Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So many blogs so little time

There are many reasons writers participate in blogs. Blogging is primarily a way to connect with readers, librarians, booksellers and even other writers. It’s also a way to advertise our work and even ourselves. But how much is too much. How much information do we really need to share and how many blogs do we need to participate in.

Well, I think that’s a question that needs to be asked on a regular basis and it’s an ongoing balancing act. I have a few blogs that I haven’t updated in awhile and that’s a big no-no in the world of blogging. I plan to rectify that soon as some major energy drains in my life are nearing resolution - a great big yeah!

Ah the joys of being a writer when life gets in the way.

Anyway, blogging also helps writers keep their minds sharp and their writing skills developed, even though we sometimes do not have the luxury of a lot of edit time, so you will find some mistakes along the way. Although, one could say this just shows that writers are human - to err is human, anyone? (Just in case you don’t recognize it, this is a quote from Alexander Pope - To err is human; to forgive, divine.)

In some ways blogging is like writing a column. Granted columnists have more editorial input and many, many blogs have none, but putting our thoughts out there helps to connect bloggers to readers in a similar way, and that can be exciting and a bit scary at the same time.

It’s important to know how much information to share because once it’s out there - it’s out there! A more recent technological example of this is “sexting,” where people send explicit photos of themselves to someone and either by design or unintentional button pushing, the image often gets a wider distribution than originally intended. A number of just-turned-eighteen adults have found themselves in front of the law for spreading child pornography because someone underage person sent them a photo and then they forwarded it to others. Guess their barometers for acceptable, even legal behavior is still not fully developed. Of course, we have enough recent examples in the news of much older, more responsible “adults” doing similar or even worse things.

So, just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. It’s almost too easy to post information on the world wide web (www) frontier, and like any other frontier, there are predators and legal authorities still struggling to see who gets to be in control. So, arm yourself with at least some protection in the form of common sense when it comes to not only blogging but posting comments as well.

Maybe I’ll let my characters do all the talking for me.

BTW I’ll be blogging tomorrow at www.romanceuniversity.org. So come on by and watch me behave myself. However, my characters might not.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Latin Quarter by Margot Justes

I’m convinced that it’s time to go back to Paris, writing these blogs is a delight, but leaves me with a sense of longing to be there and revisit favorite places and discover new ones.

The Left Bank. The Latin Quarter. The collegiate pulse of Paris, and what a pulse it is.

The Latin Quarter so named because during the Middle Ages students attending the Sorbonne spoke Latin.

As in the rest of this remarkable city, the Latin Quarter has a vast architectural history and a history of political unrest, one worth mentioning was the 1968 student revolt, where even toilets were torn from the bathroom walls and destroyed.

This verve center never sleeps, the cafes are always brimming with students, and even now you get the sense of the bohemian life style.

To be sure you’ll hear discussions on the latest soccer scores, but you will also see games of chess being played, you’ll hear philosophical discussion, you’ll see students reading Voltaire, Zola, Rousseau and probably James Patterson while sipping their brew of choice.

The Sorbonne stands at the center, its creation dates back to 1253-see what I mean about history.

You’re in the intellectual center of Paris, but you’re also right smack in the urban center, vital and pulsing with life.

The Cluny Museum built on Roman Bath ruins, also known as the Middle Age Museum is filled with artifacts dating to the middle ages, among them exquisite illuminated manuscripts. You have the Pantheon that dates back to 1750, the Natural History Museum and also the Arab World Institute, a relative newcomer built in the 1980’s.

The Latin Quarter anchored (as it were) by Notre Dame, and the Seine at one end and the Luxembourg gardens at the other and so much in between.

Go off the beaten path, stray from Boulevard St. Michel and you may find yourself walking on uneven cobblestones, a maze of tiny streets that lead into others, one among many, is Rue de la Huchette, filled with beguiling multi national restaurants, just begging to sample their cuisine.

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 amazon.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rob Walker is Guest Saturday at Double M

Hop on over to Double M at http://morganmandel.blogspot.com to get your Rob Walker fix, this time on Saturday, when he's my guest.

Morgan Mandel

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More on Killer Career by Morgan Mandel

Just a short post today. I’m at my day job at the moment, but the rest of the time I’m in the thick of things getting Killer Career ready. I’m done with my edits, but now have issues with the book cover. I can hardly wait until everything is all set. I’m hoping to get it out by mid August. Keeping my fingers crossed. I’ll let everyone know if and when it happens.

What it’s about:
A lovely lawyer’s career change could be a killer when her mentor, a NY Times bestselling author, does more than write about murders.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Writing from experience

I'm slow to watch some of the movies that are released each year, even though I really want to. Yesterday, I watched Rumor Has It - a movie that came out in 2005 with Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo, and of course Shirley MacLaine. The premise of the story is that a woman discovers that the book and subsequent movie, The Graduate, is based on her family. This struck a cord with me because the book I'm working on now pulls from some of the emotional experiences I've been through, some more recent than others. While it is definitely a work of fiction, the idea was born from a series of emotional traumas in my own life, something I suspect from which most fiction is born.

So, when is fiction truly fiction? I'm sure there are court cases, but one measurement is offered to be whether or not something is said or depicted that is an out-and-out lie and causes someone financial harm, or at least this is how it was explained to me. So, if you have for example court documents or letters written by the individuals who might resemble your characters it becomes much more difficult for anyone to sue you and win - and it could generate a tremendous amount of publicity.

Back in the 1990's there was a law suit by the Andy Warhol estate against an artist who took one of Warhol's drawings and morphed it with the new morphing software that was becoming popular. The ruling went in the artist's favor I believe because it was found that the painting no longer looked like the original but that the artist had created an significantly new work.


Writers often worry about someone stealing their ideas but this is less likely and most court cases have not found in favor of the person suing. Ironically, J.K. Rowling has been on both sides of this issue. Most recently, she was accused of stealing the idea for Harry Potter for a second time.




But she has also sued someone for using not only her idea but her characters in an unauthorized Lexicon.


It's important to understand that for the most part idea's cannot be copyright protected but the individual execution of those ideas can. This is different than someone obtaining a patent for an invention. Titles also aren't copyright protected which is why you'll see the same title used by different authors.

Still, these are all issues to worry about if and when they happen as long as the writer is not actually intending to plagiarize someone else's work. Taking one's own experiences in life as inspiration you'd think that this would avoid the whole plagirism issue but most authors will tell you that fans often tell them that a character or two is just like someone they know.

I guess it really is a small world after all.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Summer Lovin' has been released early!

We were given a print release date of July 10, so I was very surprised to see the book up at Barnes & Noble. Then a friend emailed me and told me it was up at Amazon too. No picture at Amazon yet, but the book can be ordered.

Another reason I'm thrilled about it, other than its a great summer read and having it available earlier is better, is that I will have copies at the Booksigning I will be at July 4 & 5th. (Click here for details.) I thought for sure I was only going to be able to tell people about it and hope they order it, but now, hooray, I'll have copies to sell.

So, order your copy today and have a great week!



Sunday, June 21, 2009


It's been an exciting weekend so far. Mid-last week I got my pre-galley edit instructions for WILD WEDDING WEEKEND from my editor.

It's always a thrill to see an e-mail from her in my inbox, because, fortunately it's usually good news.

This time around was no exeption. Pre-galley edits means I'm one step closer to a release date.

So I've been editing since Wednesday. There are parts of editing that I love. It's always fun to see the manuscript in it's almost-ready-to-be-published format. I like going through and making sure everything is just so. It's at the stage where no major changes are required, so it's just being on the lookout for missing punctuation, spelling errors, etc. The first read-through was fun, because I haven't looked at this particular story in a while.

Of course, when I get to the second and third time around, it gets a little tedious. And it's frustrating when I find an error that I can't believe I missed the first and second times through. But of course, that's why I'm reading it (forwards, backwards, outloud, even pages, odd pages) so many times. To find every last one of those errors.

And, as I said, it's not really the time for major changes, so sometimes as I read through I tend to second-guess how I've worked something out plot-wise, knowing those types of things can't be changed now. So then I sigh and think, well, next time... (And, honestly, all in all, it really is a good story as it is!)

After I send the manuscript back next week, I'll be one step closer to being able to approve the final galley. And then I get my release date. So, since I know all of you are on the seat of your pants waiting, stay tuned!

Until then, Happy Reading!



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bundles of Books by Margot Justes

What a terrific title for a bookstore. It’s no secret that I loyally support independent bookstores. It’s a two way system, since I found quite a few support the small traditional independent publishers.

Bundles of Books (560 Crescent Blvd. Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 620/545-0069 requests@bundlesofbooks.us ) is just such a store. Books, books and more books, on three levels…all lovingly cared for by owner Rosemary and her very able assistant Dani.

I had a signing there last Saturday, along with our very own Morgan Mandel, Sherrill Bodine and Allie Pleiter. We were made to feel very welcome. Upon our arrival, tea, coffee, cookies and chocolate awaited us. Chocolate and romance go very well together. In fact romance and anything go well together, but I digress…

We were there for 4 hours and the time simply disappeared. We all sold a few books, caught up on the latest news, and generally had a fantastic time.

Bundle of Books has a very loyal following-the support seemed effortless, people walked in chatted, bought books and seemed very comfortable, as if at home visiting friends, who just happen to have shelves upon shelves of stacked books.

For the most part, Bundles of Books sells used books but you will find new books by local authors. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to introduce A Hotel in Paris.

Support for such a wonderful bookstore is the only way to keep it in business. So, if you’re in the area, even if it means going out of your way, please stop by and say hello and buy a book or two. I know I will be back.

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 amazon.com

Thursday, June 18, 2009

TIME - Our Most Precious Commodity -- by Robert W. Walker

I nearly forgot it was time for another Friday blog, and it got me to thinking about time itself. There is that nagging feeling that Time is a man-made concept but whether it is Mother Nature or the brainchild of mankind that has us all wearing time on our wrists, it’s here to stay. One thing college taught me was that either you control your time or it will control you. I was no perfect student and I had to struggle to get whatever grades I earned be it an A, a B, or a C or a D. None of it came easy. But man did I get a lesson in time management. I worked like a dog for three years and had a job and hit the books, mostly to work off those poor early grades received during that little period of adjustment. At any rate those first three years I had no time but time to study…no time for anything else. I could not frivolously waste time, and as a result, I used time wisely and well.

Then came my senior year and Kent State happened, and as a result our campus at Northwestern was suddenly afire with protests, and rightly so. However, classes were so disrupted by the political climate and turmoil that students began disappearing from classes in great gobs of numbers and this frightened authorities and administrators who quickly brainstormed the situation and came up with a lame idea -- The T-Grade. This was a grade that a student could take that said he or she was too involved in the shutting down of the Vietnam war and other such political issues as kept him or her out of classes. As there were only a handful of students showing up for months, it was offered, this T-Grade to all of us. I had been on the picket line with others and to me at the time, the special grade made sense. To make a long story short, I took the T-Grade and stepped out of a couple of heavy duty classes that I wasn’t doing to hot in anyway. Pretty soon the heated atmosphere settled and calmed and I found myself with far too much time on my hands as I was also now not working. I had so much time on my hands, in fact, that I was taking some days out…actually going out to that big big lake that washed right up to the campus--Lake Michigan--and soaking up some sun and swimming in the surf, right along that same beach where once Charlton Heston had played Julius Caesar as a jet plane flew over.

Let me tell you that suddenly I thought I had all the time in the world to study for my other classes. It was the first time during my entire school career that I could recall when I did have too much time on my hands. I thought I could study out at the beach or in the park or in the coffee shop. What was the rush? What I learned was that having too much time on my hands, I frittered it away at the same rate we all fritter away plastic money when we have a card with room on it. It was a devastating state of affairs and it ought to have a name. Mo’ Time Than Necessary…000Overly Overwhelming Time? An amount of time beyond necessary to do something that one needs to do…Procrastination is not even the same thing.

Since that rude lesson of my senior year at university, I’ve always been extremely conscious of time and just how much one can get done--say on a novel or in research for a novel--if one controls his time. Again there are those among us who are controlled by time and get nothing done in a day, and there are those among us who control our time and get a whale of a lot accomplished in a day…except when it is time to treat yourself to a day at the beach.

And if you go, do take a copy of Dead On with you. The book is up for preorder now and ought be available by July 18.

Rob Walker

HNS Conference: It was the BEST, It was the Worst! by DL Larson

The Historical Novel Society Conference was wonderful, wonderful, the halls were crowded with friendly writers from across the country and beyond. I met so many great people, attended intriguing workshops, volunteered my time to help out and in the process met even more fellow writers. Then it happened. . .

I was scheduled to do a book signing from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. Saturday. All authors with names beginning with L - Z were gathered in a huge room. We were considerably far from the hub of the conference. Our books were also back there - down the hall, around the corner, and down another long corridor to the conference book store. So there we all sat, authors with no books, waiting for folks to find us. I had on display my bookmarks and handouts, as well as my favorite prop, my tomahawk.

I was chatting with my tablemate, Claire Langley-Hawthorne, when another woman and her colleague approached my table. I looked up. My long awaited dream was coming true. My hero, rather heroine, asked about my tomahawk. I told her about it, fumbling and blabbering as only the star-struck can. She held my hatchet, looking at me as if to say, wouldn't this be a good photo op? Yes! YES!! A thousand times YES!!! I wanted a picture more than words can say. I wanted a picture of Diana Gabaldon holding my tomahawk! DIANA GABALDON, queen of historical fiction stood before my table, waiting for me to find a camera.

I turned to Claire and she shrugged helplessly, I turned to the gal on my right and she was in deep conversation, but I scanned her table, ready to steal a camera if I had to. I looked at my life-long hero (well, I'm older than her so I guess that's not very accurate - but you get my drift!) Diana waited, smiling, and I had no way of making this photo opportunity come to pass. Her colleague said something about moving on and as if in slow motion Diana handed back my tomahawk. The moment was gone.

I'm sure there were a dozen cameras in the room and had someone known of my plight would have graciously offered to take the picture, but time slipped by all too quickly and the moment, laid so kindly before me was lost.

So from here out please use your imagination ...

Think of me, DL Larson standing with Diana Gabaldon as she holds my tomahawk that represents my first book, Memories Trail. It's a great shot - the sun is shining, angels are singing ...

Hey, it's my fantasy! And my loss. But still a great memory of a wonderful conference.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Killer Career by Morgan Mandel

It's been a crazy, hectic time for me. I've only got a day or so to get my romantic suspense, Killer Career, ready so I can get my author copies for the Marketplace at Frontier Days in Arlington Heights over the 4th of July weekend.I'm still not sure if I'll make it on time, but I'm trying.

You'll hear more about it later, but this is taken from the back of one of my promo postcards:

Coming Soon - Killer Career

Meet Tyler Jensen, a sexy, bestselling author, with serious hangups.

Meet Dade Donovan, a just as sexy attorney who wakes up to his true feelings when it could be too late.

Meet Julie McGuire, a burnt out lawyer, whose passion for writing leads to the death of more than one person.

Stay tuned for more.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spring Fling 2010

I’m using my blog time to promote, only this time it’s not my books. For those of you who don’t know, I am co-chair for the Chicago-North’s RWA Spring Fling 2010 Writers’ Conference. I like to say I’m the lackey for the wonderfully organized and efficient Pamala Knight Duffy who is the Chairperson.

Spring Fling is held every other year and regardless of where you are in your writing career, Spring Fling can benefit you. We have confirmed the fabulous Cherry Adair and Julia Quinn as our headliners/keynote speakers. In addition to these wonderful ladies we are rounding up agents and editors to take pitches, offer workshops, and just mingle with us. We don’t have the final list yet, but we will keep you posted. The conference will also feature workshops led by our headliners as well as author Jenna Petersen, Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and many others. A multi-author book signing is planned which will include yours truly and other Acme Author bloggers.

So, save the dates April 23-24, 2010 at the Hyatt, Deerfield, IL and check the Spring Fling website often for updates.

Have a great week and happy writing!!



Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Official

Summertime has officially arrived!

Want to know how I know?

It's not the weather, it's been rainy and downright chilly here in the Midwest. It's not the calendar date, because according to that, we still have a week to go. And it's not even the fact that the kids are out of school.

So, do you know how I know it's officially summer here in Chicago-land?

Last night I had my traditional summer kick-off celebration: the Kenny Chesney concert.

The outlook didn't start off so great yesterday. The usual rain was falling in the morning, with a definite October-like chill in the air. But as the time to head off drew near, the skies cleared and the sun came out!

A couple of friends and I took the train downtown, then hiked our way over to Soldier Field for the concert. Which is actually more like a mini-fest of its own. Many people gather around the grounds before the event for some pre-concert fun. And there were four opening acts, which were outstanding.

But of course, the best part of the night was Kenny himself. That guy puts on one heck of a show. From his most poluar songs to covers of classic bands, it's a non-stop party for two hours with 20,000 of your closest friends.

The perfect beginning to summer.

And on that note, I'm off to enjoy the sunshine today.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Printers Row by Margot Justes

Finally a week later, I can write legibly since my fingers have actually thawed from last Saturday. Okay, so I exaggerate-but it was cold, windy, and wet…and of course I was dressed for summer. Silly me.

Printers Row is exhausting, exhilarating and exciting. Many people stop by to say hello, browse and chat. Some even tell me they have a book in them-and I say-let it out.

Some others shy away from personal contact, but overall I found the attendees are readers, and more often than not will give a newbie a chance. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

While still others will stop by and say they don’t read-my response-really, and you’re at a literary festival?

The other comment I had heard a few times is ‘I don’t read fiction.’

To my way of thinking, it’s an incredible loss. Ideas, situations, plots, twists and turns, resolutions, the imagination necessary to create a work of fiction is never appreciated. A slant, a perspective on our ever changing society is never seen through the eyes of make believe for the non-fiction reader. The inspired descriptive process, the power of the creative word of fiction is completely obliterated.

In my humble opinion that is a tremendous loss, and very, very sad. Open the mind to exciting possibilities the world of fiction has to offer, a person might actually learn something.

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 amazon.com

Friday, June 12, 2009

Challenging Writing -- Challenge Your Initial Assumptions, Then Write! -- by Robert W. Walker

We hear all sorts of advice about a writer should do this and should do that with regard to point of view. Have you heard that you should keep to a point of view that is “close” to precisely who you are? That is the ultimate in saying “Write about what you know” since you know your point of view. It says if you are male, write from a male POV, if female then a female POV. If black, if white, if green…if Christian, if Muslim, if your faith is Heavy Metal…etc., then you should stick like glue to what you are; that your narrative voice and the tense you choose, and the choice of vocabulary and whether to use first, second, or third person--all of it ought to reflect who you are and keep safely to your world view and psychology and nature. All very comfy advice.

However, serious writing involves and demands you get OUT of your comfort zones. Did Mark Twain remain of one voice in all his writings? Steinbeck? Great authors challenge themselves and sometimes go down in flames, but out of the challenge comes some fantastic work.

Let’s slow this down and back up a moment:

Present Tense first person is not the same as present tense third person, no more so than past tense first person is the same as third person past tense. Nor is second person present tense the same as second past tense. Tense refers to the time clock (verb tense is verb time). In short, the action and sometimes the first person speech is happening NOW or THEN. Present is now, first person is use of “I-me-my-mine” as your narrator. Past is then, third person is use of a third party as your narrator. Often the story dictates which is best to take on for THIS story. Often a chapter in, you have some idea which dictate is stronger, and often it has to do with your comfort zone.

When I began writing police procedurals and crime novels, I decided early on that a cop-like VOICE would narrate my medical examiner serial killer chase books, and the voice would have an edge to it yes, but it would also be intelligent. This meant a good vocabulary and not a “gumshoe voice” but rather one in keeping with a medical examiner for instance who would of necessity be highly educated. A voice that reflected the complexity of the character and life itself; a voice with a literary flare in fact.

Early on I demanded of myself to write from various POVs in a multiple POV novel, that when needed I could be flexible enough to enter the mind of a Latino working on the back of a garbage truck and a black executive who worked on Wall Street. A Cuban detective in Havana, a Hawaiian newspaperman in Maui, a Hindu ship’s captain in India, a Catholic minister in London. In every case, it was a challenge. In every case, it was worth the effort to rise to the challenge. Cuba Blue is a great example -- a female Havana cop working with hands tied by her own governmental bosses in a Communist world and all she wants is to resolve a triple-murder case. Setting and character were a challenge--talk about writing to your opposite. But that is the challenge I throw at the feet of my students who claim they want to write: Write to your Opposite. You don’t always have to do so, but you very well should stretch and challenge the ultimate writer inside. Those students who come to my classes and write about their safe little worlds and their safe friends and their safe cozy zones are not challenging themselves. The student who sits down and writes a short story from the POV of a child in a Third World Country is going to have to work. A student who sits down and takes on the challenge of another time zone takes a great risk, but the results are spectacular for her personally. A student who takes on another time zone is better off than one who remains in his time zone. A student who makes the effort to predict the future and set a story in a future world is--even in the worst of writing--at least posing a challenge to himself. Telling the story from the opposite gender, another race, another culture, another world view. These are students who will go on to continue learning and writing.

A recently overheard remark at some writers get-together had a panelist telling her audience that a writer can’t do justice to his or her opposite. This is NONSENSE and pure garbage and not useful advice at all. A writer has to be flexible and capable of playing all the parts, especially in a multiple POV novel. There are single POV novels that are genius and wonderful--such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye and are a challenge in that the author must create a first person voice that a reader will wish to listen to for some 300 pages or more--same voice! What a challenge! Third person multiple POV presents its own challenges (more attention than ever needed in transitions between pov shifts, time shifts, geography shifts).

What is not challenging is writing about characters all from the same cookie-cutter corner of a single place as in the worst writing I find of young people who zero in on telling stories only of their small cosmos and handful of acquaintances. Certainly, I had a leg up on writing outside my skin just by growing up in Chicago, but Steinbeck was not a Mexican and yet he crafted wonderful Mexican characters. Twain was not all of his characters but rather drew from the incredible array of characters he found from his childhood and through the Gilded Age. Hemmingway believed in living life and writing from experiences one had. I concur, but there’s also research and learning and interviewing.

There are many ways to step out of that comfy zone and dare to challenge yourself as a writer, as a learner, as an artist. I challenge you to do so.
Cuba Blue is a Kindle book. Find it on Amazon.com This is my only collaborative effort and my co-author is a fantastic lady named Lyn Polkabla of Atlanta, Georgia where I set my next book DEAD ON due out July and on preorder now at Amazon.

Rob Walker

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Summer Writers' Conference at Northwestern University! by DL Larson

Every year I receive in the mail an invitation to attend the Summer Writers' Confrence at Northwestern University, in Evanston IL. Every year I dream of going, sitting in small group workshops and honing my writing skills.

As a writer, I receive many such invitations, I imagine you do too. The ones I think will benefit my writing I try to attend, the others go into the recycle bin. But every year this cardstock flyer sits on my kitchen counter for weeks. Usually when the deadline has come and gone I finally throw it away. But this year, this year I promised I would attend more conferences. And this is one I really want to be a part of. They are offering a workshop and critique on children's books. I could take Mama Turtle's Hidden Treasure. I've never been a part of a children's writing group or workshop. I could learn so much.

So what's holding me back? Well, the cost is steep, I think extremely steep, twice as much as other conferences. The Historical Novel Society Conference I will be leaving for on Friday is in the $300 range for a Friday-Sunday, with banquets included. The hotel room is a special rate of $120/night. Plus I will be having a book signing! In a nutshell, it's worth every dime I'm spending.

The Northwestern Summer Writers' Conference is actually packed with more workshops in the three day sessions, but it feels more costly being in the $600+ range, plus another $125 for a 15 page critique of ones work. (optional of course) Room and board are additional in costs.

So, I'm asking if anyone has attended the Summer Conference at Northwestern and what did you gain from your experience? I'm interested in hearing about the atmosphere, is this a friendly place to learn? Are the instructors productive in the workshops or is this a platform to promote their own works?

I don't mean to sound cynical, but working at an university for eleven years, I've attended my share of workshops where learning was a by-product and not a focal point. I'm excited, edgy at the possiblity I might actually make it to this event. But I don't want to go into this blindly. Any input you have on this conference would help those of us who wonder what it's all about.

So come on, share with us please. What is the Northwestern Summer Writers' Conference all about? Is there good networking? Great instructors? Wonderful classes?

I just gotta know! I've got my checkbook out, no wait, my credit card! I'm ready to sign on the dotted line ... I'm ready to commit three days of my summer. Will it be worth it?

Tell me, please!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Blog?

I've been blogging daily since last August at my personal blogspot, http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/, but before that I blogged weekly right here at Acme Authors Link.

Blogging takes a bit of time, not only in thinking up a topic, but also in making it sound intelligent and appealing to readers. Preparing the blog isn't all there is to it. After that, there's the business of getting everyone in cyberspace to know it's available. Depending on my subject matter, I send short messages to egroups I belong to, as well as ping.fm, mybloglog.com, and pingmyblog.com. Sometimes I don't get to all of the spots due to time constraints.

Right now I'm getting Killer Career ready for publication. With a full time job, my time is really limited. After it's ready, I still have lots of marketing ahead of me. I keep thinking I'll forget something important and it will be my downfall.

I've got Book Place to maintain and am a bit behind on that score. Also, I have a Library List to get out for MWMWA. With all that going on, I still take time out to blog here, at Make Mine Mystery and my daily blog, as well as at The Blood Red Pencil.

Why? For one thing, I enjoy blogging. I like visiting and meeting new friends and commenting on their blogs, although lately I haven't been able to do that as much as I'd like to.

Blogging is a great way to maintain discipline and keep up a writing habit. I believe that any type of writing helps develop skills and keeps the brain moving, sometimes in unexpected directions. Also, blogging gives me lots of Googles and lots of web presence.

The downside is blogging does take away from my manuscript writing time. Because of that, sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the wrong thing by blogging so consistently. Other times I think I'm doing the right thing because I'm doing what I want to do and when it's time to finish a manuscript I'll know it.

What about you? Is blogging a good or bad thing? Why do you blog? Please share

Monday, June 8, 2009

My new novel, Russian Roulette, finally arrives!

Friends, I am very happy and proud to announce my newest mystery thriller, Russian Roulette . It won’t be in any bookstores until June 13th, but you can already order it at Amazon.com. And if you are one of the technorati and own a Kindle, you can download now and start reading it today!

Russian Roulette is the fifth novel in my mystery series about Hannibal Jones, the African American private detective working in Washington DC. In this book, Hannibal is forced to take a case for a Russian assassin. He must investigate Gana, the wealthy Algerian who has stolen Viktoriya, the woman his new client loves. Evidence connects Gana to Russian mob money and the apparent suicide of Viktoriya’s father. More deaths follow, closing in on Viktoriya. To save the Russian beauty, Hannibal must unravel a complex tangle of clues and survive a dramatic shootout on Roosevelt Island, side-by-side with his murderous client.

That much is the plot, the storyline upon which I hang the mystery. But the heart of the book, and what drove me to it, is the reason Hannibal must take the case. You see Aleksandr, the murderous client, has killers watching Hannibal’s beloved Cindy. If Hannibal fails to do Aleksandr’s bidding, Cindy will die. I wanted to explore how my hero would react to his woman being in jeopardy. I also wanted to see how he works when he’s truly alone.

In past novels, Hannibal has relied on a team of supporters as diverse and talented as Doc Savage’s men. Plus, he has always been able to rely on Cindy’s legal acumen. In this book I purposely cut him off from the support team he’s used to, and there are some surprises. Even more, time shows us the many similarities between Hannibal Jones and Aleksandr (as an assassin assigned to eliminate disloyal and untrustworthy members of the Russian Mafiya, he too is a “troubleshooter” of sorts.)

To pull this one off I had to research the Russian community in Washington DC where Hannibal works, and I think that immersion affected my prose. Toward the end, as the story veers toward an outdoor winter shootout in the dark and confrontations between respected enemies, I think I was able to give my book the atmosphere of one of the old Russian novels. It ain’t Dostoyevsky by any means, but there is a grim, fatalistic feel in the Russian culture that drives this story deeper into noir than I’ve gone before. At least I think so.

Anyway, I got some very kind advance comments from friends and reviewers , including a couple whose names you may recognize:

“Russian Roulette delivers a whipsaw of a plot with more layers than a Vidalia onion.... Solid storytelling and compelling characters. Don't miss it!”

Libby Fischer Hellmann, Author of the Ellie Foreman mystery/suspense series

“Troubleshooter Hannibal Jones is the most engaging character to come upon the mystery scene since Patterson's Alex Cross.”

JoAnn Ross, NY Times Bestselling Author of the High Risk Series

“Hannibal Jones is no John Shaft wannabe. He stands on his own as a welcome addition to the ranks of the fictional private eye.”

Robert J. Randisi, Founder of the Private Eye Writers of America

“Russian Roulette has everything: a terrific story with great characters in vivid settings. Clear time on your calendar for this one."

John Gilstrap, author of No Mercy

“Russian Roulette starts with a revving engine and picks up speed till racing across the finish line. If I was in trouble I’d want Hannibal Jones on my speed dial.”

Jon Jordan, Editor, Crimespree Magazine

“Camacho employs his usual rich layers of plot; fascinating characters; and plenty of action to keep the reader mesmerized in his latest Hannibal Jones installment.”

Shelley Glodowski, Midwest Book Review

“Austin is one helluva writer. What Austin shows off in his novel is not just the ability to forge a sentence or a paragraph, but how to create an interesting story with a steady pace that keeps you hooked for hours at a time.”

Hugh Howey, CrimeCritics.com

“I may have to add Austin S. Camacho to my list of authors to follow and catch up on after reading his latest novel, Russian Roulette. I received the book for review before I left on vacation, and I would have been perfectly happy to have all of the Hannibal Jones series with me to read.”

Thomas Duff, an Amazon.com Top 25 Reviewer

And I hope some of you can even share my good news with me in person.

IN MARYLAND - Borders Waldorf will host a book release event for Russian Roulette on Saturday, June 13th. I’ll sign copies of my new novel starting at 1 pm in the store at 3304-A Crain Highway, Waldorf, Md. They’ll also have my previous Hannibal Jones novels - The Troubleshooter, Collateral Damage, Damaged Goods and Blood and Bone – available for me to sign.

All the details are on my web site - http://www.hannibaljonesmysteries.com/ – along with the video trailer and promo and lots of other cool stuff. But even if I can't meet you in person, thank you all for sharing my happy news! I already feel as if the Acme Author Link readership is like family to me. Of course, that goes quadruple for my fellow bloggers. I can’t wait to hear from some of you after you’ve read Russian Roulette. In the meantime if you have any questions about the book, or my characters, please post a comment or two and I’ll respond pretty quickly.


Sunday, June 7, 2009


What motivates you?

For me it all depends on what I'm doing. About a year ago I started an exercise program. I had given working out a couple half hearted tries in the past, never really sticking to any kind of program long enough to see any results. Then last summer I decided I really needed to get serious. I got a used treadmill from my sister-in-law and told myself I would faithfully use it. And I did. I ran three days a week. And while I was definitely getting in to a good routine, it really felt like a chore to hike down the stairs on hop on that thing on workout days. I lacked motivation.

Then around November I picked up a poster of my favorite teen-aged vampire (I think I've mentioned my "Twilight" obsession before?!), and hung it in front of my treadmill. And what do you know? I wanted to head downstairs and run ALL THE TIME. Then not only did I get to stare at the VERY hot Robert Pattinson portraying Edward Cullen, I started to see results. The numbers on the scale started to go down. My clothes were loose. Very motivating. Now, a year later, I've lost weight, toned up, and dropped 4 jean sizes. Not too shabby.

So for me, forget those expensive diet and exercise programs. For me a used treadmill and a five dollar poster did the trick. I also had the support of a good friend who also started running around the same time. We continue to find ways to encourage and motivate each other.

With writing, it's all about finding the right motivation as well. Sometimes it's a picture (like my poster) that is inspiring. Perhaps a magazine picture will bring to mind the look of a certain character. If that happens I clip it out and tack it to the board next to my computer.

Also tacked next to my computer in the cover art for my upcoming release, WILD WEDDING WEEKEND. Seeing that everyday motivates me to get writing so I can hang another cover on my board.

Holding a book I've already written in my hand is extremely motivating. Because I want more of them. I want a whole shelf full of Debra St. John books.

I've mentioned before that music motivates and inspires me. Sometimes there's a story in every song. Sometimes there's a story in just one line. But just in general, music gets me going. It puts a song in my head and a story in my heart.

I belong to a VERY supportive writers' group. Just attending meetings and hearing about fellow members' successes helps keep me motivated.

What really helps me is a deadline. Whether it's one set by my editor or a goal I've set for myself, having a definite time period to work with really helps to get me going. Saying I have all the time in the world to accomplish something is probably the best way to ensure that nothing will get done.

So, my goal for this summer is to finish my WIP, begin promotion for WILD WEDDING WEEKEND, take a serious look at another idea I have spinning around in my head, and of course, to visit Edward downstairs by the treadmill at least five times a week.

And at the moment, I am motivated to accomplish all of that and more. So, we'll see where I'm at with all of this at the end of the summer!

So how about you? If you get the chance, pop in and let me know what motivates you...

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


www.debrastjohnromance.comcoming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Orinters Row by Margot Justes

This one will be extremly brief, I spent the day at Printers Row, in sandals and capri pants, needless to say I have yet to thaw out, but I sold quite a few books so I'm not complaining. Well, at least not much.

Had a quick bite to eat and friends came over for dessert, now it's time for bed. More about printers Row next week.

Till next time,
Margot Justes

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dead On Writing - A Book for The Successfully Disorganized, Down & Dirty, Functionally Challenged Fiction Writer in You by Robert W. Walker

Can minor characters remain minor? What’s needed to craft a truly villainous villain? How much is too much detail? When is setting another character and should it be? How are characters created out of the blue? What is a fully-realized character, and what is the opposite – a not fully realized character? Is that like a cardboard character? How long should a writer work at his craft? What is meant by execution? How important is it to get the grammar right? Is spelling still such a big concern? What is an unofficial PhD in Writing and Letters?

And when you’re done with those questions of dialogue, the how and why of it…character building, motivation, use of the five senses, use of the sixth sense, the very metaphysics of writing, what do you do to sell the finished manuscript? How does one go about selling the idea to an agent, an editor, a publisher?

Once the manuscript is sold and a book is made, what can we do to market it to the public? What avenues doe we have online? What should our attitude be? Does anything work?

Up to this point all I have done is list questions. These are the questions that try writers’ souls. To help out best I can, I have “published” for the Kindle Reader at http://www.dtpamazon.com/ -- the Kindle method of publication my how-to on the subject of writing craft, execution, and more…much more. Some of it even funny. Some of it deep. Some of it light. Some of it “sacrilegious” and some of it just truly useful exercises—writing exercises that have been tested and that WORK.

For anyone who does not HAVE a Kindle reader, I understand there’s an option to have the book sent to your Iphone. For anyone who does not have either but would like to get the book, contact me and I’ll see what I can do. As the book is only 2 dollars from Kindle Store…not sure how you can pay me except to say TALK up the book and any of my other titles like my Five Star suspense novel DEAD ON.

DEAD ON WRITING is a compilation of useful and pointed advice on writing. I hope you will at very least go to the Kindle Books section on Amazon.com and search for my name to see all my Kindle titles and let me know what you think of the artwork on my DEJA BLUE (psychic detection novel with woo-wooo!), CUBA BLUE (a Qui Aguillar Havana Cuba suspense-thriller), and SNAKE FLESH WARS (science fiction suspense & horror – there’s a monster involved, and spontaneous human combustion is also involved!). I am hoping to put up a book of short stories here. Kind of cool to be my own publisher!

Rob Walker

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Being Conference Ready! by DL Larson

The Historical Novel Society Conference will be next weekend - June 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency, Woodfield IL. I've been working on several topics in order to be ready. I sent my promotional material to be placed in the attendees packets. I chose pens and flyers. I always struggle deciding if the cost of promo materials is worth the expense of putting my name, DL Larson, out there in front of would-be buyers. And each time I come up with the answer - yes! Promotional materials are tools of our trade.

I'll be a part of the book signings on Saturday, and if I hope to sell books, folks need to know what's available ahead of time. I love impulse buying, but I really enjoy someone coming up who actually searched me out in order to buy my book. I will never tire of that.

The other area I've been working on is ... my pitch. Oh, how I hate pitching! Did I say that outloud????? Ignore that previous sentence, I really, really love talking about my book ~ that's the mind set I need to find. I just don't enjoy trying to shrink a multiple layered book into a tiny little box full of perfect wording that describes my work. Then deliver it with enthusiasm that doesn't sound rehearsed or memorized. I am no good at that!!!! So, I've thrown that concept out the window, went out and stomped it but good, ground it right into the mud and came back in to start a new concept for sharing my ideas, my book with agents and publishers.

I'm a gardender, not an athlete. Maybe that's why I find pitching so difficult. Gardening is many layered, working the ground, digging out the weeds, planting various plants, nurturing the strong ones and pruning out the bad so the rest thrives and becomes stronger. I like the layered idea, like peeling an onion.

My character Francis Frailey is afraid of life. That's a good first layer.
He's emotionally crippled. Okay, are you wondering why?
He has everything - good looks, money, a wife and children who love him. So what's the problem for heavens sake?
His son reminds him of times he'd rather not remember, because remembering breaks the chain he has on his temper. So what happens then?
His wife Christine sneaks through his defenses, leaving him vulnerable. And no one is safe when his rage is unleashed, least of all himself. He's vowed not to turn from the abused into the abuser. He will stop this cruel family tradition, even if he has to end his own life. Good grief, how can this have a happy ending?
Christine shows him love means trust and hope, not betrayal and pain. And Francis learns it is never too late to remake oneself, never too late to start over.

Okay, I can plant a garden. I can peel an onion. I can talk rationally about my book to an editor. It's all about working with the right tools. Pitching doesn't work for me, but gardening does. Plus, I can add a little bling by saying my book, Promises My Love, won 2nd place in a contest. Guess I'm as ready as I'm going to be.

Do you have any secrets that work for you when talking to editors, agents and publishers? Share with us, please.

Til next time ~

DL Larson
PS: DL will have both her books for sale at the HNS Conference:
Memories Trail - $15
Promises To Keep - $15 (Reader's Choice Award winner)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why do I write crime fiction?

Morgan asked me to fill in for her today, so I thought I'd tell you why I write crime fiction.  Aren't you curious???

When I was ten years old, I started reading detective stories. The first ones were Sherlock Holmes stories by Doyle, but I also read the Hardy Boys books, and stories of Encyclopedia Brown and the incomparable Brains Benton. I always envied Brains Benton, and tried to style myself after him as a twelve-year-old, without much success. But my first actual detective work came much later in life and inspired me to write crime fiction.

It was raining that night in the city by the bay.... no, wait a minute, wrong story.

It was a clear, late-spring Wednesday morning, and the first thing I saw as I walked out to my car was the TP carnage. Yes, we’d been hit. Toilet paper was festooned across our cars, across the trees and hedges--everywhere. But there was an added evil dimension: bright orange spray paint ran in jagged lines across the tall arbor vitae that fringed the front of the property, and a malediction had been painted on the paved driveway.  In bright blaze-orange letters, two feet tall, it said:

Penis wrinkle.

Not a common insult, and not one I had heard before. But I was a high-school teacher at the time, and as such had an inherent troop of suspects. Also, on Monday I had reprimanded one of my students severely—a senior with a strong intellect, great potential, but also a great predilection for goofing off in class. He had been very upset at being disciplined, and I was betting he was involved somehow.

When I checked things in our yard, I found that the miscreants had been in a hurry.  Two rolls were thrown without even being unwrapped. I recognized that the packages were of an institutional variety.

That day at school, I learned that others had suffered similar fates. Another teacher had her lawn rolled and her lawn and mailbox defaced with orange paint. And more seriously, the home and yard of a young lady had been defaced with orange paint, with very unflattering insults spray-painted on stonework and a privacy fence. 

My inner Sherlock Holmes took over.  I asked a few discrete questions.  I discovered that the young lady whose house was vandalized was the ex-girlfriend of the senior I had reprimanded.  I also discovered that he and two other young men had gone out “cruising” together the night before.

The family of one of the other two young men owned a motel on the outskirts of town.  I called them and pretended to be someone who had stayed there a month before, and that I owned a motel in another state.  I was “impressed with the quality” of their toilet tissue, and wondered what brand it was.  She told me over the phone.  It matched the brand of unopened tissue I found in my yard.

I got together with the other teacher, and found that she had also reprimanded two of the three students a couple of days before.  All three were now tied together with motive and/or means, as well as opportunity.

I went to the local sheriff’s office and filed a complaint, with all the evidence neatly presented.  The three lads were brought in for questioning.  There was quite a bit of dollar value of damage, when one considered the stonework and the privacy fence, so it could conceivably have been felony-level charges of destruction of property as well as malicious mischief.

The next day, three shivering seniors sat across a conference table from the other teacher and myself at the local sheriff’s office.  They confessed.  Their excuse was that they had been drinking and made stupid mistakes.

The sheriff’s department had allowed them to spend about eight hours the night before in the jail, as none of them were minors.  They were separated from the other prisoners, but they were alternately propositioned and threatened by some large, homely and lonely guys.

The young men were very, very anxious.  One young man was the president of the local National Honor Society and had been accepted at a prestigious university.  Another of the trio was headed for a full NROTC scholarship at another fine university.  Those two were scared witless that these charges would somehow lose them their places at these schools, while the third was simply scared of spending any more time in jail.


In the end, the other teacher and I accepted their confessions and agreed to drop all charges if: 

  1. The boys would do a total cleanup and repair, with their own hands.
  2. They would replace the mailbox they damaged at the other teacher’s house.
  3. They would resurface my driveway.  
  4. All of this would be done on Saturday mornings, supervised by their respective fathers.
Nobody lost their place in university, though the Honor Society president had his office stripped from him.  Gilbert and Sullivan had it right: let the punishment fit the crime.  The family of the young lady negotiated their own terms, as her father was too angry at the time of the meeting to sit down with the boys.

I believe the boys learned a valuable lesson about doing stupid things while drinking and I gained a real taste for criminal investigation. After that point, my stories took a turn for the mysterious. 

Digital is all the buzz at BEA

I found the coverage of the Book Expo America (BEA) this year to be very telling. There's much discussion about digital content veruses the traditional book format that most of us grew up with. Perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction to the drop in sales, but perhaps this is just keeping up with the changing times.

For years, the traditional publishing industry has resisted electronic delivery of books and other written material because it just didn't fit within their business model. I'm beginning to think that this stance is becoming more and more difficult to maintain, especially given the current economic climate. BUT I strongly maintain that the generations coming up are having a profound impact on how writers deliver their stories and other written products to their audiences.

One of the shouts at the BEA to the publishing world is don't be like the music industry. Here's the link to this reference:


Again, the generations coming up demanded change to how their music is delivered and they have enough buying power to have a voice.

The quesiton is - how well will the publishing industry or those of us who write, listen?

The next few years will be very interesting indeed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer Lovin' on a rainy Monday

It’s been a good week for the Summer Lovin’ anthology. Last time I checked it was ranked as #6 on the top ten YA listing at The Wild Rose Press website.

In case you didn’t get a chance to check it out yet, her is the blurb for the book:

From a rich Southern country club to a Midwest ranch and all the way to the cool beaches of the Pacific Northwest, this sweet collection of summer love stories revels in the magic of first love. You’ll enjoy stories by:
Dara Edmondson, Laurie J. Edwards, Mona Ingram, Kimberlee R. Mendoza, Sydney Shay, and June Sproat

Get ready for some Summer Lovin’.

It’s available right now on digital for only $6. That’s a dollar a story!! Can’t beat that.

I hope you do get a chance to read it and if you are waiting for the print copy, that’s good too. In the meantime, read what this reviewer has to say!
You Gotta Read Reviews

Have a great week!