Sunday, August 31, 2008

Time Flies

It seems like just yesterday that we were anticipating the approaching summer season. We looked forward to barbeques, vacations, and warmer weather. Now here we sit at Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of summer, and look toward autumn.

The kids are back in school, the flowers are beginning to have that sleepy look to them, and football season is right around the corner.

It also seems like just yesterday that I thought, wouldn't it be fun to write a book someday? That someday has arrived. Not only did I write a book, but it's been published and is now available in a paperback edition.

Soon, depending on how fast UPS can deliver, I'll be able to hold a copy in my hands. You can hold a copy in your hands, too. There's even a choice of venue, do you prefer Amazon or Barnes & Noble?

With one book on the shelves, in a manner of speaking, now it's time to look ahead to what happens next. While still promoting the current release, I continue to work on edits and revisions to the mss I submitted to my editor. And I need to find time to write the new one I'm working on.

No, things don't really come to an end. They continue in an endless cycle. There's always something new to look forward to. Some new project to tackle. Some new story to write.

So sit back and enjoy life's ride. I am.

Until next time.

Happy Reading,


by Debra St. John
from The Wild Rose Press

Champagne Rose and Champagne Rosebud #1 Bestseller!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


As the fearless leader of The Knife Editorial Services where “book autopsies” are performed on a daily basis at “cut rate” prices to those who dare climb aboard my slab,I often get the final question from a client: “Yeah, but is it publishable? Give it to me straight. Do you think I can sell it?

There is never a simple answer to this except to say, “Never say never. And never discourage a determined writer—unless the work is absolutely putrid, which is rare. I find there is a kernel of good in just about any piece of writing I look at. That said, let me elaborate on why this is such an impossible question for an editor or book doctor or fellow writer to answer. First of all, what is “acceptable” nowadays when it comes to the term of “published” or “publishable”? If one is seeking a major publisher, if one is seeking a medium-sized or smaller publisher, if one is seeking an online publisher, a POD publishing deal, or a e-book deal, or if self-publication is sought, then the answer to is this “publishable” changes—of course as the nature of publishing today has changed so dramatically. Mainstream publishing demands and standards are at an all-time high. If I am answering the question with mainstream publishing in mind, I must temper my reply; if speaking of other forms of publication, I must modify my reply. Does that mean I am dodging the question? Yes and No.

In the event of editing another writer’s novel, there does come a time when the client wants your honest opinion. So here goes. What is publishable in fiction? It is publishable if it has a consistent, strong, clear voice that does not falter but is ON throughout the novel. If the opening establishes whose story it is, the main point of view, where it’s happening—setting, when it’s happening—time. It opens with a scene that is un-put-down-able. If the characters are fully-realized by the authors and fully engaged by the reader. If there is “heat” –excitement, emotion, passion on every page. If the dialogue reveals character or moves the story forward, or both. If the setting is captured by the author and made captivating in and of itself—if it becomes “another character” in the novel. If the story itself is filled with revelations, surprises, twists, turns, and the plot unravels logically. If all the various thread pulled through the novel are tied up in the end.

Have I dodged the question yet again? Yes and No.

Thing of it is a novel represents a gazillion decisions made by its author, each one of which has to add to the overall effect and not detract from the sculpted whole. This is why a clear and objective other reader’s eye on it is so important. An editor can catch an illogical direction that is entirely (somehow) invisible to the creator-author. An editor can catch a “break” in the author’s voice—suddenly no longer a storyteller but a seamstress dressing a room with too many purple drapes—or in the case of a western, too much purple sagebrush—otherwise known as flowery language. If flowery language is used throughout and overdone from beginning to end, an argument might be made that this is, after all, the VOICE this author has chosen to work in, but even those authors who stop all the action to describe a person, place, or thing and falls into telling rather than smelling and sifting these descripts via the five senses, the mind, and the gestalt of the POV character for any and all scenes is likely NOT publishable—at least not in mainstream fiction. Finally, suppose an author, throughout her novel uses a deluge of qualifiers such as seemed to, perhaps would, might be getting to breakfast, very-very, almost, etc. and not remove these phrases and words that weaken and often “clip” the power of the strong verb in a sentence. This is a reason a novel is unpublishable—so many grammatical issues as to interfere with clarity. However, when an author takes orchestration well and cleans up a manuscript, amazing things can happen.

Many of my clients over the years have been published—some in large markets, some in medium and small markets, some in short form, others in long. I never tell a client that they will never be published, as I was told this by my college creative writing instructor, a fellow named Scarborough. WRONG answer. I got a C from Scarborough and was told my writing was mediocre at best, and I learned nothing from him about creative writing. This was at a major university—Northwestern, Evanston, Illinois. I have since published over forty novels, and I have never seen Mr. Scarborough in print anywhere—except as a small town pimp in my Killer Instinct. In the book, Scarborough doesn’t know JACK – nothing about nothing.

Is it publishable? So many variables to this madcap business, this so-called business of publishing, this roulette wheel, this wheel of fortune and misfortune, that there can simply be no simple answer. However, I can and will tell a client when he or she is hitting the mark. When things in the novel are truly working, and nine times out of ten it is when an author finally stops talking on the page and allows his characters to do the walking, the talking, the sniffing, the touching, the hearing, the seeing. It is when a novel’s every scene triangulates at least three and perhaps all five of the character’s senses—engaging the reader’s senses in the bargain because we are experiencing the same. It is when an author reaches that area of the sixth sense too, that spiritual sense that creates true pathos in a scene and sympathy and empathy from the reader.

That’s when it is publishable, but this also presupposes that each scene and chapter follows logically, and that any flashbacks or time leaps, also makes for logically organized storytelling. This means never losing the sight of the main character and realizing that all the others are satellite on hand to create a point in this character’s web of relationships; never losing the sense of narrative voice that must be maintained and consistent throughout a given POV; never losing sight of the basics of episodic storytelling or your reader; never allowing your reader to slip from your hand, the hand that is extended to walk the reader through every finite detail of the story. A gazillion choices. That’s what a novel is built upon. But so much depends on YOUR expectations, your understanding of the business, and your reach. Myself I am OCD about getting a book published once it’s polished. One book I have worked off and on for over 30 years and is meant as the definitive novel of its subject matter, an historical novel to set the record straight, and somehow after so many rewrites I can’t count them, I still believe there is an editor and publisher out there somewhere who will love it as much as I do. Expectations, drive, determination, persistence, attitude—these are what gets both the best and the worst published trash in the business on the shelves. Do you have to be OCD to earn publication? Maybe and perhaps but the definition of a published author is someone who, like Colonel Sanders with his recipe, never gave up.

Until next time, Happy Writing all
Rob Walker, aka The Knife
Knife Editorial Services for “book autopsies” at cut rate prices

Verification, please! by DL Larson

Last week I received wonderful news. The finals for the published Laurie Contest were announced. The Smoky Mountain RWA chapter released the titles of the winners. Promises To Keep, my historical came in second! I was up doing the happy dance! To date, Promises To Keep has finaled in all three contests I entered it in. I'm ecstatic folks are reading and liking my book!

When the September issue of RWR (Romance Writers Report) arrived in my mailbox the other day, I set it aside, being busy with other things. Then I remembered! Winners! Winners are usually announced in this magazine! I saw Jennifer Greene's novel on the front cover, one of the 2008 Rita Winners! Congrats, Jennifer! What a tribute, what a moment for a writer. Like Mother, Like Daughter, "Born in My Heart" is the Best Romance Novella in 2008!!!!!

My win would be in the back, but still in the same magazine. Or so I thought!

I searched through the CONTEST WINNERS on page 51. The Smokey Mountain Romance Writers congratulated the winners of their contest. I smiled. Yes! It had been a long wait. But it was over. My name would pop out any second and I would read and re-read the officialness of it. My eyes scanned the page a second time, then a third. My name was not there. Historicals were listed, but someone else took second place. Then I glanced at the titles of the first place winners, as well as the third and fourth place winners. They were not the names or titles I was competing with. I was happy for their successes, but I had hoped to see my name on that page.

Don't you hate it when self-doubt sneaks in and robs the joy right out of you? With a big sigh, I clicked over to the Smoky Mt.RWA site. And there the familiar names were, under the published Laurie Contest: First place ~ Carolyn Carey for Compromising Situations; second place ~ DL Larson for Promises To Keep; and third place ~ Kimberly Iverson for Liberty. Congratulations ladies!! I know you've been waiting as anxiously as I have for the contest winners to be announced. Perhaps our winning will be published in the next issue!

So my name did not make it into one of the most important issues of RWR. That's okay. The important thing is I entered a contest. And so I'm encouraging you to enter a contest too. Check out the Contests and Conferences in the September issue of RWR, page 48-50. You'll find a variety of contests to enter, the egibility as diversified as the home chapters sponsoring them. Get your work out there. You will learn so much about your own novel, and discover inside tidbits that may help when it's time for publication.

Babe Ruth once said, "Never let the fear of striking out get in your way."

I like his attitude!

Til next time ~

DL Larson - Smoky Mt. RWA pubbed Laurie Winners - Ancient City RWA, Anne Bonney Contest Winners

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Order of the Stories

Ooooh, I have such a story to tell.

Yes, I know, that’s why I’m a writer, duh.

But the problem is that there is so much to tell, and so much to say, that I have trouble deciding who/what gets to be first. This is something I face everyday.

At home, it’s my husband, three girls (12, 9 and 5) and me. Who gets the most attention? Sometimes it seems like the one who’s screaming the loudest. Yeah, that is usually me! But sometimes it’s just the one whose needs are the strongest. For example, as I’m writing this my eldest is sitting on my youngest, who’s lying on her stomach laughing, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” At the same time the middle one wants me to look at her flute and my husband has run out to put gas in my car and get an eyeglass repair kit since my daughter has broken her glasses yet again. So, as the lone parent, who do I help first? Well there is the one who says she can’t breathe, which I know is not true, because if she couldn’t breathe, she wouldn’t be talking—or laughing. Then there is the one with the new flute, who is so proud and wants me to share in her new toy. But it’s the oldest, who is apparently flexing her muscles (hence why she is sitting on her little sister) that needs me the most. You see, once I get her off the child, then said child can breathe and go to bed. I can move the eldest to another room where she can watch TV and wait patiently (HA!) for me. She just wants attention; it doesn’t matter when she gets it, as long as she gets it. Which she will, and it will be undivided attention after I listen to my other daughter play the new flute.

And then my husband will come home and peace will again reign in our house. (Okay, I just threw that in to get the happy ending we are always looking for. Remember, I write fiction.)

Yes, home life is never easy, but what does this have to do with the story?

Well, in a way it’s very similar. I have my second young adult book in the works, a young adult short story for an anthology that needs to be sort of done by next month, and a historical romance that I am dying to write. All these characters are in my head scrambling to be the one who gets my attention. I picture them all in a big sitting room in my head having conversations with each other until I call them forward like the great OZ. I often imagine Lord so and so talking to one of my YA characters and he is floored by the audacity of the young chit, (for those of you who don’t read historicals, a chit is A saucy girl or young woman.) And yes I know, that sounds like another book entirely.

So who do I pick? Well, not so unlike my children, because all my characters are my children in a way, I bring the neediest to the forefront. And by neediest, I mean the one whose story is the strongest to me right now. They are the ones who need me to tell their story at that moment. So, for today, the teen who is going to have her “first love” in the short story is the one who is talking to me. (Of course I’m sure it also might have something to do with the deadline looming over my head.) But tomorrow it could be my high school journalist or the mysterious Lord so and so from Regency England. Not only does that make writing challenging, but it keeps things interesting. (And makes me slightly insane!)

So far not one of my characters has decided to sit another, but you never know what these crazy kids will do, and really, as long as they can breathe, they’ll be okay.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Cross-blogging ... (aka 'day off')

Last week, I told you ... well, more, I wrote and you read ... that is, if you read it ... but I still wrote it ...

Anyway, publisher Karen Syed is still doing her blog a day thing, and if you haven't read it yet, it's a great chance to get inside a publisher's head. See what makes her tick ... (actually, I sort of make her tic).

She forced me to ... er, asked for a couple volunteers to contribute and I wrote the following. It's kind of fun, so I thought I'd cross-blog for your enjoyment ... plus it gives me a chance to fix a typo. When you're done, you'll realize you're missing out by not reading her blog. Check it out at

In the meantime, here's what I came up with:

I remember once when I was a teenager I was sitting at a table across from my best friend Brian and we were demolishing … as only a couple of teenaged boys can … a plate of huge chocolate chip cookies. And when I say, huge, I mean cookies about the size of my credit card debt.

“Bet you can’t get a whole cookie in your mouth,” he challenged.

Ah, a dare. “Oh, yeah?” I retorted, and without thinking I jammed an entire cookie in my mouth.

His eyes widened, in admiration … and hopefully … shock and awe. Then his eyes narrowed, and he duplicated my feat. This is what guys do. Dumbness and dumbness repeated.

So we leveled a look at each other over the table like Clint Eastwood and a bad guy.

Then I tried to bite down on the cookie. But couldn’t. It was wedged too far in my mouth. I tried to break the cookie in half with my tongue. It … the cookie … was too thick. Frantically I tried to poke a finger in my mouth to break the cookie’s clutch.

Nothing. There was no room for my finger. I grabbed a shoehorn … no, I didn’t … but I wish there had been one. I looked up and saw that Brian was having the same problem. His mouth was stretched out like a hammerhead shark with a mouth full of tennis racquet.

Then I started laughing. Not much of a laugh, mind you. More like a choked, gargling sound like what a gum chewing turkey might make. Brian saw me laughing, and then it hit him. He dissolved in silent laughter, tears of mirth leaking from his eyes. Then he crumpled and fell to the floor. I wasn’t far behind.

Laughing, not dying. But if I was going to die, there are worse ways to go than dying while laughing.

Until this moment I had never understood the phrase, ‘rolling on the floor laughing.’ Anyway, when God invented enzymes and acids and stuff to break down foods in our mouths and stomach, I doubt if He did so with figuring it would save me from a killer cookie some day.

When I write, I write what makes me laugh. Snappy dialogue, ridiculous situations, and a frantic pace that barely lets you get your breath. Things that are funny because they are true or funny because they are unexpected.

I draw upon techniques that the great comedians have gleaned over the years. Like the observational humor of the late, great George Carlin, who said, “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac?” Or misdirection, a favorite technique of Steven Wright, “I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included. So I had to buy them again.”

My first attempt at writing a book was a horror demon book and my second was a kidnapping book. Neither saw the light of day or of one of those really bright moonlit nights. Then one day I bonked my elbow on something which reminded me that I had a funny bone. What’s more fun to read than fun stuff, things that make you chuckle, laugh, or snort your Dr. Pepper? So I wrote my first humor fantasy book, The Adventures of Guy … written by a guy (probably), and it sold. So did its sequel. And next year my first vampire/humor book, Fang Face will be out to delight critters everywhere.

If I’m gonna die, it’s going to be by laughing. And until I do, I’m going to write with the same philosophy.


The Heat of the moment
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
Fang Face (young adult humor/vampire, coming Au. 09)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Reviews, and Releases, and Edits Oh My!

I am feeling a little "Dorothy-ish" these days. Like I've wound up in this amazing new world, and I'm not quite sure how I got there or what to do there.

This week I got my first review for THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS. And it was a dandy one. WRDF (Writers and Readers of Distinctive Fiction) gave it a "Top Read/Excellence". I was so excited I danced down the yellow brick road - a.k.a the den, the hallway, the kitchen, the living room, etc. (This was, of course, after I'd lamented to my husband that I hadn't had any reviews yet, so maybe no one liked it.) Feel free to check out the review at Between the Lines.

The end of this week (Friday, August 29) will bring the print release of THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS. Soon, I'll be able to hold a book that I wrote in my own two little hands! (And so will everyone else!) It's like getting a new brain, heart, courage, and going to go back to Kansas all at once!

Ah, and then the edits. I heard back from my editor at Wild Rose on a manuscript I'd sent out. She liked it, but did request some edits and rewrites. I thought of comparing her to Oz to complete my analogy here, but, for those of you familiar with the book, we know he turns out to be quite the humbug in the end, so, I think I'll go with Glinda. I have a fabulous editor who guides and encourages, but doesn't do it for me. (And she shouldn't, of course.) And in the end, when my goals and dreams are met, I find that I've had the ability to make them come true on my own all along, and simply needed a push (silver slippers) in the right direction. After all, there's no place like a well-written book. There's no place like a well-written book. There's no place like a well-written book.

So, now I am off to enjoy a beautiful day here in Oz - er, the Midwest - where the sun is shining, a breeze is blowing, and the temperature is just right. Because for as long as the adventure of being a published author lasts, I plan on soaking up every little bit of matter where the road leads me.

Until next time,

Happy Reading,


by Debra St. John
from The Wild Rose Press
Champagne Rose and Rosebud #1 Bestseller!

print release 8/29/08

Friday, August 22, 2008


The lowly apostrophe loves to shine but seldom takes center stage, while damn it, it’s the hardest working, least understood mark, and yet it retains its bubbly nature. How does the apostrophe keep its positive outlook and energetic, even electric personality? Let’s us just consider how put upon it is and yet it just keeps on giving….The most maligned, misused, misunderstood grammatical mark of them all and also the smallest yet self-made and courageous.

“Why do perfectly intelligent people, even geniuses, have a problem seeing the apostrophe much less using it properly?” --St. Ignatius of Tyrn 1402…

“Some of my best friends act as if they’re going under the knife when confronted with the use of the apostrophe….” --Dr. Lucius Derleth, MD 2004…

“Little’s changed since the MONKs figured out SYMBOLS for us all to ABIDE by in order to communicate in writing….” Author Robert W. Walker, 2007…

First reason the apostrophe causes confusion: it’s (that is IT IS) used for two separate and distinct purposes that’ve absolutely NADA to do with one ’nother. The simplest use is to show ownership in THINGS. Things he, she, we, they, us, him, her, them and Joe OWNS.
Ownership as in HIS THINGS or Joe’s things….ought to end all confusion there since if you SEE the connective tissue of ownership, like as if the apostrophe in ownership situations is a little arrow that points to what Joe owns. Joe’s Harley…Joe’s eyes…Joe’s girl…or Joe’s future. Who owns that future? Who’s hole is it anyway? Joe’s hole. He dug it. But it gets a bit complicated when it is not Joe or John or any name ending in a letter other than S….Damn, now what?

How do we deal with Phyllis’s stuff or James’ junk? Marcus, Jesus? Jesus and these others end in S but that does not make a noun or a name plural! ….if a name ends in S…then we’re looking at JESU’s if we put the apostrophe in the wrong place….pointing at the wrong letter….as in Phylli’s, Jame’s. Notice that if you don’t put the apostrophe pointing to the S, then you are cutting away at Jesus’ name! Another complication, it can be shown either way: Jesus’ or Jesus’s. In most modern usage we have dropped the double S for the sake of simplicity but my publisher WANTS it there thanks to the Chicago Manual of Style. All the same, there are not many names ending in S, so this should not be so hard for folks to follow.

The notion of single and plural plays havoc with people’s heads, however. People—or any GROUP designation like FAMILY already has PLURALness inherent, so adding the S can only mean ownership, not MORE plural. A green light doesn’t get any greener, nor does a plural word like jury get any pluralER…see? So it is the Jury’s decision and once again the apostrophe hugs the WHOLE word (like the whole name) and not an add on form….like Jurys’….which only works if you are talking about two or more juries…(unlikely).

But what of nouns that’re not names like teacher, lawyer, and aviator? Suppose you are talking about one lawyer’s briefcase? Then notice one lawyer ends with R….not S….while two lawyers’ briefcases shows the S on lawyer(S) see? So then it becomes: All of my teachers’ habits annoy me; or every one of my teachers’ habits annoy me. A single on TEACHER in that sentence CHANGES the meaning significantly. Again the issue of single\plural has a lot to do with where the apostrophe wants to fall…

Now the ownership thing ought be easy, folks! Ther’re only a handful of words in the whole freakin’ language that have OWNERSHIP built in already, like MY, MINE…His…Her…so these do not need the HELP of the lowly apostrophe. But Mike or Rob does if you’re’a speakin’a what Mike or Rob owns…so this is a major ‘juice’(use!) of the apostrophe. Another is to show emphasis as I did in de’ bad ‘joke’ around ‘juice’ buy nowadays this kind of emphasis calls for quotation marks or italics.

The second major ‘juice’ or ‘use’ of the ‘comma that leaps up atop words’ really screws with people’s heads, but I do not (don’t) know why it should. For instance, there’s an ITS that sits on the same plane as MY and his and hers, yours, mine, ours, theirs…for ownership built in is in ITS like MY. The only other IT’s in existence is a CONTRACTION….

Contractions ought be a simple affair. If you write this: ITS color is as strong as IT’s powerful….then you are using both ITS/IT’s in the same sentence. A good practice. Write TEN sentences using ITS and IT’s in same breath. “IT’s a smart dog that scratches ITS own fleas.”

Its\It’s is so instructive if you realize or see the pattern here. This is in a nutshell the two PRIMARY uses of the apostrophe. ITS, like HIS requires NO apostrophe ‘cause why? Because it has ownership built into IT same as Her. Whereas IT’s is two whole words shoved together, something American English loves to do, especially in dialogue. We all of us only learn if and when we see the connectiveness and the pattern of things—like words and apostrophes are like the pilot-fish following the shark. If you look REAL close, you’ll see that the apostrophe points toward what it modifies or changes. Tom is Tom but to modify Tom into changing from the subject of the sentence to what he owns as being the subject, Tom’s becomes necessary, so the subject becomes Tom’s lunatic brother… or Tom’s broken arm…

OK, hopefully ownership’s ugly head has been cut off thanks to this old grammarian’s ability to make it clear. As Stephen King’s illegitimate son, I think I can quote Dad faithfully by saying, “If you can’t make it sing, at least make it clear.” Apostrophes are your friend…a friend of the writer. Notice if I use an apostrophe, I can say A writer’s friend instead. How droll is it to read: The backdoor was squeaky and needed oil now. Much better to say, “The backdoor’s scream signaled years of neglect.”

Now onto the CONTRACTION in more detail. Read any one of my books and you’ll find people speak in contractions ‘cause we’re Americans. So if the apostrophe is not ON STAGE to show ownership, then it’s doing its second, UNRELATED job of POINTING out where in a word we’ve TOSSED out letters! The lowly lil’ apostrophe FILLS the GAPs, and sometimes these gaps are enormous. Don’t you see that the O is missing in DO NOT in Don’t so the apostrophe takes ITS place (not it’s--it is place)? OK, DON’t is too easy. ‘Cause ‘fraid we also speak in multiple contractions as in:

Mike would have loved to see Madeline’s upper body movement, but when he had attempted it, she clocked him so hard he had fallen into a coma.

Mike would’ve loved to see….etc. but when he’d etc…he’d fallen…etc.

I have used triples such as Mayn’t’ve, couldn’t’ve, wouldn’t’ve. NOTICE exactly the number of letters missing from these contractions: May not have…could not have, etc. So often the apostrophe is carrying the space of several missing letters, often four, five missing letters! Damn but this mark is strong….

So no longer do ya’ gotta’ wonder why a proper Britisher hates us for what we’ve done to the language. Much of it’s contractions as in “Wha’up?” from: What is up? So the apostrophe is a real workhorse! You can’t ignore it, can’t run from it, can’t hide. It’s ever’where its use is found and sometimes, too often, it’s used incorrectly. So WATCHA’ back and watch the signs as in Buck’s Gunshop.

All that said, in your novel use contractions liberally but never use an ownership apostrophe in a place where it does not ADD anything as in: The ocean’s floor….just ocean floor…or the Clock’s tower….if the Clock Tower works just as well…actually better. Ownership apostrophes help cut out long prepositional phrases as in this example:

After Paul stepped through the house’s front door, he heard the door’s hinges creak behind him as it closed.

Rather better to say: After stepping through the door, Paul heard it squeaking as it closed.

G’luck with grammar’s lowliest mark!
Rob Walker (

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Timothy Hallinan has divided his time between Los Angeles and Southeast Asia, (primarily Bankok) for more than 25 years. He has had eight novels published and one book of nonfiction. His current series of thrillers features rough-travel writer Poke Rafferty and is set in Bangkok. The most recent is The Fourth Watcher. Hallinan taught writing for years and maintains an extensive Writers Resources area on his website,

And now, Acme Authors Link is proud to give the floor to our Man of Mystery, Timothy Hallinan.

Mid-year Resolutions

Okay, I know that resolutions are traditionally a byproduct of New Year's Eve, often blind stabs at virtue made in the hope that good intentions will prove to be a cure for hangovers. But I believe we should make resolutions whenever they occur to us, if only to keep from forgetting them. And that's especially true of writing resolutions, since writing is the activity that absorbs most of my time and energy.

So here are my August 2008 writing resolutions. In the future, I will:

1. Write daily, and by that I mean seven days a week. I will take a day off only when it’s absolutely unavoidable and never, under any circumstances, take two days off in a row.

2. Read widely, not just the kinds of books I write, but classics, science, history, biography, poetry, drama — remembering, as Nero Wolfe says, “The more you put into a brain, the more it can hold.”

3. Live consciously, remembering that everything in the world, even the things that are most unpleasant (and maybe especially those things) are all material.

4. Take chances every time I write. Try to write things I haven’t written before and don’t know how to write. Take myself off the map of the familiar.

5. Avoid glibness and try instead to bring the words from the heart. Remember that clever isn’t the same thing as smart.

6. Follow my characters rather than trying to push them around like chess pieces. Remember that plot is what characters do, not a box to jam them into.
7. Remember that the book I eventually write will not be the book I thought I was going to write. Have the courage to take off in new directions as they present themselves, and to discover, as you do when you travel, that it's possible to get on the wrong bus and then realize it's the right bus after all.

8. Be grateful that I’m allowed to take part in this internal miracle, in which whole worlds appear inside my head, usually one vivid glimpse or one turn of phrase at a time, and I have the freedom to chase them down and try to get them on the page.

9. Be open to criticism from my circle of first readers, without getting defensive; remember, if nobody likes it, it’s just barely possible that there’s something I didn’t get on the page.

10. Write hot, edit cold: when I am writing, have the thermostat on high; be open, fecund, and grateful for everything that comes through. Rewrite only when something obviously better presents itself. When I am editing, be cold, assessing, and gimlet-eyed, willing to sacrifice even the most precious of my babies in the cause of the book’s greater good.

I could easily list ten more, but ten is the tradition. So I'll add an eleventh in the guise of a closing paragraph. In the first chapter of his new memoir, What I Think About When I Think About Running, the great Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami quotes a marathon runner as saying, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I need to keep that in mind whenever I write.

What that means to me is that there are going to be times when writing hurts: when the words won't come, when the story seems to end in a blind alley, when your characters all turn into people so awful that you would come back from the dead just to prevent them from attending your funeral. All of that is inevitable. What's optional is internalizing that, handing it to the writing demons so they can make me doubt my idea, my characters, my talent. The trick to writing (for me, at least) is the same as the trick for running: keep going anyway. The pain may be there, but I can run (or write) through it as long as I don't turn it into suffering.
And get the next word on the page, which is all that really matters.

Tim Hallinan

You're all invited to leave comments for Tim. What are your writing resolutions? Would you like to adopt one or more of his?

LEAVE YOUR MARK By Morgan Mandel

Rascal leaves her mark. What about you?

Leaving your mark is not only a dog thing. We authors strive to do it also. Why else do we have such a strong urge for people to read our words? Or do we have OCD?

Okay, I confess. I do have some tendencies towards obsessive compulsive disorder. I must check the stove and make sure the doors are locked before I go to bed each night. Even worse, at the casino, I have a terrible time tearing myself away from the slot machines whether I'm winning or losing.

Still, deep down I know the real reason I write is to share and leave my mark. I don't want my existence to go unnoticed. Somehow I want people to know I'm here.
Those are the deep meanings for why I write.

Now, let's apply this to blogs. I've been writing quite a few lately in the hopes of getting myself noticed. In fact, I'm trying my hardest to do one a day at It's not easy with my busy schedule, but I'm proud to say I've got three up this week, which is a lot for me. I plan to continue on and see how far I can go without missing a day.

Today and most Wednesdays except when I'm on vacation, I also do my blog here at and also at

There's a little spot at the end of the blog for comments. I, like so many other bloggers I know, like to check that area to see if anyone leaves a comment. Too often we're disappointed.

When you read a blog, do you just finish it and go on to something else? If so, you're wasting a great opportunity not only to make a blogger feel happy, but also to leave your mark on the Internet. When you leave a comment for a blog, you may think it is buried in obscurity but you're wrong. That comment goes into Google! When you're Googled, your comment in many instances will show up. The more Googles you have, the better it looks, especially if you're an author establishing your identity on the Internet.

So consider leaving your mark here and at other blogs. I'd be very happy if you'd leave a comment, even if it's about how cute Rascal is. If you're very determined to get noticed, consider visiting my now daily blog at and leave another comment.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, August 18, 2008


Okay, I'm going to disobey my publisher here today ... sort of a civil disobedience kind of thing.

... or a guy thing.

(same thing)

Anyway, I've read a few posts by publisher Karen Syed of Echelon Press Publishing where she says that if you are writing a writer's blog it should be about writing. No personal stuff, no rants, no ... well...what I like to call fun stuff.

Respectfully I'm going to disagree with her. I write humor and fantasy and just writing about writing this genre isn't going to tell the reader how fun my stuff is. But if my blogs are fun and lively, the reader might go, "Hey, this guy's blogs are fun and lively. I'll bet his books rock."

Ansyis... oops ... forgot to tell you, I've got a band-aid on my finger and it's messing up my typing.

And this, igstelf, dern... did it again... anyway, this itself is a courageous story. A few hours ago, a little old lady was walking down the street and went to cross against the light. A moped was hurtling directly for her on a collision course. I saw her look up, her weak blue eyes widen and then she squawked and dropped her cane in fear.

I leaped over a Humvee in a single bound, grabbed a skateboard from a passing kid and whizzed into the street swooping up the old lady just as the moped thundered by like a runaway elephant.

Not really. I was opening up a plastic tray of blueberry bread and sliced myself on its razor sharp edges.

But don't worry,I'll just grit my teeth, ignore the pain and bleed all over my keyboard.

(time out ... I have to get some ice cream. Be right back)




Okay, I'm back ... oh, wait ... B R A I N F R E E Z E!

Hold on.




Ah, better.

Random thought here ... I'm watching the Olympics and it's 9:00 a.m in China right now. I wonder if it's yesterday there or tomorrow ... or, um, this morning.

Anyway, back to Karen Syed. She's doing some kind of blog-a-day or something like that ... I wasn't listening (hey, I'm a guy ... I told you that). But she asked me to do a blog for her Tuesday posting, so I put together something pretty fun.

So instead of reading my randomness here, go check it out here >>

Good stuff.


The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
The Heat of the Moment
Fang Face (YA humor vampire, coming Aug 09)


Okay, I'm going to disobey my publisher here today ... sort of a civil disobedience kind of thing.

... or a guy thing.

(same thing)

Anyway, I've read a few posts by publisher Karen Syed of Echelon Press Publishing where she says that if you are writing a writer's blog it should be about writing. No personal stuff, no rants, no ... well...what I like to call fun stuff.

Respectfully I'm going to disagree with her. I write humor and fantasy and just writing about writing this genre isn't going to tell the reader how fun my stuff is. But if my blogs are fun and lively, the reader might go, "Hey, this guy's blogs are fun and lively. I'll bet his books rock."

Ansyis... oops ... forgot to tell you, I've got a band-aid on my finger and it's messing up my typing.

And this, igstelf, dern... did it again... anyway, this itself is a courageous story. A few hours ago, a little old lady was walking down the street and went to cross against the light. A moped was hurtling directly for her on a collision course. I saw her look up, her weak blue eyes widen and then she squawked and dropped her cane in fear.

I leaped over a Humvee in a single bound, grabbed a skateboard from a passing kid and whizzed into the street swooping up the old lady just as the moped thundered by like a runaway elephant.

Not really. I was opening up a plastic tray of blueberry bread and sliced myself on its razor sharp edges.

But don't worry,I'll just grit my teeth, ignore the pain and bleed all over my keyboard.

(time out ... I have to get some ice cream. Be right back)




Okay, I'm back ... oh, wait ... B R A I N F R E E Z E!

Hold on.




Ah, better.

Random thought here ... I'm watching the Olympics and it's 9:00 a.m in China right now. I wonder if it's yesterday there or tomorrow ... or, um, this morning.

Anyway, back to Karen Syed. She's doing some kind of blog-a-day or something like that ... I wasn't listening (hey, I'm a guy ... I told you that). But she asked me to do a blog for her Tuesday posting, so I put together something pretty fun.

So instead of reading my randomness here, go check it out here >>

Good stuff.


The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
The Heat of the Moment
Fang Face (YA humor vampire, coming Aug 09)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Going for the Gold

Unless you've been living under a rock this past week you've probably heard about Michael Phelps and his history-making drive for gold medals at the Olympics this year. I've been right on the bandwagon, even scheduling social events around his swimming times so I'd be sure not to miss a thing. I watched every one of his races this past week and saw history being made. I am in awe. Even if you're not a swimmer, you can't help but be amazed by his drive, determination, and vision.

This kid (and I can say that because I'm nearly old enough to be his mother...well, actually old enough if you throw in teen pregnancy) is amazing to watch. He's fun, he's hip, he's down-to-earth, he's modest, and you can't help but get caught up in the love and support his family exudes at each race. You feel like you're right there with him as the medal is slipped over his head, the Stars and Stripes flies overhead, and The Star Spangled Banner echoes throughout the Cube.

Now, there are many things in life I will accomplish some day, but winning one gold medal, let alone eight, is something I'll never do. But his example is a good one. Before he reached his goal, he had to set one. He decided what he wanted to accomplish, and he went for it. He did whatever it took to make it. A lesson we can all take to heart.

This week THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS was at the number one spot on two bestseller lists at The Wild Rose Press. And last week I had one of those "MasterCard moments". It went like this:
Wild Rose Press T-shirt - Twenty Dollars
Promotional Bookmarks - One Hundered Fifty Dollars
Having someone at the Farmer's Market ask me about my shirt, pulling out a bookmark to hand to them and saying, "Oh, this is my publisher. Here, this is the book I wrote." - Priceless
Those were my golden moments. For this week. My goal is to have more and more of them. (Maybe even more than eight!)

So dream big and go for the gold. Set those goals and work toward them. No matter what it takes. And take these words of wisdom from Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time, to heart.

“When you put your mind to a certain thing, it can happen. The biggest thing is nothing is impossible. All it takes is an imagination.” (MP)

That, my friends, says it all.

Until next week,

Happy Reading!


Champagne Rose and Champagne Rosebud #1 Bestseller
by Debra St. John

ebook available now from The Wild Rose Press
Print version coming August 29, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sub Orbital Travel by Margot Justes

I am somewhat-well-really greatly-out of my depth or altitude here. I went to my local travel agency, Suburban Travel in Glenview, IL; more about the travel agency later.

At any rate, I was going to post a couple travel tips for people going to Europe. In the process I found out that sub-orbital travel is quickly becoming a reality, as in 2010 reality-flights have already been booked and paid for.

That is amazing, exciting and many other ‘ing’s’ I cannot think of at the moment. The plan is to go into sub-orbit, change the trajectory and 90 minutes later you are in South Africa, at least eventually; the first flights will be up and straight down.

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic is the man of the century for attempting to put us into space; a remarkable man with a magnificent vision toward the future.

Everything has been planned out, and some flights have already been sold at the mere price of $200,000 or so-but for that money, you will train for 3 days in New Mexico, no not area 51, but at Spaceport America, stay in a luxurious hotel and mingle with the astronauts and pilots who will take you for the ride of your life.

The thought of the research, training and dedication of the people involved is astounding and gratifying. We are moving forward into space exploration and kudos to those who are willing to go for that ride. Heroes and adventurers, one and all! Let’s not forget the designer space suit, the sleek and elegant machine you will be riding.

For more information, go to or call 800/237-7730.
Now, back to Suburban Travel, they were one of the few chosen travel agencies, allowed to sell these precious tickets. They are a full service travel agency, with clients all over the country.

In next week’s blog, I will have a couple travel tips and an expanded look at Suburban Travel.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Available on

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Joe Konrath has done his very best to step into my shoes, to follow in my footsteps, and I first noticed it while living in Chicago and meeting him at The Red Lion Inn the night of his reading there. What with the snowbanks outside, yes, he literally allowed me to go ahead so that he, wearing sandals, could follow in my boot-steps. Some years later, he stood up as my best man at my wedding to Miranda, and I have had repercussions from famiy ever since who did an intervention on learning my best friend was Satan in disguise. Now I dare to turn over my time at ACME to the man with trepidation mixed with love. Rob Walker

Joseph Andrew Konrath was born in Skokie, IL in 1970. He graduated from Columbia College in Chicago in 1992. His first novel, Whiskey Sour (2004), introduced Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels. Others in the series include Bloody Mary (2005), Rusty Nail (2006), Dirty Martini (2007), Fuzzy Navel (2008), and Cherry Bomb (2009). The books combine hair-raising scares and suspense with laugh out loud comedy.

Joe is also the editor of the hitman anthology These Guns For Hire (2006). His short stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines and collections.

Under the name Jack Kilborn, Joe wrote the horror novel Afraid (2009).

Joe's been nominated for several awards, including the Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, Dagger, and Barry, and has won the Derringer, Bob Kellog, EQMM Reader's Choice, and two Lovie awards.

His blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (, has had over 400,000 hits since 2005.

Joe is married, has three children and three dogs, and currently lives in a suburb of Chicago. He occasionally teaches writing and marketing at the College of Dupage.


The Myth of the Good Book

No, we're not debunking the bible here. We're talking about the pervasive idea that if you write a good book, it will sell. The writer doesn't have to have an internet presence, or make any public appearances, or do any marketing, self-promotion, or publicity. All the writer needs to do it write a good book and it will magically find an audience.

It makes no difference the years of experience or the amount of success a writer has had, many still believe this.

It's baloney, of course.

As I've said many times on many forums, "good" is subjective. There's no universally accepted standard for "good" because everyone has an opinion. Editors and agents, who believe they know what "good" is, still represent and publish books that fail more often than not. We've all read crappy books that are big hits, and we've all read wonderful books that are now out of print.

"Good" is a really poor indicator of sales potential.

But the myth still persists: Write a good book, and it will sell.

Instead of poking holes in this concept (I'm privy to the "You can write the best book in the world but people won;t buy it if they don't know it exists" rebuttal), maybe we should look at why so many writers feel this way.

1. Naivete. If a writer is only responsible for writing a good book, they don't need to know anything about this mysterious business known as publishing. This offers the artist a nice, insulated cushion from real life, where they feels they only needs to worry about writing the best book they can and everything else will be taken care of for them.

2. Stubborness. It's a publisher's job to sell books. Period. The writer writes, and nothing else. If the writer does their job, the publisher will promote the heck out of it, and the book will find a wide audience.

3. Fear. It's a scary business, and self-promotion is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult. It's much easier for an author to focus on writing than learn the skills needed to become a salesman. Writers get rejected often enough by agents and editors. They shouldn't have to risk getting rejected by readers as well.

4. Envy. We all know a few indefatigueable writers who are constantly promoting heir brands. We don't like to think that perhaps we should be promting our books with equal vigor, instead clinging to the belief that the book should sell itself based on its own merits. It's much easier to attack someone else than blame ourselves.

5. Bad results. Perhaps the writer has tried to self-promote, had a bad experience, and now refuses to do anything else. This is a shame, because we all swallowed some water learning how to swim. Practice makes perfect.

Now let me make it clear that writers do need to write the best book they possibly can. That should go without saying. But in a world with so many forms of entertainment competing for our time and money, in a world where 200,000 new books are published every year but only 1 out of 5 makes a profit, in a world where selling a first book is difficult, but selling a second book is impossible if the first one didn't do well...

Obviously, it is in the writer's best interest to make an effort in selling their books.

Here are some things to remember about self-promotion.

1. People are looking for information and entertainment. They aren't looking for ads or commercials.

2. Sales isn't about selling a book to someone who doesn't want it. It's about finding people who are looking for your type of book and offering it to them.

3. Books sell one at a time, and every effort you make has intangible benefits.

4. Think about the last ten books you bought and why you bought them. These are the strategies you should use when selling your books.

5. Set attainable goals. Becoming a bestseller isn't a good goal, because it is largely out of your hands. Going to three writing conferences and introducing yourself to 100 new people is within your power.

6. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Self-promotion is about planting seeds, and these often take a long time to grow. The longer and harder you work at this, the better you'll do.

If you're a writer who wants to know more about craft, publishing, and promotion, visit my blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing at


New Message Board:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Even the Greatest Have Struggled! by DL Larson

It's good to look back at the great writers and study their work, learning from them, examining their techniques and hoping for inspiration to fill our own pages. The other day Rob Walker mentioned one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain. Most of us grew up having read Tom Sawyer, or perhaps watched the film on TV. Maybe you preferred The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, known as one of the great American classics. But did you know, ol' Sam Clemens nearly burnt the manuscript when only half done?

In July, 1876, immediately after the publication of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain started another book, 'another boy's book.' In one short month, 400 pages were written, all about Huck Finn, good buddy of Tom Sawyer. But this beloved author only liked what he'd written 'tolerably well,' which means he didn't much care for it at all. He thought about burning it and starting fresh. He enjoyed working fast, so that wasn't the problem. The problem was the story didn't move him along anymore. And I understand what he meant by that. He let his characters free reign to get into whatever mischief they desired and then let them figure their own way out of a jam. It makes for intriguing writing. 'As long as a book would write itself' he once wrote, 'I was a faithful and interested amanuenis ... but the minute the book tried to shift to my head the labour of contriving its situations ... I put it away ... my tank had run dry.' And so, The Adventures of Huck Finn had run dry. The book stalled at Chapter 16, with no end in mind.

For nearly three years The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn lay untouched. Then with 'fits and starts' he wrote more of Huck's escapades with his friend, Jim, a runaway slave. Finally, in the summer of 1883, the book was published. But no big hurrahs came. Most thought it a crude, untidy story. (paraphrase from the Library Committee of Concord, Mass.) It was characterized as a book more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable folks, considered to be the 'veriest trash.' Others called it a sequel to Tom Sawyer.

What Mark Twain actually did, whether he realized it at the time, I don't know, but he wrote similar stories about the same river town and the people who came from there. His books have been referred to as the two faces of Hannibal (Missouri.) One face/one book - Tom Sawyer, is nostalgic, reminiscing his childhood, the other realistic and unforgiving of the times of pre-Civil War. Both about boys revolting against the restrictions of society.

Mark Twain wrote as no one had ever written. His characters weren't like the well bred New Englanders of the day, they had South-western flavor. Not everyone liked this new way of describing characters and settings in such a 'modern' way. It took some getting used to. And the dialogues ... Twain's quote explains his reasoning for this: 'In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri Negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods South-western dialect; the ordinary 'Pike-County' dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a hap-hazard fashion, or by guess-work; but pains-takingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familarity with these several forms of speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were tyring to talk alike and not succeeding. The Author '

So that explains why it is so difficult for us to read Huck Finn. Our eyes are not used to slang to such a degree. I learned in some writing class years ago, a little dialect goes a long way. And I have to agree. It's more enjoyable to watch Huck Finn on TV than read about him. But Mark Twain opened doors to the writing world that no one else knew existed. Many years passed before scholars admitted to his genius in writing.

Ernest Hemingway eloquently stated, "It's (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

And to think Mark Twain only liked it 'tolerably well.' He was right about one thing. It made good kindling ... its fire has inspired many American authors.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, August 12, 2008



I'm very happy to relinquish my blog rights today to our premier MAN OF MYSTERY, Marcus Sakey. I first ran into Marcus when we participated in an authors panel at the Schaumburg Township District Library in August, 2006, right before his first novel, THE BLADE ITSELF, made its appearance. At the time I was very impressed by his talent and knowledge of the writing business. I still am and I'm not the only one. -- Morgan Mandel

Marcus Sakey’s debut, THE BLADE ITSELF, was a New York Times Editor's Pick and one of Esquire Magazine's 5 Best Reads of 2007. Ben Affleck purchased the film rights for Miramax.

Of his latest, GOOD PEOPLE, Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Masterful…a stellar performance.” Film rights have been purchased by Toby Maguire’s production company. Find excerpts, appearances, and contests at

Sit back now and enjoy what Marcus has to say as Acme Authors Link presents our first MAN OF MYSTERY.


Hey all! It’s an honor to be guest blogging here today—thanks so much to the members of ACME for lending me the microphone. Suckers.

Before I started actually writing, I had an addiction. I know I’m supposed to say that it was to writing, that I would come home from my full time job, or wake in the middle of the night, and rush to the keyboard, eager—no, desperate—to download the stories that were brimming in my head.

But that’s a lie. No, my addiction was to books about writing. Most every time I went to the bookstore, after stacking seven or eight novels I absolutely had to have, I’d drift into the section on writing and browse there. I’d dip into it, buying one at a time, then taking it home and reading it as a sort of balm for not doing the thing I really wanted to be doing.

It’s a common enough addiction, and as they go, pretty low on collateral damage. Sure, my credit cards felt the body blow and my bookshelves sagged, but it beats heroin. And along the way, I read all kinds of advice on where stories come from. One of the most common methods, and you see it in a hundred different forms, was What if?

What if there was one ring that offered the power to control the world, and a force of ultimate evil was searching for it?

What if the Mona Lisa held a secret of incredible proportions?

What if a young boy living with abusive stepparents discovered he was actually a wizard?

And this is a great method to craft stories. It’s created some legends, stories that have become powerful myths. But it never worked for me.

I tried. I’d just sit and stare at the computer and think “What if…”

Problem was, that was as far as I got. Until I learned that for me, it was about a slightly different question. Not “What If,” but “What Would You Do?”

What would you do if you were a retired thief whose past wouldn’t leave him alone?

What would you do if you were a discharged soldier who found a similar war raging in your old neighborhood?

Bam. For me, that was the difference, and those became my first two books. I needed to make it personal. Not only that, where I could, I needed to make it into a central ethical choice.

My new novel, GOOD PEOPLE is about, well, good people, specifically a married couple that’s been trying to have a baby. They haven’t had any luck, and are being crushed by debt from fertility treatments, and that’s straining their marriage and their hope.

Then their tenant, a recluse whose rent had been barely keeping them afloat, dies unexpectedly. And in his apartment they find almost four hundred thousand dollars in cash.

And so the question. What Would You Do?

Sure, it seems obvious, especially to readers and writers of crime fiction, that the correct answer is to back away slowly, call the cops, and pray.

But if it was really you? Standing in front of all that money? Money that seems untraceable, completely unconnected to you?

Money that could make all your dreams come true?

Well? What would you do?

Marcus Sakey
GOOD PEOPLE, coming August 14th
"Masterful…tops his previous two novels.
A stellar performance."
-Publishers Weekly

You're invited to leave comments for Marcus below and/or visit his website at



Just pooped, er, popped in to say that I swam late last night and then got sucked into the Olympics coverage. So there won't be a Norm blob ... dern, blog ... today., I mean, yesterday.


The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
Fang Face (Young Adult humor/vampire, coming Aug 09)
The Heat of the Moment

Sunday, August 10, 2008

FREE Stuff

Whoever coined the phrase "There's no such thing as a FREE ride." sure knew what they were talking about. Over the last week or so I've noticed that many things in life touted as FREE are far from so.

I got some FREE business cards to advertise my new book. After shipping and handling and the fee for downloading a picture my FREE cards cost almost $10.

The inboxes of my e-mail accounts always seem to attract e-mails guaranteeing me a FREE $100 gift card to such-and-such a store. Of course once the fine print is analyzed, I have to subscribe to so many of the following sponsors' services over the next year.

Friends of mine had FREE tickets to Great America. Of course it cost $15 to park and $30 for lunch (for a kid's meal and a burger).

My sister had FREE tickets to the Bears preseason game this past week. Here parking cost $45! And she had to pay for food and beverage.

Now, don't get me wrong, obviously if the main things listed here hadn't been FREE, we all would have paid a lot more money to obtain them or participate in them. I'm simply venting a bit of frustration that FREE things aren't always exactly FREE. (And as a budget conscious gal, it tends to irritate me.)

On the other side of things, my fabulous publisher (The Wild Rose Press) and many of its talented authors have begun offering FREE short stories. And these, my friends, really are FREE. You can go the the Wild Rose site ( and download them for absolutely FREE. I myself will have one of these FREE reads available in December.

Any Wild Rose authors and/or readers out there who are reading this, please feel free to give a shout out about your FREE read or a FREE read that you've read and would like to recommend by leaving a comment here.

On a side note, THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS, is currently the number one bestseller on the Champagne Rosebud list at The Wild Rose Press! It's also sitting at 9, 4, and 3 on others lists there as well. Thanks to everyone for their support! I couldn't do this without you!

Until next time,

Happy Reading (I'll be downloading some of those fabulous FREE reads this afternoon),


by Debra St. John
Champagne Rosebud #1 Bestseller!

ebook AVAILABLE NOW! from The Wild Rose Press
print release 8/29/08

Saturday, August 9, 2008

On the way to a conference by Margot Justes

I missed the blog last Saturday, was in San Francisco for the Romance Writers of America National Conference. I was a tourist, one of my favorite things to do. The hotel was well situated, right up the street from Union Square-perfect location.

I love to walk, and walk I did…from the hotel to China Town, to Little Italy, to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, to chocolate square otherwise know as Ghirardelli Square and finally to the trolley stop for the ride back.

I knew I was tired, when I noticed going up the slight incline to the hotel I was stooped over as if fighting a brutal wind-there was no wind, just an extremely exhausted pair of feet lumbering up the incline as it seemed to grow monumentally with every painful step.

As tired as I was I had a terrific time. However, the following morning the only thing that got me moving was the knowledge that a good cup of coffee was waiting for me at the hotel restaurant-otherwise I am sure I would not have moved an inch.

I tend to laugh when in pain-I was giggling all the way down to the coffee place. Coffee, I’m convinced has a restorative and medicinal power, after consuming the full pot, I was ready for more sightseeing.

The conference-you ask, well that is a tale, er…blog for another day.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Available on

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Ad Nauseam – adv. Meaning to an extreme of annoying distraction. Anything in one’s story or novel that becomes an annoying distraction is a liability and will keep a manuscript from being read.

Adverbial-ly speaking, adverbial spillage becomes particularly bad when every line of dialogue is tagged or ascribed via an LY delivery as in she said sweetly, hotly, lilthly,
longingly, helplessly, pitiably, ad nauseamly. Actually all adverbs and adjectives qualify the statement along with pure qualifiers like very, seemed, many, often, some, and all of these words work to destroy and not heighten the effect of a strong sentence, especially if overdone. It is the equivalent of cooking with way too many spices at hand until the dish becomes the spice and the meat and potato is lost in the gravy.

As my favorite author of all time, Mark Twain, said, "When in doubt, strike it out" he was referring to such words and phrases as "The excruciatingly dark cemetery lay quietly still, nothing truly moving until the very thick veil seemed to be finally lifting, perhaps maybe, but who could possibly really tell about fog that unknowingly responds to the fickle whims of the strongly moving tides and the hungry, hungry winds that move like the caterpillar of time?”

Such proliferation of adjectives and adverbs and qualifiers kills any possibility of a forward moving dynamo of storyline for sure. Should have read: The dark cemetery remained still, nothing moving, not even the fog that'd settled atop it like a veil.

I am glad we can all agree on Mark Twain, who was a genius when it came to moving people via the power of his words; a genius when it came to language, and who could alter his voice to suit his purpose so splendidLY well. The thing of it is in a novel when characters speak, within the friendly confines of the quotation marks, anything goes. Anything that can be spoken, grammatical or not, is fair game, so yeah, who and whom become pointless, and everyone speaks volumes in Passive Voice while "in voice" but typically, unless your narrator is set up as a folksy Huckleberry, your narrative voice has to be a great deal more concerned with NOT being an “LY” freak, be it adverb or adding to the subjective or the objective (ad-jective), and heaven help the narrator who falls into pages upon pages of textbook-sounding passive constructions that rely on two words— There was. Or He was. Or She Was, and then unloading an information dump about character or place. In dramatic writing you don't want to stop the action just to describe a person, place, or thing— to unload on the reader. However, if you have a blowhard character given to unloading like the mailman in the TV series Cheers, go for it, but do so within the quotation marks.

Twain, who identified what, 24 dialects in Missouri alone, was, you might say is an early linguist, and a man who's cautions and suggestions I think I'm going to respect. Another who eschewed flowery adverbs and adjectives almost too much was Papa Hemmingway in my estimation. A smattering of a few more LY words might have helped in that regard, perhaps, maybe, just my opinion.

Bottom line, one just has to be aware of every nuance of every word. Often people use the word EVEN for instance thinking it somehow elevates or helps a sentence, but like VERY it fails again and again. “He even thought it was a good idea” – when “He thought it was a good idea” does the trick. And for heaven’s sake, take out all the Upsy and Downsy in your sentences as absolutely unnecessary. He sat down? He sat. He stood up. He stood. The worst offender: He backed up into the garage. Okay, the worst worst offender is: He blinked his eyes. Or He shrugged his shoulders. Or His eyes winked at her.

Until next time Happy Writing, and by the by, next Friday our guests here on ACME will be the Men of Mysery – Marcus Sakey on the 13th, and J.A. Konrath on the 15th. We’re honored to have these outstanding authors of mystery and intrigue with us at ACME.

Rob Walker
aka The Knife,
Book Autopsies Done Here

Where Do I Search Now? by DL Larson

The June issue of Writer's Digest (yes, I'm that far behind in my reading) has a great article on websites for writers. Brian A. Klems, has done a great deal of research for us. His article, "101 Best Websites for Writers" is a keeper. He's catergorized the websites into easy to find headings: General Resources, Creativity, Publishing Resources, to Jobs and Writing Groups.

But he doesn't stop there. He's provided a few sites for different genres: Children's writing, mystery, erotica, ethnic, general fiction, freelancing, horror, poetry and religious, and the list goes on including romance, scriptwriting and sites for the young writer.

Mr. Klems includes agent blogs. The list isn't long, but it is perhaps a place to start if one is looking for an agent. I hope to click over to a few of those sites in the near future. Their diversity is as wide-spread as their coverage from coast to coast. Looking for the right agent reminds me of fishing. I hook the worm correctly, I throw my line in where the fish ought to be. I pray they are hungry. But I usually get bored, fall asleep or end up sun-burned and have to come in before I've gotten much more than a nibble. And just like a fisherman, I say, "Better luck tomorrow." But tomorrow never ends up being today! And thus goes the search for a good agent.

The "Protecting Yourself" section answers many of the general questions we all have faced time and again. What contests are legitimate and which ones are scams, or the confusion of copyright laws, these sites provide some insight to educating us on how to proceed with caution. A big thank you, Mr. Klems, on including these valuable sites.

If you know of a great website for writers you can nominate your find for next year's Top 101 Websites Article. The deadline is January 1, 2009. You can send your comments or website address to:

In the meantime, good luck in your trolling or fishing! Or is that phishing, now?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: In the weeks to come: an Interview with Julie Durango, Children's Author.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008




As I walked Rascal around the block yesterday evening, I not only exercised my heart, lungs and legs, but also my ears. I really listened and was amazed at all the sounds I heard. Here’s my list:

Cicadas screeched loudly, almost enough to drown out the other sounds, but not quite.

A squirrel chattered.

A bird chirped. I’m not sure what kind.

A horn bellowed from the tracks five blocks away.

A car’s engine accelerated.

A dog barked from a nearby yard.

A child laughed from the playground.

A whistle blew from the practice field by the middle school.

A truck rattled past, empty for the moment, but it will probably hold scrap later since tomorrow is garbage day.

Rascal’s chain jingled.

A jogger’s shoes plopped as she ran down the street.

The gate to my yard clanked as I opened and closed the handle.

A cricket chirped from the grass by the walkway.

A plane roared as I neared the stoop.

The doorknob squeaked as I opened the back door.

Inside, I heard my husband speaking on the phone.

My exercise is over, but yours is beginning. Pick a short period of time and really listen. See what noises you come up. You’ll probably be as surprised as I was at how many you can notice when you try.

Write or type down your list. Do this more than once and save it. Then, when you feel like adding extra layers to your writing, you’ve got a great cheat sheet ready to use.

Now go out and exercise. You don't need a dog to do it.

Morgan Mandel

The Life of a Writer

I'm taking a mini-vacation to get away from my regular life and guess what I want to do on my vacation more than anything else? Write!

I guess writers can't escape themselves.

Just about everything I do is within the context of my writing. Experiences are tucked away in my mind as possible scenes in a book that I'm working on or developing. I also hold onto the emotional feelings because I want to be able to relate that in words to my readers.

I've just finished the final rewrite of my first novel - a romantic suspense. Yeah!!!!!!

I will be reading it through once more for all those little details that a writer - especially a new writer - frets about before sending it off to a publisher or agent in hopes of a yes. I am prepared for the rejection letter however - just hoping that I will receive a positive respone instead.

So, on vacation I'm working, but then as a writer I am always working because every experience relates to who I am as a writer and the voice I am in the process of developing. This will be the way it is for me for the rest of my life.

Ah, the life of a writer!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Good Cop, Bad Cop and the Kangaroo Court

I was part of a multi-author booksigning at Borders Books in Matteson over the weekend, and despite a paucity of crowd, had a good time with fellow authors Michael Black, Luisa Beuhler, Sherry Scarpaci, Helen Osterman and two guys I didn’t know, and, um, still don’t know.

One of the reasons I don’t know them is because I never, ever sit at my table during a signing. I’m moving through the store, shoving my books into people’s hands and sharing hygiene. So I’m not sure what was going on back at the author tables since I wasn’t there.

I stayed two hours after the other authors left, until I sold all of my books! Woo-hoo!

I do want to say something about Michael Black. He’s an author, a good author - and a cop, a good cop. Read his stuff, you won’t regret it.

But I want to tell you about another cop who isn’t good. He’s definitely bad. Is he on the take? Heck if I know. Does he do drugs in his free time? No clue.

I can tell you what he does, though. He lies under oath.

This is a bit of a long story, and I’ll try to keep it brief. And it pains me, because I’ve always had the greatest respect for cops and other public servants who put their lives on the line to keep everyone safe. But there are exceptions.

Soon after my first daughter got her driver’s license, she was coming home down a rural highway where no speed limit was posted. In Illinois, this means you can go fifty-five. But the cornfields are endangered and two new subdivisions had recently broken ground. There was no increase in traffic, construction or new neighbors, but it was obvious that in the near future we’d have a bit more urban growth to deal with.

For now, though, think cornfields.

So my daughter turns onto this road from another highway. Usually, when as soon as you turn onto a street, there is a sign with the posted speed limit. If she had turned east rather than west, she would have immediately seen a sign posted for forty-five miles an hour. But going west, there was nothing.

She goes about half a mile past another road that ends at this road … again, there is no sign near this intersection, and then she drives by the entrance to one of the new subdivisions. She sees the police car there and notices that it immediately begins to pull out into the road.

Then she goes nears a bridge and there’s a sign that says, “reduced speed ahead.” On the other side of the bridge you can just make out a speed limit sign with a posted limit of thirty five miles an hour.

Suddenly, blue and red police lights go on behind her.

Her heart thumping, she turns at a road right after the bridge, but still before the new speed limit sign. The squad car pulls up behind her.

I wasn’t there, so this is all heresay, but apparently the officer was brusque and soon my daughter was in tears. I heard it all later as she and a friend that was in the car all relayed it to me through sobbing, hiccupping and frustrated tears.

Fine, you don’t have to be nice, and maybe scaring a new driver early on will help keep them in line forever.

But he gave her a ticket for going forty-five in a thirty-five.

I had been driving that very same road twice a day for over fifteen years, and I couldn’t remember it being thirty five where she was pulled over. So I went out the next day, and confirmed what I had thought. So I’m thinking to myself, “self, it was a mistake. Just call the station, explain, and maybe get the ticket rescinded.”

So I tried. I called the police station, and was rudely … this time it wasn’t heresay … told that it would have to be resolved in court.


I took all kinds of pictures, from the intersection showing no limit, from the cop’s vantage point showing she was nowhere near the reduced speed sign yet, and from several other points. I blew them up to eight by ten and waited for the day in court.

Here’s where it gets good. A week later, three brand new signs mysteriously went up … with a spanking new thirty five mile per hour limit. I took pictures of these, too. All were time-stamped.

Court was held in a bar. Yep, you heard me … a bar. They had cleared the bar, put in chairs and a ‘Judge’ sat at a table near the wall, a cashier to his left with a huge metal cash box.

As people lined up for their bit of justice, I noticed that everyone was judged guilty, and then they had to pay, with cash … no checks, no credit cards … and the money went into the cash box. The Judge was loud, impressed with himself, and even took some mean-spirited pokes at a Spanish defendant for his poor English.

Just before my daughter went up, the prosecutor called my daughter and we had a moment to talk with him and explain our position. Ah, a friend. Someone who would learn the truth and dismiss this and let us go on our way. Little did I realize what they really intended.

The cop was there, scowling. Not happy to be here. He spoke first. He said that my daughter went by him and was doing forty-five miles per hour as she passed the thirty-five mile per hour sign. I respectfully said that it wasn’t possible, and showed him pictures showing there were no signs.

He said that the signs must have been knocked down, and that she passed the one by the bridge. I showed him the picture of that intersection and proved that he was wrong again. He just grunted.

I ignored him and showed the pictures to the prosecutor, pictures that absolutely proved our case. He looked at them carefully, and said, “okay, we’ll go to trial.”

I was shocked. Fine, we’ll just prove it to the judge.

A few minutes later, we were in front of the judge, and we got another surprise. The Judge said that I would not be able to help my sixteen year old daughter take on an experienced, bar-passing professional in this matter.

But she’s sharp. Nervous. Scared. But she’s smart. Maybe she can pull it off.

The cop was the first to testify. And here’s where it gets surreal. He totally changed his story so that it would fit the evidence we had shown him. I just about burst trying to keep from shouting, “liar”! But I kept control, thinking that the evidence was still clear and unmitigated.

But I wasn’t ready for their next trick.

The prosecutor pulls out a big, blue notebook, and he said, “Here’s the ordinance showing that the speed limit on the entire stretch of road is thirty five miles per hour.”

I couldn’t control myself, “There’s no sign! How’s anybody supposed to know that?!”

The Judge smirked … really … and said, “If it’s in the ordinance.”

He banged his gavel and said, “Guilty. One hundred dollar fine.”

Then he leaned his ruddy, sweaty face toward my daughter and said, “And I hope you learned a lesson here, young lady.”

The kangaroos behind him were laughing and applauding.

We were directed to move down the conveyor line to the cashier, and left the lying cop and sarcastic judge behind us. I admit we angrily threw the money at the cashier, and we departed the den of county income. For that’s all it was.

I need my daughter to meet more good cops, because this was a heavy lesson for a sixteen year old to learn - that not all people in positions of authority deserve their position or the respect that the position would normally earn.

Anyway, ‘nuff said. There are some great cops out there, and I know quite a few of them. Michael Black’s a good one, and I’m proud to know him.


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

The Next Adventures of Guy … more wackiness

Fang Face (Young adult / humor vampire coming Aug. 09)

The Heat of the Moment

Missing (anthology coming Oct. 08)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's All About Me

A girlfriend and I used to joke about the phrase "it's all about me". What we decided was sometimes it's okay to think about yourself and to make believe that the world revolves around you.

So that's what I'm going to do today!

It's been a great week! THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS was released in its e version and is currently number five on the bestseller list for the Champagne Rose line at The Wild Rose Press!

All of my bookmarks and business cards came in the mail this week, so I'm feeling very much in the promotional mind-set, and have already sent out several sets to conferences who requested "goodies".

I also signed a contract for a free read with Wild Rose. The short story, called MISTLETOE AND FOLLY, will be available in December.

I've got another manuscript with my editor that's under consideration, and I'm about a third of the way done with the sequal to ALWAYS. I updated my website and included a 'buy link', and sent out all kinds of promotional e-mails to all of my groups and links.

All in all, it's been a fabulous author week! I feel like the real thing now!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


by Debra St. John
from The Wild Rose Press
print version 8/29/08