Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Renting Books?

I remember the first time my daughter told me she was renting her text books for her college courses. Given how expensive college texts are this actually made sense, but she was also doing it because it saved trees, something many college students embrace.

Well, students have lots of other options now when it comes to text books. Check out this article in USAToday:


The e-revolution really is here and it's just beginning.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Motivation and Muse

Have you ever noticed that your muse tends to pop up at interesting times? By interesting I mean those times when there's so much else going on in life that little time remains to write?

I'm having one of those moments. I am not a writer who can write on demand. In some ways I work well with a deadline instead of an open stretch of time before me, but even a deadline can't force the words to come. I think it has more to do with motivation than an actual time frame. If I'm motivated and the muse is flowing, I tend to get a lot done. If there's no motivation and no muse, everything grinds to a standstill. Sometimes for days. Sometimes for weeks.

I'll be honest. I haven't touched my WIP in weeks. I've taken out my laptop and looked at it. Maybe tweaked a few things here and there. But I haven't really accomplished anything in a moving forward kind of way. So yesterday I made myself take a look at it again. The scene I'm on is being a real stickler. But then, an idea came to mind for a scene a little further on in the story. So I skipped ahead. And now the ideas are flowing. That finicky little muse has made itself heard.

Trouble is I have a busy day today. I can't be at my computer all day. And I've started working again, so the long leisurely weekdays of summer, when I could sit on the porch and write to my heart's content all day long, are gone. The week ahead is busy. But I'll sneak some writing in somehow. I'll carry a notebook with me and scribble if I have even five minutes to spare in the midst of real life. And hopefully my muse won't disappear.

I have the muse. I have the motivation. Now if only I had the time. And on that note, I'll be signing off. My muse is calling.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Port Clinton Art Fair by Margot Justes

This weekend is the Port Clinton Art Fair in Highland Park, IL, and per our family tradition, my younger daughter came home yesterday and today we went to the fair.
Along with the fair is the Taste of Highland Park, so you have food, art and entertainment, and it is all free.
You'll have to pay for the art and food, but just looking and listening won't cost you a penny.
Of course we had coffee at home this morning, went out to breakfast and by 9:30 we were ready for the fair. It was fantastic and to prove it, I have pictures.

There were many new exhibitors, and I discovered another artist whose work I really like. I asked him if I could take some photos and he graciously agreed, the glaring sun made it difficult to take decent pictures. His website is listed below.
The fair is through tomorrow and if you're in the area stop by and enjoy.
Till next week,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, August 27, 2010

eBook Publishing How-To From an Author's Standpoint

This blog today is an open letter response to a question I often get other than "Do you eat raw meat?"  How hard is it to put an ebook up on the Kindle platform? - That is the Question these days. This seems a question on a lot of people's minds, so here goes:

First off, really it is no bother to offer advice in any way, and I enjoy helping others out; part and parcel of my teacher-nature. Let me also say that not every title you place on Kindle is automatically going to sell a bundle; I have been up a year now on Kindle July to July. I did not start making good money until around January but last month my earnings doubled. It is also true that your favorite of your books may not be the big seller, and each book has its spikes and dips.  My most schlockiest little

horror novel pubbed in the early 80s has sold this month alone 112 copies and counting. My but this is heady! Such figures! Never had such happen from sales in a box store.

Here is the thing - #1 if you have your rights free and clear, you do not want to pay someone wishing to take fifteen percent of the life of the book to place it up and do all the "work" for you. There are a number of people (Ithink Tony Burton being one, Hitch being another, Peggy J. Henderson being a third I know, along with my son and others who charge a one-time only fee for this EASY task. A computer wiz  kid of ten or eleven can do this.

You have  the option on your PC to save AS....you can take your doc file and save it as a htiml file yourself and pay no one....do it all yourself. It does take some learnng curve time, and it can get a bit frustrating but it is well worth your time. Others you know who are more proficient with converting a
doc file to html file - people you know may be willing to have  you send them the doc file and convert it to html for you. You are going to upload the html file once you go through the three step process of successfully putting your book up on the amazon digital platform or dtp. Simple go to http://www.dtp.amazon.com/  -- this is where it is all done. Step one - filling in title, author, book description (must be flawless and exciting at once)...after which you will be asked to upload the doc/htiml file. Actually if you upload it as a doc file, Amazon converts it for you -- with a caveat -- as glitches occur in just about any conversion.

The directions will ask you to proofread your book once it is put  up. If you see a lot of horrible problems, you need to resubmit it a second time. You do this by just uploading it again.

Cover art is the other larger problem you face. You can't use the art from the original publisher but you can upload a cover you have had designed or you can use a template that Amazon provides to create your own cover. Again a talented young person you know who has grown up with computers can do this in an hour. My son does all my cover art. Once he has something we agree on, he uploads it for me. It is as easy as uploading a photo.

ebook covers are front covers only. you may want to look at mine on Kindle Store pull-down on Amazon.com who have made it as simple and easy as they could. A quick scan/look over of what you see at www.dtp.amazon.com can allay any fears. www.Createspace.com is for PODs with Amazon. I have as yet to get those done.

Then once the book or books are up, the real work begins - you are the PR person, you are the Marketing team, and you must find ways to drive those voracious e-Readers to your e-Title. But that's another blog.

Hope this helps, dear friends,


> WWW.RobertWalkerbooks.com
Find me too on facebook; twitter

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Roadtrip by DL Larson

My dad has been wanting to visit the Lincoln museum in Springfield, IL. It's supposed to be awesome, educational and wonderfully done. We intended to go last summer and ran out of time, but this year we set the date and marked it on the calendar. Yesterday, my husband, sister, father and I started on our well planned road trip to our state's capitol.

OMG! as the kids would say! Our state finally got something right! Of course it's mostly privately funded and for that I am truly grateful because this museum is something to behold. It's modern, full of historical treasures that not only display Lincoln the icon, but also Abe Lincoln the man. We started with the log cabin and Abe, the young lad, the story most of us know from our school books, but I felt a connection with this boy who so loved the written word. We moved on to the young apprentice Abe who learned to be a lawyer and then a senator. We watched a few extremely well made movies regarding the trials of war and how they affected Abe and his family. At another three-dimensional exhibit, we walked through the White House where we came upon Abe and Mary slipping away from a White House Ball to visit their sick son above stairs. We learned that a few weeks later their son Willie died, the second child to do so. Lincoln was already burdened by the war and now to have such tragedy brought into his home brought tears to my eyes. I knew he and his wife had lost two of their children, plus a third one when he was 18, but to see them looking so life-like with such tender concern made me realize Abe and Mary Lincoln had real life woes just as many of us do.

Being a bit of a history buff, I enjoyed the room where we saw Abe showing his cabinet members his draft of the Proclamation of Emmanciapation, (again all in three dimensional poses.) He had been working on this document for some time; no one knew he had been contemplating such a thing. As a writer I understood how he must have agonized over wording and wondering if he included everything the document would need to satisfy the most people. To this day, people still debate that issue.

I've always admired Abe Lincoln with his straight forward words; his Gettysburg address is delivered in a rotundra style room over-looking Cemetery Hill. I was at that very cemetery earlier this summer and his words hit hard, the power of his message that a house divided can not stand ~ a saying from an old aesop fable.

The tour of Abe's life at the museum was inspiring and humbling at the same time. There is a hallway where five portraits of Lincoln hang. He wears his burdens on his face and I could scarcely gaze upon them without tears filling my eyes. My husband mentioned how melancholy he felt as well at what he saw in those pictures.

We also visited the Old State Capitol building where Lincoln worked for several terms. In 1966, the building was torn down and then rebuilt to look as it did in Lincoln's day. They used the same brick and stone for the foundation and it sits where it has always sat. It's not old, yet it is. Many laws and decisions were made in that building; Lincoln won his candidacy for Presidency within those walls. I can only imagine how many papers he worked on while he was employed by the state.

We finished our day by visiting Lincoln's Tomb. Even in death, Abe was busy, busy being hauled for weeks across the country by railroad,for some thirteen funerals. His place of rest was moved a few times, once because of bad structure, once from attempted kidnapping and finally where he and most of his family now lay.

If you ever have the chance to visit Springfield, IL, I encourge you to take the time to visit the Lincoln museum and other historical sites. You won't be disappointed. And as a writer, the trip may inspire you to keep writing, to keep working at what your heart knows is your life's purpose, whether others believe in you or not. I came home today thinking Abe Lincoln faced many obstacles in his life, yet he stayed the coarse and it made all the difference ~ for all of us.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alligator in the River by Morgan Mandel


Well, today they captured a baby alligator that was swimming in the Chicago River. What made this event so unusual is that alligators are not common to the Chicago River. Anyway, the poor critter will be watched for about three months, then hopefully released somewhere it can adapt. They say it was probably somebody's pet, since it looked well fed and in good shape.

I like to use everyday examples and tie them to my writing experience. Many writers swim around, do their best to follow the rules and try to get somewhere, yet all along they're swimming in the wrong place. The problem is how to know where the right place is. Is it better to go with a small press, a traditional press, or perhaps strike out on your own by self-publishing through ebooks, or print on demand?

All of us alligators need to make that decision. We can't expect someone to scoop us up and make the decision for us, as happened to today's gator. Take heart, though, you can always change your mind if needs be, or do a combination. Right now, I have two novels with a small press, one is self-published, and all are also in ebook form. I've submitted a partial to a traditional house, but am undecided what my next course will be. When the time is ripe, I'll take action.

Now, where do you swim? Or, aren't you sure yet?

Morgan Mandel

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Over? Really? by June

Don't tell the weather people that. It's going to be hot, hot, hot today.

One of the things I hated the most about returning to school was that is was always so stinking hot and we had to sit in class, gaze out the window and wish we were anyplace but there.

I attended a Catholic grade school, which meant blouses, knee high socks, butt ugly uniforms and no air conditioning. I know my storytelling abilities stemmed from those days. I mean, how else could I make it through the day if I didn't have the gift to put myself someplace other than the classroom. Sometimes I was in the pool with my friends, or the best was the ones where my friends and I ditched school and we had to hide out from the people looking for us. Not exactly a cool activity, but certainly more entertaining then listening to Sister Mary something or other talk about how my handwriting is not that neat because I'm a lefty.

So, to all those students returning to class, I feel your pain. I survived and you will too. Just take it one day at a time and dream a little bit to get you through the day.

Oh, and keep reading!!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Say Good-bye to Summer

To quote one of my favorite country artists, Kenny Chesney, " Ah but there's a summer drawin' to an end tonight..."

Yep. It's that time. The kiddies are heading back to school, and that means I need to be there to teach them. It's been a great summer: heat, vacations, reading, writing, and lazing around. But now it's time to get back to business. I for one am looking forward to it. The lazy days of summer have been nice, don't get me wrong, but I'm ready to get back to a routine. (Although I'm NOT looking forward to the routine of waking up early.)

So as a last hurrah I'll spend some time outdoors today, take a ride in my convertible, and send summer off with a cold drink. (I know I'll be able to do those things for a bit longer as the weather will still be nice, but there's something symbolic about doing it on this last Sunday of Summer Vacation.

And just think...the beautiful season of fall is ahead of us...chilly weather, football, colorful leaves...

So, what's been your favorite part of summer?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Wonder of Blogs by Margot Justes

A couple of months ago, maybe even a bit longer, I posted a blog about my favorite contemporary artist, Eyvind Earle.
I received an e-mail from a collector, who asked if we could exchange Christmas cards, of course I jumped at the chance.
Any time I saw a box, I bought it. My collection of cards goes back a few years, they are no longer offered for sale.
We agreed to the exchange, and one day I received a gold mine, not only did I get quite a few cards, but 3 magnificent posters. He knew I couldn't possibly match his generosity, because we only discussed the cards.
I only have a few cards and an actual serigraph I purchased recently. I was touched, not only did he trust me to reciprocate but he sent me a priceless gift knowing the exchange would not be fair one.
Above are a few of the cards and below are the framed posters.
I'm getting the hang of visual blogging...enjoy.
Isn't the work enticing? Each stroke of the brush is mesmerizing, light, airy, serene and simply enchanting.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Proofreading! by DL Larson

We've all seen an occasional blooper in the local newspaper, a misuse of words that translates into something entirely different than what the writer intended. We wonder how could they have missed that. Yet it continues to happen. Below is a list of newspaper headings from various papers (I won't name the publishers) and I won't comment on what is wrong. Some of the headlines take a moment to comprehend, but the lesson here is ~ proofread your work. Always.

1. Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter

2. Police Began Campaign To Run Down Jaywalkers

3. Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

4. Miners Refuse To Work After Death

5. Juvenile Court To Try Shooting Defendant

6. Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery, Hundreds Die

7. Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

8. New Study Of Obesity Looks For Larger Test Group

9. Astronaut Takes Blame For Gas In Spacecraft

10. Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

11. Local High School Dropouts Cut In Half

12. Hospitals Are Sued By 7 Foot Doctors

I hope reading these made you chuckle. Now, go check your work!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sports in Books by Morgan Mandel

Our White Sox have faded from first place to a dingy four games out.. Not that I'm a big sports fan, which I'm not, but I do enjoy the thrill of victory, like when the Black Hawks took it all.

In Two Wrongs, the hero for a bit is a  basketball star, first for DePaul, then for the pros. I've heard some publishers steer clear from manuscripts with sports in them. Do you like sports? What about sports in books? Do you know of any books with sports in them? Or, maybe you've written one.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, August 16, 2010

GMC thoughts from June

No, not the auto company, I’m talking about:


Yep, the old GMC of writing. I had some thoughts on this the other day and decided to write them down.

We have GMC all the time in our everyday life. We all have things we want (goal) and why we want it (motivation) and why we think we can’t have/get it (conflict). For example, my goal is to post a blog every Monday. My motivation, why I want to post a blog, is to get my name out there in the writing world where people will know me. My conflict (why I can’t always blog) is that I work full time, have three kids and barely have time for my own writing. What I need to do is find out how I can achieve my goal even with the conflict. When I figure that out we have a story, or at least a scene.

I believe that GMC changes throughout a story. The story might start out with an ultimate goal but that can change when the main character learns something they didn’t know before or their needs change from the beginning of the story. I see this often in romance. Sometimes what the hero or heroine sees as a conflict in the beginning of the book is not really a conflict after all. The heroine thinks she will never marry because she is illegitimate, and it turns out the hero doesn’t care – he’s illegitimate too!

There are also the GMC’s of the scenes in the book. In the opening scene of Ordinary Me, my young adult book, the main character Kate learns she’s failing chemistry and needs a high grade on the next test to pass. Her goal (what she needs) is to pass the class. Her motivation (what she wants) is to catch up with her chemistry studies. The conflict (what is preventing her from achieving this) is that she doesn’t want a tutor because her parents might find out. As it turns out, she attends tutoring in school, but with a popular hottie tutor, which also deals with her internal goal (what she also wants, but is something she keeps to herself) that she would like to be popular.

Of course there are thousands of different views on GMC and how they work or don’t work, but this is just my take on things.

Okay, I met my goal for this week, how about you??

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Romance in Real Life

Romance is a big part of my life. Mostly because I write it. I'm a big fan of those happily ever afters and the road my characters take to get there. Books are full of romance. Unfortunately, in real life romance often seems to take a back seat to the pressure of living life from day today.

Yesterday, however, I heard about one the the most romantic things I've ever come across in real life.

Friends of ours are in the middle of a two week vacation in Italy. They've been planning this for a while. The husband actually did all of the planning. (Right there, that's romantic...I'm the planner in our family. To have someone else take care of all the little details for once would be a dream come true.) And he kept the exact itinerary a secret from his wife. She knew they were flying into and out of Rome, but that's it. The entire rest of the trip is a secret for her. The day they left, her husband finally told us a little bit about what they were doing: villas, islands in the Mediterranean, wineries, Tuscany, small villages along the coast, etc. This isn't your average, run of the mill vacation. Seriously, this is something out of a romance novel.

I was able to talk to my friend yesterday and got to hear about all of the fabulously romantic things they are doing. Every morning, she gets an envelope with a note from her husband letting her know what they'll be doing that day. How romantic is that? He knows her so well (which he should after twelve years of marriage), that everything has been perfect so far for her. Each day is a wonderful new surprise.

I'm going to need to figure out how to use this in a book someday.

Until next time,

Happy Reading,


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Venice by Margot Justes

This blog, hopefully will be a visual delight. I have been so consumed with my vampire novel, that I have neglected my third and final novel in the hotel series. I needed inspiration and the photos of Venice became my muse, and of course I thought I'd share some with you.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Character Attributes - So Important as Visual Cues

How important are character tags, descriptions, the stats of your characters?  Very. In a nutshell, how tall or short, how hefty or slim, whether he wears Hawaiian shirts or three-piece suits, whether he uses a cane or smokes incessantly, chews gum, or she has eyelashes longer than a crocodile's snout.

There's been a lot of talk going around that many--perhaps too many--characters found in genre mystery novels of all sub-categories and beyond are peopled by tall, handsome, virile, young men and long-legged, lovely ladies all solving crimes via big brainy heads usually below scarlet or auburn or blonde hair. Then there are those characters that defy all the 'standards' as their authors (creators) may well be far more concerned in depicting an aging character, a scarred character, a character with physical difficulties, an illness, a limp, a problem with constant pain. Or just plain age and what comes with it.

So while the hero and heroine have routinely been the beautiful people, I believe this is changing more today than ever before. As many of us authors are aging, so are our characters. What interests we have as senior citizens, we want to convey via our characters, which requires a seasoned veteran with an accumulation of scars. In fact, these scars are his or her badges and are worn as such.

Then too there is the need to make every character distinctive from the others. Each should have his or her own gait, speech patterns, non-verbal cues, psychology as well as dress and perhaps superstitions. When you introduce a character and he is chewing on an unlit pipe, wears a watch on a fob, carries a cane and dresses in suit and hat the reader gets a mental picture with each detail that surrounds a hero in your book. If another character has a wooden leg, all the better.  Then another is a young intern wtih a scalpel and a stutter.

Characters are made colorful for a reason. Two police officers sharing the same squad car should be as distinct as Laurel and Hardy. Or at least Cagney and Lacey.

Each officer depicted on my Titanic in my work in progress all wear the same uniform but they are made as different as night and day. One may be wound too tight, the other too easy-going, a third a coward. Two miners in the same coal mine again must be night and day. The items they carry on them helps, these props and tags. One has food and drink on his mind, the other home and family as they work to dig out the coal.

So while it may seem on the surface unimportant how tall or short, how slim or hefty a character is, in fact it is extremely important.  One more caveat. If you do introduce a cane or a special watch or a scalpel given to a surgery student as a gift from dear old dad, you may want to think of them as needing to be remarked upon more than once, and even make them from time to time props that will be used to save a life later in the story, possibly the one carrying the item having to use it as a weapon when back is against the wall. The old saw is that if you introduce a dog, don't forget where you last left her and do not create those sorts of convenient babies we see on TV sitcoms and soap operas as children who are only seen when the script calls for it.

Please do leave a comment!  And thanks for being here!

Rob Walker
FREE opening chapters for Children of Salem, and/or Titanic 2012 @ http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/

If A Character's Core Value Changes, What Will Happen? by DL Larson

An article I read the other day talked of core values and how these values are developed as we grow. Usually by adulthood we tend to think our values are pretty well set ~ most of us have a core center of wanting to do good, not bad. Most of my characters have similar traits, yet I try to write them into situations where their values are challenged.

In my current WIP, my werewolf is under duress and pretty much out of it. He is blind, or so he thinks. As he heals he finally realizes the beings who he has befriended are soulless and a natural enemy he should destoy without thought or remorse. His purpose as a werewolf to destroy evil has blurred and he is left pondering his dilemma. He wonders if these beings can change their ways and turn toward good or was he simply not a big enough threat for them to worry about. He doesn't know what is right anymore.

P.C. Cast with her House of Night series has one of her evil characters facing a core value change as well. Stevie Rae saves a raven mocker from death. These beings were born for one thing - distruction. The raven mocker, Rephaim, has never known compassion, never experienced help from another. He is the first son of a powerful demon. His life's purpose is well defined; it does not include friendship of any kind. For the first time he has the opportunity to stray beyond the narrow path his father set before him. His core values have been irrevocably altered.

If and when a character's core values are challenged, as a writer you have created the best and most vulnerable aspect of your work. It's time to let your character move freely. Your simple plot ideas may only be the pinnacle of a deeper, more meaningful story.

I'd very much enjoy hearing about your characters and their core value changes.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Die, Mosquito, Die - Insects in Books by Morgan Mandel

If I sound a bit violent about mosquitoes, well I can't help it. They're everywhere and totally annoying. They got me wondering about insects in books. I've seen them in fun movies where they try to take over the earth and wreak dire havoc.

What about books? Have you written a book where an insect plays any part at all? Do you recall any books with insects in them?

Now, excuse me while I try not to scratch another bite.

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career at Smashwords, Amazon, the Digital Book Shop

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And the headline read:

Dorchester Drops Mass Marketing Publishing for E-Book/POD Model.

This article was in Publishers Weekly on August 3rd. The gist - retail sales for mass market - read paperbacks - fell 25%. It's a tough economy and apparently Dorchester believes that the e-book market is more viable than the mass market.

Dorchester isn't alone in this thought. I recently attended the Romance Writers of America's National Conference in July and more and more e-publishing is the thing of the future.

Now, we won't see the demise of the actual book. Just as radio didn't die with the invention of televisions, books won't die with the advancement of e-publishing. Instead, there will be some interesting advancements in all forms of publishing.

For example, CSI creator Anthony Zuiker released a "digi-novel" (a book-video-website mashup) in 2009. So combining the different media seems to be the next "new" thing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sean Hayden and His Mystery Machinations by Margot Justes

Today, I'd like to introduce a fellow Echelon author, Sean Hayden. His book is coming out soon, he has a great cover and he's here to tell us about writing and reading and his move from the Chicagoland area to the frigid, arctic state of Florida. Tough move, Sean.

Please welcome Sean.

Born in the suburbs of Chicago, Sean moved to the frigid arctic climes of south east Florida as a small child. The son of a fireman and a proofreader (that’s what they had before spellcheck) he fell in love with reading at a young age. When he hit the age of 35 he wrote his first novel, an urban fantasy about vampires entitled Origins. It will be available from Echelon Press soon, and he has almost finished writing the sequel Deceptions.

Mystery Machinations

As an Urban Fantasy writer, the entire genre of mysteries was often, for lack of a better word, a MYSTERY to me. Every time I picked one up and read it I often found myself trying to guess “who dunnit” rather than enjoying the landscapes, plots, and character that the talented authors were trying to paint in my head. This childish, on my part, game I would play with the books left only two possible outcomes at the end of the story. I would go “PAH! That was too easy,” or “They made that person the villain to throw everyone off!” In my defense, it’s really not my fault. Being twelve years younger than the next youngest of five boys, I often used competition to prove my worth not only to myself, but to my brothers as well. I’d like to say I grew up, but what we learn as children often molds our adult selves. Sad but true.

Reading is without a doubt my favorite pass time. I never found myself playing or even interested in sports. The more I read, the happier I was. Now an adult with two children of my own, nothing could make me happier to say that my children inherited my love of not only reading, but telling and writing stories as well. It was my ten year old son who changed my outlook on the genre of mysteries and made me fall in love with the concept. I still guess at “who dunnit”, but that definitely takes a back seat to the plot, storyline, and characters.

It started with, and I’m ashamed to say it, Harry Potter. I know what you’re thinking, “HARRY POTTER IS A FANTASY NOT A MYSTERY!” You’re absolutely right. It was that very realization that made me rethink the mystery of mysteries. Human beings have an insatiable thirst for not only knowledge, but answers. It is that insatiable thirst that makes mysteries like candy bars.
1. You can’t put them down once you start.
2. Not easily digested, but they always leave you satisfied.
3. They’re often full of nuts.
4. When you finally finish you want another.

Back to the point of this blog, Harry Potter taught me one thing. Anybody who says they don’t enjoy a good mystery is an outright fibber. Mysteries are EVERYWHERE. Even bound between the pages of innocuous children’s literature! Sure harry potter is a work of the purest fantasy, but every book has Harry and his friends bound on adventure to solve a mystery.

In my eyes, mysteries are the universal genre and the element of it is essential to any plot in any story, book, movie, etc. Without that insatiable quest for answers to questions, how good would anything be? You can write science fiction, and include elements of romance, but it wouldn’t wither away and die without it. Write science fiction without an element of mystery and see what happens! Mystery Machinations
Sean, thank you for joining us at Acme Authors.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, August 6, 2010

Characters that Change, Characters that Don't

Characters That Take Jobs as Strippers....paint strippers between detective gigs

                                             by Robert W. Walker

Do you like your main POV characters to remain the same throughout a series? Or do you prefer for a main character to discover new facets of character as he/she goes and undergoes changes?

This topic came up recently among friends on a chat group and the preferences vary widely. Some of the longest running series appear to please on the basis of the character NOT changing a wit, a character that to me is 'static' as I prefer both to read about and to write about characters that evolve, grown, learn from their experiences, and become more adept at life as they go.

Apparently, there is room for both kinds of books and for both kinds of readers, which is fine with me.  There are, after all, many rivers to the ocean. However, as I have my prejudice and this is my blog day at Acme, I am going to discuss why I write characters who change and react differently to different stimuli at different times.

First I write books that aspire to a world that is as near mirror image of life as I can make it.  Painters differ in this as well as writers; many aspire to capture life as it appears, some so close it is like looking out a window, whereas many other artists paint terrific paintings that look nothing like real life. I can appreciate a Wyeth and I can appreciate a Van Gogh. But for me, in real life, people do change, they age, their surroundings/settings age as with peeling house paint, rusting cars, etc.

So here goes --

Let me be the first to ask who will be the "last writer standing" and the "last character remembered"?  With regard to those who do not want their favorite characters to change:  I think what you reallly mean is that you do not want to see them go against type - the type of character they are...as in if suddenly the character you felt polite and intelligent has a breakdown at a dinner party or in a public place and suddenly acts OUT of character to the point of kickiing a dog or getting drunk or making a fool of herself, or decidiing out of the blue to become a Lesbian, etc. For me that is significantly different from saying a character should never change or grow or stretch or learn.

Allow me to play Devil's Advocate on this subject. For instance some say they love Watson and Holmes for who they are and never want to see a changed Holmes; great example for both sides of this argument because Sherlock did sink to drugs-- The Seven Percent Solution. And while Sherlock seems not to change or alter, this is an illusion; he has many moods and we see them all; in his down time, between cases, he is depressed to the point of being bipolar, as when on a case his mood swings entirely away. Does he change over time or even in the individual story?

We who write fiction start with a BEDROCK of character, which we challenge, throw rocks at, tease, place into hot and cold situations, test and test again and while the bedrock remains firm, our characters learn and grow and thank God. Perhaps in the real world people don't always change but I believe people capable of changing even as they hold onto their bedrock beliefs and gestalt. In every book that I have ever loved as a kid, there was a character ARC...as in a coming of age, a loss of innocence, a stripping away of illusions and a realization on the part of the main character that appearances were seldom the same as reality. A good character grows in this sense, else you have a Woody Allen film (has Woody's main character ever learned anything?)

I PUT the book DOWN if there is no evidence of growth, learning, evolving. Look at our classics....the books which are penned by the "last writer standing" from his era -- Mark Twain's Huck Finn has completely changed from his appearance in Tom Sawyer. Victor Hugo's Hunchback changes and man what changes come in his Le Misrables. Our best writers from Hemingway to Faulkner may be world's apart stylistically but both authors are interested in point of view characters who are not going to be victims but who are going to take action when some train or other comes at them be it a phsyical triain or an emotional train. Ismael in Moby Dick - change, growth, going from ignorance to experience and know-how. Two Years Before the Mast...you name your favorite.

Now perhaps in a mystery series Reacher is always Reacher and Repairman Jack is always Repairman Jack as the author knows these fully-realized characters require bedrock characterization, but the most memorable for me are characters who do go through crisis and heroes that do often fail, and leads who do make adjustments in their thinking and lifestyle as when a character is scarred both physically and mentally and begins to use a cane and feels self-doubt where it didn't exist before, and in a followup story/book, he regains his self-confidence and power and skills.

This interests me about real people; people who are down to nothing and somehow go from homelessness to riches for instance, or a maimed person who goes from a horrible loss of limbs for instance and overcomes this, or a person who has overcome a bad upbringing or a terrible environment. I want my main characters to be 'real life-like' heroes.

This is certainly the case with my main characters from Abe Stroud, archeologist to Lucas Stonecoat, Texas Cherokee detective, to Jessica Coran, FBI ME whose arc is rich with growth, ups, downs, swings, depressions, highs, lows, you name it. I left her in a happy state in the end because damn it, she deserved some rest and peace and harmony after all I had put her through. Plans are to now shatter that peace in a new book with Jess back on the trail of another 'monstrous' killer --of course as an ebook.

Rob Walker
Free opening chapters of Children of Salem and/or Titanic 2012 found at
Do leave a comment - would love to know your preference?  Do you like some characters to stay as is and others not?  Doesn't it depend on the execution of the story and what the author intends?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back Home Again! by DL Larson

Coming home from a trip or vacation gives me mixed emotions. On one hand I'm not ready to get back to the grind and routine of my life, yet, I'm happy to be home and in familar surroundings again, hug my kids and sleep in my own bed! Then reality smacks me right in the face and I groan wishing to run away from the immediate tasks to be done. Trying to prioritize these tasks always shifts and I struggle to decide if I should unpack first and promptly start laundry - augh! Or should I pick up the mountain of mail and sort through that first? Should I read the last two weeks worth of newspaper or simply scan them? Throw them out? What if something important happened and I'm left unaware? Then there is the phone messages waiting on our land line to be dwelt with when I'd really just like to sit a bit and scan through the hundreds of pictures we took. Should I put them on the computer? An album would be nice, but I know I'll never have time to do that. Work beckons and I usually only have one day to reorganize before library demands take up my time. And my writing, well, I continually shuffle that to the top of the pile, but it tends to slip off and lay dormant for a few days. A big UGH over that!

Vacations are wonderful and I enjoy the time away. Getting back to a routine takes a bit of effort. Do you have a system for getting back in the swing of things after being away? What do you do first?

I usually do as I did when our kids were small - make a contest of getting things settled around the house. Who can unload their suitcase first? Who can sort their clothes without tossing the whole bundle in the laundry? Who has the most mail? Who has the most invitations? Who has their luggage put away?

My husband and I play a bit of an organizing game as well. He dumps stuff on the kitchen counter - usually mail. And I dump it back on his desk. The pile eventually melts away. The newspapers get messed up and we both pretend we've read everything and after a few days the remains end up in the recyle bin. Just don't quiz us on any current events; I'm sure we would both fail miserably.

So I'm back home and am pretending quite convincingly that I am rested with everything settled around the house. I look out the window and realize our really, really green grass needs mowing, the garden has weeds higher than the tomato plants and my flower beds look a little neglected. It's only 95 degrees outside with 100% humidity...

Like I said, I'm home, rested and ready to get back to work! How are things with you? Did I miss anything while I was gone?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

All Wet by Morgan Mandel

I was going to post about something more writerly today, but storms got in the way. I had to rush out of the house to avoid getting soaked by a huge wall of water fast approaching.

Didn't make the avoid part. I got all wet! My big umbrella wasn't too much help. As I type this over three hours later, my pants legs are still uncomfortably clammy. I was able to buy a pair of socks on the way to work and change into my spare shoes, so that helped some. Fortunately, my top dried out pretty fast as well, Still, at lunch I'll probably use this as an excuse to buy another pair of slacks.

Anyway, getting back to the all wet theme. In Killer Career, I did get my heroine caught in a rainstorm on the way to work, much like what happened to me today and has happened before.

What about you? Have you let any of your characters get all wet, or have you read books where your characters get all wet?

Morgan Mandel

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back in Time

As a rule, time travel stories aren't my favorites. Don't get me wrong, there are some really well written ones out there, but it's just not my thing.

However, this weekend I had my own "time travel" experience. Apparently I went back in time over 20 years.

I was helping out with an event for our local historical society on Friday night. I spent four hours selling tickets for a downtown history tour, and planned to meet people at the culminating spot (a local bar right down the street) after my shift was over.

I bummed a ride from two of the other ticket takers, as I didn't want to walk down alone. At the bar, I carried in some of our "supplies" (raffle tickets, one of the musician's guitars, etc.) and got things settled into their proper places.

At this point, the bouncer turns to the three of us and says he needs to see some ID. At first I was flattered. But then I grew annoyed. Because I didn't have my ID on me, and he wouldn't let me stay. Now I understand laws and all, but seriously?! People do tell me I don't look my age (41), but I know for darn sure I don't look like I'm under 21. Heck, I was probably old enough to be that bouncer's mother for Pete's sake.

I hiked home to get my ID, but at that point I was so annoyed I didn't bother going back.

So, I guess the lesson is, no matter where I take my twenty-ish looking self (ha ha ha), I should bring some ID, just in case.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!