Sunday, October 31, 2010

Romance in Real Life

As a romance writer/reader, my life is full of romance. On most days I'm either reading a romance or, when the muse is strong, writing one. These days, however, my life is filled with romance in a different way. A real way. Not just words on a page, but real, live romance.

My husband is a fabulous man. Of course he is. I wouldn't have married him if he wasn't. But lately, he's been really romantic in one particular way.

When I work out, I always listen to music. I usually get stuck in one groove or another and listen to the same thing for a while. These days it's the new Toby Keith CD, Bullets in the Gun. I simply program in the best running songs, and away I go. Once the "meat" of the workout is done, I'll throw in a couple of other tunes for my cool down.

One of the hands-down best songs on the CD is "Kissing in the Rain". Toby has a knack for not only putting down hard-driving in-your-face music, but romantic ballads as well. This is one of those romantic songs.

Every time I play it while I'm working out in the basement, if my hubby's home and he hears it, he comes down the stairs, takes me in his arms, and we dance. My sweaty sheen doesn't bother him one bit. (Which is saying a lot, because if he were the sweaty one, I wouldn't go near him with a ten foot pole.) We simply dance, right there in the basement, among the clutter and old furniture and the furnace and the washer and dryer. Seriously, it's one of the most romantic things ever. I've always known he's my soulmate, and this is definitely one of the many reasons why.

So,thanks, Toby, for a beautiful, romantic song.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (or dancing)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Money, Money, Money! by DL Larson

We've all heard the saying, "money makes the world go 'round," or some other twisted version explaining our infatuation with cash. Songs are written about it, "she works hard for it honey ..," says Donna Summer; or "you can't always get what you want ..." explains the Rolling Stones; "Take the money and run," advises the Steve Miller Band. Money talk is all around us. In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus talks about money dozens of times! So why are we always in such a quandry about money? No one seems to have enough of it. We talk about addictions and diseases, but money mania is a world-wide pandemic. And no one wants to admit it!

We have politicians neglecting to pay their taxes, yet spending millions of their own money to run a campagain for a governmental office. They then give themselves free benefits for life yet demand public schools adhere to unrealistic budgets to educate our children.

Our banks loan us money to buy things we may or may not need, then quietly and stealthily raises the interest because someone, somewhere has decided the loanee is at risk of not paying. Doesn't always matter whether the bill was paid or not, the interest just jumps! And no one says, "hey, that's not right!"

Our companies leave our states because the taxes are too high and we wonder why we can't find jobs. Companies can make investments around the world for next to nothing, but if a foreign company wants to invest in something within the United States, the high governmental taxes to do so keeps most from ever investing. And we wonder, why did our congressmen do that? Isn't free enterprise a part of our foundation as a nation?

"Show me the money," shouts Petey Pablo. It's all around us, like leaves swirling in the wind, yet where it may land is anyone's guess. It may disappear into rich pockets, deep pockets, or maybe needy pockets. But I learned as a child when I chased after leaves blowing all around, the quickest way to catch one was not to run, but to stand still and let the leaves come to me. I wonder if that would work with money!

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pain by Morgan Mandel

Monday at work I was taking the copy paper from the box and putting it away on the shelf, when my back decided it didn't like what I was doing. It's been stiff and sore since then. That's happened a few times before, so I'm hoping it's just a strain.

This kind of aggravation reminds me of when a character gets hurt in a book or movie. Sometimes it's almost miraculous how that person can heal so instantly, run around and do all sorts of heroic actions. In real life, it's not usually the case.

Remember, if you include an injury in the plot, give your character time to suffer instead of making everything all right real fast. And if the hero or heroine has to ignore the pain to reach a goal, at least include some references to the fact it's there, like sweat on the brow, bruises, gouges, swellings or some other kind of evidence that all is not perfect.

Rising above difficulties is always a good way to heighten tension in a story, so don't make everything seem too easy. Pain is part of the human condition, unfortunately, so think about including it in when you write.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Forgotten War

As generations go by it's easy to forget about the struggles and conflicts of previous generations but for those who fought in the Korean War (or conflict) the forgotten part arrived in some cases even before they came home.

Well, less than two weeks ago my local community, through the hard work of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), held a ceremony that brought tears to grown men's eyes.

As writers, we hunger to capture the emotions that help communicate the energy of a story to our readers. As I sat through this ceremony the energy of the presentations, dedications and kinship shared that day were exactly what writers try to capture.

We also need to get our historical research as correct as we can, especially for something as important as a war where many heroes have given so much. To this end I want to share some links to sites that can help put your research on the Korean War in perspective.

Korean War National Museum

Korean Consulate, Chicago

Korean War Timeline

Other useful links:

Monday, October 25, 2010


This weekend was Homecoming at my daughter's high school. She went with a bunch of her friends and had a great time. But this whole homecoming thing got me thinking, what is it all about anyway?

Yeah, I know there is a football game, parade, (theirs got rained out) and dance, but where did it come from and why? Well, being the google-a-holic that I am, I googled it. Here is the meaning according to Wikipedia.

When I read this one thing leaped out at me, the mums. In my YA Ordinary Me, I have the whole mum thing going on. Yes, we did that in high school and it sounds like some things never change. The only difference is that in Ordinary Me I did not have the mums for homecoming, I had them for Valentines Day. Mostly because the story is set during basketball season, not football season.

It's nice to know some things never change, but it's also nice to know you can change them if you want to!

Have a great week!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Happy Surprise

I love surprises...well, the good ones at least! I was on the receiving end of a raly great one this week. My new book, "This Can't Be Love" is due out November 5. I've been working on some promo and getting things set up for blog tours, etc., and needed to check The Wild Rose site for a link.

Lo and behold, I clicked on the home page, and right there under "new in print" was "This Can't Be Love"! I did a double take. Was that really my book? Sitting there ready for people to buy? A couple of weeks early?

You bet it was!

So for today I have the blurb and an excerpt.

After the disastrous end of another dead-end relationship, all Jessica Hart wants is solitude and time to heal at her grandfather's mountain retreat. Instead she finds Zach Rawlings.

Zach has made himself at home at the cabin. He's house-sitting while the owner is away, and the temporary nature of the job suits him perfectly. For Jessica, Zach is everything she wants to escape.

As she gets to know him better, she realizes there's more to him than meets the eye. His patience and tender concern begin to heal something deep inside of her. But can she trust her heart to a man like Zach?

They laughed together, then fell silent. Crickets chirped in the darkness. The scent of Zach’s aftershave drifted to her on the light breeze.

After a while, he turned toward her. “Do you?”

“Do I what? Like apple pie and ice cream?”

“No,” he said softly. His gaze dropped to her lips. “Do you kiss and tell?”

Jessica’s heart kicked into a fast rhythm and she caught her breath. “I…”

“Shhhh.” He leaned closer. “I won’t tell if you won’t,” he whispered before his mouth claimed hers.

His lips stroked over hers, not aggressively, but softly, tenderly. He didn’t touch her anywhere else, but brushed her mouth with gentle intent.

Her first instinct was to pull back, but something stirred deep inside her. A feeling she’d nearly forgotten. Whispery shivers danced along her nerve endings and fluttered in her stomach. Without meaning to, the action was purely a reflex, she opened to him.

The kiss deepened. Their breath mingled. Her palm slid up his chest, feeling the play of muscle beneath his shirt. She fisted the flannel of his open collar in her hand.

His knuckles grazed the sides of her face.

Her body tingled with awareness. Scattered thoughts flitted through her mind, but she couldn’t hold onto any of them. Not while Zach kissed her. Not when his mouth fitted so perfectly against hers. Not when the pulse racing at the base of his throat matched the cadence of her heartbeat.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt like this. Had felt anything.

Should she be feeling this way about Zach?

Almost as if sensing her conflicting emotions, he softened the kiss, tenderly brushing his mouth over hers one last time.

She waged a silent war within, trying to calm her racing heart.

She still clutched his shirt. She relaxed her fingers one at a time, releasing the twisted fabric from her grasp. Finally she drew in a deep breath, then slowly let it out.

Her eyes found his.

Zach’s gaze searched hers. He smiled. A smile as soft and tender as his kiss. He touched his finger to her lips, then rose. “Good night, Jess.”

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Carving by Margot Justes

This is going to be short.

I'm babysitting my two little munchkins with the help of my daughter Dina. I'm very grateful. There is a reason they say having children is for the young. I'm exhausted.

We carved pumpkins last night, and today we went to Sunset Foods and painted pumpkins, went to Costco for Lunch and came home to bake pumpkin cakes and cookies. Do you see a pattern here?

It's all about the pumpkins.

And now we'll have pumpkin cookie sandwiches with frosting and sprinkles. Yum.

My granddaughter is helping write this blog Now, I have to finish decorate said pumpkin cookies.

Till next week,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Update on My Writing Challenge by DL Larson

On the top shelf of my desk I have a paper with the following on it:
The Challenge:
To complete my sci-fi WIP, Renzo the Reliant,by May 20, 2011.
My reward: chocky dessert from whatever restaurant I choose.
AND a boat ride with my hubby!
Dated: May 20, 2010
signed: DL Larson

I feel a bit stressed realizing five months are gone and I'm just approaching the finish of Part One. My book has become more than I thought it would and I consider that a good thing. But if I want to accomplish my challenge, I need to step up the pace. I have some really good reasons to be behind schedule, but I knew life might throw me a curve ball or two along the way, so I won't ponder on if onlys and instead, I will forge ahead. Maybe it's time for you to assess your WIP too.

I have 21 chapters written and 15 of those are typed. Editing has taken considerable time, filling in and rounding out scenes. I like to edit as I go, it's a way for me to keep a good feel of where I've been in order to know where I'm heading with the story.

I'm closing in on finishing Part One, called Unstable Beginnings. It will end in a cliffhanger. Part Two is a hazy, fuzzy future with a few distinct lines through the fog to reach the conclusion. My characters are evolving nicely with plenty of obstacles and hardships to force them to evaluate their lifestyle and wonder about priorities in life. There's a good balance of fun vs. distress. I simply need to keep vigilent with pen in hand and butt in the chair! In other words, I need to stay the course and keep writing!

I've seven months to go. It feels a bit like being pregnant. I'm not really uncomfortable yet, but feeling the weight of my challenge. I've never put such pressure on myself before to finish by a certain date. It'll be interesting to see how I cope as time closes in.

How is your work in progress? Have you put a challenge to yourself before? Share with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: For those wondering about last week's post ~ My grandson, Colton, is doing great. He's still in the nicu, working on the suck, swallow and breathe technique, and making great progress. One of the nurses who neglected her duties no longer works at the hospital, and the other has been reprimanded with the incident documented into her personnel file. It will follow her around for some time. I hope and pray she learns from her mistake.

Thank you for all your thoughts and words of concern. It meant a lot to me!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Scary Stories, Costumes, Halloween by Morgan Mandel

I wonder if any of you have written a scary story that's already out or coming out in time for Halloween. Or, maybe you've read one that you enjoyed in a gruesome sort of way. (g)

If so, please tell us something about it here in the comment section to get us in the proper frame of mind for celebrating the holiday.

Or, maybe you're going to a Halloween party, and you'd like to describe your costume. You're welcome to do that as well.

Morgan Mandel -
PS - Here's Rascal in her not-that-great pirate costume from last year. We're hoping to think up a better one for her for the Halloween party at Bentley's Corner Barkery next Thursday, but the DH (Good Paul) and I are very lacking in the creative department where costumes are concerned.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This and That by Margot Justes

The end of the week and beginning of the weekend should be celebrated, by the time Friday rolls around I need a complete break from my day job. The writing part is sublime and no breaks are needed.

I have this tradition, or what seems like a tradition by now, meet up with friends Friday evening at Barnes & Noble for coffee. Sometimes after coffee, we stop at Whole Foods to see what's new or walk around the strip mall. Complete and total relaxation.

Complete and total therapy. And all that can be had with friends and that cup of coffee.

On an another note, and it goes with 'this and that', the art world has been in the news again, this time with a possible lost and found treasure. A major one. A Michelangelo, no less. The article posted on claims that it could be "the art find of the century".

If true, what an amazing discovery and what an amazing survival. Masterpieces are treasured and protected from light, cold, heat, moisture, all the elements that might damage it. And this one survived with the natural everyday elements for 27 years. Astounding.

It seems that a family in upstate New York had a painting hanging on the wall, at some point it got knocked down and wound up 'stored' behind the couch. And remained stored like that for 27 years. Known simply as 'The Mike' to the family, could in reality be Michelangelo's unfinished painting of Mary and Jesus.

There were suspicions that it might be a Michelangelo, but no one took the trouble to research further till 2003, when a retired Air Force Lt. Col. was told by his father to do some research.

The article further states that it will be difficult to prove the authenticity and most likely will be left to the experts. In the meantime it had been cleaned and restored by the family awaiting the final word. Yes or no? Is it the real thing or a copy? That answer is still pending.

The price you might ask-according to the article-if authenticated, it will be worth millions and millions of dollars.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Writing Art - Can It be Taught?

As a kid in 4th Grade I knew I wanted to be a writer; never any doubt. On hearing Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Less Taken" at that impressionable age, and having been born in rural Corinth, MS., I also knew I was a "Rebel" as the other kids in a Chicago, IL school called me in large due to my accent and the fact I hadn't known my first name--only my middle name--when the teacher called us up for anything! At any rate, I knew early on that being a writer meant being different and having a love for storytelling. I also early on leaned that many of my teachers--most in fact--had a disdain for this art or feared teaching it and that I was pretty much on my own, that I'd have to be self-taught in this discipline. What I knew was that I needed Grammar badly--good grammar, that is, and that few to no teachers in my experience really knew how to convey the complexities of this 'dead zone' where no one wished to venture if they could instead turn us to doing paper machete projects (all through elementary especially). However, the basics I did pick up in 4th Grade are the same basics I teach in my 101, 102, and creative writng classes at the college level today -- same "stuff" people are resistant to. Ultimately, I teach "sound and sense" in that if it "sounds" rythmic and it makes "sense"--that is clear, use it and move on with your story. That has served me well, Sound and Sense.

The question still nags at us, however--can Creative, Crafty, Clever Writing be taught? I feel that ultimately it can be taught (depending on what one means by taught, of course!) On a recent kindle discussion group, we got into it with these cogent results thanks to the caliber of the people in the group. First the question was raised by a member, so I thank Carla Rene for bringing it up.  Two responses I felt particularly good follow here:

Subject: Re: [Kindlefloor] Can Creative Writing Be Taught?
To: "Kindle Discussion Group"
Date: Thursday, October 14, 2010, 6:37 PM

Carla posed this question:  I know some here are creative writing course instructors as well as English
teachers, but I'm involved in a heated discussion on another writing forum,
and this brings up a great point: CAN you teach someone the basic skills
and inherent ability to write a decent novel? Or short-story?

Anne replied with:  I think there are aspects that can, and aspects that can't, be taught. Writing is kind of a trifecta of inspiration, talent and wordcraft. It doesn't matter how well you can lay out a plot or build a character if you don't have an idea for a plot or character. You can have the most wonderful ideas in the world, but it does no good if you can't tell a story. And you can have a great idea and a great story, but neither does you any good unless you have the mechanical skills to tell it coherently and readably.

Obviously the skills of writing -- spelling, grammar, punctuation, structure and so on -- can be taught. To a certain extent, storytelling can be taught in that you can talk about character building and consistency, plot structure, pacing and so on. Beyond that, however, it comes down to imagination and talent, and another vital ingredient: PRACTICE.

No amount of classroom teaching is going to create a really good writer. You can't teach talent and imagination. However, you CAN *encourage* and *exercise* and *polish* them. I think creative writing classes are excellent for that purpose. Kind of the pilates of the imagination.

Sue entered the fray with this:  Anne, I totally agree with you. As a long time wannabe writer, I found that my talent (if you want to call it that) lay in expository writing (not what I would have wished for). I taught creative writing to 8th graders and high school freshmen for many years and those are the years that I value most highly. During my many years of teaching English to 8th and 9th graders, the California Board of Education tried something quite phenomenal: actually looking at the writing of our students to determine if we were making any progress! "The California Writing Project" pulled the best of the best for training and then invested heavily in training trainers who then worked with teachers at the school site level. I was a trainer and test reader for a few years and I have to say that it was the most exciting time of my teaching career. We actually were able to teach teachers to teach writing (rather than just assigning it). When we were being trained to read and score the student writing tests, papers were to be scored in a 1-5 range (5 being highest), we were told that when we came across a "5" we would know it - and we did. The "4s" were generally almost perfect in every way EXCEPT they didn't have that extra special undefinable "sparkle" that came right out and hit you between the eyes. Those "5" papers were very exciting to read.

I think that, as English teachers, we definitely can teach most kids to be 3s and the 4's, but no way could anyone teach that extra something that we found in those few wonderful pieces of writing that were 5s.. Unfortunately, even though we were showing great progress in teaching writing for several years there, another, easier to grade (and less costly) idea came along and "The California Writing Project" fell by the wayside, as has almost every other good new idea that has come along It was a sad time for those of us who valued good writing and believed that we could help to make it happen.

To which Rob-me, myself, and I added:  I have worked at Jr. High and High School levels also, so I bemoan the fact that so many FINE writing programs at those levels instituted in the 70s and excellent results like the one Sue spoke of -- all across America in fact -- were shut down unceremoniously, or rather unceremoniously shut down due to first cuts always going to the arts--and writing is one of the arts with a somewhat scientific element called sentence structure, types, and grammar wherein you demonstrate skills but you also learn the art of active voice for fiction in particular--dramatic writing.

Sue is absolutely and sadly right on the money when it comes to ANYTHING proven to work for our students is the first thing to be tossed from our schools as a result of cost cutting and administrative jockeying, and teachers' unions concerns also place the most crucial concerns regarding actual classroom dynamics like teacher-student ratio so that real instruction can happen at the bottom of the list of ideals. Money always a key factor and there's no poetry in money nor money in poetry--not as there is in accounting and the sciences.

That said, as one who is self-taught in what is termed creative writing and a writer who happens to be capable of teaching, and a teacher who practices what he teaches daily, I can safely say that yes, a 'talented' young person can learn umpteen thousands of techniques from every published author who has ever put pen to paper. Talent is an iffy word, and imagination is like quicksilver and mercury often coming and going, and to be called talented, even genius, is at best an affectation. What creates most excellent writers is the steady practice of the trade, especially any sort of creatve work, be it the well-crafted essay/expository writing or story. The more one writes, the more one reads, the more one prospers as an author (not always monetarily but via the cache of learning). Talent if a dangerous term in my opinion along with the notion of the silver-tongue born into the head of the child as if prepared via lineage--although they may well have found an "artistic-right-brained genetic connect" as well as a left-brained science-oriented genetic connect" due to lineage. Hard to say. However, I do feel strongly that I have not wased 30+ years in teaching writing; that is, that a great deal of writing is teachable, and we can bring students to the brink of that "Sixth Sense" element that goes beyond the 5 senses and touches the reader in that spiritual zone we all aspire to.

Rob Walker
"Autographed" ebook ARC of Titanic 2012 available by contacting me direct at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just Do Your Job! by DL Larson

"You can not do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend sent me that quote yesterday. She was passing on the message as a reminder to be aware of our surroundings and not to miss an opportunity to do some good in this world. I'm passing it on to you. I want to pass it on to the nurse in the neonatal unit where my new grandson is.

Last week we spent several days in the hospital with our son and his wife. She was expecting in mid-November but the onset of contractions ended in an early delivery! Colton Miles was born Friday, Oct. 8th, close to 6 weeks early! He's healthy and beautiful and big for a preemie ~ nearly 6 lbs. He will be residing in the NIKU for a few weeks.

Common problems with preemies are breathing on their own, maintaining their body tempt, and then learning to eat. They have yet to develop the suck, swallow and breathe technique. Little Colton has proven to be a mellow baby, easily pacified and many of the nurses have said he's a lazy baby, content to sleep and eat. Hearing that reminded me of his father, my son, who slept nearly the first year of his life. Simply put, Colton is not a fussy baby. Being a mother of three, a grandmother of three more, I am familiar with how quickly personalities are established in each person.

Monday night proved Colton is determined not to be ignored either. When my son and his wife entered the neonatal unit they immediately recognized Colton's cry. He sounded extremely upset and once reaching his bassinet his parents realized several things, the most important he was cold. He had scooted out from the bellyrubin light, pulled off his eye mask and had his head pressed up against the top end of the bassinet. The nurse on duty had not noticed any of these problems.

My daughter-in-law Shannon is a nurse, a very well trained nurse of the very hospital where Colton is staying. She wanted her son's temperature taken immediately. The nurse couldn't find the thermometer. It should have been in its proper place by Colton's bed. It wasn't. She had to go find another. Colton's tempt was charted and Shannon realized his temperature had been dropping all day and no one had done anything about it. The night nurse blamed the day nurse for not doing her job. She admitted the readings signified that Colton should have been transferred to an incubator several hours before. This nurse had been on duty for three hours and admitted she had not looked at her patient yet. The neonatal unit is a busy place, but each nurse is in charge of two infants. Two!

I'll have to say I'm proud of how well Nick and Shannon handled the situation. I would have gone off the deep end, letting my emotions take over. Shannon wanted documentation! They were not simply new parents over-reacting, they now have the paperwork to tell the powers that be something was amiss in the neonatal unit!

Colton was too exhausted to try to eat and I'm merely speculating, but I think the nurse knew she wouldn't have to bottle feed him if she let him cry long enough. When an infant is premature, eating is an exhausting experience and it takes awhile to bottle feed them. Her shift would be a little easier if she simply zipped his nurishment through his feeding tube and presto! he would have a full tummy. She also didn't know Nick and Shannon intended to come in so they could feed him.

I'm not bashing any neonatal units, don't want to show disrespect to nurses, I simply want folks to wake up to the fact when they chose a profession that affects others, they need to be at the top of their game - every day! Short cuts don't work. Like my son said, "how can I trust you with my son in my absence? How could you not look at my son, your patient? You were within five feet of him and you didn't glance to see he needed help?"

I'm sure that nurse is wishing she could do a do-over of that night. If she had shown a hint of interest in her work she wouldn't be facing the troubles ahead for her. I'm thankful Colton is doing great and I hope no other little baby has to go through what he did. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "you can not do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Closet and Publishing - How Are They Alike? By Morgan Mandel

I came back from Wisconsin on Sunday, but gave myself an extra day on Monday for transitioning from vacation to real life. I did some of the wash, but only two loads. I watched some TV, went for a walk with the husband and Rascal, did some blogging and Facebook.

Not only that, I hung up the clothes I'd bought and/or brought with on vacation. While doing so, I noticed lots of summer outfits still hanging in the closet. This week is exceptionally warm, but that won't be true long. So, I decided to keep a few Fall-like summer outfits hanging, those with brown, orange, or beige hues. I hauled the other warm/hot weather clothes upstairs to a handy spot I can grab from if needed. My closet now contains seasonal clothes, which is more practical at this time.

A similar transition is going on with publishing. Authors and publishers are deciding what works best in this in-between phase, when e-books are gaining prominence, yet print is also popular. Some who have contracts with traditional publishers can hardly wait for their contracts to expire, so they can get a bigger piece of the royalty pie by going it alone. Others are sending queries to publishers and agents hoping to get a contract with a large or small publishing house.

Still other authors like me, are straddling the fence, holding onto present publishing contracts and also publishing in Kindle or print on their own.

I've kept my contracts with Mundania Press for Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams, but I also self-published Killer Career in print, Kindle and other e-book formats.

I've used my closet as an example, and you can do the same. Decide what you can use right now, but don't make it impossible to get back what you're not using. 

If you're offered a publishing contract, make sure you examine its terms. Keep as many options available for yourself, should you choose to use them. Look for an escape clause where you can cancel the contract within a certain time, without strings attached. Make sure the royalty terms for print and e-book are in keeping with the present market.

Or, if you're very confident, take the plunge and change your whole publishing closet to self-publishing.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I like to think of myself as a determined person but I must confess that my dog has me beat. Very soon Rocky the Wonder Dog will be seventeen years and six months old. Yes that's 17 + 6 months. He's a West Highland Terrier or Westie. Yes, he's a Scottish - maybe that's why he's such a determined fella.

There have been too many times over the past six years that I thought Rocky was a goner. He has a tendency to collapse, although not so much in the past few months. The first two times he was rushed to the local vet's office and almost $2,000 later we still weren't sure what was causing him to pass out and look like he was dead for several minutes. I still don't have a definitive diagnosis, but hey - for awhile my dog had something I didn't even have - his own cardiologist. It goes without saying but I'll say it anyway - Rocky the Wonder Dog has better health care than most folks in the world.

After awhile I stopped taking him to the vet's office when he had his 'episodes' because as long as I stayed with him and kept him calm, he'd come around and be okay. Oh, I'd take him to his checkups but he'd already been tested for everything they could think of and as he grew older and older I just figured he had lived a wonderful life and as long as he didn't suffer I didn't see the point of spending a lot more money just to be given inconclusive results. Don't get me wrong - I'm not blaming the vet's, they've actually be quite wonderful, it's just that there comes a point when doing nothing is sometimes the best option.

So, as the weeks and months go by I spend as much time as I can with Rocky and admire his stamina and determination. I'm absolutely convinced that he's determined to go when he says it's his time and not a moment before. He has high blood pressue and arthritis and the occassional senior moments but other than that he's going strong. He still enjoys rolling on his back, wags his tail when I come home, and gets excited when the door bell rings, so I figure he knows how he's doing. So, I'll hang in there as long as he does and as long as he enjoys his life.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Let’s talk about hooks...and no, not Captain!

I have read bad books that have great hooks.
I have read great books that have so-so hooks.
I have read great books with great hooks.

I have also heard that a hook can make or break whether or not the agent or editor looks at the book.

So let’s hear about hooks, what do you think?

Have a great week!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bargain Shopping

I am frugal by nature. A habit I learned for the most part from my dad. My motto when clothes shopping is "if it costs more than ten dollars, I don't need it".

So yesterday when a planned trip out to my mom and dad's house held the added bonus of heading over to the JC Penney Outlet Store, I jumped at the chance.

This type of store is a little bit of paradise on Earth for someone like me. As soon as a walked through the doors I headed over for the $2.99 jean section. Now unfortunately, have a weird shape, and none of the jeans fit, but I still had a productive day. I spent most of my time browsing the clearance racks, where the already low outlet store prices went garage sale cheap. But for brand-new clothes.

All told I came away with:

-a pair of workout pants
-two skirts (including a purple one I'd be in search of for a while)
-a classic jean jacket (again, an item on my 'must-find' list)
-a pair of jammies (pants and a top)
-two long sleeved casual shirts for my hubby
-one shirt for my mom
-five shirts/blouses for me (for work)

That's thirteen items in all.

All for a grand total of...

Sixty-nine dollars and seventy-nine cents! (This included a 15% off coupon my mom had for filling out an on-line survey.) Which I figure comes out to be just over five dollars per item.

Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or shopping!)


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction by Margot Justes

The thing about writing is that you have to do it well enough for the reader to 'suspend disbelief' at least that is what I've been told. Except in the James Bond type thrillers, paranormal and practically every other genre. I'm convinced that the 'suspend the disbelief' axiom is very subjective just like the agent, editor selection of a manuscript.

In many cases truth is stranger than fiction. Consider this, a story I recently read on about an art treasure found in a Parisian home that had been uninhabited for 70 years, the rent has been paid, but no one stepped foot in the ritzy apartment for 70 years. The cobweb ridden place was locked up tight filled with art, books and furniture.

The owner was the granddaughter of Marthe de Florian, a muse for artist Giovanni Boldini. The granddaughter left the apartment after World War II and never returned, locking one of Boldini's paintings, along with a love note to Marthe de Florian in the apartment.

Recently after her death, the apartment was opened and among the trove one stood out, Boldini's painting of "a woman in a pink muslin evening dress" was worth a great deal of money, it sold for 2.9 million dollars.

Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1842 and died in Paris in 1931. He is best known for portraits and did a masterful one of Giuseppe Verdi. I love it, it's stark and the face is so well done that it draws you right in, it's vivid and enthralling. Almost as if you feel the loss at never having met the composer.

Boldini worked on landscapes as well but his claim to fame was in portraiture.

Now comes the best part, no one knows why it's been locked up for 70 writers and readers alike, let your imagination soar as mine did. What mystery lies beneath the locked Parisian apartment?

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Unexpected Delight! by DL Larson

I enjoy talking as an author to any crowd that will listen, but I encountered an unexpected delight this week. I'd been asked by a woman's group in a neighboring town to give a talk. I agreed and the date was set. As a matter of fact the date was set so far in advance, when I received a call the last week of September, I admitted to not turning my October calendar over yet to see what was on my docket. The feeble voice on the other end of the phone sounded a bit disappointed that I didn't immediately remember my promise to attend their meeting and deliver my talk.

I tried to bow out of the luncheon, mostly as a time factor, but again the feeble voice urged me to share a meal with them and so I succumbed, telling her I needed to leave no later than 2:30 because I had a chess class to teach after school back in my home town.

The directions were easy enough and I drove to the new senior residence where the luncheon and program were to be held. Now, I've learned a few things since becoming a published author, the first, not to be disappointed at not making a sale and to enjoy the networking no matter the audience. Spreading my name is every bit as important as selling a book. So, knowing my audience consisted entirely of retired women, I knew they would be attentive and gracious, but I didn't expect much more.

The luncheon was nice, I felt rather like a teenager sitting among numerous grannies, answering the same question a dozen times. But we bonded and that is always a good thing. From there we moved upstairs to the social rooms and I presented my version of what a writer does to accomplish her goal to become a published author.

As they began eating their dessert, I packed away my belongings, glad all had gone well. The chairman thanked me and everyone clapped; I smiled and thanked them for inviting me. Then the spokeslady asked if I had books to sell. When I nodded and said, "of course," pocketbooks started snapping open. They abandoned their desserts in order to buy a book or two. I heard, "what a delight," "what a joy to meet you," and I thanked all for their interest and for their sale.

What an unexpected surprise. I had unfairly tucked them into a non-buying type of audience. What a joy, what a delight to be wrong!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are you on Facebook? By Morgan Mandel

Are you on Facebook?
If so, leave your address if you want more friends.
If not, why aren't you?

Here's my regular address there:

Fan page:

Your turn now.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Stop the Presses!

Not too long ago, the phrase "Stop the Presses" meant a big story was breaking and that the editor wanted to make sure it made the upcoming edition. Today, many presses - especially newspapers - are literally stopping their presses.


Advances in technology, digital publishing options, e-books - all the formats/mediums that were once scoffed at by the established publishing industry a decade ago.

The latest entry into the foray of digital publishing?

Barnes & Noble with PubIt!.

The tag line?

Live Your Dream and Sell Your Books (with the world's #1 bookseller).

I'm actually very excited about this next step for B&N because just about everyone else has gotten into the self-publishing side of things because it's actually a money maker. BUT, mostly for the publishers.

Now, this isn't a slight against the publishers. It's about time they all recognized this market. However, burgeoning writers beware - just because you write a book, doesn't mean it should be published. One of the pitfalls for new authors is to know when a book is truly ready for publication and not just a first draft. Historically, this has been one of the benefits of publishing with a traditional publisher. In the days of lots and lots of small publishing houses with lots and lots of editors the relationship between editor and writer was beyond what most writers experience today.

But companies offering self-publishing options are actually providing some robust and affordable assistance as well. These companies include traditional publishing houses as well as those companies that have always been in the self-publishing arena. These days, one is not necessarily better than the other - it just depends on what type of book the author wants to publish, the potential market/readership, upfront costs, promotion budget and more.

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

So, what's a new writer to do?

Regardless of your path to publishing, learn your craft, and I think the best way to do that is to consider yourself an apprentice. Just as with a skilled wordworker or the art of masonry, there is an innate talent that is refined and developed over time and practiced with a mentor or master teacher.

For writers there is a plethora of writers groups, both in person and online; as well as book after book on the craft. Critique groups abound, although make sure you find one that fits your needs and temperment. The tried and true rule of just writing everyday has developed many writers who are now bestsellers.

But in the end and regardless your path to publishing, enjoy the process. At our Love Is Murder Con a few years back, David Morrell told a rapt audience that given that it takes about a year or more to write a book, in the end you want to enjoy the process and look back and be proud of what you've produced. Otherwise, why spend a year of your life on something that doesn't provide that kind of fulfillment!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Words of Wisdom

In honor of my parents' forty-fifth wedding anniversary this weekend, I'm posting these "words of wisdom" for married couples. Maybe they can work for our heroes and heroines as well...

- Whether a man winds up with a nest egg, or a goose egg, depends a lot on the kind of chick he marries.

- Trouble in marriage often starts when a man gets so busy earnin' his salt, that he forgets his sugar.

- Too many couples marry for better, or for worse, but not for good.

- When a man marries a woman, they become one; but the trouble starts when they try to decide which one.

- If a man has enough horse sense to treat his wife like a thoroughbred, she will never turn into an old nag.

- On anniversaries, the wise husband always forgets the past - but never the present.

- A foolish husband says to his wife, "Honey, you stick to the washin', ironin', cookin', and scrubbin'. No wife of mine is gonna work."

- The bonds of matrimony are a good investment, only when the interest is kept up.

- Many girls like to marry a military man - he can cook, sew, and make beds, and is in good health, and he's already used to taking orders.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bye Bye to Summer by Margot Justes

Lat weekend was a blur but a delightful blur. Went to the Highwood Art Fair and that usually means the end of summer.

The fair, a small intimate showing of left overs from the rest of the season and some new things, as is always the case. Almost got my hands on a couple of glass pieces but was too late, someone in front of me took both, and in this case the artist really was selling off her left overs. Check out Verre Visage Glass Studios at

Beautiful pieces not astronomically priced and reduced for the Last Call Art Fair. I bought a butter dish as a gift.

We stopped for lunch at Maria's Bakery, a small store front that serves breakfast lunch and dinner. I had Timbalo, a vegetarian concoction with Zucchini, Spinach, Mushrooms, Peas and Ricotta, it was nicely seasoned and delicious.

My only complaint was that the dish was served lukewarm as was the Cappuccino, where it should have been hot.

However the dessert was magnificent, fresh, piping hot from the oven, the Sfogliatelle was magnificent. Puff pastry filled with Ricotta, lemon and orange zest and lightly sweetened was heavenly. If you love Italian food and fresh baked Italian specialties, it is a terrific, place to stop for a bite to eat.

Maria's Bakery
410 Sheridan Rd.
Highwood, IL 60040

Till next time,
Margot Justes