Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do You Read or Write on Vacation? by Morgan Mandel

We're heading off for our last vacation trip to the NorthWoods on Friday. Mingled with the fun of enjoying the cottage, my friend. Jeanne, and the autumn hues, will be the sad realization that we won't be back again until Spring.

Fall's a beautiful time of year and I usually snap lots of pictures for memories. I also hope to get some writing and reading done, in between book signings, shopping, eating and going to the casino. (The order varies depending on which day) Hopefully, my cold will be better by Saturday, so I don't scare potential readers away from buying Killer Career when I'm signing at Book World in Eagle River.

What about you? Do you read or write on vacation?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Publishing terminology

For some of you who don’t know, I am the chapter President of Chicago North RWA. It is a great group and I have learned so much through the group. The mission of the chapter is to support our members on their writing journey and in their publishing careers.

Lately we have been incorporating publishing terminology into our chapter meetings to expand the knowledge to the group. I thought it might be a good idea to share some of those definitions with you each week and give you some examples when I can. So, without further ado…

Query or Query letter — a letter addressed to an editor that inquires about a publishing program's policy for receiving manuscripts, or a letter to an editor that accompanies a manuscript (partial or full) and synopsis for review by the addressed editor.

Here is a sample of what I put in my query letter for Ordinary Me book:

While behind the wheel during driver’s ed, high school sophomore Kate Sterns inadvertently foils an escaped convict’s getaway. When her heroic actions land her face on the front page of the Wainscott Gazette, she thinks her life is over, and it is, at least her life as an ordinary anyway. Overnight she is plucked from the ordinaries and plopped into the “in crowd.” At first Kate is in denial of her status change, but then she likes it, that is until she’s labeled a snob, her locker gets trashed and one other minor thing-- she’s being stalked.

The philosophy that writing about high school experiences, to show that so called freaks in high school can turn out normal, inspired me to write Ordinary Me, a 41,000 word young adult book. Being a high school survivor myself, I strongly agree with this wisdom and I believe Ordinary Me will not disappoint as Kate muddles through the obstacles and triumphs of her sudden notoriety.

Thank you in advance for you time and consideration.

Here are some other sites for more information on queries:

Have a great week!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fall into Autumn

It's been a great weekend. There's a little chill in the air. The leaves are just starting to turn. Yesterday we picked pumpkins, apples, and drove over the state line to get some fresh honey. Later today I'm going to curl up on my couch under a cozy blanket and watch some football.

The perfect way to kick in a new season. Fall has arrived. At least for the moment. Being from Chicago, of course we know that if we give it a minute, the weather will change again. But for now, autumn is in the air.

The fridge is loaded down with gala and jonamac apples, the pumpkins are on the porch, waiting to be displayed and then later split open to procure the seeds for roasting, and the honey is sweetening our tea to perfection.

Soon there will be leaves to rake and the backyard fire pit to smell. Next weekend we'll head up north to Door County, Wisconsin for another favorite fall tradition: family vacation. A time for the cousins and aunts and uncles and grandma and grandpa to come together and have some fun. And it's always a blast.

So, until next time, enjoy the season, where ever you may be.

Happy Reading!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Venice by Margot Justes

I came back from my ‘vacation’ with what I thought was a bad cold, but it turned out to have been an infection, one I’m still fighting. That is by way of explaining why I haven’t looked at all the prints yet and why not much has been done by me the last couple of weeks.

However, if you’re thinking of visiting Venice, I can recommend the best investment you will ever make-buy the Actv pass, for whatever length of time you choose, depending entirely on your length of stay.

Get off the plane and right in the airport you can buy the pass-that will allow you to travel by bus or the Vaporetto, a public transport system that travels across the Grand Canal and will even take you to other islands, like Murano; my favorite mode of transportation other than walking. A three day pass is less than fifty dollars, and it is money well spent.

Let me tell you about money not so well spent, or at least I didn’t think so at the time and maybe I still don’t.

Piazza San Marco, the Piazza to end all Piazzas’. I was there at noon, heard the bells toll, that deep rich resounding tone that always gives me goose bumps. At any rate, there is a famous café at the Piazza, Café Florian, where the waiters wear white coats, an orchestra is playing and just to sit down will cost you nine dollars per person, after all the orchestra is playing and it is Piazza San Marco-ambiance-you have to pay for ambiance.

So, I bit the bullet and sat down. Now comes the menu, I knew it was going to be expensive, but I was thirsty and how expensive can a glass of water be? Very expensive. I ordered Pellegrino, Italian sparkling mineral water; that is what I drink at home. I buy it by the case at Costco.

The staggering price for a glass of Italian sparkling water was thirteen dollars, and to add insult to injury they brought a generic brand, not the Pellegrino listed on the menu. The total price was twenty three dollars, and let’s not forget the tip.

I went back that evening to see the Piazza lit up, this time however, I stood and listened to the orchestra, watched as a couple danced, soaked up the incredible atmosphere and it didn’t cost me a penny.

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.
available on

Friday, September 25, 2009

10 Reasons Why We Keep On Writing by Robert W. Walker

#1. We are driven; it is an addiction hardly controllable. Some call it a gift, others call it a curse.

#2 . We are creators. We get to play God. We craft the good, the bad, and the ugly characters; furthermore, we get to decide on their FATEs, their LIVEs, and if they should live or die. It is a rush.

#3. We novelist, playwrights, script writers get to play all the parts, whereas actors typically are held to one part and one role only. So it is like what we did as kids – play. Writing is play and should be a playful “art” and “science”.

#4. We can tell people we are “Working” while we are “Playing” and no one is any the wiser.

#5. We get to create metaphors for what we do and metaphor creation for your “work” is in and of itself a fun activity as in “Writing is easy, like picking a scab until it bleeds, and when it stops bleeding, you pick at it for the next scene.” Or Writing is easy, all you have to do is open a vein….like lifting a raw egg of a linoleum floor….your turn to play.

#6. We write for our first reader – ourselves – which includes the guy who loves everything we spout, and the harsh critic within that detests everything we spout. We stiff arm both and somehow continue writing only by not settling for self-hype or mean-spirited criticism from that side of the brain that dislikes everything.

#7. Because we are “supposed” to….as in now I gotta get this blog outta my head an onto paper…or I have a deadline to meet with a story….or a self-imposed deadline.

#8. Because we love language and anything to do with language, and we love working in the “materials” of language and using the “tools” of language to craft “Kodak moments” and memorable scenes that move people to feel one emotion or another; in other words to wield the most powerful weapon on earth – Words. That which is mightier than the sword.

#9. Because we have a pack of lies (fiction/ficciones) inside us that have to get outside of us in order to “prove” a truth, quite often a truth surrounding the human condition. We are observers of the parade…the floating opera of life and we feel put here to make observations on same and pass them along to unsuspecting readers who think we are just entertainers.

#10. We write for money as well; we pray to be able to make a living at this “work” that we are passionate about, and if we can’t make a living at it, we spend a lifetime in another job to support the “habit”.

I write for craft and for money, and I have taught writing for over thirty years to support the addiction and the “need”. When I teach a creative writing class, I see two kinds of “writers come through the door – he who sees it as a glamorous thing to be recognized and called a writer or novelist or screenwriter (and most of these fail), and he or she who MUST write in order to breathe more easily, to get the stories and voices out of their heads and off their chests before the panic and pain of NOT writing these things out gets to them. In other words, a poet’s got to write poetry despite the fact there is no money in poetry and no poetry in money. And a woodworker has to work in wood, and a sculptor in stone….so a writer in words.

See if I live up to the ten reasons by picking up a copy of my latest work, DEAD ON. My wife, Miranda’s The WELL MEANING KILLER displays the same NEED to be written on every page.
Happy Writing and please feel free to leave a #11 or #12 etc. as a comment. Would love to hear from you.

Rob Walker

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Staples of Writing! by DL Larson

Today my husband is hosting an appreciation dinner for his clients. It will be a simple pork chop bar-b-que at the community building with much discussion on farming and the upcoming harvest. My job is simple enough, I hand out door prizes and smile to those arriving. It's tradition by now. My "official" job came earlier ~ I provided all the desserts!

Every year I stock up on flour, eggs, oil and sugar before I even decide what I plan to make. Those ingredients are the staples of baking. And as I started preparing my fourth cake yesterday, I realized how basic ingredients can be whipped into such various delights. Writing is pretty much the same.

Every writer needs the basics: a plot, characters, setting and CONFLICT. Without those four components the story will not develop. They can be twisted or flattened in numerous ways, but they have to hold together to support whatever is going to happen in the future.

And the timing has to be worked out. Timing is important to a baker and just as significant in building a story. I certainly didn't want a gooey cake to serve today, undone and unfit to eat; nor did I want to offer one that stayed too long in the oven. Burned and dried is not my goal. So timing is critical. Good timing needs to be paced out beforehand, decided upon in a tried and true manner. Hopefully it will be a delight to the reader, but never to the writer! Great pacing of a story takes work, diligent work and is something not to be rushed. Practice makes timing happen. In baking, I simply set the timer and voila` a confectioners delight materalizes from the oven. Not so easy with writing.

A great way to learn about pacing and timing is to read, read and read some more. See how the ones before you made this happen. Timing is an art and needs to be learned just as punctuation needs to be conquered. Adding frills and chills may be intended to be exciting, but if not delivered in a timely fashion it will fall short of its goal.

Have you ever taken a bite of some beautiful cake only to discover it's taste didn't match up with your expectations? The baker missed the mark somehow. His timing was off, his basic ingredients couldn't support his fancy decorations. Chances are you will not finish that piece of cake. Nor will you talk highly of his expertise. The same works for writers.

Be sure your story has a fresh plot, intriguing characters, settings that drop your readers right into the midst of things and plenty of real conflict. Your reader will continue on, devouring every page to the timely conclusion. And if you're really lucky they will spread the word, "you have got to read this book ..."

Now that's a tasty treat any way you look at it!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Would you pay for a review? by Morgan Mandel

Yesterday at we discussed whether or not to pay for a blog book tour.

What about reviews? Would you pay for one, even by a reputable reviewing service?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oprah's latest pick

Okay, I think I can safely say that just about every writer would love to have an endorsement by Oprah and here's why:

LITTLE, BROWN to print 650,000 copies of new Oprah selection.

This was announced by PW in big bold letters.

Of course, there was the author of The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen) that decided he didn't quite want all the commercial attention and I suppose it's hard to truly judge how one would feel until one is in that situation BUT, as writers we do want our work to be noticed, especially after we've spent so much time, sweat, tears and sometimes blood creating our written product.

We write because we can't not write and we all strive for success but how we measure that success can vary. Sure, I'd love to have a book that I've written and managed to find a publisher who believed in it, recognized by Oprah; but, I think more than anything else I'd love to write a book, find a supportive publisher and have fans and readers who genuinely connect to my story.

I look forward to that happening in the near future.

In the meantime to everyone one I say "Write On!"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Wondering and a Winner

Hi All,

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment last week while I visited at The Word Place. Check the end of this post to find out if you're the winner of a PDF copy of "This Time for Always".

But first, for the wondering...

I'm curious as to how many people out there do book signings and if you feel they're worth your while or not. Here's why I'm wondering.

I had one yesterday. And to be honest, other than getting to hang outside on a gorgeous day with Morgan and Morgot, it was a big fat waste of my time. I sold one book. All together the three of us only sold four. We were at a craft fair/flea market held by a local church. There were lots of people out and about, but no one seemed to be interested in buying books. Maybe we were in the wrong kind of venue. Maybe it's the economy. I don't know what the problem was, but as a business venture, this one was an utter failure.

In fact, other than one I held for my local RWA chapter (Thanks Chicago-North for buying my books!), book signings have not been very successful for me. I've tried two craft fair type venues, a book sale at the local library, and even a special Valentine's Day event at the library and have had similar - as in no - luck. I think in those four events I've sold and signed a total of five books. And I'm not sure they're doing much in the way of getting my name out there. Yesterday we were hard pressed to get people to even take our bookmarks, and those were FREE! Being a small press author with The Wild Rose Press (which I love!), it's tough to get into bookstores to do signings.

So, getting back to the wondering part, what works the best to sell books? Hands-down my best seller when it comes to my books is my mom. She's already "ordered" at least 20 of my new one and it doesn't even come out until May. I think she may have sold more on her own than all of my other venues combined. She's the best promoter money can buy, and when I say 'money', I mean "Thanks, Mom, you're my number one sales person!"

So what works to sell books? Face to face promotion, book signings, social networking, blog tours? I'd love to hear your success stories if you're willing to share. What worked and why do you think it worked?

At any rate, now onto the winner part of the post, which is why you really stopped by to read in the first place!

Congratulations to Terry Odell! You've won a PDF of "This Time for Always". E-mail me at so I can get that out to you ASAP. And again, thanks to everyone who stopped by The Word Place last Monday. Be sure to visit there again and check out the rest of Judy's series on The Wild Rose Press and its authors.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Magic of Venice

Back from my vacation-not so much a vacation-as research for my next book, I found the perfect setting, Murano, glass and of course Venice.

I will start my tour of Venice with the next blog and I have pictures, over 500 of Venice alone, can we say snap happy, but Venice is stunning and a city like no other.

I was there during two major events, the Venice Film Festival and a huge art festival.

The art festival was unique in that even an old Romanesque Church was converted into an art gallery, and not for religious art, but contemporary abstract pieces were displayed in place of the pews throughout the church.

Getting around Venice is simple, you can’t get lost or you wind up in water, and all signs point to Piazza San Marco. The trick is to actually find it, it’s hard to miss, after all it is a huge square but miss it I did.

The first night there I decided not to waste any time and start my sightseeing, Pizza San Marco beckoned, I wanted to see it at night all lit up. Ha! I found every alley, more than once, every side street, again more than once, except for the elusive grand piazza. Even getting lost is delightful in Venice.

Exhausted I walked back to the hotel, showered and went to sleep

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.
available on

Friday, September 18, 2009


To pull off the so-called “impossible” – getting into the head of the opposite sex and understanding from this point of view, surprisingly enough, surrounds elemental, fundamental reliance on a “woman of substance” inside the VOICE.

VOICE in any dramatic, commercial fiction relies on strong Active Voice over weak passive textbook, WAS/WERE-riddled voices (leave the qualifying voice to the politicians). These basic grammatical decisions (word choice, exorcising qualifiers for absolutes, using active verbs over passives and cripplingly slow helping verbs, and exorcising the verb to be) are the crucibles of language about which E.B. White wrote in The Elements of Style and supported by the fine book Writing Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern. Style comes out of extremely small elements you choose to make work for you—like a plug in the wall. Or items you fail to utilize.

As small as the choice difference between say the word before and ago, maybe and perhaps, this is “shaping” voice. This “becomes you”--BECOMEs your style. If you choose a folksy or shoddy or simplistic or complex or formal or informal voice, your reader will know it from the outset and is normally willing to follow it so long as this voice remains consistent and consistently believable.

So is VOICE the single most important element of your story? Absolutely, and yet it is created of all the other elements and choices you make, from setting to dialect to no dialect to the difference between between and betwixt, leaped and leapt, or using a comma for a dash. I personally make a habit of using contractions, dashes, and mixing sentence types from simple to compound to complex to compound-complex. All my choices…all lessons we continually need to relearn with each book.

All good writing relies on the reader ‘falling for’ your Feminine or Male authorial\narrative voice, the point of view speaker, the mind you set your reader down into comfortably or awkwardly. If it is an ill fit, little wonder. The holy all of it is this: an author is a trick cyclist on the unicycle juggling twenty four plates in the air, spinning each ‘choice and decision and element’ at the end of long sticks all at once! Each plate, each stick, each prop is an important element, but they all culminate in the overall greatest EFFECT or illusion we writers create. The effect that your story has on the reader’s ear and mind’s eye. (A story is only as good as the effect it has on a reader.)
If I had said the writer is LIKE a trick cyclist rather than stating it as a fact, it rings a different bell, sends a different and less powerful blow. The use of LIKE and AS is terribly overdone in some “voices” in female-lead crime fiction. As are adjectives. As are adverbs. As is the use of passives, especially the WAS/WERE verb—a major killer of action and visualization. These mistaken choices riddle even a great deal of published fiction, and especially in the first person narrative along with the personal pronoun references to the narrator: I, me, my, mine, myself, often using the personal pronoun three and four times in a given sentence.

What a reader hears and pictures comes about as result of our giving him a believable SOUND in his head—along with images. The author’s voice, or the narrative voice (not always the same) or the character’s voice creates that sound. A “qualifying” character’s voice can be filled with qualifiers, but you are damned if your narrator or main character’s voice is riddled with qualifying, iffy, wishy-washiness. An absolute gives the same sentence the mental Kodak moments that look, feel, taste, smell, and sound like IMAGES. Images are made of this; they are not made of lines like: He was standing as if in a trance, and was soon climbing through a reddish fog that seemed to be lifting amid the treeline that almost acted as a filter to the sunlit Georgia hills. But rather: In a trance, Mick stood and climbed through a coppery red fog filtering through the Georgia treeline.

Robert W. Walker
"Dead On takes the reader's capacity for the imagination of horror to stomach turning depths, and then gives it more twists than a Georgia backroad that paves an Indian trail." - Nash Black

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Corn Can Be Scarey! by DL Larson

Morgan Mandell's backyard episode reminded me of a time long, long ago when my kids were small enough to carry. It was a summer much like this with the corn surrounding our house on all sides. We had no air conditioning in those days so all our windows and doors were thrown open. My husband was at a meeting, the kids were in bed and I was folding laundry watching TV when the phone rang. It was about 10:00p.m. The phone ringing was not unusual and I picked up. What surprised me was hearing from our elderly neighbors so late in the evening. Ben and Marge live on the highway just a quarter mile north of our house, but I couldn't see their farm due to the corn. I couldn't see their barnyard light either.

Now Ben is a gentle soul and talks in a hushed raspy voice and I strained to hear what he had to say. "I wanted to tell you about the police cars," he said.

I gripped the phone hoping they hadn't been hurt. "What about the police cars?"

"Guess they lost two convicts and they saw them head into the corn. They think one went north and the other is headed your way."

"Ben? What do you mean headed my way?" I couldn't breathe. I stood by the patio door only able to reach so far due to the phone cord attached to the wall. Three doors yawned open, the screens not locked.

"They're gonna check our buildings first and if they don't find the convicts, they'll spread out. Just wanted you to know what's going on, in case you saw all the police lights flashing."

Lights? The kitchen light was on, the livingroom, plus the hall light. I knew I was more visible than anyone lurking in the dark. My children slept under open windows. I swallowed hard. "Come get us, Ben. Kurt's not home and ..." I couldn't finish what I wanted to say. "Just come get us."

In the few minutes it took Ben to arrive, I skittered to the front door, slammed it shut and locked it, then scurried to the back door and did the same, all the while wondering if someone was trying to climb in a window where my children slept.
I was trying not to hyperventilate, wondering how to carry three children to safety. And how to keep the knife in my hand. How it got there I'm still not sure.

Rousing children is like carrying fifty pounds of limp noodles. It's just not that easy. I scooped up my son, all twenty-nine pounds of him and then my preschooler I literally dragged up from her armpit. In a hushed demand I told my seven year old she had to help mommy. Now!

We made our way to the back door and as we stood there waiting for Ben, I realized I needed to leave a note for my husband. That meant turning the lights back on and I didn't want to do that, but I sucumbed. My daughter very carefully wrote a note as I told her how to spell the words - We're at Marge's. We taped it to the door. Headlights pulled in the drive and we headed out meeting Ben in the middle of the sidewalk.

Five police cars filled the highway in front of Ben's house, their lights swirling, distorting my vision. I was angry at them. How dare they lose two convicts! In my backyard!

After awhile, the police cars moved away as their search widened. My husband called about 11:30. I was still at the neighbors. "I just got Margie George out of bed," he said. "She said you hadn't been there." Margie is a good friend of mine and she lives on the other side of town. It was an easy mistake for him to make. He came home to an empty house with a scribbled message planted on the door. I told him about the convicts and that he should come retrieve us.

"Did they get them?" he asked.

"I don't know, they moved up the gravel road east of here. You didn't see the police lights?"

"I figured they had some kids pulled over or something." Then, "The back door wasn't locked. I better check the house before I come get you."

With golf club in hand, my husband searched our home, found it convict free and came and rescued us. Our kids never did realize the danger they were in and for that I'm glad. It's only in retelling the story years later did they understand how vulnerable we had been.

And the convicts? They were caught about two miles north of our house, disoriented and cut up pretty bad from the corn leaves. Running through large plants is not recommended.

I thought I'd be freaked out and keep all the doors and windows locked up after that. But I didn't. Yet in years when the corn surrounds our house and buildings I think of those convicts. And I thank the Lord they stayed in the corn.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Mystery In Our Own Backyard, Literally - by Morgan Mandel

Thursday night, the DH and I went to a program at our library lasting until 9:30. Afterwards, we stopped at my brother's house to pick up my bookmarks, so we didn't get home until after 10pm.

The next morning I noticed a few strange things. When I went to walk Rascal, thank goodness she was on her leash, because our gate was open. We never leave the gate open, because we often let her out in the yard by herself. If she got away, since she's deaf she wouldn't hear us call for her.

We went on our usual walk. Then, when I went to put her duty bag into the garbage on the patio, I noticed something else strange. The grill had been knocked over. Its cover was off, the rack part was on the grass. Someone had been in our yard overnight.

The idea made me very uneasy. What was going on?

Saturday I stopped at my neighbor's house. That's when she mentioned the street had been blocked off Thursday night, a patrol car was parked in front of her house and it was shining it's light in the direction of our garage. The patio is on the other side of it. This was around 9:30
She didn't know what was going on. That's when I told her about the strangeness in our yard.

I called the police, but got no answer. She followed up and someone called back. Apparently, a runaway, I don't know how old, was being sought by the police that night and was caught. Part of the time the runaway had to have been in our yard, maybe even hiding there when we came home.

In Killer Career, something horrible happens in the heroine's neighbor's yard. You don't expect bad things to happen so close. The first reaction is disbelief, followed by nervousness.

At least my own mystery was solved. I know the person the police were looking for was caught. Has anything strange like that ever happened to you or someone you know? Please share.

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career now available at most outlets
and Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The World of Publishing and Marketing

Another change in the world of ePublishing, and therefore eBook delivery and availability, is bringing ebooks closer to the masses.

Cost is often a reason for the success and/or failure of eBooks. Readers, distribution, readability are only a few of the issues affected by cost. Now an Australian software company is releasing a product that promises to streamline the cost and time of converting pdf to a common ePub standard.

For more details here’s the link:

And Dan Brown’s newest release - The Lost Symbol - is causing a price war among eBook releases as Amazon makes it available for a low price on the Kindle.

For more info go to:

And on the multimedia/marketing front, thriller novelist Clyde Ford has taken the audio/visual book trailer concept to a new level. Here’s the link for more information:

Move over Oprah? Well, maybe not. Bin Laden is now coming out with his own booklist and endorsements. Hummm! It will be interesting to see what affect this has.

And Google launches a new way to read the news - Fast Flip.

What I believe this is telling us as writers is that more and more consumers of the written word are wanting it faster, more entertaining on a multimedia level, and via more of the technological gadgets that are available. The printed version will always be in demand, but like the US Mail, publishers will have to adapt to a change in the level of demand for the analog version of the written word as digital versions become more prevalent.

We should all stay tuned to the wild and exciting world of publishing and marketing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend Whirwind

Howdy Folks,

This is going to be a quick in and out, as it's one of those weekends where there's about fifty things going on and about forty spots to fit them all in.

So, for today I just wanted to give you a heads-up on some upcoming events:

Tomorrow I'll be guest blogging at The Word Place about being a Champagne Rose author with The Wild Rose Press. Judy has been doing a great series on Wild Rose and its authors. Be sure to check it out if you get a chance.

Then next Saturday I'll be at St. John United Church of Christ in Palatine, IL doing a book signing with fellow Acme authors Morgan and Margot. If you're in the area, hopefully you'll pop in to say hello!

And with that, I have to run.

Enjoy the weekend, whether it's a relaxing one or full of fun busyness like mine!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Friday, September 11, 2009

10 Solutions to Top 10 Reasons Your Book was REJECTED by Robert W. Walker

As both a writing professor and an editor with my Knife Services, I see all manner of writing from the best and greatest writing to the worst and most unfortunate. When an autopsy for your story or book is necessary, it may require a scalpel. In fact a Stryker saw may be needed to cut it to the bone. When I speak to other writers and editors, what I hear again and again about a book’s rejection is that it failed in one or more of the Ten Deadly Sins of writing and here they are:

10. No sense of play/fun comes through on the page—that the author is not passionate over his/her story to the degree that it shines through. Solution—rewrite with a smile.

9. No sense of specific audience the author is writing to excite. Difficult to determine the genre and thus audience. Solution—rewrite with a cold eye as to what category your story falls into.

8. No sense of forward-moving plot/action in the story. Solution—work with the word compelling tattooed on your brain or taped over your computer along with a list of and how all five senses can be placed in a scene.

7. Pronoun references are weak; pronouns proliferating to exclusion of naming people, places, and things. There are many errors that involve pronouns. Solution—name names and repeat names of people, places, and things. Triangulate character’s five senses and sometimes his/her sixth sense into each scene.

6. Cluttered sentences; overblown sentences and paragraphs. A given character or characters are blowhards—going on in paragraph-length dialogue segments. Solution—break into lengthy dialogue segments with “action” lines or “interruptions” from other characters.

5. Action stops cold with description of a person, place, or thing. Does not involve action in the descriptive segments. Solution—strive to sift everything through the mind and five senses of your characters, especially your main characters.

4. Passive Voice takes over throughout the story; Active Voice is dead or nonexistent. Helping, linking, and verb to be proliferation. Twelve WASes in a single paragraph. Solution—wrestle the verb to be and helping verbs to the mat and replace them with active verbs; takes work but can be done.

3. Sentences are filled with qualifiers—words that qualify otherwise strong nouns and verbs. Sentences riddled with qualifying remarks that undercut otherwise strong sentences. Solution—when in doubt, strike it out; when a word like Very or Maybe or Sometimes does not had power or allow the power to fall on the subject noun or verb, then excise this qualifier.

2. Dialogue is wooden; dialogue is perfect English but imperfect pitch. Too formal dialogue reads like bad lines for the Native American character in a western.

1. Failure to wring drama and conflict out of situations and characters. Solution—No guts, no glory; no conflict, no story. A story is a war (or should be), and a story without a war is a snippet. Each chapter should set up obstacles to one’s character. Character plus conflict equals drama.

In addition -- do not stop your ACTION to describe a person, place or thing. Place the thing, the setting, the other character into the perceptions of your main character. It is of little interest that “authorities” suspect the victim is already dead, but it is of huge interest to the reader that “Marcus” or “Katrina” suspects this.

I hope these comments are of use and helpful to you in rewriting and finishing your novel or story. To locate direct help from me and my Knife Services at

Rob Walker

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Writer's TO DO List! by DL Larson

A few weeks ago when I was at an author fair, a group of students asked for an interview. These young writers were in Junior High and once past their shyness they asked great questions. I don't write YA, but I'm comfortable talking with kids and we had an enjoyable time. Later, I realized I had given them standard answers and wished I could have offered them more. So I worked on making a Writer's TO DO List. Now keep in mind this isn't the end all of lists, it is merely a stepping stone to get the anxious writer started down a productive path.

A Writer's TO DO List:

Whether published or not, fine tune who you are and what you stand for.
Stand for something ~ this means be knowledgeable in your genre.
Be the one in the room who knows the most about your topic.
(as a historical writer using early American settings, I am continually questioned about the "era." Most of these folks are history buffs!)

Decisions and sacrifices need to be made.
Write regularly - make a schedule and then stick to it.
I make weekly goals - daily are too stressful for me. But I enjoy reaching my weekly goals. I see progress and that urges me to make more.

Develop three dimentional characters: are they insightful? caring? too perfect? too beautiful? The characters people remember are the ones with human flaws. Don't deny your character the chance to be real!

Give your storyline free reign - the surprises will make a better read and make your characters come alive. The plot will become clearer no matter how bumpy or twisted it is.

(by author and scriptwriter Blake Snyder)
His advice:
Action alone will not endear your characters to your readers!
Develop your characters so your readers will care.


Your book, your story should be a journey of growth for your characters, and that equals change.
Edit your work: for your work in progress to become a polished manuscript, professional editing is best. Invest the time and money.
Join a writer's group or a critique group. This will help writers to stay on task with writing goals. Plus it's just more fun working and talking with other writers.

Volunteer at conferences, workshops, etc.

Tell others who you are: website, blogging - you know the drill!
Use business cards to press kits to U-Tube and radio.
Circulate and network - now is not the time to be shy!

Whittle away at your storyline until you can say what your book is about in a few sentences. Check the movie listings - they tell the storyline in a few lines.
Do the same for your novel. Then ask: does my title enhance this concept? Keep working until you have a pitch and a title that explains your work.

Do the same for your synopsis: this is the time to tell not show the basic parts of your story. Read other synopsis, check out books on proposal and synopsis writing. Practice, rewrite, and rewrite again. Keep it short. Think "bare necessities."

Research, research, research to find the type of publisher you need.
Check writer's magazines, Writer's Market book, on-line sights, ideas from writers groups to find a publisher or editor.
Be patient. Keep searching!

And the process starts all over!

My basic TO Do List is hardly complete. There are lots of ideas on developing good writing. Please add to this list so other writers may benefit.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coffee, Tea, and a Smoking Gun Schaumburg Library Event- Morgan Mandel

Coffee, Tea, and a Smoking Gun is the name of a Sisters in Crime open-to-all event at the Schaumburg Township District Library for this coming Saturday, 10am-4:45pm

At 1:30, I'll be doing a workshop called Promo Primer: On and Offline Marketing Tools and Tips for Writers. Maybe there's some ideas about promoting you're not aware of, or you'd like to share your ideas.

At 2:30, I'll be on a panel about Romantic Suspense, along with Patricia Rosemoor and Sherrill Bodine. As you may know, my new release, Killer Career, falls into that category.

Other workshops and panels include Five Tips to Get Your Book Written, Interviewing your Characters, Adding Suspense, Write What You Know or Write What You Want to Know.

Other authors on panels and workshops include J.A. Konrath, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Laura Caldwell, Gail Lukasik, Michael Allen Dymmoch, Luisa Buehler, J.D.Webb, Frances McNamara, Henry Perez, Jamie Freveletti and Jennie Spallone.

It'll be a fun, learning experience, with raffles, book signings, and a cop speak/crime scene put on by author/police officers, Michael Black and Dave Case.

If you're in the Schaumburg, Illinois area, come join us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The value of a good librarian

Most writers know that a good librarian is worth his or her weight in gold. Still, there are those who overlook the value of having their books in a library; and, a library developing readers for an author, one reader at a time. In my opinion the libraries are a much overlooked source for marketing books. Sure, a visit to a library might not result in immediate sales (but it might), or in an immediate presence on any of the best seller lists; BUT, over time the libraries are an important arena for authors to gain the momentum and exposure to readers that has indeed put a number of authors on those best seller lists.

As the program coordinator for my chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) I am fortunate enough to have access to some wonderful librarians who will be talking about how an author can help their book(s) find a place on a library shelf. My friend and sister windycityrwa member, Susan Gibberman, is leading a panel of other librarians for a lively discussion of this topic. Susan participated in a similar panel at our national RWA conference this past July and it was riveting.

Authors wear many hats in developing their writing careers. Very few authors have full-time anythings (except perhaps a day job to keep them alive so they don't starve) so it's essential to be armed with the knowledge of just how to get a book the attention it needs to attract readers. Writing the book is but half the battle.

I truly hope that all of our members and guests come to this session as it is a vital souce of information for any author at any stage of their writing career.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Toy

Okay, so I'm really a big kid at heart. I love toys. And I got new one. A Kindle. It's the first Kindle. I love toys, but can't afford to get all the new ones so the Kindle2 will have to wait.

A friend of mine knew I was interested in getting one so he saw a deal and grabbed it for me. (Thanks, Kru!) He said take it home and play with it, see if you like it. And you know what, I love it. I really didn't think I would. And I think some little part of me didn't want to like it because I thought I would miss the feel of holding the actual book in my hand.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I found the Kindle to be very easy to use. I love that it saves my page. It fits in my purse, yes I have a HUGE purse, but I had that anyway!

As far as missing the actual book, yeah, you have to get used to it, but I'm still holding something in my hand. Will I give up buying paper books, NEVER.

First, not all books are in Kindle editions, so if I want a book now, I will buy it. But, if there is a Kindle edition and I want a book now, I can have it in 60 seconds and be reading it immediately.

Second, I can't have an author sign a Kindle edition, so I'll still buy those copies.

Third, I still really love books, you can't get a new book smell in a Kindle.

But one of the best things about the Kindle is that my kids are really interested in using it which means they will read more and anything that will keep kids reading is really high on my list. Oh, and with the Kindle, you can't get paper cuts.

Have a great Monday,


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Working Class Heroes

It's a weekend to celebrate.

Not a President's or an explorer's or someone's birthday. Not the birth of a nation. Not for anyone or anything famous. But for the everyday, ordinary people who work for a living in our country.

These working class heroes are all around us. The teachers, painters, nurses, grocery store clerks and those who serve us everyday.

These are the kind of heroes I like to write about. No fancy princes or shieks or millionaires for me. I like rugged, hard-working (and of course sexy!) heroes for my stories. Cowboys, photographers, chefs, and carpenters. These are the kind of heroes you'll find in the pages of the books I like to read and write.

And these are the kinds of heroes we celebrate today.

So as we ponder the "official" end of summer (did it ever really arrive here in the Midwest?), remember to take a moment to celebrate for those working class heroes that make our world go round.

Happy Labor Day!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Galena by Margot Justes

Galena is absolutely stunning, peaceful and the Eagle Ridge Resort surrounded by hills, trees and a small lake, the breathtaking natural beauty was captivating and quickly restored my energy, which I think I had left in Nashville.

I went swimming Sunday morning and then took a walk around the property, the early morning hush disturbed only by the whispering leaves and chirping birds. Sublime.

The colorful gardens were a feast for the eyes, the restaurant offered excellent food, and a terrific cheese tray included with the sumptuous Sunday breakfast provided a perfect finish to the morning.

Did I mention I got to relax, sit and read, and yes, it was work, two book signings in as many days but the rest of the time was mine, to do with as I pleased.

Met with my partners in crime, Amy Alessio and Mary Welk, that is to say partners in the novella project we’re working on, we met in a coffee shop-where else-and while sipping our brew we actually got a chance to chat with the locals, always a delight.

The Brio gallery is gorgeous, the building has been renovated, a spiral staircase and a sky-light offers a perfect setting for some beautiful glass pieces and paintings, the light streaming through is just perfect. I can’t forget Fried Green Tomatoes, the gracious staff provided some excellent appetizers.

I even got a chance to see the Belvedere House and a framed photo of Liberace. What does a framed photo of Liberace have to do with a 19th Century mansion?
Ah, that is truly a tale for another blog.

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.
available on

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Light In the Belfry by Robert W. Walker

There are times as a teacher when you want to run screaming from the classroom as when a student tells you he or she does not know who Teddy Kennedy is; orrrrrrr when a student hands in a paper not only handwritten but done so with such a small script and a light pencil that it is impossible to read. Or when a student tells you, "History?? I hate history; it's done nothing for me--has nothing to do with me or my life!" That's about as good as when someone tells the awful gov't'ment to keep its awful hands off "my mdicare!"

It is rather frightful to find students enrolled in college who have not the vaguest idea of anything beyond their immediate needs - and all else can go to Perdition.
Still, the rare gems are found among the students. Those who have somehow come through our current system of education unscathed, unscarred, un-scared to speak up and who can write a complete essay with a minimum of errors and actually have something to say, have a point of view, and know the differnece between irony and sarcasm.

I keep teaching in order to get out of the house (certainly can't be the money, right?), and I enjoy seeing an aha moment manifest itself in a student's eyes. Today I pulled out the comic strip assignment, a Walker special for studnets to learn how to balance narrative with dialogue as I teach imaginative use of writers' tools even in what is supposed to be an essay (dry, dull thing unless doen well) or nonfiction which is supposed by many to have no imaginative techniques embedded whatsoever (ever face off against a board of directors?); of course, I totally disagree; I believe the writer of nonfiction and the essay can and should know all the tricks at the disposal of a fictionalist--to dramatize an issue and to argue an issue and to tug at the heart strings. And so I teach my 101 and 102 English introductory classes as production shops, workshops, hands-on, finger exercises, you name it with many a sample taken from fiction to point to what makesfor good essay and good nonfiction as well. Use of quotes, dialogue, dramatic moment can greatly enhance any issue-orientated essay or research paper so far as I am concerned and in fact all the essays--including student essays--that make it into the textbooks are chock full of the techniques and tools of fiction.

Have a great day of writing and or teaching and or both! Catch Children of Salem on Kindle!

"Dead On takes the reader's capacity for the imagination of horror to stomach turning depths, and then gives it more twists than a Georgia backroad that paves an Indian trail." - Nash Black

Killer Career In The NorthWoods

I'm taking Killer Career to the NorthWoods on my extended Labor Day weekend trip to Wisconsin. The photo here was taken in May at the Arbor Vitae Fireman's Flea Market, where I was promoting Killer Career, while selling Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams. As you can see, it was a little chilly that day. On Saturday, I'll again set up my booth at the flea market, but this time I'll have plenty copies of my new novel to autograph.

Since I and the DH love the NorthWoods, it's only fitting that I include the area in my new release. My main character finds solace remembering the tranquility of the surroundings where she'd spent a vacation the year before. Also a trinket she'd purchased at a local shop in Minocqua, Wisconsin plays a role in the story. It's fun being able to write about places I enjoy so I can share them with the readers.

I'm looking forward to not only magnificent views of sky, water and trees, but also high calorie food, bingo, shopping, and indulging in my greatest weakness, playing slots at Lake of the Torches Casino, not far from the cottage.

What about you? Do you share places you love in your books? Or, maybe you like to read books about places you enjoy? Please share.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Read a good book lately?

One of the ironies about being a writer is not having as much time to read and when I do it's mostly non-fiction. So, when I do get the chance to curl up in bed with a work of fiction that I enjoy, it's one of the best pleasures in the world.

The book I'm reading know is titled Conscious Loving - The Journey to Co-Commitment - A way to be fully together without giving up yourself.

I actually bought this book sometime ago but am just now getting around to reading it and wishing that I had read it sooner. Hard to tell if events in my life would have unfolded any differently over the past decade but this book certainly is full of some wisdom I could have used along the way. Still, I guess we take things in when we're ready to take them in.

Allegedly, more people these days want to write a book than read one. Of course, if they truly realized just how much work it takes to write they wouldn't be so quick to declare such a thing.

I'm just hoping that people will start reading more and more. I suspect that people really are still reading, it's just that they're reading more of their material online or via an electronic device and therefore I'm not sure we're measuring it properly.

Publishers Weekly had an intriguing headline today - Lookout Kindle, Here Comes It's a very interesting read. Here's the link:

It's going to be interesting to see how the premise of this article and plays out. I'm definitely going to be watching and reading. Hope you will be as well.