart it after ten or twelve hours. My body usually tells me the same thing. This over-time is for the young and foolish, not the blurry eyed, sleep deprived middle ager. Yes, I pay for over-time.

So I continue juggling my time, catching snippits every day to relax, if even for a moment. If you find yourself chasing after time, give yourself permission to snatch some down time, free time, or even to play hooky! It's the new type of time, called stolen time. I never knew I'd enjoy being a thief. But I do, I snicker over stolen time. I bask in it's forbiddenness. Stolen time is not for everyone. Only the really stressed, over-worked, deserving individual can grab stolen time. It takes some practice, but if you're bold enough, gutsy even, stolen time can turn into the best time ever. No juggling required.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

DL will be at the Spring Fling Romance Writers Conference, Hyatt, Deerfield, on April 26, selling her latest book, Promises To Keep a finalist in 2 contests. Stop by!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

SPRING IS SPRUNG? By Morgan Mandel

Crocus blooming in my backyard - A promise of Spring.

It's April in Illinois. Back and forth, the weather goes. A teasingly warm weekend, complete with sunshine, warm breezes and birds chirping. The buds are blooming, the grass is greening. All is right and wonderful. Wow, I'd forgotten how nice days like this can be.

Then comes Wednesday. Cold, drafty, damp. The wind bites. I guess the birds are out there somewhere, but I don't hear them. The buds are still blooming, the grass is still greening, yet all is not so great or wonderful. Gee, this is not the kind of day I like at all.

Writing is like Illinois weather. There are so many ups and downs, in the same minute, hour, day, week, month, and year I couldn't possibly name them all.

GIRL OF MY DREAMS was published the beginning of the year. That was a glorious day. All was bright and beautiful. The world was full of promise.

It didn't take long for cold reality to set in. I had a lot of work to do. Bookmarks, postcards, book signings, reviews, blogs, interviews, you name it. The world did not look so pretty.

The bookmarks come in and I love them. I mail my postcards to my Christmas card list. Friends and relatives rejoice with me at my Book Launch party. I guest blog and get nice comments. I do online interviews and draw favorable feedback. My sales numbers go up on Amazon and fictionwise. I receive e-mails saying they like my new book and ask when the next one will be out. All turns bright again. Being an author is great.

Wait a minute. I don't have enough time to devote to my work-in-progress. Not only that, I still have postcards to mail to libraries and bookstores. I have a panel to get ready. Chicago-North RWA's Spring Fling conference is April 26 and I need to prepare for the small press panel. On the heels of that is a another panel about getting a manucript ready for publication, this one at the Mundelein Library the evening of April 30. Not to mention, all the promises I made to people that I still need to fulfill, like getting bookmarks made for the Chicago-North RWA authors for Spring Fling, which I wished I'd done months before. As Library Liaison, I'm again collecting data for the MWMWA Library Bulletin, this time for Spring, which I hope to get out by mid May. Then there's my newsletter. I've already skipped one month. I'm determined to get the combined issue out soon.

Being an author isn't quite as rosy at the moment. Still, like all the other times, I know I'll see the light of day. My tasks will be accomplished and all will be bright and beautiful again - at least for a while, until, like the fickle Illinois weather, more tasks loom.

That's okay. I can take it. After all, I've survived many a Chicago winter. There's always another Spring to make everything good again.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, April 7, 2008

Append this, jerk

How do you make a humor writer not feel humorous?

One word - computer conversion.

Okay, so that's two words.

But after our company went 'live' a little over a month ago, I'm just about ready to ground chuck my computer out of the window in frustration.

My daughter, who works with me ... that's another story .. put it best. She said it's like the computer system was designed by Dr. Seuss. You know, where up is left and right is orange and weird little humanoids pop out when least expected.

Seriously, it's like a drunk gibbon created what they laughingly call 'logic' of the system.

I know, you don't believe me. You think I'm just to, er, two, I mean, too old to learn it. The old dog learning new tricks thing.

So let me give you a few examples. Let's say you're trying to enter a new order in the system. You mess it up (easy to do), so you want to get out of the order. Just hit 'escape,' right?

Wrong. The 'escape' key is their programming equivalent of 'enter.' If you hit 'enter', what really happens is ... um, I'm not sure. But you can't use it to escape, I know that. I think you have to hit Shift something or other to abort anything.

And they have invisible keys. I asked how to access one function and the trainer (actually, he's got a degree in obscurity) said to hit the F10 key. I said, "there isn't a F10 on the menu." He grinned an opossum grin and said, "it's invisible."

You wanna know more? How about this? In order to open a menu, you don't just push your pinkie onto a button. Nope. That's too easy. Instead you have to push two buttons for every menu. The button that means something ... and another called the 'Alt' key.

The 'Alt' key? I've been typing for thirty five years and never realized there was such a key on the keyboard.

And using two keys at once? Try to do this while you're juggling a phone and a cup of coffee and Danish chick, er, danish roll.

And here's a good one. To use their incredibly easy message system, you simply have to find which of the five programs suits your purposes, follow the easy to read instructions written in some kind of insect-language, hit a couple invisible keys, and voila', there's a complicated hieroglyphic message system.

To use it, you simply hit the 'send message' prompt and type your message.


You wish.

What you really have to do is choose a prompt that says "Append."



I've put almost half a million words into print to date, and I've never, ever, ever, ever used the word 'append' for anything.

I mean, sure, I used the word 'appendix' back when I was doing book reports, but now that I'm an adult, I found that contrary to my English teacher's instructions I can get through my life quite fine without adding an index to my work.

Until now. I mean seriously, 'append'?

A little known fact about the typewriter is that the inventor deliberately made the keys difficult to work. That's why the 'a' key is on the pinkie finger of your left hand. Slowing down the typing speed accomplished one very important thing with the first typewriters. It made it harder to jam the letter bars as they rose to strike the paper.

I suspect that our friendly computer morons, er, experts had something similar in mind. By making their system incredibly difficult, cumbersome and awkward, we would be able to slow our pace to something that would not tax our minds. So it was done for our benefit.

Uh, huh.

I gotta go. I have to go 'append' a programmer or two.

Anyway, I had a great time at the Erma Bombeck Writer's convention over the weekend. It was cool to hang around great humorists like Garrison Keillor. I'll write some more on this later, but it's past my bedtime.

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

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pleasant Memories

We were away for part of the weekend at a friend's lake house. It was wonderful to get away, look up at the stars at night, and sit around a campfire on the deck. But I noticed when I got home, that even after several showers and multiple shampoos, the campfire smell was lingering. Every once in a while, if I turn a certain way, the smokey smell hits me, a pleasant reminder of a relaxing weekend.

A good book is like that. We may finish the story and close the book, but often the characters linger in our minds. Sometimes we wonder what actually happens after the "happily ever after". Something we come across in our day reminds us of a story, or a character, and puts a smile on our face.

Books are powerful tools. They can transport us to magical places. We can live out fantasies through their pages. And the really good ones never really leave us. They linger in a very pleasant way.

Until next time,


Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Sunny Saturday by Margot Justes

I had plans today, after all I had a free weekend with no commitments, I need to write and actually try to finish book two, I have e-mails to answer, marketing to do- ohhh- wait, and a blog to write. I had plans to do all of that and more.

But, then I looked out the window, the sun was shining, so, I opened the said window, and the birds were chirping. And I called my friend and said I need shoes, want go shopping, my friend after a few minutes of hesitation, said sure, I’ll pick you up.

Instead of working, I went shopping, in an open mall and luxuriated in the bright sunshine and budding flowers in the planters. I bought no shoes.

But I did get a bit of time outside, away from what has now become my life as an author. As much as I love to write, today was wonderful-just because it was a spur of the moment shopping adventure on an enchanting day filled with sunshine.

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

Friday, April 4, 2008

THE POISONOUS PERFECT CRIME (NOVEL) by Robert W. Walker a/k/a Evan Kinsburgy & Geoffrey Caine

by ROBERT W. WALKER, aka Evan Kingsbury & Geoffrey Caine --
author of KILLER INSTINCT and 42 suspense and horror novels

IF you're going to seriously pursue "police procedural" and "investigative-based novels" or what some call "The Crime Novel" and what I often call the Horror Based Reality novel, first let me tell you that you're headed in the right direction. There's a hue and cry for the perfect crime that should not go unheeded. Crime is always in fashion. Crime novels, such as Postmortem, Silence of the Lambs and my own fairly recent, not so long ago published ABSOLUTE INSTINCT, Grave Instinct, and Final Edge titles, are at an all time premium. Horror's fine, like SF and Fantasy are fine when it's hot and selling up the ying-yang, but when it grinds to a halt (and it apparently has because some bozos in NYC have talked themselves into this bleak corner), then a natural progression for you is to go the way of Dean Koontz, Thomas Harris, William Bayer and perhaps Robert W. Walker. My DEAD ON comes out next spring from Five Star, and already it is garnering great responses from those who’ve had a sneak peek. But my advice to you, my friends, is read anything you can get your hands on by Koontz, Harris and Bayer.
Edna Buchannan’s first true crime book’s good too. As are many true crime tales. For something more current, read Earl Merkel’s Virgins and Martyrs.
Back on Course: Here's the MUST READ List for any would-be Crime Novelist: Some of these titles were suggested to me by Dean Koontz, Ed Gorman, Stuart Kaminsky and other friends who slowed down long enough to offer ME advice.

---Jurgen Thorwald for Science and Crime (a history of scientific detection and anything else by this man. This book gave me the germ of an idea for my City for Ransom, Shadows in White City, and City of the Absent. Thank you, Dean Koontz.

---Benjamin Walker -- The Beast Within (if you can find it). Arcane, uncanny stuff.
-- Anything written by a REAL LIFE coroner
-- Michael Baden (NYC coroner) UNNATURAL DEATH
--Thomas Noguchi (LA coroner) Not so much his novels as his memoirs -¬CORONER
--Milton Helpern (NYC coroner) AUTOPSY
--Lewis & McDonell (blood experts) THE EVIDENCE NEVER LIES
--Markman & Bosco (shrinks) ALONE with the DEVIL
--Colin Wilson (criminology) THE MAMMOTH BOOK of TRUE CRIME
--Edna Buchannan (reporter) THE CORPSE HAD A FAMILIAR FACE
--William Bayer (for investigative technique) PATTERN CRIMES, SWITCH
--Carsten Stroud (a Cop's book with radio signal glossary) CLOSE PURSUIT
--Radio codes/precinct maps of NYC can be had from the Mystery Writers of America
-- also FBI reports and coroner articles from this same source--MWA
--any articles and “gross” of information you can get from the nice PR people at the FBI

Of course don't overlook the obvious. You have access to the Chicago Police Department if you live nearby, or the Rogue River Police Department, if you live out that way, and if you have no nearby medical examiner in Threee Forks Junction, then you do have a pathologist close at hand. He may act like a David Lynch character but approach him or her anyway. Live research can be fun. I once needed to know at what temperature a body burns cleanly. After asking myself who'd know, I telephoned a crematorium in Orlando, Florida where I lived at the time, and the "character" who does the burning provided me with far more than I'd asked for, and he became a "character" in my book, BURNING OBSESSION. I later used what I had learned for FIRE & FLESH writing as Evan Kingsbury, and in Evan’s sequel FLESH WAR now an serialized novel in eleven parts under Robert W. Walker.

In the past, I used pen names for most of my strictly horror titles as with Geoffrey Caine, while Stephen Robertson penned the Decoy police series and The Handyman, and I did one screwy horrific police tale called Dr. O under pen name of Glenn Hale. My one series which follows the M.E. of Chicago, Dean Grant, started with DEAD MAN'S FLOAT (Zebra/Pinnacle Books). This four-book series is now available as Floaters at All my "wealth of information" can be found in the four Dean (Koontz homage) Grant (Charles Grant homage) books, and I like to think they're enjoyable reading as well (but alas all out of print save as online demand titles at Fiction Wise. I have more titles out of print than in). Much of my ideas were begun with the same nuggets of information mined directly from the above reading list which has only grown and grown like a puckering encroaching cancer, as I worked in this field.

Sure, I read Martin Cruz Smith, Thomas Thompson, and William the man Faulkner for style (and all three can get pretty gory at times), but I read William Bayer for the nitty-gritty details of police work. What I learned was then pepper and salted into the story as it developed for the first Instinct title over 20 years ago—pre-dating Patricia Cornwell and many others and contemporary to Harris: KILLER INSTINCT which began an 11 book run; books with character and complexities galore. Concurrently, I began the Edge Series with CUTTING EDGE, which went to 4 books. As for Thomas Harris, by all means read Red Dragon and Silence in that order, if you have not already done so. He's a master. If you mean to skip any Harris skip Hannibal as it is infuriating. I hadn't read Harris until a friend pointed out to me that "There's this guy who's doing what you're doing . . . you've got to read him." So I did, but this was well after I'd already done two series. I also did DECOY, a series of 4 books, the first 3 entitled DECOY, the last entitled THE HANDYMAN (all four available at Once again, cops and coroners, shrinks and bad guys who are MONSTERS.

That's basically what I do. My mean bad guys are thinly disguised monsters, creatures of the night, feeding on the suffering and anguish of children, prostitutes or other helpless beings, and often crossing over to the high-rise, high-rent district of say Chicago’s magnificent mile where they really get into trouble with the law. The ‘man’ is in full force on the Mile!

With a background in horror fiction, it was not a huge leap to take it to the human species of monster. Pick up a newspaper any day of the week and read reality-based horror. So, if you wish to pursue fiction based on fact, or what I call "reality-based" terror, READ EVERYTHING. At least this is the advice I followed when Dean R. Koontz gave it to me some years back when I wrote to ten best-selling authors for help. Of the ten, only Koontz responded with a letter and Dick Francis with a phone call. This was BEFORE E-mail kiddies. One piece of advice Koontz gave me along with a shopping list of titles was to calm down as “You don’t do your best work, kid, till you turn fifty anyway!” Sage advice, and true, as my BEST WORK has been my City Series begun with City for Ransom, and my soon to be released DEAD ON (anyone wishing for that sneak peek of 30 pages, contact me directly at inkwalk @ sbcglobal dot net)

My agent once said to me, "Rob, with the Danny Rollings serial killer case going on in Gainseville (Florida) right now, why don't you drive up there, get the story and write it up? True Crime is hot, hot, hot right now." My reply was simple and shot-gunned -- "No #%$%^! thanks. I don't want to ever sit across a table and go eye-to-eye with one of my own character’s counterpart in a locked room! No thanks." That takes a nerve I don't have, and it takes a reporter's mentality, not a fiction writer's imagination. It's a different kind of writing with a different rules, and often the result is that the non-fiction author’s hair turns white or falls out in patches. There is a real abyss; I’ll stick with my safe fictional abyss.

However, I read great gobs of nonfiction in order to create the kind of fiction I do, and I'm happy to have found something I'm good at and that sells. KILLER INSTINCT went back to six or seven go -rounds, a big first in my career. The sequel was FATAL INSTINCT in '93, and then came PRIMAL in ‘94, the third using Dr. Jessica Coran as heroine detective, M.E., FBI, set in Hawaii, as opposed to Chicago or New York. I ran a singular villain (Matisak) through these first novels and only killed him off in the 4th of series PURE INSTINCT. Now with #11—Absolute Instinct—I found a way to resurrect him in the manner that Jack the Ripper himself keeps getting incarnated. The Son of Matisak showed up!

As a fictionalist, I personally prefer to create my own sinister monsters from the composite pieces of real-life monsters I've come across in my research—or model a few after co-workers, ha! Research gives backbone or spine to the storyline so that the threads you want to pull from page one to page last have something to hang on. Since Absolute is about a spine-thief . . . he does not want anything from you except your spine, as he needs it in his “art” and he has a liking for spinal fluid and marrow, well then what’s the big deal? Sure it’s messy but hey . . . so is eating a lobster. Imagine how hungry the first guy on the planet who ever ate a lobster had to be? But in the end the story is everything and all, and if you are a storyteller, you do not allow the heavy-handedness of research hours to overtake the storyline. The threads of your research are stitched in—knit one, pearl two. Or as said earlier, used like pepper and salt within the dialogue even more so than within the narrative, and for the sake of the Gods of Writing never allow your narrator to talk for your character or your character to suddenly talk like your narrator unless you are doing first person folksy/informal as in Magnum PI, and for God’s sake get over E.A. Poe and what’s his name ah Lovecraft if you ever, ever want to go mainstream like Koontz, King, Straub, Clegg, F.Paul Wilson, David Morrell, perhaps Rob Walker whose style you really oughta check out. My first novel, written while at age 16 in high school—on their clock—was in pure imitation of the real master. I had read all of Hawthorne, Dumas, Poe, and for my money Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales beats Poe any day of any week as the precursor to such people as Rod Serling. I read widely of Dickens and Steinbeck, but the MAN to imitate for me at that age was Mark Twain, so I wrote the sequel to Huckleberry Finn while in high school as both a pissed off young man and an arrogant enough young man, who on discovering there was no sequel to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn that perhaps the Gods of Writing meant this task to fall into my hands. Besides, it just might never get done if I didn’t do it, so I penned Daniel Webster Jackson & The Wrongway Railway.

A damn good YA historical novel that was fun to write. Final proviso, have fun; if you hate writing and despise rewriting, go make film, a doc or mock-umentary on how writers write maybe. As Clifford Simac once asked of me, “Are ya havin’ fun with it? If you ain’t havin’ fun with it, then don’t f-in’do it.” Simac pre-dated most science fiction authors in having robots with tears, giving birth, and getting angry at us. Pick him up some time. Like most great fiction, of course, he’s out of print.

Take Care, and you have my permission to ignore any or all of what I say...and as I say at the opening of any class I teach one proviso: Everything I say can and will be used against me in a court of lesser beings whose writing sucks! Should I be challenged, as there is always always someone somewhere who can prove you wrong when breaking all the noble commandments old hands like myself live by—such as rely on ACTIVE VOICE at all times, show don’t tell, all of it—and should I be proved wrong as in “hey, man, Stephen King doesn’t do heavy research, so why should I worry about the book’s sense of and sound of authenticity? (Notice authenticity comes out of author?) So you challenge me on any one of these FACTS I live by and SELL by because your great book works just fine without a stitch or an iota of research behind it—go right ahead and prove me wrong. Sell it to a top paying NYC market and let me hear about it, OK? Meanwhile, too many horror titles that are RIDDLED with bad usage and bad grammar and just plain end to end PASSIVITY in paragraph after paragraph continue to be published by editors who apparently have extremely low expectations of the art of the horror novel as the Mathesons and Blochs are few and far between. So a lot of schlock crummy undeniably BAD horror does get put out by bottom of the heap editors who know less than you or I about writing as their bloody standards are about as high as a palmetto bug’s ass during a the Annual Palmetto Bug Olympics held in Daytona Beach every year at about—Ha! Yes, just about time for me to sign off before I turn into Harlan Ellison.

Robert W. Walker

PS. Anyone in search of a useful online course in writing, contact me directly