Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please Welcome Suspense Author, Kelly Irvin

Kelly Irvin’s writing career in nonfiction and fiction spans the last twenty-five years. Kelly recently signed a contract with Five Star Publishing for her romantic suspense novel, A Deadly Wilderness, which will be available in hardback in January 2010.
Her mainstream suspense manuscript, “The Dead Parent Society,” finished second in the 2007 Molly Contest sponsored by the Denver Heart of Romance Chapter of Romance Writers of America, while her romantic suspense manuscript, “Mine to Avenge,” was a finalist in the 2006 American Christian Fiction Writers national Genesis Contest.

A graduate of the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism, Kelly has been writing nonfiction professionally for twenty-five years. She studied for three semesters at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, Costa Rica. As a journalist, she worked six years in the border towns of Laredo and El Paso, where she was exposed to culture and language that serves as fodder for her fiction writing. She has written hard news, features, entertainment pieces, restaurant critiques, editorials, and weekly columns. Writing awards include the Silver Star Award from the Texas Mental Health Association and numerous awards in news, feature, and editorial writing from the Texas Press Association and Texas Press Women.

The Kansas native is a member of ACFW, Sisters in Crime, and Alamo City Christian Writers.

For the last fifteen years, she has worked in public relations for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-one years, and they have two teenagers.

ACME welcomes new Five Star author Kelly Irvin, whose first novel, Deadly Wilderness, did not come easy, despite her success as a journalist. But thanks to Kelly’s high PQ—Persistence Quotient—she didn’t give up, and as you will read below in the STORY BEHIND the making of Deadly Wilderness, it’s both a unique tale and a familiar one. Whether you are a reader, a writer, a struggling novelist, you will find Kelly’s words inspiring. It’s why ACME so wanted her to come on and tell us about her “journey” to fiction publication. We at Acme suspect we’ll be seeing more books penned by Kelly, maybe a prequel...maybe a sequel. Deadly Wilderness debuts January, 2010, but you can sample it at Kelly’s website below.

The Rocky Road to Crafting Deadly Wilderness
by Kelly Irvin

When Rob Walker asked me for a book cover for A Deadly Wilderness and I admitted I didn’t have one yet, he suggested I paint a picture in words of what I thought it should look like. That sent me off on a nostalgia trip. A few years ago when I decided I was going to write a suspense novel wherein the initial murder occurs in a San Antonio wilderness park, I took my two kids for a hike in that park. I wanted to find the exact spot where the bad guy would do the dastardly deed. I have a photo I took of my daughter ahead of me on the narrow, winding, uphill trail. She’s looking back at me, a huge grin on her beautiful face. The junipers are thick behind her, and the landscape rises up to meet a soft, sunny, baby blue Texas sky. That’s where the cover starts in my mind’s eye. Except. Except notice there’s no girl on the cover. Instead, your gaze moves from the trees toward the rocky, dark terrain because a bright red splash of something has drawn your attention. Then you realize that it’s blood on the shirt of the man reclining in the grass, his open eyes staring through the trees at that soft, sunny, baby blue Texas sky. A Deadly Wilderness is like that. It exposes the dark ugliness that lurks just below the surface of seemingly beautiful places and beautiful people.

The story behind the story? How does a public relations professional with two kids, two cats, and a bunch of fish, living in a house in the suburbs, decide to write a romantic suspense novel featuring a professional hit man and a police officer who won’t rest until he gets justice for the victims? My favorite genres are mysteries, suspense, and romantic suspense. That’s what I read so that’s what I decided to write. Having been a newspaper reporter for ten years, I had plenty of exposure to the more sordid side of life. As a sideline, I proofread trial transcripts for two U.S. District Court reporters. Over the years, those trials have included three death penalty cases, several sexual assaults of children, horrendous murders of all sorts. While not an uplifting experience in terms of my view on the human race, it has provided me with endless, intimate details of how crimes are committed and how they are solved. I try to incorporate those details in my fiction to give it an authentic, realistic feel. I may not always get it right, but I try.

That didn’t make me a good writer of fiction, however. As a reporter I wrote everyday. I figured that would translate to fiction, something I’d always wanted to write. When I turned forty-five I was finally smart enough to realize I was running out of time so I gave it a shot. I wrote my first novel in about six months. Then I set out to find a publisher. I went to a conference and discovered I knew very little about writing good fiction and even less about publishing it. Five years of workshops, conferences, critique groups, and lugging my laptop to work every day to write at six-thirty in the morning or an hour over lunch finally paid off with a contract with Five Star Gale last year. For my third novel. The first two languish in a cabinet, still close to my heart, but not quite publishable.

I learned a hard lesson, presumably one that most aspiring novelists must learn. Writing fiction requires persistence, a thick skin, and a willingness to listen and learn. Musicians don’t pick up their instruments and play perfectly the first time. Painters hone their crafts. So must writers. Some of you are saying, duh, I know, but this was a painful lesson for me. Writing fiction also requires an intense desire that screams loud enough to drown out those nay-saying voices in your head that tell you no one will ever read your work but you. Somewhere I read these encouraging words: The only writer who doesn’t get published is the one who gives up. That was my mantra for five years. It’s still my mantra.

A Deadly Wilderness grew out of the first two books, but it is the place where characters, plot, craft, and the underlying message finally came together in a story worthy of publication (If I do say so myself, of course). I had to write the first two to get to this one. Ray Johnson, the protagonist, was a bit character in the first novel. I needed a partner for my first protagonist so I created Ray. For backup. But he kept taking over the stage. In a tall Texan cowboy kind of a way. I had no intention of writing about a cowboy from East Texas. I’d never even been to East Texas. No matter how I tried to relegate him to second chair, he kept writing scenes in my head in which he had the lead. Finally, thoroughly irritated, I conceded defeat and gave him the stage.

If I’d known, I would’ve given him a cooler name. You know how all the novels now have characters with names you’ve never actually known anyone to have, but they sure sound good? My poor characters were cheated—Ray Johnson, Susana Martinez, Samuel Martinez, Deborah Smith. It’s possible that I was at the point where the nay-saying voices in my head were winning, and I suspected I might be writing for myself so I gave them names that sounded like people I might know. Just regular folks eating cornflakes for breakfast, taking the trash out, and showing up to do their jobs as public servants everyday. Until Ray goes for a hike, takes a tumble in a ravine, and lands on a body missing a ring finger. He has no way of knowing this is the homicide that could end his career—and his life. Being a seat-of-the-pants writer, neither did I until I got to the end, but that’s a story for another day.

For a sneak peek at the first chapter of A Deadly Wilderness, take a hike (just remember to stay on the trail and pick up your feet) to

And thanks ACME and Morgan and Rob and everyone at ACME for inviting me to your wonderful blog spot!

Kelly Irvin
A Deadly Wilderness, January 2010
from 5 Star Gale

Cold Feet! By DL Larson

Living in the midwest, the weather has been tinkering with my mental stability and attitude. The sun playing "catch me if you can" is no longer amusing, my boots are too hot, and my socks are wearing thin as my patience for good weather. And my feet are cold. Yes, I've opted for sandals even though the weatherman warns me it may be drippy and cold outside. But it is the end of April, and my toes are itching to be out from confinement.

And how is this related to writing? Well ... my anxiousness to move on to the next step in writing has reached a crescendo this week. I feel overwhelmed with time limitations, self-inflicted sometimes, but mostly I blame the weather. When I need a distraction from writing I usually work out in my gardens. This year, the stalks are still poking up from last fall, because, well, you know - the weather last autumn was way beyond nasty and wet. I couldn't get to them before frigid weather set in and this spring the problem has asperated. I can't move forward, yet going back isn't possible. I feel stuck.

Then I take inventory of my office and realize I'm stuck on other levels too. My re-writes are bogging me down, my new ideas have yet to be relayed to paper, and my works in progress hang in limbo waiting for good weather, or perhaps a surge of warm ideas to get me moving in a positive direction. I guess I have a bad case of cabin fever! Freeing my toes is not enough!

When I'm in this frame of mind, I take precautions. No sense destroying a good scene with a grumpy disposition. So again, I find I'm waiting for another storm to pass before I can get down to work - in the garden, with my WIP, anything! What better time to grab a book from one of the many shelves at my library, kick back and read.

I chose Book Four in The Ranger's Apprentice, The Battle of Skandia. It's a great series in YA, the author is John Flanagan, from Australia. Young Will has the huge task of saving the princess from slavery and returning her to their homeland. But winter has set in and they must wait. The snowstorms of Skandia are infamous, and food is scarce, and they trudge through knee high drifts to set traps.

Ut-oh. My feet feel that snow! And it's raining again. I need sunshine! I need mega doses of sunshine and warm weather. Yes, I need sunshine, warm weather, and blue skies.

I need to get a grip! My neighbor Ben, who is 85 years old, told me spring has never not come in all his life. It will get here.

I like his optimism. It's as encouraging as the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. Warm weather will come. It is just a little late. I understand that. I'm always running late.

My feet are still cold.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Please Welcome My Guest, Chester D. Campbell, on His Blog Book Tour

Chester D. Campbell is the author of two mystery series featuring private investigators. The Surest Poison, first book in the Sid Chance series dealing with a chemical pollution case, is just out. He has written four Greg McKenzie novels featuring a retired Air Force investigator and his wife. Prior to turning to fiction writing, Campbell worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer, magazine editor, political speechwriter, advertising copywriter, public relations professional and association executive. An Air Force intelligence officer in the Korean War, he retired from the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. Currently secretary of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime, he lives in Madison , TN with his wife, Sarah, and an 11-year-old grandson.

Miss Demeanor and Five Felons Poker Club

One of the major problems in writing a Private Eye series is how the detective gets reliable information on crimes and criminals out of the police. If the PI has no background in law enforcement, he’s at a real disadvantage. Even those who are former cops usually left the department under less than favorable circumstances, often making them persona non grata with their old employers.

In The Surest Poison, PI Sid Chance quit his job as a small town police chief under a cloud, though he was subsequently exonerated. I came up with an innovative subplot to provide him with sources for the inside information he needs in pursuing his investigations. It involves the Misdemeanor and Five Felons Poker Club. Back when I first completed writing the novel, I even used that as the title of the book. I knew it was awfully long to start with and, on more sober reflection, decided to scrap it for something better.

The “club,” of course, remained a vital part of the story. It is mentioned at the end of the opening chapter, though only in passing and not by name. The next occurrence comes in Chapter 8 when Sid discusses who will attend the next “meeting” with his part-time associate, Jaz LeMieux.

The members are identified as Metro Nashville Homicide Detective Bart Masterson, Patrol Sgt. Wick Stanley, retired newspaper crime writer Jack Post, former Criminal Court Judge Gabriel Thackston, and Jaz, a former cop now board chairman of a chain of truck stops, who invited Sid to join them. The group meets for a friendly game of poker whenever they can get enough together to provide for some lively competition.

Jack Post, the word merchant, originally dubbed them Miss Demeanor (Jaz) and Four Felons, but the ante went up when Sid joined the group. Although a Nashville native, he had been away for years, first as a National Park ranger, then as police chief in a small town fifty miles to the southwest. Jaz was responsible for getting him into the private investigation business and suggested he join the ersatz club as a way of establishing some good contacts in the law enforcement community.

As a subplot, it worked out quite well. Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants plotter, I had no idea what would happen in advance. I picked out some characters I thought would be interesting and started writing. They came through for me as I expected. Bart Masterson was the most helpful, since he investigated the first murder and assisted in tracking down information on the second. My PI happily shared information he encountered involving each of the murders.

The others played less prominent roles than Masterson but provided significant details that helped piece the puzzle together. The one meeting of the Misdemeanor and Five Felons Poker Club that takes place in the book set the stage for the players to provide various bits of information over the next few days.

I know there have been groups like James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club that work together to solve crimes, but do you know of other “clubs” created to assist the protagonist in gathering clues?

Buy link to Amazon:
Buy link to B&N:

Chester Campbell
Author of The Surest Poison
"A top rate mystery by a gem of a writer."
Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

Today’s visit is part of Chester Campbell’s Blog Book Tour. He will give away several copies of his books in drawings at the end of the tour on May 1. Leave a comment here and you may be a winner. For more details click this link ( to the blog tour page on his website.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When and How to Write

I often compare writing to training for a race and since I do both I can't help but notice the parallels between the two. As writers we often spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about things that may not matter in the end. For example, what the market is buying before we even have a finished manuscript. Since the market is fluid and more difficult to time than the stock market, worrying about this is pretty much counter productive. However, it is important to understand the market, not so much to time it but how to approach it, or more specifically, the agents, editors and publishers that control it.

In training for a race we focus on the type of race we are going to run. One doesn't train the same way for a 5k race as for a 10k or half-marathon. So, knowing the race you're going to run is important for how you approach your training. On Saturday I ran a 10 mile race, my first running race for 2009 and boy was I unprepared. I finished the race but I could tell that I hadn't trained properly. How could I tell? Well, since I've run longer races and felt better I knew that running the race was a bit premature. Still, I made mental notes along the way of the things I needed to change before running the next race I signed up for - a half-marathon. I know what to do, I just need to do it.

The same holds for writing. For me,the writing equivalent of a race is submitting a manuscript to a publisher or pitching that manuscript at a conference. I waited a while before sending a letter off to an editor about my first romantic suspense novel because I wanted it to be ready should I get a request for the whole manuscript. I did get the request but in the end the novel wasn't accepted by the editor for publication. Since it was the only editor I queried I'm not as bummed about it as one might think. I feel pretty good that after sending a query to just this one editor and then receiving a request for the full manuscript - well, in the writing world of odds, that's pretty good. Haven't decided if I'm going to send this out to anyone else but in the meantime I continue writing another work of fiction that I've started.

So, I will continue to learn from my racing mistakes and misjudgements and I will continue to train and run races, regardless of where I place, because it keeps me challenged and feeling alive.

The same for my writing endeavors. I can no longer stop writing than I can stop working out and challenging myself. I write mostly on the train during my commute and then edit at home on a printed out version. I write stories based on my own voice, my own imagination, and my own taste in what I enjoy reading. I doubt I'd be any better at timing the writing market than the stock market and in the end after spending a year or more on any given writing project, I want to at least enjoy the ride and fun of putting one more word on paper and taking one more step towards finishing a race.

Monday, April 27, 2009


A few years ago I set a goal for myself. I was going to write a book. I took my time and started writing. The book I started didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere but I kept puttering along writing a little here and there. Then I got this idea for a young adult book and once I got started the whole book came together and was on paper in eight months.

I reached my goal. I wrote a whole book.

Now what?

Well, get it published. So my new goal was to get it published. And I tried. And tried. And tried. I kept telling myself that it’s okay, that I reached the goal I set and finished the book, but I still kept trying. It took two years, but it happened.

I reached my goal. I’m published.

(Here is a picture of my book at the library, right smack in the middle or the New Jr High fiction!)

Now what? Well, get book two published.

Not as easy as it seems.

First I have to write book two. It was so easy to get the first one done because there was no pressure. I wrote when I felt like it and as long as it was in the works I felt like I was working hard toward my goal. But the second one is so much harder. Oh, it’s not like anyone is hanging around badgering me to finish it (except for my friends and family or course) or that I have a contract already,(which I don’t) but the pressure if from me. Now that I’ve had the taste of success, (and yes, to me one published book is success!!), I want to reach it again. NOW! And, I’m making myself crazy.

So I find that I just have to simply make my goal of “get book two published” a bit smaller and I’ve changed it to “get book two finished one paragraph at a time.” I think that might work. Who knows, maybe book three will just sail along right after I finish book two. Wouldn’t that be grand? But there I go getting ahead of myself again!

Until next time—happy goal reaching!!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Contest Judging

Hey All,

Sorry I missed you last week, but it was a crazy day. I was running around from sun up 'til sundown with not a lot of time to relax, breathe, post, etc. in between.

This week I wanted to talk about contest judging.

I spent a lot of time in this past month judging contest entries. Many of the stories were solid, well thought-out tales that intrigued me. Hopefully some of them will be contest winners and go on to be published some day so I can find out how they get their heros and heroines to the much sought after happily every after.

Many of the stories made me smile in a bemused sort of way. And it wasn't necessarily the content that did it.

I was amused to find that the little things that needed polishing (intruders: 'felt', 'saw', 'wondered'; passive voice: those darn 'ing' words; and telling not showing) were so easy to spot in someone else's writing, and so darn impossible to keep away from in my own.

Was it that I just finished a round of edits for my editor and had those things on my mind because they were the things she told me to fix in my own writing? Or was it that it's so difficult (for me) to separate the heart of the story from the actual telling of the story in a grammatical sense? Or was it the 'well, everyone else needs to follow the rules, but I'll do things my own way'?

I couldn't tell. But it did make me laugh. Because I can go through something I've written over a dozen times and still not find all of the mistakes, but in someone else's writing, they seem to literally leap off the page.

I am wondering why that is. (LOL)

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Grandest Avenue by Margot Justes

A visit to Paris must include a stroll on the grandest avenue of them all, the Champs Elysees. Trees border the wide avenue. My imagination always takes root, and I see a fanciful lush border that outlines the street, a gigantic sweep of branches that almost caress the ground, as the cars speed in manic hurry. Exhilarating.

The site is a delight to the senses. Wide, open, elegant and vital. Brimming with life.

You have arrived at the shoppers Mecca in Paris. No, it is not the haute couture center, although fine boutiques abound, it is simply an exciting mixture of stores, cafes, cinemas and tourists. Many tourists, no matter time of year.

The avenue’s beginning is simple, an Elysian field-hence the name- became a strolling pathway in 1616, under Marie De Medici’s guidance.

Today it stretches from the Place de la Concorde, the renowned obelisk marks the starting point all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de l’Etoile (place of stars), over a mile long, it is easily the most recognized avenue in the world.

Once you reach the Arc de Triomphe and go upstairs, Paris will be at your feet, look down, you’ll see why it is called the place of stars. It has since been renamed Place Charles du Gaulle, but for me it will always be the place of stars.

I have often heard it said that if you sit in a café on the Champs Elysees long enough, you will eventually meet someone you know. I never had, but am willing to test the hypothesis.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on

Friday, April 24, 2009

Imitative Writing - The Highest Form of Learning & Flattery by Robert W. Walker

I would be thrilled to get notice from some young novice author that he or she read one or more of my books and decided as a result to sit down to attempt to write – not just anything but to write one page of Robert W. Walker-styled prose in order to see if it’s within the realm of possibility. In my creative writing classes over the years, taking such disparate authors as E.B. Whie, Erma Bombeck, John Steinbeck, Hemmingway, and dare I say it Janet Evanovich as examples of authors my students could and should imitate for their pathos, their humor, their themes but most of all their styles—to borrow if you will for a brief page or two, a scene, or a chapter to write in the style of one’s favorite author.

I have had students come through the door saying, “I want to be the next ___________ whomever, and that’s usually the current literary meteor going across our vision—Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, and sometimes a classical author as in Conan Doyle or Mark Twain or Edgar Allan Poe. I set up students to have them attempt to put one past me—as they read their imitative piece aloud and if the class cannot guess who it is, it falls to me. Remarkably, I typically get it right unless it is an author I have no idea of or have never heard of or read.

It’s an exercise well worth pursuing for anyone who aspires to write and is in search of a “style” – that most elusive of abstract notions so hard to define and which I define as a controlled, consistent authorial voice. By imitating the masters, by actually sitting down and doing what they do (learning happens in the doing of a thing), then a newbie can begin to see and understand the patterns of a given author—whether it is White or Twain, Patterson or King. It is a matter of close study of how Dean R. Koontz is “experimenting” here with the “feeling” of one’s deepest emotions as death take over consciousness or Mark Twain so belaboring a point as to make it hilarious.

I began my own writing career “borrowing” largely from Samuel Langhorne Clemens, I can tell you. My first novel, written over the years straddling my sophomore and junior year of high school at good old (H.G.) Wells High School in Chicago and partially at Screven High School, Screven, Georgia (where the story was initiated) started out as an experiment—to determine if I could fool a teacher into thinking I had come across a lost chapter from Mark Twain’s boys adventure tales. I had read (devoured) Tom Sawyer and then Huck Finn, and I needed a fix—another Twain boy’s adventure but there was none! Arrogant and angry, I sat down to write the sequel with the notion I’d do a few pages and be done with that nonsense. Instinctively, however, I knew after writing that first chapter that I had only jus begun, that the VOICE that I had created of Daniel Webster Jackson was not going to let me alone until I darn well finished what he had to say. In the original, Daniel opens by being upset with a Mr. Mark Twain for not including him in either Ton Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – two boys that Daniel knew intimately. In a huff, Daniel’s decided to write his own book – Daniel Webster Jackson & The Wrongway Railway (1982 Oak Tree Publ.).

In short, what came of my imitative work (in praise of Twain) that began as an attempt merely to determine if I could pull off Twainian prose took on a life of its own. In my class more than one student did the same with her and his imitative pieces. They learned that imitation is not only the purest form of flattery but that learning the style and catching the voice of other authors is a legitimate and powerful learning tool. The truly smart ones took on the assignment with relish and they developed as writers in response to it. They took the orchestration well in other words.

When instructors say Write About What You Know About they limit you and you can limit yourself as a result; rather Write About What You CAN Know About. One of the elements every writer should work to know about aside from whatever substantive research is necessary for the plot and characterizations in a novel or short story is to study and research other authors—how they succeed and even how and why they fail elsewhere. Twain failed miserably with some of his attempts, trust me, as with his book on Joan of Arc and the terrible flawed endings he is famous for. Like Babe Ruth, he hit a lot of home runs, but he also struck out on more than one occasion as with his terribly chaotic autobiography which often read like dispatches from a lost journalist who’d not gotten enough sleep before filing a story, whereas the clarity and laugh out loud humor of his Roughing It – also autobiographical but chock full with exaggeration and storytelling is magnificent.

I have just collaborated with Mark Twain for a Mark Twain contest that has contestants finishing an unfinished short story. I can tell you that for me it was a great reunion, working again with my spiritual mentor and favorite author. “Together” we finished Interview with the Devil for the contest, and while I won’t hold my breath thinking I won, I did win as I reminded myself what so thoroughly is Mark’s style.

For a look at the style I have developed over a lifetime of “borrowing” from authors as far-flung as Ed McBain and Mark Twain, go to my website and download pages of my upcoming DEAD ON – a uniquely singular modern Noir set in Atlanta that pits two ex-marines against one another and one is “handicapped” due to a dog and a dame on his arm--or so he and Bogart believe. That’s found at

Thanks for visiting! Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Contest Results and How To Benefit From Them! by DL Larson

The last of my judging duties for this season are finished. My last contest entry has been read, ranked, and the whole bundle sent back to the chapter coordinators. Soon winners will be announced and much ya-hooing will ensue. I'm tickled I could be a part of this process.

But what of the other 99% who did not win? What have they gained by having others critique their work? They competed, but they did not win. Yet, they have not gone home losers. Quite the opposite, really. I hope every contestant who entered a writing competition reads the comments and suggestions other authors/judges gave them.

My Number One suggestion to these contestants is:
Take whatever criticism you receive like a professional. If you don't agree with something someone said, that's okay, but don't disregard it, take time to think what they are revealing about your work. They (meaning the judges) wouldn't suggest something if they didn't think it would IMPROVE your writing. It's as simple as that.

Consider every suggestion, then proceed with re-writes, editing, whatever you call it, but visit those new ideas, write them down so you won't forget them. Usually three separate judges view your work in a contest, if all three say similar things, then this is a knock-up-side your head to change what needs fixing. It may take several attempts to feel comfortable with this new strategy, but don't give up, keep at it. Repetition is the best form of learning something new. So settle in, and don't rush yourself or become frustrated because you can't get it right the first try.

Feedback is designed to help writers, never, never to undermine their abilities to write compelling work. If you feel your judge was harsh ... THANK HER/HIM. They are not being harsh - you are being overly sensitive. They have taken time from their busy schedules to help you! You! They may have written in a clipped voice, getting their thoughts across as quickly as possible, but that is not to cause you hurt feelings. Flowery speeches are best left for family and friends. If you entered a contest, then you are searching for truth and each judge I know has given their contestants the best assistance they possibly can.

One last thing, most judges wish each contestant good luck. Those aren't empty words. They are meant to encourage each writer, whether they win in the contest or not. It is also a way of saying, "don't you dare give up!!" Keep writing, keep trying, it's what everyone must do to be a writer!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: if you've recently won in a contest - share with us at Acme Authors.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Question - Are Green Lawns Really Green? by Morgan Mandel

Going green has caught on more lately. People realize lots of things they've been doing are not good for their health, their neighborhood, and the planet.

Some readers go green by reading ebooks instead of those made with paper. In that way, they protect trees from being cut down. That's a great idea to help the environment.

Veering off the writing subject, I always shake my head when I look at my neighbor's yard. He's obsessed with his lawn and also hates trees. He cut down perfectly healthy elms and maples for no apparent reason, except that their leaves fell in the fall and the shade fell on his perfect lawn.

When we were gone on vacation in September last year, we came back to find a great portion of the grass along the edge of our side of the fence had turned yellow, where it had been perfectly healthy before we'd left. We happened to notice the yellow not only extended along our side of the fence, but also in a pattern on our neighbor's side. Not only that, another yellow pattern had appeared along the other edge of his lawn. It was clear that in our absence, he'd sprayed a chemical designed not only to kill weeds, but also other living vegetation, so he could then roto-till his yard and plant new grass. When confronted by the DH, our neighbor admitted to doing so and proceeded to complain about the wheels from our maple tree in the front yard falling on his property.

His lawn is perfectly green and groomed, but at what price? We have a dog who can't use the toilet inside like we do and depends on going into our yard which had been sprayed with chemicals. This makes me uneasy.

What also makes me uneasy are the people who spread chemicals on their lawns and leave no little flags up as warnings. Not only that, they litter the sidewalk with the chemicals when they spread them, instead of sweeping them up. Even if we keep the dog off the chemical filled lawns, she still has to walk on sidewalks where her paws touch chemicals. That can't be good for her or other dogs.

Children are playing in parks even when signs are posted saying chemicals have been sprayed or spread. Is that good for them?

So, I ask you, are green lawns really the way to go green? What's your opinion?
Also, do any of you know of non-chemical ways to prevent dandelions and other weeds other then bending down and digging or picking them up? Please share.

Morgan Mandel - if you like this post, check out my Are You Cutting Back post today at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Snarky Help

Happy Rainy Monday!

I came across a site a while ago, Miss Snark's First Victim. She, if it is a she, calls it "a blog for aspiring writers." For anyone interested in getting feedback on your writing, it's a nice place. Every month she has a 'secret agent'. There are rules as to what genre to submit based on the what the secret agent represents. You submit the first 250 words and she posts the first 50 entries. Other author wanna be's and some pubs make comments on the writing, but so does an agent. The winners get to submit a full or partial to the secret agent who is revealed at the end of the week. Of course I think that is the best part. Even if you don't get selected, you get an agent who gives you a few lines as to if they like or don't like what they see. That is something you can't even get from a form rejection! Even if you don't participate, you can just read through the comments and see what that agent has to say. You never know, your ideal agent might just be the secret agent one day and you can get a peek into how they handle reviewing their queries. It just might be the edge you need to get that request for a full!

Good Luck


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Romance in Paris by Margot Justes

Catch Margot Justes' interview on Sunday, April 19 at Books and Blogs on Blog Talk Radio at from 4-4:15pm Central Daylight Savings Time (Illinois time)

It is spring at least according to the calendar. It is cold, damp and dreary, the flowers are barely sprouting, grass is still brown and potential for snow not an impossibility. You keep waiting for it to improve. And it will. Eventually.

Ah, that is because you’re home. It’s the everyday expectation in our existence. We perform our daily rituals.

So instead, let’s hop on a plane and go for a ride, a change of scenery if you will.
Let’s imagine we’re in Paris in the spring, walking along in the Luxembourg Gardens. The gentle mist falling on the tree branches leaving a crystal reflection, a heavenly clean earthy smell permeates your nostrils as you take a deep breath.

Walk along the gravel path and hear it crunch beneath your feet. Listen to the birds chirp as they spread their wings and take flight only to land perched on a shoulder of a statue.

Watch the grass as it seems to become greener right in front of your eyes, the rain still falling and sinking deep into the earth.

Leave the peace of the gardens and walk out through the wrought iron fence. Go across the street while the gentle rain is still falling, sit down in the café, order your favorite brew and observe the wet wrought iron glisten in the golden sun peeking through the clouds.

While in Paris, I have done exactly that many times and have found that a gentle rain, overcast sky can be as romantic as anything else-whether you’re alone strolling and day dreaming or walking with someone special by your side. It’s what you make of any given moment.

Truly, in Paris every little thing that you take for granted at home becomes incredibly special. Every moment counts and is treasured. There is something magical about the city.

Maybe that tell us we should not take anything for granted when at home but seize every moment. I’ll leave that up to you.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interview with Bo Parker -- a writer's journey by Rob Walker

Bo Parker, the subject of my interview today at ACME was born, RFD 3, Corryton, Tennesse and "quickly" earned his BS in journalism, UT-Knoxville.

Bo's working career? First thirteen years in and out of the newspaper business while going to college, then five years in the shipbuilding business, followed by serving as an appointed public official in Hampton for twenty-three years until retirement.

Writing career: newspapers (news and sports reporting). Non-fiction was local history stuff, including "A Year of Excellence," a pivotal 12 months, during 1938-39 in Hampton's history; "The Storm of 1933," the benchmark for hurricanes in this area; "When Horizons Stood on End," an account of the local connections with the round-the-world flight by Army aviators in 1924; "William H. Kimberly," a life sketch of a local merchant and an eye witness to the Monitor-Merrimack Battle. Bo's last biggie, which took three and a half years to do the research and then write was "The Seventeen," a biographical history of the seventeen men who founded the first Rotary Club in the city.

There were also more newsletters, pamphlets, tracts, etc. than you can shake a stick at.or that Bo cares to remember. You can find Bo Parker now at

The Old Word Cobbler Speaks on First Dive Into Fiction Writing

I found myself in a familiar location, an Irish pub but this was no ordinary Irish Pub, this was Sarah’s Irish Pub, on the corner of Hope and Mellen Streets, in the village of Phoebus, a bustling part of part of Hampton, Virginia.

I had traveled here in a condemned Jeep Cherokee that had failed to pass muster—rejected by a grease monkey in a hole-in-the wall garage in West Virginia—unable to pass a simple inspection, and told the vehicle was so dangerous that I took my life in my own hands any time I got behind the wheel.

But I wasn’t about to let a small thing like that and a sticker stamped REJECTED on my windshield keep me from my rendezvous with veteran nonfiction author Bo Parker who at age sixty-nine is a “newbie” at fiction writing and finding it was a damn tough but satisfying row to hoe.

It had been easy to find Sarah’s Irish Pub. All I had to do was follow Interstate 64 East—from West Virginia, it’s mostly downhill—until seeing lots of water, navy ships, and an Interstate exit marked Phoebus. From there it was a matter of following the crowd to a building with green, white, and orange awnings.

I was welcomed to the pub by a lovely lady with strawberry blonde hair, rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes, and lively charm. She introduced herself as Trish Profer, the owner of the pub. “I bet you’re Rob Walker, the noted novelist and college professor who’s driven down to interview Bo. He told us all about you, showed us your picture.”
If there was ever a lady born to be the owner of an Irish pub, she is it. I started having visions of doing an interview with her, but Bo was already there, fighting off the crowd to save me a seat, and didn’t look too happy about being ignored. I rushed over, shook his beefy hand, and slapped down my tape recorder, pen, and pad and ordered a pint of the good stuff—Guiness.

Then we got down to it and I asked Bo why in the bloody hell he wanted to write fiction after all these years of being sane? His response was and remains instructive indeed:

“I will admit that when I started writing a mystery novel some five years ago after spending a half century writing non-fiction, I did so with an excess of ego, a great deal of naiveté, and a massive amount of ignorance—so if that be insanity, bring it on…so be it.”

“But what kind of obstacles you must have faced! I’ve had nonfiction writers in my creative writing courses, and they sweat more and cry more than do my other students who don’t have to stop thinking like an article and “book” or newspaper writer and start thinking like Raymond ‘freakin’ Chandler.”

Parker held me with a glint in his eye and took a moment to down half his own pint before replied with his thoughtful attempt at explaining why he wanted to torture himself in this way. It was a mystery I meant to solve for my readers.

He said, “Obstacles? Yeah! The first one I discovered immediately. It’s the difference between historical non-fiction and creative writing.”

I checked the tape recorder, and listened intently. This sounded like it was going to be good material for a creative writing course lecture.

He continued, saying, “With historical non-fiction, it had been a matter of first selecting an incident or period of time. Then came researching the facts, and from that point, it was deciding on an approach, and connecting the dots.

I quickly realized that while the idea for a creative story might be found in an archive, the facts of the story have to be quarried from the gray quartz between one’s own ears. The word creative took on an entirely new meaning.”

“I can safely say I’ve never heard the brain described quite so ahhh solidly before.”
Bo grimaced. I wrote a note to myself: “Work on your puns.”

“When I finally finished my first mystery,” continued Parker, “I wanted to know how well I’d done. I discovered the answer was not too well!”

“Ha! Join the club. It ain’t no cake-walk.”

Bo nodded his agreement. “After an exchange of a few E-mails, William Tapply agreed to review the manuscript. His initial response was an eleven-page, single spaced letter. A page and a half or so covered the things I had done correctly. The rest of the letter spelled out the things I needed to learn about the craft of writing a mystery novel.”

“Tapply’s a crafty guy, a great teacher, and I agree with 229 percent of what he has to say,” I informed Parker. “You went to a good mentor, grasshopper. A real master.”

“That he is. It’s too damned bad the so-called experts hung that ‘writer of regional mysteries’ label around his neck. Look at Robert B. Parker. How many of his Spenser books have a setting out outside of Boston? No one has called Parker a “writer of regional mysteries.”
A lesser man would not have asked the question. But I had a reputation to uphold. “Parker? Any family connection?”

Bo seemed to look askance, averting his eyes, making me wonder. Then he quickly covered with, “The list of things to learn was so daunting that if anyone but Bill Tapply had written that letter,

I would probably have gone back to writing about carpetbaggers who came south and took over the town after the Civil War. But Bill Tapply has a bedside manner that would be the envy of any medical doctor. In addition to explaining the craft of a mystery novel, he explained what must be done to perfect that craft develop the day-to-day discipline it takes to be a creative writer, a task far different from doing research and writing about Yankees who came to town.”

I jotted notes and checked the recorder again. This was good stuff. Maybe two lectures worth.
“After discussions about my first attempt, Bill and I both agreed that mystery story number one should be set aside.”

“Stunk that bad, eh?”

Bo raised a glass to that, laughed, and continued. “A second novel was written. The proof that I was learning came from the fact that Bill’s letter in response to this second effort stated it was ‘worth keeping’, and the suggestions for improvement covered only five pages!”

With my drink in one hand, my pen in another, I jotted down mere five pages.

“At some point, it was suggested that I become a part of the DorothyL world. That exposed me to readers of mysteries, and I must admit, a group about whom I had not given a great deal of thought.

These folks are a tough bunch. They know what they want, and have no compunction about letting the world know when they don’t get it. I found I was reading about things I’ve never thought about—books being thrown against a wall across the room, readers being jerked out of the story, or even the book being read no further, because of something found implausible.”

“You found all my critics you say?”

Again Bo’s infectious laughter filled Sarah’s Irish Pub. “But hold on, Rob,” he cautioned me, “I learned that such action is understandable. I knew that in general fiction, anything can and often does happen. But I’ve learned that is not so in a mystery. I learned there are rules to be followed, not unlike some that exist for certain types of poetry. And mystery readers expect adherence. The body of a murdered person shall be discovered on page 4, page 14, or by page 40 depending on which expert wrote the “How to write Mysteries” book that one reads. And there will be a sleuth whose task it is to find the murderer. It does not matter if the sleuth is a country preacher, school teacher, PI, mother of five, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker.”

“Or newspaperman or professor or out of work actor,” I added.

“What does matter is that the sleuth must be honest with the reader. Don’t try to sell river catfish as red herrings. The sleuth, if male, must have an appeal, be it brains or sex or brawn. Pick one. If the sleuth is female, the appeal factor does not seem to be as high as the requirement that she not be a bumbling idiot. Either way, the sleuth must be sufficiently engaging to keep the reader turning pages. The sleuth must never do anything so stupid as to cause book abuse, that thrown-against-the-wall-across-the-room thing.”

“Book abuse…is that anything like animal cruelty?”

Bo remained focused, not allowing me to get him off topic. “Now, the next step in the process, one that no one had told me about, was the query letter, that pithy little paragraph that’s the first step toward publication. For this task, I did a great deal of reading. What I discovered is that people who write about how to compose a query letter suffer from what I have come to call the Ten-Commandants syndromecoming up with list after list of “Thou shalt nots….” Fortunately, at a recent writer’s conference, I had the pleasure of spending some two hours in the company of Katharine Sands, an agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. By listening to her and reading her book, MAKING THE PERFECT PITCH, I learned more about how to do a query letter than from all the reading I had done over the past year.”

“The pitch and query letter is the most important short-short story you will ever write, agreed—and—an—a—”

Bo smiled in agreement. “So, at this point in the process, most if not all of the ignorance—my ignorance, Rob, has been erased! The naiveté has been turned into reality. And all of the excess has been squeezed out of the ego. What remains is confident persistence.”

“A lovely turn of phrase, which I call the PQ.”

“PQ?” Parker’s eyebrows went up like white doves.

“Persistence Quotient.”

He nodded and tapped at the table, mulling it over. “Anyhow… with the odds of getting a book published equaling those of being struck by lightening, and in consideration of my age, it may not be a book cover that carries my name. It may be a tombstone, but below the name, there damned well better be inscribed, “He died trying.”

“I’m impressed with you, Bo, and every time you post on DL you make damn good sense of things, so I have a strong feeling—given your PQ and your IQ that you’ll see your name on a book long before any of us see it in stone. Besides, as they say, it’s what you do with the DASH between the dates that counts, and it appears—aside from hanging out at Sarah’s here—you are using your time wisely, you know how to do damn good research, and you’ve got the mystery genre figured out.”

Trish’s charm was making it very hard to turn down another round of brew. But it had grown late and both Bo and I had projects hanging fire back at our respective digs, and I had a long trip ahead of me—fraught with danger—not to mention being uphill. Should I make a single mistake and be pulled over, my condemned vehicle would be impounded, and me set afoot in a strange place, and fined up the ying-yang—any stimulus funds gone down the tubes. Besides, I had to file this interview for ACME AUTHORS, so here it is…I mean here it is! With my sincerest thanks to a good ol’ newbie whose will to succeed and dedication and hard work and persistence one day must see him published. I predict a great future for Mr. Bo Parker and to jump-start it, to inform the public of his greatest secret, that he is after all the illegitimate son of Robert B. Parker (unconfirmed by Parker—either Parker—at this time but there have been stories).

For More Bo Parker, check out

Ta-da for now, Rob Walker -- Cover Art for Dead On, which is coming at you in July, so be afraid…be very afraid…

Direct vs. Indirect Thought by DL Larson

To underline or not, is the foggy question for many when dealing with direct thought. I'm not sure how this quandary started, or even where, but I do know when I turn a page of someone's manuscript, my eyes wander to the underlined words. Basically underlining throws me out of the story, my mind is now wondering what is so important it must be underlined. When I finally reach said underlined words, I'm practially shouting the phrase in my mind. And that, is rarely what the author had intended the reader to do.

So why do writers underline the direct thoughts of their characters? The first valid reason is a publishing house may prefer to see direct thought underlined so type setters can catch these groupings and transfer them to italics for the book. I can accept that. I also understand standards change over time. And the last time I was in school, granted it was post Dark Ages era, I may have missed out on the importance of underlining direct thoughts of my characters. I like to think I would have rebelled at doing such a unsavory thing.

Using he thought is more preferable for me, or some variation of relaying the thought process to the reader. Direct thought is merely unspoken dialogue, and it's okay to assume your readers are intelligent enough to understand the thinking process going on with your character.

Others use italics to convey direct thought. This is much less distracting while reading and eliminates the need to say he thought/she thought. Still others rely more heavily on indirect thought, or a summary of the character's thoughts through narrative.

How you convey your character's insight and internal conflict can be tricky, but as an avid reader I caution those who lean to heavily on one way over the other. Seeing the page riddled with italics or underlined words becomes intrusive to the story. If your manuscript looks heavy with too many direct thought patches, consider rewording to create a smoother read with more indirect thought.

Let us know how you decide on direct vs. indirect thought with your characters.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are You Serious? by Morgan Mandel

On the income tax theme -

Whether or not you've had a book published, if you can show the IRS that you're serious about writing, you have a good chance of being able to deduct expenses involved with following your passion.

First, try to make some money from your writing. If you haven't sold a book yet, see if you can make money by speaking on the subject at libraries or other venues where booklovers are present. Often, you'll get some sort of stipend for doing so. You can also send in articles online or to magazines and get paid for doing so.

If you do have a book out, any money you've made from that book will be included on your tax form, whether or not what you make from the book being published is more than the expenses you paid to get that book out.

Being the saver that I am, it's not hard for me to throw receipts for certain items in my special tax expenses container.

Some of these receipts are for:
Conference fees, software, office supplies, such as paper, toner or injet cartridges, and more, printers, computers, a writing desk, memory cards or sticks, fees for writing organizations, writing meetings over dinner, writing books.

You get the idea. There are so many expenses writers incur every year following their craft.
Think about making them work for you by including them on your tax forms.

Okay, I'm not a tax expert, so this is just a general post to put you on the right road. I advise you to consult a professional to be sure about these inclusions in your own particular case, but it's worth a thought if you haven't considered it.

What about you? Do you deduct for writing expenses? I certainly do and I've got a lot. Please share.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tax Scams Cometh

As if the pain of filing our taxes wasn’t enough we now have to experience the onslaught of nefarious attempts to exploit our anxiety about correctly filing and paying our income taxes.

I’ve already received dozens of spam and phishing emails over the course of the past few months from evil doers - probably some kid in Russia - trying to convince me to accept their offer to help me receive more money in my federal income tax return. After all, the word stimulus is all over the news and those of us struggling to stay afloat in this wretched economy would love nothing better than some good financial news right now.

But as they say - BUYER BEWARE. All is not as it seems.

To that end, the IRS has a list of what they fondly call their Dirty Dozen where they highlight tax scams. They do this every year - here’s the link for the 2009 list:,,id=206370,00.html

(Note: If you have problems with the link just search on 2009 Dirty Dozen at

The scams range from Fuel Tax Credit and Hiding Income Offshore to Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions. As you can tell from the topics some of these might even seem plausible to most people, after all, there are tax benefits to donating money to charities and even some energy tax credits. But these scams are fiction. They take a kernel of sometimes truthful information and twist it to get a certain outcome. It’s not lost on me that as fiction writers we often attempt to do the same thing.

To educate and protect yourself against tax scams do check out the IRS website, particularly the link above. But when you find a good piece of fiction to read, enjoy the ride because there is one major difference between fiction writers and scammers - we let you know up front that we’re taking you for a ride, and one we hope you’ll enjoy and come out on the other end of that ride feeling that you got your moneys worth for the price of the read. So, keep your fictional experiences to reading a good book.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lost in Austen

Last week I watched Lost in Austen with my daughter. I loved the show. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a mini series that ran in the UK first and is now running in the US on some cable channels. It’s also available on DVD. The premise of the series is a modern woman, Amanda Price, is thrust into 19th century England, right into the Pride & Prejudice novel. Essentially, she switches placed with Elizabeth Bennet. Of course with Elizabeth missing, the plot seems to go slightly awry and Amanda desperately tries to get things back on course.

It was really a fun and very entertaining show. The costumes and sets were just gorgeous. If you are a fan of Austen or even that time in history, this is definitely a show not to miss.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Happy Easter to everyone!

Thanks so much to all who stopped by to tell me about their favorite signs of spring for the A TISKET A TASKET post. I had such vivid pictures in my head after reading your responses. Things aren't quite blooming yet in my yard, so it was nice to live vicariously.

Anyone who commented had their name put into a Easter bonnet and my wonderful hubby pulled a winner...

Congratulations to Pam P!

You'll have romance in your basket, or at least on your computer, because you've won a PDF of "This Time for Always", my debut novel from The Wild Rose Press. Please e-mail me at so I can get it to you.

Thanks again to all who visited and/or posted. May your spring continue to bloom in endless color!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Palace by Margot Justes

A fortress. A palace. A world renowned museum. The building has a grand and passionate history. Began in the 12th or 13th century, depending what and where you do your research. Suffice it to say, it is old. It has been build upon to keep invaders out, kings in extreme luxury and masterpieces comfortable and lovingly cared for.

The size is astounding, 60,000 square feet, give or take a foot or two, and hosts over 35,000 pieces of art. When I said it was huge, I was not exaggerating.

The building, altered over the years gives you a glimpse of its complete history, if you take the time to look around you. Even Catherine De Medici had a hand in the re-design by combining the Louvre and the Palais des Tuileries. There were additions, rebuilding and destruction, but what remains to this day is simply inspiring.

Having lived at the Palais Louvre, in 1672, Louis XIV moved to better accommodations-Versailles-and he left the Louvre Palace to predominantly display the royal art collection.

The museum opened its doors to the public in 1793. Changes made by Louis XIV, Napoleon and many others over the centuries have added an incredible imprint on the size of the building as well as the collection the museum houses today.

Surrounded by the Tuileries gardens, the mammoth Romanesque structure is awe inspiring at first sight. It cannot be missed. The serene quiet elegance outside, belies the richness of the galleries and collection on exhibit inside.

The immense history of the Louvre from the first laid stone to now matches its gargantuan size.

Take a leisurely stroll in the gorgeous gardens, admire the building from afar and imagine someone calling it home.

Till next Time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on

Friday, April 10, 2009

OPENING YOUR STORY With 'Heat" on the PAGE - THE GRAB & HOOK by Robert W. Walker

You can’t be namby-pamby on page one or in paragraph one, or in sentence one for that matter; you want to begin a dramatic story with a dramatic moment. Now there is a huge chasm there if you go try to define what is dramatic. I don’t mean you have to begin with violence or a car chase or a fireball in the sky, but rather you want to begin in the midst of a life, in the midst of a powerful moment in that life, at some important juncture or step or mistake in a life—the life of one or more of your characters who comes full blown on the stage (your opening curtain scene). You want to open too by drawing on all of the five senses you can—triangulate at least three of the senses and strive for five, and if possible the sixth sense as well.

Below are some openings I have used. In each, you will find what I am talking about, I hope. Some of these books have seen print and some of these opening are works in progress, but all of them have caught the attention of an editor somewhere

From Psi Blue: (unpublished, looking for a home)

FBI Headquarters Secret Psychic Detection Lab modern day…

Special Agent Aurelia Murphy Hiyakawa sat clothed in a virgin white terry robe, in the lotus position, electrodes attached and grounded to the open-air copper pipe pyramid, which she’d designed to enhance her psychic projections and astral journeys. A small sterile white mat lie before her, and on the mat lay six items she’d been asked to “read”. The objects held a strange communion with her. She fingered each item, tossing several out of the pyramid, holding onto other items as she went.

From Flesh War: (published via\shorts as a serialized novel)

In the Bay of Bengal, India modern day…

The side-wheeler Bristol Star of India chugged into thick fog that hinted at rich sea air, with just a suggestion of the stench of the disease in the mist over the bay. The disease island must be near, must be in the vicinity. Small, sad death boats, their bottoms filled with corpses had begun to emerge from the fog to drift by the Star’s bow. Angelica Hunter gasped at the sight and grabbed Eric’s arm for support.

From Cuba Blue: (w/Lyn Pokabla, unpublished, looking for a home)

Off the coast of Havana, Cuba modern day…

The coast of Havana’s clear-blue tropical sea heard the mechanical cry of screeching rust-encrusted gears that suddenly slammed to a standstill. Several nautical miles north of Canal del Entrada, Cuba, the whining pulley ratcheted once, then twice with biting and chomping, then stopped again on the dimly-lit shrimp trawler Sanabella II. The unexpected stillness stopped all activity aboard ship and save for the screeching hungry seagulls, the deafening quiet reigned. Wide-eyed, the men, frozen in position, stared first at the choked-off windlass and then at one another afraid to breathe, afraid to hope. Fishing had been wretchedly poor.

From City for Ransom: (HarperCollins 2006; now a Kindle e-book – but opening changed in rewrite)

Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 1893...3AM

The newly formed and lettered sign tore at its chain moorings where it dangled over the modest brownstone house, the shingle reading Dr. James Phineas Tewes, Phrenological and Magnetic Examiner until a lightning strike hit it, turning it into an unrecognizable charred mess.
Across town to the sound of thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and the clock tolling 5AM, Alastair Ransom climbed from bed, unable to sleep, his skin afire with malarial fever. He dosed himself with a hefty tumbler of quinine and Kentucky whiskey. He imagined strangling Dr. Caine McKinnette for having run out of his supply of quinine and antimony. He breathed in deeply, imagining the pleasure of his hands around the good doctor’s throat. Then once more what really troubled him began invading his night: the awful, bloody murder case that had fallen into his lap the day before.

THESE ARE ALL examples of opening with the verve of strong verbs, the conscious choice of few to no qualifiers, no WASes please! And active voice. Any elementary or high school grammar text is worth revisiting to rekindle these notions into fire in a writer’s gut. It’s the little things that make a female lead compelling. Revisit Passive vs. Active Voice, the handful of pages devoted to Qualifiers vs. Absolutes (voice), and while at it, look up sentence combining for the 4 types of sentences— Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound Complex. Imagine it, what Shakespeare utilized we all have to work with—shapes already formed, voice choice, to qualify

For another example of a strong opening, check out my upcoming DEAD ON which you can download as a e-book before publication at
And find me at Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and here each week!

Ta-ta for now! -- Rob --

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Point of View Twists! by DL Larson

Yes, I'm still judging contest entries and enjoying each one I read. The deadlines are approaching and I'm wondering if I have enough time and energy to see my way to the end. But I know how much work has gone into each WIP, so I will forge on.

Amongst all the stories, another murky problem has surfaced ~ Point of View! Or perhpas deciding on the correct POV for a plot. I won't bore you with a POV 101 class, but how about a few options to use to help decide what POV will work for your story.

The most obvious tool is to write a scene in first person, then rewrite it in third. (or viceversa) Then ask yourself: which POV describes the dramatazation best? Which moves the story forward in a timely fashion without too many sidebars or inserts of information from outside sources? And most important, which POV jump starts your creative juices and gets the words on paper quickly? That is most likely the best POV to use for that particular story.

Are you using the correct tense for your story? This involves POV to a great extent. If you want to continue with the POV you are using, would present tense or past tense work better? Rewrite a scene and decide. Which tense makes the story come alive?

Is your POV stifling your story line, bogging down how to convey the needed information? If this is true, try adding another character's POV, whether you are writing in first or third (present/past, etc.) Let another character carry some of the burden of distributing part of the plot. This will open up your script and your plot will develop new twists and turns you hadn't expected.

Perhaps you have the story where both first and third point of view will work. I say this with caution however, because I think it takes a special story and storyteller to make this an effective tool. Too many times I feel the author didn't take the time to rework the story into either first or third. The few contest entries I read that had both first and third person POV in their storyline - didn't work! I'd much rather see several POV in either tense than this hopping style. With that being said, I also have to mention one of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon, wrote in first and third in her best seller, Dragonfly in Amber. She accomplished this task beautifully, but remember this is also a time travel setting and it all made sense.

In deciding which point of view to use, ask yourself a few basic questions:
- What POV will strategically tell your story?
- What POV will develop your characters best?
- What POV motivates you to write your story?

If you can answer those questions, then your point of view is established and you are ready to forge ahead!

Perhaps others have similar questions they ask themselves, and/or techniques they use in establishing POV. Tell us, please.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring is in the Air

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of A TISKET A TASKET, PUT ROMANCE IN YOUR BASKET. I'm so happy to be part of the egg hunt!

I love spring. It's such a joy to see the tips of my tulips and dafodils peeking up through the soil. My lilac bush has lots of buds on it. And the rest of the perennials are starting to awaken from their winter slumber. (Of course I was really bummed this past weekend when all of my lovely signs of spring were covered in snow...but I'm not, not at all...)

I can't wait for the colors to burst forth. Pinks, purples, yellows, reds. All of it will be such a joy after the VERY white winter we've had here in the midwest. I am hungering for a touch of color.

And it's starting to get there. Each day the grass turns a little more green. Soon the buds on the trees will burst wide, spiling forth their lacy leaves. And the bright flowers are coming. I know they are. I just need to have a little more patience.

One of my favorite displays in spring is our neighbor's magnolia tree. It is truly a sight to behold.

What's your favorite sign of spring? Trees budding? Flowers blooming? Birds chirping? Leave a comment for the chance to win a PDF of "This Time for Always". I'll post a winner on Sunday.

And don't forget to continue your A TISKET A TASKET tour tomorrow with Lily Stone.

If you're just coming aboard, it's not to late to catch up. Here are the details!


Spring is in the air! Bees are buzzing. Children anxiously await the big morning where they can graze on candy all day. What about mom? We've got a treat for you! Come join a group of romance authors in celebration of spring. Enter to win a prize a day as well as enter to win the grand prize. All you need do is begin at Silver James' blog on April 1st. Silver will host the day's contest and provide the link to the next day's location. Don't forget to enter to win the grand prize! Here's the dirt...

To enter to win prizes from the authors donating treasures to the grand prize (see each day's post for what an author is donating to the grand prize), find the four Easter eggs in the A TISKET A TASKET, PUT ROMANCE IN YOUR BASKET blog event.

You will be searching for the above egg. Just visit all of the authors' websites, locate the 4 eggs, make a list of their locations by pasting the urls to the website pages in an e-mail, then send the entry to by midnight CST on May 1st, 2009. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced May 2nd at Tip #1, subscribe to to learn if you're the winner! And don't worry. If you start in on the blog event late, just head back to Silver James' blog on April 1st at to begin your website search for the Easter eggs. Don't miss the fun!

Until next time,

Happy Reading (and Happy Spring!)


Monday, April 6, 2009

Contests, contests, contests!

I had one! I won one! I’m participating in one now and next month I’m going to try to have another! Contest that is.

Last month we had our YA Web tour. It was really fun and each of us gave away something. It was really neat to watch the readers follow from web page to web page and some left some really nice comments.

Last week I found out I won a contest over at Candice Hern’s website. I won a fabulous tote bag full of autographed romance books. I am anxiously awaiting the delivery because my stack of ‘to be read’ books is starting to dwindle a little bit and we can’t have that!

This month I donated a copy of Ordinary Me to The wonderful genius Jennifer Wardrip has a contest every month for YA readers and this month my book is among the prizes. Hooray!

I’m enjoying the whole contest thing so much; I just might have another next month. So, be sure to check back and see what’s new on my website—I promise to keep you all posted.

In the meantime, Happy Monday!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wedded Bliss

My hubby and I went to the wedding of some friends last night. One of the best parts was seeing him in a shirt and tie. He's a blue collar worker, so normally it's jeans, T-shirts, and workbooks. (Not that I mind...he looks GOOD with a tool belt slung around his waist!) But last night he was very dashing...quite a treat!

What struck me most about the wedding was seeing what I write about everyday as a romance author. Live. Right there in front of me. In the flesh.


Two hearts finding one another and pledging their lives to one another. Promising to love through the good times, bad times, conflicts, and struggles that occur.

To see family and friends gather to support and share their love with the happy couple.

A real life happy ending, or a beginning as it were. To know that we weren't simply witnessing a wedding, but the beginning of a marriage. A lifetime of loving and being loved by the person that means the most to you in the world.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. I'll be back on Wednesday as part of the "A Tisket A Tasket" spring blog tour. Be sure to check back. There are fabulous prizes to be won.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Winged Victory by Margot Justes

Also known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace or Nike of Samothrace-the goddess Nike (meaning Victory in Greek) is an astounding massive piece standing at 328 cm. That’s almost 11 ft from the top of her shoulders to her feet and she’s standing on a ship.

Placed at the center of the landing in the grand Daru staircase in the Louvre, the statue takes your breath away. It is overwhelming in its sheer power, beauty and size.

The Victory made of Parian marble from Paros, Greece, circa 220-190 BC-can we say old-is so beautifully sculpted. The head is missing, as are the arms, but the sense of the power, the gigantic windblown wings held back, the seemingly wet garments flowing about the legs fighting the sea wind, displaying a stance of power, ferocity and victory, overrides everything else.

A graceful, ebullient and wind swept Nike coming down to earth standing on the prow of a ship declaring victory. The sculpture was discovered in 1863 on the small island Samothrace in the Aegean, by Charles Champoiseau, French Vice-Consul to a city in Turkey. Just in case you were wondering about the French connection.

The first time I came face to face with the statue-I know it’s an odd thing to say ‘face to face’ with a headless statue, but the idiom fits. I wasn’t very graceful, so awestruck I wasn’t paying attention, missed a couple of steps and paid appropriate homage-on my knees-face down or up since I was staring at the magnificent site at the time. A clumsy introduction like that is memorable to say the least.

It is a talent I have kept up to this day, my head tends to be up, eyes focused on a tall building or something else that catches my attention and if someone is with me, I get pulled up by my coat, shirt, whatever is handy, or yelled at to stop and watch where I’m going.

I think everyone has heard of the Louvre and the many treasures it houses, but I wonder how many of us actually thought about the historic building that so many masterpieces call home. As you might have guessed, I happen to like buildings too.

Till next Time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
Heat of the Moment ISBN 978-1-59080-596-1
available on

Friday, April 3, 2009

Writing Is A Journey

In case you don’t know already, I have two small presses: Wolfmont Press and Honey Locust Press. Wolfmont was the first, and actually was called Wolfmont Publishing at first (so if you see an older book with that imprint, it was one of mine.) Wolfmont has been around since the end of 2005, and Honey Locust Press started in late 2006. I recently blogged in more detail about both presses for Jean Henry Mead's Mysterious People blog.

Wolfmont is focused primarily on crime fiction, while Honey Locust has a broader focus and (dare I say it?) more family-friendly selection. My February 2009 release, in fact, comes from Honey Locust instead of Wolfmont, and is a book of true animal stories written by a retired Zoo Director, Jack L. Throp. (Check out NOT-SO-WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN.)

The next release from Wolfmont is a book designed to help writers, and is titled THE WRITER’S JOURNEY JOURNAL. I’ve had this book on my mind for over a year now, and finally got off my duff to do something about it. I wouldn’t dare have the hubris to assume *I* know everything about writing, but I am smart enough to know that I can get knowledgeable, experienced authors to write about various topics, wherupon I then put those things together in a book.

My idea for this book comes from my own personal experiences, as well as conversations I’ve had with other writers. Here is the basic premise: Writers are explorers, and writing is a journey.

Every author with whom I’ve had conversations about the writing process, has agreed with me that the writing of a story is like a journey. Sometimes it’s well-planned: the map is all laid out and marked, with the schedule chiseled (more or less) in stone.

Others treat writing as a spontaneous sort of thing, like the road trips many of us took when we were younger. (The price of gas makes spontaneous road trips a little more painful now!) Even though not all travelers go about the journey in the same way, knowledgeable travelers/writers can often give you information that is invaluable simply because it comes from their own experience.

If you are going to a country where you’ve never been, wouldn’t you like to know how to get through customs without a hassle? If you are going to a new city, wouldn’t it be handy if someone could recommend some good restaurants or perhaps hotels to avoid? The streets with lots of potholes? The roads with beautiful scenery? Where the speed traps are?

The thirteen contributors are experienced authors and know whereof they speak. Many are award-winners and/or have been nominated for prestigious awards such as the Agatha, the Anthony, the Edgar, Derringer, Macavity, and others.

Here is the list of contributing authors: Austin S. Camacho, Beth Groundwater, Bill Crider, Carola Dunn, Carolyn Hart, Chris Roerden, Dorothy Francis, Evelyn David, John M. Floyd, Robert W. Walker, Radine Trees Nehring, and L. Diane Wolfe. Oh yeah, and me—Tony Burton. You probably know most of these authors. (Fellow Acme bloggers Austin Camacho and Rob Walker are champing at the bit to see the final product!)

We are shooting for a mid-May release, if everything goes well.

Drop by the Wolfmont Press website and take a look. We’re pleased with this book, and believe it will be of great help to novice and experienced writers alike.

Tony Burton
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Problem with Dumping! by DL Larson

This spring I've had the great privilege of judging writers contests. I've always enjoyed helping out, but somehow I managed to over extend myself this year and am judging three categories in two different contests. Everyone's gone electronic and I'm fearful I'll delete something I shouldn't, so caution is at red alert at my house.

Amongst all these entries I've discovered a common problem, the issue of information dumping. I have my own ways of avoiding this nasty habit but I did a little research and was happy to discover many of us solve this in a few basic ways.

How do we get pertinent information to the reader without burdening them with too much information at once? In other words, how do we avoid dumping on the reader?

Dialogue! This is a great way to begin a story, ususally accompanied with action of some degree. Be concise, be pragmatic, what does the reader absolutely need to know? If the color of their eyes is not important at this moment, save that for another scene. Think sprinkles on your donut ~ a scattering of information is more relevant than a long list of attributes. Use only the most important points your reader will need in order to move the story forward.

Don't interrupt the flow with too much information!
We have so much to tell the reader, so we share and share and share til the reader's eyes are glazed over and wondering how any of this is relevant to the story. This is mostly due to the creation process of our make-believe world. Most of this is important only to the writer. Much of this is draft work - yes draft work! The creation of the concepts, the plot, the characters are all shoved into the beginning because the writer is establishing his new world. The easiest way to solve this dumping is to remove the whole thing, put it in a notebook titled: NOTES, and refer back to it as needed. Again disperse needed information with succulent finesse. By doing this the writer has perked up the plot, created more tension and conflict and has the reader wondering what will happen next.

Timing: This is tricky business, but if the writer has dispersed enough information beforehand, the reader is ready to absorb more of the background or history. It becomes satisfying to know the reason behind the action of the character. But the writer must be honest with his information and not simply repeat was has already been handed out. A progression must build, developing the conflict, sharing the emotions of the characters so the reader can relate to what is happening within the story unfolding.

Scene building: So there's still much the reader needs to know; rather than going on and on about this important information, create a dramatic scene that would show the reader vs. telling them. Once discovering this technique, writing a scene becomes fun, how does one demonstrate back history? How does one convey gut wrenching fear, longing, or revenge? Only the author of the work has the tools to accomplish this task. Only the author knows the true conflict that must be shared with the reader. So the author creates a moving picture for the reader, a dramatic scene where the characters relate what the reader needs to know. Perhaps through back story? Difficult encounters? An object? A dream or nightmare? The ideas are as numerous as the stars.

I'm sure there other great ways to avoid information dumping. If you have a particular way that works for you, please share with us.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools Day

Thoughts of April Fools Day remind me of tricks people play on each other. Tricks can be fun, but also can be thoughtless or cruel. Children are especially mean to each other, perhaps because they haven't yet developed layers of sensibilities.

When we grow into adults, we learn more about how to treat people kindly. That doesn't mean we always practice what we learn. I believe most people try. Still, sometimes the child in us comes out and we let slip with something that later we regret saying or doing.

Tricks or pranks that turn vicious, jokes that smart, those can all be used in books, not only when referring to a villain, but also a hero or heroine. Our characters are human. It's okay for them to be flawed, especially if they realize their imperfections and feel regret.

Do you know of any books where a main character did something in jest they later regretted? Or thought they were being funny, but then realized they'd acted or spoken out of spite? Or, maybe you've written such a book or will now. Please share.